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Now September 2008

What's happening in September, from clean coal to the hottest new music.

Now September 2008 | illustration by Owen Gildersleeve
Now September 2008 | illustration by Owen Gildersleeve


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Week 1

monday, september 01
Sid the Science Kid
New York

When Jim Henson created the Muppets for Sesame Street in 1969, there was almost no kiddie-TV market. Now, as the late Muppeteer's firm launches this new PBS series, there's plenty of competition — more than 50 tot-targeted shows — and lots of lucre: Dade Hayes, author of Anytime Playdate: Inside the Preschool Entertainment Boom, estimates the biz is worth $21 billion. Sid's scientific focus is a gamble that the hyperachieving parents bankrolling this niche prefer educational shows. After all, how will your kid get into an elite kindergarten if she can't explain why bananas turn brown? — Ellen Gibson

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friday, september 05
Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week
New York

Outrageous extravagance is so last year. This spring 2009 showcase should reflect some tightening of those alligator belts. "Buyers are responding to items that are good value as well as strong in design," says luxury-fashion consultant Robert Burke, who expects styles that can see consumers through more than one season. But the hues on the runways won't be as dark as the economic outlook; he predicts a palette of bright, mood- lifting colors. — Theunis Bates

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saturday, september 06
The 60th Emmy Awards
Los Angeles

Emmy's turning 60, but don't expect celebration from the struggling broadcast networks. The Feeble Four rotate the telecast rights each year, an arrangement increasingly akin to a game of hot potato. Last year, the show garnered its lowest ratings ever among the 18-to-49 demographic so crucial to ad sales. This year, things look even worse, thanks partly to a strike-truncated season. Ironically, cable — and not just HBO — may save the day for host ABC. Big-category buzz for cable shows such as AMC's Mad Men might draw the younger viewers who watch them, if just for one night. — Chip McCorkle

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saturday, september 06
The 13th Paralympic Summer Games

No matter which country racks up the most medals at the Paralympics, Iceland will be celebrating. It's home to Ossur, the prosthetics titan behind the Cheetah Flex-Foot. Amputee athletes wearing the J-shaped carbon-fiber feet won every sprinting medal in Athens in 2004. Ossur expects another bumper haul in Beijing. About 90% of amputee sprinters in the Paralympics use Cheetahs, including South African runner and defending champ Oscar Pistorius (pictured below), who also competes against able-bodied athletes and successfully fought a ruling by the international track federation that the Cheetahs were performance enhancing. "Ossur is not in the business of enhancement," says CEO Jon Sigurdsson, who argues the athletes are improving prosthetics — testing technology that will eventually aid nonathletes — not the other way around. "These athletes are the equivalent of racing drivers for car manufacturers." — TB

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sunday, september 07
Worldwide Distilled Spirits Conference
Edinburgh, Scotland

Over the past year, soaring energy and grain prices have shaken distillers like a 007 martini. Still, talk at this four-day liquor summit should be merry enough, thanks to the booming demand for high-end spirits. U.S. sales of superpremium vodkas, such as Grey Goose, jumped 14.2% in 2007, while top-shelf single-malt scotch climbed 12%. Explains conference chair Paul Hughes: "Life is too short to drink cheap booze." — TB

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sunday, september 07
The last Broadway performance of Rent
New York

Rent's Broadway run = 12 years x 525,600 minutes. But even after 5,000 performances and ticket sales of more than $270 million, it seems, to borrow a line from the show, "the story never ends." Rent's last performance will be recorded and shown in movie theaters across the U.S. Interesting idea... . Wait, wasn't there a movie a couple of years back about NYC bohemian life? Flopped at the box office? What was it called? Oh, right. Rent. — Jeff Chu

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Week 2

monday, september 08
Tag It
RFID World
Las Vegas

Sin City may seem an odd place for a three-day yapfest on radio-frequency ID technology, but as MGM Mirage chief information officer Tom Peck will tell the 3,600 attendees, casinos have bet big on the technology. MGM Mirage, whose properties include the Bellagio and Luxor, uses RFID tags to track everything from gambling chips to staff uniforms. A word of warning to anyone hoping for an extra-generous pour from a Vegas bartender: The company has even attached smart sensors to the spouts of liquor bottles. — TB

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tuesday, september 09
Shanghai Biennale
Shanghai, China

Five years ago, Cai Guo-Qiang, who masterminded the visual effects at Beijing's Olympic opening ceremony, was the only Chinese artist in the Artprice Index of 100 top revenue-generating contemporary artists. Today, there are 36, and China recently surpassed France to seize the No. 3 spot in art-revenue rankings. (Quelle horreur!) The rising demand for Chinese art explains the brighter-than-ever spotlight on Shanghai's seventh biennale, running through mid-November. This year's theme is "Translocalmotion." In exhibits scattered throughout the city's fast-growing network of museums and galleries, 50 artists will muse on identity, movement, and the mass migration from China's countryside to urban centers. — Kate Rockwood

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wednesday, september 10
Fragrance Business 2008
New York

