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Saturday, August 15, 2009

Media-Whore D'Oeuvres



"Sony's alien-themed District 9 scored an impressive $14.2 million opening Friday, according to studio estimates, putting it on track for a $35 million weekend that exceeded the high pre-release expectations for the Peter Jackson-produced pick-up. The strong play for the R-rated dark sci-fi movie among young-male audiences came at the expense of last weekend's box-office champ, Paramount's G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra, which dropped 68 percent from its opening but is still on pace for a $23 million weekend. Narrowly behind G.I. Joe in third place is Warner Bros-New Line's femme-targeted The Time Traveler's Wife, which opened to $7.7 million Friday and is on pace to finish its first three days at just under $23 million. A romantic drama starring Eric Bana as a man with a genetic pre-disposition to compulsive, spontaneous time travel, the movie took audience away from Sony's Nora Ephron-directed, Meryl-Streep-starring Julie and Julia, but not too much -- the $40 million comedy started its second weekend down only 44% and is on pace to finish the weekend in fourth place with a two-week domestic bounty of $42.9 million." (TheWrap)




"As Del La Soul told the crowd when they took the stage at Nokia Theatre in NYC last night (8/13), their show was not going to be all music from 3 Feet High & Rising. Why would anyone think it would be? Probably because the show was billed as 20 Years High and Rising (and everyone and their mother is playing full albums these days) (including Buckshot who opened the show, but didn't play a full album at this one either). I was more than okay with them not playing the full thing, though it would have been nice to hear a few more songs from that album. Specifically, I wished they played The Magic Number and Jenifa Taught Me (Derwin's Revenge). I loved every second of the packed show, and the 10-piece backing band was an especially nice touch." (BrooklynVegan)



"When Bernie told his secretary he was going to lunch with a 'pain in the ass' investor, he was really meeting his blond girlfriend. 'She’s a pain in the ass, but I guess I have to go out with her for lunch,' Bernard Madoff would say to his secretary about the aggressive blond woman nearly a decade younger than his wife Ruth, who would show up at his Lipstick Building office and demand that he leave in the middle of the day. Eleanor Squillari, Madoff’s assistant, told The Daily Beast she now realizes Madoff was just trying to throw her off the scent about his hotel frolics with the demanding client. Sheryl Weinstein, now 60, was a younger, bigger, bustier, feistier version of Ruth Madoff and until a few years ago, used to 'drop in' on Bernie fairly regularly."
(TheDailyBeast)



"He'll do stand up and sit down. Because if you can't get your friends to appear, then you might as well hang it up. Question is, does anyone still care about Seinfeld anymore? Sure, it was great when his show first went into syndication. But now I haven't bothered with those reruns of the reruns of the reruns in years." (*DeadlineHollywoodDaily)



"The recent violence in Urumqi resembles the unrest that occurred in March 2008 in Lhasa, another city in China's far west. Although the two cities are one thousand miles apart and home to two very different ethnic groups -- the Uighurs in Xinjiang are Turkic Muslims, the Tibetans are Asian Buddhists -- local demonstrations in both places quickly inflamed existing discontent and ethnic tensions. In each case, Chinese paramilitary officers were eventually able to restore order. But on both occasions, at the national and provincial levels, Chinese politicians did little to address the root causes of the unrest -- namely, the state's encouragement of Han Chinese transmigration and the consequent subjugation of local cultures. China's central planners have keenly eyed the country's sparsely populated far western frontier for decades. In a country that has more than one hundred cities, with more than one million inhabitants, and where 90 percent of the population lives on only ten percent of the land, Beijing has seen the vast expanses of the west as unfulfilled potential. It is not just the vacant earth that interests China's leaders but what lies beneath it -- Xinjiang holds more than a quarter of China's oil and gas reserves, and the Tibet Autonomous Region has nearly half of China's mineral resources, such as gold, coal, chromite, lithium, and perhaps the world's largest uranium deposits. The problem for Beijing, however, has been how to persuade Han Chinese -- the ethnic group that makes up more than 90 percent of China's population -- to relocate to a forbidding area that is several days' travel from the country's more developed east. In response, the Chinese government has made enormous investments in infrastructure, meant to make the remote regions of Xinjiang and Tibet -- separated from the rest of China by the Gobi Desert and Tibetan plateau -- more accessible. At the same time, it has sought to pacify native populations by stimulating local economic activity." (ForeignAffairs)



"Good news for Conan O’Brien: From Aug. 3 to 7, his Tonight Show scored a decisive victory in the 18-to-49 demographic over David Letterman’s Late Show and came closer to beating The Late Show in total viewers than it has since that show pulled ahead four weeks ago. The bad news for O’Brien: Letterman was on vacation for the week." (Medialifemagazine)



"One of the most highly-anticipated art events in Shanghai was the arrival of New York-based artist Yoko Ono. The widow of John Lennon exhibited her work at the Ke Center for the Contemporary Art, dedicated to the visual and performing arts. Not only was this her first solo retrospective exhibition in China; it was also her first trip to China. Now 75, the controversial avant-garde artist conceptualized and curated her own show, 'Yoko Ono: Fly.' The exhibition included works from Ono’s 50 years as an artist. The Ke art complex was overflowing with eager spectators despite the torrential, pounding rainstorm. My friends and I happily huddled under umbrellas, standing in line to see this icon." (NYSocialDiary)



