Archive for the ‘Morning Snip’ Category

Morning Snip:
Pratfall

Friday, December 17th, 2010

From Aljean Harmetz’s obituary of Blake Edwards (1922-2010).

The critic Andrew Sarris wrote in 1968 that Mr. Edwards had gotten “some of his biggest laughs out of jokes that are too gruesome for most horror films.”

[snip]

A lifelong depressive, Mr. Edwards told The New York Times in 2001 that at one point his depression was so bad that he became “seriously suicidal.” After deciding that shooting himself would be too messy and drowning too uncertain, he decided to slit his wrists on the beach at Malibu while looking at the ocean. But while he was holding a two-sided razor, his Great Dane started licking his ear, and his retriever, eager for a game of fetch, dropped a ball in his lap. Trying to get the dog to go away, Mr. Edwards threw the ball, dropped the razor and dislocated his shoulder. “So I think to myself,” he said, “this just isn’t a day to commit suicide.” Trying to retrieve the razor, he stepped on it and ended up in the emergency room.

Morning Snip:
MOmertà

Thursday, December 16th, 2010

The murder of a town bully, Ken Rex McElroy, thirty years ago, in Skidmore, Missouri, will probably never be avenged by the law. Outgoing prosecutor David Baird has never believed that he could make a case, given the concerted silence of the townspeople who witnessed the event. Or, in the alternative, that justice could be served by the law.

As his long tenure comes to an end questions about the lack of resolution in the murder case — perhaps the most infamous in the area since Jesse James was shot nearby a century earlier — continue to follow Mr. Baird. He was charged with wading through the sensational details and moral ambiguities of the case to ensure that, in his words, justice was served.

But justice is a loaded term in a case that challenges the usual assumptions of victim and perpetrator. And Mr. Baird, all these years later, is still unwilling to give his own view on whether justice was served even though — or because — the killer was never tried.

“You could talk to everybody in this case, and they’d give you a different answer,” he said in an interview at his office in the red brick county courthouse in nearby Maryville. “I’m never going to answer that question. It’s never going to happen.”

Morning Snip:
Squanderosa

Wednesday, December 15th, 2010

You can call it “self-confident,” if you like, but we have no words for the 1959 Cadillac Eldorado, designed by Chuck Jordan. We never have. Mr Jordan died last week at the age of 83. (NYT)

That Mr. Jordan, once called “the last of the Great Design Dinosaurs,” could sense trends was suggested by the 1959 Eldorado. Jack Telnack, who was Mr. Jordan’s design counterpart at Ford, told Automotive News in 1992 that that car showed a pitch-perfect feel for the self-confident America of the 1950s.

“We had the resources and the wherewithal in this country to do anything we wanted,” Mr. Telnack said. “We dressed that way, we ate that way, we drove cars that way, we just lived that way, and I think that car was a real statement of where we were in our culture at that time.”

And just look what we did with it.

Morning Snip:
Independence

Tuesday, December 14th, 2010

Given our feeling that political parties are little more than power bases for unattractive people who couldn’t be elected dogcatcher, Matt Bai’s comments on Michael Bloomberg’s appearance at Sunday’s No Labels event lights up the room with spring sunshine. (NYT)

Those who think Mr. Bloomberg would want to build a similar kind of organization, be it No Labels or something else, are assuming that the growing power and disaffection of independent voters who identify with neither Democrats nor Republicans make a third party more viable than it has ever been. In fact, though, the rise of the independents represents a movement in exactly the opposite direction — away from party organizations altogether.

This isn’t so much a political phenomenon as it is a cultural one. In the last decade or so, the Web has created an increasingly decentralized and customized society, in which a new generation of voters seems less aligned, generally, with large institutions. MoveOn.org and the Tea Party groups, for instance, were born as protests against the establishments of both parties, and they empowered citizens to create their own agendas, rather than relying on any elected leadership.

What the current moment might offer, then, as Mr. Bloomberg surely knows, is an unprecedented opportunity not for a new party, but for an independent candidate who represents a break from the dictates of any party organization, mainstream or otherwise. In the current environment, the less of a party apparatus an independent candidate carries, the better his chances of success may be.

Morning Snip:
State Change

Monday, December 13th, 2010

Against the background of a turbulent world economy (one in which, for example, no one takes American leadership for granted anymore), China confronts the need to change the state of its economy, from the outer-directed, export-driven model that works less and less well as its success makes China richer, to something that more closely resembles the consumer-driven Western model. The principle obstacles to change, as suggested in David Barboza’s story, will be the power blocs that control state industries and provincial governments.

