Alibi V.18 No.25 • June 18-24, 2009

Rahim AlHaj and Ustad Amjad Ali Khan

Two musical masters serve the single purpose of peace

Though rooted in two different cultures, Iraqi oudist Rahim AlHaj and Indian sarodist Ustad Amjad Ali Khan have each flourished under the same sun: the belief that music is a singularly uniting art form that can transform the world for the better.

feature

Flashers!

The winners of our Flash Fiction contest

It’s pretty clear that our collective attention span is decreasing. The long, handwritten letters of yore that were replaced by short e-mails have in turn have been superseded by tweets. Hell, they don’t even make TV miniseries anymore.

Ballroom Blitz

Alibi’s pre-Pride Space Glam Dance Party in photos

This year the Alibi threw its first ever pre-Pride party at swanky Nob Hill cigar bar, Imbibe. The establishment, with its spacy neon lights, mod white couches, brilliant rooftop patio and permission to smoke freely, was the perfect place to stage a gay, glitter glam-themed party.

film

Reel World

Youth Development Inc.’s Mi Voz program is a free after-school program that allows middle school students to learn “above the line” video production. That means tweens get to write, produce, direct and star in their own short video projects. The most recent season of Mi Voz just wrapped up and YDI is celebrating by screening a series of youth-made shorts. This season’s shorts center around the theme of “The Zia’s Heart” and had students finding and documenting the lives and inspirations of New Mexican artists. Musicians, painters, woodworkers and candle makers are among the people profiled in this selection of mini-documentaries. The Mi Voz screening will take place on Friday, June 19, at Wool Warehouse (516 First Street NW) beginning at 6:30 p.m. Six short films will be presented. A suggested $5 donation gets you in the door.

Away We Go

Little film with big names mixes comedy, drama and pregnancy

Away We Go looks and feels like yet another entry in a long, unbroken line of admirably glum/funny, nerd/hipster-centric indie film dramedies (Rushmore, Roger Dodger, The Squid and the Whale, Garden State, Juno, Margot at the Wedding, Gigantic to rattle off just a few). As the film goes on, though, something starts to feel different. There’s something percolating under the surface here. Something more than just the impressive cast and witty humor in evidence. The other shoe drops when the end credits roll. (The opening credits consist solely of a title card, dropped some 10 minutes into the feature.) Amid the humble scroll of names are the identities of the director (Sam Mendes, the man behind American Beauty, Jarhead and Revolutionary Road) and the writers (Dave Eggers & Vendela Vida, sometimes referred to as “the Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie of the literary world”). That’s some mighty important info to bury in the end credits.

The Proposal

Romcom covers familiar ground, still unearths some laughs

One of the problems with romantic comedies is the dogged death grip they maintain on genre conventions. When’s the last time you saw a romantic comedy that avoided the “meet cute,” the “big lie” and the “climactic race to the airport for last-minute reconciliation”? Sometimes it makes me wonder if When Harry Met Sally ... is the only romantic comedy to ever actually get things right. Apparently, somebody broke that particular mold back in 1989, because we’ve been stuck with Maid in Manhattan/Made of Honor crapola ever since.

Viral Load

“Tosh.0” on Comedy Central, “Web Soup” on G4, “DJ & The Fro” on MTV

You know all those wacky viral videos your friends cop off the Internet and e-mail to you at work? Wouldn’t it be great to watch those again in the comfort of your own living room? ... What do you mean, “Not really?” That’s not the answer TV wants to hear right now. Realizing they’re free and plentiful, networks are cooking up a whole mess of shows featuring those short cellphone clips of people getting racked in the roundberries, puking up improper food products and doing weird things on foreign TV game shows.

art

Palette Contemporary Art & Craft

Palette Contemporary Art & Craft showcases work from dozens of contemporary artists. Pieces from New Mexico artists as well as artists from across the US and around the world all call Palette home. Modernist pieces in various media, including clay, jewelry, mixed media and paintings are all represented, and highlights from abroad include paintings by Aboriginal Australian artists and a print made from a Claes Oldenburg woodcut. Especially notable is the gallery's collection of art glass, which includes intricately patterned hand-blown glass marbles that kids would probably dream about adding to their collection and that grown-ups will also find aesthetically intriguing.

Culture Shock

So, I know you've already committed the bulk of your weekend to attending our Flash Fiction events at O'Niell's, and who can blame you? But let me suggest that you squeeze a few more arts happenings onto your social calendar. Attend these, but don't do it for me (though I'm fairly certain that’s no one's motivation to attend anything). Don't even do it for the artists; do it for Albuquerque. Because if you don't go to cool stuff, then it goes away, and all we're left with are strip mall openings and Val Kilmer sightings.

