Madonna

What we can learn from Twitter and Facebook's year-in-review lists.

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Dante’s Vita Nova

What happens when you try to translate Dante's poetry into "contemporary American English"

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When the members of Pussy Riot heard their two-year prison sentence, they laughed.

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Last month, I had the privilege of speaking at commencement exercises for the health professional schools at Nova Southeastern University. It was a homecoming of sorts: I spent most of my childhood in South Florida, about fifteen miles from the campus. But a lot has changed. When I left in the late 1980s, the sports/concert arena where I spoke did not exist. Neither did the hockey team that plays there. As for NSU, I remember it as a small, relatively obscure school, with maybe a few thousand students overall and no significant presence in health care.

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And just like that, the News of the World is gone. Never mind that Rupert Murdoch’s racy tabloid was the best-selling and most profitable weekly in Britain, with a circulation of some 2.6 million.

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Talk show host Oprah Winfrey taped her farewell show yesterday at the United Center in Chicago. In front of 13,000 spectators (13,000!), a host of celebrities made surprise guest appearances, including Michael Jordan, Tom Cruise, Maya Angelou, Will Smith, and Madonna. (Also present was former California first lady and Oprah pal Maria Shriver, who took the opportunity to get in a jibe at her estranged husband Arnold Schwarzenegger.) For 25 years, Winfrey has been the most popular talk show host in the United States, and one of the most powerful women in the country.

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The Road By Vasily Grossman Translated by Robert Chandler and Elizabeth Chandler with Olga Mukovnikova (New York Review of Books Classics, 372 pp., $15.95)  What should we call the literary age of Vasily Grossman, who wrote Life and Fate, the greatest Russian novel of the twentieth century? There was the “Golden Age,” from Turgenev and Goncharov to Tolstoy, Dostoevsky, and Chekhov. The “Silver Age,” interrupted by the Revolution of 1917, had Blok, Gumilev, the young Mandelstam, Pasternak, Tsvetaeva, Akhmatova, Khodasevich, Mayakovsky, Bely, and the future Nobelist Bunin.

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The Baby Lottery

As someone who has long believed that there is something morally repellant about living in a country that prides itself on being the greatest democracy in the world but where the top one-tenth of one percent of the people "earn" as much money per year collectively as the entire bottom fifty percent of working people, I would like to offer a modest proposal that might "level the playing field," as the popular saying has it, and thus provide a foundation for a democracy worthy of the name.

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Kaballist pop queen Madonna touring Jerusalem holy sites, will meet with Netanyahu on Friday. For real. Wonder what she thinks about a settlement freeze.... Photo: AP

Fast Times

Sitting among Madonna’s tassel-tipped corset, a jumpsuit worn by a member of ZZ Top, and other framed memorabilia, Egyptian families wait at their empty tables in silence. A 50-inch flat-screen television overhead plays music videos of the Killers and Nine Inch Nails, while waiters weave aimlessly around the booths. As the sun dips below the Nile, a Red Hot Chili Peppers video is unceremoniously interrupted—the guitar solo replaced by a solemn, baritone voice. “In the name of Allah, the most merciful,” it begins in Arabic.

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