Saturday, January 31, 2009

Media-Whore D'Oeuvres

(image via jameswagner)

"And then there’s Susan Sontag and The Simpsons. According to Carl Rollyson’s 'Female Icons,' the intellectual who once declared, 'Television is Kleenex' liked to have a friend videotape episodes of the show so she could devour them 10 at a time." (NYTRB)

"Few will resist an invitation to Bettina Zilkha's well-appointed apartment on Madison Avenue--so no wonder her intimate cocktail party on Monday night coaxed heavyweights like Jeff Goldblum, Sam Waterson...and Sting." (Fashionweekdaily)

"In Washington, a town known for bloviation rather than whimsy or wit, the wacky season is just about to begin. It kicks off tonight when newly minted President Barack Obama makes his debut at the venerable Alfalfa Club, as the star of its annual dinner .. The Alfalfa Club dinner is part of a series of high-wattage events including the Gridiron, the Washington White House Correspondents dinner, and the Radio and Television Correspondents Association dinner; but it is the most sought-after ticket of the season because it gives members an audience with a collection of super power brokers including Joe Biden, Michael Bloomberg, Vernon Jordan, and 400 other guests—members of the Cabinet and Supreme Court, major politicians past and present, the Joint Chiefs of Staff plus what remains of the Masters of the Universe—to schmooze with each other and exchange a handshake, or wave, with the president and first lady, who almost always attend. Wannabes are still clawing for invites to meet the Obamas tonight. Although the list is never revealed until the night of the party, this year Sarah Palin is on the roster (everyone is buzzing about whom she will sit next to), as is House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel, and Obama chum and advisor Valerie Jarrett. Also on the list: Henry Kravis, Rupert Murdoch, Warren Buffett, and George and Barbara Bush. Hillary Clinton, however, has canceled." (TheDailyBeast)

"ALLY Hilfiger raised some eyebrows at the party for photographer Russell James' self-titled book at Donna Karan's Urban Zen studio Wednesday night when she was spotted vomiting in the stairwell as the event wound down ..Other guests, including Veronica Webb, Alan Cumming and Alessandra Ambrosio, simply stepped around Hilfiger on their way out the door." (PageSix)

(image via ihc)

"Mr. Ignatieff shocked friends and colleagues three years ago by chucking the life of the mind for the hurly-burly of politics and returning, after a long exile, to his native country to win a seat in Parliament. And if he was bored, it wasn’t for long. Last December, after a tumultuous fortnight of machinations in parliament, Mr. Ignatieff, 61, became the leader of the opposition Liberal Party, which has been called Canada’s 'natural ruling party' and has been in power for much of the last century. Should his party win control of the government, something it came close to doing last week and still hopes to in the coming months, he would become the next prime minister of Canada. Among the circles in which Mr. Ignatieff once traveled, there might be a sense that anybody capable of writing a novel ('Scar Tissue') that becomes short-listed for the Booker Prize — anybody, for that matter, who had the writer Martin Amis and Michael Palin of Monty Python as guests at his wedding — could figure out a way to jump the queue of Canadian politics." (NYTimes/Style)

"Teen blogger James Kurisunkal took a week-long break from penning Park Avenue Peerage. But now he's back at college in Illinois and cranking out posts to keep socialite-loving fans happy with his coverage of black tie charities and style shindigs. We had a quick chat, and JK revealed some things to look out for. Q: What are you looking forward to covering this season?
A: Most of the major parties that benefit New York City's cultural institutions happen in the springtime; places like the American Museum of Natural History, the Frick Collection, and the American Ballet Theatre, amongst many others, hold their annual galas during this time. Those are the nights when socialites, with their charitable giving, do their best, and in their couture gowns, show their best as well.'" (Papermag)

Friday, January 30, 2009

Michael Steele Wins Republican National Chairmanship

(image via familysecuritymatters)

Although he was running against the popular South Carolina Chair Katon Dawson, Michael "Drill Baby Drill" Steele won the Republican Party Chairmanship in an upset after six rounds of balloting. At a time when the first African-American President has just taken office, it is astonishing that an African-American also has taken control of the Republican Party, a party that has not been -- how does one say this nicely? -- too hospitable if we are frank (The Republican party usually gets less than 10 percent of the African-American vote).

Perhaps this is the end of the trend?

The crucial moment in the balloting -- which went through 5 go-throughs -- was when Ohio Secretary of State Ken Blackwell, a conservative from a crucial state, dropped out and endorsed Steele, the former Lieutenant Governor of Maryland. As geeky as it sounds, it was all very exciting, and chronicled -- via Tweets -- on Chris Cilizza's Hyperfix. What makes the whole thing so much more delicious is that former RNC Chair candidate Chip Saltsman destroyed his own chances and had to drop out of the race yesterday after sending out a racist -- or at least unbelievably stupid and offensive -- CD entitled "Barack the Magic Negro."

We've come a long way indeed.
Bill Clinton: The US Could Emerge From The Crisis In "A Year, 15 Months If We're Lucky"

Bill Clinton is making waves at the World Economic Forum in Davos. The 42nd President of the United States is always comfortable at international forums and Davos wasn't any exception as his intense conversation with Putin was reported around the world. But was he delivering a sub rosa message in a voice different from the State Department? From the AP:

"This is the first I've heard of Prime Minister Putin coming out for free enterprise," Clinton told an audience at the World Economic Forum on Thursday, a day after the Russian leader warned that too much government involvement in the economy could be "dangerous" and cautioned against "blind faith in the state's omnipotence."

".. Clinton predicted that the United States could in 'a year, 15 months if we're lucky,' emerge from the current crisis. But, he added, that recovery depends on 'good support from Congress' for the plans being drawn up by Obama and his economic team.

"Clinton said the U.S. needed to assume global responsibility for the crisis, and for spurring international recovery, as called for Wednesday at the forum by Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao.

"The Chinese premier was right: It all started in the United States,' Clinton said. 'America has to lead the way.'"

That, curiously, may be the closest thing to a global apology -- a former President and the husband of the Secretary of State acknowledging our role in the crisis -- that is politically allowable by the American electorate.
Will Obama Nominate Judd Gregg For Commerce Secretary?

