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Posts Tagged ‘Entertainment’

CES: Katzenberg Optimistic For Prospects Of 3D TV

January 8th, 2010 admin No comments

As the entertainment industry works increasingly hand in hand with technology companies in creating future media, its presence at CES this year is everywhere. In the following clip, Jeffrey Katzenber, CEO of Dreamworks Animation, talks at length of the tremendous potential for the future of 3D television, emerging first in video games and sports. He estimates that 10% of the TVs shipped this year will be 3D capable.

He goes on to note that despite the economy, box office sales are booming in markets such as China and Russia. This, in conjunction with the rise of 3D and animation factor in to his bullish outlook for the future of the entertainment industry.


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Tiger Woods Sex Tape?

January 6th, 2010 admin No comments

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Someone is shopping what she says is a Tiger Woods sex tape, and Vivid Entertainment is in the market.Steven Hirsch, head honcho of Vivid, tells TMZ a woman approached him two weeks ago, claiming she had a sex video of Tiger Woods. She said it was …

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Syabas Popbox hands-on

January 6th, 2010 admin No comments

The Popcorn Hour lineup had (and still has) a huge following, but it remains one of the most under-appreciated media streamers on the market from a mainstream perspective. We get the feeling that all of that’s gearing up to change, with Syabas demonstrating its highly marketable Popbox here at CES. We were able to swing by and take a look at the product tonight, and we’ve got to confess — it’d be a pretty stellar add to any home entertainment setup. The box was small, light and stylish enough, and the actual user interface was drop-dead simple to navigate. It hooks up with any networked media (the demo was playing back content from a NAS drive), and it even pulls down metadata from IMDB for films. We briefly watched a couple of 720p clips, and playback started instantly and the video quality was nothing short of fantastic. We’ve got a video in the works, but for now, feel free to have a glance at the gallery below.

Syabas Popbox hands-on originally appeared on Engadget on Tue, 05 Jan 2010 19:59:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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Jonathan Handel: Cat Fight in the Fox’s Den

January 2nd, 2010 admin No comments

Until moments ago (mid-day Jan. 1), when a deal was reached, Fox was threatening to black out its channels, most notably Fox broadcast, from Time Warner Cable (TWC) unless TWC anted up a subscriber fee of reportedly $1 per subscriber per month. Historically, cable networks such as HBO, Showtime, AMC, etc. got those fees, but broadcast networks didn’t. They need them now, with ad revenue shrinking, and customers departing networks in favor of cable channels — a multi-decade trend — and, more recently, video games, Internet TV sites such as Hulu, unauthorized (pirated) content, and user-generated content such as on YouTube.

Broadcast networks have started to get paid — CBS, for instance, reportedly gets up to $0.50. TWC apparently offered Fox only $0.30, but the terms of the deal they reached are undisclosed and most likely higher. Even though Fox ultimately didn’t pull the plug, it took the intervention of Senator John Kerry to keep football and “American Idol” from going dark on TWC. That’s not the sort of attention a media company wants. So why didn’t TWC just ante up the $1 and pass on the cost to consumers?

The answer is that MSO’s (cable cos. like TWC) are afraid that if they keep raising cable prices, they’ll drive more consumers to satellite or induce them to drop cable and just watch TV on the Internet. That is, instead of buying an Internet+cable bundle from Time Warner Cable, the customer might just drop the cable portion and buy Internet only.

Even worse for TWC: If customers opt for Internet only, some will be peeled away by telephone+Internet or cellular+Internet bundles from ATT or Verizon, causing TWC to lose the customer altogether. It’s called churn, and it’s especially likely because customer perception of cable company greed would dovetail with the belief that telcos offer better customer service anyway. Thus, raising cable prices could cost TWC dearly.

So, the battle between TWC and Fox is just another facet of an n-dimensional war between MSOs, satellite cos., landline telcos, cellular cos., cable networks, broadcast networks (ABC, CBS, CW, Fox, NBC), network affiliates (the local stations that actually broadcast the network signal), video game companies, Internet TV sites, unauthorized (pirated) content, user-generated content–and, of course, the consumer. And that’s not even to mention the companies that manufacture the hardware, such as handsets, TV’s, cable and satellite receivers, and other set top boxes. They’re always looking to play transmission companies off against each other and capture more of the consumer dollar.

