Tuesday, May 31, 2011

What Would be the Best Way to Increase Viewership at OWN?

There has been much talk among the chattering classes regarding the ratings at Oprah's OWN. As of the Spring, ratings at OWN were 10 percent lower than Discovery Health -- ! -- the channel it replaces. Not a good look. But now that Oprah is free to be hands on at her network, I ask the question:

The Home Shopping Network Gamifies. Who Else Should Be?

That HSN is gamifying is smart. From the Wall Street Journal:

The new feature, called HSN Arcade, will pair 25 games like Sodoku and Mahjongg with a live stream of HSN's main television channel.
The move highlights how retailers' aggressive push online is putting them in competition not only with established e-commerce outfits, but also with other demands on Internet users' time.
Both HSN and online games are popular with middle-aged women. "There is a ton of overlap there," says Jill Braff, HSN's executive vice president of digital commerce.

HSN, a hybrid of a media company and a retailer, is hoping the games will keep customers on the site longer and expose them to more products. "There is quite a bit of commerce we can drive for this," Ms. Braff said.

Users of the HSN Arcade will play a game on about two-thirds of the screen, with the remaining space dedicated to a high-definition live stream of the company's primary television channel, featuring items for sale. The site also prominently features links to the most recent products to appear on air.

The television channel has a sizable online audience already, with 2.4 million unique visitors last month, according to comScore. Last year, HSN sales increased 5% to top $2.1 billion, with one-third of that coming from online customers.

This is all about engagement, keeping eyeballs in a digital universe where distractions -- cable, iPad, gadgets, social media, texting -- are everywhere. This is why this blogger believes that the traditional television ad is toast. It was inevitable. In March, I wrote that publishers should not dismiss gamification as out of hand for emediavitals, saying:

After all, if legacy media has crossword puzzles and Sudoku as engaging time wasters, then how far-fetched is social gaming? Clearly gamification has a high sticky quotient, encouraging greater user engagement. Not a bad thing, that. Add a well-executed social component, which builds an even greater motivation around achievements, and you could conceivably have a very attractive app.

Why is it that I believe that widespread gamification is inevitable? If Zynga has proved anything it is that simple, time wasting games are engaging. Add a social element and you have a very powerful tool for your platform to increase engagement. "Social gaming has a business model," Jonathan Miller, NewsCorp's head of digital media, told the Abu Dhabi Media Summit. "People who play Farmville actually spend money to buy virtual food or whatever it may be for their pig. Most people don't but enough do so that its a real business."

Sodoku and Mahjongg are all well and good, but if an media organization that could tailor these games -- organicize them -- they could be a brand enhancing proposition. Here are two examples of media brands that could increase online engagement by organically incorporating social gaming:

The Huffington Post. HuffPo already has a brilliant platform -- always improving -- and a playful style that attracts a rabid leftish and presumably young following. Colbert and Stewart, also playful and progressive, would probably eschew the morality of any kind gamification getting in the way of their content. Something, however, tells me Arianna and AOL are not "above" such additions to their platform.

Sarah Palin and President Obama have already made cameos in video games. From ESPN:

Throughout the history of the "NBA Jam" franchise, some of the most popular players in the game weren't players at all, but hidden characters from politics and pop culture like Bill Clinton, DJ Jazzy Jeff and even George Clinton.

EA Sports' new "NBA Jam" game for the Wii is about to top them all, however, as in addition to a hidden team of Beastie Boys, there is an unlockable team of Democrats, featuring President Barack Obama, Joe Biden, Bill and Hillary Clinton, and Al Gore, as well as a team of Republicans that includes George W. Bush, Sarah Palin, John McCain and Dick Cheney.

I caught up with Trey Smith, creative director of "NBA Jam," to get all the dirt on the hidden politicians and various other secret characters in the game.
Only thing Smith wouldn't reveal is how to actually unlock them as EA Sports is being tight lipped on the codes (for now). But if you ask me, it probably has something to do with pressing right or left for the specific political party you want to play as.

"Barack Obama vs. Sarah Palin, in a little world that I can control completely like a maniacal fanboy puppet master?" writes a Daily Kos reader. "Yes please." Are you listening, Arianna?

HBO. Dear Jeff Bewkes: Please "Gamify" Game of Thrones (if you do it will possibly irk Reed Hastings). I can't wait for these kingdom's to go to war already, and while I appreciate the thoughtful exposition of the plot ...*sigh*

Off the top of my head, I cannot imagine anything more open to gamification than HBO's sanguinary epics (HBO's Rome -- at the time the most expensive series ever -- would have been an AMAZING game). They already have, content wise, as much sex and violence as a videogame. And this blogger doesn't see why -- particularly considering their well executed HBO Go strategy (over a million downloads in its first few weeks) --  HBO.com shouldn't be "gaming" Game of Thrones even Boardwalk Empire.

While not allow gamers to war while waiting for the plot to unfold and the dysfunctional clans -- the Lannister's, the noble Stark's, the Dothraki barbarian warlords -- to do it dramatically on screen in their own sweet time.

And these are only two examples of creative social gamification. Jimmy Kimmel's demographic would probably love a social gaming element to the program. NPR and the New York Times haven't even scratched the surface of what they could be doing with Will Shortz on Weekend Edition.  Even Antiques Roadshow on PBS -- which my mom loves to watch -- could use an interactive element where viewers could online guess the prices of the items.

The sky's the limit.
Vanity Fair Goes In For Will and Kate

July's Vanity Fair -- on sale on newsstands next week -- features the Duke and Dutchess of Cambridge, just ahead of their July trips to Canada and Hollywood. And why shouldn't Vanity Fair go in for Will and Kate? Everyone else is. According to Keith Kelly:
People, the nation's best-selling weekly, racked up its biggest newsstand sales in a year, now estimated to be nearly 2.5 million copies -- good news for Managing Editor Larry Hackett.
That's more than 1.2 million copies above its average weekly sales in the most recent six-month period ended Dec. 31, when it had seen its single-copy sales slip 5.1 percent to 1,257,536 out of its total circulation of 3.6 million, according to the Audit Bureau of Circulations.
Jann Wenner's Us Weekly sold close to 1 million copies on newsstands with its royals cover.
Again, the speed of blogs, live tweets, and even weeklies beat Vanity fair to the punch. The royal wedding will probably seems years old when Vanity Fair's royal wedding issue hits newsstands on June 7th. They'll have to go in depth and offer us things we don't already know about the wedding and the couple and the honeymoon (if that is even possible).
Is Pakistan's ISI An Ally?

