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Saturday, March 24, 2012

Media-Whore D'Oeuvres

"How do emails from Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's personal inbox escape the narrow confines for which they were intended, and eventually get exposed to the light of day? It's a story that was born in the presidential palace in Damascus, bounced southeast to Al Arabiya's bureau in Dubai's sleek Media City, traveled the 3,400 miles west to theGuardian's offices in London -- and even made a brief stopover in Foreign Policy's Washington office. From late May 2011 until Feb. 7, Syrian activists had been monitoringthe personal emails of Assad, his wife Asma, and a small clique of advisors in real time. According to the activists, they quietly used that information to warn their friends of upcoming actions by the Syrian regime against them. But on Feb. 5, the hacker group Anonymous hacked into the Syrian Ministry of Presidential Affairs and released into the public sphere the names and passwords of the accounts that the activists had been watching. FP reported on the release of two emails uncovered by Anonymous. One of FP's blog posts was reprinted in Arabic by the opposition news source All4Syria, a website run by Syrian dissident Ayman Abdel Nour, a former friendof Assad from their days in university. According to one of the Syrian activists involved in monitoring the leak, a reader sent an angry message to the president's email address soon after the All4Syria story was released -- and the addresses that the activists had been monitoring for months went dead soon after. At that point, they decided to seek out media outlets to publish the more than 3,000 pages of emails they had culled from the personal accounts of the very top figures of the Assad regime.The coverage of the email cache has focused on the tawdry details: the picture of a near-naked womanin the president's inbox, Asma's penchant for crystal-studded Christian Louboutin high heels, and the eclectic taste in musicrevealed by Assad's iTunes purchases. Less well understood is the daunting array of obstacles -- ranging from questions about the email cache's authenticity to the political and cultural sensitivities of the Middle East -- that had to be overcome before the trove was published. And that's a story of the circuitous routes that information often takes in the Middle East before it is revealed." (ForeignPolicy)


"A jovial gunman in khaki looks me up and down, discerns (correctly) that I am unarmed, and waves me through the gate into Sufi. Kabul is emerging from its coldest winter in 20 years and the last of the snow sparkles in the garden. I crunch my way into the restaurant and wait for Saad Mohseni, television impresario, multimillion-dollar dealmaker and chief protagonist in Afghanistan’s culture wars ...The meteoric rise of Afghanistan’s first media mogul speaks of another, less reported conflict: a country’s struggle to define a new identity after decades of upheaval and oppression. In this other drama, Mohseni stands centre stage. In the past decade, he has built up a network of two radio stations and three television channels that produce 15 hours of in-house programmes a day – more than many stations in the US. Shows on his Tolo TV network have redefined Afghan sensibilities – thrilling a younger generation but prompting a backlash from traditionalists. Only a few weeks before our meeting, the government had ordered women presenters to wear headscarves and avoid heavy make-up – the latest in a running battle between a vibrant liberal media and conservatives.
Whatever finger-wagging clerics may say, it is clear that Mohseni has tapped into a yearning for something new. Afghan Star – Afghanistan’s answer to The X Factor – is into its seventh season. An Afghan version of Yes Minister, the British 1980s satire of civil service mandarins, has delighted viewers by lampooning the sycophancy and kowtowing around a fictional minister of garbage. Game show contestants compete in a battle of nerves to win boxes of cash in a local version of Deal or No Deal. It is not just the Afghan public who have been won over. Mohseni’s passion for TV myth-making on the hoof has unleashed serious money. In January, Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation announced it had taken a minority stake in Moby Group, the media company chaired by Mohseni. International expansion beckons – provided Afghanistan does not implode first." (FT)


"Never one to hold back on his opinions, Karl Lagerfeld stayed true to form at a press conference here on Friday, where he spoke at length on a wide range of subjects, from his love of architect Tadao Ando and stationery to his inability to get tired, generating plenty of laughter along the way. But he launched one of his biggest zingers — a pointed jab at Tina Brown — in the very last minutes of the nearly hour-long session. Asked by a journalist from Indonesia what he made of a recent Newsweek story claiming that he is overrated, he fired back: 'First of all, Tina Brown's magazine is not doing well at all,' he said before ripping into the credibility of the story. 'She is dying,' he continued. "I'm sorry for Tina Brown, who was such a success at 'Vanity Fair,' to go down with a shitty little paper like this. I'm sorry.'" (WWD)


"AT 8 p.m. on a rainy Tuesday last month, Salman Rushdie strode into Junoon, a Flatiron district restaurant where 90 people awaited his arrival, some sipping chamomile-infused vodka cocktails. Mr. Rushdie, the Indian-born British author, was the guest of honor at a dinner sponsored by Dom PĂ©rignon and Booktrack, the maker of an app that synchronizes music to e-books.  It was the second party that night for Mr. Rushdie, 64, who earlier in the evening could be found chatting with Diane Von Furstenberg at a downtown show for the artist Ouattara Watts, hosted by Vladimir Restoin Roitfeld, one of his gallerists.  At Junoon, after plates of baby eggplant and lamb were scraped clean, Mr. Rushdie grabbed an iPad and read aloud his short story 'In the South,”' which appeared in The New Yorker in 2009 and which Booktrack had scored to original music played by the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra. After he finished, Mr. Rushdie approached a long-legged, slim brunet woman sitting at the end of a long table. 'How did I do?' Mr. Rushdie asked. She cooed over the recitation, and he thanked her for coming. As he walked away, she turned to a fellow partygoer. 'It’s nice to see him out, isn’t it?' she said. Perhaps a more apt question would be: where haven’t New Yorkers seen Mr. Rushdie lately? " (NYTimes)


