My spell-checker doesn't like losers.
It recognizes presidential last names, even Fillmore, Van Buren, and Coolidge. But it's dumbfounded by McCain and McGovern, let alone Willkie, Frémont, and Breckinridge.
Such is the fate of most of the major candidates who make it onto presidential ballots, but no further. Some are forever forgotten (Thomas Pinckney, anyone?). But others manage to make a mark despite coming up short.
Where will Mitt Romney fit in? For perspective, I contacted author Scott Farris, a leading specialist in presidential also-rans who wrote 2011's "Almost President: The Men Who Lost the Race but Changed the Nation."
Farris has some experience with the phenomenon of non-winning: he's run campaigns, been a political columnist, and even ran for Congress in Wyoming in 1998. (He lost.)
From his home in Portland, Ore., Farris considered Romney's options, pondered the fates of the second-placers, and looked back at a sore loser or two.
Q: What's next for Romney?
A: He's made it clear – or at least his wife has – that this is his last campaign. That eliminates the option of the loser making one more run at the presidency, which doesn't happen as often as it used to.
I look at him and think about Bob Dole in 1996. The day after the election, he held a press conference and said that, for the first time in 50 years, "I don't know what I'm going to do today."
That's a bit where Mitt Romney is.
Dole wrote a couple of books, he did some advertising – some of it notorious, like for Viagra and a controversial spot for Pepsi. He made a lot of speeches and ended up reconnecting with George McGovern to work to combat world hunger.
They ended up saving hundreds of thousands of children. It's been a very admirable career.
My guess is that Romney will do a hodgepodge of things. Could he be one of his church's leaders and continue to try to gain acceptance of the Mormon faith? He also obviously has a big family and will spend a lot of time with them.
I'm sure it will take some time for him to find himself.
Q: Who are some losers who set a high standards?
A: For the first 150 years of the US, it was OK to be a loser, you weren't stigmatized. Henry Clay lost but remained very influential. And William Jennings Bryan was an extremely influential man for a quarter century.
There are so many ways to serve.
John Kerry and John McCain went back to the Senate. Michael Dukakis completed his term as governor of Massachusetts and decided to become a college professor. Some of his students still talk about what a terrific teacher he is.
Q: Who should not be emulated?
A: Horace Greeley, who ran against President Grant, died within a month of the election, which he lost badly. He'd just lost his wife, and when he went back home, he realized he'd lost his beloved newspaper, too.
He had the most tragic life of a losing candidate.
Q: Who did the most to help his rival after the campaign?
A: Stephen Douglas worked very hard to work with Abraham Lincoln and convince the South to not secede.
The assumption is that Lincoln is a secular saint, and Douglas, his rival, must have been representing the dark side. There's no doubt he was a racist and on the wrong side of slavery.
But when the chips were down, he made a heroic effort. When he realized that he had no chance to be elected president, he devoted all his energies to trying to preserve the union and he spoke highly of Abraham Lincoln.
FDR asked for his help to sell "lend-lease" to the American public, to lend weapons, ships, and tanks to the British before the US got into World War II.
There was a huge sentiment to not enter the war, but it passed with a narrow margin. An alliance between the two also helped get Congress to extend the draft six months before Pearl Harbor.
Q: What about bad behavior? Were any also-rans less than gracious?
A: The two most ungracious of modern times were Barry Goldwater and McGovern. They really disliked the men they lost to.
Goldwater was appalled by some of Lyndon Johnson's tactics. Even though it was clear he was losing on Election Night, he didn't concede until the next morning and gave a fairly defiant speech.
When McGovern conceded, he said there was no way we're going to rally behind policies we abhor. When Inauguration Day came, he refused to show up and went abroad to criticize Nixon's behavior on foreign soil that day.
That would generally be considered bad form.
Q: Who's the most obscure also-ran of all?
A: That's probably Alton Parker, who ran against Teddy Roosevelt.
He was of the old "front porch campaign" school, while Roosevelt was very energetic and toured the country.
Parker is the only losing candidate who's never had a biography published. That's pretty obscure when you're up against candidates like Lewis Cass and Winfield Scott Hancock.
A: I'm afraid he's not driving me to write one. I've got a few book in mind, but he's not in the hopper. Maybe someday!
