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Monday, May 04, 2015

Media-Whore D'Oeuvres





365_MobileBig5


"In mid-2013, many were praising Circa. The app was kind of unique at the time (see this Monday Note about it); it was built on a clever news flow rearrangement, truncated for faster reading; quotes were pulled out, sources listed apart in a precise manner. Circa gave readers the ability to follow-up on a story, a convenient feature no one else offered then. The whole process was manually operated by a tiny newsroom whose job was (and still is) to repackage others’ information, creating about 30-40 pieces a day and updating 2-3 times as much… Over the last two years, Circa grew to about 20 people. The concept’s novelty attracted about $5.7m from angel investors. By the end of last year, Ken Doctor reported that Circa was seeking another $8m to support its development. And last week, Fortune’s Dan Primack revealed that Circa no longer sought capital but a buyer instead. (See also Joshua Benton’s piece on NielmanLab.) Unlike many, including prominent industry figures I talked to at the time, I won’t bash today what I praised two years ago. Rafat Ali, the founder of Skift (a great travel industry site), triggered a solid tweet storm deriding Circa’s enthusiastic reviews as yet another bout of media business navel gazing. While Rafat is right on the industry’s propensity to lionize apps and services hopelessly deprived of any business model, Circa was a tiny fish compared to billion-plus 'unicorns' that contribute to what many see as a content bubble (more in an upcoming Monday Note.) As an innovation in the mobile news consumption field, Circa was interesting to analyze — and worthy of support. Two years later, I see three factors contributing to Circa’s failure. What make these worth a close look is they could impact more companies." (MondayNote)





"Talk about how the mighty have fallen. Time magazine was for the better part of the 20th century the model for American newsweeklies. Its style of epigrammatic terseness and punchy prose became known as 'Timespeak,' its compact format an invention of its founder, Henry Luce. Luce was the son of a missionary and was born in China. He was devout, brainy, single - minded and convinced America was a miracle conceived by the Almighty. In a British boarding school in Shantung, Harry was mercilessly flogged for insisting he speak at times to God directly. He also became proficient in French, Latin, Greek, history and math. He then went to Hotchkiss and Yale. He was voted the most brilliant member of the class of 1920. Three years later he founded Time having raised $86,000 from Yale classmates. Six years later he was a multi-millionaire and had also founded Fortune and eventually Life. He married one of the most beautiful women of the time, Clare Boothe Brokaw – it was the second marriage for both –becoming the most powerful couple of the age. Clare was no shrinking violet. She had beauty and a ferocious intelligence and her dry wit had jealous rivals fleeing in droves. While editing Vanity Fair she wrote The Women, a Broadway hit that ran and ran and was made into a film. A real vamp, Clare had the best pair of legs around, wrote three successful plays, was a roving war correspondent, a screenwriter and grande dame of the Republican Party after serving in Congress and becoming an ambassador ... By the time I met her she was a very old lady, but still flirtatious and very outspoken. My father bought her apartment on 993 5th Avenue and gave it to my older brother. (He lost it to his first wife.) Playing gin with the Buckleys once, Clare said that she was getting tired of reading about the Holocaust. Bill Buckley’s TV producer, a nice man who ... didn’t flinch at all, but with a smile said to her, 'You’re right, Clare, but I’m getting sort of tired about this Crucifixion business.'  It was one of those very rare moments when Clare came out second best.
This, then, was the couple that made Time a great magazine and in a way also America a great country. Both Harry and Clare were registered Republicans, but both urged FDR, who frequently had them stay in the White House, to enter the European and Far East wars long before Pearl Harbor. FDR pulled out all the stops for Clare, but she saw right through that charming phony. Harry died in 1967, Clare in 1987. Time magazine has been ailing for some years now, and finally expired last week. Mind you, it still publishes, but it’s a living, rotting corpse whose flesh stinks of vulgarity, celebrity ass-wiping and opportunism." (Taki)





