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Seth Rogen, Will Reiser discuss their new autobiographical cancer comedy “50/50”

"50/50" screenwriter Will Reiser didn't have to look far for the inspiration for the new big screen comedy/drama co-produced by his pal Seth Rogen. The film, now in theaters, stars Joseph Gordon-Levitt as Adam, a Seattle public radio producer who is diagnosed with a "neurofibroma-sarcoma-schwannoma." Roughly translated, Adam has a cancerous tumor the size of a small Buick nestled against his spinal column. It's a scenario that Rogen, who plays Adam's best pal Kyle in the film, and Reiser dealt with in real life while working on HBO's "Da Ali G Show" when Reiser was handed a very similar diagnosis.

Thomas Mullen

After two historical novels, Decatur author Thomas Mullen takes an extraordinary trip to the near future in a thriller called The Revisionists (Little, Brown/Mulholland Books). In Washington, D.C., after a game-changing disaster known only as the “Great Conflagration,” Agent Zed from the U.S. Department of Historical Integrity travels back in time to make sure nothing interferes with the unfolding of horrific events such as the Holocaust, the 9/11 attacks, and the mysterious conflagration. All are necessary evils, in the government’s wisdom, to bring about “the Perfect Present”—a time of no war, no poverty, and no disease. Zed and his fellow agents are pitted against time-traveling historical agitators (aka hags), who are hell-bent on stopping the big tragedies. Though this is not a historical novel, the plot concerns the nature of history itself. “There’s a saying that dates back even before this time: History is written by the winners,” Mullen writes. “But what happens when everyone has lost?” Questions of fate versus free will, utopia versus reality, and the implications of a world without obvious racial and ethnic lines add terrific human depth to the whiz-bang gadgetry of Mullen’s imagined world. Just as he played with genre elements of noir and magical realism in last year’s The Many Deaths of the Firefly Brothers, Mullen now puts a very highbrow spin on the spy novel and science fiction. Also new THE CHESHIRE CHEESE CAT: A Dickens of a Tale (Peachtree Publishers) (For ages eight to twelve) Inspired by London’s Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese, a sixteenth-century inn with a rich literary history, authors Carmen Agra Deedy and Randall Wright concocted this howler of a tale about a well-educated mouse named Pip and his feline, cheese-loving ally, Skilley: “He was the best of toms. He was the worst of toms.” Adults and children alike will find something to love about this playful romp, featuring cameos by Charles Dickens, William Makepeace Thackeray, and Queen Victoria—all beautifully illustrated by Barry Moser. Deedy, a native of Cuba who grew up in Decatur, is a national treasure and a world-class storyteller. She’ll read from her new book at Decatur’s Little Shop of Stories ( on October 1. DRIFTING INTO DARIEN: A Personal and Natural History of the Altamaha River (University of Georgia Press) “Other rivers are as wide, and as dark, and as long, and as deep, and as bendy,” Janisse Ray writes. “Others are as well loved. Others are as wild. But the Altamaha is mine, its water my blood, its history my own.” The author of the critically acclaimed Ecology of a Cracker Childhood paddles the southeast Georgia river and creates a book that is part natural history, part earth-mother meditation. UNKNOWN FEMALE (Pill Hill Press) Marietta native Brian Ray’s second novel is a love story screaming to be made into a Tim Burton movie—brilliant and unsettling. Marx Thoreau, the deeply haunted son of a serial k

