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This Old Man

Life in the nineties.

By Roger AngellFebruary 10, 2014

February 17 & 24, 2014 Issue

Roger Angell and Andy Central Park January 2014.
Roger Angell and Andy; Central Park, January, 2014.Photograph by Brigitte Lacombe

Check me out. The top two knuckles of my left hand look as if I’d been worked over by the K.G.B. No, it’s more as if I’d been a catcher for the Hall of Fame pitcher Candy Cummings, the inventor of the curveball, who retired from the game in 1877. To put this another way, if I pointed that hand at you like a pistol and fired at your nose, the bullet would nail you in the left knee. Arthritis.

Now, still facing you, if I cover my left, or better, eye with one hand, what I see is a blurry encircling version of the ceiling and floor and walls or windows to our right and left but no sign of your face or head: nothing in the middle. But cheer up: if I reverse things and cover my right eye, there you are, back again. If I take my hand away and look at you with both eyes, the empty hole disappears and you’re in 3-D, and actually looking pretty terrific today. Macular degeneration.

I’m ninety-three, and I’m feeling great. Well, pretty great, unless I’ve forgotten to take a couple of Tylenols in the past four or five hours, in which case I’ve begun to feel some jagged little pains shooting down my left forearm and into the base of the thumb. Shingles, in 1996, with resultant nerve damage.

Like many men and women my age, I get around with a couple of arterial stents that keep my heart chunking. I also sport a minute plastic seashell that clamps shut a congenital hole in my heart, discovered in my early eighties. The surgeon at Mass General who fixed up this PFO (a patent foramen ovale—I love to say it) was a Mexican-born character actor in beads and clogs, and a fervent admirer of Derek Jeter. Counting this procedure and the stents, plus a passing balloon angioplasty and two or three false alarms, I’ve become sort of a table potato, unalarmed by the X-ray cameras swooping eerily about just above my naked body in a darkened and icy operating room; there’s also a little TV screen up there that presents my heart as a pendant ragbag attached to tacky ribbons of veins and arteries. But never mind. Nowadays, I pop a pink beta-blocker and a white statin at breakfast, along with several lesser pills, and head off to my human-wreckage gym, and it’s been a couple of years since the last showing.

My left knee is thicker but shakier than my right. I messed it up playing football, eons ago, but can’t remember what went wrong there more recently. I had a date to have the joint replaced by a famous knee man (he’s listed in the Metropolitan Opera program as a major supporter) but changed course at the last moment, opting elsewhere for injections of synthetic frog hair or rooster combs or something, which magically took away the pain. I walk around with a cane now when outdoors—“Stop brandishing!” I hear my wife, Carol, admonishing—which gives me a nice little edge when hailing cabs.

The lower-middle sector of my spine twists and jogs like a Connecticut county road, thanks to a herniated disk seven or eight years ago. This has cost me two or three inches of height, transforming me from Gary Cooper to Geppetto. After days spent groaning on the floor, I received a blessed epidural, ending the ordeal. “You can sit up now,” the doctor said, whisking off his shower cap. “Listen, do you know who Dominic Chianese is?”

“Isn’t that Uncle Junior?” I said, confused. “You know—from ‘The Sopranos’?”

“Yes,” he said. “He and I play in a mandolin quartet every Wednesday night at the Hotel Edison. Do you think you could help us get a listing in the front of The New Yorker?”

I’ve endured a few knocks but missed worse. I know how lucky I am, and secretly tap wood, greet the day, and grab a sneaky pleasure from my survival at long odds. The pains and insults are bearable. My conversation may be full of holes and pauses, but I’ve learned to dispatch a private Apache scout ahead into the next sentence, the one coming up, to see if there are any vacant names or verbs in the landscape up there. If he sends back a warning, I’ll pause meaningfully, duh, until something else comes to mind.

On the other hand, I’ve not yet forgotten Keats or Dick Cheney or what’s waiting for me at the dry cleaner’s today. As of right now, I’m not Christopher Hitchens or Tony Judt or Nora Ephron; I’m not dead and not yet mindless in a reliable upstate facility. Decline and disaster impend, but my thoughts don’t linger there. It shouldn’t surprise me if at this time next week I’m surrounded by family, gathered on short notice—they’re sad and shocked but also a little pissed off to be here—to help decide, after what’s happened, what’s to be done with me now. It must be this hovering knowledge, that two-ton safe swaying on a frayed rope just over my head, that makes everyone so glad to see me again. “How great you’re looking! Wow, tell me your secret!” they kindly cry when they happen upon me crossing the street or exiting a dinghy or departing an X-ray room, while the little balloon over their heads reads, “Holy shit—he’s still vertical!”

Let’s move on. A smooth fox terrier of ours named Harry was full of surprises. Wildly sociable, like others of his breed, he grew a fraction more reserved in maturity, and learned to cultivate a separate wagging acquaintance with each fresh visitor or old pal he came upon in the living room. If friends had come for dinner, he’d arise from an evening nap and leisurely tour the table in imitation of a three-star headwaiter: Everything O.K. here? Is there anything we could bring you? How was the crème brûlée? Terriers aren’t water dogs, but Harry enjoyed kayaking in Maine, sitting like a figurehead between my knees for an hour or more and scoping out the passing cormorant or yachtsman. Back in the city, he established his personality and dashing good looks on the neighborhood to the extent that a local artist executed a striking head-on portrait in pointillist oils, based on a snapshot of him she’d sneaked in Central Park. Harry took his leave (another surprise) on a June afternoon three years ago, a few days after his eighth birthday. Alone in our fifth-floor apartment, as was usual during working hours, he became unhinged by a noisy thunderstorm and went out a front window left a quarter open on a muggy day. I knew him well and could summon up his feelings during the brief moments of that leap: the welcome coolness of rain on his muzzle and shoulders, the excitement of air and space around his outstretched body.

Here in my tenth decade, I can testify that the downside of great age is the room it provides for rotten news. Living long means enough already. When Harry died, Carol and I couldn’t stop weeping; we sat in the bathroom with his retrieved body on a mat between us, the light-brown patches on his back and the near-black of his ears still darkened by the rain, and passed a Kleenex box back and forth between us. Not all the tears were for him. Two months earlier, a beautiful daughter of mine, my oldest child, had ended her life, and the oceanic force and mystery of that event had not left full space for tears. Now we could cry without reserve, weep together for Harry and Callie and ourselves. Harry cut us loose.

A few notes about age is my aim here, but a little more about loss is inevitable. “Most of the people my age is dead. You could look it up” was the way Casey Stengel put it. He was seventy-five at the time, and contemporary social scientists might prefer Casey’s line delivered at eighty-five now, for accuracy, but the point remains. We geezers carry about a bulging directory of dead husbands or wives, children, parents, lovers, brothers and sisters, dentists and shrinks, office sidekicks, summer neighbors, classmates, and bosses, all once entirely familiar to us and seen as part of the safe landscape of the day. It’s no wonder we’re a bit bent. The surprise, for me, is that the accruing weight of these departures doesn’t bury us, and that even the pain of an almost unbearable loss gives way quite quickly to something more distant but still stubbornly gleaming. The dead have departed, but gestures and glances and tones of voice of theirs, even scraps of clothing—that pale-yellow Saks scarf—reappear unexpectedly, along with accompanying touches of sweetness or irritation.

Our dead are almost beyond counting and we want to herd them along, pen them up somewhere in order to keep them straight. I like to think of mine as fellow-voyagers crowded aboard the Île de France (the idea is swiped from “Outward Bound”). Here’s my father, still handsome in his tuxedo, lighting a Lucky Strike. There’s Ted Smith, about to name-drop his Gloucester home town again. Here comes Slim Aarons. Here’s Esther Mae Counts, from fourth grade: hi, Esther Mae. There’s Gardner—with Cecille Shawn, for some reason. Here’s Ted Yates. Anna Hamburger. Colba F. Gucker, better known as Chief. Bob Ascheim. Victor Pritchett—and Dorothy. Henry Allen. Bart Giamatti. My elder old-maid cousin Jean Webster and her unexpected, late-arriving Brit husband, Capel Hanbury. Kitty Stableford. Dan Quisenberry. Nancy Field. Freddy Alexandre. I look around for others and at times can almost produce someone at will. Callie returns, via a phone call. “Dad?” It’s her, all right, her voice affectionately rising at the end—“Da-ad?”—but sounding a bit impatient this time. She’s in a hurry. And now Harold Eads. Toni Robin. Dick Salmon, his face bright red with laughter. Edith Oliver. Sue Dawson. Herb Mitgang. Coop. Tudie. Elwood Carter.

These names are best kept in mind rather than boxed and put away somewhere. Old letters are engrossing but feel historic in numbers, photo albums delightful but with a glum after-kick like a chocolate caramel. Home movies are killers: Zeke, a long-gone Lab, alive again, rushing from right to left with a tennis ball in his mouth; my sister Nancy, stunning at seventeen, smoking a lipstick-stained cigarette aboard Astrid, with the breeze stirring her tied-up brown hair; my mother laughing and ducking out of the picture again, waving her hands in front of her face in embarrassment—she’s about thirty-five. Me sitting cross-legged under a Ping-Pong table, at eleven. Take us away.

My list of names is banal but astounding, and it’s barely a fraction, the ones that slip into view in the first minute or two. Anyone over sixty knows this; my list is only longer. I don’t go there often, but, once I start, the battalion of the dead is on duty, alertly waiting. Why do they sustain me so, cheer me up, remind me of life? I don’t understand this. Why am I not endlessly grieving?

What I’ve come to count on is the white-coated attendant of memory, silently here again to deliver dabs from the laboratory dish of me. In the days before Carol died, twenty months ago, she lay semiconscious in bed at home, alternating periods of faint or imperceptible breathing with deep, shuddering catch-up breaths. Then, in a delicate gesture, she would run the pointed tip of her tongue lightly around the upper curve of her teeth. She repeated this pattern again and again. I’ve forgotten, perhaps mercifully, much of what happened in that last week and the weeks after, but this recurs.

Carol is around still, but less reliably. For almost a year, I would wake up from another late-afternoon mini-nap in the same living-room chair, and, in the instants before clarity, would sense her sitting in her own chair, just opposite. Not a ghost but a presence, alive as before and in the same instant gone again. This happened often, and I almost came to count on it, knowing that it wouldn’t last. Then it stopped.

People my age and younger friends as well seem able to recall entire tapestries of childhood, and swatches from their children’s early lives as well: conversations, exact meals, birthday parties, illnesses, picnics, vacation B. and B.s, trips to the ballet, the time when . . . I can’t do this and it eats at me, but then, without announcement or connection, something turns up. I am walking on Ludlow Lane, in Snedens, with my two young daughters, years ago on a summer morning. I’m in my late thirties; they’re about nine and six, and I’m complaining about the steep little stretch of road between us and our house, just up the hill. Maybe I’m getting old, I offer. Then I say that one day I’ll be really old and they’ll have to hold me up. I imitate an old man mumbling nonsense and start to walk with wobbly legs. Callie and Alice scream with laughter and hold me up, one on each side. When I stop, they ask for more, and we do this over and over.

I’m leaving out a lot, I see. My work— I’m still working, or sort of. Reading. The collapsing, grossly insistent world. Stuff I get excited about or depressed about all the time. Dailiness—but how can I explain this one? Perhaps with a blog recently posted on Facebook by a woman I know who lives in Australia. “Good Lord, we’ve run out of nutmeg!” it began. “How in the world did that ever happen?” Dozens of days are like that with me lately.

Intimates and my family—mine not very near me now but always on call, always with me. My children Alice and John Henry and my daughter-in-law Alice—yes, another one—and my granddaughters Laura and Lily and Clara, who together and separately were as steely and resplendent as a company of Marines on the day we buried Carol. And on other days and in other ways as well. Laura, for example, who will appear almost overnight, on demand, to drive me and my dog and my stuff five hundred miles Down East, then does it again, backward, later in the summer. Hours of talk and sleep (mine, not hers) and renewal—the abandoned mills at Lawrence, Mass., Cat Mousam Road, the Narramissic River still there—plus a couple of nights together, with the summer candles again.

Friends in great numbers now, taking me to dinner or cooking in for me. (One afternoon, I found a freshly roasted chicken sitting outside my front door; two hours later, another one appeared in the same spot.) Friends inviting me to the opera, or to Fairway on Sunday morning, or to dine with their kids at the East Side Deli, or to a wedding at the Rockbound Chapel, or bringing in ice cream to share at my place while we catch another Yankees game. They saved my life. In the first summer after Carol had gone, a man I’d known slightly and pleasantly for decades listened while I talked about my changed routines and my doctors and dog walkers and the magazine. I paused for a moment, and he said, “Plus you have us.”

Another message—also brief, also breathtaking—came on an earlier afternoon at my longtime therapist’s, at a time when I felt I’d lost almost everything. “I don’t know how I’m going to get through this,” I said at last.

A silence, then: “Neither do I. But you will.”

I am a world-class complainer but find palpable joy arriving with my evening Dewar’s, from Robinson Cano between pitches, from the first pages once again of “Appointment in Samarra” or the last lines of the Elizabeth Bishop poem called “Poem.” From the briefest strains of Handel or Roy Orbison, or Dennis Brain playing the early bars of his stunning Mozart horn concertos. (This Angel recording may have been one of the first things Carol and I acquired just after our marriage, and I hear it playing on a sunny Saturday morning in our Ninety-fourth Street walkup.) Also the recalled faces and then the names of Jean Dixon or Roscoe Karns or Porter Hall or Brad Dourif in another Netflix rerun. Chloë Sevigny in “Trees Lounge.” Gail Collins on a good day. Family ice-skating up near Harlem in the nineteen-eighties, with the Park employees, high on youth or weed, looping past us backward to show their smiles.

Recent and not so recent surveys (including the six-decades-long Grant Study of the lives of some nineteen-forties Harvard graduates) confirm that a majority of us people over seventy-five keep surprising ourselves with happiness. Put me on that list. Our children are adults now and mostly gone off, and let’s hope full of their own lives. We’ve outgrown our ambitions. If our wives or husbands are still with us, we sense a trickle of contentment flowing from the reliable springs of routine, affection in long silences, calm within the light boredom of well-worn friends, retold stories, and mossy opinions. Also the distant whoosh of a surfaced porpoise outside our night windows.

