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Friday, January 13, 2012

Media-Whore D'Oeuvres

"Six weeks ago in Washington, on the sidelines of a major U.S.-Israeli meeting known as the 'strategic dialogue,' Israeli Mossad officers were quietly and obliquely bragging about the string of explosions in Iran. 'They would say things like, ‘It’s not the best time to be working on Iranian missile design,’ one U.S. intelligence official at the December parley told The Daily Beast. Those comments were a reference to a string of explosions at a missile-testing site outside Tehran on November 12. The explosions killed Maj. Gen. Hassan Moqqadam, the head of the country’s missile program. But the manner in which the message was delivered—informally and on the sidelines of an official discussion—also speaks to how Israel appears to seek to create the impression of responsibility for acts of violence and sabotage inside Iran without quite taking formal responsibility.
These kinds of actions even have their own Israeli euphemism, 'events that happen unnaturally,' to quote the Israel Defense Forces Chief of Staff Benny Gantz, from his remarks before the Knesset on Tuesday. In his testimony, Gantz promised more such unnatural events in 2012 aimed at thwarting Iran’s nuclear program.  All told, five Iranian scientists or engineers affiliated with the nuclear program have been killed since 2007, the latest being Mostafa Ahmadi Roshan, who Iran’s semi-official Fars news agency says was responsible for procurement at the Natanz enrichment facility. A sixth, Fereydoon Abbasi, survived an assassination attempt in 2010 and is now the head of Iran’s atomic energy agency. William Tobey, a former deputy administrator of the National Nuclear Security Administration and a National Security Council specialist on nuclear issues, said five of the six attacks on the scientists since 2007 used magnetic limpet bombs that would be attached to a vehicle carrying the target.  Tobey, who just published a paper on the assassinations for the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists, would not speculate on the country responsible for the attacks, but Patrick Clawson, the director of research at the Washington Institute for Near Policy, said the signs point to Israel. 'This sophisticated technique is uncharacteristic of the Iranian armed opposition and the Iranian government, it is characteristic of the Mossad,' he said. 'I am unaware of episodes when Americans and Europeans have done this kind of assassination.'" (TheDailyBeast)

"In the days after the June 2009 wedding party that took place at the 284-acre Sarsden estate, 75 miles northwest of London in the Oxfordshire countryside, it would be noted by the British press how remarkable it was, considering who the guests were, that the bride had managed to keep the event a secret from the media. There were no tabloid journalists hanging around the nearby village of Churchill, no paparazzi hiding in the bushes on the morning of June 13, the day Rebekah Wade, the editor of The Sun, Britain’s largest daily newspaper, celebrated her marriage to the former racehorse trainer and 'international playboy' Charles Patrick Evelyn Brooks. The prime minister, Gordon Brown, and his wife, Sarah, attended, as did David Cameron, the Conservative Party leader and prime minister–to–be, and his wife, Samantha. Rupert Murdoch, The Sun’s owner, had flown in. Murdoch’s daughter Elisabeth and her husband, the P.R. man Matthew Freud, who had helped to orchestrate the “media blackout,” had driven over from Burford Priory, their $7 million, 22-bedroom country home, 15 miles away. The guest list attested to the power Rebekah Wade had achieved, at the age of just 41, as the editor of The Sun, a tabloid with three million readers, and as the first woman to hold that job. But it also attested to her charm, 'her warmth,' her 'gregariousness,' and 'her straightforward, sympathetic manner,' because the guests were also close friends. Sarah Brown had her for 'sleepovers' at Chequers, the prime minister’s country retreat. David Cameron was so close he reportedly signed his letters to her 'Love, David.'" (VanityFair)
"Every year in London, The Queen’s list of New Year's and Birthday 'honours' is published on the New Year as well as on the date of the Sovereign’s official birthday (although she was born on April 21, in England the 'official' date is June 2nd and marked by the Trooping the Colour). This year’s 'honours' list is especially noteworthy to New Yorkers because one of our long time citiziens, John Richardson, the eminent art historian, curator and biographer of Picasso, made the list under the overseas section of the Knights of the British Empire ... These Honours have been awarded at the New Year since before 1890 -- which was the year a list of Queen Victoria’s awards was first published in the London Gazette on the 2nd of January. There are several of these 'honours' including Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (CBE); Knight Grand Cross of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (GBE); Officer of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (OBE). The 'honour' most famous to Americans, for the obvious reason of title, is the KBE (or DBE) -- Knight Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (or Dame Commander) -- where the honoree is ordained with the title of Sir (or Dame)." (NYSocialDiary)