Raising Herman Cain

It started in 2009 with a tentative, polite email. “I asked his secretary if Herman Cain would be embarrassed if I launched a draft effort on Facebook for him to run for president,” says Maurice Atkinson, a forty-nine-year-old insurance agent in Macon. “Herman called me back immediately and started chuckling. People accused me of having a man crush on Herman, but I said, ‘No, I’m on a mission to get something going for our country.’” Atkinson is not alone in his zeal, according to more than 25,000 followers on the site he established. Cain, the Atlanta entrepreneur and radio talk show host who resuscitated Godfather’s Pizza, has made the talking heads swivel with his unexpected rankings—just out of the gate, he polled at 10 percent, ahead of even Michele Bachmann, despite a lack of name recognition among two-thirds of Republican voters—and the spark plug fervor of his adherents, who call themselves “Hermanators” and “Cainiacs.” “People who have never been interested in politics before will gladly walk through the fires of hell for him,” marvels Atkinson. Cain claims a war chest of barely $2 million, relying mostly on small, online donations, but his business associates from Whirlpool and Hallmark have bolstered his “Friends of Herman Cain” PAC. The business-centered campaign, which calls for abolishing the IRS, has won over some Independents and Democrats, but his most reliable base is the Tea Party, which seems in the giddy throes of a collective man crush notable for crossing traditional demographic boundaries. Cain—an African American conservative who speaks in ministerial cadences, jokes that he is the “dark horse,” and denounces “playing the race card”—has endeared himself even to the movement’s most splenetic and unreconstructed Obama-haters, the so-called “crackers for Cain.” “Herman is a real brother, though,” says Rufus Montgomery, an African American founding member of the board of directors of the Conservative Policy Leadership Institute. He promptly wrote a check for $2,500 to Cain’s campaign after hearing the candidate speak. The appeal of Cain, whose slogan is “Let’s Get Real,” transcends all of the “too easy story lines,” says Atkinson, a white Republican who has never attended a Tea Party rally. “Herman does not focus on race; he focuses on issues,” says Atkinson, “and he is genuinely engaged with people. Of course, when you work without a script, you’re more likely to stick your foot in your mouth with an off-the-cuff remark that becomes part of the endless news cycle.” (Cain said communities have a right to ban mosques.) Another campaign donor, Atlanta attorney Blake Halberg, adds, “Herman is the black Ronald Reagan. His message is easy to understand.” Cain, who lives in Stockbridge, grew up on Albert Street, with his father holding down three jobs as a janitor, barber, and chauffeur while his mother worked as a domestic maid. Cain was a Morehouse Man, graduating with a degree in mathematics in 1967. Before entering the restaurant business, he worked as a computer systems analyst for the Coca-Cola Company, and more recently he honed his message on WSB’s The Herman Cain Show. Atkinson discovered him in 1997 when Cain galvanized a meeting of Walmart managers. “He was explaining practical approaches for a successful life, for believing in yourself with the knowledge that, if you work hard without whining, you can beat the odds. I think that’s the core of his popularity. People

Q&A with David Hughes Duke and John Duke

PBA30’s original documentary One Law For All: The Story of the Atlanta Legal Aid Society, which premieres October 27 at 8:30 p.m., may cause you to hesitate before lobbing caustic cocktail party barbs at lawyers. Native Atlantan father and son filmmakers David Hughes Duke and John Duke talked about the eighty-seven-year-old nonprofit, which represents the poor in civil legal cases. Former Governor Roy Barnes says, “Working in legal aid is kind of like working in a legal emergency room. Everything coming in is an emergency.” Is that a sort of thesis for the film? David: It’s a great line. And Roy Barnes ought to know. After he lost the election [in 2002], he went to work full-time for Atlanta Legal Aid. He knows what he’s talking about. It’s a great summary statement. John: At the heart of this film, that’s the thesis. The most important aspect of this film is to create awareness about Atlanta Legal Aid. And that really defines what it is on a day-to-day basis. It’s not glamorous at all but so, so necessary. People have these dire life-threatening, life-altering legal needs every single day. That analogy is a great way to communicate that idea. John, your father had a ten-year history of documenting Atlanta Legal Aid going into this project. But as a twenty-seven-year-old who has a master’s degree in cinema studies from New York University you went into this project cold. What shocked you the most as you began your research? John: Just realizing the vast need for these services. Just going down to their offices was revelatory. On any given weekday, they take the first ten callers. They can only help a handful of people each day. How much of a need there is and how under the radar their work is were things that were really shocking for me. It was something I was completely unaware of until I started on this project. In 1974, President Richard Nixon first signed the Legal Services Corporation Act to secure federal funding for legal aid. In 1981, President Ronald Reagan cut legal aid funding by 25 percent during his first term. Some of Atlanta’s most prominent attorneys then stepped in to quietly cut checks to help fund Atlanta Legal Aid’s work. Did that development surprise you? David: From my vantage point, that’s one of the most hopeful things in the documentary. Private lawyers created Atlanta Legal Aid in 1924, and these were same people who stepped in when federal funding was cut. A lot of people will be surprised that this organization wasn’t started by a liberal think tank. It was a group of lawyers of all political persuasions saying, “This is a need and as part of our duty and our privilege of being a lawyer, it’s up to us to do something about this.” The overwhelming bipartisan support of Atlanta Legal Aid in this very partisan age is what is surprising and encouraging to me. One of the most nail-gnawing sequences in the doc details the race against time Atlanta Legal Aid lawyers had in January 2010, when they were trying to secure a heart transplant for an infant at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta. An indigent mother had to sign over custodial rights to a grandmother, and a father had to sign legal papers from prison—all while a snowstorm was rolling into the city. As filmmakers did you get excited a year later when you had the task of recreating this scene and another snowstorm was set to hit Atlanta? John: Dad is always excited when he hears about snow in the forecast! David: We do a lot of public television films, and I’m always ready to capture a snowfall to use as footage in our projects. The timing of this year’s snow just when we needed it to illustrate this story was fortuitous. One of the biggest headline-grabbing stories in the Atla

