Richard Marx is webcasting during the pandemic #ศาสตร์เกษตรดินปุ๋ย

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Richard Marx is webcasting during the pandemic

EntertainmentJun 13. 2020Washington Post arts reporter Geoff Edgers interviewed singer Richard Marx on Instagram Live on May 26 to talk about the singer's newest projects. (The Washington Post)
Washington Post arts reporter Geoff Edgers interviewed singer Richard Marx on Instagram Live on May 26 to talk about the singer’s newest projects. (The Washington Post)

By The Washington Post · Geoff Edgers · ENTERTAINMENT, MUSIC 
Like so many, national arts reporter Geoff Edgers has been grounded by the coronavirus. So he has launched an Instagram Live show from his barn in Concord, Mass. 

https://www.washingtonpost.com/video/c/embed/d8716300-016c-44df-9035-6ca46848f616?ptvads=block&playthrough=false

Every Tuesday and Friday afternoon, Edgers hosts “Stuck With Geoff,” an hour-long show with whoever will take his calls. So far, that has included musician David Byrne, Bill Nye “The Science Guy,” singer Annie Lennox, and actress Marlo Thomas and her husband, talk-show veteran Phil Donahue. 

Recently, Edgers chatted with pop singer Richard Marx, 56, from his home in Malibu, Calif. Here are some excerpts from their conversation.

Q: So your voice is impeccable and the falsetto, it’s all there. But I’m curious. My son, who’s 10 and plays guitar, is obsessed with getting an autotune pedal. Have you used autotune? His feeling was it wasn’t even about fixing the notes. It was because many of the songs he hears have that sound in it. He wants to re-create that. 

A: He’s absolutely right. And I was sort of on this get-off-my-lawn kind of bandwagon about never using autotune for people who can’t really sing. And then I listened to new music, to what’s on the radio. And there is a sound that the autotune processing creates. In some cases, people need it because they can’t sing in tune. But if you’re not insecure about it, sometimes it’s a really cool effect. 

Q: The Beatles, they used effects in their voices. And I know John Lennon was very insecure about his voice and would multiple track it. My boy loves Harry Styles, who performed a version of Peter Gabriel’s song “Sledgehammer” on Howard Stern’s show. 

A: I love Harry Styles, and I love the way the way he does it. But if I knew him, I’d be like, ‘Dude, you’re being so faithful to the Peter Gabriel version.” I would love to hear him sort of (mess) with it a little bit. Because I always feel like if you’re going to be really faithful to a song in a performance, then you’re just going to be constantly compared to the original as opposed to sort of doing it your own way. 

Q: Now we’re in this lockdown. You’re in Malibu, and I keep getting notes from your publicists and they’re like, “Richard’s launched this podcast called ‘Social Distancing.’ ” You’ve got like two videocast things. What’s going on? Why are you launching so many projects that have no clear revenue source? 

A: (Laughs.) The short answer is I was filling time to avoid my anxiety. The first couple of weeks, my wife (former MTV personality Daisy Fuentes) and I were, you know, we were acutely aware of how fortunate we are to be going through this in the way that we are. We have each other. But there was still a lot of anxiety about our three sons, grown men. I worry about them because I’m a dad. I have an 84-year-old immunocompromised mother. There were just a lot of things that were weighing heavily on me, and I found it was just a really great distraction. 

I’ve had no experience with this kind of thing (podcast on Zoom). But it’s been really fun. You know, people I’ve never met before. And we’ve posted it. I met Paul Stanley from KISS. We had the greatest conversation, and we text each other now. I met (designer) Steve Madden a week or so ago. He was really fascinating. I wouldn’t be arrogant enough to say that I’m interviewing these people as much as just chatting with them. 

Q: A couple of weeks ago, I covered my first assignment out of my barn in a long time. I covered a concert in New Hampshire as the first sanctioned concert, and it was a guy on a stage they built outside a venue called the Tupelo Music Hall. You know that place.

A: Yeah, I played there. I did my solo acoustic show there last year. 

Q: Great place. I mean, you played there, Richard Thompson, Buddy Guy. What they did was build a stage outside and they numbered parking spaces. Seventy-five spaces next to where you could put your chair. You weren’t allowed to wander in any way, and they just had a guy on the stage. It was really a test and it went OK, but the energy was different. What’s your kind of comfort level, or when do you actually get out there and perform again? 

A: That’s a really good question, and I think it’s going to be much like the reopening of state by state. I think it’s going to be a gradual process. And anything could happen. I think what we’re probably going to see over the next few months are things like you just described or where everybody’s in golf carts, distanced. There are going to be several iterations of it as we go. And then we probably are going to get hit with the second wave and all bets will be off again and again. It’s one of those weird things, especially because I tour. Probably 75 percent of my touring is just me, solo acoustic. 

I don’t think we’re going to really see what it’s going to look like for at least six or eight months. All my concerts for 2020 have been rescheduled to early 2021. But who knows? I get messages on social media all the time from people. Is the London show still gonna happen? Who knows.

The ‘Happiest Place on Earth’ returns: Disney plans to reopen its California theme parks July 17 #ศาสตร์เกษตรดินปุ๋ย

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The ‘Happiest Place on Earth’ returns: Disney plans to reopen its California theme parks July 17

Jun 11. 2020
By The Washington Post · Hannah Sampson · NATIONAL, BUSINESS, ENTERTAINMENT

The self-proclaimed “Happiest Place on Earth” will no longer be one of the world’s emptiest places starting next month. Disney on Wednesday announced plans to reopen its Disneyland and Disney California Adventure theme parks July 17 – the same day the original park opened in 1955.

