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Saturday, May 04, 2013

Media-Whore D'Oeuvres


"Not many people get to have lunch with Xavier Niel. 'Each week,' explains the French telecoms billionaire, 'I try to have three lunches with my children, one working lunch, and one lunch with mates.' Niel, sometimes described as 'the French Steve Jobs', is worth around €6bn and co-owns newspaper Le Monde. However, the moment he walks into Senderens, a Michelin two-star restaurant in Paris, you spot that he isn’t a card-carrying member of the French elite. A touch overweight, unshaven, tieless, in a rumpled white shirt and with long black hair swept back, he isn’t instantly surrounded by fawning staff. Indeed, throughout our lunch, the waiters will show no sign of ever having seen him before, though he’s been coming here for 20 years. In insiders’ Paris, Niel is a proud outsider: 'un self-made man' (as the French say), from an unlovely Parisian suburb, who started his entrepreneurial career as a teenager in the 1980s with sex chat sites, and who never studied beyond high school. At this low point for France’s international reputation, here comes Niel, whose rise symbolises a different country. He has an outsider’s view of France’s problems – which he thinks he can help solve." (FT)


"On board with us were people who run Washington, New York and Hollywood, and a glitzy boldfaced manifest made up of movie stars, media, socialites, operatives and diplomats. We're in need of a week on a beach. But what it proved is that if it wants the honor, the WHCA dinner can be the East Coast Golden Globes. Overall, the weekend turned out to be better than expected, and the reason may be that some of the members of the organization, and even its leader, were in the mood for revolt, or at least significant change. Possibly by this time next year, when WHCA celebrates its 100th anniversary, we’ll have a fresher landscape, with the parts that are old being over and the elements of the new setting a course for the future. The long-time power players aren’t down for the count, yet, but they should watch their backs and also remember that good manners make a difference. The only real drama of the weekend also helps make my point. This WHCA event has moved out of the realm and ownership of the media people who started it long ago, well-meaning but still closer to being amateurs than pro's, and into that bigger orbit of global 'red carpet' events — not quite Cannes, but, seriously, a lot like the Golden Globes. A comparison with the Hollywood Foreign Press Association is apt ... In other words, it’s time for the WHCA to bring an A-game to their weekend, and not just Vanity Fair’s Graydon Carter and Sarah Marks winging in for their one party, though what they do so well is a template for the bigger picture. Keep an eye on BuzzFeed. It is a truly buzzy website, fun to read, chock with items, but it could also become, if it wants to, a breakaway renegade social force. They hosted an impromptu 'alternate' party this year — counter to the WHCA dinner — and it got traction. They have it within their reach to go bigger next time around. BuzzFeed and anyone else who wants to go rogue. The WHCA Dinner weekend is not going away. No matter how much hand-wringing is done by moldy old-guard media. It’s here to stay and it will get bigger each year, and eventually it will be sold by Disney as a fantasy package or be given away by the Price is Right as a coveted prize. I'm kidding, but hey, it’s already covered live on E and C-Span." (NYSocialDiary)


"This year, as anyone of a poetic temperament cannot fail to have noticed, is the 50th anniversary of Sylvia Plath’s suicide. Her death occurred a month after the publication of her autobiographical novel, 'The Bell Jar,' and not long after she completed a manuscript of her influential poetry collection, 'Ariel.' Plath’s estranged husband, the poet Ted Hughes, published a version of 'Ariel' in 1965, ordering and choosing its poems as he saw fit, assuring her posthumous fame — and directing the shape that fame would assume. In 2004, six years after Hughes’s death, his daughter Frieda restored the collection to the form her mother had intended. And this month, on May 26 at the London Literature Festival, 40 British actresses and poets (among them Miranda Richardson, Juliet Stevenson and Anna Chancellor) will correct the record viva voce, reading 'Ariel' aloud in the order Plath set. In the United States, she is also undergoing a kind of resurrection and image overhaul, spearheaded by young women and by poets, male and female, like Mark Wunderlich, who created a class at Bennington College a few years ago called 'The Problem of Plath.' When he announced the course description, he recalls: 'My colleagues all thought I was insane. They thought I was going to attract every depressive at Bennington; that every cutter on campus would sign up for this class.' In the event, 50 undergraduates — out of a student body of 600 — applied (most of them reasonably well adjusted). Plath 'is one of the first poets a lot of young women find who they can really claim as their own,' he said. 'What she does is give them permission to express a particular kind of rage that is not self-annihilating and is not simply bitchy. It’s something deeper and more significant and more important.'" (Liesl Schlessinger)


