Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Media-Whore D'Oeuvres

"President Barack Obama took aim at Chinese barriers to U.S. exports and investment, making good on a campaign pledge to take a tougher line on trade enforcement while risking increased tensions with the Asian nation. A day before Obama’s meeting with President Hu Jintao to urge joint efforts to ease the global recession, the U.S. Trade Representative’s office produced a 55-page catalog of Chinese subsides, tax policies and regulations that it said discriminate against American companies. 'It’s a very delicate balance,' said Gary Hufbauer, a fellow at the Peterson Institute for International Economics in Washington. 'It’s a matter of trying to manage the disputes and hoping they don’t spiral out of control.' At their meeting before the Group of 20 leaders meeting in London, the two presidents are likely to pledge joint efforts to spur their economies and ease the global recession. The entire gathering of leaders nations will also repeat a pledge to avoid protectionism, a German official said. Still, the drop in the economy and boost in unemployment in the U.S. is intensifying pressures on China." (Bloomberg)

"I finally caught up on Nate Lowman's show on the very last day of its run this past weekend at the Maccarone Gallery, which is just right next door to Gavin Brown on Greenwich St. Nate is known to many as the cute artist guy who dates Mary-Kate Olsen, but most people are not that familiar with his work. The show, 'A Dog From Every County,' evolved much around Nate's obsession with the smiley face." (Papermag)

"The cast of Showtime’s The Tudors joined up with Gourmet Magazine in the Conde Nast building last night to indulge in some medieval partying that was up to royal standards. Hors d’oeurvres of lamb and eggs in sausage may have been better suited for their characters, but we’re sure the wine chalices and actors in period costumes were enjoyed by all. And of course, no celebration of The Tudors could be complete without the show’s Irish heartthrob, Jonathan Rhys Meyers -even if he wasn’t wearing a crown this time around." (Guestofaguest)

"'Models: please stay away from the bar and focus on getting dressed!' stylists instructed the participating celebs backstage at the last night's seventh annual Dressed to Kilt event and fashion show. But the fine-aged liquor was all part of the fun at the Scottish affair at M2 lounge--and so were Sir Sean and Lady Connery, who hosted the evening. 'I think we've got the best possible seats in the house!' exclaimed the Oscar-winning actor as hundreds of eager digital cameras were pointed at his direction. Right before the show, a diverse assembly of models that included Ed Westwick, George Wayne, Andie MacDowell and her daughters, New York City Ballet dancer Tom Gold, and Yankee Bernie Williams, put on the designer garb from likes of Vivienne Westwood, Comme des Garçons, and Tommy Hilfiger and did their best to make the rowdy crowd proud." (Fashionweekdaily)
A Little Of The Old In And Out

(image via timesonline)

In: President Barack Obama. The stakes for the global economy are massive. This will be the new President's first major foray onto the global stage. The hopes of the country, and the world, are with the President of these United States. Whether or not Barack Obama is able to forge some kind of international cooperation on a host of grave issues between the G20 powers -- and that seems increasingly unlikely in the cases of Sarkozy, Merkel -- the markets trajectory upwards or downwards depends. From Reuters:

"'He's obviously got a lot of charisma and it's his first big meeting. And I think people tend to be very polite in these situations but there could also be a level of awkwardness there,' said Simon Johnson, a former IMF chief economist who is now a professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

"One theme at the economic summit will be a view in many countries that the United States bears much of the blame for the global financial meltdown because of its lax financial regulation and the debt-fueled U.S. housing bubble."

Out: The New York Times. It is not a goodf time to be any paper, but this month it is particularly bad to work at the Gray Lady. Unless you are the ubiquitous Paul Krugman, anti-Obama. First there is the positively citric Arthur Ochs Sulzberger Jr. piece in Vanity Fair. Then, from the salmon-colored weekly, news of cuts:

"One source tells The Observer that there are plans to eliminate the paper’s weekly travel installment, Escapes. The regionals that are published in New Jersey, Connecticut, Long Island and Westchester might fold as well, which is not an obvious choice: unlike City, the regionals have produced steady revenue, but if there is no more to cut there either, production and freelance costs may no longer be bearable.

"Staffers from those sections would be reassigned to new jobs, our source says.

"When the Metro standalone section was eliminated, the desk and the material it brought to the paper were supposed to be preserved; between online editions and those pages at the back of the A-section. We’re hearing that a similar plan is afoot for material that has previously been published to the Escapes, City and regional sections, but another source cautioned that that was 'a best case scenario.'"

More here.

In: Al Franken. We are not, to say the least, fans of Al Franken (Averted Gaze). But it looks like the people of Minnesota -- and now a three judge panel -- have spoken. If Norm Coleman wants to persist in his quixotic quest thus leaving Minnesota with only 50% representation in the United States Senate, then he risks nullifying a ground on which to run against Franken the next time around. From Politico:

"In its third week of deliberations, the state court on Tuesday afternoon issued a ruling ordering absentee ballots to be turned over to the Minnesota Secretary of State’s Office by April 6. The ballots would then by be counted in open court by April 7. In the minutes after the ruling was issued, Democrats began trumpeting the decision, saying that Coleman’s ability now to retake the lead is a tall order.

"The math really doesn’t look good for Coleman with this decision, as he would have to win an overwhelming majority of these 400 ballots to overcome Franken’s 225 vote lead, and not every one of these ballots will necessarily be opened and recounted.

"'We are obviously pleased,' said Mark Elias, chief legal counsel for Franken, in a conference call with reporters."

Frank(en)ly, we cannot understand how Coleman could lose to Franken. With the benefits of incumbency and a shitload of YouTube videos of Franken's unfunny Stuart Smalley clips, there is no reason why this jerk should have won. But won he did.

Now, step aside, Coleman, and let the clown do what he was elected to do.

(image via wallstreetfighter)

Out: "Vice Stocks." The psychology of economics takes the cold, hard edge off the nebulousness of the numbers. And one of the more interesting aspects of this is what does well, marketwise, in times of recession. Last September, Mogelonsky, senior analyst at Mintel said, "Chocolate, cigarettes and alcohol again seem relatively recession-proof. People might be cutting back or switching to store-brands, but they definitely aren't giving up their small daily indulgences." But before you invest in Nestle, you might want to read this. From BusinessWeek:

"There are several theories as to why sinful stocks haven't held up. Many companies were hurt by high debt levels while investors worried about exposure by others to troubled emerging markets.

