Meghan Daum was born in California and grew up primarily on the East Coast. She is the author of four books, most recently a collection of ...

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Meghan Daum

Meghan Daum

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Curvy or no, Barbie is still a mean girl

Curvy or no, Barbie is still a mean girl

February 4, 2016

Never mind the prospect of a woman in the White House. Last week saw what some are calling the most important feminist development of our time: Mattel's release of “Curvy Barbie,” a doll whose wider hips and sturdier thighs are being held up as an antidote to the anatomically impossible proportions of traditional Barbie.

  • Yes, millennials, Hillary Clinton is a feminist

    January 21, 2016

    It doesn't take a lot to make me feel old these days, and when I hear millennials attack Hillary Clinton for not being feminist enough, I can practically feel my bone density diminishing.

  • Are we making too much of 'Making a Murderer'?

    January 7, 2016

    If you haven't fallen down the rabbit hole of “Making a Murderer,” the 10-part, true-crime Netflix binge-athon that has spawned petitions for a retrial or presidential pardons as well as endless dinner party chatter, allow me to give you a gentle shove.

  • 2015: The most hyperbolic year ever

    December 24, 2015

    It's the end of the year, when newspaper columnists are supposed to fill in the blank — “2015 was the year of _______ ” — and decide whether the phenomenon in question falls into the category of “good thing” or “good riddance.”

  • Forget 'bleeding heart' liberals, the GOP is now the party of feelings

    December 10, 2015

    The term “bleeding heart liberal” sounds musty and outdated, a relic of a time when slogans like “Save the whales” were code for “Worry about everything” and the words “drone strike” conjured up sci-fi, not a progressive president. Still, bleeding heart imagery is emblematic of the associations many people harbor about Democrats versus Republicans, especially the deeply ingrained idea that liberals lead with their feelings and conservatives hew to the facts.

  • Eat, shop, click: Another kind of Black Friday

    November 25, 2015

    How great is technology? It can cure diseases, send humans into space and ensure that we never have to set foot in a Wal-Mart or Best Buy again if we don't want to.

  • The tantrums at Mizzou and Yale reveal more than PC problems

    November 11, 2015

    At the University of Missouri, it took a hunger-striking student and the threat of a football boycott to get the president and chancellor to step down amid long-standing campus racial tensions.

  • Sanders and Clinton: What's all the shouting about?

    October 29, 2015

    When Bernie Sanders used the word "shouting" during the Democratic presidential debate, he was referring to the tone of the gun control debate, not his opponent Hillary Rodham Clinton. Despite how obvious this was, Clinton (or perhaps her advisors) began slowly re-purposing the word as a sexist insult.

  • Right-to-dry movement gets its day in the sun in California

    October 15, 2015

    Last week, amid all the excitement (if that's the right word) over Gov. Jerry Brown's signing of a right-to-die bill for California, a smaller, quieter — and rhyming — law was also passed. Assembly Bill 1448, nicknamed the "right to dry," makes it illegal for landlords and homeowners associations to prohibit drying laundry outside on a clothesline or rack.

  • A presidential campaign as reality TV

    October 1, 2015

    It's a truism in Hollywood that movies are made in the editing room. No matter how airtight the script, no matter how brilliant the actors, no matter what the director envisioned at the beginning, all bets are off when the footage makes its way to the cutting room. Plot lines shift, characters disappear, occasionally genres can change. And in the age of reality television, it's not just a truism but standard operating procedure.

  • Right-to-die laws: Do we have the gumption to make such big life decisions?

    September 17, 2015

    It's been nearly a year since Brittany Maynard, a 29-year-old terminally ill California woman, made headlines with her public decision to take her own life to avoid a painful end from brain cancer. Maynard, who died in November, moved to Oregon because California has no right-to-die laws on the books.

  • With flippant adoption comment, Jonathan Franzen births social media outrage

    August 24, 2015

    The Guardian slapped a headline on its website Friday morning that read, “Jonathan Franzen considered adopting Iraqi orphan to figure out young people.”

  • In a way, we all work for Amazon

    August 20, 2015

    Maybe it all started with the drone tease. Remember back in 2013, when Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos announced plans to someday make deliveries via "Octocopters," which would pick up packages from an Amazon fulfillment center and deliver them to customers' doorsteps within 30 minutes?

  • Does Cosmo deserve a plain brown wrapper?

    August 6, 2015

    "I know it when I see it."

  • Give 'Atticus' parents a break

    July 23, 2015

    Normally I'm all for making fun of parents who, by dint of ZIP Code or number of tattoos, fall into the hipster category and assert their nonconformity by giving their kids names that, once upon a time, were considered best suited for pets. Hang around a playground in Silver Lake or Brooklyn's Park Slope and you'll hear enough calls of "Roscoe!" and "Lulu!" to think you've accidentally wandered into the dog park.

  • I'm just so over the Facebook rainbow

    July 9, 2015

    Is it possible to support marriage equality without opting for the rainbow filter on your Facebook profile photo?

  • Will smart-looking glasses do the trick for Rick Perry?

    June 11, 2015

    There's a moment in season eight of the HBO comedy "Curb Your Enthusiasm" when the character Larry David (played in duly neurotic and cantankerous fashion by the real Larry David) discovers the transformative power of eyeglasses. When his friend Leon, an African American with a penchant for baggy pants and gold chains, is barred from an event being held in a snooty hotel, Larry suggests that white acceptance might be simply a matter of the right accessory.

  • Time for young feminists to look beyond the mattress and campus rape

    May 26, 2015

    It's a striking juxtaposition, to say the least. In the news this week we've seen photos of hundreds of girls and young women, many of them pregnant, recently rescued from captivity and sexual slavery at the hands of Boko Haram, the militant Islamist group in Nigeria. We've also seen photos of young women, smiling in their robes and mortarboards on graduation day at Columbia University in New York City, helping a classmate carry her mattress to the podium as a symbol of the trauma she says she experienced from an alleged rape.

  • The hung jury in the Etan Patz case was right

    May 14, 2015

    A judge in New York City declared a mistrial Friday in the case of Pedro Hernandez, a disabled factory worker charged in one of the most famous child abductions in modern memory: the disappearance of 6-year-old Etan Patz more than 30 years ago.

  • Has millennials' self-esteem become self-righteousness?

    April 29, 2015

    "Let's engage in some radical, beautiful community care and love. Let's make space for everyone to engage at whatever level they want/need."

  • Hillary Clinton's no-knife, no-Botox run for the White House

    April 15, 2015

    I admit it. I was one of those people (mostly women, I suspect) who, back when Hillary Rodham Clinton left the State Department to "catch up on 20 years of sleep deprivation," figured that some of that catching up would also involve some measure of cosmetic freshening up.

  • Hillary Clinton and us - a portrait of an abusive relationship

    March 18, 2015

    Like a suitcase on the world's longest luggage carousel, Hillary Rodham Clinton's all-but-assured presidential candidacy is now drifting back toward us, begging to be claimed whether or not we still want — or even remember — what is packed inside.

  • How grievance culture undercuts the fight against rape culture

    March 4, 2015

    If you've been following the national conversation about campus sexual assault, you need to see the new documentary "The Hunting Ground." You need to see it not because the prognoscenti — my portmanteau word for left-leaning members of the chattering classes — haven't been this fired up about a documentary since "Bowling for Columbine," but because the film shines a light on something that is often glossed over if not ignored about "rape culture."

  • The Westminster Dog Show's bark doesn't deserve PETA's bite at Meet the Breed day

    February 18, 2015

    There are three things for sure in this world: death, taxes and that the sometimes-radical animal rights organization PETA will protest the Westminster Kennel Club (or just about any) Dog Show.

  • 'Fifty Shades of Grey's' allure: sex or money?

    February 11, 2015

    Dreading the emotional roller coaster of Valentine's Day on Saturday? Dread some more, because Friday is rolling out an even bigger mind game. "Fifty Shades of Grey," the film version of one of the bestselling and (by enough accounts to make it unequivocally true) one of the worst-written books in the history of the English language, is opening on about 5 billion screens nationwide.

  • Remember political correctness? It's back, frothing at the mouth and at hurricane force

    February 2, 2015

    I have a distinct memory, dating back to 1989 or so, of sitting around with my college dorm mates talking about a new term that was popping up everywhere: "political correctness." Although the designation had been floating around radical circles of academia for a decade, it was just then entering mainstream discourse. To our sanguine, largely agreeable freshman ears (we used the now-unseemly word "freshman" back then), it seemed like a good enough idea.

  • Does Mike Huckabee want to be president or Beyonce's bassist?

    January 21, 2015

    I've always had a soft spot for Mike Huckabee. Ever since he devoted a segment of his Fox News show to performing alongside his pal Ted Nugent in a rendition of “Cat Scratch Fever” — a song that euphemistically employs a synonym for cat that can't be printed (in that context) in this newspaper — I've found his contradictions almost endearing. As a loyal son of the Bible Belt, he worships God, traditional family values and all manner of firearms. As a baby boomer of good standing, he worships rock 'n' roll.

  • Why blaming Leelah Alcorn's parents only compounds the bigotry

    January 14, 2015

    It's a tale of two completely different worlds. In one, the television series “Transparent,” about a middle-aged father who transitions from male to female, won two Golden Globes on Sunday night and marked a watershed moment for the transgender community.

  • Mansplaining? Windbags come in both genders

    January 7, 2015

    Last year was a big one for criticizing men. Sometimes it was constructive if contentious, like the scrutiny applied to policing or various forms of sexual and domestic violence.

  • Hollywood's idealized view of CIA officers is no substitute for reality

    January 2, 2015

    Among the many compelling aspects of “Zero Dark Thirty,” the 2013 film about the capture of Osama bin Laden, was the notion (much touted by the film's creators) that its characters were based on real people. This included the heroine, a brilliant and tenacious red-haired CIA analyst named Maya, played by Jessica Chastain.

  • Now more than ever, the issue of campus rape requires critical thinking

    December 17, 2014

    Remember in 1986, when Newsweek supposedly showed that a 40-year-old single woman was “more likely to be killed by a terrorist” than to ever get married? It turned out to be false, the remark of a Newsweek correspondent, who'd meant it merely as a funny aside. And the studies on which it was presumably based? Flawed.

  • Call me maybe, or better yet text

    December 10, 2014

    In the second season of the BBC soap-drama “Downton Abbey,” telephone service arrives at the house. The year is 1914, and not everyone is enthusiastic about the new technology. Struggling to conduct a conversation, an addled dowager countess finally gives up, turns to her granddaughter and asks, “Is this an instrument of communication or torture?”

  • The University of Virginia rape Rorschach test

    December 3, 2014

    Are you a “UVA truther”? In other words, are you an abhorrent, woman-hating, “pro-rape Republican”?

  • The real-life Bill Cosby show: Follow the sanctimony

    November 26, 2014

    The phrase “follow the money” was popularized in the Watergate docudrama “All the President's Men.”

  • Is a war among women diverting attention from the war against women?

    November 11, 2014

    Have you heard? The Republican war on women is over! Well, the "Republican war on women" is over. The trope, if not the actual phenomenon, has joined the ranks of retired political euphemisms.

  • The other thing the catcalling video shows: Our detachment issues

    November 5, 2014

    If for some unfathomable reason you're not among the more than 30 million people who've already seen the “catcalling video” that started ricocheting through the zeitgeist last week, I'll give you a brief rundown.

