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Thursday, January 02, 2014

Media-Whore D'Oeuvres



"Seven months ago, the world began to learn the vast scope of the National Security Agency’s reach into the lives of hundreds of millions of people in the United States and around the globe, as it collects information about their phone calls, their email messages, their friends and contacts, how they spend their days and where they spend their nights. The public learned in great detail how the agency has exceeded its mandate and abused its authority, prompting outrage at kitchen tables and at the desks of Congress, which may finally begin to limit these practices. The revelations have already prompted two federal judges to accuse the N.S.A. of violating the Constitution (although a third, unfortunately, found the dragnet surveillance to be legal). A panel appointed by President Obama issued a powerful indictment of the agency’s invasions of privacy and called for a major overhaul of its operations. All of this is entirely because of information provided to journalists by Edward Snowden, the former N.S.A. contractor who stole a trove of highly classified documents after he became disillusioned with the agency’s voraciousness. Mr. Snowden is now living in Russia, on the run from American charges of espionage and theft, and he faces the prospect of spending the rest of his life looking over his shoulder. Considering the enormous value of the information he has revealed, and the abuses he has exposed, Mr. Snowden deserves better than a life of permanent exile, fear and flight. He may have committed a crime to do so, but he has done his country a great service. It is time for the United States to offer Mr. Snowden a plea bargain or some form of clemency that would allow him to return home, face at least substantially reduced punishment in light of his role as a whistle-blower, and have the hope of a life advocating for greater privacy and far stronger oversight of the runaway intelligence community." (NYT)


"Start angling for an invite. Vogue Editor-in-Chief Anna Wintour hinted at some details of the impending nuptials of her son Charlie Shaffer in her January editor’s letter in the fashion bible.
Touting a feature about sugar heiress Emilia Fanjul Pfeifler’s Locust Valley home, Wintour writes, 'I can only hope my own Long Island gardens are as exquisite as Emilia Fanjul Pfeifler’s when my son, Charlie, gets married in June.' Wintour’s country home is in Mastic, LI. Very private Shaffer is believed to be marrying his longtime girlfriend, fashion exec Elizabeth Cordry. In June, Charlie’s sister, Bee, posted photos of him and pal Nick Brown at La Grenouille with the caption, 'My brother and his best man.'" (PageSix)



"Now that a new year is here, we may say that we're going to read more or go to the gym, but really we're just waiting for TV to get back in full swing. Last year was a great year for television, but 2014 could be even better. If the networks and shows listed here follow our simple resolutions, that is. Hopefully they'll be better at sticking to these than we are to ours. WARNING: SPOILERS AHEAD. Homeland: Become a great spy show and stop trying to be deep. We can only imagine how heady those early days of critical acclaim must have been, but it's well past time to move on. Brody is dead, Dana is gone (thank God), and 9/11 was a long-ass time ago, so now's your chance to completely reinvent the series as the Carrie and Saul show (with a heaping side of Quinn, please). Whether or not you decide to leave Carrie in Istanbul (not a bad idea if it limits the number of scenes where she has to awkwardly contend with the fruit of her and Brody's loins), and whether you decide to have Saul operating inside or outside the Agency, your audience wants to see one thing above all: our heroes, solving mysteries, chasing bad guys, and acting loopy. Have all the fun you want with everyone's complicated motivations, but steer clear of family drama! Game of Thrones: Keep on killing off major characters. It's working for you, and the old and new gods alike know there are enough damn story lines that no one will mind dropping a strand or two. Just keep your hands off Daenerys, Arya, and Tyrion. They're off-limits, do you hear me?! OFF-LIMITS, I SAY! The Walking Dead: Try to get out of Georgia, maybe? What are the zombies like up north? Are there beach zombies? Mountain zombies? Find out! The prison was fun and all, but things got stagnant. So move along, please.The CW: Make fewer Tomorrow Peoples and more The Carrie Diaries. Smart, believable teens are way more interesting than magic teens." (VanityFair)



