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Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Tighty Whities To Turn 75; Jockey Gets A Leg Up On The Celebration

Adam Tschorn, Los Angeles Times

Jockey International Inc. has documented that the first pair of its men's brief-style underpants was sold at Marshall Field & Co. in Chicago on Jan. 19, 1935. And, although it is undocumented, it's more than likely that the first wedgie was administered later that same day in the parking lot of that Marshall Field's. Tweet

In The ’70s, All New York Seemed Young And Gay

Dwight Garner, New York Times

In all of the gonzo testimony about Stonewall, however, no reaction to the rioting has struck me as being so painfully honest (or so funny) as the novelist Edmund White’s. He was there at the Stonewall Inn when it erupted, he writes in his new memoir, “City Boy: My Life in New York During the 1960s and ’70s.” And when all hell broke loose, his initial response was to sit and stew and cluck. Tweet

United Tastes: Fast Food Even Before Fast Food

John T. Edge, New York Times

In the northern reaches of West Virginia, along a corridor of Appalachia stretching from Buckhannon, through Clarksburg, up to Morgantown, an appetite for pepperoni rolls cuts across class strata. Tweet

One Holiday, Two Systems, And Lots Of Book Sales In Hong Kong

Joyce Hor-Chung Lau, New York Times

To prepare for the National Day holiday, retailers here have been stocking up on merchandise like designer bags, gold jewelry — and banned books. Tweet

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Elegy For Miss Calico

Frank Gallimore, Slate Magazine Tweet

What Is An Andy Warhol?

Richard Dorment, The New York Review of Books

Just as Monroe understood that you don't have to act for the camera in the way the stage-trained Olivier defined acting, so Warhol realized that you don't need to make art for an audience brought up on film and television in the way Kenneth Clark defined art. Actress and artist grasped that in the modern world, presentation counts for more than substance. The less you do, the greater may be the impact. Tweet

After A Death, The Pain That Doesn’t Go Away

Fran Schumer, New York Times

Some experts argue that complicated grief should not be considered a separate condition, merely an aspect of existing disorders, like depression or post-traumatic stress. But others say the evidence is convincing. Tweet

Monday, September 28, 2009

Thinking Literally

Drake Bennett, Boston Globe

The surprising ways that metaphors shape your world. Tweet

Leno At The Bat

Nancy Franklin, New Yorker

Two major show-business developments in the past half decade have inspired a combination of puzzlement, vexation, and dread, and both of them involved Jay Leno and NBC. Tweet

Brain Drain

James Wood, New Yorker

The scientific fictions of Richard Powers. Tweet

Victory Lap

George Saunders, New Yorker Tweet

First Leaf

Lia Purpura, New Yorker Tweet

Heaven’s Eel

Charles Wright, New Yorker Tweet

Rational Irrationality

John Cassidy, New Yorker

The real reason that capitalism is so crash-prone. Tweet

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Bicyclists Vs. Pedestrians: An Armistice

Robert Sullivan, New York Times

One of the great battlefields in the war between bicyclists and pedestrians in New York City is the Brooklyn Bridge. Pedestrians think all bicyclists are out-of-control maniacs; bicyclists — the majority, anyway — are just trying to avoid cars and not break a sweat. The stripe painted down the center of the elevated Brooklyn Bridge walkway, to separate bicyclists from pedestrians, has become a line in the sand. We need to erase that line once and for all. Tweet

Naming The Sky

Samuel Arbesman, Boston Globe

The true story of one man's quest to give George Plimpton a permanent presence in orbit. Tweet

Saturday, September 26, 2009

When Writers Speak

Arthur Krystal, New York Times

So the next time you hear a writer on the radio or catch him on the tube or watch him on the monitor or find yourself sitting next to him at dinner, remember he isn’t the author of the books you admire; he’s just someone visiting the world outside his study or office or wherever the hell he writes. Tweet

Algorithm And Blues

Jim Holt, New York Times

Well, this is unexpected — a comic book about the quest for logical certainty in mathematics. The story spans the decades from the late 19th century to World War II, a period when the nature of mathematical truth was being furiously debated. The stellar cast, headed up by Bertrand Russell, includes the greatest philosophers, logicians and mathematicians of the era, along with sundry wives and mistresses, plus a couple of homicidal maniacs, an apocryphal barber and Adolf Hitler. Tweet

Talk Of The Town

Edmund White, New York Times

Most of the unconditional admirers of New York are from elsewhere. People like me, who grew up in the Midwest in the 1950s, couldn’t wait to trade in “the provinces” for the Big Apple, and half a century later we’re still besotted with its incomparable vitality. But Michael Greenberg, a native New Yorker, loves the city as a child loves a parent, and in its honor he has put together a collection of tightly written, incisive chapters, each another tessera or tile in a big mosaic — and like tesserae, they are all placed at a slightly different angle to the light. Tweet

Amy Gerstler's Message: Be Not Afraid

Dinah Lenney, Los Angeles Times

The poet wishes more people would realize that her medium doesn't hurt. At all. Tweet

Giant Squid

Grady Hendrix, Slate Magazine

Don't mess with them. Tweet

The Fastest Mathematician On Earth

Marianne Freiberger, Plus Magazine

Imagine hurtling through the desert at 1000mph in a rocket powered car, far outstripping the speed of sound, only to emerge, "shaken, deafened and cooked," as the fastest human being on land. Andy Green, Royal Air Force fighter pilot and Oxford maths graduate, is currently gearing up for just this experience, for the second time around. Tweet

