Thursday, January 31, 2013

Media-Whore D'Oeuvres

"Despite the jihadist blowback the Saudis experienced after the end of the war against the Soviets in Afghanistan -- and the current object lesson of the jihadists Syria sent to fight U.S. forces in Iraq now leading groups such as Jabhat al-Nusra -- the Saudi government has apparently calculated that its use of jihadist proxies in Syria is worth the inherent risk. There are some immediate benefits for Riyadh. First, the Saudis hope to be able to break the arc of Shiite influence that reaches from Iran through Iraq and Syria to Lebanon. Having lost the Sunni counterweight to Iranian power in the region with the fall of Saddam Hussein in Iraq and the installation of a Shiite-led government friendly to Iran, the Saudis view the possibility of installing a friendly Sunni regime in Syria as a dramatic improvement to their national security. Supporting the jihad in Syria as a weapon against Iranian influence also gives the Saudis a chance to burnish their Islamic credentials internally in an effort to help stave off criticism that they are too secular and Westernized. It allows the Saudi regime the opportunity to show that it is helping Muslims under assault by the vicious Syrian regime. Supporting jihadists in Syria also gives the Saudis an opportunity to ship their own radicals to Syria, where they can fight and possibly die. With a large number of unemployed, underemployed and radicalized young men, the jihad in Syria provides a pressure valve similar to the past struggles in Iraq, Chechnya, Bosnia and Afghanistan. The Saudis are not only trying to winnow down their own troubled youth; we have received reports from a credible source that the Saudis are also facilitating the travel of Yemeni men to training camps in Turkey, where they are trained and equipped before being sent to Syria to fight. The reports also indicate that the young men are traveling for free and receiving a stipend for their service. These young radicals from Saudi Arabia and Yemen will even further strengthen the jihadist groups in Syria by providing them with fresh troops. The Saudis are gaining temporary domestic benefits from supporting jihad in Syria, but the conflict will not last forever, nor will it result in the deaths of all the young men who go there to fight. This means that someday the men who survive will come back home, and through the process we refer to as 'tactical Darwinism' the inept fighters will have been weeded out, leaving a core of competent militants that the Saudis will have to deal with." (STRATFOR)

"It has been about two decades now that the two major parties switched roles in Washington. For much of the last half of the 20th century, Republicans dominated the White House while Democrats enjoyed a virtual monopoly on both chambers of Congress. But since 1994, their basic spheres of influence have changed. It is the Democrats that can be considered the 'presidential party' after a pair of clear-cut victories by both Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, while the Republicans can best lay claim to being the “congressional party.” Certainly the latter is the case in the House of Representatives, where the GOP has controlled the lower chamber for 14 of the last 18 years. Just as the electoral map has favored the Democrats in recent presidential elections, so has geography and a good bit of crafty cartography positioned the Republicans on the inside track in maintaining House control. Geographically, the starting point for Republicans is the South, nearly as solidly for the GOP now as it was for the Democrats in the century following the Civil War. Republicans hold 108 of the 149 House seats across the region (which by definition here includes the states of the old Confederacy plus Kentucky and Oklahoma). The GOP’s Southern total represents more than 45% of all 234 seats that Republicans currently possess. In many states across the South, the Democrats are barely competitive at the congressional level. In Virginia, they have just three House seats; in Tennessee, just a pair. In five Southern states — Alabama, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi and South Carolina — Democrats are down to a single House seat. In Arkansas and Oklahoma, they have none at all. And it is difficult for the Democrats to make up ground elsewhere, because no other region possesses nearly as many House seats as does the continually growing South. The second largest region, the West, has 102 seats, while the once dominant electoral powerhouses of the Midwest and Northeast are down to just 94 and 90 House seats, respectively. As a result, the massive 67-seat GOP advantage in the South in 2012 easily offset Democratic strength in the Northeast and West, and was more than twice as large as the Republican House majority nationwide (33 seats)." (CenterforPolitics)

"Yesterday was mild and misty-foggy and almost warm in New York (if you think 60 degrees is warm). I went down to Michael’s, not because it was Wednesday, but because Julia Reed, Debra Shriver and Joe Armstrong were hosting a birthday lunch for our friend (and NYSD columnist Liz Smith) who will celebrate her 90th officially on this Saturday, February 2nd. The table was decorated with yellow roses (of Texas). The menu for yesterday’s luncheon was entirely Ms. Liz’s favorites, and being a Texas girl there was some native Texan cuisine. She wrote a book about all this a few years ago called 'Dish' which was all of her favorite recipes – leaning toward the fried stuff, including the exotic Fried Milky Ways or Mars Bars (I must be imagining this but I think it’s true). Elvis went in for that kind of thing too ... We sat at Table One, in the Bay and Michael’s was a madhouse and so noisy with conversations bouncing off the Hockneys and the Lichtensteins that I could barely hear Toni Goodale and Debra Shriver who were on either side of me. I couldn’t hear anything Liz said from across the table and I didn’t bother to do my customary 'Whaaaa?' because she probably couldn’t have heard me even though her hearing is much better than mine. At table were the aforementioned: our hosts — Mr. Mayor Armstrong, Ms. Shriver and Ms. Reed, plus Sheila Nevins, one of the original Wow Oh Wow girls, and JH who designs Liz’ column (and everything else) for the NYSD everyday, and Jon Meacham who recently bought himself and his family a nice house in his native Tennessee." (NYSocialDiary)

"Chuck Hagel is a Republican, but he's an iconoclastic Republican, one who turned against the Iraq War as a senator and became one of its most prominent opponents. It was therefore expected that, during his Senate confirmation hearing today, Hagel's harshest questioning would come from members of his own party who supported the war until its very end. During his turn this morning, John McCain — who is not known for being shy about grilling cabinet nominees — didn't disappoint.Despite referring to Hagel as an 'old friend,' McCain was at Peak Crotchety, badgering Hagel for a yes or no answer on whether he was right to call the 2007 Surge "the most dangerous foreign policy blunder in this country since Vietnam.' McCain interrupted Hagel again and again as he tried to provide a more nuanced answer. Eventually, Hagel was allowed to explain that his 'blunder' quote referred to 'the overall war of choice going into Iraq.' (Is that true, though? Here's Hagel's 'blunder' remark in its original context.)" (NYMag)

"'If you asked me back in the day, ‘What do you miss the most?,’ my answer would have been ‘I miss my jet,’' Merv Adelson tells Vanity Fair special correspondent Bryan Burrough in the March issue. 'You know, there was a time I could pick up the phone here, call my pilot, and I could be in Paris the next morning. But not anymore. I won’t be namby-pamby and say I don’t miss all that money. I do. But I’ve learned to do so much on my own. I made my first million at age 24. Since then I’ve always had people do things for me. Now I pay my own bills. The other day I changed to online banking. It’s so great! And easy!' Between 2000 and 2003, Adelson—who was once married to Barbara Walters and, with Lorimar, the company he founded, produced iconic television shows such as The Waltons, Dallas, Knots Landing, Falcon Crest, and Eight Is Enough—saw 90 percent of his wealth evaporate. Adelson sold Lorimar to Warner Communications in 1989 for $1.2 billion in stock. When the Internet bubble burst, in 2000, the newly merged AOL Time Warner’s stock price began to fall, eventually plunging from a high of $58 all the way to a low of $7. Adelson never sold a single share, a decision that cost him $141 million. Adelson tells Burrough he held on because his lawyers advised him that his relationship with Time Warner’s C.E.O. Gerald Levin put him at risk of being charged with insider trading if he sold. “It was like The Perfect Storm,' he tells Burrough of his losses. 'I got hit more than Joe Louis got hit in his entire career. I didn’t know where it was coming from next.' Burrough meets Adelson in Santa Monica, where the former mogul now lives in a 500-square-foot apartment with a kitchenette, a battered futon, and a flatulent dog." (VanityFair)

