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Tag Archives: 2010

Happy Binary Date Day

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One of the things that you realize when you’re in my seat is that, typically, the issues that come to my desk — there are no simple answers to them. Usually what I’m doing is operating on the basis of a bunch of probabilities: I’m looking at the best options available based on the fact that there are no easy choices. If there were easy choices, somebody else would have solved it, and it wouldn’t have come to my desk.

Obama in ‘Obama in Command’ in the Rolling Stone

There’s some really good stuff in here, I particularly liked what he had to say about the ending of the Iraq war and the plan in Afghanistan on page 3. On page 5 there is some stuff about MMS and the BP oil spill, as well as global warming—which on page 6 he says he’s going to throw the whole weight of the presidency behind, eventually, like he did on health care. And then there’s the cathartic bit at the end about music and getting people to participate in democracy. Anyway, worth a read, certainly.

In an effort to continue cataloging the movies I see each week I’ll be posting them in this format with the “movies” and “reviews” tags. Each post will feature this introduction and a brief review of each movie including several merits and faults. Each description will have a short prefix including the format in which I viewed the movie, which I hope will provide some context for understanding how I ended up watching the movie. “^” means worth watching. “*” means a favorite. On a rare occasion I may use “**” to donate a must see. If a movie passes the Bechdel Test, it will have an “&” sign.

Scott Pilgrim vs. The World *
(Glendale Mall AMC Theater Indianapolis)

Considering the type of hype the movie got, I’m not surprised it didn’t do amazingly at the box office. It’s just as confusing and nonsensical as a fighting video game, but somehow I don’t think this strays far from Edgar Wrights natural style. I mean you see that jump-cut style all the way back in Spaced, take the paintballing scene, for example—and it follows all the way through his work. Needless the say the video game graphical and thematic elements are certainly unique, thus the film will almost certainly gain a cult status. All in all, though, I’d say this is really only a must see for folks who grew up inside of nerdy (RPG, Strategy, Fighting) gaming cultures and communities (and that’s me).

The Wild Bunch *
(Netflix DVD by Mail)

I was on a Sam Peckinpah kick at the time of watching this American classic. He’s a really prolific director, and an interesting man, but I’ll focus on the film here. To me the film embodies a tradition of depicting the west that continues today in games like Red Dead Redemption. A tradition of darkness, alcoholism, hyper violence, and sexual abuse in a vast paradoxically homely and exotic wasteland. At times the wear and detail on mens faces in the film are almost Bressonian, introspective shots, that convey a entirely interior moral epic. During scenes like the Gatling gun abuse scene, by the Mexican militia group, make the film become a near lucid dream of violence and lawlessness. The train robbing sequence, the bank robbing sequence (at the beginning), and similar scenes make play out of the lack development and promise for wealth and progress—at the same time as being downright clever action sequences that Hollywood is always trying to replicate. Anyway, like I said, it’s a classic, you should probably see it if you like westerns.

The Thin Red Line **

This is the best war film I’ve ever seen. Until I saw this movie, I wasn’t that interested in war movies. It came out the same year as Saving Private Ryan, and it’s hard to beat the most sympathetic actor in Hollywood. I was once told that during the pre-production of Apollo 13, when the casting agency asked America who they least wanted to see die, they chose Tom Hanks. It’s hard to compete with that sentiment. But I digress. This is one four films that Terrance Malick has directed. Of the two I’ve seen (Badlands, and this), I think he’s probably one of the best film makers alive today, and certainly one of the most underrepresented. Two scenes have been really memorable for me. The first is simply the opening of the film, it was downright unexpected, and sort of timely if you ask me. It depicts a solider attempting to defect with some natives on an island and the mostly speechless relationships he’s involved in. It brought to mind ex-pat culture, something that I think is really overlooked in the media today. The second extremely memorable moment during the film comes at a typical point for war films, during battle scene. Towards the middle of the film many of the units have failed to advance up a hill covered with tall grass and with a bunker perched atop. They finally make it up the hill and in a extremely intense montage kill probably hundreds of Japanese soldiers using various methods. So much of the film is internal, there are plenty of voice-overs, but the voice-overs only reveal the strong emotions underneath the surface of war. Really, this film isn’t for soldiers and the middle-class. It’s for artists, by an artist.

