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Saturday, November 06, 2010

Media-Whore D'Oeuvres



"It's been a tough week for Barack Obama, who is reeling from a crushing midterm election defeat, yet more bad economic news, and a domestic agenda under assault. No doubt the U.S. president is thrilled to be leaving Washington Friday on a 10-day tour of Asia, where he'll be welcomed by four democratic countries that are nervously watching the foundations of American supremacy crumble before their eyes, while China's growing economic swagger and military might shakes up the region’s balance of power. Of these four -- India, Indonesia, Japan, and South Korea -- it's India that inspires the most hope among American strategists. Yet for all the talk of 'natural allies,' and despite all the excitement about India's emergence as a 21st century superpower-in-waiting, Washington and New Delhi haven't managed to tie the knot." (ForeignPolicy)



(image via style)

"Artist, actress, heiress, decorator, famed denim designer—is there anything Gloria Vanderbilt can’t do? The ridiculously chic 86-year-old was fêted last night at Ralph Lauren’s new Madison Avenue women’s store as she and Wendy Goodman signed copies of The World of Gloria Vanderbilt, a new book about Vanderbilt’s impeccably-decorated homes, penned by Goodman with a foreword by Vanderbilt’s son Anderson Cooper. Sarah Jessica Parker, Uma Thurman, and Camilla Belle were just a few of the many chicsters that dropped by Ralph’s new mecca to sip champagne and pick up a tome ... 'My friend Lara Spencer, the host of The Insider, just redid my house,' said Kathy Griffin of her own decorating travails. 'I called the theme I’m a Gay Man Going Through a Midlife Crisis in Palm Springs Looking for a Twink for the Night But I Don’t Want Him to Stay Over. That’s the new decorating theme. And that’s what she did! There are pops of chartreuse—whatever that is,' she laughed. 'I think that’s a green? I have an appreciation for a decorating aesthetic, I just can’t do it myself.' Of course, no Gloria Vanderbilt gathering is complete without a discussion of her famous jeans. 'My first pair of Gloria Vanderbilt jeans were green velvet,' revealed Ripa. 'That was 1978!' The evening’s other Gloria, Gloria Steinem (who arrived with new BFF Griffin), was equally nostalgic about the blues. 'I’m sorry she stopped making them!' she said. 'They fit great; they were perfect. For a long time in that era, people would tell me they liked my jeans. They thought it was my line!'" (Fashionweekdaily)


"The votes weren’t close to having all been tallied, and yet the scale of the rout was clear, when John Boehner began to drive a message as simple as it was essential: I am not Newt Gingrich. 'This is not a time for celebration,' the soon-to-be Speaker of the House declared on Election Night—nor for claiming to have won a transformational mandate or arguing that Congress is now the center of the action. 'We must remember, it’s the president who sets the agenda for our government,” he said. And though two days later he suggested that Barack Obama was in 'denial' about the meaning of the midterms, Boehner offered that he and Obama “get along well,” that maybe they could hold a Merlot Meeting (rather than a Slurpee Summit). “I don’t want gridlock,” he insisted. “I don’t want squabbling.' Mitch McConnell would never go that far, for fear that his pants would catch on fire. But on the same day, in a speech at the Heritage Foundation—the one in which he repeated his assertion that his main goal is to turf Obama out of office—he too made it clear that he had been pondering the lessons of the Gingrich Era. 'By their own admission, leaders of the Republican Revolution of 1994 think their greatest mistake was overlooking the power of the veto,' McConnell said. 'They gave the impression they were somehow in charge when they weren’t. And after President Clinton vetoed their bills, making it impossible for them to accomplish all their goals, they ended up being viewed as failures, sellouts, or both … So we have to be realistic about what we can and cannot achieve.'" (John Heilmann/NYMag)


"We've just learned that the Comcast announcement about NBC Universal's new organizational structure is supposed to take place on November 15th. EXCLUSIVE 5:45 PM: NBC Universal insiders tell us they expect a fresh 'prganizational structure' to be announced by new owner Comcast as soon as next week and before Thanksgiving. One thing holding it up: we've learned that final negotiations for a deal is being closed this weekend to bring in a TV veteran executive from outside for a big top NBCU job. It's alongside former Showtime entertainment president Bob Greenblatt whose move to NBCU has been one of the worst kept secrets in Hollywood. We also can report that, after some initial uncertainty, Comcast made a firm decision two months ago to keep Universal Studios in the fold and to retain the current management structure as is." (Deadline)


"President Obama hasn't indicated publicly that he will reorganize the White House staff. But sources are telling Marc Ambinder and Glenn Thrush, among others, that Obama is thinking about it. I presume that is a good thing. I don't know enough about the internal dynamics of the administration to understand how much responsibility, if any, advisers and staff bear for Tuesday's drubbing at the polls. (Ultimate responsibility for these things lies with the president anyway.) But I've seen and heard enough to believe the White House isn't doing a terribly good job of formulating and communicating its message. That needs to change. With that in mind, here's one totally uninformed and, quite possibly, half-baked suggestion: Make good use of some Democratic Party's newly unemployed talent. Four Democratic governors will find themselves out of work come January: Jennifer Granholm of Michigan, Ed Rendell of Pennsylvania, Bill Richardson of New Mexico, and Ted Strickland of Ohio. Strickland narrowly lost his re-election bid; the rest are out of office because of term limits. Obama is having trouble with white, non-college educated voters, particularly in the industrial midwest. Whether that's a function of the policy decisions Obama has made or the way Obama has explained them, Rendell and Strickland might be able to help." (TNR)

