Origins of the Arts

Sociobiologist E.O. Wilson on the evolution of culture Edward O. Wilson RICH AND SEEMINGLY BOUNDLESS as the creative arts seem to be, each is filtered through the narrow biological channels of human cognition. Our sensory world, what we can learn unaided about reality external to our bodies, is pitifully small. Our vision is limited to … Continue reading

Smell Test

After a lifelong curiosity about the prohibition against pork, one writer finds a satisfying answer—in the writings of the late Christopher Hitchens Shmarya Rosenberg In case you don’t know, pigs aren’t kosher. It is a statement so axiomatic that for most Jews, making it is akin to saying the sky is blue or snow is … Continue reading

Why Do Americans Hate the French?

How a nation of 65 million people got on our bad side. Brian Palmer A new ad from a liberal advocacy group shows Mitt Romney speaking in French while intentionally mistranslated subtitles make the case that he’s a flip-flopper. Surrogates for George W. Bush accused John Kerry of "looking French" during the 2004 campaign. Why … Continue reading

Why Is Art So Damned Expensive?

A pile of stools for $575,000. A cabinet full of surgical instruments for a cool $2.5 million. The global economy’s in a tailspin, but among the world’s elite collectors, works are selling for record prices. Blake Gopnick Walking around Miami Beach last weekend, taking in the 10th edition of its extravagant Art Basel art fair, … Continue reading

Female circumcision

Betwa Sharma Cairo—Ali, a 34-year-old Cairo businessman who asked that his real name not be used, is weighing whether or not to circumcise his 12-year-old daughter. Female circumcision, or female genital mutilation (FGM), as it also known, involves removing part or the entire clitoris. In more severe forms of the procedure, the labia minora is … Continue reading

The Myth of U.S. Exceptionalism

The idea that the United States is uniquely virtuous may be comforting to Americans. Too bad it’s not true. STEPHEN M. WALT Over the last two centuries, prominent Americans have described the United States as an "empire of liberty," a "shining city on a hill," the "last best hope of Earth," the "leader of the … Continue reading

Is the alcohol message all wrong?

Many people think heavy drinking causes promiscuity, violence and anti-social behaviour. That’s not necessarily true, argues Kate Fox. I am a social anthropologist, but what I do is not the traditional intrepid sort of anthropology where you go and study strange tribes in places with mud huts and monsoons and malaria. I really don’t see … Continue reading

Is “Middlebrow” Still An Insult?

David Haglund This week, NYRB Classics has reissued Masscult and Midcult: Essays Against the American Grain, by Dwight Macdonald. The book, first published in 1962 (and then called Against the American Grain: Essays on the Effects of Mass Culture), now has an introduction from New Yorker writer Louis Menand, who calls the title essay “a … Continue reading

Bossy Women Have Less Sex

Amanda Marcotte Today in misleading science reporting: headlines screaming about a study that supposedly demonstrated that "dominant women have less sex." That is, women who have more power in their heterosexual relationships have less sex. You can hear the gleeful squeals of anti-feminists all over the Internet: finally, proof that women’s happiness is dependent on … Continue reading

No place like abroad

Walk, talk and eat. Wendell Steavenson explains how to feel at home after a week in a foreign land Wendell Steavenson Cairo: the market “delivers an instant jolt into another culture” Let me recount the countries I have lived in by kitchens: Moscow, winter of 1994, I had a hemisphere window with a view of … Continue reading


PoMo: Everybody’s doing it The tag of postmodernism gets attached to buildings, art, food, even the way we communicate. Jay Merrick asks why we’re in thrall to something so shallow Forty years ago, we lived "modern" lives. Ideas, emotions and actions seemed ordered, and part of a zeitgeist of confident restraint that originated in the … Continue reading

The typewriter lives on in India

India’s typewriter culture survives the age of computers in offices where bureaucracy demands typed forms and in rural areas where many homes don’t have electricity. Mark Magnier It’s a stultifying afternoon outside the Delhi District Court as Arun Yadav slides a sheet of paper into his decades-old Remington and revs up his daily 30-word-a-minute tap … Continue reading

Female genital mutilation becomes less common in Egypt

Wendy Zukerman After a decade of failed attempts to stop female genital mutilation (FGM) – or female circumcision – in Egypt, the practice is finally becoming less common. In 1996 the Egyptian government banned FGM in hospitals – but because licensed practitioners were still allowed to perform the surgery elsewhere, it continued. A 2006 survey … Continue reading

Polygamists Are Coming Out of the Closet

By Jacek Przybylski The opinion that polygamists will start advocating for marriage after the gay community scored victories in that field is very widespread. Translated By Matthew Matyjek 25 July 2011 Edited by Heidi Kaufmann Poland – Wirtualna Polska – Original Article (Polish ) The war for polygamist rights has been waged in the United … Continue reading

Where Have All the Girls Gone?

