Friday, December 31, 2010

In Which The 2010 Year End Pirate Awards Conclude

Cougar of the Year: Liliane Bettencourt. It's all good, two adults each in corpore sano mens sana entering into this thing with their eyes wide open. She: Europe's richest woman; He: a world class raconteur. Each is getting what they want. From NYSocialDiary:
The most interesting news over the weekend (at least the news that wouldn’t make you want to kill yourself) was about Liliane Bettencourt, the 87 (or 88) year old L’Oreal heiress who has been having an intense friendship/relationship with a much younger man – by twenty-five years (he’s 63 this year) – the artist/playwright/photographer/international social gadfly and world class charmer Francois-Marie Banier. Are they sleeping together, you ask? Is that something we really need to know? Or even want to know? Chances are they’re not. But that’s only my definition of 'chances.' However, whatever they are doing together (and this is the 'intense' part to a lot of spectators), the heiress personally owns 31% of L’Oreal’s stock (her father, a chemist, started the company almost a century ago). She has given M. Banier a variety of gifts and promises of gifts (including art, insurance policies and a private island in the Seychelles) that tally up to more than $1.3 billion ... To the outside world, it may look like M. Banier is the classic example of 'just a gigolo' ('everywhere I go; people know the part I’m playing'). That would be a mistake. The multi-tasking/artist/playwright/best buddy/connoisseur is quite famous in his world – the international world of the rich, the chic and the shameless."


Funniest Person of the Year: Olivier Zahm. In the future only authentic, interesting and eccentric people will be allowed to become famous and monopolize our collective attention spans and pop cultural conversation. And Olivier will be an internationally beloved sleazy French photographer who is constantly trying to score himself a choice piece of ass. People will just be like "Oh, Olivier's just being Olivier." And then gently swat him away before continuing their conversation.

The Corsair doesn't mean this in a snarky, nasty, brutish kind of way. We really and truly find Olivier Zahm hilarious and sometimes touching and always -- always -- sleazy but we would secretly like to be his pal. We could hang! If Olivier Zahm did not exist we would have to invent him and The Corsair is lobbying hard to get him in the Zoolander sequel.

Olivier Zahm, if you don't know, is a vaguely louche French photographer who likes to take sexy pictures of stunning women -- but not in a pedophilic hyper-sleazy Terry Richardson kind of way (Exaggerated cough suggesting feigned detachment). No -- There is something tender at the core of Olivier while there is nothing but industrial grade steel and greasy darkness at the core of Richardson.

Zahm also has a Tumblr chronicling his life with his daughter, Asia, travelling from hotel to hotel in Europe for these photoshoots, usually during the night, with all these beautiful women. I think the fact that Olivier has a daughter that he really loves and is trying to raise right mitigates somewhat the fact that he is a terrible skirt chaser. Anyway: He is, like the French, very honest about his desires.

Zahm's English is not perfect so there's the added Frenchiness of it all to the existential quality of travelling around Europe's best hotels and art shows taking photographs and blogging. It just works as a sophisticated comedy routine -- but this is actually his life. If there were such a thing as an SNL for our type of people, dear reader, this blog would be read aloud.

This year Olivier broke up with his girlfriend who left him. For another lover. For some reason Olivier decided it would be a good idea to put this on Tumblr. I do not know why people put things this intensely, insanely personal on their blogs. The result of Olivier's confession though was touching -- and, of course, a bit funny. From Purple-Diary:
To all the anonymous friends who follow my life on the Purple Diary, I have to tell you that I’m in a lot of pain. Natacha Ramsay dumped me on Sunday. She ran away with her lover (with whom she has had a long romance that I was aware of and accepted) for a summer of love. She called me to tell me that she loves him, that we are finished. I asked her to come back two times and she said no two times. As you know if you follow the Purple Diary I try to create and promote an alternative love lifestyle (that I used to call in French La Communauté des Amants). Natacha’s decision to leave me so brutally and painfully will certainly be seen by conservative people as a clear feminine revenge against the lifestyle Natacha and I used to share, and think that I’m a dreamer. Right now I’m just a mess. But I will hopefully recover soon and offer you some more pictures of love and sex.
He's so sincere.

The Corsair is not heartless. We really do feel his pain. That having been said, we just about lost our shit when Olivier went all "La Communauté des Amants." That was just too fucking much.

We love you, Olivier, are big fans of your blog and hope all these months later you are over the messy breakup. Let's hang in the '11.

Biggest Disappointment: TV Undercovers. After the first African-American President was elected it seemed a no-brainer that a show on Must-See NBC Thursday in prime time starring two astonishingly attractive African-American actors created and executive produced by the legendary JJ Abrams would succeed. How could it not?

It unfortunately didn't. From Deadline:
Is a spy drama with two black actors as the male-female romantic leads a revolution for network television? At TCA today, the producers of NBC’s upcoming Undercovers, which is just such a show -- hemmed and hawed in answering the question that really shouldn’t be a question in 2010 but, well, still is. First of all, take note that it is incorrect to call stars Gugu Mbatha-Raw and Boris Kodjoe African-American players – she’s British, he’s German, and both are of mixed race. But Kodjoe and executive producer Josh Reims both said on today’s show panel that you can’t really step back from the social significance of the casting.
Unfortunately the show was not must-see TV. The writing was not very intense, not very funny. But the true tragedy is that it may take some time before another TV executive takes the gamble of a prime time show in a key position in their lineup headed by two people of color.

Mr. Unpredictable: Mayor Bloomberg The 23rd richest man in the world lives up to his Aquarian sun sign. Utterly unpredictable, Bloomberg is a wild card -- no one quite knows what he will do next politically. He spent, out of pocket, $102 million fucking dollars for a third term as Mayor. Self-funded, he is the "Elder Brother of America's Mayor's."

He absorbs other popular Mayors into his already intellectually super-heavyweight organization. But to what end? Where do Bloomie's political ambitions end? He won't run for President as an independent in 2012. He will be too old in 2016. The Mayoralty of New York is, quite frankly, a steppingstone to nothing. Has he missed his chance? Is he out of luck? Has Fortune left Bloomberg?

Will he work for Obama as this blog suggests?

Then there are his recent troubles with the snow in which the student -- Cory Booker -- became the Master, showing the founder of an electronic media company a thing or two about electronic media.

