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April 30, 2008

In Love With The History Our Teachers Never Told Us

by Charles McGrath, New York Times

Tom Horwitz's new book, "A Voyage Long and Stragne," is about the American history most Americans never learned, including the story of the short-lived, early-17th-century colony established on this windswept island eight miles west of Martha's Vineyard.

Filmmaker Errol Morris Gets To The Truth Behind The Abu Ghraib Photographs

by David Samuels, Wired

Morris' philosophically engaged skepticism about our ability to see the world as it really is gives his native sense of irony an added bite. What makes his films so completely watchable is the way they combine intensely scrupulous and detailed investigations of other people's investigations with a celebration of the irreducible strangeness of the way human beings perceive reality. The filmmaker's capacity for radical doubt is counterbalanced by his palpable desire to know.

The Agnony Of The Food Snob

by Daniel Gross, Slate

The high cost of food is the topic du jour. Global growth, bad weather, high energy costs, investors flooding into the markets, and the failure of production to keep up with growing demand are creating a food crisis. It's having a serious impact on poor working families, who devote a disproportionate share of their income to food. And it's taking a heavy toll on another class, much less deserving of our sympathy, whose members also devote a disproportionate share of their incomes to food: food snobs.

Where Alaa Al Aswany Is Writing From

by Pankaj Mishra, New York Times

He's a secularist. He's a salniste. He's a dentist. And he's one of the Arab world's best-selling novelists.

April 29, 2008


by James Longenbach, Slate

April 28, 2008

Lighght Verse

by Richard Hell, New York Times

This book collects nearly all the poems Aram Saroyan worte in the 1960s, when he was in his early 20s and, as he put it, "the only person available at a typewriter who didn't ahve some predetermined use in mind for it."

The God Of Loneliness

by Philip Schultz, New Yorker


by Matthew Dickman, New Yorker

Broken, By Daniel Clay

by Anita Sethi, The Independent

How does a human being become a "ghost" and a "monster" locked away in a bedroom in a world of "shadows and dread"?

April 27, 2008

Odd Couple Of The Jungle

by Nicholas D. Kristof, New York Times

Douglas McMeekin was a failed businessman in Kentucky, and Juan Kunchikuy was a hunter in a remote nook of the Amazon rain forest who killed monkeys, deer and wild pigs with a blowgun and poison darts.

Now this unlikely pair has joined forces in a remarkable campaign to save the rain forest, "the lungs of the earth" that suck up the carbon we spew out. Of all the struggles to fight climate change, this is one of the more quixotic — and inspiring.

April 26, 2008

Movable Feast Carries A Pollution Price Tag

by Elisabeth Rosenthal, New York Times

Cod caught off Norway is shipped to China to be turned into filets, then shipped back to Norway for sale. Argentine lemons fill supermarket shelves on the Citrus Coast of Spain, as local lemons rot on the ground. Half of Europe's peas are grown and packaged in Kenya.

Washington's Future, A History

by Marc Fisher, Washington Post

We picked some of the best brains in town to write an account of the next 17 years.

'Farewell, My Subaru' By Doug Fine

by Erika Schickel, Los Angeles Times

At age 36, Doug Fine decided "to see if a regular guy who enjoyed his comforts could maintain them with a reduced oil footprint." And so he bought a parcel of land in southwestern New Mexico, dubbed it the Funky Butte Ranch and dug right into his greener lifestyle.

The Seven Myths Of Energy Independence

by Paul Roberts, Mother Jones

Why forging a sustainable energy future is dependent on foreign oil.

Suspending Life

by Peter Ward, Seed

If almost every species on Earth was killed some 250 million years ago, how did our ancient ancestors survive and evolve into us?

Cartoon Apocalypse

by Benjamin Kunkel, Guardian

Published a year after the Cuban missile crisis, Cat's Cradle is a classic of cold-war science fiction. Its hallucinatory quality made Kurt Vonnegut a hero to hippies and peaceniks.

