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Now March 2009

Now March 2009
Illustration by Gretel

Illustration by Gretel


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Week 2

Tue, March 03
Britney Spears's Circus Tour Begins
New Orleans

We'd like to think that Britney Spears was shockingly self-aware when she named her latest album Circus. Her recent antics clearly haven't alienated her fans — the album went gold in just a week — and now Spears is taking her show on the road. The Circus Starring Britney Spears is her first tour in five years. She's really getting into the three-ring thing: Think contortionists, lions, and choreography by Wade Robson. On second thought, maybe someone's messing with Brit. (Again!) When presale tickets went on sale in December for her Oakland show, someone clever chose the password: funambulist. That's right. Tightrope walker. — Sara D. Anderson

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Wed, March 04
Zoom In

Within the next couple of years, "we'll start seeing the benefits of nanotechnology in health care," Dr. Paras N. Prasad says. The University of Buffalo prof will present his big, small vision in the keynote at the sixth annual International Conference on Biomedical Applications of Nanotechnology, discussing next-generation medical imaging, cancer therapies delivered via nanoparticles, and gene therapy. But in-vitro diagnosis, a noninvasive method to detect disease early — doctors aren't looking for tumors, for example, but for changes in individual cells — holds the most near-term promise. Prasad is already working with the Centers for Disease Control and seeking partners to invest. "We're a small community," he says. "We need to work together." — David Lidsky

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Thu, March 05
79th Geneva International Motor Show

With worldwide auto sales stuck in reverse, the organizers of the 79th International Motor Show are wondering whether the next big thing might in fact come from a small company. This year, they'll devote an entire exhibition hall to electric and alternative power. The "Green Pavilion" isn't just for major automakers — it also promises "an equal opportunity" for "startup specialists" to showcase their earth-loving technologies. In rosier times, we might hail that as a daring and surprisingly broad-minded move. These days, you can just file it under "whatever works." — Brendan J. Collins

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Thu, March 05
Paris Fashion Week

The French capital's prêt-à-porter week may be a magnet for snooty designers and buyers with wallets the size of Vuitton trunks. But cities with less history as hubs of couture have tried lately to grab some glamour by staging their own fashion weeks. In March alone, there will be dozens, including Dubai; Mumbai; Delhi; Kiev; Toronto; Miami; Montreal; Melbourne; Aspen, Colorado; Charleston, South Carolina; Palm Desert, California; and Dunedin (that's the second-largest city on the South Island of New Zealand). Fashionistas bound to the traditional NYC-Paris-Milan catwalk circuit may sneer, but the shows highlight local talent, raise designers' regional profiles, and "boost the local economy," says Valerie Steele, director of the Fashion Institute of Technology museum in New York. "They also add to a city's cultural identity, because fashion is seen as art — as well as a business." — Theunis Bates

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Sun, March 08
International Women's Day

In 1908, some 15,000 women Marched through the streets of New York for shorter work hours, better wages, and voting rights. One hundred and one years later, this global celebration of female achievements now runs more toward panel discussions, art shows, and potluck dinners in 55 countries. The banality suggests some progress at least, though we're not sure about the potluck dinners. Pass the salt? — Kate Rockwood

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Week 3

Mon, March 09
Think Pink
Barbie's 50th Birthday

Come on, Barbie, let's go party! In honor of her big 5-0, the $3 billion Mattel brand is busting out the global confetti. There's a birthday bash in a life-size Malibu Dream House — complete with signature-pink carpet — designed by Jonathan Adler. A New York fashion-week show, featuring designs by Diane von Furstenberg, Norma Kamali, and Alexander Wang. And the Shanghai opening of House of Barbie, an eight-floor mecca to the 11.5-inch doll with spa, museum, doll-styling stations, and eateries. "Every detail is customized — even the iconography on the bathroom. Should it be the regular man sign or something fun? We did a Ken doll, of course," brand manager Richard Dickson says. "It was exhausting." — KR

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Tue, March 10
Buy Houses
Cannes, France

