Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Tina Fey and Amy Poehler Making A (Jon) Hamm Sandwich

Emmy after-party madness From Guestofaguest. (Sorry no posts today, September 1. Work overload. be back tomorrow)
Media-Whore D'Oeuvres

"STRATFOR has gone through three phases in its evaluation of the possibility of war. The first, which was in place until July 2009, held that while Iran was working toward a nuclear weapon, its progress could not be judged by its accumulation of enriched uranium. While that would give you an underground explosion, the creation of a weapon required sophisticated technologies for ruggedizing and miniaturizing the device, along with a very reliable delivery system. In our view, Iran might be nearing a testable device but it was far from a deliverable weapon. Therefore, we dismissed war talk and argued that there was no meaningful pressure for an attack on Iran. We modified this view somewhat in July 2009, after the Iranian elections and the demonstrations. While we dismissed the significance of the demonstrations, we noted close collaboration developing between Russia and Iran. That meant there could be no effective sanctions against Iran, so stalling for time in order for sanctions to work had no value. Therefore, the possibility of a strike increased. But then Russian support stalled as well, and we turned back to our analysis, adding to it an evaluation of potential Iranian responses to any air attack. We noted three potential counters: activating Shiite militant groups (most notably Hezbollah), creating chaos in Iraq and blocking the Strait of Hormuz, through which 45 percent of global oil exports travel. Of the three Iranian counters, the last was the real 'nuclear option.' Interfering with the supply of oil from the Persian Gulf would raise oil prices stunningly and would certainly abort the tepid global economic recovery. Iran would have the option of plunging the world into a global recession or worse." (STRATFOR)

"Among the reading, the Telegraph of London had an obituary of an English aristocrat who made a name for himself by following a typically British aristocratic path – to the tropics. Colin Tennant, the 3rd Lord Glenconner is a name only vaguely familiar to Americans. He was, however, famous in his native land as a member of a famous British industrial family and fortune created by his grandfather at the end of the 19th century, and for his relationship with the Queen’s late sister, Princess Margaret. It could be argued that the British aristos have a greater talent for enjoying their inheritances than their American counterparts, mainly because they often spend it pursuing their interests and/or bliss Lord Glenconner was decidedly one of those. He was 32 when he took a chunk of his fortune and bought the island of Mustique, 1400 acres of barren rock in the Grenadines with a local population of 100 who survived off the sea." (NYSocialDiary)

"Anyone who doubts the potential of Sony Pictures Entertainment’s The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo need look no further than how the half year earnings of Bertselmann and its Random House division were positively impacted by the sales of the Millennium novel trilogy by the late Stieg Larsson. Bertelsmann issued its half year report this morning, and cited the performance by Random House as a big reason for its own record half-year results. According to a letter sent company-wide by Random House chairman/CEO Markus Dohle, the publisher’s sales were up nearly 8%, and profit doubled to around $50 million on revenues close to $1 billion, despite a shaky economy." (Deadline)

"'When Richard Mortimer throws a party, there is no choice—you just have to come, don't you?' said Erdem Moralioglu. Most of his London designer comrades—and a generous helping of club kids of all persuasions—certainly think so. Mortimer is something of a legend in the local club scene for his dearly departed Boombox party, of course. Those days have come and gone, but Mortimer's second act, as editor of the online fashion mag Ponystep, fortuitously comes with ample opportunities for revelry. Ponystep's parties tend to take place in Paris, but for one night, Mortimer repatriated them—to the Hoxton Square Bar and Kitchen in East London, the old stomping grounds of Boombox, no less—for a very special event: his 30th birthday. Holly Fulton, Louise Gray, Kinder Aggugini, and Sophia Kokosalaki were among the designers who stopped by to wish the birthday boy well (and to blow off a little steam before London fashion week). Gareth Pugh and Jefferson Hack alternated sets on the decks, and the winsome Florrie Arnold—face of Nina Ricci's relaunched L'Elixir—performed a few songs, too." (Style)

"When Barack Obama was elected president, Beijing thought that he would be tough on human rights and trade, but not on national security. A year and a half later, Mr Obama’s policy could hardly be more different. Instead of pressing China hard on its poor rights record, Mr Obama has put the issue to the back burner. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton confirmed as much on the eve of her visit to China in February 2009. To avoid antagonising Chinese leaders before his own visit to Beijing in November last year, Mr Obama even postponed a private meeting with the Dalai Lama. On the whole, his administration has done precious little on the issue. The story on trade is much the same. Despite mounting congressional pressure on China’s de facto dollar-peg, Mr Obama has refused to label China a 'currency manipulator.' Indeed, except for imposing a few modest anti-dumping penalties, his trade policy is indistinguishable from that of President George W. Bush. However, on national security, the Obama administration has shown a surprisingly hard edge, particularly in the past few months. Against Beijing’s protestations, Washington dispatched a large naval force to conduct joint military exercises with the South Korean navy in the Sea of Japan, as deterrence against Pyongyang. To counter China’s growing influence in Southeast Asia, the US has also resumed its aid to the Indonesian military, and recently sent a carrier battle group in an unprecedented joint naval exercise with Vietnam." (FT)

"9:30 p.m. Elisabeth Moss keeps telling reporters that she’s wearing 'Herv Leggers.' No one is correcting her. Finally, we ask, 'Do you mean Hervé Leger?' She laughs at herself and says, 'Oh my god, have I been mispronouncing it? Is that how you say it?' 9:32 p.m. Moss talks chirpily about everything but the dissolution of her marriage with Fred Armisen, which is, of course, what every reporter wants to know about." (NYMag/Emmys)

