Politics Archive for March, 2011

Arianna, Can You Spare a Dime?

It’s been a few days since I posted anything related to Arianna Huffington, so just in case you thought I was off that soapbox, sorry. Back in my project management days, my favorite slogan was, “Gentle pressure, relentlessly applied,” and that is exactly what I intend to do with regard to Ms. Huffington.

Well, unless she suddenly makes a television appearance on Rachel Maddow saying, “Holy shit, guys! I was held captive by corporate swine and forced to say all that stupid shit about not valuing the bloggers who helped build HuffPo! Of course I’m actually consistent with the values I espouse in my book and in my speeches!” Until then, I will continue to keep attention on HuffPo and the writers because the world has a short attention span, and writers are always getting crapped on.
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Thelma Adams on Why She’s Joining the HuffPo Strike

Writer Thelma Adams has a piece up explaining why she’s joined the writer’s strike against HuffPo/AOL. I’m glad she decided to write this, because I think it’s important for people like Thelma to put their faces out there and say, I was one of those writers who helped make Arianna Huffington rich, and this is why I’m on strike. And if you are such a person and you do write such a piece, email me with the URL, because I want to continue putting faces to the story of HuffPo’s exploitation of writers.

Thelma Adams is not some hack, or an amateur blogger. She’s a professional writer, the film critic for USA Today Us Weekly, two time chair of the New York Film Critics Circle. She’s been published in The New York Times, O: The Oprah Magazine, Maire Claire. Her novel, Playdate, was recently published by St. Martin’s Press. She holds an MFA in fiction from Columbia.

And by the bye? Nowhere on Thelma Adams’ bio page at HuffPo does it tell readers that the piece they are enjoying reading by her was NOT PAID FOR BY HUFFINGTON POST.

I’m not linking to the bio page because I’m not sending hits their way. If you want to look it up, knock yourself out.

It’s a misconception that all of the writers who wrote for HuffPo for free are a bunch of amateurs who should just be grateful for the exposure. Even if it was true, there’s just not a world for me where building your media empire on the backs of thousands of unpaid laborers and then cashing a $315 million payday for yourself while demeaning the very people who built that empire for you is okay.

It’s a shit thing to do, and Arianna Huffington is reprehensible to me. I’m talking Sarah Palin-level reprehensible (apologies if you like Palin, but for me she’s practically the Antichrist, or at the least a heralding sign of the coming zombie apocalypse).



More Death Knells at AOL as 30 Sites Get Folded

And the bloodbath around AOL/HuffPo continues, as 30 sites get shuttered completely or folded into duplicate content sites. Boy, too bad no one saw that coming.

Cinematical has apparently been spared, thus far anyhow. TV Squad is being folded, along with a bunch of other former Weblogs, Inc. properties. And so AOL continues its marvelous tradition of buying something cool and unique and then ruthlessly killing it by a combination of gross mismanagement and arrogant incompetence. Probably some sheer stupidity in there as well.

Meanwhile, over at Engadget, AOL has yet to fill the positions recently vacated by EIC Josh Topolosky and managing editor Nilay Patel, which followed the earlier exits by Engadget editors Paul Miller and Ross Miller. Oh, and let’s not forget 2008 departures of Engadget rock stars Peter Rojas and Ryan Block, who bailed out to start gdgt.com.

How you acquire a company like Weblogs, Inc with a flagship site the quality of Engadget, and other sites that were tops (or growing strongly) at the time of acquisition — sites like Cinematical, and TV Squad, and Blogging Baby and Luxist and screw up the management of it so completely is beyond me. What a clusterfuck.

Support the Strike! Let Arianna Write Her Own Damn Content

All right, people. This is a call to action to support the writers who are striking against Arianna Huffington.

We need to unite against the business practices of Ms. “Let Them Eat Cake” Huffington and support the writer’s strike by boycotting all AOL/HuffPo content until and unless they negotiate a fair and equitable contract for the writers who have helped Ms. Huffington build her media empire. If you are not a striking writer, you can support them by NOT reading or linking to any AOL/HuffPo content for the duration of the strike.

If you are a writer who is still contributing to AOL/HuffPo — even if you are getting paid to do so — you are supporting Ms. Huffington. (Yes, my good friends who are Cinematical writers, I am looking at you, too. Sorry. And this includes editors writing for “free” instead of paying writers to write posts.)

As you may be aware, I’ve been writing a lot recently about the AOL/HuffPo merger, and about Arianna Huffington’s practice of building her media empire on the backs of legions of unpaid writers. This isn’t some state secret. The Queen Bee-yatch has been perfectly open about her contempt for the people who have been writing for her for free, helping her build HuffPo up into a site that she could talk AOL into paying $315 million for. Pretty smart, Arianna, I’ll give you that. Unethical, but smart.