As it has done around the world, the company plans a phased ramp-up, with the Downtown Disney District shopping and dining complex starting to come online July 9 and some on-site hotels opening their doors July 23.

All the plans are subject to state and local government approvals, the entertainment giant said. If Disney gets the green light, its California and Florida parks will reopen within days of one another, giving the company a chance to salvage the busy summer season.

In Florida, Magic Kingdom and Animal Kingdom are set to open July 11, followed by Epcot and Disney’s Hollywood Studios on July 15. All have been closed because of the coronavirus pandemic since mid-March, bringing some of the world’s biggest tourism machines to a halt. The California parks drew attendance of more than 28.5 million in 2018, according to an industry estimate.

In a blog post, Josh D’Amaro, chairman of Disney Parks, Experiences and Products, said the company was “one more exciting step closer to reopening all of our Disney parks and experiences around the world.” Shanghai Disneyland opened again in May, and D’Amaro said more announcements were coming soon.

“We are purposefully taking baby steps during this very intentional phased approach,” he wrote. “As one of the first major theme parks to close our operations and the last to reopen, we have been deliberate about keeping the health and safety of our cast, guests and local communities top of mind. And as we look forward to bringing our cast members back to work, and welcoming you back as cherished guests – we know it will take all of us working together responsibly to recapture the magic.”

The company has not yet detailed the health-related changes that visitors should expect when they return in California. But parades, nighttime shows and character interactions will be “temporarily unavailable,” an announcement said. Health and safety policies “are under continuous review and are subject to change as the Disneyland Resort monitors conditions and receives guidance from health and government authorities,” the company said in a news release.

In Florida, where a company representative publicly presented a reopening plan for local approval, measures will include temperature checks at park entrances, required face coverings, physical distancing, the suspension crowd-attracting events like parades and fireworks, hand-sanitizing stations and more contact-free payment.

“Social distancing squads” – including some dressed as Star Wars Stormtroopers – are reminding visitors at Disney Springs, the shopping area that has already opened in Central Florida, to keep their masks on and stay away from each other.

Capacity at the California parks will be “significantly limited” to allow for physical distancing and to abide by government requirements, though Disney did not say how many people would be allowed in. Anyone who wants to visit will have to reserve park entry in advance through a new reservation system, and the company is putting a temporary pause on new ticket sales and annual pass sales and renewals.

Competitor Universal Studios Hollywood has not announced when it will reopen its theme park, but the CityWalk shopping area opened with limited hours Wednesday. In Florida, Universal’s theme parks reopened last week.

The Disney announcement comes as California is moving into the third stage of a four-stage reopening in which higher-risk workplaces and recreational venues are allowed to open their doors. State officials told the Orange County Register last month that theme parks would be included in Stage 3.

Still, some on social media responded to Disney’s news with worries that the opening was coming too soon amid fears of a second wave of coronavirus infections. Hospitalizations in nine states, including California, have been increasing since Memorial Day. Anaheim, the city where Disneyland is located, reported a spike Wednesday when it added 79 new cases after three days of 20 or fewer cases each day.

“I love Disneyland, but this is disgusting and irresponsible,” one Twitter user wrote.

“Soon to be the Most Contagious Place On Earth,” another wrote.

Still, Anaheim Mayor Harry Sidhu welcomed the announcement on Twitter.

“This is a major milestone in the recovery of Anaheim, California and our nation,” he wrote. “We know Disney will be able to meet the challenge of reopening safety, and Anaheim stands ready to see that happen.”

Bruce Lee ’30 for 30′ director says martial arts star is ‘the epitome of an American story’ #ศาสตร์เกษตรดินปุ๋ย

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Bruce Lee ’30 for 30′ director says martial arts star is ‘the epitome of an American story’

Jun 07. 2020
By The Washington Post · Des Bieler · ENTERTAINMENT, SPORTS, FILM, TV 

When it comes to Bruce Lee, most of us are familiar with the myth and the legend, but what about the man? That side of the martial arts and action-movie superstar – who only returned to the Hong Kong film industry after trying to make his way as an immigrant in the United States – is explored to rewarding effect in ESPN’s “Be Water.”

The documentary, set to debut Sunday night as part of the network’s “30 for 30” series, devotes almost two-thirds of its running time to Lee’s experiences as a young man in the America of the 1960s. Of course, he never got to be an old man; he died in 1973 at 32, just as he had become an international sensation.

As with the likes of James Dean and a number of rock ‘n’ roll icons, Lee’s early death deprived the world of seeing more of his brilliance, but it also solidified his mythical status, particularly as the decades went by.

What “Be Water” director Bao Nguyen set out to do with Lee’s story, he told The Washington Post in a recent interview, was “unpack that mythology and find out who he was as a person.”

To that end, we see Lee struggle to assimilate and succeed in a country where he was “looked at as ‘the other,’ ” as Nguyen put it. At the same time, that wasn’t a wholly unfamiliar issue for Lee, whose mother was of mixed Asian and European heritage.

Adding to his sense of rootlessness was the fact that he was born in San Francisco before being raised in Hong Kong and attaining some success as a child actor. He repeated that cycle, in some ways, later in life, when he realized an Asian American could barely land a role in Hollywood that wasn’t insultingly stereotypical – let alone have a realistic shot at being a leading man.

“He was trying to find a place to belong,” Nguyen said.

The effect on Lee’s psychology, though, may have led to an openness to new ideas that helped shape his philosophy about martial arts, if not life itself. He decided that any one combat style was too limiting and created his own version that emphasized dynamism and freeing practitioners from adhering to rigid sequences of movement.