If the rumors are true, President Obama is not yet done purloining the ranks of the United States Senate for his cabinet. This time, though, he is considering a New England Republican (there are still, astonishingly, a few left post-Rove). From CQPolitics:

"All eyes in the Senate were on Republican Judd Gregg of New Hampshire Thursday amid speculation that President Obama is seriously considering him as his Commerce secretary.

For his part, Gregg refused to comment on reports that he is a finalist. Obama had earlier tapped Democratic New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson for the position, but he withdrew in December amid a federal corruption probe.

"'I really don’t have any comment on that at all,' Gregg said. Later he added, 'I can’t comment at all on this.'

"If Obama were to nominate Gregg, it could have significant implications for the Senate. Under New Hampshire law, Democratic Gov. John Lynch would appoint a replacement who would serve until Gregg’s term expires in 2010. If Democrats also win an undecided Senate race in Minnesota, that would give them 60 seats, enough to choke off debate with a unified caucus. Republicans bristled at that possibility and suggested Gregg might face pressure to turn down the job if offered."

More here.
Donna Karan Wants To Attend The Oscars. Can Someone Help?

Donna Karan can only be properly construed as wacky. Eccentric, if you are feeling particularly generous (or want to get invited to her East Hampton house). But she is a great interview. Karan is rich and powerful enough so that one never knows what the "unique" fashion designer is going to say, nor does she really seem to mind how we take it.

Last night Donna Karan was at the launch for Russell James at the Stephan Weiss studio (she wrote the forward to his book). From Fashionweekdaily:

"Karan took the time to admire the highlighted photos from James' book and discussed her ideal female beauties. 'To me, the girl is only beautiful when her spirit and soul comes out naturally, and someone else doesn't feed her to be in that state,' she quipped. Very spiritual and newly super blonde supermodel Angela Lindvall might be right up the famed designer's alley. She was in New York for only few days to shoot an Oscar campaign with Hugh Jackman and director Brett Ratner. 'Maybe in my dreams I could attend the Academy Awards if they'll be so kind to offer me a ticket,' she smiled. 'I'm in California, so I can be on call!'"

What? Demi can't swing an extra pair for her pal? It's not that Moore -- god bless her simple soul -- is ever going to get nominated for Best Actress, you know. Can someone out there in the blogosphere please help the poor fashion designer?
Media-Whore D'Oeuvres

(image via msnbc)

"ELLEN Barkin may soon get the ultimate comeuppance on Ron Perelman - by trashing her billionaire ex-hubby in a thinly disguised HBO series based on her life as a sizzling cougar after their bitter divorce. Barkin will executive-produce and star in a half-hour pilot being scripted for an untitled show about a woman, 'famous for her high-profile marriage, who divorces and re-enters the singles market,' according to Variety. Barkin, 54, pocketed $60 million from Perelman, 66, who slapped her with divorce papers in 2006, then booted her from his East 63rd Street mansion. But she quickly struck back. The 'Sea of Love' hottie auctioned off more than 100 jewels he'd lavished on her, netting an additional $20.3 million. And when she bumped into Perelman at the Waverly Inn with new girlfriend Anna Chapman, Barkin threw a glass of water in his face and hissed at Chapman: 'I feel sorry for you that you have to [bleep] him tonight.'" (PageSix)

"But the rising financial and geopolitical stress have made it difficult to maintain the veneer of civility. The big news from last night? A well-attended forum on the Middle East, featuring Shimon Peres of Israel and Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, ended in a storm of controversy. Erdogan left the stage in a fit of pique, arguing that Peres's impassioned defense of Israel's Gaza offensive — at one point he asked Erdogan how Turkey would respond if it were attacked in a similar manner — was 'in a manner not in line with. . . the spirit of Davos.' He was also angered that moderator David Ignatius of the Washington Post had tried to keep him within prescribed time limits while Peres had spoken at length. Erdogan said he'd never return. Two things: First, Turkey and Israel, it will be recalled, are supposed to be allies. Second, droning on beyond allotted time frames isn't rude at Davos. It's a sign of Davos Man's virility. That's what people do here. They talk—a lot, and at length." (Newsweek)

"At Elaine's (they're all impressed with our Halston dress and the people we know here)(those of you who get that) ... Gang at Elaine's loooves Charlie Gasparino. Much ring-kissing and one 'John Thain's your best friend!' (Chris Noth was there too.)" (Rachel Sklar/Twitter)

(Stefano Pilati and Stella McCartney via fashionweekdaily)

"'I think I got really lucky with this location,' said Stella McCartney of her Palais Royal boutique, which she celebrated with a fête last night-even though the store opened in November .. 'This is a big deal for Stella,' said Marianne Faithfull, as photographers dodged through the 1600-square-foot space like pigs hunting for truffles. Indeed, the night was big enough for Stella to debut a Cartier sapphire and diamond pendant her dad gave her mom in the '70s, and just passed onto her. 'Only like one other person knows this was my mum's!' Unsurprisingly, especially for such a low-party week, McCartney had quite a turnout. Sir Paul and his girlfriend Nancy Shevell were in full receiving mode; François-Henri Pinault was practically glowing; when Catherine Deneuve arrived, some photographers dove at her and others ran away as fast as they could." (Fashionweekdaily)

"I took an old friend to lunch at Michael’s. It was sort of a treat: she had been through some very hard times health-wise and she had made it through thanks to the miracles around us .. For years they’ve been a constellation in the lives of many of these New Yorkers whom my lunch partner has grown up with. The Madoff catastrophe has been just that for them also, a catastrophe, according to my friend .. Although it is a socio-economic incident of historic proportions, it is also the result of decisions and agreements made by (groups of) people who had their hands on the levers of power and responsibility. We have yet to recognize that in order to 'right' the situation, we will have to put the 'righting' in the hands of those who do not have a vested interest in saving their own skins, necks." (David Patrick Columbia/NYSocialDiary)