"In 1966, Robert (Mondavi) and his younger brother Peter literally came to blows at a family picnic. The ostensible cause, according to Robert Mondavi's autobiography 'Harvests of Joy,' was Peter's accusation that Robert had dipped into company funds to buy his wife a mink coat, but tensions had been building for years between the two, who had different visions for the Charles Krug winery, which their immigrant father had purchased in 1943. After a 1962 trip to Europe in which he'd been inspired by the wines he encountered, notably the great growths of Bordeaux, Robert became passionately devoted to the idea that the Napa Valley could produce wines to rival the greatest of the Old World. Like most of his peers, Peter seemed content to cater to the domestic market with easygoing, inexpensive wines. After Robert founded his own winery, his drive, his technological innovations and his proselytizing helped raise the bar for Napa Cabernet and to create the market for premium California wines, his partnership with Baron Phillip de Rothschild in the creation of Opus One being perhaps the ultimate validation of his vision. Meanwhile, Robert's older son, Michael, and later Tim joined the family company and unwittingly replayed the rivalry between their father and his brother. The Mondavi family feuding seems worthy of feature-length treatment by their neighbor Francis Ford Coppola." (Jay McInerney)

"One of my favorite galleries in Manhattan is the 511 Gallery. It is off the 'beaten path' from the usual Chelsea Gallery art scene. Mara Miller, the Gallery's Managing Director, hosts a more intimate and relaxing atmosphere, in which to view art." (EastVillageLive)

"VanityFair: I was surprised to find out that there is speculation about Don and Peggy [Elisabeth Moss] getting together. Jon Hamm:I don’t think that [is a possibility] at all. I think the Don-Peggy relationship is more of a kindred-spirit kind of thing. I think that what both Don and Peggy have in their makeup is a raw ambition. Don’s trying to escape this Depression-era life and past and move into a life of expansive cosmopolitan existence through the sweat of his own brow and, honestly, through the duplicitous nature of his existence. I think Peggy is also escaping the close-minded, parochial existence of where she comes from for what Manhattan represents—a bigger, brighter, better life. I think that Don identifies that in her and tries to help cultivate it. There is a tenuous but strong relationship there." (VanityFair)


"It took Zenaide Muneton 20 seconds to convince me that she was the perfect nanny. Short and dark-haired, she has a goofy, beaming smile and knows how to make everything fun for a little kid. Time to brush your teeth? She shakes her hands and does a pantomimed teeth-brushing dance. Bath time? She pumps her arms up and down in a going-to-the-tub march. After I told her I’d love to hire her, she smiled and thanked me. Then we both laughed, because there is no way I could possibly afford her. As one of New York City’s elite nannies, Muneton commanded around $180,000 a year — plus a Christmas bonus and a $3,000-a-month apartment on Central Park West. I should be her nanny. I began researching this bizarre microeconomy shortly after my wife and I started looking for someone to watch our son for a few hours a week. We met with several candidates, all of whom had good references and seemed fine with him. Still, we weren’t sure how to judge them. Should we hire the one who seemed to be the most fun? The most experienced? A native English speaker or someone who could speak a foreign language to him? Someone with a college degree? A master’s? We had no idea. But I began to wonder if price conveyed any important information about the nanny market. All the candidates we spoke with charged about $15 to $18 per hour, which, though standard in our Brooklyn neighborhood, seemed like a bargain when I learned that some nannies charge considerably more than double that rate. Would my son suffer with a midmarket nanny? This fear led me to the Pavillion Agency, which specializes in finding domestic workers for New York City’s wealthy." (NYTimes)


"Mike Stone won't be able to attend his high school prom with Megan Piper or any other porn star, according to the North St. Paul-Maplewood-Oakdale School District in Minnesota. Stone was called to the principal's office at Tartan Senior High School this week and told it was inappropriate to bring an adult film star to a high school dance, the Daily Dot reports. However, the 18-year-old student escaped disciplinary action and was not in any trouble with the school, Jennifer McNeil, a representative for the school district, told The Huffington Post. After sending nearly 600 Tweets, Stone had recently received responses from at least two porn stars who said they were willing to attend his prom as long as he provided money for airfare. In a statement issued to parents and obtained by HuffPost, the North St. Paul-Maplewood-Oakdale School District cited regulations to defend their decision to ban an adult film star from attending the event.In short, the rules state that the district has the right to deny any person admission to a school-sponsored event if 'the visit is not in the best interest of students, employees or the school district,' or if it 'substantially disrupts the orderly operation of school or school activities,' McNeil said.  This will be the second time Piper misses out on attending a high school prom; she moved from Georgia to Kansas during her senior year of high school and couldn't attend her own." (HuffPo via Paper)

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