The conceptual underpinning to that philosophy, as famously summed up by Lee, gave the “30 for 30” documentary its title.

“Empty your mind. Be formless, shapeless – like water,” he said in a 1971 interview with TV host Pierre Berton that is excerpted several times in the film.

“You put water into a cup, it becomes the cup. You put water into a bottle, it becomes the bottle. You put it in a teapot, it becomes the teapot,” he continued. “Now, water can flow, or it can crash.

“Be water, my friend.”

Lee’s wife, Linda Lee Cadwell, says in the documentary that his philosophy was “one of self-actualization.”

“Don’t accept that you are this stereotyped image that is cast upon you by others,” she says. “Find what is worthwhile about yourself, and express it.”

Married to Lee in 1964 after they were students together at the University of Washington – she was also a student of his in martial arts – Lee Cadwell had a front-row seat for her husband’s attempts to find himself while dealing with a climate in the United States that was at best patronizingly dismissive to people of Asian heritage.

As Nguyen noted, America at that time had grown used to seeing Asians as the enemy, following conflicts with Japan and in Korea and during the Vietnam War. Meanwhile, Chinese people had to cope with some of the most long-standing stereotypes after arriving on the West Coast in great numbers during the mid-1800s, amid the Gold Rush and railroad expansion.

In providing context for Lee’s new environment after he returned to the United States as an 18-year-old, “Be Water” spends some time on the “model minority” myth, wherein Asian Americans were viewed by whites as docile and eager to follow rules.

That was in contrast to how African Americans became viewed by many whites, particularly as the civil rights movement progressed. As shown in the documentary, one of Lee’s first martial arts students and close friends was a black man, Jesse Glover, who helped teach the recent arrival what was and was not “cool,” and that Asians were hardly the only minority in America facing significant obstacles.

Noting that Glover wanted to learn martial arts for self-defense after being subjected to police brutality, Nguyen said, “That really informed Bruce’s idea of America, and just his open-mindedness about different races, different cultures, different individuals.”

When Lee began teaching martial arts to the likes of Steve McQueen and James Coburn, as a way to help make ends meet during lean times in Hollywood, another student of his was Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, who would later take on Lee in a memorable fight scene in “Game of Death.” In turn, the NBA legend “taught him about the civil rights movement and black liberation,” Nguyen said.

Lee also had a foot in the white world of America after marrying and having children with Lee Cadwell, whose parents were initially skeptical of the relationship but, she said, grew to “adore” him.

The “Enter the Dragon” star had a major impact on Nguyen, said the 36-year-old director, a child of Vietnamese immigrants who grew up in Silver Spring, Md., before attending New York University and New York’s School of Visual Arts.

Of seeing that film as a young, Asian American boy, Nguyen said, “It was something kind of life-changing, because I finally saw myself on-screen playing a hero.”

The director found Lee’s journey by boat from Hong Kong to the United States to be particularly resonant; Nguyen’s parents spent two weeks at sea after fleeing Vietnam before reaching a Hong Kong refugee camp and, eventually, making their way to America.

While the prevailing narrative about Lee positions him as “this martial arts god, in many ways, and a film icon,” Nguyen said he “really wanted to see him through the lens of an immigrant American who had to face a lot of challenges and deal with discrimination and racism that was rampant in the 1960s.”

“When we think about immigrant Americans, and when we think about Americans in general,” he added, “Bruce Lee is not seemingly the prototypical American. But when you dive deeper into his story, it’s very much the epitome of an American story.”

Harry Potter park to replace amusement park in redevelopment plan #ศาสตร์เกษตรดินปุ๋ย

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Harry Potter park to replace amusement park in redevelopment plan

Jun 07. 2020
By Syndication Washington Post, The Japan News-Yomiuri · No Author · WORLD, ASIA-PACIFIC 
A redevelopment project in Tokyo on land where a soon-to-be closed amusement park is located will include a studio-tour style Harry Potter theme park and a park to serve as evacuation site in disasters, according to an outline seen by The Yomiuri Shimbun.

The Tokyo metropolitan government and Nerima Ward are expected to exchange a memorandum as early as Friday to start the project, along with firms including major U.S. film company Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc., which will operate the facility, sources said.

The theme park is expected to open in spring 2023 and will be constructed on part of the land that is currently occupied by Toshimaen amusement park.

Warner Bros. and other firms plan to open the theme park on the east side of the property, where they will exhibit movie sets, costumes and other props used in Harry Potter film shoots, the sources said.

The planned theme park is expected to be similar to the indoor Harry Potter studio tour facility in London.

The plan for the redevelopment includes creating an environment with water features and greenery that is bustling with lots of people.

The Tokyo government, Warner Bros. and other parties will also cooperate with each other to secure a regional disaster evacuation area.

The entire area is to be developed as a site called “Nerima Joshi Koen,” with a park on the west side to accommodate people who are unable to return home if a disaster occurs, according to the sources.

Tokyo plans to spend a total of about ¥80 billion to acquire the land and develop it, and will start constructing Nerima Joshi Koen in fiscal 2021. The site will be partially opened to the public in fiscal 2023 when the theme park opens, the sources said. Tokyo plans to open the site in stages, with it being completely open by fiscal 2030.

Tokyo will construct four paths, three of which will run from north to south through the site, and one that will run from east to west along the Shakujii River.

It plans to allow the paths to be used for emergency vehicles in the event of a disaster as well.

Lamborghini is getting into esports. Wait. What? #ศาสตร์เกษตรดินปุ๋ย

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https://www.nationthailand.com/lifestyle/30388926?utm_source=category&utm_medium=internal_referral

Lamborghini is getting into esports. Wait. What?

