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  • My Turn: Scheduling Adulthood One Page at a Time

    My first day planner was a college-graduation present from a well-intentioned relative. I'd untied the ribbon on the small box hoping for an iPod, so I was puzzled when I saw a black book bound in leather. I thumbed through the pages, each one divided into 12 boxes, a rectangle for each hour in the waking day. It seemed a cruel reminder that I was floating without a plan.I placed the planner on a corner of my desk. When I moved out of my dorm room the day after graduation, I left it there.For the next two years, I remained anti day planner. I landed a job as an editor at a magazine, but my days were all uniform. What did I need to write down? "Work, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m." Was there any chance I'd forget?My plans with friends were made on the fly, our phone conversations ending in, "So, see you in an hour?" I figured if I couldn't remember those rare events planned in advance, they must not have been that important anyway. My parents and people in business suits—they owned day planners....
  • Truth and Doo-Wop

    Let us consider two great experiences of Western culture. One is viewing "Girl With a Pearl Earring," by the 17th-century Dutch master Johannes Vermeer, which hangs in a museum in The Hague. The other is a performance of "Up on the Roof" by the 20th-century R&B group the Drifters. For that, you have many choices, including Bill Pinkney's Original Drifters and Charlie Thomas's Drifters, various "cover" bands (which do their own versions of classic hits), "tribute" bands (which mimic the original performances down to the white shoes) and a shadowy category of groups that perform under the original names and may benefit from the audience's assumption that at least one of the elderly gentlemen on stage once crooned the selfsame lyrics on "The Ed Sullivan Show." Fate decreed there would be only one Vermeer, but many Drifters—and Coasters and Platters and other rock groups from the era before MTV. "How many?" asks Jon Bauman rhetorically. "As many as you can pay for. On New Year's Eve...
  • Reagan's Diaries: Sweet—And Steady

    Ronald Reagan's fans and foes disagree about almost everything, except this: they both tend to depict the 40th president as something of a one-dimensional figure. To those who love him, the Gipper is the hero who rescued America from self-doubt and the world from communism. To those who revile him, Reagan was a coldhearted cowboy who tried to classify ketchup as a vegetable for school kids and subverted Congress in the Iran-contra affair.The publication this week of "The Reagan Diaries" should give both sides reason to see the late president as a more complicated and more interesting man than either caricature would suggest. The journals, which Reagan kept throughout his White House years, are more record than reflection: he has his generation's tendency to avoid emotion; "a good time was had by all" is used here without irony. A performer, a public man—he was a lifeguard, a sportscaster, an actor and a politician—he seems to have always had an eye on his audience, and these...
  • Out of What 'Shadows'?

    Who knew? The nation's fastest-growing metropolitan area is in Southern Utah. The continuing growth of this area is, however, contingent on something that is contingent on Congress. This region around the town of St. George in Washington County (which has grown about 40 percent since 2000) is the destination for a familiarAmerican phenomenon, "internal immigration." A river of Americans, many of them in or near retirement and most of them escaping (as they see it) from California's congestion, taxes, housing costs, crime and other blemishes, are buying houses about as fast as lumber can be sawed and nails driven, and are eager to purchase services. But Utah's Sen. Robert Bennett has been told by representatives of the county's construction industry that if the flow of illegal immigrants comes to an abrupt halt, so will the county's growth.Now, allowing for hyperbole, of which there is an abundance in the immigration debate, such anecdotal evidence, especially concerning construction...
  • A Life in Books: Jasper Fforde

    To Jasper Fforde, nursery rhymes and literature aren't just great reads—they're fodder for his own comic novels, set in parallel worlds where the Gingerbreadman is a serial killer and Miss Havisham mingles with mortals. Some works he (probably) won't alter: ...
  • Birth of an Insemination

    What "the 40-year-Old Virgin" suggested, "Knocked Up" confirms. Judd Apatow is making the freshest, most honest mainstream comedies in Hollywood. The writer-director has managed to synthesize the neurotic, outsider comedy of Woody Allen, the benign satire of Paul Mazursky and the gross-out combustibility of the Farrelly Brothers into a sweet, raunchy and loose style all his own.Apatow's favorite subject is the eternally adolescent male, in this case the reefer-smoking, videogame-playing slacker Ben Stone (Seth Rogen), whose inclination is to remain forever in the romper room of overgrown childhood. Reality bites in the form of Alison Scott (Katherine Heigl), an out-of-his-league beauty who takes the frazzled, grateful Ben to bed after too many drinks. The movie's title telegraphs the outcome. Alison wants the baby, and she wants to get to know the father, and thus "Knocked Up" weaves its very contemporary variation on a romantic comedy, in which Ben must face the horror of ......
  • Making Connections