The $64,000 political-media question for 2011: What is next for Bloomberg? Answer: Unclear.

Intellectual Crisis of the Year: Whither the Liberal Arts? Parallel to the decline of the West is the decline of the rationale to spend $100,000 on a degree in the liberal arts at a private college. We live in an age of mathematicians, specialized scientists and accountants -- do we really need Philosophers? Do we really need majors in Literature, Religion and Anthropology? Don't we as a civilization just need MBA's and coders and engineers to compete against China as the 21st century progresses?

Even as a musical code for Plato's works was found, adding almost inconceivable layers of depth to works like The Republic, people are asking themselves -- and rightly -- is it possible to make a living majoring in the liberal arts.

Clearly the liberal arts now have to do a better job in defending the practical benefits of knowing logic, language and the psychology of man. Previously graduates of liberal arts programs have coasted on their sophistication. Now it is not enough. Alan de Botton wrote, in of all places the business-friendly Wall Street Journal:

Hard-working, pragmatic types, who abound in the United States, have always been suspicious of university education in the humanities. What good does it do to study the works of Milton or Rousseau, let alone the enigmatic pronouncements of Buddha or the Zen poet Basho? The unemployment rate hovers near 10%, and the Chinese are feeding their undergraduates a strict diet of engineering and accountancy. How can we pampered, decadent sorts possibly still be indulging our youth with lectures on Roman poetry and Renaissance painting?
Unfortunately, university professors in the humanities tend to get unproductively upset when asked to explain the importance of what they do. They know that their opposite numbers in the technical and scientific departments can justify their work in utilitarian terms to impatient government officials and donors. But fearing that they cannot compete effectively, the denizens of the humanities prefer to take refuge in ambiguity and silence, having carefully calculated that they retain just enough prestige to get away with leaving the reasons for their existence somewhat murky.
Victor Davis Hanson, a neocon, writes:

The liberal arts face a perfect storm. The economy is struggling with obscenely high unemployment and is mired in massive federal and state deficits. Budget- cutting won't spare education.

The public is already angry over fraud, waste and incompetence in our schools and universities. And in these tough times, taxpayers rightly question everything about traditional education — from teacher unions and faculty tenure to the secrecy of university admissions policies and which courses really need to be taught.
Opportunistic private trade schools have sprouted in every community, offering online certification in practical skills without the frills and costs of liberal arts "electives." In response, the therapeutic academic left proved often incapable of defending the traditional liberal arts. After three decades of defining the study of literature and history as too often a melodrama of race, class and gender oppression, it managed to turn off much of the college audience and the reading public. And cheek by jowl, the utilitarian right succeeded in reclassifying business and finance as core elements in general education.
Both have good points. 2011 will be the year that intellectuals will have to battle it out in answer to the question: Is it "worth it" to get a liberal arts diploma with today's economic atmosphere?

The Endless Divorce: Michael and Diandra Douglas It never ends; it never ends. No wonder Michael Douglas makes so many movies about bad marriages and obsessive spouses. He has life upon which to draw upon! How many years have passed and Diandra is not letting this go. Still, Michael's rabid philandering during their marriage, his drinking and the fact that the diplomat's daughter was probably far too young should be enough reason for Diandra to head to the other side of the world to be as far away from Michael as is humanly possible. “He does everything with commitment,” DeVito told Vanity Fair. “Even if he’s damaging himself, it’s with commitment.”

And yet still Diandra ensorcells Michael and Michael ensorcells Diandra. This gladiatorial combat even involved ABC News. From Page Six:

"Elizabeth Vargas hosted a 'Good Morning America' discussion yesterday about Michael Douglas's battle with ex-wife Diandra over his 'Wall Street 2: Money Never Sleeps' cash -- but failed to mention she dated Douglas before his divorce with Diandra was finalized. Before interviewing two lawyers, a serious-faced Vargas said: 'A lot of people were surprised that 10 years after collecting in one of the most expensive divorces in history, taking $45 million home, that an ex-wife can come back and say: 'I get to have more.'' An ABC rep admitted last night, 'It was a mistake. It should have been disclosed [to viewers]. Elizabeth did tell her executive producer she had dated Michael, but he made the decision she should host the segment. George [Stephanopoulos] should have done it.'
D'Oh! In the latest installment of this epic feud Diandra claims that she had a clause in their divorce contract that makes her eligible to collect a percentage of Michael's take from the sequel to Wall Street. Absolute disaster. let it go, Diandra. Let. It. Go.

The Ended Divorce: Peter Brant and Stephanie Seymore. If Diandra and Michael are the so-called "Endless Divorce" -- a living, breathing Baby Boomer nightmare -- then Peter Brant and Stephanie Seymour, in a slightly higher tax and taste bracket, are the exact opposite, having ended their messy proceedings that involved Peter -- who likes to collect beautiful things -- once petitioning for drug tests.

That was then, this is now. I have it on good authority that Peter Brant decided he wanted to reconcile after seeing those rather fucking sexy Mario Testino photos of Steph.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

2010 Year End Pirate Awards, Part the Third

Asshole of the Year: Henry Kissinger. Oh, Planetary fucker (see pic above) the blush is now off the rose. Longevity is both a blessing and a curse, and Henry Kissinger's longevity is finally catching up to him. If one has lived "The Good Life," longevity usually means recognition and an ambrosial taste of one's historical legacy in this world (they call that, in Hollywood, "the Thalberg Award").

When someone lives what is generally recognized as A Bad Life -- one festooned with all sorts of unnatural crimes against humanity like, say, the killing of a unicorn -- there is the comeuppance. And that comeuppance, dear reader, is a bitch. International criminals and underworld swine usually, though not always, have the shrewd instincts to exit rather early, keeping their winnings, getting away with their abuses, dying "pretty." After all, tyrants are the way they are because they are the ultimate materialists -- they believe that you must snatch yours in this world in the here and now, consequences be damned. Death is just the big fade-to-black.

Those who stay on longer, however -- seeking both infamy as well as senectitude -- get to hear the first draft of History's summary judgement of how their lives affected civilization. Aloud. And it aint pretty for Kissinger, as the tapes of his actions are just beginning to leak down into the mainstream like a urinal overflowing. Joy.

