Rumors were circulating in the newsroom about her uneasy relationship with Tim Armstrong, the C.E.O. of AOL, the company that had purchased the HuffPost for $315 million three years earlier. An idea had already been floated to transform Huffington into a sort of semi-retired figurehead who would perform ceremonial tasks without wielding any real power—a covert operation, The New York Times later reported, code-named “Popemobile.” A looming corporate shake-up added still more uncertainty. At the time of the Zakaria incident, Verizon was eyeing AOL for a takeover—a $4.4 billion deal that would come to be announced 10 months later.
Huffington, meanwhile, had no intention of relinquishing power at the organization she had co-founded nearly a decade earlier, in 2005, against such long odds. Despite a relative lack of experience in journalism, business, and technology—as a wealthy divorcee who had written several books and unsuccessfully run for governor of California—she had turned the Huffington Post into one of the most recognizable media brands of our time. Within a decade, the site became part of the media firmament and Huffington became a global brand unto herself. She was a regular at the annual World Economic Forum, in Davos; a ubiquitous talking head on television; a budding lifestyle guru; and the keeper of one of the more prodigious Rolodexes in the industry. She counted among her friends everyone from Charlie Rose to Ann Getty and Henry Kissinger to Barbara Walters. She divided her time between a mansion in Brentwood, California, and an $8 million apartment in SoHo.
During his presidential campaign of 1928, Herbert Hoover declared that the United States was “nearer to the final triumph over poverty than ever before in the history of any land.” The country was giddy with postwar prosperity, and the country’s mood was reflected on America’s dinner tables. As people flocked to cities and moved to small apartments, delicatessens, cafeterias and other purveyors of grab-and-go food began to proliferate. In rural communities, efficiency experts encouraged farm wives to lighten their loads with a range of new conveniences. When President Hoover and his wife, Lou, arrived in the White House, they set a regal tone, presiding over elaborate multicourse banquets and requiring dinner jackets even en famille.
The Depression brought all that to an end. And as Jane Ziegelman and Andrew Coe show in their engaging and often moving cultural history, “A Square Meal,” those years also changed the way America thought about food. We are what we eat — or in the case of the Depression, didn’t.
This “new mode of thought” emerged in the context of many other inventions of the 19th century, both intellectual and material, that heightened time consciousness: new means of connection such as the railroad, steamship and telegraph; the proliferation of cheap, reliable timekeeping devices; the discovery of “deep time” in the earth sciences; and the unearthing of artifacts of human prehistory and antiquity.
Underlying all of this was a new consciousness of human history as progress over time. Instead of being a tale of cyclic repetition, history was redefined as a story with a direction, in which the passage of time brings accumulating achievement and gradual perfection of the human condition. To take one compelling example, by 1900, the “age of exploration” was reaching its climax. In the previous four centuries, humankind had mapped the entire globe. This was a stupendous achievement but also a reminder that humanity was reaching the limits of planetary space. Would time be the next frontier?
Ian McEwan’s compact, captivating new novel, “Nutshell,” is also about murderous spirals and lost messages between fathers and unborn sons, although it’s the father’s fate that hangs in the balance here. I promise not to give away the formidable genius of the plot — but the premise, loosely, is this: Trudy, jittery and fragile, lives in a London townhouse as dilapidated as it is valuable, where she spends hot afternoons coldly plotting the murder of her husband, John. She is heavily pregnant with John’s son.
Ever peer into the night sky and wonder whether space is really the same in all directions or whether the cosmos might be whirling about like a vast top? Now, one team of cosmologists has used the oldest radiation there is, the afterglow of the big bang, or the cosmic microwave background (CMB), to show that the universe is “isotropic,” or the same no matter which way you look: There is no spin axis or any other special direction in space. In fact, they estimate that there is only a one-in-121,000 chance of a preferred direction—the best evidence yet for an isotropic universe. That finding should provide some comfort for cosmologists, whose standard model of the evolution of the universe rests on an assumption of such uniformity.