Jun 02. 2020
The Real Race. MUST CREDIT: Lamborghini
Photo by: Lamborghini — The Washington Post

The Real Race. MUST CREDIT: Lamborghini Photo by: Lamborghini — The Washington Post
By The Washington Post · Gregory Leporati · BUSINESS, ENTERTAINMENT, SPORTS 

Lamborghini has always tried to build its reputation around luxury, prestige, and speed. And starting this weekend, the company hopes to become synonymous with another term: esports.

The premium sports-car company announced last week the launch of its first-ever esports series, called “The Real Race,” in collaboration with the video game “Assetto Corsa Competizione.” The new sim-racing series, open to gamers of all skill levels, consists of five qualifying weekends, starting from Friday May 29 through August, with Lamborghini flying the top drivers to Italy in September for an in-person finale.

Lamborghini announced the launch of its first-ever esports series, called "The Real Race." MUST CREDIT: Lamborghini Photo by: Lamborghini — The Washington Post

Lamborghini announced the launch of its first-ever esports series, called “The Real Race.” MUST CREDIT: Lamborghini Photo by: Lamborghini — The Washington Post

“This is completely aligned with Lamborghini’s strategy to be closer to brand lovers and the younger generations,” said Katia Bassi, Lamborghini’s chief marketing officer.

Lamborghini’s cars, which are priced anywhere from approximately $200,000 to $5 million, are not exactly affordable to the general public, so Bassi believes esports can serve as a way to further popularize the brand among a variety of demographics – as well as a useful way to gain marketing data.

“We sell 8,000 cars per year,” she said. “The reality is that in terms of brand awareness and participation, for sure this is going to be a good element for us to grow. . . . And, honestly, to have data to create predictive marketing. The more we know what our fan base would like to see from us, the better it is, because we want to be even more accurate than we are right now.”

Lamborghini is not the first manufacturer to launch a one-make esports series – a virtual racing league in which every participant drives the same model or same brand of car. In 2018, Nissan partnered with Gran Turismo to host the Nissan GT Sport Cup, BMW and Porsche have launched their own iRacing series, and, according to its esports website, Ferrari is developing its own series as well.

According to Joern Buss, a partner at consulting firm Oliver Wyman’s global automotive practice, these one-make racing series have become increasingly appealing to car brands for a host of reasons.

“The biggest one, and it’s very attractive, is licensing to video games,” he said. “We’re talking double-digit margins, easily – more than any car company makes on any car that they’re selling. In that regard, it’s easy money: you lend your logos and lend your scans.”

But Buss notes that control is another major factor. By sticking with one racing platform, like Lamborghini with Assetto Corsa, the manufacturer can limit who scans their cars and has more input on the quality of the sim-racing product.

And, of course, the manufacturer is guaranteed to have one of its own virtual cars win the race.

“Studies show that customers of sim racing prefer to have a wide range of cars,” Buss said. “At the end of the day, that’s the fun: I can bench one brand against another, like in the real world . . . but car companies might not want that. It exposes them too far.”

Experienced sim racers have seen this type of manufacturer politics play out for years. Matt Bussa, an eight-year veteran of the eNASCAR Coca-Cola series, points to last year’s iRacing update as a prime example, when Porsche stepped in to replace Formula 1 as the platform’s top-level road world championship and instantly became the platform’s fastest, and most desired, car. Bussa notes that manufacturers are eager to gain exposure on a game like iRacing, since even regular races can turn into de facto one-make competitions.

“There are always debates about which cars are the best on each track,” Bussa said. “You end up with 75 percent of the service using that one car that people agreed online was fastest, and the other cars don’t get any love.”

Given sim racing’s explosion in popularity after covid-19 – “astronomical growth,” Bussa calls it – and a variety of new sim-racing leagues popping up in the last few months alone, is there enough room for a one-make series like Lamborghini’s to succeed? Bussa thinks so.

“A series from only one manufacturer is actually better,” he said. “It brings a lot of exposure to esports, which is great, and I don’t mind watching a bunch of the same car going around and around. The competition aspect outweighs everything.”

One-make series may very well be the future of sim racing, but more questions remain: will they actually help manufacturers’ bottom line? Will they attract millennials and Generation Z, an audience that some analysts suggest is less inclined to like cars? And – the literal million-dollar question – could it lead a gamer to actually purchase a Lamborghini, especially when they can enjoy the virtual experience right from home? According to Buss, only time will tell.

“We see this as a double-edged sword,” the consultant said. “You do this at the safety of your home environment, and so maybe I don’t need a car and can just rely on this virtual-reality aspect. But the growth opportunity and marketing opportunities outweigh those long-term concerns.”

Andrea Caldarelli, a Lamborghini racer and champion of the 2020 Rolex 24 at Daytona, is optimistic that the series will gain Lamborghini some new fans. He will be participating at various points throughout “The Real Race”‘s qualifying rounds and believes that the allure of sim racing could, in fact, persuade a gamer to buy a Lamborghini – or, at the very least, get them to dream of buying one.

“One of the most important factors of a racecar, I always say, is the noise,” said Caldarelli. “If you put a headset on in the game, you can hear our V10 engine, and I don’t think any human can resist it. So there will be a lot of people playing this who want to drive our real car.”

