Culture

  • The Devil Wears Swastikas

    Last month the New York Times took note of the half-dozen pages of bibliography at the end of Norman Mailer's forthcoming "The Castle in the Forest," recalled recent novels similarly equipped and, with a spin of the Rolodex, confected a controversy that must have lasted hours. The gist was that some literary folks liked such bibliographies and others didn't. Defenders pointed out that they might forestall accusations of plagiarism (though that didn't work for Ian McEwan's "Atonement"), but the naysayers got the best lines. "We expect [fiction writers] to do that work," said The New Republic's book critic James Wood, "and I don't see why ... they should praise themselves for it." Nobody said the obvious: that including a bibliography implicitly privileges what's "really true" in a novel over what's "just made up." And without the addition of footnotes, the reader's forced to wonder which is which--the sort of static that disables the willing suspension of disbelief. Separating fact...
  • Sleep

    Lately, I've been having a lot of trouble sleeping no matter how tired I am. Is there a connection between menopause and insomnia?
  • Last Word: Bjorn Ulvaeus

    It's one of the only four-letter words that will automatically elicit a smile from kids and adults alike: ABBA. Although the Swedish four-piece band has neither released a new record in more than two decades nor performed live in 25 years, its global fan base has steadily grown. Its songs have been turned into a hit musical,"Mamma Mia," which has been enjoyed by more than 20 million people and raked in more than $1.6 billion across the globe since it opened in London in 1999. This year there's more to come: a film version produced by Tom Hanks. And for more serious-minded ABBA fans, a Stockholm museum dedicated to the band is in the works. NEWSWEEK's Ginanne Brownell spoke to Bjorn Ulvaeus, one of ABBA's founding fathers, about the band's enduring legacy and the music industry. Shealso peppered him with a few political questions, given that he's now an active member of the Swedish Humanist Association. Excerpts: ...
  • The Capital Of Cool

    The cobblestone streets of Buenos Aires's historic San Telmo district don't sing only with the seductive sounds of tango music anymore. A local band called Los Alamos plays country-roots rock in rowdy beer bars, featuring the mandolin-picking and harmonica-ripping riffs of former New Jersey high-school teacher Jonah Schwartz. "Nobody here even knows what a mandolin is!" marvels Schwartz, 26.An invasion of foreign artists is transforming Buenos Aires into an emerging international capital of cultural cool. Like Prague in the 1990s, Buenos Aires offers chic on the cheap and is attracting scores of musicians, filmmakers, journalists, designers and even sitcom writers from abroad. Hundreds, if not thousands, have spilled in from the United States, England, Spain and beyond, helping to bring the capital out of a period of deep cultural isolation after an economic collapse five years ago. Champagne-fueled fashion shows and gallery openings keep the city's glitterati on a 24/7 social...
  • The Final Hunt

    From his hotel bed in Cairns, Australia, John Stainton stared at the ceiling and waited for sleep to take him. 1 a.m. ... 2 a.m. ... 3 a.m. ... But it never came. His best friend and filmmaking partner of 15 years, Steve Irwin, had been dead for less than a day, the victim of a shocking stingray attack, and Stainton couldn't cry anymore, and he couldn't sleep. So at 5 a.m., he picked up the phone and began calling friends. Not to reminisce, but to ask them to come back to work. The Sept. 4, 2006, accident on the Great Barrier Reef occurred during a break in the production of "Ocean's Deadliest," an Animal Planet documentary that Irwin was to host alongside Philippe Cousteau, grandson of the fabled oceanographer. (Never one to waste a day, Irwin, who was 44, was killed while pitching in on his 8-year-old daughter Bindi's nature show.) Suddenly, "Ocean's Deadliest" had become the Crocodile Hunter's last film, and it wasn't quite finished. Lying in bed, Stainton says, "I realized that...
  • Newsmakers

