May 31, 2005
Northwest Airlines Pulls Free Pretzels to Cut Costs
They're rearranging the deck chairs up in the executive suites of this sorry company as you read this.
Last week Northwest, the nation's fourth–largest airline, announced it was eliminating those tasty little salty treats from coach on all flights as of next week Thursday, June 9.
The company pulled its free meals in February so this latest cost–cutting measure comes as no major surprise.
The only thing that's surprising is that they're continuing to offer free soda — for now.
Watch for that to fizzle away later this year.
The company lost $458 million in the last quarter alone, so the estimated $2 million they'll save by bagging the pretzel service would not appear to be the difference between the airline's survival or not — at least to this observer.
In case you really have the munchies Northwest will continue to offer a 3–ounce bag of trail mix for $1.
Tell you what: when — not if — the company declares bankruptcy later this year, the CEO and his minions up there where the air is fine will be eating foie gras rather than trail mix or pretzels when their golden parachutes open.
[via USA Today]
Open Garden Squares Weekend in London, England
One weekend every year many of the private garden squares of London, of which there are over 600, open their gates to anyone who wants a look.
Open Garden Squares weekend falls this year on June 11 and 12.
Mark your calendar.
Usually these private spaces are available only to keyholders, who are typically residents of surrounding buildings.
117 gardens are opening this year, several for the first time ever.
Admission is £5 ($9.35), which covers unlimited visits to all 117.
Tickets may be purchased at most garden gates or online at www.capitalgardens.co.uk.
[via Pamela Kent and the New York Times]
"Marc Zicree knows more about 'The Twilight Zone' than anyone living or deceased"
Pretty strong words, especially since they're coming from Paul Brownstein, DVD producer for the "Definitive Edition" DVD sets being released season–by–season this year.
But that's exactly what he said in Matt Hurwitz's Washington Post story about Zicree, which appeared on the front page of this past Sunday's Washington Post Arts section.
Zicree's book, "The Twilight Zone Companion," came out in 1982 and it's become the definitive reference for all things "Twilight Zone."
Here's the Post story.
- Shadows & Delight: Serling's Lingering 'Twilight'
Submitted for your approval: Mr. Marc Scott Zicree, author of the best-selling "Twilight Zone Companion" episode guide, and a man who has never actually left the Zone.
Two walls in his West Hollywood apartment are filled with rare sci-fi and fantasy books -- first editions of Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes, titles by Ray Bradbury (now a close friend) and others.
And buried somewhere in the stacks are files and files on "The Twilight Zone."
Zicree is renowned as the expert on "Twilight Zone," Rod Serling's fantasy anthology series that has fascinated millions of TV fans since its debut on CBS in 1959.
"Marc knows more about 'The Twilight Zone' than anyone living or deceased," says Paul Brownstein, DVD producer for the new "Definitive Edition" DVD sets being released season-by-season this year.
"I was just lucky enough to get involved after he already was, so I didn't have to run around trying to find a Marc Zicree."
The "Companion" has been in continuous publication since its first printing in 1982, and has become the definitive reference for all things "Zone."
"It's the 'Twilight Zone' bible," says Carol Serling, Rod's widow.
"If somebody wants to know something about a specific script, or how an episode evolved, or who worked on it, we run to this book. I use it, we all use it."
Image Entertainment even went to the trouble of having a reprint made for inclusion with its Season 1 "Twilight Zone" set, in case someone wants the name of the guy in the furry suit that William Shatner swears he sees outside his airplane window ("Nightmare at 20,000 Feet"), or whether that's really Elly May underneath all those bandages ("Eye of the Beholder") or another actress.
Though Zicree, a Southern California native, did catch two episodes in first run on CBS as a small boy, he got stuck on "Twilight Zone" while watching reruns in syndication after school.
He studied art at UCLA, but that wasn't the direction Zicree wanted to go.
"I knew I didn't want to be an artist, I wanted to be a writer," he says.
He continued his studies at the Clarion Writers Workshop at Michigan State University, a well-known science-fiction writing school.
He hoped to get a job in television.
"I thought the way you learn how to make great TV is you learn how great TV is made," Zicree says.
While there had been a few books on television series, there was none on his favorite, "Twilight Zone."
"When I got out of college, I found there was almost nothing written about it. So I thought, 'I'm going to have to write the book that I want to read.' "
Zicree began researching the series in 1977, two years after Rod Serling's death.
