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  • The Straight Razor Business Has a Renaissance

    In Solingen, Germany—dubbed the "City of Blades"—artisans grind straight razors in a one-room workshop that has barely changed since their company, Dovo, was founded in 1906. For decades, business was slow as King Gillette's disposable blades swamped the market. But in 2005, the straight razor began "a renaissance," says Dovo's Anne Rothstein. The company now sells about 30,000 a year and has a nine-month waiting list. Eric Malka, CEO of the Art of Shaving, says overall business is down 15 percent since October—but straight-razor sales are up 2 percent. Why? A $100 blade lasts a lifetime, while a lifetime of disposables costs about $3,000. But that's always been true. What's new is the vogue for retro outdoorsman style among the hipster set. So if holding a freshly sharpened knife to your throat makes you nervous, it's time to man up.
  • Books: Another Vampire Story?!

    If there's anything more insatiable than a vampire, it's the public's appetite for vampire tales. The trick for an author or filmmaker is to vary the formula just enough (teen vampires!) to suck back in those of us who have sworn off vampires (and serial killers) for good. In the case of The Strain, the big lure is not what's inside the book but the name of Guillermo del Toro as co-author (with Chuck Hogan) on the cover. Who among the fans of Mimic,The Devil's Backbone or Pan's Labyrinth wouldn't want to see what this gifted film director can do with a vampire novel—or any novel, especially since the list of moviemakers who turn novelist is so weirdly short (Jean Renoir and then …?). Can that fantastic visual imagination make the leap to the page? The answer is a qualified yes. There are plenty of arresting, vividly imagined moments in this page turner. But once you've turned all those pages, you're done. There's no equivalent to the feeling you have when you're finished watching...
  • Edie Falco Plays Another TV Mom

    Edie Falco doesn't mind that people still see her as Carmela Soprano, the matriarch of television's most influential family drama. She just doesn't want to be seen as one of those mothers. You know the type. The self-righteous mommies who think parenthood demarcates humanity, separating the enlightened givers from the selfish egotists. She's not the kind to rail against immunizations or lecture on the evils of gluten. And yet, she can't help herself. "I hate the words coming out of my mouth, because I know how it sounds," says Falco, 45. "But being a mom is the hardest thing I've ever done in my life, and I can't believe how profound this experience has been for me."That's not a statement made lightly for someone who has won three Emmys and a pair of Golden Globes, and triumphed over breast cancer. Falco's children, Anderson, 4, and Macy, 1, both of whom she adopted, must really be doing a number on her in the way that children do—by waltzing into their parents' lives and tossing...
  • Elvis Costello: An All-American Boy

    You don't have to listen to the music of Elvis Costello (born Declan Patrick McManus in London) to know he's obsessed with Americana. First, there's that stage name. Next, you have the clues from the songs he's written (or covered): "Eisenhower Blues," "American Without Tears," and "American Gangster Time." In his spare hours, Costello is also a cheerleader for country music history. This decade, he petitioned the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame to admit early trailblazer Wanda Jackson. Country—and red-white-and-bluegrass—also appear to have inspired his latest album,Secret, Profane and Sugarcane, which boasts bar after bar of mandolin, fiddle riffing and Louvin Brothers–like vocal harmony. Though it would be a mistake to label the 13-song set a narrow genre exercise. The shadow Nashville casts over Costello is a slightly more complicated affair. (Story continued below...)At the table of style, Costello has long been a gourmand hungry for almost any form he encounters. He frustrated some...
  • Food: Saving the New York City Pizza Slice

    Chef Mathieu Palombino is wearing a New Kids on the Block T shirt—and while it may be ironic, it's not inaccurate. Late last year Palombino, 31, opened Motorino in Brooklyn. His training was tony—Laurent Tourondel, David Bouley—but his latest recipe was rather primitive. Flour from Naples. Tomatoes from Naples. Cheese from Naples. And a massive, 850-degree, wood-burning oven built in Texas by, yes, a man from Naples. "My goal was to make traditional Neapolitan pizza," says Palombino. "The most authentic, the best." Local chowhounds quickly declared Motorino a success, but at least one group disagreed: Palombino's Italian-American neighbors. "They're like 60, 70, and they won't eat my pizza," he admits. "They prefer the place over there—the one with $2 slices." The new kid, it seems, was too old school for the block. And as impressive as his pies are, I get why.Consider the New York slice. It's the city's most enduring gastronomical export: a cheap, cheese-slathered sliver of street...
  • The Hangover: The Bromance of Summer

    We've all seen the damsel-in-distress movie before, but in The Hangover the damsel is a dude. The Hangover is a comedy about three guys who take their buddy Doug on a bachelor party to Vegas. When Doug disappears after a night of amnesia-inducing debauchery, it's up to his friends, like a squad of Prince Charmings, to rescue him. The Hangover is poised to be the sleeper comedy of the summer, thanks in no small part to gags involving a stripper's baby (and the stripper being played by Heather Graham), a missing tiger and Mike Tyson. The movie is probably even good enough, following a string of others like it, to allow us to officially declare that the bromance is the new romantic comedy.The genre started with Judd Apatow's The 40-Year-Old Virgin and Knocked Up, followed closely by I Love You, Man, about a hapless guy who goes on a series of "man dates" to find a best man for his own wedding. (Considering that Paul Rudd appeared in all three of those movies, you might also say he's...
  • Yojiro Takita's Best Movies Ever

