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Saturday, April 24, 2010

Media-Whore D'Oeuvres



(image via newsweek)

"It was almost like one of those moments in a buddy-cop movie when the two partners who dislike each other at the beginning finally bond while taking on the bad guys. In mid-December Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton were in Copenhagen, where the leaders of more than 100 countries had gathered to negotiate a new agreement to combat global warming, and the summit was on the verge of collapse. Clinton later described it as the most disorganized meeting she'd seen since her eighth-grade student council. It 'was just disintegrating right before everybody's eyes,' she recalled to NEWSWEEK in an interview last week. Clinton and her former political rival, now the president, found themselves up against most of the rest of the world. At the last minute Obama sought a one-on-one meeting with the Chinese leader to rescue some kind of agreement, only to be told that Premier Wen Jiabao and his team still weren't ready to meet (after two years of prior procrastination). 'No, we're going in now,' Obama declared, looking at Clinton. 'Absolutely,' she said. 'Let's go.' The former political rivals suddenly morphed into a diplomatic version of Starsky and Hutch. 'I felt a particular responsibility since I had urged the president to come,' Clinton said. 'Because I knew nothing was going to happen unless we gave it our all.' Striding down the hallway, with the Chinese protocol officer sputtering protests behind them, America's two best-known politicians barged into the meeting room. There they found Wen conferring secretly with the leaders of Brazil, India, and South Africa; behind the scenes, Beijing had been trying to block all efforts to impose standards for measuring, reporting, and verifying progress on carbon reduction. Smiling and shaking hands, Obama and Clinton worked the room together, as they had each done so many times before as contending politicians. Then the president sat down and started negotiating, with Clinton sliding position papers to him as needed. When the Chinese finally caved, both Obama and Clinton knew that it wasn't just because they had crashed the meeting." (Newsweek)



(image via blogetty)

"Simon Cowell's wealth is dwarfed by that of Lord Lloyd-Webber whose (USD $1.74 billion)fortune makes him Britain's third richest music millionaire. Both are outpaced by Warner Music chief Edgar Bronfman, whose USD $2.5 billion) bank balance makes him Britain's richest music man. Cowell's £165m fortune makes him Britain's 11th richest music millionaire – although he is certainly one of the most recognisable in The Sunday Times Rich List 2010. He increased his personal fortune by (USD $69 million) in the past year, and earned more than half of his fortune from television work alone over the past two years. The X Factor judge signed a new deal with Sony in January that will earn him millions over six years, and his TV shows in the States and the UK fund his transatlantic life and lavish property portfolio. Less well known is the man at the top of the charts, Edgar Bronfman, 54, chairman and chief executive of Warner Music Group. A former songwriter who has written for Celine Dion and Dionne Warwick, Mr Bronfman now prefers to stay behind the scenes in the music industry – as does Zomba founder Clive Calder, the UK's second richest music millionaire, with a fortune of (USD $1.995 billion). The rest of the top ten in The Sunday Times Rich List 2010, however, are far more recognisable music icons." (SundayTimes)



(image via WSJ)

"'We believe in private enterprise, free market, and competition. . . . So we have to make sure there is a conducive environment for people to be creative and innovative,' (President Paul Kagame) told me last month in a suite in the West End's plush Langham Hotel. Our interview followed his debut appearance at the annual meeting of the Commonwealth, which Rwanda joined last year. Bespectacled and as twiggy as when he led the RPF, Mr. Kagame looks like an unlikely warlord. And yet this is the man—not the U.N. and not the U.S.—who led forces outnumbered two to one to defeat the genocidal government and their machete-wielding militia. Gangly in a dark gray suit, Mr. Kagame meets me precisely on time for our interview. He speaks in paragraphs, eyes wide, and without a trace of the cynicism that it seems should be his right. The overall effect is more impassioned academic than storied warrior. Don't be fooled. Asked how much of Kagame-the-general remains in Kagame-the-statesman, he replies '100%.' I laugh, but he's serious. 'My respect and enthusiasm for softness and diplomacy and negotiations—really reaching out to people—has only been growing. But it has not diminished my ability and desire and conviction to give a good fight when a fight is called for,' he says. These days, the battle he is fighting is for national prosperity." (WSJ)



(Daphne Guinness via style)

