Wednesday, January 29, 2014
"Forecasting world events is a difficult task that takes guts and discipline. Though you can find endless scenarios in a number of places, Stratfor – the same people that predicted, in 2002, the EU crisis; and in 2010, the U.S.-Iranian negotiations – focuses on countries’ constraints, which eliminates the impossibilities down to a likely path. Here are a few things we see ahead by 2039:
- The United States will continue to be the leading economic power.
- Conflict in the Middle East will continue, but the United States will take a much more hands-off approach in the region.
- German and Russian interests will align, trading natural gas and technology, and could potentially threaten Washington's global strategy.
- Mexico will become an industrial powerhouse by taking low-level production from China and monetizing its energy sector.
- China will continue to face more internal tension and slower economic growth.
"What was said: 'I know that the American people aren’t interested in refighting old battles. So again, if you have specific plans to cut costs, cover more people, and increase choice—tell America what you’d do differently. Let’s see if the numbers add up. But let’s not have another forty-something votes to repeal a law that’s already helping millions of Americans.' What was meant: 'Enough already with repealing Obamacare. You think you’re all going to campaign on that and get reelected? Be serious.' What was said: 'And with the Afghan war ending, this needs to be the year Congress lifts the remaining restrictions on detainee transfers and we close the prison at Guantanamo Bay—because we counter terrorism not just through intelligence and military action, but by remaining true to our Constitutional ideals, and setting an example for the rest of the world.' What was meant: “I like to think of Guantanamo Bay as a 'Congress problem.’' What was said: 'American diplomacy, backed by the threat of force, is why Syria’s chemical weapons are being eliminated, and we will continue to work with the international community to usher in the future the Syrian people deserve—a future free of dictatorship, terror, and fear.' What was meant: 'You can’t say I didn’t mention Syria!'" (VanityFair)
"Last night at the Plaza, in the Grand Ballroom, The National Audubon Society honored Dan Lufkin and Patrick Noonan for their environmental leadership and lifetime commitment to the environment. This was the first major fundraising event I’ve been to this month in New York. I mention it only because when the season heats up a couple of months from now, there will be at least one, sometimes two or three or more, four to five days at week, for a few weeks. When we hear the name Audubon, we think of John James Audubon, the naturalist painter of the 19th century and his paintings of birds and wildlife (ed. note, there was an auction last weekend at the Arader Galleries of several of Audubon’s images with almost a $ million in total sales.) He is the inspiration historically but the Audubon Society is about conservation of life on the planet which means the air, the earth, the water, the wildlife and us (which in many cases could be considered wildlife also). So last night’s was a 'serious' fundraiser. It was an evening of speeches, in a way. But serious. They drew a big crowd of several hundred men and women. They raised about $1.5 million. The dinner was very good, and the wine and the chocolate dessert. And there were speeches." (NYSocialDiary)
"David Cross set his directorial debut Hits in a small town two hours upstate from New York City, but for the residents of tiny Liberty, it might as well be a hop, skip, and a jump from Hollywood: Almost everyone in Liberty is consumed with the idea of fame, whether it's Dave Stuben (Matt Walsh), whose city council tirades make him a viral-video hit, or his daughter Kateyln (Meredith Hagner), who's so determined to get onto The Voice that she's already rehearsing her postshow sitdown with Ellen DeGeneres. As Stuben's recorded rants reach a circle of hipster liberals (headed by James Adomian) who relocate from Brooklyn to Liberty, intending to make the local man a national hero, Cross gets in plenty of jabs at the current, vapid political climate, too. Vulture sat down with Cross last week after Hits premiered at the Sundance Film Festival, and the comedian had plenty more to say about all those big, fat satirical targets. You've been to Sundance before, but how did it feel to come here with a film you wrote and directed? I was telling my wife and my manager this last night — and let me preface this by saying it's an honor to be here for something that I believe in so much, because I haven't had that experience before when I've been up here — but I really thought I'd be more emotional. I was afraid that I might tear up during a Q&A and have to say, 'I'm sorry, guys, this has been my dream since I was a kid,' but last night, when I was sitting in the audience in that sold-out theater of 1,200 people, all I noticed were all the mistakes: 'God, I wish I could change that,' or 'I need to go back into sound,' or 'I need to fix that.' It was definitely well-received, but watching it was nerve-wracking, and I had no emotion afterwards. I was like, 'Thank God this is over.' I wanted a drink so bad." (Vulture)
