From the Editor

Boldface names

Let’s indulge, for a moment, in some news about boldface names. We’ll discuss why shortly.

First, Paul Giamatti ’89, ’94MFA, he of the John Adams TV miniseries and, this spring, of an extraordinary, even strange, Hamlet at the Yale Rep (directed by drama school dean James Bundy ’95MFA). Here at Yale, the kingdom once ruled by his father—President A. Bartlett Giamatti ’60, ’64PhD (1938–89)—Paul Giamatti reeled in the viewers; the play was sold out weeks before it opened. He delivered a brilliant and eloquent Hamlet, and also a Hamlet so sarcastic, so much the cutup, that some reviewers were annoyed. But Giamatti’s version fit the contemporary, corporate-style court of the show perfectly: he was the rebellious whistle-blower to Claudius’s smoothly corrupt CEO. In the text, Hamlet tells Horatio he’ll be “antic.” Giamatti turned that quality into an expression of the character’s anger. His Hamlet was furious enough to mock, sneer, and mug, in defiance of a culture of self-congratulation. It was a star turn.

Next, Steven Brill ’72, ’75JD, founder of American Lawyer magazine and Court TV and writing teacher at Yale. Brill shook the medical world with “Bitter Pill,” his March 4 Time magazine exposé of the outsized costs charged to patients who aren’t on Medicare. He analyzed seven medical bills and found them full of travesties. One lung cancer patient was charged “$18 each for 88 diabetes-test strips that Amazon sells in boxes of 50 for $27.85; $24 each for 19 niacin pills that are sold in drugstores for about a nickel apiece”—and these and many other minor charges came on top of an overall room bill of $120,116 over 15 days. Another patient was billed $49,237 for a medical device whose wholesale cost, according to a hospital financial officer, is about $19,000. If your insurance is limited, bills like these can crush you financially. Brill’s 36-page piece amassed the most views of any cover article and sparked appalled discussion all over the Internet and in the media.

Third, Anne Wojcicki ’96. If you haven’t heard of her, you may have heard of the company she cofounded: 23andMe, which sells retail DNA test kits and for $99 will tell you details of your ancestry and predict what might happen to your health. But the most interesting thing Wojcicki did recently was to join five other entrepreneurs, including Mark Zuckerberg and her husband Sergey Brin (cofounder of Google), to fund a prize whose monetary award of $3 million dwarfs the Nobel. The Breakthrough Prizes in Life Sciences were announced in February, along with the first 11 winners; in future, 5 prizes will be awarded every year. Yes, Wojcicki and her partners are looking for publicity—for altruistic purposes. One of their aims, according to the website: to generate “excitement about the pursuit of science as a career.”

And finally: why have I brought you these three very different alumni? To point out that you’d already know about them if you’d been reading our website. Giamatti appears on page 18 of this issue, but we covered his Hamlet weeks ago on the blog This Just In. Brill and Wojcicki were both featured in Newsmaker, a blog where, every Friday, we post about an alumnus or alumna making headlines. Usually the headlines are good—although every once in a while, the Yalie most noticed by the media is a white-collar criminal. But what we can promise, either way, is fascinating reading about fascinating people. Check it out:

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