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Saturday, September 25, 2010

Media-Whore D'Oeuvres



"The sun slanting through the open sash windows, the cool white blinds and tablecloths stirred by the gentle breeze, the whitewashed walls and the pale wooden floorboards make Carlota seem as though it might be in one of Brazil’s torrid, northern plantation provinces – or on some hilltop in the south of France. In fact, the restaurant is on the edge of Higienópolis, a hilly residential neighbourhood in bustling São Paulo, the largest metropolis in the Americas. It is also the preferred local of Fernando Henrique Cardoso, the former Marxist intellectual colloquially known as FHC, who went on to slay hyperinflation and then twice became president of Brazil, from 1995 to 2002. Few people can claim to have been a philosopher king, let alone to have put the “B” in Bric – the now commonplace acronym, coined in 2001 by Goldman Sachs’ chief economist, that groups Brazil, Russia, India and China. And, although both the world and Brazil have fallen in love with FHC’s successor, President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, Cardoso is the man widely credited, at least abroad, with laying the foundations for a boom that has caught many off guard both by its speed and where it has come from. I am a quarter of an hour early for lunch: São Paulo’s chaotic traffic is famously unpredictable. It is hard mentally to grasp a city of this size – the second biggest in the world, by some counts, with a greater urban population of about 20m. It is even harder to grasp the vastness of Brazil and the surrounding continent. I remembered a previous time I’d met Cardoso, in this same restaurant, when he had told me how, occasionally, he would exploit that vastness to get away from the strictures and stresses of being president. He’d board a single-engine water plane, be flown several hours over jangled treetops that looked like broccoli, and land at a remote fishing spot in an upper tributary of the Amazon. There he would wile away a couple of days in swimming shorts, meditatively gazing at the water with just a rod, his wife Ruth and a single security man for company." (FT)



"I’ve always thought the real way to catch a racist, which is also the name of a television show I’ve been pitching, is to tell a funny race joke and see who the last white person to stop laughing is. It’s always the dude laughing five seconds too long you have to worry about. From that initial thought sprung a whole way of thinking about race and humor in the same breath. That and also this one time in high school I had a teacher who was supposed to teach us about how racism is bad but instead handed out pages of hilarious race jokes me and my like-minded also-colored friends would repeat for the rest of our lives. It’s a delicate thing, walking the tight rope of humor and racial sensitivity. I went into NBC’s Outsourced thinking it would be one seemingly Russel Peters-penned accent joke after another. Although rather than being offended on the grounds of racial insensitivity, I was more offended by how unfunny the show was. I almost hoped it would get progressively more offensive solely so I could have a laugh. I think it’s safe to say I was asking for too much when the writers had to name a central character Manmeet just to get a good old fashioned American cock joke in. Besides, Hardik is such a better Indian name for that joke anyway. Outsourced is NBC’s new sit-com based on 2006’s film of the same name. The big lesson you’ll learn from the movie, apparently, is that India’s not so bad. Thanks!" (Stereogum)



"Imagine if the U.S. government only controlled a few blocks on either side of the White House, or if French troops securing the Élysée Palace were afraid to march down the Rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoré. It's a good bet your government is in trouble when it doesn't even control the district where the presidential palace is located. Welcome to Somalia. In the capital city of Mogadishu, the government is literally fighting for its life. We all know the story: Somalia is the world's biggest no-go zone. The country's internationally supported government wouldn't last through the night were it not for a 7,000-strong African Union peacekeeping force that protects them, and civilian toll of the last two decades of conflict been catastrophic -- a quarter of the population has been uprooted by violence. In recent months, the story has gotten even worse thanks to two main Islamist militia groups, al-Shabab and Hizbul al-Islam, which control much of the country. Al Shabab professes allegiance to al Qaeda and should not be taken lightly: The group claimed responsibility for bombing two Ugandan restaurants packed with spectators watching the World Cup this summer. " (Foreign Policy)

