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Saturday, June 18, 2011

Media-Whore D'Oeuvres



"Thomas Straubhaar, a top economist from Germany, attacked U.S. credit agencies after they lowered Greece's credit rating to junk status, down there with the Pakistans of this world. In fact, in the spirit of Greek street protesters, Straubhaar called for the 'violent overthrow' of the credit rating companies like Moody's or Standard & Poor's, arguing that these companies actually undermine stability in markets. Come on, Thomas, don't shoot the messenger. The problem isn't the credit rating agencies -- although one does wonder if they don't have itchy trigger fingers after having been late with their warnings during the 2008-2009 phase of the current protracted economic crisis. The problem isn't the Greek finance ministry. The problem isn't the Greek legislature. The problem isn't the Europeans who are being dragged kicking and screaming toward helping Greece. The problem isn't even Goldman Sachs and the other banks who lent Greece more money than they could afford and even helped them hide a bunch of the financings off the books. Nope, the problem is Greek nuclear scientists and radical terror groups affiliated with the Greek intelligence services -- or rather, the lack thereof. Because if Greece had nuclear weapons and crazed terrorists hiding in every luxury housing development, you can bet we wouldn't be going through this long drawn-out process of figuring out whether the country was going to default or not. We know this because of Pakistan. Pakistan is an absolute financial basket case. It is in many respects in as bad a shape as Greece -- and in some it is even much worse off. But do you hear anyone talking about Pakistan's financial problems? Heck no. " (David Rothkopf)



"This is an extraordinarily irritating book, written by one of those people who smugly believe that, having lost their faith, they must ipso facto have found their reason. In order to be persuaded by it, you would have to be open to propositions like this:  'Part of the left’s savage animus against Sarah Palin is attributable to her status not as a woman, neither as a Conservative, but as a Worker.' Or this: 'America is a Christian country. Its Constitution is the distillation of the wisdom and experience of Christian men, in a tradition whose codification is the Bible.' Some of David Mamet’s unqualified declarations are made even more tersely. On one page affirmative action is described as being “as injust as chattel slavery”; on another as being comparable to the Japanese internment and the Dred Scott decision. We learn that 1973 was the year the United States 'won' the Vietnam War, and that Karl Marx — who on the evidence was somewhat more industrious than Sarah Palin — 'never worked a day in his life.' Slackness or confusion might explain his reference to the ­Scottish-Canadian newspaper magnate Lord Beaverbrook as a Jewish courtier in the tradition of Disraeli and Kissinger, but it is more than ignorant to say of Bertrand Russell — author of one of the first reports from Moscow to analyze and excoriate Lenin — that he was a fellow-traveling dupe and tourist of the Jane Fonda style. Propagandistic writing of this kind can be even more boring than it is irritating." (NYTimes)

"Early Wednesday afternoon, the Grand Ballroom of the Plaza Hotel was filled with a crowd clad in Chanel summer tweed and Louboutin kitten heels. The Ladies Who Lunch crowd had turned out, in fine form, for the Women’s Forum of New York’s Elly Awards Luncheon. The women being honored — Evelyn Lauder, Senior Vice President of the Estee Lauder Companies, and the city’s de facto first lady, Diana Taylor — were predictable enough. Same with the award presenters: makeup entrepreneur Bobbi Brown and Citigroup bigwig Lisa Caputo. What could possibly go wrong? After introductions and award presentations by Ms. Brown and Ms. Caputo, the honorees sat down with Barbara Walters for a joint interview. The conversation started off with exchanged pleasantries as Ms. Walters asked cautious, careful questions about women in government, leadership, and the many definitions of success. And then…'Older women should be on boards,' announced Ms. Lauder. 'There’s just less hormones, less crying ... The shocked silence that followed Lauder’s statement was suddenly broken by a buzz of whispers. The women at the table next to The Observer gasped. 'This is a disaster,' one of them murmured. Ms. Walters quickly stepped in to remedy the situation, calming the room of furious luncheon attendees with a stern look, and continued with the interview unfazed.'" (Observer)

"Earlier this month I was invited out to dinner for the first time by a world-famous Hollywood film director. It was not clever of me to be blasé about checking the time we agreed on. I had thought that by arriving at 7.20pm at The Square, central London’s smart restaurant for wine lovers and hedge fund managers, I would be comfortably early. I arrived to find Francis Ford Coppola and his bright young sales person Heather de Savoye sitting side by side in the bar area looking somewhat discomfited. To make matters worse Coppola’s light blue tie, a gift from his wife, Eleanor, was scattered with the number 7. 'My lucky number,' Coppola, born April 7 1939, told me, trying to ease my embarrassment. He really is a very normal, easy-going representative of 'the industry'. Perhaps having set down roots somewhere as agricultural as the Napa Valley 37 years ago, when he bought the old Gustave Niebaum wine estate, has helped keep him sane, despite the potential insanities associated with filming Apocalypse Now and the aggrandising achievement of directing The Godfather. 'Is it true there’s a fish restaurant in London called The Cod Father?' was one of his opening sallies. Furthermore, of southern Italian stock (who infused his early diet with wine), he is very family. He always took his wife and children along when his work required him to travel, though when they set off to the Philippines for Apocalypse they ended up staying five times as long as the anticipated six months. But this early exposure to the business of filming, when 'the wardrobe department would make dresses for Sofia’s dolls', seems to have paid off. Coppola literally swelled with pride when pointing out that his daughter Sofia had won the Leone d’Oro for best film at the Venice Film Festival last year 'before her 40th birthday!' He had lost weight since I last saw him in the mid-1990s when filming for a BBC series at Niebaum’s old Victorian homestead on the estate then called Niebaum-Coppola. Both beard and paunch were much neater, although he still has a slightly vulpine look when he laughs and shows his teeth." (FT)


