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Sunday, May 31, 2009

Secrets In The Checkout Line

by Rachel Manteuffel, Washington Post

I thought we were friends, until his revelation raised uncomfortable questions.

The Demise Of 'Form Follows Function'

by Alice Rawsthorn, New York Times

If there was a (booby) prize for the most misused design cliché, a firm favorite would be “form follows function,” with “less is more” coming a close second.

The Commander In Chef

by Amanda Hesser, New York Times

Because terrific local ingredients aren’t much use if people are cooking less and less; cooking is to gardening what parenting is to childbirth.

Science Fiction's Vital Contribution To The Life Of English

by Sam Jordison, The Guardian

If you measure the health of literature by its impact on language, than there's no genre in better condition than SF.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Food Tube

by Dawn Drzal, New York Times

Despite its pile of data and array of provocative theories, “Watching What We Eat” stops short of resolving the “persistent paradox” it raises: Why are we transfixed by the sight of someone cooking on television when we might not love to do it ourselves — or might not do it at all?

Food Bloggers Of 1940

by Jonathan Miles, New York Times

America may have been a younger land back then, as Kurlansky’s title suggests, but with its boundless appetite, it’s far from finished growing.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Free Market Faith

by Caspar Melville, New Humanist

Globalisation is leading to more belief, not less.

Late Night With Jimmy Fallon Is Out Of Beta

by Brian Raftery, Wired

On a Friday afternoon in mid-March Jimmy Fallon stands on the stage of NBC's Studio 6B fine-tuning tonight's monologue. Twenty or so Rockefeller Center tourists are quietly ushered in to watch the host of Late Night With Jimmy Fallon tell one joke after another, each scrawled on a scrap of paper. If the gag works and the audience laughs, it stays in the pile and makes it on-air; if it stiffs, Fallon drops the paper to the floor, where it's presumably swept up and FedExed to Carson Daly.

Loves Me, Love Me Not (Do The Math)

by Steven Strogatz, New York Times

Although these examples are whimsical, the equations that arise in them are of the far-reaching kind known as differential equations. They represent the most powerful tool humanity has ever created for making sense of the material world.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Viewing A TV Death In Four Acts

by Robert Fulford, National Post

Most episodic shows tell two stories simultaneously. One deals with fictional characters. The other is the narrative's slow evolution under the pressure of desperate producers and harried writers.

Have Camera, Will Shoot, And Shoot

by Michelle Slatalla, New York Times

At this point, there aren’t enough photo albums in the world to contain all my photographs. And even if there were, is there enough time remaining, between now and the end of the world, to sort and organize and cull the collection?

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

The Great Forgetting: 20 Years After Tiananmen Square

by Mara Hvistendahl, The Chronicle Of Higher Education

For a few years following 1989, videos about June Fourth — known in Mandarin simply as liu si, or "6/4" — circulated on the black market. Then the government began a campaign of forgetting, first spinning the event and then erasing it.

They Had To Hand It To Me

by Jane Black, Washington Post

How the charms of true soft-shells subdued my inner crab.

Play With Your Food, Just Don't Text!

by Sara Rimer, New York Times

Husbands, wives, children and dinner guests who would never be so rude as to talk on a phone at the family table seem to think it’s perfectly fine to text (or e-mail, or Twitter) while eating.

Get Mine

by Farhad Manjoo, Slate

Could a personalized magazine help save print media?

Adaptation: On Literary Darwinism

by William Deresiewicz, The Nation

Enter the literary Darwinists, a still-small but militant insurgency dedicated to overthrowing the existing order in favor of a diametrically opposite approach. Their goal is not only to reseat literary studies on a basis of evolutionary thinking but to found a "new humanities," as the title of one book puts it, on scientific principles: empirical, quantitative, systematic, positivist, progressive. Instead of theory giving way to equally fanciful theory and interpretation succeeding equally subjective interpretation, literary studies would henceforth involve the gradual accumulation of objectively verifiable knowledge and thus a "shrinking [of] the space of possible explanation" such as has occurred in the sciences, where all research must either situate itself within the framework of existing theory or challenge it directly. And just as chemistry rests on physics and biology on chemistry, the foundation on which the humanities would rest, following the logic of consilience, would be the new biological theory of the human mind (the thing that produces the humanities in the first place): evolutionary psychology.

