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Tag Archives: New York Times Digest

The Uses of Enchantment: The Authorized Biography of Roald Dahl

If Sturrock does not dwell on these interior darknesses, it may be in part because the life affords so much external drama. Interestingly, Dahl does not emerge as a particularly reflective individual: his puerile humor, his lively imagination, his rebellious zeal and his determination were all strongly at odds with any analytical bent. It’s no surprise that “Get on with it” was one of his favorite phrases.

Hidden Tigers

In the early 1990s, when Sony was still digesting Columbia Pictures and Japan was seen as an economic threat to the United States, I was urged by my father to learn to bow and wear a kimono, because we were all going to be working for Japanese companies one day. The cultural artifact of the moment was Michael Crichton’s borderline racist novel “Rising Sun,” which became a film starring Sean Connery and warned of Japanese corporate imperialism and the menace it posed to our way of life.

The business writer Eric J. Weiner offers a different sort of road map for a strangely parallel time in his dense and disturbing new book, “The Shadow Market: How a Group of Wealthy Nations and Powerful Investors Secretly Dominate the World.”

Alien Nation

“There have been as many plagues as wars in history,” notes the central character in Albert Camus’s novel “The Plague,” “yet always plagues and wars take people equally by surprise.” The surprise is in the epidemic’s egalitarian choice of victims, in the unraveling of civic order and in the discovery that a just God may not be so just after all. This is why an epidemic makes such a great backdrop for a novel.

Birth Pangs

But in the decades since our children’s birth, results from research studies have suggested that we do not put fetal life so readily behind us. Rather, as Annie Murphy Paul writes in her informative and wise new book, “fetal origins research suggests that the lifestyle that influences the development of disease is often not only the one we follow as adults, but the one our mothers practiced when they were pregnant with us as well.” This hypothesis was initially put forth by David Barker, a British physician who in 1989 published data indicating that poor maternal nutrition put offspring at risk for heart disease decades later.

We

Theodore Rockwell, who served as technical director for the U.S. Navy’s nuclear-propulsion program in the 1950s and ’60s, shared a telling anecdote about his onetime boss, the famously irascible Adm. Hyman G. Rickover. “One time he caught me using the editorial we, as in ‘we will get back to you by… .’ ” Rockwell recalled in his memoir, “The Rickover Effect.” “He explained brusquely that only three types of individual were entitled to such usage: ‘The head of a sovereign state, a schizophrenic and a pregnant woman. Which are you, Rockwell?’ ”

Being Glenn Beck

In the middle of his analogy to me about his own personal crash and the country’s need to heal itself, Beck looked at his publicist with a flash of alarm about how I might construe what he was saying. “He is going to write a story that I believe the whole country is alcoholics,” he said. And then he went on to essentially compare his “Restoring Honor” pageant at the Lincoln Memorial to a large-scale A.A. meeting. “When I bottomed out, I couldn’t put it back together myself,” Beck told me. “I could do all the hard work. I could do the 12 steps. But I needed like-minded people around me.”

I Hate Everything!

“Everyone is essentially either sad, angry or afraid,” Mike, my best friend, said. We were sitting on the linoleum floor in my college dorm room. It was 1990. It was 3:45 in the morning. We were down to brass tacks.J

“I’m definitely sad, then,” I said.

“Well, I’m angry,” he said.

As a dutiful sad person, I felt instantly defeated. Anger seemed like something that lean, focused, going-places people had, especially men — rage and fury and indignation. Anger meant glory. Where depression would just mean shame and Dove Bars. How horrible to be essentially sad. Why couldn’t I be essentially angry?

Enter the Finnish video game Angry Birds. Angry Birds HD for iPad has finally filled my life with the wrath I’ve long aspired to.

Is Michelle Rhee’s Revolution Over?

Around the country, supporters of education reform — or at least of the test-scores-driven, tenure-busting, results-rewarding sort of reform epitomized by organizations like Teach for America and championed by Education Secretary Arne Duncan — gave a collective gasp of dismay last month when voters in a number of districts handed primary defeats to candidates closely associated with just this type of reform.

