With all this talk of the NSA and its activities, espionage has stormed back onto the front pages. Perfect time to publish a spy novel set in China, the USA and Germany, one should think, and cometh the hour, cometh the man in the form of Olen Steinhauer. That surname suggests another Nordic star but [...]
“The exit, one of the biggest New York has seen shows that with content becoming important, New York is finding its footing on the startup stage.” That’s Om Malik writing about “What Tumblr’s sale means for New York startup ecosystem.” Later, he adds: “It would be one of the biggest exits for a New York-based startup. Sure there have been other exits — Google paid $3.1 billion for DoubleClick, but that was a company that belonged to a different Internet era.” Those not used to seeing “exit” used in this context need to brush up on their venture capitalist (VC) vocabulary because the “exit strategy” is how a VC intends to get out of an investment, profitably. The exit is a way of “cashing out” an investment via an initial public offering (IPO) or being bought out by a bigger player, such as Yahoo. It’s also referred to as a “harvest strategy” or a “liquidity event”.
One of the early investors in Tumblr was Union Square Ventures of which Fred Wilson is a managing partner. Along with being a famous VC, Fred is a famous Bob Dylan fan and those in the know knew that a deal was almost done when he posted “Don’t Fall Apart On Me Tonight” by Dylan on his Tumblr blog yesterday. And it didn’t.
So why is Fred Wilson cashing out and David Karp cashing in so handsomely? “The world is atwitter about Tumblr’s big exit to Yahoo!” says John Battelle, who claims it’s all about advertising, especially “native” advertising and the “activity stream”.
Diners at Baffetto on Via del governo vecchio near Piazza Navona in central Rome know that they’re playing a role in an enterprise that’s designed to line the pockets of the proprietor, his family and the employees. But most enjoy the brazenness of the experience. There’s something so authentically unabashed about it all that it [...]
Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band performed a song titled Just Like Fire Would on 14 March in Brisbane during the opening show of the Australian leg on their Wrecking Ball Tour. “I go to work and I earn my pay load / And the sweat, it falls to the ground” is a couplet that fits perfectly into the Springsteen narrative of the blue-collar hero, and then there’s the anthemic chorus plus the guitar riffs. What’s not to like about this cinematic Guthrie-style composition? The song, however, was written far from the industrial heartland of Ohio. A seminal Australian rock band called The Saints, which formed in Brisbane in 1974, included Just Like Fire Would on their 1986 album, “All Fools Day”, and it became part of the canon of Down Under music, much of which is covered by dust, sadly, given Queensland’s remoteness from the rest of the world. And then along came The Boss. Not a sparrow falls from the lyrical sky without his noticing and so The Saints were elevated, for a brief moment in March, onto the musical plane where dwell the likes of Born to Run and Glory Days.
In the 1974 film adaptation of The Great Gatsby starring Robert Redford, Daisy Buchanan, played by Mia Farrow, tells Gatsby: “Rich girls don’t marry poor boys.” The line appears nowhere in F. Scott Fitzgerald’s novel and with good reason because by the time Daisy makes this remark in the Redford film, Jay Gatsby is very rich, which makes it an extremely silly thing for her to say. In his adaptation of the book, Baz Luhrmann avoids all such infelicities. His interpretation hews close to the original written word, and when he departs from the text it’s always to enhance the story with tweaks that support the astonishing visuals, made all the more fantastic in 3-D. These images are mainly of the vulgar culture of new money, which is what causes Daisy ultimately to leave Gatsby at the end of the story and stick with her brutal, boorish but old money husband.
“They were careless people, Tom and Daisy — they smashed up things and creatures and then retreated back into their money or their vast carelessness or whatever it was that kept them together, and let other people clean up the mess they had made.”
The moral of the story is that the elite win, always. Despite all the talk of meritocracy, it is a class-based society that Fitzgerald is writing about, and those who work hard, like poor Mr Wilson, are treated like dirt, and those who try to clamber to the top, like poor Jimmy Gatz, are treated with contempt.
