Barnes & Noble Board Would Face Tough Choices in a Buyout Vote | Dealbook

Read Barnes & Noble Faces Tough Choices in a Buyout Vote by Steven Davidoff Solomon (DealBook)
If Leonard Riggio, Barnes & Noble's chairman, joins Liberty Media's proposed buyout of his company, the board needs to decide how to handle his 30 percent stake before shareholders vote on the deal.
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This story from the New York Times’ Dealbook is a good quick read on some of the details and machinations of the Barnes & Noble buyout. Perhaps additional analysis on it from a game theoretical viewpoint would yield new insight?

IPTV primer: an overview of the fusion of TV and the Internet | Ars Technica

Reposted IPTV primer: an overview of the fusion of TV and the Internet by Iljitsch Van BeijnumIljitsch Van Beijnum (Ars Technica)

This brief overview of IPTV is about as concise as they get. It’s recommended for entertainment executives who need to get caught up on the space as well as for people who are contemplating “cutting the cable cord.” There’s still a lot of improvement the area can use…

Profound as it may be, the Internet revolution still pales in comparison to that earlier revolution that first brought screens in millions of homes: the TV revolution. Americans still spend more of their non-sleep, non-work time on watching TV than on any other activity. And now the immovable object (the couch potato) and the irresistible force (the business-model destroying Internet) are colliding.

For decades, the limitations of technology only allowed viewers to watch TV programs as they were broadcast. Although limiting, this way of watching TV has the benefit of simplicity: the viewer only has to turn on the set and select a channel. They then get to see what was deemed broadcast-worthy at that particular time. This is the exact opposite of the Web, where users type a search query or click a link and get their content whenever they want. Unsurprisingly, TV over the Internet, a combination that adds Web-like instant gratification to the TV experience, has seen an enormous growth in popularity since broadband became fast enough to deliver decent quality video. So is the Internet going to wreck TV, or is TV going to wreck the Internet? Arguments can certainly be made either way.

The process of distributing TV over a data network such as the Internet, a process often called IPTV, is a little more complex than just sending files back and forth. Unless, that is, a TV broadcast is recorded and turned into a file. The latter, file-based model is one that Apple has embraced with its iTunes Store, where shows are simply downloaded like any other file. This has the advantage that shows can be watched later, even when there is no longer a network connection available, but the download model doesn’t exactly lend itself to live broadcasts—or instant gratification, for that matter.

Streaming

Most of the new IPTV services, like Netflix and Hulu, and all types of live broadcasts use a streaming model. Here, the program is set out in real time. The computer—or, usually by way of a set-top-box, the TV—decodes the incoming stream of audio and video and then displays it pretty much immediately. This has the advantage that the video starts within seconds. However, it also means that the network must be fast enough to carry the audio/video at the bitrate that it was encoded with. The bitrate can vary a lot depending on the type of program—talking heads compress a lot better than car crashes—but for standard definition (SD) video, think two megabits per second (Mbps).

To get a sense just how significant this 2Mbps number is, it’s worth placing it in the context of the history of the Internet, as it has moved from transmitting text to images to audio and video. A page of text that takes a minute to read is a few kilobytes in size. Images are tens to a few hundred kilobytes. High quality audio starts at about 128 kilobits per second (kbps), or about a megabyte per minute. SD TV can be shoehorned in some two megabits per second (Mbps), or about 15 megabytes per minute. HDTV starts around 5Mbps, 40 megabytes per minute. So someone watching HDTV over the Internet uses about the same bandwidth as half a million early-1990s text-only Web surfers. Even today, watching video uses at least ten times as much bandwidth as non-video use of the network.

In addition to raw capacity, streaming video also places other demands on the network. Most applications communicate through TCP, a layer in the network stack that takes care of retransmitting lost data and delivering data to the receiving application in the right order. This is despite the fact that the IP packets that do TCP’s bidding may arrive out of order. And when the network gets congested, TCP’s congestion control algorithms slow down the transmission rate at the sender, so the network remains usable.

However, for real-time audio and video, TCP isn’t such a good match. If a fraction of a second of audio or part of a video frame gets lost, it’s much better to just skip over the lost data and continue with what follows, rather than wait for a retransmission to arrive. So streaming audio and video tended to run on top of UDP rather than TCP. UDP is the thinnest possible layer on top of IP and doesn’t care about lost packets and such. But UDP also means that TCP’s congestion control is out the door, so a video stream may continue at full speed even though the network is overloaded and many packets—also from other users—get lost. However, more advanced streaming solutions are able to switch to lower quality video when network conditions worsen. And Apple has developed a way to stream video using standard HTTP on top of TCP, by splitting the stream into small files that are downloaded individually. Should a file fail to download because of network problems, it can be skipped, continuing playback with the next file.

Where are the servers? Follow the money

Like any Internet application, streaming of TV content can happen from across town or across the world. However, as the number of users increases, the costs of sending such large amounts of data over large distances become significant. For this reason, content delivery networks (CDNs), of which Akamai is probably the most well-known, try to place servers as close to the end-users as possible, either close to important interconnect locations where lots of Internet traffic comes together, or actually inside the networks of large ISPs.