We elders—what kind of a handle is this, anyway, halfway between a tree and an eel?—we elders have learned a thing or two, including invisibility. Here I am in a conversation with some trusty friends—old friends but actually not all that old: they’re in their sixties—and we’re finishing the wine and in serious converse about global warming in Nyack or Virginia Woolf the cross-dresser. There’s a pause, and I chime in with a couple of sentences. The others look at me politely, then resume the talk exactly at the point where they’ve just left it. What? Hello? Didn’t I just say something? Have I left the room? Have I experienced what neurologists call a TIA—a transient ischemic attack? I didn’t expect to take over the chat but did await a word or two of response. Not tonight, though. (Women I know say that this began to happen to them when they passed fifty.) When I mention the phenomenon to anyone around my age, I get back nods and smiles. Yes, we’re invisible. Honored, respected, even loved, but not quite worth listening to anymore. You’ve had your turn, Pops; now it’s ours.

I’ve been asking myself why I don’t think about my approaching visitor, death. He was often on my mind thirty or forty years ago, I believe, though more of a stranger. Death terrified me then, because I had so many engagements. The enforced opposite—no dinner dates or coming attractions, no urgent business, no fun, no calls, no errands, no returned words or touches—left a blank that I could not light or furnish: a condition I recognized from childhood bad dreams and sudden awakenings. Well, not yet, not soon, or probably not, I would console myself, and that welcome but then tediously repeated postponement felt in time less like a threat than like a family obligation—tea with Aunt Molly in Montclair, someday soon but not now. Death, meanwhile, was constantly onstage or changing costume for his next engagement—as Bergman’s thick-faced chess player; as the medieval night-rider in a hoodie; as Woody Allen’s awkward visitor half-falling into the room as he enters through the window; as W. C. Fields’s man in the bright nightgown—and in my mind had gone from spectre to a waiting second-level celebrity on the Letterman show. Or almost. Some people I knew seemed to have lost all fear when dying and awaited the end with a certain impatience. “I’m tired of lying here,” said one. “Why is this taking so long?” asked another. Death will get it on with me eventually, and stay much too long, and though I’m in no hurry about the meeting, I feel I know him almost too well by now.

A weariness about death exists in me and in us all in another way, as well, though we scarcely notice it. We have become tireless voyeurs of death: he is on the morning news and the evening news and on the breaking, middle-of–the-day news as well—not the celebrity death, I mean, but the everyone-else death. A roadside-accident figure, covered with a sheet. A dead family, removed from a ramshackle faraway building pocked and torn by bullets. The transportation dead. The dead in floods and hurricanes and tsunamis, in numbers called “tolls.” The military dead, presented in silence on your home screen, looking youthful and well combed. The enemy war dead or rediscovered war dead, in higher figures. Appalling and dulling totals not just from this year’s war but from the ones before that, and the ones way back that some of us still around may have also attended. All the dead from wars and natural events and school shootings and street crimes and domestic crimes that each of us has once again escaped and felt terrible about and plans to go and leave wreaths or paper flowers at the site of. There’s never anything new about death, to be sure, except its improved publicity. At second hand, we have become death’s expert witnesses; we know more about death than morticians, feel as much at home with it as those poor bygone schlunks trying to survive a continent-ravaging, low-digit-century epidemic. Death sucks but, enh—click the channel.

I get along. Now and then it comes to me that I appear to have more energy and hope than some of my coevals, but I take no credit for this. I don’t belong to a book club or a bridge club; I’m not taking up Mandarin or practicing the viola. In a sporadic effort to keep my brain from moldering, I’ve begun to memorize shorter poems—by Auden, Donne, Ogden Nash, and more—which I recite to myself some nights while walking my dog, Harry’s successor fox terrier, Andy. I’ve also become a blogger, and enjoy the ease and freedom of the form: it’s a bit like making a paper airplane and then watching it take wing below your window. But shouldn’t I have something more scholarly or complex than this put away by now—late paragraphs of accomplishments, good works, some weightier op cits? I’m afraid not. The thoughts of age are short, short thoughts. I don’t read Scripture and cling to no life precepts, except perhaps to Walter Cronkite’s rules for old men, which he did not deliver over the air: Never trust a fart. Never pass up a drink. Never ignore an erection.

I count on jokes, even jokes about death.

TEACHER: Good morning, class. This is the first day of school and we’re going to introduce ourselves. I’ll call on you, one by one, and you can tell us your name and maybe what your dad or your mom does for a living. You, please, over at this end.

SMALL BOY: My name is Irving and my dad is a mechanic.

TEACHER: A mechanic! Thank you, Irving. Next?

SMALL GIRL: My name is Emma and my mom is a lawyer.

TEACHER: How nice for you, Emma! Next?

SECOND SMALL BOY: My name is Luke and my dad is dead.

TEACHER: Oh, Luke, how sad for you. We’re all very sorry about that, aren’t we, class? Luke, do you think you could tell us what Dad did before he died?

LUKE (seizes his throat): He went “_N’gungghhh! _”

Not bad—I’m told that fourth graders really go for this one. Let’s try another.

A man and his wife tried and tried to have a baby, but without success. Years went by and they went on trying, but no luck. They liked each other, so the work was always a pleasure, but they grew a bit sad along the way. Finally, she got pregnant, was very careful, and gave birth to a beautiful eight-pound-two-ounce baby boy. The couple were beside themselves with happiness. At the hospital that night, she told her husband to stop by the local newspaper and arrange for a birth announcement, to tell all their friends the good news. First thing next morning, she asked if he’d done the errand.

“Yes, I did,” he said, “but I had no idea those little notices in the paper were so expensive.”

“Expensive?” she said. “How much was it?”

“It was eight hundred and thirty-seven dollars. I have the receipt.”

“Eight hundred and thirty-seven dollars!” she cried. “But that’s impossible. You must have made some mistake. Tell me exactly what happened.”

“There was a young lady behind a counter at the paper, who gave me the form to fill out,” he said. “I put in your name and my name and little Teddy’s name and weight, and when we’d be home again and, you know, ready to see friends. I handed it back to her and she counted up the words and said, ‘How many insertions?’ I said twice a week for fourteen years, and she gave me the bill. O.K.?”

I heard this tale more than fifty years ago, when my first wife, Evelyn, and I were invited to tea by a rather elegant older couple who were new to our little Rockland County community. They were in their seventies, at least, and very welcoming, and it was just the four of us. We barely knew them and I was surprised when he turned and asked her to tell us the joke about the couple trying to have a baby. “Oh, no,” she said, “they wouldn’t want to hear that.”

“Oh, come on, dear—they’ll love it,” he said, smiling at her. I groaned inwardly and was preparing a forced smile while she started off shyly, but then, of course, the four of us fell over laughing together.

That night, Evelyn said, “Did you see Keith’s face while Edie was telling that story? Did you see hers? Do you think it’s possible that they’re still—you know, still doing it?”

“Yes, I did—yes, I do,” I said. “I was thinking exactly the same thing. They’re amazing.”

This was news back then, but probably shouldn’t be by now. I remember a passage I came upon years later, in an Op-Ed piece in the Times, written by a man who’d just lost his wife. “We slept naked in the same bed for forty years,” it went. There was also my splendid colleague Bob Bingham, dying in his late fifties, who was asked by a friend what he’d missed or would do differently if given the chance. He thought for an instant, and said, “More venery.”

More venery. More love; more closeness; more sex and romance. Bring it back, no matter what, no matter how old we are. This fervent cry of ours has been certified by Simone de Beauvoir and Alice Munro and Laurence Olivier and any number of remarried or recoupled ancient classmates of ours. Laurence Olivier? I’m thinking of what he says somewhere in an interview: “Inside, we’re all seventeen, with red lips.”

This is a dodgy subject, coming as it does here from a recent widower, and I will risk a further breach of code and add that this was something that Carol and I now and then idly discussed. We didn’t quite see the point of memorial fidelity. In our view, the departed spouse—we always thought it would be me—wouldn’t be around anymore but knew or had known that he or she was loved forever. Please go ahead, then, sweetheart—don’t miss a moment. Carol said this last: “If you haven’t found someone else by a year after I’m gone I’ll come back and haunt you.”

Getting old is the second-biggest surprise of my life, but the first, by a mile, is our unceasing need for deep attachment and intimate love. We oldies yearn daily and hourly for conversation and a renewed domesticity, for company at the movies or while visiting a museum, for someone close by in the car when coming home at night. This is why we throng and OkCupid in such numbers—but not just for this, surely. Rowing in Eden (in Emily Dickinson’s words: “Rowing in Eden— / Ah—the sea”) isn’t reserved for the lithe and young, the dating or the hooked-up or the just lavishly married, or even for couples in the middle-aged mixed-doubles semifinals, thank God. No personal confession or revelation impends here, but these feelings in old folks are widely treated like a raunchy secret. The invisibility factor—you’ve had your turn—is back at it again. But I believe that everyone in the world wants to be with someone else tonight, together in the dark, with the sweet warmth of a hip or a foot or a bare expanse of shoulder within reach. Those of us who have lost that, whatever our age, never lose the longing: just look at our faces. If it returns, we seize upon it avidly, stunned and altered again.

Nothing is easy at this age, and first meetings for old lovers can be a high-risk venture. Reticence and awkwardness slip into the room. Also happiness. A wealthy old widower I knew married a nurse he met while in the hospital, but had trouble remembering her name afterward. He called her “kid.” An eighty-plus, twice-widowed lady I’d once known found still another love, a frail but vibrant Midwest professor, now close to ninety, and the pair got in two or three happy years together before he died as well. When she called his children and arranged to pick up her things at his house, she found every possession of hers lined up outside the front door.

But to hell with them and with all that, O.K.? Here’s to you, old dears. You got this right, every one of you. Hook, line, and sinker; never mind the why or wherefore; somewhere in the night; love me forever, or at least until next week. For us and for anyone this unsettles, anyone who’s younger and still squirms at the vision of an old couple embracing, I’d offer John Updike’s “Sex or death: you take your pick”—a line that appears (in a slightly different form) in a late story of his, “Playing with Dynamite.”

This is a great question, an excellent insurance-plan choice, I mean. I think it’s in the Affordable Care Act somewhere. Take it from us, who know about the emptiness of loss, and are still cruising along here feeling lucky and not yet entirely alone. ♦

Artist of the Day: 2/9/2020, Picasso

Famous Picasso paintings: 7 works that captured our imagination

Written by Forrest Brown, CNN

It’s hard to imagine a visual record of the 20th century without Pablo Ruiz Picasso. With his bold shapes and characteristic angles, the Spanish artist captured everything from the horrors of war to the boundless possibilities of the human form. Even those unfamiliar with the intricacies of modern art history can likely identify a few of his best-known paintings — particularly those in his signature cubist style. However, during Picasso’s long life — he died in 1973 at age 91 — he is estimated to have completed 13,500 paintings and around 100,000 prints and engravings. 

Pablo Picasso captured on October 1971 in Mougins, France.

A comprehensive retrospective of his work and the numerous artistic traditions it spanned, is a massive undertaking. So much so that entire museums are devoted to his prolific output (Museu Picasso in Barcelona and Musée Picassoin Paris, to name two of the largest). His artworks are also coveted inclusions in private collections worldwide.Stolen Picasso painting worth $28 million recovered after 20 years

Here are seven of Picasso’s most famous paintings, in order of completion:

‘The Old Guitarist’

"The Old Guitarist" comes from Picasso's "blue period."

Completed: Late 1903 to early 1904
Where to see it:Art Institute of Chicago

“The Old Guitarist” has to be one of the most sorrowful paintings to ever capture the art world’s imagination. The figure depicted — gaunt and cross-legged — appears exhausted as he slumps over his brown guitar. The oil-on-panel painting is from Picasso’s “blue period,” which saw him restrict himself to shades of blue as he explored themes of poverty and suffering.Did you know? The Art Institute of Chicago became the first American museum to put a Picasso on permanent display after it bought “The Old Guitarist” in 1926.

‘Garçon à la Pipe’

Sotheby's sold "Garçon à la Pipe" for a stunning amount in 2004.

Completed: 1905
Where to see it: Private collection With “Garçon à la Pipe (Boy With a Pipe),” we move from Picasso’s blue period to the more lively rose period

And while the figure in the oil-on-canvas portrait is clothed in blue, the background features happier shades of ochre and pink. 

While hardly bubbling over with joy, the boy strikes a more upbeat image than that of the downtrodden figures from the blue period. He even wears a headpiece of flowers, with more flowers appearing in the background.Picasso painted this not long after he moved to the Montmartre section of Paris, which attracted the likes of Edgar Degas and Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec.Did you know? “Garçon” sold for a stunning $104.1 million back in 2004 — a record for any painting at the time. Art critics were taken aback, with some not considering the painting among Picasso’s best efforts. But the sale helped propel it to notoriety, securing its place as one of Picasso’s most famous works.

‘Gertrude Stein’

"Gertrude Stein" is in the permanent collection of the Met. Stein's interest in Picasso's work was a turning point in his career.

Completed: 1905-06
Where to see it: Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York)In a portrait that’s as imposing as its subject, “Gertrude Stein” was created near the end of Picasso’s rose period.

Picasso became quick friends with Stein, a writer, after he moved to Paris. Famed for her weekly salons, Stein’s influence extended beyond the literary world. She was also an avid art collector, and joining her inner circle could propel a painter’s career to new heights.

While the portrait is not a cubist work, art experts see the early stirrings of cubism with the use of simple masses for Stein’s body. Did you know? Look closely at the painting — Stein’s face stands out from the rest of the portrait. That’s because Picasso was unhappy with his early efforts. He got so frustrated that he went back to Spain for a break and finished the face upon his return to France. Stein bequeathed the portrait to the Met in 1946.

‘Les Demoiselles d’Avignon’

"Les Demoiselles d'Avignon" caused quite the stir when it was finally displayed for public consumption.

Completed: 1907
Where to see it:Museum of Modern Art (New York)Everything about “Les Demoiselles d’Avignon” was shocking to the art world when it was finally shown in 1916, almost a decade after Picasso had finished it. From the subject matter (women in a brothel) to the early cubist style that contorts their bodies and how their eyes directly meet the gaze of its viewers, the effect was incendiary. What’s inside MoMA’s $450 million expansion?

Contemporary Henri Matisse was particularly vexed and thought it an affront to modern art. But despite the outrage (or maybe because of it), “Les Demoiselles d’Avignon” went on to be one of Picasso’s most recognizable paintings.Did you know? You’d be forgiven if you thought the painting’s name referred to the city of Avignon in France. It actually refers to a district in Barcelona, Spain, that was a favorite haunt of prostitutes at the time.

‘Girl Before a Mirror’

A pregnant woman studies "Girl Before a Mirror" on March 6, 2018, during an exhibition at the Tate Modern in London.

Completed: 1932
Where to see it:Museum of Modern Art (New York)If there’s a single painting that screams Picasso, this might be the one. “Girl Before a Mirror” is alive with color, pathos, a hint of eroticism and beguiling shapes that take cubism to its extremes.

