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Thursday, April 09, 2015

Media-Whore D'Oeuvres







Walter Chrysler on the cover of Time, April 20, 1925.



"In any spare moment, I’m still reading Donald Miller’sSupreme City; How Jazz Age Manhattan Gave Birth to Modern America” (Simon & Schuster) as I’ve reported here before. It’s one of those books where every time I close it, I can’t stop thinking about the characters.Yesterday I read about Walter P. Chrysler and the building of the Chrysler building. This was the end of the 1920s. They were beginning to build skyscrapers. Fred French, Frederick Brown, Irwin Chanin, Emory Roth, Benjamin Winter. Every new building had to be taller than the one before. (So you see, our current obsession with height is nothing new.) The story is a tale of the tycoon and his architect. Move over Ayn Rand. Chrysler put up the money himself, and followed the building from conception to design to construction to occupancy. When the Chrysler building was completed, it was the tallest building in the world. (Until the following year when the Empire State Building went up.) From his office, he could look down on the General Motors Building!" (NYSD)



Dinesh D’Souza on the beach near his home, in La Jolla, California, in March. Photograph by Patrick Ecclesine.
Photograph by Patrick Ecclesine.


"It was seven P.M., and Dinesh D’Souza—political pundit, writer, documentary-film maker, and onetime wunderkind of the intellectual elite—was dining in his new haunt: the Subway sandwich shop in National City, San Diego, a downtrodden Latino neighborhood about 20 miles from the Mexican border. He ordered his usual: six-inch whole-wheat sub with tuna salad and provolone. The girl making it was one step ahead of him. 'He’s one of my randoms,' she said affectionately. Indeed, in his glasses, striped sweater over a polo shirt, and clean sneakers, D’Souza looked as if he were heading for a start-up rollout event instead of a community confinement center a few minutes away, where he is serving an eight-month sentence during nighttime hours. The rest of his evening would look something like this: He would check in to the confinement center at 7:57 P.M., three minutes before his 8 P.M. curfew. Certain that the Obama administration is waiting for him to slip up, he wouldn’t risk being late, which is why he eats near the facility and not at his home, 20 miles away in La Jolla, where he is free to spend the day (though he may not leave the confines of San Diego County). Upon entering the center’s fluorescent-lit, low-ceilinged building, situated across from a pungent recycling dump, he would be given a Breathalyzer test and patted down. He would join about 90 other residents, mostly Latino. After using one of the stalls of his communal bathroom, he would enter the open-plan sleeping quarters and climb onto a top bunk, above a 400-pound guy who, 'when he moves, the whole bunk bed shakes.' He would do his best to focus on his book and to block out the conversation. 'I’ll be on my bed. I’ll hear four guys discussing the tits on the woman at Los Tacos. It will go on and on and on. I’m just powerless to move.'" (VanityFair)










"Sudan’s presidential and parliamentary elections take place as opposition figures rot in jail and the government’s campaign of ‘ethnic cleansing’ makes it dangerous, if not impossible, for millions to vote. Newspapers are routinely confiscated and peaceful protest is crushed with unhesitating brutality. Respectable international election-monitoring organisations are unlikely to be present, because few conditions for a credible election exist. Nevertheless, after the 13-15 April poll, the ruling National Congress Party (NCP) will claim to have a legitimate mandate. The result will be recognised by Sudan’s supporters within the Arab League and the African Union (AU) and by its business and military partners, such as Iran, China and Russia. Officials in the US, the UK and the EU will likely wait until afterwards to express any doubts about its validity, ostensibly because they do not wish to damage the unlikely possibility that there might be a meaningful national dialogue about the future of Sudan—their concerns will attract little attention. The international community supported Sudan’s 2010 election with generous financial contributions, voter-education programmes and expensive monitoring missions. It gave the ruling NCP the benefit of the doubt, ignoring the wider context of the poll. That context has been thoroughly documented over the years by groups like Freedom House, which awarded the Islamist regime the lowest ranking. Transparency International considers Sudan the third most corrupt nation, adding weight to doubts about the independence of its national election commission and polling officials. Amnesty International has catalogued the violent repression of peaceful protest and the routine arrest and torture of opposition politicians, activists and lawyers." (OpenDemocracy)