Thanks in part to Eau de Every-Celebrity-Ever, perfume is a $33 billion industry, with more than 400 new scents launched last year in the U.S. alone. But don't expect execs at Fragrance Business 2008 to be debating jasmine versus lilac: With a growing demand for everything olfactory, from scented candles and house sprays to body lotion that smells like buttercream, sniffing out the next big trend means creating new technology. Highlights at the two-day conference, themed "The Architects of Innovation" this year, will include candles that can absorb bad smells from the air before releasing good ones, methods for making fragrances last longer on skin, and greener ways to harvest materials. — KR

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monday, september 12
Burning After Reading
Directed By Joel Coen and Ethan Coen

Here's a novel, if difficult to replicate, money-making scheme: Find the unpublished memoir of a fired CIA analyst at the gym and try to blackmail him with it. And this is a dreamier version: Brad Pitt plays a personal trainer! George Clooney, Tilda Swinton, Frances McDormand, and John Malkovich costar! Brainy comedy abounds! And the Coen brothers count their money from their latest weird-people/weirder-scenario caper! — JC

Week 3

tuesday, september 16
Play With Fire
EuCheMS Chemistry Congress
Torino, Italy

Odd-electron complexes. Amyloidogenic proteins. Oligosaccharide mimicry. Though this summit's official language is English, we're not sure we understand a word. Luckily for laypeople, while 2,000 researchers — including three American Nobel laureates — talk scientific shop, EuCheMS will take chemistry to the streets, hosting public lectures on salient issues including the environment and energy in terms that even the ionically ignorant can grasp. And what chem-con could end without lighting a Bunsen burner? The first Silver Flask will go to the winner of a "magic of chemistry" contest. We're envisioning leaping flames and dazzling explosions, but we'd settle for a baking-soda volcano. — Clay Dillow

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thursday, september 18
Bumping Into Geniuses
By Danny Goldberg

"No one became a rock star by accident or against their will," writes Danny Goldberg, the former head of Atlantic, Mercury, and Warner Bros. Records, in this rocking memoir. The musicians he managed — from Nirvana to Bonnie Raitt to Sonic Youth — may have different definitions of selling out, but none is so naive as to think of their craft as pure. Goldberg details various business-driven compromises — Bruce Springsteen tossing a ballady bone to Top 40 stations to up his numbers among women; Kurt Cobain unwilling to turn down a Rolling Stone cover yet wearing a Corporate Magazines Still suck T-shirt — and portrays artist management as a type of rabid advocacy aimed as much (if not more) at bigger revenues as at keeping the art intact. — KR

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monday, september 19
Tee Off
Ryder Cup
Louisville, Kentucky

Tiger Woods once called the Ryder Cup an "exhibition, because there's no winner's check." Wrong! Louisville's cashing in big-time on the biennial U.S.-vs.-Europe golfing match, expecting 240,000 out-of-state visitors, $115 million in spending, and countless gauzy shots of the lush bluegrass of Valhalla Golf Club. And this year's losers? Team U.S.A. could do it again — it has lost the past three cups and five of the past six. But the biggest losers may be NBC and its advertisers. Tiger's out with a knee injury, and TV ratings for golf tournaments typically drop by a third when he's not playing. — JC

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Week 4

monday, september 22
National Mining Association Convention
Las Vegas

When coal-industry lobbyists say that the United States is the Saudi Arabia of the black rock, they may be understating the point. The coal beneath Illinois alone contains more energy than all the oil in Saudi. What coal boosters often neglect to mention: coal's super-high CO2 emissions. Clean-coal technology will be on the agenda at MinExpo 2008's State of the Industry briefing. The Department of Energy also plans to exhibit results of its private-sector research partnerships. We're wondering how far-reaching — and cost-effective — those will be, given that, in January, the feds nixed FutureGen, a zero-emissions coal power plant, due to cost overruns. — CM

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wednesday, september 24
Clinton Global Initiative Annual Meeting
New York

Every CGI participant, whether organizer-in-chief Bill Clinton or head of state or NGO peon, must commit to do something to change the world. Most make promises on-site — "You have to do something before you leave, or you're not going to come back next year," says a CGI taskmaster — but the clever (and PR-minded) beat the rush by announcing early. (Visa, for one, has pledged to reach 10 million people with a financial-literacy program.) This year, CGI will also try a new electronic-messaging service meant to help attendees network and bankroll their projects. If you're connected enough to be there, though, we suggest a more direct route to funding: Find Warren Buffett. — Clayton Neuman

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thursday, september 25
New York

This tech expo is all about average Joes and Janes. It's the rare consumer-electronics show that allows actual consumers in the door. (Take that, CES!) More than 60,000 geeks will test-drive new toys. And the nerdiest can enter contests, including Fastest Geek (build a working computer from scratch, stat) and the Innovators Challenge, in which 25 firms vie for funding before a panel of VCs and tech writers — after a consumer vote, of course. — KR

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thursday, september 25
International Banking Conference

Kudos for candor to the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago, organizer of this annual powwow for some 150 central bankers and academics. This year's theme is credit turmoil, and topping the agenda is an illustration of battered flagships in stormy seas. The U.S. ship seems near capsizing. "I don't think it's a downer," says conference coordinator and glass-half-full guy Douglas Evanoff. "It's an opportunity to figure out what we need to do next." One thought: swimming lessons. — KR

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A version of this article appeared in the September 2008 issue of Fast Company magazine.