"Deerfield Academy, the prestigious New England boarding school that counts Taylor Swift’s former flame Conor Kennedy as a student and boasts illustrious alumni including David H. Koch and Time Warner CEO Jeffrey Bewkes, is embroiled in a teacher-sex scandal. School officials said on their Web site Monday that retired teacher Peter Hindle, now 72, was allegedly involved in an incident in the 1980s. The statement reads, 'A former student has confided in us that he was subjected to sexual contact, in the 1980s by Peter Hindle, who was a Deerfield faculty member between 1956 and 2000. Mr. Hindle has admitted sexual contact with a student, and we are now conducting a detailed investigation . . . We have retained an independent law firm to assist, and we have informed law enforcement authorities.' The letter asks for any who were affected to come forward with a promise of confidentiality and counseling. The school could give no further updates. Hindle has denied the claims and told the Boston Herald: 'I think it’s all in interpretation. It depends on what you mean by sexual contact. I gave someone a back rub. I don’t even know who it is.'" (PageSix)

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Media-Whore D'Oeuvres

"There’s grumbling agreement even among the party faithful that the GOP is facing an existential crisis. The belated embrace of comprehensive immigration reform with nary a scream about 'amnesty' by anyone except Rush Limbaugh and the House radicals is just the latest indication that the default formula of anger and obstruction isn’t working anymore. The 2012 ass-kicking is forcing Republicans to confront their deepest demons—namely, that they cannot simply write off whole regions of the country and remain a viable national party. They cannot afford to alienate the fastest-growing communities of color in the USA. They cannot win a war against modernity. The big tent has been burnt down but it can still be rebuilt—if the Republican Party is willing to embrace reformers who don’t fit in an ideological straitjacket.  This ain’t no naïve pipe dream. What if I told you that there was a Northeast Republican who currently enjoys 62 percent support from Democrats, 69 percent support from non-whites, 70 percent support from women, and 72 percent support among independent voters? But wait, there’s more—the Republican is pulling those numbers in a state President Obama won by 17 points, where registered Republicans make up only 20 percent of the electorate. You might have guessed that’s the political profile of New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie—and while a post-Sandy bump can explain some of the sky-high numbers, any rational Republican consultant should want to run down to the Jersey Shore and figure out what Christie is doing right so the national party can do it, too." (TheDailyBeast)

"'Think three moves ahead!' and “Remember what Napoleon said: ‘Offense is the best defense,’ Ezekiel Emanuel, the bioethicist brother of Rahm and Ari Emanuel, recalls their father admonishing over family chess games. “These games reinforced our natural tendency to be aggressive in whatever we set out to do.” In a Vanity Fair adaptation from his forthcoming memoir, the eldest Emanuel son writes about the childhood that accounted for three phenomenally successful brothers, each with his own special talent. 'Ari really could not help but be annoying,' Ezekiel writes. To provoke their father, he would scan the menu at every restaurant to identify the most expensive things and order them all, a habit Ezekiel attributes to his dyslexia. 'He had trouble reading menus, and he found it easier just to look for the higher prices, which he anticipated were associated with the better dishes.' The pressure exerted by their demanding parents was especially hard on the youngest brother, who had a hard time at school. 'While other kids wrote out letters, Ari struggled to translate what he saw on the blackboard to the paper on his desk,' Ezekiel writes. ‘Dog’ became ‘bog’ and ‘boy’ became ‘yod.’ Ari fell behind his brothers and his classmates. 'Eventually he began to fear that his inability to read was caused by a character defect or a basic lack of intelligence,” Ezekiel writes. “He did not share these feelings openly. In fact, he buried them so deeply that they came out only in bursts of aggression or anger.' ... Ezekiel describes incidents that might be called child neglect today. When Rahm was a baby, their mother left him momentarily in the care of two-year-old Ezekiel and a five-year-old cousin before leaving the room. When the boys were children, she sent them off alone to spend summer days on Chicago’s Foster Avenue Beach, which they reached through a tunnel beneath Lake Shore Drive. After a few days in the sun Ari and Rahm could pass for African-Americans, which led to the occasional dustup on a beach that was segregated in custom and practice. 'Certain people—mostly white males between the ages of 10 and 15—made it their business to enforce the unwritten whites-only rule,' Ezekiel writes. 'When they called my brothers niggers and tried to bully us off the beach, we—naturally—refused to move. Instead, one of us would answer, ‘You can’t make me leave.’ If shouting didn’t work, the Emanuel boys had no qualms about throwing punches. “We were city kids, not anti-war activists.' At the end of a day like that, the three would settle into the room they shared to go over the day’s events. After saying a few words, Ezekiel writes, Ari would fall asleep holding on to a favorite blanket that he kept well into grade school." (VanityFair)

"Many of CNN’s top talents were being moved around like chess pieces yesterday. After new CNN honcho Jeff Zucker hired Chris Cuomo from ABC, he dismissed pundits James Carville, Mary Matalin and Bill Bennett. CNN managing editor Mark Whitaker resigned, and Anderson Cooper learned his show will no longer be repeated in prime time. Cuomo is expected to be joined by Erin Burnett on a new morning show. Page Six reported Dec. 10 that Zucker wanted to move Burnett from her prime-time slot 'to revive the cabler’s moribund morning ratings.' She is, however, contracted to prime time, and a source says, 'They’ll have to throw a bucket of money at her to go to the morning.' And Soledad O’Brien has been promised a role in prime time. Zucker has been taking an active role in all departments of CNN, not just human resources. 'He is all over everyone at the network,” said one source. “He is e-mailing everyone, around the clock, the anchors, the control rooms, he has inserted himself into everything. It is great for the network.'" (PageSix)

"Last night at the Café Carlyle, Amanda McBroom opened her cabaret show, 'A Valentine Rose.' Ms. McBroom, who hails from California is a singer/actress/cabaret performer and songwriter. She and her collaborator, composer Michele Brourman (who accompanied her last night) wrote the now standard 'The Rose' introduced by Bette Midler in the film of the same title. Even if you don’t think you know it, you do ... The song was first recorded by Midler but since has been recorded by Conway Twitty, LeAnne Rimes, Westlife, Joan Baez, as well as by artists in Japanese, German, Dutch, and Chinese. Ms. McBroom told the audience last night that since Valentine’s was coming up, she chose a repertoire of love songs, including tunes by Cole Porter, Dorothy Fields and Jerome Kern, Rodgers and Hart, and by McBroom and Brourman. Among the crowd: Mr. and Mrs. Regis Philbin, the great Judy Collins (who has recorded McBroom/Brourman tunes, and also plays the Café Carlyle) with her husband Louis Nelson, the great Paul Williams, and Tracey Jackson and Glenn Horowitz." (NYSocialDiary)

"Facebook co-founder Chris Hughes joked about the gossip over his motive for buying politics and culture magazine The New Republic last year. At a party to toast the mag’s relaunch at his SoHo loft Monday, Hughes, 29, said, 'They would say, ‘He could do anything in the world, why would he take on such a hard project?’ ' He explained that he believed in “great writing to shape how we view the world,” and the 'belief that we can build a future for smart, substantive journalism in an age when technology challenges the paradigm that’s existed for a very long time.' The bash drew Christine Quinn, Deputy Mayor Howard Wolfson, David Remnick, Arianna Huffington, BuzzFeed’s Ben Smith, Barry Diller and Fareed Zakaria." (PageSix)

