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Saturday, March 26, 2011

Media-Whore D'Oeuvres



"With Libya, humanitarian hawks have found an almost too-good-to-be-true vehicle for this vision. In Qaddafi, the U.S. has an operatically villainous adversary who not only has the blood of Americans on his hands but also the blood of his own citizens, having pledged to Libyans who dare oppose him that his military 'will find you in your closets.' From a purely ­Realpolitik perspective, Qaddafi also gives the U.S. a Muslim foe who—unlike even Saddam Hussein—is not particularly beloved by the Arab street, much less Arab leaders. Which explains why, unlike the war in Iraq, this military intervention is truly multilateral. Then there’s the reality of this particular moment. There is no chance of the U.S. intervening militarily on behalf of the revolts in places like Bahrain or Yemen or Syria, where the U.S. either counts on the cooperation of its repressive leaders or fears the relative might of its armies. But Libya, with its isolated, intransigent dictator and ragtag military, presents no such difficulties. As such, it offers an ideal vehicle to signal to 'those kids' (as an Obama aide, speaking to Politico, referred to Arab pro-democracy demonstrators) that the United States is on the right side of history." (NYMag)


"'What happens in Libya stays in Libya,' a Middle Eastern diplomat told me. 'What happens in Egypt affects the entire region.' The constant National Security Council meetings about Libya, the discussions at the U.N. and NATO and the Arab League were all a diversion—as was the prospect of spending billions on (yet another) military campaign in an Islamic country, which would have far less lasting impact than spending those same billions on a well-planned and coordinated development program for the countries in the region with the largest influence and population, starting with Egypt. The revolution in Egypt isn't over. It has barely begun. The military is in power, as it has been, essentially, for the past 60 years. And a crisis is coming, a classic crisis of rising expectations: What happens three months from now when life hasn't changed in any appreciable way for the hundreds of thousands of young people who took to the streets in Cairo? More than 60% of the population in Egypt is under the age of 30; those demographics are common in the region. An estimated 25% are unemployed. These are the sort of calculations that caused President Obama to call National Security Council staffers Dennis Ross, Samantha Power and Gayle Smith into his office last summer. "He had his doubts that the Middle East status quo was sustainable," said one of those at the meeting. "He wanted us to come up with a long-term policy." (Joe Klein)


"My late wife, the actress Carrie Nye, made a dreadful movie called 'Divorce His, Divorce Hers' with the Burtons in 1973. She was a gifted writer and when she got back from Germany — where the movie was made for some Burton-related tax reasons — she penned, for friends’ amusement, a comic piece called 'Making It In Munich.' It’s laugh-out-loud funny. My friend Chris Porterfield read it and passed it to Henry Grunwald, then the top editor at Time, who said, 'This goes in the next issue.' Time introduced the piece by saying that Miss Nye had appeared with the glam pair in the two-part movie, adding that, 'incredibly,' it was about to be rebroadcast. Carrie Nye was especially pleased when Gore Vidal called with praise, complaining, 'I can’t get things Time asks me to write into the magazine and you get in without trying.' She liked both Burtons, saying she felt sorry for Elizabeth, and that, being from the South, she knew the problems of women married to alcoholics. We never knew if either of them read the 'Making It In Munich.' The piece’s humor derived from such matters as the director’s awful dilemmas, like the fact that by the time Liz got to the studio, Richard would be too drunk to continue work, while her own hearty imbibing disqualified her by the time he sobered up. A dilemma because they had scenes together and simultaneous sobriety was rare." (Dick Cavett)


"Though Bonnie and Clyde helped kick-start the emerging '70s cinema, Virginia Woolf was a formidable front runner and, in a few ways, more disturbingly violent. In it, words and deeds are doled out with a ferocious vitriol that remains unmatched -- at least in terms of eloquence. Nothing so nasty has ever been so sickly beautiful. It certainly helps when Liz is slinging the sadism. That this still beautiful, still young woman would dress herself down to mean-mouthed, muffin-topped middle age was brave enough -- but her words and actions -- funny, terrible, sad and at times, strangely sweet, showed that Taylor truly understood this woman. And dammit if Liz's dumpy, yet oddly sexy and potently poignant drunk and Burton's broke-down 'bog' aren't beautiful losers. Yes, beautiful. Never mind how toxic they make their lives. Beginning with a gorgeous title sequence during which we watch History Professor George (Burton) and his saucy and sauced wife Martha (Taylor) walking back from a function drunk and cackling, the movie immediately places us in their dark, disconsolate universe -- one of shattered hopes, nihilism, and dipsomaniacal game playing." (Sunset Gun)


"'A guy got shot in the head at a club and the brain pieces were on the mirror -- as I was running out I took a glance at it.' Pharoahe Monch is talking about the most unfortunately explicit thing he saw growing up in the same Southside Jamaica, Queens neighborhood that 50 Cent would later mythologize in rhyme as a heinous war-zone. But while Monch walked similar blocks filled with, as he puts it, 'drug dealers and the gangstas and the thugs,' he also stoked his artistic intrigue while attending the High School Of Art And Design, a move which freed up his creative mind and prompted him to take an interest in hip-hop music seriously ... Monch's new album, W.A.R. (We Are Renegades), find him resolute in his commitment to conveying a message and a certain degree of lyrical art in his music -- he talks with surprise about how few artists feel the need to speak on the world around them, not least regarding the recent events in Japan and Libya -- but he's also tried to frame it in a cinematic context. With a more mature approach to songwriting, Monch wants to appeal to those who want to hear actual songs, not just rap scholars looking to dissect 16 densely-packed bars." (VillageVoice)


