Monday, August 31, 2015

Media-Whore D'Oeuvres

Mrs. Astor holding court in her mansion on Fifth Avenue.
Twenty years ago — more than a century after Mrs. Astor and McAllister drew up their “400” list — Quest introduced a “400” list. "Twenty years ago — more than a century after Mrs. Astor and McAllister drew up their “400” list — Quest introduced a “400” list. In 2015, when reviewing the “400 list” we introduced in 1995, it was interesting to note the differences between then and now. There are no private ballrooms like Mrs. Astor’s to reference, and no hostesses sitting like a monarch on a throne to greet her guests. (As The Mrs. Astor did, dripping in diamonds -- they called her the human chandelier.)  The social scene had expanded commensurately with the population of New York. Society had become more democratic in the long run and has become even more so in the past two decades. Our method of identifying those individuals and families for the earlier list was non-scientific." (NYSD)

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

The Ron Mwangaguhunga Tumblr

If you didn't already know, I do more daily updates on media, culture and politics here:

Monday, August 24, 2015

Media-Whore D'Oeuvres


"The issue of succession is a difficult matter not just for family-run businesses but for the families that run them. Take the Murdochs, for instance. Or the Binghams, the Kentucky newspaper clan that imploded in the 1980s. Historically speaking, transitions in the Sulzberger family, which has run the New York Times for 119 years, have not gone all that smoothly. During the paper’s early days, patriarch Adolph Ochs agonized over which heir should follow him: his nephew Julius Ochs Adler or his son-in-law, Arthur Hays Sulzberger. (His daughter, Iphigene, was never considered.) The competition took a toll on all involved. In 1932, Sulzberger suffered a stress-induced heart attack, which crippled his left hand; a year later, Adler had a nervous breakdown and spent six weeks in a mental institution. Ochs clung to the notion that maybe they could share the crown. “There can be only one head to a business,” Sulzberger replied. Ultimately, Ochs punted on the decision. When he died in 1935, his will essentially left it to Arthur, Julius, and Iphigene to work it out among themselves. Iphigene, being the deciding vote, supported her husband, thus cleaving a fault line in the family that was never repaired. The Adlers and Sulzbergers stopped speaking. In 1959, the final Adler was forced out of the paper. Now, three generations and 80 years later, Ochs’s descendants are confronting a similar dilemma: Multiple capable family members from different branches want the top job. The House of Sulzberger is made up of four families, all descendants of Ochs’s daughter, and each harbors its own ambitions and grievances. The central rivalry is between the two most powerful wings: the Goldens and the Sulzbergers. But the outcome is not just a matter of family politics; the next publisher of the New York Times will be responsible for preserving the independence of the country’s greatest newspaper in an increasingly challenging media environment. In recent months, I spoke with more than 65 current and former Times executives and journalists, plus Sulzberger-family members, advisers, and friends, to learn how the company is grooming its short list of potential successors. Three finalists have emerged ..." (NYMag)

5 businesses murdoch loved lost

"On Sunday night Murdoch put out word, through his personal Twitter account, that "it's time" for Bloomberg, a fellow mogul who completed a third term as New York City mayor in 2013 and now runs Bloomberg LP, the financial data and media firm he founded decades ago.The tweets were intriguing not just because Murdoch seemed to be publicly drafting Bloomberg, but because Murdoch was sharply critical of GOP frontrunner Donald Trump earlier this summer. Murdoch seemed to soften his stance against Trump as the candidate soared in the polls. Now the comments complimenting Bloomberg call that into question. Murdoch framed it this way: "With Trump becoming very serious candidate, it's time for next billionaire candidate, Mike Bloomberg to step into ring. Greatest mayor." A little while later, seemingly responding to Twitter users' complaints about Bloomberg as a micro-managing "nanny state" mayor, Murdoch wrote: "Agree much about Bloomberg, nannystate, etc, but still a great philanthropic executive who, with Guiliani [sic], made NY the greatest." A couple of hours later, he followed up again with: "I did not say I would vote for him! Just a friend I admire." Notions of a Bloomberg bid for president come and go, but Murdoch's tweets are sure to trigger more such talk." (CNNMoney)

Helen Gurley Brown in her office in 1982. Credit Harry Benson/Contour by Getty Images.

"The Sunday papers. There was an interesting real estate story in the “Fashion and Style” section of yesterday’s Times Who Owns Helen Gurley Brown’s Legacy?” by Katherine Rosman. The center of the piece, the elephant in the living room, is the  quadriplex apartment tower in the Beresford that belonged to David and Helen Gurley Brown. David died at 93 in February 2010, and Helen followed him in August, 2012 at age 90. The issue in the Times piece is centered around the apartment which some brokers today say could go for $50 million. It seems that the apartment, like everything else that belonged to the Browns, has been taken under the wing of Hearst Corporation and a woman named Eve Burton, who is a Hearst vice-president as well as co-executor of Helen’s will. In fact the officers of the foundation and trustees of the copyrights on Helen’s material are all Hearst executives. They believe that Helen Gurley Brown and the “brand” (as Burton refers to it in the article) are one and the same. This is not so remarkable since the Browns died with no next of kin or close relatives, so their entire estate went into foundations and on to charities. The board of the Beresford co-op, however, want the apartment sold. It is very unusual for an estate with no heirs but charities to be held off the market for more than six months. It is very unclear why Hearst and Ms. Burton have not sold the property and added the proceeds to the Browns’ foundation. William Zabel, probably the most important and influential lawyer in New York in the matter of rich estates, was quoted in Rosman’s piece saying “This is a strange, strange story. There is no good reason for keeping an apartment more than six months.” For me it was firstly the reminder that as long as I knew the Browns, I was never in their apartment, nor were many of their close friends. Although they were very social they rarely entertained. If they did indeed have people over, it was seldom, and I never knew of it. It didn’t strike me as odd, however, as they, being a working couple, tended to either prefer a quiet dinner at home, or be out with friends.  " (NYSD)         

