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Archive for January, 2010|Monthly archive page

Karen Schmeer, 39, 'Fog of War' Editor, Killed As Thieves Flee Their Manhattan Drugstore Robbery

In Crime, entertainment on January 31, 2010 at 11:08 pm

This is a brutal story of a stupid, ugly, senseless way to die — mowed down by a pair of thugs fleeing their crime scene, reports The New York Post:

Karen Schmeer, 39, of Boston, was crossing Broadway between West 90th and 91st streets Friday night when the getaway car, a rented 2010 Dodge Avenger, pinned her against a double-parked vehicle, sending her groceries flying.

Schmeer, whose editing of “The Fog of War,” about former Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara, helped earn an Oscar for director Errol Morris, was in town working on a film, said her father, Michael.

Garret SavageMEAN STREET: Karen Schmeer (above), editor of Errol Morris' film

Garret Savage
MEAN STREET: Karen Schmeer (above), editor of Errol Morris’ film “The Fog of War” died in a car crash for which David McKie was arrested.

She was staying with a friend on West 89th Street and editing an HBO movie about the late chess great Bobby Fischer.

“I’ve known Karen for a very long time, and she was my finest editor,” Morris told The Post yesterday. “She was immensely talented. It’s a huge loss.”

As We Lose 'Lost' and 'Ugly Betty', TV's 22 Best-Ever Female Characters

In entertainment, women on January 30, 2010 at 8:43 am
Playing through

Image by ewen and donabel via Flickr

As “Lost” is about to start its final season February 2, I’m going to miss Kate, its feisty and ferocious character who’s dominated many of the show’s story lines. I’ve loved her complexity and ferociousness and, as a fellow Canadian, loved the fact she’s not one more scrawny Hollywood blond, but a graduate in international relations from the University of British Columbia, happier in real life changing the oil on big rigs than modeling, both jobs she did to pay her college tuition.

Here are some of the women I’ve loved, laughed at and cried with over the years.

Here’s a site listing 30 more, and another with their top 10. Interestingly, a survey of 2,378 on-line readers found that 70.7 percent of respondents tartly replied they don’t look to TV for role models, just entertainment.

My picks:

C.J. Cregg, played by Allison Janney, on The West Wing the Aaron Sorkin drama that ran from 1999 to 2006. Tall, gangly, smart as hell, C.J. was a great mix of tough and tender, funny as hell in her role as director of White House communications.

Mary Richards, the Mary Tyler Moore Show, which ran on CBS from 1970 to 1977, a major first with a woman who wasn’t married or desperate to marry. At the time, Mary was a role model, all eager excitement about having a career and living on her own in the big city.

Lucy Ricardo, the star of “I Love Lucy”, played by Lucille Ball. She and her husband, Desi Arnaz, formed a production company, Desilu Productions, responsible for many of the hit television series of the 1960s and 1970s.

Christina Yang, played by Canadian actress Sandra Oh, on ABC’s hit Grey’s Anatomy. How many women characters anywhere get to be this stubborn, driven and so frequently emotionally tone-deaf? If you’ve ever met a successful surgeon, you’ll know there’s some truth in her portrayal. And Chandra Wilson, playing Dr. Bailey, whose marriage blows up thanks to her devotion to her career; many ambitious women can identify with her struggles to juggle family and work.

Cagney & Lacey, played by Tyne Daley and Sharon Gless, 1982-1988, in the cop drama series of the same name. Every cop show — every iteration of Law & Order — owes a debt of thanks to this show, the first TV drama to star two women.

Betty Suarez, played by America Ferrara, on Ugly Betty. A TV star who isn’t rail-thin? That’s news in itself. Betty’s work ethic could light a continent. So could her heart. Are you as persuaded as someone I know she’s going to end up marrying Daniel?

Dana Scully of The X-Files, played by Gillian Anderson, 1993-2002. Who didn’t want to be Scully, all cool rationality in the face of her partner Fox Mulder’s obsessiveness?

The women of ABC’s hit drama “Lost”: Kate, played by Canadian actress Evangeline Lilly, Junyin Kim as Sun,  and Juliet, the cool, blond doctor, played by Elizabeth Mitchell.

