Sunday, August 31, 2003
Romantic Outdoor Idyll? Hah!
What's happening to the picnic is a real offense against nature. A plea for the blithe elegance of the past starts with the basket.
The cool, verdant banks of the Potomac have always beckoned us. But for some people, the river is more than a place to while away an afternoon. Like a home, the river sustains them.
After The Flood
The biggest dam in the world is remaking the Chinese countryside.
Turn Back The Spam Of Time
Busted in 2001 for spamming, Robby Todino turned to mass e-mailings in his quest for time-travel technology. While netizens have had fun with the bizarre messages, Todino is serious. He's just waiting for the right intergalactic courier to come through.
Thursday, August 28, 2003
Tech & Science
Wind Power's New Current
A high-tech update makes windmills more efficient, changing the energy equation. But inconspicuous they're not.
DVDs Are For Losers
Good movies are like good sex — and resale-happy Hollywood has long since gone frigid.
Pencils down. Disney terminates traditional animation.
Wednesday, August 27, 2003
Inertia And Indecision At NASA
The bitter bottom line of the Columbia disaster comes down to this: NASA never absorbed the lessons of the Challenger explosion in 1986, and four successive American presidents never decided where America's space program should head after the cold war — and what it would cost in dollars and risk to human life to get there.
Tech & Science
How Was It For You?
Viagra can leave a trail of ruined lives and shattered hopes, says expert.
Vendela Vida Floats Amid S.F. Literati But Keeps Feet, Attitude Firmly Planted
While they are admired for their work and for leading a renaissance of literature, publishing and philanthropy in San Francisco, they are also major snark targets, annoying others for seeming to have so much brilliance, youth and charm.
At Ease In Vietnam, Asia's New Culinary Star
In Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, restaurant cooking of real excellence has evolved in the last 10 years.
Scholars Perform Autopsy On Ancient Writing Systems
In the first study of its kind, three experts in the study of written language have described the common characteristics that caused three famous scripts — ancient Egyptian, Middle Eastern cuneiform and pre-Columbian Mayan — to disappear.
Tuesday, August 26, 2003
A summer of obsessions in France.
Good Sitcom Is Rare, And Actors Know It
The networks' version of hardball has usually prevailed in recent years. But this year's preseason ritual has a twist.
Burning Man Never Gets Old
Ask any participating "burner" what Burning Man is, and you're likely to hear the same response: The event is more than the sum of its art cars, kinetic sculptures or suntanned bodies clad in body paint and glitter (and sometimes not much else). You just have to experience it in person, they always say.
Monday, August 25, 2003
When It Comes To Voting, We're Creatures Of Habit
When people choose from a list of options, they have a tendency to simply pick the first item on the list, whatever or whomever it may be.
Disney Fini? Don't Take The Mickey
For those who think Disneyland Paris has never been anything but a Trojan horse pouring toxic American culture over Europe, its woes will be a source of pleasure.
Ghost In The Machine
He met her in a world of endless fantasy. It wasn't her real address.
Thorn: Novel Brings Praise — And Payday
Decades of writing, penny-pinching may finally profit author.
Sunday, August 24, 2003
Tech & Science
Can It Be? The End Of Evolution?
So where do we go from here? Have we attained perfection and ceased to evolve?
On The Roof, Another New York, Above It All
Even in these days of computer games, conditioned air and liability lawsuits, the people of New York still go to the roof. They charge through security doors and climb up fire escapes, and nervous landlords or busybody building superintendents are no match.
Saturday, August 23, 2003
Tech & Science
Prime Obsession: Will The Greatest Problem In Mathematics Ever Be Resolved?
Known as the Riemann Hypothesis, no mathematical problem inspires such fear and awe — it is said that some mathematicians would sell their souls for the answer.
We're All Connected?
Flash mobs could change the way we come together, unless they are co-opted by consumerism — or unplugged by an old-tech blackout.
Friday, August 22, 2003
Conan The Deceiver
Can a celebrity candidate muscle his way into public office without ever being held accountable for his statements?
