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Saturday, July 25, 2009

Media-Whore D'Oeuvres



"President Obama said Monday that the relationship between the United States and China will shape the 21st century. Obama, opening a two-day summit between the two countries, said the U.S.-China relationship is as 'important as any bilateral relationship in the world.' 'That reality must underpin our partnership,' Obama said. While he said both countries must work together to end the global recession, he also pressed China to move toward a more consumption-driven economy. 'The current crisis has made it clear that the choices made within our borders reverberate across the global economy, and this is true not just of New York and Seattle, but Shanghai and Shenzhen as well,' Obama said." (TheHill)

"Mike Tyson told me, 'James Toback's film Tyson is like a greek tragedy. The only problem is that I am the subject.'" (Brett Ratner/Twitter)



"Hollywood left Comic-Con on a high note over the weekend as the first official footage shown of 'Iron Man 2' generated a rousing reaction from thousands of fans.
It was the kind of response studios relish when showing off their upcoming pics at the annual confab in San Diego that has essentially become a ShoWest for the masses. Last year's huddle lured 126,000. Just getting into the cavernous Hall H at the city's convention center proved an adventure for some of the 6,000 who filled the room and hadn't already staked out their seats much earlier in the day. Hundreds were turned away in the attempt to enter the room, especially those holding counterfeit studio passes. Things were so chaotic that Bob Layton, who helped transform the 'Iron Man' books for Marvel into a top property, nearly didn't make it inside. 'He almost didn't get in,' said Robert Downey Jr. 'That's how twisted Comic-Con is.'" (Variety)



"David Butler, who advises hedge funds on tax issues, says he helped 23 firms leave London in the past 18 months, most of them for Switzerland. 'Managers do not feel there is a good relationship with politicians,' said Butler, founder of Kinetic Partners LLP in London. 'When it is announced that taxes will go up, without any consultations, people understand there may be more on the way and they think the lifestyle they can have somewhere else is better than in London.' Butler is one indicator London’s recovery from the worst financial calamity since the 1920s may take longer than New York’s. While both cities have claimed bragging rights as the capital of global capital, London’s financial district was hit harder than Wall Street." (Bloomberg)



"One eagle-eyed punter at The Glassblower who did eventually clock who he was told us: 'We just noticed a scruffy American guy sitting on his own in a corner drinking a pint of bitter, eating fish and chips and talking loudly to himself in different voices' .. But speaking last night at the Leicester Square premiere of his new movie Inglourious Basterds (and gloriously misusing the phrase 'hoi polloi,' bless him), Quentin (Tarantino) told us he was in fact working on a new script. He said: 'I try to get into a little hoi polloi from time to time. Actually, a couple of days ago it was my day off. I walked all around Piccadilly Circus and Soho and everything. I went to the movies — I saw Bruno — and I walked around the shops. I did some writing in a pub.'" (Thisislondon)



"Who are the Blue Dog Democrats? In theory, they are a caucus of moderate to conservative Democrats in the House, most of them hailing from rural and suburban swing districts. As Republican members melted away in 2006 and 2008, many were replaced by Blue Dogs, who essentially promised to be like Republicans, only anti-war and protectionist and economically populist. They've now emerged as the most serious threat to the Obama agenda. It's important to keep in mind that Blue Dogs are not conservatives. Rather, they appear to be, to put it unkindly, preening bozos. Instead of offering principled alternatives, they choose to Hoover up campaign donations from the well-heeled while stabbing their Democratic allies, many of whom made real sacrifices to get them elected, in the back. As someone who thinks the Obama approach to health reform is badly misconceived, I am reluctantly rooting for the Blue Dogs. But for roughly the same reason I could never abide erstwhile-Republican Arlen Specter, their crass opportunism and ideological incoherence doesn't sit well with me. Whether its left-wing primary challengers or conservative Republicans who bring them down, I look forward to the day when the Blue Dogs will leave Congress to take up new hobbies, like macrame or competitive eating." (TheDailyBeast)



