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Tuesday, April 06, 2010

Media-Whore D'Oeuvres



"It’s easy to forget that CNN was once revolutionary. Founded in 1980, back when the idea of watching a channel other than ABC, NBC, or CBS seemed exotic (Fox would not start for another six years; Fox News not till 1996), it was, in terms of cultural impact, the Google of its day. Its gonzo 'fluid news' style, low-cost methods, and disdain for the woolly orthodoxies of traditional TV news- gathering terrified the big three, and attracted their most forward-thinking journos. And the internal contradictions in Turner’s vision (public service versus profit growth) were for years obfuscated by the extraordinary cash-spewing awesomeness of the cable business. By 2000, CNN was making $300 million, causing Jerry Levin, the CEO of Time Warner, to rank CNN alongside Time magazine as the 'crown jewels' of his empire. It’s hard to see the fervor of early CNN in today’s product, with chummy King cozying up to out-of-date celebrities and the resolutely humorless Wolf Blitzer stumbling through banter with Jack Cafferty. As with USA Today, CNN’s best work and workers (Sanjay Gupta, Christiane Amanpour, Fareed Zakaria) strain to break through a stultifying smog of midmarket general-interestness, neither high-toned enough to feed into upmarket affectations nor downmarket enough to be … fun." (Michael Hirschorn/NYMag)



"The RNC scandals are an embarrassment and a distraction for a party that needs to be working on other things, but the scandals are less damaging than the weak leadership at this point. The RNC needs to get its act together. But the scandals aren't, yet, that big of a deal. Unless the hits keep on coming, more scandals, more idiotic behavior, the RNC scandals are the kind of thing that usually fades away. Functionaries and underlings (which is all that you find at either the RNC or the DNC when all is said and done) aren't as interesting as elected officials. The kind of scandal neither party wants right now is a scandal involving serious improprieties by elected officials. The Democrats on balance are more vulnerable to that right now because the party in power is always the object of more suspicion than the opposition. It's easier to look as if you are abusing power when you actually have some power to abuse. A couple more scandals along the Rangel model could put Democrats much more deeply in the hole heading into November. Barring that, problems like those at the RNC simply provide innocent amusement for the rest of us -- if enjoying the spectacle as people's lives and careers flame out and burn because of stupidity and misjudgment is your idea of innocent fun." (Walter Russell Meade/Politico)



"By now you've likely heard all about LCD Soundsystem's James Murphy slamming the Village Voice's Michael Musto in the recently-leaked track 'Pow Pow' (which includes the lyric 'Eat it Michael Musto: you're no Bruce Vilanch'). In response, Musto told the Voice's Zach Baron that Murphy comparing him to comedy writer and former Hollywood Squares regular Vilanch (whom Musto is friends with) doesn't make sense as "we're not in the same racket at all, so it's like saying 'Sandra Bullock can never be Barbara Walters.' He also said he's disappointed Murphy didn't opt for the more "elegant" slight, 'suck it.' Fun stuff, right? We can't help but wonder if all of this possibly started at PAPER's 2009 Nightlife Awards, which was emceed by Musto and included Murphy jumping on stage twice to 'Kanye' winners, shouting that pal Justine D should have won the award for Best DJ. After the second time Murphy got on stage, Musto called him a 'douchebag.'" (Papermag)



"I was going to the book party for Kate Kingsley who has just published her third novel, Pretty On the Outside, A Young, Loaded and Fabulous ... I was there because I know Kate’s mother and father. Her mother and I were in summer stock together in Lake Placid, New York. Afterwards, I knew enough to quit the business entirely and Joan, Kate’s mother, married her father Philip Kingsley who is the most famous trichologist (hair doctor) in the world with offices in London and New York. And who goes to a hair doctor? Movie stars. Male and female. Very famous ... The party was given by Joan Jakobson and and Lorraine Boyle, old friends also of the parents. Kate and her sister Annabel went to grade school here in New York. Kate went to Chapin until the family (Joan’s American, Philip’s British) which had been living here pretty much full time moved back to London. It was a good size crowd with two generations of age ranges which is rarer than you might think in New York. One of the guests was a classmate of Kate’s from Cambridge (UK), Eddie Redmayne. Mr. Redmayne (who looks more like an Eddie than a Mister), as of this morning (although it’s not been a secret), is Broadway’s newest star, starring with Alfred Molina, in 'Red,' a play by John Logan about the artist Mark Rothko. Rex Reed first told me about it last week when I ran into him at the Café Carlyle opening of Leslie Uggams. He said the play was not to be missed, and that Eddie Redmayne was going to be a star ...Norris Mailer came in with her son John Buffaolo Mailer. If you haven’t read Alex Witchel’s profile of Norris in this past Sunday’s New York Times Magazine, look it up and do. It’s just about the best profile I’ve ever read of someone I actually know." (NYSocialDiary)



