- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 11, 2003

Mass transit

“‘I will build a motorcar for the great multitude,’ [Henry Ford] proclaimed. In 1908, when the Model T debuted at $850, it was the first step in transforming the car from a plaything of the rich to an entitlement. Obsessed with making the Model T cheaper and more widely available, Ford relentlessly pursued manufacturing efficiencies, ever more intricate assembly lines and vertical integration as means of controlling costs. … In 16 years, he would build 10 million Model T’s. By 1925, the cost of a Model T would amount to just one-eighth the average annual income in the U.S. …

“‘I invented the modern age,’ he once said. But his industrial legacy is frequently overlooked, in part because his clangorous social views still resonate. … In the 1910s, Ford’s stance on everything from geopolitics to labor relations was far outside the mainstream. … He bought the Dearborn Independent and used it to spread venomous anti-Semitism. … Public opinion largely rejected Ford’s social views, but embraced his products with stunning affection. In 1927, when the Model A was introduced, it was estimated that some 25 percent of the U.S. population made a point of seeing the new vehicle in its first week on the market.”

—Daniel Gross, writing on “Tin Lizzie and Her Progeny,” in the June 9 issue of the New York Observer

Digital Disney

“Even if Pixar survives for 100 years and produces a library of films to rival Walt Disney’s, the makers of ‘Toy Story,’ ‘Monsters, Inc.,’ and ‘Finding Nemo’ will never experience another weekend like the last one. Sure, they’ll probably someday break the $70 million opening-weekend record that ‘Nemo’ set for an animated film … but you can only cement yourself as a cultural phenomenon once. …

“After five consecutive hits … the animation studio must now be considered ‘the most reliable creative force in Hollywood,’ wrote Kenneth Turan in the Los Angeles Times. (Move to the back of the line, Spielberg.) ‘Perhaps not since Preston Sturges made seven classic comedies in a row between 1940 and 1944 has one name been such a consistent indicator of audience and critical pleasure.’ The ‘next Disney’ comparisons that have long been lavished upon Pixar and its creative head, John Lasseter, have become more emphatic: Now Pixar and Lasseter are compared not just to Disney, but to Disney during its ‘golden age some 60 years ago,’ as the Los Angeles Daily News put it. …

“There’s a flip side to success on that scale: A certain minority will loathe you for your tyrannical omnipresence and your ravenous cultural imperialism. (Has anyone seen those Nemo Happy Meals?)”

—Chris Suellentrop, writing on “Pixar,” June 5 in Slate at www.slate.com

Raines of error

“Until a couple of weeks ago, the New York Times was the closest thing left to the Soviet-era Kremlin — or the Corleone family. Whatever politicking or bloodletting that went on inside the 43rd Street compound stayed inside. But New York Times staffers kept mum not so much out of fear of reprisals as out of respect for the institution. As the Don told Sonny, ‘Never tell anybody outside the family what you’re thinking. …’

“The Times’ omerta started evaporating shortly after Howell Raines became executive editor in September 2001, and by the time he and his managing editor, Gerald Boyd, resigned … it had completely boiled away. …

“Such was the rage that when Publisher Arthur Sulzberger Jr. visited the paper’s Washington bureau … he got an earful of hostility from his employees, who no longer worried about the consequence of dissing the publisher to his face. With so many people speaking out, reprisals were no longer to be feared. …

“The political lesson here, of course, is that you don’t own power, you only borrow it, and you must stay on good terms with your creditors.”

—Jack Shafer, writing on “Howell’s End,” June 5 in Slate at www.slate.com

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