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Friday, April 13, 2012

Media-Whore D'Oeuvres


"The big event at Harvard yesterday was 'A Conversation with Henry Kissinger' at Sanders Theater. The event featured the 89-year old statesman reflecting on his time at Harvard, his career in government, and the future relationship between the United States and China, along with several other topics. He was joined in the discussion by my colleagues Graham Allison (who moderated) and Joseph Nye, and by Jessica Blankshain, a graduate student from the Department of Government. I won't try to summarize the whole conversation, but instead merely highlight a couple of moments that I found especially interesting. First, at one point Kissinger said he thought the best academic preparation for government service was training in philosophy, political theory, and history. In particular, he argued that training in political theory taught you how to think in a disciplined and rigorous manner, and knowledge of history was essential for grasping the broader political context in which decisions must be made. It was clear that he also sees a grounding in history as essential for understanding how different people see the world, and also for knowing something about the limits of the possible. I found this observation intriguing because these subjects are not what schools of public policy typically emphasize, even though they are supposedly in the business of preparing students for careers in public service. The canonical curriculum in public policy emphasizes economics and statistics (i.e., regression analysis), sometimes combined with generic training in 'public policy analysis' and political institutions. The Kennedy School (where I teach) does require MPP students to take one core course in ethics (which is grounded in political philosophy), but there's no required course in history and each year I feel my students know less and less about that important subject. Instead, they flock to courses on 'leadership,' as if this quality was something you can learn in a classroom in a semester or two. I would love to have asked Kissinger to elaborate on how aspiring public servants are being trained these days. After Joe Nye asked him if there were any decisions he made that he wished he could do over (a question that Kissinger mostly evaded), he went on to reflect on how his thinking has changed over time. He noted that he has had lots of time to read and reflect since leaving government service, and he said there were many things about the world that he understood better now than when he was serving in government. He also said he was not as 'self-confident' in some of his judgments as he had been when he was younger. But then he said he wasn't sure this greater wisdom would make him a better policymaker. The reason, he said, is that being a policymaker requires a powerful sense of self-confidence, precisely because so many decisions are not clear-cut -- they are 51/49 judgment calls. As he put it, 'You don't get rewarded for your doubts.' And in those circumstances, a little bit of bravado goes a long way; it might even be a job requirement." (ForeignPolicy)


"Now 67, (Lorne) Michaels still pumps a little iron and maintains a steady regimen of bed rest.I met Lorne Michaels in what we’ve come to call “the summer of laughter, 1975,” just a few months before Saturday Night Live debuted on NBC. I remember a summer Sunday walking along the beach in Sagaponack. Lorne was, again, telling me something about himself as we approached a group of Hamptonites standing in a semicircle. In their midst was a beached and apparently deceased shark. “Is it dead?,” Lorne inquired. No one seemed to know or be willing to find out. To my surprise, Lorne broke the circle and, placing his mouth inches from the beady eyes, said to the shark, “A rabbi, a minister, and a priest walk into a bar … ” There was a moment of tense silence as Lorne finished the joke and waited for a reaction. Getting none, he stood and announced to the crowd, “Yep, he’s dead. Anyone doesn’t laugh at that’s gotta be dead.” To this day Michaels carries a 10-inch shark bite from his hammy to his glutes. I know what you’re thinking. How many words? 314. It was the “shark epiphany” that showed me that Michaels was not funny per se but a man who saw the potential for humor in a tense situation, a man who understood the importance of hiring gifted writers and comedians.And what an amazing roster of comedians he’s introduced to the world: Gilda Radner, Chevy Chase, John Belushi, Dan Aykroyd, Bill Murray, Mike Myers, Adam Sandler, Will Ferrell, Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, Kristen Wiig, and Maya Rudolph, to name a few. And there are many more whose exclusion, due to word constraints, will earn me their undying animosity.
In addition, Michaels, who executive-produces S.N.L., also serves as executive producer for 30 Rock, Late Night with Jimmy Fallon, Up All Night, and Portlandia. If there were an Executive Producer Hall of Fame, Michaels would be its Babe Ruth and Maxwell Perkins rolled into one." (Paul Simon)


"A couple of weeks ago about 9:30 I went into an ATM on the Upper East Side, just a block from Park Avenue. In the corner next to the stand where you write out the deposit, I notice a pile of blankets with something under. When making my deposit, I heard movement. I turned around. It was a woman of maybe 45, maybe 50. Her face was hidden but I asked her if I she were all right and she came out of hiding. She was open faced and lovely but fragile. On my questioning, she told me that she’d lost her apartment and her job months and months before, and now she was on the street. How did she get to that point? Some would have an idea — drugs, drink, insanity. Those are often the 'explanations' we make to ourselves without knowing the truth. She told me she’d chosen this particular neighborhood because it was 'safer' than others, and it was a cold night. She hadn’t eaten either. Her demeanor, her manner, even her appearance betrayed her state because she looked healthy and hardy despite the circumstances. If she’d come into the bank without the blanket and wearing a coat, I would have thought she lived in the neighborhood. I gave her some money to get something to eat, and some ideas in finding shelter. But for a woman in her state, that was a less than temporary solution. I left her hoping she had the strength to lift herself out of it. Those of us who have never been confronted with that task wouldn’t understand, but it’s monumental and for some, almost impossible." (NYSocialDiary)