    Rarely has there been as neat a fit between a book's subject and its author's biography as in "Bound Together: How Traders, Preachers, Adventurers, and Warriors Shaped Globalization" by Nayan Chanda (372 pages. Yale University Press). It's easy to see why the subject fascinates Chanda; he's a self-proclaimed Francophile of South Asian origin, who studied French in Calcutta, then took courses on China in Paris, wrote a noteworthy book about Southeast Asia, ran a magazine in Hong Kong and ended up launching an online journal devoted to globalization at a venerable Ivy League institution. And in this engaging analysis, he answers such intriguing questions as "How did the coffee bean, first grown only in Ethiopia, end up in our coffee cups after a journey through Java and Colombia?"In examining these specific questions—and larger ones about how the world is interconnected—Chanda does not emphasize his own experiences. But when appropriate, he effectively uses small, personal details to...
  • I Had a Home in Africa

    The wall around the ha- rare cemetery is gone. Corn grows among the graves. From the soiled clumps of paper and the fetid smell, it's clear the burial ground in Zimbabwe is being used as an open-air toilet. The garden of remembrance is still shaded by wild musasa trees, but the brass plaques inscribed with the names of the cremated are missing—every single one. Thieves melted them down, explains a cemetery worker, "to make brass handles for coffins for the people who died of this AIDS."Peter Godwin's account of this 2002 visit to his sister's tomb comes midway through "When a Crocodile Eats the Sun," his memoir about his family in southern Africa. It is one of many poignant moments in a book that serves as both a stark chronicle of the devastation wreaked by President Robert Mugabe and the pain of a son trying to care for his aging parents. Godwin, 49, shuttles between New York and Harare as his father's health deteriorates and his mother's hip collapses. Each visit is complicated...
  • Sloan: Aflac Ducks a Punch Over Executive Pay

    When the public face of your company is a duck, you can't afford to foul up your reputation. (Yes, you can groan now.) Take Aflac Insurance, best known for its ubiquitous quacking commercials. Something funny happened at the company's recent shareholder meeting: nothing. That's because unlike any other U.S. company with publicly traded stock, Aflac has been smart enough to voluntarily offer its shareholders a "say on pay."Giving in to social-activist shareholders, as Aflac did, doesn't make you popular among the CEO set. But boy, was it the smart thing to do. Compare Aflac's enhanced shareholder-friendly image with the embarrassment suffered by Verizon, Blockbuster and Merck, all of which—like Aflac—advertise heavily to the public. A majority of Verizon's and Blockbuster's holders approved nonbinding say-on-pay proposals despite management and board opposition, as did 49.2 percent of Merck's. The whole question has been a distraction to dozens of firms—but not Aflac.In any event,...
  • BeliefWatch: Bible-Based Edutainment

    This summer, tourists who want attractions with a Christian flavor have at least two new options to choose from. The first, opening to the public June 5, is the Billy Graham Library, situated on 63 acres in Charlotte, N.C. For historians, the draw is the archives: the personal papers, drafts of sermons and correspondence of the man who for 60 years has been the most prominent and popular evangelist in the world. For children and families, it may be the cold milk and cookies in the café, or the replica of the dairy farm that was Graham's childhood home and the animatronic (i.e., "talking") cow, which invites them on a scavenger hunt.Far more controversial is the Creation Museum, the brainchild of an Australian evangelist named Ken Ham. Opening this week in northern Kentucky not far from the Cincinnati airport, the museum is devoted to the idea that the creation story in Genesis is literally true and that the Earth is just 6,000 years old. (Scientists put the age of the Earth at 4.5...
  • How Nursing Moms Find Support at Work

    When it comes to feeding babies, the consensus is unanimous: breast milk is best. And the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that mothers nurse for at least a year. The problem: in the United States, more than half of moms with kids under the age of one return to the workforce. For many women, that means they need to use a breast pump to "express" their milk so that their babies can drink it from a bottle. Easier said than done. No federal law says that employers must let moms pump at work. So far just a dozen U.S. states already have laws addressing women's right to do so. (The governors of two more states—New Mexico and Oregon—recently signed legislation that will give moms (unpaid) lactation breaks and a clean and private area to pump (not just a bathroom stall). In an International Formula Council survey of moms with kids under 12 months, 62 percent said going back to work was a reason they would choose not to breastfeed or continue to breastfeed.In their new book, "The...
  • Book Excerpt: 'Limitations' by Scott Turow