"There were green initiatives all over New York last night; Christie's got in on the action with an evening of eco-fundraising, moderated by Chevy Chase and attended by the likes of Salma Hayek, Ted Danson, Miranda Kerr, and John McEnroe. The Green Auction: A Bid to Save the Earth raised $1,387,000 for four environmental organizations: Conservation International, Oceana, the Natural Resources Defense Council, and the Central Park Conservancy ... After Chase's introduction—probably the first time in the auction house's 244-year history that opening remarks included the word 'ass'—the bidding took off. A day of golf with President Bill Clinton went for $80,000, a Damien Hirst work jumped from $14,000 to $92,000 in about 15 seconds, and Daphne Guinness got in a bidding war for David LaChapelle's The Rape of Africa. Don't worry, she took it home for a cool $45,000." (Style)



(image via mindef.gov.sg)

"As Singapore's equivalent of the U.S. director of national intelligence, who coordinates all intelligence and counterintelligence for one of the world's most important trade hubs, Peter Ho became the champion of 'mainstreaming counterterrorism.' ... Mr. Ho is a persuasive and influential force of nature in Singapore - and beyond. In addition to his national security and intelligence-coordination responsibilities, he also is head of the civil service, permanent secretary of the Foreign Affairs Ministry and permanent secretary (special duties) in the Prime Minister's Office. What Singapore has achieved and what is tested and retested day and night is light-years beyond what is possible in the U.S without incurring the wrath of civil libertarians. But Singaporeans, almost 5 million, are remarkably self-disciplined in a seamless cultural, ethnic and religious amalgam of Malay, Chinese, Indian and European influences. Singapore's famed orchids are exported to Europe daily. Its high-tech exports are universally known. More than 10 million tourists a year descend on the world's most important city-state, which also is the world's top container port. With two new major resort areas, 30 million visitors are expected by 2015. Singapore Airways was the first to buy the 550-passenger Airbus 380. The city's huge hub airport puts every major U.S. airport to shame. Several American billionaires have moved out of dollars and euros and into a basket of Asian currencies based in Singapore. A weapon-of-mass-destruction act of terrorism in Singapore could disrupt world trade and trigger an economic and financial tsunami. Physical protection closely follows the Israeli model. Oil reserves and military supplies are stored underground. Man-made Jurong Island is a petrochemical hub and the world's third-largest refinery with $35 billion invested and protected like Fort Knox. Ministers' salaries top $1 million a year, a powerful disincentive to corruption." (ArnauddeBorchgrave)



"When U.S. Ambassador to Lebanon Michele Sison met with Lebanese officials on Wednesday, she had a mission: She was there to urge Lebanon to help avoid a new outbreak of violence between Israel and the Shiite militant group Hezbollah. Sison, an affable and well-liked career Foreign Service officer, was given the difficult task of both urging the Lebanese to do what they can to avoid an eruption of war and convincing them that U.S. and Israeli concerns about alleged Syrian arms transfers over the Lebanese border should be taken seriously. Arab press reports cited anonymous sources as saying Sison showed Lebanese Speaker of Parliament Nabih Berri and Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri photos of truck convoys, evidence of increasing and escalation weapons shipments to Hezbollah. More shockingly, the reports said that she told Lebanese officials the United States had stopped Israel from launching an imminent strike against the convoys. Neither of those details is true, according to multiple administration sources. State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley told The Cable that the idea American waived Israel off of a strike on Syrian weapons transfers is 'totally false,' but declined to describe the specifics of the meeting. Another U.S. official described the Arab press reports as 'bullshit.'" (TheCable/ForeignPolicy)



"The past few nights of television have brought us, among other things, Neko Case playing with Bob Dylan's son, and then Broken Social Scene on Letterman, and the Gorillaz on the Colbert Report, but most importantly, from George Lopez (who will soon be on after Conan O'Brien on TBS): Lin Yu Chun singing Bonnie Tyler's 'Total Eclipse of the Heart' with the one and only William Shatner. Video (if you haven't already seen it)"



"In small but significant numbers, filmmakers and casting executives are beginning to re-examine Hollywood’s attitude toward breast implants, Botox, collagen-injected lips and all manner of plastic surgery. Television executives at Fox Broadcasting, for example, say they have begun recruiting more natural looking actors from Australia and Britain because the amply endowed, freakishly young-looking crowd that shows up for auditions in Los Angeles suffers from too much sameness. 'I think everyone either looks like a drag queen or a stripper,' said Marcia Shulman, who oversees casting for Fox’s scripted shows. Independent casting directors like Mindy Marin, who worked on the Jason Reitman film 'Up in the Air,' are urging talent agents to discourage clients from having surgery, particularly older celebrities who, she contends, are losing jobs because their skin is either too taut or swollen with filler. Said Ms. Marin: 'What I want to see is real.'" (NYTimes)



