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IDEAS: FEATURES
Tricks in the Book Books with soundtracks, books that change your heart rate... Call me a Luddite, but why can't we leave the book alone?
The Sound of Difference Why we find some languages more beautiful than others.
Sweeping Smooth Every kind of movement on ice is delightful. But ice dancing, pure and elegant, is the most wonderful of all.
All Made Up Women have a long history of being expected to create themselves through what they wear. But are we really nothing more than slaves to our appearances? An excerpt from Getting Dressed: Confession, Criticism, Cultural History.
Greek Revival In English for the first time, Giacomo Leopardi’s extraordinary 19th century diary Zibaldone is an unexpected window on the American relationship with the ancient world.
What’s In an Anniversary? People were annoyed with Proust even when he was alive, so how can we keep him relevant today? By forcefully pushing his anniversary, of course.
Cutting Remarks Today, all you need to carve the turkey is an electric knife. In the 1600s, you needed a serious education.
The Search for Lost History Jane Franklin, once lost, is now found. But is she only interesting to us because she’s Ben’s sister?
A Wilde Fashion Oscar Wilde abandoned journalism and hated fashion – so why is his essay "The Philosophy of Dress" so important?
Books About Books What happens when reading and writing become literary subjects? 
Crossing Borders Authors are hungry for translators and translators desperate for recognition. A new website attempts to align their desires.
Fragments and Mirrors When we view the past through the lens of the present, what do we lose?
1750 Shades of Grey 50 Shades of Grey wasn’t the first — fiction has asked us to willingly relinquish autonomy since the 18th century.
Colored Consumerism After the Industrial Revolution the world found something new to mass-produce: color.
The Postmodern Phenomenon Ten reasons why Pride and Prejudice rocks at 200.

Buyology Philosophers, disciples, and even Bob Dylan agree: Money is bad… right?
The Best Sport You've Never Seen In the United Kingdom the elite athletes of the Paralympics are as revered as Olympians themselves. Why can’t Americans jump on the bandwagon and welcome some new sports?
Banished Words Generations of language conservatives can't accept the nature of communication — it changes.
Shell' Game ''Shelley's Ghost'' reveals the bad behavior of the great poet. But can we really separate the two?
Fifty Thousand and Counting Borges' short story ''The Aleph'' was the theme of a Day of the Dead celebration in Mexico, which is finding more and more dead every day.
The Eco Chamber The Prague Cemetery is either tasteless, perverse, or flat-out pointless. Such is Umberto Eco's power to do whatever he wants.
The Bead Goes On John Ruskin decried the manufacture of glass beads 160 years ago. And yet here I am, at a bead expo!
Mean Girl I was always skeptical of Jackie Kennedy. Her new Conversations confirm my suspicions.

The Code War Research conducted after 9/11 can help us build safer skyscrapers. That doesn't mean we will.
Work It Steve Jobs gave us the iPod, the iPad, and the world's most successful blurring of work and play, better known as business casual.
Paperback Politics If you want to understand libertarian politics today, forget Ayn Rand. Read Robert Heinlein instead.
Classroom Wars War stories captivate my middle school students, but is structuring history around its battles the best way to teach?
22 Going on 50 Catch-22 presents a Catch-22: How can you protest the moral chaos of the '50s with a novel set in time of moral clarity?
What Not to Wear I saw the Alexander McQueen exhibition at the circus. I mean, at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

France's Fathers Being a man in the U.S. and being one in France have long meant different things. But does the uproar surrounding Strauss-Kahn reflect a turning point in Gallic culture?
Take Two Hookworms and Call Me in the Morning We spent decades trying to eradicate hookworm. Whoops?
A Model Body In the 19th century, doctors and artists worked together. Should they again in the 21st?

A Story About Toys At Toy Fair 2011, it wasn't enough that toys were fun for kids. Adults had to love them, too.
My Two Sense Sense and Sensibility is two centuries old this year, but its lesson is as relevant as ever.
A Tear The smell of women's tears turns off men. What other smelly signs are we sending?
A Wing and a Prayer Can the Fernando Valley Racing Pigeon Club reverse their sport's decline? The breeders and trainers have done their part; now it's just up to the pigeons.
The New Memory Theater What we don't talk about when we talk about the death of the book.

Only Half the Story Jacob Lawrence told the story of the Great Migration through 60 paintings. So why are 30 in D.C., and 30 in New York City?
A Bridge Over Troubled Water The water behind Hoover Dam is sinking. A new tell-all history is out. And next month, the Hoover Dam Bypass opens. Some 75th anniversary!
Music to a Poet's Ear Billy Collins says music lyrics aren't poetry. Great. Just what poetry needs: less accessibility.
Life's Work William James refused to reduce life or cancel possibility (and he didn't like Henry's writing).

