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Sunday, March 28, 2010

Movies are about to change, but will it work?

The New Hollywood: Talent that is fast, cheap and under control.

Use of celebrities and big name directors, stellar single card writers and first strong production development staff may rapidly be a thing of the past, or of select projects. The number of films from studios is down, with the focus on secondary return in the DVD/Blue Ray market, toys, T shirts, posters and low budget spin offs. Product placement is on the increase.

All this against a record box office and the boom that is both overall movie going and 3-D.

Rereleases of films using the new 3D may become as prevalent (and less expensive) as Ted Turners attempts to colorize classis black and white movies in an effort to appeal to younger audiences.

Reasons vary from the recession, to a new marketing philosophy, to new young Turks in key positions, to the shift from creative industry to commodity and simple product marketing, as with any new cereal, hand lotion or fast food franchise.

In a feature story, Variety reports that Hollywood is downsizing:

"Though studio heads aren't exactly clipping coupons, they are imposing a sort of de facto salary cap on even the highest-profile projects. As a result, a number of cost-saving writers and directors are being entrusted with a slew of potential and established franchise projects from "Tron" to "Spider-Man."
"There is an austerity across the board," says a studio exec. "But less expensive does not equal inferior product."

For a link to the Variety story: click here (note Variety is a subscription service and may require subscription).

Graphic from

3D Movie prices to go up, again and again!

Tickets to see a 3D film will go up another 25 to 50% as theaters seek to spend more on increasing the number of 3D screens and to make up for losses in other areas. Meanwhile, Variety reports that the quality of the 3D movies that are shown is liable to go down, as an inferrior technology is bieng used to add 3D o existing films and rerelease them, despite losing the inegrity of the origional directors and producers.

NPR asks when will you stop buying tickets. At $10, at $20, at $50. Prices could rise into those premium levels as long as audiences are willing to fork out the dollars and distributors feel they need to take advantage of 3D to recover from upgraded and and other expenses. A Variety story also questions the rise in prices, as the public is just now getting hooked and if you price them out of the market, will that simply clip the wing of the new firebird of the movie industry?

In defense of the distributors, they have seen their side of the profit margin drop radically in this recession, as licensing fees and other expenses go up at levels far above inflation. Maybe that is why the kid who makes the decision as manager still has acne.

First posted 3-12-2010

But can they govern?

The upshot is that government is slowly becoming filled up with people like Gibbons who, because they can't work well with those they demonize, can't govern. 

Two years before his death, Barry Goldwater got together with Bob Dole and joked about how they'd both become outcasts in the GOP. "We're the new liberals of the Republican Party," Goldwater said. "Can you believe it?"

The following commentary struck my interests as it ponders the issue of the polarization of poiitic and the end of those willing to talk and compromise. What is the future of this country when both sides refuse to meet in the middle or at least have a civil discussion? - Professor Art Lynch


'In Name only' a new jab


As a boy, George McGovern once saw a Depression-era farmer cry when the earnings from his year's work covered only its cost. As a Kansas county attorney, Robert Dole signed the checks for relief payments to his grandparents. Those shared experiences of poverty led them as United States senators in 1976 to team up and reform and save the food stamp program.
If that happened today, the right wing would roast Dole alive for aiding the enemy. Bloggers and fringe radio hosts would call food stamps socialism.

As it was, Dole barely got out of politics before the social conservatives became the dominant force in the Republican Party. Two years before his death, Barry Goldwater got together with Dole and joked about how they'd both become outcasts in the GOP. "We're the new liberals of the Republican Party," Goldwater said. "Can you believe it?"

It has become a commonplace experience now, of those who have few loyalties to the Republican Party, who use it only as a vehicle, describing those of whom they do not approve as Republicans in name only -- RINOs.

Here in Nevada, a whole array of Republicans, including a former Republican governor and the Republican floor leader of the Nevada Senate, are considered RINOs by the reactionary rightists who have gained power in the party. They have been attacking Senate Republican leader William Raggio for at least a decade.

Back in 2000, an Incline Village rightist named Ted Harris was circulating a recording, "Won't You Come Home, Bill Raggio?" that included lyrics like "You're tilting leftward, Billy/You're backing flakes/What's this world coming to?"

