Friday, January 29, 2010

Gallery Hopping: Gelitin, Blind Sculpture

Last night I left my zone of comfort to see Austrian art collective Gelitin's big show at Greene Naftali in cooperation with the Austrian Cultural Forum. It did not disappoint. I don't know quite how to describe the performance art piece except to say: wow.

Blind Sculpture, the title of the exhibition -- if one can even call it that -- is described as "a Happening by Gelitin, with a little help of their friends." It was actually a very exciting artistic experience. High above the crisp Chelsea night, Green Naftali was transformed from an exhibit into sheer exhibitionism, an intriguing experience.

Gelitin, they want you to know, was spelled “gelatin” until 2005. Okay. They are famous in the art world as the art collective who, on the rainy night of November 16, 2005, presented "Tantamounter" at Leo Koenig. ArtNet described it thusly:

"There was plenty of jostling for space among the damp, exuberant masses, since the four-person Viennese art collective had erected a (supposedly soundproof) plywood wall that blocked off most of the gallery, leaving only a narrow area for the crowd to press into.

Behind the barrier, the team was hard at work as the human cogs of their “gigantic, complex and very clever machine,” alongside Miami photographer Naomi Fischer and the group’s German therapist, with whom they would man the contraption non-stop through the 23rd. Gelitin had fitted its workshop with a full kitchen and spent five days prior to the opening hauling in flea market junk and all kinds of other supplies to stock the Tantamounter.

It functions as a kind of art-Xerox. On the outside, where the visitors gather, there’s a counter-height wooden box, jutting into the space from the wall. You open a wooden hatch on top of the box, throw in an item that you want duplicated, and press a copy button. A light bulb comes on, indicating the “machine” is “copying.”

A few minutes later, at another part of the contraption -- a large wooden cabinet by the wall at one end of the space -- you get a signal, and out comes your original, along with a Gelitin-designed duplicate, hashed together from their stockpile of junk.

That was my preamble to last night's opening reception. I had no fucking idea what to expect and was quite surprised. The audience was a combustible mix of socialite types, downtown hipsters, seasoned gallery hoppers and, as always, people interested in the free booze. Some of the most interesting conversations -- and snippets of conversation -- happened at the open bar.

Last night's opening reception is a performance art piece -- haunting live piano music, cross dressing men, a stunning Asian woman in a kimono, hastily constructed wooden bleachers, a dog, drinking on stage -- about the process of building a sculpture -- the social (drinking, joking) and the technical (assistants handing materials to the collective) aspects of art are on display. The audience is watching art being made by the collective, adding a vivid dimension, the becoming, to the final work in the process of Being. "The following 10 days they will be working on the sculpture in the afternoons, early evenings, the visitors can watch the happening of the sculpture," says the press release. The happening. The principals -- Wolfgang Gantner, Ali Janka, Florian Reither, and Tobias Urban -- change. There will be additions during the 10 day art happening. Some participants (they are called "Gelitin's assistants") coming in over the next week or so are artists, some are celebrity artists, like Casey Spooner of Fischerspooner, Olaf Breuning, K8 Hardy, XXXMacarena, Andrew W.K will participate. And they do it blindfolded.

If it sounds like I am making this shit up I suggest you see some of these happenings. They are live this afternoon from 3pm to 7, on Saturday from 3PM to 8, then next week Tuesday through Saturday from 3-7pm. Fer reals, you need to see this.
At Davos, The CEOs Are Talking About Massachusetts

From BusinessInsider:

New York Times' Andrew Ross Sorkin and Michael Elliot, editor of Time magazine, were on CNBC this morning talking about what's being whispered about beyond the panels at the World Economic Forum in Davos.

'The Washington story is the story,' Sorkin said. 'I can't tell you how many CEOs from India, China, Bangladesh, all they want to do is talk about Obama and Massachusetts.'

Sorkin said that might indicate an international credibility issue for Obama, who is already losing faith from the American people in domestic issues.

Another surprise? All the 'lip service' and 'happy talk' from bankers, Sorkin said.

All of them say they need to be part of the solution. But a behind-the-scenes meetings yesterday with a number of the CEOs and the bankers wasn't so pleasant. 'I'm actually told it got quite heated,' Sorkin said. 'When it comes to the brass tacks actually having to deal with reform in a meaningful way, I'm not sure they are ready, prepared to do it.'

Media-Whore D'Oeuvres

"Are the French going mad? That is a question that some investors might ask, as the global elite wander – or trudge – through the snow in the Davos ski resort this week. On Wednesday night, Nicolas Sarkozy, French president, strutted into the Davos limelight by becoming the first French leader to deliver the opening keynote at the event. And, as one might expect, the speech was an odd blend of lofty, arresting rhetoric, unexpectedly geeky comments about global accounting standards and capital treatment of securitised products (which Mr Sarkozy apparently thinks leaves French banks at a disadvantage). But perhaps the most arresting 'soundbite' was a call for a resurrection of the Bretton Woods global currency accord. 'The prosperity of the postwar era owed much to Bretton Woods ... we need a new Bretton Woods,' Mr Sarkozy declared, in a speech that prompted a large part of the Davos audience to rise to their feet with wild applause. 'We cannot preach free trade and also tolerate monetary dumping.' Now, cynics with long memories might point out that the French have often muttered this kind of thing before (and Mr Sarkozy himself has used the 'Bretton Woods' tag on several occasions in recent months). And the fact that he unveiled this in Davos says as much about France’s determination to shape the global intellectual debate, at a time when America is looking increasingly confused, as any plans to start a clear policy initiative." (FT)

