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Saturday, March 16, 2013

Media-Whore D'Oeuvres


"'Professor Chomsky,' I call out. The 84-year-old greets me and we walk through the new Frank Gehry-designed building, all airy and angular. Students smile and wave and give up more space than Chomsky’s steady gait requires. MIT is in part a monument to his ideas, I suggest. His theories of grammar, which argue that language is innate, have revolutionised modern psychology, computing and cognitive science ... In 1967 the New York Review of Books published 'The Responsibilities of Intellectuals', a dazzling essay by the then 38-year-old Chomsky. In it he denounced the subservience to power of the Washington intellectual elite. Today he still concentrates his ire on the US on the grounds that it has the most power and he is an American citizen. This makes sense, I say, but doesn’t his position in another community, the anti-war left, mean he also has a duty to call out wrongdoing by its figureheads? 'Maybe some, small percentage should be concerned with that community. But nowhere near the [percentage concerned with the] responsibility for [American] state power and mass media.' Chomsky has said that, if judged against the principles set out at the Nuremberg Trials, every postwar US leader would be found guilty of war crimes. I ask for his views on Barack Obama. What of the president who opposed the Iraq war? 'He’s carrying out a global assassination campaign.' Here is vintage Chomsky, a provocative idea in a matter-of-fact tone, daring the interlocutor to respond ... The food here is very different from the helpings served by Chomsky’s mother, an immigrant from Belarus, to Noam and his Ukranian-born father, in their home in Philadelphia. Chomsky remembers it fondly, though 'by today’s standards, everyone would say it is poison: east European greasy meat, sour cream.'  I ask about his upbringing – did the political drive come before the academic imagination? 'Yes, from childhood.' Before he was a teenager he was writing for the school newspaper about the spread of fascism in Europe." (FT)


"One of the reasons Obama is traveling to Israel next week - - the first overseas trip of his second term -- is to correct the impression, partly created in Cairo, that he doesn’t understand Israel’s history, and has no feeling for the underlying justice of its cause. This isn’t only the impression of many Israelis. According to a recent poll conducted by the Hill newspaper, 39 percent of Americans said the president isn’t supportive enough of Israel; only 13 percent said he’s too supportive. How did Obama leave this impression? At home, this view was cultivated partly by cynical Republicans who have been eager to turn support for Israel into a partisan issue. With Israelis, it’s more complicated. The Cairo speech had a chilling effect because, to Israelis, the Holocaust alone doesn’t justify the existence of their state ... The absence of Zionist thought in the speech was unhelpful, though not thematically inexplicable (after all, it was a speech meant to woo Muslims, not Jews). But Obama is clearly acquainted with the ideas that energized Jewish nationalism. During his first campaign for president, in 2008, I spoke to him at length about the Middle East, and he told me of learning Israel’s story early in life, from a Jewish camp counselor who explained to him the 'idea of preserving a culture when a people had been uprooted with the view of eventually returning home.' Obama went on, 'There was something so powerful and compelling for me, maybe because I was a kid who never entirely felt like he was rooted.'" (Jeff Goldberg/Bloomberg)


"'I don’t know where you got that idea,' Jay McInerney scoffed at The New York Observer at our 25th Anniversary Party last night at the Four Seasons. 'I am not writing a book about The Great Gatsby.' We were baffled; we were sure that we had heard that the Bright Lights, Big City author was busy creating a modern adaptation of the famous F. Scott Fitzgerald novel, set in the Hamptons. 'Are you sure?' We prodded. 'Well,' he amended. 'In the sense that most [stories] are The Great Gatsby, then yes, I’m working on a book that’s like The Great Gatsby.' Currently involved in several projects–both fiction and non–the author cited Fitzgerald as a major influence on his (and most people’s) writing style. He also mentioned that he had once spoken in a PBS documentary about Fitzgerald. Not mentioned was the fact that he has written on the subject several times, or that his novel The Last of the Savages was once compared to Gatsby by The New York Times. (You can see why we’d be confused.) 'Is Brightness Falls also The Great Gatsby?' We joked. He laughed. 'Sure … no, no. Maybe it is.'" (Observer)