April 25, 2008

L.A. Without Wheels

by Carolyn See, Los Angeles Times

I'm here on the ground, walking past flowers, and I don't miss those cars at all.

Long Live The Dress (For Now)

by Guy Trebay, New York Times

Yes, gender play is fun, and trousers are a useful wardrobe default for the women in business. But unles you are thomas McGuane and find nothing sexier than a woman' with crow's feet, tight Wranglers and suede chaps, you will have to concede that, for flattering a woman's body, nothing is quite like a dress.

April 24, 2008

It's A Boy! The Science Of Gender Selection

by Jeremy Laurance, The Independent

Can your diet really determine the sex of your child? Scientists this week declared that first-time mothers who consume more calories around the time of coneption are more likely to give birth to boys. The throeis surrounding gender selection are as outlandish as they are numerous. So what should we believe?

April 23, 2008

Animated Bambi Debate Arouses Pastoral Passions

by Patricia Cohen, New York Times

Just how much of a friend Disney has been to woodland folk (and their kin in the sea and the jungle) has long been batted about by scholars and writers.

Literary Fiction Gets Kinky

by Swati Pandey, Los Angeles Times

Part erotica, part chick or mommy lit, part memoir-mimicking confession of childhood sexuality and trauma, "Playing" may be the perfect storm of marketable genres, written by a woman with literary-fiction ambitions.

You Walk Wrong

by Adam Sternbergh, New York Magazine

It took 4 million years of evolution to perfect the human foot. But we're wrecking it with every step we take.

I'm Happy When It's Crunch Time

by Jane Black, Washington Post

Let's get one thing clear. I am not one of those salad girls. You know that girl. The one who picks at lettuce leaves while the guys dig into their steaks. The one who skips dessert or will "have one little bite." I am not her.

I say that because I feel a little defensive about salads.

April 22, 2008

Harmless Poem

by Stuart Dischell, Slate

When Language Can Hold The Answer

by Christine Kenneally, New York Times

In stark form, the debate was: Does language shape what we perceive, a position associated with the late Benjamin Lee Whorf, or are our perceptions pure sensory impressions, immune to the arbitrary ways that language carves up the world?

The latest research changes the framework, perhaps the language of the debate, suggesting that language clearly affects some thinking as a special device added to an ancient mental skill set. Just as adding features to a cellphone or camera can backfire, language is not always helpful. For the most part, it enhances thinking, But it can trip us up, too.

April 21, 2008

'The Soloist' By Steve Lopez

by Edward Humes, Los Angeles Times

Hidden in plain sight just down the street from City Hall and mere steps from the offices of this newspaper, skid row is a reeking repository of disease, drugs and desperation that most of us avoid when possible or hurriedly step past when necessary,a verting our stares from hollow cheeks and hollow eyes, as if they were invisible.

"The Soloist" is Lopez's compelling and gruffly tender account of what can happen when you don't step past.

April 20, 2008

No Fortissimo? Symphony Told To Keep It Down

by Sarah Lyall, New York Times

Across Europe, musicians are being asked to wear decibel-measuring devices and to sit behind see-through antinoise screens. COmpanies are altering their repertories. And conductors are rexconsidering the definition of "fortissimo."

Bedtime Stories

by Rupert Smith, Los Angeles Times

When it comes to erotica, you can judge a book between the covers.

What, Me Worry?

by Jan Freeman, Boston Globe

There are only two possible fates for any new usage. Either it will fade away, in which case your fulminations are unnecessary, or it will stick around, meaning they are useless.

April 19, 2008


by Jeanne Marie Laskas, Washington Post

CC: Get a life.

April 18, 2008

"The Woods Are Lovely, Dark And Deep"

by Peter Behrens, Washington Post

This is a book about a man confronting the world and struggling to make sense, through his work, of what he cannot otherwise grasp. Like Frost's poetry, Hall's novel is pungent, deceptively simple and magnificently sad.