Knowing that Serling's widow had already turned down major journalists seeking a story on the writer, Zicree decided to build credibility through the back door.
"I knew one of the show's writers, George Clayton Johnson, so I asked him who he knew, and he connected me with two other people, whom I interviewed, and they connected me with a few more and so on," Zicree says.
"So over three months, I interviewed 30 people who'd worked on the show."
His research lasted three years and 100 interviewees.
"During the period I did the research, everyone except Rod Serling and writer Charles Beaumont was still alive. And it was only about 15 years after the show went off the air" -- 1964 -- "so their memories were still good."
Among those interviewed was actor Burgess Meredith, who recalled his work on the episode "Time Enough at Last," about a henpecked, bespectacled bookworm who just wants some peace and quiet to enjoy his favorite pastime, only to find himself the sole survivor of a nuclear holocaust -- with his glasses broken.
"He invited me to his house in Malibu, and we sat on the beach, and he told me about the four episodes he had done," Zicree recalls.
"He said that they had a few different pairs of glasses for him to wear: those big, thick ones for close shots, through which he couldn't really see anything, and then others with clear glass for long shots."
Zicree also tracked down actress Maxine Stuart, the unseen star of "Eye of the Beholder" -- a favorite of many "Twilight Zone" fans.
A bandage-wrapped woman awaits the result of one last operation, her last chance to look "normal," in a world where, as revealed at the end of the episode, pig-nosed ugliness is the norm, and beauty is the freak.
For most of the episode, Stuart plays the patient whose sultry voice we hear but whose face we never glimpse.
But in the final scene, when the bandages come off, the patient is played by future "Beverly Hillbillies" star Donna Douglas ("Elly May"), who is seen running down the hospital corridors.
Also interviewed were behind-the-camera personnel including producer Buck Houghton, cinematographer George Clements, and Douglas Heyes, who directed "Beholder" and a number of other classic episodes.
"These people often had much better memories of the episodes than the actors, who worked their episodes for just three or four days," Zicree says.
"The directors and writers spent quite a bit more time, writing, prepping and planning each show."
Once he had a few interviews under his belt, the 22-year-old Zicree finally approached Carol Serling, who agreed to give him access to her late husband's files.
"I was crawling through Rod Serling's attic, looking through file boxes, et cetera," says the writer.
"I felt like he lived at my house!" Mrs. Serling recalls.
Rod Serling not only had 16mm prints of nearly every episode, which Zicree screened on a projector purchased for just this purpose, but scripts, memos and file notes.
"What was amazing to see was Rod's great facility of language.
He would write these scripts lounging around his Olympic-size swimming pool, dictating into a tape recorder.
He would describe the characters, the precise looks of each shot, every detail.
And the directors and cinematographers would pull off the image exactly as he had envisioned it in the script."
One of the greatest finds, he says, was an unmarked box filled with scripts that, for one reason or another, were never filmed.
"There were scripts by Serling, Richard Matheson, Charles Beaumont, and even two by Ray Bradbury."
One of the latter, "A Miracle of Rare Device," was about two vagrants who come across a desert mirage.
"The mirage becomes any city the visitor wants it to be, allowing him to walk around and experience it," Zicree says.
Many of these artifacts, including scripts, censor's memos and Serling TV appearances, as well as Zicree's original interview recordings, appear as bonus materials on Image's "Definitive Edition" DVD sets, Season 3 of which is due for release June 28.
"For Season 3, we even got Jonathan Winters to record a new voice-over reading of an alternate ending originally written for an episode in which he appeared with Jack Klugman, called 'A Game of Pool,' " says Brownstein, the DVD producer.
The image quality is immaculate, with new high-definition transfers taken from either original negatives or fine-grained prints kept in CBS's vaults.
Included in the Season 2 set are the six episodes originally shot on videotape, instead of film.
"They had only been available before from poor-quality kinescopes. These were the original two-inch tapes. You could see the splices go by as they played on the machine," says Brownstein.
Zicree's own research for "The Twilight Zone Companion" enabled him to achieve his goal of writing and producing sci-fi television.
By the time the book was published, Zicree was already writing for television, initially in animation for "Smurfs" and "He-Man and the Masters of the Universe," and later on shows including "Friday the 13th: The Series," "Star Trek: The Next Generation," "Star Trek: Deep Space Nine" and "Sliders."