With Leonardo DiCaprio as Jay Gatsby and Tobey Maguire as Nick Carraway, two uniquely talented actors lead Baz Luhrmann’s latest charge into the classics and they’re ably supported by a cast in which Elizabeth Debicki, who plays Jordan Baker, is outstanding. Carey Mulligan is a rather pallid Daisy Buchanan, while Joel Edgerton as her husband Tom is the only weak link in the chain. Otherwise, this is as good as it gets. Thanks to Luhrmann, Gatsby continues to be “great” because the film, like the book, contrasts idealism with corruption and bravely accepts the reality of death and loss.
The brash new world of the New World, with its sexual freedom, motorcars, youth, money, gin, rum and whiskey is in your face throughout the film and Baz Luhrmann makes the real star of the novel, pagan and glamorous New York City, look like the magic kingdom. Do see it.
Gatsby anticipation is in the house. We’ve got a ticket for this evening’s 7 pm screening and great are the expectations. Meanwhile, the spin-off industry rumbles on and no (precious) stone is left unturned as it seeks to cash in on the film of the book.
F. Scott Fitzgerald was a customer of Tiffany, the American jewelry emporium, and in The Great Gatsby Tom Buchanan gives Daisy a string of pearls worth $300,000 on the eve of their wedding, a nod by the author to the fact that Tiffany promoted pearls as a female rite of passage during the Jazz Age. To honour the film, Tiffany has introduced two lines of Fitzgerald-themed jewelry: The Great Gatsby Collection features replicas of 30 pieces seen in the film, while the more modestly priced Ziegfeld line is a 14-piece collection that includes a sterling silver Daisy Heart Locket; a pair of 18-karat gold and black enamel cuff links decorated with a “GG” monogram; a sterling silver ring set with black onyx carved in a daisy motif; and a tassel necklace of tiny pearls — redolent of the Champagne bubbles of the era — that would have been the ultimate accessory during a late-night orgy in Gatsby’s Long Island mansion.
For the rest of us, there’s the soundtrack with songs by Lana del Ray, Gotye, Bryan Ferry, Florence and the Machine, Jack White, Beyoncé and Jay-Z.
The screening of The Great Gatsby in Cannes tonight sends a message that stands in stark contrast to the policy of austerity that much of Europe is now experiencing. The hated hair-shirt imposed by Brussels/Berlin has divided the continent along its traditional geographical and cultural fault lines and exposed the myth of unity. “The European project now stands in disrepute across much of Europe,” states a Pew global survey published on Monday.
Jay Gatsby did not tolerate austerity. “The cost of the champagne and fruit alone racked up a whopping $81,300 to fuel Gatsby’s fun loving party guests. This assumes 500 guests for each weekend and that he bought fruit from The FruitGuys, and that he used Korbel champagne.” So reckons Nickolay Lamm, who asks, How Much Would it Cost to be The Great Gatsby? His conclusion: a lot. “After running the numbers on the cost of being The Great Gatsby the total figure came in at $34,320,880!”
Catching the wave, Belinda Goldsmith, reporting for Reuters from the Côte d’Azur, declares, “Cannes set to ditch austerity with ‘Great Gatsby’ launch“. She sees tonight’s premiere as “an opportunity to shed the caution of recent years overshadowed by broader economic gloom.” Let the party begin! Down with socialism!
By the way, Cannes does get a mention in The Great Gatsby. In Chapter 4, where we learn about the troubled origins of Tom and Daisy’s marriage, the novel’s narrator, Nick Carraway, tells us:
“The next April Daisy had her little girl, and they went to France for a year. I saw them one spring in Cannes, and later in Deauville, and then they came back to Chicago to settle down. Daisy was popular in Chicago, as you know. They moved with a fast crowd, all of them young and rich and wild, but she came out with an absolutely perfect reputation. Perhaps because she doesn’t drink. It’s a great advantage not to drink among hard-drinking people. You can hold your tongue, and, moreover, you can time any little irregularity of your own so that everybody else is so blind that they don’t see or care.”
