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Saturday, April 14, 2012

Media-Whore D'Oeuvres


"This is the mood: those at the top were irresponsible and greedy. Those at the bottom had nothing to lose, because the mortgages being peddled required no down-payments. Those in the middle – who’d worked and saved and invested their money in their houses – got hit. But who exactly did the dire deed? With so many harmed, why isn’t someone in jail? That’s what my driver would like to know. He’d like to know why he should trust the financial system any more, since its minions inspired false confidence, made fast and loose with the public’s hard-earned savings, and then scampered away with the money bags. But should anyone care whether he trusts it or not? He’s just a small player. There are, however, millions like him. When distrust in a system becomes widespread among small players, it throws up something like Occupy Wall Street, or like the Tea Party. Or like, for instance, the French revolution. Before that game-changing event, a privileged class that made the rules – rules favouring itself – overspent on a foreign war and then tried to stabilise the nation by overtaxing the already ruinously taxed populace. Confronted with protest, the aristocrats responded with inflexibility and prevarication, and dedicated themselves to preserving their own advantages at the expense of everyone else. If this sounds in any way familiar, it may be bracing to recall that before long, heads were being sliced from necks, blood was running in the streets, and France, riddled with internal dissension, lost its position as the most powerful country in Europe." (Margaret Atwood)


"IT WOULD look like the trading floor of a bank, were it not for the casual clothes and dorm-room atmosphere. The cavernous open-plan headquarters of Barack Obama’s re-election campaign houses over 300 workers seated in serried rows, jabbering into phones and tapping purposefully at computer keyboards. Haphazard decorations—a Justin Bieber poster, a team flag for the Montana Grizzlies, a picture of a beaming staffer with the president himself—mark out each worker’s territory. Half-eaten muffins, crumpled sandwich wrappers and small cairns of orange peel speak of deskbound dedication. A ping-pong table sits unused in a corner; the various televisions tuned to news networks have been muted. One corner of this football field of desks is given over to 'regional pods', which oversee the campaign in different parts of the country. Nearby sit teams that focus on particular slices of the electorate, including the young, the old, women, religious groups, racial minorities and gay voters. The IT department occupies a whole bank of desks, as does the one charged with drumming up support via Facebook, Twitter and the like. There is a training division, a scheduling unit, a travel desk and an in-house printing shop. There are media monitors, spokesmen, speechwriters, video editors and graphic designers, not to mention fund-raising co-ordinators, accountants, lawyers and a knot of workers devoted solely to typing up the various reports and disclosures required by the Federal Election Commission. Plenty of empty desk-space remains, in anticipation of further hiring before November.Yet this hive of electioneering is only the most visible manifestation of a campaign that has been gathering steam for over a year now, as a spokesman explains. Obama 2012 has over 100 offices spread across nearly every state (they seem particularly proud of their outpost in fiercely Republican Wyoming). In Florida, a perennial swing state, it has 18. Some 700 staffers and thousands of volunteers are already at work for the campaign. Fully 12,000 people applied for the 1,200 internships the campaign offered this spring." (Economist)


"I order sparkling water and (British Vogue's Alexandra) Shulman has a Virgin Mary. She mixes it vigorously with the stick of celery, spilling tomato juice on the table, declaring it 'a really good one. It makes you feel like you are having a Bloody Mary even if you aren’t. It’s very good for hangovers.' One might think that hangovers have been airbrushed out of the aspirational world of Vogue, with its upbeat, beautiful frivolity – but Shulman, 54, has not cultivated an image of perfection around herself during 20 years at the helm. Nor has she subscribed to the extreme mythology of the Vogue editor, from the grandeur of Diana Vreeland at US Vogue in the 1960s to its current editor, fiercely groomed industry power broker Anna Wintour. Unlike, say, Emmanuelle Alt of French Vogue, who could make a whippet look hefty, Shulman is curvy. And the result of the subtle make-up, laissez-faire hair and lack of cosmetic work is that Shulman looks younger, and prettier, than a lot of her fashion contemporaries. 'I’ve got to the point where I don’t judge myself [on my appearance] because that way madness lies,' she says, convincingly. 'I know so many people who are upset about not looking as good as they used to but you’ve got to realise that’s what happens and find something else to be interested in.' I ask if she’s ever been tempted to cultivate a grander image: “No, I think it sometimes disappoints people that I don’t have that,” she says, 'but I knew the only way I would be able to do this job was if I didn’t try to create some kind of carapace around myself. Up to a point, I guess, the Miss Down to Earth thing is its own persona ... Sometimes I would like to make people quake more.' Does anyone quake? 'I’ve never seen anyone quake, no,' she replies, laughing at the prospect. Her outfit of black knee-length Marc Jacobs dress with a sketchy pattern, capacious leather handbag perched on the banquette beside her and an armful of assorted bangles (gifts from assorted former boyfriends) is undeniably chic but it doesn’t have the kind of studied glamour that announces to the uninitiated that she is a big deal in the fashion world." (FT)