    Zellweger's back with another British accent, as author Beatrix Potter in "Miss Potter." The actress spoke to Ramin Setoodeh.A little bit. But I don't want to talk about it. Otherwise, I'm going to talk about my weight every single day for the rest of my life.I was aware of a couple of her stories. I read Peter Rabbit and I remember Jeremy Fisher. But I have a Norwegian mother, so there was more Hans Christian Andersen.Oh, good god--that's an exaggeration. I've written children's short stories, poetry and prose. But they're for me. They're on different computers that I've closed because they've gotten different viruses.My computer got the "love" virus when I went over to make the first "Bridget Jones" and I had the beginning of two books on that. I did without a computer for five years.Lucky me.Oh, that's funny, isn't it? Maybe I bring out the boring in him. We're saving the nude scene for the "Miss Potter" sequel.I called the sources close to the sources and they say it's not true...
  • To Your Health: Another Piece of the Puzzle

    To paraphrase Winston Churchill, Alzheimer’s disease is a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma. Thousands of researchers in labs around the world are hard at work every day trying to unlock its secrets. But how does one begin to unravel the cause of a disease that arises from the interplay of dozens of genes plus a number of environmental factors? To date, 900 scientific papers have identified 350 candidate genes that may be involved in late-onset Alzheimer’s, the form of the disease that accounts for roughly 95 percent of cases. Yet researchers have reached a consensus on only one of them—the APO E4 gene variant. That’s why a paper appearing Sunday in the online version of the journal Nature Genetics is drawing attention. In it, an international team of 41 scientists has provided strong evidence for the involvement of another gene, called SORL1. The new gene appears to confer only a modest degree of susceptibility for Alzheimer’s, but simply knowing that it is involved in...
  • Hollywood Confidential

    Leonardo DiCaprio was a “Romper Room” reject. Helen Mirren was a rotten schoolteacher. Penelope Cruz kept running to the bathroom between takes to cry while making her first English-speaking movie. Forest Whitaker nodded off while filming a crucial scene in “Bird” and didn’t realize he was on a movie set when he awoke. Cate Blanchett says she would like to have been Gregory Peck. And Brad Pitt once had a job chauffeuring strippers to bachelor parties.These and other celebrity confessions were part of NEWSWEEK’s Oscar Roundtable on Saturday, which for the first time in its 10-year history was held before a live audience, at the American Cinematheque’s Egyptian Theater in Hollywood. (The full report of the Roundtable will be in the Jan. 29 issue of NEWSWEEK, which hits newsstands Jan. 22 and will be available online the same day.) In a lively conversation both humorous and touching, the six stars—all of whom hope to make the cut when Academy Award nominations are announced Jan. 23...
  • New Alzheimer's Gene Discovered

    Researchers have linked a new gene to late-onset Alzheimer's, the most common form of the disease. What the discovery means.
  • James Cameron Back in Action

    It has been 10 years since "Titanic" grossed $1.8 billion worldwide and earned a record 11 Oscars. Writer-Director James Cameron hasn't made a feature film since. Last week, he announced that he will begin shooting "Avatar," a $195 million action-adventure film set on a distant planet, shot in digital 3-D, using a camera he developed. He spoke with NEWSWEEK's Sean Smith.NEWSWEEK: Why has it taken so long for you to direct another feature film?James Cameron: Well, there's not a quick answer. I've done 70 ocean expeditions in the last 10 years, and I love that world. I've been living out a kind of childhood dream of doing real exploration. But I always knew that I would come back to feature filmmaking. We're announcing "Avatar" right now, but I've been working on it for a year and half.A year and a half?! I can't believe you kept that quiet.[ Laughs ] I can't either. We've got, like, a hundred people working it full time. But they're pretty dedicated. They believe in this thing. It's...
  • Still 'Alright'