    “May it please the court,” booms Jordan Sapperstein from the podium. “This case must be reversed. Your Honors have no choice.”Seated behind the elevated walnut bench a dozen feet away, Judge George Mason suppresses an impulsive wince at Sapperstein's excesses. The judge is seldom reluctant to let lawyers know when their claims are unpersuasive, but making faces, as his father warned him when he was a boy in Virginia long ago, is simply rude.The truth is that George Mason recoils even more from the case, People v. Jacob Warnovits et al., than from the celebrated attorney beginning his oral argument. Before he was elected to the bench, at age forty-seven, George was a criminal defense lawyer, perpetually engrossed in his warring feelings-loathing, amusement, intrigue, envy-about those who broke the rules. Yet from the instant the Court of Appeals's docket department randomly placed him on Warnovits five weeks ago, he has been uneasy about the assignment. He has found it...
  • Famous Architects Go Below Ground

    The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art is as beloved in Kansas City, Mo., as slow-smoked barbecue. With its orderly rows of columns, it sits majestically at the crest of a hill, surrounded by a verdant 20-acre sculpture park. In front of the museum is an 18-foot-high shuttlecock by Claes Oldenburg and Coosje van Bruggen, with three others scattered on the lawn behind, as if the gods had just finished a badminton game, using the building as their net. So when the trustees wanted to build a new addition, they effectively put a do not touch sign on their iconic 1933 neoclassical building. The architect they turned to came up with an ingenious idea for the addition: bury it, or at least most of it. Steven Holl designed a series of translucent white boxes that cascade down the hillside near the museum, islands in the green turf "like an archipelago," as the museum's director, Marc Wilson, puts it. The biggest box houses a new entrance lobby and library; it and the other boxes also admit...
  • Music: The Life and Trials of Phil Spector

    Two days after the publication of the first extensive interview with Phil Spector in more than 25 years, the reclusive record producer was arrested for the fatal shooting of 40-year-old B-movie actress Lana Clarkson. Mick Brown, who wrote the profile for the Britain's Daily Telegraph, had a fleeting terror: what if Spector hated the piece and took murderous revenge on the first person he found? Like Spector himself, the real story would prove much more complicated and terribly fascinating. Brown would spend the next three years researching the life of Spector for his new book, "Tearing Down the Wall of Sound" (Knopf), which will be published next week.Spector's influence on pop music is incalculable. He either co-wrote, produced or performed (or, in many cases, all of the above) on the most enduring songs of the 20th century. This is no hyperbole: "Spanish Harlem," "On Broadway," "Da Doo Ron Ron," "Be My Baby," "You've Lost That Lovin' Feeling," "Unchained Melody," "River Deep,...
  • TB Man Tells His Side of the Story

    Andrew Speaker says he's being unfairly attacked for his decision to fly to Europe and get married after being diagnosed with a rare form of tuberculosis
  • Listening In: Help! Our Teams SUCK!

    The Yankees and the Cardinals have won more World Series rings than any other teams in baseball. Which comes as cold comfort, if you happen to be enduring their agonizingly awful performances to date this year. Two fans, on coping with loss.
  • Bringing NASCAR Into Prime Time

    Today 75 million Americans call themselves NASCAR fans, but I was fortunate to grow up in the sport. My grandfather William H.G. (Big Bill) France organized NASCAR in 1948, and my father, Bill France Jr., ran the sport from 1972 to 2003. So when I was a kid, I spent a lot of weekends at racetracks watching drivers like Richard Petty, David Pearson and Buddy Baker race side by side.Back then, fans had a difficult time enjoying races from the comfort of their living rooms. NASCAR races were broadcast on television only regionally, usually on tape delay, and often high up on the cable dial. About a decade ago, when I was in charge of NASCAR's marketing, I set out to change that—and it became both a turning point in my career and an important moment in NASCAR's evolution.My grandfather had launched a nationwide network of NASCAR radio broadcasts in 1970, but our television broadcasts weren't as centralized. NASCAR has always owned its media rights, but up until 2001 each track was...
  • Jonathan Falwell on What's Next for Dad's Church

