Saturday, May 3, 2008

The Wait Is Over

It has finally happened. After 9/11, I knew it would happen, I just didn’t know how long it would take. With the closure of the writers’ strike, several of the newly formed businesses (2-5 years old) in the entertainment industry had the opportunity to transform and transcend the traditional business models of production companies, management firms, financing groups, and agency’s by meshing them all together. What I mean is that new businesses have emerged within the industry that now have the capacity to fully finance, produce, cast, and distribute a feature film without necessarily reaching out to an extended network of companies that was so imperative before.

One company that mirrors this metamorphosis is The Collective. Founder Michael Green was joined in 2005 by Jeff Golenberg (previously head of 3 Arts Entertainment), Sam Maydew (founder of Popart Entertainment), and Aaron Ray (founder of Nine Yards Entertainment). The partners of The Collective have done some of the biggest deals in the last decade in all areas of media. Besides generating over a billion and a half dollars worth of music deals alone, partners in The Collective are responsible for film Franchises such as Big Mommma’s House and The Fast and the Furious. Besides creating traditional media deals and managing clients, The Collective represents a diverse array of talent, writers, directors and media companies as well as RKO studios and all of its library and intellectual profitability.

So what, the company has a list of their own a-list clients, deals with media, and can produce films? That’s just the beginning…The true change in the business models has come with film financing. Unlike before, and definitely believed to be the first of its kind for a management company, The Collective has a Finance and Sales division that focuses on serving producers, financiers, and distributors of all levels. Everything can be done “in-house” to get a picture developed and released.

My point in over-exploiting the structure of this company is to reveal that the traditional platform for success has completely been revolutionized, both in the entertainment industry and in politics. Post 9-11, Republicans became a little bit more like the Democrats and the Democrats a bit more like the Republicans. This has forced political candidates and politicians to take on more of a bilateral approach, often selling and winning over voters on their “middle-groundedness.” This notion has truly come to the forefront of political ideology in the 2008 Presidential election. Hillary Clinton’s political plans are conservative enough that she might win over some republican voters who might have otherwise voted for McCain. McCain’s agenda seems liberal enough in some areas that some democrats might throw their support his way. And for Barack? He is nowhere to be found, as most republicans seem to fall for Hillary before Barack. Why? Perhaps because they point the finger at him because he is “black” or “inexperienced” or even for because he does not fully support the war in Iraq. This is particularly worrisome for me, being a Barack supporter, because he just does not seem to play the “middle-ground” role so well and if he is voted as the democrats Presidential candidate, he will loose a large amount of votes because of this.

Presidential candidates, especially the Democrats, have always relied on Hollywood for enormous financial support. Barack and Hillary raised a majority of their funds from people involved in entertainment, and even McCain did too. The change in the platforms and structures within politics and entertainment will continue into the future as these new models for success become ubiquitous.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

$110 Million & America's Future

$110 million. Thats the combined amount that Sens. Barack Obama and Hilary Clinton have spent on TV advertisements to this point (CNN). John Kerry spent around $20 million to lock his presidential nomination from the democrats, and Obama has already tripled this amount spending nearly $70 million. Considering the race for a democratic presidential nominee is still not over, and that this $110 million does not include the republican party's spending, isn't this all a bit outrageous?

The wild spending is indicative of the transformation in the role and power that media has on potential voters. Television has always been the best way to reach the largest audience, but now that more channels of communication have opened, such as online advertising, candidates have even more opportunities and places to funnel their money in attempt to "capture" potential voters. Campaigning used to be a way for a candidate to raise awareness about their prospective political agenda, but now seems like it is nothing more than a battle between candidates for face-time with upcoming voters. I understand that political campaigning is imperative to each candidates eventual success, but I believe that there should be some limit or cap on how much money a presidential candidate can spend on their campaign, which should be monitored by congress or some third party in order to ensure fair play.

Check out all the recent Presidential television advertisements here.

