Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Plato's Musical Code?

The links between geometry and ethics and Plato are clear. Aristotle, Plato's prodigy, believed that a formula for virtue could be found in a Golden Mean ratio. But what about music, which is not entirely unrelated to geometry, in ancient Greek philosophy? The following is so beautiful that it has to be true (and Plato, obviously, would appreciate that linkage between the beautiful and the true). From The Telegraph:

Researchers claimed they cracked “The Plato Code”, the long disputed secret messages hidden in some of Ancient World’s most influential and celebrated writings.

Dr Jay Kennedy, an historian and philosopher of science at the University of Manchester, found Plato used a regular pattern of symbols to give his writing a "musical" structure.

... Researchers claimed they cracked “The Plato Code”, the long disputed secret messages hidden in some of Ancient World’s most influential and celebrated writings.

Dr Jay Kennedy, an historian and philosopher of science at the University of Manchester, found Plato used a regular pattern of symbols to give his writing a "musical" structure.

“Plato's books played a major role in founding Western culture but they are mysterious and end in riddles," he said.

"In antiquity, many of his followers said the books contained hidden layers of meaning and secret codes but this was rejected by modern scholars.

“It is a long and exciting story, but basically I cracked the code. I have shown rigorously that the books do contain codes and symbols and that unravelling them reveals the hidden philosophy of Plato.”

My question is: Hasn't Apeiron -- the classics journal in which this study is published -- learned nothing from Rolling Stone gate? Why isn't this article online? Leave it to a philosopher to not think about capitalizing on his ideas while in the world of thought.

I have always found Plato's Republic to be a darkly beautiful book that one has to return to at various stages in one's life. It is impossible to digest that Plato was trying to say at first read in one sitting. It is not inconceivable that having ones heart broken, having children, enduring old age are all existential experiences that deepen ones understanding and appreciation of Plato's wine-dark philosophy suffused with geometry and meauty.
Obama and Petraeus

Obama's replacement of McChrystal with Petraeus is in a sense a thankless task. Though General Petraeus is the neoconservative Patton, iconic, that crowd will never thank the President for this favorable command change. Ideological shitheads like Monica Crowley are reflexively predisposed to attack Obama, no matter what he does.

Those rhetorical gymnastics notwithstanding, President Obama now out-neocons even Bush the Younger's neoconservatism in his Afghanistan policy. And even though Obama had many 3 or 4 star generals to choose from Petraeus -- allegedly -- wasn't on SecDef Gates' short list.

Obama, an ardent admirer of Lincoln, truly believes in the continuity of Presidents. That is why, after an agonizing 10-month Afghanistan policy review, Obama gave a half-hearted endorsement to a surge at West Point, continuing the policies put in place by his predecessor, the reviled George Bush. His only concession to the people that brought him to the dance was a nebulous exit strategy (18 months, maybe). It was against everything that his base -- the people who got him elected -- believed. But Obama's loyalty to the brotherhood (alas, no sisters as of yet) of Presidents was stronger. Continuity must be preserved.

In that sense Barack "No Drama" Obama is, temperamentally at least, profoundly conservative. One need look no further than his natural trust (Obama is a true believer) in the American establishment in the form of the Clinton economic team and BP in the early days to confirm that diagnosis.

And so, Obama entrusts his legacy to Petraeus. Will he be Obama's McClellan? Probably not -- although that would be historically-symmetrically poetic -- but one thing is for sure: Petraeus will have tremendous power. More power, perhaps, than the President might be comfortable with. For now, though, they are stuck with one another.
Wavves 1, Observer, 0

Funny. From The Observer via TheAwl:

"Wavves played a show with The-Dream last night. That's the lede here. Forget the weird games the pop punk star might be playing with his audience, forget the myth he's building as he stages his triumphant early career comeback, forget whether the production on his new album means he can't call himself lo-fi anymore. He played a show with The-Dream! The guy who wrote 'Single Ladies' and 'Umbrella'! Wavves, whose real name is Nathan Williams, had to have been stoked about this. Actually, we know he was: The 23-year-old king of small-scale DIY music tweeted yesterday afternoon that 'special, special shit' was going to happen at the Fader party that evening ... The chatty drummer, Billy Hayes, was a lot quieter than he was on Thursday, but he did manage to squeeze in a few zingers: 'This next one's a thong-ripper,' he said at one point, and then had to repeat it three more times before Mr. Williams understood what he was saying. Mr. Hayes also said, 'Let's play the stupid one about being fat and ugly,' a reference to the Observer story that went up the other day about Wavves' marketing strategy and their hostile stance toward the cosmopolitan journalists who write about their music. 'Fat and ugly' in particular was a call-back to a remark Mr. Hayes made from the stage on Thursday, when he sarcastically lamented, in the general direction of the hipsters in the crowd, 'I wish I was skinny and cool.'"
Media-Whore D'Oeuvres

"Jalaluddin Haqqani, the founder of the Haqqani group, established contact with Arab fighters very early in the anti-Soviet war. In 1981, American journalist Jere Van Dyk traveled with Haqqani in Afghanistan and was confronted by a fundamentalist Egyptian named Rashid Rochman. Although Rochman was generally disliked by Jalaluddin's men, who were turned off by his extremism, the mujahideen leader favored the man. Rochman gleefully questioned Van Dyk about the recent assassination of Egyptian President Anwar Sadat, an attack that landed future al-Qaeda second-in-command Ayman al-Zawahiri in an Egyptian prison. It seems likely that Jalaluddin understood that relationships with Arabs such as Rochman could be a fundraising boon for his movement. Jalaluddin still maintains ties through marriage to the Persian Gulf, and much of the Haqqani Network's funding comes through such relationships. In addition, the movement maintains ties to al-Qaeda and the Uzbek Islamic Jihad Union, and has used its leverage with other militants to protect foreign fighters. Osama bin Laden built a relationship with the Haqqanis in the mid-1980s when he spent months along the front lines with Jalaluddin." (ForeignPolicy)

"A war crimes court has ruled that model Naomi Campbell can be called to testify in a case against former Liberian President Charles Taylor. Prosecutors for the UN-backed court for Sierra Leone say she was given a 'blood diamond' by Mr Taylor in 1997 at Nelson Mandela's house in South Africa. Mr Taylor is accused of using such diamonds to fuel an insurgency in Sierra Leone that cost many lives. Ms Campbell had previously refused to provide testimony to prosecutors." (BBC)