    When the Rev. Jerry Falwell died May 15, he left behind a powerful conservative movement, Liberty University and an influential church. Now Falwell’s vast enterprises are selecting new leadership. Jerry Falwell Jr. has been named chancellor of the school, while brother Jonathan is expected to head Thomas Road Baptist Church, which draws 12,000 worshipers in Lynchburg, Va. NEWSWEEK's Alexandra Gekas spoke with Jonathan Falwell about his father’s death and what’s next for the Falwell family. Excerpts: ...
  • Moms and Nannies: A Complicated Relationship

    Ever since mothers were admitted to the professional classes, as a long line of books tell us, their lot has not been an easy one: they're overworked, stressed and exhausted. What many find to be most difficult is leaving their children—and, unavoidably, asking strangers to care for them. This dilemma has spawned a new crop of books that examine the emotionally fraught relationship working mothers have with nannies, including "The Perfect Stranger: The Truth About Mothers And Nannies" (Bloomsbury, $23.95) by Lucy Kaylin, a mother of two (and yes, executive editor of Marie Claire). In revealing her most intimate feelings about performing the daily tango of child rearing with someone she has to pay, Kaylin describes the absurdities of judging candidates through an interview (and feeling it necessary to reject someone because she habitually touches her face while speaking), her guilt about being a white woman who employs a racial minority (and how pleased she was that her husband...
  • Cannes Surprises: Small Films Win Big

    For the first time in as long as anyone can remember, the film that critics and audiences felt should win the Cannes Film Festival's top prize, the Palme d'Or, actually did. After spending 12 days watching 22 films from all over the world, the festival's main jury, headed by British director Stephen Frears, selected Cristian Mungiu's “4 Months, 3 Weeks & 2 Days,” a stark, gritty tale about abortion in communist Romania, as the best. “One year ago, I didn't even have an idea of a project,” Mungiu told the black-tie crowd of 3,600 in the Palais des Festivals, after receiving the award from guest presenter Jane Fonda. “Six months ago, I didn't have any money to make it and didn't think we'd be in Cannes, in any kind of competition.” He added that winning was “good news for small films from small countries. It looks like you don't necessarily need a big budget with a lot of stars.”The rest of the awards certainly proved that. Early buzz suggested that awards might go to such...
  • Humor: Hillary Tempts Gore With Sweets

    In a move that raised eyebrows among observers of the 2008 campaign for the Democratic nomination for president, Sen. Hillary Clinton today sent former vice president Al Gore a gift basket laden with high-calorie treats.While the basket, chocked full of such sumptuous snacks as chocolate croissants and pecan buns, was ostensibly a gift to congratulate Gore on the publication of his new book, “The Assault on Reason,” some members of the former vice president’s staff saw more sinister motives in Sen. Clinton’s choice of present.With Gore battling his waistline in recent years, any potential run for the White House in 2008 would presumably require a period of dieting and slimming down—processes that the basket of lip-smacking temptations seemed calculated to thwart. At a press conference in Washington this morning, Carol Foyler, a senior member of Gore’s staff, told reporters that the basket of sugary delicacies had been “immediately identified as a threat to the vice president” and...
  • Lindsay Lohan, Rehab and Oscar

    With all the problems in her life lately, it's easy to forget: Lindsay Lohan was once a terrific actress. For proof, look no further than her first starring role, in "The Parent Trap." Lindsay was 12. Director Nancy Meyers ("Something's Gotta Give") auditioned many young girls in search of "a little Diane Keaton ... so alive on the screen," she later said. She handpicked Lohan, who gave not one but two flawless performances as identical twins Hallie Parker and Annie James. Audiences loved her, so did critics. "She has the same kind of sunny charm Hayley Mills projected," wrote Roger Ebert, when the movie opened in 1998.Today, audiences have become familiar with a different Lindsay Lohan—and it has nothing to do with her acting. Sure, she's still making movies, but she's getting a lot more attention for her role as a tabloid star. Newspapers splash their headlines with her latest partying misadventures. Hooks ups! Break ups! Family feuds! But despite her trip to rehab this year,...
  • The Principal Principle

    Many things go into making a high school great, but a strong, effective principal is always at the top of the list. As part of our survey of America's Best High Schools, we take a look at the many roles a head must play.
  • Terreform: Building Houses Out of Living Trees

