Hot Topics: 'The Help' Debuts, Nixon & Bush, Doctors Debunk Health Myths
Just when it looked like an army of genetically altered apes would conquer the world, another big summer movie with appeal to adult moviegoers is charging to the rescue. The Help is based on Kathryn Stockett's bestselling debut novel about a young southern white woman's exploration of the hidden world of African-American household servants in 1960s Mississippi. (Here's a SecondAct post from last year about Stockett's arduous struggle to publish her novel.)
The movie, directed by Stockett's longtime friend and fellow Mississippian Tate Taylor, already has garnered a lot of glowing reviews, especially from newspapers in Southern locales that seem to find its evocation of the segregated past painfully true to memory. Memphis Commercial Appeal critic John Beifuss writes that The Help "is not only superior to the novel that was its inspiration, but it also may be the most surprising movie of the year," and praises its portrayal of the black maids as "subversive" activists for social progress, rather than passive victims who need the help of sympathetic whites to better their situation. Time's Glen Levy already is touting actress Violeta Davis, who plays domestic Aibileen Clark, for an Oscar. This insightful Miami Herald article looks at the delicate task -- especially for a white writer-director from the south -- of making a movie about race relations.
Not everyone is as thrilled with the result. Teresa Wiltz's review in The Root, a website targeted at African-American readers, praises the accuracy of the film's depiction of ossified southern white society in the Civil Rights era, but bemoans that yet another story about blacks is being told "mostly through the gaze of white people."
Technology to Help Us Cope With Aging: At Massachusetts Institute of Technology's AgeLab, researchers are working on an array of gadgetry to aid older Americans, from a "smart" trash can that measures how much food is being eaten to a furry robotic seal designed to provide mental stimulation to people with dementia. This Financial Times article details how they've gained insights by devising an ingenious outfit, the Age Gain Now Empathy System (AGNES), which simulates the effects of growing older.
The Term "Femme Fatale" in the Dictionary Should Have WWII Superspy Nancy Wake's Picture Next to It: Even Piper Perabo's character in the TV series Covert Affairs has a boring career compared to Nancy Wake, who passed away in London this week at age 98. This Washington Post article describes the New Zealand native as a "sultry glamour girl" who enjoyed champagne and caviar brunches when she wasn't parachuting into Nazi-occupied Europe to lead guerrilla raids on Gestapo garrisons or to help downed Allied airmen escape capture. "She is the most feminine woman I know until the fighting starts -- then she is like five men," a French Resistance comrade once said of her.
Debunking the Health Myths We Grew Up With: In their new book, Don't Cross Your Eyes...They'll Get Stuck That Way! And 75 Other Health Myths Debunked, physicians Aaron E. Carroll and Rachel C. Vreeman put the lie to our mothers' admonitions that getting chilled would make us catch colds, and lots of other well-meaning but misinformed advice that we've received over the years. Some medical myths seem believable because they do have an element of truth in them, Vreeman explains in this USA Today interview. Eggs, for example, are high in cholesterol, but the link between eating them and the cholesterol levels in your blood is "a lot more sketchy."
Nixon Nearly Picked Bush as His VP: The course of history might have been startlingly different, Nixon confidant J. William Middendorf II asserts, if he had persuaded Richard Nixon to pick former Congressman and WWII hero George H.W. Bush as his running mate, rather than Maryland Gov. Spiro T. Agnew. Middendorf, author of a newly published memoir of his long career as a GOP insider, tells U.S. News & World Report that he met with Nixon on the day before his nomination to inform him that he'd lined up convention delegates to support Bush -- only to be shocked when Nixon told him that he'd settled on the obscure Agnew instead. Middendorf speculates that if Nixon had picked the more principled Bush, the president might have avoided entanglement in the Watergate scandal, and Bush would have succeeded Nixon in the White House -- and possibly stalled the rise of Ronald Reagan.
Octogenarian's New Boobs Prompt Brouhaha: And you thought the authenticity of Kim Kardashian's anatomy was a hot issue. That's nothing compared to the hackles that are rising after this New York Times article featuring Marie Kolstad, an 83-year-old Orange County, Calif., great-grandmother who decided to spend $8,000 on a breast lift/augmentation procedure, in part because "I want my children to be proud of what I look like." The NYT cited Kolstad as part of a nascent trend of seniors who are getting cosmetic surgery in an effort to remain vital. In the lengthy comments attached to this Los Angeles Times blog post on Kolstad, some readers chide her, while others cheer her on.
Cool iPhone Apps for Boomers: The Street.com offers this assortment of downloadable mobile gadgetry, including an app that drops in on a satellite view of a golf hole and calculates the distance, and another that provides useful advice on how to care for aging parents.There's also Hipstamatic, which uses your camera phone to duplicate the faded, washed-out effect of 40-year-old snapshots.
Website of the Week: VolunteerMatch is a recruiting hub for 79,000 nonprofit organizations across the nation. Just type in your ZIP code, and you can find nearby opportunities to help others and make your community a better place. As this recent SecondAct story details, baby boomers lead all age groups in volunteerism.
Last Word: "I don't believe that what you do for a living should disqualify you from holding public office. Truman was a haberdasher." -- tweet today by 53-year-old actor Alec Baldwin, who muses about running for mayor of New York
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