Raggio, it should be noted, is a former Washoe County district attorney who put his share of inmates on death row, served as president of the National District Attorneys Association, was recruited by Richard Nixon and Spiro Agnew to run for the U.S. Senate, was the Republican nominee for lieutenant governor in 1974, and has served in the Nevada Senate since 1972.

The party's fortunes have waxed and waned during his tenure. At the 1975 legislature, he constituted one third of the Republicans in the Senate all by himself, appealing before audiences in the 1976 campaign to "your pity." Slowly he rebuilt the party, recruiting candidates and raising money until the GOP finally took the Senate majority in 1986. Not surprisingly, he has little patience with newcomers to the party who consider him a RINO.

The Democrats experience a less extreme version of this kind of thing.
Democratic public officials who have good records on the party's issues on everything except abortion are likely to find themselves marginalized. And last month there was a peculiar variant on this kind of thing when Vice President Joe Biden began his day by going first to church and then on to a television interview. It was Ash Wednesday and at the interview he had ashes on his forehead, confusing journalists and prompting Mel Gibson Catholics to label him on dozens of websites as a CINO (Catholic In Name Only).

At last month's special session of the Nevada Legislature, I encountered retired Democratic governor and U.S. senator Richard Bryan and asked him about an attack on Raggio just launched by rightist Gov. Jim Gibbons. Bryan said, "I've never seen that happen before. As you know, Bill Raggio and I served together when both of us were elected to the state senate in 1972. I think he's been a consummate statesman. Have not always agreed with Bill and he certainly did not always agree with me. And the polarized extremes make those in each party who are talking about compromise persona non grata.
The only way that you can accomplish something in a legislative body, where there is a wide difference of opinion, is try to compromise, and that is kind of moving to the political center. The dynamics in both political parties are pushing in just that opposite direction. You see that, for example, in John McCain's [Arizona reelection] campaign. He is facing somebody from much further to the right. And positions which he has historically adopted as reasonable middle of the road, he is now rejecting as he is trying to protect himself."
All of this means that the pool of people willing to run for office keeps narrowing. When former Nevada lieutenant governor Sue Wagner considered a run for the U.S. House, she beheld what a snake pit it was becoming and decided to stay out.
And the upshot is that government is slowly becoming filled up with people like Gibbons who, because they can't work well with those they demonize, can't govern.

WGA joins fight against File Sharing and On-Line Piracy

Fighting On Line Piracy with Precision Accuarcy

Both branches of the Writers Guild, East and West, have joined in asking Washington to take action to protect intellectual property rights. Variety reports the two are taking a different direction than other entertainment Guilds:

The Writers Guild of America, West, pressed the White House for increased measures to fight online piracy, but also warned that too vigorous an approach to combating copyright infringement could be a "red herring" that favors media congloms and Internet providers at the expense of smaller players.

The WGAW, along with the Writers Guild of America, East, were the only two industry labor guilds not to take part in a separate letter sent to Espinel on Wednesday, in which a coalition of show biz unions, studios and record labels called for a wider range of steps to limit online piracy. 

Their concerns came in a letter sent to Victoria Espinel, the Obama administration's Intellectual Property Enforcement Coordinator, who has solicited comments as she draws up a strategic plan to fight copyright infringement.
"We believe that the proper approach to piracy, particularly online piracy, must focus not on prior restraint but rather on tools to enforce the law," the WGAW said in its letter. "Crafting solutions to piracy requires surgical precision, not a blow from a blunt object."

NLRB finally populated

From entertainment industry blog SAGWATCH:

NLRB Finally Gets New Members

President Obama has gone around Republicans who had thrown up procedural roadblocks to the nomination of Craig Becker, the former top lawyer at the AFL-CIO. Becker got what’s known as a recess appointment, moving him into the office despite a threat of a Republican filibuster to block him.

Another labor lawyer, Mark Pearce, has been appointed to an NLRB seat, but hasn’t yet come up for confirmation. The NLRB has been operating with only two members of the five authorized. That has led to court challenges of many decisions the two members have made since January 2008.

