The Riff - April 2009

Is Reviewing Leaks Immoral?

| Tue Apr. 7, 2009 11:10 AM PDT

Via Variety comes the news that Fox News entertainment columnist Roger Friedman was fired yesterday for reviewing a leaked version of the upcoming X-Men Origins: Wolverine movie (or, as I call it, Double the Wolverine, Double the Hotness) last Thursday. The internet leak drew attention for two reasons; one, because it was so far in advance of the film's anticipated May 1 release date, and two, due to its quality, as it was apparently an early studio cut and not a "hand-held camera in a theater" style copy. Friedman's review has since been removed, but it caused ire among hardcore fans as well as at Wolverine studio 20th Century Fox (a division, like Fox News, of everybody's favorite media conglomerate News Corp.). In far less significant but oddly coincidental news, the morning show at my old alma mater LIVE 105 was fired last week and rumors are flying that it was due to their playing 30 seconds of a track from the upcoming Green Day album. Have media companies reached the breaking point with this gol-durned internet and its leaky tubes?
 

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What's Wrong with Independent Bookstores

| Mon Apr. 6, 2009 9:01 AM PDT

Courtesy of Tim Dickinson

So we recently lost our local bookstore. MoJo really tried to support Stacey's on Market St,* our research team went there before Amazon, we bought lots of gift certificates, we are sad to see them go. Well, mostly. I know this is sacrilege, but I actually thought the store was frustrating and found it a struggle to shop there. And Stacey's isn't the only guilty party. I have seen other indy bookstores follow these troubling trends that lead customers to, gasp, Amazon. I'm not under any illusions that my piddly gripes are why Stacey's closed, or why Cody's did before them (and the list in each city goes on), but they sure didn't help matters.

Lots of floors/sections, not lots of signs
The trend in most independent bookstores seems to be to steer the reader to the customer service kiosk. Which is great, to talk to a live human with knowledge, but not great if they are on the phone, or nowhere to be found, or just plain huffy that they need to tell the hundreth person where to find Atlas Shrugged. People need to be instantly gratified and they don't like to get lost, so make it easy, or at least easier.

I know you know more than I do
So it's shocking and all kinds of wrong that the guy behind the counter at Barnes & Noble has to look up who Toni Morrison is (?!) but lots of bookish folks go the other way at mom-and-pop shops. How can I not know the complete works of Dostoyevsky? Sorry, I am not as smart as you, and sometimes I don't even know the title or the author of the book I am looking for, and certainly not how to find it according to your store's Dewey Decimal code. Cut me some slack, or I might go back to Barnes & Noble where I feel smart.

Can Chris Paul Save New Orleans?

| Sun Apr. 5, 2009 9:14 AM PDT

A remarkable thing has happened in New Orleans and for once an NBA star deserves more praise and worship then he's getting. Let me set the scene: the state of Louisiana now subsidizes its NBA team, the New Orleans Hornets, to prevent them from leaving after Katrina decimated their already weak market. This agreement was reached last season, when it looked as if the Hornets were likely to lose $20 million and would need to search for a new city. Louisiana paid the team $6.5 million, no small amount considering the state budget deficit was $341 million. This year, officials estimated those payments to rise to $7 million, even as the budget deficit balloons to more than $2 billion.

Back to that remarkable thing: this season the Hornets lead the league with a 38.6% increase in attendance and are up to a respectable average of 16,976 fans per game. Against all odds the Hornets will surpass attendance and revenue benchmarks, triggering a clause in their deal with the state so that they no longer receive the state money. That extra $7 million is an unexpected boon and one of the only good pieces of news coming out of Louisiana, where Gov Bobby Jindal has talked about refusing stimulus money while pushing massive cuts for state programs. So why is no one talking about the wonderful Hornets player largely responsible for all of this? Why no buzz about the one-man recession fighting machine? 

Recession Lingo

| Fri Apr. 3, 2009 4:58 PM PDT

When the going gets tough, the tough make up euphemisms to soften the blow.  Here are a few recession-inspired words to add to your Urban Dictionary.

In-sourcing:
when workers float through different departments in lieu of temps.

BBR: buy, burn, and return. Buying DVDs or software from a store, burning them, and then returning them for a refund.

Intaxication: euphoria when receiving a tax refund.

Wii bum: a person who has no Wii of their own, so goes over to others' houses largely to play their Wii for free.
 
Sellsumer: a consumer/entrepreneur who hawks insights and ideas to corporations to help sales.
 
TALF’d: Tricked into believing something big is going to happen when it doesn’t.

Ponzimonium: describes the recent spike in mini-Madoffs.
 
Furcation: an unpaid, forced holiday.
 
Shovel-ready: local infrastructure “ready to go” projects waiting for stimulus money.
 
Duppie: a downwordly-mobile urban professional.
 
Renoviction: when a landlord moves a tenant out during renovations and then jacks up the rent.

