Monday, November 30, 2009

Media-Whore D'Oeuvres

"The city has not been this ablaze with speculation since Monica Lewinsky’s relationship with President Clinton hit the front page of The Washington Post in 1998. This latest sensation might have gone unreported had The Post’s Roxanne Roberts not been among the media watching arrivals at the White House. When she saw the Salahis she was immediately suspicious, checked the guest list, saw their names were not on it, and broke the news. Saturday night at a casual buffet dinner at Juleanna Glover’s, her guests – all insiders of one stripe or another – had their own stories to tell. It seems the Salahis were notorious around town and masters of the grab and pose when a famous face was near. Polo and a family winery were their entrée. No one seemed to know Tareq’s exact nationality, though I was told he is American born with a Belgian mother and a father who is either Israeli, Palestinian or Syrian. He went to Randolph-Macon College and, according to one of Juleanna’s guests, 'is actually a good polo player.' Michaele is 'a local girl made good.'" (WashingtonSocialDiary)

"Historically, young women and men who sought to thrive in publishing made their way to Manhattan. Once there, they were told, they would work in marginal jobs for indifferent bosses doing mundane tasks and then one day, if they did all of that without whimper or complaint, they would magically be granted access to a gilded community, the large heaving engine of books, magazines and newspapers. Beyond that, all it took to find a place to stand on a very crowded island, as E. B. White suggested, was a willingness to be lucky. Once inside that velvet rope, they would find the escalator that would take them through the various tiers of the business and eventually, they would be the ones deciding who would be allowed to come in. As even casual readers of media news know, those assumptions now sound precious, preposterous even." (David Carr/NYT)

"Hollywood appears to be on the cusp of a new chapter, in which a smaller group of major entertainment companies, fortified by bigger libraries and deeper distribution channels, will hold a larger concentration of power. With Comcast in the final stages of acquiring NBC-Universal, and MGM up for grabs in the next several weeks between Time-Warner or News Corp, the tableau of power players is set to shift in potentially significant ways. For one thing, the oft-evolving MGM is almost sure to see the end of its ride as an independent and once proud Hollywood studio – a blow to already-struggling producers and directors seeking an outlet for their work. If it succeeds in staving off bankruptcy, MGM seems likely to live on as a small moviemaking division of Fox or Warner Brothers, not unlike New Line, which was folded into Warners in 2008. Meanwhile, in buying NBC-Universal, Comcast’s CEO Brian Roberts and COO Steve Burke, based in Philadelphia, will instantly become power brokers in Hollywood in ways that never interested General Electric. For GE, NBC-Universal was meant to be a profit center no different than any other division. One never saw Jeff Immelt at Oscar parties. The Roberts are likely to be quite different Hollywood players." (TheWrap)

(image via nysocialdiary)

"On Thanksgiving Day afternoon around a quarter to four I went down to the Four Seasons restaurant to meet my old friends David and Helen Gurley Brown and their old friend Charlotte Kelly for our annual repast ... The Four Seasons is always full on the Thanksgiving holiday. And the Browns always have the same table in the pool room (next to the pool). It’s a real New York crowd – families, friends and families, couples, groups. They roll the turkey right up to your table and carve it before you, giving you your choice of the meat. On Friday, after Thanksgiving, Liz Smith and Cynthia McFadden gave a brunch at Osteria del Circo (120 West 55th Street) for about a dozen friends including Cynthia's son Spencer Hoge as well as her friends' kids, after everyone (except this writer) took in the Holiday Show with the Rockettes at Radio City Music Hall ... Meanwhile, that morning was the legendary Macy’s Day parade beginning on Central Park West. Our friend, artist and children’s book illustrator (Blackie, The Horse That Stood Still) Paige Peterson gives a pre-parade get together the night before at her Central Park West apartment." (NYSocialDiary)

"Audiences feasted on leftovers and drove the North American box office to a new record for the busy Thanksgiving holiday frame. Moviegoers were almost evenly split been vampire love and football heroics as The Twilight Saga: New Moon remained at number one while Sandra Bullock's The Blind Side held steady in second place with just $2.4M separating the two. That was a far cry from the $108.7M gap between the pair last weekend when they both opened as Twilight tumbled and Blind Side rose this weekend. The disaster film 2012 placed third as no new release managed to make it into the top three. The Top 20 over Thanksgiving weekend has consistently delivered $150-160M over the last six years but this time it soared to $181M, a new industry high ... As the vampire saga tumbled from last weekend's gross, the football hit The Blind Side enjoyed a strong spike in ticket sales rising 18% to an estimated $40.1M over the Friday-to-Sunday period. Still in second place, the Sandra Bullock raked in an amazing $57.5M over five days to propel its cume into nine-digit territory." (BoxOfficeGuru)

"'It’s incredible—I’m 60, and I’m playing the romantic lead in romantic comedies!' (Meryl) Streep says to (VF's Leslie) Bennetts. 'Bette Davis is rolling over in her grave.' And while Streep’s success is no guarantee that other actresses will fare any better than they traditionally have, it’s a step in the right direction. 'She broke the glass ceiling of an older woman being a big star—it has never, never happened before,' says Mike Nichols." (VanityFair)

"'Truthfully, I don't come here as often as I should,' said director Darren Aronofsky as he entered the New York City Ballet's Opening Night Gala. 'But my next movie will be set in this world and society, so I'm sitting back and learning.' The little project that the auteur was talking about was the currently in-production Black Swan, an elegant thriller starring Natalie Portman and Mila Kunis as competitive and ruthless ballerinas." (Fashionweekdaily)

