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Saturday, March 30, 2013

Media-Whore D'Oeuvres


"When Game of Thrones premiered on HBO in April 2011, it came burdened with more uncertainties than characters, more doubt than dragons. A $60 million adaptation of an unfinished fantasy series so dense an executioner's blade couldn't cut through it? A main character who wouldn't survive to see the finale? A seemingly suicidal admission by the showrunners that the very best stuff wouldn't even appear onscreen until a hypothetical third season? Forget the neatly stylized wolves and lions; the show's sigil may have well been a question mark. Despite a quick renewal, the considerably more expensive second season also felt like a gamble, like flashing silver in Flea Bottom or seating Melisandre in the no-smoking section. Though the ratings increased, so did the world: Game of Thrones now spanned continents, and its deeply digressive plot meant that the most interesting pawns were often marooned miles from the would-be kings and queens they sought to replace. The sumptuous production — shot, simultaneously, in rainy Belfast, freezing Iceland, and along the sunny Croatian coast — cost a bundle but also bought plenty of audience patience. It was a wise purchase, especially during the free-range hours spent watching Jon Snow sink into slush and play wool-booted footsie north of the Wall. There were times last year when the casual fan had to have felt as bedraggled as a Dothraki in the desert, doomed to wander forever while string-pulling power players in Harrenhal and Hollywood got their houses in order. Thankfully, showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss — proud survivors of both studio-mandated rewrite sessions and suburban Dungeons & Dragons marathons — know that you can polish your dice for only so long before you have to cast them. And so, in 'Blackwater,' the penultimate episode of Season 2, hours of story and untold millions of euros finally ignited like so much wildfire. Until then, I had been watching the show like Cersei Lannister at a dinner party: a drink in my hand, a bloodless smirk on my face. But all that time I thought I was keeping my distance — not only had I avoided George R.R. Martin's books, I could barely spell Qarth — it turns out I was actually sinking deeper. In 'Blackwater' I was finally flooded with big-screen bombast that merited the bluster of backstabbing brothers and know-it-all Martin readers alike. It was an unblinking glimpse of the savagery that had lurked beneath every alliance made and promise broken in the battle-scarred Seven Kingdoms. When Ned Stark lost his head it taught audiences that no one, not even stars, are safe." (Grantland)


"The aftermath of the fall of Libya’s Muammar Gaddafi continues to generate drama. The current mystery is the disappearance of four family members from Libya’s neighbor Algeria. In a fresh twist to the outsize dynastic saga, Gaddafi’s second wife Safia, his daughter Aisha and his sons Mohammed and Hannibal have vanished without a trace from their comfortable exile in an upscale seaside community outside Algiers. Safia and Hannibal are both subject to international arrest warrants issued by Interpol at the request of Libya’s new government. So far, there is no clue to where the four have gone. 'I cannot comment on their whereabouts,' Nick Kaufmann, a Gaddafi family attorney, told TIME on Monday. 'There is no information I can pass on to you.' For weeks, reports in Arab-language media speculated that Safia and three of her offspring appeared to have quietly slipped out of Algeria. When TIME traveled to Algeria last month, officials would say only that interviews with the Gaddafis were out of the question, but refused to say exactly where they were living. The first confirmation that they had in fact left the country came on Saturday, when Algeria’s ambassador to Libya, Abdel-Hamid Bouzaher, was quoted by the Libyan news agency saying that the four Gaddafis had left Algeria “a long time ago.' He did not say when they had left, how or where they were headed. When rebels stormed into Tripoli in August 2011, the Gaddafis scattered in different directions as fighters closed in on their fortress-like compound in the capital." (Time)


"Flipboard is a content aggregator. It knows what you like and what you don’t like. The idea is you never have to go anywhere else to read relevant, interesting content. Having launched in July 2010, it announced in August last year that it had 20m readers. Now, just seven months later, it has 50m readers. By the end of the year it is on course to have more than 100m readers, meaning it will reach 25 times more people than the print edition of The Times. This week Flipboard marked that achievement by launching its latest version: Flipboard 2.0 lets users create their own magazines. Content aggregation, developed to meet the needs of the consumer in its purest, most concise, sense, has already handed an amount of control to the consumer. This latest move marks an even bigger, more significant step, taking the principle of a personalised and interactive internet, and bringing that to mainstream content delivery. When users see something they like, they simply click a button to add it to their own magazine, which can then be shared with others. Put simply, we can all be editors now. This move confirms that the nature of content delivery is changing." (Telegraph)


