Saturday, July 30, 2011

Media-Whore D'Oeuvres

"Watching Angelina Jolie stride through a restaurant is to be given a lesson in how to avoid attracting attention in public. She looks ahead impassively, her back is straight and she walks at speed so that she will have moved on before any diners, who think they might just have spotted the world’s biggest female movie star, have time to do a double take. Unlike the other diners in The Grill on the Universal Studios lot in Hollywood, I know she is coming, so although I am seated at the back of the restaurant I notice her as soon as she enters. She is dressed entirely in black – black shirt, black trousers, black shoes – her long brown hair falling over her shoulders, a Louis Vuitton bag clutched at her side. Suddenly she is standing next to me and I am scrambling awkwardly out of my seat to introduce myself. 'Hi,' she says, putting out her hand for me to shake, her face lighting up into a broad smile that almost knocks me off my feet. 'I’m Angie' ... She doesn’t have a publicist so our meeting was arranged after several weeks of e-mail and telephone correspondence with a mysterious Frenchman called David." (FT)
"According to Universal's North American box office stats, Cowboys & Aliens opened #1 Friday with $12.994M, beating the $13.291M earned by Sony Pictures' The Smurfs. But even Universal is now agreeing with Sony that the Western/scifi mashup should come in only #2 for the weekend at $36.7888M, behind the little blue guys toon's $13.291M. But Smurfs is really overperforming while Cowboys & Aliens is way behind expectations to the point of tanking ..." (Nikki Finke)

"Last night, William Powhida looked set to be the most annoying artist on the scene right now. At the opening of his show at the posh Marlborough Gallery in Chelsea, he arrived in a vintage Mercedes convertible, which he drove straight into the exhibition space. The show is modestly titled 'POWHIDA,' and as the artist explained, its splashy opening was supposed to count as the work on display, with his guests as the studio supplies. 'Everyone’s invited into the gallery, and they’re all part of the art,' Powhida said, as cameras clicked around him. 'We are all creating art right now. Look at all the cameras—this is important.' ... An artist doesn’t get more annoying than that. Or wouldn’t, if in fact the man who said those things had been an artist at all. Although only some people knew it at the time—few enough that the New York Observer got it wrong in their blog post—the man at Marlborough was in fact a Hollywood actor, hired by the real William Powhida to play him as a bore and a creep.  'All of Bushwick' knows that the real Powhida is a 34-year-old who teaches high-school art in Brooklyn, according to an insider who let me in on the secret. As the opening took place, Powhida, the artist, was actually off on a residency in Wisconsin, and had been blogging from there about a serious 'social drawing project.' The subterfuge was well done. The fake Powhida was a portrait in clichés—tall and handsome but also a touch seedy, wearing the sleek suit and shoes of a social climber on Wall Street. As all us dupes stood around gawking, he stepped into a VIP-zone, cordoned off just for him and a few leggy blondes, and proceeded to get drunk from a private fridge at his elbow. (That last bit may not have been acting.)" (TheDailyBeast)

"In 1985, Ron Shore began selling metal detectors from his Chicago basement. The shop limped along for two decades, and five years ago, with the price of an ounce of gold at about $650, he nearly closed it. This year, gold has soared to more than $1,600 an ounce, and Mr. Shore, 66, is on track to rake in $1.2 million in sales. 'It's been gangbusters," he said, noting that his retail business—which sells detectors priced from $150 to $25,000—has doubled every year for three years running. In December, he quit his day job with a graphic-arts firm. 'I couldn't keep up with it anymore,' he said. With the price of precious metals on the rise and the economy stuck in a weak recovery, the metal-detector business is booming. 'It's the get-rich-quick mentality, or find some extra change to put in the gas tank,' said Mike Scott, sales director for First Texas Products of El Paso, which last year sold $15 million worth of its gold-prospecting metal detectors, marking the third consecutive year that sales of the product have tripled. The top U.S. retailer, Kellyco Metal Detectors in Winter Springs, Fla., saw annual sales climb 63% from 2005 to 2010, to $24.8 million. The store projects sales of $26 million this year. The phenomenon isn't limited to the United States. Minelab, an Australian company that sells high-end metal detectors for as much as $5,600, sold $118 million worth last year, more than double its sales of $46 million in 2009. Minelab partly attributes the jump in sales of the premium detectors to a gold rush in Sudan, where droves of modern-day prospectors with gold fever have traveled in search of fortune. The company projects continued growth this year." (WSJ)
Monday, August 1 The Shrinks Away Reading in Soho NYC

In August in New York the shrinks go on vacation, and when the shrinks are away, the writers will play.

On Monday my good friend Susan Shapiro will be reading at McNally Jackson booksellers from 7 to 9 pm on 52 Prince Street in Soho. The event is free and there's a wine and dessert reception afterwards, if you want to stop by. Also reading will be Molly Jong Fast, poet and former New York Times Book Review editor Harvey Shapiro, Lindsay Harrison and David Goodwillie.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Media-Whore D'Oeuvres

"'The US borrows money regularly. It’s how we fund our country. It’s how we pay federal workers, social security checks, make Medicare payments, and give federal grants. It’s also how we pay the interest on the debt we have outstanding. In fact, all this money has already been approved by Congress. They just haven’t authorized the payment yet.' 'Really?' Ellen said. 'That sounds like a strange way of doing things.' 'Well it’s the way things are done. But listen, if we don’t make any of those payments, people don’t get paid. Imagine you’re some elderly person, living from social security check to social security check. You wait for that money so you can go to CVS for your monthly Lipitor or whatever, Stop & Shop for the cheapest food you can buy, or to pay your electric bill and keep the lights going. The US government doesn’t send you your check, and you can’t spend it, which -- I might add -- keeps the economy going. You know, that same economy that’s barely out of one of the worst recessions ever?' 'Geez,' Ellen said. 'I didn’t think about that.'" (NYSocialDiary)

"There is nothing like the feeling of being on a truly beautiful sailing boat, hoisting the sails, and silently swishing through the waves, listening to the straining of the rigging, watching the bow plunge, and then staring at the sky. All the sanding and varnishing, the Sisyphus-like job which a boat such as Bushido requires, is forgotten; the only thing that matters is the magical sweep of a sheer or the awesome cut of a mainsail leech extending over a perfect counter. And the way a boat sits on the water. Like a woman, a boat is judged by her grace when lying still. Tolstoy was no sailor, but he got it right about conveying feelings being an art form. I only wish I could convey what I feel. At the island of Koronis, where George and Lita Livanos receive like no others, Willy and Olga Shawcross came onboard Bushido and showered me with compliments. They know about boats, Willy’s father having owned a great Fife, and it was like hearing compliments about my children. Boats are like mistresses—expensive, temperamental, and volatile, but one feels for them as one feels for one’s child. But back to reality. And Greece. Pouring money in will not make Greek industry competitive. Pouring money in is the problem, not the solution. All that the summit in Brussels accomplished was giving Greece breathing space. It will not work." (Taki)

