Elon Musk, Aretha Franklin, ‘Disenchantment’: Your Friday B…

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Good morning.

Here’s what you need to know:

An emotional interview with Elon Musk

• “This past year has been the most difficult and painful year of my career. It was excruciating.”

That was the chief executive of Tesla, who alternated between laughter and tears on Thursday in speaking with The Times about a crushing workload that he said had sometimes stretched to 120 hours a week.

Mr. Musk said he didn’t regret abruptly announcing on Twitter that he hoped to convert the electric-car maker into a private company. The declaration sent Tesla’s shares soaring but also started a federal investigation and angered the company’s board.

• “There were times when I didn’t leave the factory for three or four days,” Mr. Musk said, adding, “But from a personal pain standpoint, the worst is yet to come.” Here are five takeaways from the interview.

Paying respect to the “Queen of Soul”

• Aretha Franklin took a love song by Otis Redding, “Respect,” and turned it into one of the most empowering popular recordings ever made.

“Nothing that’s over so soon should give you that much strength,” our critic writes. “But that was Aretha Franklin: a quick trip to the emotional gym.”

Ms. Franklin died on Thursday at the age of 76. Her storied musical career had its roots in gospel but expanded into soul, R&B, pop and opera. Read her obituary.

She placed more than 100 singles in the Billboard charts, received 18 competitive Grammy Awards, and was the first woman inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.

We compiled a playlist of 20 of her essential songs.

The power of the president

• President Trump said on Thursday that he had revoked the security clearance of John Brennan, the former C.I.A. director, because he was part of what Mr. Trump has called the “sham” Russia investigation.

Law enforcement officials, lawmakers and members of the intelligence community said the president’s retaliation against one of his critics could have a chilling effect on U.S. law enforcement and intelligence officers. Read more here.

Separately, the fraud trial of Paul Manafort, Mr. Trump’s former campaign chairman, has provided the first extended glimpse of Robert Mueller’s investigators. It’s not much of one though, as the tight-lipped group won’t discuss even the most mundane details, such as their food orders.

And the military parade ordered up by Mr. Trump and planned for Veterans Day could be postponed until next year, the Pentagon announced on Thursday. The decision came after Defense Department officials said the event could cost more than $90 million, at least three times more than previous estimates.

Remorse from the Vatican

The Vatican said in a statement on Thursday that the widespread sexual abuse of children by priests, detailed in a grand jury report released this week in Pennsylvania, was “criminal and morally reprehensible.”

“Victims should know that the pope is on their side,” the statement said.

Pope Francis has faced mounting criticism that he had a blind spot in dealing with the abuse of minors by clergy.

A top Roman Catholic Church official in the U.S. said that much of the blame lay on the shoulders of bishops and promised that there would be change.

Our column is taking the week off. It will return.

Quiz time!

Did you keep up with this week’s news? Test yourself.

Ready for the weekend

At the movies, we review “Crazy Rich Asians” and “Minding the Gap,” a documentary about skateboarding and life in America. You can find all of this week’s film reviews here.

On TV, a new series from Matt Groening, the creator of “The Simpsons,” debuts on Netflix today. “Disenchantment,” a medieval fantasy satire, is completely different from what Mr. Groening has done before, our reviewer writes.

One of our art critics visited Los Angeles (and says, were he a young artist, he’d favor it over New York). He recommended three shows, including “one of the strongest and most cohesive biennials I’ve see anywhere in years” at the Hammer.

We also suggest 10 new books and, if you’re in New York, a slate of cultural events.

Lastly, “Pretty Woman: The Musical” has arrived on Broadway. Our critic says its main achievement is to make you appreciate anew Julia Roberts’s performance in the 1990 film.

Best of late-night TV

After Gov. Andrew Cuomo of New York said America “was never that great,” Stephen Colbert offered his assessment: “That is the dumbest thing you can say as a politician.”

Quotation of the day

“The message he’s sending is: Don’t cross me.”

Mary McCord, who helped run the Justice Department’s national security division, referring to President Trump’s decision to revoke the security clearance of John Brennan.

The Times, in other words

Here’s an image of today’s front page, and links to our Opinion content and crossword puzzles.

What we’re reading

Tara Parker-Pope, a Times columnist, recommends this piece from Atlas Obscura: “I have always remembered reading a favorite children’s book that involved a dragon-like creature with a silly, whimsical name, but I’m stumped as to what the title was. Now Atlas Obscura tells the story of librarians who help solve mysteries like this and reunite readers with long-lost books.”

Back Story

On Aug. 18, 1872, Aaron Montgomery Ward, a Chicago businessman, set in motion an idea that seemed humble at the time but would go on to shape the retail industry.

On a sheet of paper, he listed about 150 items for sale. That one page turned into hundreds, and by 1888, annual sales from the catalog reached $1 million.

The cover of the Montgomery Ward catalog from 1904.CreditChicago History Museum/Getty Images

The catalog was popular with the largely rural population of the U.S., which suddenly gained access to everything from fur coats to washing machines. The success of Ward’s creation was driven, in part, by a more efficient postal service that had started delivering packages door to door.

The earliest reported catalogs appeared in Venice in the 1400s. In the 18th century, Benjamin Franklin used the mail order concept to sell books.

Catalogs from Montgomery Ward and another mail order pioneer, Sears, Roebuck and Company, started an industry that vied for a spot in mailboxes for decades.

The rise of shopping malls and the internet eventually spelled the demise of the mail order catalog. In 1985, Montgomery Ward discontinued its catalog because of persistent losses.

But what’s old is new again: Amazon is reportedly working on its own holiday catalog this year.

Alisha Haridasani Gupta wrote today’s Back Story.


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