Randy Dotinga is a Monitor contributor.
The movie plans for an adaptation of “Wild,” the bestselling memoir by Cheryl Strayed about her solo journey on the Pacific Crest Trail, are moving forward, with “About A Boy” screenwriter Nick Hornby possibly on board to write the film.
The movie rights to “Wild” were bought by actress Reese Witherspoon’s production company Pacific Standard as well as by producer Bruna Papandrea, and Witherspoon is set to star as Strayed in the movie. Meanwhile, Strayed tweeted on Nov. 7, “Nick Hornby's desktop: Wild script in progress. (Squeal!)” with a link to what was presumably a photo. (The link is broken.)
“I couldn't be more thrilled," Strayed told the Oregonian when it was announced that Witherspoon will be bringing the movie to the screen and playing her. "She's such a wonderful combination of smart and charming. I really feel like she saw my vision and is the perfect person to bring it to the screen. If a genie gave me three wishes about who would play the part, she would be my first wish.”
Witherspoon was nominated for an Oscar for her role in the 2005 film “Walk the Line,” in which she portrayed June Carter Cash, and recently played a lead role – that of circus performer Marlena – in another high-profile adaptation, that of the Sara Gruen novel “Water for Elephants.”
Hornby is the author of the novels “Juliet, Naked,” “High Fidelity” and “Fever Pitch” and wrote the screenplay for the 2009 Oscar-nominated film “An Education,” which starred Carey Mulligan and Peter Sarsgaard. He is also writing the screenplay for the film “Brooklyn,” which is slated for a 2014 release and set to star “Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” actress Rooney Mara.
“Wild,” which was selected by Oprah Winfrey as a book club pick, is currently at number 15 on the combined print and e-book nonfiction New York Times bestseller list for Nov. 11 and at number 9 on the e-book nonfiction list for the same week. The book was number one on the the combined print and e-book nonfiction list for six weeks starting July 22.
Apple and four publishers are close to cutting a deal with European Union regulators that will enable Amazon to offer lower e-book prices and end an antitrust investigation into Apple’s e-book pricing in Europe.
The decision effectively hands Amazon a victory in e-book pricing, allowing it to sell e-books more cheaply than its rivals. According to Reuters, a deal was offered to EU regulators in September by Apple and four publishers: News Corp. unit HarperCollins, Simon & Schuster, Lagardere SCA’s Hachette Livre, and Verlagsgruppe Georg von Holtzbrinck, the owner of Germany’s Macmillan. (Pearson’s Penguin group, also part of the investigation, did not take part in the settlement offer.)
The deal, which the EU regulators are poised to accept, allows retailers like Amazon the ability to set their own prices or discounts for a period of two years. It also suspends “most favored nation” contracts for a period of five years. Such contracts bar publishers from making deals with rival retailers to sell e-books more cheaply than Apple.
It was these contracts, which effectively prevented Amazon and other retailers from undercutting Apple’s e-book pricing, which sparked the EU investigation last December.
“The Commission is likely to accept the offer and announce its decision next month,” an EU source said, according to Reuters.
Industry analysts chalk this up as a win for Amazon and consumers and more bad news for publishers.
“It's certainly another win for Amazon,” Mark Cooper, founder of Smashwords, an e-book publisher and distributor that works with Apple, told Reuters. “I have not seen the terms of the final settlement, but my initial reaction is that it places restrictions on what publishers can do, slowing them down just when they need to be more nimble.”
The EU’s probe has been running parallel to a similar investigation in the U.S. conducted by the Justice Department against Apple and several publishers. The European decision will likely have reverberations in the U.S. suit against Apple and several publishers.
Apple’s American antitrust woes arose last spring when the DOJ accused it and five publishers of conspiring to fix prices and forcing Amazon to raise prices. In the U.S., three of the five publishers – HarperCollins, Simon & Schuster, and Hachette – settled. Apple, Macmillan, and Penguin Group have denied wrongdoing and have decided to fight the suit in court in a trial scheduled for early next year.
On the heels of the EU settlement news, writes CNET, the big question now is whether Apple and the remaining publishers will seek a similar settlement in the U.S.
Husna Haq is a Monitor correspondent.
Put down that Kindle and pay attention to the airline safety video – it may be a little different from what you’re used to.