It’s a fascinating study that asks: “What do you really see when you look at yourself?” The woman holding the mirror on the left is much lighter and livelier than the darker reflection, which appears to be shedding a tear.Did you know? Picasso said he “preferred this painting to any of the others,” according to MoMA’s founding director, Alfred H. Barr Jr.


Residing at the Reina Sofia, "Guernica" is one of the most famous paitings in the world.

Completed: 1937
Where to see it:Museo Reina Sofía (Madrid)”Guernica” is not only Picasso’s best-known work, it’s one of the most famous (and Google-searched) paintings in the world.

Its depiction of an aerial bombing raid on the Basque town of Guernica in April 1937, during the Spanish Civil War, was an eerie visual prelude to the coming atrocities of World War II.The muted tones of gray further emphasize the shapes of humans, their arms outstretched in agony, and give the painting the documentary-style impact of a black-and-white photograph. It also contains animal imagery heavily associated with Spain, namely the bull and the horse.Paintings, protest and propaganda: A visual history of warfare

“Guernica” has become one of the most recognizable anti-war paintings in history.Did you know? For decades, “Guernica” was displayed in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York while Francisco Franco ruled Spain with an iron fist. In 1974, it was defaced with red paint as an anti-war protest. It was quickly cleaned up and eventually returned to Spain in 1981.

‘The Weeping Woman’

A visitor studies "The Weeping Woman" at the Tate Modern in London.

Completed: 1937
Where to see it:Tate Modern (London)In today’s cinematic terms, think of “The Weeping Woman” as something of a sequel to “Guernica.”

Whereas “Guernica” depicts the fresh and full sweep of destruction, “Weeping Woman” examines the emotional aftermath of war, tightly focused on one woman plucked from the original painting.Picasso actually created a series of weeping women portraits that can be seen in various galleries. The version residing at the Tate — an oil-on-canvas work in Picasso’s angular style, incorporating red, green, white, yellow, blue and mauve — is the culmination of that effort. Dora Maar — meet the woman behind the portraitDid you know? The subject of the portrait is photographer and artist Dora Maar, who documented his progress on “Guernica.” She was also his lover and intellectual companion.

Museums may loan out artworks for special exhibits elsewhere. Always check ahead if you wish to see a specific work to be sure it’s currently on display.

Article of the Day: February 4, 2020 Opinion Piece by William Jackson

This is an opinion piece by William Jackson who is a Democrat and opponent of President Trump. The part of the article I’m interested in is this quote:

When making the case for the Constitution, in Federalist Papers No. 10 and 51, (James) Madison wrote:“If men were angels, no government would be necessary. In framing a government which is to be administered by men over men, the great difficulty lies in this: you must first enable the government to control the governed; and in the next place oblige it to control itself.”

As an interesting sidenote, I taught Lamar Alexander’s son in fourth grade. Also, I am a former Presbyterian pastor who is now an Episcopal priest. I’m including the rest of the opinion piece so that you can understand his perspective:

King George III once referred to the American Revolution as a Presbyterian revolt.

After the House of Representatives impeached Donald Trump, a member of the Salem Presbytery in North Carolina wrote an epistle entitled “The Church Knew the Dangers of Dictators.”

Specifically, he appealed to Presbyterians to remember the centuries-long connection between the Presbyterian form of church government and the evolution of constitutional democracy in the United States.

After the battles of Lexington and Concord in April 1775, Presbyterians in Mecklenburg County — as the story has been told — gathered at the Charlotte courthouse in May to issue the Mecklenburg Declaration, which proclaimed independence from Great Britain.

The ratification of the Constitution occurred 14 years later, in 1789. James Madison, the architect of the checks and balances written into the Constitution, had been a student under John Witherspoon, a Presbyterian minister and the president of Princeton University.

When making the case for the Constitution, in Federalist Papers No. 10 and 51, Madison wrote:

“If men were angels, no government would be necessary. In framing a government which is to be administered by men over men, the great difficulty lies in this: you must first enable the government to control the governed; and in the next place oblige it to control itself.”

A government, based upon three separate and equal branches of government — legislative, executive and judicial — was created to prevent too much power from being placed in the hands of one person.

At the close of the Senate trial of Donald Trump, nothing less than the freedom of the American people is at stake. That is, if we are to abandon a system of government that provides checks and balances on power that would otherwise go unchecked.

The apparent decision to allow the president to get off the hook, now, without several key witnesses being heard, is to invite presidential mayhem from here on out. No one — not even Trump himself — knows to what extremes he may yet drive us.

Think about the latest (Jan. 29) high-voltage argument of “celebrity” Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz: If the president asserts that he is pursuing what is in the national interest, then it is constitutionally acceptable for him to proclaim any falsehood — and to commit any political or military act!   

This heretical notion is the logical product of Attorney General William Barr’s theory of the unitary executive: that neither Congress nor the federal courts can tell the president what to do — or how to do it — in regard to national security matters in particular.

There are more Presbyterians in the U.S. Senate than any other Protestant denomination.

If as few as four of the 11 Republican senators — who are Presbyterian — had supported a full-fledged trial, it would have been a victory for good government.

Alternatively, if retiring three-term Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), a Presbyterian, had signaled he would join Republican Sens. Mitt Romney (Utah), Susan Collins (Maine) and Lisa Murkowski (Alaska), that combination would have probably ensured witnesses were heard in the Senate. The final vote to not hear witnesses failed 49-51.

I interviewed a former Davidson student who is a lawyer in Nashville and knows Alexander.

He told me: “Lamar will not vote to hear witnesses unless there is an iron-clad agreement that there will be eight to 10 Republicans who have committed to vote that way.”

Yet, Alexander — after coming out against witnesses — made it clear Friday that he thought Trump was guilty of the charges in the House indictment.

It is time to rally members of our church against a man who has, on occasion, described himself as a Presbyterian.

Let the voters of every religious faith take to heart the wise saying from Proverbs 24: 12 — as found in the Berean Study Bible:

“If you say, ‘Behold, we did not know about this,’ will not He who weighs hearts consider it? Does not the one who guards your life know? Will He not repay a man according to his deeds?”

Do not say in 2020 what you may have been able to say in 2016: I did not know what this tyrant was like.

Article of the Day: 1/20/20 Who is my neighbor?

How 17 Outsize Portraits Rattled a Small Southern Town

By Audra D. S. BurchJan. 19, 2020, 3:00 a.m. ET


Newnan, Ga., decided to use art to help the community celebrate diversity and embrace change. Not everyone was ready for what they saw. 

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NEWNAN, Ga. — It was the Saturday afternoon that this small Southern city had been dreading. A group of neo-Nazis promised to hold a rally in downtown Newnan to celebrate Adolf Hitler’s birthday and rail against illegal immigrationand the removal of Confederate monuments.

Newnan had prided itself on its quiet charm. It offered small-town living just 40 miles southwest of Atlanta and had earned the nickname “City of Homes” for its antebellum architecture. Now, on a spring day in April 2018, a neo-Nazi group had assembled in a park near the courthouse, the leader having said the group preferred to hold rallies in predominantly white towns. 

But it turned out that only a few dozen white nationalists attended the rally, and the Newnan they had imagined no longer existed. Its population had more than doubled in less than 20 years, drawing an increasingly diverse collection of newcomers. Newnan was changing and many in the community wanted to embrace that change more openly. A year after the white nationalist rally, the town made an effort to do so by putting up 17 large-scale banner portraits, images of the ordinary people who make up Newnan. 

They hang from the perches of brick buildings around downtown. There’s Helen Berry, an African-American woman who for years worked at a sewing factory. Wiley Driver, a white worker who folded and packed blankets at a local mill before his death in 2017. Jineet Blanco, a waitress who arrived in Newnan carrying her Mexican traditions and dreams. And then there were the Shah sisters.

A portrait of Aatika and Zahraw Shah wearing hijabs was displayed on the side of an empty building in downtown Newnan. The sisters were born in Georgia and had lived in Newnan since 2012, after they moved from Athens, Ga. They attended a local high school in the county. Their father, an engineer, moved to the United States from Pakistan, as did their mother. 

The reaction to their portrait was fast and intense. James Shelnutt was driving through downtown when he saw it. “I feel like Islam is a threat to the American way of life,” he said. “There should be no positive portrayals of it.” Mr. Shelnutt turned to Facebook, encouraging residents to complain. The thread quickly devolved into anti-Muslim attacks and name-calling. Some posters referred to Sept. 11 and argued that believers of Islam were violent. 

One woman said there were not enough Muslims in Newnan for the Shahs to be included in the art installation in the first place.

The portraits were meant to be inclusive, upend stubborn preconceptions and unravel the cocoons people had created within the community. And they did — but they also exposed how immigration and demographic change have recast the racial dynamics that once defined America, adding new layers of anxiety on the old tensions that persist across the country and in small towns like Newnan.

Old Newnan vs. New Newnan 

“I do not know if Newnan had looked at itself this closely before now,” said Robert Hancock, a lawyer and real estate consultant who, as president of Newnan’s Artist in Residence program, helped commission the installation. 

Newnan was a hospital town that treated soldiers on both sides of the Civil War. The town found its prosperity, in part, in the cotton industry, and at one point, Newnan was one of the wealthiest towns per capita in the United States. 

When Mr. Hancock moved to town in 1986 there were about 12,000 people. The population today is pushing 40,000, with the biggest growth spurt occurring between 2000 and 2010. In that decade alone, the population doubled.

White people still make up more than half the population, but the newcomers are largely from other backgrounds. The share of Hispanics has more than doubled, while the Asian population, although still small, grew more than fivefold between 2000 and 2017. In that same period, the black population dropped from about 42 percent of the population to 28 percent. 

The sheer size of the town’s growth has led some to bristle. “People are wrestling with the numbers, asking themselves, ‘Is this going to make us more like the big city we don’t like?’ and ‘How can we keep this small-town feeling?’” said Cynthia Jenkins, the first African-American woman elected to the City Council, in 2003. “If there are less people in the grocery store I recognize, then are we getting too big?”

“Seeing Newnan,” as the art installation is called, was created by the photographer Mary Beth Meehan. Mr. Hancock and Chad Davidson, director of the University of West Georgia’s School of the Arts, were in Providence, R.I., for an art conference in 2015 when they saw one of Ms. Meehan’s installations.photophotophotophoto

William Widmer for The New York Times

Clifton Fisher and Monique Bentley

Jane Bass

Rev. Jimmy Patterson

Rev. Rufus Smith Sr.

Mr. Hancock was drawn to the beauty of the portraits, but he was also thinking about his almost exclusively white world in Newnan. “My children told me, ‘Dad, you are so open, but your circle is not inclusive,’” he said. “When I thought about it, they were right.” So he reached out to Ms. Meehan and told her about Newnan. 

He told her about the town’s race and class tensions, about the old Newnan versus the new Newnan, how residents who grew up here have watched the population explode. And yet, “I just felt like we were living apart,” Mr. Hancock said. “We were in these little bubbles. I thought this project could pierce the bubbles.”

Ms. Meehan arrived in Newnan in 2016 as part of the Artist in Residence program. She had done similar portraiture projects in her hometown, Brockton, Mass., and most recently in Silicon Valley. In Newnan, she was met with both open arms and some suspicion — she was a white liberal from the North who had not spent much time in the South.

“The thinking was, Is this person going to portray us as a bunch of racist rednecks?” Mr. Hancock said. He even remembers wondering out loud more than once if he had done the right thing by hosting the project. Would it celebrate Newnan’s growth and diversity, or reinforce its differences?

Mary Beth Meehan’s portrait installation posed questions about Newnan’s changing identity.
Mary Beth Meehan’s portrait installation posed questions about Newnan’s changing identity.William Widmer for The New York Times

‘People Needed to Open Their Eyes’

Ms. Meehan was in Newnan for the big moments and the small. A fall high school homecoming. The reunion of a class from 1954 who attended an all-black high school. Sunday morning services at a church attended by descendants of early settlers. The 2016 election night that ushered in President Trump.

She spent more than two years visiting Newnan, witnessing the kind of moments that offer hints about a community’s identity. Newnan was the right place for the project. “Newnan was ready to begin this conversation, and the evidence is that despite the tensions and difficulties, the people ultimately didn’t shut me down,” she said. “They kept inviting me back.”

Ms. Meehan had already started editing several of the photos in the series when she made one of her last trips to Newnan in October 2018. Zahraw and Aatika were among the subjects she photographed during that trip, and when she showed their portrait to Mr. Hancock a day later, he paused. 

He thought about Newnan’s conservative culture — Mr. Trump carried the county by about 70 percent. “I knew instinctively that the picture was going to be controversial,” he said. But Mr. Hancock decided that he did not want to pander to irrational fears and that the sisters would be among the portraits to make the final cut. “People needed to open their eyes and see what a beautiful, diverse place we live in,” he said. 

The Shahs had lived with stares and insensitive questions about their religion and traditional hijabs since they began wearing them in the sixth grade. But much of Newnan had welcomed them, they said. “I can’t tell you how many times a person would say that we are literally the first Muslims they have ever met,” said Zahraw, 20. “We did a lot of teaching.” 

A few Newnan residents protested the sisters’ banner in Mr. Shelnutt’s Facebook post, questioning whether they were actual Newnan residents or if they were even American. photophotophoto

Mary Beth Meehan

Zahraw and Aatika Shah

“I knew instinctively that the picture was going to be controversial,” Robert Hancock, one of the community leaders who commissioned the installation, said.

“But people needed to open their eyes and see what a beautiful, diverse place we live in.”

The post drew nearly 1,000 responses, most of them defending the sisters and accusing Mr. Shelnutt and others of being out-of-touch racists who were resistant to change and religious freedom. Mr. Shelnutt, who grew up in Newnan and owns a small construction company, denied being racist. “I do not feel like the two women in the photo are radical or dangerous,” he said. “I just do not think Newnan should be pushed to embrace Islam.”

The backlash made the sisters realize that much of Newnan didn’t know Newnan. They said it felt especially painful to be singled out. “We have been here seven years,” said Aatika Shah, 22, “and now because they have never seen us and then saw our picture, they somehow think we don’t belong.”

Growing Pains

Ms. Meehan had hoped her portraits would force people to see one another, perhaps for the first time. But she also knew there were risks if the portraits did not match a viewer’s perception of Newnan. She spent hundreds of hours talking to residents, and so often the conversations veered toward race.

When Ms. Meehan met the Rev. Jimmy Patterson, whose portrait drapes a building just off the court square, he told her about his own epiphany related to race. As the pastor of First Baptist Church of Newnan, he was one of several ministers who led a unity service to protest the neo-Nazi rally in 2018.

He used that occasion to apologize for a dark chapter in his family’s history: One of his ancestors had owned enslaved people in a nearby county, and in researching his genealogy, Mr. Patterson, who is white, found a will bequeathing them to family members. He kept the will secret for 13 years, telling his family about it only days before going public. Mr. Patterson believed the time had come for him to reconcile with the past.