Douglas Kennedy meets with GOP consultant


"Douglas Kennedy branded his former brother-in-law, Gov. Andrew Cuomo, a “bully” in Michael Shnayerson’s March book 'The Contender' — adding Cuomo did not fit into the Kennedy clan when married to Kerry Kennedy. So spies’ eyebrows were raised this week when they saw Douglas at a Pleasantville diner in Westchester County deep 'in conversation' with GOP political strategist William F. B. O’Reilly. A nephew of conservative icon William F. Buckley Jr., as well as of former conservative New York Sen. James L. Buckley, O’Reilly’s a top consultant to Rob Astorino, the Republican candidate who took on Cuomo in 2014. O’Reilly was 'assiduously taking notes at the sit-down' with Kennedy, our spy said. Astorino’s expected to challenge Cuomo in a 2018 rematch, should Cuomo decide to seek a third term. Astorino won 41 percent of the vote in his loss to Cuomo." (P6)


JH and DPC. I can't recall exactly what I was talking about at the moment this photo was taken...




"Last Wednesday JH and I did a Q&A session at a 'breakfast' for members of the Women’s Committee of the Central Park Conservancy. JH did the Q’s and Yours Truly did the A’s. I’m always nervous about giving a 'speech' but I’ve found that if someone has the questions, Guess Who always has an answer? Usually the discussion is some aspect of social history in New York. The morning event was principally about the history of the Park. Jeff started the ball rolling by reading an excerpt from the Diaries of George Templeton Strong  written in 1859. Mr. Strong was a lawyer here in New York, a member of what was then regarded as 'Society'. Strong and another New Yorker (once mayor), Philip Hone are the two great diarists of 19th century New York. The entry Jeff read before the guests was about a carriage ride Strong took on June 11, 1859 from the center of the city – which was downtown, up to 71st and Fifth Avenue to see 'the Central Park' which was still in development ... Most impressive to me were not Strong’s details about what it looked like then, but his 'vision' of a place existing almost a century into the future, taking into consideration of generations to come. We no longer live in a world given to such long term vision for the good of the community. Although, it should be recognized that the founders et al of the Women’s Committee of the Central Park Conservancy, and the Conservancy itself are demonstrating that 'vision' of George Templeton Strong in their dedication and alacrity in keeping the Park beautifully cared for. One area of subject we did not cover at length but nevertheless remains interesting was the Central Park Casino. The Casino was built originally as the 'Ladies Refreshment Salon' in the 19th century -- a restaurant in the park. It was meant originally for ladies visiting the park, for ice-skating, for example, who were unaccompanied (unaccompanied women theretofore never dined out or took tea in a public place without a male escort until the 1890s when Caroline Astor, by then The Mrs. Astor, dined out with other women -- and no men -- at Sherry’s). That was ground breaking." (NYSD)