In advance of the first “Hobbit” film coming to theaters Dec. 14, Air New Zealand partnered with Weta Workshop, the special-effects and prop company behind the “Lord of the Rings” and “Hobbit” films, to create a special in-flight safety video for the airline with a Middle-earth theme. The movie features flight attendants dressed as elves, a captain that bears a passing resemblance to wizard Gandalf the Grey, and a cameo by “Hobbit” director Peter Jackson as well as everyone’s favorite ring lover, Gollum.
“Welcome aboard this Air Middle-earth flight,” the female flight attendant proclaims to an audience of passengers that includes normally dressed humans and also consists of what looks like elves, hobbits and dwarves.
Later in the video, two passengers imitate the rolling “r” pronunciation actor Ian McKellan (who played Gandalf) famously used when pronouncing the word “Mordor." Another passenger, leaning forward in his seat to demonstrate proper emergency procedure, spots the famous One Ring on the floor in front of him, only to have it snatched by Jackson.
“My precious!” Jackson exclaims and puts it on his finger, instantly disappearing.
Another Gandalf doppelganger is urged by a flight attendant to put away one of his favorite accessories from the film, his pipe. Later, the Gandalf-like passenger lights his staff to help other passengers exit the airplane, including Gollum, who is prowling along the aisle, and what appears to be a horse.
In accordance with the airline rules, a Ringwraith, one of the creepy hooded creatures that pursue protagonist Frodo in the “Lord of the Rings" films, turns off his iPhone (something we imagine would be tough with his sharp metal hands).
Check out the full video below.
Wellington National Airport in New Zealand is also celebrating the upcoming “Hobbit” release with a statue of Gollum that is more than 42 feet tall. For the week of the “Hobbit” première, the city of Wellington will be renamed “the Middle of Middle-earth.”
Now independent booksellers are joining the bandwagon, continuing an Amazon boycott of sorts by refusing to carry books published by Amazon.
“At a certain point you have to decide how far you want to nail your own coffin shut,” Michael Tucker, owner of a Books Inc. chain in San Francisco, told the New York Times. “Amazon wants to completely control the entire book trade. You’re crazy if you want to play that game with them.”
The Times piece focuses on an upcoming Amazon book, “The 4-Hour Chef,” by bestselling author Timothy Ferriss. Ferris’ previous two books, “The 4-Hour Workweek,” and “The 4-Hour Body,” published by Crown, were bestsellers, ranking well on Amazon. Ferriss was lured away to Amazon with a seven-figure contract for “The 4-Hour Chef.” As publication approaches, the book is still flagging, ranking at No. 597 in books at Amazon and 4,318 in the Kindle Store. (An updated edition of “The 4-Hour Workweek” published in 2009 was 328 in books and 2,723 in Kindle, by contrast, according to the NYT.)
And Michael Tucker’s Books Inc. isn’t the only store sitting out. Many indie stores surveyed by the Times either refused to carry Amazon books or said they would special order only if asked. (A few were carrying books published by the new Amazon-Houghton Mifflin Harcourt line, New Harvest, but grudgingly.)
The American Booksellers Association, which represents independent booksellers, got the ball rolling back in February of this year by removing all Amazon titles from its IndieCommerce e-commerce database, according to the UK’s Guardian.
Even Walmart and Target are refusing to carry Amazon-published books, and in a pointed message to the mega-online retailer, they’ve both stopped selling the Kindle, concerned it will lure customers away.
Whether this boycott of sorts is more than a blip on Amazon’s radar remains to be seen. Though Amazon-published books have enjoyed some success largely in digital sales through Amazon’s website, “a book that aspires to be a genuine national best seller needs more than that,” writes the Times.
It seems the mega-retailer’s online model that undercut so many traditional booksellers is now hampering its own success.
Husna Haq is a Monitor correspondent.
She’s been a pop superstar, an actress, a reality show star, and an "X-Factor" judge.
Britney Spears’s next title? Author.
According to early reports, the book would be a roman a clef, or a novel that would “incorporate fictionalized versions of her own experiences.”
It’s actually not Spears’s first book. The singer wrote “Britney Spears’ Heart to Heart” with her mom, Lynne Spears, in 2000, and “A Mother’s Gift” in 2001. This would be the first work of fiction for Spears, however.
