Section mm; Column 0; T: Men's Fashion Magazine; Pg. 76

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LOAD-DATE: February 25, 2008


GRAPHIC: PHOTOS: Many in Jordan are feeling the squeeze of higher prices. At a mall in Amman, the empty aisles reflect people's inability to spend.

The cost of many basic foods, like at this market in Amman, has doubled. Some in the middle class are tilting toward poverty.(PHOTOGRAPHS BY BRYAN DENTON FOR THE NEW YORK TIMES)(pg. A8)


Copyright 2008 The New York Times Company

1045 of 1231 DOCUMENTS

The New York Times

February 25, 2008 Monday

Late Edition - Final

A Tale of Race and Family And a $10,000 Question


SECTION: Section E; Column 0; The Arts/Cultural Desk; TELEVISION REVIEW 'A RAISIN IN THE SUN'; Pg. 8

LENGTH: 565 words

''A Raisin in the Sun,'' which plays Monday night on ABC, is a cleanser for selves soiled by a thousand ''Millionaire Matchmakers.'' It is a noble enterprise never dulled by its good intentions. Starring core members of the cast of the 2004 Broadway revival of Lorraine Hansberry's 1959 play, the television adaptation offers polish and feeling, grievance and gut. It moves and it sings, even if the gifted Broadway musical star Audra McDonald, who appears as Ruth Younger, doesn't ever actually get to hit a note.

Ms. Hansberry's play, the subject of many revivals over the years, never belonged to the literary category James Baldwin once derided as ''protest fiction.'' It is a race play that exists as a quiet treatise on the economies of loss, asking us to think less about the broad offenses of prejudice and more about the value of familial identity and obligation.

The best plays of the 1950s turned the concept of family into a tragic affair. Individuality and rebellion were expressions of courage. ''A Raisin in the Sun'' instead made a novel case for a certain kind of conformity that transcends its racial theme. Our bloodlines make us stronger, it says; they don't tear us apart.

''A Raisin in the Sun'' revolves around the anticipation of a $10,000 check. The Younger family, struggling and cramped into a tiny apartment on the South Side of Chicago, is expecting an insurance annuity from the death of its patriarch. Its divergent dreams hinge on the cash. Walter Lee (Sean Combs) wants to use it to join the entrepreneurial classes and open a liquor store. His mother, Lena (Phylicia Rashad), seeks to put her life as a domestic behind her and provide the means to send her daughter, Beneatha (Sanaa Lathan), a sophisticate in training, to medical school.

There are no mediocre performances here. Ms. Lathan is terrific at conveying the snobbery that comes from cultural self-loathing. Beneatha doesn't simply want better things; she wants to be part of a world of bigger and better ideas. Walter, a chauffeur to a wealthy white businessman, wants to live well and be seen. That Mr. Combs makes his desires seem like more than empty materialism must come in some part from the fact that he has been hungry at the same table.

The play's most poignant speech is his, and he delivers it with all of the dignified vengeance it demands, showing us that one of the great advantages of money is the power it provides to tell the wrong people off. The Youngers have bought a house in a white working-class neighborhood whose community leader, a race baiter with a briefcase (played by a perfectly smarmy John Stamos) seeks to buy them out and retain the demographics. Walter is commendable and Mr. Combs commanding and fierce.


ABC, Monday night at 8, Eastern and Pacific times; 7, Central time.

Directed by Kenny Leon; John M. Eckert, producer; Craig Zadan, Neil Meron, Sean Combs, Carl Rumbaugh, Susan Batson and David Binder, executive producers; teleplay by Paris Qualles; music by Mervyn Warren; edited by Melissa Kent. Based on the play by Lorraine Hansberry.

WITH: Sean Combs (Walter Lee Jr.), Phylicia Rashad (Lena Younger), Audra McDonald (Ruth), Sanaa Lathan (Beneatha), John Stamos (Mr. Lindner), Justin Martin (Travis), Sean Patrick Thomas (George Murchison), David Oyelowo (Joseph Asagai), Bill Nunn (Bobo) and Ron Cephas Jones (Willy Harris).




