Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Media-Whore D'Oeuvres

"In a post-Iraq, post-Afghanistan, post-Libya world, the White House reaction to both calls illuminates the conditions under which the 44th president is willing to use force, or see it used by others. But it also sheds light on that ill-defined concept that the administration refuses to call the Obama Doctrine. Syria and Iran are hardly unrelated problems. In the minds of many on President Obama’s team, nothing would undercut Iran’s capability to cause trouble in the region faster than if the mullahs lost Bashar al-Assad, Syria’s brutal president, as their only ally in the Arab world. The argument commonly heard inside and outside the White House these days is that if the Assad government cracks, Iran’s ability to funnel weapons to Hezbollah and Hamas will be badly damaged — and its influence will wither accordingly. Similarly, if Iran’s effort to walk up to the edge of a nuclear weapons capability can be set back with a few well-placed GBU-31 bunker-busters, the country’s hopes of challenging Israel and Saudi Arabia to be the region’s biggest power will be deferred. Or so the theory goes ... THE lesson of past conflicts is that while providing weaponry may help overthrow an odious government, the weapons are often later used to settle scores. The weapons provided to the mujahedeen in Afghanistan helped drive out the Soviets and made for great cinema in 'Charlie Wilson’s War.' But some of those weapons were turned on United States troops after the 2001 American-led invasion.  The concerns about providing high-tech arms to the Israelis are entirely different. There is no closer American ally, and its military is deservedly regarded as among the most disciplined and tightly commanded on the globe. But President Obama now faces the same decision that President George W. Bush did in 2008, when the Israelis sought the bunker-busting bombs and refueling capability they would need for a truly broad, sustained attack on Iran’s far-flung nuclear sites. Inside the Bush White House the Israeli request incited a huge fight. Vice President Dick Cheney, who by his own account advocated an American strike on a nuclear reactor in Syria (the Israelis did the job when Mr. Bush demurred), urged that the Israelis be given everything they needed. The majority of the Bush national security team, however, concluded that if the Israelis were given the technology, it greatly heightened the chances they would use it — and risk another Middle East war. The Obama team has come to the same conclusion.        " (NYTimes)

"If a hall of fame were established for contemporary book reviewers—well, why not? There’s one for ad executives, poker players, and probably porn stars—Christopher Hitchens would very likely be its second inductee. (James Wood, of course, would be the first.) About an amazing range of literary and political figures—Proust, Joyce, Borges, Byron, Bellow, Orhan Pamuk, Tom Paine, Trotsky, Churchill, Conor Cruise O’Brien, Israel Shahak, and a hundred others—he has supplied the basic information, limned the relevant controversies, hazarded an original perception or two, and thrown out half a dozen fine phrases, causing between fifteen and forty- five minutes of reading time to pass entirely unnoticed. His very, very frequent political columns have occasionally seemed tossed off, it’s true; but his books about Cyprus, the Palestinians, the British monarchy, and the Elgin Marbles are seriously argued. Though he lives in Washington, DC, and is said to be very fond of fancy parties, he has famously insulted and called for the incarceration of a sitting President and a ubiquitously befriended diplomat and Nobel laureate. And he appears on all those self-important TV talk shows without wearing a tie. How can you not admire someone like that?" (N+1)

"Last night I went over to the Café Carlyle for the Opening Night Performance of Herb Alpert and Lani Hall making their debut engagement. Ms. Hall and Mr. Alpert are Mr. and Mrs. in real life. They’ve been married since 1974 although they’ve known each other since the mid-60s when Lani was singing with Sergio Mendes and Brasil 66 and recorded their first hit album on A&M Records – the label Alpert created with business partner Jerry Moss. The room was packed. I saw Tony Danza, and also Bill and Judith Moyers who I learned are friends of the Alperts. Bill and Herb Alpert first met in 1965 when Bill was Press Secretary to President Lyndon Johnson. The Tijuana Brass were top of the charts and Bill tried to get them for a performance at the White House. Much to his surprise and pleasure Herb agreed to appear. They’ve been friends ever since ... They played for a solid hour and a half. The room was so at home and relaxed, so carried away by the pleasure of the band and the singer that it could have been in your living room ... Alpert and Moss started their record company in the mid-60s. In all Herb recorded more than 50 albums (and once had four on the top 10 at the same time), and more than 30 hit singles. Someone in the audience asked him who were some of his favorite performers. First thing: Sting and the Police. He loves Sting; couldn’t say enough kind things about him -- intelligent, willing to try new things, committed. In 1987 Alpert and Moss sold A&M to Polygram for about $500 million. The partners have never had a signed agreement between themselves, to this day. The entire career was confirmed with a handshake and so it remains." (NYSocialDiary)

"Olympia Snowe's retirement statement seemed like it dropped a huge hint, and I'm surprised it hasn't received any attention ... This sounds exactly like the kind of rhetoric emanating from Americans Elect, the third-party group that believes that both parties should put aside partisanship and come together to enact an ever-so-slightly more conservative version of Barack Obama's agenda. Moderate retiring senators often deliver lofty, vacuous paeans to bipartisanship on their way to a lucrative lobbying career. But Snowe's statement seems unusually specific ('unique opportunities to build support for that change from outside the United States Senate') about her intent to do something.
I suspect it may not be coincidental that David Boren, the former Democratic senator from Oklahoma and oil industry lickspittle, came out for Americans Elect today. The group is set up so that its presidential and vice-presidential candidates need to come from opposing parties." (NYMag)

"Angela Missoni lives five long floors up in a fine Milan apartment building, but the line for the tiny elevator was so thick before last night's dinner at her place that Charlotte Tilbury, Jefferson Hack, and Tabitha Simmons, in Fall Dolce & Gabbana fresh off her afternoon styling gig, opted to take the stairs. 'We'll see you up there,' Hack called. It was just as crowded inside, especially in front of the buffet table, where waiters were slicing prosciutto and serving up steaming portions of polenta. Suzy Menkes was recommending the bean soup; the family matriarch, Rosita Missoni, discussed the merits of The Artist; and Francesco Scognamiglio was crossing his fingers that the dresses he sent to L.A. would hit the red-carpet circuit." (Style)