"Warner Music Group CEO Lyor Cohen flies United. Coach. Sure, he uses his miles to upgrade to business, but there are no black cars at Warner anymore, Jet Blue is the company airline, you see the music business is in the middle of a storm, and Warner's battened down the hatches, is doing its best to sail through. One thing you can't argue with is Warner's increased market share. Sure, Universal is still the behemoth, but Warner is growing its piece of the pie. As for overall revenues? Well, Lyor hopes they go up. He spent the morning at Cricket, looking at their mobile music model. He said the interface was fantastic. And that a music fee was just going to be added on to the bill of these customers without contracts. I'll have to wait to see it. But I must say, Lyor was not unfamiliar with the issues. He spoke of transparency. We needed it. A manager, an act should be able to log on every day and see where their music was streamed, what they got paid. Is this ready today? No. Is this in the near future? No. But Lyor said it was inevitable. Trust must be reestablished." (LefetzLetter)

"(Howard Stern) started the show talking about how interesting it is getting the show started. He said he doesn't feel like talking first thing in the morning. He said he comes out of the box with all of that energy. He said he was talking to Gary about Conan O'Brien because they reported that he had sold 2 pilots to NBC. Howard said that's a move that networks do and they just bury the pilots. He said they sometimes build into the deal that the network will look at the pilots but that doesn't mean that they're going to get them made. Howard said he told Gary that they're telling Conan that they're going to work with him but they'll never produce the shows. Howard said that they'll say the pilots will be looked at but they won't make them. Howard said it's a way to keep Conan calm for now." (Marksfriggin)

"Nicole Kidman was among the stars who donated $250,000 each to Haiti at a fund-raiser hosted by director Paul Haggis. Kidman, Penelope Cruz, Javier Bardem, Gerard Butler, Daniel Craig and Sean Penn each pledged to give $50,000 a year for five years to Artists for Peace & Justice's Haiti relief fund. Haggis persuaded the actors to donate at a brunch at his LA home Sunday which raised $4.5 million. The charity founded by Haggis promises to spend 100 percent of donations on emergency relief and medical supplies." (PageSix)

"There was a monsoon in progress as Geoffrey and I drove to the prestigious LA Art House, superbly managed by its brilliant director, Kevin Conroy, for the opening night of Sacha's new show titled 'Prism; the Many Faces of Sacha Newley.' We couldn't imagine how we would get inside without getting soaked until we recognized the Beverly Hills Hotel valet gang, the creme de la creme of the business. As we climbed the stairs we couldn't miss seeing Sacha, talented artist son of Joan Collins, and actor/lyricist Anthony Newley, whirling like a dervish through the terrific turnout of LA's finest who'd braved the deluge to come to the exhibition. With his mop of brown curls flying and impish grin, Sacha managed to be everywhere at once. You could tell he was thrilled to be in the art world of Los Angeles, a city where he lived much of the time while growing up." (Sahron, the Lady Sondes/NySocialDiary)

"That Jamie Foxx, Usher, Taylor Swift and Ke$ha are expected at Clive Davis' pre-Grammy bash tomorrow night at the Beverly Hilton." (PageSix)

"Jordan's King Abdullah II joined Spanish monarch King Juan Carlos in Madrid for a private luncheon hosted by Queen Sofia before meeting with prime minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero. Abdullah II's wife, Queen Rania, meanwhile, has headed to Davos, Switzerland, for the World Economic Forum." (VanityFair)

"As of Tuesday, it was looking like Sundance 2010 was not going to be a buyers’ market after all. The festival could only boast two deals: Davis Guggenheim’s documentary Waiting for Superman to Paramount Pictures and the Ryan Reynolds-starrer Buried to Lionsgate for over $3 million. But in the last two days indie distributors have become a lot more comfortable with what’s screening at the festival. In the past 24 hours three movies now have theatrical distribution attached to them. Focus Features purchased The Kids Are All Right by director Lisa Cholodenko (Laurel Canyon) for a reported $4.8 million, making it the largest deal of the festival. The comedy starring Annette Bening and Julianne Moore centers on a lesbian couple whose teenage children want to reunite with their biological father (Mark Ruffalo). Filmed in only 24 days, the cast luckily gelled together without much time." (Popwatch)

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Bill Gates to Silvio Berlusconi: Aid Before Beauty

From ForeignPolicy:

"Not every day does Bill Gates lay the smack down on a sitting premier, but that was the case when the Microsoft founder slammed Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi's foreign aid policy. Berlusconi's stolen Italian headlines in the last week (but when is that not the case?) for a post-hair-transplant bald head -- and Gates couldn't resist making a not-so-subtle reference:

And in a clear reference to the notoriously image-conscious Berlusconi, Gates told Süddeutsche Zeitung: "Rich people spend a lot more money on their own problems, like baldness, than they do to fight malaria."

