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  • Books: The Bracket Game

    Tolstoy or Dostoevsky? Duke or Carolina? The single-elimination bracket grid really can answer all of life's questions.
  • Music: Mika Makes a Splash

    It’s shaping up to be that the casualties of MySpace.com might well be music publicists. How else to explain that Mika, a Lebanon-born, London- and Paris-bred singer-songwriter debuted at No. 1 on the U.K. charts before his CD was even released? MySpace is as old news as freeze-dried astronaut food now, but Mika, who is being touted as music’s next big thing, is in its debt—and not the hard-working publicist’s—for getting him on top of the charts in the U.K. and Canada already, and likely the U.S., when his buzzed-about “Life in Cartoon Motion” comes out here March 27. Only Gnarls Barkley before him, with last year’s “Crazy,” reached a No. 1 position on downloads alone—again, before the album was ever released.He’s all of 23 and doesn’t check his influences at the door. Comparisons to Rufus Wainwright and glam-pop band the Scissor Sisters already abound. But what is most striking about the curly mop-topped Mika is that not only does he completely resemble Queen’s legendary lead...
  • Starr: The Badness in March Madness

    Thanks to the social engineering of NBA chief David Stern, this March will be even Madder than usual.When the league boosted its minimum age to 19 years old, it forcibly redirected a handful of players—the cream of the high-school crop—to college rather than their preferred route of directly to the big money awaiting them in the pros. As a result, rather than having already disappeared into the NBA netherworld of Toronto or Portland, two of the most sensational freshman players in years will be showcased this week on center stage in the NCAA tournament. Thursday, fans can see Ohio State's 7-footer, Greg Oden, a fierce rebounder and shot-blocker who has the potential to become the most dominant American-born center since Shaquille O'Neal. On Friday, University of Texas' Kevin Durant will display the prodigious offensive skills that have made him a shoo-in for college player of the year honors.Stern's seemingly minor-rule tweak appears to have provided an embarrassment of riches—an...
  • HBO's Hard Look at Addiction

    What happens to drug addicts who don't get the help that they need? Forget for a moment whether you believe the prevailing science that addiction is a disease, or that proper medical care—and not willpower alone—is required to overcome it. Forget your own feelings about the morality of drug use and about who's to blame when use erupts into full-blown abuse. Just for now, forget questions of right versus wrong, and focus on cold, hard reality. What happens to drug addicts who don't recover? Do they vanish, like ghosts, and take their problems along with them when they evaporate into the ether? Do they slink into darkened corners, hating and hurting only themselves? Do they die quietly and harmlessly, without disturbing the rest of us?Of course not. Drug addicts who don't get the help they need get worse, and their addictions grow and grow, until their compulsion has consumed everyone and everything around them. They destroy families. They turn to crime. They put other people in...
  • Humor: Gingrich Loses Longtime Supporter

    In what many political observers consider a bruising blow to a potential 2008 White House bid by Newt Gingrich, the former Speaker of the House lost one of his longtime supporters today when Satan announced that he would not support a Gingrich candidacy.For the normally reclusive Prince of Darkness, the decision to hold a press conference at the Washington Airport Marriott to reveal that he would not be supporting Gingrich struck many as extraordinary. Dressed in his traditional red cape and carrying a smoldering pitchfork, Satan stated in no uncertain terms that he would be withholding his endorsement from his former colleague: “Not only am I not supporting Newt, I am giving his soul back.”Satan’s announcement was particularly hurtful to the potential GOP presidential candidate because, in the words of Gingrich supporter Tracy Klujian, “Newt and Satan have worked so closely together in the past.”According to a close associate of the Prince of Darkness, Satan’s rift with Gingrich...
  • Coping With a Shortage of Cancer Doctors

    Who will care for America's baby boomers when cancer strikes? A new study predicts a shortfall of as many as 4,000 oncologists by 2020, with no easy solution in sight
  • Music: Soul on Ice, And a Twist