"How would your describe yourself in three words? Enthusiastic, critical, visual. What were you pursuing before launching paper? Art. I was an artist. What inspired you to start paper?Well, I wanted to be an artist and I needed a job and Bill Cunningham got me my first job at this newspaper called The Soho News as the Style Editor. So I kind of brought all my creative artist friends, and my kind of conceptual brain into doing this style section every week. And I just did it as a job but I really fell in love with it. And then it went out of business and I met David [Hershkovitz], my partner, and we decided to start something ourselves." (Guestofaguest)
"On Saturday, January 25th, 2013, more than 250 guests gathered at the Pierre Hotel in New York City for the 54th Annual Quadrille Ball, one of the few white tie events and an annual staple of the New York Ball Season. This year’s honoree, Mr. Bernard Meyer, Managing Partner of Meyer Werft, has earned an international reputation for the construction of large, modern cruise ships including Celebrity Cruises and Disney Cruise Lines. His newest and largest ship, the Norwegian Getaway, just came to port in time to host more than 4000 visitors for the Super Bowl. Ball guests included the German Consul General, New York, Busso von Alvensleben and his wife Maria-Theresia, the Rector of Technical University of Dortmund and head of the Board of Trustees of Krupp Foundation Prof. Dr. Ursula Gather, UN High Representative for Disarmament Affairs Mrs. Angela Kane, the CEO of the German American Chamber of Commerce Dietmar Rieg, Count Victor Dijon von Monteton with his wife Katharina, the President of the Germanistic Society of America, Prof. Dr. Barbara Elling, and Quadrille Ball Committee Chair Irmintraud Jost. They all enjoyed silent auction, cocktails, dinner and dancing until 4AM. " (NySocialDiary)
Monday, January 27, 2014
"If you’re a French politician, consider an affair French President Francois Hollande’s popularity rose from 24 percent to 26 percent after reports of his alleged affair with a young actress hit newsstands. The largest share of the increase came from women aged 25-34 and 50-64.
"A week after Ezra Klein officially broke up with the Washington Post, he announced on Sunday night that he's founding a news site at Vox Media, home of SB Nation, The Verge, Eater, Curbed, Racked, and Polygon. The site is currently being referred to as 'Project X,' but despite the mysterious name, Klein has plenty to say about his vision for the project. In a post on The Verge, Klein says that in the past, journalists were forced to focus only on the day's events due to space limitations in newspapers, and this outdated thinking has transferred over to online journalism. 'Today, we are better than ever at telling people what's happening, but not nearly good enough at giving them the crucial contextual information necessary to understand what's happened,' he writes. 'Our mission is to create a site that's as good at explaining the world as it is at reporting on it.'" (NYMag)
"I got an email inquiring about Lady Sarah Churchill and a book she was working on when she died fifteen years ago this year. NYSD readers may recall that Sarah was a friend who at an important moment in my life as a writer, made a big difference. Looking through the archives, I found a couple of Diaries that I’d written about her, after her death. After re-reading them, so much came back to mind. In 1978, I’d decided to move my life to Los Angeles and embark on a life as a writer professionally. I’d sold a small business I had in Westchester and packed up my belongings and with my dog and five cats, moved West. A couple of weeks before my departure, some friends of mine gave me a going away present in the form of a 'reading' by Dezia Restivo here in New York who is a numerologist and reads the Tarot. I knew nothing about either talents except what everyone knows: the future is in their hands, or head. Dezia is an English lady with a sunny and gregarious personality, and she likes people. So she read my cards and did my numbers. As she looked at the cards spread out before her, referring to the move I was about to make, she said: 'You’re going to meet a woman who is royalty, or like royalty. And she is wearing rose colored glasses and has houses on three oceans ...' Well, that sounded pretty exotic, or more like an opening for an adventure novel and not the life of this New England boy. But Dezia was right. About six months later, now living in Los Angeles, I met Sarah. That first night, she was in a reception line, a tall, imposing presence, blonde and well coiffed wearing rose colored glasses. She was not 'royal,' she had presence we imagine a royal might have (and rarely do, just like the rest of us). More than the tint of her glasses, they gave her that European woman appearance which suggests mystery somewhere in there. It so happened, that at that moment in her life she did indeed have three houses – Greece, Jamaica, and Los Angeles – all of which overlooked an ocean." (NYSD)
Sunday, January 26, 2014
Via TVNewser: "20/20 had the highest A18-49 and A25-54 numbers in close to two years, since Feb. 5, 2010 and March 30, 2012, respectively. ABC’s Friday primetime tied a season high on the night." This was based on the return of Elizabeth Vargas, who has admitted problems with alcoholism.
