Friday, March 30, 2012

Media-Whore D'Oeuvres
"The nomination process for the next World Bank president has yielded three official candidates: Jim Kim of the United States, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala of Nigeria, and Jose Antonio Ocampo of Colombia (Jeffrey Sachs withdrew his candidacy after the United States nominated Kim). According to new procedures agreed to last year, candidates will now interview separately with the Bank's executive board, comprised of 25 executive directors. Once the interviews are complete, the board can begin its deliberations. Along the way, the body has the option of conducting an informal straw poll to test support for the various candidates and potentially winnow the field (the procedures recommend, but do not require, a straw poll if there are more than three candidates). When it comes time to make a decision, most board members will likely push to do so by consensus rather than by vote. The procedures declare "the objective of the Board of Executive Directors is to select the President by consensus." In most cases, the Bank's board does operate by consensus; formal votes are relatively rare. Few key players will want to see the new president elected by a divided board. But of course the formal voting power of individual Bank members and the voting rules will shape even a decision ultimately taken by consensus, and so it's worth reviewing the somewhat byzantine World Bank voting mechanics .." (ForeignPolicy)
"In Spain, the best upper sets do it./ Lithuanians and Letts do it. / Let’s Do It; Let’s fall in love…Cole Porter’s 'Let’s Do It.'  It was running through my head probably because several readers have asked why I hadn’t written anything about the Royal family in Spain these days. This might have been provoked originally by the Diary where I covered HRH Queen Sofia’s visit to Spanish Institute a couple of months ago. At the time I wrote about the receiving line at that evening and how Javier Bardem was present although dressed at this black tie affair in a grey suit and open shirt. An NYSD reader in Spain wrote to tell me that Bardem may have done that as a kind of 'protest' against the Queen because of her attitude about the legality of gay marriage. Evidently she’s not impressed and it’s no secret, at least among the gay population who are also not impressed with her. Being so Anglophilic by culture and habit, the Spanish Royal family does not possess the same gravitas for many Americans that the British does, as if it is somehow our heritage. Or the habit of our heritage. However, the Spanish Royals are older than the British and except for the interruption by Franco, are the longest lived Royal Line in the world, second only to the Japanese. They are also related to all the other royal families, often very closely. The Spanish people have wielded enormous power all over the planet in times gone by. It was the Spanish, after all, who made the first real inroads of fatally disrupting the native inhabitants of the New World with their 'conquest' in the 16th century." (NYSocialDiary)

"Socialite Annie Churchill has split from her husband, Andrew Albert, who faces up to 4 1/2 years behind bars after he pleaded guilty to felony grand larceny charges for defrauding investors in a shopping Web site. The couple’s separation is just the latest chapter in a scandal that’s the talk of New York social circles, and sources say Churchill is now lying low at her wealthy mother Barbie Bancroft’s Locust Valley home. Albert’s sentencing is scheduled for May 22. His term might be reduced to one to three years if he promises to repay investors $50,000 of the $590,000 he was accused of misusing. Well-liked Churchill, who lost a starring role on 'The Real Housewives of New York City' over her husband’s legal woes, is known as a fixture at fashion shows and high-society galas. She also regularly rubs elbows with socials including Fabiola Beracasa, Amanda and Gillian Hearst and designer Douglas Hannant, for whom she is a muse. It has been widely, but erroneously, reported that Churchill’s first husband is a grandson of Winston Churchill. Sources say Churchill and Albert had already separated when he pleaded guilty this week, and she’s now going to pursue a divorce after three years of marriage." (PageSix)

"Even though ABC's aggressive move to topple The Today Show appears to be working so far, it has backfired a bit. According to sources, anchor Robin Roberts and Elizabeth Vargas are furious over the network's decision to put Katie Couric in the GMA co-anchor role next week while Roberts is on vacation. Roberts is agitated by the high-profile substitution in her absence and has never been impressed with Couric's pluck or perceived star-power. Vargas has more justifiable gripe since she's been under the assumption that as part of ABC/Disney's plan to increase her role and visibility she was first choice to slide into the co-anchor seat when Roberts is away." (Gawker)

"So yes: Greg Smith changes careers, from one system of fleecing people to another! Publishing and investment banking have a lot in common in their machinations actually. Just that in publishing, only eight people get rich. And you gotta move a lot of merch to get that $1.5 million back. But don't worry about Hachette's Grand Central; they've got David Baldacci and Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter to keep them warm." (Choire Sicha/TheAwl)

"Ekaterina Doronin, the estranged wife of Russian billionaire Vladimir Doronin, has been quietly searching for luxurious digs in the Big Apple, sources say. The budget, we hear, is about a cool $14 million. Reports have said the Doronins are getting a divorce after 24 years of marriage. Vlad has been dating Naomi Campbell since 2008, and — even though he started dating the model after they separated — Ekaterina will reportedly cite Campbell in a divorce filing." (PageSix)

Jessica Raine

"In the February 18 issue of the world’s greatest weekly I wrote that I had fallen madly in love with Jessica Raine, the actress who portrays nurse Jenny in the Sunday-night BBC show Call the Midwife. In the throes of demonic, erotic exhilaration, I may have piled it on a bit thick. So what? If Gordon Brown can ruin the British economy, Tony Blair can take Britain to war based on an outrageous lie, and both bums can still walk around without cuffs on their wrists, surely Taki can walk on air and fly on gossamer wings over someone he’s never met. My whole point was to renounce today’s so-called sex symbols, those drunken tarts one sees piling out of nightclubs wobbling on their thick ankles and slurring their words as they try to pretend they don’t want their pictures taken. Here was Jessica in all the grace, shyness, and understatement that makes a woman so attractive to the poor little Greek boy, so I went overboard. But nurse Jenny is my ideal woman, and although even I in my reverie was aware that it’s a role and nothing more, I compared her with today’s lot and wept. Jenny-Jessica was my incarnation of goodness, and her enchanting looks turned me into an erotomaniacal fool. Even worse, I decided to get back to the Spectator’s deputy editor, who had repeatedly made a fool of me by letting me stew on the altar—and with a cardinal waiting to boot—while she amused herself with family and friends in Old Queen Street. So I wrote, and I quote from the greatest Greek writer since Homer, 'Goodbye, assistant editor of the Spectator. So long, Keira. Au revoir pour toujours, Rebecca. You’re all through, washed-up, history, curtains, finished.' I swear on John Prescott’s fat head that I meant it. In an act of unspeakable revenge, the deputy editor not only went ahead and got married and now calls herself Madam, she hunted down Jessica Raine and commissioned a diary from her. It was a rare honor for someone as young as Jessica, who only has one hit under her thespian belt. And the deputy editor knew exactly what she was doing. In a column last week, Jessica Raine admitted being perturbed by what I wrote about her, advised me to cool my jets, and plunged the knife in deeply by suggesting I read some bloody book by some female called How To Be A Woman." (Taki)

