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Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Media-Whore D'Oeuvres


"As I was trolling through coverage of the Japanese earthquake disaster, I came across a revealing vox pop. A man named Takayuki Sato was talking to Reuters in Fukushima, the town that's home to the nuclear power plant damaged by the quake and the ensuing tsunami. 'What they're saying on the news is that even if you're exposed, it's only about one-fourth of the level of getting a stomach X-ray,' said Sato. 'If it was really bad, I don't think they would cover it, so I guess it will probably be all right.' Let's parse that for a second. Sato was saying that he was reassured that the problems at the stricken reactors aren't all that bad because the government doled out a teaspoon of information -- whereas a total blackout would mean that something really scary is going on. Doesn't exactly sound like a vote of confidence in the Japanese government or media, does it?  What's more, I suspect that Sato, in his pronounced skepticism, is actually speaking for most his compatriots. (This assumption is based on my own experience as a foreign correspondent in Japan, where I lived from 2004 to 2009.) That ordinary Japanese citizens might have grounds to question official utterances was borne out early in this latest nuclear crisis. The first explosion at the Fukushima Daiichi power plant occurred at 3:46 p.m. on Saturday, March 12, but Japan's government didn't officially confirm the event for another two hours. And it was only five hours after the explosion that Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano finally announced that the containment vessel remained intact and that a major release of radioactive material had been avoided -- not that he provided much in the way of concrete data. That prompted a spike of criticism in the media." (ForeignPolicy)


"'Drugs' is the first word Charlie Sheen utters in his only scene from Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, a cinematic relic from 1986. It takes place in a police station where Jeannie Bueller (Jennifer Grey), waiting to get bailed out by her mom and fuming about brother Ferris’s charmingly anarchic ways (he breaks all the rules and is happy; she follows all the rules and is unhappy), realizes she’s sitting next to a gorgeous (he was!) sullen-eyed dude in a leather jacket who looks like he’s been up for days on a drug binge. But he’s not manic, just tired and sexily calm, his face so pale it’s almost violet-hued. Annoyed, Jeannie asks, 'Why are you here?' and Charlie, deadpan, replies, without regret: 'Drugs.' And then he slowly disarms her bitchiness with his outrageously sexy insouciance, transforming her annoyance into delight (they end up making out). That’s when we first really noticed Sheen, and it’s the key moment in his movie career (it now sums up everything that followed). He hasn’t been as entertaining since. Until now. In getting himself fired from his hit TV show Two and a Half Men, this privileged child of the media’s sprawling entertainment Empire has now become its most gifted ridiculer. Sheen has embraced post-Empire, making his bid to explain to all of us what celebrity now means. Whether you like it or not is beside the point. It’s where we are, babe." (Brett Easton Ellis)



"Handsome Euan Rellie is one of The AVENUEinsiders absolute favorite people on the planet. So when we were invited to a dinner for his 43rd birthday (even though he looks younger than 33) we were there in a heartbeat. Confession: The AVENUEinsider has an equally major crush on Rellie’s beautiful wife Lucy Sykes Rellie – doubling our pleasure. Held at hot new UES restaurant Desmonds (run by the handsome Richard O’Hagan, the sleek restaurant was a Euan-o-rama. We ran into Vanessa von Bismarck and husband Max Weiner, Boykin Currie and Celerie Kemble, Mickey Boardman, Lana Ogilvie, Grant Hailey, Deborah Sankey, Douglas Hand, Kim Vernon, Jim Shi, Jeffrey Podolsky and Milly de Cabrol, Nathaniel Kramer, Rett Wallace, Pamela Berkovic, Kristian LaLiberte and dapper dude Tyler Thoreson. The Rellies are true Brits and British dinners are always a bit more amusingly naughty than American evenings. Before dinner even started, a random man at the bar insisted on licking the very fashionable heels of Ann Caruso – who after wondering who the guy was (he was not a dinner guest) caught all the action on her Blackberry." (AVENUEInsider)



"If you've been ambling around Austin these past few days, you might have noticed a massive neon sign that reads "CNN Grill SXSW." It's pretty hard to miss. Illuminating the downtown sky, it's a circular diner-style sign that rotates slowly promising some great things inside. And if you're lucky enough to have access (you mostly have to know someone or be press, but we bet if you're convincing enough, you can get yourself a day pass) you'll be greeted to a converted wine bar that now hosts chef Danny Meyer's Union Square Hospitality Group serving up delicious Austin-flavored food for free, all day long. On top of that, the place is outfitted with so many screens your eyes might bleed -- all broadcasting CNN, so you can step out of the hot Austin air and catch up on your news. Outlets line every table, for those who have to recharge at every pit stop ... You also might see some celebs floating around the joint -- we caught Conan O' Brien on his way out. As if perfectly on cue, the entire restaurant blew a fuse." (Papermag)


