L.A.

The politics of "24."
May 15, 2006

It's 11:20 p.m., and agent Jack Bauer has had a very long day. In the morning, he worked to rescue the secretary of defense and his daughter (who also happens to be Bauer's girlfriend) from a terrorist kidnapping and Web- telecast execution. The afternoon was mostly spent unraveling a plot to melt down all of the nation's 104 nuclear reactors simultaneously.

Second Time Farce
June 21, 2005

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.

On the Triumph of the Pornographic Imagination
May 16, 2005

"Wearing Nothing but Attitude" --New York Times, May 1, 2005 Was this trite phrase part of an ad campaign for a new Calvin Klein perfume or was it a headline for an article in the "Sunday Styles" section?

On the Lifespan of Trees
December 03, 2004

For a long time now, whenever I've gone to Los Angeles, I've been alarmed by how impossibly tall the palm trees have grown. Whether I'm driving in Santa Monica or Venice, Beverly Hills, Hollywood, or Pasadena, the familiar sight of row after row of palm trees, their thin, fibrous trunks topped by rough-hewn, yet shimmering fronds stretching hundreds of feet into the broad, shadowless light, has come to fill me with gloom.

Desk Jockey
August 09, 2004

Last week, a woman called to ask if I had received an invitation to her organization's party at the Boston convention. I told her I was not going to Boston. "Oh!" she replied, with a mixture of shock and pity. A moment ago, she had been beseeching me. Now, she was embarrassed for me. A couple days later, a reporter friend called to inquire about my convention plans.

Criminal Network
August 03, 2004

I don't like to think of myself as the kind of person who would open a column with a reference to a Billy Joel song. But this week, while ruminating on the often-inverse relationship between quality and longevity, I fleetingly considered it. I don't mind saying it scared me a little. The subject that brought me to the edge of this precipice was the late, insufficiently lamented NBC series "Boomtown," the first season of which was recently released on video and DVD. If the Paul Thomas Anderson of Magnolia, the David O.

Almost Famous
March 25, 2002

Not long ago, I flew to Los Angeles to be a contestant on “The Weakest Link” (the syndicated version with the American dude; British cruelty artist Anne Robinson now only does celebrity competitions in her prime-time slot). While in transit, I entertained fantasies of being picked up at the airport in a limousine.

The Bloods and the Crits
December 09, 1996

During the past decade, an academic movement called critical race theory has gained increasing currency in the legal academy. Rejecting the achievements of the civil rights movement of the 1960s as epiphenomenal, critical race scholars argue that the dismantling of the apparatus of formal segregation failed to purge American society of its endemic racism, or to improve the social status of African Americans in discernible or lasting ways. The claim that these scholars make is not only political; it is also epistemological.

A Man of Good Intentions
July 29, 1996

Profound disappointment creased the usually impassive face of Warren Christopher the night of May 29. The secretary of state and his staff on the seventh floor of the State Department were hearing about the election returns from Israel. Benjamin Netanyahu, a committed foe of trading the Golan Heights for peace with Hafez al-Assad's Syria, had defeated Shimon Peres, Israeli architect of the land-for-peace enterprise. Christopher had invested more than three years of effort, as well as presidential, national and personal prestige in trying to broker such a deal.

Storytelling
March 13, 1995

Your legal correspondent has been doing his part to keep this magazine 100 percent O.J.-free. My resolution to miss each moment of the trial of the century began out of indolence and has now blossomed into a ripe affectation. The truth is that I've always had an aversion to celebrity trials: the soap operatic narratives spun out to arouse the passions of jurors leave me alternately indifferent and uncomfortable; and the messy particularity of actual human experience tends to obscure the abstract legal principles that make my heart race.

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