Last year, a striking video made its way around the Internet. In it, male sports fans sat, one at a time, opposite a female sports reporter who had been the target of abusive, misogynistic tweets. Each man had to read the messages aloud to the woman who received them. One of the few printable examples was, “I hope your boyfriend beats you.” The goal of the project, created by a website called Just Not Sports, was to force the men to experience “the shocking online harassment happening to women in sports day in, day out.” By ripping away the protective anonymity of social media, the exercise drove home the message that if something is too offensive to say face to face, it’s too offensive to type. The men were visibly pained as they read. They squirmed in their chairs. One guy looked like he had been punched in the gut. Every man involved appeared to come away with a better sense of how awful it was to be on the receiving end of such nastiness.
My reporting and writing on science, health, learning, parenting and other subjects has appeared in many publications including Newsweek, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Scientific American Mind, Parents, and Redbook. Here are some selected articles ranging from my latest work to a few old favorites.
Having regular conversations is the most significant thing you can do for your children’s development. This is the message of Dr. Dana Suskind’s important and clear-eyed new book, Thirty Million Words: Building a Child’s Brain.
“No matter the language, the culture, the nuances of vocabulary, or the socioeconomic status, language is the element that helps develop the brain to its optimum potential,” writes Suskind, who is the founder and director of the Thirty Million Words Initiative at the University of Chicago.
Since I have also written a book about the importance of language for children’s brains, it’s not surprising that I would champion this one. But this is a particularly opportune moment to be talking about the power of talk.
At a glance they could be any 50 or so Irish kids, fair, some of them freckled, running sack races and raising holy heck at a July picnic north of Dublin. Look closer, though, and a different picture emerges. They speak not English but Russian. Some of them suffer physical afflictions: Alexei Shmarlovski, 2, has only a right eye. His left was blinded by a baseball-sized tumor—benign but dangerously close to the brain—that was removed in February 1996. Vitaly Gutsev, 12, has a useless left arm and runs with a limp. Others have more insidious troubles—thyroid cancer and immune disease. Why are they romping in a park 1,500 miles from home? Sergei Nedloviko, 11, later sums it up: “There’s no radiation here.”
In 1974, British college student Tony Blair walked into an Oxford University dorm room to audition for a rock band, the Ugly Rumours. “What we really needed was a front man,” recalls bass player Mark Ellen, now a London editor. Blair, it turned out, was perfect. The shaggy-haired undergrad had all the necessary assets for an aspiring ‘70s rocker: a bright smile, even brighter red trousers and a few Jagger-esque stage mannerisms. In a break with Rumours tradition, Blair had even managed to learn the lyrics of the songs they performed. “For us, rehearsals had been about getting together with a six-pack,” says Ellen. “But Tony thought there was no point in being in a band unless it was good.”
There is a place in France where old-fashioned eating is still the order of the day. A place where margarine is scorned and salt embraced, where food is hearty and heaping. A place where the voluptuous cooking has been described by a French newspaper as “a gastronomic Rubens.”
And best of all, it’s a place that’s not fattening. Because it’s not a restaurant; it’s a television show: The Cuisine of the Musketeers.
The show’s philosophy is aptly summed up by its chef, the large and voluble Maite (pronounced My-a-tay) Ordonez.