"Last night, The Observer headed to Park Avenue for a cocktail party. This wasn’t a spontaneous affair, but rather a fĂȘte for intrepid author Michael Gross in celebration of his new book Unreal Estate. While the party was not at 740 Park, the building Mr. Gross fetishized in a previous book, it was just a few blocks south of that towering edifice of wealth—which surely pleased the author.
We entered a lavish spread, and were promptly offered a cucumber cosmo. Almost immediately after our arrival, we heard a smash. 'THAT’S ALRIGHT!' shouted the hostess, Corcoran’s Vice President Wendy Sarasohn a millisecond later. Several waiters soon appeared on the scene and squatted with paper towels, mopping up the mess. Looking around, we noticed much of New York’s real estate elite mingling in the apartment. John Burger, Barbara Fox, Corcoran CEO Pam Liebman, Melanie Lazenby and Thomas Teeple all chatted with Mr. Gross, congratulating him on his latest effort. Abundant appetizers, from Yellowfin tuna to duck confit, were passed around and eagerly consumed by guests. Eventually, guests were called into the living room where Ms. Sarasohn introduced Mr. Gross and the new book. Michael’s book is way up there on the LA bestseller list and we’ve got to get it up on the New York best seller list,' she said. 'From your mouth to God’s ears,' Mr. Gross added." (Observer)


"Madonna was still en route to LA for the Golden Globes Wednesday night when Harvey and Bob Weinstein threw the first big pre-awards bash of the week at the Chateau Marmont. The Material Girl’s 'W.E.' writing partner, Alek Keshishian, was overheard saying Madge was 'on her way from Gstaad” where she 'had stayed at Valentino’s chalet' and the designer had 'personally given her skiing lessons.'" (PageSix)


"When I read of a Greek mother begging for some insulin for her diabetic son because she couldn’t afford it—doctors had lucrative deals with drug manufacturers who insist on up-front payment—I came close to losing it. Greece’s fat cats continue to get fatter; not a single crook has gone to jail or even been charged, yet the obese socialist finance minister called Venizelos demands more sacrifices.
Greece will go down, as will Portugal and most likely Italy, then I hope Europe splinters and the euro goes the way of Haiti’s currency, whatever that is. Am I being too pessimistic? I don’t think so.
Take Gstaad’s latest import, Madonna, who dropped by for the holidays with some youngsters in tow who made Michael Jackson look like a gerontophile. Someone sat next to her at dinner and told me she was polite and pleasant. She even skied. Yet it’s people such as her who made their reputation by using decadent images of sadomasochism—extolling barbarism, crudeness, and anti-Christian attitudes—to generate an antibourgeois image. She deprecated and vilified most things that bourgeois people hold sacred, made her millions, and now can relax among us here in Gstaad enjoying our bourgeois comforts." (Taki)



"Starz has greenlighted Marco Polo, a new 10-episode original scripted series about the 13th century explorer from the Weinstein Co. and Electus. Created by John Fusco (Hidalgo), Marco Polo is described as a fantastical martial arts epic chronicling the famous adventurer’s early years in the court of Kublai Khan. Acting as the ruler’s spy, ambassador and explorer, Marco treks across the Far East and returns with tales of his journeys. In a court filled with political betrayal and forbidden relationships, Marco must use his martial arts training to survive, but it is his ability to enchant Khan with imaginative tales of his kingdom that is often his best tool to stay alive. Fusco wrote the project and is executor producing with Harvey and Bob Weinstein and Ben Silverman. 'Marco Polo has captivated imaginations for centuries, and John’s script brings this fantastical story to life,' Starz’s CEO Chris Albrecht said." (Deadline)


