Monday, February 09, 2015

Media-Whore D'Oeuvres


"Last year Richard Gingras and Sally Lehrman came up with the Trust Project (full text here, on Medium). Richard is a seasoned journalist and the head of News and Social at Google; Sally is a senior journalism scholar at the Markkula Center for Applied Ethics at Santa Clara University in California. Their starting point is readers’ eroding confidence in media. Year after year, every survey confirms the trend. A recent one, released ten days ago at the Davos Economic Forum by the global PR firm Edelman confirms the picture. For the first time, according to the 2014 version of Edelman’s Trust Barometer, public trust in search engines surpasses trust in media organizations (64% vs 62%). The gap is even wider for Millennials who trust search engines by 72% vs 62% for old medias. And when it comes to segmenting sources by type — general information, breaking, validation –, search leaves traditional media even further in the dust. No wonder why, during the terrorist attack in Paris three weeks ago, many publishers saw more than 50% of their traffic coming from Google. This was reflected on with a mixture of satisfaction (our stuff surfaces better in Google search and News) and concern (a growing part of news media traffic is now in the hands of huge US-based gatekeepers.)
Needless to say, this puts a lots of pressure on Google (much less so to Facebook that is not that much concerned with its growing role as a large news conduit.) Hence the implicit mission given to Richard Gingras and others to build on this notion of trust." (Monday Note)

"'Death with dignity' sounds dandy--so humanistic, so reposeful--but what about all of the indignities leading up to the last exhale? They're tough to escape, not only because of all the leaks and sags to which flesh is heir, but of the additional dilapidations so generously assisted by obesity, medication, and alcohol, and Michael Mewshaw barely spares us barely a single one of these glassy-eyed, falling-down senior moments in his memoir of Gore Vidal, Sympathy for the Devil: Four Decades of Friendship with Gore Vidal. The memoir may cover four decades but the portrait is dominated by the jagged decay of Vidal's final stage, his long decline when the once handsome profile had become splotchy and jowled and the once lucid wit turned addled and vinegary, with occasional silvery flashes of saber counter-thrust. I enjoyed an earlier memoir by Mewshaw--Do I Owe You Something?, where some of this Vidal material originally appeared--but this is a book we could have done without. Not because its anecdotes are untrue (there are other accounts of Vidal's mind and manners in dishabille), but because its cheapening effect in concert with its literary pieties feel corrosive after awhile--a grimy exercise in bad faith. No time spent in Vidal's company could fail to yield hilarious apercus and asides, and there some nifties here, such as Vidal's answer to the question What are the three saddest words in the English language? ('Joyce Carol Oates'), his memorializing of his rumble with Norman Mailer at Lally Weymouth's party as 'the night of tiny fists,' and the plaintive cry of actor, film dubber, and all-around fix-it man Mickey Knox,* 'You have any idea how hard it is to get Burt Lancaster blown every night of the week?' But the anecdotes get seamier and seamier, with Mewshaw passing along gossipy observations about the private parts of various celebrities (a prose snapshot of the once godly, disease-withered and ravaged Rudolf Nureyev swimming nude in the pool is especially awful), and the shambling spectacle of Vidal's decline becomes more and more sordid, the nadir reached when Vidal, having gotten too fat for his belts, has his pants fall down when one of his suspenders snaps, and his steadfast, exasperated partner, Howard Austen, mocked, almost one imagines like a vaudeville emcee, There he is, ladies and gents, the elegant, patrician Gore Vidal! 'Gore flopped back in his chair, pulled up his trousers, and resumed drinking.' Then there's the appalling rudeness Vidal showed to the fellow writers who lined up to pay him homage at the Key West Book Festival, among them Alison Lurie and Joy Williams. It is rather amusing when Vidal is introduced to the widow of William Gaddis and Vidal calls the author of The Recognitions a 'cheapskate' who once stuck him with a restaurant bill in Rome--it's like something out of Kingsley Amis, that." (James Wolcott)

Dominique Strauss-Kahn
Dominique Strauss-Kahn, former finance minister of France, center, and his lawyer Henri Leclerc, left, leave the Lille courthouse, northern France, on Feb. 2. Photographer: Denis Charlet/AFP/Getty Images