"This is turning into a topsy-turvy box office as North American grosses come in for Friday and the weekend (which will be another down one overall, -9% compared to last year). Last night, it appeared that Fox's Diary Of A Wimpy Kid: Rodrick Rules sequel opened as a surprise No. 1 but Warner Bros' Sucker Punch came on strong in late night West Coast shows. They're looking neck-and-neck for the weekend depending on how much Zach Snyder's sci fi fantasy film drops on Saturday or Wimpy Kid 2 surges in kiddie matinees today. Meanwhile, 2 pics this first quarter of 2011 have passed $100 million domestic: Paramount's Rango and Sony's Just Go With It (Adam Sandler's 12th pic to do so while international is headed to $100M, too)." (Deadline)



"ONE winter evening, Brian Beutler, 28, a reporter for the online publication Talking Points Memo, sat with his friend and roommate Dave Weigel, 29, a political reporter for Slate and a contributor to MSNBC, at a coffee shop on U Street. Recovering from a cold as snow fell outside, Mr. Beutler spoke about his younger — well, relatively younger — days in the city. 'Everyone’s gotten a little bit older and a little more boring,' Mr. Beutler said, speaking of a wave of Washington bloggers who have come of age together. 'Four years ago, we were far less professionalized, and the work was less rigorous and less stressful. So in addition to being younger, we were also a bit less overwhelmed. That all has changed.' In only a few years, these young men and others like them have become part of the journalistic establishment in Washington. Once they lived in groups in squalid homes and stayed out late, reading comic books in between posts as more seasoned reporters slogged their way through traditional publications like The Hill and Roll Call. Now the members of this 'Juicebox Mafia,' as they were first called by Eli Lake of The Washington Times, in a reference to youth, have become destination reading for — and respected by — the city’s power elite. Indeed, arguably they are themselves approaching power-elite status (as well as, gasp, age 30). 'I look at those guys and call them Facebook pundits, said Tammy Haddad, the venerable Washington hostess and cable news veteran. 'They’ve risen up the media food chain. They’re acknowledged by the White House. They measure their success in a different way than the old guard in this city used to. 'It’s a whole new stream — a new vein of voices engaged and engaging with the power centers in Washington,' added Ms. Haddad, known for the boldface-name-dotted brunch she holds annually before the White House Correspondents’ Association Dinner." (NYTimes)


"Friday night, and the crowd at the bar in Harlem's Lenox Lounge is a mix of neighborhood old timers and young hipsters who have come for the jazz club's 1940s ambiance ... The room itself hasn't changed much since Billie Holiday sang here decades ago, but tonight it's filled with the foundation's donors—mostly white hedge fund guys—and their female companions. A handful of guitarists, drummers, keyboard players, and even a saxophone-playing blues vocalist from New Orleans—most of them black—are standing by to provide the evening's entertainment. The two groups maintain a polite but awkward distance. Finally someone arrives who can bridge the cultural gulf. Richard D. Parsons, the 62-year-old chairman of Citigroup (C), strolls through the doorway with his wife, Laura. His beard is closely cropped and he wears rimless glasses, a brown sport coat, black shirt, and no tie. At 6 foot 4, he towers over his spouse. His singular talent, which has powered his career to the top of some of America's most prominent—and troubled—companies, is one he demonstrates tonight as he mingles easily with the musicians and the money men: He is flat-out smooth... Michael E. Novogratz, a director of Fortress Investment Group, a New York hedge fund, gives Parsons a hug and presents him with a Montecristo cigar. Parsons looks pleased. 'Oh man,' he says, 'I wish we could light these up in here.' The two men exchange condolences about the market, which is zig-zagging with the turmoil in the Middle East. "I lost more money this week than I did in any week in 2008,' Novogratz laments. Parsons tells him not to be so hard on himself. 'Nobody knows what's going on,' he says." (Businessweek)


"By interesting serendipity, the news about the final Oprah show and the new round of speculation that Katie Couric will most likely leave the CBS Evening News anchor chair in June came in within minutes of each other today. The coincidence is intriguing as Couric is touted as a potential successor to Oprah Winfrey as she is preparing for her next career as a daytime talk-show host. Couric, of course, won't be a direct replacement for Oprah, and not only because a whole year will separate Oprah's exit from daytime and Couric's expected arrival in fall 2012. Interestingly enough, Dr. Oz can claim that title. Of the 155 markets in which Oprah is not being replaced by a newscast, more than 80, including two of the Top 5, went with Dr. Oz in the Oprah slot, more than all other talk shows combined. As for ratings supremacy, Judge Judy, already beating Oprah on a regular basis, is expected to become the undisputed new daytime queen, with Dr. Phil and Ellen also poised to get a boost." (Deadline)


"The panel discussion was defiantly titled 'Flying The Indie Flag' and the mood was clearly intended to be triumphant. 'Indie labels are having a banner year,' crowed the panel’s organizers at last week’s South by Southwest music festival in Austin, Texas, and are 'being successful by doing it their way, in a world where major labels no longer control the music business landscape.' Yet the faces on the actual indie label panelists looked anything but victorious. Sub Pop Records co-founder Jonathan Poneman—still earning sizable royalties for his initial signing of Nirvana over two decades ago—scowled his way through a series of accolades delivered for him. And Mac McCaughan, frontman for indie rock standard-bearers Superchunk and co-founder of Merge Records, merely shrugged and then shrank back in his seat as moderator Karen Glauber, president of Hits magazine, began gushing over the recent accomplishments of Merge’s Arcade Fire: A gold record—500,000 CD sales—at a time when such certifications are increasingly rare for even the industry’s biggest players, followed by a left-field Grammy award." (TheAwl)

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