TITLE: Raisin in the Sun, A (TV Program)>; Raisin in the Sun, A (TV Program)>

LOAD-DATE: February 25, 2008


GRAPHIC: PHOTO: Sean Combs and Phylicia Rashad in ''A Raisin in the Sun.'' (PHOTOGRAPH BY PETER STRANKS/ABC)



Copyright 2008 The New York Times Company

1046 of 1231 DOCUMENTS

The New York Times

February 25, 2008 Monday

Late Edition - Final

He Stomps Like Godzilla, Stings Like a... Don't Ask


SECTION: Section E; Column 0; Arts and Leisure Desk; BOOKS OF THE TIMES; Pg. 10

LENGTH: 964 words

In ''Monster, 1959'' David Maine invites readers into the pea-sized brain of a 40-foot ''monstrous smorgasbord'' known as K. Described as ''something to cause Darwin to burn his notebooks and run shrieking to the nearest monastery,'' K. lacks lips but is a kissing cousin to Godzilla. He is a hapless, guileless, rampaging creature straight out of B-movie science fiction. In light of Mr. Maine's flair for domesticating larger-than-life subject matter, his new book's premise seems hard to resist.

Mr. Maine's three previous novels, particularly his dazzling ''Fallen,'' (a reverse-chronological account of Cain, Abel, Adam and Eve), were extrapolated from Bible stories. This time, with reference points like the 1958 film ''The Wild Women of Wongo,'' he appears to be working in a lighter vein. He has concocted a sly, minimalist pastiche of monster-movie cliches, rendering them with perfect mimickry. (''That thing's got Betty!'') But ''Monster, 1959'' sometimes switches directions and stumbles toward the political allegory that is part of even the campiest ''Godzilla''-era monster tales. At these moments it stomps with the heavy, seven-toed tread of its title character.

For the record, K. is a visual wonder: huge, antennaed, partly furry, partly red-feathered and equipped with black-veined yellow butterfly wings. He lives on an island somewhere in the South Pacific. ''Around K. the jungle scampers with life,'' writes Mr. Maine, nicely setting this scene. ''Most of it is engaged in a single activity: running away from him.'' Like the local mole people, he is a by-product of American nuclear tests conducted in this remote region.

Enter the humans. They are all stock characters, starting with blond, white Betty, who becomes one of the book's running jokes. ''Where the hell's Betty?'' the book's other little people have a way of asking, because Betty often seems to be in K.'s gigantic clutches. And K., of course, is in Betty's thrall. ''He calms down when you sing to him,'' Betty confides, once she and the monster have developed a rapport.

Betty is accompanied by her new husband, the stalwart Johnny, a safari leader who exudes manly reassurance. (''Trust me, Betty. The nightmare's over.'') Their party also includes a crass entrepreneurial type named Billy, who will eventually provide the book with its most crude display of American capitalism run amok. And the group includes Cooke, the guide who is on the receiving end of the other characters' condescension and racism. (''Nobody's blaming you, Coco. You're different, you're -- civilized. Not like these -- these -- savages.'') Sometimes such touches in ''Monster, 1959'' are deft, since they are indigenous to K.'s native movie genre.

After plot complications involving a native tribe, a big banquet and drugged wine, the visiting adventurers find themselves in peril. So does K. Despite conflicts with an enemy like ''K.'s rival, the flying-reptile-dragon-dinosaur-eagle,'' the embattled creature has never had to give much thought to strategy. ''His conscious mind, such as it is, is taken up with the more pressing demands of Existence 101,'' Mr. Maine writes, adding a parenthetical illustration: ''(Broken bones take longer to heal when the patient is starving to death. Discuss.'') Meanwhile, off the island's coast, a boat called the Ocean Princess stands ready to transport the captured behemoth to his new life. He will be turned into an American circus attraction.

In a book that begins in 1955 and delineates each separate year's section as a film reel, the narrative lumbers toward a dramatic climax in 1959. At the end of that year, in New York City, K.'s story takes a cataclysmic turn. ''The lame don't walk and the blind don't see, but it's close, it's close,'' Mr. Maine writes about the way a huge, destructive beast affects the city's civilian population. Yet something positive awaits K., even in the midst of this meltdown. Out in New York Harbor stands a huge green female to catch his eye.

It's not hard to grasp Mr. Maine's meaning when he gets to the Statue of Liberty. ''In the black night she glows green, like something irradiated or unhealthy, like one of Marie Curie's nightmares,'' he writes. ''Like a refugee from Bikini Atoll, or White Sands, or Nagasaki.'' And K., unlike the ''Godzilla''-era monsters who ravaged Japan, is in Manhattan to meet her.