Italy's foreign aid budget was approximately 0.11% of its GDP in 2009, one of the lowest figures among developed countries, and half of what it was even in the prior year. Gates didn't mince words on his views:

"Dear Silvio, I am sorry to make things difficult for you, but you are ignoring the poor people of the world," he told the Frankfurter Rundschau.

Media-Whore D'Oeuvres

"He did just fine. But the hard part is still to come. Barack Obama’s sober, serious State of the Union speech did not explain how—or whether—he will get the Senate health-care bill through the balky House of Representatives. Perhaps that’s appropriate. After all, it’s really for his listeners in the House chamber to figure that one out. But in saying, 'I don’t quit,' Obama made it clear he’s not giving up—on health care, or much of anything else, even if his oratory has re-tooled his once-sweeping agenda into a series of more modest-sounding goals. Tax cuts. Infrastructure improvements. New investments in offshore oil drilling and nuclear power. The speech was, in the end, very much the laundry list that such efforts usually are, an attempt to offer a little something to practically everybody. As I listened to the post-speech cable chatter, I realized how Obama can’t seem to win for losing these days. Having set up the speech as a vital chance to connect with Americans on the economy, pundits complained that Obama didn’t get to health care until halfway through it. Obama did his best to sound angry at the situation he inherited, saying he knew everyone hated the bank bailout and acknowledging that he hated it, too. But, as usual, he sounded most persuasive when he was coolly rational, as he was in pledging to work to end the military’s 'Don’t ask, don’t tell policy,' an issue that many of his liberal supporters believe he’s conveniently ignored in his first year." (Todd Purdham/Vanity Fair)

"Going into the State of the Union, it was easy to expect a speech steeped in populism. The consensus was that the White House had misjudged the country's anger over bailouts and unemployment, all of which boiled over in Massachusetts. And so, beginning last Wednesday, Obama went out of his way to channel that anger at Wall Street. 'We're about to get into a big fight with the banks,' the president told George Stephanopoulos the day after the Kennedy seat went Republican. Close observers of the White House only affirmed this impression, noting the re-emergence of Obama's chief counselor, David Axelrod. Axelrod is known within the administration as a champion of the little guy and an enemy to overdogs. According to recent reports, he helped persuade Obama to pursue the latest round of tough-minded Wall Street reforms. But whatever his economic worldview, Axelrod is first and foremost the chief curator of the Obama brand. Alongside the president himself, he is the man most responsible for the persistent hope-mongering of 2008. Which is why, in retrospect, Axelrod's tighter grip on the reins didn't foreshadow an embrace of class-consciousness. It foreshadowed a return to the themes of the Obama campaign." (Noam Scheiber/TNR)

"Joan Rivers has joked that she hates the Sundance Film Festival because she can't get any decent freebies. The comedian, who is attending the Utah festival in support of the documentary Joan Rivers: A Piece Of Work, said it was a problem getting into the famous gifting booths on site. She laughed: 'I really hate it, I can't get to the gifting booths - we barrely made our way into one of them.' She went on: 'There was nothing left but extra-larges. So, I'm very bitter about Sundance, if you want the truth.'" (UKPA via Google)

"Former U.S. President Bill Clinton said the World Economic Forum will work to provide information to increase private-sector investment in Haiti. Addressing the WEF annual meeting here, Clinton gave business leaders an update of conditions in the earthquake-ravaged nation. Serious food, water and shelter needs remain in Haiti, he said. The airport has become the de facto operations center of the relief effort. About 100 planes land daily, about 10 times as many as before the earthquake. Safe and sanitary shelters are needed, and more food and water has to be distributed, Clinton said. 'We have to get temporary schools opened' and Haitian students back in school, he said. More food distribution points are needed and the only way to do this is via trucks, Clinton said. There are only about 15 food distribution sites now in Haiti. Clinton said more than 100 sites are needed. 'If anyone here knows where I can get pickup trucks or slightly bigger (trucks), I need 100 yesterday,' Clinton said." (WSJ)

"Because there was never a conversation between us, I have no distinct feeling of his personality or the man. But the photograph that Jill Krementz lent for our use on this page tells us many things about him – from his friend dressed for the party, Brooke Astor, to the expression on his face as he listens to her. Is he is looking at her subject? Is he evaluating a scene as she shares a thought or remark, or is he ignoring and watching a moment unfold? Or checking someone out? Louis? Whatever it was, you know Louis Auchincloss noticed it, registered it, saw it. That was the man. That was his gift, to all of us." (NYSocialDiary)

"Tiger Woods' alleged call-girl Loredana Jolie says the disgraced golfer is such a freak in bed, his stint in a rehab for sex addiction probably won't cure him. 'He would engage in sex from 9 p.m. until the sun came up the next morning. But he wasn't a healthy guy. He couldn't sleep and would stay up all night. I am not really sure rehab for sex addiction will help him,' Jolie told Page Six yesterday. Jolie -- who initially claimed to The Post she never slept with Tiger, then declared she wanted $1 million for her story about their alleged sex -- is now shopping a tell-all book to publishers." (PageSix)