But this time, Beijing is not just struggling with inflation, it is also trying to restructure its economy away from dependence on exports and toward domestic consumption in the hopes of creating more balanced and sustainable growth, analysts say.

[snip]

“The state economy and the local governments will be where the future problems occur,” Professor Chen said in an e-mail response to questions on Sunday. “They will be the sources of real troubles for the banks and the financial system.”

Morning Snip:
Destabilized

Friday, December 10th, 2010

Whatever the pleasure and interest of watching someone play a piano from a hole in its sound box and walk the eviscerated piano through a gallery space might actually be, it is difficult to imagine how anyone not marinated in the gobbledygook of conceptual artism would be inspired to expect either pleasure or interest from Roberta Smith’s account of the latest nonsense at MoMA. (NYT)

“Stop, Repair, Prepare” destabilizes all kinds of conventions, expectations and relationships. The music is often muffled and fragmented, the players prone to error. Some resort to occasional key changes because of the difficulty of reaching the black keys. Precariousness ensues; things teeter on the brink of disintegration. Chaos, Romanticism’s energy source, threatens or titillates.

The concentrated embrace of musician and instrument is more intense and exclusive than in normal performance. This allows the viewer-listener the liberty to examine the performance as the sculpture that it also is, but not passively. On the move, the piece herds and rearranges its audience as it goes, a spontaneous choreography that is most visible from upper levels. And as the instrument changes position, so does the sound, which is most intense if you follow closely in the piano’s wake, as you might a hearse. An especially arresting detail: the pianist’s hands are completely exposed and available for viewing; they flit about the keyboard like dancers on a stage.

Morning Snip:
Three Books a Month

Thursday, December 9th, 2010

From Julie Bosman’s report, “Lusty Tales and Hot Sales: Romance E-Books Thrive.” (NYT)

Barnes & Noble, the nation’s largest bookstore chain, is courting romance readers more aggressively than ever. William Lynch, the chief executive, said in an interview that until recently Barnes & Noble was a nonplayer in the huge romance category, but that it now has captured more than 25 percent of the market in romance e-books. Sometime next year, he said, he expects the company’s e-book sales in romance to surpass its print sales.

“This is a new business for us,” Mr. Lynch said. “Romance buyers are buying, on average, three books a month. That buyer is really, really valuable.”

Going on a romance diet would be one way of cuttting down the reading list.

Morning Snip:
Borrowed Plumes

Wednesday, December 8th, 2010

Joseph Grano, former head of Paine Webber and a producer of Jersey Boys, wants to found a museum of Italian-American heritage. We had quite forgotten how blush-making this sort of thing can be. (NYT)

So, what he has in mind for Pier A, at the northern edge of Battery Park, is a celebration, not just of Italian ingenuity and flair, but also of all elements of la dolce vita. For starters, he envisions an entrance flanked by a Roman chariot and a Ferrari — “to show the progress,” he said.

Beyond that, there would be exhibits showcasing artists like da Vinci and Michelangelo and composers like Puccini and Verdi. “You can’t argue with the contribution to the arts,” he said.

Don’t forget the Berlusconi Room!

Morning Snip:
In on the Act

Tuesday, December 7th, 2010

Times reporter David Segal has had the pleasure of following up his hard-to-believe story about Vitaly Borker, the online eyeglass merchant who discovered that the mistreatment of customers worked SEO wonders, with evidence that his reporting has unleashed the hounds of hell upon the personally rather sheepish Russian immigrant.

For months, Ms. Rodriguez was unable to get much traction with any of the law enforcement entities she had called as she coped with Mr. Borker’s verbal and written attacks. Now, there seems to be a competition to punish him.

He has already been charged with aggravated harassment and stalking by local authorities and is scheduled to be arraigned on those charges on Dec. 22. The state attorney general’s office is conducting its own investigation and could bring additional state charges.

But federal law enforcement seemed eager to partake as well. In a statement released Monday, Preet Bharara, United States attorney for the Southern District of New York, said, “Vitaly Borker, an alleged cyberbully and fraudster, cheated his customers, and when they complained, tried to intimidate them with obscenity and threats of serious violence.”

Morning Snip:
Speed Limits

Monday, December 6th, 2010

Felix Salmon very properly turns one argument in Roger Lowenstein’s admiring profile of JP Morgan Chase’s Jamie Dimon on its head: Mr Dimon may be a better banker than the other Wall Street chieftains, but this does not imply that his bank ought to be more lightly regulated, but precisely the opposite.

