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Monday, February 04, 2013

Media-Whore D'Oeuvres



"When the moment of danger came, Ali Imam Ben Essayouti knew just what to do. The delicate, unbound parchment manuscripts in the 14th-century mosque he leads had already survived hundreds of years in the storied city of Timbuktu. He was not about to allow its latest invaders, Tuareg nationalist rebels and Islamic extremists from across the region, to destroy them now. So he gingerly bundled the 8,000 volumes in sackcloth, carefully stacked them in crates, then quietly moved them to a bunker in an undisclosed location. 'These manuscripts, they are not just for us in Timbuktu,' Mr. Essayouti said. “They belong to all of humanity. It is our duty to save them.'  The residents of Timbuktu suffered grievously under Islamic militant rule. Almost all of life’s pleasures, even the seemingly innocent ones like listening to music and dancing, were forbidden. With the arrival of French and Malian troops here on Jan. 28, life is slowly returning to normal. But the city’s rich historical patrimony suffered terrible losses. Timbuktu is known as the City of 333 Saints, a reference to the Sufi preachers and scholars who are venerated by Muslims here. The Islamic rebels destroyed several earthen tombs of those saints, claiming such shrines were forbidden." (NYTimes)



"In the summer of 2011, when the'Grand Bargain' on deficit reduction failed, U.S. House Speaker John Boehner accused President Barack Obama of “moving the goal posts” -- shifting his demands to the left.  After Boehner objected, Obama quickly moved the goal posts back and said he wanted to keep talking. But the speaker thought it was too late and the deal collapsed. Goal-post shifting is back in style. Behind the soaring rhetoric of the inaugural address and his announcement of a bold immigration plan, the president is engaged in a carefully calibrated effort to move the debate away from the right side of the field. In their interactions over the last two years, a chastened Obama started in the center and the Republicans started on the right, and the never-found compromise lay on the center-right. Since winning re-election, Obama is starting on the center-left and the Republicans are moving toward the center-right. With any luck, they will find compromise in the center. The real center. Of course, they won’t get there until they move beyond the bad blood of their end-of-the-year failure to do anything significant about the budget. The House leadership says Obama delivered boring “I won”lectures to the speaker and doesn’t have a clue about how to negotiate; the White House says the speaker can’t deliver his own caucus. " (Jonathan Alter)


"Deposed Gawker Editor in Chief A.J. Daulerio had the last laugh at a party thrown by his ex-boss Nick Denton Thursday night. As Daulerio’s replacement, John Cook, made a speech at the literati-filled bash at Denton’s swanky SoHo loft, spies say, two masked men sneaked in to spray graffiti in the hallway outside Denton’s pad. The words 'AJ Daulerio' were scrawled in dripping black spray paint along the pristine white wall. 'It was during Cook’s speech while everyone was distracted,' a spy said. 'It was pretty inspired.' 'Nick Denton’s hallway just got bombed,' a guest tweeted, with a picture of the artsy damage. Sources say the taggers were from notorious graffiti-artist group Peter Pan Posse. Denton apparently took the vandalism in stride — and sources said the stunt was a surprise to Daulerio. 'Nick was very cool and didn’t seem pissed,' a spy said. 'He was quite amused.' Denton announced Daulerio’s departure in January after a year on the job, calling him 'bold, infuriating, unpredictable . . . and often brilliant.'" (PageSix)


"This being the month of Aquarius (January 20 – February 18) in the zodiac, some of us seem to be surrounded by them – Aquarians, I mean. You read about Liz Smith’s birthday lunch at Michael’s last Wednesday ... Then there’s Anne Ford who had a birthday party last week for members of her family (which is a small crowd in itself), and then again co-starred in a birthday fete for her and her friend Tina Sloan McPherson, the actress. They were celebrating a similar (number) birthday. I say Anne 'co-starred' because it turned out to be that kind of a party. Sort of like theater-in-the round. Or in the library of a local private club. It began with a cocktail reception and canapes at 7:30. Black tie for the men. About eight-thirty we moved into the dining room. I noticed after everyone was seated that Anne was missing from the table. And so was Tina from her table. About ten minutes later, they appeared – surprise surprise! – got up as airline stewardesses. They explained (with their script in hand) that this was about stewardesses having the passengers they wanted on a flight, and also deciding where they would sit – first class or economy. They then explained that we, the guests were going to be 'the passengers.' And then between the two of them, they told the passengers where they were going to sit and why? Let’s put it this way: it was a roast – of the guests. And a funny one, even belly laughs, or ... er ... guffaws." (NYSocialDiary)