Interestingly, it appears that CDNs are actually paying large ISPs for this privilege. This makes the IPTV business a lot like the cable TV business. On the Internet, the assumption is that both ends (the consumer and the provider of over-the-Internet services) pay their own ISPs for the traffic costs, and the ISPs just transport the bits and aren’t involved otherwise. In the cable TV world, this is very different. An ISP provides access to the entire Internet; a cable TV provider doesn’t provide access to all possible TV channels. Often, the cable companies pay for access to content.

A recent dispute between Level3 and Comcast can be interpreted as evidence of a power struggle between the CDNs and the ISPs in the IPTV arena.

Walled gardens

For services like Netflix or Hulu, where everyone is watching their own movie or their own show, streaming makes a lot of sense. Not so much with live broadcasts.

So far, we’ve only been looking at IPTV over the public Internet. However, many ISPs around the world already provide cable-like service on top of ADSL or Fiber-To-The-Home (FTTH). With such complete solutions, the ISPs can control the whole service, from streaming servers to the set-top box that decodes the IPTV data and delivers it to a TV. This “walled garden” type of IPTV typically provides a better and more TV-like experience—changing channels is faster, image quality is better, and the service is more reliable.

Such an IPTV Internet access service is a lot like what cable networks provide, but there is a crucial difference: with cable, the bandwidth of the analog cable signal is split into channels, which can be used for analog or digital TV broadcasts or for data. TV and data don’t get in each other’s way. With IPTV on the other hand, TV and Internet data are communication vessels: what is used by one is unavailable to the other. And to ensure a good experience, IPTV packets are given higher priority than other packets. When bandwidth is plentiful, this isn’t an issue, but when a network fills up to the point that Internet packets regularly have to take a backseat to IPTV packets, this could easily become a network neutrality headache.

Multicast to the rescue

Speaking of networks that fill up: for services like Netflix or Hulu, where everyone is watching their own movie or their own show, streaming makes a lot of sense. Not so much with live broadcasts. If 30 million people were to tune into Dancing with the Stars using streaming, that means 30 million copies of each IPTV packet must flow down the tubes. That’s not very efficient, especially given that routers and switches have the capability to take one packet and deliver a copy to anyone who’s interested. This ability to make multiple copies of a packet is called multicast, and it occupies territory between broadcasts, which go to everyone, and regular communications (called unicast), which go to only one recipient. Multicast packets are addressed to a special group address. Only systems listening for the right group address get a copy of the packet.

Multicast is already used in some private IPTV networks, but it has never gained traction on the public Internet. Partially, this is a chicken/egg situation, where there is no demand because there is no supply and vice versa. But multicast is also hard to make work as the network gets larger and the number of multicast groups increases. However, multicast is very well suited to broadcast type network infrastructures, such as cable networks and satellite transmission. Launching multiple satellites that just send thousands of copies of the same packets to thousands of individual users would be a waste of perfectly good rockets.

Peer-to-peer and downloading

Converging to a single IP network that can carry the Web, other data services, telephony, and TV seems like a no-brainer.

Multicast works well for a relatively limited number of streams that are each watched by a reasonably sized group of people—but having very many multicast groups takes up too much memory in routers and switches. For less popular content, there’s another delivery method that requires no or few streaming servers: peer-to-peer streaming. This was the technology used by the Joost service in 2007 and 2008. With peer-to-peer streaming, all the systems interested in a given stream get blocks of audio/video data from upstream peers, and then send those on to downstream peers. This approach has two downsides: the bandwidth of the stream has to be limited to fit within the upload capacity of most peers, and changing channels is a very slow process because a whole new set of peers must be contacted.

For less time-critical content, downloading can work very well. Especially in a form like podcasts, where an RSS feed allows a computer to download new episodes of shows without user intervention. It’s possible to imagine a system where regular network TV shows are made available for download one or two days before they air—but in encrypted form. Then, “airing” the show would just entail distributing the decryption keys to viewers. This could leverage unused network capacity at night. Downloads might also happen using IP packets with a lower priority, so they don’t get in the way of interactive network use.

IP addresses and home networks

A possible issue with IPTV could be the extra IP addresses required. There are basically two approaches to handling this issue: the one where the user is in full control, and the one where an IPTV service provider (usually the ISP) has some control. In the former case, streaming and downloading happens through the user’s home network and no extra addresses are required. However, wireless home networks may not be able to provide bandwidth with enough consistency to make streaming work well, so pulling Ethernet cabling may be required.

When the IPTV provider provides a set-top box, it’s often necessary to address packets toward that set-top box, so the box must be addressable in some way. This can eat up a lot of addresses, which is a problem in these IPv4-starved times. For really large ISPs, the private address ranges in IPv4 may not even be sufficient to provide a unique address to every customer. Issues in this area are why Comcast has been working on adopting IPv6 in the non-public part of its network for many years. When an IPTV provider provides a home gateway, this gateway is often outfitted with special quality-of-service mechanisms that make (wireless) streaming work better than run-of-the-mill home gateways that treat all packets the same.

Predicting the future

Converging to a single IP network that can carry the Web, other data services, telephony, and TV seems like a no-brainer. The phone companies have been working on this for years because that will allow them to buy cheap off-the-shelf routers and switches, rather than the specialty equipment they use now. So it seems highly likely that in the future, we’ll be watching our TV shows over the Internet—or at least over an IP network of some sort. The extra bandwidth required is going to be significant, but so far, the Internet has been able to meet all challenges thrown at it in this area. Looking at the technologies, it would make sense to combine nightly pushed downloads for popular non-live content, multicast for popular live content, and regular streaming or peer-to-peer streaming for back catalog shows and obscure live content.

