WORST MAGAZINE COVER . . . EVER?

Visitors to the offices of Jann Wenner on Sixth Avenue and 51st Street will be treated to the sight of the many National Magazine Awards the magazines of Wenner Media have collected over the years, many of them quite justifiably for the art direction of Rolling Stone. Well, they won’t be winning any art direction awards this year, and they’ll be lucky if ASME doesn’t try to claw some back. Rolling Stone has just produced a hideous magazine featuring four of the stars of Mad Men, four people who, one would think could not be made to look bad, but who look collectively wretched in this picture. We’re guessing that the four performers were photographed separately or nearly so, and then the four pics were photo-shopped together, with other techniques to enhance the image and give it the look of a single picture. Fair enough–we’ve seen Time and GQ and others do that recently. But here the processes were astonishingly, amateurishly botched. The facial expressions on Jon Hamm, Christina Hendricks and January Jones look Botoxed. Only Elisabeth Moss looks natural, or reasonably so, but she has her own problems, having been dramatically hourglassed in post-production, and, like Jones, become the recipient of snake legs. Moss’s left leg is–where, exactly? Jones’ right leg seems to be extending as though it was made of Silly Putty, and her left arm just melds, Siamese Twin-like, with Hamm’s oddly-shadowless right arm. With him holding a drink in that hand, it makes you wonder if Jones’ where Jones’ hand is–delicately slipped into the rock glass, perhaps?

HIP HIP TRUE PREP

In The New York Times this morning, Janet Maslin had very positive things to say about True Prep, the new book from my friend Lisa Birnbach and Chip Kidd, which is a sequel to her huge hit of a couple of decades ago, The Official Preppie Handbook. Says Maslin: “Ms. Birnbach has returned to the subject she knows best. Together with Chip Kidd, the graphic designer and writer with the certifiably preppy first name, she has come up with “True Prep: It’s a Whole New Old World,” a surprisingly worthwhile sequel to the now-creaky “Handbook.” This new compendium moves beyond school days to address matters newly relevant for the core readership: how to remarry, how to dress for a funeral and how to deal with the collateral damage caused by decades’ worth of the party-hearty behavior described in the first book.” On Slate, Mark Oppenheimer is also enthusiastic: “The good news is that Birnbach. . . and Kidd, well-known as book-jacket designer, novelist, and natty dresser, have produced a book as witty as, and more thorough than, the original.” Congratulations, Lisa!

THE PARTIES IS OVER

Writing in The New York Times today, Marc Ambinder notes that “During this election cycle, a suspiciously large number of candidates with thin résumés and barely formed political identities are beating well-financed, better-established opponents. What’s more, these upstarts are winning primary races, in no small part, by running against the notion that their opponents were endorsed by the party — by running, that is, against the parties themselves.” He points to In Florida, where Marco Rubio pushed Gov. Charlie Crist out of the Republican Party and Rick Scott, a former hospital chief executive, beat establishment pol Bill McCullum in the gubernatorial primary; over a party-preferred candidate; in Alaska, where the inexperienced, Sarah Palin-backed Joe Miller beat incumbent senator Lisa Murkowski; in Pennsylvania, where Rep. Joe Sestak beat incumbent Senator Arlen Specter. He might have mentioned, where GOP activists denied the nomination to incumbent Sen. Bob Bennett.

Ambinder argues that this is a reaction against the parties, and well it might be. But I think it is a revolt against the system. For years, people have telling pollsters that they are unhappy: small and shrinking approval ratings for Congress, and also low approval ratings for journalists. People have become disgusted with the entire system–the unresponsive candidates, the money-drenched system that is beholden to special interests, and a legislative branch that refuses to address the nation’s problems. Washington’s problem is that in offices and families and communities throughout the country, people know how to make decisions. They reason, they argue, they vote, they move ahead. People know that Washington’s paralysis, it’s bickering and finger-pointing, is not a necessary by-product of decision-making. And given everything else that’s going on, especially the economy, they are revolting.

Our politics may be as badly broken as at any time since before the Civil War.

THE GREATEST BEATLES

The problem with picking the greatest Beatles songs, as Rolling Stone has done, is that the Beatles were not always Great–you know, capital G Great, as in profound, but not only profound, also peerless. They were, however, prolific, creative, innovative, imaginative, relentlessly cheerful, and over and over and over again, perfect. Songs like “Lovely Rita”, “Good Morning“, “Baby You Can Drive My Car“, “Lady Madonna,” “We Can Work It Out,” “I’ve Just Seen a Face”–I could go on–are just irresistible pop gems. The were almost never not likable; they were almost never not lovable. Not for nothing did they star in cheery movies like A Hard Day’s Night and Help, and get a Saturday morning cartoon show. Those dark Rolling Stones never got a TV show, and their movie was about Altamont. On the other hand, the Stones produced one great song after another. For as much as they rocked, the Stones lived in your head. The Beatles almost never loved in your head. Paul McCartney was just too ebullient, and his forays into seriousness, then and in ensuing years, were cliched. John Lennon, the smart one, never seemed to me to be as deep as he was credited. Some of the band’s “greatest” stuff resulted when he exercised that impulse.

Here are Rolling Stone’s Top Ten: 1.) “A Day in the Life”; 2.) “I Want to Hold Your Hand; 3.) “Strawberry Fields Forever”; 4.) “Yesterday”; 5.) “In My Life”; 6.) “Something”; 7.) “Hey Jude”; 8.) “Let It Be”; 9.) “Come Together”; and 10.) “While My Guitar Gently Weeps.”