This was a bit of a surprise, via the NYPost:
"Look out for big mother on campus.
"Manhattan’s elite private schools have enlisted the parents of their students to spy on prospective families during school tours to get the skinny on how the kids and their parents act when they’re not under the glaring eye of the admissions director, insiders told The Post.
"The tour guide or a wandering assistant teacher traditionally reported back to administrators at schools like Columbia Grammar, Mandell, Collegiate and Episcopal on their behavior, but after parents learned whom to act their best in front of, the schools have upped their vetting process and are now planting parents in the tours to observe perspective parents and then hand in notes.
“'At a certain point a mom spilled that she had been asked to go on the tours and watch how the prospective parents behaved, and then it got out that it was a common thing,' private-school mom and social researcher Wednesday Martin said.
“'If you see a school parent on a school tour but she’s not conducting the tour, just ‘coming along,’ shut up and don’t check your cell!'
"And parents are eager to be 'admission volunteers' because of the power it gives them in the admissions process."The comedy that is the elementary school admissions process is oncreasingly playing itself out as farce.
Saturday, January 25, 2014
"When Howard Stern jumped from terrestrial to satellite radio, Sirius had half a million subscribers. Today it has 25.6 million. As he turns 60, Stern looks back at his career and sees radio on the verge of the next step in its evolution.It doesn't take long to figure out how Howard Stern has risen to his unprecedented level of success. Having arrived for the day's photo shoot and interview ('It's Howard Stern!' a man says, elbowing his friend as the 6-foot-5-inch radio icon walks past them toward the elevator, a scene similar to random fans praising him in an airport in his 1997 box office No. 1 hit "Private Parts"), Stern's curiosity is instantly noticeable. Stern, who counts photography among his hobbies, inundates lensman Andrew Eccles with questions about angles, backlighting and poses. Also evident: Stern's humility. 'Pretty good . . . for me,' he says as he scans some of the just-shot images on the studio's laptop. 'He makes me look like Brad Pitt.' He pauses, then adds, 'Those are some pretty good lights.' Stern's thirst for knowledge and a penchant for not taking himself too seriously have fueled a career unparalleled in radio, or elsewhere for that matter. Considered in his early days as a PD's nightmare known for risqué bits and less than full adherence to the rules, his overwhelming ratings success proved his model valid. The eventual syndication of 'The Howard Stern Show' brought him national acclaim and prominence, aided a pair of million-selling books, his box-office blockbuster and multiple network TV versions of his radio broadcast. This month, the host of "The Howard Stern Show" will celebrate his 60th birthday with a star-studded birthday bash set to air live on SiriusXM on Jan. 31 (19 days after his actual birthday). The party is a gift to his loyalists—open only to active SiriusXM subscribers lucky enough to win their way in for a night of music, comedy and Stern interviewing special guests—with the festivities to be hosted by ABC late-night host and friend Jimmy Kimmel. Ahead of the bash, Stern sat down with Billboard to discuss not only his first eight years at the satellite broadcaster but also all the media over which he's reigned in a career that led to his induction into the National Radio Hall of Fame in 2012." (Billboard)
"In a recent episode of CNN’s media show, 'Reliable Sources,' there was a brief moment when the whole enterprise threatened to collapse in on itself. The show’s new host, former New York Times wunderkind Brian Stelter, asked Walt Mossberg, a former Wall Street Journal writer, about the experience of soliciting tech-world venture capital for his own tech publication. 