This Week in Magazines: The "Capitalist Tool" Says Angelina Tops Oprah

07/08/2009 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011
  • James Warren Washington Bureau Chief, New York Daily News; Former managing editor, Chicago Tribune

It's been a tough week for Oprah. First a terrific Newsweek cover underscored her penchant to legitimize wacky medical claims on her show. Now June 22 Forbes dethrones her as the "most powerful celebrity."

After a two-year reign, she slips to second, behind Angelina Jolie, despite estimated earnings of $275 million. This less-than-empirical analysis by the self-proclaimed "capitalist tool" of business magazines combines the elements of earnings and fame, with the latter of relevance to Jolie since she's a comparative piker on the income side, having supposedly taken in a mere $27 million.

Ana Ivanovic is No. 90, which is notable since, if you know of her, you're watching too much ESPN and had best get a life (she's one of many interchangeable female Eastern European tennis players who've helped make the women's game an arguably snooze). Perhaps Forbes should include a separate list next year for our society's favorite new species, the reality show celebrity. They seem to be ascending the tabloid pantheon, outpacing those of any seeming achievement.

Forbes also includes "The Extremely Male Brain," a look at debate over the rise in autism diagnoses and theories as to why boys are more impacted. Along the way, this takes a whack at the theory linking autism to vaccinations for measles, mumps and rubella; come to think of it, a theory Oprah's audience associates with Oprah chum Jenny McCarthy, a proselytizer on such an alleged connection.

This focuses on work by Britain's Simon Baron-Cohen (cousin of "Borat" star Sacha Baron Cohen), a professor of developmental psychopathology at Cambridge University, who ultimately says one can't look at any single factor as a cause right now. But he does posit the notion of "assortative mating," suggesting that strong systemizers (like computer engineers) are hooking up with one another more often. His autism research center previously concluded that fathers of autistic children seem to be disproportionately represented in certain fields, like engineering.

In addition, he contends that the autistic brain "is basically an extreme version of the male brain," noting that those with autism tend to be better at actions for which men show more aptitude than women. It's a theory touching the politically incorrect area of whether there are indeed sex differences in the brain; the subject area whose mention essentially brought down Lawrence Summers, now President Obama's top economic aide, as Harvard president.

---Well, it appears that comedian Stephen Colbert, guest editor for the June 15 issue of the new and supposedly more analytical Newsweek, at least glanced at June 15 Time's cover, "How Twitter Will Change the Way We Live." His "Why I Took This Crummy Job" letter to Newsweek readers drolly informs that his (and the magazine's generally serious and able) focus on Iraq "meant cutting the cover story they had planned: "Hey, Have You Heard About This Thing Called 'Twitter?' "

A mild ouch, if you're Time, given intimation that you're a tad late to proclaiming cultural change (even as Newsweek strains to look au courant by embracing the late-night comic, in the process maybe leaving a few wondering if its latest reinvention is admirably eclectic and complex or confused and disjointed). Regardless, Time makes a case that our lives will be altered, as tech entrepreneur-author Steven Johnson heralds Twitter's melding of social networks, live search and link-sharing.

Ultimately, this isn't all that convincing even as Johnson finds that Twitter's mere existence bespeaks an impressive economic-creative resilience amid the current recession as "the engineers at Twitter headquarters are scrambling to keep the servers up, application developers are releasing their latest, builds, and ordinary users are figuring out all the ingenious ways to put these tools to us....Here we are, millions of us, sitting around trying to invent new ways to talk to one another."

---June 1 Modern Healthcare checks out "Land of Opportunity," namely the hefty stimulus funds going to the Indian Health Service, with $227 million allocated for health facilities construction in just two states, Alaska and South Dakota. This has prompted a vigorous debate not just as to whether that allocation represents a boondoggle but whether the government's system of prioritizing Indian construction projects is "riddled with flaws and equity issues," as one critic here suggests. Is it based on a moth-eaten model of building big hospitals when smaller, ambulatory-care facilities are the increasing way to go? It may well be, but one also senses that the HIS deserves the budget hikes its getting, even if its disbursement strategy is debatable.

