Putin’s shawl chivalry gets blanket coverage from Western media, Chinese censors

Russia's President Vladimir Putin (R) helps put a blanket on Peng Liyuan (2nd R), wife of China's President Xi Jinping at National Aquatics Center, or Water Cube, in Beijing, November 10, 2014. (Reuters/Stringer)

Russia’s President Vladimir Putin (R) helps put a blanket on Peng Liyuan (2nd R), wife of China’s President Xi Jinping at National Aquatics Center, or Water Cube, in Beijing, November 10, 2014. (Reuters/Stringer)

An apparently innocuous gesture from Vladimir Putin, who put a shawl around the shoulders of China’s First Lady Peng Liyuan during a fireworks display, has attracted accusations of being Russia’s “Don-Juan-in-Chief” from Western media.

The Russian president followed his country’s cold-weather etiquette, when he offered what appeared to be a shawl or blanket to Chinese Premier Xi Jinping’s wife during a chilly outdoor fireworks display at the APEC summit in Beijing. The camera caught the former renowned folk singer courteously accepting the offer, before exchanging the shawl for a coat handed to her by an assistant. Meanwhile, Xi sat a few meters away, talking animatedly to Barack Obama.

Monday’s momentary humanizing episode might have passed without mention, but the image proved a boon for journalists possibly bored with the intricacies of Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation.

“’Putin’ On the Moves: Vlad Cozies Up to China’s First Lady,” screamed NBC.

“Putin Hits on China’s First Lady,” asserted US magazine Foreign Policy. “Russia’s Don Juan-in-chief just got a little too friendly with Xi Jinping’s wife.”

“The first unspoken rule of diplomacy might be “Don’t hit on the president’s wife,” but Russia’s newly single president Vladimir Putin seems to have missed the memo,” it continued.

 

 

 

 

Vladimir Putin divorced Lyudmila, his wife of 30 years, last year. The couple were said to have been separated for some time.

Several outlets went with the obvious ‘Coatgate’ concept.

Chinese audiences, to whom Xi and Peng are always depicted as a dream power couple, have not had a chance to savor the gossip.

Locals were able to see the moment live on national broadcaster CCTV, with the commentator noting the incident, which also sparked a hash tag on Chinese social networks.

Yet a few hours later, all mention of the incident were erased, and the videos taken down, presumably by one of China’s thousands-strong team of censors.

“China is traditionally conservative on public interaction between unrelated men and women, and the public show of consideration by Putin may provide fodder for jokes, which the big boss probably does not like,” commentator Zhang Lifan told the Guardian.

 

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This is not the first time Vladimir Putin’s manners have landed him in a mini-storm. A similar gesture last year, when Putin offered a shawl to German Chancellor Angela Merkel during the G-20 summit in St. Petersburg, provoked many of the same kind of comments.

 

Europe may become irrelevant due to short-sighted policies – Gorbachev

Former President of the Soviet Union Mikhail Gorbachev attends a symposium on security in Europe 25 years after the fall of the "Wall" in Berlin on November 8, 2014 (AFP Photo / Odd Andersen)

Former President of the Soviet Union Mikhail Gorbachev attends a symposium on security in Europe 25 years after the fall of the “Wall” in Berlin on November 8, 2014 (AFP Photo / Odd Andersen)

Western policies toward Russia championed by Washington have led to the current crisis, and if the confrontation continues, Europe will be weakened and become irrelevant, former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev warns.

Speaking to a forum in Berlin amid the celebration of the 25th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, he called on western leaders to de-escalate tensions and meet Russia halfway to mend the current rift.

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‘World on brink of new Cold War, some say it’s already begun’ – Gorbachev in Berlin (FULL SPEECH)

After the Cold War ended, the leaders of the western world were intoxicated with euphoria of triumph, and they adopted anti-Russian policies that eventually led to the current crisis, Gorbachev said.

“Taking advantage of Russia’s weakening and a lack of a counterweight, they claimed monopoly leadership and domination in the world. And they refused to heed the word of caution from many of those present here,” he said. “The events of the past months are consequences of short-sighted policies of seeking to impose one’s will and fait accompli while ignoring the interests of one’s partners.”

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Gorbachev gave a list of examples of those policies, including the expansion of NATO and the development of an anti-ballistic missile system, military interventions in Yugoslavia and Iraq, the west-backed secession of Kosovo, the crisis in Syria and others. The Ukrainian crisis is a “blister turning into a bleeding, festering wound,” he said.

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Europe is the one suffering most from the situation, Gorbachev said.