"In what would be his last interview, Dennis Hopper tells Vaniy Fair contributing editor Bob Colacello that his greatest career achievement was Easy Rider. 'Easy Rider and The Last Movie were the only films that I made totally on my own,' he says. When asked if he had to make Easy Rider again whether he would make it differently, Hopper replies, 'Would I make it now? It was about then. And I think a filmmaker’s responsibility is to show his time. Brueghel, I think, was the first artist to show his time.' Hopper says his greatest achievement as an actor was 'Blue Velvet, probably. But I’ve been in such incredible movies. I think at one point I’d been in the five most expensive movies ever made—not that I had large parts in them. Apocalypse Now was one.'" (VanityFair)

"Former president Bill Clinton stepped up the pace of his paid speaking engagements in 2009, bringing his total haul from these speeches to $65 million since leaving office in 2001. According to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s annual financial disclosure report released Monday, the former president earned $7.5 million from 36 paid speeches last year, up from the $5.7 million he earned for 25 speeches in 2008. Almost half of his speech earnings last year, $3.2 million, came from 13 speeches delivered in nine other countries, ranging in distance from Canada and Mexico to Turkey, Slovenia, and the United Arab Emirates. The remainder was earned in 23 speeches delivered in seven states and the District of Columbia. Almost two-thirds of President Clinton’s earnings from 365 paid speaking engagements since leaving the White House have come from overseas." (RolandMartin)

"Playboy Enterprises said it is cutting staff in an effort to save more than $3 million annually as it transitions from a media company into one that primarily licenses the Playboy brand. The company declined to say on Tuesday how many employees are affected by the move. At the end of March, Playboy employed 573 people in its Los Angeles and Chicago offices, down from 651 a year ago. In December, Playboy was in talks to sell itself to the Iconix Brand Group, a company that licenses clothing brands such as Joe Boxer, but no deal was reached. Playboy Chief Executive Scott Flanders said in a statement the company is 'aggressively looking' for ways to streamline the organization." (Reuters)

"Elizabeth Vargas hosted a 'Good Morning America' discussion yesterday about Michael Douglas's battle with ex-wife Diandra over his 'Wall Street 2: Money Never Sleeps' cash -- but failed to mention she dated Douglas before his divorce with Diandra was finalized. Before interviewing two lawyers, a serious-faced Vargas said: 'A lot of people were surprised that 10 years after collecting in one of the most expensive divorces in history, taking $45 million home, that an ex-wife can come back and say: 'I get to have more.'' An ABC rep admitted last night, 'It was a mistake. It should have been disclosed [to viewers]. Elizabeth did tell her executive producer she had dated Michael, but he made the decision she should host the segment. George [Stephanopoulos] should have done it.' The rep added, 'But she did a fair and unbiased job.' A source close to Diandra said, 'Elizabeth was involved with Michael before the ink was dry in the divorce -- how can she not be biased?'" (PageSix)

"Finally the NBA and NHL playoffs are over, and we can get a sense of how the networks' real summer schedules are performing. The early verdict: Fox is doing just a bit better than everyone else. The network eased ahead of ABC and NBC for a victory in the first sports-free week of the summer, averaging a 1.7 adults 18-49 rating and 6 share, according to Nielsen, to ABC and NBC's 1.5/5 apiece. Perhaps Fox's biggest advantage is not the hot shows it has, 'Hell's Kitchen' or 'So You Think You Can Dance,' though both rank among the highest-rated original shows this season, but what it does not have. That's the seven additional hours on the schedule filled with reruns that are hobbling ABC, CBS and NBC and dragging down ratings." (Medialifemagazine)

"During his two seasons as a talk show host, Henry Rollins interviewed over 40 celebrities. But few left Rollins speechless like Kiss bassist Gene Simmons. 'I got a lot of letters about that one,' Rollins tells Spinner. '[They asked], 'Why didn't you give him s---?' During the interview, Simmons was characteristically arrogant, bragging about his wealth and sex life, saying things like, 'I'm delusionally in love with myself," 'I'm fascinating' and 'I get paid hideously well.' At one point, an exasperated Rollins could only respond with an awkward, 'Nice' ...'The high points were Gore Vidal and Larry Flynt and Werner Herzog,' Rollins says. 'Herzog was just a thrill to meet. Oliver Stone is always interesting -- he just thinks differently. Samuel L. Jackson was very interesting because we stayed off the topic of acting and got into topics around the civil rights movement, which he was involved in.' But Simmons made Rollins noticeably uncomfortable. Still, Rollins says he wasn't surprised by Simmons' demeanor. 'I've known Gene for a long time,' Rollins says. 'That's just Gene doing his thing. Gene has found the two things in life he loves -- money and Gene Simmons.'" (Spinner)

(Jackie Weld Drake with Paul and Daisy Soros via NYSD)

"Meanwhile, as the sun was setting, it turned into a beautiful summer night in New York. Over at Damrosch Park on West 62nd Street, next to the Metropolitan Opera House at Lincoln Center, they were celebrating the opening night of 'Midsummer Night Swing' featuring the 'Battle of the Bands' – New York’s George Gee Swing Orchestra vs. Los Angeles’ Bill Elliott Swing Orchestra ...The MSNS is made possible in part by grants from Daisy and Paul Soros and the Charina Endowment Fund. The evening got underway about 6. There must have been more than a thousand congregating. The bands started playing at 7:30 and it was joyous pandemonium thereafter. At about 8 o’clock, Mr. and Mrs. Soros also had a 'picnic' buffet seated dinner in a nearby tent within view of the dance floor, for about a hundred of their nearest and dearest." (NYSocialDiary)

"With Jeffrey Deitch now the head of MOCA in Los Angeles, former Deitch Projects directors Kathy Grayson and Meghan Coleman have opened their own gallery. Appropriately named The Hole, this temporary space opened its doors for the first time last weekend with a show Not Quite Open for Business. The group exhibition included many former Deitch artists, as well as a selection of others reminiscent of Grayson’s recent New York Minute show at MACRO in Italy. In keeping with the theme of the exhibit, works, such as the Aurel Schmidt piece here, (including painting, drawings, poems) were 'unfinished” and displayed on the floor or leaning against walls." (Purple-Diary)