"Two nights after playing to a capacity crowd at the unveiling of the new Mondrian Hotel Soho, The Kills took to the stage of famed downtown dive Don Hill’s intent on tearing the roof off the place, sponsored by Deleon Tequila. A longtime favorite of the fashion set, duo Jamie Hince and Alison Mosshart have all but officially broken into the mainstream, thanks in part to Hince’s recent engagement to Kate Moss and Mosshart’s collaboration with Jack White on The Dead Weather. This was evident from the show’s attendance: Debbie Harry, Nick Zinner, Behati Prinsloo, Coco Rocha, designers Richard Chai and Jeff Halmos, Waris Ahluwalia, Jamie Burke, Adam Green, Alexandra Richards, Boardwalk Empire’s Jack Huston and Aleksa Palladino, Rose Byrne, and Flight of the Concords’s Jermaine Clement all braved the pit for the stylized rock grit. Aaron Stern was on-hand to photograph the leopard-printed action." (VMagazine)


"In New York last night, at the David H. Koch Theater at Lincoln Center, it was also the School of American Ballet’s annual Winter Ball. This year’s Chairs were Pamela Joyner and Alfred J. Giuffrida; Marissa Mayer and Zachary Bogue, Elizabeth Miller and James Dinan and Betsy and Rob Pitts ... Honorary Chairs (and emcees) were New York’s on-air media couple, Deborah Roberts and Al Roker." (NYSocialDiary)


"Sen. Jim Webb’s announcement in early February that he would not seek a second term wasn’t exactly a shocker. Democrats always knew that since Webb isn’t your typical Senator, he might not behave as others have and that they needed a Plan B. For many, Tim Kaine has remained Plans B, C and D ever since Webb announced his plans. They think that the former Virginia governor is the only Democrat with the statewide name identification, fundraising ability and stature to hold the open seat next year. So just two years after Barack Obama carried Virginia and the state was proclaimed as turning blue, or at least purple, Democrats in the Old Dominion seem apoplectic about the paucity of choices that they have for candidates next year. They may be correct about Kaine’s potential given the Commonwealth’s thin Democratic bench, but it’s far from clear that the former governor is still the political powerhouse that he once was, or that some apparently assume he still is." (Stuart Rothenberg)


"Exiled Libyans with connections to Al Qaeda are racing to find ways to send people home, in hope of steering the anti-Gaddafi revolt in a radical Islamist direction, according to several senior Afghan Taliban sources in contact with Al-Qaeda. 'This rebellion is the fresh breeze they’ve been waiting years for,' says an Afghan Taliban operative who helps facilitate the movement of Al Qaeda militants between the tribal area and Pakistani cities. 'Some say they are ready to go back at this critical moment.' The operative, who has just returned from Pakistan’s lawless tribal area on the Afghanistan border, adds: 'They realize that if they don’t use this opportunity, it could be the end of their chances to turn Libya toward a real Islamic state, as Afghanistan once was.' So far, Muammar Qaddafi’s clumsy efforts to blame Al Qaeda for the popular uprising against his dictatorship would be a joke, if only he weren’t using that claim as an excuse for mowing down so many Libyans. In fact, it’s been many years since Libya has seen significant numbers of radical Islamists—or any other organized opposition, for that matter. Nearly all have been killed, locked up or chased into exile years ago by the regime’s secret police and security forces. Although the country’s most feared insurgent entity, the Al Qaeda-affiliated Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (known in Arabic as Al-Jama’a al-Islamiyah al-Muqatilah bi-Libya), has been seeking to topple Gaddafi since the early 1990s, it’s unlikely that more than a handful who pledge allegiance to Osama bin Laden remain inside Libya. Seizing the moment, however, Al Qaeda’s top ranking Libyan, Abu Yahya al-Libi, the movement’s senior Islamist ideologue and bin Laden’s head of operations for Afghanistan, broke his public silence over the Libyan revolt this past weekend. He issued a call to arms to his countrymen in a 30-minute video that was posted on Al Qaeda-linked Internet sites, urging Libyans to fight on and do to Qaddafi what he has done to them over the years: kill him. 'Now it is the turn of Qaddafi [to die] after he made the people of Libya suffer for more than 40 years,' he said." (TheDailyBeast)


