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Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Hemingway's boyhood home hits the market in Oak Park

Converted three-flat has drawn widespread interest from buyers, media

The Ernest Hemingway Boyhood Home in Oak Park has been up for sale for just a week, but has already drawn international interest from buyers and the media alike.

The nonprofit Ernest Hemingway Foundation of Oak Park first bought the three-flat, 600 N. Kenilworth Ave., in 2002. They had hopes of selling it to Dominican University and continuing its public use, but the partnership came apart last year, as fundraising lagged in a tough economy.

The home officially went up for sale last week with a price tag of $525,000, about $5,000 more than the foundation spent to buy it. Steve Scheuring, a Realtor with Baird & Warner, has already received about 30 inquiries about the property, some from as far as Japan.

"For some people, when it comes to Ernest Hemingway, this is the chance of a lifetime, if you have the means," Scheuring said.
Word of the boyhood home's availability — Hemingway lived there from age 7 to 17 — spread like wildfire last week, with dozens of publications covering the story. John Berry, chairman of the foundation's board, said a friend read about the offering in Turkey.

"It went viral really fast," Berry said. "It never ceases to amaze me how Hemingway stories just explode."
Last year was a notable one for the famous writer, he added, including being featured as a character in the Oscar-winning film Midnight in Paris. Now there is another film in the works, Hemingway & Gellhorn, starring Clive Owen as the scribe.

In the late 1950s, the boyhood home's previous owner converted its 4,200 square feet of space into a three-flat, which is now completely occupied. Scheuring said that many buyers have expressed interest in converting the residence back to a single-family home.

Hemingway's family first moved there in 1906, and his mother, Grace, was the last to vacate it in 1936. Hemingway left the home after high school to briefly take a post at The Kansas City Star before departing for Italy to drive an ambulance for the Red Cross during World War I.

The foundation bought the boyhood home by way of a $100,000 grant from the Village of Oak Park and a $420,000 loan from Park National Bank. Berry said they had hoped that the mortgage would eventually be forgiven, but that notion went kaput after the local bank was seized by the feds in late 2009. The loan was set to mature in June, but they've been able to extend it until they find a buyer.

Berry said the foundation isn't trying to dictate what the next owner does with the home, but he hopes someone emerges who'll respect the history and let the nonprofit use it once in a while for functions.
"We're still looking for that angel buyer, and we'll continue to do that," he said.

Auditioning in an RTW State: Another reason for Merger

I looked around the waiting room of a SAG commercial casting the other day and, once again, found myself surrounded by non-union actors. Florida is a Right-to-Work (for less) state. One of many. We are outnumbered by at least 4 to 1 by a very savvy and talented pool of non-union actors who know that they can work our contracts, take up valuable staff time and resources, and make their bones without ever having to join. Then, I go to the various websites, blogs, and Facebook groups - like this one - and see union MEMBERS attacking each other like we're mortal enemies. Then, in my mind, I can see the dozen or so non-union actors smirking at me as they take our jobs. I voted YES to put an end to a war that, if lost, will leave SAG and AFTRA with nothing but sticks and stones to fight with. (Nod to Einstein) I've watched any semblance of civility leave the room in these groups, and it sickens me quite frankly. Argh, I'm rambling now, but God, how I'd like the chance to go about the business of organizing. That can only happen if we become ONE.

