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Saturday, August 04, 2012

Media-Whore D'Oeuvres
"Kofi Annan has finally, belatedly, admitted that his peace mission to Syria has failed. And since the international community has been unable to agree on any other effort to stop the killing in Syria, there's no prospect of anything happening in Syria -- save more bloodshed, more ethnic fragmentation, and the blurring of all moral distinctions between the two sides, as the rebels, their ranks swelled by foreign and home-grown jihadists, carry out atrocities of their own, such as the recent executions in Aleppo. Civil wars can have just causes -- this one does -- but rarely just actors. So whose failure is it? In his op-edin the Financial Times, Annan blamed everyone save himself -- Syria's neighbors, the Security Council, and of course Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. What about the messenger himself? Should we blame Annan? It is just possible to devise an argument that he should have behaved differently, for example by rallying support for his mission with NATO before offering himself as an interlocutor in Damascus? It's hard to see how that would have mattered. The only meaningful criticism of Annan's mission is that he never should have undertaken it in the first place." (James Traub)


"Gore Vidal, who died at his home in the Hollywood Hills on Tuesday at 86, was always perturbed when the press referred to him as an expatriate. Vidal spent most of every year, starting in the early 1960s, in Rome, and later between Rome and a grand villa, La Rondinaia (the swallow’s nest), in the Amalfi Coast village of Ravello. He preferred to think of his position in Southern Italy as a perch from which to observe his country. I think the scores of novels, essays, and plays he wrote about the United States prove that the distance gave him great perspective on what he variously referred to as the United States of Amnesia and 'my only subject.' Federico Fellini, whom Vidal befriended in Rome—Vidal appeared as himself in Roma and wrote a draft of Fellini’s Casanova—said that Gorino, as Fellini called him, had 'gone native' in Italy. Vidal rejected that pronouncement as well, and, indeed, his grasp of the Italian language was always rudimentary at best, in keeping with the much-preferred role of American Icon Abroad, which he played in the manner of the movie stars who frolicked together on the Via Veneto at the time of La Dolce Vita. (I imagine he thought of himself as possessing the star power of an Elizabeth Taylor trapped in the body of a Burt Lancaster.) Vidal settled in Rome in order to be able to work at the library of the American Academy, where he researched Julian (1964), his return to the novel, after years of writing for Broadway, television, and movies and an unsuccessful run for Congress, in 1960, from a district in Dutchess County, New York. His novel-writing career had been torpedoed by the New York Times book critic Orville Prescott, who refused to review—or even read, he told Vidal’s editor at E. P. Dutton—any of Vidal’s books following The City and the Pillar (1948), one of the first works of fiction in the English language with an explicitly homosexual theme. Rome was, in a sense, the reset button for Vidal’s career." (VanityFair)


"There’s a secret lurking behind everything you’re reading about the upcoming election, a secret that all political insiders know—or should—but few are talking about, most likely because it takes the drama out of the whole business. The secret is the electoral college, and the fact is that the more you look at it, the more you come to conclude that Mitt Romney has to draw an inside straight like you’ve never ever seen in a movie to win this thing. This is especially true now that it seems as if Pennsylvania isn’t really up for grabs. Romney’s paths to 270 are few ... So if Pennsylvania is off the boards, let’s look around. Imagine it’s election night, say 10:45 east coast time. Four eastern states haven’t been called yet: Ohio (18), Virginia (13), North Carolina (15), and Florida (29). Also, in some Western states, the polls haven’t closed, or the races are too tight to project just yet—Colorado and Nevada, say. Arizona has just been called for Romney. At this point, Romney actually leads, 188 to 182. In this scenario I’m assuming Obama has won Iowa (6), which is admittedly close but where his lead has been stable at three or four points, and New Hampshire (4), where Obama has a similar fairly small but stable lead, and Michigan (16), where the gap appears to be opening up a little.So it’s a six-vote Romney edge. They’re feeling great up in Boston. Especially with the big Eastern four still up in the air. Right? Not really. Let’s look at these West Coast states. Even though they’re still voting in California, obviously Obama is going to win it (55). And equally obviously, he’s going to win Washington (12) and Oregon (7), where neither side even bothered to spend a dime. Throw in Hawaii (4). Those 78 votes haul Obama up to 260. That’s something to keep in mind for election night: Whatever Obama’s number is at 10 pm Eastern, add those 78 EV’s—they’re a mortal lock, and a hefty insurance policy. If he wins Nevada (6) and Colorado (9), it’s over. In other words, Obama can lose the big Eastern four—Ohio, Virginia, North Carolina, and Florida: all of ’em!—and still be reelected. And barring some huge cataclysm, he’s not losing all four of those states." (Michael Tomasky)


