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Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Media-Whore D'Oeuvres


"Ukraine is on the edge again today, trying to find space. It is on the edge of Russia and on the edge of Europe, its old position. What makes this position unique is that Ukraine is independent and has been so for 18 years. This is the longest period of Ukrainian independence in centuries. What is most striking about the Ukrainians is that, while they appear to value their independence, the internal debate seems to focus in part on what foreign entity they should be aligned with. People in the west want to be part of the European Union. People in the east want to be closer to the Russians. The Ukrainians want to remain independent but not simply independent. It makes for an asymmetric relationship. Many Ukrainians want to join the European Union, which as a whole is ambivalent at best about Ukraine. On the other hand, Ukraine matters as much to the Russians as it does to Ukrainians, just as it always has. Ukraine is as important to Russian national security as Scotland is to England or Texas is to the United States. In the hands of an enemy, these places would pose an existential threat to all three countries. Therefore, rumors to the contrary, neither Scotland nor Texas is going anywhere. Nor is Ukraine, if Russia has anything to do with it." (STRATFOR)


"One funny New York memory I have is meeting Peter Beard for the first time at his apartment. I’ll never forget the occasion because I had only recently moved to Manhattan to begin my freshman year at NYU, and the city was still a relatively unknown universe to me. I was with my uncle, Dirk Wittenborn, who is an old friend of Peter’s. As soon as we walked in the door, Peter poured a round of vodka and OJs, insisting that we accept the freshly cut cubes of ice he was dropping into our glasses. I felt mature for having been offered a genuine cocktail, so I drank every last sip from the bottom of my glass, including the final traces of water that had accumulated from the slow-melting ice. But no more than two minutes after I had handily polished off the beverage, Peter’s wife came marching into the room with the special ice tray in her hand. 'Peter,' she said in a state of bewilderment, 'why did you put the cat’s water bowl in the freezer?' Water bowl, I thought, there must be some misunderstanding. But there wasn’t any misunderstanding. We truly had been drinking the cat’s backwash. To this day, I’m not sure what inspired the peculiar bartending maneuver." (Jamie Johnson)


"Furthering this point, (Rex) Sorgatz explained the common creation story of a mid-2000 online celebrity. 'It was a right of passage, particularly in early New York history,' he told us all, 'To have an anonymous blog that got outed, and then the New York Times wrote about you, and then you got a job at Gawker Media'. Panel moderator Joanne McNeil picked up the opposite end of this story, 'At that time there blogs made just for your friends to look at' she explained, pointing out that only five years ago, there were bloggers who became very upset if their traffic spiked over their regular 20 visitors a day. The days where anyone thinks any area of the web is private now seem like a distant memory." (ArtCity)


"Last night the subject was definitely music. From Leviev, I ventured a few blocks south and west over to Steinway piano’s showroom on West 57th Street where another great piano virtuoso Byron Janis was having a book signing for his memoir 'Chopin and Beyond; My Extraordinary Life in Music and the Paranormal.' The Steinway showroom is a large gallery-like space with a grand piano. The last time I was there was also for a reception for Byron to celebrate his 80th birthday. Called for 6, there was a large crowd of friends and fans as well as a long line of people waiting to have their book signed. Byron was accompanied by his beautiful wife Maria." (NYSocialDiary)


"New York Sen. Chuck Schumer’s growing powers in the Democratic leadership may have given him an upper hand in an eventual race for majority leader — creating new tensions with the No. 2 Democrat, Dick Durbin of Illinois. And while neither Durbin nor Schumer — who are also Capitol Hill roommates — will talk about the power maneuvering within the Democratic Caucus, many Senate observers believe Majority Leader Harry Reid’s hand over of policy and messaging authority to Schumer was a sign that he is well-positioned to leapfrog Durbin in the race to succeed Reid. The issue is clearly a sensitive one in the upper echelons of the Democratic Caucus. 'I’m not going to get into that at all,' Durbin told POLITICO when asked whether Schumer’s stature could be enhanced by his new role. Schumer declined to comment for this story. But while Reid has publicly said that he’ll continue as majority leader for his new six-year Senate term, some of his closest allies privately question whether he’ll step aside sooner and allow Durbin and Schumer to battle it out for the top spot." (Politico)


"Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah is causing his own diplomatic drama at New York Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Medical Center, where the 86 year-old monarch has commandeered an entire wing as he recovers from back surgery on the VIP floor. King Abdullah -- who repeatedly exhorted the US to 'cut the head off the snake' by launching military strikes to destroy Iran's nuclear program, according to leaked diplomatic cables -- has forced other patients out by block-booking the hospital's top treatment and recovery rooms. A family member of one patient told us, 'The king has taken the entire luxury treatment wing and booked out all the rooms, even though they are empty and he doesn't need them, to protect his privacy. Patients are grumbling that they have been moved out to other areas of the hospital, and that despite there being a number of unused VIP treatment rooms, they can't be moved into them because they are all reserved for the king of Saudi Arabia.' The king underwent surgery for a blood clot and a slipped disc last week. Witnesses told us his security army is a visible presence both outside and inside the hospital. One law enforcement source told us that Abdullah -- who was visited in Saudi Arabia by four Cornell doctors who advised him he had to have the surgery in New York -- is a generous donor to the hospital and visited a month prior to his surgery. Abdullah arrived in town on Monday of last week with an enormous entourage. He chartered three flights to JFK, arrived with a massive security team and a film crew, and left the airport in a convoy of 40 vehicles, including 20 for luggage alone." (PageSix)

"'Meeting her and getting to know her was a real pleasant surprise,' Johnny Depp tells rock legend Patti Smith, writing for Vanity Fair, of working with Angelina Jolie on their upcoming film, The Tourist. 'You don’t know what she might be like—if she has any sense of humor at all. I was so pleased to find that she is incredibly normal, and has a wonderfully kind of dark, perverse sense of humor.' Depp tells Smith of the challenges he and his co-star faced with constant media scrutiny on set. 'Poor thing, dogged by paparazzi, her and her husband, Brad…all their kids,' Depp says of Angelina and her famous brood. 'There are times when you see how ridiculous is this life, how ludicrous it is, you know, leaving your house every morning and being followed by paparazzi.' Depp tells Smith about the difficulties that arose while filming together—having to be discreet to avoid unwarranted speculation—which included 'having to hide, sometimes not even being able to talk to each other in public because someone will take a photograph and it will be misconstrued and turned into some other shit.' Depp compares Angelina to another famous leading lady. 'I’ve had the honor and the pleasure and gift of having known Elizabeth Taylor for a number of years,' he says. 'You know, you sit down with her, she slings hash, she sits there and cusses like a sailor, and she’s hilarious. Angie’s got the same kind of thing, you know, the same approach.' On the set of the upcoming installment of Pirates of the Caribbean, Smith asks Depp what it’s like to play the iconic role of Captain Jack Sparrow. 'Somebody once asked [Hunter S. Thompson], “What is the sound of one hand clapping, Hunter?,' and he smacked him." (VanityFair)

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