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Monday, November 26, 2012

Media-Whore D'Oeuvres




"Mideast conflicts have a nasty habit of occurring all at once. And while all eyes have been on Gaza and Israel this past week, several major diplomatic and military developments have occurred on the Syrian front -- some of which may prove decisive to the end game of a 20-month old crisis. The rebels are winning. The insurgents on the ground in Syria appear to be winning more and more territory and confiscating more and more high-grade materiel from President Bashar al-Assad's regime. Just as Operation Pillar of Defense was kicking off over Gaza on Nov. 14, the Free Syrian Army took the entire city of al-Bukamal along the Iraqi border, where they also sacked two major airbases, giving the opposition a strong military foothold in Syria's easternmost province, a vital smuggling route for weapons. The rebels then claimed a massive victory on the night of Nov. 18, sacking the Syrian Army's 46th Regiment, 15 miles west of Aleppo, after a 50 day-long siege. The real score, though, was in confiscated materiel: Rebels made off with tanks, armored vehicles, Type-63 multiple rocket launchers, artillery shells, howitzers, mortars, and even SA-16 surface-to-air missiles. Gen. Ahmed al-Faj of the Joint Command, a consortium of different rebel battalions, told the Associated Press: 'There has never been a battle before with this much booty.' (For a seemingly comprehensive video accounting of the rebel haul, check out Brown Moses's blog.)" (ForeignPolicy)


"The excitement that drove the discovery of 'emerging markets' in the 1980s and the easy money that turbocharged growth during the booming 2000s are over. The most hyped countries -- Brazil, Russia, India, and China -- are all slowing sharply, taking the average growth rate in the developing world back to the old normal of about 5 percent. Today's global economy is all about moderate, uneven growth, with stars emerging in previously underappreciated nations. Forget about the BRICs -- these seven countries are the real breakout nations to watch ... (Turkey)  The next two members of the club of trillion-dollar economies will be large Muslim democracies -- Indonesia and Turkey. Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has brought to his country both economic orthodoxy, taming the hyperinflation that raged when he took office in 2003, and normalcy, opening up opportunities for pious Muslims who had been shut out of plum jobs by the previous secular regimes. This was tantamount to welcoming the majority into the commercial mainstream, and Turkey has prospered ever since, riding the success of its surging auto exports and the boom in the financial services sector. ... (Nigeria) In a country plagued for years by corrupt leaders, President Goodluck Jonathan has committed himself to reform, encouraging investment in Nigerian agriculture, oil and natural gas, and, most importantly, electrical power. For now, the whole country generates only as much electricity as some small towns in England, and this lack of a reliable power supply has made Nigeria one of the world's most expensive markets for operating a business. But the key in a place like Nigeria is that it doesn't take much to grow from a very low base, given its per capita income of just $1,500. The landmark change from bad to good leadership, now focused on improving basic infrastructure and boosting investment, may be enough to make Nigeria among the world's fastest-growing economies over the next five years -- and in the process make it the largest economy on the African continent." (ForeignPolicy)


"I had two Thanksgivings. There was an old-fashioned, traditional one at the home of Gayfryd and Saul Steinberg where we were 27, seated knee-to-knee at one long table. Gayfryd is an excellent cook and she prepares for this day with a gusto that is reflected in the organization and the delicious menu. Her friend David Monn also prepared a ham, the recipe he learned from his grandmother back in Pennsylvania when he was a kid. The Steinberg dinner table was entirely family except for this writer and David Monn, the creator of spectacular event decors here in New York and a great friend of our hostess. She shares with him a mutual enthusiasm for what can be created by one’s hand, and the wonder it produces for everyone else. Although on this day, the family residence was adorned only by the enthusiasm of the guests and the table of plenty. There were spouses, brothers, sisters, children, grandchildren, great—grandchildren from age 8 to age 90 (Gayfryd’s father). Gayfryd opened the dinner with some words of gratitude that we could all be there and partake of this beautiful meal, as well as a strong reminder of the loss and disaster in communities nearby. The menu was traditional, turkey, ham, sweet potato, mashed potatoes, baby Brussels sprout, stuffing, cranberry, gravy and white or red (for the grown-ups). After the main course and seconds, the desserts were presented, four cakes, a red velvet, an orange, a vanilla, a chocolate; and pies: pecan, apple, lemon meringue and blueberry. I left the Steinbergs about four and came home for a tryptophanic snooze. At seven I put on a suit and tie and went to the Four Seasons to dine with Herb and Jeanne Siegel, Herb’s son Bill and Herb’s sister Audrey Sabol and her daughter, NYSD’s Blair Sabol. The Four Seasons is a modern tradition for a lot of New Yorkers who prefer dining out on the big day. People dress a little more formally for the Four Seasons than most would at home." (NYSocialDiary)