"President Obama is hosting a dinner for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas on Sept. 1, in order to kick off the new round of direct talks between Israeli and Palestinian negotiators. As regular readers know, I don't think this effort will go anywhere, because the two sides are too far apart and because the Obama administration won't have the political will to push them towards the necessary compromises. Furthermore, there are now a few hints that the Obama administration is about to repeat the same mistakes that doomed the Clinton administration's own Middle East peacemaking efforts and the Bush administration's even more half-hearted attempts (i.e., the 'Road Map' and the stillborn Annapolis summit). Last week, the Israeli newspaper Yediot Ahronoth provided a summary of a conference call between Obama Middle East advisors Dennis Ross, Dan Shapiro, and David Hale and the leaders of a number of influential American Jewish organizations. According to the article (whose accuracy I cannot vouch for), the goal of the direct talks will be a 'framework agreement' between the two sides that would then be implemented over a period of up to ten years. Excuse me, but haven't we seen this movie before, and isn't the last reel a bummer? This idea sounds a lot like the Oslo Accords, which also laid out a "framework" for peace, but deferred the hard issues to the end and repeatedly missed key deadlines. Or maybe it's another version of the Road Map/Annapolis summit, which offered deadlines and bold talk and led precisely nowhere." (ForeignPolicy)

Monday, August 30, 2010

Zakaria On Innovation and America in the 21st C

CNN's Fareed Zakaria -- he of the smartest show on TV -- says that in order for America to retain its position as the global leader, it must innovate.
Media-Whore D'Oeuvres

"The summer movie season saw its first - and last - horror title to debut at number one with the devilish thriller The Last Exorcism which edged out an equally impressive debut by the heist thriller Takers which enjoyed a solid bow of its own in second place while playing in fewer theaters. With a razor-thin $300,000 margin between the two, rankings could change on Monday when final grosses are counted. Characteristic of the final weekend of August, box office sales slumped to their worst level of the entire summer with the top ten failing to break the $100M mark - and even the $90M mark - for the first time all season. The mock documentary The Last Exorcism scared up big numbers at number one grossing an estimated $21.3M from 2,874 theaters for a sturdy $7,411 average per location. Rated PG-13, the Lionsgate release downplayed the doc format in its marketing and used Hostel director Eli Roth's name in the ads as the presenter to help pull in fans of hardcore horror. Opening night audiences were turned off by what they got - probably differing greatly from what they expected - as sales fell sharply on Saturday by a troubling 24%. Reviews were particularly good for a film of this genre, however. The urban action thriller Takers also enjoyed a surprisingly potent debut grossing an estimated $21M this weekend from a not-so-extravagantly-wide 2,206 playdates for a sizzling $9,519 average leading all films in wide release. The PG-13 film about a cop investigating a criminal enterprise stars Matt Dillon who got top billing, but was mostly absent from the marketing materials like trailers and posters." (BoxOfficeGuru)

(image via NYSD)

"Many of (Truman Capote's Answered Prayers) stories were actually long and oft-passed around between them for years preceding. Others were embellished or entirely dreamed up. But the result in print was a bunch of very chic looking, very wealthy, often spoiled and pampered, often disappointed and dejected characters, who more or less owned the town as it existed back then. The crème de la crème. Before the souring. That society began to fade at about the time of Capote’s death in 1984. The 1980s and the age of Reagan ushered in a new crew, later known, thanks to John Fairchild, the fashion media’s Pepys, as the 'Nouvelle Society.' By the mid-90s, the nucleus of the new had split in several directions, dispelled by divorce, death and in some cases, terminal ennui. After that came Paris Hilton and after that came Tinsley Mortimer, and after that came Reality TV and desperate housewives." (NYSocialDiary)

"The prospect of next week's direct talks between Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu offers no obvious grounds for enthusiasm, or even hope. Abbas has agreed to the talks with a reluctance that seems to border on dread, while Netanyahu, his public firmly behind him, feels little pressure to make real concessions. Middle East experts have set expectations at subbasement levels. But George Mitchell, U.S. President Barack Obama's special envoy to the Middle East, believes he knows something the handicappers don't: With enough patience and persistence, you can bring the most bitter enemies to see their common interest. That was the lesson he learned from his role in the Northern Ireland peace process in the 1990s. 'We had about 700 days of failure and one day of success,' as he put it recently. As then, so now: 'Past efforts at peace that did not succeed cannot deter us from trying again.' Having conducted successful negotiations under very trying conditions not only in Northern Ireland but between baseball's owners and players, Mitchell has earned a right to his quiet and undemonstrative optimism. Hopefulness is itself an important ingredient for negotiations: You often have to believe in the possibility of a successful outcome more than the adversaries do just to get them talking to one another." (ForeignPolicy)

"Is it possible Democrats had a harder time with Ken Mehlman’s big gay announcement than Republicans did? Conservative outlets like Fox News barely mentioned it. Colleagues from the Bush administration seemed merely to offer words of support. Meanwhile, gay activists on the left pounced. Why should the former Republican National Committee chairman be welcomed in Chelsea, New York (where he’s now living), when six years ago, he was traveling around America with George W. Bush and Karl Rove, rallying anti-gay evangelicals (and the like) to the polls? Was it really enough to say that he was now going to be an advocate for gay rights within the GOP and that he had offered a helping hand to the American Foundation for Equal Rights, an organization that’s been fighting tirelessly to repeal Proposition 8?" (TheDailyBeast)

"Last week we brought you the 100 Most Powerful Black Women on Twitter. Using the same measures (Klout and Twittergrader) we used for that list, we searched the Twitterverse for the male version. These men have the ability to drive massive traffic with a single tweet of a link, are constantly retweeted by their loyal followers, and exist on thousands of lists created by their fans. These are the 100 most powerful black men on Twitter." (BlackWeb20)