Now the writers are striking back. Finally. Arianna thinks “no one will notice” if all her unpaid writers go on strike. It’s time to take Her Arrogance down a few notches, my friends.

By the bye, studio people: You are not helping, either. The writers who write about your movies need to pay the rent and keep food on their family tables just like you do. If you are paying AOL/HuffPo to run ads on sites that are using free content, you are contributing to the problem too. This means Moviefone, and Cinematical, because they are now a part of Arianna Huffington’s empire, like it or not — and whether those sites directly use free content or not.

Other folks on the strike:

Here’s the call to strike by the Newspapers Guild.

Bill Lasarow explains in a piece for the Guardian why Visual Art Source is encouraging their writers to strike and no longer give content to AOL/HuffPo.

Here’s an LA Times piece on the strike.


Cinematical’s Scott Weinberg Resigns Over TechCrunch/Moviefone Battle

Cinematical’s Managing Editor Scott Weinberg called me yesterday to let me know that he resigned Tuesday over the Moviefone/TechCrunch issue. Here’s Scott, in his own words, on why he quit:

As I tweeted a few days ago, the specific people (although many of them have been laid off recently) I’ve worked with at Moviefone were always very professional to me. And yes, that definitely includes Patricia Chui. I have serious complaints about what’s happened to Cinematical over the last year, but I have no idea who those complaints should be directed towards. I do know that it’s not the “fault” of the Moviefone team, who always showed Cinematical respect as a separate entity.

I chose to stay as long as I did because I love the entire Cinematical team, and I’m really proud of the site Erik Davis and I inherited (which was already pretty excellent) and then, hopefully, improved upon. I chose to leave when I did because, frankly, I didn’t like what I was hearing about the Huffington Post / AOL partnership in relation to the people who actually SIT DOWN AND CREATE THE CONTENT. The TechCrunch story was probably just the ass-kick I needed.

My only regret is that my frustration compelled me to quit “effective immediately,” which leaves Erik Davis, Pete Hall, and the rest of our team without an extra editor during one of the busiest film festivals of the year. I’m also concerned that I indirectly knocked Patricia and the Moviefone team, which was definitely not my intention. Whatever the future holds for Moviefone, they need more people like Ms, Chui; not fewer.

-Scott Weinberg


Film Geek QOTD: Do Studios Have a Right to Control Content?

I was talking to David about the whole AOL/Moviefone/TechCrunch battle, and he pointed out that no one is discussing the other side of the issue: Whether studios generally have a right to an expectation of a particular type of coverage when they give journalists access to parties (or for that matter, screenings).
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… And Now TechCrunch’s Paul Carr Calls for Moviefone EIC Patricia Chui’s Head on a Platter? Seriously?

What started out as a relatively small battle between TechCrunch and Moviefone has escalated, as TechCrunch’s Paul Carr fired a warning shot over the bow of Moviefone this morning with this piece, which kinda-sorta retracts the previous headline Alexia Tsotsis put up about yesterday about AOL telling her to tone down the snark — and instead posits that Moviefone’s Editor-in-Chief Patricia Chui should resign in shame immediately, or be fired by AOL. Um, WTF?

Okay, folks. Here’s where I’m going to take a turn you maybe weren’t expecting in commentating on this interesting little car wreck and tell Paul Carr that he is completely full of shit here.
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Weekend Video Break: Feeding the Hungry

I love this video about CNN Hero Narayanan Krishnan, who gave up his job as a chef to feed the homeless every day. Inspiring. Thanks to John Wildman for sharing via Facebook.

And … the AOL Axe Comes Down (Again), While Arianna Scoffs at Her Unpaid Writers

… to the tune of 900 employees laid off in the wake of the HuffPo buyout. I hate to play Nikki Finke and be all “Toldja!” but really, did anyone not see this coming?

I love how AOL CEO Tim Armstrong tries to play this down. He “lamented” the cuts and says AOL is “much more healthy” than it was a year ago. Aw, gee, you’re a prince, Tim. I’m sure those laid off employees feel so much better knowing you lament canning them. But I bet you don’t feel bad enough to take a bit of a pay cut off your multi-million dollar compensation package yourself to ensure the continued health of AOL, do you? Of course you don’t.

The 900 layoffs suck, but that’s not the full story here. Let’s go back to this CNN piece from October of last year and unravel this ball of yarn a bit, shall we?
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Inside Out

If you liked Exit Through the Gift Shop as much as I did, you might think this is pretty cool. French street artist JR was awarded this year’s TED* prize, for which he was awarded $100,000 with which to make his “One Wish to Change the World” happen.