"Cosmo’s Editor-in-Chief Joanna Coles hosted 'The Cosmo 100,' New York’s 100 most influential woman, for lunch at Michael’s last Monday. Guests dined on the 'Cosmo Cobb,' which will be remain on the menu for the remainder of the month with proceeds going to Hurricane Sandy relief efforts. Guests included: Sarah Jessica Parker, Jennifer Westfeldt, Ali Wentworth, Jessica Seinfeld, Lauren Bush Lauren, Gayle King, Sally Hershberger, Petra Nemcova, Diane von Furstenburg, Laura Mercier, Rebecca Minkoff, Carmen Dell’Orefice, Carol Alt, Sallie Krawcheck, Val Demings, Meryl Poster, Wendy Finerman, Gillian Flynn, Jane Greene, Brooke Garber Neidich, Thelma Golden, Celerie Kemble, Katie Lee, Nicole Miller, Elizabeth Peyton, and Deborah Roberts. Also at the event, in their first public outing since last week’s election, were New Hampshire Gov.-elect Maggie Hassan and Reps.-elect Tulsi Gabbard (HI), Elizabeth Esty (CT) and Grace Meng (NY)." (NYSocialDiary)


"Why is it that adultery can ruin a man’s career but rarely a woman’s, at least in so-called civilized countries? (In Saudi Arabia an adulterous woman is stoned to death.) An American diplomat slated to become the next ambassador to Iraq, Brett McGurk, lost his chance because of an affair with a reporter who is now his wife. Why is it suddenly criminal to sleep with the opposite sex?" (Taki Theodoracopoulos)



"Meet the one woman who successfully took down Chris Brown (on Twitter, that is): Jenny Johnson. With her acerbic -- and hilarious -- tweets, the former TV news producer known on the Twittersphere as @JennyJohnsonHi5 has amassed a following of over 300,000, catching Hollywood's eye in the process. When the Houston-based funny gal is not skewering the controversial rapper, Kim Kardashian or her own stepkids, the self-proclaimed "asshole and owner of 2 dogs" is working on a book of essays and a TV pilot based on her "twisted sense of humor." Back in May, Johnson talked to us about how she got her start on Twitter, her forthcoming TV pilot and why she's really, really not a fan of Chris Brown ... You have a few different celebrities that you seem to go after more than others, including Chris Brown and Kim Kardashian. What's your online relationship with them like? Do they ever respond to your tweets? I'm not a fan of Chris Brown's for obvious reasons. Hello, he beat up a girl. And he was so unapologetic about it and then continued to do things that were inappropriate -- like throwing chairs or saying homophobic things to nightclub bouncers. He keeps telling people to 'get over it.' How do you get over it? Seriously? I saw [a tweet to Brown] that said something like, 'Why don't I beat the shit out of your mother and then threeyears later we'll just forget about it.' I didn't write that but I thought it was really funny." (Papermag)


"I am delighted to announce I have tumbled on some good luck. A friend, a local with a thirty year foothold on this glorious island I like to call home, well he tipped me off on the sudden availability of a certain dwelling. A cottage, is how it was described, on a lane I had never heard of. It took a few passes and u-turns to even find the street. And then the little house, like a fallen diamond earring, its luster gummed from the dusty path and its brilliance obscured with tangled overgrowth, the interior dulled from years of encrustations from the previous tenant, an antisocial type, who moved home to live with his mother. I have relocated a dozen times this past month. Many options flew my way but each was the wrong sized bowl of porridge and again and again I plunged the possessions back into my car and moved my tawdry sideshow along. An unexpected lowlight was the gorgeous roof dwelling, where I had my hammock delivered, and did spend a few nights before discovering I could not stay. For one thing the property was a construction site, and for another it was infested with rats. A highlight was a week at the Sugarloaf Lodge, a few Keys north, where I reveled in a hugely comfortable room frozen in the 1950s. With its view of the mysterious mangrove islands and sunsets and crocodile sized iguanas with scaly crests and fingers like scimitars, I could happily have lived there for the rest of my life. But hotel life gets pricey. And then my friend wrote me and tipped me off about the cottage." (ChristinaOxenberg)


"Bill Clinton was spotted Thanksgiving weekend at The Lambs Club on Saturday evening with a couple of friends. He was seen enjoying a glass of red wine in a corner banquette and chatted up chef Geoffrey Zakarian. A spy told Page Six that 'Clinton looked radiant and very fit in a tailored blazer.' Secret Service agents were standing by as the former president, who just had drinks, later greeted other guests dining in the restaurant. Meanwhile, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton had traveled to Israel to help strike the cease-fire between Israel and Hamas in the Gaza Strip ahead of Thanksgiving before returning to the United States." (PageSix)