A Prison-Library Reunion

I stopped in the park and held out the money, two crisp $20 bills, plus a few singles, all folded up to seem like more. I was calm, but my hands were shaking. I looked at the ground and caught a glimpse of his weapon — not a gun, but a six-inch knife, barely concealed under a shredded sleeve. I sensed he was looking at me. He took the money, but didn’t move.

Why isn’t he leaving?

“Hey,” he said. There was a new tenor in his voice. “You work at the Bay?”My body tensed. It was true: my work was following me home.

Found in Translation

— I’ve come to understand that all literature is a product of translation. That is, translation is not merely a job assigned to a translator expert in a foreign language, but a long, complex and even profound series of transformations that involve the writer and reader as well. “Translation” as a human act is, like so many human acts, a far more complicated proposition than it may initially seem to be.

Film Version of Zuckerberg Divides Generations

“When you talk to people afterward, it was as if they were seeing two different films,” said Scott Rudin, one of the producers. “The older audiences see Zuckerberg as a tragic figure who comes out of the film with less of himself than when he went in, while young people see him as completely enhanced, a rock star, who did what he needed to do to protect the thing that he had created.”

The actual Facebook has been playing clumsy defense against the film, including having the real Mr. Zuckerberg pop out of nowhere on “Oprah” to donate $100 million to the schools of Newark, but my hunch is that the company doesn’t have much to worry about.

More States Allowing Guns in Bars and Restaurants

Freakonomics

Mr. Spurlock’s segment, “A Roshanda by Any Other Name,” is a facetious contemplation of baby names in the age of branding. Does a child’s name determine his or her adult destiny? The answer is, probably not, although the downward spiral of one girl unfortunately named Temptress might suggest otherwise. An opposite message is gleaned from the biographies of two boys, one named Winner, the other Loser. The segment addresses the widening gap between the names of white and black babies, which began with the black power movement in the late 1960s. It can barely contain its amusement at the many variations of the name Unique.

Arthur Penn, Director of ‘Bonnie and Clyde,’ Dies

“Arthur Penn brought the sensibility of ’60s European art films to American movies,” the writer-director Paul Schrader said. “He paved the way for the new generation of American directors who came out of film schools.”Many of the now-classic films of what was branded the “New American Cinema” of the 1970s — including “Taxi Driver,” directed by Martin Scorsese and written by Mr. Schrader, and “The Godfather,” directed by Francis Ford Coppola — would have been unthinkable without “Bonnie and Clyde” to point the way.

MacArthur Foundation Honors 23

“Obviously, I’m very grateful but I have a vague sense of not belonging,” Mr. Simon said in a telephone interview about his grant. He said past winners had done “tangible things to improve conditions.”

Still, storytellers can also make a difference, said Mr. Simon, who now splits his time between Baltimore and New Orleans. He expects the MacArthur imprimatur to help move the discussion of the ideas in his work from the “entertainment pages to the op-ed pages,” he said. “One overt argument that ‘The Wire’ was making is that the drug war is amoral and untenable,” Mr. Simon added.

Let Me In (2010)

Vampire romanticism is nothing new, of course. Millions of us, not just teenage girls, have followed the courtship of Bella Swan and Edward Cullen through every deep breath and smoldering glance. But the love story in “Let Me In,” between two 12-year-olds, one of them a blood-craving undead pixie named Abby, is both more intense and more innocent.

The subtext of the relationship is not sexuality, as it is in “Twilight” or “True Blood,” but rather the loneliness of children and their often unrecognized reservoirs of rage. Abby (Chloë Grace Moretz) and her pal, a trembling, big-eyed boy named Owen (Kodi Smit-McPhee), are fragile and quiet but also capable of horrifying violence.

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My favorites from the New York Times. This last couple weeks have been pretty transitional, so I’ve been slow—you’ll probably need a NYT account (free) to view the archived articles.

Phys Ed: Can Exercise Make Kids Smarter?