"About 30 years ago, Representative Charles B. Rangel invited a 19-year-old summer intern named Adam Clayton Powell IV into his office at the United States Capitol for an emotional conversation: He had run a bruising primary campaign in 1970 to unseat Mr. Powell’s father, he acknowledged, ending the career of a celebrated Harlem politician. But that bitter past, he said, did not have to poison their relationship. Mr. Rangel pledged to take Mr. Powell under his wing, and to introduce him to the titans of the House, like Dan Rostenkowski and Harold E. Ford Sr. 'He was trying to excuse, or apologize — that is the better word — to apologize for taking my dad out,' Mr. Powell recalled. These days, it is the younger Adam Clayton Powell who is trying to take Mr. Rangel out. And he is making no apologies." (NYTimes)

"Of course, what has allowed (Glenn) Beck to occupy center stage is the failure of rational political figures to articulate the terms of the convulsion that American society faces, brought about not by communists and other John Bircher hobgoblins but by the forces of history. The failure at the political center is a conscious one of nerve and will, of elected officials in both major parties playing desperately for advantage in defiance of the truth -- this truth being that the USA went broke trying to swindle itself into prosperity. Add to this the failure of the law to go after the swindlers, which has undermined the fundamental belief in the rule of law that enabled this society to function as well as it did previously. Barack Obama personifies this failure these days, a politician proclaiming 'change' who not only managed to change nothing, but promoted a continuation of the national self-swindling with legislation so dazzlingly prolix and complicated that no one can claim to have read either the Health Care Reform Act or the Financial Regulation bill, the two hallmarks of his tenure so far, neither of which will change anything about how we do these things. Why Mr. Obama has turned out to be such a weenie remains a mystery." (ClusterfuckNation)

"Florida Gov. Charlie Crist (I) on Sunday again declined to reveal which political party he would caucus with if he wins the state’s three-way Senate race this November, while also clarifying his position on the new health care overhaul and his opposition to same-sex marriage. A Republican until just a few months ago, Crist continued to insist that he would 'caucus with the people of Florida' during an interview Sunday on CNN’s 'State of the Union.' But the governor’s shifts on key policies since leaving the GOP could indicate an intention to pursue Florida’s Democratic vote and to join forces with the Democrats should he defeat former Florida Speaker Marco Rubio (R) and Rep. Kendrick B. Meek (D) this fall." (CQPolitics)

"Say what you will about NBC and the year they've had, but surely they deserve some credit tonight for bringing off what might have been the least excruciating televised awards show since the 2009 Oscars. From the delightful Glee-powered opening number, to Jimmy Fallon's musical goodbyes to 24 and Lost, to Bucky Gunts's triumphant victory for outstanding variety-show directing, tonight's Emmy Awards were an entertaining, (mostly) fast-moving ceremony that lagged only, predictably, during the boring miniseries awards and Jewel's cancer song." (NYMag)

"Once upon a time, watching the Oscars was a ritual, as they say in the 'Style' section of the 'New York Times', the Women's Super Bowl. Watching Al Pacino win an Emmy, I thought of his role in the 'Godfather' trilogy, of all those years parked in front of the television watching the glitz and glamour of the Academy Awards. I thought about watching them this coming year. Then I asked myself, why? I hadn't seen any of the movies. I no longer go to the movies. There's nothing there for me. Oh, there are indie flicks. But they go straight to video almost instantly, and they barely play on the big screen anyway. And the production values are good enough on the real big screen, inside the home. But the big Hollywood movies, which dominate mainstream media discourse, which are marketed to high heaven, they're giant pinball games, made to play throughout the world, and, as a result, they've become to a great degree meaningless in the U.S. Just like the music business. Wherein major labels hype bland, manufactured product in print and on radio and TV and expect that we should care. We don't. Oh, some people still go to the movies. And some still buy the Top Forty wonders. But neither drive the culture. The true fans have gone elsewhere. In other words, in pursuit of all the money, the movie and music industries are left with less money. Yes, both are struggling. Music blames file-trading. But how to explain the drop in DVD sales? I could trot out a few explanations, but moviegoing, the supposed American religion, is in decline." (LefsetzLetter)

Saturday, August 28, 2010

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Media-Whore D'Oeuvres

"As it happens I do know the Countess de Lesseps. I still find the title a bit obtrusive since I met her with her husband Alex years ago and there was no mention of a title in the introduction. Furthermore she’s very American (and part Native American). There is a quality about her – maybe it’s just physical – that reminds me of Pat Loud, the wife and mother on the 'original' reality television show – 'An American Family' documentary that debuted in 1973 and followed the day-to-day of a family in Santa Barbara by the name of Loud. However much of that that may have been staged, it most definitely was real (and riveting) ... Today’s 'reality' Housewives shows, of course, are not like that. The little I’ve seen of them seem like grown women (and occasionally men) vying for attention and apparently adoring the camera. When I first met LuAnn de Lesseps she told me she wanted to pursue an acting career and this show is no doubt an actualization of that pursuit. I was talking about these shows recently with a very smart woman friend of mine who is also a big television watcher, which I am not. She told me that she’d seen all of the various 'Housewives' shows and only likes the New York one. 'I love love love it,' was how she put it. 'Why?' I asked. 'Because it’s so much fun watching them make asses of themselves,' was her immediate answer, adding, 'It’s hysterical.' My friend, incidentally, is not an insensitive woman, nor is she unkind in her assessment of others. She sees the show for what it is – entertainment meant to amuse. Of course the entertainment is people striving and in strife. So really it’s a spectator sport. Maybe the 21st century equivalent of what the Gladiators were to the audience of ancient Rome. Or the Christians and the lions. Nevertheless, it’s been a boon to television and a lot of employed people." (NYSocialDiary)

