Saturday, June 30, 2007

Paris vs. W.

A prominent and rich family. A drunk-driving arrest. Serious doubts about intelligence. A misspent youth. Sudden inspiration through the Bible. It's interesting how two of the most unpopular and divisive figures in America today—George W. Bush and Paris Hilton—have so much in common...

That morning, 24 hours after Paris Hilton was released from a California jail, Us Weekly, the magazine I edit, made headlines for its decision to ban Hilton coverage from its current issue...

What I was unprepared for, however, was the apparent banning of Bush coverage from CNN. That day, as the Senate judiciary committee issued subpoenas to the White House, Vice President Dick Cheney's office, the Justice Department, and the National Security Council in its investigation of the wiretapping scandal, the cable news network that bills itself as "the most trusted name in news" chose instead to devote two prime-time hours to the woman widely credited for inspiring Britney Spears to not wear underpants...

But I get it. I understand why Paris Hilton trumps interest in Bush's eavesdropping, whether or not she's on the cover of Us Weekly. The Paris story may be getting old, but the Bush one feels even older.
--Janice Min, Slate, on Paris vs. W.

The small details

For instance, this may sound as lame as pointing out that there are no cup holders, but I also came to truly appreciate the sharp turning circle. When you’re parking a violently red $200,000 Ferrari, it’s nice to pull into a spot without doing Austin Powers back-and-forth corrections for half an hour. Because, believe me, people are watching.
--Ezra Dyer, NYT, on not embarrassing yourself back into midlife crisis

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Jews and ninjas

The Israeli affinity for ninjas makes sense when you consider that ninjas are basically supercool Jews. Both practice esoteric traditions that must be kept pure or they'll lose their power, both wear black outfits, and both can destroy much larger and more numerous opponents. The main difference is that while observant Jews spend a lot of time praying, observant ninjas spend a lot of time hiding and killing people.
--Grady Hendrix, Slate, on the Jewish contribution to ninjas in American pop culture

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Mr. Ed roll

The restaurant’s owner, Shigekazu Ozoe, 56, said the current situation reminded him of the last time he had no tuna to sell — in 1973, during a scare over mercury poisoning in oceans when customers refused to buy it. At that time, he tried to find other red-colored substitutes like smoked deer meat and raw horse, a local delicacy in some parts of Japan.

“We tasted it, and horse sushi was pretty good,” he recalled. “It was soft, easy to bite off, had no smell.”

If worse comes to worst, he said, he could always try horse and deer again. The only drawback he remembered was customers objecting to red meat in the glass display case on the counter of his sushi bar.
--Martin Fackler, NYT, on responses to the growing tuna shortage

Really useful psychotropic drugs

There is considerable evidence that both falling in love and long term attachment are associated with the levels of various chemicals in the brain. Suppose we learn enough about the process to be able to control it artificially. What might the results be and should we approve?

A couple fall in love and get married. To properly regulate their emotions thereafter, they get a prescription for a few months of "being in love" drugs and use them to enjoy their honeymoon and the beginning of their marriage. Being in love is too intense an emotion for the long term, so they then switch to the "long term attachment" prescription. Later, as their schedules permit, they temporarily switch back in order to experience a second, third, fourth honeymoon...

The new drugs provide a new option—choice of mate not by either our parents or our hormones but by our reason. You employ some suitable search strategy to find a woman who is well suited to be your wife and will think you well suited to be her husband. Once the marriage contract is signed, the final step in the ceremony is for both of you to take your love drugs. You look deep into her eyes ... .
--David Friedman on an implication of advances in psych drugs

Saturday, June 23, 2007

The universal cooking method

In theory, just about anything can be deep-fried, as long as it’s reasonably solid and has a high combustion point. And a surprising variety can then be placed in your mouth, though sometimes a little courage is required...

For a good deep-fried olive, for instance, head to the Los Angeles County Fair in Pomona where deep-fried strawberries and avocados can also be sampled. The San Diego County Fair offers squid on a stick and deep-fried alligator. In Florida, deep-fried pickle slices are called Frickles. Or head to the Texas State Fair where a visionary named Abel Gonzales Jr. was able to create deep-fried Coke last year by mixing soda pop into the batter and then covering the result with cola syrup, cinnamon-sugar, whipped cream and a cherry. (Mr. Gonzales had won the fair’s top taste award the year before, as well, for a deep-fried peanut butter, jelly and banana sandwich.)...