Dictating a Masterpiece Modern writers now use voice recognition software. Milton, Dostoevsky, and Henry James made due with...women.
Notes from a Video Game Developer Why game developers are dissatisfied with where the medium is now. And why that's an exciting place to be.
My Drug Problem I went to the American Society of Clinical Oncology conference and all I got was candy. The French got steak dinners and off-label research data!
Counter Argument The department store makeover really is transformative: You leave feeling a whole lot uglier and poorer.
Sunday in the Park with Georgia National parks get all the glory, but the state parks present a much more complex identity. And they need help.

Best Friends The portrait doubled. A photo essay with text by Lyle Rexer.

Slick Reporting News of every oil spill is illustrated with pictures of dead or oily animals. This is good for the animal, but bad for the environment.
Throw Your Wands in the Air Will the last Harry Potter films be the end of ''wrock,'' the wizard rock you've never heard (about)?
Writing Circle Hello, my name is Nick, and I'm addicted to literary biographies.

A Dressing-Down Yes, people wear shorts to the opera. But that just means I can wear a cocktail dress to the supermarket.
Smile! March comes in like a lion and goes out with a live video stream of a zoo lion.
On Value I tried to determine if my painting was an actual Sheeler. The art museum's conclusion? Maybe it is, and maybe it isn't.
Lo' and Behold I know what's behind a logo such as Louis Vuitton's LV, and yet I still want a $1,600 Vuitton bag. Go figure!
Wrong Place, Wrong Time I recognized something in Kari that I had seen in other young patients who had suffered near-fatal trauma: hope and possibility. But for young black men in the city, the feelings didn't last long.
A Sticky Story The United States is a dynamic and forward-looking country. So why is its dominant visual identity so staid and reflective?
Diorama-o-rama Natural history dioramas are compelling artifacts, if everyone could just stop stripping them of any complexity.

Eat Drink Actor Director What did it take for food to become a big-screen star? Oh, just the death of linear storytelling. You can't have it all, I suppose.
There Is No Try To a kid growing up in a broken family with no religious training, Star Wars and Lord of the Rings and D&D provided an escape from the world. But they also showed me how to live in it.
Seed Money Every expo tries to sell a story. But at the country's biggest indoor farm show, what you see is what you get.
Paper or Plastic? There is always a price to pay for new technology, but right now I'M JUST TOO EXCITED THAT MY KINDLE HOLDS 1,000 BOOKS!
The Bad Seed? Birdfeeder season has arrived. Ready for all that environmental, aesthetic, scientific, and financial responsibility?
The Family Jewels It's Christmas! Let's haul out the holly...and breast milk and umbilical cords and foreskins and blood.
I'm Dreaming... Why do we make artificial snow? Uh, because we can.
Bitch, Please Can't wait until Thanksgiving to know the winner of the National Dog Show? Neither could I.
The Prose of Kierkegaard As this new translation of Repetition shows, the philosopher wrote lovely books that can actually be read and enjoyed by those outside the academy.
Sports Animal Used to be a bear or a lion made a good team mascot. Then came the Phillie Phanatic.
Peepin' Ain't Easy You think fall foliage viewing is just about finding a tree and staring at it? Wrong.
Getting the Green Light Scientists have used gene therapy to correct color blindness in monkeys. Will humans now see the light?
Getting Tanked Fishing for answers at the Annual Marine Aquarium Conference of North America.
Pet Project Could there be any worse time to celebrate National Pet Health Insurance Month?
Name Tags Taxonomy may be an evolved skill, but human subjectivity has no place in the lab. Or so we're told.
Times Up Living in rural Maine, getting The New York Times every day on the Kindle feels like a small miracle. But nobody said miracles are perfect.
The John Hughes Canon Director John Hughes has died. Smart Set writers reconsider some of the director's most influential films, a cinematic world populated by nerds and jocks, computers and dogs, Seurat and Santa.
Symbolic Gestures Ken Burns' upcoming film on the National Park Service will be full of beautiful images, but a more intriguing visual story is told through its symbols.
Crossing the Tan Line We work hard to cover our breasts and penises. And then summer comes along.
Michael's Menagerie Everyone keeps saying Michael Jackson had a bizarre taste in pets. They were actually pretty boring choices.