"Armando Iannucci’s well-reviewed political comedy ‘In The Loop’ scored in its opening weekend, according to estimates provided by Rentrak earlier this afternoon. The film - described by indieWIRE‘s Eric Kohn as ‘the aesthetics of ‘The Office’ meeting those of ‘The West Wing’’ - grossed $200,816 from 8 screens. That gave ‘Loop’ a $25,102 per-theater-average, among the year’s ten best and distributor IFC Films’ highest since ‘Che’ back in December. In the midst of its roll out was last weekend’s top specialty opener, ‘Loop’‘s fellow Sundance alum, ‘(500) Days of Summer.’ ´Summer’ - a romantic comedy starring Zooey Deschanel and Joseph Gordon-Levitt - went from 27 to 85 screens and grossed $1,630,000, a 95% increase from last weekend .. Undergoing an important expansion this weekend was Summit Entertainment’s Iraq War thriller ‘The Hurt Locker.’ After four weekends of screen counts under 100, Kathryn Bigelow’s film finally made a big move, adding 144 screens to take its total to 238. The film saw its grosses rise 97%, taking in $1,457,000. Promising was that the film’s previously existing theaters saw their grosses drop only 15%, and the film’s overall average dropped only slightly from $7,875 to $6,122. This bodes very well for next weekend, when ‘Locker’ will hit 500 theaters and try and crack the overall top ten. So far, the film’s total stands at $4,034,000." (IndieWIRE)



"Sixty-six weeks from the 2010 election, neither Democrats nor Republicans have a clear advantage in the all-important races for the Senate, where Democrats for now have a working but sometimes fractious 'supermajority' of 60 .. Each party has some particular political challenges: Republicans have three seats left open by retiring incumbents in battleground states — Missouri, New Hampshire and Ohio — and each of those contests is on the current roster of tossups. And two of their incumbents, Jim Bunning of Kentucky and Richard M. Burr of North Carolina, face serious challenges. Democrats have some of their biggest problems clustered, curiously, in what has become perhaps the party’s strongest region: the Northeast. In Connecticut, Christopher J. Dodd is tied to the unpopular financial industry. Next door in New York, appointee Kirsten Gillibrand is laboring to build a statewide base. And in Pennsylvania, Specter’s party flip has not insulated him from serious challengers. The party also faces a close race for the Illinois seat formerly held by President Obama, which has come open because beleaguered appointee Roland W. Burris has decided not to mount an uphill election run." (CQPolitics)



"THIS WEEKEND Audiences shifted their attention from teen wizards to talking guinea pigs as Disney's 3D action film G-Force pulled an upset at the North American box office knocking Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince out of the top spot in its second weekend. The Hogwarts flick fell sharply but still pulled in a solid gross and continued its sensational run around the world. Mature audiences came out in impressive numbers for the Katherine Heigl-Gerard Butler comedy The Ugly Truth which opened well in third place. Families rushed to multiplexes to see adorable talking animals as G-Force powered its way to the top spot with an estimated $32.2M from an ultrawide release in 3,697 theaters. Averaging a healthy $8,697 per theater, the PG-rated action-adventure about guinea pig government spies connected with family audiences and took advantage of higher-priced tickets from its 1,600 3D locations. With almost $500M spent this summer on 3D toons Up and Ice Age, kids and parents were ready to move on to a live-action film that still offered clean and fun entertainment for children of all ages. The Disney and Jerry Bruckheimer brand names also added some weight. G-Force continued the studio's great summer following Up and The Proposal which also debuted at number one." (BoxOfficeGuru)



(image via nytimes)

"Journalists call me almost daily for an opinion about how the financials are affecting social life in New York. The press wants results. They want something decisive like – 'this is the worst,' or 'this is like the Depression,' or 'people are losing their fortunes and even their homes left and right.' Or, 'Mr. So-and-so just killed himself and his trophy wife because he lost his fortune.' That would really get them although so far it hasn’t happened. The numbers. I think that if this is the worst of it, we’re very lucky. I can see quite clearly how this might not be the worst of it. There was an apartment on Park Avenue and 79th Street, a triplex that was on the market for in excess of $30 million for a long time (more than a year). It just sold for $15 million. There was another apartment, this one in the Plaza, that was purchased about a year or more ago for $14.5 million. The buyers never moved in. Decided to unload. Just went into contract for $8.5 million." (NYSocialDiary)