No slight to Texas, but it is the Minnesota State Fair that may well be the epicenter of stick and hot-oil cuisine. Spaghetti-and-meatballs on a stick. Deep-fried Oreos and Twinkies. Alligator sausage on a stick. Deep-fried cheese curds. Pork chops on a stick. Wild rice corndogs. Pizza on a stick. Deep-fried chocolate chip cookies on a stick. Grapes. Pineapples. Both honeydew and cantaloupe melons.
--Rick Lyman, NYT, on the greatness of deep frying

I'm not going to pay a lot for my fish!

Economist Kathryn Graddy once spent a month shadowing a trader at the Fulton Fish Market in New York, rousing herself in the early hours and paying protection money to park her car in a safe spot near the market. She discovered that market traders appeared to charge different prices to different ethnic groups. In particular, Asian buyers tended to win keener prices than white buyers. The likely explanation was that the Asian buyers had more price-sensitive customers in Chinatown.
--Tim Harford, Slate, on the power of Asian stinginess

Friday, June 22, 2007

Whiplash

After a flurry of accounts this week about financial offers to land the first post-prison interview with Paris Hilton, both ABC and NBC said today that they no longer had any interest in securing the interview...

At the same time, the Hiltons had concluded an agreement with People magazine for the first exclusive post-release interview with Ms. Hilton in print. The magazine had agreed to pay a fee, reported to be $300,000, for photographs of Ms. Hilton’s homecoming from jail...

Whatever understandings were in place with any of the media outlets, all of them, including People’s deal for print rights, came apart Thursday night after a spokesman for the Hilton, Michael Sitrick, released a statement saying that Paris Hilton would not receive payment of any kind for the interview or for what he called “collateral material,” like the photos or videos.

“I don’t think it was playing tonally the way the way the Hiltons wanted it to play,” said one of the executives involved in the negotiations. “They decided it looked bad asking for this money so they just pulled out of everything.”
--Bill Carter, NYT, on quick reversals

The critical divide

There comes a time in every young person's life—soon after teething, usually—when she must make a momentous decision: MySpace or Facebook?
--Christopher Beam, Slate, on life-shaping choices

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Money, money, everywhere

How much is an interview with Paris Hilton worth? Representatives of ABC News said yesterday that they had lost to NBC for the first interview with Paris Hilton after her release from jail next week because ABC was unwilling to make a “high six-figure deal” with Ms. Hilton’s family...

An actual amount was not discussed, but Ms. Walters told ABC that based on her previous conversations with the Hilton representatives, she believed that the offer from NBC surpassed $750,000.
--Bill Carter, NYT, on the most lucrative 3-week jail sentence ever

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Plane crashes that didn't happen

Approval to use mobile phones in aircraft contrasts with the no-telephone-use announcements cabin attendants often deliver before takeoff. OnAir determined that 10 percent to 25 percent of passengers and crew members leave telephones turned on despite explicit warnings.
--Thomas Crampton, NYT, on false dangers

Friday, June 15, 2007

Why my wife turns up her nose at American Chinese restaurants

There is a historic explanation for the abysmal state of Chinese cuisine in the United States. Without access to key ingredients from their homeland, Chinese immigrants working on the Central Pacific Railroad in the 1860s improvised dishes like chow mein and chop suey that nobody back in their native land would have recognized. To please the na├»ve palates of 19th-century Americans, immigrant chefs used sweet, rich sauces to coat the food — a radical departure from the spicy, chili-based dishes served back home.

But today, getting ingredients is no longer an issue. Instead, the principal obstacle to improving Chinese fare here is the difficulty of getting visas for skilled workers since 9/11. Michael Tong, head of the Shun Lee restaurant group in New York, has said that opening a major Chinese restaurant in America is next to impossible because it can take years to get a team of chefs from China. Chinese restaurateur Alan Yau planned to open his first New York City restaurant last year but was derailed because he was unable to get visas for his chefs...

Imagine, if you will, what it would be like to discover for the first time Memphis-style barbecue, New York deli food, soul food and Creole, Tex-Mex, Southwestern, California and Hawaiian cuisines all at once. Eating food prepared by an influx of Chinese chefs would be like opening up a culinary time capsule.

