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James Franco, or the Dada Host

I did not have the pleasure of watching the Oscars, but I wanted to, because I think James Franco is a funny guy. So I did what I could on a computer with a slow internet connection to try and measure Franco’s performance. This is a selction of what I found.

Salon tried to get in Franco’s head, Matt Zoller Seitz could not understand his hosting performance:

James Franco had a feeling this Oscar hosting gig was a bust when he ambled onstage dressed as Marilyn Monroe and the crowd at the Kodak Theater took entirely too long to register that it was him. And when theydid figure it out — somewhere around the time that Franco said, “I just got a text message from Charlie Sheen!” — they just sort of tittered politely.

Maybe, Franco thought, there’s more to entertainment than just being in the room. Maybe performance is more than a concept to be explored via metafiction and academic jazzing-around. Maybe you just plant your feet and say your line with some energy and try to connect with the audience and hope it works. Maybe it’s as simple as flipping a switch: Decide to give a damn and you give a damn, and the audience does, too.

Lisa de Moraes from the WashPo put it this way:

This year, the motion picture academy decided to go with co-hosts whose big selling point was their age: Franco and Anne Hathaway. Hathaway worked hard to keep us awake during the show, including a breathtaking number of outfit changes.

Franco phoned it in for three hours and change.

Bill White from themorningcall.com agrees that the Oscars were a bust but does not blame it all on the presenters, Franco:

Co-hosts Anne Hathaway and James Franco are absorbing a lot of abuse today, but really, they just were living up to their public images — Hathaway over-the-top perky and Franco a heavy-lidded stoner. They combined for a mildly entertaining opening and a mildly funny joke here and there. Honestly, can you think of any recent hosts who bowled you over? I can’t.

In the face of a show where the highlights are the tiny clips used to introduce the nominees, there’s not a lot a host can do, except to be quick enough on his/her feet to ad lib some good wisecracks about the silliness. That’s why Billy Crystal was the most successful host most of us have seen. He doesn’t need a script.

Steven Zeitchik from the LATimes did some reporting on some of the odd moments of the Oscars, providing some context that rescues many of them into normalcy. Franco, however, had no explanation:

James Franco: Well, this one stumps us too. Did he genuinely not care, or did he just want to make it seem as though he didn’t care? More important, do we care?

We care, or at least, I care. Because I had the sneaking suspicion that Franco was going to be dwelling in a little performance art, and judging by these reactions, he did, he dwelt. But the case is still open, and nothing is certain. We continue to explore. From The Tech Daddy (Ken Gruberman), or just-another-serf at the HuffPo, a brutal review of this year’s Oscars, but not one that focused on the Franco:

But the real problems with the show this year were not with the hosts. Rather it was with the producer/director Don Mischer — who really should know better — and the writing staff. There were PAINFULLY awkward moments in the show, odd transitions that didn’t make sense, continuity problems, lack of info to the viewing public, and really bad presenter “banter.” TRULY bad. Like the byplay between Robert Downey Jr. and Jude Law — totally inappropriate. Did the world really need to be reminded of Downey’s previous debauchery? Is that supposed to be funny? Or Matthew McConaughey and Scarlett Johanssen’s stunningly un-funny banter (“sound!”) There were so many bits that just went nowhere, such as Franco’s walk-on as Marilyn Monroe.

Rolling Stone championed this one with a report that confirmed my suspicion. Perhaps his awkwardness was planned, and therefore spot-on. This is the Franco who acts in soap operas because he wants to, the Franco who called out Meredith Vieira on the “Today Show” for telling Colin Firth he would win the Oscar for the best actor, the Franco who is getting university degrees because he wants to and because he can, the Franco who published a book of short stories, the Franco who plays a young Allen Ginsberg in “Howl,” a movie he produced. This was Rob Sheffield’s review:

Come on: James Franco was kind of brilliant last night. He treated the Oscars like his own avant-garde conceptual art project, like the way he went on General Hospital for kicks and giggles. Like, what if an insanely pretty boy got up on TV in front of a billion people, and did nothing but smirk and squint and stare off into the distance and look embarrassed to be there? What if he barely said a word, just contemplating his own hotness and flashing his John-Mayer-post-lobotomy grin? What a bold statement on modern alienation! Like the tragic hero of Jean Cocteau’s Orphic Trilogy, he stood trapped behind a mirror, unable to make human contact, cursed to face his own reflection alone. Duuuude! I hope he got at least a B+ for that in his “Media Tedium Strategies” seminar.

