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Tag Archives: hollywood

  • ‘Taaaake onnn meee!’ The unkillable, oh-so-profitable afterlife of a-ha’s ’80s classic
    I love this song but I have to admit it is an amazing hook and classic video. But a-ha is also a victim of their own success.

    “What’s more interesting,” Daniel muses, “is the ‘philosophical’ revenue the song has generated. A-ha is still big all over the world. I saw them play an arena in Chile three years ago. If not for that song, they wouldn’t have sold any albums, and there’s no 30 years of touring. That one song has probably generated hundreds of millions of dollars.”

    The winding saga of “Take on Me” illustrates both the randomness of having a hit and the degree to which it requires timing and calculation. “‘Take on Me’ is a proven flop, three times over,” says Harket. “It’s also a proven hit. There’s a lot to learn from that.”

    At the peak of a-ha’s ambivalence toward “Take on Me” (Harket can’t recall precisely when), they stopped playing it live.

  • Masterpiece Theatre
    This is a story about a master forger of famous artists (e.g., Picasso). He’s been caught and has written his own book, so I guess this is an attempt at an unbiased view of his life. It is also an interesting perspective about the value of art and “originals”

    Jansen goes even further: If fakes are as good as the real thing, aren’t they worth celebrating? “When a musician reproduces a sonata of Bach, one applauds him. Me, I reproduce a sonata of Picasso and I am placed under arrest,” he lamented to the CBC in 2008.

  • The Death of Hollywood’s Middle Class
    A look at how the OTT video explosion has affected the people behind the scenes (writers & etc)

    “If I was on a [network show like] Community, I would have been paid as a series regular,” Becker says. “But they didn’t make me a series regular, they made me a recurring guest star and paid me a daily rate. If I’d been number five on an NBC show, I’d be making $30,000 a week, but I was making $980 a week [at Netflix]. By the time you pay out taxes, your manager, agent, and lawyer, I was walking away with like $200.”

  • A history of modern capitalism from the perspective of the straw.
    This article starts off strong linking America’s disposable-first culture with the straw, and explaining how plastic straws came to be. But it kind of tapers off without making a point

    While functionally, paper and plastic straws might have seemed the same, to the keen observer who is the narrator of Nicholson Baker’s dazzling 1988 novel, The Mezzanine, the plastic and paper straw were not interchangeable. Paper did not float. Plastic did: “How could the straw engineers have made so elementary a mistake, designing a straw that weighed less than the sugar-water in which it was intended to stand? Madness!”

    Baker’s narrator wonders why the big fast-food chains like McDonald’s didn’t pressure the straw engineers into fixing this weighting mistake. “[The chains] must have had whole departments dedicated to exacting concessions from Sweetheart and Marcal,” Baker writes.

    But there was a problem: lids, which had come into vogue. Plastic straws could push through the little + slits in the cap. Paper ones could not. The restaurant chains committed fully to plastic straws.

  • Facing unbearable heat, Qatar has begun to air-condition the outdoors
    Trying to air condition the outside sounds stupid, but that’s really what Qatar is trying to do. It’s kind of like putting lights outside at night so you can see where you are going.

    Recently, the luxury French department store Galeries Lafayette opened in a shopping mall that features stylish air-conditioning grates in the broad cobblestone walkways outside. Each of the vents, about 1 by 6 feet, has a decorative design. Many of them hug the outside of buildings, cooling off window shoppers looking at expensive fashions. Though nearly deserted in the heat, by 5 p.m. some people begin to emerge to sit outside places like Cafe Pouchkine.


  • My evil dad: Life as a serial killer’s daughter
    You always hear about serial killers in the news, but you don’t always hear about how their families cope with the fact that their loved one is in fact a serial killer. Here’s the story of a serial killer’s daughter.

    When I was 13, we were driving along the Columbia River, a beautiful wide river that separates Washington State and Oregon. We were just getting close to the Multnomah Falls area when my Dad announced: “I know how to kill someone and get away with it.” Then he just started to tell me how he would cut off the victim’s buttons, so that there wouldn’t be any fingerprints left, and he would wear cycling shoes that didn’t leave a distinctive print in the mud.

    At the time, I put this down to my father’s penchant for detective fiction, but years later I realised we had been driving through the area where he had disposed of Taunja Bennett’s body three years earlier. I think he wanted to relive it and enjoy the moment again. My dad felt compelled to share his crimes, as he did in the messages that he left at truck stops, or sent in letters to the media. They were always signed with a smiley face, leading the media to dub him the “Happy Face Killer”.

