Posted by Danielle Berrin
On the eve of Facebook’s 500 millionth-user-milestone, founder Mark Zuckerberg faces a crisis.
According to a July 2010 report at Bloomberg.com, Zuckerberg may have signed a contract in 2003 entitling Web designer Paul Ceglia to 84 percent of the Facebook company. Zuckerberg’s lawyers seem a bit clueless on the matter, and according to Bloomberg News, told U.S. District Judge Richard Arcara, “Whether he signed this piece of paper, we’re unsure at this moment.”
UPDATE: As of July 23, Facebook is claiming the document is a “forgery.”
The implications of this dispute could be catastrophic for the hipster-dressing Zuckerberg, the brain and CEO behind Facebook, that is reportedly worth $24.6 billion.
It’s the perfect Hollywood twist at an incredibly opportune time. The long awaited Facebook movie, “The Social Network” starring Jesse Eisenberg and Justin Timberlake, and penned by “West Wing” creator Aaron Sorkin, is due out next October; a controversy surrounding its main players could stand to boost the box office.
Zuckerberg, of course, is trying to downplay the drama. He has called the movie about his journey from Harvard to Silicon Valley “fiction” and he told ABC’s Diane Sawyer that Facebook’s backstory isn’t all that interesting:
“I just think people have a lot of fiction. But, you know, I mean, the real story of Facebook is just that we’ve worked so hard for all this time…the real story is actually probably pretty boring, right? I mean, we just sat at our computers for six years and coded.”
Coding may not make for an interesting film, but lawsuits do, and Facebook has been besotted by those. According to PCWorld.com, the current allegations stem from 2003 when then-Harvard student Zuckerberg was hired by Ceglia to do some—you guessed it, coding—for various projects, one of which was called “Facebook”. And there were other lawsuits with similar charges, like another in 2003 with a pair of Zuckerberg’s Harvard pals that cost him $65 million.
If this story sounds strangely familiar, it’s because Zuckerberg had a similar arrangement with Tyler and Cameron Winklevoss (yes, really) back in December 2003. They hired Zucky to do some coding for their nascent campus social network, then called HarvardConnection (later ConnectU). A few weeks later, Zuckerberg magically came up with his own idea for a social network, named theFacebook, which itself was borrowed from the name for Harvard’s online student directory. Later, Winkledudes.
That bit of fancy codework ended up in a lawsuit that got settled when Facebook agreed to pay the Winklevoss twins (yes, really) $65 million. The Winklevosses are now disputing the terms of their settlement, claming that Facebook’s attorneys lied about the company’s true worth. They’re accusing Zuckerberg of securities fraud.
Zuckerberg may understand the details of coding, but he’s obviously clueless about Hollywood. The Facebook story is adding up to be divine entertainment.
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July 20, 2010 | 3:52 pm
Posted by Naomi Pfefferman
A scandal involving Elie Wiesel and a play with imagined scenes between the Nobel laureate and his former money advisor, Bernard L. Madoff, has come to a kind of resolution, if not an entirely happy ending. According to an article in today’s New York Times, the original version of Deborah Margolin’s “Imagining Madoff” – whose Washington, D.C. premiere was cancelled after Wiesel exerted legal pressure – has been revised, with a new protagonist replacing the Wiesel character, and will open at the Stageworks/Hudson theater near Albany, NY this week. The redone script describes the new character, Solomon Galkin, as “80 years old, Holocaust survivor, poet, translator, treasurer of his synagogue” – although he does speak much of the previous Wiesel dialogue. Margolin has said she envisioned the famed Holocaust survivor and author Wiesel as a character in order to lend an authoritative moral voice to the drama. (Wiesel and his wife also lost their life savings and millions from their charitable foundation to Madoff’s infamous Ponzi scheme.)
The original play was to have been performed at Theater J, a Jewish-themed company that is part of a Jewish Community Center in Washington, the Times said:
“Ms. Margolin said she had initially hoped that Mr. Wiesel would find the play compelling and thoughtful. But after she sent him a copy, Mr. Wiesel replied with a letter in April, saying he found the play to be ‘obscene’ and ‘defamatory,’ and in which he threatened to enlist his lawyers to stop its production. According to Ms. Margolin and her lawyer, Mr. Wiesel and his foundation’s representatives never specified what they considered obscene or defamatory.”
