NYT: Bostonians Don’t Care How They Look

From our Late to the Spending Party desk

The hardworking staff has been occupied with one thing and another lately, so we missed this piece in the New York Times Sunday Review section.

What People Buy Where

CONSPICUOUS consumption is everywhere, but it’s not the same everywhere. People living in certain cities spend far more than the national average on particular goods and services that they believe will enhance their social standing.

In New York City, favored items include luxury watches and shoes. In Boston, the status signal of choice is tuition to a private school. Clothes are the go-to goods in Dallas. Wearing high-end makeup says you’ve arrived in Phoenix. In San Francisco, one telling sign is women’s sport coats and tailored jackets. And in Washington, D.C., encyclopedias and reference books are top status markers. Go figure.

More fun facts to know and tell about Boston:

• Bostonians spend more on college and private-school tuition, give more money to political and charitable institutions and consume more coffee and books.

• [People] in Boston and Baltimore have us all beat with their fondness for looking natural: They spend 25 percent less than the national average on superficiality.

• Bostonians get the prize for most informed, forking over 40 percent more than the national average for newspapers and magazines.

Helpful graphic:

Screen Shot 2014-12-17 at 12.40.04 AM

Screen Shot 2014-12-17 at 12.40.47 AMBottom line: Bostonians don’t care how they look, as long as they look smart.

That smarts, eh?

Especially the alimony part.

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Round Midnight at the Global Worldwide Headquarters (Guitar-Gently-Weeping Prince Edition)

Hard on the heels of the hardtracking staff’s post about the classic guitar duet between George Harrison and Eric Clapton comes this performance of “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” –  featuring Prince, Tom Petty, Steve Winwood, Jeff Lynne, and Dhani Harrison (the very spit and image of his old man) – at the 2004 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Inductions.

(Tip o’ the pixel to WBUR Radio Boston’s Alex Kingsbury)

 

 

Damn. If Prince isn’t the son Jimi Hendrix never had, he’ll do until someone better comes along.

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NYT’s David Barboza Is One Kick-Ass Reporter

The hardworking staff has long admired the work of New York Times correspondent David Barboza, who, according to the Times website, “was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for International Reporting ‘for his striking exposure of corruption at high levels of the Chinese government, including billions in secret wealth owned by relatives of the prime minister, well documented work published in the face of heavy pressure from the Chinese officials.’ He was also part of the team that won the Pulitzer Prize for Explanatory Reporting.”

Now comes Barboza’s latest run at a Pulitzer. From Sunday’s New York Times front page:

China’s E-Cigarette Boom Lacks Oversight for Safety

Producing 90 Percent of World’s Devices, With Hazards for Health of Users

SHENZHEN, China — In a grimy workshop, among boiling vats of chemicals, factory workers are busy turning stainless steel rods into slender tube casings, a crucial component of electronic cigarettes. Not long ago, Skorite Electronics was a tiny firm Screen Shot 2014-12-15 at 12.08.57 AMstruggling to produce pen parts. Today, it is part of an enormous — and virtually unregulated — supply chain centered here that produces about 90 percent of the world’s e-cigarettes.

This year, Chinese manufacturers are expected to ship more than 300 million e-cigarettes to the United States and Europe, where they will reach the shelves of Walmart, 7-Eleven stores, gas station outlets and so-called vaping shops.

The devices have become increasingly popular, particularly among young adults, and yet hundreds of e-cigarette manufacturers in China operate with little oversight. Experts say flawed or sloppy manufacturing could account for some of the heavy metals, carcinogens and other dangerous compounds, such as lead, tin and zinc, that have been detected in some e-cigarettes.

Sold American graf:

Altria, formerly known as Philip Morris, sells the e-cigarette brand MarkTen. In a statement, Altria said: “MarkTen is manufactured in China for Nu Mark” — Altria’s e-cigarette subsidiary — “by an established manufacturer of e-cigarettes, which is following Nu Mark’s design specifications and quality control requirements” with “detailed quality-control measures.”

The bottom line is that regardless of Big Tobacco’s entry into the e-cigarette business, the vast majority of e-cig sales are the 21st century version of roll your own.

Say a prayer for the FDA, which should be on e-cigs like Brown on Williamson (except it isn’t).

They’ll need it.