When authentic Chinese cuisines reach our shores, we can expect a revolution in ingredients and styles that will change the way we prepare food for years to come.
--Tim and Nina Zagat, NYT, dissing General Tso's Chicken

Taiwanese hoops virtuoso

Thursday, June 14, 2007

They have a name for everything

In fluid mechanics, the cheerio effect is the tendency for small wettable floating objects to attract one another. An example of the cheerio effect is the phenomenon whereby breakfast cereal tends to clump together or cling to the sides of a bowl of milk. It is named for the breakfast cereal Cheerios and is due to surface tension and buoyancy. The same effect governs the behaviour of bubbles on the surface of fizzy drinks.
--Wikipedia on the cheerio effect

Add another 1.5 seconds to your fame

CASTING CALL IN CONNECTICUT

SYLVIA FAY/LEE GENICK & ASSOCIATES CASTING

IS HOLDING AN OPEN CASTING CALL FOR THE FEATURE FILM

COLLEGE ROAD TRIP”, A FAMILY COMEDY

STARRING MARTIN LAWRENCE

WHICH WILL BE SHOOTING

IN THE NEW HAVEN AND STAMFORD AREAS DURING JULY AND AUGUST.

SUNDAY JUNE 24, 2007

THE LITTLE THEATRE

1 LINCOLN STREET

NEW HAVEN

Screen Actors Guild members 10am – 12 noon All others 1pm – 4pm

WE ARE PARTICULARLY LOOKING FOR PEOPLE TO PORTRAY

HIGH SCHOOL STUDENTS, COLLEGE STUDENTS AND FACULTY

PLEASE BRING A RECENT PHOTOGRAPH

Photographs will not be returned

ALL AGES – ALL ETHNICITIES ARE WELCOME

ALL APPLICANTS MUST BE ELLIGIBLE TO WORK IN THE U.S.A.

No Phone Calls or Drop-offs to the Theatre or Casting Office PLEASE

Chinese isolationalism

I asked Chiao Yu [a Chinese poet and playwright], “Do you get to see much foreign literature?”

“Yes, a little.”

“Any American?”

“We have one book in the Writers Union translated from America.”

“Which is that?”

Jonathan Seagull. But so far it is only available to Union members, not the public.” ...

I was astounded by the ignorance of this writer facing me across the soda pop and the apples and candy on this lovely afternoon, until an old joke about the English passed through my mind, the one about the London headline: “Dense Fog—Continent Isolated.” How many Chinese writers did I know, free as I was to read anything? And had he not a better right than I to provincial sequestration when there were going on one billion Chinese, a quarter of the human race, while there were only two hundred million or so Americans? In fact, he had more compatriots than the populations of Europe, Russia, and half of India combined. Who was the provincial?

I thought about this a long time and decided that he was.
--Arthur Miller, March 1979 Atlantic Monthly, on who is really at the center of the world

Monday, June 11, 2007

The long line of people I saw today

‘Indiana Jones 4’ extras call for New Haven shoot
It’s no secret that the cast and crew of “Indiana Jones 4” will be traveling to New Haven, Conn. to shoot a sequence for one of the most anticipated films of Steven Spielberg’s career, and now’s your chance to be a part of the action!

The production is holding an open casting call for extras to appear in a sequence where Indy tears through campus on a motorcycle (along Chapel Street in New Haven). The call, organized by Billy Dowd Casting, will be held on Monday, June 11 and Tuesday, June 12 at the Omni Hotel at Yale between 1 p.m.-9 p.m. both days.

You must be 18 years or older, and you must bring a headshot with you to the casting call. (Photos will not be returned, so make sure that it’s not your only copy.) Filming of the New Haven sequence will take place between June 28 and July 7.
--SpielbergFilms.com on your chance at 1.5 seconds of fame

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

The asymptotic future

Our successors, whoever and wherever they are, may have no way of finding out about the Big Bang and the expanding universe, according to one of the more depressing scientific papers I have ever read.

If things keep going the way they are, Lawrence Krauss of Case Western Reserve University and Robert J. Scherrer of Vanderbilt University calculate, in 100 billion years the only galaxies left visible in the sky will be the half-dozen or so bound together gravitationally into what is known as the Local Group, which is not expanding and in fact will probably merge into one starry ball.

Unable to see any galaxies flying away, those astronomers will not know the universe is expanding and will think instead that they are back in the static island universe of Einstein. As the authors, who are physicists, write in a paper to be published in The Journal of Relativity and Gravitation, “observers in our ‘island universe’ will be fundamentally incapable of determining the true nature of the universe.” ...

[Future cosmologists] will puzzle about why the visible universe seems to consist of six galaxies, Dr. Krauss said. “What is the significance of six? Hundreds of papers will be written on that,” he said.
--Dennis Overbye, NYT, on the grim future in a universe where Jesus doesn't return to establish the new heavens and the new earth