It’s true: Western money and advice really did help fuel the explosion of sex selection in Asia. BY MARA HVISTENDAHL How did more than 160 million women go missing from Asia? The simple answer is sex selection — typically, an ultrasound scan followed by an abortion if the fetus turns out to be female — … Continue reading

My First Time, Twice

Ariel Levy Ariel Levy on the rush to lose her virginity at fourteen, recalling: “Nobody would gasp if they heard a fifteen- or sixteen-year-old had lost her virginity. The clock was ticking.” Photograph via Flickr by Laura Smith When I was fourteen years old, I decided it was time to lose my virginity. Precocity had … Continue reading

The Last of the Scholar Warriors

Farewell to Patrick Leigh Fermor and his extraordinary generation. By Christopher Hitchens Patrick Leigh Fermor The death of Sir Patrick Leigh Fermor at the age of 96, commemorated in many obituaries as the end of a celebrated travel writer, in fact rings down the final curtain on an extraordinary group of British irregular warriors whose … Continue reading

DSK and the French-American Misunderstanding

By Guy Sorman Translated By Yanina Weingast Edited by Alexan­der Anderson Spain – ABC – Original Article (Spanish) Three weeks ago, Dominique Strauss-Kahn (DSK) was only known to the French and other countries as a modern socialist who might finally lead the French Left from Marxism to globalization. Only 10 minutes were enough from his … Continue reading

Liberté, Égalité, Virilité

The French don’t just tolerate their politicians’ sexual dalliances — they demand them. BY ELAINE SCIOLINO The arraignment of Dominique Strauss-Kahn on charges including attempted rape and sexual abuse of a hotel housekeeper has stunned France. Strauss-Kahn, a Socialist who was forced to resign as head of the International Monetary Fund, was about to announce … Continue reading

Revenge of the Tiger Children

China’s young, spoiled kids are rejecting traditional values. But can the state make Mao or Confucius seem relevant again — before it’s too late? BY WEN LIAO HONG KONG – Samuel Johnson, the great English author, once quipped that "patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel." In today’s China, however, state-mandated patriotism is not … Continue reading

Chinese dog eaters and dog lovers spar over animal rights

William Wan BEIJING — The mutts were destined for the dinner table — all 520 of them crammed onto a truck hurtling down a Beijing highway toward awaiting restaurants in northeastern China. Then, fate intervened in the form of a passing driver, an animal lover who spotted the truck and angrily forced it off the … Continue reading

The Young and the Betrothed

The strange world of Afghan weddings and the dark side of early marriage. Read Anna Badkhen’s account of child grooms in Afghanistan. More than 50 million girls under the age of 17 in developing countries are married; millions more are at risk of being forced into child marriages. The practice is rife in Afghanistan, particularly … Continue reading

Sheep Eats

Trying to get through a traditional Mongolian feast. By Catherine Price Sheep: It’s what’s for dinner One afternoon in Ulaan Baatar, Otgoo invited my husband and me to a traditional Mongolian feast. Otgoo, a friend of our host family, had given us tours of little-known temples; she’d helped us bargain for belt buckles in Naran … Continue reading

That old French anti-Americanism

it ain’t what it used to be Daniel W. Drezner In first days after Dominique Strauss-Kahn’s arrest, there was a big spasm of media output about how the arrest revealed the massive cultural divide between France and the United States, yada, yada, yada.  Led by blowhard French intellectuals France’s cultural elite, anti-Americanism seemed ready to … Continue reading

The French elite’s dithering over DSK

will have ugly consequences Tim King  —  18th May 2011 A darling of the press: Dominique Strauss Kahn on a visit to Rezé. Picture: Bixintx While we await Friday’s developments in the Dominique Strauss-Kahn case, the non-French press, following John Lichfield’s excellent piece in yesterday’s Independent, has moved on to discuss the French taboo of … Continue reading

Why do so many French women accept sexism?

