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Thursday, May 27, 2010

Media-Whore d'Oeuvres



"Whether (Treasury Secretary Tim) Geithner can close a deal on the Chinese currency, which for nearly two years has been pegged at a rate of 6.83 yuan to the dollar, remains to be seen. If he fails, it won't be for lack of inside knowledge about the Chinese. Although Geithner spent his childhood in Zimbabwe, India, and Thailand, China has special appeal for him. He holds bachelor's and master's degrees in East Asian studies. While an undergraduate at Dartmouth College, he spent two 10-week stints studying Mandarin at Peking University and Beijing Normal University, where he was given a Chinese name, Gao Yiran, an echo of his American name that also carries the meaning elegant or graceful. As he did when he made his first official visit to China in 2009, Geithner, 48, used this trip to showcase a more relaxed side of himself that he seldom, if ever, displays at home—that of a Chinese-proverb-quoting, basketball-playing former exchange student. He shed his dress shoes for a pair of Nike sneakers to play basketball with students at Renmin University High School in Beijing, and he was equally comfortable in some of his official dealings with Chinese leaders. In his opening remarks, Geithner made the case that Europe's woes would have only a small effect on a global recovery led by the U.S., China, and emerging-market nations such as Brazil and India. Vice-Premier Wang Qishan, Geithner's counterpart and a longtime friend of the Treasury Secretary's father, countered that the debt crisis has triggered a chain reaction that put the global recovery at grave risk. The back-and-forth was a thinly veiled debate over whether it's safe for China to roll back crisis-fighting economic stimulus measures that include the yuan peg, along with a little friendly jostling." (BusinessWeek)



"If Papa Hemingway was around he’d describe today’s Riviera as a place that has been bad longer than it was good. Forty years of building ugly houses along her coast has made the south of France into a Las Vegas sur-mer. Hence where better for Naomi Campbell’s fortieth birthday party at the Hotel du Cap, once frequented by Scott Fitzgerald, the Murphys, Errol Flynn, and a young Taki, now bursting at the seams with Hollywood types, Russian oligarchs, and their hookers. After giving DNA samples, finger prints, and our passports, we sauntered into the hotel grounds where Naomi’s billionaire boyfriend, Vlad—the impaler—Doronin, had reputedly spent five million Euros in her honor. An enormous tent below the tennis courts where I had spent my youth hitting endless backhands had been erected, and after taking a picture of the 400 guests we all sauntered in for an incredible evening of entertainment with Grace Jones and the Black Eyed Peas. Stone panther statues covered with Swarovski crystals (black panther, get it?) were everywhere, the top table which rotated and stood two feet higher than the rest of us slobs—being in the middle with Jonathan Livingstone seagulls circulating above it. Debonnaire Bismarck had all of Pug’s invited so I shall be kind. I saw 'old friends' like Mark Rich, Philip Green, Richard Caring, and other such old Etonians, but despite them I had a very good time getting back on Bushido at 6.30 a.m. (The mother of my children refused to attend once she heard what the party was costing.) Ladies of tempestuous—or was it professional libido—abounded, yet what the blast lacked in dignity, it made up with magnificent narcissism." (Takimag)



"The pope is capable of showing equal clarity when dealing with scandalous violations of the rules that govern priestly conduct. For years, accusations of abusing teenage boys swirled around Marcial Maciel Degollado, the founder of the Legion of Christ and a special favorite of John Paul II. His privileged position, and wads of cash, kept him safe. In 2004, however, the then Cardinal Ratzinger reopened an investigation of Maciel and ordered a Vatican official to interview Legionaries and alleged victims of abuse worldwide. The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith 'asked' Maciel 'to retire to a private life of penance and prayer, giving up any form of public ministry.' (In late March, the Legionaries of Christ acknowledged in an unusual public statement that Father Maciel 'had fathered a daughter in the context of a prolonged and stable relationship with a woman, and committed other grave acts.') Under pressure in recent weeks, the Pope has confessed in general that the church made grave errors, and should 'do penance' to address its 'sins.' He has also clarified the procedures for reporting accused sexual abusers to the police authorities. On April 17, he travelled to Malta to meet with alleged victims of abuse, and was reportedly tearful in this private encounter, experiencing 'shame and sorrow' over what 'the victims and their families suffered,' according to a Vatican statement. Those who want more—who want emotional public scenes of reconciliation with former victims, and a clear, detailed accounting—are not likely to find satisfaction. The Pope seems to have seen priestly abuse of children, for a long time, as an American problem, rather than the general one it clearly is." (NYRB)