"The Forbes family was devastated by yesterday's disclosures in rival Fortune about just how poorly Forbes Media LLC performed in recent years after it sold a minority chunk to Elevation Partners in 2006 and then was forced to bring in a restructuring adviser after it went into technical default on its loans. The restructuring is what forced Steve Forbes to relinquish the CEO job and Tim Forbes to hand off the chief operating officer title. An outside CEO, Mike Perlis, was brought on board. Fortune's article on Forbes Media also reveals that the family put $107.4 million into its own pocket in 2006, after selling a 45 percent minority stake to Elevation, the investment firm controlled by Silicon Valley entrepreneur Roger McNamee and U2 frontman Bono ... Forbes had its first inkling that the Fortune article was in progress late last week and has been searching to find how such detailed financial information could have leaked out. The story was posted online yesterday, just as the Forbes board was meeting. 'They've been blown out of the water by this,' said one insider, of the Forbes family. Aside from the detailed financial information that had never before been revealed, the article also chronicled the company's well-publicized selloffs of prized assets, such as its sprawling ranch in Colorado, bought by a Forbes 400 billionaire Louis Bacon, a Fiji island sold to Red Bull founder Dietrich Mateschitz, a palace in Tangiers, its corporate 727 emblazoned with the  'Capitalist Tool' slogan and the dry docking of its yacht, The Highlander, which was formerly owned by Steve's dad, Malcolm. Fortune also says that JPMorgan and six other lenders agreed to amend the loan to the company in 2010. Steve Forbes unleashed a blistering memo to staffers in which he said the Fortune story was published 'with the clear intention of disrupting the business of its most formidable competitor.'" (Keith Kelly)

"Chalk up two more gut- punches for Oprah Winfrey and her staggering OWN cable network.
Following news that Jenny McCarthy has taken her planned Harpo-produced talk show elsewhere -- possibly to NBC -- comes word that, Winfrey's main contribution to OWN, has lost half its readership since  'Oprah' left the air in May., which Winfrey gave to Discovery Communications as her half of their partnership in starting OWN, was down nearly 50 percent in site visits last month, according to That reflects the period following Winfrey's departure from broadcast TV after the May 25 finale of 'Oprah' -- which apparently is no longer driving the show's millions of viewers to Winfrey's Web site. Oprah Winfrey is now the CEO of her network, OWN.Hitting closer to home is McCarthy's defection from the Winfrey camp. McCarthy, one of Winfrey's close pals, was developing a syndicated talk show for Harpo but has pulled up stakes and is now shopping the show around, according to 'Jenny finally decided to embrace Oprah's philosophy, which is to 'follow your bliss,' ' a source told 'Well, Jenny followed her bliss and walked right off the project.'" (MichaelStarr)
"Fashionistas, socials and even a convicted media baron came to Le Cirque Tuesday for the wedding of Arnold Scaasi and Parker Ladd, who have been together 50 years. Guests including Martha Stewart, Tory Burch, Mica Ertegun, Alfred and Judy Taubman, Arlene Dahl, Marc Rosen, Iris Love and First Deputy Mayor Patricia E. Harris were given postcards depicting the couple a half-century ago in Capri. But the real eye-turner was Conrad Black, who's due back in federal prison in September to complete his sentence for fraud. Bill Cunningham and Patrick McMullan photographed the cocktail party and a smaller dinner for 20." (PageSix)

"Friends old and new turned up at Le Cirque Tuesday night to raise a glass to Arnold Scaasi and Parker Ladd, who had made their 50-year union official earlier in the day. Conrad Black, Barbara Walters, Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Liz Smith, Tory Burch, Barbara Taylor Bradford, Mica Ertegun, Gillis Addison and Stan Herman were among the well-wishers. Scaasi said he had never really given much thought to marriage until New York State made it legal for same-sex couples to wed. Nevertheless, the guests of honor have worn for years gold bands of his design that were made in Capri. Ladd said, “This room is full of the history of our friendships and relationships. We are very grateful that you showed up and it turned out to be an amanuensis. We won’t say we’ll see you in another 50, but maybe in one.' Smith recalled vacationing with them in Capri years ago. Much to Scaasi’s chagrin, one night out on the town she asked a cigar-smoking man to exhale elsewhere. The designer was so peeved with her behavior that he gave her the cold shoulder for three days — out on the open water. 'I like to call Arnold ‘The Man Who Must Be Obeyed,’ she said. 'We finally made up and I love him.'" (WWD)

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Media-Whore D'Oeuvres

"For my purposes, as the United States Military tries to relate the real, empirical fact of widespread corruption in Afghanistan to a population-centric approach to achieving stabilization of security, it may make more sense to take a bottom-up view of the process. Viewed from the perspective of a 30-year old Afghan male head of household, corruption (let's simplify it to 'bribery') is a functional tool. One pays a bribe for one of two reasons: (1) To get something, or (2) To prevent something. A bribe is only useful to our putative Afghan father if he is transacting with an official who has something to offer (public services, for example) or with an official who seeks to do something damaging to him that can be averted with the bribe. For most of Afghan history over the last five centuries the state was not sufficiently powerful to make institutional bribery a very useful, instrumental tool for an ordinary Afghan man. The state offered almost no services (so he couldn't buy much of value from an official) and the state was not actively taking too much (it was not a notable collector of taxes and it was not raising and maintaining a large standing army by conscription). Afghanistan was on the periphery of two great imperial systems that did, in fact, offer a range of public services and possess serious capability to take away goods, land and chattels from their citizens." (Tom Ricks)

"I’m sure by the time someone is able to do a biography of her (my personal choice would be biographer Amanda Vaill) a lot of doors would still be closed. I’ve reported previously that Mrs. Onassis in her last days was said to have burned a great deal of her personal correspondence from friends and close associates, including men she was believed to have had affairs with. She sat before a fire, tossing the bundles tied in ribbons into her fireplace. I was surprised to hear this, having read many times that she claimed great reverence for history. Yet, at the end, destroying it." (NYSocialDiary)
"ONBOARD S/Y BUSHIDO --- The thickly pined forested hills form a perfect backdrop to the not-so-wine-dark waters off the Peloponnese. Soft greens and blues are Edward Hopper colors—as is the yellowish-white midday sunlight—noon’s inviolate stillness being a keynote of his paintings ... This is the first time after three weeks of sailing with a boatful of friends that I am alone. Isolation can be a beautiful sensation. The onboard saloon where I spend most of my day is spacious and festooned with samurai swords, kamikaze flags, and pictures of my judo, karate, and tennis wars. And books ... I seriously am thinking of leaving everything behind and going on a Flying Dutchman trip, but it ain’t my style. Leo Tolstoy wrote in 1896 that 'Art is a human activity consisting in this, that one man consciously, by means of certain external signs, hands on to others feelings he has lived through, and that other people are infected by these feelings and also experience them.'" (Taki)
"Reports from the past few days have suggested that Casey Anthony‘s legal team is already speaking to networks about securing her first interview, which would likely come a few months down the line. Nancy Grace is among those reporting that the Anthony team is seeking $1 million-plus for an interview. As astonishing number. However, just because they seek it, it does not mean they shall receive it. ABC News will almost certainly stay far away from Anthony, even if they were offered the interview for free. The revelation that ABC had paid well over $200,000 in licensing fees to Anthony’s family and legal team during the course of the case is a source of great shame for many inside the division." (TVNewser)

