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Friday, March 04, 2011

Media-Whore D'Oeuvres



"Hundreds of young Tuareg from Mali and Niger, including former rebels, are being recruited by embattled Libyan leader Moamer Kadhafi to fight off a popular uprising, officials in northern Mali said. 'We are worried in many respects,' said Abdou Salam Ag Assalat, president of the Regional Assembly of Kidal. These young people 'are going in masses (to Libya). It's very dangerous for us because whether Kadhafi resists or he falls, there will be an impact for our region.' He said regional authorities 'are trying to dissuade them' from leaving, particularly ex-rebels, but that it was not easy as there were 'dollars and weapons' waiting for them. Assalat said an entire network was in place to organise the trip to Libya. 'Kadhafi's reach stretches to us. He knows who to call, they make group trips. There seems to be an air link from Chad. Others go by road to southern Libya. All of that scares me, really, because one day they will come back with the same arms to destabilise the Sahel,' said Assalat, adding that 'a former Malian Tuareg rebel leader is also in Libya', but did not mention his name. The mayor of Kidal, Arbacane Ag Bazayak, shared the same concern: 'What will they do next? Come back with the same weapons. It is a danger for the entire sub-region.' The Tuareg, a nomadic community of about 1.5 million people are divided between Niger, Mali, Algeria, Libya and Burkina Faso. In the 1990s and 2000 Mali and Niger were plagued by Tuareg rebellions. Witnesses report the presence of sub-Saharan African citizens in Libya, who are being used as mercenaries by pro-Kadhafi forces." (GoogleNews)


"From my study’s wide-open, icicle-covered windows, one feels cocooned from the elements, as if in a prison cell but with the doors unlocked. The snows have finally come. The horizons are totally white. Clouds and snowy peaks intermingle in a rhapsody of snow-white, pine-green, and sky-blue. Thirty-five or so years ago, I took a ski-plane up the Jungfrau, landed on an upward slope, and skied down to Kleine Scheidegg, a vertiginous trip that resulted in one of our fellow skiers getting sick while small avalanches hissed past us. Two people quit halfway down and asked for a chopper to pick them up. One—the mother of my children—was pregnant but unaware of it. Two stayed with the guide: Roman Polanski and yours truly. Roman complained a hell of a lot on the way down, but he’s a strong skier and just the right size for the dangerous terrain. It took us close to three hours, but we arrived safely and looking very green. Our guide was kind and full of praise for our endurance. The only thing I said was that however tough the trip, it beat the 'foehn winds' anytime. The Bernese Oberland’s foehn winds can generate stunning power. They are said to hold an excess of positive ions that can drive people nuts. The suicide rate goes up accordingly, and it used to be said that the Swiss courts would take the winds into consideration for crimes committed during the foehn period. It is a dry, warm wind that makes one feel achy and bad-tempered, and I suppose it is nature’s revenge for the horrors we inflict on her mountains every day." (Taki)


"Last night my neighbor, Mr. Art Set, Charlie Scheips invited me to dinner at The Lion at 62 West 9th Street. The restaurant opened about eight months ago under the aegis/ownership of John DeLucie, the founding chef of the very popular Waverly Inn and restaurateur/realtor Mark Thomas Amadei. The Lion is a huge success and after one visit (last night) I can see why – everything about it makes it the perfect New York restaurant. It’s the atmosphere, the crowd, the lighting, the acoustics, with the piece de resistance – the menu ... The place was packed. It has a great bar area, as well as a private dining room and salon on the second floor. Charlie told me one night he was in the private room where he met Sandra Bullock with whom he had a nice conversation about living L.A. (where Charlie’s lived also) ... It was packed last night and the fashion is downtown although a couple of tables away, I saw some upper East Siders -- novelist and former assistant D.A. Linda Fairstein was dining with Kate White, editor-in-chief of Cosmo." (NYSocialDiary)


"Gamal Abdel Nasser pledged to thrust Egypt into the postcolonial time zone in 1952, when he wrested control of the government from the Egyptian monarch and the British Empire. As he wrote in his autobiographical essay, Egypt's Liberation, 'The revolution marked the realization of a great hope felt by the people of Egypt since they began, in modern times, to think in terms of self-government and to demand that they have the final say in determining their own future.' Unfortunately, almost 50 years later, Egyptians are still struggling to determine their own future. And now, with President Hosni Mubarak deposed, the aspirations of the people once again rest in the hands of the military. Mubarak was just 24 years old when Nasser took power. He was part of a generation of leaders in the developing world who, like Nasser, came to view hegemonic nationalism as necessary and used the military to secure national unity at the expense of civic freedoms. When Mubarak took office after Anwar al-Sadat was assassinated, he rolled back Sadat's interior political reforms and repressed his political opponents, especially the Muslim Brotherhood ... Many leaders within and outside the Middle East suffer from the same type of historical jetlag as Mubarak. As a result, they are similarly unable to keep pace with younger populations demanding political reform. Last month, activists in Tunisia chased 74-year-old Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali into exile, which emboldened Egyptians to get rid of Mubarak. With both men out of power, leaders from Algeria and Libya to Yemen have been put on notice. Like Mubarak, other 'presidents for life' see popular challenges to state authority as inauthentic and conspiracy-driven -- an understandable worldview, since many of them cut their teeth during decolonization. They suffer from what can be called postcolonial time disorder, or PTD, meaning that they still subscribe to an out-of-date philosophy of governance, according to which authoritarianism is the only cure for external or internal political challenges. They have a Manichean inability to think outside the logic of totalizing state power." (ForeignAffairs)