Previous studies found that fitter kids generally scored better on such tests. And in this case, too, those children performed better on the tests. But the M.R.I.’s provided a clearer picture of how it might work. They showed that fit children had significantly larger basal ganglia, a key part of the brain that aids in maintaining attention and “executive control,” or the ability to coordinate actions and thoughts crisply. Since both groups of children had similar socioeconomic backgrounds, body mass index and other variables, the researchers concluded that being fit had enlarged that portion of their brains.

Documentary? Better Call It Performance Art

At least one element in the film was genuine, Mr. Affleck said. That was a snippet of a home movie that showed Mr. Phoenix and his very young siblings performing, Jackson Five style, on the streets of Los Angeles.

The rest, Mr. Affleck said, clearly requires a bit more understanding than he has allowed the viewers to date. “It is a hard movie to watch,” he said.

A Dictionary of the Near Future

DENARRATION The process whereby one’s life stops feeling like a story.

CLOUD BLINDNESS The inability of some people to see faces or shapes in clouds.

Take a Look at Him Now: Questions for Phil Collins

But now you’re divorced from her. Did I read somewhere that your divorce settlement was $50 million and, at the time, the largest paid by an entertainer in British history?

I think Paul McCartney’s was the largest.

Ditch Your Laptop, Dump Your Boyfriend

Chances are, if you are taking the time to read this advice, you already have the quality necessary to undertake the intellectual challenges of a college education — a seriousness of purpose.

Carrot Talk

In the study, children from the ages of 3 to 5 tasted five pairs of identical foodstuffs (including, as it happens, carrots). In each pair, one item was offered in plain, unmarked packaging — and the other was in McDonald’s packaging. The kids, on average, said they preferred the stuff they thought came from the fast-food chain, which of course is one of the most recognizable brands in the world. They thought McDonald’s fries tasted better with branded packaging than without it; they preferred milk in a McDonald’s cup to milk in a plain cup. This, the study noted, “was true even for carrots,” a food they are unlikely to have experienced at the fast-food chain.

The Empowerment Mystique

“Free to Be” was foremost about vanquishing gender stereotypes. By choosing girls to liberate from the tyranny of antimaterialism, Target implied that buying its wares was part of thevictory. That’s part of a trend I’ve noticed across a whole range of sectors over the last several months from big-box stores to high-end fashion to wireless-phone services to politics: all have discovered the sales potential in female pride.

Phys Ed: Looking at How Concussions When Young Influence Later Life

But when researchers looked at the electrical activity of the students’ brains, they found that the concussed athletes showed noticeably less activity in portions of the brain associated with attention. ‘‘They had suppressed attentional resources,’’ said Steven Broglio, a professor of kinesiology and community health at the University of Illinois. He and his colleagues speculated that, as a result, the injured athletes most likely were devoting a greater percentage of their total mental reserves to each task than the uninjured athletes in order to achieve similar intellectual results. The effort wasn’t obvious. ‘‘These were high-performing college students,” Dr. Broglio said. ‘‘They were succeeding in school.’’

Time Is Money

Maybe I’m the only one who still sees time-shifting as all upside — working your own hours, reading a news story two weeks late, watching TV and movies only on disk, DVR or download. Time-shifting is the enemy of advertising, after all; it may also be the enemy of communal experience.

The Ethicist: Father Exposure

Here’s the key question: Would your acquaintance want to know about the affair? Some children crave a deep understanding of their late parents; some cling to an idealized version. If your acquaintance is among the former, give him the letter. If not, or if you are simply unsure, consign it to the flames. Or frame it on your bedroom wall as a reminder of the labyrinthine recesses of the human heart.

Kafka’s Last Trial

During his lifetime, Franz Kafka burned an estimated 90 percent of his work. After his death at age 41, in 1924, a letter was discovered in his desk in Prague, addressed to his friend Max Brod. “Dearest Max,” it began. “My last request: Everything I leave behind me … in the way of diaries, manuscripts, letters (my own and others’), sketches and so on, to be burned unread.”