"I was able to apply much of what I had learned from how 'Twilight Zone' was produced to my current work, both in terms of production needs, as well as how to stay original with my stories," Zicree says.
"Serling once said, about his writing, 'It's just the truth as I know it, or, better yet, as I feel it,' and that's what I try to follow."
He is also the author of a series of best-selling novels, "Magic Time," the latest of which hit the Los Angeles Times bestseller list.
"The idea behind them is, what if all the machines in the world stopped running and magic came back? Most people stay human, but a few people get magical abilities," Zicree says.
"The story follows a young man who's raising his orphan sister, who, after a certain event, changes into something that's no longer human. She gets abducted, spirited away, and he sets off on this quest to find her and save her, and see if he can change the world back."
Despite his various successes, "The Twilight Zone Companion" is what he is known for.
He says it's the thing that taught him about quality television production.
It also inspired others.
"When I was 16, I used to lock myself in my room and watch 'Twilight Zone,' " recalls Brannon Braga, writer-producer for "Star Trek" series including "The Next Generation," "Voyager" and "Enterprise."
"I had Marc's book and read everything I could about each episode. It was a formative experience for me."
"Serling (below) was an American master," he continues.
"He had a huge influence on so many people, on two generations of writers. That show had a spirit of imagination that has remained unsurpassed."
A technophile's dream: Stanley's S2 Laser Level Square mounts to your wall with retractable push pins, then projects intersecting red laser beams that make lining up a frame... picture–perfect.
90° layout guide calculates and turns angles in 5° increments.
Whatever that means.
Looks like a miniature Stealth bomber with highlighting.
Considering that a plane costs about $1 billion, the Laser Level's a steal at $39.96.
Melissa Ichiuji — 'Stripped'
Corcoran College of Art & Design student Melissa Ichiuji earlier this year began a 16–week period of systematically depriving herself of daily luxuries that she associated with comfort, security and acceptance.
She ended the process with a "non–performance" piece she entitled "Stripped" which consisted of her ascending a platform in front of the Corcoran (above) in downtown Washington, D.C., for what she intended to be the final 36 hours of the piece.
She wore a white sports bra and drawstring pants.
OK, we've seen this sort of thing before — it didn't seem worth noting at the time, though there was a story about her ongoing performance in the Washington Post.
But yesterday a most interesting piece written — though that is in itself a kind of performance, if you think about it — by Ichiuji appeared in the Post.
It's kind of a "what a did on my summer vacation" sort of essay but nonetheless, if she could stand out there to the point of becoming physically ill then it's the least I can do to let her have her say here.
And if you're planning your own performance piece there is information here which will certainly come in handy when your big day arrives.
I've thought about renting a storefront and putting up a one–way mirror in front, then living and blogging there for a while.
I may well do so but probably not until bookofjoeTV goes live so that I can have a camera both inside and outside the glass and show both views on a split screen.
Won't that be fun?
Anyway, here is Melissa Ichiuji's statement — as it were.
- Peeling Back the Layers Of Meaning in 'Stripped'
Nearly three weeks have passed since the final hours of the public installation of "Stripped" in front of the Corcoran Gallery of Art.
Since then I have been contacted by many people.
Most offer support, some want answers.
I will share a little about the last hours of the piece in hopes that it will shed some light on my experience.
Two days before sitting in front of the Corcoran, I decided that I should stop eating solid food to reduce the likelihood of restroom breaks.
I arrived at the platform at 5:30 a.m. on May 10.
I set out my jars and arranged my drinks on the ground behind me, climbed up on the platform and sat.
As the sun rose, the streets and sidewalks became very busy.
By mid-morning the installation was attracting a lot of attention.
I decided to stand.
The platform was hard, and every bony protrusion on my body felt bruised.
Sitting or reclining in almost any position was uncomfortable.
So I stood while photographers took pictures, viewers read my journal and the sun moved overhead.
I kept standing and kept drinking liquids.
Every drop went immediately through me.
People wanted to interact with me.
Some yelled out questions or requests.
A few people approached the platform to offer me assistance or to give me something.
I was overwhelmed by the sudden intimacy.
The choice to put myself on display was a masochistic one that relates back to privacy, dignity, irony.
Time passed and I continued to alternate between standing and sitting.
