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Monday, August 04, 2014

Media-Whore D'Oeuvres








"From its outset, the self-immolation of a crestfallen Tunisian vegetable vendor, the Arab Spring was largely about poverty. Mohamed Bouazizi’s final words before igniting himself and the region were, 'How do you expect me to make a living?' As citizens across the Arab world connected their dismal material prospects to stagnant, exclusivist politics—governments fell. While it was a process that invited turmoil, it was justified as necessary but also temporary. The former may have proven true, but the latter has not. Discord continues to characterize the region and skepticism toward the Arab Spring is becoming more prevalent. Meanwhile, respectable news sources summarize the phenomenon with bold proclamations like 'The Tragedy of the Arabs.' In the Middle East, turmoil is frequently explained as a product of sectarianism, but the trans-sectarian reality of poverty encapsulated in Mohamed Bouazizi’s desperate plea continues to drive the trajectory of the region. In Tunisia, boasting arguably the most successful transition, the memory of Bouazizi lingers as politicians publically express poverty reduction as their chief mandate. Similarly in Egypt, it is now the chief performance benchmark for the presidency of a formal general schooled in securing the country, not boosting the median income. Most significantly, poverty is an underlying factor in the broader regional struggle with extremism. ISIS’s gains in eastern Syria and western Iraq cannot be understood outside the context of locals disillusioned with their material realities. In Syria, ISIS now possesses a stronghold in the Raqqa governorate. Not surprisingly, it is one of the poorest in the country, hit particularly hard by a brutal pre-war drought. As the New York Times recently documented, the semblance of normalcy ISIS has established within its Raqqa jurisdiction is now attracting war weary Syrians eager to earn a living anywhere they can find stability and basic governance. In Iraq, the poverty-extremism connection took shape when materially deprived Sunni tribes in Anbar province allied with the force they had been paid to hold back (ISIS) as soon as the central government’s much needed financial compensation discontinued. Similarly in Jordan, support for ISIS has thrived in neglected, impoverished rural cities like Maan where unemployment tops 25 percent. In the Sinai Peninsula and Yemen’s remote villages, poverty continues to fuel radicalism among jihadi groups bent on destabilizing central governments and attacking foreigners. The new governments of these countries seek arms and apaches from militarized allies, development initiatives among impoverished Bedouin communities susceptible to radicalism a secondary concern.Meanwhile in the Gaza Strip, experts of all walks have noted the strong correlation between the conditions of the territory and the tactics of Hamas." (Atlantic Council)












"Welcome to The Angel, one of the pay-by-the-hour lodgings offering a discreet haven for trysts and visits with dominatrixes. ‘Love Hotel’ is more reality TV than documentary.An elderly couple dances under flashing lights in an ersatz disco club. A self-described 'family man' is suspended from the ceiling in a bondage suit and gimp mask, a rope tied around his penis. A white-haired man stares blankly at an endless loop of pornography, bemoaning his lost libido and recounting his first sexual experience in a love hotel ('My heart was beating so fast. Taking off her kimono was indescribable.') They are all guests at The Angel, one of 30,000 'love hotels' in Japan, pay-by-the-hour lodgings offering a discreet haven for trysts, affairs, and visits with prostitutes and dominatrixes. And it’s the subject of Love Hotel, a new documentary from filmmakers Hikaru Toda and Phil Cox exploring Japan’s conservative, sexually repressed culture and pervy counterculture. We are told that a staggering 2.8 million Japanese people “visit love hotels daily seeking escape from small living spaces and long work hours” and, predictably, that 'users come from all walks of life, wanting a private space where the rules don’t apply.' Toda and Cox introduce us to Mr. and Mrs. Sakomoto, a middle-aged couple who come to The Angel to rekindle the flame in their marriage—and to talk about the need to rekindle the flame in their marriage. They role-play in a room designed to look like a subway car (she is a passenger, he is a conductor) and cuddle innocuously in the hotel bed. When Mrs. Sakamoto calls reception with a request for 'sexy underwear,' a member of The Angel’s staff sends it to her room via pneumatic tube. And then there is Rika, a 26-year-old dominatrix who ties up her clients with rope and degrades them ('You feel good because I took your freedom away'), only to play nice when the game is over. “They all have a common sense of loneliness and a dissatisfaction with their daily lives,' she tells us, as if that weren’t already apparent. 'At least when men are with me, I accept them as they are.'" (TheDailyBeast)
Paul Zone and Howie Pyro.