"In St. Barts, Diane von Furstenberg celebrated her birthday on husband Barry Diller’s yacht Eros with guests including Streisand and Universal honcho Ron Meyer. Floating nearby was George Lucas, as well as David Geffen, who hosted Robbie Robertson, Carole Bayer Sager and Jimmy Iovine on his yacht, Rising Sun. Aby Rosen and Samantha Boardman hosted a fireworks show for Alex Rodriguez, Larry Gagosian, Vladimir Doronin and Robert Downey Jr., among others. Later, island faithful including Marc Jacobs, Brian Grazer and artist Richard Prince headed to the luxe Hotel Taiwana for a dinner co-hosted by Michael Fuchs and Tico Mugrabi.After midnight, McCartney brought the house down by spontaneously jumping onstage to sing Wings’ tune 'Goodnight Tonight,' and luxury developer Izak Senbahar accompanied him on bongos." (P6)


"A year in movies is often split between stunning works of art and jaw-droppingly awful films. For example: 12 Years a Slave hit theaters on the same day as Sylvester Stallone and Arnold Schwarzenegger’s wait-this-actually-happened? team-up Escape Plan. So as Vulture celebrates the finest films of 2013 (you can see critic David Edelstein’s top ten here), so must we celebrate the worst. Welcome to the seventh edition of our annual worst-movies roundup, as voted on by critics, where soon-to-be-forgotten misfires earn a last turn in the spotlight. This year, Vulture polled film critics on the year’s most torturous moviegoing experiences (some publications submitted collective ballots). Those responses, combined with a number of notable worst-of lists published elsewhere, added up to 42 lists, which were tallied to produce the final ranking of the ten worst films of 2013. It was a tight race, with critically maligned mainstream disasters (Gangster Squad, R.I.P.D., The Hangover Part III) rubbing shoulders with polarizing auteurist efforts (Paul Schrader’s The Canyons, Terrence Malick’s To the Wonder) just outside the bottom tier. Below, see the official ten worst of the worst for 2013, then peruse all of the individual critic ballots." (NYMag)



"At its core, the modern calendar is an attempt to track and predict the relationship between the sun and various regions of the earth. Historically, agricultural cycles, local climates, latitudes, tidal ebbs and flows and imperatives such as the need to anticipate seasonal change have shaped calendars. The Egyptian calendar, for example, was established in part to predict the annual rising of the Nile River, which was critical to Egyptian agriculture. This motivation is also why lunar calendars similar to the ones still used by Muslims fell out of favor somewhat -- with 12 lunar cycles adding up to roughly 354 days, such systems quickly drift out of alignment with the seasons.
The Gregorian calendar, introduced by Pope Gregory XIII in 1582, was itself an attempt to address the problems of its predecessor, the Julian calendar, which had been introduced by Julius Caesar to abolish the use of the lunar year and eliminate a three-month gap that opened up between the civil and astronomical equinoxes. It subsequently spread throughout the Roman Empire (and beyond as Christianity spread) and influenced the design of calendars elsewhere. Though it deviates from the time it takes the earth to revolve around the sun by just 11 minutes (a remarkable astronomical feat for the time), the Julian system overly adjusted for the fractional difference in year length, slowly leading to a misalignment in the astronomical and calendar years. For the Catholic Church, this meant that Easter -- traditionally tied to the spring equinox -- would eventually drift into another season altogether. By dropping 10 days to get seasons back on track and by eliminating the Julian calendar's excess leap years, the Gregorian calendar came closer to reflecting the exact length of an astronomical year (roughly 365.24 days) -- it is only off by 26 seconds annually, culminating in a full day's difference every 3,323 years. But what was perhaps most significant about Pope Gregory's system was not its changes, but rather its role in the onset of the globalized era. In centuries prior, countries around the world had used a disjointed array of uncoordinated calendars, each adopted for local purposes and based primarily on local geographical factors. The Mayan calendar would not be easily aligned with the Egyptian, Greek, Chinese or Julian calendars, and so forth. In addition to the pope's far-reaching influence, the adoption of the Gregorian system was facilitated by the emergence of a globalized system marked by exploration and the development of long-distance trade networks and interconnectors between regions beginning in the late 1400s. The pope's calendar was essentially the imposition of a true global interactive system and the acknowledgment of a new global reality. Despite its improvements, the Gregorian calendar preserved several of the Julian calendar's quirks. Months still varied in length, and holidays still fell on different days of the week from year to year. In fact, its benefits over the Julian calendar are disputed among astronomers. Nonetheless, its widespread adoption and use in trade and communication played a fundamental role in the development and growth of the modern international system." (STRATFOR)

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