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Thursday, 18-Mar-2010 01:30 Email | Share | | Bookmark
The New Guard of Curators Steps Up

THE mouth of a giant monster, its razor-sharp teeth glaring overhead and its tongue forming a long red carpet, ushers visitors into the Tim Burton retrospective at the Museum of Modern Art. Although the intentionally lighthearted chronicle of the filmmaker’s work received only mixed reviews when it opened in November, Mr. Burton’s fans don’t seem to care. More than 450,000 people have already attended the show, and by the time it closes on April 26, attendance is expected to exceed that of recent blockbusters like the museum’s “Van Gogh: The Colors of the Night” last year and “Dali: Painting and Film,” in 2008.

Visitors to the show are relatively young, somewhere in their 30s on average, which makes them a decade younger than usual for MoMA, recent surveys showed. And a surprising one-third of this audience had never stepped foot in the museum before.

“We’d never done anything like this,” said Rajendra Roy, the museum’s chief curator of film, who was one of the show’s pink pearl ring organizers. “There’s always a learning curve. Would I have done things differently? I don’t think so.”

For a 37-year-old curator, Mr. Roy seems pretty cool about it all, considering that only a few years ago he started his professional life selling tickets at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum. Yet as museum directors have come to realize, younger minds attract younger audiences. And Mr. Roy is just one of a growing group of rising curatorial stars cutting quite a different figure from the age-old image of museum curator as a fusty academic.

Sitting in his office, a small space whose walls are covered with movie posters, Mr. Roy is tall, elegant and articulate when talking about how he landed the coveted job of running MoMA’s film department, the second-largest at the institution after painting and sculpture.

“When I first heard they cheap pearl pendant were looking for someone I was convinced I was NOT the person,” he said. “I was too young, too out there, not academic.”

Yet as soon as he got the call to come in and talk about the position, he said, he had to “at least accept a conversation.” Fifteen interviews later, he was offered the job. “It was fascinating, nerve-racking and a bit like “American Idol,’ ” he recalled.

During good economic times, many young people like Mr. Roy would have snubbed the museum world, preferring instead to become a filmmaker or a big shot at an international film festival. Many young curators with backgrounds in art history would have jumped at the seemingly more glamorous life as an art dealer. But in these turbulent times, the sterling silver ring stability of a museum job is attractive.

“Museums are safe harbors in this difficult economic time,” said Glenn D. Lowry, director of the MoMA, who said that Mr. Roy was one of a growing number of curators at MoMA in their 30s and early 40s. “Previously you were in your late 40s or 50s before becoming a senior curator, but all that’s changed,” he added. “These curators look at things more broadly. This is a generation who grew up entirely in the digital world and they are untroubled by distinctions of media.”

It is also a group plugged in to all areas of museum life. They don’t simply organize exhibitions, they also have a hand in fund-raising and public relations, catalog production and installation. “The old-fashioned notion of a curator was that of a connoisseur who made discoveries and attributions,” said Scott Rothkopf, 33, who is the latest full-time curator to join the Whitney Museum of American Art’s team. “A lot of that work has already been done. The younger generation is trained to think differently, to think more about ideas.”

Although Mr. Rothkopf came to the Whitney from Artforum, where he was the magazine’s senior editor, like many of today’s younger generation he landed where he is the traditional akoya pearl pendants way, earning graduate degrees in art history from Harvard. Others, like Mr. Roy, came to it through less conventional channels. Right before joining MoMA, he had been the artistic director of the Hamptons International Film Festival.

There are also people like Hao Sheng, 37, the curator of Chinese art at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, who started out wanting to become a professional potter, or his colleague Jen Mergel, 33, a sculptor who graduated from Harvard with a degree in visual and environmental studies. Ms. Mergel also earned a master’s at the Center for Curatorial Studies and Art in Contemporary Culture at Bard College.