"Eccles Center in Park City, Utah—known to Sundance veterans as 'The Big House'—is so massive that my first thought was that the Rolling Stones would have had a tough time selling this joint out at 10 p.m. on a Tuesday night in the middle of a frigid January. The night in question was last Tuesday, Jan. 22. The occasion was the world premiere of a film that I wrote, Lovelace, in which Amanda Seyfried stars as 1970s porn icon-turned-women’s rights activist Linda Lovelace. Team Lovelace flew into Park City with a bit of a tailwind. Ms. Seyfried had received raves for her performance as Cosette in Les Misérables, there were encouraging results from two focus groups, and there was a generally healthy buzz surrounding the film. But that’s how every ghost story starts, isn’t it? Haunted whispers from around the campfires of Sundance, Cannes and Toronto—an enticing cabin in the mountains, a super-sexy young woman about to take her top off and a group of friends high on camaraderie and optimism—three weeks later, everybody is telemarketing or teaching English in Thailand. That’s the dirty little secret about the film industry (well, one of many, actually). You can test and prod and predict all you want, but the clinically detached truth is that you never have any clue if your movie is any good until you get it in front of an unbiased audience. There are probably 100 different variables that factor into whether a project is christened a success or not, but none is more important than landing a distribution deal." (Observer)

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Subscribe to my YouTube Channel?

Hello: I'd like to ask a favor. I'd love to produce some live video content for my YouTube Channel in the Spring. In order to use the YouTube facilities -- their equipment, studios, editing software -- I need to have 100 subscribers to my channel. So could you subscribe here?

I am thinking of some kind of weekly pop-cultural political "show." I'll keep you updated.

Media-Whore D'Oeuvres

""The United States military is preparing to establish a drone base in northwest Africa so that it can increase surveillance missions on the local affiliate of Al Qaeda and other Islamist extremist groups that American and other Western officials say pose a growing menace to the region. For now, officials say they envision flying only unarmed surveillance drones from the base, though they have not ruled out conducting missile strikes at some point if the threat worsens. The move is an indication of the priority Africa has become in American antiterrorism efforts. The United States military has a limited presence in Africa, with only one permanent base, in the country of Djibouti, more than 3,000 miles from Mali, where French and Malian troops are now battling Qaeda-backed fighters who control the northern part of Mali. For now, officials say they envision flying only unarmed surveillance drones from the base, though they have not ruled out conducting missile strikes at some point if the threat worsens.  The move is an indication of the priority Africa has become in American antiterrorism efforts. The United States military has a limited presence in Africa, with only one permanent base, in the country of Djibouti, more than 3,000 miles from Mali, where French and Malian troops are now battling Qaeda-backed fighters who control the northern part of Mali. A new drone base in northwest Africa would join a constellation of small airstrips in recent years on the continent, including in Ethiopia, for surveillance missions flown by drones or turboprop planes designed to look like civilian aircraft. If the base is approved, the most likely location for it would be in Niger, a largely desert nation on the eastern border of Mali. The American military’s Africa Command, or Africom, is also discussing options for the base with other countries in the region, including Burkina Faso, officials said." (NYTimes)

"This past Thursday night, designer Nicole Hanley Mellon hosted a cocktail party at her residence at The Pierre Hotel in honor of Ambassador Mary M. Ourisman, chairman of the upcoming 56th Annual International Red Cross Ball. Ambassador Ourisman, the United States' last ambassador to Barbados, attended the private gathering of friends and supporters, many of whom divide their time between New York and Palm Beach. Nicole Hanley Mellon and her husband, Matthew T. Mellon II, serve as associate chairmen of the ball set to take place at The Breakers - Palm Beach on Friday, February 8th. The annual event welcomes ambassadors, dignitaries, government, civic officials and philanthropic leaders from around the world who support the American Red Cross. Among supporters in attendance were Julie Macklowe, Zang Toi, Nicole Noonan and Steven Knobel, Michele Gerber Klein, Jean Shafiroff, Alex Donner, Leesa Rowland, Consuelo Vanderbilt Costin, Michelle Marie Heinemann, Catherine Todd, Lady Liliana Cavendish, Lucia Hwong Gordon, Maggie Norris, Karen Klopp, Felicia Taylor, R. Couri Hay, Christine Schott, Mark Gilbertson, Elizabeth Meigher, and Dori Cooperman. The 56th Annual International Red Cross Ball will honor actress Dina Merrill Hartley, whose mother Marjorie Merriweather Post, founded the ball in 1957." (NYSocialDiary)

"Carole Mallory, the actress and model who wrote 'Loving Mailer' about her eight-year affair with Norman Mailer, has penned another book about her exploits with famous men — including Robert De Niro, whom she alleges wore socks in bed. 'Picasso’s Ghost' chronicles Mallory’s relationship and broken engagement to Pablo Picasso’s son Claude, as well as affairs with Peter Sellers and Richard Gere. 'I was jilted by Claude Picasso, and I spent most of my life trying to shore up my bad feelings about myself,' she tells us. 'A lot of my seeking out famous men was to prove I was OK. I felt terribly wounded when he jilted me. I felt validated by celebrities.' Mallory, who starred in 'The Stepford Wives,' met De Niro in 1975 at the Chateau Marmont, and the pair had a 14-day affair. “During lovemaking, he never stopped looking in my eyes,' she writes. She continues, 'He had a butterfly tattoo that I later realized matched his flighty spirit. So did the fact he left his socks on.' She added, 'The following year he married Diahnne Abbott . . . I would have appreciated a phone call' ...  Mallory, 71, who now teaches writing at Rosemont College and Temple University in Philly, breathlessly describes a one-night stand with Gere in the late ’70s: 'His gymnastic skills were apparent. He made love his way . . . He didn’t withhold. He was Valentino in the flesh. A sex symbol not to be forgotten. Not to be lumped in with all the others, but to be remembered for his uniqueness. His thoughtfulness. His caring.'" (PageSix)  
  "It's Jeff Zucker's job to make CNN relevant again, and he's doing it the only way he knows how. The network announced today that former Good Morning America anchor and the governor's brother Chris Cuomo is leaving ABC in an attempt to save the mornings at CNN. Zucker, as explained by Vulture's Josef Adalian, first made his name in the morning infotainment game, jump-starting NBC's Today show into dominance. And CNN could use the jolt: Currently in Cuomo's soon-to-be slot is Soledad O'Brien's Starting Point, which last year tallied fewer total viewers in the a.m. hours than any time over the last decade. Zucker has also added John Berman as a co-host to Early Start, the network's 5 to 7 a.m. show, along with Jake Tapper, the star White House correspondent who will transition this year into anchor-dom. To make room for his team, Zucker is also doing some housecleaning: Fishbowl D.C. reports that husband and wife Mary Matalin and James Carville will not renew their contributor contracts at CNN, with Bill Bennet and Maria Cardona also moving on. 'I was told that they wanted the contributors to be more available — essentially, closer to Washington,' Carville told Politico. 'I'm not always available, I don't live there.' He said it was not his choice to leave. Meanwhile, Erick Erickson, the Red State blogger turned professional righty pundit, will leave CNN for Fox News, which has a Sarah Palin–size hole to fill."(NYMag)
"Between the Literary Seminar, a sailing boat race and with the winter influx of snowbirds the tiny city of Key West is currently stuffed to its eyeballs. Even my reliable parking spot behind the courthouse has been discovered, and I’m forced to putter on searching for a free space, like a tourist. I was lucky enough to have been made a gift of a pass to the Literary Seminar which was a thorough delight. Held in the old Cuban meeting hall on Duval Street the stage was decorated with scrims of Trompe-l’œil bookshelves and every seat in the house was occupied. This was the 31st annual Seminar with a theme of biographers and their subjects. The events were well attended with types come to soak up the bon mots of the participating luminaries, many in the crowd scribbling feverishly into notebooks on their laps. I made a point of arriving as late as feasible and entering the darkened auditorium and stopping immediately just inside the heavy door. And from here, leaning against the back wall which was oddly padded and thus comfortable, I watched. It was decidedly impressive to listen and absorb the intelligence of these productive and prolific and earnest authors. Yet there was a coliseum feeling of observing terrified victims, even those who managed to appear poised but spoke too quickly or too low, telltale signs of nerves. I was so grateful it was not me up on that stage. Public engagements make me so nervous I miss most of everything. Here I could drink up every last drop. I listened more than I watched because shaggy heads of hair obscured my line of vision and I could not always see the stage. My attention drifted when the whisperings of a group of women nearby invaded my mind. I shot them an evil look and they gasped and quietened, momentarily. It kills me to admit this but a lot of the learned utterances were over my head, mentions of writers I’ve never heard of, let alone read. I felt woefully ignorant and vowed to study a lot more very soon. My favorite moment was watching Edmund White, a luminary amongst luminaries ..." (Christina Oxenberg)