Deputy Chief Brenda Leigh, aka The Closer, played by Kyra Sedgwick.

Patty Hewes, Damages, played by Glenn Close, on the FX cable channel.

Murphy Brown, played by Candice Bergen. TV’s first single mom by choice. How many television characters have ever provoked a Vice-Presidential response?

Stacey London, playing herself, in TLC’s reality show for the fashion-challenged What Not To Wear. Sue me, I love this show. As someone who finds shopping overwhelming and often just annoying, I enjoy watching her help women look their best.

The women of NBC’s hospital-based drama ER, which ran from September 1994 to April 2009: Linda Cardellini as Samantha Taggart, Alex Kingston as the widowed Dr. Corday, Nurse Abby Lockhart — prickly and determined to become, as she did, a physician.

Detective Jane Tennison in the British series Prime Suspect, played by Helen Mirren for 15 years. Chain-smoking, driven, compelling.

Lindsay Weir, Freaks and Geeks, 1999-2000, a short-lived but well-loved drama/comedy about life in high school. The role was played by Linda Cardellini, who later showed up as Samantha Taggart in ER, yet another prickly, complicated woman, a rare species on television at any time.

Lt. Uhura, played by Michelle Nichols, in the original 1960s Star Trek. Nyotu Uhura was the ship’s communications officer, a smart, professional black woman as a central character on a network television show, NBC, at a time when racial segregation still existed. The original show first aired in 1966 and only ran for three seasons and is the television show with the most spin-offs ever. Live long and prosper!

Who gets your vote?

Adios, Chica — 'Ugly Betty' Canceled

In entertainment on January 29, 2010 at 8:24 pm
Ugly Betty

Image via Wikipedia

Dios mio! One of favorite shows, ever, Ugly Betty, has been canceled. Of course, moving the show from Thursday night to Friday night to a belated Wednesday night spot didn’t help.

Now we’ve got only a few shows left, ever, to watch the antics of Wilhelmina Slater and Daniel and Betty and her Dad and Hilda. I’ll miss it.

I loved Betty’s huge heart, her willingness to do the right thing no matter how unfashionable. I loved that she was climbing the greasy pole of Manhattan magazine publishing in her own way. Anyone who’s ever stepped one stilletoed toe in the halls of Conde Nast can appreciate the sort of walls anyone like Betty, with her outer-borough wardrobe and outsize ambitions, was facing.

My partner is Hispanic, so I also enjoyed watching the domestic dramas that can come with a family that’s typically a little more out-there emotionally than us WASPs.  And few other prime-time shows that gained such popularity featured a working-class Hispanic family.

Given a choice between Betty La Fea and atrocities like Cougartown, I know where my vote lies. Adios, chica!

Scott Roeder Found Guilty Of Murder of George Tiller, Abortion Doctor

In Medicine, news, women on January 29, 2010 at 12:37 pm
Cropped from a news photo of George Tiller, Dr.

Dr. Tiller, Image via Wikipedia

It took the jury 37 minutes to reach their verdict on the man who described planning the shooting death of Kansas abortion doctor George Tiller as “a relief” after he’d pulled the trigger, reports The New York Times:

Abortion rights supporters lauded the ruling, saying it sends a strong, unambiguous message to others who believe violence against abortion doctors is justified that such acts will be punished. Abortion opponents, meanwhile, said that Mr. Roeder — who admitted to the killing in open court but said that was the only way he could stop the deaths of babies — had not received a fair trial, and that the outcome would only encourage more violence.

During closing arguments on Friday morning, Mr. Roeder sat silent and expressionless as prosecutors portrayed the shooting of Dr. Tiller at his church on May 31 as not just premeditated murder but as “a planned assassination” that had been proven “not only beyond a reasonable doubt but beyond any doubt.”

“He claims justification,” Kim Parker, a prosecutor said, calling on jurors here to uphold the law, not Mr. Roeder’s views of abortion, which, she said, he had proudly trumpeted on the witness stand. “These are not the acts of a justified man. These acts are cowardly.”