“I started teaching studio art courses at Harvard,” she said. “But I loved talking about other artists’ work rather than doing my own.” Now she is the senior curator for contemporary art at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, where she is responsible for the development, planning and organization of the museum’s new wing for contemporary art, scheduled to open in June 2011. “This is a big, big step for Boston,” she said. “We are giving one-quarter of the museum’s campus over to contemporary art.”

Going from being a teacher to curator isn’t as great a leap as it seems. “Teaching is about engaging students by telling a good story and that’s what a good curator does, too,” said Clara Drummond, 32, who was the co-curator of “A Woman’s Wit: Jane Austen’s Life and Legacy,” which ran through Sunday at the Morgan Library and Museum in Manhattan.

One of Ms. Drummond’s biggest challenges when faced with presenting Austen, her world and her letters was china wholesale wish pearl set figuring out how to best engage the audience. “It could be deadly boring,” Ms. Drummond admitted. But because she saw Austen’s letters as “little puzzles” she put a lot of them in frames on the walls because, as she explained, “in glass cases you feel distanced from them.” She also paired the letters with satirical prints by artists like James Gillrayand drawings by William Blake and was involved in the production of a 16-minute film with personalities like Fran Lebowitz, Cornell West and Colm Toibin talking about Austen.

“We need to reach beyond the museum walls,” she said.

David van der Leer, who turned 30 last month, is the assistant curator for architecture and design at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum. He, too, is thinking beyond the physical museum.

Teaming up with Nancy Spector, the museum’s deputy director and chief curator, they organized “Contemplating the Void: Interventions in the Guggenheim Museum,” an exhibition of renderings by nearly 200 artists, architects and designers who were asked to imagine their dream interventions in the rotunda of the museum’s Frank Lloyd Wright home. Besides being on view in the museum, each image is on the Guggenheim’s Web site.

Mr. van der Leer said he was also hoping to present a number of small architecture shows in cities where the Guggenheim did not already have an outpost. “You can do something very ephemeral,” he said. “It can be any time and last just a few weeks, or a few months and then it’s gone.”

And although most of their exhibitions are temporary, these curators say they are in it for the long haul. Not one amber earrings is embarrassed to acknowledge they work in a place as seemingly staid as a museum. “In this economy, most of my friends in the film industry are out of work,” Mr. Roy said. “Suddenly, being a museum administrator, a job with stability, seems sexy.”

Thursday, 18-Mar-2010 01:28 Email | Share | | Bookmark
Sprint to support Google's Nexus One smartphone

Sprint said on Wednesday it would announce the pricing and availability date soon for the Nexus One. The smartphone is the first that Google is selling directly to consumers and is sold exclusively through the Internet company's website.

The arrival of the Sprint Nexus One could help broaden the phone's appeal, which has been reported to have experienced lackluster sales in its first several months on the market.

Separately, Google said it continues to claim the right to the Nexus One trademark in the U.S., following reports that the United States Patent and Trademark Office had earlier this month refused Google's application for the rights to the name.

The PTO said there was a likelihood that Google's use of a Nexus One trademark could be confused with the Nexus trademark registered by Integra Telecom Holdings Inc in December 2008.

A Google spokeswoman said in an emailed statement that Google plans to "respond to the office action" from the PTO.

The Sprint Nexus One will represent the first version of the device to work on the CDMA wireless network used by Sprint and Verizon wireless, the largest carrier in the United States.

Currently, the Nexus One is available only as a version that works with the GSM network, for $179 with a two-year contract on Deutsche Telekom's T-Mobile USA, or $529 without a service plan.

Google has previously said that the nature pearl ring Nexus One will also be available from Verizon Wireless, a joint venture of Verizon Communications Inc and Vodafone Group Plc, sometime in the Spring.

BGC Financial analyst Colin Gillis said that increasing the number of carriers that support the Nexus One might help sales somewhat, but probably would not be enough to turn the phone into a huge seller like the Apple iPhone.

The real significance of the Sprint deal, Gillis said, is that Google has signed on another carrier to its plan of pendant jewelry enhancers selling phones directly to the consumer, bypassing the carrier-owned retail stores that have traditionally been the primary mobile phone sales channel.