    Amy Winehouse takes a while to warm up to new people, and until she does, she stammers—badly. "I'm. Really. Sorry," she says, pausing for what seems like a minute between each word. "It'll. Go away. Once I. Relax." This hardly seems like the British singer who's almost as well-known for her sharp tongue and alcohol-fueled antics as she is for her emotive soul music. But in a cozy rehearsal room in New York, Winehouse tries to gain composure by telling jokes and showing off her numerous tattoos: a naked lady, an anchor—she's got, like, 13 total. The nervous energy dissipates when the conversation turns to—naturally—her favorite drinks: "If I've just finished a show, champagne. If I'm depressed, champagne. If I'm really depressed ... anything."Now that's the Amy from the British tabloids, the brassy soul siren who punches people, the one who says Madonna is an ancient also-ran, the one who heckled U2's Bono during his acceptance speech at a British awards show. Winehouse, 23, is a...
  • Are Americans Ignorant About Religion?

    Steve Prothero is the kind of professor who makes you want to go back to college. During an hour lecture of his Boston University course "Death and Immortality," 200 students sat rapt last week as his train of thought led him from the Docetics (early Christians who believed that Jesus was all-God, not flesh), to reincarnation, to Disney World, to Hindu cremation rituals, to Plato's account of Socrates' trial (the day's assigned reading), to "Beauty and the Beast," to a hypothetical suicidal bunny, to a discussion of the merits of exile versus death for a man such as Socrates. To describe Prothero as "quick-witted" or his interests as "interdisciplinary" wouldn't quite do him justice. Prothero is a world-religions scholar with the soul of a late-night television comic.This month, HarperSanFrancisco will publish Prothero's new book "Religious Literacy," a work whose message is far more sober than its author's affect. In spite of the fact that more than 90 percent of Americans say they...
  • Books: Sontag's Last Stands

    Before she died in 2004, Susan Sontag mapped out what would be her last book of essays. (Not her last book—as always, she just wanted to get back to fiction.) Some planned pieces never got written, and she didn't have a title. But her editors have put together something close to that collection: 16 essays and speeches written in Sontag's last years. "At the Same Time" is an ideal title: these pieces glide from literature into politics into photography into esthetics—sometimes in the same piece. These are her old preoccupations, which she kept making new. Her 1976 "On Photography" connects directly to "Photography: A Little Summa," a pithy set of observations from 2003. But it also connects to "Regarding the Torture of Others," a 2004 essay about Abu Ghraib and its digital-camera images—which in turn connects to her 2003 book "Regarding the Pain of Others," about visual images of pain and atrocity from lynchings through 9/11. Sontag's thought was all of a piece, driven by both her...
  • Will: Longfellow: A Founder

    One hundred years ago, Feb. 27 was enlivened by events around the nation commemorating what had happened 100 years before that, in 1807. But last week's bicentennial of the birth of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow passed largely unnoted, which is noteworthy.It was, naturally, a poet (Shelley) who declared that "poets are the unacknowledged legislators of the world." Wishful thinking, that, but Plato took poets so seriously as disturbers of the peace that he wanted them expelled from his republic. And Longfellow was, in a sense, an American Founder, a maker of this Republic's consciousness.Time was, children learned—in schools; imagine that—the origins of what still are familiar phrases: "Ships that pass in the night," "Life is real! Life is earnest!" "footprints on the sands of time," "the patter of little feet," "the forest primeval," "Let the dead Past bury its dead!" "In this world a man must either be anvil or hammer," "Into each life some rain must fall."Even the first stanza of...
  • The 'Barbie Bandits' Get Busted

    The image of two young girls smiling while robbing a bank outside Atlanta was beamed across the global news spectrum last week. Dubbed the Barbie Bandits, the girls, both 19, made off with a "substantial" wad of cash from a Bank of America branch inside a Kroger supermarket. On Thursday they were arrested along with two men, including the bank teller, who police allege was in on the job.Cahoots aside, the heist seems to illustrate not only what criminologists say is an increasing trend of recreational robberies—thefts perpetrated by amateurs looking for kicks as much as cash—but also the changing role of female bank robbers. Women still commit about 5 percent of bank robberies, but where they used to be the lookout or getaway driver, over the last five years "they've started doing it themselves," says FBI violent-crimes-unit chief Larry Sparks.Through the ages, crimes like these have largely been the purview of men, says Rosemary Erickson, a forensic sociologist who's researched the...
  • Dumped: Inside DePauw’s Sorority Meltdown