    Before we start talking about Lily Allen, let us just point out that we are not, in fact, a year behind the curve on this one. Yes, the music on the brash Brit's MySpace page launched her into Internet stardom at the end of 2005, which was followed by her first U.K. single in April 2006 and then genuine stardom. We are aware that her debut album, released across the pond last July, went platinum and the inevitable Lily Allen backlash has already since come and gone . Her album has been available Stateside for months via (illegal) free downloads and (legal) pricey imports. So it almost comes as a surprise that "Alright, Still" will finally be officially released in the U.S. on Jan. 30. We’ve already had it on repeat for months. Maybe for the American release EMI Music should have retitled it "Still Alright."Because, let’s face it, that's what it is: even after the buzz and backlash, the 21-year-old's sing-songy ska-pop hip-hop confection is as fresh and beguiling as it was the first...
  • A Birdhouse In Your Soul

    Every November I open the nesting box after the bluebirds have left for the winter. I gingerly peek inside, like a landlord surveying the damage left by irresponsible tenants, and sigh. And as I scrub out the mess, I imagine a cartoon version of my bluebirds on a Mexican beach wearing sunglasses and sipping tiny margaritas, not a care in the world.I clean the box, hoping that next spring our bluebirds will come back to raise yet another brood. Around March, the pair returns to our snow-covered yard in the high mountains of Colorado. All summer, the brilliant-blue male and subtle-colored female perch on our swing set,rooftop or the railing of our deck. To us, their soft calls and chirps have come to mean summer.My two young children watch the birds snatch grubs from the flower bed, dive-bomb after flying insects or sway in the wind on sagebrush twigs. The birds take turns sitting on the eggs and, before long, it’s time for the chicks to flop out of the box to spend a few days beneath...
  • Game On

    For independent videogame makers like Jonathan Blow, getting noticed in a market dominated by giants like Sony and Nintendo isn’t easy. So when he was chosen as a finalist in Utah’s Slamdance Guerrilla Gamemaker Competition for his game, Braid—which took nearly two years to develop—he was thrilled. It was a chance for his work to be seen and to enjoy the company of other indie gamemakers, and he promptly laid out about $1,400 in hotel and plane reservations for the festival, set to begin Jan. 18.Last week, however, he withdrew his game from consideration after a fellow finalist’s game was axed for its subject matter. Since then, five other finalists have followed suit, one sponsor has dropped out and now, with half of the 14 finalists out of consideration, the festival appears imperiled.At its heart, this is a dispute over the limits of artistic expression and the boundaries of good taste. The protests are a reaction to a decision last week by festival president Peter Baxter, who...
  • The NFL Coaching Game

    There was so much to talk about following the NFL’s first wild playoff weekend: Tony Romo’s chokehold, Jeff Garcia’s redemption, the post-season wobbles of the Manning brothers, and Patriots nose tackle Vince Wilfork’s at-once brawny and brainy play. Yet the incessant chatter has been focused on coaches. Nick Saban has left, Bobby Petrino is coming. What did Bill Belichick have to say, along with his quick hug, to his former acolyte Eric Mangini? What could Tony Dungy possibly say, along with his long hug, to best pal Herman Edwards, after his offense was a no-show in Indy? Will Bill Parcells stick with the Cowboys? Why would the Giants ever let “Screamin’” Tom Coughlin stay around for another season?I don’t exactly know when our obsession turned from the men on the field to the men on the sidelines. Perhaps it happened as baby boomers, with their overarching influence, aged, and, with their aching bodies, could no longer muster playing fantasies. But there is no doubt that the...
  • Stepping Out of Line?

    During the making of “Stomp the Yard,” the new movie set in the world of black fraternities and their traditional style of step-dancing, producer Will Packer made authenticity his top priority. “I was on the set every day screaming about how everything had to be real,” Packer says. “I went and put up all my old pictures, paddles and paraphernalia so that everybody could get a feel for this.” As a 13-year member of Alpha Phi Alpha, Packer wanted to share his passion for the country’s oldest African-American fraternity with the cast and crew by draping the set with the symbols of his experience. “I kept saying, it has to be right, because if it isn’t, people within these organizations will know.” Yet, of all the places Packer displayed Alpha Phi Alpha’s symbols during the production of “Stomp the Yard,” there’s one place from which the symbols are now conspicuously missing—the film’s final cut.Prior to the film’s release, Packer and business partner Rob Hardy, who pledged with Packer...
  • To Your Health: The Perils Of Posing

