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Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Media-Whore D'Oeuvres




"Two thousand years ago, in the kingdom of Jin, there was a courtier named Zhao Shuo whose grandfather and father both served as prime ministers. When a new ruler came to power, he felt threatened by the Zhao clan's influence and arrogance. With the help of a powerful general, he executed the entire family except for Zhao's pregnant wife, who escaped. She gave birth to a son, known as the Zhao Orphan, who spent years studying ancient Chinese classics and Kung Fu, becoming a learned scholar and a fearsome swordsman. There are many different versions of the tale -- an ancient drama, a hit 2010 Chinese film, a 2012 opera adaptation -- and most end with the Zhao Orphan avenging his family by slaughtering the general and returning triumphantly to court. The saga of Bo Xilai, the former party boss of Chongqing and Politburo member who is set to face trial this month for corruption, embezzlement, and abuse of power, is a modern variation on this traditional theme: a family empire collapsing after losing a brutal power struggle. But the fate of this generation's Zhao Orphan -- Bo Guagua, the son of Bo Xilai -- remains unknown. Most of the key characters in the real-life drama have met their end. Last August, Bo's wife Gu Kailai received a suspended death sentence for murder; in September, Bo's former right-hand-man Wang Lijun was sentenced to 15 years in prison. Some of Bo's allies within the senior ranks of the party and the military have been purged and many of his cohorts in Chongqing have been sacked or jailed. As far as we know, Guagua, the 26 year-old son of Bo and his wife, and the heir apparent to the Bo family dynasty, is the last one standing.   Born in 1987, Guagua is a de facto member of China's communist aristocracy -- his maternal grandfather was a powerful general, while his paternal grandfather, Bo Yibo, held the rank of vice-premier, a higher position than his son, Bo Xilai, ever attained. Before his father incited the biggest political scandal to rock China in decades, Guagua lived a charmed life. At age 12, he enrolled at the elite Harrow School in London. The first Chinese national to attend the school in its nearly 550-year history, Guagua told a Chinese talk show host in 2009 that he studied Shakespeare, developed his oratorical skills, took up fencing, and became president of the equestrian club. He then went to Oxford, where he studied philosophy, politics, and economics, and in 2010 he enrolled in the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University. " (FP)


"In London, there is a Princess Diana memorial fountain in Hyde Park, not far from the Princess Diana memorial playground. In gift shops, you can buy a Princess Diana memorial tartan. But perhaps the best-known monument to the late Princess can be found in the basement of Harrods department store, which was, from 1985 to 2010, owned by Mohamed Al Fayed, the father of Dodi Al Fayed, with whom Diana had her last fling. In a city of monuments, it is one of the newest, put up in the aftermath of the August 31, 1997, car crash that took Diana’s and Dodi’s lives. A Harrods salesclerk gave me directions: 'Downstairs, to the right, through the shoe department.' The memorial consists of side-by-side color photos of Dodi and Diana, framed by golden interlocking D’s and sculpted albatross. Set in an acrylic pyramid in front of the photographs is the famous and controversial 'engagement ring' that Dodi bought Diana the day before their deaths, along with a smudged wineglass—preserved, as the inscription notes, 'in the exact condition it was left on the couple’s last evening together at the Imperial Suite at the Hotel Ritz in Paris.' Mohamed Al Fayed has attempted to preserve a similarly lasting impression of his version of the relationship between Diana and his late son. Mohamed, a self-styled enemy of the British establishment, has long maintained that Dodi was murdered by the British secret service, as part of a conspiracy involving members of the royal family, because he was a Muslim about to marry the mother of a future King of England. Al Fayed’s insistence on this plot outline—and on the allegation that Diana was pregnant when she died—has been so zealous that in 2008, more than 10 years after the fact, it engulfed what would otherwise have been a bureaucratic and largely pro forma coroner’s inquest into the deaths of Diana and Dodi. (The inquest had had to await the completion of a French police investigation, which lasted until 2003, and of an independent follow-on British police investigation, which began in 2004.) The coroner’s inquest lasted 89 days. Diana’s closest confidants in her last years did not need an inquest to know the absurdity of Al Fayed’s claims. Not only was she not planning to marry Dodi Al Fayed, or pregnant with his child, they say, but she was in fact still 'madly in love,' as one of them describes it, with another man, an unassuming Pakistani heart surgeon named Hasnat Khan." (VanityFair)


"Kanye West has decided he wants the world to get its first look at his and Kim Kardashian’s daughter in the pages of Vogue. Too bad the magazine’s editor-in-chief Anna Wintour is 'less than enthusiastic' about the exclusive. RadarOnline reports that the new father, who’s had his clashes with paparazzi lately, wants to control the image the public gets of his daughter North, and has decided that only the pages of the legendary fashion publication will do. 'He knows what he wants — a professional photographer and the cover of Vogue – nothing else,' a source close to the musician tells the Web site. 'But clearly, trying to persuade Anna is going to be an uphill battle.' The problem is that Wintour doesn’t want reality stars in the pages of Vogue. Editors at the mag even cropped Kardashian out of West’s “Best Dressed” picture from this year’s Met Ball. Don’t expect West to take no for an answer though, as the rapper seems to be pushing full speed ahead. He’s compiled stats to prove why Kardashian should be featured in the magazine, and gotten in touch with celebrity photographers Anne Leibovitz and Mario Testino. The source also said that West has Kardashian working out with personal trainers to get in shape for the shoot." (PageSix)

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