Published Brijit Abstracts

from the late, great abstract site, Brijit.com.

My Year of Flops Case File No. 93: Pay It Forward

in A.V. Club by Nathan Rabin, 13 December 2007
There’s nothing charitable about Rabin’s review of 2000’s Pay It Forward. This hysterical takedown of the film that won “the hearts of Reader’s Digest subscribers everywhere” laments that “a murderer’s row of talent” — Kevin Spacey, Helen Hunt, Haley Joel Osment, and director Mimi Leder — was wasted on such tripe. The careers of all four have suffered ever since this “mid-afternoon slot on Lifetime” picture. Brimming with sarcasm, Rabin snipes at yet another flick on the rental shelf.
Posted 2:25, 14 December 2007

This abstract was written by Sheryl Stein and edited by Brijit.

My Year of Flops Case File No. 92 New York, New York

in A.V. Club by Nathan Rabin, 12 December 2007
Mix dark, intense, Robert De Niro realism with a good, old-fashioned MGM musical featuring Liza Minnelli. Snort it up with some coke, and you have Martin Scorsese’s New York, New York, the 1977 film that Rabin decides to review instead of the movies in his year-end workload. While the bizarre cinematic mashup flopped spectacularly in its day, time has been kind to the movie, Rabin writes. He particularly relishes that Scorsese can “channel his inner Vincente Minnelli as the great director’s daughter swans her way through lush setpieces rich in retro glamour and escapism.” Rabin is characteristically insightful, but really he had us at “De Niro” and “musical.”
Posted 2:11, 13 December 2007

This abstract was written by Sheryl Stein and edited by Brijit.

Let It Die: 23 Songs That Should Never Be Covered Again

in A.V. Club by A.V. Club, 10 December 2007
Imitation may be the sincerest form of flattery, but does anyone need to hear another American Idol contestant belting out Respect? That question, among others, is pondered by the snarky authors, who share 23 abused rock, R&B, and country tracks that should enter retirement, barring seriously novel interpretation. The Smith’s How Soon Is Now tops a list of familiars, among them works by the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, Patsy Cline, and Van Morrison (Brown-Eyed Girl is “the only song on this list that’s in President Bush’s iPod”). This piece sheds amusing heat, but not much light.
Posted 3:51, 12 December 2007

This abstract was written by Sheryl Stein and edited by Brijit.

Whose Beach Is This Anyway?

in The Wall Street Journal by Kris Hudson, 12 December 2007
Beach homeowners are disputing lawmakers over boundaries as erosion has left private beach houses sitting squarely in the “public right of way.” Structures on such property are subject to government removal or demolition, but homeowners are fighting back, drawing a line in the sand by planting salt-tolerant plants at their seaward property line. Though it’s a serious issue, one story of a homeowner who wants fair market price from for his now-uninhabitable Texas home is Monty Python-esque.
Posted 1:58, 12 December 2007

This abstract was written by Sheryl Stein and edited by Brijit.

Harvard to Aid Students High in Middle Class

in The New York Times by Sara Rimer & Alan Finder, 11 December 2007
Harvard will increase financial aid to middle-class students, joining other elite institutions in providing more grants (as opposed to loans) and removing home equity dollars from financial aid calculations. Previous efforts successfully increased the number of lower-income students, and schools hope this change will ameliorate the “upstairs-downstairs syndrome,” where only affluent students can pursue unpaid research opportunities or study overseas. Interestingly, some in Congress are contemplating a mandate for universities to spend a specified portion of endowment earnings on student aid. The authors exhaustively cover every aspect of the topic.
Posted 1:37, 12 December 2007

This abstract was written by Sheryl Stein and edited by Brijit.

Under the Sea

in The New Yorker by Rebecca Mead, 26 November 2007
Mead interviews opera director Francesca Zambello, who was recently tapped by Disney Theatricals producer Thomas Schumacher to direct the Broadway adaptation of The Little Mermaid. Zambello discards her darker, operatic version of the story for the fluffier Disney version, though “the girl’s version of Faust” shares some darker story themes. The two dine on seafood and contemplate whether the mermaid’s plight as an outsider mirrors that of gays — and Zambello clarifies that mermaids have no genitalia — in this charming revisionist piece.
Posted 11:20, 20 November 2007

This abstract was written by Sheryl Stein and edited by Brijit.

What I Know for Sure

In Oprah’s monthly What I Know column, the megawatt media monarch relates the story of her beloved cocker spaniel, Sophie, who after a series of medical nightmares appeared to be having a stroke. Oprah has shows to do, planes to catch, and, of course, this column to write, but instead rushes the dog to the vet, where Sophie is diagnosed with an inner-ear disorder but is otherwise fine. It seems the dog ate her column this month.
Posted 11:08, 20 November 2007

This abstract was written by Sheryl Stein and edited by Brijit.