"Forget Chelsea Clinton. The most glamorous wedding of the year was between Prince Nikolaos of Greece and Tatiana Blatnik which took place this week on the Greek island of Spetses. The bride, an events planner for Diane von Furstenberg’s label in London, arrived in a horse-drawn carriage wearing a stunning gown by Angel Sanchez. Among the royal attendees were Princess Letizia and Prince Felipe, Princess Mary of Denmark, and newlyweds Crown Princess Victoria and Prince Daniel. Queen Sofia of Spain, the sister of Nikolaos’s father, Constantine II, also attended the traditional Greek Orthodox nuptials ...The Emmys air this Sunday and all anyone wants to know is—how low with Coco go? His version of the Tonight Show got an Emmy nom, but should Conan O’Brien win, his acceptance speech will be shackled by a non-disparagement agreement, which unfortunately ends only three days after the Emmys air. (After that, anything and anyone—including the much-loathed Jeff Zucker—is fair game.) But there could be one loophole—he’s only restricted from saying anything that’s 'false'—and given the high drama that surrounded his acrimonious split from NBC, there’s plenty of truth he could work with. Everyone’s praying for a win to give the usually long ceremony a bit of drama." (Takimag)

"Relocated to my table, (writer DBC Pierre) starts enthusing about tequila. When he was growing up, it was awful stuff: 'That’s why you needed the salt and the lime, to take the flavour away.' Now, he explains, tequila has been transformed, as refined as a malt whisky. I am drinking a bottle of mineral water and a silky, non-alcoholic drink called horchata. 'Great stuff. It’s made with rice water, the stuff we throw away down the sink. Very good for you,' Pierre says. He studies the drinks menu. 'We’re going Dutch, yeah?' A charming phrase – one I haven’t heard in a long time. I explain that it’s on the FT. 'They’re paying for both of us?' he says. 'Oh, we’re never going to get out of here!' A long discussion with the waiter ensues in Spanish; Pierre seems to be discussing the provenance of every tequila in the place. His eventual choice comes with two shot glasses, one red, one green, a sort of deconstructed Bloody Mary. I stick to the mineral water – for now. We order cactus salad to start ('very nutritious'), then a cheese and potato enchilada for me and meat tacos for him. The tortillas are special here, he explains, made on the premises – and it’s true: they are light and delectable. “You should come here on Thursday nights, to the bar downstairs. It saves you the plane fare to Mexico City.'" (Lunch with FT)

"The sixth season of the Writers Guild West’s Showrunner Training Program begins January 2011 and is taking applications now. Conducted in partnership with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers, it's designed to help senior-level writer-producers hone the skills necessary to become successful showrunners in today’s television landscape. But if you want to find about 2010's boot camp, then you have to first get past the 'Cone of Silence'. It seems fitting that the people who make and create TV shows would turn to the sitcom Get Smart to describe the bubble of secrecy that shrouds the popular program. Though voluntary, the pledge to not reveal what happens is vital to the program's effectiveness." (Deadline)

Friday, August 27, 2010

Media-Whore D'Oeuvres

"Want evidence that the government in Somalia -- a country that tops the 2010 Failed States Index -- needs desperate help? Allow me to show you the money. Literally. According to the Annual Financial Report released by the office of the Prime Minister today, Somalia's budget in the fiscal year 2009 was just over $11 million. (The budget of Minneapolis Minnesota, by contrast, is $1.4 billion.) The two largest sources of revenue collected were customs duties from the main Mogadishu port ($6.2 million) and exit fees from the airport ($351,920). Taxes couldn't be collected due to security. The government recieved $2.875 million in bilateral aid -- the largest total, $1.6 million coming from Libya (the United States gave just $25,000 -- about the equivalent of a very entry-level staffer's annual income.) Bad. News. But where the situation really comes home is in the line items: While $9.8 million of the country's $11 million was spent on salaries and wages, they are hardly anything to write home about. The president's chief of staff earns $2,250 a year. The governor of the central bank earns $1,000. And $325,000 of the $501,000 that covers the Prime Minister and President's offices goes to travel. Wages in the military and other defense roles account for $6 million (The Economist recently estimated that it costs $1 million to keep one U.S. soldier in Afghanistan for a year.)" (ForeignPolicy)

"In his first book, Notes from the Night: A Life After Dark by Broadway Books, my childhood friend, Taylor Plimpton, bravely confesses his exploits and excesses from more than ten years spent reveling in the New York night. Plimpton, son of the late author and editor of the Paris Review, George Plimpton, grew up, like his father and like me, on the Upper East Side of Manhattan. He spent his summers and weekends on the South Fork of Long Island, the Hamptons, Sagaponack to be exact. The memoir travels back and forth between the two places, and between Lower Manhattan and Uptown. Notes is at once endearing, insightful, and personal. Capturing aspects of what must be true for most night owls. Themes of youth, friendship, sex, love, booze, drugs, dancing, and the ubiquitous choices that can make or break an evening." (Mandolyna Theodoracopulos)

"The story of Ken Mehlman, the former chairman of the Republican National Committee who publicly acknowledged that he is gay in a conversation with reporter Marc Ambinder of The Atlantic, is part of a larger American story that is still unfolding. A Gallup survey released in May found that 52 percent of Americans consider gay relationships morally acceptable, up from 49 percent a year ago and 40 percent in 2001. But among self-identified Republicans, only 35 percent share that view, a sharp increase from 29 percent last year. As Jimmy LaSalvia, executive director of GOProud, an organization representing gay conservatives, argues, 'I don’t think conservatives or Republicans are different from anyone else in American on this issue. We’ve seen public opinion moving on this issue for ten or twenty years.' The key driver, in LaSalvia’s view, is the growing number of openly gay individuals. 'As more and more gay people are comfortable living their lives openly,' LaSalvia says, 'people tend to be more supportive.' This certainly accounts for former Vice President Dick Cheney’s strong support for same-sex marriage, which he first hinted at in a 2000 vice presidential debate with Sen. Joe Lieberman." (TheDailyBeast)

