Thursday, December 27, 2012

2012 Corsair Pirate Awards (Will be continuously updated until TODAY 12/31)

Another year has passed. What is that line in Abba's "Happy New Year" -- my favorite New Year's song -- "Happy new year/ Happy new year/ May we all have a vision now and then/ Of a world where every neighbour is a friend." Ando so on.

And this makes our 9th -- ! -- 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 and political coups that went down this year. The whole process will be a mix of funny, informative and (hopefully) smart stuff that people who have been reading this blog for nearly a decade are used to. I refuse to compromise with salacious content, but I do not shy away from the spice of life, as you all know. Enjoy:

Meltdown of the Year: Karl Rove. The man once known as The Architect -- also Bush's Brain --  the enabler of the War on Terror, ended this year in a personal war against Big Data. His media meltdown over the fact that his protoge Mitt Romney's loss of Ohio forced Megyn Kelly into the control room at Fox. Not his best moment, to be sure.

RIP, 2012 -- tie: Gore Vidal and Elliot Zuckerman and Chris Hitchens. The United States lost three geniuses this year, essayist Gore Vidal and musician Elliot Zuckerman and my old pal Hitchens. All three were liberally educated generalists -- a dying breed -- and they left us in quite a mess, in an age of economists. At his best Gore Vidal was perhaps the best essayist since Montaigne; at his best Elliot Zuckerman was the best, most complex musician of his age; at his best Christopher was one of the most formidable debaters in the history of the English language. Who will take their place?

Most Adept Political Maneuver: The President Pivots Populist. President Obama's pivot pacificwise was an astonishing political development internationally, but domestically, his pivot from the centrist of 2010 to the populist campaigner was flawlessly executed. And it was difficult. Throughout his first term Obama has veered between center-left to center, but to get electe3d -- the demographics proved this right -- he had to become a populist, capture all the territory to the left of Romney and with large margins.  I wrote, last January:

"Right before our very eyes last night, as if by magic, the President veered towards the populist left. It has been a long and treacherous journey, a move he had resisted in 2008 -- where he was cast as the brainy, intellectual, lofty rhetoric spouting pol with the dazzling smile. Populism, to be quite frank, was inorganic to Obama, a Democrat in the stiff Dukakis-Kerry mode (unlike the earthy, working class Bill Clinton, the unusual Democrat that carried Arkansas and West Virginia). The gloomy demographics of the 2012 race -- probably against Romney; how does one get the magic electoral college number? -- presage a negative and tactically brutal upcoming campaign."

It was not an easy task to reinvent himself in that way, but then again he had a lot of help ... from Romney. Runner up: Chris Christie.

Underreported Story of the Year: Was Arafat Poisoned? Whether or not Yasser Arafat was poisoned with Polonium 210 will be determined later on in 2013, but there is reason to believe that he may indeed have been. While holed up in Ramallah by the Israeli military in his last days, Arafat died ... abruptly. From Slate: "The body of Yasser Arafat was exhumed briefly (in November) so medical examiners could attempt to determine whether he was poisoned. Arafat’s widow, Suha, requested a murder investigation, and high levels of polonium-210 have been found on the Palestinian leader’s personal effects." Hmm. Curiouser and curiouser, said Obi Wan Kenobi.

End of a Trend: Ladies Who Lunch. Remember the "Ladies who Lunched"? Nothings quite been the same since Nan and Pat left the scene so prematurely for that great big swishy cocktail party in the sky. The Barbara Walterses, the Liz Smiths, Aileen Mehlee, Judy Taubmans, Mica Erteguns, Lynn Wyatt, Princess Firyal, Mercedes Bass, the Louise Grunwald, Susan Gutfreund, and Deeda Blair? Remember how they basically were the soft powers that made -- behind the scenes -- things move so swishily for the ruling class at noonish? But even Barbara Walters aint what she used to be, to be frank. Before her, there was Babe Paley, Gloria Guinness, Slim Keith, C. Z. Guest, the Duchess of Windsor, Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis. No one holds that kind of power and glamour anymore and, to be frank, it is hard to see anyone taking their place. Alas, the ladies who lunch went through assl sorts of retrospectives this year because they -- like the cucumber sandwiches they once munched on -- has become a relic of the past, like summering at Bailey's Beach.

Then again, perhaps with the change in American demographics -- as evidenced in the last election -- and an Afircan-American President, the whole debutante thing appears to be passe, as evidenced by Cornelia Guest's (daughter of CZ) all but giving up the category altogether (averted gaze).

Media Organization of the Year: (tie) Al Jazeera and Bloomberg LP. Bloomberg is the place to go for serious data-driven, business political news; Al Jazeera is the place to go for hardcore coverage of international events with a decidedly non-Western inflection. This year, underrated Bloomberg LP correspondent Juliana Goldman landed one of the best, tightest, hard hitting interviews with the newly re-elected President; this year Al Jazeera reported fearlessly and positively on the (so called) Third World particularly with reference to the Arab Spring and the possibility that Arafat was poisoned with Polonium 210. Bravo to both news organizations who have won this award two years in a row. This blogger will be watching them both religiously in 2013.

Up-and-Coming Politician of the Year: Elizabeth Warren. Warren won two major victories this past year. She slayed a rising star, Scott Brown (against a slew of Wall Street money), then won a seat on the powerful Senate Banking Committee. Although it seems impossible, could she somehow, someday make her wayto Treasury Secretary? Stranger things have happened. Remember: conventional wisdom was that she wasn't supposed to win that Senate seat. Honorable Mention: Imran Khan.

