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Thursday, August 18, 2011

Media-Whore D'Oeuvres


"In the popular imagination of large portions of the pundit class, Rick Perry is not only a popular Republican governor of Texas, but a legendary campaigner the likes of which the nation hasn’t seen for years. Here is a man, we’ve been told, who has never lost a single race, a person whose personal charm and keen political instincts had proven, time and again, irresistible to voters. But, a closer look at his history on the stump reveals that, while it’s true that Perry is undefeated in electoral contests, his mythic reputation isn’t entirely earned. Much of his hype is just that.To a large extent, Perry’s unusual success as a politician has less to do with his personal prowess as a campaigner than with his skill at navigating the peculiarities of Texan state-wide elections. 'It’s like in tennis,' says Harvey Tucker, professor of political science at Texas A&M. 'The court surface determines the style of the match.'And Texas, Tucker notes, 'is an unusual electoral landscape'—which is to say it’s nearly empty. The Democratic Party in Texas is nearly nonexistent, and puts up only the most pro forma candidates.('The Democrats are weak in ways that are not even indicated in the low numbers or poor electoral results,' says Jim Henson, director of the Texas Politics Project and a professor of Government at the University of Texas at Austin. 'As an organization, the Democrats are just—I can’t even come up with a negative enough word.')" (TheNewRepublic)


"Night. Iraq. An American Humvee patrol, trailed by the ominous strains of horror-movie cello, nears an idyllic country wedding, all colored lights and thumping folk music. 'Who's in charge of this, this gathering?' spits out the American commander, wrinkling his bulbous nose. We all know what's coming, and minutes later, there it is: the groom, spattered with blood; the bride, mid-howl, raising her eyes heavenward in slow motion. 'We did a hell of a good job there, Lieutenant,' drawls one Yank to another, puffing on a cigarette that must surely be a Marlboro. If you want to see the face of the Ugly American over the decade since the 9/11 attacks launched the United States into an aggressive 'global war on terror,' look no further than the rest of the world's movie screens. After decades as bumbling but well-intentioned tourists, G-men, cold warriors, and capitalist fat cats, Americans in global cinema of the early 21st century are door-kicking soldiers and torturing medics, from the brutes of Turkey's Valley of the Wolves: Iraq to the devilish Army doctor in the South Korean horror film The Host. Given U.S. preoccupations over the last 10 years, this is hardly surprising or undeserved. But it's a stark shift nonetheless -- to turn from abstract hegemon to ground-level menace." (ForeignPolicy)
"Last Friday evening in East Hampton, Martha Stewart was honored at the Guild Hall's annual Summer Gala. Alec Baldwin was Master of Ceremonies. There was also a preview exhibition celebrating artist Richard Prince whose new show at Guild Hall is titled 'Covering Pollock.' Prince's series is based on photographs of Pollock and his wife artist Lee Krasner at their home in East Hampton. After a dinner Simon de Pury conducted an auction of works by William Wegman, Clifford Ross, Andres Serrano, Barbara Kruger, Bryan Hunt and Eric Fishl. The evening netted about $500,000 for Guild Hall." (NYSocialDiary)

"You can't be mainstream in an indie backwater. Few remember Zach Galifianakis had a late night show on VH1. I'd like to tell you it was good, that not only did it live up to the hype, but it's a buried treasure, something you must seek out, like 'Freaks and Geeks'. But it was forgettable. And from there Zach walked into the wilderness. Known as comedy clubs and late night pay cable, where he was on some touring expedition on Showtime that was so dry and boring, so poorly executed, no one could shine. Then he did 'The Hangover'. Talent meets opportunity. Zach didn't have to carry the whole show. And he triumphed, Zach's a star, lovable now as opposed to hated as he was back then. Furthermore, he takes risks. Not only did he toke up on Bill Maher's HBO political talkfest, he rendered the single best joke I've heard all year: 'I wear a lot of Axe body spray, but I live in a black neighborhood. Over there, they call it Ask body spray. If you don't get that joke, then you're not racist.' Zach's making it on his talent, he's not lost his outsider identity, and we love him for it. Whereas Conan O'Brien always wanted to be accepted. Kind of like going to Harvard, you jump through the hoops while winking, saying you don't really take it seriously, but you do. That's what the late night wars are all about. An establishment game played by ancient men generating so much money that ancient newspapers write about it. But late night ratings have been nosediving, ever since Jay Leno came back. Yes, you might think Jay's a prick, but Conan didn't have the ratings, he was never going to survive.So if Conan had been Zach, he would have found his own level. Actually, for a while, he did, he went on tour to the faithful. But then he came back and signed a bizarre face-saving deal at TBS that was doomed from the outset. You don't succeed by entering a dying arena and playing Poughkeepsie instead of NYC." (Lefsetz)

