Spruce Gran Picea #0909 – 11A07 (9,550 years old; Fulufjället, Sweden)
From Rachel Sussman’s collection The Oldest Living Things in the World
Fresh Air’s TV critic David Bianculli reviews the new series Fargo, based on the 1996 Coen Brothers cult classic. Here’s what he says:
When the news arrives that FX has a new series called Fargo, the expectation is that it will be either a sequel to, or expansion of, that 18-year-old movie. And certainly, the previews have done nothing to discourage that.
But no. The TV version of Fargo tells a completely different story, with completely different characters. Only the snow remains the same. Yet based on the first four episodes, this new Fargo is a worthy companion piece to the film. The Coen brothers are on board as two of the executive producers, so they clearly approve – though that’s pretty much the extent of their involvement. Instead, FX’s Fargo is written and concocted by Noah Hawley, whose previous credits include working on Bones, and not much else. This is his step up to the major leagues – and in his first at-bat in the bigs, he swings hard, and hits a home run.
His Fargo – this first season, anyway – is envisioned as a stand-alone 10-part story. If it continues to a Season 2, it will be with a completely different plot, characters, and cast. That’s the way True Detective launched itself this season on HBO, and you know how brilliantly that turned out. By designing TV shows this way – longer and deeper than a feature film but not running for years – networks can get A-list movie talent to commit, and writers can craft stories with the end in sight from the start.
FX’s Fargo benefits from that, greatly.
image via FX
Louis Kahn by Andreas Levers
New York Times journalist Carlotta Gall spent more than a decade reporting from Afghanistan and Pakistan after 9/11. Her book, The Wrong Enemy, offers new information about how Islamabad has helped the Taliban in Afghanistan, and how Pakistan’s intelligence agency may have helped Osama bin Laden hide out in Abbottabad, Pakistan:
"We knew [bin Laden] was hiding almost in plain sight in Pakistan, but when I finally learned this from an inside source – so, someone who really did know — it made sense that they were hiding him and protecting him to use him, I think, for their own reasons.
I think one of the reasons was that they knew he was a powerful figurehead of al-Qaida [and] of Muslim fighters around the world, and I think they wanted him on their side, a bit controlled, to use him for their own policy-making. And so they used him to control and influence their own militant proxy forces that Pakistan has been fostering and sponsoring for several decades now … [including] to fight in Kashmir …
I think also they didn’t want to be the nation that handed him over to the U.S., to be seen by other Muslims as the ones who betrayed this hero or Muslim warrior, as he’s often seen …
They were always telling the west that the trail had gone cold. [Pakistani] President [Pervez] Musharraf came to Washington and said that: We have no information, maybe bin Laden is dead. There was a failure not only to cooperate with the U.S., who was supposed to be the great ally and has pumped money and assistance into Pakistan for this last decade or more, but there was actually genuinely an effort to mislead and to hide him when they knew that this was the one great target for America after Sept. 11.”
Photo : Osama bin Laden’s hideout in Abottabad, Pakistan via Getty Images
The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt has won the Pulitzer prize in the fiction category. You can read our book critic Maureen Corrigan’s review of the novel here:
via 500px by Eric “Kala” Forey
Dr. Martin Blaser is an expert on the human microbiome, which is the collection of bacteria, viruses, fungi and other microbes that live in and on the body. In fact, about 70 to 90 percent of all the cells in the human body aren’t human at all — they’re micro-organisms.
Blaser is the author of Missing Microbes, and speculates that overuse of antibiotics causes food allergies, asthma, and intestinal disorders.
If antibiotics are wiping out these micro-organisms, then probiotics are putting some of them back in.
