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Um…WTF?! White House Threw Secret ‘Alice in Wonderland’ Bash During Recession

(via New York Post)

It was the tea party the Obamas just couldn’t resist.

A White House “Alice in Wonderland” costume ball — put on by Johnny Depp and Hollywood director Tim Burton — proved to be a Mad-as-a-Hatter idea that was never made public for fear of a political backlash during hard economic times, according to a new tell-all.

“The Obamas,” by New York Times correspondent Jodi Kantor, tells of the first Halloween party the first couple feted at the White House in 2009. It was so over the top that “Star Wars” creator George Lucas sent the original Chewbacca to mingle with invited guests.

The book reveals how any official announcement of the glittering affair — coming at a time when Tea Party activists and voters furious over the lagging economy, 10-percent unemployment rate, bank bailouts and Obama’s health-care plan were staging protests — quickly vanished down the rabbit hole.

“White House officials were so nervous about how a splashy, Hollywood-esque party would look to jobless Americans — or their representatives in Congress, who would soon vote on health care — that the event was not discussed publicly and Burton’s and Depp’s contributions went unacknowledged,” the book says.

However, the White House made certain that more humble Halloween festivities earlier that day — for thousands of Washington-area schoolkids — were well reported by the press corps.

Then the Obamas went inside, where an invitation-only affair for children of military personnel and White House administrators unfolded in the East Room.

Unbeknownst to reporters, the State Dining Room had also been transformed into a secretive White House Wonderland.

Tim Burton decorated it “in his signature creepy-comic style. His film version was about to be released, and he had turned the room into the Mad Hatter’s tea party, with a long table set with antique-looking linens, enormous stuffed animals in chairs, and tiered serving plates with treats like bone-shaped meringue cookies,” reports the book, which The Post purchased at a Manhattan bookstore.

“Fruit punch was served in blood vials at the bar. Burton’s own Mad Hatter, the actor Johnny Depp, presided over the scene in full costume, standing up on a table to welcome everyone in character.”

The Obamas’ daughters, Malia and Sasha, then 11 and 8 respectively, “sat at the table, surrounded by a gaggle of their friends, and then proceeded to the next delight, a magic show in the East Room.”

Kantor’s book details more personal aspects of the Obama White House, serving up glimpses of the first couple’s marriage, parenting, sometimes tense handling of staff issues and even the president’s sly sense of humor when it comes to race.

One morning during his Senate campaign, Obama didn’t show up to a meeting with donors. “After a frantic search, a white staffer named Peter Coffey called Obama’s barbershop to find that, yes, he was there.”

The president confronted Coffey about the call later that day.

“ ‘The relationship between a black man and his barber is sacred,’ Obama bellowed . . . ‘For failing to understand this truth, your punishment is to watch the movie “Barbershop.” And for further punishment, you will then watch the sequel, “Barbershop 2.” ’ ”

Often White House staffers found themselves in the middle of husband-and-wife quarrels.

“The advisors could feel hopelessly caught between husband and wife,” Kantor writes. “The Obama marriage was awkward for everyone: for the aides, for the president . . . and for the first lady.”

Johnny Depp played host, as the Mad Hatter, at a 2009 White House bash, but a new book says it was kept quiet from the press for fear of backlash amid the recession.


TEA PARTY! Johnny Depp played host, as the Mad Hatter, at a 2009 White House bash, but a new book says it was kept quiet from the press for fear of backlash amid the recession.

Read more: http://trade.cc/wog#ixzz1isybd2Tk

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What Time Is It?


Published: December 23, 2011

A HALF-CENTURY ago, a guy given a watch for the holidays would have torn off the wrapping paper to find a modest box containing a timepiece about the size of a quarter. This season that same package is more likely the size of a hamper, with inside it a hunk of bristling, steel-studded hardware and gears.

Watches have bulked up steadily since the “Mad Men” era, incrementally becoming brawnier, thicker and wide enough across to invite comparison to sundials. Particularly over the last decade, high-end watchmakers like Breitling, Franck Muller, IWC, Lange & Söhne, Omega and Panerai and even traditionally conservative companies like Cartier led the way with models offering ample quantities of what the industry refers to as “wrist presence.”

It was an odd development, given that the rest of the culture was headed in the opposite direction, favoring smaller cars, reduced carbon footprints and leaner six-pack bodies over pumped-up bloat and monster guns.

But the Mark McGwire look, otherwise so out of style now, persists in the world of the steroidal sports watch. And that helps account for the fact that timepieces in stores this season seem to have reached epic proportions.

Read the rest here.

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Pope Benedict Rails Against Commercialization of Christmas

Pope Benedict ushered in Christmas for the world’s 1.3 billion Roman Catholics on Saturday, urging humanity to see through the superficial glitter and commercialism of the season and rediscover the real significance of the humble birth of Jesus.

The 84-year-old pope, celebrating the seventh Christmas season of his pontificate, also urged that those marking the holiday in poverty, suffering or far from home not be forgotten.

At the start of a Christmas Eve service, he was wheeled up the central aisle of St Peter’s Basilica standing on a mobile platform which he has been using since October.

The Vatican says it is to conserve his strength, allow more people to see him and guard against attacks such as one on Christmas Eve, 2009, when a woman lunged at him and knocked him to the ground. He is believed to suffer from arthritis in the legs.

