MEDIA MASH: Wal-mart Mystery; New Moore Books; Kucinich v. Plastics

Michael Moore signs with new publisher, gets richer.

Michael Moore has inked a deal with Warner books (a subsidiary of AOL Time Warner) for his next two tomes for a figure in the range of $3 million, according to Variety. Book 1: a view of the presidential campaign leading up to the 2004 election. Book 2: a memoir.

Moore is leaving Harper Collins. Explaining his decision, his spokesperson said, "Michael is a man with a mission. All he wants is a publisher who will give him support," in what was presumably an allusion to Harper Collins' threat to pulp Moore's current book because of the post 9/11 climate. Clearly Harper Collins and Moore are making a bundle on "Stupid White Men." Some thought the pre-publication skirmishes were staged by design to help sales.

The book deal does suggest that Moore must be close to being the country's richest Leftist (excluding anyone with inherited wealth). How's that for irony? The working class dude from Flint is worth many millions. Moore may have passed Ralph Nader, whose millions in stock holdings were revealed when he ran for President on the Green ticket. But since much of Nader's portfolio was in technology, his worth may have slipped since then.

Caroline Knapp - Masher Hero

It was quite a shock to read on Salon that Caroline Knapp died of breast cancer at 42. She was diagnosed in April and dead within weeks.

Caroline was a hero because she took writing risks and let us into her soul. With her character Alice K -- the subject of her long running feature, "Out There," in the Boston Phoenix -- she explored human foibles with a special sensitivity, a quality rarely found in today's cynical media world.

"Drinking; A Love Story," Knapp's memoir of her life as a highly functioning alcoholic, was probably the most movingly naked book the Masher has ever read. Whether it was fiction or fact, the reader always knew we were inside Caroline's being, a world filled with creativity and contradictions.

Caroline's painful excavation of her relationship with her psychoanalyst father, and his profound influence on both her and her mother, is matchless in its grasp of complex human relationships. Yet, despite her troubled psyche, Caroline was always a warm, sexy, caring, responsive, brainy person, willing to share and receive.

Kucinich Fights Plastics

When Congressman Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio) arranged a viewing of Blue Vinyl -- the powerfully funny documentary about one family's journey with PVC's and the plastic industry -- for members of Congress and their staff, it did not go down well in certain quarters.

PolyOne Corp, "a Cleveland based plastics compounding leader" (as described in Plastics News), was none too happy with Kucinich for sponsoring the screening. So they flew to D.C. to meet with him, called his office daily to complain about it, and organized a constituent call-in drive. In all, the office received about 50 phone calls urging the Congressman not to show the movie.

In the Q&A after the screening, when someone asked about the industry response to the film, Kucinich's legislative assistant Allison Friedrich recounted the numerous phone calls from PolyOne. She said their actions show that Blue Vinyl is "a very powerful testiment to the truth about what's going on ... That this has sparked such an outrage from industry really speaks to the power of the film."

Wal-mart Mystery in Augusta

When Brian Neill, editor of the Metropolitan Spirit in Augusta, Georgia published Jim Hightower's article on Wal-mart, he didn't expect his circulation to drop. But sure enough, the four newspaper boxes located at the town's two Wal-mart stores disappeared without a trace. Neill says the disappearance of the racks remains a mystery and the loss cost the paper in the range of $1200 -- a sum that sounds to the Masher like the grand larceny category.

Neill adds that it is hard for him to believe this incident was a coincidence, since the two Wal-mart stores are on opposite sides of town. Props to Neill for publishing Hightower and to Hightower for putting out high quality well-researched stories in the Hightower Lowdown. Hightower's Wal-mart article quickly became one of AlterNet's highest trafficked stories.

Must Read the New York Review of Books

All of a sudden, and perhaps the Masher has been asleep at the wheel, The New York Review of Books is a must read. It has been particularly strong on civil liberties and human rights. A recent issue in April included Amnesty International's William Schultz on the U.S. as a "Torturer's Haven," and Ronald Dworkin on the evils of the Bush Military Tribunals. The current issue includes a powerful deconstruction of the Israel-Palestine situation by Amos Elon, an insightful take on the turmoil within the Catholic Church by Gary Wills, and Joseph Stiglitz wisdom on George Soros and the perils of globalizaiton. Maybe it's historical circumstances, but the NYRB seems to be on top of the key issues shaking our world.

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