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Media-Whore D'Oeuvres

"Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah scolded Russian President Dmitry Medvedev last week for failing to coordinate with Arab states before vetoing a United Nations resolution demanding that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad step down. Emboldened by the lack of international action, Assad's forces are now slaughtering civilians in the streets at an even greater rate. Referring to the bloodshed, the king ominously warned Medvedev that Saudi Arabia 'will never abandon its religious and moral obligations towards what's happening.' The last time the Saudis decided they had a moral obligation to scuttle Russian policies, they gave birth to a generation of jihadi fighters in Afghanistan who are still wreaking havoc three decades later. According to news reports confirmed by a member of the Syrian opposition, Riyadh currently sendsweapons on an ad hoc basis to the Syrian opposition by way of Sunni tribal allies in Iraq and Lebanon. But in light of recent developments, more weapons are almost certainly on their way. After his delegation withdrewin frustration from last week's Friends of Syria meeting in Tunisia, Prince Saud al-Faisal, the Saudi foreign minister, said that humanitarian aid to Syria was 'not enough' and that arming the Syrian rebels was an 'excellent idea.' Soon afterward, an unnamed official commented in the state-controlled Saudi press that Riyadh sought to provide the Syrian opposition with the 'means to achieve stability and peace and to allow it the right to choose its own representatives.' Meanwhile, Saudi clerics are now openly calling for jihad in Syria and scorning those who wait for Western intervention. One prominent unsanctioned cleric, Aidh al-Qarni, openly calls for Assad's death. Other Sunni Gulf states, principally Qatar, may be contributing weapons." (ForeignPolicy)

"Could Rick Santorum pull out yet another come-from-behind victory in Michigan? The polls are tightening again, and Santorum has a history (okay, several states worth, spanning a couple months) of overperforming his polling. If that happens, the next stage will be a vicious spin war between the Romney and Santorum camps over what the Michigan results mean. The key point of contention will be crossover voting. Michigan voters, being clever and sophisticated, have a long tradition of strategically infiltrated the opposing party’s primary to bolster the candidate opposed by the establishment. Republicans helped throw the 1972 and 1988 Democratic primaries to George Wallace and Jesse Jackson, to the mortal embarrassment of Democratic leaders. Democratic voters pulled the same trick in 2000, supporting John McCain over George W. Bush, to the high-profile embarrassment of Republican governor John Engler who backed Bush. There are many rumblings afoot of a similar effort this year on behalf of Santorum. PPP finds Santorum regaining a tiny 1% lead, a margin entirely attributable to crossover voting. If something like this comes to pass, the spin war will follow. Romney will maintain that Democrats intentionally hijacked the party’s primary in order to saddle them with a loser for a nominee. He’ll have plenty of evidence on his side – liberal blog Daily Kos dubbed its effort to gin up Democrats for Santorum 'Operation Hilarity.'" (NYMag)

"The skin around his eyes bordered on slack, grayish. Although the rest of his body was in relatively solid shape—he still exercised regularly, albeit with varying degrees of gusto—the star detected telltale indicators of impending decline. There were 'little blotchy patches' on his skin and “weird saggy stuff” on his upper torso. The latter was especially disheartening, considering his immediate goals. The actor was circling a film role that would require him to be, in addition to semi-athletic, half naked. Nobody, least of all him, wanted to see this body on a screen 70 feet wide. Then there was his energy level, which had been heading south for months. Likewise his libido. If being a movie star was all about charisma, and charisma was a kind of energy, then he needed to start exploring alternative energy sources, and fast. To hell with all those damned protein bars and shakes and oxygen chambers. And, frankly, he’d tattoo PATHETIC on his forehead before he’d let some shiny plastics guy cut his face open, or shoot it full of goo, or do any sort of 'work.' There’s no sadder specimen, in his view, than the actor who labors under the impression that no one can tell. The first time he was offered H.G.H.—short for 'human growth hormone'—it freaked him out. This was about three years ago, while he was vacationing with friends. During a late-night search for toothpaste, he found his friend injecting a needle into his belly. 'Party, drugs, needles, bathroom,' the actor says. 'Do the math.' He was relieved to learn that the syringe contained H.G.H., which the friend was taking as part of doctor-prescribed treatment for a hormone deficiency. 'Makes me feel 10 years younger,' the friend said. The guy did have a certain zip. And he looked, if not younger, pretty good. But still. H.G.H.? The junk all those roided-out ballplayers were using? Why would any actor go there? As it turned out, though, the actor knew plenty of people who used H.G.H. Most of them sang its praises, saying it made them look and feel stronger, sharper, younger; one of them, a studio executive, told him it had changed his life." (VanityFair)

"Some time last summer, former model and rising New York free spirit Hannah Cohen released a music video so evocative it demanded a double take. The nearly underwater visuals accompanied "The Crying Game," a haunting confessional of lost love and betrayal, sung by a voice that sounds like a cross between the weeping Sirens of Greek myth meets Lana Del Rey. Twenty-five-year-old Cohen, originally from San Francisco, has only been performing for about four years, after a whirlwind stint as a model on runways from Milan to Malaysia. (She first took off for New York at age 17.) On stage, Cohen is both ethereal and endearing, as evidenced by last Friday's intimate Le Poisson Rouge show. There, Cohen, cloaked in a green poncho, her long brown hair framing her porcelain-like face, sang a stripped down set of tear-soaked songs -- just her on guitar, collaborator Thomas Bartlett (he of Doveman) on piano -- to a crowd illuminated by candles and soft lavender lighting, occasionally bursting into nervous laughter. 'I'm waiting for the big applause,' she once tells the crowd charmingly. 'Like, yeaahhhh!'   The songs are from her upcoming buzzed-about debut, Child Bride, a self-described coded soundtrack to her life recorded over the past year in a half. Cohen met me at West Village eatery Gottino the next day for peppermint tea to discuss stage fright, the album, how modeling prepared her for her budding music career, and her love of animals." (Papermag)

"Liz Smith called me last night to tell me that our friends Parker Ladd and Arnold Scaasi who are down in Palm Beach had a very difficult day yesterday. Parker fell and hit his head and is being hospitalized at St. Mary’s in West Palm. The incident upset Arnold so much that he suffered some sort of a heart disturbance and also had to be hospitalized at Good Samaritan, also in West Palm. Both incidents are worrying for friends because both men have not been in the best of health recently. The couple have been together for a half century. They made it official in a wedding last fall with reception at Le Cirque and Mayor Bloomberg attending. Parker and Arnold and Liz have been the driving forces behind Literacy Partners, another brilliant community-oriented charity. While they still maintain homes in Manhattan and Quogue, in the past few years, they’ve spent more time in Palm Beach because of the weather." (NYSocialDiary)