There are the freakishly amoral utterances on the Holocaust. Kissinger's bitch-ish, mascotty acceptance of being called "my Jewboy" by his Master, the fundamentally broken Richard Nixon. Long gone are the days of fawning magazine profiles ("I wonder whose Kissinger now?"). Now we get to see the dark mechanics animating Kissinger's Machiavelian cosmology. Slowly by slowly. And the longer he lasts, the more we shall hear. Henry the K who ironically taught History at Harvard is sure to be its most prominent victim. Dishonorable Mention: Terry Richardson.

Worst Job Ever: Record Label Executive. At the very least, The Man cannot outsource the job of a janitor to India. It is a stinky thing to do to make ones living, but at least it has job security. Being a record label head -- one of the coolest jobs to have way back in the 70s -- is toast. C'est tout. The blow is all done, the groupies have left the building, radio is having a vertigo attack and there is no more serious pay-for-play (Even if there was, who would even notice anymore?).  Bob Lefsetz, as always, is the last word on all things music industry related:

If running a record label were so damn good, would Jimmy Iovine be selling Beats headphones and trying to save sound with HP? Are these celebs truly that out of touch? America’s not that unsophisticated. Hell, just look at the sales chart. Stone Temple Pilots are predicted to move 60,000 copies of their new album next week, if they’re lucky, they may hit 70,000! Isn’t that like raving you’re the king of the minor leagues? That you’re the best BMX rider in a world focused on the NFL and Major League Baseball? You just can’t make it as a label anymore. And maybe if you’ve got a ton of money, you can shove your protege in front of the cameras. But who’s going to buy? Sure, there’s a pinnacle, a GaGaville where people click through for digital singles. But beneath that, it’s a vast wasteland. And GaGa is driving at 110 miles an hour constantly, how long can it last, what’s she gonna do next?

Right. Come to think of it, anything in the music industry related -- other than being on top of the mountain, however briefly -- is pretty much in jeopardy. Which brings us to ...

               Someone please tell Jenny that the party's over

Spectacular Fall: J-Lo. Hey, 2011 may ultimately be her year. Just saying that 2010 clearly was not. JLo's new gig on American Idol notwithstanding -- a show arguably in decline, though still at the top of the TV ratings -- this past year was an annus horribilis. From Peter Lauria:

The Back-Up Plan, Jennifer Lopez's latest romantic comedy, opened this past weekend and grossed a lousy $12.3 million—and ably described what Lopez desperately needs right now, career-wise. This latest bomb cements a professional plummet that threatens to make one of the biggest stars of movies and music over the past decade little more than Mrs. Marc Anthony. At the height of her career, between 1997 and 2002, when she rolled with Puffy or Ben Affleck and a posse a dozen deep, Lopez made up to $12 million per movie. During this period, she made nine films, which grossed between $24 million and $94 million domestically. Since then, The Back-Up Plan has been more typical, in the mold of Gigli and An Unfinished Life, which collected an unrespectable $6 million and $8 million, respectively. Lopez's music sales mimic that trajectory.

Epic fail. The numbers are pretty staggering. From being a $12 million a picture star with -- it seemed at the time -- a million side projects and deals, to going back to television to be one of four judges on a show past its prime? It was wonderful to have a woman of color so high on the Hollywood totem pole, one that seemed -- at least from a distance -- kind. That space is now unoccupied and we are much the poorer for it. We do wish JLo the best of luck in 2011. Honorable Mention: the spectacular fall of Desiree Rogers

Bromance Gone Bad: Ron Burkle and Bill Clinton. That Bill Clinton, post-Presidency, runs with a louche crowd is not particularly astounding news. These "chums" are the human equivalent of fast-food, which the former President also loves but is now medically prohibited from consuming because of a bum ticker. Bill's buddies are, like fast-food, extremely rich and extremely bad for you. Still, that can't stop the man from Hope with so much "appetite."

Ultimately the fact that Clinton naively expected any sort of manly heraldic honor from this cast of characters -- this island of misfit boys -- is simultaneously amusing and a little heartbreaking. He is still, it seems, an Arkansan farmboy at his core despite all the interantional achievement and acclaim. We are all hostages, it would appear, to our own beginnings.

Quick Rundown: Burkle and Bill used to be BFFs. Earlier this year that bromance faded like an oil -- or should The Corsair say oily -- painting. The greasiness stems from Bill's perception of Burkle's "stiffing ( -- that's what she said)" of him to the tune of twenty large. From The Daily Beast:

The $20 million in question, a supposed “final payment” in connection with profits from their almost decade-long partnership, was discussed last year by The Wall Street Journal, which reported that Clinton was “walking away” from the money.

One Clinton confidant says a negotiation between the former president and the supermarket magnate went on "for months and months. They compromised and they agreed on different numbers and at the end of the day Clinton decided life's too short. We'll give it up and we'll just sever the relationship.”

Burkle spokesman Frank Quintero responds: “I’m not going to comment on things that aren’t true.” The Burkle camp denied the Clinton sources' version of events, and said that documents would be made available to support their point. Ultimately those documents were not produced prior to publication.

Say it aint so ... bro. Honorable Mention: US-Israeli relations, the year's other bromance gone awry.

Sexiest Big Reveal: Courtney Love and Kate Moss. Hey, it was the 90s after all. Stunning to find out though that Courtney Love had a fling with Kate Moss. Very sexy, that would that there was a photographic chronicling of that Sapphic event. The cryptic reveal happened on, of all places, The Howard Stern Show (which is kind of cliche). From Marksfriggin:
Courtney said that she has had guy say that she is great in bed. The guy from Blur said she was the best in bed and so did Kurt. Courtney said that she'll also party with girls. She said she's just 'gay enough' to do that. Howard asked Courtney if she will do chicks. She said she will do it but only if there's a guy there. Courtney said she only likes kissing and rubbing the titties. She said she will go further but she didn't want to talk about that ... Courtney said she did have a one on one this one time. Courtney told Howard about how she had this chick chasing her around the room and she figured that was the best person to do it with. Howard asked if it was Janice Dickinson. Courtney said it wasn't, but it was a super model. She said Janice had her day for like a month but that was about it. Courtney did an impression of the model and Robin guessed it was Kate Moss. Courtney said it wasn't her but she was denying it in an odd way like maybe it was true. Howard figured it really was Kate Moss.

Even after a decade The Corsair cannot help but find this story sexy.

