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  • A Lion, But No Lionization

    It was an unusually candid admission, particularly for a politician. A few years ago, in a meeting with NEWSWEEK editors, a distinguished and well-known United States senator—the session was on background, so I cannot identify the lawmaker by name—reflected on the fleeting nature of glory in his line of work. When he had first come to the Senate, he said, he had looked at his desk on the floor of the chamber, a desk that bore the name of each senator who had ever sat in that seat. Eagerly, the new man's eyes ran up and down the list. "And you know what?" he said, recalling the moment. "I didn't recognize a single one of them. Easy come, easy go."It is safe to say that the name of the author of this week's cover, Sen. Edward M. Kennedy of Massachusetts, will never slip unremembered into the mists of history, and that alone makes him a man who repays study. He is a member of an elite company, and not just by being a Kennedy (actually, he has more well-known relatives than the popular...
  • The Polaroid Lives!

    Over the past five years, I've up-loaded more than 200 pictures to Facebook. Some are of me. Some are of my friends. Most are of me and my friends doing mildly embarrassing things. But none has elicited as much enthusiasm as the snapshot I took recently at a Brooklyn flea market. The response has little to do, I think, with what actually appears in the image: an assortment of old Owl-brand stamps, seen from above. Nor can I credit the other tchotchkes edging into the picture: a beaded necklace, a crystal bowl, a leather sleeve of sorts, a silver object that may or may not be a harmonica. What makes this particular digital photo popular on Facebook is the fact that it doesn't look digital at all. After extracting the original file from my Nikon, I dragged it into a program called Poladroid, which quickly spit out an image that belied my DSLR's multi-megapixel specifications: jaundiced tint, fuzzy focus, textured white border. And yet, the moment I posted the photo online, admirers...
  • Why CDs are Killing Classical Music

    In 1996, American composer john Adams wrote a whirligig of a piece called "Scratchband." In its short running time, woodwinds and brass chase each other through thrashing figures so drunk on high spirits that the electric guitar, bass, and percussion can barely keep up. It would be the perfect track to play for anyone who thinks classical music is plodding or stuffy beyond saving—except for the fact that no one owns a legal recording of the music. It's not as though Adams is ashamed of his daring 12-minute essay in sound. He's simply been at a loss, for more than a decade, when it comes to identifying a major symphonic work or concerto that "Scratchband" would make sense next to on an 80-minute CD. "I've been kind of hedging," Adams admits, "because it's hard to find a spot."This obsession with the compact disc would make a lot more sense if sales of the format weren't plummeting across the board. But that is not the world we live in. It's time someone said it: the cult of the CD is...
  • What Would Jesus Watch?

    Back in March, David stood ready to slay Goliath, and almost no one was there to witness it. That was when NBC debuted Kings, a modern retelling of the biblical underdog story. Among the show's blessings were its impressive cast, anchored by Golden Globe winner Ian McShane; imaginative director Francis Lawrence (I Am Legend); and a favorable critical reception. But the premiere was trounced in the ratings, finishing last in its time slot and thereby missing an opportunity to defeat the giant—in this case, Desperate Housewives. After failing to find an audience, it's Kings that's in a sling. The show won't be returning for a second season.The untimely demise of Kings, which ends its 13-episode run this month, raises questions about why, in a culture where a vast majority of us say we believe in God, so few of us seem to want to watch him on television. No religiously themed show has found its footing on the major networks since CBS's Joan of Arcadia, about a teenage girl who got...
  • Hiking the Israel Trail

    Below lies the sweeping Negev desert. Above, a line of camels saunter across a stretch of land dotted with yellow-flowered tumble thistle and tiny pink sun roses. In the distance, the lights of Arad twinkle as the soft slopes of the Yatir forest melt into the darkness. It's dusk on the 600-mile Israel National Trail, a footpath that ambles from the country's southern border with Egypt all the way north to the edge of Lebanon. It was modeled on the Appalachian Trail, designed as a peaceful retreat from the world. But this is Israel. No oasis of calm can keep out the heat and tension of everyday life completely.The Israel Trail was first marked in 1995, and it was carefully constructed to sidestep areas of territorial dispute, such as the Golan Heights, West Bank settlements, and even Jerusalem. From one end of the country to the other, it passes ancient ruins and biblical sites, beaches, expansive forests, a desert, and cities. The Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel says...
  • Judd Apatow's Relationship Issues