Friday, September 25, 2009

2 Days, 3 Nights, On A Path Named For A Devil

Stephen Regenold, New York Times

The Devil’s Path, an east-to-west voyage along the spine of the Catskills, is often cited as the toughest hiking trail in the East. In 25 miles it ascends six major peaks, plunging into deep valleys between climbs. Tweet

Blood’s A Rover

James Ellroy, Powell's Books

Historical fiction affords novelists the opportunity to rewrite great events to their own specifications. They must begin by adhering to rigorous facts and are then freed to extrapolate at their imaginative will. Known history serves as subtext. Readers come to historical fiction with some knowledge of the eras they are about to immerse themselves in. Names, dates, and the locations of key happenings must be scrupulously accurate. From that point on, the writer is free to invent. Thus, we enter the secret infrastructure of emergent history and the private nightmare of public policy. Tweet

'The National Parks: America's Best Idea' By Dayton Duncan And Ken Burns

Los Angeles Times

The companion book to the PBS series pays homage to America's crown jewels, and the people who fought to save them. Tweet

Raising Steaks

Christine Muhlke, New York Times

In 1950, the editor Judith Jones rescued Anne Frank’s diary from the reject pile. Ten years later, she championed a cookbook no other publisher would touch and named it “Mastering the Art of French Cooking,” the first of many seminal culinary titles that she shepherded. At 85, she still works as a senior editor and vice president of Knopf. But every girl needs a hobby. So three years ago, she started raising cattle. Tweet

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Book 'Em

Jessa Crispin, The Smart Set

It's criminal how much some people love books. Tweet

In Search Of The Middle Class

Deborah Orr, Guardian

'Make them pay more for the higher education of their children," says the Confederation of British Industry. "Should they really be getting child benefit?" muse policy wonks of all stripes. The poor creatures. Only Gordon Brown is their nominally leftist friend. Who are they? The middle classes, of course. But who, seriously, are the middle classes? And why are they, alone among British people, routinely referred to in the mainstream political discourse as "a class". Tweet

Frugal Traveler: Asian Cuisine As Diverse As Vancouver

Matt Gross, New York Times

“Mixing things just becomes part of everyday life,” said Todd Wong, a Vancouver arts advocate who during Chinese New Year hosts the annual Gung Haggis Fat Choy dinner, where Scottish haggis finds its way into dim sum dumplings. “It’s not ‘Why are they doing this?’ It’s ‘Why not?’ ” Tweet

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

The Decline Of The English Department

William M. Chace, The American Scholar

How it happened and what could be done to reverse it. Tweet

The City Is A Battlesuit For Surviving The Future

Matt Jones, Future Metro

The architecture of science fiction has profoundly changed urban design. When building cities of the future, our best guides may be places like comic book megalopolises Mega-City-1 or Transmet. Tweet

Four Poems

Justin Hyde, 3:AM Magazine Tweet

The Essence Of America In 1,095 Pages

Patricia Cohen, New York Times

With entries on the porn star Linda Lovelace, the indie film “Wild Style” and Hurricane Katrina, it is clear that “A New Literary History of America” is not your typical Harvard University Press anthology. Although it has many features of an academic compendium — page numbers that reach into four digits and scores of scholarly contributors — this new collection of essays, being released on Wednesday, roams far beyond any standard definition of literature. Aside from compositions that contain the written word, its subjects include war memorials, jazz, museums, comic strips, film, radio, musicals, skyscrapers, cybernetics and photography. Tweet

Behind The Scenes Of The Dark Cold War, Where An Even Darker Side Lurked

Dwight Garner, New York Times

From the sorry final years of Leonid Brezhnev’s rule, which ended at his death in 1982, to the arrival of Mikhail S. Gorbachev in 1985, the Soviet Union seemed to be led, as David Remnick has put it, by a series of “half-dead men in half-lit hospitals.” Tweet

Tuesday, September 22, 2009


Barry Goldensohn, Slate Magazine Tweet

Eating After The New York Times

Frank Bruni, The Atlantic

On the week after I stopped visiting restaurants for the sake of reviews, I had roast chicken four nights in a row. Tweet

America, The Beautiful (America, The Ugly)

Laura Miller, Salon

You could do a lot worse with the next 220 days of your life than to begin each one by reading an entry from the freshly published "A New Literary History of America" -- the way generations past used to study a Bible verse daily. You could do a lot worse, but I'm not sure you could do much better; this magnificent volume is a vast, inquisitive, richly surprising and consistently enlightening wallow in our national history and culture. Tweet

Intellectual Conservatism, RIP

Michael Lind, Salon

I was once a young neoconservative. The word meant something different then, before it was hijacked by extremists. Tweet

'Lights On A Ground Of Darkness' By Ted Kooser

David L. Ulin, Los Angeles Times

A look back, from middle age, on a man's life in a sequence of poems. Tweet

An Author’s Year-Long Book Tour

William Dalrymple, Financial Times

Like many other authors, my books used to be launched with a simple drinks party – the usual plastic-cups-and-a-couple-of-speeches affair, somewhere at the back of Holland Park. These days, however, there has been a radical change in the way books are launched. Behind this lies the striking growth of the whole global literary festival bandwagon. Tweet

Monday, September 21, 2009

Placebos Are Getting More Effective. Drugmakers Are Desperate To Know Why.

