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Saturday, April 23, 2011

Media-Whore D'Oeuvres


"I must have seen ten articles in the last week explaining why President Obama will lose the November 2012 election; or at the least, how he could lose. Most have been by conservative pundits, but a few have also been by Democrats. I certainly agree that he could lose, but it’s a question of how. I want to consider one of these articles—by Salon’s news editor Steve Kornacki. Not because I disagree with the conclusions, or most of the argument, but because it makes the wrong use of what could be an instructive analogy to the 1992 election. To deflate the expectation that Obama is sure to be re-elected, Kornacki points to the 1992 election. Eighteen months prior to that election, it looked like George H.W. Bush was a shoo-in, but in November 1992, he won less than 40 percent of the electorate against Bill Clinton. 'It was the economy that sunk the president,' Kornacki writes. If the U.S. economy 'remains lousy' next year, and if the Republicans don’t nominate someone 'outside the mainstream,' then Obama, Kornacki reasons, could suffer a similar fate. I agree with the final sentiment, but not with the logic leading up to it." (John Judis)




"'God this is scary. F---!' Helen Mirren is standing in the doorway of a cramped conference room on the 17th floor of NBC's celebrated 30 Rockefeller Center, staring in surprise at a sea of producers, performers and writers who are overflowing the tiny space. Around 70 men and women, many dressed in hoodies and jeans, are gathered at a large wooden table, on which plates of fruit slices and sandwiches sit half-eaten. With three days to go before showtime, much of the talent is exhausted on this Wednesday afternoon -- hardly surprising given that several of them, including head writer and Weekend Update anchor Seth Meyers, haven't left the building since the previous afternoon. Within moments, Mirren has joined them at the table and is preparing for the Saturday Night Live read-through, which has been held at 30 Rock every show week since the program first aired in fall 1975. In any other setting, the Oscar winner would be the center of attention. But not here. One of the writers glances at an empty chair right next to Mirren, knowing that the person who matters most is the one who will soon fill it. At 4:25 p.m., silver-haired and dressed in a comfortable V-neck sweater and khakis, Lorne Michaels, SNL's creator and executive producer, eases into the room without fuss or fanfare. He takes his seat next to Mirren, and immediately the group plunges into the first sketch, a spoof of the Fox News morning show Fox & Friends, with Mirren playing a convincing redneck. In the intense four hours that follow, which are broken up by only one 15-minute break, Michaels gives no comment, no direction and almost no reaction, speaking only to read stage directions for each sequence, always in a hushed monotone. If he likes or dislikes what he hears, he says nothing, revealing only the occasional smirk or frown. By 6:15, the first half of the read-through is over. The crowd quickly disperses, and Michaels leaves the room as invisibly as he entered." (HollywoodReporter)


"Last week, the Pakistani government demanded that Washington end drone strikes against Taliban and al Qaeda targets in Pakistan's tribal areas and drastically scale back CIA operations. This followed a drone attack in North Waziristan that killed more than 40 civilians on the very day that Pakistan released contracted CIA operative Raymond Davis, who had been arrested for killing two Pakistanis in Lahore. The Davis affair caused intense anger among ordinary Pakistanis. Americans, meanwhile, are furious at Pakistan for sheltering the leadership of the Afghan Taliban, who are fighting U.S. forces and the Kabul government in Afghanistan. Given this explosive situation, is it really possible for the United States and Pakistan to go on working together against terrorism? The answer is complicated, but basically it is yes. The Davis affair has damaged the relationship between Washington and the Pakistani Army and military intelligence, but it is very unlikely to end it. Hard as it may be to swallow, the United States must go on cooperating with the Pakistani state, military, and intelligence services against terrorism directed against the West and not allow this relationship to be destroyed by Pakistan's sheltering of the Afghan Taliban ... Above all, though the Pakistani establishment and the United States differ greatly on Afghanistan, they are basically at one when it comes to preventing international terrorism against the West. This is in part because the Pakistani elites shop in the West, send their children to study in the West, and to a large extent actually live in the West. On any given day, a bomb in Harrods in London would be very likely to claim a Pakistani elite family among its victims." (ForeignPolicy)



"As someone who just handed his memoirs to Simon & Schuster, I am very sensitive about the concept of fake stories. For example, after writing about a threesome I was sure had taken place in 2002, I remembered that Finding Nemo was playing in the background when it happened, and that movie didn’t come out until 2003. In my manuscript, I offer a $1,000 prize to anyone who finds a major untruth in the book. 'I think you should take out that promise,' one of the editors told me. 'It’s too ambiguous.' I told him to leave it in and corrected the Nemo mistake. The problem is, James Frey has diluted the whole idea of what constitutes a true story. He published a book of fake memoirs and became not only a very successful writer but a formidable publisher in his own right. After publicly apologizing on Oprah, Frey now says he regrets his former regret and argues there’s no such thing as truth. For those of us whose youth really was wasted on heroin, orgies, fistfights with skinheads, acid trips, jail, squatting with anarchists, punk bands, vandalism, police chases, and dead friends, this is a slap in the face." (Gavin Innes)


