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Saturday, October 26, 2013

Media-Whore D'Oeuvres



"'Wow, he’s handsome,' one dinner guest said, peering over a throng of photographers. 'He’s going to be our president in, like, 30 years,' another gushed.  The event, last Monday at the American Museum of Natural History, was a benefit for the Blue Card, which aids Holocaust survivors, and the object of the room’s collective kvelling was Ronan Farrow, the 25-year-old lawyer, diplomat, author, boy genius, offspring of two celebrities (though which two is an open question), possessor of alabaster good looks and, as of this month, the latest talent to join MSNBC, where he will host a weekday show starting in January. Like a styled valedictorian, Mr. Farrow worked his way through the well wishers, his corn-colored hair lightly tousled. Though he already has the résumé of someone twice his age, in the last year Mr. Farrow has come into his own as a public figure, appearing on Vanity Fair’s international best-dressed list and applying his spiky Twitter commentary to everything from politics ('Leadership in America just turned into a pumpkin') to pop culture ('Miley Cyrus is basically our generation’s Simone de Beauvoir'). Mr. Farrow was there to receive an award for his humanitarian efforts, along with his mother, the actress Mia Farrow, who observed the hoopla from a corner, illuminated by the glow of the Hayden Planetarium. 'I’m very proud of him,' Ms. Farrow said, cradling a glass of red wine. Dressed in dark-blue velvet, she was talking with Kati Marton, the widow of the ambassador Richard C. Holbrooke, an early mentor of Mr. Farrow." (NYTimes)


"If, according to a Viennese wit, psychoanalysis is the disease that calls itself the cure, then Steve Cohen’s deal with the US government is the highway robbery that calls itself justice. Cohen is a bald Wall Street hedgie whose $18-billion fund, SAC, has scored Madoff-like returns the last twenty-odd years. He is a secretive kind of guy whose first wife blew the whistle on him because of his lack of generosity toward her. (Funny how cheap guys never learn. Always be nice to your ex.) Out of the 18 billion big ones Cohen manages, nine are his own. He piled them up during these last twenty years along with some very serious art—expensive, that is—the sort of collection a vulgarian such as him is expected to own. Cohen’s company’s name is SAC, and the government has charged eleven of his former employees with insider trading. Six of the eleven have pleaded guilty to criminal charges. Cohen himself is negotiating with the feds, which is the point of my story. I remember when serious bankers speaking off the record and telling me when I complained about their returns to my investments, that if I wanted an SAC type of performance I should look elsewhere: 'We know he’s insider trading, and we know how he’s doing it, and one day the feds might wake up,' or words to that effect. Cohen returned 30 percent annually to his investors, piling up his billions along with hundreds of works of art, buying and selling the latter for tax reasons as he could defer his tax liability by exchanging one piece for another. (This is what art has become.) He has very smart lawyers, which the government doesn’t, who are willing and ready to go the long route. Aggressive district attorneys with political ambitions fear long trials and uncertain results. Forcing Cohen to settle gets their names in the papers and their political futures bright. So Cohen keeps seven billion, so what? So plenty, says Taki." (Taki)


"Will black voters come out for Terry McAuliffe? In an election that polls show is his to lose, one of the last hurdles between the Democrat and the Virginia governorship is making sure African-American voters don’t stay home without President Barack Obama on the Nov. 5 ballot.
Turning out party loyalists is critical for candidates of either party in any off-year election, when voter interest tails off dramatically. Republican Ken Cuccinelli has staked what slim chance he has left of an upset on firing up the GOP base. But the challenge is particularly pronounced for McAuliffe and blacks, who make up about a fifth of the electorate and are often the difference between victory and defeat for a Democrat running statewide in the commonwealth. Turning out party loyalists is critical for candidates of either party in any off-year election, when voter interest tails off dramatically. Republican Ken Cuccinelli has staked what slim chance he has left of an upset on firing up the GOP base. But the challenge is particularly pronounced for McAuliffe and blacks, who make up about a fifth of the electorate and are often the difference between victory and defeat for a Democrat running statewide in the commonwealth." (Politico)


"The other night I went down to the Chelsea Hotel to have dinner with artist Michele Zalopany. What a shock I had seeing the Chelsea in its current state of construction/destruction. It made me very sad. I first went to the Chelsea in 1982 to have dinner with composer Virgil Thomson and his intimate friend — the artist and art critic Maurice Grosser. The Kansas City, Missouri native Virgil, and Huntsville, Alabama-born Maurice, had met and become lovers after they met at Harvard in the 1920s. They were part of an amazing group then at Harvard that went on to shape cultural life in America for decades to come including MOMA founding director Alfred H. Barr, New York City Ballet’s Lincoln Kirstein, the Wadsworth Atheneum’s visionary director A. Everett “Chick” Austin, architect Philip Johnson to name but a few. By the time I met them, Maurice, then in his 80s, was living on Morton Street in the Village with his decades younger lover Paul Sanfacon. Virgil moved into the Chelsea just after returning from Paris when the Second World War began in 1939.He had just given up his longtime Paris apartment on the Quai Voltaire when I first met him. It was a memorable dinner that began with drinks in Virgil’s art-filled living room with many paintings by Maurice as well as their many other artist friends including Christian Bérard, Pavel Tchelitchew, Marcel Duchamp, Florine Stettheimer, Eugene Berman and his brother who was known as Leonid." (NYSocialDiary)