"A key concern is the suspicion that consumers are cutting spending far more than in past slowdowns. 'The recession itself is different in its nature,' says Keith Hembre, chief economist at First American Funds. Consumers are permanently altering spending patterns amid job shrinkage and vast losses in the markets for stocks and residential real estate. 'We've had an unprecedented weakening in the household balance sheet,' he says.

"In fact, consumers are even cutting back small purchases like lottery tickets, notes Morningstar (MORN) fund analyst David Kathman. 'This recession is pretty different from the last couple that we've had,' he says."
Twitpic: Lance Armstrong's X-Ray

Lance Armstrong, who broke his collarbone into 4 pieces during a bicycle race in Spain, just posted this x-ray on Twitpic titled "I'm screwed."
Cloris Leachman: Paul Newman Used To Ask Me Out (While Married)

(image via bakersfield)

Cloris Leachman was on the Howard Stern show this morning, talking about her love life and her new memoir. The 82-year old award-winning actress was quite forthcoming. From Gather:

"Cloris spoke very openly about her love life, which is apparently a large focus of her new autobiography. Leachman says Ed Asner (Lou Grant on Mary Tyler Moore) hit on her all the time, but she was not attracted to him. She says she also wasn't attracted to Mel Brooks, who also hit on her. She says Marlon Brando used to hit on her all the time... but she was scared of him. Cloris also told the crew that Paul Newman asked her out repeatedly while he was married to Joann Woodward. Howard and Robin were both very surprised by that and asked if she refused Newman because he was married. She said his marriage had nothing to do with it. She said she simply found Paul Newman 'dull.' Howard asked if she liked Joann Woodward, and Cloris said no, not really. In fact, she called her boring!"

We guess in Hollywood many swing. It is probably the nature of celebrity game, when done with discretion and care for the other party. But we kind of thought of Paul and Joanne as more of the boring but stately-looking Hollywood via Connecticut couple watching Masterpiece Theatre on Sunday night while eating popcorn types. Call us naive.

Brand new posts on gossip and pop culture at The Corsair.
Ozzy Osbourne: "(Rehab) Is A Family Tradition"

(image via tvweek)

That whole damn minimalist, rock and roll approach to parenting the Osbourne's championed has now been exploded as a myth as both Jack and Kelly have been in and out of rehab for a while. And Sharon's bouts of physical violence (hahaha) as well as Ozzy's infamous addictions make the entire family more of a textbook case of sickness and less of an example that should be rewarded with constant television coverage in this era of post-excess. Still, though, they persist in their perversities. From HowardStern:

"Ozzy and Sharon Osbourne stopped by to promote their new TV show, 'Osbournes Reloaded,' and Howard said they both looked great, adding that Ozzy’s appearance was even more impressive given all the substances he’s put in his body over the years: 'You're a walking advertisement for drug addiction.' Ozzy said he was 'pickled,' and was no longer suffering from tremors - he quit taking the medication that caused them ..

".. Sharon bragged that - in addition to ending his tremors - Ozzy being off prescription meds meant he didn't need to take Viagra anymore.

"... Sharon bragged that - in addition to ending his tremors - Ozzy being off prescription meds meant he didn't need to take Viagra anymore."

One wonders, though, if blame should fall squarely on the Osbournes (it really shouldn't) who appear to lack any semblance of personal will, or the allergic-to-civic-virtue executives and talk show hosts who continue to encourage us to gawk at these trainwrecks.
Holbrooke: "We Are Treating Afghanistan And Pakistan As A Single Theater"

(image via concierge)

For the past few months the foreign policy elite in the Obama administration have abbreviated the complicated Afghanistan-Pakistan portfolio, the frontline in the War on Terror, held by Richard Holbrooke as "Afpak." Similarly, President Obama has -- of late -- not mentioned the country Afghanistan without, within the same breath, said "Pakistan."

Richard Holbrooke formally legitimized the civil union on CNN's State of the Union on Sunday, saying, in response to Dick Cheney's critique of Obama's national security policy, "(the Obama administration) is treating Afghanistan and Pakistan as a single theory."

This, of course, is a massive change -- and more than merely rhetorical -- from the approach of the Bush administration. It also suggests that popular will on the Afghanistan front -- the so-called "graveyard of Empires" -- is petering, and linkage to Pakistan, which has over 100 nuclear devices, is necessary.

Twitter/Breaking News: "Reuters: Secretary of State Hillary Clinton says US envoy Holbrooke had a brief and cordial exchange with th Iranian minister in the Hague."
Media-Whore D'Oeuvres

"A couple of weeks ago, we ranked digital-media CEOs by the size of paychecks. But many of these titans derive most of their wealth not from salary, bonus or options, but from their holdings in the companies they run. In fact, Steve Ballmer and Steve Jobs, among others, draw an annual salary of a $1. So how have new media CEOs fared in this market? It’s not pretty: Anybody who reads Forbes annual billionaire list probably knows that Ballmer, Jobs, Jeff Bezos, Eric Schmidt, Barry Diller and Jerry Yang collectively lost nearly $18 billion in wealth last year, with Ballmer topping the loser board—he was $6 billion in the red." (Paidcontent)

"'He's the only man I know,' said international playboy and Greek shipping heir–slash–journalist Taki Theodoracopulos of his 28-year-old son, J.T....I asked Taki what kind of values he tried to instill in his son. 'The traditional values,' he said. 'The difference between good and bad. The values of honor, country and beauty, and all that—but now I’ve changed, I wouldn’t send him to war. But J.T., I like the idea that he’s brave, that he’s a good athlete and that he has a good heart. I’d hate to see my son be a bloody hedge fund manager.'" (Observer)


"They say life begins at 40... and Guy Ritchie certainly seems like a man reborn. The director hit the big four-oh last September, got divorced from Madonna the following month – and has been having the time of his life ever since. He didn’t seem to be missing Madge one little bit when we bumped into him at the Empire Awards after-party. He told us: 'I’m single again – and I wouldn’t have it any other way.' Ouch." (3AMGirls)

