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Sunday, July 31, 2011

Cowboys and Aliens gets out-SMURFED, or marketing really does matter

From the LA Times Company Town, click here for complete story and other news.

It seemed like an uneven matchup. In one corner was "Cowboys & Aliens," one of the most expensive films to be released this year, starring and made by a handful of Hollywood A-listers. In the other: "The Smurfs," a critically panned live-action/computer-animated movie based on a cartoon that originated over 50 years ago.
Heading into the weekend, it appeared a foregone conclusion that "Cowboys & Aliens" would take the No. 1 spot at the box office. But in a surprise, the 3-D movie "The Smurfs" -- featuring a gaggle of diminutive blue cartoon characters -- sold far more tickets than pre-release polling had indicated. As a result, on Sunday the studios behind both pictures estimated that each film would collect $36.2 million domestically by weekend's end. Meanwhile, the weekend's other new wide release, the adult romantic comedy "Crazy, Stupid, Love," brought in a decent $19.3 million.
The soft opening for "Cowboys" is no doubt disappointing for the film's financial backers, Universal Pictures, Dreamworks SKG and Relativity Media, who collectively spent about $163 million to produce the movie. (Paramount Pictures is releasing the picture overseas when it begins rolling out abroad next weekend.) While the film is based on a little-read graphic novel, it also stars well-known actors Harrison Ford and Daniel Craig. The movie was executive produced by Steven Spielberg and directed by "Iron Man's" Jon Favreau, who in recent weeks has done extensive publicity to promote the film.
"Cowboys" performed about as well on its first weekend as "Super 8," one of the only other movies to be released this summer with a largely original concept. That J.J. Abrams-directed film opened to $35.5 million in June and has since grossed $181.2 million worldwide, but it only had a budget of about $50 million.

Can you hear me now? Do you know who I am?

When you answer the phone you may or may not know who is calling, I am not referring to caller ID. I mean you may or may not be able to distinguish between voices and know who it is that is calling. A study in the Journal of Science concludes that people with even minor dyslexia not only have trouble with the printed word and numbers, but with distinguishing between similar voices. The same chemicals that influence the interpretation of images may also influence the interpretation of sound. So the Next time you call a friend, have patience with them or clearly identify yourself. It may not be simply that they are dim or not paying attention.

The philisophical canyon dividing Democrats and Republicans

The major philosophical difference in today's debt ceiling talks.

Republicans believe in bootstraps, and that those in need have to work to pull themselves up with the help of family and local or church communities. "We the people" refers only to protecting our liberties and right to vote and have a voice.

Democrats believe in a basic floor or standard of living for all Americans, and that we all, as taxpayers and a government, share the responsibility for the least of our brothers. Democrats point to how people no longer live in idyllic rural communities and raise their families in the same household or within blocks of where they grew up. They say that "we the people" have some basic responsibilities to each other.

Republicans believe in privatizing social security and medicare, with vouchers and private investments (including the stock market). Republicans believe in that taxes should be cut to stimulate the economy. Republicans believe that cutting government and aiding the wealthy and big business will grow the economy. They feel they were elected on a mandate, despite actual registration of about one third of Americans and only about half of their membership being fiscal or "tea party" conservatives.

Democrats see those directions as a mistake, with the preservation of medicare and social security until the issues can be discussed in small steps and in ways that build for the future of the existing programs. Democrats say that you cannot cut services until you stop giving tax breaks to the most profitable companies in the history of the world, big oil, and that the temporary tax cut passed for the wealthiest Americans are temporary, so reversing those cuts does not represent a tax increase (it represents the sunsetting of emergency legislation that is not only no longer needed, but damaging). Democrats are not for growing government, a Republicans claim, but see it is necessary to operate in the public trust to provide for the life, liberty and pursuit of happiness of all Americans.

Meanwhile the moderate compromise community that is government is disappearing as in a media age, where people seek only the media outlets and those individuals who already agree with them, the ability of politicians to govern while retaining their office and meeting the increasingly high fundraising level needed to stay in office, is reaching the level of being impossible.

Can our increasingly deep canyon between the two parties, the two philosophies, be bridged in the name of the future of America?

Yes, you say, But then you probably believe any bridge must meet your particular views and priorities and not the other guys.

Bet 'cha.

Overextending and the Debt Ceiling

Two wars. Other conflicts in the world. Policing the seaways. Taking care of wounded vets. Taking care of those who have served the nation. Insuring the military and their families. These are the largest elements of the US skyrocketing budget, yet it is a sacres cow you never talk about. Instead cut social programs,  cut of unemployment, stop any stimulus spending, cut back on construction and infrastructure and slash education to balance a budget and "save the US".

When you speak of the high cost of war and being the current largest or only military superpower, you are called liberal or progressive.

When you speak of Christian and Judeo values, of taking car of your fellow human being, you are called a bleeding heart liberal.

