People don’t want to believe

They don’t want to believe that major cities can’t sustain daily newspapers anymore. And they cry foul when a beloved character prostitutes herself for a partnership in a fictional ’60s ad firm. Why? Because they can’t — or simply won’t — believe it.

But in fact the move toward diminished print publication has been underway for a while now. Why should we expect the New Orleans Times-Picayune to be immune? Just because you love a city and its traditions doesn’t mean they can or will continue forever.

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Seriously, why did they make him do it?

I live near the water so I’m used to occasional foam on the beach.

The anchors at the Fox D.C. affiliate? Apparently not so much.

Over the weekend, at the height of Hurricane Irene, they kept marveling at the foam covering poor Tucker Barnes in Ocean City, Md., asking him question after question about its composition.

Barnes answered the best he could, but he clearly did not know that much more than they did. Later, a TV website asserted that the foam was “probably the remnants of raw sewage.” Which, ew, but maybe it wasn’t. (The report wasn’t all that conclusive.)

My bigger question: Why did they make him keep giving reports while foam of uncertain composition was spewing all over him? I do my best to avoid the stuff while I’m running barefoot on the sand.

You don’t have to read water quality reports to know that there are plenty of toxins in our waters under the best of circumstances, let alone raging hurricanes. (And trust me, if you have read those reports, you’ll really be squeamish about wading in during a storm, when runoff makes water quality especially dubious.)

My Wrap story on hurricane coverage, complete with video of Tucker and a streaker in Virginia Beach, is here.

Telling it like it is: The ugly truth about sexism (and ageism)

Manohla Dargis’s barbaric yawp about Hollywood went viral yesterday, and for good reason: The NYT critic let loose on rampant sexism in an interview with feminist-leaning Jezebel, spewing four-letter words with abandon. The interview made explicit that which her Sunday NYT essay on female directors suggested: She’s deeply pissed off about studios that repeatedly fail women in their choices of material and talent.

Among the many choice bits:

Working within the system has not worked. It has not helped women filmmakers or, even more important, you and me, women audiences, to have women in the studio system.

and a personal pet peeve — the constant surprise that women like seeing entertaining movies about women:

This, gee whiz, Sex and the City‘s a hit, Twilight, hmm, wonder what’s going on here. Maybe they should not be so surprised. In the trade press, women audiences are considered a niche. How is that even possible? We’re 51 percent of the audience.

It’s not just the trade press, either; this surprise seems to creep into consumer box office reports as well.

Dargis is equally scathing about the suggestion that she take it easy on films directed by women, calling the notion “incredibly insulting.” But mostly she hopes that Kathryn Bigelow (pictured above) wins the Oscar for directing “The Hurt Locker,” a muscular action movie.

Ageism “Up in the Air”…

Lit slowdown

There’s something really great about Lewis Lapham’s decision to slow down, rather than speed up, his publication pace. The long-time editor of Harper’s magazine stepped down from the monthly two years ago and now devotes his editorial attention to Lapham’s Quarterly, a scholarly journal.

The focus is on historical writings. The target audience?  “People who wished they had paid more attention in school,” Lapham told the NYT. Yes, there’s a website, Tim Arango goes on to write, “but up-to-the-minute is not the mantra.”

Best yet, the dapper 74-year-old plans to start blogging. “I’m looking forward to that,” he told the NYT. “It’s a new form.”

I just hope more would-be publishers join him and Dave Eggers’ McSweeney’s in a slow-lit movement.

'Financial Lives of the Poets': Bumbling all the way to the poor house

financialpoets“The Financial Lives of the Poets” is avert-your-eyes funny: I kept putting it down, only to pick it right back up. Jess Walter spins comic discomfort out of his hero’s harebrained schemes the way Larry David does on “Curb Your Enthusiasm”: You know nothing good can come of his actions, and you’re right.

But you still want to see how it all turns out.

Matt Prior, a business reporter sorely lacking financial judgment, is behind the eight ball when “The Financial Lives of the Poets” begins: Laid off from his newspaper job, he’s about to lose his house, and, he suspects, his marriage. Not helping: the fact he gambled the family’s money on a crazy website marrying poetry and finance a few years earlier, or his wife Lisa’s eBay shopping spree. Other added pressures: His senile Dad is staying with them after losing his own nest egg to a stripper; the kids are in a private school the family can no longer pretend to afford.

So what does Matt do? Fall into a money making scheme straight out of “Weeds.” There’s a riotous mix of characters – evil bosses, fellow journos struggling to hold onto their jobs, and hapless drug dealers – that liven up the proceedings as Matt races against the clock, obsessively monitoring his wife’s online flirtations with a former boyfriend as he bumbles along.

Walter, a former newspaperman himself, isn’t interested in creating a sob story about our country’s financial predicament or flailing newspaper biz. Nor does he wag his fingers a la Michael Moore. The bosses and bankers are evil, but Matt and his cohort aren’t helping themselves with their foolhardy behavior.

No end to the comic indignities…

Rediscovering Sunset

sunset1973 There are times I feel frightfully middle-aged. Like when I watched my classmates shimmy alongside much younger alums at our reunion a couple weeks back. Today I was thrown by how much I enjoyed the latest issue of Sunset magazine. How could this be? I’ve always considered Sunset a mag for California housewives… and I’m definitely not that.
When I first checked out Sunset in the early ’70s, we were new to California, and the magazine seemed as exotic as the Birds of Paradise in our backyard. There were layouts on lanais and Asian-inspired recipes unlike anything in McCalls or Better Homes and Gardens, two of the other mags Mom subscribed to back then. Even though we didn’t stay long in SoCal, my mother relied on the Sunset recipe for potstickers for years, serving them up where ever we were living at the time. (We moved a lot as my Dad climbed the corporate ladder.)  

Today’s Sunset doesn’t seem nearly as exotic, but it’s refreshing  in its focus on home, travel and outdoor living. No giddy sex tips, parenting tribulations or couples counseling. There’s enough of that elsewhere; believe me, I don’t miss it.