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Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Media-Whore D'Oeuvres


"It is impossible to write a political obituary of someone who not only hasn't yet passed away, but whose influence will assuredly live on long after he passes from the scene. This is especially the case with Lee Kuan Yew: founding father, prime minister, and until this week, 'minister mentor' of the world's most admired city-state, Singapore.  Lee is finally stepping down from the cabinet position he created for himself, as is his successor Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong, who also served as a senior minister. Their departure, combined with the swearing-in of a raft of younger cabinet ministers after Lee's People's Action Party (PAP) took a severe blow in parliamentary elections this month, lowers the average age of the cabinet to a sprightly 53. But Lee, now 87, retains a seat in Parliament, not to mention the ear of his son, Lee Hsien Loong, the current prime minister. Samuel Huntington famously praised Lee -- who has officially or unofficially ruled Singapore for more than 50 years -- as one of the most successful statesmen of the 20th century, but his influence could be even greater in the 21st. Singapore's 20th-century legacy is that of being one of the few truly successful post-colonial nations. While Arab states crumble and the rest of surrounding Indochina struggles in the second world, Singapore skyrocketed From Third World to First, to borrow the title of one volume of Lee's lengthy but instructive memoirs. The ghosts of colonialism have long since vanished from Singapore. As we enter an urban age in which cities are agile islands of governance that often matter more than countries, Singapore is very much a 21st-century role model, unencumbered by unproductive territory or surplus mouths to feed. And at a time when big government is a four-letter word, Singapore continues to earn high praise for being run like a company (Lee purposely modeled agencies, the civil service, and incentive structures on Royal Dutch Shell)." (ForeignPolicy)


"Today Oprah Winfrey will air the very last episode of her eponymous talk show, and as she goes, the staid landscape of daytime television will begin to undergo some serious terraforming. News anchors Katie Couric and Anderson Cooper will be fielding their own syndicated talk shows, and soap-opera stalwarts All My Children and One Life to Live have been canceled. There's even a chance that 79-year-old Regis Philbin, who is abandoning his morning perch alongside Kelly Ripa, will find his own star vehicle. Meanwhile, Kelly's got to find a new man! It's a lot of upheaval for a corner of the TV industry that has barely changed in the last few decades. Regis has occupied the nine o'clock hour for a quarter of a century. Oprah's been on for the same amount of time. So shifts like these are positively seismic — and brave, at a time when daytime audiences are steadily shrinking and ad sales are limping along after the recession. What's in store for the upstart newcomers?" (NYMag)


"A change in the weather: New Yorkers woke up yesterday morning to a very warm – warm like Summer day in New York. Last night at the St. Regis Roof, the American Cancer Society New York City, held its Celebration of Life Spring Benefit, honoring this writer and Perri Peltz, the television journalist and documentary filmmaker whose 'The Education of Dee Dee Ricks' premiered earlier this month at the Tribeca Film Festival and will run on HBO this coming October. I’ve been going to this annual benefit for several years. Diana Feldman, who is one of the co-chairs and long active in planning these, a friend and a person with a generous heart, asked me earlier this year if I would be an honoree. I had replied: 'honoree for what?' She answered: 'For our Man of Achievement Award.' I replied: 'What’s the achievement?' She laughed – Diana is easy to laugh which is part of her great charm – and I said yes." (NYSocialDiary)


"Those who remember Liberty Media Chairman John Malone from the days when he was the swashbuckling King of Cable like to think of him as a strategic mastermind who still wants to shape the future of media. But lately he's looked like a guy who simply wants to collect and trade media assets as though they're baseball cards -- especially if he can do so in a way that doesn't also require him to pay taxes. In presentations today and yesterday, Malone and Liberty CEO Gregory Maffei provided little to suggest that that there's a vision behind the $1 billion offer they made last week for 70% of bookseller Barnes & Noble -- or even whether they hope to manage it in a way that would complement their collection of corporate spare parts that includes QVC, Starz, and the Atlanta Braves, as well as major stakes in Sirius XM and Live Nation. Maffei told a Barclays Capital investor conference that 'a lot of interesting things' can be done with B&N stores, including selling Nook e-readers and "Nook-related devices." Asked whether he expects the Nook to overtake Amazon's Kindle or simply slog ahead as the No. 2 e-reader with about 25% of the market, Maffei says 'both.' Malone was a little more helpful yesterday when he told his company's shareholders that book publishers have 'a strong vested interest in not allowing too much concentration in one hand in the (e-reader) space and that should be a wind to the back of a player like Barnes & Noble.' He warned listeners not to make too much of the deal. 'We're not betting the company on it,' he says. In other matters, Maffei says that Starz's original programming 'isn't sufficient to differentiate (it from other premium channels) as much as we'd like.'" (Deadline)