    Want a treehouse? A New York architect is taking orders for buildings constructed out of—and by—living trees. Mitchell Joachim developed the Fab Tree Hab with some colleagues while at MIT, but now he's gone past the conceptual stage with his nonprofit, Terreform.The idea is to allow plants to grow over a computer-designed plywood structure. Once the plants are interconnected and stable, the plywood is removed and reused. Joachim is experimenting with Israeli plants that grow quickly and develop an interwoven root structure that's soft enough to "train" over the plywood, but then hardens into a more durable structure. The inside walls would be conventional clay and plaster.It may take a while before houses are actually built. And the growing nature of the homes present challenges. One is with zoning: no municipality wants to grant a construction permit to a home that keeps changing. Windows are another problem. Joachim is experimenting with soy-based windows that could stretch with a...
  • What the 'First Gentleman' Would Do

    Hillary Clinton gets asked the same thing over and over: if she is elected president, what will Bill do? Obviously, we've never had a woman president. But we've also never had a male First ... Lady. So let's start there. What would he be called? As the president's husband, Bill Clinton would most likely have the formal title "First Gentleman." But he would be addressed directly by his other, loftier title: Mr. President. Likewise, when he walks into a room, with or without Hillary, he'll still have the option of being greeted with the sweet strains of "Hail to the Chief."As for the rest of the details, they are, at this point, still up in the air. The Constitution is silent about the role of a president's spouse. The position has traditionally been more symbolic than substantive. It is true that more than a few First Ladies—among them Hillary Clinton herself—have exerted power in front of and behind the scenes. But our national image of the First Spouse is still that of the quiet,...
  • Fads: A Look at America's Wackiest Dieting Plans

    In her quest to shed pounds, Amy Jamieson-Petonic tried the cabbage-soup diet, a hot-dog and peanut-butter diet, and just about everything in between. Then, after an "aha" moment as she tried on a size 22 coat, she said, "No more." She started eating smaller portions and healthier foods, and took up running. Lo and behold, she slowly lost 100 pounds. Fifteen years later, Jamieson-Petonic, now a 38-year-old registered dietitian and spokeswoman for the American Dietetic Association, has kept off all the weight. "Real people can do this," she says.Easier said than done. A remarkable 41 percent of U.S. adults are trying to lose weight—and their average goal is 37 pounds, according to a Consumer Reports survey published this month. (Two thirds of U.S. adults are overweight or obese.) Small wonder they're tempted to try such, um, unusual regimens as Beyoncé's maple-syrup, lemon-juice and cayenne-pepper diet. Or the grapefruit diet. Or the blood-type diet. But experts say they should try...
  • Steroid Abuse: The Dangers Facing Teens

    When people conjure up an image of Hyannis, Mass., they think: wealthy seaside resort town, home of the Kennedy compound, and they assume the local public schools are filled with rich kids. But the people who reside in the fancy houses come only in the summer. The families who live here all year long tend to be ordinary, middle-class people, many of them in service industries. The test scores coming out of area schools tend to be pretty ordinary, too.But when the townspeople started looking for a way to pull those scores up, they took their inspiration from some of the most elite private schools in the country, and then gave it a populist twist. They opened a public charter school offering the International Baccalaureate program to any student interested in pursuing it, an approach that's called IB for All.Generally considered one of the most rigorous high-school curricula in the world, IB was designed after World War II for the children of diplomats who sought an internationally...
  • Biodynamic Wine: Red, White and Green

    Mike Benziger is a grape healer. At his Sonoma, Calif., winery (benziger.com), he uses tinctures of stinging nettle, chamomile and dandelion to boost his vines' immune systems so that they can fight bug infestations. Cows and sheep roam the vineyards, depositing natural fertilizer and kicking up the soil, helping to aerate it. Predatory birds and bats nest in boxes overlooking the vineyards because they help control pests, and Benziger keeps his land hospitable to wildlife.Benziger is a leading proponent of biodynamic farming, a growing movement among American vintners. Like organic farmers, biodynamic vintners shun the use of toxic chemicals, but they take it a step beyond by adopting unconventional practices like pruning and harvesting according to the gravitational pulls of lunar cycles and integrating livestock into vineyard management. The point is simple: create a healthy self-sustaining ecosystem. "Farming is a violent practice," says Benziger. "You rip up the earth, you cut...
  • Grand Theft Piano

