Last week, photos surfaced of Lindsay Lohan with a new tattoo: a line from the 1989 Billy Joel song "I Go to Extremes" -- "Clear as a crystal sharp as a knife/ I feel like I'm in the prime of my life" -- inked onto the right side of her torso. While it's inspiring that the words of one of our greatest bards can provide such light and inspiration for one of our newsiest starlets, the act of rendering Mr. Joel's lyrics permanently onto one's body is hardly new. It seems that quite a few celebs have fallen under the Piano Man's spell, as evidenced in this list of Billy Joel tattoos that didn't make the headlines:
Poor Moammar Gadhafi. Libya’s longtime leader, dubbed "the Mad Dog of the Middle East" by President Ronald Reagan over his support for terrorism, came in from the cold after Sept. 11 by collaborating with the CIA in the fight against al-Qaida and offering American firms access to his oil fields. Look what he got for his good behavior: the enmity of his people and uninvited strangers visiting his seaside villa.
The Washington Post woke up a few days ago and realized that despite everything that has happened since 9/11 -- no successful Terrorist attacks on the Homeland in 10 years, a country mired in debt and imposing "austerity" on ordinary Americans, and the election of a wonderfully sophisticated, urbane, progressive multinationalist from the storied anti-war Democratic Party -- we are still smack in the middle of "the American era of endless war" with no end in sight. Citing the Pentagon's most recent assessment of global threats, the Post notes that in contrast to prior decades -- when "the military and the American public viewed war as an aberration and peace as the norm" (a dubious perception) -- it is now clear, pursuant to official doctrine, that "America's wars are unending and any talk of peace is quixotic or naive," all as part of "America’s embrace of endless war in the 10 years since Sept. 11, 2001."
In a time when jazz is barely a smudge on the cultural radar, the marriage of improvisation and popular music continues nowhere more apparent than with the Vermont rock band Phish. Other artists may be touring and improvising -- and they are -- but they don't sell out Madison Square Garden for three nights in a row and continue to host a series of annual, one-band festivals that draw upward of 70,000 people, all for the adventure of musical improvisation.
In honor of Labor Day -- a nostalgic exercise for too many Americans in this age of zero jobs -- here's a list of some of my favorite TV depictions of work. Many of these shows are current; some were cancelled long ago. To greater or lesser degrees, they're all fascinated by the details of the workplace, and the crises and melodramas that take place there.
[Note: The following recap of "Breaking Bad" season Four, episode eight contains spoilers. Read at your own risk.]
American workers don't have much to celebrate this Labor Day. Unemployment is high, the strength of organized labor is abysmally low, and the prospect of meaningful political action on the jobs front is nonexistent.
Dr. David McKee, a neurologist in Duluth, Minn., didn't much like an Internet review that called him "a real tool" and suggested he didn't care about his patients' comfort. So he filed a defamation suit against the patient's son who wrote the critical piece, which also alleged McKee wasn't interested that his dad's gown was hanging from his neck with his backside exposed.
Jessica, Pam, Eric and Bill march to the Emporium in their finest Battle of the Industrial Bands gear, seething with irritation. Pam suggests they "blow up these Wiccan dipshits already" so she can get her nails done. Inside, Marnie has added Sookie to her hostages. Lackey warlock Roy smirks that the Emporium is now the Hotel California -- you can check out any time you like blah blah. Seriously, Roy, you're already that guy, but please don't be that guy. Marnie wants everyone to know they can leave at any time, and tosses a dagger at her prisoners, suggesting they use it against the vampires. When cute little Casey's rage bubbles over and she rushes Marnie, the witch telekinesis-daggers her in the chest with a "so-there" smirk. Sookie watches the girl die with a lip-trembling, brow-furrowing look of apprehension and horror -- or is she merely thinking about the real bad things she wants to do with Eric and Bill once she gets out of this incense-reeking hellhole? Hard to say.
Remember the days of sending postcards, using stamps, and reading actual handwriting? Well, you might, but your kids are less likely to (with their eyes glued to iPads and Angry Birds and whatnot). Not to worry though -- Abe's Peanut, a literary and art publication for children, has a very creative approach to engaging today's computer-oriented seven to 11-year-olds. Using the same format as Abe's Penny, their original publication, Abe's Peanut mails out original children's stories printed on postcards to their subscribers. They pair an author with an artist and send out a postcard each week, telling one part of a four-part serialized story.
"The Night Circus" by Erin Morgenstern is the book every Neil Gaiman-loving girl with creatively dyed hair and authorial aspirations dreams of writing. A confection of heady imagery and dulcet prose, it appears this month in a hardcover edition as sumptuous as the circus it's named after, flaunting all the dazzle that can still be carried off by good ol' black-and-white (and good ol' print) when someone decides to pull out all the stops.
We human beings tend to think of ourselves as an adventurous species, but the way we travel is really nothing compared to the migratory odysseys of wildlife. Even Aristotle was mystified by the seasonal changes of Athenian bird life (he erroneously posited that one species transformed into another). During the past 10 years, new technology that allows scientists to monitor increasingly smaller species has revealed a hidden network of pathways that span the globe. And so we learn that things are far more complex than we could have ever imagined, with millions of dragonflies flying across the open sea from India to Africa, zooplankton migrating vertically in the oceans, and indigo buntings using star patterns for celestial navigation.
Tuesday, Dec. 6, 1994, began as a day like any other at the San Francisco bank where I worked as a financial services representative. At 9 a.m. on the dot, security guards unlocked the bank's massive steel doors, granting the flood of customers access to the colossal, marble lobby. Among them was Amanuel Abraha, a strange man who wasn't a stranger to me. Just two weeks prior, I'd opened checking and savings accounts for him. He had a pudgy build and skin the tone of honey. He was slovenly and solemn, qualities that could be off-putting to some, but it elicited only empathy from me. He'd often sidle up to my mahogany desk, requesting I check his account balance, and every time, I would oblige -- although I knew the amount hadn't changed much, if at all, from the previous time I'd checked. I suspected he had more than banking on his mind. But I just thought he wanted someone to listen to him, so I did. I had no idea this extra attention might save my life that day.
Over the past century, the institution of marriage has undergone a tremendous transformation in America -- especially when it comes to African-Americans. Over the last half century, marriage rates in the black community have dwindled. Black women are more than three times as likely as white women to remain unmarried for their entire lives, and when they do marry they're more likely than any other group to marry men with lower incomes, and less education, than their own.
From the debt ceiling fiasco to the recent rescheduling of a jobs speech at the behest of Speaker Boehner, it has not been a good summer for President Obama. Like Chinese water torture, Gallup's daily tracking poll has shown a steady and unrelenting drip of bad news. He has been in and out of the high 30s for his approval, and in the low to mid-50s for his disapproval.
For Manhattan at least, last week was the weather week that wasn't. But the minor earthquake and weakened Hurricane Irene served as reminders of the caprice of nature and – only a couple of weeks before the 10th anniversary of 9/11 -- the knowledge that at any given moment calamity literally is just around the corner.