"It's been a long time since Katie Holmes has had a lead film role, let alone a noteworthy one. She last appeared on the big screen as a co-lead in the critically eviscerated 'Mad Money' two years ago, and before that had a respectable but small supporting part in the cigarette-lobby satire 'Thank You for Smoking,' a movie that began shooting exactly five years ago and came to Sundance four years back. Which makes it all the more striking that she's back at the festival this year with not one but two films, the Kevin Kline-Paul Dano vehicle 'The Extra Man' and the blue-blood dramedy 'The Romantics.' It's the latter film in which she does her most, and best, work in a long time, earning her the right to a second look from anyone who's written her off as so much tabloid fodder. 'Romantics' examines a group of seven longtime friends somewhere past the carefree part of their 20s but not quite at the point of actual responsibility. All of them gather for a wedding of two of their own -- a monied, uptight woman named Lila (Anna Paquin) who's marrying Tom (Josh Duhamel, a great catch to the women in the film but boringly milquetoast to those of us sitting in the audience watching it), having essentially grabbed him from under the nose of Holmes' Laura. Now they're at this wedding, and old grudges and desires flare up, particularly for Laura, who alternates between spurning Tom and opening herself up to him again." (LATimes)

"It has been an extraordinarily good season for jazz books. Terry Teachout’s Pops: A Life of Louis Armstrong and Robin Kelley’s Thelonious Monk: The Life and Times of an American Original provide insightful biography; Jazz by Gary Giddins and Scott DeVeaux is an authoritative primer. Adding to the canon are three other, equally necessary books, which use photography and album covers to provide an intriguing perspective: The Jazz Loft Project The Prestige Records Album Cover Collection and Freedom Rhythm and Sound: Revolutionary Jazz and Original Cover Art 1965-83 trace the development of jazz from an implicitly defiant music to an explicitly rebellious soundtrack of the changing times. In addition to capturing the magic in the music, presentations of jazz visuals have often carried the corrective undertow—an argument that this was great music that wasn’t given its due." (TheRoot)

"Speaking of Anderson Cooper! He’s traveled the world for CNN, reporting from tsunami-ravaged coast lines to Middle Eastern war zones and seemingly every hellish place in between. But on the night of Jan. 22, American TV viewers saw the peripatetic anchor pop up in a previously unimaginable territory—namely, MSNBC ... One of the Newtonian laws of television journalism is that anchors never willingly preempt their own airtime. But according to sources, it was Keith Olbermann and Rachel Maddow who led the charge, despite the fact that the event with Mr. Cooper and company would push them out of prime time. Mr. Griffin soon agreed to put on the telethon. However, there was one problem. MSNBC didn’t have the rights to air it. In the subsequent scramble to secure the rights from MTV Networks, which was coordinating the production of the event, Mr. Griffin picked up the phone to enlist the help of a longtime acquaintance with some sway in the telethon—Anderson Cooper’s boss, Jim Walton, with whom Mr. Griffin had worked in the early, primordial days of CNN." (Observer)

"The invitation for Riccardo Tisci's Givenchy after-party at the Ritz hotel last night promised an 'intimate' affair. And—how's this for novelty?—intimate actually turned out to be an apt description of the buffet dinner for 50. Joining the likes of Francesco Vezzoli, Natalia Vodianova, and Kanye West were Tisci's personal trainer, his best friend from childhood, assorted family members, and his fashion show hair and makeup teams. 'He is just the sweetest man in the world,' effused Ciara, who first collaborated with Tisci when she was his date at Fashion Rocks in Rio last October. 'In fact, he's so sweet, I'd bet he's even going to let me take these pants home with me.'" (Style)

"Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva cancelled plans to attend the World Economic Forum’s annual meeting in Davos, Switzerland after being hospitalized for high blood pressure. Lula’s physician, Cleber Ferreira, said that two separate medical exams on the 64-year-old president by doctors at a hospital in the northeastern city of Recife came back normal, according to a posting on the presidential palace’s blog. 'He just had a small indisposition having to do with his very heavy agenda,' Foreign Minister Celso Amorim told Bloomberg Television in Davos today. 'He walked to the hospital and he came out walking. He’s fine, he’s absolutely fine.' Brazil’s Globo TV showed a smiling Lula leaving the hospital in Recife accompanied by Cabinet Chief Dilma Rousseff. The network said he was traveling to his home in Sao Bernardo do Campo to rest." (Bloomberg)

"There's something fabulously democratic about Jean Paul Gaultier's haute couture--it looks great, sexy, and appropriate on women of all ages. These days, he is Paris' consummate veteran couturier, now that Christian Lacroix is not showing. A sea of black-suited, bold-face-named fashion folk including Karla Otto, Glenda Bailey, Lucinda Chambers, the perpetually mantilla'd Diane Pernet and a fur-clad and not-wearing-black-naturally Anna Wintour (followed by a very aggressive bodyguard who almost knocked over Carine Roitfeld) filled the front row. Collectively, Inès de la Fressange, Vincent Perez and the flawless Dita von Teese caused a paparazzi storm." (Fashionweekdaily)