However, the channel flipping model of TV consumption has proven to be quite popular over the past half century, and many consumers may want to stick with it—for at least part of their TV viewing time. If nothing else, this provides an easy way to discover new shows. The networks are also unlikely to move away from this model voluntarily, because there is no way they’ll be able to sell 16 minutes of commercials per hour using most of the other delivery methods. However, we may see some innovations. For instance, if you stumble upon a show in progress, wouldn’t it be nice to be able to go back to the beginning? In the end, TV isn’t going anywhere, and neither is the Internet, so they’ll have to find a way to live together.

Correction: The original article incorrectly stated that cable providers get paid by TV networks. For broadcast networks, cable operators are required by the law’s “must carry” provisions to carry all of the TV stations broadcast in a market. Ars regrets the error.

Confessions of David Seidler, a 73-year-old Oscars virgin

Read Confessions of David Seidler, a 73-year-old Oscars virgin (LA Times)
My first realization I was hooked on Oscar was when I seriously began pondering one of mankind's most profound dilemmas: whether to rent or buy a tux. That first step, as with any descent down a...

This is a great (and hilarious) story by and about the writer of THE KING’S SPEECH.

Amplify’d from www.latimes.com

Confessions of David Seidler, a 73-year-old Oscars virgin

The screenwriter, whose first nomination was for ‘The King’s Speech,’ ponders his formalwear options for the big night, his standing in Hollywood and much more.

Failings and Opportunities of the Publishing Industry in the Digital Age

On Sunday, the Los Angeles Times printed a story about the future of reading entitled "Book publishers see their role as gatekeepers shrink." The article covers most of the story fairly well, but leaves out some fundamental pieces of the business ...

On Sunday, the Los Angeles Times printed a story about the future of reading entitled “Book publishers see their role as gatekeepers shrink.” 

The article covers most of the story fairly well, but leaves out some fundamental pieces of the business picture.  It discusses a few particular cases of some very well known authors in the publishing world including the likes of Stephen King, Seth Godin, Paulo Coehlo, Greg Bear, and Neal Stephenson and how new digital publishing platforms are slowly changing the publishing business.

Indeed, many authors are bypassing traditional publishing routes and self-publishing their works directly online, and many are taking a much larger slice of the financial rewards in doing so.

The article, however, completely fails to mention or address how new online methods will be handling editorial and publicity functions differently than they’re handled now, and the future of the publishing business both now and in the future relies on both significantly.

It is interesting, and not somewhat ironic to note that, even in the case of this particular article, as the newspaper business in which it finds its outlet, has changed possibly more drastically than the book publishing business. If reading the article online, one is forced to click through four different pages on which a minimum of five different (and in my opinion, terrifically) intrusive ads appear per page. Without getting into the details of the subject of advertising, even more interesting, is that many of these ads are served up by Google Ads based on keywords, so three just on the first page were specifically publishing related.

Two of the ads were soliciting people to self-publish their own work. One touts how easy it is to publish, while the other glosses over the publicity portion with a glib statement offering an additional “555 Book Promotion Tips”! (I’m personally wondering if there can possibly be so many book promotion tips?)

Google_ads
Google_children

Following the link in the third ad on the first page to its advertised site one discovers it states:

Learning how to publish a children’s book is no child’s play.

From manuscript editing to book illustration, distribution and marketing – a host of critical decisions can make or break your publishing venture.

Fortunately, you can skip the baby steps and focus on what authors like you do best-crafting the best children’s book possible for young inquisitive minds. Leave the rest to us.

Count on the collective publishing and book marketing expertise of a children book publisher with over thirteen years’ experience. We have helped over 20,000 independent authors fulfill their dream of publication.

Take advantage of our extensive network of over 25,000 online bookstores and retailers that include such names Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Borders, among thousands of others.

Tell us about your Children’s book project and we will send you a Free Children’s Book Publishing Guide to start you off on your publishing adventure!

 

Although I find the portion about “baby steps” particularly entertaining, the first thing I’ll note is that the typical person is likely more readily equipped with the ability to distribute and market a children’s book than they might be at crafting one. Sadly however, there are very few who are capable of any of these tasks at a particularly high level, which is why there are relatively few new childrens’ books on the market each year and the majority of sales are older tried-and-true titles.

I hope the average reader sees the above come-on as the twenty-first century equivalent of the snake oil salesman who is tempting the typical wanna-be-author to call about their so-called “Free” Children’s Book Publishing Guide. I’m sure recipients of the guide end up paying the publisher to get their book out the door and more likely than not, it doesn’t end up in main stream brick-and-mortar establishments like Barnes & Noble or Borders, but only sells a handful of copies in easy to reach online venues like Amazon. I might suggest that the majority of sales will come directly from the author and his or her friends and family. I would further argue that neither now nor in the immediate or even distant future that many aspiring authors will be self-publishing much of anything and managing to make even a modest living by doing so.

Now of course all of the above begs the question of why exactly is it that people need/want a traditional publisher? What role or function do publishers actually perform for the business and why might they be around in the coming future?

The typical publishing houses perform three primary functions: filtering/editing material, distributing material, and promoting material. The current significant threat to the publishing business from online retailers like Amazon.com, Barnes & Noble, Borders, and even the recently launched Google Books is the distribution platforms themselves.  It certainly doesn’t take much to strike low cost deals with online retailers to distribute books, and even less so when they’re distributing them as e-books which cuts out the most significant cost in the business — that of the paper to print them on. This leaves traditional publishing houses with two remaining functions: filtering/editing material and the promotion/publicity function.