Friday, August 14, 2015

Media-Whore D'Oeuvres

"This isn’t about whether Hillary Clinton wins the Democratic nomination, which is likely. It isn’t even about whether she becomes our next president, which she has a better chance of doing than anyone else. It’s about basic respect — for us and for the truth. Why, when she took office as secretary of state, did she decide to route official e-mails through a server in her suburban New York mansion? There is just one plausible explanation: She wanted control. Clinton was no stranger to the rules of the federal government. She had to know that if she used a State Department account, her 60,000-plus e-mails would become part of the official record. She certainly knew, without any doubt, that her political opponents would delight in rummaging through her communications. Let’s be honest: Hillary and Bill Clinton do have enemies, lots of them, who show no compunction about launching unfair and vicious attacks. She must have wanted to make sure they never got the chance. But all of that is beside the point. If you accept the job of secretary of state, you inevitably surrender some of your privacy. Any public official’s work-related e-mails are the modern equivalent of the letters, memos and diaries that fill the National Archives. They tell our nation’s history and belong to all of us. Even if your name is Clinton, you have no right to unilaterally decide what is included and what is not." (Eugene Robinson)

Brooke Shields with Harrison.Brooke with Squeaky.

"This past Saturday night out in Wainscott in the Hamptons, ARF was hosting its annual Bow Wow and Meow Gala with more than 400 attending. That’s a good number for any fundraiser anywhere including Manhattan. That’s real support. And they raised more than $700,000. In fact it was their most successful event in the 41 years of the organization. They honored Peter Marino, the tycoon of architect/interior designers. In. The. World. If you don’t know who he is, you know his buildings and have probably been in them many times. His designs are of-the-moment contemporary. His costume, which he adapted publicly several years ago, and wears where e’er he goes, is the of-the-moment contemporary for him.He’s a very friendly fellow, in a neighborly way, a major culture aficionado with his wife Jane. They have long been famous for their concert/dinners in their East 57th Street aerie over near Sutton Place. To demonstrate his gratitude for the honor, he adopted two kitties from ARF, Spider and Ferret. He has also underwritten dog runs at the shelter. It was a beautiful summer night out there. Peter Duchin provided the music for the background and the dance. Brooke Shields was emcee, and told the crowd that she hurt her foot giving a treat to her adopted pup. The glam and summery décor was provided by those impresarios of taste and celebration, David Monn and Alex Papachristidis. All of this under a big open tent on the grounds of ARF." (NYSD)

Mark Wilson/Getty Images

"Much has been made of Barack Obama’s 'fourth quarter,' during which the president’s administration has ticked off a string of accomplishments that range from negotiating a nuclear deal with Iran and normalizing relations with Cuba to unveiling sweeping executive orders on immigration and commuting dozens of prison sentences for non-violent offenders. And now, signs are emerging Obama doesn’t see January 20, 2017—the end point of his presidency—as any reason to hit the brakes. Obama has been judiciously planning his life after the White House, which political insiders believe will come together around a foundation—one that could mushroom to an endowment of $1 billion." (VanityFair)

Across the Isles

"I am on a 125-foot schooner, the Aello, built in Hamburg, Germany, in 1921 by Max Oertz and commissioned by Anthony Benakis, a great Greek benefactor. She has been totally and perfectly refitted by her present proprietor, a Greek shipowner, and I have chartered her for a fortnight’s cruise with my son and grandchildren. The crew is splendid, all six Greek, who love to sail even under these stormlike conditions. Our one and only mistake was to come to this shit island, now overrun by nouveaux riches 'cool' people, which means vulgarity like never before rules the roost ...  As I write, I’m heading back there once my daughter and her hubby arrive to this modern Sodom. What makes this trip fun is the crew and its willingness to put up the sails and travel. I have many friends who have houses in Mykonos, but they use them like Fort Zinderneuf. They venture out only when absolutely necessary. Once upon a time this was a magical island, with unblemished beaches, very clear water, and very few visitors as Mykonos is 90 miles from Athens with an open sea in between. Then Jackie Kennedy Onassis visited the place and bought some local trinkets." (Taki)

"On the avenue. I took this picture  of the very young couple resting by the litter barrel this past Wednesday afternoon about three o’clock on the of the southeast corner of Madison Avenue and East 57th Street.They didn’t look the part – homeless, penniless, down and out. In other parts of the city, the homeless begin to look the part. But this 'look' is now often the case of people you see panhandling on the streets, especially in midtown near Fifth Avenue and 57th Street, which is just about the highest rent for retail and commercial businesses. Your imagination fills in the story. A bag of potato chips, a couple cans of soda, vitamins (?!), and heavy fatigue having set in. If I wanted to leave them a 'gift,' there was no place to put it without waking them up. They forgot why they were there. Many will conclude this is a matter of drugs. Maybe but I’m not so sure. Even if there has been drug taking, what led to this? That is the crucial question. Whatever it was, it happened not very long ago, from the looks of them. Maybe that morning. They were both cleanly dressed and clean. Those very young fragile feet had never seen much walking. Were they runaways? From what? The day. Last Thursday was one of those. I took this picture of the Crown Building at 1 PM, right after I got out of my cab at 57th Street and Fifth Avenue. This is on the northeast corner. For many years it was the jewel in the crown for I. Miller shoes. I took the photo because in the midday Sun the gold on the building was glistening. I couldn’t get it with my camera. Ferdinand and Immelda Marcos once secretly owned the Crown. It was bought in 1991 by Elliot Spitzer’s father for $93 million. The Spitzer family sold it last December for $1.75 billion. Bulgari occupies the ground floor." (NYSD)

"The tradition the Grand Bal came into being several centuries ago as a political device and demonstration of power to a society's elite, and to one's adversaries and neighbors.