Friday, November 27, 2009

Media-Whore D'Oeuvres

"After the Olympic-sized disappointment of his last trip to Copenhagen, why on earth would President Obama want to travel once again to the Danish capital for next month’s UN climate talks? The answer, according to White House officials, lies in several weeks of intensive behind-the-scenes diplomacy that the press corps entirely overlooked during Obama’s recent trip to China, and during the recent state visit by India’s prime minister. Beyond the photo ops and press statements, Obama was pushing President Hu Jintao and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh for the kind of climate deals that eluded him at the G8 summit in Italy in the summer – and have eluded international negotiators for the last decade. China and India have played central roles in blocking past agreements, alongside the US, in a seemingly intractable dispute between fast-developing economies and the older, wealthier polluters. Now Obama is at the point where he feels on the verge of a breakthrough, based on the kind of talks that don't get covered by reporters obsessing about state dinners. 'He had extensive conversations with President Hu specifically on climate and conversations with the prime minister of India,' said one senior White House aide. 'So he has been building momentum for a political agreement to be brokered at Copenhagen.'" (Richard Wolff/TheDailyBeast)

"Thanksgiving auds chose football over vampires, making Warner Bros.? 'The Blind Side' the top film at the holiday box office with $9.5 million off 3,110.
After posting double-digit grosses throughout the week, the B.O. haul for Summit Entertainment 'Twilight: The New Moon Saga' dipped taking in an estimated $9.2 million from 4,042. On Wednesday night, 'New Moon' exceeded the daily tally of the Sandra Bullock football drama 'Blind Side' by 81%: $14.3 million to $7.9 million. In its first week, 'New Moon' generated $188.4 million. Summit will be reporting international tallies on Sunday. Overall, the top 10 films on Thanksgiving generated an estimated $39.4 million, a 20% gain over the holiday tally last year." (Variety)

"Stock markets across the globe suffered fresh falls on Friday as global investors scrambled to understand the implications of Dubai World’s restructuring and unexpected debt standstill. The lack of information about Dubai’s flagship government-owned holding company, made worse by a religious holiday in the Middle East, prompted indiscriminate selling of stocks linked to the region. The cost of insuring against default in emerging markets around the world also leapt." (FT)

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving

Will be taking the day off tomorrow, but will resume light posting on Friday. Happy Thanksgiving.

Media-Whore D'Oeuvres

"Hollywood glamour swept back into Washington on Tuesday night at President Obama’s first State Dinner, held in a chandelier-filled party tent on the White House lawn. Movie stars and producers turned out in force for the black-tie affair. Beautifully tanned gay couples strolled past the press line, and the first lady arrived looking camera ready—and more than a little like an Oscar statuette—in a shimmering strapless gold gown. The party was allegedly a diplomatic event, something Michelle Obama called a 'really neat dinner' at a walk-through press preview earlier in the day. But who cares about all that when there are snubs to tally (where were Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and incoming World News anchor Diane Sawyer?) and curious inclusions to dissect (Tom Friedman? Really?). 'This is a big time to call in your chits,' said Washington doyenne Sally Quinn, wife of former Washington Post executive editor Ben Bradlee. Ipso facto, anyone who didn’t show Tuesday night either didn’t have enough chits to call (Rep. Eric Cantor) or so many they thought it wouldn’t matter (cable queen Oprah Winfrey, who sent a gold-bedecked Gayle King in her stead)." (Rebecca Dana/TheDailyBeast)

"David Chu, who made a fortune turning Nautica into a top sportswear brand, bought a townhouse on East 22nd Street a few years ago. But his wife prefers apartment buildings with doormen, so they never moved in. He turned the six-story mansion into a showroom and headquarters for his custom-made clothing business, David Chu Bespoke. To drum up customers, British charmer Euan Rellie has been hosting black-tie, men-only dinners, featuring cigars and Macallan sin gle malt whiskey. The other night, Rellie, who is also the 'brand ambassador' for Vertu cellphones, hosted the likes of Allen & Co. heir Nathaniel Kramer, Le Sportsac entrepreneur Tim Schifter, Deutsche Bank oil analyst Paul Sankey, Delphi board member Sean Mahoney and Alex Jackson, who co-founded Polygon Investment Partners, a hedge fund with $6 billion in assets, and retired at age 43 to try to break the trans-Atlantic sailing record." (PageSix)

"The parade of VIPs had the sweet but awkward quality of teens dressing up for prom: posing for pictures, rushing along (Louisiana's Republican Gov. Bobby Jindal, Kalpen Modi), afraid of making any mistakes of etiquette. The most curious and unexpected sighting: Tareq and Michaele Salahi. The notorious Fauquier County vineyard socialites, who are filming 'Real Housewives of D.C.,' swanned in, even though their names did not appear on the official guest list. But soon a trickle of nervous guests turned into a steady flow of colorful gowns and dashing tuxedos. The women enlivened the dark night with traditional saris in shades of claret, fuchsia and daffodil yellow. White House Social Secretary Desirée Rogers silently declared the evening a full-wattage fashion moment in a pale peach Comme des Garçons gown -- so very avant-garde -- with pearls shimmering between layers of transparent tulle. CBS's Katie Couric arrived in a sari-inspired amethyst gown by Carmen Marc Valvo. And Semonti Stephens, the first lady's deputy press secretary, practically sprinted past the photographers, but still they managed to capture her in a luxurious sari, one purchased in Calcutta and originally worn at her wedding in May. The first lady, however, was the star of the show." (WashPo)

"Mercedes Bass had an unusual predicament as she did the seating for a recent dinner party -- too many gentlemen. 'Usually hostesses have to find extra men,' laughed one social. 'How do you seat a dinner when it's all men?' Sources say the guests included Picasso biographer John Richardson -- who brought Chris Ely, Brooke Astor's butler who testified against Anthony Marshall -- and David Rockefeller, 93, who brought along a male friend and a bodyguard. They must have had plenty to talk about. It was Rockefeller and Astor's other close friend, Annette de la Renta, who triggered the case against Marshall when they learned she was being mistreated by her son." (PageSix)

"CNN's Dr. Sanjay Gupta attended the state dinner at the White House yesterday, and tweeted out some great photos from inside .. you might spot a familiar face." (TvNewser)

