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Saturday, December 18, 2010

Media-Whore D'Oeuvres


"Bernie Madoff looked 'like someone had shot him in the stomach' after he got word that his eldest son had committed suicide, a recent inmate at the federal lockup here told The Post yesterday. 'He was crying, and he was very distraught,' the ex-con said. 'No one was messing with him. They knew what had happened'...Madoff, like his fellow jailbirds, was stunned when the intercom crackled, Inmate Madoff, report to the chapel. 'That's when everybody knew that something was going on. Every time there's a death of a relative, you have to report to the chapel,' the former inmate said ... At the lockup, inmates initially thought Bernie's call to the chapel involved his wife, Ruth. 'Everyone was speculating that someone might have killed his wife,' the ex-con said. After his sobbing return to his cell, Madoff went into a self-imposed exile for two days, the ex-con said. 'He didn't come out of his cell. He didn't even go to the chow hall,' he said. 'He didn't talk to anyone for a couple of days.' 'Two of his pals [in his prison clique] gave him their sympathy, but there was nothing else they could do,' he added. At this prison, inmates refer to their various cliques as 'cars,' the ex-con noted. Madoff, he said, belongs to the 'New York car' -- inmates all tried and sentenced in New York. 'These are the guys he hangs out with, walks along an outside track with and plays boccie with,' the ex-con said." (NYPost)


"Last weekend I was in Abu Dhabi, where I teach a class on U.S. foreign policy, and I was asked to do a Q&A on the Barack Obama administration's Middle East policy. Preparing myself, I knew what I wanted to say about Iran, and Iraq, and elections in Egypt. But I was flummoxed on the 'peace process.' The process had just ground to a halt with the administration's decision to abandon the mortifying effort to bribe Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu into adopting the very modest gesture of a 90-day freeze on settlements. I always try to challenge my audience's assumptions. But if my Emirati listeners felt that Israeli intransigence had driven the Palestinians to despair of the possibility of a two-state solution, I had nothing to say in response -- except that internal Palestinian divisions had made the problem worse. It was a friendly audience -- this was Abu Dhabi, not Cairo. But afterward I was asked, 'How can President Obama permit this? Can't he put pressure on the Israelis?' I thought: What's the right answer to this question? Is it: 'He tried, but not hard enough, and then he gave up'? Or is it: 'No, like in Afghanistan and Iraq, he's found that he has less leverage than he thought'?  You can make a reasonable argument that Obama has done about as well as he could with the hand he was dealt in Iran, in Iraq, and even in Afghanistan (though this last case has become harder and harder to make). You can't make this argument in regard to the peace process, where the administration has in effect admitted defeat, giving up hope for promoting direct talks between the two sides in favor of 'parallel' talks, with an American mediator shuttling back and forth between capitals." (James Traub)




"Rachel Maddow may be one of the most prominent and outspoken liberals in the US but let no one accuse her of being a lily-livered pinko-vegetarian. 'I’ll have the offal and the whiskey drinks,' chortles Maddow, host of an eponymous show on the left-leaning MSNBC cable news channel, as we go through the menu at the Breslin Bar & Dining Room. She chose this venue, a trendy restaurant in New York’s Chelsea neighbourhood frequented by young hipsters with ironic haircuts for a late supper after her 9pm broadcast. It is, according to the restaurant, renowned for its 'meat-intense programme', which explains why the bar area is lined with pig statues and the waiters wear T-shirts showing outlines of the various animals available for consumption. The menu features sweetbreads, beef tongue and pig’s foot for two. When she arrives at 10.30pm, Maddow is delayed several times by friends and fans as she works her way through the crowd to the dark wooden booth where I am trying to knock back a cup of coffee in the hope of remaining interview-alert at midnight." (FT)


"Adding a store opening to the party schedule this time of year is like putting a fat man down a chimney—it's a bit of a squeeze. But that didn't stop AllSaints from christening its new shop in the Meatpacking District last night. The rapidly expanding U.K. brand got some help from Tanteo tequila and Florence and the Machine's scarlet-maned front woman, Florence Welch, who closed the bash with a very danceable DJ set. Formerly the home of an art foundation, the 8,000-square-foot space is now outfitted with Turkish looms and shelves upon shelves of Singer sewing machines—and, this night at least, catwalkers like Alek Wek and Coco Young. What's on Maryna Linchuk's holiday wish list? 'Just my boyfriend and my family happy—and some diamonds. I got a new piercing in my ear, so I need some,' she said, adding that she'll be leaving the catwalk herd to spend New Year's in Brazil with her beau. 'Kate Moss, everybody else is going to Tulum,' she noted. 'It's model central.'" (Style)