To add to the confusion, there’s cross ownership between some of these companies but not all of them, meaning that ostensible competitors have very different profiles from each other, and also that they must often collaborate. For instance, when the Comcast – NBC Universal deal closes (assuming, of course, that it does), Comcast will control a cable system, a broadcast network, and multiple cable channels, whereas Time Warner Cable is a cable system only (that’s because Time Warner Inc. spun off TWC) and Fox’s parent, News Corp., lacks a cable system. Speaking of News Corp., throw in the fight between newspapers and Internet sites, and it’s clear that the Internet sparked a revolution that’s got everybody up in everyone else’s business. It’s the media equivalent of string theory, except that MBA’s usually have better hair than Einstein did.

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Subscribe to my blog (jhandel.com) for more about entertainment law and digital media law. Go to the blog itself to subscribe via RSS or email. Or, follow me on Twitter, friend me on Facebook, or subscribe to my Huffington Post articles. If you work in tech, check out my book How to Write LOIs and Term Sheets.


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Predictions for 2010?

January 2nd, 2010 admin No comments

2010… a year we’ve been waiting for since at least the mid-80’s. It’s finally here guys — so what happens next? Every year we take the 1st of January to try and figure that out. Normally we would consult the sage-like wisdom of Engadgetdamus, but this year is special, and we thought it needed the kind of time-twisting-artificial-intelligence-color-cycling-weird-baby-monolith-Roy-Scheider-starring-space-adventure that only the the above image (and book, and movie) could evoke. Below are the predictions from the staff of ye olde Engadget — what say you, good reader?

Chris: In an unprecedented cash and stock deal valued at over $1.7 billion, Comcast acquires your ‘89 Festiva.
Thomas: Steve Jobs will announce a pair of tablets, then smash them to bits on account of Android idolatry.
Laura: Jeff Bezos will continue to predict the “death of the book.” The book will continue to exist merely to spite Bezos.
Don: The world breathes a sigh of relief that the Large Hadron Collider will never create a black hole… after it is destroyed by zombies.
Dan: Apple’s stock will plummet when a TUAW investigative report reveals that Steve Jobs actually died in 2002, and has since been portrayed by talk show host cum surreal performance artist, Arsenio Hall.
Nilay: Google finally flips the switch and creates Skynet.
Ben: Microsoft agrees that CableCARD is a failure and Media Center along with it and introduces Zune Center.
Josh F: Adult entertainment will kick-start yet another media market, this time in the form of 3D Blu-ray porn.
Richard Lai: Tamagotchi resurrects with 3D monochrome screen, and then dies.
Darren: Intel considers making an Atom that’s actually fast, but its bottom line delays the launch until December 31, 2012.
Vlad: Sony Ericsson delivers an Xperia handset on time… nah, just kidding.
Richard Lawler: Nintendo surprises everyone and releases the Wii 3D.
Josh T: Google upends the landscape of the mobile phone market when Eric Schmidt says Apple can “have one of these unsubsidized” while emphatically pointing to his crotch.

Predictions for 2010? originally appeared on Engadget on Fri, 01 Jan 2010 20:30:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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Best and Worst of Worst and Best Lists

January 1st, 2010 admin No comments

It’s that end-of-the-year time again and (disputed) end-of-the-decade time when we get a gander at what assorted folk think was the best and worst of what we’ve experienced in the past year or the past 10. As Devilstower pointed out, these lists are stupid. That doesn’t stop them from filling the airwaves and other media, however. In late December, Top Ten and Top Five lists of everything imaginable pop up to fill the interstices left by contributors on vacation. Some of us, despite our best intentions, read them full well knowing their high potential for lowering our IQs.

This year, there’s 10 Cocktails for 2010, the Best Book I’ve Read This Year, the best films of the decade, no, these are the best films of the decade, no, these are the best films of the decade, the Worst Movie of the Decade, the 23 Shows That Changed Television during the Decade, the best 10 viral videos of the decade. And there’s …

Ten Psychology Studies from 2009 Worth Knowing About.

Decade In Review: Corporate Scoundrels And Scandals.

Top ten dreams of the decade– did yours make the list?

Capitol Hill’s Most Unhinged Republicans.

Nine Ways Our World Changed During the ‘00s.

Image of the decade.

Top 10 Sex Tape Scandals of 2009.

Biggest political winners and losers of 2009.

OK, OK, enough already, you get the picture.

Not to be outdone, the folks over at The Atlantic gave Marc Ambinder the task of putting up a reader poll to choose the worst political gaffes of the decade.

