quadmoniker: I’m going to endorse the “Cash for Clunkers” program. Setting aside the sound policy that started it — getting cautious consumers back to the showrooms and getting the least efficient cars off the road to lower emissions — this magical rebate program got my mom a new car. I love my mom, but getting her into a new anything can be a challenge. She still drove a Dodge Caravan from 2000, which was exactly the same as the two-year-old Plymouth Voyager she crashed before she had that, and both of which were an updated version of the 1988 Plymouth Voyager she drove for ten years until it started to stall on the road. For about a year after the black cherry van with a wooden stripe on the side started to fail, my mom and dad devised a complicated system to keep driving the van after it stalled rather than get a new car. It turned out we could put it in neutral and restart it well before another car ambled along the lonely country roads we drove. New cars and my mom don’t mix, but $4,500 in a government rebate is a good carrot to dangle in front of anyone, especially with a news-watching daughter to prod you along. So bye-bye mini-van that made a weird noise when she tried to start it in the winter and for which she hadn’t changed the oil in God knows how long. (The only downside? She used her rebate to buy a Jeep.)
shani-o: If you recall, I’ve endorsed Tudou and Hulu in the past. One of my favorite things about Hulu is that they’re constantly highlighting new (and old) shows that they’ve added to the site. A few weeks ago, I saw a notice that they had both seasons of “Dead Like Me” up, so I started watching it. I wasn’t so sure about the characters at first. Georgia, the narrator and star, is a bit of an anti-heroine. She’s thoroughly unlikeable, mean to her parents and sister, and says ‘fuck’ a lot. So when she dies after being struck by a toilet seat that fell from the Russian space station, it’s hard to feel for her. And George’s parents were almost as hard to care about. But three episodes in, I was hooked. Seeing George become a Grim Reaper, stalk her family — and finally notice her little sister — and watch how they fracture after her death is incredibly compelling. Her mother is particularly fantastic. And the new life she makes as a Reaper with the hard-ass Jasmine Guy and Mandy Patinkin is satisfying as well. While the show only lasted two seasons, it had a decent ending, and is well worth seeing through. (Note: be sure to skip the direct-to-DVD movie. I only wish I could get those 80 minutes of my life back.)
G.D. : WNYC’s RadioLab has tackled the science around race, memory, lying, time, and morality. This week they ponder the line between life and death, and find it much fuzzier than we think. They discuss the creation of the concept of brain death (and its serious, unsettling shortcomings), talk to a person who attempted suicide and nearly succeeded, a woman with a rare disorder that makes her feel like she is not alive, a mother who received a letter from her son from beyond the grave and a scientist who explains how the world/solar system/universe will end.