"It's Monday at noon and a man paces in front of a Subway sandwich shop in the Financial District. As he treads the sidewalk in his burgundy, tasseled loafers, he wrings his hands, breathing heavily. Maybe he's just lost it all in the market, another trading deal gone bad. No, that's not what he's worried about. Within seconds, a buzzer sounds, granting him entry into a private space perched above that fast-food joint. He's not there for the second-floor Chinese massage parlor, with its dull sign that reads 'body work.' Buzz, click, push: the door opens. The man plunges in and walks up the fleshy-pink-colored stairwell and heads upstairs to Jezebel's Wall Street Dungeon for some mid-day domination. There's no telling what marks from his session he'll bring back to his office, hidden with stealth underneath his freshly pressed gray slacks. Kitty, a former senior at Sarah Lawrence College (and not her real name), lounges on a futon in Jezebel's break room. Miss J, another dominatrix and a New York University graduate, rushes over to show Kitty pictures of a man's lacerated backside on her camera phone, a Wall Street client she visits weekly in his office. Another woman does her biology homework in leopard-print underwear, waiting for her next client to arrive. Miss J is busy shoving a boob into a corset while Kitty admires the man's injuries. His bruises look like purple zebra stripes. She's absolutely impressed, Kitty says, but Miss J is in too much of a rush to gloat because the nervous suit who's been pacing downstairs is her next client. Leda, the head mistress, pokes her head in the room. Her pierced right eyebrow arches and Miss J understands: It means run." (NYPress)


"Some of the most improbable ideas became the most lucrative: The Biggest Loser, about obese contestants racing to lose weight, grew into one of (Ben) Silverman's signature series (it's currently NBC's top show among 18- to 49-year-old women and was recently picked up for a 12th season). He also sold the soft-core historical drama The Tudors and a few critically beloved comedies as well, such as the The Office and Ugly Betty. Selling content has made (Ben) Silverman rich. Reveille was eventually purchased by Elisabeth Murdoch's Shine Group for roughly $125 million. Ever since he has struggled to start his next act. In May 2007 he was hired by Jeff Zucker to be co-chairman of NBC Entertainment, which for the first time put the consummate salesman on the other side of the table as a buyer of shows. The move was largely seen as disastrous for NBC, which failed to create any major hits during Silverman's tenure. In July 2009, he announced he was leaving NBC to launch Electus, an Internet-and-TV studio backed by Barry Diller's IAC (IACI). 'Ben is a great salesman,' says Diller, 'in the best sense of selling.' Silverman's vision with Electus is to drive advertising deeper into the entertainment creation process. The advent of the DVR—now in 37.3 percent of American homes according to Nielsen—allows TV viewers to skip commercials at will. Silverman wants to make advertising inescapable by bringing major corporations into the writer's room and putting brands directly into the shows they're sponsoring." (BusinessWeek)


"Each year after the Oscars, I ask myself the same question: Does wealth love celebrity, or does celebrity love wealth? It’s worth remembering that fame and money haven’t always gotten along. The rich once believed themselves superior, not only financially but also culturally and socially, to their entertainers. Even the most famous performers were excluded from society’s affluent inner circle. Somewhere, however, this distinction dissolved. As entertainers amassed large fortunes in their own right, the combined powers of money and recognized public appeal granted performers the leverage to operate near, if not within, the realm of the industrial elite. In turn, that same industrial elite now strives to rub shoulders with Hollywood’s A-list." (Jamie Johnson/VanityFair)


"Mere weeks after Michael Moore filed a lawsuit against the Weinsteins alleging that they cheated him out of Fahrenheit 9/11 profits, another former collaborator has stepped forward with their own accusations of Weinstein tomfoolery and skullduggery. In a 60-page, awesomely detailed claim filed today in the New York State Supreme Court, Hoodwinked filmmakers Brian Inerfeld and Tony Leech accuse Harvey and Bob Weinstein of paying them $500,000 in hush money to put off dealing with their $54 million-plus fraud lawsuit until after the Oscars, thereby preventing any of the publicity surrounding the case from negatively affecting The King’s Speech. Which, if true, mission accomplished! In the original complaint (which you can read here), Inerfeld and Leech paint a story of the 'out of control' Weinsteins’ attempts to 'sabotage' their follow-up film, Escape From Planet Earth, telling a tale of 'hubris, incompetence, profligate spending and contempt for contractual obligations' that goes so far as to call the Weinsteins a 'a real life version of Bialystock & Bloom' from The Producers. Included are accusations that Harvey hired Kevin Bacon to be in the film, then paid him $25,000 to drop out once he decided he was 'too expensive,' as well as charges that Weinsteins routinely fell asleep and worse during screenings—like a colorful anecdote about the time Harvey, a diabetic, 'attempted to consume an entire bowl of M&M candies,' struggled with the studio executive who tried to take it away from him ('out of obvious concerns for Harvey Weinstein’s health'), spilled the whole thing in the commotion, and then, instead of watching the film, got down on his hands and knees and began eating M&Ms off the floor." (AVClub)


