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Thursday, February 20, 2014

Media-Whore D'oeuvres









"I went down to Michael’s for the Wednesday luncheon media melee. It did not disappoint, filled with media mutts and moguls as well as a healthy mix of bankers, lawyers, writers and such. Joe Armstrong the Mayah of Michael’s was at Table One in the bay hosting three people from the Harry Ransom Center at the University of Texas at Austin. Joe’s a Texan, if you didn’t know, and he knows just about everybody who hails from down thatta way, especially if they’re in media (or politics). The late great Ann Richards was a good friend of his. His guests from Austin were Steve Wilson, Jennifer Tisdale, Alicia Dietrich; and Diane Clehane, Michael’s 'Brenda Starr.' The Austin group are here because of Gone With the Wind, without question one of the greatest American films of the 20th century based on one of the best selling American novels. For a long time, up until the advent of George Lucas and Steven Spielberg, no other American film grossed as much. Now it’s pittance in modern day grosses. But it still remains a favorite that people have seen three, four, five times over a lifetime, sitting through the 3 hours always rapt and enchanted by this great film. This year marks the 75th anniversary of the release of the film to American audiences. The publicity machine that David Selznick, its producer, rolled out was a marketing genius’s dream. Margaret Mitchell’s novel is set in Georgia during the Civil War and the Reconstruction. It was published in 1936, and was on the best seller list for two years. Eventually it has sold more than 30 million copies and continues to remain the great read that it was to its first readers. Selznick and his production partner John Hay 'Jock' Whitney acquired the screen rights from Miss Mitchell for $50,000 --  a very pretty penny in those days (when the dollar had the buying power of thirty times that number). Whitney actually put up the money and came to it first through his associate, and Selznick took it from there." (NYSD)




"As the standoff in Independence Square continues in Kiev, the western part of Ukraine has added a more serious element to the country's internal struggle. On Wednesday, several administration buildings were taken over by protesters in the west, including in Khmelnytskyi, Ivano-Frankivsk, Uzhhorod and Ternopil. Meanwhile, demonstrators from an opposition group called People's Rada in Lviv, the largest and most important city in the west, said on Wednesday that they want to declare independence from Ukraine.  Though the declaration may be little more than symbolic, it presents an important new dynamic to the political evolution in Ukraine and also underscores Lviv's traditional significance to the country. Indeed, Lviv's history -- both as a hub for national movements and for its distinction from the eastern part of the country as a truly European city -- has been crucial in the history of Ukraine. But Lviv's own evolution is a complicated one influenced by numerous powers, all of which play a large part in shaping Lviv's opposition to the government of Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich and its latest attempt to break free of this rule. Lviv was, from the 16th to the 18th century, part of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, when it was known as Lwow. The partition of the commonwealth at the end of the 18th century placed it under the control of Habsburg Austria, and the city was then referred to as Lemberg. Following World War I, it went back to Poland, then the Soviets took over after World War II and renamed it Lvov. After the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, Ukraine became an independent state, giving the city its current name of Lviv.This dizzying complexity of political shifts, name changes and accompanying cultural influences is reflected throughout the city and can been seen in several key landmarks in central Lviv. The Lviv Opera House, set in a Baroque and neo-Renaissance style and ornately decorated with Corinthian columns and figures of muses atop a triangular roof, was built by the Austrians. Opposite the opera house is a monument to Adam Mickiewicz, the 19th century poet who wrote in Polish and is equally celebrated in Poland. Nearby is another monument -- this one a large, daunting statue of Taras Shevchenko, Ukraine's foremost literary hero. Shevchenko not only made Ukrainian into a literary language (before his time, it was mainly used by rural peasants), he also was a staunch nationalist, and his poems created a strong sense of national identity in Ukraine where little existed beforehand. It was in Lviv -- not Kiev -- that Ukraine's national movement was strongest, both in its emergence in the late 19th century and during the final years of the Soviet Union that produced Ukrainian independence in 1991. Now it is in Lviv where opposition to Yanukovich -- who hails from the eastern Donbass region, which is politically and culturally at odds with western Ukraine -- is strongest." (STRATFOR)





"No, I haven’t been everywhere… and some places I don’t go to because I’m a conscientious objector (Zimbabwe and Uganda, anyone?)… but I can still dream. And plan. Because dictators, xenophobia, and me being broke wont last forever! Besides – what better way to spend a slow, freezing Saturday than to dream about unending travel possibilities? That, and I think there’s something really good about writing down your dreams. It makes them come true faster. I swear.  And so, I present to you my dream list of places to go (and why). 1. Mongolia (above): there is just something so poetically lonely in this landscape… It sounds lame to say, but it calls to me. And I’ve always wanted to see the famous wild horse races…2. The Tsukiji Fish Market, Tokyo: Ok, fine – Tokyo too. And Kyoto. But, as I’ve mentioned before, I cant scuba dive… and I have a thing for fish markets. And this one is supposed to be the best in the world. Besides, who doesn’t love Toro right out of the ocean at 3 am?" (Paula Froelich)








Falcones holding up-to-$250K per couple fund-raiser










"Phil and Lisa Maria Falcone have dealt with some difficult times recently, but the hedge-fund billionaire and his wife will host a dinner at their home May 19 for a worthy cause, the Youth Anxiety Center at New York-Presbyterian Hospital. Tickets per couple range from an amazing $50,000 up to $250,000, but that could put attendees in the company of a founding committee that includes Vogue editor Anna Wintour, Vera Wang, Ralph Lauren, Tory Burch, Tommy Hilfiger and Oscar de la Renta." (P6)



















