Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Final: How fast time travels. Another year has passed. And this makes our 8th -- ! -- annual Pirate Awards season. Cannot believe that this blog has been going for eight years. All this week this blog will be re-hashing some of the fiascos, triumphs, epic fails that went down this year. The whole process will be a mix of funny, informative and (hopefully) smart. Starting on Thursday here:

Breakout Performerof the Year: Kristen Wiig. Where did this brilliant performer come from? On the big screen, on SNL each week, in the boldface headlines of Page Six, we spent much of 2011 watching the marvelous Kristen Wiig marvel. Call me?

Politician of the Year: Hillary Clinton. While the President was partially distracted with the economy, Hillary managed our foreign affairs with her brand of "smart power" brilliantly. Whether it was on shuttle diplomacy soothing the savage minds inside Pakistan's ISI, cajoling Russia into doing our bidding in the Security council, shepherding Burma back into the silvery nimbus of the West, or -- and this is where she shines most -- raising the status of women and children (natures bullwarks against the excesses of hypermasculinity) in what Nixon called "the arena," Hillary was without match. She is our Iron Lady.

God, The Corsair wishes Hillary would replace Biden, thus guaratnteeing Obama a lock on Ohio, Pennsylvania and maybe even West Virginia and Arkansas.

President Obama is loyal to a fault, just like George Herbert Walker Bush -- Bush the First. Aides told Bush the First to dump Dan Quayle because, quite frankly, he was a liability. Back in those days, at the Presidential level Indiana was a given for the Republican Party, just like New Jersey is for Democrats (on second hand ..). He added nothing to the ticket. Plus, he was a fucking second class intellect (not a good look in a debate).

But character is destiny. George Bush the First was a Yalie, a preepy and a loyalist. He did not abandon ship. He kept Quayle instead of the much for intellectual former Congressman from New York, Jack Kemp. And Bush lost. And -- to his credit -- he never regretted the principled decision.
Biden's Delaware is alos a lock. Obama, also a loyalist, may regret not "throwing Biden under the bus" when the white working class vote -- which invented the term "thowing under the bus" -- vote en masse against the Obama-Biden Team. Hillary, a loyal Obama cabinet menber who is a hero both internationally and to the white working class, ought to be Obama's running mate. There, I said it.

Digital Player of the Year: Prince AlWaleed bin Talal. This blogger has been covering the digital space since 1999. Prince AlWaleed bin Talal's name has been there since then. He is a skillful investor, but his new stake in Twitter is his cleverest move not the least of which because it provides him some "control" over a microblogging site that is transforming his region, of which Saudi Arabia is not immune. From Foreign Policy:

"When most people want to become involved in Twitter, they open an account. Leave it to Prince AlWaleed bin Talal, the Saudi media mogul who is King Abdullah's nephew, to buy a chunk of the microblogging site. The prince's company announced on Dec. 19 that it was investing $300 million in Twitter, officially bringing the site into the mainstream of the Saudi media scene.
"Rightly or wrongly, social media is perceived as a revolutionary tool in Saudi Arabia -- one of the many factors that contributed to the Arab Spring. The association was so strong that a few days following the Egyptian uprising that brought down Hosni Mubarak, a Saudi official had to deny a rumor that the Saudi king had offered Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg $150 billion to buy his social networking site -- a bargain, the thinking went, if it helped him ward off further revolutions. And indeed, sites like Twitter and Facebook are rapidly growing in the kingdom, precisely because they allow voices that otherwise would not have been able to find an outlet to flourish."
Mat we live in interesting times.

Interview of the Year: Maer Roshan interviews Courtney Love. Roshan did a hell of a job in 5,000 words. One feels, after reading this, that everything that can be known about Courtney is now out there. Extraordinarily honest -- maybe too honest. A sample quote: "Actually, these days I’m only interested in plutocrats. Like really, really rich guys. I’m determined to land one sooner or later. My favorite book these days is something called The Filthy Rich Handbook, which I study like the Talmud. The thing is, I think I can be a real asset to a wealthy man." Oh, brother!

Survivors of the Year: Kyra Sedgewick and Kevin Bacon. It used to be said, tongue in cheek, that in the event of a nuclear war the roaches and Keith Richards will carry on. The same can be said regading the marriage of Kevin Bacon and Kyra Sedgewick. Nothing, not even soul-destroying Hollywood, has dented their union. Twenty three years later -- that's about a century in Hollywood marriage time -- the alliterative Kyra and Kevion are still together, further: they seem to enjoy each others company!

Even Bernie Madoff's fuckery couln't tear asunder Team Kedgewick. Both lost quite a bit of money. But their formidable work ethic (ever heard of Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon?) and the fact that Kyra makes $275,000 an episode for The Closer. "We lost hard-earned money that we worked very hard for that was what we thought in a safe place," Kyra said of the loss." It's painful but a lot of people lost a lot more. And we have a lot of things to be grateful for in our life, and we never ever forget that."
Image of the Year: Obama's War Room. There were many images that lingered in the popular imagination in 2012. The fucking thugs on camels storming Tahrir Square was straight out of Fellini. The Egyptian bra beating image which has prompted tens of thousands of women to rise up in protest. That, clearly, is the first runner-up. However, there was no image so intense as Obama's War Room (above) -- in which the President's national security team watched as a special operations team killed Osama bin laden in Pakistan.

It puts the lotion on its skin

Creepiest Move of the Year: Jim Carrey's new flame. Perhaps Jim Carrey was telegraphing his mid-life crisis when he channeled his inner creepiness in a masher video for Emma Stone, aged 22, in August. Now he's taken up with a co-ed, one Anastasia Vitkina. Then again, why do we even care?
Curious -- was she even alive when Carrey set the world ablaze with his rendition of a man's head flying out of a rhinocerous' ass? (Averted Gaze)

Runner Up: The Long Island Serial Killer.