"The legend now has it that the Arab Spring was kicked off in early 2011 when a Tunisian vegetable seller, Mohamed Bouazizi, had his fruit cart confiscated by the police. Slapped and insulted by a policewoman, he went to complain but was repeatedly ignored. His despairing response -- to set himself on fire -- struck an enormous chord across the Arab world. What was it about this act that provoked such a response? The basic issue was one of dignity, or the lack thereof, the feeling of worth or self-esteem that all of us seek. But dignity is not felt unless it is recognized by other people; it is an inherently social and, indeed, political phenomenon. The Tunisian police were treating Bouazizi as a nonperson, someone not worthy of the basic courtesy of a reply or explanation when the government took away his modest means of livelihood. It was what Ralph Ellison described as the situation of a black man in early 20th-century America, an Invisible Man not seen as a full human being by white people. Authoritarian regimes have many failings. Like those in the Arab world now under siege, they can be corrupt, manipulative, and economically stagnant. All of these are causes for popular complaint. But their greatest weakness is moral: They do not recognize the basic dignity of their citizens and therefore can and do treat ordinary people with at best indifference and at worst with contempt." (Francis Fukuyama)\


"'Twitter has fundamentally changed the way I make films,' film director, actor, writer and producer Edward Burns told me. At first blush, that might seem like an audacious statement, but in an era when full productions can get funded on Kickstarter and feature-length films are shot on consumer DSLRs, that boldness gives way to practicality. Thanks to social and digital, the independent film movement is in a sort of renaissance. Not since the rise of the 'indie' movement in the 1990s — when unknown filmmakers like Kevin Smith, Richard Linklater and Robert Rodriguez rose to prominence — has there been so much disruption in the business of filmmaking. It’s a world that Burns knows well. In 1995 Burns’s debut film, The Brothers McMullen, won the Grand Jury Prize at the Sundance Film Festival. Shot for just $28,000, the film would gross over $10 million at the box office, becoming one of the biggest independent films of its era. Sixteen years later, Burns is still making films without the aid of expensive crews, big studio contracts or pricey equipment. Burns’s latest film, Newlyweds, is now available on VOD and Vudu. It comes to iTunes on Dec. 30, 2011. Although the film will have a small theatrical run in Chicago and San Francisco next month, VOD and iTunes are the delivery methods of choice." (Christina Warren)


"Now if that doesn't make you want to log on to Ticketmaster and buy a ticket you probably don't have a tattoo and never contemplated getting one, you probably graduated from college and are a winner, you never drove a mini-truck, drank a case of beer and wished you were something more but decided that for now, who you are is enough. Now this is not the unexpected sonic explosion of 'Why Can't This Be Love', when Van Halen truly had something to prove with Dave off on a solo career and new singer Sammy Hager in place. Still, if you were ever a fan it satisfies. Top Forty radio ain't gonna play it, doesn't matter what the reviewers say, they hated the band until everyone suddenly agreed Eddie was one of the greats, this is just for you. Who've waited, who've still believed, that despite your pot belly and thinning hair, despite the sand running through the hourglass, your prayers could still be answered, that deep inside you're still eighteen and it's so fucking great to be alive. You're sitting there hoping it doesn't suck. And the repetition of the lyric in the chorus is a bit disappointing, Dave never took the easy way out, but then suddenly your butt is squirming in your seat, your arms are in the air, you're dancing, you've wearing a shiteating grin and you're saying to yourself THIS IS FUCKING GREAT! Now you've got to start with the video, on the band's homepage. Sure, you miss Michael Anthony, but you get over that pretty quick since Wolfie's aged, but what gets you is the swagger, the essence of what the band always was is still there. Dave knows we're watching and he's doing his best to be the coolest dude on the planet. Still, as always, it's about Eddie. This is what made us all want to pick up the guitar and play. He just looks so fucking COOL! His axe is part of him, the way he bends his knee, how the fuck does he do this?" (Bob Lefsetz)

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