Monday, January 28, 2013

Will Mitch McConnell Be "Primaried"?

"Bipartisanship" and "Mitch McConnell" do not roll off the tongue together smoothly. And yet it would appear that Democrats and teabaggers are both united in their mutual distaste of the man. From Politico:

Big Democratic donors, local liberal activists and a left-leaning super PAC in Kentucky are telling tea partiers that they are poised to throw financial and organizational support behind a right-wing candidate should one try to defeat the powerful GOP leader in a 2014 primary fight.
The idea: Soften up McConnell and make him vulnerable in a general election in Kentucky, where Democrats still maintain a voter registration advantage. Or better yet, in their eyes: Watch Kentucky GOP primary voters nominate the 2014 version of Todd Akin or Richard Mourdock, weak candidates who may actually lose.

We are doing a lot of reaching out to some of the tea party folks across the state,” said Keith Rouda, a field organizer with the liberal group MoveOn and the Democratic super PAC, Progress Kentucky. “What we’re finding — at least in this stage of the race — we’re finding that our interests align. It’s unusual.”
Progress Kentucky has begun circulating petitions urging Republicans to jump into the race, and Democratic donors active in Bluegrass State and national politics are privately making it clear they’re willing to help bankroll a tea party candidate. Neither the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee nor the Kentucky Democratic Party is involved in the unorthodox efforts at this point, officials said.

Ah, DC: city of Machiavels and cutthroats. Can we expect to see a McConnell-Ashley Judd primary?

Art Sales in New York Estimated at $8 billion a year

Did you know that art sales in New York are estimated at $8 billion a year? Neither did I. Did you also know that scrutiny of this market is minimal and that fisrts bids are "typically fictional," used to jumpstart sales? An article in the Times, which has 75 comments, spells out this Wild West.

Many in the art world insist there is no need for further scrutiny of a market that prompts few consumer complaints and is vital to the New York economy. But other veterans of the business say there is mounting concern that monitoring has not kept pace with the increasing treatment of art as a commodity.

“The art world feels like the private equity market of the ’80s and the hedge funds of the ’90s,” James R. Hedges IV, a New York collector and financier, said. “It’s got practically no oversight or regulation.”

For two decades some New York State lawmakers have been trying to curb the practice known as “chandelier bidding,” a bit of art-market theater in which auctioneers begin a sale by pretending to spot bids in the room. In reality the auctioneers are often pointing at nothing more than the light fixtures.

“The time has come to give up this fiction that there are actual real bidders,” said David Nash, a gallery owner who spent 35 years as a top executive with Sotheby’s.

But nine bills submitted in Albany over the years to ban the practice failed. So today, in a city that seeks to regulate soda consumption, chandelier bidding remains 100 percent legal.
Wild. More here.

Media-Whore D'Oeuvres

"The joint appearance by President Obama and Hillary Clinton on 60 Minutes wasn’t about the Democratic nomination in 2016, as some analysts have insisted this weekend. Watching the actual interview Sunday night, I am certain it was about something both much more immediate and long lasting. It was President Obama using TV – and the folks at 60 Minutes happily allowing themselves to be used – to write the first draft of history on Clinton’s performance as secretary of state.
In a most immediate and partisan sense, it was Obama using one of the biggest tents in popular culture to slap down Senators Rand Paul and Ron Johnson for their insistence during the Benghazi hearing last week that Clinton was not worthy of the office she held. It was as if Obama was saying, 'You guys think you’re going to shape the perception of her tenure with your grandstanding attacks in a Senate hearing, watch this. I can have the biggest news audience in television, one of the biggest audiences in all of popular culture with this Top 10 show, any time I want it. CBS News always plays ball with me — ever since I gave them that exclusive with my ‘brain trust’ right after the election in 2008. This is how you use TV to write the first draft history. And, by the way, boys, it isn’t journalism writing the first draft, as you guys like to say. This is stage-managed, prime-time show-biz TV doing it.'" (David Zurawik/DailyDownload)
"At 83, (NYRB editor Bob) Silvers looks fit and well. He has an old-boy charm – today enhanced by a dapper suit and a loud, striped scarf – and radiates genial warmth. His favourite restaurant in New York, he says, is Perry Street, run by French restaurateur Jean-Georges Vongerichten, but it’s been closed since superstorm Sandy. 'They’re drying out or something,' he laments. His second choice is EN, a Japanese brasserie he describes as 'very convenient' – it’s in the same Hudson Street building (a former printing press) as the NYRB. EN, which means 'destiny' in Japanese, turns out to be a large loft space with dark wood panelling and surprisingly low tables and chairs, which give diners the feeling of being very small. Silvers is interested in food only 'up to a point: frankly, I’m in the office most of the time, and people tend to bring me one thing or another ... ' he says, laughing as tends to in response to questions about himself. As an editor working at a literary magazine, I find Silvers’ work ethic inspiring, if hard to mimic; he is in the office seven days a week, often until midnight, where he keeps a bed in a cupboard. He edits every piece in the NYRB himself. Contributors speak of his long polite memos revealing an encyclopedic knowledge of even the most obscure subjects, as well as a disregard for normal working hours; many have stories of receiving clippings and queries from “Bob” in the middle of the night or as they sit down to Christmas lunch." (FT)

"On Saturday night over at '21' Charlotte Ford and her nephew and niece, Al Uzielli and Allegra Ford, gave a birthday dinner for 30 in honor of their mother and Charlotte’s sister Anne. This was a family affair with a few friends of Anne and Charlotte. Besides Anne and her son and daughter, that included Kimm Uzielli, Al’s wife, and their two young daughters (whose life in Los Angeles is a featured story in the latest Town & Country written by Georgina Schaeffer -- who used to be the Managing Editor at Quest under this writer). Also attending were Charlotte’s daughter Elena Ford and her three daughters and son; and the sisters’ brother Edsel Ford, his wife Cynthia and their four sons." (NYSocialDiary)