"NBC’s 'Today' won again for the week of March 19, but ABC’s 'Good Morning America' continues to creep up on the perennial leader. The gap last week between the two shows was 140,000 Total Viewers and 210,000 A25-54 viewers. Compared to the same week last year, only 'Good Morning America' is up (+5%) in the A25-54 demographic. 'Today' is down -15% and 'CBS This Morning' is down -16%. All three shows are down in Total Viewers — 'Today' and 'CBS This Morning' are both down -9% and 'GMA' is down -2%. For Q1 2012, the gap between 'GMA' and 'Today' is the smallest in more than six years (since Q3 2005). 'GMA' is the only morning show to improve on its year-ago quarter, growing +1% in Total Viewers and +8% in the A25-54 demographic. 'Today' was down -4% in Total Viewers and -8% in A25-54 viewers, and 'CBS This Morning' was down -11% and -14%, respectively.." (TVNewser)
Paper Magazine/HP Color Party

Gregg Moss, me, Stacy Kessler

Wednesday night Paper maagzine threw a party to celebrate Hewlett-Packard and the creative class at the Glass Houses. DJs Andre Andrew -- rocking iPads with their set lists -- brought the hous down. The shit was bannanas. Among the attendees: actress Stacy Kessler, Mr Mickey, David Hershkovits, the Red Bucket Films crew, designers Andy Spade and Chrissie Miller and photographer Phil Oh.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Julia Roberts, No Longer Box office Magic?

When was the last time you went to see a movie because Julia Roberts was in the lead? Mystic Pizza? Pretty Woman?  From The Daily:
"According to industry experts, the former 'Pretty Woman' is no longer the fairest of them all when it comes to box office bank.

"Relativity’s farcical 'Snow White' tale opens tomorrow, starring former heavyweight Roberts alongside relative newcomers Armie Hammer and Lily Collins — but many in the industry are skeptical about the whimsical flick’s box office potential, predicting it will be seven-dwarfed by new blockbuster 'The Hunger Games.'

"'The film’s gonna be in about 3,200 locations and it’s gonna make somewhere in the $14-$16 million range,” Internet Movie Database managing editor Keith Simanton told Flash in a grim prediction.

"'I think if Relativity gets over that, they’re going to be tickled. It’s just kind of a hard sell at this point.'

"Long gone are the days of Roberts’ name meaning a guaranteed blockbuster, as was the case in the late ’90s with “Notting Hill” (grossing $363.8 million worldwide) and 'Runaway Bride' ($309 million worldwide).

"The actress’ only big hits in the last decade have been ensemble films ('Valentine’s Day' and the 'Ocean’s' movies). Nothing else has cracked the $100 million mark. Her most recent, 'Larry Crowne,' co-starring Tom Hanks, grossed a mere $52.4 million worldwide.
I don't believe that this is due entirely to sexism (Julia is over 40; there is a well known Hollywood curse regarding women over 40). Harrison Ford, also, hasn't had a hit in over a decade.  I personally no longer find Ford or Roberts interesting. They are good -- though not great -- actors. But because they are more "stars" than "actors" -- neither will be doing off-broadway in lieu of a Hollywood paycheck this summer -for the sake of the craft - they are ultimately judged on their looks and/or interestingness. Neither, quite frankly, is so interesting or good looking as to hold the publics attention for more than a decade.

That having been said, both seem to be quite happy in their personal relationships and families. That, I suppose, is the ultimate consolation to a fallen star.

Media-Whore D'Oeuvres

"In 2009, the deputy chief of mission of the U.S. embassy in Baku, Donald Lu, sent a cable to the State Department's headquarters in Foggy Bottom titled 'Azerbaijan's discreet symbiosis with Israel.' The memo, later released by WikiLeaks, quotes Azerbaijan's President Ilham Aliyev as describing his country's relationship with the Jewish state as an iceberg: 'nine-tenths of it is below the surface.'Why does it matter? Because Azerbaijan is strategically located on Iran's northern border and, according to several high-level sources I've spoken with inside the U.S. government, Obama administration officials now believe that the 'submerged' aspect of the Israeli-Azerbaijani alliance -- the security cooperation between the two countries -- is heightening the risks of an Israeli strike on Iran. In particular, four senior diplomats and military intelligence officers say that the United States has concluded that Israel has recently been granted access to airbases on Iran's northern border. To do what, exactly, is not clear. 'The Israelis have bought an airfield,' a senior administration official told me in early February, "and the airfield is called Azerbaijan.' Senior U.S. intelligence officials are increasingly concerned that Israel's military expansion into Azerbaijan complicates U.S. efforts to dampen Israeli-Iranian tensions, according to the sources. Military planners, I was told, must now plan not only for a war scenario that includes the Persian Gulf -- but one that could include the Caucasus. The burgeoning Israel-Azerbaijan relationship has also become a flashpoint in both countries' relationship with Turkey, a regional heavyweight that fears the economic and political fallout of a war with Iran. Turkey's most senior government officials have raised their concerns with their U.S. counterparts, as well as with the Azeris, the sources said. The Israeli embassy in Washington, the Israel Defense Forces, and the Mossad, Israel's national intelligence agency, were all contacted for comment on this story but did not respond." (ForeignPolicy)

"Based on the most recent polling results, which show a near tie on the generic ballot and a net presidential approval (approval minus disapproval) of close to zero, the House forecasting model predicts a very small Democratic seat gain (2-3 seats) in the House but not nearly the 25 seats Democrats would need to take back control of the House. On the other hand, the Senate forecasting model gives Republicans a good chance to regain control of the Senate with an expected pickup of 6-7 seats. That is due almost entirely to the fact that Republicans are defending only 10 Senate seats this year while Democrats are defending 23 seats. The Senate forecast especially should be interpreted cautiously because the Senate model has a fairly large error term due to the small number of seats in each election. And of course, it is still early and both the generic ballot and the presidential approval variables could change over the next few months. However, both have been fairly stable in recent weeks. Based on these results, it would be surprising if Republicans did not hold onto their majority in the House in 2012 and gain at least a few Senate seats." (CenterforPolitics)