When Theater J’s artistic director, Ari Roth, subsequently offered to show Wiesel a copy of her revised script – not in order to seek Wiesel’s approval, but as a good will gesture, he told The Times—Margolin took issue and offered the play to the Hudson, NY company.
According to The New York Observer: “Wiesel sounds like kind of a jerk” in the Times story.
Meanwhile, the Obie-winning Margolin appeared exhausted by her clash with Wiesel, a man she admires: “This has been a profoundly painful experience, and I’m still scared to talk about it, because I can’t get sued, there’s no way I could afford it… But I also didn’t want to abandon this play.”
Link to NYTimes.com piece.
July 13, 2010 | 5:39 pm
Posted by Hollywood Jew
Since we consider Washington the East Coast Hollywood (with at least as much drama), the latest news from our nation’s capital:
On Tuesday, President Obama announced his nomination for director of the Office of Management and Budget. The candidate, Jacob Lew, is an expert in his field—and, he’s shomer Shabbat.
Having commanded the position under the Clinton administration, Lew is lauded by the President as the “only budget director in history to preside over a budget surplus for three consecutive years.” Under his watch, the federal budget in the 90s went from deficit to $236 million surplus—and Obama’s hoping for a repeat performance: “Jack’s challenge over the next few years is to use his extraordinary skill and experience to cut down that deficit and put our nation back on a fiscally responsible path.”
However, as an Orthodox Jew, the federal budget isn’t the only thing Jacob Lew will have to balance. An MSNBC story, “Lew Didn’t Answer Earthly Authority” reports that Lew, working under Clinton, refused to receive an important call from the president on Shabbat (his rabbi later informed him that it is permissible to take such calls). According to Jewishworldnews.com, he was an active member of Congregation Beth Shalom of Potomac and the Hebrew Institute of Riverdale.
Jacob Lew, if approved by the Senate, will be joining a party already in progress: several of Obama’s young aides are Jewish and have Friday night dinners, and the Passover Seder has become an Obama White House tradition.
by Daniella Penn
July 13, 2010 | 2:51 pm
Posted by Hollywood Jew
The latest twist in Lindsay Lohan’s tangled love life:
While rumors heat up over Lindsay’s romantic involvement with Israeli Eilat Anschel, TMZ reported yesterday that Lohan was spotted with ex-girlfriend Samantha Ronson for the first time in months, having sushi in Beverly Hills.
For Lindsay, Jewish girlfriends are beginning to resemble Lay’s Potato Chips: she can’t stop at just one.
by Daniella Penn
July 13, 2010 | 1:27 pm
Posted by Hollywood Jew
The latest news out of the Lohan camp, besides that 90-day jail sentence, is Lindsay’s new girlfriend—Israeli Eilat Anschel.
The pair met in L.A. amidst Lohan’s struggles with her unsightly SCRAM bracelet. According to TMZ.com, the beautiful brunette became Lohan’s crying shoulder, and the relationship grew more serious…only to be interrupted by Lohan’s mandatory leave of absence.
To be fair, Lohan probably needs some love. On her birthday, she alleges, a waitress punched her in the face “for no reason.” In court last week, the judge compared her to “someone who cheats.” She’s going to jail.
Maybe Anschel, a veteran of the IDF, is exactly what Lindsay needs. Someone who can get her back when waitresses punch her, or at the very least, someone to keep track of her Alcoholic Anonymous appointments.
Whatever the case may be, Lindsay’s new love interest may point to something deeper, especially considering her ex: perhaps Lohan’s flirtation with Judaism last year when she was dating then-girlfriend Samantha Ronson, a Jew from Long Island, wasn’t just some fleeting thrill but a real attraction to the chosen. Only time—perhaps only a month and a half—will tell.
by Daniella Penn, Hollywood Jew intern
July 13, 2010 | 11:54 am
Posted by Danielle Berrin
Everyone is in a tizzy over whether or not Chelsea Clinton will convert.
I hate to burst any hopeful bubbles, but since she is due to marry Marc Mezvinsky at the end of the month, my guess is she has no immediate plans to join the tribe. Let’s face it: with wedding nuptials weeks away, we’d probably know by now if it was going to be a kosher wedding—which, by the way, doesn’t make me optimistic about the food.