But he seemed to be in good shape during the solemn service in Christendom’s largest church as choirs sang, cantors chanted and organ music filled the centuries-old basilica.

Benedict, wearing resplendent gold and white vestments, urged his listeners to find peace in the symbol of the powerless Christ child in a world continually threatened by violence.

“Today Christmas has become a commercial celebration, whose bright lights hide the mystery of God’s humility, which in turn calls us to humility and simplicity,” he said in his homily to about 10,000 people in the basilica and millions more watching on television throughout the world.

“Let us ask the Lord to help us see through the superficial glitter of this season, and to discover behind it the child in the stable in Bethlehem, so as to find true joy and true light.”

The Christmas story of how Jesus, who Christians believe is the son of God, was born powerless “in the poverty of the stable” should remind everyone of the need for humility.

“… let us strip away our fixation on what is material, on what can be measured and grasped. Let us allow ourselves to be made simple by the God who reveals himself to the simple of heart,” he said.


The pope, who earlier placed a “candle of peace” on the windowsill of his apartments as the life-size nativity scene in St Peter’s Square was inaugurated, called for an end to violence, for oppressors to put down their “rods” and for all to become peacemakers.

“God has appeared – as a child. It is in this guise that he pits himself against all violence and brings a message that is peace,” he said.

“At this hour, when the world is continually threatened by violence in so many places and in so many different ways, when over and over again there are oppressors’ rods and bloodstained cloaks, we cry out to the Lord…” he said.

“…we suffer from the continuing presence of violence in the world, and so we also ask you: manifest your power, O God. In this time of ours, in this world of ours, cause the oppressors’ rods, the cloaks rolled in blood and the footgear of battle to be burned, so that your peace may triumph in this world of ours.”

Those celebrating Christmas in comfortable circumstances should remember those less fortunate.

“And let us also pray especially at this hour for all who have to celebrate Christmas in poverty, in suffering, as migrants, that a ray of God’s kindness may shine upon them, that they – and we – may be touched by the kindness that God chose to bring into the world through the birth of his Son in a stable,” he said.

On Christmas Day, the pope will deliver his twice-yearly “Urbi et Orbi” (to the city and the world) message and blessing from the central loge of St Peter’s Basilica.

He continues his Christmas and New Year’s celebrations on Dec 31 with a year-end Mass of thanksgiving known by its Latin name Te Deum.

On January 1 he marks the Roman Catholic Church’s World Day of Peace, on January 6 he marks the Epiphany and on January 8 will baptise several newborns in the Sistine Chapel.

He is due to visit Mexico and Cuba in March.


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Get Rich Being a Whiskey Investor

Fine whisky has been part of Scotland’s heritage for over 500 years, but it is only recently that the investment opportunities for its most famous export have become clear. With global demand for luxury whisky on the rise, putting your money in Scottish single malt could make you some pretty neat returns.

Glass of Whiskey
Jonnie Miles | Getty Images

“Over the last 10 to 15 years, the demand for whisky has just increased,” said director ofThe Whisky Exchange, Sukhinder Singh.

“My feeling is that the risk in whisky is quite low,” he said. “I can just feel the demand globally; even very recently I’m watching prices go wild over the past six months.”

While the US remains the top Scotch whisky importer, with more than $400 million sold there this year, Asia has seen the largest increase. Demand from Singapore rose 64 percent, making it the third largest importer, and in Taiwan demand was up 45 percent.

Whisky writer Jonny McCormick explained global interest to CNBC: “Just in the last couple of years we’ve seen new auctions open up by Bonhams in New York and in Hong Kong, and these sales are extremely popular. We’ve seen nearly 100 percent sales by lot and by value and the American collecting market is extremely lively. The Chinese and Japanese market is very popular.”

The Macallan distillery is one of Scotland’s most famous brands, and has become a strong name in whisky investment.

David Cox, director of fine & rare whiskies at the Macallan, told CNBC, “We were one of the early pioneers if you like, in the release and availability of very rare and old whiskies. As we released these onto the market, that, together with the reputation of the Macallan, attracted collectors and connoisseurs around the world.”

Cox also highlighted the increasing importance of less traditional markets.

“Russia has become a very, very important market for us,” he said. “There’s still many collectors in Europe and certainly North America as well, who are on the lookout for special Macallan bottlings. But as a proportion of the ones that we are releasing these days, certainly we are seeing a higher and higher percentage going to Asia-Pacific and to Russia.”

For the potential investor, names like the Macallan are a great bet; a 64-year-old Macallan auctioned last year for charity achieved a world-record price of $460,000. While of course not all bottles are fetching these kinds of prices, Singh says investors have a budget in mind—and enough space to house a collection—then getting into this market is easier than it used to be, and specialist shops and auctions are the places to be.

“It’s much easier now that it was a number of years ago,” he said. “As the demand for whisky has increased, more and more specialist whisky shops have cropped up.

“There are a number of auction houses.  I remember when I started there was only one, and there was only one auction a year. I think today there are three or four auction houses doing whisky and each of them are having maybe anywhere between three to four sales a year, which is quite a lot.”

“A collection of about 120-150 bottles … is a nice size collection. You’ll have a balance of some really standard stuff, you’ll have some very rare stuff which is quite expensive, but it’s a controllable size.”


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