"In 1995, Leslie Moonves, then president of Warner Bros. Television, left behind Friends and ER to join hitless CBS. As the entertainment president, he would be charged with turning around a network wallowing in fourth place as rival NBC sat comfortably at No. 1. What happened next has become TV legend. Moonves, now 62, engineered the kind of turnaround that rivals Fred Silverman's 1970s-era work at ABC and Brandon Tartikoff's performance at NBC years later. By 1999, CBS had soared to No. 1 in total viewers, a perch it has held for nine of the past 10 seasons thanks to such billion-dollar franchises as CSI, NCIS and the Chuck Lorre sitcom empire. oonves, a New York-born father of four married since 2004 to CBS broadcaster Julie Chen, now lords as CBS Corp. president and CEO over a media company that includes publishing, radio and outdoor advertising divisions, along with CBS, Showtime, The CW (in partnership with Warner Bros.) and fledgling movie studio CBS Films. CBS Corp. generated $14.2 billion in revenue in 2011, up 1 percent from a year earlier, and its stock recently hit a 52-week high of $34.17 (his 2010 compensation was $57.7 million). Moonves' job requires the famously gregarious executive to keep bicoastal offices, which mirror each other in style as well as in mementos. He sat down with The Hollywood Reporter in early April at his sprawling L.A. office on CBS' Radford lot, which includes photographs of him with two presidents, a mid-'90s magazine cover that dubbed him Mr. TV and, of course, an up-to-date primetime programming grid." (THR)


"What began as a scandal involving the mysterious death of Neil Heywood, the British businessman whose body was found in November in a Chongqing hotel room, appears to be evolving into a broader investigation into the wealth of a politically powerful Chinese couple, Bo Xilai and his wife, Gu Kailai, and their financial interests.  The authorities seem particularly focused on Ms. Gu, 53, a hard-driving lawyer and the daughter of a revolutionary hero who critics say has spent more than two decades turning her husband’s government posts into lucrative business opportunities.   Analysts say that by moving decisively to bury Ms. Gu and her husband, party leaders are trying to send a message to allies of Mr. Bo who are still putting up resistance. 'This is why the dog who has fallen into the water is still being beaten,' said Steven Tsang, director of China Policy Institute at the University of Nottingham in England. Official news media reports this week accused Mr. Bo of various disciplinary violations, not explicitly corruption. However, several people briefed on the investigation into the couple say that central authorities have included corruption among the accusations circulated to high-level officials in recent weeks. People’s Daily, the party’s official newspaper, appeared to lay out a list of potential charges on Wednesday that could be brought against Ms. Gu and her husband, who is also the offspring of a revolutionary 'immortal” and, like his wife, has long enjoyed the access to power that comes with such a pedigree. The article said that corrupt party officials have been secretly using children, wives, friends and even mistresses to transfer and conceal ill-gotten wealth overseas. 'Some even go through a variety of channels to clandestinely gain a foreign identity or dual nationality,' it said. A campaign to expose the family’s web of business dealings carries certain risks, given that many members of China’s political elite profit from their connections and often stow their assets outside the country.  Even if the article did not name names, astute readers of China’s opaque political ecosystem said it was probably aimed at Mr. Bo, until recently Chongqing’s party boss, and Ms. Gu, who has spent considerable time abroad and who may hold foreign residency." (NYTimes)



"Last week, the American Society of Magazine Editors released its list of nominees for the 2012 National Magazine Award. In the so-called "brass ring" long-form categories—reporting, feature writing, profile writing, essays and criticism and columns and commentary—all 25 of the writers nominated were men. For  an organization that usually gets talked about exactly twice a year—once when it announces the nominations, and again when it declares the winners—suddenly people had a lot to say about ASME. 'Women can’t write, says ASME," went the Daily News headline. David Carr called it a "sausage-fest." Disdain for the organization manifested in the Twitter hashtag #ASSME.
It's easy to imagine the most nefarious version of how this all came about: a roomful of white-haired men, smoking cigars and congratulating each other on keeping the flame of patriarchy alight one more year. According to ASME, however, the judging process is set up in a way that's specifically designed to safeguard it from bias." (TheAwl)


"For the first year in many, your Daily fell ill on the eve of the New Yorkers for Children's annual Fool's Fete, and instead of donning a spangled thing and cavorting at the Mandarin Oriental, she laid herself up on the sofa and read the stream of emails and texts from those gracing the 36th floor gallroom. "It feels just like prom!" wrote one fashion publicist. One of her colleages likened it to cheerleading tryouts, with (mostly) longer skirts. But regardless, the 2012 affair drew one of its beauty-filled crowds thus far, with Zac Posen (avec Coco Rocha and a newly-blonde Crystal Renn) only one of the designers with a few darlings on his arm. (The evening's sponsor, CD Greene, had a veritable army of them.) Meanwhile, over $580,000 was raised for the charity, which offers a wealth of programming for New York City children in foster care. Without further ado, some awards—discerned solely from pouring over the BFA photos, of course ... MOST-PHOTOGRAPHED GOWN: See above (33 photos on BFA alone!) BEST DANCE SHOT (TIE) : Alexis Bryan Morgan, whose sparkly nude number was among the evening's best, and caught-upside-down publicist Savannah Engel, who has clearly been taking lessons ... BEST MAN MOMENT: The all-male table hosted by Zilli and its president Cedric Turk Kaan. Euan Rellie and Lionel Geneste invited a gaggle of gorgeous gents—Nick Sullivan, Tyler Thorensen, Grant Hailey, Paul Gigante, and Sean Mahoney—to serve as eye-candy and entertainment for the overwhelmingly female crowd." (Fashionweekdaily)

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