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Monday, June 18, 2012

Media-Whore D'Oeuvres


"During his 2008 campaign, Barack Obama so often stressed the improbability of his story that we have grown inured to how unlikely it really is. Everyone knows that his name, along with his inexperience, was an electoral handicap; that his mixed-race background made his victory historic; and that his transformation within five years from local Illinois politician to the most famous person on earth (and first incumbent president since Woodrow Wilson to win the Nobel Peace Prize) has no obvious parallel. The great virtue of David Maraniss’s huge and absorbing new biography is to demonstrate that Obama’s saga in its full and previously unexplored detail is more surprising and gripping than the version the world is familiar with ...  araniss, a Washington Post veteran and author of a celebrated biography of Bill Clinton and other works, has (with assistants whom he credits) applied a version of the Robert Caro treatment to a politician who, unlike Caro’s Lyndon Johnson, is still in his functioning prime. The book begins with people Barack Obama never met and certainly knows less about than Maraniss does, his great-grandparents on both sides. Nearly 600 pages later it ends with the current president, at age 27, driving a used yellow Datsun away from Chicago, where he had been a community organizer, to Harvard Law School and what Maraniss presents as the end of his search for identity and the beginning of a purposeful political career .. Nonetheless, this is a revelatory book, which anyone interested in modern politics will want to read, and which will certainly shape our understanding of President Obama’s strengths, weaknesses and inscrutabilities. Every few pages Maraniss offers a factual nugget that changes or enlarges the prevailing lore. For example: Obama’s Kenyan grand­father, who had five wives, was apparently not involved in Kenyan insurgencies or ever tortured by British colonialists during the Mau Mau era. (Indeed, he remained a trusted figure among white Kenyans — and although himself a convert to Islam, he sent his son to a Christian school.) Similarly: Obama’s mother was named Stanley Ann Dunham not at the perverse insistence of her father, Stanley, but because her mother was taken by the sophistication of a Bette Davis character, a woman named Stanley, in the movie 'In This Our Life,' which she saw while ­pregnant." (James Fallows)


"Secretary of State Hillary Clinton sat down on a plush yellow couch at the J.W. Marriott late on a Saturday morning in early May. The Beijing skyline sparkled, uncharacteristically sunny and smog-free, out the window of her 23rd-floor suite, and she was wearing sunglasses even though we were indoors, an eye infection,' she said apologetically. Clinton seemed surprisingly upbeat, especially considering that just a day earlier, she had come uncomfortably close to a major public rebuff by the Chinese -- much closer, in fact, than anyone yet realized. 'It was a standoff,' she told me, 'for 24 difficult hours.' Until our conversation, Clinton had said virtually nothing publicly about the case of Chen Guangcheng, the blind Chinese dissident whose fate had become the object of a week of frenetic negotiations when his escape from village house arrest to the U.S. Embassy collided with a visit to Beijing by Clinton herself. Amid the unfolding drama, the secretary had smiled and nodded her way through elaborately choreographed high-level annual talks and a variety of photo ops at which she gamely recited paeans to constructive dialogue and plugged cut-rate cookstoves for the developing world. But Clinton had in fact spent the last few days in hard-nosed deal-making with the Chinese that nearly ended in an embarrassing failure, until she personally intervened, twice, with her counterpart, Chinese State Councilor Dai Bingguo: the first time to reassure Dai about a deal to allow Chen to stay in China and study law; then, when Chen balked at that, to secure agreement that he and his family could leave for the United States. 'We were in a very difficult position because we had pushed their system just about to the breaking point," recalled a senior official who was present. 'We knew it, they knew it, and they knew we knew it.'" (ForeignPolicy)



"Speaking of crooks in the jungle, Leopold ('Bolle') and Debbie Bismarck were onboard Bushido and Debbie told me about her cousin’s 'death' in Kenya—which is what she called it ... When not discussing tuberculosis, Bolle swam off Bushido, something I refused to do. The water is too dirty everywhere near the French and Italian Rivieras, with too many boats, too many people, and too much waste flowing silently into the sea. From Monte Carlo westward to Toulon and Marseille the construction continues as if it were the West Bank. Horrendous cruise ships disgorge tourists old enough to be my parents, tottering on steel walkers and trying to read the numbers on their euros. Rude French waiters have a field day with them.Thank heaven I have a great captain and crew. Boating sure ain’t what it used to be, and as one is disinclined to go ashore and mix with the horrors, the crew becomes all-important. The other necessity is friends who have houses nearby. Chantal Hanover has a charming fifties house in the bay of Théoule west of Cannes, and we spotted her longtime companion Dr. Gimlet, AKA Nick Scott, madly waving flags in a vain effort to make my captain put Bushido on the rocks. But Captain Marcus trusts his charts and instruments more than Gimlet’s malevolent efforts to make a fool of Taki, the result being a great dinner in Chantal’s garden with the wine flowing as if there was no tomorrow." (Taki)



