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Monday, February 01, 2010

Media-Whore D'Oeuvres



"Banned under the Taliban, the popular Afghan sport of buzkashi is more than just a game -- it's a metaphor for the cultural and power relationships among Afghans. The rules are simple: Two teams vie to carry a headless goat (or calf) around corner posts and back into the center circle in which it was first placed, all the while steering their horses away from the whips of the opposing side. Above, an Afghan rider rears his horse during a buzkashi game in Kabul on April 5, 2008." (ForeignPolicy)



"Not so long ago, financiers ruled the roost at the glitzy annual gathering of the global economic elite here in the Swiss Alps. At this year's of the World Economic Forum, the unofficial theme seems to be 'First, kill all the bankers.' The ire directed at bankers from all sides is palpable, acknowledged Donald Moore, chairman of Morgan Stanley in Europe, as he stood alone reading some charts amidst the hubbub at the forum's Global Village cafe. Asked which other groups of people have been similarly unpopular in Davos in the past, he said: 'terrorists.' The quip reflects the mounting alarm with which bankers have come to view their besieged profession—even in Davos, a usually cozy gathering. The scorn poured on the industry at this year's get-together in the Swiss ski resort is a sign of a mounting international backlash against the financial sector. Popular anger about banks' role in the financial crisis, and their behavior in its aftermath, has spilled over to the world's elite business executives, politicians and regulators. Since gathering here Wednesday, they have been aiming sometimes bitter recriminations at the tainted masters of the banking universe." (WSJ)



"Remember yesterday’s post about the Craig’s List ad to attend the Rangers-Coyotes game with a porn star? Well, with the shift in the tone of the blogosphere over the last few months, I thought to myself, 'What Would TMZ Sports Do?' The obvious answer was contact Katie Michaels, the adult film star who listed the ad. So I did. First things first, I made sure that the hockey game had started because at that point I wasn’t sure about the legality of the whole thing. You pay $500 to hang out with a porn star for an evening, people start to ask questions. Not that I’m here to pass judgment, but I didn’t want anyone thinking I was trying to be that guy. I’m just a curious blogger looking for a fun post. So I responded to the Craig’s list ad. I told her I was a blogger and sent her a link to yesterday’s post. I asked what motivated her to offer her companionship to sporting events and if anyone had bought the trip to the Coyotes-Rangers game. Since I wasn’t offering cash to go to a game, there was really no reason she should get back to me. Half an hour later, I got a response." (TheBigLead)



"Someone needs to teach a lesson in texting manners to New Yorkers. Last Tuesday night, while presenting the film Falling for Grace at the Asia Society, Whoopi Goldberg (wearing Shanghai Tang) publicly called out a blonde socialite for texting during her talk. Go Whoopi1" (Papermag)



"Just when we are all feeling depressed about the malaise of the body politic, along comes a book designed to make us feel worse. Andrew Young’s account of his decade as John Edwards’s body man, beard, and shit-eating courtier is a mesmerizing insight not only into the rotten nature of his hero but the corruption of the culture that allowed a man as devoid of authenticity as John Edwards to flourish for so long, even to the point of getting a decent shot at the White House. Young and his hero, Edwards—who spotted his craven acolyte as an enabler even more committed than his wife, Elizabeth—sucked each other into a moral abyss that led eventually to Young’s willingness to pretend he was the father of the child Edwards sired with his mistress Rielle Hunter. A fascinating undercurrent for the reader is wondering at what point Young will eventually turn on his boss. Being made to mop up when the bathroom plumbing breaks down at the Edwards house? Being yelled at if there was no Diet Sprite in the ever-present cooler in the campaign car Young chauffeured the candidate around in? (This was after Edwards’s cosmetic dentist told him that his customary Diet Cokes would stain his newly whitened teeth.) Finding himself the abused go-between charged with handling the candidate’s communications with both an angry wife and a grabby mistress who contacted her lover through a special 'Bat phone' of which Young had proud custody? (Tina Brown/TheDailyBeast)



