Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Why Hasn't Anderson Cooper Hosted SNL Yet?

Now that we have managed, through grit and gumption and Facebook to secure Betty White her due, we must collectively turn our attention to Anderson Cooper. Someone interesting once said that one is not famous in America until they have been lampooned on SNL. Anderson Cooper has been already. Now, the question arises: Why hasn't Anderson Cooper hosted SNL yet? "The Coop" clearly is not afraid to show off his sense of humor -- he hosts CNN's New Year's countdown with Kathy Griffin.

Anderson Cooper has, we believe, greater comedic possibilities in him than playing straight man -- no pun intended -- to Griffin at the fin de siecle. And there are so many ways such sketches could go -- Cooper could make fun of his gilded upbringing, Cooper could make fun of the asinine speculation about his sexuality, Cooper could make fun of the fact that he is the son of a mother that is larger-than-life, Cooper could make fun of the fact that he is positively like a West Indian in that he has an incredible number of employment arrangements.

Resolved: Anderson Cooper should host SNL
Media-Whore D'Oeuvres

"On Nov. 24, the White House threw open its doors for its first official state dinner of the Obama era, given in honor of Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. This week, U.S. President Barack Obama is hosting French President Nicolas Sarkozy and his ex-supermodel wife, Carla Bruni-Sarkozy. But the French leader is not being fêted in such grand style, instead dining alone with Barack and Michelle in their private quarters. Why? Because that's how Obama wanted it. Scores of world leaders visit Washington yearly, but very few receive the whole official shebang. State dinners are a highly sought-after honor, and they are given at the discretion of the president on the recommendation of his top foreign-policy advisors, his chief of staff, and the State Department, among others. Over the past two decades, they have become less and less frequent. During his two terms in the White House, George W. Bush gave just six state dinners, while Bill Clinton gave 29, George H.W. Bush gave 24 (in his one term), and Ronald Reagan gave 57. Why? One reason is that they are extraordinarily expensive, costing upwards of half a million bucks apiece, and time-consuming for the White House staff to organize. Foreign dignitaries and their delegations more often receive 'official dinners,' one step down but still plenty lavish. Official dinners are generally four-course black-tie affairs, but tend to have less fuss, lower-profile entertainment, and smaller guest lists than state dinners -- 100 to 200 guests, as opposed to 300 or more. And then there are 'working dinners,' where a much smaller group of around eight people per side continues doing business while they eat." (ForeignPolicy)

"(Tiger) Woods' preferred place to stay in Las Vegas was the Mansion at the MGM Grand, where a one-bedroom suite costs $5,000 per night. He would gamble in the ultra-exclusive V.I.P. casino nearby. According to a source known as Robin Hood 702, 'sometimes the only people in the place were me, Tiger Woods, and Michael Jordan. Each of us sat at our own private table and played big. Tiger plays big. Up to 30 grand a hand … and when you’re playing splits and doubles, you can have 150 grand on one hand' ... With many of his mistresses, Woods was allegedly exceedingly cheap. Mindy Lawton says the only thing he ever bought for her was a chicken wrap from Subway (he was stopping there on his way to meet her). Tiger and his mistress Jamie Jungers broke it off, according to Jungers, because he refused to help her financially. Of the women interviewed, Woods spent money on only one: Loredana Jolie Ferriolo (above) a Playboy model he met through madam Michelle Braun. Ferriolo says she went on $15,000 shopping sprees and charged everything to Tiger’s hotel room." (Vanity Fair)

"Right now, (Mitt) Romney looks fine -- he has money, name recognition, decent polling, and the like. What you have to do is project how the current dynamic is going to play in 2012. At the moment, Republican leaders are trying to demonize the Affordable Care Act, so they have little incentive to point out that it's basically Romneycare plus cost controls. But in the context of the 2012 race, with the Affordable Care Act settled into law and a contested GOP primary going on, there will be lots of Republicans playing up the comparisons between Romneycare and Obamacare. Romney appears politically viable right now because most Republican voters have not been exposed to the Romneycare-Obamacare comparison -- or if they have, it's been made by advocates of the latter, rather than by Republicans who they trust. When the attacks come, Romney just has no convincing reply." (TNR)

"Actor, rapper LL Cool J was listed as one of the guests on the premiere of Sarah Palin's Fox News series 'Real American Stories.' But late last night, LL, aka James Todd Smith, Tweeted that Fox News is 'misrepresenting' his appearance ... A Fox News spokesperson tells TVNewser, Real American Stories features uplifting tales about overcoming adversity and we believe Mr. Smith's interview fit that criteria. However, as it appears that Mr. Smith does not want to be associated with a program that could serve as an inspiration to others, we are cutting his interview from the special and wish him the best with his fledgling acting career.'" (TVNewser)

"For better or for worse, Washington has grown used to the fact that Barack Obama runs the most centralised – or 'White House-centric' – administration since Richard Nixon. When Nixon wanted foreign policy advice, everyone knew where he got it from: Henry Kissinger, variously his national security adviser and secretary of state. In contrast, Mr Obama has no big foreign policy strategist. Even insiders give different answers when asked to whom he turns for advice on the big international questions. But almost all agree with the following observation. 'The truth is that President Obama is his own Henry Kissinger – no one else plays that role,' says a senior official. 'Every administration reflects the personality of the president. This president wants all the trains routed through the Oval Office.' Fifteen months after he took office, the character and structure of Mr Obama’s foreign policy machinery is still evolving. But from interviews with dozens of insiders and outsiders, including senior officials both authorised and unauthorised to speak, and three former national security advisers, it is clear the buck not only stops with, but often floats for quite a long time around, Mr Obama himself." (FT)