"It's a step in the process of ultimately having an efficient marketplace for users to go and buy phones and silver jewelry bandwidth, which will put the phones in the hands of more people and which will generate more searches," Gillis said.

The Nexus One is the first of a variety of smartphones that Google has said are in the pipeline as the company seeks to expand its reach from the PC to the mobile world and ensure its online products and ads get prominent placement on a new breed of wireless Internet devices.

Google, the world's No.1 Internet search engine with $23.7 billion in 2009 revenue, said on Monday that it expects the rates that companies pay for search ads on mobile phones to exceed the cultured akoya brooch rates of its existing PC-based ad business in the future.

Google began selling the Nexus One in January, and sales in the first 74 days totaled 135,000 units, compared to the roughly 1 million units that handsets such as Motorola Inc's Droid and Apple Inc's iPhone sold during their initial rollouts, according to a recent report by analytics firm Flurry.

Unlike the iPhone and the Droid, which have been heavily promoted in television ads, Google has only advertised the Nexus One on the Web.

Sprint is the third largest wireless carrier in the U.S. with 48 million subscribers at the end of 2009. T-Mobile is the illusion pearl necklace No.4 carrier in the United States with 33.8 million subscribers at the end of 2009.

Sprint already carries phones that run Google's Android software made by Samsung Electronics Co Ltd and HTC Corp.

(Reporting by Tiffany Wu and Alexei Oreskovic; editing by John Wallace, Leslie Gevirtz)

Thursday, 18-Mar-2010 01:22 Email | Share | | Bookmark
NJ says MGM has ties to Chinese criminals

New Jersey's Division of Gaming Enforcement had accused the company last year of questionable conduct in associating with Pansy Ho, the daughter of Macau gambling tycoon Stanley Ho, who they said is linked to Chinese organized crime.

Pansy Ho is a 50-percent partner with MGM in its MGM Grand Macau casino.

MGM's plan to sell its leverback pearl earrings stake in the Atlantic City Borgata casino and give up its New Jersey gambling license, first proposed in February, was approved on Wednesday by state regulators.

"From the beginning of its efforts to enter Macau, MGM pursued partnerships with persons that it knew were associated with those aspects of gaming in Macau most heavily penetrated by organized crime," the enforcement division said in a previously confidential report illusion pearl necklace released on Wednesday.

The former Portuguese colony's transformation from a seedy gambling haven into a Las Vegas-style entertainment paradise since 2002 has meant stiff competition for the elder Ho, although he still controls one of six gambling licenses in Macau.

Sometimes known as the godfather of gambling, Stanley Ho, a patriarch of mixed European and Chinese parentage, heads an extended clan of 17 children born to his four wives.

The report from the New Jersey freshwater pearl bracelet enforcement division cites documents such as 1992 testimony at a U.S. Senate Subcommittee hearing stating that Stanley Ho had direct associations with known members of Chinese triads.

It concluded that Pansy Ho's relationship and financial ties to her father, as well as "her associations with persons alleged to be associated with organized crime render her susceptible to influence by unsuitable persons."

The report also said Las Vegas-based MGM's conduct in pursuing and consummating the Macau joint venture "raises concerns about its commitment to corporate regulatory integrity."

The gaming enforcement division said MGM's due diligence and compliance efforts were sterling jewelry deficient.

MGM is laying the groundwork for an initial public offering of shares in the joint venture.

Gambling revenue in Macau, which overtook Las Vegas several years ago to become the world's No. 1 gambling center, rose nearly 70 percent in the first two months of this year. In Atlantic City, hurt by new competition from surrounding states like Pennsylvania as well as the recession, gambling revenue fell 25 percent between 2006 and 2009.

MGM once had plans to build a multi-tower project on 55 acres of land it owns adjacent to the Borgata, but those wholesale south sea pearl plans were put on hold several years ago.

"The DGE's (Division of Gaming Enforcement) report acknowledges there is no evidence that Pansy Ho has engaged in any wrongdoing or been accused of any illegal activity," MGM Chief Executive Jim Murren said in a statement.

