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Saturday, September 21, 2013

Media-Whore D'Oeuvres


"Now is the time for all good men to fail. Good women, too. Fail early and often, and don’t be shy about admitting it. Failing isn’t shameful; it’s not even failure. Such is the message of a growing body of self-help and leadership literature. “Why hide deficiencies instead of overcoming them?” asks the Stanford psychologist Carol Dweck in her book Mindset: The New Psychology of Success, in which she argues that a willingness to court failure can be a precursor to growth. Dweck holds, persuasively, that successful people are not the ones who cultivate a veneer of perfection, but rather those who understand that failing is part of getting smarter and better. The same point is made in Brené Brown’s Daring Greatly (a best seller that borrows its title from Teddy Roosevelt’s exhortation that when you fail, the important thing is to do it while 'daring greatly'); Tim Harford’s Adapt: Why Success Always Starts With Failure; Kathryn Schulz’s Being Wrong: Adventures in the Margin of Error; and Brilliant Blunders, Mario Livio’s tour of “colossal” scientific mistakes that led to breakthroughs. Next spring, Sarah Lewis’s forthcoming book, The Rise: Creativity, Mastery, and the Gift of Failure, will reflect on 'flops, folds, setbacks, wipeouts and hiccups,' and the 'dynamism' they inspire. The failure fetish is even finding its way into modern parenting. Reacting against the tendency to cushion children with coaches and tutors, authors like Po Bronson, Paul Tough, and Wendy Mogel argue that we need to allow our children to fail, because struggle builds resilience and grit. Meanwhile, in Silicon Valley, the ability to speak perceptively and candidly about one’s past failures has practically become a job qualification. A prospective employee (or an applicant for venture-capital funding) who has survived a failed start-up is someone who has learned valuable lessons on someone else’s dime. Given this growing cultural fixation on failure, it was probably inevitable that politicians would begin clambering aboard the pro-failure bandwagon. 'I failed. Big time' is how the disgraced former Governor Eliot Spitzer put it in an ad promoting his candidacy for New York City comptroller in this November’s election, arguing that his 2008 prostitution scandal was not entirely a bad thing. 'You go through that pain,' Spitzer said in a July television interview, “you change”—the implication being that the change must have been for the better. Mortification, Spitzer has suggested, can make a person more 'empathetic.' Leaving aside the question of whether empathy is a quality one wants in a comptroller, it does seem that in politics, failure, done right, may have recently turned a corner. Far from being a liability, failure—and humble emergence from failure as sadder, wiser, etc.—has become something to tout. This idea is not entirely new." (TheAtlantic)


"Nina Munk’s new book, The Idealist: Jeffrey Sachs and the Quest to End Poverty, is both a tragicomedy and a genuine tragedy, a fascinating portrait of an innovative thinker as well as a fair-minded examination of his methods. It’s also a testament to the enduring value of old-fashioned, shoe-leather reporting—it should be read not just in policy circles but also at J-schools. Sachs, an academic turned activist, is the Columbia University economist who became famous as the author of the 2005 best-seller The End of Poverty and even more famous as 'Bono’s guru'—the man who has helped midwife the singer’s efforts to fight poverty in Africa. Angelina Jolie and Madonna are also acolytes. In Sachs’s view, Africa’s problems can be solved relatively 'easily' (a word not often used in this context) if rich nations would only supply the money and will power—and, of course, follow Sachs’s prescriptions. To that end, in 2005, he launched what he called the Millennium Villages Project, through which a handful of desperately poor, isolated villages across sub-Saharan Africa became living laboratories for Sachs’s ambitious theories on sustainable development. 'What we’re trying to show is that with just a few interventions and not a lot of money, lives can be transformed,' Sachs once explained. 'It’s what MTV would call Extreme Village Makeover.' Munk, a V.F. contributing editor, first wrote about Sachs in the magazine’s Africa issue, in 2007. She spent the next six years returning to Africa to follow the progress at two Millennium Villages: Dertu, in Kenya’s arid North Eastern Province, near its troubled border with Somalia, and Ruhiira, tucked away in the highlands of southwestern Uganda. It will probably come as no surprise that “interventions” that made sense in theory didn’t always translate on the ground." (VanityFair)



"At exactly 11.30am, Tadashi Yanai marches into the room and sticks out his hand. The richest man in Japan, worth $15.5bn according to Forbes’ latest reckoning, is definitely not the tallest. A slight, wiry man, with alarmingly short grey hair cropped as if for the priesthood, the founder of the Uniqlo clothing chain can’t be much above 5ft 4in tall. Still, there is a toughness, almost a pugilism about him. Though he is 64 – or, perhaps, because he is 64 – he is among the most driven businessmen in Japan. His holding company, Fast Retailing, of which Uniqlo is the most prominent brand, is bent on world domination, or at least on overtaking its three larger competitors, Inditex (which owns Zara), H&M and Gap. Fast Retailing, which operates more than 1,000 stores in 14 countries, has annual global sales above $10bn. Uniqlo alone is opening about one new outlet a week and will break into Germany and Australia next spring with stores in Berlin and Melbourne. We are in the private dining room of Azure 45, one of dozens of high-end French restaurants in Tokyo, this most culinary of cities. This one is spectacularly located on the 45th floor of a skyscraper with sweeping views of Tokyo Tower and the city beneath. A cluster of different-sized glass balls dangles above the table, giving the otherwise haute-chic room the air of a 1980s disco. Yanai starts work at 7am and likes to be home by 4pm to spend time with his wife and to practise golf, so the whole company has shunted its schedule forward. Our 11.30am encounter is early even by Japanese standards, where lunch at noon is the norm." (FT)


