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Thursday, January 28, 2010

Media-Whore D'Oeuvres



"He did just fine. But the hard part is still to come. Barack Obama’s sober, serious State of the Union speech did not explain how—or whether—he will get the Senate health-care bill through the balky House of Representatives. Perhaps that’s appropriate. After all, it’s really for his listeners in the House chamber to figure that one out. But in saying, 'I don’t quit,' Obama made it clear he’s not giving up—on health care, or much of anything else, even if his oratory has re-tooled his once-sweeping agenda into a series of more modest-sounding goals. Tax cuts. Infrastructure improvements. New investments in offshore oil drilling and nuclear power. The speech was, in the end, very much the laundry list that such efforts usually are, an attempt to offer a little something to practically everybody. As I listened to the post-speech cable chatter, I realized how Obama can’t seem to win for losing these days. Having set up the speech as a vital chance to connect with Americans on the economy, pundits complained that Obama didn’t get to health care until halfway through it. Obama did his best to sound angry at the situation he inherited, saying he knew everyone hated the bank bailout and acknowledging that he hated it, too. But, as usual, he sounded most persuasive when he was coolly rational, as he was in pledging to work to end the military’s 'Don’t ask, don’t tell policy,' an issue that many of his liberal supporters believe he’s conveniently ignored in his first year." (Todd Purdham/Vanity Fair)



"Going into the State of the Union, it was easy to expect a speech steeped in populism. The consensus was that the White House had misjudged the country's anger over bailouts and unemployment, all of which boiled over in Massachusetts. And so, beginning last Wednesday, Obama went out of his way to channel that anger at Wall Street. 'We're about to get into a big fight with the banks,' the president told George Stephanopoulos the day after the Kennedy seat went Republican. Close observers of the White House only affirmed this impression, noting the re-emergence of Obama's chief counselor, David Axelrod. Axelrod is known within the administration as a champion of the little guy and an enemy to overdogs. According to recent reports, he helped persuade Obama to pursue the latest round of tough-minded Wall Street reforms. But whatever his economic worldview, Axelrod is first and foremost the chief curator of the Obama brand. Alongside the president himself, he is the man most responsible for the persistent hope-mongering of 2008. Which is why, in retrospect, Axelrod's tighter grip on the reins didn't foreshadow an embrace of class-consciousness. It foreshadowed a return to the themes of the Obama campaign." (Noam Scheiber/TNR)



"Joan Rivers has joked that she hates the Sundance Film Festival because she can't get any decent freebies. The comedian, who is attending the Utah festival in support of the documentary Joan Rivers: A Piece Of Work, said it was a problem getting into the famous gifting booths on site. She laughed: 'I really hate it, I can't get to the gifting booths - we barrely made our way into one of them.' She went on: 'There was nothing left but extra-larges. So, I'm very bitter about Sundance, if you want the truth.'" (UKPA via Google)



"Former U.S. President Bill Clinton said the World Economic Forum will work to provide information to increase private-sector investment in Haiti. Addressing the WEF annual meeting here, Clinton gave business leaders an update of conditions in the earthquake-ravaged nation. Serious food, water and shelter needs remain in Haiti, he said. The airport has become the de facto operations center of the relief effort. About 100 planes land daily, about 10 times as many as before the earthquake. Safe and sanitary shelters are needed, and more food and water has to be distributed, Clinton said. 'We have to get temporary schools opened' and Haitian students back in school, he said. More food distribution points are needed and the only way to do this is via trucks, Clinton said. There are only about 15 food distribution sites now in Haiti. Clinton said more than 100 sites are needed. 'If anyone here knows where I can get pickup trucks or slightly bigger (trucks), I need 100 yesterday,' Clinton said." (WSJ)



"Because there was never a conversation between us, I have no distinct feeling of his personality or the man. But the photograph that Jill Krementz lent for our use on this page tells us many things about him – from his friend dressed for the party, Brooke Astor, to the expression on his face as he listens to her. Is he is looking at her subject? Is he evaluating a scene as she shares a thought or remark, or is he ignoring and watching a moment unfold? Or checking someone out? Louis? Whatever it was, you know Louis Auchincloss noticed it, registered it, saw it. That was the man. That was his gift, to all of us." (NYSocialDiary)