"In the Sex Crimes Bureau of the Brooklyn District Attorney’s Office, in the pediatric division of Fort Bragg’s Womack Army Medical Center, in the back alleys of Waterbury, Connecticut, and in the hallways of Hartford’s Community Court, Assistant D.A. Rhonnie Jaus, forensic pediatrician Dr. Sharon Cooper, ex-streetwalker Louise, and Judge Curtissa Cofield have all simultaneously and independently noted the same disturbing phenomenon. There are more young American girls entering the commercial sex industry—an estimated 300,000 at this moment—and their ages have been dropping drastically. 'The average starting age for prostitution is now 13,' says Rachel Lloyd, executive director of Girls Educational and Mentoring Services (gems), a Harlem-based organization that rescues young women from 'the life.' Says Judge Cofield, who formerly presided over Hartford’s Prostitution Protocol, a court-ordered rehabilitation program, 'I call them the Little Barbies.'
The explanations offered for these downwardly expanding demographics are various, and not at all mutually exclusive. Dr. Sharon Cooper believes that the anti-intellectual, consumerist, hyper-violent, and super-eroticized content of movies (Hustle & Flow), reality TV (Cathouse), video games (Grand Theft Auto: Vice City), gangsta rap (Nelly’s 'Tip Drill'), and cyber sites (Second Life: Jail Bait) has normalized sexual harm. 'History is repeating itself, and we’re back to treating women and children as chattel,' she says. 'It’s a sexually toxic era of ‘pimpfantwear’ for your newborn son and thongs for your five-year-old daughter.' Additionally, Cooper cites the breakdown of the family unit (statistically, absent or abusive parents compounds risk) and the emergence of vast cyber-communities of like-minded deviant individuals, who no longer have disincentives to act on their most destructive predatory fantasies." (VanityFair)

"Nineteen ninety-nine was a revelatory year for Stefano Sandano. He became one of the few applicants out of thousands to be approved as a licensed Vatican tour guide, and he began, for the first time, to seriously study the inner workings of the Internet. Mr. Sandano was an early convert to the digital doctrine of search-engine optimization, the art of goosing a particular website's visibility on services like Google. By currying favor with outside sites and tweaking his content with crucial 'key words,' Mr. Sandano was able to outrank his competitors whenever would-be customers typed terms like 'Vatican tour' into Google. Before long, business was so good that Mr. Sandano no longer needed to rely on travel agencies and hotel concierges, which generally took a cut of his revenues. As he led his groups of Japanese and Brazilian tourists through the gilded arches of the Holy See, he kept his online secrets to himself. 'The church was my passion.' he said. 'But the Internet was my weapon to build the business.' While conducting a tour in 2004, Mr. Sandano met an American woman whom he later married. He moved to New York in 2006 to be with her and became a full-time SEO consultant to pay his way through a Ph.D. program in art history. These days Mr. Sandano favors a patient approach to SEO. 'To improve in a search, it takes a long time, year after year, like erosion,' he said in his marvelous, sing-song accent. 'Don't rush things, or they will punish you. You got to respect the Google.'" (Observer)


"Ashton Kutcher took the stage at today’s TechCrunch Disrupt for an interview with Charlie Rose. In 2008, at TechCrunch 50, Kutcher launched a failed South Park for young girls, as he describes it. Since then, he’s become infamous for his celebrity involvement in the tech industry. 'I think I’ve become relatively good at bringing things that aren’t necessarily mainstream into pop culture,' said Kutcher who famously raced for Twitter followers with CNN, a strategy that placed him at the helm of the social media steamship in the social network’s early days. While acting is still his first love, the social media maven says he tweets for himself, about once or twice a day. Having studied chemical engineering at school in Iowa, Kutcher has been involved in the technology industry most of his life. He now runs Katalyst Media, a digital media group that produces film, television and “social entertainment experiences” on behalf of brands." (TheNextWeb)

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