"Shoppers at the Limited pop-up shop on Spring Street got to do a bit of early holiday shopping for a good cause last night when Parks and Recreation star Rashida Jones hosted a benefit for Peace Games, a non-profit that teaches kids to resolve classroom conflicts without violence. Jones, who described Peace Games as 'the missing piece in education,' told us she got involved with the program after a friend introduced her to founder Eric Dawson, with whom she attended Harvard but didn't know because, 'he was busy being awesome and creating Peace Games and I don't know what I was doing.'" (Papermag)

"I will spend Thanksgiving with guru dharam Singh Khalsa, who does shamanic practice, Tibetan medicine and kundalini. I love having pockets of people in my life that I wouldn't dream of telling I working in fashion." (Elise Øverland/ Fashionweekdaily)

"With Kirsten Gillibrand struggling to connect with voters, and Rudy Giuliani inciting more confusion than excitement about his own candidacy, the rumor mill keeps churning out big-name potential challengers. Today, Theodore Roosevelt IV is out, and Harold Ford, Jr. is--for the moment, at least--in. Mr. Roosevelt, a self-described 'liberal Republican,' was reportedly encouraged to investigate a potential run by former Governor George Pataki and Texas Senator John Cornyn, but ultimately the great grandson of T.R. decided it was too much of a commitment for the potential payoff of years as an impactless junior senator. Mr. Ford, a Democrat, may feel otherwise." (Observer)

"What should we make of the kerfuffle over the Indian Prime Minister's state visit to Washington today? Manmohan Singh's summit with President Obama, scheduled in part to offset the president's unfortunate decision not to visit India on his first Asian tour, has been plagued by disappointment in Delhi. India does not enjoy the pride of place in America's foreign policy agenda granted it by President Bush and even by President Clinton in the last years of his administration. Why not? -This U.S. administration, unlike its predecessor, appears to disfavor values-based cooperation as an organizing principle of American foreign policy, diminishing policymakers' appreciation of India as the world's largest democracy and subjecting cooperation with both India and China to an unsentimental cost-benefit calculation as to whether Asia's largest democracy or soon-to-be-largest economy should be Washington's privileged partner on any given issue. Yet this interest-based calculus itself reflects a misreading of the many congruent national objectives and ambitions between Washington and New Delhi. Even an Obama-esque judgment of American interests over the coming decade -- one that is cool, hard-headed, and dispassionate -- argues in favor of elevating India to the top tier of American partners in Asia and the world." (ForeignPolicy)

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

The Middle Course On Afghanistan

The President has a rough road on Afghanistan. It was not his war (and yet, 10 months into his Presidency, it is). The indefatigable neocons are pushing, in muscular language, for an escalation; the left for disengagement. Barack Obama is enough of a scholar of recent American history to know that if Vietnam taught us anything it is that American disengagement from a war will be perceived by our enemies as a victory. It will be exploited for recruitment and, most important, it casts the country into a psychological malaise. And with the economy as it is, it could precipitate the already jarring decline of American power. The neoconservative taunting from the cheap seats -- led by resident neocon psychologist Charles Krauthammer -- has already begun. Continued unemployment or a double-dip recession along with a troop pullout could spiral America into the kind of declinist thinking that dominated in the 1970s (culminating in a conservative realignment in the 80s with Ronald Reagan)

Clearly, President Barack Obama does not want to be the Democrat, the Jimmy Carter, that cedes leadership on national security issues to the Republican party for another generation. There is also the question of nuclear weapons in Pakistan. Although it is oddly not mentioned nearly enough by the President, it has to be the top priority. Nuclear proliferation, or, worse, Al Qaeda gaining access to one or some of Pakistan's nuclear weapons is a nightmare scenario. Perhaps the President doesn't use that argument in his rhetorical arsenal is because he wants to tone down the fear-mongering that was a hallmark of the Bush era.

The prospects of "victory" in Afghanistan are small. "No outside force has, since the Mongol invasion, ever pacified the entire country," wrote our bete noir Kissinger in Newsweek. "Even Alexander the Great only passed through." If any "victory" could be achieved it would cost an amount of treasure that might be unacceptable to the American public considering the present state of the economy. Finally, the indepenedents -- a libertarian lot with strong national defense loyalties -- are leaving in droves and the only way to keep them in the President's increasingly shaky coalition is to accept the hawkish bits of McChrystal's recommendations. But this could prove the straw that broke the camel's back for his Progressive base which voted for "Change." In other words, Barack Obama is in one hell of a hard position.

Washington Post military correspondent Thomas E. Ricks, who was on Fareed Zakaria's GPS came up with the interesting idea. It grew out of a discussion between the two on Nuristan:

Zakaria: Tell me exactly why we're in Nuristan. I understand why we're in Afghanistan, but why in this part of Afghanistan?

Is this really counterinsurgency you guys are doing up there, or are you simply sticking your fist into a hornet's nest?

ZAKARIA: So, let's delve into that.

The argument would be made, if we were not to be here -- if we were to, say, cede these areas, which are very sparsely populated, there are very few people -- the argument is the Taliban will assert control there. Potentially, al Qaeda or other terrorist groups could set up training camps, and things like that.

What's wrong with that argument?

RICKS: There's nothing wrong with it. That's probably what would happen.

But I think what you're seeing is General McChrystal considering, given the limited number of troops I'm going to have, what's the best use of them?

One use might be, OK, let's pull back from those areas and focus on an ink spot, classic counterinsurgency approach -- Kabul, the Khost bowl, the area southeast of Kabul, and Kandahar. Put your troops, put your resources there, and do classic counterinsurgency there...

ZAKARIA: That is, provide security for the people there, and that is the vast bulk of the population of Afghanistan.

RICKS: Exactly.

And then, in more rural areas, pull your troops back, do a kind of triage, but use counter-terror against them.

