Faking It

Postmodern philosopher Jean Baudrillard, who passed away last month, must be chuckling in his grave. In a flattering LA Times profile this weekend, LA’s promising new chief planner Gail Goldberg waxes poetic about her experience in San Diego, where she helped spearhead the movement to reinvigorate San Diego’s downtown. After… More

Fans Don’t Lie

Successful music marketers have always found a way to harness the enthusiasm of music fans for promotional purposes. Whoever decided to make the first concert t-shirt was clearly a genius. Enter the age of Internet video and — voila! — music companies can tap fans instead of professional TV commercial… More

‘300’ Reasons to Hate America

The Iranian government isn’t happy about the depiction of their ancient Persian ancestors in the blood-drenched American film ‘300.’ Neither is a group of Iranian filmmakers, who have protested to UNESCO. The knock is that the Persian ruler Xerxes is depicted as a decadent, freakish, 8-foot piercing queen, and that… More

Think Pink

It’s not surprising that R.J. Reynolds is introducing “Camel No. 9,” a cigarette aimed at women. After all, Reynolds’ job is getting people to smoke, and based on the statistics — smoking is the leading cause of lung cancer, and lung cancer among women (as a New York Times editorial… More

The Elevator Pitch

The elevators in the Beverly Hills building where the Lear Center’s world headquarters is located are fitted with little screens provided by the Captivate Nework, where driblets of news are accompanied by dollops of advertising. “Captivate” is a good word for describing what players in the attention economy, from entertainers… More

Dumbing Down Democracy

A premise behind a lot of what we do at the Lear Center is the idea that a well-educated, well-informed citizenry is good for democracy. This Jeffersonian concept — it used to be called a “liberal” ideal, before partisan warfare made that word a left-right term — is especially relevant… More

Knowing the Difference

Plato took a dim view of artists. They were, he said, illusionists, imitators who fooled people into thinking that what they saw was real. A trompe l’oeil painting of a bunch of grapes could deceive a bird, who would peck at it; even if a person realized that it was… More

Executions As Entertainment

Usage Nazis, en garde! “Hung” is what pictures are, and drapes, and — by his own account — what Howard Stern is not. “Hanged” is what Saddam Hussein will be, says Aref Shahin, chief judge of the Iraqi appeals court, and just in time to be the warm-up act for… More

Paranoia and Patriotism

Early in November 2006, two days before the midterm elections, many in the UK celebrated the 401st anniversary of the attempt of Guy Fawkes to blow up the Houses of Parliament. Because Fawkes and his co-conspirators were Catholic, his thwarted plan helped expand an already widespread English fear of Catholic… More