"Years ago, at Beige, Eartha Kitt and I were posing for a photo and she reached under my chin to put her hand on my cheek. Her finger accidentally went up my nose very quickly and scratched it to the point that I was bleeding. I ran away so she wouldn't see what happened. I walked around with a dinner napkin up my nose for a while." (Parker Posey/Papermag)

Monday, February 27, 2012

Media-Whore D'Oeuvres

"In an unprecedented collaboration between Anonymous and WikiLeaks, the secret spilling site began leaking Sunday night portions of a massive trove of e-mails from the private intelligence firm Stratfor that Anonymous obtained by hacking the company in December. WikiLeaks did not mention the source of the reported five gigabytes of e-mails in its press release, but did say it has been working for months with 25 media outlets from around the world to analyze the documents. The first batch of leaked e-mails purport to show that Stratfor monitored the political prankster group known as The Yes Men on behalf of Dow Chemical, which has been targeted by The Yes Men over the company’s handling of the Bhopal disaster. The e-mails also purport to show Stratfor’s attempt to set up an investment fund with a Goldman Sachs director to trade on the intelligence Stratfor collects, as well as give insight into how the private intelligence firm acquires, and sometimes pays for, information. Stratfor, somewhat akin to a privatized CIA, sells its analyses of global politics to major corporations and government agencies. According to Antisec participants, Stratfor was targeted not just for its poor security, but also because of its client list, which includes major companies and government entities. 'We believe police and employees who work for the most significant fortune 500 companies are the most responsible for perpetuating the machinery of capitalism and the state,' said one Antisec participant in December, 'That there will be repercussions for when you choose to betray the people and side with the rich ruling classes.' Anons also told Wired that future collaborations with WikiLeaks could involve a series of hacks that will be announced, one after another, every Friday for the foreseeable future. If that happens, the Stratfor e-mail release could be the first sign of a new, powerful alliance between the two groups, each of which has vexed and angered the world’s most powerful governments and corporations." (WIRED)

"Hollywood’s brightest stars rubbed elbows with power players at Vanity Fair’s annual glittering Oscar bash last night. Power couples Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes, Gwyneth Paltrow and Chris Martin, Olivia Wilde and Jason Sudeikis, and David and Victoria Beckham all hit Graydon Carter’s party at the Sunset Tower Hotel, to join guests including Michael and Kirk Douglas, Fran Lebowitz, Jane Fonda, Steve Martin, Sofia Vergara, Jay Leno and George Lucas.
The Hollywood royalty even met the real thing when Prince Albert of Monaco and new bride Charlene Wittstock arrived. Also at the fete were philanthropist Betsy Bloomingdale and designers Tom Ford, Carolina Herrera and Tory Burch ... Joan Collins was at the VF event a year after causing a stir when she’d fainted and needed medical attention for wearing a too-tight dress.
In memory of Christopher Hitchens, Zippo lighters were placed on tables at the dinner engraved with his quote: 'Everyone has a book inside them, which is exactly where I think it should, in most cases, remain.'" (PageSix)

"Marriage-go-round; and Up and Down. In the Good News (for some) department, the four-year-old acrimonious divorce saga of Cendant Corporation tycoon Henry Silverman and Nancy Silverman, his wife of 33 years (37 if they’re still not officially divorced) is over. Done, like dinner. No trial dates, as many of their friends had anticipated; no more tumult, no more shouting. I’ve been told that the settlement is said to be somewhere in the hundreds of millions and has been agreed upon by both parties. Henry Silverman built Cendant into a multibillion dollar a year business through hotels, motels (Days Inn, Howard Johnson’s, Ramada, Travelodge, etc.), rent-a-cars (Avis, Budget) and real estate (Coldwell Banker, Century 21, Sotheby’s International Real Estate). The soon-to-be ex-Mrs. Silverman was by his side every inch of the way in the years he created his treasure. Four years ago Mr. Silverman told Mrs. Silverman there was somebody else in his life. The story was first reported here on the NYSD. Like, his physical trainer, a woman named Karen Hader. The new couple soon (maybe immediately) took up residence together and before we knew it, the pitter-patter of little feet could be heard in the new couple’s marble halls, while the Battle Royal with the once deeply devoted (and I’m not exaggerating) now deeply wounded wife Nancy, began. The split came as a big surprise to friends because Nancy Silverman practically worshiped at the altar of astounding business success she identified as Henry Silverman’s personal possession." (NYSocialDiary)

"Ever the showman, Terry Richardson chose Oscar weekend to debut his first solo exhibition in Los Angeles. Hollywood, meet Terrywood. The exhibition of 25 photographs at L.A.'s OHWOW Gallery captures some of the city's most celebrated sights, landscapes, and still-lifes—just about everything, in other words, except his snapshot-influenced portraits. Not that the celeb-heavy throng that came to celebrate the show and party afterwards at the Chateau Marmont seemed to mind—most had already been snapped by the lensman, anyway. Tom Ford, James Franco, Tyler the Creator, and Richardson partner-in-crime Jared Leto all came for a look. As the gallery cleared out, guests and sometime subjects including Pamela Anderson and Lindsay Lohan filed into Bungalow 1 at the Chateau. Life imitated art as guests were greeted with In-N-Out burgers, the subject of one of the photos in the show. Among fellow models May Andersen and Erin Wasson, Frankie Rayder admired the man of the hour for his uncanny ability to get his subjects to let their hair (and frequently, everything else) down. 'It's just Terry,' Rayder said." (Style)

"Last night, the art crowd gathered at the Fred Torres Collaborations gallery for Earth Laughs In Flowers, a new exhibit of still life photographs by famed photographer, David LaChapelle. At first glance, the photos feature expansive and lush flowers reminiscent of paintings by the Dutch Masters but, upon closer inspection, elements of LaChapelle's signature blend of wealthy excess and the grotesque are present: phallic doll parts, Cheetos, pill bottles and toilet paper peek out from fancy floral arrangements and mingle amid ripe fruit. LaChapelle, who famously quit shooting fashion for magazines and moved to Hawaii in 2006 at what some might say was the peak of his influence, has clearly not lost any admirers. " (Papermag)