Book World: J.K. Rowling’s next book, ‘The Ickabog,’ will be available for free online #ศาสตร์เกษตรดินปุ๋ย

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Book World: J.K. Rowling’s next book, ‘The Ickabog,’ will be available for free online

May 26. 2020
By The Washington Post · Stephanie Merry 

There is inevitable – borderline fanatical – enthusiasm around any new project by J.K. Rowling. Her Harry Potter books are the best-selling series in history, with more than 500 million copies sold worldwide. Those books also made Rowling the world’s highest-earning author, which means she doesn’t really need to sell more books.

But she has more stories to tell. So, she has decided to give her next one away for free.

As Rowling revealed on her web site, she began working on a book called “The Ickabog” “in fits and starts” between Harry Potter books. But after finishing Potter, she decided to take a break from publishing. And once she returned, she was more focused on stories for adults, including her novel “The Casual Vacancy,” released in 2012, and the Cormoran Strike series, which she publishes under the pen name Robert Galbraith.

Meanwhile, “The Ickabog” had been sitting in her attic for nearly a decade.

When she floated the idea of resurrecting the story, and publishing it online for free as a serial, “my now teenagers were touchingly enthusiastic,” she wrote, “so downstairs came the very dusty box, and for the last few weeks I’ve been immersed in a fictional world I thought I’d never enter again.”

Rowling wants to make very clear: “The Ickabog” is not a Harry Potter spin-off. And it was not inspired by any recent events, even if it is “a story about truth and the abuse of power.”

Rowling plans to publish one or more chapters daily on The Ickabog web site, beginning today, May 26, through July 10. She also plans to release the novel as a print book – plus an e-book and audiobook – in November and will donate proceeds to groups that have been impacted by the covid pandemic.

She’s also asking her young readers to help illustrate that book. “I thought how wonderful it would be if children in lockdown, or otherwise needing distraction during the strange and difficult time we’re passing through, illustrated the story for me,” Rowling wrote. Publishers will judge the submissions and include the best drawings in each territory in the finished books.

Shows like ‘Celebrity Watch Party,’ ‘Ultimate Tag’ and ‘Labor of Love’ only seem like TV’s bottom of the barrel #ศาสตร์เกษตรดินปุ๋ย

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https://www.nationthailand.com/lifestyle/30388216?utm_source=category&utm_medium=internal_referral

Shows like ‘Celebrity Watch Party,’ ‘Ultimate Tag’ and ‘Labor of Love’ only seem like TV’s bottom of the barrel

May 20. 2020
From left, Sharon, Kelly and Ozzy Osbourne use their home theater to watch

From left, Sharon, Kelly and Ozzy Osbourne use their home theater to watch “Dirty Dancing” on “Celebrity Watch Party.” MUST CREDIT: Fox
By The Washington Post · Hank Stuever · ENTERTAINMENT, TV 

By now, it’s entirely possible that you’ve over-binged on television and have grown sick of it. Believe me, I sympathize. The one form of entertainment that was supposed to see us through the pandemic shutdown is also still the fastest route to craptown.

The month of May was like this even in TV’s usual, non-pandemic times. Once the season finales are over and the singing competitions have crowned their winners, networks often set their trash out on the curb, usually just before Memorial Day.

Three new shows from Fox (“Ultimate Tag,” “Labor of Love” and “Celebrity Watch Party”) certainly have that late-spring stink about them – shows that are each mildly enjoyable in a fleeting way while also serving as a sort of omen about what lies at the bottom of most barrels.

Only one – “Celebrity Watch Party,” which premiered May 7 and airs Thursday nights – can be fully regarded as a product of the covid-19 moment. Based on a 2013 British show called “Gogglebox” (which was already copied as “The People’s Couch” on Bravo several years ago), it’s a show about watching people (celebrities in this case) sit on their couches at home and yell at the screen while they watch TV.

Participants include Rob Lowe and his sons; Tyra Banks and her mother; Joe Buck and his wife; Meghan Trainor and her family; Justin Long and his brother; Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak and his wife; Raven-Symoné and some friends; and, it almost goes without saying, the ever-available Osbournes.

It’s hard to think of a show that would be easier to make, which is why Fox ordered 10 episodes last month as a fun, fizzy way to fill up some of the prime-time schedule while the network, like its competitors, rations out what’s left in its cupboards. The celebs are of course game, because all their other gigs dried up. “Celebrity Watch Party” is one of the rare ways left to be on TV without using Zoom.

The viewer’s reflexive response is of course despair: Has it really come to this, you ask – watching other people watch TV?

Luckily, critics and others already worked through this quandary, back when Bravo’s version premiered. “The People’s Couch” seemed at first like a new low in a medium out of ideas, but those of us who actually watched it found it charmingly (if absurdly) intimate, mainly because the viewers Bravo chose to follow were personable, diverse and willing to say whatever was on their minds about what they were seeing. Their passion for good and bad television – as well as their low-stakes regard for it – had a leavening effect on my own self-important sense of criticism. It was a reminder that TV is, after all, just TV. Sometimes the best thing about it is its role as a reliable campfire, around which we gather with those we love.

“Celebrity Watch Party” has a similar vibe, as its participants howl in anguish (on a recent episode) while watching “Kings of Pain,” History’s horrifying reality show in which two dudes (a wildlife biologist and an animal handler) subject themselves to stings and bites from exotic insects and reptiles.

The same episode shifted moods, as the participating households took in a cable broadcast of the 1987 classic “Dirty Dancing.” The pained look on 71-year-old Ozzy Osbourne’s face, as he is made to endure the entire movie! As a visual of 2020’s stay-at-home misery, it should hang in a museum, where, with its subtle range of suffering and ennui, it can beguile visitors for centuries to come.