"Some have seen Barack Obama as shape-shifter, world-class networker, memoirist, savior or putz. In 'The Bridge,' David Remnick, editor of the New Yorker magazine and Pulitzer Prize-winning author of 'Lenin’s Tomb,' examines Obama’s life before the presidency 'and some of the currents that helped to form him' ..In the spring of 1992, he led a highly successful voter- registration drive in Chicago that brought him connections with wealthy Lakefront Liberals, important fund-raising sources. He won a seat in the state senate and lost badly in a congressional race. He was a lousy speaker: 'stentorian, professorial, self-serious -- a cake with no leavening,' Remnick writes. He got better. His dazzling oratorical performance at the Democratic convention in 2004, along with imploding rivals, eased Obama’s way into a Senate seat. There he was bored. ‘The job was too small for him,’ explains a helpful aide quoted by Remnick ... Remnick avoids hagiography. He’s keenly familiar with the cult of personality and its perils. His Obama benefits as much from uncommon gifts, hard work and lucky breaks as he does from the missteps and misfortunes of adversaries. Obama gained most, perhaps, from the extent to which the country had grown desperate for a glimpse of eloquence, intelligence and clarity after years of George W. Bush -- whom Remnick delights in denigrating as 'a national and personal embarrassment -- an incurious, rash, flippant, pampered, dishonest leader' ... What Remnick brings to a complex story are the tools of an exceptional reporter: persistence, curiosity, insight. He weaves in hours of on-the-record interviews with schoolmates, teachers, mentors, advisers and scholars. In one, Obama’s University of Chicago Law School colleague Geoffrey Stone, out of frustration, calls Obama a 'putz' for choosing politics over a career as a law professor. ‘What a waste,’ Remnick quotes him saying." (Bloomberg)



"Brat Packer Andrew McCarthy, who played the role of Clay in the movie of Bret Easton Ellis' novel 'Less Than Zero,' has signed to reprise the part for the audio version of Ellis' forthcoming 'Zero' sequel, 'Imperial Bedrooms.' The new book, out in June, focuses on the characters from 'Zero' approaching middle age. A source mused, 'McCarthy is already on board to play Clay on the audio version -- could this mean a movie sequel is also in the works?'" (PageSix)



"MSNBC's David Shuster has been suspended from MSNBC 'indefinitely' according to a spokesperson. The action was taken this morning by MSNBC president Phil Griffin after it was revealed that Shuster had taken part in a pilot for CNN. Shuster's MSNBC contract expires in December. Over the weekend, an MSNBC executive told TVNewser's Gail Shister, anything less than a suspension 'sends a message from management that this is OK.'" (TVNewser)



"Is the study of classical history pointless? What useful knowledge will I glean from reading about some dead Roman governor of Britain? How will studying what the Delphic oracle had to say about the Persian advance into Greece help me in my future job at the State Department? I hear such questions often in my seminar on Thucydides and other classical writers, which I teach at Johns Hopkins University's School of Advanced International Studies in Washington. My students -- future policymakers, pundits, and managers -- approach the class with a good dose of skepticism about the value (aside from mere amusement) of reading about ancient times. Thucydides's history of the Peloponnesian War -- in particular the Melian Dialogue, a quintessential tale of the small, neutral Melians defending themselves against the strong Athenians -- is relatively common reading among budding wonks. But Tacitus, Herodotus, Julius Caesar, Plutarch? Most students favor the latest tome on the rise of China over the insights of these long-dead writers. My students' predilections reflect a wider skepticism about the present-day relevance of old texts. For modern academics and policy analysts, ancient authors are guilty of adopting an unscientific approach, relying on anecdotes, and showing a primitive fear of natural events." (ForeignPolicy)



"That famed photog rapher Harry Benson will be shooting the American Museum of Natural History leader ship chairs, in cluding Emilia Fanjul Pfeifler, Zibby Right, Veronica Webb, Emmy Rossum and Ivanka Trump for the next issue of Q magazine -- the fashion spinoff of Quest -- ahead of the Spring Safari Gala sponsored by Lilly Pulitzer on April 15." (PageSix)

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