Why do we make things?

This is my favorite question, hands down. Whether it’s cities, communities, art or futures, I love digging into human creativity and culture. For more on me, my training and my experience as a journalist, essayist and editor, see above; please also feel free to email me. I hope you enjoy these stories — and that you ask some questions you never thought to before.

Why are we hiding from the memory of World War I?

Why is the Great War missing from American movie theaters? The void stems in part from how the U.S. preserved the war in contemporaneous media. But a greater part, perhaps, has to do with how the conflict reflects on the U.S. as a nation.

When does advertising become public art?

“Sculptures collect meaning because the circumstances around them change.”

How are databases keeping you from getting care?

There’s no worse time to find a psychiatrist than when you really need a psychiatrist.

Who determines what your accent is?

“[My new accent] is a mixture of most of the languages I can understand or am trying to learn,” Lohan explained to the Daily Mail a few days later. She says she’s learning or is fluent in a total of six languages, including Turkish, French, and Russian.

Why are clowns bad?

“We stand with our safety officers who call for an end to the traumatization of individuals and communities. Anyone making a threat of violence should be arrested, whether this person is wearing a mask or not. This clearly is not the act of a professional clown.”

Who really owns Captain America?

Superhero comics live for these pull-the-rug-out moments, but this twist struck many as particularly galling, even anti-Semitic.

Where is home, and can you carry it?

Chicago opened up who I could be. You can move forward without leaving the things you love behind.

Who was America’s longest-reigning emperor?

Americans are famously testy about submitting to unelected rulers. But for a period in the 19th century, San Francisco boasted its own emperor. Residents are so proud of him, in fact, that he remains a symbol of the city even to this day.

Who are Uncle Sam’s parents?

The first illustrated American Uncle Sam isn’t even the hero of his own cartoon. Here’s a look at our national personification, his strange history, and his even stranger family tree.

Why can’t anyone make room on the train?

Your solution to unclogging bottlenecks is simple, though it requires overcoming the very instincts that lead us to block passageways in the first place.

How does one get to Macondo?

“If I hadn’t written [the book], I wouldn’t have read it,” García Márquez told the Atlantic in 1973. “I don’t read bestsellers.”

Who really started the French Revolution?

While Cagliostro may have preferred to obtain immortality the simple, old-fashioned way—not dying—little about the man was ever that straightforward.

What’s the right way to depict grief on TV?

For a long time, I spent every day after my mother died feeling only like I had lost something I could never make up for.

How can you ride drinking wine to stardom?

“I feel like now is the time where it costs so little to just put yourself out there. You shouldn’t be afraid to take that first tiny little step and see how people like it and learn from it.”

What do you do with an old mental hospital?

Deinstitutionalization saw many treatment centers (notorious and otherwise) close their doors. For some psychiatric hospitals, that meant demolition—while for others, it meant a sometimes-surprising second life.

Who won Native Americans recognition under U.S. law?

“Peaceful revolutions are slow but sure. It takes time to leaven a great unwieldy mass like this nation with the leavening ideas of justice and liberty, but the evolution is all the more certain in its results because it is so slow.”

Who would riot over that?

Maybe a work of art scandalizes its audience, like the famous premiere of Igor Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring. Or maybe it’s simply a notable act of disrespect, like history’s first recorded mooning (in Jerusalem in the first century A.D.).

How can technology break physical space?

“We correctly expect more out of our technology,” said Underkoffler of [sci-fi] movies, where “you can see technology actually bestowing more agency, efficacy and power on the human side of the human-machine interface.”

Who do you think comics fans are?

“Pray that I make the 26 hours, and hopefully that second ‘Avengers’ better be good, ’cause I didn’t wait 26 hours to see a bad movie!”

Why do we need the girl he left behind?

If the studio has a lot riding on ‘Agent Carter,’ viewers might have even more.

Why subvert the monoculture?

We can’t even seem to prioritize species survival over agribusiness.

What is the heavy metal of folk?

In a few minutes, they’re all going to make a sound that has shattered windows, shaken atheists and cemented obsessions that some pursue for decades.

Who are the other casualties of war?

“What are we going to do? All we can do is run toward the disaster at this point.”