"Sir Howard Stringer rises stiffly to greet me. He is still recovering from back surgery to repair a slipped disc, the result of an 'insane' travel schedule that saw him fly around the world every month as chief executive of Sony Corporation. Along with hundreds of other world business leaders, Stringer is in London for the Olympics. We have arranged to have lunch at Theo Randall’s Italian restaurant at the InterContinental Hotel in Park Lane (he once served on the InterContinental board and likes its central location). Olympic dignitaries and guests are milling around in the lobby but the award-winning restaurant is half empty. 'Do try the hot zucchini,' he says, welcoming me to a discreet table at the back of the restaurant, 'they are delicious.' Our conversation will inevitably address Stringer’s troubled tenure at Sony – he stepped down as chief executive in April but remains chairman. That might explain why he is twitchy. I am slightly edgy, too. We first met 10 years ago when I was US managing editor for the FT in New York. Our favourite pastime was watching soccer and rugby matches in grimy pubs on the Lower East Side ... But this is no time to get sentimental. Stringer, 70, is a hardened former journalist who ran CBS news and entertainment for a decade. I stab a succulent zucchini and return to the subject of his crazy travel schedule: more than 2m air miles on British Airways over seven years, shuttling between New York, London, Tokyo and Los Angeles, where Sony has its Hollywood movie business. Why did he put his body through it? Was it a sense of obligation, or a desire to make history as the first westerner to run Sony, one of Japan’s most respected companies." (FT)


"Ms. Shevell, who is tall with raven hair that swings glossily from side to side, wore a striped gray and white sweater, black jeans and sandals, along with an indulgent smile. Having served on the M.T.A. for 10 years—spanning four governors—the trucking executive was plainly at home in the boardroom. There was little indication that she is living something of a Cinderella-at-the-ball moment these days. The New Jersey-born daughter of a trucking company owner, she is now betrothed one of the world’s top recording artists, Sir Paul McCartney. Except for the 1925 Cartier solitaire diamond engagement ring (said to have set the Beatle back some $650,000) sparkling on her left hand under the stark fluorescent lighting, however, the future Lady McCartney still seemed like a Jersey girl—an exceedingly self-possessed, relaxed, collegial and well-manicured Jersey girl, but still.You don’t meet a prince without a fairy godmother, and Ms. Shevell’s romantic coup—he may not be John Lennon, ladies, but he’s not Ringo, either—is said to have been engineered by no less formidable a yenta than The View’s Barbara Walters, who happens to be her second cousin. 'Barbara was her emotional confidante and played matchmaker,' a friend of the couple told The Observer. 'She gave numerous dinner parties for them and always made sure to invite people she knew that Paul would want to meet.' The friend added that the broadcast vet also coached Ms. Shevell on how to behave around the musician, helping her to beat out a number of other aspirants for Mr. McCartney’s eye, including Rosanna Arquette. Ms. Walters’s strategy was clear: Look at Heather Mills, and do precisely the opposite. 'They took a page from the old regime and made sure not to make the same mistakes.'" (Observer)
"Al Jazeera and Al Arabiya were founded by members of the Qatari and Saudi royal families, respectively, and their coverage of Syria faithfully reflects the political positions of their backers. There's big money behind both stations: Al Jazeera was created with a $150 million grant from the emir of Qatar in 1996, and annual expenditure on the network's multiple channels reached nearly $650 million by 2010, according to market research firm Ipsos. The story is similar with Al Arabiya, whichwas launched in 2003 with an initial investment of $300 million by a group of Lebanese and Gulf investors led by Saudi businessman Waleed al-Ibrahim, the brother-in-law of the late Saudi King Fahd. Hard numbers on the annual operating budgets of these channels aren't known, but they're likely to run into the hundreds of millions of dollars. The much smaller, U.S.-government financed Alhurra, by way of comparison, costs around $90 million annually to run ... For the non-Arabic-speaking viewer, news coverage of Syria on these channels is akin to CNN's iReport-- the monthly interactive half-hour citizen journalism show -- but for several hours a day." (ForeignPolicy)

