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Saturday, February 26, 2011

Media-Whore D'Oeuvres


"It's hard to imagine that a Vogue editor woke up this morning and decided it wouldn't be hugely embarrassing to publish a puff piece today, at the moment of the greatest upheaval in the Middle East in two generations, about Syria's ruling family. But that appears to be exactly what happened. The article does not once mention the protests currently under way in the Middle East, including scattered evidence of demonstrations in Syria. Instead, the article focuses on Syrian first lady Asma Assad -- the 'freshest and most magnetic of first ladies,' endowed with '[d]ark-brown eyes, wavy chin-length brown hair, long neck, an energetic grace.' At a time when other Middle Eastern first ladies, notably Tunisia's Leila Trabelsi, have been the target of protesters' wrath, this may not be the wisest moment for Asma to flaunt her glamour. One can only assume that the Assads agreed to be interviewed for this piece before the current outbreak of unrest made it embarrassing for both for them, and for Vogue." (ForiegnPolicy)


"Acid monologues like this have made (Chris) Christie, only a little more than a year into his governorship, one of the most intriguing political figures in America. Hundreds of thousands of YouTube viewers linger on scenes from Christie’s town-hall meetings, like the one in which he takes apart a teacher for her histrionics. ('If what you want to do is put on a show and giggle every time I talk, then I have no interest in answering your question.') Newly elected governors — not just Republicans, Christie says, but also Democrats — call to seek his counsel on how to confront their own staggering budget deficits and intractable unions. At a recent gathering of Republican governors, Christie attracted a throng of supporters and journalists as he strode through the halls of the Hilton San Diego Bayfront Hotel like Bono at Davos. While Christie has flatly ruled out a presidential run in 2012, there is enough conjecture about the possibility that I felt moved to ask him a few weeks ago if he found it exhausting to have to constantly answer the same question. 'Listen, if you’re going to say you’re exhausted by that, you’re really taking yourself too seriously,' Christie told me, then broke into his imitation of a politician who is taking himself too seriously.  ‘Oh, Matt, please, stop asking me about whether I should be president of the United States! The leader of the free world! Please stop! I’m exhausted by the question!’ I mean, come on. If I get to that point, just slap me around, because that’s really presumptuous. What it is to me is astonishing, not exhausting.'" (NYTimes)


"Embattled Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi is set to be deserted by another close ally after his Ukrainian nurse said she was heading home. Galyna Kolotnytska, described in a diplomatic cable published by Wikileaks as a 'voluptuous blond' who 'travel[s] everywhere' with Col. Gadhafi, called her family in Kiev on Friday to say she intends to return to Ukraine, her daughter told daily Segodnya. 'Mom got in touch yesterday. She said she was now in Tripoli,' Tetyana Kolotnytska said. 'She spoke in a calm voice, asked us not to worry and said she'd soon be home.' According to the cable from September 2009, contacts in Tripoli told U.S. diplomats that Col. Gadhafi 'relies heavily' on Ms. Kolotnytska, then 38, as 'she alone 'knows his routine.' The cable also reported claims from unnamed sources that the eccentric Libyan leader and the nurse, part of a retinue of four Ukrainians, 'have a romantic relationship.' Ms. Kolotnytska's daughter said her mother had been in Libya for nine years, originally employed in a hospital before starting work for Col. Gadhafi. 'Other Ukrainian women also work for him as nurses. Mom is one of them," she said. "For some reason, he doesn't trust Libyan women with this matter.'" (WSJ)