Instead of leaving his readers to connect allegorical dots, Mr. Maine finally spells out his story's specific implications. In the course of the story he connects the captive K. to political prisoners, including Mohammed Mossadegh, the Iranian Prime Minister deposed in a C.I.A.-backed coup in 1953, and Nelson Mandela, imprisoned a decade later in South Africa. But ''Monster, 1959'' saves its greatest venom for Zionism. It equates K.'s ouster from his homeland with the creation of Israel and the plight of Palestinian refugees, using statements from Golda Meir, David Ben-Gurion and Winston Churchill to bolster its argument.

For a writer who, in earlier books, took on Biblical subjects with such temerity, Mr. Maine works much less confidently this time. His equation of lovably cheap cinema with political outrage is, even at the simplest stylistic level, glaringly imbalanced. Shifting its tone from K.'s benighted obliviousness to omniscient sarcasm, the book burdens a fragile, satirical structure with the weight of serious grievances on many subjects.

A campy 1950s sensibility becomes an umbrella excuse for folding racism, imperialism, the Cold War and Israeli-Palestinian strife into a book that roams confusedly all over the map. And Mr. Maine, ordinarily so much subtler a writer, creates a monster in more ways than one.


By David Maine

244 pp. St. Martin's Press. $23.95.




TITLE: Monster, 1959 (Book)>

LOAD-DATE: February 26, 2008





Copyright 2008 The New York Times Company

1047 of 1231 DOCUMENTS

The New York Times

February 24, 2008 Sunday

Late Edition - Final

Amsterdam Tries Upscale Fix for Red-Light District Crime


SECTION: Section A; Column 0; Foreign Desk; Pg. 10

LENGTH: 1370 words


Some of the most visited brothels in Amsterdam's red-light district have gained unexpected new neighbors.

For years, the brothels' large street-side windows have showcased women of all races, wearing minute bits of clothing as they preened and beckoned customers. But in some windows, women have recently been replaced by plastic mannequins in designer clothes.

What may appear to be a new form of street theater is, instead, the most visible sign of an ambitious new gentrification plan that may take years to complete. The city council has voted to clean up the historic but notorious district, which has become bloated with expanding sleaze. The city is buying up brothels, and it has lent the first 18 windows and boudoirs for one year to young designers and photographers.

The elders of the Dutch capital, long known for its broad-mindedness, insist they have not been seized by a wave of prudishness. They say there is new evidence that criminal gangs, including East Europeans and Russians, have encroached on the area, making it meaner, more violent and more in the grip of the underworld of international sex traffickers.

It is not that city officials believe the sex trade here was ever benign. But the business has expanded rapidly and, along with violence, it has spawned cheap hotels, gaudy souvenir shops and greasy snack bars along once-elegant nearby boulevards.

''We've realized this is no longer about small-scale entrepreneurs, but that big crime organizations are involved here in trafficking women, drugs, killings and other criminal activities,'' said Job Cohen, the mayor. ''We're not banning prostitution, but we are cutting back on the whole circuit: the gambling halls, the pimps, the money laundering.'' The mayor said the cleanup was possible because of tough new zoning codes. The national government has also given cities more leeway to revoke licenses.

By official estimates, sexual transactions alone yield about $100 million per year. But city planners hope they can reduce the smut and attract art galleries, boutiques, upscale restaurants and hotels to the city's oldest quarter, valuable real estate that is home to seven medieval churches and hundreds of historic buildings.

Once, prostitution was confined to a small area near the port. The brothels were usually run by older women who had retired from the trade. But a report prepared for the mayor's office last year said that in the past 20 years, power had shifted from madams to Dutch and Eastern European pimps. Tourism, the spread of pornography and changing mores also worked to turn the old center into a vast, lewd bazaar.

On most days the district, covering less than half a square mile, has a parade of men moving along the canals and the alleyways, lined with peep shows, live-sex theaters, legal marijuana cafes and enough shops with erotic films and sex toys to equip an entire battalion. Brothels were legalized in 2000, and according to city statistics, there are now 142, with some 500 display windows for prostitutes. Many more, who work with illegal immigrants, operate around town secretly.

