food

The New York Times had a good, concise editorial yesterday on the global surge in food prices: Last week, the president of the World Bank, Robert Zoellick, warned that 33 nations are at risk of social unrest because of the rising prices of food. "For countries where food comprises from half to three-quarters of consumption, there is no margin for survival," he said. With riots breaking out in Haiti and Egypt over the cost of food, I don't think Zoellick's being too alarmist here.

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Mindless Eating: Why We Eat More Than We Think By Brian Wansink (Bantam, 276 pp., $25) The idea of "the survival of the fittest" is one of the most powerful organizing principles in all of science. That simple idea, stated by Herbert Spencer on the basis of Charles Darwin's work and later endorsed by Darwin himself, captures the theory of evolution, the process of natural selection, and a host of associated notions. And yet the phrase can produce confusion.

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Progmation

I DEAD IN ATTIC By Chris Rose (Chris Rose Books, 158 pp., $13) BREACH OF FAITH: HURRICANE KATRINA AND THE NEAR DEATH OF A GREAT AMERICAN CITY By Jed Horne (Random House, 412 pp., $25.95) THE STORM By Ivor van Heerden and Mike Bryan (Viking, 308 pp., 25.95) THE GREAT DELUGE: HURRICANE KATRINA, NEW ORLEANS, AND THE MISSISSIPPI GULF COAST By Douglas Brinkley (William Morrow, 716 pp., $29.95) PATH OF DESTRUCTION: THE DEVASTATION OF NEW ORLEANS AND THE COMING AGE OF SUPERSTORMS By John McQuaid and Mark Schleifstein (Little, Brown, 386 pp., $26) DISPATCHES FROM THE EDGE: A MEMOIR OF WAR, DISASTERS,

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Empire Falls

With Hurricane Katrina still over the Gulf of Mexico, Orleans Parish Criminal Sheriff Marlin Gusman, New Orleans's chief jailer, convened his ranking officers for an emergency meeting. Present in the sheriff's conference room that Saturday were most of his wardens, as well as the officer in charge of supplies and the head of the jail's kitchen, a huge feeding operation that prepared more than 18,000 meals per day. The sheriff went around the table, asking the officers if they were prepared for a storm.

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The Name Game

Colson Whitehead's empty wit.

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Gulf Stream

On Monday morning in Baton Rouge, Josephine Bell was trying to tidy her family's living area. "Help me sweep up now!" she yelled at one of her sons, handing him a broom and pointing to a pile of spilled cereal beneath a cot. "I want this area clean!" Bell, her husband, and her two sons had arrived in Baton Rouge eight days earlier, when, heeding the call to evacuate New Orleans as Hurricane Katrina approached, they left their home in the city's Uptown neighborhood and headed, on a special bus, 80 miles west on I-10.

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Failed State

Can any governor succeed in California?

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In Hollywood, the one thing as inevitable as death and taxes is sequels. They roll them out, year after year, the 2s and IIs, the Returns and Revenges, and Strikes Backs and Strikes Agains. For decades, the first rule of making a successful sequel has been simple and unchanging: Figure out what you did right the first time and do it again. The problem, of course, is that this isn't always so easy. For every The Godfather: Part II there's a The Two Jakes; for every The Empire Strikes Back, an Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom.

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Reality Bites

Reality is in, and not just on network TV. In indie filmmaking, too, there has been a shift away from the Tarantino- and Coens-influenced comic experimentalism of the 1990s toward simpler narratives told with a minimum of cinematic trickery.

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In the introduction to Home Movies I noted that, given the ascendance of video rental over theater attendance, movies are generally reviewed months before most people will see them. One exception, of course, is movies that aren't reviewed at all, having never been released theatrically. Ripley's Game, which Fine Line Features has put out on video after declining to distribute it to theaters, has not quite suffered this fate: A minor cause célèbre, it has gotten some attention in the press, and even enjoyed a three-night, sold out run in New York earlier this year.

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