"The opening of the Doha Arab summit was initially overshadowed by the presence of Omar Bashir and the absence of Hosni Mubarak. But then eternal prankster Moammar Qaddafi stole the opening of the show .. First, Qaddafi. The summit began with a classic bit of political theater from the Libyan despot (wait, I mean 'democrat' since he cashed in his alleged nuclear program for the Bush administration's support, right? It's hard to keep up...). Qaddafi interrupted the opening statement by the Emir of Qatar to address Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah, demanding that he end the six-year long feud between the two countries. After his microphone was cut, he dramatically left the room (and, rumor has it, then took a leisurely tour of Doha's Museum of Islamic Art)." (ForeignPolicy)

"Lakme Fashion Week is celebrating its 10th Anniversary in Mumbai...and the shows being presented at the Grand Hyatt Hotel, a brand new venue for the event, demonstrated the growth and strengths of both India's designers and its fashion hungry audience .. Conceived to address the Mumbai disaster of 26/11 and to let the world know 'Mumbai is open for Business'...the world's fashion industry once again came through with their creativity and generosity, under the banner and leadership of Naomi Campbell's initiative 'Fashion For Relief' The 'MAI MUMBAI' fashion show was presented to a packed, energized and awestruck audience. Naomi herself lead the star studded cast of models walking the ramp, and wearing gowns inspired by, influenced by, beaded , embroidered, or embellished in or by India." (Fashionweekdaily)

"Auditions will be held Friday, April 10 in Los Angeles for drummers who are looking to play with THE SMASHING PUMPKINS. They should send their background info, photos and performance web links via email only to: pumpkinsdrummer@gmail.com." (BrooklynVegan)

"The octogenarian Republican is an improbable go- between to push the diplomatic line of a young Democratic president. But here he was in Moscow on Friday: Henry Kissinger, the architect of Cold War detente with the Soviet Union, meeting informally with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev to try to smooth over a new generation of animosities between their two countries .. The Nixon-era secretary of State was joined on the trip by other prominent officials from previous administrations, including former Secretary of State George Shultz, former Georgia Sen. Sam Nunn, former Defense Secretary William Perry and former Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin. The White House said the group had not been sent by President Obama. 'They're private citizens and not there at the behest of the White House,' said an official, speaking on condition of anonymity. 'But they did inform the White House beforehand.'" (LATimes)

"Leaving for the airport soon." (David Lynch/Twitter)

"The heaviest mail we got yesterday was about the man on Madison Avenue last Saturday who was looking for money to feed his family. I was surprised by the response, which was much greater than the response to the stories about the two countesses and their marital woes." (NySocialDiary)

"The men’s college basketball Final Four is now set, with Michigan State, Connecticut, North Carolina and Villanova all headed to Detroit next weekend. Also set: CBS’s domination of Friday and Saturday night with basketball. Coverage of the NCAA tournament led CBS to first-place finishes on both Friday and Saturday night among viewers 18-49, according to Nielsen overnights, and neither night was close. On Friday night, CBS led among 18-49s with a 3.6 average overnight rating and an 11 share. ABC was second at 2.0/6, Univision third at 1.7/5, Fox fourth at 1.3/4, NBC fifth at 1.2/4 and CW sixth at 0.7/2. As a reminder, all ratings are based on live-plus-same-day DVR playback. Seven-day DVR data won’t be available for several weeks. Twenty-eight percent of Nielsen households have DVRs." (Medialifemagazine)

"SOHO House no longer wants to be a place where bankers flock to drink and flirt. Sources told us several financial types, already hit by the economy, had their egos slammed when they were notified by the club that their membership would not be renewed as it was returning to its 'artsy' roots. Soho House US operations director Mark Somen told us, 'We recently celebrated our fifth anniversary and want to make sure we are staying true to our creative roots. We are not pinpointing specific industries, but want to make sure that our members are great creative types. In addition, members who are not respecting the House or our staff are not likely to have their memberships renewed. We are happy to have less members, and if the place is not so busy, that's totally fine.'" (PageSix)

"Tonight will be intense. Ted Turner, Erica Jong and 6 other friends are coming tonight to '33 Variations.'" (JaneFonda)

"You asked, I'll answer. I've just learned that CBS has demanded that each existing TV show -- even the hit ones -- reduce their budgets for next year, if renewed. This may mean smaller writing staffs. Meanwhile, Hollywood has been speculating about the future of the new CBS feature division. I'm told, 'All systems go.' Not only are there no layoffs, but there are actually additions as the division heads into production. Shooting begins April 7th on its first motion picture, a medical drama starring Harrison Ford. And its second pic, a romantic comedy starring Jennifer Lopez, starts principal photography in May." (DeadlineHollywoodDaily)

"Stephen Colbert perfected his Method eyebrow raise as a theater major at Northwestern (’86) after transferring from Hampden-Sydney. The Comedy Central anchor once described his college self as a 'real poet-slash-jerk…I had a beard, and I wore black, and I was really willing to share my grief with you.' Colbert’s regimen was hardcore: dance in the morning at 9:00 a.m., water performance class, dramatic criticism, the history of costume and decor, and scene design. He also performed in experimental plays such as Pelleas and Melisande by Maurice Maeterlinck in college before graduating to the Second City improv scene." (TheDailyBeast)

"Eighteen months ago, when Hollywood was beating a path to the Middle East in search of investors, Warner Bros. thought it had struck oil. In September 2007, the studio signed a deal with companies owned by the Abu Dhabi government for what was later pegged at $1 billion to build a theme park and movie theaters and finance films together. Today the largest part of that deal—$500 million to jointly fund movie projects—has stalled. Sources in Hollywood and the financial industry say that Abu Dhabi Media and the Time Warner-owned studio are in talks to restructure their agreement but are not close to a resolution. The only movie Abu Dhabi has invested in under the deal is Shorts, a family film starring Jon Cryer and William H. Macy that is scheduled for release this summer. That movie was put into production shortly after the financing deal was announced. According to sources, the two sides haven't discussed new film projects in months." (BusinessWeek)