"Is there such a thing as the perfect match? As someone who has been married four times, I've done my share of research on the subject of compatibility in the realm of Eros. The subject of food-and-wine pairing is perhaps even more bedeviling. Is there a perfect wine for oysters? For Camembert? For baked lobster with red-wine-braised sunchoke and fava-sprout bergamot emulsion? Does fish always call for white wine? You could do worse in your search for answers to these questions than to go to New York's Le Bernardin, the Michelin three-star temple of piscine cuisine. Aldo Sohm, 39, who was named Best Sommelier in America in 2007 and Best Sommelier in the World in 2008 (in a contest organized by the World Sommelier Association), is a master of matching food and wine. He has converted more than one skeptic, including my wife, to the concept of pairing. 'I can make the food look good,' he says. On the other hand, chef Eric Ripert, his boss, likes to drink red Bordeaux with pretty much everything, including oysters. This makes for some interesting discussions in the kitchen. Among the mentors that Mr. Ripert studied under on his way to becoming America's best seafood chef was the great Joël Robuchon, who shares his taste in wine. 'When Robuchon came to Le Bernardin,' Mr. Ripert tells me over a lunch at Ben Benson's Steak House in midtown Manhattan, 'he was offered the wine pairing menu. He just said, Bring me Bordeaux. I agree. I love Bordeaux. I'll even have it with salad.' And indeed, he is sipping a 1995 La Conseillante, a Bordeaux from the Pomerol district, with his Caesar salad." (Jay McInerney)


"Ariel Levy has written an excellent piece in the current New Yorker about Reed Krakoff, the uber-retailer/ designer/marketer of 'luxury goods.' This is a story about why people live in New York, why people come to New York, and it is classic New Yorker reporting with a lustrous garnish of classic who-me? bitchiness, and a healthy portion of insight into the man, the city and his world right now. Mr. Krakoff is a New Yorker (suburban childhood). He is in his late 40s. I met him in the 90s at a cocktail party he gave at his house in Southampton one August Saturday afternoon, He was a creative/marketing man for Tommy Hilfiger, in his early 30s and already with a reputation for being a successful man in his field, albeit not at the top. He was giving the cocktail for somebody or something, which is why I was invited – by his publicists. While hospitable, although neither engaging or charming, or even interested, he gave the impression of a young man who was 'going places,' but not really there yet in his own mind. He was neither party-giver or partygoer.  Actually, there was something wonky about him. He seemed distracted, like one of those brainy kids who’s always working a problem in his head. Maybe the word would be 'preoccupied.' The party was business (like the majority of parties in New York these days.)  A couple of years later he went to work for Coach and turned a healthy retail business into a a billion dollar blockbuster." (NYSocialDiary)



"Studios tell me this Easter Weekend has begun with rain in 2/3s of the U.S. and the first huge 'up' weekend (+40%) from last year at $130M. Twentieth Century Fox's Rio 3D may be about a bird, but Friday numbers show 'it's holding like a rock,' a studio exec just emailed me. Lionsgate's latest in Tyler Perry's franchise, Madea's Big Happy Family, looks soft. This is, after all, Perry's sixth cross-dressing film, but the last one opened to a $41M weekend and the one before to $30M. But overperforming is Fox's Water For Elephants based on Sara Gruen's best-selling book and written by Richard LaGravenese and directed by Francis Lawrence. Clearly, the classy ad campaign was intriguing for adults and Robert Pattinson's Twi-hards. 'Terrific start for Elephants as we could hit higher teens,' a Fox exec tells me. It's also a good day for Universal's holdover Hop from Illumination Entertainment after passing $100M. It'll pop on Saturday and Sunday for the little bunnies and their parents. And Disneynature's African Cats narrated by Samuel Jackson is also playing strong for a niche nature movie." (Deadline)