Wednesday’s premiere of “Ultimate Tag,” meanwhile, comes to us from another time, not so long ago, when it might have been fun to have a sweaty fitness fiend with a name like “The Caveman” or “Banshee” or “The Flow” chase you around an obstacle course and try to rip a tag from your shirt. Now you’d give anything for jockos like that to give you at least six feet when you’re out for a walk or navigating the narrow aisles of a CVS.

Hosted by all three football-playing Watt brothers (J.J. and the other two), the competition seems to have emanated from a semiprofessional tag circuit, which, if you don’t mind, I’ll skip researching so as not get further depressed about the state of American adulthood. Many of the contestants and their costumed pursuers mention participation in CrossFit exercise regimens, which should be all we really need to know.

Aesthetically, “Ultimate Tag” seems to aggregate the look of pro wrestling, roller derby, a trampoline party and an expensive gym membership. It has none of the coded piety of “American Ninja Warrior,” and not much time or inclination to tell contestant’s sob stories, if they have any. Mostly it’s just overproduced, hard-to-follow rounds of tag. When one female contestant shoots a dirty look at the glamazon who just tagged her, there is just a hint of trash talk and escalated conflict. Poor J.J. Watt looks momentarily confused: Is this going to become that kind of show?

“Labor of Love,” a mating reality series which premieres Thursday, is far less confused about what it wants to be. Its central subject is 41-year-old Kristy Katzmann, a Chicagoan determined to find a man who is ready to have a baby. Kristy, whose first marriage ended quickly, has been to the fertility experts and even had some of her eggs frozen as a backup plan. Her doctor says she is ready to roll.

So it’s off to Atlanta (it’s always Atlanta), where Netflix’s recent reality hit “Love Is Blind” made the world safe again for the basic dating show, and where no trope is too tropey and viewers get to experience the process without suffering a whit of voyeuristic regret.

Aided by “Sex and the City’s” Kristin Davis, who hosts the show, Kristy begins meeting a crop of 15 eligible men, all in their 30s and 40s, who swear they’re ready to settle down and be a dad. Their first hurdle is to submit semen samples to a mobile fertility lab parked in the driveway, to determine the volume, concentration, motility and morphology of their sperm.

Some of the men, viewers will see, are more viable than others – microscopically and also on the macro level. How tragically fitting when the hottie with the highest sperm count (317 million! They actually give him a trophy) is also the guy who forgets Kristy’s name.

Unlike “The Bachelorette,” where the dreams are of rings, wedding bells and foofy la-dee-das, “Labor of Love” is more bluntly and even gallingly heteronormative; it is literally about breeding, obsessed with a biological outcome above all other options, including adoption, which Davis mentions was the right solution for her. Most of the men share Kristy’s deadline determination to procreate; one bachelor keeps reminding us he’s the only male left who can pass along his family name. He also happens to be the kind of reality-show bro whose personality and genetic qualities are a dime a dozen.

As Kristy begins to narrow the field (“I don’t see us starting a family together,” she informs each rejectee), “Labor of Love’s” most winning aspect is that it is finished – in the can, as they say, and ready to take its place on a schedule that will look more sparse as the summer continues.

I’m not ready to sound all the alarms, but if I watched four hours of “Labor of Love,” imagine how desperate we’re going to get in the weeks and months ahead.

– – –

“Ultimate Tag” (one hour) premieres Wednesday at 9 p.m. on Fox.

“Celebrity Watch Party” (one hour) airs Thursdays at 8 p.m. on Fox.

“Labor of Love” (one hour) premieres Thursday at 9 p.m. on Fox.

Disney executive to run TikTok #ศาสตร์เกษตรดินปุ๋ย

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Disney executive to run TikTok

May 19. 2020
By The Washington Post · Steven Zeitchik · BUSINESS

The worlds of entertainment and social media came together unexpectedly Monday as Kevin Mayer, the head of Disney Plus, said he was leaving the company to take the chief executive role at Chinese-owned viral-video titan TikTok.

The move gives a shiny Hollywood face to a company that has come under criticism from lawmakers over its Beijing influence. It also raises questions about succession at Disney Plus, a core part of Disney’s strategy.

TikTok parent ByteDance said Mayer will also become chief operating officer of that company, a growing juggernaut with about 60,000 employees around the world, in a newly created role.

Mayer’s “wealth of experience building successful global businesses makes him an outstanding fit for our mission of inspiring creativity for users globally,” ByteDance chief executive Yiming Zhang said in a statement.

In addition to TikTok, which has become massively popular with teenagers, ByteDance owns the trending-video platform Top Buzz, the photo app FaceU and the social app Helo, among other properties. Mayer will start on June 1 and will be based in Southern California.

Alex Zhu, TikTok’s former leader, will become a vice president of product and strategy at ByteDance.

In response to Mayer’s exit, Disney said it would promote company veteran Rebecca Campbell, currently president of Disneyland Resort, to take his place. Campbell had been an executive at the streaming division, focusing on the Disney Plus launch in Europe, Africa and the Middle East.

Mayer leaves Disney after was not named to the chief-executive spot in the departure of Robert Iger in February. Bob Chapek, who runs the theme-park division, was named to the role, prompting speculation at the time over whether Mayer would seek to leave the conglomerate.

Mayer said in a statement that he was “excited to help lead the next phase of ByteDance’s journey as the company continues to expand its breadth of products across every region of the world.”

The executive was credited with helping to develop and launch Disney Plus, which has 54 million paid subscribers as of earlier this month, according to Disney.

But his skills are a more unexpected fit with TikTok, which is focused on a heavy volume of home-made videos. Analysts say one thing to watch will be whether Mayer will push the site in a more high-end direction.