"In October of 2009, tens of thousands of LGBT people marched on Washington, lambasting President Obama for what they saw to be a totally underwhelming agenda on gay rights. What a difference a year and a half can make. Since that time, when Andrew Sullivan loudly declared that Obama’s speech at a gay rights event was little more than '[bullshit…campaign boilerplate,' the president has signed a major hate crimes prevention act, repealed Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, refused to support the Defense of Marriage Act, and now the latest: appointed Jeremy Bernard as the first man and the first openly gay person to be the White House social secretary, replacing Julianna Smoot, who’s leaving to go work on the president’s re-election campaign. 'It’s a big week for gay rights,' said Corey Johnson, the political director for Towleroad, the influential gay blog. Further, Bernard’s ascension is a sign that neither the 'shellacking' Obama took in the mid-term elections or the crucifixion of his ex-social secretary Desiree Rogers back in 2009 are going to keep the president from making bold, occasionally eyebrow-raising choices—which in some way, Bernard is. Talk to people who know the president’s new pick and the words that come up indicate an extroverted quality that’s somewhat at odds with what’s ordinarily expected from those around Obama. Bernard, who is 49 and most recently served as the chief of staff to the U.S. Ambassador to France, is 'gregarious' and 'electric,' they say. He carries himself with 'flourish' and 'panache.' He may not cut as wide a swath as Rogers, but he’s probably closer to her than his immediate predecessor, Smoot." (TheDailyBeast)


"I haven’t got that much time left, but I’d gladly give 10 years of my life to see that homicidal maniac Gaddafi strung up from a palm tree alongside his wart-hog sons, especially Hannibal Gaddafi, an expert in imprisoning and torturing helpless servants and beating up women in posh Western hotels. What a ghastly world we live in. Gaddafi has been bullying us for 41 years, his henchmen murdering an English policewoman, killing an estimated 1,200 Libyan prisoners in cold blood back in 1996, shooting down an unarmed civilian airline, then cheering when the convicted terror-bomber is released by a spineless British government more interested in oil and gas than justice. As I watch the news of the Libyan massacres, an image of a smiling Tony Blair kissing Gaddafi’s arse keeps flashing before my eyes. If Blair had an ounce of decency left in him he would take a bottle of Chivas Regal and a pistol, write a letter of apology, and do the manly thing." (Takimag)


"It's that time of the year in Hollywood, when stars and starlets are in the market for some extra sparkle—the perfect moment, in other words, for an organization called the Diamond Information Center to do some outreach. At the dinner the promotional outfit threw last night at the Chateau Marmont in honor of Best Actress nominee Michelle Williams, unique pieces by Forevermark were on display in the dining room—and, more noticeably, on Debra Messing, Liz Goldwyn, and plenty of other guests. How much precious jewelry will Williams don for the big night? 'I can't say,' she insisted. Before the seating, the actress and a friend, Cougar Town's Busy Philipps, bantered about the time Dita Von Teese performed wearing $5 million worth of diamonds and nothing else. 'She probably gets more dates than I do,' Williams said. Philipps: 'She takes her top off a lot.' Williams: 'So do I!'" (Style)


"The fashion house Christian Dior said on Friday that it had suspended its design director, John Galliano, after he was accused of making an anti-Semitic slur during a drunken tussle at a Paris bar. John Galliano, the design director for the French fashion house Dior, was accused of making an anti-Semitic remark during a fight at a bar in Paris. Some of John Galliano’s designs were featured during Fashion Week in Paris in January. 'Christian Dior has an unequivocal zero-tolerance policy regarding anti-Semitism and racism,' the chairman and chief executive of Christian Dior Couture, Sidney Toledano, said in a statement. The statement said Mr. Galliano, 50, had been suspended pending the conclusion of a police investigation into the incident. His lawyer, Stéphane Zerbib, contested the claims on Friday. 'There was never the slightest comment of a racist or anti-Semitic connotation,' Mr. Zerbib said in a telephone interview. The police detained Mr. Galliano at La Perle, a trendy bar in the Marais district of Paris, at about 9 p.m. Thursday, a police official said. Brought to the police station for questioning on charges of 'light violent acts' and 'insults of anti-Semitic nature,' Mr. Galliano had a blood alcohol level more than twice the legal driving limit, the police official said, speaking on the condition of anonymity in keeping with police regulations." (NYTimes)


