A Thing or Two about a Thing or Two, a.k.a. Science

Posted · Add Comment

Rationalists tend to frown upon group activities that seem to serve no evident biological or political purpose, like the drumming and masking so often indulged in by protest movements like Occupy Wall Street. Or, for a more historically venerable example, consider the reaction of European conquerors and missionaries to the shocking spectacles they encountered during […]

The Missionary Position

Posted · Add Comment

Most critics have regarded Ridley Scott’s Prometheus in much the same way that Arthur Miller probably thought of Marilyn Monroe—gorgeous, but intellectually way out of her depth. No one denies the film’s visual glory, which begins the moment a giant chalk-white alien strides out into the Icelandic wasteland, guzzles some gunk from a can, and splits open […]

Preying on the Poor

Posted · Add Comment

How government and corporations use the poor as piggy banks. Individually the poor are not too tempting to thieves, for obvious reasons. Mug a banker and you might score a wallet containing a month’s rent. Mug a janitor and you will be lucky to get away with bus fare to flee the crime scene. But […]

The Animal Cure

Posted · Add Comment

Encounters with lions, mountain goats, grizzly bears, dolphins, and whales are not least among the exotic experiences offered by the tourism industry. The attractions are obvious: a chance to be outdoors in stunning scenery, to see creatures you may have known only as two-dimensional images, and to feel ecologically high-minded in the process. But current […]

Trying to find a job is not a job

Posted · Add Comment

In most parts of the world, from Paris to Beijing, mass unemployment brings the specter of mass social unrest. Not here, though, where 13 million people have accepted joblessness with nary a peep of protest. Many reasons — from Prozac to Pentecostalism — have been cited to explain American passivity in the face of economic […]

Why Homelessness Is Becoming an Occupy Wall Street Issue

Posted · Add Comment

What the Occupy Wall Streeters are beginning to discover, and homeless people have known all along, is that most ordinary activities are illegal when performed in American streets. As anyone knows who has ever had to set up a military encampment or build a village from the ground up, occupations pose staggering logistical problems. Large […]

Overrated Optimism: The Peril of Positive Thinking

Posted · Add Comment

If you’re craving a quick hit of optimism, reading a newsmagazine is probably not the best way to go about finding it. As the life coaches and motivational speakers have been trying to tell us for more than a decade now, a healthy, positive mental outlook requires strict abstinence from current events in all forms. […]

Happy Now?

Posted · Add Comment

“But are you happy?” That’s the killer question I’ve faced repeatedly since the publication of my book Bright-Sided: How the Relentless Promotion of Positive Thinking Has Undermined America. I take a deep breath because I know what’s at stake. If I come across as unhappy or even a little conflicted, I can be dismissed as […]

Up Close at Trinidad’s Carnival

Posted · Add Comment

What’s behind the raucous pre-Lenten rite? An intrepid scholar hits the streets of Trinidad to find out. When Northerners think of the caribbean, Trinidad isn’t usually the first place that comes to mind. Until recently, Trinidad had few tourist-oriented hotels or restaurants, and its crime rate is so high that visitors are advised not to […]