Saturday, June 07, 2014

Media Whore D'Oeuvres


"God, gays, and guns. The era in which controversies over so-called social issues like these defined the Right and the Left in American politics is rapidly coming to an end, thanks to the pronounced liberalism of the youngest cohort of Americans—the Millennial generation, whose members were born in 1981 or later. God? Millennials are the least religious of Americans. A quarter are 'nones' or unaffiliated, according to a Gospel Coalition poll, and fewer than one in ten say that religion is important in their lives.1 Guns? According to a Gallup poll, fewer Americans between the ages of 18 and 29 own guns (20 percent) than the national average (30 percent).2 And a majority of Millennials support gun control: 56 percent, according to a National Journal poll,3 and 59 percent, according to Pew.4 Gays? According to a Pew poll, the Millennials are the only cohort in which a majority (70 percent) support gay marriage. Millennials are also more likely than members of older generations to describe themselves as liberal, according to a 2009 Pew poll: 29 percent, compared to 40 percent moderate and 28 percent conservative.6 Only 20 percent of members of Generation X, 18 percent of Baby Boomers, and 15 percent of members of the Silent Generation describe themselves as liberal.7 While individuals often become somewhat more conservative as they grow older, it seems likely that the Millennial generation will permanently shift American attitudes to the left—on social issues, if not necessarily on economics. Thanks to generational shifts in values like these, it is likely that in the decades ahead there will be a dramatic realignment in American politics. Although it is likely to reshape the two major parties, it will not be a mere 'partisan realignment' of the kind studied by political scientists. Rather, it will be a realignment of American public philosophies or political worldviews. This worldview realignment will be accentuated by a number of long-term demographic and cultural changes. But the chief catalyst of the realignment will be the near-universal victory of social liberalism. In a nation in which both parties are socially liberal, existing coalitions are likely to break up and reform in striking ways." (Michael lind)

Illustration by Patrick Morgan of Gloria Vanderbilt
"(Gloria) Vanderbilt was born in February 1924, the only child of railway heir Reginald Claypoole Vanderbilt and his second wife, Gloria Morgan. A year later, Reginald drank himself to death and, after a bitter court case, his young widow lost custody of her daughter, little Gloria, to a paternal aunt, Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney (founder of the Whitney art museum in New York). In the intervening years, Vanderbilt has been through so many incarnations that everyone has their own version of her: to me, she will always be the woman whose form-fitting jeans, with distinctive signature and swan logo, invented designer denim in the 1970s ... Most canvases take her an average of two to three days to complete. One of the few times she has had a problem with a painting was with a portrait she has been doing of her youngest son Anderson, a news presenter on CNN. She has been working on it for a long time: it’s a sketch of him with a list, in red, of all the hotspots he has visited since 1993: Cambodia, Rwanda, and so on. 'I’ll probably have to start over,' she says. 'I did another one of Anderson years ago when he was at Dalton [a private school in New York],' she says, 'and I made him take it to school to show, and he says he was mortified. But now I think he rather likes it.'Vanderbilt takes me into a guest bathroom, where she has painted every tile with designs and the names of friends and dates that are special to her. Then she shows me a fireplace she made and installed in another room. It’s a surround painted bright turquoise with glittery silver, a little kitschy but also endearing. 'I would redecorate every six months if I could,' she says.Did you always, I ask, want to make art? 'Yes, since I was a girl, but there was no way to discuss it; it was only when I was at the Wheeler school [a private day school] in Providence that I met a wonderful art teacher and it seemed possible.' I ask if she was worried about not being taken seriously, or concerned that her celebrity status would overshadow her work. 'Well, I did study at the Art Students League [of New York],' Vanderbilt says, 'but I think I learnt as much from posing for great artists like René Bouché and Marcel Vertès, and I was very lucky in that all my husbands were very supportive of whatever I did. Stokowski was very supportive of my painting, Sidney [Lumet] of my acting, and Wyatt Cooper was a miracle of support. Boy, do I miss him. I’m always thinking, ‘Why aren’t you here so you can see this, and I can get your take on it?’ 'But Anderson has a great eye, and he’s always my first viewer, if he’s here. He could have been an artist but he went another way.'" (FT)

"I am not embarrassed to admit that the obituaries on the back page of The Economist make my week. They’re thought-provoking and written with energy. Each column is a window onto another world, where genocidal SS captains escape to Argentina and open a deli with best cold cuts in town, and where British men create Tibet’s communications network and end up imbibing Maoist propaganda in order to escape life in Chinese prison. The woman who writes these obituaries is Ann Wroe, a stalwart of The Economist since 1976 and the author of nonfiction books on topics as diverse as the Iran-Contra affair and Pontius Pilate. She is softly-spoken and sharp, her willowy English demeanor masking a razor-sharp analytical mind. After working as Arts and Books editor and US editor, she took on obituaries in 2003. She told me that the job “gives you a chance to write, really to write.” Her secret? Chronology doesn’t matter. 'You just have to try and get the essence of who they are, and it has to boil down to what was most important to them.' Her role is to meld the mind of a journalist with the creativity of a novelist. One memorable example of this free-wheeling writing was Wroe’s obituary of Benson, a 25-year-old carp that lived in a pond in Peterborough; Wroe wrote that 'in her glory days she reminded some of Marilyn Monroe, others of Raquel Welch. She was lither than either as she cruised through the water-weed, a lazy twist of gold.' Benson tragically lost her mate and spent her remaining days comfort eating until her ultimate demise.Wroe recalls that 'it was a summer evening, I remember, and I went and wrote it in my garden. And I just felt that feeling of lazing around at the bottom of a river. I just imagined myself in the world of being a carp.' The subject of the week’s obituary is decided on Monday, and it must be written and polished by Tuesday. This 36-hour window is a marathon attempt to consume as much information as possible. 'I just sort of feed it all in. Make a huge great collage in my mind. And then it compresses down terribly: there must be millions of words in there and it just comes down to a thousand.'" (Isabelle Frasier/TheHairpin)

"Following the death of Sir Winston Churchill in January 1965, there were contrasting verdicts from two near-contemporary English writers. In his English History 1914-1945, the last volume in the old Oxford History of England, A.J.P. Taylor described Churchill in a biographical footnote, ending with the five-word sentence, 'The saviour of his country.' But a very different note was struck by Evelyn Waugh in a letter to his friend Ann Fleming (wife of Ian, the James Bond novelist): 'He is not a man for whom I ever had esteem. Always in the wrong, always surrounded by crooks, a most unsuccessful father.' In today’s American climate of Churchill-worship, those words must seem astonishing, and only Waugh could have said that Churchill was 'always' in the wrong, although he was certainly wrong a good deal of the time, while there were enough dubious people in his entourage to give some colour to “crooks.” But it’s the last words which are stingingly painful even now. Churchill truly was an unsuccessful fatherwith one shining exception. She was Mary Churchill, Lady Soames, who died on the last day of May at 91. Not only was she the last surviving child of Winston and Clementine Churchill, she was also the only one who had grown up safe and sound, to live a long and fulfilled life. When I first met Mary in the 1970s, she was in a state of transition, from motherhood to authorship. It would be impertinent to call her a friend, but I stayed with the Soameses at their house in Hampshire thanks to my friendship with their daughter Emma, a sparky young journalist and gal about town who has since had an admirable career as a magazine editor." (TNR)

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