Playing The Ponies

July 23, 2010

If the D.C. social circuit turns itself out for any function this year, it will be the America’s Polo Cup, the equestrian sport’s equivalent of the similarly-named sailing event.

Or so hope Tareq and Michaele Salahi, who plugged the event (which they’ve organized) on Carol Joynt’s “Q&A Cafe” program in Georgetown. The pair formerly made headlines bluffing their way into President Barack Obama’s first state dinner, gaudily sans invitation.

The aspirational couple.

Since, they’ve been chomping impatiently and loudly at the D.C. social bit. To their advantage, that particular bit is unusually susceptible to chomping because of the transitory nature of that city: the in-crowd changes every four-to-eight years, providing for a cultural memory more myopic than, say, Greenwich, Connecticut.  

The headlining event will be the match between the United States and Costa Rica. The Cup has long been an event of political and cultural significance in D.C., as diplomats and industrialists from competing nations migrate to host countries for the duration of the tournament. President Warren Harding was in the stands in 1923, meeting and greeting benefactors (established and potential) from around the polo-playing world.

The 2011 America’s Polo Cup will be held on the National Mall, set back from the Lincoln Memorial and Washington Monument. Since it’s not sanctioned by the Federation of International Polo, the match is largely thought a spectator event. There is no word yet from the organizers as to the price of tickets, or if security will be any tighter than a White House state dinner.

Like most things Salahi, the Polo Cup is already a little fraud-tarnished: its website once listed India’s Kingfisher Beer as a sponsor but Yashpal Singh, president of Kingfisher’s parent company, disagreed. “We are not sponsoring this event and have informed the people managing this event of that… We have sent legal notices to this effect, and he keeps on advertising us as a sponsor. I don’t know what world he’s living in.”

Land Rover withdrew its sponsorship in 2009, when a charity associated with the event was investigated by the Virginia Office of Consumer Affairs for tax irregularities.

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Authenticity, Faked

May 17, 2010

With narrow exception, the fashion web logs out there, especially those inclined to advise, are worthless. To be fair, some aren’t bad (and some of those which aren’t, or are less bad than the rest, are linked to herein). Few of them lurch across the line into “good” and none of them demonstrate anything beyond a passing familiarity with the English language. Than is usually then, or vice-versa; there are lots of words spent on “The Ivy League Look,” very few on the places where that look grew up: schools which would be ashamed to have turned out most of these bloggers.

The style bloggers are enamored of what they call sprezzatura, an idea of affected nonchalance. They love the concept in parts nearly equal to their disdain of grammar. Think of rumpled shirt-collars, ties tied so that the back-end (the “blade”) hangs down as far as, or more than, the front, and working buttonholes left unbuttoned on jackets. That’s the idea: “I’m too stylish to care about style, so these casual mistakes are actually indicative of my sophistication… I’m so fashionable that I’m above caring whether I’m fashionable or not, and that makes me even more hip.”

This is obviously stupid, but alerting the sartorial blogosphere won’t do any good. Those people have enough trouble on their hands already, sounding out words in their heads as they write.

So we’ll leave this between us, you and your editorial staff, and we’ll do our best to lay it out quickly. If you make an effort to outfit yourself in a way that looks like it didn’t require effort, and go so far as to prove your lack of effort by making the additional effort to introduce into that outfit some small foible like unbuttoned shirt cuffs, you’re not too fashionable to care about being fashionable: you’re a fraud.

What’s worse, you’re an obvious fraud because no man who cares enough to spend $500 on his necktie would not care enough to tie it properly. So the improperly tied tie must be done that way on purpose, we all know, and since we all know, you’re not fooling anybody but yourself. You’re the trust fund brat who eschews “Capitalist materialism” to travel the world and find his poetic soul in Amsterdam but doesn’t mind, or get, the irony of undertaking the soul-searching on his parents’ dime. Again… a fraud.

A few come by their artful slovenliness honestly: they’ve been wearing ties and blazers since prep school and reach for the repp so absentmindedly that the way it’s tied really is honestly absent-minded; those guys aren’t the type on the fashion blogs. And if you’ve spent $2,000 on a sport coat with functional buttonholes so you can leave one artfully unbuttoned, you’re not one of them. Don’t pretend you are.

Chuck Bass: too cool to care?


Yale: “We Won’t Be Fooled Again.”

December 4, 2009

An Ivy League degree opens doors around the world, as South Korean art professor Shin Jeong-ah knows: her diploma from Yale University helped her land a job at Dongguk University, in South Korea, and a prestigous museum curatorship. The problem was, Professor Jeong-ah was never a student at Yale. Or, perhaps the problem was that Yale said she was.

In September 2005, Dongguk University forwarded materials from Professor Jeong-ah to Yale, asking the Ivy League university to verify that their potential new hire had, in fact, earned a Yale degree. The materials had been faked but Yale bought it, and sent a letter back confirming Jeong-ah’s degree.

Professor Shin Jeong-ah, center.

As news broke, Yale back-tracked: “I’ve seen the fax that supposedly confirms that Shin earned a degree from Yale, and it bears no resemblance to the letter that [the university] sends when actually confirming someone’s degree,” Yale’s Director of Public Affairs wrote in an e-mail to the Yale Daily News.

Yet, quickly thereafter, that paper reported “the University reviewed its documents and determined it had indeed sent the fax in question.”

An official statement explains: “Responding quickly to what appeared to be a routine request, Yale’s staff mistakenly relied on the letterhead and signature on the purported May 2005 letter.”

In addition to her faked Yale degree, Jeong-ah also provided Dongguk University with her Ph.D. dissertation, “Guillaume Apollinaire: Catalyst for Primativism, for Picabia and Duchamp.” That dissertation was later revealed to have been submitted to the University of Virginia in 1981 by Ekaterini Samaltanou-Tsiakma.

After landing a museum curatorship with her fraudulent credentials, Jeong-ah embezzled nearly $400,000 from the institution, posed for nude photographs, and commenced an affair with a top aide to the President of South Korea. She staunchly maintains her Yale diploma, which is missing the signature of the President of that school, is authentic.

Yale has vowed to tighten up operations.