'It was a little bit surreal, living the thing you’ve covered,' Mossberg replied. Stelter replied, 'I … kind of think I know what you’re talking about, being on television now.' Before CNN hired him last fall, the 28-year-old Stelter had for years covered television (among other media) for the Times, where he was a star. But his relationship to his subject always appeared more borne of love than the skepticism that can often seem to animate other beat reporters. Stelter has been writing about television since he was an undergrad at Towson University. There, he had a blog called TVNewser, which attracted the attention of (and tips from) top television executives, was eventually bought out by MediaBistro, and earned Stelter a big profile in the Times. Last year, he wrote a book on the morning shows, Top of the Morning, which received a pan in the Times for its 'silly' and 'overblown' prose. (The book will be turned into a Lifetime movie about the Ann Curry brouhaha). Then, CNN came knocking when it needed a replacement for Howard Kurtz, who left 'Reliable Sources' to start a competing show on Fox. Stelter, who has three televisions in his living room, has done the improbable: He has alchemized TV fanboyism into an actual career on television." (TNR)
"In a subterranean parking garage, hundreds of partygoers are crammed into a makeshift version of Manhattan’s TAO nightclub, drunk on (free) Moët & Chandon rosé and high on life — and other stuff wafting through the air. 'TAO is fun,' remarks one reveler. 'It’s even more fun on molly,' adds his pal before Rick Ross takes the stage. The comely crowd goes wild; one blond fan starts singing along with the rapper, who, in turn, grabs her head and sucks her face. Welcome to Park City, Utah, where thousands have jetted in for the Sundance Film Festival, now the biggest party of the year. TAO’s Friday-night rager drew entertainment power players such as Elizabeth Olsen, Lil Jon, Kristen Stewart and Harvey Weinstein, who danced the night away until the club’s 4 a.m. closing. Movies, shmovies. Sundance is all about the parties, silly cinephiles! Thanks to the endless parade of celebrities, booze-sponsored bashes and pop-up hot spots (TAO, Surf Lodge, Bungalow 8), the kick-off weekend to the 10-day Park City indie film festival has become so ridden with debauchery, they ought to make a movie about it." (NYPost)
"OK, folks. We’ve had enough of Hollande and his rather silly antics, although I do understand the man. Ever younger is not a bad policy, in sport as well as in sexual matters, but it does give off a certain bad smell—it’s called a Saatchi—something real men actually never get caught doing. Seducers have been the whipping boys in books, plays, poems, and in films through time immemorial, starting with Paris of Troy. Someone called it the most “unspeakable type of masculinity”—a bit harsh, I agree, but there are some chaps out there whose only goal is conquest and belt notches. Although highly ridiculous—and it was funny hearing Hollande called ridiculous from another slightly comical figure, that of Sarkozy—a reptilian smoothie Hollande is not. Although Dante put the seducer in the eighth circle of hell, I think the Florentine great does seducers a disservice. Not all seducers are cold, calculating sexual profiteers; some are even nice guys who love women and do not seek their destruction. Take the case of Casanova. He not only admired and respected women; he made their happiness his life’s work. 'He undressed them as if they were his superiors,” wrote one of his biographers. If Hollande put on some forty pounds and grew his hair to his shoulders, he could pose as the real Casanova, because Giacomo was no looker. He never ruined a woman and if anything he was a fool for love. Dado Ruspoli, another great seducer but the best-looking man in Rome, treated his numerous mistresses with respect and courtesy, and like another Roman noble, Roffredo Gaetani, he could love deeply. Both Dado and Roffredo were great friends of mine, and I never saw them once throughout the years abuse or speak ill of a woman. (Mind you, they could have been cowardly because they never grabbed a woman by the throat like some heroic types tend to do.) So am I here to defend seducers and include the clownish Hollande among them? Well, yes and no. Not all great seducers I have known were Errol Flynn-like lookers. A photographer I hung out with in Paris during the 1950s and who recently died, Willy Rizzo, was very short, squinted nonstop, and looked like a defrocked priest, but he outscored some awfully good-looking men friends of his who were far more glamorous and rich." (Taki)
