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Wednesday, April 02, 2014

Media-Whore D'Oeuvres







"Never bet against Tom Freston. And he's bet on Shane Smith. As MTV cedes its reign as the voice of a generation, as websites go click-happy, with an ever-descending parade of lowest common denominator drivel, Vice is rising like a phoenix to become the most important media outlet appealing to the younger generation. That's right, kids need something to talk about on WhatsApp. Steve Jobs famously said that Apple computers were just tools, long before today's puffed-up tech titans will have us believe that their products are ends unto themselves. Yes, what we've got is tireless self-promoters of the soulless and the worthless. Welcome to 2014. And into this mix we put Shane Smith. A Canadian who looks like someone you'd hang with in a bar, who'd have your back, but wouldn't be unwilling to argue with you. Argument. That's something the younger generation doesn't do well. They're inundated with business advice how to get along. As if all rough edges should be shaved away in the pursuit of harmony. But the truth is there's no center to many of these cliques. And the history of people illustrates that individuals who walk the road not taken triumph, they're the ones who not only gain our eyeballs, but change the world. You can't stop watching Vice on HBO. It's kind of like the 'Sopranos,' if the ';Sopranos; were real. What we normally get with news is bloviating, arguing from a position, with two teams so loyal to themselves that you can't trust a word they say. Come out against your party and you're excommunicated, just ask David Frum, another Canadian. So Shane Smith goes to Afghanistan and does a better job of asking what we're doing there than MSNBC or Fox, never mind CNN, the all plane crash all the time network. And then Vice goes to Greenland and frightens anybody watching into climate change belief, because pictures speak louder than words, when they're displayed in a way that respects the audience. And there you have it, the mantra of the twenty first century is SMART! Forget the Kardashians, the rest of reality television too. That's fodder for the ignorant masses, it's all about money, and despite what the media tells you, with its endless scorecards, money isn't everything, ideas are. And there are plenty of people in business who are smart, but they've drunk the kool-aid. They're loyal team players in search of financial security, they're afraid to do it someone else's way, they just want the CEO riches, so they can fly private and live behind walls. Then there are people like Mr. Smith, who are willing to tip the world on edge to see what's underneath. It started with TED talks. But the people they feature are smarmy, it's almost cult-like, with the endless backslapping and the exclusion of anybody provocative, Google Nick Hanauer's talk for edification, never mind Sarah Silverman's. Yes, groupthink is prevalent on the left and the right, it pervades the young and old, but the truth is we're drawn to the exception, those who march to the beat of their own drummer in pursuit of excellence. Yes, Vice started with a bang, Dennis Rodman in North Korea, it got our attention. But now it's season two, and the focus is on information, which is king in today's age. That's why we're endlessly surfing, why we're addicted to our smartphones, we're on a quest for information. But too much is biased, it's hard to believe in any one viewpoint. And then this burly Canadian comes along and you say this is what I've been waiting for, this is the thing! It's only just beginning. Vice has been around forever, but it's finally hit critical mass. By being smart it influences people. And the most impressionable are those who push the envelope most, the young." (Lefsetz)



HANDLE WITH CARE G4S explosive experts at work in South Sudan. From left: Sila Jopa Mathew, Pierre Booyse, and Adrian McKay. With strife all around, the task they face seems endless.



"Wherever governments can’t—or won’t—maintain order, from oil fields in Africa to airports in Britain and nuclear facilities in America, the London-based 'global security' behemoth G4S has been filling the void. It is the world’s third-largest private-sector employer and commands a force three times the size of the British military. On-site in South Sudan with G4S ordnance-disposal teams, William Langewiesche learns just how dirty the job can get, and how perilous the company’s control. Late last fall, at the start of the dry season in the new country called South Sudan, a soldier of fortune named Pierre Booyse led a de-mining team westward from the capital city, Juba, intending to spend weeks unarmed in the remote and dangerous bush. Booyse, 49, is an easygoing Afrikaner and ordnance expert who was once the youngest colonel in the South African Army. He has a full gray beard that makes him look quite unlike a military man. After leaving the army he opened a bedding store in Cape Town, where he became the leading Sealy Posturepedic dealer, then opened a sports bar too, before selling both businesses in order to salvage his marriage and provide a better environment for his young daughter. The daughter flourished, the marriage did not. Booyse returned to the work he knew best, and took the first of his private military jobs, traveling to post-Qaddafi Libya to spend six months surveying the munitions depots there, particularly for surface-to-air missiles. It was dangerous work in a chaotic place, as was the next contract, which took him into the conflict zones of eastern Congo. From there he came here to South Sudan to do minefield mapping and battlefield-ordnance disposal for G4S, a far-flung security company engaged by the local United Nations mission to handle these tasks. G4S is based near London and is traded on the stock exchange there. Though it remains generally unknown to the public, it has operations in 120 countries and more than 620,000 employees. In recent years it has become the third-largest private employer in the world, after Walmart and the Taiwanese manufacturing conglomerate Foxconn. The fact that such a huge private entity is a security company is a symptom of our times. Most G4S employees are lowly guards, but a growing number are military specialists dispatched by the company into what are delicately known as “complex environments” to take on jobs that national armies lack the skill or the will to do. Booyse, for one, did not dwell on the larger meaning. For him, the company amounted to a few expatriates in the Juba headquarters compound, a six-month contract at $10,000 a month, and some tangible fieldwork to be done. He felt he was getting too old to be living in tents and mucking around in the dirt, but he liked G4S and believed, however wearily, in the job. As he set out for the west, his team consisted of seven men—four de-miners, a driver, a community-liaison officer, and a medic. The medic was a Zimbabwean. All the others were soldiers of the Sudan People’s Liberation Army, the S.P.L.A., now seconded to G4S, which paid them well by local standards—about $250 a month. At their disposal they had two old Land Cruisers, one of them configured as an ambulance with a stretcher in the back." (VanityFair)