"Dominique Strauss-Kahn, on his first day of testimony at a French pimping trial, was put on the defensive as he had to respond to comments from a prostitute who said she was hired to have sex with him in a Paris hotel.  The woman, Mounia Rabou, who took the stand just before Strauss-Kahn, said that there was no mention of money or payment in front of Strauss-Kahn the night at the Hotel Murano in Paris in 2010. Rather she was only paid by another defendant, in a taxi afterward.
'It was pretty clear,' nonetheless that she and 'the other women there that evening were there for sexual relations,' she said at the court in the of Lille Tuesday. 'I was just there to prostitute myself.'
The former French finance minister has begun three days of testimony to try to prove his innocence and -- at least partially -- revive his battered reputation. He told the judge the frequency of the parties has been grossly exaggerated in the press. 'When one reads about this, one gets the impression that this was frenetic activities, the dates are so mixed up,' he said. 'It was four times a year for three years, nothing more.' DSK, as he’s known across France, resigned as chief of the International Monetary Fund in 2011 after he was arrested in New York, accused of sexually assaulting a hotel maid. Those U.S. charges were dropped later that year only for him to be charged with 'aggravated pimping' by French prosecutors investigating the so-called Carlton Affair -- named for the Lille hotel where some of the parties took place -- in 2012. Strauss-Kahn, who was running the IMF from Washington at the time of the Murano episode, said he would come to Paris every two or three months, sometimes for work, but also to visit his children." (BusinessWeek)

Talking to the star the night we met in November 1978, at a cocktail party in Beverly Hills

"Lizabeth Scott died on January 31st at Cedars-Sinai Hospital in Los Angeles. She was 92.  She and I had a “friendship” when I lived in Los Angeles. I use quotation marks around the word because it was a Hollywood friendship. Hermes Pan,  choreographer and Fred Astaire’s dance collaborator used to  refer to such relationships as 'I loved ya honey but the show closed.' He always laughed when he said it, and it did amuse him. It’s the nature of the business, of that business and the personalities who are drawn to it and can manage to progress and even triumph in it. It’s a microcosm of itself. Lizabeth was the first movie star I met when I moved to Los Angeles in 1978. By 'met' I mean: got to know; a friend. We were introduced by our mutual friend Luis Estevez. He had invited us both to join him one evening at a cocktail party in Beverly Hills at the home of a local restaurateur named Marilyn Lewis. It was a big party with a lot of Hollywood people. The picture of the two of us was taken that night. I don’t know how I ended up with it although I’ve had it for years. I was unaware of the camera, as you can see, because I was full of enthusiasm about this move I’d made from East to a new world in the West, and I was charmed by this famous face talking to me with that voice that I remembered from her movies. She kind of took me under her wing that night, introducing me to people at the party, telling me about them afterwards. She spent much of the evening with me at her side, so that we fell into conversation. She was a curious person: where are you from, why are you out here, what do you like to write ...? The questions were perfunctory but always related to the business, the industry. I was flattered by her attention because I knew no one, everything was new, and I was green. I was taken by what seemed like an extreme mid-Atlantic accent that movie stars in her youth were schooled-in." (NYSD)

"German Chancellor Angela Merkel, accompanied by French President Francois Hollande, met with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Feb. 6. Then she met with U.S. President Barack Obama on Feb. 9. The primary subject was Ukraine, but the first issue discussed at the news conference following the meeting with Obama was Greece. Greece and Ukraine are not linked in the American mind. They are linked in the German mind, because both are indicators of Germany's new role in the world and of Germany's discomfort with it. It is interesting to consider how far Germany has come in a rather short time. When Merkel took office in 2005, she became chancellor of a Germany that was at peace, in a European Union that was united. Germany had put its demands behind it, embedding itself in a Europe where it could be both prosperous and free of the geopolitical burdens that had led it into such dark places. If not the memory, then the fear of Germany had subsided in Europe. The Soviet Union was gone, and Russia was in the process of trying to recover from the worst consequences of that collapse. The primary issue in the European Union was what hurdles nations, clamoring to enter the union, would have to overcome in order to become members. Germany was in a rare position, given its history. It was in a place of comfort, safety and international collegiality.The world that Merkel faces today is startlingly different. The European Union is in a deep crisis. Many blame Germany for that crisis, arguing that its aggressive export policies and demands for austerity were self-serving and planted the seeds of the crisis. It is charged with having used the euro to serve its interests and with shaping EU policy to protect its own corporations. The vision of a benign Germany has evaporated in much of Europe, fairly or unfairly. In many places, old images of Germany have re-emerged, if not in the center of many countries then certainly on the growing margins. In a real if limited way, Germany has become the country that other Europeans fear. Few countries are clamoring for membership in the European Union, and current members have little appetite for expanding the bloc's boundaries. At the same time, the peace that Germany had craved is in jeopardy." (STRATFOR)