Lucy Wadham  "A Samson figure in France": Dominique Strauss-Kahn. Picture: IMF Why is it that so many French women—and not just powerful women in politics and the media—are seeing Dominique Strauss-Kahn as the victim in his case of alleged sexual assault? Listening yesterday morning to the French equivalent of BBC Radio 4 (France Inter) brought … Continue reading

Kicking Up a Stink

On eating cheese in China. By Fuchsia Dunlop Cheese It was lunchtime, in a private room at the Xianheng Tavern, the most famous restaurant in the ancient Chinese city of Shaoxing. I opened the plastic boxes that I’d carried, sealed, all the way from London, and the stench of farmhouse cheeses began to waft across … Continue reading

Hey France, You Are Right About the Perp Walk

The pre-trial practice of parading those accused of criminal conduct before the press is terribly prejudicial and unfair Andrew Cohen Of all the discordant notes that have been sounded since the arrest last week of former International Monetary Fund chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn, the most disappointing may have come from Michael Bloomberg. Of the now famous … Continue reading

The Sex Difference in Sex Scandals

Why do these kinds of scandals so rarely happen with female politicians? Lane Wallace Nearly two years ago, when South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford admitted (finally, in a spectacularly embarrassing press conference) to having an extra-marital affair with an Argentine woman, a lot of questions were raised about why this kind of scandal so rarely … Continue reading

Beaucoup B.S.

The DSK case and the silly stereotypes about American and European morals. By Christopher Hitchens IMF chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn in federal court in New York CityWhy is it that we cannot read any discussion of a political sex scandal, or a sex scandal involving a politician, without pseudo-sophisticated comments about the supposedly different morals of … Continue reading

Five Reasons Dominique Strauss-Kahn Believes He Had “Consensual Sex”

Emma Gilbey Keller As Dominique Strauss-Kahn steps down from his I.M.F. post to concentrate on his legal woes, we wonder if his defense team will use one of these five reasons as to why their client believes he had “consensual sex” with an employee of New York’s Sofitel Hotel at 12 p.m. on Saturday, May … Continue reading

D.S.K.: What Hotel Housekeepers Do

Patricia Marx I do not know—but, on the other hand, it would be nice to know, and without delay—how a chambermaid could have walked in alone, contrary to the habitual practice of most of New York’s grand hotels of sending a “cleaning brigade” of two people, into the room of one of the most closely … Continue reading

An Indefensible Defense

French intellectuals’ despicable response to Dominique Strauss-Kahn’s arrest. David Rieff Early in the summer of 1995, a colleague and I went into South Sudan to report from the side of the South Sudanese guerrilla army, the SPLA. At dinner on the day we arrived, completely out of the blue, one of our minders turned to … Continue reading

Power Corrupts

Jonah Lehrer The news abounds with stories of powerful men behaving badly. It’s a depressing yet predictable spectacle — those in positions of power can’t help but help themselves to the help. They scream at underlings and have sex with the secretaries; they assault hotel maids (or at least are accused of such) and sleep … Continue reading

I’d stake my life that Stephen Hawking is wrong about heaven

Hawking says some admirable things, but the idea that I believe in life after death because I’m afraid of the dark is insulting Michael Wenham Like Stephen Hawking, I have been living with motor neurone disease (MND). Like him, I’m one of the lucky few not to have died within months of diagnosis. I’m nine … Continue reading

Don’t let Dominique Strauss-Kahn become the victim

The French media’s response to Strauss-Kahn’s arrest says much about the country’s tolerance for sexual misconduct Isabelle Germain Dominique Strauss-Kahn walks to his arraignment on charges he sexually assaulted a hotel maid. Photograph: Emmanuel Dunand/AP The events leading to the arrest of Dominique Strauss-Kahn in New York are not yet known in their entirety. But, … Continue reading

Why don’t we love our intellectuals?