"But government suppression of dissent is only making the people involved more determined, and also wins them public sympathy. Clearly, it is the issues that lure people to join demonstrations that need to be addressed: Until the people see government commitment to improving basic services and infrastructure, disgruntlement will continue to grow. In a country where the gap between the rich and the poor is growing, there are more and more angry young people. Uganda's Daily Monitor ran an articleon the number of unemployed in the country, arguing that they are a ticking time bomb for the establishment. There is also a great discrepancy in wealth between those who fought in the liberation war and those who did not.  While the government is investing more in the security forces (reports showthat Uganda has, for the first time, exceeded Kenya in military spending), it is doing very little when it comes to providing services for the people and improving infrastructure. (The current state of public infrastructure in this country is appalling)." (ForeignPolicy)


"THE first thing you need to know about the Red Book is that when Harvard graduates talk about it (which they do a lot), they’re not talking about Mao Zedong’s pamphlet of axioms. That is, they’re not talking about 'The Little Red Book' but about The Big One, the one that lands at five-year intervals with the thud of a Manhattan phone directory on the doorstep of everyone who has ever graduated from the college, and keeps on arriving for as long as they live, whether they want it or not, a gift from the tireless alumni association. This trance-inducing volume, a facebook that came before Facebook, consists of dispatches from graduates who have chosen to file and have evaded the terse message 'last known address,' 'address unknown' or (it doesn’t get terser) 'died.' ...'No data exists concerning the percentage of red books that are cracked open the minute their recipients arrive home from work, the playground, an adulterous tryst, what have you,' (Deborah Copaken Kogan writes in her new novel), 'but the author will go out on a limb here and guess 100.'   It’s all there. The deaths of parents, spouses, classmates; the births of children; prostate cancer, depression, money made and money lost, triumphs and tailspins; oceans crossed (or swum) and mountains hiked; dodging mortar in Afghanistan; and, in a few terrible instances, the kind of family tragedies we screen from our conscious minds to get through the day. 'Those are some of the great things and the sorrowful things of 62 earth rotations,' writes Philip Aaberg on the very first page of the 1971 Fortieth Anniversary Report, the most recent edition." (NYTimes)  

  

"Papa Hemingway’s recently published letter to an Italian male friend purportedly revealed the 'human side' of which his admirers were already well aware. (Like Bogie, he was tough on the outside, jelly on the inside.) Until lately, Papa’s haters had a good long run. Soon after Carlos Baker’s matchless biography appeared in 1972, 11 years after Hemingway’s suicide, the naysayers started to gnaw away at Papa. The rats were led by modernists, feminists, and other such rubbish, the kind of non-talented, self-aggrandizing phonies that have turned literature into the unreadable garbage that’s around today. Papa’s straight, short, no-nonsense style didn’t suit them. Magic realism did. It hid their lack of talent. He wrote about tough guys doing the honorable thing, something the sandal-wearing sissies who came after him couldn’t imagine doing.I’ve just finished a 544-pager called Hemingway’s Boat by Paul Hendrickson, in which that old story of Papa versus Scott Fitzgerald comes up, both sides generously treated by the author. In 1933, seven years before his death, poor old Scott was broke, potted, and praying that Tender is the Night would resuscitate his fading reputation. Zelda was institutionalized after a breakdown and her affair with a French aviator which had just about finished Scott. Tender is my favorite book of all time. I read it at 15, immediately after my first visit to the French Riviera. In late-night bull sessions, when fellow students would talk about their future plans, I only had one—go to the Riviera and find Dick Diver and live like him. After that it was Paris, looking for Jake Barnes and Lady Brett. Screw banking and screw shipowning; such trifles were for dullards and bores." (Taki Theodoracopulos)  


"Last night at the landmark Cartier Mansion on Fifth Avenue, the French jewelry powerhouse unveiled a new exhibition, 'New York City in the 70s,' that celebrates the company's iconic designs from the era and the dynamic city that served as inspiration. The exhibit, which will be open to the public from April 13th - May 8th, also highlighted the relaunch of jeweler Aldo Cipullo's nail bracelet -- known as Juste Un Clou -- that he originally designed for the house in 1971 and which has come to symbolize the raw energy of New York in that infamous decade. After a preview of the show uptown, the party moved downtown to Skylight SoHo where guests like Beyoncé, Jay-Z, Olivier Theyskens, and Chanel Iman were treated to DJ sets provided by the Misshapes and James Murphy as well as a surprise performance by 2012 Beautiful Person Rita Ora. " (Papermag)  



"It was the usual intersection of art and fashion at the New Museum's 35th anniversary gala last night, staged in the vast Cipriani downtown space. With Narciso Rodriguez, the Proenza Schouler boys, Leelee Sobieski, and Chloë Sevigny circulating, it was easy to forget it wasn't always this way. 'Twenty years ago, I used to get crap for being into fashion,' Anh Duong told Style.com. 'But nowadays, the art world practically expects its female artists to run around in heels.' Nearby, leading by example, a dressed-up Hope Atherton bantered with friends, and Marilyn Minter chatted with Francisco Costa, the designer of her Calvin Klein cocktail dress. 'Anh's the most stylish artist around," Minter declared. "I'm just trying to age gracefully.' Her trick? 'Wearing lipstick always helps.' The museum gave the evening's special honor to L.A. artist Paul McCarthy for (speaking of aging gracefully) his genre-busting 40-plus-year career." (Style)

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