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Saturday, June 19, 2010

Media-Whore D'Oeuvres



(Lt. Col. Guy Jones with Hajji Abdul Jabbar via NYT)

"Lt. Col. Guy Jones, commander of the 82nd Airborne Division’s Second Battalion, 508th Parachute Infantry, is on his fourth tour of Afghanistan. The first time around, in June 2002, when he was a 31-year-old company commander, his job was to find Osama bin Laden. He still has happy memories of working alongside Gul Agha Shirzai, the local strongman in Kandahar, who may have been loathed by the people but could be counted on to deliver American war materiel to anywhere in the region for only $5,000 a truckload. Now Colonel Jones has returned to the region to fight a very different war. Based in the Arghandab District, just north of Kandahar, he and his troops are at the epicenter of the looming American showdown with the Taliban. This time, he cannot win by making common cause with warlords. He can’t even win by shooting people. 'I almost never do kinetic operations,' he said to me one night in April, using military talk for classic operations. We were sitting in an office in the Arghandab District Center — the seat of local government rather than of military operations. Just then his troops were seeking to clear insurgents from some villages to the north. 'How do you separate the enemy from the people?' asked Jones, a natural-born pedagogue much given to the rhetorical question. 'Well, one way is I can go out and just hang out there. Eventually they’ll get so frustrated that they’ll just leave. And then I know who to look for.'" (James Traub/NYTmagazine)



"For one thing, the new DreamWorks is far less ambitious. It's smaller. And for that reason, it may measure success by a more reasonable scale. With (David) Geffen retired, the studio now is short one formidable billionaire founder. (Jeffrey) Katzenberg has been gone since 2004, having taken the brand to Glendale to oversee DreamWorks Animation. Also long gone is a music label that once floated such artists as Rufus Wainwright, George Michael and Randy Newman (it was sold to Universal in 2003), as well as a film library that includes everything from 'Saving Private Ryan' to 'A Beautiful Mind.' (Paramount sold off the controlling interest to the library to a group led by George Soros for $900 million shortly after it purchased DreamWorks in 2005.)Relaunching the company last August with support from Indian media conglomerate Reliance, Spielberg now finds himself partnered with the steady, well-regarded Stacey Snider, overseeing a stable, well-regarded staff of about 80 employees who work out of his Amblin Entertainment facility on the Universal lot." (TheWrap)



"China said it will allow a more flexible yuan, signaling an end to the currency’s 23-month-old peg to the dollar a week before a Group of 20 summit. The decision to 'increase the renminbi’s exchange-rate flexibility' was made because the economy has improved, the central bank said in a statement on its website today. It added that there is no basis for 'large-scale appreciation.' The yuan’s 0.5 percent daily trading band will remain unaltered. 'China has ended its crisis-mode exchange-rate policy as the economy recovers strongly and inflationary pressure continues to build,' Li Daokui, an adviser on the People’s Bank of China’s policy board, said in an interview. 'The yuan’s future trend depends on the euro’s movement, and the trends of other major currencies.' The decision may deflect criticism of China when G-20 leaders meet on June 26-27 in Toronto and ease pressure from U.S. lawmakers, who have urged President Barack Obama to use the threat of trade sanctions to force policy change." (Bloomberg)



"Mike Bloomberg showed his continuing national influence last week when the two G.O.P. nominees in California-Meg Whitman and Carly Fiorina-'pulled a Bloomberg' and won primaries after spending a combined $100 million of their own money. The month before, wrestling billionaire Linda McMahon chased Representative Rob Simmons out of the Connecticut Republican U.S. Senate primary, with a grumpy Simmons telling The New York Times, "We understand the mathematical reality of competing against an opponent with unlimited financial resources.' Mr. Bloomberg's national ambitions are as obvious as his weary denials. I recall speaking to the lawyer tasked by the Bloomberg team in 2008 to research ballot access laws in all 50 states; he handed in his thorough work but wasn't told why the mayor never pulled the trigger. More recently, Mr. Bloomberg told a friend that he'd think about running for president as an independent in 2012 if he could break the 'political habit of voting by party.' Until then, he'll have to be satisfied with being the Berlusconi of New York-a media titan who smartly parlayed his great private wealth into great political power." (Mark Green/Observer)