"The battle for the Republican Party’s presidential nomination looks as if it’s almost over, but the quest for the support of white blue-collar voters in November is just beginning. Some Republican strategists fear that Mitt Romney could be poorly positioned to win the strong backing that recent GOP presidential candidates have received from this group. His repeated and awkward references to his vast wealth, together with a more generally maladroit personal style, have exacerbated doubts that were never far from the surface. At the same time, however, President Obama had significant difficulties winning over working-class white voters during his own epic 2008 primary contest with Hillary Clinton. During that campaign, his unguarded reference to small-town voters who 'cling to guns or religion' became emblematic of what critics viewed as a patronizing attitude toward blue-collar people.  On Election Day 2008, Obama’s near-landslide win over John McCain came despite losing the votes of whites without a college education by 18 percentage points. Put it all together, and it looks as if the election will be fought between two candidates who are particularly ill-suited to appeal to a large segment of the electorate. In 2008, whites without a college education cast 39 percent of the total votes in the presidential election. 'I don’t know where they’ll go,' Mark Brewer, a political science professor at the University of Maine who has written extensively about class-based issues, said of white working-class voters."  (TheHill)

image via michaelsrestaurant

"The schools, public and private, are all out for the Spring holiday now. I went down to Michael’s for the Wednesday lunch and although there wasn’t the usual Wednesday clatter and din, it was full up. First face I spotted entering was Diane (Brenda Starr) Clehane who covers this beat for Diane was hosting film producer (“God Save My Shoes”) Thierry Dahler, and the film’s publicist Miriam Driot. I was lunching with my old friend Charles Stevenson who was in from Sun Valley for a couple of days. Right around the corner Harvey Weinstein, the Oscar winning producer/mogul was lunching with Matt Blank and Aryeh Bourkoff of UBS. Jacqui Safra was right next door lunching with the beautiful Tiffany Dubin. Henry Schlieff, Andrew Fox; Steve Swid; Francine LeFrak; Stan Shuman. Da Boyz, Dr. Gerry Imber, Jerry della Femina, Jeff Greenfield, playwright Michael Kramer; but no Andrew Bergman." (NYSoialDiary)

"Chris Rock's newest project is a half-hour weekly series for FX premiering this August, starring comedian W. Kamau Bell. Based on Bell's one-man show The W. Kamau Bell Curve: Ending Racism in About an Hour, the show will feature Bell riffing on current events and pop culture in a late-night format that should involve other comedians as well. According to Bell, Rock slipped backstage after watching Bell Curve and started giving him career advice while 'dressed in all black like he was in the Matrix," which is a story almost as wonderful as this news.'" (Splitsider)

"Festivities for Valentino’s 50th anniversary raged on last night, with a trifecta of shiny new U.S. flagships providing the latest fodder for celebration. First up: Rodeo Drive, with chicettes gathering in the Sir David Chipperfield-designed space for the occasion, On hostessing duty for the evening? Maria Bell, Gia Coppola, Nicky Hilton, Helen Kinnear, Nathalie Love, Minnie Mortimer, Shannon Rotenberg, and Julia Sorkin, along with Valentino’s creative directors, Maria Grazia Chirui and Pierpaolo Piccioli. The Valentino-clad masses mainly stuck to shades of black, white, and red all over. To wit: Zoe in a zebra shift from Valentino’s 50th anniversary capsule collection, reveling at Sims’ very pregnant, Valentino black lace-clad belly. Also donning the brand of the evening (or year...): the likes of Ellie Kemper, Rose McGowan, and Teresa Palmer donned crimson confections (adorned in rosettes for the latter two), and Minka Kelly turned up in nude lace. Meanwhile, Rachel Roy made for a great, flour-bomb-free date for Kim 'no interviews' Kardashian. While not everyone had the option of a Kardashian as arm candy, there were more than enough of those fetching Valentino clutches on the premises. Plenty of PYT’s filled the premises from various walks of entertainment fame. See: Jessica Szohr, Ciara, Jessica Stroup, Monet Mazur, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Jaime King, Cat Deeley, and Louise Roe. Hunger Games darling Isabelle Fuhrman was also on hand, taking a brief break from the grueling premiere circuit." (FashionweekDaily)

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Media-Whore D'Oeuvres

"Kofi Annan today announced a rare breakthrough in his efforts to halt the bloodshed in Syria, saying that President Bashar al-Assad had endorsed his six-point diplomatic plan calling for an immediate cease-fire, access for international aid workers, and the start of political talks leading to a multiparty democracy. But there was a sense among observers that we've been here before. Last November, the Syrian government signed a deal with the Arab League to withdraw its military forces from besieged towns and to accept a 'road map' for political reform. But Assad never implemented the pact. U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, meanwhile, has become so weary of Assad's promises to rein in his security forces that he hasn't even bothered to call him in several months. 'He made all these promises,' Ban told reporters last September, 'but these promises have become now broken promises.' Indeed, many Syria observers believe Assad is seeking to bog down Annan and his team of mediators in a fruitless diplomatic process that will provide him with political cover to continue his military campaign to crush the opposition. Even today, the Local Coordination Committees, an activist group that monitors the violence, said 20 people had died by mid afternoon, according to a report in theNew York Times, and fighting was reported along the Lebanese border. 'Assad has everything to gain from accepting the Annan initiative,' said Joshua Landis, the director of the Center for Middle East Studies at the University of Oklahoma. 'The president is looking for a way to end the uprising without stepping down, or turning power over to the revolutions. The new U.N. peace plan does not insist on having Assad handing over power, which is why Assad finds it acceptable.... He can play along with this because ultimately he needs to slow down the stampede towards greater and greater sanctions and [secure international] pressure on the opposition not to send weapons inside Syria.' Despite the grim assessment, many observers say that the diplomatic campaign to rein in President Assad has been gaining strength, driven in part by waning interest in the West for military intervention in Syria." (ForeignPolicy)