"A passionate student and champion of great directors, film critic Roger Ebert will receive the Directors Guild of America 2009 Honorary Life Member Award. Here, in Ebert's own words, are 10 conversations between directors he'd enjoy hearing if stranded with them on a desert island." (Roger Ebert/Variety)

"... (Rahm) Emanuel’s go-for-the-big-win style, even when mixed with the president’s earnest charm, did not gain even one vote from the House GOP. The caucus held together like a stone wall when it came time to vote on the Democratic-authored $825 billion stimulus package—all 177 members joined 11 'Blue Dog' Democrats for the 244-188 final tally .. Since the beginning of his campaign for the presidency, Barack Obama has spoken repeatedly of 'post-partisanship.' He promised that he would transcend the divisions of the past by uniting Democrats and Republicans alike. His actions, engineered by Emanuel, were intended to win enough Republican votes to claim not just a victory on the stimulus bill but also confirmation of his 'post-partisan' leadership. The result, with not a single Republican voting in favor, despite Obama’s wining and dining, joking and cajoling, reveals a Washington as polarized as it has ever been. The dream of post-partisanship did not last one vote in the Congress." (John Batchelor/TheDailyBeast)

"Kenyan Prime Minister Raila Odinga and Sengalese President Abdoulaye Wade on Friday urged embattled Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe to give up power, though Mr. Odinga went a step further and suggested Mr. Mugabe should face legal crimes for countless deaths of political opponents. 'Maybe we should not let him get away. Africa needs to stand firm … I don’t think it’s time to treat him with kid gloves,' Mr. Odinga said to the applause of a packed audience at the World Economic Forum." (WSJ)

(image via cbsnews)

"It doesn’t surprise many that Susan Zirinsky, the CBS News producer, was the inspiration for Holly Hunter’s Jane Craig character in Broadcast News. On a recent Monday afternoon, she was uncharacteristically static for a moment as she stared at a framed poster for Three Days in September, a documentary about the 2004 Chechen terrorist attack on a school in southern Russia. Normally a compact blur of energy, she wears her brown hair in a signature bob and stares out at the world with intense brown eyes, framed by round rimless glasses with bright pink temples. On Monday afternoon, she was dressed in a dark skirt, with knee-high boots and a navy blue overcoat. The film, Ms. Zirinsky said, started out as an episode on CBS’s long-running true-crime show 48 Hours Mystery, on which she is the executive producer, before it was spun off into a film for the cable channel Showtime and was nominated for a prime-time Emmy. Below the main image in the poster, a photo of a bloodied hostage, was a sentence that Ms. Zirinsky had composed years earlier. It read: 'In the proud tradition of broadcasting excellence, CBS News is honored to have produced this powerful documentary for Showtime.' Ms. Zirinsky’s eyes widened. 'We’re not a cable operation,' she said. 'But we’re always looking for more platforms.'" (Observer)

"Armed with Blackberries, cameras, and computers, the Twitterati and those seeking to break in flocked to last night's Journalism and Social Media Panel at Tribeca Cinemas. Media types in the audience at the event listened to journalists discuss that 140-character wonder of new media, Twitter. An informal audience poll showed that most were familiar with the microblogging platform, while nearly half were registered on the site. The event's golden child remained at the heart of the conversation as panelists explored its current uses and its future practices. 'Twitter is really the conversation that never ends,' said Andy Carvin of NPR, who like fellow panelist Rachel Sklar of Abrams Research and The Daily Beast, even managed to Twitter from the stage while discussing the medium." (FishbowlNY)

"Our first lady may have some controversial sartorial taste, but at least she goes for bold designers who are one of us, if you know what I mean. Gone are the uptown days of Oscar de la Whatshisname and Arnold Isaacs-spelt-backwards. Michelle favors kooky clothiers like the different-drum-following Tracey Feith, Latina lovebug Isabel Toledo, and downtown darling Jason Wu, who did the RuPaul and naked Amanda Lepore dolls, for chrissake." (Musto)

Thursday, January 29, 2009

John Oliver To Host WGA East Awards

(image via gothamist)

The Daily Show With Jon Stewart correspondent John Oliver (HINT: he's the one with the British accent) will host the 61st Annual Writers Guild of America Awards’ New York ceremony on Saturday, February 7, 2009 at New York City ’s Hudson Theatre. Among the homorees are Conan writer Chris Albers and Oz creator Tom Fontana, who will be receiving the Jablow Award for Service to the Guild. Presenters include Sam Waterston, Judah Friedlander, Susie Essman, Jerry Stiller and Anne Meara, Paul F. Tompkins, S. Epatha Merkerson, Gilbert Gottfried and more.

WGA East Awards site here.
Picture Pages, Picture Pages ...

Ironic airquotes not included. (image via thecobrasnake)

His father married a pure Cherokee, His mother's people were ashamed of he. (image via thecobrasnake)

Curiously, Victor's experiences in hand-to-hand combat in the humid Vietnamese theater look (mirabile dictu) positively ducky on dance floor. (image via thecobransake)

Lightweight! (image via thecobrasnake)

BREAKING: Jessica Alba's smoking crack at children's playground! (image via wwtdd)

Hey, lady, where ya going? The 1905 Harvard-Yale game? Come on, lady, don't be that way!(image via thecobrasnake)

After ditching their inarticulate space monkey Gleek, the Wonder Twins wandered aimlessly through the club-kid circuit. (image via thecobrasnake)
Salma Hayek And Colin Farrell?

(From 2004's Ask the Dust via theSun)

Both Salma Hayek and Colin Farrell have had storied careers of assorted friskiness in Hollywood (don't even get us started on the sheer number of Farell's partners; his nickname on-set used to be "cock out Colin"), so perhaps it fits -- no pun intended -- that the two should allegedly hooked up at the Golden Globes (And no, we don't mean Salma's breasts). From the German Welt Online:

"Salma Hayek and Colin Farrell, who earlier starred together in a steamy naked scene in the movie 'Ask the Dusk', are dating. The pair sparked rumours of a romance at the recent Golden Globes Awards ceremony, where Colin was seen cradling Salma’s face and locking lips with the stunning actress.