"After notifying the Pentagon this week that he will retire from the only profession he has ever known—that of a military man—Gen. Stanley McChrystal now faces the toughest question of a battlefield commander cut off in the prime of his career: What next? While blogs are prophesying everything from book tours to the cable-TV talk circuit to Senate runs for the fired Afghan commander, longtime friends and aides of McChrystal say they expect the gaunt four-star general to take the more MacArthurian route—and fade away. 'Honestly—the only thing I ever heard him say he wanted to do, after he completed his mission in Afghanistan… was eventually retire and open a bookstore,' wrote one officer, who is close to McChrystal, by email." (TheDailyBeast)

(Douglas Hannant and Frederick Anderson via NYSD)

"It is always somewhat of a debate as to when summer in the Hamptons officially begins. Memorial Day, the weather can be iffy, and the weekend always seems to arrive just as one is finally starting to enjoy spring; by July 4th, Route 27 is a virtual parking lot and the crowds can border on unbearable. The event schedule also inevitably plays a part. All you really need is that one fete that proves enough of a draw for the critical masses - the usual notables and tastemakers - and then, that's it, the Hamptons have begun. And who better to inaugurate the summer than Douglas Hannant and Frederick Anderson?" (HuffPo)

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Media-Whore D'Oeuvres

"What will be the image that frames the news reporting of June 29's White House meeting between U.S. President Barack Obama and King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia? Surely not another bow toward the desert monarch, as caught on video at the London G-20 meeting in April 2009. Or what hypercritics saw as a further deferential bob in Riyadh last June, when the president leaned forward so the shorter king could confer on him the King Abdul Aziz Order of Merit, a chunky necklace that Obama took off within seconds ... Obama and Abdullah already has met just two days before at the G-20 summit in Canada, but Abdullah is coming to Washington to talk one-on-one about Palestine and Iran. On the former issue, Abdullah thinks that Obama 'gets it,' as he has been tougher on the Israelis than Bush or Bill Clinton. On Iran, however, the Saudi king fears that his country's historically closest ally is naive, and dangerously so, for putting so much faith in diplomacy. The same emotional approach that causes Abdullah to anguish about the Palestinians also explains his distrust and antipathy toward the Iranians, whom he sees as typically untrustworthy Shiite challengers to Sunni, and therefore Saudi, custodianship of the holy places of Islam." (ForeignPolicy)

"BILL Clinton hosted CBS' Katie Couric and CNN's Wolf Blitzer at his table at Nobu at the One & Only Cape Town Hotel Sunday night, when he wasn't table-hopping to greet former Irish prime minister Mary Robinson and Nelson Mandela's wife, Graca Machel." (PageSix)

"The Afghan War is the longest war in U.S. history. It began in 1980 and continues to rage. It began under Democrats but has been fought under both Republican and Democratic administrations, making it truly a bipartisan war. The conflict is an odd obsession of U.S. foreign policy, one that never goes away and never seems to end. As the resignation of Gen. Stanley McChrystal reminds us, the Afghan War is now in its fourth phase. The first phase of the Afghan War began with the Soviet invasion in December 1979, when the United States, along with Saudi Arabia and Pakistan, organized and sustained Afghan resistance to the Soviets. This resistance was built around mujahideen, fighters motivated by Islam. Washington’s purpose had little to do with Afghanistan and everything to do with U.S.-Soviet competition. The United States wanted to block the Soviets from using Afghanistan as a base for further expansion and wanted to bog the Soviets down in a debilitating guerrilla war. The United States did not so much fight the war as facilitate it. The strategy worked. The Soviets were blocked and bogged down. This phase lasted until 1989, when Soviet troops were withdrawn. The second phase lasted from 1989 until 2001." (STRATFOR)

"It was impossible to absorb everything happening at the Creators Project—a joint Vice magazine and Intel all-day-and-into-the-night party on Saturday, at Milk Studios, in New York City. Despite the many hours we spent running around the venue, we barely had time to take it all in. Somewhere between seeing Mark Ronson create a pop song (where we're told we just missed Prince Philippos of Greece and Denmark in the crowd), having a personal hologram created in the Digital Flesh installation, catching Interpol perform at the loading dock, and spying Alexander Wang interacting with MOS architects interactive glittering cube sculpture, we realized this was more than just another open bar. We were meeting all of Vice's cool friends, who all have cool, tech-y projects, and we didn't even have to go through the hassle of attending Wesleyan. In one room was a screening Spike Jonze's latest short film, I'm Here, which featured music by his friends in the charming ambient outfit ASKA. The film ended with a sad question mark, which curved into a heart as the movie screen lifted to reveal ASKA, in the flesh, playing their haunting soundtrack." (VanityFair)

"It’s not unusual for Hollywood’s Republicans to hide in the closet as campaigns gear up, but this election year they’ve locked the door behind them. With Democratic donors going all out to support their top-of-the-ticket candidates in the November elections, Sen. Barbara Boxer and would-be Gov. Jerry Brown, Republicans have been far less helpful to their opponents, Carly Fiorina and Meg Whitman, according to the most recent contribution records. Indeed, the disparity between Boxer and Fiorina is especially striking, given the anti-incumbent mood sweeping the country this year and the expectation for big Republican gains in the mid-term elections. Boxer, who is seeking a fourth six-year term following 10 years in the House, has more than 40 Hollywood donors for every one of Fiorina’s. Among Boxer’s supporters are dozens of well-known industry figures, including Steven Spielberg, David Geffen, Jeffrey Katzenberg, Barbra Streisand, Robin Williams, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Kevin Kline, Sally Field, Christopher Guest, Don Henley, Bob Iger, Ron Meyer, Peter Chernin and J.J. Abrams." (TheWrap)

"Apple Inc. Chief Executive Officer Steve Jobs is due to attend the annual Allen & Co. media conference in Sun Valley, Idaho, giving him a chance to court executives he needs to add content to his company’s products. Jobs is returning to the public eye after disclosing a hormone imbalance last year, taking a 5 1/2-month leave of absence and receiving a liver transplant. In the five years since Jobs was last known to attend the conference, Apple has introduced products including the iPhone, iPad tablet and Apple TV that give media companies new ways to sell and distribute songs, books, video and other content. Executives of media and technology companies often use the conference, closed to the press in recent years, to network and discuss deals. Walt Disney Co. used it to hatch its $19.5 billion acquisition of Capital Cities/ABC Inc. Yahoo! Inc. co- founder Jerry Yang met former Warner Bros. executive Terry Semel at an Allen & Co. conference before tapping him as CEO in 2001." (BloombergBusinessWeek)