"Not long ago, former Hollywood madam Heidi Fleiss was spotted enjoying a quiet dinner with a couple of friends, one of whom happened to be Steve Bing—the politically connected real-estate heir and film producer. As they dined by candlelight at one of Hollywood’s favorite after-hours hangouts, Fleiss leaned forward and her hair dipped into the flame. And caught fire. Fleiss extinguished her locks, unharmed and seemingly amused. As her party departed, Bing told her, 'I can’t take you anywhere.' The smell of scorched hair lingered as waiters opened windows to clear the air. Such is the recent life of Steve Bing—still in the mix from Los Angeles to Washington, but with all sorts of fires to put out. On the plus side, Bing remains a big player in Democratic circles, an exceptionally generous philanthropist and committed activist who counts some of the world’s wealthiest and most influential people as his closest friends, including former President Bill Clinton. Two sources with knowledge of the former president’s affairs tell The Daily Beast that Bing pays Clinton $2.5 million a year to serve as an adviser to his green-construction business. But now it seems that some of Bing’s spending choices—in lockstep with the economic downturn—have taken a toll. Months ago, word began seeping through Democratic circles that Bing was no longer a go-to source for money. A similar story made the rounds in Hollywood: Bing, who had financed such big-ticket films as Polar Express, was pulling back from the movie business. In both of his worlds, it’s readily apparent that he has torn through staggering sums of money over the past few years." (TheDailyBeast)

"Over the past few years, it seemed that the boom in viewership for ad-supported cable networks would never end. Year after year their ratings just kept growing. But with many of the top networks now rivaling the smaller broadcast networks in terms of viewership, it looks like the boom is slowing. Half of the top 20 networks in primetime among total viewers and adults 18-49 saw their viewership decline during fourth quarter, according to Nielsen data crunched by Turner Networks. Some of the declines are easily explainable. USA, the top network across virtually every demo for a record-breaking 15th straight quarter, radically revamped its schedule, abandoning its longtime strategy of running new shows mainly on Friday and Sunday nights. USA expanded originals onto Tuesdays and Wednesdays as well, moving Friday shows 'White Collar' and 'Psych' into new timeslots, where both saw their numbers slip compared to their previous season. USA still had a dominating quarter, finishing at least 25 percent ahead of the No. 2 network in viewers and 18-49s, but it was down 4 percent and 12 percent, respectively, from last year." (Medialifemagazine)

"Howard (Stern) said that Janice (Dickinson) had sex with Sylvester Stallone and he had spoken to him about her one time. He asked if she heard what he said about her. He played some audio of Sylvester talking to him on the phone about Janice. He wasn't saying anything that bad. He was calling her a liar and things like that. Janice said she had a good month with him. Howard said it sounds like Sylvester is angry with her though. Janice laughed and said that's funny. She said that he has to protect his family so he has to say things about her. Janice said that she saw Sylvester out pumping gas into his Ferrari and he kind of said something to her but she didn't stick around long. Howard asked if she would still have sex with Sylvester if he asked. Janice said yes. She said they had fun when they were together. Howard asked why it ended. She said that he wanted his ex back. She said she may have been a bit too much to handle ... Howard said he heard that she wanted to bang Simon Cowell. Janice said she does ... She wants to chase after Simon Cowell. Howard said he thinks that Simon would be scared by her. She said that she put her hand on his ass and it was kind of flabby. She said that he made out with her and she stuck her hand back there. She said they were doing some event together and Simon planted a kiss on her." (Marksfriggin)

"So what happens to an editrix after Si Newhouse shuts down her magazine? Dominique Browning wrote in The Times Magazine last weekend that her life went into a free fall after House & Garden was shuttered in 2007. She details how she spent much of her time in pajamas, how she thought about death, how she obsessed over eggs. She is turning her post-Condé tale into a book, which is due out in May. Meanwhile, Brandon Holley, who lost her editor in chief job when Jane folded three years ago, has landed at Yahoo, and riffed to The Times earlier this month about how the no-frills lifestyle on the Web isn’t much like life at 4 Times Square. So! We wondered how other victims of Mr. Newhouse’s golden machete were adapting to life after Condé. 'It was definitely a tough experience,' said Pilar Guzman—the popular editor of the mom magazine Cookie, which folded in October—from her place in Park Slope." (Observer)
Maybe Steve Spielberg has A Right to Be Paranoid?

Page Six is reporting today that Hollywood Princeling Steven Spielberg is pretty paranoid:

Steven Spielberg is so paranoid about security at his office, he keeps a never-used motorcycle permanently parked outside in case he needs to make a getaway, a new book about DreamWorks claims. In 'The Men Who Would Be King,' due May 4 from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, former Variety scribe Nicole LaPorte writes of the 'Schindler's List' director, 'His passion for secrecy sometimes suggests a burgeoning near-paranoia.'

Maybe he has a right to be paranoid? Aside from the fact that he -- allegedly -- lost over $100 million (!) in his divorce from his first wife, the deliciously sophisticated Amy Irving, Steven Spielberg once had a very creepy stalker. According to, back in 1998:

Oscar-winning director Steven Spielberg on Wednesday testified that he remains deeply "frightened" of the man accused of stalking him, saying that "no one before has ever come into my life in a way to do me harm."

"I think he's on a mission and he won't be satisfied until he accomplishes the mission, and I think I am the subject of the mission," Spielberg said at the trial of Jonathan Norman, who is accused of stalking the film director.

Norman, 31, was arrested in July at Spielberg's Pacific Palisades mansion and is charged with one count of felony stalking.

Police have testified that Norman was carrying handcuffs, duct tape and a box cutter at the time of his arrest. They said his car contained two more sets of handcuffs, razor blades -- items prosecutor Rhonda Saunders called a "rape kit." Authorities also found a notebook stuffed with photos of Spielberg, his wife, actress Kate Capshaw and their seven children.

A police detective testified on Tuesday that Norman told him he was obsessed with Spielberg and wanted to rape him.

I say Spielberg has the Constitutional right to exercise some paranoia. So, um, maybe we want to give Spielberg a little slack if he feels a little safer with a hog at the ready, in case of an impromptu moist Oz-scenario.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Rio Tinto Wants Kissinger To Clean Up Their Mess

Even as we are starting to enjoy the new, "hopey-changey stuff" -- as semi-literate Sarah Palin calls it -- the Old World continues to encroach. We mean, of course, planetary fucker par excellence, Henry "War Criminal" Kissinger (Exaggerated cough suggesting feigned detachment).

Borborygmus are his evils. In Indochina. In Cambodia. In Jill St. John(Averted Gaze). Eras pass; Presidents die; and yet -- he persists.

He fucks the world with a goat-like vigor.

When will this "manscum" die? At the age of 86, Kissinger was recently released from a South Korean hospital. This leads us to ask, metaphysically: Does "Big Evil" have inherently restorative powers? Does the prosperity of people like Don King and Silvio Berlusconi suggest that planetary laws favorable towards the Evil are in operation? Do people like Kissinger ever ponder in the quiet of their soul the karmic implications of their acts?