The Los Angeles Times article certainly doesn’t state it, but everyone you meet on the street could tell you that writers like Stephen King don’t really need any more publicity than what they’ve got already. Their fan followings are so significantly large that they only need to tell two people online that they’ve got a new book and they’ll sell thousands of copies of any book they release. In fact, I might wager that Stephen King could release ten horrific (don’t mistake this for horror) novels before their low quality would likely begin to significantly erode his sales numbers.  If he’s releasing them on Amazon.com and keeping 70% of the income compared to the average 6-18% most writers are receiving, he’s in phenomenally good shape. (I’m sure given his status and track record in the publishing business, he’s receiving a much larger portion of his book sales from his publisher than 18% by the way; I’d also be willing to bet if he approached Amazon directly, he could get a better distribution deal than the currently offered 70/30 split.)

What will eventually sway the majority of the industry is when completely unknown new writers can publish into these electronic platforms and receive the marketing push they need to become the next Stephen King or Neal Stephenson. At the moment, none of the major e-book publishing platforms are giving much, if any, of this type of publicity to any of their new authors, and many aren’t even giving it to the major writers. Thus, currently, even the major writers are relying primarily on their traditional publishers for publicity to push their sales.

I will admit that when 80% of all readers are online and consuming their reading material in e-book format and utilizing the full support of social media and cross-collateralization of the best portion of their word-of-mouth, that perhaps authors won’t need as much PR help. But until that day platforms will significantly need to ramp it up. Financially one wonders what a platform like Amazon.com will charge for a front and center advertisement for a new best-seller to push sales? Will they be looking for a 50/50 split on those sales? Exclusivity in their channel? This is where the business will become even more dicey. Suddenly authors who think they’re shedding the chains of their current publishers will be shackling themselves with newer and more significant manacles and leg irons.

The last piece of the business that needs to be subsumed is the editorial portion of the manufacturing process.  Agents and editors serve a significant role in that they filter out thousands and thousands of terrifically unreadable books. In fact, one might argue that even now they’re letting far too many marginal books through the system and into the market.

If we consider the millions of books housed in the Library of Congress and their general circulation, one might realize that only one tenth of a percent or less of books are receiving all the attention. Certainly classics like William Shakespeare and Charles Dickens are more widely read than the millions of nearly unknown writers who take up just as much shelf space in that esteemed library.

Most houses publish on the order of ten to a hundred titles per year, but they rely heavily on only one or two of them being major hits to cover not only the cost of the total failures, but to provide the company with some semblance of profit.  (This model is not unlike the same way that the feature film business works in Hollywood; if you throw enough spaghetti, something is bound to stick.)

The question then becomes: “how does the e-publishing business accomplish this editing and publicity in a better and less expensive way?” This question needs to be looked at from a pre-publication as well as a post-publication perspective.

From the pre-publication viewpoint the Los Angeles Times article interestingly mentions that many authors appreciate having a “conversation” with their readers and allowing it to inform their work. However, creators of the stature of Stephen King cannot possibly take in and consume criticism from their thousands of fans in any reasonable way not to mention the detriment to their output if they were forced to read and deal with all that criticism and feedback.  Even smaller stature authors often find it overwhelming to take in criticism from their agents, editors, and even a small handful of close friends, family, and colleagues.  Taking a quick look at the acknowledgement portions of a few dozen books generally reveals fewer than 10 people being thanked much less hundreds of names from their general reading public – people they neither know well, much less trust implicitly.

From the post-publication perspective, both printing on demand and e-book formats excise one of the largest costs of the supply chain management portions of the publishing world, but staff costs and salary are certainly very close in line after them.  One might argue that social media is the answer here and we can rely on services like LibraryThing, GoodReads, and others to supply this editorial/publicity process and eventually broad sampling and positive and negative reviews will win the day to cross good, but unknown writers into the popular consciousness. This may sound reasonable on the surface, but take a look at similar large recommendation services in the social media space like Yelp. These services already have hundreds of thousands of users, but they’re not nearly as useful as they need to be from a recommendation perspective and they’re not terrifically reliable in that they’re very often easily gamed. (Consider the number of positive reviews that appear on Yelp that are most likely written by the proprietors of the establishments themselves.) This outlet for editorial certainly has the potential to improve in the coming years, but it will still be quite some time before it has the possibility of totally ousting the current editorial and filtering regime.

From a mathematical and game theoretical perspective one must also consider how many people are going to subject themselves (willingly and for free) to some really bad reading material and then bother to write either a good or bad review of their experience. This particularly when the vast majority of readers are more than content to ride the coattails of the “suckers” who do the majority of the review work.

There are certainly a number of other factors at play in the publishing business as it changes form, but those discussed above are certainly significant in its continuing evolution.  Given the state of technology and its speed, if people feel that the tradition publishing world will collapse, then we should take its evolution to the nth degree. Using an argument like this, then even platforms like Amazon and Google Books will eventually need to narrow their financial split with authors down to infinitesimal margins as authors should be able to control every portion of their work without any interlopers taking any portion of their proceeds. We’ll leave the discussion of whether all of this might fit into the concept of the tragedy of the commons for a future date.

