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Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Media-Whore D'Oeuvres


"As the United States is leaving Afghanistan, closing a decade of wars gone well past their expiry date, some suggest that France has started its own with the intervention in Mali. Yet while it is true that it is easier to start military interventions than to end them, it seems unlikely that Mali will turn into a French Afghanistan. The best outcome of the operation would be that the French military manages to quickly reverse the advances of the rebels and give the Malian government a new platform to maintain effective control of the territory. This would prevent a new free haven for international terrorism from developing in Mali. France can then leave the rest to the African mission as foreseen in the UN mandate. The worst case scenario is that France gets bogged down on the ground and then pulls out quickly in order to avoid a quagmire, leaving the mess to a semi-prepared African military mission. Whatever the outcome, the Mali operation says a lot about the fragmented approach to crisis management and military coordination in the EU. At least this time there wasn’t the same kind of internal split that the EU experienced over Libya. Still, military coordination takes place outside the EU institutions and directly between France, UK, and member states like Germany, Denmark, and Belgium. Ashton has called for an extraordinary meeting of the EU’s foreign ministers that might remedy that but the EU’s main talk is about how it can provide a training mission to the Malian army, a laudable thing for the longer-term, but not one that can add anything to the current military situation. My colleague, Richard Gowan, has analyzed the EU’s crisis management capacity in a policy brief covering how the EU responds to a new generation of wars and crises such as the conflict in Mali. He suggests that the resource-strained EU needs to think more in terms of partnerships with other regional organizations. If Mali turns out well, and if a smooth transfer to ECOWAS and African nations can be managed, it could set the example of a successful inter-regional cooperation rather than follow in the footsteps of Afghanistan." (CarnegieEurope)


"In the spring of 2011, as we reminisced over dinner one night, I told Gore Vidal that, since his feuds with famous men—William Buckley, Truman Capote, Robert Kennedy—had been so widely documented, I’d like to write about some of his treasured, lifelong friendships with interesting women. 'Let’s do it,' Gore replied. And so began several months of visits, all ostensibly interviews, which turned into leisurely meanderings down memory lane. In October 2011 the interviews ended, but the visits continued. On February 15 of last year, when Joan Collins, her husband, Percy Gibson, and I were to meet Gore for dinner at Spago, in Beverly Hills, his caregiver called to say that Gore was en route to a local hospital.Our visits didn’t end then either, but from then on they were in and out of hospitals and decidedly more one-sided than Gore would ever have tolerated under different circumstances. Finally, just before dusk on July 31, when the light in the hills was changing in the way he so loved, Gore was released from the long, brave struggle that ended his long, brave, extraordinary life. ‘She was,' Gore told me quietly but conclusively one day, without the hint of a pause for possible reconsideration, 'the worst person in the world.' America’s pre-eminent man of letters, author of 29 novels, 26 works of nonfiction, 14 screenplays, and 8 stage plays, was speaking about the woman who had given him the gift of life 86 years earlier, Nina Gore Vidal, a glamorous, well-positioned, relentlessly self-absorbed and mean-spirited alcoholic." (VanityFair)



"'FYI: There. Is. No. New. Novel. Being. Written. Except for maybe The James Deen Story and something called ‘Come over at do bring coke now.’ That’s a tweet from Bret Easton Ellis, a thing that, as an entity unto itself, may have less valence than most molecules in the universe. And yet it’s a well-crafted ­almost-sentence, a 140-character snip (complete with missing words) of Beat poetry, which flows out of Ellis in an endless roll. These days, instead of writing books—as he says, he isn’t working on a novel now, or even notes for one—he can stir up trouble with just a flick at his keyboard. It takes him '30 seconds to one minute,' or so he claims, to beam out pop-cultural observations, L.A. vignettes, and world-weary ­little outbursts, sometimes featuring his boyfriend ('the 26-year-old') to a respectable 340,000 followers and the media at large, which often picks them up as gossip items. 'I just have these random thoughts, go to bed, and then next day it’s sort of world news,' Ellis says, waving a hand. Twitter mixes literature (of an admittedly minimal sort) with performance, and it’s perfect for Ellis, who has always been, when you think about it, more of a conceptual artist than an author. The work isn’t beside the point, but it isn’t the whole point. In this new m├ętier, each part of his persona is on view: satirist, nihilist, glamour guy, exhibitionist, knee-jerk contrarian, self-pitying cokehead, and a few other things, all of which make some laugh with glee and others avert their eyes in boredom, and even more glance back in spite of their revulsion, wondering, as one of his followers did the other day: 'Is Bret Easton Ellis dead inside?' Indeed, on Twitter, just as it was with Less Than Zero almost 30 years ago, that’s still the question. It may or may not be a question he asks himself—that, too, is part of the show. Ellis has worked hard to make himself a pop-cultural monster—'monster' has been one of his nicknames—then denies that he’s anything but a middle-aged homebody." (Vanessa Grigoriades)