"Eight months after Al Sharpton signed a pivotal agreement that helped Comcast and NBC secure Federal Communications Commission approval for their $30 billion merger, MSNBC appears poised to reward him with a prime-time news show. While Sharpton is a soundbite success and entertaining TV guest, his three prior attempts at hosting a show have flopped badly, with the most recent, his ballyhooed Education SuperHighway, dying after a single episode last fall. His anchor forays in 2004 and 2005—I Hate My Job and Sharp Talk—ended after seven and 12 episodes respectively, while his 2004 presidential-campaign performance was so widely seen as vacuous and uninformed that it earned him remarkably puny support, even among black voters. In fact, until recently, Sharpton has been a Fox favorite, schmoozing with Bill O’Reilly and Sean Hannity 16 times in recent years, while appearing on Keith Olbermann’s old show only once.Yet he has now been tapped to displace Cenk Uygur as the anchor of the 6 p.m. show MSNBC Live. In a mystified farewell address last Wednesday, Uygur pointed to a dramatic uptick in his internal ratings for April, May, and June, when his show apparently ranked second overall in total viewers and even exceeded Fox in an 18-to-34 demographic in June, noting that MSNBC had offered him a substantial pay package to do weekend shows and that he had declined. (An NBC spokesman declined to discuss ratings or anything else with us, noting only that 'there is no agreement' with Sharpton to host a program 'at this time,' though The New York Times and many other news organizations have reported it.) Sharpton has a long and well-documented history of leveraging his civil-rights profile for his own benefit." (Wayne Barrett)

"Last night I could not turn Howard Stern off, even though it was 1:30 AM and I'd been up since 7 and I was where I wanted to be. Now I'm a bit pissed at Howard. Because he went soft on Gaga. I know, I know, if we were on the phone he'd tell me he had no choice, this is what you've got to do to get A-listers, be nice, not be yourself. But Howard is himself with the B-listers, the downtrodden, the freaks, his metier, and what is revealed is an often fascinating look at the human condition, but yesterday's interview with Crystal Harris, the fiancee of Hugh Hefner who abandoned him, was positively stupefying. Equally stupefying is today's coverage of the interview. All the press focuses on the length of Hef's performance, even though the video posted online belies the notion that he truly lasted only two seconds, Crystal was joking. But she was not joking about being under house arrest. Which made none of today's tabloid stories. That the Playboy Mansion is a glorified cult, run with an iron fist by Hef himself, his dictates enforced by a team of security guards. You see Crystal Harris had to escape. During a film. Via a ruse, stating that she needed to go out and run an errand. There's a fiction, reinforced by the mainstream media, that the rich and famous live a better life than you and me. That they're happier, have better sex, have somehow transcended the human fallacies that trip the rest of us up. But Hef is insecure and controlling and 85. The media doesn't question the Playboy founder, it just goes along with the story. A whitewashed version of the truth." (Lefsetz)

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Whatever Happened to the Village Voice?

When I was growing up in NYC, The Village Voice was profoundly relevant. And in 1989, when I went to a progressive liberal arts college in New England I found to my insular surprise that its relavance went beyond the mean streets of New York City. The Voice was sex positive, urbane, left-libertarian with great cartoons -- Matt Groening, pre-Simpsons, started there -- not entirely lacking in sharp elbowed columns on city and state and national politics. The Village Voice was like a younger, cooler Nation magazine with a sense of humor and a more sophisticated and nuanced attitude about sexuality and society. It was the perfect publishing antidote to the Reagan era of "Moral Majorities" and goddamn fucking big har. And in this digital age with the globe open to it, the Voice is but a shadow of its previous influence ....

What happened?

After losing such stellar talent as Nat Hentoff, Jules Feiffer, Lynn Yaeger and Tom Robbins the paper was never quite the same. Still, even with the amazing Michael Musto, Freewill Astrology and even the decent Running Scared blog the paper is not navigating the new digital universe well.

To illustrate my point here are two examples of very awkward, very recent cover stories that are entirely unworthy of the Voice that I remember growing up with:

Ashton Kutcher vs. Village Voice

"Real Men Get Their Facts Straight" is the Village Voice's Most Commented, Most Emailed and Most Viewed story. Then there is the social media component: It was liked 822 times on Facebook; it was re-Tweeted 222 times; it has 86 Digg mentions; It drew 1041 passionate comments. So in that sense -- getting eyeballs, gaining media traction -- the story was a no-brainer. I, cynically, get that.

But it was also a moral loss for the nation's oldest and largest alternative newsweekly. I can understand the editorial-publishing rationale for publishing such a story. But that rationale rings hollow, particularly when it then becomes a cover story, squandering the reputation of the Voice. The story was essentially that Ashton's figures -- 100,000 to 300,000 child prostitutes -- were inflated and, further, his ad campaign is really silly. Quite frankly that's a Twitter post, not a cover story.

And then there are the social media realities. Attacking a man with an astronomical amount of Twitter followers, goading him into a Twitter war is a win -- however Pyrrhic -- for the Voice. If Ashton's numbers are inflated, his cause was in earnest. And the Voice itself inflates their one sentence argument -- with lots of charts -- into a cover story for the express purpose of garnering social media attention. That came across in the Twitter war where the Voice, which profits off of escort ads in their back pages, came across as profoundly awkward.

The Village Voice founded by Norman Mailer, the Village Voice that I read in the 80s would never ever lose anything to an Ashton Kutcher. And yet it did.

Village Voice vs. Bloomberg

This week's Voice attacks NYC Mayor Bloomberg for, essentially -- after ten years in office -- not having a central animating principle to his Mayoralty. I don't get it. Michael Bloomberg is not a bad Mayor, not a crypto-fascist like Rudy Giuliani, the central animating principal of his Mayoralty being taking a sledgehammer to crime, civil liberties be damned! Bloomberg came on after September 11th, after the economy tanked, after the city's deficit skyrocketed and after Giuliani had left gaping wounds in the relations between minorities and whites. Putting all of that into perspective, Bloomberg's Mayoralty has been all about healing a tired and wounded city.

Okay -- Bloomberg wanted his Mayoralty to be about Education. Bloomberg wanted to be known as "The Education Mayor." And by his own measure he failed on that one. Got it. But what Bloomberg has done for education in New York, with charter schools, is a radical transformation of a moribund institution. And the jury is still out on how that transformation affects public education. We really won't know for at least a decade. Further, New York under Bloomberg has won $113 million in federal charter scool grants -- who knows what its effect will be on future generations?

In other words, I don't get the rationale for this story, much less why it is taking up prime cover real estate. Still, like Ashton, it gets eyeballs. "Citizen Bloomberg" is the second most emailed story (after Ashton) and it has only been online for a week. So I guess I have answered my own question.


The era of cover real estate controlled entirely by well-intentioned editors that eschew the influences of the bottom line are over. The opposite cynical extreme is to program covers wholly by what gets eyeballs, what causes social media chatter and what gets pageviews that can be turned into ad revenue. That way leads to porn, gossip and snark. The descent into the cultural lowest common denominator. Unfortunately, Norman Mailer's baby is moving steadily in that direction and it is not alone in journalism.

The answer, as always, is somewhere in between the two extremes. The Voice should be aware of its history, its prestige but also push stories that are acutely aware of the splash they'll make on social media. Balance.