Is the Los Angeles Times Simply Publishing Press Releases for Companies Like Barnes & Noble?

The Los Angeles Times published an online article entitled “Barnes & Noble says e-books outsell physical books online.” While I understand that this is a quiet holiday week, the Times should be doing better work than simply republishing press releases from corporations trying to garner post-holiday sales.  Some of the thoughts they might have included:

“Customers bought or downloaded 1 million e-books on Christmas day alone”?

There is certainly no debating the continuous growth of the electronic book industry; even Amazon.com has said they’re selling more electronic books than physical books. The key word in the quoted sentence above is “or”. I seriously doubt a significant portion of the 1 million e-books were actually purchased on Christmas day. The real investigative journalism here would have discovered the percentage of free (primarily public domain) e-books that were downloaded versus those that were purchased.

Given that analysts estimate 2 million Nooks have sold (the majority within the last six months and likely the preponderance of them since Thanksgiving) this means that half of all Nook users downloaded at least one book on Christmas day. Perhaps this isn’t surprising for those who would have received a Nook as a holiday present and may have downloaded one or more e-books to test out its functionality. The real question will remain, how many of these 2 million users will actually be purchasing books in e-book format 6 months from now?

I’d also be curious to know if the analyst estimate is 2 million units sold to consumers or 2 million shipped to retail? I would bet that it is units shipped and not sold.

I hope the Times will be doing something besides transcription (or worse: cut and paste) after the holidays.

 


New Measures of Scholarly Impact | Inside Higher Ed

Read New Measures of Scholarly Impact (insidehighered.com)
Data analytics are changing the ways to judge the influence of papers and journals.

This article from earlier in the month has some potentially profound affects on the research and scientific communities. Some of the work and research being done here will also have significant affect on social media communities in the future as well.

The base question is are citations the best indicator of impact, or are there other better emerging methods of indicating the impact of scholarly work?

Information Flow in Hollywood is Changing Rapidly as Alyssa Milano’s Representation Drops the Ball

There are many in the industry who have Twitter and Facebook accounts, but generally they shy away from using them, particularly when it relates to their daily workflow.  Naturally there are instances when representatives and business affairs executives will post the occasional congratulatory emails, but typically nothing relevant or revealing is ever said.

But tonight Twitter began to change the landscape of how Hollywood, and in particular the representation segment, does its day-to-day business.

It began with the news that Alyssa Milano’s ABC series ROMANTICALLY CHALLENGED, which premiered on April 19th earlier this year, had been cancelled. Michael Ausiello of the Ausiello Files for Entertainment Weekly broke the story online at 7:44 pm (Pacific) and tweeted out the news. Alyssa Milano saw the news on Twitter about an hour later, and at 8:45 pm, she tweeted out her disappointment to the world.

Her agent/manager is going to have a fire to put out tomorrow, if it doesn’t burn itself into oblivion tonight!  If anything, her agent typically could have or should have been amongst one of the first to know, generally being informed by the studio executive in charge of the project or potentially by the producer of the show who would also have been in that first round to know about the cancellation. And following the news from the network, Alyssa should have been notified immediately.

Typically this type of news is treated like pure commodity within the representation world. If a competing agent, particularly one who wanted a client like Alyssa, to move to their agency, they would dig up the early news, call her at home, break the bad news early and fault the current representative for dropping the ball and not doing their job.  Further, the agent would likely put together a group of several new scripts (which the servicing agent either wouldn’t have access to or wouldn’t have sent her) and have them sent over to her for her immediate consideration.  Suddenly there’s an unhappy client who is seriously considering taking their business across the street.

The major difference here is that it isn’t a competing agent breaking the bad news, but the broader internet! Despite the brevity of the less than 140 characters Ms. Milano had, it’s quite obvious that she’s both shocked and a bit upset at the news.  We cannot imagine that she’s happy with the source of the news; it’s very likely that her representation got an upset call this evening which they’re currently scurrying to verify and then put out the subsequent fire.

Beyond this frayed relationship, there is also the subsequent strain on the relationships between representation and the overseeing studio executive(s), studio/network chief, and potentially further between the Agency and the Network over what is certain to be one of the more expensive television talent deals in the business right now.

We’re sure there will be a few more agents, managers, and attorneys who sign up for Twitter accounts tomorrow and begin monitoring their clients’ brands more closely on the real-time web.

[As a small caveat to all of this, keep in mind that the show was picked up in early August last year and only aired four episodes premiering in April of this year, so from a technical point of view, the show’s cancellation isn’t a major surprise simply given the timing of the pick-up and the premiere, the promotional push behind the show, or the show’s ratings. Nevertheless, this is sure to have an effect on the flow of business.]

Christopher J. Aldrich, Engr ’96, of Los Angeles, writes:
“I recently booked Bea Arthur into two episodes of the TV show “Malcolm in the Middle,” for which she received an Emmy nomination. Following this, I left Creative Artists Agency to join David Entertainment, where I helped to produce MGM’s Breakers, starring Sigourney Weaver and Jennifer Love Hewitt. Now I’m preparing for production of Doctor Doolittle 2, starring Eddie Murphy and Behind Enemy Lines, with Gene Hackman and Owen Wilson.”