  • The egg-freezing benefit -- family friendly, or corporate control?

    October 22, 2014

    Here are three things you can always count on: death, taxes and that anything related to motherhood or women's reproductive choices will stir up enough cultural debate to make everyone forget about death and taxes for a news cycle or two.

  • Using 'privilege' as a weapon

    October 15, 2014

    Of all the inaccurate and not-so-nice things people have said about me on the Internet over the years, the one that bothered me most didn't involve being called a whore or a hack or, in one case, an ugly hobbit. It was the one that said something to the effect of “Meghan comes from a very wealthy family and grew up with every possible advantage.”

  • Brittany Maynard's date with death

    October 8, 2014

    On Nov. 1, a 29-year-old woman named Brittany Maynard plans to end her own life. Diagnosed this year with stage four brain cancer, doctors told her that she would die — quite possibly with a great deal of pain and loss of body and cognitive function — within six months.

  • Is feminism's current moment all slogan and no change?

    October 2, 2014

    Like the cicada, which lies dormant for 13 or 17 years and then suddenly makes a cacophonous comeback, feminism is having a moment. It's announcing itself on magazine covers, dominating discussions on culture blogs and, in one case, making itself known in huge, lighted letters spelling “feminist” as Beyoncé performed at the Video Music Awards.

  • Is Urban Outfitters waving the bloody shirt?

    September 17, 2014

    It was the hand-me-down from hell: a Kent State University sweatshirt, faded, hole-filled and splattered with red dye — or was that blood? — offered online by Urban Outfitters last weekend for $129.

  • The new, tiresome culture of outrage

    September 10, 2014

    There's a scene in "A Piece of Work," the 2010 documentary about comedian Joan Rivers, who died last week, in which she shoots down a heckler while performing in a casino in northern Wisconsin. In so doing, she effectively explains the purpose of humor in society.

  • Our bodies, our selfies: Is Jennifer Lawrence to blame because she took the photos?

    September 3, 2014

    Amid roiling political unrest overseas, the American pop culture scene is facing its own crisis this week. Last weekend, hackers uploaded hundreds of nude photos of female celebrities onto the Internet, many of them selfies and all of them stolen from private data storage accounts. Though it's not entirely clear how the security breach happened, it appears that the hackers were able to access photos stored on the women's cellphones, many of the images long ago deleted but hovering somewhere in that amorphous cloud.

  • Power to the social media 'Invisibles'

    August 20, 2014

    "We are living in a time when the most radical act is to refuse to talk about yourself."

  • Robin Williams: A Mork in the family

    August 13, 2014

    As sitcoms of its era went, “Mork & Mindy” was neither the best nor the worst. It may, however, have been among the sneakiest in its social commentary. A “Happy Days” spinoff that ran from 1978 to 1982, its premise was that Mork, an alien from the planet Ork, played by Robin Williams, is sent to far more-primitive Earth to report back on the customs of its people. Upon landing in Boulder, Colo., in a giant flying egg, Mork tries to assimilate by wearing a man's three-piece suit but puts it on backward, allowing girl-next-door Mindy to mistake him for a priest. Once installed in her apartment, Mork sheds the suit for his trademark rainbow suspenders and eventually establishes himself in the community as a lovable if perpetually confusing — and confused — visitor from a strange land.

  • The great Ebola scare

    August 6, 2014

    Blame it on Richard Preston. “The Hot Zone,” his 1994 nonfiction science thriller about the spread and devastation of the Ebola virus, pretty much set the standard for terrifying contagion scenarios. In an opening chapter that even Stephen King called “one of the most horrifying things I've ever read,” Preston depicts an infected man's rapid deterioration from the disease even as he boards a commercial plane en route to Nairobi for treatment.

  • Weird Al's viral zaniness is a note of sanity in a time of crises

    July 23, 2014

    Amid a week of unrelentingly grim news, a buoyant countercurrent has emerged. Over the course of eight days, July 14 to 21, the song parodist "Weird Al" Yankovic released eight videos promoting his new album, "Mandatory Fun."

  • When cellphones and social media become the enemy

    July 16, 2014

    There's a moment in “Boyhood,” the new movie by Richard Linklater, when the boy in question, an eighth-grader, asks his mother for permission to attend a party that won't have adult supervision. Reluctantly, she agrees, saying it's OK as long as he takes his cellphone.

  • What do the Hobby Lobby backers want women to be?

    July 9, 2014

    In the fallout surrounding last week's Supreme Court Hobby Lobby decision, a lot of people have been wondering exactly what role the Christian right thinks women should play in society and how birth control detracts from it.

  • Smells like ... a Westsider: All wet lawn and the sweat of a trophy wife

    July 2, 2014

    Last Saturday I approached no fewer than 30 strangers and sniffed them. They sniffed me back. Some thought I smelled nice, though a few gagged.

  • American Apparel: Bad behavior, bad fashion

    June 25, 2014

    Of the countless ways to feel old in your 40s, perhaps none is quite as perplexing as seeing a young person trendily decked out in 1980s-style garb and saying to yourself, "I can't believe that look is back in style. It was bad enough the first time around!"

  • Hillary Clinton's money trouble

    June 11, 2014

    It's open season on Hillary Rodham Clinton again.

  • Misogyny and the co-opting of the Isla Vista tragedy

    June 4, 2014

    Since Elliot Rodger's deadly rampage in Isla Vista, we've heard the usual discussions. We've heard rants about spoiled rich kids (Rodger drove a BMW) and the alienating affects of video games (he was a "World of Warcraft" aficionado). We've heard about mental health policies and, of course, gun control.

  • College grads: With speakers as in life, at times you take what you can get

    May 21, 2014

    On college campuses all over the country, the classes of 2014 have distinguished themselves like none before — mainly by chasing away their commencement speakers. Students at Smith College scared off Christine Lagarde, the first female managing director of the International Monetary Fund. They circulated a petition claiming she was a poor choice because IMF programs in developing countries are "imperialist" and "patriarchal." At Rutgers University, where former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice had been scheduled to speak, students and faculty who opposed her role in the Bush administration kicked up so much dust that Rice decided not to come.

  • The last of the Monica meme

    May 9, 2014

    I'll never forget where I was the morning of Sept. 12, 1998: on the tarmac at Newark Airport, slack-jawed and reading from the Starr Report, the document that led to President Clinton's impeachment over his sexual relationship with White House intern Monica Lewinsky. It was excerpted in newspapers everywhere that day, and it was brimming with sordid details never before seen in "family publications."

  • Mother's Day is the mother of all touchy holidays

    May 8, 2014

    Mother's Day, like motherhood itself, is fraught with peril. There are so many ways to get it wrong, so many opportunities to disappoint and be disappointed.

  • An L.A. May Day lament: It's too darn hot

    April 30, 2014

    Ah, the first day of May! A time to bask in the splendors of spring, a time for maypoles and little girls with flowers in their hair and (if you're into that sort of thing) observances of International Workers' Day.

  • Assessing fortune's favor, via an online quiz

    April 16, 2014

    Buzzfeed, the esteemed research institution that brought us such self-tests as "Which Muppet Are You?" and "How in Love With Cheese Are You?," posted a new one last week that has proved especially popular: "How Privileged Are You?"

  • Remember when Letterman was the epitome of edginess?

    April 9, 2014

    In a final passing of the torch to a new generation of late-night talk show hosts, David Letterman announced last week that he would retire in 2015. As intelligent and unique a force as he's always been, the timing seems right.

  • Why 'trigger warnings'? We already live in a hair-trigger world.

    April 3, 2014

    Academia has always been an easy target for mockery. Henry Kissinger observed that university politics are so vicious precisely because the stakes are so low, and one logical extension is that liberal arts departments are steeped in self-importance precisely because their impact on the "real world" is negligible.

  • Media judgment, like Flight 370, has vanished

    March 19, 2014

    Rush Limbaugh is right on this one. The reporting on Malaysia Airlines Flight 370, which disappeared March 8, has turned into a spectacle — not the good kind.

  • Advice of 'Princeton Mom' reveals a mother talking to herself

    March 13, 2014

    Remember "the Princeton Mom," who made a pariah of herself last year when she exhorted marriage-minded college women not to graduate without securing future husbands along with their diplomas? She's back in the media gestalt. She's back in the way that people often come back after they make such splashes, with a book that didn't need to be written, though you can't really blame them for writing it (when you're an Internet scourge, you might as well take a publisher's money and run).

  • Belgium's humane stance on dying kids

    February 20, 2014

    It's an idea that, in the death-squeamish U.S., is probably too disturbing for the edgiest TV hospital drama, let alone real life and real legislation. Last week, the Belgian Parliament passed a law allowing terminally ill children to request aid in dying. Adults there have been able to do that since 2002, and a few other European countries have similar measures. But last Thursday's action, which is expected to be signed into law by King Philippe, will make Belgium the first to extend the right to minors faced with "constant and unbearable suffering."

  • Woody Allen vs. Dylan Farrow, art vs. scandal

    February 13, 2014

    Want to make a really bad time for yourself on social media? Register an opinion about Dylan Farrow's letter published by the New York Times on Feb. 2 stating that her father, Woody Allen, sexually abused her some two decades ago when she was 7. Better yet, register an opinion that stops short of totally vilifying either Allen, who despite the general ick factor of his attraction to younger women was never charged with a crime, or Farrow, who makes a powerful case despite its lack of concrete evidence (not unusual in such situations). Pretty soon — probably within seconds — you'll have the Facebook equivalent of a sun shower. Contentious comments will rain down on you even as you bask in the glow of "likes."

  • Woody Allen's maturity problem

    February 6, 2014

    Several months ago, I watched Woody Allen's 1979 film "Manhattan" for the first time since I was in my 20s and for perhaps the 10th time total.

  • Stephen Glass, half full of new-media hypocrisy

    January 30, 2014

    More than 15 years after fabricating some 42 articles for the New Republic, Rolling Stone and other magazines, Stephen Glass was back in the news this week. On Monday, the California Supreme Court ruled that Glass, 41, does not have the moral character "critical to the practice of law." He has been trying for a decade to overcome that hurdle.

  • Covering (up) Lena Dunham

    January 23, 2014

    Lena Dunham, creator and star of the incessantly analyzed HBO series "Girls," is on the cover and featured inside the February issue of Vogue. As things tend to go with Dunham, this was not an occasion that could go uncommented upon. If you missed the major plot points, here's a summary:

  • In Jahi's case, past time for a reality check

    January 16, 2014

    The case of Jahi McMath, the 13-year-old Oakland girl who was declared brain dead Dec. 12 following complications from tonsil and sinus surgery, hasn't ended yet. Insisting Jahi was still alive and should remain on the ventilator that was keeping her heart beating, the girl's family fought Children's Hospital Oakland and was finally allowed by a judge to take her body into their custody. On Jan. 5, the body was moved to an undisclosed facility where, according to the family's attorney, Christopher Dolan, "her health is improving."

  • Jahi McMath, alive in social media

    December 31, 2013

    Even as medical horror stories go, this one was disturbing. On Dec. 12, 13-year-old Jahi McMath of Alameda County went into cardiac arrest and was declared brain dead following a reportedly routine tonsillectomy three days earlier. Not long after, the girl's family were making national headlines with their petition for a court order to stop doctors at Children's Hospital & Research Center Oakland from turning off the ventilator that was keeping her heart beating. They had also retained an attorney and were sharing their version of events with the press, a privilege they did not extend to the hospital, which under HIPPA laws cannot disclose information about patients without family consent.

