Mixed Media

3-D Geezer Premieres at Cannes; Wall Street Is Nonplussed

| Tue May 19, 2009 4:25 PM EDT

I haven't yet seen the new Pixar film Up, which was the opening-night feature at the Cannes Film Festival and opens here this weekend. But since I write about the politics of aging, it seems worth mentioning, because it’s apparently one of a painfully small number of movies that is geezer-centric. According to a piece in Sunday’s New York Times:

Having tackled toys, monsters, fish, cars, superheroes, rats and robots, the creative team at the studio decided this time, for its first film in 3-D, to center a story around a grumpy septuagenarian balloon salesman named Carl Fredricksen.

“We started off with this list of things we’d always wanted to play with, and an older, grumpy guy was definitely on that list,” said the film’s director, Pete Docter. Inspired by the cartoons of George Booth in The New Yorker, Mr. Docter and his co-director and co-screenwriter, Bob Peterson, wanted to create a curmudgeon with audience appeal.

“A curmudgeon with audience appeal”–that sounds pretty good. But wait, there’s more:

Early in the film, the widowed Carl has isolated himself from the world. Facing a court edict that would put him in a nursing home, he resists by strapping balloons to his house and floating to Paradise Falls in South America, a place he has dreamed of since he was a boy yearning to be an explorer. On the way he meets offbeat characters (including a pudgy 8-year-old named Russell and a dopey dog named Dug) who shake him out of his stiff, cantankerous shell.

Okay, they kind of lost me there. Why is it that all cranky old geezers have to go through a heartwarming transformation in which they mend their codgerly ways and become loving grandfatherly types? I don’t know if this is what happens to Carl, but the description makes me suspicious. I don’t see why Carl should have to undergo an attitude-adjustment. It sounds like he has good reason to be pissed off, what with people trying to stick him in a nursing home. Maybe his home got foreclosed on, too, because he lost all his retirement savings in the stock market. And I’ll bet Medicare Part D wouldn’t pay for his happy pills.

In any case, while Up has done well so far with critics and audiences, not everyone, apparently, is pleased with the idea of a geezer-centered animated film. According to the New York Times, ”To the extreme irritation of the Walt Disney Company [which owns Pixar], two important business camps — Wall Street and toy retailers — are notably down on ‘Up.’”

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NY Times Photobloggin' and Danny Wilcox-Frazier

| Tue May 19, 2009 3:03 PM EDT


The New York Times unveiled LENS last Friday, their brand-new photoblog. Taking advantage of the wealth of often awesome photography at their disposal, LENS showcases a range of work—from the traffic-driving staple "Photo of the Day" feature, to Stephen Crowley taking viewers inside a media/photo spray with President Obama, to Fred Conrad's large format photography.

Just a few days out of the gate and they're serving up an impressive batch of photos, presented in a smart, easy-to-navigate format. The images may not be as giant as on the Boston Globe's Big Picture photoblog, but the Times does a knockout job of pushing the range of work presented on a newspaper's photoblog. Or any photoblog for that matter.

And speaking of the Times photoblog, Mother Jones contributing photographer Danny Wilcox-Frazier gets the full treatment today. Sixteen images from his Driftless work, an intimate look at life in rural Iowa, are showcased on LENS. The work may look familiar. It first ran here in Mother Jones, in the March/April 2008 issue and won the 2007 Honickman/Duke First Book Prize in Photography.

Danny also just finished working with MediaStorm on a six-part, multimedia version of Driftless. The focus on the farm is nice, but Danny really excels at getting in with the locals. The spots on the Town Bar and the Jumping Rock really get under the skin of life in rural Iowa.



Rachel Alexandra, Meet Anna Wintour

| Sun May 17, 2009 11:31 PM EDT

So yesterday was awesome. Rachel Alexandra—a name you'd expect maybe out of Gossip Girl—turned out to be a kick-ass racehorse, a filly, who led practically gate to finish (from the outside post, the toughest starting spot) in yesterday's Preakness, becoming the first lady horse to win that Triple Crown race in 85 years. The press is going wild, mostly because fast girls don't come around all that often, and when they do tragedy is too often not far behind (two of the greatest, Ruffian and Go for Wand died on the track after breaking down during big races, and last year, filly Eight Belles had to be put down right after she came in second in the Kentucky Derby).