    In all honesty, Carolyn Thatcher, a senior theater major at DePauw University, doesn't see how she fell short of the standards of a Delta Zeta sorority girl. "I don't think I am unattractive," she says, although she admits she can be "introverted," is not blond and wears jeans and T shirts to class instead of designer outfits. In fact, she was chapter president, but even that didn't save her in December when the national DZ office, alarmed by a drop in pledges at the DePauw chapter, concluded that the way to prop up its failing fortunes was to purge 23 of the 35 women in the house. Thatcher was promoted to what the sorority euphemistically called "alumnae status" even though, as a size 8, she made the unofficial weight cut. "There's no one left in that house bigger than a size 10," says Joanna Kieschnick, who left of her own accord.It's not news that the social life of a heavily Greek campus—like DePauw, with 2,400 students, in a rural part of Indiana—is ruled by snobbery. Nobody...
  • Secrets, Lies and Love

    A few years ago, just as her father was about to disappear into the fog of dementia, journalist Lucinda Franks stumbled upon a small box in a corner of his dilapidated apartment. The contents shocked her. Beneath some mysterious maps and crumpled foreign bank notes, she found a military cap embellished with the raised metal insignia of an eagle, a skull and crossbones—and a swastika. Franks knew little about her father's military service during World War II, and had always sensed that he was hiding something. Now questions consumed her. "Was my sphinx-like father presenting one character and living another?" she writes in her new memoir, "My Father's Secret War." "Whose side was he really on?" When she pressed for an explanation, her father refused to talk, citing a decades-old pledge of secrecy.But after years of detective work and long conversations with her ailing father, Franks eventually pieced together most of his story. Fluent in German, he was a spy and occasionally an...
  • Books: Kurt Andersen's 'Heyday'

    Early in Kurt Andersen's "Heyday," set in 1848-49, a character admits his literary taste isn't arty: "I know I am supposed to read Balzac and Flaubert ... but I still crave the impossible coincidence. Give me Dumas, or Dickens." This is as clear a manifesto as a novelist could plant. Andersen seems to take nostalgic pleasure in deploying coincidences, including the one that kicks off the plot: two friends pause near the real-life street address of a Dumas character, and runs smack-dab into the French Revolution.You'd hardly expect such a retro book from Andersen, the journalist whose first novel, 1999's "Turn of the Century," anthropologized contemporary Manhattan. The characters—a prostitute, her scary brother and her lover, a Brit who wants to be an American—end up in California, where they're followed by the lover's nemesis. He sets much of "Heyday" in Manhattan, too, but 150 years earlier, and the research behind it seems intimidating—and meticulous: blacks-only railroad cars...
  • Dear Satu: Letters Tell the Story of Our Lives

    Satu gave me a big hug and said, "It wasn't so hard to recognize you." Satu Vaverka and I had been writing each other since 1966, when we were 11 or 12 years old, and had exchanged so many pictures over the years that we could easily spot each other in a crowd. Now, at Finland's Helsinki-Vantaa airport, we were finally face to face.Our correspondence had started when I was a sixth grader at San Beda College, a Roman Catholic boys' school in Manila. My friend Benjie had a pen-pal business with a children's organization, and I paid him a few centavos to register my name. I requested a female pen pal in Finland, a country that appealed to me because it was cold (in contrast with the tropical Philippine weather) and distant, and, therefore, different.Writing to Satu made me more observant about my culture and environment. In an early letter I described bibingka, a Philippine rice cake cooked over an open fire. I wanted to make clear to Satu in what way it was different from the typical...
  • Food: What's On Your Label?