They were very often masked balls, giving guests — and hosts — the opportunity to expand their horizons of interest and make new acquaintances discreetly. They were what they remain today, although quite differently, the opportunity to bring people together and to entertain. From the 17th century, Louis XIV set the tone with his grand bals at Versailles. Three centuries later, Elsa Maxwell set the tone for New York with the April in Paris Ball (in the 1950s) at the Waldorf-Astoria. The following is a brief compilation of some of those grand bals which I wrote for the August issue of Quest magazine's annual '400' issue. To most Americans, a Bal, a grand ball is a special formal occasion, a dance where men dress in black tie, and women in gowns. Very often it’s a fund-raising effort for a charity. To children, the ball is where Cinderella met the Prince. She meets the prince, then she has to disappear (otherwise she’ll turn into a pumpkin) and the prince, already madly in love with her, doesn’t know her name. It was other worldly, make believe. The tradition of the Grand Bal, however, reaches back centuries to the days when monarchs ruled the world. It was an occasion to demonstrate Power. A king would give a ball to demonstrate his political power, and because he was king, he had deep pockets for for entertaining his guests. Louis XIV is a perfect example. With his personal monument to himself, the palace of Versailles, he had complete control of his “people,” beginning with the nobles. His entertainments served to focus on that reality and to make its site available to confirm it in the minds of others. The intent was also to send messages. His lavish luxury also sent a message to the foreigners, diplomats, businessmen and aristocracy: all powerful. He had the power to amaze." (NYSD

The Virtue of Hostility

"I met Donald Trump during the late ’90s, at a grand party thrown by Lord Black for his wife’s 60th birthday. It was in New York, Conrad Black was at the height of his power as a press lord, and his wife Barbara ditto, writing beautiful conservative stuff for major British and Canadian papers. I was seated next to Melania Trump, The Donald’s third and present wife, and we hit it off extremely well. Our bête noir was that grotesque excuse for a secretary of state, Madeleine Albright. Melania is from the ex-Yugoslavia, and well aware that establishing a Muslim zone in the middle of the Balkans, as the Clinton administration had done, was a disaster in the making. So the two of us blasted away until a certain Richard Burt—former Times man and, I believe, ambassador to Germany—cut in on our conversation rather rudely. Although I pride myself on old-fashioned manners, this was not the time to exhibit them. I told Burt that one more word out of him and he would be sucking on his gums for the next month or so. End of discussion." (Taki)

"I love Belgrade from all angles, even the air. Flying in one banks over a certain house that is distinctly visible, down to its details, and that’s because it’s not strictly a house, more of a Palace, the dimensions of which closely resemble a New York City block. From the air it is marvelous and from the ground it is also pretty swell. Beauty on a grand scale just proves that more is better.
Since I’ve been in Belgrade I’ve rented all over town. I’ve seen the city from the suburbs to the center of the universe. The center of the universe being a bar called Tezga. This would be the equivalent of ‘Cheers’ to some, or the Green Parrot to others. While there are no live bands there are live humans who are reliably intriguing and I’ve had the pleasure of filling my Serbian cellphone with numbers of cool, hot, smart, funny types. All of them introduced to me by my pal Igor (Igor Stojanović whose grandfather was the personal bodyguard of my mother HRH Princess Jelisaveta Karađorđević back in the day!). Igor knows everyone and spends so much time at Tezga I’m surprised they don’t charge him rent. Speaking of rent, it is Igor who arranges for my rentals. A side businesses in between hooking up with hotties and frolicking with them on the beaches of Montenegro in summer and skiing the slopes of Kopaonik in winter." (Christina Oxenberg)

Monday, August 10, 2015

Olivia Maxwell, Lyme Disease Activist

Musician/socialite/actress/songwriter Olivia Maxwell has lived an intense life. After being disgnosed with Lyme disease, she became an activist. "There is a, a reason I stopped playing music. It's because my energy levels and my brain do not work the way they once did," emails Maxwell. "It stopped my music career back in 2007...dead I it's tracks. Last decent song I wrote was in 2009."

After going into remission, Maxwell developed a new tick sickness. "So, I became pretty fed up. So fed up that I had a idea to start a march — a huge march in D.C. with at least a million people, one day next May," she wrote. Their Facebook page already has over 1,000 likes. Check it out and support the cause -- and the march -- here.

Media-Whore D'euvres

Jesse Kornbluth at Author’s Night. Click to order “Married Sex; A Love Story."

"On Saturday out in East Hampton at the Library they were holding their annual Author’s Night – a night of booksignings. This is an annual event, and East Enders have the distinct advantage of having lots of artists and writers in the general neighborhood. So it is a community event. My friend Jesse Kornbluth was there signing his new novel 'Married Sex; A Love Story' (Open Road Integrated Media, publishers). Jesse is a friend of mine; a good friend, I should add, with whom I have had many hours of pleasure of the verbal kind – phone, email and across the table. He is an exceptionally bright person, a very hard working writer, a fulltime observer of the passing parade and now the adoring father of an only child whose welfare and benefit are his chief objectives at this time in his life. Many readers know him through his website Longtime New Yorkers know him for his perspicacious profiles and interviews in New York Magazine’s golden era, as well as Vanity Fair. I have not read his book yet but he did do an interview, a self-interview as it happens, written especially for “reviewers/ editors. Under the circumstances I would tend to interview him myself, except knowing him, and having looked at this self-interview, I realize I couldn’t have done it better.  Here is the first Q & A, for your edification: Q.“A novel about a threesome. Told in the first-person by the husband. Written by a married male writer. The question is obvious… A. Yes, I have been in a threesome, for several years, often for ten hours a day – in my head. Or, more plainly: “Married Sex” is fiction. The sex? I made it up, all of it. But if readers think this is a disguised memoir, I’ll be flattered. I like fiction that reads as if it’s truth. It delights me when friends read the book and say, “I can’t look you in the face.” More, I cannot tell you. The official pub-date is in a couple of weeks, but it’s available right now." (NYSD)

"Nestled under the Acropolis, snug and safe among the ancient ruins of a long-ago grandeur, Plaka remains the only protected area of Athens, with greedy developers as welcome as a certain Minnesota dentist at an Aspinall animal sanctuary. Not that many don’t try. I see signs on old and battered but beautifully classical houses asking for bids 'to develop.' No harm in trying, I guess. With the economy in the toilet—horrid word, but necessary—anything can happen, and Greek law has never been sacrosanct when the loot’s right." (Takimag)

Saturday, August 01, 2015

Media-Whore D'Oeuvres

A USAF B-1 bomber aircraft flies over the Syrian town of Kobani, as seen from the Mursitpinar crossing on the Turkish-Syrian border in Sanliurfa province, following an airstrike, November 8, 2014