"Tiger Woods' alleged call-girl Loredana Jolie says the disgraced golfer is such a freak in bed, his stint in a rehab for sex addiction probably won't cure him. 'He would engage in sex from 9 p.m. until the sun came up the next morning. But he wasn't a healthy guy. He couldn't sleep and would stay up all night. I am not really sure rehab for sex addiction will help him,' Jolie told Page Six yesterday. Jolie -- who initially claimed to The Post she never slept with Tiger, then declared she wanted $1 million for her story about their alleged sex -- is now shopping a tell-all book to publishers." (PageSix)



"It's been a long time since Katie Holmes has had a lead film role, let alone a noteworthy one. She last appeared on the big screen as a co-lead in the critically eviscerated 'Mad Money' two years ago, and before that had a respectable but small supporting part in the cigarette-lobby satire 'Thank You for Smoking,' a movie that began shooting exactly five years ago and came to Sundance four years back. Which makes it all the more striking that she's back at the festival this year with not one but two films, the Kevin Kline-Paul Dano vehicle 'The Extra Man' and the blue-blood dramedy 'The Romantics.' It's the latter film in which she does her most, and best, work in a long time, earning her the right to a second look from anyone who's written her off as so much tabloid fodder. 'Romantics' examines a group of seven longtime friends somewhere past the carefree part of their 20s but not quite at the point of actual responsibility. All of them gather for a wedding of two of their own -- a monied, uptight woman named Lila (Anna Paquin) who's marrying Tom (Josh Duhamel, a great catch to the women in the film but boringly milquetoast to those of us sitting in the audience watching it), having essentially grabbed him from under the nose of Holmes' Laura. Now they're at this wedding, and old grudges and desires flare up, particularly for Laura, who alternates between spurning Tom and opening herself up to him again." (LATimes)



"It has been an extraordinarily good season for jazz books. Terry Teachout’s Pops: A Life of Louis Armstrong and Robin Kelley’s Thelonious Monk: The Life and Times of an American Original provide insightful biography; Jazz by Gary Giddins and Scott DeVeaux is an authoritative primer. Adding to the canon are three other, equally necessary books, which use photography and album covers to provide an intriguing perspective: The Jazz Loft Project The Prestige Records Album Cover Collection and Freedom Rhythm and Sound: Revolutionary Jazz and Original Cover Art 1965-83 trace the development of jazz from an implicitly defiant music to an explicitly rebellious soundtrack of the changing times. In addition to capturing the magic in the music, presentations of jazz visuals have often carried the corrective undertow—an argument that this was great music that wasn’t given its due." (TheRoot)



"Speaking of Anderson Cooper! He’s traveled the world for CNN, reporting from tsunami-ravaged coast lines to Middle Eastern war zones and seemingly every hellish place in between. But on the night of Jan. 22, American TV viewers saw the peripatetic anchor pop up in a previously unimaginable territory—namely, MSNBC ... One of the Newtonian laws of television journalism is that anchors never willingly preempt their own airtime. But according to sources, it was Keith Olbermann and Rachel Maddow who led the charge, despite the fact that the event with Mr. Cooper and company would push them out of prime time. Mr. Griffin soon agreed to put on the telethon. However, there was one problem. MSNBC didn’t have the rights to air it. In the subsequent scramble to secure the rights from MTV Networks, which was coordinating the production of the event, Mr. Griffin picked up the phone to enlist the help of a longtime acquaintance with some sway in the telethon—Anderson Cooper’s boss, Jim Walton, with whom Mr. Griffin had worked in the early, primordial days of CNN." (Observer)



"The invitation for Riccardo Tisci's Givenchy after-party at the Ritz hotel last night promised an 'intimate' affair. And—how's this for novelty?—intimate actually turned out to be an apt description of the buffet dinner for 50. Joining the likes of Francesco Vezzoli, Natalia Vodianova, and Kanye West were Tisci's personal trainer, his best friend from childhood, assorted family members, and his fashion show hair and makeup teams. 'He is just the sweetest man in the world,' effused Ciara, who first collaborated with Tisci when she was his date at Fashion Rocks in Rio last October. 'In fact, he's so sweet, I'd bet he's even going to let me take these pants home with me.'" (Style)



"Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva cancelled plans to attend the World Economic Forum’s annual meeting in Davos, Switzerland after being hospitalized for high blood pressure. Lula’s physician, Cleber Ferreira, said that two separate medical exams on the 64-year-old president by doctors at a hospital in the northeastern city of Recife came back normal, according to a posting on the presidential palace’s blog. 'He just had a small indisposition having to do with his very heavy agenda,' Foreign Minister Celso Amorim told Bloomberg Television in Davos today. 'He walked to the hospital and he came out walking. He’s fine, he’s absolutely fine.' Brazil’s Globo TV showed a smiling Lula leaving the hospital in Recife accompanied by Cabinet Chief Dilma Rousseff. The network said he was traveling to his home in Sao Bernardo do Campo to rest." (Bloomberg)



"There's something fabulously democratic about Jean Paul Gaultier's haute couture--it looks great, sexy, and appropriate on women of all ages. These days, he is Paris' consummate veteran couturier, now that Christian Lacroix is not showing. A sea of black-suited, bold-face-named fashion folk including Karla Otto, Glenda Bailey, Lucinda Chambers, the perpetually mantilla'd Diane Pernet and a fur-clad and not-wearing-black-naturally Anna Wintour (followed by a very aggressive bodyguard who almost knocked over Carine Roitfeld) filled the front row. Collectively, Inès de la Fressange, Vincent Perez and the flawless Dita von Teese caused a paparazzi storm." (Fashionweekdaily)



"Since Paul Volcker stood by Barack Obama a week ago as the US president unveiled banking reforms devised by 'this tall guy,' the 'Volcker rule' has provoked angst on Wall Street and in Washington. Critics complain that it is a populist measure designed to distract attention from the Democrats’ political woes; that it is impractical; that it would put US banks at a disadvantage to European ones; that its target is wrong; and that it would let investment banks escape. Some of these objections, particularly the last, have weight, yet the Volcker rule – that deposit-taking banks would not be able to engage in proprietary trading, or to own hedge funds or private equity firms – is the first time any government has proposed a sensible structural remedy for the problems created by bailing out banks in 2008. For that reason, I welcome the conversion of the US president to splitting up banks rather than letting them remain too big to fail and relying on tough regulation, higher capital charges and mechanisms for winding them down if they get into trouble. For the first time, a government is directly attacking the size and complexity of over-mighty institutions. My colleague Martin Wolf raised a number of difficulties with the Volcker plan this week, and it does indeed, as he put it, need 'more work.' But it would be a great shame if – as Wall Street hopes – it runs into the sand on Capitol Hill in the same way as healthcare reform." (John Gapper/FT)



"Decided against the Bill Clinton event last night -- primarily in the interests of sleep. Due apologies. He's scheduled at a Coca Cola reception tonight, so I'll probably catch him there. I did spend some quality time with Andrew Ross Sorkin. We were typing away on dueling computers, both generally unaware of each other ... until I finished up and looked over to my left. Lovely fellow. Surprisingly unselfpossessed given the extraordinary success of his recent book, Too Big to Fail ... Andrew said his view on writing the book was akin to Tarantino directing a movie -- he wants everyone coming away believing they've read a different story. Interesting, clever, probably not my take ... From my perspective, the thing Andrew got truly on the money, as it were, was his sense of humanity around all the major bankers (I think the public sector folks got a bit of a rougher ride). In 30 years, presuming a conversion, I suspect I'd like Andrew to be my rabbi. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the subjects disagreed. I didn't discuss the book with Merrill Lynch's ex CEO, John Thain, but I know him well ... and thought quite well of the portrayal. Not John's view, says Andrew. Same on Lehman's Dick Fuld -- and his annoyance with the book I've already heard from Dick's old friends." (Ian Bremer/ ForeignPolicy)



"It’s been a slow death, but Miramax dies on Thursday. The New York and Los Angeles offices of the arthouse movie studio owned by Disney will close. Eighty people will lose their jobs. The six movies waiting distribution -- 'Last Night,' 'The Debt,' 'The Tempest' among them -- will be shelved, to gather dust, or win a tepid release. It’s not clear that anyone at the studio will care. But a lot of other people around the movie business mourned the impending loss of a label that once set the bar for taste and artistry. Over 31 years, the movie company that for most of its existence was led by founders Harvey and Bob Weinstein brought the public enduring stories that plumbed the depths of human emotion ('My Left Foot') and pushed the boundaries of cultural barriers ('Reservoir Dogs'). When we think of the movies that defined the latter part of the 20th century -- the movies that mattered, that stories that hit pop culture like a hammer and left a dent -- more often than not they came from Miramax." (Sharon Waxman/TheWrap)

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