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Monday, May 16, 2011

Media-Whore D'Oeuvres


"Late one night last November, a plane carrying dozens of Colombian men touched down in this glittering seaside capital. Whisked through customs by an Emirati intelligence officer, the group boarded an unmarked bus and drove roughly 20 miles to a windswept military complex in the desert sand. The Colombians had entered the United Arab Emirates posing as construction workers. In fact, they were soldiers for a secret American-led mercenary army being built by Erik Prince, the billionaire founder of Blackwater Worldwide, with $529 million from the oil-soaked sheikdom ... Knowing that his ventures are magnets for controversy, Mr. Prince has masked his involvement with the mercenary battalion. His name is not included on contracts and most other corporate documents, and company insiders have at times tried to hide his identity by referring to him by the code name 'Kingfish.' But three former employees, speaking on the condition of anonymity because of confidentiality agreements, and two people involved in security contracting described Mr. Prince’s central role. The former employees said that in recruiting the Colombians and others from halfway around the world, Mr. Prince’s subordinates were following his strict rule: hire no Muslims. Muslim soldiers, Mr. Prince warned, could not be counted on to kill fellow Muslims." (NYTimes)


"It was a perfect weekend to hunker down with a good book, which is what I did, finally finishing, uninterrupted, Emile Zola’s classic, Nana, written about the last days of the Second Empire in France under Napoleon III. It was an era of unbridled prosperity under the Emperor. It was also the era of the courtesan when rich men went mad for the girls even to the point of bankrupting themselves showering them with gifts – jewels, houses, estates, clothes, horses, carriages.  Nana, who was based on real characters of that time in Paris was famous for destroying every man who had her. And there were many. Zola is brutal in his portraits of the ramifications of lust and greed that enveloped society. Today’s story of the rape accusation against Dominique Strauss-Kahn, the head of the IMF (International Monetary Fund) would have fit neatly into Zola’s scenario." (NYSocialDiary)


"Holding its upfront at the Hilton New York, NBC strived for a high-energy opening with the band The Roots and a weekday version of 'Weekend Update' with Seth Meyers of 'SNL.' Right off the bat, Mr. Meyers acknowledged the new owner of NBC, Comcast. He joked, 'I have to say, it's better already. Really. I have to say that ... NBC's overarching message today is that 'we're new' -- not scary new, but fresh-start, back-to-basics new. The network's new owner, Comcast, came up several times in the presentation to advertisers. Ted Harbert, the new chairman of NBC Broadcasting, told the attendees that the new NBCUniversal Chief Executive Steve Burke's No. 1 mandate is 'fixing prime time' ... In part because NBC has new ownership and new leadership, the new executives are able to speak frankly about the challenge they face in improving NBC's ratings performance ... (Bob Greenblatt, the president of entertainment) suggested that the turnaround had already started with 'The Voice,' the singing competition that had its premiere last month and has delivered surprisingly strong ratings in the weeks since. He said that Alan Wurtzel, the head of research for NBC, had called 'The Voice' 'that rare gift from God' ... My colleague Bill Carter counts 11 references to 'The Voice' already." (Brian Stelter/NYTimes, Liveblogging the Upfronts)


"For most big news Web sites, about 60 percent of the traffic is homegrown, people who come directly to the site by dint of a bookmark or typing in www.latimes.com or www.huffingtonpost.com. The other critical 40 percent comes by referrals, the links that are the source of drive-by traffic, new readers and heat-seekers on a particular story. By far, most of the traffic from links comes from the sprawling hybrid of Google search and news, which provides about 30 percent of the visits to news sites, according to a report released last week by the Project for Excellence in Journalism, part of the Pew Research Center. And the second? Has to be Facebook, right? Nope. Then Twitter must be the next in line. Except it isn’t.  Give up? It’s The Drudge Report, a 14-year-old site — a relic by Web standards — conceived and operated by Matt Drudge. Using data from the Nielsen Company to examine the top 21 news sites on the Web, the report suggests that Mr. Drudge, once thought of as a hothouse flower of the Lewinsky scandal, is now more powerful in driving news than the half-billion folks on Facebook." (David Carr)