"Turkey’s decision to cooperate with the United States against the Islamic State (IS) has come as a surprise. The Turkish government’s position was that Bashar al-Assad and his regime were the primary threat and also the cause behind the IS’s rise in Syria. Efforts had to be focused on getting rid of Assad. This had led to considerable friction between the two NATO allies, especially over growing allegations, vehemently denied by Ankara, about the flow of foreign fighters, if not also military equipment, to the IS via Turkey. What has provoked Turkey’s 'game-changer' decision? A number of reasons. First, the explosion caused by the IS in Suruç—the Turkish town right across the border from the Kurdish-Syrian town of Kobani, badly damaged by the IS last fall—which killed activists preparing to cross the border with assistance for Kobani, was a stark reminder of the growing IS threat to Turkish security. The rounding up of IS sympathizers had already begun before the explosion. But the carnage made the government’s position untenable in the eyes of a public uncomfortable with the IS presence on the Turkish border, as well as with rumors that Turkey was implicated in aiding the IS. Second, in June, the Kurds in northern Syria, led by the Democratic Union Party (PYD), and their allies defeated the IS at Tel Abyad, a border town. This enabled the PYD to connect two separate Kurdish enclaves. This precipitated fears in Turkey that the next step for the PYD, seen in Turkey as an extension of the separatist Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), would be to wrench control from the IS in the only non-Kurdish-controlled stretch along the Turkish border and merge it with another Kurdish enclave. This would have brought the whole Syria-Turkey border under Kurdish control at a time when the precarious ceasefire between Turkey and the PKK was crumbling. The ceasefire had been put in place in 2013 to support the 'Kurdish peace process.' The Turkish government considered the situation a major threat to national security, amid speculation that the United States was supporting the creation of a Kurdish state, stretching from northern Iraq to the Mediterranean. The only way to preempt this seemed to be to cooperate with the United States, clear this territory of the IS and hand it over to the non-extremist Syrian opposition. Third, the Turkish general elections last month left the governing Justice and Development Party (AKP) short of a majority. In blatant disregard of the constitution, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan had campaigned aggressively in support of the AKP. However, the electorate, in a strategic move, punished him by channeling enough votes to the Kurdish People’s Democratic Party (HDP), enabling it to cross the notoriously high electoral threshold of 10 percent. The deal with the United States has now given the caretaker government a chance to take on the PKK. The AKP—supposed to be negotiating a coalition—is now banking on Erdoğan to use this insecure climate to reveal the HDP’s “true face” as an extension of the PKK and win back votes in a fresh election to form a government on its own. The constitution requires the president to call an early or repeat election, if parliamentary parties fail to form a government within 45 days. Last, Turkey appears to have reached an understanding with the United States that a safe zone will be created from where the IS will be pushed out. This, Ankara hopes, will help strengthen the regular Syrian opposition and enable the return of some of the two million Syrian refugees in Turkey. Their presence is becoming a financial burden and increasing resentment among locals. The safe zone would also become an area to which future refugee flows could be directed." (Brookings)

"What does a journalistic church-state negotiation look like when the advertising side is not a valuable partner against whom editorial keeps some leverage (in the form of its control over audience) but an entity that is both vastly larger and owns both audience and the means of producing revenue? The new media is becoming a wire service in that it depends on partners for distribution and revenue; the new media is becoming a wire service in that its work solves particular problems in another business’s model. Print distribution created thousands of papers distinguished and limited by geography. Wire services gave these papers national and global coverage that they wouldn’t have otherwise been able to afford. They were also more powerful than a vast majority of their clients, for whom they solved a unique structural inefficiency. (It’s no coincidence that, for the brief time that Google News seemed inevitable and dominant, it was wire services that got direct distribution deals, in the form of AP Hosted Stories; newspapers became weird middlemen. Also, on a more comforting note, haha, remember Google News?)" (TheAwl)

This abaya is one of five that I wore during my month in the Kingdom, one of many gifts from my hosts. One of the first things you learn about the people of Saudi Arabia is that generosity is built into their DNA.

"As we took off on Saudi Arabian Airlines from New York's JFK International Airport, I settled in for a 13-hour flight. I ate the delicious Lamb Kapsa (lamb cooked with tomato sauce, spices and kapsa rice), informed the flight attendant that I was closing my eyes for a bit, and the next thing I knew ... we were landing in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Geologists believe that some 35 million years ago Arabia broke away from the continent of Africa. The split caused a trough, which today is the Red Sea. There is evidence that Arabia has been inhabited since the Stone Age. The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is bordered on one side by the Red Sea and on the other, the Arabian Gulf.I stepped off the plane into the surprisingly soft heat of Jeddah. There I was, a New Yorker who ordinarily moves around my Upper West Side neighborhood in Belgian loafers, leggings, and any old soft button-down shirt, setting my foot down on the fabled land that has held me spellbound since childhood. I felt more than comfortable in my abaya. It reminded me of my early school days with Catholic nuns. For me their flowing robes and covered heads represented modest elegance and dignity." (Paige Peterson/NYSD)

"We all agree that a world without manners would make this a pretty grim place to live in. Offensive informality is pretty much accepted nowadays, and manners are at times seen as a superficial activity. But good manners are as much a part of our culture as great books, great paintings, and great classical music. Occasionally, of course, one can carry good manners too far. My friend Timmy, a gent and a gem of a man, has exquisite manners, a couple of titled daughters, and a fondness for beer. He never fails to thank his host or hostess, and makes it a habit to do so in print. Not too long ago, perhaps five to ten years, he persuaded a friend of his, a speechwriter for the Tory party, to allow him to serve as a waiter at an orgy. Yes, I know, it sounds funny, but even Tories like sex and some of them even have orgies. Not to beleaguer the point, Timmy dressed up as a butler and was given a tray and allowed into the inner sanctum of a grand London house where the gig was on. The moment he walked in, however, he burst out laughing, dropped his tray, and was unceremoniously shown the door by a couple of naked men with drooping you-know-whats. When I heard about it, I asked Timmy what the hell was wrong with him. 'I simply couldn’t keep a straight face,' he said. 'Watching a naked man with a huge erection demanding to know the host’s name in order to thank him made me drop the tray.' 'So who was the host?' I asked. Timmy wouldn’t tell me, but I soon found out, in a national newspaper, of all places. He was a Tory speechwriter, and he organized heterosexual orgies on the side, but has since stopped the practice. I know the man well. They don’t come any smarter or nicer. Go figure, as they say.The thing that sticks in my mind are the impeccable manners of the man with the huge erection trying to locate his host in order to thank him." (Taki)_