ZAKARIA: So, if you saw a terrorist base being set up in Nuristan, go in with attack helicopters, destroy it, but get back out.

RICKS: Yes. I would call this, do the Biden plan for areas like Nuristan, do the Petraeus plan for areas like the major cities and other population areas.

ZAKARIA: What does it say about the Taliban and its military tactics? When you watch what you're describing, should we be wowed by the level of sophistication? Or is this just street smarts?

RICKS: I think we've consistently underestimated Afghans.

I used to live there when I was a teenager. And one thing I learned there is...

ZAKARIA: You lived in Afghanistan when you were...

RICKS: Yes, from 1969 to '71, in Kabul. My father was a professor at Kabul University for two years. I was actually a member of the Afghan ski patrol, junior grade, and skied in the Salang Pass.

A lot of Afghans, though, are illiterate. Illiterate does not mean stupid. In fact, I'm not even sure it means uncultured.

The average Afghan probably knows more poetry by heart than hardly anyone in America. You can run into Afghan tribesmen who know hundreds of poems and thousands of proverbs. And we would consider in their conversation quite literate.

Even when I lived there, it seemed to me that guerrilla warfare was the Afghan national sport.

One of my favorite books on this region is by John Masters. It's called "Bugles and a Tiger." It's a memoir of being a British officer with a Gurkha regiment in Waziristan in the 1930s. At the end of that last war that the British had there, the Afghan cousins showed up rather angrily and confronted him.

"Where are our medals," they said.

He said, "Well, you were the enemy."

And they said, "No, no. You gave medals to the Pashtuns on your side. We want our medals, too. You couldn't have had a good war without us."

This is very much the Afghan attitude. This is a kind of sporting event for them in many ways."

In other words: "Why not do the Petraeus plan [counterinsurgency] for the major population centers and the Biden plan [counterterrorism] for the rest of the country?" Thoughts? Comments?
Media-Whore D'Oeuvres

"On Tuesday evening, the world’s most consequential turbaned man, Manmohan Singh, will glide through White House security and take his place at a dinner table beside Barack and Michelle Obama. He is the prime minister of India, a country that could, if Mr. Obama shoots his diplomatic hoops right, come to be a preeminent American ally in the 21st century, taking its place alongside Britain, Israel, and, assuming the bolshie Yukio Hatoyama doesn’t live forever, Japan. It doesn’t take a genius to recognize the political, strategic, and moral worth to America, the world’s most powerful democracy, of a strong alliance with India, the world’s largest. Mr. Obama, by no stretch a man of tepid intelligence, has calibrated things artfully: Not only is Mr. Singh the first state visitor to Washington since the president took office in January, his trip is the first time that India has headed an American president’s list for a state visit—ever. (Richard Nixon must be turning in his grave.)" (TheDailyBeast)

"Hollywood madam Michelle Braun is out to destroy the myth about Playboy Playmates which Hugh Hefner and his staff cultivated for decades -- that the pin-ups are wholesome girls-next-door who just happen to have incredible figures they don't mind showing off. Braun -- sentenced last week to three years' probation and six months of house detention -- is planning to write a tell-all about her 11-year career hooking up centerfolds and porn stars with the men who could afford the $10,000 minimum for a date. Her clients included the kings of two countries, Fortune 500 CEOs and professional athletes, two of whom -- a baseball star and a race car driver -- ended up marrying the Playboy Playmates they met through Braun's agency, Nici's Girls ... Braun, who now lives in Florida with her two daughters, won't name names yet. Of one very single TV personality, she said, "If I dropped his name to Page Six, I certainly wouldn't be his idol." (PageSix)

"There were two high points in the career of Tony Blair. One was 2003 when Hugh Grant played the British prime minister in Love Actually. The second was in 2006 when Michael Sheen played him in The Queen who was herself portrayed by Helen Mirren. Frankly, it's been downhill ever since. Of course, he had been the longest serving Labour prime minister in history. But he was also a victim of the Iraq war which he had supported basically against the wishes of his party and certainly of its rank-and-file. On the very day he told his monarch that he was stepping down and moving out of 10 Downing Street he was appointed Special Envoy of the Quartet on the Middle East, the quartet being the United Nations, the European Union, the United States and Russia. A more motley group of intruders into the almost century-old Israel-Palestinian dispute could not be imagined, let alone invented. Anyway failure was its destiny and so also was it the destiny of Blair, poor bloke." (Martin Peretz/TNR)

"On a cold, miserable afternoon in mid-November, Ben Bronfman stepped out of a cab in front of the United Nations and walked through the security checkpoint, past the clusters of tourists in the lobby, and up to the Delegates Dining Room on the third floor, where there was a fancy luncheon to ramp things up for the big U.N. climate showdown that’s taking place in Copenhagen Dec. 7 through Dec. 18. A few minutes later, Mr. Bronfman, 27—son of the billionaire Warner Music CEO and Seagram liquor fortune heir Edgar Bronfman Jr., and fiancé of the Grammy-nominated electro–hip-hop auteur M.I.A.—was mingling with power players of the environmental movement." (Observer)

"President Barack Obama issued his sharpest critique yet of Robert Mugabe. The African strongman has been President of Zimbabwe for nearly 30 years, nearly ruining the country in the process of holding onto power by whatever means he deems necessary ... The sting came on Monday as President Obama at a ceremony of the Robert F. Kennedy Awards honoring Women of Zimbabwe Arise, or Woza. Woza's leaders Jenni Williams and Magadonga Mahlangu have been arrested dozens of times under Mugabe's regime. 'We deserve to live in dignity and free from fear; and it is our right to have our voices heard and respected,' said Ms. Mahlangu in her remarks. 'That is why I joined WOZA.' During the 2008 elections Mugabe's thugs beat up opposition party workers." (Ron Mwangaguhunga/AirAmerica)