The planned makeover has angered the working residents and landlords, who have enlisted lawyers and formed action groups to defend ''the unique character'' of the neighborhood, as one of their protests said. Posters saying ''Hands Off'' have appeared in the windows of cafes and shops.

At the Love Club Thai 21, where a quartet of Asian women were waiting for clients on a recent evening, the club's owner, Robin Fischer, invited a journalist inside. ''Come see, we are a normal business,'' he said in his small office, fitted with a computer, a washing machine and a row of drying towels overhead. ''We have a license. We pay taxes.''

He and his friends say city leaders are being hypocritical in demanding change in the district. ''It's the diamond dealers, the hotel people, the banks who want to drive us away,'' he said. ''Their business isn't clean, either.''

Mr. Fischer, who has worked in the red-light district for 20 years, and two other Dutch landlords who did not want to be identified, blame foreign pimps for ruining the atmosphere.

''The guys from Eastern Europe bring in young and frightened women; they threaten them and beat them,'' Mr. Fischer said. ''In the old days, pimps mostly stuck to the rules, and police would warn people, like, 'Hey Jan, you're crossing the line.' There was a kind of balance. But the local sex bosses are too old or dead or in prison, and the market has opened up.''

In some ways, city officials concede they are having to deal with problems created by the Netherlands' own lenient policies. A parliamentary inquiry, criminologists and prostitutes' support groups have warned in recent years that prostitution and the permissive marijuana trade were increasingly a magnet for international organized crime.

In a report about the sex trade, Karina Schaapman, a former prostitute and now a member of the City Council, described a police face book with some 80 ''violent pimps'' of whom only 3 were Dutch-born. She said more than 75 percent of Amsterdam's 8,000 to 11,000 prostitutes, including 1,000 men, were from Eastern Europe, Africa and Asia.

Mr. Cohen, the mayor, recalled that in 2000, the Dutch legalized prostitution, intending to make the sex trade more transparent and protect women by giving them work permits. ''We realize that this hasn't worked, that trafficking in women continues,'' he said. ''Women are now moved around more, making police work more difficult.''

A task force set up by the mayor's office, in a report last year, said that the marijuana cafes and the licensed brothels had helped generate more crime by providing legal outlets. ''The marijuana and the women have to come from somewhere, and organized crime fills much of this demand,'' the study said. The money earned in this lucrative trade is pumped back into the area, widening the criminal circle, it said.

Metje Blaak, who runs the Red Thread, a support group for prostitutes, said her group had mixed feelings about the city's plans. Cutting back crime and trafficking was great, but cutting back brothels would be worse for women. ''They may end up in a back room somewhere where we can't reach them,'' she said.

While Amsterdammers could ignore the red-light district if they wanted, its problems of human trafficking and violent turf wars have become the stuff of headlines.

Last year, after several turf battles broke into gunfights, the police arrested a gang of 12 men from Turkey who were running a prostitution ring of about 90 women from Poland, Romania, Bulgaria and Germany. In February, a trial in a Dutch court involved three Polish women who the police said had ordered the killing of their Polish pimp.

Along some alleyways like Korte Niezel and Lange Niezel, there are some signs of the new cleanup campaign. Pierre van Rossum, the campaign's project manager, pointed to Mata Hari, a gambling palace, and to Venekamp, a butcher shop, that had just been boarded up. ''The butcher ran a few brothel rooms on the side; he was selling cold meat and warm flesh at the same time,'' Mr. van Rossum said.

More closings will follow as the city applies tough new zoning codes and runs tax audits. ''Right now people seem more eager to sell rather than fight,'' he said.

On the square facing Amsterdam's oldest church, the city has just bought five buildings used as brothels. In nearby streets it bought 18 similar buildings last year, most of which have now been lent to young designers.

Herbert van Hasselt, who heads the foundation that looks after the 14th-century church and its tombs of prominent citizens, said he was ''looking forward to a bit more loving discipline.''

''I'm not looking for bourgeois boredom,'' he said, ''but it would be nice to see a few more regular people and some normal restaurants here. I'm tired of the roaming drunks that urinate every night on our ancient walls.''

Mr. Cohen, the mayor, an affable former university chancellor who seems an unlikely mafia hunter, recently took a cautious view. ''Of course it won't all become impeccable and wonderful,'' he said. ''You can't normalize this business.''

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