Whip It! & *
(Netflix DVD by mail) 

Here’s Drew Barrymore’s film about a girl, played by Ellen Paige, who, driven by her desire to experience something beyond her small town minded beauty queen mother, decides to join a Roller Girl team despite being underage. She succeeds, and as a result of her recklessness must come to terms with the reality of what she’s become involved with. This isn’t an extreme tale, but it’s got everything that a movie like Youth in Revolt, except it’s for girls, and has the always fun and hilarious Kristen Wiig. It’s the feel good movie of the summer, and even inspired me to try to go to an actual Roller Derby here in Indianapolis if I can. It’s just a fun movie, and worth seeing on rental for sure.

The Brothers Bloom
(DVD Backup DivX) 

This is a pretty clever film about two con men brothers who’ve grown up together and must face the issues of co-dependency. It starts with a con in grade school where a bunch of kids pay to see this wandering wisp light. The film moves into a romance as the brother who must make a rich eccentric woman fall in love with him, actually falls in love, and as she begins to adventure with them, becomes part of a bigger and bigger con. Or is it. It’s pretty fun, but ultimately I couldn’t relate much to any of the characters. Except maybe bang bang, a speechless Japanese woman whose expertise is demolition. Needless to say, this isn’t a groundbreaking or even extremely notable film, but it certainly is enjoyable, and is extremely well conceived.

The Losers
(Netflix on XBox360)

This is a terrible movie. I also watched the movie “Expendables”, but I’m not going to review that either. Actually, the latter has a bit more justice existing simply because of all of the action stars. At least the first 10 minutes were entertaining simply because Jet Li and Sylvester Stallone are in the same picture. In the Losers, on the other hand, even from the beginning, when they save a bunch of small children in a small terrorist enclave town using a stolen school bus, you’re thinking: could this get any more cliche and terrible? The answer is yes, so don’t see it.

Archer: Season 1
(Hulu)

 I first heard about this show on an episode of Fresh Air that interviewed the creator, who also happened to be the creator of Sealab 2021. In that vein my expectations were pretty much on target. A lot of the themes and styles fo characterization on identical between the two shows. There’s the slut character, and the womanizer character, idiotic leader, etc. Part of the charm of the show comes from the successful repetition of the same joke. I wouldn’t suggest watching this show all in the one sitting (as I did pretty much), the jokes aren’t as funny, and it loses its repetitive comforting power.

Paris, Texas *
(Netflix DVD)

The first Wim Wender’s film I’ve seen will certainly not be the last. Wender’s seems to have e genuine fascination with the American west, but not the parts of it you may expect. A lot of imagery he makes beautiful seems almost mundane to us—I could imagine certain scenes of this film in a documentary context. The numerous highway scenes, outlooks over the L.A. sprawl, the way the peep show is presented, the hotel and downtown shots, are all ruminated on in an uncharacteristic way. A lot of images from the film stick because they seem so ‘normal’. His explorations of characterization are borderline quixotic in their interiorization and distance, the film is predicated on a man not talking for years, yet somehow by the end there is a great lukewarm wash of hope. Performances by Harry Dean Stanton and Quantum Leap’s Dean Stockwell are just plain fascinating. Stockwell, who plays the brother character in the film, is simultaneously a father, a brother, a friend, and almost a therapist style character. Stanton’s obsessive compulsive explorations, make him seem like a amnesia victim, a solider with post traumatic stress disorder, or an alien. Needless the say the film is entertaining, but it’s also something more rare that I can’t put my finger on.

The Cincinnati Kid *
(IMCPL Library DVD)

In high school I watched the movie Rounders, then went to Goodwill with my friend Chris, bought a suit, and proceeded to have as many people over as possible for some Hold em’. We played with loose change, but it was still pretty fun. I don’t think I ever did very well. Had we been watching this movie, though, I’m not sure we would have still played. Something about Rounders leaves out the feeling that we got after about an hour that we’d been playing FOREVER. The final, three day long, one on one battle that is the end of The Cincinnati Kid really shows how excruciating gambling can be. The film is does a great job of depicting “the weight” and all that comes with it. We see the social pressure, litterally embodied by an audience of wealthy looking individuals who look to be at some form of civilized dog fight. We see the financial pressure, as individuals invested in the tournament try to use their monetary power to rig the game. We see the romantic pressure, as one woman takes sexual advantage in the situation. But also the psychological pressure, “You’re just not ready for me yet, kid.” This is my first Norman Jewison film, and I certainly hope it’s not my last.