"Last night I had dinner at Swifty’s with Heather Cohane. Heather is such a wispy name for a woman with such a strong personality. She and I met in 1992 right after I’d come to New York for that job that never worked out. Heather still owned Quest which she had started a few years before. That night, on first meeting, she gave me an assignment. That assignment turned into a whole career. It is seventeen years later and Heather now lives in Monte Carlo with her two dogs (both adopted) and near her (grown) children in Monte Carlo, Tuscany and Dorset, respectively. And I ponder the canyons of Manhattan looking for edit." (David Patrick Columbia/NYSocialDiary)

"Ben Chang is one Obama administration official known by many names. By day, he spins news as the deputy spokesman for the National Security Council. By night -- or at least before the weight of his current job responsibilities made doing so impossible -- he spins records as DJ MSG, also known as Hong Kong Hefner, a disc jockey and fashion photographer extraordinaire. Chang is an example of the new breed of Obama era up-and-comers who transcend the classical definition of the White House staffer. According to his personal Web site, he gigs in New York specializing in "Dancefloor jazz, funky breaks, old school & classic hip hop, indie pop/rock, new wave, dance punk, mutant disco...' His fashion-shoot work has been featured on, in such magazines as Express Mada ('I'm Big in Lithuania,' he writes), and in the March 2008 issue of Blackbook magazine, where he gave readers an inside look at the U.N. delegates' lounge. He was selected as one of Paper magazine's 'Beautiful People for 2008.' Somewhere in all that, Chang has amassed 13-plus years in the Foreign Service, including diplomatic assignments in El Salvador, at the State Department in Washington, in Paris at the U.S. Mission to the OECD, and in New York at the U.S. Mission to the United Nations, according to his Web site." (ForeignPolicy)

"Art Basel/ Miami is hosting several 'salons,' conversations and artist talks in the center of the Miami Beach Convention Center (19th Street and Washington Avenue) including Shepard Fairey at 4 p.m. on December 3, Fred Tomaselli at 3 p.m. on December 4 and Ryan McGinley at 6 p.m. on December 5th. Fairey is also unveiling a new mural called 'The Public Works' at a reception on Wednesday from 10 a.m. to noon at 2700 NW 2nd Avenue in downtown Miami." (Papermag)

"'We've been doing a lot of press today, but I had the buddy system going with Zac. He's such a doll!' exclaimed Claire Danes during the screening of Me and Orson Welles last night at Chelsea Cinemas ... Friends and guests including Hugh Dancy, Amber Rose and Zac Posen stepped out to join in on the Wellesian fun. Efron's character plays a boy who schemes his way into a sweet gig and lands a role acting alongside Welles .. After the screening, the festivities raged on as guests including Courtney Love, Mamie Gummer and Gabourey Sidibe darted towards the Gramercy Park Hotel Roof." (Fashionweekdaily)

Monday, November 23, 2009


Absolutely hilarious. SNL's Obama-in-China cold open was pitch-perfect, even capturing the deadpan voice of translators conveying the slide of American power. As if an American President since Nixon has brought back anything from China. Presumably the Harvard Lampoon alums writing at SNL know this. Still, they capture the perception that the trip was a political failure perfectly. As perfectly as, say, the poignant image of Obama, alone, against the Great Wall of China.

The deadpan voice in the skit is punctuated -- explosively -- by a command to sex. It is positively acidic.

And, as comedy often is, vaguely accurate.

SNL, thoroughly in Hillary's camp during the 2008 race, is probably going to be as hard on this American President as they were on, say, Clinton or Ford. Should be a wild ride.
Media-Whore D'Oeuvres

"THIS WEEKEND Multiplex cash registers were overflowing as the hotly-anticipated vampire sequel The Twilight Saga: New Moon opened to gargantuan numbers generating the third largest opening in box office history and led the overall marketplace to the second biggest weekend tally of all-time. Debuting far back in second, but also surging past industry expectations, was Sandra Bullock's new football pic The Blind Side which got off to a fantastic start. The two new female-driven films attracted over $175M in combined ticket sales leading the top ten to soar to a jaw-dropping $245M. Audiences wanted monster love as The Twilight Saga: New Moon stunned the film industry by beating what were already sky-high expectations opening to an estimated $140.7M over the Friday-to-Sunday period. That gave Summit the third best opening weekend ever trailing the super hero duo of The Dark Knight ($158.4M in July 2008) and Spider-Man 3 ($151.1M in May 2007). However, New Moon did break the all-time records for highest post-midnight grosses on the night before opening day with $26.3M and the best opening day with $72.7M. The records were formerly held by Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince and The Dark Knight with $22.2M and $67.2M, respectively. The Twilight sequel cost only $50M to produce while the others cost well over $200M each." (Boxofficeguru)

"President Obama’s nine-day trip to Asia is worth a look back to fix two potent problems, past and future. First, the trip’s limited value per day of presidential effort suggests a disturbing amateurishness in managing America’s power. On top of the inexcusably clumsy review of Afghan policy and the fumbling of Mideast negotiations, the message for Mr. Obama should be clear: He should stare hard at the skills of his foreign-policy team and, more so, at his own dominant role in decision-making. Something is awry somewhere, and he’s got to fix it." (Leslie Gelb/TheDailyBeast)

"Working at Spring Creek was really an education because, as an assistant you sit behind a desk, and I would watch the spec scripts come in. And I was reading all these spec scripts, and that really helped me understand what people were looking for. I had written a very dark, very personal thesis script that nobody was ever gonna buy because it was about a dead body rotting in a cornfield. But I knew that I wanted to write something that sort of had a commercial appeal. I loved romantic comedies, and I wanted to write a romantic comedy. I left Spring Creek to really write spec scripts and took a job working outside the industry, so I had a job I didn’t take home with me at night. During that period of time, you know, I sold my CDs for my gas, and I bugged my parents for money, and they were as supportive as they could be in a world in which they thought their daughter should be going to graduate school. I had gotten an agent coming out of film school who was very patient with me, and when I finished my spec script we put it out, and I remember sitting there thinking, I don’t really have a Plan B. If this doesn’t work, I’ve gotta leave town because I can’t do this very much longer. I wanted to be able to do something. The waiting to be noticed, the waiting for somebody to think your work is any good -- it was painful. And then it sold. My spec script sold in eight hours. It never got made, but it got put in turnaround twice, so I got paid for it twice, and that fed me for quite some time." (Grey’s Anatomy creator Shonda Rimes/TheWrap)

