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Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Final: How fast time travels. Another year has passed. And this makes our 8th -- ! -- annual Pirate Awards season. Cannot believe that this blog has been going for eight years. All this week this blog will be re-hashing some of the fiascos, triumphs, epic fails that went down this year. The whole process will be a mix of funny, informative and (hopefully) smart. Starting on Thursday here:

Breakout Performerof the Year: Kristen Wiig. Where did this brilliant performer come from? On the big screen, on SNL each week, in the boldface headlines of Page Six, we spent much of 2011 watching the marvelous Kristen Wiig marvel. Call me?

Politician of the Year: Hillary Clinton. While the President was partially distracted with the economy, Hillary managed our foreign affairs with her brand of "smart power" brilliantly. Whether it was on shuttle diplomacy soothing the savage minds inside Pakistan's ISI, cajoling Russia into doing our bidding in the Security council, shepherding Burma back into the silvery nimbus of the West, or -- and this is where she shines most -- raising the status of women and children (natures bullwarks against the excesses of hypermasculinity) in what Nixon called "the arena," Hillary was without match. She is our Iron Lady.

God, The Corsair wishes Hillary would replace Biden, thus guaratnteeing Obama a lock on Ohio, Pennsylvania and maybe even West Virginia and Arkansas.

President Obama is loyal to a fault, just like George Herbert Walker Bush -- Bush the First. Aides told Bush the First to dump Dan Quayle because, quite frankly, he was a liability. Back in those days, at the Presidential level Indiana was a given for the Republican Party, just like New Jersey is for Democrats (on second hand ..). He added nothing to the ticket. Plus, he was a fucking second class intellect (not a good look in a debate).

But character is destiny. George Bush the First was a Yalie, a preepy and a loyalist. He did not abandon ship. He kept Quayle instead of the much for intellectual former Congressman from New York, Jack Kemp. And Bush lost. And -- to his credit -- he never regretted the principled decision.
Biden's Delaware is alos a lock. Obama, also a loyalist, may regret not "throwing Biden under the bus" when the white working class vote -- which invented the term "thowing under the bus" -- vote en masse against the Obama-Biden Team. Hillary, a loyal Obama cabinet menber who is a hero both internationally and to the white working class, ought to be Obama's running mate. There, I said it.

Digital Player of the Year: Prince AlWaleed bin Talal. This blogger has been covering the digital space since 1999. Prince AlWaleed bin Talal's name has been there since then. He is a skillful investor, but his new stake in Twitter is his cleverest move not the least of which because it provides him some "control" over a microblogging site that is transforming his region, of which Saudi Arabia is not immune. From Foreign Policy:

"When most people want to become involved in Twitter, they open an account. Leave it to Prince AlWaleed bin Talal, the Saudi media mogul who is King Abdullah's nephew, to buy a chunk of the microblogging site. The prince's company announced on Dec. 19 that it was investing $300 million in Twitter, officially bringing the site into the mainstream of the Saudi media scene.
"Rightly or wrongly, social media is perceived as a revolutionary tool in Saudi Arabia -- one of the many factors that contributed to the Arab Spring. The association was so strong that a few days following the Egyptian uprising that brought down Hosni Mubarak, a Saudi official had to deny a rumor that the Saudi king had offered Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg $150 billion to buy his social networking site -- a bargain, the thinking went, if it helped him ward off further revolutions. And indeed, sites like Twitter and Facebook are rapidly growing in the kingdom, precisely because they allow voices that otherwise would not have been able to find an outlet to flourish."
Mat we live in interesting times.

Interview of the Year: Maer Roshan interviews Courtney Love. Roshan did a hell of a job in 5,000 words. One feels, after reading this, that everything that can be known about Courtney is now out there. Extraordinarily honest -- maybe too honest. A sample quote: "Actually, these days I’m only interested in plutocrats. Like really, really rich guys. I’m determined to land one sooner or later. My favorite book these days is something called The Filthy Rich Handbook, which I study like the Talmud. The thing is, I think I can be a real asset to a wealthy man." Oh, brother!

Survivors of the Year: Kyra Sedgewick and Kevin Bacon. It used to be said, tongue in cheek, that in the event of a nuclear war the roaches and Keith Richards will carry on. The same can be said regading the marriage of Kevin Bacon and Kyra Sedgewick. Nothing, not even soul-destroying Hollywood, has dented their union. Twenty three years later -- that's about a century in Hollywood marriage time -- the alliterative Kyra and Kevion are still together, further: they seem to enjoy each others company!

Even Bernie Madoff's fuckery couln't tear asunder Team Kedgewick. Both lost quite a bit of money. But their formidable work ethic (ever heard of Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon?) and the fact that Kyra makes $275,000 an episode for The Closer. "We lost hard-earned money that we worked very hard for that was what we thought in a safe place," Kyra said of the loss." It's painful but a lot of people lost a lot more. And we have a lot of things to be grateful for in our life, and we never ever forget that."
Image of the Year: Obama's War Room. There were many images that lingered in the popular imagination in 2012. The fucking thugs on camels storming Tahrir Square was straight out of Fellini. The Egyptian bra beating image which has prompted tens of thousands of women to rise up in protest. That, clearly, is the first runner-up. However, there was no image so intense as Obama's War Room (above) -- in which the President's national security team watched as a special operations team killed Osama bin laden in Pakistan.