Steve Silberman, Wired

The fact that an increasing number of medications are unable to beat sugar pills has thrown the industry into crisis. The stakes could hardly be higher. In today's economy, the fate of a long-established company can hang on the outcome of a handful of tests.

Why are inert pills suddenly overwhelming promising new drugs and established medicines alike? The reasons are only just beginning to be understood. Tweet

The Encumbrance of Things Past

Judith Shulevitz, Slate Magazine

The mystery of William Trevor's nostalgia. Tweet

Wendell Berry: "A Speech To The Garden Club Of America"

Wendell Berry, New Yorker Tweet


Marisa Silver, New Yorker

Vivian and Shelly lived in downtown Los Angeles, in an industrial space that belonged, nominally, to a ribbon factory, whose warehouse was attached. Shelly had discovered it one night when the band she belonged to then had played at an impromptu concert there. When the evening was over and everyone had cleared out, Shelly and a man she’d met that evening stayed on. The man left soon afterward, but Shelly did not. She worked out an arrangement with the owner of the ribbon factory: the rent would be paid in cash, and if Shelly was discovered by the housing authorities the owner would claim that she was a squatter. Tweet

Where Will Synthetic Biology Lead Us?

Michael Specter, New Yorker

Where will synthetic biology lead us? Tweet

Fathers And Sons

David Mason, New Yorker Tweet

Sunday, September 20, 2009

The Holy Grail Of The Unconscious

Sara Corbett, New York Times

This is a story about a nearly 100-year-old book, bound in red leather, which has spent the last quarter century secreted away in a bank vault in Switzerland. The book is big and heavy and its spine is etched with gold letters that say “Liber Novus,” which is Latin for “New Book.” Its pages are made from thick cream-colored parchment and filled with paintings of otherworldly creatures and handwritten dialogues with gods and devils. If you didn’t know the book’s vintage, you might confuse it for a lost medieval tome.

And yet between the book’s heavy covers, a very modern story unfolds. It goes as follows: Man skids into midlife and loses his soul. Man goes looking for soul. After a lot of instructive hardship and adventure — taking place entirely in his head — he finds it again. Tweet

Project ‘Gaydar’

Carolyn Y. Johnson, Boston Globe

At MIT, an experiment identifies which students are gay, raising new questions about online privacy. Tweet

Saturday, September 19, 2009

The Powers Of Dr. Johnson

Andrew O'Hagan, New York Review Of Books

Britain is a very changed country; it has changed morally. It might be said that its people's sense of what life is all about has altered more in the last fifty years than it did in the previous 250, beginning in 1709, when Samuel Johnson was born at Lichfield. Yet one of the things that hasn't changed is the popularity of the nation's most popular word: "nice." When I was growing up, everything worth commenting on could probably be described either as "nice" or, controversially, "not nice." My mother would invite me downstairs for a "nice cup of tea" before I went off to school to be taught lessons by "that nice teacher of yours." At the same time, Prime Minister Edward Heath, who had "a nice smile," was "not being nice to the unions." Tony Blair seemed "very nice" at first, but he wasn't very nice to his friend Gordon Brown. "Nice try," my old headmaster would say if he read this very paragraph, "but your diction could be nicer." Tweet

Dude, It Adds Up

Sally Sampson, Washington Post

I am sick of reading about how the obesity epidemic is being fueled by fast food. I can't stand that poor people are eating it because they think it's their only option. And I am sad that Ben, my otherwise endearing teenage son, squanders his allowance on pizza and burgers, both of which make him feel rotten. I've always known that fast food is inferior in flavor and nutrition to its home-cooked counterpart, but I also suspected it couldn't really be as cheap as people think it is.

So I sought proof. Tweet

A Romance Writer Jabs At Singapore’s Patriarchs

Seth Mydans, New York Times

It is the dress, she said, that catches the eye, the long silk sheath with the slits in the sides that offers what she calls “a startling panorama of the entire landscape of the female form.”

The dress is called a cheongsam, and the woman wearing it is Catherine Lim, 67, arguably the most vivid personality in strait-laced Singapore and, when she is not writing witty romantic novels or telling ghost stories, one of the government’s most acute critics. Tweet

Friday, September 18, 2009

America’s Food Revolution

Jerry Weinberger, City Journal

The U.S. has revolutionized its culinary culture over the last 40-odd years. No longer is it the developed world’s worst food nation; in fact, it’s perhaps the best. And it’s largely thanks to the (currently disputed) genius of America’s entrepreneurial capitalism. Tweet

This Is Your Brain On Kafka

Tom Jacobs, Miller-McCune

Does absurdist literature make you smarter? Giraffe carpet cleaner, it does! Tweet

High-Wire Act

Emily Nussbaum, New York

Neil Patrick Harris used to be an underage doctor on TV. Now he’s another Hollywood first: an out gay actor who can host award shows, play a womanizer, walk the red carpet with his boyfriend, and then get cast in movies as a straight dad. Neat trick. Tweet

The Glamorous Life Of A Science Journalist

Greg Critser, Scientific Blogging

I recently attended the International Developmental Biological Congress in sunny Edinburgh, Scotland. Here is my diary. Tweet

