"[This book] embodies the Buddhist wisdom about change, life, and the
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Robert Stone

December 2008 Archives

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December 30, 2008


Simple fact: urbanites carry cameras. Since the early part of the decade, when camera-equipped cell phones became the rage, more and more people have become, as one ad campaign put it, Pocket Paparazzi. So it was curious that amid the carnage in Mumbai last month, there weren't more photographs taken.

As this story in today's New York Times hints, the lack of photographs chronicling this attack (unlike, say, the 7/7 transit bombings in London or the Asia tsunami that claimed tens of thousands of lives four years ago this week) might have been due to the chaos of the situation--and the sheer terror. The act of raising a camera to one's eye literally put one in mortal danger in the sharpshooters' lines of sight.

December 19, 2008


Mark Felt, a.k.a. Deep Throat, was The Washington Post’s secret confidential source during the Watergate scandal that upended the presidency of Richard Nixon. Felt, a former F.B.I. official, died yesterday at the age of 95. Here is a piece I wrote about him for VanityFair.com. (And here is the original 2005 story that was picked up on the front pages of every newspaper in the world: "I'm the Guy They Called Deep Throat.")

Also check out this VF.com satire, posted yesterday, written with my friend David Moore. In “Bush’s Lame Duck Christmas Dinners” we imagine next week’s slate of White House menus leading up to W.’s last yuletide feasts as president. Try the sub-prime rib and the Noodles Abramoff.

Good tidings to all.

December 14, 2008


Robert Hudovernik, keeper of the flame of the work of 1920s photographer Alfred Cheney Johnston, drew my attention to a series of “Masters of Photography” videos created for YouTube dispersal by a photo-aficionado who goes only by the moniker Cybele. Please take a look at this short clip – a musical slideshow (or, given the Ziegfeld subject matter, "filmstrip"). Cybele has created a YouTube “photography channel” which Hudovernik says is gaining popularity in Europe.

And while you’re at it, check out the work of ACJ, who shot for Vanity Fair during the Jazz Age, viewable at Alfredcheneyjohnston.com. I highly recommend the book Jazz Age Beauties (there's a link for the book on the site), with an introduction by the inimitable Julie Newmar, the actress, sex symbol, writer, and daughter of a Ziegfeld dancer. At 75, Newmar is still thriving.



Blag and Blago. Too irresistible not to blog about.

It turns out that Jerry Blagrove, the purported friend who videotaped singer-songwriter Amy Winehouse using crack – and then sold the clip to a British tabloid – actually sold Winehouse the drugs in the first place - in order to videotape her and sell the the clip to the tabloids. Blagrove and his accomplice girlfriend reportedly had a list of celebrities they hoped to so videographically compromise. This was a case of Heisenberg meets Allen Funt: the observer not only shaped the outcome of the experiment, he was the instigator.

Concurrently came the secret tapes of Rod Blagojevich. Prosecutors allege that the Illinois governor, known as Blago, was shopping around president-elect Barack Obama’s vacant senate seat for personal gain – and the Feds, who were listening in, have the audio to prove it.

Blag was bagged by a lens; Blago by a mic. Both have been done in by tale of the tape.

As I write in Watching the World Change, apropos of the Internet, we live in a “Pandora-expulsive” age (page 292). Technology ensures that all recorded actions - “deeds and misdeeds alike – are potentially consigned to permanent public memory. Once an image or videoclip barnstorms across the Net, there’s no way to return old Flicker to the paddock and shut the door. Web pages persist. Even if they are deactivated, they can be retrieved if someone has retained a link or has electronically bookmarked that page. This propulsion into the public domain, irrevocable and universal and unfungible, is one of the positive and negative features of the medium.”

BY THE WAY… Last weekend’s New York Times Book Review raved about Vanity Fair: The Portraits. I urge all readers to scoot over the their favorite bookstore now. It’s the perfect holiday gift for the photographically inclined.