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Thursday, April 21, 2011

Media-Whore D'Oeuvres


"ZHU LIANGXIU gulps down Kenyan lager in a bar in Nairobi and recites a Chinese aphorism: 'One cannot step into the same river twice.' Mr Zhu, a shoemaker from Foshan, near Hong Kong, is on his second trip to Africa. Though he says he has come to love the place, you can hear disappointment in his voice. On his first trip three years ago Mr Zhu filled a whole notebook with orders and was surprised that Africans not only wanted to trade with him but also enjoyed his company. 'I have been to many continents and nowhere was the welcome as warm,' he says. Strangers congratulated him on his homeland’s high-octane engagement with developing countries. China is Africa’s biggest trading partner and buys more than one-third of its oil from the continent. Its money has paid for countless new schools and hospitals. Locals proudly told Mr Zhu that China had done more to end poverty than any other country. He still finds business is good, perhaps even better than last time. But African attitudes have changed. His partners say he is ripping them off. Chinese goods are held up as examples of shoddy work. Politics has crept into encounters. The word “colonial” is bandied about. Children jeer and their parents whisper about street dogs disappearing into cooking pots. Once feted as saviours in much of Africa, Chinese have come to be viewed with mixed feelings—especially in smaller countries where China’s weight is felt all the more. To blame, in part, are poor business practices imported alongside goods and services. Chinese construction work can be slapdash and buildings erected by mainland firms have on occasion fallen apart. A hospital in Luanda, the capital of Angola, was opened with great fanfare but cracks appeared in the walls within a few months and it soon closed. The Chinese-built road from Lusaka, Zambia’s capital, to Chirundu, 130km (81 miles) to the south-east, was quickly swept away by rains." (TheEconomist)


"I went down to Michael’s to lunch with Barbara Goldsmith. Michael’s was its Wednesday-jammed although Barbara and I quickly fell into an intense conversation about books, the state of the world, the President, the occult (she wrote 'Other Powers: The Age of Suffrage, Spiritualism and the Scandalous Victoria Woodhull'), and writing. I’ve been a fan of Barbara’s since her book 'Little Gloria Happy at Last' was published in the late 1970s. A page turner that you can’t turn fast enough, about the childhood of little Gloria Vanderbilt. Since then I’ve also come to know her personally, and her interests and her generosity. Barbara is one of those people who quietly goes about living a very full life of philanthropy, work and literary activism while appearing to be stress-free. She 'shares' her know-how and her talents, and does so as a matter of course. She’s long been an active member and contributor to PEN where she endowed the PEN Freedom to Write Awards, given annually to spotlight writers imprisoned for expressing their views ... We talked about her most recent book, 'Obsessive Genius: The Inner World of Marie Curie,' part of the Norton paperback series on lives of people in the sciences. The idea had been presented to her by her friend Robert Darnton a few years ago on behalf of Norton and their special series. Madame Curie’s private papers had recently been released after 70 years under lock and key because their levels of radioactivity. The papers were considered too dangerous to handle for decades (something Madame Curie was unaware of in her work with the material – and which would eventually kill her)." (NYSocialDiary)




"How fair a rule is monarchy? A Byzantine scholar wrote that it was the fairest, to the point that God sustained it, as long as the emperors were elected by the army or an aristocratic senate. With their coronation, legitimate successors and usurpers alike automatically became sacred. The ancient Greeks had gone a step further. They did not require a Godlike sustenance or perfection from their kings, only greatness. Agamemnon, Menelaos, Odysseus, Achilles, and Leonidas were all great kings but not perfect human beings. Practical Romans distrusted Greek morality about kings and heroes, and in Marcus Aurelius they produced the supreme type of philosopher king of whom Plato had merely dreamed. Marcus wrote in his Meditations, 'One should rule in accordance with reason, in obedience to Providence, in the service of his subjects.' (Just like the self-appointed King of Kings, the scumbag Gaddafi.) Poor old Marcus: His reign was one disaster after another. Treason, a terrible plague, war, and bankruptcy. He sacrificed his own life to preserve his subjects’ vain life. So much for good intentions. The modern world has put water in its wine—an old Greek expression—and kings and queens nowadays are mostly constitutional monarchs, except in joke countries such as Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Kuwait, and the rest of the tiny kleptocracies with black gold gushing underneath" (Taki Theodoracopulos)


"Last night at midtown Manhattan’s Monkey Bar, Vanity Fair celebrated the release of Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen’s memoir, Idea Man. 'Whatever it is that precedes an early adopter,' said Reuters editor Jim Impoco, 'that’s what Paul Allen is, which is why he’s a god among techno men.' Among those who reveled in Allen’s glory were New York police commissioner Ray Kelly, Rolling Stone editor in chief Jann Wenner, and chairman of CBS News Jeff Fager. 'I think I’ll always be most remembered for Microsoft,' said Allen, 58, who also owns two professional sports teams (the N.F.L.’s Seattle Seahawks and the N.B.A.’s Portland Trail Blazers), plays guitar in the rock trio Grown Men, and is a significant philanthropist for neuroscience research and genome mapping. 'But I think the work I’m doing right now—trying to help scientists worldwide understand the genetics, connection, and development of the brain—could end up being my most significant legacy.' Also in attendance were novelist Jay McInerney, art dealer Larry Gagosian, and Italian entrepreneur Jean Pigozzi, who said of his longtime friend, 'I think Paul is a bit misunderstood, and this book is going to put him back on the map.'" (VanityFair)


"And so it begins, my annual trek to the ends of the earth, aka the Tribeca Film Festival! Last night was the opening ceremony complete with a free performance and outdoor screening of the Sir Elton John and Leon Russell music documentary, The Union, directed by Cameron Crowe. While I had every intention on making it to Tribeca, I got derailed on the way. However, I did hear great music and I 'made a movie' at downtown perennial hot spot, Indochine, where I attended a chic pre-concert dinner party in honor of R&B chanteuse Jill Scott. NYC Notables June Ambrose, Kelly Bensimon and a plethora of fashion insiders dined on red snapper and filet mignon (which I attempted to sear with a candle). After dunking my steak into a votive, we decided to head next door to Dominion to hear 'Jilly from Philly' debut songs from her upcoming CD, Light Of The Sun." (Bev Smith)


"Through April 30th, artist Isaac Julien has a show running at the Metro Pictures Gallery in Chelsea. Entitled Ten Thousand Waves, the exhibit features the photographic component to Julien’s nine-screen film installation of the same name, recently presented at the Sydney Biennial. Inspired by the tragedy that befell England’s Morecambe Bay in 2004, the films demonstrate the artists deep immersion into Chinese culture at that time, through a non-linear narrative addressing the deaths of the twenty-three cockle-pickers who were swept away by the sea. Actress Maggie Cheung appears throughout as the goddess Mazu, known for leading lost fishermen to safety. 'The project became a kind of search for me,' Julien says. 'I wanted to look at Chinese culture and an ongoing dialogue with the aesthetic practices of that culture and find my own contribution to that exchange.' The photographs on display comprise a filmic essay on the nature of human and artistic migration, filmed in the rural Guangxi province and also Shanghai, where the artist filmed in the legendary Shanghai Film Studio." (VMagazine)

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