  • Humbletalk: It's just another way to say 'smug'

    December 26, 2013

    Of all the notable year-end phenomena cited in this column and others, only one rose to the level of prominence and annoyance that I'd define as Biggest Conversational Irritant of 2013: the abuse and misuse of the word "humble."

  • To thine own selfie be true -- literally

    December 12, 2013

    Taking photos of ourselves is the signature act of our times. We know this not because the president snapped one with world leaders at Nelson Mandela's memorial service Tuesday, but because "selfie" is the Oxford English Dictionary's Word of the Year.

  • Elan Gale's inglorious Twitter hoax

    December 5, 2013

    It was a reality show all its own. Last Thursday, 30-year-old Elan Gale, a hirsute hipster and television producer whose credits include several seasons of "The Bachelor" franchise, sent a series of tweets to his roughly 35,000 Twitter followers. Explaining that he was on a delayed flight trying to make it home for Thanksgiving dinner, he described the shockingly rude antics of a fellow passenger named Diane.

  • Davion Only and the foster care conundrum

    October 24, 2013

    Born to a mother in prison, 15-year-old Davion Only has been in foster care all his life. Last month he walked into a church in St. Petersburg, Fla., and pleaded for a family of his own.

  • Miley Cyrus syndrome: Where have all the grown-ups gone?

    October 10, 2013

    It's been 30 years since the release of "The Big Chill," the ensemble drama about baby boomers pining for their lost youth while sprawled out on the floor of a vacation house and playing a lot of Motown music. If this reference eludes you, it's safe to say that you can consider yourself still young. If you remember this movie at all — especially if you remember the hype around its status as a cultural touchstone — I'm afraid you're tilting ever so slightly (or falling at a 90-degree angle) into the category "old."

  • Louis C.K., holy man

    September 26, 2013

    Louis C.K., once merely a gifted comedian, is now a holy man.

  • The Syria dilemma: Can global atrocities be ranked?

    September 12, 2013

    "These images are difficult to watch."

  • Sarah Horn: Part of a Bowl-ful of talent

    August 29, 2013

    Before the Earth stopped turning so that everyone could halt their lives and watch the confused, gyrating choreo-ethnography that was Miley Cyrus' appearance at Sunday's MTV Video Music Awards, you might have stumbled upon a viral video of a very different nature. It's a clip from Aug. 23's Hollywood Bowl performance by Broadway star Kristin Chenoweth. The tiny belter, best known for her role as Glinda in "Wicked," was accompanied by the Los Angeles Philharmonic. But the show was stolen by an unassuming voice teacher from Riverside.

  • Parenthood optional

    August 6, 2013

    Below the din of our parent-centric, kid-fixated, baby bump-patrolling culture, that shadowy faction known as the childless-by-choice (or "childfree" if you want to be PC about it) has been making throat-clearing noises. In the last year or so, we've seen a spate of articles and books on the subject of not wanting kids.

  • Weiner, Filner: Therapy and the art of political cleansing

    August 1, 2013

    Talking about your shrink isn't just for Woody Allen characters anymore. Once the kiss of death for a political career, announcing that you're in or about to enter therapy has actually become go-to damage-control strategy for public servants.

  • Daum: Oh boy! A royal boy.

    July 25, 2013

    Hearing the news Tuesday that the new heir to the British throne was a boy, my first thought was of Lady Mary Crawley, heroine of the post-Edwardian-era soap "Downton Abbey." With no male heir left to inherit her family's estate, it falls on her to produce a son. When she becomes pregnant, the show had even the most feminist-minded audience members hoping for a boy. And when it comes to pass, viewers were so elated that even the death of Mary's true love, just moments after he held his son for the first time, seemed of secondary consequence.

  • Daum: Rethinking the Cleveland kidnapping narrative

    July 11, 2013

    The crisis communications firm Hennes-Paynter knows what it's doing. On Monday, it released a video statement from Amanda Berry, Gina DeJesus and Michelle Knight, the women who were held captive in a Cleveland basement for years until they were discovered and rescued in May. Looking healthy and speaking clearly, if sometimes haltingly, the women expressed their gratitude for the outpouring of public support and asked for privacy so they can continue to heal. They were strikingly positive, speaking of their determination to move beyond the trauma they'd suffered at the hands of their kidnapper.

  • Daum: Electronically, up in the air and at loose ends

    June 27, 2013

    In the scheme of mythical hazards — that you should never swim immediately after eating, that touching a frog will give you warts, that you'll grow hair on your hands if you, well, you know — the idea that an iPod could bring down a plane has been singled out for particular scorn. For years, airline passengers have been stomping their feet like angry children: It's not true! The government is saying that to control us. It's a conspiracy on the part of SkyMall to tempt us into buying lawn statues.

  • Daum: Who's afraid of the NSA?

    June 13, 2013

    The facts are still coming in on Edward Snowden, the guy who spilled the beans on the National Security Agency's surveillance of you, me and most likely everyone in America with a cellphone or an Internet connection. Right now, however, I'm betting he'll eventually be revealed as an angry white geek. He brags about his privileged access to data and waxes sanctimonious about his superior conscience, but he also carries more than a faint trace of doomsday prepper.

  • Daum: Americans' happiness score

    May 30, 2013

    We're No. 6! That's according to new data from the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development , which on Tuesday released results of a survey measuring quality of life in 36 industrialized nations.

  • Daum: The gift of a great dog

    May 16, 2013

    We got another dog right away. That wasn't the plan. But back in March, less than two weeks after Rex died and when I still had faint bruises from digging my fingers into my forehead amid uncontrollable sobs, I signed us up to "foster" a Saint Bernard mix that had been rescued from a crack den.

  • Daum: Real beauty, really Dove?

    May 2, 2013

    Chances are by now you've seen "Real Beauty Sketches," a video released a few weeks ago by the Dove soap people. It documents a social experiment: Women describe themselves to a forensic sketch artist, who draws them from behind a curtain. Then the artist draws the same women based on descriptions from people who've only just met them.

  • Daum: Getting it wrong in Boston

    April 18, 2013

    As social media sites have pelted out news of the Boston bombing, playing fast and loose with the numbers of the dead and injured and amplifying hearsay into a cacophony of confusion, one tweet seemed to say it all: "Dear Journalism: Get yourself together and report verified facts or don't report anything at all."

  • Daum: Which comes first, husband or career?

    April 4, 2013

    Maybe it's spring fever or maybe it's the centrifugal force from all that Sheryl Sandberg-led "leaning in," but it's been a big week for outrage about women and their place.

  • Daum: Cure for homophobia? It's personal

    March 21, 2013

    The other day, I stumbled across a conversation about homosexuality on a local Christian radio station. There were three people talking, and after the predictable hemming and hawing about loving the sinner and hating the sin (though in this case, the sin and sinner seemed so inextricably linked when it comes to sexual activity that the distinction was largely irrelevant), one of them homed in on a grand observation.

  • Daum: Online's 'nasty effect'

    March 7, 2013

    Finally! Scientific research backs up my perennial gripe about the soul-killing, society-destroying effects of online comments. A study published last month on the website of the Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication (which does not allow comments) shows that comments can actually sway the perceptions and opinions of otherwise objective readers.

  • Daum: Vassar vs. Westboro

    February 21, 2013

    The Westboro Baptist Church, best known for picketing military funerals because God hates a country that tolerates gay people (or something like that), is picketing my alma mater next week. Vassar College, a small liberal arts school in New York's Hudson Valley, is hardly the first school that Westboro's "congregation" (which is really just one large family in Topeka, Kan., led by 83-year-old pastor Fred Phelps) has visited with signs bearing its signature motto, "God Hates Fags." But Vassar may be the first to pull the jujitsu move of using the demonstration to raise money in support of the very thing being demonstrated against.

  • Daum: Amazon's algorithm of love

    February 14, 2013

    Just in time for Valentine's Day, Amazon, the behemoth online retailer and knower of all habits and tastes, has released a list of America's 20 most romantic cities.

  • Daum: Wingnuts, guns and liberals

    February 7, 2013

    On the recommendation of several friends, I spent the better part of a recent weekend ("better part" as in the time I could have been doing something better, like having brunch or washing the dog) learning about what to do in the event of a world agricultural collapse or the North and South poles switching places.

  • Daum: Judging a book, and its author

    January 31, 2013

    It's not easy being a book consumer these days. For starters, books seem so long — at least compared to the blog posts and online news items that have recalibrated the pace of the average American attention span.

  • Daum: Jodie Foster comes out -- as human

    January 17, 2013

    It's the news the nation's been trying to digest all week (at least before Lance Armstrong made everyone lose their lunch): Jodie Foster, one of the industry's most cool and collected figures, is capable of being a rambling mess.

  • Daum: Hillary's next drama

    January 10, 2013

    Watching Hillary Rodham Clinton's exit from the State Department is a little like watching the season-ending episode of a popular television series that may not come back the next year. As loyal as its viewers are, there are always wary network executives and even exhausted writers and producers who'd just as soon let it go. It's a good policy, after all, to leave your audience wanting more.

  • Daum: I 'like' me, I really 'like' me

    January 3, 2013

    Recognize this pattern?

  • Daum: Finally, it's time for gun control

    December 20, 2012

    The time is now.

  • Daum: A gayer approach to marriage

    December 13, 2012

    Amelia Earhart's "prenuptial agreement" with her husband, George Putnam, whom she married in 1931 when she was 32, drew a flurry of attention this week. Los Angeles writer Amanda Hess posted the letter on her Tumblr page after running across it in the online library of Purdue University, which houses Earhart's papers.

  • Daum: Hostess is the Republican Party

    November 22, 2012

    Wednesday, just two weeks after the election all but declared an end to white male dominance, yet another nail was driven into the wood-paneled coffin of old-fashioned America. Hostess Brands, maker of Twinkies and Wonder Bread, announced that even after eleventh-hour talks with union leaders, it would permanently cease operations.

  • Daum: The frump factor and Holly Petraeus

    November 15, 2012

    Last week was a historic one for women. Eighteen women won or reclaimed Senate seats, bringing the number of women in that body to 20. Nearly 80 women now occupy the House. New Hampshire became the first state to elect a female governor and an all-women congressional delegation.

  • Daum: Obama and the single girl

    November 8, 2012

  • Daum: After Sandy, a bit of weather envy

    November 1, 2012

    When it comes to the relationship between Southern Californians and massive storms like Sandy, the conventional wisdom is that such weather (“such” meaning the kind not commonly found in Southern California) can give rise to just a tiny bit of gloating.

  • Daum: Madonna's tone-deaf tattoo

    October 18, 2012

    There goes Madonna, classing up the joint again. To show her support of Malala Yousafzai, the 14-year-old Pakistani girl shot and critically wounded by the Taliban because of her advocacy for girls' education, the Material Girl (a.k.a. Madge, Esther, the Queen of Pop, the Hottest Bod in the AARP) took the opportunity during a recent concert at L.A.'s Staple Center to pull her pants down and reveal a (fake) tattoo of the girl's name inked across the small of her back.