Imperial burlesques continue ...

The mysterious death of a Pakistani journalist who wrote of ties to al Quaeda and the navy begs the question: Is Pakistan an ally? Our relations are chilly, though we give the military roughly $1.5 billion a year (an amount, it sometimes seems, aimed at blackmailing the Pakistan military into securing its nukes and deterring any proliferation to rogue actors). There is not a small amount of madness in throwing such a large amount at a thug element in hopes that they won't arm our enemies and essentially ignoring the legislative branch and legal profession in Pakistan. Further, the psychological state of the Pakistani military -- or, at the very least the ISI, is pathologically paranoid (see Fareed Zakaria's interview with former ISI chief Hameed Gul)

Last week SecState Clinton, in her first visit after the death of bin laden, received a chilly reception. This bloggers asks the question on the tail end of the assassination of Osama bin Laden -- which President Obama ordered executed above the heads of the Pakistani military establishment.

Then again, why would President Obama inform the Pakistan military of a black op against bin laden when, in fact, was living in a compound a short distance away from a military facility. Incompetence? Collusion?

Regarding Secretary Clinton's trip from the New York Times:

Mrs. Clinton was joined by the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Adm. Mike Mullen, who traveled to Pakistan separately. The carefully orchestrated diplomatic encounter was intended both to cajole the Pakistanis and to reassure them of political support at a time when Congress has threatened to cut economic and security aid. Pakistan has received $20 billion in aid from the United States since 2001.

The Pakistanis promised “some very specific actions” in the near future to show their commitment to fighting terrorism, Mrs. Clinton said in her public remarks, without elaborating.
A senior official traveling with her later, speaking only on condition of anonymity, following diplomatic protocol, said the actions included “specific operations” against individuals. The official said that for security reasons, their names could not be disclosed in advance, and might never be made public.

It remains to be seen whether the meetings eased the tensions and suspicions that have haunted relations with Pakistan so badly that American officials dared not notify its leaders in advance of the raid against Bin Laden.

 What actions? Murdering investigative reporters?
Media-Whore D'Oeuvres

"The best argument for returning to the pre-1967 borders is that Israel was more capable of fighting well on these borders. The war of independence, the 1956 war and the 1967 war all went far better than any of the wars that came after. Most important, if Israel is incapable of generating a national defense industry that can provide all the necessary munitions and equipment without having to depend on its allies, then it has no choice but to consider what its allies want. With the pre-1967 borders there is a greater chance of maintaining critical alliances. More to the point, the pre-1967 borders require a smaller industrial base because they do not require troops for occupation and they improve Israel’s ability to conduct conventional operations in a time of crisis. There is a strong case to be made for not returning to the 1949 lines, but it is difficult to make that case from a military point of view." (STRATFOR)

"I'm only doing this because I love Jane magazine, and I loved Sassy before that, and obviously, I just love Jane. I'm really glad that she's returned to us. I kind of want to slam Jezebel, but I won't. I'll save it. Because otherwise the Gawker people will torture me for the next two weeks. Because Jezebel I used to read, but then they do slut shaming. Jane is anti-shame. Pro-slut. I'm not going to lie, yes, my life is pretty much in chaos right now. And that's exactly why it's a perfect time to write a column for my friend. Here. For you. Every week or so. Ish. It's a test of sorts. Can I do it? I'm in Istanbul right now, and before I left, I didn't even know where Istanbul was. I'd never even seen a picture of Istanbul. And Michael Stipe -- who called me from Istanbul before I left -- said this Istancool festival we're involved with is kind of a five-star summer camp. He said that Tilda Swinton took him by the hand and said, 'This is how I've always dreamed it would be.' And they're looking at crazy ruins." (Courtney Love)

"Translated, what Browne’s saying is that when a 44-year-old housekeeper at The Pierre Hotel says 74-year-old Egyptian banker Mahmoud Abdel-Salam Omar asked for someone to bring some tissues to his room on Sunday, then closed the door and started to grope her before she gave him a fake phone number and got away, the cops believed her. That’s why they arrested Omar on Monday on charges of sexual abuse, unlawful imprisonment, forcible touching and harassment. Omar is expected to appear in court and enter a plea later today. It’s just a little over two weeks ago that Deputy Commissioner for Public Information Browne made the same statement about 'experienced detectives' after a 32-year-old African-immigrant maid at the luxury Sofitel Hotel in midtown Manhattan claimed on the afternoon of May 14 that the possible next president of France ran at her naked, grabbed her, groped her, and forced her to perform oral sex. On her word, the NYPD pulled the managing director of the International Monetary Fund, Dominique Strauss-Kahn, off a plane at JFK airport. They accused him of criminal sexual assault, attempted rape, and unlawful imprisonment. Strauss-Kahn firmly denied these and related charges, but just days later he resigned from the IMF. His presidential hopes in France are finished. Why were the detectives of the NYPD Special Victims Division—the cops who specialize in sex crimes, child abuse, and hate crimes—so quick to believe the maids’ stories? They are prohibited from talking about the specifics of the cases, which are still under investigation. And when it comes to Strauss-Kahn, certainly, a number of questions remain unanswered. He wasn’t in New York on IMF business, so why did he come to town? “We still do not know why he was here, and we really would like to know,” says Lt. Adam Lamboy, commander of the Manhattan Special Victims Squad, the unit handling the case. Other sources say Strauss-Kahn spent part of the evening before his arrest with a slender blonde. On that, no comment from the detectives." (TheDailyBeast)

