George Soros founded the Project on Death in America nearly a decade ago. He outlined what he was hoping to accomplish in a 1994 speech Reflections of Death In America, “The mission of the Project is to promote a better understanding of the experiences of dying and bereavement and by doing so help transform the culture surrounding death.”

America’s conflicted relationship with death is something few people have a firm grasp on, so apologies in advance for the clumsy nature of these questions, I wonder if the deaths of celebrities shed light on our lives and deaths? Do the fawning obits help us grasp our worlds any better or do they serve as nothing more than the culmination in a series of diversions? Is our enthrallment with celebrity death merely an extension of our fascination with all things famous, or another way to collectively explore death?

Soros worried that death has become a subject whose own importance makes impossible its significance in popular culture.

In America, the land of perpetually young, growing older is an embarrassment, and dying is a failure. Death has replaced sex as the taboo subject of our times. People compete to appear on talk shows to discuss the most intimate details of their sex lives, but they have nothing to say about dying, which in its immensity dwarfs the momentary pleasures of sex.

What if the dead were among us and spoke to us now? Warren Zevon demonstrates how it might look. Diagnosed with terminal lung cancer he is feverishly making up for hours spent in relative obscurity. He’s the subject of a VH1 documentary, he recently spent a night as the lone guest on the David Letterman show, he's on the receiving end of many fawning magazine pieces, and he’s about to release his last album, written and recorded after his diagnosis. Called by many a “masterpiece” The Windis an exploration of death, dying, and what that means to living. Themes he’s explored many times before.

So what does a celebrity’s death mean to me? What does it mean to you? What does my death mean? Soros offers words of pain and salve if not clear direction.

In conclusion, let me tell you how I came to terms with my own death -- a subject I gave a lot of thought to in my youth. I spent years thinking about it. Building on my insight that there is always a divergence between ideas and facts I came to the conclusion that it is the idea of my death which I cannot accept because it is a total denial of my consciousness. The fact of dying, when it comes, may be much more acceptable, especially if it comes at the end of a long life. The insight that the idea is not the same as the fact, made the idea more bearable.
You read that the White House ordered the EPA to include misleading statements about the air quality in New York shortly after 9/11 and you work hard to keep your rising level of cynacism below the level of anger and disgust. These are our elected officials.


Pete Sampras, the greatest tennis player of his generation, and arguably ever, will retire on Monday. Sampara’s career includes 14 Grand Slam titles, more than any male in history, he was the youngest U.S. Open Men’s winner at 19,from 1993 through 1998 he finished the season ranked #1 in the world, and he was fresh breath of civility in a game that had been in need.

Early on he wasn’t embraced by the fans who took to players with more extreme personalities. When Agassi was a male Kournikova, and Boris Becker was thrilling people with his aerial circus, Sampras was just winning. Even today he remains mostly an enigma, having never offered much more than devastatingly effective game, and a polite acknowledgement of the crowd.

Pete’s never won the French Open, a surface too foreign to his game, and this is part of why some consider Rod Laver (or Borg, or Emerson, or…) to be greater than Sampras. Others, citing his “lack of charisma” say that the shortcomings of his persona override his dominance on the court. As always the argument becomes; style vs. substance. Regardless of what the criteria is used to judge athletic greatness, in New York on Monday, we will see a champion of the ages step off the stage for good.
"To restore morality we must first recognize the source from which all morality springs. From our earliest history in 1776 when we were declared to be the United States of America, our forefathers recognized the sovereignty of God."-Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore

"Is it possible for the state to celebrate a plurality of religions without establishing one or several as more legitimate?”-Chief Justice William Rehnquist

Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore is a Christian and often uses God’s Higher Law to guide him on the bench. When he became Chief Justice he had a two-ton monument to the Ten Commandments placed in the state judicial building rotunda. U.S. District Judge Myron Thompson ruled that the monument was impermissible since its “primary effect (was to) advance religion” Moore (and his growing legion of followers) have refused to remove the Commandments. The Chief Justice lost in the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals and was once again ordered to remove the monument or face fines of $5,000 per day. The other justices on Alabama’s Supreme Court have also ruled against Moore, ordering the building manager to take down the monument. While true believers flock to the monument in droves Moore is appealing to the U.S. Supreme Court.

The issue highlights America’s divided beliefs about the role that religion should play in public life. While there is no mention of “separation of church and state” in the Constitution, America has a long and conflicted relationship with religion. Dahlia Lithwick explains the legal matters,

There is… a constitutional problem highlighted by Moore's conduct and by the popular support he's garnered in some circle A sentiment expressed frequently by elected officials, religious leaders, and even the occasional U.S. Supreme Court justice, is that the principle of separating church and state has morphed into unbridled state hostility toward the church. The founders of this country were, for the most part, deeply religious men. Would they, like Moore, object to the ways in which religion has been chased out of the public square?
The Constitution itself codifies two conflicting impulses. The First Amendment guarantees simultaneously that "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion" and that Congress won't "prohibit ... the free exercise thereof." Which one is it? How can Congress avoid promoting religion, while also encouraging its free exercise?

Religion matters a great deal. To the people who have made the pilgrimage to the monument of The Commandments, it’s clear they see this fight as something larger than a legal matter.

Hundreds of Moore's supporters have held round-the-clock song and prayer vigils at the court building, and many vowed yesterday to risk arrest to fight the removal.

Gene Chapman, a preacher who walked more than 1,100 kilometers to Alabama from Austin, Texas, said he has not found any religion that opposes the Ten Commandments.