I am signing off with this video, evidence that there was some effort involved in hosting, even if the video did not air.

Born What Way?

Lady Gaga released the “Born This Way” video,  available in YouTube. It is disjointed and unfortunately gratuitous. There are two parts to the video; a monologue introduction, and your standard music video. The parts do not really go together, although they are probably supposed to. This is the opening monologue (written by Gaga):

This is the manifesto of Mother Monster. On G.O.A.T., a Government Owned Alien Territory in space, a birth of magnificent and magical proportions took place. But the birth was not finite, it was infinite. As the wombs numbered and the mitosis of the future began, it was perceived that this infamous moment in life is not temporal, it is eternal. And thus began the beginning of the new race, a race within the race of humanity, a race which bears no prejudice, no judgement, but boundless freedom. But on that same day the eternal mother hovered in the multi-verse, a more terrifying birth took place, the birth of evil. And as she herself split into two, rotating in agony between two ultimate forces, the pendulum of choice began its dance. It seems easy to imagine, to gravitate instantly and unwaveringly towards good. But she wondered, how can I protect something so perfect without evil?

My first concern is that Gaga and her people do not know what a manifesto is. She threatens with a manifesto and offers a cheap genesis, a porous philosophy of the dualist birth of Gaga and Evil in G.O.A.T., a conveniently dissonant acronym for an alien planet. Then there are words like womb and mitosis that are thrown in to legitimize the primordial analogy. Needless to say, these fail , because the monologue is absurd, and thus impossible to legitimize. The new race within the race is also quite complicated since races, or human races, are all within the ‘human race.’ Is this a new and separate race to the three human races, African, Asian and Caucasian? Or is Gaga’s new race a sub-race of one of these? And how is a race within the human race being created in an alien territory? All pressing questions.

Then there is the video, once is starts of course. It demonstrates that Gaga can’t dance, and that she is much more entertaining with elaborate costumes than in a bikini that shows her too conventional body type. I am not saying that she has to have Beyonce-like curves or sex-appeal, but going semi-nude without these features isn’t entertaining. If she is going to dance without crutches it is best that she dances like Beyonce. Gaga looks like a hybrid between Joan Rivers and Amy Whinehouse, uncomfortable and deteriorated. The most entertaining part is the scene where she is dressed in a skeleton costume, in a tux, next to a dude skeleton, also in a tux. The dude doesn’t even move and she just kinda quakes around him. It is entertaining but confusing to the narrative. At first I expected some Star Trek sort of tale, and by the skeleton scene I’m wondering if the whole thing is just an elaborate Halloween performance.

Lady Gaga tries to do the Michael Jackson with a seven minute concept music video, but she misunderstand the purpose. The music is in opposition to the idea of the new infinite-alien-human-modern-monster race that must be protected with Evil. The music is conventional club music, upbeat and too similar to ‘Bad Romance.’

At least M.J. dressed like a smooth criminal and danced like one too. Gaga, however, is trying to hard to push her freak agenda. She wants to be Marlyn Manson with all the glam and none of the gore. Instead Gaga is the Fox News of popular culture, what happens when Marilyn Manson and Cher breed. Sensational and likable.

Twoogle or Facetwit?

WashPo  Blog:

So, what would a Google-Twitter baby look like? Or a Facebook-Twitter child?

Well, first of all, there’s the name issue: Would it be Goowit? Twoogle? Twitbook? Facetwit?

WSJ:

As Internet valuations climb and bankers and would-be buyers circle Silicon Valley in an increasingly frothy tech market, many eyes are on one particularly desirable, if still enigmatic, target: Twitter. Discussions with at least some potential suitors have produced an estimated valuation of $8 billion to $10 billion.