"Samuel L. Jackson is taking on something even scarier than snakes on a motherf**king plane: Bedtime. In a stroke of casting genius, publisher Audible landed the movie star -- famed for his poetic dexterity with profanity -- as its narrator for the audiobook version of 'Go the F**k to Sleep,' the brash pseudo-children's book that's burning up the bestseller charts. Audible Inc. released the 6-minute recording Tuesday as a free download. In its first 48 hours, the audiobook racked up 160,000 downloads. 'We've also had a huge spike in downloads of our Audible iPhone and Android apps -- 140% rise in demand for Audible iPhone app and 160% rise for our Android app -- in the same 48 hour period,' said Audible senior editor Matthew Thornton. 'Go the F**k to Sleep' publisher Akashic describes the book as 'a bedtime book for parents who live in the real world, where a few snoozing kitties and cutesy rhymes don't always send a toddler sailing blissfully off to dreamland. Profane, affectionate, and radically honest." (CNN)

"Both Warner Bros' Green Lantern ($21.6M Friday, $58M weekend) and Fox's Mr. Popper's Penguins ($6.4M Friday, $19M weekend) look on target right now with what were lowered expectations for both films. But these numbers also signal falling stars in Hollywood. Green Lantern had well-known actor Ryan Reynolds playing the superhero, yet looks like it wont get near Thor's recent $65.7M opening weekend starring a complete unknown. Warner Bros and DC Entertainment are freaking out about the continuing negative buzz pumped up by rival studios, who are telling me that the international day-and-date opening box office for Green Lantern is off to a 'very soft start'. Though UK opened #1, grossing £717k (US$1.2M) from 907 situations. that's less than this summer's openings of X-Men: First Class, Fast Five, and Thor. And the Russia and South Korea debuts weren't strong. And Mr. Popper's #2 result should drop down to #3, demonstrating how Jim Carrey's popularity keeps waning in live-action movies. His last films were Fun With Dick And Jane (2005) opening to $14.6M, and The Number 23 (2007) debuted to $14.3M and Yes Man (2008) which first released to $18.2M. (I'm not counting I Love You, Phillip Morris because it never received wide distribution.)" (Deadline)


"How much would you pay for a private photo session with James Franco? At last night's amfAR Inspiration Gala, the experience was auctioned off for $16,000. 'I've always believed in it, but to be involved in this big a way is very recent,' Franco said of his work with the influential AIDS nonprofit. The depth of his involvement may depend on just how obsessed a fan that winning bidder is. Heidi Klum knows a thing or two about amfAR's fundraising ways, having volunteered a similar service at the organization's Cannes gala years ago. 'I had to massage some dude I'd never met before,' she recalled. The 'dude' in question was Kenneth Branagh, a friend pointed out. 'But still! It was a bit odd,' Klum said." (Style)


"I spent much of the weekend flitting about the fragrant UCLA campus for the annual Festival of Books ... Later that day at the packed Royce Hall an adoring Arianna Huffington engaged witty historian Gore Vidal, who sat in a wheelchair. She called him "the conscience of America right now." Vidal described how he was 'marinated in politics' as a young Senate page who read to his grandfather, a blind Senator from Oklahoma. 'One thing about being a Washington kid is you are not impressed by any of these people...to talk about this administration is almost too sad for words. It's made me a creationist. Here I am a born-again atheist. From George Washington to George W. Bush makes a monkey out of Darwin...It will take two generations to recover from what he's done to us..he's president Jonah. He's plainly jinxed. ..It's looney tunes. It's humiliating, here we were the number one global power on earth. Suddenly we have this embarrassment. ..The Republic is a good thing as long as elections aren't stolen. Benjamin Franklin said, 'in time all republics grow corrupt and turn to tyranny.' Vidal says that the majority of the American people are always against foreign wars. 'I put it down to the corruption of the media, which is owned by corporate America for its own wicked ends--to make money. We could make ethanol. The cost of fuel will be the next issue. Not immigration. We'll have to transfer over to another form of power.' The Republicans "get us to vote against our own interests every time," he said. "People are shrewd about their own business, but they are full of nonsense put in their heads by talk shows." Vidal also criticized the NYT: "They don't question power unless the roof is falling in," he said. "And the Washington Post is a court circular." He said that he had counseled Hilary Clinton to run for a Senate seat in her home state of Illinois instead of New York, where there are too many lobbyists. About Al Gore, his cousin: "He's very intelligent, which is such a novelty after what we've had. One of the more important current wars is going to be the environment. That's where Albert is number one.' 'It is not our task to regime change anybody but ourselves.'' (THR)

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