The Magic Number? $75,000

Research shows that in the U.S., money correlates with happiness until you get to an income of about $75,000. After that, happiness returns diminish rapidly. The key is what you do after you hit $75,000:

Interestingly, and usefully, it turns out that what we do with our money plays a far more important role than how much money we make. Imagine three people each win $1 million in the lottery. Suppose one person attempts to buy every single thing he has ever wanted; one puts it all in the bank and uses the money only sparingly, for special occasions; and one gives it all to charity. At the end of the year, they all would report an additional $1 million of income. Many of us would follow the first person’s strategy, but the latter two winners are likely to get the bigger happiness bang for their buck.

On Leaving New York

Here’s Cord Jefferson’s lovely paean to New York City, and why he had to leave it:

When I moved out of New York, I knew at the time that it was the best decision for my career and pocketbook. Only now have I come to realize how important leaving was for my sanity, as well. Not that I was afflicted with claustrophobia or exhaustion or any of the pseudo-ailments with which so many hypochondriac New Yorkers diagnose themselves. Rather, I’d deliberately forgotten that life outside New York is just as pure and valid as life inside New York, which is a hazard of the City just the same as street crime, and one that’s far more prevalent.

The Travails of a Wannabe Screenwriter

Man, I adored this piece by Stephen Harrigan about his struggles trying to (or not trying to?) make it big in Hollywood as a screenwriter (via Matt Singer):

I had wanted to be a screenwriter since 1962, when I walked out of the Tower Theater in Corpus Christi, Texas as a very different 14-year-old boy than when I had walked in. The movie was Lawrence of Arabia, and watching it was like being sucked into a wormhole and delivered to an alternate universe. The unworldly disorientation I experienced was due in large part to David Lean’s direction, to his unprecedented sense of scale and pace and purpose, and to the Maurice Jarre score, which half a century later was still so haunting to me that I sometimes use it as the ringtone on my cellphone. But Lawrence of Arabia had another dimension, one that I had never really noticed before. For the first time, I was aware that movies were written, not just somehow fortuitously assembled. It was obvious that the dialogue—“The trick, William Potter, is not minding that it hurts” or “What attracts you personally to the desert?” “It’s clean.”—had to have been set down somewhere in cold print, not just thought up on the fly. And it was more than the dialogue itself that made me take notice of the name Robert Bolt; it was the wordless action as well, the way the scenes steadily built and drew upon each other to produce such a satisfying impression of momentum and coherence.

My Favorite Longreads of 2011

I spend a lot of time reading, whether on the internet or on my Kindle through Instapaper. The latter is an activity I heartily recommend for anyone.

This year, a myriad of compelling, informative, moving longform content was published online, available for free. Here are some of the pieces I found the most interesting. As some of these cover some pretty dark territory, I certainly didn’t “enjoy” reading them all, but if they’re on this list, I found them to be works worthy of your attention. Many of them have significantly changed how I think about the topics they cover, which I believe to be a sign of any well-written content:

How 480 Characters Unraveled My Career – Nir Rosen’s apologia explains how a few careless tweets destroyed everything he’d been working towards for years.

Our Desperate, 250-Year-Long Search for a Gender-Neutral Pronoun – Maria Bustillos breaks out her forensic grammarian hat over at The Awl.

Leaving in a Huff – Eric D. Snider reconstructs the Moviefone meltdown with hilarity and truth.

The Sad Beautiful Fact That We’re Going to Miss Almost Everything – Linda Holmes presents the ultimate conundrum of following pop culture.

Our Universities: Why Are They Failing? – Anthony Grafton not only presents a sobering portrait of American education, but also points to flaws in how we write and conceive of it.

Sweet Emulsion – Scott Tobias explains why we should care that the days of film are numbered.

The Neverending Nightmare of Amanda Knox – A gripping Rolling Stone feature on how young Amanda Knox unwittingly wandered into the midst of an international scandal.

The Hellish Experience of Making a Bad Horror Film – Leigh Whannell describes the nightmare that was making Dead Silence. Glad to see he has a sense of humor about it!

Sex Trafficking of Americans: The Girls Next Door – A Vanity Fair piece on the horrors of domestic sex trafficking.

A Day at the Park – Shawn Taylor movingly describes the emotional struggles of a black father in America.

Parents of a Certain Age – Lisa Miller explores the idea of parents getting pregnant for the first time when they’re in their 50s. Arguments for both sides are presented but Miller definitely has a specific position on the subject. I found her explanation behind it to be thought-provoking.

The Shame of College Sports – Taylor Branch provides a sprawling look at the injustice of college athletics and the travesty that is the NCAA.

The New Gatsby

Eric Puchner has written a story about his father that’s quite reminiscent (in storyline and style) of Fitzgerald’s classic tale of a man trying to overcome his station in life. But while Gatsby was a tragic figure who we could all relate to, Puchner’s father seems like kind of like a monster. This piece is so rich in its descriptions and in its vivid evocations of hope and promise that I didn’t want it to end. Beautiful.