    His movie Departures, about a laid-off cellist who goes to work at a funeral home, was Japan's upset winner this year for best foreign film—in other words, it's the one that ruined your Oscar-pool ballot. Should it have beaten Waltz With Bashir? See for yourself. Departures is finally opening in the U.S. Takita shared his favorite films with us. A movie that made me want to be a director Seven SamuraiAkira Kurosawa A movie that illustrates cinema is truly without borders The Last EmperorBernardo Bertolucci A movie that best portrays the American dream RockyJohn Avildsen A movie where sanity meets insanity that resonates in Japan Taxi DriverMartin Scorsese An entertaining movie with unmatched cinematography Down by LawJim Jarmusch A horror movie that shows its director's unbridled wit CarrieBrian de Palma
  • Why We Cling to Outdated Medical Myths

    Whether it's thinking that vitamin C can cure a cold, or that you must drink eight glasses of water a day, people cling to outdated medical lore long after it's been shown to be wrong. Here's why.
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  • Jon Meacham on Conservativism and the GOP

    Twenty years ago, I accompanied Andrew Lytle, the Southern writer, to a conference at Russell Kirk's compound in Mecosta, Mich. A crucial figure in the postwar American conservative movement, Kirk ran a kind of permanent salon at his home, which was known as Piety Hill. I was there mainly to make drinks in the evening and coffee in the morning for Mr. Lytle, then 86, and his old friend Cleanth Brooks, the literary critic who had come to the Michigan countryside from New Haven. At lunch one day, Dr. Kirk, as he was known, asked me what I was reading. I was in the middle of a Palliser obsession, and Kirk was engaging on Trollope. Then, looking at me with a genial intensity, he said solemnly that Victorian politics were all well and good, but one must know Burke, of course. Everyone must know Burke.It was, for him, familiar counsel: Kirk's 1953 book The Conservative Mind was instrumental in popularizing the 18th-century Irish politician-philosopher. Allusions to Edmund Burke's...
  • Draper Case: What Makes a Parent Negligent?

    After courts questioned the way they cared for their sick kids, two mothers in different states ran away with their children. Why 'neglect' is such a complicated concept, and why loving a child isn't always enough.
  • Japan Embraces Multi-Ethnic Musicians

    Japan's indigenous music scene is known for breeding cute, superplastic stars like Ayumi Hamasaki and Ayaka—über-pop princesses who routinely top the charts with their safely mainstream sound and image. So it was significant when a mixed-race singer known as Jero was named one of the country's best new artists at the Gold Disc Awards—Japan's Grammys—in March. Perhaps even more meaningful, Jero, who is three quarters African-American and one quarter Japanese, also won the award for best enka artist, topping the genre of traditional love ballads that are often about specific places in Japan. Jero, a.k.a. Jerome White Jr., grew up in Pittsburgh, singing such songs with his Japanese grandmother. "Since I started singing enka at age 5 or 6, I really wanted a career in Japan ... [but] I knew it would be a long shot," he says. Yet the Japanese have clearly embraced this 27-year-old performer who favors hip-hop garb yet sings songs meant to express the soul of Japan.Jero represents a new...
  • Kanye West: Author

    Feel the world is beating you down? Kanye West, a man frequently at battle—with, say, the president, or with Grammy voters—has written a short volume of aphorisms titled Thank You and You're Welcome. He spoke with NEWSWEEK's Seth Colter Walls: ...
  • Travel: The Slave Castle of Ghana

    It takes four hours on an un-air-conditioned minibus called a tro-tros to get from Accra, the capital of Ghana, to the town of Elmina. The drive is lovely, especially when the road dances above the beautiful Cape Coast and when it enters Elmina's twisty streets lined with palm trees and hundreds of people trading fish like we buy hamburgers at McDonald's. The town's main attraction is a huge white castle that sits on top of a hill. From the road it appears so suddenly, it takes your breath away. The Elmina Castle, with its enormous white walls and red-tile roofs peering out onto the Indian Ocean, could easily be confused for some decaying Mediterranean resort. Such a pretty building—for a hellhole. Elmina Castle is actually one of 20 buildings running along the Ghanaian coast that housed African captives before they were shipped off to the New World. Which is why these buildings are more commonly, and oxymoronically, known as slave castles.The Portuguese built Elmina Castle in 1482...
  • Books: Why Work Sucks

    If you're lucky enough to have a job—especially a cushy, high-status job—you might feel guilty about how much you hate it. Prosperity perpetuated a little white lie: that work is supposed to make us happy. But the office is a fickle friend, according to British author Alain de Botton, who in The Pleasures and Sorrows of Work spotlights life in 10 alternately routine and rarefied industries, including accounting, rocket science and cookie marketing. His implicit question, "When does a job feel good?" is answered with brutal calm: "Rarely." The tragedy is that we expect anything more.For most of human history, work was seen as penance, punishment or a necessary evil. But with the creation of meritocratic America—an "aristocracy of talent and virtue," as Thomas Jefferson described it—toil was transformed into an expression of identity, a way for people to measure themselves and others. "What do you do?" entered the social lexicon as an unavoidable acid test of relevance, while the...
  • Books: Did The Beatles Destroy Rock?

    The history of popular music in the 20th century is old news. It begins, depending on who you believe, with Scott Joplin and ragtime. Or maybe when the Original Dixieland Jazz Band first performed in 1916. At that point, the story marches through Jelly Roll Morton, Louis Armstrong, Fletcher Henderson, Duke Ellington, Benny Goodman and the swing era to bebop, then to R&B, followed by Elvis and the Beatles, then free jazz, maybe a little nod to disco, and wraps up with punk, grunge and hip-hop. Class dismissed. Or not. There's always some smart aleck in the back of the room with a hand up, looking to make trouble. Yes, Mr. Wald, what's your point?Elijah Wald is the author of How the -Beatles Destroyed Rock 'n' Roll, in which he tries to convince us that much about the way we interpret the history of pop is wrong. Wald argues that most of "the music's critics and historians have typically sought to distinguish the music they love from the mediocre pap that surrounded it. As a...