"Since Paul Volcker stood by Barack Obama a week ago as the US president unveiled banking reforms devised by 'this tall guy,' the 'Volcker rule' has provoked angst on Wall Street and in Washington. Critics complain that it is a populist measure designed to distract attention from the Democrats’ political woes; that it is impractical; that it would put US banks at a disadvantage to European ones; that its target is wrong; and that it would let investment banks escape. Some of these objections, particularly the last, have weight, yet the Volcker rule – that deposit-taking banks would not be able to engage in proprietary trading, or to own hedge funds or private equity firms – is the first time any government has proposed a sensible structural remedy for the problems created by bailing out banks in 2008. For that reason, I welcome the conversion of the US president to splitting up banks rather than letting them remain too big to fail and relying on tough regulation, higher capital charges and mechanisms for winding them down if they get into trouble. For the first time, a government is directly attacking the size and complexity of over-mighty institutions. My colleague Martin Wolf raised a number of difficulties with the Volcker plan this week, and it does indeed, as he put it, need 'more work.' But it would be a great shame if – as Wall Street hopes – it runs into the sand on Capitol Hill in the same way as healthcare reform." (John Gapper/FT)

"Decided against the Bill Clinton event last night -- primarily in the interests of sleep. Due apologies. He's scheduled at a Coca Cola reception tonight, so I'll probably catch him there. I did spend some quality time with Andrew Ross Sorkin. We were typing away on dueling computers, both generally unaware of each other ... until I finished up and looked over to my left. Lovely fellow. Surprisingly unselfpossessed given the extraordinary success of his recent book, Too Big to Fail ... Andrew said his view on writing the book was akin to Tarantino directing a movie -- he wants everyone coming away believing they've read a different story. Interesting, clever, probably not my take ... From my perspective, the thing Andrew got truly on the money, as it were, was his sense of humanity around all the major bankers (I think the public sector folks got a bit of a rougher ride). In 30 years, presuming a conversion, I suspect I'd like Andrew to be my rabbi. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the subjects disagreed. I didn't discuss the book with Merrill Lynch's ex CEO, John Thain, but I know him well ... and thought quite well of the portrayal. Not John's view, says Andrew. Same on Lehman's Dick Fuld -- and his annoyance with the book I've already heard from Dick's old friends." (Ian Bremer/ ForeignPolicy)

"It’s been a slow death, but Miramax dies on Thursday. The New York and Los Angeles offices of the arthouse movie studio owned by Disney will close. Eighty people will lose their jobs. The six movies waiting distribution -- 'Last Night,' 'The Debt,' 'The Tempest' among them -- will be shelved, to gather dust, or win a tepid release. It’s not clear that anyone at the studio will care. But a lot of other people around the movie business mourned the impending loss of a label that once set the bar for taste and artistry. Over 31 years, the movie company that for most of its existence was led by founders Harvey and Bob Weinstein brought the public enduring stories that plumbed the depths of human emotion ('My Left Foot') and pushed the boundaries of cultural barriers ('Reservoir Dogs'). When we think of the movies that defined the latter part of the 20th century -- the movies that mattered, that stories that hit pop culture like a hammer and left a dent -- more often than not they came from Miramax." (Sharon Waxman/TheWrap)

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Picture Pages, Picture Pages ...

Mr. Tarantino? Is there something wrong? Mr. Tarantino? (image via thecobrasnake)

How NOT to properly navigate a threesome. (image via thecobrasnake)

I am really and truly too fucking turned on to say anything biting about this woman, except Who is she? and, more importantly, How does one contact her? (image via thecobrasnake)

Logistically for a DJ, finding the time to go to the bathroom can be tricky. (image via thecobrasnake)

-- But clearly not impossible. (image via thecobrasnake)

Nip/Schmuck (image via theoobrasnake)

Some go in for bedazzler, but "Rumpole" believes a barristers wig is the ultimate club accessory. (image via thecobrasnake)

As we get older and more mature the standards we require in a lover -- in this case for *ahem* "girth" -- are bound to relax a bit. (image via thecobrasnake)
Media-Whore D'Oeuvres

"His presidency may be on the line. But Barack Obama—law professor, student extraordinaire—is taking a last-minute cramming approach to writing his State of the Union address. Previous presidents have entered the rehearsal phase of their State of the Union preparation several days before traveling to Capitol Hill. But with less than 48 hours to go, Obama’s speechwriting and message teams were still rewriting and cutting the text of the speech heavily, according to White House officials. Such delays and compressed timetables are uncomfortably familiar to Obama’s aides, who have faced intense last-minute pressure to complete other landmark addresses, including his acceptance speech at the Democrats’ 2008 convention. The method may be familiar, but the terrain is new—and rather unsettling. This White House has not seen this kind of crisis atmosphere before. As it seeks to pivot from the shocking upset loss of the late Ted Kennedy’s Senate seat to the GOP last week and regain momentum with yet another most-important-speech-of-his-career moment, Team Obama is in uncharted territory. Inside the West Wing, Obama’s aides concede that last week was the worst of their term. But they dispute the notion that the State of the Union represents a moment of reinvention for the presidency." (Richard Wolff/TheDailyBeast)

(image via nydailynews)