Yiming, the ByteDance CEO, said he thought Mayer could “take ByteDance’s portfolio of products to the next level.”

More immediately, Mayer could have his work cut out on the political front. TikTok faces bipartisan questions on Capitol Hill over privacy and surveillance concerns. In the fall, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., and Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., asked acting director of national intelligence Joseph Maguire look into the company’s data-collection tactics as well as censorship by the Chinese government.

His appointment was immediately highlighted on Twitter by Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., who noted his frustration with TikTok’s refusal to send high-level executives to Washington to testify before Congress. “.@tiktok_us previously told me they couldn’t attend hearings and testify because executives were located in #China,” Hawley tweeted. “But this new executive lives in the USA. I look forward to hearing from him. Under oath.”

The executive would not be made available for comment, said a TikTok spokesman. A Disney spokesman did not respond to a request for comment.

Zhu last year had sought to meet with leaders to allay their worries, though the company’s executives declined to appear at a congressional hearing in March to answer questions about their practices. Relations between lawmakers and TikTok have been challenged as part of the larger economic and more recently virus-related tensions between China and the United States.

ByteDance has continued to gain influence. The company not long ago hit 1 billion active users, many under the age of 25. TikTok is often the most downloaded app in the Apple store.

The pandemic has solidified the app’s popularity further as users have uploaded videos of themselves in self-isolation; many have then gone viral or made their way to late-night talk shows.

Meanwhile, Disney Plus will try to move ahead without Mayer as it looks to the service to provide revenue while many other realms, from theatrical films to ESPN, are severely curtailed due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Campbell said in a statement that “armed with the best creative content engines and technology teams in the industry, I am extremely confident in our ability to continue growing the [Disney Plus] business around the globe.”

The Mayer news represents the latest close relationship between Disney executives and the Chinese government. Companies owned by the Shanghai government are the majority investor in Shanghai Disneyland, and Marvel and other Disney movies regularly get the country’s coveted theatrical distribution slots.

Drive-In theaters are jammed with moviegoers escaping lockdown #ศาสตร์เกษตรดินปุ๋ย

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Drive-In theaters are jammed with moviegoers escaping lockdown

May 17. 2020
Movie-goers watch an animated short before the feature film at Ocala Drive-In Theater in Florida. MUST CREDIT: Zack Wittman/Bloomberg

Movie-goers watch an animated short before the feature film at Ocala Drive-In Theater in Florida. MUST CREDIT: Zack Wittman/Bloomberg
By Syndication Washington Post, Bloomberg · Thomas Black · BUSINESS, ENTERTAINMENT, FILM 

Daniel Fuller inflated a camping mattress, tossed it into the back of his pickup and settled in with his wife to watch “Trolls World Tour” at the Coyote Drive-In in Fort Worth, Texas.

The Friday night show was the first time the 37-year-old had been to a drive-in movie since he was a kid. The couple isn’t ready to face the risk of indoor theaters, and the Coyote was one of the few options to get out of the house and break the lockdown routine. So they drove 30 miles to see the animated tale of mythological creatures uniting musical tribes, which played out against the glowing backdrop of Fort Worth’s night skyline.

A screen reminds Ocala Drive-In Theater moviegoers to stay safe. MUST CREDIT: Zack Wittman/Bloomberg

A screen reminds Ocala Drive-In Theater moviegoers to stay safe. MUST CREDIT: Zack Wittman/Bloomberg

“This is probably our first date night since before the pandemic started in February,” said Fuller, who works at the restaurant chain Chili’s Grill and Bar. “It’s a fun experience. It’s different.”

In recent decades, drive-in theaters have existed mainly as an entertainment novelty – quirky throwbacks to a bygone era. Now virus-wary movie fans avoid crowding indoors where they face a higher risk of catching covid-19.

Never since their 1950s heyday have drive-in theaters seemed more attractive.

“You’re safe at a drive-in,” said John Watzke, owner of the Ocala Drive-In Theater 80 miles north of Orlando, Florida. If at least one good thing can come out of the deadly pandemic gripping the nation, he says, it might just be the popular rebirth of this particular piece of Americana.

More than 300 drive-in theaters – basically parking lots equipped with a giant outdoor movie screen – are currently in business across the U.S., down from about 4,000 in 1958. With lockdowns beginning to ease across the nation this month, the drive-ins are drawing a whole new corps of customers from the pandemic generation.

Open-air movies were among the first businesses cleared for opening by New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Monday. Websites for the theaters promote their outdoor advantage, while stipulating new rules such as wearing masks if you leave your car, tickets that reserve two spaces instead of one, and new apps for ordering concessions from your car.

Cars formed a long line for the May 5 opening of Donna Saunders’s Tiffin Drive-In Theater in Ohio.

“Everyone that drove up said, ‘We are so happy to get out of our house and have something fun to do,’ ” said Saunders, who bought the outdoor theater in 2011. “I assume there were smiling faces behind those masks they were wearing – because we were all wearing masks – but everybody seemed to be in a jolly mood.”

In Florida, Watzke has been turning away customers on weekends. Even with every-other-space parking cutting capacity in half, he deemed it an “exceptional night” for this time of year.

Watzke made some other adjustments for the pandemic, fencing in a 70-foot walkway at the concession stand and laying light strips to mark six-foot intervals where customers should stand. He’s using more to-go packaging and hired extra workers to deliver food to customers who prefer to order over the internet.

For now, Watzke doesn’t want to pass along those extra costs to customers, though they trim his profit margin by about 20%.

