Now: May 2008

What’s happening in May.

Now: May 2008
Speed Racer | courtesy of Warner Brothers Speed Racer | courtesy of Warner Brothers
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Week 1

thursday, may 1
Take Aim
Target Gets a New CEO
Minneapolis, Minnesota

Gregg Steinhafel takes over as Target CEO amid a retail slump, replacing retiring CEO Robert Ulrich, who hiked profits ninefold by blurring the line between polyester and posh. Steinhafel, 53, has a few things going for him: experience (he joined Target post B-school in 1979 as a paint buyer); retailing genes (his family owns Wisconsin’s Steinhafels Furniture); and a rep as a merchandising Merlin. He’ll need to work his magic. Sales have sagged, and designer Isaac Mizrahi recently quit to go to Liz Claiborne. — Ellen Gibson

friday, may 2
Iron Man
Directed by Jon Favreau


Iron Man is the first flick that Marvel Entertainment is producing independently of a major studio (Paramount is handling only the promotion and the distribution). “The Iron Man movie is us,” says Joe Quesada, Marvel’s editor-in-chief. “We are the masters of our character.” Those are bold words, and director Jon Favreau has done some bold casting. To play the title character — billionaire industrialist, recovering alcoholic, and sometime superhero Tony Stark — he has chosen the often enigmatic, now sober, and always entertaining Robert Downey Jr. By way of somewhat cryptic explanation, Quesada says, “Marvel is all about alter ego.” We’ll take that to mean life’s complicated and so are these characters — and of course there will be a sequel. — Abe Lebovic

Week 2

monday, may 5
Offshore Technology Conference


With prices having pierced the $100-a-barrel mark, there’s no avoiding talk of oil these days. The gooey black stuff gets major play this month at a conference devoted to pumping it safely from underwater wells, as 70,000 engineers and industry leaders from more than 110 countries spend four days in Houston discussing the future of energy and innovations in oil production. That same week in Savannah, Georgia, accident prevention and response will be on the agenda at the triennial International Oil Spill Conference. A gathering of Coast Guard, Navy, and energy-industry insiders, the event will also boast some much-needed C-list celebrity sparkle (because who wants to spend all weekend thinking about little oil-covered seabirds?): John Chatterton and Richie Kohler, the stars of the History Channel’s Deep Sea Detectives, are scheduled to attend. — Kate Rockwood

tuesday, may 6
JavaOne Conference
San Francisco

Our PDAs, BlackBerries, and computers have all kinds of cool apps and programs, but it’s Java that makes many of them tick. People fluent in this programming language, developed by Sun Microsystems, will swap ideas for four days in sessions ranging from the otherworldly (“Mars Rover Operations Imaging and Mapping with Java Technology”) and the fantastic (“A City-Driving Robotic Car Named Tommy Jr.”) to the mundane (“The Layperson’s Guide to Building a Better User Experience”). Expect plenty of time to be devoted to an unofficial item on the agenda: trash talk about Microsoft ‘s .NET and Windows Mobile. — AL


wednesday, may 7
The One Show
New York

Remember the days when a 7:10 movie started at 7:10? Now, on top of previews, we’re bombarded with ad after ad. There are so many pre-movie commercials, in fact, that the One Show — the international ad awards given by the nonprofit One Club — has added a cinematic category this year. According to the Cinema Advertising Council (yes, there is one), movie audiences are attractive to marketers because they tend to be young and affluent — and can’t change the channel. But “as a brand, it’s a dangerous place to be,” says One Show judge and ad industry veteran Ian Reichenthal. “You’re standing between people and the showing of Alien vs. Predator they just paid $10.50 to see.” — EG

wednesday, may 7
Carbon Expo
Cologne, Germany


Just because you can’t see it doesn’t mean you can’t sell it. In 2007, companies, nonprofits, and countries traded more than 2.7 billion tons of CO2 — worth $59 billion — and many of the deals were struck at this powwow. As well as hustling for developing countries’ carbon credits, this year’s 2,600 attendees, including execs from the likes of BP, Deutsche Bank, and Toyota, are expected to discuss the effects of the Bali climate agreement and new carbon-capture technology. — Theunis Bates

wednesday, may 7
See Through
Amsterdam Global Conference on Sustainability and Transparency
Amsterdam, the Netherlands

When Paul Pressler took Gap’s reins in 2002, the first question his teenage daughter asked was, “Doesn’t Gap use sweatshops?” Pressler, who has since left the company, blamed the question (the answer, by the way, was no) on Gap’s failure to share information about its production practices more broadly. Fast-forward six years: Gap is one of 78 companies (others include Nokia and Tata Motors) shortlisted for a Global Reporting Initiative Readers’ Choice Award — to be announced at this three-day conference on corporate social responsibility. The meeting and awards are both meant to further the goals of GRI, an organization with an ambitious plan — to have social-responsibility documentation be as important in business as P&L statements and analyst reports. — KR


friday, may 9
Speed Racer
Directed by the Wachowski Bros

The Wachowski brothers are back. Directing and writing together for the first time since the Matrix trilogy, the visionary duo are aiming for the families of Nascar Nation. Speed Racer, based on the 1960s series, has a PG rating and an underdog-against-a-merciless-corporate-machine plot meant to hurl this flick to the top of the box-office charts at Mach 5. (That, incidentally, is the name of the tricked-out roadster in which Speed Racer, played by Emile Hirsch, works his asphalt magic.) The live-action movie, also starring John Goodman and Susan Saran-don, was shot mostly on green screen and finished with the Wachowski gloss of special effects, giving it a visual pop worthy of Speed Racer’s 2-D roots. And it has won hosannas for the Wachowskis from Sarandon, who plays Mom Racer. “I love people who are trying something different,” she said. “I’ve been around so long it’s hard to find someone who’s trying something different.” — AL