Twilight Of The Tummlers

by Mark Harris, New York Magazine

Woody Allen and Larry David have just made a new movie together. Take a good look—you won’t see the likes of them again.

Why Are Humans Different From All Other Apes? It's The Cooking, Stupid

by Dwight Garner, New York Times

Apes began to morph into humans, and the species Homo erectus emerged some two million years ago, Mr. Wrangham argues, for one fundamental reason: We learned to tame fire and heat our food.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

I Hate To Sound Like Andy Rooney, Especially On Memorial Day, But...

by James Warren, The Atlantic

Gone was the seemingly tried-and-true system of hitting an up or down button next to an elevator, then awaiting one whose "up" sign (usually white light) or "down" sign (usually red light) above the door strongly suggested your next move.

The Urban President

by Mike Madden, Salon

Unlike all his predecessors since Kennedy, Obama is an engaged city dweller — just like the majority of Americans.

Memory Arpeggios In Updike's Sunset

by Michiko Kakutani, New York Times

That, in pouring his life “into words,” he not only preserved “the thing consumed,” but also offered a lasting “toast to the visible world,” which he commemorated with such ardor and precision.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Love Affair With Secondaries

by Craig Raine, The New Yorker

Sunday, May 24, 2009

How Not To Hire A Chef

by Tim Carman, Washington City Paper

Busboys & Poets owner Andy Shallal spent thousands on a contest to find the right chef. So why's the runner-up doing the cooking?

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Fair Usage

by Roy Blount Jr., New York Times

If language were set in concrete, there would be no call for new books on how to use it. These days, most such books are at pains not to seem prescriptive.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Disturbances Of Peace

by Adam Kirsch, The New Republic

Inventing Chinese poetry meant not just translating it, but also teaching people how to read it.


by Julian Barnes, The New York Review Of Books

Hearing of John Updike's death in January of this year, I had two immediate, ordinary reactions. The first was a protest—"But I thought we had him for another ten years"; the second, a feeling of disappointment that Stockholm had never given him the nod. The latter was a wish for him, and for American literature, the former a wish for me, for us, for Updikeans around the world.

Heeeere's ... Conan!!!

by Lynn Hirschberg, New York Times

"Afterward, Johnny Carson came over to me and said, 'Good luck to you.' He said, 'Just be yourself — that's the only way it can work.' There's an opportunity to put my stamp on this show. I've got an ego, and I want to do my 'Tonight Show.'"

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Horoscopes Without Telescopes

by Mark Bibbins, The Paris Review

Like Boiling A Frog

by David Runciman, London Review Of Books

That Wikipedia represents a finely calibrated balance between licence and surveillance, and between anonymity and responsibility, is something often missed by those who want to translate its achievements elsewhere.

Poor? Pay Up.

by DeNeen L. Brown, Washington Post

You have to be rich to be poor. That's what some people who have never lived below the poverty line don't understand.

Put it another way: The poorer you are, the more things cost. More in money, time, hassle, exhaustion, menace. This is a fact of life that reality television and magazines don't often explain.

Children Of The Vietnam War

by David Lamb, Smithsonian

Born overseas to Vietnamese mothers and U.S. servicemen, Amerasians brought hard-won resilience to their lives in America.

Why Journalists Deserve Low Pay

by Robert G. Picard, Christian Science Monitor

Wages are compensation for value creation. And journalists simply aren't creating much value these days.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

The Hard Sell: How Mad Men Spin The Recession

by Ted Genoways, Mother Jones

The real challenge—the art, even—of recession marketing is perfecting a pitch that doesn't emphasize your hunger for your cash-conscious buyers' cash.

In Defense Of Distraction

by Sam Anderson, New York Magazine

Twitter, Adderall, lifehacking, mindful jogging, power browsing, Obama’s BlackBerry, and the benefits of overstimulation.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Last Days

by Elise Partridge, Slate

This Zombie Moment: Hunting For What Lies Beneath The Undead Zeitgeist

by Gendy Alimurung, LA Weekly

We are in a time of the walking undead. A time of global economic recession, global pandemic and hand-sanitizer frenzy. A time when hordes of the foreclosed, the fired and the flu-ridden wander among us. A time when forlorn survivors of the downsized are reduced to hungry shells of their former selves as they soldier on in half-empty offices. Zombies, in other words. Zombie banks. Zombie corporations. Zombie housing tracts. Zombies are the “It” monster of our global mass panic.