“Instead of becoming a leader of change in a global world Europe has turned into an arena of political upheaval, of competition for the spheres of influence, and finally of military conflict. The consequence inevitably is Europe’s weakening at a time when other centers of power and influence are gaining momentum. If this continues, Europe will lose a strong voice in world affairs and gradually become irrelevant,” he said.

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What needs to be done is for the west to tone down its anti-Russian rhetoric and seek points of convergence, Gorbachev said. He added that his own experience in the 1980s showed that much worse and seemingly hopeless conflicts can be resolved, granted there is the political will and a right setting of priorities. He assured the forum that the Russian leadership was willing to do its part, as evidenced by President Vladimir Putin’s keynote speech at the Valdai Forum.

“Despite the harshness of his criticism of the West and the United States in particular, I see in his speech a desire to find a way to lower tensions, and ultimately to build a new basis for partnership,” Gorbachev said.

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Ukraine may have set the scene for the current confrontation, but it can also become a focus for reconciliation between Russia and the West, according to Gorbachev. He called for the parties to join forces and help Ukraine overcome the consequences of the civil war it is currently going through.

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Over the longer term, the system of European security must be reformed, because the enlargement of NATO and the current EU common defense policy have failed to produce positive results, Gorbachev said. This would likely require an overhaul of the OSCE, which in its current format is not up to the task, he said, while proposals to that effect have been voiced by policymakers both in the EU and in Russia, but they had been “filed away in the archives.”

“Had such a mechanism been created, the worst scenarios of the Ukrainian events could have been averted.”

Kissinger warns of West’s ‘fatal mistake’ that may lead to new Cold War

 Former U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger (Reuters / Gero Breloer / Pool)


Former U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger (Reuters / Gero Breloer / Pool)

Former US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger has given a chilling assessment of a new geopolitical situation taking shape amid the Ukrainian crisis, warning of a possible new Cold War and calling the West’s approach to the crisis a “fatal mistake.”

The 91-year-old diplomat characterized the tense relations as exhibiting the danger of “another Cold War.”

“This danger does exist and we can’t ignore it,” Kissinger said. He warned that ignoring this danger any further may result in a “tragedy,” he told Germany’s Der Spiegel.

If the West wants to be “honest,” it should recognize, that it made a “mistake,” he said of the course of action the US and the EU adopted in the Ukrainian conflict. Europe and the US did not understand the “significance of events” that started with the Ukraine-EU economic negotiations that initially brought about the demonstrations in Kiev last year. Those tensions should have served as a starting point to include Russia in the discussion, he believes.

U.S. President Barack Obama (L) meets with Russian President Vladimir Putin (Reuters / Kevin Lamarque)

U.S. President Barack Obama (L) meets with Russian President Vladimir Putin (Reuters / Kevin Lamarque)

“At the same time, I do not want to say that the Russian response was proportionate,” the Cold War veteran added, saying that Ukraine has always had a “special significance” for Russia and failure to understand that “was a fatal mistake.”

Calling the sanctions against Moscow “counterproductive,” the diplomat said that they set a dangerous precedent. Such actions, he believes, may result in other big states trying to take “protective measures” and strictly regulate their own markets in future.

When introducing some sanctions or publishing lists of people whose accounts were frozen one should wonder “what will happen next?” the former Secretary of State said rhetorically, because when something begins you cannot lose sight of where it is going to end.

Kissinger also said he would expect more action from Berlin on matter. As the most “important” country in Europe it should be more “proactive” rather than reactive, he said.

 

 

Sonic Youth’s Thurston Moore: Moving on from the Chaos

 

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Sonic Youth’s Thurston Moore

 

Thurston Moore is starstruck.

“I don’t even know what I’d say,” he admits with a shrug. Moore’s girlfriend, Eva Prinz, encourages him to introduce himself to Diane di Prima anyway, but another audience member steps in front of him just as he turns around. Moore recoils. “I got usurped.”

The 80-year-old woman we’ve come to see is a beat poet, known for her striking poetic voice and her personal recollections of her friends and their relationships during the 1960s in San Francisco.

We’re in the lower level auditorium of the San Francisco Public Library — a bright, illustrious cultural hub in one of the city’s most blighted neighborhoods — where di Prima has been commissioned by City Lights bookstore to recite some of her recent work.

We listen to her read through some of her poems for an hour. Even in her old age, she’s irreverent and witty, like Moore.

“Live close to the edge and love it,” di Prima recites. She looks right at him when she says it. Moore shifts in his seat.