Week 3

tuesday, may 13
The Packaging Summit
Rosemont, Illinois

Coffee lids that change from crimson to mauve as the cup’s contents cool. Sex-toy-filled tubes for hotel minibars. Pop-top plastic fruit containers to replace metal cans. Before innovations like these get to consumers, they’re shown at the Packaging Summit, home to the Ameristar Awards (aka “the Oscars of packaging”). Highlights will include talks on sustainability and business (given by Hewlett-Packard) and global packaging (Wal-Mart ), and an exhibition hall bursting with all manner of foam, paperboard, lamination, and our perennial favorite — who can resist the pop-pop-pop? — bubble wrap. — KR

tuesday, may 13
Personal Days
By Ed Park


Personal Days feels like a lot of jobs do. It starts off a lighthearted adventure in white-collar living, then spirals into something more sober. This intricate, often witty tale of corporate America — the first novel from Ed Park, cofounder of the literary magazine The Believer — centers on the employees of an unnamed New York company that’s undergoing a half-brained downsizing. Park’s structure is at times too self-consciously clever — the book’s second section is in outline form. But his sardonic humor will ring true to cube monkeys everywhere, and he succeeds in creating an oddly haunting, ultimately entertaining portrait of office life and the tenuous yet powerful relationships we build with colleagues: “Week after week, you form these intense bonds without quite realizing it. All that time together adds up.” — Beth Adams

thursday, may 15
American Institute of Architects Convention and Design Expo

Most conventions are about talk, but the American Institute of Architects wants to “Walk the Walk.” That’s the theme of the campaign recently launched by the AIA to promote sustainable design, and accordingly, the AIA has greened its convention, which this year is in Boston, home to modern landmarks such as Diller Scofidio’s Institute of Contemporary Art. No more session handouts or (we’re all for this one) sticky HELLO, MY NAME IS… name tags. Exhibitors are packing fewer samples. And leftover food is going to soup kitchens. The icing on this eco-friendly, design-rich cake: 75 architectural tours of “America’s Walking City.” — KR


Week 4

tuesday, may 20
Ready, Set, Green
By Graham Hill and Meaghan O’Neill

It’s cool to be green, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy. This earnest primer from the hippie-chic Web site — Hill launched the site; O’Neill writes for it — tries to make it a little less difficult to reduce your environmental impact. Some tips seem impractical; most people have little control over the materials used to build their homes. But the eight-week holistic program offers plenty of steps that anyone can take. And a carbon ticker helps readers understand the consequences of their choices and see how small changes can quickly add up. — BA


thursday, may 22
Shell Eco-Marathon
Nogaro Motor Circuit, France

When the checkered flag drops at Nogaro, some 200 college teams will rev their engines and trundle around the track at a bracing 18 mph. Clean exhaust and fuel efficiency, not speed, win at this Shell-sponsored event. Last year, St. Joseph La Joliverie College of Nantes, France, won the prototype prize for a car that clocked 7,148 mpg. (That’s 1,787 times more fuel-efficient than a race car in Formula One’s Monaco Grand Prix, which runs three days after Nogaro.) Philippe Maindru, head of St. Joseph’s engines department, says F1 teams could learn a lot from his students: “Imagine what could be achieved if their thousands of engineers concentrated on going far rather than fast.” — TB

Week 5

monday, may 26
100th Anniversary of the First Major Commercial Oil Find in the Middle East
Masjid-i-Suleiman, Iran

Lucky strike? At the start of the 20th century, many oilmen dismissed the Middle East as a barren backwater. That changed on May 26, 1908, when British geologists found a gigantic oil field in Persia. Realizing that exploration rights could be bought from local sheiks for next to nothing, Western firms rushed in. Oil was tapped in Iraq in 1927, Saudi Arabia in 1935, and Kuwait in 1938. — TB

wednesday, may 28
12008 International Conference on Biomedical Engineering and Informatics
Sanya, China


Words we’re sure you never expected to read: Biomedical engineering and informatics are hot. Amid the boom in personalized medicine and consumer genome analysis, scientists from around the world will convene in the tropical Chinese resort of Sanya. Lest they feel too far from the lab, they’re bringing to Sanya a full range of research on topics from the cutting edge (artificial organs) to the soporific and wonky (medical-data compression). — EG

wednesday, may 28
Shake, Not Stir
Devil May Care
By Sebastian Faulks

Double-0 Seven may serve Queen and country, but in his sixth decade, he’s mostly just making money. The Bond films alone have grossed more than $11 billion (inflation-adjusted); tie-ins, merchandise, and, of course, books — where Bond began, with Casino Royale in 1953 — have earned billions more. The guardians of creator Ian Fleming’s estate, who oversee the books but not the films, are trying to keep funds flowing by recruiting novelist Sebastian Faulks to pen Devil May Care, the 36th official Bond novel, to mark the centenary of Fleming’s birth. Judging the book by its cover, we can say that it has a much better title than the 22nd Bond film, out in November. Even star Daniel Craig admitted that Quantum of Solace “doesn’t trip off the tongue.” But as long as Craig’s 007 shows off his six-pack, we’ll contribute to keep the franchise going. — EG