"While out there in West Hollywood, along the Strip, Michael Des Barres hosted a reading at Book Soup by authors Legs McNeil and Gillian McCain of their latest collaboration, 'Dear Nobody: the True Diary of Mary Rose.' The reading was followed by a dinner hosted by cousins Tennessee Hamilton and Price Latimer Agah.  Among the 150 guests were Cold Cave’s Wesley Eisold, Mad Men’s Jessica Paré, The Dead Boys' Howie Pyro, and The Standells' Larry Tamblyn. 'Dear Nobody' I am told, is a true first-person account of what proved to be the last years of Mary Rose’s life. I don’t know who Mary Rose is. But, I am told, the book is 'a universal young person story with the urgency and perspective of a girl dealing with more than the usual. The places Mary Rose spent so much of her time still exist. Only the names, with the exception of Mary Rose’s, have been changed. Most of the people in her notebooks are either dead, in jail, or have disappeared. Mary Rose’s mother’s name has been omitted. Even though she doesn’t always come off well in the book, she is a courageous woman for allowing her daughter’s words to be published and fighting for her story to be told.' Book Soup was the bookstore for me when I lived out there. I’d stop by nearly every day just to see what was new, or pick up the New York papers and the latest magazines. It was owned by a young guy named Glenn Goldman, probably in his mid-to-late 30s. He catered to a vast array of readers (and writers and agents and producers and directors, and actors of course). He carried a big magazine and newspaper section as well, so that Los Angelenos could get a feel for the world out there and so far away from the sunshine and the light. John Robin (Robbie) Baitz, the playwright, as a young man worked there briefly but enthusiastically behind the counter while writing. " (NYSD)


Jay Fielden by  Paul Kisselev


"Jay Fielden is the editor in chief of Town & Country magazine. He was interviewed in his office in Hearst Tower. Are there authors you read, people you talk to, to take the temperature of your audience at Town & Country? I have a favorite Kenneth Tynan quote: 'Rouse tempers, goad and lacerate, raise whirlwinds.' To do this at T&C—and not wreck the ship—you have to coat it with elegance and aplomb. I don’t pretend to get it right all the time, and I keep in touch with a lot of people to give me honest feedback. I want to know the magazine comes across as amusing and well-written, and I have Jay McInerney, our wine critic, or an old friend like Jeff Eugenides to skewer me if not. I want to know that the magazine feels sufficiently surprising, even to the worldliest of women, so I make sure to take Denise Hale and Lee Radziwill to lunch several times a year. Does our fashion photography look good enough? I trust Tomas Maier’s opinion on this more than almost anyone’s. And there are many a modern swan who I’m zinging emails at to make sure the mag touches that zeitgeist: Alexandra Richards, Liz Goldwyn, Kick Kennedy." (Observer)


Nick Schifrin of Al Jazeera America
Nick Schifrin reporting at start of Gaza conflict. (Screen grab courtesy of Al Jazeera America / July 25, 2014)




"The audience for Al Jazeera America is up 30 percent overall the last two weeks during the Gaza conflict, the channel says. In prime time, it's up 40 percent, compared to the month before. What that translates to is the channel reaching 3.0 million unique viewers for the total day, and 1.4 million in prime time, according to an Al Jazeera America spokesperson. That’s big news for the American brand of Al Jazeera that has been struggling in the ratings since its launch a year ago. 'When Al Jazeera America first debuted and was getting very weak ratings, my sense was that they needed a story they could own, that people would have to come to them for,' says Philip Seib, author of 'The Al Jazeera Effect' and journalism professor at the University of Southern California. 'Maybe this is going to be it.' Al Jazeera America has featured outstanding coverage of the Gaza conflict. Its correspondents have been everywhere in Gaza and Jerusalem, but the channel has also covered protests around the world in reaction to the Israeli incursion and civilian casualties." (Baltimore Sun)