"POLICE investigating the assassination of a top Hamas official in Dubai last month have approached several European nations about the identities of seven suspects. The body of Mahmoud Abu al-Mabhouh, 50, who was responsible for co-ordinating the supply of weapons from Iran to Gaza, was discovered in a Dubai hotel room on January 20. Police at first believed he had suffered a heart attack, but autopsy results indicated he had been poisoned, and possibly strangled. Hamas officials in Damascus claimed last week that Israel's foreign intelligence service, Mossad, had assassinated Mr Mabhouh. According to Colonel Dahi Khalfan, who is leading the investigation in Dubai, police possess the names of the people involved in the assassination, all of whom were travelling on European passports. 'We have documents and additional signs that are likely to expose their identities,' Colonel Khalfan said. 'We're talking about a group of professional, experienced and highly trained assassins.' For the first time, Colonel Khalfan formally pointed the finger at Israel. 'I can't rule out the possibility that it was the Mossad that carried out the assassination,' he said." (TheAge)



"In the world of pornography, there are those who simply have sex on film for cash, and those who consider what they do to be an artsy exploration of sensuality. Juliet 'Aunt Peg' Anderson took the artsy aspect to new levels. From the time she entered the adult film industry in 1978 at the then-unheard-of age of 39 until she died Jan. 10 of a heart attack at 71 at her home in Berkeley, she tried to transform the seamy into acceptable sensuality for older people. 'To my knowledge, Juliet was the oldest woman to ever enter the adult film industry - she was the original 'cougar,' an older woman who pursues sex with younger men, said Carol Queen, executive director of the Center for Sex and Culture in San Francisco." (SFGate)



"Nouriel Roubini, the New York University professor who anticipated the financial crisis, said the U.S. growth outlook remains 'very dismal' and White House economic adviser Lawrence Summers said the economy is still mired in a 'human recession.' Speaking at the World Economic Forum’s annual meeting in Davos, Switzerland, after the U.S. reported the fastest growth in six years, their comments underscored concern that that emergency measures to rescue banks and fight the recession may be withdrawn too soon. 'The headline number will look large and big, but actually when you dissect it, it’s very dismal and poor,' Roubini said in a Jan. 30 Bloomberg Television interview following a U.S. Commerce Department report that showed economic expansion of 5.7 percent in the fourth quarter. 'I think we are in trouble.' Roubini said more than half of the growth was related to a replenishing of depleted inventories and that consumption was reliant on monetary and fiscal stimulus. As these forces ebb, the rate will slow to 1.5 percent in the second half of 2010." (BusinessWeek)



"A little more than 10 years ago (Jan. 17, 2000, to be exact), I began writing my 'Dangerous Dozen' columns about open House seats, and the recent flurry of retirements means there finally are enough to fill a list for the 2010 cycle. The fact that so many of the districts on this list are currently held by Democrats reflects how strongly the political landscape is tilting toward the GOP. As always, races toward the top of the list are the most likely to change party control, but every race on this list is a serious possibility to flip." (Stuart Rothenberg/CQPolitics)



"Disney’s quiet shopping of Miramax has attracted interest from several bidders, though not merely the usual suspects. Several insiders think the $700 million price is too high. That’s because the library's cash flow is not close to the $300 million estimated this weekend in The New York Times – more like a third of that sum, according to two people knowledgeable about the figures. As WaxWord reported last week, Disney on Thursday essentially shut down the arthouse studio once owned by the Weinstein brothers. The studio closed Miramax’s offices in Los Angeles and New York, absorbed a few remaining empoyees into Disney while letting another 80 go. What remains is a film library containing some of the best – though not necessarily the most lucrative – film titles of the last two decades ... So what's it worth? According to two individuals who have had access to the financials, the library threw off about $100 million in net cash flow for the year according to the latest available figures. That’s a lot less than $300 million that analysts estimated for annual revenue, and a very different multiple for the $700 million sought by the studio. (And we all have to be aware that there will be spinning on both sides of this negotiation.) Interested bidders include Summit Entertainment, Relativity Media, France’s cable giant Studio Canal and an outsider billionaire, Nelson Peltz." (TheWrap)