"Here a few snap shots, chronologically, from my involvement with the inaugural festivities. I chose based mostly on what would put me in touch with people I know, people of Washington, and events that were uniquely Washington. • The Washington Performing Arts Society got a jump start with a Saturday brunch hosted, in part, by the group's board chairman, Reginald Van Lee. It was held at the sunny rooftop terrace of the Hay-Adams Hotel. It was nothing but the best food and wine for the 150 who paid $2,500 a piece to be there. With the almost spring-like weather (50+ degrees) guests were able to stand out on the balcony, which overlooks the White House, the Washington Monument, Jefferson Memorial and Virginia to the south. Audra McDonald sang in a tribute to opera legend Jessye Norman, who was the guest of honor. A number of the guests came down from New York for the brunch ... Two more brunches on Sunday. One was at Cafe Milano in Georgetown, hosted by the irrepressible Tina Brown, quirky Harvey Weinstein, actress Eva Longoria, political consultant Mark McKinnon and Pamela Thomas-Graham of Credit Suisse. It was a sardine can of bodies, but no one seemed to mind. What drew a lot of comment was a large empty table in the middle of the very crowded room. On it were two signs: 'Reserved' and 'Harvey Weinstein'. Only Harvey was in the back of the restaurant, in a corner, talking on his cell phone. I'm told that later he joined the party but I don't know whether he ever occupied that large table. Someone needs to tell him that the Washington crowd doesn't sit down at a big buzzy party like that. Too many people to see. Too much small talk to share." (Carol Joynt/NYSocialDiary)



"Anna Wintour skipped the inauguration for the couture shows but still managed to network: here she is, sitting next to the American ambassador to France at Giambattista Valli. The Times doesn't think she'll get an ambassadorship to France either, but I don't blame her for trying." (Papermag)


"Jessica Misener, the senior editor of Huffington Post’s Style vertical, is departing for the buzzier shores of BuzzFeed, where she will be an editor. Ms. Misener will start on February 6. Ms. Misener has been at HuffPo’s style vertical since October 2011 and was promoted to senior editor just last September. Before HuffPo, she spent two years running Lovelyish, Xenga.com’s style vertical." (Observer)


"The subprimate level of conversation, as prevalent as the snow up here in the Alps, took a turn for the better last week when a select few celebrated Prince Nicolas Romanoff’s ninetieth birthday at the yacht club. Yes, most people who live up here are illiterate, but they sure know how to count—some even up to ten billion. None of the counters were present at the birthday, just many old friends that included some of Europe’s oldest and most royal families ..." (Taki)


"Think of Hosni Mubarak, Muammar Qaddafi, and (one hopes) Bashar al-Assad. Look at what happened to CIA director David Petraeus or Dominique Strauss-Kahn. Consider how Rupert Murdoch's reputation and clout were tarnished by the phone hacking scandal, and ask yourself where his former editor Rebekah Brooks is now. Similarly, the Jimmy Savile scandal brought down the head of the BBC, showing that the leaders of a powerful and sophisticated news organization cannot control the news cycle.  Given that the annual WEF meeting at Davos is a confab of global elites, I wonder if our report will make any of them feel a bit ... well ... nervous. Some of them should." (ForeignPolicy)


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