Long Live the King of Pop Michael Jackson's death has ended his latest attempt at a comeback. Does it have to?
By Greg Beato

The Family Business The books of John and Dan Fante have long existed outside the spotlight. That could change this year, John's centennial.
Animal Crossing Economic trend: African safari, out; American drive-thru safari, in?
Aging Stressfully Stop stressing over your age — research shows it only speeds up the process!
Consider the Hermit Crab In praise of the hermit crab, our favorite animal of summer. And if it dies…well, there’s always next summer.
The Elephant in the Room I hear complaints over Wal-Mart and McDonald's and McMansions, but what about the sameness of the zoo landscape?
Duck, Duck, Goose The Ward World Championship is a competition for the only American art form grounded in deception: bird carving.
Final Edition It's a cruel irony that as newspapers die, the death notices they run are more popular than ever. But football fans have Sports, so why shouldn't those terrified of death have Obituaries?
On Reading Liebling A.J. Liebling said nobody better could write faster, and nobody faster wrote better. Marry that with the diversity of his beats — food, the War, boxing, the press — and you have a striking portrait of the mid-20th century.
French Lessons A new exhibit explores Americans' obsession with French fashion (and the knock-offs they spawned at home).
In Memoriam Drexel University President Constantine Papadakis, 1946-2009.
Gorilla Warfare Government support of zoos is increasingly seen as frivolous. Not so in the Great Depression.
A Brief History We bemoan the rise of Twitter, of limiting thoughts to 140 characters. Brevity, however, has a particularly noble lineage.
Experimental Nonfiction I'm often fascinated by scientists' intelligence, but I'm always impressed by their confidence.
Green Economy In this economy, stop and smell the roses. No, seriously, they're on display at the world's largest flower show.

Button Pushing Now that Benjamin Button's finally lost the Oscar, let's turn to a better marriage of Fitzgerald and Hollywood.
Happy Camper I couldn't imagine a worse time to have a motor home sale. But at the 2009 Reading RV Show, I realized some dreams can't be put on hold.
Hot Wheels From Baghdad to Berlin, Shanghai to Dubai, new Ferris wheels are going up all over the world. Can a symbol of the 19th century remain iconic in the 21st?
Nature vs. Nature When is the natural world like The Real World? When we're choosing its seven 'official' Wonders.

Gimme Even More Britney Spears is producing a three-volume autobiography. It doesn't necessarily need to be awful.
By Greg Beato

A Sense of Loss Ever heard how you can't eat just one chip? You might soon be able to blame biology!
Fat Cats Celebrate artifice: Feed a zoo animal.
Poe at 200 Two centuries after he was born, the creator of modern horror is taught in almost every school in America. How well is another matter completely...
Wintry Mix New research reveals why winter is chock full of such discontent.
Skeletal Remains Happy 140th birthday, dinosaur displays! You don't look a day over 65 million.

Broken Record When is a world record a sad affair? When it's noted in Guinness World Records 2009.
By Greg Beato


For Those About to Tread Water, We Salute You If it's change you believe in, do not buy tickets to an AC/DC show.
By Greg Beato

Dear John We take the toilet for granted, but almost half the world lacks access to one. On World Toilet Day, we consider its impact on longevity, safety, education, and even tourism. (Bonus: Do you squat in the East or Southeast Asian manner?)
A Giant Problem The large mammals are our closest relatives. So why is our relationship with them so tense?
A Hairy Predicament Siberians once threw lice on visitors to show love. After getting lice myself, I can say Siberians had a weird definition of love.

Far Out The theory that gods are aliens is back in fiction. But why'd it fade as a religion in the first place?
By Nathan Schneider


America Wants Talent In the age of the reality TV star, how to explain our strange affection for magicians, jugglers, and ventriloquists?
By Greg Beato

Green Politics Golf was once such a simple sport, back before it involved human rights, Nelson Mandela, and murder.
Ocean View At the Smithsonian's new Ocean Hall, the drama of the seas plays out alongside that of the modern natural history museum.
The Pale Cast of Thought For David Foster Wallace, good art was a guide through dark times. Sometimes, alas, good art is not enough.
Boob Tube A 50-inch plasma TV feels gauche, but that's the shuffling progress of civilization for you.
Guiding Light The Peterson Field Guide to Birds of North America celebrates its creator's centennial this month. But why do we still need field guides?
The Death of the Monoculture Why no summer jam this summer? Blame the death of the monoculture.
Refueling Think things are slow on the NJ Turnpike? Try eating at its rest stops.
Got Gout? Once the "disease of kings," gout is back with a vengeance.
Power Hungry Plants, wind, and sunlight make good energy. Oil, coal, and the atom make good exhibits.
Zookeeping Small-town zoos lack the pizazz of those in New York, San Diego, and D.C. Sometimes that's a good thing.
Have Tour, Will Travel In the market for a trip to China's Three Gorges, before the dam makes it one giant liquidation sale.
What's up, Doc? Werner Herzog's made a film about life on Antarctica. Too bad nature documentaries don't matter anymore.
Smell Ya Later? We can measure eyesight and hearing. So why not smell?
Sex? All the talk on Sex and the City misses both what's right and what's wrong with the film.