"Tuesday was a not-very-cold day in New York, winter sunny. Charlotte Ford invited me to join her, her sister Anne, and Liz Smith for lunch at the Four Seasons. Number one. Liz Smith is the best lunch partner in New York. And we were captivated. She can keep you enchanted, shocked, laughing and listening for an entire lunch. And it’s all done miraculously without the faintest damn. So we were all ears and much laughter. The Four Seasons is to CEOs what Michael’s is to media, a place that they can’t help lunching at ... Meanwhile yesterday, amidst our LizSmithian what’s-up, I noticed late in the lunch hour how the round table of five businessmen (clearly) across the aisle behind us were all suddenly looking in our direction. At first I thought our direction. I quickly realized, observing as I do, that they were looking beyond us, like behind me. Not once, not twice, but several times. I didn’t turn around right away (first having to delude myself that I am subtle) but finally I couldn’t resist. It had to be someone like George Bush or some amazing woman. Amazing woman. I said to Liz, 'who’s sitting behind me?' Liz said to me: 'Daphne Guinness.' I turned around; the hell with it, I wanted to see too. With Bernard-Henri Levy, the French dreamboat/ philosopher/journalist/rich boy. Ms. Guinness is astonishingly beautiful and doesn’t look like anybody else." (NYSocialDiary)

"The venue was perfect for Riccardo Tisci's latest Givenchy Haute Couture collection. This place wasn't always a Westin--and Givenchy isn't the House of Hubert and Audrey Hepburn anymore, either. Just before the show, I ran into LA's Claudio Conti who told me about the documentary he is currently filming on Peter Marino ... Givenchy is definitely the 'cool' couture designer, as young Russian-speakers and chic sexy model types typed nonstop on their BlackBerrys while waiting for the show to start ... As I left, I spotted Kanye and Amber heading back stage to congratulate a triumphant Tisci." (Fashionweekdaily)

"Few minds in China are likely to change on account of Hillary Clinton's call for 'a single Internet where all of humanity has equal access to knowledge and ideas.' Last week, the U.S. secretary of state laid out two competing visions of the Internet: one open and global, the other highly controlled and often used for repression. Given that China is rapidly trending toward the latter, it's time to start asking: What might a permanently fractured Web look like? Clinton's speech was not utopian. Her remarks were fairly measured about the potential political impact of network technologies. Eschewing the exuberant optimism that has characterized so much past thinking about the Internet, Clinton recognized that 'modern information networks and the technologies they support can be harnessed for good or for ill.' Still, she held out hope that the United States could strategically use Internet technology to advance freedom and human rights around the world. To tip the balance to the good, she said, the United States plans to develop and distribute technologies to help people avoid censors, foster international norms against cyberattacks, cooperate across national borders to identify and prosecute cybercriminals, and exploit public-private partnerships to build a robust cyberdefense at home. These are noble aspirations, but they will have a very limited impact on China. Censorship, hacking, and economic warfare as practiced in China are rooted in a political and economic calculus that is unlikely to change." (ForeignPolicy)

"Audience members at a screening of 'The Killer Inside Me' took director Michael Winterbottom to task for the film's excessive violence toward women, and star Jessica Alba wasn't around to support him at the Q&A session -- she had left halfway through the film. In 'Killer,' characters played by Alba and Kate Hudson are repeatedly punched and kicked bloody by Casey Affleck's character, small-town deputy sheriff Lou Ford. In one scene, a brutal beating goes on for several minutes. According to a Toronto Star report, Winterbottom appeared rattled when the lights came up on the Monday screening and the audience began assailing him with questions about why the violence was necessary." (TheWrap)

"'I feel,' Elyse Slaine said over a nine-dollar cup of coffee at the Pierre Hotel last Friday, 'like someone has to tell the truth.' The 46-year-old was wearing studded Louboutin boots, a ruby ring on her right hand and a Harry Winston diamond watch on the other. But she did not look happy. It had been a hard week. On Saturday, Jan. 16, The Wall Street Journal ran a long, lurid story naming her ex-husband, the trader David Slaine, as a key government mole in its far-reaching insider trading investigation of the Galleon hedge fund. He’d agreed to wear a wire after the F.B.I. confronted him at his home in 2007 with evidence of his own insider trading, the paper said ... And for the uptown divorcées trudging through Wall Street’s strange new landscape, Ms. Slaine has plowed an extraordinary path. The day after the Journal story appeared, she’d taken to the comments section of a blog called Sense on Cents to exclaim that her ex-husband had never worn a wire: 'The only fact you and the WSJ got right is that Slaine benches 400 pounds' ... Her defense sets Ms. Slaine apart from the other ex-wives of Wall Street, who since the near-collapse of the global financial system have been known for cinematically grand attacks, not guardianship." (Observer)

"Embattled Sen. Blanche Lincoln continues to defend her support for health care overhaul even as she looks to forge a path to re-election in an inhospitable environment complicated by her vote in favor of the comprehensive legislation. In the space of a year, Lincoln has gone from being on relatively solid political ground to among the most vulnerable Democratic incumbents of the 2010 cycle. But at least on Capitol Hill, she has managed to maintain her cheery demeanor ... Last week’s stunning election of Republican Scott Brown in the Massachusetts special election to fill the seat of the late Sen. Edward M. Kennedy has indefinitely stalled progress on the health care initiative. But Lincoln’s support for the $871 billion Senate package late last year was crucial to its passage. Yet that hasn’t stopped top Arkansas Democrats from openly mulling looking around for a candidate deemed more viable in the November general election. Meanwhile, Republicans are on the attack, as survey data has increasingly shown Lincoln in jeopardy of not winning re-election to a third Senate term and that voters back home do not support the Democratic-led effort on health care." (CQPolitics)

