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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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…