Poison Ivy: Why Elizabeth Warren's Day Job May Undo Her Senate Campaign
September 14, 2011

Few things are more grating to the proud people of Massachusetts than claiming to understand their worldview on the basis of a few Good Will Hunting quotes. Still, even the most jaded Bay Staters should admit that sometimes a dose of Ben Affleck helps to clarify things.

Small Town America is Metropolitan America
August 25, 2011

Each year, Money magazine sets out to identify the “100 Best Places to Live in America.” As we noted when we reviewed the magazine’s 2009 list here, the American appetite for rankings and hometown pride drives a plethora of such lists. Reflecting America’s “small town” mythology and nostalgia, Money’s focus in both 2009 and 2011 was on small-to-medium sized communities (populations between 8,500 and 50,000) with a desirable location (within 60 miles of a major airport) and a modicum of diversity (less than 95 percent white).

The Best Responses to 9/11—and the Worst
August 24, 2011

I was in bed at a New York hotel when my stock trader called to say that one of the Twin Towers had been hit by an airplane. “A horrible accident,” he surmised, adding “unprecedented” to the presumption. He told me to turn on the “tube,” such nomenclature dating him as middle-aged. The phone rang again: “The second tower is on its way down. And, of course, this means it is no accident at all.” Which was my intuition as soon as I’d heard the first terrible tidings. Moreover, I knew instinctively who’d done the dreadful deed; and it wasn’t a new version of the Unabomber.

How to Predict the Next Earthquake in D.C.
August 23, 2011

At precisely 1:51 PM EST, much of the nation panicked, turned to the nearest person, and asked, “Did you feel something?” The 5.9 magnitude earthquake that shook the Eastern seaboard today was the biggest ever to hit Washington, D.C., spanning from its epicenter near Mineral, Virginia all the way to Boston. As we anticipate the inevitable aftershocks in a state of fear and trembling, the Study asks the question on everyone’s mind: Could we have known this was going to happen? Can we predict earthquakes? Well, we can’t.

Pull Yourself Together, D.C.! Perrymania Is Overrated
August 16, 2011

Like much of his career, Rick Perry’s entry into the presidential campaign was exceptionally well-timed. Announcing the very day that his main rival for the “electable conservative alternative to Mitt Romney” mantle, Tim Pawlenty, was driven from the race by a poor third-place showing at the Iowa Straw Poll, the Texan has a lot of open political space to occupy.

McWhorter: ‘Tar Baby’ Isn’t Actually a Racist Slur
August 03, 2011

It was five years ago now that Mitt Romney and the late White House spokesman Tony Snow both spent time in the hot seat for using the term “tar baby.” Romney was referring to the Big Dig highway project in Boston, and Snow to an abstract debate. But there are those who consider the term, originally referring to something difficult to free oneself from once touched, a racial slur.

Can the NFL’s New Collective Bargaining Agreement Save Football?
July 30, 2011

While the end of the National Football League’s labor hostilities was met with cheers this week from sideline to American sideline, my thoughts turned to Dave Duerson’s family. Duerson played 11 NFL seasons as a safety—the sport’s most wide-ranging, hard-hitting defensive position—and was part of Super Bowl-winning teams with the Chicago Bears and New York Giants. In February, after reportedly complaining for months of neurological torments—splitting headaches, mood swings, memory loss—Duerson committed suicide at age 50.

The Importance of Being Earnest
July 28, 2011

The Pale King By David Foster Wallace (Little, Brown, 548 pp., $27.99) Fate, Time, and Language: An Essay on Free Will By David Foster Wallace (Columbia University Press, 252 pp., $19.95) Although Of Course You End Up Becoming Yourself: A Road Trip with David Foster Wallace By David Lipsky (Broadway Books, 320 pp., $16.99) I. Today we think of the 1920s as a golden age of American fiction. But to Edmund Wilson, looking back in 1944, the most striking thing about this modern generation, which he did more than any critic to foster, was its failure to reach full development.

Albany: The Surprising Clean Economy Capital
July 19, 2011

What major metropolitan area hosts the greatest concentration of “clean” or “green” jobs in the country? Is it Boston? San Francisco? Denver? Nope. It’s Albany, N.Y. This is one of the many sometimes surprising but rich and fun findings that emerges from the Metro Program’s new report, “Sizing the Clean Economy,” which endeavors to count the number of jobs in the clean economy establishment by establishment and metro area by metro area. Albany-Schenectady-Troy, N.Y.

Artist John Storrs's Gentle, Dreamy Take on Machine-Age Modernity
July 06, 2011

Is quality a question of character? The thought has occurred to me in the past few days, precipitated by the work of the sculptor John Storrs, the subject of a small retrospective closing at the Grey Art Gallery in New York at the end of the week. Storrs—who although he died in 1956 is best known for work evoking machine-age forms mostly done by the end of the 1920s—is an artist whose achievement is so much more than the sum of its formal powers that I find myself somewhat mystified.