"Sen. Richard M. Burr has opened his ears — and his earmarks — to African-American causes. Though only 12 percent of his votes came from black constituents in 2004, the North Carolina Republican’s attention to that segment of the electorate could pay dividends in 2010 — either by lowering intensity of black opposition to him or by showing white voters that Burr can work across political and racial spectrums. It is the kind of political legwork that might make a subtle but significant difference in a close race. 'Those of us who read the records are very clear on what he’s done,' said George E. Battle Jr., a bishop in the A.M.E. Zion Church who supported Burr’s 2004 opponent, Democrat Erskine Bowles. 'He’s always responsive. He’s always there.' In February, Burr introduced legislation (S 413) aimed at boosting graduation rates for low-income and minority students, an issue on which he has teamed up with Pennsylvania Democratic Rep. Chaka Fattah, whose district includes Philadelphia. He has been involved in efforts to combat sickle cell disease and to reauthorize the Healthy Start program, which is designed to reduce infant mortality and the number of babies born at low weights. Both issues disproportionately affect African-Americans." (CQPolitics)

"In the 1980s, London launched a radical set of market reforms known as Big Bang, turning the city into ground zero of a revolution that begat today's buckling global financial system. Now, as leaders of the world's 20 largest economies gather here to fix that system, some Big Bang architects are questioning the ideal of unfettered capitalism on which it was built. In retrospect, they say, the movement unleashed unanticipated forces such as global banks whose influence extends beyond the reach of any one regulator. Those forces may be difficult for the G-20 -- or anyone -- to rein in. London is bracing for angry protests before and during Thursday's Group of 20 summit, which will see fortresslike security for world leaders. Few events embody the free-market thinking that shaped modern finance better than Big Bang. Under former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, a small group of officials, including Treasury chief Nigel Lawson and Secretary of State for Trade and Industry Cecil Parkinson, scrapped decades-old rules at the stock exchange and other institutions that they feared could leave London trailing behind rapidly globalizing markets." (WSJ)

Monday, March 30, 2009

Media-Whore D'Oeuvres

"So now that we've glimpsed the menu at the revived Monkey Bar, it's time to answer the far more important question confronting a Graydon Carter restaurant: where, praytell, do the A-listers sit? A special Eater operative who hit up Friends and Family last week sketched us the above overhead of the reworked back dining room; we appended their notes in red, and got the full lowdown.." (Eater)

"It’s not out yet, but Michael Gross’s exposé of the Met Museum, Rogues’ Gallery, has already raised the hackles of its powerful board, which includes Henry Kravis, Henry Kissinger, and Annette de la Renta, whose family history Gross writes about in some detail. At a trustees’ meeting, Met senior vice-president for external affairs Harold Holzer was forced to explain how the book, to be published May 5th, came together. According to the meeting minutes, he admitted that, although the Met refused to cooperate with Gross and 'declined to respond to his disobliging queries … some staff and alumni have answered questions.'" (NYMag)

"KEVIN Rudd, whose critique of neoliberal capitalism was a show stopper for the cognoscenti, looked at home on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange, as he waved cheerily to the travelling media .. Rudd finished off his US visit among the financiers, and with chats to a couple of prestigious former politicians, one time secretary of state Henry Kissinger and former vice-president Al Gore, now the great climate change activist. Although the bad economic times are making the prospects for international progress on climate change much harder, as Rudd admits, the PM is greatly encouraged by America's new commitment to achieving something." (BrisbanTimes)

" .. lust/ file me under loserdust/ file me under half assed thrusts/starstruck by your nipntuck/no baby were not gonna fuck/ or even talk .." (Courtney Love/Twitter)
A Little Of The Old In And Out

In: Jeffrey Sachs. Sachs, Director of the Earth Institute, wrote last week's buzzy column for the FT criticizing the Geithner Plan. Few would argue that President Obama is deftly walking a thin political tightrope -- navigating populist rage with a pragmatic understanding that he will need the help of the investment of the financial sector -- but there is real rage on both the left and the right that the President is veering too far into the ensorcelling embrace of the very people (some of whom are 2nd administration Clinton appointee-legacies brought over) who have brought us to the near brink of ruin. Some of Sach's acute argument, from FT:

"The Geithner-Summers plan, officially called the public/private investment programme, is a thinly veiled attempt to transfer up to hundreds of billions of dollars of US taxpayer funds to the commercial banks, by buying toxic assets from the banks at far above their market value. It is dressed up as a market transaction but that is a fig-leaf, since the government will put in 90 per cent or more of the funds and the 'price discovery' process is not genuine. It is no surprise that stock market capitalisation of the banks has risen about 50 per cent from the lows of two weeks ago. Taxpayers are the losers, even as they stand on the sidelines cheering the rise of the stock market. It is their money fuelling the rally, yet the banks are the beneficiaries.

"The plan’s essence is to use government off-budget money to overpay for banks’ toxic assets, perhaps by a factor of two or more. This is done by creating a one-way bet for private-sector bidders for the toxic assets, then cynically calling it 'private sector price discovery.' Consider a simple example: a toxic asset with face value of $1m pays off fully with probability of 20 per cent and pays off $200,000 with probability of 80 per cent. A risk-neutral investor would pay $360,000 for this asset."

More here.

Out: Larry Gagosian. Is there a place in the new and Eastwardly-trending art world order for a global art world player? Will hyperthumotic art mogul Larry "go-go" Gagosian -- one of the survivors of the Spy magazine spitball era -- survive this crash with his reputation intact? March, publicitywise, has not been a good time for Larry. From Fadwebsite:

"Larry Gagosian may be hurting, due to a court order involving alleged fraudster Allen Stanford, however things could be even worse as it turns out Marc Dreier, the powerful attorney indicted on fraud charges totaling nearly $700 million, is a substantial client of Larry Gagosian as well !

"Marc Drier’s clients include (Bill Cosby, Tim Burton, Justin Timberlake, and 50 Cent among them), the one-time legal honcho spent at lest $10 million of his firm’s money at the Gagosian Gallery last year."


In: "Mark and Ollie: living with the Machigenga" Yours truly spent the entire day yesterday, lying doggo, watching the Travel Channel's marathon of "Living with the Machigenga," thoroughly impressed that we had not "seen it all," that there was still something out there that could impress us greatly. Incredible program, this. In it, Mark Anstice and Oliver (Olly) Steeds travel deep into the Peruvian Amazon to experience life with the remote Machigenga tribe. On the face of it this could easily be a disaster: an exercise in the arrogance of "explorers," encountering a "primitive" tribe for the affluent Travel Channel demographic -- but it is so not that.

