Harrison Ford, Daniel Craig and Jon Favreau on the set of “Cowboys & Aliens.” (Universal)
The private jet from Van Nuys kicked up pale dust as it landed on an airstrip just outside this state capital, and the passengers crossed the tarmac with the quiet determination of candidates preparing for a rally in a battleground state.
“This is our Iowa caucus,” director Jon Favreau said as he climbed into a waiting black SUV withRon Howard, the two-time Oscar winner who is a producer of Favreau’s “Cowboys & Aliens,” scheduled to hit theaters July 29. “This is like the primary. Our election night is that opening weekend this summer.”
Favreau, Howard and their team didn’t fly 1,400 miles to meet with foreign investors, movie exhibitors or a panel of top film critics. Their destination was a scruffy little theater in a strip mall where about 250 college-town movie fans munched on pepperoni pizza and swigged beer during a 24-hour movie marathon.
In this age of Twitter, Facebook and relentless entertainment blogging, the makers of special-effects films know that the tastemakers who matter often smell like onion rings. The quest to earn their approval is starting earlier and earlier in the life of films.
Emus Loose in Egnar is about the surprising success of tiny weekly newspapers around the country, weeklies that are doing well while their larger cousins are collapsing. Guest host Linda Wertheimer interviews author Judy Muller about her new book.
SEE PETER SHELTON’S PIECE IN THE WATCH NEWSPAPER BELOW.
There will be a book signing by Muller at Cimmarron Books in Ridgway, at 6:30 p.m. Thursday, August 4.
The heart of chile pepper country in southern New Mexico is the tiny village of Hatch, which bills itself the “Chile Capital of the World.” A new state law aims to protect this food heritage by preventing foreign peppers from being labeled as New Mexico-grown.
At the heart of the “Chile Capital” is the Pepper Pot restaurant, which exclusively serves New Mexico-grown chiles. In the kitchen of the Pepper Pot, owner Melva Aguirre churns out hundreds of plates a day of chile rellenos.
“A lot of people use Spam. A lot of people don’t eat meat, so they put cheese in them,” she says. “When it’s time for me to make it for the chile festival, I have to make up to 3,000 to use on the weekend.”
Tens of thousands of hot-pepper fans converge on Hatch each fall for the annual chile pepper festival, all devotees of the smoky, rich flavor distinct to the New Mexico variety.
The federal government has suspended a wildlife biologist whose sightings of dead polar bears in Arctic waters became a rallying point for campaigners seeking to blunt the impact of global warming.
Related in Opinion
Dot Earth Blog: Polar Bear Science and the Spin Cycle (July 29, 2011)
A blog about energy and the environment.
The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement notified the biologist, Charles Monnett, on July 18 that he had been placed on administrative leave pending an internal investigation into “integrity issues,” according to a copy of a letter posted online by the watchdog group Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility.
Documents posted by the group indicate that the inquiry centers on a 2006 report that Dr. Monnett co-wrote on deaths among polar bears swimming in the Beaufort Sea.
Dr. Monnett and a co-author, Jeffrey Gleason, prepared the seven-page observational report for the peer-reviewed journal Polar Biology after spotting four dead polar bears during an aerial survey of bowhead whales in the Beaufort Sea in 2004. As word of the sightings spread, images of drowned polar bears became a staple for activists who warned that global warming and the retreat of sea ice were threatening the bears’ survival.
A drone takes its first flight at Edwards Air Force Base in California in February. In the near future, drones could be used outside of the military for things like traffic helicopters or flying jumbo jets July 30, 2011
Every week it seems there are reports about U.S. drones — unmanned, remote-controlled aerial vehicles — tracking down suspected terrorists in remote, unreachable areas of Yemen, Somalia, Libya or Pakistan. Drone technology is becoming increasingly affordable and accessible, with new potential for everyday use in the United States — and new worries for national security.
Uses At Home
Shane Harris, journalist and author of The Watchers: The Rise of America’s Surveillance State, tells Weekend Edition Saturday host Scott Simon there are several potential near-term uses for drones. The Customs and Border Protection unit of Homeland Security, for example, is experimenting with drones the size of small birds for monitoring the border.