The choices: “Mission Accomplished”; Obama jokes about Nancy Reagan and seances in first post-election presser; Mike Huckabee hosts press conference to announce he won’t run negative ad, shows negative ad; John McCain unsure of how many houses he owns; John Kerry’s 2006 “Botched Joke.”

Really? That’s it?

How about John McCain’s 2008 comment, “Our economy remains fundamentally strong.” Or George Bush’s “You’re doing a heckuva job, Brownie.” Or Larry Craig’s “wide stance”? Or John Edwards’s midnight encounter with the National Inquirer sneaking down the back stairs of his lover’s hotel room? Or what about Rod Blagojevich’s taped effort to sell Barack Obama’s Senate seat: “I’ve got this thing and it’s f**king golden,” “I’m just not giving it up for f**king nothing,” and “Give this motherf**ker Obama his senator? F**k him. For nothing. F**k him.’”? Or Condi Rice’s slip-up when she said: “As I was telling my husb—”, then quickly changed to “As I was telling President Bush.”

As gaffes go, however, surely George W. Bush’s July 2, 2003, “Bring them on” dare to Iraqi insurgents is hard to top. If that is, it’s a “gaffe” to play tough guy with thousands of other people’s lives.


The Year in Stupid

January 1st, 2010 admin No comments

End of the year lists are stupid to begin with. So a list of the top outbreaks of national stupidity in 2009? Shield your brain cells before proceeding, and be sure not to read and drive (actually, that’s good advice even if you’re reading that smart stuff).

The Official Network of Stupid
This is more of a lifetime achievement award. Fox News has always required its “journalists” to check their brains at the door, but this year Fox reached new heights in depths, going beyond the tradition of labeling every politician in trouble as a Democrat and proceeding to provide fantasy backdrops that inflated the crowd for conservative events. Reality shows have been doing so well for Fox’s entertainment division, it’s clearly decided to use the “news” channel to dabble in alternate reality TV. Fox News proves again and again that it believes the American Public is that stupid. In the last couple of weeks they’ve been trying out new catchphrases. May I suggest: Fox News — because you’ll believe anything.

The Official Pundit of Stupid
You would think this would be a closely fought battle. With O’Reilly, Hannity and Limbaugh still on the air, stupid is well-represented every day (and my investment in microphone spit-shields continues to pay dividends). But for 2009, is there any doubt about the winner of this award? Weeping, wailing, slobbering, and splitting the screen to show a close-up of his bleary red eyes, Glenn Beck is the television equivalent of a geek show. That’s geek in the carny sense. Granted, there hasn’t been any chicken biting… yet. Still, Beck is to be commended for creating a show that acts as a national IQ test.

The Official Histrorical Figure of Stupid
Sorry, Mr. Godwin, but it appears your law has been repealed. It seems that it’s perfectly OK to make comparisons between Hitler and anyone you want — including the sitting president of the United States — and news programs will report on it in all seriousness. It’s quite a comeback for that paper-hanging son of a bitch, but then, who knew the Nazis had such a good health plan?

The Official Story of Stupid
There’s a little town just a couple of miles from my home that has an annual festival in support of that most Midwestern of spreads, apple butter. The population of this town is just a couple of hundred, but every year more people show up to celebrate brown biscuit goo than arrived in Washington DC for the biggest of the tea bagger bonanzas.  That’s not the stupid part. The stupid part is that Fox News, which organized the bagger event from start to finish, then wagged its finger at the other networks for not giving it more coverage. Wait, that’s still not the stupid part. The stupid part is that the other networks responded. Which only proves that no one is more experienced than Fox when it comes to knowing how to talk to idiots.

The Official Politician of Stupid
It’s a rare politician who can turn on the jets and make himself as big of a joke as Joe… Hang on, hang on. Lieberman goes in the article on laughably venal tantrums of 2009. Sorry about that. No, the official politician of stupid is the one who was such a coward he got Google to blur out his house on Google Maps even though its location is taught to sixth graders. This year Dick Cheney, the American ostrich, removed his head from the dirt long enough to complain that other people weren’t brave enough to protect his quivering tail feathers. Put your head back in the hole, Dick, and say hi to the rest of your administration while you’re down there. Bonus stupid to the media that gave him a place to squawk.

Sarah Palin
No really. That’s the title of the award.