What unfolds, over the course of many episodes, is the curious relationship between Mark and Olly and the Machigenga tribe, which prefers, quite frankly, to have no discourse with Peruvian society or even the modern world at large. Ab initio, Mark and Olly are regarded as "colonistas," and very nearly turned away back into the Amazon. Over the centuries, colonistas have killed, enslaved children and stolen natural resources from the small tribe armed only with wooden arrows. But the tribe's chief reconsiders turning away the persistent but naive Mark and Ollie.

The pendulum swings. Soonafter being nearly turned away, the tribe makes them eat a monkeypaw to see how sincere they are about learning the Machigenga ways (their stated purpose for the travel). There is silence among the members of the tribe as the white men gnaw on the gristle of what can only be properly construed as a baby monkey's paw. Then -- after the silence -- all erupt in raucous laughter. It was a test; Mark and Olly passed.

The Machigenga do not eat monkeypaw. And from then on, the social role of Mark and Olly in the tribe veers from that of helpless guests to being objects of tribal comedy. What initially looked like a documentary of the "primitive - sophisticated" variety evolves, slowly, into a fascinating narrative about the contrasts between tribal man and "civilized" man, how they live their lives in relation to nature and how we live our lives with relation to technology. What better forum for this conversation than the Travel Channel?

One of the most harrowing episodes involves real-life colonistas. Because of the remote location of the tribe, it is an alarming event when a half-dozen or so armed, filthy lowlives enter the village and commandeer a hut. It was a clear show of force; they won. Their excuse is that they are "tired (they could just as easily have been drunk)." They call themselves "travellers," but you can see in their dead, hollow eyes corruption. They reveal their true natures by making a sexually crude joke about the chief's 13-year old daughter that suggests, chillingly, that they may have been sex traffickers. Fortunately, Mark and Ollie are there with a camera and, although we will never know, that may have prevented a terrible, terrible incident from occurring. The men stumbled into the woods strapped with their machine guns, never to be seen again.

Without walls or locks on their doors or their village, this blogger believes that modernity and the Machigengas are going to clash with increased frequency and probably tragic results in the near future. The again, they have lasted this long, perhaps we are overly cynical? But at this time, on this show, this "clash" between tribe and foreigner is a voluntary guest-host relationship where Mark and Ollie make a real, human connection and not some post-colonial anthropology project of a noble, if quite possibly doomed, way of life.

(image via autoblog)

Out: GM Chairman and Chief Executive Rick Wagoner. Under Wagoner's reign, GM lost $30 million last year. As oil prices skyrocketed, this asshole was still approving gas-guzzling pickup trucks and SUVs -- the perfect automotive metaphor, by the way, for the age of thumotic imperial excess. The reckoning has come, and Captain Fuckhead (see above) has to answer for his lack of foresight as Chief Executive. Arianna Huffington was right; the Big Auto CEOs and their wingnut defenders were so very, tragically wrong. From the NYTimes:

"'G.M. is a great company with a storied history.' Mr. Wagoner said, in an e-mail message made public by the automaker. 'Ignore the doubters because I know it is also a company with a great future.'

"Mr. Wagoner, whose resignation was confirmed by G.M. on Monday, explained his departure by saying he had been urged to 'step aside' by Obama administration officials, 'and so I have.'

"In an address on the auto industry Monday morning, President Obama said the request for Mr. Wagoner’s resignation was 'not meant as a condemnation' of him. 'Rather, it’s a recognition that it will take a new vision and new direction to create the G.M. of the future,' Mr. Obama said."

Unfortunately, the economy of Michigan -- where, in Detroit, unemployment is at an astonishing 22% -- bears much of the burden of this man's idiotic-thumotic decision-making process. And the very public firing had a lot to do with the Southern Republicans in Committee hearings that were calling for his head. Still, Wagoner will be replaced with his #2, and it remains murky as to whether or not this equals real change.
Russia Backs Return To Gold Standard

Russia, on the cusp of the G20 Summit, is backing a return to the gold standard. Fer realsies! We would be more inclined to take this idea seriously, of course, if there wasn't so much self-interest involved. Russia is one of the largest gold producers on the planet. The naked ambitions of Russia would be more amusing and less disgusting if they didn't involve so many testosteronal oligarchic thugs (Exaggerated cough suggesting feigned detachment). From The Telegraph:

"The Gold Standard was the anchor of world finance in the 19th Century but began breaking down during the First World War as governments engaged in unprecedented spending. It collapsed in the 1930s when the British Empire, the US, and France all abandoned their parities.

"It was revived as part of fixed dollar system until US inflation caused by the Vietnam War and 'Great Society' social spending forced President Richard Nixon to close the gold window in 1971.

"The world's fiat paper currencies have lacked any external anchor ever since. It is widely argued that the financial excesses and extreme debt leverage of the last quarter century would have been impossible - or less likely - under the discipline of gold."

Under the discipline of gold, to be sure (Averted Gaze). There appears to be a perverse race to the bottom among America's frenemies -- last week China proposed a global supercurrency, an alternative to the U.S. Dollar as default foreign reserve currency. And this week: this. What's next? Iran and Venezuela arguing for oil to anchor world finance?
Countess Luann deLesseps In Bid To Save Marriage From "Ethiopian Beauty"

(image via nydailynews)

"One of my favorite mantras," Countess Luann deLesseps of Real Housewives of New York, wrote last Tuesday on her blog, "is 'if you don’t take care of yourself, nobody else will.'" Perhaps that is what is motivating her move to reunite with the Count. The Countess, who likes to give unprompted advice to women on their love lives, is having some problems of her own. From our favorite social chronicler David Patrick Columbia's NYSocialDiary:

"Word comes from across the sea, that New York Housewives’ Luann deLesseps has flown off (desperately?) to Europe to see husband Alex in an attempt to save their crumbling marriage. Alex, the Count de Lesseps has, it is said on the streets of Geneva, taken up with a beautiful Ethiopian beauty who is not only quite a bit younger than he but also quite a bit younger than his wife.

"In the meantime, the sixty-something count has slimmed down, tanned up and looks years younger, according to friends, which once again raises the age-old question: Ain’t love grand?"