I tried to keep my mind away from my discomfort and focus on the people who wanted to connect.
I had many lingering exchanges with total strangers.
Some returned two and three times throughout the day, and through simple eye contact I experienced some of the most revealing and heartbreaking exchanges I have ever known.
A wall had come down; I and the observers became both the viewed and the viewer.
Things started to look blurry.
I could not keep any liquids in my body.
I was sure that I was going to faint, and a sudden wave of nausea sent me to find a restroom.
I had underestimated the effects of the direct sun and, having never fasted before, my insides were in turmoil.
The cold floor of the Corcoran provided a moment of relief.
I returned to my platform and tried to stay hydrated.
I could not stop shaking and attempted to cool my body off by pouring water over my head.
I traced the wood grain of the platform over and over with my finger.
I thought about a friend who had passed away a couple of days earlier.
I looked across the street at the American flag waving high above the White House.
I thought about freedom and wondered when I'd felt the most free.
I decided it must have been during a fit of unbridled laughter between my sister and me.
There have been thousands of those, but perhaps the ones from childhood, before we were aware of ourselves, were the purest.
I stayed on the platform and tried to stay focused.
I was flooded with self-doubt about my ability to defy nature and my own body.
Evening came and went and people kept coming.
Once the sun went down, I was very cold.
My clothes were wet and I could not stop shaking.
A few people who had returned from earlier in the day expressed their concern for my health.
A man who announced himself as a doctor asked me questions while I nodded.
He did not think I should continue.
I tried to sleep but kept feeling like I might be sick again.
In the early hours of May 11 I walked around the Corcoran and entered the building to use the restroom.
I was on my fourth day without food and was not doing so well.
Though I was very conflicted about stopping the project, I concluded that I had learned what I had set out to discover about my response to public isolation and the loss of real or perceived security.
I left around 3:45 a.m. I am a human being and was not out to prove otherwise.
In the final analysis, "Stripped" was indeed a protest against the decadence of our time, against personal fear, against societal expectations (of women) and against forms of advertising that prey on the public's most primitive desire to feel connected.
I chose to do the piece publicly because I wanted to reinforce the point that most of us spend our lives looking for a sense of connection.
It is ironic that we live in a society that promotes activities that move us away from a true awareness of our bodies, each other, nature, the globe and humility.
To do the piece publicly forced me to deal with my own conflicting desires for connection and privacy.
For me the important thing was to become more aware of my motivations to avoid suffering and discomfort and to take a hard look at what I could really count on for security and meaning.
When the project was over, my life did not spring back to its original shape.
I have resumed some activities and have remained indifferent to others.
The Web site I created to document this process continues to be a place of dialogue for me.
From here I have vowed to build a life that better reflects what I value.
I am starting small, donating clutter, eating more simply, trying to be kinder and looking into trading in my car for a hybrid. I decided to let go a little and celebrate ends and beginnings.
I poured a glass of champagne, got my scissors and set about cutting myself free from one of my last vestiges of vanity, my hair.
"Three stylish designs."
Universal holster fits most cell phones.
"Complements use of faceplates."
Enables use of "Vibrate" feature.
"Versatile wearing and design options for casual, business or dressy."
Be the first in your office to throw down.
The only thing I find surprising is that they're not offering it in "Paris Pink."
Macmillan's 'No–Frills' Publishing Venture Has The U.K. Literati's Knickers in a Twist
Macmillan, whose history dates to 1843 and includes such authors as Thomas Hardy and Rudyard Kipling, has unleashed a firestorm of controversy and criticism with its "New Writing" program aimed at first–time novelists.
Long story short: the company offers no advance to authors and performs no editing in order to "keep costs to a minimum."
Writers receive a 20% royalty with Macmillan holding an option to publish a writer's second book under the same terms.
Makes me think about going down to the basement to unearth that medical thriller I wrote a decade ago and couldn't get published.
I toyed with the idea of publishing a chapter a week here but then decided it was too much effort to scan the thing in, etc.
Probably not, though.
Here's the May 26 Bloomberg News story by Charles Goldsmith.
- Macmillan's No-Frills Publishing Plan Divides U.K. Literati
A no-frills plan for new writers by publisher Pan Macmillan Ltd. is the talk of Britain's book world as authors descend this weekend on the annual Hay-on-Wye literary festival on the England-Wales border.
