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  • 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...
  • Television: Why We Love Spelling Bees

    A time will come when May's most anticipated competition isn't the NBA playoffs, the Kentucky Derby or the American Idol finale. Instead, we'll be swept up in spelling-bee mania. Our favorite students' names will be written on brackets for the office betting pool. There will be elevator conversations about whether too many of this year's words are derived from Greek. Morally compromised talent scouts will idle outside farmhouses, waiting for home-schoolers to come out to fetch the mail. (Story continued below...)Unfathomable? Perhaps. But the Scripps National Spelling Bee, which will crown its 82nd champion this month, has dramatically upgraded its cachet: for the third year, the final round will be broadcast in prime time on ABC. There are plenty of compelling quasi sports on television—logrolling, cheerleading, hot-dog devouring—but the spelling bee is the only one to consistently break out of the ESPN2 ghetto and into prime time.Much of the prestige bump is attributable to...
  • Nauman's Own--Art

    Some people say that Bruce Nauman is the most influential American artist since Andy Warhol, but when Nauman arrived at art school way back in 1964, he had almost no idea where he was headed. Fresh from being a math and science student back in Wisconsin, the tall, laconic young Nauman painted the most mundane of subjects: landscapes. "I thought art was just something I'd learn how to do, and then I would just do it," he says. He'd landed almost by chance at the University of California, Davis, home to the most rebellious, irreverent artist-teachers around. (One of them, ceramist Robert Arneson, would have his officially commissioned monument to assassinated San Francisco Mayor George Moscone rejected in 1981 because it depicted the Twinkies from the assassin's "Twinkies defense" right there on its pedestal.) The faculty gave Nauman an empty room in a temporary building and told him simply to go to work. "I knew then," he says, "that I'd have to start out every day and figure out...
  • When Would Adam Lambert Come Out of the Closet (if He Happened to Be Gay)?

    By Ramin SetoodehLet's play a game. Let's pretend that you're a 27-year-old male finalist on American Idol and that there are photos on the Internet that appear to show you tongue-wrestling with another guy. Entertainment Weekly said you "might be gay," and TV Guide said you were "openly gay," though you haven't spoken a word about your sexuality to your adoring, screeching, OMG-tween public. Then again, to be fair, you do have a man friend in the audience every week, who even smiled, waved and stuck out his tongue at you playfully when you sang "If I Can't Have You I Don't Want Nobody, Baby." And just yesterday, Perez Hilton reported that you introduced a man as your boyfriend—perhaps the same guy?—to a couple of other finalists at a dinner at Outback Steakhouse in Burbank, Calif....
  • Morning Mix: MLK Story to Become Movie

    King Story to Come to Big Screen.  Stephen Spielberg will produce a Martin Luther King, Jr. biopic, Dreamworks announced, in the first ever King biopic to be authorized by the King Estate.  The film's makers will thus be allowed to cull from King's papers, speeches, video and personal belongings.   [Variety]Allen Settles With American Apparel.  The clothing company that used a still of director Woody Allen from "Annie Hall" without his permission will settle out of court for $5 million, it was announced yesterday.  "It’s of course possible by going through the trial, a jury might have awarded me more money, but this is not how I make my living," Allen told reporters outside of the court room. [New York Times]
  • Eggs Aren't Just for Breakfast Anymore

    When I was in my early 20s, my good buddy McGee generously moved to a penthouse apartment in Paris for three years. On the first of my (numerous) visits, we went out for "French" pizza, and when it arrived, I was a tad unnerved to find that it was crowned with a fried egg. Now, the two of us had eaten plenty of eggs together—but we usually did so at, say, 3 in the morning, at the Waffle House, and I was unaccustomed to seeing them on a plate with anything other than bacon and toast.All that changed in France, where eggs are lavished on everything. With the addition of a fried egg and a bit of béchamel, a croque monsieur becomes a croque madame. Eggs top steaks, float in soups and nestle in frisée salads tossed with lardons. They come poached with red wine or bone-marrow sauces. They appear as omelets with fines herbes or ratatouille.Twenty-five years later, Americans are finally catching on to the fact that eggs are not just for breakfast. The egg-and-frisée craze was the first to...
  • "American Idol" Roundtable

    Four former winners and two popular finalists talk about what happens backstage, who will win this year and the singers who influenced them the most.
  • Meacham on Newsweek's New Magazine

    It is no secret that the business of journalism is in trouble. Venerable American institutions are facing uncertain futures; once profitable enterprises are struggling to find ways to fund their operations. At an otherwise lighthearted White House Correspondents' Association Dinner, President Obama concluded his remarks on a serious note, expressing his sympathy for the trade's plight and quoting Thomas Jefferson, who remarked that he would rather have newspapers and no government than a government without newspapers.The point, we believe, holds true for a magazine like ours. We think what we do is important, but in the end what matters more is whether you think so, and in so thinking, whether you find that our work repays the investment of your time. And so the magazine you are holding now—the first issue of a reinvented and rethought NEWSWEEK—represents our best effort to bring you original reporting, provocative (but not partisan) arguments and unique voices. We know you know...
  • Letters: The New Age of Pandemics