"Increasingly, it seems to me, Scott Walker's political gamesmanship is discrediting the vital cause of tackling deficits and debt in the states. It's a classic case of over-reach. And the same can be said of marriage equality in Maryland, where extreme rhetoric in the debate turned some previously anti-gay marriage legislators around. The NYT reports on the muted response of the GOP's potential presidential candidates to the Obama administration's decision not to defend Section 3 of DOMA in the courts. I don't for a minute believe that the Christianist base will be satisfied if the House decides to let sleeping gays lie, but the feeling is different now, don't you think? The genius of the Holder decision is that it forces the GOP to decide very quickly whether to double-down on this issue. It's the last thing Boehner wants to be thinking or talking about. And Obama has wisely restricted his shift to the federal government's recognition of what states have already done. In other words, Obama's decision can be viewed as a federalist one. Why, after all, should some states not have all their marriage licenses recognized by the federal government, rather than, say, 98 percent of them? Since the DOMA provision protecting every state's right to decide how to define civil marriage remains, this becomes an issue of the states versus the federal government. Which again intensifies the Republican internal conflict." (Andrew Sullivan)


"'What I love about Burgundy is the authenticity,' says Daniel Johnnes, the hyperactive, diminutive dean of American Burgundy geeks, over an omelet at the New York restaurant Balthazar. 'You meet a Burgundy grower, they're farmers, they spend half the day on their tractors. You shake their hands and they are calloused. When you meet a chateau owner in Bordeaux, his hands are smooth and he's wearing a foulard.' As generalizations go, this one is pretty accurate. Two days later, Mr. Johnnes welcomed more than 30 Burgundian winemakers for the 10th La Paulée de New York, and more than a few of them looked as if they'd just climbed off a tractor. These French farmers were received reverentially by several hundred of America's wealthiest citizens, more than a few of whom travel in private jets and chauffeured Maybachs, and all of whom had paid 1,400 bucks for dinner. Mr. Johnnes modeled his New York celebration on La Paulée de Meursault, which was founded in 1923 when vigneron Jules Lafon gathered his neighbors for a fall feast to celebrate the harvest .. He continued to invite Burgundian vignerons to meet American oenophiles at Montrachet, and in 2000 he launched La Paulée de New York, an event that has become an institution in the wine world, the annual gathering of American Burgundy Nuts. When I say 'nuts,' I'm being kind. You have to be more than a little mad, and more than a bit of a masochist, to love Burgundy. Burgundy is a fickle and unreliable lover. It's the source of more heartbreak than country music radio." (Jay McInerney)


"A week ago, James Franco joined Twitter. He has since racked up over 150,000 followers. Besides being kept up to date on the 127 Hours star’s whereabouts—'I’m on my way to a meeting with one of my favorite artists, Richard Prince,' was one tweet—Franco’s acolytes have been treated to teasers for this Sunday’s Academy Awards ceremony, which Franco is co-hosting with Anne Hathaway. On Thursday, Franco linked to YouTube footage of the co-hosts performing a Grease-inspired dance number, which will presumably be featured on the ABC telecast. And earlier in the week, he posted an 'omitted oscar song': an audio recording of him warbling tunelessly through the Cher belter 'You Haven’t Seen the Last of Me,' from the film Burlesque. The Academy has long struggled with the dilemma of how to draw a younger, hipper audience to the ratings-challenged Oscars, with every year bringing new ploys: A John Hughes tribute! Bringing in the Twilight cast to present awards! Chris Rock as host! Cutting out musical numbers! The decision by this year’s Oscar producers Bruce Cohen and Don Mischer to hire Franco and Hathaway—the youngest hosts in the history of Oscar—was itself a drastic act in the progressive slouch toward a cooler, more populist Academy Awards." (SexyBeast)