From Boring to Baffling

"The Japanese company Nikkei has bought the Financial Times, and I wish them well of it. There can be few duller publications in the world, in whose pages, unless one is interested in share prices and the like, one seeks in vain for an item of interest, let alone illumination. I sometimes read it to help me get to sleep when it is handed out free on planes, and very occasionally I buy it and walk down the streets of my small town in England with it under my arm in order to give the misleading appearance to my fellow townsmen of mental and material substance. But, in fact, the FT is earnest rather than serious. The only frivolity it permits itself is its Saturday glossy supplement, How to Spend It (a title of quite outstanding vulgarity), which consists mainly of advising financiers on how to dispose of their surplus millions—that is to say their misappropriations of shareholders’ funds—on expensive trifles. Nikkei has not bought the FT’s sister publication, The Economist, which, however, is also for sale. When I was living in a very remote part of the world I used to read The Economist from cover to cover, though it arrived two months late (communications in those days were not yet instantaneous). It made me feel that I was well-informed, if only in retrospect, despite my isolation. It was my window on the world. Even then, though, I thought that it was dull and self-congratulatory, characterizing itself as of “the extreme centre.” I noticed that its reports at the front did not always coincide with the economic data at the back and that its prognostications were frequently belied by events—as, of course, most people’s prognostications are. Nevertheless, it managed to convey the impression that the disparities, insofar as they acknowledged them at all, were the fault of the events rather than of The Economist, and that the world had a duty to be as The Economist said it was and as it would be. The anonymity of the articles was intended to create the illusion that the magazine spoke from nothing so vulgar as a perspective, but rather from some Olympian height from which only the whole truth and nothing but the truth could be descried. It is the saving grace of every such magazine that no one remembers what he read in it the week before. Only by the amnesia of its readers can a magazine retain its reputation for perspicacity." (Theodore Dalyrimple)

Monday, July 27, 2015

How Vanity Fair Got the Caitlin Jenner Scoop

Media-Whore D'Oeuvres

The birthday boy takes the cake after the serenade by the guests.
"This past Saturday night, my birthday, I had dinner with several old friends at Swifty’s. JH and his wife Danielle were there, and he got a shot of the birthday boy being presented with Swifty’s famous vanilla cake which has an icing/frosting that is three inches thick and as light and sweet as cotton candy. The cake itself is really just there whole hold the icing. Irresistable. It was a great evening for a birthday party." (NYSD)


"The Financial Times is a rare media property: a global, long-established brand combined with a successful — although unfinished — digital transformation. Such uniqueness explains why Nikkei paid £844m ($1.3bn, €1.18m) for it. It takes less than ten people to assemble the famous pink printed edition of the Financial Times. The “carbon-based” team recycles the editorial produced all day long by the 600 people newsroom – with some deadlines adjusted to fit the newspaper’s closing.
The Financial Times has gone much further than many of its peers in the digital transformation. That fact paid a critical role in the stunning premium paid by the Nikkei. When discussions started, Springer came with a first bid around £600m ($930m, €848m.) The German media conglomerate later sweetened its offer to £750m ($1.16bn, €1.05bn) before being outbid by the Japanese group.
As Ken Doctor noted in his NiemanLab piece, based on the estimated operating income of the FT Group, Nikkei paid 'a 43x multiple, or a price 10 times what average US daily, large or small, would sell for today' (the actual ratio, though, is closer to 35x, but Ken Doctor removed the profit made by the Economist which is not part of the deal). Jennifer Saba in Breakingviews also notes that publicly traded European media companies trade at 12x EBITDA and that Nikkei shelled out roughly twice the amount paid by Jeff Bezos to acquire the Washington Post in 2013. While such ratios might be above the assumed price of news properties, they’re still way below the multiples observed for tech companies (in many instances, there is no ratio at all because there is no profit, sometimes not even revenue). Then let’s give a closer look at the two components of FT’s valuation: Its digital reach and the power of its brand." (Monday note)

China’s Elegant, Flawed, Grand Strategy
Image Credit: REUTERS/China Daily

"China is a country with more than a billion people, but as Ross Terrill observed, when we ask what China wants, we are really attempting to discern the goals of the nine 'male engineers' who make up the Standing Committee of the Politburo of the Chinese Communist Party. This clarification makes the answer straightforward: Like any bureaucracy or interest group the CCP wants to ensure its survival, which depends on maintaining legitimacy with the Chinese people. To meet this goal, the CCP under President Xi Jinping has articulated a strategy of peaceful development; however, increasing Chinese military capabilities and strategic coercion will cause other states to balance against China, making it harder for the CCP to protect its core interests and continue its economic and strategic rise. China’s Long-Term Goals The CCP considers foreign policy directly related to maintaining domestic stability and regime survival. Chinese Scholar Ye Zicheng expressed the nationalist sentiment: 'If China does not become a world power, the rejuvenation of the Chinese nation will be incomplete. Only when it becomes a world power can we say that the total rejuvenation of the Chinese nation has been achieved.' This has become widely accepted among both common and elite Chinese citizens. To maintain control of Chinese nationalism, and to channel it as a source of legitimacy for the regime, the CCP has established the two concepts of 'core interests' and a 'new type of great power relationship.' The 2011 Chinese White Paper 'China’s Peaceful Development,' lists the six core Chinese interests as 1) state sovereignty; 2) national security; 3) territorial integrity; 4) national reunification; 5) China’s political system established by the Constitution and overall social stability; 6) basic safeguards for ensuring sustainable economic and social development. The concept of core interests is how the CCP signals the issues it is willing to go to war over. In the past, Chinese spokespeople have referred to both contested South and East China Sea territorial claims as core interests, but officially at least, the CCP has maintained ambiguity about their status. Still, the CCP has been clear that it considers its territorial claims to be sovereign Chinese territory, so maintaining these claims would fall under the core interests listed in the 2011 White Paper. In addition, in contrast to the ambiguity of its maritime claims, the CCP has been clear that Taiwan is a core interest, and it is unwilling to rule out the use of force to reunify China. China’s pursuit of its core interests has the potential to trigger great power rivalry or conflict with the United States and other regional powers. This is why in 2010 then Chinese President Hu Jintao told U.S. President Barack Obama that 'China and the United States should respect each other’s core interests and major concerns. This is key to the healthy and stable development of bilateral ties.'" (TheDiplomat)