    A decade ago, environmentally conscious consumers had one main label to check if they wanted to make sure the food they were buying was acceptable: organic. Today, supermarket aisles are filled with products that profess to safeguard salmon, preserve rain forests, protect migratory birds and allow cows and chickens to roam free. "There's been a huge proliferation of claims over the last three years," says Mindy Pennybacker, founder and editor of The Green Guide (thegreenguide.com), a newsletter for ecosavvy consumers. How do you know if the products are delivering on their promises? A TIP SHEET guide: ...
  • BeliefWatch: Refocusing Faith on Service

    On the day of John F. Kennedy's funeral, Robert Kennedy wrote his eldest child, who was 12, a short note: "Dear Kathleen," it said, "you seemed to understand that Jack died and was buried today. As the oldest of the Kennedy grandchildren—you have a particular responsibility now—a special responsibility to John and Joe. Be kind to others and work for your country. Love, Daddy."Kathleen Kennedy Townsend grew up in that kind of Roman Catholic family, the kind that—in spite of the imperfections of individual members—put country and duty above personal pain, the kind that put the suffering of those with less above the suffering of those with more. In a new book, "Failing America's Faithful," Kennedy Townsend joins former senator Jack Danforth and other "old school" politicians in mourning a world in which being Christian meant caring for others and making sacrifices to solve problems.And so she suggests reforms that she believes will revitalize her beloved Catholic Church and refocus the...
  • Q&A: 'Namesake' Director on Cross-Cultural Movies

    “The Namesake,” a film directed by Mira Nair (of “Salaam Bombay” and “Monsoon Wedding” fame) opens this week in theaters across the country. Based on the best seller of the same name by Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist Jhumpa Lahiri, it is the story of Ashoke (Irrfan Khan) and Ashima (Tabu, who doesn’t use a last name), a young Indian couple who move from Calcutta to New York in search of the American dream, and their son Gogol (Kal Penn), the title character. Spanning 30 years, it is both a love story and a coming-of-age saga: the parents juggle old-country values with life in a new world, while the son finds his American identity without losing his heritage. Last week, Nair sat down to discuss the making of “The Namesake” with NEWSWEEK’s Vibhuti Patel. Excerpts: ...
  • How Wine Cops Detect Counterfeits

    For the average wine drinker there is little risk of buying a counterfeit bottle of Yellow Tail merlot, and even if there were, most people wouldn’t know the difference. But for those privileged few who can afford $1,000 or more per bottle, counterfeiting has become a serious concern. Although the problem is not rampant, Wine Spectator magazine recently estimated that 5 percent of rare vintages sold privately or at auction are counterfeit, and the U.S. government has taken notice. Investigating whether wine houses, collectors or importers are knowingly selling counterfeits, federal prosecutors have subpoenaed several top auction houses, including Christie’s in London and Zachys in New York.Fine-wine experts say most problems can be avoided by working with credible, established retailers. According to Dreyfus, Ashby & Co. Vice President Patrick Séré, which deals exclusively with high-profile Chateau Petrus, people do try to pass fake labels of Petrus, but "if you buy a Petrus...
  • Comics: Captain America, 1941-2007

    CAPTAIN AMERICA IS DEAD. It’s a powerful headline, even for those who have never picked up a Marvel comic book and don’t know “The Sentinel of Liberty” from “The Scarlet Swashbuckler.” Fans and novices alike have been struck by the poignancy of the image on the pages of the comic book, released Wednesday: a patriotic do-gooder with a bullet piercing his burly, red-white-and-blue torso.Sure, he’s just a made-up character. But it’s hard to avoid reading today's reality into the death of someone whose surname is “America” and who walks around in a spandex flag. From the first issue in 1941, in which the title character battles Adolf Hitler, “Captain America” has put a fantastical sheen on the nation’s very real troubles. And in Marvel’s recent “Civil War” mini-series, Captain America plays a starring role in a storyline that raised timely questions about individual rights versus national security. In the seven-book series that wrapped up last month, the Cap leads an underground...
  • Music: Ry Cooder Gets a Little Catty