"A source said: 'He held her face and kissed her several times. It was very intimate, not like they were just pals.'

"Colin and Salma got close and personal while filming 'Ask the Dusk' However, this is not the first time Salma – who has 16-month-old daughter Valentina with ex-partner Francois-Henri Pinault – and Colin have been intimate.

"The pair briefly dated while filming 2004 movie ‘Ask the Dust’. Their naked tryst in the movie, which shows the good looking actors in a steamy skinny-dipping scene, earned them the award of best naked scene.

"Salma is said to 'adore' the 32-year-old Irish actor - who has previously battled drug addiction – and was left upset when their short-lived romance didn’t work out."
A Little Of The Old In And Out

(image via timesonline)

In: Bill Clinton, Shadow Secretary of State. Bringing Hillary Rodham Clinton in at State may go down as one of the more savvy political maneuvers in the history of the actions of President's-elect operating in the crowded, abbreviated theatre between election and inauguration. In 1992, Bill Clinton asked us, charmingly, to elect him President because we would get two for the price of one; a decade and a half of political seasoning later, the Clintons are twice as valuable to American foreign policy in a post-Bush era of global ill will and broken international relationships. Bill Clinton's charm -- and his new found political relevance as his wife's shadow -- represents a perfect opportunity for the use of American soft power. From the salmon-colored weekly:

"Within days of Hillary Clinton's confirmation as secretary of state, her husband already appears to be applying his skills and connections in the service of the new administration's diplomacy.

"Upon arriving here on Wednesday afternoon, he conducted a series of quiet meetings with foreign leaders that culminated in an intense late-night discussion with Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin. The two former presidents met at a Sheraton hotel where Putin held a private party, following an early evening reception at a local museum hosted by Clinton.

"Putin greeted Clinton cordially as 'our good friend' as they raised glasses of vodka and then listened to a pianist pound out 'In the Hall of the Mountain King.' When the musical entertainment concluded, they moved to a table in a separate room with access strictly controlled by Secret Service and Russian security agents. Flanked by aides and an interpreter, the two men talked for nearly 90 minutes before they rose and walked out together for a few pictures with partygoers and members of Clinton's entourage.

"Neither man commented on the substance of their discussions, and there was no indication that Clinton was carrying a particular message to the Russian leader. But the Obama administration has signaled its intention to seek greater Russian cooperation on issues such as the Iranian nuclear program. And Putin's public remarks at the World Economic Forum yesterday were encouraging if vague as he called for more constructive relations between Moscow and the West."

The influence of Bill Clinton -- whose Clinton Foundation is suffused with soft power in the emerging world and India -- as well close Clinton family friend Nelson Mandela (Clinton visits Mandela for his birthday every July; the two have a seriously adorable bromance) will have unprecedented influence in the politics of sub-Saharan Africa. We would even make an educated guess that the capture of rogue General Laurent Nkunda in the Eastern Congo immediately prior to Obama's inauguration might have Clintonian fingerprints. It just might. More here.

Out: The Madoff Aftermath. We are now in the second wave of Bernie Madoff's villainy; Madoff 2.0, if you will. In the first iteration, the powerful -- and not so powerful -- from NYC to the Hamptons to Palm beach vented, at oftentimes Wagnerian length, about their exposure to Madoff's Ponzi scheme. Now, in part the second, institutions that have a proximate-cause relationship with those who have been directly affected by Madoff presently feel the burn. Wells Fargo, for instance, wrote off $294 million because some of its customers were wiped out by Madoff’s amoral scheme and were unable to pay their loans. Now, sadly, Brandeis ("Where did April come up
with terms like 'organic form'? Well, naturally. She went to Brandeis). From TheDailyBeast:

"Brandeis University, which claims Irving Howe, Thomas Friedman, Christie Hefner and Walt Mossberg among its alums—and trustees such as Michael Steinhardt, Vartan Gregorian, and John Rosenwald — has incurred the wrath of the art world for deciding to shut down its Rose Art Museum and sell off its famed collection, which was valued at $350 million in 2007.

"No one could understand why, with what was said to be a $10 million operating deficit over five years, the university’s trustees would take such a drastic step. Even the museum’s director went on attack, saying the Rose, which according to the university’s own website 'houses what is widely recognized as the finest collection of modern and contemporary art in New England,' not only pays its own way but contributes to the university’s funds. The collection, largely donated over the years, includes seminal works by Willem de Kooning, Jasper Johns, Roy Lichtenstein, Morris Louis, Matthew Barney, Cindy Sherman, and Richard Serra, among others.

"But in an exclusive interview, Peter French, Brandeis’s chief operating officer, explained that the university’s situation is far more dire than it appeared in news accounts, which extrapolated the $10 million figure from published documents. He objected to the word 'bankrupt,' but what would you call an institution with a projected deficit of $79 million over the next six years, a tapped-out reserve fund, a shrunken endowment and 'quite a number' of big donors hit hard by the Madoff scandal?"

More here.

In: A Payroll Tax Cut? Would a payroll tax cut stimulate the consumer spending in a faltering economy with rising unelmployment or would the declining government revenues it would cause be more of a problem than a fix? From Lawrence B. Lindsay in this mornings Wall Street Journal:

"Congress and the Obama administration seem near to deciding the details of an economic stimulus package. Unlike the efforts of President Ronald Reagan and President George W. Bush, who also inherited declining stock markets and shrinking economies, this package is heavily weighted toward direct government spending, transfers to state and local governments, and tax changes that have virtually no effect on marginal tax rates.

"Today the Reagan tax cuts are widely viewed as successful. Opinions on the longer-term effects of the Bush tax cuts are more diverse, but the short-term effects of the 2001 and 2003 cuts are generally credited as having been well-timed.

"And what of the plan being put forward now? As crafted, it is unlikely to produce the desired results. For a similar amount of money, the government could essentially cut the payroll tax in half, taking three points off the rate for both the employer and the employee. This would put $1,500 into the pocket of a typical worker making $50,000, with a similar amount going to his or her employer. It would provide a powerful stimulus to the spending stream, as well as a significant, six percentage point reduction in the tax burden of employment for people making less than $100,000. The effects would be immediate."