    Once a fringe activity, yoga is now as mainstream as mocha lattes, and with good reason. Numerous studies have shown that the practice can enhance strength, balance and flexibility. Yoga helps reduce stress and may even help lower high blood pressure.But to reap the benefits, you have to do it right—as all too many people are now discovering. Do it wrong, and you could end up as one of the growing number of casualties. According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, there were more than 5,000 yoga-related injuries in 2005 that resulted in visits to doctors' offices, clinics and emergency rooms—up from 3,700 in 2004. Those numbers are largely a function of more people, especially aging boomers, taking up yoga. The cost of treating these injuries in 2005 came to nearly $90 million.As holiday excesses yield to New Year's resolutions to diet and exercise, it's a good time to review some basics that can help ensure a safe yoga practice. NEWSWEEK's Anne Underwood spoke with Dr....
  • Bring On The Golden Parachute

    One week after paying its former CEO, Bob Nardelli, a severance package worth $210 million, Home Depot raised eyebrows in the business community again today by paying an incompetent sales clerk $12 million "to go away forever."In an official statement released to Wall Street analysts this morning, Home Depot said that it was paying the former salesclerk, Lucas Rekson, 24, the unprecedented sum on the condition that "he never shows up to work again."The $12 million severance package for Rekson of the company's Torrance, Calif., store is believed to be the largest of its kind ever for a low-level, incompetent employee, industry experts said.During his two-month tenure as a salesclerk at Home Depot, Rekson made his mark by repeatedly spilling boxes of nails on the floor and accidentally banging into customers with large pieces of lumber.In defense of Rekson's gargantuan severance package, company spokesman Carol Foyler offered this rationale: "If it means that Lucas will never work for...
  • Oprah Goes to School

    Two thousand and six was the year Africa went Hollywood: Madonna, Clooney, Brangelina. And now, in 2007, the most exclusive spot on the continent will undoubtedly be in the town of Henly-on-Klip, about 40 miles outside Johannesburg. Set on 22 lush acres and spread over 28 buildings, the complex features oversize rooms done in tasteful beiges and browns with splashes of color, 200-thread-count sheets, a yoga studio, a beauty salon, indoor and outdoor theaters, hundreds of pieces of original tribal art and sidewalks speckled with colorful tiles. Julia Roberts, John Travolta, Stevie Wonder, Nelson Mandela and the reigning African Queen herself--Angelina Jolie--are expected to attend the grand opening this week. By now, you're probably wondering how much a spread like this goes for per night. Actually, it's free. There's only one catch--you have to be a 12- or 13-year-old African girl to get in. As spectacular as this place sounds, it's not a resort. It's a school: the Oprah Winfrey...
  • Mail Call

    How to Leave IraqReaders praised Fareed Zakaria for his Nov. 6 story on the way out of Iraq. One suggested, "Bush should appoint him his political adviser." Another recommended a "change of regime in America." Most others congratulated Zakaria or thanked him for his views "as the only way out." ...
  • A King of Comedy Reclaims His Crown

    From Lil' Kim and Snoop Dogg to Denzel and Whoopi, America's black celebrities are intriguing far beyond the red carpet—sometimes vulnerable, sometimes inspiring, but more than anything else, human. In her new book, 'Off the Record,' NEWSWEEK reporter Allison Samuels looks behind-the-scenes at these boldfaced names of Hollywood, hip-hop and sports. In the following excerpt, she recounts her experience talking to Eddie Murphy right before his career rebounded with “The Nutty Professor.”Back in the high-flying eighties, Eddie Murphy was without doubt the brightest star burning in Hollywood and  beyond. Known as the leader of a Hollywood elite posse called the Black Packers, which included Robert Townsend, Arsenio Hall, and Keenan Ivory Wayans, Murphy had a cutting-edge,  dead-on take on African-American humor that pushed the comedy show Saturday Night Live to new  heights. Even in the face of the dominant stardom of John Belushi and Chevy Chase, Murphy held his own and shined in silly...
  • Letters to the Magazine

