Culture

  • 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,”...
  • Books: A Haunting Zimbabwe Memoir

    The wall around the Harare 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 by...
  • Online: Art Project Lets You Shoot an Iraqi

    The other night, moments after Wafaa Bilal went to bed in his Chicago pad, he had a terrifying nightmare: as he was walking down a dark set of stairs he encountered two friends who started shooting him at point blank range. “I’ve had to deal with PTSD [posttraumatic stress disorder] from being chased by Saddam’s soldiers” more than a decade ago, he says. “I see the beginning of it coming back now.”You probably would, too. The Iraqi-born artist was speaking to a NEWSWEEK reporter 19 days into a grueling monthlong project that sounds, at first blush, suspiciously gimmicky: until June 4, Bilal is living his entire life inside one room at Chicago’s Flatfile Gallery, which anyone with a Web connection can log on to watch. Oh, and to shoot him. With “Domestic Tension"  Bilal has turned his makeshift living quarters into a 24-hour-a-day war zone. Viewers can peep in on him anonymously at any time, and even chat with him online. On the installation’s Web site, his audience can fight for...
  • Cannes Loses Some of Its Fun

    “I’m an auction whore!” cried Sharon Stone, slithering across the stage in silver lamé at amfAR’s 14th annual Cinema Against AIDS dinner at the famed Moulin des Mougins restaurant in Cannes on Wednesday night.And indeed she was.She raised the stakes on a luxury yacht cruise, replete with a Chanel surfboard and other choice goodies, by offering a kiss by George Clooney to the winning bid right then and there. A svelte young brunette woman won, at $350,000, and trotted up on stage before 600 black-tie VIP guests to get her bonus. “Lay it on her, George!” Stone wailed. And with a gentle swoop, arm firmly around the woman’s waist, he did.During its 60-year existence, Cannes has been known as much for its parties as for its films. Big blowouts for a thousand in rococo villas overlooking the Mediterranean, small postscreening dinners for a hundred at the beach. There’s the Vanity Fair party, a swank ‘do around the pool at the Hotel du Cap, and amfAR up in the Provençal hilltop village of...
  • Excerpt: 'When a Crocodile Eats the Sun'

    In this excerpt from Peter Godwin's 'When a Crocodile Eats the Sun,' the author recounts the post-surgical experience of his mother—a medical doctor—after she undergoes a hip replacement during a national protest strike against the Mugabe government.
  • TV: The Last of 'Lost'--So Far

    SPOILER ALERT: This commentary contains huge spoilers about the third season of “Lost.” If you haven’t watched it yet and plan to at some point, it might be a good idea to click the handy Back button on your browser.There’s good news, more good news and bad news about this “Lost” commentary. The bad news first: if you never succumbed to the labyrinthine pleasure of “Lost,” or you, like many, threw up your hands in frustration and stopped watching, I’m about to tell you that you’ve made a huge mistake. The good news is that this is not going to be one of those holier-than-thou critic screeds where I guilt the public for what they’re watching, what they’re skipping and why. I’m not going to browbeat you for watching “Criminal Minds” when you could be watching “Lost.” If brooding Mandy Patinkin is your flavor, then by all means, eat up!And if you’ve tried to watch “Lost,” really tried, but got fed up by how generous the show is with mysteries and how stingy it is with answers and used...
  • Listening In: American Idol Smackdown

    Who will take home the coveted 'American Idol' trophy: Jordin or Blake? The cases for and against—and a thorough debunking of the myth that kids today don't vote.
  • Humor: Bush Names Wolfowitz President of Al Qaeda

    In a bold move to undermine the international terror network, President George W. Bush today named former deputy defense secretary and World Bank President Paul Wolfowitz to be the new president of Al Qaeda.Wolfowitz, who has no experience running an international terror organization, struck many Washington insiders as an unlikely choice for the Al Qaeda job.But in a White House ceremony introducing his nominee for the top terror post, President Bush indicated that Wolfowitz’s role in planning the war in Iraq and bringing scandal to the World Bank showed that he was “just the man” to bring chaos and disorder to Al Qaeda.“I’ve seen Paul Wolfowitz in action,” said Bush, a beaming Wolfowitz at his side.  “If anyone can mess up Al Qaeda, it’s this guy.”Several key details in the president’s plan still need to be worked out, such as how exactly Wolfowitz will infiltrate Al Qaeda and rise to the top position in its ranks.“Al Qaeda closely screens all of its top officers,” said Hassan El...
  • Diabetes Drug Linked to Heart Attacks