"On December 16, 2002, VH1 aired the first segment: I Love 1980. This American interpretation of the BBC show (which itself started with I Love the 70s), had segments on Airplane!, The Empire Strikes Back (isn’t it weird that those two films came out in the same year?), Rapper’s Delight, and Gloria Vanderbilt jeans, among other pop culture semi-relics. There were also recurring segments where celebrities like Bret Michaels and Lionel Richie would present 'Babes' and 'Makeout Songs' of each year. It was genius and a huge hit for a network desperate for one.  Repeats of the 80s series aired constantly. Soon they backtracked to the 70s, then the 80s struck back, then the 90s came, and so on. It was also a huge hit in my household, particularly during those dreaded post-dinner hours when it wasn’t baseball season and Seinfeld wasn’t on. Before long, I was picking up factoids I wouldn’t have otherwise known about Square Pegs and Rob Lowe’s sex tape, thanks to the not-at-all prepared, supposedly off-the-cuff remarks made by Hal Sparks, Michael Ian Black, Third Eye Blind’s Stephan Jenkins, that blonde woman with the glasses and other semi-celebrities. Wikipedia was founded in 2001, but only grew to two-million articles by 2007, so, VH1, with both I Love the Whatevers and Behind the Music, served in its stead." (TheAwl)


"As is typical for this time of year, holiday break-ups abound. The latest to say 'I don’t' are Elizabeth Hurley and husband of three years, Arun Nayar. After a tabloid ran photos of her overnight trip at an Australian cricket player’s house, Hurley was forced to do a 'walk of shame' tweet, saying, 'Our close family and friends were aware of [our split].' They probably weren’t aware of the new boyfriend, but that’s what News of the World is for." (Maria Carraciola)


"President Obama invoked Ronald Reagan and other past GOP leaders in a final push Saturday to win Republican votes for the New START nuclear arms treaty. enate ratification of the treaty would give Obama his second major bipartisan achievement of the lame-duck and allow him to regain footing after the midterm elections that he described as a 'hellacking.' ama touted his recent work with congressional Republican leaders to pass an $858 billion tax relief and unemployment benefits package. Before going away for the holiday break, I’m hopeful we can also come together on another urgent national priority – and that is, the new START treaty that will reduce the world’s nuclear arsenals and make America more secure,' Obama said in a weekly address delivered Saturday. Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman John Kerry (D-Mass.) said this week the treaty must be ratified in the lame-duck session or it would have to undergo months of new hearings and review in the 112th Congress. Sen. Jon Kyl (Ariz.), the lead Republican critic of the treaty, has said repeatedly that there is not enough time in the post-election legislative session to give START adequate consideration. But Obama warned against waiting. 'Further delay comes at a cost,' he said. 'Every minute we drag our feet is a minute that we have no inspectors on the ground at those Russian nuclear sites.'" (Alexander Bolton)


"The Friars Club roast of Quentin Tarantino at the Hilton started with some hilarious jokes, like a four-dollar coat-check fee and salad with no dressing. But things picked up with an onslaught of swipes at Tarantino’s looks and oeuvre—though it seemed like absent Pulp Fiction star John Travolta was an even bigger target, so to speak. No fewer than four roasters lobbed cracks about Travolta’s sexuality, Rob Schneider noting, 'He was going to fly here, but he was having trouble with his cockpit—and by that, I mean his asshole.' Kathy Griffin frantically made visual quote marks when declaring that Travolta was busily engaged with his 'normal' family. But the hilarious Whitney Cummings went completely off topic and took aim at Griffin’s obsession with Ryan Seacrest, saying, 'The only thing that’s spent more time on Ryan is semen.' It was Tarantino himself, of course, who restored some dignity to the proceedings by toasting another Pulp Fiction star, the event’s roastmaster, Samuel L. Jackson. Quipped the auteur, 'You’re the only big black man in Hollywood that Tyler Perry doesn’t want to fuck.'" (the gloriously raunchy Michael Musto)


"Shortly before his party’s crushing defeat in last November’s elections, President Obama ruminated about why he and his policies had become so unpopular and offered the following thought. 'The reason that our politics seems so tough right now, and facts and science and argument does not seem to be winning the day all the time, is because we’re hard-wired not to always think clearly when we’re scared.' On another occasion, admitting that his administration 'probably spent much more time trying to get the policy right than trying to get the politics right,' he concluded that “anybody who’s occupied this office has to remember that success is determined by an intersection in policy and politics and that you can’t be neglecting of marketing and P.R.' If this is the way the president and his party think about human psychology, it’s little wonder they’ve taken such a beating. Their assumption seems to be that we are basically rational creatures who, left to our own devices, have little trouble discerning what our interests are and how to serve them. It’s only when our passions get the better of us, when we are angry or fearful or exuberant, that we make bad decisions. That’s really what’s the matter with Kansas, and with the Tea Party activists. So the administration has to work harder to 'get the message out' and 'sell' its program; to calm people it needs to give them clearer, more complete and more attractively packaged information about how it is working in their interests. Bring in the pie charts, by all means, but print them on glossier paper. The wisdom of this approach depends on whether the underlying assumption about human nature is right. But is it?" (Mark Lilla)