The Burbs
(Netflix Watch-it-now on the Roku Media Player)

 I think I’ve seen bits and pieces of this on daytime cable throughout my life and never until now watched the whole thing. I discovered that it’s a really strange movie all the way through. There’s elements of horror, reminiscent of other cult 80s horror like Fright Night, elements of almost Mike Judge, a la Office Space, style domestic humor, and somehow there’s still room for ‘Mouth’ from Goonies to play a character who seems like he should be in Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure. It’s not exactly Tom Hanks most trying role, but it’s a surprisingly fun and well sculpted movie—I can see why the play it on TV a lot.

Jil Sander

The best of the New York times. This time mostly from September 2010. I also branched out and included some stuff from sections I normally stray away from. Of most note would probably be the recipe.

Naomi Campbell: Model, Citizen

Now, she added: “I’m a recovering person in progress. Every rehabilitation program I’ve been in says the same thing: Getting past the denial is half the battle. Take responsibility for your actions. No matter who you are, a banker or a model or an aesthetician, if you don’t do that, you’ll find yourself living in an insanity world.”

A Year in MP3s

Like most composers these days, I use a computer to compose music; unlike most composers, my compositions are created with software tools that I write myself.

Stir-fried Succotash With Edamame

In a New Role, Teachers Move to Run Schools

Shortly after landing at Malcolm X Shabazz High School as a Teach for America recruit, Dominique D. Lee grew disgusted with a system that produced ninth graders who could not name the seven continents or the governor of their state. He started wondering: What if I were in charge?

Fending Off the Weeds With Newsprint

That’s the theory, anyway. The last time Rock and I tried this on new ground, for a potato patch, the newspapers had not decomposed by spring planting time. But I think the layers were too thick. I had probably figured that if 4 sheets were good, 12 would be better. I was wrong: less is more, stick to four.

I forgot to sprinkle cottonseed meal over the cut grass, before laying down and wetting the newspapers, to give the young seedlings a boost of nitrogen. But maybe I’ll scratch some in, around the broccoli plants and other seedlings, once they start to grow.

Clive Donner, 1960s-Era Film Director, Dies at 84

Clive Donner, who helped define the British New Wave with films like “The Caretaker” and “Nothing but the Best” and directed the emblematic swinging ’60s film “What’s New Pussycat?,” died on Tuesday in London. He was 84.

Google Unveils Tool to Speed Up Searches

Google, which can already feel like an appendage to our brains, is now predicting what people are thinking before they even type.

[…]

“It’s not quite psychic, but it is very clever,” said Othar Hansson, a senior staff software engineer who helped develop Instant.

To make the predictions, Google relies on search trends, like words that are often searched, were recently popular or were searched nearby, Ms. Mayer said.

Some words, like “nude,” produce no results because Google Instant filters for violence, hate and pornography, the company said.

God and Politics, Together Again

“In the end, then, what is called for is nothing more, and nothing less, than what all the world’s great religions demand — that we do unto others as we would have them do unto us,” Mr. Obama said. “Let us be our brother’s keeper, Scripture tells us. Let us be our sister’s keeper. Let us find that common stake we all have in one another, and let our politics reflect that spirit as well.”

Forget What You Know About Good Study Habits

Take the notion that children have specific learning styles, that some are “visual learners” and others are auditory; some are “left-brain” students, others “right-brain.” In a recent review of the relevant research, published in the journal Psychological Science in the Public Interest, a team of psychologists found almost zero support for such ideas. “The contrast between the enormous popularity of the learning-styles approach within education and the lack of credible evidence for its utility is, in our opinion, striking and disturbing,” the researchers concluded.

[…]

Varying the type of material studied in a single sitting — alternating, for example, among vocabulary, reading and speaking in a new language — seems to leave a deeper impression on the brain than does concentrating on just one skill at a time. Musicians have known this for years, and their practice sessions often include a mix of scales, musical pieces and rhythmic work. Many athletes, too, routinely mix their workouts with strength, speed and skill drills.

Reviving Ground Zero

[no segment quoted]

Panade

A Post 9/11 Parenting Moment

“No,” he said firmly. A rule was a rule. I had to pay the baggage fee or throw away the maple syrup so that I could bring my bag onto the plane.

It was a dilemma. As the product of Ukrainian immigrants who came to the United States with virtually nothing—working, scraping, and saving to make ends meet—I was raised not to throw the maple syrup in the trash, nor to spend fifteen dollars on its transport. I couldn’t bring myself to do either.