A New Kind of Cineaste

Over the past quarter century or so, Assayas has emerged as a mainstay of what might be called the middle generation of post-New Wave French auteurs — filmmakers who still labor in the shadow of a heroic band of ancient young rebels, many of whom have shown remarkable, even maddening longevity. Erich Rohmer and Claude Chabrol, part of the groups that burst out of Cahiers in the late 1950s and early ’60s, died this year, at 89 and 80. Jacques Rivette, Agnès Varda and Alain Resnais are all still around, in their 80s, as is Jean-Luc Godard, perpetual imp and inscrutable sage of le cinéma français, who may or may not show up to collect an honorary Oscar in November.

They Did What?

“All the self- examination in the world isn’t going to help anyone bent on self-deception,” she writes, “which is no doubt true of any of us at least some of the time.”

When Life Gets in the Way of Art

But beyond issues of personal betrayal, the news raised much more difficult and fundamental questions — ones central to photography and documentary work but to the history of art and popular culture as well — about artistic intent, about the assumptions and expectations of the viewing public and about the relationship between artists and their work.

The Temporary Vegetarian: Roasted Mushrooms With Goat Cheese and Grits

A Teenager Flying Over a Cuckoo’s Nest

WHEN thinking of the directors Ryan Fleck and Anna Boden, light comedy may not be the first thing to come to mind. The team’s first movie, “Half Nelson,” examined the life of a drug-addicted schoolteacher, while the follow-up, “Sugar,” tracked the trials of a Dominican baseball player who joins a minor-league team in Iowa. But the filmmakers have a message for audiences: They do have a sense of humor. And they love John Hughes.

Enter the Void (2009)

More specifically, “Enter the Void” is the latest from the never uninteresting, sometimes exasperating Mr. Noé, whose films, like “Irrevérsible” (2002), skew toward provocations, filled with flashes of genius and irredeemable nonsense. The title of “Enter the Void,” which sounds like both a dare and a fun-house attraction, makes sense in a work about death and other hard times, but it also expresses Mr. Noé’s bad-boy, punk attitude, which can be hard to take seriously. His insistence on representing ugly extremes (incest, rape, murder) can be especially wearisome, coming across as weak bids to shock his audience (épater la bourgeoisie, as the French poets once said), which, already expecting (perhaps eagerly) a Gaspar Noé freakout, is unlikely to have its world genuinely rocked. But bring it on, Gaspar!

Sunday Book Review: Fairer Deal

Reich insists instead that American consumers, and particularly the middle class, have been buying too little. For years, the United States has consumed more than it has produced; the excess demand has sucked in products from abroad, which is why the nation has run a trade deficit. The idea that the economy has suffered from a lack of demand is, shall we say, eccentric. But Reich declares repeatedly that the stagnation of middle-class buying power has been a drag on growth. “If earnings are inadequate,” he asserts, “an economy produces more goods and services than its people are capable of purchasing.” If that sentence described the American condition in the 1990s and the period leading up to the crash, Reich’s predicted excess output would have gone abroad and the United States would have run a trade surplus.

Festivals Grow Up, Even as Screens Grow Small

It may be that the Toronto International Film Festival has emerged as one of the biggest, most influential festivals in the world specifically because it learned how to bridge that art-cinema world and those conglomerate-owned movie studios we nostalgically refer to as Hollywood. (Other factors doubtless have played a role, including support from the Canadian government and the festival’s location: it’s an easy flight for New York journalists.) To judge from the Lightbox, this balancing act has paid off nicely. It remains to be seen whether the Lightbox, like the new film complex at Lincoln Center, can fill its theaters year-round with viewers who are as eager to dig into cinema’s past as they are to take part in its uncertain future.

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.”

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 best of the best from the New York Times, when I find time.

The Third Replicator

We humans like to think we are the designers, creators and controllers of this newly emerging world but really we are stepping stones from one replicator to the next.

The F Word

Flesh suggests messiness, privileging the indiscipline of life over the fierce control of art, the unaerobicized body spilling over the contours of an artificial silhouette, be it Christian Dior’s New Look in 1947 or Marc Jacobs’s New Look for Louis Vuitton this fall. Flesh also suggests the threateningly female, moistness and blood, the hothouse clutches of a heavy-breasted mother — off-putting images for male fashion designers, who are more often than not gay. (Think of Karl Lagerfeld’s withering disdain on hearing that a German magazine would now be using only regular-size women in its fashion spreads: “No one wants to see curvy women… . You’ve got fat mothers with their bags of chips sitting in front of the television and saying that thin models are ugly.”)