Media Organization of the Year: (tie) Al Jazeera and Bloomberg LP. It is hard to find two organizations more different and yet both of them -- targeted, efficient, smart, compelling -- did bold things this year across many platforms. Of Bloomberg this blogger wrote, in April: "Bloomberg LP doesn't get nearly as much attention among the chattering class as it deserves. When was the last time, for example, that you read on TVNewser something brilliant occurring on Bloomberg TV? Me neither. And yet Bloomberg -- by virtue of its high profile hires and its business strategies across multiple platforms -- is indeed a serious media player, on radio, on TV, on the web.

"For some time now, this blogger has been impressed with Bloomberg, the media company. As legacy media organizations carefully navigate the Scylla and Charybdis of this digital age, Bloomberg LP, which has a hefty war chest from the days when their terminals alone carried the day, is making smart, carefully calibrated manuevers."

Regarding Al Jazeera English, which exploded early in the year and became thwe most vital news source for the Arab Spring (and now is out CNN-ing CNN in places like Mexico, Africa, the Middle East and South America). In January Brian Stelter of The Times wrote: "While American television networks were scrambling to move reporters and producers into Cairo, the Al Jazeera channels were already there. The other networks have noticed: on the roundtable portion of ABC’s 'This Week' on Sunday, Sam Donaldson looked at an Al Jazeera reporter and said, 'Thank you for what you’re doing.'"

don't hate the playa, hate the game
West Indian of the Year: Charlie Rose. His work ethic, quite frankly, can only be properly construed as (sotto vocce) West Indian. Protestants have nothing on this man. Charlie Rose is extraordinary with the gigs, which perhaps make way for the fact that he never decided to do the family thing. When Rose is not doing his weeknightly highbrow public television show (which requires him to read books, newspapers, see all the important movies and keep up with sports), he is an inveterate nightowl that finds time to moderate A-List panels as well as romance socialites (“mainstay on the Manhattan cocktail party circuit,”) and hanging out with Clooney and the fellas at the villa on Lake Como.

Now he is going to have a morning show on CBS. And, from what we hear, he may not give up his late night show. Positively West Indian is this man's pimp hand.

Endangered Species of the Year: Tyrants. And good riddance. In January, this blogger wrote:
"32 years Mubarak has been in power. Five Presidents have come and gone in the meanwhile. The prime sin of tyrants -- and they have many -- is that they cannot distinguish when their body begins and the body politic ends. "L'etat, c'est moi!" cried the Sun King, another era's Mubarak. First Tunisia, now Cairo -- I am beginning to wonder if we are not experiencing the end of African Dictator Chic.
"One of my favorite stories is Oedipus Tyrannus, which Aristotle regarded as the ultimate tragedy of the classical era (Hamlet, one might argue, is its modern equivalent). Both deal with political succession, with tyranny. It is an idea that has been with human beings since the dawn of civilization. All serious people regard it as an unnatural, evil institution. And yet it persists."
But for how much longer must we endure? This trend of the endangerment of tyrants continued as the year concluded with the death of Kim Jung-il. We await 2012 with baited breath to see how this all continues to play itself out.

Runner Up, Endangered Species of the Year: The global elite. They just didn't get it this year. As the Egyptian riots were reaching their zenith in January and across the West epic unemployment prevailed, this, from Reuters: "The global elite, dining on Norwegian lobster and reindeer at the end of the World Economic Forum on Saturday, felt pretty chipper despite growing concerns about the inequality of the economic recovery." Charmed, I'm sure (Averted Gaze).

Worst Media Organization of the Year: OWN. Kudos to Oprah for not resting on her laurels and staying at her Chicago based Tv show until the end of time. It took guts to do something so out of left field as start a network, particularlly in such an almost post-TV age. iPods, tablets, cellphones, nooks and Kindles and Wii's all now compete for an audience that is more and more likely to cable cut.

That having been said, OWN is underperforming. Even a non-entity like Jenny McCarthy knows when to get the fuck out of Dodge. And while we continue to wish her luck in this endeavor, we cannot help but notice this fact. The only way for Oprah to help OWN, ironically, is to get back in the hosting game.
Runner Up: Conan.

Heaven's Gift to the Media: Wills and Kate. It's been a tough few years for traditional media. Print circulation is anemic, terrestrial radio is deader than Kim Jung-il -- then came Wills and Kate, the social media tentpole of 2011. It infused oxygen into the supine body of traditional media. From Keith Kelly in May, "People, the nation's best-selling weekly, racked up its biggest newsstand sales in a year, now estimated to be nearly 2.5 million copies -- good news for Managing Editor Larry Hackett.

"That's more than 1.2 million copies above its average weekly sales in the most recent six-month period ended Dec. 31, when it had seen its single-copy sales slip 5.1 percent to 1,257,536 out of its total circulation of 3.6 million, according to the Audit Bureau of Circulations. Jann Wenner's Us Weekly sold close to 1 million copies on newsstands with its royals cover."

And speaking of "tentpoles," can this blogger say that as we were liveTweeting the wedding at 4am ET, Pippa Middleton's form-fitting dress -- fucking supersexy -- was more awakening than a thousand cups of coffee. Hundreds of thousands of half-awake men know exactly what we were thinking at the moment Pippa first hit the TV screen. And it was filthy.