"Remember those bombshell allegations of physical and emotional abuse on the set of Desperate Housewives that Nicollette Sheridan lobbed at ABC and the show's creator Marc Cherry in April?  Well, now the actress has agreed to drop the most explosive claims in her $20 million lawsuit against the network and Cherry. In a joint stipulation filed Friday in Los Angeles Superior Court, Sheridan drops her claim for intentional infliction of emotional distress and agrees she won't assert any claim for emotional or physical damages. In exchange, she won't have to submit to a mental or physical examination. Nice move, ABC. So what's left in the lawsuit? Sheridan, who sued ABC, Cherry and Touchstone Television in response to her being kicked off the show, allged assault and battery, wrongful termination and sex and gender discrimination. She can still proceed with the case, but her damages could be severely limited. On the bright side, at least she doesn't have to submit to a psychiatric evaluation." (TheHollywoodreporter)


"A few years ago, when I was still teaching at the University of Chicago, I had my first Chinese graduate students, a couple of earnest Beijingers who had come to the Committee on Social Thought hoping to bump into the ghost of Leo Strauss, the German-Jewish political philosopher who established his career at the university. Given the mute deference they were accustomed to giving their professors, it was hard to make out just what these young men were looking for, in Chicago or Strauss. They attended courses and worked diligently, but otherwise kept to themselves. They were in but not of Hyde Park. At the end of their first year, I called one of them into my office to offer a little advice. He was obviously thoughtful and serious, and was already well known in Beijing intellectual circles for his writings and his translations of Western books in sociology and philosophy into Chinese. But his inability to express himself in written or spoken English had frustrated us both in a course of mine he had just taken. I began asking about his summer plans, eventually steering the conversation to the subject of English immersion programs, which I suggested he look into. 'Why?' he asked. A little flummoxed, I said the obvious thing: that mastering English would allow him to engage with foreign scholars and advance his career at home. He smiled in a slightly patronizing way and said, 'I am not so sure.' Now fully flummoxed, I asked what he would be doing instead. 'Oh, I will do language, but Latin, not English.' It was my turn to ask why. 'I think it very important we study Romans, not just Greeks. Romans built an empire over many centuries. We must learn from them.' When he left, it was clear that I was being dismissed, not him." (TheNewRepublic)


"If everybody like me is getting on or off a plane, then who's at the movies this weekend? This is why, between shopping and travelling, the last full weekend before Christmas is traditionally a lousy time for North American grosses. 'They're not rushing out to see movies. What you tend to forget, going into this weekend, is that the pool of people who are available, and don’t have a lot of commitments on their time in terms of parties and presents and vacations, is small,' a studio mogul explains to me. here's the top 10" (Deadline)


"Busy week, right? You probably missed some stuff that happened in the world of comedy! No worries, it happens. Lemme help catch you up, because you'll probably want to know about a lot of this. -Paul Feig's Bridesmaids is getting some seriously good buzz out of preview screenings. -Justin Timberlake has been making noise about wanting to join the cast of SNL for a year, which would be pretty crazy. -Jon Stewart presses hard for the bill to provide health benefits to 9/11 first responders. -Here's the first full trailer for Simon Pegg and Nick Frost's Paul. -We talked to writer Eric Drysdale about writing for The Daily Show and developing The Colbert Report -The Golden Globe nominations were announced, and they are an absolute joke." (Splitsider)


"The surprise reconciliation of the billionaire L’OrĂ©al heiress Liliane Bettencourt and her only daughter this month has been variously characterized in epic terms: a fairy tale, 'A Christmas Carol,' and a French version of 'Dallas,' the television drama of family intrigue and power struggles. The peace taking hold along their leafy street of mansions in Neuilly-sur-Seine, on the edge of Paris, does draw inspiration from Charles Dickens, who mused that December is when people 'open their shut-up hearts freely.' But the thaw in mother-daughter relations was also provoked by practical reality: severe litigation fatigue, where billions were potentially at stake. 'This is a sad story, which ends happily,' said Pascal Wilhelm, a lawyer for Mrs. Bettencourt, France’s richest woman. “Maybe fairy tale is too strong a term or maybe I am naive and I still have a child’s mind. But how do you explain that in a few weeks we go from a tough war to a great family reunion. I can tell you that they have had many occasions to see each other for the last 10 days. They speak. They always wanted to speak, but everything around them created barriers.” (NYTimes)

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