The Soul Within

Inside Atlanta’s Northyards Complex on a cloudy spring afternoon, India Arie performs “Gift of Acceptance” to a rapt crowd. The ethereal singer twirls in a floor-length white dress, accompanied by her new songwriting partner, Israeli pianist Idan Raichel. Their contemplative set leaves much of the audience visibly moved at the TEDx conference—organized by the local branch of an exclusive, multidisciplinary think tank devoted to technology, entertainment, and design (like Mensa for the culturally aware).

Indigo Girl Amy Ray reflects on Sears Toughskins, previews Party at Ponce, “Beauty Queen Sister”

Four days before the official release of their 14th studio album, "Beauty Queen Sister," the Indigo Girls will debut selections from the project Saturday night as they headline Party at Ponce, the kick off for the planned multi-million dollar Ponce City Market renovation of the massive City Hall East location and former Sears & Roebuck building on Ponce de Leon Avenue. The evening serves as a benefit for the city's Atlanta Beltline Partnership and Georgia Organics. And if we're really lucky, Indigo Girl Amy Ray may take the stage in a pair of green Toughskins jeans, her preferred hue from childhood. In addition to the popular brand of Sears jungle gym-proof denim, Ray's mother worked there as a teenager and the songwriter's very first acoustic guitar and amp also came from Sears. "It's such a great building," she recalls. "My Dad used to take me there to pick up our catalog orders. Every Christmas, we got our Sears Wishbook there too! That was an extremely big deal at the time. I have a real emotional attachment to that building. We're thrilled to be a part of this benefit."

Out on Film opens, a Soul-ful sighting, TCM scores Scorsese and a warm “Welcome”

The impressive line-up for this year's 24th annual Out on Film festival opening Thursday night at Landmark Midtown Cinema and running though Oct. 6 only underscores why the Atlanta LGBT cinema festival is one of the oldest and most attended in the country (Out on Film even earned a place on Atlanta magazine's "The Good, the Bad, and the Indie" history of film in Georgia in our September issue). As an honored Out on Film juror, we've already previewed 15 of this year's film in advance. Based on what we've seen, here's our completely unofficial "to do" list for this year's offerings:

One “Wicked” cabaret benefit show tonight at 14th Street Playhouse

Up the three flights of stairs leading from the Fox Theatre's backstage area to the "Wicked" cast dressing rooms, dozens and dozens of black clips have been taped to the yellow-hued walls. A box of Sharpie markers is strategically taped at each landing. During each performance of the Tony-winning musical "Wicked" (running through Oct. 9 at the Fox), show posters are affixed to each clip and in between wardrobe changes, vocal warm ups and listening for entrance cues, each cast member autographs each poster on the way up or down the stairs. By the end of the touring production's run here next month, the cast will have signed approximately 1,000 posters as part of an ongoing fundraiser for Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS. But the musical's commitment to the non-profit doesn't end with the posters and the donation buckets passed at each performance. Tonight at 7:30, on their one night off this week, the cast will p

Takes on our mayoral roundtable

Well, it's been a week since our two-hour-long Atlanta History Center panel with four of the five living Atlanta mayors. We were pretty proud to have arranged the ensuing conversation, as led by the Pulitzer Prize–winning Doug Blackmon, given the event's one-of-a-kind nature. As you might imagine, the event sparked its own round of conversations over the following days.

Doria Roberts nurtures an Odetta-inspired batch of new songs on “Blackeyed Susan”

Atlanta singer-songwriter Doria Roberts' new album, "Blackeyed Susan" is designed to engage all your senses. When you slide up the lid on the wooden "Blackeyed Susan" box created out of scraps from a guitar manufacturer, the scent of loose tea perfumes the air. There are blackeyed susan seeds for planting, honey to accompany the tea, a piece of Atlanta designer Kathleen Plate's Smartglass recycled jewelry and, after a five-year wait, Roberts' latest song cycle, inspired by and featuring songs long associated with her late mentor and civil rights folk legend Odetta Holmes. Roberts will introduce fans to the project this week at Decatur CD on Tuesday night at 7:30 with an album release gig (a massive reproduction of the album cover is now displayed on the side of the building) and Thursday at 5 p.m. at the East Atlanta Farmers Market. For the first time, Roberts says she has no plans to issue a digital version of the project ("I want people to enage all their senses with the keepsake box," she says. "You can't achieve that with a download.").

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