Celebrities

Kapitalism the Game, By and Starring Kim Kardashian

Perhaps you are one of those people who, when they hear “Kardashian,” thinks of the characters from “Star Trek.” You wouldn’t be too far off. Those otherworldly beings are described as “Tall, long-necked, humanoid in appearance, marked by several bony protrusions and ridges …” Though Kim’s protrusions aren’t exactly bony, that’s a good intro. NB: I am not the first person to make this joke.

The tall, long-necked humanoid TV star has gotten as rich as Kroesus, and almost as rich as Gene Roddenberry himself, by marketing her image in several media. Her latest successful money-making venture is a game that allows you, or your cute, busty avatar, to Keep Up with Kim in Hollywood. The Atlantic’s write up / review of the experience is amazing enough; I can only imagine how it feels to play:

Kim Kardashian: Hollywood [is] an app that is also a game that is also, now, a phenomenon. (“It might be our biggest game of the year,” Niccolo de Masi, CEO of the app-maker Glu Mobile Inc., told Bloomberg.) The game is free to download and play; but it allows—and encourages—in-app purchases. You use real-world money to win at Kim World. Which has meant, among other things, that Kim Kardashian is becoming even more explicitly what a reality star always will be, underneath it all: an entrepreneur.

While she has long ranked among the highest-paid of the reality (“reality”) stars—her estimated net worth, as of this June, was $45 million—the game is on track to earn $200 million, with Kim’s 45-percent cut coming in at $90 million. … Kim Kardashian: Hollywood is the game that Ayn Rand might have written, had Ayn Rand lived in the age of the smartphone and been a fan of bodycon skirts. It is what happens when objectification gives way to objectivism. “This game is so freakin stupid,” iTunes customer Dmon555 complained, before giving it a 5-star rating.

Have you played this game? Please tell me you’ve played it and that it’s as much ridiculous fun as it sounds. Have you spent any money on it? Was the experience worth it? Also, ha! The COMMENTS.

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Trust Fund Babies: They’re Just Like Us?

The last wishes of actor Philip Seymour Hoffman have leaked to the public and there are some interesting details in his will about what he wanted done with his money:

Philip Seymour Hoffman rejected his accountant’s suggestion he set aside money for his three children because he didn’t want them to be ‘trust fund’ kids, according to new court documents. In a July 18 filing in Manhattan Surrogate Court, the actor’s accountant David Friedman recalled conversations with Hoffman where the topic of a trust for his children was raised. He said Hoffman wanted his estimated $35 million fortune to go his longtime partner and the children’s mother, Mimi O’Donnell.

It’s a kind of unusual choice. My dad always inveighed against “trust fund kids” when we were growing up; his hostility toward them in the abstract was a main reason he sent my brothers and me to religious school instead of one of the DC-area’s numerous posh private schools. Did a six-year-old in a Harvard sweatshirt kick sand in his face one time, or did some bouncy-haired, Varsity-jacketed schmuck driving his father’s convertible steal my dad’s high school girlfriend?

I had no idea, and I never asked why he was so sure ready money ruined children. I just knew if I wanted to get a rise out of him I could joke about making friends with someone who had a yacht. 

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Weird Al Becomes Wired Al And Everyone Wins

Weird Al Yankovic is profiled in BusinessWeek and that’s not a sentence I expected to write. But, to be fair, his is not a profile they expected to write either. Who could have predicted Weird Al?

The Internet should have made Weird Al Yankovic irrelevant years ago. In fact, it has done the opposite. … The video for Lynwood‘s lead single, White & Nerdy, for example, had almost nothing to do with Chamillionaire’s original Ridin’. But it did something even better: Offer a critique of white suburbanites who co-opt hip-hop culture while simultaneously becoming a nerd anthem. (This group, coincidentally, makes up a sizable portion of Weird Al’s fanbase.) The video for White & Nerdy became so popular that it propelled the song to No. 9 on the Billboard Hot 100.

Also on that album was Don’t Download This Song, about music piracy and the Recording Industry Association of America’s copyright infringement cases. Weird Al offered it up for free on his website a year before Radiohead would test its pay-what-you-want model with In RainbowsStraight Outta Lynwood went on to sell 563,000 albums, according to Nielsen Soundscan, making it Yankovic’s best-selling album of the past two decades.

Unexpected Internet success is one of my favorite kinds of success! And who can begrudge the 54-year-old Weird Al? He’s one of a handful of people in the entertainment world spotlight who doesn’t care if he’s cool or if you know he works hard. Also, he just seems like a nice guy:

AP: Unlike other parodies, you’ve never gone the mean-spirited route.

Yankovic: I’m a fan like everybody else. When I do my parodies it’s not meant to mock these people. It’s not meant to belittle them or make them look bad. It’s an homage. … I don’t think you need to be hurtful to be funny.