What Lowenstein doesn’t do, at this point, is talk about how all this only serves to underscore how weak the U.S. banking system’s risk-management systems are: JP Morgan Chase survived in large part thanks only because it was lucky enough to have Dimon at its helm. If Stan O’Neal had been in charge, things would have turned out very differently indeed. As a result, it becomes not only sensible but necessary to hobble JP Morgan more than Dimon feels is warranted. You don’t set speed limits on the basis of how fast the very best drivers can safely travel.

Jamie Dimon may be a better banker, but if he were the best, he would welcome regulation.

Morning Snip:
Piece of Mind

Friday, December 3rd, 2010

Damon Darlin in the Times‘s Personal Tech special section: Can This Be Love?

So it should come as little surprise that people feel lost or actually grieve when they lose a personal electronic device. “You are leaving your brain behind,” says Mark Rolston, the chief creative officer at Frog Design, a leading product design shop. He says the extension of our brain can be seen in how these products now look and feel. The devices — whether a flat-screen TV, an EVO Android smartphone, a Toshiba laptop or a Samsung Galaxy tablet — have become frames around a screen that gives us access to the amazing software that is that brain. Designers have begun to refer to that screen, in whatever device it is in, as “the window.” The frame keeps getting smaller and the window gets larger and clearer.

In other words, what we’ve become attached to is not the glass and metal and plastic, regardless of how it is beveled, but to the software running on the device. The love wasn’t there until the software got smart enough. “I doubt that people really loved their cellphones,” says Don Norman, a principal of the Nielsen Norman Group, a design firm, and author of “Living With Complexity.” The software inside a smartphone changed that. He thinks people merely like their Amazon Kindle e-readers, but don’t love them because the software doesn’t function as an auxiliary brain.

Morning Snip:
Discreet

Thursday, December 2nd, 2010

Long ago and far away — well, a few dozen blocks from here — Nan Talese took Jackie Onassis to lunch at Serendipity. As one of the few seasoned pros in publishing who also happened to be a woman, she was asked to give the fledgling publisher some pointers. But she learned something, too.

Mrs. Onassis, the industry novice, inadvertently gave Ms. Talese a helpful lesson in business etiquette, she remembered of their lunch. “We didn’t get a check, and I realized either she had given them her credit card or she had an account here,” she said. “I learned from that, because at that point there were not many women in publishing.”

Morning Snip:
The Polish Flintstones

Wednesday, December 1st, 2010

Howard Jacobson complains about the shortcomings of Hanukkah from a young person’s perspective. (NYT)

And there’s another way — for it is supposed to be a children’s festival, after all — in which Jewish children celebrating Hanukkah feel short-changed alongside their Christian friends gearing up for Christmas. The presents. Or rather, the lack of presents. No train sets or roller skates for Hanukkah, no smartphones or iPads. Just the dreidel, the four-sided spinning top with a letter of the Hebrew alphabet on each surface.
How many years did I feign excitement when this nothing of a toy was produced? The dreidel would appear and the whole family would fall into some horrible imitation of shtetl simplicity, spinning the dreidel and pretending to care which character was uppermost when it landed. Who did we think we were — the Polish equivalent of the Flintstones?

Morning Snip:
Picture This

Tuesday, November 30th, 2010

Oh, dear, how keen we’d have been to be there, when George Castro was arrested in his home, in connection with a crime that’s still pretty unclear. It involves the siphoning of Columbia University millions into a bank account in the name of “IT Security Solutions” — how perfect is that — for which Mr Castro had signing authority. (NYT; via The Morning News)

Mr. Castro, 48, was charged with first-degree grand larceny and criminal possession of stolen property.

When investigators went to Mr. Castro’s home on Wednesday to arrest him, they found him with a bag containing $200,000 in cash, the complaint said. They also seized a car, an Audi worth more than $80,000, according to the complaint.

“The money just appeared in my account,” Mr. Castro told the authorities at the time, according to the complaint. “I got greedy. I bought the car with money from the account and made other purchases.”

The picture of a man holding a bag of cash and claiming that it “just appeared” in his bank account is as delicious as wickedness gets.