"In assessing the 79 series pilots that are competing for primetime slots at the five broadcast networks during the 2011-2012 season, a few trends quickly emerge, namely: manhood is under siege, parents are obsessed with meddling, zombies are alive and well (relatively speaking), opposites attract, and just about everybody seems to be on some sort of rebound. Moreover, pretty much every permutation of domestic life and dysfunction is being trotted out for a once-over as the networks seek to uncover the next Modern Family or Two and a Half Men. And the popularity of Glee has helped to inspire a musical bent for three pilots. Multicamera comedy is making a strong showing beyond its usual singular home of CBS. Too, high-concept drama is having a modest resurgence – and both period soaps (ABC’s Pan Am, NBC’s Playboy) and reboots of past classics (NBC’s Wonder Woman from David E. Kelley, ABC’s Charlie’s Angels) are again in vogue, at least in the pilot world." (Ray Richmond/Deadline)


"The world-famous Julie Andrews turned 75 on October 1, 2010. For the past 40 years, the Hollywood and Broadway star and her husband, producer Blake Edwards, have spent their holidays in Gstaad. They feel at home here, they have raised their children here, and it is here that they find strength for their new projects. Some of her greatest cinematic successes originated in their Gstaad chalet, the 'Fleur de Lys'. Julie once gave Christmas lighting as a gift to the town of Gstaad to the amazement of the guests and locals alike. She also committed herself personally for the benefit of Gstaad’s film festival, CINEMUSIC, in the 1990’s by way of various performances and by using her own personal relationships within the film industry ... Julie Andrews tells us about the time that she mentioned to Blake, 'Gstaad is the most beautiful village on the earth, but it is missing the glow and celebratory lights at Christmas.' Blake responded, 'Go ahead!' They went with Walter Ludi to the tourism director, Paul Valentin, and with Julie’s assistance purchased one thousand lights. 'Initially, Gstaad reacted very nervously to the project.' Julie laughs and explains why, 'People believed that the glamour of Hollywood would now begin to slowly creep in.' The lights still shine brightly today during the Christmas season. Julie Andrews continued to pay the maintenance and utility costs for many years. 'We did not want our name mentioned in connection with this donation. It should have remained a secret, but you know how that goes...'" (GstaadLife)


"While the swells were off attending the TED Conference in California this week, the rest of us were at home with a chance to interact with a new iteration of this intellectual enterprise. Known for its 18-minute presentations from the world's foremost thinkers, this year's TED-goers could hobnob with likes of Bill Gates, Julie Taymor and an assortment of futurists, neuroscientists and wrongologists for a $6000 membership fee. Setting your browser to TED Conversations, however, doesn't cost a thing. In an age when social media is all the buzz, June Cohen, TED's media director and strategist of all things digital, thinks it's the right time for a social platform like TED Conversations which allows people to ask and answer questions posed by a self-policing community of TEDsters and TEDster wannabes. 'The impetus behind it grew out of a real need we saw in the TED community,' she says." (David Hershkovits/Papermag)


"On the set of a photo shoot at a Los Angeles studio, AOL CEO Tim Armstrong settles into salesman mode, explaining how a strategy laser-focused on content will turn around his troubled Internet giant. He adjusts his sturdy 6-foot-4 frame and begins rattling off traffic figures, audience metrics and potential cost savings without so much as flinching. He'd willingly go on, but Heidi Klum -- one of AOL's newest celebrity acquisitions -- has come bounding out of her dressing room in impossibly high YSL heels and is already critiquing his look as though he were a contestant on Project Runway. She persuades him to remove his suit jacket, unbutton his dress shirt and shed the powder-blue Hermes tie. 'Come on, you can't be too stiff,' she chirps in her endearing German accent. 'It's Hollywood.' Then she turns to the photographer shooting the pair with AOL's newest executive, Arianna Huffington, for the cover of this magazine, 'Are we cute?' She puckers her lips. 'Are we Charlie's Angels cute?' No doubt, it's a new culture for Armstrong, who has spent the past decade-plus ensconced in a far more corporate world. But it's one the 40-year-old executive will need to get comfortable with as he continues his aggressive push for more partners like the supermodel/reality TV star. Hollywood now is an integral piece -- in fact, the most important piece - of his premium-content strategy to revive the much-maligned Web company he took the reins of two years ago. During the past eight months, even before his $315 million acquisition of the Huffington Post was announced Super Bowl Sunday, he has brokered content deals with everyone from Klum, Gisele Bundchen and the Jonas Brothers to Mark Burnett, Ben Silverman and Michael Eisner's Vuguru. AOL signed to cross-promote Ellen DeGeneres' site and will soon roll out a late-night video block featuring highlights from the podcasts of Kevin Smith, Adam Carolla and Kevin Pollak." (TheHollywoodReporter)

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