  • Daum: Bring in Obama the Hulk

    October 11, 2012

    It's hard to say which is more cringe-worthy: President Obama's debate performance last week or his efforts to control the damage by poking fun at himself. In Los Angeles on Sunday night, Obama recognized Stevie Wonder and Katy Perry as "incredible professionals" who "perform flawlessly night after night." Then he added, "I can't always say the same."

  • Daum: Jesse Ventura, 'the Body' politic

    September 27, 2012

    Don't deny it: This presidential race, for all its minor dust-ups, has mostly been a snore, a bloodless standoff between two men who, despite their differences, are both essentially uptight squares whose wives are forever trumpeting how poor they used to be. Thank goodness, then, for the blast of fresh air that is Jesse "the Body" Ventura.

  • Daum: Romney's sorry state

    September 20, 2012

    When it comes to apologies, some people are like scent hounds: They can sniff them out anywhere. This is especially true when it comes to the supposed regrets and self-hatred of President Obama. Though he began his term with a series of speeches in Europe, Latin America and the Middle East in which, according to several fact-checking sources, the words "apology" or "I'm sorry" were never once uttered, his opponents nonetheless decided to construe the trips as some sort of mea culpa (make that Americana culpa) world tour. (Can't you just picture it on a heavy metal concert T-shirt?)

  • Daum: Naomi Wolf's vaginal sideshow

    September 13, 2012

    It's a strange time to be a woman. I say this not because state legislatures enacted no less than 95 restrictions on reproductive rights this year. I say it not because at the same time, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker repealed his state's equal pay law and Wisconsin state Sen. Glenn Grothman conjectured that "money is more important for men." Or because, just last month, an alarming number of male legislators demonstrated serious confusion about the birds and the bees.

  • Daum: Michelle Obama's traditional values

    September 6, 2012

    At the risk of inviting legions of conservatives to swoop down and tell me I'm drowning in the Obama Kool-Aid (actually, it's not just a risk; it's a guarantee), I'm just going to come out and say it: Michelle Obama was spectacular at the Democratic National Convention on Tuesday night. She managed to do in 25 minutes what her husband has been struggling to do for nearly four years: remind us why we were once so excited about the prospect of seeing this family in the White House.

  • Todd Akin's remarks on rape may help clarify the abortion debate

    August 23, 2012

    Like any sentient person, I was appalled by Missouri Republican Congressman Todd Akin's comments about "legitimate rape." I was shocked by the Limbaugh-ian proportions of his ignorance about the female reproductive system ("in cases of legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down") and remain flabbergasted that he hasn't caved in to party pressure to quit his Senate campaign.

  • Helen Gurley Brown, Cosmo and the limits of stiletto lib

    August 16, 2012

    Helen Gurley Brown, legendary editor of Cosmopolitan and doyenne of stiletto-heeled self-empowerment, died Monday at 90. The author of "Sex and the Single Girl," Brown was widely credited for revolutionizing the precepts of women's media, transforming a melange of recipes and homemaking tips into an unapologetic celebration of sexual, social and professional striving captured in cover lines like "Four Fab New Vibrators" and "Get Hit On All The Time."

  • Daum: Rise of the Olympic armchair judges

    August 8, 2012

    The conventional wisdom about the Olympics has always been that it turns its viewers into wannabe athletes. Every time the Games roll around, particularly the Summer Games with their relatively easy-to-try-at-home events like track and swimming , we start hearing about surges in running shoe purchases and gym memberships.

  • Daum: America's shortcut culture

    August 2, 2012

    Not even the Olympics are a sufficient distraction from the scandal of Jonah Lehrer. He's the 31-year-old who rose to prominence writing such bestselling books as "Proust Was a Neuroscientist" and "How We Decide," and delivering lucrative corporate lectures to go along with them.

  • Daum: Confessions of a TV couch potato

    July 19, 2012

    I recently attended a lecture by a distinguished man of letters. A poet, novelist, playwright and literary critic, this man also edits journals, directs literary festivals, collaborates on documentary projects, teaches full time at a university and is raising a family. When an audience member asked how he managed to find the time for all these things, he said, "Everything I do is in the interests of making time for my true passion: watching TV."

  • Daum: The GOP's Palin hangover

    July 12, 2012

    Ann Romney is on the record: She would like to see a woman as her husband's running mate. And so would any number of Republicans who are concerned about their party's standing with female voters. But for all the excitement that the topic stirs up, don't hold your breath: It's unlikely a woman will share the spotlight at the top of the GOP ticket.

  • Daum: Under Nora's wing

    June 28, 2012

    If you're a particular kind of writer, the kind with a taste for "social observation" and a belief in the divine partnership of unbridled humor and unapologetic honesty, Nora Ephron, who died Tuesday, almost certainly fell into the category of Central Influence. If you're a particularly lucky writer, Nora was not only an influence but a sort of literary mother hen with a cashmere-clad wing outstretched. She was a connector, a cajoler, a cheerleader — maybe even a friend. I was among those lucky ones.

  • Daum: Really? First gay president?

    June 14, 2012

    It's been a month since President Obama announced his support for same-sex marriage and was declared, on the cover of Newsweek, "the first gay president." That's an eternity in politics, but Obama's swing through California last week, which included a Beverly Hills fundraiser sponsored by the LGBT Leadership Council and a $25,000-per-plate dinner hosted by "Glee" creator Ryan Murphy, got me thinking about his gayness all over again.

  • Daum: Speaking down to Americans

    June 7, 2012

    Lest you think the bullying and foot-stomping of Congress most resemble a tantrum-prone bunch of second-graders, think again. Data compiled by the Sunlight Foundation, a nonpartisan group focused on greater transparency in Washington, has shown that today's congressional "dialogue" is actually on a par with a 10th-grader's verbal prowess.

  • Daum: When parents hover

    May 31, 2012

    Since the release of the May 21 issue of Time magazine — the one with an attractive if rather indignant-looking young motherbreast-feeding a nearly 4-year-old child on the cover — much of the country has been abuzz with both admiration and condemnation of the child-rearing philosophy called "attachment parenting." Known for its hyper-protectiveness, not to mention its plain-old hype, attachment parenting concerns itself with issues like the benefits of home schooling, the value of "co-sleeping" and whether disposable diapers and store-bought baby food are instruments of neglect.

  • Daum: Attack of the flesh-eating bacteria story

    May 24, 2012

    What spreads almost as fast as necrotizing fasciitis, a.k.a. flesh-eating infection? News stories about it.

  • Daum: Too brainy to be president?

    May 10, 2012

    As devotees of Barack Obama know all too well, qualities that made him so attractive as a candidate — an affinity for subtle arguments, a tendency to carefully weigh his options — have at times proved less useful in his role as president. That carefulness has been read as indecisiveness. The subtle arguments have sounded, to some ears, like hedging. In response, the president has simplified his rhetoric. The nuances of the 2009 Cairo speech about relations between the U.S. and the Muslim world have given way to chest thumping over killing Osama bin Laden. The sophistication of the speech on race he delivered during the 2008 campaign has morphed into sentimental headline grabbers: "If I had a son, he'd look like Trayvon."

  • Daum: Beauty in the eye of the app

    May 3, 2012

    If you're one of those people who says, "There should be an app for that!" every time you're confronted with one of life's little quandaries (recent entrepreneurial brainstorms in my household include What's the Dog Thinking? and some form of gaydar), you've probably already imagined this: an app that will tell you how ugly you are.

  • Daum: The Ann Romney trap

    April 19, 2012

    President Obama displayed quick damage-control reflexes last week when he called out Democratic pundit Hilary Rosen for claiming that Ann Romney, mother of five, had "never worked a day in her life." It was "the wrong thing to say" and "not something I subscribe to," the president said. He also rolled out the old chestnut that almost always gets invoked amid ugly battles over motherhood and women's career choices. "There is no tougher job than being a mom," he said.

  • Daum: The radical message of 'Girls'

    April 12, 2012

    When I was 24 and living in a funky New York City apartment with roommates, roaches and ambitions that were both utterly consuming and utterly unfocused, I was convinced my generation was cursed. It was the early 1990s, and between a recession, the AIDS crisis and the last vestiges of the crack-and-crime epidemic, daily life had a certain apocalyptic quality.

  • Daum: We're weary of 'being Trayvon'

    April 5, 2012

    In the wake of the media blackout imposed last week by Angela Corey, the newly appointed special prosecutor investigating February's fatal shooting of black Florida teen Trayvon Martin, the media has had no choice but to cover the story surrounding the story. This would include the widespread public demonstrations, the evolution of the "hoodie" as a symbolic rallying point, and the emergence of protest T-shirts adorned with phrases like "I Am Trayvon" and "Justice for Trayvon," both of which Martin's mother is trying to have trademarked.

  • Daum: When truth is trumped by theatrics

    March 22, 2012

    Even if you don't have a cupboard full of pledge-drive coffee mugs, you've probably heard about the latest dust-up in public radio. A stage performer named Mike Daisey chronicled a trip he made in 2010 to China to check out conditions at a factory run by Foxconn, the chief manufacturer of iPads and iPhones. Even before Daisey told his tale, news reports of suicides and harsh working conditions there had introduced at least a dose of guilt into the previously sunshiny experience of owning an Apple product.

  • Killing a teenager's laptop, loudly

    February 23, 2012

    Perhaps you've heard of Tommy Jordan. He's the North Carolina dad who recently recorded a video of himself reading and responding to a Facebook post composed by his 15-year-old daughter, Hannah, after which he shot her computer nine times with a .45 pistol.

  • Santorum: The personal isn't always political

    February 16, 2012

    Recently some readers complained about my characterization of Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum as a "weird, pious wackadoo," charging bias against religious conservatives. Obviously they didn't realize that when it comes to mockery, I'm an equal-opportunity columnist. I've taken plenty of stabs at Democrats over the years, not least of them Hillary Rodham Clinton, whom I've compared to an old sofa.

  • Daum: Memed, and proud of it

    February 1, 2012

    Say what you will about the latest Internet video sensation — in which someone lampoons one group of humans or another based on certain conversational proclivities — but if nothing else, we can credit it with bringing mainstream awareness to the word "meme." That's the term coined by Richard Dawkins for the way evolutionary principles can be used to explain how cultural ideas take hold. It's now basically turned into a fancy way of talking about things that are popular on the Internet. This includes cats with funny captions inserted below them.

  • Daum: Newt's debt to Clinton

    January 26, 2012

    So it's official. No one really cares that Newt Gingrich is an egotistical, vainglorious scoundrel, at least where women are concerned. Sure, his ex-wife went on TV two days before the South Carolina primary and re-dished a bunch of dirt about their marriage, but based on Saturday's outcome, it seems GOP voters got over the whole family values thing a long time ago.

  • Daum: Santorum and the mythic power of the zealots

    January 12, 2012

    If you think Rick Santorum is a weird, pious wackadoo, try being a female walking around certain ultra-Orthodox neighborhoods in Israel with your ankles showing.

  • Daum: Christopher Hitchens gets the last laugh

    December 22, 2011

    As fans of the late Christopher Hitchens cycle through the five stages of grief, it's interesting to see which of his opinions can still inspire the kind of anger that is unlikely to ever fade into acceptance. There are, of course, the obvious candidates: his characterization of Bill Clinton as "a rapist" or his vilification of Mother Teresa as "a fanatic, a fundamentalist, and a fraud." There is also his oh so chivalrous shout-out to the Dixie Chicks, whom he called "fat slugs" (or "slags" or "sluts" depending on your source) despite later admitting "having not the least idea of what any of them looked like."

