"An article on Friday about a fight in New Mexico over chile peppers that are grown outside the state yet are being sold as 'homegrown' referred incorrectly to the existence of an official state question. The state does indeed have such a question, having adopted it in 1996. (The reporter suggested that if the state were to adopt an official question, it no doubt would be: 'Red or green?,' as to which pepper is preferred. That is, in fact, the official question — about the state’s official vegetable.)"
• Do astronomers ever refuse to classify rocks in space as asteroids out of spite?
• If Jupiter’s radiation is so tough why don’t we just wear thick lead spacesuits?
• Why do we only send crazy-looking robots with wheels to other planets? Why don't we send probes that can walk?
• I wonder how many people would be beheaded by their own invention if that invention were a poorly made hovercraft.
• If Venus is so hot, why hasn't it melted itself?
• Which is more underrated, Uranus or Neptune?
Do you believe in heaven? Will you “make it” up there, one day? Looking down on your loved ones for all of eternity? Do you think looking down on your loved ones for all of eternity sounds like heaven? Does it sound pleasurable? Being able to see what your kids, relatives and friends are up to and not being able to do anything about it? Except for maybe sending them a sign? Do you really believe you could send a “sign” that one of them would understand? Wouldn’t be too cryptic?
Don’t you think that if everyone in heaven could send a sign to someone on earth, it [...]
Q. "I'm an alcoholic. Help me feel comfortable with my alcohol intake. On average, I figure I consume about 25 units of alcohol per week. I can remember the last day I didn't have a drink. It was six months ago and I was on antibiotics…. Is it reasonable to keep drinking like this given that I'm productive and it makes me happy"?
(Photo by Simon Pearson.)
1. Will I put together a Halloween costume? And if so, will it involve an age-appropriate amount of fabric and/or racism? (Yes. Age-appropriate racism.) 2. Am I ever going to finish the Lorrie Moore book that came out like a month ago? 3. Am I ever going to make myself read that must-read New Yorker article on Texas executions that came out like a month ago? 4. Am I going to be able to resist seeing Saw VI again? 5. On Monday, am I going to read New York mag's investigative essay-report into their own popular Sex Diary feature? Answer: Yes, I am, because it is written by Wesley Yang. [...]
"So, what about 'beg the question'? This is probably the most widely misused expression in the language. I don't propose to explain what it means. People with degrees in philosophy have no trouble understanding it. The rest of us find it virtually ungraspable. There are only two things you need to know about 'beg the question'. The first is that it is not the same as 'raise the question'—which is the expression the writer of the Johansson item should have used. The second is this: don't write 'beg the question' – ever."
"Could it be that the meteor descending through the atmosphere, having passed through the ionosphere, actually created a transient conductive connection between the ionosphere and the ground, even if it was only for a few seconds? Was that enough to put charge into the ground, and then with the discharge form some kind of plasma ball above?" —Queensland University of Technology astrophysicist Stephen Hughes asks probing questions about the not-well-understood phenomenon of "ball lightning," which has been posited as an explanation for the numerous reports of green fireballs seen rolling around the mountains west of Brisbane, Australia in May, 2006. This while a meteor shower lit up [...]
What to make of Asher Roth? The preppy white Pennsylvanian rapper has always seemed so easy to dismiss. So similar in style and content to a young Eminem, so comfortable with his marketing, so enthusiastic in his wearing of Docksides. But here, in the song "Toni Braxton," from his mixtape, Seared Foie Gras With Quince and Cranberry, he's found a beat that fits him just right-the bit of Willie Mitchell's "Groovin'" that RZA looped up to make GZA's "Liquid Swords" way back in, Jesus, 1995-and he does his thing very well. The cartoon video's fun to watch, too. Is there a future here?
"Pick a country and describe a sequence in which: First, a presidential election is decided by five people, who don't even try to explain their choice in normal legal terms. Then the beneficiary of that decision appoints the next two members of the court, who present themselves for consideration as restrained, humble figures who care only about law rather than ideology. Once on the bench, for life, those two actively second-guess and re-do existing law, to advance the interests of the party that appointed them. Meanwhile their party's representatives in the Senate abuse procedural rules to an extent never previously seen to block legislation — and appointments, especially to the [...]
Geico's "Rhetorical Questions" ad campaign has never been my favorite. Not even among the various rarely-amusing ad campaigns the insurance company has been concurrently running over the past few years. (I guess the cavemen ones would be my favorites? If only because of the one where the cavemen pull up on their motorcycles to the song that goes, "Don't wanna hurt you/Try not to mess with your feelings…" I kinda like that one. That song is by a Swedish band called the Sounds, apparently.) But as lame as all those ads have been, this latest one takes the cake.
A reader asks: "Does texting cock shots ever actually work? Like, are there regular dudes who get ladies doing this? Are there ladies who actually welcome it? Because all I would think is that the guy is a total perv (or messing with me, in which case I'd just think he was an asshole). But maybe I'm just a prude?" It's a good question! Also, are there points for style?