"Awards for male escorts? Isn't a credit-card swipe enough? Nope—these guys are entirely deserving of acclaim, especially if you've ever met some of the twisted trolls who hire them. (Kidding. It's all delightfully fun, I'm sure.) And so, the night before the humptastic Black Party, staged its annual Hookie Awards at Roseland, making trophy boys out of contenders for Best Body, Best Ass, and Best Boyfriend Fantasy—and yes, those are three separate things. The place was filled with nominees, patrons, and gawkers, and though homophobic minister George Rekers's rent boy Jo-vanni Roman didn't show up as expected, everyone else did, all ready to lift your luggage with a smile and a twinkle ... Their going rate is about $250–$300 an hour—I hear—numbers which amazingly enough haven't gone up in the past decade, either because of the economy or the glut of available escorts or both. A Hookie, Van Sant added, can actually up your price—and selectivity—sort of like an Oscar does for Jean Dujardin or Christopher Plummer. And there's just as much campaigning to get it.But is this all legal? 'We say the escorts are selling their time only,' (Sean) Van Sant informed. 'What happens between you and the escort is up to you. That's the way it's considered legal.'" (Musto)

"Wu-Tang has branched out into a mainstream audience of suburban white kids who know nothing more of the band beyond the Wu decals adorning their gigantic pick-up trucks. A lot of these kids have only heard "Cream" and that one Ol' Dirty Bastard Song about Brooklyn. However, you also have rap fans who have been die hard Wu-Tang ehtusiasts from the beginning, those who know every verse from Liquid Swords and are actually interested in hearing a rap titan from the outfit speak about one of the greatest rap or hip hop albums to ever be released. Those are the fans who say, “my mother raised me on Wu-Tang, or my older sister, or my uncle.” It came as a pleasant surprise to learn that the GZA has been doing seminars at MIT, Harvard, and other fancy places all over the country. When he swung around to NYU, Wu-Tang lover and skateboarder, Billy Rohan took me on a man date to hear him speak. Liquid Swords bumped out of the room's speakers while a bunch of scholars and rap fans waited for the GZA to take the podium. He began by mentioning how happy he is to be giving the lecture in New York City, reminiscing on the good old days when he and the RZA would take the bus, to a boat, to a train, to a bus deep into the South Bronx to hang out and get a break from Staten Island where they lived. It was in the Bronx, the birthplace of hip-hop (according to him) that he found his calling." (VICE via MediaReDEF)

"I stayed in town on October 1, which is National Day, the beginning of the weeklong holiday that commemorates the founding of the People's Republic of China (PRC) on that date in 1949. This holiday is one of the two 'Golden Weeks.' The other is Chinese New Year, also called the Spring Holiday, which usually occurs in January or February. I try never to travel on either of these occasions because of the crowds. If you watch director Lixin Fin's award-winning Chinese documentary film, Last Train Home, you'll understand. He documents 'the world's largest human migration,' when 130 million migrant workers return to their rural homes for the Spring Holiday. (It's as if half of America traveled home for Thanksgiving!) With so many people out of town for the holiday, Shanghai was relatively quiet. I was especially delighted to be invited to an elaborate lunch by Shelley and Edward Lim and Wang Hui Min (who uses the English name Faye Wang). Faye is the founder and powerhouse behind the Xiao Nan Guo brand of restaurants and spas. We lunched at Faye's new upscale brand concept restaurant, Maison de l'Hui (Hui means wisdom). It had just opened in the Rock Bund, a six-block historic area that is one block from the famous Bund Promenade. When I first moved to Shanghai in 2008, I wouldn't have dreamed that the neighborhood, then a slum, could ever hold promise. But when the scaffolding came off, the area, with its architecturally interesting Colonial buildings, became known as the Rock Bund." (NYSocialDiary)

"Andrew Albert, husband of New York socialite Annie Churchill, pleaded guilty to felony grand larceny yesterday after he was charged with bilking investors out of $600,000 for his proposed shopping Web site, He faces up to 4 1/2 years behind bars. Under the plea deal, if Albert repays his investors $50,000, he’ll serve one to three years — if not, he’ll get the full term. Albert was accused of spending investors’ money on groceries, dog care and a TriBeCa loft. Churchill, the ex-wife of Winston Churchill’s grandson, was not implicated. Albert’s lawyer, Michael Farkas, said, '[He] did try to start a Web site and worked very hard on it for three years.' Churchill declined to comment." (PageSix)

"John Leonard estimated that he read 13,000 books and published more than five million words in his lifetime. For 50 years, before his death of lung cancer in 2008, he was the most relentless and generous of critics. He started out, before he dropped out of Harvard, in the pages of the Crimson, parodying the Cambridge coffeehouse scene and panning Monocle, a humor magazine run out of Yale by Victor Navasky, who invited him to write for Monocle, where he parodied National Review, which got William Buckley to give him a job there, at a time when the contents page—featuring Joan Didion, Garry Wills and Renata Adler—read like a preview of the New York Review of Books. At National Review he could throw acid on Greenwich Village, which was apparently spoiled before Bob Dylan got there, and declare the death of the Beat Generation, but he had to move to Pacifica Radio in Berkeley to hate on Nixon with impunity and put Pauline Kael on the air. Leonard wrote four novels by the time he was 34, but had to follow the money, which for him was in criticism. It was at The New York Times that he became a force, joining as an editor in his late 20s, becoming the paper’s daily book reviewer, then ushering in the 'golden era' of the Times Book Review, at age 31 in 1970." (Observer)