Gallagher? Seriously? Who goes to a Gallagher show in 2008? That's what I wanted to know.
By Meg Favreau

The Sweet Smell of Species Success Our noses don't like the smell of BO, but maybe our brains do.
Now Just Relax... Meditators always thought happiness could be learned. Now scientists are agreeing.
Body Service How Brazilian waxes make our era less like the freewheeling '60s and more like the Victorian years.
Great Expectations People don't read anymore. Translation is expensive. The Internet! At the London Book Fair, the sky was most definitely falling.
Losing My Mind My terrible memory makes me worry I have Alzheimer's. Luckily hints are emerging as to what exactly that means.
Bag Ladies Class struggles, identity, democratization, and postmodernism. They're all tied up in the shopping bag.
D Day If vitamin D is something everyone takes for granted, why are we talking about rickets in 2008?
Open House The open house: Sunday afternoon voyeurism.
Bottled Water World I was a judge in an international water contest — tap waters, purified waters, spring waters, sparkling waters. It was almost enough to make one forget there's an H2O crisis looming.
The End of the Affair I loved reading books. Buying them. Writing them. But in the age of the megastores, the love affair is over.
The Mosquito and the Itch Mosquito bites make us feel itchy. But scratching one may actually be an emotional response.

No New Developments Polaroid film will soon be gone. In our digital age, an instant photo is just not instant enough.
By Brian M. O'Connell

Home Bodies A home show is a domestic circus, with homeowners as its Super Mop-buying freaks.
The Oily Truth The connection between ibuprofen and olive oil may finally end the healthy diet debate.

Body Triple So why does Hannah Montana (or is it Miley Cyrus?) get away with lip-synching?
By Greg Beato

Night Terrors Chronic sleep loss leads to bad decisions, obesity, and disease. An argument for the nap.
The Art Catalog The theorists are always arguing about what makes something art. 30,000 Years of Art says let's just move on and look at some more of it.
Bobby Fischer Read Here He rose to fame as an international chess whiz, but spent his last days in the back corner of a sleepy Reykjavik bookstore.
Car Parts Chinese manufacturers, assembly lines, spinning stages, and sparkly dresses. Our correspondent reports from the North American International Auto Show in Detroit.
Replacing the Volvo Deeply entrenched in a suburban lifestyle, I'm supposed to love my Volvo. But the car is not lovable.
Beauty Secrets There's Classical beauty. And then there's Make Me a Supermodel.
Allergic Response Why twice as many people now suffer from allergies, and why that won't change any time soon.
The Oberlin Experiment There was a time when sports and politics were inseparable, and Oberlin College launched a lunatic revolution of Radical Athleticism and "jock liberation." It may be the great unwritten chapter in American sports history.
Shopping With Henry Jaglom Going Shopping is Henry Jaglom's third film on female neurotic desires. Is he a genius or a jerk?
At the Body, Mind, and Spirit Expo I heard pets speak from the grave, had a picture of my aura taken, and got sucked into a Scientology pitch. And that was just the first day.
What's Your Doomsday? We fear death. So why don't we fear the things that will truly bring it on?
Department Store Elegy Department store culture belied the fact that women had nothing to do but shop. But they were an experience, smoky aisles and all.
The Blusher Darwin said blushing is the most human of all the expressions. He was obviously not a chronic blusher.