    Such a big scare sends people into a panic, and creates a smoke screen for all that ails the world.Joann Lee Frank, Clearwater, Fla.I was reluctant to buy the "fear & the Flu" issue, expecting articles blaming Mexicans for the flu pandemic. I was surprised to see that, instead of blame, you provided scientific information for regular people like me. What really got my attention was the positive light you shed on the way our government has dealt with this scare. Mexicans have gone through fear, distrust and anguish. The price paid for closing businesses, schools, airports, etc., has been high. Mexico, immersed in an economic, security and, now, pandemic crisis, dared to do the right thing and faced its problems head on.Rafael de Los Santos Diaz, Monterrey, MexicoLaurie Garrett highlights the challenges we now face, such as intensive livestock farming, so that billions can eat meat. Not mentioned in the article is the inadequate collaboration between the human- and animal-health...
  • The Spies' Secrets Revealed

    When the U.S. established diplomatic relations with the U.S.S.R. in 1933, Soviet intelligence agencies immediately assigned professional spies to the new embassy and consulates. Suddenly, American secrets began flowing to Moscow. The Soviets took advantage of both U.S. ignorance about espionage and, even more, American communists' blind loyalty to Russia's socialist ideals. Some American recruits, like State Department communications chief David A. Salmon, handed over reams of classified information simply for the money. But most who signed on with the KGB or the GRU—Soviet military intelligence—held a principled desire to aid the communist cause abroad as well as at home.The rough outlines, and some details, of the Soviet's remarkable 1933–45 success have been known for more than a decade, but now a richly detailed new book, Spies: The Rise and Fall of the KGB in America by historians John Earl Haynes and Harvey Klehr, offers a remarkable portrait of the KGB's efforts—drawn largely...
  • Movies: "Up," Up and Away With the Kids

    The little animation studio that could, Pixar was established in 1986 not as a cartoon factory but as a computer manufacturer. Many on the skeleton staff were cartoonists at heart, but the shorts they produced on company time were designed to promote the company hardware. When Toy Story, their pilot feature, was greenlighted in 1991, they rushed out to a screenwriting seminar. They were amateurs.Since then, Pixar has released eight films, all of them celebrated, and all of them blockbusters: none has earned less than $360 million, a run of unprecedented success. Up, which opens May 29, is the 10th—the story of a 78-year-old widower who, encroached upon by developers hoping to force him off his property and into a retirement home, does not exactly go gentle into that grumpy night. Just as remarkable, it is Pixar's latest release that stiff-arms, with conceptual ambition, unorthodox protagonists and difficult story material, animation's natural audience: children.Cartoons weren't...
  • China's Me-Generation Artists Turn Inward

    Until recently, the way Chinese artists got famous was to talk politics. The generation that grew up during the Cultural Revolution and the difficult years that followed was highly politicized and gained global recognition for its tongue-in-cheek images of Mao Zedong and Tiananmen Square, often rendered in eye-popping color. Wang Guangyi's kitschy communist-style propaganda posters incorporated iconic consumer logos, such as Coca-Cola and Porsche, and Yue Minjun mocked the fast-changing world with his paintings of large-mouthed men grinning relentlessly.Though still hot, those new-wave artists are giving way to a very different group: the "me-first" generation, whose members talk about each other and themselves. Born in the 1980s under China's one-child policy, they were still children during Tiananmen and are much less interested in politics and far more concerned with individuality. Unlike their elders, who use art to criticize the growing commercialism and inequality of post-Mao...
  • "The Road" Trailer Freaks Everybody Out

    In that invigorating, just-went-through-a-haunted-house, "that was AAAWESOME!" kind of way.  Proceed for spinal chills:The new trailer for the movie adaptation of the grim Cormac McCarthy novel has been roundly deemed both "bleak" and "cooool" by the blogosphere.  What do you think?
  • China: A Capitalist's Dream Come True

    Every good businessperson has a favored statistic about China. I remember meeting the son of a vineyard owner in Napa Valley, who was helping his parents take their modest business global. "Think about it," he told me. "If we sold a bottle of wine to every Chinese millionaire, we'd run out of wine before we ran out of millionaires!"I haven't kept in touch with the oenophile, so I don't know how his well-laid plans played out, but Dan Gross has been keeping tabs on how some major American brands have been doing in China. His take? "Thanks to macroeconomic upheaval in the U.S. and China, the promise of the China market finally seems to be within reach." In his column this week, he walks you through the three premier exhibits--Citigroup, General Motors, and fast-food-owner YUM Brands--and explains that, even though these companies are now (or are close to) making more money in China than at home, there's still plenty of room for growth...
  • Berlin Is Cheap

    In Paris, laid-off factory workers have taken to kidnapping their bosses. London riots in early April left one man dead outside the Bank of England. In laid-back Berlin, the global economic crisis has, so far, been just another reason to party. On May 1, the International Workers' Day holiday that brings anticapitalist street fights to Europe's capitals, the Berlin air smelled not of burning tires but of fresh-grilled kebabs and cannabis, whose use the city's courts stopped prosecuting in the 1990s. A multicultural street fair in the heavily immigrant Kreuzberg district has long replaced the traditional riots with musical attractions such as Turkish-German rap stars and three bands billed as "trash metal gore." The protest was best summed up by a guy holding a placard that read ARBEIT NERVT—work sucks.It's not just Berlin's protest crowd that couldn't care less about the worst global downturn in 70 years. As the days get longer and temperatures warmer, Berliners do as they always do...