"In March of last year, President Pierre Nkurunziza narrowly lost a vote in parliament that would have abolished term limits and allowed him to run for a third term (another reminder that we should take African parliaments seriously). The period immediately after the vote offered an opportunity for the international community to rally around the Burundian elite to ensure that the norm of term limits stuck, sufficiently isolating Nkurunziza and his allies. In a country of Burundi’s size, how the international community engages with local issues matters a great deal for the domestic conduct of politics. If Burundi’s neighbors, the Unites States and others focus solely on the president and presidential elections, then that is where power will be concentrated. Diplomats might have better luck in promoting democracy by engaging core state institutions — such as legislatures — in a manner that reinforces the principle of horizontal accountability. Reuters is reporting that Burundi’s defense minister, Maj. Gen. Pontien Gaciyubwenge, has issued a statement that the army will not support a violation of the country’s constitution. Over the past couple of days, there have been reports of police clashing with military officers (with the latter protecting civilians). One military officer was reportedly killed by an intelligence officer — a clear signal that there is a rift within the country’s security forces. It is also important to note that a quota system in the military has served to limit the influence of the president over this institution, unlike the police. At the beginning of the year, political scientist and forecaster Jay Ulfelder ranked Burundi as having the 26th highest risk of experiencing a coup in 2015 among nations worldwide. Gaciyubwenge’s statement magnifies the risk.Among the five members of the East African Community (EAC), only Kenya and Tanzania have solidified the norm of term limits. Uganda’s Yoweri Museveni successfully did away with term limits in 2001. Paul Kagame of neighboring Rwanda also has been equivocal about term limits. Kagame is legally scheduled to leave office in 2017, but he says it is up to the people of Rwanda to decide his fate. This puts the EAC in an awkward position because a push for constitutionalism in Burundi would necessarily mean acknowledging that Museveni (and possibly Kagame) are in the wrong. It is no wonder that the best the EAC has done so far is to call for dialogue." (WP)


The Worship of Bigness

"A recent column in the FT had me mad as hell and not about to take it any more. The writer, Simon Kuper, calls Vienna a backwater, a bit like calling the Queen a busted flush because of her age. Sure, he writes how great Vienna was back when the Habsburgs ruled the roost, attracting people from all over, 'some of them nuts.' He includes Freud, Hitler, Stalin, and Trotsky. Not the nicest bunch I can think of, but then the paper is a pink one at that. He fears London might go the way of Vienna, and price itself unaffordable to everyone but a few Chinese, Russian and Indian billionaires. The trouble is he’s right about London and dead wrong where Vienna is concerned. Vienna, incidentally, is dirt cheap. Feeling myself inflate like a blowfish at the insult to my beloved city, I thought back to all those Schoenburg – Hartensteins gallivanting in fancy pantaloons around those beautiful palaces since the beginning of the 18th century. These were noble German counts who moved to Austria and became princes, a smart course however upwardly mobile. The place is still full of them, and my daughter recently visited Vienna and reported back that it was the most livable city in Europe. That it is. At one million seven hundred thousand inhabitants, Vienna is the perfect size. Yes, there are Muslims, but most of them are Turks and Bosnians, since the Austro-Hungarian Empire included parts of the old Yugoslavia. Last time I was in Vienna it was summertime and the city was sleepy. The Ringstrasse, that is lined with grand buildings, monuments and parks, was empty of cars and it felt like being back in the good old days when the Austro-Hungarians reigned supreme. The Schoenburg palace, off Schoenburg strasse, is now let out for parties and such, a bit of a comedown, I admit, but the Brits have been selling their souls since time immemorial. (A nation of shopkeepers and house rentals, according to Napo and Taki.) What I don’t understand is how can one call a city a backwater when the quality of life is the best by far in Europe? Vienna is the city of music and of the waltz, the city of wonderful cafes and two of the most beautiful palaces of Europe, the Hofburg and the Belvedere. Surely the FT columnist must have been drugged by people unknown when he called Vienna a backwater. Surely nobody could be so base, and yet in this The Kardashian Century, the worship of bigness overrides the respect for beauty and class." (Taki)