Harris says drones have also been used in natural disaster situations, including at the Fukushima plant after the earthquake in Japan. Drones the size of spiders could inspect houses during hostage situations. He says drones are also likely to be used in mass farming to replace crop dusters or even herd cattle — even traffic helicopters could also be replaced.
The technology could theoretically also fly jumbo jets, Harris says, allowing companies like UPS and FedEx to use drones instead of people to fly their planes.
Olivia Wilde stars as an elusive traveler, and Daniel Craig plays a stranger with no memory of his past in the sci-fi WesternCowboys & Aliens.
The sci-fi Western Cowboys & Aliens has something for everyone, and not enough for anyone. I couldn’t help thinking of the missed opportunities to play with two such disparate American genres. That said, Jon Favreau is a crafty director; he adds suspense to a bland story by withholding all the pertinent details, keeping us in a happy state of anticipation.
It starts with a start. Rugged, blue-eyed Daniel Craig wakes up in the desert with a wound in his side, a metallic bracelet on his wrist, and no memory, though he has super fighting skills. He’s haunted, but by what? He walks through the swinging doors of a saloon in a failed gold-mining town and drinks to ease the pain. But being a Western hero, he’s soon punching out rich bully Paul Dano who’s beating up mousy saloonkeeper Sam Rockwell. Then Dano’s daddy, a baleful Harrison Ford, shows up with his men and it looks like there’ll be shooting until — what the heck? The camera makes like Spielberg’s, tracking in on characters gazing at a glow on the horizon that turns out to be little ships that whiz in and snatch up screaming earthlings.
No spoilers, folks. But Cowboys & Aliens pulls off a neat sleight of hand. It makes all earthlings equivalent to Native Americans in revisionist Westerns, underdogs fighting against imperialist invaders. Nothing brings people together like aliens: The outlaw, the greedy capitalist boss, and even the Native American chief are now on the same side.
Art museums are, for the most part, full of paintings and sculptures you might love to own — a Renoir for the living room, that Rodin for the backyard — but never could afford. In Atlanta, The High Museum of Art is showing some museum-quality objects that have been affordable over the decades, either as originals or knock-offs. Modern by Design taps ordinary 20th century items which The Museum of Modern Art in New York bought for their permanent collection — and are now lending to the High.
All day long, in the lobby of the museum, an adorable little orange robot with a long arm assembles 40,000 metal squares, one on top of another, into the shape of an 18th-century French Rococo-style table. She’s quiet, but has a great work ethic. Dutch designer Joris Laarman built her for the Modern by Designshow — on commission from the High Museum. Laarman believes that someday, we’ll all have such small robots with which to make our own tables or chairs, or whatever else strikes our fancy.
An environmental activist has been sentenced to two years in prison for derailing a 2008 government auction of oil and gas leases. Tim DeChristopher was convicted of two felony counts of interfering with and making false representations. He was also sentenced to three years’ probation and fined $10,000. He is the first person to be prosecuted for failing to make good on bids at a lease auction of Utah public lands.
Eco-Activist Gains Fame For Civil Disobedience
by THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
A sentencing hearing turned into a rally supporting an environmental activist who has become an antihero after disrupting a government auction of oil and gas leases near two national parks in Utah.
Protesters gathered around the courthouse and dozens were arrested Tuesday as Tim DeChristopher launched into a lengthy address urging others fight climate change by taking similar steps of civil disobedience.
But U.S. District Judge Dee Benson said there was no excuse for the 29-year-old former wilderness guide’s blatant disrespect for the rule of law.
Benson sentenced DeChristopher to two years in prison on Tuesday, making him the first person to be prosecuted for failing to make good on bids at a lease auction of Utah public lands. He ran up bids on 13 parcels totaling more than 22,000 acres near Arches and Canyonlands national parks in 2008.