Regardless of how much money the democratic and republican presidential candidates spend on their campaign's, a winner will emerge who will be faced with the prospect to change the way the world views the United States. Hopefully the upcoming president will have learned from his predecessor's mistakes that economic and military might do not give a country the ability to successfully impregnate its views elsewhere. Solving international problems requires a multi-lateral approach, which means talking to your enemies, not just your friends. With a Democratic win, one of the first moves will be to close, or reconfigure, Guantanamo Bay. It would also be wise of the winner to be involved in a massive American and European re-engagement, including Iran and Syria, both of which are crucial in bringing peace to the region and helping the United States to hamper terrorist networks throughout the Middle East.

Although it seems as though there is no simple military solution in Iraq for the U.S., it appears that in the near future our involvement will be limited to protecting Iraq's oil supply and assisting Iraqi forces to prevent terrorist cells from growing/emerging. The presence of American troops will always be necessary, at least within the next ten to twenty-five years, but as the number of troops diminish in size we can rely more on outsourcing our aid to Iraq through private security forces like Blackwater. As China's economy continues to grow and eventually surpasses that of the United States, we will be forced to recognize that multilateral cooperation is not important, but essential to our survival and dominance. The decisions that the new President of the United States will be faced with soon after being inaugurated will shape the future of the world.

Monday, April 21, 2008

"Either Democrat would be better than John McCain....and all three of us would be better than George Bush." - Barack Obama

Senators Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama are patiently awaiting the results of the 2008 Democratic primary election in Pennsylvania. Up to now, the race to determine who will be the best Democratic candidate to face McCain in the Presidential election has been difficult for democrats to figure out, to say the least. Obama is currently in the lead with 1,644 total delegates while Clinton holds 1,498.

But the race in Pennsylvania is also “different.” Obama’s fundraising efforts, that reached nearly $41 million just from the month of March, has enabled him spend about $31 million on his presidential campaign in the region, compared to Clinton’s $22 million spending budget. Earlier in the week, the two senators publically took stabs at one another. Clinton continually criticized Obama’s campaign for “misrepresenting” itself, while Obama criticized Clinton’s plans for universal health care. Despite their differences, that seem to be vividly voiced and accentuated by the media, Obama and Clinton truly do disagree all that much on the substantive issues– economy, health care, housing, crime, war in Iraq, and other foreign policy matters. This is why the two seem to fight about the less important issues, often pointing out the problems with one another’s campaigning or Washington experience. With 158 delegates at stake, the results of the Pennsylvania primary could force Clinton to finally consider dropping out of the presidential race and endorse Obama.

What is most interesting is that state officials claim that hundreds of thousands of new voters have registered, many of who are about to vote for the first time. These voters represent what Wolf Blitzer has termed “a surprise factor.” These virgin democratic supporters represent an element of the political equation that could “tip the balance.” The emergence of new voters in the presidential election is also a huge issue that both McCain and the awaiting democratic nominee will soon have to grapple with.

Monday, April 7, 2008

Outsourcing…It’s not all that bad, or is it?

“The future of outsourcing is to take the work from any part of the world and do it in any part of the world.”
-Ashok Vemuri, Senior Vice President at Infosys

The mere term “outsourcing” has a negative connotation – a way of cutting labor costs by employing people in other parts of the world. Some estimates claim that over three million jobs in the United States will be lost to this trend by 2015. People fear that with the increase in globalization and as more and more companies broaden their boundaries, individuals will continue to loose their jobs to workers in India, Mexico, China, etc. who can get the work done for half the cost.

But, there has been a dramatic increase in the world’s nations to outsource everything from their military to their postal services that, if executed correctly, can revolutionize what defines a country and bring in tremendous amounts of revenue. For instance, Jordan recently entered a five-year contract worth nearly $4.2 billion to attract investors to manage the kingdom’s ports, postal services, and public transport. Our own government just recently re-signed with private security contractors Unity Resources Group and Blackwater to help our troops fight the war in Iraq. In the UK, the British Telecom Group manages the military’s telecommunications services and members of the government have noted an increase in multi-directional communication that has positively impacted the military’s productivity.