One by one, he began to read the names in the will, humans considered property, lumped in the same category as cattle and furniture. Some people in the church gasped. Some began to cry as Mr. Patterson talked about the sin of racism, passed down almost like an heirloom, and all the years it had taken him to unlearn his own prejudices. And then he asked for forgiveness.

Ms. Meehan’s portraits, which will come down in June, have already had a lasting effect on the town. They have prompted deep conversations between people who had never met. “The truth is, these conversations are hard and uncomfortable and awkward but we need to lean into it,” said the Rev. David Jones II, the pastor of Newnan Presbyterian Church, who plans to use the art installation to organize a retreat about race, gender and identity this year. “We need to talk about who lives in our community and if they are different, why does that make us uncomfortable?”

Alain Delaquérière contributed research from New York.

Opionion Piece of the Day: 1/19/20

How Did Americans Lose Faith in Everything?

By Yuval LevinJan. 18, 2020

John J. Custer

Americans are living through a social crisis. We can see that in everything from vicious partisan polarization to rampant culture-war resentments to the isolation, alienation and despair that have sent suicide rates climbing and driven an epidemic of opioid abuse. These dysfunctions appear to have common roots, but one symptom of the crisis is that we can’t quite seem to get a handle on just where those roots lie.

When we think about our problems, we tend to imagine our society as a vast open space filled with individuals who are having trouble linking hands. And so we talk about breaking down walls, building bridges, leveling playing fields or casting unifying narratives.

But what we are missing is not simply greater connectedness but a structure of social life: a way to give shape, purpose, concrete meaning and identity to the things we do together. If American life is a big open space, it is not a space filled with individuals. It is a space filled with these structures of social life — with institutions. And if we are too often failing to foster belonging, legitimacy and trust, what we are confronting is a failure of institutions.

This social crisis has followed upon a collapse of our confidence in institutions — public, private, civic and political. But we have not given enough thought to just what that loss of confidence entails and why it’s happening.

Each core institution performs an important task — educating children, enforcing the law, serving the poor, providing some service, meeting some need. And it does that by establishing a structure and process, a form, for combining people’s efforts toward accomplishing that task.

But as it does so, each institution also forms the people within it to carry out that task responsibly and reliably. It shapes behavior and character, fostering an ethic built around some idea of integrity. That’s why we trust the institution and the people who compose it.

We trust political institutions when they undertake a solemn obligation to the public interest and shape the people who populate them to do the same. We trust a business because it promises quality and reliability and rewards its workers when they deliver those. We trust a profession because it imposes standards and rules on its members intended to make them worthy of confidence. We trust the military because it values courage, honor and duty in carrying out the defense of the nation and forms human beings who do, too.

We lose faith in an institution when we no longer believe that it plays this ethical or formative role of teaching the people within it to be trustworthy. This can happen through simple corruption, when an institution’s attempts to be formative fail to overcome the vices of the people within it, and it instead masks their treachery — as when a bank cheats its customers, or a member of the clergy abuses a child.

That kind of gross abuse of power obviously undermines public trust in institutions. It is common in our time as in every time. But for that very reason, it doesn’t really explain the exceptional collapse of trust in American institutions in recent decades.

What stands out about our era in particular is a distinct kind of institutional dereliction — a failure even to attempt to form trustworthy people, and a tendency to think of institutions not as molds of character and behavior but as platforms for performance and prominence.

In one arena after another, we find people who should be insiders formed by institutions acting like outsiders performing on institutions. Many members of Congress now use their positions not to advance legislation but to express and act out the frustrations of their core constituencies. Rather than work through the institution, they use it as a stage to elevate themselves, raise their profiles and perform for the cameras in the reality show of our unceasing culture war.

President Trump clearly does the same thing. Rather than embodying the presidency and acting from within it, he sees it as the latest, highest stage for his lifelong one-man show. And he frequently uses it as he used some of the stages he commanded before he was elected: to complain about the government, as if he were not its chief executive.

The pattern is rampant in the professional world. Check in on Twitter right now, and you’ll find countless journalists, for instance, leveraging the hard-earned reputations of the institutions they work for to build their personal brands outside of those institutions’ structures of editing and verification — leaving the public unsure of just why professional reporters should be trusted. The same too often happens in the sciences, in law and in other professions meant to offer expertise.

Or consider the academy, which is valued for its emphasis on the pursuit of truth through learning and teaching but which now too often serves as a stage for political morality plays enacted precisely by abjuring both. Look at many prominent establishments of American religion and you’ll find institutions intended to change hearts and save souls frequently used instead as yet more stages for livid political theater — not so much forming those within as giving them an outlet.

Artists and athletes often behave this way too, using reputations earned within institutional frameworks as platforms for building a profile outside them. When he was inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame, the former Chicago Cubs second baseman Ryne Sandberg implored fellow players to remember “that learning how to bunt and hit-and-run and turning two is more important than knowing where to find the little red light on the dugout camera.” When vital institutions across American life fail to produce people who remember that, they become much harder to trust.

The few exceptions to the pattern of declining confidence in institutions tend to prove this rule. The military is the most conspicuous exception and also the most unabashedly formative of our national institutions — molding men and women who clearly take a standard of behavior and responsibility seriously. And that can help us see what we might do to help alleviate the social crisis we confront.

All of us have roles to play in some institutions we care about, be they familial or communal, educational or professional, civic, political, cultural or economic. Rebuilding trust in those institutions will require the people within them — that is, each of us — to be more trustworthy. And that must mean in part letting the distinct integrities and purposes of these institutions shape us, rather than just using them as stages from which to be seen and heard.

As a practical matter, this can mean forcing ourselves, in little moments of decision, to ask the great unasked question of our time: “Given my role here, how should I behave?” That’s what people who take an institution they’re involved with seriously would ask. “As a president or a member of Congress, a teacher or a scientist, a lawyer or a doctor, a pastor or a member, a parent or a neighbor, what should I do here?”

The people you most respect these days probably seem to ask that kind of question before they make important judgments. And the people who drive you crazy, who you think are part of the problem, are likely those who clearly fail to ask it when they should.

Asking such questions of ourselves would be a first step toward grasping our responsibilities, recovering the great diversity of interlocking purposes that our institutions ought to serve, and constraining elites and people in power so that the larger society can better trust them. It would not be a substitute for institutional reforms but a prerequisite for them.

And asking such questions is one thing we all can do to take on the complicated social crisis we are living through and begin to rebuild the bonds of trust essential for a free society.

Yuval Levin, a scholar at the American Enterprise Institute and the editor of National Affairs and, is the author of the forthcoming “A Time to Build: From Family and Community to Congress and the Campus, How Recommitting to Our Institutions Can Revive the American Dream.”

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Article of the Day, January 10, 2020: We Are Moving

How Fast Is Earth Moving?

By Elizabeth Howell June 23, 2018

A view of Earth from space as seen by NASA's Deep Space Climate Observatory, or DSCOVR, a million miles away.

A new time-lapse videos combines 3,000 images from the DSCOVR satellite’s EPIC camera to show a year of Earth’s rotation, as seen from a million miles away.(Image: © NASA Goddard via YouTube)

As an Earthling, it’s easy to believe that we’re standing still. After all, we don’t feel any movement in our surroundings. Yet when you look at the sky, you can see evidence that we are moving. What exactly is the speed of Earth around the sun?

Some of the earliest astronomers proposed that we live in a geocentric universe, which means that Earth is at the center of everything. They said the sun rotated around us, which caused sunrises and sunsets — same for the movements of the moon and the planets. But there were certain things that didn’t work with this vision. Sometimes, a planet would back up in the sky before resuming its forward motion.

We know now that this motion — which is called retrograde motion — happens when Earth is “catching up” with another planet in its orbit. For example, Mars orbits farther from the sun than Earth. At one point in the respective orbits of Earth and Mars, we catch up to the Red Planet and pass it by. As we pass by it, the planet moves backward in the sky. Then it moves forward again after we have passed.

Related: How Big is Earth?

Another piece of evidence for the sun-centered solar system comes from looking at parallax, or apparent change in the position of the stars with respect to each other. For a simple example of parallax, hold up your index finger in front of your face at arm’s length. Look at it with your left eye only, closing your right eye. Then close your right eye, and look at the finger with your left. The finger’s apparent position changes. That’s because your left and right eyes are looking at the finger with slightly different angles.

The same thing happens on Earth when we look at stars. It takes about 365 days for us to orbit the sun. If we look at a star (located relatively close to us) in the summer, and look at it again in the winter, its apparent position in the sky changes because we are at different points in our orbit. We see the star from different vantage points. With a bit of simple calculation, using parallax we can also figure out the distance to that star.Click here for more videos…This video will resume in 18 seconds

How fast are we spinning?

Earth’s spin is constant, but the speed depends on what latitude you are located at. Here’s an example. The circumference (distance around the largest part of the Earth) is roughly 24,898 miles (40,070 kilometers), according to NASA. (This area is also called the equator.) If you estimate that a day is 24 hours long, you divide the circumference by the length of the day. This produces a speed at the equator of about 1,037 mph (1,670 km/h). [How Fast Light Travel?]

You won’t be moving quite as fast at other latitudes, however. If we move halfway up the globe to 45 degrees in latitude (either north or south), you calculate the speed by using the cosine (a trigonometric function) of the latitude. A good scientific calculator should have a cosine function available if you don’t know how to calculate it. The cosine of 45 is 0.707, so the spin speed at 45 degrees is roughly 0.707 x 1037 = 733 mph (1,180 km/h). That speed decreases more as you go farther north or south. By the time you get to the North or South poles, your spin is very slow indeed — it takes an entire day to spin in place.

Space agencies love to take advantage of Earth’s spin. If they’re sending humans to the International Space Station, for example, the preferred location to do so is close to the equator. That’s why cargo missions to the International Space Station, for example, launch from Florida. By doing so and launching in the same direction as Earth’s spin, rockets get a speed boost to help them fly into space.

How fast does Earth orbit the sun? 

Earth’s spin, of course, is not the only motion we have in space. Our orbital speed around the sun is about 67,000 mph (107,000 km/h), according to Cornell. We can calculate that with basic geometry. 

First, we have to figure out how far Earth travels. Earth takes about 365 days to orbit the sun. The orbit is an ellipse, but to make the math simpler, let’s say it’s a circle. So, Earth’s orbit is the circumference of a circle. The distance from Earth to the sun — called an astronomical unit— is 92,955,807 miles (149,597,870 kilometers), according to the International Astronomers Union. That is the radius (r). The circumference of a circle is equal to 2 x π x r. So in one year, Earth travels about 584 million miles (940 million km). 

Since speed is equal to the distance traveled over the time taken, Earth’s speed is calculated by dividing 584 million miles (940 million km) by­­ 365.25 days and dividing that result by 24 hours to get miles per hour or km per hour. So, Earth travels about 1.6 million miles (2.6 million km) a day, or 66,627 mph (107,226 km/h).

Sun and galaxy move, too

The sun has an orbit of its own in the Milky Way. The sun is about 25,000 light-years from the center of the galaxy, and the Milky Way is at least 100,000 light-years across. We are thought to be about halfway out from the center, according to Stanford University. The sun and the solar system appear to be moving at 200 kilometers per second, or at an average speed of 448,000 mph (720,000 km/h). Even at this rapid speed, the solar system would take about 230 million years to travel all the way around the Milky Way.

The Milky Way, too, moves in space relative to other galaxies. In about 4 billion years, the Milky Way will collide with its nearest neighbor, the Andromeda Galaxy. The two are rushing toward each other at about 70 miles per second (112 km per second). 

Everything in the universe is, therefore, in motion.

What would happen if Earth stopped spinning?

There is no chance that you’ll be flung off to space right now, because the Earth’s gravity is so strong compared to its spinning motion. (This latter motion is called centripetal acceleration.) At its strongest point, which is at the equator, centripetal acceleration only counteracts Earth’s gravity by about 0.3 percent. In other words, you don’t even notice it, although you will weigh slightly less at the equator than at the poles.

NASA says the probability for Earth stopping its spin is “practically zero” for the next few billion years. Theoretically, however, if the Earth did stop moving suddenly, there would be an awful effect. The atmosphere would still be moving at the original speed of the Earth’s rotation. This means that everything would be swept off of land, including people, buildings and even trees, topsoil and rocks, NASA added.

What if the process was more gradual? This is the more likely scenario over billions of years, NASA said, because the sun and the moon are tugging on Earth’s spin. That would give plenty of time for humans, animals and plants to get used to the change. By the laws of physics, the slowest the Earth could slow its spin would be 1 rotation every 365 days. That situation is called “sun synchronous” and would force one side of our planet to always face the sun, and the other side to permanently face away. By comparison: Earth’s moon is already in an Earth-synchronous rotation where one side of the moon always faces us, and the other side opposite to us.

But back to the no-spin scenario for a second: There would be some other weird effects if the Earth stopped spinning completely, NASA said. For one, the magnetic field would presumably disappear because it is thought to be generated in part by a spin. We’d lose our colorful auroras, and the Van Allen radiation belts surrounding Earth would probably disappear, too. Then Earth would be naked against the fury of the sun. Every time it sent a coronal mass ejection (charged particles) toward Earth, it would hit the surface and bathe everything in radiation. “This is a significant biohazard,” NASA said.

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Article of the Day: 12/29/19 Thinking, A Lost Art?

How Jews Have Made an Impact on the Modern World

By Clémence BoulouqueDec. 12, 2019


From left: Albert Ballin; Albert Einstein; Sarah Bernhardt; Sigmund Freud
From left: Albert Ballin; Albert Einstein; Sarah Bernhardt; Sigmund FreudHamburg Marketing GmbH; Associated Press; Bibliothèque Nationale de France; Sigmund Freud Museum, via Associated Press

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How Jews Changed the World, 1847-1947

By Norman Lebrecht

Reciting Jewish achievements and Judaism’s contribution to civilization in order to fight anti-Semitic propaganda is a well-established genre that flourished in 19th-century Europe. After reaching the United States in the first part of the 20th century, it arguably culminated in the 1960s with the writings of popular authors like Max DimontNorman Lebrecht’s “Genius & Anxiety” belongs to that genre: Both the subtitle of his book and the preface testify to Lebrecht’s commitment to demonstrating “how Jews changed the world” as a response to the current moment, which, he laments, is yet again beset by anti-Semitism.