"Former Facebook president Sean Parker may not have made the confidential list of 2,630 world leaders, chief executives, and professional pontifs who ponied up $40,000/week–layoffs be damned!–to attend this year’s World Economic Forum. But 'the dean of the Davos party scene' still delivered.
Mr. Parker’s fiancée, aspiring musician Alexandra Lenas, gave birth to their daughter, Winter Victoria Parker, earlier this month. But fatherhood doesn’t seem to have slowed down the party hardy billionaire. On Friday, he hosted a VIP party attended by Marissa Mayer, Dan Loeb (the hedge fund founder who helped install her at Yahoo), business insider Henry Blodget, Wikipedia’s Jimmy Wales, and a bearded, grinning Lloyd Blankfein. The event, billed as 'Future Of Philanthropy Nightcap,' was cohosted by Salesforce CEO Mark Benioff and London-based 'PR supremo' Ian Osborne and featured performances by John Legend and Mark Ronson." (BetaBeat)

"When it comes to success stories in the entertainment world, it doesn’t get much better than the one about a pair of regular guys from Colorado, Matt Stone and Trey Parker, who took cutout paper dolls, animated them and triumphed on cable television, on the Web, at the multiplex and on Broadway. Last week, Mr. Stone arrived at a coffee shop in the Chelsea neighborhood of New York so bundled up that he resembled Kenny, who always shows up on 'South Park' encased in a big orange parka. He was leaving the next day for London, where the fourth production of 'The Book of Mormon' will soon begin a run.   Over the course of 16 seasons and 237 episodes, 'South Park,' an assault on good taste built on the misadventures of four crudely animated and crudely spoken boys, has entered every pore of the culture. In the meantime, the two creators have helped put Comedy Central on the map, made four feature films, produced a sitcom and landed a Broadway hit with 'Book of Mormon,' produced by Scott Rudin and Anne Garefino and created along with Robert Lopez. Now Mr. Stone and Mr. Parker are about to finish a video game version of 'South Park,' and they recently announced that they were forming a production company called Important Studios, valued at $300 million. The success of 'South Park” is a stark lesson in the fundamentals of entertainment: if you tell stories that people want to hear, the audience will find you. This is true no matter how fundamentally the paradigms shift, or how many platforms evolve." (David carr)

"Saint-Germain-des-Prés and the Latin Quarter still evoke the verbose sophistry of Sartre, although the tourism and jewelry trades have replaced the rendez-vous des intellectuels. Yet the sheer stunning beauty of the 7eme reminds one why Paris is still the most romantic capital of Europe, the city Papa Hemingway called a fine place to be young in, the city that’s a necessary part of a man’s education. Late at night I walked the empty cobbled streets thinking of the art movements born in these sidewalks: Impressionism, Fauvism, Cubism—you name the ism—and when Paris was the place to meet great artists, where Dali, Max Ernst, and Joan Miro embraced surrealism and other foreigners such as Chaim Soutine, Modigliani, and Giacometti went their own Parisian way. No other city in the 19th and 20th century can boast such a concentration of talent, with the greatest Americans such as Papa, F. Scott Fitzgerald, John Dos Passos, Ezra Pound, and Henry Miller thrown in for good measure. Yet as I walked the streets where these great men had paced long ago, my mood was a sad one, as was the occasion of my visit. My close friend of over 55 years, Jean-Claude Sauer, had died in a military hospital of complications for which we can thank Uncle Sam’s spraying of Agent Orange in Vietnam. I have often written about Jean-Claude. He was for 45 years the number-one photographer of Paris Match. Our friendship had begun in a smoky Paris bistro back in 1958, just after he had returned from military service in Algeria. JC, as the Americans called him, was a paratrooper who had served with distinction in that savage war of peace, as Alistair Horne was to call it in his definitive book of that conflict. Jean-Claude had caught the bug of combat and went on to Biafra, Vietnam, Yemen, and back to Algeria, taking pictures while always pursuing the fairer sex come hell or high water, as they say in Wyoming. (Where for a while he owned a farm until boredom almost killed him.)" (Taki)

Thursday, January 24, 2013

In from out of the Arctic freeze nast nigth I attended a great party at Duncan Quinn -- bespoke clothing for the gangster in all of us -- featuring amazing Zacapa rum cocktails at 8 Spring Street. Spotted among the beautiful people who weathered the cold night: Nicole Liebman, project manager of MKTG Inc; David Barish, EIC, EastVillageLive; Elayne Duff, Head Mixologist and Ambassador for Luxury Spirits Division at Diageo at MKTG INC; craft brewer Joss Ruffel; the impeccably dressed Luzer Twesky as well as Howie Shroot and Eva Graff.

Gawker's Nick Denton Moves Towards "Commerce Journalism"

Paidcontent's Matthew Ingram does a good job combing through Gawker Media's recent job postings and the direction that Nick Denton has outlined in a recently leaked memo. From Paidcontent:
"There’s rarely any mystery about what Gawker Media founder Nick Denton has in mind for his mini media empire, if only because his internal memos are so widely leaked that his plans eventually become public anyway. In his latest missive, Denton makes it clear that he wants to see a major push into ecommerce as a method of monetizing Gawker’s traffic — and specifically, posts that are designed primarily as vehicles for affiliate links. According to Denton, this business is expected to produce 10 percent of revenues this year, just part of the 40-percent revenue growth the network is projecting.

"According to the memo, which Advertising Age has published in full, the former head of Gawker’s sponsored content business — which includes the sponsored conversations that Denton launched last year as part of the network’s new Kinja discussion platform — has left Gawker to run his own digital marketing firm, and former Conde Nast ad sales manager Andrew Gorenstein is taking over .."

A little more Hearst-y than Conde Nastm, this move. Posts that are designed primarily as vehicles for affiliate links walk the thin line between journalism and out-and-out ads. But it can be done, and done well, as in the case of consumer magazines which serve consumer's passions like Game Informer magazine and the Food Network magazine and, to a degree, vogue.

The full article here.
"The recent jihadist attack on the Tigantourine natural gas facility near In Amenas, Algeria, and the subsequent hostage situation there have prompted some knee-jerk discussions among media punditry. From these discussions came the belief that the incident was spectacular, sophisticated and above all unprecedented. A closer examination shows quite the opposite. Indeed, very little of the incident was without precedent. Mokhtar Belmokhtar, who orchestrated the attack, has employed similar tactics and a similar scale of force before, and frequently he has deployed forces far from his group's core territory in northern Mali. Large-scale raids, often meant to take hostages, have been conducted across far expanses of the Sahel. What was unprecedented was the target. Energy and extraction sites have been attacked in the past, but never before was an Algerian natural gas facility selected for such an assault. A closer look at the operation also reveals Belmokhtar's true intentions. The objective of the attack was not to kill hostages but to kidnap foreign workers for ransom -- an objective in keeping with many of Belmokhtar's previous forays. But in the end, his operation was a failure. His group killed several hostages but did not destroy the facility or successfully transport hostages away from the site. He lost several men and weapons, and just as important, he appears to have also lost the millions of dollars he could have gained through ransoming his captives." (STRATFOR)
"After losing the popular vote in five of the last six presidential elections and seeing Barack Obama sweep to a surprisingly easy reelection victory in 2012, Republican leaders and strategists are understandably worried about their party’s prospects in future presidential contests. There is no doubt that the GOP faces major challenges as a result of the nation’s shifting demographics and a growing Democratic advantage in the Electoral College. Democratic presidential candidates have carried 18 states and the District of Columbia with a total of 242 electoral votes in all four elections since 2000, and another three states with 15 electoral votes in three of those elections. In addition, three of the five states that have voted twice for each party since 2000 — Colorado, Nevada and Virginia, with a total of 28 electoral votes — clearly appear to be trending Democratic. That gives Democrats a base of 24 states plus the District of Columbia in which they have the advantage going into the next presidential election. Those states have 285 electoral votes — 15 votes more than needed to win the presidency. Of course there is no guarantee that Democrats will carry all of these states in 2016. That will depend on the condition of the U.S. economy and the mood of the country at that time as well as whom the parties nominate to succeed Barack Obama. But recent trends certainly look ominous for the GOP. As the electorate continues to become less white and more liberal in its outlook on social issues, Republicans have two choices about how to improve their party’s prospects in future presidential elections. One approach would be to adopt more moderate positions on issues such as immigration, abortion, gay rights and health care in order to make their party more appealing to young people, women and nonwhites. But that strategy would risk alienating a large portion of the GOP’s current base, especially those aligned with the Tea Party movement. So rather than adopting that risky strategy, some Republican leaders appear to be opting for a different approach — changing the electoral rules to make it easier for a Republican candidate to win the presidency despite losing the popular vote." (CenterforPolitics)

