The theater itself is a lie. Its deaths are mere special effects. Its tales never happened. Even the histories are distorted for dramatic effect. The theater is unnatural, a place of imagination. But the theater tells the audience something true: that the world requires judgments.

By reshaping or decorating our outer selves, we express our inner sense of self: 'I like that' becomes 'I'm like that.'

The children who are 'our future' will inherit a world created not just by parental devotion but by the sort of zealous, focused endeavors that can preclude good parenting.

Many different relationships among patients, doctors, and drugs are possible and desirable. As in so many other areas of life, the Internet encourages experimentation. Questionnaire-based pharmacies operate between the traditional prescription and over-the-counter models.

Cable companies aren't bad because they're parts of unwieldy media conglomerates. They're bad because they're monopolies (even where they are no longer legally exclusive) and because the government policies that made them monopolies rewarded lobbying over customer service.

Like Disneyland, luxury retailers have long had to figure out how to overcome customers' natural inertia. Unlike less pricey stores, they tend not to attract idle browsers who make impulse purchases.

The impulse for personal adornment is hard to stamp out.

From the days of biplanes and silk scarves, the aviator has been the archetype of masculine glamour. Aviators have personified national ideals, from French elan to Soviet party discipline. They've inspired lust and admiration. They've turned sunglasses and short, utilitarian leather jackets into fashion statements.

The innovative process is a fragile one, dependent on a complex, often messy interplay of imagination, competition, and exchange. Curbing new ideas hurts not only individual creators but the audience for which they create and the posterity that inherits their legacy.

On the Internet, people on the tails of the bell curve can find one another.

When 'Buffy the Vampire Slayer' premiered on the WB Network in 1996, American culture was in trouble. Americans were bowling alone, pursuing individual interests to the detriment of the communal good. Business leaders were celebrating creativity and neglecting discipline. Nike's 'Just do it' ads were teaching young people to break the rules.

Our demand for good looks, expressed in the biting comments that ensue when public figures fall short of perfection, puts enormous pressures on these individuals and may screen out the otherwise qualified. If video killed the radio star, it may also be doing away with the homely politician.

Like the rest of the genetic lottery, beauty is unfair. Everyone falls short of perfection, but some are luckier than others. Real confidence requires self-knowledge, which includes recognizing one's shortcomings as well as one's strengths.

Before it became a ubiquitous part of urban life, Starbucks was, in most American cities, a radically new idea.

We've gone from a world in which Starbucks set a cutting-edge standard for mass-market design to a world in which Starbucks establishes the bare minimum. If your establishment can't come up with an original look, customers expect at least some sleek wood fixtures, nicely upholstered chairs, and faux-Murano glass pendant lights.

Americans born since World War II have grown up in a media-saturated environment. From childhood, we have developed a sort of advertising literacy, which combines appreciation for technique with skepticism about motives. We respond to ads with at least as much rhetorical intelligence as we apply to any other form of persuasion.

Abundant choice doesn't force us to look for the absolute best of everything. It allows us to find the extremes in those things we really care about, whether that means great coffee, jeans cut wide across the hips, or a spouse who shares your zeal for mountaineering, Zen meditation, and science fiction.

Behind the criticism of fashion as an artistic medium is a highly ideological prejudice: against markets, against consumers, against the dynamism of Western commercial society. The debate is not about art but about culture and economics.

The history of the Internet is not, as some people have tried to make it, a libertarian just-so story. It is a messy tale in which the government played a significant role. That role was, however, far more subtle than the plans of industrial policy gurus or techno-boosting politicians.

With its fluctuating forms and needless decoration, fashion epitomizes the supposedly unproductive waste that inspired 20th-century technocrats to dream of central planning. It exists for no good reason. But that's practically a definition of art.

European nations began World War I with a glamorous vision of war, only to be psychologically shattered by the realities of the trenches. The experience changed the way people referred to the glamour of battle; they treated it no longer as a positive quality but as a dangerous illusion.

Glamour is an imaginative process that creates a specific emotional response: a sharp mixture of projection, longing, admiration, and aspiration. It evokes an audience's hopes and dreams and makes them seem attainable, all the while maintaining enough distance to sustain the fantasy.

Science is about exploring the unknown and cannot offer guarantees.

If you default on your Visa bill, nobody comes to repossess your refrigerator or auction off your shoes. The biggest penalty you'll face is trouble getting future credit.