Best Online TV Show: Dazed TV. As video becomes more and more prevalent online so as to perfectly align with the growth of tablet usage, low cost digital TV shows will become more prominent. And shows that offer a glimpse into social universes that are restricted will be sought out. Dazed Tv -- curated, most excellently, by social aristocrat Jefferson Hack -- is a sneak peek into the life of the jet set (or at least the cover shooting process at bohemian Brit magazine Dazed and a few extras), through Hack's expert and tasteful curation. Among this year's chic collaborators: Florence and the Machine, Chloe Sevigny, Harmony Korrine, Tilda Swinton and Milla Jovovich. It will be interesting to see how they grow this idea out in 2012, and if other fashion/style content play will follow suit and emulate.

Miss Polly Jean
Musician of the Year: PJ Harvey. Resolved: women ruled the music charts in 2011 -- Adele, Rihanna, Taylor, Katy, Nicki Minaj all dominated pop. On the more subtle, arty side, musicians like Florence and the Machines, St Vincent and Feist provided the more bohemian soundtrack to our lives.

But no one was more of a mixture of intellectual and artistic, dominating on both fronts than Ms. Polly Jean Harvey in Let England Shake. Let England Shake is, hands down, the best album of 2011. PJ Harvey manages to sonically express the chaos, the riots, the wars, the general sense of the end of Empire and the decline of the West -- and to transform such civilizational messiness in a work of beauty.

Up-and-Coming Politician of the Year: Andrew Cuomo. There is no one in the New York blogosphere that has been, over the years, harder on Andrew Cuomo. And yet it cannot be denied, Andrew Cuomo is to the Democrat Party -- an up-and-comer -- what his neighbor Chris Chrystie is to Republicans. Both are aggressive, centrist-ish pols not afraid to get their hands dirty straightening out the messes left them by previous administrations. Cuomo, like Henry V, has put his infamous temper behind him and brought humility and behind-the-scenes toughness with him this time around.

Cuomo, though Governing as a Centrist, has done a particularly amazing feat: tricked Progressives into thinking he is one of them (although at this year's Huffington Post Game Changers party, there were some protests against his stand on the millionaire's tax). "By force of will and a fierce work ethic, Gov. Cuomo has pulled off the near-impossible with a budget agreement that closes a $10 billion projected deficit without the tax hikes, fees and fiscal gimmicks that have been so common in the past," is how Fred Dicker, another frequent Cuomo critic put it. "Even more breathtakingly, he did it in the face of a spendthrift Legislature that had helped turn New York's government into a joke line on 'Saturday Night Live.' Cuomo's victory holds out the hope of inaugurating a new economic era that reverses the decades of private-sector decline and public-sector expansion that began with Republican Gov. Nelson A. Rockefeller in the early 1960s."

BFF -- Best Frenemies Forever Award: Pakistan's ISI. Ever since the strategically important Pakistan got nukes, and gave nukes to North Korea (thanks AQ Khan!), we have been fucking strapped to the ISI. It is the classic bad marriage. The ISI comes home late and smells of whisky and cheap perfume. The ISI is verbally abusive. The ISI is cheating on us with the Taliban. But we have no choice really but to stay because, among other things, no country is more likely without US mentorship to go into the nuclear proliferation business than Pakistan, making the entire planet unstable. There is no country more likely to sell nukes to terrorists without US mentorship than Pakistan.

The problem is that Pakistan's ISI are paranoiac. If the ISI were an individual it would be diagnosed with severe psychological problems. They truly believe that India, the world's largest democarcy and a rising power, dreams of a land war with Pakistan. Fucking crazy paranoiac shit, on the real.

And so, like a spouse in a bad marriage but unable to leave for the sake of the kids -- the safety of the planet -- Pakistan's ISI are out best frenemies forever, or at least until the "law-and-order" movement becomes a strong counterbalance.

Media-Whore D'Oeuvres

"In this case, Mitt Romney pulls off a victory in Iowa that catapults him well ahead of the field. With New Hampshire acting as his 'firewall' in the competition for the GOP nomination, Romney should be able to grab a victory in the Jan. 10 primary. With two wins in the first two states, Romney would be well-positioned to utilize his financial and organizational advantages in much of the country -- not to mention help from the press in anointing him as an inevitable nominee -- to move inexorably toward the Republican crown, perhaps quickly, despite the elongated nomination calendar. The 2004 battle for the Democratic nomination provides precedent for such a plot line. At the beginning of January that year, John Kerry trailed Howard Dean and Dick Gephardt in Iowa polling. But by the time the caucuses took place on Jan. 19, Kerry had surged to a slight lead over John Edwards and Dean, and ended up capturing the caucuses with 38% of the vote. Kerry followed his victory in Iowa with a sizable triumph in New Hampshire. From there, Kerry ended up winning the primaries and caucuses in every state except for Oklahoma, North Carolina (Edwards' home state), South Carolina and Vermont (Dean's home state). Few observers believe that libertarian Ron Paul can actually win the GOP presidential nomination, but that doesn't mean he can't win Iowa. Given his narrow appeal, and despite their vastly different candidacies and ideologies, Paul's campaign in Iowa brings to mind the 1988 candidacy of the Rev. Pat Robertson, who garnered 25% of the caucus vote to finish second ahead of eventual GOP nominee George H.W. Bush. (Bob Dole placed first.) However, the evangelical leader's strong performance did not presage much as he only managed to win the caucuses in Alaska, Nevada and Washington state before dropping out of the race. Similarly, we can expect Paul to perform particularly well in caucus settings, where the enthusiasm of his supporters will bring them out in droves to back his candidacy, but to never seriously contend for the GOP's nod. One thing's clear: Given that Iowa has only picked the eventual Republican nominee in two of the last five contested nominating contests, Iowa's Republican establishment, from Gov. Terry Branstad on down the line, has to be dreading a Paul victory, because it would further tarnish Iowa's reputation." (SabatosCrystalBall)
"Since arriving in June as an anchor of that venerable morning news program, Ms. Curry has wooed viewers, and in particular her style-besotted fans, with an authoritative presence, a dusky voice and a look that is nervier — and arguably more youthful — than that of her peers.  In contrast to conventional anchors, Ms. Curry has turned her back on a mostly unspoken broadcasting dress code, trading in the darkly decorous suits she wore as a news reader, and the flak jackets she donned as a reporter in Iran, for brashly colorful shirts and girlish swing dresses. Hot colors have become her signature; she does not shy away from an eye-popping palette of flamingo pink, caution yellow and stoplight green." (NYTimes)

