In Memoriam Arthur Machen: Celebrating 150 Years of Horror and Ecstasy

Yesterday marked the 150th anniversary of the birth of Arthur Machen (1863-1947), an author who penned several influential works of supernatural horror and fantasy in his almost fifty-year writing career.  While hardly a household name today, Machen can count among his past and present admirers H. P. Lovecraft, Stephen King, Clive Barker, Neil Gaiman, Ray Bradbury, former British Poet Laureate John Betjeman, and popular movie director Guillermo del Toro.  It is possible that his star may finally … [Read more...]

Bravo’s Top Chef and the Likability of Artists

Yesterday Kristen Kish beat Brooke Williamson on the season 10 finale of Bravo’s popular and award-winning reality cooking competition Top Chef.  Kish’s victory was gratifying for series fans who have lamented the fact that the show had awarded top honors to a female contestant only once before in the previous nine seasons; but it also capped a final set of episodes in which the drama has been almost entirely related directly to the quality of the food being cooked.  Over the past month, Kish and … [Read more...]

Faith in ABC’s Zero Hour? Don’t Bet on It

I love a well-thought-out conspiracy show; for a researcher like me, there is nothing quite like the thrill of attempting to follow competing storylines and unravel an intricate mystery.  As such, I approached the pilot of ABC’s new uber-conspiracy show Zero Hour with cautious optimism.  The series follows Hank Galliston (Anthony Edwards), editor of Modern Skeptic, whose wife Laila (Jacinda Barrett) is kidnapped by Vincent, a terrorist (Michael Nyqvist) seeking, it seems, a mysterious clock she h … [Read more...]

Israeli Eugenics: Forced Birth Control for Ethiopian Jewish Immigrants

The Independent's Alistair Dawber reports that “Israel has admitted for the first time that it has been giving Ethiopian Jewish immigrants birth-control injections, often without their knowledge or consent.” Many of the immigrant women were given shots of Depo-Provera to control the population due to a fear expressed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu “that illegal immigrants from Africa ‘threaten our existence as a Jewish and democratic state.’ ”Compulsory birth control is not the same as … [Read more...]

Project Runway Season 11 and the Individual Talent: Is Fashion Really a Team Sport?

Last Thursday marked the season 11 premiere of Lifetime’s popular reality TV fashion series Project Runway. This season, however, viewers have been promised a new twist: While the series will still have only one champion, every design challenge leading up to the finale will be, in some way, a team challenge. All designers on the winning team will retain immunity from elimination, and only designers from the winning team will be eligible to win that week’s competition. Surely, then, one would exp … [Read more...]

Iván Fernández Anaya’s Virtuous Victory

As Lance Armstrong prepares his confessional and public relations rehab tour (after getting caught, of course), the story of Basque runner Iván Fernández Anaya feels like a breath of fresh air. Anaya was running in second place, with no chance for victory, when he realized that the first-place athlete had accidentally stopped before the finish line. He caught up to leader Abel Mutai and guided him to the end, maintaining their respective positions before the incident occurred.As journalist C … [Read more...]

“Continuum”: Freedom of the Will, the Ethics of Force, and Action-Packed Time Travel

This Monday saw the American premiere of Continuum, a new science fiction series that has already run its first season in Canada.  Indeed, a second season has already been ordered, and Continuum has thus far received generally favorable reviews.  The show follows Kiera Cameron (played by Rachel Nichols), a Vancouver cop from the year 2077 as she is inadvertently thrust back in time to our present with Liber8, a group of freedom-fighter terrorists slated to be executed by the corporate-run g … [Read more...]

Giddy over Gaiman’s Chu’s Day

It arrived in the mail yesterday, the plain brown cardboard disguising the school-bus-yellow book jacket underneath. On the cover, an adorably goofy panda with aviator goggles and, emblazoned in bold text, the names of two of my favorite authors: Neil Gaiman and Adam Rex. A preschooler's book written by Gaiman (whose entire corpus I love) and illustrated by Rex (whose talents are best displayed in the charmingly silly and unexpectedly profound The True Meaning of Smekday). This is gonna be good, … [Read more...]

Do Moms Do Better without Dad?

In today's edition of Slate, Pamela Gwyn Kripke writes a controversial parenting piece entitled "It’s Better To Be Raised by a Single Mom." The piece is subtitled "The kids get that magical quality; grit."  Her position is in response to previous Slate posts (and lots of research) that cite numerous disadvantages for children raised in single-mother households. Her position also uses anecdotal and personal evidence in response to studies and statistics based on significantly larger population gr … [Read more...]

Kirkus’ Best Books of 2012

The editors at Kirkus Reviews have created lists in multiple categories--children's, adult fiction, adult nonfiction, teen, and indie--for the best books of 2012. I am particularly drawn to the list of 100 children's books, and I've already requested several titles from our local library. As children's editor and list-maker Vicky Smith notes, "But at the end of it all, having whittled the year’s output down, I am struck again at the astonishing talent and dedication of the creators and p … [Read more...]