"Global unemployment hit a record in 2009 and is likely to remain high over the coming year despite a recovery in the world economy, the International Labour Organisation has warned. In its annual Global Economic Trends, the UN agency says the number of jobless worldwide soared by an unprecedented 34m over the two years from end-2007 to reach nearly 212m or 6.6 per cent of the global labour force. These are the highest figures since the ILO began collecting data on a comparable basis following the collapse of the Soviet bloc in 1991. They would have been even worse without the economic stimulus measures put in place by many governments, the report says. Juan Somavia, ILO director-general, said avoiding a jobless recovery should be the top political priority of decision-makers gathered in Davos for the World Economic Forum. 'We need the same policy decisiveness that saved banks now applied to save and create jobs and livelihoods of people,' he said." (FT)

"A couple of months before last year’s presidential campaign, I was having a casual lunch with a conservative friend who suddenly announced that he would be voting for Barack Obama. The news was especially surprising for me because up until that moment I had never heard this individual speak of politics, except on the occasions when he would proudly announce that his views on governance were to the right of Marie Antoinette’s. Adding to my shock was the fact that my friend’s family, a highly influential American dynasty, had close ties to many Republican Party leaders and helped to raise millions in support of conservative congressional candidates. At the time, I took this unexpected bit of news as a sign that Obama had succeeded overwhelmingly at seducing the rich. In addition to the endorsement from my monarchist friend, the then presidential candidate had garnered the favor of nearly all the nation’s most prominent billionaires, including Warren Buffett and even, according to some insider reports, right-wing media mogul Rupert Murdoch. By working his charm and displaying certain touches of upper-class refinement, Obama persuaded the super rich to embrace his liberal vision for America. And it almost goes without saying that his unique ability to capture the admiration of wealthy patrons, especially those who had traditionally voted Republican, helped him immensely on Election Day, as well as in the earliest stages of his presidency. But now, as troubles are mounting for Obama at the end of his first year in office, the wealthy are swiftly abandoning him and returning to more familiar political ground. His clumsy handling of health-care reform, his failure to install a candidate of choice in Ted Kennedy’s former Senate seat, and his escalating criticism of bankers all seem to be pushing affluent voters back to their conservative roots." (Vanity Fair)

"CBS Films claims it's going full steam ahead with its slate of movies despite the disastrous flop of Harrison Ford's 'Extraordinary Measures.' A source told Page Six the unit was considering 'slashing all marketing and production budgets by 50 percent' after the $31 million Ford flick -- about a father racing against time to cure a rare disease killing his kids -- was panned by the critics and took in a measly $6 million its opening weekend. The picture flopped despite an extensive marketing campaign across CBS's television shows and billboards. The Post's Lou Lumenick drubbed it as 'basically a tear-jerking TV disease-of-the-week flick on the big screen,' and the LA Times called it 'a film that wouldn't make the Showtime [also owned by CBS] or HBO quality-cut.' The failure of the picture -- the first from CBS Films, which was created a couple of years ago to put the network in the feature business and produce up to six movies a year with budgets of up to $50 million -- has led to doubts among some CBS suits." (PageSix)

"Hear that drum beating? That’s Rupert Murdoch, getting ready for war with Arthur Sulzberger Jr. The Wall Street Journal is continuing to staff up its new New York edition, and the project increasingly is looking like a direct assault on The New York Times. The Journal’s New York bureau, expected to launch on April 12, will be staffed with roughly three dozen staffers, three times more than the dozen or so the paper had planned for just three months ago. As we’ve reported, Mr. Murdoch has set aside a budget of $15 million for the project. There are plans for a daily stand-alone New York section, an Albany bureau, a City Hall bureau, a crime beat, a sports section and a culture section—in other words, a new, full-fledged New York paper, and one, incidentally, that is looking increasingly like the now defunct New York Sun." (Observer)

"This week in Paris is devoted to the art of haute couture: made-to-measure fantasies for the uppermost echelons of the upper crust. But let's talk about underwear. Natalia Vodianova carved out a little time on the schedule for a runway show for her collaboration with lingerie brand Etam at the Ritz hotel ... After the show, concert, and dinner, all the cool kids in France—Charlotte Casiraghi, Alexa Chung, Margherita Missoni, Alexia Niedzielski, and so on—filed into yet another series of Ritz salons for a dance party with Mark Ronson on the decks. 'I won't bite,' Ronson hollered into the microphone, coaxing the crowd to his end of the party. His girlfriend, Josephine de la Baume, was quick to add: 'Yes, he does. But not that hard.'" (Style)

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Media-Whore D'Oeuvres

"Ozzy Osbourne stopped by (The Howard Stern Show) to promote his new memoir, 'I Am Ozzy,' and Howard told him he'd never looked better. Ozzy responded that he's been watching his caloric intake: 'I exercise a lot and I don't drink alcohol.' Howard asked if Ozzy thought 'The Osbournes' reality show was a mistake, and Ozzy nodded ('Oh absolutely.') .. Howard went over the stories in Ozzy's book, including the time he had a conversation with Tommy Lee backstage – while a groupie was sucking Tommy off. Ozzy laughed: 'He's got like a baby's arm with a boxing glove at the end of it...he's talking to me as if he's like [not sure what Ozzy said here]...I'm looking down there, like, 'What?' He should have a license for that.' Ozzy said the Motley Crue guys were crazy: 'It was The Wild Bunch. They had no rules or anything...she [the groupie servicing Tommy] didn't seem to mind. She wasn't exactly putting up a was 'Caligula' on the road.' Ozzy went on to confirm several other stories in the book, including his inability to get erections, which he blamed anti-depressant medication, his exaggerated songwriting abilities ('I've never actually written a song...if there was a leader of Black Sabbath, it was Tommy [Iommi]. He's the one who wrote the riffs.'). (HowardStern/Rundown)