    Readers responding to our cover story on the recommendations of the bipartisan Iraq Study Group were nearly unanimous that a new direction is necessary. One said, "The realities articulated by the ISG are some of the loudest, most credible and brutally honest wake-up calls aimed at the president." Added another, "The president is under heavy pressure to consider the commission's well-reasoned conclusions to reverse a failed policy, and I'm delighted that he is now leveling with the American people." One viewed the ISG report as merely "rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic," while another recalled that the president is elected to do what is in the nation's best interest, "not satisfy his ego or stick to misguided beliefs. The midterm elections have clearly shown that we are fed up with this Iraq misadventure wasting national resources and sullying America's reputation."James Baker and Lee Hamilton of the Iraq Study Group came up with a revelatory conclusion about the war in...
  • Wanna Buy a Bridge To Big-Time Debt?

    It's the happiest of New Year's on Wall Street, which is positively awash in money. No, I'm not talking about the jaw-dropping eight-digit bonuses at Goldman Sachs or the even bigger unpublicized paydays for heavy hitters at some hedge funds and private equity houses. Rather, I'm talking about the money sloshing around the Street chasing deals.You can see this by reading recent filings involving the biggest leveraged buyout in history: the pending $36 billion takeover of Equity Office Properties, a big commercial-property owner, by the Blackstone Group buyout firm. There's such hunger to put money to work that three financial institutions--Goldman Sachs, Bear Stearns and Bank of America--have agreed not only to lend almost $30 billion to the Equity Office LBO, but to also invest more of their own cash in the deal than the $3.2 billion Blackstone has committed. The three firms are putting up $3.5 billion of so-called bridge equity to get the deal done. What's bridge equity? Good...
  • The Importance of Being Neighborly

    The oil stain on my garage floor has faded to a dusty umber, the same nondescript color as the other random blots that collect on concrete over the years. Once, it was a shallow black puddle, pooling under my neighbor Bill's motorcycle. Now it's an indelible reminder that friendship can be fleeting.It didn't take me long to meet Bill after I moved into the neighborhood in September 1992. Each day, he and his dog passed my house on their morning walk. She introduced herself first, a fetching young malamute who bounded straight for me and threw herself, belly up, at my feet--tail swishing, tongue lolling, eyes pleading. I couldn't resist. We bonded with a tummy rub even before he finished scolding her for scampering away. Pretty Girl, he called her, pronouncing it "Purdy Girl."I pegged Bill right away as one of those fiftysomething counterculture types who'd tried on the 1960s and found a fit for life. From a distance he looked intimidating, with his full, grizzled beard and scraggly...
  • Newsmakers: Clive Owen, Keith Urban, Nicole Kidman, Rosie O'Donnell, Donald Trump, P. Diddy, Arnold Schwarzenegger

    Owen stars in "children of Men," a futuristic thriller about saving the only pregnant woman in a society thought to be entirely sterile. He chatted with Nicki Gostin.I think it's full of humanity. [Director Alfonso] Cuaron has made a film set in the future that's really an excuse to talk about things going on right now.None.I was never offered that part. I promise.[ Laughs ] I always do that.She walked into the read-through and I knew straightaway.It was a little bit Woody Allen-like. She had little Lennon glasses on and all these secondhand books dropping all over the place.Couple of meetings and going to get Ugg boots for my girls.I'm sure you can, but I know they're here.I know. The exchange rate--my God.Why?But I get paid in dollars and live in London. I don't get paid in pounds.[ Laughs ] It's true. I'm not complaining.You have to feel sorry for them, really. They'll never have the Frank Capra holiday you had, with eggnog and cookies, shining lights and beaming faces, humble...
  • A New Era Begins

