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Monday, December 23, 2013

Media-Whore D'Oeuvres




"Last week, a study commissioned by the president concluded that the National Security Agency had reached too far into the private lives of Americans. The study, which came after a series of journalistic revelations exposing the agency’s surveillance practices, recommended numerous reforms that would curb the N.S.A.’s prerogatives. President Obama said he was 'open to many' of the suggestions. It was exactly the kind of news-making moment that '60 Minutes' — America’s leading purveyor of serious television news — has often been responsible for creating. For more than four decades, the program has exposed C.I.A. abuses, rogue military contractors and hundreds of corporate villains.  But where was '60 Minutes' on the N.S.A. story? The Sunday before the damning study, the program produced a segment that scanned as a friendly infomercial for the agency. Reported by John Miller, a CBS News reporter, the piece included extensive interviews with Gen. Keith Alexander, the director of the N.S.A.  In a scene that served as something of a metaphor for the whole segment, the producers negotiated access to the Black Chamber, a supersecret area where the nation’s top code breakers work. The door is briefly opened, we see a deserted office hall that looks like any other and then the door is closed. We get a look in, but we learn nothing. Coming as it does on the heels of the now-discredited Benghazi report — in which '60 Minutes' said it was fooled by an eyewitness who was apparently nothing of the kind — the N.S.A. segment raises the question of whether the program has not just temporarily lost its mojo, but its skepticism as well." (David Carr)



"A few weeks ago, I had a drink with my friend Justine Sacco and we talked about what makes for a good Tweet. Justine is an easy person to like — frank, funny, quick to laugh. To a reporter, she’s the kind of flack who’s all too rare, the kind who doesn’t stop being a person when she badges in for the day at work. Although a tough and forceful advocate for her employers, I could trust her not to waste my time or feed me a line, even when we found ourselves at cross purposes. While we’ve never hung out socially, I’ve always enjoyed the occasional lunch or drink we’d have to catch up. It was over such a drink a few weeks ago that the subject of Twitter came up. Although she’d been using the service for several years, Justine was still figuring out its nuances. One thing she’d noticed was that people seemed to like the Tweets that were just a little bit risque or outrageous. She mentioned a recent post about Jimmy Fallon seeming like a 'grateful lover,' which had gotten a strong response. I flashed back to this conversation on Friday after Justine set off an avalanche of fury — on Twitter, on Facebook and in the news media across the globe — by tweeting, 'Going to Africa. Hope I don’t get AIDS. Just kidding. I’m white!' In the many, many blog posts and social media threads that ensued, 'racist' was the word that was most frequently used to characterize this joke. That was not my reaction. I interpreted it as a self-deprecating joke about white guilt and Western privilege — about the sheepish feeling of being physically close to tragedy while remaining safe in an economic and cultural bubble. Others have told me they read it much the same way, even without knowing the author. “I think she was more mocking the aloofness white people can have on this issue, not celebrating that aloofness,' says one friend." (Jeff Bercovicci)


"I go to this swanky Beverly Hills party, and there is Steve Martin. An actor that I have never particularly cared for.  Anyway, to my surprise he appears to be paying attention to me. Every time I glance up, he is looking directly at me. This is the oddest thing, but it has happened once before, with a famous tennis player, so it is not entirely outlandish, I assure myself. At one point he sidles past me while I speak to someone. He moves by me very slowly; I do not look at him but can tell his eyes are glued to me. Later, I am on the phone with Matilda, and she tells me she knows this guys who sells Steve paintings. She’ll check this out. She calls me back with excellent news: Steve likes English-accented mousy, brainy brunets; I’m his type. Later still she tells me he is shy, that he never approaches girls. He was looking at me. He definitely was looking at me.Matilda says she is going to get me Steve for a husband, that we’re perfect for each other, and that she knows exactly how to pull this off. I say, ‘OK, but go slowly and keep me posted all the way. I have the power to veto any of your choices.’ She agrees. But she is a major con artist, so why do I believe her? I guess it suits me.
Time flies. I’m busy writing my novel, and even though I’ve told all my close friends that I think Steve Martin was looking at me at this party that I went to, it all gradually fades into the background.
Then one morning the phone rings; it’s Matilda. She tells me that she called Steve’s doorman and left Steve a message from me. I know she is kidding, and I am too cool to appear shocked by anything, so I laugh and say, ‘That would be funny.’ And she says, ‘You wouldn’t be mad at me?’ And I reply, ‘No, I would think it was funny, but don’t, whatever you do, don’t do it.’ An hour later the phone rings again. It’s a gentleman claiming to be Steve Martin." (Christina Oxenberg)


