Tagged: adam gopnik

Eats Like a Bird

Of all the inapt similes in common usage, “eats like a bird” is perhaps the most backwards. (“Could care less” is just mistaken English, and “smokes like a chimney” is sometimes right on and sometimes not, depending on what one is actually trying to say.) Trying to be pointedly descriptive, many of us employ “eats...

The N Word

The Los Angeles Times, in a recent review of a live concert, mentioned that the rapper Kanye West performed one of his songs in a “G-rated” version. The audience, however, sang the choruses for him including the original lyrics, which, the reporter noted, contain numerous mentions of “the N-word.” Stories about West in the paper...

The Life Coach

Not long ago a new instructor at the local gym introduced herself as a Pilates teacher, kickboxing trainer, and life coach. This being Los Angeles, all three professions are common, but the life coaching bit is a newer phenomenon, newer even than pierced lips. I don’t know what training one needs to become a life...

The Big Gamble

My friend is a lawyer. By almost any measure he would be considered smart — and successful, and admirable, and all the other stuff responsible members of society strive to be when they’re not plotting to fire traffic-clearing incendiary missiles into clogged freeways. He likes what he does, and he’s good at it. He’s become...

God’s Responsibility

A reader sent us an email recently. It was one of those missives that circulate around the world, passed from one correspondent’s address book to 100 other’s, spreading virally until every third person with a home computer has seen the message. This one included images made by a sidewalk artist in Europe. His trompe l’oeil chalk...

Learning from Piracy

In a gesture of international goodwill — and because there’s a big trade meeting coming up — the Chinese government recently shut down an enormous bazaar in Shanghai that exclusively offered counterfeit goods. Merchants and shoppers admitted to reporters that the closure would be momentarily inconvenient but that the bazaar would soon move to another...

The Genius Trade-Off

Being a genius isn’t easy. According to both conventional wisdom and scholarly hagiography, geniuses tend to be socially maladjusted freaks terrorized by personal demons that normal people can’t understand. Many geniuses die young. They endure lives that aren’t happy. Darkness shrouds their light. On the other hand, they’re geniuses. Being a regular person, it seems,...

Vocalizing Versus Singing

Beautiful vocalizing is often mistaken for beautiful singing. Both sonic phenomena require the production of a ringing tone that exploits the peculiar vibration of the ligaments and muscles — the cords — at the back of the human mouth. Both require an acute sensitivity to intonation (being “in tune”). And both demand a steady flow...

Symbols

Celebrities aren’t the only people who need public relations help. Anyone oblivious to the power of symbols ought to have a publicist on retainer to interpret for them how the “message” is playing under the microscope of societal consumption. Newsmakers and ordinary citizens alike have a tendency to botch their presentation. Someone needs to refine...

Self Destruction

Depending on one’s quotient of Puritanical self-abnegation, the follies of other less disciplined souls often inspire the pensive equivalent of a scoff. Of the fatty we think, “Surely he knows that a diet of doughnuts and fries will only make him more obese.” Of the smoker we think, “Surely she knows that smoking causes an...