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Media-Whore D'Oeuvres

"The latest CQ-Roll Call survey of the political landscape finds an environment that continues to worsen for Democrats and new race ratings to reflect Republicans on the ascent. Among the seats now held by Democrats that have been moved into more competitive categories, CQ-Roll Call now rates three of as likely to be won by Republicans: the 2nd district in Arkansas; the 3rd district in Louisiana; and the 29th district in New York. Those three seats are open following the retirements or early departure of Democratic incumbents, and all three seats went for Sen. John McCain for president in 2008. The New York district is vacant following the resignation of Eric Massa, who left amid a scandal. Rep. Vic Snyder (Ark.) is retiring from a moderate district, where Democrat Joyce Elliott is currently running 17 points behind Republican Tim Griffin in a recent poll. And after running unopposed two years ago, Rep. Charlie Melancon (La.), now seeking a place in the Senate, is leaving behind a district that voted 61 percent for McCain." (CQPolitics)

"I dined early at Swifty’s with my friend Pax. The place was full up by 7:30. On the banquette to my right was Barbara Taylor Bradford (76 million books in forty languages!) with her husband Bob, and friends. On my left were Jeanne and Herb Siegel, the man I like to think of as New York’s anonymous tycoon. Across the way were Steve and Kitty Sherrill. I went over to the Metropolitan Museum to lunch with Michael Thomas and Yves Smith, the founder and writer of Naked Capitalism. We met in the Great Entrance Hall ... At first I thought Yves was a man. It is a nom de plume chosen for a variety of reasons (mainly to keep a basic anonymity). She told me she chose 'Smith' as an homage to Adam Smith and Yves as a reference to a French (or maybe Swiss?) economist I’d never heard of. Knowing I was going to meet her, I’d thought of some questions I could ask about her, but on meeting, with the natural input of our host, the conversation raced off in a variety of interesting directions." (NYSocialDiary)

"I am intrigued by this, from tiny little Monaco, once ruled by Hollywood’s Grace Kelly. At the annual, famous Red Cross Ball on July 30, Princess Caroline, Grace’s eldest daughter, did not attend. What’s left of Europe’s royals and serene Highnesses gasped. The tragedy-plagued Caroline is separated from her husband Prince Ernst of Hanover, and she has moved back to Monaco. So, she was expected to attend the event that her mother had turned into an international gathering of the rich and useless – all of whom do, after all, give up big bucks for a good cause. But Caroline was a no-show. Rumor has it that she is not fond of her brother Prince Albert’s fiancée, Charlene Wittstock. (Yes, amazing – lifetime bachelor Albert is set to wed. So, there’s still hope for George Clooney – who has at least been married once before.) When Albert and Charlene wed, she will become Princess of Monaco and Monaco’s First Lady, the job that Caroline took after the terrible death of Princess Grace in 1982. Caroline assumed even more responsibility in the wake of the death of her father, Prince Rainier, in 2005. Caroline is currently steaming, I mean – streaming, aboard her yacht, with three of her four children, Charlotte, Pierre and Andrea Casiraghi. If Albert and Charlene do not produce a legitimate heir, Caroline’s son Andrea will become the ruler of Monaco. (Albert’s other issue, such as his son by an airline stewardess, cannot ascend the throne.)" (LizSmith)

"On May 17th, a black-tie audience at the Metropolitan Opera House applauded as a tall, jovial-looking billionaire took the stage. It was the seventieth annual spring gala of American Ballet Theatre, and David H. Koch was being celebrated for his generosity as a member of the board of trustees; he had recently donated $2.5 million toward the company’s upcoming season, and had given many millions before that ... The gala marked the social ascent of Koch, who, at the age of seventy, has become one of the city’s most prominent philanthropists. In 2008, he donated a hundred million dollars to modernize Lincoln Center’s New York State Theatre building, which now bears his name. He has given twenty million to the American Museum of Natural History, whose dinosaur wing is named for him. This spring, after noticing the decrepit state of the fountains outside the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Koch pledged at least ten million dollars for their renovation. He is a trustee of the museum, perhaps the most coveted social prize in the city, and serves on the board of Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, where, after he donated more than forty million dollars, an endowed chair and a research center were named for him. One dignitary was conspicuously absent from the gala: the event’s third honorary co-chair, Michelle Obama. Her office said that a scheduling conflict had prevented her from attending. Yet had the First Lady shared the stage with Koch it might have created an awkward tableau. In Washington, Koch is best known as part of a family that has repeatedly funded stealth attacks on the federal government, and on the Obama Administration in particular." (NYer)

"Earlier this month, a story splashed across the front page of the Post warned that representatives from more than a dozen New York City hedge funds had 'crossed the border' to meet with Connecticut Governor Jodi Rell. Over fried calamari, the governor reportedly pitched the executives on moving their businesses to her state: There had been talk for months that the city's hedge fund managers might flee because of cruel new taxes, just like the threats about a mass exodus from London to Switzerland, or from Europe to Hong Kong. Instead, the real threat to the hedge fund world has turned out to be the ineffable, sweet, cozy lure of hammocks. This month, Richard Grubman, the top Boston hedge fund manager, who was in the papers earlier this year for allegedly throwing his keys in the face of a valet who had asked him to move his BMW X5 at the Ritz in Boston, announced his retirement from the $10 billion Highfields Capital. Then, last week, the 57-year-old Soros protégé Stanley Druckenmiller announced he was shutting his hedge fund, writing a widely circulated letter that described the stress of recent struggles. He reportedly had his retirement epiphany after turning down a nice October golf invitation from another billionaire." (Observer)