Probably not.

The Rio Tinto mess involves China and Australia and the ginormous mining giant Rio Tinto ("Fair is foul, and foul is fair: / Hover through the fog and filthy air"). Already as you can see the stage is set for the sicky, no? It involves nationalism -- that gut-level, Patrick Buchananish instinct -- and the lowe manly virtue: "Face."

Rio Tinto rejected a $19.5 billion investment from state-owned Aluminum Corp. of China last summer. Soon after -- with suspicious timing -- an embarrassed China arrested Rio Tinto workers on the charges of "spying." Recrimination can be substituted for spying, to be sure ("Coiled as a serpent round the phallic Tau"). The Australian government has been trying to sort this out, but as they are at the periphery of where the east meets the West -- nearly all alone -- and China's new position in the world is one of "rib-busting ox-strength," things are kind of dodgy. Who could untangle this tingle of geopolitical Black Magic? You guessed it -- Henry Kissinger, who, we cannot fail to note, enjoys a solid reputation among the world's most filthy despots (and we mean that in the kindest way possible). From The Sydney Morning Herald:

Mining giant Rio Tinto has engaged the services of 86-year-old Henry Kissinger to help rebuild the company's bridge to China in the wake of the Stern Hu affair.

As fallout continues from the jailing of Hu and three other Rio Tinto executives in China, it has emerged that the company turned to the former US Secretary of State last year after the collapse of its US$19.5 billion investment deal with Chinalco and the arrests of the executives.

Mr Kissinger has been well known and respected in China since his 1971 meeting with premier Zhou Enlai paved the way for president Richard Nixon's historic meeting with Chairman Mao Zedong the next year.

Rio yesterday declined to comment on Mr Kissinger's role.

But The Age understands that Mr Kissinger has contributed to Rio restoring its relationship with China and continues to be on the company's books.

He is believed to have helped secure a meeting on Rio's behalf with Wang Qishan, a Politburo member who handles many of China's global financial affairs.

Mr Kissinger's role came to light as claims emerged that Rio was told months before the arrests of Hu and his three colleagues of potential ''dodgy dealings'' within its China operations but resisted internal calls for an investigation.

He is glorious in his Evil, Kissinger. Anyway, the Rio Tinto mess at the periphery of where the Western World meets the growing East (namely: China) is calling for the id-abilities, the ungodly Pan-passions of Kissinger. These geostrategic power games at the highest levels, played at by angry little boys pretending to be men, after all need a referee. And who better to referee perhaps the first major corporate-state skirmish between East and West, than the id-Man himself? Who else would have both sides confidence' who else could preside over such infernal rites?
CBS' "60 Minutes": The Last Refuge of The Just

Every once in a while the extreme democratic atmospherics in these United States of America -- where, unfortunately, porn stars become actual celebrities and "cute" animal posts garner ridiculous online eyeballs -- rankles. It neglects the more talented; it valorizes the stupid.

Still -- there is always "60 Minutes." Notwithstanding Andy Ronney's unholy fuckwittage, the show is relentlessly outstanding. It stands head and shoulders above the other "talent in the room." That is why it is always excellent when the investigative reporting of the show dominates the Nielsen ratings. It is almost as if, if only for a minute, that The Good triumphs over The Assy. From TVNewser:

Basketball and sharks helped make "60 Minutes" the 5th most-watched show of the week last week. The program brought in 14.49M Total Viewers -- its best since January 17. Sunday's show, which had the Duke-Baylor game as its lead-in, included Steve Kroft's profile of Russian oligarch Mikhail Prokhorov and Anderson Cooper's report on great white shark expert Mike Rutzen.

I have a pet theory that it was not the NCAA, but the fate of whether our favorite Silver Fox, Anderson "Dying Apollo" Cooper would survive his encounter with the Great White sharks.
Media-Whore D'Oeuvres

"In the post-presidency world of the Clintons, no one has been a better or more high-profile Friend of Bill than billionaire Ron Burkle. Burkle helped make the former commander in chief fabulously wealthy, while Clinton helped open doors as the two jetted around the globe on the supermarket and investment titan’s Boeing 757. But now the symbiotic relationship has ended with great acrimony, three sources with direct access to Clinton tell The Daily Beast, and the cause is the same ingredient that started it: money. Burkle infuriated the former president by allegedly 'stiffing Clinton out of $20 million or $25 million,' according to one of the sources." (TheDailyBeast)

"Ever wonder why Vladimir Putin is so much more popular in Russia than his presidential successor, Dmitry Medvedev? Their reactions to yesterday's subway bombings in Moscow shows why. Putin said he'd like to 'drag out of the sewer' the organizers of the attacks. And Medevev? He'd like the Supreme Court and the High Court of Arbitration to come up with some ways to improve counterterrorism laws. 'I think we should give attention to some issues relating to improvement of the legislation aimed at preventing terrorism, including clear work of various agencies in charge of investigating such crimes,' he reportedly said. Later on, Medvedev seemed to understand Russians' need to hear some tougher language, and promised to crush the attackers." (ForeignPolicy)

"After hearing that Jamie (Foxx) had called Robin (Quivers) a 'house negro,' Howard (Stern) exploded: 'Be a man. Come in here and say it right to our faces. Come in here and tell Robin she's a house negro and come in here and tell me how irrelevant I am. Come here man to man and talk to me if you really have a bug up your ass about me and we're on the same team. You know? So come on in here like a real man and confront me. And you tell me what I'm doing wrong. And I'll tell you. I'll tell you your whole story.' Howard continued: 'I don't know what pressures he's feeling in his life. I'm sure it's not easy being an actor finding a role. I don't know how many of his pictures make money. I don't know what his deal is. I don't know if he's washed up or not. Maybe he's got a bug up his--maybe he's trying to get some attention for himself. I don't know. But uh my guess is maybe we're probably not on the same team. I think he's playing for a way different team. Ok? That's what I think. I don't know what team he's on, but it ain't my team. You wanna be on my team? Come in here if you got a problem with me. You come in and tell me what your problem is.'" (HowardStern)

