Before he became the patron saint of every tattooed-chef-in-a-gentrifying-neighborhood, Anthony Bourdain wrote novels. What can they tell us about the man behind the bad-boy persona?
Is there a dietary treatment for multiple sclerosis? And if so, why is the medical establishment ignoring published academic research that started in the 1950s proving it?
Art, commerce, and the battle for the soul of My Little Pony.
Maria Bustillos reviews Chipotle’s new literary series, curated by Jonathan Safran Foer:
Jonathan Safran Foer’s new Cultivating Thought: Author Series at Chipotle has a slightly uncomfortable name. It suggests that we Chipotle patrons had just kind of been sitting here, mowing down our lunches, blankly existing, uncultivated, thought-less, until Foer came along with his “brainchild”: to provide us all with short works from famous writers printed right on our soda cups and burrito bags. But so many literary lions participated that I was instantly wild to read Chipotle’s whole catalog. I have now done so, and will review each publication below.
The writer spends some time with the creators of “Adventure Time”—a wildly popular animated TV series on the Cartoon Network—to discuss what makes the show so magical:
We began by talking about humor. Children’s humor, I suggested, is commonly thought of as a kind of “diversion” from fear or sadness. But Adventure Time confronts very dark themes head on: The apocalypse, the possibility of loss and pain, grief and mortality. Yet somehow it makes these grave things seem so simple, unthreatening, even hilarious.
“It’s funnier when you’re sad, I think,” he said. “I’ve heard laughter is releasing stress from your body, like when you go, ’HA! Haaaa!’—you know, you get it out of you. My favorite kind of humor is dark comedies, because I think, mmm… I guess that’s my personality, maybe I’m more cynical about things, so I laugh stuff off easily, and life is really scary?”
Massively Open Online Courses, or MOOCs are currently being heralded as the future of affordable education. But what kind of education will it actually provide?
“Everybody loves the idea of lowering the barriers of entry to education; it’s the easiest sell in the world, and Khan Academy, a nonprofit, pushes all the right buttons. Khan’s success thus paved the way for MOOC providers to employ a rhetoric of inclusiveness, simplicity, low cost, and metrics, metrics, metrics: the same reasoning that today drives everything from ‘philanthrocapitalist’ foundation spending to high-stakes standardized testing.
“But the shortcomings of the Khan approach will be evident to anyone who cares to have a go at ‘US History Overview 1: Jamestown to the Civil War,’ the 18:28 minute video-with-voiceover class I chose at random from the Khan website. Within the first two minutes Khan has disposed of over a century, blowing past Jamestown (‘a kind of commercial settlement’) and Plymouth Rock (‘we always learned this in school, you know, the Pilgrims on the Mayflower sailing the oceans blue and all the rest’) and ‘fast-forwarding’ to 1754. It’s not even a flashcard approach; it’s a series of lacunae, startlingly free of insight or context, mentioning not one single book or author, and only one political or religious figure (George Washington) in the nine minutes I watched. I’ve seen more informative cereal boxes.”
A review of Hanna Rosin’s The End of Men:
“Equality is the pole star of my own politics, and that made it really tough going for me to read The End of Men objectively, or maybe even fairly, because it’s evident that Rosin believes women to be literally — and inherently — superior to men. This view is not only one I don’t share, it is anathema to me. It is the exact reason why I have never been able to call myself a feminist; it transgresses against my deepest conviction, namely, a belief in universal human equality. I believe that each of us — all human beings who share the same seemingly limitless abilities, and the same unfathomable doom — should be able to develop his or her potential and live freely and on equal terms in a condition of mutual respect and support. That is not quite the Rosin view. ‘It’s possible that girls have always had the raw material to make better students,’ she writes, ‘that they’ve always been more studious, organized, self-disciplined, and eager to please, but, because of limited opportunities, what did it matter?’ Or: ‘Many of us hold out the hope that there is a utopia in our future run by women, that power does not in fact corrupt equally.’ (Really, ‘many’ of us hold out this hope? I for one would be too scared it would turn out like that old Star Trek: TNG episode, ‘Angel One.’)”
Bill Gates and George Soros are handing out billions, but there are downsides to foundation giving:
“The new focus on metrics has brought with it a new breed of nonprofit and for-profit partnerships. Foundations such as the Omidyar Network, established in 2004 by eBay’s founder, Pierre Omidyar, provide both investments in for-profit companies and charitable grants.
“This approach is called by various names such as ‘social entrepreneurship,’ ‘venture philanthropy,’ and ‘philanthrocapitalism,’ but it all amounts to rather the same thing: controlling charitable giving in order to produce measurable, ‘sustaining’ and/or profitable results.
“‘Philanthrocapitalism’ is an especially curious coinage, giving rise to a hitherto unarticulated contrast—namely, with the kind of capitalism that is not-philanthro-. “
A review of Bissell’s new book of essays—and how the writer both entertains and frustrates:
“The best thing about Tom Bissell: He is fun. I think of him as ‘a wild and crazy guy.’ I’m by turns entertained and completely aghast at his antics. He is totally obsessive. He’s watched that appalling movie The Room a bajillion times. I loved the idea of him and David Foster Wallace negotiating gravely about whether or not they ought to dip tobacco together (they did). Bissell, apparently, travels all over the place with a hardcover copy of Infinite Jest, which is surely the most inconvenient thing outside of, like, a chihuahua, to have to pack in a suitcase. And I don’t know if he’s given it up by now (I hope so) but he used to drink 10 Diet Cokes every day. Ten! That is terrible, Tom Bissell! I worry about him.”