  • The Programmer’s Price
    An article about an agency that’s taking a Hollywood approach to programmers by being a programmer’s agent and helping them find work for the best pay possible.

    Solomon leaned back in his chair and flipped through a mental Rolodex of his clients. “I definitely have some ideas,” he said, after a minute. “The first person who comes to mind, he’s also a bioinformatician.” He rattled off a dazzling list of accomplishments: the developer does work for the Scripps Research Institute, in La Jolla, where he is attempting to attack complicated biological problems using crowdsourcing, and had created Twitter tools capable of influencing elections. Solomon thought that he might be interested in AuthorBee’s use of Twitter. “He knows the Twitter A.P.I. in his sleep.”

  • When Mommy and Daddy took the Toys Away
    Kids have a lot of toys today because consumer goods are so cheap. This article talks about a couple of parents who are trying to limit the amount of toys their kids have.

    Moreover, Becker says that the value of minimalism comes with the lifelong lessons they are able to teach through it. When his children become envious of another child who has a lot of toys, Becker and his wife try to help them “deal with that emotion as opposed to thinking that they’ll overcome it by getting more stuff.”

    “We don’t overcome envy in our lives by getting what another person has,” Becker says. “We overcome envy by being content with what we have and being grateful for what we have.”

  • The Cutthroat world of Elite Public Schools
    I think its a good idea but meritocratic public schools are coming under fire because poorer candidates are not being admitted as much as they should be (one reaspn being that you actually need to put in effort to apply)

    “The idea was that, if you wanted to provide an excellent, gifted, and talented education for public school students, one could do a better job of that if in large cities there were specialized schools that would bring academically talented students together,” said Kahlenberg, who opposes test-only admissions policies such as those in New York City. Secondly, selective-enrollment schools “are very sought after by upper-middle class people who might not consider using public schools if it weren’t for the selective-enrollment institutions. Essentially, it’s a way of ensuring greater participation from wealthier families who might otherwise move to the suburbs.”

  • The secret Hollywood procedure that has fooled us for years
    We know all about photoshopping magazine covers and so enhancing celebrities in movies is not a stretch. But this article has some juicy gossip about who might have had it done.

    A recent comedy hit featured a top actress in her 40s who required beauty work on every single shot she was in — some 600 total. With artists working around the clock, seven days a week, the beauty work alone took close to three months.

    The payoff? Nearly everything written about the film remarked at how fit and young the actress looked. No one suspected it was anything but good genes and clean livin’.


  • How One Response to a Reddit Query Became a Big-Budget Flick
    I remember reading the original thread on Reddit about this, and this Wired article elaborates how the guy who posted on the thread is now a Hollywood script writer.

    It took him just 10 minutes to write 350 words about the marines’ first day in ancient Rome. He clicked save. A few moments later, he refreshed his browser and saw that he had gotten a couple of upvotes. Then he thought about what to write next.

    Erwin needed to invent a good reason for the two armies to fight. Unsurprisingly, he happened to have read a lot of Roman history, and he knew that around 23 BC, some senators had attempted a coup on emperor Augustus. What if, just as the senators were plotting, a small army appeared out of nowhere “with a vast array of what appears to be bizarre siege machinery”?

  • Is Facebook Making Us Lonely?
    The Atlantic argues that advancing technology keeps us more connected (not just now, but also telephones), but we become more lonely because the quality of the contact is poorer.

    If you use Facebook to communicate directly with other individuals—by using the “like” button, commenting on friends’ posts, and so on—it can increase your social capital. Personalized messages, or what Burke calls “composed communication,” are more satisfying than “one-click communication”—the lazy click of a like. “People who received composed communication became less lonely, while people who received one-click communication experienced no change in loneliness,” Burke tells me. So, you should inform your friend in writing how charming her son looks with Harry Potter cake smeared all over his face, and how interesting her sepia-toned photograph of that tree-framed bit of skyline is, and how cool it is that she’s at whatever concert she happens to be at. That’s what we all want to hear. Even better than sending a private Facebook message is the semi-public conversation, the kind of back-and-forth in which you half ignore the other people who may be listening in. “People whose friends write to them semi-publicly on Facebook experience decreases in loneliness,” Burke says.