"She & Him, backed by The Chapin Sisters, played the first of their two sold-out shows at the Bowery Ballroom last night, March 29th. They're celebrating the release of their second album, aptly named Volume Two. The crowd was a full of Zooey Deschanel look-alikes with floppy hats and fancy bows adorning their heads waiting for some sunny vocals and a blue-eyed beauty (and her partner and expert guitar player M Ward). I was hoping (unrealistically) for a guest appearance by Tilly and the Wall who contibute to 'In the Sun' on the album, but no such luck. They did play the song though." (BrooklynVegan)

"New Horizon Capital is one of the most influential and successful participants in China’s fledgling private equity industry. It has billions of dollars under management and a stable of investors that includes Deutsche Bank, JPMorgan Chase, UBS and Temasek, Singapore’s sovereign wealth fund. But you would not guess any of that from its central Beijing headquarters. The company has no nameplate in the lobby of the Golden Treasure Tower, a nondescript building near the Forbidden City, the traditional seat of imperial power. Its simple 12th floor offices are identified only by a small sign inside the door that reads, in Chinese, 'New Horizon Growth Investment Advisory Limited'. The company does not need flashy suites as it has one of the most valuable assets in China. He is Winston Wen, an MBA from Northwestern University’s Kellogg business school in the US who keeps a low profile and bears a striking resemblance to his father – Wen Jiabao, premier of the People’s Republic of China. The younger Mr Wen and New Horizon are in the vanguard of a more aggressive generation of taizidang ('princelings') – offspring of senior Communist party officials – who dominate the burgeoning home-grown private equity industry, where huge profits are to be made from restructuring state assets and financing private companies." (FT)

(image via NYSD)

"A few things you may not know about New Orleans: At dawn in the French Quarter they wash the streets and sidewalks with lemon juice. There are parts of Bourbon Street that are as quiet and residential as there are parts that are raunchy and raucous. Fat Tuesday ends at midnight, when Lent begins, and the police promptly shut down the bars and clear the streets. People are exceedingly friendly, and whether you are black or white, straight or gay, rich or poor, addicted or dry, deviant or devout, from this country or another, needs are fulfilled. New Orleans rolls out the welcome mat, in spite of having been to hell and back. My son and I visited for a week but after only two days he asked, 'Mom, can we move here?' ... We stayed in the elegant French Quarter, in the handsome 18th century home of our friends Harry Shearer and Judith Owen. Harry’s an actor, director and comedian ('The Simpsons' on Fox, and host of 'Le Show,' syndicated on public radio stations), Judith, a singer, is always appearing somewhere (this week, the U.K.). While their base is Los Angeles, for more than a decade New Orleans has been their second home." (WashingtonSocialDiary)

"A cash-strapped Uncle Sam could end 2010 with an additional $8 billion in its pocket after the Treasury completes the sale of its 27 percent stake in Citigroup. The government yesterday said that it soon will begin selling more than 7.7 billion Citigroup shares it acquired as part of the $45 billion lifeline it extended to the bank 18 months ago, saying the sale would be conducted in 'an orderly, measured fashion; so as not to inundate the market with billions of Citi shares, thus dragging down its share price. However, word that the billions in Citi shares were on their way sparked jitters among investors, who sold off Citi stock, which fell 3 percent yesterday to close at $4.18. Citi accounted for 25 percent of volume on the NYSE yesterday. Nevertheless, even accounting for yesterday's decline, the Treasury stands to make some $7.7 billion from the sale of the shares, the details of which are expected tomorrow." (NYPost)

"Vivendi SA and its competitors must extend the reach of content such as video games and music into emerging markets to remain global media leaders, Chief Executive Officer Jean-Bernard Levy said ... Last year, almost three-quarters of Vivendi’s total sales came from France, where it owns the second-largest mobile-phone operator, and the U.S., where Universal Music is based. About 8 percent came from Morocco, where Vivendi owns Maroc Telecom, the largest phone operator. The proportion of business from new markets should rise at Universal Music, Levy said. The unit’s artists include Lady Gaga and the Black Eyed Peas ... Last month, India’s Bharti Airtel Ltd. agreed to buy Zain’s African operations for about $9 billion. Vivendi had earlier been in talks to acquire the assets to expand service from North Africa, the home of its Maroc Telecom unit, to elsewhere on the continent. France Telecom SA, whose Orange mobile-phone service is France’s most popular, has also targeted African expansion. So far, Vivendi’s ambitions to enter new markets have focused on Africa and Latin America. China and India present complex questions for the communications group, Levy said. 'There are many industries where you can operate in China, and there are also many industries where you can’t operate,' he said. 'You can’t get a telecom license, you can’t get a TV license, and you have to find the right local partners for anything that’s Internet-related. That’s the rule of the game today for us.'" (Bloomberg)

"With just over two weeks until the expected announcement of the Cannes Film Festival lineup on April 15th, speculation surrounding the 2010 roster is intensifying. indieWIRE picked 40 films to consider right now. Cannes is a sort of annual cinematic Olympics, with countless countries vying for spots in the official selection. Already announced is Ridley Scott’s 'Robin Hood' as a big studio opener for this year’s fest, while earlier this week Anne Thompson said that insiders should keep an eye on Oliver Stone’s 'Wall Street 2,' Terrence Malick’s 'The Tree of Life' and Woody Allen’s latest, 'You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger.' iW’s annual Cannes wish list isn’t based on side conversations with distributors and sales agents, but rather is a roster of films we hope are finished in time, good enough, and subsequently invited to join the annual South of France party. Numerous sites, from The Playlist and Ion Cinema, to trade papers like Screen (and many others) have been speculating about the lineup. Such talk will heat up in the next two weeks and then, we’ll know for sure." (IndieWIRE)

"Eighty-year-old photographer Bert Stern is famous for his 1962 Marilyn Monroe shots and is still going strong, having collaborated with Club Monaco on their latest ad campaign. Club Monaco CEO John Mehas had a cocktail party for Stern at their Fifth Avenue store which was sparkling with sociable well wishers like Lorenzo Martone, Vogue's Ivan Shaw, Olatz Schnabel, photographers Dewey Nicks and Scott 'The Sartorialist' Schuman, designers Timo Weiland and Rafe Totenegco, Patrick Duffy and Kristian Laliberte. Stern is quite stern about not being photographed and avoided having his picture taken all night." (Peter Davis/Papermag)