So are fillies too fragile to compete with the guys in the big races? They are treated that way. An ESPN article late last week warned that the decision to run Rachel Alexandra in the Preakness Stakes was risky and that the world would "be holding its breath until, win or lose, she finishes standing and returns safely.") But horses break down all the time, with horrific consequences, it's just that the male ones don't always make the headlines. Horseracing is a brutal sport, and, like boxing, people get really antsy when they see the ladies in the ring. Another thing about the sport and the mare's role: bloodlines. When you get fast horses you get them together and make babies. There will certainly be the pressure for little Rachel Alexandras prancing around the paddock. But to get there she'll need to make it out of her racing years alive and well. Luckily (for whom, I'm not sure) horses race competitively at such a young age that they can become broodmares at, say age 5, and still have decades of time to establish a lineage. Wherever you end up next, Rachel, you're already a hero for ladykind, showing the ladies can be just as competitive—and fast—as the gents.

Which brings me to another competitive female. On 60 Minutes tonight Morley Safer interviewed Vogue's editor, the legendary Anna Wintour. He starts out by wondering if she's indeed Darth Vader, Nuclear Wintour, or maybe, "just peaches and cream with a touch of arsenic." He then asks her, twice, whether it was fair for people to call her a bitch. Sure, she's the devil who wears Prada, she's hardnosed, ruthless, and the fashion diva extraordinaire, but she's also at the top of her industry. Would Safer dare ask Donald Trump or Richard Branson if they were bitchy because they of their no-smile, hard-nosed business attitudes?

The Gospel According to Twitter

| Mon May 11, 2009 4:41 PM EDT

What, you thought godless liberals were the only ones maniacally tweeting away?

Lord, no; Twitter's evangelical wing is just starting to flap. From online mega church Streaming Faith's e-newsletter:

Pastors John Voelz and David McDonald of Westwinds Community Church decided to spend the past two weeks educating their congregation on how to use Twitter to spread the gospel of Jesus Christ on Sunday morning by allowing them to actually log on during service and send out "tweets"....Now more than ever before, we as believers have brand new opportunities to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ like never before when we leverage these sites appropriately...This is the church's finest hour to build influence with those who we once considered to be outside of our reach.

Thus far, Streaming Faith's tweets range from the usual church-flavored banality:

White House Boos Sykes 9/11 Joke

| Mon May 11, 2009 3:10 PM EDT

Comedian Wanda Sykes is getting some grief for joking about Rush Limbaugh at the White House Correspondents' Dinner on Saturday Night. Sykes, referring to Limbaugh's infamous claim that he hopes Obama fails, suggested that maybe Limbaugh was "the 20th hijacker" on 9/11, and offered that she "hopes his kidneys fail." It took the right wing about 24 hours to figure out that kidney failure means death, and then they switched right into gear. Drudge breathlessly linked to a couple articles taking Sykes to task, asking "What was Obama thinking" for chuckling at the joke, and Fox News quoted unnamed sources calling her "mean-spirited," "hateful" and "disgusting." And today, sadly but perhaps inevitably, the White House just caved. Robert Gibbs made a statement as part of his daily briefing today saying that 9/11 is one of "a lot of topics that are better left for serious reflection rather than comedy." Oh come on, didn't anybody see The Aristocrats? When Gilbert Gottfried did his whole schtick right after 9/11? That was genius.

People are giving Sykes rave reviews for her bit at the dinner, but her languidly-paced softballs about giving the Queen an iPod seemed kind of tame to me, especially compared to Stephen Colbert's head-spinning praise/takedown of George W. Bush back in 2006. I love Wanda, and let's not forget, Openly Gay Comedian Speaks at White House Correspondents Dinner, but her jokes were about 50% throwaways, I thought. More signs of the Obama Comedy-pocalypse, or just her mellow style not really grabbing the audience? Watch the video and decide for yourself after the jump.

David Corn and James Pinkerton on Star Trek and More

| Mon May 11, 2009 10:14 AM EDT

Last Thursday, the American Conservative's James Pinkerton and our own David Corn had another one of their frequent bloggingheads.tv diavlogues. Among the topics discussed: Afghanistan, Pakistan, the missing torture memo, and, of course, the new Star Trek movie, which opened this weekend to rave reviews:

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Their Mamas Didn't Raise Them Right

| Mon May 11, 2009 9:18 AM EDT

If you thought Justin Timberlake and Andy Samberg couldn't top this, you were wrong. Check out their 'ode' to Mother's Day. I watched it Saturday and hit rewind four times, snorting Diet Coke through my nose each time. I only stopped because my stomach hurt so bad. Today? Five times and counting. It's so, so wicked.