No wonder no one can get any serious work done on reducing budget growth (not slashing it overnight to balance it like a checkbook- governments are not household and government budgets are economics not checkbook accounting), or on honestly and Constitutionally mandated raises in the debt ceiling.

Tossing the bums out will not work either, a we have seen what Freshman can do to shake things up, but it also can cause the type of lack of discussion, compromise and governing we see in Washington under the "new" House majority.

Chicago to LA are played by the Big Apple, on TV at least...

New York Is Ready for Its Close-Up

Ty Cacek/The New York Times
The sign for Silvercup Studios, located in Long Island City, Queens.

New York has played many roles on television recently.


The latest on the arts, coverage of live events, critical reviews, multimedia extravaganzas and much more. Join the discussion.
John Paul Filo/CBS
Will Estes and Bridget Moynahan on the CBS television series "Blue Bloods," shot in New York City.
Ty Cacek/The New York Times
The set for the television series "White Collar," shot at Silvercup Studios in Queens.
On “Blue Bloods,” the CBS drama about several generations of a crime-fighting family, the city’s landmarks have been showcased, with the Brooklyn Bridge and Washington Square Park proving to be particularly popular repositories for killers disposing of bodies.
On “Damages,” Glenn Close’s legal thriller on DirecTV, the city has been transformed into a dusty marketplace in Kandahar, Afghanistan, helped along by the strategic placement of a handful of goats and some retro Soviet cars in a cement factory in Red Hook, Brooklyn.
And on the spring HBO mini-series “Mildred Pierce,”starring Kate Winslet, New York actually became 1930s Los Angeles, the unseasonably chilly spring here countered by a heated outdoor greenhouse to prevent the imported palm trees from wilting.
In the past, New York — with a few exceptions, like the omnipresent variations of “Law & Order” — was primarily a location town, where Hollywood shows like “N.Y.P.D. Blue” would come to shoot street scenes before returning out West. But now, thanks mainly to the extension of generous tax incentives, television productions abound. The city stands in for other places (like the Chicago of “The Good Wife”), and industry veterans have said that the days of shooting quintessential New York shows (like “Seinfeld” and “Friends”) in California are numbered.
In the 2011-12 television season, there are 23 prime-time series being filmed in New York, compared with only nine in 2006, according to the Mayor’s Office of Film, Theater and Broadcasting. New York City also drew a record 22 cable and network pilots, compared with three the previous season. Meanwhile, new film production, including that for “Men In Black III,” is going strong.
The television series being filmed in New York and set to make their debuts in the fall are heavy on 20-something angst and police dramas. There is “Girls” on HBO, about recent college graduates struggling to make it in the city; “I Just Want My Pants Back” on MTV, a coming-of-age comedy about a boozing 22-year-old; and “Unforgettable” on CBS, about a female police detective who uses her rare, memory-enhancing condition to solve homicide cases. They will be joining shows like “White Collar,” a show on USA in which a former con man uses his criminal savvy to help the F.B.I. solve crimes, and “Gossip Girl,” the prime-time soap on CW about scheming young (and wealthy) Upper East Siders.
"There is just no better or more versatile character for television than New York City,” said Hal Rosenbluth, the president of Kaufman Astoria Studios in Queens. Its giant soundstages, which once hosted the Marx Brothers and Woody Allen, are squeezed to capacity, with the emergency room patients of “Nurse Jackie” on Showtime providing incongruous neighbors for the longtime residents of “Sesame Street,” including Big Bird, who resides nearby in his oversize nest.
Merrill Karpf, a co-executive producer on “Unforgettable” who has worked and lived in Los Angeles for 30 years, added: “There is just no substitute for the energy of New York, the ethnic diversity, the architectural mix, the subways, the hordes at Times Square. L.A. is boring in comparison.”
At the neighboring Silvercup Studios, in a converted bread factory in Long Island City, Carrie Bradshaw’s stuffed designer-shoe closet has been torn down to make room for the modest Ikea-style student digs of Hannah, the perpetual intern on “Girls,” played by the series’s creator, Lena Dunham.
While Hollywood still dominates television production, industry experts there lament that it is struggling to retain its edge. New York State’s tax credit, extended through 2014, is 30 percent, compared with California’s 20 percent, and amounts to $420 million a year, more than four times California’s figure.
“We are concerned about the competition,” said Paul Audley, the president of FilmL.A.“But I don’t think you will see the Hollywood sign transplanted to New York any day soon.”

Click "read more" below to click here to go to the New York Times.

Depression, or at least a second recession.

There is a fear that we are starting to fall back into another recession or potentially a depression.

It can happen.

Economist, business leaders, and moderates in Congress all warn that we are driving ourselves into a deeper hole by not investing in stimulus, the very programs that are being cut, and most important in infrastructure.