Leaving aside the question of the success of Reagan's tax cuts and the deficits they incurred, the idea of a modest payroll tax cut -- something along the lines of the Middle Class tax cut he promised during the general election -- sounds solid and is generating much discussion this morning in the blogosphere and among the Chattering Classes. More here.
Brazil's Lula Shuns Davos

The forces of anti-globalism -- at least within our Hemisphere -- have grown stronger. Brazil's President, the "B" in the fast-rising BRIC economies, will not be taking up his standing invitation to Davos this year. He has attended at least 3 Davos events since 2003, raising Brazil's profile. Instead of the World Economic Forum, the leader of the the world’s tenth-largest economy will be attending an anti-globalist panel with Venezuelan strongman Hugo Chavez, whose influence in the region, despite the low oil price, is significant. From Bloomberg:

"Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva is shunning the World Economic Forum in Davos this week and the chance to hobnob with business leaders and 41 heads of state. Instead, he’ll join more than 100,000 activists from around the world at an anti-capitalist jamboree in the Amazon.

"Lula’s government is spending 78 million reais ($34.4 million) to bring groups from 59 countries to the 8th World Social Forum. They include a sex workers union from India and Belgians seeking to abolish the World Bank. Today, he’ll discuss the global financial crisis on a panel with Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, one of the U.S.’s harshest critics, and Chavez’s presidential allies from Bolivia, Ecuador and Paraguay.

"'He’s picked sides,' said Oded Grajew, a former businessman who organized the first Social Forum as a counterpoint to Davos in 2001 and has been a friend of Lula’s for 20 years. 'Lula doesn’t want go to Davos and hear the same ideas that led the world into bankruptcy.'"

The relationship between Brazil's President and Venezuela's is more complex than this post can do full justice. Under the Bush administration, left-leaning Populist leaders -- Venezuela, Bolivia, Ecuador -- have risen in stature across Latin America as, perhaps, a counterbalance to Washington's "aggressive unilateralism" (Exaggerated cough suggesting feigned detachment). Clearly this is part of da Silva's political calculation in this moment with his sometimes rival, also the global economic crisis -- perhaps unfairly pinned in incendiary rhetoric on Europe and the United States -- doesn't help our cause.
Media-Whore D'Oeuvres

"Last night, Gilles Mendel and Ivanka Trump hosted a cocktail party at the J. Mendel boutique on Madison Avenue for Life in Color, a new book by wardrobe consultants Joe Lupo and Jesse Garza of Visual Therapy .. Mendel and Trump mingled with champagne-swillers like Vogue's Meredith Melling Burke, Dr. Lisa Airan, and Amy Fine Collins. 'To be profitable in this environment is no easy feat,' noted Trump, who was decked out in J. Mendel as well as one of her own diamond necklaces that was draped over her decolletage. 'We're there so we must be doing something right.'" (PatrickMcMullen via Fashionweekdaily)

"Rush Limbaugh must now be the new leader of the Republican Party, at least in the House of Representatives. The conservative radio comedian took aim at President Barack Obama's economic stimulus plan -- and in lock step, every GOP lawmaker voted against it on Wednesday. When one Republican House member dared to say a cross word about Limbaugh, his constituents were so outraged that he felt the need to go on Rush's show and apologize in a truly pathetic display. U.S. Rep. Phil Gingrey of Georgia took back his earlier observation that rich media figures like Limbaugh earn their living by stirring up conservatives without having to struggle with the consequences .. That would appear to make Rush the new face of the Republican Party. Good luck with that." (Craig Crawford/CQPolitics)

"CAROLINE Kennedy is innocent - she did not have an affair with New York Times publisher Arthur 'Pinch' Sulzberger Jr. The rumor that their friendship was the 'marriage problem' referred to by aides to Gov. Paterson couldn't be true - because the divorced Sulzberger already has a girlfriend. Sulzberger has been seeing Helen Ward, a vivacious woman he met on a trek to Peru about a year ago. 'No comment,' Ward told Page Six yesterday, then added, 'There is only one woman in Pinch Sulzberger's life, and that is the Gray Lady.'" (PageSix)

"Fisher Stevens: 'Hollywood awards aren't given on merit or achievement. It's luck and the all-important spin.'" (Cindy Adams)

"For the most part, the 13-year-old CondéNet represented a farrago of elements and dictates. Roughly two years ago, Condé Nast stripped operations and maintenance of its individual mag sites from CondéNet, though the interactive unit still ran ad sales for mag sites like Wired. It also made a number of acquisitions, including news aggregator Reddit and tech news site Ars Technica. 'CondéNet was charged with running businesses online. We were trying to own specific categories, and make a play for some of the categories… Some of our ideas were more gloriously successful than others, such as, Epicurious and Wired. Those are the shining examples. Others like, [defunct social net app] Flip, were a good try and in hindsight, I can see why it didn’t work' ..The rationale for separating the ad sales was based on Condé Nast’s focus on using its websites to drive circulation, not ad sales, (Sarah) Chubb said. But as some sites began to grow into sizable destinations in their own right—Chubb points to and—it began to make sense to tear down the wall separating the ad sales teams." (Paidcontent)

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

A Little Of The Old In And Out

(image via listen)

In: The 1980s. It seems as if Hollywood is finally getting around to rediscovering the 1980s. 20th Century Fox is re-adapting the A-Team (why?). And ABC and NBC respectively have ordered pilots for 80s miniseries "V" and something called "Lost in the 80s."

Out: The Washington Post Book World. How curious is it that just as a noxious cultural product like the A-Team gets a reiteration, the WashPo Book Review gets smothered. From The NYTimes:

"In another sign that literary criticism is losing its profile in newspapers, The Washington Post has decided to shutter the print version of Book World, its Sunday stand-alone book review section, and shift reviews to space inside two other sections of the paper.

"According to reports from Book World employees, the last issue of Book World will appear in its tabloid print version on Feb. 15 but will continue to be published online as a distinct entity. In the printed newspaper, Sunday book content will be split between Outlook, the opinion and commentary section, and Style & Arts.