Categories: Politics Tags: , , , , , ,

Exits, 2009

December 28th, 2009 admin No comments

There’s a sad tradition of looking back at the end of the year to see the toll that time has taken of our friends and heroes.  We may never had met some of those we most admired, may never have stood in the same place with them.  But we shared time with them.  Shared an era.  Some of them not only shared our time, but helped to shape it, and 2009 is the last year we hold in common.

So here, as last year, is an eclectic gathering of just a few of those we lost during the last twelve months.  I invite you to add other names and stories to the list.

When you think of baseball, Billy Werber may not be the first name that comes to your mind. For three seasons in the 1930s, he lead the league in stolen bases, but with a .271 career batting average and only 78 home runs spaced across 11 seasons, he wasn’t exactly an offensive powerhouse.  But if Werber wasn’t that famous, he shared both time and space with someone who was. Werber was the last living teammate of Babe Ruth.  He was also Ruth’s last living opponent.

Who was so cool that he not only turned down the chance to be The Saint, but passed on the chance to say “Bond, James Bond”? It was Secret Agent man, Patrick McGoohan. McGoohan was born in Queens, New York City, but he cemented his position as an international icon when, during the 4th season of Secret Agent (Danger Man in the UK) McGoohan created a new series which he produced, wrote, directed and starred in. More than forty years later, fans are still puzzling out all the messages of The Prisoner (and trying to avoid the remake).

You may still have leftover holiday ham today, but sooner or later you’ll grab another hot dog, and when you do, thank Alan Geisler for the red onion sauce he invented.

Rabbit came to rest in 1990, but it took nearly two decades more before Rabbit’s creator put down his pen. Multiple Pulitzer winner, John Updike, wrote about characters in crisis — ordinary Americans caught in hard spots. He did it with prose that celebrated directness and plots that were as whimsical as Estwick, as ordinary as those surrounding Harry “Rabbit” Angstrom, and as familiar as our own lives.


Andrew Wyeth

Mr. Rogers kept an Andrew Wyeth painting next to the door of his home, visible in every episode of his show. What higher endorsement can there be?

In these days of CSI and Bones, it’s easy to forget where the character of the forensic scientist appeared on American TV. But there would have been far fewer chances to say “Book’em, Danno” if Che Fong, played by actor Harry Endo had not been there with all the answers.

Figure eight is double four. Figure four is half of eight. If you skate, you would be great. If you could make a figure eight. And if you sing, you would be great if you could achieve the crystal purity of singer Blossom Dearie. Dearie was a well-known jazz artist since the 1940s, but for a generation of Americans, she’ll be remembered as the voice of “Mother Necessity” and well as the spokeswoman for “Figure Eight.”

9/11 widow and victim’s advocate Beverly Eckert died in a plane crash only days after meeting with President Obama. And if you’re wondering, that’s not ironic.

And then there were five, after munchkin Clarence Swensen was gone.

It wasn’t just Hollywood script writers who ended up on the black list during the McCarthy era. William Price was one of 35 journalists called before the Senate Internal Security Subcommittee in 1955. He refused to invoke the fifth amendment to protect himself. Instead he declared that he was protected by the first amendment. He was fired the next day.

You may be wondering why the “economic indicators” and the conditions you see around you rarely seem in alignment. But you won’t be able to ask Raymond Saulnier who devised the indicators while at the National Bureau of Economic Research during the Eisenhower administration.

Robley Rex was my distant relative (you’ll have to excuse me for not being able to follow the combination of X-removed and Nth-degree of cousinhood).  On his death, Frank Buckles became the last surviving World War I veteran from the United States.

If your Chatty Cathy is ailing, you may need to count on home remedies. Irving Chais, owner of the New York Doll Hospital, is no longer available.

His stories ranged from the painfully realistic recollections of his childhood internment in a Japanese prison camp, to jungles made of glass and future worlds were songs compose themselves. Whatever the venue J. G. Ballard fixed his subjects with searing insight and unflinching clarity.

If you wandered away from the Big Two during the 2004 election season, you might have been enticed to vote for the Personal Choice Party, especially if you had fond teenage memories of the vice-presidential candidate and, um, multi-talented former “Ivory soap girl” Marilyn Chambers.

Everyone remembers Gygax, but if you’ve ever rolled a 20-sided die, you owe equal thanks to Dave Arneson who was the co-creator of Dungeons & Dragons and the originator of many of the basics behind every RPG that followed.