  • The 'hot mess' of politics

    December 15, 2011

    A delightfully useful and versatile term has been floating around a lot lately: "hot mess." Usually it refers to a person, often (but not always) a woman, whose behavior is exceedingly self-destructive but who remains exceedingly compelling nonetheless. (Type "hot mess" into Google and names such as Lindsay Lohan, Britney Spears and Charlie Sheen make a strong showing.)

  • Daum: Think first tweet later #duh

    December 1, 2011

    "Emma Sullivan just became the new Ferris Bueller."

  • Daum: Don't 'drink the Kool-Aid'

    November 17, 2011

    Drunk any Kool-Aid lately? Or maybe you accused someone else of doing it? If so, congratulations, you're right in step with one of the nation's most popular idiomatic trends. A snappy, fruit-flavored way of referring to someone who unquestioningly embraces a particular leader or ideology, "drinking the Kool-Aid" has become a staple of self-righteous public discourse.

  • Daum: Zygotes on a slippery slope

    November 10, 2011

    When I first heard about Personhood USA, I got it confused with Up with People, the organization best known for song-and-dance troupes that go around the world singing songs like "Which Way America?" and "What Color Is God's Skin?" When I realized it was actually an anti-abortion group devoted to the idea that any fertilized human egg should be considered a person, I still couldn't shake the image of wholesome young performers spreading fetus love across the globe. Instead of singing about peace and "dances through the ages" they could sing about zygotes and implantation, though admittedly those lyrics might be tough to rhyme.

  • Daum: Denial — Madoff style

    November 2, 2011

    I didn't see any Ruth Madoff masks on Halloween night, but it wouldn't have surprised me if I had. The wife of disgraced Wall Street Ponzi schemer Bernard Madoff is Pariah No. 1 this week, followed closely by her son, Andrew. The two, along with Andrew's fiance, appeared on "60 Minutes" on Sunday night to promote their "authorized family biography," "Truth and Consequences."

  • Daum: Inside the mating economy

    October 20, 2011

    Kate Bolick is an attractive, educated and professionally accomplished 39-year-old who despite 20 years of dating and a string of steady relationships has — cue the ominous organ music — never married. In a long (at 12,000 words, very long) article that's part personal essay, part enfilade of facts, stats and interviews with experts, she tells her story in the Atlantic this month. It doesn't end happily ever after — at least it hasn't so far — but this leaves Bolick not so much sad or even angry but surprised by what she's found: a dating pool of men who increasingly cannot keep up with their female counterparts.

  • Daum: Liberals pin hopes on Elizabeth Warren

    October 13, 2011

    Liberal fervor, which took a hit when it became apparent that Barack Obama the president was not going to live up to the promise of Barack Obama the Shepard Fairey poster, is back in action. From the streets of Manhattan to the pages of Facebook, from L.A.'s City Hall to email blasts from, left-leaning types are getting their mojo back, summoning the spirit not just of the Obama campaign (that decorous, dignified affair) but kicking it old school in the vein of the wild and crazy 2004 Howard Dean campaign (you remember, back in the days when the word "liberal" was actually spoken out loud — in Dean's case really loud).

  • Daum: The Amanda Knox moral — there's no place like home

    October 6, 2011

    I didn't have a huge investment in the fate of Amanda Knox, the 24-year-old American whose conviction for killing her roommate four years ago in Italy was overturned Monday. I was generally too put off and confused by the media circus surrounding the case to try to figure out the whole story. Still, in the moments before the appeals decision was announced, I found myself on the edge of my seat, constantly refreshing my Internet browser until the word "acquit" flashed across the screen. Then I exhaled, a far bigger sigh of relief than I thought I had in me.

  • Daum: Chick flick TV

    September 22, 2011

    Perhaps it's been brought to your attention that this is a big week for retrograde representations of women on television. Monday marked the premiere of NBC's "The Playboy Club," a noir-ish look at Hugh Hefner's flagship Chicago club in 1963, and Sunday will see the launch of ABC's "Pan Am," a stylish, soapy paean to those proto-feminist archetypes known as stewardesses. With their curling cigarette smoke and hourglass-shaped, not-necessarily-Pilates-toned actresses, these shows suggest we're in a moment not just of "Mad Men" withdrawal (it won't be back until March) but out-and-out fetishization of the 1960s (make that the early 1960s, before things got complicated).

  • Daum: Save the nation — buy now

    September 15, 2011

    Remember the famous Stanford marshmallow study of 1972? It asked children at a campus nursery school to choose between eating a marshmallow (or a cookie or a pretzel, depending on their preference) right away or waiting while the researcher stepped out of the room for a period of time, at which point they would get two marshmallows. The purpose of the study, which involved more than 600 children, was to determine at what age we begin to develop an understanding of delayed gratification.

  • Daum: Sept. 11 and the impulse to pay tribute

    September 8, 2011

    Not that you needed reminding, but Sunday is the 10th anniversary of the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. Around the world, memorials will be held, prayers said, tears shed. President Obama has called on the nation to "reaffirm the strength of our nation with acts of service and charity." Mozart's Requiem will be performed in countless venues.

  • Daum: New words to live by

    September 1, 2011

    Every year around this time, the Concise Oxford English Dictionary releases a list of words that will be added to its next edition. It's lucky that the announcement comes toward the end of August, when most humans want to go on vacation and most columnists, therefore, need to write an "evergreen."

  • Daum: Invasion of the idiocrats

    August 18, 2011

    You may not have seen "Idiocracy," the 2006 sci-fi comedy set in an utterly dysfunctional nation 500 years in the future, but chances are you've heard it mentioned lately. References to the film seem to be everywhere, and not just in op-eds penned by cranky columnists (I mentioned it in a column last year about public spaces being sold as advertising space). The latest issue of the Economist has an article about the business-sabotaging effects of the battles in Washington, headlined "American Idiocracy."

  • Daum: When being authentic requires work

    August 11, 2011

    Want to be authentic? Good luck! These days it takes deliberate effort, focus, even a long-term commitment to change. This might sound surprising to those of you who associate authenticity with just being yourself, but misconceptions about authenticity abound, not least among them the idea that it comes naturally to everyone.

  • Daum: Norway's paradise lost

    August 4, 2011

    Anyone who's hung around in liberal circles and found himself in those perfunctory What's Wrong With America conversations has heard the refrain: "Well, in Sweden they have (fill in the blank): mostly free healthcare, free college, 13-month parental leave."

  • Daum: The siren song of Google+

    July 28, 2011

    Google+, which launched a month ago to great fanfare, is so far feeling more like Google nonplussed. Reported to have crossed the 20-million-user mark last weekend, the new social networking site is designed to correct one of Facebook's major drawbacks: the problem of too much information being shared with too many people.

  • Daum: The Marcus Bachmann hypocrisy

    July 21, 2011

    Marcus Bachmann, the husband of GOP presidential candidate Michele Bachmann, is having a bad month. Not only is his counseling clinic under attack for offering gay conversion therapy, he's being pursued by an angry mob. Composed of gay activists, comedians, left-leaning bloggers and members of the alternative media, this mob is not only angry about Bachmann's "pray the gay away" ideas, it's growing ever more willing to give voice to a nudge-nudge flurry of middle-school locker-room innuendo. All from people who in other circumstances would be asking for an injunction against the stuff.

  • Daum: Jaycee Dugard and the feel-good imperative

    July 14, 2011

    To watch Diane Sawyer's interview Sunday night with Jaycee Dugard was to wonder at times if that was Dugard herself on screen or an actress hired to play the role of the quintessential survivor. Dugard was so serene and lacking in rancor that it was hard to believe she had been kidnapped at age 11 and held prisoner for 18 years, during which she was repeatedly raped and bore two children, the first when she was just 14.

  • Daum: You pays your money …

    July 7, 2011

    There's something exhilarating about walking out of a movie. Not only does it reacquaint you with the notion of your own free will ("Wait a second, no one is forcing me to watch Tom Hanks ride around on a scooter!"), it's like getting two extra hours in your day. To walk out of a bad movie is literally to escape from the darkness, to show yourself who's boss, to remind yourself that your time is valuable.

  • Daum: Geez Frisco, lighten up

    June 30, 2011

    Dear San Francisco,

  • Meghan Daum: Michele Bachmann the believer

    June 23, 2011

    If I had a dollar for every time a Sarah Palin supporter accused me of not taking her seriously because I'm jealous of attractive women who've combined powerful careers with large families, I'd be in another tax bracket, one that might encourage me to vote for Ron Paul.

  • Meghan Daum: Anthony Weiner's inner geekdom

    June 16, 2011

    Anthony Weiner, the disgraced New York congressman whose sins certainly don't need to be spelled out again, has, we are told, checked himself into rehab. We can't be sure exactly what kind, since his spokeswoman said only that he was seeking "professional treatment to focus on being a better husband and a healthier person." That's code, in a lot of people's minds, for a sex-addiction program, like the ones attended by Tiger Woods and David Duchovny, both of whom got in trouble for actually having sex.

  • Meghan Daum: What's with the 'hiker hate'?

    June 9, 2011

    The story of Shane Bauer, Josh Fattal and Sarah Shourd, the American hikers who in July 2009 crossed the border — inadvertently, all evidence suggests — from Iraqi Kurdistan into Iran and were imprisoned for espionage, is back in the headlines. Shourd, who was released in September on humanitarian grounds and after paying $500,000 in bail, has been promoting a "rolling hunger strike" to remind us that Bauer and Fattal remain in Tehran's Evin Prison without a trial date or access to their lawyer.

  • Meghan Daum: David Mamet's new herd

    June 2, 2011

    David Mamet, the acclaimed playwright known for characters that drop the F-bomb at every opportunity, has dropped the ultimate bomb on his fans and the creative community: He is no longer a "brain-dead liberal" but rather a "newly minted conservative."

  • Meghan Daum: Obama's fast brain vs. slow mouth

    May 26, 2011

    Apparently, a lot of people consider President Obama to be bumblingly inarticulate. "The guy can't talk his way out of a paper bag!" a reader wrote to me recently. "Sarah Palin is a brilliant speaker. It's the president whose sentences are undiagrammable," said another in response to a column I wrote about Palin. It's not just my readers, nor is it exclusively conservatives, who hold this view. A Google search of "does Obama have a speech impediment" turns up several pages of discussion among the president's supporters and critics alike.Admittedly, the president is given to a lot of pauses, "uhs" and sputtering starts to his sentences. As polished as he often is before large crowds (where the adjective "soaring" is often applied to his speeches), his impromptu speaking frequently calls to mind a doctoral candidate delivering a wobbly dissertation defense.

  • Meghan Daum: Breaking comedy's raunch barrier

    May 19, 2011

    The results are in: "Bridesmaids," the much-hyped girl-raunch comedy touted as the long-awaited antidote to Judd Apatow's "bromance" phenomenon, opened way bigger than expected at the box office, thereby proving that women can be just as funny — and, moreover, sell as many tickets — as men. (Apatow, it should be noted, is a producer on the film.)