While France celebrates its intelligentsia, you have to go back to Orwell and Huxley to find British intellectuals at the heart of national public debate. Why did we stop caring about ideas? When did ‘braininess’ become a laughing matter? John Naughton Cafe society: Jean-Paul Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir in Paris, 1940. Photograph: Sipa Press … Continue reading

Unspoken Truths

Until cancer attacked his vocal cords, the author didn’t fully appreciate what was meant by “a writer’s voice,” or the essential link between speech and prose. As a man who loved to talk, he turns to the masters of such conversation, both in history and in his own circle. By Christopher Hitchens• Illustration by Mark … Continue reading

A Rite of Torture for Girls

By NICHOLAS D. KRISTOF HARGEISA, Somaliland People usually torture those whom they fear or despise. But one of the most common forms of torture in the modern world, incomparably more widespread than waterboarding or electric shocks, is inflicted by mothers on daughters they love. It’s female genital mutilation — sometimes called female circumcision — and … Continue reading

Finding good in bad girls

Everyone from Anne Boleyn to Kate Middleton is supposed to have used their wiles to get ahead. But, argues Harriet Walker, the tactic should be understood rather than condemned From Donna Summer to Dante, everybody loves a "bad girl". She is a social construct that runs the cultural gamut from classical to cartoonish and back … Continue reading

What’s the point of the monarchy?

The British monarchy is an antique institution, peopled by eccentrics and governed by arcane rules and customs. But it works—and we would struggle to find a better alternative Simon Jenkins The Queen opens parliament in 2010. As a constitutional form, the monarchy has proved astonishingly robust, argues Simon Jenkins Best not to think about it. … Continue reading

Why the monarchy must go

Will Self Support for the monarchy is the result of brainwashing on an Orwellian scale, argues novelist Will Self I haven’t seen The King’s Speech yet. This isn’t just because I’m a republican. I’m not such a zealot that I think ideologies which I have no sympathy with cannot still form the backdrop to compelling … Continue reading

Justice in US-Islam Honor Murder

Western-Islamic honor killings are 91% Muslim. The UK is already doing something about it, in the USA one murderer was sentenced to 34.5 years in prison. by Prof. Phyllis Chesler Arizona Judge Roland Steinle has just sentenced Faleh Almaleki to 34½ years in prison. According to live reporting from the courtroom, the judge noted that … Continue reading

High fat culture means Americans resigned to obesity

By Peter Bills In the US it’s easier to buy McDonald’s than a sandwich. Photo / AP On the face of it, you would have to say it appears to be one of the great oxymorons of all time: Walk into just about any decent hotel or motel across this vast country and you are … Continue reading

Durian: The King of Fruits is an angry king

Beloved in Southeast Asia, famously stinky, I’ve avoided the "King of Fruit" for decades … until now By Francis Lam Wikipedia/Salon Durian. Oh, durian. You can’t read anything about the heavy, spiky tropical fruit without finding out that "many people in Southeast Asia call it the King of Fruits," but who are these people? And, … Continue reading

Beware the In-Laws

Does Kate Middleton really want to marry into a family like this? By Christopher Hitchens Prince William and Kate MiddletonA hereditary monarch, observed Thomas Paine, is as absurd a proposition as a hereditary doctor or mathematician. But try pointing this out when everybody is seemingly moist with excitement about the cake plans and gown schemes … Continue reading

Why Won’t This New Mom Wash Her Hair?

The fascinating postpartum customs of women from around the world. By Rebecca Tuhus-Dubrow "It’s about food, about sex, about rest." Evelyn, a 34-year-old Dominican immigrant who recently gave birth, is explaining the Latin American custom called la cuarentena ("quarantine"). It’s a 40-day postpartum period during which mothers recuperate from labor and bond with their babies. … Continue reading

Coastal Elites Sipping Wine

Vine Talk confirms every Republican suspicion about PBS. By Troy Patterson Stanley Tucci hosts Vine Talk … We are warmed up for the first episode—"Navigating Napa Valley Cabernets"—by a pleasant fellow named Ray Isle, who is an editor at Food & Wine magazine and this program’s "wine host." "We take the mystery out of discovering … Continue reading

China’s new Age of Enlightenment

National Museum in Beijing looks to 18th-century Europe for its grand reopening By András Szántó Seeing the light: the National Museum of China reopened last month after a four-year renovation Imagine you are a rising global superpower of 1.3bn people. You have spent three decades ramping up a $5 trillion economy and upgrading your infrastructure. … Continue reading

No Thieves?

Why so little looting in Japan? It’s not just about honesty. By Christopher Beam Japanese earthquake victimIf your home was hit by a 9.0-magnitude earthquake, a tsunami, and radiation from a nuclear power plant, you’d be forgiven for not remaining calm. Yet that’s what many Japanese quake victims appear to be doing. People are forming … Continue reading