Tech & Science
The 'Mozart Effect' Is Scaled Back A Few Notes
Music hath charms, but regular lessons won't make your child's IQ soar, and listening to any music before spatial tests won't lead to a stellar performance, contrary to much-hyped reports in the '90s, researchers say.
Thursday, August 21, 2003
Science As Democratizer
Taken seriously, support of scientific literacy and research in the developing world could become America's most efficient use of foreign aid. By increasing the scientific spirit in the world, we would be catalyzing a converging way of thinking.
Lunch In L.A.: It's Nearly Extinct
The sprawling nature of our megalopolis — and the local obsession with health and diet — have long made lunch a dicey proposition, especially for fine-dining establishments. But it's worse now than I can ever recall.
In Los Angeles, Strip Mall Food Is Way Cool
Little-known hole in the walls, lurking on just about every major intersection in town, are the antidote to everything flashy and velvet-roped, which is why they remain so popular with Hollywood's next wave, even as trendy boites come and go.
Wednesday, August 20, 2003
'The Race' Puts Global Spin On Reality TV
Its serial and treasure-hunt qualities give the show the page-turning appeal of a beach book, while its global scale is as grandiose as a summer blockbuster.
Tuesday, August 19, 2003
Tech & Science
Why Humans And Their Fur Parted Ways
One of the most distinctive evolutionary changes as humans parted company from their fellow apes was their loss of body hair.
High-Tech Word Of Mouth Maims Movies In A Flash
Word of mouth — buzz — has long been an element in a film's success or failure. But rapid advances in technology, in the hands of an "American Idol" culture quick to express its vote-'em-off sentiments, has accelerated the pace of communication so much that Hollywood feels the reverberations at the box office almost immediately.
Glass With Class
For design merchant Murray Moss, the future is clear.
Cultural History Of The Night
In history, nocturnal urban darkness was the norm.
Monday, August 18, 2003
The Disgrace Of The BBC
Unfair, unbalanced, and afraid.
Tech & Science
Why technology will be the defining battle of the 21st century.
Those Amazing Animals!
Who knew Jerry Bruckheimer had the vision to back a show that's basically a relationship compatibility quiz from a women's magazine, set into live action?
Low-Carb Version Of French Fries
Can there be such a thing as a healthy French fry? Randy Blaun, a writer and self-proclaimed foodie living in Manhattan, claims to have invented just that: French fries that have as many nutrients and as much fiber as a serving of broccoli.
Sunday, August 17, 2003
Tech & Science
Women 'Driven To Road Rage By Their Fathers'
Women drivers who lean on the horn and yell obscenities at fellow motorists have their fathers to blame, an analysis of driving habits suggests. Finnish scientists have found that daughters are more likely than sons to inherit their fathers' road-rage behaviour.
A car radio is like a time machine, taking you back to those lazy days of carefree youth.
Everyone's A Film Geek Now
For the movie industry, the DVD has become so important that the tail now appears to be wagging the dog.
Slow. Quiet. Courtly. You Say It's In New York?
The United Nations borrows much from its 191 member states and very little from New York. Outside, there is rudeness. Inside, there is calm, translated into six languages.
Saturday, August 16, 2003
Where Have All The Looters Gone?
Why there wasn't more crime during the blackout.
Ladies Of The Club
Women in the U.S. Senate have traveled a path from oddities to insiders.
Tech & Science
Experts Asking Why Problems Spread So Far
As some government officials squabbled over what went wrong first, experts and energy officials were urgently trying to answer the more serious question of what, in effect, went wrong second — the inability of the system's computers and human operators over the next few minutes to isolate and limit the trouble.
My night in blacked-out New York.
Fiddling With The Reception
Jim Walton, CNN's president, made his mark by dropping Connie Chung. Now he has to figure out what to do with Paula Zahn and, while he's at it, solve his network's continuing identity crisis.
Even as it goes haute, the dog remains hot.