"The departure of Patrick McCarthy from W magazine, and the arrival of Stefano Tonchi as editor-in-chief, also marks the end of Countess Louise J. Esterhazy, the nom de plume of John Fairchild, 83, whose father created Women's Wear Daily and a stable of other trade journals. Reclusive Fairchild, who stepped down as publisher when he turned 70, continued writing his scathing observations on the death of high society on the last page of W each month. The magazine has a compendium of Louise's wit and widsom in the June issue, including, 'To me, [Nicole Kidman] looks like an overdressed kangaroo' (2004). And, 'I say, let's have happy clothes. You could reply that's frivolous in this troubled world, but do you really think dressing like an existential nun with suicidal thoughts is going to solve Bosnia?' (1996). And, 'If I made clothes, I'd be embarrassed if the likes of Sylvester Stallone, Madonna, Sharon Stone or Prince wore them' (1995)." (PageSix)



(image via nysd)

"Michael’s big Wednesday lunch was full up. Susan Silver with MediaBistro’s Diane Clehane; T&C’s Pamela Fiori; Felicia Taylor, Deborah Norville, Becca Thrash; Bob Benton with Joan Jakobson; HarperCollins’ Jonathan Burnham with Ed Victor; Kate White of Cosmo with Dave Zinczenko of Men’s Health; Gerry Byrne, Lisa Belzberg, TV’s Judy Licht lunching with TV’s Penny Crone and Lynn White; Tommy Tune with Francine LeFrak; Frederique van Derwaal, Tamara Mellon, Joe Armstrong. And I was with Dr. David Shafer, a plastic surgeon who looks like a kid but already has an illustrious career behind him ... I mentioned that last fact to the doctor. He said that people would come in with pictures of Jennifer Aniston’s nose and want the same one. He kindly explains that it’s only good on her face and doesn’t necessarily work for another. In other words he’ll talk you out of it – make sense – if you want to know." (NYSocialDiary)



"As Disney scrambles to close a deal with one of two remaining bidders for its arthouse studio Miramax, more details emerged about the collapse of the nearly-done deal earlier this week between the studio and billionaire Ron Burkle and his partners Harvey and Bob Weinstein. WaxWord has learned that after weeks of due diligence with dozens of lawyers, Burkle cut his $625 million offer on Thursday to $565 million, claiming that Disney’s documentation of Miramax revenues did not support the agreed-upon price. According to one individual with knowledge of the negotiation, Burkle’s lawyers called Disney executives on Thursday to deliver the harsh news. Update: But another individual involved in the negotiation denied that Burkle cut the price, and said that the deal collapsed because of what they called an 'inability to close.' Disney had been seeking $700 million. And six weeks ago, as negotiations with three bidders climbed to a fever pitch, the bidding inched up from $600 to $625 million -- and in the case of bidder David Bergstein, it went as high as $650 million." (Sharon Waxman/TheWrap)



"The biggest interview on television last week, with the Senate candidate Rand Paul, happened at 9 p.m. But regrettably for CNN’s Larry King, who used to rule that time slot by wooing newsmakers, the interview was booked by his higher-rated competitor, MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow. Although still the linchpin of CNN’s lineup, he has come to embody an enormous problem facing the cable news channel. How can he and CNN compete in prime time when viewers seem to crave partisan political programs and when prominent guests — the lifeblood of Mr. King’s show — would rather burnish their images on other channels? So far, CNN cannot compete." (NYTimes)