Macmillan, home to such popular authors as Wilbur Smith and Minette Walters, recently initiated a "New Writing" program aimed at first-time novelists -- a bid to yield surprise hits while spending little on upfront costs.
Reviews of the program are mixed: supporters say it gives hope to undiscovered talent, while critics dismiss the initiative as a gimmick doomed to failure.
Among the first crop of novels to be published under the system will be "North," a psychological drama by retired English teacher Brian Martin, 67, of Oxford, England.
He sent his book to Macmillan after failing to win a publishing deal through two agents, he said.
"I know what traditional publishers and agents tend to think," Martin said.
"For someone at my age to find an agent who's going to invest time in someone like me is very, very difficult."
The author describes "North" as a "novel of obsession" in which the narrator is "almost as enigmatic as his subject North, a strange, elegant Anglo-American youth."
North's first name is never revealed.
The New Writing plan's terms are simple: Macmillan offers no advance payments to authors, and Macmillan editors will perform no rewriting in order to "keep costs to a minimum."
Writers will receive 20 percent royalties on books sold, with Macmillan holding an option to publish a writer's second book under the same terms.
The first half-dozen books will be published under the plan in April 2006, followed by one or two a month, Macmillan said.
It said the books will be carried in the company's catalogs, and "sold in the market" by the publisher.
While Macmillan makes no promises about marketing efforts, it promises to keep the books in print for two years, Macmillan Chief Executive Richard Charkin said in a phone interview.
The plan, which differs from vanity publishing in that Macmillan pays publishing costs, has sparked a spirited debate over the state of the U.K.'s book industry.
"The New Writing scheme suggests that the days of taste and literary discrimination at Macmillan are over," wrote Robert McCrum, literary editor of the Observer newspaper and a former editor-in-chief at publisher Faber & Faber.
Novelist Hari Kunzru, author of "The Impressionist," told the Guardian newspaper that the plan was "the Ryanair of publishing," a reference to the low-cost airline.
Critics of Macmillan's plan such as McCrum say the system strips editors of their responsibilities to select and shape the most promising new fiction.
Skeptics also say the plan will result in poorly selling books because publishers that have invested little in the works will inadequately promote them.
"It's very, very hard to sell first novels at the moment anyway even with full promotion and published in the normal channels," said Dan Franklin, publisher at Jonathan Cape Ltd., a unit of Bertelsmann AG's Random House.
Macmillan, part of German media company Verlagsgruppe Georg von Holtzbrinck GmbH, said the plan helps gifted new authors whose works wouldn't be published through traditional agent-oriented publishing channels because the cost is prohibitively high.
Charkin said he's "almost speechless" over criticism that the system exploits authors eager to be published.
"How could one possibly say that offering to publish someone who wouldn't be published, and paying 20 percent royalties, and making no promises but doing our best, amounts to exploitation?" he said.
Much of the criticism reflects "snobbery and elitism" in the literary world, said Charkin, adding that he regards Ryanair as "quite a good thing."
Macmillan, whose history dates to 1843 and includes such authors as Thomas Hardy and Rudyard Kipling, has received several hundred submissions since directing prospective authors to the New Writing plan on its Web site a few months ago, Charkin said.
The publisher requests completed works rather than ideas, sent electronically, and cautions writers to expect "a minimum of communication between publisher and author."
The New Writing system has split Britain's literary community "right down the middle," said Charles Jones, co- founder of http://www.writersservices.com, a Web site aimed at writers.
The plan is welcomed by "a lot of people out there writing wonderful things who can't get them published, but others say, 'No, the gatekeepers are there for a reason, and they ensure that good things get out.'"
The buying manager at the Waterstone's book chain, Scott Pack, said the plan could help more "experimental books" make their way into shops.
"Macmillan is being honest: they're saying one reason we don't publish these books is because it's too risky."
The issue has also stirred plenty of debate on Web logs or "blogs" used by aspiring writers.
"All those wannabe novelists see it as the answer to their prayers, while others see it as the end of civilization," McCrum said in a phone interview.
He said he doesn't expect other publishers to follow Macmillan's lead.
"Rival publishers may be dismissive of Macmillan's scheme, but they will nevertheless be watching carefully," trade magazine the Bookseller said in an editorial.
"If any of the authors take off, expect to see more 'Ryanair publishing' ventures quickly crowd the flight paths."