Rather than calling ABC, the White House chief of staff phoned Bob Iger, chief executive of parent company Disney. Instead of contacting NBC, Emanuel went to Jeffrey Immelt, the chief executive of General Electric. He also spoke with Les Moonves, the chief executive of CBS, the company spun off from Viacom.
PASADENA, Calif. — PBS chief Paula Kerger (KUR'-gur) says budget numbers tell the tale of how public TV is faring under the Obama administration, compared to that of former President George W. Bush.
Kerger said that the Corporation for Public Broadcasting's $430 million budget for this year was left intact by President Barack Obama, in contrast to the Bush administration's repeated bids to reduce or eliminate the federal subsidy. Kerger says Congress countered Bush's actions.
The president and CEO of PBS told the Television Critics Association on Sunday, "I guess that says something," adding that she's hoping for $450 million next year.
Federal money makes up about 15 percent of public broadcasting's funding, with other sources including corporations and viewers.
Adoring Michael Jackson fans, and their many journalistic enablers, will gag over a stinging critique, "Michael," in the Aug. 13 New York Review of Books, a high-brow publication not likely to be found by their beds. They'll have to seek comfort, instead, in a reverential September Ebony, with the cover, "Michael, Our Icon."
New Yorker writer Hilton Als delves into Jackson's personal and professional descent in the New York Review, in part putting his life in the context of "the chokehold of black conservatism on black gay men" and a world in which "whiteness is equated with perversity, a pollutant further eroding the already decimated black family."
Clearly, this a take not fully agreed to by Michael Eric Dyson, whose "Freedom Fighter" essay in the Ebony homage (filled with some dandy photos from its archives) declares,
The reason Black folk never turned their backs on Michael is because we realized that he was merely acting out on his face what we collectively have been tempted to do in our souls: whitewash the memory and trace of our offending Blackness. We loved him because we knew that America rarely forgives a Black man his genius, and our greatest artists often pay the price for the acceptance of their gifts with tortured psyches, haunted spirits and troubled minds.
Well, the Als skewering finds melancholy insights into Jackson in a 1985 essay, "Freak and the American Ideal of Manhood" by the late black author James Baldwin. The author uttered the hope that Jackson would "snatch his life out of the jaws of a carnivorous success," in the process asserting that "freaks are called freak and are treated as they are treated--in the main, abominably--because they are human beings who cause to echo, deep within us, our most profound terrors and desires."
In the end, this argues that while Baldwin himself did in exile but "an artist, Jackson did not." His gifts as a singer and arranger became "calcified. He forgot how to speak, even behind the jeweled mask of metaphor."
Ultimately, concludes Als, he was a profile of "self-martyrdom: the ninety-pound frame; the facial operations; the dermatologist as the replacement family; the disastrous finances; the young boys loved, and then paid off. Michael Jackson died a long time ago, and it's taken years for anyone to notice." Ebony's Dyson clearly doesn't concur, echoing the eulogy-ridden claim that Jackson "was the greatest entertainer of all time."
Elsewhere in the New York Review, Roger Cohen's "Iran: The Tragedy & the Future" is a terrific account of what seem to have been the recently stolen president election and his belief that the preconditions for democracy are in place. And Michael Massing's "The News About the Internet" offers a broad, generally upbeat, overview on the Internet, underscoring some of the superior work being done but also leaving to another essay the tricky question of how quality work will be paid for on a consistent basis.
---The Aug. 10-17 New Yorker's "The Price of the Ticket" is a solid John Seabrook overview of the chaotic state of the concert music industry, with corporate consolidations, increasingly painful days for traditional promoters, the rise of secondary markets and questions about which acts will fill the big stadiums when the old war horses, like the Rolling Stones, are no longer around. Much of this ground was covered in low-profile congressional hearings but this is a good summary. And the most interesting tidbit may involve a slight puncturing of Bruce Springsteen's populist image via reminder of Newark Star-Ledger disclosures that, while berating meanie Ticketmaster for handling of tickets for a series of his concerts, the Boss was actually holding back a good chunk of the best tickets for chums and other VIP guests. His manager's defense is that in places like star-studded New York and Los Angeles, such is unavoidable.
---Aug. 1 Economist's "The Dark Pursuit of the Truth" starts with the premise that while Europeans tend to strongly repudiate torture, Americans are more divided and there remain tough policy choices for the Obama administration, including matters involving military commissions and indefinite detention for some prisoners. "The danger for Mr. Obama, as he seeks to overhaul the intelligence system, is that a fresh attack on the American mainland would immediately expose him to the accusation of being soft on terrorism."
---Aug. 10 Business Week's "Obama & Business" has a full and strong interview with the President in which he forcefully rebuts the notion of himself as anti-business, along the way rather acerbically noting the tons of federal money which is keeping folks in the private sector afloat. The issue also includes, "The Hard Sell on Anti-Aging," a look at how certain online advertisements for resveratrol, said to extend life, are wrongly quoting David Sinclair, its discoverer, as endorsing various products. And at times exuberant discussions of resveratrol by the likes of Oprah Winfrey can also be found embedded in such ads, then linked to products she and others have never mentioned.
----Aug. 10 Time snared its own interview with Obama on health care, with a handy user's guide appended on the potential impact on you of certain major reform proposals. Meanwhile, Aug. 17 Newsweek's "True Crimes" cover features a good idea, if not all that well-executed, via an essay on our fascination with crime by the wonderful novelist Walter Mosley. "We need forgiveness and someone to blame. So the story of crime fills our TVs, theaters, cinemas, computer files, and bookshelves. We are fascinated with stories of crime, real or imagined, because we need them to cleanse the modern world from our souls."
---Aug. 7 The Week's "The Drive for Fast Trains" is a nice overview on the prospects and utility of a high-speed rail system in the U.S., where train travel is in a sorry state. "As quality has deteriorated, so has quantity. In 1930, the U.S. had 260,000 miles of rail. By 2000, that total had been reduced to 100,000 miles -- the same as in 1881." While Obama has pledged $13 billion to jump-start such a new system, some estimates of how much it would really cost to do it right are around $100 billion.
---August-September Relix features music critic Dave Marsh musing on the significance of the Woodstock music festival 40 years later, in the process somehow tying it all in to Barack Obama's challenges:
"Meanwhile, I suppose that the real legacy of the Woodstock Nation is felt in the battles to create an American health care system, to end the nation's various wars and to save the lives and communities devastated by the finance industry swindles and 40 years of benign governmental neglect." And Marsh is certainly not too happy with the coming of the Internet, in particular social networking sites claiming Woodstock as their inspiration:
Make a radical political comment and watch what happens. If the owners don't banish you, the rest of the network will try. After all Obama's reality is not unlike Woodstock: The promise of Eden and the certainty of deluge and filth, with greed at the bottom of it all.
---"Are We Done Yet?" by Fred Kaplan in Slate is a smart look at the ambiguities of a U.S. military withdrawal from Iraq by 2011. Relying in part on a war game oversees by top Pentagon officials, and attended by about 350 military folks from around the globe, he concludes:
One could argue, from this, that the U.S. troop pullout should be accelerated in order to shorten this treacherous period of transition and get down to the level of 25,000 advisers--and thus restore stability--as quickly as possible.
"This argument might have validity, or it might not. No war game can predict how long the transition period would last. In any case, unless we're hellbent to get out regardless of the consequences, the question is not entirely in our control. It depends on how strongly the insurgents or other dangerous elements react to the U.S. withdrawal. If the war game proves prescient--if, during this in-between period, our troop presence is large enough to irritate Iraqis but too small to stabilize the country--they're likely to exploit the moment and gain as much advantage as they can.
If that does happen, U.S. commanders and policymakers will face a choice: whether to withdraw more quickly--to keep our troops out of danger and let the inevitable instability play out--or to hold firm and try, perhaps futilely, to restore order.
Either way is risky. It's disingenuous to deny that; the question is which risk to take.
PHILADELPHIA — Coming soon to your TV: More advertising, in places you might not expect.
The ads are showing up where people used to enjoy a break from advertising, such as video on demand and on-screen channel guides. Even TiVo, which became popular for its technology that lets people skip TV commercials, is developing new ways to show ads.
As a result, you won't necessarily see more traditional, 30-second commercials. Instead, many of the new TV ads will resemble online ads – interactive and often shaped for individual members of the audience. They'll also be harder to ignore. Typically, you can't opt out of seeing them.
The companies behind the latest kind of ads hope they'll especially appeal to advertisers that are increasingly careful with their marketing budgets. In turn the advertisers are betting viewers won't be turned off – as long as the ads pitch products and services tailored to consumers' particular interests.
In a trial that ended last year in Huntsville, Ala., Comcast Corp. found that viewers shown targeted ads watched them 38 percent longer than folks who got less-relevant commercials.
"People like to shop. People like to research products," said Charlie Thurston, president of the advertising sales division at Comcast, the nation's largest cable TV provider. "Where advertising is intrusive is when there's a complete mismatch between product and viewer."
The increased advertising on pay TV services is striking, given that the industry started with scant ads as one way to appeal to subscribers.
Revenue from advertising on cable TV was just $100 million in 1981. By 2000, though, it hit $10.5 billion and then doubled this decade to $21 billion, according to research firm SNL Kagan.
To put this increase another way: There were 15 minutes and 30 seconds of advertising in the average hour of prime-time cable TV last year, up 14 percent from 1999, according to TNS Media Intelligence.
But that statistic doesn't account for advertising appearing in new formats on your TV.
For instance, Time Warner Cable Inc. is layering another ad on top of a TV commercial in order to keep the viewer engaged past the 30-second spot. In several markets, Time Warner Cable subscribers watching a Big O Tires commercial might see a banner from the company pop up at the bottom of the screen, telling them to push a button on the remote control for more information. Then pushing another button would let them request a coupon in the mail.
TiVo, the creator of the digital video recorder that panicked the TV business by making it simple to skip ads, now flashes banners on TV screens when users pause, fast-forward or delete shows.
Viewers who paused "The Biggest Loser" TV show saw an ad saying "Jenny Craig says you've got more to lose!" If you used TiVo to pause "Iron Chef America" on the Food Network, this popped up: "Sub-Zero: Every cook deserves the best!"
"We were once a foe of the networks, now we've become a friend," said Tara Maitra, TiVo's general manager of content services and ad sales. "We're working with the industry ... to get users to engage in a world increasingly equipped to fast-forward through commercials."
Dave Zatz, a 37-year-old network engineer in Herndon, Va., isn't happy about it because he bought a TiVo digital video recorder and pays a subscription to skip ads.
"It's obnoxious," he said of the ads that appear when a TV program is paused. He said other ads have been on the periphery or appear on the menu page. This is the first time he's noticed TiVo layering an ad on top of an actual program.
He said he's been wondering, "Who are TiVo's customers?" People like him, or advertisers? "They're getting paid on both ends."
One ad buyer was told by TiVo that a "pause" ad costs $20,000 a week with exposure on 15 programs. That would be a bargain by some measures: A 30-second commercial airing once on prime time TV costs about $150,000, on average. TiVo would not confirm its rate, saying that what an advertiser ultimately pays can vary widely, depending on what's negotiated.
Video on demand services – where you can watch movies and TV shows usually with fewer commercial interruptions than broadcast TV – are also expanding as a venue for ads.
Cablevision Systems Corp. has been adding advertiser-specific video-on-demand channels over the years and now has nine, including one dedicated to Walt Disney Co. People who tune in can watch videos of Disney theme parks, order a free DVD featuring Disney vacation locales and ask a customer service agent to call. Cablevision found that Disney ads snagged 15 minutes of viewers' attention – a long time compared to 30-second TV commercials.
During a stretch of several months last year when responses were being measured, Cablevision found that 23 percent of people who watched the ads booked trips with an agent.
These and other new kinds of ads sprouting on pay TV services are meant to entice recession-weary advertisers that want to know whether their ad dollars are effective, said Josh Martin, vice president of emerging media at ID Media, a unit of Interpublic Group of Companies in New York.
Cablevision's video-on-demand channels let advertisers know how many times viewers watched a video, how long they stuck around and how often they requested more information.
"It's sort of a march away from the classic 30-second commercial ... towards accountability," said David Sklaver, president of KSL Media Inc., a media planner and buyer in New York.
Many of the new ads being tried by pay-TV operators make use of consumer targeting, which tailors ads to someone's presumed interests.
The companies can get a good idea of what viewers might like by using demographic information, such as age, income, household size and other data that can be bought from consumer-information brokers such as Experian. The set-top boxes in consumers' living rooms can receive or store several different ads and then choose which one to show, depending on the viewer.
Seth Haberman, CEO of Visible World, a provider of customized TV ads whose clients include the nation's five largest cable TV operators, said viewers who would rather skip ads should realize they subsidize the cost of producing cable TV content.
"If you took out the ad support, your bill would triple or quadruple," he said. "There's no way around it."
While by no means a perfectly executed film, Funny People has enough strength and heart that justifies the price of admission. Director Judd Apatow may fail in sending viewers home with an altered perspective on comedians or rejuvenated excitement for life, but he succeeds in depicting a conflicted and morose character trying to recapture the funny.
I agree with Alex Remington that the movie "is more ambitious and less successful than his previous films, the easy-to-digest and massively popular romantic comedies The 40 Year Old Virgin and Knocked Up." Those films exemplify Apatow at his best, bringing cleverly-articulated, smart and oftentimes vulgar comedy to more serious situations and relationships.
Remington, however, contends that "Apatow's mistake in Funny People is going straight for the heartstrings by opening with death." It is clearly a decision that Apatow made to dive right into the darker side of George Simmons' (Adam Sandler) life, rather than sugar-coating it with a montage of scenes that have led up to this introductory moment to the main character.
In Virgin, this succeeds in portraying Andy as pathetic, and in Knocked Up, Ben as juvenile. In each of these cases, Apatow includes a short, but image-creating, selection of scenes that quickly paints the character's traits, experiences and shortcomings.
Funny People doesn't begin that same way. It also doesn't immediately dive into death and disease either. You'll notice that, at the top, there's a collection of home videos displaying Sandler/Simmons making some prank phone calls. He's young and full of life. What follows is a glimpse into the silence that engulfs Simmons life a few decades later. Even before his diagnosis toward the beginning, Simmons lives in a dark, empty house inside a dark, empty life. Apatow intended for viewers to compare that emptiness to the laughter and camaraderie that fills the scenes behind the opening credits.
Now, all of this happens pretty quickly in the first few scenes of the movie. But what's significant is that it exists and it is supposed to resonate. For Simmons, it clearly does. He admits later on in the movie that he made some poor decisions in his life, recognizing that he was once on a path toward happiness and possibility. Despite his professional success (and bordering on a movie cliche), the man discovered that money and fame couldn't bring him everything he ever wanted.
So to say that the movie dives too quickly into the dark side is an error. I too noticed and registered how Apatow chose to bring the illness to the surface so early on. But that's not what sets this movie back. In fact, it is what propels it forward. It is less a result of an unexpected and rare illness that draws Simmons to Ira Wright (Seth Rogen) and more his overall way of life. Granted the diagnosis is what awakens him from the darkness that already covered and defined him.
Where this movie struggles, I believe, is later on when Simmons is forced to confront the tension between his restored optimism and the recognition that others weren't waiting close by for him to be revived. While they're impressed by Simmons' zest for life and pursuit of restoration, he still lacks some basic skills in love, humanity, compassion, and responsibility that he missed out on while others were growing and learning. He never progressed past being the prankster we were first introduced to at the start.
UPDATE: Larry Katz, the Clinton-era economist cited by Michelle Malkin today as offering dire warnings of the way unemployment insurance incentivizes unemployment showed up in yesterday's New York Times saying remarkably different things about unemployment insurance:
Traditionally, many economists have been leery of prolonged unemployment benefits because they can reduce the incentive to seek work. But that should not be a concern now because jobs remain so scarce, said Lawrence Katz, a labor economist at Harvard.
For every job that becomes available, about six people are looking, Dr. Katz said. "Unemployment insurance gives income to families who are really suffering and can't find work even if they are hustling to look," he said.
With the economy still listing, he added, a temporary extension can provide a quick fiscal stimulus. And, Dr. Katz said, when people exhaust unemployment and health insurance, many end up applying for disability benefits, which become a large, unending drain on the Treasury.
Crooks & Liars has much more.
"Larry Katz" vs Larry Katz [Beautiful Horizons]
Michelle Malkin, for some reason, was invited to be a part of today's THIS WEEK panel, maybe because she was wandering through the Newseum or something. Anyway, she took on the issue of unemployment benefits by saying that "If you put enough government cheese in front of people, they are just going to keep eating it," which explains why America has never grown tired of cheap cheese and why it's totally led to nobody wanting to strive or excel or have a job in the past three decades.
Malkin went on to say that "smart economists," including Clinton economist Larry Katz, say that unemployment insurance only prolongs joblessness, and that, basically, if the jobless started starving to death and dying on the streets, it would give them the kick in the pants they needed to get a job again. Everybody just sort of looked at Malkin, like she was INSANE, and George Stephanopoulos very politely said, "Uhm...I don't know if I follow that." To which Malkin replied: "BUT IT WAS A CLINTON ECONOMIST, BLARGLE!" Stephanopoulos was still a bit dumbfounded, wondering why anyone in their right mind would take unemployment benefits "when a job was available."
Malkin's counter argument is that, for some reason -- who knows why really, maybe there was a presidential administration that recorded epic job losses for a decade maybe, it's a real mystery -- there has been unemployment insurance for many weeks. And for some reason, they are going to keep extending it -- as if there was some sort of ongoing economic crisis or something! And because of that, "people will delay getting a job until three weeks before the benefits run out."
Finally, Cynthia Tucker kindly points out that...uhm...if there are no jobs to get, literally no jobs to be had, then it's probably a good idea to sustain people's lives until such time as there are actual, real-life job interviews to go on and real-life employers actually taking resumes and whatnot: "That might be true when there are jobs out there that are available, but there are very few jobs available at the moment. So I don't think that people are just using that unemployment to be lazy, instead of going out and searching for jobs." Malkin attempts to yammer about incentives, but Tucker shuts that down by pointing out that when jobs get advertised, THOUSANDS OF PEOPLE ATTEMPT TO APPLY FOR THEM, which is a weird way of staying on the dole, forever.
Sarah Palin's lawyer threatened to serve a blogger with libel papers at the kindergarten where he works for writing a post saying the former Alaska governor was getting divorced.
Gryphen, who writes a blog called "The Immoral Minority," wrote on Saturday that "according to my source Sarah is finished with Todd and has decided to end their marriage."
Palin's lawyer, Thomas Van Flein, wrote a letter to the blogger, asking "if you want to be served with the summons and complaint at the kindergarten where you assist or at your residence."
Gryphen laughed off the threat, telling Alaska Report, "Nothing that I wrote in my post was meant to be malicious. I trust my source and simply reported what I had been told.
Threatening to serve legal papers to an educator in a room full of five year olds? Now that is malicious."
Palin's spokeswoman issued a statement denying the divorce story on Saturday.
Yet again, some so-called journalists have decided to make up a story. There is no truth to the recent "story" (and story is the correct term for this type of fiction) that the Palins are divorcing. The Palins remain married, committed to each other and their family, and have not purchased land in Montana (last week it was reported to be Long Island).
Less than one week ago, Governor Palin asked the media to 'quit making things up. We appreciate that the more professional journalists decided to question this story before repeating it.