Spanning a century, between 1847 (the death of Felix Mendelssohn) and 1947 (the United Nations’ vote in favor of the creation of the State of Israel), the book features dozens of remarkable scientists, artists and politicians of Jewish descent. Lebrecht’s wide net captures the usual suspects — Marx, Freud, Kafka, Einstein — but also many lesser-known, and equally fascinating, individuals, like Karl Landsteiner, the father of blood types; Albert Ballin, the shipping industry magnate who changed trans-Atlantic journeys and migration patterns; and Eliza Davis, an acquaintance of Dickens who harassed him until he amended “Oliver Twist,” doing away with negative Jewish references in the book’s later editions. Some of Lebrecht’s transitions from one vignette to the next flow particularly well: His account of the revival of ancient Hebrew under the auspices of Eliezer Ben-Yehuda, meant to foster a Jewish national consciousness, is aptly followed and contrasted by the depiction of the near-simultaneous creation of Esperanto by the Polish idealist Eliezer Ludwig Zamenhof, who strove to create a universal idiom that would encourage greater understanding among peoples.

[ Read an excerpt from “Genius & Anxiety.” ]

Each chapter, while loosely thematic, is organized around a specific year. So “1875: Carmen Quand-Même” deals with people in the performing arts, from the composer Georges Bizet (who was married to a Jewish woman) to the actress Sarah Bernhardt, who invented stardom as we know it, while “1897: Sex and the City” revolves around Freud, the playwright Arthur Schnitzler and their analyses of the role of eros and the psyche in fin de siècle Vienna. In “1911, Blues ’n’ Jews,” Lebrecht, a music critic and biographer of Gustav Mahler, details the musical revolution of another composer of Vienna’s golden age, Arnold Schoenberg, presenting his employment of atonality as an outsider’s jab at the Viennese respectable bourgeoisie.

Lebrecht attributes the inroads made by Jews to their marginal status: “They do not expect acceptance. On the contrary, knowing that their ideas are likely to be rejected leaves them free to think the unthinkable.” However, some of his characters’ behavior does not fit his own description, and can be explained only by their desire to gain entry into a hostile society. In Germany and Austria particularly, their display of love for a fatherland that ultimately turned against them is part of the tragedy.

Such is the case with the scientist Fritz Haber, the Faustian character of Lebrecht’s tale, who developed and advocated chemical warfare during World War I in spite of the 1899 and 1907 Hague conventions that had banned it. Eager to show his patriotism, Haber notoriously declared: “During peacetime a scientist belongs to the world, but during wartime he belongs to his country.” In the 1920s, scientists in his research institute developed the pesticide Zyklon A, which paved the way to the invention of Zyklon B, used in gas chambers by the Nazis. Haber died in 1934, in exile. Many members of his family were killed in the camps.

Lebrecht does not dwell on tragedies, and opposes what the great historian Salo Baron called a “lachrymose conception of Jewish history.” When he addresses the Holocaust, it is mostly to mention those who saved lives. In that regard, the project resembles Simon Schama’s “The Story of the Jews,” which also emphasizes continuities and contributions rather than disruptions, but whose narrative is more carefully crafted.

A major problem of Lebrecht’s volume lies in the disconnect between its title and its treatment. “Genius & Anxiety” feels like an afterthought, tagged on to a bubbly inventory of individual trajectories. The chapters’ contents often appear disjointed. “1938: Cities of Refuge” describes the activities of the Chinese consul-general in Vienna, Dr. Feng-Shan Ho, who helped 5,000 Jews escape to Shanghai in the wake of the Anschluss; it sketches the death of the Soviet poet Osip Mandelstam in a labor camp in Siberia (hardly a refuge) and closes with the role of Leo Szilard, a Hungarian Jew, in the Manhattan Project, which led to the atomic bomb. None of these compelling episodes fit the chapter’s title; what’s more, they extend far beyond 1938.

In his introduction Lebrecht writes of anxiety as “a sense of dread or apprehension,” which “most psychologists” consider “a negative, inhibiting emotion.” But Freud, he notes, “does not see it that way,” viewing it instead as an “engine of fresh thinking.” In a rather infelicitous simile, Lebrecht goes on to say that anxiety has acted on the Jews “like an Egyptian taskmaster in the Book of Exodus. It goads them to acts of genius.” But he should have gone much further. In “Inhibitions, Symptoms and Anxiety” Freud argued that “anxiety comes to be a reaction to the loss of an object.” Had Lebrecht analyzed his subjects’ anxiety in relation to loss and mourning, which all of them experienced, either personally or collectively, he would have written a more nuanced and richer book.

Article of the Day 12/20/19: You are being tracked, wherever you go…


How to Track President Trump


IF YOU OWN A MOBILE PHONE, its every move is logged and tracked by dozens of companies. No one is beyond the reach of this constant digital surveillance. Not even the president of the United States.

The Times Privacy Project obtained a dataset with more than 50 billion location pings from the phones of more than 12 million people in this country. It was a random sample from 2016 and 2017, but it took only minutes — with assistance from publicly available information — for us to deanonymize location data and track the whereabouts of President Trump.

A single dot appeared on the screen, representing the precise location of someone in President Trump’s entourage at 7:10 a.m. It lingered around the grounds of the president’s Mar-a-Lago Club in Palm Beach, Fla., where the president was staying, for about an hour.

Then it was on the move.

The dot traveled to the Trump National Golf Club in Jupiter, about 30 minutes north of the hotel, pinging again at 9:24 a.m. just outside the compound. The president was there to play golf with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe of Japan.

There the dot stayed until at least 1:12 p.m., when it moved to the Trump International Golf Club in West Palm Beach, where the world leaders enjoyed a private lunch.

By 5:08 p.m., the phone was back at Mar-a-Lago.

The president had what he called a working dinner with Mr. Abe that night.

Note: Driving path is inferred. Satellite imagery: Maxar Technologies, Microsoft, Earthstar Geographics.

THE DEVICE’S OWNER was easy to trace, revealing the outline of the person’s work and life. The same phone pinged a dozen times at the nearby Secret Service field office and events with elected officials. From computer screens more than 1,000 miles away, we could watch the person travel from exclusive areas at Palm Beach International Airport to Mar-a-Lago.

The meticulous movements — down to a few feet — of the president’s entourage were recorded by a smartphone we believe belonged to a Secret Service agent, whose home was also clearly identifiable in the data. Connecting the home to public deeds revealed the person’s name, along with the name of the person’s spouse, exposing even more details about both families. We could also see other stops this person made, apparently more connected with his private life than his public duties. The Secret Service declined to comment on our findings or describe its policies regarding location data.

The vulnerability of the person we tracked in Mr. Trump’s entourage is one that many if not all of us share: the apps (weather services, maps, perhaps even something as mundane as a coupon saver) collecting and sharing his location on his phone.

Americans have grown eerily accustomed to being tracked throughout their digital lives. But it’s far from their fault. It’s a result of a system in which data surveillance practices are hidden from consumers and in which much of the collection of information is done without the full knowledge of the device holders.

Freaked Out? 
3 Steps to Protect Your Phone

For the nation’s security agencies, however, privacy is critical to the safety of military, defense and security operations across the country and abroad. If threats to that privacy have seemed abstract in the past, the trove of location data we have analyzed has brought them into sharp relief. Military and intelligence officials have long been concerned about how their movements could be exposed; now every move is. As a senior Defense Department official told Times Opinion, even the Pentagon has told employees to expect that their privacy is compromised:

“We want our people to understand: They should make no assumptions about anonymity. You are not anonymous on this planet at this point in our existence. Everyone is trackable, traceable, discoverable to some degree.”

We were able to track smartphones in nearly every major government building and facility in Washington. We could follow them back to homes and, ultimately, their owners’ true identities. Even a prominent senator’s national security adviser — someone for whom privacy and security are core to their every working day — was identified and tracked in the data.

White House


Supreme Court

Capitol BuildingNote: Period of one month. Satellite imagery: Microsoft and DigitalGlobe

WHILE THE CONSTITUTION PREVENTS COMPANIES from sharing location data with the government without a warrant, there are no federal protections limiting how they use or share it privately. No such protections are currently being debated before Congress — even though we found that we could track people through Congress’s own halls as easily as any place else.

When we reached out to some lawmakers to show what we found, the outrage proved bipartisan.

“This is terrifying,” said Senator Josh Hawley, Republican of Missouri, who has called for the federal government take a tougher stance with tech companies. “It is terrifying not just because of the major national security implications, what Beijing could get ahold of. But it also raises personal privacy concerns for individuals and families. These companies are tracking our kids.”

“Tech companies are profiting by spying on Americans — trampling on the right to privacy and risking our national security,” Senator Elizabeth Warren, a Democrat running for president, told us. “They are throwing around their power to undermine our democracy with zero consequences. This report is another alarming case for why we need to break up big tech, adopt serious privacy regulations and hold top executives of these companies personally responsible.”

Agencies can limit how their employees use location-sharing apps and services, but that doesn’t mean those guidelines will be strictly enforced — or extended to personal devices.

But no matter how comprehensive an organization’s policies and regulations are, getting everyone to follow them is nearly impossible as many of these apps’ surveillance practices are not visible to consumers.

“The human being is the weak link,” said Martijn Rasser, a former Central Intelligence Agency officer who is now a senior fellow in the technology and national security program at the Center for a New American Security. “It’s really difficult to enforce a lot of these rules and regulations. Sometimes, all it takes is one person to violate the rules to completely negate the purpose of having those rules in the first place.”

Despite the sensitivity of this information, it is put to everyday use. Packaged with millions of other data points, location information is turned into marketing analysis and sold to financial institutions, real estate investors, advertising companies and others. Companies say they vet partners carefully and tend to work with larger players that have a clear business case for receiving the data.

Like all data, the vast location files are vulnerable to hacks, leaks or sale at any point along that process. The data we reviewed was provided to Times Opinion by sources who asked to remain anonymous because they were not authorized to share it and could face severe penalties for doing so.

Multiple experts with ties to the United States’ national security agencies warned in interviews that foreign actors like Russia, North Korea, China and other adversaries may be working to steal, buy or otherwise obtain this kind of data. Only months ago, hackers working for the Chinese government allegedly targeted location data for people moving throughout Asia by breaking into telecom networks, according to a report by Reuters.

“People literally go to work every day, sit down at a desk, check the sports, send an email or two to their girlfriend and then start looking for databases they can steal,” said James Dempsey, the executive director of the Berkeley Center for Law and Technology. “They just do that 9 to 5, every day.”

The American government may conduct similar intelligence operations against its adversaries, experts said, though under stricter legal frameworks.

Using the data, we identified people in positions of power by following smartphone pings as they moved around the White House, Capitol Hill, the Supreme Court and other government facilities. In many cases, the data trails led back to the smartphone users’ homes. In this series, we did not name any of the identified people without their permission. And the data below has been obscured to protect device owners.

Senior Officials and Security Staff

Data has been obscured to protect device owners.

Secret Service agentWhite HousePentagonU.S. Capitol

Secret Service agentWhite HousePentagonU.S. Capitol

Technology at the Supreme CourtWhite HousePentagonU.S. Capitol

Department of Defense officialWhite HousePentagonU.S. Capitol

Director at a House committeeWhite HousePentagonU.S. Capitol

Advisor for a SenatorWhite HousePentagonU.S. Capitol

Note: Driving path is inferred. Source: Microsoft, DigitalGlobe (satellite imagery)

CONNECTING A PING TO A PERSON was as easy as combining home and work locations with public information. A seemingly random set of movements turned into a clear individual pattern after we added just one other piece of information.

Plenty of corroborating information is already floating around dark corners of the web, given the frequent high-profile data breaches of the past decade. Consider what China already knows: In 2015, a federal database containing the personal information of more than four million people with security clearances was stolen by Chinese hackers presumed to be state actors.

“From those very detailed documents, they may gather a good deal of information about a person,” said David S. Kris, a co-founder of the consulting firm Culper Partners and former assistant attorney general for the national security division of the Department of Justice. Mr. Kris said he was also included in the data that was hacked. “The more you can combine location-based data into a mosaic with other information, the more likely you are to gain real insight into an adversary.”

Location data potentially gives any enemy an opening for attack. Russians, whose intelligence apparatus has worked for decades to disrupt American democracy, could simply leak location information to embarrass the government, the legal system or particular officials.

“Think about Russia’s efforts to undermine public trust and confidence in our democratic institutions,” Suzanne Spaulding, senior adviser at the Center for Strategic and International Studies and a former under secretary at the Department of Homeland Security, told us. “Think about all of the ways they could use location data to do that. Think about tracking judges everywhere they went and how you could use that to undermine confidence in our courts and our justice system.”

After Ms. Spaulding raised the danger of tracking judges, we checked the data file for courthouse employees. In minutes, we found dozens of potential targets by watching smartphones sharing their precise locations inside Washington courthouses. One person whose movements we traced has a role in the technology division, which controls servers containing data for the Supreme Court.

For people with political power, knowing those locations could put their safety — and our national security — at risk. Experts told Times Opinion that foreign governments could use the data to monitor sensitive sites and identify people with access to them, and their associates.

“Not everybody in the department has a national security position, not everybody has access to classified or higher-level stuff,” the senior Defense official said. “But everyone in the department is of some interest or value to a lot of adversaries just by virtue of being a member of the Defense Department, just by working at the Pentagon.”A typical day at the PentagonSatellite imagery: Imagery

THE POSSIBILITIES FOR BLACKMAIL ARE ENDLESS. Once stolen, details on sexual interests and extramarital affairs can provide opportunities for extortion. Targets could be coerced in ways large and small, compelled to make decisions or take actions for a foreign government. Or the locations themselves could provide valuable intelligence about security practices, contacts, schedules and the identities of people in prominent and sensitive posts, with access to state secrets or critical infrastructure.

With no training and far more limited technical tools than those of a state intelligence service, we were able to use the location data — date, time and length of stay — to make basic inferences. By determining whether two people were in the same place at the same time, it was easy to zero in on spouses, co-workers or friends. Cataloguing their movements revealed even more associations, creating the map of a robust social network that would be nearly impossible to determine through traditional surveillance. In cases where it was difficult to identify an individual, associations offered more clues about workplaces and interests.

In one case, it proved difficult to confirm the identity of a man listed in public records who had a common name. Examining his associations revealed that he met multiple times with someone carrying another phone that was being tracked. That person was, we soon learned, his brother. That piece of information doubled the pool of digital breadcrumbs to follow, ultimately helping confirm both of their identities.

Now consider elections. Bad actors could monitor candidates and elected leaders for intelligence that could be leaked or used to blackmail them. There are also no regulations limiting how long location data can be stored. Data swept up today may prove valuable in the future, as everyday citizens rise to positions of authority and influence only to have their precise movements from years gone by reviewed for damaging insights.

Defense contractors and employees at secure locations like power plants are all at risk.Nuclear power station in FloridaSatellite imagery: Vexcel Imaging, Microsoft and DigitalGlobe

We found smartphone pings at all of these sorts of sites. In one case, someone who spent their weekdays at the Pentagon visited a mental health and substance abuse facility multiple times.