Twitter, which started selling ads last spring against its business of allowing users to send messages of no more than 140 characters, is just one of many tech targets being batted about as valuations climb. In December, when it got $200 million in new venture capital, Twitter was valued at $3.7 billion.

But since then Facebook raised $1.5 billion in a financing that valued the social network at $50 billion, up from $10 billion in mid 2009. Online-coupon provider Groupon Inc. rebuffed a $6 billion takeover offer from Google and set plans for a 2011 public offering—a prospect that had bankers rushing to Groupon’s Chicago headquarters in recent weeks to make pitches. And just this week, AOL Inc. agreed to pay $315 million to buy the Huffington Post—about 10 times the news and commentary website’s 2010 revenue.

Forbes:

There is growing consensus Google would be the more appropriate match. The search engine has struggled to find its place in the Web 2.0 era. Buying Twitter would give Google a real-time social information service and considerable amounts of data. With its demonstrated ad platform, Google may also be in the better position to leverage the value of Twitter’s data.

Snubbing Google or Facebook would put Twitter in risky territory. The company has struggled to find a proven business model. Despite its $45 million in reported revenues last year, Twitter is said to have lost money hiring engineers and buying data centers. Its current annual revenue forecast is reported to be between $100 and $110 million, with the majority of that flowing from Promoted Tweets. With such a large exit opportunity on the table, investors will now demand a better product roadmap and specific plans to generate profits upwards of these acquisition offers in the future.

PCMag.com:

Since Twitter launched in 2006, it has grown considerably, especially in the past year. It now has nearly 200 million registered users. In December, the company confirmed that it has tripled the number of employees it had just 12 months ago. With a staff of about 350, the company is reportedlysearching for a new office, potentially outside of its native San Francisco.

The talks with Facebook and Google aren’t new, the Journal said. Communication has been ongoing and open, with both companies expressing a “latent interest” in Twitter.

Guardian:

Not for the first time, the internet needs to stop being so bloody hysterical.

The reason I can’t muster any outrage over a possible Twitter acquisition is that I’ve seen this movie a dozen times before. Spoiler alert: everything’s going to be fine.

For one thing, this is Silicon Valley. Everyone here is in acquisition talks with Google and Facebook. Twitter certainly is; Quora probably is; FoursquareTumblrInstagramInstapaper – they’re all likely sitting round a Mountain View conference table at this very moment, pens poised. They’ll all deny it of course. They’re in it for the long haul – they have no interest in selling. Until they do.

The only problem with the independence v acquisition, good v evil narrative is that – well – it’s bullshit. You know who refused to sell out to the man? Facebook. Mark Zuckerberg is famous for having turned down multiple acquisition offers – including one from Google. The payoff? Facebook grew so big that it ended up being an evil acquirer itself. Google also turned down multiple suitors, before swelling into a public company with a market cap of almost $200bn. The “don’t be evil” kids are now so powerful that even the Chinese government is scared of them.

Here’s what happens next: either Twitter is acquired, it goes public or it continues to grow until it’s as big as Facebook. In the meantime, someone invents an even shinier, newer service for us to root for. Like Twitter, that new thing will change the way we communicate, it’ll revolutionise commerce and – who knows – it might even kick-start a revolution. “We’ll never sell out!” the founders will cry. And we’ll all believe them. Until one day they do – possibly even to big, evil old Twitter.

 

A Three Horse Race

Reuters:

Nokia and Microsoft teamed up on Friday to build an iPhone killer in a desperate attempt to take on Google and Apple in the fast-growing smartphone market.

“It is now a three-horse race,” said Elop, who was drafted in from Microsoft last September to turn Nokia around.

“This is a partnership born out of both parties’ fear of marginalization at the hands of Apple and Google but there is no silver bullet,” said analyst Geoff Blaber from CCS Insight.

USA Today, AP:

Elop, a Canadian national, joined Nokia from a senior executive position at Microsoft last year. The first non-Finn to lead Nokia, he is under intense pressure to reverse the company’s market share losses to North American and Asian competitors.