"The billionaire’s building. The opening shots of Park Avenue: Money, Power and The American Dream show the famed avenue in all its moneyed glory: idling Mercedes, impeccably coiffed society women and stern limestone facades with white-gloved doormen stationed outside like sentries. It is a vision so lofty that it is almost otherworldly—can the vast majority of Americans even conjure this up as the apex of the American dream, let alone attain it? It’s a question that director Alex Gibney revisits repeatedly in his documentary about the growing gulf between the rich and poor and how that gulf has been widened by the political manipulations of the country’s wealthiest citizens. The press release about the film, bashed by The Observer in a previous post, was indeed misleading, but only in what it represented the film to be about: the two Park Avenues. This is not a story about the low or lowly classes. Nor is it really a story about 740 Park, the Upper East Side, the South Bronx or even New York. Those things just happen to be convenient physical touchstones. This is a story about the richest of the rich, as it were, the residents of 740 Park—a building that is home to more billionaires than any other building in New York—and how they have managed to claim a larger and larger share of the nation’s wealth, or as Mr. Gibney puts it in his opening voice-over, how they have enjoyed 'unprecedented prosperity from a system they increasingly control.' As Michael Gross, the author of 740 Park: The Story of the World’s Richest Apartment Building, which Mr. Gibney bought the rights to, wrote us earlier this fall: 'we’re both more interested in the perps than the vics.' (Mr. Gross also acted as an adviser on the film and is interviewed extensively alongside New Yorker scribe Jane Mayer, Yale professor Jacob Hacker and Bruce Bartlett, a historian and adviser to presidents Reagan and H.W. Bush, among others.)" (Observer)


"'I love Marnie, her sweetness and her wit. I wanted to build her character,' screenwriter Abi Morgan says of Oona Chaplin’s role on the BBC’s phenomenally successful series The Hour, which begins its second season this month. Morgan, who wrote the films The Iron Lady and Shame as well as the TV movie Sex Traffic, is as passionate about Chaplin herself. She describes the 26-year-old actor, who has also appeared on the series Game of Thrones and Sherlock—and, yes, she is Charlie’s granddaughter—as 'very Spanish, exotic; she arrives on set in a whirl, but is very focused and still on-screen. There is a gear change that travels across her face.' The Hour tells the coming-of-age story of television journalism in the mid-50s—an era in which ruthless sexual politics confronted any woman hoping to begin a career. In the first season, Marnie remained a domestic trophy wife to husband Hector Madden (played by Dominic West), but Season Two poses challenges to her marriage and her husband’s fidelity, leaving her ready to break out into a new world where it is no longer satisfying to just be married to a successful man. Chaplin describes her character’s transition thus: 'Marnie has been elegantly aloof from all the seedy, gangster-y goings-on of the first series, but she makes the transition from the old world to the new. Marnie is not a natural independent woman, but she dives in and becomes part of the competition.' Chaplin is thrilled to play a woman for whom 'the power balance of a relationship shifts. And there is such a shortage of beautiful female parts, but you read Abi’s work and she is so good for women.'" (VanityFair)


"I was intending to do a little reminding research on the Pilgrims and Thanksgiving when I accidentally came upon an essay about Louis XIV, The Sun King. Thanksgiving always evokes childhood memories for me. The little David growing up in almost meager circumstances in a little New England town where it was bare cold and grey this time of year, Louis’ way of life was something to celebrate, and be thankful for.ronically, all these years later big David reads that and laughs, amused by the absurdity. Abundance, I’ve come to see, tends to dull gratitude in us, and before you know it, greed is lapping on our shores. Of course, that was Louis’ ace – the absurdity of abundance. With it, long did he reign. Growing up in Massachusetts in the past mid-century, we were inculcated in school about the Pilgrims and Plymouth Rock and John Alden and Priscilla Mullins and 'Speak for yourself John…' I loved all of it. Hardship in living circumstances was not unfamiliar to many of us, and in the stories we read (or were read) about it, the Pilgrims’ voyage and settlement was admirable and enviably brave. In school we made posters and collages of the Thanksgiving symbols -- the hat, the musket, the turkey, Squanto the Indian, Miles Standish, and the First Thanksgiving (so glad to have survived the long voyage to freedom) at what I imagined to be one large picnic table. Even a child could understand the pluck and the gratitude. Of course all these years later (and information absorbed) I see how simple and misleading and even absurd it was to teach many of these 'stories' to ten year olds who naturally trusted in everything they were told. I also recall my family members – eight or ten of us – crowded around the dining room table which had extended by two pieces, and the abundance before us and, despite our own hardship, taking it for granted." (NYSocialDiary)

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