Living to Be a Parent

Remember Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs? You learned about it in your intro psych course: a neat and tidy pyramid, with fulfillment of “physiological needs” at its base, then things like “safety,” “love,” “belonging” and “esteem” stacked on top, all capped by “self-actualization.”

A group of academic psychologists have redesigned the nearly 70-year-old triangle. Most notably they have knocked “self-actualization” off the pinnacle and replaced it with “parenting.” Right below, they have added “mate retention” and “mate acquisition.”

War Games

Beyond their settings, what these future-war games have in common with the Modern Warfare series is a refusal to forthrightly acknowledge the inspiration for their subject matter. Video-game designers and players like to brag about how “realistic” the games are, but when gamers talk about verisimilitude, they’re usually talking about graphical fidelity, about how lifelike the characters and environments are in an otherwise fantastical world — and not about how the medium reflects anything else about the actual world in which we live.

Field Report: Will Work for Food

Some of the most sought-after internships this summer weren’t on Capitol Hill or in the Vogue fashion closet. They were on farms. If you hadn’t applied by the end of the spring, you could forget about it. Ag-department graduates, career-changers and cooks looking to deepen their knowledge of ingredients are among those who have been turning to farmers to show them how to plow their trade. For months they live in group housing — even tents — working long hours for little or no pay beyond all-you-can-eat produce. It’s a cross between Michael Pollan summer school and Barbara Kingsolver boot camp.

Are Films Bad, or Is TV Just Better?

FOR as long as anyone in the movie world can remember (which may be only 20 years or so, but never mind), the fall season has been marked by a sober kind of excitement. The commercial entertainments of summer give way to more ambitious fare, and the grown-up segment of the audience goes back to the theaters looking for stirring performances, complex storytelling, important themes and big emotions. That’s the theory, anyway.

Recently, though, that eager, earnest sense of anticipation — which this section of The New York Times, along with similar preview issues of other publications, both reflects and encourages — has been accompanied, at least among insiders and journalists, by annual paroxysms of anxiety. A few years ago the dominant worry was that a glut of serious movies would overwhelm the marketplace, the films crowding one another out, a concern that was followed almost seamlessly by the fear that such films might disappear altogether.

The Search: Job Satisfaction vs. a Big Paycheck

“Many people want to make a lot of money, but the benefits of having a high income are ambiguous,” said Professor Kahneman, who is also a Nobel laureate in economics. When you are wealthy you are able to buy more pleasures, he said, but a recent study suggests that wealthier people “seem to be less able to savor the small things in life.”

The (Extremely) Creative Ferment of James Franco

As the filmmakers raised money, Mr. Franco was able to prepare with his usual gusto: watching interviews, reading biographies, talking to experts, wearing the nerdy Ginsberg glasses (still available at Moscot in New York). His take — that the young poet was an eager communicator even as he was just discovering what he wanted to say — applies to his own path. And it’s clear on screen, where Mr. Franco vibrates with intellectual energy while recognizably laconic in his delivery. “I have joked that he’s a 21st-century beatnik,” Mr. Epstein said of Mr. Franco, “but he really does have that sensibility. He’s really interested and excited about experimentation and exploring the possibilities of how one can be an artist.”

States of Conflict: An Update

To Win Over Users, Gadgets Have to Be Touchable

Whoever said technology was dehumanizing was wrong. On screens everywhere — cellphones, e-readers, A.T.M.’s — as Diana Ross sang, we just want to reach out and touch.

The End of Tenure?

The labor system, for one thing, is clearly unjust. Tenured and tenure-track professors earn most of the money and benefits, but they’re a minority at the top of a pyramid. Nearly two-thirds of all college teachers are non-tenure-track adjuncts like Matt Williams, who told Hacker and Dreifus he had taught a dozen courses at two colleges in the Akron area the previous year, earning the equivalent of about $8.50 an hour by his reckoning. It is foolish that graduate programs are pumping new Ph.D.’s into a world without decent jobs for them. If some programs were phased out, teaching loads might be raised for some on the tenure track, to the benefit of undergraduate education.

Computers as Invisible as the Air

“The thing that is happening right now is that we’re drowning in data,” said Stan Williams, director of H.P.’s Information and Quantum Systems Lab. “The amount of data is increasing at an absolutely ferocious pace, and unless we can catch up it will remain useless.”

