Mueller’s painting with too broad a brush. Not so much a broad brush, even: a flamethrower.
One of my favorite longform internet-type writers, Taffy Brodesser-Akner, has a profile of the new-and-improved Paula Deen business empire, built on ashes and martyrdom and Southern charm:
a new company had been announced— Paula Deen Ventures—which had been bankrolled to the tune of a reported $75 to $100 million by an investor named Jahm Najafi. His website says he “seeks to make strategic investments in undervalued assets,” but really, homeboy loves a fire sale: he was the last known owner of Book of the Month Club and BMG Music Service — you remember, 12 tapes for a penny — and in 2011 considered buying Borders, which had dwindled to 405 all-but-dead stores. He specializes in businesses that still have some juice in them; he doesn’t care how much because he buys them so cheap and a profit is a profit. (You can only imagine how quickly calls made to the Najafi headquarters were not returned for this story. Paula Deen’s publicists also denied my many interview requests on the boat and after; they did not respond to our many fact-checking queries.)
And there is still profit to be squeezed from the Paula Deen brand. Deen’s products — through collaborations with Meyer Corporation, among others—had seen a reported 35 percent sales increase in the first two quarters of this year; subscriptions to her magazine reportedly grew by 40 percent. (For perspective, in those two quarters, paid subscriptions for magazines in general faltered 1.8 percent and single-copy newsstand sales fell a significant 11.9 percent from a year before.)
There are many fascinating facts embedded in this essay. For one, it can cost $75,000 per episode to make a cooking show. How is that ever profitable or worth it? For another, Glenn Beck sells discounted NRA subscriptions. Mostly though it’s an interesting story about a self-made woman who publicly self-destructed and is now trying to self-make again, in part by drawing on the sympathy of folks like her with a soft spot for butter. An American tale, indeed.
George Clooney wasn’t the only wealthy dude to get married this weekend. According to the Vows section, a Vanderbilt just tied the knot.
Meghan Marie Knutson, a daughter of Debra L. Knutson and Terry K. Knutson of Burnsville, Minn., was married Saturday to Travis Murray Vanderbilt, a son of Alison Platten Vanderbilt and Alfred G. Vanderbilt III of Norwalk, Conn. Jordan B. Hansen, a friend of the couple and a Universal Life minister, officiated … The groom is a descendant of Cornelius Vanderbilt.
He seems like a nice guy, too, despite having been raised in Connecticut.
We all have our favorite rich people: the honorable and now dear departed Mitford sisters, for example (#TeamDecca), or Ebenezer Scrooge, because that’s the best name ever, nobody names ‘em like Dickens. Commodore Cornelius Vanderbilt – Union hero, transportation magnate, and the 2nd or 3rd wealthiest American ever, bless his whiskered heart – is one of mine. His financial backing allowed Victoria Woodhull, first lady of American awesomeness, to set up shop with her sister Tennie on Wall Street. Behind them, on the office wall, they hung one picture of Jesus and another of “Com.”
Victoria may have been sleeping with him. Tennie certainly was. But Com also respected both sisters a great deal. He was a savvy businessman; he didn’t part with money except where he expected to see profit, and indeed the sisters made about $700,000. Not bad for the first American women stockbrokers.
Make your Tuesday vastly better by watching John Oliver’s hilarious and scathing video indictment / expose of the Miss America pageant. What really attracts his attention, though, is not the butt glue or the televised 20-second-answers to complex foreign policy questions. It’s Miss America’s claim that it’s the biggest provider of scholarships for women, offering $45 million a year. “That’s unbelievable!” he says. “As in, I literally did not believe it.”
With good reason.
As Quartz points out:
That turns out to be only virtually true: in theory, all the money is made available, but in reality Miss America ends up spending only about a tenth of the sum in scholarships. What’s especially troubling is that the organization is indeed the biggest provider of scholarships in the US exclusively for women. Not only is the sum itself abysmally low, it is distributed among women chosen first for their looks. Oliver sums it up in one sentence, which, in the wake of Emma Watson’s excellent speech at the UN, perfectly explains why, in 2014, we still very much need feminism.
“Currently, the biggest scholarship program exclusively for women in America requires you to be unmarried, with a mint condition uterus, and also rewards working knowledge of butt adhesive technology.”
Stick around for the video’s surprise twist conclusion! Although the surprise is not that Miss America apologizes for anything, or that it turns out anyone else does indeed offer more money to women scholars than they do.
Does it seem to you like we’re having a cultural moment about abuse? One we’re acknowledging all different kinds: domestic violence, parents beating children, manipulation via money. The newest face for the latter is “Scandal” star Kerry Washington.