The company owns the Borgata through a 50-50 joint venture with Boyd Gaming Corp (BYD.N).

MGM said it will place its interest in the Borgata and related leased land in a divestiture trust. The settlement mandates the sale of the trust property within a 30-month period.

If the company has not found a buyer within 18 months, the trustee would then take over the sales process, having another 12 months to conclude a deal.

Shares of MGM fell 4 cents to close at $12.26 on the New York Stock Exchange.

(Reporting by Deena Beasley; Editing by John Wallace and Richard Chang)

Thursday, 18-Mar-2010 01:19 Email | Share | | Bookmark
German Calls for Austerity Have Europe Grumbling

To protect the value of the euro, satisfy investors and appease Europe’s economic taskmaster, Germany, the region’s most heavily indebted nations consider that they have no choice but to slim shell pearl earrings down. Reviving economic growth and reducing unemployment must wait until countries put their fiscal houses in better order, the thinking goes.

But some argue that Berlin is pressing too hard, and that the region’s new fixation on debt has created a “cult of austerity” that could make it harder to recover from the slump. Drastic budget cuts, if carried out as promised, could set off deflation, send already high unemployment rates surging, bring governments down and even create popular opposition to the euro, critics say.

The pressure “will impose terrible strains on the government and society” for years to come, said wholesale shell strand Jean-Paul Fitoussi, professor of economics at the Institut d’Études Politiques in Paris. “It’s self-defeating, because if you have austerity and deflation in Greece, Portugal and Spain, then the European economy will not recover; firms will fail and jeopardize the banks.”

Opposition to austerity is spoken softly in official circles, as political leaders fret that markets will punish countries that show weak resolve to reduce debt. But Germany, which has insisted on steep cuts in public spending in the most indebted nations, is facing criticism for harping about the dangers of debt without doing more to support growth, mainly by buying more from its neighbors.

The French finance minister, Christine Lagarde, warned Berlin that it must raise its domestic demand to turquoise fashion jewelry help partners in trouble. Could Germany, with its high savings and big trade surplus, “do a little something?” she asked in an interview with The Financial Times. “It takes two to tango. It can’t just be about enforcing deficit principles.”

The debate is partly about economics — what steps European countries need to take to tackle their demons of high debt and slow growth. But it is also about leadership, as the European Union struggles to define its mission during the deepest economic crisis in its history.

The Germans insist that the problem is debt. Addressing it means radical cuts in public spending immediately, using the pressure from markets to impose changes that are politically difficult but crucial to long-term health.

“The euro is facing the strongest challenge it has ever had to cope with,” Chancellor Angela Merkel told the jade jewerly lower house of the German Parliament on Wednesday. “A quick act of solidarity is definitely not the right answer. Rather, the right answer is to seize the problem at the roots; therefore there is no alternative to the Greek savings program.”

France has a different, softer approach, akin to the American perspective: public spending must expand in times of economic crisis to increase employment and growth, which will gradually cut the deficit through increased tax receipts. Many European countries need to streamline their public sectors, France argues, but not as shock therapy.

German rigor has worked well for Germany, which has kept wages down, reformed its social-welfare system and remained one of the world’s top exporting countries. Psychologically, Germans remain obsessed with inflation and saving. But Germany consequently has a big balance-of-trade surplus with its euro-zone partners. And that imbalance makes it harder for less competitive countries to grow their way out of their problems.

The Germans note that Spain, Portugal, Greece and Italy did not play by the rules of monetary union, drafted largely by Germany. “Wages rose very fast, productivity stayed low and governments purper pearl necklace went on a spending spree, and that makes Germans angry, because they did the opposite,” said Thomas Klau of the European Council on Foreign Relations.

The Germans are preaching harsh budget cuts, tax increases, pension reforms, a later retirement age and a quick return to government deficits closer to the European requirement of 3 percent of gross domestic product, a far cry from Greece’s 12.7 percent for 2009.