"Billionaire investor George Soros, 83, will marry 42-year-old Tamiko Bolton today, followed by a huge party at his Caramoor Estate in Bedford, with 500 guests. We’re told the couple will say their vows in front of a select group of friends and family before they celebrate with hundreds from 4:30 p.m. onward.  Those expected include World Bank president Jim Yong Kim and Toomas Hendrik Ilves, president of Estonia; Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, president of Liberia; and Edi Rama, prime minister of Albania. Also there will be Paul Tudor Jones II and Rep. Nancy Pelosi. Festivities started Friday night with a dinner at Le Bernardin, followed by cocktails with a few hundred guests at MoMA." (NYPost)


"Nope, hacks would rather play it safe and not state the obvious, as in the case of, say, Tina Brown. Michael Wolff is an American media analyst and writer—he also has a very pretty girlfriend—and I had a chat with him during a summer party last July. I asked him about Tina Brown and Arianna Huffington. Wolff, who is not known for pulling his punches (his biography of Rupert Murdoch had Rupee Baby pissing bullets), threw his hands up in the air and made bubbling noises. In other words, no one can understand how those two broads get away with it. (Well, Tina no longer.) The fact is that not too many hacks have gone out of their way to point out that Tina, who is always referred to as a legendary editor in America, has lost more money for the owners of the magazines she has edited than Qatar used as bribery money to get the tournament. She almost broke Harvey Weinstein with Talk magazine—fifty million big ones in two years—ditto with The New Yorker and Vanity Fair before that. She has cost another sugar daddy, Barry Diller, at least 100 million since 2008 with The Daily Beast and Newsweek. He finally pulled the plug on her, but what the hell, what’s a hundred million big ones anyway? She’s a legend, as they say in Hollywood. Which brings me to Graydon Carter and the preening Gwyneth Paltrow. Graydon has been a friend of mine for thirty years, but I can’t stand La Paltrow.  'Vanity Fair is threatening to put me on the cover,' cries the one I can’t stand, as if going on the cover of a best-selling monthly is an unacceptable chore. She’s an actress, for God’s sake, and publicity is her lifeline. What Paltrow wants and Carter won’t give is an assurance that the piece on her will be a groveling ass-kiss job worthy of HELLO! or other such celebrity-lickers." (Taki)


"'HOUSEWORK can’t kill you. But why take a chance?' That was one of the hundreds — no, thousands — of jokes told by the late great Phyllis Diller. She was the comedienne with the wild hair, wilder clothes and a no-account husband she referred to as 'Fang.' Diller paved the way for today’s crop of female comics, including Joan Rivers. Although Diller’s routines remained self-deprecatory. She rarely, if ever, went for the funny bone through the jugular. Diller, who began her career late, remained extremely popular for decades, in stand-up, movies and countless TV appearances. She even had a go at 'Hello Dolly!' on Broadway. But behind the gaudy image was a woman of some refinement and taste — an accomplished concert pianist. Aspects of the private Phyllis Diller are up for auction at Julien’s in Beverly Hills on Sept 22nd. Diller lived large, and luxuriously, as the items in her estate sale attest. From antique Jacobean walnut settees to Edwardian music stands, to an elaborate Victorian easel to a 17th century cassone and on and on. Crystal, gorgeous dinner plates, rugs, decorative eggs, delicate figurines, goblets, Art Deco wall masks, a Matisse sketch. There is a lot of impressive art, including Diller’s own paintings. Also, various dining room and kitchen sets, all of Diller’s awards and then — the clothes!" (NYSocialDiary)


"Enough, please, about the cultural 'elite,' that all-but-useless category, so baggy it now seems to include practically everyone. No, what we really want to know about are the cultural elect — the famous people other famous people connive to meet. The kind of people, that is, who are likely to be found in the Upper West Side apartment of Antonio Monda, whether it’s a half-dozen novelists and spouses for Sunday brunch or weeknight dinner, or the 75 to 120 journalists, critics, painters, curators, Columbia professors and more who crowd in to the after-parties for one of the almost continuous film-related events he runs, either as organizer or interviewer, or both, at Lincoln Center, the Morgan Library and the Museum of Modern Art. Recent sightings included Philip Roth (scrunched in a corner, under the bookshelves that cover an entire wall); Robert De Niro (who strode in a beat after Martin Amis slipped out to smoke a hand-rolled cigarette); Zadie Smith (springing up from the table to chase down her toddler); and Jovanotti, the bearded king of Italian rap, whose Twitter followers at one point outnumbered the pope’s. At a time when so many Manhattan gatherings can seem as transactional as a conference call, Mr. Monda reigns as the host of the city’s liveliest, some say only remaining, cultural salon." (NyTimes)

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