Even just commuting to work can be risky for people in prominent positions. “The easiest way to figure out how to get to you is know you always have the same routine,” said Mr. Rasser, the former Central Intelligence Agency officer. He said he mixes up his own routine, partly because the C.I.A. emphasized such methods when he joined.

The threats will only grow as more data is collected and shared. More apps will enter the marketplace using tracking technology. And companies are becoming more sophisticated at collecting location data, adding signals from Wi-Fi networks and Bluetooth beacons. They also often rely on one-time consent or disclosures that don’t explicitly state what’s collected or shared.

Experts emphasized how location data has joined many other kinds of sensitive information in the espionage toolkit, showing how intelligence agencies must continually adapt to the digital age.

“We need to learn to operate with fewer secrets,” Ms. Spaulding said.

Even areas once thought to be secure showed up in the data. Personal phones aren’t generally allowed inside the C.I.A. or the National Security Agency. But while no pings registered inside the C.I.A. headquarters, we found thousands of pings in the parking lots outside, with trails that led to the homes of likely employees.Central Intelligence AgencySatellite imagery: Microsoft and DigitalGlobe

Similarly, there were no blackout areas in many sensitive government buildings. We observed thousands of pings inside the Pentagon, on military bases, in F.B.I. headquarters and in Secret Service facilities across the country. (Intelligence facilities also have secure areas where certain electronic devices aren’t permitted.)

The risks posed by location-tracking remain largely unaddressed by the government. Beginning last year, the Department of Defense prohibited geolocation features and functionality from being used by its workers on devices in “operational areas” like foreign military bases. For all other locations, the department said it would consider the risks and issue specific recommendations to personnel.

For now, the department does not issue guidance to employees about downloading specific apps, including those that might share location data with third parties. “Instead, we focused on certain core characteristics of the geolocation functionality and identified what risks those characteristics posed,” a department spokesman, Lt. Col. Uriah L. Orland, said in an email.

Agencies with a need for heightened security are left in a vulnerable position. Phones are ubiquitous, and so long as granular location tracking remains legal, even the Defense Department must play along. “We cannot stop our workforce of 3.6 million people from living their everyday lives,” a senior department official told us.

We haven’t identified any serving elected representatives in our data, but we found a former House representative and dozens of prominent public officials, including chiefs of staff, security officials and subcommittee staff members.

Given their proximity to public figures with public schedules and their presence at training sites and field offices, Secret Service agents were particularly easy to identify. With little difficulty, we were able to track a Secret Service agent who spent most of his daytime hours in the West Wing of the White House. He also joined President Trump at the National Cathedral the day after the inauguration.United States Secret Service 
James J. Rowley Training CenterSatellite imagery: Microsoft and DigitalGlobe

WHILE THE DATA REVIEWED by Times Opinion is from three years ago, similar information is being collected daily and often resold to third parties, meaning anyone with current access to such data could feasibly, in near real time, track people within arm’s reach of the president or other powerful figures.

“If you want to take action against someone, you have to find them first,” said Mr. Kris, the former Department of Justice official. “I’m wary of breathless, pearl-clutching, speculative, sensationalistic counterintelligence concerns. This doesn’t strike me as falling into that category. I think there is a legitimate concern here.”

Leaked location data may open the door to other cyber vulnerabilities. Foreign actors could learn movement details and infer meeting locations, which could be used to conduct a type of scam where targets receive fake emails — posing as a friend you just met with or a business you just visited — including a phony link meant to steal your password or install malware.

“Location tracking data of individuals can be used to facilitate reconnaissance, recruitment, social engineering, extortion and in worst-case scenarios, things like kidnapping and assassination,” warned Kelli Vanderlee, manager of intelligence analysis at the cybersecurity company FireEye.

Those are not theoretical threats. The phone of the Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi, who was assassinated in 2018, was allegedly compromised, possibly allowing his location data to be used to follow him.

Last year, Strava, a company that makes a fitness app, released a global map showing 700 million activities that clearly revealed American military bases abroad. The Department of Defense issued its recent guidance after discovering the problem. The data reviewed by Times Opinion revealed several points on domestic military bases as well, showing how some of the nation’s most secure armed sites can be exposed.

“An adversary can still glean a lot from your whereabouts on the base itself,” said Mr. Rasser, the former C.I.A. officer. “If you’re always at a certain part of the base, at a certain time, you can start piecing together what the function of that corner of the base could be based on the person’s job duties.”

Using base locations as a guide, Times Opinion accurately surmised the job title of a commander in the U.S. Air Force Reserve. He regularly traveled to the Pentagon and visited Joint Base Andrews, perhaps best known as the home of the president’s airliner, Air Force One.Joint Base AndrewsSatellite imagery: Microsoft and DigitalGlobe

It’s not necessary for someone to visit sensitive locations to be open to scrutiny or criticism. Location data could become a powerful political tool, exposing the private lives of wealthy elites who prefer to adopt a more egalitarian persona. It is not difficult to imagine efforts to undermine a political campaign by exposing travels through private airports or visits to expensive restaurants and luxurious spas.

The sources who provided the trove of location information to Times Opinion did so to press for regulation and increased scrutiny of the location data market. Some solutions exist that could help improve privacy while ensuring businesses can still perform some of the analysis they do today, like limiting the ability to identify individual paths, changing how long the information is stored and limiting how it’s sold.

So far, Washington has done virtually nothing to address the threats, and location data companies have every reason to keep refining their tracking, sucking up more data and selling it to the highest bidders.

Stuart A. Thompson ( is a writer and editor in the Opinion section. Charlie Warzel ( is a writer at large for Opinion. Alex Kingsbury contributed reporting. Lora Kelley, Ben Smithgall and Vanessa Swales contributed research. Graphics by Stuart A. Thompson. Additional production by Jessia Ma and Gus Wezerek. Note: Visualizations have been adjusted to protect device owners.

Like other media companies, The Times collects data on its visitors when they read stories like this one. For more detail please see our privacy policy and our publisher’s descriptionof The Times’s practices and continued steps to increase transparency and protections.COMMENTONE NATION, TRACKEDAN INVESTIGATION INTO THE SMARTPHONE TRACKING INDUSTRY FROM TIMES OPINIONPART 1WHAT WE FOUNDPART 2PROTECT YOURSELFPART 4HOW IT WORKSCOMING SATURDAYONE NEIGHBORHOODCOMING SUNDAYPROTESTSCOMING SUNDAYSOLUTIONSIllustrations by Yoshi Sodeoka; Getty Images.

Article of the Day: 12/17/19 Richard Sherman

What Richard Sherman’s Made Of

At 31, he’s still not holding back on anyone—on the field or off it. What’s the 49ers cornerback’s secret? He’ll be happy to tell you.

photo of Tyler Dunne

Tyler Dunne December 17, 2019

SANTA CLARA, Calif. — One day after kicking the Packers‘ ass, Richard Sherman is on fire.

He’s vintage Sherman. A legend rapping in real time. Oh, a chip? On the shoulder? Sherman confirms milliseconds into this conversation that, even at 31 with a bust in Canton secured, that chip is still there, still throbbing and, no, it’s not going anywhere anytime soon.

“You never lose it,” he says. “You never lose the way people treat you, the way people slight you, because they are always looking for a way to slight you.”

Sherman has had it with this ambiguous they.

Sure, there have been All-Pro teams, Super Bowls, paydays. But always he feels the doubts.

“I feel like I’ve gotten respect in spurts,” he says. “Now, they‘re like, ‘Oh, he’s a veteran.’ No. I’m still the best to play in this game.”

The night before, quarterback Aaron Rodgers was ignoring Sherman’s side of the field like the plague in a 37-8 San Francisco obliteration. “It’s been like that for years,” Sherman says, back to the Legion of Boom’s heyday. Not many cornerbacks get that treatment. And to Sherman, only two corners in today’s NFL can even claim to be in his category: the Patriots‘ Stephon Gilmore and the Bills‘ Tre’Davious White. Yet there are people out there, they, who have the nerve to say other cornerbacks are better than him, corners who surrender as many yards in a game as he does in a season. They can’t get enough of certain corners for following receivers, results be damned.

Sherman hears it all, and he feels a slight. Uses the slight. Has since he entered the league nearly a decade ago and established his brand: ruthless, unapologetic, loud, from the start.

There’s no camera in his face today. No receivers to mug. No fans to entertain. He sits in a dim banquet room at David’s Restaurant, a Hail Mary’s toss away from Levi’s Stadium. Chairs are neatly stacked against the wall. The wind howls outside. A family of Packers fans lick their wounds on the other side of a divider. No doubt, they can hear Sherman going off. His signature intonation.

The dude screaming into Erin Andrews’ microphone after an NFC title triumph and looking depressed in Super Bowl defeat isn’t toning it down.

NEW ORLEANS, LA - DECEMBER 8: Richard Sherman #25 of the San Francisco 49ersfires up the team in the locker room prior to the game against the New Orleans Saints at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome on December 8, 2019 in New Orleans, Louisiana. The 49ers defea

“Because the moment I stop having motivation and stop having fun in this game,” he says, “is when I’ll hang ’em up. I’ll be done. When you stop seeing that fire in my eyes, and it’s gone out, that’s my retirement press conference.”

And yet viewing Sherman through a prism of memes and tweets and sound bites can cheapen the essence of the man.

He’s intelligent yet brash. Tender one moment, stinging the next. Filterless. Always.

Attitude, no question, is part of it. Sherman still seems fueled by a deep supply of hostility toward anyone who dares doubt him. But there’s more.

Five months ago, Sherman told B/R, “If people understood what I was built of, there wouldn’t be a lot of questions.” At the time, he wouldn’t elaborate on what exactly that was, beyond, “s–t they don’t make no more.”

Now, he looks inward. He’s ready to get it all out, and nothing’s off-limits—from the field to the training room to the negotiating table, from experiences that have made him the way he is to the imprint he needs to leave behind.

Not only on football but on the entire world.

Growing up, Sherman’s family didn’t live in the best neighborhood, in Compton, but his parents let strangers come in all the time to eat their leftovers. All one lady wanted was the spoiled milk. “It clears me out!” Sherman remembers her saying. Those same people would look out for the family anywhere it would go. A real community resulted. And it stuck with him. At 11, when Mom gave him $20 to buy food at McDonald’s, he handed the money over to a homeless man fumbling through loose change at the counter instead. The man seemed to need it more. To this day, he can’t stand to see people ignore those in need. Not too long ago, he stopped to speak with a homeless person, who told him: “This is the first conversation I’ve had in three years. People just walk past me like I’m part of the street.” Sherman stayed to talk as long as he could, offered to help in any way he could, and when he finally walked away there were tears streaming from Sherman’s eyes.

Sherman takes the only object on the table, a voice recorder, and moves it in all directions to illustrate the play in his mind.

One receiver’s running an in-route. (He slides the recorder.) One’s running a go route. (He slides it again.) One’s running a stop. (He slides it once more.) There are only so many routes to run, and after more than 140 games in the NFL, Sherman pretty much knows them all. Receivers, he explains with a sly smile, are merely pawns. And he can see where these pawns are going to slide.

GLENDALE, AZ - OCTOBER 28:  Richard Sherman #25 of the San Francisco 49ers gets ready to rush the passer against the Arizona Cardinals at State Farm Stadium on October 28, 2018 in Glendale, Arizona.  (Photo by Norm Hall/Getty Images)

So he attacks accordingly.

Pressed on this, told it’s impossible to know what a receiver’s thinking, he smirks again. “But I do.” Nowadays, Sherman says, he knows what route the receiver in front of him is going to run at least 70 percent of the time.

He learned long ago, from Charles Woodson, to rely on brain over brawn. Play “above the shoulders,” Woodson told him. Sure, Woodson was athletic. But over time, he realized he was working too hard physically, so he relied on his mind.

Sherman took that advice to heart and turned the field into his chessboard.

“I don’t care if you’re the most outstanding athlete in the world; you’re simply a pawn,” Sherman says. “You’re a pawn in the grand scheme. You don’t get to call your own shot. If you individually can say, ‘On this play, I’m doing this and I can do whatever the f–k I want,’ then it would be much harder to stop people. But when all I have to do is understand the person calling the plays and understand the situation I’m in, then you’re just the move getting made.

“That’s how I play the game, and that’s how I’ve played the game my whole career. I’ve said I’m never going to depend on athleticism.”

Get beat on any play at any point in your career, Sherman tells other defensive backs on his team, and you can fully expect to see that play again. Take the win over Green Bay. Sherman knew Rodgers would try to fool him on a concept the Vikings used last year and the Browns copied this year, where two tight ends line up on one side in a pair with a receiver motioning in toward them “but not too tight.” Sherman saw it coming…was ready…and the 49ers secondary forced Rodgers to hold on to the ball for a sack.

Sherman looked over at his DB coach on the sideline and yelled, “That’s it!” because that’s the key: diagnosing these concepts on the fly and reacting with conviction, with guts. The game is not played on a computer.

“After you get up off the ground,” Sherman says, “and you’re fatigued and it’s the fourth quarter and sweat’s dripping in your eyes and your hand just got stepped on, can you recognize it? Can you see it?”

He’s now reenacting a play with two fists a few feet above the table. Can you see, right then, where you are on the field, that it’s 3rd-and-3, that the No. 2 receiver just motioned in and back out, which means the play is “double follow” and that the primary flat route is about to cross your face?

As long as he can he walk, Sherman says, he will be out there reading the field and teaching his teammates to do the same. And there will be no QB, no offense, this 49ers defense cannot handle.

It’s not just the homeless. Sherman wants to help anyone who needs it. When he hears that kids who cannot afford a regular lunch at school are being shamed and racking up debt, he acts. It pisses him off that students who pay for a regular lunch are placed in one line, with those who cannot placed in another—”and all they give them are like cheese and bread.” So he cuts a $7,500 check in California and a $17,500 check in Washington to pay off lunch debts. He knows he can’t stop.

Think a Grade 2 hamstring injury, suffered in a Week 14 epic against the Saints, is going to sideline Sherman for long? Remember what he’s made of.

Unprompted, Sherman brings the conversation to his Grade 2 MCL sprain from three years ago. He relives that brutal injury that keeps most players out six to eight weeks, and he does it with a kick of grandfather-at-the-campfire nostalgia. Like he almost enjoyed it.

Against the Bills, in Week 9 of the 2016 season, Sherman remembers taking a blindside block from receiver Walter Powell. “I got the s–t kicked out of me!” he says with a spirit that explains why his co-workers over there in Levi’s Stadium call him Uncle Sherm. Later that night, of course, Sherman got his own licks in. He took out Powell on a play announcers couldn’t believe didn’t get flagged—but one Sherman knew was legal because the quarterback had left the pocket.