"If spit, flung along with a good dose of Champagne by Prince Harry of Windsor into the face of his opponent Nacho Figueras, defined last year's Veuve Clicquot Polo Classic on Governors Island, Sunday afternoon's event will be remembered for another bodily fluid. 'I'm sweating like a hog like everyone else here,' said Gayle King, editor at large of O, the Oprah magazine, as droplets of perspiration accumulated under her eyes. 'But the beauty is we're all in the same boat so you can't look at someone and go, 'God, what a mess!' Because everybody looks that way.' Prince Harry's team, the Black Rock, was facing off against Mr. Figueras' Black Watch. The charity match benefited Prince Harry's organization Sentebale, which supports children in Lesotho. Last year Black Rock prevailed; this year Black Watch won in overtime, and Prince Harry fell off his horse." (Observer)

(Robert Greenblatt via LATimes)

"Now comes the hard part. After seven years of transforming itself into a showcase of original dramas about subversive characters, Showtime is poised for another makeover. The premium channel confirmed that its programming chief, Robert Greenblatt — who nudged into the television zeitgeist distinctive shows about a police blood splatter expert/serial killer; a Southern California widow turned pot dealer; lusty and beautiful young royals of the Tudor era; and a burned-out, pill-popping nurse — is leaving the network next month when his contract expires. Showtime on Monday named David Nevins — a veteran producer who has developed more heartwarming fare, such as NBC's 'Friday Night Lights' and 'Parenthood' — to succeed Greenblatt. Nevins will be tasked with stocking Showtime's pipeline with shows worthy enough to keep subscribers paying as much as $12 a month for the channel owned by CBS Corp." (LATimes)

"The TV syndication market is red-hot and here's more evidence: the 2 most talked-about new series of this TV season, Fox’s Glee and ABC’s Modern Family, are headed to big off-network syndication deals. We've learned that Twentieth Television is finalizing separate deals for the cable rights to both hit shows made by 20th Century Fox TV with NBC Universal’s Oxygen and USA Network. Glee will be heading to Oxygen, which we hear is paying mid-six figures per episode, plus airing a 2011 reality show to find the next Glee star. While Modern Family will land at USA Network which until now has been focused on hour long procedurals. We hear the deals were negotiated directly with the cable networks, both of whom are NBCU-owned and soon to be Comcast-owned." (Deadline)

"Everywhere I went in L.A. people spoke of The Kardashians like royalty. Kim Kardashian alone has given 'ass' (mentally and physically) a new meaning. Dr. Drew Pinsky of 'Celebrity Rehab' is now more popular than Dr. Phil or Dr. Oz. (At this point he could book any pro football player up on current rape charges and cure them all of being sex addicts ... and oh the ratings!!!). What does it say about our culture that we feel such a need to expose our most tawdry of underbellies and all on HD? Is this 'sharing' on steroids? Aren't we past Oprah? Even Oprah is past Oprah. (And by the way I kept hearing in L.A. that tons of network producers are running over to Oprah's cable venture looking for any jobs they can find) .. Every visit to L.A. I make it a point to end up at Guiseppe Franco's – one of the many popular Beverly Hills hair salons. (Remember this is a city with five hair salons in a two block radius ... talk about narcissism). Jeffrey Serra is the salon manager and one of the most talented hair colorists in the city. A visit to the salon is always 'dinner and a show' and an earful. You can end up seeing the strangest collection of notoriety ... like Mickey Rourke and Michael Pollard ... and most importantly 'the Govenator Ahnold' himself getting his roots 'caramelized.' In fact 'Ahnold' is practically there weekly." (NYSocialDiary)

"In an old photo in her native Saransk, an industrial town in Ukraine, Oksana Grigorieva covers her eyes and smiles as she teeters awkwardly in a Bettie Page-style bikini and heels. But shying away from the spotlight is hardly how friends, acquaintances, and ex-boyfriends have described the 40-year-old pop star with the cascading hair, Angelina Jolie lips, and a hammer-and-sickle ankle tattoo, who is currently in an ugly blow-up with Mel Gibson—the father of her 8-month-old daughter, Lucia, and, until last month, her romantic partner of three years. Rather, they describe her as a resolutely self-determined woman who willed herself from rags to riches, along the way progressing through a number of male suitors in order to get where she wanted to be. Until now, little has been known about Grigorieva, who first surfaced in connection with the 54-year-old Gibson photos were published last year, showing them embracing on a beach in Costa Rica. A month later, after it was revealed that Grigorieva was pregnant, Gibson's wife of 28 years, Robyn, filed for divorce. (The couple had been separated since 2006.) But if there were any bliss between the leggy brunette and the Braveheart star, it was short-lived." (TheDailyBeast)

"Naomi Campbell donned a fur vest on a 90-degree afternoon yesterday to model for Dennis Basso's fall/winter 2010 campaign." (NYPost)

"In the middle of February, veteran Democratic pollster Stanley Greenberg gave some free advice to his party’s Congressional leaders via the New Republic, urging them to take a series of steps to minimize Democratic vulnerabilities (and losses) in the fall elections. It has been four months since Greenberg’s article, 'Disaster Relief: How to Avoid a Repeat of 1994,' appeared, but there is no sign of a Democratic turnaround on the horizon — only more depressing news and pessimistic public opinion data for Democrats. The news on joblessness and the U.S. economy, combined with growing concerns over the federal deficit, Europe’s financial health (particularly growing debt), the lack of progress of the war in Afghanistan and the damage resulting from the BP oil gusher in the Gulf of Mexico, are burying the president and his party in an avalanche of public dissatisfaction. As former President George W. Bush found out only a few years ago, a never-ending supply of bad news saps a presidency, and a political party, of its strength." (Stuart Rothenberg/ CQ)

"A well-heeled crowd gathered at the Chateau de Versailles Friday night to toast Franco-American friendship at the Bal des Topiaires benefit organized by the American Friends of Versailles. U.S. ambassador to France Charles Rivkin and French presidential adviser Jean-David Levitte headed the diplomatic contingent, while French aristocrats and American heirs — including Ondine de Rothschild, Ariane Dandois, Louise and Charles Marsh, Steven Rockefeller 3rd and Collin Eckles — ramped up the glamour quota." (WWD)

"This is the media word we now live in: The former playground bullies of the blog world have gone national, even global, and Establishment media players and marketers have no choice but to reckon with them, given that they're flush with cash and attract massive audiences. As always, it is more than a bit scary to watch playground bullies grow up and really start to throw their weight around. Sometimes they wage interesting battles (honestly, the Gawker vs. American Apparel war has been great fun for us readers) and sometimes they just want to defile and degrade for kicks (arguably Perez Hilton's core brand proposition)." (Simon Dumenco/ AdAge)
Corsair Classic: Muscle Top, Episode 3

Muscle Top: Episode 3 from Seth Sugar on Vimeo.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Thomas E. Ricks On The Afghanistan War

Thomas E. Ricks always has interesting things to say about Afghanistan, where he spent some time as a young man (did you catch him on Meet the press this weekend?). From Sunday's Washington Post:

This week's confrontation between a senior Army general and the president of the United States may have signaled the beginning of the end of the war in Afghanistan. In a year or two, President Obama will be able to say that he gave the conflict his best shot, reshaping the strategy and even putting his top guy in charge, the general who led the surge in Iraq -- but that things still didn't work out.

