Future Bound: The greatly exaggerated demise of an American institution

As you walk down Seattle’s Fourth Avenue, the new Central Library jumps out at youliterally; its third-story jaw juts out over a ground-level plaza. Encamped amid nondescript beige and black boxy buildings, this gangly greenhouse, designed by Dutch architect Rem Koolhaas and opened last May, grabs the gaze of passersby from all of its many […]

‘Summer’s Ebullient Finale’: A richly varied anthology offers a ‘spiritual biography’ of autumn

Sometimes it seems there is no limit to scientific reductionism—the shrink–wrapping of creation’s mysteries in scientific facts. Nothing is exempt, not even the bewildering brilliance of the autumn leaves. The changing leaves can’t just be God’s gorgeous decorations; they have to have a logical and practical purpose, a cause and effect. William Hamilton’s so–called “leaf signal […]

‘Modern Dishes For Modern Living’: How Wonderbowls changed the world

Historians accuse 1950s America of dreaming mundane dreams after the defining moments of World War II. This suspicion seems to be born out in a new documentary’s footage of a chipper Tupperware lady gushing about “modern dishes for modern living.” She exclaims to a living room audience: “Haven’t you wished for unspillable containers that wouldn’t […]

Doing Time: Do correctional facilities correct anything?

Last year, the United States marked an inauspicious milestone. The Department of Justice announced that as of June 2002, for the first time ever, two million of its citizens were behind bars. One of every 142 Americans was in prison or jail, one of the highest rates in the world. One in 37 is or […]

Whose Reality TV? Review of Frederick Wiseman’s ‘Domestic Violence’

Reality TV, as you may have noticed if you’ve gotten hooked or channel surfed lately, is anything but. It’s television that is meant to be gawked at as much as viewed, and succeeds not by being realistic or resembling the lives of everyday people, but rather by offering a fantastical escape to an exotic island […]