Tama Starr says that when she took over the 107-year-old family business, Artkraft Strauss Sign Corp., she didn't give much thought to the company's status as a "woman-owned business"—until, as she recounts in "Confessions of a 'Woman-Owned Business' Owner" (page 32), a bank made it clear that simply running an excellent company wouldn't land her a contract. Starr is the author of several books, most recently Signs and Wonders (Doubleday/Currency); she's also been responsible for the Times Square ball drop on 19 New Year's Eves. She says illuminating absurdities in public life gives her "exactly the same kind of thrill as throwing the switch that lights up one of our kinetic light sculptures."

Senior Editor Jacob Sullum doesn't go to McDonald's much, since there's almost nothing on the menu that fits a kosher diet. Despite that and his general preference for horror movies, he felt compelled to see Morgan Spurlock's anti-fast food polemic Super Size Me ("Big Mac Attack," page 55) for a couple of reasons. First, it's a brief for the public health paternalism he regularly attacks—most recently in Saying Yes: In Defense of Drug Use (Tarcher/Penguin), now out in paperback. Second, he's in the movie. Ideological differences notwithstanding, Sullum says Super Size Me ranks in the middle of films he's seen recently: much better than Solaris, but not quite as good as Mean Girls.

Philosophy grad student Will Wilkinson first heard of Gouverneur Morris after taking a group of students from the Social Change Workshop, a summer seminar he runs for the Institute for Humane Studies, to visit Monticello. He mentioned the trip to Christopher Morris, his graduate adviser at the University of Maryland's philosophy department, who launched an unexpected attack on the revered Thomas Jefferson. Morris, it turned out, was a distant relative of forgotten founder Gouverneur and had inherited a family rivalry with the Jeffersons. Wilkinson takes a fresh look at the man he calls "a lens into the process by which the original American institutions got built" in "The Fun-Loving Founding Father" (page 59).