Verse By The Yard

by Izzy Grinspan, Poetry Foundation

The longest poem in the world will be written by horny robots.

Why Don't Modern Poems Rhyme, Etc.

by Robert Pinsky, Slate

Frequently asked questions about the business of verse.

Young Authors Embrace The Thought Process

by Scott Timberg, Los Angeles Times

Is it possible to lead a dedicated literary life in the billionaire-filled, media-crazed New York of today? To be heedless of the material world as you burrow into novels and ideas the way the old Partisan Review gang did in the '40s and '50s, to come up with notions that rock the intellectual landscape? And if so, who exactly is still paying attention?

Rhymes Of Passion: Betjeman's Women

by John Walsh, The Independent

In a world of weekend tennis parties in Surrey and Berkshire, of agreeablecountry houses with labradors, butlers and sensible atrons dead-heading roses with trug and secateur, Betjeman's poetic alter-ego exists in a chronic fever of sexual excitement.

How I Learned To Stop Worrying And Love The Recession

by Heather Havrilesky, Salon

This is my new therapy (since I can't afford the old kind): shopping for alarmingly cheap yet nutritious foods. It's relaxing, somehow, to stand there in front of those bags — 33 cents for split peas! Amazing! — fantasizing about how my family will eat only beans from now on: chilis and bean burritos (Homemade tortillas! Just flour and water!) and ban soups, whole meals that cost less than $3 to make, that might feed the family for days on end.

April 17, 2008

A Drought In Australia, A Global Shortage Of Rice

by Keith Bradsher, New York Times

Ten thousand miles separate the mill's hushed rows of oversized silos and sheds — beige, gray and now empty — fromt he riotous streets of Port-au-Prince, Haiti, but a widening global crisis unites them.

Heroines In The Footlights, From All Sides Now

by Janet Maslin, New York Times

There is something irritating about the very premise of "Girls Like Us," Sheila Weller's three-headed biography of legendary singer-songwriters. But "Girls Like Us" turns out to be unexpectedly captivating. And it defies expectations, to the point where Ms. Weller's grand ambitions wind up fulfilled.

April 16, 2008

The Extravagant Gourmets

by Sara Dickerman, Slate

Why the food press rarely talks about dollars and cents.

Expat Comfort Food: The Quirky Mix At L.A.'s Hong Kong-Style Coffee Shops

by Linda Burum, Los Angeles Times

Over the years, Hong Kong coffee shops began serving Chiense food and reflecting British influences. The jolt-inducing, triple-strength, Hong Kong-style milk tea and sandwiches trimmed of their crusts are essential coffee shop fare.

April 15, 2008

[The Line Between Heaven And Earth]

by Michael McGriff, Slate

Up And Then Down

by Nick Paumgarten, New Yorker

The lives of elevators.

The Moss Garden

by C. Dale Young, The Atlantic

April 14, 2008


by Caroline Alexander, New Yorker

A journey through the mangrove forest of Bengal.

The Repatriates

by Sana Krasikov, New Yorker

In Italy

by Derek Walcott, New Yorker

April 13, 2008

The Marathon They Almost Canceled

by Jon Marcus, Boston Globe

Ice. Wind. Sleet. Rain. Downed power lines. No-show volunteers. The minute-by-minute story of just how close organizers came ot calling off the 2007 Boston Marathon, something never done in the race's 111 years.

Roger Ebert, The Critic Behind The Thumb

by A. O. Scott, New York Times

THe plain-soken Midwestern clarity of Mr. Ebert's prose and his genial, conversational presence on the page may, in the end, make him a more useful and reliable companion for the dedicated moviegoer.

Faster, Higher, Stronger, No Longer

by Buzz Bissinger, New York Times

There is only one way left to improve the Olympics: to permanently end them.

China's Loyal Youth

by Matthew Forney, New York Times

Educated young Chinese, far from being embarrassed or upset by their government's human-rights record, rank among the most patriotic, establishment-supporting people you'll meet.