"The home-building market is on life support," says Mike Lucki, head of Ernst & Young's global-infrastructure services, reaffirming what we already know. Yet the 30,000 attendees at this four-day event — the real-estate industry's premier worldwide gathering — are likely to be upbeat. For one thing, they'll be in Cannes, so what's to complain about? Also, starchitects Zaha Hadid and Wolf Prix will supply further distraction, sharing their big thinking on design, urban planning, and the future of architecture. And just in time for 2009, forecast to have the lowest hotel-occupancy rates since 1971, there's a session on "Hotels Go Sexy: Fashion Industry Meets Hotel Industry." Which is perfect, because hotels not being sexy is the main reason people are staying home. — Anne C. Lee

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Tue, March 10
International Pizza ExPO
Las Vegas

Say it ain't dough: Even pizza isn't immune from the crusty economy. "The downturn is definitely affecting us," admits Peter Cooperstein, a Pizza Expo regular whose 11 Amici's East Coast Pizzerias in Northern California have suffered same-store sales declines in part because corporate pizza parties are getting sliced. Pizza Expo EVP Bill Oakley acknowledges the concern among the 10,000 operators expected this year, but still believes the "drop-down effect" — diners opting for a nice pizzeria rather than a fancier Italian restaurant — will cushion the industry. A stretch? Maybe, but it can't compare to Bruno Di Fabio, whose 39.9-inch dough stretch last year won the World Pizza Games, an annual highlight of the Expo. — DL

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Fri, March 13
South by Southwest
Austin, Texas

It's been called the biggest industry party in the world — nearly 150,000 attendees, 80-plus venues, and more than 1,800 acts, including Ben Harper (above) this year. But SXSW veterans know the annual music-and-more festival's most talked-about events often belong to no industry at all. Unofficial film screenings and seat-of-the-pants jam sessions draw clusters of festivalgoers to clothing stores and parking lots across the city. Last year, while brands like Xbox 360 and Rock Band pushed their wares at official parties, others including Red Bull and Scion were hanging around (and hosting) unofficial gatherings. All this big-brand marketing, at an event once dominated by boutique record labels and niche music mags, may leave a bad taste in some purists' mouths. But take it from us: It's nothing a free Red Bull can't wash away. — Clay Dillow

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Sat, March 14
Pi Day

Number nerds, rejoice! Pi — that magical, mystical number representing the ratio of a circle's circumference to its diameter — gets the attention it deserves today (ahem, 3.14). The world's most widely known mathematical constant will be feted with pie parties, pi-ku (aka pi haiku) readings, and recitation contests, though spouting 100 digits is no big whoop when you consider a Japanese computer scientist calculated this never-ending number to 1.2 trillion digits in 2002. Want to up your pi-lover's cred? Sink your teeth into a slice today at the Pi Second: 1:59:26 p.m. — KR

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Week 4

Thu, March 19
March Madness Begins

Last year's NCAA title game ended in OT with Kansas overwhelming Memphis with perseverance ... and free throws. The win scored KU not just bragging rights but also big money. Merchandise tied to the victory earned Kansas more than $600,000 in royalties, the most ever tallied in the three-month post-championship period. That sum is a fraction of the value of the college-basketball industrial complex, which takes in more than $600 million from TV ads alone each season. The NCAA would be wise to plan on less revenue this year; 2008's top tournament advertiser was GM. — Sean Ludwig

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Sun, March 22
World Potato Congress
Christchurch, New Zealand

Calling all fingerlings, russets, and Yukon Golds: This is your moment. This spud-promoting congress celebrates rising potato production in developing countries and continued carbfests in developed ones. And while four days may seem like a lot to devote to the tater — which, let's be frank, lacks the zucchini's titillation or the artichoke's intrigue — consider this: The potato is the world's fourth-biggest crop (behind wheat, rice, and corn). And because it's calorically dense and can survive harsh conditions, it's been lauded as an increasingly important weapon in fighting world hunger. We'll raise a fry to that. — KR

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Sun, March 22
World Water Day

