Tori Amos has made a career of channeling other people: sensitive teens, rape victims, women in love, in breakups, in the throes of regret. Her last album, Strange Little Girls, was the most ambitious, if imperfect, display of her skills as a musical medium. She conjured female narrators for songs originally written and sung by men, and even physically transformed herself for each piece, a blond sweater-clad woman in one picture, a vamp with black-rimmed eyes in the next. Part of her chameleon skill lies in her face -- the mournful, knowing eyes countered by the unexpectedly sensual mouth. The other part lies in her music, which draws on post-Enya floaty singing and delicate piano work and screeching, growling and percussive keyboarding.
Terrified by the toxic perkiness of Pokémon and Sailor Moon, or by the splattery violence of other Japanese cartoons, mainstream America has largely shunned as childish or eccentric what Japanese audiences see as a sophisticated, adult art form -- in every sense. Anime, as Japanese animation is otherwise known, has its eroguro (erotic-grotesque) side: One film features a woman who turns into a spider post-sex, her crotch transformed into a yawning, fanged maw. Other anime films forgo the Freudian vagina dentata antics but explore similarly dark topics: nuclear holocaust, postapocalyptic society, technology gone awry.
"Everything comes to an end," says Carmela Soprano to her beleaguered Mafia husband Tony. That line comes early in the season premiere of The Sopranos, but it manages to conjure up a sulfurous cloud of impending apocalypse that hangs over the rest of the episode. For a season opening, there is a lot of ominous talk about the end -- not a good sign for what lies ahead for Tony and his two families. We've had three years with this lumbering angel of death, watching him dole it out and escape its clutches many times. But things are different now, as this episode reminds us -- no one seems invincible any more, not even Enron. It's the end of the world as he knows it, but Tony Soprano definitely does not feel fine.
Afghan women acquired an unlikely ally last November, when first lady and "Comforter in Chief" Laura Bush became feminism's newest convert. In a radio address, Mrs. Bush bemoaned the plight of Afghan women and declared a U.S. commitment to restoring their rights. Four months later, on International Women's Day, the first lady embraced even more of her sisters, telling the United Nations, "We affirm our mission to protect human rights for women in Afghanistan and around the world."
On the issue of Martha Stewart versus Julia Child, the world is clearly divided into two camps. Perhaps you love Martha -- her freakishly neat ways, her ability to strangle the warmth out of homemaking, the artificially manufactured twinkle in her eye. Or perhaps you love Julia -- the hooting voice, the happily sloppy technique, her naughty humor. For those who are wavering between the two, the path to righteousness was made clear this week, when Ms. Robotic Perfectpants was sued for allegedly trading on some insider stock tips and Julia had her kitchen enshrined at the Smithsonian Institution.