All human life is there.
“How I rewrote ‘The Great Gatsby’” was the Telegraph headline yesterday. That did not bode well as everyone knows rewriting The Great Gatsby is as just as impossible as repainting the Mona Lisa. Of course, online versions of newspapers have to lure readers and so-called “link bait”, while blatantly dishonest, is part of the journalism trade today. The hooked reader then discovers that the headline changes to “Craig Pearce, co-writer of Baz Lurhmann’s ‘The Great Gatsby’, reveals all.” That’s slightly less bombastic, but Gatsby fans will be alarmed to read that, “At the end of our first months working in Australia, our screenplay was four hours long.” If the author of Gatsby could create a masterpiece with just 180 pages of prose, what is the need for four hours of screenplay?
Pearce gives the game away when he writes, “One of the things that makes Gatsby so potent is Fitzgerald’s gorgeous, poetic prose, and it’s very hard to recreate that cinematically.” The “very hard” there is one of the great understatements of our time because the more fitting term would be “impossible”. No one can film this:
“The lights grow brighter as the earth lurches away from the sun, and now the orchestra is playing yellow cocktail music, and the opera of voices pitches a key higher. Laughter is easier minute by minute, spilled with prodigality, tipped out at a cheerful word. The groups change more swiftly, swell with new arrivals, dissolve and form in the same breath; already there are wanderers, confident girls who weave here and there among the stouter and more stable, become for a sharp, joyous moment the centre of a group, and then, excited with triumph, glide on through the sea-change of faces and voices and color under the constantly changing light.”
Now, just because the ethereal beauty of these words cannot be filmed it does not mean that Baz Luhrmann was wrong to attempt to capture what they say for the screen. “Ah, but a man’s reach should exceed his grasp, Or what’s a heaven for?” wrote Robert Browning and it is very brave of Luhrmann to risk the opprobrium that will appear here on Friday if it turns out that he mistook the rewriting of Craig Pearce for the impressionistic painting of F. Scott Fitzgerald.
Opening sentence: “It is on The Great Gatsby by Australian director Baz Luhrmann, that the curtain will rise at the inauguration of the 66th Festival de Cannes, on Wednesday 15th May, in the Grand Théâtre Lumière of the Palais des Festivals, out of Competition in the Official Selection.” Festival de Cannes press release
Opening sentence: “In my younger and more vulnerable years my father gave me some advice that I’ve been turning over in my mind ever since.” The Great Gatsby
Unlike the writers of many press releases, F. Scott Fitzgerald knew how to balance the contents of a sentence. He could do short: “His wife was shrill, languid, handsome, and horrible.” And he could do long: “At the enchanted metropolitan twilight I felt a haunting loneliness sometimes, and felt it in others — poor young clerks who loitered in front of windows waiting until it was time for a solitary restaurant dinner — young clerks in the dusk, wasting the most poignant moments of night and life.” Overall, though, he strove for symmetry and one of many delights of re-reading Gatsby lies in savouring the different ways in which he achieved proportion.
In late 1938, Radcliffe College student Frances Turnbull sent her latest short story to family friend F. Scott Fitzgerald. His response, found in F. Scott Fitzgerald: A Life in Letters, stresses the importance of emotional investment in writing and offers some very honest advice on the essence of great writing:
November 9, 1938
I’ve read the story carefully and, Frances, I’m afraid the price for doing professional work is a good deal higher than you are prepared to pay at present. You’ve got to sell your heart, your strongest reactions, not the little minor things that only touch you lightly, the little experiences that you might tell at dinner. This is especially true when you begin to write, when you have not yet developed the tricks of interesting people on paper, when you have none of the technique which it takes time to learn. When, in short, you have only your emotions to sell.