Bring in the Consultants!

in Time by Michael Kinsley, 26 November 2007
Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney joins a long line of technocrats who believe that careful study by a management consulting firm (like major player McKinsey) will fix all ills. Kinsley’s irreverent column notes how trying to tame political processes “with the smooth hum of expertise … has a long and generally laughable history,” starting with Taylorism (parodied by the likes of Charlie Chaplin and Lucille Ball) and ending with Al Gore’s governmental reinvention processes. After all, Kinsley seems to imply, just because major CEOs are willing to trust the answers of high-priced, 25-year-old consultants doesn’t mean voters should do the same.
Posted 2:36, 18 November 2007

This abstract was written by Sheryl Stein and edited by Brijit.

The World of Hillary Hatred

in Time by Rich Lowry, 19 November 2007
Hillary Clinton, arguably the most conservative Democratic presidential candidate, is also the one most loathed by conservatives, Lowry writes in this unoriginal but sound commentary. Republicans will damn her if she takes a traditionally liberal stance, yet accuse her of a “hidden agenda” if she takes one more moderate. Conservatives hate her liberalism and “her phoniness”; they dislike her cautionary political style and her marriage — but she may be more palatable than some of the alternatives. Get used to this paradox, Lowry writes; it’ll be part of the political landscape for the coming year.
Posted 10:55, 14 November 2007

This abstract was written by Sheryl Stein and edited by Brijit.

Taking the Back Road to the Oscars

Art-house theaters are showing more films and filmmakers are saddled with additional financial burden thanks to a controversial Academy Awards rule change requiring competing documentaries to play 14 theaters in 10 states (in addition to a required 7-day run in Los Angeles or New York). In this behind-the-scenes peek at the film business, Jurgensen explains how paying thousands of dollars to qualify their films leaves filmmakers unable to pay for publicity — while many films play to empty houses. Next year, the out-of-state requirement will be cut, but documentaries will have to be screened on special film and using special equipment — thus trading one financial burden for another.
Posted 2:57, 9 November 2007

This abstract was written by Sheryl Stein and edited by Brijit.

Smoke This Sh*t
in Salon by Jamie Pietras, 9 November 2007
A thread on oddball site Totse.com by a kid named “Pickwick” spawned a curious rumor about America’s teenagers huffing fermented feces. “Jenkem,” as the substance is called, is a problem in Zambia, where poor kids are scooping poop out of sewers to mix with urine, ferment, and then use; but it isn’t an epidemic here, contrary to some reports by Midwestern television stations (based on what seemed like confirmation from the Durg Enforcement Agency). “Pickwick,” who posted pictures of an alleged huffing session (he used Nutella), now people to delete the pictures, for the sake of his reputation. Tough … well, you know.
Posted 2:17, 9 November 2007

This abstract was written by Sheryl Stein and edited by Brijit.

Rudy’s New Best Friend

in Salon by Joe Conason, 9 November 2007
Politics makes for strange bedfellows the cliche goes, and Conason ponders the union between presidential candidate Rudy Giuliani and conservative Christian leader Pat Robertson, who has endorsed Giuliani’s campaign. If Guiliani embraces Robertson’s “insight into what the main issues are and how they should be dealt with,” Conason argues, Rudy needs to elaborate his views on the war in Iraq, the appointment of federal justices, and the Constitution (particularly the separation of church and state), as Robertson’s views are controversial at best, “loony” at worst. Robertson often rails against non-Christians and Christians not of his own stripe, and this acidly written piece will leave you wondering exactly how Giuliani made the cut.
Posted 1:46, 9 November 2007

This abstract was written by Sheryl Stein and edited by Brijit.

Are the Corporate Suits Ruining TV?

in Los Angeles Times by Marshall Herskovitz, 9 November 2007
TV producer Herskovitz (of “thirtysomething” fame) decries network executives as destroyers of creativity and innovation in television. The FCC has dialed back restrictions on media ownership; networks are now allowed to own the programs they air, crowding out independent production companies. Network execs now happily micromanage creative decisions; they’ve also cut salaries and profit participation for writers and producers involved. Herksvoitz writes that he and his producing partner are launching their latest series online in an effort to circumvent the network system. Though the piece is partly a plug for his new show, Herskovitz illuminates one behind-the-scenes reason you’re probably sick of network TV.
Posted 1:34, 9 November 2007

This abstract was written by Sheryl Stein and edited by Brijit.

The Breast and the Brightest

in Slate by Emily Bazelon, 8 November 2007
Nursing provides many health benefits to a child. A new study finds that breastfeeding can raise a child’s IQ — if the mother has the genetic variant that provides this benefit. While 90 percent of the population does, the study opens a pandora’s box of questions about genetics and upbringing. Bazelon’s meandering piece wanders into the woods and comes out — not into a clearing, but into more questions about the evils of genetic testing.
Posted 12:43, 9 November 2007

This abstract was written by Sheryl Stein and edited by Brijit.

Do-Gooders Gone Bad

in Newsweek by Arlene Getz, 12 November 2007
While groups like the Save Darfur Coalition have earned attention for the dire Darfur situation, Getz questions whether nongovernmental organizations are improving the situation — or if they’re actually making things worse. A children’s rescue by charity Zoe’s Ark resulted in fiasco, complete with kidnapping charges. Some Save Darfur efforts conflict with local needs, peace talks founder, resources continue to be scarce, and now additional tribes are involved in the fighting. Other organizations want to replicate successes in other African nations, but if things aren’t getting any better in Darfur, Getz smartly wonders: what exactly are the lessons that are worth repeating elsewhere?
Posted 1:14, 8 November 2007

This abstract was written by Sheryl Stein and edited by Brijit.