    More than 6 million people around the world have taken the drug Avandia (rosiglitazone) to treat Type II diabetes. But a new study published this week in The New England Journal of Medicine suggests that the drug is linked to a higher risk of heart attack and death. In the study, Dr. Steven Nissen and Kathy Wolski of the Cleveland Clinic analyzed the results of 42 existing trials and found that Avandia increased heart-attack risk 43 percent. In response to the study, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued a safety alert advising patients to talk to their doctors about whether they should continue taking the medication. Three major medical groups—the American Heart Association, the American College of Cardiology and the American Diabetes Association—also issued a joint advisory urging patients to call their doctors. "We don't feel this is an emergency or a crisis," says Dr. Sue Kirkman, vice president, clinical affairs, at the American Diabetes Association. Although it has...
  • Resources for Gender and Transgender Issues

    Debra Rosenberg: Hi everyone. I'm Debra Rosenberg, Assistant Managing Editor at Newsweek, and I wrote this week's cover story on Rethinking Gender. I oversee the magazine's coverage of health, science and social issues. I'm happy to answer your questions on gender and transgender._______________________ ...
  • Books: Philip K. Dick Joins the Club

    If there is anyone who would not understand Philip K. Dick's inclusion in the Library of America—those uniform editions of what the Library calls the "best and most significant" American literature—it would be Dick himself. It isn't that he didn't think he deserved to be taken seriously. The honor simply would not fit with the way he saw the world: in his novels, the future is always a sorrier version of the present, a copy of a copy of a copy. But there he stands, alongside Faulkner, Melville, Wharton, Twain and all the other Mount Rushmore figures of American literature.Dick, who died 25 years ago—the same year the Library of America was born—never received much serious attention during his life. He worked almost exclusively in the literary ghetto of science fiction. In Dick's depiction of the future, we do get the spaceships and the colonies on Mars, but we never shuck off being human, we never figure out what being human means—and those who search the hardest for meaning are...
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    No More Mickey Mouse: Animation for Adults

    This Friday "Shrek the Third" will swagger into theaters, its eye on the prize of seizing its predecessor's crown as the most successful animated film in history. A few days later, with far less fanfare, "Paprika," the work of Japanese animé master Satoshi Kon, will also be unveiled. It happens to be one of the most wildly (and disturbingly) inventive animated films I've seen, but will anyone notice? Unlike "Shrek," it's not conceived as fun for the whole family. "Paprika" is made for grown-ups.Great animated movies, of course, obliterate the distinction between adult and kids' movies: think of Pixar's brilliant "Toy Story" movies, Miyazaki's peerless "Spirited Away," the "Wallace and Gromit" shorts or the sassy and ebullient first "Shrek"—all of them marketed to kids, but only adults can savor them on all levels. Yet in this country we think of animation only as child's play. Is it because cartoons colonized our little minds when we were kids, and so will always be consigned to a...
  • BeliefWatch: Entombed

    In interviews with NEWSWEEK in the days before the announcement of the "Jesus family tomb" (the suburban Jerusalem cave said to contain the bones of Jesus and his relatives, a claim that later turned out to be overblown), publishers and publicists worried aloud that the public might be suffering from what they called "ossuary fatigue." What they meant was this: how many first-century bone boxes can archeologists boast of finding before people stop caring about first-century bone boxes? (Especially, one might ask in retrospect, when those discoveries often tend to be not so historically important.) The answer is: a lot. It's always cool when someone digs up a relic related to the Biblical past, and last week's alleged discovery of the tomb of King Herod is no different.This time around, it was the archeologist Ehud Netzer, a respected Israeli scholar whose lifelong dream had been to find Herod's grave. He has been excavating Herodium, the palace complex Herod built near Jerusalem,...
  • Baseball's New Color Barrier