"In Alexandre Philippe’s new indie documentary 'The People vs. George Lucas,' a fan notes, 'I owe George a lot,' while another swoons, "The man unlocked a generation's imagination.' Then comes this condemnation: 'A lot of people view George Lucas as the antichrist.' Indeed, a kind of cognitive dissonance continues to unfold among the aging core group of rabid Star Wars fans. Five years after the much-maligned final live-action Star Wars chapter unfurled in theaters, creator George Lucas continues to be assaulted with fanboy criticism. Yet, with a top-rated animated series going strong on the Cartoon Network, Lucas' global licensed merchandise sales are almost as forceful as they ever were at $2.75 billion last year. There are several new 'Star Wars' projects in the works. And if White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs being photographed just the other day carrying a Star Wars pop-up book while exiting Air Force One is any indicator, the property is as culturally relevant as it ever was." (TheWrap)

"Pete Rose made the media rounds today, appearing on Howard Stern's show. The banter was the usual -- the endless Cooperstown snub, the all-time hits record, etc. But the one changeup Rose threw was taking along his girlfriend, who's about to hit the newsstands in Playboy. She's 29-year-old Kiana Kim. (Pete is 68, and we'll let you do the math.)" (something called WorldBuzzNow)

Monday, March 29, 2010

Quien Es Mas Macho? (The Leather Edition)

Or ....

The New York Times Pays Damages To Singapore Powerhouses

The Business Insider, via Gawker, notes:

The New York Times just paid $114,000 and apologized to the Singaporean prime minister for possibly implying that he got his job because his dad had the same job.

More startling is the news that the New York Times agreed not to imply that in exchange for some unspecified benefit—presumably access to the prime minister. The specific infraction? Apparently an International Herald Tribune writer referred to the Lee family as a 'political dynasty.'

Is this really a surprise? It sounds, to you and me, like a stupid thing to get ones panties in a bunch over. But -- we cannot fail to note -- The Times is like the community newsletter to those grim masters-of-the-Universe types. "Political dynasty" is, to someone now looking after their legacy, a probable loss of what the japanese call: "Face." Lee Kuan Yew is the "Statesman's Statesman" among the foreign policy elite crowd. He is sort of like Shakespeare or Nabokov to writers among the type of person that softly chuckles while reading Niccolo Machiavelli. Clearly, when you are rolling with that crowd intellectually, dark shit might go down. And the Gray Lady doesn't shit where it eats. As the old saw goes: What do you give an 800-lb gorilla? Anything it wants ...
Media-Whore D'Oeuvres

"Is it just me, or does Barack Obama seem different since health care passed? He’s sticking it to the Senate by appointing 15 nominees while it is on recess; he’s sticking it to Benjamin Netanyahu by not backing down from demands that Israel halt building in East Jerusalem; he’s sticking it to the banks by aggressively pushing financial reform. It’s hard to believe that only two months ago, Paul Krugman announced that 'I’m pretty close to giving up on Mr. Obama, who seems determined to confirm every doubt I and others ever had about whether he was ready to fight for what his supporters believed in.' What’s happened? ... With the passage of health care, Obama has now had his air-traffic controllers’ moment. When Scott Brown won in Massachusetts, it convinced many political observers that the old rules still applied. The country was still basically suspicious of big government, and thus, the only way for a Democratic president to survive was to do what Bill Clinton did after 1994: content himself with incremental change, accept the political parameters that Reagan established, be a Democratic Eisenhower." (Peter Beinart/TheDailyBeast)

"I wish Rod Blagojevich would stop telling everyone he sees on the streets of New York that he did nothing wrong. Move forward! Summer Sanders served as the women’s project manager. Let’s just say she’s one of those leaders who expect others to make her look good. They did. She had no idea what she wanted. I would not want to do business with her. I would decline doing business with most of these celebrities, in fact. If I were on a team with them, I would make sure I was the coach because they are creative and do well with tasks. Most do not lead well. So, who will be eliminated next? If the men lose again, they will find a way to get rid of annoying Bret. If the women end their winning streak, silent Selita Ebanks will quietly leave the room." (CNN/Marqueeblog)

"FEW modern myths about art have been as persistent or as annoying as the so-called death of painting. Unless, of course, it is the belief that abstract and representational painting are oil and water, never to meet as one. The two notions are related. The Modernist insistence on the separation of representation and abstraction robbed painting of essential vitality. Both notions have their well-known advocates. And both, in my mind seem, well, very 20th century. Pictorial communication — signs, symbols, images and colors on a flat surface — is one of the oldest and richest of human inventions, like writing or music. It started on rocks and the surfaces of clay pots and in the woven threads of textiles, then moved to walls, wood panels, copper and canvas. It now includes plasma screens, Photoshop and graphic novels. Even so, paint on a portable surface remains one of the most efficient and intimate means of self-expression. As for representation and abstraction, historically and perceptually they have usually been inseparable. Paintings — like all art — tend to get and hold our attention through their abstract, or formal, energy. But even abstract paintings have representational qualities; the human brain cannot help but impart meaning to form." (NYTimes)

"Kate Moss is taking the acting world by storm - making her stage debut in the Tempest. The supermodel, 36, has landed a minor role as a nymph in an upcoming version of Shakespeare's play. It follows a series of meetings and phone calls with Kevin Spacey who is overseeing the production as part of the Bridge project at London's Old Vic. Our spy tells us: 'Kate has had several acting lessons and is keen to broaden her horizons. She and Kevin go back a long way and they met up again last week at the W Doha bash at Chinawhite, where her part was confirmed. It's only a small part but Kate hopes it could be her big break.'" (3AMGirls)

"If you think this latest Israeli-American flap was just the same-old-same-old tiff over settlements, then you’re clearly not paying attention — which is how I’d describe a lot of Israelis, Arabs and American Jews today. This tiff actually reflects a tectonic shift that has taken place beneath the surface of Israel-U.S. relations. I’d summarize it like this: In the last decade, the Israeli-Palestinian peace process — for Israel — has gone from being a necessity to a hobby. And in the last decade, the Israeli-Palestinian peace process — for America — has gone from being a hobby to a necessity. Therein lies the problem." (NYTimes)

(image via NYSD)

"It was Sunday night. I’d just finished the above paragraphs about a queen of another age and the men in her life. Last week I had such a good time Richard Lawson’s witty, belly-laugh inducing portrait on Gawker of the new Tinsley Mortimer show 'High Society,' that I thought I’d have a look at something so 'today.' And so 'real.' It’s a sitting duck in terms of criticism. It’s 35-year-old women sitting around mumbling like teenagers about the kind of things teenagers think about. But I like watching Tinsley. I like her looks and she is definitely the star in this crowd with those long Mary Pickford locks (now called extensions in reality). She’s definitely got the charisma. She doesn’t have the voice though. She could use some vocal training to get it out of that pretty turned up nose of hers, just to take the edge off the ice." (NYSocialDiary)