If you're feeling less subversive, check out Jimmy Kimmel's take on honoring Mom. It's weirdly sweet and mildly genre-bending. A keeper.

My Mother's Day? Well, my son's birthday is always the day before, so until they're older, Mother's Day doesn't really exist. Thankfully, their school did an incredibly sweet assembly where we were all given roses and escorted by our munchkins to the gym. Then, the kids did the most snot-inducing songs ever. One of them was to the tune of "My Baloney Has a First Name," but still. It killed. When my son's 2nd grade class (he turned 8 on Saturday) did this song, you could barely hear them braying off key while everyone wept and blew their noses. Not me of course. Didn't affect me at all. Sniff. At least not until he stopped singing to just stare at me like I was the most wonderful creature on the planet. Then, he ran to me before the song was even over, took my face in his hands and said: "Now do you know how much I love you?"

Stupid Mother's Day.

Justice, Texas Style

| Fri May 8, 2009 9:29 AM EDT

Tenaha, TX has apparently been using the state's forfeiture law to fleece—guess who? Mostly blacks and Latinos.

From CNN:

Strange Bedfellows in the Parent 'Hood: Two New Memoirs

| Thu May 7, 2009 11:16 AM EDT

I've mentioned my girl-crushes before, haven't I?


Hmmm...eyelash flutter...stentorian throat clearing.


Well, as Liz Lemon on 30 Rock would say, consider me bi-adjacent/curious where Rebecca Traister is concerned, as well as Heather Havrilesky, Amy Poehler, Samantha Power, Wanda Sykes, Ani DeFranco, Anne Lamott, Dolly Parton, and Bjork. (Or so their attorneys tell mine.)

Awesome as Traister is (and we've Salon-overlapped in person a few times. She rocks in person AND on paper), each week she wows me with her insights. Finally, this week, I had to blog my frickin' heart out over her. She's talking about two bad-mommy/bad-daddy memoirs that just came out. (Mom's here. Dad's here.) Damned if her childless ass doesn't see through to the heart of things:

Like Hillary Clinton, who proposed healthcare reform that made her a pariah in 1993, and 15 years later found herself campaigning against half a dozen candidates using her ideas as a model, Waldman may have found that her outrageous reputation has been eclipsed by a blogosphere drowning in bad mother confessionals. But she is still a true lightning rod, and her new book is generously studded with Ayelet-astic grenades. She writes of aborting a baby at a comparatively late stage because of a genetic abnormality, and in her ensuing grief and guilt, wreaking havoc on other women suffering similarly by joining their online "heartbreaking choice" support group and then insisting that they use the word "abortion" to come to terms with what they had done. Waldman writes about how she gave up her beloved criminal defense job not because she was anxious to slough off her professional responsibilities or because it was a pragmatic necessity, but because she was jealous of her work-at-home husband's days alone with their baby. She writes about her disappointment at the fact that her children are not exceptionally gifted, and the stages of denial, grief and anger upon learning that one of her kids had some learning issues. She confesses her surety that she will one day be jealous of her son's wife, and her fears that her kids will inherit her bipolar disorder.
Waldman remains an invaluable answer to Caitlin Flanagan, the silver-tongued specter of maternal servility. From the first, she admits to escaping the doldrums of her self-determined stay-at-home motherhood by developing her writing career, something Flanagan rarely cops to in her profitably published paeans to opting out. Where Flanagan flogs her formula for marital bliss, which is that if you serve your husband hot meals, keep his house, raise his kids and give him blow jobs, he will repay you by remaining faithful and caring for you through illness, Waldman's considerably more appealing equation is that if your husband cooks a hot meal, does a load of laundry and shoulders his half of the childcare, he will get a blow job.

Take that! Fucking Flanagan.

Lewis (whom I idolized at the dawn of my New Republic-launched career), Traister channels thusly:

Note to Young Skinheads

| Thu May 7, 2009 10:32 AM EDT

When will bigots come up with slurs our children can relate to? From the Raleigh-Durham News and Observer: