Another Media Reporter Packs His Bags: Timesman Arango Headed to Iraq

060905Arango1VWDoesn’t anyone want to cover the media beat anymore? First, BusinessWeek’s super-sourced Jon Fine departs for a six-month globe-hopping sabbatical. Now the New York Times’s (NYT) Tim Arango is leaving town as well: Instead of writing about moguls and mergers, he’ll be reporting from Iraq.

I’ve heard that Arango is leaving for six months, and that the Times doesn’t have plans to replace him while he’s out. But media editor Bruce Headlam, via email, says the paper is still figuring all of that out:

A lot is still up in the air — When Tim might go and for how long. We do know that he will be coming back, however, and he’s a huge asset to our group so we’re looking for creative solutions in the meantime.

Arango came to the Times after stints at Time Warner’s Fortune (TWX) and News Corp.’s NY Post (NWS). I’ve asked him for comment — for instance, I’d love to know why he wants to trade Midtown office suites for the desert — and will report back if I hear from him.

And to cap off the meta navel-gazing, I should report here that I like my gig very much and have no intention of leaving.

Google Is Ready To Start Buying Companies Again

CEO Eric Schmidt tells Reuters that Google (NSDQ: GOOG) is once again looking to make about about one purchase a month. And, indeed, Google has been on that pace since August, when it agreed to buy video compression firm On2 for $106.5 million—ending a streak of 11 months in which the company had not made an acquisition. Last week, it followed up the On2 buy with the purchase of reCaptcha, a startup that creates automated messages—or “captchas”—that users type to prove they are not bots.

There was also rampant speculation—since refuted—that Google was in talks to purchase Brightcove. Schmidt doesn’t tell Reuters what Google is looking for specifically, but he does says it’s likely that Google will be buying up small companies; he says larger purchases are “unpredictable.”

The comments come as other internet companies are also increasing the pace of their acquisitions. Yahoo (NSDQ: YHOO), for instance, hadn’t purchased a company in more than a year when it bought e-mail startup Xoopit in July; since then, it has also picked up Arab portal Maktoob for about $75 million.


Celebrities on Twitter Are Fodder for WaPo’s Twits

OK, so the funniest, most zeitgeist-y new web series of the fall is out already, and it’s by…The Washington Post. For realz, yo.

Created and directed by Liz Kelly, the blogger behind WaPo’s Celebritology blog, Twits does its very best to transform the Twitter messages of famous people into a meaningful cultural experience. Of course, they’re working with the personal ruminations of noted philosophers Jessica Simpson, Courtney Love and P. Diddy, so it’s little surprise that the results are comedy, not insight.

Performed by a series of purposefully mismatched actors against a black background and underscored by music you’d normally hear at a day spa, each 2-minute episode consists of dramatic readings of up to three or four messages from each featured celebrity. Reality star Brooke Hogan wants ice cream. Tila Tequila wants to be covered in 24-carat gold. Lindsay Lohan wants love, or for @samantharonson to give her a ride. The Tweets are verbatim, but the medium is the message.

It’s not a totally fresh concept — the NYC stage show Celebrity Autobiography has been mining the words of the famous for the purposes of comedy for a year now. But what makes Twits work is the already haiku-ish nature of Twittering; say anything short and punchy in a dramatic fashion, and it acquires the veneer of the profound, even when it most definitely doesn’t deserve it.

The one misstep is actually spelling out the URLs; the slavish devotion to capturing every typographical oddity found in the Twitscape is appreciated, but even abbreviated URLs for Twitpics just take too long to be entertaining, and end up killing the joke just a little bit. It’s also not a joke with a very long shelf life — but there are at least a few more episodes in the concept before it starts feeling overplayed.

Famous people on Twitter aren’t going away, so the one danger of Twits is that it might encourage more of them to seek out ghost-tweeters, a concept which remains completely ridiculous. As THE_REAL_SHAQ, the greatest celebrity Twitterer ever, told the New York Times: “It’s 140 characters. It’s so few characters. If you need a ghostwriter for that, I feel sorry for you.” Instead, hopefully, Twits will just teach famous people the same lesson we normals had to learn on our own: Think before you Tweet.

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What’s That About A Powerful Vagina?

Megan Fox, a favorite of ours around here, set, er tongues wagging about her quote for Rolling Stone magazine about her “powerful vagina.” The comment was in context of Fox talking about how she learned to “harness her sexuality” which we now bring to you in full:

“What you do is harness your sexuality and use it to control your destiny…That’s what can can happen when a girl or woman is completely in charge of her sexuality and embraces the power of her vagina. It intimidates men – not all, but some. Men are scared of vaginas. And then when you give them a powerful, confident vagina, they’re terrified.”

That ethos is clearly on display in Fox’s new movie, Jennifer’s Body, in which a nubile high schooler transforms into a bloodthirsty vampire who lures in young boys through the power of her sexuality (read: vagina) and then KILLS THEM DEAD. As The Awl’s Melissa Lafsky writes in her excellent review:

Megan Fox’s body is, inherently, evil. She’s the Demon Pretty. That much Pretty has power over all of us—young, old, black, white, female and panting male alike. We’re helpless in the face of it. We pay it more money, give it better customer service, offer it more respect at dinner parties. Studies have proven it: that level of Pretty controls our minds. So of course it should show up as a murderous demon in a horror film.

It’s no wonder that men are scared of vaginas — particularly powerful, confident ones that will totally EAT YOU FOR LUNCH. The concept of that kind of hungry, voracious vagina is, of course, nothing new (hi, Sigmund Freud!) and it even has a fancy name: Vagina Dentata. It literally means “toothed vagina” (ouch!) and was the premise of the horror movie Teeth, which Lafsky succinctly describes as “teen loses control of the sexual beast within” – literally, the poor protagonist has something quite literally monstrous lurking within her nether regions, which turns our rather unfortunately for several men in the film. Ah, horror. You’re so classy.

And speaking of classy: Apparently Top Shop seems to think that translates into a great fashion idea. Because I was walking by on Friday night, and lo and behold front at center was this fabulous fashion creation:

Dentata 1

That’s, er, anatomically pretty on point. Though I think it would be way more badass with the mouth of a Great White Shark or something — what’s that, a bear? Those teeth aren’t even serrated, for God’s sake. Weak.

Anyhow, my point — and I do have one, and it’s not just to make “Hakuna Dentata” jokes (read your tags, mofos!). My point is, as usual, that Megan Fox is a thought-leader and our coverage of her is totally, completely justified.

That’s all. In other news, boys, I’m available! Mwa-ha-ha-ha-ha!

Poland: Gosc Niedzielny Magazine Fined Over Anti-Abortion Piece

WARSAW, Poland — A Polish court on Wednesday ordered a Roman Catholic magazine to pay a fine and apologize to a woman for likening her to a killer for wanting an abortion and equating the practice with Nazi crimes.

Judge Ewa Solecka ruled Wednesday that Catholics are free to express their moral disapproval of abortion – and even call it murder – but in a general way that stops short of vilifying an individual.

Solecka ordered the magazine, Gosc Niedzielny, which is published by the Katowice archdiocese, to pay Alicja Tysiac 30,000 zlotys (nearly $11,000) and issue her a written apology.

Solecka said the magazine's language was "particularly contemptuous" of Tysiac.

It is the latest episode in an ongoing public debate over abortion in Poland, a mainly Roman Catholic country where it is illegal in most cases.

Tysiac has become a symbol for the abortion rights movement because she challenged Poland's ban on abortion with the European Court of Human Rights. In 2007, that court ordered Poland to pay her damages of euro25,000 (nearly $37,000) because doctors refused to let her terminate her pregnancy despite serious risk to her eyesight.

After giving birth, her eyesight deteriorated considerably due to a retinal hemorrhage and doctors declared her significantly disabled.

Following the ruling, the editor of Gosc Niedzielny (Sunday Visitor), Rev. Marek Gancarczyk, wrote: "We live in a world where a mother receives an award for very much wanting to kill her child, but not being allowed to do so."

Gancarczyk compared abortion to the ghastly medical experiments performed at Auschwitz by the infamous Dr. Josef Mengele and others. "They had become accustomed to the murders being carried out behind the fence of the camp. And what is the case today? Different, but just as terrible," he wrote.

The magazine denounced Wednesday's ruling as an infringement on freedom of speech and said it planned an appeal.

Abortions were easily available under communism but with the transformation to democracy the once-marginalized Catholic church regained significant influence. Today Poland allows the termination of a pregnancy until the 12th week but only if the mother's life is in danger, the fetus is irreparably damaged or the pregnancy is the result of rape or incest.