"Book World was one of the last remaining stand-alone book review sections in the country, along with The New York Times Book Review. The Washington Post’s move comes as the company, like most other newspaper businesses across the country, has been hobbled by a protracted downturn in advertising."

It would seem that the nostalgia for extended shots of cars smashing into each other exerts a stronger cultural pull than an extended discussion/debate of books and ideas.
Davos: Round-Up

"People are 'depressed and traumatized,' Rupert Murdoch, chief executive of News Corp. noted on the first full day of the World Economic Forum in Davos, adding that worldwide some '$50 trillion of personal wealth' had vanished since the crisis worsened with the Sept. 15 collapse of Lehman Bros. Co. 'The size of the problem confronting us today is larger than in the 1930s,' said billionaire philanthropist George Soros. The scope of the decline was evident even among the gift bags that attendees — who pay thousands of dollars to participate — received this year. Instead of loaded personal digital assistants, fine Swiss chocolates and gadgets they got basic, blue-hued pedometers instead." (AP)

And an interesting exchange between Michael Dell and Putin:

"Someone tell that to Vladimir Putin. After the Russian President delivered a didactic 40-minute speech to fellow Davos attendees that touched on everything from the place of the US dollar in global financial markets to Russia's role as an energy producer, he agreed to take a few questions. Michael Dell took the mike. Ever the salesman, Michael laid it on thick with praise for Russian technology, and then asked Putin 'how can we help.' Putin was having none of it. Fortune reports from the scene.

"Putin's withering reply to Dell: 'We don't need help. We are not invalids. We don't have limited mental capacity.' The slapdown took many of the people in the audience by surprise. Putin then went on to outline some of the steps the Russian government has taken to wire up the country, including remote villages in Siberia. And, in a final dig at Dell, he talked about how Russian scientists were rightly respected not for their hardware, but for their software."

"One of the secrets of Davos (we'll let you in to more of them as the week progresses) is that there's no easy way to get here. (And of course, once you're here, you're stuck - that's another secret.) The private jet crowd can't make it - they have to take helicopters, which are at the vagaries of the weather. And when it really snows, which it can, you're in trouble. I remember Al Gore coming here in 1999, I think it was, when he had to do the last bit of the journey on foot. The drive from Zurich is better now that Klosters has been bypassed with a bridge and tunnel, but the real way to get here is by train, which is what I did tonight. (Sans luggage; God knows where that is, but it means I can't join Justin on the slopes.) It takes three hours. You change twice from Zurich airport, eventually snaking through the dark mountains on a local with trees and snowdrifts pressing in on you. I read Nassim Taleb's Black Swan on the way (I'm moderating a dinner with him later in the week) and, so far, the takeaway from the book is: I don't know anything. So that was uplifting." (Davos.Time)

"China's economy has been hit hard by the global financial crisis, which was partly caused by the unsustainable economic models of certain countries, Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao said in a keynote speech at the World Economic Forum on Wednesday .. He cited among the causes of the crisis: 'Inappropriate macroeconomic policies of some economies and their unsustainable model of development characterised by prolonged low savings and high consumption.'" (Reuters)
Picture Pages, Picture Pages...

Wigga, please. (image via thecobrasnake)

The Siege of Paris. (image via imageshack)

After many years of appalling court to-and-fro, Ethel stopped worrying and learned to love her stalker. (image via thecobrasnake)

Tommy: The (un)Musical. (image via flickr)

"You know what? You're my Besssshhht frieeeendddd." (image via thecobrasnake)

Because: No one can eat just one. (image via thecobrasnake)

Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, Introducing: The stars of Quentin Tarantino's next movie. (image via thecobrasnake)

You .. do your thing, brother. You ... do your thing. (image via thecobrasnake)
NYPost Launches PetNews, Invites Beth Stern To Contribute

(image via latimes)

Pet stories, especially baby pet stories, equals page views. Anyone who has spent a significant time writing on the web knows that. So it was not a huge surprise when the New York Post announced last week that they would be partnering with a web site devoted to pet news on pet-centered content. Located in the NY Post's Entertainment section, Pet News will be powered by, the leading online source for pet and animal news. The Corsair emailed the CEO of Marcello De Luca to ask a couple of questions about's Pet News, which, according to the press release, "provides mapped listings of local pet services: vets, groomers, shelters, sitters, trainers, etc., many with reviews written by their customers."

The Corsair: Any plans to bring Beth Stern, Howard Stern's wife and a well known animal lover on board?

Marcello De Luca: We welcome all pet lovers. We would love to have Beth (Stern) be a part of, as she is known to be an avid animal lover.

The Corsair: Do pet stories do particularly well in the NY Post?

Marcello De Luca: Pet stories in the NY Post do better than they used to, as there was no specific pet section before (just about 1-2 stories per month). In general, users spend approximately 10 minutes on a pet news story and then go deeper in content.

The site can be viewed online here.
Media-Whore D'Oeuvres

"Former Miss USA Kelli McCarty stopped by to promote her new porn career, saying she'd come a long way since winning the Miss USA crown in 1991. In between, she was on 'Beverly Hills: 90210,' 'Melrose Place,' 'Passions' and few Disney shows .. Howard asked what Kelli did as Miss USA, and she said it was a lot of charity work - and fielding calls from celebrity paramours, like Jerry Seinfeld: 'I hadn't even seen his show...he was like, Hey, I wanna talk to her, so they set it up. I didn't even know who he was at the time. He was like, Hey, wanna hang out, and we did a couple times...he was just kinda boring.' Kelli said Jerry even tried to get her to let him come up to her apartment, but she turned him down. Howard wondered if any other celebrities ever asked her out, and Kelli cited Pauly Shore as particularly aggressive: 'Me and everybody else...he started calling my parents house.' Kelli said she also hooked up with David Spade after meeting him at a salon: 'He was coming in to get a facial as I was leaving.' Howard asked if David had a big penis, and Kelli was shocked that Howard was in the dark: 'Everybody knows.'" (