Inside the Knockoff-Tennis-Shoe Factory

While looking the shoes over myself, I noticed the label on the inside of the tongue read “Made in Vietnam.” That was all part of the subterfuge, Lin said, adding that there are “different levels of counterfeit. Some are low quality and don’t look anything like the originals. But some are high quality and look just like the real ones. The only way to tell the difference between the real ones and ours is by the smell of the glue.” He took back the shoe, buried his nose in the footbed and inhaled.

The Poetry of Prose

Most striking is that unlike many traditional grammar books, Clark’s reserves its scolding not for students of writing, but for teachers who harbor unduly restrictive views — “members of the crotchety crowd” who “tend to turn their own preferences about grammar and language into useless and unenforceable rules.” Linguistic insecurities and peeves, once they take hold, are exasperatingly difficult to shake. Even though the first edition of Fowler’s book, released way back in 1926, unequivocally states that the proscriptions against ending sentences with prepositions and splitting infinitives are absurd, we’re still arguing about them today, in 2010.

E-Books Make Readers Less Isolated

“I think, historically, there has been a stigma attached to the bookworm, and that actually came from the not-untrue notion that, if you were reading, you weren’t socializing with other people,” Dr. Levinson said. “But the e-reader changes that also because e-readers are intrinsically connected to bigger systems.” For many, e-readers are today’s must-have accessory, eroding old notions of what being bookish might have meant. “Buying literature has become cool again,” he said.

Fixing a World That Fosters Fat

The real problem is a landscape littered with inexpensive fast-food meals; saturation advertising for fatty, sugary products; inner cities that lack supermarkets; and unhealthy, high-stress workplaces.

In other words: it’s the environment, stupid.

Technology Leads More Park Visitors Into Trouble

People with cellphones call rangers from mountaintops to request refreshments or a guide; in Jackson Hole, Wyo., one lost hiker even asked for hot chocolate.

The Value of a Tattoo in Higher Education

David B. Wiseman, a psychologist, showed 128 undergraduate students photographs of tattooed and non-tattooed female models, described as “college instructors.” He found that college students prefer tattoos:

UK Reality TV Programme Branded “Freak Show”

A new British reality TV show, which will film two people — one disfigured, the other attractive — living together in a house full of mirrors, has been branded a “freak show” by critics.

The Sofa Wars

The Times/CBS News survey found that people under the age of 45 were about four times as likely as those 45 and over to say Internet video services could effectively replace cable.

Do the Top Billion Need New Goals?

There’s a set of Millennium Development Goals for the poorest of the poor — a cohort of humanity sometimes described as the “ bottom billion.”

But, as yet, there’s no set of such goals for those who are already living lives that many analysts say are consuming resources at a pace well beyond the planet’s carrying capacity, particularly if the habits that attend affluence — from greatly increased meat consumption to unthinking energy use and greenhouse-gas emissions — are adopted by another few billion people.

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.”

The best articles from the New York Times.

The Born Identity

Designer diapers are a useful tool for sending that message. And perhaps more to the point, they are also an extension of the well-established tendency among contemporary parents to treat their children as identity props. And it’s plausible that this version of that behavior says something about this specific cultural moment.

A Tank’s-Eye View of an Unpopular War

“There is a metamorphosis, first physical, when you lose your sense of taste, you don’t need to eat, you suddenly hear and see everything sharp and clear,” Mr. Maoz said in a telephone interview from his home in Tel Aviv, where he was born and now lives with his longtime partner and their daughter. “When you fall into such an extreme situation, when the basic rules of life are not there, you can’t continue thinking with the logic of normal life. If you do, you’ll probably end up dead.

“At the end you don’t fight for your country or your kids, you’re fighting for your life,” he continued. “And if you survive — and most who died, died in the first day — after the second day you become a soldier of the war. That’s why the focus is very narrow. It’s not good for the war if you can see the whole picture.”