Sleaziest Organization: Pakistan's ISI. Pakistan's ISI had some tough competition this year, what with all the Russian mafia, Teabaggers, the Albanian pimps, the Nigerian dollar choppers and -- last but not least -- the Cambodian human traffickers (who can forget them?). But Pakistan's ISI, a hypersleazy group of paranoiac turds subsisting entirely of handouts from the US government while cutting backroom deals with the woman hating, illiterate Taiban, are in a class  by themselves. They rule Pakistan, lord over a nuclear arsenal with an almost cosmic sense of hubris mixed with utter stupidity.

Last year this blog wrote: "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 that, quite frankly, is the best that can be said about these nuclear capable assholes. Let 2013 be the year that these sleazeballs die and die hard. Fucking douchebags.

Raciest Book of the Year. Scotty Bowers's Full Service. Gore Vidal's last public appearance was at Scotty Bowers's Full Service book party at the Chateau Marmont. A fitting exit as the book is the one of the most delicious revelations of Hollywood in quite some time, a perfect mix of sex, power and money -- if you go in for that sort of thing (and everyone does). A taste, from his eulogy of Gore Vidal:
"I met him right here in Los Angeles. After World War II, he came into my gas station.
"I worked at this gas station on Hollywood Boulevard. And Gore would come from time to time, when he was available. To be honest, he came in quite often. He liked to look at all the attractive guys I had there. He would come and hang out in the evening. His type was the all-American guy next door. Sometimes he’d go off with someone and sometimes he didn’t. As I said, we were buddies. I was fixing up probably at least 20 guys or girls at the gas station back then, mostly gay clients, who couldn’t be out in Hollywood. Gore was such good advertisement for me. He would tell all his friends in Europe about the gas station.
 "... I remember Gore being tall and trim, with his shoulders out, his stomach in, his chest out, dancing with Jackie Kennedy at parties around town."
Yeah, what he said.

Media Death of the Year: Newsweek. Unburied and unsung.  Sad to say there was more of a public outcry for the possible death of Twinkies (as if that brand death would actually happen) this year than the actual death of the 80 year old American media institution Newsweek. As someone who likes Tina Brown it was especially sad to see this media tragedy happen under her watch. She should be above such humiliations. Still, this sort of thing -- a print magazine unable to adapt to a changing digital world -- will happen a lot more in 2013, Darwinian media cosmos that we now all inhabit.

Jesus Christ, girl

Sexiest Person of the Year: Anne Hathaway. Anne Hathaway must be tired. She's been running through my mind all year. The dignified way in which she handled the unfortunate paparazzi shots made me swoon -- and, jaded, I swoon rarely nowadays. Her SNL appearance, particularly her spoof of Homeland (MAJOR SWOONAGE). Her performance in The Dark Knight Rises was extraordinary -- she captured all the nuance of Selina Kyle in a way that Michelle Pfeiffer and Halle Berry could only dream about. She has earned a space in the hearts of all graphic novel geeks next to Frank Frazetta and Dark Phoenix. And although I detest the shallow hideosity of musicals, I am considering paying the full ticket price just to hear this damned sexy woman sing in Les Miserables. That she is now married is a sting The Corsair shall bear with great dignity. Runners up: Rebecca Hall, Kerry Washington.

Scandal of the Year: Paula and Petraeus. What was the director of central intelligence thinking? Universally recognized as uniquely talented and poised to become a major player on the planet, Petraeus threw it all away for sex with his biographer. How can a disciplined man who eats one meal a day and limits himself to only four hours of sleep a day ... ah, well, what is that line that Woody Allen used? The heart wants what the heart wants -- or at least the loins, in this case.

Overrated Media Event of the Year: Julian Assange on RTV. One would think that Julian Assange, one of the most controversial figures of our age -- a revolutionary thinker -- would be able to give some amazing media moments. But his show on RTV went out with a bang not a whimper. We expected fire, we got smoke up our ass. And his one million document promise for 2013 is sure to be a magnum of chloroform. Zzzzz....

Most Interesting New Media Site: BuzzFeed. There are, of course, a million great web sites going on, especially in New York. But BuzzFeed -- in that it has now a political/cultural dimension -- is one of the most interesting, and probably the one building the biggest media legacy. From The NYTimes earlier this year: "BuzzFeed is the creation of Jonah Peretti, a graduate of the MIT Media Lab with an expertise in content that is likely to be 'liked.' He took those skills to The Huffington Post, where he was the wizard in back of the curtain, brewing a bubbling cauldron of tatty celebrity news and goofy cat shots behind a front page of serious news and commentary. Using search optimization, he knew what people wanted almost before they did. Mr. Peretti started BuzzFeed as a laboratory at first, making it less about what people were searching for and more about what they might share. He developed technologies that allowed BuzzFeed to determine very quickly what media content was being posted and shared — items that were contagious, the kind of thing that ends up on one person’s Facebook page and then suddenly, many other people’s. When The Huffington Post was sold to AOL last year, Mr. Peretti left and began working on BuzzFeed full-time. With its mix of oddities, listicles and Web memes, BuzzFeed was at first something like The Huffington Post without the pretension of producing news and commentary."

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