If he is right, and the memristor makes possible superdense computing memories — one computer chip will hold as much data as an entire disk drive holds today.

A Taste of Home in Foil Packets and Powder

Each year, among the countries with troops in Afghanistan — the current number is 47 — tens of millions of dollars are spent researching how to fit the most calories, nutrition and either comfort or fun into a small, light package. The menus and accompaniments are intended not just to nourish but also to remind the soldier of home. Some include branded comfort foods — Australians get a dark-brown spreadable yeast-paste treat called Vegemite, for example — while others get national staples like liverwurst (Germany), or lamb curry (Britain’s current culinary obsession).

Some of the contents are practical. Italians get three disposable toothbrushes per day of combat. Americans get pound cake, which military folklore says reduces the need for toilet breaks.

People and Places That Innovate

Good ideas and their successful execution are a result of connections and existing knowledge embedded in a particular context. The individual, of course, plays an important role, but it is defined more by collaboration than by solitary brilliance.

Words Cannot Express

Is language first and foremost an artifact of culture? Or is it largely determined by human biology? This issue has been argued back and forth for a couple of centuries with no clear resolution in sight. Guy Deutscher’s 2005 book “The Unfolding of Language” placed him firmly in the pro-culture camp. Now, in his new book, “Through the Language Glass,” he examines some idiosyncratic aspects of particular languages that, in his opinion, cast further doubt on biologically based theories of language.

America’s History of Fear

Americans have called on moderates in Muslim countries to speak out against extremists, to stand up for the tolerance they say they believe in. We should all have the guts do the same at home.

The Meaning of ‘Man Up’

But man up isn’t just being used to package machismo as a commodity. Its spectrum of meanings runs from “Don’t be a sissy; toughen up” all the way to “Do the right thing; be a mensch,” to use the Yiddishism for an honorable or upright person. The Man Up Campaign, for instance, is a new global initiative that engages youth to stop gender-based violence: “Our call to action challenges each of us to ‘man up’ and declare that violence against women and girls must end,” its mission statement reads.

The Many Iterations of William Shatner

Outside Starbucks, Shatner said to me: “If someone criticizes my acting, they may be right. Sometimes you shouldn’t work so hard” to entertain. Then, softly, he said: “I never thought of myself as a great actor, like Olivier. I was a working actor. I entertained people and always tried to be terrific at whatever it was.” His problem and his salvation. He played so many different roles that “people couldn’t define me like they could De Niro. I took whatever work came my way to pay the bills, even if it wasn’t a decent role.”

Digital Devices Deprive Brain of Needed Downtime

At the University of California, San Francisco, scientists have found that when rats have a new experience, like exploring an unfamiliar area, their brains show new patterns of activity. But only when the rats take a break from their exploration do they process those patterns in a way that seems to create a persistent memory of the experience.

Does Your Language Shape How You Think?

If different languages influence our minds in different ways, this is not because of what our language allows us to think but rather because of what it habitually obliges us to think about.

Peace and War

Franzen grasps that the central paradox of modern American liberalism inheres not in its doctrines but in the unstated presumptions that govern its daily habits. Liberals, no less than conservatives — and for that matter revolutionaries and reactionaries; in other words, all of us — believe some modes of existence are superior to others. But only the liberal, committed to a vision of harmonious communal pluralism, is unsettled by this truth.

Steam-Driven Dreams

In an epilogue Rosen gets around to the global downside of the Industrial Revolution: the trouble that all this burning coal has gotten us into with greenhouse gases and climate change. But, he writes, the answer to our modern technology woes is not to turn back the clock. His discussion of the Luddites shows the folly of that. We need more technology, not less, he insists. “There may be no way to put the genie of sustained invention back in the bottle,” he writes, “but we can put the genie to work.”

Live Blogging the Emmy Awards

We’re a short time away from what promises to be a fascinating television showdown: can the Emmy Awards, the annual honors telecast presented by the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences, hold its own on a Sunday night at the end of the summer, going head to head against an N.F.L. preseason game, not to mention new episodes of some of the same shows up for top awards on the Emmys broadcast?

Finding Spot in History Without Looking

Rafael Nadal greets questions about tennis history, specifically his standing in it, as if someone spiked his Gatorade with sour milk. This is perhaps his least favorite topic. His eyes narrow. His face contorts. He often appears offended.