  • Royal wedding: Her Royal Blandness

    April 28, 2011

    I admit it: I love Kate Middleton. I love that she defied the usual dating advice and waited years for her prince to come around. I love that she's a commoner but still wears those outrageous feathered hats. Most of all, I love that the hats are the most remarkable thing about her.

  • Meghan Daum: Kids, do your own homework

    April 21, 2011

    I get lots of emails. They generally break down like this: People telling me I'm brilliant and the reason print media is hanging on; people telling me I'm a moron and the reason print media is dying; people trying to get me to write about their book/cause/personal gripe; people asking me to read something they wrote about their book/cause/personal gripe; and people asking for help with their homework.

  • Campaign of misinformation against Planned Parenthood

    April 14, 2011

    In the ongoing rancor surrounding federal funding of Planned Parenthood, misinformation has a starring role. There have been, of course, predictable gusts of hot air from pundits like Bill O'Reilly, who asserted last month that "nobody's life is affected by Planned Parenthood," and Brian Kilmeade and Steve Doocy of "Fox & Friends," who suggested on April 9 that Planned Parenthood's non-abortion-related services were redundant because you can get your blood pressure checked and get a pap smear or a breast exam at Walgreen's. (Blood pressure, yes; the rest, uh-uh.)

  • Let's all get off the term 'on steroids'

    April 7, 2011

    Not so long ago, the way to convey that something was extreme was to simply call it extreme ("X" for short.) There were extreme sports (think bungee jumping), extreme tourism (think traveling in order to bungee jump) and, of course, the "Extreme Makeover" television franchise, which took self-improvement and home improvement to new levels by throwing in hefty doses of plastic surgery and new construction along with the usual hairstyle and paint color changes.

  • NPR needs a backbone

    March 17, 2011

    Oh, NPR, won't you please state your game? Are you liberal? Are you neutral? Are your employees secret socialists? Do their screensavers feature slideshows of Noam Chomsky? Do your office Christmas parties serve only free-range eggnog? Do your parking lots offer preferred spaces for vehicles with "Free Tibet" bumper stickers?"

  • Carrie Prejean vs. Perez Hilton

    April 25, 2009

    It's been a notable week in not-really news. Songstress Susan Boyle, who supposedly delivered us from our shallowness by belting out a showstopper without the help of hair dye or eyebrow tweezing, continued to make headlines. The former vice presidential candidate's grandbaby daddy, Levi Johnston, went on "Larry King Live" and managed to say and be asked almost nothing. And Earth Day, with its myriad opportunities for celebrities to talk about CFL bulbs, filled talk shows like so many Styrofoam peanuts in a cardboard box.

  • The recession heats up romance novels

    April 4, 2009

    Amid the ceaseless reminders that the economy is in a persistent vegetative state, it's easy to forget that some industries and products are thriving. U.S. News & World Report, which recently released its list of "10 Winners in the Recession," says that Hershey's chocolate increased earnings by more than 50% last quarter and the Burpee seed company has said it expects sales to increase by 25% in 2009 (and this was before the first lady's organic-gardening initiative).

  • Michelle Obama's no-win role

    March 28, 2009

    I'm having a hard time forming an opinion about First Lady Michelle Obama, mostly because there are already so many out there, and they're almost uniformly inane.

  • Curse you, Zillow!

    March 21, 2009

    If you've looked up your home value over the last year or so, you know the experience is not unlike weighing yourself after eating a large meal. The number is simply wrongThe number is simply wrong.

  • Happiness is in your mind -- and wallet

    March 14, 2009

    Oh, no. Here comes another study about happiness. We can't seem to do enough of these paeans to cheerfulness. In the last few months alone, the British Medical Journal suggested that having a happy close friend boosts our own odds of being happy by 25%; the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological

  • The age of Friendaholism

    March 7, 2009

    Thwarting the age-old theory (and high school coping mechanism) that unpopularity in adolescence portends wealth and success in adulthood, a new study from the University of Essex in Britain has shown that the more friends you have in school, the more money you'll earn later.

  • The day the talk died at KLSX

    February 28, 2009

    For those of us who like to listen to people rant, whine and talk about their gastrointestinal problems on the radio, the last week has been a sad one in Southern California. KLSX, which had been the region's only all-talk FM station since 1995, abruptly changed its format to Top 40 music on Feb. 20. The switch, according to executives at its parent company, CBS Radio, was an effort to attract younger listeners.

  • Refusing to toe the Oscar party line

    February 21, 2009

    Irealize what I'm about to say is a form of blasphemy in this town: I hate the Oscars. I hate everything about them: the gazillion awards shows that precede them, the obsession with the gowns and their designers, the scenery-chewing movie performances they inspire and, most of all, the parties.

  • Doomed by your name?

    February 7, 2009

    If you read "Freakonomics," the popular 2005 book that applied economic theories to non-economic issues, you probably remember the mention of African American twins named OrangeJello and LemonJello (pronounced a-RON-zhello and le-MON-zhello).

  • Eight is more than enough

    January 31, 2009

    Ihave octuplet derangement syndrome. Ever since Monday, when an unidentified woman gave birth to eight babies at Kaiser Permanente Bellflower Medical Center near Los Angeles, I've been obsessed. And not in a good way.

  • Dream dad: one job too many for Obama

    January 24, 2009

    Which image of President Obama with his daughters is your favorite? Is it the goofy-faced shot riding bumper cars with Sasha at the Iowa State Fair? Is it one of the photos snapped on the beach when the family vacationed in Hawaii in August? Or is it the moment that Sasha, talking to her father on a huge screen during the first night of the Democratic National Convention, punctuated his remarks with "I love you, Daddy," a declaration sure to claim a permanent spot in the annals of political campaign adorableness?

  • Obama's poet

    January 17, 2009

    This time last year, on the snowy campaign trail in New Hampshire, Hillary Rodham Clinton took a swipe at her opponent Barack Obama with the quip, "You campaign with poetry, but you govern with prose."

  • Ashley Madison's secret success

    January 10, 2009

    'Life is short. Have an affair."

  • Fictional memoirs

    January 3, 2009

    How did Herman Rosenblat, a 78-year-old Holocaust survivor and seemingly sweet old man, become the pariah of publishing? He spent upward of 15 years telling this story: As a teenager at a German concentration camp in 1945, he encounters a girl on the other side of the camp's fence who tosses food to him daily. The two never speak, but she gives him the strength to survive. Settled in New York 12 years later, Rosenblat finds himself on a blind date with a Polish woman named Roma Radzicki whose family, she says, lived near the camp during the war. Despite incalculable odds, Radzicki turns out to be the girl from the fence. He proposes to her on the spot, and they remain married today.

  • Burger King's body spray

    December 27, 2008

    You know you're in the throes of hard economic times when one of the most talked-about gift ideas of the holiday season is body spray from Burger King. You heard me right. There's a new burger in town, and it's not a burger at all. It's a fragrance called Flame by BK (pour hommespour hommes, presumably).

  • Barack Obama has added you as a friend on Facebook

    December 20, 2008

    Despite common assumptions that President-elect Barack Obama's Cabinet nominees are told of their selection via personal phone calls, The Times has learned that the famously tech-friendly Obama is actually notifying his picks by "friending" them on the social networking site Facebook. Requests to Obama for comment on the following transcript have gone unanswered, though he did "poke" us just as this went to press.

  • Recession-free Christmas ads

    December 13, 2008

    Tired of reading grim news about the economy? Then skip the articles and go straight to the ads. It's December, after all; the season of lights, gift giving and glossy magazines and newspaper supplements that smell like Glade PlugIns and weigh enough to break your toe.

  • From YouTube to Carnegie Hall

    December 6, 2008

    For every bassoonist or violist who's bemoaned his exclusion from that celebrated form of artistic democracy known as "American Idol," the dark days are over. No, Paula Abdul probably will not be waxing befuddled on the finer points of Mozart concertos. But YouTube has announced plans for something possibly even scarier: the YouTube Symphony, the "world's first collaborative online orchestra."

  • Life on our own L.A. fall line

    November 29, 2008

    Congratulations Southern Californians, autumn -- or something resembling it -- has finally arrived. It's been a long, dry, flame-engulfed road, but I'm glad to say (and I hope this won't jinx it ) that we probably won't hit 95 degrees again for at least five or six months.

  • Bushes' books

    November 22, 2008

    If you thought exiting your last job was painful, because you had to stand around eating sheet cake and acting excited about your impending "freelance projects," imagine being an outgoing president. Not only do you have to give up your career, move out of your house and bid farewell to your jumbo jet all on the same day, you're expected to embark on one of the most onerous tasks known to humans: writing a book.

  • Dog days ahead for the Obamas

    November 15, 2008

    In case you hadn't heard, Barack Obama's daughters are getting a dog. They were promised one after the election regardless of the outcome and, as the president-elect noted at his first news conference, the subject is generating "more interest on our website than just about anything." He said this in the same somber tone with which he also discussed Cabinet appointments and Iranian nuclear proliferation, referring to "criteria that need to be reconciled" (the need for a hypoallergenic dog and a preference for a shelter dog) and calling it "a pressing issue in the Obama household."

  • Gratitude with attitude

    October 11, 2008

    Question: What prize was recently characterized by one of its winners as "mundane"?

  • Straight talk expressed

    September 20, 2008

    On Sept. 12, the writer David Foster Wallace, who was 46, died by hanging himself in his Claremont home. A formidable intellect and a virtuosic craftsman whose following seemed cult-like despite being too large to really qualify (several of his books were bestsellers), Wallace had been a professor of creative writing at Pomona College since 2001.

  • Obsessed? Addicted? It's politics

    September 13, 2008

    Are you experiencing disturbing, election-related thoughts? When you close your eyes at night, do the colors of CNN's "magic" electoral map dance in your head like red and blue sugarplums? When you get in your car and hear the same talk-radio personalities saying the same things they said the last time you got in the car, do you wonder what day it is? Are you getting carpal tunnel syndrome from hitting "refresh" at political websites and blogs? Are you aware that most of these sites refresh automatically, yet you find yourself clicking the navigation bar because new information about Sarah Palin's other baby, the alien dinosaur, might have surfaced seconds ago and you can't wait that long to read about it? Are you at once totally sick of election news and insatiably hungry for more? As a result, are you sick of yourself?

  • Greetings from the energized GOP base

    September 6, 2008

    Sure, I spent much of the last week in a state of apoplexy at the hypocrisy and cynicism of the political process in general and the Republican Party in particular. But I can't say those were the very first thoughts that came to mind when Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin was introduced to the world Aug. 29.

  • A few PUMAs on the loose

    August 30, 2008

    Now that the Democratic National Convention is over, have all the PUMAs gone back to their dens? Is it safe to jog in the mountains or are rabid, ravenous Hillary Rodham Clinton supporters still crouching in the chaparral, patiently waiting until November, when they'll avenge their candidate in one deadly pounce?

  • Roy Den Hollander's war on feminism

    August 23, 2008

    This week, while you were distractedly waiting for one of the presidential candidates to just go ahead and pick Michael Phelps as his running mate, a Manhattan lawyer sued Columbia University for discriminating against men.

  • In China, a pretty face wins

    August 16, 2008

    China's never been known for its stellar policies on little girls. But this week, its female trouble in Beijing has been especially vexing. There are, of course, the rumblings about members of the Chinese women's gymnastics team who appear younger than the International Olympic Committee's age requirement of 16. But that controversy has been put on the back burner by the fracas surrounding Lin Miaoke, the 9-year-old who lip-synced "Ode to the Motherland" during the opening ceremony.