The Kingdom Of Never-To-Be

by Eric Ormsby, The New Criterion

Walter de la Mare was never a Poet of Importance. He made no prophecies, issued no manifestos. To the burning questions of the age he responded, if at all, only with dreamy silence. He was doggedly vauge. If he ever contemplated the Zeitgeist, he would probably have personalified it as "Herr Professor Zeitgeist" and included him, like "John Mouldy," in one of his riddling children's poems.

On The Menu: Pinching Portions

by David Segal, Washington Post

In the last year, a few dozen chefs have come here to the test kitchen of Rastelli FOods, a wholesaler based near Philadelphia, in search of tips about how to trim portions — preferably in ways that diners won't notice.

April 12, 2008

Total Recall

by Gary Marcus, New York Times

How much would you pay to have a small memory chip implanted in your brain if that chip would double the capacity of your short-term memory? Or guarantee that you would never again forget a face or a name?

The Guest-Host Industrial Complex

by Virginia Heffernan, New York Times

Brarry Diller is wrecking parties. I maynever be invited anywhere ever again, but I must speak out against Evite, his company, for stamping a hideous brand on hospitality.

Revenge Of The Nerds

by Gene Weingarten, Washington Post

Why women are settling for 23rd best.

Can The Cellphone Help End Global Poverty?

by Sara Corbett, New York Times

Why a corporate "user anthropologist" is spending so much of his time in the shantytowns of the world.

Don't Forget The F-Word

by Erica Jong, Guardian

We have spilled oceans of ink, cut down forests of trees, blazed through the internet in light, and the world is still dominated by the sex-bearing appendages rather than clefts. Why?

'Make Room! Make Room!'

by David L. Ulin, Los Angeles Times

Harrison's novel, which has just been reissued after more than a quarter century out of print, is an allegory, a cautionary tale of what might happen in American consumption goes unchecked.

April 11, 2008

Failure To Report

by Brendan Smith, Washington City Paper

How did the D.C. Jail let two troubled inmates kill themselves in their cells? Don't ask the D.C. Jail.

The Great Forgetting

by David Brooks, New York Times

In the era of an aging population, memory is the new sex.

Wiseguys And Fall Guys, Welcome To Globalization

by William Grimes, New York Times

Transnistria does not get much attention in the news, but Misha Glenny makes it a mandatory stop in "McMafia," his wildly ambitious tour of organized crime in the era of globalization.

Monkey Talk

by Barbara J. King, The Times

New studies of language in people and other primates set out to reveal our human nature.

Once Upon A Time, Dad Went To War

by Alison Buckholtz, Salon

Books had always helped me in a crisis. But could I find one that explained to my kids why their father was in Iraq?

To Do: Skip Newseum Opening

by Jack Shafer, Slate

Why you should boycott journalism's monument to itself.

April 10, 2008

At A Loss

by Dan Savage, The Stranger

Eulogizing my mother back here with the escort ads? So let's not think of this as a eulogy. Let's think of it as a thank-you note, the kind of nicety that my mother appreciated.

'American Artisanal'

by Rebecca Gray, Chicago Tribune

Baloney, I say to the anti-cooking thing. Cooking is as basic and central to our being as the fire we use to accomplish it.

Loss Lieder

by Ange Mlinko, The Nation

It's National Poetry Month, and that means cooked meat.

House Of Cards

by Drake Bennett, Boston Globe

While memoirists are being publicly humiliated and dropped by their publishers for fabricating incidents in their own lives, the Mezrich empire is prospering.

The Chinese Food Diaspora

by Christine Y. Chen, Washington Post

"The Fortune Cookie Chronicles" isn't just about the popularization of Chinese food; it's also a story of Chiense immigrants in America.

'The Soiling Of Old Glory' By Louis P. Masur

by Tim Rutten, Los Angeles Times

It was a shocking image that seemed to encapsulate — indeed, for many, it did encapsulate — white resistance to civil rights. Masur, the William R. Kenan Jr. professor of American institutions and values at Trinity College, beins with that photo and its circumstances and from there builds an analysis not only of the picture and its structural and symbolic components, but also of its actual context.