Saturday, February 25, 2012

I'm LiveTweeting The Oscars

If you want to see my live realtime tweets about The Oscars, follow me on Twitter here starting at 7pm ET
Media-Whore D'Oeuvres

"If Israel is willing to think outside the box, it can deal Bashar al-Assad, Iran, and Hizbullah a body blow without firing a shot. Defense Minister Ehud Barak simply needs to convince Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu to put back on the table the offer Barak made to Assad’s father in 2000—return of the Golan Heights to Syria in return for peace with Israel. Twelve years ago this spring, Barak, after months of hesitation, finally put down a concrete offer to Hafez al-Assad. In Shepherdstown, W.Va., then Prime Minister Barak had rebuffed Syrian Foreign Minister Sharaa’s repeated requests to state clearly what Syrian territory captured in 1967 Israel was prepared to give back to Syria on the Golan. Sharaa offered full peace with extensive security arrangements, including demilitarizing the Golan, limiting Syrian troop deployments near the Heights even in and around Damascus, and exchanging ambassadors in return for a full withdrawal to the ceasefire line that marked the border before the 1967 war. Finally, in Geneva in March 2000, Barak gave President Clinton authority to offer Assad all of the Golan except a thin strip 500 meters wide along the northeastern shore of Lake Tiberius. Syria would be compensated with territory elsewhere and thus get 100 percent of its lands back. Clinton promised billions in military aid to Israel to help sell the deal. But it was too late; Assad was on his deathbed, focused more on his son’s succession, and said no. It was a tragic missed opportunity." (TheDailyBeast)
Media-Whore D'Oeuvres

"Saudi Arabia and Qatar want to arm the Syrian opposition, raising the prospect of a widening conflict after the 'Friends of Syria' group met in Tunis yesterday to pressure President Bashar al-Assad to step down. The two Arab nations backed a plan to send weapons to rebels fighting the Syrian regime, a call echoed by prominent U.S. Republican lawmakers, while the Obama administration and officials from Morocco, Tunisia and Bahrain said they are against moves that would further militarize the conflict. That divide contrasted with the otherwise united front in condemning the violence unleashed by the Assad regime. Syrian forces killed 18 people today, including eight in Aleppo province, the U.K.-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said in an e-mailed statement. Syrian forces broke up a protest of 4,000 people near Aleppo city, it said. Arming the opposition is 'an excellent idea,' Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal said on his way into a meeting with U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, 'because they have to protect themselves.' Clinton, Saud and officials from more than 70 countries attended the conference in Tunis, where they backed a decision to begin planning a joint Arab League-United Nations peacekeeping mission after Assad’s ouster." (Businessweek)

"The State Department has begun coordinating with Syria's neighbors to prepare for the handling of President Bashar al-Assad's extensive weapons of mass destruction if and when his regime collapses, The Cable has learned. This week, the State Department sent a diplomatic demarche to Syria's neighbors Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, and Saudi Arabia, warning them about the possibility of Syria's WMDs crossing their borders and offering U.S. government help in dealing with the problem, three Obama administration officials confirmed to The Cable. For concerned parties both inside and outside the U.S. government, the demarche signifies that the United States is increasingly developing plans to deal with the dangers of a post-Assad Syria -- while simultaneously highlighting the lack of planning for how to directly bring about Assad's downfall. Syria is believed to have a substantial chemical weapons program, which includes mustard gas and sophisticated nerve agents, such as sarin gas, as well as biological weapons. Syria has also refused IAEA requests to make available facilities that were part of its nuclear weapons program and may still be in operation. The State Department declined to provide access to any officials to discuss the private diplomatic communication on the record, such as the author of the demarche Assistant Secretary of State for International Security and Nonproliferation Tom Countryman. In a meeting with reporters earlier this year, Countryman expressed confidence that the United States knows where Syria's WMD stockpiles are, but warned that they could become a very serious security issue for Syria and the region going forward.
"We have ideas as to the quantity and we have ideas as to where they are,' Countryman said. 'We wish some of the neighbors of Syria to be on the lookout... When you get a change of regime in Syria, it matters what are the conditions -- chaotic or orderly.'" (FP)

"Until a few weeks ago, Harvey Weinstein had no idea who designed his tuxedos. 'A fashion blogger asked me at the Directors Guild awards,' he told me over breakfast recently. 'I had to look at the label. My wife [Georgina Chapman, designer and co-founder of the Marchesa fashion label] buys them for me ... They’re all laid out in the closet like when I was in school.' Weinstein clearly has more important things to think about than who makes his suits. The burly 59-year-old is, after all, the man who turned independent cinema into a thriving global business, launched the career of Quentin Tarantino, and last month was addressed as both 'God' and 'the Punisher' by Meryl Streep as she accepted a Golden Globe award. And yet a tuxedo, worn most weekends from January to March as he attends a succession of the awards ceremonies that can help turn a film into a commercial hit, is practically a uniform for Weinstein. So far this year, he has dressed up for the Baftas, Screen Actors Guild awards, Globes and all the other events that can seem like mere warm-ups for the main event: the Oscars. And yet a tuxedo, worn most weekends from January to March as he attends a succession of the awards ceremonies that can help turn a film into a commercial hit, is practically a uniform for Weinstein. So far this year, he has dressed up for the Baftas, Screen Actors Guild awards, Globes and all the other events that can seem like mere warm-ups for the main event: the Oscars.On Sunday, at the 84th Academy Awards, a tuxedo-clad Weinstein will once again walk the red carpet into the glitzy auditorium and find himself front and centre at Hollywood’s biggest night." (FT)