Job creation is weak for many reasons, from hot weather to a weak housing market, layoffs in government to rapid decrease in average income, increases in gas prices to cuts in education. The issue of budget cuts and their potential cuts in funds that put people to work who provide services for Americans, build government projects has businesses hoarding cash and cautious about investing, except outside the US. The debt ceiling debate has been the perfect prescription to making the job market sicker. If faith in the US fails, so will faith in investing in Americans and American jobs.

People believe the optimist if they feel comfortable, already have raised their families, survived the Great Depression or feel their own pocketbooks are all that is important. Others see the sky as falling, doom and gloom if the have lost income, housing values, have family members who have lost jobs or have seen their own career potential go from bright to foggy or dim.

The polarization in Washington and in our won hearts, only makes things seem all the more critical, the potential more bleak and impossible to resolve.

Inaction is the enemy. With no action, neutral watchdog groups warn, comes the tailspin that could give us the double whammy that breaks the camel back and puts us into a depression, not just emotionally but economically.

The coming storm over the debt limit

The debt limit was created by Congress as an interpretation of the intent of the founding fathers and in particular the 14th amendment. The artificial ceiling has become a very real financial milestone utilized around the world. It is no longer simply an exercise in budgeting.

The debt ceiling stalemate in Washington has given some investors the jitters. The market saw a 600 point drop last week and many warn that the county's AAA credit rating could suffer if a debt deal isn't reached by Tuesday's deadline.

The U.S. debt stalemate is of particular concern to China - the largest single holder of U.S. government debt. China holds nearly two trillion dollars in US debt. The US currency value has allowed China to keep its currency strong. A downgrade in US standing will lower the value of China's currency, with an accumulated debt from the US in interests of  over two hundred million dollars a year.

Our credit rating is key to most of the industrialized nations in the world, and their stability, as countries invest in each other and corporations span the globe in their reach and impact. If the US Congress does not get its act together, the impact will be world wide and impact the citizens of the world to one degree or another.

Layoffs on the government level may have some tea partiers celebrating, but those jobs are swelling unemployment ranks, and if the US default seven for a few days on any of its debt, resulting impacts on local bonds, tax base and budgets will accelerate already critical debt problems for states and local budgets.

The truth is that while there will be a negative impact, and the issue,even in potential compromises being discussed has become the political football both parties are gambling the 2012 elections will hinge on.

But is Chicken Little correct, and is the sky really falling?

Eating Crow: Brinkmanship and the Debt Ceiling and how it will hurt all of us

Much of the world are scratching their heads over our self-made political debt crisis. Our debt ratio may seem high in dollars, but in percentage it is not that uncommon, and we are known for our sound currency and financial strength, even as politicians cry "the sky is falling." Economist say that is we simply and routeenly had lifted the debt ceiling, as has always been the case (under a 14th amendment mandate), there would be no fear of a world crisis. Since our politicians, led by right wing "tea party" Republicans in the House of Representative, have turned this into a "capital case", the US and much of the world do face a major financial crisis, maybe not immediately but over not all that long a period of time after the August 2nd deadline.

Uncertainty over the debt ceiling has already impacted the average American in its chilling impact on job growth, on spending and on overall faith in the US currency and the historically sound nature of our word.

Our enimies and potential enimies, and some of our partners, are cheering at the thought of the almighty US taking a misstep and stumbling from its "leader of the free world" and "imperialist" superpower standing.

Even countries with their own deep financial interests in the US have taken to celebrating and rattling swords in anticipation of a great country stumbling as a result of its much self touted democracy. China is showing off drones that can be used as "aircraft carrier killers", and pushing their own currency to replace the US as the world standard. Several Arab states are telling other nations to invest in their oil and gas instead of stockpiling US dollars and bonds.

Even if a resolution is found, the long term impact of this political grandstanding and brinkmanship, may well be a decline in the US, over time, and our having to eat crow along the way.

Southwest Stories, from Emus loose in Edmar to Cheynne Mountain

"Emus Loose in Egnar " is a book by Judy Muller that takes readers on a tour of small-town American weekly newspapers that are facing challenges and thriving. They are famous for their headlines, local sports and community interests news, and are so loved by the communities that locals will advertise just to keep the doors open. Egnar is a town that wanted to be called Range, but a nearby town already had that name. Apparently a local rancher experimented with raising emu's, and some got loose in the middle of town.

Colorado Springs may not have an actual spring, but it does have a statue to its founder Gen. William Jackson Palmer. In fact, marks the 140th anniversary of the city's founding. Of course most people do not think of Colorado Springs as a place founded by General Palmer, but the home of the US Air Force Academy and the Air Force's stronghold stronghold.

They take their chili seriously in New Mexico. Actually it' a major cash crop,. Among those in the know, chili peppers from New Mexico are considered the finest in the world. But in recent years, cheaper foreign imports masquerading as authentic New Mexican chile's have been undercutting the market. In response, a new law kicks in next month that makes it illegal to misrepresent chile's.Maybe it will put a chill on the importers.