It's been 4,500 years since the Mesopotamian cities of Lagash and Umma battled over irrigation rights. That was the world's first — and so far only — full-fledged water war. But UN secretary-general Ban Ki-moon warned last year that water shortages were creating "tensions in conflict-prone regions" across Africa and Asia. With up to 3 billion people due to face severe water shortages by 2025 (thanks to the dastardly triumvirate of pollution, mismanagement, and rising population), the disputes could boil over. So the UN will do what it does best: try to cool the quarrels ... with a special and widely disregarded theme day. This year's water day focuses on nurturing cooperation among countries that tap lakes, rivers, and aquifers — which would be pretty much all of us. Let's hope the message sinks in. — TB

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Week 5

Mon, March 23
Game Developers Conference
San Francisco

If this gamefest's 18,000 attendees aren't testament enough to the industry's strength, take a look at the sales: The sector generated $22 billion in revenues last year, up from $18 billion in '07. For those of you not so quick with mental math, that's 22% growth. "Mind-blowing," says David Riley of research firm the NPD Group. Credit technological advances and the growing ranks of casual gamers. (Thanks, iPhone!) The keynote speaker will be — are you ready? — HIDEO KOJIMA!!! If you know who that is, you're a ginormous geek. If you don't, well, he's only one of the greatest game designers ever, responsible for Metal Gear Solid. — ACL

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Wed, March 25
Be Good
Skoll World Forum
Oxford, England

At this social-enterprise summit, you'll see that doing good is, well, doing good. Entrepreneurs, donors, and thinkers will meet at the Saïd Business School (SBS) to mull market-driven tactics for saving the world. A biz school is an apt venue; MBA types are flooding the sector. "Students want to combine markets and meaning, rather than just pad their pockets," says Pamela Hartigan, head of SBS's Skoll Center. Plus, they realized there are no jobs in banking. — TB

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Wed, March 25
Touch Up
Photoshop World '09

Ah, Photoshop: You make us look so good! At this celebration of the world's most popular photo-editing, face-improving, cellulite-removing software, attendees can check out all manner of add-ons and gadgets, and engage in discussions about photography. But convention sponsor Adobe might not be as enthused. In a sign that planned obsolescence ain't what it used to be, the Photoshop maker's latest design software, Creative Suite 4, came out last fall. Almost nobody bought it. Turns out most people are pretty happy with CS3. Maybe those pictures aren't worth a thousand words — or a $499 software upgrade. — SL

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Fri, March 27
Monsters vs. Aliens
Directed by Rob Letterman and Conrad Vernon

DreamWorks Animation has gone all-in with Monsters vs. Aliens, its only film release of 2009 and the first major feature to be "shot" totally in 3-D. In the future, "all movies are going to be made in 3-D," DreamWorks Animation CEO Jeffrey Katzenberg declared last year. Right now, an extra dimension doesn't come cheap — Katzenberg has estimated that it added $15 million to the movie's $150 million budget. And you have to wonder if there's such a thing as being a too-early adopter: Most theaters have yet to install the $70,000-per-screen equipment needed to show all three Ds. So when this motley band of adorably heroic monsters steps up to save humanity from an aggressive alien race, more than half of moviegoers will have to settle for just two. — CD

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Week 6

Tue, March 31
The Getty's Made for Manufacture exhibition
Los Angeles

Long before Andy Warhol and his soup cans or Damien Hirst and his one-man auction show, art and commerce were intimate bedfellows. This Getty show reminds us just how long, with 23 drawings done by Renaissance and Baroque artists to prep for stained glass, sculpture, jewelry, and tapestries commissioned by wealthy patrons. The mock-ups, like Jean-Louis Prieur's 1775 Drawing for a Wall Light — displayed with the finished product — are remarkably detailed. That was intentional. The artists could then turn production over to their underlings, and it helped avoid wasting pricey materials on manufacturing errors. Occasionally, something was lost in translation. "The drawings," associate curator Stephanie Schrader says, "are often the closest thing to the artist's actual vision." — KR

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A version of this article appeared in the March 2009 issue of Fast Company magazine.