To the Death

Slam poets converge on Southwest Shootout—but only one will survive

The Southwest Shootout poetry slam stretches all the way back to 2004. In the slam poetry world, that’s like going back to Victorian times—or more appropriately, the Wild West.

news

Answer Me This

Which notable Burqueños spent the night in jail? What spicy food got recalled? How did police find a cyclist's stolen bikes? And how can you track where federal stimulus dollars are going in Albuquerque?

A Life Sentence

Illiteracy traps New Mexicans in low-paying jobs, according to one coalition working to free them

Gilbert Zamora was a top janitor at a school in Alamogordo. He was in charge of placing the school's orders, sometimes for textbooks. He was an older man, in his 50s or 60s. And because he couldn't read, he devised a color-coded system for doing his job. "If someone messed with his system, he was vulnerable," says Heather Heunermund, executive director of the New Mexico Coalition for Literacy (NMCL).

Warehouse for the (Partial) Win

Warehouse 508 has ridden the ups and downs of the funding seesaw. The budding Downtown teen center saw its operating budget slashed by $50K and its Icehouse-rehab budget increased by $300,000 in a late-May meeting.

Slamming Slam

Wilted laurels

So we now have what's billed as the world's first Slam Poet Laureate in Danny Solis, crowned this past Saturday night, June 13, at the KiMo. Good on Danny. As a slam elder statesman, so to speak, this choice is right in the sweet spot.

Hundred-Dollar House

With home prices plummeting, Larry Garcia devised an unusual plan for getting his place off the market.

Nervous Breakdown

A step-by-step guide

I recently had the privilege of going completely crazy 500 miles from home.

Odds & Ends

Dateline: England—The City Council in Worcester has sent a letter to a dead citizen demanding he pay for upkeep on his gravestone or it will be repossessed.

music

Music to Your Ears

You can only squeeze so many banjos, two-steppers and fiddlers into a single Saturday afternoon. If you don't watch your elbows, you might get a rosined bow where God never intended.

Kannaroo 3: Killith Fair

Music for music's sake

Usually, drunken ideas only sound brilliant while you're sloshed.

Max Moulton and three of his friends from Dixon beat the odds and came up with a solid idea for a music festival while blitzed. "Alcohol was kind of the catalyst," Moulton recalls. "Booze cures all."

That was three years ago. Since then, there have been two installments of their Kannaroo music festival in Sunshine Valley, situated just north of Questa. The third Kannaroo features 12 bands from New Mexico, Arizona and Colorado, a guitar shred-off competition and an improperly sized volleyball game.

food

A Cherry on Top

High times in High Rolls

For budget-minded travelers, especially during a recession, vacations to far-off destinations are out of the question. But that doesn't mean you have to spend the summer next to a kiddie pool in the baking confines of your backyard.

Las Islitas

Welcome to Nayarit

Mexico is so large and diverse that “Mexican food” doesn’t actually say much. When you see the word “mariscos” attached to a Mexican restaurant, you can expect a focus on seafood; but with thousands of miles of Mexican coastline, even mariscos leaves quite a few unanswered questions. Las Islitas, for its part, has staked claim to the cuisine of the central Pacific state of Nayarit.

Alibi V.18 No.24 • June 11-17, 2009

Under the Rainbow

An interview with the creator of the LGBT flag

You don't design a flag, says Gilbert Baker. "It's torn from the soul of the people."

feature

Pride Guide

LGBT entertainment off the fairgrounds

Albuquerque Social Club Eric Himan (Tulsa, Okla.) performs at 10 p.m. Kimo opens at 7 p.m. ASC members only, 21+.

film

Reel World

The New Mexico Film Office has announced the winners of the 2009 New Mexico Filmmakers Showcase, which took place at the Guild Cinema May 14 through 17. After four days’ worth of New Mexico-only films, the judges chose the following category toppers: Best Comedy Short went to Christopher Boone’s “Preschool’s a Bit**,” Best Documentary Short went to Jessie Weahkee’s “Abraham Lincoln: The One Sided Story,” Best Documentary Feature went to Michelle Friedline & Laureen Ricks’ A Sh’mal World, Best Drama Short went to Craig Strong’s “In the Wake,” Best Drama Feature went to Michael Amundsen’s The Price of the American Dream II, Best Horror/Sci-Fi went to Kim Liphardt’s “The Sitter” and Best Wildcard Film went to Bryan Konefsky’s “Vancouver.” Congrats to the winners and to all of this year’s participants. Keep up the good work.