"El Museo del Barrio held its annual Gala this past Thursday at Cipriani 42nd Street, and honored fashion photographer Mario Testino with a lifetime artistic achievement award celebrating his 30-year career. 600 attended and they raised $1,000,000 for the Museum. The glamorous fundraising benefiting New York’s leading Latino museum was chaired by Yaz and Valentín Hernández with Alex González and Raúl Martínez.... Grace Coddington was there with her flaming tresses pulled back from her beautiful face. Ms. Coddington’s fashion is basic integrity. Her colleague, Ms. Wintour, fashion’s ultimate salesforce to the masses, was dressed for a chic summer night in New York, looking glamorous and certain. Hollywood actresses today, while beautiful, or shapely or sexy or sweet, do not have Ms. Wintour’s glamour or certainty. Nor Ms. Coddington’s integrity. But then, they’re movie stars, so who needs it? Kate Winslet, simply stellar in her presence, presented El Museo’s lifetime achievement award to Mr. Testino, and gave a charming speech proclaiming the friendship of the photographer with his subjects.  ... Guests danced to music provided by DJ Alexandra Richards, daughter of Keith, and the band Spam Allstars, which blended improvisational electronic elements and turntables with latin, funk, hip hop, and dub" (NYSocialDiary)

"Short and slight, with an off-kilter smile and wide anime eyes, Shannan Gilbert had drifted into escort work when she was about 20 as a way to earn money while trying to make it as a singer. That night at Oak Beach, she was wearing a blonde wig, a pair of dangly hoop earrings, a brown leather jacket, and jeans. On nights like this, she’d tell her boyfriend she was going out on auditions. The oldest of Mari Gilbert’s four daughters, Shannan finished high school in New Paltz at age 16. 'She wasn’t street-smart, but she was book-smart,' Mari says. Shannan had been diagnosed with bipolar disorder but stopped taking her medication, complaining that it gave her the shakes. After graduating, she worked at a hotel, an Applebee’s, and a senior center, but by 2007, she had moved to New Jersey with a boyfriend and signed on with an escort agency. She had at least one arrest in her record, having been rounded up with some other girls from Upper Saddle River, and one time was beaten to the point where she needed a titanium plate in her jaw. Two years ago, she started posting ads for herself on Craigs­list, where she could charge $200 an hour and keep two thirds of the fee; the other third went to a driver, who would take her to dates and provide security. Shannan liked to party—mostly pot, coke, and prescription drugs—but if she managed to make it through the night without burning through too much of what she earned, she could get home after five calls with $600 or more in her pocket. The extra money had allowed Shannan to move into a place of her own for the first time, in Jersey City, and she was close to completing a series of online college classes that might have helped her stop escorting. But she liked to visit her family, take her sisters on shopping sprees, and lavish gifts on her nieces and nephews. Mari, who works at a Wal-Mart, knew where the money was coming from and searched for a way to talk about it with her daughter. 'I tried to tell her Don’t do it. Stop. Move back in with me,' Mari says. But Shannan refused. 'Mom' she would say, 'I hardly have to do nothing, and I get thousands of dollars.'” (NYMag)

Monday, May 30, 2011

Happy Memorial Day

No posts today on this blog. There may be some Tweets. Back tomorrow.


Friday, May 27, 2011

Why Rolling Stone is More Relevant Now Than Ever

"How does it feel/ How does it feel/ To be without a home/ Like a complete unknown/ Like a rolling stone?" Dylan

Why did this blogger use that quote in a post titled "Why Rolling Stone is more relevant than ever?" A little backstory: Over the years this blog has joked about the relevance of Rolling Stone in the digital age. Was there a place for it? Rolling Stone was once undeniably an indispensable read -- the cultural diary of the sexual revolution and the rise of rock and roll.

Then the magazine sort of lost its way. There really is no other way to put it. On May 3rd 1998 Rolling Stone, once at the edge of counterculture, was a corporate sponsor of "Family Day," the Giuliani administration's attempt to negate the Million Marijuana March --! -- in Washington Square Park. Imagine the counter cultural Rolling Stone picking mimes over kind bud. "In a striking symbol of changed times, a corporate sponsor of the family event was Rolling Stone magazine, which provided a stunt-bicycle demonstration," is how the New York Times described that sad state of affairs. The times they were a changing. In November 2003, this blogger actually wrote the post "When Did Rolling Stone Magazine Jump the Shark?"

The pendulum swings. Fast forward to now. Rolling Stone's story on "How Roger Ailes Built the Fox Fear Factory" is hott. Both Howard Stern and Rush Limbaugh have discussed it on air, exposing their combined audiences -- in the tens of millions -- to Rolling Stone. Stern spent about 10 minutes on Thursday's show discussing the article. From Marksfriggin:

"Howard said he was reading about Lady Gaga and Roger Ailes in Rolling Stone. He said that Roger Ailes is a brilliant manipulator. He said that guy has manipulated more elections and presidencies. He said that he has a dream to own his own network. Howard said he gives the FOX news people the things they should talk about and it's brilliant. He said he wants to meet that guy. He said Roger Ailes is the guy who started out in TV as a producer of the Mike Douglas show. Howard said he was there at Mike Douglas doing a safe and conservative show. He said when TV didn't work out he went to a political campaign.

"... Howard said the article was fascinating. He said Ailes is convinced Al Quaeda wants to kill him so he has a team of security that brings him to work and all of that. Howard said when he got a new office it overlooked the city and he put in bullet proof glass. He said he was picking it out like he was picking out lamp shades. He said the article is fabulous.

"(show producer Gary Dell' Abate) said he read the last issue of the magazine and it was great. He said he read every article in there. Howard said this issue is great too."
Which brings me to the second reason Rolling Stone is a smart and increasingly relevant read. Rolling Stone leveraged it's influence with Howard Stern -- it has a certain cache with people of his generation -- to get him to do the cover. This was no mean feat. Stern routinely turns down such things, magazine covers, late night tv appearances-- Stern even turned down last Conan Tonight Show on NBC even after Rosie O'Donnell offered to fly him there in a jet -- but he did their feature story in the March 16th issue. The result? "(Stern) said that they told him that his issue was their largest selling issue since Obama's issue." notes Marksfriggin. It doesn't hurt that Stern has a rabid fan base and he hyped the story for a week, even interviewing the writer of the piece -- the himself controversial Neil Strauss (brilliant pairing, BTW) -- on his radio show.