Sunday Morning News and Views

Photo by Art Lynch
Run Away to the Circus
This year would mark the 200th birthday for infamous entertainment baron, PT Barnum. When Barnum met Bailey it laid the foundation for what would eventually become the Ringling Brothers Barnum and Bailey Circus!  On this date in 1881, 129 years ago today, the Big Top got even bigger. P.T. Barnum merged his traveling circus with a competing circus owned by James A. Bailey. Barnum proudly proclaimed, in his way of using superlatives and hype, that the merged circus would be “the biggest show on earth!” One year later they purchased Jumbo, and history was made. Barnum died later that year, Bailey in 1906. Their successors quickly sold the circus and traveling freak show to the Ringling Brothers in 1907. The last of the “Big Top” shows was in 1956, with indoor arenas being the venue of choice from two national traveling companies and one international company ever since. The circus still travels on a custom build circus train one mile long, and unless local codes forbid it, still stages the famous circus parade in every city they visit.

Growing up in Chicago I had a friend who had a complete miniature of the 1954 big top three ring circus in fine detail in his garage. I remember traveling to Milwaukee before the circus moved its collection of circus wagons to Florida. Each year there would be a horse drawn circus parade showing of the history of the Ringling Brothers Barnum and Bailey Circus, “the Greatest Show on Earth.”

Jumbo made local Chicago history when he died tragically, along with other elephants, in a train wreck. He was too large to move. Unfortunately the wreck occurred at a Jewish Cemetery, where after a long fight the area for their graves was de-sanctified (if that is the right term) and the elephants, complete with gravestones, remain buried there to this day.

Oscar on base
From Jennifer Robinson of the Las Vegas Review Journal:
“At a meeting with about 500 business people Mayor Oscar Goodman reminded the crowd that the Las Vegas Strip isn’t even in Las Vegas. Thousands of visitors drive up and down the resort corridor every day, waxing poetic about how great Las Vegas is, add actually they are in unincorporated Clark County. So how do they know when they hit the city limits?
“When you get to the corner of Sahara and Paradise, there’s a billboard there” Goodman said “there’s a woman in a pink dress in a state of recline, and says she’ll come to your room. Now I swear on m life I don’t know what she’ll do when she gets to your room, but the sign next to hers is advertising Viagra. And that is the gateway to my city.”

Fatal Attraction
What type of men are women attracted to? An in depth study has found that the health of a country’s people and overall standard of living does impact what women find attractive. The better the health care system and overall standard of living, the more likely women go for men with youthful and feminine facial characteristics. The less stable the country and the less likely the country’s health care system will take care of all women, the more likely women go for the strong masculine type. In the US women tend toward the masculine, with traits such as clean-shaven, thinner cheekbones, thinner eyebrows and smooth skin seen as feminine and not as desirable in a man. The tests were done blind and on-line sampling women from over 20 nations. They were asked to judge and choose between men. In truth in each pair women had to select from, the men were the same person, with alterations done by a computer to their appearance.  The study also found that the higher a woman’s education level or economic status, the more likely she will go for a more feminine man. A similar, but older study, with men, focusing on body types, found that wealthy seek thin and model-like, while lower income and lower educated end up with women with rougher physical traits and a more durable frame. Neither study took into account what really matters, the personality and heart of he subjects.

Overheard on the police scanner:
“A dispatcher to officers responding to a domestic disturbance call involving a woman and her son..’She’s saying that she brought him into this world, and she can take him out.’” –Las Vegas Review Journal Reporter’s Notebook.

The Educational Student Loan Corporation, a company that works with the government to guarantee student loans, has had all 3.2 million loan files stolen, in effect releasing private information concerning all of the loans it manages. They warn that private financial information and potential identity theft are likely, as it was a well orchestrated and professionally planned.

The president made an unannounced visit to Afghanistan today. He visited the troops and will have high-level talks with the Afghan government.

Armed gunmen, who spoke French, in a caper that could have come out of a major motion picture, robbed a Swiss Casino this morning. Heavily armed the forced their way in military style, robbing the casino and its guests. So far it has been a “clean” getaway.

The number of Russian time zones dropped from 7, to 9, this morning. The change was to improve communications and production, but international economist suggest that utility bills and productivity will go down instead of up. Locals are not thrilled at the climate and sleep cycle changes the shift may cause. Large trans-Russian companies are bound to benefit from the shift, because as promised, communication will become more manageable and home office hours less grueling.