Outsourcing has played an integral role in India over the last fifteen years, as the country has become the hub for corporate call centers. India has become the “preferred outsourcing location” because the call centers offer a wide variety of advantages. One website notes the following advantages:

1. Large and educated workforce
2. Specialized call center outsourcing services
3. Time Zone advantages

4. Latest Technology and High-end infrastructure
5. Cost-effective

Not only are big businesses profiting when outsourcing production or service jobs to India, but the companies in India that offer such services are generating extraordinary profit margins too. Infosys Technologies Limited is an Indian based company that has provided outsourcing services to companies throughout the world, employing over 88,000 professionals and bringing in annual revenues close to $3.1 billion in U.S. dollars in its fiscal year. The company manages communication networks for Bank of America and Goldman Sachs…you get the picture yet?

The flip side to all of this is that outsourcing can have a negative impact on businesses in the United States. Outsourcing reduces our skilled labor force while producing jobs specific to the service sector, which do not pay as much as manufacturing jobs, do not create as much national wealth, and often lack the innovation necessary to foster growth and development. The local markets loose out to the multi-national competitors and as a result, our economy seems to take a hit. However much we continue to globalize and outsource everything from call centers to military services, we must keep in mind that what matters is at home and we must try and find a way to grapple with outsourcing so that we manage to protect our local markets in order to stay true to who we are as Americans.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Travel to Survive

"To travel is to discover that everyone is wrong about other countries."
- Aldous Huxley

In the modern world, traveling is not important, but vital. It is often said that traveling broadens the mind, enriches the soul, and heals the heart. Even more so, one cannot understand the political position the global community holds towards the United States without immersing oneself in other cultures. Today, we must travel to survive.

People who speak of the Israeli/Palestinian conflict without having visited the region lack a specific type of knowledge about the perspec
tive cultures and how each group lives their lives that produces their current set of beliefs. This is why every President soon after being inaugurated travels to foreign countries to meet with other world leaders. The mere physical contact with other cultures and places broadens one’s worldview, which today happens to be an essential component to maintain our position as a world power. In reference to the above quotation, traveling enables the traveler to be exposed to the lifestyle of an indigenous group, possibly witnessing the compassion and kindness exhibited throughout a community by its members, often forcing the traveler to leave his travels with a richer understanding for those particular natives that he originally might have felt otherwise about.

In addition, the only way to continue to preserv
e our dominance and face the economic competition posed by the rest of the world is to work with our competition. Global mergers and acquisitions as well as our rising desire to outsource U.S. production to Mexico and China can only continue as successful if we are willing to truly understand and accept the cultural differences between America and the rest of the world, which is accomplished through traveling and sharing cultural identities. Having not frequented other place throughout the world diminishes the validity behind ones expressions and belittles their worldviews.

Often, politicians will highlight their traveling experiences as they campaign in order to increase their “worldly” appeal and draw atten
tion to their ability to get along with leaders outside of America. Most recently, Hillary Clinton attempted to implement this tactic and disclose her battle experience by discussing her trip to Bosnia. In attempt to prove that she was more battle-ready to be commander-in-chief than Barack Obama, Clinton claimed that upon arriving in Bosnia in early 2000 that she “remembered landing under sniper fire…there was supposed to be some kind of greeting ceremony at the airport, but instead we just ran with our heads down to get into the vehicles to get to our base.” CBS exposed the fallacies in Clinton’s most recent speech by displaying images of Clinton debarking her plane and taking photographs with troops and Bosnians on the airstrip during the “greeting ceremony” and suggesting that nobody on that day had any memory of imminent danger or sniper fire. This endeavor by Clinton worked in Obama’s, favor, showing voters that Clinton is truly not more “experienced” than she claims to be.