The Guardian has this interesting piece up about the latest project by the artist, Inside Out, which he announced last Wednesday at TED2011, but he needs more than just himself and his team of helpers to pull this one off: He needs me and you and everyone we know to get involved in what may just end up being one of the biggest collaborative efforts by a world-wide community to enact an art project in all corners of the globe. Here he is explaining his project at the TED conference:

JR is known for doing some really cool socio-political art using photographs. One of his most famous projects, Face2Face, involved putting billboard-sized portraits of Israelis and Palestinians who do the same jobs and putting them up side by side on both sides of Israel’s separation barrier in 2007. For the Inside Out project, he wants people to send him their own photos. Basically the idea is: You upload a photo and tell him what you want to do with it; he sends you back a huge poster-sized print that you can post where you want.

Pretty cool.

It kind of reminds me of Life in a Day, the YouTube project that asked people to send in a video of what they were doing on one day, June 10, 2010, and then send the video in. Director Kevin Macdonald and producer Ridley Scott poured through the entries, cutting the whole massive project down into a 90-minute or so film.

Interesting speech from JR at the TED conference (above), interesting idea. Question is, what picture would you take? And where would you paste it?

*What’s TED? (from The Guardian website

*TED official Website

On the Stupidity of Mike Huckabee and Michael Medved Taking Harvard-Educated, 29-Year-Old, Pregnant Natalie Portman to Task for Setting Such a Bad Example

**Editor’s Note: A lot of smart people have gone to Yale, but Natalie Portman was not one of them. She went to Harvard. Correction duly made, with thanks to the reader who spotted my egregious error, apologies to Ms. Portman for insinuating she chose Yale, and Harvard people everywhere offended by the mix-up. Mea culpa.

So former presidential candidate/former governor of Arkansas (and, let’s not forget kids, likely presidential candidate in 2012) Mike Huckabee has an issue with Natalie Portman being unwed and pregnant. So sayeth The Hollywood Reporter, who picked it up from MediaMatters.org.

If you read the Media Matters piece, you’ll note that this all actually came from an interview with Huckabee on the February 27th edition of The Michael Medved Show, which makes it even less surprising. The controversial quote happened in response to Medved complaining about Natalie Portman’s speech, in which she thanked her choreographer fiance, Benjamin Millepied, for their soon-to-be baby. Medved took issue with this: “He didn’t give her the most wonderful gift, which would be a wedding ring! And it just seems to me that sending that kind of message is problematic.”

Huckabee responded at length, but the bit that’s seemed to set people off the most is this:

“Most single moms are very poor, uneducated, can’t get a job, and if it weren’t for government assistance, their kids would be starving to death and never have health care. And that’s the story that we’re not seeing, and it’s unfortunate that we glorify and glamorize the idea of out-of-wedlock children.”

But apparently Ms. Portman, who is 29 years old, has a high-paying job and a degree from YaleHarvard, and can surely afford to raise a child with or without being married to any man, is setting a bad example for young girls who will see her all preggers and think, “Hey, if a rich movie star like Natalie Portman can afford a baby, I can too!” Or not.

Huckabee opposes sex education and abortion, so apparently in spite of his issue with supporting the children of single mothers — a problem that will no doubt increase by a multiple of at least 10 due to the unsavory influence of Natalie Portman — he would like there to be MORE children born to mothers who are ill-equipped to be parents. Brilliant, just brilliant.

Here’s Huckabee from the Republican presidential debate in South Carolina:

“I’m pro-life because I believe life begins at conception, and I believe that we should do everything possible to protect that life because it is the centerpiece of what makes us unique as an American people. We value the life of one as if it’s the life of all …”

Well, that’s good to know, Mr. Huckabee. I hope you have a plan in place to personally financially support those lives that we should so protect. Seeing as how we value the life of one as if it’s the life of all, and all.

What’s that? You’re a Republican who doesn’t support those socialist ideas about it taking a village to raise a child? But how can we value the life of one as if it’s the life of all, and then NOT think it’s important for the ALL to have things like food to eat, a safe place to live, universal access to health care? Better not think about that one too hard.

So how do you feel about sex education, Mr. Huckabee? From ProLifeBlogs.com:

“Abstinence education provides a valuable counterweight to peer pressure and the message young people get from the popular culture encouraging casual relationships and separating sex from love, commitment and marriage. I do not believe in teaching about sex or contraception in public schools. That is the responsibility of parents.”

Then it would logically follow that it’s the responsibility of those parents to financially support the babies born out of wedlock to their sexually active teens if they fail to teach their kids about sex and birth control, right? Because what if, in spite of being taught that Abstinence is Good, instead the kids look at pregnant, 29-year-old Natalie Portman and decide to get knocked up anyhow? We value ALL life, remember? Those unaborted babies aren’t going to raise themselves, someone’s gotta do it. Gosh almighty, what a conundrum.

Young women get pregnant without benefit of marriage for a lot of reasons, Mr. Huckabee — most often because they are having sex with men (sometimes young, sometimes not) who are also not married to them at the time. They get pregnant because they are uniformed about how pregnancy happens and how not to get pregnant, when they don’t have access to good sex education — which Huckabee opposes. Sometimes they get pregnant because they have been raised by crappy, unloving parents and mistakenly believe that if they have a baby, someone will love them. Sometimes they get pregnant by immaculate conception, but that doesn’t happen too often.

