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Wednesday, May 05, 2010

Media-Whore D'Oeuvres



"Terrorists are adaptive, self-correcting, and cunning—except when they aren’t. For all of his alleged error-making as an individual, however, (Faisal Shahzad's) case may actually reflect on how Pakistan-based jihadi groups have learned to protect themselves. According to news reports, Shahzad spent several months in Pakistan before returning to the United States. This would make him one of at least half a dozen U.S. citizens or residents to travel to Pakistan as alleged volunteers during the last several years. Last week, before the Times Square incident, I was talking with a former U.S. intelligence officer who worked extensively on jihadi cases during several overseas tours. He said that when a singleton of Shahzad’s profile—especially a U.S. citizen—turns up in a place like Peshawar, local jihadi groups are much more likely to assess him as a probable U.S. spy than as a genuine volunteer. At best, the jihadi groups might conclude that a particular U.S.-originated individual’s case is uncertain. They might then encourage the person to go home and carry out an attack—without giving him any training or access to higher-up specialists that might compromise their local operations. They would see such a U.S.-based volunteer as a 'freebie,' the former officer said—if he returns home to attack, great, but if he merely goes off to report back to his C.I.A. case officer, no harm done." (Steve Coll/TheNewYorker)



"Robert Downey Jr. has been sober for years now. With two blockbusters under his belt and Iron Man 2 on deck, Hollywood has stopped holding its collective breath, waiting for the next drug arrest, the next failed stint in rehab. Downey is Sherlock Holmes and Marvel Entertainment’s $500 million man. All that earnest talk of the actor’s redemption is old news, right? So why do some crucial plot points in Iron Man 2 feel like a bizarre reimagining of Downey’s own resurrection? The film opens with Downey as billionaire genius Tony Stark reveling in rock star-style adulation for saving the world. But little do his adoring fans know, this super-powered glamour puss is literally dying inside and like any terminal fame junkie, Stark is destined to begin the dive to 'rock bottom' ... Cut to the staggering drunk Stark, lurching around his living room, wearing his Iron Man get-up like a Halloween costume, firing lasers at watermelons tossed in the air by a giggling blond. When the camera pans over to the real-life celebrity DJ AM (Adam Goldstein), who died last August of an accidental drug overdose, the movie starts to feel uncomfortably meta." (TheDailyBeast)



(image via NYSD)

"(I)n New York, just three blocks to the south, there was a new world record set for the most expensive artwork sold at auction in Christie's May 4 Impressionist and Modern Art Evening Sale which achieved a total of $335,548,000. The evening was highlighted by the runaway success of Pablo Picasso's Nude, Green Leaves and Bust from the Collection of the late Mrs. Sidney F. Brody of Los Angeles (see NYSD 4.29.10), which sold for a record $106,482,500, breaking the previous world record for any work of art sold at auction. Among the sculptures from the Brody Collection, two Giacometti bronzes, Le chat fetched $20,802,500 and Grand tete mince – the most highly prized of the artist’s busts, realized $53,282,500." (NYSocialDiary)



"Big money has always been part of the fascination with Hollywood. Two billion for 'Avatar?' A cool million an episode for the 'Friends' cast -- and almost twice that for Ray Romano on 'Everybody Loves Raymond?' Yet these huge paydays have also become a handy tool for undermining showbiz figures who dare enter the public square, allowing those who don't like their politics or causes to paint the town as out of touch -- -- classic limousine liberals who couldn't possibly understand the travails of ordinary folks. Perhaps it's happenstance -- or maybe just more pronounced juxtaposed against recessionary times -- but Hollywood's profligate ways have been very much in the news lately. Overpaid CEOs are still hauling in annual payouts north of $20 million amid layoffs and cutbacks. Charlie Sheen is creating a sitcom cliffhanger by contemplating whether to continue doing 'Two and a Half Men' for a mere $50 million. Conan O'Brien -- who left NBC with more than $30 million as a consolation prize -- received a sympathetic hug from '60 Minutes.' Then there's Haim Saban -- newly profiled in the New Yorker -- who made billions off cartoons and 'Mighty Morphin Power Rangers,' and has parlayed that wealth into an empire that includes significant philanthropic and foreign-policy influence." (Brian Lowry/Variety)



(image via nymag)

"NBC Universal CEO Jeff Zucker, the entertainment world’s ultimate politician, wants to be a politician. Not now, mind you, but sometime after he steps down from his perch atop the Peacock network, which he currently has no intention of doing. Based on cable giant Comcast’s executive maneuvers in preparation for its takeover of NBCU, however, Zucker might find himself available for the campaign trail in time for 2012 election cycle. Last week, the NBCU leader set off another round of the favorite game of the entertainment chattering classes—'When will Zucker be fired'—when he confirmed to the Washington Post that he will consider running for office in the future. That statement piggybacked previous Zucker comments on Joe Scarborough’s radio show in February about the benefits of having business leaders in government. 'I’ve been around enough campaigns to see the similarity,' Zucker told the New York Times Magazine back in 2001. 'In this job, you are beholden to your constituencies. I’ve never said this before, but I would like to run for office. Being a senator would interest me. But would I do it from New York or Florida, where I’m from? New York is impossible, and Florida has changed so much from when I was a kid, I’d have to figure that out, but politics—running for office—has always intrigued me.' Back then, a shining star climbing the ranks of NBC after serving as Katie Couric’s morning wunderkind, Zucker’s comments were little more than ideal rumination. Now, however, with his past glow faded by any number of missteps ranging from an inability to regain primetime glory to the late-night fiasco involving Jay Leno and Conan O’Brien, media observers are suggesting that his office ambitions lay the groundwork for an elegant and plausible departure from NBCU after the Comcast deal closes. (In December, Comcast inked a $37 billion deal with General Electric to form a joint venture to run NBCU.)" (Peter Lauria/TheDailyBeast)



"Buoyed by Golden Week holiday attendance in Japan, Disney’s 'Alice in Wonderland' on Tuesday became the world’s 10th highest grossing movie of all time. Reaching $928.9 million in global ticket sales, the Tim Burton-directed 3D film passed Warner/New Line’s 'The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers ($925.3 million)' to crack the top 10. To date, 'Alice' has grossed $329.8 million domestically (ranking 19th right now); it’s up to $599.1 internationally (good for 13th place)." (TheWrap)

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