"Many is the time I would review a write-up of a new deal and scribble in the margins, 'Get to the bleeping point!' Unless you can articulate, up front, exactly what assets we would be lending against, and what circumstances would cause us to lose money (i.e. a quick-and-dirty breakeven analysis), you don't really know what you're talking about. And if you don't have a good grasp of that issue, everything else you have to say is superfluous, a waste of time. This lack of common sense is pervasive, extending far beyond the financial services industry. (When, over the last seven years, have you ever heard a journalist ask, 'How many troops do we have to replace those currently deployed in Iraq?') In certain markets, most notably, CDOs, this lack of common sense was institutionalized. It's evident in the deal book for Abacus 2007 AC-1, at the center of the S.E.C.'s case against Goldman. What risks are investors assuming? The presentation doesn't say. There's a reference portfolio of 90 subprime mortgage bonds, on pages 55 and 56, which ostensibly would be insured via credit default swaps for the benefit of Goldman. But, as the small print says, 'Goldman Sachs neither represents nor provides any assurances that the actual Reference Portfolio on the Closing Date or any future date will have the same characteristics as represented above.' According to my bias, everything else in the 66-page presentation is superfluous." (Zerohedge)



"'Chances that lawmakers will reach a bipartisan compromise on financial-overhaul legislation are ‘north of 80 percent,’ Senator Mark Warner said as the measure faces a test vote in the U.S. Senate next week. Republican and Democratic negotiators will produce a deal that will ultimately get the support of ‘a number’ of Republicans, Warner, a member of the Senate Banking Committee, said in an interview on Bloomberg Television's ‘Political Capital with Al Hunt.’” (Playbook)



('ENTRANCE -- NO ENTRANCE' via artnet)

"A painting by the Russian artist Erik Bulatov last night was the top lot in a 4.1 million-pound ($6.3 million) auction of art from some of the world’s fastest- growing economies. The Non-Conformist artist’s Cyrillic word painting 'ENTRANCE -- NO ENTRANCE' fetched (USD $1.094 million) at the first sale of contemporary works from Brazil, Russia, India and China. Phillips de Pury & Co.’s 32-lot evening session of its inaugural 'BRIC’ event, held at London’s Saatchi Gallery, made a total with fees exactly in line with the presale upper estimate, based on hammer prices. Seventy-two percent of the material found buyers, with all the successful lots falling to telephone bids. The sale comes after auction prices for works by some contemporary Chinese, Indian and Russian artists had declined as much as 50 percent from the peak of the market in early 2008, with dealers now looking for signs of recovery. 'Russia and China were strong,’ Roger Tatley, senior director at the London-based Alison Jacques Gallery, said in an interview. 'The Saatchi venue was very elegant. I’m sure it was a great benefit to have the auction hung like a museum show, though it was unusual to have everything bought on the telephone. That might have had something to do with the volcanic ash grounding planes.' Bulatov’s 1994 to 1995 work, a second version of a 1970s painting now in the Pompidou Center in Paris, was one of just half a dozen lots that attracted bidding from the 100-strong audience in the room. A woman wearing grey five-inch heels speaking Russian into a cellphone was the underbidder at a price that was more than double the (USD $537,000) low estimate." (Bloomberg)



(Jennifer Rubell via style)

"The art world's eyes were as big as its stomach last night, with a pair of major museums throwing over-the-top spring fundraisers that put the food front and center. In lieu of traditional cocktails and canapés, the Brooklyn Museum had spigots protruding from blank canvases and a heap of potato chips that guests were free to drizzle with vegetable paste. Wildest of all, suspended heads made of Fontina cheese melted slowly (and pungently) onto a mound of crackers. Everyone from Diane von Furstenberg to Zac Posen stopped and gawked at that one, although to Chloë Sevigny, it was more art than appetizer: 'I don't know if I want to eat that!' she said. Dinner, inspired by the minimalism of Donald Judd, consisted of meats and vegetables piled high on plywood boxes. The feast's curator, Jennifer Rubell, left it up to guests to divvy up the 150 rabbits, 30 turkeys, and two whole pigs she'd provided, giving artist John Currin a chance to show off his carving skills. Mario Batali circulated in his signature orange Crocs, picking at snap peas and encouraging anyone who was hacking away at a carcass: 'Bravo!' Opening Ceremony hosted the carnival-themed after-party in the lobby, and dessert in the form of Hostess pastries spilled out of a 20-foot-tall piñata of Andy Warhol's head." (Style)



(AP photo composite by POLITICO)

