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by Nikki Tranter

20 Dec 2007

It’s been a strange week in Book World, something I didn’t exactly anticipate when searching for news articles to post in our first News Round-up, set to continue Fridays in the New Year. I’m excited, though, that a simple Google news search using the word “author” can yield such interesting results. Either Google itself singles out the best stuff, or Book World strives never to bore. I’ll go with the latter, and leave you with Re:Print‘s very first news round-up.

Terry Pratchett struck with on-set Alzheimer’s:
Much has been written on Pratchett’s revelation. This article from the Bath Chronicle is particularly significant as the author is a former staff writer. Pratchett’s response to his condition is light-hearted. More can be found on Pratchett’s website.

George Bernard Shaw‘s biographer murdered:
Britain’s Ham & High newspaper reports: “Allan Chappelow, freelance photographer and the author of several books on the playwright George Bernard Shaw, was found dead in his home in Downshire Hill in June 2006 under a pile of papers”. The more you read, the more curious things get. Accused of Chappelow’s murder is a financial trader. The case may be the first murder trial heard in Central Criminal Court with cameras barred. Chappelow’s home was so badly in need of repair tthat it was on English Heritage’s At-Risk Register—it mysteriously burned down during the murder investigation.

Author of The Snowman remains flummoxed at book’s success:
The 25th anniversary of Raymond Briggs’ The Snowman has forced the the author to comment on something he never wished to discuss ever again his life.

David Walliams of Little Britain signs children’s book deal:
Another one. Reports tells us the book will be aimed at 12-year-olds and will feature “an engaging boy hero”.

Laura Archera Huxley dies:
Aldous Huxley’s fascinating wife passed away this week. This brief article mentions many of her wonderful eccentricities, including her yoga and treadmilling into her 90s, and her dedication to “the nurturing of the possible human” through her children’s charities.

Pope hates The Golden Compass:
Not really a surprise. The Daily Telegraph reports that the Pope has ‘slammed Nicole Kidman’s latest movie The Golden Compass, with the Vatican labeling it “Godless and hopeless”’.

and finally ...

Lisa Welchel from The Facts of Life is proud of pregnant teen star, Jamie Lynn Spears:
Christian book author and former child star, Welchel (aka Blair), says “good on you” to Jamie Lynn for keeping her baby. Welchel is quoted on the ABC News website: “I’m so proud of her for stepping up and being courageous and taking responsibility for her choices, and I believe she’s being a good role model—a good role model in that situation, to choose to have the baby, and … I am supportive of her in that situation.”

by Jason Gross

20 Dec 2007

Despite the FCC’s sleazy victory in handing more power over to large media conglomerates, you can still work to stop this by having Congress step in to do something.  See info below from stopbigmedia.com:

The Federal Communications Commission approved new rules that will unleash a flood of media consolidation across America. The new rules will further consolidate local media markets—taking
away independent voices in cities already woefully short on local news and investigative journalism.

Congress has the power to throw out these rules—and if 100,000 people demand it, they’ll have to listen. Click on the link below to sign the open letter to Congress urging them to stop the FCC and stand with the public interest.

http://action.freepress.net/campaign/sbmopenletter/

http://action.freepress.net/campaign/sbmopenletter?rk=hpsEDbK1uyCvW

by Bill Gibron

19 Dec 2007

When Santa sits back in his North Pole office and tallies up the boy and girl balance sheet every year, one wonders what exactly he uses as a means of measurement. It used to be that obeying one’s parents, doing well in school, and avoiding the pitfalls and problems of growing up were the essential benchmarks for a ranking of “good”, while putting a tack on teacher’s chair, pouring ink on Mommy’s rug and filling the sugar bowl with ants warranted a score of “bad” and a mandatory gift of furnace fuel. But now, in a world that excuses almost any behavior as part of the maturation process, it must be impossible to differentiate between disobedient and merely misunderstood.

The same thing applies to seasonal films. For everyone who wants nothing but visions of sugarplums and candy cane wishes, there are people who prefer their seasons greetings more mocking and satiric. Then there are a chosen few who can effortlessly manage between the two ideals, easily enjoying both the joyful and the jaundiced. Therefore, SE&L will separate its list of the best Christmas/holiday films of all time into two categories – naughty and nice. It’s the only way to cover all the jingle bell basics and make sure that everyone’s Yule is as cool as possible. While far from definitive, the undeniable delights of the divergent films featured guarantee no cinematic coal in any film fans stocking.

1. Nice: Miracle on 34th Street (1947)
Forget all the ridiculous remakes and stick with the sparkling and effervescent original. This terrific take on the commercialization of the season never fails to bring a smile to even the most mean, miserable face. Featuring Edmund Gwenn in a role that would redefine the personification of Santa for decades to come, this masterful little fable about belief and hope is a breathtaking combination of cynical and magical – the perfect combination of Christmas then and now. 

2. Naughty: Christmas Evil
Asking the disturbing question of how society would react to someone taking the role of Santa seriously, Lewis Jackson’s amazing motion picture assessment of one man’s descent into Kringle craziness remains a forgotten mistletoed masterpiece. In the lead role, Brandon Maggart spends his days in a toy factory, his nights making lists of the local school children. But when he finally ventures out on Christmas Eve, his moralistic intentions become confused, creating a memorable spree of Yuletide terror.