"Almost every actor craves a role in one of Wes Anderson’s movies but working for the Texan auteur is no picnic according to the cast of The Grand Budapest Hotel who spilled the secrets of Hollywood’s most uncompromising “general” to The Daily Beast. Whimsical and playful by the time they reach the big screen, Anderson’s projects are created in a surprisingly autocratic style. The actors who star in his latest, possibly greatest, film revealed the truth about working for the filmmaker at the Berlin film festival in Germany. Admiration and affection are never in doubt but the cast said it’s the tenacious approach that makes Anderson unique. 'He’s so specific in what he sees and what he wants that you better give it to him,' said Willem Dafoe. 'He’s tough.' Giving Anderson what he wants isn’t easy, though. 'He does a lot of takes,' said Jeff Goldblum. Every prop, every actor’s mark must be precise. There is no improvising, no tinkering with the script and very little room for actors to suggest improvements. Saoirse Ronan, who plays Agatha the female lead, said she had never seen anything like it. 'There was one shot… It was the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do,' she said. 'It took 35 takes or something. We just did it over, and over, and over, and over again.'Like much of his earlier work, The Grand Budapest Hotel is visually stunning with each shot framed like a perfectly conceived photograph." (TheDailyBeast)





"While it’s possible that 2014 will be a wave year, it’s also possible that it will feature a milder climate. In recent history, those have been years where there have been some harder-to-categorize, Gilligan-like gubernatorial outcomes. For instance, 1998 was a relatively stable election year: There was no net change in the Senate, and Democrats netted four House seats. But two incumbent Republican governors lost:  David Beasley of South Carolina and Fob James of Alabama. Their losses can be explained, like Gilligan’s, by local considerations. Despite a strong Palmetto State economy, Beasley lost in part by picking the wrong enemies: Video gambling machine interests spent heavily to defeat him after he tried to ban the games, and he proposed removing the Confederate flag from the Statehouse. James, meanwhile, had a brutal primary that exhausted his campaign coffers, and he was on the wrong side of a popular issue pushed by then-Lt. Gov. Don Siegelman (D), a lottery to provide college scholarships. Lou Jacobson, an astute observer of statehouse politics and a contributor to Governing magazine, also ascribed poor campaign skills as a partial explanation of James’ defeat. (For more, check out Jacobson’s excellent look at why incumbent governors have lost elections in recent years.) The Democrats who replaced Beasley and James — Jim Hodges (SC) and Siegelman (AL) — ended up losing in 2002, a better Republican year nationally than 1998.(Siegelman, now incarcerated in a controversial case, was also dogged by corruption allegations.)President George H.W. Bush’s (R) lone midterm, 1990, was also a rather sleepy, waveless year at the national level. Yet six incumbent governors lost in the general election that year, the most in any year since 1966. Perhaps a lack of drama in federal elections that year focused voters’ minds on state politics, and in many cases the voters didn’t like the status quo. The incumbent losers’ list that year was bipartisan: Bob Martinez (R-FL), Mike Hayden (R-KS), James Blanchard (D-MI), Rudy Perpich (D-MN), Kay Orr (R-NE) and Edward DiPrete (R-RI). Observers at the time suggested abortion played a big role in the defeats of the very pro-life Martinez and the very pro-choice Blanchard. Ethical issues plagued DiPrete, who was crushed by almost 50 points and later served jail time for bribery and extortion. Controversy ranging from tax changes to a proposal to store nuclear waste in the Cornhusker State contributed to Orr’s very narrow loss to future Sen. Ben Nelson (D); so too, potentially, did an Election Day snowstorm that might have hurt Republican turnout. Orr was the fourth straight Nebraska Republican gubernatorial incumbent to lose reelection, although later Republican governors Mike Johanns and Dave Heineman easily won second terms.This is not meant to be an exhaustive list of all recent incumbent gubernatorial defeats. Rather, it’s just to point out that local factors are critical, and can lead to some results that the national political mood, or a state’s federal partisan habits, wouldn’t necessarily suggest." (CenterforPolitics)













"Set aside for a moment everything you’ve read about the $45 billion bid Comcast made for Time Warner Cable last week. Blank from your mind Paul Krugman‘s prediction that the deal will result in a Comcast monopoly. Pretend you didn’t read the New York Times piece about the acquisition presaging further consolidation in the cable market, with Charter Communications picking off Cox Communications. Thump yourself with a neuralyzer, if you can, and remove from your memory the protest against the transaction by Michael Copps, former Federal Communications Commission commissioner. Finally, purge from your bile ducts the seething hatred you hold for Comcast and Time Warner Cable, those hurtful memories of rising bills, rotten service, and phone-tree purgatory and allow me to persuade you that we’re having the wrong telecom argument when we quarrel about mergers and acquisitions. Instead of blocking mergers or beating concessions out of the telecom giants, let’s give them the treatment they really fear: Policies that encourage the entry of competitors, which are the bane of every monopolist. If you hate your cable television company — to simplify a half-century of history — blame it on the government. In the founding days of the industry, local municipalities mistakenly insisted that cable TV was a “natural monopoly” that must be regulated like telephone service. In nearly every case, the selection of a cable operator was a political one, with the most flattering supplicant winning the right from city councils to string wire on utility poles and cross right-of-ways to sell cable service. The municipalities collected franchise fees from the cable companies, shook them down for sweeteners like municipal channels and public access studios, regulated their rates, and required the operators to wire all if not most of their jurisdiction.
Of course, cable TV wasn’t a natural monopoly but a government-made one." (Jack Shaeffer)

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