"Then, just as the century began to turn, something strange happened to the way people were watching TV, and for me, it involved my dawning awareness of two particular shows: David Chase’s The Sopranos and Joss Whedon’s Buffy the Vampire Slayer. On the surface, they had little in common. One was a mob narrative full of sex and violence, served up with a roar of critical praise on HBO; the other was a teen horror series full of feminism and neck-biting, largely ignored and launched cheaply on the 'netlet' called the WB. But both were works of radical originality, written and produced by large personalities: Chase, the cranky Italian-American auteur with a gimlet eye, Whedon the quotable nerd who believed that genre was more than junk. Whole communities formed online, virtual universes as fascinated with the shows’ creators as they were with the shows themselves. There was worship in the air. And it was no coincidence to me that around this time, possibly in Canada, where all good things come from, that people began referring to a person who oversaw a TV show as the 'showrunner.' Unlike the anodyne 'executive producer,' it was a title with a brassy, circusy feel: It suggested someone who was in charge, not behind the scenes but out in public, like a ringmaster. Online and off, in interviews about their shows, TV auteurs were eagerly pouring themselves back into that decades-old (David) Lynch mold, making a case for the artist as visionary." (Emily Nussbaum via MediaRedefined)


"'It felt very adult this year,' my co-committee member mused as the last guests teetered out of the Bowery Hotel following Thursday night’s Art Rocks! cocktail party and digital art show. 'I like the new Art Rocks!,' she decided. And, with the exception of spotting Olympic figure skater Johnny Weir breaking it down in a shorts-suit on the otherwise barren dance floor, I had to nod in agreement. For the past three years, I’ve served on the committee for the annual event, and this year’s—the benefit’s fourth—exhibited a maturity indicative of a party that’s grown to be a staple among New York’s burgeoning set of up-and-coming fashionistas, artists, and media-types. 'It’s my hope that Art Rocks always has its finger on the pulse of what’s going on in the zeitgeist,' Nicole Berrie, its founder and my former V.F. colleague, told me. 'And that it can continue to be a platform where the next generation of creative-types can convene and socialize.' This year, that meant recruiting the designer and fashion-darling Chris Benz and the stylist and reality-TV star Brad Goreski as the event’s co-hosts, as well as an eclectic mix of guests such as the aforementioned Weir, actor Cuba Gooding, Jr., designers Prabal Gurung and Timo Weiland, and bright young thing and heiress Hayley Bloomingdale. 'It was the perfect cross-section of people,' Goreski said about the crowd." (VanityFair)


"The media always used hot women to tease male readers, viewers, and users (sex sells), but now that women are the prime consumers of media, sex needs to be sold differently. But to commodify something, you first need to know what it is. Female desire is notoriously inscrutable; it continues to baffle researchers and players alike. HBO’s Hung is heading into its third season still searching, yes, for viewers but also for a definitive answer for what exactly it is. Complicating things further is that female desire still makes us squirmy. It requires us to delve into messy, raw areas—to look at intimacy and emotions, to have taboo discussions about vaginas and clits. And cultural perceptions of desire also skew what women think they should want. A survey conducted last year even found that half of women polled would rather go without sex for a summer than gain 10 pounds. Media and marketing executives have approached this problem the only way they know how—by being results oriented and focusing on the payoff: the orgasm." (Hepzibah Anderson via Media Redefined)


"Howard (Stern) said Jimmy Kimmel is there so he should bring him in. He said he's there for the upfronts. Jimmy came in with his iPad 2. He said Howard is the one who got him to get that thing. He said he loves it too. Howard told Jimmy to explain why he's there. Jimmy said he's there for these things they call the upfronts. This is where the networks show off the TV shows they have to advertisers. He said they do that and they get commitments from the advertisers and then they end up canceling the shows. Jimmy said the deals work out great for th advertisers because if the shows don't get the ratings they say they will, they get a better deal. Howard said Jimmy is the one late night guy on ABC so he's got a good deal. Howard asked if he has to go do the upfronts. Jimmy said nothing ever happens at these things and this is his 9th year doing it. He said he thought it would be terrible if he didn't go and he could return triumphantly next year. Howard said they treat Jimmy like shit over there at ABC but he's the only guy who can do this kind of thing for them. Howard said Jimmy doesn't say they treat him like shit but he's going to say it for him. Howard said this upfront thing is very important and Jimmy is the one guy they can go to for doing the event. Howard said the advertisers look forward to the whole thing and ABC isn't treating him that well. Howard said they don't pay him like they pay Leno and Letterman. He said they keep him on later at night like Fallon and Conan. He said he's really their Leno or Letterman but they treat him like he's second tier ... Howard said he got to see Jimmy prepare for the upfronts last year. He said that he practiced at the party he had out in L.A. Howard said he thought the jokes were very good but Ashton Kutcher told him which jokes he thought sucked. Howard said he saw over the weekend that he got the Charlie Sheen gig in Two and a Half Men. Howard said he saw that he's going to get like half a million an episode for the show. He said the guy is a movie star and he's taking a TV role." (Marksfriggin)

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