Ambition, lies, and (good) fake photos

first_imgDon’t believe everything you read in the papers, the old adage goes. Or, if it appeared in the hugely influential American politics mag The New Republic in the late 1990s and carried the by-line Stephen Glass, don’t believe anything you read. At all. Shattered Glass tells the story of real-life hotshot hack Glass (Hayden Christensen), who was fired from the magazine for making up 27 of the 41 ‘exclusive’ stories he wrote, including, crucially, an account of ambitious internet hackers which was picked up by Forbes online and exposed as being a tissue of falsehoods. The bulk of the story is a quietly gripping thriller, as the net tightens around Glass and his efforts to save his skin get more desperate. Billy Ray’s film effectively captures the atmosphere of paranoia and professional jealousy that pervades such publications, and includes some impressive performances. Peter Sarsgaard has received the lion’s share of critics’ praise, for his reinedin portrayal of Glass’s gruff editor Charles Lane. But it is Hayden Christensen, released from the role of Anakin Skywalker who surprises, displaying an acting talent hitherto unseen. Deliciously charming or incredibly irritating, depending on your point of view, he is always ready with smooth-tongued flattery, eyes innocently beaming behind his spectacles. His exposure offers punters the pleasure of seeing the slimy sycophant who is constantly making coffee and bringing the boss bagels finally getting his comeuppance. Ray’s portrayal of the group dynamics of the small, self-regarding magazine is the great strength of the film. The abuse of trust and the ease with which people will let themselves be deceived indicate the pressure on writers in a highly competitive world to make their work more attractive and entertaining, even if this involves playing around with the truth. What’s missing is any psychological insight into Glass’s fabulism. Why did he do it? Nobody seems to know, least of all Glass. Employing a device used in numerous recent films, the director mixes day-to-day reality with Glass’s fantasies in a manner both amusing and disturbing. But we are given no insight into how far Glass himself believes this fantasy: is Glass a slicker-than-youraverage con-man, a less charming version of Leonardo di Caprio’s desperate people pleaser? Or is he a deeply disturbed young man who verges on being a sociopath? There are odd paradoxes in the liberties apparently taken in telling a ‘true’ story about a journalist fired for taking liberties with the truth, and for the most part Ray simply sidesteps the whole issue of fiction versus fact by refusing to speculate on Glass’ motivation. In this respect, Shattered Glass is dangerously similar to its own protagonist – too slick for its own good. With Piers Morgan still reeling from multiple counts of false reporting, Billy Ray’s sharp, subtle account of renegade reporter Stephen Glass seems timely.ARCHIVE: 4th week TT 2004last_img read more

Wenzel’s spends £1m to revamp and grow outlets

first_imgLondon craft bakery chain Wenzel’s is defying the tough economic climate with a £1m revamp of its 20 stores and plans to boost the chain to 30 outlets in the next year.The Pinner-based company expects the new-look stores to boost takings by at least 10%, with the introduction of new signage and photography, highlighting the company’s craft bakery skills. Wenzel’s packaging and website have also been redesigned and new ’pick-up’ areas will encourage more impulse purchases.The refresh, which has been undertaken with the help of design company Ech, began last month and is expected to be completed by the spring of 2012.At the same time, the company is planning to open a further 10 outlets over the next 12 months, starting with a new store in Edgware this month. Wenzel’s also hopes to open more branches in tube stations, including Victoria and Marylebone, which will join existing sites at Bakerloo and Harrow on the Hill.Sarah Wenzel, owner, said: “Because of the economic climate there are good deals out there on units. We own a lot of our properties freehold, so we are quite a cash-rich business. The expansion will be self-funded.”Sales across the chain have been buoyant since August, she added, thanks to several new initiatives, such as more meal deals, customer feedback schemes and a Facebook campaign. “We’re also more focused on upselling and have invested significantly in staff training,” she said. “We have monthly managers’ meetings where we talk about the products that we need to focus on and have introduced a new bonus scheme.”last_img read more

Elevating Our Students from the Floors to Chairs: “To Whom Much Is Given,…

first_imgWho is Tibelrosa Summoh Tarponweh?  We do not remember ever doing a story on this caring and patriotic parent.  But last Thursday our Health Correspondent, Alaskai Johnson, caught him doing a great deed: providing 78 armchairs to students of the John Payne Mitchell Elementary and Junior High School in Marshall, Margibi County.   Johnson dutifully covered the event and put Mr. Tarponweh suddenly in the news.Alaskai’s photos were graphic enough.  He showed students sitting on cement blocks, with their second grade teacher looking on with concern, and the new armchairs provided by donor Tarponweh. There are at least three things that make this story important.  The first is the students who, eager to learn, are prepared to make any sacrifice, including sitting on the floor, to attend school.    The second is the ineptitude (incompetence, ineffectiveness) of the Ministry of Education, in allowing students, in this day and age, to sit on the classroom floor or on broken concrete blocks.  The Ministry has forgotten what President Sirleaf did a few years back when she paid a surprise visit to the William Gabriel Kpoleh School in Bardnersville and found students sitting on the floor: in anger, she suspended Education Minister Joseph Korto and all his deputies!  The third important thing about Alaskai’s story is the neighborhood in which the school exists. Right across the street from it are the imposing mansions of the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Alex Tyler—a man who hails from an equally impoverished rural Liberian town—Arthington in Montserrado County.Why do we have to mention the Speaker?  First, because Alaskai did in his story.  The inquisitive reporter that he is, he could not help but look across the street and see the Speaker’s imposing mansions, in stark contrast to this deprived and impoverished school training pupils who are just beginning their educational journey into the future, when one of them would one day be a national leader like Speaker Tyler. But let us quickly digress, for one particular reason: to remind these students—indeed all Liberian students—that we do not want them to grow up dreaming of political leadership only.  They must remember that there is a whole lot one can do for his or her country without becoming president, speaker, senator, representative or chief justice. Many of us have been given, and are being given, an education to HELP MOVE LIBERIA FORWARD IN EVERY DIRECTION—in agriculture, architecture, business and finance, cartography (mapping), defense (immigration, police, soldier, etc), education (teaching, research and writing) engineering, geology and mining, health sciences and medicine, history (world, national, local, personal and professional, etc.), journalism, law, languages, political and other social sciences and pure science and technology.Speaker Tyler may not have known where this school is or what its needs are.  Nor may he have known after whom the school was named—John Payne Mitchell—former Education Secretary and the first Liberian to attain the Doctorate degree (PhD).We surely hope the students of this school will come to know who Dr. Mitchell was, so that some of them, too, may aspire to attain and indeed achieve this coveted academic credential, the PhD.No, the Speaker may not have known where this school is, for too many of our top officials and privileged people feel very comfortable in their air-conditioned, stained glass- windowed vehicles speeding past the poor, deprived and underprivileged on the dusty, muddy or water-logged streets and in slum neighborhoods.But that is why—remember? —Jesus walked most places He went—to experience for Himself as the incarnate One (in the flesh—God made man), the multitude of problems besetting suffering humanity—and not only to experience, but to DO something about   them! Remember, too, that Christ took pains to teach the people about GOOD NEIGHBORLINESS, telling them that their neighbor is “everyone, without exception.”We pray that Speaker Tyler will become a good neighbor to his poor, deprived and underprivileged community—and not him only, but all others who are building mansions in that beautiful Marshall strip, or anywhere else in Liberia.For that same Bible teaches, “To whom much is given, much is expected.”   Share this:Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)last_img read more