  "John Oliver has tackled the prison industrial complex from multiple sides — including bail and the elections of judges. On Sunday night, he went after mandatory minimum sentencing. Oliver noted during 'Last Week Tonight' that mandatory minimums helped explode the American prison population since the war on drugs that was started in the 1970s by President Nixon. Now one out of every 100 adults is in lock-up, which Oliver said, is unsustainable. 'We have 2 million people incarcerated. If we keep going this direction, we’ll soon have enough to populate a new country with prisoners. And trust me when I say this is not a good idea,' Oliver said while a map of Australia appeared next to him. 'Literally the only good thing to come out of that experiment was Hugh Jackman and it took 180 years. It was worth it, but it took a long time.' Mandatory minimums have torn families apart and ruined lives for small amounts of drugs, Oliver said. 'Circumstances make a huge difference,' Oliver said." (TalkingPointsMemo)

"I’m in Belgrade, Serbia for the summer. I will never give up on Key West, but I am glad to escape the heat. However, turns out it’s hot here too. Hot during the days of searing azure skies and hot at night. The days are easy as I slump beneath the a/c, usually in a comfortable deep sleep. The nights I fill with walks through the city, under curves of an orange moon, passing by late games of basketball where shirtless sweating men scatter about, and tiny kids mimic on the sidelines with mini basketballs. Speaking of sweating, not to gross you out, but it’s steamy here. On these evening walks I feel myself glueing to my clothes. A gathering of drips trickle from my nape down the furrow of my spine. Belgrade is an ancient city and it is fascinating to me. Obviously, I have my mother’s side of the family to thank for that. I am constantly running into fresh information on long dead relatives who did a variety of intriguing activities. Some deviant, some daring, all interesting, at least to me.
This old town is full of dusty stories and as I stroll I collect motes, my ankles are plied with soot. When I get home I am a clammy mess. Which makes me laugh because many nights in Key West, after dancing at the Green Parrot until closing time, it was the hot shower at the end that was often the best part of the night." (Christina Oxenberg)

"It’s been a big summer for European royals, what with Kate Middleton and Prince William welcoming baby Charlotte, Sweden’s Prince Carl Philip and Princess Sofia tying the knot, and Princess Caroline of Monaco’s son’s wedding this month. Meanwhile, Prince Alexander of Serbia celebrated his 70th birthday at his palace in Belgrade, hosted by Princess Katherine. Spies said guests included King Carl XVI Gustaf and Queen Silvia of Sweden, Prince Albert of Monaco and Spain’s Queen Sofía. There were also royals from Bulgaria, Romania, Montenegro, Jordan and Baden, plus Prince Pierre d’Arenberg, Prince Karim Aga Khan and (our favorite name) Princess Ira von Fürstenberg. During a toast, the birthday boy said, 'For someone who, by a twist of fate and history, was born in exile, who was declared an enemy of the state as a 2-year-old . . . the fact that I am celebrating my 70th birthday . . . in my homeland, in my home . . . is an emotional moment.'
Civilians there included Susan Gutfreund, Bill Sclight and Cheri Kaufman." (P6)

Another view from the same vantage point, looking to the north where the harbor opens up.

"On Thursday I went up to Martha’s Vineyard to visit an old friend, flying JetBlue to Edgartown. The weather up there was perfect; didn’t feel any humidity, and by sunset it was just a sweater side of getting chilly. I get out of town so infrequently, and especially to real countryside environments, that I was surprised at the silence of the night out where Mother Nature continues to call the shots on comfort for us humans and the rest of the animal kingdom.This was my first trip to Martha’s Vineyard since I was a kid just out of college and had a girlfriend whose family summered in West Chop. In those days, we’d take the ferry from Woods Hole on the Cape, across to Vineyard Haven. It was about a forty minute ride across to the island. Now, being a long time New Yorker, Woods Hole is, of course, a five or more hour drive from Manhattan. The trip from JFK, once aloft, is about 35 minutes. I’m not an enthusiastic traveler at this time in my life and as readers know I prefer the quiet of Manhattan on weekends, especially in the summertime in my neighborhood where many people leave the city: it is quiet. Yes! However, I made this trip so as to take the opportunity to see someone I cared for and whom I hadn’t seen in many many years. It is an unusual opportunity in life to re-connect with another whom you last saw a lifetime ago." (NYSD)

New York Magazine Cover: The Bill Cosby Accusers

New York Magazine's photo.

Tuesday, July 07, 2015

Media-Whore D'Oeuvres

Numerologist Dezia Restivo.

"I met Dezia Restivo back in the late 70s just before I was making a major move in my life out to Los Angeles. I was told that she read the tarot and did numerology as well. If it should sound like I have knowledge of such: I didn't and I don't. Some friends of mine had given me a "reading" by Dezia as a going-away present. I went to her apartment on the appointed day with no expectations. Dezia is a diminutive lady with a jolly personality and an easy charm. We sat down immediately face to face across a small table, and she shuffled a deck of cards, spread them out in a row face down and told me to pick out five and hand them over to her. Which I did. Then she began talking to me about myself in a very casual way. She did know I was making this major move out West. She began with comments about my likes and dislikes, as if she knew me. Then she said: 'You're going to meet a royal lady who wears rose-colored glasses and has houses on three oceans ...' Perfect: 'You're going to meet ...' in this strange land I was headed to. Frankly, I can't remember much more of that reading, although she taped it so I could listen again later (I never did). I remembered the bit about the lady with rose-colored glasses and houses on three oceans because it sounded like a scene from a novel. I don't recall her telling me much more about it except to comment that 'she'll be very good for you.'Soon after I moved to Los Angeles and began a new life-changing adventure. I forgot about Dezia's reading entirely until one night several months later, I was invited to a cocktail party in Beverly Hills at the home of a woman named Lady Sarah Churchill." (NYSD)