So to sum up where Huckabee stands:

1. Sex outside of marriage is bad. Everyone without a wedding ring should be abstaining from sex.

2. Abstinence is good. Everyone without a wedding ring should be abstaining from sex.

3. Abortion is bad. So don’t get pregnant if you don’t want a baby. Also, everyone without a wedding ring should be abstaining from sex.

4. Sex education is bad. And remember, kids, everyone without a wedding ring should be abstaining from sex.

5. Waiting to have a baby until you’re 29 years old, have a degree from Yale, and a successful career, is also bad. Because everyone without a wedding ring should be abstaining from sex.

6. Don’t do what Natalie Portman does, kids. Follow Mike Huckabee’s advice instead: Everyone without a wedding ring should be abstaining from sex.

Got it? Good. Because Mike Huckabee values all life so much that he wants to tell you what you can and cannot do with your own uterus, young women. He values all life, but he doesn’t support having access to universal health care once you’re born to ensure you stay healthy and alive. He values all life, but he doesn’t value yours when you have to get a back alley abortion because he gets elected president in 2012 and manages to get Roe v. Wade overturned. He values all life, but not if your mother is a successful career woman who can afford to support you, but doesn’t happen to want to get married just because she got pregnant.

Now I don’t think that any girl will get pregnant because she saw Natalie Portman give her Oscar acceptance speech while unmarried and pregnant. But time and statistical data could prove me wrong on that count. It’s possible that 10 or 20 years from now in an alternative universe that we will have scientific data to support Mr. Medved and Mr. Huckabee’s assertion that Natalie Portman has set a bad example by thanking the father of her kid in her Oscar speech.

Until then, they both continue to be idiots.

P.S. If you are having sex, married or not, and you don’t want to have a baby, USE BIRTH CONTROL. Abstinence only works if you aren’t having sex. And having sex safely and in a way that fits your PERSONAL belief system, is a Good Thing.

P.P.S. If you do get pregnant and do not wish to be, you still have the legal right to get an abortion. Even if you live in Kansas.



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It shows how out of it I was in trying to be in it, acknowledging that I was out of it to myself, and then thinking, “Okay, how do I stop being out of it? Well, I get some legitimate illogical narrative ideas” — some novel, you know?

So I decided on three writers that I might be able to option their material and get some producer, or myself as producer, and then get some writer to do a screenplay on it, and maybe make a movie.

And so the three projects were “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep,” “Naked Lunch” and a collection of Bukowski. Which, in 1975, forget it — I mean, that was nuts. Hollywood would not touch any of that, but I was looking for something commercial, and I thought that all of these things were coming.

There would be no Blade Runner if there was no Ray Bradbury. I couldn’t find Philip K. Dick. His agent didn’t even know where he was. And so I gave up.

I was walking down the street and I ran into Bradbury — he directed a play that I was going to do as an actor, so we know each other, but he yelled “hi” — and I’d forgot who he was.

So at my girlfriend Barbara Hershey’s urging — I was with her at that moment — she said, “Talk to him! That guy really wants to talk to you,” and I said “No, fuck him,” and keep walking.

But then I did, and then I realized who it was, and I thought, “Wait, he’s in that realm, maybe he knows Philip K. Dick.” I said, “You know a guy named—” “Yeah, sure — you want his phone number?”

My friend paid my rent for a year while I wrote, because it turned out we couldn’t get a writer. My friends kept on me about, well, if you can’t get a writer, then you write.”
~ Hampton Fancher

“That was the most disappointing thing to me in how this thing was played. Is that I’m on the phone with you now, after all that’s been said, and the fundamental distinction between what James is dealing with in these other cases is not actually brought to the fore. The fundamental difference is that James Franco didn’t seek to use his position to have sex with anyone. There’s not a case of that. He wasn’t using his position or status to try to solicit a sexual favor from anyone. If he had — if that were what the accusation involved — the show would not have gone on. We would have folded up shop and we would have not completed the show. Because then it would have been the same as Harvey Weinstein, or Les Moonves, or any of these cases that are fundamental to this new paradigm. Did you not notice that? Why did you not notice that? Is that not something notable to say, journalistically? Because nobody could find the voice to say it. I’m not just being rhetorical. Why is it that you and the other critics, none of you could find the voice to say, “You know, it’s not this, it’s that”? Because — let me go on and speak further to this. If you go back to the L.A. Times piece, that’s what it lacked. That’s what they were not able to deliver. The one example in the five that involved an issue of a sexual act was between James and a woman he was dating, who he was not working with. There was no professional dynamic in any capacity.

~ David Simon