Dan Brown's America

by Ross Douthat, New York Times

The movie treatment of his novel, “Angels and Demons,” is cleaning up at the box office this week. The sequel to “The DaVinci Code,” due out in November, might bouy the publishing industry through the recession. And if you want to understand the state of American religion, you need to understand why so many people love Dan Brown.

Monday, May 18, 2009


by Robert Gibb, The New Yorker


by Philip Levine, The New Yorker

AVA's Apartment

by Jonathan Lethem, The New Yorker

The Evolutionary Argument For Dr. Seuss

by Laura Miller, Salon

Why do we often care more about imaginary characters than real people? A new book suggests that fiction is crucial to our survival as a species.

The Global Food Crisis

by Joel K. Bourne Jr, National Geographic

It is the simplest, most natural of acts, akin to breathing and walking upright. We sit down at the dinner table, pick up a fork, and take a juicy bite, obliv ious to the double helping of global ramifications on our plate. Our beef comes from Iowa, fed by Nebraska corn. Our grapes come from Chile, our bananas from Honduras, our olive oil from Sicily, our apple juice—not from Washington State but all the way from China. Modern society has relieved us of the burden of growing, harvesting, even preparing our daily bread, in exchange for the burden of simply paying for it. Only when prices rise do we take notice. And the consequences of our inattention are profound.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Roman France

by Elanie Sciolino, New York Times

Over the years, I have discovered traces of Roman civilization throughout the country, from Arras in the north to Dijon in the center and Fréjus in the south. My hunt for Roman Gaul has turned up treasures in the oddest places, including the middle of wheat fields, the foundations of churches and the basements of dusty provincial museums.

Steal This Book (For $9.99)

by Motoko Rich, New York Times

It was a chilling sentiment for authors and publishers, who have grown used to an average cover price of $26 for a new hardcover. Now, in the evolving Kindle world, $9.99 is becoming the familiar price. But is that justified just because paper has been removed from the equation?

Can I Has Money?

by Gene Weingarten, Washington Post

I am the author of 56 books. Unfortunately, I've only been paid for three of them.

Touched By Evil

by Joseph O'Neill, The Atlantic

The real spiritual drama in Flannery O’Connor’s fiction was even darker than the one she acknowledged.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Digging For Darwin

by Peter Dizikes, New York Times

How many other first editions of “On the Origin of Species” are still tucked away in bookcases, boxes or attics? Could anyone else stumble across Darwin’s master piece by accident?

Some Thoughts On The Lost Art Of Reading Aloud

by Verlyn Klinkenborg, New York Times

Our idea of reading is incomplete, impoverished, unless we are also taking the time to read aloud.

The Internet Saved My Tongue

by Ezra Levant, Reason

How I beat Canada's 'human rights' censors.

Stop This Train!

by Tom Vanderbilt, Slate

Are trains slower now than they were in the 1920s?

Friday, May 15, 2009

True Grits

by Bryant Terry, The Root

Why soul food is actually good for you.

Screw U.

by Amanda Hess, Washington City Paper

How can a university that can barely even acknowledge sex enforce a sex policy?

By policing everything but.

Incarnations Of Burned Children

by David Foster Wallace, Esquire

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Call Me Ishmael. The End.

by Barry Yourgrau, Salon

Cellphone novels, the rage in Japan, now have competition in America: Twitter fiction.

'Cosby' Shows How Times Have Changed

by Brian Lowry, Variety

"You're kidding, right?"

The Luxury City Vs. The Middle Class

by Joel Kotkin, The American

The rise of neighborhoods like Ditmas Park suggests that cities can still nurture and accommodate a middle class. Yet sadly this trend continues to fight an uphill battle against a host of forces from high taxes and regulation to poor schools, highly bifurcated labor markets, and the scourge of crime.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Forensic Astronomer Solves Fine Arts Puzzles

by Jennifer Drapkin and Sarah Zielinski, Smithsonian

In painter Edvard Munch's Girls on the Pier, three women lean against a railing facing a body of water in which houses are reflected. A peach-colored orb appears in the sky, but, curiously, casts no reflection in the water. Is it the Moon? The Sun? Is it imaginary? Does it matter?