Johns Hopkins Goes West | Alumni News–June 1997 | JHU Magazine

Reposted Johns Hopkins Goes West | Alumni News--June 1997 by Billie Walker (editor) (Johns Hopkins Magazine)
More than 400 guests attended Johns Hopkins convocations in San Francisco and Burbank in March, hearing from President William R. Brody and other outstanding faculty speakers about developments at Johns Hopkins. The Southern California convocation, held at the Walt Disney Studios, was hosted by University trustee John F. Cooke, Disney's executive vice president-corporate affairs.
During the convocation luncheon at the Disney Commissary in Burbank, Oscar-nominated cinematographer Caleb Deschanel, A&S ’66, at left, talks with Chris Aldrich, A&S ’96. At right is James Neal, the Sheridan Director of Homewood’s Eisenhower Library and one of the event speakers.
After his computer music performance at the Southern California convocation, Peabody’s Forrest Tobey is surrounded by admirers as he explains his use of arm gestures to trigger sounds stored in the synthesizer.
In Pasadena on the evening before the Southern California convocation, President Brody meets Los Angeles area alumni and friends at a dinner hosted by University trustee Charles D. Miller. Here he talks with Dr. and Mrs. J. Michael Criley, at left, and Dr. and Mrs. Richard Call.

SNARK sponsors sneak preview at Shriver Hall | Johns Hopkins Gazette

Reposted SNARK sponsors sneak preview at Shriver Hall (Johns Hopkins Gazette)

The student-run SNARK film series will screen a sneak preview of the soon-to-be-released Michael Douglas-Annette Bening film, American President, in the newly refurbished Shriver Hall Theater at 7:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Nov. 14. The auditorium, which seats 1,100, was recently outfitted with a new screen, 35-mm projectors and soon-to-be-installed Dolby sound system in part to accommodate student organizations, which promised to bring to Homewood sneak previews of major Hollywood films.

SNARK director Chris Aldrich says the free tickets are available at the Levering Hall Student Union desk beginning at noon.

MSE Symposium Unspools Tuesday at Shriver Hall : At 100, Why Do Movies Matter? | JHU Gazette

Reposted MSE Symposium Unspools Tuesday at Shriver Hall : At 100, Why Do Movies Matter? by Mike Giuliano (Johns Hopkins Gazette: October 9, 1995)


MSE Symposium Unspools Tuesday at Shriver Hall

At 100, Why Do Movies Matter?

Mike Giuliano
-------------------------
Special to The Gazette

     Not that turf-conscious professors need worry about one of the main campus buildings being converted into a nine-screen multiplex theater, but the movies have arrived on the Homewood campus in a big way.

     Most immediately, the Milton S. Eisenhower Symposium, "Framing Society: A Century of Cinema," opens this week to examine the roles of the motion pictures in American society. Its undergraduate co-chairmen, Matt Gross and Chris Aldrich, are no strangers to the subject of film. Each is involved in film classes, student film organizations, film production, screenings and a just-launched magazine. All of which, considered together with the symposium, they hope will provide a new frame of reference at Hopkins for the only art form that proceeds at 24 frames per second. 

     Lest anyone still harbor the prejudice that movies should be accompanied by popcorn and not term papers, young filmmaker Gross is quick to defend the academic worth of their symposium offering.  

     "Chris and I always felt it was an appropriate topic for the symposium," he says. "It wasn't so much deciding whether to do it as how to do it. We want to explore how cinema fits into our culture. Can a particular movie or stream of movies change things in society?"

     By way of example, he dips into film and political history for the famous anecdote about President Woodrow Wilson's proclamation that D.W. Griffith's controversial 1915 film Birth of a Nation was "like history written by lightning."

     Gross says, "It's a historical fact that Wilson was one of the first people to give legitimacy to film. Since he went to Hopkins, he's like this guy sitting on top of the ivory tower saying this is a way of reporting history. That legitimizes film as a historical pursuit. And the 100th anniversary of cinema is an opportunity to look back on film in a cultural and intellectual way."

     Gross adds that a visit to Paris reinforced his sense that the French, whose visionary Lumière brothers began showing movies commercially in 1895, have a much keener sense of film history than do Americans.

     "It's not just that Americans don't have a grasp of film history. There's not a good grasp of history among the American people," he says.

     There's yet another reason why Gross believes movies haven't always received the respect they deserve in this country.

     "Also, possibly, the business of film has gotten in the way somewhat," he says. "Because it is big business--it's a product--some people may not feel it's worth looking at" in an academic forum, he says.

     Gross looks on this year's symposium as a springboard for a broader discussion, both on campus and in the larger community, of the role played by movies.  

     "The symposium is a way to get everybody who is interested together in one place to talk about movies. Beyond the symposium, we're trying to create at Hopkins a kind of cinematic culture. And we need to expand so that the Baltimore public knows about what's at Hopkins," Gross says. "Being on campus for four years, everything feels so isolated. Many students know a lot about film but not always about what's going on off campus, and people off campus in Baltimore know about film but not about what we have here. 

     "We'd like to integrate Hopkins into the Baltimore community at large. We want to be a regular part of the movie scene. So we want the symposium to act as a catalyst for everything else," he says.

     One impact the symposium will have on and off campus will result from the outfitting of Shriver Hall with a new 38-foot screen.

     "The old screen had been subjected to The Rocky Horror Picture Show and other things," says Mary Ellen Porter, special assistant to dean of students Larry Benedict. The film is noted as much for its campy content as for its cult following, who make viewing the film an interactive experience replete with vegetables and other substances tossed at the screen. 