    On a warm may evening in the town of Royston, England, William Barrington-Coupe is inside his tidy brick house, struggling with an overdue tax return. Heavy net curtains block the light out of a living room littered with piles of papers, handwritten bills and old letters. He's got the TV on, "for company," he says. An antique Steinway grand piano dominates the room. It is a somber scene made all the more sad because the Steinway belonged to Barrington-Coupe's wife, Joyce Hatto, an acclaimed pianist who died in this room almost a year ago. Barrington-Coupe is obviously still heartbroken. He slips one of Hatto's CDs into the stereo, and the sound of a world-class pianist bounces off the low ceiling. Close your eyes and she's here, slim hands spanning the keys. "Listen to that," he says, smiling, tears in his eyes. "She practiced until it was perfect. You won't hear a more musical performer." Except for one problem—Joyce Hatto was a fraud.Not a small-time fraud, either. Hatto may have...
  • My Turn: 'I'm Sorry' Shouldn't Be the Hardest Words

    After a recent death in my family, I received a number of condolence cards that tried to talk me out of my grief. "You should be happy you have your memories," wrote one friend. "You should feel lucky you got to be with your father in the hospital." Lucky? Happy? You've got to be kidding!Some cards made little mention of my father's death at all. Instead, they focused on the question of how I was going to distract myself from my grief. "Are you applying to grad school?" one person wrote. "How's your teaching going? Are you still renovating your apartment? Are you keeping busy?"I was 25 when I lost my father last fall. He was only 58, and his death from bone cancer was slow and excruciating. When I cry for my father, I cry for his suffering; I cry because he worked long, grueling hours to save for a retirement he never got to enjoy. I cry because my mother is alone. I cry because I have so much of my life ahead of me, and my father will miss everything. If I marry, if I have children...
  • BeliefWatch: Jehovah's Witnesses

    With a presidential candidate, a recent television special and 13 million adherents worldwide, the Mormons have gotten an extra dose of media attention lately. But there's another indigenous American religion that is now making a bid for the spotlight. Formed in the 19th century, four decades after the Latter-day Saints, it, too, emphasizes a bizarre-seeming afterlife, attracts clean-cut and socially conservative adherents, encourages its members to evangelize and raises the ire of more-mainstream believers suspicious of its claims to Christianity. With "Knocking," a documentary airing this week on PBS, director Joel Engardio draws back the curtain on America's million Jehovah's Witnesses.People know of Witnesses, if they know of them at all, as the folks who refuse to say the Pledge of Allegiance. They also don't celebrate birthdays or Christmas, they don't vote, they don't fight in wars and they refuse to accept blood transfusions, even in life-threatening circumstances.They...
  • The Public Elites

    NEWSWEEK excluded these high performers from the list of America's  Best High Schools because so many of their students score well above the average on the SAT and ACT. ...
  • Steroid Abuse: The Dangers Facing Teens

    NEWSWEEK's list of America's best high schools, this year with a record 1,258 names, began as a tale of just two schools. They were Garfield High School, full of children of Hispanic immigrants in East Los Angeles, and Mamaroneck High School, a much smaller campus serving very affluent families in Westchester County, N.Y. I had written a book about Garfield, and the success of its teachers like Jaime Escalante in giving low-income students the encouragement and extra time they needed to master college-level Advanced Placement courses and tests. I was finishing a book about Mamaroneck, and was stunned to find it was barring from AP many middle-class students who were much better prepared for those classes than the impoverished students who were welcomed into AP at Garfield. That turns out to be the rule in most U.S. schools—average students are considered not ready for, or not deserving of, AP, even though many studies show that they need the challenge and that success in AP can lead...
  • Excerpt: 'First Among Sequels'

    The Swindon that I knew in 2002 had a lot going for it. A busy financial center coupled with excellent infrastructure and surrounded by green and peaceful countryside had made the city about as popular a place as you might find anywhere in the nation. We had our own forty-thousand-seat croquet stadium, the recently finished Cathedral of St. Zvlkx, a concert hall, two local TV networks and the only radio station in England dedicated solely to mariachi music. Our central position in southern England also made us the hub for high-speed overland travel from the newly appointed Clary-LaMarr Travelport. It was little wonder that we called Swindon "the Jewel on the M4."The dangerously high level of the stupidity surplus was once again the lead story in The Owl that morning. The reason for the crisis was clear: Prime Minister Redmond van de Poste and his ruling Commonsense Party had been discharging their duties with a reckless degree of responsibility that bordered on inspired sagacity....
  • TV: Did HBO Mangle 'Wounded Knee'?