Rocking ‘Til the Cows Come Home

in Newsweek by Andrew Romano, 12 November 2007
In Clear Lake, Iowa, not far from where Buddy Holly’s plane went down, Romano sits in with presidential candidate Mike Huckabee and his cover band, Capitol Offense. The band, together since 1996 and composed of folks who worked for Huckabee in Arkansas, knows the drill both on and off-stage: singer Steve Pyle jokes to the Gov, “You’re too important now for me to talk to.” Romano gets stars in his eyes and gushes over the governor’s performance on bass, but one suspects that Huckabee won’t be met by many lighter-wielding fans calling out for Freebird when debate time comes.
Posted 11:56, 8 November 2007

This abstract was written by Sheryl Stein and edited by Brijit.

Is the Way We Raise Our Food Giving Us MRSA?

in Salon by Alex Koppelman, 7 November 2007
Koppelman raises the provocative theory that the recent proliferation of antibiotic-resistant bacteria like MRSA may be due to farming practices, not overuse of antibiotics. Up to 84 percent of all antimicrobials are used on farms, and while a causal link hasn’t been completely confirmed, he cites studies from Canada and Europe about serious changes in livestock, particularly pigs — pig farmers and veterinarians appear to be at greater risk for MRSA. US studies, however, are hampered by limited funding, and scientists may be loathe to rock their financial boats as they are often funded by pharmaceutical companies themselves.
Posted 2:10, 7 November 2007

This abstract was written by Sheryl Stein and edited by Brijit.

Mel Brooks Starts Nonprofit Foundation to Save Word ‘Schmuck’

in The Onion by The Onion, 2 November 2007
Oy vey! The Onion reports that Mel Brooks has formed a foundation to promote the Yiddish curse word “shmuck” (which, for you goyim out there, literally means “foreskin,” but has become slang for “jerk”). Sadly, the Onion reports that the word has been overtaken by the likes of “‘imbecile,’ ‘dummy,’ ‘schlub,’ and ‘contemptible ne’er-do-well'” as well as some unprintables. Brooks and co. have fictionally raised $20 million so far, and are planning a race and outreach to young people. You don’t have to have a bubbe or zayde to enjoy this article, but it certainly helps.
Posted 11:19, 7 November 2007

This abstract was written by Sheryl Stein and edited by Brijit.

Hollywood’s Power Couple

in Time by Rebecca Winters Keegan, 12 November 2007
Schindler’s List and the Indiana Jones and Back to the Future series are just a few of the films produced by Hollywood power couple Kathleen Kennedy and Frank Marshall. The pair has been married for 20 years and working together for 26, and their Kennedy/Marshall Co. has become a go-to production firm, even making expensive last-minute alterations (such as a new ending for The Bourne Supremacy, a successful gamble). But this brief sketch presents only a positive spin on what must be a more complex union.
Posted 9:51, 6 November 2007

This abstract was written by Sheryl Stein and edited by Brijit.

Gift of Gall

Hillary Clinton will basically do anything to win the presidency, Dowd writes. She has no qualms about playing the gender game to the hilt, much the same way New York Senator Al D’Amato once did when he was called a “fascist” — and decried it as bigotry against all Italian-Americans. With tongue firmly in cheek, Dowd notes occasions when Clinton has gone from tough feminist leader to pitiful, put-upon lady. “There is nowhere she won’t go, so long as it gets her where she wants to be,” Dowd writes in her latest, entertaining riff on Clinton. “That’s the beauty of Hillary.”
Posted 5:42, 5 November 2007

This abstract was written by Sheryl Stein and edited by Brijit.

Rudy Awakening

The power of the executive branch has been extended to a new level under the Bush administration. Morris ponders whether a Giuliani administration would take executive authority to an ever further extreme, describing Giuliani’s numerous attempts to overstep or flout myriad laws. Guiliani’s “act first, let the courts decide later” strategy, coupled with his band of yes-men, makes Morris wonder whether President Giuliani would find ways around laws he didn’t like, punish those who dared to dissent, and eliminate transparency from the federal policy process. In the end, Morris suggests that the current president’s actions are bush-league compared to the liberties Rudy might take.
Posted 4:38, 2 November 2007

This abstract was written by Sheryl Stein and edited by Brijit.

Pseudo-Science Debunked

in Utne Reader by Danielle Maestretti, November/December 2007
The Bush administration has been suppressing science and manipulating scientific results and advice, according to Francesca Grifo of the Union of Concerned Scientists. Grifo tells how skewed scientific data can affect policy (such as on endangered species) and how information has been meted out sparingly to the public (as in the case of climate change). At times science is challenging to understand, but a responsible public must be better questioners, she writes. Maestretti’s interesting topic is undermined by a one-sided and too-brief interview.
Posted 9:54, 2 November 2007

This abstract was written by Sheryl Stein and edited by Brijit.

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