"'I always get nervous for public speaking,' said Zoe Kazan at Prada’s flagship in New York’s SoHo neighborhood, which had been transformed into a provisional theater on Wednesday night. 'I’m not a natural public speaker.' The actress, joined by literary luminaries Jonathan Ames, Jay McInerney, Gary Shteyngart and actor Anthony Mackie, was one of the chosen speakers tasked with reading excerpts of the winning entries from Prada Journal’s literary contest. The writing competition, launched last April in conjunction with Italian publishing giant Giangiacomo Feltrinelli Editore, received more than 1,300 entries in over 29 languages, with 13 runners-up and five winners — Mattia Conti, Leisl Egan, Angel Mario Fernández, Sarah Harris Wallman and Peng Yang — four of whom were flown in especially for the event (and all of whom will receive cash prizes and their work published in upcoming digital and print booklets). The event was billed, loosely tying in an optical theme: 'What are the realities that our eyes give back to us? And how are these realities filtered through lenses?' Kazan, supported by bestie Mamie Gummer and beau Paul Dano, has been flying back and forth from Boston while working on her new HBO miniseries 'Olive Kitteridge.' ... Other well-heeled guests — including Giovanna Battaglia, Zani Gugelmann, Mia Moretti, Jennifer Fisher, Genevieve Jones, Sofia Sanchez Barrenechea, Jessica Joffe and Michael Avedon — toed carefully down the store’s perilously steep staircase, a task even more challenging in the dark ... For his part, Ames regaled the crowd with a childhood bullying story. 'My friends and I would get attacked on the playground by more normal people,' he said, before loudly imitating a set of calls they would use to each other for help. 'By the way, I’ve never worn such beautiful clothing before,' he continued. 'I want to thank you, Prada, for this suit. The thread count alone — it feels very therapeutic. I feel like an NBA player — it’s like, ‘Oh, this is why they’re so into clothing.’ It’s sort of caressing me.' Conti, 24, whose story was read by McInerney, said in his broken English that it was his first time to the U.S. from Lecco, Italy." (WWD)


"There is no shortage of billionaires -- the Koch brothers, Carl Icahn, Dan Loeb and, yes, Mike Bloomberg, to name a handful -- who are willing to use their vast wealth to push a particular political agenda or to advocate for a specific social reform. That’s hardly a revelation.  Then there’s Tom Steyer, a former Goldman Sachs Group Inc. arbitrager who was mentored by Robert Rubin and eventually formed the San Francisco hedge fund Farallon Capital Management. Since then, Steyer has made a bloody fortune. He has never spoken publicly about how he raked it in at Farallon. Nor has he talked on the record about his years at Goldman. (He didn’t respond to my interview requests when I was writing a book about Goldman in 2011.)  But now that he has departed Farallon to become a political activist -- some say he is considering a run for the U.S. Senate or the governorship of California -- he is everywhere. Last month, the New Yorker’s Ryan Lizza wrote a lengthy profile of Steyer. This month, Bloomberg Markets magazine explained why Steyer has teamed up with Henry Paulson, like Rubin a former Treasury secretary and Goldman chairman, as well as with Bloomberg, the outgoing New York City mayor and the founder and majority owner of Bloomberg LP, the parent of Bloomberg News, to commission a study about the economic consequences of failing to curb carbon emissions. On Oct. 1, at a benefit for the North Country School and Camp Treetops in New York’s Adirondack Mountains, Steyer and Bill McKibben, his fellow environmental activist, led a panel discussion on their efforts to defeat the Keystone XL pipeline. That is the controversial pipeline that would transport crude from the oil sands in Canada to the Gulf of Mexico.
Steyer, the billionaire, and McKibben, the Middlebury College professor, founder of 350.org and longtime political activist, make an odd couple, for sure. But their message about the economic consequences of climate change has sufficient resonance to cut through the thicket of today’s political discord. Steyer dismissed 'as baloney' his opponents’ argument that reducing dependence on fossil fuels will result in short-run job losses. If we change our energy consumption 'so that we are actually on a sustainable path from an energy standpoint, it will be one of the great challenges we’ve ever taken on, and it will also be one of the great job creators,' he said. He pointed out that Keystone would create a mere 3,500 jobs during the two-year construction phase and then only 35 permanent jobs. 'That’s just a mindboggling low number, and this is supposed to be a jobs program,' Steyer said. 'If we wanted to go out and do the kind of energy-saving in commercial buildings that we need to do, that we are inevitably going to do,' that would create between 1.5 million and 2 million jobs. Repairing natural gas pipelines, some of which are made out of wood, would add 1 million to 2 million more jobs, he said. 'And they’re going to be American jobs.' The purpose of the Steyer-Paulson-Bloomberg study, Steyer said, is to debunk the argument that doing nothing about climate change has no economic consequences." (Bloomberg)

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