"The show, much-anticipated here, has its debut Aug. 5 — and yes, it will include the publicity-hungry Salahis, Michaele and Tareq, who made headlines and landed themselves in the thick of a criminal investigation in November when they crashed the social event of the season, the Obamas’ first state dinner. But viewers expecting a glimpse of the inner lives of the politicians and power brokers who actually run this town may be in for a disappointment. Washington is, after all, a place where success depends on a certain level of discretion. And as everyone knows, discretion and reality television do not mix. 'We never envisioned that Nancy Pelosi would be a real housewife of D.C.,' said Abby Greensfelder, whose company, Half Yard Productions, created the show for Bravo. 'We didn’t do any traditional casting. It was all talking to people who knew people who knew people. That’s the way in which D.C. works. It’s a town that’s all about the proximity to power, and it operates in these concentric circles, around the White House.' It is on the outer rings of these concentric circles that the D.C. housewives exist, and they have spawned a kind of self-examination here about just what 'real' Washington is." (NYTimes)



"I am sitting on the floor, back against the wall, of a cramped, stuffy room in a Caracas hotel, waiting for Oliver Stone. There must be 25 other journalists in here – most of them local writers from Venezuela – all waiting to quiz the filmmaker about South of the Border, his new documentary on the rise of the left in Latin America and the phenomenon that is Hugo Chávez. The bright lights from the TV cameras have made the little space hot and uncomfortable but the glamorous female presenters near the stage don’t have a hair out of place. They sit smiling, straight-backed and motionless – in contrast with me, a crumpled mess who has spent the best part of 24 hours getting there. A woman who will translate for Stone is fiddling with a microphone when the director of Platoon and the upcoming sequel to Wall Street strides into the room. He is wearing a blue suit – the jacket has been tossed over his shoulder, which is wise, given the heat – a light blue shirt and a dark blue tie. He is also sporting a moustache which, together with the suit and parted mop of dark hair, gives him the rakish appearance of a character from one of Graham Greene’s Latin America novels. Stone takes the stage next to his producer, Fernando Sulichin, a slim, bald Argentine, while a silver-haired moderator who looks like a game-show host tells the reporters they can begin their questions. Reviewers have criticised the documentary for being too positive a portrait of Chávez, and Stone is on the defensive almost immediately, frowning when a young man asks him about the balance – or lack of it – in the film." (FT)



"Betty White has lived for 88 years, which, to put it graphically, equals the number of keys on a piano. This has made her recent TV hot streak — starring in a Super Bowl ad, hosting Saturday Night Live, appearing at the MTV Movie Awards and now co-starring in a new sitcom, Hot in Cleveland — unusual news in a medium that plays most of its tunes on the left half of that demographic keyboard. White's moment — like Susan Boyle's last year — is one of those feel-good stories whose subtext is the feel-bad reality that celebrity doesn't work this way." (James Poniewozik/ Time)



(Roman Abramovich via luxist)

"Between Art Basel, the Royal Ascot, and the World Cup, most of the boldfaced names have fled New York this week. Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich was naturally a fixture in Switzerland this week for the premier contemporary art fair, which gave a much-needed jolt to the floundering market. At the Design/Miami Basel show, Roman scooped up a sculpture titled 'The Unbearable Lightness' by Tomas Libertiny. He was accompanied by flawless girlfriend Dasha Zhukova, who manages to juggle a dozen jobs and causes and take care of their young son. Oh, and the couple’s got another brand-new toy—a $486 million super-yacht that he’s trying to get up to his standards ... Sweden’s Crown Princess Victoria and Daniel Westling are finally getting married this weekend, and the guest list is a worldly A-list affair. Set to attend Saturday’s wedding in Stockholm are Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands, Margrethe II of Denmark, Harald V of Norway, and Albert II of Belgium, Prince Albert of Monaco, and King Constantine of Greece, among others. The couple has been dating for eight years—and, if you’ll remember, Daniel used to be Princess Victoria’s personal trainer until his transformation into princely material." (Maria Caracciola)

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