Hunger

Stark historical drama examines the details of one man’s death

Hunger—the new drama about noted IRA hunger striker Bobby Sands—begins, interestingly enough, with a man who is not Bobby Sands. He’s an ordinary family man, seemingly under a great deal of stress, getting ready for work. As it turns out, he’s a guard at Maze Prison in Northern Ireland. It is at this prison that a number of Irish Republican Army “terrorists” are incarcerated—among them, the as-yet-undistinguished Bobby Sands. The film is in no real hurry to get where we know it’s going, but it does eventually cede the spotlight to Sands (played with Herculean commitment by Michael Fassbender). This is a movie about Sands—specifically the last six weeks of Sands’ life. It is not a movie about a prison guard. But he’s there at the beginning, one of the countless people who must have interacted with Sands before his premature death. He’s there because Hunger is interested in details, turning the smallest of gestures, actions and words into moments of soul-rattling import. When Sands and our unnamed prison guard do eventually cross paths (a situation that doesn’t come until quite a bit later in the film), the simple “punch line” of this supporting character hits with brutal intensity. In this one moment, we see that no single person is innocent, guilty, good or evil—but all are damned just the same.

Every Little Step

Broadway doc is one singular sensation. (Man, you could repeat these lyrics all day.)

When you think about it, Every Little Step is a mind-bendingly meta experience. On its surface, it’s a simple, straightforward documentary that offers a behind-the-scenes glimpse into the casting of a big Broadway musical. And what musical would that be? A Chorus Line. Sounds familiar. What’s that about? Well, A Chorus Line offers a behind-the-scenes glimpse into the casting of a big Broadway musical.

’Night, Nurse

“HawthorRNe” on TNT

What TV needs now are more attractive psychic crimesolvers and more crusading nurses. Oh, and more Octomom coverage. While I can’t yet guarantee the first and third (although I’d pretty much bet the house on it), I can assure readers that they’ll be getting more hospital-based drama and romance courtesy of TNT’s new series “HawthorRNe.”

music

Music to Your Ears

On Friday, June 26, the Akon Freedom Fest sets off an explosive lineup of R&B/rap chart-toppers at the Journal Pavilion. Headlining is club-banging, Senegalese-styled Akon, who also gets paid for producing hits like Gwen Stefani's sugary "The Sweet Escape." (He threw in the frisbee-like "Who hoo! Yee who!" choruses). The bill gets harder as Plies, Fat Joe, Lil' Jon, the Ying Yang Twins, Multi and Jotorious stalk the stage, with L.D. the Mash-Up King representing Albuquerque's hefty endowment of DJ talent. It's shaping up as the summer concert to beat.

A Sorority of Divas

Women’s Voices concerts light up the Albuquerque Museum

At the 2008 edition of the Women’s Voices concerts, a perennial favorite presented by the New Mexico Jazz Workshop, what was happening offstage was almost as entertaining as what was happening onstage. Down front, audience left, a lively gaggle of divas who had already performed or were awaiting their turn watched their sisters onstage with genuine pride and delight, whooping it up in support.

BrokeNCYDE

Representing Albucrazy, whether you like it or not

Mikl (aka Mike Montgomery) of Albuquerque-born BrokeNCYDE says he's not sure where he is.

news

Answer Me This

Which horse won the Belmont Stakes? Roadside salespeople will no longer be carrying ... . Who's been immortalized by a statue Downtown? And what caused a huge sinkhole?

A Texas-Sized Spanking

Muñecas tan the hides of the Dallas Derby Devils

It looked like every point was going to come at a punishing price.

In the early minutes, Duke City's Muñecas Muertas and the Dallas Derby Devils were locked in a defensive, hard-hitting bout at the Santa Ana Star Center. Then Muñecas’ star jammer Muffin drew first blood.

She tore through the wall of Derby Devils and racked up big points, giving the Muñecas an early 28-18 point lead. Her jam demonstrated that the Dallas defense was penetrable. "If you can go in and prove that scoring is possible, it's important," Muffin explained after the match.

Fine Young Activist

One high school senior bolsters pride and acceptance in fellow LGBT youth

There's a parallel between Ruben Ortega's gay rights activism and his career goals—though it might not be readily obvious. When he starts at Cornell University in the fall, he wants to study hospitality administration. "I want to focus on real estate and project development, and opening hotels," Ortega says.