"Marvel Studios is moving forward on a live action feature version of Iron Fist, hiring screenwriter Rich Wilkes to draft a movie based on a martial arts expert whose battle with a dragon--ended when he plunged his hands through the beast's molten heart--turned his fists into indestructible weapons. Iron Fist was on the minds of many fanboys when Disney paid $4 billion for Marvel's 5000 superhero library and vowed to turn the less obvious comic book heroes into films and TV properties. Marvel tried to make an Iron Fist movie with Artisan nearly a decade ago, as a vehicle for X-Men villain and martial arts expert Ray Park. The Iron Fist comic book mythology was created by Roy Thomas and Gil Kane in the 1970s, when the popularity of martial arts films was on the rise." (Deadline)

"It was a balmy June day, Pentecoste Sunday, a major holiday in France. The Casino de la Corniche was a chic and popular establishment on a rocky spur between Saint-Eugene and Pointe Pescade. The beach was the finest in the area, and the young French lieutenant, scion of a ducal family, went for a swim with a friend. After he walked up the hill, with its plush gardens surrounding the casino, where from 4.00 to 8.00 there was a matinee dansante with couples dancing the fox trot and the tango. By all accounts it was an idyllic scene. 'The deep blue of the Mediterranean, the cloudless sky, the honey-colored sand, the intense light, the gulls circling, the young men preening, and the girls pretending not to notice—it was all there for the rich, and even the poor.' I’ve lived such a scene many times, with girls walking by giggling and whispering, and casting side glances to see if they were being noticed. But not on this occasion. In the late afternoon the lieutenant ambled up to the casino garden and sat under an acacia tree eating spicy sausages. He could hear the strains of the nostalgic tango from the dance floor. His friend wondered why everyone loved this land so much. Because of its beauty, came the answer. As they were speaking, an explosion inside the casino ripped away the walls and windows. The two ran inside down a long hall with a red carpet. The bomb had gone off under the bandstand, which had been torn to pieces. The dance floor was littered with body parts, piano keys and mangled saxophones. The roulette tables were shredded, the croupiers, those who were still moving, writhing on the green felt tables. Rien ne vas plus. His friend picked up a woman’s shoe with the foot still in it. All the victims were French colons. Not a single Arab had been killed because of a very simple reason. The matinee dansante was barred to Arabs. This was Algiers, part of metropolitan France, in 1958." (Takimag)

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Media-Whore D'Oeuvres

"Earlier this summer I mentioned that I was reading Jared Diamond's Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed, and I promised to sum up the insights that I had gleaned from it. The book is well-worth reading -- if not quite on a par with his earlier Guns, Germs, and Steel -- and you'll learn an enormous amount about a diverse set of past societies and the range of scientific knowledge (geology, botany, forensic archaeology, etc.) that is enabling us to understand why they prospered and/or declined. The core of the book is a series of detailed case studies of societies that collapsed and disappeared because they were unable to adapt to demanding and/or deteriorating environmental, economic, or political conditions. He examines the fate of the Easter Islanders, the Mayans, the Anasazi of the Pacific Southwest, the Norse colonies in Western Greenland (among others), and contrasts them with other societies (e.g., the New Guinea highlanders) who managed to develop enduring modes of life in demanding circumstances. He also considers modern phenomenon such as the Rwandan genocide and China and Australia's environmental problems in light of these earlier examples. I read the book because I am working on a project exploring why states (and groups and individuals) often find it difficult to "cut their losses" and abandon policies that are clearly not working. This topic is a subset of the larger (and to me, endlessly fascinating) question of why smart and well-educated people can nonetheless make disastrous (and with hindsight, obviously boneheaded) decisions. Diamond's work is also potentially relevant to the perennial debate on American decline: Is it occurring, is it inevitable, and how should we respond?" (ForeignPolicy)

"Naomi Campbell even has help on hand to spice up dinner. The fiery supermodel stunned onlookers as security guards handed over her special condiments as she dined at a restaurant in Capri with Leonardo DiCaprio and Bar Refaeli while vacationing on a yacht with billionaire Russian boyfriend Vladimir Doronin. A witness told us, 'She couldn't indulge in food until her boyfriend's bodyguard brought over her own salt and pepper shakers.' Campbell's rep insisted, 'It wasn't salt and pepper, it's her Jamaican hot sauce.'" (PageSix)

"Also Sunday night in Southampton at the UA Cinema they screened Oliver Stone's sequel to his orig 1987 Oscar winning 'Wall Street.' The new entry, 'Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps,' was screened before an audience of indefatigables curious to see what Hollywood has done with the financial world's dramas, and to see the select members of the community who made brief appearances and 'cameos' in the film. After the screening, Peggy Siegal's guest list of local glitterati adjourned to the oceanfront estate of Julia and David Koch where tents was erected (to keep everyone dry) and tables were set for dinner." (NYSocialDiary)
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Tuesday, August 24, 2010

This Is Brilliant

Cee-Lo's Shawshank Redemption from Dallas Observer on Vimeo.

If you haven't heard Cee-Lo's "Fuck You" -- or even if you have -- mashing it into Shawshank Redemption is just ... le mot juste.

But what about the Fareed Zakaria hire?