"Matthew Groff and Ami Horowitz’s doc 'U.N. Me,' which had its world premiere here this weekend in the festival’s First Appearance Competition, is a full-scale indictment of the world body’s rampant corruption, ineptitude and downright perversity. I have to admit, when I first read the film’s description, I was skeptical. Hating the U.N. has long been a pet enemy of the far right in the United States and flashbacks to tired old diatribes about 'creeping internationalism,' 'loss of sovereignty,' 'international socialism,' and those mysterious 'black helicopters' instantly came to mind. I have heard about corruption at the U.N., and although any corruption is never acceptable, I assumed its extent was wildly exaggerated by American right-wingers who seem to think any engagement with the world community beyond the U.S. simply dictating the rules is tantamount to traitorship. I have to say, this is one of those rare moments when a film seriously has challenged my personal view." (IndieWIRE)

"Friday night down at Indochine, they were celebrating their 25th anniversary as the laid back chic and casual go-to destination for the rich, the chic and the shameless not to mention the hip, the pips, the art crowd, the rockers and the movie stars ... co-owners Jean-Marc Houmard, Michael Callahan and Huy Chi Le staged a '1920s Shanghai' bash. It started at 9 pm and like the invitation read, it ran til 'late.' And they were all there, taking it all in, the passing parade and the trays of the Indochine gourmet celebration." (NYSocialDiary)

"Ben Silverman was quick on his feet when asked why he paired sneakers with a gray business suit at the launch party for Notional, IAC's new production shop helmed by's Ricky Van Veen. 'We're always moving. This is a company on the go!' Silverman, the former NBC Entertainment chairman who is now running his own company at IAC called Electus, said to Page Six. Also in attendance were 'New Moon' star Elizabeth Reaser, Nick Cannon, Dan Abrams and actress Regina King." (PageSix)

Friday, November 20, 2009

Picture Pages, Picture Pages ...

Behold! Rodin's The Drinker. (image via thecobrasnake)

He's not unconscious, he's just taking a little disco nap. (image via thecobrasnake)

Introducing the magnificent Duke of LongYang and his perpetually anxious manservant, Sum Ting Wong. Jet-setera, jet-setera ..(image via thecobrasnake)

What do I think when I see this outfit? Depends. (image via papermag)

My fellow Americans, join me in a salute to Cold Sore Veterans (Averted Gaze). (image via thecobrasnake)

He knew short pants were a Class-A misdemeanor in this neck of the woods. He just liked to assume the position. (image via thecobrasnake)

If you know you're going to want to crowd surf, choose your clothes carefully.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Media-Whore D'Oeuvres

"The party started early for some patrons of the black-tie shindig for the Museum of Contemporary Art, when honorary gala chair Larry Gagosian welcomed them to his Beverly Hills art gallery for a brunch and preview of new paintings by Jeff Koons. One quick look at the brunch dispelled any notion that last weekend's festivities held appeal for locals only. On the scene were artist Takashi Murakami from Japan; heavyweight boxer Vladimir Klitschko from Kiev, Ukraine; art collectors Victor Pinchuk and his wife, Elena Franchuk, also from the Ukraine; Oleg Baybakov from Moscow; and Sydney Picasso from Paris, among others ...Indeed, an estimated one-third of the guests at MOCA's 30th-anniversary gala on Nov. 14 came from outside Los Angeles. Earlier this year, gala chairs Maria Arena Bell and (Eli) Broad traveled to the world's great concentrations of art aficionados: the Venice Biennale in Italy and the Art Basel fair in Switzerland to talk about the museum. 'After reading so much of the press about MOCA, people had big question marks about what [its] future would be,' Bell said. 'People there expressed so much concern. They really cared. We talked about the situation and about how the museum had turned around, and we invited them to attend the gala.' The organizers also invited artists, and Bell counted 150 established and emerging artists in a crowd thick with celebrities such as Kate Beckinsale, Jessica Alba and Zoe Saldana; musicians such as Kenna and John Legend; and scores of other museum supporters, including honorary gala chair Dasha Zhukova; Robert Tuttle, former U.S. ambassador to the U.K.; and Maria Hummer-Tuttle." (LATimes)

"The beltway consensus was that Harry Reid’s ability to get wavering Democratic senators to allow the health care debate to proceed has been a 'test of the majority leader’s leadership'—a test that Reid looks likely to have passed, what with Ben Nelson of Nebraska and Mary Landrieu of Lousiana having come on board Friday, and Blanche Lincoln looking like an 11th-hour 'yes' vote. But this entire debacle was really a test of whether Barack Obama can throw a punch. And on that, the verdict is still out." (TheDailyBeast)

