In 1899, in one of the most influential speeches of his career, Theodore Roosevelt called on his fellow citizens to live a “strenuous life.” Roosevelt praised a life of restless movement, always active, always seeking to improve one’s strength and the strength of the nation, always trying to get ahead and to succeed in an endless struggle for survival. In the wake of Darwin and in the age of Social Darwinism, competition, personal responsibility, and constant improvement had become natural laws, considered as governing any interaction between individuals, groups, and nations. Roosevelt preached the gospel of fitness, and its message and tone sound familiar to us, even if we have never heard of his “strenuous life”-speech before. In this blog…

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Two of the most memorable moments in When Harry Met Sally (USA 1989) are about food. Well, they are not exactly about food, but they try to get at something through food. Of course, the first one is the legendary fake-orgasm-and-“I’ll-have-what-she’s-having”-scene in Katz’s Delicatessen in NYC. Yet when it comes to thinking about choice, the other restaurant scene is of greater interest, when they stop for lunch in a roadside diner while traveling home from college in Chicago to New York. Whereas Harry barely looks at the menu and goes for one of its default options (“I’ll have the number 3”), Sally orders à la carte, and she adds a long and complex list of individual choices and special requests…

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