It's not that hard -- at least it shouldn't be -- for an institution as culturally important as the Voice. But as a a Realist I am not confident that this obvious fact will be attended to.
Media-Whore D'Oeuvres

"(Tom Oatley, who writes on foreign ownership of US government debt) focuses on 'moral suasion,' but there's also a national-interest motive for many U.S. debtholders. Most of the official holders of U.S. debt have a strong incentive for a) the value of their holdings not to plummet; and b) the United States economy to continue to snap up other their exports. If China, for example, is buying up U.S. debt to sustain its own growth, then neither a technical default nor a ratings downgrade should deter China or other export engines from continuing to buy U.S. debt even if there's a spot of trouble. So it appears that complex interdependence will force America's rivals to continue to hold U.S. debt even after the debtpocalypse!! The United States in the clear, right? Not so fast. Here are five 'known unknowns' I can think of that might complicate Oatley's analysis .." (ForeignPolicy)

"Turning 35 I was amazed that I still felt like a kid, an adolescent, Maybe fourteen. All those years leading up to that number I which I had always thought of as 'old' -- as in mature, settled. I didn’t bother me to realize that it wasn’t true. Feeling like a kid gave me license that I would use. A couple years later I decided that my life could only work for me if I were a writer. I had been in business at the time, and fairly prosperous. Ironically it was that prosperity which motivated me to move on. I sold my business (in Connecticut), got rid of most of my belongings except my typewriter and my books, and with a dog and five cats, and I moved to Los Angeles to start a new life. Which thirty-odd years later is this life." (NYSocialDiary)

"Howard (Stern) had Roseanne Barr on the phone. She agreed with Howard about the editing thing. She said that she's in L.A. so it's 3:30 in the morning out there. She was able to stay up for the show though. Howard asked if she's got a lot of money. She said she doesn't have as much as people think she does. Howard said he's guessing that she has $150 million. She said that he was wrong. She said that the TV show she had was 20 years ago so she has to work. Howard asked if she's making anything with that nut farm. Roseanne said she's staying even with that. She said that's all she's trying to do though ...Roseanne said that the nuts are all over the place in Hawaii and they're just laying on the ground rotting and being eaten by pigs. She said people are starving all over the world and they're just leaving these things laying around ...Roseanne said she paid about a million for the 50 acres with some buildings on the land. She said that she's cleared about 20 acres with her own hands. She said she loves working in the dirt and doing something like this. She said she likes having something more than a dumbass life ...Howard asked Roseanne if she's done with the drug thing. She said she only needed that while she was with (ex husband Tom Arnold). After that was over she was done. Howard asked what she thinks about Arnold. She said she knew he was like that so it's not a big surprise. She said that all Hollywood stars are like that. Howard asked if he ever came on to her. Roseanne said he did think she was cute. Howard said Sandra Bernhard told him that Arnold tried to pick her up when she was a young woman." (Marksfriggin)

"(Lucian Freud) fathered many children and was beastly to most of them, but that is not my point. His various ugly women and children are not my concern. His art is. It’s ugly and it’s bad, as he used much too much paint to cover his lack of talent—although, unlike most of his contemporaries, Freud knew how to draw. The hucksters who control the art world pushed his ghastly works to unheard-of amounts, and the hacks who write about the art world decided he was England’s greatest living painter. Well, no more. The grotesque person whose name was Lucian Freud has done us the favor and left this world, although he left it much too late—88 years too late, to be exact." (Taki)

"Jailed celebrity Ponzi-scheming money manager Ken Starr is being divorced by his ample-charmed, former Scores stripper wife, Diane Passage, Page Six has exclusively learned. While Starr is serving a 7½-year federal prison sentence, Passage is seeking counsel from a divorce lawyer. Sources say the busty brunette -- who quipped to Page Six in October that she was on the lookout for a new companion and, 'Billionaire is the new millionaire' -- plans to file for divorce from Starr next month. When we asked if she was asking for a divorce, Passage -- one of Starr's most valued assets -- told us last night in an e-mail, "It is true but I can't comment any further.' Scheming accountant Starr was convicted in March of bilking $33 million from clients including Al Pacino, Uma Thurman, Sylvester Stallone, Wesley Snipes, Martin Scorsese and Lauren Bacall, in part to keep Passage in diamonds and expensive furs. Starr is behind bars in upstate Otisville, but Passage isn't willing to wait until his release. A source tells Page Six, 'She has tried to hang in as much as she can and be supportive. But she's fed up.' Another source told us Passage was struggling because her and Starr's bank accounts remain frozen by authorities, and she's failed to meet payments on their East 74th Street triplex, which boasts an indoor swimming pool and is dubbed 'The Ponzi Palace.' To ease her financial plight, she mulled a return to pole dancing and auditioned for a stripper reality show." (PageSix)

"Denise (Richards) said that night before she was on Howard (Stern's) show was the craziest night of her life. She said that she had never seen anything like that. Denise said she went out to dinner with Charlie (Sheen) and some friends and they had a great day that day. She said that she heard that some of his friends would meet with them later. He had a private room and there were 4 guys and 4 women. She didn't know any of them. Denise said that she sat down and this woman Capri asked to take a picture with her. She said sure to her because she didn't know who she was at the time. She said she had no idea what was going on. Howard said that Charlie was going nuts spending money and spending like $25,000 on a bottle of champagne. She said they were like $6,000 a bottle. She laughed and said 'Just six...''" (Marksfriggin)

"The jet set has crash-landed on the Riviera to party the summer away at lavish bashes complete with caged tigers and crates of Cristal. Wealthy Frenchman Thomas Leclercq threw a party in St. Tropez Saturday for more than 500, with two tigers that were supposed to roam freely through the crowd. But 'The tigers were very agitated and looked like they may eat some of the polished guests, so were kept in their cages,' a source said. Partygoers purring at the big cats included society queen Denise Rich, Ivana Trump and investor Nicolas Berggruen. The biggest spender, Brazilian businessman Wilson Borges, splashed out more than a million euros over three nights at Club VIP on bottles including 1990 Cristal Methuselah, the world's most expensive Champagne. Newly married Miami Heat star Chris Bosh and wife Adrienne stopped on nightlife impresario Noah Tepperberg's yacht. New York socialite Dori Cooperman threw her 40th birthday party at a mansion Monday with pals Alex von Furstenberg, producer Lawrence Bender, Elizabeth Hurley's ex Arun Nayar, and Jason Pomeranc. She then moved onto Barry Diller's yacht, Eos, with von Furstenberg and fiancée Ali Kay." (PageSix)

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Media-Whore D'Oeuvres

"For the past five years, in the bastions of civilized Europe, the far right has been resurgent. Extreme right-wing political parties have scored unprecedented electoral success in a number of countries, including Austria, France, the Netherlands, and Sweden. Far-right street movements of disgruntled young men, barely seen for a generation, are appearing in greater numbers in busy Strassen, plazas, and boulevards. Until Friday, governments and the security services viewed this as a worrying trend, but one that could be contained. With the stunning, tragic attacks in Norway, that has now changed. Intelligence agencies, concerned more with al Qaeda for a decade, are suddenly alert to a new and deadly threat. The relationship between ascendant far-right extremism and political violence is suddenly a top political and security concern." (ForeignPolicy)

"In an infamous 2007 Vanity Fair column, Christopher Hitchens asked his readers why women aren't funny. 'Please do not pretend not to know what I am talking about,' he chided. Comedian Tina Fey doesn't have to pretend. In the four years since Hitchens accused the fairer sex of also being the unfunny sex, Fey has won six Emmy awards (she has seven total), two Golden Globes, and four Writers Guild of America awards. Her success is proof positive, for anyone who needed it, that women can be as funny, or funnier, than their male counterparts. 'It is an impressively arrogant move to conclude that just because you don't like something, it is empirically not good,' argues Fey, responding to Hitchens' essay in her best-selling memoir Bossypants. 'I don't like Chinese food, but I don't write articles trying to prove it doesn't exist.'  With every acerbic episode of 30 Rock, every impromptu one-liner, and every self-deprecating remark, Fey is reshaping the way both genders see female comedians." (Slate)