"Blame it on the altitude. As the 2013 Sundance Film Festival kicked into high gear, one common refrain could be heard: Sale prices are exceeding even the best expectations. Mouths were agape as the dust settled Jan. 21 on Relativity Media’s colossal deal ($4 million upfront and a $25 million prints-and-advertising commitment) for Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s racy directorial debut, Don Jon’s Addiction. The sexually graphic film, which was co-repped by CAA and WME, was making a few buyers squeamish. Still, Relativity, which had never been a Park City player (the company’s sole previous Sundance pickup was the experimental Catfish in 2010), swooped in and struck the biggest domestic deal ever for a Sundance title, when counting P&A. Then on Jan. 22, Fox Searchlight bought the dramedy The Way, Way Back for $9.75 million. 'There is a certain hype taking over this year, where buyers are spending wildly for films,' says one buyer who was empty-handed as of Jan. 22 after being beaten by a distributor willing to plunk down low seven figures for a hot documentary. 'You’re seeing a feeling of panic setting in for buyers who think they have to have a film, and have it now.' In fact, low seven figures became the de rigueur price for documentaries, as at least four commanded $1 million-plus: Pussy Riot — A Punk Prayer (HBO Films), The Summit (Sundance Selects), Twenty Feet From Stardom (The Weinstein Co.’s Radius label) and Blackfish (Magnolia Pictures and CNN Films). During last year’s festival, only one doc sold for $1 million or more." (THR)

"I went to Michael’s for lunch. It was Wednesday, after all. I was most interested because Michael launched a brand new menu yesterday. I’m not a gourmand and menus are basically only interesting to me when I’m looking at them. But this is a big deal. Michael is famous in the foodie world. He’s like a Jesuit priest of the restaurant business. Or maybe a cardinal in the kitchen. I’ve been lunching there for years as you may have read here before (and before that). He’d change his menus with the seasons. Eighteen or nineteen items and one soup per. Now there are 42 or 45 items. Smaller portions, but great variety. A little of this, a little of that. I had lunch with Pax Quigley. We both ordered the Korean Steak Tacos – three for $16. Pax ordered a side of brussels sprouts – $8. I ordered a Margherita pizza (8”) – $16 and the Iceberg Lettuce Salad with Bacon, Shaved Baby Vegetables and Blue Cheese Dressing – $12. Plus two iced teas (the Barbara Bush) and a bottle of plain water; plus two cappuccinos. Total $104 with tax. Did we eat less, or did we eat more. It might have been both because it was 'enough,' but a lot of it. All of it delicious.  Something new. Plus there was sharing, which I am told is the new serving style. Not the your-fork-on-everyone’s plate sharing. Smaller portions, lower price, and sharing. Some people say it’s not new. It is for me. So I’ve only tried three of the items, with a lot more to look forward to ... It was Wednesday so it was busy. Mayor Joe Armstrong was there with David Zinczenko, Herb Siegel was lunching with John Mack of Morgan Stanley; Manuela Hoelgterhoff of Bloomberg’s Muse was there with one of her colleagues, Dan Billy. Tony Hoyt was lunching with Paul Tsigrikes of the WSJ, and Arlyn and Ed Gardner, one of the smartest, most gracious and sophisticated couples in New York. Desiree Gruber with Anne Fulenwider, Editor-in-Chief of Marie Claire; Kay Koplovitz; Fern Mallis with Micky Ateyeh. Right next door in the bay, Bonnie Fuller of was hosting her weekly Wednesday get-together with her colleagues Penske Media’s Vice Chairman, Gerry Byrne and publisher Carlos Lamadrid, and a Real Housewife, Aviva Drescher, Patrick O’Keefe of Matrix, Serena Kodila of Sirius XM, Activate’s Michele Anderson, Island Def Jam’s Laura Swanson, Julian Brodsky of Comcast." (NYSocialDiary)

"The epicenter of LA's underground au courant is not, as might be expected, in some downtown warehouse or Echo Park enclave, but right on Hollywood Blvd, adjacent to the sidewalk star of Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis. Hidden in plain sight since late 2011, behind the fogged up windows of a former department store, is Freak City, a five-story subcultural wonderland helmed by the duo of Justin Time and Vally Girl. They deem Freak City a 'fashion gallery' but that's an understatement. By day, it's a boutique selling a mix of Vally's original designs and a truckload of weird vintage finds, as well as a gallery space with revolving exhibits. The shop and the gallery occupy merely the ground floor; the rest of the space is a creative playground for homegrown art, music and video projects (veteran NY graffiti artist PHADE was busy at work on the second floor during our visit).Occasionally they also use the space for epic afterhours parties (in a MixMag interview, Diplo once famously crowned Freak City his favorite club), though currently they've put the parties on hold to focus on their artistic endeavors. They describe their aesthetic as 'NU ghetto,' essentially old-skool rap style viewed though the prism of the digital age. " (Papermag)

"Senate leaders agreed Thursday on a grand deal to reform filibusters that does little to end the practices that got the filibuster reform movement started in the first place: the ability of individual senators to block legislation or nominations and force the majority party to find 60 votes to get anything done. In true Senate fashion, the deal first and foremost averts a potential partisan showdown known by critics as the 'nuclear option' where Democrats were preparing to muscle through a series of changes on a party-line basis — something that could have had dramatic repercussions for the future of the Senate. Liberals led by Sens. Tom Udall (D-N.M.) and Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) wanted Reid to implement the talking filibuster reform, which would force senators seeking to block legislation to actively hold the floor and debate. Once they stopped talking, the matter would proceed to a majority vote. That reform will not be included. Instead, Reid and McConnell have agreed to a series of modest changes designed to speed up the pace of business on the Senate floor but still allow disgruntled lawmakers to wage filibusters with ease. Their package would eliminate the ability to filibuster motions to proceed to new business. Under current rules, a senator can hold up a motion to even begin debating legislation. The majority leader would be able to bar a filibuster on a motion to proceed if he allows each side votes on two amendments, according to a Senate aide familiar with the package. Non-germane amendments would be subject to a 60-vote threshold, under this scenario. The tentative deal would expedite the process for sending legislation to conference negotiations with the House. But lawmakers would still be allowed to filibuster any effort to send legislation to a Senate-House negotiation." (TheHill)

NPR's Andy Carvin on Tweeting Breaking News

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Media-Whore D'oeuvres: Sundance and Davos Edition