There may finally be an explanation or the Fallon Leukemia Cluster. The metal Tungsten has been found in greater concentrations in Fallon’s water, air, food and in the citizens themselves than in any other part of Nevada or elsewhere in the country.

Butler will play at home in Indianapolis for it’s first ever-Final Four NCAA Basketball appearance. West Virginia will be in the final four for the first time since Eisenhower was president. The remaining two teams will be decided in games played today.

Several small earthquakes rumbled northern California’s wine country this morning, with two near San Jose and four near Santa Rosa in Sonoma County. The largest quakes were 3.1.

This is Palm Sunday, the start of the solemnity of Holy Week. Pope Benedict opened the week with prayers “for the young and for those charged with educating and protecting them.”

The American Civil Liberties Union is asking the Nevada Supreme Court to keep an initiative petition that seeks to ban abortions in the state off the ballot. The group says the petitions language is so vague that voters wouldn’t understand the consequences. The group behind the initiative is “Personhood, Nevada.” They are seeking to reshape abortion law by amending the state Constitution to define “personhood” as beginning at conception.

More important than ever to register and vote
In most states only 5 to 30% vote. That means that those who vote are the strongest in their beliefs. To win a primary Republicans have to move right, Democrats left.  This may not be bad, as those who are the most interested in government and in their country are those who vote.

However the primary system has also produced the environment we are in now, where compromise for the greater good is considered an unforgivable sin, and hate language overtakes compassion and understanding.

Those who are most experienced at governing are the most likely to lose their seat in a primary based on attack, misinformation and a hatred for opposing views. Conservative Tea Party and Liberal Progressives are both guilty of this sort of single issue or black and white voting pattern.

The question is can you have effective government with this sort of polarity? How can it be for the people if both sides insist they are the people without acknowledging the views, opinions, feelings and valid points on the opposing side?

If those who register and vote represent fixed immovable positions, then our government will be deadlocked, or unevenly dominated by one political philosophy or another.

Rhetoric is important.

Note that the “Tea Bag” movement has labeled itself “patriots” implying those who disagree are somehow committing treason for their view of this country.  Equally those who label the Tea Party the “Tea Bag” movement made up of “wackos” or “extremist” is doing the same reverse labeling, stereotyping instead of engaging in dialogue or any form of understanding.

Forgiveness, understanding, turning the other cheek and not persecuting your neighbor are all needed social and ethical beliefs needed for a civil society to function and provide for its members.

The basic divide is real. It is social responsibility as a society versus social responsibility as a community. Is the government the only entity that can provide for the needs of the citizens of this country without discrimination and bias? Who is responsible for the least of our brothers and sisters, or is this a dog eat dog world and let them fend for themselves no matter what the walls, limitations and underlying cause for the position they find themselves in? Do we protect our own assets and life style regardless of the needs of others? Can society do a better job than the government in protecting and providing for its citizens, and if so how and whom?

The divide is on the size, scope and definition of government, on interpretation of the Constitution, on if you make the Constitution into a bible or if you look at it as a government framework for legislating and not as the entire framework of government.

Can states operate independent of the Federal government in an age of transience, easy national and even international communication and commerce, in the same way as when they were semi-independent countries (“states”) joined in a union of states, the United States of America, when our forefathers framed this nation?

Are we the same as our highly religious, agriculure based, less mobile  ancestors?

Race, color and language.

Another factor in understanding the stalemate in congress and battle over seats in the off-year elections (traditionally low in turnout and producing major change after the first two years of any new president) is a basic divide in how the nation perceives itself.

The wealthy are getting richer, the poor poorer, and the great American Middle class has not seen significant against against inflation since the 1960’s. Where you fall on the economic scale does impact your perception of the country, of issues and views on the direction the country should take.

The higher your income the more likely you are to be Republican. This is a generality, as there are members of both parties who are wealthy, but the numbers confirm a far higher percentage of voting Republicans who are upper middle class or wealthy than their counterparts in the Democratic party.

“People of color” and younger Americans are missing from most gatherings of the Tea Party movement. There are far fewer of both, and a lower percentage of women at Republican gatherings than the Democratic equivlent. Democrats tend to do better in urban centers while Republicans do better in rural areas and states dominate by agriculture and a more expansive rural area.