The Old Economist, Relevant Amid The Rubble

Dwight Garner, New York Times

In “Keynes: Return of the Master,” Mr. Skidelsky surveys the vast body of Keynes’s work. But he boils the thinking down to a few essential points. Central among them is that market economies are fundamentally uncertain; large shocks like the recent meltdown are not anomalies but normal if unpredictable events. Government should intervene in a crisis — as the Obama administration has since the fall of Lehman Brothers last year — supplying a judicious but firm hand on the tiller. Tweet

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Green Metropolis

Danny Heitman, Christian Science Monitor

David Owen, a staff writer for The New Yorker whose interests include global ecology, has examined numerous communities across America and discovered one that strikes him as a model of environmental efficiency. That community is New York City, and in Green Metropolis, his latest book, Owen tells readers what green-conscious citizens can learn from Gotham’s example. Tweet

This Scene Could Really Use A Man-Eating Jellyfish

Ben H. Winters, Slate Magazine

How I wrote Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters. Tweet

America's Tabloid Sweetheart

Amanda Fortini, Salon

Jennifer Aniston's movies are middling. Her talent is questionable. Why can't we get enough of her? Tweet

The Long And Short Of It

Paul Bloom, New York Times

We shouldn’t underestimate the short-term self. Sometimes the long-term self should stay out of its way. Tweet

Sex, Flies And Videotape: The Secret Lives Of Harun Yahya

Halil Arda, New Humanist

Muslim creationist, cult leader, Dawkins' nemesis, messiah. Tweet

The Wild Side: Cracking The Spine Of Libel

Olivia Judson, New York Times

Several times this summer, science journalists in London have leaned over to me and said something along the lines of, “I was thinking of writing,” and gone on to describe an article that was going to be critical of someone. “But then,” the speaker would gloomily conclude, “I thought to myself, ‘Simon Singh,’ and I decided not to.” Tweet

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Attention, People Of Earth

Paul Simms, New Yorker

We are on our way to your planet. We will be there shortly. But in this, our first contact with you, our “headline” is: We do not want your gravel. Tweet

Tour Of Southeast Asian Cuisine Via Eclectic Cookbooks

Anne Mendelson, Los Angeles Times

The culinary tag "Southeast Asian" has cachet in American foodie circles even though it has not yet achieved the all-purpose buzzword status of "Mediterranean" (though I seem to recall that someone has invented a "Southeast Asian turkey burger"). Books about the food of this vast and complex region are multiplying fast. Tweet

Why I love Canada's Northern Wilderness

Ray Mears, Guardian

There are places on earth so vast they impress upon us the power of nature, and Canada is one of them. It boasts a seemingly endless list of superlatives – it sprawls over almost 10m square kilometres, making it the second-largest country in the world after Russia; it has more than two million lakes, amounting to about a tenth of the world's fresh water; and embraces the longest coastline of any country. There's a vastness to this country that is almost unimaginable – an epic grandeur to its landscapes, its forests, rivers, ice and snow, its mountains, wildlife and wilderness. No matter how many times I travel here, I'm always staggered by its sheer scale. Tweet

From The Garden To The Meal Tray

Judith Monachina, Boston Globe

There were true believers and maybe a few skeptics too when the group of high school students announced two years ago that they wanted to plant a garden and feed their school. Kathy Sullivan’s attitude was probably somewhere between enthusiasm and doubt. But Sullivan had more at stake than most. As Food Service director here, her job suddenly became more complicated. Tweet

High-Five Nation

David Brooks, New York Times

Self-effacement became identified with conformity and self-repression. A different ethos came to the fore, which the sociologists call “expressive individualism.” Instead of being humble before God and history, moral salvation could be found through intimate contact with oneself and by exposing the beauty, the power and the divinity within. Tweet

Smoke-Free Planet

William Saletan, Slate Magazine

The disappearing boundaries of cigarette prohibition. Tweet

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

A Talking Head Dreams Of A Perfect City

David Byrne, Wall Street Journal

Osaka's robot-run parking lots mixed with the Minneapolis lakefront; a musician's fantasy metropolis. Tweet

Rumination On The Life, Death, And Particularly The Legacy Of A Man Barely Necessary To Introduce To Y'all, Beyond Mentioning (1) His Initials D, F, And W, And (2) The Fact That This Very Headline Owes Him, Obviously, Everything

Sam Kean, 3 Quarks Daily

Watching the legions of Michael Jackson fans make pilgrimages to and build cairns of flowers and stuffed toys at the Neverland Ranch in southern California, I can’t say I shared their sorrow exactly. I did sympathize: Boy, had I been there. When David Foster Wallace hanged himself at his own southern California home on September 12, 2008—that’s the closest I’ve ever been to crying over the death of someone I didn’t know. What roiled my emotions all the more was the now-too-late conviction that I’d betrayed Wallace. Tweet

Their Old Knives

W.S. Di Piero, Slate Magazine Tweet

A Familiar Cast Of Fighters In A Final Battle For The Soul Of The Earth

Michiko Kakutani, New York Times

The flood referred to by the title of Margaret Atwood’s new novel isn’t the biblical deluge, sent by God to wipe out wickedness and sin, but a waterless one: an uncommon pandemic that cannot be contained by “biotools and bleach,” and that sweeps “through the air as if on wings,” burning “through cities like fire, spreading germ-ridden mobs, terror and butchery.” This flood has killed millions upon millions, and electrical, digital and industrial systems are failing, as their human keepers die. Tweet