"(IMF head Christine) Lagarde is outlining just how much the world has changed in recent years, and about how much more change is heading our way. She cites the 'openness, inclusiveness and accountability' that young people hold valuable - we can all learn from that she says. She also points to the huge popularity of social networks -- saying Facebook's userbase would make it the third biggest country in the world. Twitter would be fourth." (The Guardian/Liveblogging Davos)

Cynthia and Dan Lufkin via NYSD/JH
 "Last Wednesday night I went to one of the few gala benefits I’ve heard about this month, and a spectacular success it was: The National Audubon Society’s annual Gala Dinner at the Plaza. I first heard about it from Dan Lufkin when we ran into each other at Michael’s a couple of weeks before.  I already knew that he and his wife Cynthia were very involved with the National Audubon Society. I didn’t know this dinner would also mark the Dan W. Lufkin Prize for Environmental Leadership being awarded for the first time. The Lufkin Prize is $100,000. This dinner also presents an Audubon Medal -- although not necessarily annually -- which is given in recognition of outstanding achievement and influence in conservation and environmental protection. First presented in 1947, among its distinguished recipients are Laurance Rockefeller, William O. Douglas, John D. Rockefeller Jr., Ted Turner, Rachel Carson, Robert Redford, John Chafee, Stewart Udall. This year’s recipient was Louis Bacon, a well known New Yorker in the financial business (he founded Moore Capital) and equally as well known among his peers and partners in interest, as a great conservationist and supporter of ecological interests. He’s a rich man, with a reputation preceding him of being 'brilliant,' and has lots of land in different parts of the country. Last year he donated 167,000 acres of the Blanca Trinchra Ranch in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains bordering the San Luis Valley in Colorado to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service which will protect the land and its wildlife in perpetuity." (NYSocialDiary)

"Few passing London tourists would ever guess that the premises of Bulgari, the upmarket jewellers in New Bond Street, had anything to do with the pope. Nor indeed the nearby headquarters of the wealthy investment bank Altium Capital, on the corner of St James's Square and Pall Mall. But these office blocks in one of London's most expensive districts are part of a surprising secret commercial property empire owned by the Vatican. Behind a disguised offshore company structure, the church's international portfolio has been built up over the years, using cash originally handed over by Mussolini in return for papal recognition of the Italian fascist regime in 1929. Since then the international value of Mussolini's nest-egg has mounted until it now exceeds £500m. In 2006, at the height of the recent property bubble, the Vatican spent £15m of those funds to buy 30 St James's Square. Other UK properties are at 168 New Bond Street and in the city of Coventry. It also owns blocks of flats in Paris and Switzerland. The surprising aspect for some will be the lengths to which the Vatican has gone to preserve secrecy about the Mussolini millions." (TheGuardian)

"Founder of Sundance Robert Redford opened Sundance at the famous Egyptian theater in Park City by saying technology and change were the main themes for 2013. Referring to the industry changes technology has bought to Hollywood, Redford said 'I think change can be divided into three sections. Since it’s inevitable, some people fight it and resist it because they’re afraid of it. Other people accept it and roll along with it…others see it in a positive way' Hollywood and Silicon Valley have traditionally had a difficult relationship with the movie and music industry trying to pass the SOPA and PIPA bills through congress last year to stop online piracy and IP theft- exploits largely enabled by the Internet. But the Internet is also enabling filmmakers to not only produce films and music more economically as the tools to do so become cheaper, it also provides a platform where filmmakers can crowd-fund their films, advertise and distribute for cheaper." (TheNextWeb)

Michelle Obama Gives John Boehner The Freeze

via gawker

Media-Whore D'Oeuvres

"President Obama led a conga line, took part in a 'Gangnam Style' dance-off with Usher, and even did the electric slide at his celebrity-packed inauguration bash at the White House. Barack and Michelle danced past 3 a.m. at the spectacular private bash in the East Room for their closest friends and supporters ... “They played ‘Single Ladies.’ and all the women were dancing, led by Michelle. Later, everyone lined up and did the electric slide, and the president led a party line around the room. Most people did the conga with him. The only people who weren’t dancing were Bill Clinton (without Hillary), Timothy Geithner and John Kerry ...'Pick any party you’ve ever been to, this was a thousand times better,' our source said. Even though Obama has embraced social media better than any other politician, the invite to the super-exclusive bash — which took place after the formal inaugural balls — strongly stipulated 'no social media.' Guests were treated to cocktails and food in the Lincoln Room before the party got under way with performances by Eric Benét and Monáe. Later, DJ Cassidy spun party tunes, and stars including Katy Perry — with John MayerUsher, Swizz Beatz, Jennifer Hudson and Alicia Keys did impromptu performances. Cassidy played 'Empire State of Mind,' and Keys sang her part live over the mike. Other guests included Colin Powell, Susan Rice, Eva Longoria, Gayle King, Ashley Judd, Al Sharpton and Rahm Emanuel. The business world was represented by power players including American Express CEO Ken Chenault, 32 Advisors’ Robert Wolf and Honeywell’s David Cote. Missing were Anna Wintour, who was at the Paris couture shows, David Geffen and Oprah Winfrey, who we’re told had a speaking engagement in Canada."(PageSix)

"Now, nearly a decade later, (Mort Marcus), 59, and (Ira Bernstein), 53, again are bucking both convention and controversy with the FX sitcom Anger Management, starring Charlie Sheen. Others were afraid to go near Sheen after his 2011 firing from Two and a Half Men amid a drug-induced meltdown, but Debmar is turning the Sheen circus into a franchise potentially worth as much as $800 million. After airing a 10-episode first season on the cable network in summer 2012, Anger returns Jan. 17, this time for a staggering 90 episodes, solidifying Marcus and Bernstein's reputation for being among the industry's shrewdest execs. In fiscal 2012 alone, their company -- which distributes shows featuring such diverse talent as Tyler Perry (House of Payne), Steve Harvey (Family Feud) and Wendy Williams (The Wendy Williams Show) -- accounted for $134 million in annual revenue, more than one-third of Lionsgate's overall television business for the year. And that's all before a penny of the Anger revenue is factored in. With Anger, though, the Debmar co-presidents have been selling more than simply a sitcom. They are pushing a new template for series television, a medium rocked by a fractured landscape and changing viewer habits. 'Financially and creatively, it will completely change how everybody does their projects,' Anger showrunner Bruce Helford has said of Debmar's '10/90 formula,' in which 90 additional episodes of a series are automatically ordered if the first batch of 10 hits a predetermined ratings target. The 6-year-old model, first employed on Perry's House of Payne, ensures that, in success, Debmar can quickly amass enough episodes of a show to launch in syndication, allowing many involved to cash in on the backend faster than ever. Take Sheen, for example. Over the course of 100 episodes, Anger is poised to generate $350 million to $500 million in revenue; if it ends up running for 150, that range could swell to as high as $800 million, say sources, once network license fees, international sales and syndication revenue are factored in. (Anger is expected to generate close to $1 million an episode overseas, in addition to the lucrative off-net syndication deal the company inked with Fox stations, where Anger will begin airing nightly double runs in 2014.) Sheen, who is earning a fraction of the per-episode money he made at Men's height, could make between $75 million and $200 million on the backend, or nearly 40 percent of the series' profits. FX, too, has reaped the benefits." (TheHollywoodReporter)