After the game, the Seahawks training staff told Sherman his season was over. He politely told them no and asked for anti-inflammatories. The Seahawks said that, well, he’d at least need to wear a brace, and Sherman politely said noagain because Tom Brady was up next and no way was he trying to stop Brady with a bulky brace on his knee.

He gave trainer David Stricklin no choice. So there Stricklin was, patching Sherman together every week like some bionic man.

“He basically taped an MCL together,” Sherman says. “Because an MCL, the way your knee moves in the socket, the MCL and ACL hold it in place. So if you stabilize it, you can do whatever you want. When you lose your MCL, you lose your stability. If you do too much, you’ll snap your leg that way.

“Most people wouldn’t even play through the injury. They IR and call it a day.”

But nobody said a peep. Nobody outside the organization had a clue Sherman was hurt. The NFL almost punished Seattle for hiding this all.

Sherman made the Pro Bowl. Again. Seattle witnessed Sherman do the impossible. Again.

A year later, no creative tape job could save him.

Sherman says now that he could feel the torn Achilles coming on. “One-hundred percent,” he admits. His mind, for a while, tricked his body into not putting too much pressure on that right heel. Barely able to walk, limping with every step he took, Sherman finally asked the Seahawks for shots of Toradol, but they refused because of the drug’s side effects. Instead, they gave him lidocaine patches, which (sort of) numbed the pain.

By then, he had “no juice” in his foot at all. The patch only worked skin deep, relieving just enough pain for Sherman to play. Just enough to trick his body into thinking it could push off that foot fully during a Thursday night game against the Cardinals.

In Cover 2, Sherman saw a receiver run a dig, noticed the hook defender wasn’t close, tried jumping it and…snap. He hit the canvas. He writhed in pain. He told the team doctor he’d torn his Achilles. “Get up!” teammates yelled. “Get up!” That was Legion of Boom protocol, to rip one another for being soft, for staying sprawled on the grass. So Sherman got up. And even though the doctor told him there’s no chance he’d be able to walk off if the tendon was indeed torn, Sherman began limping to the sideline under his own power.

The doctor tried to stop him, and he shoved him away.

How is walking even possible when the back of your foot’s disconnected? Sherman flops his forearm on the table four times, with his hand loosely dangling like his foot. Thud! Thud! Thud! Thud! That’s how. The heel, just like this, dropped again. And again. And again.

That night, Nov. 9, 2017, the Legion of Boom died.

Many assumed Sherman’s career would die too.

As he walked off with head bowed, teammates tapping his back, Sherman’s career could’ve, probably should’ve, flashed before his eyes.

But it didn’t.

In the hours after his Achilles snapped, Sherman was not depressed, not mad, not sad. No. The emotion he felt? Relief. Beautiful relief. After playing so recklessly through so much pain at such intensity, he welcomed a torn Achilles. Heck, it felt wonderful. Liberating. Which may sound ludicrous, but that’s how Sherman attacks adversity. Above the shoulders.

To him, it’s simple: “How you think manifests the outcome.”

“If you think of things pessimistically, it’s going to go bad,” Sherman says. “You’re setting it up for it to go bad. And then when it goes bad, it’s like, ‘Yep, I knew it was going to come.‘ But if you expect it to go great—and even when it doesn’t go great—you hold out hope and faith that, ‘Oh, it’s going to turn around,‘ then you approach the next steps differently.”

SEATTLE, WA - NOVEMBER 20: Cornerback Richard Sherman #25 of the Seattle Seahawks, out for the season with an Achilles injury, talks with Head coach Pete Carroll before the game at CenturyLink Field on November 20, 2017 in Seattle, Washington.  (Photo by

So he told himself an injury that’s nuked the careers of other greats, like that of his pal Kobe Bryant, would be nothing but a hangnail. He told himself he needed a break, needed more time with his kids, and that it was an absolute certainty he’d reclaim the throne as the game’s best cornerback whenever he was 100 percent again.

That’s the way he thought, the way he rehabbed, and if anybody should’ve known Sherman would manifest this outcome, it was the Seahawks, the team that drafted him 154th overall, that saw what he’s built of 24/7/365 and that, still, inexplicably let Sherman walk right out the door to a division rival.

Each holiday season, Sherman and his wife, Ashley Moss, “adopt” families. They receive wish lists, and the contents always bring him to tears. Blankets. Pillows. Soap. Toothpaste. Some just want a roof over their head for a fleeting moment, like a young girl who went to school with Sherman’s niece and nephew in Redmond, Washington. Her family was living out of a car. Mom was working as many jobs as she could jam into a 24-hour day. But it wasn’t enough. Sherman helped as much as he could. He always does, especially around Christmas.

There was no middleman, thus no room for misinterpretation. Serving as his own agent, Sherman heard it straight from coach Pete Carroll and general manager John Schneider.

They isn’t so ambiguous here.

“They felt,” Sherman says, “like they had seen enough and went in a different direction.”

On the eve of free agency in 2018, the Seahawks told Sherman they weren’t sure what they were going to do with him yet. He still had a year left on his contract.

“They were like, ‘Well, we want to see how some guys look in free agency,’ and I was like: ‘If you’re talking to me like that, then just let me go. Because you’re disrespecting me in a way I’d prefer not to be disrespected,'” Sherman says. “They were like, ‘We wanted to see if we could sign a guy, and if we couldn’t sign a guy, then we’d ask you to take a pay cut.’ Because they told people they asked me to take a pay cut. They never asked me to take anything.

“I was like, ‘You’re talking to me like I’m some Joe Schmo from down the road.'”

Sherman would be no team’s Plan M, N, O, P at cornerback. He told the Seahawks he would prefer to be released.

Adds Sherman: “They were like, ‘Well, you’re injured.’ It’s like, ‘Just let me go. It doesn’t matter. I’ll go into free agency. People value me more than you all value me right now.'”

The 49ers, Lions and Raiders called right away. After one dinner with the 49ers, he was sold. He signed. His diplomatic line on repeat? “Everything worked out how it was supposed to.” He knew the scheme. Coordinator Robert Saleh was a quality control coach in Seattle. And Sherman believed in the personnel—could tell there was talent when he watched film from the previous few years, even though the defense operated in “awful schemes.” (“I don’t know what the f–k they were running when [Jim] Tomsula was there,” he says wide-eyed.)

Facing Seattle twice per year, of course, helped too. Sherman gets it. It’s a business. He notes the Seahawks did the same thing with Earl Thomas and Michael Bennett. The reaction among fans irked him, though. How can the same people who rip players who ask for a new deal rip a player who refuses to have his contract shredded to take a pay cut? “Interesting,” he says.

Sherman promised his new general manager, John Lynch, that he’d dominate once again, inked an incentive-laden contract that was universally lampooned and then gritted through the 2018 season with metal sutures lodged in his other foot. Sherman had a bone spur shaved off his left heel to prevent thatAchilles from tearing. All season, he could hardly move in the morning. He needed help just getting out of bed and walking around the house.

SANTA CLARA, CALIFORNIA - OCTOBER 27: San Francisco 49ers General Manager John Lynch congratulates Richard Sherman #25 after a win against the Carolina Panthers at Levi's Stadium on October 27, 2019 in Santa Clara, California. (Photo by Lachlan Cunningham

Now in year two, he can make that $13 million with All-Pro and Pro Bowl nods.

Now in year two, he is Richard Sherman again.

Sherman believes he is still the best corner in football, and advanced stats sayhe’s right there. “The tape. The resume. You can’t argue opinions.” Seattle giving up on him brought back that feeling from draft day, when he was the 34th DB taken in 2011. The rawest of raw doubts.

Doubts from the Seahawks front office. Doubts about the injuries. Doubts about his age.

Nobody in the league weaponizes it all like Sherman.

And how about doubt—still, in 2019, after all the picks and wins and intimidation—from an opposing quarterback?

The night before San Francisco’s game against Carolina this season, so the story goes, 49ers receiver Dante Pettis shared dinner with his friend, Kyle Allen, the Panthers QB. At this dinner, per Sherman, Allen spelled his own demise with these fatal words: “My plan is to go at your boy Sherm.”

Pettis told Sherman.

“I was like, ‘Yeah, make sure he does that!'” Sherman says. “Like, ‘Please, please. I’ve fed my family for a long time with people making decisions like that.'”

The 49ers won 51-13, and Sherman had one of three picks off Allen.

Sherman still hunts for these “moments.” Feeds off them. You know, like Baker Mayfield not shaking his hand when, uh, Mayfield actually did shake his hand before the game in Week 5. Sherman apologized but now snipes: “I don’t care, Cleveland. You guys have had it pretty rough. So get your anger out.” The 49ers won the game 31-3.

Slights and theys, real or perceived, keep Sherman’s fuel tank full.

But then he is very quick to note this counterpoint: He has evolved, has changed. He knows there are 51 sets of eyes on him every day in his new locker room.

“Because now…now the wave will follow you,” Sherman says. “When I was in Seattle, we were all young and we were all alphas. I’d go off and they’d hold me back! But if I go off right now, then the wave will follow. Like, if I go off and get it going, it’s a riot.

“You have to play the middleman. Calm everybody down. Like, ‘Hey, no dumb penalties.’ So you have to lead differently.”

And what’s pissing him off most this day has nothing to do with anyone’s doubts about him. Rather, his quarterback. Granted, five months ago, Sherman wasn’t so sold himself. He needed to see Jimmy Garoppolo taste his own blood, like other QBs. Now that he has, he raises his voice and defends Garoppolo like he is blood.

“Mistruths piss me off,” Sherman says. “When I feel like there’s almost like a vendetta, like people are being vindictive about it, then I feel an obligation to say something. It’s almost like they’re nitpicking. When he has a great game, you find an excuse for why it wasn’t a great game.”

He keeps going. (“Treat him like you treat everybody else!”) And going. (“He’s such a good person. He’s so down to earth. If you went into a bar with our team, I don’t think you’d point out our quarterbacks.”) And going. (“Everybody’s looking at each other eye level, whether you’re scout team, whether you’re the star player, whether you’re freakin’ the maintenance guy.”) And going. Garoppolo has read Sherman plays from Kyle Shanahan’s playbook. It blows his mind. (“I’m like, ‘Bro, you just said a paragraph. And that’s one play?!'”)

Real harmony exists between the offense and defense on this team, and that, Sherman says, “100 percent matters.”

That lavish praise could all be interpreted as an indictment of his former team, where there was a very public schism between these two sides.

GLENDALE, AZ - DECEMBER 21:  Head coach Pete Carroll of the Seattle Seahawks congratulates cornerback Richard Sherman #25 and quarterback Russell Wilson #3 after they scored the final touchdown of the game in the fourth quarter against the Arizona Cardina

But given the opportunity to prosecute this case, to rip his former employer and stoke the flames of this rivalry, what does Sherman do? He avoids the wave, the riot, and says he’s already spoken his piece. After all, San Francisco and Seattle play each other with the NFC West title on the line in Week 17. A few weeks later, a trip to the Super Bowl could be up for grabs.

And after all, he has sincerely moved on, and outright resentment is not part of his makeup.

Within seconds, his focus shifts.

When Leesa Mattress endorsed him, Sherman told the company he wanted 25 beds to disperse to families in need. The boxed beds, composed of tempurpedic material, went to his adopted families. The mere sight of the beds, he recalls, brought tears to their eyes. One parent said through quivering lips, “I haven’t slept in a bed for years,” while many of the shocked kids had literally never slept in a bed in their lives. Rather, cars, streets, alleys. “Wherever,” Sherman says, somberly.

When you look at the world, Sherman is asked, what would you change?

As he ponders the question, you can sense his mind shifting, from job to passion, slights to duty, legacy to legacy.

He recounts all those memories of interacting with the homeless, and his words crawl and crackle because these are the memories that truly define him. He says football is a microscopic part of who he is and what he will be, and he means it. He backs it up.

“You’re here to make the world a better place,” Sherman says. “Whether that’s helping people financially, whether that’s helping with your voice, helping with your spirit, helping with your hands and your body, your physical, whether you’re a kid with no money but $20 and you see this person with no money and don’t feel like they’re going to get a meal today, what’s right is right.”

He saw how a $20 bill, how a half-gallon of spoiled milk, how one conversation brought others joy…and it moved him. Molded him. Compelled him to give everything he could. Be it 30 minutes of his time to a teammate who seems down. Be it thousands of dollars to kids racking up lunch debt. Be it meeting with kids serving time in unit B1 of the Santa Clara County Juvenile Hall, kids who are incarcerated for a very long time and losing hope. Be it giving everything from a bar of soap to a roof over someone’s head around Christmas. Sherman cannot, in good conscience, buy himself wants upon wants when millions out there have real needs. Life, to him, has a very clear purpose.

He doesn’t want to help; he needs to help.

NEW ORLEANS, LOUISIANA - DECEMBER 08: Richard Sherman #25 of the San Francisco 49ers reacts against the New Orleans Saints during a game at the Mercedes Benz Superdome on December 08, 2019 in New Orleans, Louisiana. (Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images

“Just not enough people helping people,” Sherman says. “Especially in the social media age, everybody’s in a rush to criticize and put down, and it’s sending people into depression and making people feel terrible about themselves instead of just trying to help each other.

“Like, how far would it go if everybody just gave somebody a compliment? You don’t know if they’re going through something or not, but that compliment might send them to a better place, might pull them out of that place.

“Or having a conversation with somebody who’s been homeless.”

He’s trying to turn wrongs into rights wherever he can. He looks more disgusted talking about those two different lunch lines than anything that went down in Seattle. He could not stand for this. Or for the town’s food bank running dry in the holiday season back in Maple Valley, Washington. He and Ashley held a food-drive competition, and the community rallied. One person, he says, brought in a thousand pounds’ worth of food.

He’s still adopting families every Christmas.

Ashley has already found a homeless shelter for teens here in his new community where the Shermans restock supplies as much as possible—soap, shampoo, pens, pencils, computers.

He remembers seeing peers bullied through the Compton school hallways for wearing the same dirty shirt every day, for their circumstances, for factors out of their control. That’s what compelled Sherman to start his foundation to begin with.

“It hurts your heart,” Sherman says. “I was like, ‘If I am ever going to make enough money to help those people, I’m going to help the s–t out of them.'”

He pauses.

Whenever his voice speeds up with hope, that hope is soon choked by reality.

“You can try to do your part,” Sherman says. “My part is like a grain of sand in the grand scheme of things.”

Fixing homelessness on his own, he knows, is “impossible.” He knows there are other issues at the root of it too. Substance abuse, addiction. He’s seen it: money given to the homeless, only to go toward drugs. But, leaning in, he insists that so many families he meets with are one missed paycheck away from being homeless. From losing everything.