We cannot fail to note that the Countess, who has a book coming out later this month on the subject of Etiquette, counselled on her blog two weeks ago:

"This week on the Real Housewives of New York City, I gave Bethenny advice on how important it is to be a bit of a damsel in distress at times. I think women are doing so much today career-wise and otherwise that they often forget that men like to feel needed."

Other tips on the blog -- though not all -- include: "look into his eyes a few beats longer," "Talk in a soft, low, provocative voice," and "Leave him wanting more." The full story on NYSocialDiary.
Media-Whore D'Oeuvres

"British prime minister feuding with his chancellor of the exchequer. Sound familiar? It will to anyone with a cursory knowledge of recent British politics. The bitter feud between Tony Blair and his chancellor of the exchequer, Gordon Brown, was the defining dysfunction of Blair’s decade in office. It got so bad in the final months of Blair’s tenure that one Labour MP likened the quarrel to 'an episode of The Sopranos.' Now, history looks to be repeating itself as Brown locks horns with his chancellor, Alistair Darling, over the size of a stimulus package to revive the British economy. Having pumped extra money into the economy late last year, Brown wants to do it again. Darling, echoing a view on the Continent and among other nations not weighed down by the kind of indebtedness that afflicts Britain and the United States, doesn’t think Britain can afford it. He argues quietly that the supposed solution would be worse than the putative cure. The conflict is all the more embarrassing for Brown just now because he’s hosting the G-20 Summit in London this week." (TheDailyBeast)

"THE nanny who walked out on Madonna has revealed the torment she suffered working for the fiery star. Angela Jacobsen said she suddenly quit last week because she couldn't put up with 'this shit any more.' Now the 29-year-old Australian is taking legal advice over the confidentiality agreement she says she was forced to sign. Angela-who looked after the star's adopted son David Banda-says she handed in her notice only to be sacked by Madonna, 50, a few days later .. Angela's internet revelations paint Madge in poor light as she prepares to fly to Malawi to adopt a second African child-a baby girl .. Angela's internet revelations paint Madge in poor light as she prepares to fly to Malawi to adopt a second African child-a baby girl .. All Madonna's employees work incredibly long hours, so it's no surprise that Angela had had enough," a source said. 'If you work for Madonna you are on call 24 hours a day, seven days a week. There's no such thing as a weekend.'" (Newsoftheworld)

"Prince William let his hair down last night - having a drink with Guy Ritchie before enjoying a sexy dance with a brunette in a nightclub. The 26-year-old stopped at Ritchie's pub The Punch Bowl in Mayfair before heading off to shake his regal booty at nearby Whisky Mist .. The girl, named Kirsty, told us: 'I couldn't believe that I was dancing with the future King of England. I t was a crazy night. At one point he was gyrating behind me and I wa s thinking, Is this for real? I made it my mission to try and get William p***ed but he was having none of it. I was telling him to do shots of Sambuca but he wouldn't." (Thisislondon)

"Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany, an avowed friend of the United States and the leader of the European Union’s biggest economy, is diplomatic about the coming visit by President Obama. But she is clear that she is not about to give ground on new stimulus spending, stressing the need to maintain fiscal discipline even as she professes to want to work closely with the new American president. Speaking in her modern concrete-and-glass Chancellery building last week, she underscored the points of drama that may well delineate the three summit meetings during Mr. Obama’s first trans-Atlantic trip since he was elected .. During the hourlong interview, Mrs. Merkel made clear that she was not wavering in her response to the economic crisis, by loosening the German checkbook or encouraging the European Central Bank to follow the Federal Reserve in pumping money into the system. She also said she expected Mr. Obama to keep his word to gradually rein in imbalances that would cause American indebtedness to grow sharply as a result of his domestic stimulus plans. Suggesting that the United States and Germany are not as far apart as some have intimated, Mrs. Merkel made plain that Mr. Obama may engender the foreign good will his predecessor, George W. Bush, largely lost, but nonetheless confront disagreements." (NYTimes)

(image via popculturepost)

"Volvo Fashion Week presented by Visa is already in its closing stages, but the scene Moscow is just heating up. Christian Louboutin is coming to town to visit his stores and co-host an opening and a dinner with David Lynch at Dasha Zhukova's Garage gallery. Dior will throw a bash in the Russian capital as well...but the most exciting event might not even happen until June. Naomi Campbell became perhaps the city's most famous housewife when she moved into posh Rublyovka with her boyfriend Vladislav Doronin, and now she's planning one of the biggest charity events the Russian capital might have ever seen with a spectacular fashion show to benefit one of her foundations. She's even getting the government involved--which, of course, means everything here." (Fashionweekdaily)

"Supermodel Naomi Campbell has being lined up for a career in Bollywood. Yep, the Streatham-born star wowed film execs with her appearance at the Fashion For Relief fundraiser in Mumbai. After taking to the runway in a sari, and being mobbed by fans, Naomi was introduced to top stars including Deepika Padukone, Farhan Akhtar and Kunal Kapoor. Our source says: 'Naomi has never modelled in India before but she loved every minute. At the end of the show, two well-known Bollywood producers approached her and asked her if she'd be interested in screen testing. Naomi was incredibly flattered and plans to come back to Mumbai for more talks whenever she next has a break in her schedule.'" (3AMGirls)

"NOW that Mickey Rourke is back in the spotlight, he's got hordes of desperate fame-whores trying to hook up with him. First there was Bai Ling, and now a Russian 'model/pop star' has leaked to local Russkie papers that she's going to marry 'The Wrestler' star. According to culturebuzz.com, Irson Kudikova, 26, met Rourke during his Moscow shoots for Iron Man 2 in which he plays a Russian gangster -- and Kudikova claims they're dating and about to be engaged. We'll believe it when we see it. Rourke's reps didn't return calls." (PageSix)

"National issues are being debated in New York’s special election Tuesday, but the outcome will be determined by purely local factors. The race will come down to 'who gets their vote out,' said John Jasper Nolan, Republican Party chairman in the 20th District’s most populous county, Saratoga. 'That’s been the issue from day one.' Nolan is focused on mobilizing party volunteers to turn out for GOP nominee Jim Tedisco, while the Democratic nominee, Scott Murphy, gets the aid of an AFL-CIO field operation. Get-out-the-vote activity took on a heightened sense of urgency after a poll March 27 showed the race in a dead heat. Likely voters polled March 25 and 26 by Siena Research Institute gave Democratic candidate Scott Murphy a narrow 4 percent lead over Tedisco, with a margin of error of 3.2 percent. Given the compressed schedule of the race and low turnout common to special elections, organizers on both sides say get-out-the-vote efforts will be the determining factor in the race." (CQPolitics)