"Photographer, one-time frequent PAPER contributor and Londoner-turned New Yorker Janette Beckman will be opening a fascinating exhibit, 'Catch The Beat: The Roots of Punk & Hip Hop' on March 11th at the Morrison Hotel Gallery. The show documents the excitingly innovative hip-hop and punk movements that grew out of New York City and London in the the '70s, '80s and '90s. The exhibit is also a collaboration between Beckman and fellow photograher David Corio, documents the trailblazers of both genres and features portraits of everyone from Afrika Bambaataa to the Clash to Tom Waits. We wouldn't be surprised to find a few images that originally ran in PAPER included in the show and we can't wait to take a spin through her instillation." (Papermag)



"Justin Wohlstadter navigated easily through the crush of long-legged beauties and laptop jockeys crowding the lobby of the Ace Hotel on a chilly Thursday night. His informal office when he’s not in the U.K. doing postgraduate work at Oxford, the wood-paneled bar is also his hunting ground for tech deals to fund as director of the investment company Penny Black, named for the world’s first prepaid adhesive stamp—'a game changing idea,' as the Web site describes it. 'There is a pretty small group of us, really young guys, who are in the fortunate position to be making investments in tech,' Mr. Wohlstadter said, grabbing a seat in an oversize armchair. Ivy League handsome in a white Oxford shirt unbuttoned a few notches below the neck, he bounced his smart phone from palm to palm, flagged down the waitress and ordered a Brooklyn Lager. 'What do you think of Hashable?' Mr. Wohlstadter wondered, name-checking one of his investments. The Observer related our score on the application, which gives users a way to track meetings and awards points for each connection. 'Oh, man,' Mr. Wohlstadter laughed. 'You need to get out more.' Mr. Wohlstadter, 23, began funding entrepreneurs a year and half ago—just a few weeks after graduating from Harvard." (Observer)


"There’s a moment in Julie Taymor’s gender-bent film of The Tempest when Helen Mirren seems to come down hard on “actors”. Briskly dismissing the masque summoned for the entertainment of the betrothed Ferdinand and her virginal daughter Miranda, 'Prospera', the enchantress, gently but firmly disenchants. 'Our revels now are ended. These our actors,/ As I foretold you, were all spirits and/ Are melted into air, into thin air …' It’s a famous speech, often read as a valediction in Shakespeare’s last play; the Bard, as it were, flicking the house lights on and off to boot out the late-night groundlings. Mirren delivers the lines in a tone of benevolent clarity, as if breaking it to her innocent daughter that Santa isn’t actually up there with the elves. In the London hotel drawing room where we’re talking, her mother’s mink collar wound round her neck, a slash of scarlet lipstick on her mouth, Mirren is warming up the bone-slicing cold with the sparks of her merry, articulate intelligence. I tell her, in case she hadn’t done it consciously, that she lingeringly enunciates 'actors' with a curl of the lip. She breaks into one of her salty, estuary-girl laughs and says, 'Oh, really? I didn’t mean to insult actors. I love actors and the whole process of acting.' You believe her because she’s a performer who reflects nonstop about what she’s doing, on stage, film or television, yet without ever burdening her delivery with over-considered attitude. When I saw Gielgud do Prospero at the Old Vic in the 1970s, the great man wandered about the stage in a state of vague irritability, vocalising the 'cloud-capp’d towers, the gorgeous palaces,' as an inward, sombre meditation on the illusion-chamber of the theatre itself. But Mirren’s delivery is blade-sharp steel to Gielgud’s tarnished silver." (Simon Schama/FT)


"With a stunning Brazilian girlfriend on his arm, you'd think Ronnie Wood would make a bit of an effort. But last night the ageing rocker looked every inch his 63 years as he dined out with 31-year-old girlfriend Ana Araujo at C restaurant in London. The Rolling Stone didn't do himself any favours either as he wrapped up warm in a granddad-style cardigan-cum-coat decorated with a bizarre Inca-style design. With his collar turned up, the star appeared totally at odds with girlfriend Ana's effortless chic. Frail-looking Ronnie looked a little unsteady on feet as he accepted a helping hand from a doorman as he stepped into a waiting cab as Ana looked on from behind." (TheMirror)

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