Gone But Not ForgottenGary Coleman. Hollywood is a cruel, cruel town. It feasts on young blood. Gary Coleman was angry at his life, of being used, of being discarded once he was no longer a cutey-pie. But we like to remember Coleman as the adorable child in the 1970s with the silly catch phrase not the bitter, angry man-child that he became in his later years. If anything, Coleman's life should be a reminder of how brutal the American star system truly is. Don't raise your kids in Hollywood! Don't aspire to be a part of that shit.

Of course, his death changes nothing. Stars are the centers of Hollywood's solar system and when Coleman's radiance and cuteness faded, so did he. He was not the first and he will not be the last. The mindless masses will always want another young cute pretty that the Hollywood pimps are eager and willing to supply. And ruthless parents with stars in their eyes will gladly turn over their issue to fulfill their own frustrated ambitions.

Gary will live on in reruns on TVLand.

Honorable mentions: Louis Auchincloss, Lena Horne, the tragic Casey Johnson, Jamie Gillis, Dennis Hopper, Jill Clayburgh and Teddy Pendergrass.

15 minutes Almost Up: Jesus Luz. And Jesus wept. From Page Six:

Jesus Luz had a bad night in Rio on Sunday. Madonna's boy toy was deejaying at a party for the best samba schools that participated in Carnival when a guest came up and threw beer in his face, saying, 'Get out of here, I don't wanna see your face here anymore!' As reported by iG Gente magazine, Luz 'went to a corner and started to cry.'
Evidently, Madonna liked her beefcake tender.

Most Stylish: Daphne Guinness. This woman sort of really rocks my world. Crazy hot yumminess. Peter Davis does this wonderful thing via his social networks. It is called "Your Daily Daphne" and it features one of her signature looks. He does this every day and it must be hard work because during the course of any single day Daphne sports many highly personal and quite beautiful "looks." Our favorite social chronicler David Patrick Columbia has also featured the amazing Guinness.

The woman is magnificent. Sophisticated, sexy, smart, ironic -- I love her Tweets (Jean Seberg stills, etc). AND SHE DATES PHILOSOPHERS! It is only a matter of time before the world discovers her, until then, she is our magnificent little secret. Shhhh.

Materialist of the Year: Jay McInerney. The difference between Daphne Guinness and Jay McInreney is that Guinness seems to recognize -- through her complicated relationship with philosopher Henry Bernard Levy and her clever, arty Tweets -- that there is actually something more to human existence than social and material pleasures as apprehended through the senses.

Memory. Objective Beauty. Time. If it cannot be apprehended through McInerney's five meager senses -- it doesn't exist for Jay. And his writing suffers from this paucity of imagination.

From The Wall Street Journal:

Is it possible to taste minerals in fermented grape juice? Can the roots of the grape vine somehow transmit characteristics of soil and bedrock to the grape itself? Is it a gross abuse of poetic license to detect marine elements in a wine grown on a former Jurassic seabed? You may never have asked these questions, but they go to the heart of the French notion of terroir—the idea that wine is a function of its place of origin. Nowhere do these questions seem more relevant than in Chablis ...Chablis is a great food wine, although some true believers seem to hate to mix it up with solids. Beastie Boy Mike Diamond, a serious fan of Chablis, says, 'It pairs so well with so many foods, yet it's almost an injustice to share a really good Dauvissat or Raveneau with food; I kind of prefer to hog it all to myself, savoring every sip.'

"Hog" is really le mot juste. Of course he married a Hearst. Just reading this materialist namedropping claptrap -- wholly devoid of any ideas or meaning -- transports me into the shallow soil, into the stones, into matter itself. And writing as an Art form at its best is supposed to transport us into the ethers, however briefly. Jay is incapable of that. The alarming number of wives, all discarded as they grow older -- one actually had plastic surgery to stay "in the game" with JMac-- all attest to the fundamental non-seriousness of this Ass. Fuck that shit.

Girl, We Need to Talk: Naomi Campbell. Dear Naomi: What's going on with you and Vladimir Doronin? We've been interested in your perambulations through pop-culture for some time now. Not to sound creepy, but we find you quite sexy, if somewhat diabolical and unscrupulous. So we are kind of -- but not much -- worried about your relationship with that shady oligarch who is already married with children.

We know that you are a supermodel. You have seen it all. Done it all. Fended off sheiks; oily Hollywood millionaires; tycoons; starfuckers. You've entered this with open eyes. But Vlad's fortune, born in post-Glasnost Russia's "Wild West" was probably achieved through indecent, violent and cruel means. Then again, you yourself are not quite known principle and human rights.

On second thought: You deserve each other. Enjoy.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

2010 Year End Pirate Awards, Part 2

Song of the Year: I Need a Dollar by Aloe Blacc. Buttery neo soul with a killer flow. This is the anthem of 2010 -- particular in the throes of The Great Recession -- on the real. It is not inconceivable that it will be this era's anthem not unlike "Brother Can You Spare a Dime" was the soundtrack to the Great Depression, back in the thick. Honorable Mentions: that infectious little international thug anthem "Now That's Some Gansta Shit"; Thomas Adès: Tevot, Violin Concerto, Three Studies from Couperin, Dances from Powder Her Face (melancholy, stately); Milk Teeth by The Japanese Voyeurs, Deerhunter Desire Lines and, of course, Ce-Lo, Fuck You.

Mi Vida Loca: Diane Von Furstenberg, "Huntress". Hyperkinetic, she lives a fast paced jet-setting life; she's taking on China. This fashion-forward lady with the killer cheekbones doesn't do pause. The self-described "Huntress" lives an unconventional -- and hugely interesting -- life. Her husband, Barry Diller, also has interesting vacations (please Barry, don't crack our skull). From PageSix Magazine:

Diane has also spoken about her wild, flirtatious life in New York City after the divorce, and the dalliances that may have given her more sympathy towards (Ali Von Furstenberg's) little games. "I had fun with men," she told Town & Country. "I was a very, very big huntress," she said of her thirties.