"House websites and telephone lines are getting jammed one day after President Obama asked voters to call their lawmakers. Outside callers could expect to get a busy signal when contacting numbers on Capitol Hill, according to the House Call Center. 'Due to the high volume of external calls, House telephone circuits serving 202-225-XXXX phone numbers are near capacity resulting in outside callers occasionally getting busy signals,' the Call Center said in an email to system administrators on Tuesday morning. 'Outbound calls are unaffected,' the email read. Obama on Monday urged Americans to contact their legislators to voice support for a debt-ceiling increase agreement. Since his speech, a number of lawmakers' websites have also gone down for some time, and congressional offices have reported unusually high call traffic. The websites for House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) and Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) all reportedly showed a 'server is too busy' message for some time after Obama's speech." (TheHill)

"Seventeen months ago, STRATFOR described how the future of Europe was bound to the decision-making processes in Germany. Throughout the post-World War II era, other European countries treated Germany as a feeding trough, bleeding the country for resources (primarily financial) in order to smooth over the rougher portions of their systems. Considering the carnage wrought in World War II, most Europeans — and even many Germans — considered this perfectly reasonable right up to the current decade. Germany dutifully followed the orders of the others, most notably the French, and wrote check after check to underwrite European solidarity. However, with the end of the Cold War and German reunification, the Germans began to stand up for themselves once again. Europe’s contemporary financial crisis can be as complicated as one wants to make it, but strip away all the talk of bonds, defaults and credit-default swaps and the core of the matter consists of these three points: (1) Europe cannot function as a unified entity unless someone is in control. (2) At present, Germany is the only country with a large enough economy and population to achieve that control. (3) Being in control comes with a cost: It requires deep and ongoing financial support for the European Union’s weaker members." (STRATFOR)

"Linda Christian, an actress and one time wife of actor Tyrone Power, died on Friday at the age of 87. Linda became world famous in 1949 when she married Tyrone Power then one of Hollywood’s biggest box office stars right up there with Clark Gable, Gary Cooper and Fred Astaire. Power had been married before to another foreign-born actress Panatela although they had been separated for some time by the late '40s. In 1947 he made a film – shot mainly in Mexico – “Captain from Castile” with Jean Peters (later married to Howard Hughes) and Cesar Romero. Known in his circle to be bisexual, Power began an affair with Romero during the filming. He was also having an affair at the time with Lana Turner – also a major box office star at MGM – who later recalled him as the 'love of (her) life' ...After cinematography of 'Castile' was completed, Power and Romero went off on a 'publicity tour' of South America and then around the world together ... The lovers trip, however, was interrupted by the beautiful Dutch/Mexican actress Linda Christian ...Dutch on her father’s side, Mexican on her mother’s, she grew up all over the world (father was a petroleum engineer) and was fluent in French, German, Spanish, Italian and English. A journalist described her as 'a little like a wild mountain lion up a tree. Her bright green eyes are far apart and when she smiles she looks as though she’d bite.' She also had a reputation (and most complimentary) for being very good in bed. It was said that it was her sexuality that lured Tyrone Power back over to her side of the fence. His main problem, as a friend of mine who knew him once told me, was that 'everybody was in love with Tyrone Power and he was so nice he tried to accommodate them all.'” (NYSocialDiary)

"20th Century Fox is closing a deal for screen rights to the oral history ESPN: Those Guys Have All The Fun. The studio will develop a feature about the formation of the 24-hour sports network. The pic will be produced by Michael De Luca, Trigger Street's Dana Brunetti and Julie Yorn. The book by James Andrew Miller and Tom Shales follows a format similar to Live From New York, the oral history they wrote about Saturday Night Live. Here, they use the voices of past and present ESPN personalities and producers to tell the story of how a father and son maxed out their credit cards to scrape together the cash to reserve a satellite transponder so they could show sporting events nonstop on a 24-hour station. The book is a gossipy journey about how that venture turned from a 1970s joke that started with broadcasts of Australian rules football and rodeo, to a dominant brand in the sporting world that broadcast pro football and baseball games and become arguably the most profitable cable network ever created." (Deadline)

"Howard (Stern) said Crystal Harris was going to marry Hugh Hefner and she's only 25. Hefner is 85. Howard said that she backed out at the last minute. Howard had Crystal come in and said that Hef seems to have a type. He said she looks like that type. He asked if she went through a bunch of changes for Hef. She said she already had the blonde hair and the boobs so she didn't have to change that up. Howard asked if Crystal if she's still part of the organization. She said she is and she's visited him a few times since the break up. Howard asked how she got involved in that whole world. Crystal said she had submitted a picture to get into a mansion party. She said she was a student and she hadn't done any stripping or anything. Robin asked if Hef spotted her. Crystal said she saw him and she waved to him and he invited her in. She said they talked and she told him what she does and she ended up moving in 2 weeks later ... She said that he tries not to take Viagra anymore because he lost his hearing from taking it." (Marskfriggin)

Monday, July 25, 2011

Obama, In the Center

Clearly the President has read Taylor Branch's fascinating book "The Clinton Tapes," and has mastered some of the historical parallels between the clinton-GOP wars of the 104th congress and today's Tea Party led Congress. We got a taste of Obama embracing Clintonianism when, in Mid December 2010, he did a co-presser with the former President, then, surreally, allowed Bill to go it alone. There is also proof that it was on his reading list last Christmas, right before he tacked hard center. From the New York Times:
After last year’s Republican midterm victories, the Clinton comparisons surged, and Mr. Obama himself said he was reading the historian Taylor Branch’s book on Mr. Clinton, “The Clinton Tapes.” (Mr. Branch last week deemed the analogies the product of a passive electorate and cynical era in which “politics is reduced to a dangerously complacent form of entertainment.”)    
A midterm shellacking does that to a President. After his Christmas break reading of The Clinton Tapes, Obama emerged, by early 2011, as truly a Clinton-Obama hybrid -- realist, for a "responsible ending" to foreign wars, hawkish on Libya (shades of reagan), aggressively (for a Democrat) pro-business. The question now is can Obama hold the Progressive Left even as he becomes a full creature of the center. The ongoing wars in Iraq and Afghanistan -- and a new one in Libya -- are going to be hard to explain to his left, to the young who voted for a mandate of change in '08. Then again, where will they go? Nader in 2012?

Or maybe they'll just stay home?

But if Obama could increase his vote in the center, if Obama could increase his vote of white seniors -- maybe through MediScare (so successful in NY's 26th district)? -- if Obama could increase his Hispanic vote, maybe that could offset the young idealists who, brokenhearted at Obama's Establishmentarianism, will remain home in 2012.

