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Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Media-Whore D'Oeuvres



"The uprising in Kiev has apparently reached its conclusion. President Viktor Yanukovich and the opposition reached an agreement, negotiated by the Polish, German and French foreign ministers. The parliament is now effectively in charge, deciding who will be ministers and when elections will be held, whether to dismiss judges and so on. It isn't clear whether the parliament can fire the sitting president without impeachment and trial, but all of this is now moot. What is interesting is that the Polish, French and German foreign ministers negotiated an outcome that, for practical purposes, ignored the Constitution of Ukraine. It sets an interesting precedent. But for Ukraine, the constitution didn't have the patina of tradition that a true constitution requires, and few will miss Yanukovich. The question now is whether all of this makes any real difference in Ukraine or the world. There is a new temporary leadership, although it is still factionalized and the leaders of the factions have not fully emerged. The effect of hostile gunfire will forge unity in Kiev for a while, but in due course, ideology, ambition and animosity will re-emerge. That will make governing Ukraine as difficult as in the past, particularly because the differences among the neo-Nazis, the liberals and groups in between -- all of which manned the barricades -- are profound. A government of national unity will be difficult to form.Another issue is what will happen the next time crowds storm government buildings. The precedent has been set -- or rather, it was set during the 2004 Orange Revolution -- that governments and regimes can be changed by a legalistic sleight of hand. At some point a large crowd will gather and occupy buildings. If the government opens fire, it is run by monsters. I don't mean that ironically; I mean it literally. But if the government allows itself to be paralyzed by demonstrators, then how can it carry out its constitutional responsibilities? I don't mean that ironically either. The Ukrainian Constitution, new or old, is meaningless because Ukrainians will not endure the pain of following it -- and because foreign powers will pressure them to deviate from constitutional democracy in order to create a new one. There should be no mistake. The Yanukovich government was rotten to the core, and he will not be missed. But most governments of Ukraine will be rotten to the core, partly because there is no tradition of respect for the law and because of the way property was privatized. How could there be a tradition of law in a country that was reduced to a province of another state and that numbered among its rulers Josef Stalin? Privatization, following the fall of the Soviet Union, occurred suddenly with vague rules that gave the advantage to the fast and ruthless. These people now own Ukraine, and however much the crowd despises them, it can't unseat them. The oligarchs, as rich people in the former Soviet Union are called, are free; they can eliminate their critics or bribe them into silence. The only thing that is more powerful than money is a gun. But guns cost money and lives. The idea that what will follow the Ukrainian revolution will be the birth of a liberal democracy reminds me of the Arab Spring. In the West, there is a tradition of seeing a passionate crowd massed in a square as the voice of the people. Reporters interview demonstrators and hear that they want an end to a corrupt and evil regime and subliminally recall the storming of the Bastille, the founding myth of the revolutionary tradition. A large crowd and a building anger at government evil points to the millennium. " (STRATFOR)



"Across the dim expanse of the Musso and Frank Grill, a landmark Hollywood steakhouse frequented by Fitzgerald, Bukowski, Garbo, Clooney, and Pitt, the blogger Tom O’Neil waves from a red leather booth. 'I brought show and tell!' he says in a voice of fine gravel. Standing by the bread basket are a Golden Globe inscribed with the typo HOLLYWOOD ­FOREING PRESS (Ben-Hur, 1959) and a wobbly, half-blackened Oscar (Best Set Decoration, Anna and the King of Siam, 1946). O’Neil, who owns the 14-year-old awards-prediction site Gold Derby, looks like a caricature you’d find on the wall at the Palm: laugh lines, swept-back hair, pug nose, impish squint. 'What I love about it,' he says, gesturing to his Oscar, 'is that Hollywood is fighting over a merely gold-plated statuette that tarnishes easily. Is it meant to be ironic?' Note that Oscar is plunging a sword into a reel of film. 'Is it just to cover up his genitalia,' or is he literally skewering the industry? 'Hi, honey,' yells Sasha Stone, approaching our booth. 'White man’s burden, Lloyd, white man’s burden. That’s a quote from The Shining,' she explains—a reference to the ghostly grandeur of Musso and Frank at 4:30 p.m. She has long, feathery hair, a gray blazer, and a wry smile. 'Tom and I are like family.' 'We cling to each other,” says O’Neil, 'like orphans in the storm.' Stone, who founded OscarWatch.com in 1999 (it became Awards Daily after the Academy sued), is Eve to O’Neil’s Adam in a strange new world that barely existed ten years ago. Today there are at least a dozen 'Oscar bloggers,' writers who make a living gaming out the prospects of awards contenders. Some, like Stone, own their blogs and personally solicit voter-targeted 'For Your Consideration' ads for the same movies they evaluate." (VF)



"A friend's birthday is coming up, and as her mother was one of Frank Sinatra's best friends, I thought to give her some Sinatra books she isn't likely to have seen. I found two. One is 'The Sinatra Treasures: Intimate Photos, Mementos, and Music from the Sinatra Family Collection,' and it's exactly that — four pounds of beautifully packaged memorabilia ... The second book is 'Mr. S: My Life with Frank Sinatra,"' written by George Jacobs, Sinatra's live-in valet from 1953 to 1968, with veteran LA journalist William Stadiem ... Which would you rather read about?  Thought so. But be warned. You want dish, you're gonna get it. So what about Mia Farrow? Jacobs presents her as a darling 19-year-old hippie — and very much an operator. Ava Gardner, Sinatra's greatest love, was less charitable. Mia, she said, was 'a fag with a pussy' ... Sinatra, we learn, had a weakness for Sweet Irish Rose hookers who looked as if they'd graduated from Catholic school. He was not only a frequent customer but a goodhearted one — he didn't degrade his women, he paid them well and had Jacobs drive them home. (No one, even his girl friends, spent the night. And he had the sheets discarded — not just changed — as soon as his sessions ended. As long as we're on this subject, let me tell you what was widely known in Hollywood: Sinatra was massively endowed, requiring special underwear to keep audiences at his concerts from being distracted." (NYSD)

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