With this new pending book deal, Spears will join a growing band of reality TV celebrities penning books, including the Kardashians and Nicole “Snooki” Polizzi of Jersey Shore. Spears’s plans are already being compared to TV personality and The Hills star Lauren Conrad’s 2009 New York Times bestseller “L.A. Candy,” about a girl who moves to Los Angeles and becomes the star of a reality show. Conrad has written two novels in the series since then, a surprise success for the reality show star.
Perhaps we shouldn’t be too surprised by the news. Spears has previously mentioned how important reading is in her daily routine. “Every night, I have to read a book, so that my mind will stop thinking about things that I stress about,” she once said, according to AOL News.
No word on when the new book will be released, but folks are already hypothesizing the storyline.
Writes the Washington Post’s Celebritology 2.0 blogger, “I for one am dying to read the story of a pop star who becomes wildly famous for her ability to sing with a python draped around her neck, stars on a B-grade UPN reality show with her dancer husband, suffers a severe breakdown that involves shaving her head, but then triumphantly bounces back and lands not just one, but two, 'Glee' tribute episodes devoted to her work.”
Husna Haq is a Monitor correspondent.
Let's put it this way: you can't take me anywhere.
About 13 years ago, I visited the Jimmy Carter Library and Museum in Atlanta with some friends. For some reason, I decided it would be fun to pose for a photo in the chair behind the desk in the mock Oval Office.
First I tripped over the velvet museum rope. Then the desk chair swung backwards as I sat in it, nearly flipping me over. Finally, I held up the desk's "The Buck Stops Here" sign for the photo and watched helplessly as its little metal holder fell off and clattered onto the floor.
That's when the security guard arrived on the scene. "Step away from the desk, sir."
I did as ordered. But we weren't evicted and even got to continue our tour.
Since then, I've joked that while they're pretty lenient at the Carter museum, folks are even more easygoing at the museum of the mostly forgotten Rutherford B. Hayes. There, you can stay the night in his bed and go home with a piece of his living room couch!
That's not true. (I checked, just in case I ever find myself in Fremont, Ohio.) But Hayes is definitely one of our most obscure presidents. It's a funny thing, since he landed in office thanks to one of the most remarkable – and crooked – presidential elections in American history.
As pundits dream of a tie in the Electoral College this year, I contacted historian Roy Morris Jr., editor of Military Heritage magazine and author of 2005's "Fraud of the Century: Rutherford B. Hayes, Samuel Tilden, and the Stolen Election of 1876."
From his home in Chattanooga, Tenn., Morris talked about the bitter battle over the disputed results, the chicanery that cast the entire election in doubt and the shrewd tactics that turned Hayes into a winner.
Q: Set the scene for us. What happened during the presidential election of 1876?
A: The Democratic nominee was Samuel Tilden, governor of New York, and the Republican nominee was Rutherford B. Hayes of Ohio.
The country had just lived through eight years of the Grant administration and all its scandals. Tilden got the nomination because he was a squeaky clean reformer and had run the fight against Boss Tweed corruption in New York. Hayes got the nomination as a kind of compromise.
On election night, both candidates went to bed thinking Tilden had been elected because he had massive majorities of votes.
He was ahead by the modern equivalent of 1.3 million votes. In terms of the Electoral College, he needed 185 and he had 184 definitely.
Q: That's when an infamous character named Daniel Sickles entered the picture, right?
A: He'd been a Union general and a congressman and was notorious because he shot and killed an unarmed man who was having an affair with his wife, Francis Scott Key's nephew. Sickles was acquitted in the first acquittal based on a temporary insanity defense.
On election night, he was going to back to his house on Fifth Avenue in New York City and dropped by the Republican national headquarters a few blocks away to see what was going on.
There was only one person there, a clerk who was boxing up the office. He said, "Tilden's been elected."
But Sickle knew that Florida, South Carolina and Louisiana still had Reconstruction governments. They had 19 electoral votes, and both Republicans and Democrats had sent telegrams wondering who'd won those states.
Sickles figured out that if Hayes was declared victor in one of those states, he'd win by one electoral vote. He sent out telegrams to governors of those states and said, hold onto your states for Hayes, and if you do, he's elected.