... Regular rules that guide family life don't seem to apply to the von Furstenberg clan, where prolonged engagements can last for years, happily married couples live in separate apartments, and even exes remain close to the fold. Diane and Barry met for the first time in Manhattan in 1975 at a party. She was 28. He was the 32-year-old future billionaire chairman of the board of Paramount Pictures. "I was the first woman he was with," Diane told Interview in 2008. They were regulars at Studio 54, where their crew included Warren Beatty and Calvin Klein. The couple dated for five years and split. But he was always there, she says, waiting for her to tire of her momentary flings. "Barry has loved me unconditionally for 34 years," says Diane. "I did leave him, and I went with other men, but they always ended up being jealous of Barry, and not the other way around. At the end, he got me, and I'm happy he got me. He's the pillar of our family."
She finally married him in 2001 as a birthday present. For their wedding, Barry gave Diane 26 wedding bands, representing all the years they were not married. Today, Diane wears a few of the bands on her right hand. "I moved them because I broke this finger," she says, explaining why she wore no band on her left ring finger. "None of that is important. What's important is the love and the commitment. Not the outside."

Huntresses of the world, hunt on.

Stench of Desperation: Vanity Fair's Tiger Woods' Mistresses Story. Yawn. Graydon, apparently, goes in for the breast-and-cheesecake combo, which is not on the menu at The Waverly Inn.

WTF: Is this the only way to get African-Americans in the pages of VF? The huntresses of an athlete? And -- mirabile dictu! -- these "huntresses" don't even make cool wrap-around dresses for career women! Someone alert the media! Id-oriented sports stars cheat? This isn't something that everyone already knows? The comments section of the online edition of the story make my argument far stronger than anything The Corsair has to say on the subject. Mitigating factor: As dumb as this story is, it is still better than another Vanity Fair dead celebrity cover.

Manuever of the Year: President Obama Tacks to the Center. The President tacked left out of the gate in 2008. Now, with political realities changed in the House and Senate, he moves the ship of state back towards the Center. With two major legislative victories at year's end how could this award go to anyone other than Barack Obama?

Don't hate the player, hate the game. If men were angels we wouldn't need Social Security and the products of The New Deal. Men are not, and we do. The progressive left -- bless their idealistic souls -- cannot underswtand that in order to make such legislation Presidents have to descend from the ethers and cut deals in the United States Senate.

Gettin Old: Howard Stern. Though he is only 56, Howard Stern certainly acts like he is twice that age. Waah, the poor guy, getting paid $80 million a year in cash to put on a 5 hour a day 4 day a week live radio show. I fucking blog more than that; a lot of people do. Now Stern wants to lessen his hours and/or work later on in the day, after morning drive time when most people are on the way to work, waking up to go to work longer than 5 hour days and really could use a dose of adult humor. His lack of drive, the drive that got him to the top of the radio heap is childish and dismissive of his fans who now pay for the privilege of hearing him. With all due respect to the so-called "King of all Media": piss or get off the pot, Mr. Potty Mouth. You are not setting a good example for your fellow Baby Boomers.

Most Interesting Idea:  Jacob Hacker and Paul Pierson call the 'winner-take-all economy.' It takes a lot to make foreign policy -- with its high learning curve -- sexy. This idea, posited by two political scientists is that, and more. Agree or disagree with the conclusions of their thesis, their data is spot on and worthy of robust conversation. Their theory, from Foreign Policy:

The wealthiest Americans, among them presumably the very titans of global finance whose misadventures brought about the financial meltdown, got richer. And not just a little bit richer; a lot richer. In 2009, the average income of the top five percent of earners went up, while on average everyone else's income went down. This was not an anomaly but rather a continuation of a 40-year trend of ballooning incomes at the very top and stagnant incomes in the middle and at the bottom. The share of total income going to the top one percent has increased from roughly eight percent in the 1960s to more than 20 percent today.

This is what the political scientists Jacob Hacker and Paul Pierson call the 'winner-take-all economy.' It is not a picture of a healthy society. Such a level of economic inequality, not seen in the United States since the eve of the Great Depression, bespeaks a political economy in which the financial rewards are increasingly concentrated among a tiny elite and whose risks are borne by an increasingly exposed and unprotected middle class. Income inequality in the United States is higher than in any other advanced industrial democracy and by conventional measures comparable to that in countries such as Ghana, Nicaragua, and Turkmenistan. It breeds political polarization, mistrust, and resentment between the haves and the have-nots and tends to distort the workings of a democratic political system in which money increasingly confers political voice and power.

It is as American as apple pie of the gourmet variety, of course. Populists will have a field day with this; centrists and conservatives will cavil against -- let the great conversation begin!

Feud of the Year: Gore Vidal versus Christopher Hitchens. Christopher Hitchens, whom I interned for at The Nation in 1995, attacked Vidal. He did so in the pages of Vanity Fair, a glossy make-believe place where Gore used to write, adding insult to injury. The feud was significant because Vidal and Hitchens are two of America's foremost intellectuals, heralded the world over. Also, Gore had previously declared Hitchens his "intellectual heir," his daupin -- a position now vacant. Hitchens accused Gore of being a crackpot for his controversial theory about the September 11th attacks. Vidal duly disinherited Hitchens. It was old school.

Gore Vidal is hard to classify. A first Amendment semi-Left Libertarian, Gore has a bit of patriotic America First in his blood. He is a literary intellectual (as is Hitchens) and in this age of economists, he is a rarity harkening back to an age when well-read literary intellectuals did combat in the gladiatorial fundament, actually showeing up in media precincts as unlikely as late night network TV (pre-Charlie Rose). That age has past, and this feud is most significant for the lack of attention it actually received in the popular media, which is presently more obsessed with the size of Kim Kardashian's ass. Perez Hilton -- heaven help us -- is now our public intellectual. And we are much the poorer for it.

Alas, both intellectual combattants are on their way, exit stage left (or, in the case of Hitchens, stage neo-right by way of an awkward leftward entrance). We will probably not see thier likes again. People no longer read -- or fight, for that matter -- with the intensity and headiness of these two last and best of breed.

Mystery of the Year: Is Bayh a quitter? No one quite expected much of Governor Palin, a maverick, a wild card, a minor Governor of a small renegade province at the outer periphery of Our Empire. But Senator Evan Bayh is another kettle of fish altogether! He is beltway royalty and knows the Game and plays at a high level (Democrats didn't always have ease in winning office statewide in Indiana, yo; fer realsies).