It puts the lotion on its skin

Creepiest Move of the Year: Jim Carrey's new flame. Perhaps Jim Carrey was telegraphing his mid-life crisis when he channeled his inner creepiness in a masher video for Emma Stone, aged 22, in August. Now he's taken up with a co-ed, one Anastasia Vitkina. Then again, why do we even care?
Curious -- was she even alive when Carrey set the world ablaze with his rendition of a man's head flying out of a rhinocerous' ass? (Averted Gaze)

Runner Up: The Long Island Serial Killer.

Media Organization of the Year: (tie) Al Jazeera and Bloomberg LP. It is hard to find two organizations more different and yet both of them -- targeted, efficient, smart, compelling -- did bold things this year across many platforms. Of Bloomberg this blogger wrote, in April: "Bloomberg LP doesn't get nearly as much attention among the chattering class as it deserves. When was the last time, for example, that you read on TVNewser something brilliant occurring on Bloomberg TV? Me neither. And yet Bloomberg -- by virtue of its high profile hires and its business strategies across multiple platforms -- is indeed a serious media player, on radio, on TV, on the web.

"For some time now, this blogger has been impressed with Bloomberg, the media company. As legacy media organizations carefully navigate the Scylla and Charybdis of this digital age, Bloomberg LP, which has a hefty war chest from the days when their terminals alone carried the day, is making smart, carefully calibrated manuevers."

Regarding Al Jazeera English, which exploded early in the year and became thwe most vital news source for the Arab Spring (and now is out CNN-ing CNN in places like Mexico, Africa, the Middle East and South America). In January Brian Stelter of The Times wrote: "While American television networks were scrambling to move reporters and producers into Cairo, the Al Jazeera channels were already there. The other networks have noticed: on the roundtable portion of ABC’s 'This Week' on Sunday, Sam Donaldson looked at an Al Jazeera reporter and said, 'Thank you for what you’re doing.'"

don't hate the playa, hate the game
West Indian of the Year: Charlie Rose. His work ethic, quite frankly, can only be properly construed as (sotto vocce) West Indian. Protestants have nothing on this man. Charlie Rose is extraordinary with the gigs, which perhaps make way for the fact that he never decided to do the family thing. When Rose is not doing his weeknightly highbrow public television show (which requires him to read books, newspapers, see all the important movies and keep up with sports), he is an inveterate nightowl that finds time to moderate A-List panels as well as romance socialites (“mainstay on the Manhattan cocktail party circuit,”) and hanging out with Clooney and the fellas at the villa on Lake Como.

Now he is going to have a morning show on CBS. And, from what we hear, he may not give up his late night show. Positively West Indian is this man's pimp hand.

Endangered Species of the Year: Tyrants. And good riddance. In January, this blogger wrote:
"32 years Mubarak has been in power. Five Presidents have come and gone in the meanwhile. The prime sin of tyrants -- and they have many -- is that they cannot distinguish when their body begins and the body politic ends. "L'etat, c'est moi!" cried the Sun King, another era's Mubarak. First Tunisia, now Cairo -- I am beginning to wonder if we are not experiencing the end of African Dictator Chic.
"One of my favorite stories is Oedipus Tyrannus, which Aristotle regarded as the ultimate tragedy of the classical era (Hamlet, one might argue, is its modern equivalent). Both deal with political succession, with tyranny. It is an idea that has been with human beings since the dawn of civilization. All serious people regard it as an unnatural, evil institution. And yet it persists."
But for how much longer must we endure? This trend of the endangerment of tyrants continued as the year concluded with the death of Kim Jung-il. We await 2012 with baited breath to see how this all continues to play itself out.

Runner Up, Endangered Species of the Year: The global elite. They just didn't get it this year. As the Egyptian riots were reaching their zenith in January and across the West epic unemployment prevailed, this, from Reuters: "The global elite, dining on Norwegian lobster and reindeer at the end of the World Economic Forum on Saturday, felt pretty chipper despite growing concerns about the inequality of the economic recovery." Charmed, I'm sure (Averted Gaze).

Worst Media Organization of the Year: OWN. Kudos to Oprah for not resting on her laurels and staying at her Chicago based Tv show until the end of time. It took guts to do something so out of left field as start a network, particularlly in such an almost post-TV age. iPods, tablets, cellphones, nooks and Kindles and Wii's all now compete for an audience that is more and more likely to cable cut.

That having been said, OWN is underperforming. Even a non-entity like Jenny McCarthy knows when to get the fuck out of Dodge. And while we continue to wish her luck in this endeavor, we cannot help but notice this fact. The only way for Oprah to help OWN, ironically, is to get back in the hosting game.
Runner Up: Conan.