“My intent both at the time of the auction and now was to expose, embarrass and hold accountable the oil and gas industry, to the point that it cut into their $100 billion profits,” DeChristopher told Benson.
DeChristopher said he would accept whatever punishment Benson imposed, but added that time in prison would not silence him or change his viewpoint.
“You have authority over my life, but not my principles. Those are mine,” DeChristopher said. “I’ll continue to confront the system that threatens our future.”
DeChristopher also said that in a world where corporations have so much influence over government he believed that civil disobedience might be the only way to make change.
“This is what hope looks like from now on. This is what patriotism looks like. This is what love looks like,” he said.
A courtroom packed with DeChristopher supporters broke into applause when he finished speaking to the judge.
Benson didn’t silence them. But when they were done, he said that concerns over climate change don’t justify breaking the law.
“I’m not saying there isn’t a place for civil disobedience,” the judge said. “But it can’t be the order of the day.”
Benson said one of the great myths of the case was that he had no choice but to try and derail the government auction.
“Mr. DeChristopher had many other lawful ways to go against or protest the auction,” Benson said.
Benson also gave DeChristopher a $10,000 fine and three years of probation.
After the sentencing, DeChristopher supporters in Benson’s courtroom broke into song and one person shouted, “This is not justice.”
The case has elevated DeChristopher to folk hero status. Since his arrest, DeChristopher has become a vocal advocate for the environmental movement and encouraged others to match his actions.
Outside the downtown courthouse, a protest gathering of about 100 people draped in orange sashes blocked the doors to the courthouse, many of them crying and shouting.
Protesters used plastic ties around their wrists to form a human chain that moved into the streets, blocking car and light rail traffic, police spokeswoman Lara Jones said.
Police arrested 26 people and hauled them off to jail off on a bus, she said.
Federal prosecutors didn’t ask Benson for the 10-year maximum, but advocated for a significant sentence that would serve as a deterrent to others.
They said a U.S. Probation Office report, which recommended a sentence less than the maximum, underestimated the harm caused when DeChristopher ran up the price of the parcels, pushing the bids beyond the reach of other buyers in December 2008.
He ended up with $1.7 million in leases. DeChristopher could not pay for the leases and his actions cost some angry oilmen hundreds of thousands of dollars in higher bids for other parcels.
Assistant U.S. Attorney John Huber said the sentence was a significant enough deterrent.
“If a sentence was perceived as too light or inconsequential, it could be seen as a reasonable price to pay to grab the limelight or gain fame,” Huber said.
The case has become a symbol of solidarity for environmentalists, including celebrities like Robert Redford and Daryl Hannah. Peter Yarrow of the folk trio Peter, Paul and Mary, led a sing-a-long and rally outside the courthouse in the hours leading up to the hearing.
The event was organized by DeChristopher’s nonprofit group, Peaceful Uprising.
Carlos Martins, a college student at the protest rally, said after the sentencing that “they gave him that sentence to deter us, but they’re proving that by making civil disobedience impossible, they’re making violent actions inevitable.”
Defense attorney Ron Yengich said he met with DeChristopher after the sentencing and that he was doing fine. Yengich compared his client’s actions to the likes of Gandhi and Rosa Parks.
“He understands that part of the roots of civil disobedience are that some people go to prison … the problem is we only impose the rule of law on people like Tim DeChristopher,” Yengich said. “We never impose the rule of law on people who steal from poor people, destroy the banking systems or destroy the earth.”
Associated Press writer Josh Loftin contributed to this report.
Musicians gather in Mariachi Plaza in the Boyle Heights neighborhood of Los Angeles every Saturday
LOS ANGELES — Alejandro Cisneros calls the newer arrivals “pirates.” They simply put on a costume and trick customers into thinking they are mariachi musicians, he says, but they know nothing of the history of Mexican music.
Juan Ariso calls the old-timers “the businessmen.” They are too focused on charging more money and pushing out those who they believe are taking gigs they do not deserve, playing at weddings and quinceañeras and the occasional backyard cookout.
The two groups cannot agree on many things, but the most important is this: How much should a mariachi charge?