"T’is the season for the rich, the chic (sometimes/let’s not get carried away), and the shameless down there in St. Barth’s where every daddy and all his sugars are thinking about where they’re going to go on Saturday night, this coming. A little birdie (actually a big birdie) reminded us of this by sending this photograph of the 536 foot Eclipse, the world’s largest private yacht at anchor, owned by the Russian Roman Abramovich. As you probably know, this is not Mr. Abramovich’s only yacht. He has one or two others. I read somewhere that he lost one in a poker game. Not sure if that’s true or not, but as they say: easy come, easy go." (NYSocialDiary)

"Lou Reed wore black. He moved slowly and a bit stiffly through the darkness that had descended on the Great Hall, a sheaf of paper in his hand. For the last thirty years he has looked like an ageless lizard but now I felt concern for him at the sight of his stiff gait. He entered the circle of light and put on reading glasses, gold rimmed. Just a few minutes earlier the audience had been treated to several facts. One of them, shared by the Dean of Cooper Union, was that Abraham Lincoln had spoken in this very hall. I have been to a number of events at the Great Hall over the years and this fact has been reported on every occasion. The space—a scooped out amphitheater underground, slightly redolent of a bunker, with a domed ceiling and gothic arches—resonates with the evocation of Lincoln’s speech having been spoken into darkness over and over for decades, centuries. The other fact was that although the program listed him later in the evening, Lou Reed would now go first because of another commitment. Immediately I began to imagine what this commitment might be, if it was another public appearance, or a dinner with a friend, or some complicated mélange of professional and personal socializing, or if he was just tired and wanted to go home and watch TV. At any rate it was going to be an evening of circling around and engaging with the avant-garde, and Lou Reed was a fine ambassador for this world, whose literary iteration has always made me feel a bit uncomfortable, even reproached. I was one of the presenters that evening, so in this encounter I felt somewhat beyond reproach. I was eager to see how it would all look when freed from the defensive position." (TheAwl)
"This year family came to our house and showered the babies with every gift imaginable, but Christmas wouldn’t be Christmas if I didn’t receive yet another amazing gift from my husband (Fred Mwangaguhunga). My gift this year – pink sapphire earrings previously owned by Elizabeth Taylor. The earrings were given to her as a gift from Donatella Versace. It wasn’t easy for my husband to get these earrings. After being outbid twice by the likes of Donald Trump and Kim Khardashian. He finally got me these earrings on day 3 of the recent Christie’s auction, which brought in a record $137 million." (TripletsinTribeca)

"As part of our 2012 New Regime, we spoke to Edith Zimmerman, a prolific writer and editor for the likes of New York, GQ, Esquire, and others. Her big project the for the past year has been (with Jane Marie) helming The Hairpin, a popular website for women that treats all the usual lady subjects with edgy wit and knowing grace. But like its sibling/parent site The Awl (officiated by legendary duo Choire Sicha and Alex Balk), The Hairpin defies easy genre pigeonholing." (BlackBookMag)

"Private-equity party boy Marc Leder is billing his stay on St. Barts this week as 'Event Week 2011/2012,' according to a rundown of Leder’s parties that’s floating around the island. The Sun Capital Partners honcho has hired party planner Amir Benesh to set up day-and-night bacchanals at his beachfront estate, including one tomorrow touted as the 'Famous BBQ Pool Party.' Benesh runs, which, its Web site says, offers models, cocktail waitresses, DJs and even fire dancers for shindigs. Rap mogul Russell Simmons attended Leder’s welcome bash Monday with his girlfriend, Australian actress Melissa George. And Simmons’ ex-wife, Kimora Lee, and her husband, Djimon Hounsou, also attended the party. But, spies say, the party was 'tame' for Leder, whose wild end-of-summer bash was the talk of the Hamptons this year. At the Bridgehampton home that Leder rented for a whopping $500,000 a month, guests cavorted nude in a pool and performed sex acts, while scantily clad Russian women danced on platforms. Dancers at the party also twirled flaming torches to booming beats. No wonder Leder’s 'Cocktail & Dinner Party With Live Show' last night on St. Barts inspired such high expectations. Sources say Leder, said to be worth $400 million, has been on a partying jag since his wife of 22 years, Lisa, cheated on him with a 23-year-old tennis instructor in 2009." (PageSix)

"What conflict situations are most at risk of deteriorating further in 2012? When Foreign Policy asked the International Crisis Group to evaluate which manmade disasters could explode in the coming year, we put our heads together and came up with 10 crisis areas that warrant particular concern. Admittedly, there is always a certain arbitrariness to lists. This one is no different. But, in part, that serves a purpose: It will, hopefully, get people talking. Why no room for Sudan -- surely a crisis of terrifying proportions? Or for Europe's forgotten conflicts -- in the North Caucasus, for example, or in Nagorno-Karabakh? You'll see also that we have not included some that are deeply troubling yet strangely under-reported, like Mexico or northern Nigeria. No room, too, for the hardy perennial standoff on the Korean Peninsula, despite the uncertainty surrounding the death of Kim Jong Il." (ForeignPolicy)