New Clues To Sex Anomalies In How Y Chromosomes Are Copied

Nicholas Wade, New York Times

The Y chromosome has an Achilles’ heel that leads to a wide variety of sexual disorders. Tweet


Lisa Moore, The Walrus

Here’s what happens when you turn forty-five. You realize you will only ever read so many books — how much time have you got left for reading? — and you had better only read the good ones. There are only so many movies, so many trips, so many new friends, so many family barbecues with the sun going down over the long grass. It has always been this way. Finite. But at forty-five you realize it. Tweet

The Most Hated Name In News

Deborah Campbell, The Walrus

Can Al Jazeera English cure what ails North American journalism? Tweet

Mind: When A Parent’s ‘I Love You’ Means ‘Do As I Say’

Alfie Kohn, New York Times

More than 50 years ago, the psychologist Carl Rogers suggested that simply loving our children wasn’t enough. We have to love them unconditionally, he said — for who they are, not for what they do.

As a father, I know this is a tall order, but it becomes even more challenging now that so much of the advice we are given amounts to exactly the opposite. Tweet

Monday, September 14, 2009

Right On

Kim Phillips-Fein, The Nation

Is the conservative movement dead? In November, when many of its leading intellectuals publicly abandoned the McCain-Palin ticket, deserting their comrades and going over to the other side, the movement suffered not only electoral defeat but ideological apostasy. Tweet

The Rise Of The Professional Blogger

Benjamin Carlson, The Atlantic

The blogosphere was supposed to democratize publishing and empower the little guy. Turns out, the big blogs are all run by The Man. Tweet

Tracking The Blog Explosion

Carol Iaciofano, Boston Globe

Not since the early days of personal computers have there been such riveting and quirky tales of “pioneers and innovators,’’ those men and women able to consider the possibilities of daily life in remarkable new ways. Tweet

Let Us Now Praise ... Canned Food

James Parker, Boston Globe

For the lover of produce in New England, the countdown to fall is a gilded time. Appetite sharpens. The carrot itches in the cooling earth. The feverish fruits of summer recede - the tomatoes, the peppers, the zucchini - and the cauliflower shows once again her enigmatic face. Seasonal dishes recommend themselves; the climate solicits a culinary tribute. So what’ll it be - a pumpkin and chestnut soup? A wild mushroom risotto, with persimmon chutney?

Or perhaps... some nice Chef Boyardee Mini Ravioli? Tweet

Land Of The Living

Sam Shepard, New Yorker Tweet

Alternate Take: Levon Helm

Tracy K. Smith, New Yorker

I’ve been beating my head all day long on the same six lines,
Snapped off and whittled to nothing like the nub of a pencil
Chewed up and smoothed over, yellow paint flecking my teeth. Tweet

Mother’s Quail

Paula Bohince, New Yorker Tweet

Sunday, September 13, 2009

The Lyrical Miracle

Gene Weingarten, Washington Post

You'd think the song might be within my grasp, but I have discovered there is an enormous difference between writing the sorts of things I write and writing a song, especially the part involving having deep human feelings that rhyme. Tweet

The Fashion Industry's Old Business Model Is Out Of Style

Booth Moore, Los Angeles Times

The Internet is bringing high fashion to the masses, and the recession is making retailers and designers put the consumer first, not the brand. Tweet

Strange, Dear, But True, Dear

Dick Cavett, New York Times

We were living in an ice-house that winter.

(That sentence is not about a power failure, but is the result of my favorite high school English teacher in Nebraska, Esther Montgomery, who advocated trying for an arresting opening sentence in writing a story. I hope you are arrested.) Tweet

Time To Hit ‘Escape’

Marianne Leone, Boston Globe

My new plan is to enlist the younger nieces and nephews in a skills-exchange program. They hook up my new copier/printer/particle collider and in return I use my culinary crone expertise to make them my mother’s mouth-watering lasagna. And I promise not to look at them smugly when they ask for the recipe. Tweet

Facts, Errors And The Kindle

Anthony Gottlieb, Intelligent Life

The printed word has always had an Achilles heel: factual mistakes. Can the electronic reader help? Tweet

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Far From The Madding Crowd

Dominique Browning, New York Times

We live in noise. The world is a booming, rustling, buzzing place to begin with (though many of us have shut out nature’s clamor), and to that we have added every conceivable vibration of our own making and every possible means of assault, whether it’s the vast, thrumming climate-controlling systems of our sealed buildings or the tiny earbuds nestled against our cochleae. What chance does quiet have against all this? Tweet

Essay: Poet Of Desolate Landscapes

Jonathan Lethem, New York Times

By the time J. G. Ballard died in April of this year, talk of his long struggle with cancer should have prepared his followers (“fans” is too pale a word for the devotion Ballard inspired), yet the news still came as a shock. Ballard was, unmistakably, a literary futurist, at ease in the cold ruins of the millennium a lifetime sooner than the rest of us; his passing registered as a disorienting claim of time upon the timeless. Whether you embrace or reject on his behalf the label “science-fiction writer” will indicate whether you regard it as praiseful or damning, but no one reading Ballard could doubt the tidal gravity of his intellect or the stark visionary consistency of the motifs that earned him that rarest of literary awards, an adjective: Ballardian. Tweet

Grandpa Had His Own Sphere Of Influence

Patricia Cohen, New York Times

Nicholas Thompson is not bragging when he says that his new book about the two master builders of America’s cold war strategy, Paul Nitze and George Kennan, could have been written only by him. Tweet

Specialist Pleading

Frank Furedi, The Australian

ONE of the most influential contemporary cultural myths is that our era is characterised by the end of deference. Tweet

Friday, September 11, 2009

Summer’s End

Judith Warner, New York Times

I am back, once again this week, to mortality, aging, time’s passage, loss. Tweet

I Will Not Read Your Fucking Script

Josh Olson, Village Voice

​I will not read your fucking script.