Here is a picture of Clinton during the "greeting ceremony" in Bosnia:

Clinton’s attempt to paint a picture far from the truth demonstrates her longing for acceptance as a worldly individual, one who has faced military experience or battle in her travels. As the terrorist threat increases for America and our economy continues to fall, we must make an effort to travel in order to educate our youth about the cultures of both our enemies and our allies, taking away a greater understanding of not only how and why the world views the United States but also of ourselves.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Defining The New American Generation

On March 17th, Paramount Pictures will be debuting the trailer of their upcoming feature film Tropic Thunder starring Ben Stiller, Jack Black, and Robert Downey Jr. So what’s the big deal? Robert Downey Jr. is now black. His performance centers on acting as white man cast to play a black soldier in a satirical film. This particular motion picture suggests that the surge of media portrayals perpetuated by the entertainment industry are now truly crossing, blending, and transforming racial boundaries and ideas surrounding race and ethnicity. In conjunction with this notion, I began to think about the presence and representation of multiracial individuals in the mass media and their influence on America’s view of multiethnicity, as my own racial background is in line with the “multiethnic.”

Here's Downey in the upcoming film, he's behind Stiller:

Every time I am asked to define my ethnicity I have to stop and think about which aspect of my multiethnic background I should attempt to expound upon the oh-so-lucky inquisitor. Will I start by informing the individual that I am South African and Israeli? Or should I just save my energy and time, escape the awkward “oh really?” situation, and notify the ethnic reader that I am White? Or American? Participating in the grueling college application process was the first time that the question of my identity was truly brought to the forefront of my personal dilemmas. Being forced to check only one box to inform universities across the country of my ethnicity and racial background simply was not enough; doing so would just give a falsified representation of whom I am. White, a person having origins in any of the original peoples of Europe, North Africa, or the Middle East accounts for half of me, but what about the other half? My phonotypical features are most closely associated with being White, but can I really disregard, not to mention disrespect, my South African ancestry? Where is my box!

Society today is based on a set of codes that dictate how we interpret ethnicity, forcing us to make sense of the surrounding physical world by attaching particular generalizations and judgments to ones associated cultural and social experience. The Theory of Racial Formation suggests “everybody learns some combination, some version, of the rules of racial classification…forcing race to become common sense – a way of comprehending, explaining, and acting in the world.” The problem with this notion is the mere fact that race has become a matter of “common sense” rather than a process of outlining ones unique and distinct characteristics which serve to create and perpetuate their individuality. As a result, American culture identifies ethnicity by relating a variety of racial assumptions (the majority of which are false) to ones particular phenotypical traits.

As previously discussed, Americans today are not comfortable in their interactions with one another unless they can visibly identify ones ethnicity. Such identification creates a safe haven where both individuals know what associations, conversations, and behaviors are acceptable, providing each involved party with a sense of comfort. It is only now that a generation of multiethnics is emerging as a result of increased immigration in the previous generations.

In conjunction with this notion, I believe that it has become easier for multiethnics to hold on to their identity and refute the need to fit into today’s monoethnic culture because of the recent lust for the exotic that has been facilitated through modern forms of entertainment. Because I live in a generation characterized as the “most racially diverse population in the nation’s history,” such portrayals of multiethnicity have sucked the media dry of monoethnics. In addition, what is characterized as exotic, diverse and different appeals remarkably to the general public. What is most interesting about the representations of these individuals throughout the media is that as more and more multiracial individuals move into powerful positions in our economy and government, the media has been forced to downplay the racial stereotypes that are often associated with people of “mixed” descent. The entertainment industry, instead of marginalizing, trivializing, and placing multiethnics as the Other, are now forced to glorify blurred ethnic diversity as desirable and enviable. The lives of celebrity’s such as Mariah Carey, Tiger Woods, and Paula Abdul, are just a few icons that have managed to hold onto their multiethnic backgrounds, helping to create a more progressive view of multiethnicity. For instance, when Lenny Kravitz, whose mother is black and father is white, was asked what advice he might have for the growing number of biracial youth, he says he would “tell them that it’s a blessing to have an interracial background.”

