It’s that time of year when you see the racks of oddly configured swaths of cloth hanging in the front of stores. Bathing suits: absurd, wrong-headed garments. I continue to be mystified by how people continue to buy and wear them.

It’s a given that women of a certain age don’t like the way they look in bathing suits. The comic strip Cathy has made this a seasonal riff. But the cartoon misses the point in linking problems with bathing suits to female vanity. It’s not about vanity; it’s about modesty. Not about looking fat but about being naked.

Even as a child, I understood this. As I ran under the sprinkler in my electric orange two-piece, I knew that it was one thing for me, with my hairless legs and flat chest, to wear such a scanty,… More…

 

“I’m like, I don’t believe this shit.” That’s the opening line of Jay McInerney’s Story of My Life. The thought is coming from Alison Poole, the protagonist of the novel (if you can use that term). McInerney based the character of Alison Poole on a woman he dated in the ’80s. Her name back then was Lisa Druck. She later married a guy named Alexander Hunter III and changed her name to Rielle Hunter. Then she had an affair with presidential candidate John Edwards. The rest is tabloid history. This shit really is hard to believe.

With those first two words — “I’m like” — it is clear that this is not your classic life story. Compare, for instance, the first sentence of Hans Christian Andersen’s The True Story of My Life. It goes, “My life is a… More…

Publishing – and not just nature – abhors a vacuum, and the chasm between Peter Kramer (Listening to Prozac) and the assorted others who sing the praises of psychopharmacology, and the group led by folks like Eric G. Wilson (Against Happiness) who believe depression is good for you, certainly was airless. It was only a matter of time before the industry tried to fill the gap with books that acknowledged people’s growing distrust of Prozac and its brethren but also their belief that depression is something that should be fought and eradicated.

Unstuck: Your Guide to the Seven-Stage Journey Out of Depression by James S. Gordon. Penguin. 448 pages. $16.00 (new in paperback). The Depression Cure: The 6-Step Program to Beat Depression without Drugs by Stephen S. Ilardi. De Capo Lifelong Books. 304 pages. $25.00.

The last few… More…

Last week, the BBC informed the world that many persons would like the music of AC/DC to accompany them in the act of shuffling off their mortal coils. This information came by way of a poll asking people in Britain what song they would like to have played at their own funeral. There were, of course, the usual religious songs—”The Lord Is my Shepard,” “Amazing Grace” —as well the expected classical such as like Schubert’s “Ave Maria” and Pachelbel’s “Canon in D Major.”

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Final Edition What About Bob?

It’s the secular songs, though, that are more surprising. There is the aforementioned AC/DC coming in with “Highway to Hell,” Queen’s “Another One Bites the Dust,” as well as Meatloaf’s “Bat out of Hell.” The secularists are, it seems, uncomfortable with God but on fairly good terms with… More…

Americans might have flocked to Paris in the ’20s, but the real action was in Berlin — the modern Babylon where every night felt like New Year’s Eve and any pleasure could be obtained for a price. In fact, if ever a historical era blurred into one continuous, manic party, it was Berlin in the Weimar years. (The name Weimar Republic comes from the small city where Germany’s first democratic constitution was drawn up; it lasted from 1919 until the Nazi takeover in 1933). Berliners had always enjoyed a reputation for licentious behavior and artistic rebellion; many Germans blamed the invigorating Berliner Luft, Berlin wind, for encouraging a tendency to perversion. But the defeat in the World War I and the hyperinflation that followed seemed to shatter any vestige of security and restraint. By 1923, it was as if there really was a whiff of cocaine in the breeze: “The… More…

 

Has America really lost its passion for antifungal clown clogs so quickly?

In February 2006, Crocs, Inc. raised $208 million in its IPO; it was the most successful stock market debut for a footwear company in the history of feet.  In 2007, Crocs sold 30 million pairs of shoes worldwide. In October of that year, its stock price hit $75 per share, giving the company a market cap of $6 billion. In 2008, revenues declined $126 million from the previous year, with a 44 percent drop in the fourth quarter alone. A couple of weeks ago, Crocs’ auditors expressed “substantial doubt about the company’s ability to continue as a going concern.”  This week, the company is scrambling to find a way to pay off a $22.4 million debt on its revolving credit line. Its… More…

Everyone loves a party open to all comers, and the emperors of Rome were history’s most magnanimous hosts. But while their citizens were accustomed to lavish freebies, living as they did on grain handouts and endless public entertainments, one particular day — April 21, 248 A.D. — must have stood out as the ultimate bash. That was when the ancient megalopolis hosted the world’s first and most opulent millennial celebrations, marking 1,000 years since the city’s foundation by the shepherd Romulus.

It was the mother of all anniversaries, and everything was laid on.

At the time, the empire had been weathering some hard knocks — the early third century had seen repeated barbarian incursions and civil strife — but Rome was still the undisputed… More…