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Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Media-Whore D'Oeuvres


"Russia has undergone a series of fundamental changes over the past year, with more changes on the horizon. Russia's economic model based on energy is being tested, the country's social and demographic make-up is shifting, and its political elites are aging. All this has led the Kremlin to begin asking how the country should be led once its unifying leader, Vladimir Putin, is gone. Already, a restructuring of the political elite is taking place, and hints of succession plans have emerged. Historically, Russia has been plagued by the dilemma of trying to create a succession plan following a strong and autocratic leader. The question now is whether Putin can set a system in place for his own passing out of the Russian leadership (whenever the time may be) without destabilizing the system as a whole. Without a heavy-handed leader, Russia struggles to maintain stability. Instability is inherent to Russia given its massive, inhospitable territory, indefensible borders, hostile neighboring powers and diverse population. Only when it has had an autocratic leader who set up a system where competing factions are balanced against each other has Russia enjoyed prosperity and stability. A system of balances under one resolute figure existed during the rule of some of the country's most prominent leaders, such as Ivan the Terrible, Peter the Great, Catherine the Great, Alexander II, Josef Stalin -- and now Vladimir Putin. Each Russian leader must create and tinker with this system to ensure the governing apparatus does not atrophy, fracture or rise in mutiny. For this reason, Russian leaders have continually had to rearrange the power circles beneath them. Significant adjustments have been necessary as Russia grows and stabilizes or declines and comes under threat. However, creating a power balance in the government with layers whose collective loyalty is ultimately to a single figure at the apex has created succession problems. When a clear succession plan is not in place, Russia tends to fall into chaos during leadership transitions -- sometimes even ripping itself apart. The so-called Time of Troubles, a brutal civil war in the 16th century, broke out after Ivan the Terrible killed his only competent son. During the Soviet period, a vicious succession struggle erupted upon Lenin's death in 1924, with Josef Stalin ultimately winning and his main challenger, Leon Trotsky, exiled and later assassinated. Following Stalin's death in 1953, Nikita Khrushchev, Vyacheslav Molotov and Lavrentiy Beria engaged in a similar power struggle." (STRATFOR)


"There was an article by Ruth La Ferla called 'What Price Generosity' in the Style section of this past Sunday’s New York Times about the charity circuit and how much it costs those girls to make it in New York and to keep at it. Ms. La Ferla used the annual New York Botanical Garden gala dinner dance at the Botanical Garden as the scene to exemplify the result of all that expense.  The Botanical evening is one of the very last of the Spring season (it used to mark the end of it, although nowadays there is no end to anything). Its patrons are among the wealthiest, and in many cases (not all) most established members of the New York social set. Ms. LaFerla called me about the piece when she was working on it. The objective, as I understood it, was to figure out How Much It Cost to partake of this kind of 'high profile' New York social life. I told her, off the top, that it took 'a lot of chutzpah and a lot of money.' She thought that was funny and laughed (and never used the quote). It is funny and it doesn’t apply to everyone of course, but it does apply to a prominent aspect of the charity social scene these days. The getting and spending of money has long been part of the city’s social life. It reaches back decades and now even centuries. There have always been women who were extravagant in their achievement as fashion plates ... When Jacqueline Kennedy married Aristotle Onassis it was reported that she spent hundreds of thousands of dollars a year on her wardrobe (allegedly much to his annoyance). Although this came as a surprise to the average reader, it was still a pittance compared to some of her friends who would spend in the millions. They were considered the Best Dressed, of course, and many believed it was necessary in order to achieve such fashion glory. (And after their divorce, it was unlikely that Mrs. Onassis would spend those kinds of sums of her own money, as she was known to be tight with a buck.) These women, especially Mrs. Onassis and some of the Capote swans like Gloria Guinness, Babe Paley and Marella Agnelli were also good for the fashion business." (NYSocialDiary)


"Details of Princess Eugenie of York’s job in New York at online auction house Paddle8 are still being hashed out, sources close to the deal say. Reports recently broke that Eugenie, 23 — the daughter of Prince Andrew, Duke of York, and Duchess of York Sarah Ferguson, and sixth in line to the British throne — will relocate to the Big Apple this fall for the gig. But further details haven’t emerged, and sources say her duties are still being 'sketched out.' Page Six exclusively reported this month that Aditya Julka and Alexander Gilkes’ site received a new cash infusion of $6 million from investors including Damien Hirst, Alexander von Furstenberg, gallerist Jay Jopling and Matthew Mellon." (PageSix)