Then he can begin pulling out.

This is not a vote of no-confidence in Gen. David H. Petraeus, whom the president has selected to lead the U.S. effort in Afghanistan, replacing the disgraced Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal. It is a simple recognition that the conditions Petraeus enjoyed in Iraq are far from present in Afghanistan, and that the key skills he brought to bear in the first war won't help him as much in the second.

The full story here.

Thomas Ricks also once proposed "Why not do the Petraeus plan [counterinsurgency] for the major population centers and the Biden plan [counterterrorism] for the rest of the country?"

No one listened.
Muscle Top, Episode 2


"Muscle Top," a web serial created by filmmaker Ry Russo-Young, who may be best known for directing You'll Miss Me, starring Stella Schnabel. I posted the first webisode here.
The Clintons, 3.0

It's a Clintonian world now, we just happen to live in it. That Clintonian psychodrama which we all thought was so cloying and so over is now, in the fullness of Time and the agony of this Recession, almost -- dare one say it? -- almost charming in retrospect. In their first American iteration He was self-indulgent, hugely ambitious President, and She was imperious, Evita-y First Lady (or so went the popular narrative); Clinton-Clinton part the Second saw a bit of a role-reversal: She was the alpha Junior New York Senator en route, inevitably, to the Presidency, He was the supportive international do-gooder and soft power; Clinton 3.0 reveals them both to be international players of the highest magnitude, the ultimate Boomer power couple.

The people of the United States of America have, I believe, come to terms with the reality that no matter how annoying, selfish, messy, operatically diva-esque and power-hungry as the Clintons can sometimes be, they are -- warts, welts and all -- our Clintons. Love them or hate them (and we vacillate between both polarities), the Clintons are uniquely American by-products, avatars really, of their time and age and generation.

How, pray tell, did the Clintons reinvent themselves, yet again, when all seemed irrevocably lost? At the end of the exhausting campaign of 2008, people (this blogger for example) were saying of the Clinton family drama na-na-na-na; na-na-na-na-na: hey-hey-hey -- goodbye. Loudly.

Their defeat in the Presidential campaign seemed so total, so final. Political decimation. That fateful meeting in Unity, New Hampshire with Hillary the defeated and Obama the victorious conjured, optically, of all events in American history, Lee's surrender to Grant at the Appomattox courthouse. It seemed, in fine, to be the formal end of the Clinton project in American political history. One could even argue, as some did, that Bill Clinton -- during the last days of their scorched earth campaign -- had so besmirched his legacy that the coveted Secretary Generalship of the United Nations was now truly and irretrievably beyond is reach.

The pendulum swings. Hillary Clinton is probably the most popular member of the Obama candidate (though in all fairness, her portfolio does not include the politically radioactive economy) and Bill is, well, Bill. This Saturday he was spotted sitting next to -- and I kid you not -- Mick Jagger.

Further, this blogger cannot fail to note that Bill has been hanging out in South Africa with his old friend, one of the most respected political figures of the 20th century, Nelson Mandela. And Bill, once positively bristly and jealous on the subject of Obama, is now positively magnanimous regarding his wife's boss. From today's Politico:

Former President Bill Clinton said Sunday that Barack Obama is doing a “better job than he’s given credit for.”

Clinton, speaking in Cape Town, South Africa as part of the Fortune/Time/CNN Global Forum, said that public perception of the president has lagged behind what he has done to benefit the country.

“I think he's done a better job than he's given credit for,” Clinton said. “I feel very strongly about this.”

The former president, who, like Obama, saw his polling numbers dip dramatically during his second year in office, said that Obama is not fully “responsible” for how he is perceived, adding that a dip in approval is “not avoidable” in an economic downturn.

“Until people feel good about their own lives, they're not going to feel good about their president,” Clinton said. “And there's nothing you can do about that.”

Bill Clinton is also experiencing something of a Risorgimento on the campaign trail. Democrats in 2010 are clamoring for Bill Clinton appearances in their districts as they campaign for the House and Senate in critical, empurpled states. It is nothing personal (only politics, as the President knows), but the recession and high unemployment and BP have all conspired in something of a Perfect Storm to make President Barack Obama all but politically radioactive in places like Nevada and Arkansas and Louisiana and Pennsylvania and Ohio. In mid-term elections, incumbent parties that have control of both Houses of Congress and the Presidency tend, if history serves, to face robust electoral defeats. Such are the mysteries of American democracy. This "overincumbency," plus the present economic conditions may result in the Democrat party facing what Bush the Younger once charmingly called (Averted Gaze) "a thumpin." Polls, however, show that in many of those same crucial states, that Clinton magic still bedazzles.