  • I'm nonplussed, maybe

    August 9, 2008

    Ineed to say something. And even though I'm going to refrain from typing in all caps, I urge you to pretend I did.

  • All together now

    March 29, 2008

    You know a nation is in trouble when the worst epithet its citizens can hurl at each other is the title of a folk song: "Kumbaya," an African American spiritual whose name (and chorus) translates from the Gullah dialect as "come by here."

  • Why we still need Clinton

    March 8, 2008

    Admit it, Obamaphiles, there was a part of you that was a teeny bit relieved about the outcome of Tuesday's primaries. As much as you think you want Hillary Rodham Clinton out of the picture so you can love your man with uninterrupted, full-time ardor, you're just not quite ready to cut Clinton loose. She's just too fundamental, too necessary, too much like a sofa you think you hate but, while attempting to move it through the doorway, realize is crucial to the look and feel of the room.

  • Booming sense of pride

    March 1, 2008

    I'm not going to pretend I knew what Michelle Obama meant when, at a rally in Milwaukee, she said that "for the first time in my adult lifetime, I'm really proud of my country." She later said she meant she was proud of people "rolling up their sleeves" and "trying to figure this out," which I take to mean she wasn't so sure either.

  • Finding Mr. Good Enough

    February 23, 2008

    In the march issue of the Atlantic magazine, sandwiched between an article about Chinese Internet technology and a review of modernist art criticism, lies a seven-page essay called "Marry Him! The Case for Settling." Its author is Lori Gottlieb, a 40-year-old Los Angeles writer and single mother who admits that the idea of finding Mr. Right, a notion she once harbored, was in fact a bill of goods. Young women in search of marriage and family, she writes, should think seriously about resigning themselves to Mr. Good Enough.

  • Chelsea's rant control

    February 9, 2008

    Maybe you were privy to an e-mail that was circulated, perhaps, by Chelsea Clinton this week. According to a post Tuesday by Emily Bazelon of the online magazine Slate, the e-mail's subject heading was "a must read ... send to every woman you know." The body of the e-mail was a pro-Hillary screed by the famous 1960s- and 1970s-era feminist Robin Morgan (author of the iconic "Sisterhood Is Powerful" anthologies) called, "Goodbye To All That (#2)." The essay was dated Feb. 2 and appeared (and can still be read) on the website for the Women's Media Center, a nonprofit feminist media watchdog organization that Morgan helped found.

  • News from the Department of Depression

    February 2, 2008

    Misery really does love company. How else to explain our endless fascination with studies about why it's so much easier to worry than be happy? In the last few years, researchers have provided us with all manner of mood-related news, much of which has gotten more ink than civil unrest in Third World countries (and no wonder; that stuff is really depressing).

  • A house is more than an ATM

    January 26, 2008

    If real estate in 2008 has a fashion corollary, it's the Member's Only jacket. Like those elasticized, cotton/poly zip-ups that were all the rage in the 1980s, houses and condos -- at least those purchased in the last few years -- have gone from must-have items to invitations for public mockery.

  • High-definition anxiety

    January 19, 2008

    Say what you will about society's shallow preoccupation with physical appearance, no one can accuse us of not sweating the details. Never was this more clear to me than a few years ago, when I visited a "laser spa" at a dermatologist's office in the hope of lightening a small (and, in retrospect, inconsequential) scar on my knee. Without looking at my chart, the porcelain-skinned, flawlessly made-up "laser spa technician" led me into the treatment room, gestured toward a hulking machine worthy of the Starship Enterprise, glanced up at me and asked, "Just your face today?"

  • Hillary's gotta have it

    January 12, 2008

    Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton may have clawed her way out of an abyss in the New Hampshire primary on Tuesday, but the shadows over her campaign are a reminder that the path she's forging is still in the deep woods.

  • Leno writes a wrong

    January 5, 2008

    In hopes of learning the true -- and possibly mystical -- value of writers, I did something Wednesday I hadn't done in years. I watched the "Late Show With David Letterman" and "The Tonight Show With Jay Leno" all the way through (thanks to DVR technology). The occasion, of course, was the programs' return to the air after two months off because of the ongoing Writers Guild of America strike.

  • The gift card shuffle

    December 29, 2007

    Who cares that holiday spending fell short of expectations this season? The real shopping is happening right now.

  • Tracking the mild coyote

    December 22, 2007

    In the last few weeks, a buzz has developed around a weblog called the Daily Coyote. It features the comments and photographs of Shreve Stockton, a 30-year-old woman living in a one-room cabin in an undisclosed "town of 300 people" in Wyoming. The focus of the blog is Charlie, a 9-month-old coyote that Stockton took in when he was orphaned shortly after birth. Feeding him goat's milk from syringes and then baby bottles (he promptly chewed the nipples off), Stockton has raised him from a tiny fluff ball that cried unless he could sleep in her bed to a long-snouted, giant-eared, 25-pound almost adult coyote that still sleeps in her bed. Oh, and her cat, Eli, sleeps there too.

  • Knocked up but not out

    December 15, 2007

    When I was in high school during the Reagan years, teen pregnancy wasn't just taboo, it was the worst possible situation you could find yourself in. Equal parts personal tragedy and quasi-criminal act, getting knocked up (not to be confused with knocking someone else up, which might have been a tiny bit cool) was the ultimate wrong move -- not least because it was preventable in so many ways.

  • Save the world: stay married

    December 8, 2007

    The American obsession with striking out on our own, with poster children as varied as John Wayne and Mary Tyler Moore, appears to be at odds with our other current obsession: saving the planet.

  • The Red Cross' latest emergency

    December 1, 2007

    I just took an informal survey and discovered that a lot of people are under the impression that the American Red Cross is a religious organization. Maybe it's the cross that's throwing them (though it's really more of a plus sign), or maybe it's the fact that the 126-year-old disaster relief agency acted more like the morality police than an international humanitarian organization this week. After losing two presidents in the last six years -- Bernadine Healy resigned in 2001 amid accusations about the mishandling of donations for 9/11 victims; Martha J. Evans stepped down in 2005 after the Red Cross' response to Hurricane Katrina was deemed inadequate -- yet another leader has made a scandalous departure.

  • No more reading the readers

    November 24, 2007

    One of the many uses of air travel is the opportunity it provides to take a snapshot of the public's reading tastes. Sure, bestseller lists rank what's popular, but if you want to do more detailed market research -- to know what kinds of people are reading what kinds of books, and how many pages into them they fall asleep -- there is no better vantage point than the aisle of a jetliner. It is from there that my extremely scientific research has produced data suggesting the following: Readers of mass-market thrillers often wear Dockers and polo shirts bearing company logos; readers of books like "Rich Dad, Poor Dad" can often be found in business class or first class (it works, folks!); and, almost without exception, there will be a young person in the last row traveling with nothing but a knapsack and reading Camus for the explicit purpose of striking up a conversation with a sexually desirable fellow passenger.

  • Pictures imperfect

    November 17, 2007

    Readers of this newspaper were mesmerized this week by staff photographer Luis Sinco's two-part series about Lance Cpl. James Blake Miller, the man behind his now famous portrait, "Marlboro Marine." Taken in 2004 during the battle of Fallouja, the photograph shows a weary Marine staring into the morning sun. His face is smeared with mud, the bridge of his nose is bloodied, and a cigarette dangles from his lips with a Bogart-style insouciance we rarely see anymore.

  • Things have never been better for kick-ass bloviators.

    November 3, 2007

    Is it just me, or has it become super-cool to be a blowhard? Everywhere I turn, it seems someone's speaking a bit too loudly, going on slightly too long and imparting ideas dressed up with dropped names, self-serving anecdotes and sanctimonious chest-thumping. And you should hear what I run into when I leave my house.

  • Cliche and cataclysm

    October 27, 2007

    Whenever California burns or shakes or collapses in mudslides, a cavalcade of familiar noir-isms comes along for the ride. Social critics wax nihilistic about impermanence as a permanent state of mind. Inevitably, Joan Didion quotes blow in like the Santa Anas themselves, offering up heavy doses of the line about the winds forcing an acceptance of "a deeply mechanistic view of human behavior." Inevitably, references will be made to Nathaniel West's "The Day of the Locust," to Raymond Chandler's "Red Wind," even to Steely Dan lyrics.

  • The Porn Age's unsexiness

    October 20, 2007

    It's been a tough couple of weeks for porn. On Oct. 12, two Arizona men were sentenced to more than five years in federal prison for generating pornographic e-mail spam, a venture in which they'd sent out millions of e-mails and earned more than a million dollars.

  • Did 9/11 kill feminism?

    October 6, 2007

    Because I seem to be one of an ever-dwindling handful of women under 50 who still call themselves feminists (and, therefore, am allowed to make fun of feminists with impunity), let me say this: Anyone who blames the weird, conflicted state of contemporary womanhood on the cultural fallout of 9/11 isn't just burning her bras but smoking them.

  • Live and let live -- nah . . .

    September 22, 2007

    As the proposed two-year moratorium on new fast-food restaurants in South Los Angeles wends its way through the City Council, the zoning debate over a long-planned Orthodox synagogue continues to simmer in Hancock Park. In both cases, the hullabaloo can be heard for miles. What can be learned from this? Not much other than a) if there's anything we fear more than poor people, it's poor people with high cholesterol, and b) freedom of traffic flow trumps freedom of religion. And, let's face it, we're not even too sure about those.

  • Should kids be seen?

    September 15, 2007

    On Wednesday, CBS will premiere "Kid Nation," a reality show that puts 40 youngsters, ages 8 through 15, in a New Mexico "ghost town" for 40 days without electricity, indoor plumbing or adult supervision. While six weeks off the grid may sound like exactly what today's over-mediated, nature-phobic, hyper-parented kids need most, some people are suggesting that the finer points of the arrangements are more reminiscent of "Oliver Twist" than a Sierra Club camping trip.

  • Defending Jerry Lewis

    September 8, 2007

    I never thought I'd find myself defending Jerry Lewis. Like a lot of people of my generation (and, unless you live in France, the one before that and quite possibly the one before that), my brain just isn't wired to appreciate the charms of his act, which has always struck me as about as close to dental drilling as comedy can get. But now that we've spent the better part of a week chastising the 81-year-old for saying, in the 18th hour of his Labor Day Muscular Dystrophy telethon, all or most of the verboten word "faggot," part of me is feeling just a wee bit French.

  • Our wonder of Wonder Bread

    September 1, 2007

    As a cultural icon, Wonder Bread has always been pretty tiresome. Occupying that dismal, overhyped semiotic space between authentic Americana and ironic pop artifact, its one of those products (see also Spam and Pez) that's been usurped by its own kitsch factor. For every middle-aged cornball who tries to capture his lost youth with mawkish allusions to Wonder Bread, there's a tattooed hipster ironically wearing a Wonder Bread T-shirt. And you kind of want to kill both of them.

  • American Apparel's ick

    August 25, 2007

    I've been looking at American Apparel's advertisements for years now, and I'm still not sure what I think about them.

  • Death by numbers

    August 18, 2007

    On any given day, an average of 148,000 people will die. That means over a million people have died in the last week. Nearly 5 million have died since around this time last month, which, incidentally, was exactly when we were briefly bombarded with the news that 199 people were killed in a Brazilian airliner crash.