"It felt like a stiletto jab in my liver, a pain so sharp it will take half a century to forget. Jessica Raine—AKA Nurse Jenny in Call the Midwife—has shacked up with a married man, an actor and a redhead to boot. It is as if I heard my mother had run off with an Albanian gigolo or Russell Brand. Nurse Jenny is the kind of girl one takes home to mother, just like Natalia Vodianova is the type one takes to Marcel Proust’s salon. (That’s the Frog writer, not a hairdresser.) My fiancĂ©e Lindsay Lohan is the kind of girl one takes to a motel. Sure, love to most people is a frail little fantasy to be smashed by pride and jealousy, but I’m way above that. No one suffers like I do when that roly-poly Cupid takes target practice on my already wounded heart. The first time I saw Call the Midwife I was a goner. My jets were somewhat cooled when Ms. Raine was given the Spectator diary in which she wrote about me with such caution, I suspect she had an ambulance-chaser standing over her shoulder. One year later, gossip columnists are still making fun of me pining away in my chalet while she’s romping around with some dumb redhead ... Sex and attraction defy Cartesian analysis and are a pain in the you-know-what. I used to think that once old age set in, the demons that drove me to chase women nonstop would go the way of my backhand. To the contrary. As the backhand got better—I stopped hitting topspin and began to slice, saving energy and making it safer—so did my appetite for the fairer sex. This past winter in Gstaad I stayed home every Sunday night and watched Nurse Jenny looking angelic and innocent while delivering babies that looked anything but. Then I read the bad news just before the series came to an end and decided to throw in the towel. This is it, finita la commedia! Even Taki has a breaking point, and seeing a photograph of her walking with a redhead who was not Simon Heffer made my blood boil. Perhaps we’ll get together in the next life." (Taki)


"'This is slowly panic-making,' Renata Adler says with a husky tremor. Out at her first cocktail party in months, the 74-year-old writer wears, as always, a single thick braid of hair, now gone a straw-tinged gray. 'There’s Amanda Burden,' she says of the wellborn chair of the City Planning Commission. 'I know Amanda. But see now, either you embrace somebody, thinking, Oh God, maybe they have no idea who I am, or it’s someone who’s my oldest friend and I forget. Should I go over?' Instead, Adler heads for the acerbic media writer Michael Wolff, who is hosting us tonight in his surprisingly grand East Village apartment, and who profiled her kindly during 'a troubled time'—thirteen years ago, when virtually no other writer in New York would have invited the former party fixture out for so much as a cup of coffee. Tonight’s occasion is a new book by the conspiracy-minded crime journalist Edward Jay Epstein, whom Adler met roughly 50 years ago 'at the Moynihans’.' Lining Wolff’s walls are six photographs by Lori Nix that capture alarming dioramas: a plane crash, a lightning strike, a truck crashing through an icy pond. 'Everything here is a kind of disaster,' Wolff helpfully explains. It’s exactly the sort of line Adler would have pilfered for her jagged, episodic 1976 novel, Speedboat, which doubled as a primer on cutthroat literary life in New York. Long out of print, Speedboat will be reissued this week along with her second novel, Pitch Dark, exposing a new generation to Ur-texts of urban angst. 'I often meet people who do not like me or each other,' says Speedboat’s narrator, Jen Fain. 'It doesn’t always matter. I keep on smiling, talking … My dislike has no consequences. It accrues only in my mind—like preserves on a shelf or guns ­zeroing in, and never firing.' That twitchy narrator sounds like a more assertive Joan Didion, and not so long ago Adler seemed destined to join Didion and Adler’s old mentor, Hannah Arendt, in the pantheon of women essayists. A 1983 cover story in this magazine even proclaimed Adler “A Writer for Our Time.' But a long attack on Pauline Kael ('piece by piece, line by line, and without interruption, worthless') soured her relationship with The New Yorker, their mutual employer. Suing Vanity Fair for libel and writing a book-length indictment of CBS and Time didn’t endear her to fellow journalists." (NYMag)


"Are we in a post-Veronica Mars Kickstarter era? Three days into its campaign, The CW drama-turned-movie has shattered several crowd-funding records: fastest Kickstarter project to hit $1 million (4 hours, 24 minutes). Highest goal ever set in the 4-year-old website’s history. And 10 hours after its launch on Wednesday morning, the proposed Veronica Mars movie became the fastest project to hit that $2 million mark. As of Thursday night, it had received more than $3.2 million in pledges, with 28 days to go. The astounding achievement—especially for a show that averaged just under 2.5 million viewers during its 2004-07 run—has injected new life into the possibility of reviving other cult favorites. But can other shows follow the trail that Veronica Mars has now blazed? 'When I saw [the campaign] online, I said to my agent immediately, ‘Can we do this with Pushing Daisies or Wonderfalls?’ ' says Bryan Fuller, creator of the the two short-lived fantasy dramedies that aired on ABC and Fox, respectively.  'And he said, ‘Pushing Daisies is going to take a lot more than $2 million to make into a movie.’' From Star Trek to Buffy the Vampire Slayer, many of the properties that have attracted the most obsessive fanbases have involved sci-fi and action elements that drive up production cost." (THR)

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