"I didn't have a chance to comment on the revelations that foreign-policy insider Peter Galbraith received a 5 percent stake in an oil field in the Dohak region of Iraqi Kurdistan, for his role in helping the Norwegian oil company DNO negotiate drilling rights there. Galbraith was also involved in the constitutional negotiations that gave the Kurds substantial autonomy over the region and thus made the proposed deal possible, and the Times reports that he could make roughly $100 million or so for his efforts. Not surprisingly, the exposure of Galbraith's dealings has caused some controversy in Iraq, though remarkably little in Washington One of the Iraqi participants said 'the idea that an oil company was participating in the drafting of the Iraqi Constitution leaves me speechless,' and the whole business is bound to reinforce the widespread (and in my view, false) belief that the 2003 invasion of Iraq was a 'war for oil.' Galbraith is publicly unrepentant, arguing that his deal with DNO was arranged while he was a private citizen and declaring that 'What is true is that I undertook business activities that were entirely consistent with my long-held policy views. . . I believe my work with [DNO and other companies] helped create the Kurdistan oil industry which helps provide Kurdistan an economic base for the autonomy its people almost unanimously desire. . . So, while I may have had interests, I see no conflict.' Of course, as a number of other critics quickly pointed out, the problem is not that Galbraith is in line to receive millions of dollars in compensation; the problem is that he failed to disclose his financial interests while he was busy writing op-eds and articles and engaging in other public activities on behalf of Kurdish autonomy. His behavior is no different than a medical researcher who takes millions of dollars from a pharmeceutical company and then writes articles or offers expert testimony about the efficacy of that company's products. The testimony may be entirely consistent with the scientist's 'long-held views,' but anyone exposed to the testimony has a right to know about the potential conflict of interest." (ForeignPolicy)

"On Friday, Oprah Winfrey will look into the camera and tell her loyal viewers what they already know: She will end her talk show in September 2011, after 25 years on the air. No doubt she’ll be teary, as will members of her audience. And so will executives at CBS and possibly at ABC, whose pocketbooks will be hurt as a result of this decision. Winfrey does not have the No. 1 syndicated show on television; nor even the No. 2, though you might suppose that she does. Those titles belong to even longer-reigning champions: Wheel of Fortune and Jeopardy. But Winfrey still has by far the dominant talk show in daytime television. And despite ratings that have slipped, and despite her failings—unleashing Dr. Phil on an unsuspecting world; ditto with James Frey and his faux memoir, A Million Little Pieces—Winfrey was, relatively speaking, a class act in the daytime television wasteland. On Wednesday, she aired her interview with Daniel Day-Lewis, Nicole Kidman, and Penelope Cruz about their upcoming movie, Nine. Her protégée, Rachael Ray, was telling viewers how to make 'stuffin’,' and Dr. Phil was doing 'Inside Infidelity, Part 2.'" (TheDailyBeast)

"WHO: Minnie, reality princess Olivia Palermo and Vogue's Valerie Boster were sporting dresses from Minnie's Spring 2010 collection. Other stylish folks in attendance included Paper's Luigi Tadini and Zandile Blay, Johannes Huebl, Andrew Saffir and Daniel Benedict, Ali Wise, Hayley Bloomingdale, Michael Musto, Gigi Mortimer, Amanda Ross, Georgia Tapert, Bettina Prentice and Rachelle Hruska.
OVERHEARD: "Peter, Tinsley and Topper -- they're like the preppy Ronsons!'" (Papermag)

"Don't be fooled by your ticket's 8 p.m. start for tonight's Victoria's Secret show at the Lexington Armory. The impressive contingent of models actually started arriving to the location as early as 8 a.m.--with cereal, pedicures, an army of hair and make-up pros, and sparkly VS robes awaiting the likes of Miranda Kerr, Marissa Miller, and Julia Stegner. The beautiful cast of dozens endured countless hours of rehearsal calls, interviews with German press, and many, many hair extensions while we followed their every move. 'It seems like we've been here since breakfast,' smiled Behati Prinsloo while petting her puppy. 'I'm just I'm just anxious for everything to start!' Some relieved their nerves with food. 'I had yogurt, berries, and coffee,' smiled a veteran Caroline Winberg. 'Then I had some steak, pasta, and chocolate cake! I don't believe in not eating--I would get in a very bad mood if I don't munch on something.' Chanel Iman agreed. 'Last night, I've had a big feast,' she confessed. 'I always eat a lot, but I wanted to fill myself up and feel sexy next to these real women. Because sometimes I feel like I have a baby body!'" (Fashionweekdaily)

"Yesterday grey and not very cold in New York, with a touch of rain (hardly), but more of it in the evening. At one I went down to Michael’s to meet Nicky Haslam who has just published his memoir, Redeeming Features (Knopf). Michael’s was buzzing. Lynn Nesbit the uber-literary agent came in and told me that I had been expected at the National Book Awards last night ... Wednesday night Gore Vidal was introduced by his old friend Joanne Woodward who presented him with a special award. He didn’t have a planned speech so his talk uncharacteristically wandered a bit. Gore (whom I don’t know but that’s how I think of him) has been in bad health for quite sometime but he’s continued to be productive, having come up with another memoir, another kind of memoir – a photo album with reminiscences and anecdotes." (NYSocialDiary)

"Gore Vidal, the novelist, social critic, and bon vivant, received the award for distinguished contribution to American letters at the National Book Awards on Wednesday night. Joanne Woodward, the actress and widow of Hollywood legend Paul Newman presented the award to 'my dear friend, the second love of my life.' Pushed onto the stage in a wheelchair to a standing ovation, Mr. Vidal, who brought no prepared remarks, spoke elliptically, drifting from subject to subject, very little of which touched on writing or publishing (except when he referred to a recent collection of photos published by Abrams) ... In introducing his wheelchair-pushing companion, a 'a lieutenant in the U.S. Navy and a veteran of the Gulf War,' Mr. Vidal began to talk about Afghanistan before he suddenly seemed to realize he was losing focus. 'If I had a speech, I would be giving it,' he said. 'That is a promise, an absolute promise, bottom line. We are in a curious position in the world,' he continued. 'We are not really needed and it used to be just as an idea, the United States was something quite remarkable and now I wonder whether we’ve been crowded over.'" (NYTimes)

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Media-Whore D'Oeuvres

"Uhm, did Dorota pick up the wrong dry cleaning? In a complete departure from her buttoned-up Blair Waldorf character, Leighton Meester let loose last night when she performed at the American Eagle Times Square Store. Judging from the incredulous faces of Gossip Girl co-stars Jessica Szohr, Michelle Trachtenberg, and Matthew Settle, this is a a whole new side of Leighton." (Guestofaguest)