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Media-Whore D'Oeuvres

"Obama is really a liberal, and free of political constraint -- particularly on the foreign policy remit -- he'll revert to type. There's just one problem: based on recent evidence, there's an excellent chance Obama will be less liberal in the second term.  Consider the last three two-term presidents: Reagan, Clinton, and Bush 43. I'll grant this is a very small sample, but bear with me. Did their second-term policies look different from their first-term?  You bectha. Reagan tacked in a decidedly liberal direction with respect to the Soviet Union, switching from rhetoric about the 'evil empre' to cutting substantive arms control agreements with the Soviet Union. Clinton, on the other hand, tacked in a more conservative direction. After being enamored of multilateralism and leery of using fore in his first term, he became more comfortable with using force and using it outside of UN strictures in his second term. Finally, Bush 43's second terms was decidedly more liberal. In his first term, he declared an 'Axis of Evil' and invaded Iraq without UN support. In his second term, however, the Bush administration was decidedly more dovish, working through the UN on both Iran and North Korea, demonstrating a willingness to directly negotiate with the Iranians, and refusing to use force in Syria. This, by the way, is why claiming a continuity between Bush 43 and Obamas is not quite as much of a political jab as people like to claim. The dfifferences between Bush in 2003 and Bush in 2008 were massive.  Now, these narratives are not really as clean as the last paragraph suggests. Reagan also embraced Iran/Contra in his second term. In Clinton's second term he pushed hard to address US arrears to the UN. And Bush had some elements of compasionate conservatism liberalism in his first term, what with PEPFAR and a refusal to declare a clash of civilizations following the 9/11 attacks.  What's striking, however, is that recent second-termers have not reverted to their ideological bliss point -- if anything it's been the reverse, they've tacked away from their starting point. Part of this is circumstances. Reagan had, in Gorbachev, a real negotiating partner in his second term. Bush had to be more circumspect on Iran and North Korea after the cost and constraint of military operatons in Iraq and Afghanistan. All three presidents had less favorable legislatures in their second term than their first." (ForeignPolicy)

"A coalition that helped Republicans retake the House majority in 2010 is back and plotting even bigger plans in 2012, with more money, more players — and more problems. The top conservative operatives who make up the alliance were scheduled to huddle this week behind closed doors to discuss how to spend hundreds of millions of dollars to attack President Barack Obama and congressional Democrats. And participants were reminded in an email that the gathering shares a key rule with Fight Club: no talking about it. Karl Rove first pulled the group together to coordinate independent spending in the run-up to the 2010 midterms – and it worked. The coalition — including groups that hadn’t always played well together — has been credited with helping boost Republicans to sweeping victories across the country. But this time around, the tenuous alliance is being tested. New players are joining, heightening already intense competition for money, voter intel and, in a broad sense, control of the Republican Party. Meanwhile, some conservative groups that participated in the 2010 effort — including Americans for Prosperity and the Club for Growth — seem to be keeping their distance. Dubbed the Weaver Terrace Group for the Northwest Washington address where Rove convened the first meetings in his living room, the meetings are now hosted in the downtown Washington offices of a pair of linked powerhouses conceived by Rove, American Crossroads and Crossroads Grassroots Policy Strategies." (Politico)

"The New Yorker comes to my mailbox on Mondays. I have that age-old relationship with the New Yorker. There are probably millions of us. I save them intending to read things I don’t read. I always open them before I open my mail just to see. Because the New Yorker still does its job. I recall the day the first installment of Truman Capote’s 'In Cold Blood' came out. I started it with what is usually a passing glance, with no intention of reading it then and there, and finished it an hour and a half later shocked and enthralled. After that I counted the days until the next installment. It was the kind of 'literary' sensation that you, the reader, get from actually reading it. I remember reading Charles Reich’s  'The Greening of America,' also somewhere around that time, having no idea whatsoever what it was about, and putting it down having altered my consciousness forever. I also have the stacks of unread, unfinished, although never unopened New Yorkers. Every now and then I’ll throw some out, having admitted to myself that I won’t get to them, or that if I should be curious, there are now the archives on the web. I know this experience that I’ve just recorded is common, ordinary for those of us who read the New Yorker. It’s part of the perfect relationship. All this because yesterday afternoon when I started opening my mail at the desk, I happened to look at the latest New Yorker, learning that it featured an excerpt from Robert Caro’s upcoming third volume of the life of Lyndon Johnson. I’ve seen Mr. Caro speak about this book more than once. His reportage is compelling even when spoken. I am a child of that era and I have mixed emotions about Lyndon Johnson. First of all, I’m not a hater and so 'mixed' takes on some strong colors at times. Secondly, he wore the mantle of Presidential power almost majestically at times, no matter what one thought of him, and tragically at other times also. And when he could see the writing on the wall, he left respectfully." (NYSocialDiary)

"Are you rolling in cash these days? Magazine publishers seem to think so. It’s only March and four luxury titles have revealed they will launch (or relaunch) to tell the tales of billionaire bachelors, fine Parisian restaurants and the latest antiaging skin procedures. In February, Bloomberg Pursuits was introduced to 310,000 subscribers of the Bloomberg Professional service, who pay $20,000 a year to use the Bloomberg Terminal. The average household income of the Bloomberg Pursuits reader is $452,000 and 90 percent are male. That first issue carried 30 ad pages, from the likes of Hermès, Chanel and NetJets and included a story about a Bloomberg subscriber who travels to Antarctica on an icebreaker to witness a solar eclipse. Jason Binn, founder of Niche Media and now a chief adviser to Gilt Groupe, will publish Du Jour magazine in September. If you have a net worth of more than $5 million and average home value of $1.5 million, the title may land in your mailbox this fall. When Binn spoke with WWD last month, he said the 'superluxurious content' in the quarterly print title will also appear online, where those $4,700 clutches are just a click away. Last week, Time magazine dusted off its old luxury title Time Style & Design and brought it back following a three-year suspension. Harry Winston and Bulgari are just a few of the advertisers in the magazine, which is being delivered to only 500,000 affluent subscribers who aren’t put off by phrases such as 'price upon request.'" (WWD)

"Contrary to popular belief, absence doesn't always make the heart grow fonder. There have been several instances -- Futurama we're looking at you -- where a show has left the airwaves for a prolonged period of time and, after some initial discontent, we got used to it being gone. Then when it returned, it seemed noticeably diminished; the familiar elements were there, but the magic was missing. (Honestly, we have the same fears about the upcoming Arrested Development reunion. The finale ended the series on a perfect note; to quote the Beatles, let it be, guys.) So we approached the delayed Season 5 premiere of Mad Men -- the first new episode of AMC's flagship series to air in 17 months -- with a fair amount of trepidation. Would it still be the smart, witty show we instantly fell in love with when the pilot hit the airwaves in 2007? Had creator Matt Weiner decided to flex his creative power (and get back at AMC for dithering during the negotiations) by giving some of our favorite Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce characters abrupt Sal Romano-style exits during the hiatus? Could Jon Hamm still pass as the handsomest leading man on TV with Timothy Olyphant rocking that Stetson hat week in and week out on Justified? The answer to the above questions (minus the second one, fortunately) is a resounding yes. Last night's two-hour episode 'A Little Kiss' was vintage Mad Men, reminding us what makes the series so unique and readying us for what looks to be a pretty fantastic season. You can read our recaplet of the episode for the play-by-play -- look for the full recap to follow later in the week -- but we wanted to use this space to list the five reasons why 'A Little Kiss' made us so happy to have Mad Men back." (TVWithoutPity)