My Night at the Roller Derby The fishnets and elbows of roller derby hint at a time when the narrative of success was less complex.
By Paula Marantz Cohen

Sequins & Scandals Figure skating is the quintessential American sport. It's both fiercely individualistic and incredibly conformist. And athletes and fans have an extraordinarily high tolerance for corruption. Our correspondent reports from Skate America.
The Official Typeface of the 20th Century Helvetica turned 50 this year. A profile of the font that gave shape and tone to our visual culture.
Thrift Shop Buying To some, thrift stores are disgusting. To me, they hint at lives I'll never know.
In Praise of the Town Library Its budget is never enough. Its collection is often small. But I have not yet visited one, not even in the drowsiest rural village, in which a child could not find enough to get started.
Here's To the Death of the "Death of" Article Stephen King asks: What ails the short story? That question misses the point entirely.
Souvenirs Leather belt from Rio or fur hat from Russia, the souvenir is not so much a remembrance of things past as a promise of things to come.
Old Like Me Can empathy be taught? I put corn in my shoes and almost pee on the floor as I undergo aging sensitivity training.
The Impossibility of Gift-Giving Mauss said gift-giving was more about form than content. He must never have been gifted an ugly bracelet.
Menckenmania How do you celebrate a grouch like Mencken? Our correspondent went to Baltimore for his 127th birthday and found that it involves torture, opera, pit bulls, and cheese.
Trans Phat At home, our columnist normally denies her deep-seated junk food urges. In Denmark, she didn't have to. How a McDonald's in Copenhagen is better than one in the U.S.
Supermarkets Why a supermarket is never quite right.
Northeast Kingdom The apple can be robust or whithered, delicious or deadly, beautiful or terrifying. A photo essay with text by John Wood.
A Dilettante's Guide to Art 1001 Paintings You Should See Before You Die acknowledges the question "What is Painting?" The answer: "Who cares?"
Small Businesses Blink and you'll miss them. Tiny free-standing businesses are the proverbial canaries in the coal mines, the first to go when gentrification comes knocking. A photo essay.
Creating a Truth About half of the United States does not believe in evolution. Our correspondent visits a new, $27 million creationism museum in Kentucky, built just for them.
Scopes Revisited Every few years Darwin gets hauled into court. We revisit the most famous case of all, the Scopes Trial.
Paleontologist Kenneth Lacovara Science exists whether humans exist or not. A Q&A with paleontologist Kenneth Lacovara.
The Last Taboo To praise shopping is to breach the last taboo of academic culture.
   

IDEAS: COLUMNS
Idle Chatter Field notes on arts, culture, and everything else from our critic-at-large. All columns >
When Hitler Was Curator The "Degenerate Art" exhibition at the Neue Galerie is full of easy truths. But let the disquiet emerge.


Pertinent & Impertinent The big ideas on the small, the not-so-small, and the everyday. All columns >
The Sound of Despair On the music of Kurt Cobain, 20 years after his death.


Visual Studies Dispatches from exhibitions around the world.
All columns >
Burn the Paintings Is iconoclasm anything more than the senseless destruction of art?

Pop Studies Commentary on the worlds of entertainment, style, and media. All columns >
The Swimsuit Issue When Barbie appeared on the cover of Sports Illustrated, all the usual Barbie hate ensued. For me, it feels so 30 years ago.

Keeping Score Notes on music from around the world and throughout history. All columns >
Labor of Love This year, classical music fans celebrate the centennial of Benjamin Britten. But they shouldn't forget his lifelong collaborator and lover, Peter Pears. 

Consumer Confidence Notes on what we buy, why we buy it, and how companies get us to keep buying more.
All columns >

Out of Focus Kodak changed the way we see, share, and remember the world. Then the world itself changed.


Life Science Investigations into the intersection of science and humanity.
All columns >
Take Two Hookworms and Call Me in the Morning We spent decades trying to eradicate hookworm. Whoops?

The Look of Things Notes on design. All columns >
Fashion-Forward Does fashion belong in the museum? As the consummate expression of postmodern art, it does.


Noncanonical Notes from a barbarian at the gates of culture.
All columns >
Trunk Show Interest in Weinergate isn't prurient — or new. The struggle between reason and passion has captivated us for centuries.


Bookslut A regular column from a very promiscuous reader.
All columns >
Leave James Joyce Alone! James Joyce wasn't perfect, but you don't have to run his entire family through the wringer.


The Naturalist Communications with the living world.
All columns >
Sunday in the Park with Georgia National parks get all the glory, but the state parks present a much more complex identity. And they need help.

On Shopping To praise shopping is to breach the last taboo of academic culture. All columns >
Counter Argument The department store makeover really is transformative: You leave feeling a whole lot uglier and poorer.

Used Books Revisiting older books in light of new events.
All columns >
That's Rich The wealthy always have the terrible among their ranks. At least Diana Mitford was frank about her terribleness.


Most Viewed
- What was so new about Futurism? By Morgan Meis
- On the music of Kurt Cobain, 20 years after his death. By Stefany Anne Golberg
- Where have all the fairies gone? They were run over by automobiles. By Wayne Curtis

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