" Millions have been spent on luxury food and drink, rock band the Red Hot Chili Peppers will entertain 300 guests and fireworks are expected to light up the Caribbean sky as midnight strikes. It can only be Roman Abramovich’s New Year’s Eve party, a glittering celebration on which the Russian billionaire is spending more than £5million with plans to eclipse even last year’s sparkling event. Mr Abramovich, 45, is back on the island of St Barts with his 30-year-old partner Dasha Zhukova for the annual bash which is one of the most sought-after party invitations on New Year’s Eve. Last year, Mr Abramovich’s £5million party included a performance by the Black Eyed Peas and was attended by celebrities such as Demi Moore, actress and model Rosie Huntington-Whiteley, model Stephanie Seymour, comedienne Ellen DeGeneres, movie mogul Harvey Weinstein and Star Wars creator George Lucas ... The £300million nine-deck vessel boasts accommodation for 12 guests and five bodyguards, and features a cinema, library and restaurant. It is also reportedly installed with an anti-paparazzi shield, armed with infra-red lasers. Red Hot Chili Peppers drummer Chad Smith has been photographed on the island on Christmas day soaking up the good weather with his son Beckett. The 50-year-old wore a pair of red swimming shorts as he took a dip in the sea with his child, but there was no hint of the party on his Twitter page." (DailyMirror)
"Mary Surratt. The name probably sounds vaguely familiar to you. 'Isn't she a famous American painter?' you may be thinking. Uh, no. That's Mary Cassatt. 'Oh yeah, she's the lady that Robin Wright played in that Robert Redford movie this year.' Bingo. As we see commemorations of the 150th anniversary of the Civil War and more films like Redford's The Conspirator and Steven Spielberg's forthcoming Lincoln fall out of Hollywood, Mary Surratt will likely rise from the margins of history and take her place center stage. After all, her story has it all: love, death, war, drama, conspiracy, and her biggest claim to fame is that she was the first woman executed by the United States government. Victim. Heroine. Patriot. Traitor. Historians are still trying to figure her out, but for us Washingtonians, a key to unraveling her mystique is just a stone's throw away from us. When a friend suggested a road trip to The Surratt House and Museum in Clinton, formerly Surrattsville, Maryland, I jumped at the chance to get a better understanding of this fascinating woman." (WashingtonSocialDiary)

"In a testy exchange with The King's Speech screenwriter David Seidler earlier this year on Slate, Christopher Hitchens wrote, "All other considerations to one side, would the true story not have been fractionally more interesting?" Hitchens was referring to the false impression given by the wildly popular, Oscar-winning film that Churchill's sympathies in the mid 1930s were more with King George than his führer-fancying brother, Edward VIII. When Seidler conceded that a more accurate Churchill scene had been written but that it "sagged," Hitchens's reply was unsympathetic: 'Why not craft a scene . . . that does not sag?' This was not the first time the prolific writer took on a film for its historical inaccuracies. When Hitchens died last week, he left behind not only a persona to dissect but also a massive and diverse body of work, including a substantial, if comparatively minor, volume of film writing. The master prose stylist frequently had occasion to apply his polymathic mind and inflexibly journalistic sensibility to the latest Hollywood sausages. Complementing his combative turnout on politics, religion, and literature, Hitchens consistently attacked critical and box-office winners for deviating from the historical record.This stance set him apart from the view long ago espoused by esteemed film critics such as Vincent Canby and Roger Ebert and today regarded as commonsense: that fiction features are not reliable vehicles for fact. It would be fair to call Hitchens the film-critic contrarian—hardly a surprising posture. For him, a film that failed to meet a punishing standard of accuracy was insulting its audience, even if it also entertained." (VillageVoice)

"The night was strange from the start. It was December 21st, yet it was so unseasonably warm outside, I left my coat at home. I was on my way to cover Hasidic dub reggae star Matisyahu's 6th annual Festival of Light Hanukkah Tour -- one of his three nights at Music Hall of Williamsburg (where he happens to hold the record for the most sold-out shows). When I arrived at the venue, there was a crowd of Hasidic men standing near the entrance. They weren't patrons of the show, but on mitzvah missions, looking in a likely place for people who would answer affirmatively to the question 'Are you Jewish?' My editor and I had pre-arranged a photo pass for the show through Matisyahu's publicists, and there was no mention of restrictions in terms of photography or flash. For the first half of the show, I shot from the floor, behind someone, near the side of the stage. I didn't use flash most of the time because there was bright enough lighting. About halfway through the set, Matisyahu went to the opposite end of the stage to light a huge menorah. I moved closer to get a shot of this key moment, and ended up toward the center, still behind a few people. After he was done with the Menorah, Matisyahu resumed performing in center stage. I took the opportunity of my proximity to take some flash photos, to get some detail shots. And this is when things got weird. After 12 flash shots over a few minute period (the camera gives me this data), Matisyahu stepped toward me, off the stage. The person in front of me moved and the next thing I knew Matisyahu's foot was on my face and I fell to the ground." (Rebecca Smeyne/Papermag)

"Hi! I’m Matthew Stone, a friend of Karley’s from London. We lived together in the ‘lift factory’ squat in Walworth that predates Squallyoaks (which I opened). I somehow managed to escape quite a lot of embarrassing outings of my life on early Slutever, but you can see me breaking my arm with Karley in this spoof Madonna video we made here. I’m an artist and about a month ago I went to Miami Art Basel to install a series of sculptures that were displayed at the Mondrian hotel. Karley came along for the ride. I use photography in the artworks I make, but I also shoot loads of more casual images that don’t really go anywhere. Karley has always said I should do something with them online, so I have started a Tumblr for them called infinitytimesinfinity (∞ x ∞) . This guest post is a sort of launch for it. The photos below are from more than one day in my life in Miami, but Karley said that was OK! I have also included some conversations I had with some of the people in the photographs." (Slutever)