"In 1991, Kathryn Harrison published 'Thicker Than Water,' a novel about a young woman struggling to come to terms with the sexual relationship she’d had with her father. Three books later, she published 'The Kiss,' a memoir in which she examined, in excruciating detail, the sexual relationship she’d had with her father. In reading both of these impressive books, the line between novel and memoir unavoidably blurs. More recently, the gifted Canadian author Sheila Heti wrote 'How Should a Person Be'— 'a novel,' as its subtitle proclaims, 'from life.' Sheila is the protagonist, surrounded by friends with the same names and occupations as those in her life off the page. This is a relatively extreme case in autobiographical fiction, more experimental than confessional, in which the niceties of inventing characters are dispensed with entirely. It’s an intriguing and sometimes unsettling decision, resulting in a sort of hybrid: not quite fiction, not quite memoir. Sitcoms have used this device for years, with stars from Ozzie and Harriet Nelson to Louis C. K. creating irreverent alternative realities modeled closely on their lives.If a writer with autobiographical impulses goes the traditional route, however, presenting only minimally changed plots and faintly disguised characters, it raises the question of why she would opt for fiction rather than memoir. The preservation of privacy is one easy answer, but most authors know that whether their novels are based on their own lives or entirely invented, they are often read as veiled memoir. Perhaps it is simply Camus’s oft-repeated line, 'Fiction is the lie through which we tell the truth,' at play. Yet reading Kathryn Harrison’s story first as fiction and then as memoir, many critics understandably wondered aloud why she would turn to both. One was left with a sense of obsession and a writer’s need to decipher her experience. This kind of obsession could sustain the writing of many books. Some events in life are just predisposed toward it. " (Molly Ringwald)



"When a media company – old or new – presents new programs featuring John Stamos or Gwyneth Paltrow, why wouldn’t an advertiser throw money at some of them? Ad buyers have a couple of answers. Shows like AOL’s 'Second Chances' (which features Paltrow) or Yahoo’s 'Losing Your Virginity with John Stamos' would seem to have the exact elements that win ad dollars – celebs whose past shows have performed well and the imprimatur of new-tech distribution for which so many marketers are clamoring. More intriguing, perhaps, they come from media outlets trying to turn online streaming video into a viable business, and were part of a series of glitzy presentations made in these last few days called the “newfronts,” a ploy by digital-media concerns to wrangle some of the billions of ad dollars advertisers commit to TV at this time of year in a process known as the 'upfront.' But for all the desire to use YouTube, Hulu and so many others to reach younger viewers who have abandoned the watch-this-show-at-this-time-on-this-day thinking behind the prime-time grid, there are a lot of questions about why Big Digital won’t use the techniques that have made Big TV an ad venue that draws around $74 billion annually across broadcast, cable, Spanish-language and local outlets. In their decades-long dealings with TV, ad buyers have grown accustomed to some accountability. They understand a) how a TV network is going to draw audiences to a new program; b) how the shows perform against specific audiences week in and week out; and c) get a heads-up when a program has something unique about it – like a finale or plotline – that could draw their clients in further. As one buyer suggested this week between “newfront” sessions, the digital players seem to be unveiling all sorts of interesting properties, but it’s impossible to tell whether any of the new programs will be around for more than a few months – or if the digital streamers will ever mention them again (Conde Nast Entertainment’s 'newfront' pitch included a promise to match every dollar put into production of new content with a dollar put into marketing and promotion of that content, but, tellingly, it came from a former TV exec – Dawn Ostroff, who spent many years at the CW)." (Variety)

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