    There's a scene in Judd Apatow's new movie, Funny People, in which George Simmons (Adam Sandler), a famous comedian fighting a terminal illness, makes a pilgrimage to see his old flame, Laura (Leslie Mann). Their breakup was nasty, but George isn't above exploiting his health for a second chance at true love. Laura, a former actress, never achieved George's fame, and she quit Hollywood to become a full-time mom. A canny seducer, George arrives on her doorstep with a bag of props to remind Laura of the girl she once was: her favorite old pair of jeans (they still fit!) and a greatest-hits reel of her acting spots. As she watches the clips of the occasional Melrose Place moment, her verdict on that is considerably harsher. Later, Laura says, "I always played the bitch." (Story continued below...)Laura's critique could arguably apply to all of Apatow's female characters. Katherine Heigl once called Knocked Up, in which her character gets pregnant after a one-night stand, "a little...
  • Why The Ladies Love Vampires

    Is it the bad economy, or your secret desire for domination? Psychologists weigh in on our obsession with the bloodsuckers.
  • Crying for Kashmir

    When Justine Hardy and her mother visited the Kashmir Valley in the spring of 1989, it seemed to them an idyll. The weather was warm, the nights were cool, and mother and daughter rode bikes, shopped, and packed picnics of Kashmiri delicacies. Distantly, they were aware of unrest: protests, strikes in the city, and the ever-present jawans—young Indian soldiers, reminders to the Kashmiri Muslims that India held the region by threat of force. But to the British tourists, and even to many Kashmiris, these signs seemed more annoying than dangerous. For the most part, Hindus and Muslims lived and worked peaceably, their festivals intertwined, their Kashmiri identity shared.That December, separatists kidnapped a young medical student, the daughter of a Kashmiri government minister in Delhi, from a bus. Kashmiri separatists took to the street, crying, "Jo kare khuda ke khauf, Utale Kalashnikov!" ("All God-fearing men, pick up the gun!") Since then, more than 50,000 people have died. But...
  • A McCartney Tour Guide

    Usually, when a music legend announces, "And here's a song from my latest record," the unspoken response from the audience is "OK, but you'd better follow it with some hits." Sometimes this dynamic makes sense; mega-artists tend to draw big crowds even after the muse of inspiration has long since left the building. But as Paul McCartney prepares to play seven dates in four U.S. cities this summer, he happens to be floating on a raft of recent material that ranges from good to great. You could draw up a fascinating set list just from the snappy Memory Almost Full, the sophisticated Chaos and Creation in the Backyard, and the wild-as-"Helter Skelter" Electric Arguments (released under The Fireman moniker in 2008). The sad thing is we'll probably never hear that kind of Macca concert.There are two reasons. The more obvious one is that nostalgia-seeking boomers would drown out the music by screaming bloody murder. The less evident—and more mysterious—explanation is that McCartney doesn...
  • Whose Cop Shows Rule: L.A.'s or N.Y.'s?

    New York people, as a rule, are not Los Angeles people, or vice versa. For instance, no one in the history of L.A. has ever yelled "I'm walking here!" while navigating a busy intersection (because no one in L.A. has ever actually walked across an intersection). The country's respective glamour capitals are even further apart culturally than they are physically, but they have one thing in common: they both make great settings for cop shows. So why, over the last decade or more, are most of the better ones set in New York? Between NYPD Blue, the hydra-headed Law & Order franchise, and the Manhattan-set CSI spin-off, New York procedurals have stuck in a way that recent Angeleno shows (Boomtown, Robbery Homicide Division, etc.) have not. Sure, there are exceptions. The Shield just finished a stellar seven-season run, and The Closer is still going strong. But given that Los Angeles practically invented the cop show and monopolized the genre in its early years (see: Dragnet, Police...
  • David Foster Wallace: On Line

    It's easy to miss the small things when trying to scale a mountain all alone, obsessed with simply planting one foot after another. Same goes for books so long that reading them seems like scaling K2. With its 1,000-plus pages and 300-plus endnotes, David Foster Wallace's Infinite Jest is precisely such a doorstop. And now, it has its own literary sherpa.InfiniteSummer.org is a virtual book club that guides readers through the novel in 75-page chunks (not including endnotes) every week for three months. On the Web site, where discussion forums have been created, "spoilers" are verboten; you can talk only about the pages that everyone should have read by each week's end. What makes this different from your run-of-the-mill book club? In the old-school system, you'd have a hard time finding more than one or two people with enough nerve (and time) to join a traditional Jest confab. A virtual meeting place not only approximates a book club's sense of community, but brings a crowdsourced,...