Mr. Roeder’s lawyers had called for acquittal. Mark Rudy, a public defender, told jurors that Mr. Roeder, 51, had developed such strong feelings about his religious faith and against abortion that he had ultimately felt compelled to shoot Dr. Tiller, who had performed abortion for three decades and was a focal point for controversy nationally.

The entire “debate” manages to omit the key player in these narratives — the women who feel an abortion is necessary and who seek a safe, legal way to obtain one. It’s a woman’s body and her right to determine what happens to, and within it. Roeder and his ilk are terrifying in their self-righteouness.

Here’s the full story.

The iPad's (and Kindle's) One Inherent Flaw

In business, Media on January 29, 2010 at 8:52 am
Books behind the bed

Image by zimpenfish via Flickr

Loss of connection.

Not connectivity. Connecting readers.

While many are thrilled at this new world, one in which nasty old paper artifacts like printed books, magazines and newspapers will disappear — and not a moment too soon! — here’s something that bothers me.

How many times, whether you’re 25 or 65, have you discovered a story, an idea, an author or a new friend because you saw what they were reading? Two nights ago, I was getting off the commuter train from Manhattan to my suburban town. I noticed a woman behind me reading “An American Wife” by Curtis Sittenfeld, a book that’s received rave reviews which I have yet to read.

“What do you think of it?” I asked, without preamble. “I really like it,” she replied.

“Have you read ‘Prep’?” She hadn’t, which led, as we shared the doorway ready to exit, to a brief conversation.

For me, there were multiple pleasures in this: two readers, two Sittenfeld fans trading notes, two neighbors having a quick conversation about work. All of it sparked by the visible physical presence of a book. I don’t know about you, but I’ve done this, and it’s happened to me worldwide, on planes and trains, in waiting rooms and airport lounges, anywhere someone is reading printed matter — or I am — a lively, enjoyable conversation has begun when two strangers realize they love the same thing.

Community.

This may seem trivial. It is deeply important to authors because books become best-sellers in one way: word of mouth. Not ads, not reviews, not book clubs. Word of mouth. And, as someone whose first book has been rendered invisible by its publisher thanks to print-on-demand (i.e. it is not sold any more in bookstores, only available by special order), a book that is not seen is a book that is not heard about, not loved, not argued over, not sold.

Re-play this recent scene with the young woman reading an iPad. There is no point of conversational entry. I can’t see what she’s reading, nor can anyone else. You can’t as we all have done, read over their shoulder, or, subway-typical, read the other side of whatever newspaper page might be held up in front of you.

Is this a loss or a gain?

Privacy. Anonymity. Facelessness. These are becoming the new hallmarks of people who read, thanks to the new ways in which they are reading.

I was given a Kindle for my birthday last June. I love almost every gift I reveive from my partner, but this one failed. I’ve barely looked at it since — and yesterday came home from our local library with half a dozen books, with more on order. As I write my new book, I’m also buying books for research, books I need to dog-ear, underline, Post-it note, photocopy for research. I need, and want, a physical object when I read. I already spend my bloody worklife attached to a screen. I want to flee!

And, as someone who also deeply values design, photography, even typefaces, the loss of the visual beauty of a printed book saddens me; I love the cover of my first book and look forward to seeing what the designers choose for my next one.

As someone who never leaves her home without at least 1-4 forms of printed reading material, who thrives on the pleasure of shared enthusiasm for a great story, idea or writer, these sexy new toys annoy me on another level.

Anyone who deeply values thoughtful reading looks forward, perhaps with some trepidation, to the first time they enter the home of a new friend or someone they have fallen in love with — what do they read? A quick glance (every journo’s trick, which is another reason why about 99% of celebrity interviews are held in restaurants) at someone’s bookshelves often reveals a great deal about their taste level, their ambitions, history, hopes and dreams.

If they don’t even have bookshelves, let alone stacks of magazines, that’s a warning sign for me. Are they addicted to sci-fi? Cookbooks? Self-help? History? Thrillers? An intellectual match, for some of us, is as much as crucial piece of “chemistry” as someone’s smile, smell or sense of humor.

If you’re deeply curious about their reading habits, what are you going to do — grab their iPad or Kindle and sneak a quick peek when they go to the bathroom?