"Ai Weiwei, China’s most famous modern artist, has been placed under house arrest at his home in Beijing, apparently on the orders of senior officials in Shanghai who are trying to stop him hosting a party in the city. Mr Ai, an outspoken political activist as well as successful artist and architect, was planning to host a 'demolition party' for the public at his Shanghai studio to 'celebrate' a government decision to demolish the building, which it says does not have the proper permits. Mr. Ai only built the studio there, at a cost of hundreds of thousands of dollars, on the invitation of the Shanghai district government. He believes the decision to condemn his newly-built compound is retaliation by local authorities for his vociferous political activism. The Shanghai government has not commented. 'In a country with no judicial system or independent media then things become very simple – a leader orders something and the police carry it out,' Mr Ai told the Financial Times. 'The Chinese government is arrogant and incapable of dealing with fundamental issues of human rights.' Although not planned as an overtly political or subversive gathering, Mr Ai had intended to turn the demolition of his studio into an ironic political statement by inviting the public and promising to feed them 10,000 'river crabs', a seasonal delicacy that is also a homonym for 'harmony' in Chinese. The play on words pokes fun at the Communist party’s official policy of striving to build a 'harmonious society' instead of providing its people with representative government. It is also a reference to pervasive state censorship, which is referred to as 'harmonisation' by many internet users." (FT)


"YEARS after the fact, Deborah, the Dowager Duchess of Devonshire, looked in her mother’s engagement book to see what had been written on the momentous day of March 31, 1920. Nothing. 'She didn’t refer to my birth at all,' the duchess said. “There was nothing for five days, and then, on the fifth day, in capital letters, it said ‘KITCHEN CHIMNEY SWEPT.’ 'No one took any notice of me except Nanny.' Maybe so, but not for long. Now 90, the duchess is doubly famous. First, as the lone survivor of the six celebrated Mitford girls, who included Nancy (the renowned comic novelist), Diana (the renowned beauty and wife of the fascist leader Sir Oswald Mosley) and Jessica (the renowned Communist, author and naturalized American). Second, as the woman who transformed Chatsworth, one of the grandest of England’s grand houses, from a museumlike relic into a family house and self-sustaining business that is visited by 600,000 people a year. Along the way, Deborah Cavendish, to use her civilian name (her friends call her Debo), has become something of a national treasure, as grand as the queen but as approachable as anyone, effortlessly bridging the gap between Us and Them in this perennially class-conscious society. 'It is so kind of you to come all this way,' the duchess said recently, greeting visitors in her driveway. Straight-backed and chic in a deceptively simple green wool skirt and black pumps, she proceeded to shake hands with everyone, including the taxi driver." (NYTimes)



"In April this year, Noma, a small restaurant in Copenhagen known mainly to locals and European food cognoscenti, swept past the far more famous El Bulli in Spain and the Fat Duck in the UK to be named the world’s best restaurant by chefs, food writers and restaurateurs at the San Pellegrino Awards. Since then, Noma’s 40 covers have been booked solid. The win propelled the restaurant’s young chef and co-owner, René Redzepi, and his radical Nordic cuisine into the spotlight. Arranging a time to meet proved tricky. Redzepi cooks lunch and dinner in the restaurant and doesn’t have a break in between, so we couldn’t eat at Noma. (Plus, I guessed, those who had travelled far to taste his cooking might be disgruntled to find him dining next to them). Instead, Redzepi agreed to meet me on a rare day off – a Monday, when Noma is closed. I asked my hotel’s concierge about the restaurant Redzepi had chosen. 'Schønnemann restaurant? Why are you going there?' he asked, almost suspiciously. 'It’s where Danish people have lunch.' Schønnemann is in a quiet square, just off the main shopping area in Copenhagen. When I arrive at midday, two cheerful Danish waiters are polishing large beer glasses behind the bar. I am handed a menu in English that states: 'Classical Danish Lunch since 1877.'" (FT)


"DHIRUBHAI AMBANI grew up in a two-room home with an earthen floor in the Indian state of Gujarat, close to the Arabian Sea. Later this month his eldest son, Mukesh(pictured above, right), head of Reliance Industries and the world’s fourth richest man, will throw a party to show off his new home in Mumbai, a towering vertical palace with six floors of parking space, three helipads and a hanging garden. The story of how the Ambanis moved from dusty provinces to city skyscrapers is a tale of pluck, guile and vaulting ambition. But telling it also requires courage and tenacity. Hamish McDonald, an Australian journalist who was posted to Delhi in the 1990s, brought out his first book on Ambani, 'The Polyester Prince', in 1998. Publication in India was scrapped after Reliance set its heart on legal action, but the book became required reading for anyone interested in Indian industry. In his new work, 'Mahabharata in Polyester', Mr McDonald brings the story up to date, adding chapters about Dhirubhai’s death in 2002 and the subsequent feud between his two sons, Mukesh and Anil. The young Dhirubhai lacked money, but not charisma. He raised his first 100,000 rupees (now $2,250) from a second cousin’s father and was introduced to yarn trading by a nephew. His first ventures into textile-making were run by Gujaratis back from Yemen, where Dhirubhai had worked for a petrol company during the day while trading rice, sugar and other commodities in the souk after hours. Indians complain that social connections trump hard work. But no one worked harder than Dhirubhai at forging connections. 'His philosophy was to cultivate everybody from the doorkeeper up,' Mr McDonald remarks. With the help of these relationships, Reliance set about making the most of India’s famous 'Licence Raj.'" (TheEconomist)

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