Investing in Royalties

  Remember when Michael Jackson bought publishing rights to songs by The Beatles, Springsteen, Elvis, the Stones, and others? He did so, famously, after Paul McCartney, collaborator and once-friend, told him it was a good investment. Then Macca spent 35 years trying to get the rights back to some 250 Beatles songs. Surprisingly, anyone can […]

First Class Travel

  My friend Larry was complaining that his flight to Paris was several hours longer, now that he lived in Los Angeles instead of Chicago. “That means I have to watch three or four more movies in-flight,” he said. He is an actor. I had just driven 13 hours from Louisiana, dropped my car in […]

Why So Many Robots Are White

          When I tell someone in customer service, “Thank God I got a human being,” I mean this as a compliment. We have all seen how maddeningly stupid a programmed AI can be. What those of us outside tech tend to forget—unless we have been the victim of an algorithm run […]

Why Sports Journalism Is Boring and Cruel

          Naomi Osaka went first, and her courage made it possible for Simone Biles to step back at the Tokyo Olympics. Anybody who wanted to at least sound compassionate (and not like an anguished competitive spectator feeding off of other people’s skill) made sympathetic murmurs about all the pressure. Would there […]

Proof of the Soul?

    When golden light breaks through a streaky pink and orange sunset, it is easy to imagine we are seeing Heaven itself. Standing atop a mountain, we are at one with the whole world. Marble altars feel colder, paler, and more remote these days, and many of us seek nature’s wonders as eagerly as […]

Why We Need Touch

    In my starving-grad-student days, I took money to let both men and women feel me up. They were medical students, and I was to give feedback about their first, fumbling forays at a breast exam. What fascinated me was how different each attempt was. Some were tentative, some grabbier than a bad date, […]

Sometimes Symmetry Is Overrated

          The neighbors must worry about me; I have been desperately tending one of the two flowerpots in front of our house. It must catch a harsher slant of afternoon sunlight, because every year, the pot I place on that side of the door scorches first. Grunting, I hoisted it up […]

A Woman in a White Dress

  There is winter white, a disappointed cream just waiting to be kicked aside by linen. There is ivory, the word itself luxe, fitted for wedding gowns and trousseau satin peignoirs. But for a summer dress, simple white suffices. The appeal is so universal, I have heard more than one man rhapsodize over seeing a […]

Our Doomed Pursuit of Happiness

It always depresses me to see how accurately Alexis de Tocqueville, a twenty-five-year-old upstart, took our measure two hundred years ago. He started out admiring and found himself predicting (quite accurately, as it turns out) a sad and shallow trajectory from heroism to petulance. How sharply modern it sounds, his observation that Americans are “restless […]

They Snuck Into the Panthéon and Saved Paris

Once, in the middle of the night, six Parisian teenagers managed to get into the Panthéon in Paris. It turned out to be so easy, they woke up the next morning thinking: Okay, what next? Les UX—The Urban eXperiment—was born. Next was the Ministry of Communications—where, in the dusty basement, they found maps charting the […]