As brand ambassador for the Allstate Foundation’s Purple Purse initiative, Washington is raising awareness about financial abuse, one tactic that is occasionally used to keep an abused person in a relationship. Financial abuse occasionally involves the abuser limiting a victim’s access to cash, which can prevent them from leaving the relationship. On top of that, career sabotage or putting the person in debt can become tactics in which abusers can be assured that their victims have no other recourse but to stay with them. … As part of Allstate’s effort to raise awareness about financial abuse, Washington took part in designing limited-edition purple purses to highlight the role of money in financially abusive relationships. Only 500 purses were produced, and most will be used as fundraisers and given to charities, with the purses going to abuse survivors.
As Washington says in the PSA, “financial abuse leaves invisible bruises that can take decades to heal.”
Cutting off a person’s access to funds, sabotaging their career, and/or making that person financially dependent on you, the abuser, is a relatively subtle and insidious way of torturing someone. I’m so glad we as a society are beginning to talk about this stuff and hopefully help lessen the stigmas a little bit. Also, Kerry Washington is on loan to us from Mt. Olympus or something, I don’t know where exactly, but I’m so grateful and I hope she stays forever.
Now that Ask Polly has moved from The Awl to The Cut, I guess I’ve started reading The Cut.
Which is how I found out that there’s a man on Craigslist selling one ticket to Lena Dunham’s October 21 book reading at the Brooklyn Academy of Music… for $900.
Let’s back that up. Lena Dunham’s book Not That Kind of A Girl: A Young Woman Tells You What She’s “Learned” releases on September 30. The book tour—which The Cut described as “sort of a combination Q&A, concert, and episode of Girls“—is essentially sold out. As Gawker notes, there is “a thriving market for Dunham tickets across the country,” including this gentleman who is selling his $38 ticket to Dunham’s NYC performance for the hoped-for price of $900.
It gets better.
Around these parts, we like to poke fun sometimes at prestigious prizes that come with very little money attached. Because, like, thanks for that Pulitzer but I still gotta eat, you know? Maybe Pawn Stars will give me something for it. Gee, a Fields Medal, huh? Greaaaat. If only I could afford childcare so I could get back to the lab.
The MacArthur Foundation understands. Its “genius grants,” which it gives out once a year, are actual, substantial, maybe life-changing amounts of money ($625,000!). Best of all, they are a SURPRISE. No one applies to be a genius. They work hard and do their thing and get by and then one day someone shows up with a giant check.
Pamela Long, 71, an independent scholar based in Washington, works from home and almost never answers her phone. So when she received an e-mail from the MacArthur Foundation asking her to call, she thought it was for an interview about someone else who had been nominated. Then she was told she had won. In the days that followed, her initial reaction — shock — slowly gave way to relief.
As a historian not affiliated with a university, she never knows how she will afford to do her work — research on the science and technology of 15th- and 16th-century Europe — from year to year. So far she has supported herself through grants. “But I don’t think you can get a grant every year for the rest of your entire life,” she said on a video call from Rome, where she is studying archival material for a book tentatively titled “Engineering the Eternal City.”
* Thanks for that, Bec
+ Another way we are unequal in this paltry excuse for a civilization? The number of hours of sleep we get a night, on average, varies based on how much money we have. The effects are real, lasting, and frightening:
McCalman’s life reveals a particularly sorry side of America’s sleep-deprived culture. Though we often praise white-collar “superwomen” who “never sleep” and juggle legendary careers with busy families, it’s actually people who have the least money who get the least sleep.
Though Americans across the economic spectrum are sleeping less these days, people in the lowest income quintile, and people who never finished high school, are far more likely to get less than seven hours of shut-eye per night. About half of people in households making less than $30,000 sleep six or fewer hours per night, while only a third of those making $75,000 or more do. …
A later study on 147 adult humans found that the sleep deprived among them had actively shrinking brains. This suggests that no amount of “catch up” sleep can ever reverse the effects of sleep loss on the body.
+ The ‘Fold got some love on the newish Slate parenting podcast “Mom and Dad Are Fighting!”
Because art imitates life sometimes, NBC bought a pilot inspired by the adventures of our very own Radical, Co-Op Living Bride, who we interviewed here on the ‘Fold this past spring. Her groom wrote a more detailed first-person account of their unusual, blended-family, blended-real estate lifestyle in the Atlantic this summer, which was optioned for TV (!) and will now become network reality (!!):
Written by Julia Brownell(Parenthood), the project is inspired by the growing real-world phenomenon as detailed in the recent TheAtlantic.com article “Two Couples, One Mortgage” (read it here). It is a first-person narrative about two 30-something couples — one with a baby on the way — who decide to buy and live in a Brooklyn brownstone together, creating their own version of the modern urban family. Brownell and True Jack’s Katims and Michelle Lee executive produce for Universal TV where True Jack is based.
The couples in question live in Washington, DC, but never mind; presumably the show, like all shows these days, is required to take place in Brooklyn. Though the ‘Fold will see none of the profits, we intend to take some of the credit for first recognizing the newsworthiness of this arrangement. We are on the vanguard, my friends. And so excited to see how this story unfolds.