Media-Whore D'Oeuvres

"As the horrors of the bombing and shooting spree in Norway become clearer, Americans are both expressing their sympathy and asking whether it could happen here. As of writing, it's still unclear whether these gruesome attacks are the act of a lone domestic gunman, an international terrorist network, or some odd, imagined combination of both. This may yet turn out to be Norway's 9/11 or its Oklahoma City. But the scene of destruction in downtown Oslo does beg the question: why haven't there been more large-scale terrorist attacks on the U.S. homeland. Yes, the United States remains vulnerable to violence, whether terrorist or not. School shootings at Columbine and Virginia Tech and the deaths that surrounded the attack on Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords are painful reminders of how easy it is for angry or deluded individuals to pick up a gun and kill large numbers of people. Indeed, with this reminder, the relative safety of the U.S. homeland from terrorists since 9/11 becomes all the more remarkable." (ForeignPolicy)

"Two weeks ago, I went to the New York Times’ gleaming, modernist, Renzo Piano–­designed headquarters on Eighth Avenue in Manhattan to discuss some good financial news with Arthur Sulzberger Jr., the paper’s publisher and the chairman of the New York Times Company. Good news has been in short supply in the world of dead-tree media, and for the Times in particular. For much of Sulzberger’s nineteen-year tenure, the paper that his family has controlled for more than a century has been embroiled in one crisis or another, ranging from the Jayson Blair fiasco, which led to the overthrow of Howell Raines, the hard-charging editor who had been handpicked by Sulzberger, to the paper’s reporting on the phantom WMDs in Iraq, which some believed had even helped propel the U.S. into war. Then there were the paper’s financial troubles, which appeared to have pushed it to the brink of extinction. For well over a decade, the Internet had been relentlessly consuming the paper’s business model. On the web, the saying went, information wants to be free; this left institutions like the Times, which invest huge sums in reporting the news, in an existential quandary." (Seth Mnookin)

"Russell Brand usually plays the fool in his movies. But he has written a very smart blog post about addiction, his own addiction, and his friend Amy Winehouse's addiction and death this weekend. I have said it before and I'll say it again: the entertainment industry is not doing enough institutionally to stop enabling its addicted artists and start helping them.This is a town that has no notion of personal responsibility, much less corporate responsibility. (Witness how long it took for the moguls to realize that closing the MPTF's intensive care facilities was not a humane idea even if it made financial sense.) In the mid-1990s, the music industry took a long hard look at its addiction problem and its role before more artists died. But that was back-burnered when National Academy of Recording Arts & Sciences president Michael Greene was forced out. The film and TV business has never taken a leadership role on this issue." (NIkkiFinke)

"Saturday night John Irelan and I went to dinner at a Georgetown restaurant named Fahrenheit. It seemed the perfect choice to cap a week of temperatures in the 100s. Fortunately for us, the heat was only in the restaurant’s name ... Our dinner was off the clock and off the record, sort of, which is too bad because as one of the city’s most popular interior designers and dinner partners, especially among cave dwellers and the establishment, he knows lots of secrets, the kind that are great to hear on a Saturday night over a long chatty dinner in a cool retreat ... Part of our dish was about the recent sale of Evermay estate, which sold for $22 million, less than half its original asking price, but still one of the most expensive real estate transactions in Washington ever. The historic Georgetown property had been in the family of the late DuPont Chemical heir F. Lammot Belin since the 1920s, passing from generation to generation. When Harry Belin put it on the market more than two years ago the asking price was an eye-popping $49 million. The only person rumored to be interested was Oprah Winfrey. " (NYSocialDiary)
"Which hip-hop artist drove up to his agent's office in a $200,000 car, wearing a $50,000 wristwatch, to beg for money because he's 'dead broke' and needed $5,000 for child support? . . . Which socialite and her artsy husband are the star students in a New York sex guru's outrageous extended-orgasm classes?" (PageSix)

"This isn’t just a story about the future according to Josh Harris. This is a story about Josh Harris according to Josh Harris. When I was first introduced to the Internet entrepreneur, I scheduled our interview for 2pm on a Friday afternoon at the offices of Morris & King on 5th Avenue. After I watched We Live in Public, a documentary about his life, I emailed him and changed it to the following Tuesday at 5pm, when I knew I wouldn’t have to worry about getting back to my desk. Everything you are about to read was told to me in 5 hours, over 2 beers and a soggy cigar in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. Only one alarm was set off in the process. In the late 90s, Harris was a bona fide New York City business star when his company, Jupiter Communications, went public. There was a day when he had a liquid net worth of $40 million. During that time, he also ran a second Internet company called Pseudo Programs, Inc., which was an Internet television network. While running Pseudo, he dressed like a clown named Luvvy and began throwing decadent parties at his SoHo loft and running Manhattan’s underground art scene.In March 2000, he rented a helicopter and flew around the World Trade Center filming an art group called 'Gelatin' removing a window from the 91st floor, sliding a balcony through the slot, and one by one each man nakedly stepping out onto air. Harris believes the U.S. Government has been watching him ever since. A decade later, he was the subject of the Grand Jury Prize winning documentary film 'We Live In Public' at the 2009 Sundance Film Festival. A year later, he made it into the Museum of Modern Art. In his spare time, the self-proclaimed ‘Ethiopian national’ is an artist, a sports fisherman, a poker player, an apple farmer and he once shot three turkeys dead with one round." (TheNextWeb)

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Media-Whore D'Oeuvres

"There was a moment—after he appealed for reason, blamed the Republicans, recited the numbers, invoked Ronald Reagan—that President Obama seemed filled with fervor. He was not going to be party to 'driving a bunch of poor kids off the Medicaid rolls,' or penalizing the 'working stiffs out there,' the people who “don’t have lobbyists. These are standard Democratic talking points, to be sure, but when you strip everything else away, when you try to locate the remnants of the audacity of hope, this is why Obama thinks he ran for president. As he announced the collapse of the debt negotiations Friday evening after House Speaker John Boehner pulled the plug, Obama appeared to offer an answer to those, many of them in his own party, who wonder: Does he have a breaking point? To some diehard Democrats, Obama always seems willing to meet the opposition more than halfway in the service of getting a deal done. He put their sacred programs, Medicare and Social Security, on the table without securing a Republican commitment to raise a dollar in taxes. His own partisans weren’t clear whether he had a line in the sand that he would refuse to cross. It’s not that the president is certain to prevail in this debilitating impasse. Both parties, as has been clear for some time, are headed for an ugly short-term fix to avoid a government default on August 2. Whatever promises they make about grand bargains, it’s all about dodging an economic bullet at this point." (Howie Kurtz)

"Mohammed Bouazizi's final act of hopelessness -- setting himself ablaze in front of a government building in Sidi Bouzid, Tunisia, on Dec. 17, 2010 -- touched off a wave of civil unrest that toppled two governments, threatens to bring down at least three others, and has redefined the relationship between the ruler and the ruled across the Arab world. But the protests, which were spurred by rising food prices and unemployment, have bequeathed a cruel irony to their makers: A worsening of the very same conditions that sparked the Arab Spring. The economies of Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco, Syria, and Tunisia are projected to shrink by a collective 0.5 percent this year, reversing 4.4 percent growth in 2010, according to a report published by the Institute of International Finance in May. In Yemen and Libya, which are still in turmoil, the numbers will likely be worse; and the growth forecast for the North African region as a whole has fallen from 4.5 percent in 2010 to less than 1 percent this year, according to the African Central Bank. Even among the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries, some of which enjoyed revolution-induced oil windfalls, the Arab Spring has produced economic losers. Bahrain, in particular -- which sent capital and bank employees scuttling when it violently quelled protests, killing at least five demonstrators, and declared a three-month state of emergency earlier this year -- could potentially forfeit its position as one of the region's financial hubs. As Marina Ottaway, director of the Middle East Program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, told Foreign Policy, many of the international banks that were headquartered in Bahrain 'have just pulled up and gone. And they are probably not going to come back.' Capital flight has also hamstrung other Arab countries." (ForeignPolicy)
"Mariah Carey made her first public appearance at a New York club less than three months after giving birth to twins -- and seemed back to her divatastic ways, being fanned by a minion and ordering champagne to be delivered to her in the bathroom. The svelte-looking singer, who had her twins Moroccan Scott and Monroe on April 30, partied at Chelsea hot spot Juliet Supperclub until 2:30 a.m. yesterday morning with two female friends and without hubby Nick Cannon.  Spies said that a glowing Mariah 'looked fantastic' in a light brown strapless dress, sipped from a $1,600 bottle of Angel champagne, and happily chatted and posed for photos for fans, but still seemed to have retained a few of her famous diva ways ... "She spent a lot of the night dancing, and was nice to anyone who approached her. But the club was very crowded, so she asked if she could have 'a minute' of quiet time in the bathroom. The ladies' was cleared out, and Mariah ordered a $450 bottle of Perrier Jouet, and had a few glasses in the privacy of the bathroom before coming back out to join the masses.'" (PageSix)