"Mark Kostabi is picking up where his fellow artist Jeff Koons left off — by dating Koons’ ex-wife Ilona Staller, the Italian porn star better known as Cicciolina. Kostabi, 53, who has lived in Rome for several years, told me, 'She’s fabulous, beautiful, and so sweet and adorable. When I’m with her I can’t control myself . . . We have not had sex,' he added. 'We’ve held hands and had two dinners.' Staller, 62, was a member of Italy’s parliament (1987 to 1992) and famous for giving speeches with one breast exposed. She made 15 X-rated films, including 'The Rise and Fall of the Roman Empress,' opposite John Holmes. She also offered to have sex with Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden to bring about world peace. 'My breasts have never done anyone any harm, while bin Laden’s war has caused thousands of victims,' Staller said in 2002. Kostabi plans to paint 15 portraits of Staller and direct a movie about her life, including her brief 1991 relationship with Koons, 59, who created a series of graphic paintings and life-size sculptures depicting the couple having sex." (P6)
"Smell that? That’s the scent of Sinsemil.la opening up its doors as New York City’s first marijuana menu-driven supper club. The restaurant released a smoky video to announce their entry into the food scene. 'Sinsemil.la isn’t about getting high—it is about haute cuisine,' the description reads. According to the menu, different strains of marijuana are cooked into various dishes, chosen to bring balance to each plate’s flavor. The video highlights some of the items on the menu, which include potato gnocchi with White Widow buttered wild mushrooms and fresh Diesel; cold-smoked Peconic Bay scallop crudo with chorizo; and pasture-raised pork schnitzel with overwintered vegetables and Og Kush butter." (Observer)
"The 30th annual Sundance Film Festival began with a literal drumroll in the form of the ferocious opening-night movie, Whiplash, which pits a jazz-drumming prodigy against his teacher in a battle of wills. It quickly sold to Sony Pictures Classics for a reported $3 million, propelled by lead performances by Miles Teller, pounding the skins until his hands bleed, and J. K. Simmons, abandoning his usual dopey-dad mode to play a drill sergeant of a band conductor. The theme of the movie — the pursuit of one’s passion beyond all reason — seemed to set the tone for the rest of the festival, with many other actors following Simmons into unfamiliar territory. Here are a few of the performances we’ll be beating our drums for this year." (NYMag)
Wednesday, January 22, 2014
"As many media watchers expected he might, Washington Post blogger Ezra Klein announced on Tuesday that he has left his former employer for an unidentified new venture, after publisher Katharine Weymouth and owner Jeff Bezos reportedly rejected his demands for $10 million in funding and a staff of 34 to run an independent site. For many Post-watchers, Klein’s departure sounds a lot like when the founders of Politico — also former Washington Post staffers — quit to form their own site, a loss that many believe the Post was unwise to allow. In a surprisingly gracious internal memo that briefly took down the Poynter website after it was posted there, the Post said that Klein would be missed, calling him a 'brash wunderkind,' and wishing him the best in his new endeavor. The memo also mentioned that two other staffers — former Post head of platform and blog development Melissa Bell and blogger Dylan Matthews — are also leaving to join Klein in his new venture (according to one recent report, the Post made an offer to Derek Thompson of The Atlantic to take over Klein’s role but he refused)." (GigOm)
"It was 1949. My mother—known in the gossip columns of that era as 'New York's girl caricaturist'—was freelancing theatrical sketches to a number of New York's newspapers and magazines, including the Brooklyn Eagle. That paper, then more than a century old, had just a few years of life left in it. From 1846 to 1848, its editor had been the poet Walt Whitman. In later years, my mother used to enjoy telling a story about the Eagle editor she dealt with who, on learning that I was being sent to Walt Whitman kindergarten, responded in the classically gruff newspaper manner memorialized in movies like His Girl Friday: 'Are they still naming things after that old bastard?' In my childhood, New York City was, you might say, papered with newspapers. The Daily News, the Daily Mirror, the Herald Tribune, the Wall Street Journal…there were perhaps nine or 10 significant ones on newsstands every day and, though that might bring to mind some golden age of journalism, it's worth remembering that a number of them were already amalgams. The Journal-American, for instance, had once been the Evening Journal and the American, just as the World-Telegram & Sun had been a threesome, the World, the Evening Telegram, and the Sun. In my own household, we got the New York Times (disappointingly