Picnics at the World’s Fairs

    The wicker basket, the plastic champagne glasses, the cute little napkins printed with ants…will all have to wait. St. Louis’s air is clotted with humidity, barely breathable, and the sun belongs in Death Valley. We have entered the dog days, terribly misnamed because any dog with sense just sleeps through them. I close […]

Testing Fate With an Eight-Buck Notebook

    The cover is black, with a velvety suede feel, and the notebook—excuse me, journal—closes with a clean magnetic snap. A pen could slide into the side loop and feel at home. The paper is smooth and heavy, with the faint, rich speckle of vanilla bean ice cream. In all, an unusually fine notebook […]

The Elephant on the Patio

    Beautiful and silly, these elephant ears. Do your ears hang low, do they wobble to and fro? Close my eyes and I can see the elephant that inspired them, wrinkly brownish gray, standing in the middle of our concrete-slab patio with improbable grace. They are sanguine creatures, thick-skinned and self-content, yet sensitive, good […]

The Slow Joy of Guarding the Metropolitan Museum of Art

      Patrick Bringley sat with his mother at his brother’s bedside. The sun was rising, and she looked down at her eldest, ridden with cancer, his pale face softened by the early light. Then she glanced over at Patrick. “Look at us,” she said wryly. “We’re a fucking old master painting.” She loved […]

Slouching Toward Chatbots

    Washington University just issued some sensible guidance to researchers excited about the latest AI capabilities: check accuracy, be transparent, be vigilant. A friend who works in the public sector tells me he has outsourced all the boring parts of his job to chatbots. I have begun to ask them frivolous questions: “If I […]

Seeing The Doctor

    One small moment, in a stack of far more momentous moments, captures my attention in the darkened theater. A woman onstage, part of a TV panel assembled to grill a doctor for her alleged insensitivity to race and religion, introduces herself as “specializing in the study of post-colonial social politics”—and the audience cracks […]

The Case for Travel

    Agnes Callard is someone I want to like. A woman in philosophy who writes clearly and readably about topics important to us all, and does so with honesty and humor? Rare, and to be treasured. Except she keeps pissing me off. First, a profile by Rachel Aviv—who always probes with sensitivity and intelligence—leaves […]

Old—and New—New York

    “Go and visit that feverish and dreamy city.” ~ Georgio de Chirico   New York has been the center of the world (one of the centers? It would say otherwise) for a rather long time. Just the city’s name means things—variously defined—to people all over the world. This was truest in the twentieth […]

The Cooper Hewitt: Peace, by Design

    One of this summer’s big exhibits at the Cooper Hewitt, America’s design museum, explores “the unique role design can play in pursuing peace.” How many people will hear that and roll their eyes? So often, the visual arts either content themselves with dark, bitter commentary or stay out of the fray altogether. The […]

The Elevation of the Penis

    Penises are exploding all over the news cycle. At second glance, though, two are the same article, “Inside the Secretive World of Penile Enlargement,” co-published by Pro Publica and The New Yorker. (The New York Times piped up a few days earlier to tell us about a newly approved gel that “helps men […]