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Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Media-Whore D'Oeuvres



"Earlier this summer I mentioned that I was reading Jared Diamond's Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed, and I promised to sum up the insights that I had gleaned from it. The book is well-worth reading -- if not quite on a par with his earlier Guns, Germs, and Steel -- and you'll learn an enormous amount about a diverse set of past societies and the range of scientific knowledge (geology, botany, forensic archaeology, etc.) that is enabling us to understand why they prospered and/or declined. The core of the book is a series of detailed case studies of societies that collapsed and disappeared because they were unable to adapt to demanding and/or deteriorating environmental, economic, or political conditions. He examines the fate of the Easter Islanders, the Mayans, the Anasazi of the Pacific Southwest, the Norse colonies in Western Greenland (among others), and contrasts them with other societies (e.g., the New Guinea highlanders) who managed to develop enduring modes of life in demanding circumstances. He also considers modern phenomenon such as the Rwandan genocide and China and Australia's environmental problems in light of these earlier examples. I read the book because I am working on a project exploring why states (and groups and individuals) often find it difficult to "cut their losses" and abandon policies that are clearly not working. This topic is a subset of the larger (and to me, endlessly fascinating) question of why smart and well-educated people can nonetheless make disastrous (and with hindsight, obviously boneheaded) decisions. Diamond's work is also potentially relevant to the perennial debate on American decline: Is it occurring, is it inevitable, and how should we respond?" (ForeignPolicy)



"Naomi Campbell even has help on hand to spice up dinner. The fiery supermodel stunned onlookers as security guards handed over her special condiments as she dined at a restaurant in Capri with Leonardo DiCaprio and Bar Refaeli while vacationing on a yacht with billionaire Russian boyfriend Vladimir Doronin. A witness told us, 'She couldn't indulge in food until her boyfriend's bodyguard brought over her own salt and pepper shakers.' Campbell's rep insisted, 'It wasn't salt and pepper, it's her Jamaican hot sauce.'" (PageSix)



"Also Sunday night in Southampton at the UA Cinema they screened Oliver Stone's sequel to his orig 1987 Oscar winning 'Wall Street.' The new entry, 'Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps,' was screened before an audience of indefatigables curious to see what Hollywood has done with the financial world's dramas, and to see the select members of the community who made brief appearances and 'cameos' in the film. After the screening, Peggy Siegal's guest list of local glitterati adjourned to the oceanfront estate of Julia and David Koch where tents was erected (to keep everyone dry) and tables were set for dinner." (NYSocialDiary)

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