“This is our profession, our job, our passion,” Mr. Cisneros said. “We don’t want to have it ruined by these people who do not know what they are doing.”
For Mr. Ariso, it is a simple business calculation: “I charge what they are willing to pay. That changes all the time.”
For generations, musicians have gathered each day in a corner of the Boyle Heights neighborhood, just east of downtown. The sprawling square has been called Mariachi Plaza for as long as anyone can remember and has served as a central band-gathering spot since the 1940s.
In remote places like California’s Death Valley, over-reliance on GPS navigation systems can be a matter of life and death.
Each summer in Death Valley, a quarter-million tourists pry themselves from air-conditioned cars and venture into 120-degree heat to snap pictures of glittering salt flats. They come from all over the world, but many have the same traveling companion suction-cupped to their dashboard: a GPS.
But when dozens of abandoned dirt roads lie between you and that destination, things can get tricky. That’s what Donna Cooper, of Pahrump, Nev., discovered last July on a day trip to Death Valley.
After a long day, Cooper and her family asked “Nell,” the GPS, for the shortest route back to their home.
“Please proceed to the highlighted route,” Nell said.
But what came next did not compute. The GPS told them to go 550 feet, then turn right, Cooper says.
“Well, at 550 feet it was like a little path, and then it was like, go a quarter of a mile and turn left. There was nothing there. She had me running in circles for hours and hours and hours,” she says.
Death Valley Ranger Charlie Callagan says Cooper is not the only visitor who’s relied on GPS and been seriously lost. It happens a couple times a year now.
“And they’ll usually volunteer it themselves. You know, it’s like, the GPS told me to go this direction,” Callagan says.
The Taliban destroyed the historic statues a decade ago. But in a painstaking process, the two giant carvings of Buddha are being reconstructed on the side of a cliff in central Afghanistan.
When the Taliban controlled Afghanistan a decade ago, they were fanatical about eliminating everything they considered un-Islamic.
Their biggest targets — literally and figuratively — were the two monumental Buddha statues carved out of the sandstone cliffs in central Afghanistan. One stood nearly 180 feet tall and the other about 120 feet high, and together they had watched over the dusty Bamiyan Valley since the sixth century, several centuries before Islam reached the region.
Despite international opposition, the Taliban destroyed the statues with massive explosions in 2001. At the time they were blown up, the statues were the largest Buddha carvings in the world, and it seemed they were gone for good.
But today, teams from the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, along with the International Council on Monuments and Sites, are engaged in the painstaking process of putting the broken Buddhas back together.
HIDE & SEEK Studying snow leopards in Afghanistan can be challenging.
Thomas McCarthy, director of the snow leopard program for the conservation group Panthera, has spent nearly two decades crisscrossing the absurdly rugged Himalayan plateau to study a magnificent, densely furred, rosette-stenciled cat that may well be the world’s most reliable no-show.
“I’m out here in snow leopard country for half of every year,” said Dr. McCarthy by balky telephone connection from Tajikistan, “and I can easily count on one hand the number of times I just happened to see a snow leopard.”
George Schaller, the renowned biologist and environmentalist and Panthera’s vice president, is vast in experience and reputation and normally raptor-eyed. “I put radio collars on a couple of snow leopards in Mongolia,” he said. “The radio tells me where they are, I go there, I look and look. I see nothing, unless the snow leopard chooses to move.
“If a snow leopard sits quietly and doesn’t want to be seen,” Dr. Schaller said, “you won’t see it.”
To study snow leopards, Dr. McCarthy said, “you have to be very dedicated, or part crazy, or both.”
Smoke from the Wallow Fire, as seen in Albuquerque, N.M. John Fowler/Wikimedia
We’re seeing records fall in all directions this year—wettest, driest, warmest, coldest, snowiest, stormiest, fieriest—across the globe. In the US alone, in the month of July alone, 1,079 total heat records have been broken or tied. That’s 559 broken, 520 tied…so far. The map below, generated today at NOAA’s US Records page, shows how records have fallen nationwide, including in Alaska and Hawaii.
