Pulitzer Podcast: Last week, the radio program/podcast “This American Life” won a Pulitzer Prize. It is the first-ever awarded to a radio program. The honored program, called “The Out Crowd” is steeped on original reporting, boots on the ground, at the U.S. Mexican border. It first aired in November 2019 and is rebroadcast now with critical updates.
Most dispiriting update of all — the atrocities first reported here are largely going on unchanged and unchecked.
In Chapter 1, host and program founder Ira Glass tours the sprawling and dangerous migrant tent cities set up in Tijuana when the Trump administration began the “remain in Mexico” policy. The U.S. automatically sents migrants back to Mexico where they are to await a hearing. There is little to no U.S., Mexican or United Nations assistance for these people.
In Chapter 2, LA Times reporter Molly O’Toole talks to U.S. asylum officers who have been handed a policy that is a de facto wall to immigrants. The new policy sets an impossibly high standard for asylum admission, so the vast majority of immigrants are returned to Mexico. The emotional toll on professional asylum officers is staggering.
In Chapter 3, reporter Emily Green meets a man and his son who are returning from the U.S. across the bridge at the Laredo Texas border. The man speaks of kidnapping fears and two days later the two are indeed kidnapped by the cartel. Green is able, through the man;’s family, to follow the whole process in chilling detail.
Malkovich! Malkovich! Malkovich!
“Being John Malkovich” is one of my all-time favorite movies. Or, it was when it first came out in 1999. The premise was offbeat, reality-warping, challenging, daring: A man (John Cusack) discovers a tunnel behind a filing cabinet that leads to the consciousness of the actor John Malkovitch. Yes, the actor. A classic Charlie Kauffman script and Spike Jonze-directed movie.
The movie’s greatest moment comes when Malkovitch discovers the portal and insists on crawling into his own consciousness. The results are — May I say it? — mind-boggling.
I was reminded of the movie as I encountered a display of photographer Sandro Miller’s project “Malkovich, Malkovich, Malkovich: Homage to Photographic Masters.” Miller and Malcovitch recreated 35 iconic portraits, using Malcovich as his model. Some of the images include Dorthea Lange’s “Migrant Mother,” Alberto Korda’s “Che Guevara,” Albert Sasse’s “Albert Einstein Sticking Out His Tongue,” and Bert Stern’s “Marilyn Monroe in Pink Roses.”
Malkovich is a chameleon, always has been. Part of his appeal as an actor is the lengths he will go to inhabit a character. Even with his advanced age, some of these images are shockingly close to the originals, male and female, in spirit if nothing else.
Said the Guardian about the show: “… the show is not a parody. And it takes a true, transformative figure eventually to blend into the image itself.”
Malkovich is that “true, transformative figure.”
New York Times Crossword Puzzle for Monday. May 18, 2020. OK, everyone knows that the Monday puzzle is the easiest of the week. They get progressively harder, although many people say Saturday’s is lots harder than Sunday’s.
Sunday’s puzzle is just huge. And time-consuming. Back when I was young and smarter and had time on my hands — That is, before the children were born. — I lived for the Sunday puzzle. Now, I am content doing Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday — with a rare Thursday thrown in. Even in these long slow-motion days of self-isolation, Sunday’s puzzle does not appeal to me.
All that said, instead of tackling the puzzle at 11 p.m., my usual time, I did Monday’s first thing this morning. A fresh mind, clear head, and quick fingers paid off. With no help at all — Not today, Google, my friend and accomplice! — I finished the puzzle in 22 minutes, 43 seconds.
Clues were mostly of the vanilla variety. Norway’s capital (Oslo), ostentatiously ornamented (gaudy), and British heavy metal band named for a torture device (Iron Maiden). Parts of five of the longest answers hint at a theme for the day — “hat trick,” “Iron Maiden,” “thimble rig,” “dog tired,” and “boot camp.” And the answer to 64 Across is … MONOPOLY. Get it?
Binge-watch continued: “One Step Beyond” (1960-1963) re-enacted and explored reports of ghosts, psychic events, fateful premonitions, and other unexplained phenomena in half-hour, weekly TV episodes. The series was fertile ground for up and coming stars.
Long before William Shatner was having his “Nightmare at 20,000 Feet” on the “Twilight Zone,” he was keeping “The Promise” on this anthology of the supernatural. Shatner is a former Nazi bomber pilot who is shot down over London and is corralled into dismantling bombs, including one that threatens the life of the woman who becomes his wife. Years later, weeks before his wife is to give birth, he is asked to come back one last time, for one last bomb.
“The Visitor” Warren Beatty and Joan Fontaine are a middle-aged couple on the rocks. In fact, she quit having her drinks on the rocks years ago. He leaves their wintery mountain retreat in a huff and somewhere down the slippery road crashes his car. Unconscious, head against the wheel, the man’s car catches fire.
At about the same time, a much younger version of the husband (Beatty, of course) shows up at the mountain house and says all the things the husband should have said decades ago. Is it too late? Is it just in time? You must take “one step beyond” to find out. …
“The Sacred Mushroom” Host John Newland becomes the show when he travels to Mexico to learn about mushrooms that heighten extrasensory perception (ESP) powers in average human beings. This is 1960 and publicity of Timothy Leary and his Harvard experiments with LAS were still a couple of years away.
Newland and some academics consume mushrooms on camera “in the name of science.” Their conclusion: Mushrooms, good. Colors, good. ESP, good. “Groovy” was not yet a part of the human vocabulary.
RE-RUN: Rose and I rewatched Alfred Hitchcock’s “The Lady Vanishes” as a mid-day matinee. (The full movie is available on yesterday’s Log, May 17.) Well, I rewatched it, she was seeing it for the first time. Which is great. I love the movie. I love sharing it with people I love.
And the experience really heightened awareness that movie-watching at its best is a communal experience. There is nothing like laughing, shrieking, groaning, cheering, booing, or sighing in sync with a theater full of people.
Today we have to settle for four-year-old comments on YouTube video. Which is really sad. One of the first things I want to do when all this is over is catch a first-run movie with a bunch of rowdy fans in a dimly-lit movie house. With popcorn. And a coke. And a bag of M&M Peanuts to scarf down.
GETTING BAKED: To my utter delight and sugar high, Rose whipped up a couple of batches of chocolate chip-peanut butter cookies today. Actually, not a lot of sugar, no flour, but lots of great things like oats and more chocolate and more organic peanut butter.
I think I’ll go sneak a couple out of the cookie jar right now. The perfect thing to do, just before bed. …
(The original post said “no sugar” — and I have since been corrected by my editor-for-life. My apologies.)