"When (Elizabeth) Meyer was 21, she lost her father, an entertainment lawyer, to lymphoma. She took it upon herself to give him a fitting send-off. 'I planned it like an event. It was a success!' she says. The casket was hidden under a blanket of peonies; songs by the Stones and David Bowie were played, loudly. 'Someone said, ‘I want to dance,’ and my best friend, Ali ­Hilfiger'—Tommy’s daughter—'said, ‘Go ahead, then, dance!’' Afterward: lunch for 200 at Centolire. Meyer, realizing she was on to something, pitched her services to (Frank E. Campbell funeral chapel, on Madison Avenue a block east of the Met); Campbell bit. As a kind of orientation, the mortuary started her as a receptionist, a role that included collecting bodies from homes and morgues. 'The first time they asked me to do that, I was wearing suede Gucci loafers. I was kind of concerned about them,’ she says. 'Now I keep a pair of shoes here that never go back into my apartment.' Meyer’s mother was horrified to learn of her little fashionista’s career change. 'She thinks I’ve been fixated on death since my dad passed away,' says Meyer, who wears her father’s Rolex every day. For her part, Meyer finds the job cathartic, now that she’s gotten over her initial discomfort. 'It’s not glamorous, I can’t sugarcoat it. But I have high-powered executives telling me their fears and wants, and I’m honored they open up to me.' Those wants can be highly specific: For guitarist Les Paul’s memorial service, she was asked to secure a tour bus; for an exotic-car collector, she organized a cortège of Ferraris; for a prominent Latin American, she transformed a chapel into a tropical setting, complete with palm trees and a D.J. 'It reminded me of Bungalow 8,' Meyer recalls." (NYMag)

"I have an appointment with Egypt’s most famous dentist. The waiting room is a smart hotel restaurant in central Cairo. Although Dr Alaa al-Aswany’s trade is pulling and polishing teeth, he has achieved international fame as a novelist. His first book, The Yacoubian Building, came out in 2002, was published in English in 2004 and made into a film in 2006. The novel is a brilliant portrayal of social, political and business life in Hosni Mubarak’s Egypt, viewed through the lives of the inhabitants of a single building. In the aftermath of the revolution that overthrew the Mubarak government earlier this year, the book’s focus on the social injustices and corruption of Egyptian society seems sharply prescient. Aswany’s international literary fame – added to the fact that he is fluent in English, French and Spanish – made him a much sought-after commentator during the Egyptian revolution ... We are meeting just a few minutes’ walk from Tahrir Square at the Four Seasons, one of Cairo’s smartest hotels. It is a place so posh that even the X-ray machine that scans all bags coming into the hotel for bombs is covered in faux walnut. The large dining room of Zitouni, a Lebanese restaurant, is all but empty. The Egyptian revolution has been good for freedom but bad for tourism. Just after 1pm, Aswany strides across the room. He is wearing an open-neck black shirt and a grey, pinstriped jacket. He has a broad, slightly pockmarked face and a heavy, boxer’s build. In fact, to my eyes, he bears a resemblance to Mubarak, a man he detests. As soon as he sits down, he lights up a cigarette – one of many that will be smoked that afternoon. The waiter comes over and we order a couple of locally produced Stella beers, while we consider what to eat." (FT)

"Last night The Observer hopped on a hot, sweaty subway and emerged in the hot, sweaty Lower East Side. We trudged, wiping the sweat from our brow, to the Vice Magazine Photo Show. Arriving at the door of the gallery, a mob of perspiring partiers was causing the doorman and bouncer much distress. 'Everybody back up!,' the seasoned bouncer would periodically yell, muttering under his breath about the overwhelmed Vice rep at the door. We got inside, hoping to escape the humidity, and found ourselves confronted with the feverish calidity of young drunken body-heat. We waded down the slim staircase, and pushed toward the bar where tattooed youths waited for their helping of free alcohol. The drinks were strong. A booth and speakers had been set up in the small downstairs space where DJ Vito Fun blasted Florence+The Machine, the Killers and the like. 'Racism is Gay!' his shirt read. Tipsy hipsters clapped to the music and danced, hand in sweaty hand. Girls in lace dresses dabbed at their foreheads in futile desperation while boys in T-shirts soaked through with sweat looked on." (Observer)

"Gordon S. Wood is more than an American historian. He is almost an American institution. Of all the many teachers and writers of history in this Republic, few are held in such high esteem. Part of his reputation rises from his productivity — a stream of books, monographs, articles, lectures and commentary. Now he has added 'The Idea of America' (along with a new edition of John Adams’s Revolutionary writings in two volumes for the Library of America series).  More important than his productivity is the quality of his work, and its broad appeal to readers of the right, left and center — a rare and happy combination. Specially striking is Wood’s rapport with the young. In the film 'Good Will Hunting,' Matt Damon and Ben Affleck centered a lively scene at a student hangout on an impassioned discussion of Wood’s work. The television sitcom 'It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia' made 'Gordon Wood' into an adjective, and used it as a synonym for serious scholarship in general. 'Wicked awesome,' one character said, 'all that Gordon Wood business!' Through it all, the man himself preserves a quiet modesty, and even a humility that is central to his work. He is respected not only for what he does but for who he is.  Wood’s latest book is a collection of 11 essays, along with an introduction and conclusion, that encompass his entire career. It reveals more of the author than any of his other work and creates the opportunity for an overall assessment of his achievement. Wood introduces himself with a familiar line from the poet Archilochus: 'The fox knows many things, but the hedgehog knows one big thing.' He celebrates the foxes who flourish in his field, and adds in his modest way, 'By contrast, as a historian I fear I am a simple hedgehog. . . . Nearly all of my publications have dealt with the American Revolution and its consequences.'" (NYTBookReview)
"A short Greek-American kid named Demetrius who lived on West 183rd Street in the late 1960s was by no means the first teenager to think of writing something in indelible ink on someone else’s property. He never considered himself an artist, and his illicit career of leaving his name and street number on hundreds, maybe thousands, of surfaces throughout the five boroughs of New York City ended after only a couple of years, when he put aside his Magic Marker and went off dutifully to college.  But the sheer ubiquity of his neatly written signature — TAKI 183 — and an article about him in The New York Times in the summer of 1971 combined to transform him into a kind of shadowy folk hero, inspiring hundreds of emulators and, by general agreement among urban historians, making him responsible for starting the modern graffiti movement. Viewed in some circles as an American art form on a par with jazz and Abstract Expressionism and in others as vandalism, pure and simple, the movement has gained momentum ever since and has spread around the world ... 'What does he look like?' a HarperCollins publicist had asked Mr. Gastman earlier in the afternoon, before the arrival of the near-mythical guest of honor.  'He looks like somebody’s dad,' Mr. Gastman replied. Indeed, Demetrius — who declines to provide his last name, still wary after all these years — is a dad, of two children now in college, who have only recently become aware of the extent of their father’s historical significance." (NYTimes)

Friday, July 22, 2011

The Barbarian Group Summer Rooftop Party

The Barbarian Group threw a pitch-perfect summer rooftop party this Wednesday with beer and wine and pizza and good peoples. Among the beautiful crowd Scott Beale, the awesome Lexi Peters, Benjamin Palmer, Henry Lai, Jaeson Yeon, Lydia Kim and Erin Mills.