On the other side are worries that this sounds similar to the austerity mantra that helped set off the Great Depression. Mr. Fitoussi says it risks throwing the Mediterranean countries into deflation, which will create huge political and social pressures and short-circuit Europe’s economic recovery. Forecasts already predict recession for most of the southern rim for at least another year or two.

While Greece clearly must reform its public sector — and stop manipulating its economic statistics — market credibility does not require murdering the economy, argues Mr. Fitoussi, who is close to Joseph Stiglitz, the American economist who has advised Greece. Mr. Stiglitz warns of “deficit fetishism,” arguing that further recession could increase the deficit beyond the government’s ability to cut spending.

Even the International Monetary Fund, Mr. Fitoussi said, having learned lessons from the Asian crisis of the 1990s, would not try to impose as much austerity all at once, but would rather try to alleviate the immediate debt squeeze and help revive growth before insisting on the biggest cuts.

The United States, too, has taken a different tack, accumulating new debt to stimulate growth and worrying later about reducing deficits. The United States budget deficit this year will be 11.2 percent of G.D.P. But Washington can better afford it. Not only does it control the dollar, which remains the world’s reserve currency, but also gross American debt is only half that of Greece when measured against G.D.P.

France, hit less hard by the crisis, is trying to find a happy medium — with moderate stimulus, no tax increases, support for small and medium enterprises and a deficit growing to 8.2 percent, even as unemployment climbs back over 10 percent.

To an extent, smaller economies like that of Greece have to bow to the demands of the market. Iceland with its bank disasters and Ireland with its property and bank bubbles have also buckled down to cut budgets considerably in the face of plunging tax receipts, but their politicians are expected to suffer.

Moreover, accumulated debt in southern Europe has become an urgent issue, with Greece only the most egregious example. The Greek ratio is forecast for 125 percent of G.D.P. and climbing; Italy’s is nearly 118 percent and the euro zone’s is 84 percent.

But inevitably the policies to deal with the debt have to balance political and economic realities. Elected governments may promise drastic cuts, but it is not clear that they can stay in office to carry them out.

Greek unions are striking regularly, determined to keep their benefits, and consumer organizations are denouncing a new poverty. Babis Delidaskakis, an economist with INKA, the Greek consumers’ federation, called the sudden cuts “a nefarious dead end for the economy.”

“Can the Greek government survive this?” asked Julian Callow of Barclays Capital. “Spain looks better, but the government hasn’t even begun to get tough on the fiscal side. This is going to have to be a six- to eight-year project to stabilize these debt-to-G.D.P. ratios — and it gets progressively harder to keep at it.”

Thursday, 18-Mar-2010 01:17 Email | Share | | Bookmark
Democrats Inch Toward Securing Votes for Health Bill

Behind the scenes, Democratic leaders were still working to secure backing for the legislation from among roughly three dozen members of the party whose votes are considered to be in play, even as they awaited a final price tag on the bill from the Congressional Budget Office.

But they sought to portray the measure as gaining momentum from the public declarations of support from two Democrats: Representative Dennis J. Kucinich of Ohio, who had previously opposed it, and Representative Dale E. Kildee of Michigan, who had been among a group seeking tighter restrictions on the financing of insurance covering abortions.

Democratic leaders say they have not nailed down the 216 votes they need for passage, but they are pressing ahead in the belief that they can get them. The House Democratic leader, Representative Steny H. Hoyer of Maryland, said the House could take a final vote on the legislation by Sunday.

The endorsement from Mr. Kucinich suggested that Democrats who have been pushing for more ambitious legislation might put aside their reservations and unite behind the bill as their best opportunity to secure health insurance for millions of Americans who now lack it. Backing for the bill from Mr. Kildee — and new support from nuns who lead major Roman Catholic religious orders — indicated that Democrats were having some success in addressing an issue that has cost the votes of some Democrats who oppose abortion rights.

But House Republicans said they still believed they could block the bill, a top priority for President Obama and Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

Under a two-step plan devised by House Democratic leaders, the House would approve the health care bill passed by the Senate in December, then make changes in a separate bill using a procedure known as budget reconciliation to avoid the threat of a filibuster in the Senate. Republicans like Representative David Dreier of California have accused Democrats of ducking a straight-up vote on the Senate bill, which has provisions that many House Democrats do not like.