Looking Up An Old Love On The Streets Of Vietnam
Pho, an aromatic noodle soup, is a national passion in Vietnam. In Hanoi, it is a cult.
A Comatose Transit System Awakens, Slowly
In fits and starts, the region's transportation system began to stagger back to life yesterday, as traffic lights suddenly picked up where they had left off, cabbies switched their meters back on, packed buses substituted for subways and roaring diesel trains rolled to the rescue on powerless commuter lines.
Friday, August 15, 2003
People Like Us
We all pay lip service to the melting pot, but we really prefer the congealing pot.
What Do Dogs Want?
Food? Love? A job? A walk around the block with the new dog literature.
Thursday, August 14, 2003
Tech & Science
The New Diamond Age
Armed with inexpensive, mass-produced gems, two startups are launching an assault on the De Beers cartel.
A Race To Master The Art Of French Cooking
Julie Powell is in the homestretch. She has 13 days and 22 recipes to go to complete what possibly only Julia Child has done. If she meets her Aug. 26 deadline, Ms. Powell will have cooked all 524 recipes in the 1961 classic, "Mastering the Art of French Cooking."
Call It Starbucking, The Fine Art Of Hating Your Local Outlet Of The Seattle Coffeehouse Chain. Why Is Starbucks The Brand We Love To Hate?
Perhaps more to the point, the company has come to represent an insidious sort of big-business inexorability and a particular brand of "lifestyle" marketing epitomized by the company's own chief product. They're not selling coffee so much as the "Starbucks Experience."
Mostly Not Mozart
Few orchestras play the works of contemporary classical composers, and almost no one buys their albums. Is their music uninspired — or do we simply not get it?
Wednesday, August 13, 2003
Arnold's Bad Business
It turns out there's a lot of similarity between the business plan of Planet Hollywood and the business plan of Arnold's gubernatorial campaign.
Tech & Science
Degrees Of Separation Are Likely More Than 6, Especially In E-Mail Age
Socially, it may be a small world, but it's hard to get from here to there.
The Girl Next Door
How much trouble could a nine-year-old be?
For Flight Attendants, Stress Comes With The Job
You think your business travels have become more stressful? Put yourself in the shoes of flight attendants (and even they sometimes have to take them off for the security guards).
Who Built The Pyramids?
Drawing on diverse strands of evidence, from geological history to analysis of living arrangements, bread-making technology, and animal remains, Egyptologist Mark Lehner, an associate of Harvard's Semitic Museum, is beginning to fashion an answer. He has found the city of the pyramid builders. They were not slaves.
Tuesday, August 12, 2003
The Liberal Spirit In America
Improving by conserving the liberal spirit is easier said than done. But the doing first requires the saying, and to say something useful, the challenge must be accurately understood.
Tech & Science
Look Who Was Talking
When did we start talking to each other and how long did it take us to become so good at it? In the absence of palaeo-cassette recorders or a time machine the problem might seem insoluble, but analysis of recent evidence suggests we may have started talking as early as 2.5m years ago.
How great works of art are presented can border on sacrilege, but some cruators are changing their frames of reference.
Monday, August 11, 2003
One Tall Cappuccino Conundrum, To Go
Going to Starbucks is one of the most challenging and worrisome things an urban person can do. It is not for the faint of heart or the indecisive of mind. It is an exact science, like human space flight. The slightest misstep can mean disaster.
Gregory Hines, Dancer And Actor, Dies At 57
Gregory Hines, the genial, suave dancer, singer and actor who for many personified the art of classical tap in the 1980's and 90's, died late Saturday on his way to a hospital from his home in Los Angeles. He was 57.
Sunday, August 10, 2003
Straight From THe Spleen
The Washington Post's Lisa de Moraes gives the entertainment-information industrial complex hell.
The Truth About Polygraphs
A National Academy of Sciences study validates long-held doubts about the reliability of polygraphs. So why does the government still rely on them to screen applicants for jobs?