In 1993, George Tiller was shot in both arms. He did not let this stop him from returning to work and helping women caught in the most difficult of circumstances. He continued in his work despite daily harassment. He continued in his work despite being labeled a “baby killer” no less than 28 times by Bill O’Reilly. He continued despite lies told about him by O’Reilly and others. He continued until an anti-abortion activist entered the church where he was attending worship, and shot George Tiller through the eye at close range.

It’s easy to think of a nun as someone who has stepped away from society, but Carol Anne O’Marie not only ran a shelter for homeless women, she was the author of 10 mystery novels — novels that featured an elderly nun who solves crimes.

If you visit the site of one of America’s great shames, the Manzanar Internment Camp, you can see the desk and typewriter of Togo Tanaka on display. It was at this desk that Tanaka reported on the often ugly conditions inside the camp from the perspective of the people being held there. His work to document what went on at Manzanar made him a target for both the government and his fellow internees.

When Robert Furchgott worked out the factors in endothelial cells that causes blood vessels to relax, he received a Nobel Prize. He didn’t receive any payment from the most famous product of his work — Viagra.

Not only did Wayne Allwine provide the voice of Mickey Mouse for more than 30 years, he was married to the woman who provides the voice for Minnie Mouse.

At 6′7″ former football player Rodger McFarlane didn’t fit the stereotype of a gay man. Starting as a volunteer, he became the first director of the Gay Men’s Health Crisis and helped organize many programs in the fight against AIDS.

At a time when America appears to show disdain for international law, it’s worth remembering “the George Washington of modern international law” Henry King. A U.S. Prosecutor at the Nuremberg Trials, King continued to work on a legal approach to war crimes for decades. It was at his insistence that the International Criminal Court added starting a war as a war crime.

If you were an African-American reader of romance novels before 1980, the number of books available where the couples were African-American was more than limited, it was nonexistent. Elsie Washington changed that with her novel Entwined Destines.

Martha Mason was only 11 years old when polio forced her into an iron lung. She would remain in the device for the next 60 years. Despite this, she graduated first in her class at Wake Forest, worked as a reporter for her local newspaper, and in 2003 wrote a book about her life.

Whether it was giving voice to numerous characters in animated films, or providing animated comic relief for partners ranging from Burt Reynolds to Dean Martin, Dom Deluise was sure to bring a smile.

The supply-side economics that Jack Kemp championed helped set up decades in which the wages of average Americans stagnated and those at the top benefited. But Kemp’s example in looking at the issues of racism and immigration provide lessons that many Republicans, and some Democrats, should take to heart.

“The Straight Shooter” Joe Bowman performed his amazing feats of marksmanship for rodeo fans, gun show goers, police SWAT teams, FBI agents, NASA astronauts, film stars, and foreign dignitaries.

You’re going to have to come up with a better pitch, because Billy Mays is unavailable to move your product.

By last spring, the face (among other things) that launched a million wall posters was indelibly marked by the long, hard and public struggle with cancer, but Farah Fawcett continued the fight to the end. When Farrah and her fellow Angels appeared on television in 1976, it was easy to dismiss the characters as high-kicking models who often found themselves in scenarios that involved limited clothing. But they were also tough, clever, and constantly outsmarting the men who underestimated them. Farrah went on to show that she had real acting chops to go with the no-so-real karate chops.

If there was any departure in 2009 that both shocked and generated discussion, it was that of the “King of Pop” Michael Jackson. Jackson was… immensely talented.

America’s best-known sidekick had some tough times in his final years, but for many of us Ed McMahon will always be the jovial presence at the edge of the scene, helping to make both host and guests comfortable with a few well-timed words and a booming laugh.

100% of respondents note that Alec Gallup, chairman of the Gallup Poll and son of the founder, handed off his duties this year.

When cruise ships ferry “explorers” to Antarctica with regularity, it’s easy to forget that once Edith Ronne was the only American woman who had ever been there.

There was a period of little to no sunspot activity lasting from around 1645 to 1715. The relationship between low solar activity and the climate is still open to question, but it’s a sure thing that Jack Eddy put the data together and named the Maunder Minimum.

If that Farah poster generated nostalgia, then David Carradine, despite roles in over 100 films, is probably forever wandering the west as Kwai Chang Caine. If not, just let Black Mamba know that no one needs to kill Bill.