"Angelina Jolie launched an international phenomenon, and a very popular Twitter feed, when she struck an awkward pose at the 84th annual Academy Awards, showing off her right leg in a high slit gown. 'What’s funny is when you have no actual, conscious thought of anything,'  said Jolie, explaining to Entertainment Weekly that the pose just felt natural for her given the voluminous nature of her black velvet gown. 'You just feel like, 'Eh, I like this dress. I feel comfortable in this one.' It’s interesting that you just really never know.' Jolie appeared a bit uncomfortable at the fact that her appendage inspired one of the most popular memes of 2012. 'I don’t pay any attention to that stuff,' continued Jolie." (PageSix)

"Dara-Lynn Weiss, Vogue 'Up Front' writer and author of this month’s controversial 'Weight Watchers' article, has sold a memoir on the same topic to Marnie Cochran at Ballantine on an exclusive submission by David Kuhn. It is called The Heavy. The article narrates the one-year diet Ms. Weiss inflicted on her seven-year-old daughter, Bea, after her doctor reported that she was in the 99th percentile for weight at her age. After months of fighting over baked goods–plus a heaping portion of projection from her food anxious, Vogue writer mom–Bea achieved her goal weight in time for their photo shoot for the magazine’s annual 'Shape' issue. The girl was rewarded with a pile of new dresses, a feather hair extension, and, seemingly, some self-image issues." (Observer)

Monday, March 26, 2012

Media-Whore D'Oeuvres

"On March 19, the New York Times described a classified U.S. Central Command war game conducted this month that simulated the outcome of an Israeli attack on Iran. According to U.S. officials who discussed the results with the newspaper, the game 'forecasts that the [Israeli] strike would lead to a wider regional war, which could draw in the United States and leave hundreds of Americans dead.' Marine Gen. James Mattis, commander of Central Command, found the outcome 'particularly troubling' because an Israeli first strike would have 'dire consequences across the region and for United States forces there.' The article, with its discussion of 'dire consequences,' is one more indication of the gap between the Israeli government's calculations concerning Iran and those of the U.S. government. Why that analytical gap exists should be of interest to policymakers. The military's conclusion that U.S. forces in the Persian Gulf region could suffer hundreds of deaths following an Israeli strike could be an indication that U.S. commanders and policymakers have not adequately prepared for such a scenario. But perhaps most important, we should examine what goals U.S. officials had in mind when they leaked the results of the supposedly secret war game to the New York Times." (ForeignPolicy)

"In a conversation that was picked up Monday by live microphones, President Obama privately told Russia he will have 'more flexibility' to deal with missile defense after the election.  Speaking to Russian President Dmitry Medvedev ahead of a global nuclear security summit in South Korea, Obama asked for 'space' and 'time' to deal with the missile defense issue. 'Yeah. I understand. I understand your message about space. Space for you,' Medvedev said. 'This is my last election,' Obama said. 'After my election, I have more flexibility.' 'I will transmit this information to Vladimir,' said Medvedev, who will hand the Russian presidency over to Vladimir Putin in May." (TheHill)

"The Republican primary is transitioning from hard-fought campaign to its next stage, a reckoning that Mitt Romney will be the nominee. Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum have also moved to their next act: hecklers, rather than competitors, with little money to even air cable-TV ads, increasingly far-fetched scenarios for going to Tampa and shrill rhetoric. With a mix of resignation about Romney and eagerness to get on with the business of defeating President Barack Obama, conservative and establishment GOP officials are going beyond their time-will-tell talking points to all but declare the race over. 'After a long and grueling primary, it is clear that Mitt Romney is the best candidate to face President Obama and fix the mess of his one and only term,” said House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), who is set to endorse Romney on Monday and call on Republicans 'to unite and work together' to take back the White House. Still, Gingrich and Santorum appear intent on trudging forward — and the former Pennsylvania senator’s thumping win in Louisiana on Saturday offers him a fresh rationale. But increasingly, the Republican clash is less like the 2008 Obama-Hillary Clinton epic and more reminiscent of the Democrats’ 1992 nomination battle. It was clear in April of that year that Bill Clinton was going to be his party’s nominee, but Jerry Brown refused to drop out even as the Arkansas governor amassed a massive delegate advantage. Like Romney, Clinton had outspoken critics in the party, such as then-Pennsylvania Gov. Robert Casey, who reinforced Brown’s hopes of an open convention." (Politico)

"This past Thursday night over at the Frick Collection they held their annual Young Fellows Ball. This is usually an 'end of winter' event but what with the 70 degree temperature outside and the canopies of pink magnolia blossoms festooning over the terraces and the property as well as in Central Park across the street, it was more like sumer is a-cumin’ in. More than 600 guests (also supporters) gathered at the Fifth Avenue mansion amid the fin-de-siècle splendor of the former Frick family residence, for the Belle Époque Ball, sponsored by Donna Karan New York. The event planners and designers took their inspiration from the current special exhibition Renoir, Impressionism, and Full-Length Painting. This must-see show brings together nine grand-scale depictions by the painter of life in Paris in the 1870s and 1880s -- including several enchanting images of Parisian dancing couples in fashionable dress. At about 9:15 p.m. 17 members and friends (Cator Sparks, Price Latimer Agah, Lucy Lang, Scott Asher, Linnea Wilson, Sarah Maslin Nir, Kate Fleming, Jane Ko, Fay Cantor Stephens, Olivia Windisch, Alex Cohen, Ariana Lindermayer, Ryan Hayward, Musa Okwonga, Alice Kabukaru, and Charlotte Vignon arrived from the Plaza in three horse-drawn carriages for a most grand entrance." (NYSocialDiary)