"The White House is engaged in an aggressive effort to reassure Jewish leaders that the tense relationship between the Obama administration and the Israeli government that has played out in public in the past few months does not signify any fundamental change in U.S. policy. Concern within the administration over the domestic repercussions of the recent clashes with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government reached a critical point about 10 days ago, as Israel was about to mark its 62nd year of independence. Since then, administration officials have mounted what amounts to a public relations blitz trying to rectify what they have come to believe is largely a perception problem that Obama is being unreasonably tough or even hostile to Israel — not a substantive disagreement over its Middle East policies. There is some evidence the reassurances are working: AIPAC, the pro-Israel lobbying group, issued a statement Friday saying that the president and 'top members of his administration and senior military leaders have highlighted the importance of the U.S.-Israel relationship and reaffirmed that a strong and secure Israel advances U.S. national security interests.' But the dimensions of Obama’s public relations problems were made plain Thursday by the criticism New York Sen. Chuck Schumer, one of the administration’s closest allies, leveled at the president." (Politico)



"Is it possible to taste minerals in fermented grape juice? Can the roots of the grape vine somehow transmit characteristics of soil and bedrock to the grape itself? Is it a gross abuse of poetic license to detect marine elements in a wine grown on a former Jurassic seabed? You may never have asked these questions, but they go to the heart of the French notion of terroir—the idea that wine is a function of its place of origin. Nowhere do these questions seem more relevant than in Chablis ...Chablis is a great food wine, although some true believers seem to hate to mix it up with solids. Beastie Boy Mike Diamond, a serious fan of Chablis, says, 'It pairs so well with so many foods, yet it's almost an injustice to share a really good Dauvissat or Raveneau with food; I kind of prefer to hog it all to myself, savoring every sip.'" (JAY MCINERNEY/WSJ)



(image via g-8.de)

"The Kyrgyzstan events were handled as smoothly as we have seen an uprising managed in quite a while. The Russians are not hiding their satisfaction, nor are they privately denying their role in it. Therefore the most important question is, what is next? We hear from the region that there is a great deal of nervousness. The assumption is that this is part of a string of actions and not a one-off event. Uzbekistan is one country mentioned. Georgia is another. It is important for the Russians not to fumble, or the sense of inevitability that they are depending on will evaporate. We have to look for the vulnerable countries, not necessarily the most desirable, such as the Baltics ... The Polish president has been buried, and the plane crash’s geopolitical significance will fade. Poland can’t change its grand strategy based on Russian sympathy and it won’t. We are back to watching the U.S. relationship with Poland and the German relationship to Russia. That’s where the next moves will happen, particularly on the latter." (Stratfor)



(image via artexpertswebsite)

"Suddenly Rothko is everywhere, and it’s safe to say he would have liked that. In New York, everyone wants to see Red, John Logan’s play about the artist. In London, the play and Alfred Molina’s confrontational performance for the Donmar Warehouse predictably triggered an outbreak of eye-rolling among the Art Classes. The prospect of yet another melodrama featuring a heroically tormented painter trowelling on the angst in heavy pigment, and monologues about nailing the Tragic to the canvas, brought on an attack of sneering at romantic platitudes; much muttering about Sturm und Drang for the middlebrow. But on the other side of the Atlantic, Rothko’s own side, the play has been received as deep, dark and moving, much like the artist’s late works. As it happens, that’s the right response. Whether the myths make the man or vice-versa, there are some artists who actually do live with the old burden of the melancholy temperament, richly chronicled in Rudolf and Margot Wittkower’s wonderful 1963 anthology of artistic gloom, Born Under Saturn. Rothko’s humour had more than its fair share of black bile, and wherever his painterly impulse took him, it was, by his own account, always engaged in the struggle to register the sacrificial and destructive habits ingrained in the human condition. The pleasure principle he despised." (Simon Schama/FT)



(image via theeconomist)

"Analysts wondering where Turkey is coming from and in which direction it is headed might like to consider the art scene. It says a great deal, untrammeled by political discourse. Turks are now scrutinizing their past as never before and, ironically enough, auction house experts are the only ones who truly respond to this phenomenon. For the first time in market history, three out of the four auction catalogs that dealt last week with the so-called 'Islamic world' ran a Turkish work of art on the cover. At Christie’s, which opened the round of auctions on its King Street premises, this was a faience tile that once formed part of a wall revetment in a late-16th-century structure that specialists are unable to identify. The monument, or at least part of it, has probably vanished. The tile doubled the highest expectations as the price reached £23,750, or about $36,400, despite some damage candidly acknowledged in the catalog. The day after, Sotheby’s also played the Ottoman card." (IHT)

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