"In Hollywood circa 2007, as Funny or Die CEO Dick Glover described it, the cost of creating content was rising and social media was just starting to gain a foothold among consumers. In stepped a humor site that counted Will Ferrell and Adam McKay as founders. Their new model, Glover said, was built in three ways. 'Put talent first. Enable great creative people. Second, marry the best of two very disparate cultures -- Hollywood and Silicon Valley. And, then, third, be nothing like Kevin Costner,' Glover elaborated in a talk at a TEDxHollywood event on Wednesday. He invoked Costner's Field of Dreams -- where the actor hears a voice saying, 'If you build it, he will come' and builds a baseball field -- to explain the reference. That model, Glover said, 'resonates very, very well in the Hollywood system, where millions and millions and millions of dollars are spent on projects that may never even come into existence.' But for Funny or Die, the CEO elaborated, the famous quote is reversed to: 'If they come, we will build it.' He says, 'We don’t spend money on development; we don’t spend money that we won’t see immediate return.'Glover was one of several speakers at TedxHollywood, an event held on Wednesday at UCLA's Freud Playhouse featuring talks, live music and sessions that grouped together contributors under themes like "Succeeding Outside the System." The event was hosted by organizer Ken Hertz, an attorney at Hertz & Lichtenstein media law, one of the sponsors of the event." (THR)



"'I guess I felt—and now feel—as though I was 19 when I wrote it,' Renata Adler said of her first novel Speedboat. 'And maybe still am. And by Pitch Dark, I was maybe 19-and-a-half.'
In fact, Ms. Adler, a slight, bespectacled woman who was seated across from me a few weeks ago at a café near Grand Central, was turning 38 when Speedboat was published in 1976. Pitch Dark came out seven years later. Both, long out of print, have just been reissued by NYRB Classics, but not before other writers drummed up interest about Ms. Adler’s work. The National Book Critics Circle campaigned for Speedboat to be reissued, and David Shields, whose 2010 book Reality Hunger helped introduce a new generation of readers to Ms. Adler’s debut, wrote in an email to me, 'A crucial part of the performance of her literary persona—in Speedboat and Pitch Dark and elsewhere—is how resolutely un-nice she is while remaining deeply civilized' ... Ms. Adler is—to tweak a line she used in a notoriously negative review of Pauline Kael’s criticism—page by page, line by line, and without interruption, brilliant. Few writers articulate as deftly the position of the clever, skeptical, frequently isolated outsider. She also has an impressive pedigree: graduate of Bryn Mawr, the Sorbonne and Harvard; recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship; winner of the O. Henry prize. Member of the special staff of the House Judiciary Committee from January to August 1974; staff writer at The New Yorker; New York Times movie critic from 1968 to 1969. And it’s not as though her novels, Speedboat and Pitch Dark, in which another Adler-like narrator, Kate Ennis, attempts to resolve her affair with a married man, didn’t have powerful allies. Ms. Adler’s original editor on Pitch Dark was Robert Gottlieb, then the editor in chief of Knopf. (Both novels were later licensed in paperback to HarperCollins.) Her agent was and remains the formidable Lynn Nesbit, who helped launch the careers of John Cheever, Joan Didion and Hunter S. Thompson. So why did she disappear?" (Observer)



"A thick mist descends on London as I make my way to Mayfair to meet Africa’s richest woman. It seems apt. Isabel dos Santos’s name is more widely known since, earlier this month, Forbes declared her the continent’s first female billionaire but, in her native Angola, she belongs to an elite that is so secretive it has been described as a 'cryptocracy'. Her father, José Eduardo, has been Angola’s president for 33 years. Renowned for his inscrutability, he keeps his petro-state, the continent’s rising power and one of China’s biggest oil suppliers, in the tightest of grips. His regime has, according to critics, become synonymous with the diversion of public funds into private pockets.
Isabel dos Santos, his eldest daughter, is regarded as a symbol of the confluence of power and wealth in Angola. I have been pursuing her for an interview for more than a year and, despite repeated assurances from aides that she doesn’t do them, she has consented to have lunch during a business trip to Britain. Her choice of venue is Scott’s, a swanky fish restaurant frequented by hedge fund types and luminaries such as Bill Clinton and Tom Cruise." (FT)

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