Heaven's Gift to the Media: Wills and Kate. It's been a tough few years for traditional media. Print circulation is anemic, terrestrial radio is deader than Kim Jung-il -- then came Wills and Kate, the social media tentpole of 2011. It infused oxygen into the supine body of traditional media. From Keith Kelly in May, "People, the nation's best-selling weekly, racked up its biggest newsstand sales in a year, now estimated to be nearly 2.5 million copies -- good news for Managing Editor Larry Hackett.

"That's more than 1.2 million copies above its average weekly sales in the most recent six-month period ended Dec. 31, when it had seen its single-copy sales slip 5.1 percent to 1,257,536 out of its total circulation of 3.6 million, according to the Audit Bureau of Circulations. Jann Wenner's Us Weekly sold close to 1 million copies on newsstands with its royals cover."

And speaking of "tentpoles," can this blogger say that as we were liveTweeting the wedding at 4am ET, Pippa Middleton's form-fitting dress -- fucking supersexy -- was more awakening than a thousand cups of coffee. Hundreds of thousands of half-awake men know exactly what we were thinking at the moment Pippa first hit the TV screen. And it was filthy.

Best Online TV Show: Dazed TV. As video becomes more and more prevalent online so as to perfectly align with the growth of tablet usage, low cost digital TV shows will become more prominent. And shows that offer a glimpse into social universes that are restricted will be sought out. Dazed Tv -- curated, most excellently, by social aristocrat Jefferson Hack -- is a sneak peek into the life of the jet set (or at least the cover shooting process at bohemian Brit magazine Dazed and a few extras), through Hack's expert and tasteful curation. Among this year's chic collaborators: Florence and the Machine, Chloe Sevigny, Harmony Korrine, Tilda Swinton and Milla Jovovich. It will be interesting to see how they grow this idea out in 2012, and if other fashion/style content play will follow suit and emulate.

Miss Polly Jean
Musician of the Year: PJ Harvey. Resolved: women ruled the music charts in 2011 -- Adele, Rihanna, Taylor, Katy, Nicki Minaj all dominated pop. On the more subtle, arty side, musicians like Florence and the Machines, St Vincent and Feist provided the more bohemian soundtrack to our lives.

But no one was more of a mixture of intellectual and artistic, dominating on both fronts than Ms. Polly Jean Harvey in Let England Shake. Let England Shake is, hands down, the best album of 2011. PJ Harvey manages to sonically express the chaos, the riots, the wars, the general sense of the end of Empire and the decline of the West -- and to transform such civilizational messiness in a work of beauty.

Up-and-Coming Politician of the Year: Andrew Cuomo. There is no one in the New York blogosphere that has been, over the years, harder on Andrew Cuomo. And yet it cannot be denied, Andrew Cuomo is to the Democrat Party -- an up-and-comer -- what his neighbor Chris Chrystie is to Republicans. Both are aggressive, centrist-ish pols not afraid to get their hands dirty straightening out the messes left them by previous administrations. Cuomo, like Henry V, has put his infamous temper behind him and brought humility and behind-the-scenes toughness with him this time around.

Cuomo, though Governing as a Centrist, has done a particularly amazing feat: tricked Progressives into thinking he is one of them (although at this year's Huffington Post Game Changers party, there were some protests against his stand on the millionaire's tax). "By force of will and a fierce work ethic, Gov. Cuomo has pulled off the near-impossible with a budget agreement that closes a $10 billion projected deficit without the tax hikes, fees and fiscal gimmicks that have been so common in the past," is how Fred Dicker, another frequent Cuomo critic put it. "Even more breathtakingly, he did it in the face of a spendthrift Legislature that had helped turn New York's government into a joke line on 'Saturday Night Live.' Cuomo's victory holds out the hope of inaugurating a new economic era that reverses the decades of private-sector decline and public-sector expansion that began with Republican Gov. Nelson A. Rockefeller in the early 1960s."

BFF -- Best Frenemies Forever Award: Pakistan's ISI. Ever since the strategically important Pakistan got nukes, and gave nukes to North Korea (thanks AQ Khan!), we have been fucking strapped to the ISI. It is the classic bad marriage. The ISI comes home late and smells of whisky and cheap perfume. The ISI is verbally abusive. The ISI is cheating on us with the Taliban. But we have no choice really but to stay because, among other things, no country is more likely without US mentorship to go into the nuclear proliferation business than Pakistan, making the entire planet unstable. There is no country more likely to sell nukes to terrorists without US mentorship than Pakistan.

The problem is that Pakistan's ISI are paranoiac. If the ISI were an individual it would be diagnosed with severe psychological problems. They truly believe that India, the world's largest democarcy and a rising power, dreams of a land war with Pakistan. Fucking crazy paranoiac shit, on the real.

And so, like a spouse in a bad marriage but unable to leave for the sake of the kids -- the safety of the planet -- Pakistan's ISI are out best frenemies forever, or at least until the "law-and-order" movement becomes a strong counterbalance.

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