"Clive James is weak on health but very strong on intellect, and it’s good to read his pithy television criticism for the Telegraph. Clive recently praised Richard E. Grant for pointing out in his program on the Riviera’s history of pictures that not many people nowadays know how good a painter Gerald Murphy was. Murphy was the model for Dick Diver in Fitzgerald’s Tender Is the Night. He was the owner of Mark Cross, a luxury-goods store on 5th Avenue back when luxury goods were beautiful and owned by people with good taste. Gerald and Sara Murphy invented the summer Riviera of the 1920s. Their Villa America near Antibes was the social center for expatriate American writers, musicians, and artists. Sara was blonde and beautiful and supposedly had an affair with Picasso. I think it was just gossip by those who couldn’t get her into their beds. No matter how much she might have admired Picasso’s crappy art, upper-class American ladies did not sleep with dirty Spanish painters back then—not even now, although there is no more upper class left in America, alas. The new plutocrat poseurs-billionaires pretend to be old money, but they’re crude and still have to think for a split second before picking up their forks and knives. “The new plutocrat poseurs-billionaires pretend to be old money, but they’re crude and still have to think for a split second before picking up their forks and knives. The Murphys were tragic heroes. They lost both their beautiful sons to sickness and slowly saw their fortune disappear." (Taki)



"Twenty five years ago I quit a job on Wall Street to write a book about Wall Street. Since then, every year or so, UPS has delivered to me a book more or less like my own, written by some Wall Street insider and promising to blow the lid off the place, and reveal its inner workings, and so on. By now, you might think, this game should be over. The reading public would know all it needed to know about Wall Street, and the publishing industry would be forced to look to some other industry for shocking confessions from insiders. Somehow this isn't the case. The inner workings of our biggest financial firms remain obscure to the general public, and their outer workings still promise to shock. To writers and publishers at least, our financial system has become the gift that keeps on giving, like one of those trick birthday candles that, no matter how hard you blow on it, flickers back to life. Enter Greg Smith, in the latest attempt to extinguish the eternal flame. Why I Left Goldman Sachs began last year as the most e-mailed and talked-about opinion piece that The New York Times had published in a long time. Here the author recounts how he spent most of the six months leading up to last March working at Goldman by day while writing up his deeply felt grievances against Goldman by night. When he finished he had a 1,500-word counterblast but no place to put it: he e-mailed it to the general address for blind submissions to the Times op-ed page. He heard nothing for a month, and so finally dug out the e-mail addresses of four Times editors, and sent his piece to all of them. The next morning the Times got in touch with him. (There's a lesson here for aspiring Times op-ed writers.) Skeptical that a Goldman Sachs employee was prepared to break ranks, the Times sent a reporter over to Goldman's London office—where Smith worked—to confirm his existence. The day before the paper finally published his piece Smith went into Goldman, cleared out his stuff, and caught a flight back to New York. When the piece hit the Web, he appears to have been somewhere over the Atlantic. It and he were instant sensations." (TNR)



"Last week, Gawker Media's swank SoHo office had no water. Today, the employees that actually come to the office to work on a Monday morning discovered that they had no Internet. That's rough, for an Internet company. (BuzzFeed's internet was also out this morning, though now restored, not that really anyone there would have known, because who could face their awful, slow, impossible elevators on a Monday morning?) But really the question is: What will the third cataclysm of Gawker Media be?" (TheAwl)

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