Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Media-Whore D'Oeuvres

"The Asian nations’ interest in American politics stems not just from America’s standing as the sole global superpower, but also from a growing belief among Asian leaders that the era of United States hegemony will soon be over, and that the polarization of its politics symbolizes America’s inability to adapt to the changing nature of global capitalism after the financial crisis. What does this sweeping statement have to do with the price of yen? Plenty. On Sept. 15, the yen dropped sharply against the dollar, improving the competitiveness of Japanese exporters. After a brief bounce last week, expect the downward trend to continue. Mr. Kan’s government has decided to follow the lead of China and other Asian nations in 'managing' (some critics would say manipulating) its currency; it spent a record $23 billion in a single day on foreign exchanges — the largest such intervention ever — instead of leaving the yen’s value entirely to market forces. To understand how this decision will affect the United States, we must start with parochial politics — not in Delaware, but in the larger parish called Asia, which remains terra incognita to most American politicians and voters. " (ANATOLE KALETSKY)

"Would you describe your former husband as loyal? 'Loyal?' she repeats, though of course the loyalty these DD agents are interested in isn’t spousal loyalty, allegiance to the vows of marital fidelity, but political loyalty, whether or not Don (Draper) might be a subversive shade of commie red. For these two gray-suited refugees from the Jack Webb menswear shop, this is a routine security check related to Sterling Cooper’s possible advertising contract with a military-related aeronautics conglomerate. But to the man who was baptized under the name Dick Whitman, it’s is the existential reckoning he has always feared, the Kafkaesque nightmare of having his impersonation of a dead soldier revealed and the elaborate lie he has led since the Korean War come unsprung, bringing the entire edifice of his false identity crashing down and everything he’s achieved with it. With a possible charge of desertion, which carries no statute of limitations. In a season charting the rising levels of anxiety and soul-sick squeamishness within the the deep dark sea of alcohol into which Don has submerged, what we saw in Don’s eyes for the first time was raw fear, the tormented thrashing of a cornered animal, and it’s another testament to Jon Hamm’s powers of invocation his panic attack in the apartment was palpable and terrifying, the most convincing scare I’ve witnessed in drama since a father played by Albert Finney had a heart attack on stage in a London play I’ve otherwise totally forgotten apart from the awful thud of Finney’s falling to the floor, before the rest of him toppled over like an axed ox." (James Wolcott/VanityFair)

"The Afghan war 'skeptic' is expected to leave the White House this week to make a run for the Chicago mayor's seat. But how will Rahm Emanuel’s departure affect the war strategy? 'It depends on who [replaces him.] Rahm, as you know, is one tough cookie, and if there is something going on that the president doesn’t like or he doesn’t like he goes in with the hammer,' the author of 'Obama’s Wars,' said on 'GMA.' Woodward’s book – an inside look at the wartime president and his closes advisors – notes Emanuel’s skepticism over the Afghan war. At one point Obama is quoted as saying 'Nothing would make Rahm happier than if I said no to the 30,000' when he was reaching a decision on the Afghan troop surge. '[Emanuel’s] the skeptic. He said Afghanistan is political flypaper you get stuck to it you can’t get off,' Woodward told me today. But the chief of staff was not alone in his hesitation. Ambassador Holbrooke, Lt. Gen. Lute and Gen. Petraeus -- the 'architect' of the surge – expressed doubts in the book during a time when the president himself said he could just authorize 10,000 more troops instead of 30,000 and 'hope for the best. The question that pulses throughout any long inquiry like this is who is Barack Obama? Who is our president? And for the first time you can see his internal struggle, his intellectual struggle, his dealing with the military, his dealing with his political advisers, and he set a course,' Woodward told me. 'The problem here is so much is unsettled, the relationships are not settled.'" (George Stephanopoulos)

