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Saturday, September 22, 2012

Media-Whore D'Oeuvres


"Though I’ve written thousands of words about him and talked briefly on the phone to him while he was in captivity, this is the first time we’ve met. He speaks with a powerful, didactic turn of phrase, in well-educated Mandarin that belies his peasant roots, though thankfully without the flowery classical aphorisms beloved of Beijing or Shanghai intellectuals. He walks with a limp but says his foot is healing and he will soon be able to visit the Statue of Liberty. Lunch, ordered in by Chen’s minders, is an excellent, enormous Italian meal of pasta, pizza and salads from Otto Enoteca Pizzeria on nearby Fifth Avenue. Before we start eating, he asks if he can hold my digital recorder. 'I have a deep fondness for audio recorders,' he tells me, as he examines my device with his fingertips. 'I was given one in 2005 that I used to document accounts of the government’s violent family planning practices. It survived countless confiscation raids on my house and I still have it today.' His casual, dispassionate reference to the work that got him into so much trouble is striking, as is the serenity and forgiveness he displays while describing horrific events and the people who subjected him to them ... Discrimination against the disabled is rife in China, especially in remote rural areas such as Dongshigu, the village where he grew up. Career options for the blind are limited, with the luckier ones finding work as musicians or masseurs. Chen himself studied traditional massage in the southern city of Nanjing but, once there, began to attend law lectures in his spare time. The only one of a large family of peasant farmers to attain anything beyond rudimentary education, he and his story would be highly unusual even were he not blind." (FT)


"For a display of the power of unlimited spending in politics, take a look at Ohio, where a barrage of television advertising is threatening to sweep away Democratic Senator Sherrod Brown. His Republican challenger, first-term State Treasurer Josh Mandel, trailed by as many as 14 percentage points this past May, yet two recent polls show the candidates in a statistical tie. The gap narrowed after $18 million was spent on TV ads supporting Mandel. Much of the money came from independent groups, including Karl Rove’s Crossroads GPS, which under the Supreme Court’s 2010 Citizens United decision can spend without limits on campaigns. Ohio, a bellwether in the presidential election, is also a linchpin in the Republican effort to take control of the Senate. Brown, 59, has spent close to four decades in politics, including just under 20 years in Congress, and won his Senate seat in 2006. He wears a lapel pin of a caged coal mine canary, his symbol of the need to protect workers, and mixes as easily with union members as with college presidents. “Nobody’s done this job the way I have and worked harder at it,” he says, citing more than 200 roundtable discussions he’s convened with constituents since joining the Senate. The author of a book criticizing free-trade policies, he voted against the 2002 Iraq War resolution in the House and is left of President Obama on such issues as health care and financial regulation. Mandel, 34, served two tours of duty in Iraq as a Marine reservist. He’s been Ohio’s treasurer since 2011, and before that was a two-term state legislator and a city councilman in Lyndhurst, a Cleveland suburb. If elected, Mandel says, he would focus on deregulation and simplifying the tax code. He has called Brown’s record 'ultraliberal' and 'hyperpartisan.'" (Businessweek)


"Author-turned-internet troll Bret Easton Ellis took to Twitter once again to offer his unsolicited opinion on the latest offense to the LGBT community ... OK, we get it, Bret. You don't like our modern world of political correctness and basic human decency. You long for a return to the '80s, when you were at the top of the literary brat pack, coldness was a virtue, and yes, dying of AIDS via casual gay sex was a much more omnipresent concern. Or you just enjoy being a contrarian and getting under people's skin, in which case writing about your carefully constructed faux pas only feeds into your hunger for online vitriol." (Gawker)


"'It's difficult to find a place in Brazil that isn't beautiful,' said Valentino creative director Maria Grazia Chiuri at the tenth annual Brazil Foundation Gala at the American Museum of Natural History last night. She would know; she and her co-designer, Pier Paolo Piccioli, have been spending time in the country in anticipation of opening a Valentino store there. An added bonus: 'The women are very, very beautiful,' her partner said. No one could argue with that. Gorgeous Brazilian girls in lacy and sparkling cutout gowns like Izabel Goulart and Jeisa Chiminazzo proved that point. But there were plenty of honorary Brazilians, too, like Uma Thurman, Stella Schnabel, and Olympia Scarry, who joined the ranks of official Brazilians like Francisco Costa, Lorenzo Martone, and Carlos de Souza. 'We always joke that everyone that comes to this has a Brazilian soul,' Martone said. 'The whole evening is a very Brazilian experience. Let me put it this way: Tonight is a marathon. We have cocktails in the dinosaur room, dinner in the whale room, and then there's a little after-party. Last year I had a samba moment with Natalia Vodianova on the dance floor.'" (Style)