Catch of the Day

I was newly installed as the restaurant critic of The New York Times and had spent the previous few months on a surreptitious tour of some of the city’s best restaurants. I had been eating stupendously well. But nothing I had eaten that summer and fall prepared me for the taste of this tuna that late afternoon, for the intense blast of flavor and rich, creamy fattiness delivered by a cut of truly fresh otoro — supreme tuna belly, in the parlance of the sushi bar — not yet four hours old.

Nothing I had ever eaten could have. The bluefin tuna you get at restaurants, even the best ones, has been flash-frozen and thawed, is days — or weeks — old, has traveled thousands and thousands of miles. In a bite of that absolutely fresh tuna from New Jersey, I experienced a taste of truly wild food, a majestic flavor, something incredibly rare.

Not a Day Over Infinity

As de Grey sees it, there are seven types of cellular junk, the gerontological equivalent of the seven deadly sins. They include “cross links” that gum up the machinery and glue cells to one another and mitochondria that fail with age. Then there is junk within cells and junk in the spaces between cells, along with cells that no longer work but hang around and cells that die and poison cells around them. And then there are old cells that acquire dangerous mutations and give rise to cancer. Weiner’s strength as a writer is his ability to flesh out these complex theories without losing the reader. De Grey’s dream of conquering death may seem far-fetched and unreal, but Big Pharma is already at work on some of these ideas — the first cream that overcomes cross-links, which cause our skin to stiffen and wrinkle, will be a blockbuster.

Drink What You Know

When you think about it, rules for drinking are not so different from rules for writing. Many of these are so familiar they’ve become truisms: Write what you know. Write every day. Never use a strange, fancy word when a simple one will do. Always finish the day’s writing when you could still do more. With a little adaptation these rules apply just as well for drinking. Drink what you know, drink regularly rather than in binges, avoid needlessly exotic booze, and leave the table while you can still stand.

You could also substitute “drink” for “write” in these well-known examples of writerly wisdom. “An author ought to write for the youth of his generation” (Fitzgerald). “Write, damn you! What else are you good for?” (Joyce). “Writing is finally a series of permissions you give yourself to be expressive in certain ways. To leap. To fly. To fail” (Sontag).

$200 Textbook vs. Free. You Do the Math.

Publishers have started de-emphasizing the textbook in favor of selling a package of supporting materials like teaching aids and training. And companies like Houghton Mifflin have created internal start-ups to embrace technology and capture for themselves some of the emerging online business.

They are responding in much the same way traditional software makers did when open-source arrived, by trying to bundle subscription services around a core product that has been undercut.

Beyond Indie

The band is well aware of the possibilities opened up by the Internet. “Hope that something pure can last,” Mr. Butler sings on the band’s new album, “The Suburbs” (Merge). “A lot of things like that end up being memos to myself,” Mr. Butler said. “I keep trying to remember the good things that get lost along the way and trying to apply those lessons to the way the world actually is.”

The Arcade Fire’s songs, credited to the whole band but largely written by Mr. Butler and his wife, Régine Chassagne, mingle the punky and the symphonic, the cryptic and the heart-on-sleeve, the self-doubting and the anthemic, often with surging crescendos that make the tunes optimistic despite themselves. It’s both a stomping rock band and a mini-orchestra, complete with string section, accordion or medieval hurdy-gurdy as needed.

Strange Cargo at Kennedy Airport

These images are from a set of 1,075 photographs — shot over five days last year for the book and exhibition, ‘‘Contraband’’ — of items detained or seized from passengers or express mail entering the United States from abroad at the New York airport. The miscellany of prohibited objects — from the everyday to the illegal to the just plain odd — attests to a growing worldwide traffic in counterfeit goods and natural exotica and offers a snapshot of the United States as seen through its illicit material needs and desires.

Unnatural Science

Clearly I’ve been out of some loop for too long, but does everyone take for granted now that science sites are where graduate students, researchers, doctors and the “skeptical community” go not to interpret data or review experiments but to chip off one-liners, promote their books and jeer at smokers, fat people and churchgoers? And can anyone who still enjoys this class-inflected bloodsport tell me why it has to happen under the banner of science?