Those who live in western states have leanings, even as Democrats, that are more Libertarian in nature, closer to Republican core beliefs. In the south issues of tradition, race and scars that remain from “the war between the states” foster conservative or “blue dog” Democrats with far fewer differnces form their Republican counter parts.

Adding confusion to the issue is that we all differ in many ways. You can be conservative in finances and socially liberal. You might be isolationist in nature but in favor of our wars overseas. While the rhetoric of party leadership tends to ignore this fact, there are pro-life Democrats and pro-choice Republicans.

Are we so different?

How can we tone down the rhetoric and the hatred and distrust it reinforces?

Ask yourself who benefits.

My guess, and it is only a guess, is the man behind the curtain wins. Big business, special interests, foreign governments and those who would bring unrest, decline and the end of to “the American Empire” win when we polarize ourselves and refuse to talk, tone down the rhetoric and compromise.

Toss out those with experience and you toss out those in the best position to bring about compromise and with it change.

For those who are Christians, practice what your faith teaches. For those of other religious beliefs, so the same. Look into your heart and ask if the rhetoric and posters and riflescope or bulls-eye drawings and cartoons fit with your core belief systems.

“Prepare the world” through a forgiving open mind.

Tea Party
Harry Reid’s official reaction to the Tea Party in Searchlight: He’s happy so many people from out of state visited his town and spent their out of state money in Nevada during these tough economic times. The crowd at was supposed to exceed 20,000 ended up being fewer than 7,000 with out of state license plates dominating. The crown was described as white and older on the BBC and PBS. The event was compared to “Woodstock” by organizers but that does not hold up with how small it was an the lack of “peace and love” that dominated “Woodstock.”

Fox still reports 20,000, Channel 8 locally “as many as 9,000”, the highway patrol and metro say “fewer than 5,000”, as crowd counting appears to be in the eyes and estimates of the beholder.

While Sarah Palin was warmly greeted, many in the crowd were unhappy with her for yesterdays campaign stomp with John McCain, who faces a Tea Party favored challenger in the Arizona Republican primary.

Interesting rhetoric in saying “Harry Read hates America” and “he wants to be in lock step with the socialists like Nancy Pelosi, Obama, and Osama. What European reporters saw as a very uninformed crowd rallied abound slogans and Sarah Palin, conservative taking head celebrities and conservative candidates form several states hoping to gain the Tea Party vote. They say Reid has done nothing for Nevada (billions over the years, defeating Yucca Mountain, helping City Center get completed, finding water all seem to be fictions made up by Democrats), for the nation (health care) or for the world.

Nevada Republican candidates Governor Jim Gibbons and Senatorial hopeful Sue Lowden were there to campaign for the Tea Party Votes.

Not allowed to speak was Nevada Tea Party’s registered candidate for Senate, whose position of the ballot is in danger as the Republican Part is filing a lawsuit claiming his candidacy is not legitimate.

Face the Nation

A Washington Post poll says that the nation is still deeply divided on whether the health care reforms are good for the nation or not, but it also reflects a trend toward looking at the reforms, as they passed, are positive. The polls shows 46% support it, 50% oppose, but a closer look shows that 33% strongly oppose it and 42% strongly support it.  Those who strongly support health care reform outnumber those who strongly oppose it, but those who oppose it are within the statistical error in the curve from those who support it. So the nation is, if you look at it from a distance, evenly split on the issue.

A poll of how much people actually know about the fill found that 67% of Americans get one or more of the key issues in the bill incorrectly. 40% do not even know what the bill actually does. 35% say it is socialist or communist, when in fact the bill puts the work and profit in the hands of the insurance companies and private business.

Talking points instead of the latest information appear to be what Republicans are sticking to.

Republican Senator Jim DeMint still says over 60% of Americans is against the health care bill, and that the bill will bankrupt the country. He predicts gloom and doom under the new law. He says that the bill cuts too much from Medicare, with over half doctors not taking Medicaid, which will be overtaxed under the legislation. DeMint says that millions of people will see their taxes go up, but admitted that they are “middle class” making over $100,000 a household.

“The President is mocking the American people” and has “pretty radical folks” appointed by executive action to posts. He pointed to a union activist being added to a board that was already “pro union” (but in fact are mostly Bush administration appointees).