     Also added were 35mm film projectors, and there are plans to add "surround sound" equipment next year. These technical enhancements will make the 1,174-seat hall the largest and potentially one of the best movie theaters in the Baltimore area.

     Existing film series such as the long-running Reel World and Weekend Wonderflix will look better on screen. Porter says the booking of preview screenings and other special programs "will give us a chance to reach out to the greater community in a way we don't now."

     Better campus screening facilities can enhance both a weekend date for the latest Die Hard movie and a student taking notes on the mise-en-scène in a Renoir film.

     "In terms of facilities, film is a machine art and machines are a part of it," notes Richard Macksey, a longtime Hopkins professor of humanities and film and an active member of Baltimore's cinema culture. He cites the upgrading of 110 Gilman several years ago as an instance of how film courses prosper when projection moves closer to state of the art.

     Indeed, the cinematic zeitgeist on campus seems healthy. Last summer saw the birth of yet another film series, The Snark, which offers classics and avant-garde fare. Also recently arrived on the screen scene is the Animation Club.    

     The recently established Johns Hopkins Film Society and its magazine, Frame of Reference, promote film culture at Hopkins, including criticism, theory, history and production. Mardi Gras Baltimore, co-directed by Gross and 1995 graduate Gil Jawetz, will premiere at the symposium at 8 p.m. on Nov. 15. 

     Gross hopes the diversity of symposium speakers will provide the insights and inspiration to support and nourish the
confluence of Hopkins' film-related activities.   

     For example, James G. Robinson, founder and CEO of Morgan Creek Productions, will talk about the business of making movies. Veteran screenwriter Millard Kaufman and young director Rose Troche will each talk about their place within that industry. Critic Molly Haskell will talk about the role played by women in filmmaking and criticism. And Thomas Cripps, among the world's leading scholars of black film history, will add his reflections on the representation of blacks in the movies and the social effects of those images.

     It's a lineup that has won over at least one initial skeptic.

     "Frankly, I was a little skeptical of it at first because a lot of money goes into [the symposium], and I didn't want to see speakers who'd stand up there schmoozing and then vanish into the night," says English professor Jerome Christensen, who directs the Film and Media Studies program. 

     Established in 1991, Film and Media Studies is a cooperative program of the departments of English, French, German, Hispanic and Italian Studies, Writing Seminars, Humanities and Philosophy. Presently, students may minor in this area, but Christensen expects that the eventual addition of a film production course will enable students to major in Film and Media Studies. Although he says Hopkins "will never be a film school" on the scale of New York University or the University of Southern California, it is taking its place with other academic pursuits at Homewood.

     "I'm glad [Gross and Aldrich] have used [the symposium] in a way that will be educational," Christensen says. "I'm hoping the symposium will demonstrate the range of opportunities both in terms of careers and the intellectual challenges that contemporary film represents. It also gives us a push to do other things."

     Christensen suggests the symposium visit of Indian filmmaker Girish Karnad will likely figure into classroom discussions in a course on Indian film being offered in the spring. Undergraduate internships with Robinson also are under discussion.

     "My aim is to have some institutional pay-off to these things," he says.

     "Film is especially adaptable to an interdisciplinary approach and it's used for so many pedagogical purposes now," says Macksey of the Hopkins approach to teaching film. Having mentored such future Hollywood talents as Walter Murch and Caleb Deschanel during their student days in the 1960s, Macksey has been a constant advocate for film studies on campus.

     And what would the students like to see on the classroom screen scene in the semesters ahead?

     "I'd like to consider how the film study is done at New York University, Columbia, USC and elsewhere and then find a different and original way to go at it at Hopkins," Gross says. "Many of those film schools examine how movies are made and not as much attention is paid to movies as literature. That's something Hopkins can do."

MSE Symposium Considers the Cinema at 100 | Johns Hopkins Gazette

Reposted MSE Symposium Considers the Cinema at 100 by Leslie Rice (Johns Hopkins Gazette: September 18, 1995)


MSE Symposium Considers the Cinema at 100

Leslie Rice
-----------------------------------
Homewood News and Information


     It was just curiosity that drew the crowds of people to see Thomas Edison's latest invention one century ago. How could they have known then the colossal impact those odd, grainy, flickering moving pictures would forever have on American culture?

     Two Hopkins undergraduates have marked the 100th anniversary of the moving picture by bringing to the Homewood campus an impressive group of film industry personalities to talk about the movies.

     The 1995 Milton S. Eisenhower Symposium, entitled "Framing Society: A Century of Cinema," will examine the power of the medium of film. Admission to the symposium, in Shriver Hall at 8 p.m. on various nights from Oct. 10 through Nov. 16, is free and open to the public.

     During the lecture series, chaired by Hopkins seniors Matt Gross and Chris Aldrich, an independent film maker will discuss the recent boom in independent, low-budget films while another director will talk about the importance of her identity as a Latina lesbian and her fight not to be pegged as a "queer" director. Other speakers will discuss the portrayal of African Americans and women in movies, and India's leading film director will discuss the international movie scene.

     "We chose speakers who could talk about film in a historical context," Gross said. "We didn't want someone to just come in and say, 'Here's my film: look at it'."