To Donald Olson, an astrophysicist at Texas State University, the answer to the last question is an emphatic yes. Olson solves puzzles in literature, history and art using the tools of astronomy: charts, almanacs, painstaking calculations and computer programs that map ancient skies. He is perhaps the leading practitioner of what he calls "forensic astronomy."

Follow The Sound Of The Slurps

by Frank Bruni, New York Times

In the end it’s not the Malaysian flavors or Manhattan tropes — both present here in the extreme — that will dictate your response to the new Fatty Crab, an upsize Upper West Side spinoff of the scruffy, scrappy downtown favorite.

It’s your sense of play, your appetite for a certain kind of giddy, sloppy abandon. It’s your eagerness to eat with your fingers and to make slurping noises as you mouth-wrestle with slippery noodles and to feel a flush in your cheeks as chilies light up your tongue.

Where Have All The Loose Women Gone?

by Stephen Marche, Esquire

The days of Sex and the City's influence are long gone. From Tina Fey's fake prude to Sarah Palin's real power play, here's why strong women just aren't that into having sex with you anymore.

What Makes Us Happy?

by Joshua Wolf Shenk, The Atlantic

Is there a formula—some mix of love, work, and psychological adaptation—for a good life? For 72 years, researchers at Harvard have been examining this question, following 268 men who entered college in the late 1930s through war, career, marriage and divorce, parenthood and grandparenthood, and old age.

Recession Culture

by Jennifer Senior, New York Magazine

No money changes everything, from murder rates to museum attendance, from career choices to what you eat for dinner. And not all of it for the worse.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009


by Jeffrey Skinner, Slate

It's Cheap — But Can You Swallow It?

by Sarah Hepola, Salon

In this slumped economy, fast food restaurants are beckoning with their impossibly thrifty value menus. I tried them so you don't have to.

Monday, May 11, 2009


by Jonah Lehrer, The New Yorker

The secret of self-control.

Lines On The Poet's Turning Forty

by Ian Frazier, The New Yorker

Delphiniums In A Window Box

by Dean Young, The New Yorker

Door-Slams By MSM Journos

by Dave Winer, Scripting News

Today's journalists are already an anachronism, and I think they know it, and that's why there's so much anger.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Big Cheese

by Rob Walker, New York Times

We think of ourselves as sophisticated creatures, and the many brilliant minds of the consumer-industrial complex often think of us that way, too. But sometimes what we want seems pretty simple. Sometimes, we just want something big.

Do You Feel This?

by Tess Callahan, New York Times

During the final week of my pregnancy, one watch and then another stopped dead on my wrist. One twin lay so low in the chute I thought he might fly out when I sneezed. When I walked down Main Street, I struck fear in the hearts of loitering teenagers whose averted eyes said, Don’t have it here. A truck driver yelled from his window, “I hope it’s today.” I waved back. The watches didn’t concern me. Everything about me said imminence.

The American Press On Suicide Watch

by Frank Rich, New York Times

By all means let’s mock the old mainstream media as they preen and party on in a Washington ballroom. Let’s deplore the tabloid journalism that, like the cockroach, will always be with us. But if a comprehensive array of real news is to be part of the picture as well, the time will soon arrive for us to put up or shut up. Whatever shape journalism ultimately takes in America, make no mistake that in the end we will get what we pay for.

Exploring The Universe, One B-Movie At A Time

by David Hajdu, New York Times

The original series was never really about the 23rd century or outer space; and to think of it only in those terms is to misunderstand the show and ignore its real legacy.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Mother, Brace Yourself

by Lori Gottlieb, New York Times

It’s not that I’d set out to write about my mother. It’s just that it’s virtually impossible to write about your childhood without writing about your mother, and people who grow up to be writers generally have some less than flattering observations to share. So I wasn’t surprised when my mother got back to Los Angeles and had some less than flattering things to say about my book. Ever since, she’s pretended it doesn’t exist.

I Love You More

by Susan Dominus, New York Times

Writing about motherhood is a little bit like writing about sex — in both cases, the author confronts the challenge of finding something new to say about a subject so powerful that all but the most inspired language sounds either trite or overblown.