"Don’t call them socialites. They introduce themselves as corporate chairwomen, published authors, high-profile caterers and philanthropists. And on Tuesday night, Muffie Potter Aston, Somers Farkas, Cornelia Guest, Grace Hightower and Karen LeFrak will add cameo dancer to their resumes as they perform in 'Maple Leaf Rag' at the Martha Graham Dance Company’s gala. But dancing doesn’t come easy, the women admitted at a recent dress rehearsal. 'I’ve always walked to the beat of my own drum,' said Aston, who will be cart-wheeling onto the stage. In the basement of the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, the five women ran from stage right to stage left under the kind but watchful eye of Janet Eilber, the company’s artistic director. Eilber custom choreographed the stars’ routines and during rehearsal, altered them further. Farkas, who has modeled professionally, wanted to walk, not run across the stage. Guest hit three beats but struggled with four. LeFrak confused her ups with her downs even though she’s previously written two scores for dance performances. But nailing the choreography is only part of the show. 'Dancers are trained to learn choreography,' Eilber explained. 'These women have lent us their bodies but also their sense of humor.' Ranging from their early 40s to their early 60s, the society women are participating in a $600-per-head-and-up evening to celebrate the Graham Company’s 85th Anniversary Season. It’s an inside joke Eilber knows will resonate with the audience." (WSJ)


"'Hardball' host Chris Matthews went on with Jay Leno last night talking about the aftermath of the earthquake, what to do in Libya and the 2012 presidential race. When Leno asked him about potential GOP candidates, Matthews got no thrills up his leg. •Mitt Romney: 'He gives a bad name to empty suits.' •Mike Huckabee‘s comments about Pres. Obama growing up in Kenya: 'I think it’s racist.' •Michele Bachmann: 'You ought to at least know high school history.' By the end of the political discussion, Matthews said: 'That’s too mean. I want to be somewhat nonpartisan.'" (TVNewser)


"Howard said (former Van Halen frontman Sammy Hagar) he read that he sold an interest in his Cabo Wabo tequila company. Sammy said that it was one of the best things he ever did. He said he started the company and went and got the bottles and all of that. Howard asked if he ever had any second thoughts about that since it ravaged his father and people like Eddie Van Halen. Howard said that his father forced himself on his mother and stuff and that must have been tough. Sammy said that he was the youngest of four kids and his sister would grab him and run out of the house. He said his father was like a hero to him because he was such a tough guy. He said he later felt sorry for his mom when he figured out what was really going on.  Howard asked if he had a moral issue with the tequila. Sammy said he doesn't have that gene in him to want to do a drink all the time so he doesn't feel that. He said he knows some guys just can't stop but he doesn't have it so he doesn't feel guilty. He said if he was an alcoholic he might have that feeling. Howard asked if he still has an interest in Cabo Wabo. He said he does for 3 more years. He sold off 80 percent of that company. Howard asked how many millions he made off of it. He said it's about 80 million. He said he got a check for 80 million. (Marksfriggin)


"The only way to make sense of Dubai is to never forget that it isn’t real. It’s a fable, a fairy tale, like The Arabian Nights. More correctly, it’s a cautionary tale. Dubai is the story of the three wishes, where, as every kid knows, with the third wish you demand three more wishes. And as every genie knows, more wishes lead to more greed, more misery, more bad credit, and much, much, much more bad taste. Dubai is Las Vegas without the showgirls, the gambling, or Elvis. Dubai is a financial Disneyland without the fun. It’s a holiday resort with the worst climate in the world. It boils. It’s humid. And the constant wind is full of sand. The first thing you see when you arrive is the airport, with its echoing marble halls. It’s big enough to be the hub of a continent. Dubai suffers from gigantism—a national inferiority complex that has to make everything bigger and biggest. This includes their financial crisis. Outside, in the sodden heat, you pass hundreds and hundreds of regimented palm trees and you wonder who waters them and what with. The skyline, in the dusty haze, looks like the cover of a dystopian science-fiction novella. Clusters of skyscrapers lurch out at the gray desert accompanied by their moribund cranes, propped up with scaffolding, swagged in plastic sheeting. Dubai thought it was going to grow up to be the Arab Singapore—a commercial, banking, and insurance service port on the Gulf with hospitality and footballers’ time-shares, an oasis of R&R for the less well endowed. But it hasn’t quite worked out." (Vanity Fair)

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