"When the celebrity hair mogul Vidal Sassoon – or, to be entirely accurate, when the celebrity hair mogul Vidal Sassoon’s people – told me he wanted to have lunch at the Monkey Bar in Manhattan, my cynical self leapt to certain conclusions: that, for example, Sassoon had chosen this restaurant because of its fame as a people-watching schmooze fest, thanks to owner Graydon Carter, aka editor of Vanity Fair magazine and the host of a mega Oscars party, who presides over meals from a banquette; that Sassoon would take a walkabout as he entered, past regulars such as author Fran Lebowitz and TV anchor Charlie Rose, meeting and greeting. In conclusion, that the whole point of choosing this place was to demonstrate, in the short space between hostess and table, the extent to which Sassoon has transcended shampoo to become a celebrity. These suspicions were only reinforced when, arriving for my date with Sassoon, I was shown to a banquette right next to the banquette where Carter and Vanity Fair publisher Edward Menicheschi were hosting Tom Murry, president of Calvin Klein. Here we go, I thought, sitting at the edge of the bench facing the door so I could watch the show. But I was wrong: seconds later, as discreet as could be, there was Sassoon, standing next to the table, a sprightly, if elderly (he is 83) man in signature black-framed glasses, cropped white hair, blazer and button-down shirt, a scarf knotted, ascot-style, around his neck and a big smile. 'So lovely to meet you,' he smiled, and shuffled around the table so we could sit next to each other. 'It’s so wonderful to be here,' he whispered. 'You know, I lived here for three months when I first came to New York in the 1960s to open my salon.' Here? In this restaurant? 'Well, in the Hotel Elysée upstairs. Marlon Brando used to hang out here...'" (LunchwithFT)


"On March 6, dozens of zebra finches were found dead outside the National Arts Club, at 15 Gramercy Park South. They belonged to the club president, O. Aldon James. The ASPCA is investigating the situation, though it's been suggested that Mr. James was likely responsible for their demise. 'The finches, it was absolutely him,' said Helga S. Orthofer, an artist and former club member. 'He did not know what to do with all the birds, and saw he had too many, and, idiot that he is, he let them out in the most horrendous storm.' Birds have brought Mr. James trouble before. In 2000, renowned biographer and Pulitzer Prize finalist Nancy Milford told New York about Mr. James—a self- professed 'bird man' and avid collector—and his problems feeding an endangered infant raptor. While she was staying at the club finishing a biography on Edna St. Vincent Millay (published in 2002), she said, 'One night he just opened the window to his bathroom and released the bird, just let it free into Manhattan.' Shortly after the discovery of the dead finches, the club announced that Mr. James would be going on a 'well-deserved vacation.' Many current and former members of the club, some of whom spoke to The Observer on the condition of anonymity, believe the vacation should have come long ago. The National Arts Club was founded in 1898 with a mission 'to stimulate, foster and promote public interest in the arts.' Its members have included three presidents as well as distinguished artists, architects and actors. (Current members include Martin Scorsese, Ethan Hawke, Robert Redford and Uma Thurman.) The club's building, the Tilden Mansion, erected in the 1840s, houses a public space, where events are hosted, and private apartments for some members. (The Poetry Society of America is also a tenant.) Long regarded as a treasured part of the Gramercy Park community, the club has become, under Mr. James' presidency, one of Manhattan's most controversial institutions." (Observer)
 
 
"To mark the arrival of Jeffrey Deitch's enormous and groundbreaking street art show at MOCA, we asked noted New York subway graffiti artist and author J.Son to tell us a little about what he thought of the installation. Jeffrey Deitch's 'Art in the Streets' exhibit at the Geffen Contemporary at MOCA in Los Angeles inundates visitors with so many styles of street art that it's impossible not to find something you love or hate. I come from the early '70s NYC subway era and graffiti on trains will always rank highest in my pecking order. Nothing hung on a museum wall can ever translate the energy and frenetic movement of Technicolored trains rolling into stations and then vanishing into the horizon. The kids of Philadelphia and New York created a movement over 40 years ago that hijacked the alphabet and forged something unique. In the early '80s a more iconic variant blossomed when art school students and downtown hipsters created street art. It took the same tactic that graffiti artists did in appropriating the public space illegally but used imagery in place of lettering. It also banked on an image resonating with the public mind more than the traditional identity-based letter graffiti. Keith Haring's babies, Richard Hambleton's shadow men and Kenny Scharf's cartoon images caused a rethinking of the traditional aesthetic approach and paved the way for Banksy, Shepard Fairey, Cost and Revs and Kaws to inspire street artists the way SuperKool 223, Snake 1 and Stay High 149 inspired me." (Papermag)
 
 
"Nobody ever really knows what Donald Trump is worth. Forbes currently pegs his net worth at $2.7 billion. Trump insisted last week that it's actually "much more than that." The validity of his claim may depend on whether you measure net worth the way Trump does — according to how he's feeling about the world in that very moment. That's how Trump explained the process to lawyers during a deposition in 2007, after Trump sued Times scribe Timothy O'Brien for claiming in his book that the real-estate mogul was actually only worth between $150,000 and $250,000 .." (NYMag)

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