Beware of Brussels Bearing Gifts

"Athens was very quiet the night of Syriza’s victory. Most of my friends were appalled at the size of Tsipras’s win. I asked them, what did they expect after four years of austerity? A Samaras victory? A good friend expostulated, 'But Samaras is a cousin of mine …' As if that made it OK. They’re funny, the Greeks. The gang of Brussels inserts a Trojan Horse, Samaras, to do its bidding; the middle class disappears—6000 doctors go west—and my Greek friends are surprised when a Castro appears and wins big. The losing center-right and center-left made mistakes, big-time. The first was not to leave—or threaten to leave—the Euro when the crisis first broke. The Brussels gang were running very scared in 2010. No longer. Another was to turn all the power of government against Golden Dawn, a so-called neo-Nazi party, something Golden Dawn is not. Many of its members are languishing in jail on trumped-up charges now, something that will come back to haunt Greeks once Tsipras shows his real colors and begins to jail people for 'anti-Greek activities,' such as speaking out against his Marxist policies. Let’s not forget that it was Golden Dawn who made sure Muslim extremists did not spread their evil messages and activities around Athens and Salonica, the two largest cities. They beat the crap out of budding jihadists and criminals threatening the poor, something the long-suffering Brits and French should have done years ago. As I said, they’re funny, these modern Hellenes. Just last week as I was watching the Andrew Neil BBC program, he had a Greek comedian on the show, someone I had never heard of, but whose dress and manners reminded me of the modern Greece. All the comedian did was bitch against the Germans. He was apparently a man who never asked himself whether it was the Germans who forced the Greeks to borrow far more than they could afford and then fiddled the figures under the expert advice of Goldman Sachs. A man who never doubted the guilt of Angela Merkel where tax collection is concerned, a system that lost 20 billion euros per year in unpaid taxes. Who is certain it was Merkel’s fault that a Greek government came begging Germany for help once the game was up. Never mind. Introspection is not our strongest characteristic ... Here are Taki’s suggestions for the survival of the nation: Most important are structural reforms, not feel-good bullshit. Public sector unions are choking the nation’s economy, whereas the private sector is booming. Starting a business is almost impossible due to bureaucratic blackmails, while overregulation is stifling economic activity. Free the economy and stop protecting cartels, shrink the state, and in five years Greece will be the Switzerland of the south. And if Tsipras follows my advice I shall be having a sex change quicker than you can say “Syriza.” In the meantime, the Greek suppository is working." (Taki)

Barbara Cirkva Schumacher, Shirin von Wulffen, and Jamee Gregory.

"Although the beat goes on, this past Thursday at Restaurant Daniel (on 65th and Park) The Society of Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center held its annual Winter Lunch. Roger Vivier – Paris was the generous sponsor of the event and a clever reminder was the placement cards which were in the shape of a low-heeled woman’s shoe, as well as the napkins.The SMSKCC is one of the most prestigious charities in town because much is expected from their volunteers and much is delivered. They are dedicated to promoting  the well-being of patients, supporting cancer research, and providing public education on the early prevention, detection, and treatment of cancer.
The Winter Lunch is a fundraiser and this one was focusing on 'Harnessing the Immune System To Target Sarcomas.' MSKCC’s pioneering research has resulted in significant improvements in the prognosis for children and sarcomas, the tumors of which remain a leading cancer killer of children and young adults. Dr. Paul Meyers, Vice Chair, Academic Affairs, Department of Pediatrics at MKSCC, spoke to the guests about the matter, the progress they’ve made, and why it's important to keep the donations following this process at this moment. The funds raised from this lunch will accelerate the processes needed to launch and support the first clinical trial of a treatment with monoclonal antibody called 3R8 against osteosarcoma – one which promises to change the future for children and young adults afflicted with this difficult potential lethal disease. Chairs of the Winter Lunch were Gretchen Gunlocke Fenton, Jamee Gregory, Emilia Fanjul Pfeifler, Gillian Hearst Simonds, Amanda Taylor and Caryn Zucker." (NYSD)


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