Year In Japan Was A Study In Subtlety
When Victoria Abbott Riccardi returned from a stay in Kyoto, Japan, 17 years ago, friends stopped her, wondering how she had changed. Did she cut her hair? some asked. "They couldn't really pinpoint it," says Riccardi, as she prepares a Japanese lunch in her home here.
A Laboratory Of Taste
Barcelona, not Paris, is now the vanguard capital of Europe — not least because of its wildly experimental cooking. And no one there is cooking more daringly and ingeniously than Ferran Adria.
The House Filmgoers Love To Hate
In a city famed for both fierce devotion to its cultural landmarks and critical cultural consumers, the love-hate relationship between audiences and the Angelika is one of the most pungent. And the griping about the Angelika Film Center on Houston Street in Greenwich Village — "the centerpiece of independent film exhibition in NYC," as its Web site advertises — remains one of many moviegoer's dirty pleasures.
Why It's A Wide Wide Wide Wide Screen
Old movies look better than new movies on your TV because TV scared the Hollywood studios into making screens wider.
Saturday, August 9, 2003
That stubborn imperialist term appears timely today, but is nothing more than an all-purpose banality.
It All Depend On What You Mean By 'Have'
So if you're asking me did Iraq have weapons of mass distruction, I'm saying, well, it all depends on what you mean by "have."
Tech & Science
Scientists Warn That Visitors Are Loving Titanic To Death
The Titanic, assailed by rust as well as by hundreds of explorers and moviemakers, salvors and tourists (including a couple who were married in a miniature submarine on its bow), is rapidly falling apart.
A Cool Vehicle Draws Stares, But Buyers Are Hanging Back
The Segway Human Transporter still has to prove that it can last as a real business, and not just as a cool idea.
A study says that prose style reveals an author's sex. But what exactly does that reveal?
NBC Misfires On LeBlanc
Good ideas can come in a nanosecond. Bad ideas can take a year, two years, forever.
Friday, August 8, 2003
Food Shopping In The Fastest Lane
The founder of FreshDirect, the hot online grocery business, believes he has seized on the heavy lifting problem, by speaking to a city's passion for good food minus the unpleasantness of actually shopping for it.
Stuck In The Present
If the past is a foreign country, some history students seem to be finding it difficult even leaving their home town.
CBS Reporter Finds The Drama In Ordinary Lives
Today a fixture on "The CBS Evening News With Dan Rather" as well as a biweekly essayist on "60 Minutes II," Hartman has ascended at CBS News without reporting from a war zone, the White House or the latest Trial of the Century. He did it by hanging out with the Cabbage Patch Kids.
Thursday, August 7, 2003
The Triumph Of Fringe Science
Global warming naysayers argue that we don't need to do anything to stop rising temperatures. Mainstream scientists used to be able to ignore them, but now they make White House policy.
Tech & Science
Rain Or Shine? Homing In On Your Microclimate
Weather watchers have long been observing, measuring, calculating, plotting and predicting. Now they have technology to help them.
A Life Well-Read
For decades her passion was the Beverly Wilshire — and her books. Now at age 90, Helen Chaplin can still out-think just about anybody.
Carla heard the car coming before it topped the little rise in the road that around here they called a hill. It's her, she thought. Mrs. Jamieson — Sylvia — home from her holiday in Greece. From the barn door — but far enough inside that she could not easily be seen — she watched the road where Mrs. Jamieson would have to drive by, her place being half a mile farther along than Clark and Carla's.
TS Eliot Scholar Finds Answer To Pub Poet's Riddle
An academic claims to have solved the puzzle of TS Eliot's 79-word poem Usk — he might have been referring to a pub.
Wednesday, August 6, 2003
How a Bush-promoted Christian prison program fakes success by massaging data.
The 'Big Media' Myth
It's true that some gigantic media companies are getting even bigger at the expense of other media companies. But it's not true that their power is increasing at the public's expense.
616 Cheeses, 22 Judges And 2 Days
San Francisco—We came to judge cheese.