David Eddings had a theory about how to create a fantasy novels, an approach that some thought made his work formulaic. To investigate you might want to read just a couple of his novels. Or maybe a couple more.  And a couple more after that, and…

The way the civil rights movement would bring the GOP to power in the South might have been surprising to some politicians, but not to G. Alexander Heard an adviser to both JFK and LBJ, who predicted the change in 1952.

Sure, winning that hundred-yard dash at the Olympics may be tough, but it’s equally tough to set world records the way Waldo McBurney did it — by outliving all competition in his age group. The multiple world record holder in the 100+ category was 106 when he died this year.

Here’s a confession: as a teenager, I wasn’t watching those Marilyn Chambers films, I was reading books by John Keel. Whether it was the inter dimensional beings of Strange Creatures From Time and Space or the unmatched weirdness of The Mothman Prophecies no one sold a UFO conspiracy like Keel.

If you see a wiener-mobile roll past draped in black, it’s because Oscar Mayer, jr. has gone.

No matter how momentous the events, their effect is limited without someone to tell the story. William Emerson was a southerner who understood the southern mindset, and was able to out-talk, out-joke, and out-bluster everyone in range while reporting the often painful and occasionally joyous truth of what was happening in America.

An important chapter in our history has come to an end. Our country has lost a great leader, who picked up the torch of his fallen brothers and became the greatest United States Senator of our time.


If you love the gentle piano work in the background of Brige over Troubled Water that’s the work of Larry Knechtel, who also performed on tracks for Elvis, the Beach Boys, and Bread.

Both science fiction readers and science fiction writers have long been grateful to Donald Grant, who took a chance on books that didn’t always seem commercial and produced volumes of exceptional quality.

Sometimes August is the cruelest month. Not only Ted but Eunice Kennedy Shriver left us in August. Founder of what would become the Special Olympics and one of the founders of the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, she was every bit a Kennedy.

Need an expert on the dulcimer? What about the autoharp, banjo, fiddle, mandolin, and guitar? Mike Seeger played them all, and did so beautifully — but never so well as when he joined his family in the New Lost City Ramblers.

The popular princess, the jock, the rebel from a troubled background, the nerd, and the girl sunk into despair. Why are they all hanging around the school together? Because John Hughes wrote them that way on his way to defining the teenage years of a generation.

Budd Schulberg might not have written about teen angst, but with a few little films like On the Waterfront and A Face in the Crowd to his credit, I suppose he can be forgiven.

For proof that you can think that someone is wrong on almost every point, and still find them witty and entertaining, you don’t have to look any further than William Safire. Or should that be “farther”? Without Bill, we may never be sure. Why don’t more conservatives harness the kind of arguments that Safire used to promote his positions? Because none of them has half the intelligence or one tenth the oratorical firepower.

For decades, the source of the best Hollywood inside info wasn’t a web site or even the tabloids. It was Armand “Army” Archerd.

Don’t remember Milton Supman? How about comedian, host, and perennial game-show guest Soupy Sales?  

If the theme songs for the Addam’s Family and Green Acres are still stuck in your head after four decades, you can thank composer Vic Mizzy for these and many more.

This was a bad year for Navajo Code Talkers with at least five of their few remaining members being lost over the course of the summer.

Lester Shubin served in the Army during World War II, which might have been his inspiration in creating the Kevlar vest.

Her list of friends reads like a who’s-who of civil rights, so it’s no surprise that 107-year old Ann Nixon Cooper was featured in President Obama’s speech on election night 2008.

I liked Brittany Murphy darn it. The girl did sassy really well.

If there’s a middle school student (or science teacher) in your home then you’re probably familiar with (and fond of) the characters from Beakman’s World. There’s no actor in a rat suit I’ll miss more than Mark Ritts who played “Lester” on the show — probably not what a guy with an lit degree from Harvard expected to do with his life.

If you passed Andy Hallet in the street, you might not recognize him. In his best-known role, Hallet played the green singing-dancing demon “Lorne” on Angel.

The Clamshell Alliance is one of those names that rings few bells today, but when Guy Chichester help found the group in opposition to the Seabrook Station Nuclear Power Plant, it helped to kick off a new generation of environmental activism.

As always, this is a hugely incomplete list filled more with names that caught my eye than with those who were most important to the world — or to you. I encourage you to add more.