"Though he didn't take Seipel seriously at first, Putin gradually came to accept the idea of the film. The documentary itself is a departure from the official images we are all too familiar with. Instead, it offers a look behind the scenes of power and addresses the question of what exactly it is like to be Vladimir Putin. The scenes that Seipel compiles offer a clear answer: It's lonely. In one scene, Putin is shown practicing ice hockey alone at night in an empty arena. In another, he is at the pool in the morning, accompanied only by his black Labrador retriever Koni, who licks the prime minister's face. Then, there is Putin playing ice hockey at night, this time with a team made up of his bodyguards playing against Dmitry Medvedev's bodyguards, though without the Russian president. During a break, Putin is shown sitting by himself, looking old and exhausted. And there is Putin walking to a cabinet meeting -- also alone. Indeed, no matter where he is -- even on a manly hunting trip with friends in remote Siberia -- there is always something of a security buffer around him, leaving Putin to always sit by himself.The premier tries to portray himself as a fit 59-year-old, vigorous and manly, the virile opposite of his predecessor as president, the flabby drinker Boris Yeltsin. This is, after all, the deeper purpose of all the staged images of Putin hunting bears or fly-fishing we are so familiar with. But in Seipel's film, this no longer comes across as virile but, rather, as exhausting and joyless. Seipel presents an image of a man stubbornly fending off physical decline. This is especially obvious when the staged effort is a failure. For example, there is the scene in which a young woman knocks Putin on his back during a judo match at his old club in St. Petersburg. Putin is clearly unable to accept defeat, feeling instead compelled to avenge himself immediately by viciously throwing her onto the mat." (Der Spiegel)

"Arriving at the general reception (pretty standard, featuring a woman behind a high desk), I am quickly escorted to a more private reception area. It is an eye-boggling combination of deep burgundy velvet settees, leopard-print walls and assorted enormous paintings. These include an oil of the designers and their three labradors – one chocolate, one blond, one black – and the Italian pop artist Giuseppe Veneziano’s depiction of an enormous classical Madonna with the head of Madonna Ciccone and two putti – with the heads of Dolce and Gabbana – playing at her feet. It is, frankly, a little disconcerting. Still, Dante Ferretti couldn’t have made a better film set if he’d tried. As Dolce and Gabbana design, so do they live ... Dolce, 53, and Gabbana, 49, met in 1980 when both were assistants at a fashion atelier in Milan, and became Dolce & Gabbana in 1982. From the start, their inspiration was to tap into the romantic nostalgia people feel for the Dolce Vita clichés of Italy – Sophia Loren, pasta, Sicily – and to translate them, without irony but with great enthusiasm, into a modern aesthetic (one 2009 ad campaign featured Madonna in a kitchen cooking pasta). The clothes may have a complicated construction but their appeal is straightforward. Like many other Italian brands, they are, at least superficially, about sex ... The two designers have been together professionally for 30 years and they were also involved personally for 23 of those but broke up in 2005. They know it is tempting to try to make sense of their partnership, to say one is a tailor and one a dressmaker, or one a sketcher and one a draper." (FT)

"Back to camp for breakfast and then a blissful massage given by a therapist named Charity ... gotta love that name. Lunch brought a visit from Jackson (Jackson is his Christian name. His Masai name is Lekishon, meaning eternal life), a 24-year-old local Masai warrior who arrived dressed in traditional robes (called shukas which are large rectangular wool or cotton woven blankets, in tribal colors of reds and purples) and multi-colored beaded necklaces, belts and head gear, completed by a spear and sheathed knife at his side. I sat down with him and learned a great deal about contemporary life in his village. There are approximately 800,000 Masai living in Kenya and Tanzania, constituting one of the largest tribes in Africa. The Masai’s primary form of income is still derived from raising and herding cattle. Though cattle are no longer used as barter, a man’s wealth is measured by the head of cattle he owns. It was amazing for me to learn that many of the same traditions have carried forward for hundreds if not thousands of years. According to Jackson, cattle raiding from outside tribes still occurs, and one of the primary functions of a warrior is reclaiming stolen cattle and often meting out punishment in the form of death by poisoned arrow. 'The end' supposedly occurs within five minutes. Only the elders in the village are permitted to make the poison for the arrow tips. Perhaps I had a touch of heat stroke while listening to this saga from Jackson, but he solemnly told me that he has killed in the name of rescuing stolen cattle. Not sure if my leg was being pulled across the room. Certainly prompted me to think about corporate raiders in the US." (Nina Groscom/NYSocialDiary)

"Some 30 years ago, a Baltimore lawyer who published a newsletter about wine out of his suburban Maryland home became the most influential and powerful figure in the wine world. Influenced by Ralph Nader's consumer advocacy, Robert Parker wanted to make the previously arcane subject of French wine accessible to the American public. His hundred-point rating system seemed to unlock the mysteries of oenophilia for everyday drinkers, and his taste for bold, ripe wines eventually had a big influence on the way wine was made around the world. (Mr. Parker's palate is more nuanced than his detractors would have you believe, but that's another story.) The Wine Spectator, Mr. Parker's competition, promoted a vision of the wine universe that was remarkably similar: Big wine, big points. All successful revolutions breed their reactions, and while no single figure has arisen to challenge Mr. Parker's supremacy, the rise of the sommelier has been a significant countervailing force in the last decade. Sommeliers are the new celebrities of the restaurant world, and collectively they are increasingly influencing the way we think about wine and drink it.  This state of affairs would have been hard to predict back in the '70s, when the word sommelier denoted a scary guy in a tux with a heavy French accent and a silver ashtray on a chain around his neck, whose raison d'être was to make you overpay for a bottle of French wine while making you feel like a complete idiot in the process." (WSJ)

Friday, February 24, 2012

Pill Murray

Media-Whore D'Oeuvres

"I actually wouldn't be shocked if Ban Ki-moon took him up on the invitation. Ban's a second-term chief, so he need not worry about angering key UN members (namely, the United States). And if he were to come out with a strong statement against the legality of a strike, he'd win praise for having tried to help avert a conflict (without actually having done so, of course). On the substance of the legal question, Israel has a steep hill to climb. The basic UN Charter structure has been broadly interpreted to provide that a lawful use of force must either be in self defense or authorized by the UN Security Council. There's almost no possibility of the latter, so Israel would have to hang its hat on self defense. And Israel could marshal an impressive body of statements from Iranian leaders suggesting that Iran is functionally in a state of war with the Jewish state. Consistent Iranian support for Hezbollah and other militants attacking Israel bolsters the case. The argument here wouldn't be preemptive self defense (which would be a real stretch); it would be that the two countries are already effectively in a state of war, and that a strike against Iranian nuclear facilities would be another phase in that ongoing conflict. Israel might be able to make a distinct argument that a strike would be legal. Pointing to the actual practice of states--and with particular emphasis on the post-9/11 period--Israel could argue that a strike does not violate the UN Charter's key provision restricting the use of force, Article 2(4)." (Foreignpolicy)