Hiram Bingham stands outside his tent during the 1912 expedition.
One hundred years ago yesterday, Hiram Bingham, an assistant professor of Latin American history at Yale University, set out on an expedition to explore the reported ruins known as Machu Picchu with the help of two local Peruvians.
Though Bingham was not necessarily the first to “discover” the hidden city — he wasn’t even a trained archaeologist — hewas the first to make its existence public, according to National Geographic. He would return twice, supported by the National Geographic Society. And would eventually became a U.S. Senator!
The Geographic headquarters in Washington, D.C., is currently showing 40 black-and-white photographs from Bingham’s three expeditions, mostly taken by Bingham himself. The show, called “Machu Picchu: A Lost City Uncovered, Photographs from the Hiram Bingham Expeditions 1911-15,” was developed in collaboration with the Embassy of Peru in Washington, D.C. Here is a small selection of the images.
A High Society Sisterhood: In The New Yorker, Dorothy Wickenden writes that at 29 and uninspired by the bachelors of Auburn, N.Y., Dorothy Woodruff (left) and Rosamond Underwood’s friends and family largely considered them to be hopeless spinsters. But they were more worried about living a life without adventure or intellectual stimulation.
Dorothy Woodruff and Rosamond Underwood were best friends from kindergarten. They shared an upper-middle class childhood in Auburn, N.Y., went to Smith College together and took part in one of the most common coming of age rituals of their class — the European tour.
It was 1916 — a time when women were expected to settle down young. But seven years after graduating from Smith, Woodruff and Underwood were still unmarried and longing for adventure. So they moved to a pioneer settlement in Elkhead, Colo.
As warming temperatures drive polar bears south, they’re starting to mix with brown bears much the way they did thousands of years ago.
Nearly 12 percent of Americans claim some Irish ancestry. Even President Obama has a little Irish in him. But we’ve got nothing on polar bears.
According to a study in the journal Current Biology, every polar bear alive today can trace its ancestry to one mama bear that lived in Ireland during the last Ice Age. And what’s more, she wasn’t even a polar bear: She was a brown bear.
Nearly 250,000 tourists visit Machu Picchu each year. Though this year is the centennial of the site’s discovery by Hiram Bingham, artifacts Bingham took from the site have recently been the source of controversy.July 24, 2011
On July 24, 1911, Machu Picchu was found by an American historian, and this weekend many are celebrating the centennial of the “discovery” of the cloud city high in the Andes — one of the most remarkable archeological sites on the planet.
Now, of course, Peruvians say that the city was not discovered a century ago today, because they never lost it. But Americans give credit to Hiram Bingham III, who climbed the Andes and saw the remarkable city, surrounded by holy mountains and filled with houses, terraces and temples that with all our modern skills and machines would be impossible to build today.
To write his new book, Turn Left At Machu Picchu, author Mark Adams retraced the steps Bingham took on his expedition. With the help of an Australian expatriate guide and a large supply of cocoa, Adams survived the journey to talk with NPR’s Linda Wertheimer about the significance of the ruins and Bingham’s legacy. They also discuss who really owns the centuries-old artifacts currently housed at Yale.
In the 1950s, Astor Piazzolla became a pariah back home for his unconventional, complex tangos.
If Argentine composer and performer Astor Piazzolla didn’t exist, the subgenre of “Nueva Tango” — a mix of tango, classical and jazz — wouldn’t, either, nor would this taster of accordion jazz. Piazzolla created a massive canon, influencing generations of bandoneon players after him, and he rejuvenated Argentina’s greatest musical tradition and export.
However, it was Piazzolla’s formative years in New York’s Greenwich Village — soaking in the swing of the 1930s — that often informs his style, a jazzier sound he leaned to during his later years. Piazzolla personally touched the lives and music of four of the five artists featured below.