     Kicking off the series will be James Robinson, founder and CEO of Morgan Creek Productions, who will talk about how the film industry has become big business. Since 1988 Robinson has produced a couple dozen films, including Young Guns I and II, Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves, Enemies: A Love Story, Ace Ventura: Pet Detective and True Romance. Last year Robinson, a Baltimore resident who commutes every week to the West Coast, was named the most prolific producer of the year by Hollywood Reporter Magazine.

     Aldrich says he's particularly excited to hear screenwriter Millard Kaufman, scheduled for Thursday, Nov. 2. Kaufman, 78, has weathered the ups and downs of the film industry for decades. Besides writing memorable Lee Marvin and Spencer Tracy westerns like Bad Day at Black Rock and Take the High Ground, he is known for risking his career by fronting the screenplay Gun Crazy for a blacklisted friend during the McCarthy era. Still, Kaufman may be most famous for creating the quirky and comical cartoon character Mr. Magoo.

     "Kaufman is planning to talk about censorship in film, but even if he just talks about his career it will be very entertaining," Aldrich said. "He's very colorful and tells really funny stories about his experiences with some of the most powerful people in the industry." 

     During the symposium, Hopkins will also hold the grand opening of the Shriver Hall Theater within Shriver Hall Auditorium, which will, by then, be outfitted with state-of-the-art 35mm projection and sound equipment, making it the largest movie theater in the Baltimore-Washington area.

     In the future, the new theater, made possible through university grants submitted by Aldrich and Gross, will host movie premieres and sneak previews as well as off-beat and foreign films.

     The Milton S. Eisenhower Symposium was established in 1967 by Hopkins' undergraduate student council as a means of honoring the university's eighth president. Every year since then, a team of two to three students chosen by the student council, after a very competitive proposal process, has arranged and managed all aspects of the series from beginning to end--from selecting the topic, to raising money (this year roughly $35,000), to booking the personalities to reserving rooms. Usually about six prominent figures are booked to address a current national issue.

     Covering topics like the nuclear arms race, human sexuality, freedom of the press, and foreign policy and race, the symposium has drawn top-flight speakers like Aaron Copeland, Kurt Vonnegut, Carl Bernstein, former senators George McGovern and Eugene McCarthy, Pat Robinson and Isaac Asimov.

     Aldrich and Gross decided they wanted to direct the 1995 symposium after attending many of the lectures from last year's symposium on children's issues.

    "Chris just turned to me and said, 'Let's do next year's symposium,' " Gross recalled. "Without even thinking, I said, 'On movies, right?' He said 'yeah,' and that was it. I wish I could say it was a decision we pondered long and hard on, but it wasn't." 

     Since their proposal was chosen by the student council last December, the two have felt the weight of all the successful symposia of the past, which have captured national and local attention.

      "It's really been a constant pressure, and over the summer it was a full-time job for both Chris and me," said Gross, who happens to be a fledgling director. "All things considered though, I feel really lucky to have been able to do this. Just the experience of having to deal with every single detail, getting to know some of these people, and the kinds of things I have learned has been incredibly rewarding." 

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THE MSE SYMPOSIUM - 1995 SCHEDULE
     "Framing Society: A Century of Cinema," is a series of lectures by film producers, directors, critics and screenwriters. All lectures and film screenings are free and open to the public and will take place in the new Shriver Hall Theater on the Homewood campus. 

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Tuesday, Oct. 10, 8 p.m.
------------------------------
Lecture.
     "The Film Industry." James G. Robinson, CEO of Morgan Creek Productions; producer of True Romance, Ace Ventura: Pet Detective, Major League 2.


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Wednesday, Oct. 11, 8 p.m. 
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Screening.
     Go Fish, written and directed by Rose Troche.


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Thursday, Oct. 12, 8 p.m.
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Lecture.  
     "Sexuality and Film." Rose Troche, writer/director of Go Fish. 


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Wednesday, Oct. 18, 8 p.m.
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Premiere and Screening.
     English premiere of Ondanondu Kaladalli, directed by Girish Karnad. 


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Thursday, Oct. 19, 8 p.m.
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Lecture.
     "World Cinema." Girish Karnad, leading film director of India and past director of the Film and Television Institute of India. 


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Thursday, Oct. 26, 8 p.m.
------------------------------
Lecture.
     "Women in Film and Criticism." Molly Haskell, New York film critic and author of From Reverence to Rape.


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Thursday, Nov. 2, 8 p.m. 
------------------------------
Lecture. 
     "Censorship of Film." Millard Kaufman, screenwriter, Bad Day at Black Rock, Take the High Ground, Raintree Country; board member of the Writers Guild of America; creator of Mr. Magoo.


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Friday, Nov. 3, 8 p.m.
------------------------------
Screening.
     Bad Day at Black Rock, written by Millard Kaufman. The film will be introduced by Kaufman and followed by a question and answer session.


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Thursday, Nov. 9, 8 p.m.
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Lecture.
     "Race and Film." Thomas Cripps, author and history professor at Morgan State University.


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Wednesday, Nov. 15, 8 p.m.
------------------------------
Premiere and Screening.
     Premiere of Mardi Gras, Baltimore, written, produced and directed by JHU students Gil Jawetz and Matt Gross.         
     Screening of Laws of Gravity, produced by Larry Meistrich.


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Thursday, Nov. 16, 8 p.m.
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Lecture.
     "Independent Films." Larry Meistrich, producer of Laws of Gravity and New Jersey Drive; CEO of the Shooting Gallery.
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     Call the symposium office for further information at (410) 516-7683.