Monaco royals will not be at Cannes ‘Grace of Monaco’ premiere










"The Monaco royals will not attend the world premiere of Nicole Kidman’s 'Grace of Monaco' following a clash with the filmmakers, Page Six has exclusively learned. Prince Albert is said to be furious about the portrayal of his father, Prince Rainier, in the Princess Grace biopic, which will open the Cannes Film Festival on May 14.We are told that the movie’s producer, Pierre-Ange Le Pogam, has refused to screen 'Grace of Monaco' for Albert, his wife, Princess Charlene, and his sisters, Princesses Stephanie and Caroline, or make any changes to the script. One source told Page Six, 'Prince Albert is angry about the film. His concern is that Grace is glorified and Prince Rainier is depicted as a weak, one-sided leader, who is controlling over his wife. Albert fears the movie vilifies his father. It was Pierre’s decision not to screen the movie for the royal family, and their requests for changes have been ignored. They won’t be at the premiere.'The movie, directed by Olivier Dahan, stars Kidman as Kelly and Tim Roth as Rainier. The plot focuses on the 1963 crisis when Charles de Gaulle blockaded Monaco, angered by its status as a tax haven for wealthy French. The film also depicts a young Princess Grace struggling in her marriage and with her identity as Rainier discourages her return to Hollywood." (PageSix)






Asian 3.57%African American 7.86%Latin 8.57%White 77.14%Other 2.86%


"It's part of the reason CBS paid $10.8 billion for 14 years worth of broadcast rights to the NCAA tournament. Yes, having the rights to a really popular sporting events allows networks to sell ad time at a premium during said event, but it also gives them the opportunity to pimp their own programming. 'Hey, now that we have several million people watching Tennessee play Michigan, why not tell them about that new comedy we're airing?' It doesn't take a particular genius to figure that out, but all of the networks do it and they've all become pretty shameless about it.  It has led to painfully forced moments in corporate self-promotion, like Calista Flockhart casually taking in a World Series game or Christian Slater dropping by the Monday Night Football booth to fail at pretending he knows something about the NFL. While 'America's Most-Watched Network' has avoided any such cringey moments during March Madness, CBS has been pretty relentless—the tournament is 63 games spread out over the better part of a month—so much so that even if you're not fully paying attention you start to notice things. Or thing. Specifically: the lower-thirds and in-game bumpers for the shows CBS was promoting featured an awful lot of white people. 'The Mentalist,' Simon Baker: white. 'Two Broke Girls,' Kat Dennings and Beth Behrs: white and white. 'The Good Wife,' Julianna Margulies: white. (Jewish!) The Masters? Tiger Woods is out, and golf is so white that the ball and even the African player is white. The entire cast of 'How I Met Your Mother': white, white, white, white and white. (Fun basketball tie-in: they all met when they were first cast as the Kentucky starting five in Glory Road.)In all of the promos CBS ran, the only non-whites I recall seeing were LL Cool J ('NCIS Los Angeles') and Lucy Liu ('Elementary'). It got me to thinking, 'Man, is CBS really that white?' Yes. Yes, it is. By percentage, it's the whitest network on television." (TheAwl)










Lewis
Photograph by Jonathan Fickies/Bloomberg









"Michael Lewis spent the first half of Tuesday promoting his book about high-frequency trading on NBC. In the morning, he went on NBC’s Today show. By midday he was on CNBC, taking in part in a battle royal over the merits of HFT. Lewis’s TV publicity tour started on Sunday night with an appearance on 60 Minutes. Lewis’s book, Flash Boys, is driving a huge amount of attention toward the topic of high frequency trading, and it has rekindled some of basic arguments over its impact on markets and investors. The new book is typical Lewis. It’s a page-turner that reads like a novel and succeeds in making complex topics accessible to non-experts. By taking seemingly disparate developments—the secretive race to build underground, super-fast fiber optic cables, the 2009 arrest of a Goldman Sachs computer programmer—Lewis stitches together a compelling, character-driven narrative to walk readers through the immense changes the financial markets have undergone over the past decade.Still, the book fails in some big ways, mostly due to Lewis’s zeal to simplify complex subjects into catchy bites and to consign players to clearly heroic or villainous roles. Here are three things Lewis gets wrong .." (BusinessWeek)





"Audiences and creators know that on one level or another, there’s an inherent gender bias in the movie business — whether it’s the disproportionately low number of films with female leads, the process of pigeonholing actresses into predefined roles (action chick, romantic interest, middle-aged mother, etc.), or the lack of serious character development for women on screen compared to their male counterparts. What’s challenging is quantifying this dysfunction, putting numbers to a trend that is — at least anecdotally — a pretty clear reality. One of the most enduring tools to measure Hollywood’s gender bias is a test originally promoted by cartoonist Alison Bechdel in a 1985 strip from her 'Dykes To Watch Out For' series. Bechdel said that if a movie can satisfy three criteria — there are at least two named women in the picture, they have a conversation with each other at some point, and that conversation isn’t about a male character — then it passes 'The Rule,' whereby female characters are allocated a bare minimum of depth. You can see a copy of that strip here.Using Bechdel test data, we analyzed 1,615 films released from 1990 to 2013 to examine the relationship between the prominence of women in a film and that film’s budget and gross profits. We found that the median budget of movies that passed the test — those that featured a conversation between two women about something other than a man — was substantially lower than the median budget of all films in the sample. What’s more, we found that the data doesn’t appear to support the persistent Hollywood belief that films featuring women do worse at the box office. Instead, we found evidence that films that feature meaningful interactions between women may in fact have a better return on investment, overall, than films that don’t."

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