3. Nice: A Christmas Story
Few remember that Bob Clark’s now traditional cinematic treat was an unfettered flop when it first hit theaters in November of 1983. Apparently, audiences weren’t quite prepared to experience the knowing nostalgia of holidays circa the pre-War era. It took home video, and dozens of showings on Turner stations like TBS, to transform this clever comic take on holidays past into a timeless seasonal celebration. Now, devotees wouldn’t be caught dead missing a single moment of this festive familial farce. 

4. Naughty: Black Christmas (1976)
Bob Clark again, this time utilizing the holiday season for his inventive twist on the slasher film. Without the strict cinematic mandates that the genre would require throughout the late ‘70s and early ‘80s, Clark created the first subversive slice and dice, providing little explanation for the sorority attacks, and no actual resolution. With a narrative featuring eerie phone calls from a horrifying killer named Billy, this film is a perfect antidote for all the tinsel and treacle.

5. Nice: Scrooge
Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol has long been considered a Saturnalia standard. But of all the versions of his venerable Victorian allegory, this 1970 musical version starring Albert Finney is the most magical. Using an Oliver-esque approach to its recreation of London (read: grimy and grim) and amplifying the story’s supernatural elements, director Ronald Neame and composer Leslie Bricusse deliver a wonderfully winning effort, truer to the literary classic than any other adaptation out there. 

6. Naughty: Tim Burton’s A Nightmare Before Christmas
Stealing the stop motion animation crown from those loveable TV titans Rankin and Bass, Burton scripted a timeless treasure that suits both Santa and Satan quite well. As poor misguided Jack Skellington, the King of Halloweentown, tries to unravel the secrets of Christmas’ festive feeling of fun, we are treated to a world loaded with artistic marvels and inventive iconography. Perfectly suited for October or December, this is one flight of fancy that grows more and more magical, year after year. 

7. Nice: The Polar Express
Some still find this first experiment in CGI rotoscoping to be a little disconcerting – the humans do appear rather stiff and disturbing in their zombie like blankness – but no one can fault Robert Zemeckis’ Christmas Card come to life look for the film. Thanks to the 3D imagery, this movie comes alive with startling seasonal symbols and moments of sheer cinematic bliss. Like most holiday treasures, its thrills are as universal as a smile and as special as the time of year.

8. Naughty: Lucky Stiff
Another forgotten masterwork, this time centering on an overweight lonely heart that’s invited to a Christmas celebration by a red hot honey he meets at a ski resort. Oh course, she and her family are cannibals, cruising the country for fatted ‘calves’ to clean and dress for their own festive flesh feast. Starring voice-over artist Joe Alasky as the blimp, and Donna Dixon as the blonde with an eye for prime man meat, this quirky black comedy delivers nonstop laughs.

9. Nice: It’s a Wonderful Life
Like A Christmas Story, Frank Capra’s look at the fragility of the American dream was more or less ignored by late ‘40s audiences. But once TV took up its cause, and a lapsed copyright allowed unlimited home video releases, the once overlooked gem became a true seasonal standard. Featuring fine turns by Jimmy Stewart, Donna Reed and Lionel Barrymore, what some found almost anti-American 60 years ago is now viewed as the perfect piece of old school Hollywood craftsmanship.


10. Naughty: Bad Santa
Nothing illustrates our post-modern mindset toward the holidays better than this crude family film about a drunk and debaucherous Santa who uses his department store position as a means of casing joints for his annual Xmas eve robberies. Unfortunately, a chubby little gingersnap known only as “The Kid” throws our Kris Kringle crook for a loop. The result is both hilarious and heartwarming, with just enough scatology thrown in to keep the Noel nasty

 

by Jason Gross

19 Dec 2007

In this Wire interview, these two icons discuss the latest Radiohead album of course but what was more interesting to me was their conversation about why albums are still important in a download age.

by Rob Horning

19 Dec 2007

Daniel Gross pointed out the obvious in this recent Slate column about the National Association of Realtors: You can’t trust anything their forecasters say.

Within the fraternity of financial and fiscal forecasters, the seers at the National Association of Realtors—longtime chief economist David Lereah and his successor Lawrence Yun—may be uniquely ill-equipped to deliver sobering forecasts. They work for a trade group whose mission is to buck up the spirits of real-estate brokers. And real-estate brokers—who live to sell, promote, and market—are constitutionally disinclined to hear anything but good news.


This is apparent to anyone who follows developments in the housing industry in the business press, yet the business press continues to report their meaningless sunshiny accounts of the economy as though it constitutes news, discrediting other analysts across the board. Journalosts could get much more reputable numbers from the National Association of Home Builders, a trade association rather than a sales association, with less of an agenda in its forecasts.

Since economic analysts have such strong incentives to be optimistic—it’s what clients generally want to hear, and optimistic forecasts foment increased confidence, which tends to feed on itself—a knee jerk pessimism is almost de rigeur for economists who wants to establish their independence. Nothing but innate contrarianism gives incentive to be negative. As a result, bearish views on the economy always seem to be more credible, regardless of the underlying economic data. Of course the data itself can be made to tell whatever story is preferred, if analysts are suitably unscrupulous and the reporters gullible enough. That’s why CEPR economist Dean Baker will never run out of material for his blog, Beat the Press, which recounts examples of shoddy or biased economic reporting—usually this is a matter of failing to give reference points for figures presented for shock value, or neglecting to adjust for inflation, or cherry-picking data, or presenting predictions as facts, or cheerleading for the Dow or the S&P 500 as though investors’ fortunes were synonymous with the fortunes of the economy at large. But like the NAR, the business press has the interests of its readers at heart, and seeks to keep them cheerful and reassured.

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