Obama fund-raiser could create traffic nightmare for Met Gala


"A fund-raiser for President Obama happening blocks away from the Metropolitan Museum of Art as the annual Costume Institute Gala kicks off on Monday evening could wreak havoc on drivers shuttling fashion insiders uptown. The political fund-raiser will be hosted by Loida Nicolas-Lewis — widow of the late Baltimore billionaire entrepreneur Reginald Lewis — at her Manhattan home along with her daughter Leslie. Expected guests will include 'The Wire' actor Wendell Pierce, Orioles star Adam Jones and Reginald’s mother, Carolyn Fugett. Vogue’s already issued a warning to its Met Gala guests that traffic will be heavy, because the president will be in town, and is advising attendees to leave ample time to get to Anna Wintour’s starry event, which is also being hosted by Silas Chou, Jennifer Lawrence, Gong Li, Marissa Mayer, and Wendi Murdoch." (P6)


Judy Glickman Lauder, Leonard A. Lauder, Elizabeth Hurley, Anthony von Mandl, and Kinga Lampert.


"Last week was a busy one on the charity gala calendar. Last Thursday night, for example, The Breast Cancer Research Foundation started 22 years ago by Evelyn Lauder (who died four years ago) was holding its annual  Hot Pink Party in the Grand Ballroom at the Waldorf and honoring the founder’s husband Leonard Lauder. This is a very important evening because they raise a great deal of money for research – in the millions – and the work of the BCRF has had a decisive positive effect on their objective: a cure. I have been an enthusiastic supporter of Evelyn Lauder and all of her associates who have done something really good for the world. Her legacy has left a strong organization of supporters to carry on her quest.Then up at the Pierre, same night, The Versailles and Giverny Foundation was hosting its annual do 'in the presence of Their Royal Highnesses The Hereditary Prince and Princess Bernhard of Baden.' This is always an interesting dinner, organized and hosted by Barbara de Portago, whose mother and stepfather Florence and Gerald van der Kemp were fundraisers and the curator (Mr. van der Kemp) of Versailles in years of its great emergence in restoration. It’s fascinating to hear the “personal interest” of these individuals of old royal families of European thrones that are now defunct. They express a nobility of interest in their countrymen and their country that is missing in modern government today – no matter the type of government. None of those I’ve heard speak has ever talked about his or their country in a “political” way as if to imply that maybe they should be back in power. Instead, their message is one of respect for their countrymen, the working people who make the nation, and delivering their needs as their government (not someone else’s or some political party’s government). And so it is. Also Thursday night over at the Metropolitan Club, the Table 4 Writers Foundation was holding an annual Awards Gala 'continuing the tradition of Elaine Kaufman.'" (NYSD)






"Down near the touristy end of Duval Street there are many attractions. One is the Indian swami in his booth. He sits in his white alcove, dressed in layers of floaty white things. His dark eyes are serene and his narrow face ends in a pointy white beard. I've never seen him smile, I've never seen him laugh, I've never seen him angered. But I always see him, seated at his table in his alcove and invariably he has a customer and then another one or two waiting their turn. I have never ventured too close, only glimpsed in passing, but his method of channeling is he reads the lines in people's palms. As I cruise past I try but cannot decipher the whispers as he engages with clients, presumably explaining the meaning of life, maybe even counseling them on having chosen Key West, assuring them it was indeed a good choice for a holiday. I noticed recently his booth is empty, not just of him, but also his signage of graceful palms with deep dark lines, the roadmap of life. But he is never there and time goes on and still he does not appear. I have to ask a local where is the swami? 'Don't you know? It's been all over the local papers!' I write for the local papers but I don't read any of them. 'Where is the swami gone?'" (Christina Oxenberg)

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