"Who is worse—the pusher or the addict? I’d say it’s fifty-fifty as they sustain each other, although the addict has the moral high ground. Greece is the addict. The German and French banks are the pushers, with Brussels the Godfather shipping the stuff in from Afghanistan. The Godfather is not the cuddly Brando type, but rather an autocoprophagous degenerate who managed a coup d’etat while Europe slept. The Godfather is now defending his turf with Caligulan levels of depravity. If I had one wish, it would be to see Europe’s dregs—dwarfs such as Barroso, Draghi, Rehn, Van Rompuy, and the rest of the scum—in the dock the way the Greek colonels ended up. At least the brave Greeks who pulled the coup on April 21, 1967 had the courage to roll the tanks out and take their chances. One of them, Costa Papadopoulos, brother of the leader George Papadopoulos, is still in prison, the junta having collapsed in 1974. 'What Brussels demands of Greece is as realistic as asking a middleweight boxer to bulk up to heavyweight while on a starvation diet.' I am very serious. These midgets who have done away with democracy in the name of democracy need to be tried, convicted, and jailed for life." (Taki Theodoracopoulos)

"With a slate of small, arty movie nominees and an old-school host who is more reliable than buzzy, this year's Academy Awards broadcast may not set any television ratings records. But it's poised for a shot at another title: It could be the biggest night yet for social media. The awards show is working hard to pump up its social-media clout as it tries to leverage a growing phenomenon: More and more viewers are supplementing the experience of merely watching their favorite TV shows by joining in simultaneous running commentaries on Twitter and Facebook. ABC, which will broadcast the awards Sunday, will have at least two people tweeting about what is happening backstage, including Shira Lazar, a Web-broadcast personality. The preshow red-carpet hosts will be asking celebrities questions that viewers have posted to Twitter. The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, which presents the awards, has a new feature available on Facebook that lets users choose which films and actors they expect to win, and share their picks with friends. In addition to the official cameras trained on the stage and audience, 20 cameras will be stationed in the red-carpet area and throughout the theater, including one at the lobby bar and a backstage 'Thank You Camera' where winners can extend their acceptance speeches. Video from these cameras won't be part of the TV broadcast but will be streamed on and the free mobile Oscars app. A ticker on the site and app will let followers know in real time who is appearing on which camera. The idea is to give people more access to live celebrity footage that they can chat about online." (WSJ)

"Cindy Sherman (b. 1954) is widely considered to be one of the most important and influential artists of our time. Masquerading as myriad characters, she invents personas and tableaus that examine the construction of identity, the nature of representation, and the artifice of photography. To create her images, Sherman assumes the multiple roles of photographer, model, makeup artist, hairdresser, and stylist. Whether portraying a career girl, a blond bombshell, a fashion victim, a clown, or a society lady of a certain age, for over thirty-five years this relentlessly adventurous artist has created an eloquent and provocative body of work that resonates deeply in our visual culture. This mid-career retrospective spans 11 galleries and includes 180 key photographs from the artist's significant series, including the complete Untitled Film Stills (1977-80), the centerfolds (1981), the celebrated history portraits (1988-90), the breakthrough sex pictures of 1992, the clowns (2003-04), and the society portraits of 2008.  Curated by Associate Curator Eva Respini, with the assistance of Lucy Gallon, the exhibition features the American premiere of her 2010 photographic mural outside the galleries on the sixth floor." (NYSocialDiary)

"'The word ‘mogul’ actually comes from ‘Mughal,’' curator William Dalrymple explained to Vanity Fair last night at the opening of his new exhibit, 'Princes and Painters in Mughal Delhi, 1707-1857,' at the Asia Society in New York City. “When you consider an Oscar-winning Hollywood mogul, unthinkingly you’re coming across a word that started off with an Indian dynasty, which was so redolent of power and luxury that even to this day, people who have never heard of Mughal use the word to describe power, like Harvey Weinstein.' Wandering through the gorgeous exhibit—paintings of Coliseum-style elephant fights cheek by jowl with harem ladies partaking of the hookah—in a daze, we stumbled onto literary mogul Salman Rushdie. The Satanic Verses author graced us with his thoughts on this Sunday’s Academy Awards (Weinstein’s The Artist and Martin Scorsese’s Hugo are favorites) and turned his gimlet eye toward socialites in 'Page Six' and the general absurdity of the G.O.P. race ... I don’t get the Post. I don’t see it. If somebody calls me and says, you’re in 'Page Six,' then I find out. But I dislike it. I’m a rather serious person." (VanityFair)

"Vanity Fair magazine and luxury brand Ermenegildo Zegna hosted a star-studded dinner Wednesday night in Hollywood to celebrate two charitable causes, international relief organization Oxfam America and the Green Carpet Challenge. Guests included Colin Firth, Cameron Diaz, Gary Oldman, Demian Bichir, Emily Blunt, John Krazinski, Kimora Lee, Kenneth Branagh, Djimon Honsu, Kristen Davis and Vanity Fair editor in chief Graydon Carter. The event was part of Vanity Fair's 'Campaign Hollywood,' a weeklong series of charity-related events leading up to the Oscars on Sunday." (LATimes)

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Media-Whore D'Oeuvres

"The 9/11 terrorist attacks triggered a shift in international geopolitics by leading the United States to concentrate the full weight of its national resources on al Qaeda and its supporters. Ironically, by the time the U.S. government was able to shift its massive bureaucracy to meet the new challenge, creating huge new organizations like the Department of Homeland Security, the efforts of the existing U.S. counterterrorism apparatus had already badly crippled the core al Qaeda group. Though some of these new organizations played important roles in helping the United States cope with the fallout of its decision to invade Iraq after Afghanistan, Washington spent billions of dollars to create organizations and fund programs that in hindsight were arguably not really necessary because the threats they were designed to counter, such as al Qaeda's nuclear briefcase bombs, did not actually exist. As George Friedman noted in the Geopolitical Weekly, the sole global superpower was badly off-balance, which caused an imbalance in the entire global system. With the continued diminution of the jihadist threat, underscored by the May 2011 death of Osama bin Laden and the fall in Libya of the Gadhafi regime (which had long employed terrorism), once again we appear on the brink of another cyclical change in the terrorism paradigm. These events could again lead some to pronounce the death of terrorism. Several developments last week served to demonstrate that while the perpetrators and tactics of terrorism (what Stratfor calls the 'who' and the  'how') may change in response to larger geopolitical cycles, such shifts will not signal the end terrorism." (STRATFOR)