Landed Fortunes



"A recent development in America among the superrich, is the benign disinheritance, as practiced by Bill Gates, Warren Buffett and others of their ilk. All I can say is I sure hope so. Gates and Buffett are worth close to one hundred billion between them, both are rather nerdy and totally uninteresting, and have made disproportionate amounts of money compared to those who work for them. When they announce they will leave no money to their children it’s a bluff and a publicity stunt. Even one fiftieth of their fortune, will make their children billionaires, so who do they think they’re kidding? Nowadays the worst behaved kind are those spoiled children of modern celebrities, young people who were brought up by maids – not strict Prussian nannies like yours truly – the Paris Hilton type, you get my drift. The Hiltons were always hayseeds, Beverly Hillbillies, but unlike the fictional ones, with pretensions. Inheriting money can be great fun, but in fiction it always seems to involve bitterness and gloom. That’s because writers hate those of us who earned it the old fashioned way. Unearned wealth is corrupting, according to the scribes, but I remember well people like the Guests and the Cushings, and the Vanderbilts who had great wealth but even greater manners. Ditto in England, where the upper classes are known for their easy manners and charm. Add countries like France, Germany, Italy, Austria, Spain and Portugal and you see why in the good old days life was worth living. One lived among one’s equals and didn’t have to deal with the Kardashian types who seem to be all over the place today. An English friend I haven’t seen since our bachelor days, Roddy Campbell, recently wailed over the waste of £250,000 of school fees for his two daughters. Both of them have become leading models, so the old Etonian dad – tight as hell with his purse strings – now says their education was a waste of his money. I’m not so sure. The girls at least will have their education to fall back on when that old bore – time – forces them off the cakewalk. My son, who is a painter living and working in Paris, never worries about money and gave most of his to his ex-wife, whom he married and had two children with when he was 25. My daughter, on the other hand, worries about money, and earns a lot as an interior designer and editor of Takimag." (Taki)











Down with Modernism, up with Mozart

"End of season is always bittersweet, the melting snows a bit like autumn leaves, but the days are longer and soon spring will chase any remaining winter blues away. The Eagle Club’s closing is a perennial festive day, with speeches by our president Urs Hodler, an almost teary goodbye to our very own Pino – seating us and feeding us for 44 years – and the Taki Cup awards, the last two years won by my son J.T. in record time. 34 minutes to conquer the highest mountain of Gstaad. (Only five minutes slower was Charlotte Cotton, an amazing feat for a young woman.) It was a hell of a good season, plenty of snow, some fun parties, and my forthcoming move to the top of a mountain and away from the madding crowd. Actually the best I reserved for last, the two greatest operas by the greatest ever, shown in the arts channel and watched by me while downing some very good Haut Brion. I know it sounds impossible, but even a perfect opera like Don Giovanni improves with good red. As does the second greatest, Figaro. As Paul Johnson wrote in his Mozart book, 'it is difficult to produce Figaro badly, it is not, alas, impossible, and I believe the Don has been massacred even in Prague. The two versions I watched on the telly were as good as it gets. Teddy Tahu Rhodes is a terrific Don, the Kiwi baritone towering over his rivals, and when he prepares to run through Masetto, or Don Ottavio, it looks terribly uneven. And in the lighthearted Figaro, he amuses and delights. I grew up on Don Giovannis, Cesare Siepi, Franco Corelli, Ruggero Raimondi and so on. Teddy Tahu Rhodes is a heroic Don who doesn’t take himself too seriously. He’s certainly one of the best looking. When Mozart first presented Figaro, he was overwhelmed by the reaction. The emperor even banned excessive applause, so he could hit the sack early. Figaro is a happy opera but the version I saw was a bawdy one. Cherubino is always sticking his hand between Rosina’s legs, and the count strokes Susanna’s breasts at every opportunity. When Don Giovanni first appeared, following Figaro, in 1787, it was felt to be a tragedy, but Wolfie knew what he was doing. It’s an opera buffa that makes a moral point by sending the Don to hell at the end. I’ve always loved the scene, 'Repent, No, Repent, No, well then go to hell.' One should repent for one’s sins, but seduction is no sin, at least not in Mozart’s, Da Ponte’s, nor in my eyes. Favorite line by the Don, 'If you’re faithful to one, you’re cheating on the rest.'  Here’s Paul Johnson on these two great operas: 'Figaro is an essay on happiness and how it may be attained by forgiveness and reconciliation. Giovanni makes a moral point: that wicked behavior must be punished…..' Mozart was a good Catholic, so the Don had to go. Nevertheless I love the Don. Errol Flynn once played him in a lousy film, but the casting was perfect." (Taki)

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