Actor Musician Steven Van Zandt on the state of television

Actor Steven Van Zandt attends the North American Premiere Of 'Lilyhammer', a Netflix Original Series debuting on Netflix in the US, Canada and Latin America on February 6, 2012.
Bob Moon: Have you been watching the new series, "Lilyhammer"? It stars Steven Van Zandt as a gangster who turns on the mob and gets relocated to Norway by the FBI. If you haven't been watching, you still can -- anytime you want. The eight-show series is part of the new original programming streaming on Netflix.
Steven Van Zandt joins us now. Thanks for talking to us.
Steven Van Zandt: My pleasure, Bob.
Moon: You famously starred in "The Sopranos." Did you ever expect to come back, star in -- and now executive produce -- another show like this?
Van Zandt: You never know in this world. You learn to expect the unexpected. You got to be flexible enough to say, "You know what? I wasn't planning on playing a gangster again -- not this soon -- but this is just too good an idea."
Moon: And this is a new concept that Netflix threw at you -- an original series, launching all at once online, so you can stream it whenever you're ready to watch. How's it doing so far?
Van Zandt: Well, it's doing remarkably well. And it was just very impressive to me that they would choose this as their first original programming -- to pick this quirky show with subtitles. It bodes well for this conversation constantly about globalization and the global marketplace. In a few years, companies like Netflix will be one-stop shopping for the world, perhaps.
Moon: I read one account that suggested you weren't convinced it was wise to put all the episodes up for streaming all at once. What was some of the debate around that?
Van Zandt: Well, I'm an old-school guy, you know -- so I'm a little bit, my natural inclination is to question new stuff. Just how it is. In the old days, you get a cumulative word of mouth. But the head of content over there very accurately pointed out: you know what? It's just like releasing an album. Which I hadn't really thought of, but of course it is a very accurate analogy. What's nice also is you're getting away from the panic of the opening weekend thing, which is so prevalent in the movie business and even the music business to some extent now.
Moon: So is this, as they say, the future of television -- or more to the point, is this going to be destroying traditional TV as we know it?
Van Zandt: Well, I wouldn't use the word "destroying" as much as just an evolution of it. I started asking to people: you know, what are their viewing habits these days -- because I don't really watch TV to tell you the truth -- and turns out, most of the young people in my office watch shows that way. And so this is actually happening. I think Netflix is just a little bit ahead of everybody else in picking up on what the actual viewing habits seem to be.
Moon: Steven Van Zandt, thanks for talking to us and good luck with this.
Van Zandt: Thank you very much, Bob -- really, good talking to you.

Wages falling for young, educated adults

College students watch the jumbrotron during a basketball game in College Park, Md. Can young adults still look forward to the American Dream even as real wages keep falling?
Bob Moon: Young Americans: you're underpaid. So concludes a new study from the left-leaning Economic Policy Institute. For men and women between 23 and 29, the average income dropped between 7 and 11 percent in the past decade.
The head of EPI, Lawrence Mishel, joins us now. Welcome.
Lawrence Mishel: Thanks for having me.
Moon: Why is the income level going down for young people?
Mishel: Well, wages have had a very disappointing growth over the last ten years. And when wages are performing poorly, young workers really get it on the chin. People coming out of school -- either high school graduates or college graduates -- are earning less than their older brothers, sisters, cousins, did when they graduated a few years prior.
Moon: And can this come back?
Mishel: For high school graduates, the entry-level wages have been dropping for a very long time; and for young men, are now 25 percent what they were back in the late 1970s. For college graduates, they have done poorly over the last ten years, and I suspect they won't improve a great deal.
Moon: What does this mean for the economic future of the country? Is the American Dream just that -- a dream?
Mishel: What it means is that workers of every education level are not doing well, and their wages and full compensation with benefits is not keeping up with the overall growth of productivity. And that doesn't augur well for the economy, because we increased our consumption in the past based on the housing bubble, the stock bubble, and people going into debt.
We haven't been able to do that recently; we're not going to do that in the future. So we really have to have a wage regime where people are seeing their real wages improve if we're going to have a growing robust economy.
Moon: Lawrence Mishel, at the Economic Policy Institute. Thanks for your insights.
Mishel: Thank you.


Post PC

Post PC is a term used by Apple's CEO to describe the new generation of communication and computing devices by Apple, and including Google and other companies, that do not rely on the Microsoft personal computer MS DOS / Windows operating system. Even Windows 8 will seem more like a post-PC operating system. More than 70% of retail computing sales are now "post PC", representing the largest percentage of non-television consumer electronics profits.

Apple unveils new iPad with sharper screen, faster speeds, and new iTV

Apple's new iPad model features a sharper screen and a faster processor, the company confirmed this morning.

Apple said the new display will be sharper than the high-definition television set in the living room. The company says it will show more saturated colors than previous models.

The company said the iPad is powered by a new chip with four processing cores, for smoother graphics.

At the launch event in San Francisco, Apple Inc. CEO Tim Cook said, "We are taking it to a whole new level and are redefining the category that Apple created with the original iPad."

Earlier, Cook spoke of a "post-PC" era dominated by the iPad and other Apple products.
Prices aren't changing from the previous models. They will start at $499. Versions capable of accessing cellular networks will cost $629 to $829.

The new iPads will also function as Ai-Fi portable hubs, where cellular carriers allow for such service.

The new iPad model will go on sale March 16 in the U.S.

The Apple store is off line this morning to prepare for the new products launched today.

Compared to the iPad 2, the new model features a higher-resolution camera on the back, comparable to the one in the iPhone 4S.

Apple also confirmed that the new model will come in a version that can use Verizon Wireless' and AT&T Inc.'s "LTE" wireless broadband networks. The offer speeds that are faster than the "3G" networks used by previous iPads, and current iPhones. It will also work with Sprint on the prior to LTE system standard.