"While most certainly not an indie, the Bieb's Paramount-released concert film 'Justin Bieber: Never Say Never' was indeed the year's top grossing documentary. Taking in $73 million, 'Never Say Never' is the third highest grossing doc of all-time, behind only 'Fahrenheit 9/11' and 'March of the Penguins.' 'Bieber' is followed by another studio-released doc, Disney's annual nature flick 'African Cats,' which lagged behind its predecessors 'Earth' and 'Oceans' with a $15.4 million gross ('Earth' grossed $32 million and 'Oceans' took in $19 million). Then comes the indies. Led by the extraordinary success of the Sundance Selects duo 'Cave of Forgotten Dreams' and 'Buck' (more on them here), the independent film world had a few notable success stories this year. Many of them were via unique distribution strategies, like Producers Distribution Agency's 'Senna' (more on that here) Paladin's 'I Am' (more on that story here) and Zeitgeist's 'Bill Cunningham New York' (more here). But for every success story, there were multiple disappointments ('Project Nim' certainly stands out among them)." (IndieWIRE)

"The NBC Sports Group launches the NBC Sports Network at 4 PM ET on January 2nd to replace Versus, which had been Comcast’s bullriding and gunshooting and cycling channel pre-NBC Universal merger. The new strategy is to bring all four tiers of NBC Sports Group’s assets (broadcast network, two national cable networks, 11 regional sports networks and digital) into “a consistent framework of branding”. The better to compete with Disney’s ESPN and Fox Sports. The NBC Sports Network will serve as a 24/7 cable platform, according to Jon Miller, the president of programming for NBC Sports and the NBC Sports Network: 'We have three tranches of programming that we’re looking to put on NBC Sports Network starting with live events, live games, and big-league relationships. The second tranche is original news, talk and conversation. The third tranche is the original programming we’ve developed with the NHL around shows like NHL 36, with the NFL like NFL Turning Point, and with the Bob Costas show that will be breaking this year, Costas Tonight, as well as the Costas Town Halls.'" (Deadline)

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Media-Whore D'Oeuvres

"Going into today's protest against the fraud in the Dec. 4 parliamentary election, it was unclear how many people would come. Would there be more people than the some 50,000 that gathered on Bolotnaya Square on Dec. 10, in the election's heady aftermath? Would there be less, given the holiday season, the dropping temperatures, and the distance -- three weeks -- from the insult of the election fraud that cemented the ruling United Russia party, however weakly, back into power? Would there be more, given the lack of a crackdown last time, when, it should be noted, no one knew how many would show up either? And even if there were more, what would it mean? Crowd counting, especially from the ground level, is an inexact science at best, but it was clear to everyone -- from police to journalists to the event organizers -- that thousands more people came out today to Sakharov Avenue than did two weeks ago to Bolotnaya Square, which has become the new by-word for the still hard-to-pin spirit of change creeping through the Russian political system. The crowd -- its estimates ranging from 30,000 to 120,000 -- was also different from the protest of Dec. 10. If Bolotnaya was packed with the young and the white-collared ('office plankton,' as they're known in Russia) today's demonstrations brought out a more motley assembly." (ForeignPolicy)

"I spent the day poring over a new book that Michael Thomas has been recommending to friends and which, coincidentally has been reviewed in the latest edition of New York Review of Books and in the Sunday New York Times Book Review: 'Journey to the Abyss; The Diaries of Count Harry Kessler, 1880-1918,' edited and translated by Laird M. Easton, (Knopf). Not surprisingly, diaries always attract me although I admit they can be slow going and even drown you in boredom. When I bought this book and saw that it was almost 900 pages in length, I naturally thought it would lose me quickly because my time to read is limited. Nevertheless I began it the night before last and only stopped reading because it was time to sleep. Count Harry is a fascinating fellow and an excellent writer and reporter. A member of an aristocratic and wealthy German family, well educated, his sphere of interest was mainly European in flavor, but he covered the whole world." (NYSocialDiary)

"The relationship between wealthy fugitive financier Marc Rich — the former husband of New York society queen Denise Rich — and his much younger former lingerie model girlfriend, Dara Sowell, has been put on ice over the holidays, according to sources. Sowell came to town to visit family for Thanksgiving, sources say, and the blond beauty was expected to then join Rich at his luxurious ski chalet in St. Moritz, Switzerland, for Christmas and New Year’s. But she instead decided to stay in the Big Apple and cool things off. 'She’s saddened to do this at the height of the holiday season,' said a source. 'Dara came to New York this fall from Paris and she was supposed to go to St. Moritz, but she decided not to. 'It was a brave decision for her to look towards the future,' the source added. 'She realized it was a dead end, that Marc is not going to re-marry or make a deeper commitment, and she wanted to move on with her life. She’s not going to St. Moritz at the glamorous height of the height of the holiday season.' Fifty-something Sowell was introduced to the 77-year-old billionaire by his children in St. Tropez last year." (PageSix)

"When she hit her mid-60s, with her career and husband deceased and her health wobbly, she might announce, 'Sue Mengers is dead,' or begin sentences in her smoky voice with 'When I was alive. . . .' Even maudlin, Mengers was magnificent ... Mengers presided with a devilish wit and an angelic smile, a dirty, flirty girl with devastating timing. She was wise and loyal. She was also brutally honest, and she lost clients and friends because of it. When she started a sentence 'Tip from Sue'or 'Notes,' you wanted to run for the Hollywood Hills. But she had a soft, warm side; she was a yenta who loved fixing people up, in work and in love. If a match struck, she would urge the woman, 'We have to close the deal.' After Brad Pitt left Jennifer Aniston for Angelina Jolie, Mengers told me that she advised her beloved Jen to ask Brad for some of his sperm." (NYTimes)