Rolling Stone's increasing relevance goes beyond getting radio titans like Stern and Limbaugh talking about it's feature stories. Rolling Stone has been very smart about supplying the conversations of the chattering classes in the summer. Last June they had the biggest magazine story going; RS picked up the story after GQ declined. The Rolling Stone site attracted 2.2 million unique visitors in the first two days of the story dropping. And by Jann Wenner's count, RollingStone.com alone had 4.7 million uniques in June off of the early release of its lengthy profile with an average session time of six minutes

Let's face it: their "Runaway General" piece directly influenced the firing of General Stanley McChrystal and forced Obama to confront the problem of Democrat Presidents (particularly those who never served in combat) and the military brass. That is always a tense relationship -- all illustrated by the story, which was talked about all summer.

At emediavitals last September I wrote:
Rolling Stone has experienced something of a resurgence in the last year. One could even go back to the infamous Matt Taibbi vampire squid attack on Goldman Sachs, which captured the sick-of-the-financial-class zeitgeist last July. It goes back even further than that, though -- into the very DNA of Rolling Stone. "This piece about the general is right in character for Rolling Stone," Simon Dumenco the media writer for Advertising Age told the Los Angeles Times.
There is also the political element. The rabid online interest was fueled by the political atmospherics. From the time the story broke -- on a Monday night in late June -- until President Obama fired the General, the left and right of the blogosphere gnawed on the story.

And while, yes, Rolling Stone fumbled the handling of McChrystal piece in the beginning (aren't we all learning in this digital age), their brand has come out stronger. And yeah, it took a while for RS to get the vampire squid story online too -- but they get it now. Again, from my emediavitals piece, incidentally, on how to publish buzzy articles: "Since then, the magazine has taken its digital destiny in its hands, releasing provocative covers -- Lady Gaga, HBO's True Blood and this month AMC's Mad Men -- online. Incidentally, provocative photography  -- like provocative profiles -- is wholly organic to Rolling Stone."

Rolling Stone gets it. They didn't in 2003; they do now.
Media-Whore D'Oeuvres

"Trump quit at least in part because he finally realized what a harsh light this ego explosion was shining on every corner of his business empire, potentially exposing not only him and his many partners, but also his children Donald Jr. and Ivanka to intense scrutiny. An ongoing media investigation of Trump’s financial deals—beset by charges of fraudulent misrepresentation—would also have made it harder for NBC to continue touting him as a model American businessman ... While I was reporting that book in 1990, I was muscled out of Trump Castle and handcuffed overnight to a wall at the Atlantic City jail. I haven’t done much reporting about him since the book, but when his numbers shot to the top in recent presidential polls, I took another look and asked his office for an interview. His response was a letter threatening a libel suit. Trump did sue Tim O’Brien, who was a research assistant on my Trump book, when Tim wrote a sequel in 2005. Now the national editor of the Huffington Post, O’Brien finally prevailed after years of litigation ... In addition to being a television personality, Trump makes a lot of his money these days licensing his name for various hotel and condo projects, not to mention mattress and vodka brands. His most frequent partner in the condo/hotel deals—some of which have become actual projects and some of which haven’t—has been a small development firm called the Bayrock Group, which was headquartered in Trump Tower on Fifth Avenue in 2005 when the partnership began. Trump and Bayrock joined forces on Trump Soho in New York and Trump International Hotel and Tower in Fort Lauderdale, announced and then canceled another Florida project called Trump Las Olas, and together pushed unsuccessful ventures in Colorado and Arizona. Two days before Trump’s 2007 deposition in the O’Brien case, however, The New York Times broke a story about a top Bayrock executive, Felix Sater (aka Satter). Sater had gone to prison for plunging the stem of a wine glass into a commodity broker’s face in a bar fight." (Wayne Barrett/ TheDailyBeast)

"Fareed Zakaria and his stunning wife, Paula Throckmorton, have hit a rough patch. The host of CNN's 'Fareed Zakaria GPS' and Paula, who owns a jewelry-design business, are living separately while they work out their differences, sources say. The Upper West Side power couple has three children. Zakaria, also Time magazine's editor-at-large, responded, 'It's true that we're having troubles and I have taken a small apartment a few blocks away, but I still live at our house most days of the week. We're trying to work things out. Divorce is not on the horizon.'" (PageSix)

"There are four key women in (The Recessionistas) with various backgrounds and circumstances, which have been interwoven due to a lack of 'Fiscal Discipline' by some key players in the financial industry. It’s set during those fateful weeks in September 2008 when Lehman Brothers melted down and billions of dollars and stock valuations were lost. My personal favorite character in the book is Sasha Silver. Sasha was most recently a Wall Street CEO, but in 2005 she sold her company, Silver Asset Management, to BridgeVest Financial. It was a big deal, but the wrong deal. Her partners cashed out and retired, leaving her in the less than pleasant position of being equally hassled and ignored by her owners. She has satisfaction with a loving, but overly busy, husband, good children, an oversized apartment in NYC and a mountain of money. But one of the most important things she has is a good reputation. In sharp contrast, Grisgby Somerset is a spoiled and entitled woman who refuses to believe it when her banker husband tells her they’re broke. She snaps at him, 'Don’t you dare talk to me in all these technical terms! It’s your job to make sure we have enough money to live our lives. So I will continue living as we have and will expect the bills to be paid.' As you know, the bills in this world are not small. The private schools cost between $33,000 to $60,000 a year; the charity events are plentiful and $1,000 a ticket. But you’re nobody if you didn’t purchase a table for $10,000 to $50,000. Top this all off with the expectations around clothes, jewels, vacations, the second house and of course, the third too." (Alexandra Lebenthal/NYSocialDiary)

