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from The Observatory:

The bright-young-things hypothesis

The downward spiral of Jonah Lehrer’s career over the last month has shocked his peers and instilled in them a visceral need to understand. Following the revelations of self-plagiarism, outright fabrication, and lying to cover his tracks, we were bewildered. How could such a seemingly talented journalist, and only 31 years old, have thrown it all away?

One theory, proffered by Salon’s Roxane Gay, is that “there is a cult of bright young things, a cultural obsession with genius, a need to find beacons of greatness in an ordinary world.” According to her piece:

Lehrer’s success and this current humiliation, how far he had to fall, is a symptom of a much bigger problem, one that is systemic, one that continues to consistently elevate certain kinds of men simply for being a certain kind of man. Jonah Lehrer fits the narrative we want about a boy genius. He is young, attractive and well educated. He can write a good sentence. He can parse complicated science for the masses and make us feel smarter for finally being able to understand the complexities of the human mind. He is the great white hope.

Gay is absolutely correct about our fixation with bright young things. It’s an obsession that places enormous pressure on aspiring writers. The thing is, most journalists don’t do what Lehrer did despite the twisted system in which they work, and there are problems with the way that Gay applies the bright-young-things hypothesis to Lehrer. First, she wants to add white and male to the equation, and while she’s right that there is still too much gender and racial bias in this industry, I have five words for her: Janet Cooke. Black. Female. Fraud.

from Global Investing:

Facial, massage, dating… In search of recession-proof industries

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Facial, massage and dating... what do they have in common?

These are the industries which seem to be recession-proof and saw improved sales and revenues in recent months.

The Professional Beauty Association says its main tracking indexes for the salon and spa industry all posted a rise in the fourth quarter of 2011, driven by stronger sales, traffic levels and a more optimistic outlook for the economy.

from Global Investing:

Correlations between downturn and long salon queues

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Who said cosmetics are recession-proof and would be the last to be hit in the economic downturn? (I, at least, thought so.)

But whoever said so seems to be wrong. The Professional Beauty Association's three main tracking indices for the salon and spa industry extended a decline in the third quarter of 2011 to hit their lowest level in two years. 

from FaithWorld:

Paris death salon shows life and new trends in funeral industry

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Salon de la Mort 1

(A television journalist speaks to camera as she tests a coffin on show at the 'Salon de la Mort' -- Salon of Death -- in Paris April 7, 2011/Charles Platiau)

"Care to try out the coffin?" Surprised but intrigued, the young man lays himself down on the ivory satin fabric and holds his breath as the heavy lid closes over him. At the Salon of Death, everything is permitted.

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