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Week 1/4/21

PUBLISHED: January 8, 2021

In an effort to better acquaint you, the reader, with the VQR staff, members of our team will share excerpts from our personal reading—The Best 200 Words I Read All Week. From fact to fiction, from comedic to tragic, we hope you find as much to admire in these selections as we do. 


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It all started back in 2010, when Moore and Sherman moved to Australia together after graduating from Wake Forest. On a trip to New Zealand, they crashed in a family friend’s guest house—a chic rental that often drew an A-list clientele. They paged through the guestbook, amazed by the names they found. “It was George Harrison of the Beatles, a bunch of senators and representatives from the U.S.,” Moore says.

Then one name stopped them in their tracks: Alex Trebek. While most of the other entries included simple niceties, Trebek’s had a phone number. What are the odds it’s actually his? they wondered. Unsure, they jotted it down and went on their way.

Days later, the pair gave the number a ring. To their shock, a voice that sounded an awful lot like that of the famous Jeopardy! host answered. They’d prepared by skimming Trebek’s Wikipedia page; they said they were calling from the University of Ottawa, where Trebek had studied, and that they were interested in starting a game show graduate program. Trebek humored them, Sherman remembers. “He’s asking who we are. We gave him fake names. He’s asking what department we’re currently from.”

The fictions grew more and more preposterous, and yet Trebek didn’t hang up. But they made a mistake, Sherman says: “We didn’t really take the time change into consideration, and he said, ‘Why are you calling me at 3 a.m.?’”

Art Director Jenn Boggs
Excerpt from “The Forever Legacy of Alex Trebek”, by Claire McNear, in The Ringer


They came to Dubrovnik by cruise ship or Ryanair — members of a new hypermobile class of tourist, who traveled for cheap and didn’t stay long. They’d seen its walled Old Town on “Game of Thrones,” and they wanted to be there themselves, so they went. Venice, Barcelona, certain beaches in Thailand — these places had all faced their own “overtouristing” problems, but even by this standard, Dubrovnik was extreme. On busy days, tourists could outnumber permanent Old Town residents about 6 to 1. With a main thoroughfare less than a thousand feet long, this pressure on the city’s charm was overwhelming. By 2017, tourism had so overburdened the Old Town that UNESCO was threatening to revoke its World Heritage status. Mayor Mato Frankovic set out to save his city by sabotage, capping passage through the gates at 4,000 daily visitors and functionally banning new restaurants. Nevertheless, the tourists kept coming.

But then, around March 2020, they stopped. After the Diamond Princess debacle, no more cruise ships appeared in the port. Airplanes were grounded, then took flight again — ending an age of quick and easy travel and ushering in a new, slower one. Pandemic travel was arduous and impeded by knotty, sometimes contradictory governmental guidelines. To travel under these conditions required an unhinged urge to take flight and a bureaucrat’s eye for parsing fine print. Brian Kelly, the founder of a website called The Points Guy, had both — plus a few million unused frequent-flier miles. This was how, on Saturday, Aug. 7, he found himself heading from New York to Dubrovnik, to see the walled city with nobody there.

Business Manager Diane John
Excerpt from “The Man Who Turned Credit-Card Points Into an Empire”, by Jamie Lauren Keiles, in the New York Times Magazine


This coup deeply echoes the end of Reconstruction, the defining political realignment of our age that the vast majority of us knows nothing about. During Reconstruction, as the North backed ruling coalitions of pro-democracy whites and former enslaved Blacks, there was a flowering of Black excellence. Townships founded, newspapers printed, schools established—all by a people less than five years out of annihilating bondage. The response was swift: deep, unending white anger and violence. The federal government defended those newly established governments for a short while, but after the contentious election of 1876, it essentially abandoned the project of a multiracial democracy and ceded Southern governments to white supremacists. We have been living in the consequences and violent repercussions of that action ever since. If you think I am perhaps being esoteric in citing these events, academic or abstract, I point you to the fact that Senator Ted Cruz cited the 1876 court ruling cementing the end of Reconstruction when he attempted to challenge Biden’s win last week. White supremacists know this history well. White people invested in their own innocence, however, have a vested interest in forgetting it and derailing conversations whenever it is brought up.

Assistant Editor Heidi Siegrist
Excerpt from “They Say This Isn’t America. For Most of Us, It Is.”, by Kaitlyn Greenidge, in Harper’s Bazaar


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