"One of Cher’s biggest hurdles early in her ­career was convincing audiences she wasn’t a man, because of her deep-throated delivery, a new book on the iconic singer reveals.The tome from British imprint Plexus also chronicles her relationships with men from ­David Geffen to Gregg Allman, and how, one night, Cher saved a male musician’s life with ­advice from her gynecologist.
Josiah Howard’s 'Cher: Strong Enough,' ­recounts that when the future superstar broke onto the scene as a teen with her older hubby and partner, Sonny Bono, misconceptions were so prevalent that she was a man, a secretary was hired to persuade fans otherwise. 'Just three months after they hit the big time, Sonny and Cher’s . . . secretary was charged with responding to each and every inquiry, even those from fans, to refute the rumor,' the book says. A letter dated Sept. 8, 1965, to a fan reads: 'Cher, we assure you, is a girl. She is 19 years old and happily married to Sonny (who is 25) [Bono was actually 30]. As for Cher’s singing voice being too low: I think you will find that a lot of great female singers have low voices . . . Tell your mom that Cher is just a very slim, very pretty girl with a low voice. I think if you listen closer, you will find a lot of feminine quality in her voice.' In 1974, after Cher had become a star and while she was dating Geffen, one night she found herself in the wrong place at the wrong time, the book details. At a party for the Average White Band, guests passed around a drug they thought was cocaine but turned out to be heroin. Drummer Robbie McIntosh died the following day from an overdose. However, Cher had abstained and saved band bassist Alan ­Gorrie’s life by bringing him home and 'following the advice of her gynecologist (her personal physician was unavailable) . . . induced vomiting, applied ice packs to his body and forcibly walked him around, preventing him from losing consciousness and lapsing into a coma.'" (PageSix)


"Then there were the refuse entrepreneurs. The man who used to show up across the avenue every Friday at 1 PM wasn’t there. A young woman (Hispanic) has taken over the station. I’m fascinated by these individuals, as you may have read before. They are taking the bull by the horns, and out there and doing what they have to do to get where they need to get. It used to be called 'doing what it takes.' This young woman is, as you can see, well and adequately, and even fashionably  dressed for this (or any other) task. I noticed her sitting on the doorstep of the apartment building with her shopping cart and her plastic bags. She was waiting. Ten minutes later, the black metal gate of the building next door banged open, and one of the super’s staff started tossing rubbish bags onto the sidewalk. When it was a bag of bottles or cans, he tossed them her way. She’s wearing gloves. She must be young — in her early twenties maybe — because she moves — and especially 'bends'— very quickly and with the automatic agility of youth. She went through each bag with a quickness that articulates focus, very fast, and saving each empty bag with many others in another bag. This went on for almost a half hour. I went back to my desk for ten minutes and when I returned to the window, she was gone. I was thinking about 'where' she was going with her acquisitions — just rubbish, by definition. I had planned go to down and give her a small contribution, in another words, a vote of confidence, but I missed the opportunity." (NYSocialDiary)


"Like 'Jingle Bells' and bad sweaters, 'dealing with family' is a time-honored holiday tradition. And since Christmas is in a couple days, chances are good that you are currently in the midst of that dealing, or at least you will be very soon. This year, though, we can all do more than deal with our family. We can be our best selves and have a drunken blast with them instead. I don't mean that your family holidays should resemble a bachelor party or a dinner thrown by Cher, but by getting drunk together — fun drunk, not sad, depressing drunk — laughter, camaraderie, and hang-over-induced movie marathons should squash out awkwardness, judgment, and boring stories about your uncle's most recent knee surgery. The goal isn't just to get your parents and your siblings sauced (don't just spike the eggnog); it's to wrest control away from your alcoholic aunt or your passive-aggressive grandfather and get everyone onboard with the party plans. They don't have to know the night will end with them taking part in a rousing, drunken rendition of Come All Ye Faithful (even though it will), but they're only going to get there if they start the day with a willingness to have a good time. Your job is merely to encourage that good time by making sure everyone has enough to drink. While every family is obviously different, and will require different levels of coercion, there are five foolproof tactics that will put you on the correct path." (NYMag)


"Very warm for the third week of December in New York, ten minutes after midnight, the day before the Winter Solstice. The weatherman says this next of the woods is going to get even warmer before the weekend’s out. That’s okay; I’ve even got the terrace door open as I write. However, I’m still hoping for a White Christmas (implying the jolly Ho Ho Ho! returning to our lives for no matter how brief a moment.)  This is a moment when New Yorkers are sharing cocktails dinners with friends and neighbors in each others’ houses and apartments and restaurants. For the NYSD, we’re in the catching up mode. For example, last Monday night at Stella 34 Trattoria at Macy’s, overlooking the Empire State Building spire, there was a roast and toast staged by the culinary and philanthropic communities joining the Citymeals-on-Wheels gang along with the just plain foodies to ... celebrate Gael Greene on her 80th birthday. 'I don’t know how this happened so quickly,” said the 'Insatiable Critic,' which was her moniker for forty years in New York magazine before they up and fired her, and she moved her critiques to insatiablecritic.com. 'One evening I was forty and disco-dancing and all men were 26, and then the next ... this frightening big number!' As she was speaking, two towering chocolate birthday cakes, each marked '40,' were being rolled out into the room. No one in the felt frightened, probably even the birthday girl herself. Gael Greene is one of the most prolific and productive writers of her generation here in New York. She’s written seven books, including two best-selling (erotic ) novels, plus a memoir, not to mention her hundreds and hundreds of 'Insatiable…' columns and other articles. She started her journalism career at the New York Post in 1957 when it was the fiefdom of Dorothy (Dolly) Schiff, a forward thinking progressive woman who let her sentiments be known in the press. Greene’s memoir, 'Insatiable: Tales from a Life of Delicious Excess,' documents the 40 year revolution in dining that she was documenting weekly in New York Magazine, the hottest weekly New York magazine of the era. Writing as the anonymous critic she could raise the hackles and flatten the souffl├ęs of even the iciest of restaurateurs with her words." (NySocialDiary)

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