Media, pop culture, news, trends, photos, rants + things we like.
Subscribe to Newsweek on the web.
One cold winter day in 1964, I got a call from a young French woman inviting me to dinner in SoHo. Her name was Jeanne-Claude and she was married to an artist named Christo. I think they called me because Leo Castelli told them I could speak French. They had just arrived from Paris, where they created a scandal by barricading a street with barrels. Even then people called them “ChristoandJeanne-Claude,” as if the two names were one word. Later I learned they were born on the same day in the same year (June 13,1935). After a delicious dinner prepared by Jeanne-Claude of ketchup on white bread served on a paper plate, they explained how they worked, what they wanted to do, and why they were moving to New York. Already it was obvious they were two of a kind who had become one. Jeanne-Claude, a vivacious, beautiful redhead, would begin a sentence, and Christo, an intense, fast-talking fugitive from Communist Eastern Europe, would finish it in his Bulgarian-accented French, or vice-versa.
Their story was very romantic, and the work they planned to do seemed preposterous in the mid-’60s. But they were brilliant, charismatic, generous, and funny. They were also very courageous. Even if at the time it seemed they were building castles in the air rather than art objects, it was impossible not to like them or listen to their tales of fantastic projects and voyages. Already they had figured out a way of working, conceptualizing the projects together, which Christo—an extraordinarily gifted and academically trained draftsman—would then draw. The money to realize the vast projects, which became more and more ambitious as time went on, came from the sale of Christo’s drawings and collages; but the concrete realization of the projects depended very much on Jeanne-Claude’s amazing organizational skills learned, perhaps, from her step-father, a four-star French general under de Gaulle.
At 58, Bill Gates is not only the richest man in the world, with a fortune that now exceeds $76 billion, but he may also be the most optimistic. In his view, the world is a giant operating system that just needs to be debugged.
Gates’ driving idea – the idea that animates his life, that guides his philanthropy, that keeps him late in his sleek book-lined office overlooking Lake Washington, outside Seattle – is the hacker’s notion that the code for these problems can be rewritten, that errors can be fixed, that huge systems – whether it’s Windows 8, global poverty or climate change – can be improved if you have the right tools and the right skills.
The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the philanthropic organization with a $36 billion endowment that he runs with his wife, is like a giant startup whose target market is human civilization.
"I love watching animal movies on television, and they always say, don’t run away, and don’t turn your back, and don’t lie down flat. I love it—it’s from my childhood. How do you prevent dying? How do you prevent being eaten, or mauled, by a monster? I still worry about it!” - Maurice Sendak.
In honor of the illustrator and writer’s 85th birthday, Newsweek and Blank on Blank are proud to present this animated short about the beloved, late author, which is based off of audio we had left over from a 2009 interview conducted by Newsweek’s Andrew Romano and Ramin Setoodeh.
Ruth, have you heard about the new movie Oz the Great and Powerful?
Well, that’s put out by Disney, I understand. What I’ve heard so far doesn’t sound so good. I haven’t seen the ads on TV. I don’t know why! Everybody else has seen them. I’m in a retirement hotel, and they pay for the television, and mostly we get commercials. But I haven’t seen any yet, so I don’t know. My son said he might take me to see it. It’s supposed to be a different time frame or something.
I’ve seen the movie already, and it’s not very good. The story takes place before Dorothy gets to Oz. The wizard is played by James Franco.
I don’t know who that is.
Michelle Williams is Glinda the Good Witch. Do you know her?
No. I don’t know any of the new actors.
What part did you play in the original The Wizard of Oz?
I was one of the Munchkin villagers. There were 124 small adults. And we were all Munchkin villagers. And Jerry [Maren], he was one of the lollipop kids. They handed the lollipop toJudy Garland, and you never saw it again.
Did you have to audition?
Not really. They just wanted small people. Right now, I’m 4-foot-3. I’ve shrunk a little bit.
How tall were you then?
Tina Brown’s marvelous interview with New York’s Michael Kinsley is fully worth a read this morning. It’s the best.
We sat down with Melissa Lafsky Wall, Newsweek’s fantastic new(ish) iPad editor now that her awesome app is out of the nursery, to ask her what, exactly, an “ipad editor” does! Also: How did you wind up here, Melissa? And what’s your favorite part of this week’s iPad issue? Do tell the nwk tumblr of your mysterious ways.
nwk tumblr: So what, exactly, is an “iPad editor”?
melissa lafsky wall: [Laughs] It’s a totally new frontier in that you need to have at least a base of familiarity of all the crazy tech terms. I don’t pretend to have any kind of tech expertise when it comes to coding or the logistics of creating the app, but I have to know what is required in order to code — how many hours will it take to produce such and such and what actually needs to be done. There’s also a level of educating people on the edit side, showing them what can be done on an iPad, and demonstrating how it’s a brave new world where there are wonderful enhanced things they can do for a story that give a story deeper context and a whole new layer of meaning. Once you show people that in practice they get really excited about it.
nwk: What advice would you give to someone looking to get into your particular tech-heavy corner of the journalism industry?