"OK, so it wasn't exactly the newsboy strike of 1899. But over the past several days, a class struggle of sorts broke out between a handful of New York bloggers and blog owners over the value (or lack thereof!) of writers in the age of SEO (search engine optimization) and slide-shows. Henry Blodget, the CEO of Business Insider, got things started last week when he fired John Carney, a talented and well-liked financial blogger. Foster Kamer, of The Village Voice, (having already broken the news) then took to his personal Tumblr to criticize Mr. Blodget's 'toxic' long game and to argue that the only thing which had previously justified Mr. Blodget's business model was the employment of writers 'who're much loved, who love their work, and who work hard' ... While New York's first blogger strike might still be a long ways off, we suspect the tension between influential bloggers and the publishers who employ them is just getting started." (Observer)

"Elliott Abrams, who ran the Middle East desk at the National Security Council during the George W. Bush Administration, has unloaded a longish essay on the Obama Administration's policy toward Israel in the latest Weekly Standard. You'll be shocked to know that Abrams doesn't like the policy. Still, I can't dispute much of what he says...about the past. The historic Palestinian refusal to accept Israeli peace gestures has been disastrously stupid; the historic Palestinian inability to govern their own territory honorably and effectively has caused Israel to be rightly wary; the historic Palestinian policy of using lethal force against innocent Israeli citizens--and the continuing policy of groups like Hamas, who refuse to acknowledge Israel's right to exist--has caused the Israeli public to assume not merely bad intent, but also a barbarity, on the part of their neighbors and rightly so. But. I do have a problem with the things Abrams doesn't say--which stand as a purposeful distortion of the Obama Administration's policy (as does the hysteria emanating from neoconservative quarters on this issue, the foreign policy equivalent of Tea Partyism). Abrams simply is not honest about the current situation." (Time)

"Barbara Ehrenreich’s latest book, Bright-Sided, offers a damning indictment of the ideology of positive thinking, which she sees as the fundamental flaw in American life. When she found herself diagnosed with breast cancer, Ehrenreich was shocked to discover that doctors, fellow patients, and counselors all urged her to treat the diagnosis as a blessing in disguise and an opportunity to enjoy a range of infantilizing consumer products (such as teddy bears adorned with pink ribbons)--to embrace the idea that cancer might be “the best thing that ever happened to her,” rather than respond with any of the emotions that Ehrenreich herself found natural, such as horror, grief, and anger. Ehrenreich suggests that the problem of relentless positive thinking, and the corresponding refusal to acknowledge reality, is largely responsible for all kinds of social ills, including our current financial mess. She argues that only if we begin to recognize hard facts--such as the presence in our society of poverty, inequality, unemployment, and debt, as well as cancers that can kill us no matter how much pink we wear--will we get sufficiently angry about these things to fight for a cure. If Ehrenreich is right--and, broadly speaking, I think she is--then it makes sense to start looking for alternative ideologies with which to equip ourselves more adequately for hard times. Ehrenreich herself traces the roots of American positive thinking back to American Calvinism: she sees our insistence on mindless cheeriness as a backlash against the gloom of our forefathers. But pure gloom, of this particular Christian variety, is not the only philosophy designed to help people respond realistically but calmly to suffering. There is another obvious alternative, a more ancient one: it is Stoicism, a philosophy founded in Athens by Zeno in the fourth century B.C.E. as a version of the philosophy of Socrates. Stoicism developed and flourished for at least another five hundred years, into the later Roman Empire. The last major ancient Stoic was the emperor Marcus Aurelius (121-180 C.E.), whose Meditations amply demonstrate his deep engagement with the philosophy that he learned with Rusticus, his tutor." (TNR)

"A Bunyonesque muscleman with stuffed squirrels crawling up his tree-trunk-like legs and an 8- foot-tall fashionista are just two of the outsized works in 'Skin Fruit: Selections From the Dakis Joannou Collection' at New York’s New Museum. The show marks the debut of artist Jeff Koons as curator. He seems to like things big, just like the owner, a Greek- Cypriot construction tycoon. Another example of gigantism: two mountainous towers of chipped white chocolate made after the fall of the World Trade Center. Being here is like walking into a nightmarish world of creatures who are lonely at the top and just want to be loved for what they are." (Bloomberg)

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Media-Whore D'Oeuvres

"The president then stepped before cameras to tell the world that next month the United States and Russia would sign a 'new Start' treaty paring back their still formidable nuclear arsenals, cutting the legal limits on deployed strategic warheads by 30 percent and on launchers by half. Just as important, it will establish an inspection regime to replace one that expired in December. The announcement culminated a negotiation that sprawled across time and space in ways that Mr. Obama hardly expected when he kicked it off, a process that dragged on four months past its deadline and leapt from London to Moscow to Geneva to Singapore to Copenhagen to Washington. For a new president, the effort became a crucible of diplomacy and a tutorial in the complexities of international security. This account of how Mr. Obama reached agreement is based on interviews with American officials and Russian insiders, many of whom requested anonymity to discuss confidential negotiations. It is a story with twists and turns that included 10 rounds of talks by full-time negotiators in Geneva but ultimately kept coming around to intense personal negotiations between Mr. Obama and Mr. Medvedev, who met or talked by telephone 14 times to hash through disputes. 'When President Obama’s domestic positions were weakened in recent months and he was completely consumed in his crusade for health care reform, making all other issues irrelevant, it is surprising how much attention he kept on Start,' said Sergei M. Rogov, director of the Institute for U.S. and Canada Studies in Moscow, referring to the treaty. 'Even being 24-hours-a-day busy on health reform, he had a 25th hour for Start.' And a 26th and maybe a 27th. 'It’s been much harder than we anticipated,' said a senior Obama administration official involved in the process. 'We thought it would be relatively easy.' It was not." (NYTimes)