“Nokia is at a critical juncture, where significant change is necessary and inevitable in our journey forward,” Elop said. He added the company was aiming at “regaining our smart phone leadership, reinforcing our mobile device platform and realizing our investments in the future.”

Speaking later to analysts in London, he declined to say when Nokia would introduce a new device running on Windows Phone. But he said Nokia won’t bury its own Symbian operating system or the new Meego platform that it is currently developing.

“We need to, and we will, collaborate closely on development … so we can really align and drive the future revolution of the mobile phone,” he said.

CNNMoney.com Fortune:

Of course, Nokia isn’t the top dog it used to be. But despite a weak presence in the United States, declining market share worldwide and a lack of hit products, the company still sold more phones than any other manufacturer in 2010. Last year, Nokia shipped about 100 million handsets (more than twice as many as Apple sold), according to market research firm IDC. No other partner could give Microsoft that same kind of global reach and scale.

In a way, with Google, it would’ve been just another Android handset maker. The details of its deal with Microsoft likely mean it will be first among equals, a premier partner in the Redmond company’s mobile business. It will also likely benefit, according to some reports, from many millions of dollars in development support from Microsoft, as it makes the transition to their OS. So will Windows Phone get the job done? Not unless Nokia shows some real — and real fast — innovation on the hardware side as well.

Blog at Forbes:

INQ Chief Executive Frank Meehan told me today that the Nokia-Microsoft strategic partnership, in which Windows Phone 7 will be the primary operating system for Nokia was “good for both parties.”

Microsoft’s mobile operating system is well-regarded, but it has just 8.5% market share in the U.S., so piggybacking onto Nokia’s huge distribution channels and the billion or so people who use its phones today could provide a new advantage against Google Android and Apple’s iPhone. Working together on a Windows Phone 7 ecosystem would also keep both parties incentivized to make the software a success.

Blog at The Telegraph:

Where two established giants of very different corporate culture, structure and nationality come together to try and play catch up in a business characterised by a new generation of faster moving reptiles, the result is highly unlikely to be productive. I’m willing to bet big money that the partnership will not last more than five years and will fail to produce the cutting edge technology aspired to.

“There is intense heat coming from our competitors, more rapidly than we ever expected. While competitors poured flames on our market share, what happened at Nokia? We fell behind, we missed big trends, and we lost time.”

A dime to a dozen, he’ll lose even more attempting to make his joint venture with Microsoft work.

Screw U Mubarak

From The DailyDish:

(Photo: Doctors, medical workers and students march through Cairo to join anti-government protests in Tahrir Square on February 10, 2011 in Cairo, Egypt. Thousands of workers from various unions across Egypt, including many medical workers, have gone on strike today with protestors calling for a nationwide general strike. The wave of strikes is increasing pressure on the government following more than two weeks of protests calling for the resignation of President Hosni Mubarak. By John Moore/Getty Images.)

Arctic Sea Ice

This here map from the NASA shows that despite cold and snowy winters in North America the north pole ice cap didn’t grow as much as it usually does in January.

This image shows the average Arctic sea ice concentration for January 2011, based on observations from the Advanced Microwave Scanning Radiometer for EOS (AMSR-E) aboard NASA’s Aqua satellite. Blue indicates open water; white indicates high sea ice concentrations; and turquoise indicates loosely packed sea ice. The yellow line shows the average sea ice extent for January from 1979 through 2000.

On a lighter (warmer) note, this here astronaut photograph from the NASA shows that as it gets hotter, crop-circle-like islands pop up for peeps to vacation. If you have the money, if you have the will, the bottom four islands/fish have not begun construction.

At the southern end of Bahrain Island, at the furthest point from the cities of the kingdom, a new complex of 14 artificial islands has risen out of the sea. Designed for residential living and tourism, and aimed at a cosmopolitan clientele, the Durrat Al Bahrain includes 21 square kilometers (8 square miles) of new surface area for more than 1,000 residences, luxury hotels, and shopping malls. The complex has been designed to include: The Islands (six “atolls” leading off five fish-shaped “petals”), The Crescent, Hotel Island, and Durrat Marina in the north.