April 9, 2008

Ving, Vang, Vong. Or, The Pleasures Of A New Vocabulary.

by Verlyn Klinkenborg, New York Times

I look back and wonder what it is I've been doing innately since childhood, and I can think only of this. I've been picking up words one by one, feeling their heft, wondering who's used them before, and slowly adding them to my permanent collection.

Hillary Carlip's One-Woman Show - In Book Form

by Marc Weingarten, Los Angeles Times

"To me, shopping lists are the new memoir."

Beckett's Ancestors

by Brigitte Le Juez, Guardian

Beckett believed himself to be a poor lecturer; he felt, as he put it, that he could not teach others what he did not know himself. But his students saw things differently.

Through A Bong, Darkly

by Gary Kamiya, Salon

A new book argues that the '60s counterculture achieved nothing of lasting importance. So why does the era continue to fascinate us?


by Joan Acocella, New Yorker

What can you learn from "Dancing with the Stars"?

Keeping Priorities Straight, Even At The End

by Tara Parker-Pope, New York Times

As a professor of computer sciences at Carnegie Mellon University, Randy F. Pausch expected students to pay attention to his lectures. He never expected that the rest of the world would listen, too.

April 8, 2008

In The New York Public Library

by Michael Longley, New Yorker

The Lie

by T. Coraghessan Boyle, New Yorker

My Daughters Are Fine, But I'll Never Be The Same

by Harriet Brown, New York Times

For a parent, there is no sorrow deeper or more encompassing than the loss of a child. But there is another that approaches it, and that, paradoxically, is grief averted — the grief of the narrow escape when a child comes close to death but survives.

April 7, 2008

'Allah' Vs. 'God'

by Rabih Alameddine, Los Angeles Times

Using English to separate the two has become a dangerous practice.

Reading As Vacation

by J.D. Smith, The Barcelona Review

If reading intellectually challenging literature is an activity like no other, as writers readily note, and one that might even improve society, as writers say when they are trying to justify their existence, one may ask how to make people reconsider those propositions in an age of growing indifference to the written word. In the language of marketing, how can "serious" reading be positioned?

Our Racist, Sexist Selves

by Nicholas D. Kristof, New York Times

Maybe the impact of this presidential contest won't be measured just in national policies, but also in progress in the deepest recesses of our own minds.

Taser Buzz Kill

by Nicola Griffith, Huffington Post

Safety blankets have never saved anyone.

April 6, 2008

Frisky Business

by Shawn Peters, Boston Globe

Many people will tell you that a hotel room is just a place to sleep while on a trip, but I beg to differ. That's because I'm a big believer in the virtues of "hotel sex," and while I can't put my finger on exactly why, I know it's a phenomenon that exists for many, if not most, couples.

No Appetite For Noise

by Tom Sietsema, Washington Post

As measured by the sound-level meter I'm carrying, the noise in the restaurant averages about 86 decibels — the equivalent of truck traffic on a busy street, or a lawn mower.


Aging Gracefully

by Judith Viorst, Washington Post

Lindbergh has lived long enough to understand that "terrible things can happen to anyone." She also lived long enough to have learned that "dailiness outlasts despair."

Taking Women Off The Shelf

by Rachel Cooke, Guardian

The work that Virago began, then, goes on, and so do the classics - though if, in writing that last sentence, I have made the books sound too earnest for their own good, I am sorry. Whatever else they are fo, they are there for our delectation.

The Need To Share A Dark Secret

by Julian Joyce, BBC News

Experts say it is not unusual for genuine criminals to make apparently unforced confessions, for a variety of motives.

'I'm On The Plane... The PLANE'

by Clive James, BBC News

Plane journeys are to be endured rather than enjoyed at the best of times. Now imagine your fellow passengers yapping away into their mobile phones.