"David Pogue is an incredibly popular technology columnist and one of the most influential gadget gurus in the world. With a column in the New York Times, TV gigs on CNBC, CBS, and PBS, and 1.3 million Twitter followers, Pogue can drive sales of a new gizmo with a few exuberant words or crush a company’s dreams with a thumbs-down on a new product. But Pogue in the past has landed in hot water for failing to disclose potential conflicts of interest. And he has recently attracted some notoriety after he and his wife, whom he’s divorcing, were arrested and charged with disorderly conduct following an alleged scuffle during a domestic dispute that some reports say involved him hitting his wife with an iPhone. And now those two issues are converging: Pogue has been dating Nicki Dugan, a vice president at OutCast Agency, a San Francisco PR firm that represents top tech companies such as Amazon, Facebook, Cisco, Netflix, and Yahoo, since last year. (On April 24, things between them had grown serious enough that Dugan announced their relationship on her Facebook page.)" (Dan Lyons)

"In the past week, things have fallen apart in Sudan. With the clock ticking down toward the date when Africa's largest country officially breaks in two, the borderlands between the two would-be states have caught on fire. Abyei, the most volatile north-south border hotspot, has once more become a proxy battleground where the northern and southern governments are acting out a dangerous high-stakes game through their respective armed forces. On Saturday evening, northern tanks rolled into the contested town, using aerial bombardments of nearby villages for cover. Adding to the unfolding drama, as mortars fell into the United Nations peacekeeping mission base in Abyei, a U.N. Security Council delegation touched down in the northern capital of Khartoum to hold preparatory meetings ahead of the South's expected July 9 declaration of independence. The day afterwards, North Sudanese Foreign Minister Ali Karti snubbed the council, calling in sick for a meeting with the delegation. A meeting with Vice President Ali Osman Taha reportedly also did not occur. Sources present inside the talks that did happen with the northern government said the discussions were less than fruitful, with little indication that the Khartoum government intends to back down over Abyei." (ForeignPolicy)

"It's looking like both big opening films today are on track for their pre-release estimates. Warner Bros/Legendary Pictures' The Hangover Part 2 earned an 'A-' CinemaScore and is heading for $30 million Thursday including $10.4M in midnight shows. That'll be its best-grossing day for this 5-day Memorial Weekend since 80% of colleges will be out Thursday and Friday. Hollywood is expecting a 3-day weekend of $80M-$85M and an extra-long 5-day Memorial holiday of $125M. DreamWorks Animation's Kung Fu Panda 2 distributed by Paramount earned an 'A' CinemaScore and is debuting Thursday with $6 million because only 10% of K-12 schools are out on Thursday and just 20% on Friday. The toon sequel should gross bigger each day with $45M-$50M expected for the 3-day weekend and $65M-$70M for the extra-long 5-day Memorial holiday. Internationally, Panda 2 opens in 10 markets day and date including Russia and Korea." (Deadline)

"Alec Baldwin ate dinner in a packed corner, one table over from the actress Linda Fiorentino, a few steps from the author Gay Talese and dozens of bent elbows away from producers, journalists and others lucky enough to get inside. So it went on Thursday, on the last night at Elaine’sElaine Kaufman scraped together $5,000 to buy an Austro-Hungarian bar on Second Avenue that nobody had ever heard of, and transformed the restaurant she opened there in April 1963 into one of the most famous night spots in America, a saloon salon that once attracted the likes of Woody Allen (Table 8), Jacqueline Kennedy (Table 10) and William Styron (Table 4). Forty-eight years later — and nearly six months after Ms. Kaufman’s death at the age of 81 in December — Elaine’s prepared to shut its doors early Friday morning, following a final farewell on Thursday evening that might have felt like a wake, were so many people not having such a good time." (NYTimes)

"Kate Winslet helped honor legendary photographer Mario Testino; Sigourney Weaver presented at the Art Of Giving; Big Girls with a Small Kitchen had a book party; Little Monsters danced to Born This Way at Angel Orensanz and more! Last night's parties were packed for the weekend and didn't care how late they stayed out! Where: Cipriani 42 Who Was There: Anna Wintour, Kate Winslet, Mario Testino, Yaz Hernandez, Valentin Hernandez, Courtney Love, Donatella Versace, Hamish Bowles, Prabal Gurung, Joan Smalls, John Legend, Chrissy Teigen, Josh Hartnett, Andre Balazs, Alexandra Lebenthal, Calry Cushnie, Michelle Ochs" (Guestofaguest)

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Thank God Kyra Sedgwick is Working

We know that Kevin Bacon's finances took a hit in the Bernie Madoff mess, but we didn't know it was as bad as all that. It seemed nebulous as both he and his wife are working actors as well as the fact that the Bacon's don't talk to the press about private matters. Bacon was on the Howard Stern Show this morning and, as a superfan, was a bit more forthcoming. From Marksfriggin:

Howard said Kevin had to get out of there but he has more questions. He asked about the Bernie Madoff thing. Kevin said they lost some money in that. He said they're okay though. Kevin said they were okay and there were people who were much worse off. He said that they didn't lose everything. He said they didn't lose their apartment. Kevin said he's not sure of the percentage but it's fine. Howard said he would be so angry. Kevin said Kyra's show is in it's final season and he thanks god for that show. If it was just him trying to support them they'd be in trouble.
Howard said he wants to rip this mother fucker Bernie Madoff apart. Kevin said maybe he can make a cameo in the movie about this guy that De Niro is doing. Howard said he's glad he's doing okay. Kevin said they're going to be okay even after all of that. Howard said he's sorry to hear about it.

In 2009 Sedwick said of the money lost: "It's been really unpleasant and makes you feel really vulnerable. But the fact of the matter is that we did not lose everything," she said. "We lost hard-earned money that we worked very hard for that was what we thought in a safe place. It's painful but a lot of people lost a lot more. And we have a lot of things to be grateful for in our life, and we never ever forget that."

