Charlottesville Breaking News

Steve's magic: The irony behind Apple's success

By Andrew Potter

The internet chatterbots still weren't finished complaining about the underwhelming iPhone 4S Apple's first major product launch under new CEO Tim Cook when it was announced that his predecessor, Steve Jobs, had died on October 5.

It wasn't a surprise. Jobs had been fighting pancreatic cancer since 2004, and he stepped down as CEO of Apple on August 24 for health reasons, just weeks after his company surpassed Exxon Mobil to become the most valuable corporation in the world. Yet for all his success as a business executive, Jobs' most enduring legacy is not as a corporate mogul, but as a cultural visionary.

From the iPod to the iPhone to the iPad, Apple products have installed themselves in the battle gear of the contemporary creative class, serving as a virtual synonym for networked independence and stylish non-conformity. Steve Jobs is perhaps the most successful brand manager in history. However, he did it, paradoxically, by embracing the precise corporate values to which the Apple brand identity is ostensibly opposed....

Think back to the famous "1984" commercial that trumpet-blasted the arrival of the Macintosh computer. Before legions of drone-like workers arranged in orderly rows, Big Brother appears on a giant viewscreen, addressing the crowd:
Today, we celebrate the glori
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Thanks a million: Students raise seven figures to honor Mead

When Greg McLean, University of Virginia Class of '95, had chemotherapy over the summer he was an undergrad and then insisted he was returning to school, a professor said, "Why don't you live with me?" What's extraordinary to McLean even today is that the professor didn't seem to see anything unusual about opening his home for several months to an immune system-compromised student. 

And that's just one example of the profound influence UVA Professor Ernest "Boots" Mead has had on his students, so much so that more than 100 of them got together and created an endowment in his name.

That sort of grassroots homage is pretty rare, but the students upon whom Mead cast a spell during his decades-long career have raised $1 million to fund "Dream Idea" grants for faculty and pass the torch of the Mead model they so cherished during their time at the University.

The Mead Endowment celebrated its 10th anniversary last month, and the September 17 Alumni Hall bash brought together this year's 11 Dream Idea faculty recipients, many of the 90 previous recipients, and many of the 150 or so former students who have contributed from $100 to more than $50,000 in his honor.

And of course there was the 93-year-old Mead, professor emeritus of music, still enjoying a glass of wine, still enjoying his former students.

"He dramatically enhanced my experience at the U...

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Oliver Stone, Larry Flynt headline Film Fest

A month before the theaters darken for the 24th Virginia Film Festival, director Jody Kielbasa has revealed the special guests so attendees can nab tickets as soon as they go on sale October 7.

And surely one of the sellouts will be legendary filmmaker Oliver Stone, here for a 20th anniversary screening of JFK, which stars Sissy Spacek. She's also on the festival program– for a screening of Badlands, with husband Jack Fisk, whom she met during its filming.

Another Stone connection is Hustler publisher Larry Flynt, who will be here for a discussion after the Stone-produced movie, The People vs. Larry Flynt, brought to you by the Thomas Jefferson Center for the Protection of Free Expression.

Hot up-and-comer Mia Wasikowska, who starred in Tim Burton's Alice in Wonderland and Jane Eyre, will be here for her new film, Albert Nobbs, with festival stalwarts Rodrigo Garcia and Julie Lynn.

Other highlights from the more than 100 films in this year's November 3-6 festival are opening night preview of The Descendants with George Clooney– "tremendous Oscar buzz" and this year's Black Swan, according to Kielbasa; and new movies from disturbing-cineastes David Cronenberg (A Dangerous Method) and Lars von Trier (Melancholia).

That actress from The Hangover, Rachael Harris, will be here for her new movie, Natural Selection....

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'The wind': Donald Trump lifts spirits at winery

The hottest ticket in Virginia last week was the grand opening of Trump Vineyard Estates, with scores of public officials among 500 wine-happy citizens clamoring for a peek at the relaunched vineyard– as well as a peek at the real estate mogul turned reality television star known as The Donald.

Despite proximity of fewer than two hours south of Manhattan via private helicopter, a close advisor asserts that the October 4 event marked the first time The Donald himself set foot on the southeast-of-Charlottesville property, which Trump bought earlier this year after banks seized the place from Patricia Kluge.

"Donald has become the wind beneath my wings," a smiling Kluge told the crowd. "I feel that I gave birth to this place, and there is nothing more pleasing than to know that it's in the hands of someone I've known for 30 years."

"I'm going to put a lot of people to work," said Trump, who has hired Kluge and her husband, William Moses.

"Patricia did a amazing job," Trump said as he began explaining why he'll succeed where Kluge went bankrupt. "I don't have a mortgage."

Public records show that Trump paid $8.55 million for 871 acres including the pavilion, the Farm Shop on Blenheim Road, and a former carriage museum– a complex that Trump vows to make a thriving center for wines and weddings.

But questions remain about the elusive final piece of his puzzle: ...

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Cruel odds: 50/50 finds humor in cancer

Young people should not get sick and die. Most of us do eventually, but how sad it is to learn in your 20s that you have a dangerous cancer and your chances of survival are 50/50. How crueler still if the news is delivered by a doctor who seems almost deliberately sadistic. Start with those odds. They may indeed be accurate, but would it kill the son of a bitch to make them 60/40?

Adam (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) is a writer for public radio in Seattle, which makes him almost a poster boy for someone who should grow old and wise. He has a nagging back pain. The oncologist says it is a rare form of cancer of the spine. 50/50 was written by Will Reiser, who himself was diagnosed with a spinal tumor. Seth Rogen, who plays Adam's best friend, Kyle, is a close friend of Reiser in real life, and the movie is based on what happened in their friendship after the diagnosis.

After surgery and treatment, Reiser is currently in the sixth year of remission, and cheerfully observes, "Remission apparently lasts forever ... or until you die." In an interview by Jen Chaney with the two of them in The Washington Post, they joke endlessly, which is perhaps inevitable between a comedy writer and a comic actor, and although 50/50 is structured with the efficiency of a sitcom, there's an undercurrent of truth and real feeling. Full review.

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