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Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Media-Whore D'Oeuvres


"President Obama will deliver a blueprint for economic recovery and American competitiveness on Tuesday night, as he tries to chart a two-year path to re-election in the face of newly empowered Republican adversaries. In his first State of the Union address before a Congress under divided control, advisers say Mr. Obama will lay out his case for investment in education and infrastructure, while tempering his call for new initiatives with an acknowledgment of the country’s long-term fiscal challenges. The speech — the details of which have been held more closely than usual — offers the president an opportunity to redefine his administration at the start of the 2012 presidential campaign. Mr. Obama has started to recover politically in the last few months by demonstrating a new willingness to engage in compromise with Republicans and by performing well in the wake of the Arizona shooting. Aides said that reality lowered the pressure on Mr. Obama to hit a grand slam Tuesday night. But the stakes remain high for the president, who must find a way to re-energize his most ardent supporters, persuade independents to believe in him again and build a case against returning the White House to Republicans after four years." (NYTimes)


"Barack Obama is letting outsiders inside his White House. He’s getting more personal in closed-door meetings and factoring social business into his weekend schedule, a time he typically reserves for family and close friends. He’s even using his teleprompter less and considering opening up his golf game, which, with few exceptions, has been restricted to the same handful of people since he took office ... Just Monday night, freshmen members of Congress invited to a pre-State of the Union reception at the White House were treated to the height of Obama hospitality: a photo receiving line with the president. It’s a grip-and-grin presidential mainstay that Obama has mostly avoided and privately loathed ... The strides aren’t huge — accepting an invitation to entertain Washington’s political press corps at the Gridiron Club’s annual dinner and raising the possibility of a weekend at Camp David with members of Congress. But for Obama, who does not like to mix business with pleasure, it is a marked change from the first half of his term in the White House. 'It seems he’s getting the idea that all this socializing is not such a bad thing,' said Mike McCurry, former President Bill Clinton’s onetime press secretary." (Politico)




"Rupert Murdoch may soon be reunited with his daughter, Elisabeth, at News Corp.—and the return of his eldest son, Lachlan, might not be too far behind. The News Corp. patriarch is spending this week in London seeking approval for his $12 billion takeover of pay-TV provider BSkyB and dealing with continuing fallout from the News of the World phone-tapping scandal, as press reports have noted. But a third business item on his agenda is to finalize the terms of News Corp.’s acquisition of Liz Murdoch’s production company, Shine Group, according to more than a half dozen sources inside or close to both companies—all of whom requested anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly about the deal or succession planning at News Corp. Shine Group produces such hit shows as MasterChef and The Biggest Loser. 'This deal is going to happen and it is going to happen fast,' said one source inside Shine who put the time frame in terms of weeks, not months. 'This is the first step towards [Murdoch] setting the kids in place at News Corp.' A News Corp. representative declined comment for this story. A Shine representative confirmed that the company has hired JPMorgan Chase to explore strategic options, but declined to comment further." (TheDailyBeast)

"The Egyptians are self-consciously emulating the Tunisian protests, seeking to capitalize on the new mood within the Arab world. Their efforts are not new, despite the intense Western desire to put them into a narrative driven by Twitter, WikiLeaks, or demonstration effects. Egyptians have been protesting and demonstrating for the last decade: massive demonstrations in support of Palestinians and against the Iraq war from 2000 to 2003; Kefaya's creative protests for political reform and against succession which peaked in 2004 to 2006; lawyers and judges and professional associations; the Facebook protests and April 6 movements; the plethora of wildcat labor strikes across the country ... It is too soon to know how much impact these protests will have in the short term, given that protests are not novel in Egypt and there has long been a much freer and more contentious media than in Tunisia. Like many people, I have been skeptical about the ability of the Egyptian opposition to overcome their internal divisions or a well-prepared regime focused intensely on not becoming the next Ben Ali. We've watched wave after wave of protest be crushed by the Egyptian regime. But I'm certainly hoping that this time they can capture momentum and change the game in Egypt. There seems to be a renewed energy and sense of possibility, one which is clearly being understood by Egyptians as part of a broader Arab narrative of a collective popular uprising against economic conditions, political repression, and corruption. More broadly, it's astonishing how much is now in motion in Arab politics after such a long period of seeming stagnation." (ForeignPolicy)