 “And some of those people who went homeless just missed the check,” he says. “They got sick. They caught pneumonia. They missed those two weeks of work. They got laid off. They were a check away from making rent, and they didn’t make rent.”

Like that girl’s family the Shermans helped in Redmond.

That story hit Sherman. They always do.

“It feels like no matter how much you help,” says Sherman, losing his voice for a split second, “it’s not enough. … I try to treat people like I’d want people to treat me if I had ever fallen under those circumstances. That’s how I try to keep it in perspective, but it’s hard. We all fall short.”

His voice trails off. Again.

What’s scary to him is that this lack of kindness is an epidemic. It’s everywhere. The shaming he sees on the sidewalk is the same shaming he sees where the rest of us dwell: social media. Forget any team treating him like Joe Schmo. If he’s mad about that, he’s genuinely disappointed about this, this decay of kindness. Is the result as obvious as a man living on the street? No. But this decay can be just as devastating.

Tweet by tweet, he sees us becoming an increasingly vindictive species.

“If you say, ‘Man, I feel like I look nice today,’ someone will say you look ugly,” Sherman says. “Like, ‘Ooo, why do you have that shirt on?’ and ‘Ooo, why do you have those jeans?’ And then all of a sudden, you went from a 10 to an 8 to a 7 to a 6 to now you feel like a 2. Now, you feel like s–t.”

Sherman himself doesn’t “give a f–k” what anybody says about him because he’ll just hit the block button and go about his merry day. Please, fire away. But not everyone can deflect so easily. Sherman cites his ex-Seahawks teammate, Mike Davis, tweeting out regular “I’m feeling positive today”-themed messages, only to have others snipe back at him that he has no right to tell them how to feel.

Laments Sherman, “That’s a microcosm.”

Maybe nobody should’ve been surprised, then, when Sherman defended 49ers color commentator Tim Ryan for his comments on Lamar Jackson. His aim is civility. He believed he knew where Ryan was coming from and tried to dissipate that wave, that backlash.

On the surface, the point of view may seem to come from the most unlikely source imaginable—a diabolical killer between the lines. But what Sherman wants is very simple, a request requiring few calories: Be nice to someone today. On the sidewalk. On Twitter. Wherever.

He answers the question first posed.

“If I could change anything about the world,” he says, “it would be more people helping people.”

The children of 49ers dads are running all over the place. Among them is Sherman’s four-year-old son, Rayden, who notices that one of Tevin Coleman’s twins is feeling sick. And shy. And not particularly enjoying being chased all over the place. So Rayden walks up to her, grabs her hand and refuses to leave her side. He’s her guardian the rest of the play session. Dad beams with pride. This is the norm. If his son sees anyone down, ever, he steps in to help. Both of his kids see Mom and Dad giving back. Sherman hopes they, too, one day pass it on.

The most excruciating loss in Super Bowl history appeared to strike Sherman like a javelin through the heart. It did not. That immortalized meme of misery clouded the fact that, when Sherman rested his head at night, he manifested the outcome. He told himself, “I don’t give a damn about that game. I’m having a baby!”

And he moved on.

Four days after the Seahawks lost to the Patriots at the 1-yard line, the Shermans had Rayden. A year later, they had their daughter, Avery.

Sherman relives the first few weeks of fatherhood, here, the nights his babies cried and cried and cried, and he just wanted to shout, “What the f–k is going on!?” But that’s precisely when he learned to take a deep breath, pat his baby on the back and repeat, “You’re all right…you’re all right…” until that baby fell asleep.

People keep telling Sherman that he’s changed, and he knows that’s why. The patience. He is the same competitor taking everything they say and repurposing it into kindling. He, no doubt, cherishes his football legacy. Sherman wants to be known as the greatest cornerback of his era, right there in the line of Charles Woodson and Deion Sanders before that and Mel Blount before that. But the patience forged through those sleepless nights has given him further clarity on the real legacy he’ll leave.

Being a great father means far more to him than being a great cornerback.

“That’s my seed,” Sherman says. “I want to see the best in me be the best in whatever he chooses, whatever she chooses. And that’s something I’ve always wanted more than being a great player. That’s where my focus and concentration lies. Now, I still want to play the game at a high level, and I care about it, but at the end of the day, I’ll play this for 13, 14 years. Cool. A great time in my life. I’ll be a dad forever.”

That’s what brings Sherman the most joy.

Right now, Rayden loves soccer and monster trucks. Avery just made the transformation from tomboy to makeup and high heels and dressing up like a princess. “When did this transition happen?!'” Sherman asks aloud with a laugh. He tries to be stern at home but can’t help it. They’re just too adorable. He’s the softie letting things slide. And right now, the whole Sherman fam is in Christmas mode. His kids love drinking eggnog while watching all the classics: the original Grinch, Home AloneHome Alone 2, the claymation version of Jack Frost and—above all—Rudolph.

No, Sherman isn’t of the ultra-woke Rudolph is terrible camp because, hey, when Santa tells the elves their singing wasn’t any good, he says, “That’s life!”

He’ll give his kids the best Christmas, the best life he can.

He’ll give (and give, and give) to everyone.

And he’ll do it all while still being that player composed of the s–t they don’t make anymore.

Three more seasons is the plan. And whenever Sherman does retire, he won’t disappear.

He’ll keep talking, keep helping and keep hoping others do the same.

Tyler Dunne covers the NFL for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter: @TyDunne.

Article of the Day: Judy Collins on How to Grow as We Age…Live until you die!

Judy Collins Has a Time Machine

By Amanda HessNov. 26, 2019, 5:00 a.m. ET

Caroline Tompkins for The New York Times

At a certain age, or so we have come to believe, a singer loses her voice. Her vocal cords stiffen and slow. Her high notes dry up. But that is not what has happened to Judy Collins.

At 80, Collins sounds as clear as a spring wending through a field of wildflowers. The ethereal soprano that guided listeners through the 1960s — the “gentle voice amid the strife,” as Life magazine proclaimed on a May 1969 cover — still resonates in 2019. This has earned Collins an almost supernatural perspective. When audiences come to see her perform, which she does about one out of every three nights, they are transported. “They’re thinking about their youth,” Collins told me. “They’re thinking about their hopefulness. They’re thinking about their dreams, when they hear me.”

Your voice is like a time machine, I said.

“It’s a time machine,” she said. “Oh, very much. Very much.”

Judy Collins released her debut album in 1961 and never slowed down.
Judy Collins released her debut album in 1961 and never slowed down.Michael Ochs/Getty Images

Collins was poised at the edge of the dining room table in her bewitching Upper West Side apartment, which she has occupied for almost 50 years. She wore a crushed velvet purple jacket and a sparkling necklace that said “Resist.” Her white hair tumbled down to her slim shoulders. The outline of a swallow was tattooed on her left hand. Just beneath it, “Clark” was etched into her wrist, for her son who killed himself in 1992. Collins drank sparkling water from a purple plastic-footed glass. She goes out onstage 120 nights a year, she told me, “because I make a living. I love it. And I’m getting better at it.” Then she bounded onto a small exercise trampoline and jumped off into a tour of her apartment, and her life.

Her home had the feel of an overstuffed time capsule, as if its curator kept lifting the lid to add important new artifacts. Thirteen umbrellas overflowed from the umbrella holder. Clinton administration ephemera dotted the space, which she called “the environment.” On the walls of the environment hung her Life magazine cover, and small photographs of Western landscapes and Walton Ford’s artfully disturbing paintings of birds. The environment was lit by dragonfly stained glass lamps and softened with pillows embroidered with messages like “Friends Are the Best Present” and “One Can Never Have Too Many Cats.”

Collins has three. They are Persian cats with luxurious coats and celestial orbs for eyes. At my request, she hunted them down, and when each was discovered — the tuxedoed Coco Chanel, the blue-gray Rachmaninoff and the all-white Tom Wolfe — Collins greeted the cat in a high, fluttering soprano. “Hello there,” she said. “Do you want to say hello?

The hunt led us into the bedroom of her husband, Louis Nelson, who was wearing a pair of funky yellow socks and contemplating a large rendering of a dog. “I design memorials,” he told me — he designed the Korean War Memorial on the National Mall — and now he was at work on a memorial for Samantha, a friend’s old dog, who would be laid to rest in a pet cemetery upstate. “It’s an extraordinary place,” Nelson said. Collins and Nelson have themselves outlived many pets, leaving them with an unwieldy collection of feline remains. “They’re in little pots and things around the house,” Collins said. “Sometimes I think, I should get rid of these. But I can’t.”

The cats stretched and scattered, and Collins zagged through a bathroom and into her own bedroom. A folded New York Times crossword lay unfulfilled on the bed. (Recently she spotted a friend in a Monday clue: “Jong who wrote ‘Fear of Flying.’”) Around the room’s perimeter, an array of leonine wigs was assembled. Collins’s voice is unchanged, but the hair is new. Two years ago, she had surgery on her hand, and when she awoke from the anesthesia, her hair fell out. “I had fabulous hair,” she said; silky hippie goddess hair. Collins was unimpressed with how it grew back, so now she has it all shaved off: “My hair was so good that there’s no comparison.”

It is here, in the environment, that Collins does the work of maintaining her time machine. “Most days, I do a number of things,” she said. “I practice. I sing a little. I write something. I do my crossword puzzle. I write in my journals. I try to do something exciting. I go to a funny movie. I get together with friends who are funny,” she said. Collins is always collecting jokes and stories and curious observations to fill out her sets. She used to stand onstage and close her eyes and just sing songs one after the other, but when she got sober, in 1978, she began to speak. “I found out that I had an awful lot to say, which I had not realized,” she said.

In 1965, when she was 26 years old, Collins did lose her voice. She was so hoarse that she could barely talk. She called up the vocal coach and activist Max Margulis, and once she convinced him that she was not a flighty folk singer but a serious person, they embarked on a 30-year course of study. His technique was not about the mechanics of Collins singing from her head or her lungs or her chest. It focused on the clarity and precision of her phrasing. It was about meaning what she sang.

“If you’re in the forest,” Collins explained, “and there’s a bear following you, and you want to alert your family, you raise your voice and say so, because if you don’t, your family might die from the bear.” Whether you’re in the woods of Colorado or the clubs of New York City, you must always be ready to use it. “The voice,” Collins said, “is actually meant to last forever.”

In the 1960s, when folk singer-songwriters were multiplying in the West Village, Collins was best known for singing other people’s songs. She sang “Both Sides Now,” by Joni Mitchell, and she made Joni Mitchell famous. She sang “Suzanne,” by Leonard Cohen, and made Leonard Cohen famous. She had an intriguing curatorial range. She sang old standards, and contemporary folk songs, and the Beatles, and Sondheim, and a medley based on the music of “Marat/Sade.” Collins encouraged Cohen to sing his own songs, and he encouraged her to write her own songs, which she approached the same way she did everyone else’s songs. You have to write them, she said, but “then you have to figure out how to sing them.”

The art of singing other people’s songs is not fully appreciated beyond the cabaret circuit, or maybe it’s a little bit lost. Folk singers used to be called “collectors” of songs, and Collins is a master collector. “I feel as though my voice is capable of doing anything,” she told Life in 1969. “I don’t question that I can make a sentence mean anything I want it to as long as I know what it is I want to say. I don’t know why I seem to be able to do it, but I do, and I think people are pleasured by it.”

This fall, the artist Justin Vivian Bond performed a tribute to Collins at Joe’s Pub, singing songs from writers that Collins had surfaced. Listening to her music as a child, Bond was struck by her interpretive skill, by “her sense of how to sing a song,” Bond said. “She’s a great actress, in that regard. And I think that’s how a great singer is a great singer — by acting the story of the song.”

Collins’s latest album, “Winter Stories,” out Nov. 29, is a collaboration with the Norwegian singer Jonas Fjeld and the bluegrass band Chatham County Line. It’s a hygge folk collection, perfect for curling up with three cats, but it also holds unexpected emotional power. On it Collins sings Mitchell’s “The River,” and her own “Mountain Girl,” and “Highwayman,” Jimmy Webb’s song about a man who is reincarnated as a thief, a sailor, a dam builder and a starship captain, which was later covered by Glen Campbell and then the country supergroup the Highwaymen. She had contemplated recording it for many years. 

“I never really had the nerve,” she said. The song seemed to be owned by “the guys,” as she put it. “And then I thought, what the heck?” Collins’s version is unlike any other. In translating the masculine country anthem into her gossamer voice, she has dismantled and rebuilt the song into a testament to female resilience. After hearing it, the recordings by the other versions sound somehow muted. It’s Judy Collins’s song now.

Collins turned 80 this year. The news release in advance of the event read: “Judy Collins Celebrates 80th Birthday on May 1, Forecasts Another Prolific Year.” Her family assembled a fantasy dinner party of guests to fete her, including Gloria Steinem, Robert Caro and Joan Baez. “You have to see the jacket that Joan bought me for my birthday,” Collins said, disappearing into her closet and returning with a pink sequined number. “It’s hysterical,” she said. “She and I would never have worn this.” But a lot has changed since then.

Last year, Baez released what she said was likely to be her final album. “I asked my vocal coach many years ago when it would be time to stop,” she said, “and he said, ‘Your voice will tell you.’ And it has — it’s a muscle, and you have to work harder and harder to make it work.” Janis Joplin and Leonard Cohen are dead. Joni Mitchell rarely surfaces publicly, and she will not answer Judy Collins’s letters. A whole generation of artists has fallen silent, but Collins is still singing. She is transforming old songs through her voice, and through that process she doesn’t just revive them — she remakes them. 

“I notice that in old cultures, when someone is ill, they say we have lost our song,” Steinem, who has known Collins since the ’60s, wrote in an email. “Judy’s magic is that she gives us back our songs.”

There is a tendency to cast older artists as shadows. We go to their performances and listen for an echo of the star in their prime. But Judy Collins is the thing itself. “I’m a better singer now,” she said. “A much better singer.” Recently she kicked off a stretch of shows at Joe’s Pub in New York City with Fjeld and Chatham County Line. She emerged onstage in a pink sequined top — she owns multiple pink sequined tops — and a warm, daffy persona. She introduced Fjeld, and then, as she coolly tuned her guitar, she asked him, “Where is Norway, exactly?”

When they launched into “Mountain Girl,” I noticed that the men onstage looked as if they were engaged in a strenuous form of exercise. But Collins was still. Her guitar appeared to be made of air. She chased the song’s highest high notes with the relaxed air of a woman, in her environment, summoning her cats. When Collins sang her “Highwayman” — “I am still around, and I’ll always be around, and around, and around” — I felt transported, not into the past, but into Judy Collins’s present.