  • Leading Mannequins
    All the red carpet shows where the hosts talk about a celebrity’s dashing dress or stunning suit is, like most of Hollywood, manufactured. The celebrity has a publicist who contracts stylists who run around town to various high end designers and picks out the clothing for them. So if you’re on a best-dressed list, then your stylist sucks!

    Most of Ilaria’s business comes not from single clients but from studios, where the pay rate is much higher—$10,000 or $20,000 for a press tour, say. In the case of a press tour, Ilaria will pack individual outfits together, mark each one for its event (“Letterman Appearance”), and include detailed instructions for her client to execute. (“Tuck the shirt and roll the sleeves.”) Socks are included; everything is labeled. It’s like a mother packing her kid’s duffel for summer camp with his name sewn in all the underwear.

  • American Mozart
    For a feature on Kanye West, I was hoping for a in-depth look at why he is so off-the-wall, unfortunately, this article goes more into how his tour with Jay-Z drifts away from his awkward presence, and shows him becoming more like a conventional performing artist.
  • How tiny Estonia stepped out of USSR’s shadow to become an internet titan
    I didn’t notice how connected Estonia was in my day trip there last summer; that’s too bad – I would have been able to check-in on foursquare more often! In any case, I’d love to live in a society like this.

    By 1997, thanks to a campaign led in part by Ilves, a staggering 97% of Estonian schools already had internet. Now 42 Estonian services are now managed mainly through the internet. Last year, 94% of tax returns were made online, usually within five minutes. You can vote on your laptop (at the last election, Ilves did it from Macedonia) and sign legal documents on a smartphone. Cabinet meetings have been paperless since 2000.

    Doctors only issue prescriptions electronically, while in the main cities you can pay by text for bus tickets, parking, and – in some cases – a pint of beer. Not bad for country where, two decades ago, half the population had no phone line.


Someone has probably thought about this before, but now that there is a black president, how will Hollywood portray a futuristic society? What minority group will get to have a president?


The next park on our theme park tour was Universal Studios. I wasn’t entirely enthusiastic about this one, and could have passed on it. But we went and it was entertaining. We arrived relatively early (everyone was still passed out on eggnog apparently), and went on the Revenge of the Mummy ride, the special effects and Backdraft stages. The special effects show talked a bit about green screens, and how sound is added to movies. Backdraft had some talking and then they burned stuff. The Revenge of the Mummy ride was surprisingly short, wikipedia says 2 minutes, but it had a what-it’s-over-already?? feeling.

After some lunch, we lined up for the Simpson ride. This was the worst wait of our entire trip; it was quoted at an hour but when we were halfway through the line, they started operating at limited capacity. It took us about 2 hours to get through the line, but the ride was pretty good. It’s a motion-simulated ride, but each motion simulator only had 8 people in it; and the screen was like a planetarium screen.

After that, we went to watch the Universal Animal Actor’s show, which was a bit disappointing since it was short. Plus I couldn’t tell whether the animals were screwing up, or whether they were gags inserted into the show. We tried to go on Shrek 4D but the line wasn’t worth it, and went past Grinchmas to see people play in the snow. By then, the park was really packed so we went on the Studio Tour to finish off our day.

The studio tour is both interesting and not. It’s interesting to see movie props and sets, but you’re just seeing environments (and a couple of cars) from a tram. It’s not like you get to really see how movies or TV shows are made. Interspersed in the tour are several “events” such as a bridge collapsing or a flood but I think they would only impress fool little kids.

The Studio Tour was the most interesting part of the visit, but not worth the price of admission. Unless you like the rides. Maybe I’m just getting old.


The Writers Guild of America strike has been going on since October, which is an incredibly long time for one of America’s favorite past times, but aside from the the recent news of the Golden Globes’ cancellation (due to the Screen Actor Guild’s support of the writers — not the actual strike), there hasn’t been a lot of movement. And even that was just duly reported.

I am shocked at the ambivalent attitude to this strike. I’m not significantly affected because the sci-fi shows that I follow started and finished their seasons early, while the only mainstream shows I watch are Smallville and Pushing Daisies. I’m thankful that there is a writers strike so I don’t have to watch any more Smallville stupidity. I am intrigued, however, as to why the American public haven’t caused a ruckus about losing one of their national past times. The closest comparison would be when Baseball went on strike, but even then you could watch other sports.

I wonder what people are doing instead? Is the DVD industry sky rocketing? Or are people reading books now? Maybe people are going outside and socializing!