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Saturday, September 15, 2012

Media-Whore D'Oeuvres


"The Obama campaign has already rewritten the electioneering playbook once, in 2008. For the first time in a presidential poll, supporters could create their own user profile on the campaign’s My.BarackObama.com site and use it to join groups, arrange events and raise money. About 2m enthusiasts signed up, and the Republicans were left eating Obama’s digital dust.  But what was revolutionary in 2008 is normal now. And unlike 2008, when Obama outspent John McCain by about three to one, Mitt Romney and his supporters will have a big money advantage. With the US economy mired in a sluggish recovery, Obama and his campaign are trying to reinvent the game again. So close is the election, and so far has Obama’s stock fallen since those heady days in 2008, that his campaign is relying on their advantage in technology and social media in their battle to stay in the White House. The sprawling, open-plan Chicago headquarters of the Obama campaign, and their small huddles of twentysomethings hunched around computer screens, look like an internet start-up for a reason. The traditional trappings of US presidential elections are still important stages from which to sway voters, from the razzle-dazzle of the conventions to the hard slog of daily rallies on the hustings and the endless rounds of fundraising dinners. But in the 21st century, campaigns can use technology to micro-target voters like never before. 'Big data is the story of this election – the whole political media ecology has changed,' says Andrew Rasiej, the founder of Personal Democracy Forum, who has advised numerous politicians on the use of technology. 'The Obama campaign won’t admit to their real level of sophistication, because they have no reason to.' In the old days, volunteer door-knockers would have gone to campaign headquarters, where they would have been given a few pieces of paper, a list of names and addresses and a clipboard. Now, campaigns can save supporters the trouble of the trip, because the information about the address of Harris and the like is just a few taps away on their mobile phones. But the app provides only a tiny glimpse into the tools being used by both competing candidates and their campaigns. Through Facebook interactions, blog postings and Twitter accounts, the campaigns now know much more than the few biographical scraps of the kind displayed by the free campaign download. " (FT)


"The other aspect of his job I have trouble getting comfortable with is its bizarre emotional demands. In the span of a few hours, a president will go from celebrating the Super Bowl champions to running meetings on how to fix the financial system, to watching people on TV make up stuff about him, to listening to members of Congress explain why they can’t support a reasonable idea simply because he, the president, is for it, to sitting down with the parents of a young soldier recently killed in action. He spends his day leaping over ravines between vastly different feelings. How does anyone become used to this? As I was still a little groggy and put my question poorly, he answered a question it hadn’t occurred to me to ask: Why doesn’t he show more emotion? He does this on occasion, even when I’ve put the question clearly—see in what I’ve asked some implicit criticism, usually one he’s heard many times before. As he’s not naturally defensive, it’s pretty clearly an acquired trait. 'There are some things about being president that I still have difficulty doing,' he said. 'For example, faking emotion. Because I feel it is an insult to the people I’m dealing with. For me to feign outrage, for example, feels to me like I’m not taking the American people seriously. I’m absolutely positive that I’m serving the American people better if I’m maintaining my authenticity. And that’s an overused word. And these days people practice being authentic. But I’m at my best when I believe what I am saying.' That was not what I had been after. What I had wanted to know was: Where do you put what you actually feel, when there is no place in your job to feel it? When you are president you are not allowed to go numb to protect yourself from whatever news might happen. But it was too late; my time was up; I returned to my seat in the cabin." (VanityFair)


" I was doing research at Columbia University as part of my PhD on William S Burroughs. It was 1988, I stayed at the Vanderbilt YMCA and travelled by bus up to the campus. I’d written to Allen (Ginsberg) beforehand to ask if I could look at his archive there and he had agreed. I had a great time—Manhattan was a very different place then. The West End Bar—notorious Beat hangout—was still open in its original form and I’d go there lunchtimes to drink a beer and grab a burger. I spent the evenings visiting bars I’d read about. Allen had said to call while I was in the city, so I did. He invited me to his apartment at 437 East 12th Street. I remember it was raining but I walked from Midtown and when I arrived someone buzzed me in. The door was open. Allen was in the kitchen making tea. He was much taller than I thought he’d be: big wet lips, lazy eye, bearded and in socks. He was very polite and welcoming. Allen introduced me to his manager Bob Rosenthal, plus Vicki Stanbury and Victoria Smart, who all worked for him. Later, we had some beers, something to eat. We talked about punk, poetry and Allen’s visits to the UK. He gave me some books and left an hour later. I stayed and drank and talked some more. I left thinking, ‘Hey, that was cool. Wait until I tell my friends back in England.’ A year or so later, close to a nervous breakdown over finishing my PhD, I accepted an invitation from my friend Rob Dowling to help him set up a bookshop in Providence. While in NYC, I called Allen to say hi and Bob Rosenthal (who’s writing his own bio of Allen, which I can’t wait to read) said why don’t I drop by. I did, we chatted. Later that evening, Bob called to ask me if I’d like to come work for Allen, mainly researching and writing bios for a book of Allen’s photographs. After nearly choking on my chop suey, I said, 'Er, yeah.’" (TheAwl)



"The name of Heston Blumenthal’s restaurant at London’s Mandarin Oriental makes text messaging exchanges difficult. I confirmed Dinner on Friday with David Adjaye. Lunch would be better for me, he texted back ... The 45-year-old African-British architect, one of the highest-profile and most consistently interesting of his generation, has recently returned from Washington, DC, where he attended the groundbreaking ceremony for his biggest blockbuster building to date, the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American Culture and History – due to open in 2015.  There he met, and was profoundly impressed by, Barack and Michelle Obama. 'He’s a consummate politician,' Adjaye says, 'very personable and very smart. I never met Bill Clinton but I think Obama has that same sense of being able to create an intimacy in a room that you heard about [with Clinton]. And Michelle is incredible. She manages to get around to everyone – embrace those who need a hug, very warm, very careful, and they’re very obviously in love. It looks like a new, more intimate model of statesmanship.'  Adjaye, I suggest, has become something of a statesman himself with buildings for high-profile international institutions from the Nobel Peace Centre in Oslo to the Skolkovo School of Management in Moscow. 'Skolkovo was a Putin project that turned into a Medvedev delivery and was funded by just about every oligarch you’ve ever heard of,' he says. 'I’ve suddenly entered this world of political leaders.'” (Lunch w/FT)

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