In an interview with Fox News, Mr. Obama dismissed Republican criticisms of the parliamentary tactics, saying he does not “spend a lot of time worrying about what the procedural rules are.”

“What I can tell you is that the vote that’s taken in the House will be a vote for health care reform,” Mr. Obama said. “And if people vote yes, whatever form that takes, that is going to be a vote for health care reform.”

Mr. Obama likened the measure to fixing the financial system or passing the economic recovery act. “I knew these things might not be popular, but I was absolutely positive that it was the right thing to do,” he said.

Representative John A. Boehner of Ohio, the House Republican leader, said Republicans were engaged ring mountings in a variety of activities to stir opposition to the health care bill in the home districts of Democrats considered vulnerable in the November elections.

“We are going to do everything we can to put the pressure on these guys because they are going to have to choose,” said Mr. Boehner. “Are they going to vote with Nancy Pelosi and the president, or are they going to vote with their constituents?”

“It’s going to be a wild ride,” Mr. Boehner predicted.

Besides securing commitments from Mr. Kucinich and Mr. Kildee, House Democratic leaders said they shell pearl earrings were pleased at the prospect of winning support from Representative James L. Oberstar, Democrat of Minnesota and an opponent of abortion.

John A. Schadl, a spokesman for Mr. Oberstar, said he was “a strong likely yes” on the health care bill. Mr. Schadl said the congressman was generally satisfied that the bill before the House would not allow the spending of federal money on abortion.

Democrats had hoped to unveil the text of the reconciliation bill on Wednesday afternoon, setting up the possibility of a decisive vote on Saturday. But they said that the Congressional Budget Office was still analyzing the cost of some provisions.

House Democratic leaders have promised that lawmakers would be given 72 hours to review the legislation before voting on it.

The No. 2 Democrat in the Senate, Richard J. Durbin of Illinois, said the Senate could pass the wholesale shell strand reconciliation bill as soon as next week if the House approves it over the weekend.

In announcing his support, Mr. Kucinich said he would keep working for a government-financed single-payer health care system. But after coming under intense pressure, which included a turquoise bracelet visit to his district on Monday by President Obama, Mr. Kucinich said he did not want his objections to stand in the way of the legislation.

“If my vote is to be counted, let it count now for passage of the bill, hopefully in the direction of comprehensive health care reform,” Mr. Kucinich said.

Explaining factors he had considered in making his decision, Mr. Kucinich said, “We have to be very careful that the potential of President Obama’s presidency not be destroyed by this debate.”

“Something is better than nothing - - that’s what I keep hearing from my constituents,” Mr. Kucinich said.

At the same time, Democrats said they were making progress on the divisive issue of abortion.

Mr. Kildee voted for the House health care bill in November, after Representative Bart Stupak, also a Michigan Democrat, won passage of an amendment imposing tight restrictions on insurance coverage for abortions.

Mr. Stupak has gemstone jewelry said that he will vote against the Senate bill because he sees the restrictions on abortion as inadequate.

But Mr. Kildee said he was satisfied that the provisions in the Senate bill would prevent the use of federal money for coverage of abortions.

“I have always respected and cherished the sanctity of human life,” Mr. Kildee said. “I spent six years studying to be a priest and was willing to devote my life to God.”

“I have listened carefully to both sides, sought counsel from my priest, advice from family, friends and constituents and I have read the Senate abortion language more than a dozen times,” Mr. Kildee said. “I am convinced that the Senate language maintains the Hyde Amendment, which states that no federal money can be used for abortion.”

Mr. Stupak reiterated his wish pearl sterling silver pendant opposition to the Senate bill, as did the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.

But in a letter to House members on Wednesday, more than 50 nuns from various religious orders said, “The time is now for health reform, and the Senate bill is a good way forward.”

Carl Hulse and Jeff Zeleny contributed reporting.

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