"It’s war between Condé Nast and former French Vogue editor Carine Roitfeld. Sources say Condé’s International chairman Jonathan Newhouse has been ordering photographers and editors not to work with Roitfeld for her new magazine CR Fashion Book. In September, Roitfeld plans to launch the biannual title with Fashion Media Group LLC — home of V, V Man and Visionaire — out of an office at The Standard, East Village hotel. We’re told that after Roitfeld announced her plans for the magazine, Newhouse sent word to photographers including Mario Testino, Craig McDean, David Sims and the Mert Alas and Marcus Piggott team 'reminding' them of their exclusivity with Condé Nast to shoot for its titles including Vogue, W, Glamour, Vanity Fair and Allure. 'A call did go out from Jonathan Newhouse’s office with the idea to reinforce the fact that people were under exclusive contracts,' preventing them from working elsewhere, a source told us. Even those who aren’t bound contractually to Condé Nast have been discouraged from working with Roitfeld, fearing backlash from the publisher, our sources said. 'Everyone is buzzing about the Condé roadblocks against Carine,' one fashion insider said. “People love Carine but are more frightened of the Condé Nast machine.'" (PageSix)


"Over the weekend I was reading The House The Rockefellers Built; A Tale of Money, Taste, and Power in the Twentieth Century by Robert F. Dalzell Jr. and Lee Baldwin Dalzell. It was published about five years ago and I had it so I must have bought it then, putting it on my “going to read” list. I picked it up recently while researching something else, and fell into the portrait of the relationship between the Father and the Son. JH and I went up to the house – Kykuit – for a quick tour when he was first opened to the public, a few years ago (NYSD 10.3.05). My memories of the house itself are vague, mainly because the views from its location (a hilltop) are so spectacular, so powerful and awesome, that the mansion seemed incidental, on experience. It was autumn, and the changing foliage had begun to dapple. The mighty Hudson meandering north, with the Catskills beyond in a rolling slumber is majestic; God’s Country. The spot on which the house was built, was especially chosen in the early 20th century by the richest man in the world, because he had the same experience." (NYSocialDiary)


"Today, I am announcing several important changes in senior editorial management. Martin Dickson will become US Managing Editor on September 1, taking over from Gillian Tett who is going on a short and long-planned book leave on September 1. Gillian will return to a top management and comment role in the New Year, and as an Assistant Editor will continue to write columns for the op-ed pages, magazine and newspaper. John Thornhill, who has done an outstanding job as News Editor for the past three and a half years, will become Deputy Editor. John has served across the paper and the world, first as a UK companies reporter and Lex writer in London, and later as Moscow bureau chief, Asia Editor, Paris bureau chief and European Editor." (JimRomenesko)


"Howard (Stern) said Mark (Wahlberg) is in the movie 'Ted' ... Howard said Mark looks relaxed and confident. Howard said the amazing thing about Mark is that he does well with the movies he does. His last movie was ''Contraband'' and that did well because they kept the budget low. Howard asked if he is locked up now with his marriage. Mark said he's glad that he doesn't go out. Howard said he felt that it must be difficult now that he's married. Robin was laughing and Mark asked where she is. Howard said he keeps her locked up somewhere. Howard asked Mark how he's able to keep his marriage together and keep his eye from wandering. Mark asked if he wants advice. Mark said he is married to one of the most beautiful women in the world. Howard agreed. He said there's still temptation out there. Mark said he's very lucky and fortunate. He said he's the luckiest guy in the world. Howard asked if religion helps. Mark said it does. Howard asked if he goes to church every day. Mark said he does get down on his hands and knees and prays every day. Robin asked what else he prays for. He has everything. Mark said he prays and thanks for what he has" (Marksfriggin)

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