"Tommy Mottola left a mess. And Clive Davis did too. They no longer believed in the soul of classic rock, they no longer wanted to give the artists that much control, they wanted to bring in the usual suspects, create safe salable music. And then we had the faux divas. The Mariah Careys. The melisma multitude. To the point where young people today think that's talent. To trill up and down the scale and blow the house down. But it's not. Talent can be about a great voice, but that's at best part of the package. Great art comes from deep inside, from personal experience, from the soul. It's not made by hacks on holiday, but people who've slaved for 10,000 hours, because they truly cannot do anything else. Alanis (Morissette) was the only artist who hit every note, who sang with power, who delivered her classic song. Yes, Carrie Underwood sang pretty well, but if you think she's an artist, I want to buy you a dictionary. Yes, the National is better than anything on 'American Idol'. The Hold Steady too. They're speaking their truth. But once upon a time, the best and the brightest were vying to tell their truth in song, to the point where the acme was stratospheric, the quality of material was staggering, we couldn't help but bow at the altar, we needed to own the music and go to the show." (Lefsetz Letter)



"Her single greatest gift is her ability, in the heat of the moment, to find the funny line. My recent favorite example also highlights the rarefied world in which Rivers sometimes travels. Not long ago she was invited to dinner at Lily Safra’s home at 820 Fifth Avenue. Safra owns the most expensive residence in the world, the $500 million Villa Leopolda in the south of France. Rivers was seated next to Carroll Petrie, a rich society lady who is deaf as a post, and the two of them were marveling over, oh, I don’t know, the dozens of FabergĂ© clocks in Safra’s house. Petrie said, too loud, 'Doesn’t it just make you feel poor?' To which Rivers replied, 'Carroll, name me one other person in this room who is playing Cleveland this weekend.' One of the most consistently subversive things about Rivers is her level of commitment to a spur-of-the-moment prank. I have seen her pull off dozens of them over the years. Once, coming out of Pat Wexler’s office, where she goes for her Botox and filler, she crawled on her hands and knees into a waiting room full of socialites and models and, screwing up her face to resemble a stroke victim, moaned out of one side of her mouth, 'Look what she did to me!'" (NYMag)



"The violence unleashed by the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003 persists, but Americans, from Barack Obama on down, are eager to declare the Iraq War at an end. Apart from a few diehard neoconservatives still keen to use Mesopotamia as a springboard for the pursuit of imperial fantasies, Americans can’t wait to shake the dust of Iraq from their feet and be done with the place. Yet even as we leave, we should not forget. Common decency demands that we honor the service and sacrifice of those who bore the burden of waging that war. No doubt some committee will soon start lobbying for the construction of an Iraq War Memorial to be erected on the Mall in Washington. That effort deserves to succeed. My own view is that every American war, large or small, ought to be commemorated smack dab in the middle of the nation’s capital. Crowding every inch of the Mall with granite and marble war memorials—the bigger the better—just might help deflate the continuing American illusion that we are a peaceful people desirous of nothing except to be left alone. It might help us see ourselves as we really are. Yet the commemoration of the Iraq War ought to have a second component: American soldiers and American citizens are owed an accounting of exactly what this war was about. Who devised it? What was its actual purpose? What did it achieve and at what cost? Why did so much go so wrong for so long? Who should be held accountable? As the U.S. military misadventure in Iraq approaches its conclusion, loose ends abound." (WorldAffairsJournal)



"For decades, the United States has been promoting democracy as the best form of government, and most Americans cannot comprehend why other societies would fail to embrace liberal-democratic political institutions. Yet democracy imposes some difficult demands. Among others, it asks its leaders to risk defeat in elections or (perhaps even more boldly) to retire from office at the end of a limited term. As Seymour Martin Lipset observed, 'democratic norms require a willingness to accept political defeat: to leave office upon losing an election, to follow rules even when they work against one’s own interest.' This is not an easy thing to do in the best of circumstances—that is, when two centuries or so of practice have made it routine. In new democracies, it is even harder. In his memoirs, Vicente Fox, the first president of Mexico to be elected in a genuinely competitive contest, declared: The most important thing the president of a new democracy does is to leave. As Shakespeare writes of the Thane of Cawdor, 'nothing in his life so became him like the leaving of it.' So it is with a new democracy—the true test occurs not with the election of the peaceful revolutionary but when that leader has delivered enough results that he or she is able to pass the torch to another freely elected leader." (JournalofDemocracy)

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