by Chris Jackson - WPA Pool/Getty Images


"According to a Sunday Mirror report, Prince Charles is irate about an upcoming book, written by the Queen’s former press secretary, that purports to spill many details about his relationship with Diana. The former press secretary in question is Dickie Arbiter, 73, who served as press secretary for 12 years and is said to know 'intimate details about Charles’s marriage to Diana.' His book, titled On Duty with the Queen, is due to be published in October. According to the Mirror, Charles is 'furious,' as he believes 'this man was a trusted friend,' and feels he is being betrayed. According to the source, 'It is just a case of a man who he thought was a friend and who could be trusted cashing in on the misery of that time. It is disloyal.' Arbiter has said the book—which will also detail the dissolutions of the Prince Andrew-Sarah Ferguson and Princess Anne-Mark Philips marriages—is “not just a memoir” of his time serving in the palace but is rather “a story of a life, my life and it’s been quite an extraordinary one.' Arbiter—who was said to enjoy a very close relationship with the Queen (at one point, the two even 'did the washing up together')—worked for the palace when Charles and Diana’s divorce took place, as well as when Diana died. The Mirror says he will spend time in the book '[delving] into the dark days' of Diana’s 'isolation,' and the 'humiliation' she felt when Charles took up with Camilla Parker-Bowles." (VF)





"The reemergence of unconditional solidarity among Africa’s incumbent leaders is threatening respect for human rights and good governance throughout the continent. The phenomenon is obviously bad for the people of Africa and for the overall progress of democracy. But the worst consequence of many African leaders’ support for even their most authoritarian colleagues is the growing regional acceptance—and in some cases promotion—of deeply repressive policies. Strong bilateral relationships in Africa, for instance between Presidents Jacob Zuma of South Africa and Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe, are undercutting domestic and regional democratic frameworks. In Zimbabwe’s 2013 election, Zuma—acting as the chief election facilitator for the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC)—disregarded his obligation under the organization’s Principles and Guidelines Governing Democratic Elections to maintain neutrality by publicly rebuking a technical team for questioning the election preparations. Zuma then endorsed Mugabe’s reelection on behalf of SADC, even when clear evidence of vote rigging emerged, which Botswana cited as another violation of SADC’s guidelines. Nevertheless, Zuma stood by his counterpart in Zimbabwe, bolstering the idea that the region’s entrenched leaders can rely on one another in their efforts to maintain power, even if this means violating their own democratic standards. This type of solidarity in Southern Africa has extended beyond domestic affairs to include limiting citizens’ access to justice on a regional level, as clearly demonstrated by the disbandment of the SADC Tribunal, launched in 2005 to enforce the SADC Treaty. The tribunal’s fate was sealed when it ruled that Zimbabwe’s seizure of land from white farmers without compensation was illegal and discriminatory. Mugabe refused to obey the decision, challenging the court’s authority and paving the way for its suspension in 2010. Despite the best efforts of civil society groups in the region, Southern Africa’s heads of state sided with Mugabe and voted to remove the individual mandate of the court, meaning victims of state abuse could no longer file cases against their governments. Not only was this a blow to human rights protection, but it also discouraged private-sector investment, as property owners would have no legal recourse beyond national courts. Once the SADC court ruled against the big man’s interests, political imperatives suddenly took precedence, and legal order was sidelined. Repressive leaders are also copying one another’s laws, which collectively undermine basic freedoms for the continent’s citizens. In 2009, Prime Minister Meles Zenawi of Ethiopia enacted the Anti-Terrorism Proclamation and the Charities and Societies Proclamation, which essentially aimed to eliminate independent civil society activity. Within a few years, Presidents Yoweri Museveni of Uganda and Uhuru Kenyatta of Kenya had introduced nearly identical laws, which are muzzling the work of human rights defenders, the independent media, local journalists, and members of the political opposition across East Africa. A similar contagion effect occurred after the signing of what UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay referred to as 'a piece of legislation that in so few paragraphs directly violates so many basic, universal human rights.' Nigeria’s Same-Sex Marriage Prohibition Act, signed early this year, went far beyond other anti-LGBTI laws by banning association with or operation of 'gay' organizations. Instead of pushing back, many of the continent’s leaders supported Nigeria with their own repressive measures, including the signing of an 'anti-homosexuality' bill in Uganda, the introduction of a draft law to criminalize gay and transgender people in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the launching of a parliamentary caucus to ensure the implementation of anti-LGBTI laws in Kenya, and the refusal of justice for victims of homophobic attacks in Cameroon. Many argue that this is not surprising given the preceding rise in homophobic rhetoric from many African leaders, but since the Nigerian bill was enacted, attacks against LGBTI people across the continent have increased, even in more tolerant countries such as Côte d’Ivoire and Sénégal. Nigeria’s leadership catalyzed a steep regression for the protection of LGBTI individuals that could take decades to reverse." (FreedomHouse)



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