    “My Name Is Buddy” is coolly billed as “Another record by Ry Cooder,” as if it were a casual studio outing in an unremarkable career. But this is, after all, the man who brought us 1997’s "Buena Vista Social Club" and, in 2005, “Chavez Ravine,” a record about the ugly razing of an immigrant Los Angeles neighborhood to build Dodger Stadium. In his 40-year career, Cooder has jammed with the Rolling Stones, Ali Farka Touré and almost everyone in between. Now he’s giving history lessons.Mostly evocative of the Dust Bowl era, this sly slice of nostalgic Americana brings to mind everyone from Woody Guthrie to Caesar Chavez, the Rev. Gary Davis to George Orwell and Harlan County coal miners to Pete Seeger, who plays banjo on the song “J. Edgar.” “My Name Is Buddy,” an unapologetically far-left-of-center song cycle that touches on organized labor, racism and the odd extraterrestrial, is a story told from the perspective of a cat who goes a-ramblin’, makes friends with Lefty Mouse and the...
  • Protecting Your Home From Fire

    Tragedy struck the Bronx Wednesday night, as a house fire in a neighborhood near Yankee Stadium claimed the lives of eight children and one adult. The blaze, the deadliest fire in New York City since 9/11, started in the cord attached to a space heater on the ground floor of a building without fire escapes--a place where there were smoke detectors, but no batteries in them to sound the alarm. The nine dead, immigrants from Mali, join a sad roll call of Americans felled by fire: in 2005, 1,602,000 fires killed 3,675 civilians and 87 firefighters, according to the National Fire Protection Association. What can be done to help protect people from the flames?  Patrick Morrison, health and safety director of the International Association of Fire ...
  • Movies: East Meets West in 'The Namesake'

    Mira Nair's sprawling, engrossing saga, "The Namesake," like the acclaimed Jhumpa Lahiri novel on which it's based, spans three decades and two generations, traveling from the ‘70s to the present, from Calcutta to New York and back again, immersing us in the immigrant lives of the Ganguli family. There is enough material in this story to fill a mini-series. Indeed, there are times when you wish the movie was a mini-series. This is meant both as a tribute, for the Ganguli family is so engaging you'd be happy spending much more time with them, and an acknowledgment that a tale this expansive doesn't always fit comfortably within the constraints of a feature-length frame.Early on, "The Namesake" transports us from a humid, crowded, colorful Calcutta living room—where young Ashoke (Irrfan Khan) meets his bride to be, Ashima (Tabu)—to a bare, wintry New York apartment where the couple, who barely know each other, begin their new life in America. The transition is a visceral and visual...
  • TV: Wedding Bell Blues

    David E. Kelley’s new hourlong comedy for Fox, “The Wedding Bells,” about three sisters (named, tah-dah, Bell) who run a fancy, full-service wedding parlor, is dreadful in a multitude of ways, but at least it clarified for me how important I’ll be at my own wedding in two months: not at all. So unimportant, in fact, that apparently all I really need to do between now and then is remember to show up. I am a prop with a pulse. It doesn’t matter what I think because that would imply that I exist, which I don’t, until I’m absolutely necessary. During the pilot episode of “The Wedding Bells,” which premiered last night in the sweet spot after “American Idol,” the groom doesn’t utter a single line. Heck, he doesn’t even appear on screen until the show’s closing moments. Throughout the preceding 55 minutes, his fiancée and her mother say and do a number of predictably awful things. The bride picks a fight with the wedding singer and briefly calls off the whole shebang. Her mother bribes...
  • Attention Shoppers: Bring Your Own Bag

    Apparently BYOB translates a little differently in Sweden. At least for IKEA, the privately held assemble-it-yourself furniture chain and Swedish-meatball purveyor, the acronym now means “bring your own bag.” Beginning March 15, all of its U.S. stores will start charging five cents for each plastic bag that customers take their purchases home in. The idea is to encourage the masses to bring their own bags with an eye toward reducing litter—an explicit reminder that what was once free to the customer did not necessarily come without a greater cost.“We’re strangling our planet with plastic,” says Mona Astra Liss, a company spokesperson. IKEA will also be selling 59-cent reusable polypropylene “Big Blue Bags” for customers to bring back on subsequent shopping jaunts (or use elsewhere in their daily shopping adventures). “We’re just asking our customers to seriously think about all the plastic bags they use on a daily basis.” With 29 big-box stores across the United States, the program...
  • Sloan: Why Did Stocks Drop Last Week?