Keira Knightley's Domestic Abuse Ad

| Fri Apr. 3, 2009 2:46 PM PDT

Public interest videos are rarely aesthetically appealing, but this one starring Keira Knightly just might buck the trend. Directed by her Atonement and Pride and Prejudice collaborator Joe Wright, the two-minute ad spot for Women's Aid features Knightly as a victim of domestic violence in a smartly shot movie-within-a-movie. You can watch it for yourself above, but suffice to say it's disturbing—and effective. I don't know much about advertising, but when a public interest ad works, it works

Spousal abuse has been especially linked with celebrity recently, so it's nice to see someone lend their time and energy to promote a solution. And the way this has made traffic around the web is testament to the power of a familiar name and some top grade directing. Well done.

Madonna vs. Malawi, Update

| Fri Apr. 3, 2009 12:10 PM PDT

In a surprising turn of events a Malawi court ruled today that Madonna will not be allowed to forgo the residency requirements to adopt Chifundo “Mercy” James. The BBC reported the judge's ruling this afternoon:

"By removing the very safeguard that is supposed to protect our children, the courts by their pronouncements could actually facilitate trafficking of children by some unscrupulous individuals," she said. The judge also noted that Chifundo had been placed in one of Malawi's best orphanages and no longer suffered the severe poverty endured after her mother died in childbirth.

Though Madonna wasn't concerned enough to show up in court for the final ruling, she did release a wonderfully tactful statement: "To deny Chifundo James the opportunity to be adopted by me could expose her to hardship and emotional trauma which is otherwise avoidable." This afternoon the Associated Press reported that Madonna plans to file an appeal with the Malawi supreme court of appeal. If Madonna is so determined to adopt the girl, couldn't she move to Malawi, and raise Mercy and son David Banda in their homeland? Otherwise, there are plenty of places right here in the USA where she could rescue children from povertywithout breaking the law.



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Cop Says Shawn Johnson Stalker Sounded Crazy, but Aren't We All Still a Little Shawn Johnson Crazy?

| Fri Apr. 3, 2009 10:25 AM PDT
Robert O'Ryan, 34, is a little obsessed with Shawn Johnson, the 17-year-old Olympic gymnast from West Des Moines, Iowa. Last week the Florida man was arrested for trying to jump a fence outside Dancing With the Stars and carrying a loaded shotgun in his car. Before he arrived in sunny California, though, he was pulled over in Alabama. The cruiser-cam caught O'Ryan telling the officer he had spoken with Johnson and "I know it sounds a little crazy, but my intuition tells me we're going to have a beautiful relationship."

Nearly a year after the Beijing Olympics, the Des Moines Register still feeds readers the latest Shawn Johnson updates through a Shawn Johnson mini Web portal. Johnson devotees can enter their location on an international fan map, download Shawn desktop wallpaper, and go outside the lines in a Shawn coloring book. On Shawn's personal website, her book, Shawn Johnson: Olympic Champion: Stories Behind the Smile, is now on sale, as is the Peace, Love Shawn Johnson Collection by Adidas. The Shawn Johnson line of jewelery features pendants and diamond necklaces with an Olympic twist. Her face appeared on a box of Cheerios, and she competes, with some success, against the likes of Belinda Carlisle and Lil' Kim on DWTS. Let's cut this stalker some slack! O'Ryan is not alone in his obsession. Though he is probably the best armed.

Another Hostage Situation

| Fri Apr. 3, 2009 9:55 AM PDT

From CNN: Four shot. Forty-one held hostage.

Anyone wanna bet me on the gender of the perp, or the 'perceived' dissing he's seeking to alleviate with this action?

Downsizing Brenda Starr

| Thu Apr. 2, 2009 10:25 PM PDT
The bloodbath in America's newsrooms has come to the funny pages. The latest victim of corporate short-sightedness and the death of print media: Brenda Starr, who in the course of her 69-year news career (take that, Helen Thomas) has become synonymous with hard-hitting reportage from exotic locales such as Kazookistan and a fabulous head of sparkly fire-red hair (nice try, Maureen Dowd). On Tuesday, Starr got furloughed by the publisher and CEO of the financially troubled Flash, Al Neuharth-lookalike B. Babbit Bottomline. It's not clear what Starr's next move will be; in typical cartoon soap opera style, this plot development is taking agonizingly long to unfold. There's been hints that she'll follow in the footsteps of her "scrappy intern" Pug, who headed to India, "where newspapers are still thriving." Or maybe she'll launch an exciting second career on the Internets, perhaps with the tech-savvy former colleague who recently told her to "E-mail me on Facebook!". Stay tuned!

Bruno Trailer Is Here (If You're Over 17)

| Thu Apr. 2, 2009 5:17 PM PDT
I've been covering Sacha Baron Cohen's follow-up to Borat for a while now, from reports that his Austrian fashionista character Bruno was terrorizing midwesterners to unconfirmed but overwhelmingly positive early reviews of the film. But now, via HuffPo, we have something real: the actual, official trailer for the actual, official movie, which you can watch above. Needless to say, it is Not Safe For Work, and you have to enter your age to even make it play—the film was given a preliminary rating of NC-17, because, you know, references to gay sexuality are way worse than elaborate torture. Don't get me started. Anyway, the preview is perhaps even more raucous than one could have imagined, with practically every scene a jaw-dropping, and potentially dangerous, act of queer trickery. I'd say Baron Cohen should get a MacArthur genius grant, but I'm sure he's going to make a zillion dollars anyway. Bruno is out July 10.