    Somewhere inside the U.S. Interior Department in Washington, D.C., a trust account with $600 million in the name of the Lakota, or Sioux, Indians has been sitting uncollected for more than 30 years. Considering the living conditions of the Sioux, it is hard to believe the money has not been tapped. The tribe, spread out among a group of reservations in the Northern Plains, is home to six of the 10 poorest counties in the nation. Unemployment, mortality rates and social ills resemble the worst conditions in the poorest developing countries.This Sunday, HBO premiers an original film that explains why this struggling but proud tribe would shun such an enormous sum. The film, “Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee,” is a two-hour drama based on the 1970 best-selling book of the same name by historian Dee Brown. That sweeping narrative explained how the United States government in the late 19th century systematically destroyed Indian culture, if not the tribes themselves. It was a campaign that...
  • Interview: Mel Brooks at 80

    At 80, Mel Brooks is revered as America's national ham, the class clown who amuses even the most humorless amongst us. Brooks is one of an elite few performers to have won at least one Oscar, Emmy, Tony and Grammy, and lately he's been busy refreshing some of his older material for a new generation. Atop that list is the forthcoming Broadway musical version of “Young Frankenstein,” his Academy Award-nominated 1974 classic, which stars “Desperate Housewives” alum Roger Bart as the grandson of the mad scientist and “Will & Grace” alum Megan Mullally as his fiancée. He's also supervising the development of an animated TV series for the G4 network based on his 1987 “Star Wars” spoof, “Spaceballs.”Brooks spoke exclusively to NEWSWEEK Thursday from his Culver City, Calif., office: ...
  • Artist Slugs It Out With Museum

    The early-20th-century American critic Sadakichi Hartmann famously said, “If you think vaudeville is dead, look at modern art.” Hartmann wasn’t a reactionary. He just thought, about 75 years ago, that the game of avant-garde leapfrog had gotten pretty predictable. Hartmann was right, but in the years since, the gambit of an artist proving his chops by shocking—or at least inconveniencing—the bourgeoisie has worked, careerwise, like a charm.Take the current imbroglio involving Christoph Büchel, a Swiss installation artist, and that capacious reclamation of derelict industrial space, the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art (a.k.a. MASS MoCA) in North Adams, in the western part of the state. MASS MoCA invited  him to do a large installation piece called “Training Ground for Democracy.” The artist accepted, apparently on a handshake, and promptly asked the museum to fetch him, among a long list of things, a police car, a voting booth and a two-story house that could be disassembled...
  • Ansen: 'Pirates' Stinks Then Sinks

    I knew I was in for a long night when Johnny Depp finally makes his appearance in the third—and let us pray final—installment of “Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End.” Depp, as Jack Sparrow, is residing in Davy Jones’s locker—i.e., he’s dead—where he is the solitary captain of a landlocked Black Pearl, and subject to hallucinations. In his visions, every crew member looks like Johnny Depp, and in fact is Johnny Depp, but if you think that 10 versions of the scene-stealing star will increase your enjoyment tenfold, think again. Sparrow, I am sorry to say, does not get one explosive laugh in the entire 168 minutes of this loud, cluttered and confusing sequel. More is not merrier.The plot is not only hard to follow, there seems to be nothing real at stake. Half the characters are already dead, and half the movie seems to involve swordfights with dead people who can’t be killed with swords. Orlando Bloom and Keira Knightley expended their chemistry in the first, and best, “Pirates”...
  • Film: Cannes Director Makes Daring Choices

    For the past 60 years, the Cannes Film Festival has been a veritable cirque du cinéma: topless starlets line the beach, crowds fill the streets and protests, parades, and all-night parties make headlines. For decades, Cannes was the place to premiere big Hollywood studio pictures: Alfred Hitchcock’s “The Birds” and Steven Spielberg’s “E.T.” were among the classics to have their debut there. But throughout the ’90s, Hollywood avoided Cannes, in part, because of France’s merciless critics, but also in large part because Cannes didn’t schmooze with the studios. That all changed when Thierry Frémaux, a young, suave English-speaking French cinephile, was named artistic director in 2004. Each year, Frémaux has made increasingly daring—and commercial—choices for Cannes. This year is no different. Among Frémaux’s 50-plus official selections are renegade filmmaker Harmony Korine’s “Mister Lonely” (the story of a Michael Jackson lookalike who falls for a Marilyn Monroe lookalike), “Sicko,”...