    When I write about the stock market, I usually tell you to ignore the short-term noise and concentrate on the long-term picture. Today, however, I'd like to depart from form and talk with you about what we can learn from the past week's sharp declines in worldwide stock prices.Let's start with $3.1 trillion. That's how much the market value of the world's stocks has dropped in the five trading days that ended yesterday, according to the folks at Wilshire Associates. Wilshire says $1 trillion of the loss comes from the drop in the U.S. market; the rest is from declines in the world's other markets. It works out to a drop of 6.6 percent, which is an awful lot for one trading week. And although owners of U.S. stocks have been whacked with a 5.5 percent decline, they're doing well compared with the rest of the world, which is down 7.4 percent.The good news, of sorts, is that despite the $3 trillion-plus drop, the world's stocks were still worth about $44 trillion when the U.S. market...
  • Humor: Bush Creates Dept. of Faulty Intel

    In response to what he called a "significant increase in the amount of misinformation about our enemies," President George W. Bush today announced that he was establishing a new Cabinet-level agency devoted solely to faulty intelligence. By creating the Department of Faulty Intelligence, Bush said, "The United States will be able to respond swiftly and preemptively to false threats before they don’t develop." ...
  • BeliefWatch: Reporting on America's Muslims

    In the aftermath of 9/11, when the offices of The Wall Street Journal were temporarily moved from Ground Zero to SoHo, a young journalist sat at his desk and edited one story after another about the Muslim world abroad. Jihad this, fatwah that, Sunni, Shia, how do you spell hijab? "It occurred to me that I was almost entirely ignorant about Muslims in this country," he says, and like any good reporter, he was moved to find out more. So Paul Barrett picked up his laptop and hit the road, hoping to bring his investigative chops to a subject that few had ever approached with care: American Muslims.Happily for us, the result is the book "American Islam: The Struggle for the Soul of a Religion," out this month from Farrar, Straus & Giroux. Through seven profiles, including an inner-city imam, a philosopher and a feminist—Barrett (formerly a Wall Street Journal colleague of mine) paints a picture of Muslims that is, as he put it last week at a talk in Los Angeles, "no less diverse...
  • Adult Drugs for Children: A Growing Problem?

    A new study finds that close to 80 percent of children in U.S. hospitals are receiving drugs that have been approved only for grownups. The growing problem of 'off label' prescriptions.
  • The Editor's Desk

    On Thanksgiving Day, 2005, the soldier on our cover this week—Specialist Marissa Strock—was the gunner on a patrol in Iraq. Suddenly, four 1.55 artillery rounds from an improvised explosive device ripped through her Humvee, killing two of her fellow soldiers, Steven Reynolds and Marc Delgado, and leaving her in a coma. "We were headed out to a body report, to recover a body that had been sighted, and we drove over the IED," she recalled to NEWSWEEK's Jamie Reno. "Two insurgents were apparently in the brush, just waiting. They had buried an IED in the middle of the road weeks before, and when we drove over it, they blew it. No one saw anything; it just happened so fast."For Strock and many other veterans, the furious pace of combat is giving way to the slow anguish of recovery within a broken system of care at home. On the morning she came out of amputation surgery, Strock was suffering, but was denied her pain medications because of what Strock says was an inattentive nurse. "They...
  • Health: I Screen, You Screen

    Hank Furman prides himself on wringing the last cent out of a dollar. But when it comes to good health, "no amount of money is too much," says Furman, a 73-year-old retired machinist from Euclid, Ohio. That's why he recently took advantage of a vascular ultrasound screening program advertised in his local newspaper. Furman paid $129 for a battery of tests, none of which was covered by his insurance. The final report: "Everything was perfect," he says. "It gave me peace of mind; that's worth every cent."But not all doctors agree. The package of screens, offered by several U.S. companies ($129; see lifelinescreening.com), include carotid-artery, abdominal aortic aneurysm (AAA), peripheral arterial disease (PAD) and osteoporosis screens. The good news is these imaging tests can detect abnormalities that could lead to stroke, heart disease and ruptured aneurysms. "We provide a much needed service," says Eric Greenberg, Life Line Screening's vice president of marketing, adding that ...
  • 'The Secret': Does Self-Help Book Really Help?

