“Imagine no possessions,” John Lennon asked in a famous song. Then wisely added: “I wonder if you can.” I note that Lennon was driving a 19-feet-long Rolls Royce when he composed the song “Imagine.” In fact, he didn’t really drive it; he had a couple of chauffeurs available for that. The former Beatle spent his time in the back seat, where he had a double bed installed along with a television and refrigerator.

No, I don’t blame Lennon. He’s not the only person to take pride in ownership while imagining a property-free world he didn’t actually want to inhabit. Bernadette Peters summed up the pervasive attitude best in the Steve Martin film The Jerk, when she faces the prospect of going from wealth to poverty. “I don’t care about losing all the money,” she declares bravely. Then after a pause: “It’s losing all the stuff.” More… “Why Music Ownership Matters”

Ted Gioia writes about music, literature and popular culture. He is the author of ten books, most recently How to Listen to Jazz

I once read that happiness plateaus after $75,000 a year. Before you get to the “magic number,” increases in income correspond to increases in happiness. After that, more money won’t buy you more happiness.

I believe it, but it’s hard to believe. By this metric, I should have already reached maximum happiness. And yet there are things I feel sure would make me happier if I could afford them.

One of those things is a bigger bed. My husband John and I have slept on a full-size (AKA double) mattress for almost ten years. This once seemed normal, but now it seems ridiculously small, though our sizes haven’t changed much. Over the past decade, we may have each gained five pounds. More crucially, John is 6′ 4″. A full-size mattress is 75 inches long. That makes him one inch longer than the bed. He’s also an insomniac (of the sleep-onset variety), a restless sleeper, and occasional snorer. I fall asleep easily, but wake up easily too, and in the early morning hours I find it hard to go back to sleep. I feel sure that we’d both get more and better sleep, and thus be happier, in a bigger bed. More… “Time, Money, Happiness”

Elisa Gabbert is the author of L’Heure Bleue, or the Judy Poems (Black Ocean), The Self Unstable (Black Ocean) and The French Exit (Birds LLC). Follow her on Twitter at @egabbert.

Should the federal government subsidize the arts? I have pondered the question ever since 1989, when, with many other residents of Washington, D.C., I went to see an exhibit of Robert Mapplethorpe’s obscene photographs which had been cancelled by the Corcoran Exhibit for fear of having federal funds cut off by enraged congressional conservatives. At the entrance to the exhibit, which was hosted instead by the Washington Project for the Arts, a group was collecting signatures for a petition saying that all American artists had the right to taxpayer subsidies, with no strings attached. I offered my signature, but only on condition that the petition organizers in turn provide me with another petition, attesting that I was an American artist and thus entitled to taxpayer money. My offer was not taken up. More… “Should Taxpayers Subsidize the Arts?”

Michael Lind is a contributing writer of The Smart Set, a fellow at New America in Washington, D.C., and author of Land of Promise: An Economic History of the United States.


“But it is pretty to see what money will do.” So says London diarist Samuel Pepys in his March 21 1666, entry. And he’s right. Money can “answereth all things” according to Ecclesiastes; it “doesn’t talk, it swears” according to Bob Dylan; it’s “good for bribing yourself through the inconveniences of life” according to Gottfried Reinhardt; it’s that “clinking, clanking sound” that makes the world go round” according to the Cabaret emcee; “it’s better than poverty, if only for financial reasons” according to Woody Allen. Money can even purchase the wherewithal for a personal credo: “I believe in meditating in the tub with some very nice bath products,” Oprah declares. “Origins Ginger Bath is one I use a lot.” Well, I suppose meditating is a fine and centering thing, as long as one meditates with rather than on… More…

In your living room, the broadcast age is over. Remote controls, VCRs, DVRs, on-demand cable, videogame consoles, Netflix, and the Internet killed it. But at the gas pump, broadcast lives on in its purest, most potent form, like an ostensibly slain slasher movie villain who’s come back from the dead, stronger than ever. It is an awesome thing to behold.


Gas Station TV, a digital network founded by former Yahoo! advertising executive David Leider in 2006, can now be seen at 1,000 stations across the country. When you being fueling, an all-weather, 20-inch LCD screen on top of the pump springs into action, playing a 4.5-minute loop of newzak, infotainment, and lots and lots of commercials. PumpTop TV and Outcast, two similar networks that have formed a partnership with each other to… More…

I don’t need an iPad. I don’t want an iPad. But every few days for the last two months, I’ve spent some time thinking about whether or not I need an iPad, or want an iPad. Apple’s TV commercials for the product aren’t making me ask these questions. Neither are all the cool things an iPad can reportedly do. I’ve heard there are apps for magazines like Wired and Sports Illustrated that are so remarkable they’re going to save the magazine industry, but I have no idea what makes them so mind-blowing. I do read a lot of websites that specialize in showcasing new products, though, and every few days now, at least one of these sites features some new iPad case that catches my eye.


It started on April 1, two days before… More…

At just 540 calories, KFC’s new chicken sandwich, the Double Down, makes for a modest meal. Even skimpy Hollywood movie star Megan Fox would have to down nearly five of them each day to sustain her weight of 114 pounds. But if the sodium-drenched morsel seems more tooled for casual snacking than a serious feast, it has certainly satisfied our collective appetite for outrage and controversy. In the lead-up to and aftermath of its national debut three weeks ago, the Double Down emerged as an irresistibly mediagenic, instantly polarizing force, the junk food equivalent of Sarah Palin.


In true maverick fashion, the Double Down replaces the plainest, least indulgent part of a traditional chicken sandwich — the bun — with the most delicious part — the chicken. At first glance, this seems like a… More…

I ought to be past the stage of being a SINK.


Instead, in part thanks to the economy, in part due to changing mores, I’m still stuck as a SINK (Single Income No Kids). I just wish that the word didn’t strike me as being so forlorn, evoking someone having a sardine sandwich for supper.

By chance or choice some couples are Double-Income-No-Kids — DINKs — and, as such, are said to have lots of discretionary income. Oodles of it. The acronym frames parenthood in terms of finances.

The terms “DINK” and “SINK” are related to age and place in the life cycle as it was traditionally constructed. Contemporary usage applies “DINK” to a couple only during the decades when they might be financially responsible for children. Referring to both gay and straight couples, “DINK” isn’t commonly used… More…


Give a bird a seed, you feed it for a day. Give a bird a bird feeder, and you start driving its evolution. Who knew?

Scientists didn’t, at least not until they started studying the migratory patterns of Central European blackcaps in southern Germany and Austria. The small gray birds that summer there traditionally winter on the Iberian Peninsula, fleeing the nutritionally sparse region for the lush olives and fruits of sunny Spain every year. But in the 1950s, a small part of the population began overwintering on the British isles instead of Spain. It seemed like a case of different strokes for different songbirds, until German scientists discovered in 1992 that a genetic basis for the behavior had developed. The light cues that send the birds back to Germany each year come earlier in… More…