"Broadcast may be suffering through a sleep-inducing summer but cable is wide awake, and one show that's doing particularly well is USA's 'Burn Notice.' The third-year USA original series, about a former spy who’s been blacklisted in Miami, scored a series-high 6.8 million total viewers Thursday night, besting a record of 6.7 million set just one week earlier. 'Burn' also averaged 3.05 million adults 25-54 and 2.5 million 18-49s in the Thursday 9 p.m. timeslot, despite airing against Fox’s 'So You Think You Can Dance,' which saw a week-to-week ratings boost of its own thanks to a guest appearance by Katie Holmes." (Medialifemagazine)



"Chinese regulators on Monday ordered banks to ensure unprecedented volumes of new loans are channelled into the real economy and not diverted into equity or real estate markets where officials say fresh asset bubbles are forming. The new policy requires banks to monitor how their loans are spent and comes amid warnings that banks ignored basic lending standards in the first half of this year as they rushed to extend Rmb7,370bn in new loans, more than twice the amount lent in the same period a year earlier. Beijing’s concerns are echoed in other countries across the region, most notably South Korea, where the government says it is taking steps to cool a real estate bubble, and Vietnam, where the government has ordered state banks to cap new lending to head off inflation. The situation in much of Asia is very different from most Western economies, where governments have flooded the financial system with liquidity to encourage unwilling banks to lend more. In China, regulators are now concerned that too much money is being lent by the state-controlled banks and the country’s tentative economic rebound could come at the cost of a stable financial system." (FT)



"If the government of the UK wishes to find a suitable motto, it should adopt the advice of a great Scot. 'Great Britain should,' wrote Adam Smith in The Wealth of Nations, '... endeavour to accommodate her future views and designs to the real mediocrity of her circumstances.' Smith offers wise counsel. The country’s circumstances are more mediocre than imagined two years ago. The question is how to respond. Three things have combined to postpone widespread recognition of the task: first, the government that was in charge when exaggerated optimism became rife is still in power; second, nobody can be sure how mediocre the country’s longer-term circumstances are going to be; and, finally, as Giles Wilkes points out in an excellent new paper for the Liberal Democrat think tank, CentreForum, with modest initial levels of public debt and low nominal and real interest rates, the UK government was right to let its borrowing take the strain. The result has been a 'phoney war.' Hysteria over a few million pounds in expenses for members of parliament has drowned out discussion of close to £200bn ($330bn, €230bn) in annual government borrowing. But the phoney war will end. How should the UK plan to fight the real one? It must start by making finance safer. The simple and painful truth is that another such financial shock might even bankrupt the British state." (Alam Wolf)



"Voters in Iraq’s semiautonomous Kurdistan region lined up hours before polling places opened to cast their ballots on Saturday in local presidential and parliamentary elections. Security was tight as Kurdish internal security forces guarded polling places and election workers frisked voters at the entrance, many of whom wore traditional Kurdish costumes — women in glittering robes and men in neatly pressed vests and puffy pants held by wide sashes around their waists. Despite the pageantry and ceremony, there was little doubt here that the governing coalition would maintain its ironclad grip on this region of 4.5 million people. Many Kurds credit the regional government for the relative security and prosperity the region enjoys compared with the rest of Iraq. 'I want to preserve the progress that we have achieved,' declared Saada Majid, 42, reflecting the view of many residents as she was being assisted in her wheelchair into a polling station in the working-class neighborhood of Azadi." (NYTimes)