The rising era defined by multiethnic individuals that has emerged has forced a breakdown of traditional views surrounding what it means to be of mixed descent. Parallel with this suggestion, the technological revolution of the twenty first century, which is the result of increased global broadband speeds, is paired with members of my generation, the generation of the exotic. As we continue to be the biggest advocates and experts on the issues that surround the coming technological era, race will become less and less of an issue in this rising digital world. In addition, modern forms of entertainment have already begun to lift their misconstrued portrayals and associations of race and ethnicity to the general population as more and more multiethnic individuals move into positions of power throughout the global community. Although this is promising, there is still much room for improvement as racism and the violence it provokes continues to exist throughout the world today. Examining myself as a true blend of cultures and ethnicities stemming from my maternal and paternal ancestors is something to be proud of. Even if I never have a box to check, I will always, as does Mr. Kravitz, view my multiethnicity as a hallmark of beauty.

Saturday, March 8, 2008's killing us..well, sort of.

We are digital, and Apple knows. On March 7th Apple unveiled their SDK software development kit that finally makes the iPhone compatible with Microsoft Exchange, allowing businesses to bring the hip phone into the corporate world. This merger serves as a prime example of how companies have been appropriating new technologies that truly inhibit the growth of face-to-face communication. Particularly within organizations, the decrease in communication that relies on physical interaction has lead to an increase in employee dissatisfaction, a decrease in job identification and worker productivity. The technological revolution that has taken place over the last twenty-five years has transformed all forms of modern communication, but no one seems to have noticed the enormous shift that has taken place in human interaction and communication as a result of this digital transformation. Technology has replaced human relationships, the foundation for procreation, social stability, and personal development, with the digital screen. In order to combat the negative affects that the technological world has brought on human social interaction, we must understand how technology has changed our ways of behaving and thinking and consciously make an effort to hold on to traditional forms of interpersonal communication.

The average attention span has decreased tremendously because we are always thinking in a three-window world dominated by the television screen, the computer screen, and the mobile phone. The huge number of teens today who are diagnosed with Attention Deficient Disorder and given prescription drugs serves as an indication for just how much technology has truly impacted our behavior. People are no longer able to spend time with one another without their cell phone going off or worrying about scheduling a meeting in their blackberry. With the advent of the mobile phone, a plethora of associated behaviors have been attached to being a cellular phone user. If you call someone and leave a message for that person, that individual is expected to return the phone call within a matter of hours, at most, days. If a person does not return a call within the sociably acceptable time frame they are quickly cast into a category of disproval. Also, the use of cellular technology to communicate eliminates the facial expressions, gestures, and physical innuendos exchanged in traditional forms of communication and may result in confusion and dissatisfaction from all parties involved. Newer technologies, such as the mobile phone, the Internet, and social networking sites, have proven to be addictive forms of communication where users are constantly attached to digital devices exchanging information. Moreover, individuals today feel a sense of withdrawal from units of technology when not completely entrenched in them. So, why does all this matter? To survive…

The reliance on human interaction and relationships throughout the past has provided a framework for education and global stability, the pillars that the future of our existence rests upon. Fewer and fewer people indulge in the act of reading a book because there are merely easier, less effort driven ways to be “entertained.” What is extremely worrisome is the suggestion that today’s children are educated by the Television and Internet and less by their schools and their parents. The lacking of a physical presence in an educational environment tends to remove all emotion involved in learning, an essential component of gaining knowledge and searching for truth. The reduction in the importance of simple behaviors that make a tremendous difference in interpersonal communication, such as eye contact and how to shake someone’s hand, is often the result of technology, as you don’t have to look someone in the eye when you talk to them on the phone. In conjunction with this notion, time and time again leaders throughout the world have claimed to obtain a greater understanding and trust for one another during a physical meeting, visit, or discussion; one can “just tell” a lot about an individual through sharing the same physical space. We must now be consciously aware of technology’s ability to reduce and take away from the power of physical interaction and interpersonal communication and attempt to reiterate this notion to ourselves, and our children, in order to ensure the best possible future for us all.