Monday, August 23, 2010

Media-Whore D'Oeuvres

"Many Muslim governments therefore engage in a two-level diplomacy: first, publicly condemning Israel and granting public support for the Palestinians as if it were a major issue and, second, quietly ignoring the issue and focusing on other matters of greater direct interest, which often actually involves collaborating with the Israelis. This accounts for the massive difference between the public stance of many governments and their private actions, which can range from indifference to hostility toward Palestinian interests. Countries like Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and Turkey are all prepared to cooperate deeply with the United States but face hostility from their populations over the matter. The public pressure on governments is real, and the United States needs to deal with it. The last thing the United States wants to see is relatively cooperative Muslim governments in the region fall due to anti-Israeli or anti-American public sentiment. The issue of Israel and the United States also creates stickiness in the smooth functioning of relations with these countries. The United States wants to minimize this problem. It should be understood that many Muslim governments would be appalled if the United States broke with Israel and Israel fell. For example, Egypt and Jordan, facing demographic and security issues of their own, are deeply hostile to at least some Palestinian factions. The vast majority of Jordan’s population is actually Palestinian. Egypt struggles with an Islamist movement called the Muslim Brotherhood, which has collaborated with like-minded Islamists among the Palestinians for decades. The countries of the Arabian Peninsula are infinitely more interested in the threat from Iran than in the existence of Israel and, indeed, see Israel as one of the buttresses against Iran." (STRATFOR)

"When 'Mad Men' actress January Jones came to Capitol Hill last year to ask Members of Congress to save the sharks, she created quite the splash. Jones lobbied Members as a celebrity advocate for environmental group Oceana, urging Members to pass legislation to make shark finning illegal in U.S. waters. Although her visit was exciting for fans of her T.V. show, the fact Jones came to the Hill wasn't particularly noteworthy. What made her visit special is that she wound up landing a boyfriend: The actress met a staffer for Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.) and ended up dating him for several months. Not all celeb visits to Washington end up with such a tabloid ending. But ever since President Barack Obama took office, it seems more famous folk than ever have made an appearance in the nation's capital.(Jones, for example, wasn't even the only celeb advocating for ocean life the day of her visit — Oscar winner Sigourney Weaver also met with Members on behalf of the Natural Resources Defense Council.) There are a number of reasons for celebs to visit Washington. Like Jones and Weaver, some make appearances to promote noteworthy causes. Others come for big events such as the White House Correspondents Dinner. And of course, some visit to promote themselves." (Congress.org)

"The new Quest is out and this month it contains its annual Quest 400 list. As editor of the magazine, I’m obligated to write an editor’s letter each month. For some reason this is always the most difficult assignment of anything I have to do. That’s partly because I think editor’s letters generally are just a faceless page between the table of contents and the well of the book, and generally unnecessary. The only exception I can think of is Graydon Carter’s letters in Vanity Fair, and that’s because he uses the space to reflect on the times more than the edit in his magazine. That said, this month’s editor’s letter in Quest at first presented a specific problem: how do you write something new about a subject that’s occurred more than a dozen times in the same magazine – namely the List. Solution: I looked in the table of contents and found something almost entirely unrelated. Coincidentally, it fit perfectly with the photograph JH took today from the terrace of the Frick Library .." (NYSocialDiary)

"If you ask loyal members of America’s patrician class to name their favorite month of summer vacation, they invariably will choose September. Right about this time of year, when most of the professional world is focused on returning to business, aristocratic men and women are beginning to get excited about the additional four weeks of leisure that lie just ahead on the horizon. As September rolls in and the seasonal crowds suddenly disappear from fashionable resort towns, the owners of grand estates finally settle in for a period of ultra-exclusive summer bliss. The weather is still perfect, great restaurants never have a long wait, traffic clears from all the scenic roads, and even the wind cooperates by blowing with a measured consistency that makes for perfect sailing. It’s an irresistibly appealing set of circumstances for those lucky enough to take full advantage of the lifestyle. I remember first learning about this special extended vacation maneuver when I was visiting a friend’s sprawling oceanfront farm in Martha’s Vineyard. It was late August, and I was feeling especially self-congratulatory for having garnered an invitation to such a fine home during what I thought was the absolute highpoint of the season. For my hosts to offer me a guestroom, I told myself, I must certainly rank close to the top of their list of distinguished holiday visitors. What I soon realized, however, was that all of the family’s truly honored guests were invited for weekends in September. It was a sobering discovery, and one that came to me by way of the property’s long-time caretaker." (VanityFair)

"In June 1993, Jacques Delors made a special presentation to the leaders of the nations of the European Community, meeting in Copenhagen, on the growing problem of European unemployment. Economists who study the European situation were curious to see what Delors, president of the EC Commission, would say. Most of them share more or less the same diagnosis of the European problem: the taxes and regulations imposed by Europe's elaborate welfare states have made employers reluctant to create new jobs, while the relatively generous level of unemployment benefits has made workers unwilling to accept the kinds of low-wage jobs that help keep unemployment comparatively low in the United States. The monetary difficulties associated with preserving the European Monetary System in the face of the costs of German reunification have reinforced this structural problem. It is a persuasive diagnosis, but a politically explosive one, and everyone wanted to see how Delors would handle it. Would he dare tell European leaders that their efforts to pursue economic justice have produced unemployment as an unintended by-product? Would he admit that the EMS could be sustained only at the cost of a recession and face the implications of that admission for European monetary union? Guess what? Delors didn't confront the problems of either the welfare state or the EMS." (ForeignAffairs)
Fareed Zakaria On Al Qaeda's Spiritual Enemy

Have I told you how awesome Fareed Zakaria's GPS is? It is -- excluding PBS's lameted Foreign Exchange and France Channel 24 -- the best source of foreign discussion of all time. The new Time columnist -- one of Rick Stengel's smartest moves -- weighs in on the Islamic cultural center controversy.
Media-Whore D'Oeuvres

(Two awesome women, image via NYSD)

"On Thursday night I went to a birthday dinner for Molly Jong-Fast who is now officially at the beginning of 30-something. The party was hosted by Molly’s mother Erica Jong and her husband Ken Burrows at their Upper East Side apartment with its fantastic views of Manhattan west, north and south. There were about thirty guests including Molly’s in-laws, her father Jon Fast and her stepmother, Barbara. Everything about the evening was cozy and en famille. When we first sat down to dinner the birthday girl thanked everyone for being present and told us quite seriously how much she loved her parents, her step-parents, her in-laws and her husband Matt Greenfield. Knowing Molly as I do, there is no question that these were her honest feelings. They were also the feelings in the room. I was seated next to the Guest of Honor. On my left was Susan Cheever, the author who is also a neighbor of mine." (NYSocialDiary)