I Tweet, Therefore I Am

Each Twitter post seemed a tacit referendum on who I am, or at least who I believe myself to be. The grocery-store episode telegraphed that I was tuned in to the Seinfeldian absurdities of life; my concern about women’s victimization, however sincere, signaled that I also have a soul. Together they suggest someone who is at once cynical and compassionate, petty yet deep. Which, in the end, I’d say, is pretty accurate.

Distilling my personality provided surprising focus, making me feel stripped to my essence. It forced me, for instance, to pinpoint the dominant feeling as I sat outside with my daughter listening to E.B. White. Was it my joy at being a mother? Nostalgia for my own childhood summers? The pleasures of listening to the author’s quirky, underinflected voice? Each put a different spin on the occasion, of who I was within it. Yet the final decision (“Listening to E.B. White’s ‘Trumpet of the Swan’ with Daisy. Slow and sweet.”) was not really about my own impressions: it was about how I imagined — and wanted — others to react to them. That gave me pause. How much, I began to wonder, was I shaping my Twitter feed, and how much was Twitter shaping me?

The Age of Laura Linney

But the magnitude of her delight was informed by something else too. These days her thoughts turn frequently to how lucky she is — how lucky anyone is — simply to experience the pleasure of being alive. It’s a cliché, yes, but isn’t it true? And isn’t it often forgotten? Linney’s next big role, in a project as risky as any she has done, asks questions no less essential than these.

The best articles from the New York Times.

In Praise of Progress

David Brooks: Unemployment is high, and there’s suffering, but global poverty is at its lowest point in human history. Afghanistan is depressing, but there are fewer wars these days than ever before, mostly because a sharp drop in civil wars. In short, everything is better, or nearly everything, and I say that as someone typing with his thumbs while getting eaten alive by mosquitoes in the back yard.Gail

Collins: Wow, the lack of power has really cheered you up. I remember just a few months ago, you were practically suicidal over the toxic politics in Washington.

Building Smarter Machines

Synthetic speech, autonomous robots, computers beating the best humans at chess and checkers. As computers grow ever smarter, a look at developments in the field of artificial intelligence.

Hints of Earth Splash a Saturnian Moon Landscape

However, if prolonged spells of 90-degree temperatures have you yearning for a refreshing icy dip, there are still plenty of bathing opportunities on Titan.

Of course the lakes there are made of liquid methane — and the 90 degrees of temperature are on the Kelvin scale, near enough to absolute zero to challenge even the most cosmically adept polar bear. The atmosphere is nitrogen and methane.

Four Ways to Kill a Climate Bill

But efforts to genetically engineer algae, which usually means to splice in genes from other organisms, worry some experts because algae play a vital role in the environment. The single-celled photosynthetic organisms produce much of the oxygen on earth and are the base of the marine food chain.

“We are not saying don’t do this,” said Gerald H. Groenewold, director of the University of North Dakota’s Energy and Environmental Research Center, who is trying to organize a study of the risks. “We say do this with the knowledge of the implications and how to safeguard what you are doing.”

The Limits of the Coded World

In one set of experiments, researchers attached sensors to the parts of monkeys’ brains responsible for visual pattern recognition. The monkeys were then taught to respond to a cue by choosing to look at one of two patterns. Computers reading the sensors were able to register the decision a fraction of a second before the monkeys’ eyes turned to the pattern. As the monkeys were not deliberating, but rather reacting to visual stimuli, researchers were able to plausibly claim that the computer could successfully predict the monkeys’ reaction. In other words, the computer was reading the monkeys’ minds and knew before they did what their decision would be.

On the Origin of Species (Annotated Text)

Darwin packed this paragraph with all of the elements of the process of natural selection. The phrasing reflects his incomparable knowledge of natural history and his revolutionary new view of nature:

“…variations useful in some way…” – the words of a lifelong collector who appreciated that individual members of a species exhibited variability.

“…the great and complex battle of life…” – unlike his predecessors who viewed nature as a peaceful, harmoniously designed landscape painting, Darwin had observed that nature was a battlefield in which there was tremendous waste and death.