mlw: Be in the right place at the right time. Don’t be too tied to any one set of skills. I’ve had no formal training in how to be an iPad editor but it’s really just an amalgam of skills learned as a website editor, as a writer, as a blogger, and as a person working in modern editorial — and tech. I had to update my vocabulary very quickly in order to be taken seriously by the tech side. I didn’t want to look like a total tech moron.
nwk: How’d you do that?
mlw: It helps that my husband is a computer scientist! I just ask him.
nwk: What was your role in the app’s development?
mlw: Well, my role has been everything from editorial overseer to task-master…I was brought in to do everything from make sure the production team has what they need to product the app every week to talking with David Frum about audio extras for his stories.
nwk: Now that it’s actually in the store, what are you most excited about?
mlw: I’m most happy that everyone now gets this amazing new digitally enhanced way to read Newsweek. It’s always been about showcasing the content. Without great content there would be no great app. And honestly this is a biased opinion but magazines are simply more fun and more beautiful to read on an ipad than they are in print.
nwk: What does our editor think of Newsweek on the iPad?
mlw: Tina’s been a huge supporter of the app! She’s had great ideas from the start, and she loves how the Oscars feature turned out. She’s had great comments throughout the whole process.
nwk: What’s your favorite part of this week’s edition?
mlw: The Oscar roundtable, hands down!
mlw: It’s the perfect example of how an iPad can be used to enhance the reading experience and overall enjoyment of a great piece of writing. We have video extras, we have interactive video with the stars, we’ve got George Clooney playing the ukulele in your iPad, and we have this great piece of writing that tells such a great story. When they all come together, it’s really an incredible experience.
[Get the app.]
BR: So, last question. Your name’s Train. You’re going on a boat for next week’s VH1 cruise. What are your thoughts—this is political—on high speed rail.
Pat: You mean the future of high-speed rail?
BR: Yes, do you think that can help America get off oil?
TRAIN: [Nearly in union] Absolutely man. It would be amazing.
Pat: But you know, with all of these things, there’s new energy that has to come from it. So you can’t have high speed rail without energy. And so how do you create energy for that? And we’re, like, knocking mountains down in West Virginia for coal. And so all the things we’re burning and trying to get…we knew a guy who used to tech for us who was buliding windmills…and they laid him off. So I don’t know if that industry’s doing well.
Scott: It’s doing well.
Pat: Is it?
Scott: It’s just like, all that stuff costs tax dollars. And that’s the big debate. I feel like people are like, ‘we need to get off of coal and oil and stuff like that, but we don’t want to spend the money to do it right now.’ We don’t want to deal with the costs of it. I think that’s the debate, because all those trains are going to cost a lot of money, and we don’t want to deal with it.
Pat: So, geothermal, maybe, is going to be the long-term answer. Not corn.
Scott: And those magnetic rail systems, that technology exists. It’s weird what’s going on.
BR: That will confuse the Insane Clown Posse too much if we use magnets.
Pat: If they could just somehow hone in on being able to bottle the energy of all the bullshit celebrity crap that we watch all the time and put it into energy, wouldn’t that be amazing? It’d be like, E! or Extra! Or, TMZ!
BR: TMZ fuel?
Pat: Yea, TMZ fuel.
BR: Charlie Sheen Green.
TRAIN: Charlie Sheen Green! Yea. Cool.
What’s the one thing you definitely ask when interviewing the band, Train? Yes, exactly: their thoughts on high-speed rail.
* Google’s Marissa Mayer sits down with Dan Lyons and asks, “Why Can’t Girls Be Geeks?”
* Bill Gates and Randi Weingarten talk how to fix our nation’s schools
* Aung San Suu Kyi reflects on Burma’s junta, sanctions, karma and the future
* Remember JetBlue’s renegade flight attendant? He says passengers are ruder than ever.
* We ask Elizabeth Warren: How can we create a more honest credit market?
OK, final question from me. You talk about the fact that you had good Christmas memories. Do you have a favorite?
Going back to your childhood? I’m trying to help you here with all of the people you’ve pissed off already. So give me your favorite Christmas memory.It doesn’t get better than that, Bill Maher.
I don’t know about a specific one, but what I remember was a Christmas tradition, which was playing Robert Goulet’s Christmas album. My mother was a big fan of Robert Goulet, and so many housewives were in the 1960s, Joe. I don’t know if you remember that at all, but Robert Goulet was quite the matinee idol. In fact, I once flew my mother out to Las Vegas to have dinner—we all had dinner together—Robert Goulet, his wife, my mother, and I. It was the thrill of her life. It was the best Christmas album, we just wore that thing out. I remember after Christmas we had a party, which was odd, because it was a Christmas party, and my father was very Catholic but my mother was Jewish. It was all the Jewish relatives who lived in the area, so they came to the Christmas party, and then they would leave and we would all be exhausted. And we would all just sit there, and [enjoy] the glow of the fire, the fire on the TV—we didn’t have a fireplace—and listen to the Robert Goulet Christmas album.
And then I would go upstairs and masturbate.
I had the honor of interviewing Maurice Sendak, Spike Jonze and Dave Eggers yesterday at Mr. Sendak’s house in Connecticut. Watch this space and Newsweek.com for more on Where the Wild Things Are, coming soon…
Mark your calendars. This should be good.