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Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Media-Whore D'Oeuvres


"Kofi Annan today announced a rare breakthrough in his efforts to halt the bloodshed in Syria, saying that President Bashar al-Assad had endorsed his six-point diplomatic plan calling for an immediate cease-fire, access for international aid workers, and the start of political talks leading to a multiparty democracy. But there was a sense among observers that we've been here before. Last November, the Syrian government signed a deal with the Arab League to withdraw its military forces from besieged towns and to accept a 'road map' for political reform. But Assad never implemented the pact. U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, meanwhile, has become so weary of Assad's promises to rein in his security forces that he hasn't even bothered to call him in several months. 'He made all these promises,' Ban told reporters last September, 'but these promises have become now broken promises.' Indeed, many Syria observers believe Assad is seeking to bog down Annan and his team of mediators in a fruitless diplomatic process that will provide him with political cover to continue his military campaign to crush the opposition. Even today, the Local Coordination Committees, an activist group that monitors the violence, said 20 people had died by mid afternoon, according to a report in theNew York Times, and fighting was reported along the Lebanese border. 'Assad has everything to gain from accepting the Annan initiative,' said Joshua Landis, the director of the Center for Middle East Studies at the University of Oklahoma. 'The president is looking for a way to end the uprising without stepping down, or turning power over to the revolutions. The new U.N. peace plan does not insist on having Assad handing over power, which is why Assad finds it acceptable.... He can play along with this because ultimately he needs to slow down the stampede towards greater and greater sanctions and [secure international] pressure on the opposition not to send weapons inside Syria.' Despite the grim assessment, many observers say that the diplomatic campaign to rein in President Assad has been gaining strength, driven in part by waning interest in the West for military intervention in Syria." (ForeignPolicy)


"Awards for male escorts? Isn't a credit-card swipe enough? Nope—these guys are entirely deserving of acclaim, especially if you've ever met some of the twisted trolls who hire them. (Kidding. It's all delightfully fun, I'm sure.) And so, the night before the humptastic Black Party, rentboy.com staged its annual Hookie Awards at Roseland, making trophy boys out of contenders for Best Body, Best Ass, and Best Boyfriend Fantasy—and yes, those are three separate things. The place was filled with nominees, patrons, and gawkers, and though homophobic minister George Rekers's rent boy Jo-vanni Roman didn't show up as expected, everyone else did, all ready to lift your luggage with a smile and a twinkle ... Their going rate is about $250–$300 an hour—I hear—numbers which amazingly enough haven't gone up in the past decade, either because of the economy or the glut of available escorts or both. A Hookie, Van Sant added, can actually up your price—and selectivity—sort of like an Oscar does for Jean Dujardin or Christopher Plummer. And there's just as much campaigning to get it.But is this all legal? 'We say the escorts are selling their time only,' (Sean) Van Sant informed. 'What happens between you and the escort is up to you. That's the way it's considered legal.'" (Musto)

"Wu-Tang has branched out into a mainstream audience of suburban white kids who know nothing more of the band beyond the Wu decals adorning their gigantic pick-up trucks. A lot of these kids have only heard "Cream" and that one Ol' Dirty Bastard Song about Brooklyn. However, you also have rap fans who have been die hard Wu-Tang ehtusiasts from the beginning, those who know every verse from Liquid Swords and are actually interested in hearing a rap titan from the outfit speak about one of the greatest rap or hip hop albums to ever be released. Those are the fans who say, “my mother raised me on Wu-Tang, or my older sister, or my uncle.” It came as a pleasant surprise to learn that the GZA has been doing seminars at MIT, Harvard, and other fancy places all over the country. When he swung around to NYU, Wu-Tang lover and skateboarder, Billy Rohan took me on a man date to hear him speak. Liquid Swords bumped out of the room's speakers while a bunch of scholars and rap fans waited for the GZA to take the podium. He began by mentioning how happy he is to be giving the lecture in New York City, reminiscing on the good old days when he and the RZA would take the bus, to a boat, to a train, to a bus deep into the South Bronx to hang out and get a break from Staten Island where they lived. It was in the Bronx, the birthplace of hip-hop (according to him) that he found his calling." (VICE via MediaReDEF)


"I stayed in town on October 1, which is National Day, the beginning of the weeklong holiday that commemorates the founding of the People's Republic of China (PRC) on that date in 1949. This holiday is one of the two 'Golden Weeks.' The other is Chinese New Year, also called the Spring Holiday, which usually occurs in January or February. I try never to travel on either of these occasions because of the crowds. If you watch director Lixin Fin's award-winning Chinese documentary film, Last Train Home, you'll understand. He documents 'the world's largest human migration,' when 130 million migrant workers return to their rural homes for the Spring Holiday. (It's as if half of America traveled home for Thanksgiving!) With so many people out of town for the holiday, Shanghai was relatively quiet. I was especially delighted to be invited to an elaborate lunch by Shelley and Edward Lim and Wang Hui Min (who uses the English name Faye Wang). Faye is the founder and powerhouse behind the Xiao Nan Guo brand of restaurants and spas. We lunched at Faye's new upscale brand concept restaurant, Maison de l'Hui (Hui means wisdom). It had just opened in the Rock Bund, a six-block historic area that is one block from the famous Bund Promenade. When I first moved to Shanghai in 2008, I wouldn't have dreamed that the neighborhood, then a slum, could ever hold promise. But when the scaffolding came off, the area, with its architecturally interesting Colonial buildings, became known as the Rock Bund." (NYSocialDiary)


"Andrew Albert, husband of New York socialite Annie Churchill, pleaded guilty to felony grand larceny yesterday after he was charged with bilking investors out of $600,000 for his proposed shopping Web site, On1Ave.com. He faces up to 4 1/2 years behind bars. Under the plea deal, if Albert repays his investors $50,000, he’ll serve one to three years — if not, he’ll get the full term. Albert was accused of spending investors’ money on groceries, dog care and a TriBeCa loft. Churchill, the ex-wife of Winston Churchill’s grandson, was not implicated. Albert’s lawyer, Michael Farkas, said, '[He] did try to start a Web site and worked very hard on it for three years.' Churchill declined to comment." (PageSix)


"John Leonard estimated that he read 13,000 books and published more than five million words in his lifetime. For 50 years, before his death of lung cancer in 2008, he was the most relentless and generous of critics. He started out, before he dropped out of Harvard, in the pages of the Crimson, parodying the Cambridge coffeehouse scene and panning Monocle, a humor magazine run out of Yale by Victor Navasky, who invited him to write for Monocle, where he parodied National Review, which got William Buckley to give him a job there, at a time when the contents page—featuring Joan Didion, Garry Wills and Renata Adler—read like a preview of the New York Review of Books. At National Review he could throw acid on Greenwich Village, which was apparently spoiled before Bob Dylan got there, and declare the death of the Beat Generation, but he had to move to Pacifica Radio in Berkeley to hate on Nixon with impunity and put Pauline Kael on the air. Leonard wrote four novels by the time he was 34, but had to follow the money, which for him was in criticism. It was at The New York Times that he became a force, joining as an editor in his late 20s, becoming the paper’s daily book reviewer, then ushering in the 'golden era' of the Times Book Review, at age 31 in 1970." (Observer)

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