Finally, the calls for Hillary Clinton to be on the Presidential ticket (should re-election prospects become shaky) are reaching fever -- or should I say fevered? -- pitch. Arguably, the paleoconservative undertones in the closing days of her 2008 campaign paved the way for Sarah Palin. There is, clearly, something there. One knows not where it will conclude. Whether or not President Obama ditches Vice President Biden for Hillary in 2012, the sheer amount of buzz that this possibility is garnering is in and of itself significant. We must perhaps look to Pennsylvania and Ohio and Florida -- states Hillary won during the primary against Obama -- to see where the future lies. It is, anyway, as I said earlier, ladies and gentlemen of the jury, a Clintonian world now, and we just happen to live in it.
Media-Whore D'Oeuvres

"With General Stanley McChrystal removed from command in Afghanistan and General David Petraeus named to succeed him, the stunning story is disappearing from front pages—even as its most telling implications begin to seep through the cracks. I speak here of the winners and losers, and what their fate will mean for America’s fate in Afghanistan ... Neither Winners Nor Losers Yet: Special Representative Richard Holbrooke and Ambassador in Kabul Karl Eikenberry. Holbrooke likely will be fine. He has a good relationship with Petraeus, which will be key. But just as important, he’ll be needed when and if the White House decides to explore serious negotiations with the Taliban. Eikenberry, on the other hand, could be in trouble. He committed the ultimate sin in personal relations: He sent his analysis and recommendations about the war (which happened to be extremely negative and contrary to McChrystal’s) to Washington without even telling his old friend McChrystal that he had done so. That experience is certain to be in Petraeus’ mind. And by the way, General James Jones, the National Security Adviser, didn’t emerge from the story well, either. McChrystal’s guys called him 'a clown.' He’s not, but his comrades in the administration don’t give him high marks either. Biggest Winner: General David Petraeus. His already cosmic reputation soars. Whatever future he desires will be enhanced—so long as he doesn’t fail in Afghanistan." (Les Gelb/TheDailyBeast)

"A combined US audience of 19.4 million average viewers for the USA-Ghana World Cup match on Saturday make it the largest US audience for a soccer match in history, topping the 1994 World Cup final match between Brazil and Italy." (TVBytheNumbers)

"No luxury Caribbean vacation will keep Stephanie Seymour from mandatory drug tests, a judge in her messy divorce from Peter Brant has ruled. Seymour was recently hauled into a Connecticut courtroom after she missed court-ordered testing while vacationing in St. Barts with two of her kids in March, according to divorce records. The former Victoria's Secret model's drinking and drug use have become a critical point of contention in her split from polo-playing Brant. Both had previously been ordered to submit to the tests as part of their split. The couple is due back in court in Stamford, Conn., today." (PageSix)

"CNN has decided on their 8pmET program – bringing in Eliot Spitzer and Kathleen Parker – but since the show doesn’t debut until the fall, there’s a lot of time to talk about what the show means. Howard Kurtz talked to CNN President Jon Klein about the decision on his own network during Reliable Sources yesterday. In an interesting set-up, Kurtz played clips of CNN’s reporting on Spitzer’s prostitution scandal and subsequent resignation, giving viewers a chance to see Spitzer’s soon-to-be colleagues Wolf Blitzer and John King show very clearly what’s leading to some of the criticism. Kurtz’ first question hit right to the point. “Why did you want a man who proved unfit to serve as governor of New York, who resigned in disgrace, as part of this network?” he asked. 'Eliot Spitzer still has a lot of ideas to contribute, a lot of things to say, and I think our viewers are going to find him a very interesting person to tune into every night,' said Klein." (Steve Krakaur/Mediaite)

"Barack Obama’s demand, in his June 15 speech, that the former British Petroleum Company create an escrow account, to guarantee the funds that will be needed to deal with the consequences of the continuing catastrophe in the Gulf of Mexico, should have been made weeks ago, and should surely have been framed more strongly than it was. The President, in this matter, continues to demonstrate the quality, laudable in itself, but in politics extraordinarily dangerous, of assuming that those he is dealing with are as reasonable and well-intentioned as he is himself. In fact they are often driven by ruthlessly self-interested motives that leave him in a position of seeming weakness and unwillingness to defend not only national but his own political interests. At the end of May one saw the President on international television walking on a Louisiana beach, accompanied—off-scene—by hundreds if not thousands of newsmen, broadcasters, and cameramen. He seemed abject. He bent over and picked up a handful of sand and let it run through his fingers. He shook his head in concern. A cutaway showed his speeches earlier in this affair declaring that his administration is in charge of the great effort to save America’s coast and waters from the terrible pollution that is spreading as a result of a volcano of oil erupting from the sea’s floor and meeting the sickly-colored, toxic chemicals being mixed into the water that are meant to disperse it ... Allow me, in the style of the metropolitan columnists who influence Washington, to draft what the President might have said in his June 15 speech .." (William Pfaff/NYRB)

"He sculpts and designs. He makes furniture, sculpts things related to houses. Traditional male ... I keep telling Brad (Pitt) he owes me. He’s had a few months off in one of the most beautiful cities in the world (Venice) with the children. And he’s such an artist and goes to the stone yards and the art exhibits, and loves being in such a cultural place.” (Angelina Jolie/Vanity Fair)

"...(I)t is important to note that many publishers continue to gain traffic the old-fashioned way --with compelling content and smart distribution. Our poster child for growth in April is page views, +232.14% unique visitors versus March 2010), which has been in expansion mode all year with its many eyeball-catching celebrity photo-shoots. In April, however, distribution efforts with major portals Yahoo! and MSN seemed to turn on the firehose. Over at sister Condé Nast site (+76.69% PVs, +134.00% UVs) the re-emergence of Tiger Woods at the April Masters tournament no doubt helped the site score big. At Mansueto Publishing’s (+28.14% PVs, +218.90% UVs), the audience expansion came mainly from a hit story that went viral. A tale of a single mother getting fired from her nonprofit company job after being caught sex blogging caught everyone’s attention. A pick-up on April 28 by Yahoo! more than doubled’s traffic for the month. Although the spike will pull back with the May numbers, the site seems to have retains at least some of those portal-driven users." (Minonline)

"It looks like America's Got Talent judge Piers Morgan is still the leading contender to take over for Larry King this fall, but the Post reports that's only because CBS Evening News anchor Katie Couric had said no to the job. The former Today host is a key element to an ongoing negotiation between CNN and CBS over a potential content-sharing deal, in which CNN might pick up some of the cost of her exorbitant $15-million-a-year salary. It had been rumored that she might take over King's desk as part of the talent merger, but Couric didn't want to be put in a position where she was burdened with the pressure of saving a slumping franchise (as she was when she first transitioned to CBS). Still, according to the Post, she may be given her own production company to create specials for CNN, thereby relieving CBS of some of the financial burden of keeping her onboard. Though the possibility of taking her off of the 6:30 news broadcast was discussed, that option seems off the table for now — largely because, according to a source, CBS has 'no plan B.'" (NYMag)

(image via NYSD)