"Usually at this point of Song of the Summer season, the top contenders have been firmly established; a few newbies might have some nice runs, sure, but the ad nauseam tracks are the ad nauseam tracks. This year, however, may turn out a little different — in case you haven’t heard, the biggest rap star in the world has a new album coming out in the fall, and he’s pushing it hard now. 'Run This Town,' the 'official' first single from Jay-Z’s Blueprint 3 is here, and it may have seismic effects. If it does hit big, Jay should effusively thank Rihanna: It’s her epic choruses, reminiscent of the deathless 'Live Your Life,' that will have junior-high girls rocking to this after school. But that’s the least compelling thing about the song. First is the beat, a squiggly, sneaky little guitar line that doesn’t quite sound like anything else on contemporary hip-hop radio (and is, at least to us, extremely reminiscent of Ratatat’s remix of 'The Mule'). Then there’s the whole Jay vs. Kanye thing. We think both dudes killed it, actually, but ‘Ye wins by an inch — slowing down the beat for his verse was kind of genius, and eleventy million points for making getting fucked up on white wine sound cool: 'I’m beasting / off the Riesling / and my n**** just made it out the precinct.'" (NYMag)



"Lisa said that Beth Stern has revealed some new details about the 1 month trip that she's going to be taking away from Howard (Stern). She's going to be on a prime time show but not as a contestant. She was vague about what the job was. Howard said that Beth is going to be leaving him for a full month. He's not sure he's going to go out and visit. Howard said that she had to sign confidentiality agreements and stuff so she can't talk about it yet. Howard said he's not even sure if she's signed on for it or not. Beth said it was supposed to be signed yesterday. Howard said she didn't even tell him that. Howard said that he was thinking about earlier retirement now because Beth might get paid really well for that show." (Marksfriggin)



"Dining at Monkey Bar is akin to a front-row experience--better to be Stella than sorry. After all, your peers are watching--and the predictably dim lights just fuel the rabid speculations. On Wednesday night, a wealth of blondissima socials populating the front section (Jamee Gregory, c'est toi) while the heavies were ensconced in the heavy leather booths that govern this vieux New York (mostly watering) hole. The crew? Clubby and motley. Richard Prince, Suzanne Somers, Steve Cohen, Andre Balazs...now, the editorial representation suffered from a manque of Graydon but a wealth of T and Vogue, deliciously apart yet together, squired by Italian advertiser types. Ah! And Tonchi's eye, so gleaming..." (Fashionweekdaily)

"Looking fwd 2 being on This Week w @GStephanopoulos discussing health care, Gatesgate, Obama popularity w Will, Krugman, Brazile, n Brooks .. Also just had lunch with @joseiswriting and loved discussing the August Wilson take on Gatesgate." (Arianna Huffington/Twitter)



"Bank of China, the world’s third largest bank, has started offering mortgages to credit-starved British borrowers at rates that undercut many of the deals available from established UK lenders. The bank, which has previously focused on Chinese communities in the UK, wants to become a household name alongside lenders such as HSBC and Barclays. Lenders slow to pass on interest cuts - Jun-10The experience of taking out a Bank of China mortgage will not be quite the same as that offered by the traditional UK lender. In a nod to Chinese belief in the auspicious nature of the number eight, the bank has had a mortgage arrangement fee of £888, though it this week switched it to the more recognisable figure of £995. It will insist on meeting each new borrower personally before offering them a loan, and will fund loans from its own capital reserves, a conservative approach that was once the norm in UK banking but fell away in the fervour of the latest housing boom. Mortgage brokers said its tracker rates – available for homeowners and buy-to-let customers and starting at 2.5 per cent above the base rate – were among the best on the market and should go some way to relieving the shortage of home loans in the UK." (FT)



(image via abcnews)