"You could spend your life around political campaigns and never see a celebration quite like the one Linda McMahon held last month after Connecticut Republicans made her their Senate candidate in a three-way primary. McMahon is the fabulously wealthy founder (along with her high-school sweetheart and husband, Vince) of World Wrestling Entertainment, a company the McMahons transformed into a sort of Disney for the age of postindustrial American anger. Unknown to Connecticut voters before she began her run, she spent more than $20 million of her own fortune to beat out two Republican candidates — one of them recruited by the national party — for the right to square off this November against Richard Blumenthal, the state’s longtime Democratic attorney general, in a contest to succeed Christopher Dodd, who is retiring. The first thing I noticed when I wandered into McMahon’s victory party, at a Crowne Plaza Hotel south of Hartford, was the lavish spread — not the usual weenies and plastic cups, but warm pasta and flaky pastries and drinks from an open bar, all of it consumed by supporters carting free 'Linda' tote bags and T-shirts. The second thing was the vintage 1980s soundtrack, which included decidedly unpolitical tracks like the AC/DC classic 'You Shook Me All Night Long.'" (NYTimes)



"Bill Cunningham, as just about everyone in the fashion world knows, crisscrosses Manhattan on his bike, shooting stylish people on the streets by day and on the social circuit by night. But the 81-year-old New York Times photographer and his trademark blue smock were nowhere in evidence last night at the Tribeca Grand, where MAC hosted a screening of Bill Cunningham New York, a documentary directed by Richard Press that offers an unprecedented view of the famously devoted and solitary—not to mentioned beloved—examiner of the way we dress. 'He doesn't like being praised,' Paper magazine editor Kim Hastreiter explained before the screening. When the film played at MoMA in March, she added, "he wouldn't come in. He only shot the people arriving. He's a true indie." (He's also a true friend of Hastreiter's, having turned her from a Madison Avenue shopgirl into a magazine editor when he helped get her a job at The SoHo News in 1978.) Maria Cornejo, Terence Koh, Prabal Gurung, and a handful of other 'kids,' as Cunningham would have affectionately called them, came by for a cocktail and a peek at the flick, which opens in March." (Style)



"One day last month, I spoke with a medical student in Srinagar, the summer capital of the Indian-administered state of Jammu and Kashmir. 'We have seen enough of India,' the twenty-something-year-old told me. 'We don't want to put up with the oppression anymore. We want freedom.' He proudly claimed to be one of Kashmir's so-called stone pelters -- protesters who aim large rocks at the Indian security forces that have been trying to put down a resurgent wave of demonstrations in Kashmir. 'We are peaceful protesters,' he said. 'We only throw stones if they stop us.' And if they catch a policeman alone, he said, they beat him up. 'But we don't kill him,' his friend piped up. 'We have beaten up a few, but not a single policeman has been killed.' Just then, a third Kashmiri youth, silent until now, spoke up: 'It is only self-defense. It is in response to their provocation. Our stones for their bullets.' Since the protests first erupted in June, after the police killed a teenager in Srinagar, demonstrations in Srinagar and other towns in the Muslim-majority Kashmir Valley have become almost a daily occurrence. Crowds of young men in their late teens or early twenties are summoned by separatist leaders or by cryptic phone messages that contain invitations to 'picnics.'" (Foreign Affairs)



"Chalk two up for the underdogs. True, full 52-week season rankings are pretty meaningless because they include the summer off-season numbers that are dragged down by repeats. But Nielsen keeps track of them and just released the data for the official 2009-2010 season which ended Sunday. So Judge Judy topped Oprah in daytime. And ABC's Nightline beat both CBS' The Late Show With David Letterman and NBC's The Tonight Show which switched hosts mid-season. Judy Sheindlin averaged 6.3 million viewers to Oprah Winfrey's 5.7 million, but Oprah's average includes far more repeats. Ditto for Leno/Conan and especially Letterman against Nightline, which was almost always first-run. Still, this is the first full season victory for Nightline, which averaged 3.7 million viewers, followed by The Late Show (3.6 millon) and The Tonight Show (3.5 million). But in demos, which actually matter, The Tonight Show was No. 1." (Deadline)

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