Seriously, What Are The Odds?

by Dick Covett, New York Times

I love my own coincidences and love to hear other peoples’ stories. Or let’s say I love most of mine.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Why Darwin?

by Richard C. Lewontin, New York Review Of Books

It would be wrong to say that biography is the sole, or even principal, present pathway into an understanding of the history of science. Certainly since Robert Merton's founding of modern studies of the sociology of science in his 1938 work on seventeenth-century English science, the social milieu in which the problems of science arise and the institutional structure of scientific investigation have been central to our understanding of the history of scientific work. There are, however, occasions on which there are orgies of idolatrous celebrations of the lives of famous men, when the Suetonian ideal of history as biography overwhelms us. For Darwinians, 2009 is such a year.

There's No Klingon Word For Hello

by Arika Okrent, Slate

A history of the gruff but surprisingly sophisticated invented language and the people who speak it.

Soap To Ploughshares

by Ruth Rosen, Slate

How to return Mother's Day to its original meaning.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Creative Minds: The Links Between Mental Illness And Creativity

by Roger Dobson, The Independent

All too often, creativity goes hand in hand with mental illness. Now we're starting to understand why.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Turkey Burgers Don't Count

by Jodi Rudoren, New York Times

Mr. Weiss, 33, operations manager for a software company, is the founder and de facto leader of the Burger of the Month Club, or BOTM (which he and his friends pronounce “bottom”). One Monday a month for the last four years, they have sampled a burger — bacon-cheddar whenever available — at a different New York restaurant.

Bipolar Disorder

by Tim Wu, Slate

The magnetic appeal of the poles.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Mommy, What's A Vagina?

by Katherine Ozment, Salon

One minute I'm cleaning up Legos with my 3-year-old daughter. The next minute I'm conducting an impromptu anatomy lesson and desperately hoping not to flub it.

Go Ahead. Spoil My Appetite.

by Geoff Nicholson, New York Times

From “Moby-Dick” to “Naked Lunch” to “Gravity’s Rainbow,” bad eating makes for good reading.

Monday, May 4, 2009

How David Beats Goliath

by Malcolm Gladwell, The New Yorker

When underdogs break the rules.

Mission Impossible: The Code Even The CIA Can't Crack

by Steven Levy, Wired

The most celebrated inscription at the Central Intelligence Agency's headquarters in Langley, Virginia, used to be the biblical phrase chiseled into marble in the main lobby: "And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free." But in recent years, another text has been the subject of intense scrutiny inside the Company and out: 865 characters of seeming gibberish, punched out of half-inch-thick copper in a courtyard.

Hackers Can Sidejack Cookies

by Heather McHugh, The New Yorker

The Autobiography Of J.G.B.

by J. G. Ballard, The New Yorker

Galveston, 1961

by Richard Wilbur, The New Yorker

The Joy Of Exclamation Marks!

by Stuart Jeffries, The Guardian

Exclamation marks used to be frowned upon. Now look what's happened! We use them all the time! Hurrah!!! But what is it about the age of email that gets people so over-excited?

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Enough With The 100 Days Already

by Frank Rich, New York Times

President Obama’s high marks by the public and the press are all ludicrously provisional. It’s too early to judge the results of any policy.

Saturday, May 2, 2009


by Rob Walker, New York Times

As more of us live more of our lives in digital contexts, it seems plausible that immaterialism will become more common. Consuming things made of bits might sound weird, but actually it offers a lot of the same attractions that make people consume things made of atoms.

A Recipe For Escapism

by Laura Miller, Wall Street Journal

The economic downturn and a newfound appreciation for the thriftiness of home cooking no doubt account for some of this growth. Yet today's cookbook success stories are in no way confined to penny-pinching titles. Some recent hits include costly and highly impractical cookbooks by adulated chefs like Thomas Keller and Grant Achatz.

We're All Trekkies Now

by Steve Daly, Newsweek

'Star Trek' is way cool. How'd that happen? Because the geeks have inherited the earth, and the White House.

Thoroughly Modern Marx

by Leo Panitch, Foreign Policy

Lights. Camera. Action. Das Kapital. Now.

Friday, May 1, 2009

A Scanner Darkly

by Paul La Farge, The Believer

Short of participating in a genocide, how can you know what it's like to be thoughtless on the level of Adolt Eichmann? Jonathan Littell's The Kindly Ones makes the attempt by immersing its reader in a dense, intensely readable marsh of information.

By Heng-Cheong Leong