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Saturday, June 26, 2010

Media-Whore D'Oeuvres



"During President Obama's trip to Canada this weekend for the G-8 and G-20 meetings on global economic reform, the real action will be taking place in his meetings with several top Asian leaders on the sidelines of the events. 'We also want to use these meetings as an opportunity to underscore America's commitment to leadership and increased engagement in Asia,' said a senior administration official about the trip. 'We see this is an opportunity to continue our efforts to renew our leadership in Asia.' Five out of the six precious bilateral meetings Obama will grant over the weekend will go to leaders from East Asian countries. After the first meeting with British Prime Minister David Cameron in Toronto, his one-on-ones will be with President Lee Myung-bak of South Korea, Chinese President Hu Jintao, President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono of Indonesia, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh of India, and the new Japanese prime minister, Naoto Kan. 'That is, I think, an eloquent demonstration of the importance that the president attaches to Asia, the importance of Asia to our political security and economic interest,' another senior administration official said." (ForeignPolicy)



"Former president Bill Clinton had such an excellent outing at Wednesday's U.S-Algeria match that he rearranged his schedule so he'll be able to get to Rustenburg for Saturday's round-of-16 showdown against Ghana. As honorary chairman of the committee that is working to bring the World Cup to the United States in 2018 or 2022, Clinton has taken on the role of chief soccer cheerleader in the high-stakes bid to win the votes of FIFA delegates from around the world ... After attending an early-morning reception with FIFA representatives to extol the merits of returning the World Cup to the United States, where it set attendance records in 1994, Clinton met with a small group of reporters to talk about why, as he put it, 'I've fallen in love with soccer at my very advanced age' ... 'I think the big issue everywhere in the world today is there are some forces bringing us together and some forces tearing us apart,' Clinton said. 'And you want the ones that are bringing us together to triumph over the ones that are tearing us apart.' In its own way, he argued, soccer does just that -- providing a constructive, entertaining and 'safe' means of working out some of the conflicts that invariably arise among competing nations and disparate cultures." (WashPo)



"When art prices fell, auction houses struggled to attract sellers. Collectors faced with death, divorce or debt—three common reasons for selling—still consigned their works for auction. But discretionary selling fell back sharply. With the memory of the record prices of 2007 still fresh in many collectors’ minds, the question they asked themselves was 'why sell if you don’t have to?' There was still plenty of money out there, though, and the best works continued to achieve high prices. The world record for a work of art sold at auction was broken in early February 2010, when a sculpture by Alberto Giacometti sold for $104.3m (including commission and taxes) at Sotheby’s in London. Three months later this record was broken again when Christie’s in New York sold the beautiful, rare 1932 Picasso from the Brody collection for $106.5m. For the very wealthiest buyers, near-zero interest rates and falling stock markets served only to increase the attraction of art as an alternative asset for their investments." (TheEconomist)



"Anything that needs microscopic analysis can benefit from HD, but people look horrible in it. How depressing. Still, I’m perplexed about why we consider luridness, shininess, wrinkliness and flawedness — to the extent that a person manifests these qualities — the features that are most deeply our own. This isn’t a vanity question or at least not entirely. It’s a question for HD that has been asked for decades about digitized music: Does digital reproduction approximate reality more exactly than earlier manual, analog and mechanical technologies? Or does digital reproduction — of sound, images and text — just introduce another aesthetic? (When it comes to HD images of celebrities, we might call it the microrealist pointillist grotesque.) If a celebrity is part shiny, in other words, she must also be part matte. Cameras that turn her more shiny don’t necessarily make her look more like herself. Or, if HD cameras simply 'bring out' the shiny side (the way bleach, some hair colorists say, 'brings out' the blond in brown hair), why can’t we invent a technology that 'brings out' our matte side? It’s also interesting that older touchstones for beauty — bone structure, say, or arrangement of features — don’t often come up in discussions of HD-era beauty. High-def assets, apparently, are not lineaments so much as coloring, tone and texture. Well-modeled beauties of earlier eras (Katharine Hepburn, Faye Dunaway, Harry Belafonte) might never have received credit for their high cheekbones and regal noses had they regularly appeared in high definition; the technology might have turned them into nothing but creases, rashes, broken capillaries, frizziness and cover-up makeup." (Virginia Hefferman)



"History serves as an excellent guide here. Take the example of Great Britain—home of the Industrial Revolution—which should be considered a cautionary tale. In the 19th Century and much of the 20th, even though the country depended on manufactured goods for its livelihood, British elite schools, financial institutions, and media all worked against 'the needs of industry' to create what historian Martin Weiner has called 'two unequal capitalist elites,' the more powerful of which had little interest in and even disdain for industrial activities. The 'best' talent, and the most social prestige, favored the financial sector over the industrial. Production was particularly looked down upon: it was 'the Cinderella of British industry.' There are also more recent examples supporting the notion that hard work and attention to the basics still matter. In the 1980s Japanese firms that were widely written off as “copycats” but eventually became primary innovators, particularly in automobiles, semiconductors, and computer games. Koreans were often then dismissed by both Americans and Japanese as unimaginative imitators; today South Korea’s electronics and car companies are surging not only in America but across the world. Now they have their gaze fixed on biotechnology and videogames. In the coming decades Chinese and Indian companies will seek to move from low-wage work to more specialized, and increasingly innovative, kinds of products—in everything from pharmaceuticals to fashion and finance. The enormous profits to be made from less 'sexy' activities –ranging from manufacturing to call center and code writing--will provide the funds to invest in both the hard infrastructure and the necessary training to move decisively into ever higher-end activities. This contempt for production underpinned the decline of Britain as a great power, and could prove disastrous in mid-21st Century America as well." (TheDailyBeast)



"Liliane Bettencourt has long shunned the limelight. The 87-year-old heiress to the L’Oréal cosmetics fortune is more at home in her plush Parisian mansion surrounded by graceful poplars and a vast park than in the gossip columns. But this week, intimate details about the life of Europe’s richest woman were slapped across the front pages of French newspapers, after a betrayal by a long-serving butler that has spiralled into a political crisis. It is not so much a question of what the butler saw, but what he heard. Over the course of a year, the butler secretly recorded private conversations in her 1930s villa, allegedly sending them to the woman Mrs Bettencourt had vowed she 'never wants to see again' – her only child, Françoise Bettencourt-Meyers, who handed over the 28 computer discs to the police. Their contents, leaked to the press, lay bare Mrs Bettencourt’s tangled relationship with her long-estranged daughter, the matriarch’s bohemian male friend on whom was lavished a Seychelles island and ($1.2 billion) in gifts – and the political connections cultivated by the custodians of her $20bn fortune that now threaten to destabilise at least part of President Nicolas Sarkozy’s crucial but controversial economic reforms." (FT)



"More good news for Pixar and Disney. As expected, Toy Story 3 tops the North American box office for the 2nd straight week. Thanks to higher 3D ticket prices and a wide release into 4,028 theaters, the toon with massive appeal did $18.5M Friday, only a 56% drop following its monster opening a week ago. It's vital to Hollywood summer grosses that so many families are having a great experience at the cineplex because of this pic. Estimates are for a $62M weekend and cume of $230M by Sunday ... Sony Pictures' Grown Ups continues Adam Sandler's near-perfect string of $40M weekend comedy openings for a strong 2nd place finish with $14.5M Friday from 3,434 locations. 'Adam has been one of the most consistently performing summer box office draws for over a decade,' one Sony exec emailed me. (But only so long as his raunchy pictures contain fart jokes.)" (NikkiFinke)

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