"FOR the first time perhaps since Ronald Reagan, an honest-to-goodness, real live Hollywood celebrity is at work inside the White House. But as soon as he arrived from the Left Coast, the Obama administration promptly put Kalpen Modi under wraps. Mr. Modi — better known as Kal Penn to fans of the television medical drama 'House' and the raunchy stoner 'Harold and Kumar' movies — now toils in obscurity inside the warrenlike Eisenhower Executive Office Building. The bureaucrat formerly known as Mr. Penn is now the associate director of the Office of Public Engagement, a job that requires him to do two things: run public outreach, with a focus on young people, the arts world and Asian-Americans; and keep his head down. 'I expect to be treated just like any other staff member,' he said during a conference call on his first day of work, July 6, in what the White House described as a one-time-only opportunity to interview the former star. The call was cut off after 17 minutes (Mr. Modi had a meeting to attend), but not before he revealed these juicy tidbits: he brushed his teeth that morning just like everybody else does, took the bus to work and was 'deeply honored to be here.'" (NYTimes)



(image via nymag)

"Wow. This is good. In her 'Notebook' on CBSNews.com, Katie Couric takes down New York Times columnist Alessandra Stanley, and she does it in the cruelest of ways: without mentioning her by name. Last Friday night, Stanley wrote this piece on the death of Walter Cronkite. By the time editors got through with the already-published piece there were, as Couric puts it, 'not one, not two but seven errors about [Cronkite's] life and career.' And here's where it gets good. There is no love lost between the anchor and the columnist. The most memorable Stanley story on Couric may be this 2005 take-down of the then-Today show anchor: 'At the first sound of her peremptory voice and clickety stiletto heels, people dart behind doors and douse the lights,' Stanley wrote about Couric. Well, this might be Couric's payback." (TVNewser)



"Last night, Unicef launched the 'Next Generation,' bringing in some of the city’s most dynamic young professionals. Lydia Hearst, Jenna Bush, Lauren Bush, David Lauren, Marcus Samuelson and Josh Madden were among the guests gathered at the Gates to support the org’s mission to save, protect and improve the lives of children around the world. After enjoying Crumbs cupcakes, the young and well-heeled danced the evening away in celebration of doing good." (Guestofaguest)



"When senior Chinese officials arrive in Washington on Monday for bilateral talks on strategy and the economy, they will find a new item near the top of the agenda: U.S. concerns that North Korea is supplying nuclear weapons technology to Burma. U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton warned of this possibility speaking at the Association of Southeast Asian Nations forum this week in Thailand -- a threat she said the United States takes "very seriously." So seriously, in fact, that Clinton will raise the topic when she meets with her Chinese counterpart, State Councilor Dai Bingguo, on Monday, according to officials at the State Department and in Congress. As one official involved in preparations told me, "Burma is very much on the agenda.'" (ForeignPolicy)



"Last night at the PAPER-curated shopping party at Housing Works, there was really something for everyone. Michael Musto snagged a lovely, paisley International Male blazer, PAPERMAG's Carol Lee bought the floral Ungaro dress that she had eyed at the warehouse in Long Island City, and we were so stoked to see that someone bought the bumble-bee-yellow YSL blazer! DJs Andrew Andrew kept the party rock 'n' rolling, playing sweet jams and yukking it up all night long, while shoppers sipped on Sergio Rossi wine in vintage glassware. All proceeds went towards Housing Works, a charity benefitting homeless people with HIV/AIDS." (Papermag)



(Guy Oseary in Madrid/via TwitPic)

"When Pope Urban II called for a holy war upon infidels in 1095, promising a home in Paradise as reward, he let loose an ignorant, filthy mob of as many as 80,000 Europeans. The People’s Crusade swarmed across the Continent, slaughtering Jews in Worms and Mainz, pillaging and burning as they went. In the Syrian town of Mara, they boiled pagan adults and ate their babies. Adelard of Bath ventured forth with a different ideal: he learned Arabic and set out for Asia Minor in 1109, immersing himself in classical philosophy, medicine, optics, astronomy, navigation and mathematics sophisticated enough to utilize a zero. He returned with a firm sense of a knowable universe, a new concept for the West. His writings and translations, including Euclid’s 'Elements of Geometry,' became the foundation of the Renaissance. I spoke with Jonathan Lyons, author of 'The House of Wisdom: How the Arabs Transformed Western Civilization,' (Bloomsbury Press, $26), on the following topics .." (Lewis Lapham/Bloomberg)

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