"I fear this could come to bloodshed," he said.

"This is how revolutions start."


How bad is PowerPoint really?


"The Smoking Gun, which digs up arrest records, mug shots, show business contracts and divorce papers, became a tip sheet for journalists and a cult Web site for reality show aficionados. It managed to embarrass seemingly squeaky-clean contestants on reality shows from CBS's "Survivor" to Fox's "Joe Millionaire." (Most memorably, it uncovered the early bondage films of a bachelorette, Sarah Kozer.)

Inevitably, but contrary to the laws of nature, the Web site will mutate…into the very thing it feeds on: a television show"

So writes the New York Times Alessandra Stanley. The challenge is to translate the instantaneous nature of the website into the relatively slothful format of the TV.

The early reviews are mixed and some are wondering what the show will do to separate itself from the overabundance of celebrity sleaze-TV that fills the airwaves. The larger issue is one that is near and dear to those of us who ponder how Carl might make a few bucks; Can a successful website be turned into TV gold? And if so, how?

Mo Rocca, most notable for his stint on the uber-satirical Daily Show, is the host and he dons a variety of guises in search of the perfect comedic pitch. Some have called the show a “comedic nugget”, which bodes well for websites brimming with “breezy cynicism.”
It’s easy to scoff at the Ron Popeil inventions hawked on infomercials (and buried in some of our closets). However you just never know when today’s odd contraption becomes tomorrow’s must have cooking tool. The San Francisco Chronicle celebrates the birthdays of two such devices; the microwave oven and the Cuisinart. Both were disregarded as inane novelties at first and have over time become must-haves for any cook’s kitchen.

So in celebration of these two labor saving devices I ask you for your best microwave/food processor stories/recipes, and your thoughts on what gizmos of today will work their way into the cook’s canon.
The spy-cams in Florida are gone!


It’s World Series time again. But this World Series includes teams from Japan, Saudi Arabia, America, the Caribbean, Mexico, and others. The Little League World Series is the brainchild of a Pennsylvania rubber company and has captivated the baseball-playing globe since 1948. ESPN is broadcasting an unprecedented number of games, which has some pundits pining for a return to simpler times. (A time, which others argue, never existed except in the wistful memories of overly nostalgic grown-ups.)

Coming off the Danny Almonte scandal the Series is doing its best to regain its wholesome innocence, which is clearly the game’s biggest draw. (Even if the success of the teams seems to be less dependent on skill than on size.) Regardless of how many levels of player verification exist, there is a sense to some that the media glare is distorting what should be a simple proposition: Kids playing baseball.
Dean sends spam. Techies upset.


Bin Laden's Boys try to claim credit for the blackout.
California, “the land of fruits and nuts” chortle the clue-less wags from fly-over states and the eastern seaboard. The absurdities they scoff at today are the trends they breathlessly chase months later. From spinning classes to Prop.13, California is an important bellwether for changing norms.

The recall election is no different. While self-styled pundits, cartoonists, and even some Californians themselves chuckle at the whole affair a real revolution is coming to a head. Californian political historian Kevin Starr understands what is happening,

“Something powerfully transformative is underway in state politics, and it is nothing less than voters' self-liberation from a claustrophobic and demeaning political culture out of sync with today's 24/7 information society and unworthy of the larger creativity of the Golden State.”

Just as the political powers that be were caught off guard by Howard Dean’s campaign strategy, this one has left the unimaginative lights grasping for hoary old insults in a desperate attempt to hold back the clock. This is a nightmare for many, true democracy in action, emboldened and enhanced by a limitless sense of possibility and technology.

Starr relishes what the recall truly signals; “No wonder California voters seem to be in a state of emotional and moral release, seeking a new connection to their politicians. Far from being a circus or even a grand opera, the current situation, as personally painful as it must be for Gov. Gray Davis, offers a breakthrough opportunity to rethink, reform, revitalize — indeed, refound — state government".

Many politicians clearly are hunkering down in an attempt to fight the future. To them (and the yucksters) the question is: What are you afraid of?


Video Game maker Ubisoft spokeswoman Cassie Vogel reports, "If you look at stats, in 1990 the average age of your typical gamer was 18, and now it's 29."

While some of that change may be due to peter-pandemonium it’s clear that the game makers anticipated this shift. New titles have come out reflecting the changing perspectives, as has a not so subtle shift in marketing focus. Oft heralded leader of this trend is the Madden football franchise. Madden is a classic game with a devoted following among professional athletes. Slate offers the news that Madden is so well regarded within the inner-sanctum of the NFL that simply being in the game is considered a validation of one’s entire sports life, being on the cover has been mentioned as a “career highlight” by last year’s star, and the game is now in the NFL Hall of Fame.

Jacksonville Jaguars running back Fred Taylor admitted that he plays up to six hours a day of Madden during the season. "In the offseason, I'll play from 2 in the afternoon to 11 or 12 at night—every night."… The Sporting News reported that Vick, the league's most electrifying player, nonetheless finds that his "ultimate rush comes from beating the snot out of a Madden NFL opponent."

That kind of cool you can’t buy. (Actually, the museum has a massive marketing arrangement with EA Sports, the maker of Madden) The NFL has a lock into the prime male demographic range, and now it appears, so does video games.

What’s next for games? Are they truly the “new movies”? And how exactly did a fat man in a bus replace Nike as the ultimate arbiter of cool?