Michael B. Laskoff: Up with Avatar: The Aughts & 2009 In Capitalist Perspective

December 26th, 2009 admin No comments

As the year and the decade draw to a close, I find myself in a strangely optimistic mood. True, there are many reasons for pessimism — war, global warming, a so-so health care bill, a potentially nuclear Iran, huge unemployment, etc. But over the past week, I have found reasons to be cheerful in popular entertainment, specifically the films Up and Avatar. The former, I believe, is proof that the negative effects of consumerism run wild are so pervasive that they actually permeate children’s entertainment (in a good way). The latter speaks to the best aspects of what capitalism in combination with the American Dream makes possible.

For those of you who did not see Up, I will not spoil the rather thin plot of this otherwise great film. Instead, I will share with you a central image of the film: an elderly man has no people in his life but spends his days literally pulling the weight of a house on his back that is filled with things that do not bring him happiness. It is only when he’s cut free of the this physical and existential weight that he’s sufficiently unencumbered to reconnect with the world of the living. For all of this, the film is fun to watch and visually stunning, but what makes me happiest is that it was made by Disney/Pixar, a company at the core of American culture. If it’s okay for them to make this movie, then maybe there is hope for generation Tea Bag.

On the other end of the spectrum, there’s Avatar, a film that never would exist without capitalism. It was hugely expensive, extravagant, lavish and a clear statement of what’s possible when great vision is united with the means to make the unprecedented real. James Cameron has not merely innovated or incremental improved. In this film, he invents to create something wonderful and new. In other words, he has done exactly what the high priests of capitalism — from Adam Smith and Alexander Hamilton to Milton Friedman and Alan Greenspan — have always preached: allow daring, vision and capital to find one other and the extraordinary can emerge. All hail the invisible hand!

Both films, however, point to the fact that change — personal, institutional and societal — is the key to survival. If the American Dream is to thrive in the decade ahead that means that we must do better for ourselves in terms of health care, the environment, the use of energy and the way that we interact with an increasingly complex world. We’ll need to leave behind the underlying question of the Aughts, “Why should I have to…” and move toward, “How can I…” That may sound like Pollyanna, but really it’s a self-preservation strategy for the kind of America that we would all — at least most of us — like to live in.

So here’s to great film, a great year and perhaps a great decade to come.

More on Health Care


Categories: World Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Michael B. Laskoff: Up with Avatar: The Aughts & 2009 In Capitalist Perspective

December 26th, 2009 admin No comments

As the year and the decade draw to a close, I find myself in a strangely optimistic mood. True, there are many reasons for pessimism — war, global warming, a so-so health care bill, a potentially nuclear Iran, huge unemployment, etc. But over the past week, I have found reasons to be cheerful in popular entertainment, specifically the films Up and Avatar. The former, I believe, is proof that the negative effects of consumerism run wild are so pervasive that they actually permeate children’s entertainment (in a good way). The latter speaks to the best aspects of what capitalism in combination with the American Dream makes possible.

For those of you who did not see Up, I will not spoil the rather thin plot of this otherwise great film. Instead, I will share with you a central image of the film: an elderly man has no people in his life but spends his days literally pulling the weight of a house on his back that is filled with things that do not bring him happiness. It is only when he’s cut free of the this physical and existential weight that he’s sufficiently unencumbered to reconnect with the world of the living. For all of this, the film is fun to watch and visually stunning, but what makes me happiest is that it was made by Disney/Pixar, a company at the core of American culture. If it’s okay for them to make this movie, then maybe there is hope for generation Tea Bag.

On the other end of the spectrum, there’s Avatar, a film that never would exist without capitalism. It was hugely expensive, extravagant, lavish and a clear statement of what’s possible when great vision is united with the means to make the unprecedented real. James Cameron has not merely innovated or incremental improved. In this film, he invents to create something wonderful and new. In other words, he has done exactly what the high priests of capitalism — from Adam Smith and Alexander Hamilton to Milton Friedman and Alan Greenspan — have always preached: allow daring, vision and capital to find one other and the extraordinary can emerge. All hail the invisible hand!

Both films, however, point to the fact that change — personal, institutional and societal — is the key to survival. If the American Dream is to thrive in the decade ahead that means that we must do better for ourselves in terms of health care, the environment, the use of energy and the way that we interact with an increasingly complex world. We’ll need to leave behind the underlying question of the Aughts, “Why should I have to…” and move toward, “How can I…” That may sound like Pollyanna, but really it’s a self-preservation strategy for the kind of America that we would all — at least most of us — like to live in.

So here’s to great film, a great year and perhaps a great decade to come.

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