comic-strip-less), the New York Post (then a liberal, not a right-wing, rag that ran Pogo and Herblock's political cartoons) and sometimes the Journal-American (Believe It or Not and The Phantom). Then there were always the magazines: in our house, Life, the Saturday Evening Post, Look, the New Yorker—my mother worked for some of them, too—and who knows what else in a roiling mass of print. It was a paper universe all the way to the horizon, though change and competition were in the air. After all, the screen (the TV screen, that is) was entering the American home like gangbusters. Mine arrived in 1953 when the Post assigned my mother to draw the Army-McCarthy hearings, which—something new under the sun—were to be televised live by ABC.Still, at least in my hometown, it seemed distinctly like a golden age of print news, if not of journalism." (MotherJones via TomsDispatch)
"Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s tight relationship with his Israeli counterpart, Benjamin Netanyahu, has been noted by many commentators as they observed the Canadian leader taking a large delegation on a state visit this week. Going beyond speeches and diplomatic policies, Mr. Harper showed another sign of this chumminess when he performed the Beatles' 'Hey Jude' at a state dinner in Jerusalem, while Mr. Netanyahu and his wife Sara beamed at their table. The video, released on Mr. Netanyahu’s YouTube channel, does not specify when the video was recorded but it was posted Tuesday. The two men wore similar ties at public events earlier that day. Mr. Harper had performed the same song last month at a Toronto fundraiser, the Jewish National Fund’s 2013 Negev Dinner, right after he announced the trip to Israel.The Canadian prime minister occasionally sings Beatles tunes in public, ever since he appeared on stage with cellist Yo-Yo Ma at a black-tie gala at the National Arts Centre in Ottawa in 2009." (GlobaandMail via TheAwl)
Tuesday, January 21, 2014
"The annual parade of boldface names at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, is always striking. This year’s attendees at the meeting, which begins Wednesday, will include Japan’s prime minister, Shinzo Abe; the billionaire Bill Gates; JPMorgan Chase’s chief executive, Jamie Dimon; and the movie star-philanthropist Matt Damon. But just as notable are the luminaries who consistently avoid Davos, despite repeated invitations. The billionaire Warren E. Buffett has never attended. Neither has Timothy D. Cook, chief executive of Apple, the world’s largest company by market value. (His predecessor, Steve Jobs, never went, either.) The founders of Google, Larry Page and Sergey Brin, stopped going a couple of years ago, as did Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s chairman. Both companies do send other executives, though. The leaders of General Electric and IBM, Jeffrey R. Immelt and Virginia M. Rometty, are not attendees either. 'I don’t go to Davos and places like that,' Mr. Immelt once said dismissively." (NYT)
"As business and political leaders gather in Davos this week, those weary of the palaver on trade alliances, mergers and charity initiatives can stop by the Congress Centre on Thursday morning. There, Goldie Hawn will expound on the benefits of meditation. The 'mindfulness' panel with Hawn, star of the 1975 hit film “Shampoo,” is among 25 sessions at the 2014 World Economic Forum discussing wellness, mental health, and the potentially pernicious effects of technology on the brain. That’s at least 50 percent more wellness-related presentations than in 2008. The theme shows how anxiety over stress and its impact on business is mounting among the Davos set, who’ve spent the last five years dealing with crises from the collapse of Lehman Brothers to the Syrian civil war -- all connected 24/7 to their beeping, buzzing smartphones. Mental health-related illnesses may cost $16 trillion in lost output over the next 20 years, according to figures from Harvard University and the WEF." (Bloomberg)
"Sasheer Zamata was the toast of an 'SNL' after-party at La Cenita. The comic — the first African-American female cast member to join the NBC show since Maya Rudolph left in 2007 — was given congratulatory hugs and kisses by 'SNL' creator Lorne Michaels, as well as cast members Jay Pharoah, Kenan Thompson, Nasim Pedrad, Taran Killam, Vanessa Bayer and Cecily Strong, a spy said. 'From the moment Sasheer arrived, the entire ‘SNL’ family erupted in cheers and applause for a job well done,' the insider told us. Rapper and 'SNL' host Drake, who received high marks for his comedic chops on Saturday’s show, joined the party later with his mother, Sandi Graham." (NYP)