The weather was perfect, the DJ was amazing and the view, as you can see a bit here was just spectacular                                           
Media-Whore D'Oeuvres

"The other day a bright young diplomat from China set me an examination question. My first thought was that it sprang from that admirable Chinese trait of searching out enduring patterns in the clatter and chaos of events. Then it struck me that anyone watching the train crashes on either side of the Atlantic should be asking something similar. The US faces an unsustainable debt burden alongside sustained political paralysis. Strategic decision-making is held hostage to ideological polarisation. Democrats and Republicans may well escape a calamitous default with an 11th-hour deal on the debt ceiling. But a sticking plaster will not bridge the rancorous divide over tax and spending that piles deficit on deficit. In Europe, the stakes have been higher still. The European Union’s core project, the single currency, has been buckling under the weight of sovereign debt and political discord. Solidarity has been lost to resurgent nationalisms. Germany’s Angela Merkel says that 60-odd years of European integration is under threat. Yet the leader of Europe’s most powerful nation has seemed frozen in the headlights of indecision. So here is the question: do these twin crises represent one of those damaging but short-lived spasms that have periodically disturbed the advance of the wealthy economies? A rerun of, say, the 1970s? Or are the shocks of an entirely different order – a harbinger of accelerating decline as the west surrenders two centuries of global hegemony?" (FT)

"The media industry used to be full of powerful families. London had the Rothermeres; Los Angeles had the Chandlers. The Hollywood studios began as family outfits. But a combination of regulation and technology has broken media monopolies. Beginning in 1948 America’s courts smashed the old, vertically integrated studios. The internet is undermining the dominance of mass media and handing power to start-ups, bloggers and companies like Google and Yahoo! for whom news is a peripheral business, not a consuming passion. Most of the families have sold up or stepped back from day-to-day management. At first some gave way to big characters who treated their businesses as fiefs. But these days the suits are firmly in control. Michael Eisner was pushed out of Disney in 2005, to be replaced by the quieter Bob Iger. Time Warner is run by Jeff Bewkes, a kind of anti-mogul who has streamlined the company. Viacom is controlled by the rarely seen Sumner Redstone, but run by a former corporate lawyer. Silvio Berlusconi is ailing politically and his media empire is under attack—by Sky Italia, a News Corporation outfit. Mr Murdoch inherited a newspaper business and boldly turned it into a multi-media empire. Arriving in Britain in the 1960s, he invented the modern tabloid newspaper—a stew of sexual titillation, moral outrage and political aggression. In America he broke the stranglehold of the three major broadcast TV networks. His Fox News Channel has enraged liberals—and piled up profits. The coups continue, but the judgment looks increasingly faulty." (TheEconomist)

"Fashion legend Arnold Scaasi and publishing insider Parker Ladd are tying the knot after 50 years together. They'll exchange vows next week before a judge and four guests followed by a 75-person bash at Le Cirque. We'd expect a baronial turnout for Ladd and the designer, who's dressed Barbara and Laura Bush, Hillary Clinton, Barbra Streisand and Lauren Bacall. Scaasi, 81, told us that Ladd, former Scribners editor and VP of Literacy Partners, will wear 'a navy blazer and white pants.'  He's still deciding whether he'll follow suit." (PageSix)

"Mayor Bloomberg is reported to have bought himself an estate in Southampton called Ballyshear for a reported price of $20 million – a drop in the bucket for him maybe – but something palatial in the traditional sense. While the media has broadcast the news with the statistics and details of the quite grand house (22,000 square feet, swimming pool, formal gardens, stables), there’s another element that may have been what really attracted our mayor to this property. It’s almost as if the builder’s legacy has been awaiting him. Ballyshear was completed in 1913, designed by architect Burrell Hoffman for a Wall Street tycoon named Charles B. Macdonald. The son of a Scottish immigrant and a Canadian who was part Indian and brought up in Chicago .." (NYSocialDiary)
"Early on in my career as a newspaper reporter in London, a grizzled newsroom veteran summoned me over to his desk for a stern talking to. 'Harnden, you're letting the side down,' he told me. 'You're bringing in all these stories but your expenses are pathetic. You need to start claiming some more.' Helpfully, he pulled open his desk drawer, which was stuffed full of blank taxi and restaurant receipts.Although it has been years since London's newspapers moved away from the famed Fleet Street -- where my newspaper, the Telegraph, had its own pub, the King and Keys, to which the news editor would run to get his sodden reporters if there was a story breaking -- its spirit lives on. The late Sunday Times foreign correspondent Nicholas Tomalin was right when he once observed that the attributes most required of a British 'hack' -- the term most of us still use to describe ourselves -- were 'rat-like cunning, a plausible manner and a little literary ability.' Whereas our American counterparts have long viewed themselves as comparable to lawyers and doctors, we British hacks still see ourselves as practitioners of a grubbing craft rather than members of an upstanding profession. (The public, which views us as on a par with real estate agents, prostitutes and perhaps even criminals, tends to agree.) As recently as the mid-1990s, it was standard practice for British reporters to spend three hours over a liquid lunch in the pub before returning to file their copy. Stories were sometimes pronounced 'too good to check.' When seeking an additional element of confirmation on one story, I was told that it was 'close enough for journalism' and that a bit of artful conjecture would do. An editor once dictated a quotation to me and then, winking, offered the opinion that he was sure my contacts were good enough to find someone to say it anonymously. My deadline was five minutes away." (ForeignPolicy)

"SINGAPORE has been able to punch above its own weight and have a vibrant economy because it has remained open to foreign talent to add to the pool which can be developed locally, Mr Lee Kuan Yew reiterated on Friday. Speaking at the closing session of the two-day South Asian Diaspora convention, he acknowledged that the influx of foreigners had been discomforting for some Singaporeans, but reminded that the alternative would be slower growth for the country. The former Prime Minister was responding to a question at a dialogue with more than 600 participants on how a fundamental tenet of Singapore's economic model - being open to foreign talent - also caused angst among Singaporeans and had been an issue at the recent General Election. Mr Lee made clear that he firmly believed that the more talent a society had, the better it will be able to grow. 'If Singapore depends on the talent it can produce out of three million people, it's not going to punch above its weight. It is because we've drawn talent from across the globe that we have a vibrant economy which is way beyond what three million Singaporeans and the talent they produce can do...'" (StraitsTimes)