"President Obama has seen his Gallup poll numbers jump into favorability for the first time since July. The rise in popularity arrives after a bruising defeat for Republicans over extending the payroll tax cut, a fight Democrats had hoped to use to their advantage. For the first time since July, more people view President Obama favorably than unfavorably, according to Gallup's tracking poll of the president's job approval rating. Obama's approval numbers spiked five percentage points the week before Christmas, Gallup found, with 47 percent approving and 45 percent disapproving between Dec. 21 and 23. The president's numbers were under water in the first weeks of December. Fifty percent of those polled by Gallup disapproved of Obama's job performance at mid-month, but his approval rating his climbed since then. Obama had a rough summer, struggling to win congressional approval of legislation to raise the nation's debt ceiling." (TheHill)

"New Jersey Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov will be partying in high style this week at France’s chic alpine resort Courchevel. Spies say the Russian billionaire and budding politician arrived over the weekend via no less than six helicopters delivering an entourage of 24. Prokhorov is taking up residence in a $45 million chalet, they added. And he’s bringing in European celebrity chef Wout Bru to prep his favorite meal. After a security team scoured area restaurants for private rooms last week, Prokhorov instead decided to have Bru — a star of the European cooking challenge 'MasterChef' — come to him. '[Bru] is making Mikhail’s favorite dish,' said a source. 'It’s a crispy pork dish that takes 24 hours to make. Bru is coming to the house a couple times to make it.' Bru was a chef at one of Prok’s favorite haunts in Courchevel, the hotel Cheval Blanc, but he’s moved to another restaurant. Last year, the mogul was spotted sipping Champagne at a luxe luncheon at the hotel with a baker’s dozen of gorgeous women. Russian leader Vladimir Putin was a guest at Prokhorov’s chalet a year ago. But sources say that since Prokhorov announced this month that he’ll make a long-shot run for the Russian presidency, it seems unlikely that Putin will be enjoying the crispy pork with Prok." (PageSix)

Friday, December 23, 2011

Happy Holidays

Lots of errands to run this time of year, so I'm taking the day off. Happy holidays to you all. Thanks for reading The Corsair. I'll be back on December 27th for the first installment of The 8th annual Corsair Pirate awards, which should be fun,


Thursday, December 22, 2011

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Media-Whore D'Oevres

"In June, a Chinese friend of mine who grew up in the northern industrial city of Shenyang and recently graduated from university moved to Beijing to follow his dream -- working for a media company. He has a full-time job, but the entry-level pay isn't great and it's tough to make ends meet. When we had lunch recently, he brought up his housing situation, which he described as 'not ideal.' He was living in a three-bedroom apartment split by seven people, near the Fourth Ring Road -- the outer orbit of the city. Five of his roommates were young women who went to work each night at 11 p.m. and returned around 4 a.m. 'They say they are working the overnight shift at Tesco,' the British retailer, but he was dubious. One night he saw them entering a KTV Club wearing lots of makeup and "skirts much shorter than my boxers' and, tellingly, proceeding through the employee entrance. 'So they are prostitutes,' he concluded. 'I feel a little uncomfortable.' But when he tallied his monthly expenses and considered his lack of specialconnections, or guanxi, in the city, either to help boost his paycheck or to find more comfortable but not more expensive housing, he figured he'd stick out the grim living situation. 'I have come here to be a journalist -- it is my goal, and I do not want to go back now. But it seems like it's harder than it used to be.'  When I asked how his colleagues and former classmates were getting along, he thought about it for a moment and then replied that some were basically in the same lot as him, "but many of my friends have parents in Beijing, and they can save money to live with them. If your family is already established here, it helps a lot." After a moment, he added: 'And some of them have rich parents who have already bought them their own apartments -- and cars.'" (Foreignpolicy)

"Congress is very unpopular. In November, according to the Gallup Poll, only 13% of Americans approved of the job that Congress was doing. That tied the record set in October for the lowest approval rating in the history of the Gallup Poll. Moreover, according to another recent Gallup Poll, only 20% of Americans believe that most members of Congress deserve to be reelected. That's the lowest percentage in the 19 years that Gallup has been asking this question. These sorts of statistics, repeated in poll after poll, have given rise to speculation by some pundits and political observers that large numbers of incumbents in both parties may lose their seats next November as a result of the high level of public dissatisfaction with congressional Democrats and Republicans. Some analysts have even suggested that the anti-incumbent mood could produce an historic triple flip in the 2012 elections with control of both houses of Congress and the presidency all changing hands. If this happened there would be a Republican president along with a Democratic House and a Republican Senate in 2013. OK, time to get back to reality. There has never been a triple flip election and there is not going to be one in 2012. Not only that, but despite the abysmal approval ratings that Congress has been receiving, 2012 will not be an anti-incumbent election. That's because opinions about the performance of Congress and opinions about whether most congressional incumbents deserve to be reelected have little or no influence on the outcomes of congressional elections." (SabatosCrystalBall)

"December 22, 2011. The Winter Solstice. Also known as Midwinter and the longest night of the year. From today on, the days will get longer and the nights shorter. Let there be light ... My cabbie this afternoon, taking me home from midtown, observing the noticeably quieter traffic on the avenue said he thought a lot of people have already left town for the holiday. The private schools in my neighborhood (Chapin and Brearley) are already out ... The day before yesterday I went down to Michael’s to lunch with Alexandra Wolfe whom I’ve known for quite some time. I think the first time we met, she was a reporter for the New York Observer and she called me about a story she was working on. I can’t remember the story. But she was such good conversation over the phone that I asked her to lunch. That must have been four or five years ago. Since then we’ve met to catch up once or twice a year. I think Tuesday was the first time this year. " (NYSocialDiary)