I agree with four of the selections: “A Day in the Life,” “Strawberry Fields Forever,” “Something,” and “Come Together.” “Hey Jude” and “Let It Be” are simplistic and derivative and unworthy; “In My Life” is nice but not better than a thousand other songs of its era. “I Want to Hold Your Hand” is fun and infectious, but the band produced better material during that period. “yesterday” and “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” are vey fine songs; I prefer others.

I would probably rank “Strawberry Fields Forever” in first place; I thought it was a deeply mysterious song when I first heard it through my pillow on my Zenith transistor radio over WCAO, and then all the more mysterious, full of dimly understood lost thoughts, when I learned that Strawberry Fields was an orphanage. Still, “A Day in the Life” is beautifuland profound, and the band nailed it. Tough choice. My other choices: “All You Need is Love,” “Penny Lane,” “Paperback Writer,” “Here Comes the Sun,” “Got To Get You INto My Life,” and “I Saw Her Standing There.”

The top choice was a true Lennon-McCartney collaboration, with John writing the opening and closing verses and Paul providing the bridge.

Rounding out the first half of the top 10 were No. 3 No. 4 “Yesterday” and No. 5 “In My Life.”

Read more: http://www.nydailynews.com/entertainment/music/2010/08/26/2010-08-26_news_today_oh_boy_mag_picks_alltime_best_beatles_tunes.html#ixzz0xiWo9vef

BLOOMBERG CONNECTS AGAIN

At an event marking the end of fasting during Ramadan at Gracie Mansion last night, Michael Bloomberg continued his staunch defense of the right to building an Islam community center in Lower Manhattan: “ I understand the impulse to find another location for the mosque and community center. I understand the pain of those who are motivated by loss too terrible to contemplate. And there are people of every faith — including, perhaps, some in this room — who are hoping that a compromise will end the debate. But it won’t. The question will then become, how big should the ‘no-mosque zone’ around the World Trade Center be? There is already a mosque four blocks away. Should it, too, be moved? This is a test of our commitment to American values. We must have the courage of our convictions. We must do what is right, not what is easy. And we must put our faith in the freedoms that have sustained our great country for more than 200 years. . . .Before closing, let me just add one final thought: Imam Rauf [above], who is now overseas promoting America and American values, has been put under a media microscope. Each of us may strongly agree or strongly disagree with particular statements he has made. And that’s how it should be — this is New York. And while a few of his state ments have received a lot of attention, I would like to read you something that he said that you may not have heard. At an interfaith memorial service for the martyred journalist Daniel Pearl, Imam Rauf said, “If to be a Jew means to say with all one’s heart, mind and soul: ‘Shma Yisrael, Adonai Elohenu Adonai Ehad; Hear O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is One,’ not only today I am a Jew, I have always been one. If to be a Christian is to love the Lord our God with all of my heart, mind and soul, and to love for my fellow human being what I love for myself, then not only am I a Christian, but I have always been one.” In that spirit, let me declare that we in New York are Jews and Christians and Muslims, and we always have been. And above all of that, we are Americans, each with an equal right to worship and pray where we choose. There is nowhere in the five boroughs that is off limits to any religion. By affirming that basic idea, we will honor America’s values, and we will keep New York the most open, diverse, tolerant and free city in the world.”

Click here for Mayor Bloomberg’s full remarks.

SWELLEGANT ELEGANT


Currently on Slate, a photo album from Magnum Photos of the Mad Men era, including this shot of a 1963 literary cocktail party at George Plimpton‘s Upper East Side apartment. Plimpton is seated at left with literary agent Maggie Abbott next to him. At top, left to right: Jonathan Miller, Gore Vidal, Ricky Leacock, Robert Laskey, and Paul Heller. In background, left to right: Ralph Ellison and Peter Matthiessen. Center: Walter Bernstein (seated on couch with back to camera), Sydney Lumet (behind Bernstein to right), Mario Puzo (leaning against mirror), Jack Richardson (tall man, front, right foreground), Arthur Kopit (foreground, right), Frank Perry (left of Kopit), Eleanor Perry (left of Frank), Arthur Penn (obscured behind Eleanor), and Truman Capote (center on couch), 1963.
© Cornell Capa C / Magnum Photos

RABBIT, RUN

For ten days while Ginny and Cara were visiting the horse-rich campuses of Texas A&M and the University fo Kentucky (with a stopover in Colorado to see assorted grandparents, uncles, aunts and cousins), Molly and I and the dogs played Rabbit Retrievers–chasing Steve (nee Tintin, but renamed after Steve McQueen of The Great Escape) and Gaga and the their four offspring as they broke out of their porous installation and in various combinations scampered around the backyard. Thanks God we have a garage, or else we never would have caught them (although it’s true, one evening we saw one of the youngsters find a slit in the barricades and let himself back in as easily as he had earlier let himself go.) Anyway, it was exhausting to chase them and frustrating to be eluded (I will never idly use the phrase “quick like a bunny” again) and nerve-wracking to have moral responsibility for their well-being. Thanks goodness all were present and accounted for when their real lapin lovers returned from their school visits. As it turns out, Molly and I might not bothered ourselves; three days later, two of the youngsters were given away to a neighbor boy, a fate the other two are soon to experience. I am surprised that I am somewhat sad over the break-up of this little family. They were very cute.

BLOOMBERG STANDS STRONG


Three cheers for Mayor Michael Bloomberg and his ardent defense of religious freedom. His position is in keeping with the best traditions of New York City and America. The people who are opposing the mosque are either know-nothings like Sarah Palin, or worse, far worse, scare-mongering manipulators like Newt Gingrich, who is up to the old political trick of making himself seem like a demon-slayer by demonizing the small, vulnerable and innocent among us.