"'I was seduced by the fact that you have to walk through a sex shop to get here,' said Jefferson Hack of La Bodega Negra, the underground Mexican eatery where he held last night's joint f—te for the Spring '12 issue of Another Man and the launch of BLK DNM at Browns Focus. Co-hosted by BLK DNM's Johan Lindeberg, the event lured the likes of Jamie Hince, Dame Vivienne Westwood, Jude Law, and artists Dinos Chapman, Tim Noble, and Sue Webster into the dimly lit Soho restaurant for dinner and dancing. And its sex shop entrance, complete with neon 'Girls! Girls! Girls!' signs and 'Peep Show' painted on the door, enticed, rather than deterred, party guests. 'I felt very comfortable,' laughed Daphne Guinness about crossing through that particular threshold. In attendance: plenty of girls, girls, girls. Alexa Chung, Josephine de la Baume, and Georgia May and Jade Jagger all stopped by for a drink and a dance. And even though the new issue of
Another Man riffs on the theme of the gentleman's journey—'it's about how a modern gentleman lives his life on the road,' Hack said—a special collector's edition features a modern gentlewoman on the cover: Kate Moss." (Style)

"'The Good Wife' star Julianna Margulies has little sympathy for scorned political wives. 'I remember thinking, Get off the stage!' she told More magazine’s April issue about watching Silda Spitzer and Dina McGreevey stand humiliated at press conferences as their husbands admitted wrongdoing: 'I couldn’t believe the women were gullible enough to get up there, and I couldn’t believe that the men could be such [bleep]holes as to ask.' Margulies, who plays a lawyer whose politician husband gets caught up in a sex and corruption scandal, doesn’t know if she’d have the strength to stick around if her own real-life partner strayed. 'I don’t know if I could do it, because I think I’d be playing [the betrayal] in my head the whole time,' said the actress, who wed Keith Lieberthal in 2007. 'I don’t know if I’d ever be able to be fully present, and I don’t want to live that way . . . Maybe the Spitzers and the Clintons already had an arrangement . . . frankly I don’t care. There are some things where you go, ‘It’s none of your business.’" (PageSix)

"The spotty cellphone service at Midtown media mecca Michael’s has always been a blessing and a curse. While patrons, especially those on AT&T, have been frustrated for years by dropped calls or no service at all, it has facilitated full concentration on the networking and the power players in the room. But finally media mogul Jason Binn could take the interrupted service no more, and enlisted Gilt Groupe CEO Kevin Ryan’s top tech team to fix it. Michael’s General Manager Steve Millington told us, 'Kevin’s team installed a repeater, which has given everyone in the restaurant who had problems with AT&T, full service. The only thing I am afraid we still can’t fix is mobile phone etiquette at the table.'" (PageSix)

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Media-Whore D'Oeuvres

"How do emails from Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's personal inbox escape the narrow confines for which they were intended, and eventually get exposed to the light of day? It's a story that was born in the presidential palace in Damascus, bounced southeast to Al Arabiya's bureau in Dubai's sleek Media City, traveled the 3,400 miles west to theGuardian's offices in London -- and even made a brief stopover in Foreign Policy's Washington office. From late May 2011 until Feb. 7, Syrian activists had been monitoringthe personal emails of Assad, his wife Asma, and a small clique of advisors in real time. According to the activists, they quietly used that information to warn their friends of upcoming actions by the Syrian regime against them. But on Feb. 5, the hacker group Anonymous hacked into the Syrian Ministry of Presidential Affairs and released into the public sphere the names and passwords of the accounts that the activists had been watching. FP reported on the release of two emails uncovered by Anonymous. One of FP's blog posts was reprinted in Arabic by the opposition news source All4Syria, a website run by Syrian dissident Ayman Abdel Nour, a former friendof Assad from their days in university. According to one of the Syrian activists involved in monitoring the leak, a reader sent an angry message to the president's email address soon after the All4Syria story was released -- and the addresses that the activists had been monitoring for months went dead soon after. At that point, they decided to seek out media outlets to publish the more than 3,000 pages of emails they had culled from the personal accounts of the very top figures of the Assad regime.The coverage of the email cache has focused on the tawdry details: the picture of a near-naked womanin the president's inbox, Asma's penchant for crystal-studded Christian Louboutin high heels, and the eclectic taste in musicrevealed by Assad's iTunes purchases. Less well understood is the daunting array of obstacles -- ranging from questions about the email cache's authenticity to the political and cultural sensitivities of the Middle East -- that had to be overcome before the trove was published. And that's a story of the circuitous routes that information often takes in the Middle East before it is revealed." (ForeignPolicy)

"A jovial gunman in khaki looks me up and down, discerns (correctly) that I am unarmed, and waves me through the gate into Sufi. Kabul is emerging from its coldest winter in 20 years and the last of the snow sparkles in the garden. I crunch my way into the restaurant and wait for Saad Mohseni, television impresario, multimillion-dollar dealmaker and chief protagonist in Afghanistan’s culture wars ...The meteoric rise of Afghanistan’s first media mogul speaks of another, less reported conflict: a country’s struggle to define a new identity after decades of upheaval and oppression. In this other drama, Mohseni stands centre stage. In the past decade, he has built up a network of two radio stations and three television channels that produce 15 hours of in-house programmes a day – more than many stations in the US. Shows on his Tolo TV network have redefined Afghan sensibilities – thrilling a younger generation but prompting a backlash from traditionalists. Only a few weeks before our meeting, the government had ordered women presenters to wear headscarves and avoid heavy make-up – the latest in a running battle between a vibrant liberal media and conservatives.
Whatever finger-wagging clerics may say, it is clear that Mohseni has tapped into a yearning for something new. Afghan Star – Afghanistan’s answer to The X Factor – is into its seventh season. An Afghan version of Yes Minister, the British 1980s satire of civil service mandarins, has delighted viewers by lampooning the sycophancy and kowtowing around a fictional minister of garbage. Game show contestants compete in a battle of nerves to win boxes of cash in a local version of Deal or No Deal. It is not just the Afghan public who have been won over. Mohseni’s passion for TV myth-making on the hoof has unleashed serious money. In January, Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation announced it had taken a minority stake in Moby Group, the media company chaired by Mohseni. International expansion beckons – provided Afghanistan does not implode first." (FT)

