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Thursday, June 23, 2011

Media-Whore D'Oeuvres

"There has been considerable progress in Afghanistan in recent times, and this should reassure those Americans who fear that the current strategy is a fool's errand. On a visit to Helmand province and Kandahar last month, for example, I saw considerable evidence of positive momentum - Afghan forces now providing half of all coalition personnel for combined operations; roads in central, populated areas now safe enough to drive for residents and government officials alike; roughly a 50 percent increase in school attendance in Helmand over just the past year and a half; a 50 percent reduction in poppy harvests as more farmers move to legal crops; a doubling of the number of government positions at the provincial and district levels that are filled and functioning. The killing of Osama bin Laden is also a success of the broader strategy. Still, Mr. Obama had to contend with unpleasant realities concerning lack of full cooperation with allies in Kabul and Islamabad and continued levels of violence in Afghanistan that have not yet declined from historic highs. So he could only go so far in selling the mission as a success and only so far in shoring up American political will to sustain the effort. Again, the plan he has announced is reasonably solid under the circumstances, even if I would have preferred a 2011 drawdown only half as large. How will this troop drawdown likely influence efforts on the ground?" (Brookings)


"One tries to read, but the mind keeps wandering off toward the Sportzentrum a couple of miles away. Who has entered and where are they from? Are the menacing-looking Russkis as good as advertised? What about the shaven-headed Jap that beat me last time? And those tough, tough Germans—are they back? The answer is yes on every count. This was the toughest and deepest field ever. What bothers me about sportswriting is that no matter how knowledgeable the hack might be, no one—and I mean no one—knows what it’s really like until they’re on the mat facing the foe with a disinterested ref trying to act official. There is no goalkeeper behind you, no defenseman, no attacker up front—only you and that beastly subhuman across from you. Do that for fifty years or so, mano-a-mano every time, and then pick up the quill and write about it. But watching from the sidelines you do not really know. You think you do, but you know squat. The polite way of putting it is that fighting in judo, karate, or boxing tournaments is character-building. It tests one’s strength, but more so one’s character. Judo is one of the most tiring sports around. You’re at it nonstop and always full-out, no coasting or resting in between attacks. One’s at the limit almost from the start, and the temptation to quit is ever-present. And quitting is very easy ...  There is also no room for spoiled little rich boys or girls. I know a few rich men who practice martial arts, but all they’re doing is fooling themselves." (Taki Theodoracopoulos)

"Much like the crimson-coiffed woman of the evening—NYLON’s July music issue cover star Florence Welch—there was something decidedly ethereal and rarefied in a downtown, kinda-hipster way about the ambiance at last night’s private dinner hosted by Welch, the mag's leather bomber and shades-clad EIC, Marvin Scott Jarrett, and Habitual Denim atop the Mondrian Soho. As one those blissful, so-overdue breezes after a sticky June day—the summer solstice, no less—rustled the tinkling, slender chandelier up above, there was much to focus on plateside for a small roundup of seriously chic guests like Leigh Lezark, Scott Lipps, Kellan Lutz, Shanae Grimes, DJ Harley Viera-Newton and Fischerspooner’s Casey Fischer. Imperial No. Nine chef Sam Talbot was in the kitchen, whipping up shareable platters and tureens in a delectable procession beginning with raw tuna rubbed in mustard seed and grapefruit, sautéed beets in a glorious bleu cheese and almond semifreddo, plus pearls of couscous crowned with mushrooms and asparagus. Then the big guns rolled out, in the form of massive King crab legs, delicate roasted branzino atop flakes of kale and a bed of bulgur grains, and thick, ruby-hued cuts of beef la plancha nestled atop potatoes roasted in duck fat. Di-vine! Kanon Organic Vodka took care of the tipples, and People’s Revolution’s Kelly Cutrone took care of the maternal doting." (Fashionweekdaily)

"Last night Lord and Lady Evelyn de Rothschild held a cocktail reception at their apartment overlooking the East River and Roosevelt Island for donors to the Franklin D. Roosevelt memorial known as Four Freedoms Park that broke ground last year and will be completed next year. Originally known as Blackwell’s Island, and then later Welfare Island, it was renamed after our 32nd President in 1973 under the administrations of Governor Nelson Rockefeller and Mayor John V. Lindsay. The memorial, which will occupy four acres on the southern tip of the island directly across the UN Building, was designed in 1974 by architect Louis Kahn. William vanden Heuvel, the lawyer, diplomat, political adviser and founder of the Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt Institute in Hyde Park, New York has been a moving force behind the actualization of the park along with Tobie Roosevelt, the widow of Franklin D. Roosevelt Jr. Lord and Lady Rothschild made an original donation of $50,000, and last night announced another $250,000 donation. So far $48 million has been raised with another $4 million to go." (NYSocialDiary)