 Apple also said it would start letting users store movies in its iCloud remote storage service, so they can be accessed through the Internet by PCs and Apple devices. Movies of all formats will be allowed for conversion to the iCloud standard at no cost, regardless of where they were purchased.  Apple already lets users store photos, music and documents in the service.

Apple is also upgrading its Apple TV set-top box so it can play movies in 1080p, the highest-resolution commonly used video standard. The new Apple TV, priced at $99, will be able to show video direct from your phones, iPads and computers and be compatable with any service selling 1080i or 1080p videos, not just Apple.

Fun side here for "the evolution of the Apple Logo".

Income down but college degrees up.

Income for young workers dropped 11 to 27% over the past ten years. The recession is directly responsible for most, but not all of the decrease. College graduates income has also dropped, regardless o age. Wage, benefits are not keeping up with the overall growth of productivity and are well below the growth of the stock market, according to the Economic Policy institute. Real wages (adjusted for inflation) have been going down since the recession of 1977.

Yet the US has reached another milestone...40% of Americans now have college degrees, up from less than a quarter in 1998.

Is a college degree the new equivalent of a high school diploma with trade training, or does this increase message tell more about America and our future?

More from Marketplace Money. Click here for the rest of the story.

Who will pay for emergency room visits?

As states and the federal government look for ways to trim budgets, Medicaid appears on the chopping block. And Washington state is scheduled to cut payments for some procedures, such as pregnancy tests and non-life threatening emergency room visits.Washington state has cut the list of what medicaid is allowed to bill for. "Frequent fliers" are those who use the ER for general care or small emergencies such as minor injuries, that may not be diagosed until after a doctor sees you and you have a required X-Ray or other test. That will put the state's hospitals in the hard position of losing money on people who rely on them for medical service. The law says they cannot turn anyone away. Many low income residents do not have primary care physicians and still others live no where near a 24 hour doctor or care facility.

Washington State will limit Medicaid procedures

Plum for wealthy media. Mad Men Madcaps. If the show fits. Terra Nova changes how producers look at TV. Apple TV. Networks floundering with audience pleasers.

Plum TV has been sold

Plum TV, network for the rich and powerful, has new owners. Plum TV, the tiny cable network that is distributed primarily in the backyards of the rich and powerful but has struggled to make money for itself, has new owners. 

Veteran television executives Joseph Varet and Morgan Hertzan have acquired Plum TV out of bankruptcy for $1.17 million.

Although Plum is only in five million homes, it is well known among the elite. It is distributed in the Hamptons, Martha's Vineyard, Aspen, Sun Valley and Miami and focuses on the culture of those in the summer-home-and-private-jet set.

Varet and Hertzan, who co-founded LXTV, a producer of lifestyle entertainment content that is now owned by NBCUniversal, said they didn't want to limit their channel to only the one-percenters. Their plan is to broaden the channel's programming to include the wealthy along with the super rich.

“Plum offers a great opportunity to build an international lifestyle multimedia business and will provide platforms where advertisers can reach the most desirable demographic in an environment that reflects the quality and excellence of their brands," Hertzan said in a statement.

In an interview, Hertzan and Varet said they wanted the channel to be a television version of upscale magazines such as Architectural Digest, Conde Nast Traveler and Vanity Fair.

"All these magazines are talking to a consumer with disposable income that wants to make educated purchase decisions," Morgan said.

The network may have difficulty getting its distribution to a level where it can compete with other channels. Typically, a cable network needs to reach more than 30 million homes before national advertisers will even consider kicking the tires.

As part of its efforts to build Plum, the network will open an office in Los Angeles and build ties to the creative community here. Creative Artists Agency, which advised Varet and Hertzan on the deal, is also going to consult for Plum moving forward.

The Skinny: My landlord put in very bright lights outside my door and driveway. Now it looks like daylight in the middle of the night. I feel like I live in Alaska. Wednesday's headlines include a look at Hollywood's favorite shoe store, Netflix's plans to go cable and a profile of "Mad Men" creator Matt Weiner just in time for the show's new season.

Mad Men returns in a few weeks
 Photo: John Hamm as Don Draper in "Mad Men." Credit: AMC 

Hype machine hits full speed. At the end of the month, AMC's critical darling, "Mad Men," returns and the promotion machine is going full blast. The show, not even the most popular on AMC ("The Walking Dead" gets that honor), is starting to rank up there with HBO's "The Sopranos" in terms of critical obsession. Everything from how Don Draper holds his cup of coffee to whether Peggy's hair is up or down gets scrutinized. Personally, I enjoy the show but not all the hoopla around it. But for those of you who can't get enough, here's a lengthy profile on "Mad Men" creator Matt Weiner from the New York Times.