After the show, Moore is still nervous about approaching her. “Thurston, here’s your chance,” Prinz whispers. He hesitates for a second. Before he scuttles away, Moore wants to be sure Prinz autographs his copy of her recent collection, The Poetry Deal. di Prima is something of a legend in poetry circles. The San Francisco Poet Laureate has made a career of speaking candidly about personal love, loss, and coping with the changing world. She is an artist who enunciates principles of verity, faith, introspection, and artfulness.

Despite Moore’s apprehension in speaking to di Prima, he has undoubtedly gotten used to his own fame by now, or at least the attention, instead searching for solace between stanzas of poetry.

“My interest in literature was always concurrent with my interest in music from a very young age anyway, so it wasn’t a radical jump,” Moore tells me after the reading. “I think when I got more interested in the history of it — and people like Diane di Prima — I started collecting poetry books like I collected records.”

But his interest in poetry is far from casual. Moore not only teaches a poetry workshop at the Allen Ginsberg-founded Naropa Institute in Boulder, Colorado; it is his modus vivendi for inspiration across all his creative endeavors. “[Poetry] is either academic, or it’s really personal. I like the balance of the two. Sonic Youth was kind of like that — we had these academic ideas about playing music, but we also had these kind of unorthodox personal things. That had no real precedence before us, so it was kind of exciting in that way.”

That openness to setting the precedent has followed him everywhere for decades: through dozens of records and side projects, during a lifetime of live shows, in and out of marriage, and after it ended, facing backlash from the press.

Following last year’s announcement of his separation from longtime wife Kim Gordon and the subsequent dissolution of Sonic Youth, Moore faced media hellfire. He all but confessed to seeing Eva Prinz for years before he and Gordon called it quits, and his actions did not go unnoticed. Following Gordon’s infamous claim that Moore was “carrying on this whole double life with her … like a lost soul,” his personal life drew endless side-glances from the likes of Elle, Brooklyn Magazine, Flavorwire, and Jezebel, who penned the aggressive “Thurston Moore Confirms He’s a Dick”. To Moore, the world might have looked mighty dark, indeed, were it not for Prinz.

Sonic Youth

Sonic Youth

Earlier this year, Moore spoke out on his relationship with Gordon through the now defunct UK magazine The Fly. “I’m involved in a really sweet relationship and it really does make me happy, it truly does,” he said. “But I’ll always have that experience of sadness that a separation brings, especially one that was as important, not just to me but everybody around us.”

The fallout with Gordon was not without casualties or distress. “It’s humiliating. It affects people close to me in certain ways – my family, the woman I’m in love with,” he told The Guardian this week. “It can be really degrading, and I try to be philosophical about it.”

And he is very philosophical. At the poetry reading tonight in San Francisco, Prinz is young and chic, dressed in all black and gray. She is genuine and polite as you might expect an art book editor to be. She is friendly and accommodating, as you might expect a man like Thurston Moore’s girlfriend to be. She is also a fan of di Prima’s and took note of the unlikely relationship between the poet and her ex-husband, fellow beat poet Alan Marlowe. “They were so independent,” she says. “It’s hard to picture them together.”

Ironically, you can draw many parallels between the relationships of di Prima and Marlowe and of Kim Gordon and Moore. Both helped breed the other for success, and in the case of Gordon and Moore, they cemented their respective places in rock history by perpetually outdoing each other in and out of Sonic Youth.

Nevertheless, it was time to move on, and one way Moore did so was by using a life outlook and poetic direction like di Prima’s as a model for his writing on The Best Day.

“It has a certain sense of liveliness or humor to it, and there’s certainly a craft involved,” he says. “It’s trying to extol ideas of virtue — acceptance of existences and things like that. In a way, she’s sort of exemplary for me in the lyric writing that I do right now for a record like The Best Day.”

Thurston Moore – “The Best Day”

 
 

 
 

Band Members: Thurston Moore, James Sedwards, Debbie Googe and Steve Shelley

 

And The Best Day is very lively. The record’s aesthetic, inspired by a photo Moore found of his mother on a serene trip to a nearby lake (which now serves as the album’s cover art), is a bit unlike his previous solo efforts, though it actually didn’t start out that way.

“In a way, [the photo] was sort of the catalyst for what I wanted the focus of the record to be. It was personal, it was intimate, it was familial, and it denoted this quality of being in a place of safety and serenity with a sense of calm to it.”

Initially, the album was to be called Detonation, based on one of the record’s tracks about political unrest in London in the 1970s brought on by radical poets and writers. “In those days, there was a lot of energy around retaliation, but it wasn’t about hurting people but rather about hurting things like buildings and systems.” Moore tapped transgender poet Radiux Radio, an unpublished, underground London poet (and neighbor of Moore) to author a few songs, including “Detonation”. However, when the album began to wrap up, he opted for a softer album feel.

