Archive for MARGINALIA

The Future Looks Uninspired

Billy Bragg, who STOP SMILING interviewed for our UK Issue, once sang that since the Space Race ended, “I can’t help but feel we’re all just going nowhere” — in the current Atlantic Monthly, PJ O’Rourke joins Bragg’s lament for the coma to which our collective imagination seem to have succumbed in his polemic against Disney’s new version of Tomorrowland; meanwhile, from the people who brought us Phoenix — possibly the worst example of modern city planning in the country — comes Mesa, a sprawling city/suburb lumped onto the Arizona capital that, after decades of explosive growth, is more populous than Cleveland (yet only one story tall), and has just annexed another huge chunk of Arizona desert upon which it will attempt to build a bustling “city of the future,” we’re sure, to the delight of strip mall enthusiasts worldwide.

| |

Where’s the Latin Love?

Though the hearts of Latin American literature enthusiasts have been aflutter lately in response to the heaps of excitement surrounding Roberto Bolano — and the prospect of that attention bringing about a renaissance of Spanish-language lit in the States akin to that of the 1960s — the lists of “best books of 2008” that have begun to emerge show Bolano largely alone among mostly English texts; Bookslut editor Jessa Crispin notes in the introduction to her NPR’s “Best Foreign Books of 2008,” which includes Horacio Castellanos-Moya’s Senselessness, that Nobel Prize judge Horace Engdahl’s criticism of American publishers being uninterested in translations is difficult to refute; meanwhile, as the US scratches its head over California’s passage of Proposition 8, Mexican transvestites in Oaxaca are living fabulously with the blessings of their community.

| |

China’s Censors Get One Right?

Never renowned for its tolerance or sense of humor, the Chinese government has ostensibly banned Guns N’ Roses‘ new album, Chinese Democracy, calling it a “venomous attack” via the Communist Party’s media mouthpiece, the Global Times; in an essay about Chinese censorship in the Expatriate Issue of STOP SMILING, Panthea Lee writes that “anything that may jeopardize President Hu Jintao‘s vision of a ‘harmonious society’ is off-limits,” which would explain the Party’s rationale for the ban; the effect of this development on Axl Rose’s notoriously unique psyche is yet to be known.

| |

Radio is a Sound Salvation

As print publications bite the dust left and right in the Internet age, radio remains largely unscathed, and seems to actually be flourishing. In today’s Washington Post, Kathleen Parker reminds us that for the cost of six Apache helicopters the US can continue to fund Radio Free Europe, which acts as an information lifeline in censorship-friendly places like Iran and desolate countries like Afghanistan; STOP SMILING has done a fair share of profiles on prominent radio personalities like Ira Glass, Studs Terkel, Garrison Keillor and Spalding Gray; and many of the events STOP SMILING puts on are recorded for WBEZ Chicago, 91.5 FM, and are available on its website — these include readings by Nathaniel Rich and Alexander Hemon, and musical performances by Fred Anderson & Hamid Drake and Plastic Crimewave. STOP SMILING plans to launch its own podcast early next year, the first shows of which will feature David Sedaris (pictured here), Kurt Vonnegut, Lewis Lapham and more.

| |

The Moscow Trot

Christopher Hitchens was momentarily agog on a recent visit to Cuba, where he learned of ailing former president Fidel Castro‘s desire to build a Russian Orthodox Church in Havana, even though no one in Cuba practices Russian Orthodoxy — until he remembered (aha!) that Fidel has never been one to walk too far from the Moscow party line (which has become increasingly influenced by said church in the era of Vladimir Putin); meanwhile, STOP SMILING contributor Jon Fasman is traveling the US on a book tour in support of his new novel, The Unpossessed City, in which the protagonist has his own unnerving traipse through Moscow.

| |

Further Destruction of Our Oceans

Despite overwhelming evidence of harm, humanity continues to push our oceans to the brink. The latest injustices: The Supreme Court decided to lift two restrictions on the Navy’s use of sonar in training exercises off the California coast, despite the fact that “the noise is earsplitting — as loud as 2,000 jet engines, according to environmental groups — to acoustically sensitive whales and other marine mammals”; Mark Bittman writes in the New York Times that “if current fishing practices continue, the world’s major commercial stocks will collapse by 2048“; and for more on the overfishing of our oceans, check out our DC Issue, where STOP SMILING contributor and seafood sustainability advocate Barton Seaver writes about the affects of our rabid consumption on the Chesapeake Bay and beyond. The depths to which we sink…

| |

Studs Terkel (1912-2008)

The author, activist and oral historian who provided a voice for the voiceless has passed away at his home in Chicago at 96. “It is hard to imagine a fuller life” (Chicago Tribune); view Terkel’s bibliography (“His bookshelf spans a century”); profiles and remembrances from In These Times, The Atlantic, the New York Times and The Nation; reactions from the campaign trail by Barack Obama; reflections from his longtime editor and friend Andre Schiffrin; a letter from Roger Ebert; and click here to read Terkel’s conversation with STOP SMILING, published in 2005 in our Chicago Issue. “Was he the greatest Chicagoan?” Ebert wrote in the Chicago Sun-Times. “I cannot think of another. For me, he represented the joyous, scrappy, liberal, generous, wise-cracking heart of this city.”

| |

Pardon the Interracial Interruption

Amid the backlash from all the bungling this week on Capitol Hill, one interesting item slipped through the cracks: Last Friday, the House of Representatives recommended that Jack Johnson, the first black heavyweight champion, “should be granted a presidential pardon for a racially motivated conviction 75 years ago that blemished his reputation and hurt his boxing career” (read more at ESPN); Johnson, who was convicted of violating the Mann Act, which outlawed the transportation of women across state lines for immoral purposes, was the cover story of our Boxing Issue, released in 2005 (click here to read an excerpt of our interview with Ken Burns in support of his film about Johnson, Unforgivable Blackness). Now forgivable!

| |

The World According to Ebert

Since leaving his post at Ebert & Roeper in July to focus on health issues, Chicago Sun-Times critic Roger Ebert has turned to advocacy in the pages of his flagship newspaper: First there was his thumbs-down rebuttal to departing sports columnist and provocateur Jay Mariotti (“Jay the Rat,” screams the headline), and now — following word that “a fellow critic yelled at him and whacked him on the knee with a program during a movie screening at the Toronto Film Festival last weekend” — comes an uncharacteristic analysis of a political phenomenon, “The American Idol candidate.” Click here to read Ebert’s interview with STOP SMILING in our Chicago Issue.

| |

Elliott Gould Brings it Back Home

This weekend marks the beginning of a 10-film retrospective at the BAMcinematek for Elliott Gould in the actor’s hometown of Brooklyn: Now Gould, one of the central players in STOP SMILING’s recent 14-page cover story tribute to the quintessential gambling film California Split, has been the toast of the New York arts pages. In the New York Times, Dennis Lim celebrates Gould’s body of work, and offers insights from the Bensonhurst native’s days as “Mr. Streisand” to his “existential walkabout” after working with Ingmar Bergman (related: click here to read about Bergman’s impact on Sweden’s divorce rate); and in the New York Sun, Bruce Bennet writes that Gould “did indeed personify the Nixon-era antihero in all its three-dimensionally neurotic glory” and that, despite living in Los Angeles, he remains “a son of Brooklyn.” “‘I was brought up in Brooklyn, yeah,'” [Gould] confirmed before ticking off his childhood address on Olympic Parkway (pre-ZIP-code single-digit postal code and all) as if reciting it to a police officer.”

| |

« Previous Page« Previous entries « Previous Page · Next Page » Next entries »Next Page »