"Saudi King Abdullah and his enormous retinue needed 'at least a dozen' tractor-trailers to load their mountain of luggage and an army of outside contractors to do security screening before he could fly out of JFK last week. A source told us, 'The amount of luggage they had from shopping they did in New York was awe-inspiring. Airport workers joked they must have been 'a mini-stimulus package' for the city.' The king, 87 -- who was in town for two months for back surgery and booked whole floors of the Plaza and Waldorf-Astoria to recover -- and his entourage left on more than six private jets. Sources said he flew out on his own Boeing 747 while two wives left on smaller jets. One source said, 'There were separate jets for wife No. 1 and wife No. 2 and their own retinues. The entourage was so large that the Transportation Security Administration was forced to hire an outside company to complete the screening." (PageSix)


"Also, while it’s still fresh, last Thursday night at Doubles, the private club in the Sherry Netherland, Catherine Slavonia and Andre Boissier hosted a reception to celebratethe engagement of their goddaughter Alexandra Peterson, daughter of Paige Peterson and David Peterson (and sister of Peter Cary Peterson, the actor) to William Cart, son of Sarah and Ben Cart. NYSD readers may be familiar with Alexandra’s mother Paige who has appeared in the HOUSE section and has also taken our Thanksgiving Day parade pictures for the past few years." (NYSocialDiary)


"Not all vacations are restful, or, for that matter, safe. Just ask Diane von Furstenberg, who expected to spend a lovely week skiing in Aspen after doing a show in Denver. Contacted for a comment on Michelle Obama’s choice of gown for last week’s State Dinner, von Furstenberg instead offered that she has other things on her mind right now, due to a mishap on the slopes. 'Barry [Diller] and I were skiing happily,' she e-mailed. 'Some Brazilian man, who could not ski, lost control and went straight at me, hitting me badly on my face and ribs (with his camera). I went to the emergency room and then flew to UCLA. I look like Mike Tyson on his worst fight. Broken nose and some light facial fractures. At home in L.A. now waiting to heal. Will be staying here the week because I have my children and grandkids. I guess it could have been worse…but it does NOT look pretty.' With New York Fashion Week on the horizon, she added: 'Thank god I have Yvan Mispelaere in the sample room.'" (WWD)


"The Academy has spoken! Oscar nominations were announced this morning, and there are few true surprises. Quick points: if The Social Network sweeps, maybe Trent Reznor will grab a statuette for his soundtrack? If Exit Through The Gift Shop grabs the award for best documentary, will Banksy waltz on stage to collect his winnings? The intrigue abounds!" (Observer)


"HBO is closing a remake rights deal for Knuckle, the Ian Palmer-directed documentary at Sundance about two Irish families that settle a longstanding dispute by periodically engaging in bare knuckle bouts. Rough House Pictures partners Danny McBride, Jody Hill and David Gordon Green are attached, and HBO will turn the concept into a TV series, I hear. Numerous parties circled -- word is they included companies of Gerard Butler, Robert Downey Jr., and Vin Diesel, but Rough House's Matt Reilly came to Sundance and won by knockout. Rough House produces Eastbound & Down at HBO." (Deadline)

"In recent weeks, Manhattan has been experiencing an unusually prolonged stint of cold winter weather. Freezing temperatures and a steady series of snowstorms, including an overwhelming blizzard that hit just before New Year’s, have had a quieting effect on the city and even seem to have softened the pulse of the elite late-night party scene. Not long ago, an old friend of mine, whom I know best from lengthy hours drinking and talking together at fashionable bars, asked me to join a group he was hosting for ice skating at Wollman Rink in Central Park. There was no special occasion—he just like gathering with close friends for an afternoon of outdoor amusement. In any other town, and among any other crowd, such an excursion wouldn’t stand out all. But in all my years in Manhattan, I haven’t received an invitation quite like it. In fact, the last time anyone asked me to visit an ice rink it was to see a young relative play hockey. Skating not for sport but as an expression of leisurely entertainment is a dated practice for New York’s upper class. It’s the kind of thing you read about in Edith Wharton novels, and its sudden reappearance, at least within my social circle, is an interesting development." (JamieJohnson)

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