Following Workers’ Trails of Tears in China

The film’s unnerving railway station scenes — panoramic views of frustrated crowds surging forward, barely contained by nervous police officers with truncheons — underscore these changes and the growing specter of civil war. “The government does not have a perfect track record of dealing with dissent,” Mr. Fan said carefully. “So civil war would be a terrible thing. While I was making this film, it was difficult to figure out where to point the finger. At the government? The factory owners and corporations? The West? I’m not in a righteous place to answer, but I hope to raise this question for my audience.”

The Billionaires Bankrolling the Tea Party

There’s just one element missing from these snapshots of America’s ostensibly spontaneous and leaderless populist uprising: the sugar daddies who are bankrolling it, and have been doing so since well before the “death panel” warm-up acts of last summer. Three heavy hitters rule. You’ve heard of one of them, Rupert Murdoch. The other two, the brothers David and Charles Koch, are even richer, with a combined wealth exceeded only by that of Bill Gates and Warren Buffett among Americans. But even those carrying the Kochs’ banner may not know who these brothers are.

Waiting for Mr. Obama

Mr. Obama and his economic team had clearly hoped for an economic rebound in time for the midterm elections. They are not going to get it. The economic damage they inherited was too deep, and the economic stimulus they pushed through Congress, for all of the fight, was too small. Standing back is not doing the country or his party any good. We believe Americans are ready for hard truths and big ideas.

Egg Factory

When I was young, I thought I grasped the immensity of the Iowa landscape. The immensity of the soybean and corn fields has only grown because so many smaller farms have vanished as a result of government farm policy, which rewards economic concentration. As I turned off Highway 3 east of town, I saw that there was a newer immensity, the egg factories — an endless row of faceless buildings, as bland as a compound of colossal storage units but with the air of a prison.

Our Loss, Through the Eye of the Storm

Remembering is an exercise: to keep the memory of an event alive, we must rehearse it, recall it over and over for ourselves or in stories we tell others. And yet, in so doing, memory is often transformed, revised a bit each time in the telling — linked always to its conjoined twin, forgetting.

Outside my grandmother’s house, the hydrangea blooms again and again — the blossoms themselves like memories, each one a repetition of another, never quite the same.

Winning, Losing and War

“We won!” he yelled. “It’s over! America, we brought democracy to Iraq!”

Which naturally raises an intriguing and provocative question: Did we win? Seven years later, after all the spilled blood, after all the roadside bombs and sectarian strife, after all the terror and torment, did the United States actually win the war in Iraq?

The Politics of Polite

There are other reasons to dislike the term ma’am — for its whiff of class distinctions, for being dismissive, stiff and drab. “If someone calls me ma’am, it’s superficially a sign of respect, but it’s also creating distance,” Dr. Kroll said. “It’s saying, I’m not going to have a serious conversation with you; I’m not going to engage with you.”

Katha Pollitt, the columnist and poet, said, “It’s part of those routine word packages that are forever flying by.”

Policy Options Dwindle as Economic Fears Grow

This is where the Great Recession has taken the world’s largest economy, to a Great Ambiguity over what lies ahead, and what can be done now. Economists debate the benefits of previous policy prescriptions, but in the political realm a rare consensus has emerged: The future is now so colored in red ink that running up the debt seems politically risky in the months before the Congressional elections, even in the name of creating jobs and generating economic growth. The result is that Democrats and Republicans have foresworn virtually any course that involves spending serious money.

The State of New Orleans

The best articles from The New York Times. (some great muddlers this week.)

The Music-Copyright Enforcers

During her five years with BMI — on trips to Texas, Ohio, Florida, Washington — Baker has learned a lot: managers of adult clubs tend to be polite. People who run coffee shops tend to be difficult. Skating rinks are a pain – they have the longest outgoing messages in the world. Casinos owned by Indian tribes are tough. Every decision goes to the tribal council, and it can take forever. Arts and crafts festivals, forget it; creative types never have any money. (“You’d think they’d get it,” Baker said, “But … .” She waved her hand.) The most important rule of the road, however, is never — Baker looked me in the eye — eat in the venue, even if they invite you. Because God only knows what they might put in your food.

The Medium: Amazon’s Prime Suspect

I came away thinking that there was no reason to quit Amazon Prime — yet. But there may be good reason to check my self-satisfaction over it. On the Web, often when we think we’re at our most savvy — conducting research, comparison shopping, deal getting — we’re engaged not in strategic critical thinking but in an infotainment ritual akin to watching commercial TV. At best, trying to beat the Web may make us spend a little more; at worst, it may deepen our involvement with a game that’s rigged against us.