  • When Hillary met Robert

    August 11, 2007

    When letters written to a friend by a college-aged Hillary Rodham resurfaced in the news a few weeks ago, her mention of a certain "Dartmouth boy" with whom she spent an evening in 1966 piqued notable interest. But last week, the New York Times reported that the mystery date was none other than Robert Reich, former secretary of Labor under Bill Clinton. In a post on his video blog, Reich called the encounter a "presidential summit" ("She was the president of her freshman class at Wellesley, and I was president of my sophomore class at Dartmouth," he explained.) and said they went to the Michelangelo Antonioni film "Blow Up."

  • The case for conspiracies

    August 4, 2007

    Since the May release of his 1,612-page book, "Reclaiming History," criminal prosecutor Vincent Bugliosi has been appearing on everything from C-Span to "The Colbert Report" telling the world that JFK's death had nothing to do with a government conspiracy. By most accounts, he's made a pretty airtight case.

  • The little black dress of 'responsibility'

    July 14, 2007

    IN CASE YOU haven't heard, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa takes full responsibility for his relationship with Telemundo newscaster Mirthala Salinas. Not some responsibility, not partial responsibility, not indirect responsibility. Full.

  • Little voices of distraction

    July 7, 2007

    HAS THE WHOLE country been sucking on helium balloons?

  • Who killed Antioch? Womyn

    June 30, 2007

    ON JUNE 12, the board of trustees of Antioch College, the famously countercultural institution in Yellow Springs, Ohio, announced that the campus would shut down next year. The decision is a result of declining enrollment, insufficient alumni support and facilities so neglected that, according to several reports, some buildings don't have hot water. Earlier this year, a number of faculty members were laid off. Meanwhile, student enrollment, which had been about 2,000 in the college's 1960s heyday, has dwindled to about 400.

  • 40-love, or 20-love?

    June 23, 2007

    A "GREAT SOCIAL experiment" has commenced on Monday nights on NBC: a reality show called "Age of Love." The idea is to find a mate for Australian tennis star Mark Philippoussis, a 6-foot-5 former GQ cover boy who, according to the show, "has everything except someone to share his life with."

  • Our blond obsession, from Di to Paris

    June 16, 2007

    ADMITTEDLY, there's something uncanny about the publication of "The Diana Chronicles," Tina Brown's book about the princess of Wales, just as America's own blond headline-grabber, Paris Hilton, was making her way (back) to jail. It makes it too tempting to draw all sorts of parallels between the two women. And we all know who wins that contest.

  • Down the aisle and over the top

    June 9, 2007

    I JUST TYPED "bride" into the search engine on and got 132,398 results. Some referred to fiction titles like "Brideshead Revisited," but the vast majority were nonfiction field guides to femininity. There was "The Conscious Bride," "The Buff Bride," "Chicken Soup for the Bride's Soul" and something called "And the Bride Wore White: 7 Secrets to Sexual Purity." And that was just from the first few pages of the list.

  • Dr. Death, American icon

    June 2, 2007

    I'VE ALWAYS BELIEVED that someday there will be a Jack Kevorkian postage stamp. Granted, it will be a first-class stamp that costs $3; that's how far into the future we're talking. But considering we've already had a Richard Nixon stamp, who says you need charisma to grace the upper right corners of America's envelopes?

  • Without smoking, films lose some fire

    May 19, 2007

    THE PORTRAIT photographer Marion Ettlinger once told me that the worst thing to ever happen to her art form was the demise of smoking. A cigarette, after all, not only gives a subject something to do with his hands, it seems to provide an uncanny cure for camera shyness, allowing a facial expression and a physical posture to integrate into some ineffable moment of truth.

  • Does getting him a beer count as work?

    April 28, 2007

    IF YOU'RE ONE of those women for whom the only hobby more satisfying than aromatherapy wreath-making is complaining about how men don't work hard enough, I'm afraid your lament license has just been revoked.

  • Why doesn't Harvard love me?

    April 9, 2007

    IN THE LAST few weeks, the anxiety of high school seniors awaiting news of their college fates seems to have spilled over into the general population. It's easy to see why. UCLA received more than 50,000 applications, more than any other university in the country, and accepted just 11,837 of them. Harvard turned down 91% of about 23,000 hopefuls, 1,100 of whom had perfect SAT math scores. Acceptance rates for Stanford, Yale and Columbia were 10.3%, 9.6%, and 8.9%, respectively. That means thousands of valedictorians and people with grade-point averages of 4.0 or higher were passed over in favor of whatever form of superhuman DNA now constitutes a worthy Ivy Leaguer.

  • Dreaming your dream house

    March 26, 2007

    I HAD THE DREAM again the other night, the "extra room" dream. I walked out of my bedroom and instead of being deposited into the living room, which adjoins my bedroom in real life, I entered a long hallway that led to at least two or three other rooms I'd never seen before. "Wow," I thought. "My house is so much bigger than I thought! What's with all the bellyaching about having no space for guests? And why have I been using my sun porch as an office/dining room/tool shed?"

  • Documentaries or propaganda?

    March 19, 2007

    IN CASE YOU haven't noticed, documentaries are hot. No longer the domain of university film leagues and vintage un-P.C. jokes — "How many lesbians does it take to screw in a light bulb? One to turn the bulb and 20 to make a documentary about it" — nonfiction films are cheap to make and increasingly free of the esoteric artiness, and sometimes outright pretentiousness, that gave the genre its elitist reputation.

  • Sleep at your own risk

    March 12, 2007

    YESTERDAY marked the start of daylight saving time, a month early this year. The theory is that it will help conserve energy, but most of us know this is part of a vast conspiracy (possibly the work of government officials who know all about those aliens who come into our bedrooms and probe us) to keep us from getting enough sleep.

  • Echo Park in Mexico

    February 24, 2007

    I SPENT LAST Sunday in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, with a group of more than 500 Americans gawking at the designer homes of other Americans.

  • Fame-iness

    February 17, 2007

    WHY IS IT THAT MOST celebrities in the culture today are people I've never heard of? I always thought fame had to do with being well known to the public, with being easily recognized on the street, with being, you know … famous.

  • I'm with Cupid

    February 10, 2007

    WHAT HOLIDAY is dreaded more than Valentine's Day? Not enough of an excuse to eat a big meal or take a day off from work, but more than just a vehicle of the greeting card industry, it's an anxiety trigger of the most insidious order. So cloaked in cheesy packaging it makes Groundhog Day look downright sacred, this annual nod to Cupid is a cultural mandate not only to have a nervous breakdown but to feel like an idiot for doing so.

  • What Hillary's humor reveals

    February 3, 2007

    THIS WEEK, Hillary Clinton tried out a joke in Iowa. "We face a lot of evil men," she told voters in Davenport. "People like Osama bin Laden come to mind. And what in my background equips me to deal with evil and bad men?" Clinton then smiled big and chortled, cueing the audience that this was not an oral presentation in a women's studies class but, indeed, a joke.

  • Doggy gentrification

    January 27, 2007

    COYOTES MAY have invaded the otherwise orderly confines of Hancock Park adjacent, but where I live, in Echo Park, we've got an even more vexing problem: domestic dogs.

  • Wanna be happy? Expect the worst

    January 20, 2007

    WHEN PEOPLE ask me why I'm so negative, I always tell them I'm simply looking out for my best interests and everyone else's. Like instant mashed potatoes (which, let's face it, are often better than real mashed potatoes), negativity gets a bad rap. Everywhere you look, someone's waxing fustian about the power of positive thinking.

  • Adam Carolla's genius -- spoiled

    January 13, 2007

    THE TIME HAS COME to talk about Adam Carolla. Because you're reading the Op-Ed page of the Los Angeles Times, there's a good chance you're only vaguely aware of him as a host of cable shows you don't like or radio programs you don't tune in to. Maybe you've seen the bus ads for KLSX radio's "The Adam Carolla Show," which bill him as an "American Genius." You probably thought this was idiotic hyperbole. I'm here to tell you it's not. I'm also here to tell you not to listen to his show. Not now.

  • The books that read women

    January 6, 2007

    Sprinkled among the novels and political tracts I received for Christmas was a clothbound piece of candy called "The Female Thing." It was written by Laura Kipnis, a Northwestern University professor best known for 2003's "Against Love: A Polemic," and its cover is a frontal photo of a woman's toned, depilated thighs, hips and belly, one hand posed sassily on her hip and the other holding a thin leaf over her privates. Naturally, I plucked it from the stack immediately, leaving Richard Ford and Jimmy Carter to lie in pitiable wait.

  • Half the resolution is optimism

    December 30, 2006

    AS WILL BE reported ad nauseum over the next few days, one of the most common New Year's resolutions is "get in shape." Exercise demands many things — patience, discomfort, the ability to ignore people who make weird humming sounds on the StairMaster — but the main requirement is time. So, needless to say, I was elated when my boyfriend showed me an ad for the ROM (Range of Motion) cross-training machine that he'd torn from an in-flight magazine.

  • As the solstice turns

    December 23, 2006

    MOST CLICHES, particularly those related to Los Angeles, are rooted in some semblance of reality. But the notion that the L.A. region is a vast strip mall whose only outdoor attractions involve surfing and driving around in convertibles has always irked me. Last month in Ojai, which is close enough to the city that you'd think people would know better, a woman who knew I was from L.A. saw my dog sniffing some tree roots and said, "I bet he doesn't get to do that very often."

  • Shopping for Person X

    December 16, 2006

    THE MORE WE LEARN about our loved ones, the less we know what they want from life — not to mention for the holidays. According to a new study, this is the reason couples give each other such lame gifts. In what won't come as a surprise to at least half the people having meltdowns in department stores this weekend, researchers have found that the chances of selecting a gift that the recipient actually wants run in inverse proportion with our degree of intimacy with that person.

  • My dinner with Joni

    December 9, 2006

    IT'S ALMOST ALWAYS a bad idea to meet your heroes. No matter what variety of fan you are — there are two kinds: those who innocently hang posters on the wall and those for whom the idol's life and work has been permanently absorbed into the bloodstream — meeting an object of devotion comes with a terrible risk. Having elevated them to a level where there's barely any oxygen left, they have no place to go but down.

  • Meghan Daum: The State of Student Activism

    October 14, 2006

    THE EVENTS at Columbia University on Oct. 4, in which about a dozen students stormed a stage where the founder of an anti-illegal immigration group was speaking, didn't exactly resemble those of April 1968. There were no arrests, no soundtrack by the Grateful Dead, no occupation of the president's office. But considering that most young people are considered to be politically apathetic, you have to credit the Chicano Caucus and the International Socialist Organization for trying.

  • Meghan Daum: $4k Cat Is Nothing to Sneeze At

    October 7, 2006

    IT IS A TRUTH universally acknowledged that cats make some people sick. As a person who would no sooner pet a cat than stick her hand in a tree shredder, I consider this a law of nature.

  • Meghan Daum: Finally, It's Dad's Fault

    September 9, 2006

    THERE WAS some dark poetic justice to a study released this week finding that fathers over 40 were six times more likely to produce autistic children than fathers under 30. As grim a subject as autism can be, the idea that, for once, fathers rather than mothers are seen as responsible for abnormalities in children — because of age, no less — was nothing short of revelatory.

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