Which leads us to the question -- Whither Evan Bayh? His monumental boringness notwithstanding (mitigating factor: Bayh's inscrutible Senator Hair), Evan Bayh seemed perfectly poised to be somewhere -- either at the top or holding up the rear -- on the Democrat Presidential ticket in 2016. And then -- what? The Corsair is still a bit confused as to what actually happened. Why did he decide not to even fight for his Senate seat in 2010? I wrote, then:
Is Evan Bayh really a Centrist? True Centrists, to be sure, are politically quite wise and philosophically quite principled. They eschew the fringes and value compromise.

Does that describe Senator Evan Bayh? Or is he -- as many think -- a son of a politician (Not unlike Al Gore during his unremarkable Senate career but not so much now) who grew up acutely aware of the wedge issues that caused their fathers' campaign defeat? Is he seeking, above all else, to avoid take a stand on a politically fraught issue? In other words, is Evan Bayh's centrism deterministic, a masterful navigation of a second-generation pol seeking to never get caught on the controversial side of any issue on the example of his father?

Fathers and Sons. A story older than the Republic.

The What the Fuck Award: HBO's True Blood. I get it -- True Blood is flossing a serious Gothic trailer trash Danzig vibe. The theme of the show is decidedly grotty and roadhouse and backcountry. Really, I get that. Class and race are up for grabs in their broad satirical canvas splattered with sanguinary red. True Blood is essentially depicting the type of voters that Hillary Clinton went after in 2008, only, of course better looking when naked (Averted Gaze).

It's all good.

That having been said, it seemed like the only superpower that African-Americans have on this show populated by meta-humans is the uncanny ability to fucking cry in moments of great adversity as well as take phenomenal amounts of torturous sexual punishment. And the whole werewolf-Nazi storyline is just plain creepy -- and not in a good way. It's creepywhen Pat Buchanan says Hitler was "terrible" in his most theatrical voice, then adds, in closing, "but he was a great man"

I would like to say here and now that I have watched every episode at least once. The Corsair was one of the few people who defended the show on the Gawker commenter boards, back when the shadenfreude ran thick. Now, of course, everyone there loves the show -- it is even a premium advertiser on Gawker Media. But the lack of a strong and serious African-American character on the show rankles.
Crying is not really a superpower African-Americans would like to have. It's a long story, guys. So -- can we have an episode in the upcoming season in which Tara is not crying and being raped and Lafayette is not doing his most uncanny impression of Stepin FetchitThanks.

Best Political theater: Bill Clinton. Bill can't help himself, the man has appetites! Jay Z once said quite accurately that everyone can relate to Bill Clinton, everyone has an uncle like Bill. And on Thanksgiving it is the matriarch of the family that makes sure that our good old Uncle Bill is not left alone with any of the young girls in the family. And that old uncle Bill doesn't oversalt his plate or drink too much whisky.

When Obama allowed Bill to share the lecturn he probably knew what was what. Obama needed a face, an optic for his radical policy shift. That optic was Bill, who, of course, would never say no to being center stage once again. Journalists in search for a great headline of course couldn't resist in making a bigger deal out of it all than it actually was. Howie Kurtz wrote: "You could practically hear Don’t Stop Thinking About Tomorrow in the background."

Right. The 90s. That magical wonderland of irrational exuberance where everyone could buy several homes on credit and companies like were all the rage (The Corsair sips a vivid Chardonnay). Oh Bill Clinton, how the age mirros the man.

Still, it was tremendous political theater.

And speaking of political theater ... The Oedipus Wrecks Award: Mugabe. Dictators, like supermodels and pop music stars, are recognized by a single name. If Zimbabwe was a play it would be a farce and it would be called "The Race Mousetrap," with genial nods to William Shakespeare.

But this is more ancient and more evil than anything in the essentially idealistic oeuvre of Shakespeare. It is actually astonishing how accurate Sophocles' Oedipus Tyrannus -- the West's literary masterpiece nonpareil -- becomes when applied as a template to the actual political situation that is any dictatorship in general, but Robert Mugabe's in particular. The unholy mega-evil that is political dictatorship -- the rule of a dead soul over an entire hostage nation -- actually, literally poisons the land. The AIDS rate in Zimbabwe is a perfect metaphor for the plague in Oedipus' Thebes. Tragedy and Politics are one.

The thing that drives The Corsair to distraction is how many serious politically-minded observers turn to jelly when Mugabe brings up the subject of race on the southern tip of the Dark Continent. Their eyes sort of roll back in their heads, a sharp tone of anger enters into the debate and they begin to lose focus on the fact that the man who is making this spurrious argument is. A. Dictator! Keep your eye on the prize people -- the freedom of the people of Zimbabwe.

Yes, British colonialism in Zimbabwe was swinish, filthy, disgusting and humiliating. Yes, the West -- particularly Ronald Reagan and the Republican Party -- went into the fetid bed with Mugabe, even as his excesses were on plain view for the world to see in the Daffy Duck logic that prevailed during the Cold War where the entire continent of Africa was but a minor pawn in the Great Game between the United States and the then-Soviet Union.

But Mugabe is a dictator who'se iron grip has held Zimbabwe for three decades! Don't be caught in the racial mousetrap directed by the brilliantly evil political theater's "owner," Robert Mugabe.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Seventh Annual Year End Pirate Awards, Part 1

Every year, like clockwork, this blog rounds up some of the more arresting moments. Then we tease them throughout the week, to make you addicted, as if it were a particularly dense wedge of Cambodian smack.

Seven years this blogger has been on the beat. Nose to the ground, hunting for scoop. Seven years of reality TV, political hijinx, robust social mountaineers (myself being excepted), media positioning and enough online mayhem to stun a yak at 30 paces. Here are my awards for some of the most dubious (and sometimes noble)achievements of the year now ending, not with a bang but a whimper. Keep checking back on this page as I will be posting all week.