"The new Obama administration’s top diplomat disclosed that her husband, former President Bill Clinton, earned $5.7 million in speaking fees last year, most of it from foreign corporations. He picked up honoraria from companies in India, Portugal, Mexico and Germany, and earned $350,000 from a bank in Kuwait, $200,000 from an equities firm in Malaysia and $300,000 from an automotive company in Hong Kong. The largest sum came from a Canadian motivational firm called The Power Within Inc. , which paid the former president $1.25 million." (WashingtonWire)

"At the end of President Obama’s historic interview with the Arabic news network al-Arabiya—the first he has granted as President of the United States—Hisham Melham, the satellite channel’s Washington Bureau Chief, asked how far an Obama administration would be willing to go to stop Iran from developing nuclear weapons. The president answered the question as one would expect of him, by speaking about his admiration for Persian civilization, about how far he would be willing to go to reach out the Iranian people, about how committed he was to pursuing direct diplomacy with the Iranian regime. 'As I said during my inauguration speech,' Obama stated coolly, 'if countries like Iran are willing to unclench their fist, they will find an extended hand from us.' And with that, the interview ended. Not a hint of there being a 'military option' in dealing with Iran. Not even an apathetic 'all options are on the table,' George W. Bush’s familiar mantra. There is, of course, a simple reason for the omission. When it comes to Iran, there is no 'military option.' Even Bush understood this." (TheDailyBeast)

"Michael Jackson, who recently moved back to Los Angeles to be near 'where the action is', has been slapped with a breach-of-contract lawsuit by the veteran Hollywood film director John Landis, who says he has not been paid his share of the profits from the iconic 'Thriller' video for at least four years. The suit was filed in Los Angeles Superior Court last week. (Read full complaint here.) It is not exactly the warm welcome Jackson had in mind for his return to southern California, and it raises new questions about his disastrous personal finances, which have generated almost as much gossip in recent years as his multiple plastic surgeries, his freakshow public appearances and his fondness for the company of pubescent boys." (TheWrap)

"It was a case of 'Don't cha wish your party had a few more guests' for Prince Azim last night, after he splashed out (USD $211,302) on a special bash for the Pussycat Dolls - and only one of them turned up. Jessica Sutta was the lone arrival of the five girls, leaving the billionaire crying into his cocktail. The prince, who is the son of the Sultan of Brunei and worth (USD $30.9 billion), splashed the cash on hiring the entire VIP area of Mahiki nightclub in Mayfair, expecting the girls to turn up after their show at The O2 arena ..Our source said: 'Prince Azim loves all of the girls, which is why he went to so much effort.' But he was clearly unimpressed when only Jessica showed up, as he had just splashed even more cash on champagne and vodka. 'He left shortly after she arrived, leaving his brother and pals to enjoy the lavish spread of booze.'" (Thisislondon)

(Wes Anderson, Waris Ahluwalia, Casey Spooner, and Lou Doillon via style)

"Waris Ahluwalia, the part-time actor, part-time jeweler, part-time artist, and full-time man-about-town, is always on the lookout for inspiration. Even, apparently, when he's in strange restrooms in Paris. That's where, while working on a project with his friend, the film director Wes Anderson, he got the idea for Omnia Vincit Amor, a new jewelry collection based on a flock of friendly birds with names like Raphael, Octavian, Roma, and Liberte. Their Monday night launch party at Colette packed the likes of Lou Doillon, Suzy Menkes, and Leelee Sobieski into the rue Saint-Honoré hot spot. 'This is the first time the jewelry has migrated to Paris, and I plan on being the first person to steal something,' said Doillon. 'Cover me.' The French beauty would make a lousy thief; she left her checkbook at the store, only to have it returned by the jewelry maker himself at the after-party at Le Baron." (Style)

"Funny, (legendary Hollywood publicist Pat Kingsley) was just talking to a friend of mine about how tired of the whole PR scene she was. 'She's worn down. The travelling. The handholding. The awards season. [Tom] Cruise recently called her to apologize for the comment he made about her,' said my pal. And that's exactly what she told PMK/HBH when she came to the people who now run her flackery at the end of last year and asked for a buy-out. She told them she was winding it down. That she just didn't want to come into the office anymore ..Who can blame Kingsley for wanting to exit at the end of the month? Once upon a time, all she had to worry about was having her clients outed by the National Enquirer and which glossy deserved her clients to grace its cover. But Pat more and more complained about the "totally different landscape" of today's PR when she lost control of managing the news about her stars to the hundreds of celebrity-centric blogs which exist just to skewer them.'" (DeadlineHollywoodDaily)

"RICHARD Holbrooke, President Obama's special envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan, buying two suits at Beau Brummel on West Broadway." (PageSix)

"'I never thought I’d be doing this,' he said, 'but it just sort of worked out that it’s actually a lot of fun!' It’s one of the oldest stories in this city, of course. For many of us in post-Ashley Dupre New York, the word 'escort' conjures images of decadent trysts between beautiful women and influential politicians or other members of high society. Much quieter, and a much smaller sector of the prostitution economy, are the men who fill the same role: charging high rates (though usually not as high as Ms. Dupre) to meet with rich clients, without having to work the streets." (Observer)

"Kipton Conkrite, the dapper dude-about-town, has turned his roving KiptonART exhibits and events into a NYC social staple. Now, Kipton is ready for the big screen. KiptonART is searching to cast talent in their twenties and thirties for a narrative documentary. So if you look good and make good art, 'please submit head and body shots, [body shots? How risqué!] a resume or CV and high-res images of your work to The deadline is February 3rd.'" (Papermag)

"While President Obama fielded questions from House and Senate Republicans about his stimulus plans, Vice President Joseph R. Biden, Jr. stopped by the weekly Senate Democratic luncheon this afternoon for a visit with his old colleagues.Which wouldn’t be a surprise, except that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada seemed to have ruled out exactly that kind of visit in a newspaper interview last month. In an effort to make a clean break with the era of former Vice President Dick Cheney, who was a regular at the weekly Senate Republican luncheons even as he pushed ever-expanding notions of executive power, Reid told the Las Vegas Sun that Biden would not be welcome to continue the practice. It was Reid’s way of signalling that Congress would assert its independence in a way that Democrats thought Republicans never did under Cheney and former President George W. Bush." (CQPolitics)