When the Screen Goes Blank

The guy who constantly mentions he doesn’t own a television is an Onion joke. If you really believe that TV is a wasteland, you’re either a crank, a pedant or unfortunate enough to have missed that one episode of “Battlestar Galactica” in which we find out about the Cylons.

Or you’re Clay Shirky, a celebrated scholar of Internet culture who teaches at New York University’s Interactive Telecommunications Program. Shirky isn’t concerned with what’s on TV. What galls him is how much we watch, regardless of what’s on. Television, he writes in “Cognitive Surplus: Creativity and Generosity in a Connected Age,” has “absorbed the lion’s share of the free time available to citizens of the developed world.”

E-Book Wars: The Specialist vs. the Multitasker

It’s not surprising that a “purpose-built device” does a better job at its one task. The question is whether some years down the road — say, in the 2020 holiday season — customers will still be willing to buy single-purpose devices in addition to irresistible multipurpose ones. Mr. Grandinetti points to running shoes for the answer. “If I’m going on a 10-mile run,” he says, “I want a really well-designed pair of running shoes instead of Converse high-tops.”

But Will It Make You Happy?

And it’s been a truism for eons that extra cash always makes life a little easier. Studies over the last few decades have shown that money, up to a certain point, makes people happier because it lets them meet basic needs. The latest round of research is, for lack of a better term, all about emotional efficiency: how to reap the most happiness for your dollar.

India Swoons Over Its Chess Champ, and Even the Game

Mr. Anand is no Bollywood heartthrob or pop singer. The idol the girls were swooning over was an unassuming, bespectacled, 40-year-old world chess champion.

Let Us Now Praise the Great Men of Junk Food

Soft drinks, ready-to-eat hamburgers, salty snacks, ice cream and candy all fall under his definitions of junk and fast food — products that have little or no nutritional value or are high in calories and fat, or both. Putting health questions aside, here, then, are a few great moments in junk-food history:

The First Church of Robotics

What bothers me most about this trend, however, is that by allowing artificial intelligence to reshape our concept of personhood, we are leaving ourselves open to the flipside: we think of people more and more as computers, just as we think of computers as people.

Cult Director Courts the Mass, Keeps the Crazy

As Quentin Tarantino, who befriended Mr. Wright after seeing “Shaun of the Dead,” described the mix of sincere young angst and cartoonish mortal combat in “Scott Pilgrim,” “It’s like ‘Say Anything’ meets ‘Five Deadly Venoms.’ ”

Should We Manipulate Our Dreams?

Recently, psychologists at the P.T.S.D. Sleep Clinic at the Maimonides Sleep Arts and Sciences center have developed a method called scripting or dream mastery to treat nightmares. Patients with severe sleeping problems can learn to control their dreams and replace unwelcome or terrifying images with ones that are pleasant or harmless.

But should we rush to replace our nightmares? Do nightmares have psychological meaning? Should we think of them as a problem or a resource?

Resistance Forms Against Hollywood’s 3-D Push

“If you can’t make it good, make it 3-D.”

Wringing Art Out of the Rubble in Detroit

Detroit hardly needs encouragement to do-it-yourself; it has a lineage of makers.

Scott Hocking, an artist who creates works out of materials salvaged from the many abandoned buildings here, said that the D.I.Y. culture is “in our DNA.”

Mosque Near Ground Zero Clears Key Hurdle

The issue had divided family members of those killed on Sept. 11. Some argued it was insensitive to the memory of those who died in the attacks. Others saw it as a symbol of tolerance to counter the religious extremism that prevailed on that day.

The debate over the center has become a heated political issue, drawing opposition from former Gov. Sarah Palin of Alaska and members of the Tea Party.

Is Environmentalism a Luxury Good?

“Finally, in California, we find that an increase in a county’s unemployment rate is associated with a significant decrease in county residents choosing the environment as the most important policy issue.”

Green: Eat Lead?

But the petition raises the possibility that subsistence hunters, their families or even food-bank clients in rural states could ingest toxic levels of lead by swallowing some of a bullet’s leavings.

Mind: A Snapshot of a Generation May Come Out Blurry

In another critique, researchers at the University of Illinois reported data suggesting that narcissism peaks in young adulthood, “not because of cultural changes but because of age-related developmental trends.”