Kyra Sedgwick incidentally is the second highest paid prime time actresses, getting $275,000 an episode of The Closer. That might be the reason she was a bit emotional discussing the last season at last week's upfronts. At the time it was seen by some as somehow beneath her -- a Sedgwick as well as a movie star -- to descend into cable television. In retrospect, it was a wise decision for her and her family.
Gore Vidal in Canada

A crowd of 600 or so -- minus a few before the evening was over -- went to the Blue Metropolis Festival, an annual literary gathering in Canada to hear Gore Vidal being provocative. Vidal, now 85 years old, travels by wheelchair. He has always been one of the more controversial figures in American letters -- but always interesting. And he has managed to outlive some of his most hated opponents (Bill Buckley, anyone?) Of late Vidal has engaged in a feud with his former literary heir, Christopher Hitchens (in the pages of Vanity Fair, which used to publish them both). He has turned up the volume of his rhetoric about what he sees as the wrong turn that America has taken. From Rabble:
"Vidal spared no lash of the tongue for the United States and declared, 'The American narrative that the U.S. gives aid through support and money to the nations of the world has been a lie since World War II.'

"On the extent of the American Empire, Vidal declared, 'the world should be grateful we ran out of gas; the American Empire will be little more than a footnote of history.' Then, in his best Texas-drawl, the 85-year-old Vidal paunched his jaw and explained 'I'm a war-time president," in tribute to George Bush, whose Republican Party Vidal proclaims has become an 'openly fascist party.'

"... The most revealing moment arose when Vidal told the audience how he sees himself and his life when he pauses to reflect. Quite simply, Vidal told the hushed crowd he has dedicated his life to the study of history.

"'My life has been a study of history. How we screwed up the United States step-by-step from the Revolution in 1776 to President Obama today. We were borne out of an uprising of tax offenders whose attitudes can be summed up by Ben Franklin's belief that ‘Good ideas fail because of the corruption of the people' and it doesn't get any better from there.'"

Vidal's final study of history, on the Mexican-American War -- covering roughly the period between where Burr ends and Lincoln begins -- concludes his American Chronicle historical novels.
Media-Whore D'Oeuvres

"The idea that Congress would openly side with a foreign leader against the president of the United States seems too far-fetched to believe. Remarkably, however, something not dissimilar happened in Washington Tuesday, May 24, as Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke to a joint meeting of Congress (a speech interrupted more than 25 times by a rapturous standing ovation). While these types of congressional addresses are rare, this particular event is even a bit more unusual: The speech's intention -- with the full assistance and backing of the Republican leadership in Congress and implicit support of Democrats -- was to give Netanyahu a public forum to offer a rebuttal to President Barack Obama's recent proposals for moving forward with the Arab-Israeli peace process. As the New York Times reported last week, the invitation was initially requested by Netanyahu of the GOP leadership before the president's Middle East speech plans had even been formalized: It was 'widely interpreted as an attempt to get out in front of Mr. Obama, by presenting an Israeli peace proposal that, while short of what the Palestinians want, would box in the president.' In turn, Obama's May 19 speech was scheduled purposely so that the president could get out ahead of Bibi's remarks. It's one thing for Republicans to oppose the president's position on Arab-Israeli peace. In the hours after Obama's Middle East speech, Republican presidential contenders like Tim Pawlenty and Mitt Romney did just that, arguing that the president had proverbially thrown Israel 'under the bus.' (Never mind that Obama simply reiterated long-standing U.S. policy toward the Arab-Israeli peace process.) They were joined -- in a bipartisan manner -- by prominent Democrats, including Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, in offering pushback on the president's words. It is certainly appropriate for members of Congress to disagree with the president's foreign-policy agenda. But it's something else altogether to be appearing to work in concert with the leader of another country in trying to put the president on the defensive -- and seeking to score a partisan political advantage in the process. By openly siding with Netanyahu against Obama and making Arab-Israeli peace a partisan issue, Republicans in Congress are at serious risk of crossing a dangerous line and in the process undermining U.S. interests in the Middle East." (ForeignPolicy)

"The Dominique Strauss-Kahn case is headed toward a dismally predictable shipwreck, and I wonder what anyone is planning to do about this. The punctilious fair-mindedness of the trial may well turn out to be obvious to everyone who grants the possibility of such thing. The world nonetheless contains entire populations whose assumptions about American justice, despite years of Law & Order, tend to exclude the possibility, and we ought to ask ourselves how those people, the skeptics, are likely to respond to the coming series of events. Those people, the skeptics, are going to listen to Strauss-Kahn parry his prosecutors, and they are going to discover that Strauss-Kahn is eloquent. They will discover that his lawyers command abilities of their own, which will turn out to be no less devastating to the prosecution than were, say, O.J. Simpson’s lawyers. The skeptical populations will cock an ear to Strauss-Kahn’s champions in the French press. The champions will turn out to be some of the most talented writers alive. The talented writers will argue that American justice is brutal and peremptory (and, to be sure, this argument has already influenced the trial, and the French journalist who has accused Strauss-Kahn of attacking her in 2002 has announced, through her lawyer, that she will not testify in the New York trial because 'the presumption of innocence does not exist in the United States'). The writers will argue that American ideas about sex are too primitive to be taken seriously (and, to be sure, the American press is already full of long-winded parallels between actual violence, or what is said to be, at the Sofitel Hotel, and the former governor of California’s history of deceiving his wife). The skeptical populations will take note of the New York tabloids and their headlines, which may well be intended semi-humorously by the editors; but one man’s witticism is another man’s exercise in moronic xenophobia." (TNR)