---June 8 Sports Illustrated's "I Want My Body Back" inspects that unfortunate species of big, fat college football lineman who awake one day and realize their college career is over and there's no way they'll play in the pros. With most schools' athletic programs not employing nutritionists, many players end the grind of working out and just balloon in weight, winding up with serious health issues. This profiles two recent Oregon linemen who got smart and quickly cut down dramatically, but relies on admittedly anecdotal evidence to suggest they're the exceptions proving a rule in which overweight ex-football players are far more likely to die earlier than slimmer teammates.

---June 15 The Nation juxtaposes what it deems positive and negative developments in the organized labor movement. First it finds positive ramifications of protests by workers at a suburban Chicago Hart Schaffner & Marx factor amid anxiety that Wells Fargo, the prime creditor of the bankrupt parent company, may force the clothier into liquidation. But it then again bemoans a rancorous internal dispute at UNITE HERE, created by the 2004 merger of textile and garment workers with the major restaurant and hotel workers union. It's a dispute also spotlighted in June 15 Business Week's "No Solidarity for Labor," which in part underscores frictions over congressional legislative strategy between two of the movement's brightest lights, Andrew Stern and John Wilhelm.

The Nation contends that the Chicago protests, in which workers insist that Wells Fargo (a federal stimulus beneficiary) "balance social needs with financial imperatives," may suggest "an opening for the social vision the garment unions" once symbolized. We'll see.

---June 5 The Week gives its "Briefing" page to the rise of cyberwarfare, with U.S. officials tending to blame Russians and Chinese for the increase and one Chinese academic here asserting that we steal the most secrets. This concedes that "computer scientists at the Pentagon and U.S. intelligence agencies developed some of the most advanced cyberwar technologies, including sensors that eavesdrop on computer keystrokes and viruses that use a computer's own camera and microphone to bug the user."

---July Bon Appetit's barbecue issue is fat with advice and includes "Seoul Food," a trek to a barbecue heaven, South Korea. As a firm believer that the best ribs in Chicago are found at a Korean-owned joint called Fat Willy's Rib Shack, I was drawn to this journey in the land of open-fire cooking, even if the Koreans get a bit too holistic and make claims for their cooking balancing and nourishing the body and soul (if only the food could satisfy their North Korean neighbors' craving for weapons). Check the recipe for Korean beef barbecue with toasted sesame salt, as well as those for other dishes (field greens, shrimp and green onion cakes, and white kimchi) we wouldn't normally associate with barbecue.

----Volume 65 of American Imago, a leading journal on psychoanalysis, has this week's journey to the obscure via "Ginsberg in Hospital," a look at the June 1949 psychiatric hospitalization in New York City of poet Allen Ginsberg, then 23. He wound up there as a result of a plea bargain in a case in which he was charged with riding in a car with stolen goods.

Here, psychoanalyst Janet Hadda, having been allowed access to those hospital records by Ginsberg's estate, writes that,

Traditionally, scholars have held that this hospitalization was, at best, a hiatus in Ginsberg's creativity and, at worst, led to an attempt by the doctors there to squelch his genius and suppress his homosexuality. Using unpublished hospital records, the present article argues that Ginsberg's time as a patient, while brief and unheralded, allowed him a safe and protected environment in which to experience the chaos that had always shadowed his existence. This period in Ginsberg's life, far from harming him, allowed him to decompensate, recover, and become the poet of 'Howl,'" his influential 1956 collection.

She concludes:

In the end, Ginsberg's poetry itself is testimony to his freedom. If 'Howl,' 'Kaddish,' and other works sometimes describe forms of mental illness--paranoia, hallucination, obsession, mania, and the like--the poet himself remained lucid and self-aware.

Perhaps he was able to venture further than most people into an uncontrolled realm because he had lost his psychological integrity and suffered what others are terrified to experience. But then, unlike [his schizophrenic mother] Naomi, he returned to sanity and he knew that he was safe. What he most dreaded had already happened, and he could proceed--in his life and in his art--with enviable guts and brio.