"James Marsh’s 'Man on Wire' and Ari Folman’s 'Waltz With Bashir' were amomg the big winners tonight at the second Cinema Eye Awards, honoring outstanding achievement in documentary filmmaking. Marsh’s film won the Outstanding Achievement in Nonfiction Feature Filmmaking prize and the production and editing prizes, while 'Waltz With Bashir' won four awards including achievement in directing, music, graphic design and animation, and best international feature." (Indiewire)

"Last week In L.A., Tatiana von Furstenberg hosted a conversation with Somaly Mam, a Cambodian author and human rights advocate who was sold into sexual slavery at a very young age. The event, part of DVF's 'Proud to Be Women' series, was a celebration of International Women's Month hosted by TVF, Diane von Furstenberg and Elle magazine at the Melrose DVF store. 'She did not even know her own name and was treated as if she was worthless,' Tatiana tells me. 'I can honestly say that she lives one of the most worthwhile lives of anyone I know of. She has single handedly changed and saved the lives of thousands of young girls and women.' To learn more about Somaly Mam, go to: www.somaly.org" (Papermag)

"VIRTUAL INSANITY/ Lucky Dragons, Michael Bell-Smith, James Howard, Olaf Breuning, Kathy Grayson, Jill Magid, John Michael Boling and Tiffany Malakooti .. Curated by Maxwell Williams, March 20 - April 19th 2009 .. Thanks to everyone who came out!" (CindersGallery)

"The American Museum of Natural History dance is typically aglow with New York's golden youth, but this year it added a dash of green to the mix. In line with the institution's new Climate Change exhibition, the evening's theme was eco-chic: soy candles, cardboard set pieces, and enough shrubbery (to be repurposed later by the museum's landscapers) for a pack of giraffes. Even if the sea bass wasn't local, the glam guests (including Jessica Alba, Tinsley Mortimer, and Leigh Lezark) were feeling earth-friendly vibes. After dinner, the party moved to the Cullman Hall of the Universe, where 21-year-old Dior Beauty girl (and, appropriately, Egyptology major) Harley Viera Newton spun dance tunes. Alba, en route to Yale with husband Cash Warren for his secret-society reunion, chatted with Milla Jovovich in the corner." (Style)

"This has been the Madoff season, and I didn’t make any new friends by naming names and expressing certain opinions about them. How strange people are. They take innocents down the Swanee and then howl that they’re being hard done by. Too bad. I read somewhere that Madoff was fond of Savile Row suits, expensive watches and very large houses in Palm Beach, on the Côte d’Azur and in the Hamptons. He would be, of course, but what bothered me the most was the fact that he owned three boats. Crooks and conmen try to clothe themselves in establishment credentials, and until recently—and the arrival of the oligarchs—boats were reserved for gentlemen." (Takimag)

"Leaders of advanced and emerging economies are closing ranks behind plans for tougher rules on financial markets to prevent another collapse like the one that wiped out much of Wall Street. A global approach to regulation has been gaining momentum ahead of the Group of 20 summit April 2 in London. U.S. President Barack Obama, U.K. Prime Minister Gordon Brown and their G-20 counterparts aim to merge their national blueprints for strengthened regulation into a united front to rein in hedge funds, derivatives trading, executive pay and excessive risk- taking by financial firms. 'There is reason for optimism that progress toward stronger global regulation has begun,' says Daniel Price, who was President George W. Bush’s G-20 negotiator and is now senior partner for global issues at Sidley Austin LLP in Washington. 'We’re beginning to see the outlines of a convergence.' Agreement on a shared regulatory agenda would provide the G-20 summit with a measure of success even as leaders remain at odds over trade policy, fiscal stimulus and the status of the dollar. A joint regulatory approach is crucial to prevent investors from seeking out markets with the most permissive rules, setting off a race to the bottom as countries vie to attract capital." (Bloomberg)

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Media-Whore D'Oeuvres

"President Obama’s plan to widen United States involvement in Afghanistan came after an internal debate in which Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. warned against getting into a political and military quagmire, while military advisers argued that the Afghanistan war effort could be imperiled without even more troops .. The commanders in the field wanted a firmer and long-term commitment of more combat troops beyond the 17,000 that Mr. Obama had already promised to send, and a pledge that billions of dollars would be found to significantly expand the number of Afghan security forces ..During these discussions, Mr. Biden was the voice of caution, reminding the group members that they would have to sell their plans to a skeptical Congress .. Mr. Obama left a final White House meeting in the Situation Room last Friday signaling to participants that he was close to a decision, but that he wanted to get comfortable with what he was going to do. He mulled the issue while at the Camp David presidential retreat over the weekend. On Wednesday, he told his top aides that he had made up his mind." (NYTimes)

"Madonna is single again... after an unholy bust-up with Jesus. The queen of pop has sensationally ditched her toyboy lover and announced that she's 'glad' to be single again. It comes after a row over 50-year-old Madonna's commitment to the 22-year-old Brazilian model Jesus Luz. We are told that she declined his invite to meet his family - including his mum who is 13 years Madonna's junior - on May 10, which is Mother's Day in Brazil." (3AMGirls)

"Feel that heat? It's another huge weekend at the box office, +35% over last year for $130 million. Due to 3-D blockbuster Monsters vs Aliens which despite so-so elite reviews is performing as well as producer DreamWorks dared to hope, and what distributor Paramount didn't think possible. It opened to $16.5 million Friday thanks to its incredibly wide release in 4,104 theaters, including 1,550 3-D venues (the widest opening yet for a 3-D title) and $3-$4 premium for 3-D. So it could have a $57 million weekend. This would make it the 2nd biggest non-sequel for DWA, behind 2008's Kung Fu Panda. And it's not even a summer or Easter weekend." (DeadlineHollywoodDaily)