"Bob Geldof's wild daughter, Peaches, is furious over naked pictures of her posted on the Internet by a man who alleges they had a heroin-fueled one-night stand. Peaches -- who lost her mother, Paula Yates, to a heroin overdose in 2000 -- strongly denied taking drugs after photos of her appearing 'high' in bed with a mystery man were posted online. The writer, who calls himself thatcoolguyben, claimed he spent the early hours of last Thanksgiving morning taking drugs and having sex with Peaches -- who's now dating 'Inglourious Basterds' star Eli Roth -- before waking and 'throwing up' in a detox room at LA's Scientology Center. last night identified him as a loft-dwelling resident of Williamsburg." (PageSix)

"In the spring of 1831 the young French aristocrat Alexis de Tocqueville came to New York City on the first leg of his journey across America to examine prison conditions. He was invited to endless dinner parties and balls by ambassadors, judges, politicians and the richest bankers, but despite the social whirl, Tocqueville found himself stranded in a sexual desert. Young women flirted shamelessly but then laughed and flitted away, while married women seemed puritanically chaste. 'Would you believe,' he wrote to his brother, Edouard, 'Since our arrival in America we have been practicing the most austere virtue? Not the slightest lapse. Monks could do no more.' Stunned by the sharp contrast to France, where marriage was still a dynastic affair and sex more freely available, Tocqueville pondered how wedlock might play out differently in a commercially-obsessed and more egalitarian society. It became one theme of his prescient and still-influential book, Democracy in America." (Lewis Lapham/Bloomberg)

"(Emma) Watson was in town for just one night on her way home to the U.K. from Brown University for a week of spring break. 'I can be fairly anonymous in Providence,' she told us. Not a chance of that on Houston and the Bowery outside of Pulino's, where fans who had gotten wind of the star's appearance there waited with camera phones in hand to meet her. Inside Keith McNally's new pizzeria, the flashbulbs kept on popping, as Watson, who wore a dress by Christopher Kane, posed with Vogue's Anna Wintour and Sarah Mower, and models like Constance Jablonski, Taryn Davidson, and Ajak Deng lined up beside their designer dates." (Style)

"Before last week, no one believed that Barack Obama had enough LBJ in him to pass his health-care bill. A couple months ago, in fact, when passage seemed like a distant dream, an old, possibly apocryphal LBJ story went around Capitol Hill—mainly as a wistful point of contrast, a way of asking aloud why Obama couldn’t trade his velvet oratory for a wooden club. In it, Democratic Idaho senator Frank Church was confronted by Johnson for his increasingly vocal opposition to the Vietnam War. Church explained he’d come around to the view of Walter Lippmann, the newspaper columnist. 'Frank,' said LBJ, 'the next time you want a dam in Idaho, just go to Walter Lippmann for it.' Obama, however, was considered too aloof to flatter or bully; one look at the iconic photographs of Johnson, looming like a golem over his targets, told you all you needed to know about the intensity this president lacked. Yet during the final week of the health-care debate, Obama phoned or met with 92 congressmen, suggesting he wasn’t quite so remote. The difference was how he did it. 'There was no bartering, no threats,' says Congressman Brian Baird, a thoughtful psychologist from Washington State who, like many moderate Democrats, had reservations about the cost and complexity of the legislation. 'It was: Let me start by laying out my position, and then I want to hear yours.' From there, the two men talked for twenty or so minutes in the Oval Office, purely about the substance of the legislation—a marked contrast, Baird notes, from the emotional entreaties he got from both supporters and haters of the bill." (NYMag)

"Howard (Stern)came back and said that Ben Stiller is coming in and he has a new movie coming out called 'Greenberg.' He said it sounds good to him too. Ben came in and Howard told him about what he was reading about the movie. Ben explained what the movie was about. Ben said that it was about this guy who is 41 and he's never made much of his life so he's house sitting for his brother. He had just spent some time in a psychiatric hospital. He had a band in his past and it didn't really go anywhere. Ben said that the guy didn't have anything happening for him. He said the movie is a comedy but it's like a real people kind of movie ...Howard asked Ben why he went to Africa. Ben said he went last year too. He said that he went to Uganda ... they do have some questionable laws about homosexuality down there though. Ben said he went down for a Save the Children charity .. Howard asked if there were a lot of black people in Africa. Ben said that there are and you feel extremely white down there. Ben said that you're like an oddity when you go to a place like Lagos, Nigeria. Ben said he's been to a lot of interesting places and you see how people are and it changes your perspective on life." (Marksfriggin)

"No one likes a quitter, Megan Mullally! In true Jeremy Piven form, our favorite butter imitation spokesperson has reportedly pulled out of her latest Broadway commitment, Terrence McNally's Lips Together, Teeth Apart and not because she has more trans-fats to fight. Mullally has supposedly walked away from the show because she felt that after two weeks of rehearsal, her co-star, comedian and late-night show regular Patton Oswalt, was not experienced enough. She apparently told director and long-time Roundabout and McNally collaborator Joe Mantello her concerns, but Mantello felt Oswalt would come into his own after more time. Mullally was under contract so I wonder if Roundabout will end up taking legal action similar to what Piven went through after he dropped out of the 2008 revival of Speed the Plow claiming to have mercury poisoning." (Papermag)

"Every day, the U.S. military spends $1.75 billion, much of it on big ships, big guns, and big battalions that are not only not needed to win the wars of the present, but are sure to be the wrong approach to waging the wars of the future. In this, the ninth year of the first great conflict between nations and networks, America's armed forces have failed, as militaries so often do, to adapt sufficiently to changed conditions, finding out the hard way that their enemies often remain a step ahead. The U.S. military floundered for years in Iraq, then proved itself unable to grasp the point, in both Iraq and Afghanistan, that old-school surges of ground troops do not offer enduring solutions to new-style conflicts with networked adversaries. So it has almost always been." (ForeignPolicy)

"Hollywood tentpole title 'Robin Hood,' by British director Ridley Scott will open the 63rd Cannes Film Festival on May 12th. The film will be presented out of competition. The film is the second consecutive big budget Hollywood opener for Cannes following last year’s Pixar/Disney 3-D animated film, 'Up.' The festival opened with Fernando Meirelles’ 'Blindness' in 2008 and Wong Kar-wai’s 'My Blueberry Nights' opened the venerable event in 2007. Back in ‘06, the event opened with 'The Da Vinci Code.'" (IndieWIRE)