The Posse of the Year Award: There are posses, and then there are "posses." Leo DiCaprio's infamous "pussy posse" that oh-so terrorized starlets and their boyfriends in the 90s immediately comes to mind (Averted Gaze). Bernie Madoff, apparently, also has something of a posse (And so did Andre, bless his giant heart). We guess the old adage is true, there's someone for everyone in this whole wide world. According to the NYPost:

Bernie Madoff looked 'like someone had shot him in the stomach' after he got word that his eldest son had committed suicide, a recent inmate at the federal lockup here told The Post yesterday. 'He was crying, and he was very distraught,' the ex-con said. 'No one was messing with him. They knew what had happened'...Madoff, like his fellow jailbirds, was stunned when the intercom crackled, Inmate Madoff, report to the chapel. 'That's when everybody knew that something was going on. Every time there's a death of a relative, you have to report to the chapel,' the former inmate said ... At the lockup, inmates initially thought Bernie's call to the chapel involved his wife, Ruth. 'Everyone was speculating that someone might have killed his wife,' the ex-con said. After his sobbing return to his cell, Madoff went into a self-imposed exile for two days, the ex-con said. 'He didn't come out of his cell. He didn't even go to the chow hall,' he said. 'He didn't talk to anyone for a couple of days.' 'Two of his pals [in his prison clique] gave him their sympathy, but there was nothing else they could do,' he added. At this prison, inmates refer to their various cliques as 'cars,' the ex-con noted. Madoff, he said, belongs to the 'New York car' -- inmates all tried and sentenced in New York. 'These are the guys he hangs out with, walks along an outside track with and plays boccie with,' the ex-con said.

-- Someone to play boccie with. How positively bromantic! Isn't that all that anyone could ask for? Something tells me though that this posse is about as tight as the actuality of some of Madoff's purloined gains can get them fruit cocktail and yeast for sterno at the commisary.

Heartbreaker of the Year? Natalie Portman. What's that sound? Shh. Out there in the distance, I can't quite make it out. It sounds like ... sobbing? Oh yes: of course. It is the sound of a million men crying into their drinks of choice over the fact that Natalie Portman is now taken. How could she?

Did she have to look all damselly-in-distressy in those anxious, obscenely lovely close-up shots in Black Swan? It just made me -- and many thousands more -- positively feel all Knight-in-Armorish. We wanted to save you, Natalie. You didn't give us a chance. And now we can't.

Make the pain go away.

Pop Artist of the Year: Kanye West. Love him or hate him, Kanye West never commits the social felony of being boring. The man is incapable of being uninteresting. We hung on his every pop-cultural high wire maneuver -- mostly hoping that he'd fall or at least injure himself quite badly. He didn't. He rose, from up from the flames of 2009, like a -- well, you know. Fer realsies. Honorable Mention: Taylor Swift.

Buffoon of the Year: Silvio Berlusconi. There are a million reasons why Berlusconi is Felliniesque as a statesman -- and we do not mean that in a kind way. Fellini clownish pageantry doesn't translate well into the realm of political philosophy; surrealism is an artistic stance, not a way to govern a fucking nation. The astonishing sexism, the vaguely racist pronouncements, the boorish behavior at the G20, the hooker parties at the villa, the fucking hair. The man's a goddam disaster.

Bonus point: Italy's foreign aid budget was approximately 0.11% of its GDP in 2009, one of the lowest figures among developed countries, and half of what it was even in the prior year. Even Bill Gates, a serious player on the world stage took a dig at Berlusconi's increasingly provocative impression of a douchebag.

Gallery Show of the Year: Gelitin's Blind Sculpture. Raucous, interesting, open-ended, funny -- all of these express the rambling, fascinating experience that was Gelitin's blind sculpture at Greene Naftali in New York City. As I wrote of the experience in January:

Last night's opening reception is a performance art piece -- haunting live piano music, cross dressing men, a stunning Asian woman in a kimono, hastily constructed wooden bleachers, a dog, drinking on stage -- about the process of building a sculpture -- the social (drinking, joking) and the technical (assistants handing materials to the collective) aspects of art are on display. The audience is watching art being made by the collective, adding a vivid dimension, the becoming, to the final work in the process of Being.
What more can one Corsair add eleven months later?
Media-Whore D'Oeuvres

"One of the most improbable of the big energy stories of 2010 has been the role of oil trading in the fall of governments, specifically those of Kyrgyzstan, the hub for U.S. jet fuel powering the air war in Afghanistan. In April, the second Kyrgyz president in five years collapsed in a maelstrom of accusations of high-level corruption involving an American contractor, billions of dollars in fuel contracts, rapacity and bribery. Today, the ballyhoo continues to threaten the crucial U.S. Manas Air Base in Kyrgyzstan, and the incredibly lucrative business of Mina Corp., a U.S.-owned company that over the last seven years has received some $2 billion in exclusive contracts to buy fuel in Russia, and sell it both to Manas and the key U.S. military base in Bagram, Afghanistan. This is because the current Kyrgyz government accuses Mina of enriching Kyrgyzstan's former regimes in order to maintain the fuel trade, and the U.S. government of abetting the whole scheme. Both the Obama Administration and Mina are howling that they are terribly misunderstood, and pleading for another chance. Given the opacity of this story, I asked some old acquaintances – current and former oil traders – to guide me through the opaque thicket of oil trading in the world's war zones." (ForeignPolicy)

"Kanye West's latest album, My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, only officially came out Nov. 22, but in what was one of the longest and arguably most successful rollouts of 2010, you couldn't turn on a television set, your computer or a smart phone these past six months without seeing his name. Kanye's year started off slowly -- and relatively quietly -- having put his 2009 scandals (namely the one involving Taylor Swift) behind him, but once the promotional campaign kicked off with his G.O.O.D. Friday giveaways on Aug. 20 (he released a new track every week), it was on. Here, 10 key moments in what was yet another year of Ye." (HollywoodReporter)

"Do you remember this moment ten years ago? Here in Washington it was unseasonably mild. A few days before New Year’s Eve my 9-year-old son and I had a picnic on the banks of the Potomac River, in the shadow of the Lincoln Memorial, where a massive stage set had been built for President Bill Clinton's planned televised national Millennium extravaganza. For the big night, Spencer and I went to Rappahannock County, Va., to the secluded farm of friends Leslie and Andrew Cockburn and their son, Charlie Cockburn. The theme was 'Y2K.' Remember Y2K? It was primarily a sensational digital computer issue but got hyped by the media into possible Armageddon. Oh, the innocence, when the focus of our fears was whether the computers might crash. A few dozen of their hipster friends, and their children, flocked to the Cockburns dressed in ironic camo-chic, which, without two wars going on, was actually amusing. We danced to hits from many decades and at midnight gathered at a hilltop for fireworks and a monster bonfire. The party rocked till dawn. Back in Washington they rolled till near dawn at the White House, where the Clintons hosted a free-wheeling, star-studded and festive bash after the Lincoln Memorial show. In his toast that night, the President said, 'We end this century and the millennium with soaring optimism. Never before has our Nation enjoyed, at once, so much prosperity, social progress, and national self-confidence, with so little internal crisis or external threat.'" (WashingtonSocialDiary)