“I wanted the record to be this potpourri — this wild kind of grab bag of everything. I was going to call it Detonation because I wanted it to have this energy that was kind of explosive, but I wasn’t really that sold on that idea.”

Thurston Moore Band – Detonation

 
 

 
 
 

Published on Aug 15, 2014

Cafe OTO – August 14th 2014  –  Thurston Moore – Guitar/Vocals

 

Recording with Sonic Youth’s Steve Shelley, Deb Googe of My Bloody Valentine, and James Sedwards, an English guitarist, guided the album towards a more serene energy. “Hearing what it sounded like then, I was so excited by it. I just thought, ‘That’s what I want this record to be.’”

Moore even took the opportunity to revisit the punk uppercut “Germs Burn”, formerly a B-side to January’s 7” “Detonation”, which was originally meant to be more of a meeting of rough and euphonic elements. “It’s a weird song because it’s these things rubbing against each other. There’s a lot of friction in that song. There are these melodious lines and also that punk rock energy, just trying to meet in a weird way.”

Other elements emerge on the record as well. The album contemplates a primal energy in lyrics for tracks like “Speak to the Wild” and “Forevermore”, though it wasn’t necessarily a deliberate theme. “I noticed that there were some animal references going on in the record, and why that is I don’t know,” Moore says. “I think I got into the idea of animals being representational of a life force … I find them replete with poetry.”

It’s a theme that rears its head periodically during the album. In “Forevermore”, there are “animals that will adore you”; Speak to the Wild” is something of a warning against barbaric forces; and the Jazzmaster’s intro to “Vocabularies” even sounds a bit like bird sounds.


 
 

Thurston Moore – Forever more (live at Pukkelpop 2014)

 
 

 
 

“Usually when I write, I just start writing, and I let it come to life for me. Whatever internalized state or emotional ideas I have is coming through in the language. I’ll refine it as soon as I see what’s happening.”

For The Best Day, it seems that some of those emotional ideas stemmed a bit from the urge to draw that serenity from chaos. “A lot of the times, I’ll see there’s a lot of these kinds of really personal truths that happen, and I think that’s the magic in writing. In music, you can be more anarchistic, more messy with it and then reign it back in because it just evaporates — because it’s sound. It just disappears. It’s ephemeral.”

Moore has come a long way (in many aspects of the phrase) from his time with Sonic Youth, but particularly with his writing. At the Naropa Institute, he can devote considerable work towards thinking about the impetuses for his writing. “In a way, it has become more interesting to me now, where I feel like I can sit down and look at the work I did with Sonic Youth, which was very collaborative, as well as my own process within that collaboration as a democracy,” he says. “I feel like I can write about [all of it] as an experience and talk about it now.”

These days, finding serenity seems to be the most important thing to Moore, and The Best Day appears to be his avenue to peace.

Later that night, Moore addresses the crowd at the Great American Music Hall, recounting the reading we watched at the Library. “Diane di Prima is a very important poet in my life, and she had a lot to do with the thoughts for the positive, forward, and bright sounds that went into this record. I’m dedicating the next song, ‘The Best Day’, to her.”

But despite the reigned-in nature of The Best Day and of the prologue before his dedication, Moore can’t help but fall into a dissonant wormhole during his live show. Chaos is in his nature. He might long for serenity, but that’s not really what suits him best.

“Live close to the edge and love it,” as di Prima says. Peace and euphony, in both life and in music, doesn’t come easily after all.

Kindness shares video for Robyn-aided “Who Do You Love?”, announces US tour dates

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UK singer Adam Bainbridge, aka Kindness, returns today with a video for his Robyn collaboration, “Who Do You Love?”. Directed by Daniel Brereton, it features portraits of both singers’ family and friends. Explained Bainbridge, “This video and this song is about people and connection, and how you can identify who you are by those you love. Those people say a hell of a lot about you.”

Additionally, Kindness has announced the first batch of 2015 tour dates in support of his recently released sophomore album, Otherness. The itinerary includes a few dates in February, but really picks up in March, with additional shows still to be announced. Watch the video and see the current tour schedule below.