If all books, magazines and newspapers disappear from their printed forms, if all we read is on our private, invisible, unshared electronic machines, have we lost anything valuable?

Mosquitos, Black Flies, Leeches, Hunger — The Benefits of Summer Camp

In parenting on January 28, 2010 at 9:53 am
Campers and staff of Camp Becket of the Becket...

Image via Wikipedia

Need a break? Not you, your kids. Send’ em off to summer camp, says author Wendy Mogel:

Mogel has gained a loyal following as the consummate anti-hyper-parent since her 2001 book, The Blessing of a Skinned Knee. The book draws on the teachings of the Torah and the Talmud to encourage parents to back off, let kids make mistakes, endure bad moments and learn self-reliance.

The event this Sunday will be her first time speaking in Canada, but she has delivered her message to camp organizations across the United States.

“In an era when the default position is overprotection, over- indulgence and overscheduling … camp is a wildly potent antidote,” says Mogel.

She broke her leg riding bareback at camp one summer but stayed and learned to fish.

As Mogel wrote in a 2006 article in Camping Magazine: “Kids, at camp you will get all kinds of valuable gifts; you will get homesick, other campers will be mean to you, the food won’t be great, you’ll be cold and hot and hungry … I hope all of this will happen to you because otherwise you are deprived. Of life. Of its thorns and its roses.”

I grew up in a non-hot-house family and in a time when kids were actually allowed to make mistakes and learn from them, our young lives filled with boredom and empty hours — that we learned to fill with our imaginations or own activities.

I went off to summer camp, every summer all summer, from the age of eight to the age of 16. I loved it.

I attended three different camps, all in northern Ontario, and am still friends with a few of the girls I met there. I can think of few life-shaping, character-altering experiences more powerful than finding a sleep-away camp you love. I discovered a deep, powerful and abiding devotion to a life spent often outdoors; learned how physically strong and capable I am; learned that I could make new friends. I even learned, at 16, I had leadership skills when I was elected by fellow campers to a role that demanded planning, ideas, creativity and motivating dozens of girls my age and younger.

Every month, we’d put on a musical and I usually won the lead role — anyone want a chorus of “Just In Time”? I played my guitar and sang songs I’d written at our Sunday evening talent shows. My confidence speaking publicly is a direct result of stepping onto a stage year after year, building my skills and starting to trust them. Unlike boarding school, where the focus was on obedience and endless achievement, camp was a place to test new ideas, skills and muscles, to renew and deepen friendships, to learn to trust our counselors. We earned and won badges for our skills — J-stroke, jibing, canter — but the larger point was trying, not winning.

When you’re out on a week-long canoe trip, in the rain on an enormous lake with a headwind, what choice do you have? Whine, bitch, moan, give up? No. Paddle hard, belt out some great paddling songs, and get to the next campsite. Nature is becoming an abstraction for many kids now, spending 7.5 hours a day attached to media-providing devices.

Nature is powerful and beautiful — and can kill you. But not if you learn to read a map and compass, how to give CPR, how to do an Eskimo roll or shoulder a 60-pound canoe over a muddy mile-long portage. Camp can teach you that.

Heard An Idol Tonight At ICP — Legendary Photographer Deborah Turbeville

In art, Media, women on January 27, 2010 at 11:00 pm
Diana Vreeland, the fashion icon.

D.V. whose feet D.T. photographed...Image via Wikipedia

I started out wanting to become a photographer. There were not many women doing it when I was a teen, but — to my profound delight — two of the legends from those days are still working and talking to the rest of us through the International Center of Photography, whose midtown Manhattan campus offers classes, workshops, degree programs and a lecture series by famous and less-famous photographers that kicked off this evening.

The first guest was Deborah Turbeville, whose photos really look like no one else’s, tough to do in an image-saturated world. With no photography training, she fell into the world of New York fashion as a model for the legendary sportswear designer Claire McCardell, went on to become an editor at Harper’s Bazaar and began shooting her own work. She created, and cherishes, photos filled with decay, ruin and imperfection — placing exquisite models and couture clothing in enormous old high-ceilinged rooms filled only with natural light or cracked mirrors.