On whether the rhetoric is dangerous, he referred to “tea party patriots” saying he has never seen any violence or bad language.

Republican Congress woman Michelle Bachman says she has very serous concerns that Barack Obama has anti-American views. She pointed to the Federal Government owning car companies, 50% of Americans mortgages and “owns” the health care industry. “Obama-care” could cost the economy five and a half million jobs with “massive tax increases and massive Medicare cuts.”

Bachman says that Republicans, conservatives, independents and disenfranchised Democrats want Obamacare repealed. The New England Journal of Medicine stated that over 30% of American physicians would leave the business if America took over health care (which they did not). We need to be all about the American people, working together to whatever is in the best interests of the American people.

Democratic Party Chairman Tim Kaine, the former governor of Virginia. He says repeal of health care is unwise. The incredible anger in the two Republicans on the program sticks out. He says the American people may not want to see the president being called Anti-American. He says that a repeal would undo some much needed change, such as the end of preexisting conditions, tax breaks for small business, assistance for those who cannot afford it and within what is really the existing system. Doctors have overwhelmingly applauded the new legislation, the opposite of running away from the profession as the Republicans claims.

“The rhetoric is out of control..some feel it is to their strategic advantage to keep people stoked and be negative on everything. It’s no the Democrats that are shouting down the president on the floor of congress, calling people names, bringing up race and sexual preferences and constantly being obstructionist on every issue.”

Bricks through windows, onslaughts of advertising financed from outside of members districts with false information and designed to fan hatred and resentment, are reasons the Democrats say a major change needs to be made in toning down the hatred and working together. It is the Republicans he says that are deliberately distorting the facts and fanning the flames.

Republicans have been working off talking points that are handed down by the Republican National Committee, and do no change fast enough to keep up with the facts of the day. Information that is out of date and blatantly not true is still being used, word for word, by Republicans in congress, conservative talk hosts and those campaigning on the conservative side of Republican primaries.

“Putting gun-sites on photos of members or on members districts needs to be stopped. When you call someone a baby killer you are stoking anger, and they need to stop it!”


152 people are trapped in a Chinese coalmine that has been flooded when a retaining wall collapsed. China remains the most dangerous country for miners, with the poorest safety record in the world. Blasts, floods and other accidents are reported to be “frequent.”

The BBC had a long feature on China, from an international perspective, and how the Chinese government manipulation of their currency is more of a threat to the third world than to industrialized nations, which have already seen union and high paying jobs leave for China. The story pointed out the manipulation is a weapon being used by China to gain control of the economies of nations that by rights should be building up their own economies in Africa, Asia, and the former Eastern Europe. Dependence on China and artificially cheap goods and services is part of China’s policy to become the business center of the world by 2020. Economists are crying foul, as China uses practices that violate international law and could undermine the economies of the west in ways that would make this Great Recession seem like a minor bump.

Meanwhile American corporations are resisting any talk of tariffs or protections for the US in the trade war with China, since business has become international and American companies are not only invested there, but most have Chinese investment in their company.

Standard Lyons Chief Economist Gerard Lyons and USB’s Karen Olney say the global recovery is in worse shape in Europe and the rest of the world than the US. The recession in Europe may not recover until 2012 or later. Some countries in Europe are closer to the US in the recovery ladder but others are still in poor shape, which could pull down all of Europe. What makes European companies work now is that they are international, invested in the US, the third world and in China.

Pepsi CEO Indra Nooyi is concerned about the economic recovery. She says the construction worker, the factory workers are not coming back to work, and they are needed or true economic growth. We can see a statistical recovery but a human recession, which will not last long and could up us back even further than we were. We need companies to come back to hiring cycle, with confidence in the economy. On health care she says we need to pause and say we now have a bill that delivers to Americans who do not have insurance and those who are suffering. As for the impact on business, it will take months or years to know, but it should be positive.

On China she says the Chinese government has been very good to us. They are supportive of our strategies. We do good for agriculture, their economy and their workers. In he east and the Middle East there is a vibrant economy for PepsiCo and optimism about the future. Europe, North America including Mexico is where the fears and the poor job market forecast endanger the world economy. Depression is setting in with workers and companies, something a worldwide company like PepsiCo does not have to worry about due to the emerging markets. Still business is down ad it will take time to recover.