Here’s what Dr. Blaser says about the use of probiotics:
"There are many different probiotics. If you go to the grocery store, the health food store, the drugstore, there are shelves and shelves full of probiotics [with] different names, different compositions. I think I can say three things: The first is that they’re almost completely unregulated; second is that they seem to be generally safe; and third is that they’re mostly untested about the important reasons that people even want to take probiotics because they don’t feel well or they have particular symptoms …
Right now, it’s the Wild West. I’m actually a big believer in probiotics; I think that’s going to be part of the future of medicine, that we’re going to understand the science of the microbiome well enough so that we can look at a sample from a child and say this child is lacking such-and-such an organism and now we’re going to take it off the shelf and we’re going to give it back to that child … Just as today the kids are lining up for the vaccines, in the future, maybe the kids are going to be drinking certain organisms so that we can replace the ones that they’ve lost.”
We’re outta here.
Have a great weekend,
Director David O. Russell (American Hustle, Silver Linings Playbook) spoke to Terry Gross about how he doesn’t want to “break the spell” during filming:
"I knew that [the role] would be exciting and enticing to [Christian Bale] — to lose himself in this person, that’s what actors who love characters kind of live for. They can take some part of their own soul, some part of my soul and the screenplay’s soul, and who they think the real character is … [and] it becomes this amalgam of a human that they get to live in, like in a trance or like a dream during the movie. Jennifer Lawrence has described it as "a high"; Christian describes it as like "a waking dream." …
[When we’re shooting] I’m in the room with the actors and we don’t call “cut” because I don’t want them to break the spell that they’re in. I just want it to get deeper and deeper. I’ll just keep directing take after take while the camera resets or keeps moving through the room and they kind of stay in character whether they’re talking to me or not.”
Photo by Francois Duhamel
This review discusses the plotline of Mad Men, up through the end of Season Six:
Our TV critic David Bianculli was given the tricky task of reviewing the Season Seven opener of Mad Men, without giving too much away:
When we last saw Jon Hamm as Madison Avenue advertising genius Don Draper, Draper had stripped off the façade he had worn as protection throughout the series. He confessed to his true past, as a boy raised in a whorehouse — not only to his children, but to his colleagues at work, during a pitch to an advertising client. Immediately, he lost his chance to move to the West Coast office his firm was opening — and there were bound to be other consequences. This final season, it appears, will be all about those consequences.
Don always has been resourceful, and resilient, and those traits are in full display in the season seven opener. His confession last season has altered him — in his behavior as well as his demeanor, he’s a noticeably changed man. You can tell that even from one of the few scenes from Mad Men that reveals no secrets about where the series is going — just that Don is going somewhere, on a plane.
Photo by Michael Yarish/AMC
Terry: You have a masters in human rights from the London School of Economics?
Hari: Yeah, I wasted a lot of money before I decided to do stand-up full time, Terry.
Hari Kondabolu (pronounced “hurry”) is going to be on the show soon! We wanted to give you a sneak peek at his stand-up.
His new comedy album is called Waiting For 2042.
By now you’ve probably heard the song “Let It Go" from Frozen more than a few times—and you’ve probably gotten it stuck in your head, too. That’s the work of songwriters Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez, the Oscar-winning couple behind the Disney mega-hit. Robert also co-wrote the satirical musicals The Book of Mormon and Avenue Q. In the interview, Kristen tells Fresh Air why she set out to write a different kind of princess story:
Kristen Anderson-Lopez: If you have the deluxe CD you will see my very strong, strike-across-the-bow at all princess myth things in the form of a song called “We Know Better,” which was a song that was cut, but it basically was these two princesses bonding over all of the things that the world expects and thinks of them. [The world thinks] that they’re perfect and sweet and sugar and spice and all things nice and it was the two of them misbehaving and being fully well-rounded children with all the good and bad and imagination and mischief that I really feel that it’s important for our girls to be allowed to be.
It got cut, but you can tell the whole movie is full of this point of view as much as Jennifer Lee and I could put in it, because we’re both Park Slope moms, we both went through the 90s, we took the women’s studies courses, and I knew I wouldn’t be able to push my kids on the swing at the playground if I had written a movie where the girl wore the puffy dress and was saved not by anything active she did but by being beautiful enough to be kissed by a prince.
Photo (Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles Times) and Disney