She added lint and dust to her black and white prints, giving them the appearance of photos found in a flea-market tin or someone’s battered turn-of-the-century scrapbook.

The work is not, as it may sound, precious or pretentious or artificial, although it’s very much her creation and vision driving it all. Tonight she regaled the room of about 100 people, (a notably artsy crowd in which almost every single person wore black, gray or brown) with great stories behind some of the work — the Albertini twins and Monsieur Lemoine and the hunchback Jean who all kept trying to oversee her work while she was shooting a book at Versailles for, as she put it coyly “a very famous American woman”, whom I’m guessing was Jackie Onassis, for a while a Manhattan book editor.

“Monkeys were involved, parrots were involved. I’d go out into the street and pick people I thought would look right then dress them up,” she said. The Versailles images include women lying on the floor in huge dresses, a pile of dead autumn leaves a second skirt. “We just invented the whole book as we went along. I went around just snapping away.”

Filled with strong opinions, but funny and self-deprecating, she said she hates it– “I hate, hate, hate it!” — when someone comes to her studio, chooses an image and says: “This is the best one. There is no best one!”  She returns often to shoot in Russia and in weathered old Eastern European cities like Cracow and Budapest. “I love construction sites, things that are broken. It’s my vocabulary.”

Few women could so easily, and un-annoyingly, drop names like Mr. Liberman, (Conde Nast’s famed editorial director from 1962 to 1994) or have so avidly pursued an image — that she had to re-shoot — of the exquisite soft black leather pumps worn by the equally legendary Vogue editor Diana Vreeland. (Her autobiography, D.V., is a great read, beginning with the words, “I loathe nostalgia.”)

Turbeville is still shooting actively, most often for all the iterations of Italian Vogue, she said, mostly because they leave her alone; she told several stories of deeply annoyed clients who’d hired her to showcase their products, only to find them hidden, shadowed or disguised, as she did on a shoot for Calvin Klein shoes.

A show of her work opens next week in Manhattan at the Staley-Wise Gallery. Here’s her new book, Past Imperfect.

Come On, Get Happy!

In behavior on January 27, 2010 at 3:20 pm
A typical fish oil  softgel

Fish oil. Yes,it helps. Image via Wikipedia

In case you needed suggestions, here’s a recent list from New York magazine. (Ignore the hopelessly shameless PR-plugs rewritten they’ve tossed in throughout.)

I’ve done, or typically do, some of their 50 suggestions: 2) Make your bed; 12) beat a cop to an expiring meter by popping in a quarter for someone else; 19) assume the crazy people rushingreallyfast everywhere really are in some urgent hurry; 25) fish oil to soothe your mood; 27) move your body three times a week for 45 minutes; 31) collect visual memories of moments when you were incredibly happy and 39) spend some time with animals.

I especially like the idea of 34) Diversify your cognitive portfolio — museum Mondays, tennis Tuesdays, etc. and No. 44) Think like a shark, act like a five-year-old by moving about every 30 minutes.

My new screen saver is of a lovely moment on vacation last week, exactly one week ago, of me and a horse standing quietly together head to head, each staring off in opposite directions, each of us lost in quiet thought. Another one in the slide show is a tight close-up of Sammy, the ranch manager’s dog who was always insanely happy to play.

For me, a quick trip to happiness involves visual beauty (fresh white tulips on my desk), silence or lovely music, a great meal, chatting with a friend or learning something new.

Tonight I’m not — sorry — going to tune into Obama’s State of the Union speech. I see no way that will make me, or many of us right now, happy.

Instead I’m heading into Manhattan to heed suggestion no. 34 to listen to one of my photographic idols, Deborah Turbeville.

Demi's Missing Hip, Madonna's 'Ageless' Face, Crystal's Rolls: Newsweek's Gallery Of Re-Touched Women

In Media, women on January 27, 2010 at 10:22 am
Heideprinzesschen (Heathland Princess) by Frit...

A little young, but, you never know...Image via Wikipedia

Read this and weep — or snicker. But don’t compare your butt, thighs, crow’s feet or cellulite to theirs. They don’t have any!