Another obstacle is the lack of new releases, which studios are withholding until indoor theaters are open. Watzke is showing a mix of older movies, such as “Wonder Woman,” and independent films, including IFC’s “How to Build a Girl” and “The Wretched.” A few weekends ago, he screened Harry Potter movies.

“I don’t think people care as much about what they’re coming to see,” he said. “They just want to get out of their house.”

All three screens at the Coyote Drive-In were sold out Friday night as Texans seized the chance to get out of their homes. Maribel Rodriguez, 45, loaded up her three kids to see “Trolls World Tour” after spending weeks confined to their house. She wasn’t sure how her children would react, but she thinks the drive-in made some new fans.

“I think we will come out more often,” she said. “It brings us all together as a family.”

The renaissance for drive-ins should last at least through the summer, said Chris Aronson, president of domestic distribution at Paramount, a unit of ViacomCBS Inc. The outdoor venues will have almost a monopoly on moviegoing at least through June, as most indoor theaters remain closed and customers seek alternatives to closed spaces.

“I think people are going to be very comfortable with outdoor, out-of-home entertainment,” Aronson said.

Proprietors are hoping their new customers will stay loyal even after virus risks ease.

If so, it will be another evolution for a peculiarly American tradition.

The nation, with its wide-open spaces and devotion to the automobile, has always been an innovator in devising things that can be done without leaving the car. America gave the world drive-thru windows, which dispense about two-thirds of fast food in the U.S., and the drive-thru pharmacy. In Louisiana you can get a drive-thru daiquiri and Arlington, Texas, once had a drive-thru pawnshop.

Drive-ins boomed during the 1950s and 1960s as a nighttime hangout – and make-out – spot for teenagers and a cheap option for families who paid by the car instead of per person. They got two movies for the price of one if they stayed for the double-feature.

As air-conditioned, indoor multiplexes showing movies throughout the day took over the market in the 1970s and 1980s, drive-ins began to fade. The industry took another hit in 2013 when studios switched to digital, forcing drive-ins to buy new $75,000 projectors for each screen.

Now the pandemic is redefining the drive-in as a community gathering place. The natural social-distancing available in the large parking lots has made them useful for other events besides movies, including church services and graduation ceremonies.

The Sandell Drive-In in Clarendon, Texas, outside Amarillo has been repurposed as a drive-in church by a minister, who stands before the big screen with a microphone to preach to parishioners parked in front of him. In a video livestreamed on Facebook, horns honked enthusiastically to punctuate the sermon instead of the usual “Amen!”

John Knepp in Ohio has booked more than 20 high-school graduation events at his Mayfield Road and Midway Twin drive-ins. The schools will screen a 90-minute video of students receiving their diplomas.

“They’ll see themselves on the big screen,” Knepp said, and then they’ll watch old movies.

Josh Frank, owner of Austin’s Blue Starlite Mini Urban Drive-In, had already begun reimagining the modern outdoor theater before the pandemic hit. His concept for a smaller-footprint, pop-up style drive-in allows him to operate in the city. He keeps costs low with a Blu-ray projector and by showing cheaper “comfort food classics,” such as “Raiders of the Lost Ark” and “The Goonies.”

The theater had a hipness factor that made it a hot ticket among Austinites, and he opened a second location at the end of February. Both are now reopened for business after locking down for a few weeks.

“People are just so grateful that’s there’s a business model for having a cinematic experience that not only is so different from any other, but is literally the safest thing you can go to do right now,” he said.

Disney plans first park reopening next week #ศาสตร์เกษตรดินปุ๋ย

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Disney plans first park reopening next week

May 06. 2020
By The Washington Post · Hannah Sampson · BUSINESS, WORLD, ASIA-PACIFIC 

Disney is bringing its theme park business back to life – but only in China.

The company announced plans Tuesday to reopen Shanghai Disneyland on May 11, months after shuttering it in late January as the novel coronavirus spread in China, with new health and safety measures in place. An adjacent hotel, shopping complex and recreational area reopened in March, and the company said that experience is informing the theme park opening.

In an announcement, the entertainment giant said the Shanghai park will have “limited and pulsed attendance,” meaning visitors will only be able to buy tickets for specific dates and annual pass holders will need to make a reservation before getting there.

Walt Disney Company CEO Bob Chapek said during an earnings call Tuesday afternoon that the government is limiting capacity to about 24,000 visitors a day, or 30 percent of normal attendance. The park will wait a few weeks to get to that number, however.

“We’re going to open far below that just to have our training wheels on with our new procedures and processes,” Chapek said. Crowds will also be managed in lines, restaurants, rides and other parts of the park.

Guests will undergo temperature screening and have to use the government’s health QR code system for early detection and contact tracing, and high-touch areas such as railings, turnstiles, rides and handlebars will be sanitized more frequently.

Employees – called “cast members” in Disney lingo – are being trained in social distancing and no-contact interaction with guests. Both visitors and employees will have to wear masks, except while eating. That will not apply to workers who play characters in costumes that don’t cover their faces.

“The only characters that will not wear masks are the face characters, and they will be at a distance from crowds,” Chapek said.

After closing the Shanghai park in late January, the company followed with its Hong Kong park that month, Tokyo in late February, and domestic resorts in Florida and California in mid-March. The company did not have a timeline for reopening its other properties in the U.S., Europe and Asia.

“While it’s too early to predict when we’ll be able to begin resuming all our operations, we are evaluating a number of different scenarios to ensure a cautious, sensible and deliberate approach to the eventual reopening of our parks,” Chapek said during the call with analysts. “The approach we take may include implementation of guest capacity and density control measures as well as health and prevention procedures that comply with state and federal guidelines.”