"(Masterpiece Theater Executive Producer  Rebecca Eaton's)  major effort in that cause was a brand makeover three years ago. Her mission: to freshen up the "Masterpiece" image for younger viewers without putting off the 'Masterpiece' faithful. Research found the series had a fusty, veddy-proper image in some eyes, while the word 'Theatre' in its title felt old-fashioned, even off-putting. The mixed bag of programs from week to week also struck some viewers as confusing.
'You might watch Jane Tennison one week and Jane Austen the next week, and then Jane Eyre,' Eaton recalls. Unveiled in December 2007, the reinvention effort trimmed 'Theatre' from the series' name, and gathered programming into what the series calls strands: 'Masterpiece Classic,' 'Masterpiece Contemporary' and, absorbing its sibling 'Mystery!' anthology series that had been a PBS fixture since 1980, 'Masterpiece Mystery!' Each even came with a color-coded host. (Note how 'Masterpiece Mystery!' host Alan Cumming is stylish in a dusky suit with blood-red tie and pocket handkerchief, hewing to the signature 'Mystery!' color scheme.) The rebranding has been a big success. 'Masterpiece' claims a 50 percent growth in viewership last season, and even old-timers are resisting the urge to call it 'Masterpiece Theatre.'" (HuffPo)

"After years of refusing to release her boy-wizard books in electronic format, Harry Potter mastermind J.K. Rowling is finally taking the digital plunge, launching an online store that will sell Harry Potter e-books directly to consumers and a social-networking site designed to keep the Potter magic alive. The free-to-access site, known as Pottermore, launches for the first million users on July 31 and opens to the general public—with the online e-book store—in October. Once the online store opens, the full Harry Potter series will be available as e-books in multiple languages, compatible with any electronic reading device. Ms. Rowling has made a bold move in going direct to consumers to sell her e-books, instead of relying on online retailers like Amazon.com Inc. and Apple Inc.'s iBookstore. Whereas publishers for other authors often own both the print and digital rights for books, Ms. Rowling owns the rights to the digital versions of the Harry Potter books herself. The digital rights aren't held by her U.K. publisher Bloomsbury Publishing PLC, or by Scholastic Inc., which owns the U.S. print rights. Bloomsbury said in a statement Thursday that it would be receiving a share of the revenues derived from e-book sales in Pottermore's online store. Pottermore is a full-on Harry Potter online universe that allows readers to join a Hogwarts house and travel through the first Harry Potter book, while collecting points and playing games. Perhaps the biggest draw is the extra material that Ms. Rowling has written and unearthed from her notes, which gives intense Potter fans much-desired background and explanations about key characters, places and plots." (WSJ)


"You have two characters, Don and Peggy, whose lives are intertwined in a very interesting way. He knows about her secrets, she knows about his secrets, but they don’t talk about them when they’re in a professional environment. And here was this moment where Don was very vulnerable. He had spent the season basically dealing with being divorced and alone, drinking too much, breaking a lot of his personal rules, sleeping with his secretary, just being very self-destructive, everything. And of course this person doesn’t have a shrink or a bartender or any friends, and that’s also part of his machismo on some level to hold his secrets inside. And Peggy has her own life. And the idea that they could collide at that moment of this historic boxing match that was over in 90 seconds was a chance for a lot of the unspoken tension in the show to sort of come out for people who had been holding in their feelings for so long. And it was beautifully directed, and the performances are spectacular, and I had nothing to do with that. These few actors just rose to the occasion, and you get this non-saccharine emotional connection between two people you really care about. So it became a very special episode in the old-fashioned Emmy sense." (Matt Weiner/Deadline)



"'For me, after a career in public service, I didn’t have much of a bank account that would fund self-reflection and exploration, so I got after it,' (former Congressman Earl Pomeroy) said. Several other lawmakers who left Congress at the end of last year took the same tack — allowing for a short period of time to regroup but otherwise returning to work without going on the sort of longer respite that many could argue they deserve. What they’ve found: There is life after Congress, it’s good, and opportunities to continue working on policy abound. 'I don’t miss it,' former Rep. Bill Delahunt (D-Mass.) said of Congress. After 14 years on Capitol Hill, he was ready for a change. But he wasn’t looking to retire. Delahunt returned to Boston, started the Delahunt Group, a consulting firm, and also joined Eckert Seamans as special counsel. 'I can’t say there’s been a lot of relaxation,' he said. 'I wanted to stay engaged in public policy' ... Former Rep. Zach Wamp (R-Tenn.) already has a consulting business set up in his home state, working on issues ranging from nuclear energy to workforce development, and though he still travels some, he said he works at 'a much better pace' now ... For as hard as they continue to work, these former lawmakers now have control of their own schedules — and for the most part, they love it. Wamp said he and his wife now 'spend more time together than over the last 16 years because I was gone half the time.' 'You can say no a lot more readily now, and when the buzzers go off, you don’t have to run to vote,' Delahunt said. 'You can take control of your life again.' (former AK Senator Blanche) Lincoln and her husband were finally able to take a getaway to celebrate their 50th birthdays. But perhaps because they’re naturally busy people, most former lawmakers interviewed said the only way to slow down is to retire." (TheHill)

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