 Several reporters have called me about Huguette Clark, the 104-year-old heiress who died at Mount Sinai Medical Center where she had lived 23 years. That seems odd that she would live in a hospital, but she was already 81 and ailing and without family, and all the money in the world to have what she wanted. Some people love hospitals. They probably think it’s going to keep them alive. Or so it would seem ... She was reclusive, we know. At least the staff and certain antique dealers knew something about her personality and therefore had a window into the woman.The only evidence that remains of her long and singular existence is her real estate and her family history. And even that’s cloudy. This was a family that never developed beyond the first generations. Huguette’s father, the Senator, and his first wife had five children, three of whom lived into the 1930s, all half-siblings of Huguette, who was the child of the second wife the senator acquired as a “ward” when she was a teenager, after his first wife died. They married when she was 23 and he was 62 in 1901. They had two daughters, Louise, who was born five years before Huguette, and who died at 17 of meningitis. Of the Senator’s seven children, four outlived him but by the end of the 1930s, Huguette was the only surviving child. The Clarks were never considered society in New York in the society that existed then. They certainly had the money but perhaps not the style for it." (NYSocialDiary)

"Jack McCain and media personality Julia Allison have called it quits. The 25-year-old son of former presidential candidate John McCain was set up with Allison, 30, by his older sister, Meghan, in November. They moved in together in early March but broke up this month after Jack, a military man like his father, learned he would be stationed in Guam for three years starting in September. 'This is an amicable heartbreak,' Allison said in her blog, NonSociety. 'As silly as it feels to write that out. We will stay friends, absolutely.' She declined to comment to Page Six." (PageSix)

"From its opening in April 1963 to its sudden (and perhaps temporary) shuttering a near half-century later on May 26, 2011, Elaine’s was a refuge for writers. The late Elaine Kaufman’s regulars were her family, and what a family they were—from Gay Talese, Norman Mailer, and George Plimpton to Woody Allen, Michael Caine, and the most legendary Saturday Night Live players. As A. E. Hotchner, a longtime patron, wrote in the July 2002 issue of Vanity Fair, Elaine’s 'has a menu that makes food critics blanch, décor that will never get into Architectural Digest, prices that rival those of the Four Seasons, waiters as frantic as traders on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange, and an autocratic reservation system based on whimsy and privilege.' And yet, it endured—the literary world’s most beloved scarlet saloon." (VanityFair)

"Speaking of slobs, Elaine’s, the legendary dive where writers and artists used to meet with cops and firemen, closed this week. After Elaine Kauffman died six months ago, the place filled up with slobs who thought being loud and obnoxious made one an artist or a writer. Elaine used to throw these types out. The grotesque woman to whom she bequeathed the place did not know the difference. I’m glad the place closed. Too many fond memories of drunken all-nighters. That was the heyday of Clay Felker, Tom Wolfe, Norman Mailer, George Plimpton—even the poor little Greek boy. I used to hold editorial meetings for Taki’s Top Drawer there every Sunday night. Like everywhere, New York has changed. People now speak of the city the way Londoners try to hide London’s brittleness." (Taki Theodoracopoulos)

"Les Chandelles is an upscale Paris swingers club—club privat or club exchangiste in the local parlance—that Dominique Strauss-Kahn is alleged to have frequented, according to local gossip and British tabloid reports. You would never find Les Chandelles if you didn’t know what you were looking for. It’s located in an unprepossessing building at 1 Rue Therese, inhabiting a boring, rather flat quartier of the First Arrondissement with obscure boutiques and undistinguished Japanese restaurants, near the Bourse, the Paris stock market, and the Palais-Royal, the former home of Cardinal Richelieu. Typically, you have to go to Les Chandelles after midnight, and you first need to get past the unsmiling doorman, like Cerberus at the gates of the underworld, who allegedly turns away as many people as he lets in. Singles are not allowed, except during special daylight hours: lunchtime specials, so to speak. But it’s not a pickup joint. If you and your partner are lucky enough to find an inviting hand on one of your arms, then you join in the fun. But no one forces you to do anything. You can stand and watch all night, or just sit at the bar and soak up the pheromones, watching the beautiful, rather spoilt-looking clientele at play. Or you can go in the back, with your partner, and join in. 'It’s not threesomes,' a French friend of mine explained. 'It’s x-somes. Meaning as many as you want.'" (Vanity Fair)

"Throughout Howard Stern's career, his radio contract often prevented him from saying anything nasty about his frequent boss Mel Karmazin. But the shock jock also had little to complain about: Karmazin helped make Stern a very, very rich man at Infinity Broadcasting, then CBS, then Viacom. After Karmazin became CEO of Sirius, he inherited Stern's original satellite radio deal. Then Sirius merged with arch-rival XM, and last December Stern opted to re-up. Once again, Howard publicly praised Mel, now CEO of Sirius XM. But behind the scenes relations between Howard and Mel were becoming seriously strained. And only 3 months after entering into that new 5-year pact, Stern and his longtime agent Don Buchwald sued Sirius XM, claiming that the company had failed to pay him performance-based stock awards which he's owed because he exceeded the subscriber targets set in his original agreement with Sirius. But even then, Howard refused to discuss the lawsuit at length or say anything negative about Mel or even Sirius XM. But that was then, and this is now. Today, Karmazin confirmed at the Sirius XM shareholder’s meeting that the company will file a motion for summary judgment in the Stern lawsuit yet also warned that judges rarely dismiss a case at this stage. But the real surprise, several of my sources with knowledge of the dispute tell me, is that Mel is the driving force behind Sirius XM’s position that Howard is owed no additional compensation. Even more of a shocker, they claim Karmazin was never happy with the original Stern/Sirius- $80 million a year in cash and $20 million in stock to program two channels starting in 2006 as well as bounties if Sirius’ subscriptions passed certain milestones -- negotiated before Mel arrived. And, here's the real stunner from my sources: allegations that Mel didn't take care of Howard financially as well as the world believes: 'Mel Karmazin does a much better job of taking care of Mel Karmazin than most other Sirius shareholders.' accuses one of my sources." (Deadline)

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Gallery Hopping: Milk Studios "Open Rankin" Opening 

The Corsair braved the savage night, headed to the far west side of 15th street to Milk. Last night at Milk Studios the downtown crowd turned out for the Rankin opening. Jenne Lombardi and Athena Calderone, Nur Khan, Kat Van Leer, Emma Snowden-Jones, Heidi Klum, Mazdack Rassi, Jude Binoll, Behati Prinsloo,  Ali Hilfiger, Sky Ferreira and Rankin, the artist, himself.
5 Reasons Why I Now Follow CBC Community on Twitter

The gang behind social media for CBC Community are quite clever. Their Twitter community had me from hello. Here are five reasons why I decided to follow them today:

1. They politely told me that they had quoted me in an online piece. There are lots of cyborg-y, dehumanizing ways to do this -- and while those links may get a click throughs out of some morbid curiosity ("What are they saying about me"?), they never get followers. "@CarboneTony @AnthonyJGomez @Forest_Sofa @tipceee @ronmwangaguhung I've quoted you in my story, check it out: http://bit.ly/mBpf8c" is what they said. And I did. And I liked. So I'll be checking them on the regular on my Twitter feed.