"Even the intelligentsia is partying in France this month. Former Washington Post executive editor Ben Bradlee will celebrate his 90th birthday on the Ile de Ré, an island off the country’s Atlantic coast. The newsman -- played by Jason Robards in 'All the President’s Men' -- is expected to host about 40 guests, including Christiane Amanpour and Carl Bernstein. The Ile de Ré has a rep as a quieter vacation spot for boldface names, including Johnny Depp, Jean Reno and Juliette Binoche." (PageSix)


"With its unforgettable music, controversial racial stereotypes, four-hour running time, enormous chorus, and huge orchestra, Porgy and Bess has been a problematic classic ever since its debut, in 1935—difficult to stage and equally challenging to interpret. 'It’s an American masterpiece, but it hasn’t found its voice as a musical with the dramatic values a modern audience expects,' says Diane Paulus, artistic director of the American Repertory Theater, who was asked by the trusts of George Gershwin, who wrote the music, and DuBose Heyward, who wrote the book, to 'reimagine'  Porgy and Bess for our time. Starring Audra McDonald and Norm Lewis, the new production will open the A.R.T.’s 2011–12 season with a six-week run that begins in Cambridge, Massachusetts, on August 17.This version contains additional material written by Suzan-Lori Parks, the African-American playwright chosen to address the need for textual changes. 'The artist’s job is not to be politically correct; the artist’s job is to fully realize the characters,' says Parks. 'They needed to be fleshed out.'Gershwin—who stipulated that the work always be performed by an all-black cast—called Porgy and Bess an “American folk opera,' and Paulus, who is directing the A.R.T. production, hopes it will capture the contemporary imagination." (VanityFair)


"If you’re looking for the most conservative region in America, upcountry South Carolina would be a strong contender. Greenville, the area’s biggest city, is home base to Senator Jim DeMint, who argues that unmarried women who live with their boyfriends shouldn’t be allowed to teach in public schools. Though John McCain won the 2008 South Carolina primary, this part of the state went to Mike Huckabee, moral crusader and Southern Baptist pastor. The drive from Greenville to the hamlet of Greer takes you past Bob Jones University, a school that banned interracial dating until the twenty-first century. The political milieu is evident this sticky July evening at Mutt’s BBQ, where around 100 conservative activists and assorted curiosity seekers have come for a gander at Jon Huntsman. Before tonight’s event starts, they join in a religious invocation, the Pledge of Allegiance, the National Anthem, and an anti-statist poem known as the Republican Creed. Henry McMaster, the state’s silver-haired former attorney general, then makes the political tenor of the room explicit when he rises to introduce Jon Huntsman in his thick-as-gravy drawl. 'Some of you folks may remembah that I made a pledge that I looked forward to the day Democrats in South Carolina were so rare we’d have to start huntin’ em with dawgs,' McMaster intones. 'It’s come true! You cay-ant find any!' There is, however, at least one moderate Republican present: the smooth, cosmopolitan former Utah governor, who not only is on record as a supporter of gay civil unions but also served under Barack Obama as ambassador to China until a few months ago. Surveying the motley crowd with an ironic expression, he begins, 'All I can tell you is that I never thought I would be making an appearance at Mutt’s BBQ.” (Vogue)

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