"When David Simon first learned that he won the MacArthur 'genius' Grant — which comes with $500,000 tax-free, no-strings-attached, paid out in quarterly installments over five years — his first thought was to give the money to charity. He doesn't need it. 'To be blunt, I'm in the entertainment industry ... and my contracts are well funded right now,' Mr. Simon, who created both The Wire and Treme for HBO, told The Wall Street Journal. Mr. Simon hasn't said exactly how he'll use the money, but he is not going to give it away. He's interested in advocating more seriously for the issues that he writes about in his shows. 'One overt argument that The Wire was making is that the drug war is amoral and untenable,' Mr. Simon told The New York Times ahead of the MacArthur Grant announcement. But Mr. Simon hasn't said anything about improving the state of journalism. Maybe that's a lame cause by now? It would be nice if he put some of this money where his mouth is. Mr. Simon, who worked as a crime reporter at the Baltimore Sun in the '80s and '90s where he drew a lot of inspiration for The Wire, spoke on the Senate subcommittee hearing about the Future of Journalism in 2009. 'The day I run into a Huffington Post reporter at a Baltimore zoning board hearing is the day that I will be confident that we've actually reached some sort of equilibrium,' Mr. Simon told the subcommittee, chaired by Senator John Kerry. He was sitting next to Arianna Huffington. 'You know, the next 10 or 15 years in this country are going to be a halcyon era for state and local political corruption. It is going to be one of the great times to be a corrupt politician, all right?'" (Observer)

(Barbara Cates and Robert Rufino with Mish Tworkowski in the background via NYSD)

"There were two invitations for last night. Both 6 to 8. Appealing because it meant I’d get home at a decent hour. One was a special invitation to 'celebrate the CD release of Confessions,' by Liza Minnelli, with an intimate performance by Liza at New York City’s exclusive Gramercy Park Hotel 'Rose Bar Sessions.' The other was an invitation a booksigning hosted by Bunny Williams and John Rosselli at John’s shop 'Treillage' (one of them) on East 75th Street between York and First, which is in my neighborhood. I figured I could stop by there first, take a picture of the author, see what it was about and on down to Liza’s 'intimate performance'... But what were they talking about at this kind of party? Over in one corner Robert Rufino, formerly of Tiffany was talking to a group. The news in the room was that he’d just been named Editor-at-large of Architectural Digest by Margaret Russell the new E-I-C succeeding the legendary Paige Rense." (NYSocialDiary)

"USA Network is the most valuable part of NBC Universal at $11.7 billion, but the NBC network is worth a negative $600 million, according to Wunderlich Securities analyst Matthew Harrigan. He also puts the value of the Universal studio arm at about $4 billion. Harrigan listed the valuation estimates in a research note on Monday following Friday's news that Jeff Zucker will leave his role as CEO of NBC Universal to Comcast COO Steve Burke after the cable giant acquires the entertainment firm. 'Burke appears likely to focus on revitalizing the NBC network and addressing digital media and subscription model initiatives,' Harrigan wrote. 'In the interim, Universal head Ron Meyer is apt to remain in position even with uneven market share and financial performance at the Studio," which he doesn't expect to be a near-term priority for Burke. "The NBC Network is simply more important perceptually and from a pop culture vantage point.' According to the analyst, the NBC Universal cable networks make up 78% of NBC Universal's valuation. Thanks to the stronger-than-anticipated recovery in the advertising market, the total company is likely worth slightly more than $32.5 billion, he said. In the Comcast deal, NBC Universal was value at $30 billion. The negative $600 million value for NBC comes "as it remains a capital call for programming development as long as it remains mired in the #4 network position" in primetime, Harrigan said." (TheHollywoodReporter)

"You’d never know it from the avalanche of TV ads, direct-mail pieces and phone calls that voters will receive in October, but most campaigns have only another week or two to change the likely outcome of their contests. Sure, the midterm elections are still five weeks away, but the combination of early voting in many states and the difficulty of cutting through the coming clutter means that the best opportunity for campaigns to change voter attitudes is quickly coming to an end. More than 30 states allow voters to cast their ballots well before Election Day. Early voting begins Oct. 9 in Arizona and Oct. 11 in Illinois. Early voting in Indiana starts 29 days before the Nov. 2 general election. In Wisconsin, it’s three weeks before Election Day. In Florida, early voting starts 15 days before the election. Early voting has changed the tempo of campaigns, lessening the value of late TV spots and late campaign developments. For Democrats, the summer — particularly August and September — has been their best opportunity to change the trajectory of individual races. Few have succeeded in doing so." (Stuart Rothenberg/CQPolitics)

"Gore Verbinski is saddling up for a re-team with Johnny Depp on The Lone Ranger. Verbinski, whose last live action film was 2007’s Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End, is getting serious about making his next directing outing The Lone Ranger, the Disney pic that has Jerry Bruckheimer producing with Depp playing Tonto. No word on when the film will begin production--Depp has no shortage of offers and has in the offing a re-team with Tim Burton on Dark Shadows--and the idea of Verbinski possibly doing this has been in the ether." (Deadline)