2. They are highly interactive. Many, I would even say even most media Twitter accounts are dumping grounds for links. Read this; read that. But that gets tiresome and creates a one-way relationship, the exact opposite of what the social media revolution is about. CBC Community is not one way at all. The social media team interacts quite frequently with their audience, with surveys, photo caption challenges, with customer service, asking readers to participate in community blogs, with anything. And most of their blog posts end with question marks, maximizing the potential for conversation in the comments.

3. They are nice. They thank for Re-Tweets. Damn. Even I don't do that. All all Canadians this polite? They'll probably even thank me for this post and give me a link. Which would be nice.

4. They use social media to solicit awesome content. In the course of two hours -- two hours -- they both solicited and posted tornado damage photos from  Fox23 News photojournalist Lee Carter working out of Tulsa, Okla. If that isn't an effective and quick use of social media I don't know what is.

5. The CBC Community is fun, and isn't that one of the best reasons for why we participate in particular communities online? There is a seamless, cohesive and organic flow between all the moving parts of CBCs digital presence. Their Twitter account brings in all their content together in a way that neither clunky nor rambling.

I like the cut of their jib, and you should too.

Congratulations @kimfox, @aleegreenberg, @johnbowman, @msleeferguson and @adrianma -- the social media team at CBC Community: You run a tight ship.
Maer Roshan's Interview with Courtney Love

Maer Roshan does an amazing job interviewing Courtney Love for The Fix. The 5,000 word interview comes from taped conversations between the two over the course of eight months. There is trust between the two and Coutney Love is honest -- almost heartbreakingly so. Courtney is also amazingly funny. It is a must read. There are just so many great quotes. Here's a taste:

On Kelly Osborne:

"(Kelly Osborne's) been sober for how long? Less than a year? Good for her! But it wasn't that long ago when Kim Stewart was screaming, 'Courtney, what are we going to do? Kelly Osbourne is blue on the floor!' Kelly wasn’t doing that well back then. For some reason, Kim Stewart also called me when Paris Hilton got pulled over for her last D.U.I. And Lindsay Lohan called me after she was arrested. The judge presiding over her case was the same judge who presided over mine. He was a very sweet man. I think he was an ex-alcoholic himself. I told Lindsay to just get it together and trust the judge, and Lindsay's father called me for advice every day. I'm not even that friendly with these girls. What am I, a junkie Auntie Mame? ... After Kim Stewart called I rushed over to help her—she was lying unconscious in the bathroom at Rod Stewart's house. I reached into her massive boobs and I pulled out a tennis ball filled with a substantial amount of blow and 80 milligrams of Oxy. I tried to flush everything down the toilet. But there was a person there who begged me to keep the drugs so we could use them later. I was like, 'No, no, the drugs must be flushed! The West Hollywood sheriff is outside.' So, it was kind of upsetting to hear that she was trashing me on national TV"

On why it's not a good idea to take drugs from Andy Dick:

"The Pam Anderson roast on VH1 wasn’t a great moment for me, either. I was a mess. I had lipstick smeared all over my face. I was doped and dazed. I may have even been drooling. But it’s all Andy Dick’s fault, really. He handed me a pill right before the show and said, 'Courtney, take this, it’s like Vicodin without the aspirin.' It fucked me up bad."

On a drug tax:

"Well, I don’t really do street drugs anymore. My medications are all legally prescribed by prominent physicians. But back in the day, if I wanted to score coke, I’d find someone else to do the deed, and pay him a bitch tax as a reward. 

On making amends, a part of the 12-step process:

"Oh my God, so many god-damn amends… [Legendary music producer] Jimmy Iovine even framed my amends letter to him in the lobby of Interscope Records. My letter said, 'Dear Jimmy, I was on a whole lot of drugs for a few years and I sued you. I feel like a retard, I’m sorry, please accept my apology.' He was cool with it. I then tried to make similar amends to my old manager, Peter Mensch, which didn’t turn out quite as well. I wrote the same thing, 'Sorry I went out and fucked that asshole, I should have taken your advice. You were right, I was wrong, and I was really high. Sorry. And, oh, by the way, will you listen to my new demo tape?' That amends didn't go over too well. Peter immediately called me up and screamed at me for two hours. He blamed me for the downfall of Def Leppard, the downfall of Tesla and for not winning an Oscar. It was a valuable lesson. I realized you probably shouldn’t write an amends letter that ends with you asking someone to listen to your demo."

 On wanting to land a rich guy:

Actually, these days I’m only interested in plutocrats. Like really, really rich guys. I’m determined to land one sooner or later. My favorite book these days is something called The Filthy Rich Handbook, which I study like the Talmud. The thing is, I think I can be a real asset to a wealthy man. I’ve always been a great girlfriend, but until recently I’ve struggled to stay single, because I had never been without a boyfriend before. It’s just my nature to couple up. I’m not saying that I’m completely monogamous—I’m too much of a libertine for that. But I’ve always craved real relationships. I did really well with the boys for a while. But then I developed this reputation as a crazy drug addict and a lot of men were turned off by me. Even now, in New York, my reputation is still pretty shitty. People still think that I’m the same sad skank I was in 2005.

And she's so not. I absolutely love Courtney Love and have since back in the day. Like I said: a must read. (TheFix)
Oprah Party

Love that the dress code is "your favorite Oprah moment." Can I be James Frey's disappearing manhood?
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)