"The most interesting news over the weekend (at least the news that wouldn’t make you want to kill yourself) was about Liliane Bettencourt, the 87 (or 88) year old L’Oreal heiress who has been having an intense friendship/relationship with a much younger man – by twenty-five years (he’s 63 this year) – the artist/playwright/photographer/international social gadfly and world class charmer Francois-Marie Banier. Are they sleeping together, you ask? Is that something we really need to know? Or even want to know? Chances are they’re not. But that’s only my definition of 'chances.' However, whatever they are doing together (and this is the 'intense' part to a lot of spectators), the heiress personally owns 31% of L’Oreal’s stock (her father, a chemist, started the company almost a century ago). She has given M. Banier a variety of gifts and promises of gifts (including art, insurance policies and a private island in the Seychelles) that tally up to more than $1.3 billion ... To the outside world, it may look like M. Banier is the classic example of 'just a gigolo' ('everywhere I go; people know the part I’m playing'). That would be a mistake. The multi-tasking/artist/playwright/best buddy/connoisseur is quite famous in his world – the international world of the rich, the chic and the shameless." (NYSocialDiary)

"Adam Sandler and Tom Cruise hit the multiplexes with their newest summer offerings, but neither was able to topple the 3D animated smash Toy Story 3 which topped the North American box office for a second frame in a row. Sandler won the runner-up spot with a strong debut for his latest comedy Grown Ups while Cruise struggled with his action-comedy Knight and Day which posted only moderate results in third place. Disney and Pixar easily held onto the box office crown for a second straight weekend as Toy Story 3 captured an estimated $59M in ticket sales in its sophomore frame, according to estimates. The 3D toon's drop of 47% was large, but was still the lowest of any film in the top ten. The cume to date rose to a stellar $226.6M after just ten days, the best start ever for any Pixar film. With kids out of school for summer vacation and the busy Fourth of July holiday coming up, Toy Story 3 may just surge to the $400M mark making it the one to beat this year for all other blockbusters ... Adam Sandler returned to his safe zone and landed the fourth best opening of his career with the broad comedy Grown Ups which bowed to an estimated $41M. Sony released the PG-13 pic in 3,534 locations and averaged a strong $11,602 per site. The reunion laugher co-starring Kevin James, Chris Rock, David Spade, Rob Schneider, and Salma Hayek opened almost exactly like some previous Sandler films that featured little to no extra starpower." (BoxOfficeGuru)

"With a population of just 5 million people, Eritrea has clashed with all four of its closest neighbors in the 17 years since it broke off from Ethiopia. Eritrea still keeps as many as 100,000 soldiers stationed along that frontier, just in case. Before that conflict, it fought Yemen over a chain of islands that lay between them. And just two years ago, Eritrea launched a brief, surreal attack on its tiny neighbor, Djibouti, in which some 35 soldiers from both sides died. Many of the deaths occurred when Djiboutian troops refused to hand over Eritrean soldiers who had defected -- whether in hopes of escaping hardship at home, finding better training abroad, or even just getting a few sips of clean water. Eritrea has also periodically sponsored rebels in Ethiopia, Sudan, and Somalia, occasionally and unapologetically giving refuge to their leaders in Asmara. It has been believably accused of supporting rebels in Djibouti, too. Its involvement in Somalia has been particularly egregious. In December, the U.N. Security Council announced sanctions to punish Eritrea for its support of the Islamist militant group al-Shabab and similar organizations. It was the first time the African Union had ever supported sanctions against one of its own members. But though Eritrea has been amassing an unrivaled track record of international provocation, the regime's real masterpiece of destruction has been at home, where the former Italian colony has taken on the aura of the Soviet Union's final days." (ForeignPolicy)

(D.J. Harley Viera-Newton via PatrickMcMullen via VF)

"Tinsley Mortimer played host to society designer darling Roberta Freymann’s second East Hampton boutique on Saturday while downtown D.J. Harley Viera-Newton manned the decks. Freymann, known for her quintessential uptown frocks and bold accessories, recently collaborated with reality star and Mortimer rival Olivia Palermo on a line of bib necklaces. Not surprisingly, Palermo was absent at the Main Street bash ... The Phoenix House celebrated its annual summer gala in Southampton Saturday night with an influx of Hollywood types, including Brett Ratner, Nick Cannon, and Randy Jackson, honoring MTV’s President of Programming Tony DiSanto and CWE Media founder Charlie Walk. Also on the scene was fashion media-ite Kelly Cutrone who got down to DJ Cassidy’s Michael Jackson set before heading to Georgica restaurant to continue the party." (VanityFair)

"They thought it was about Elvis. That’s what a focus group of a dozen African-American women concluded about the musical 'Memphis' last summer when they were asked to assess the show’s tagline, 'The Birth of Rock ’n’ Roll.' But after seeing artwork featuring Felicia, the black R&B singer in the show, and after hearing about the turbulent romance between the character and a white D.J., the women in the focus group said the show was much more up their alley. With that in mind, the producers changed the 'Memphis' tagline before opening on Broadway to: 'His Vision, Her Voice. The Birth of Rock ’n’ Roll.' The use of focus groups is one of several diversity strategies, aggressive by theater standards, used not only by 'Memphis' but also by another new Broadway musical, 'Fela!'; the new play 'Race'; and the revival of 'Fences' — all shows centered on black characters, who are rarely in the forefront of major plays and musicals. While the 'Memphis' producers estimate that 25 to 30 percent of their audience is black, the producers of 'Fela!' and 'Race' say that their outreach has resulted in black theatergoers’ making up 40 percent of attendees." (NYTimes)

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Media-Whore D'Oeuvres

"During President Obama's trip to Canada this weekend for the G-8 and G-20 meetings on global economic reform, the real action will be taking place in his meetings with several top Asian leaders on the sidelines of the events. 'We also want to use these meetings as an opportunity to underscore America's commitment to leadership and increased engagement in Asia,' said a senior administration official about the trip. 'We see this is an opportunity to continue our efforts to renew our leadership in Asia.' Five out of the six precious bilateral meetings Obama will grant over the weekend will go to leaders from East Asian countries. After the first meeting with British Prime Minister David Cameron in Toronto, his one-on-ones will be with President Lee Myung-bak of South Korea, Chinese President Hu Jintao, President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono of Indonesia, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh of India, and the new Japanese prime minister, Naoto Kan. 'That is, I think, an eloquent demonstration of the importance that the president attaches to Asia, the importance of Asia to our political security and economic interest,' another senior administration official said." (ForeignPolicy)