"The gloomy economic outlook for 2009 is hanging over the NATPE confab heavier than the cigarette smoke in the Mandalay Bay Resort's casinos. Talk at the gathering on the tradeshow floor's opening day was centered not on shows, deals or budding talent but on cost-cutting and layoffs throughout showbiz; the big question was how TV stations will weather the prolonged slump in local ad sales. 'We've gone through slumps before, but nothing like this,' said Dennis Swanson, prexy of station operations for Fox Television Stations and a 40-year biz vet .. This year, the only major players on the floor are NBC Universal, CBS' international sales arm and FremantleMedia. Other distribs are holding meetings here in private suites in the hotel adjacent to the conference center, but even those ranks are depleted or scaled down. The most high-profile of the slim crop of new shows set to bow in the fall, 'Dr. Oz,' from Sony Pictures TV and Harpo Prods., is not represented here at all, as Sony Pictures TV has taken a pass entirely on NATPE." (Variety)

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Corsair Classic

K'Naan was featured on CNN International's "Inside Africa" last week and his vibe is a mix between Somalian ancient tribal music and American hip-hop. Extraordinary, methinks.
John Updike, RIP

The fact that American Master John Updike, heir to Nabokov, won a Lifetime Achievement Award at Britain’s ever-anxiously awaited "Bad Sex in Fiction Awards" will be in retrospect a minor speedbump along a long road that wound from the backroads of Berks County, Pennsylvania making its way through the hairy curves of Harvard Yard to The Ruskin School of Drawing and Fine Art in Oxford. His journey continued through Ipswich, Massachusetts at cruising speed and into the pages of The New Yorker, where his elegant well-crafted prose made all who became immersed in his writing wonder aloud if a house in the suburbs and a well-scrubbed family with an even-number of children was all there is to the American Dream at midcentury. John Updike died today of lung cancer at the age of 76, leaving American letters significantly the lesser at his loss.

John Updike's craftsmanship was nothing less than breathtaking. His training as a painter greatly informed the colorful, lucid prose and almost liquid texture of some of his most memorable books (and erotic sex scenes). Updike was highly accomplished in virtually every form of literary achievement from short story to long-form novel to poetry to art criticism. Profoundly American, though the scope of his understanding of visual art spanned the centuries he never failed to champion this country's geniuses and his contemporaries. His breadth of knowledge, as exhibited in the literally thousands of well-informed essays in The New Yorker and The New York Review of Books are almost staggering in scope, taking on everything from the science of a cell to translations of Chinese poetry.

"Black is a shade of brown. So is white, if you look," wrote Updike in Brazil, one of his most ambitious works. We cannot fail to note that John Updike is often criticized -- most notably by Gore Vidal's lacerating wit -- as being something of a chronicler of suburban adultery, limited by the confines of his Protestant American imagination. That's not quite fair. Updike, ever the rabbit, poked his head out from the bunny hole once in a while to try his hand at subjects unfamiliar to his life experience. Aside from Brazil, there was Terrorist, a post-September 11th look at the Fundamentalist Muslim mind. Gertrude and Claudius was a postmodernist retelling of Hamlet, the Shakespearean play that haunted Updike for most of his life and resonated strongly with the almost Kiekegaardian existantialism flavor (Updike was as enamoured of Kierkegaard's Lutheran minimalism as he was of Nabokov sensory maximalism) of some of his literary criticism of theology.

Updike will be best remembered for his Rabbit Angstrom series, his magnum opus, which, in toto, probably represent The Great American Novel, chronicling the life of a suburban Republican Pennsylvania man navigating some of the main themes -- race, the striving after wealth, the sexual revolution, fatherhood, the phantasmagoria of the sixites -- of the bulk of post-war 20th century American culture. He always looked so unabashedly joyous on the book jacket author's photo, living the literary life, like he cannot believe he is writing for The New Yorker -- me, a kid from the Pennsylvania suburbs! that it is hard to imagine that the Rabbit will no longer come out to play with language in the fields of American literature.

RIP, John Updike.
EXCLUSIVE: The Corsair Talks To Top Chef's Richard Blais

Richard Blais was the brilliant molecular gastronomist in Top Chef Season 4 Chicago who, in this blogs humble opinion, should have won the day. The Corsair emailed Blais about his new gig at the Stevenswood Spa Resort on Northern California's Mendocino Coast:

The Corsair: How did you come to the Stevenswood Spa Resort and how did you come up with the feature Oysters with cocktail sorbet & salmon berries, a Gin sashimi with carbonated lime and tonic jelly, followed by Fish n Chips with ranch caviar? It sounds like an intellectual mix of acid and base flavors.

Richard Blais: We just take traditional things that we know work an are delicious and re think them texturally. Oyster with cocktail sauce. Oyster with smoked salmon. The berries will add a regional twist and they aslo look like caviar. We have never done that dish. But I know the flavors work.

Gin sashimi is a gin and tonic. Where we use nitrogen to make the gin a solid. We carbonate the lime to mimic the experience of the cocktail.

We think it also is a good transition to or from the oyster and fried fish.

The fish and chips are a nod to one of my favorite comfort foods. Fried fish. I also have a passion for ranch dressing. And the addition of caviar just males it like wearing a pair if old jeans with expensive pearls.

The Corsair: What brought you to that interesting smoker?

Richard Blais: I did not invent the smoker but am on the forefront its use. It's strength is providing dramatic presentation, an a subtleness not easily achieved with traditional long term smoking.

The Corsair: If you could do anything different on Top Chef what would you have done?

Richard Blais: Don't think I would have done anything different. The last challenge was baffling to me. 'cook the best meal of your life' I try to do that everyday! I over thought it, that's all. Best team doesn't always win.

So true. Richard Blais, culinary trailblais-er will be doing what he does best at Stevenswood Spa Resort on February 7th & 8th. Full menu here.