"Everyone loved Chapter Two. Straitlaced Dottie Renfrew—Vassar class of 1933 and a virgin—has gone home with the handsome but dissipated Dick Brown. He undresses her slowly, so that she “was hardly trembling when she stood there in front of him with nothing on but her pearls.” Dick makes Dottie lie down on a towel, and after she experiences some “rubbing and stroking,” and then some “pushing and stabbing,” she starts to get the hang of things. “All of a sudden, she seemed to explode in a series of long, uncontrollable contractions that embarrassed her, like the hiccups … ” No hearts and flowers here, simply a female orgasm described by a female writer who was as empirical and precise as the male writers of her day—perhaps more so—yet always attuned to the social niceties imprinted upon a certain class of female mind. Dick removes the towel, impressed by the minute stain, and in a remark that pulled the romantic veil from the usual novelistic pillow talk, says of his ex-wife, 'Betty bled like a pig.'  It was the first line of Chapter Three, however, that brought mythic status to Mary McCarthy’s fifth novel, The Group. 'Get yourself a pessary,' Dick says the next morning, walking Dottie to the door. The chapter proceeds to offer a tutorial on the etiquette, economics, semiotics, and symbolism of this particular form of contraception, circa 1933.Diaphragm, ring, plug—call it what you will—when The Group was published, in 1963, the subject was still shocking. Sidney Lumet’s movie of The Group—released three years later, smack in the middle of the sexual revolution—included Dottie’s deflowering and subsequent trip to a gynecologist but substituted euphemisms for McCarthy’s blunt language. Instead, Dick Brown says, 'The right lady doctor could make us a lot happier.' Critics of The Group would call it Mary McCarthy’s 'lady-writer’s novel' and 'lady-book,' insults meant to suggest it was a falling-off from her previous work. And it was different from what she’d done before. Up until The Group, McCarthy was feared and revered in the smart, tight, testy, and frequently backstabbing world of midcentury literary quarterlies and political reviews. Her critical assessments of theater and literature were scathing, and no one was too high to be brought low. Arthur Miller, J. D. Salinger, and Tennessee Williams—the greats of the day—all came in for vivisection, McCarthy’s own Theater of Cruelty on the page." (VanityFair)


"My friend Hugh Dancy came to London this week while on a break before filming a series about that least friendly of fictional characters, Thomas Harris’s serial killer Hannibal Lecter. One of Harris’s characters calls Lecter 'a pure sociopath…it’s so rare to get one alive.' I am necessarily fascinated with sociopaths and psychopaths. These are equivalent terms, by the way. The former, more recent term focuses on social causes for the condition, while the latter term has returned to favor as biological origins are explored. I have just completed the first draft of my first novel, The Making of Harry Greene, whose title character is one of these strange creatures. He moves through life with an amorally penetrating mind and body, piercing through the other characters and scenery like a hard-nosed bullet. It wasn’t Lecter that Hugh and I spent our time discussing in a well-oiled evening in the pub, but that far more expertly drawn sketch of the species by William Shakespeare in his masterpiece Othello. Critics have long been obsessed by Iago, an animal of 'motiveless malignity' as Samuel Taylor Coleridge called him, as was Shakespeare himself. No other secondary character in all his works has more lines than the principal. The early 20th century Oxford Professor of Poetry A. C. Bradley came closest to pinning Iago’s psychology down over a decade before the term 'psychopathy'  had been defined in his lectures on the play. My theory is that Shakespeare did something unique in literary history—he turned a vacuum into a virtue.  Othello was written somewhere around 1602, most likely immediately after Hamlet. The original source of Othello was the 1565 Italian story 'A Moorish Captai'” by Giovanni Battista Giraldi. In that tale, the betraying agent is a character so minor he is given no name—he is called simply “the ensign”—nor any motive for betraying his captain. A lesser writer would have fleshed out this cipher as a character who could justify his actions, most likely along the lines Iago falsely offers for himself: annoyance at being passed over for a promotion by Cassio or jealousy that Othello may have slept with his Emilia. But Shakespeare creates a man who says many things but in the end does what he does simply because he can." (Alexander Fisk-Harrison)

 
"Paul Pope, son of National Enquirer founder Generoso Pope, has been banned from contacting his wealthy, 79-year-old Palm Beach socialite mother, Lois Pope, after he was arrested for stalking her. Paul spent several days behind bars earlier this month for allegedly stalking Lois while demanding millions from her. He had filed a lawsuit against her, alleging fraud and excessive spending. She sought a restraining order, claiming his 'cruel behavior' was causing her to 'suffer substantial emotional distress and to genuinely fear for her safety.' On June 17, the Palm Beach County Court issued an injunction banning Paul from going within 500 feet of his mother. He didn’t respond to our calls and e-mails." (PageSix)

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