Francesca Mari

Love Tomorrow

Love TodayBy Maxim BillerTranslated by Anthea Bell(Simon and Schuster, 217 pp., $23)The Game, that infamous black-imitation-leather-bound book about the seduction community, is a novel of sorts. There is a narrative. But really the writer, Neil Strauss, produced a guidebook with a glossary. I remember--the book appeared in 2005--how it spread through the dining halls and dormitories at Harvard, passed from one roommate to the next. This was not the game we played, or would ever play, or would ever want to play--well, or so we said. Yet the book held a certain attraction.

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Cosmic Realism

The Boys in the Trees By Mary Swan (Holt Paperbacks, 224 pp., $14) Words have become too self-conscious, too anxious, to sit still on the page. In a world blaring with YouTube videos and buzzing with blog posts, there is, especially in fiction, an apparent need to justify the extended use of text. Why write a story when you can film one? Why read when you can watch? Writers, when they react to this new instability, tend either to defiantly renounce the page or to defensively embrace it.

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About a week ago the AP wrote about a new, ecologically-friendly alternative to burial or cremation: dissolving bodies in lye. The process, which is called alkaline hydrolysis, yields a coffee-colored liquid and dry bone residue, similar in volume to that of cremation remains. Although the liquid smells heavily of ammonia, with a permit, it can pretty much be poured down the drain, taking up less space than burial, and producing less carbon emissions than cremation. You've got to admit that there’s something more spectacular about going out in flames rather than being eaten away by lye.

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Trendwatching.com, a company which produces annual trend reports, recently reported that Over the past few years, the ECO trend has moved from ECO-UGLY (ugly, over-priced, low performance alternatives to shiny 'traditional sphere' products and services) to ECO-CHIC (eco-friendly stuff that actually looks as nice and cool as the less responsible version) to ECO-ICONIC in 2008: "Eco-friendly goods and services sporting bold, iconic design and markers, that help their eco-conscious owners to visibly tout their eco-credentials to peers." They were talking about products, but the trend applies to

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Skyfarming

           Last week's issue of New York had this exciting piece about "Skyfarming": Why build vertical farms in cities? Growing crops in a controlled environment has benefits: no animals to transfer disease through untreated waste; no massive crop failures as a result of weather-related disasters; less likelihood of genetically modified “rogue” strains entering the “natural” plant world. All food could be grown organically, without herbicides, pesticides, or fertilizers, eliminating agricultural runoff. And 80 percent of the world’s population will be living in urban areas by 2050.

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New York magazine's editors asked four architects to come up with plans for the empty plot on Canal and Varick that faces their office. It's no surprise that one of the submissions wasgreen-themed. (The surprise would be if one of them wasn't.) Green roofs are lovely—an oasis to keep city dwellers sane while improving the air a little too. But a farm on the roof? More specifically, cut across ascending tiers? “We are interested in urban farming and the notion of trying to make our cities more sustainable by cutting the miles [food travels],” says WorkAC co-principal Amale Andraos.

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Bums Beware!

Taking things from trashcans is a criminal offense. At least it was for this poor fellow caught stealing waste grease from Burger King. Why on earth the Burger King manager cared to rat him out is beyond me. Maybe it was a case of You Don't Know What You've Got Until It's Gone? When the manager saw someone pumping the inedible waste grease into a truck, he suddenly wanted it? The brown grease suddenly looked gold? Biodiesel--made by combining alcohol (usually methanol) with vegetable oil, animal fat, or recycled cooking grease--is a good fuel alternative.

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The 'Lapham's' Index

In Philip Roth’s latest book, Exit Ghost, Amy Bellette has to be hauled out of the New York Public Library kicking and screaming. Her lover, the fictional writer E.I. Lonoff, isn’t represented among a display of America’s best authors, and Bellette is furious--not only at his absence, but also at the authors included instead. More than anything, Bellette is enraged by the cost of political correctness. “It started with the colleges,” she later says, “and now it’s everywhere.

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Hillary Endorses

The hot pepper! She's been dosing since 1992. "It keeps my metabolism revved up, and it keeps me healthy," Hillary told 60 Minutes. Tara Parker-Pope says nutritionists tend to agree.  --Francesca Mari 

Politics In Our Genes?

You know the campaign is a big deal when the health fluff pieces turn to it for stuffing. Are your politics rooted in your genes?” CNN asks. In so far as genes determine the way we think, yes! I guess this means that future candidates are gonna start mining our genetic codes like polling data. Thank goodness Huckabee doesn’t believe in evolution! --Francesca Mari

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