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Wednesday, April 06, 2011

Media-Whore D'Oeuvres


"After a rebuff last month from King Abdullah, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates arrived here on Wednesday to consult with the Saudi ruler on the revolts sweeping the Middle East and North Africa and to try to warm up unusually cold relations with the United States. Pentagon officials said Mr. Gates’s talks would focus on a recent $60 billion deal to sell arms to Saudi Arabia and the threat of Iran in the region, a major concern for the Saudis. The American officials skirted questions on whether Mr. Gates would criticize the king for sending troops into Bahrain last month to help crush a Shiite-led rebellion there. 'The king has fashioned himself as a reformer in the Saudi system,' said a senior defense official traveling with Mr. Gates. 'They’re going to have to find their own path,' said the official, who under Pentagon ground rules refused to be named. The officials’ positive comments underscored the desire of the Pentagon to put a hopeful face on what is likely to be a tense visit. The Saudis have been angry that President Obama abandoned President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt in the face of widespread protests in Cairo, and the United States was not happy when the Saudis ignored a request that they not send troops into Bahrain. A subsequent phone call between Mr. Obama and King Abdullah has been widely described as difficult and did nothing to smooth relations. But Pentagon officials are pleased that the king, America’s most important Arab ally, agreed to receive Mr. Gates." (NYTimes)


"Last week, the impetuous billionaire and Go Daddy C.E.O. Bob Parsons placed himself at the center of an unusual public controversy. He posted a video on his Web site that shows him fatally shooting an elephant during a recent hunting excursion in Zimbabwe. The images circulated widely over the Internet and through TV news, where angry commentators criticized Parsons for acting irresponsibly and inhumanely. When I first saw the footage, my reaction was less emotional. I simply concluded that Parsons was a fool for ever presuming the video would generate a positive response. The heroism of rich white men shooting elephants, Parsons failed to recognize, is a romantic colonial notion the world rejected long ago. And what’s worse is that the hunting images include scenes of hungry African villagers struggling against one another to carve off pieces of meat from the fallen elephant’s carcass. Parsons’s camera noticeably records the frantic scene from above, reflecting yet again the complex and divisive class issues inherent in the colonial-style hunt. While scanning coverage of the incident, I also noticed that almost no attention has been given to the cost of undertaking such exotic hunts. I have no way of knowing what Parsons actually paid to take down his elephant, but comparable safaris typically cost tens or even hundreds of thousands of dollars. In fact, it isn’t uncommon for an avid big-game hunter to spend $500,000 a season on African trophies alone." (Jamie Johnson/ Vanity Fair)


"In a week that could see the federal government shut down due to general dysfunction, at least the capital’s arts community can celebrate signs of life, of getting its fundraising groove back. The Washington Performing Arts Society held its annual gala Saturday night and, with tickets starting at $1200 a couple, not only filled the double wide ballroom of the Wardman Park Marriott but raised more than $1 million. The money will go to a number of arts and education programs, particularly in the public schools. That was fitting since the evening’s star, Roberta Flack, was a teacher in the DC school system before becoming a Grammy-winning hit maker. Thus, it was also a homecoming." (WashingtonSocialDiary)


"After releasing only a handful of songs, WU LYF (pronounced Woo Life) was called by The Guardian 'the most interesting band' in Manchester and by the BBC the 'anonymous stars of now.' The singer has a terrifying, gravelly yelp, and he plays a synthesizer set to sound like a church organ. The guitar is filled with reverb and echo and mostly noodles around melody lines. The rhythm section is loud but minimal. All the songs sound like anthems. Critics say their style is 'heavy pop,' which is a neologism born out of the band's song of the same name. There used to be a Tumblr for the band to sell its handmade EP. Only 14 copies were made. After turning down most reputable labels in England, WU LYF will self-release their debut full-length in June. An expensive-looking band Web site explains that WU LYF is an acronym for World Unite/Lucifer Youth Foundation. Shaky videos of them playing live are on YouTube, their faces quite visible. They have a publicist and a manager. They have a Facebook page that lists the contact information for both. No names are given. The manager is listed as 'War God.' The Observer contacted the publicist first. 'I know the band hasn't done much in the way of interviews,' The Observer wrote in an email, 'but I thought I'd ask anyway.' Night came and The Observer had heard nothing. We never would, either." (Observer)


"The music that accompanies the opening credits of FX’s Justified, developed from the fiction of Elmore Leonard, cues you that you’re in uncharted territory. The song, 'Long Hard Times To Come,' by Gangstagrass, melds two distinct musical styles, traditional Kentucky bluegrass with urban rap, just as Justified melds two dramatic genres, the urban crime story with the classic western. Now in its excellent second season, the show’s central figure, Deputy U.S. Marshal Raylan Givens, played by Timothy Olyphant, wears a Stetson for emphasis, and his boss’ office showcases a poster from the cult favorite Tombstone for emphasis. The territory is Harlan County, Kentucky, a meth and welfare-gutted coal mining community that’s on even longer, harder times now than it was in Barbara Kopple’s searing, Academy Award-winning documentary, Harlan County U.S.A. (1976). The Raylan character first appeared in Leonard’s 1993 novel Pronto. Deputy Marshal Givens has earned the enmity of the Sicilian Mafia in Florida and of the Cuban American drug cartel by gunning down a mob kingpin, Tommy Bucks, at a open air Miami restaurant after giving him 24 hours to—you guessed it—'get out of town.' Tommy Bucks (as in 'big bucks') is far from Raylan’s only shooting, though, like the previous ones, it’s ... justified. ('Let’s just keep it simple, huh?' he tells an investigator. 'He pulled first. I shot him.') Too hot for the Miami district, it’s Raylan’s turn to get out of town—back to Harlan County, where he grew up, assigned to break up 'The Dixie Mafia,' the network of gangs who manufacture and sell (with ties to Florida) meth and oxy in homemade laboratories. For Givens, a return to Harlan County is a return to everything he fought hard to get away from. Nearly every 'gun thug' (the term is borrowed from Kopple’s documentary) he confronts is someone he played baseball or hunted squirrels with as a boy." (TheDailyBeast)


"Last night at the National Dance Institute's annual fund-raising gala, Alec Baldwin was honored for his commitment to the art and culture of New York City. Before he got onstage, the 30 Rock star (who's about to co-star in Adam Shankman's musical Rock of Ages) chatted with Vulture about his own dancing abilities ('I was not a lithe, supple dancer [in high school]. My brother Stephen was a great dancer') and Donald Trump's potential bid for president ('The Republicans have to get serious, and that's not a serious choice'). And then, when we asked a last, unrelated question about whether he'd follow Tina Fey's lead and write a book, he dropped a bomb. 'I will tell you one thing,' he said. 'And that is our show next year is our last year of the show.'" ( NYMag)

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