"Two years ago almost to the day, the phone in the FT’s Zurich office rang as I reached the door. 'My name is Tarantula,' said the mystery caller. 'That is not my real name. But the information I will provide will put my life in danger and be the end of Swiss bank secrecy.' Loonies on the line are not unfamiliar in journalism. But in the months of contact that followed, it emerged that my informant, though driven, was entirely compos mentis. 'Tarantula' turned out to be Bradley Birkenfeld, the American private banker whose disclosures have played a crucial part in the massive crackdown by US authorities on Switzerland’s hallowed bank secrecy. This week, the US and UBS, Switzerland’s biggest bank and target of the campaign, reached an out-of-court settlement on efforts by the Internal Revenue Service – the US tax authority – to gain the names of up to 52,000 Americans with secret accounts. Reflecting the importance of the case for one of the Swiss economy’s biggest money-spinners, Bern was party to the deal." (FT)

"A Research 2000/Daily Kos poll of 600 likely voters conducted Aug. 9-12 shows Republican Meg Whitman, the former CEO of eBay, and Democrat Jerry Brown, the current state attorney general and a former governor, leading their respective fields for the open 2010 governor's race in California. In a hypothetical general election matchup between the two, Brown bested Whitman 42 percent to 36 percent, with 22 percent undecided. Brown also led San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom in a hypothetical Democratic primary matchup, 29 percent to 20 percent -- but a whopping 51 percent said they were undecided. On the Republican side, Whitman led former Rep. Tom Campbell and state Insurance Commissioner Steve Poizner in the GOP primary: 24 percent for Whitman, 19 percent for Campbell, 9 percent for Poizner and 48 percent undecided. Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger is term-limited in 2011. CQ Politics rates the governor's race Leans Democratic. The poll also included questions related to Democratic Sen. Barbara Boxer's 2010 re-election race. Boxer easily bested Republican challenger Chuck DeVore, a state assemblyman, in the poll: 53 percent to 29 percent, with 18 percent undecided. Republicans are actively courting Carly Fiorina, the former chairman and CEO of Hewlett-Packard, to run against Boxer. The poll showed Boxer defeating Fiorina 52 percent to 31 percent, with 17 percent undecided." (CQPolitics)



"Senator Chuck Grassley has announced his membership in the Limbaugh mainstream of the Republican Party on the non-issue of Death Panels. This is the man who is the lead Republican negotiator in the Senate Finance Committee's effort to create a bipartisan health care bill--and he either (a) hasn't the vaguest notion of what's in the bill or (b) he is so intimidated by the ditto-head-brown-shirts that he is trying to fudge a response to keep them happy. Either way, he should be ashamed. And once has to wonder about the fate of the Senate Finance Committee deliberations if this is what the Administration is dealing with." (JoeKlein)



"A week after we all indulged in some serious reminiscing about the master of 1980s teen angst, John Hughes, Hollywood announced today that it’s got more ’80s nostalgia up its sleeve: the Brat Pack-flick-to-end-all-Brat Pack flicks, St. Elmo’s Fire, is being reworked as a dramedy TV series for ABC. The 1985 original, directed by Joel Schumacher, starred a veritable who’s-who of young stars of the Reagan era: Emilio Estevez, Rob Lowe, Andrew McCarthy, Demi Moore, Judd Nelson, Ally Sheedy, and Mare Winningham. They played recent Georgetown University grads figuring out how to be proper grown-ups. Good idea, or further proof of Hollywood’s lack of original thought? Since I suspect the answer to that question will depend largely on casting, let’s help out the producers — they include Schumacher and Topher Grace — by throwing some ideas their way, shall we?" (Popwatch)



"Long a farm league for 'This American Life,' the storytelling public radio show, the Moth rolled out its own show this month, broadcast on more than 70 public radio stations, said Lea Thau, the Moth’s executive director. And since becoming available last summer on iTunes, its performance podcasts have been downloaded more than 6.5 million times. Similar events are popping up around New York, as well as in cities like Seattle, San Francisco and Philadelphia. 'Like the folk revival in the ’60s, or stand-up comedy in the ’80s, all of a sudden everyone’s doing it,' said Adam Wade, a part-time television producer and frequent Moth slam winner. Last year, Mr. Wade, 34, and another storyteller, Jake Goldman, started a monthly storytelling event, True Tales From College, at Ochi’s Lounge at Comix, a Manhattan club. Mr. Wade, who lost his job at an Internet company in November, said he aspires to vault into a career like Garrison Keillor’s. The lure of success threatens to change the Moth, which has always tried to encourage ordinary people to climb on stage to share their personal, often earnest, tales. 'Comics and actors are coming in — pros,' said James Braly, whose stories at the Moth were developed into an Off Broadway one-man show, 'Life in a Marital Institution.' The real challenge, he said, 'is retaining the warmth, and the spontaneity.'" (Style)

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