"Never one to hold back on his opinions, Karl Lagerfeld stayed true to form at a press conference here on Friday, where he spoke at length on a wide range of subjects, from his love of architect Tadao Ando and stationery to his inability to get tired, generating plenty of laughter along the way. But he launched one of his biggest zingers — a pointed jab at Tina Brown — in the very last minutes of the nearly hour-long session. Asked by a journalist from Indonesia what he made of a recent Newsweek story claiming that he is overrated, he fired back: 'First of all, Tina Brown's magazine is not doing well at all,' he said before ripping into the credibility of the story. 'She is dying,' he continued. "I'm sorry for Tina Brown, who was such a success at 'Vanity Fair,' to go down with a shitty little paper like this. I'm sorry.'" (WWD)

"AT 8 p.m. on a rainy Tuesday last month, Salman Rushdie strode into Junoon, a Flatiron district restaurant where 90 people awaited his arrival, some sipping chamomile-infused vodka cocktails. Mr. Rushdie, the Indian-born British author, was the guest of honor at a dinner sponsored by Dom Pérignon and Booktrack, the maker of an app that synchronizes music to e-books.  It was the second party that night for Mr. Rushdie, 64, who earlier in the evening could be found chatting with Diane Von Furstenberg at a downtown show for the artist Ouattara Watts, hosted by Vladimir Restoin Roitfeld, one of his gallerists.  At Junoon, after plates of baby eggplant and lamb were scraped clean, Mr. Rushdie grabbed an iPad and read aloud his short story 'In the South,”' which appeared in The New Yorker in 2009 and which Booktrack had scored to original music played by the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra. After he finished, Mr. Rushdie approached a long-legged, slim brunet woman sitting at the end of a long table. 'How did I do?' Mr. Rushdie asked. She cooed over the recitation, and he thanked her for coming. As he walked away, she turned to a fellow partygoer. 'It’s nice to see him out, isn’t it?' she said. Perhaps a more apt question would be: where haven’t New Yorkers seen Mr. Rushdie lately? " (NYTimes)

"In 1966, Robert (Mondavi) and his younger brother Peter literally came to blows at a family picnic. The ostensible cause, according to Robert Mondavi's autobiography 'Harvests of Joy,' was Peter's accusation that Robert had dipped into company funds to buy his wife a mink coat, but tensions had been building for years between the two, who had different visions for the Charles Krug winery, which their immigrant father had purchased in 1943. After a 1962 trip to Europe in which he'd been inspired by the wines he encountered, notably the great growths of Bordeaux, Robert became passionately devoted to the idea that the Napa Valley could produce wines to rival the greatest of the Old World. Like most of his peers, Peter seemed content to cater to the domestic market with easygoing, inexpensive wines. After Robert founded his own winery, his drive, his technological innovations and his proselytizing helped raise the bar for Napa Cabernet and to create the market for premium California wines, his partnership with Baron Phillip de Rothschild in the creation of Opus One being perhaps the ultimate validation of his vision. Meanwhile, Robert's older son, Michael, and later Tim joined the family company and unwittingly replayed the rivalry between their father and his brother. The Mondavi family feuding seems worthy of feature-length treatment by their neighbor Francis Ford Coppola." (Jay McInerney)

"One of my favorite galleries in Manhattan is the 511 Gallery. It is off the 'beaten path' from the usual Chelsea Gallery art scene. Mara Miller, the Gallery's Managing Director, hosts a more intimate and relaxing atmosphere, in which to view art." (EastVillageLive)

"VanityFair: I was surprised to find out that there is speculation about Don and Peggy [Elisabeth Moss] getting together. Jon Hamm:I don’t think that [is a possibility] at all. I think the Don-Peggy relationship is more of a kindred-spirit kind of thing. I think that what both Don and Peggy have in their makeup is a raw ambition. Don’s trying to escape this Depression-era life and past and move into a life of expansive cosmopolitan existence through the sweat of his own brow and, honestly, through the duplicitous nature of his existence. I think Peggy is also escaping the close-minded, parochial existence of where she comes from for what Manhattan represents—a bigger, brighter, better life. I think that Don identifies that in her and tries to help cultivate it. There is a tenuous but strong relationship there." (VanityFair)

"It took Zenaide Muneton 20 seconds to convince me that she was the perfect nanny. Short and dark-haired, she has a goofy, beaming smile and knows how to make everything fun for a little kid. Time to brush your teeth? She shakes her hands and does a pantomimed teeth-brushing dance. Bath time? She pumps her arms up and down in a going-to-the-tub march. After I told her I’d love to hire her, she smiled and thanked me. Then we both laughed, because there is no way I could possibly afford her. As one of New York City’s elite nannies, Muneton commanded around $180,000 a year — plus a Christmas bonus and a $3,000-a-month apartment on Central Park West. I should be her nanny. I began researching this bizarre microeconomy shortly after my wife and I started looking for someone to watch our son for a few hours a week. We met with several candidates, all of whom had good references and seemed fine with him. Still, we weren’t sure how to judge them. Should we hire the one who seemed to be the most fun? The most experienced? A native English speaker or someone who could speak a foreign language to him? Someone with a college degree? A master’s? We had no idea. But I began to wonder if price conveyed any important information about the nanny market. All the candidates we spoke with charged about $15 to $18 per hour, which, though standard in our Brooklyn neighborhood, seemed like a bargain when I learned that some nannies charge considerably more than double that rate. Would my son suffer with a midmarket nanny? This fear led me to the Pavillion Agency, which specializes in finding domestic workers for New York City’s wealthy." (NYTimes)

"Mike Stone won't be able to attend his high school prom with Megan Piper or any other porn star, according to the North St. Paul-Maplewood-Oakdale School District in Minnesota. Stone was called to the principal's office at Tartan Senior High School this week and told it was inappropriate to bring an adult film star to a high school dance, the Daily Dot reports. However, the 18-year-old student escaped disciplinary action and was not in any trouble with the school, Jennifer McNeil, a representative for the school district, told The Huffington Post. After sending nearly 600 Tweets, Stone had recently received responses from at least two porn stars who said they were willing to attend his prom as long as he provided money for airfare. In a statement issued to parents and obtained by HuffPost, the North St. Paul-Maplewood-Oakdale School District cited regulations to defend their decision to ban an adult film star from attending the event.In short, the rules state that the district has the right to deny any person admission to a school-sponsored event if 'the visit is not in the best interest of students, employees or the school district,' or if it 'substantially disrupts the orderly operation of school or school activities,' McNeil said.  This will be the second time Piper misses out on attending a high school prom; she moved from Georgia to Kansas during her senior year of high school and couldn't attend her own." (HuffPo via Paper)