Is your favorite the Billfold-friendly “Mission Statement,” satirizing corporate speak? Here’s one ranking of his new parody songs. Here’s another. Agree / disagree? Or do you not get the appeal altogether?

Image via ROFLRazzi

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How President Obama Does Credit Cards

Last Thursday, President Obama visited Austin’s Franklin Barbecue and committed two minor breaches of etiquette.

The first is that he cut the line. Reportedly, he is the first person in history to cut the Franklin Barbecue line, which often requires patrons to wait for up to three hours. If you would like to read angry tweets about Obama’s line-cutting, Eater Austin has collected several, such as:

apparently Obama skipped the line at Franklin's BBQ today. DICK move, bro!

— Ben (@BensWJ) July 10, 2014

The second breach of etiquette is that he flashed his JP Morgan Select credit card in front of everybody. Literally held it up for all to see, right before paying for his own food as well as at least one other patron’s meal.

So now there are images of President Obama’s credit card bouncing around the internet. (I hope he got someone on his staff to request a new credit card number.)

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New “Harry Potter” Content Released, Free

The good news is, as of today you can read a new short story about Harry Potter on Pottermore, the obsessive fan fiction site. The bad news is, you have to jump through a series of hoops as long as a Quidditch field to get there. (Sign up required.) The good news is, it’s free! The bad news is, the story is written in the voice of Rita Skeeter. Here’s a snippet from the Vulture write-up:

… [Harry] Potter took his young songs James and Albus to visit the players’ compound, where he introduced them to Bulgarian Seeker Viktor Krum.

About to turn 34, there are a couple of threads of silver in the famous Auror’s black hair, but he continues to wear the distinctive round glasses that some might say are better suited to a style-deficient twelve-year-old. The famous lightning scar has company: Potter is sporting a nasty cut over his right cheekbone. Requests for information as to its provenance merely produced the usual response from the Ministry of Magic: ‘We do not comment on the top secret work of the Auror department, as we have told you no less than 514 times, Ms. Skeeter.’

I never bought that Harry would name one of his sons “Albus Severus,” if only because it sounds godawful, and I wished Hermione would have stayed single, become some kind of holy terror of a lawyer and brought lots of suits against the Ministry of Magic while having hot sex with Victor Krum and maybe also Ginny on the side. But I am a bit skeptical about this story, even as I dive into it. From Scarlet to Cosette, these kinds of things have a foul track record, though at least this extension was written by the brilliant, kindhearted quadrillionaire JK Rowling herself, who could have charged money for even a little wispy bit of whatever thrown to her masses of fans and didn’t. Bless her heart.

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How Ira Glass Does Money (For His Show, and For Himself)

Gotta announce my biases from the start: I adore Ira Glass, in a celebrity-idol kind of way. I got to meet him, once, and for about three minutes he asked me questions about my life and then really listened in that way that few people do, in a way that seems improbable given that I waited in the book-signing line for nearly two hours while other people also had their three minutes of personal listening-time with Mr. Glass.

Yesterday, “This American Life” left P-R-I, Public Radio International, and I bet you’re already hearing the same lyrical fillip that accompanies those solemn words, because those of us who are “This American Life” fans have heard them so many times.

Now, TAL will be distributed over PRX, the Public Radio Exchange, an “online marketplace for distribution, review, and licensing of public radio programming.”

In other words: “This American Life,” like many Americans, now has to earn money on its own, on the online marketplace.

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What’s the Most You’ve Ever Won/Lost Gambling?

The closest I’ll ever get to real gambling is reading the beginning of Daniel DerondaOther people in my family have an intrepid streak, though. For a while there my father was hooked on playing the stock market. Once, he told me, in quick succession, he made $50,000 and then lost 30K of it, so he went home and told my mom, “Hey, we made $20,000!” Another family member who shall remain nameless got hooked on internet poker back in the day and had to wean himself off in part by putting his salary in the care of someone else.

For some people, clearly, the excitement is worth the risk. This intense Vanity Fair [<- FIXED] piece about a cocktail waitress making bank by running a private poker party for the beautiful folks of Hollywood, Inside the Viper Room – an excerpt from the upcoming memoir of Molly Bloom (no relation) — captures some of the reasons why. It also contains some discomfiting details about Tobey Maguire, who brings his own vegan snack food to the game.

It was all incredibly surreal. I was standing in the corner of the Viper Room counting ONE HUNDRED THOUSAND DOLLARS IN CASH! I was in the company of movie stars, important directors, and powerful business tycoons. I felt like Alice tumbling down the rabbit hole. As the players filed out, they thanked me, some kissed my cheek, but they all pressed bills into my hand. I smiled warmly and thanked them in return, trying not to let my hands shake. When they were all gone, I sat down in a daze, and with trembling hands I counted $3,000.

Not a bad way to make $7,500 in a night.