Odds & Ends

Dateline: Guinea—Overwhelmed by criminal behavior, law enforcement officials in the coastal African nation of Guinea are encouraging citizens to burn any suspected criminals alive. Speaking in the capital city of Conakry last Tuesday, the new military government’s anticrime chief, Captain Moussa Tiegboro Camara, told citizens, “I’m asking you to burn all armed bandits who are caught red-handed committing an armed robbery.” Camara went on to say, “The prisons are full and cannot take more people, and the situation cannot continue like that.” Camara, who was appointed by the military junta to oversee the fight against drugs and serious crime, made his comments at a meeting of city officials. “These measures worry us,” Thierno Maadjou Sow, president of the Guinean Organization of Human Rights, told Reuters news service. “The law of the country must not be bypassed, whatever the circumstances.” The National Council for Democracy and Development (CNDD) seized power in Guinea, the world’s largest exporter of bauxite, last December after long-serving President Lansana Conte died.

art

OFFCenter Community Art Project

The gallery at OFFCenter Community Arts Project (808 Park Ave. SW) is a single wall, but what's significant is that the work on this wall is created in the room the art overlooks. "In short, our mission is to build community through art making," says Ron Breen, Interim Director. The gallery hosts six to eight exhibits a year. "The shows are non-juried," says Breen, "We want to focus on encouraging people to create art rather than qualifying it."

Be Proud

You may be experiencing an electric charge in the air. And no, it's not from an electro-particle buildup in the ionosphere (which I'm fairly certain I heard about on a "Star Trek: TNG" episode). No, my friends, science can't explain it for you this time because it comes from something deeper. Something called love. Love for glitzy parades, fabulous parties and more rainbows than a Lucky Charms factory in Oz. It's Pride time!

That’s So Gay

LGBT books that are required reading for everyone

In literature, focusing on the work of any one group of people has inherent dangers. Though it can shine a spotlight on underrepresented writers, this attention can also have the unintended consequence of limiting the significance of their work. Putting Jane Austen in the box of "Women Writers" and Richard Wright in the "African-American Author" box can obfuscate the important fact that they are two of the greatest writers in the English language, including all the white guys.

food

Blades Bistro

Finally, a place to hang your hat in Placitas

Just a few miles north of Albuquerque, Placitas is an eclectic and beautiful village with a storied past. The one-time land grant area is now a bedroom community, the bar where the Dead once played is closed and the hippies have given way to artists. But through the years, the one thing that has eluded this funky town is a good restaurant.

White Sage Whip

This is undoubtedly the only recipe we have ever developed with a church potluck—the annual fundraiser for friend's mom's congregation—in mind. Next time we plan on whipping it up with wild white sage. Besides cleaning a room of evil spirits and reducing swelling, it tastes badass. In the meantime, green sage will work just fine.

Alibi V.18 No.23 • June 4-10, 2009

feature

Guerrilla Tourism

The sometimes illegal and often dangerous sport of urban exploration

It’s a quiet spring morning and I’m in the South Valley, turning west from Second Street onto a dirt road I’ve never noticed before. The car I’m following traverses a curve of road between a cluster of industrial buildings. A quarter mile farther, we come to a dead end and park our cars beside an abandoned set of railroad tracks. On the other side of a bracken-filled ditch, the object of our expedition—a rusted, empty factory—rises out of the overgrown weeds and broken asphalt of a disused parking lot.

music

Music to Your Ears

Wipe away your tears, acoustic grunge lovers of Albuquerque. In late April, I shared Fast Heart Mart's announcement that a family emergency could call Burque's beloved singer/songwriter away to the East Coast. But the winds of fate have shifted, and all is well again: FHM isn't going anywhere. He's already lined up a boatload of interesting performances for the summer, including a show with Kate Mann on Friday, June 5, at the Albuquerque Center for Peace and Justice. And on Thursday, June 4, FHM is making a rare appearance as himself—Martin Stamper, the songwriter, all alone—at The Albuquerque Songwriter Series. The free show is at Slate Street Café (515 Slate NW, one block north of Lomas between Fifth and Sixth Streets) from 7 to 9 p.m., and it features the added creative juices of Johnny Wilson of Chokecherry Ranch and CK Barlow.

Glitter Glam Gays in Space

The first-ever Alibi Pride party: We're taking Pride to another planet!

