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Scene Last Night: Kelly Behun, Jackman, Monkee Nesmith

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The New Inquiry
Michael Nesmith, chairman of the Gihon Foundation, and Sarah Leonard, an associate editor at Dissent magazine and editor and writer at The New Inquiry. Photographer: Amanda Gordon/Bloomberg

July 1 (Bloomberg) -- Ambition on a warm, muggy Saturday night can take many forms.

On the grass in front of the dunes of her home in Southampton, designer Kelly Behun showed off a living-room tableau of her new furniture line, Neo-Laminati, available at showroom Suite New York. The party also celebrated her home’s inclusion in Elle Decor, and drew hedge-fund manager Richard Perry, actor Hugh Jackman, chef Bobby Flay and Ivanka and Jared Kushner, whose Manhattan home Behun designed.

Meanwhile on a rooftop in Gowanus with views of fire escapes, satellite dishes and far-off Manhattan skyscrapers, I attended the first annual summer benefit of The New Inquiry, the nonprofit online magazine devoted to critical thought.

In the crowd at Sackett Farms -- named apparently for the planters on the aforementioned rooftop -- were Adrian Chen, a staff writer for Gawker and an editor at The New Inquiry, John Hagel III, co-chairman of Deloitte LLP Center for the Edge, and Michael Nesmith, who is the chairman of the Gihon Foundation as well as the son of the inventor of Liquid Paper and a former member of the band the Monkees.

Chen said he liked working on a publication that doesn’t care about page views. One of the writers he’s edited is Nathan Jurgenson. His first TNI contribution was a rant against TED talks. His specialty -- the subject of his dissertation -- is the duality of online and offline life. (Being offline doesn’t make you more authentic or real, he said, nor does living in Brooklyn. He’s planning a move to Manhattan.)

Nesmith Drawn

The gathering had support from the Gihon Foundation, which has begun to focus on the online presence of ideas after ending its annual Council on Ideas, a physical meeting of thinkers asked to describe the world’s problems.

“When I saw what she was doing and the quality of thinking around her, I was drawn to it,” said Nesmith of TNI’s editor, Rachel Rosenfelt, whom he met via Facebook. “She has good people. I hope you get a chance to really bore down here.”

“It would be hard to find people who are not already popularly published who are so smart doing their work,” added Sarah Leonard, an associate editor at Dissent who contributes to TNI.

“We have no major funder, no institutional support,” Rosenfelt said. “We make all of our money on reader support.”

The magazine expects $2 a month from readers; how many participate, Rosenfelt wouldn’t say. “It’s enough to pay every writer, and we pay some editors,” she said. “Most are volunteers.”

Blogs, Reviews

Rosenfelt seeks more funding to be able to expand blogs and reviews of work by small publishers, and offer the magazine by print-on-demand.

In the tote bag distributed to guests were early copies of The New Inquiry Reader No. 1, to be published in 2014. It contains a sampling of essays published in the magazine on loneliness, mystery shoppers, Ai Wei Wei, drones, and social media’s ability to understand and mediate war.

DJ Rupture -- artist and author Jace Clayton -- played tunes from his record label, Dutty Artz. He met Rosenfelt at a secret bookshop in Manhattan.

(Amanda Gordon is a writer and photographer for Muse, the arts and leisure section of Bloomberg News. Any opinions expressed are her own.)

Muse highlights include Manuela Hoelterhoff on architecture, Susan Antilla on books.

To contact the writer on this story: Amanda Gordon in New York at agordon01@bloomberg.net or on Twitter at @amandagordon.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Manuela Hoelterhoff at mhoelterhoff@bloomberg.net.

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