Like John Kennedy in 1960, Obama combines youth, vigor, and good looks with the promise of political change. Like Kennedy, he grew up in unusual circumstances that distance him from ordinary American life.

A lot of consumers actively enjoy advertising, especially fashion print ads and clever TV commercials. The nostalgic cable channel TVLand features not only vintage shows but also vintage commercials.

Wars without military objectives have a tendency to go on forever.

The biggest threat to a better life is the desire to keep the future under control - to make the world predictable by reining in creativity and enterprise. Progress as a neat blueprint, with no deviations and no surprise, may work in children's cartoons or utopian novels. But it's just a fantasy.

The elements that create glamour are not specific styles - bias-cut gowns or lacquered furniture - but more general qualities: grace, mystery, transcendence. To the right audience, Halle Berry is more glamorous commanding the elements as Storm in the X-Men movies than she is walking the red carpet in a designer gown.

Glamour is not something you possess but something you perceive, not something you have but something you feel. It is a subjective response to a stimulus.

The Internet ethos of diversity and competition runs exactly counter to uniform, gatekeeper-oriented medical culture - the technocratic philosophy of the 'one best way' embodied in our pharmaceutical regulations. On the Net, medical information is abundant, and pharmacies, domestic and foreign, operate on many different models.

Fit experts envision a future in which you'd carry your body scan in your cell phone or on a thumb drive, using the data to order clothes online or find them in stores. But who's going to pay for all those scanners, which cost about $35,000 each, and the staff to run them?

Cosmetics makers have always sold 'hope in a jar' - creams and potions that promise youth, beauty, sex appeal, and even love for the women who use them.

Persuasion has become a kind of force. The more the advertiser knows about what consumers want, and the more desires the product and packaging seek to fulfill, the more coercive the force.

Rich people in poor places want to show off their wealth. And their less affluent counterparts feel pressure to fake it, at least in public. Nobody wants the stigma of being thought poor.

The Taliban outlawed wearing polish in the late 1990s, punishing some offenders by amputating a fingertip. Importing polish was banned only in July 2001, which suggests that women were still wearing painted nails within the safety of their homes.

The mobile middle class gravitates to the cities where housing is affordable.

Our eyes and brains pretty consistently like some human forms better than others. Shown photos of strangers, even babies look longer at the faces adults rank the best-looking.

Like the skyscraper, the automobile, and the motion-picture palace, neon signs once symbolized popular hopes for a new era of technological achievement and commercial abundance. From the 1920s to the 1950s, neon-lit streets pulsed with visual excitement from Vancouver to Miami.

The Y2K bug is a genuine technical concern, consuming the energies of many specialists. But the prophecies of doom represent a broader worldview using the bug as a news hook. In this vision, the good society is a stable society, undisrupted by innovation, ambition or outside influences.

Storage problems make neon signs the most ephemeral of commercial arts.

More than two decades after the birth of Louise Brown, and all the hysteria that surrounded her 'test tube' conception, we should know that institutions, not technologies, create dystopias. Artificially conceived children are everywhere, beloved by their parents, and they haven't radically altered our world.

Internet pharmacies return to consumers the choice promised by supporters of the 1938 Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act. That law established federal requirements for drug safety and labeling but exempted prescription medicines from the labeling rules.

The evergreen story of people in debt becomes even sexier in an economic downturn, when debts inevitably get harder to pay.

Glamour is all about transcending this world and getting to an idealized, perfect place. And this is one reason that modes of transportation tend to be extremely glamorous. The less experience we have with them, the more glamorous they are. So you can do a glamorized picture of a car, but you can't do a glamorized picture of traffic.

In Shakespeare's world, characters cannot trust their senses. Is the ghost in Hamlet true and truthful, or is it a demon, tempting young Hamlet into murderous sin? Is Juliet dead or merely sleeping? Does Lear really stand at the edge of a great cliff? Or has the Fool deceived him to save his life?

What makes a loft authentic isn't its layout or its history but its ability to give people a true home - a dwelling that reflects their personalities and aspirations, including their dreams of urbanity.

A standard 'well woman' checkup can last as little as 10 minutes, hardly time for any in-depth discussions.

In post-Vietnam, post-Watergate America, skeptical voters demand full disclosure of everything from candidates' finances to their medical records, and spin-savvy accounts of backstage machinations dominate political coverage.