April 5, 2008

Birth Or Death: Too Slim A Difference

by Ruth Kennedy, New York Times

My job here here is to train midwives, not to deliver babies. But this was an emergency and emergency obstetrics is precisely what's missing in this corner of the world.

Art Of Darkness

by Harland Miller, Guardian

We have set out to reflect not ust the enduring appeal of Poe's work, but some of the more diverse responses to it, beyond those in literature.

April 4, 2008

The End Of The Line?

by Jon Henley, The Guardian

An unlikely row has erupted in France over suggestions that the semicolon's days are numbered; worse, the growing influence of English is apparently to blame.

The Day I Saw The Emperor's Clay Soldiers

by Jonathan Musgrove, The Atlantic


by Julie Doxsee, Fou

'My Uncle Is Not A Slum Landlord'

by Linda Grant, Guardian

What you are writing about is how you feel and understand, not what you did or where you lived or whom you slept with.

Three Poems

by Monica Youn, Guernica

How Wong Kar-Wai Lost His Way

by Grady Hendrix, Slate

At some point he must have decided to reverse the formula—valuing critical acclaim over audience enjoyment—because this week his first American film, My Blueberry Nights, arrives in the United States, and it's the cinematic equivalent of seeing Wong disappear up his own posterior, eased by gobs of critical praise.

April 3, 2008

Throwing The Bums Out, WIthin And Without

by Sara Mansfield Taber, Washington Post

Lagrimas — tears — that's what Argentines call the drips that flow down the inside of a glass of swirled wine. The country, it seems, has been able to weep — and now, to smile.

An Oyster's Kind Of Town

by Bill Daley, Chicago Tribune

Oysters and Chicago are two words that don't sit comfortably together. After all, the oyster is all about the ocean, conjuring up visions of rocky coastlines, dark seas and a picturesque lighthouse or two. And Chicago? Lighthouses, yes, but on a lake. And the nearest ocean isnearly a thousand miles away.

Still, the oyster should be linked to Chicago, just as the hot dog, Italian beef and deep-dish pizza are, because oysters have played a vibrant role in Windy City life since almost the very beginning.

April 2, 2008

'The Stone Gods,' A Novel By Jeanette Winterson

by Kai Maristed, Los Angeles Times

"The Stone Gods" contains bold scientific hypotheses, enough anger to topple mountains and the imaginative assurance of a sleepwalker pirouetting on a tight wire.

Some Good News On Food Prices

by Kim Severson, New York Times

For locavores, small growers, activist chefs and others, higher grocery bills might be just the thing to bring about the change they desire.

Higher food costs, they say, could push pasture-raised milk and meat past its boutique status, make organic food more accessible and spark a national conversation aboutwhy inexpensive food is not really such a bargain after all.

April 1, 2008

The Bricklayer's Sons: The Family That Spawned 9/11

by Michiko Kakutani, New York Times

"The Bin Ladens" uses the prism of one family to examine the mind-boggling, culture-rocking effects that sudden oil wealth had on Saudi Arabia, while shedding new light on the "troubled, compulsive, greed-inflected, secret-burdened" relationship that developed between the desert nation and the United States, and the conflicts many Saudis felt, pulled between the traditional pieties of their ancestors and the glittering temptations of the West.

Oh Blessed Season

by Chris Forhan, Slate


by Rae Armantrout, New Yorker

The House Behind A Weeping Cherry

by Ha Jin, New Yorker

Mine Is Longer Than Yours

by Michael Kinsely, New Yorker

Of all the gifts that life and luck can bestow—money, good looks, love, power—longevity is the one that people seem least reluctant to brag about. In fact, they routinely claim it as some sort of virtue—as if living to ninety were primarily the result of hard work or prayer, rather than good genes and never getting run over by a truck. Maybe the possibility that the truck is on your agenda for later this morning makes the bragging acceptable. The longevity game is one that really isn't over till it's over.

By Heng-Cheong Leong