That's simple enough, isn't it? "I will not read your fucking script." What's not clear about that? There's nothing personal about it, nothing loaded, nothing complicated. I simply have no interest in reading your fucking screenplay. None whatsoever. Tweet

Opposing The Death Penalty Is Not About Innocence

Lee Kovarsky, Salon

Fighting the death penalty should not hinge on proving that innocent people have been sentenced to die. Tweet

Three Poems

Jack Henry, 3:AM Magazine

an old man walks
between the shadows
of his footfalls,
between the sound
of light overtaking dark
and the diminishing returns
of time Tweet

Thursday, September 10, 2009

How To Revive Another Author's Characters

Alison Flood, Guardian

Authors are being roped in left, right and centre to continue or complete legacies, whether it's Sebastian Faulks taking on James Bond in Devil May Care last year, or the bucketloads of Virginia Andrews novels she has "written" since her death more than 20 years ago. Tweet

Life In (And After) Our Great Recession

Benjamin Schwarz, The Atlantic

Dashed hopes, less sex, even more Sisyphean labor for women—what the histories of the Depression era tell us about middle-class families in crisis, both then and now. Tweet

Big Food Vs. Big Insurance

Michael Pollan, New York Times

That’s why our success in bringing health care costs under control ultimately depends on whether Washington can summon the political will to take on and reform a second, even more powerful industry: the food industry. Tweet

Who Are You Calling Genius?

Ron Rosenbaum, Slate

It's time to retire the term. Tweet

Where Does Innovation Come From?

Lee Drutman, Miller-McCune

A new book by W. Brian Arthur, a pioneer in the area of positive feedback in economics, argues that genius is overrated and technology drives its own innovations. Tweet

Can Cheap Be Sexy?

Laura Miller, Salon

At a time when Americans are wallowing in consumer debt, let's reconsider the joys of penny pinching. Tweet

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Quantum Leap

Louisa Gilder, New York Times

This biography is a gift. It is both wonderfully written (certainly not a given in the category Accessible Biographies of Mathematical Physicists) and a thought-provoking meditation on human achievement, limitations and the relations between the two. Here we find a man with an almost miraculous apprehension of the structure of the physical world, coupled with gentle incomprehension of that less logical, messier world, the world of other people. Tweet

The Write Stuff

Inga Dubay and Barbara Getty, New York Times

What follows is a guide to help you get started -- whether you are in elementary school, graduate school, in between or beyond. Think of it as an emergency first step to improve American handwriting. Tweet

Bento Boxes Win Lunch Fans

Samantha Storey, New York Times

It might seem like silly kids’ stuff, but that sense of fun has helped make bento boxes — obentos as the Japanese call them — increasingly popular with grownups in the United States, too. Tweet

Tuesday, September 8, 2009


Jane Hirshfield, Slate Magazine Tweet

The Joy Of Earning A Free Coffee, Stamp By Stamp

Simon Hattenstone, Guardian

Why I love my coffee-shop loyalty card. Tweet

Artists In Exile

Charlotte Higgins, Guardian

The real question, then, is not why these artists chose to leave, but why they have stayed away. Tweet

Where Newspapers Thrive: Orange County's Little Saigon

My-Thuan Tran, Los Angeles Times

The enclave is home to five papers catering to Vietnamese Americans' interests - and one of them just started up this summer. Despite the economy, all are doing well. Tweet

Where Did All the Flowers Come From?

Carl Zimmer, New York Times

Long after Darwin’s death in 1882, the history of flowers continued to vex scientists. But talk to experts today, and there is a note of guarded optimism. Tweet

Coming To Know The Limits Of Healing

Colin Fernandes, New York Times

Still, after a demoralizing recent constellation of patients, I was left wondering which is worse: informing people that they are going to die, or that they are likely to spend the rest of their lives in pain. Tweet

Monday, September 7, 2009

The Lower River

Paul Theroux, New Yorker

Even in his best days in Medford, running the family clothing store, Altman had always imagined that he would return to Africa, to the Lower River. It had been his Eden, for those four years he had spent in a village called Malabo as a young man. Now, after nearly forty years, he was on his way back. The decades in between seemed almost a digression: the business, the marriage, the children. Altman’s Store for Men had closed, the marriage had failed, Altman’s children were grown, absent, living their lives. A little over sixty, he was alone again. He had enough money to see him into his old age, yet he wanted more than that. No one needed him in Medford, and he wondered if the people of Malabo might still remember what he had done there. Tweet