Big Fat Greek Weddings

"Tempus sure fugit, and how. Twenty years ago today, Thursday, July 2, 1995, monarchs from around the world descended on London for the wedding of Greek Crown Prince Pavlos to Marie-Chantal, daughter of the duty-free magnate Bob Miller. I remember it well, especially the hangover. Never have I seen so many royals under one roof. The Greeks had treated King Constantine, father of the groom, very badly, managing to convince the press, and in turn the people, that the first man to resist the military takeover and stage a countercoup against the colonels was in fact one of them. Leave it to the Hellenes to say black is white and vice versa. I’ll come back to the Greeks a bit later, but first the royal wedding. Both Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip attended the wedding ceremony and all the bashes, as did Prince Charles. At one point the heir to the British throne sent Selina Scott to my table to fetch me. He asked me a direct question and I answered him and he wasn’t too pleased. Something to do with race and three men who had tried to mug me in Cadogan Square. It was not an auspicious beginning. That evening, I spotted a tall lady with an ample bosom and asked my neighbor, Prince Michael of Greece, if I should take her for a whirl. Go for it, was his advice. Once the lady stood up, I realized it was going to be tricky. The Queen of Denmark towered over me, so I tried to bury my face in her poitrine, but she expertly pushed me away. Worse was the reaction of the mother of my children. She and a bunch of wise guys were pointing at me and laughing. I have felt more embarrassed in my life, but right now I can’t think of when. Nevertheless it was a great party and I was the last to leave. I gave Selina Scott a ride back to Cadogan Square and asked her in for a drink. It was past 5 a.m. and the sun was coming up. 'I’d love to,' said Selina, but then pointed at somebody next to her. The wife. I was up front with the driver. Second faux pas of the night. But Selina and I are still friends, which shows women do have a good sense of humor." (Taki)

By Ethan Miller/Getty Images.

"On  Monday, the Associated Press obtained 2005 court documents that Bill Cosby’s lawyers had attempted to keep sealed. The records chronicle a deposition in the sexual assault case filed by Andrea Constand, the first woman to take legal action against the comedian and former family-sitcom star. As previously reported, the documents show that Cosby admitted to giving women drugs before having sex with them. But after reading through the 66 pages of legal documents—now available online—we've found other clues to the disturbing Cosby puzzle. Cosby testified that he obtained seven prescriptions for quaaludes. If there is one surprise in this dense deposition dialogue—during which the plaintiff’s lawyer alleged Cosby’s lawyer 'openly coached the witness,' 'interrupted the questioning with long-winded and repetitive speaking objections,' and 'ultimately improperly terminated the deposition'—it’s that quaaludes were mentioned a lot. In fact there is a whole section devoted to the sedative in the paperwork entitled “Questions related to Quaaludes.'" (VF)

Friday, June 26, 2015

Media-Whore D'Oeuvres

Absinthe Minded

"Last Wednesday, June 24, Pugs held a luncheon in honor of our first member to depart for the Elysian Fields, or that large CinemaScope screen up above, Sir Christopher Lee, age 93. Pugs club is now back to 19 members, the ceiling being 21. Our president for life, Nick Scott—I actually was the first chief but was overthrown in a bloodless as well as voteless coup by Nick—gave a wonderful address while breaking yet another custom, this one about having ladies present. Our guest of honor was Lady Lee, Christopher’s widow. Now, there’s nothing more that a poor little Greek boy can add to Sir Christopher’s obituaries, which were numerous, glowing, detailed, and well deserved. Except to say that he personified that smoldering restraint of a long-ago England, with his perfect manners and diction, and his ability to be interested in what other people had to say. The big ME was unknown to him. Christopher loved the members of Pugs, all 20 of us, and was equally loved in return. At last year’s annual lunch on an outdoor terrace of a Chelsea restaurant, he was recognized as he got up to leave and was given a standing ovation by the luncheon crowd. Here’s what fellow Pug and knight Sir Bob Geldof had to say about him: 'Christopher, what a bloke. What a Pug. Lives don’t come more lived than that.' What struck me was the fact that Christopher wore his Pugs club tie for his investiture by the Queen in 2009, and was outspoken about the increasing depravity of film. If ever there was a palimpsest of present and past, it was Sir Christopher." (Taki)

We Tried to Interview This Rich Guy About His Rich People Book

"This month, New York advertising man and chronicler of the wealthy set Richard Kirshenbaum (pictured) published a new book, 'Isn’t That Rich? Life Among the 1%.' We tried to interview him about it. It did not work out.
Kirshenbaum’s book first came to my attention in early June with the appearance of a goading New York Post story [headline: 'You should thank the one percent, you ingrate'] based on the book, which extolled the many benefits of trickle-down economics, concluding that 'NYC would still be a dump' without its ample and growing supply of zillionaires.
'This sounds like a provocative defender of the rich who would make for an interesting and contentious interview subject,' I thought to myself. On June 10, I emailed Kirshenbaum’s publisher about setting up a Q&A. I heard back immediately from his publicist, who was enthusiastic about the idea. I asked for a review copy of the book, and she agreed to send one over. On June 18, the publicist emailed me again asking about the interview. I told her I’d never gotten the book. She agreed to send another one. Still very enthusiastic! That same day, coincidentally, my copy of the book arrived. On June 24, the publicist emailed me again. 'Just checking in to see if you had a chance to crack open the book,' she wrote. 'I’d love to get your questions over to Richard ASAP. He is leaving for vacation soon and I want to make sure I get to him beforehand.' As it happened, I was just finishing up my speed-read of the book. We’d agreed on an email Q&A, so I sent her the following five questions to pass on to Kirshenbaum (bold added later, for reasons the astute reader will see in a moment!)" (Hamilton Nolan)

Both paperback and hardcover are now for sale on Amazon for $74. Click to order.