    If you're a woman trying to lose weight, you had your choice of two pieces of advice last week. One, from the American Heart Association, was to eat more vegetables and exercise an hour a day. The other was from a woman named Rhonda Byrne, a former television producer who has written what could be the fastest-selling book of its kind in the history of publishing with 1.75 million copies projected to be in print by March 2, just over three months since it came out, plus 1.5 million DVDs sold. Byrne's recommendation was to avoid looking at fat people. Based on what she calls the "law of attraction"—that thoughts, good or bad, "attract" more of whatever they're about—she writes: "If you see people who are overweight, do not observe them, but immediately switch your mind to the picture of you in your perfect body and feel it." So if you're having trouble giving up ice cream, maybe you could just cut back on "The Sopranos" instead.You'd think the last thing Americans need is more excuses...
  • My Turn: And on This Farm She Found a Future

    The farmer had a tanned face, weathered from working in the hot sun and dry air. He took in my clean appearance and small, unmuscular body. "So," he said, "you like to get dirty?"It was 1998. After working as a cashier for three summers at a local farm during high school, I was moving from behind the register to the seat of a tractor, which I would be maneuvering through the farm's 100-acre vegetable fields. I would be working long hours in the heat of New Jersey's humid summers. I knew I would get dirty—and I couldn't wait.I wasn't disappointed. When the ground was dry, the field dust caked my skin with a brown film, streaked by the sweat that trickled down my neck. The stickiest job on the farm was grading tomatoes, but I couldn't care less if juice from rotten tomatoes was running down my legs and into my shoes as long as I was in the shade of the barn. During my lunch breaks I lined up at the local deli, where crews of workers seemed to gather like fruit flies on Jersey tomatoes...
  • Quindlen: Gossip in the Age of Anna Nicole

    The examination of conscience began when a hardworking and pious woman who had never watched "Access Hollywood" asked a question to which there was no good answer: "Who is Anna Nicole Smith?"It was the day of the death heard round the world, and for the life of me I didn't know what to say. Actress? Model? Celebrity? Sign of the looming apocalypse? Famous for being famous. The mantra of a new millennium.Don't get me wrong; there's nothing new about gawking, gossip, getting into the business of other people and being gleeful about it. Surely it was happening in caves, huts, the Pyramids, the Parthenon. What's new about it is scope and responsibility, the first vast, the second nonexistent.A hundred years ago a girl like Vickie Lynn Hogan, which was Anna Nicole Smith's real name, would have lived in a small town, and everyone would have talked about her behind her back until she moved on to someplace bigger. Britney Spears would have left her babies at home to bounce around the bars,...
  • Cose on Black-Asian Tensions

    That an Asian-American writer is confident enough of his place in American society to publicly advocate racism against blacks may represent progress of a sort.  It’s hard, however, to find anything else good to say about Kenneth Eng or his column, entitled “Why I Hate Blacks,” published in the February 23 edition of AsianWeek. In that essay, Eng argued that blacks are “weak-willed,” anti-Asian bigots—and, therefore, suitable objects of discrimination.The column, predictably, set off a tempest that culminated last week with calls for the heads of the author and his editor. The first loud objections came from a coalition of Asian-American notables, who were quickly joined by a multiracial group of activists and public officials—who complained most vociferously in California, the San Francisco-based weekly’s home. By week’s end, Eng, a 22-year-old self-styled “Asian Supremacist” and “God of the Universe,” had been dismissed; the newspaper had apologized; and thoughtful people across...