“…thousands of generations?” – Darwin’s grasp of time was critical, his knowledge of geology made him confident that the planet and life were much older than people had once thought, such that there was plenty of time for the process of natural selection to play out.

—Sean B. Carroll, molecular biologist and geneticist; and an investigator of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute at the University of Wisconsin.

The Errors of Our Ways (Book Review)

Schulz begins with a question that should puzzle us more than it does: Why do we love being right? After all, she writes, “unlike many of life’s other delights — chocolate, surfing, kissing — it does not enjoy any mainline access to our biochemistry: to our appetites, our adrenal glands, our limbic systems, our swoony hearts.” Indeed, as she notes, “we can’t enjoy kissing just anyone, but we can relish being right about almost anything,” including that which we’d rather be wrong about, like “the downturn in the stock market, say, or the demise of a friend’s relationship or the fact that at our spouse’s insistence, we just spent 15 minutes schlepping our suitcase in exactly the opposite direction from our hotel.”

Take Ivy (Slideshow)

Time has done little to dim the allure of “Take Ivy,” with its guileless snapshots of handsome, fit and presumably bright young lugs disporting themselves in dining halls, on the College Green at Dartmouth, along Nassau Street in Princeton and in Harvard Yard. Credit: Teruyoshi H Girl

Pop’s Lady Gaga Makeover

Furthermore, the thing that most separates Lady Gaga from the bubblegum sirens of a decade ago is that her capacity for seduction has been neutered, recontextualized. Near the end of her recent Madison Square Garden show she emerged onstage with sparklerlike contraptions on her chest and crotch, spitting out tiny, angry, smoldering bits. “You tell them I burned the place!” she shouted. It was a straightforward repudiation of hypersexualized imagery. There was nowhere to touch without getting hurt.

Plus-Size Wars

Perhaps nowhere is the cultural confusion surrounding the larger woman more pronounced than in the clothing industry’s efforts to dress her. According to a 2008 survey conducted by Mintel, a market-research firm, the most frequently worn size in America is a 14. Government statistics show that 64 percent of American women are overweight (the average woman weighs 164.7 pounds). More than one-third are obese. Yet plus-size clothing (typically size 14 and above) represents only 18 percent of total revenue in the women’s clothing industry. The correlation between obesity and low income goes some way toward explaining the discrepancy — the recession was particularly hard on this segment of the market, with sales declining 10 percent between 2008 and 2009, a drop twice that of the women’s apparel industry over all — but it doesn’t explain it entirely. That figure has been fairly constant for the past 20 years.

Everybody’s a Critic of the Critics’ Rabid Critics

But then a second round of notices tarnished that luster. David Edelstein of New York magazine, Stephanie Zacharek of Movieline.com and Armond White, the reliably oppositional critic at The New York Press, published pans that ranged from frustrated to weary to vitriolic, decrying the rush to inscribe “Inception” in the pantheon of cinematic greatness. For their efforts these and other similarly unimpressed writers were treated like advocates for national health care at a Tea Party rally, their motives, their professionalism, their morals and their sanity questioned, and not always politely. What seemed to provoke the most ire was that these critics had shown the temerity to mention what other critics had written, and to respond to the aggressive marketing and the early effusions.

Facebook Is to Power Company as …

“I worry that we’ll end up with solutions that are familiar but not correct if we start from the wrong metaphor,” she said. “And I’m not sure there is a good metaphor for Facebook.”

Married, but Sleeping Alone

Technology is an even greater intrusion. Forget the tired debate about TV in the bedroom; how about your ex’s Twitter feed? Anyone who’s around teenage girls or techy men knows someone who checks e-mail, text messages or Facebook pages after turning out the light at night and before going to the bathroom in the morning.With all this commotion, it’s no wonder the bed has become such an unappealing place to sleep. Between whining kids, buzzing BlackBerrys, stacks of unpaid bills and overturned bottles of Evian and Ambien, the bedroom has become more crowded than the kitchen. If my house is any indication (“You get up early with the kids on Monday, I’ll move the car on Tuesday”), my bed needs its own Outlook calendar.