    Stem-cell research is divided into two major camps: one focused on cells from adults, the other on the controversial technique that destroys embryos. But important research published Sunday supports the idea of a third way, a new category of stem cells that are readily available, perhaps ethically trouble-free and possibly as powerful and flexible in function as their embryonic counterparts: "amniotic-fluid stem cells," found in both the placenta and the liquid that surrounds growing fetuses.The cells are "neither embryonic nor adult. They're somewhere in between," says Dr. Anthony Atala, a tissue-engineering specialist at Wake Forest University who led the research team. (The study appears in the journal Nature Biotechnology.) The "AFS cells" rival embryonic stem cells in their ability to multiply and transform into many different cell types, and they eventually could be hugely helpful to doctors in treating diseases throughout the body and building new organs in the lab. At the...
  • Medication Missteps

    As more details about the late Supreme Court Chief Justice William Rehnquist's battle with prescription medication have emerged, they have focused new attention on how doctors prescribe and monitor people who take potentially addictive drugs.Declassified documents released by the FBI this week paint a picture of an esteemed and learned man who nonetheless fell prey to a long-term debilitating habit while he was a Supreme Court justice during the 1970s. In 1981, five years before he became chief justice, Rehnquist was admitted to George Washington University Hospital for a month in order to be weaned off prescription drugs. During his hospital stay, according to the documents, Rehnquist experienced paranoid delusions and tried, at one point, to escape from the hospital in his pajamas. Shortly before he underwent the treatment his family described him as having a longstanding problem with "slurred speech."And no wonder. The FBI reports that Rehnquist was already taking the powerful...
  • Serious Theater Hits Broadway—At a Price

    Anchored by such old favorites as “Wicked” and “Beauty and the Beast,” Broadway did record-breaking business last year. It took in nearly $30 million in the last week alone. You may say that’s not surprising, considering that tickets run about $100 each. Nor will you be surprised to learn that producers, emboldened by all that success, have decided to hike the top ticket prices to $120 a seat. But there is good news. Broadway is now not just the home of big-budget movie musicals like “Hairspray” but once again a place to see some serious theater. Here are our picks for the hot new shows this winter and spring:Journey's End by R.C. Sherriff (Belasco Theatre, opens Feb. 22)The recent high-profile success of London imports such as “The History Boys” and “Democracy” has meant new opportunities for shows once considered too serious for the Great White Way. Based on Sheriff’s experiences in World War I, “Journey’s End” is not only a beautifully written drama about the horrors of war and...
  • Of Mice and Multimedia

    When Bill Moggridge bought a digital watch for his son in 1983, it took him “20 minutes of concentrated effort” to set the alarm so his boy wouldn’t miss his paper route. Then daylight savings time came and the younger Moggridge gave up his early mornings. Dad was enlisted to cancel the alarm and reset the time, but of course the instructions were long gone. You’d think Moggridge, who designed the first-ever laptop computer in 1980 (the GRiD Compass ), would be able to figure out how to reset the time on a dinky watch with only four buttons. You’d be wrong.Today Moggridge, who has since founded the influential Silicon Valley-based design firm IDEO, holds the watch up as an unshining example of bad industrial design. In his new book, “Designing Interactions,” Moggridge conducts 40 interviews with industry pioneers who do the job right. Ever wonder why Google is the dominant search engine or how the mouse on your desktop came into being? This accessible book endeavors to answer those...
  • With a Song in His Heart

    The significance of a mix tape—think back to the '80s and early '90s, before digital this and iPod that—was huge. A mix tape was this carefully selected, tailor-made collection of songs, but more than that, the emotional statement of the songs connected the giver and recipient. You could gauge a warming romance on the horizon by the mix tape—thrilling at the sight of the names of songs handwritten by the object of your affection. A mix tape was something special. The songs held serious weight inside those plastic cassettes. And cassettes were ultimately the lasting love letters to each other that Rob Sheffield could hold onto after his 31-year-old wife, Renée, died unexpectedly from a pulmonary embolism just after she'd had her morning coffee and toast. It was 1997 and they'd only had five years together.In "Love is a Mix Tape: Life and Loss, One Song at a Time," Sheffield writes elegantly about his young wife’s sudden death without turning it into a depressing tale of love stolen...

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