With modern-day frights like asteroids, the plague, supervolcanoes, the bomb, sea pirates and Snuggies, the time is right to toss one's cares aside and indulge in the velvety, shimmering pleasures of the universe. In the ’70s, androgynous, first-wave glam acts such as T. Rex, Sweet, Slade, Ziggy Stardust and the New York Dolls developed a proto-punk/heavy metal franken-rock that flew its Moog-tinged spaceship to the outer reaches of raunchy hedonism and glittery artifice. While much of the resulting music is fabulous now-classic rock, the theater behind the highly conceptual movement is almost more interesting. Glam rock incorporated sci-fi themes, sexual ambiguity, absurd makeup and silver platform boots. Behold: The results were sexy.

art

New Grounds Print Workshop and Gallery

The last 10 years or so, extreme efforts have been made to "go green," living lifestyles and running businesses that are eco-friendly. Call it ahead of its time; when Regina Held opened the New Grounds Print Workshop in 1996, it was one of the first non-toxic print shops in the country. In 2002, New Grounds—which had already moved from the South Valley to Nob Hill in 2000—expanded and opened its own gallery.

Culture Shock

The bulk of LAND/ART, an ambitious project of land-based art in New Mexico, gets going in mid June. 516 ARTS, the collaboration's organizer, starts things off a little earlier with its contribution Here & There: Seeing New Ground. Sixteen artists, including Norman Akers, Shelley Niro and Laurie Anderson, explore the connections between nature, art, land and identity. The opening reception takes place on Friday, June 5, from 5 to 8 p.m. at 516 ARTS (516 Central SW). For more info, go to 516arts.org, and stay tuned for the Alibi's upcoming coverage of the whole LAND/ART project.

The Fantastics

Los Fantasticos’ Days of Future Past at South Broadway Cultural Center

If you're like me, you took a road trip with your mom when you were in the seventh grade, driving from New Mexico to Illinois to visit your great-grandmother. You called her Mee-Maw. It was winter, and you and mom drove there and back in a 1982 Bonneville that had no cassette player. Instead, you used the boombox you had been given the previous Christmas, a neon-yellow number that represented the apex of mid-’80s, under $50 electronic design. And you'll also remember that mom didn't really like your music, which consisted of The Bangles, Genesis, and Huey Lewis and the News (it wouldn't be until the eighth grade that you discovered new wave). So mom played her one cassette, over and over, for thousands of miles: The Moody Blues' Days of Future Passed. It was the only time in your life when you got your mom to yourself for more than a few hours, and by the time you went back through the weird McDonald's that's in an overpass in Oklahoma, you had the whole album memorized.

Too Hip to Be Square Dance

Wild Dancing West at VSA North Fourth Art Center

When an audience takes in Song Cycle, it's tough to say what they'll see.

food

Mai Thai

Just right

The green papaya salad called som tam is my preferred litmus test for judging Thai restaurants. When done right, the shredded papaya is crisp and the sauce is tangy and light, and not overpowering in terms of heat or fish sauce. When I ordered som tam the other night at May Thai the waitress asked “How hot?”

Curious Orange

Though the term "escabeche" formally refers to pickled fish in Spanish cooking, to us Americans, it's the stuff of plastic bags. In L.A., a taco truck is generally considered remiss if they don't hand out big, glowing orbs of free escabeche—spicy carrot, pickled jalapeños and sweetly spiced white onion mingling in their combined brine, precariously pressing a baggie to its limits.

news

Answer Me This

A teen escaped from lockup—what was he convicted of? What happened to $16 million of APS' money? New Mexico's hungry get some welcome news. And who might throw a hat into the gubernatorial race?

Medical Debt

Overcoming an illness is only half the battle for cash-strapped New Mexicans

Rebecca says she felt safe because she had medical insurance.

That sense of security lasted until she was diagnosed with cervical and colon cancer in August. Rebecca, whose name has been changed for this story, says her medical expenses quickly mounted. "What they don't tell you is, even with insurance, when you have cancer and surgery and chemo and every test in the book, it costs a lot of money," Rebecca says. "You kind of gotta look around and dig up the money."

Her insurance covered some of the cost, but Rebecca's out-of-pocket expenses came to almost $5,000. Rebecca used what little savings she had and credit cards to cover some of the bills. She also got help from the Anita Salas Memorial Fund, which helps New Mexico women diagnosed with breast cancer or cervical cancer.

Agenda Lite

Keshet Dance Company has a new home—the historic KiMo Theatre. At the Monday, June 1 meeting, councilors approved two measures forging a partnership with Keshet to operate the KiMo and lease the Freed Building next door. Keshet has about $150,000 in state money to spend on programs.