Johnny Vincent was born John Vincent Imbraguglio to a couple who ran a restaurant in Laurel, Miss., in 1925; he went into the Merchant Marine straight out of high school. After mustering out, he ran a jukebox business in Laurel for a while, but in 1953, he took a job with L.A.’s Specialty label as its local talent scout. He sent one good record after another to Specialty, but the label went nowhere. Finally, he organized a session in New Orleans with Eddie Jones, who called himself Guitar Slim, and had a young piano player named Ray Charles assemble the arrangements.
The song, “The Things I Used to Do,” was a top seller in 1954, so after one too many arguments with Specialty, Johnny Vincent set up his own label, Ace. Early on, he leased songs from smaller labels or did one-off sessions in Jackson or Houston, but it was when he discovered J&M Studios in New Orleans and the musicians who worked there that his label took off.
I’ve received a fair bit of friendly criticism from smart neuroscientists about this.
As a community, neuroscientists are a pretty progressive lot; they like the idea that there is no biological justification for gender stereotyping that has tended to be harmful to women. At the same time, they are rightly wary of letting this sort of political consideration obscure what is an undeniable fact: there are widespread and substantial differences between male and female brains.
Aboard the Nimrod, from left, Frank Wild, Ernest Shackleton, Eric Marshall and Jameson Adams.
By CHARLES McGRATH Published: July 21, 2011
“It’s daft,” a man settled in a Glasgow pub said to me not long ago, talking about the sums that rare Scotch whiskies sometimes fetch at auction — the bottle of Dalmore 64-year-old, for example, that sold last month for nearly $200,000. “If you pay that much, you canna drink it, and wha’s the use a just lookin’ at the bottle?”
For $160 or so, collectors in America will shortly be able to buy, nestled in a little crate made in China to look authentically Scottish, not a rarity, exactly, but a replica of one: whisky fabricated to resemble the whisky that the explorer Ernest Shackleton took with him to the Antarctic so long ago that people had forgotten all about it. In February 2007, workers trying to restore Shackleton’s hut there accidentally came across three cases of Scotch — “Rare old Highland malt whisky, blended and bottled by Chas. Mackinlay & Co.” — frozen in the permafrost. The labels on the whisky say it was intended for what Shackleton was planning to call the Endurance expedition but ended up being known as the Nimrod expedition of 1907, which was the earlier and lesser-known of his two great journeys but the more successful. He actually got to within about 100 miles of the South Pole, farther south than anyone had gone previously.
The first time I remember hearing the question “is it real?” was when I went as a young boy to see a traveling show put on by “professional wrestlers” one summer evening in the gym of the Forks River Elementary School in Elmwood, Tennessee.
The evidence that it was real was palpable: “They’re really hurting each other! That’s real blood! Look a’there! They can’t fake that!” On the other hand, there was clearly a script (or in today’s language, a “narrative”), with good guys to cheer and bad guys to boo.
But the most unusual and in some ways most interesting character in these dramas was the referee: Whenever the bad guy committed a gross and obvious violation of the “rules” — such as they were — like using a metal folding chair to smack the good guy in the head, the referee always seemed to be preoccupied with one of the cornermen, or looking the other way. Yet whenever the good guy — after absorbing more abuse and unfairness than any reasonable person could tolerate — committed the slightest infraction, the referee was all over him. The answer to the question “Is it real?” seemed connected to the question of whether the referee was somehow confused about his role: Was he too an entertainer?
July 19, 2011
I was irritated with Randy Newman for many years. We share a birthday, and as a kid, I considered it an injustice to see his name in the paper, year after year, on Nov. 28. I wanted to share the big day with someone more glamorous, more elegant. Little did I know just how elegant he’d turn out to be.
Fast forward into my adulthood, when I began to listen to Newman’s catalog beyond hits like “Short People.” Suddenly, I discovered the delicious melodies, the satiric lyrics, the truly American structure of his piano voicing.
I sat down with Newman here at WFUV’s studios, and it turns out he’s as affable as one would hope: comfortably professional and completely relaxed. He was a little jet-lagged, but he charged into “You’ve Got a Friend in Me” with gusto, along with songs from his latest collection, The Randy Newman Songbook, Vol. 2.