Daily Dose: Now that Fox has pulled the plug on "Terra Nova," speculation will start on what other big bets for the 2011-12 TV season won't make it to 2013. ABC's "Pan Am" already has pretty much been grounded. Its midseason show "The River" did not open like gangbusters. At CBS, the drama "A Gifted Man" is going to have to beat the odds to return for Year 2. At NBC, the news magazine "Rock Center" is likely to be on the bubble. "Smash" is not a huge hit, but its numbers have picked up in the last two weeks, so don't be surprised if it somehow survives.

Photo: Pandora co-founder Tim Westergren. Credit: Ryan Anson / Bloomberg 

If the shoe fits. When Hollywood needs a special pair of shoes it turns to  Willie’s Shoe Service, an industry institution that has been making custom footwear since the 1950s. Among the current TV shows that have gone to Willie's are “Mad Men,” “Modern Family” and “Glee." Willie's is also working on the shoes for Steven Spielberg's upcoming "Lincoln." The Los Angeles Times looks at Willie's and its owner, Raul Ojeda.

Keep your enemies closer. Remember when Netflix was the big threat to the cable industry?  Well, now the entertainment streaming service wants to be BFFs with cable operators. According to Reuters, Netflix -- which is now starting to offer original content along with the movies and TV shows it buys -- wants to be distributed by cable operators as a video-on-demand option. One challenge for Netflix, Reuters notes, is that the bulk of its current programming deals would likely have to be renegotiated to give the streaming company rights to offer itself via cable.

Crowded playing field. It looks like Amazon will be joining Hulu, Netflix and YouTube in the original programming game. According to Fortune, Amazon has tapped an executive to oversee original production for Amazon, which already has a digital service and the Kindle to offer content. My question is whether the economics are there to support all this original content. Meanwhile, the Los Angeles Times reports that Google is creating its own entertainment hub called "Google Play," which is basically an attempt by the search engine giant to build its own iTunes.

Movies in the Clouds. Apple has announced it will now allow storage of movies in its iCloud feature. The films need not be purchased from Apple, although Apple is actively pursuing product to sell and is rumored to be constructing its own networks of streaming video. Also unveiled is the faster, higher definition iPad and  a high definition verision of the small iTV "set-top" box.

Too nice? One of the guilty pleasures of watching "American Idol" was seeing Simon Cowell tear down some cocky kid who thought she was the second coming of Etta James. Now though, Fox's "American Idol" and NBC's "The Voice" seem to find ways to accentuate the positive about even the most unpromising talent. USA Today critic Robert Bianco on how both shows are failing with the killing-them-with-kindness approach.
Tim Westergren


Pandora co-founder Tim Westergren. Credit: Ryan Anson / Bloomberg 

Pandora stock drops 19% on rising loss, falling revenue estimate

Investors slammed Pandora Media Inc. and shares dropped 19% Tuesday after the Oakland online radio company reported a higher-than-expected loss and projected that its current quarter revenue would decline.

Pandora's shares plunged Tuesday, retreating as much as $2.73 to $11.54 in after-hours trading following the company's announcement of its financial performance. It had closed earlier at $14.27, down 39 cents.

Although its fourth-quarter revenue grew 71% to $81.3 million from $47.6 million a year earlier, Pandora's losses widened to $8.2 million, from a $1.4 million loss in the year-earlier period. Pandora also projected that its sales in the current first quarter would be between $72 million and $75 million, dropping by as much as 11% from the previous quarter.

Pandora receives close to 90% of its revenue from advertising, with the remainder coming from subscribers who pay $36 a year for the ad-free premium service.

"Everyone is asking: Why is revenue so low? Why are they losing so much money?" said Michael Pachter, a media analyst with Wedbush Securities. "The answer is that they weren’t focused on selling ads."

Instead, Pandora concentrated its energies persuading car manufacturers to build its Internet music streaming service technologies directly into the dashboards of new cars, Pachter said.

Believing that the way to grow is to capture listeners while they are in their cars, Pandora has worked closely with companies such as Ford, Toyota, Mercedes-Benz and others to design its service into new vehicles. But car manufacturing cycles take years, and Pandora's efforts today may not bear fruit quickly enough for impatient investors on Wall Street.

The stock debuted on June 15 at $16 a share, but sank to $13.26 the following day.

Inside the Los Angeles Times: An appreciation of Mary Poppins songwriter Robert Sherman, who died at the age of 86. Some more thoughts on the demise of "Terra Nova."

-- Joe Flint

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