Kindness – Who Do You Love feat. Robyn

 

 

 

Kindness 2015 Tour Dates:
01/16 – London, UK @ Electric Brixton
02/25 – Los Angeles, CA @ El Rey
02/28 – San Francisco, CA @ Mezzanine
03/05 – Portland, OR @ Doug Fir
03/06 – Seattle, WA @ Neumos
03/07 – Vancouver, BC @ The Biltmore Cabaret
03/08 – Calgary, AB @ Commonwealth
03/10 – Minneapolis, MN @ Triple Rock
03/11 ­– Chicago, IL @ Lincoln Hall
03/13 – Toronto, ON @ Wrongbar
03/14 – New York, NY @ Bowery Ballroom
03/15 – Brooklyn, NY @ Rough Trade
03/18 – Cambridge, MA @ The Sinclair
03/19 – Washington, DC @ U Street Music Hall

Pink Floyd – The Endless River

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The Endless River – Pink Floyd

 

The Endless River is a very difficult project to pin down. This “final album” from Pink Floyd was made by compiling over 20 hours of unused sessions from the development of their 1994 record, The Division Bell. They’d toyed with the idea of releasing The Division Bell as a double album, one disc of traditional songs and one of ambient instrumentals, but the concept was shelved. Now, 20 years later, several years after the death of keyboardist Richard Wright, they’ve melded those sessions together along with other archived audio and some new takes to create what’s been branded as the band’s swan song. However, the success of The Endless River as an “album” is evasive.The record is largely instrumental and is divided into four distinct (though unlabeled) movements — each occupying an album side on the vinyl release. Of the 18 tracks, only the final song has lyrics. The music is beautiful and distinctly Floydian, but it’s also extremely derivative of many tracks from The Division Bell, as well as earlier Pink Floyd songs. These tracks aren’t just familiar, but contain presumably intentional and very noticeable echoes. For these reasons, The Endless River is a hard sell as a “new album”; instead, it could be called the world’s most lavishly appointed collection of outtakes.As a whole, The Endless River is a very evocative collection of music. Though it aligns itself with the smoother side of Pink Floyd rather than the ferocious snarl of “One of These Days” or anything from Animals, its moods explore a diverse and exciting terrain. But, as part of the greater whole of Floyd records, it’s an oddity, more relevant for its context in the band’s history than the music. The prevalence of cues from Division Bell suggests that The Endless River is made up of improvised work that developed into the previous record’s songs. The nods to earlier records like Meddle and A Saucerful of Secrets could be explained as the band dabbling in older tracks with an inevitable tour on the horizon. Deleted lines from Stephen Hawking’s “Keep Talking” monologue only serve to hammer home that you’re listening to Division Bell‘s cutting room floor.This is an undeniably fantastic presentation for this previously unreleased music: Making it a standalone release rather than a bonus disc for The Division Bell Deluxe Box was the right call. But, as a final offering from one of the greatest rock acts in history, The Endless River serves as a fair basis for the question of what exactly constitutes an “album.”

The simple answer is intent. When Gilmour and Mason went about putting this work together, it was done as a conscious final statement from the players who devised the core sound of Pink Floyd. It’s also to some degree a love letter to their dearly departed friend, whose work was largely underplayed for most of the band’s later records.

Roger Waters’ songwriting and creative direction were essential to Pink Floyd’s identity during the height of their career, but the sound of Pink Floyd was never his alone. Just as Tony Banks and Mike Rutherford are Genesis regardless of who’s fronting the band, or just as David Byrne doesn’t sound exactly like Talking Heads without Weymouth, Frantz, and Harrison, the memorable and defining music of Pink Floyd was always chiefly in the hands of Gilmour, Wright, and Mason. The Endless River sees the band doing what they’ve always done best: making jazzy and contemplative rock music.

It’s an odd thing for this album to come 20 years after most of it was recorded, but that doesn’t seem to be of much consequence to Gilmour and Mason. In recent interviews, the band’s two remaining members speak of the project as if, for the first time in a long time, some tremendous weight has been lifted. In fact, the intent of The Endless River is made plain with their closing manifesto, “Louder Than Words”. The lyrics are without a doubt some of the weakest ever to find their way onto a Pink Floyd album. However, the statement of “Louder Than Words” is a poignant one — about friendship, ego, songwriting, and perhaps even public perception as to “which one’s Pink?”

The redemption of this recycled music is in the hands of the fans. For everyone who looks at post-Waters Floyd as glorified Gilmour solo albums, these instrumentals could be what you’ve been waiting for since 1983. For fans of Division Bell, it’s at the very least a killer bonus disc. In the tapestry of Pink Floyd, The Endless River doesn’t end on as powerful a musical statement as Division Bell‘s “High Hopes”, but it does end on a profoundly more personal note for a band that’s taken us on 50 years of incredible sonic journeys.

Essential Tracks: “Allons-Y (1)”, “Autumn ’68”, and “Eyes to Pearls”