For any woman, and her daughter(s) or younger female friends, who looks at magazine photos of “perfect” faces and bodies and despairs, buck up. It’s all about the re-touching. Lots of bright lighting and some Botox and great make-up all help, but nothing can beat a techno-fix after the photos have been shot. Any woman who miserably compares her real-life body and skin to the fake flawlessness of the images shoved at her daily in every medium is asking for trouble: plastic surgery, anorexia, bulimia, dieting. Misery.

Trying to attain the literally unattainable means billions in profit for the manufacturers of fake boobs, cosmetic procedures and products, diet companies, gyms. Women trying to look “just like” the women shown to us in ads and editorial images are trying to scale a greasy pole. It simply won’t work.

I attended a social event last night and wondered who the hhhhhottie in the black sequined T-shirt, thigh-high boots and skinny jeans might be. She had honey blond hair and looked stunning. It was a woman I’ve known for many years, but who I met when she weighed — as she told me last night — 90 pounds more. She was always, one could tell, beautiful. Now she’s slim, confident and — as the French say, bien dans sa peau (literally “happy in her skin”) — as much for her pride in beating back her food-related demons as re-discovering the pleasure of easily dressing well and enjoying her corporeal self.

I asked how she did it: a full year of meal replacements (2 shakes, 2 energy bars and 1 meal a day) and re-thinking what food means to her. I  need to lose weight and find the endless drama of that tedious, boring, frustrating and sometimes just overwhelming on top of my many other priorities.

Hard work, discipline, self-awareness, she said, without using those words. The basic tools we all know, deep down, rarely change in this regard.

Not re-touching.

Fame And Fortune At 60 — Michael Cera Loved 'Youth In Revolt', While Author Payne Waited Years For Success

In culture, entertainment, Media on January 27, 2010 at 8:59 am
Michael Cera, 2007

Michael Cera, fellow Canadian! Image via Wikipedia

The glamorous writer’s life!:

As the rakish, love-struck, sex-obsessed teen hero of the 1993 cult novel “Youth in Revolt,” Nick Twisp encounters all manner of obstacles, including dysfunctional parents, jealous rivals, the Berkeley police and, of course, acne.

Such a raft of challenges are not completely foreign to his creator, C. D. Payne, who has spent significant chunks of his own career struggling, working a series of lousy jobs, living in a trailer for four years and receiving a trail of rejection letters, professional and otherwise. Even with the critical success of “Youth in Revolt” — which he self-published in 1993 and which subsequently became an underground hit — Mr. Payne still couldn’t get a publisher for the book’s three sequels, which he ended up releasing himself.

But like Nick Twisp, Mr. Payne has been helped along by the passion of his fans, and has lately been enjoying a second surge of popularity, thanks to the well-received film version of the book, released this month. Mr. Payne’s list of admirers includes the producer David Permut, who worked for seven years and through three production companies to get the movie made, and Michael Cera, the adolescent specialist (see “Juno,” “Superbad,” “Nick and Nora’s Infinite Playlist”) who stars as Nick — and his devilish alter ego, Francois — in the film….

All of which has pleasantly surprised Mr. Payne, a quiet, unassuming 60-year-old — married with pet — who lives in this rustic Sonoma County town, about 50 miles north of San Francisco.

Born into a blue-collar family in Akron, Ohio, Mr. Payne started writing because “it was the only thing I tried in life I didn’t find boring,” he said.

“And for years,” he continued, “I couldn’t make any money at it.”

After making his way to Harvard, where he earned a history degree, Mr. Payne decamped to California in the early 1970s, eventually living in a trailer in Santa Monica, while dabbling in short humor, screenplays and even cartoons, all to negligible success. “I did the standard thing,” he said. “And I got all the rejections.”

By the late 1980s, he was living in the Bay Area and commuting to the Sharper Image, the San Francisco retailer of consumer gadgetry (since bankrupted), working as a bored-senseless copywriter. Mr. Payne said he began writing “Youth in Revolt” as a kind of psychic safety valve.

The book sounds like fun, and Payne lucked out. But it’s a cautionary tale for anyone who still hopes that writing a book or screenplay is a quick or certain road to fame and fortune.

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