"Jeff Garlin’s visit to HBO’s Real Time With Bill Maher last night began with, of all things, a discussion of Jesse James’ alleged cheating on Sandra Bullock. 'This is straight out of Curb Your Enthusiasm,' Garlin chortled regarding certain sordid gossip-reported tales involving a possible neo-Nazi connection. 'The only person I know who could think of this is Larry David!'" (Popwatch)

"It’s not just that Rupert Murdoch doesn’t like Arthur Sulzberger, or doesn’t think he’s a serious newspaper publisher. It’s that he think he’s weak—girly. Sulzberger—'young Arthur'—was a frequent subject during the many hours I talked to Murdoch when I was writing his biography. Sulzberger was always, for Murdoch, a punch line. Murdoch even mimicked him in a way to suggest … well … a certain lack of manhood. It is a joke that is shared by Murdoch and Robert Thomson, the former Australian-rules football player who is now the editor of Murdoch’s Wall Street Journal: Arthur is a sort of poofter. Well, on the front page of the Journal’s Weekend section this morning is a feature on how women from healthier populations prefer feminine-looking men. The piece is illustrated with a grid showing facial features of such feminine-looking men.. There is, in the bottom image of the lower quadrant of a male face, an unmistakable—if you pay attention to such things—dimple and odd right ear. Without a doubt, the Wall Street Journal has selected Arthur Sulzberger as a prime example of its idea of a feminine-looking man. Pure coincidence?" (VanityFair)

Friday, March 26, 2010

Felix Salmon Bitchsmacks Henry Blodget

The loathsome Henry Blodget, disgraced stock analyst turned financial blogger, engaged in a little Twitter war over John Carney's firing from Clusterstock, Business Insider's finance and gossip blog. According to FishbowlNY: "The general consensus seems to be that Carney is out because he, Blodget, and publisher Julie Hansen could not agree on how to cover and present stories. Blodget pushed for clicks through sensational headlines and features, like galleries, while Carney preferred focusing on breaking stories and in-depth reporting."

This is, ordinarily, just a little Howie Kurtz Reliable Sources sort of The-State-of-the-Media story. A tiny corridor of New Yorkers and maybe some DC and LA journos might be interested on a Sunday morning recap. That would then be all. However, respected business journo Felix Salmon got involved. And it got kind of interesting. Also interesting is the angle that Blodget has been on a sort of redemption kick -- totally understandable, considering his past and the hyper-selfconsciousness with journos regarding matters of ethics. Blodget, we cannot fail to note, has not been one of our favorites of late. His recent story unnecessarily racializing the hiring practices of the New York Times ("New York Times Pays Execs Extra To Hire Minorities And Women Instead Of White Guys") struck us as playing to the lowest instincts of his readership, quite frankly.

But let's leave that aside. Blodget's road to redemption may have hit a snag with Carney and Salmon. Both are respected, established names in a profession -- though embattled -- that has always regarded Blodget with suspicion. So he entered the fray at a disadvantage in how it all was going to be perceived. That having been said, he played a solid defense, successfully protecting his vitals. But he did take a pretty ferocious public beating.

At the outset the timeline as to which tweets followed exactly may not be right here -- Twitter's time approximations of actual entries aren't particularly clear -- but this is my best job at reconstructing the argument:

The battle began, in earnest, at about 12:30 EST on March 26th when Felix Salmon tweeted: ".@hblodget's business model: Take a story about M&A fees associated with AIG. Illustrate with 2 hot babes kissing."

Oh, snap. Blodget responded: "@felixsalmon Well, if business model really the issue, can we have a $10 billion finance terminal cash-gusher to fund our newsroom with?"

Salmon returned: "@hblodget there are 2 journalistic issues here: the pic; and the fact that you're running boring stories."

Blodget responded: "@felixsalmon If you give us $10 billion a year to fund our newsroom, I promise we'll publish some stuff that you like to read."

Salmon returned: "@hblodget there was no reporting involved in this story, yet it involved a significant amount of time to write it & find a pic."

Salmon returned: "@hblodget @nicknotned rightly says that the old days of link-plus-snark are over. Replacing with link-plus-babes-kissing is self-defeating."

Salmon returned: "@hblodget it's like crack cocaine for blogs. You get a short-term high, but at the cost of long-term health and sustainability.

Blodget answered: "@felixsalmon And, by the way, one of the first things I'm going to do with that $10 billion is hire you. Because you're excellent."

Salmon returned: "@hblodget no."

Brutal. How does one come back from that?

Blodget tried: "@felixsalmon But we can't afford you if you just noodle around bashing people on Twitter all day"

Salmon returned: "@hblodget your business model became news when you fired @carney. That's why I blogged it and am tweeting it.

Salmon returned: "@hblodget and then the second thing you'll do is fire me. Because I don't create enough slide shows."

An intake of air, to put it all in perspective: ".@felixsalmon Okay, back to this glorious waste of time (thank goodness I'm the boss or my boss would be an idiot not to fire me)"

Then, the face-saving suck up: "(@)felixsalmon First, a confession: That tweet about firing you for not making slideshows was brilliant. I almost choked in sandwich line

Then: "@felixsalmon But of course it's not really about slide shows. It's about producing content people want to read"

And: "@ felixsalmon Specifically, unless you're subsidized by a trader-terminal, it's about being read by enough people to pay your $"

Also: "@felixsalmon And that's where, honestly, I would be a bit worried about hiring you. Because you don't seem to think that should matter

Salmon returned: "@hblodget damn, you're micromanaging me already, and you haven't even hired me yet!"

Blodget, seeing things are not going well, into ending things quickly: "@felixsalmon And now, unfortunately, although this is great fun, I have to get back to work. Because otherwise we're going to go bankrupt"

@felixsalmon And then you would have one less site whose journalistic standards and business strategy you can insult!

Salmon returned, at just after 1 pm today: "HuffBusiness BREAKING! @huffbusiness has done the deep investigation, and 88.7% of tweeters side with @felixsalmon over @hblodget (SLIDESHOW)

Jessica Pressler, as it turns out, got off the line of the day, tweeting-remarking: "Does anyone else find the @felixsalmon Twitter-duel with @hblodget over the honor of @carney incredibly romantic?"

There have been so few extended, high-profile real-time Twitter fights. The last really big one -- Perez Hilton versus Demi Moore -- also, curiously, was loosely based on cyber-ethics (namely: Should Perez have attacks Demi's underage daughter, Tallulah).