But there’s something about the debate over whether or not she will, or should, that seems to be missing the point. David Gibson, writing for Politics Daily, used the Clinton conversion question to explain Jewish halacha on intermarriage and spew statistics about dwindling Jewish numbers that felt a lot like fear mongering. He even went so far as to suggest that if Clinton doesn’t convert, her marriage may be endangered, writing, “Research indicates that interfaith marriages tend to fail at higher rates than same-faith marriages.” But, has anyone wondered if Chelsea Clinton even wants to be Jewish? The thing I’d like to ask is: Why should Chelsea Clinton want to be Jewish? What would a Jewish life, a Jewish brain, a Jewish home bring to her life and how would it enrich her? And for anyone hoping her union with a Jew—who may or may not engage in much Jewish practice himself—might endear her to Israel, again I ask - Why should it? Are most “Jews” in America living Jewish lives rich enough to influence their feelings on Israel? Peter Beinart probably doesn’t think so.
The speculation about Clinton’s religious future is steeped in the kind of intellectual debate you’d have with a toddler. Why should she convert? Because Jews say so. Because intermarriage is forbidden. Because Jewish numbers are dwindling and Chelsea Clinton could redeem the Jewish future through a couple of meetings with a rabbi.
We’re dealing with a Clinton here. Not a stupid woman, a dependent woman or a desperate woman. Clinton is well educated, comes from a good family, is independently successful and has ambition in the world. And we’re raising debate over her spiritual future by lobbing facts and figures about the declining Jewish populace and the fact that Conservative rabbis are forbidden from officiating at intermarriages? We’re going to have to come up with a more compelling argument than that. What we should be talking about is what Judaism might bring to her life, to her marriage, to her raising children, to her sense of purpose in the world.
I say our conversion PR is just as bad as Israel’s.
More on Chelsea Clinton’s nuptials by Hollywood Jew:
Chelsea Clinton’s $5 million wedding
July 8, 2010 | 1:21 pm
Posted by Hollywood Jew
Please welcome Hollywood Jew intern Daniella Penn making her blogging debut:
The 2010 Emmy nominations are out, and what would television be without Jews?
“Glee,” the new smash-hit musical comedy, was as heavy on nominations (19 more than any other television show this year) as it is in Jewish presence. Jewish Broadway star Lea Michele (“Spring Awakening”), nominated for Outstanding Actress in Comedy, plays ambitious lead character Rachel Barry. Her fellow glee-clubber, blonde cheerleader Quinn Fabray, is played by Dianna Agron, also Jewish. “Glee” even breaks traditional portrayals of the intellectual/misfit Jew with character Noah Puckerman, a football jock popular with the ladies who also happens to be a member of the tribe. As Columbia Professor Jeremy Tauber asserts, “Jews are as much a part of the DNA of American musical theater—and, as such, of Glee—as, well, gay men.”
“Modern Family,” another rookie comedy up for an Emmy, was created by Steven Levitan, who was raised Jewish. Seinfeld co-creator Larry David now stars as a fictionalized version of himself in “Curb Your Enthusiasm,” nominated for Outstanding Comedy. Julia Louise-Dreyfus, in the running for best actress (“The New Adventures of Old Christine”), has a Jewish father.
Tellingly, comedy has a much better Jewish showing than drama. Bob Odenkirk, of nominated AMC drama “Breaking Bad” is almost Jewish. His wife and kids are Jewish, and upon learning his character was named Saul Goodman, he lamented, “Aww geez, I’m sorry I’m not Jewish!” All hope is not lost, Bob. It’s not too late to convert.
May the best Jew win.
July 2, 2010 | 4:38 pm
Posted by Danielle Berrin
Chelsea Clinton, daughter of Bill and Hillary, plans to wed her nice Jewish banker in upstate New York, according to a Rhinebeck resident who leaked the news to the Associated Press.
Clinton announced her engagement to Marc Mezvinsky last November without word on whether she would convert. Despite having been raised a Methodist, she was spotted attending Yom Kippur services with Mezvinsky at the Jewish Theological Seminary last year.
The couple met in Washington in 1993 and both attended Stanford University.
They plan to marry July 31, according to the AP, at a private mansion two hours north of New York City.
We also know a local (kosher?) caterer has been hired. We’ll keep you posted on all the Jewish details…