    Dave Winfield played in 12 All Star games, won seven Gold Glove titles and helped power the Toronto Blue Jays to a World Series win during his 22-year career in Major League baseball. He won the game’s ultimate accolade as a first-ballot Hall of Famer—but his love for the game has been tempered by some profound concerns about the way the ball is bouncing. In his new book, “Dropping the Ball: Baseball’s Troubles and How We Can and Must Solve Them,” Winfield (along with coauthor Michael Levin) voices his view that baseball has been steadily losing its appeal among African-Americans—both on the field and off. If this problem isn’t addressed, Winfield and Levin write, there may soon be no more black players in the big leagues. Winfield, who now works as an executive with the San Diego Padres (the first of six teams he played for over the years), spoke with NEWSWEEK’s Jamie Reno about baseball’s fading fortune among blacks, and what can be done about it. ...
  • Raising Buffalo: One Family's Wild West Adventure

    When my dad first mentioned that we would start raising buffalo on our ranch in Alberta, Canada, I imagined myself scuttling up a tree as some ice-age monster snorted and pawed the ground underneath me. I spent the first few days in abject terror, but it didn’t take too long to get used to these surprisingly gentle beasts.Buffalo ranching is different from raising cattle. The fences have to be higher for one thing—despite their bulk, a buffalo can outrun a horse and jump a five-foot fence. And buffalo are insatiably curious. When they were in the pasture around our house we’d have buffalo nose-prints on all the lower-floor windows from their spying on human life. Once when we were sledding behind our house, the buffalo formed a line along the trail to watch us as we sped down the hill. They’d try it themselves, too—when the weather got icy, they would take a running start at our driveway, lock their legs, and skid down to the bottom. We have pictures of my brothers playing toy cars...
  • My Turn: Love on a Shoestring: Our $150 Wedding

    You might call me a minimalist, or just plain cheap, but when I set out to plan my recent wedding I didn't want anything elaborate. My husband-to-be, Richard, agreed, although he did harbor a wish for a Vegas drive-through wedding with an Elvis impersonator as our witness.We both love nature and simplicity, so we could have driven 65 miles south to Colorado and married, just the two of us, in the mountains, with a license that said parties to the marriage in the space provided for the wedding officiant. No minister, no witnesses necessary. If we'd done that, we could have had a $50 wedding. But we wanted, as Richard said, "someone there to say a few inspiring words." So we decided to splurge.Splurging, of course, is relative. The average U.S. wedding now costs more than $27,000. Granted, I have been out of school for a while, but $27,000 is more than I spent on my entire college education, including two graduate degrees.How has a nearly $30,000 price tag become acceptable for a one...
  • Pope's Book: A Lifetime of Learning

    Who was Jesus, really? It has become acceptable, even fashionable, lately to speak of the Christian Lord in casual terms, as though he were an acquaintance with a mysterious past. Pope Benedict's trip to Brazil last week revived an old retelling of the Christian story in which Jesus is cast as a social revolutionary determined to overthrow the established order. The massive success of "The Da Vinci Code" reflected the hunger of millions to see Jesus as a regular person—a man with a wife and a child, a popular teacher whose true life story was subverted by the corporate self-interest of the early church. A look at any best-seller list reveals a thriving subcategory of readable scholarly and pseudo-scholarly books about the "real" Jesus: he was, they claim, a sage, a mystic, a rabbi, a boyfriend. He was a father, a pacifist, an ascetic, a prophet. In some parts of the Christian world, the aspects of Jesus' story that most strain credibility—the virgin birth and the physical...
  • Lisa Lopes: Left Eye's Fatal Vision

    Lisa Lopes was a sad, tortured person—that much was clear after the TLC singer burned down her boyfriend's mansion in Atlanta back in 1994. But until you've seen the documentary "Last Days of Left Eye" (premiering May 19 on VH1), you have no idea how miserable she was. There are the scars on her forearm that spell HATE—Lopez cut the letters with a disposable razor, in part to obscure the LOVE that she had carved before. At its height, TLC was the top-selling female R&B group, but that didn't stop Lopes from fighting with her bandmates, with the media and with her father, whom she blamed for turning her into an alcoholic. Lopes actually started the film during a 2002 "spiritual journey" to Honduras, where she'd hoped to make peace with her many demons. But bad luck seemed to follow her like a dark cloud, and it flew with her to Honduras, too. Lopes is in the passenger seat—and filming—when her car runs over a 7-year-old boy and kills him. It gets worse. A few days later, Lopes is...

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