(Colette and Peter Harron via JH/NYSD)

"Yesterday I called my friend Colette Harron in Essex, Connecticut (where the thermometers were touching zero by mid-evening) to wish her a happy birthday ... Colette’s of Moroccan Jewish descent (a 'Moroccan Jew,' is how she would put it) grew up mainly in New York with flights of fancy to Paris. So there are several strong notes to her visual senses. Because French was her native language there is also just the lightest hint of it in her speaking ...We met when I first came back from California in the early 90s, through Lady Sarah Churchill. Sarah had beforehand told me that she wanted me to meet Colette and her husband Peter, a documentary filmmaker and photographer. Sarah liked them so much she thought I would too. She was right." (NYSocialDiary)



(JHud via style)

"At the 52nd Annual Grammy Awards in Los Angeles last night, Album of the Year winner and sugary country pop sensation Taylor Swift wore a very grown-up and quite pretty Kaufman Franco dress, the kind that says 'I'm a winner and I know it,' despite humble acceptance speeches—for multiple wins—to the contrary .. Former Spice Girl Victoria Beckham had a big night—as a designer. She dressed both Jennifer Hudson and Sugarland's Jennifer Nettles in her sophisticated yet sexy frocks." (Style)



"When President Obama launched a massive humanitarian-aid response to Haiti's earthquake last month, not everyone took his magnanimity at face value. Hugo Chavez, for example, accused him of 'occupying Haiti undercover' and then upped the ante by saying the earthquake had been caused by an American 'tectonic weapon.' A minister from France, Haiti's former colonial ruler, complained that the U.S. response should be 'about helping Haiti, not about occupying Haiti.' Taken literally, these charges are absurd: Why would the United States want—let alone look for an excuse—to occupy and govern such a place? (Let's not get started on the secret earthquake weapon.) But they do get at a larger issue that's worth examining. The fact is that—while undoubtedly humane and moral—the vast, sophisticated U.S. effort hasn't been motivated solely by humanitarian concerns. It has also been part of a calculated attempt to showcase American values and boost American "soft power" in an age when the White House considers the development of anti-American feeling—especially in places that could become failed states or gravitate toward hostile powers—a strategic threat." (TNR)



"Once again, it wasn't even close. James Cameron's 3D epic Avatar ruled the box office for the seventh consecutive time grossing more than the frame's two new releases combined. With another remarkably low decline, the sci-fi actioner put itself within inches of passing Titanic's all-time domestic record while incredible staying power overseas propelled the worldwide gross past the $2 billion mark. Picking up the crumbs were the new films Edge of Darkness with Mel Gibson which enjoyed a mediocre debut and the romantic comedy When in Rome which did better than expected in third place. With another $30M, according to estimates, Avatar had no problem defending its crown during its seventh weekend to remain the most popular movie choice in North America. Off a slim 14%, the Fox smash watched its total soar to an eye-popping $594.5M after only 45 days of release. The Na'vi pic is now only three days away from breaking the $600M mark and sailing past the $600.8M domestic record held by Titanic for twelve years. Of course, Avatar is benefiting from higher ticket prices for 2D films as well as surcharges from 3D and IMAX 3D screens where the bulk of the business is coming from. As for total audience size, Titanic sold roughly 125 million tickets while Avatar has sold in the neighborhood of 70 million and counting which is about equal to the tallies of 2004's Shrek 2 and 2002's Spider-Man. Studios generally do not reveal exact admissions figures. Still, movie fans have never emptied their wallets to this extent before." (Boxofficeguru)

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