"Recent reports from the Federal Reserve, the Labor Department , and the Commerce Department clearly and demonstratively show that the Obama Administration’s policies have not succeeded – indeed they have failed in ways that are clear and unambiguous. The Obama administration’s policies and programs are not producing real, long lasting results, and there has been no real growth. Put another way, an unprecedented degree of federal government spending and intervention vis-à-vis the $787 billion dollar economic stimulus package, the $81 billion dollar bailouts of GM and Chrysler, and the enactment of health care and financial regulatory and reform bills have done nothing to stimulate our anemic recovery and have fundamentally failed at creating private sector jobs, or generating economic growth necessary for a sustainable, healthy recovery. Indeed, they have done little more than generate an unsustainable national debt, which now exceeds $13 trillion. The Federal Reserve reported that the pace of recovery in the United States 'has slowed in recent months' – with a growth rate of just 2.4 percent in the second quarter down from 3.7 percent in the first quarter of 2010, and an annual rate of 5 percent at the end of 2009." (Doug Schoen/TheDailyBeast)

"There is now a clear consensus over which motion picture was No. 1 at the box office this weekend. Sly Stallone's action holdover The Expendables for Lionsgate is the easy winner after a nailbiter Friday. It was followed closely by a newcomer, another of those cheap Fox spoofs, Vampires Suck, which opened Wednesday. In fact, the order of the entire Top 10 kept changing more than usual day to day because no studio could agree on the grosses. In all, there were 5, count 'em, new films opening in North America to almost close out the summer. Yet none of them could break $12.5M by end of Sunday. Dimension/Weinstein Co's horror pic Piranha 3D underperformed at the box office despite those higher ticket prices. Warner Bros' urban comedy Lottery Ticket did a better per screen average considering its middling release. With a CinemaScore of only 'B', The Switch from Miramax (with production costs shared by Mandate/Lionsgate which has foreign) showed size does matter when it comes to theater count and box office order. Jason Bateman steals this rom-com but it's not likely to stay in play long enough for people to even see his performance." (Deadline)

"As Republicans eye a potential three-seat pickup in Tennessee this fall and the possibility of taking over two House seats and a Senate seat in Arkansas, party strategists are cautiously optimistic that 2010 will be the year that two holdout Southern states are finally brought into the GOP’s fold for good. On the federal level, Arkansas and Tennessee have defied a trend that saw the rest of the states that made up the former Confederacy shift from Democratic to Republican strongholds. It was a shift that traces its roots to former President Richard Nixon’s 'Southern strategy' and established the South as the Republican Party’s most reliable voting block by the turn of the 21st century. Arkansas and Tennessee’s resistance to this geographic trend is credited in no small measure to the success and influence of two homegrown Democratic sons, former President Bill Clinton (an Arkansas governor) and former Vice-President Al Gore (a Tennessee Congressman and Senator). But a decade after Clinton and Gore left the White House, Republicans strategists believe their influence has faded enough to allow for a political realignment in both states in a cycle where the political environment has tilted so heavily in the GOP’s favor. Democrats are keenly aware of the threat of an all out Republican takeover in the region. 'There’s always been a fear, are we one election cycle away from being the next Alabama,' one Arkansas Democratic operative said recently." (CQPolitics)

(FIT's Patricia Mears and Valerie Steele with Liz Peek, image via style)

"For some reason, the Couture Council of the Museum at FIT has decided to honor a guy by the name of 'Karl Lagerfeld' at its annual benefit luncheon next month. Lunch is already sold out, but last night, the group went ahead and formally kicked off ticket sales anyway, as it does every year at its summer party. Couture Council chairs Yaz Hernández, Alexandra Lebenthal, Charlotte Moss, and Liz Peek played host at the French Embassy, as guests including Francisco Costa, Ralph Rucci, and Nicole Miller sipped white Bordeaux and munched on toast point hors d'oeuvres. 'We were at a meeting of the advisory board and someone mentioned, Wouldn't it be great if we could get Karl?' recalled Valerie Steele, director and chief curator of the Museum at FIT. (Apparently, this Karl person is rather a big deal in certain circles.) 'So we were talking about it, like, as kind of a pie-in-the-sky idea,' she continued, 'and finally, I said, you know what? Screw it. Let's ask! He can only say no…' So, lo and behold, Lagerfeld will be making an appearance in New York City on September 10, a prospect that has Hernández properly giddy." (Style)

"A group of joyful A-listers joined former President Clinton yesterday for a Hamptons birthday bash. Among the glitterati said to be on the guest list for Clinton's 64th birthday party were designer Vera Wang, who created his daughter's wedding gown, Katie Couric and music icons Paul McCartney and Jimmy Buffett. The party was held at the Water Mill home of his longtime aide Doug Band and his wife, Lily, and catered by Jason Weiner of Almond restaurant in Bridgehampton. Clinton's wife, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, co-hosted the party that was also set to include model Christie Brinkley, 'Today Show' host Matt Lauer and Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein. Clinton's birthday was Thursday, and McCartney made it fab for the ex-prez by calling and serenading him with The Beatles' 1967 hit 'When I'm Sixty-Four.'" (PageSix)

"Housing will eventually recover from its great swoon. But many real estate experts now believe that home ownership will never again yield rewards like those enjoyed in the second half of the 20th century, when houses not only provided shelter but also a plump nest egg. The wealth generated by housing in those decades, particularly on the coasts, did more than assure the owners a comfortable retirement. It powered the economy, paying for the education of children and grandchildren, keeping the cruise ships and golf courses full and the restaurants humming. More than likely, that era is gone for good." (NYTimes)