"International diplomats will gather Jan. 22 in the Swiss town of Montreux to hammer out a settlement designed to end Syria's three-year civil war. The conference, however, will be far removed from the reality on the Syrian battleground. Only days before the conference was scheduled to begin, a controversy threatened to engulf the proceedings after the United Nations invited Iran to participate, and Syrian rebel representatives successfully pushed for the offer to be rescinded. The inability to agree upon even who would be attending the negotiations is an inauspicious sign for a diplomatic effort that was never likely to prove very fruitful. There are good reasons for deep skepticism. As Syrian President Bashar al Assad's forces continue their fight to recover ground against the increasingly fratricidal rebel forces, there is little incentive for the regime, heavily backed by Iran and Russia, to concede power to its sectarian rivals at the behest of Washington, especially when the United States is already negotiating with Iran. Ali Haidar, an old classmate of al Assad's from ophthalmology school and a long-standing member of Syria's loyal opposition, now serving somewhat fittingly as Syria's National Reconciliation Minister, captured the mood of the days leading up to the conference in saying 'Don't expect anything from Geneva II. Neither Geneva II, not Geneva III nor Geneva X will solve the Syrian crisis. The solution has begun and will continue through the military triumph of the state.' Widespread pessimism over a functional power-sharing agreement to end the fighting has led to dramatic speculation that Syria is doomed either to break into sectarian statelets or, as Haidar articulated, revert to the status quo, with the Alawites regaining full control and the Sunnis forced back into submission. Both scenarios are flawed. Just as international mediators will fail to produce a power-sharing agreement at this stage of the crisis, and just as Syria's ruling Alawite minority will face extraordinary difficulty in gluing the state back together, there is also no easy way to carve up Syria along sectarian lines. A closer inspection of the land reveals why." (STRATFOR)
Rookie magazine Editor in Chief Tavi Gevinson, far right, signs copies of "Rookie Yearbook Two" at Skylight Books in Los Angeles. (Bethany Mollenkof / Los Angeles Times)
"Al Goldstein, who made the front page of The New York Times when he died recently, was among the world’s most disgusting men. But he was hardly as repellent as Charles Saatchi and certainly without the coward’s bullying manner—against women, that is. Goldstein founded Screw magazine during the 1960s and pushed hardcore porn into the mainstream without the usual excuses of it being art disguised as porn. He apologized for nothing and took no prisoners and gave the finger to an outraged establishment who thought him rather vulgar, to say the least. I met him once, and it was on a baseball diamond. Back in the 70s there was a regular softball competition in New York’s Central Park among magazines—many of them, such as LIFE and Look, are now gone. I played third base for Esquire, and as luck would have it we drew Screw in the first round. Word had got around that Screw would provide oral sex right at home plate to anyone on either side who hit a home run ... The art world is full of rogues, cheats, thieves, and pirates, and in my book the heroic man who grabbed Nigella by the throat is all of these things, and he is most welcome to come and try to grab my little throat anytime. Al Goldstein certainly made the world a worse place, and perhaps that’s why he died broke and alone and miserable." (Taki)
|"Last Wednesday night Sharon and Ambassador John Loeb hosted a dinner to celebrate the very popular exhibition of Ambassador Loeb's collection of paintings by Scandinavian artists from the early 19th to the early 20th century. 'Danish Paintings from the Golden Age to the Modern Breakthrough: Selections from the Collection of Ambassador John L. Loeb Jr.' traces the developments in Danish art from the early 19th through the early 20th centuries — a period that saw the emergence of a distinctive national approach to painting in Denmark where Ambassador Loeb served under the Reagan Administration. The exhibit has been extended through the end of the week including Saturday. Hours are 12 to 6 p.m. (Wednesday until 7). Admission is free. Scandinavia House is located at 58 Park Avenue at 38th Street." (NYSocialDiary)|