"Lily Allen looked as though she had partied to within an inch of her life last night during a late-night session with Kate Moss. The singer, 23, ended the night at 4.30am this morning looking rather weary after partying with caner Kate at Lil's flat in Queen's Park. Kate, 35, had been to see Lily perform at the Shepherds Bush Empire earlier in the evening, with other guests in the audience including artist Damien Hirst. The supermodel really got into the swing of things, flailing her arms all over the place when Lily did a cover of Britney Spears' Womanizer. The pair left the venue at 11.30pm and headed to Lily's place. They went to Kate's place at 4.15am, with Lily ducking inside for no more than 10 minutes before heading off home." (Thisislondon)

"The nation's top bankers walked away from a summit with President Barack Obama pledging broad support for his bank-bailout program and efforts to revive the economy, but the meeting failed to resolve tensions over executive pay and the president's tough rhetoric of recent weeks. The highly unusual meeting, which came after weeks of public feuding between Democrats in Washington and banks, brought President Obama face to face with 15 of the nation's top bank executives, including the heads of J.P. Morgan Chase & Co., Bank of America Corp., Wells Fargo & Co., Citigroup Inc. and Morgan Stanley. All of the banks have received federal bailout cash -- in some cases after being told they must -- and some have openly bristled over mounting public criticism of their pay and their banks' lending .. For his part, Mr. Obama told the group that bankers should be more modest in their compensation and spending practices, participants said. The bankers responded that the administration should try to cool its anti-Wall Street rhetoric." (WSJ)

"Rashida Jones is kinda having a moment. The beautiful daughter of Quincy Jones and actress Peggy Lipton is a proud part of the No. 1 comedy in America, I Love You, Man; she’s a co-star on the highly anticipated Parks and Recreation, which debuts on April 9 — poor test screening results be damned! And just this week, she sold her first screenplay, the snappily titled Celeste and Jesse Forever, which she co-wrote with actor Will McCormack (Brothers and Sisters)." (Observer)

"Sources tell me that outcast AOL CEO Jon Miller has agreed to join News Corp in a newly created role as CEO, Digital Media. He will report to Rupert Murdoch and be based in NYC and in charge of Internet and mobile businesses in a global role driving digital strategy across all News Corp business. This is a really big job, I'm told, because he will collaborate with the heads of the other News Corp businesses. Post-AOL, Miller became one of the founding partners at the VC firm Velocity. But his former employer Time Warner had a contractual hold on him until the end of this month. The digital media veteran served from 2002 to 2006 as Chairman/CEO of AOL." (DeadlineHollywoodDaily)

Friday, March 27, 2009

A Little Of The Old In And Out

(image via opticianonline)

In: The 3D Experience. Will Monsters vs. Aliens surpass expectations or fail to impress? The future of the 3D film revolution hangs in the balance. This will be a big weekend for DreamWorks Animation, the very idea of a 3D tentpole and, of course, the prognosticative powers of Steven Spielberg and James Cameron. From Variety:

"Par is taking 'Monsters (versus Aliens)' out in 4,104 locations, including 1,550 3-D sites, marking the widest bow yet for a 3-D title. (The remaining runs are conventional.) In terms of actual prints, film will play on 7,000 screens, 2,000 of them 3-D.

Elsewhere at the B.O., Lionsgate's horror/suspenser 'The Haunting in Connecticut' could prove strong counterprogramming. It opens in 2,732 runs.

"...Monsters' is sure to be analyzed from all sides considering how much Hollywood has riding on 3-D plus the fact that there still aren't enough 3-D-capable screens. Toon is the first of a handful of big-budget 3-D pics set to open this year, culminating at Christmas with 20th Century Fox's 'Avatar,' from James Cameron.

"The allure of 3-D is that theater owners charge $3-$4 more per ticket. Imax 3-D tickets are roughly $5 more. Until now, studios have only dipped a toe in the 3-D sea (Disney is the exception). The results have been impressive, with 3-D screens doing three and four times the business of a conventional screen.

"The biggest worry facing Jeffrey Katzenberg's shop and other studios is the question of how many 3-D screens are enough."

Will more than just geeks shell out the extra money for a 3-D ticket? More here.

Out: DL Hughley. Controversial comedian DL Hughley -- who, we cannot fail to note, draws strong opinions from African-American women that we admire -- is out. His CNN show is off the air, and much of his final segment on marijuana legalization has been edited out by management. TVNewser has the story:

"The final 'D.L. Hughley Breaks the News' was taped at CNN's New York studios this afternoon. And it appears CNN higher-ups forced an edit on producers. A TVNewser tipster tells us, 'a large section of a segment about marijuana legalization' was edited out of the final broadcast.

"Hughley recently visited a marijuana dispensary in Oakland, California after his doctor had written him a prescription for medicinal marijuana. Hughley apparently has chronic back pain.

"But that portion will not be shown during the segment on the final show."

Chronic back pain. Earlier this week Hughley jokes with Don Imus about his "medical condition" -- wink, wink.

In: Reforming The Rockefeller Drug Laws. Here in New York, the draconian Rockefeller Drug laws with manditory minimum sprison sentences have ruined countless lives. Many of those lives, unfortunately, involve people of color. It has gotten so bad that there are actual bus businesses -- growing -- in poor neighborhoods in New York whre the wives and children of "drug dealers" can visit on prison visiting days. No longer. Governor Patterson, thankfully, has delivered on a campaign promise that was ultimately just a problem of political will. From The VillageVoice:

"In a rare moment of cooperation in Albany, Governor Paterson and the state legislature effectively ended the harshest provisions of the much-criticized Rockefeller Drug Laws today. The agreement ends mandatory jail time for first-time and non-violent felony offenders, something that advocates have fought for over three decades. Now judges have total authority to send non-violent addicts to treatment instead of jail.

"Changing the laws has been on Paterson's agenda for years (and something that people expected the Democrats to do once they obtained a majority in Albany). Today the governor said, "As a resident and representative of Harlem, I saw first-hand the devastating effect that drugs have on our communities, and the devastating effect that ill-considered drug laws and drug policies have had on individuals, families and neighborhoods... I have seen too many lives destroyed by outrageously harsh and ineffective mandatory sentencing laws."

"The changes also provide more funding for drug rehab programs, though so far no one has said how much."

Big ups to Russell Simmons, Anthony Pappa and all the other who were out in front of this issue over the years and brought it to our attention.