Justin Quinn, New Yorker

I carry America into these young heads,
at least some parts that haven’t yet got there—
Hawthorne’s Salem, Ellison’s blacks and reds,
Bishop’s lovely lines of late summer air. Tweet


Tom Sleigh, New Yorker Tweet

Love’s Photograph (or Father And Son)

James Schuyler, New Yorker Tweet

Missing Woman

Judith Thurman, New Yorker

Amelia Earhart’s flight. Tweet

Reading Underground

Alexis Mainland, New York Times

Reading on the subway is a New York ritual, for the masters of the intricately folded newspaper like Ms. Kornhaber, who lives in Park Slope and works on the Upper East Side, as well as for teenage girls thumbing through magazines, aspiring actors memorizing lines, office workers devouring self-help inspiration, immigrants newly minted — or not — taking comfort in paragraphs in a familiar tongue. These days, among the tattered covers may be the occasional Kindle, but since most trains are still devoid of Internet access and cellphone reception, the subway ride remains a rare low-tech interlude in a city of inveterate multitasking workaholics. And so, we read. Tweet

Why Are We Still Reading Dickens?

Jon Michael Varese, Guardian

The great Victorian is probably even more ubiquitous now than he was in his lifetime. How he remains such vital reading is an intriguing question. Tweet

Sunday, September 6, 2009

The Rise Of The Female Anchor

Alessandra Stanley, New York Times

It’s an odd bit of a role reversal: Ms. Couric is a morning-show natural who had to tone down her peppy cadence and casual style to suit the formality of evening news programs, while Ms. Sawyer, born to be an evening anchor, spent much of her career twisting her natural elegance into the shape of slap-happy morning television. And Mr. Williams, who ascended to the position of NBC anchor on the shoulders of an old boys’ club, now has to reposition himself as a member of a persecuted minority, the white male anchorman. Tweet

The Benefits Of Vacation

Jonah Lehrer, The Atlantic

When my wife looks at me in frustration after yet another crappy fast food meal consumed in the parking lot of a rest stop, here's what I'm going to say: vacation has important psychological benefits. This tedious drive is necessary - not for me, but for my brain. Tweet

Winslow Homer’s Maine

Geraldine Fabrikant, New York Times

Of the roughly 160 homes on Prouts Neck, a very private parcel of land that juts into the sea south of Scarborough, a handful are new or newly restored. But one of the houses tucked up close to the road stands out for its almost perfect condition. It is painted a dark green, and the trim is a deep red. Unlike most others along the sea there, it is relatively small, though it has a second-story balcony that offers a pristine view of the ocean across a manicured, if simple, lawn and the jagged rocks that hug the coast. Tweet

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Economics Is Not Natural Science

Douglas Rushkoff, Edge

We must stop perpetuating the fiction that existence itself is dictated by the immutable laws of economics. These so-called laws are, in actuality, the economic mechanisms of 13th Century monarchs. Some of us analyzing digital culture and its impact on business must reveal economics as the artificial construction it really is. Although it may be subjected to the scientific method and mathematical scrutiny, it is not a natural science; it is game theory, with a set of underlying assumptions that have little to do with anything resembling genetics, neurology, evolution, or natural systems. Tweet

Up From Calamity

Tom Vanderbilt, New York Times

Disasters, for Solnit, do not merely put us in view of apocalypse, but provide glimpses of utopia. They do not merely destroy, but create. “Disasters are extraordinarily generative,” she writes. As the prevailing order — which she elliptically characterizes as advanced global capitalism, full of anomie and isolation — collapses, another order takes shape: “In its place appears a reversion to improvised, collaborative, cooperative and local society.” Tweet

‘The Greatest Show On Earth’ By Richard Dawkins

Anjana Ahuja, The Times

Thank the Lord for creationists. Without their blinkered belief in the biblical account of how life came to be, Richard Dawkins would never have felt the need to give us The Greatest Show on Earth. And what a fine, lucid and convincing exhibition he puts on, walking us through the natural world to demonstrate that evolution by natural selection is everywhere. Tweet

Nicholson Baker: Inside The Author -- And His Alter Ego

Susan Salter Reynolds, Los Angeles Times

His new book, 'The Anthologist,' is a novel within an novel featuring a character who sheds light on his creator. Tweet

Friday, September 4, 2009

Pop Culture Is Still Popular

Ada Calhoun, New York

Why the niche will never triumph, and mass culture will always march on. Tweet

Two Poems

Stewart Bourn, 3:AM Magazine Tweet

Kennedy’s Rough Waters And Still Harbors

Michiko Kakutani, New York Times

At the end of his deeply affecting memoir, the late Senator Edward M. Kennedy writes about his grandson “Little Teddy” — the son of his son “Medium Teddy” who delivered such a heartbreaking eulogy at the senator’s funeral on Saturday — and his difficulties mastering the family tradition of sailing. The senator told the 10-year-old “we might not be the best,” but “we can work harder than anyone,” and Little Teddy stayed with it, grew eager to learn and started winning races. That, the senator writes, “is the greatest lesson anyone can learn”: that if you “stick with it,” that if, as the title of his book suggests, you keep a “true compass” and do your best, you will eventually “get there.”