"Model Maggie Rizer described her heartache over losing her beloved golden retriever, Beatrice, in a blog post 'United Airlines Killed Our Golden Retriever' yesterday afternoon. 'Our little Beatrice died in pain, scared and alone,' she wrote on her blog, 'Bea Makes Three.' Rizer, who’s been on the cover of Elle, Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar, was flying to San Francisco from New York two weeks ago with her husband, Alex Mehran, and 10-month-old son, Zander, and wanted to bring along her two dogs — 2-year-old Beatrice and 7-year-old Albert.  She said she paid an additional $1,800 to have the dogs cared for in United’s PetSafe program. The family bought kennels specifically for the plane’s pet-holding area and special water bowls filled with ice, to make sure the water wouldn’t spill. 'Albert and Bea were very prepared travelers,' Rizer wrote. But when the flight landed and her family went to the cargo terminal, she was coldly told, 'One of them is dead,' by a worker 'who seemed more interested in his text messages.' Thirty minutes later, a supervisor got around to telling her, 'It was the 2-year-old.' When the couple asked that Bea be returned to them, the model and her husband were told that the dog had been turned over to a local vet for an autopsy. 'Whatever thread of trust remained between us and United broke,' Rizer wrote. Rizer, who was given Bea as a wedding present, asked her own vet to do the autopsy. He said Bea, who had passed a health examination days before the flight, died of heatstroke." (PageSix)


"Part spy, part tycoon, Edwin P. Wilson lived large. He claimed to own 100 corporations in the United States and Europe, many of them real and many of them shells. He had an apartment in Geneva; a hunting lodge in England; a seaside villa in Tripoli, Libya; a town house in Washington; and real estate in North Carolina, Lebanon and Mexico. He entertained congressmen, generals and Central Intelligence Agency bigwigs at his 2,338-acre estate in Northern Virginia. He showered minks on his mistress, whom he called 'Wonder Woman.' He owned three private planes and bragged that he knew flight attendants on the Concorde by name. His preferred habitat was a hall of mirrors. His business empire existed as a cover for espionage, but it also made him a lot of money. He had the advantage of being able to call the Internal Revenue Service and use national security jargon to get the details on a potential customer. And if the I.R.S. questioned his own tax filings, he terminated the discussion by saying he was a C.I.A. operative on a covert mission. 'Being in the C.I.A. was like putting on a magic coat that forever made him invisible and invincible,' Peter Maas wrote in 'Manhunt,' his 1986 book about Mr. Wilson." (NYTimes)


"ON Sept. 5, Cipriani 42nd Street was decked out as if for a 1920s New Year’s Eve soiree: black candelabras with hydrangeas arranged like Art Deco sentinels, a model of a vintage airplane hanging overhead. A woman sang Cole Porter tunes while guests slurped freshly shucked oysters and sipped gin. Some partygoers reclined on metallic gold couches, their shadows cast by illuminated votives. All was designed to invoke the Prohibition-era setting of 'Boardwalk Empire,' the HBO show about to enter its third season. Near the bandstand, Richard Plepler, 53, who was named chief executive of HBO on Thursday after five years as the network’s co-president, was holding court: tall, tan and coifed, his ruddy complexion contrasting with the gleam of his pressed white shirt. He was gregarious and physical, his focus trained on each guest in front of him as if they were the only two people in the room. He gave Steve Buscemi, the star of 'Boardwalk Empire,' a bearhug. When Mr. Plepler saw the singers Diana Krall and Elvis Costello, he gripped Mr. Costello’s shoulder, wagging a finger at his chest. At one point he huddled with the author Malcolm Gladwell, who, like an increasing number of boldface New York writers, has a deal with HBO (he is writing a show about spies). Mr. Plepler is rarely glimpsed by the general public, except once yearly, when his network tends to take home a sack full of Emmy Awards. (The awards show will be held Sunday.) But he is a large presence among political, media and entertainment cliques in New York." (NYTStyle)

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