"My end-of-the-year Christmas party was the best yet. The festivities began at 10PM and ended somewhat hazily around 6 the next morning. My son JT provided the youth and I provided the gravitas. Actually it was the other way around. I provided the brawn—judo and karate experts—and he provided the artsy-fartsy types from Brooklyn with lotsa pretty girls. Cauliflower brains mixed freely with cauliflower ears. My buddy Michael Mailer, son of Norman and a very good boxer who now produces movies, had to fly to South Africa, but like a good friend he left three beautiful blondes behind who all came to the party. At midnight I announced that the three beauties sitting together in the Mailer corner were now my property because Michael had been eaten by a rogue lion somewhere near the Cape. The ladies thought it unfair, but I reminded them that life’s unfair and if one’s eaten, one stays eaten. Never have so many beautiful young women been in my house before—an embarrassment of riches, with clusters of them talking to each other while the men talked politics, martial arts, and other such silly subjects. Some even talked art. 'How strange it is to be writing about parties and good times when the world is in this condition. 'How strange it is to be writing about parties and good times when the world is in this condition." (Taki Theodoracopulos)

"In their 2011 'Rulebreakers' issue, The Hollywood Reporter looks at The Rebels, The Opportunists, The Cinderella Stories and more from the world of TV and movies. Marisa Guthrie pens a page on The Interviewers, focusing on ABC’s Diane Sawyer, NBC’s Matt Lauer and CBS’s Steve Kroft. 'Sometimes you think you know the story, but you go back and look again,' says Sawyer. 'It’s about waking all of us up. That is the reason we do it.' 'It’s not the topic,' says Matt Lauer of his style. 'It’s the tone. If you can make people comfortable and get them to trust you, then you can hit them hard on something.' Kroft’s interviews inside the beltway and beyond have made him '60 Minutes' griller-in-chief. He’s interviewed Pres. Obama 12 times, from the campaign trail to just last week. Kroft tells Guthrie the president 'has never said no' to an interview." (TVNewser)

"Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.) on Thursday urged House Republicans to pass a two-month extension of the payroll-tax cut, putting greater pressure on House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) to act. McConnell said House passage of a Senate-approved payroll-tax relief package 'locks in' legislative language requiring President Obama to speed up his timetable for approving the Keystone XL oil sands pipeline. The bipartisan Senate package also includes a two-month extension of unemployment benefits and a two-month freeze of scheduled cuts to doctors’ Medicare payments. The cost of the package is offset by increasing fees at Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, cutting about $3 billion from the deficit. McConnell also backed Boehner’s demand that Senate Democrats appoint conferees to negotiate a year-long extension of the payroll-tax cut with the House. '[Senate Majority] Leader [Harry] Reid should appoint conferees on the long-term bill, and the House should pass an extension that locks in the thousands of Keystone XL pipeline jobs, prevents any disruption in the payroll tax holiday or other expiring provisions, and allows Congress to work on a solution for the longer extensions,' McConnell said in a news release Thursday morning." (Alexander Bolton/TheHill)

"According to a North Korean Central News Agency report, 'peculiar natural wonders' have been witnessed since Kim Jong-il died on Saturday. And we're not talking about Kim Jong-il's face appearing in a crummy piece of toast.  On the morning of Kim Jong-il's death, layers of ice on a famous lake broke thunderously. ' was the first time that such a big noise was heard.' At Mt. Paektu, under which Kim Jong-il's wacky origin myth says he was born in a log cabin, words of Kim Jong-il's that have been carved into stone glowed brightly. (yes, Kim Jong-il had his own writings carved into the side of a mountain. Take that, George Washington.)" (Gawker)

"Which famed cougar actually swings both ways and once stripped in front of a female journalist as an obvious come-on? Which ethnic actress must be getting a career boost out of publicly dating that sizzling actor? (She's a lesbian!) Which mouthy funny lady loves sex so ferociously that when she used to fuck a fellow comic, the windows had to be shut because her squeals shook the whole neighborhood? (Yep, she's a scream.) hat designer's young boyfriend is still so relatively unsophisticated that he has four crumbled chocolate-chip cookies covered in milk for breakfast—plus he spells zucchini 'zookini'? Which supposedly reformed star ran out of a screening four times (to powder her nose, perhaps), unfortunately coming back to ask a not-terribly-bright question during the Q&A? Which avant-garde disco singer still hasn't returned that Marlene Dietrich movie? hich old broad messed up so many songs during a big concert engagement that some people were buzzing that it was 'a career killer' (though she got the obligatory standing ovation)? Which rising starlet shuns red carpets these days because she doesn't want to be asked about her relationship with that TV star?" (Musto)

"Former Police Commissioner Bill Bratton touted the release of his tome 'ollaborate or Perish!'at Georgette Mosbacher’s holiday bash while his fourth wife, Rikki Klieman, was eager to see her dedication. She said she got her hands on the transcript last week, and immediately flipped to the acknowledgments. 'e dedicated the last book to his first wife,'she said. 'So I think I deserve a dedication in the second.'She got what she was wishing for. Guests at the GOP fundraiser’s Park Avenue home included Barbara Walters, Bill O’Reilly, Roger Ailes, Rudy Giuliani, Martha Stewart, top cop Ray Kelly, Bill White, Ed Rollins and Democratic analyst Robert Zimmerman swimming in a sea of Republicans." (PageSix)