And that, in a sense, is the theme of this heartfelt autobiography: that persistence, perseverance and patience in pursuit of a cause or atonement for one’s failures can lead to achievement and the possibility of redemption. It’s the story of how this youngest and most underestimated of siblings slowly, painfully, incrementally found genuine purpose of his own in shouldering the weighty burden of familial expectations and the duty of carrying on his slain brothers’ work. Tweet

The Cupcake Bubble

Daniel Gross, Slate Magazine

Better enjoy that vanilla cupcake with espresso-ganache icing today, because the cupcake crash is coming! Tweet

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Street Scene

David Ferry, Three Penny Tweet

The Self-Storage Self

Jon Mooallem, New York Times

The down economy has clearly created circumstances in which some people desperately need to rent storage units — namely, people losing their homes. But more significantly, it seems to be upsetting a longstanding equilibrium — a kind of psycho-financial inertia that has kept so many tenants in place. Tweet

Seeing Is Not Believing

Hany Farid, IEEE Spectrum

Doctoring digital photos is easy. Detecting it can be hard. Tweet

Ikea's Flat-Pack Font

Simon Garfield, Guardian

Ikea is changing its font to Verdana - causing outrage among typomaniacs. Should the rest of us care? Absolutely. Tweet

Bringing ‘Where The Wild Things Are’ To The Big Screen

Saki Knafo, New York Times

“Where the Wild Things Are,” in other words, cost about as much to make as did “Shrek” and “Madagascar,” and yet in almost every other way it represents a sharp departure from those family-friendly blockbusters. Tweet

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

So This Is Dorm Food

David Ross, Los Angeles Times

Duck confit, pancetta-wrapped quail, butter-poached lobster tails, fried zucchini blossoms -- not exactly how most collegians are expecting to dine when they head back to their school dormitories this fall. But those are some of the dishes that may again delight the denizens of Norris Hall at Occidental College in Eagle Rock come this semester.

Occidental junior Saul Sutcher is heading back to school with his '87 Volvo packed full of his cooking equipment and dishes. Without objection from the school administration, he'll again be setting up for Café Norris, preparing three-course gourmet meals served in the dormitory's common room most Saturday nights. Tweet

Secrets Of The Womb

Jacqueline Maybin, Guardian

The uterus, or womb, is the organ par excellence. It functions so efficiently that a full understanding of its processes may lead to novel treatments for a plethora of medical disorders. Tweet

In Search Of The Planet's Most Endangered Species

Stephen Fry, Guardian

Let us never stop talking about the creatures we share the planet with. The first step is to know them a little better. Tweet

Summer Of The Flesh Eater

Zsuzsi Gartner, The Walrus

Field notes on the tendency of varieties to depart indefinitely from the original. Tweet

I As In Justice

Mary Jo Bang, The Walrus Tweet

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

A One-Way Ticket To Mars

Lawrence M. Krauss, New York Times

Why are we so interested in bringing the Mars astronauts home again? Tweet

Golden Gramma

Robert Pinsky, Slate Magazine

The unexpected pleasures of George Herbert's sentences. Tweet

Continuum's Masterful 33 1/3 Series

Michael Schaub, Los Angeles Times

Imagine a Venn diagram with two circles: one for book nerds, one for rock geeks. At the intersection, you’ll find a lot of opinionated people with glasses, having arguments about the exact point in time when a particular author or musician ceased to be cool. You’ll find paychecks cashed and spent entirely at bookstores or record shops on the same day. You’ll find a great deal of love and devotion, and you’ll find the slim, pocket-sized volumes that make up Continuum’s album-oriented 33 1/3 imprint. Tweet

How Did They End Up That Way?

Michiko Kakutani, New York Times

How did the well-to-do scions of one of New York’s oldest families come to such a sad and ludicrous end? The story is a kind of male, New York City version of “Grey Gardens,” and it has fascinated writers for years. It reportedly inspired Marcia Davenport’s 1954 novel, “My Brother’s Keeper,” and Richard Greenberg’s 2002 play, “The Dazzle,” and now Mr. Doctorow, using his patented blend of fact and fiction, has tackled it here, producing a slight, unsatisfying, Poe-like story that turns out to be a study in morbid psychology. Tweet


Caleb Crain, New Yorker

What do the pirates of yore tell us about their modern counterparts? Tweet

The Second World War: Six Years That Changed This Country For Ever

Robert McCrum, Guardian

Seventy years have gone by since the Second World War began and 64 since it ended. That dwindling minority of Britons, some 3 million, who lived through those six extraordinary years remember them as the most vivid moment in their lives and still refer to "the last war". So do the 11 million baby boomers and the 20 million over 60. Even some of their grandchildren will articulate this instinctive reflex. Britain has fought in some dozen wars and "emergencies" since 1945, but it's the Second World War that casts the longest shadow. As the D-Day anniversary celebrations indicate, this is one war that has not gone away. Tweet

The Demystifying Adventures Of The Amazing Randi

Michael J. Mooney, SF Weekly

Heretics, nonbelievers, and doubters worship the Amazing Randi. So what will free thinkers do when he’s gone? Tweet

Finding A Scapegoat When Epidemics Strike

Donald G. McNeil Jr., New York Times

In pandemics throughout history, someone got the blame. Tweet

Silence Is Golden

Jan Swafford, Slate

How A Pause Can Be The Most Devastating Effect In Music. Tweet

It's Not Big And It's Not Clever

David Denby, Guardian

How does snark operate these days? Let me count the ways. Tweet

By Heng-Cheong Leong