"Wal-Mart took its aggressive approach to international expansion to new heights Monday, entering a $4.2 billion bid for South African retailer Massmart. Currently South Africa's third biggest retailer with a presence in 13 other sub-Saharan countries, Massmart's base of operations offers the Arkansas-based retailer the ability to rapidly make in-roads on the continent. Similarly aggressive expansion has paid dividends for the company in China and Brazil. Will Africa yield the same results? A sampling of opinions .." (TheAtlantic)

"NLNL.jpgWhat happens when a dance floor simply becomes that which it was intended to be: a place to dance? Cancel out the plushy décor, strobe lights, toxic cocktails, five-inch spike heels, and the incessant internal nagging to meet someone, and what you've got on your hands is No Lights No Lycra, a dance party in the dark that stresses dancing simply for the sake of enjoying it.   The movement began in Melbourne, Australia last summer, and then a chapter sprung up in Greenpoint, thanks to graphic designer Joanna Zawadzka and the trio behind the Van Leeuwan ice cream company. While it obviously can't and won't be enforced, No Lights stresses the point of showing up to these dance parties without having partaken in drugs or alcohol. The magic in these dance parties lies in the "no lights" aspect of it: walking into this church basement is similar to the experience of walking into a movie theater after the lights have already dimmed; it's a bit harried, and the darkness is a bit overwhelming, but within a matter of minutes it is possible to make out the face of a person standing directly next to you." (Papermag)

"Bob Woodward has released another book, this one on the debate over Afghanistan strategy in the Obama administration. As all his books do, the book has riveted Washington. It reveals that intense debate occurred over what course to take, that the president sought alternative strategies and that compromises were reached. But while knowing the details of these things is interesting, what would have been shocking is if they hadn’t taken place. It is interesting to reflect on the institutional inevitability of these disagreements. The military is involved in a war. It is institutionally and emotionally committed to victory in the theater of combat. It will demand all available resources for executing the war under way. For a soldier who has bled in that war, questioning the importance of the war is obscene. A war must be fought relentlessly and with all available means. But while the military’s top generals and senior civilian leadership are responsible for providing the president with sound, clearheaded advice on all military matters including the highest levels of grand strategy, they are ultimately responsible for the pursuit of military objectives to which the commander-in-chief directs them. Generals must think about how to win the war they are fighting. Presidents must think about whether the war is worth fighting. The president is responsible for America’s global posture. He must consider what an unlimited commitment to a particular conflict might mean in other regions of the world where forces would be unavailable. A president must take a more dispassionate view than his generals." (STRATFOR)

"M.I.A. returned to Terminal 5 on Monday night and brought with her all the trappings one would expect from an M.I.A. show: thunderous bangers, fierce jerk dancers and, of course, her signature 'statement' apparel.  Rye Rye, the first artist signed to M.I.A.'s N.E.E.T recordings, started the night off flanked by b-boys. One can't help but be intrigued with the fact that such bars are being spit by a girl attending high school in Baltimore, not to mention someone that can dance as ferociously as she does. DJ Asma took the stage for a couple of joints before bringing out a makeup-less M.I.A., dressed in a green safari hat and a black Middle Eastern getup straight out of the first 'Mummy' movie, for /\/\/\Y/\ opener 'The Message.' From there the British singer/rapper launched into gems from her first two albums, Kala and Arular, with the crowd leaping on top of itself for 'Galang' and bass-heavy 'Bamboo Banga.' She then removed her black top to reveal a T-shirt that said, 'Fuck Google. Ask Me!'" (MaudlinBrand)

"Where does North Korea go from here? At the time of writing the new young general has yet to be seen, much less heard. Though this father and uncle have (after a late start) been planning his coming-out party for at least two years, for once the well-choreographed theatre that passes for politics in Pyongyang is looking wobbly. Why was this meeting postponed? And why did Kim Jong-il suddenly scuttle off to China, his second visit in under four months? The postponement may have had three reasons: floods preventing delegates from travelling; Kim Jong-il’s health; or political in-fighting. The China trip was to win Beijing’s approval of Jong-eun’s succession and cash to finance the party. Otherwise a fed-up and unfed populace may finally lose patience with such harsh but useless rulers. That imprimatur will have had a price. Hu Jintao, China’s president, reportedly insisted on long-overdue market reforms. The recent return of ex-premier Pak Pong-ju, a known reformer, is hopeful here. The world’s other demand, denuclearisation, will take longer. But China will at a minimum insist on no further nuclear tests, and will gradually increase its influence in Pyongyang." (FT)

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