"I rarely read two books at once but I broke that habit briefly on Saturday when looking for a reference book, I happened upon a big paperback copy of “Chips; The Diaries of Sir Henry Channon,” published in 1996.  I’d read it when I bought it back then, not knowing anything about the man but having perused the names in the index, many of which were the leading characters in British society and politics and literature mid-20th century. Although I’d read most of it I found myself re-reading it with a different eye, as if it were new. What’s new?  The world we live in today, compared to only twenty years ago, is radically different from the world of the diarist sixty and seventy years ago. Channon, or Chips as everyone knew him, was an American, born in 1897, who grew up in Chicago, son of an heir to a Great Lakes shipping company. His parents started taking him to Europe when he was a child. By his late teens he was an expatriate, and would remain so. In London where he married Lady Honor Guinness, he became a member of House of Commons and led the life of a social gadfly extraordinaire, who had connections to many doors. His attitude is so British that there’s no reason to think he didn’t seem entirely British, including the accent – although I don’t know about that detail. He was a gregarious fellow who loved  society (better yet, royalty) and knowing all the right people. And in his case it was at the end time of the British Empire, and the 'right people' were the names that are now of history. He had a great eye for detail and an intelligence to write about it visually. " (NYSD)

DPC with Barbara Tober.

"The city seemed quieter – maybe because of the heat, where there were fewer people on the street because of the high temperatures. I went down to Michael’s to have lunch with my friend Barbara Tober. This was a lunch talking about the books we’re reading, the places and events we’ve been to lately, and theatre. Barbara and her husband Donald who really make an effort to get around the city, have been seeing a lot of Broadway shows. Actually, it seems like they’ve just about everything that’s playing right now. It is a phenomenon that there are so many great shows on right now. Most recently they saw 'It Shoulda Been You.' What was it like? Well, there were moments when they were sitting there thinking: “what is this, nothing’s happening. And then suddenly they’d find themselves laughing so hard tears were streaming down their faces. Needless to say, they loved it. Barbara and Donald Tober are two very active philanthropists in New York. When I say 'active' I mean they are involved in several major charities in which they are not only principals in terms of financial contributions but also players in terms of hands-on participation. Donald, for example, was in on the founding of CityMeals-on-Wheels with James Beard and Gael Greene. Donald was the guy who had the corporate connections that could contribute to this fantastic organization that delivers tens of thousands of meals annually to the elderly, to the ill and infirm and people in need. It’s a perfect charity to describe their personalities: helping  in the quality of life of their fellow citizens in the community." (NYSD)

Monday, June 22, 2015

Media-Whore D'Oeuvres

President Obama with Marc Maron.
Courtesy of the White House.

"Say President Obama was making his way in a motorcade over to your house for an hour-long interview in your garage. How would you prepare? For Marc Maron, the comedian and host of the popular interview podcast WTF with Marc Maron, getting ready for Obama involved cereal and a guitar. On Friday morning, hours before the unprecedented POTUS podcast, crowds had already begun lining the streets surrounding Maron’s Highland Park, California, home with handmade posters. Secret Service had essentially annexed Maron’s property to ensure Obama’s safety, positioning snipers on a nearby roof, and a tent over his driveway. (The bomb-sniffing dogs had already swept the house in the days prior.) As the clock ticked closer to conversation time, Maron did his best to tune out the exterior chaos. 'I kind of hunkered down in my house with notes and coffee and my bowl of cereal and tried to find my own space,' Maron told us by phone on Friday afternoon. '[I was] kind of making sure I had as focused of a one-on-one experience with him as possible. . . . And I stayed kind of detached. I wasnÆt answering e-mails or texts or anything. I just wanted to stay focused to sort of be present with the president.' As WTF listeners know, the comedian also enjoys 'noodling' on his guitars, occasionally playing snippets of his jam sessions during podcasts. And in the moments before Maron’s presidential summit, jamming was also integral to finding his zen. 'I was playing my Gibson 335, not plugged in, but was playing it intensely and furiously.'" (VanityFair)

Sunday Story ~ Indian Rose

"She awoke feeling woozy and blamed it on the scary nightmare. She often had nightmares, everywhere she lived, and she had lived most everywhere. People called her impulsive. She thought of herself as a wanderer. She sat up and shook out her long hair. She wrapped her body in an orange sarong and brewed coffee. Suddenly she couldn't remember anything. Where was she, she wondered? She hoped it was somewhere exotic. Unseen he watched her. He’d been waiting for her. Hers was a life of impetuous traveling which meant relentless packing and unpacking. How many times had she done this she couldn't even count. Coffee mug in one hand, box cutter in the other she sliced straight lines down the binding tape. Debussy filled the background. He was a patient man, if he was a man at all. She didn’t feel it when she cut herself, but she saw the smudges on the cardboard; ochre orange fingerprints, ‘Pretty!’ she thought, and then she noticed the scrawled address on the side of the box. Jaipur. It wasn't a dream, she almost laughed out loud from relief. All day she retrieved belongings, slipping clothing onto hangers and into closets. Closets that smelled of disuse. Her fingertips hurt from the many tiny cuts." (Christina Oxenberg)

Yanna on stage at 54 Below.

"Last Thursday night I went over to 54 Below on West 54th between 7th and 8th, where Yanna Avis was performing her program of cabaret. Yanna, who is French, was married for a long time to Warren Avis, the rent-a-car tycoon. I can’t remember if we first met in Los Angeles or here in New York, but we have a lot of mutual good friends and have known each other a long time.Yanna had been an actress before she married Warren, but she put that away to have time to spend with her husband. Warren died at the ripe old age of 92 eight years ago this last April. It was about that time that Yanna began to focus once again on her love of performing. I call her The Chantouze. I’d never been to 54 Below before. Because of that, and because I’d never been in the cellar of Studio 54 in the old days (where all the wild druggy stuff allegedly happened), so I had only an idea of what it looked like. A cellar below a nightclub? Dark, grubby, damp, dank? I doubt it looked like it looks now: it’s a beautiful room for cabaret. I don’t know what you’d call the interior design style but it’s perfect for a first class cabaret. And there’s not a bad seat in the house, plus there’s enough space that you’re not packed in, and with a stage adequate enough to hold four or five musicians, a piano and the performer. The service is excellent, quick and attentive." (NYSD)