David Rowell is an editor with The Washington Post. His first novel, The Train of Small Mercies, is just out in paperback.
When I was growing up in North Carolina, my family went to the same beach every year; it had the sand, the water and pretty much nothing else. Mostly that was OK, but the idea of a boardwalk, which I caught glimpses of on TV or in movies, seemed wondrous to me — like a carnival rolled out from a wooden carpet.
Al-Qaida has been subtly testing a new strategy. In the past couple of years, the group's affiliates have been trying their hand at governing — actually taking over territory and then trying to win over citizens who live there. It happened with various degrees of success in Somalia and Yemen, and recently in the northern deserts of Mali.
When McDonald's cut a deal to make itself the exclusive purveyor of french fries and the similar (but please don't say matching) chips at the 2012 Olympic Games in London later this month, it may not have anticipated the flurry of responses. Foodies raged, nutritionists nagged, and many called it another example of an American cultural takeover.
Imagine you're a movie producer, and you've got a couple of hundred million dollars to gamble on a single massive blockbuster. Which genre do you suppose will be your safest bet — superhero? Action-adventure? Sci-fi? All of those have had huge successes, but they've also all had hugely expensive failures.
There's one genre, though, that's hardly a gamble at all. It's been almost foolproof since it first came into being in 1995: computer animation.