A Skeptical Look at American Beauty

It is widely assumed that Americans are heavily influenced by pop culture, including the belief that thin fashion models harm girls and women. But is there good scientific evidence to support this? That question was raised May 3, when the film America the Beautiful was screened in Albuquerque. The premise is simple: America has an unhealthy obsession with beauty and perfection, with disastrous consequences. The film claims that airbrushed media images of thin models are leading most women to a vicious cycle of starvation diets, low self-esteem and anorexia.

Union Love for the Big Guy

The race to be the city’s top dog saw some salvos fired to salute Mayor “still not an official candidate” Martin Chavez. AFSCME, the city’s largest union, endorsed the sitting mayor—though perhaps through gritted teeth.

Odds & Ends

Dateline: Japan—A publishing company has printed the world’s first toilet-paper-based book. Drop, a new novella by horror author Koji Suzuki, is being released exclusively on rolls of toilet paper. The nine-chapter story, which takes place in a public restroom, takes up about three feet of the roll and is designed to be read in just a few minutes, according to the manufacturer, Hayashi Paper. Each roll carries several copies of the story, in case someone else comes along and “uses” the chapter you’re on. Hayashi promotes the toilet paper, which sells for 210 yen ($2.20) a roll, as “a horror experience in the toilet.” Toilets in Japan were traditionally tucked away in a dark corner of the house due to religious beliefs that evil spirits could haunt the stinky bowls. Parents would tease children that a hairy hand might pull them down into the dark pool below. The TP’s author, Suzuki, is known as “the Stephen King of Japan,” having penned the popular novel Ring, which was turned into several films in Japan and Hollywood.

film

Reel World

The New Mexico film industry resource website crewnewmexico.com is offering a 99 percent discount off acting profiles on its site. Now through Friday, June 12, interested actors can register in the CAST section for just 79 cents for an entire year. Members receive a personal Actor Profile Page where they can upload photos, fill out résumés and manage their career information. Crewnewmexico.com is working hard to become New Mexico’s go-to destination for information about filmmaking in our state. To receive the 99 percent discount, registrants need to enter the promotional code ACTNOW99 during online registration. Log on to crewnewmexico.com/membership for more info.

The Hangover

Bleary-headed party boys aren’t quite as bad as they wanna be–but they’re still funny

Once upon a time, “dude films”—the artistic antipode of “chick flicks”—involved some unwavering combination of Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sylvester Stallone or Bruce Willis, evil people with accents and a whole lot of high-caliber weaponry. But actors have aged and times have changed. In recent years, thanks to the efforts of directors like Todd Phillips (Old School), Judd Apatow (The 40-Year-Old Virgin), Greg Mottola (Superbad) and David Wain (Role Models), a new school of dude film has emerged. Mixing raunchy comedy, smart writing, lowbrow hijinks and a sentimental undercoating of staunchly heterosexual male bonding, these films have proven themselves box office winners.

UP

Buoyant animated comedy sets the bar mighty high

After watching its dozen-or-so flawless feature films (from 1995’s Toy Story to 2008’s Wall•E) on what now amount to multiple occasions, I think I’ve finally figured out what makes Pixar Animation Studios so head-and-shoulders above its computer-animating rivals. It’s not that the company’s technical skills are more advanced than Sony Pictures Animation (Open Season, Surf’s Up)—although they certainly are. It’s not that the company’s scripts are more meticulously crafted than those of DreamWorks Animation (Bee Movie, Monsters vs Aliens)—although they certainly are. Watching Pixar’s newest masterwork, the beautiful, buoyant feature UP, it hit me. The element that makes Pixar the studio to envy and emulate is the simple fact that it cares. Everyone at Pixar—from the animators to the writers to the directors—cares deeply about what she or he does. They love every character, they love every frame, and that emotion percolates up through the movie screen. It’s unmistakable. It can’t be faked, and it’s what makes audiences love, love, love Pixar films.

Late Shift

“The Tonight Show With Conan O’Brien” on NBC

Last Monday night, television entered a new era. For only the fifth time in its 55-year history, NBC’s “The Tonight Show” acquired a new host. With the expiration of Jay Leno’s contract, “Late Night” host Conan O’Brien has assumed the seat he’s coveted for decades. Leno, of course, is getting upgraded to prime time, hosting his “Jay Leno Show” in NBC’s 9 p.m. slot five nights a week starting Sept. 14. But for now, it’s all O’Brien’s spotlight.