"It has almost become an article of faith in some international circles (as well as in Washington and New York) that America will, as it should, reduce its global footprint. Except, we can't afford to; it would make us poorer and less influential. Furthermore, the world will surely become a much darker place if the vacuum we leave behind is either filled by amoral, bottom-line-oriented superpowers like China, or -- even worse -- if no leadership replaces ours, leaving behind the kind of chaos only global terrorists can love." (NYPost)

"When Baudouine Kinalinjenga was just 12 years old, Joseph Kony's soldiers came for her. Six men from his Lord's Resistance Army emerged from the forest with machetes and Kalashnikovs and entered her remote hut in the night. She was held for five months of daily beatings and regular rape at the hands of a rebel commander nearly four times her age. At one point, she was led into the darkness, given a club and a flashlight, and told to crush the skull of a man unfortunate enough to have stumbled across the rebels in the bush. 'They said to do whatever I was told or the same would be done to me,' the Congo native recalls now.  For the last two decades, Kony, a former altar boy who claims he follows the commands of spirits he alone can hear, has led a campaign of unfathomable brutality, massacring civilians and slicing the lips and ears off of women in a twisted effort to show the Ugandan government's inability to protect its people." (ForeignPolicy)

Monday, December 27, 2010

Media-Whore D'Oeuvres

"There has been more bipartisan accomplishment in Washington over the past two weeks than in the past two years. That's because the balance of power is back in the center of the Senate, a shift from the hyperpartisan trench warfare that characterized the first two years of the Obama administration. Yes, the president deserves a great deal of credit for quickly internalizing the results of the election and resetting the tone in Washington with his tax-cut compromise. But look at the litany of accomplishments from this lame duck—from the the repeal of Don't Ask Don't Tell to ratification of New START—and you'll see that an emerging group of centrist Republican senators made the margins of victory possible. Significantly, the name John McCain is not on that list. Instead, one-time Tea Party hero Scott Brown of Massachusetts, Maine's centrist stalwarts Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins, and Alaskan survivor Lisa Murkowski are at the heart of this new Mod Squad. In addition to departing Senators George Voinovich, Judd Gregg, and Bob Bennett, they have been joined on various bills by Indiana's legendary Richard Lugar, Illinois freshman Mark Kirk, and the Tennessee twosome of Lamar Alexander and Bob Corker. Even North Carolina's Richard Burr crossed party lines to support the repeal of Don't Ask Don't Tell. These Republican senators will hold the balance of power in the coming Congress." (TheDailyBeast)

(Trimalchio's Feast via 3Pipe)

"I was once invited by a woman friend to accompany her to a dinner party on Park Avenue, somewhere in the 70s. The host was a very wealthy banker, a Rothschild, in fact. I happened to be sitting next to him ..At one point, ever gracious, my wealthy host asked me what I did. I told him that I was a writer. What sort of writer are you, he asked. Ever mindful of John Updike's definition of critics as 'pigs at the pastry cart'—in fact, I was literally lapping up a divine dessert—I told him that I wrote about culture. For example, he said. For example, I said, I have an essay coming out about Freud's notion of Thanatos, the death-instinct. The what? he said, suddenly fixing his eyes on me. The death-instinct, I repeated. The idea that everyone, I explained, on some level, wishes to die. The wealthy banker gently laid down his fork and turned toward me. Everyone wants on some level to die? he said. That's ridiculous. Who said that again? he asked. Freud did, I said. Well, he said, he's wrong, and that's nonsense. No one wants to die, he said. He looked me in the eye and said it again, No one wants to die. Well, I said, seizing the advantage, that's what Freud said. Incidentally, I added, it is a famous and powerful concept in the history of Western civilization. We returned to our dessert. He seemed to be brooding. After a few minutes, he turned impulsively toward me and said. Do you know what I like to do on the weekends? I like to hunt grouse. I shoot them by the dozens. He raised his arms. Boom, boom, boom, he said. Like that. Boom, boom, boom. He was graciously, elegantly, quietly furious about demonstrating that not only did he not want to die, but that he rained death himself when he so desired." (Observer)

"Mr. Obama is reading the biography 'President Reagan: The Role of a Lifetime,' by Lou Cannon, aides said, and recently completed 'The Clinton Tapes,' by Taylor Branch, who chronicled the 42nd president through a series of private interviews. Despite all his time studying the Clinton administration, Mr. Obama told his aides that he had no intention of following the precise path of Mr. Clinton, who after the Democratic midterm election defeats of 1994 ordered a clearing of the decks inside the White House, installed competing teams of advisers and employed a centrist policy of triangulation. In fact, several advisers confirmed, the word 'triangulation' has been banned by Mr. Obama because he does not believe it accurately describes his approach."  (NYT)

""Let us now praise Adm. Mike Mullen, who earlier this week helped deliver congressional approval of both the New START nuclear-arms deal with Russia and the end of the military's Don't Ask Don't Tell policy toward gay soldiers. The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff is the grayest of gray eminences, a ponderously respectable figure for the Sunday talk shows with none of the electric crackle of a Wesley Clark or a David Petraeus. And yet it's a fair guess that neither of these signal achievements would have been possible without Mullen's very public support. President Barack Obama acknowledged as much when he thanked Mullen at the Wednesday ceremony marking the repeal of DADT. Obama quoted Mullen as having said, 'Our people sacrifice a lot for their country, including their lives. None of them should have to sacrifice their integrity as well,' and the shout-out won the loudest ovation at what was a very emotional event. Mullen played an even more crucial, and certainly more delicate, role in the debate than did Defense Secretary Robert Gates, since leading Republicans like Sen. John McCain had said they would look to the service chiefs for guidance, and since senior figures in the Army and the Marines had expressed doubts about repeal. And Mullen -- an appointee, crucially, of George W. Bush -- remained unequivocal throughout, both in testimony and in public comments. 'America has moved on,' the chairman said. 'America's military is ready, by and large, to move on as well.' The fact that McCain disregarded Mullen's appeal to vote against repeal says far more about him than it does about doubts within the military." (ForeignPolicy)