624 × 400 - go.hrw.com
"Africa is discovering a new spirit of optimism, reminiscent of the first decade of its post-colonial era. Despite inadequate infrastructure and at times even poorer governance, the continent has been attracting more and more interest from American and European investors, as well as Chinese, targeting such countries as Kenya, Nigeria, South Africa, Angola, Tanzania, and Rwanda to name a few. Today, half of the world’s 30 fastest-growing countries are in Africa, which is quickly losing its image of hopelessness and despair. Unfortunately, economic growth, while significant, rarely benefits the impoverished majority, even amid scenes of bustling business taking place from Dakar to Nairobi, and statistics indicating an emerging African middle class of some 150 million – which could quickly rise to 300 million by 2015, barring any ‘black swan’ events. Politically, there is optimism as almost all 55 African countries have some kind of constitution with an active civil society that is contributing to more democratic or pluralistic political engagement. The continent’s two longest lasting internal conflicts (Somalia and Congo) persist; even if at a lower intensity, while two newer ones (Mali, Central African Republic) continue unabated. However, considering that from 1998-2003, the conflict in the Democratic Republic of Congo and its neighbors left some three million dead, the 2,000 registered ‘military’ deaths recorded in 2013 suggests that 2014 could be one of Africa’s most peaceful in recent history." (GeopoliticalMonitor)
"A peacock pranced on the roof of Amshenski Dvor, a restaurant outside the town of Sochi, on Russia’s Black Sea coast. A couple of friends, Yaraslau Zauharodni and Konstantsiya Leschenko, had joined me for a dinner of grilled meat and sweet Caucasian wine. Yaraslau is the chief of the hockey competition for the Winter Olympics. Konstantsiya works for the Olympics, too, in information technology. I had met them both in Minsk, the capital of Belarus, a few years before. Stagnant Belarus is not a place of upward mobility. My friends had new energy now, working for the Olympics. I had to confess a feeling of unease about what may lie in store for Sochi when the Winter Olympics begin, in February. The traffic may be terrible. The power may fail, as it has already done hundreds of times in the last year. There may not be enough snow. Russian president Vladimir Putin’s anti-gay campaign may provoke street attacks, possibly riots. Islamic terrorists may do their worst. So much money has been siphoned into criminal and political enterprises during construction that some structures, badly designed and built, may themselves become a cause of disruption.
Yaraslau and Konstantsiya were having none of it—to me, it looked as if they had bought into the Olympic ideal of international brotherhood. They were wearing cheery blue 'Sochi 2014' Olympic gear. They were enjoying their surroundings. 'We like Sochi,' Konstantsiya said. 'In Soviet times, it was the place to go for a holiday.' Indeed it was, since choices were limited. Sochi had been a seaside resort since the days of the czars, and before the 1990s its sanatoriums were reserved for the Soviet elite. Yaraslau reminded me of an old saying, a proverb from the gambling world: 'If I had known what cards I was going to be dealt, I would be living in Sochi.' We laughed. Sochi is about as far south as one can get in Russia. The city lies on the eastern side of the Black Sea, in the shadow of the Caucasus Mountains, and sprawls along the coast. I think of it as Russia’s Key West, a place apart, though without the carefree appeal. If Russia typically conjures images of birch forests and snowdrifts, Sochi is a place of warm water and palm trees. To be sure, some aspects of the city resemble the Russia of imagination. The city’s moldering landmark hotel, the hulking Zhemchuzhina, or Pearl, is a creaky rat’s warren of rooms done in unrenovated Soviet style. The city itself is easygoing and tolerant; rival ethnic groups from the region’s demographic mixed salad get along without conflict. Yet human perfection is not a concept that comes readily to mind in Sochi’s cafés and hotels, which combine Moscow rates and the kind of service that does not inspire a return trip. In summer, the third-class cabins of overnight trains disgorge their human cargo, and bodies unsuited to skimpy Lycra crowd the beaches, which are made of stones." (VanityFair)