This is the experience of all writers. It was necessary for Dickens to put into Oliver Twist the child’s passionate resentment at being abused and starved that had haunted his whole childhood. Ernest Hemingway’s first stories ‘In Our Time’ went right down to the bottom of all that he had ever felt and known. In ‘This Side of Paradise’ I wrote about a love affair that was still bleeding as fresh as the skin wound on a haemophile.
The amateur, seeing how the professional having learned all that he’ll ever learn about writing can take a trivial thing such as the most superficial reactions of three uncharacterized girls and make it witty and charming — the amateur thinks he or she can do the same. But the amateur can only realize his ability to transfer his emotions to another person by some such desperate and radical expedient as tearing your first tragic love story out of your heart and putting it on pages for people to see.
That, anyhow, is the price of admission. Whether you are prepared to pay it or, whether it coincides or conflicts with your attitude on what is ‘nice’ is something for you to decide. But literature, even light literature, will accept nothing less from the neophyte. It is one of those professions that wants the ‘works.’ You wouldn’t be interested in a soldier who was only a little brave.
In the light of this, it doesn’t seem worth while to analyze why this story isn’t saleable but I am too fond of you to kid you along about it, as one tends to do at my age. If you ever decide to tell your stories, no one would be more interested than,
Your old friend,
F. Scott Fitzgerald
P.S. I might say that the writing is smooth and agreeable and some of the pages very apt and charming. You have talent — which is the equivalent of a soldier having the right physical qualifications for entering West Point.
“But above the gray land and the spasms of bleak dust which drift endlessly over it, you percieve, after a moment, the eyes of Doctor T.J.Eckleburg. The eyes of Doctor T.J.Eckleburg are blue and gigantic — their irises are one yard high. They look out of no face, but, instead, from a pair of enormous [...]
Their new album, Modern Vampires of the City, will be officially released on Monday and the expectations are that with it Vampire Weekend will transcend the novelties of the noughties and establish themselves as a band of some considerable sophistication and endurance. As next week here on Rainy Day will be devoted to The Great Gatsby, there’s no better way to warm up than with Step, which is all about words and feelings plus imagery of the place that’s central to F. Scott Fitzgerald’s masterpiece: “The city seen from the Queensboro Bridge is always the city seen for the first time, in its first wild promise of all the mystery and beauty in the world.”
YouTube has launched a paid channels experiment that can be accessed by paying a variable subscription fee, which starts at $0.99 a month. National Geographic is there, and so is TNA Wrestling Plus. Among the other offerings: Fix My Hog and Gay Direct. And there’s more to come. Notorious B-movie producer and director Roger Corman has announced that he will launch a paid YouTube channel this summer. “Corman’s Drive-In” will showcase his library of around 400, er, classics.
For all those who equate YouTube with free, this will come as a shock, but Jaron Lanier, the computer scientist who popularized the term “virtual reality”, will be pleased. Who Owns the Future? is the title of his new book and in it he pleads for a radical rethink of how all those busily engaged in creating the digital commons should be compensated. The Lanier solution? If information is worth money (and the share price of Google would suggest it is), then people must be paid for what they contribute to the web. He proposes an intricate system in which Facebook, for example, is no longer free, but also stops getting user data for free. Information creators of would be rewarded with nanopayments generated by users of information in Lanier’s scheme.
The internet, claims Lanier, is currently biased in favour of “siren servers” (big companies) that convince users to exchange data for “free” services — search, e-mail, social networks. But instead of heralding a new age of prosperity, he writes, the net is making us poorer. Careers in professions such as music and writing are disappearing, thanks to the ease of copying, and more traditional middle-class jobs will certainly follow. “To grasp the Huffington Post’s business model, picture a galley rowed by slaves and commanded by pirates,” wrote Tim Rutten. While some grow fat, creatives are not paid and many are driven to destitution by those who pretend that they have our interests at heart. Jaron Lanier’s heart is in the right place, but his nanopayment proposal is unworkable. Paid channels offer a better solution.