"The second of two strippers accused servicing the laps they danced upon has been cleared of all charges in a wacky Manhattan prostitution trial. 'I knew I did nothing wrong!' porn star Alexia Moore said, tearily, after court. "I just had to prove it!' Back before the 2007 police raid at Big Daddy Lou's Hot Lap Dance Club on W. 38th Street, Moore had been famous for her Thursday night girl-on-girl Lesbian floor shows with dancing partner Falynn Rodriguez. But an undercover vice cop -- posing as "Ricky," the international Mexican fabric trader -- had claimed that for the right price, the two would offer even more entertainment. During a week-long misdemeanor trial last week, 'Ricky' took the stand to describe reclining with the undies-clad Moore and Rodriguez on a red-draped bed in the club's 'Champagne Room -- ' a dim and dowdy little hovel with curtained 'walls' hung from 2-by-4s. 'Ricky' testified that it was there, post lap dance, with Rodriguez at her side, that Moore offered him a threesome for $5,000 -- but at a later date and a never-agreed-upon location, with only the promise that if he e-mailed her through her porn site, she'd 'get back to me.' No such e-mail ever happened, Ricky conceded in testimony." (NYPost)

"After Robin's news, Howard (Stern) walked over to SiriusXM's studio 2 to appear on Rosie O'Donnell's show – which was simulcast on Howard100 and SiriusXM Stars 102: 'Lotta women around here. No men, huh?' Rosie laughed: 'Just one. Pete.' Pete said hi, but Howard was obviously out of his element: 'You're making me nervous over here.' Howard congratulated on Rosie on her ability to leave programs – including both 'The View' as well as her own daytime chat show – when she felt done with them. Rosie said wasn't necessarily 'done' when she left the shows – it was that she'd made her goal amount of money: 'Once you hit that number, you're done.' Howard continued: "And that was $100 million?" Rosie nodded: 'That's right, soon as I found out I had three-digit millions, I said to the money people, 'I never wanna see you again.'" (HowardStern)
A Little of the Old In And Out

In: Bill Clinton. Sometimes, it seems, it can be more fun to be an ex-President who governed under proseprous -- if irrationally exhuberant --- times than a sitting one, presently in power, under a bad economy. Take, for example the so-so approval ratings of the current officeholder, Barack Obama. Take also the fact that last week a seat that had been in Democrat hands for decades slipped through this administration's fingers. His State of the Union -- hours away -- will be concillatory, humble.

Former President Bill Clinton, by contrast, is at present the go-to man on Haiti, garnering goodwill across the globe and, perhaps, auditioning for Secretary-General of the United Nations. His portfolio as "UN Envoy to Haiti" is nebulous, and his ability to improvise at muscular diplomacy is unfettered. From Reuters:

Former U.S. President Bill Clinton's philanthropic summit was the most popular venue for chief executives in 2009, with the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, tumbling to No. 4 from the top spot, a survey found on Monday.

Davos, due to start on Wednesday, suffered as executives at some of the world's most admired multinational companies chose to speak at U.S. forums during last year's recession, the study by public relations firm Weber Shandwick found.

The fifth Clinton Global Initiative (CGI), held every September in New York, narrowly edged out the Chief Executives Club of Boston in the 'Five-Star Conference' study with the Wall Street Journal's CEO Council coming in at No. 3.

Experts said Clinton had an unrivaled mix of power and celebrity that pushed his annual summit, which coincides with the United Nations General Assembly in New York, to the top of chief executives' speaking agendas.

"He's got a wonderful mix of both celebrity status and he is a former American president. And, at least for the moment, he is married to the Secretary of State," said Barbara Kellerman, a professor of public leadership at the Harvard Kennedy School.

It goes to show that the bad guys -- or, to be fair, the amoral ones -- always finish last.

Out: Markus Reinhardt. It wouldn't be Switzerland without a touch of international intrigue (we cannot wait for the Freemason conspiracy plots to get fleshed out on the blogs). From reuters:

The police commander heading security at the World Economic Forum in Switzerland was found dead Tuesday, local authorities said, adding that his death appeared to be suicide.

Markus Reinhardt, head of police in the Swiss canton of Graubuenden, was found dead in his hotel in Davos, police said in a statement on their website.

"All indications point to a suicide," the statement said.

WEF founder and executive founder Klaus Schwab said in a statement that the organisers appreciated Reinhardt's professionalism and kindness over years of co-operation.

"The Security Forces continue to have our full confidence and trust in their work," the statement said.

Reinhardt, 61, had headed the canton's police force since 1984.

What are the chances that the conspiracy-minded will not declare this as proof positive of the Illuminati? Oh, and Giuliani is "666."