" I’d been invited to make an appearance on Gossip Girl for an episode that will air April 23rd. I was cast as DPC of New York Social Diary. I’m not a Gossip Girl aficionado because, among other reasons I rarely get a chance to turn on the TV. Secondly I’m sure not in their demographic. However, I know a lot of people – especially women, of all ages (and I’m not kidding), who wouldn’t miss it. I’ve heard this expressed unabashedly so many times by girls from 14 to 64.  One friend of mine, whom you know, or have read here on these pages, confided to me that it was her favorite show. She “can’t help it.” Makes me laugh just to recall her confession.So when they asked, how could I resist? Besides, of all my experiences in New York, I’d never gone over to Queens at the break of dawn to be in a TV show filmed at the Silvercup Bakery. It’s actually called Silvercup Studios now. But originally, for many years, it was the Silvercup Bakery with a big sign (still has a big sign) that you can see from all over Manhattan’s East Side." (NYSocialDiary)

"What a long, strange trip it's been -- and it is only February. Real votes make clear what polls cannot fully pick up. The Republican election season has been shaped by two forces, other than the obvious one to oust President Obama. First, the strongest potential candidates did not enter the fray, and the remaining contenders do not satisfy most GOP voters. At every polling opportunity, Republicans have expressed their desire for a wider choice. Put another way, Republicans would love to combine the economic acumen of Mitt Romney, the social conservatism of Rick Santorum, the debating skills of Newt Gingrich and the enthusiasm of young voters for Ron Paul into one candidate. That feat must await several generations of advances in genetic engineering.The second force that has defined the GOP contest cannot be denied. A sizable section of the party base, arguably a majority, does not connect with or trust the establishment pick for the nomination, Mitt Romney. The old 'dog food' anecdote is overused, but never has it applied more precisely. Romney's can of dog food has the handsomest label, the best placement in the store by the grocers, the most astute TV advertising, but the only problem is the dogs turn up their noses at the can's contents. Perhaps canines are still in a snit about Romney's positioning of Seamus in a cage on top of the family car back in 1983." (SabatosCrystalBall)

"There’s speculation that Eric Schmidt is selling $1.5 billion of his Google shares to help settle an upcoming divorce with wife Wendy. The Google chairman has been dating top Council on Foreign Relations exec Lisa Shields for a year and a half. Filings last week showed Schmidt, 56, intends to sell 2.4 million shares over a year. Google said he was trying to raise money and diversify his investments after 10 years as Google’s chief executive. But a source said, 'There are many reasons why he’s selling shares, mostly business reasons, but he’s also working towards a transition and an amicable separation and settlement with his wife. They are both very private, so they’re quietly dividing up assets without drawing attention. There’s been no paperwork filed.' The source said Schmidt spends a lot of time in New York with Shields, for whom he just bought a Dutch Warmblood show-jumping horse. A Google rep said, “The sale is part of a standard selling procedure to allow for diversification.'" (PageSix)

"Terry Richardson's first solo exhibition in L.A., TERRYWOOD, opens this Friday at the OHWOW Gallery. Richardson's photographs display his distinctive perspective on life in Hollywood -- from the flashy to the trashy and the glam to the grimy -- and, at least judging by the sneak peek images below, there's not a 'thumbs up' in sight." (Papermag)

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Obama, Romer, Summers and the Stimulus

Who among us likes Larry Summers (Averted Gaze)? From the right and the left he is reviled. Larry Summers may also have been responsible for the length of this recession. Summers -- who has had his issues over the years in his dealings with women -- squashed Christy Romer's initial stimulus recommendation, playing politics when arguably he ought to have been playing economist. From TNR:
Last month, my friend and former colleague, Ryan Lizza, wrote a much-discussed piece in The New Yorker based on a copy of this and several other previously-unpublished memos. The piece and the corresponding memo described the stimulus options that Obama’s team—including Larry Summers, his top economic adviser, and Christy Romer, soon to be his chief White House economist—ultimately sent him. The options ranged from about $550 billion to just under $900 billion.
Intriguingly, Lizza also noted that Romer “was frustrated that she wasn’t allowed to present an even larger option,” suggesting that while the memo he obtained may have been the end of the story, it was far from the whole story.
Now, based on reporting I’ve done for my forthcoming book on the Obama administration, I can fill in a major gap in the narrative—an earlier version of the same memo that includes Romer’s larger option. (A source provided the memo on the condition that he not be named.) In this version of the memo, Romer calculated that it would take an eye-popping $1.7-to-$1.8 trillion to fill the entire hole in the economy—the “output gap,” in economist-speak. “An ambitious goal would be to eliminate the output gap by 2011–Q1 [the first quarter of 2011], returning the economy to full employment by that date,” she wrote. “To achieve that magnitude of effective stimulus using a feasible combination of spending, taxes and transfers to states and localities would require package costing about $1.8 trillion over two years.” Alas, these words never made it into the memo the president saw.
The article concludes, elegiacally, "Though Obama was never going to propose a $1.8 trillion stimulus, and Congress certainly wasn’t going to pass one, the president may well have felt a greater sense of urgency had he better understood how far he was from the ideal."