"Some years ago I was invited to Eleanor Lambert’s apartment on Fifth Avenue to observe the selection process for the International Best Dressed List, a publicity vehicle she drove with a keen eye to what lay ahead. Royals and socialites were always welcome on the B.D.L., and of course the odd eccentric — up to a point. Daphne Guinness secured her place as of Hall of Famer in 1994, and Anna Piaggi, the dandified Italian editor, somewhat belatedly in 2007. But Isabella Blow never made it. That afternoon in Ms. Lambert’s faded living room the discussion was quite polite, if pointed. (I sensed that some socialites would never meet the entry standards, which were vague to me, and that their names were dropped into the ring basically so they could be swatted away.) I’m tempted to say that the committee members accepted their duties in the same lighthearted spirit of the list. After all, they were not handing out Nobel Prizes. But in fact most of the debate was dead serious.Since Vanity Fair took over the list, following Ms. Lambert’s death, in 2003, the choices have seemed no less glamorous but perhaps more relevant. This year’s group includes the actresses Jessica Chastain and Fan Bingbing, various young royals (Prince Harry) and the pop star Jay-Z. The Hollywood Reporter pooh-poohed the choices (what about Emma Stone and Michelle Williams?), while New York magazine seemed of the opinion that the committee should have lowered the ax on some of its choices. It was not selective enough.While this nonsense was going on, I met with Joy Bivins, a curator of the Chicago History Museum, and Virginia Heaven, an assistant professor of fashion studies at Columbia College in Chicago, to discuss an exhibition at the museum based on the Ebony Fashion Fair." (NYTStyle)

"Last Saturday night in Watermill, at the Mexcox Bay waterfront home of Dr. Howard and Gayle Sobel, they held the annual "Heat" benefit for the Ellen Hermanson Foundation. The evening program was: incredible food, specialty bars with celebrity mixologists and a hot DJ. Honorary Chairs for the evening were Katie Couric and Fern Mallis with special guests Edie Falco and Mercedes Ruehl. Co-hosts for the evening, with the Sobels, were Karine Bakhoum and Luann de Lesseps. Event Chairs were Jason and Haley Binn, Hope Klein Langer, Lauran and Charlie Walk, Marcy and Michael Warren, Andrea Warshaw-Wernick and Joel Wernick and Samantha and David Yanks. Rosanna Scotto, of Fox 5 's 'Good Day New York', was emcee. They honored the irrepressible Dee Dee Ricks, a breast cancer survivor and leading national patient advocate. Last October HBO featured the premiere of 'The Education of Dee Dee Ricks', produced by Perri Peltz, chronicling Rick's journey from diagnosis, through treatment and, finally recovery from, breast cancer." (NYSocialDiary)


"'It's a new relationship. I like relationships…in my work,' Waris Ahluwalia told Style.com last night at the National Arts Club. The multi-hyphenate man-about-town was toasting his debut collaboration with Forevermark, dubbed The Center of My Universe. 'I'd like to say my favorite stone is an emerald or a ruby or something, but come on, no, it's a diamond.' Looking around at the room full of shimmering bijoux and glittering people, he continued, 'I know it's like the dumbest answer ever, but it's true. It's visceral and emotional and it's about how it makes a woman feel. If rubber makes you feel that way, wear rubber.' While ogling Ahluwalia's 14.58-carat diamond and gold pendant necklace, Bibhu Mohapatra remarked, 'I'm rarely starstruck, but seriously, wow.' One partygoer, though, was more in awe of Ahluwalia himself. 'I'm obsessed with Waris; I have been since the first day I met him 20 years ago. Now I get to look at his picture on my desk every day,' Neal Hamil, formerly a top exec at Elite Model Management and Ford Models, said as he pulled out a picture of his friend. Hamil excitedly explained that he has signed Ahluwalia to his new modeling agency, Mix Model MGMT/NYC." (Style)

1 comment:

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