"Yesterday in New York: colder but not too, and mostly sunny. Traffic not too much. On my way down to Michael’s for lunch with Brooke Hayward, I got out of the cab at 57th and Fifth to see if Bergdorf’s had put in their holiday windows. They’re so creative and interesting and as a once-upon-a-time retailer myself, I’m still fascinated to see what people do to create interst, to sell their wares. Especially in times like these. Bergdorf’s windows serves as a guage (one of them) for me in taking stock of New York life ... Down at Michael’s, Brooke and I talked about books. Writing books. Our books. Her books. More than thirty years ago she published a family memoir called 'Haywire' which was a bestseller and made into a TV movie. It was the first movie star family memoir and it was a riveting modern American family saga. With a Hollywood backdrop. It was a family shot with holes and fraught with error, just like a lot of families we know or belong to. I’d like to see her write a second book but she doesn’t want to. There’s so much more to tell and now that she is in the processing of getting a divorce from Peter Duchin, there will be even more since divorces do that to us. She doesn’t want to. She turns the tables on me and tells me to write a book. At the next table were the Dixie Chicks. Yes! I thought Steve Millington, Michael’s GM and head backslapper, was kidding when he told us. I’d never seen the Dixie Chicks before. Just like Darryl Strawberry the day before." (NYSocialDiary)

"Sarah Palin was like a sparkling celebrity holiday gift in the Oprah interview. She was just shining with the thrill of being on that stratospheric studio sofa that would rocket her book sales even further off the charts. The only veiled moment of impatience that dimmed her gorgeous stare was when Oprah opened up with whether Palin thought she had snubbed her during the ’08 campaign by not asking her on the show. You could see Palin thinking, as we in the audience were, 'Huh? Why the eff are we wasting time talking about you?' Was it a rare small frisson of competitiveness that made the Queen of All Talk Show Hosts suddenly want to prolong the limelight on herself, rather than hand things over immediately to the mink-haired, fresh-as-a-daisy bombshell who could be the natural star to grab Oprah’s crown and her time slot?" (Tina Brown/TheDailyBeast)

(image via Caroline/Papermag)

"Pedro Almodovar's films are about much more than mere fashion moments, although the crowd at last night's screening of Broken Embraces became fixated on the wardrobe matters at hand. Perhaps it was because the event, held by Andrew Saffir's Cinema Society and Calvin Klein Collection in the Crosby Street Hotel's screening room, was dominated by chic--Michael Pitt, Kim Gordon, Donna Karan, Mira Sorvino, Billy Crudup, Fergie, and of course, Penelope Cruz in a Francisco Costa-designed sheath/jacket combo. 'Seeing Penelope get dressed today was, in a way, a cinematic moment,' said the designer ...Afterwards, guests braved the paparazzi waiting outside the Crosby Street Hotel (Fergie posed graciously) and taxied over to the Boom Boom Room, or whatever it's called, where trays of champagne (and an open bar) awaited. Mini-cheeseburgers, vegetarian spring rolls, crab cakes, Swedish meatballs, and mini croque monsieurs were consumed with abandon as Marion Cotillard showed up to support her friend Cruz in the bar's VIP section, which also drew the likes of Rose Byrne, Rachel Hunter, Mary Kate Olsen, and Gabourey Sidibe." (Fashionweekdaily)

"J.lo's ex Ojani Noa claims he is being followed and has had death threats after attempting to sell a book and steamy home tapes of the star. His business manager, Ed Meyer, told Life & Style: 'She's having him followed. We just ran the license plate of the car . . . and it goes directly back to Jennifer Lopez. Ojani's scared.' But a Lopez source said Ojani was 'paranoid' and was being tracked by a process server trying to hand him legal papers. Ojani's lawyer, Frank Sanes Jr., added: 'We have some concerns right now about the personal safety of Ojani. We believe he's under surveillance by someone. He's had death threats.'" (PageSix)

"One easily forgets how innocent those pretty young things really are… They are so good at having us believe they are experienced. Most men manage to resist the temptation of going after a ingénue, of course, but others, like the decadent and indecent Humbert Humbert and Roman Polanski, simply can’t. An Education, Lynn Barber’s memoir about growing up in 1960s London, is a classic story of innocence lost. A coquettish girl. A broken man. A lesson for all young women and would-be second-handers. Part of the journalist’s memoir was adapted for the screen by the illustrious Nick Hornby, and the BBC film is directed by Lone Sherfig, a Danish woman with only one other English language flick to her credit and experience outside the mainstream. The lecher is played to skin-crawling perfection by Peter Sarsgaard, a young American actor with an eerie resemblance to John Malkovich. His character, David, spots wide-eyed Jenny waiting for the bus in the rain. Immediately, he does his best to assure her he is trustworthy: he shows off his wealth. For any young girls reading out there, this is the first sign of a cheat." (Mandolyna Theodoracopulos/Takimag)

(image via Caroline Torem Craig)

"PAPERMAG: If you were to run your own magazine, what -- other than PAPER -- would it be?"
Christian Siriano: I love love love PAPER, but OK, it would be Vogue Italia.
PAPERMAG: What would you change about it?
Christian: Not one thing -- it's perfect!" (Papermag)

"I am at the Paley Center in midtown Manhattan, for their big yearly powwow on the future of global media and entertainment, listening to Katie Couric interview Jeff Bewkes and Les Moonves. Among the other questions, an audience member asked about the low ratings of CNN, compared to Fox and MSNBC. Bewkes’ response, paraphrased: We are not limiting ourselves to the center, we are a wider platform including left and right. Attention on us are due to habits of the press: they focus on primetime. It is important but not the most important thing. We have more people coming to our website; also when we put on news shows people come in for shorter times. We have a different aim, function and economic structure. We get much more revenues and earnings compared to them. Our business is 24 hours around the day, not just morning or evening." (Paidcontent)