Media-Whore D'Oeuvres

"President Barack Obama will deliver remarks at the AIPAC conference March 4, one day before he sits down with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the White House, a reprise of the difficult meeting they held there last year. 'We are pleased to announce that the president will address this year's annual AIPAC policy conference in Washington, D.C., on Sunday March 4. The president welcomes this opportunity to speak to the strengths of the special bonds between Israel and the United States,' White House spokesman Jay Carney said Tuesday. He confirmed that Obama and Netanyahu will meet March 5. The order of events will be opposite of last year, when Obama spoke the day after his tense and awkward meetingwith Netanyahu in the Oval Office, where Netanyahu appeared to lecture Obama on Israeli security. Obama will speak to AIPAC Sunday morning, the two leaders will meet Monday, and then Netanyahu will address the conference Monday evening.
Netanyahu and Israeli President Shimon Peres will speak at AIPAC, along with House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), Sen. Carl Levin (D-MI), Sen.Johnny Isakson (R-GA), President of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars and former member of Congress Jane Harman, CNN Contributor Paul Begala, Democratic strategist Donna Brazile, Fox News contributor Liz Cheney, and editor of The Weekly Standard William Kristol. Carney also commented on the visit of National Security Advisor Tom Donilon to Israel this past weekend, where he met withNetanyahu and a host of other senior Israeli officials, including National Security Advisor Yaakov Amidror, who coordinates the Iran portfolio, Mossad chief Tamir Pardo, Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz, and Military Intelligence head Aviv Kochavi." (ForeignPolicy)

"Treasury Department officials were in frequent contact with credit-rating agencies last year as they tried and failed to prevent the first-ever downgrade of U.S. debt, emails obtained by The Hill show.
The internal documents, acquired through a Freedom of Information Act request, show that Obama administration officials were in touch with Standard & Poor’s (S&P), Moody’s and other rating agencies in an effort to assuage doubts about the nation’s top-tier credit rating. That campaign ultimately failed on Aug. 5, when S&P became the first and only rater to downgrade U.S. securities. On the day the downgrade was announced, Treasury and S&P traded a flurry of emails, the documents reveal. Matthew Rutherford, Treasury’s deputy assistant secretary for federal finance, received a draft copy of the decision at 1:42 p.m. from John Chambers, the chairman of S&P’s sovereign-ratings committee. 'Matt Here is the draft ratings update. It hasn’t been fully edited yet, so there could be some small additional changes,' Chambers wrote. Treasury officials scrambled to get in touch with S&P after receiving the downgrade document, the emails show. 'We are trying to reach you all. Are you free to talk?' Rutherford wrote to Chambers at 2:50 p.m.
At 3:11 p.m., Rutherford emailed,  'ready when you are.'" (TheHill)

"This past Thursday night, I went down to Pier Sixty at the Chelsea Piers where Careers Through Culinary Arts Program (C-Cap) hosted their annual benefit honoring Michael McCarty (of Michael’s – need I say more). The program was started more than 20 years ago by Richard Grausman, cookbook author, culinary educator, to promote and provide culinary employment opportunities for underserved youth. The word “underserved” has come into the parlance as a substitution of the formerly frequently used “underprivileged,” now a synonym in the world of philanthropy. Either way, the intention is more than honorable but effective. It is community taking the reins that somehow government and politicians are unable to do even with the billions available to them ... The honorary chairs were Bette Midler and Martin von Haselberg, who have been involved with C-Cap along with their longtime friends Kim and His Honoree-ness, Michael McCarty." (NYSocialDiary)

"Billionaire entertainment mogul David Geffen has split up with his long-term partner, Jeremy Lingvall. Sources tell us the pair have gone their separate ways after six years together, because 'the relationship had simply run its course.' The source added, 'There is nobody else involved.' Geffen, 68, confirmed the split last night but refused to comment further. He and Lingvall had long been inseparable despite a 40-year age difference between them. Indisputably handsome actor Lingvall, a graduate of the University of California, was often seen aboard Geffen’s yacht and accompanying him to high-profile events, including President Obama’s first state dinner at the White House." (PageSix)

"There were beauties and beasts at Mulberry yesterday, not to mention some very clever party planning. Having organized their post-show soirée at the Savile Club just a few doors down from Claridge's, site of the label's runway show, creative director Emma Hill and co. cannily repurposed the morning's stage dressings, placing bunches of padlock-shaped gold balloons in various nooks and throwing hairy goatskins (a nod to the Fall collection's Where the Wild Things Are vibe) over leather couches. Mulberry's takeover gave the likes of Michelle Williams and Elizabeth Olsen a reason to party at a place where the fairer sex is only allowed in after six ... Alexa Chung lingered at the raw bar downstairs as guests were summoned up to dinner, declaring the oyster shucker's chain-mail glove "a good look." Michelle Dockery, somehow looking even more luminous than she does on Downton Abbey, stumbled on the grand staircase as a photographer's flash went off. "Delete that," she half-joked. Happily, Lana Del Rey made no missteps during her after-dinner concert. Hill, recalling the time the trending songstress (and namesake of Mulberry's latest bag) performed for the brand in Los Angeles, enumerated what might be Del Rey's most impressive trait: "the ability to silence 40 editors." This time, too, you could have heard a pin drop the moment she took the stage. The opposite was the case over at Vivienne Westwood's after-party at The Box, where you couldn't make out anything Damien Hirst was saying to his host, Francesca Hammerstein, even if the two of them were sitting right next to you. Florence Welch cheered exuberantly for the club's hopped-up burlesque—a slightly more conservative version, it should be noted, than in New York—from her table near the stage." (Style)

"It’s a bitterly cold evening in Washington, and Sarah Jessica Parker, New Yorker to her fingertips, frequent Vogue cover girl, and star of the most stylish sitcom in history, is not at Fashion Week, but here at my dinner table, studiously avoiding the 'F' word: fashion. 'That’s so un-Carrie of you!' I tell her when she confesses with pride she never attends Fashion Week shows and parties. 'But I’m not Carrie Bradshaw! I have other interests besides fashion!' she insists. Indeed, she does. That’s why she is a member of the President’s Committee on Arts and Humanities, which champions arts education and awareness, and why she is here, of all places. On February 13, the President bestowed the National Medal of Arts and National Humanities Medal on distinguished American artists and writers like actor Al Pacino and poet and scholar John Ashbery. The evening before, a dinner was held in their honor at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian, and I was kindly invited by my friends at the Ovation Group, one of the major sponsors of the evening, to be their guest." (WashingtonSocialDiary)

"Blogs are good vectors for ultra-specialized views or angles. To name but a few: The Numbers Guy in the Wall Street Journal pores over statistics, or FT’s Datablog on data-driven journalism. For lighter fare, let’s mention WSJ’s Heard on the Runway about fashion (one of the most viewed), or WSJ’s Juggle on 'choices and tradeoffs people make as they juggle work and family'. What a blog shouldn’t be: a dump of disorderly news contents belonging to established home page sections, random bursts of disorganized thoughts, or a receptacle for journalists’ frustrations. As for the question of collective blogs vs. individual ones, I favor the individual blog: better gratification for the writer and, for management, more accountability and quality control." (MondayNote)