"Jack is in his 30s. He’s good-looking, makes money and has a nice apartment, and in this city, what all that gets you is almost everything. He meets me on Greenwich Street one morning for black coffee. Two girls he knows come walking by. He smiles, and his blue eyes are warm, but on one girl’s face you can see that whole wringing week she waited for a call. You’re Jack, and you take a girl out to dinner at Blue Ribbon, and she spends three hours deciding if you’re the kind of guy who will like her more if she sleeps with you or if she doesn’t. If you like her enough, it will mean East Hampton on Memorial Day and Nantucket on Labor Day and New Canaan for life. And God help her, there will be golden retrievers. Jack can have any girl he wants. A blond event planner who wears heels on Sunday mornings. A former fit model who looks great in Hanes white. A yoga instructor who makes him spicy tempeh wraps with steamed kale on the side. There are girls who make great Bloody Marys and there are good girls who go to church on Sunday with their families, but last night they were at Jack’s. There are girls who ride horses and lawyers and designers and tall ones and short ones, stacking their needs up across his walls and then saying those are not needs, they are shadows. So why does Jack prefer escorts?" (Observer)

"'I was reluctant to let you come,' says the man sitting in front of me, 'until I heard that you're planning to do a story about ownership.' have flown out from Los Angeles to the ice fields of Minneapolis ('Well, it's back to the tundra,' says one of my fellow passengers as we touch down on a crisp 12-degree day) on 24 hours' notice. I am hoping I will get a chance to discuss the spontaneous touring strategy Prince has raised to an innovative art in the last few years, as well as what plans he may have for his storehouse of unreleased material (his last album was 2010's 20Ten). And I'm planning to talk with him about his being chosen as Billboard's 2013 Icon honoree at the Billboard Music Awards in May. But I begin wondering how much of that we'll get to when I get word from Prince's manager, Julia Ramadan, that I should spend what little time I have to prepare by watching 'The Adjustment Bureau' (more on this later), reading the Twitter feed of an apparent (and mysterious) Prince bootlegger and watching an online video discussion between a Prince superfan and the blogger Dr. Funkenberry. And now I'm worried that the interview I've come here for may not happen at all. One thing you learn quickly about Prince: He doesn't suffer fools or folks who don't know what they're talking about. For the next three hours, we ricochet back and forth on a variety of topics. Later, back at my hotel, I'll be re-creating our conversation from memory. This is how Prince interviews have unfolded for many years. He remains adamant about not allowing reporters to record their conversations with him. ('Some in the past have taken my voice and sold it," he says. 'I can't remember the incident that triggered it and it's probably best that I don't.') And he still frowns at the idea of a reporter taking notes. ('That would be just like texting.')" (Billboard)

"One of the very worst things you can do as a critic, I think, is slag artists for not making the movies or writing the books or painting the pictures that you wish they had, as opposed to the works they themselves felt like creating. Which isn’t to say that you can’t call something regrettable—or even crap. Only that you shouldn’t complain that Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter isn’t Lincoln, or vice versa. By that measure, it’s even shabbier to slag someone for not pursuing the career you would have preferred—but I’m going to do it anyway. This week, I fulfilled a long-standing ambition by catching up on Conan O’Brien’s talk show. Jimmy Kimmel’s move last week to 11:35 on ABC served to remind me that late-night talk shows aside from Jon Stewart’s and Stephen Colbert’s still exist, and I was curious how Conan was holding up creatively more than two years into its run on TBS at 11, and nearly three years after the host was booted off NBC’s Tonight show to make way for Jay Leno’s return to 11:35. I was a fan of O’Brien’s original Late Night show on NBC, which ran for 16 years. I was an even bigger fan of his Tonight show, since, for tradition’s sake, it was nice to have a watchable Tonight show again after 17 years of Jay Leno. Hey kids, want to hear a strange-but-true story about the olden days? As Jimmy Kimmel pointed out in his recent Rolling Stone interview, Leno was once an actually funny comedian. People have forgotten that by the 1980s, the now-revered Johnny Carson was mostly phoning it in, taking long vacations, still doing corny bits such as Aunt Blabby and Carnac the Magnificent when he bothered to go on air. At times, he could exude disdain for the show, and I remember people looking forward to the weeks when Leno, who seemed fresher and hipper, would guest-host. (My old haunt Spy, which prided itself on its comic snobbery, put Leno on its cover twice.) But once Leno took over Tonight, he willed himself to become the comic equivalent of a Big Mac—popular, predictable, and revolting. Moral of the story: comedy, like food, should never be machine-tooled. Both should also have sell-by dates. Speaking of which, the once-brilliant David Letterman, now in his 31st year as a late-night host, has also become unwatchable, his bitterness and self-loathing having curdled so palpably that you now feel as if you’re being entertained, if that is the word, by a giant, double-breasted-suit-wearing ulcer. He can still be funny when he wants to be—a big if—but these days I feel that by watching Letterman’s show, I’m making myself complicit in some creepy sado-masochistic psychodrama, that I’m enabling something dark and destructive that I don’t quite understand but I know isn’t good for me. Paul Schaeffer’s too-hearty guffaws hang in the air like warnings." (Bruce Handy/VanityFair)

"First, that’s just what rich, smart people do, right? It’s just another piece of (bogus) investing folklore: Once you have a big pile of money to invest, the solution must be complicated. And the more complicated and secretive and exclusive it is, the better. Second, people want to believe there’s a better way of investing that’s only available to a select few. This idea of using plain old mutual funds is for the common folk. People think, 'I’ve got to get access to the best minds in the industry, and they’re in the heads of people who go manage hedge funds, right?' Finally, there’s a perverse belief that if something is more expensive, it simply has to be better. But when it comes to investing, as Vanguard Group’s founder, John Bogle, said, 'You get what you don’t pay for.' This is just cold, hard math. If an investment earns 10 percent, and you’re paying a 3 percent management fee plus 50 percent of profits (or even 2 and 20), you’re going to keep a lot less of your money than with an investment that earns 10 percent and only charges a management fee of 0.5 percent or 0.25 percent, like an index mutual fund or exchange-traded fund might. I once worked with an attorney who represented a large family endowment that wanted a new investing strategy. So I walked him through a simple, well-diversified, low-cost portfolio. I gave him the returns and the risk numbers. They were impressive. But this was just a plain vanilla portfolio. Three other groups made pitches. Those folks came with two-inch-thick proposals and flew people in to give presentations. Their strategies were pretty complicated with lots of bells and whistles. But their performance numbers weren’t quite as good. Not long after the pitches, the lawyer called to say that his client had decided to go in different direction. He told me it was because my plan seemed too basic." (Carl Richards/NYTimes)

"Carl Richards has a post over at the New York Times' Bucks blog in which he puzzles over the enduring appeal of hedge funds, despite the fact that they have historically underperformed the S&P 500. Why, he asks, are people paying exorbitant fees to hedge-fund managers who don't even make money for them? Richards takes a stab at the answer in a few ways. First, he implies that there's an element of groupthink in Hedgistan, with investors all chasing increasingly complex hedge-fund strategies because 'the more complicated and secretive and exclusive it is, the better.' He also gets at the false correlation between exclusivity and superior returns: 'People want to believe there’s a better way of investing that’s only available to a select few.' I think those are both true, to an extent. But I don't think it's correct to draw the sweeping conclusion that rich people are dumb and desperate to get richer, and therefore easily fooled by hedge-fund managers bearing Powerpoint decks and sleek Brioni suits. First, I question Richards's assumption that 'people' — as in individual, high-net-worth investors — are flooding into hedge funds unabated. Look at this chart from a Citi report last year, for example, which shows that the percentage of hedge-fund assets coming from individuals and family offices is actually down since the crisis, while the amount of money hedge funds get from institutional investors like pension funds and endowments has overtaken it." (Kevin Roose/NYMag)