Q: But you can't do that. You can't tell a governor to hold a state, right?
A: But he did.
Enough doubt was created in people's minds – sort of like with Bush and Gore in 2000 – that nobody knew exactly who had won. The first stories started coming out, and the Republican newspapers including the New York Times, said the election was undecided and Hayes claims victory.
Q: So the Republicans started controlling the narrative?
A: That's exactly right.
Q: How long did the stalemate last?
A: You went through several weeks of nobody knowing who had won.
Congress would meet in January and open the returns. The problem was that in those three Southern states, there were multiple sets of election results, one sent by the Republican governor and one by the Democratic governor-to-be.
To make it even more complicated, the Constitution at the same time said the president of the Senate would open the ballots.
The Republicans said that means he can decide which returns to accept, but the Democrats said he only can open them if there aren't two sets of results. If there are, he'd have to set them both aside, in which case nobody would have the majority of votes and it would then be turned over to the House to decide who'd be president.
Q: What happened next?
A: An election commission voted 8-7 that Hayes had been elected. He was sworn in secretly a day earlier than the scheduled inauguration because they were afraid that Tilden would go to Washington D.C. and declare himself president.
Q: This all happened just 11 years after the Civil War. How tense did things get?
A: A lot of the Democrats were saying that they would just march on Washington and seat Tilden. The slogan was "Tilden or blood."
Then there were secret meetings between Hayes supporters and Southern Democrats. The Democrats said that if he would end Reconstruction in these three states, they wouldn't prevent him from being inaugurated. They wanted control of their state governments more than they wanted a Northern liberal being elected president.
Q: What did Tilden, the Democratic candidate, do?
A: It was very similar to Bush vs. Gore. The Democrat was much more of a hands-off kind of guy in the interim, and the Republicans were much more active about making sure they claimed the election.
One reason Tilden lost was that he was a lawyer and assumed that if they followed the letter of the law, he'd be elected.
The Republicans in both 1876 and 2000 were much more active in pressing their case and controlling the narrative beforehand by claiming that they'd won in the first place. Gore, in 2000, and Tilden took a more admirable or patriotic position.
Q: Do you think the 1876 election was stolen?
A: I certainly do, although some historians feel it was justified because Hayes would have won if the Democrats hadn't intimidated black voters in sufficient numbers.
I give a lot of credit to Tilden. He said he wouldn't be seated at the point of a gun, and that was a powerful statement. If he'd said, "I consider myself president" and said he'd be seated, there may have been bloodshed.
Randy Dotinga is a Monitor contributor.
Does the book world need a literary prize exclusively for female writers?
That is the provocative question at the heart of a bold new trend slowly circling the literary world.
The latest, Canada’s Rosalind Prize for Fiction, was conceived during the Vancouver Writers Fest as a group of women, including the founder of the U.K.’s TK, were discussing the “extreme gender inequality in the awarding of literary prizes both internationally, and in Canada,” according to Canada’s Globe and Mail.
One audience member, Janice Zawerbny, editorial director at Thomas Allen Publishers, was so moved by what she heard, she decided to do something about it.
“I was shocked and dismayed,” she told the Globe and Mail. “I just felt compelled to take action.”
Thus was the Rosalind Prize for Fiction born, a literary prize exclusively for female writers of fiction in Canada.
The prize is named after the sharp and witty female protagonist in Shakespeare’s play, “As You Like It.” It’s also the name of British biophysicist Rosalind Franklin, whose largely overlooked contributions helped lay the groundwork for the discovery of DNA.
Zawerbny hopes to present the inaugural Rosalind Prize in 2014.
That’s one year after Australia will award its first Stella Prize, that country’s first major literary award for women. Named after novelist Stella Maria Miles Franklin (“My Brilliant Career”), the $50,000 prize is open for both fiction and non-fiction.
“The Stella Prize will raise the profile and the sales of books by women,” Stella Prize Chair Aviva Tuffield said of the award, according to the blog IndieWire. “We want to encourage future generations of women writers, by increasing the recognition for Australian women's writing and supporting strong female role models. We also want to celebrate women's contribution to Australian literature.”
