Category: Popular Culture

This Mysterious Notion of Quality

People blessed with this amorphous attribute we call “taste” like to congratulate themselves for being able to discern the difference between that which is good and salutary and that which is bad and degrading. (Those who are too busy or distracted to make such distinctions rely on taste consultants known as reviewers.) Books, music, paintings,...

The Voracious Appetite

Recently we spent two weeks away in Central and South America, including a visit to the country of Ecuador, which, among other tourist attractions, offers visitors an opportunity to visit the “Mital del Mundo” — the middle of the world. It’s an obelisk with a painted orange line on the ground bisecting the northern and southern...

Screaming the Loudest

The benefit of teaching young people that the world is a meritocracy is that this enduring myth encourages people to try their best. As long as they believe that the cream eventually rises to the top, they’ll continue to toil diligently, confident that there’s a demonstrable correlation between dedicated effort and eventual reward. Once the...

The Wisdom of Crowds

Currently making the rounds of all the free advertising outlets [read: fawning reviewers], a new book by theNew Yorker columnist James Suroweicki asserts that a big bunch of average people often turn out to be smarter than a small group of experts. Mobs, the author asserts, are often better predictors of the future — whether it’s...

A Blessed Life

Capitalism requires that we consumers feel as though we never have enough. Our lives will be fuller, richer,better if only we might acquire, chew, possess that which we don’t yet have. The media reminders that constantly bombard our senses teach us that more money, more fame, more fabulousness will magically enlighten our days as friendship, love...

Sexism

A coalition of women’s groups — the exact name, we confess, escapes us at the moment – recently released to the media their rankings of the “most sexist” advertisements of 2003. (The august Wall Street Journal used the story as an opportunity to print a still photo of a half-naked woman shilling some cleaning product.) The group’s...

Everybody is Entitled to an Opinion

One of the gratifying liberties we enjoy as citizens of the United States is the freedom to express our opinions without fear of jack-booted thugs kicking down our doors, spiriting us away in the middle of the night, and dumping our iconoclast bodies in the Pacific Ocean. As talk radio proves on a daily basis,...

The Astrology Enigma

Anyone who believes in astrology is operating irrationally. If you don’t understand why, you may safely skip this Thought and return to your horoscope, where you will discover that you and the other twelfth of the world that was born on the same month as you are predisposed to success (or lack thereof) because of...

Junior Idols

The other night a proud music producer played for us a new recording of his latest protege, an enormously talented diva who could sing like Aretha Franklin, Janis Joplin, and the Mariah Carey, among other songbirds. Not only could she hit the high notes, he assured us, his latest discovery had tremendous stage presence, movie...

The ‘Broken’ BCS

Many tears were shed this past weekend in Los Angeles, and the lachrymal mourning wasn’t over starving Africans or bleeding Afghanis. The crying – and the whining and the righteous indignation – was inspired by a college football ranking system that kept the USC Trojans out of the putative national championship game, the Sugar Bowl,...