Morning Snip:
Pleasing Stream of the Old Rancid

Monday, November 29th, 2010

Some holiday thoughts from Jim Quinn, at The Burning Platform (via Naked Capitalism):

Becoming educated, thinking critically, working hard, saving money to buy what you need (as opposed to what you want), developing human relationships, and questioning the motivations of government, corporate and religious leaders is hard. It is easy to coast through school and never read a book for the rest of your life. It is easy to not think about the future, your retirement, or the future of unborn generations. It is easy to coast through life at a job (until you lose it) that is unchallenging, with no desire or motivation for advancement. It is easy to make your everyday troubles disappear by whipping out your piece of plastic and acquiring everything you desire today. If your brother-in-law buys a 7,000 sq ft, 7 bedroom, 4 bath, 3 car garage, monolith to decadence for his family of 3, thirty miles from civilization, with no money down and a no doc Option ARM providing the funds, why shouldn’t you get in on the fun. It’s easy. Why sit around the kitchen table and talk with your kids, when you can easily cruise the internet downloading free porn or recording every trivial detail of your shallow life on Facebook so others can waste their time reading about your life. It is easiest to believe your elected leaders, glorified mega-corporation CEOs, and millionaire pastors preaching the word of God for a “small” contribution to their mega-churches.

Democracy is hard. Doing what’s easy doing what “everyone else” is doing — that’s not democracy.

Morning Snip:
Beastweek

Monday, November 15th, 2010

Good luck with that, says David Carr, writing about “Beastweek” and proffering a list of people (all men) who made it possible for Tina Brown to take on a great new business challenge. (NYT)

The list of people who turned down the job of reviving Newsweek reads like the reservation list of Michael’s restaurant in Midtown on a very busy day.

The people who said no before Ms. Brown said yes are said by at least two people involved in the process to include (in no particular order): Peter Kaplan, former editor of The New York Observer and now at Women’s Wear Daily; Josh Tyrangiel, formerly of Time Inc. and now at Bloomberg Businessweek; Kurt Andersen, the founder of Spy and the former editor of New York magazine; Adam Moss, the current editor of New York; Jim Kelly, the former editor of Time magazine; Jacob Weisberg, chairman and editor in chief of the Slate Group; Fareed Zakaria, a former Newsweek luminary now at Time and CNN; and Andrew Sullivan, the blogger and former editor of The New Republic.

Morning Snip:
Niteries

Friday, November 12th, 2010

Dwight Garner, on Sam Irvin’s biography of Eloïse creator Kay Thompson:

The tra-la-la is woven into the voice that Mr. Irvin, a veteran film and television director and producer, has concocted for his book, a voice that seems to have been stolen from the trade magazine Daily Variety about 1947. In “Kay Thompson” people don’t leave jobs, they’re seen “ankling” them. They’re not fired, they’re “eighty-sixed.” They’re not tricked but “bamboozled.”

A lover is a “boudoir companion”; the record industry is the “platter biz”; piano playing is “tinkling ivories”; clubs are “niteries”; executives are either “grand poo-bahs” or “muckety-mucks.” Oh, mama. As the gossip columnist J. J. Hunsecker is told in “The Sweet Smell of Success,” “You’ve got more twists than a barrel of pretzels.” Reading “Kay Thompson” is like running a cheese grater across your central nervous system.

Morning Snip:
At A Glance

Thursday, November 11th, 2010

The jobless recovery at a glance. (Nick Bunkley in the Times)

Three years ago, G.M. needed to sell nearly four million vehicles a year in the United States to break even, but today, it can be profitable at roughly half that sales volume, Mr. Liddell said in the video. Hourly labor costs have been cut by more than two-thirds, to $5 billion, from $16 billion in 2005, he said.

 

Morning Snip:
The Buck/Back Rule

Wednesday, November 10th, 2010

The Kaplan College imbroglio reminds us that the management of a for-profit corporation that sets out to turn a buck on human enrichment will inevitably discover that there is more profit to be made in turning their back on it. (NYT)

But many current and former Kaplan employees and students — including those, like Mr. Wratten, not involved in the lawsuits — said in interviews that they believed the company was concerned most with getting students’ financial aid, and that Kaplan’s fast-growing revenues were based on recruiting students whose chances of succeeding were low.

They cite, for example, a training manual used by recruiters in Pittsburgh whose “profile” of Kaplan students listed markers like low self-esteem, reliance on public assistance, being fired, laid off, incarcerated, or physically or mentally abused.

Melissa Mack, a Kaplan spokeswoman, said the manual had not been used since 2006.

Morning Snip:
Bankruptcy

Monday, November 8th, 2010

Congressman-elect Nan Hayworth, a graduate of Princeton and Cornell Medical College, demonstrates the bankruptcy of higher education in America.

Are we perfect? No. But we are the greatest nation ever to exist. I do believe in American exceptionalism with all my heart, and that’s why I ran, because American exceptionalism comes from free enterprise.