No Sputtering Aloud
Okay, reader. Perhaps the best way to understand this little story about the trials and trip-ups of making audio books is to read it aloud. So have a seat, grab a bottle of water and let's begin. You take the regular text; we'll handle the italics.
What's Happened To Sex In Movies?
Is there a fear of dealing with grown-up sexuality in movies? Absolutely. A foreigner judging the United States by its films would think Americans spend more time running from exploding fireballs than having sex.
For Wines, The Paradox Of Global Warming
For winemakers, especially those in historically cool grape-growing regions, the changing climate has already markedly affected their lives and wines.
Tuesday, August 5, 2003
The rise of 7-Eleven is a welcome victory for corporate Japan.
What's Right With Japan
Forget about salarymen, gridlocked politics and zombie corporations. Japan is transforming itself into Asia's cultural dynamo — and might be reinventing its economy in the process.
Slot Machines Cha-Ching No More
Casinos love coinless slot machines: no dirty coins to count, fewer moving parts to maintain, up-to-the-second tallies. For gamblers, though, it's a different matter. Purists miss the lovely sound of quarters hitting the pan.
The Washington Post Lite
If you find news radio too intellectually taxing or wish CNN would slow down its news ticker, the Washington Post Co. has just the thing for you.
NBC Hopes Short Movies Will Keep Viewers From Flipping
NBC thinks it has come up with a new way to get people to sit through blocks of commercials: Break up the ads with minimovies.
Monday, August 4, 2003
Looking Backward And Ahead At Continent's End
Swimmers, artists, historians and legions of the curious follow Lewis and Clark's route and still discover something about the land, themselves or the nation's history.
The Children Who Won't Grow Up
The alarm bells started ringing a few years ago. I was showing a friend around my campus when we encountered a group of undergraduates absorbed in watching Teletubbies in the bar.
Sunday, August 3, 2003
Going to the movies used to be fun. Nowadays it's work — just to figure out what's happening onscreen.
The Photo Booth: A Portrait Studio Of One's Own
It was Andy Warhol, a crucial figure in the art world's love affair with the vernacular, who saw the grander possibilities of the photo booth and turned it into a portrait studio that furnished him with models for his paintings.
Farewell, Beloved Bug Of My Heart
Now that the very last VW Beetle has rolled off the production line, I can't resist taking a quirky, air-cooled drive down Memory Lane.
Saturday, August 2, 2003
Less Power, More Influence
Three years into the new century, America continues to struggle over what W. E. B. DuBois famously called the problem of the last century: the problem of the color line.
Hack The Vote
How to stop someone from stealing the 2004 election.
Would You Like Fries With The Endive?
Taste-testing fast food salads.
Jury Duty Is One Of The Prices We Pay For Justice
Selective Citizens never know when they might need a jury of their peers. And what a pity if none of their kind bothers to show up.
Sunken Treasure Points To Forgery In Gold Collection
A gold bar at the National Museum of American History, long thought to be a sample from the 19th century California Gold Rush, is a fake, according to a well-known geologist.
The Probability That A Real-Estate Agent Is Cheating You (And Other Riddles Of Modern Life)
Steven Levitt tends to see things differently than the average person. Differently, too, than the average economist.
Picturing A New Webster's
The illustrator for the 11th Collegiate Dictionary explains why streetcar, skeleton and skunk made the drawing cut and botox and dot-commer didn't.
Friday, August 1, 2003
Tech & Science
Top Of Sky Is Receding
We may be pushing the stratosphere away.
The DNA Of Desire: Is Infidelity Innate?
A fierce debate about whether jealousy, lust and sexual attraction are hardwired in the brain or are the products of culture and upbringing has recently been ignited by the growing influence of a school of psychology that sees the hidden hand of evolution in everyday life.
Sword Of Honor
America, it seems, remains culturally divided along the Mason-Dixon line, and the crucial difference now, as at the time of the American Civil War, is honour.