"Former president Bill Clinton had such an excellent outing at Wednesday's U.S-Algeria match that he rearranged his schedule so he'll be able to get to Rustenburg for Saturday's round-of-16 showdown against Ghana. As honorary chairman of the committee that is working to bring the World Cup to the United States in 2018 or 2022, Clinton has taken on the role of chief soccer cheerleader in the high-stakes bid to win the votes of FIFA delegates from around the world ... After attending an early-morning reception with FIFA representatives to extol the merits of returning the World Cup to the United States, where it set attendance records in 1994, Clinton met with a small group of reporters to talk about why, as he put it, 'I've fallen in love with soccer at my very advanced age' ... 'I think the big issue everywhere in the world today is there are some forces bringing us together and some forces tearing us apart,' Clinton said. 'And you want the ones that are bringing us together to triumph over the ones that are tearing us apart.' In its own way, he argued, soccer does just that -- providing a constructive, entertaining and 'safe' means of working out some of the conflicts that invariably arise among competing nations and disparate cultures." (WashPo)

"When art prices fell, auction houses struggled to attract sellers. Collectors faced with death, divorce or debt—three common reasons for selling—still consigned their works for auction. But discretionary selling fell back sharply. With the memory of the record prices of 2007 still fresh in many collectors’ minds, the question they asked themselves was 'why sell if you don’t have to?' There was still plenty of money out there, though, and the best works continued to achieve high prices. The world record for a work of art sold at auction was broken in early February 2010, when a sculpture by Alberto Giacometti sold for $104.3m (including commission and taxes) at Sotheby’s in London. Three months later this record was broken again when Christie’s in New York sold the beautiful, rare 1932 Picasso from the Brody collection for $106.5m. For the very wealthiest buyers, near-zero interest rates and falling stock markets served only to increase the attraction of art as an alternative asset for their investments." (TheEconomist)

"Anything that needs microscopic analysis can benefit from HD, but people look horrible in it. How depressing. Still, I’m perplexed about why we consider luridness, shininess, wrinkliness and flawedness — to the extent that a person manifests these qualities — the features that are most deeply our own. This isn’t a vanity question or at least not entirely. It’s a question for HD that has been asked for decades about digitized music: Does digital reproduction approximate reality more exactly than earlier manual, analog and mechanical technologies? Or does digital reproduction — of sound, images and text — just introduce another aesthetic? (When it comes to HD images of celebrities, we might call it the microrealist pointillist grotesque.) If a celebrity is part shiny, in other words, she must also be part matte. Cameras that turn her more shiny don’t necessarily make her look more like herself. Or, if HD cameras simply 'bring out' the shiny side (the way bleach, some hair colorists say, 'brings out' the blond in brown hair), why can’t we invent a technology that 'brings out' our matte side? It’s also interesting that older touchstones for beauty — bone structure, say, or arrangement of features — don’t often come up in discussions of HD-era beauty. High-def assets, apparently, are not lineaments so much as coloring, tone and texture. Well-modeled beauties of earlier eras (Katharine Hepburn, Faye Dunaway, Harry Belafonte) might never have received credit for their high cheekbones and regal noses had they regularly appeared in high definition; the technology might have turned them into nothing but creases, rashes, broken capillaries, frizziness and cover-up makeup." (Virginia Hefferman)

"History serves as an excellent guide here. Take the example of Great Britain—home of the Industrial Revolution—which should be considered a cautionary tale. In the 19th Century and much of the 20th, even though the country depended on manufactured goods for its livelihood, British elite schools, financial institutions, and media all worked against 'the needs of industry' to create what historian Martin Weiner has called 'two unequal capitalist elites,' the more powerful of which had little interest in and even disdain for industrial activities. The 'best' talent, and the most social prestige, favored the financial sector over the industrial. Production was particularly looked down upon: it was 'the Cinderella of British industry.' There are also more recent examples supporting the notion that hard work and attention to the basics still matter. In the 1980s Japanese firms that were widely written off as “copycats” but eventually became primary innovators, particularly in automobiles, semiconductors, and computer games. Koreans were often then dismissed by both Americans and Japanese as unimaginative imitators; today South Korea’s electronics and car companies are surging not only in America but across the world. Now they have their gaze fixed on biotechnology and videogames. In the coming decades Chinese and Indian companies will seek to move from low-wage work to more specialized, and increasingly innovative, kinds of products—in everything from pharmaceuticals to fashion and finance. The enormous profits to be made from less 'sexy' activities –ranging from manufacturing to call center and code writing--will provide the funds to invest in both the hard infrastructure and the necessary training to move decisively into ever higher-end activities. This contempt for production underpinned the decline of Britain as a great power, and could prove disastrous in mid-21st Century America as well." (TheDailyBeast)

"Liliane Bettencourt has long shunned the limelight. The 87-year-old heiress to the L’Oréal cosmetics fortune is more at home in her plush Parisian mansion surrounded by graceful poplars and a vast park than in the gossip columns. But this week, intimate details about the life of Europe’s richest woman were slapped across the front pages of French newspapers, after a betrayal by a long-serving butler that has spiralled into a political crisis. It is not so much a question of what the butler saw, but what he heard. Over the course of a year, the butler secretly recorded private conversations in her 1930s villa, allegedly sending them to the woman Mrs Bettencourt had vowed she 'never wants to see again' – her only child, Françoise Bettencourt-Meyers, who handed over the 28 computer discs to the police. Their contents, leaked to the press, lay bare Mrs Bettencourt’s tangled relationship with her long-estranged daughter, the matriarch’s bohemian male friend on whom was lavished a Seychelles island and ($1.2 billion) in gifts – and the political connections cultivated by the custodians of her $20bn fortune that now threaten to destabilise at least part of President Nicolas Sarkozy’s crucial but controversial economic reforms." (FT)

"More good news for Pixar and Disney. As expected, Toy Story 3 tops the North American box office for the 2nd straight week. Thanks to higher 3D ticket prices and a wide release into 4,028 theaters, the toon with massive appeal did $18.5M Friday, only a 56% drop following its monster opening a week ago. It's vital to Hollywood summer grosses that so many families are having a great experience at the cineplex because of this pic. Estimates are for a $62M weekend and cume of $230M by Sunday ... Sony Pictures' Grown Ups continues Adam Sandler's near-perfect string of $40M weekend comedy openings for a strong 2nd place finish with $14.5M Friday from 3,434 locations. 'Adam has been one of the most consistently performing summer box office draws for over a decade,' one Sony exec emailed me. (But only so long as his raunchy pictures contain fart jokes.)" (NikkiFinke)