(Ironically, notes the U.K.’s Guardian, the prize is named after the same Stella Miles Franklin whose bequest launched the Australia’s most prestigious literary award, the Miles Franklin, which in recent years has come under attack for being a “sausage fest.” According to the paper, just 13 of the award’s 50 winners have been women. The Stella Prize, then, is something of a challenger to the established Miles Franklin.)
Both the Stella and the Rosalind awards were inspired, in part, by the U.K.’s Orange Prize, now known as Women’s Prize for Fiction, a literary award established in response to the 1991 all-male shortlist for the Booker Prize. Since its inauguration in 1996, that prize, say advocates, has helped push women writers into the mainstream.
Responding to critics who say the prize is exclusive and creates unhealthy gender categorization, Zawerbny told the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, “This prize that celebrates women's fiction doesn't create a pink ghetto, I think it's completely the opposite. I actually think such a prize is inclusive because it brings women into the fold, it brings them into the mainstream.”
As for those who think the prizes are unnecessary, consider these statistics, provided by novelist Susan Swan for the CBC:
– In the 108-year history of the Nobel Prize for Literature, only 12 women have won. (In other words, women represent just 11 percent of Nobel Prize winners.)
– Only 35 percent of Man Booker Prize winners have been women.
– Only five women have won the Stephen Leacock Memorial Award for Humor since it was established 65 years ago.
And according to Gillian Jerome of Canadian Women in the Literary Arts, roughly equal numbers of men and women get published in Canada. But women are less likely to have their books reviewed and less likely to win literary prizes – a third-less likely in each case, in fact.
“You see those stats and you’re like, this is so widely disproportionate; it almost can’t be true,” Zawerbny told the Globe and Mail. “Because you think we’ve evolved ... But we haven’t in many ways.”
The Rosalind, Stella, and Orange Prize are the answer, says Zawerbny and others like her.
What do you think – does the literary world need women-only prizes to level the playing field and bring attention to literature by women? Or is this a misguided and outdated move?
Husna Haq is a Monitor correspondent.
The statue, which is more than 42 feet long and weighs more than 1.2 tons, was added to the airport to celebrate the upcoming “Hobbit” film, which hits theaters Dec. 14 and was directed by “Lord of the Rings” helmer Peter Jackson. The statue is accompanied by large fish, creatures which Gollum loves to catch and eat in the “Lord of the Rings” films. The fish each measure more than 13 feet and are accompanied by large bubbles. In order to fit through the doors of the airport, the Gollum model had to be broken down into nine separate parts.
The statue was built by Masayuki Ohashi, a Japanese artist, and designed by Weta Workshop, the special effects company which was behind the “Lord of the Rings” trilogy and has worked on the “Hobbit” films as well. The statue was built using polystyrene and epoxy resin and constructed with the aid of chainsaws and robotics.
“It was a very exciting project to work on,” Ohashi said in a statement.
In addition to the Gollum statue, Wellington is being temporarily renamed “The Middle of Middle-Earth” to celebrate the new movies, so travelers will now also see a sign announcing the name.
“Wellington Airport feels like the home of Gollum after spending so many months here during the last three films,” Weta co-founder and creative director Richard Taylor said in a statement. A Gollum statue had resided in the airport to celebrate the "Lord of the Rings" trilogy.
In the films, Gollum is played by actor Andy Serkis using motion-capture technology. Many fans and some movie critics were outraged when Serkis was not nominated for an Oscar for his work in the second and third “Lord of the Rings” films, “Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers” and “Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King.” (Serkis is glimpsed for merely seconds in the first film.)
A worker at the Valparaiso Public Library in Indiana made a surprising discovery inside a book that had recently been donated.
Assistant library director Phyllis Nelson said that someone opened the book and discovered that it had been hollowed out and concealed a handgun inside.
“Somebody just opened it up and said, 'Oh my,’” Nelson told The Times of Northwest Indiana.
The book was titled “Outerbridge Reach,” and the gun was gold with a handle made out of wood. It was A.S.M. brand and a single shot black powder gun, .31-caliber.
Nelson told police what had happened, and the gun is currently held by police as evidence. The police force stated that it did not appear that the weapon had been stolen.
The assistant library director said that no records are kept as to who has donated what library books, so no one knows who dropped off the gun inside the book.
Nelson said that, oddly enough, she’d heard a story about a gun being dropped off inside a book at the Valparaiso Public Library before she started working there.