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Obit for Modern-Day Medici Who Made “Mockingbird” Possible

Somewhere in literary heaven, there’s a nine-gun salute happening in honor of Michael Brown, who has died at age 93. His entire obit is a delightful read. A cryptographer and Cabaret songster, he made his money writing cheeky, clever industrial musicals, which was an actual job some people had in midcentury America:

Industrial musicals boasted professional casts — Florence Henderson and Dorothy Loudon are alumnae — and opulent production values. In an era when a Broadway musical might cost $500,000, its industrial counterpart could cost as much as $3 million. They also had high-level composers and lyricists, including Jerry Bock and Sheldon Harnick, known widely for “Fiddler on the Roof” and less widely for “Ford-i-fy Your Future,” the Ford Tractor show of 1959.

For DuPont, Mr. Brown created ‘Wonderful World of Chemistry,’ a show that in all likelihood has had the greatest number of performances of any musical in history. … Presented in the DuPont pavilion at the 1964 World’s Fair in New York, it was a rare example of an industrial musical open to the public. The show, written, produced and directed by Mr. Brown, was performed at least 40 times a day, by at least eight companies, for months on end. Seen by an estimated five million people, the show, 24 minutes long, played some 17,000 performances. Broadway’s longest-running musical, “Phantom of the Opera,” by contrast, has had about 11,000 performances since opening in 1988.

But the best part of the obit tells the story of when he sent a letter to his friend, the struggling writer Harper Lee, and changed her life.

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From Botanical Gardens Intern to Anthony Bourdain’s Assistant

I quit the PR assistant job after three weeks, and my dad said, “You should probably stop quitting jobs for a while.”

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When The Internets Save You Money

As perhaps you know, Disney is adapting the Sondheim musical Into the Woods, which is already the best, into a movie with a terrific cast. Emily Blunt! Meryl Streep! Christine Baranski and Tracey Ullman!

But a recent “New Yorker” segment about the adaptation process has taken us from Grimm to grim. Disney is stripping the show of its sex and death, and the depth of the agony in response has been hilarious. In its wake, we are all Little Red Riding Hood, who, upon being cut out of the wolf’s stomach, sings, “I know things now, many valuable things, that I hadn’t known before …” Thank you for caring about this travesty, culture writers of the Internets. You are my people.

Possibly my favorite response came from the AV Club commenters themselves:

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CEO Wins Chance to get Killed By George RR Martin

In a perfect confluence of events, a wolf-loving Michigan CEO has won the right to be killed off by renowned wolf-aggrandizing author George R.R. Martin. Responding to a competitive fundraising call, Dr. Dave Cotton’s family made a $20,000 donation to a wolf-related charity in his honor — for father’s day. (Aww!)

Mike Cotton, chief operating officer of Meridian Health Plan and one of Dr. Cotton’s three sons, said his father had an affinity for wolves before he started reading Martin’s fantasy series, “A Song of Fire and Ice,” which was first published in 1996.

“We saw this crowdfunding come up online and we thought it would be perfect for his love of wolves,” Mike Cotton told ABC News. Mike’s brother, Sean, who is an administrative officer at the family-operated company, said their father loves the books and watches the HBO series “avidly.”

“He’s always referred to himself as a lone wolf,” he said of his father.

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Jill Abramson Takes ~2 Minutes to Land On Her Feet

Here is your perhaps unnecessary reminder that even high-powered successful “lean in”-type businesswomen like Jill Abramson zigzag. The ex-Managing Editor of the New York Times has accepted a position helping students hone their narrative non-fiction skills at Harvard:

She will be a visiting lecturer in the Department of English for the 2014-15 academic year, the university said in a statement, and will teach in the fall and spring semesters. In the statement, Ms. Abramson said she was “honored and excited.” Narrative nonfiction, she said, “is more important than ever. Its traditions and how it is changing in the digital transition are fascinating areas of study.” Ms. Abramson previously taught journalism seminars at Yale and Princeton.

At a commencement address at Wake Forest University just days after she was fired, Ms. Abramson spoke of an uncertain future. “What’s next for me?” she said to the graduates. “I don’t know. So I’m in exactly the same boat as many of you. Like you, I’m a little scared, but also excited.” Ms. Abramson, a 1976 Harvard College graduate, has a tattoo featuring the school’s H logo, as well as a tattoo of the T from The New York Times’s masthead.

If we had to life-map ourselves in tattoos, my own more varied collection would include a lion, a phoenix, a couple of corporate insignias, two logos for workplaces that no longer exist, a plant to symbolize the time I worked in the greenhouse of the National Zoo, a Danish kroner for my semester abroad, a subway token to demonstrate my feverish gratitude that I live in a place that lets me not have to drive, a quill pen, and the Kurt Vonnegut quote, “We are what we pretend to be, so we must be very careful what we pretend to be.”

Anyway, Jill Abramson is going to teach! Good job hiring her, Harvard. Now how long before one of her smart-ass students writes “pushy” on her evaluations, do you think?

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