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Wall Street Journal’s ‘Eve of De(con)struction’

The hardworking staff freely admits that we’re hooked on the Wall Street Journal’s great Anatomy of a Song series.

Representative samples:

Screen Shot 2014-12-14 at 12.14.58 AM

Friday’s addition, by Steve Dougherty:

Still on the ‘Eve of Destruction’

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When it reached No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart on Sept. 25, 1965, “Eve of Destruction” was a pop song like no other.

With its incendiary lyrics—“You’re old enough to kill, but not for votin’…and even the Jordan River has bodies floatin’ ’’—it was a far cry from “I’m Henry VIII, I Am,” by Herman’s Hermits, which had topped the chart the month before, as the Watts riots exploded in Los Angeles and soon after President Lyndon Johnson announced a troop buildup in Vietnam.

Critics slammed “Eve of Destruction” for its bombast and some radio stations banned it. But millions of teens bought the single, and it stayed in the Top 20 for two months.

The song itself:

 

 

The WSJ piece helpfully reassembles the original players.

When “Eve” was recorded that summer, songwriter P. F. “Phil” Sloan (“Secret Agent Man” and “Where Were You When I AR-AI074_ANATOM_8S_20141209094558Needed You,” both co-written with Steve Barri) was a guitarist and arranger who often worked with the famed L.A. studio musicians known as the “Wrecking Crew.”

Producer Lou Adler (The Mamas & the Papas, Carole King) put Mr. Sloan together with former New Christy Minstrels singer Barry McGuire and members of the Wrecking Crew, including drummer Hal Blaine.

Well worth checking out their conversation.

Meanwhile, fifty years later, the song seems vaguely ridiculous.  At least to our ears.

How about yours?

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Round Midnight at the Global Worldwide Headquarters (Earworm-Chasing ‘Badge’ Edition)

Whenever the hardworking staff gets an earworm (see, for example, here), we turn to the greatest rock-and-roll love-triangle tune ever to unearth it. (Great photos.)

 

 

George Harrison aced out Eric Clapton and married Patti Boyd in 1966.

Forty years later, Slowhand went it alone.

 

 

Campaign Outsider Bonus Track®:

The greatest ‘Layla’ by Eric Clapton . . . EVER!

 

 

Your alternative goes here.

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Boston’s MFA: We’re Not Stalking Our Visitors

Friday’s Wall Street Journal featured this eye-popping piece by Ellen Gamerman on museums and Big Data.

When the Art Is Watching You

Museums are mining detailed information from visitors, raising questions about the use of Big Data in the arts

AR-AI090_BigDat_12S_20141211172950

One morning last week, a team of experts at New York’s Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum searched for hidden spots in the rotunda to conceal tiny electronic transmitters. The devices will enable the museum to send messages about artworks to visitors via their smartphones while at the same time collect details about the comings and goings of those guests.

At today’s museums, all eyes aren’t just on the art. They’re on the visitors.

Across the country, museums are mining increasingly detailed layers of information about their guests, employing some of the same strategies that companies like Macy’s, Netflix and Wal-Mart have used in recent years to boost sales by tracking customer behavior. Museums are using the visitor data to inform decisions on everything from exhibit design to donor outreach to gift-shop marketing strategies.

In Massachusetts, the Norman Rockwell Museum “is crunching numbers for a more conventional purpose: retail. The museum began working with a data analytics company last year to increase gift-shop sales, fine-tuning its email blasts based on customers’ past purchases or the buying patterns of first-time shoppers.”

And it worked.

“This year’s Black Friday and Cyber Monday gift-shop sales were up 16% to 20% over last year, said Margit Hotchkiss, deputy director of audience and business development.”

But Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts isn’t entirely sold on the sales stalking.

“We’re trying to balance that creepiness factor,” said Edward Gargiulo, director of membership and database marketing at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston. The museum generally avoids getting into all the detail it has about its guests when communicating with them, he said. For instance, when the MFA sends digital surveys to guests after they visit, it deliberately omits the date of that visit in case that level of specificity would unnerve the email’s recipient.

Good for the MFA. The museum collects data, but doesn’t rub it in our face.

Thank goodness for small favors, eh?  Then again, we’re still surprised the MFA’s Goya exhibit isn’t sponsored by Goya beans.

Goya figure.

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WSJ: Renzo Is Harvard Art Museum’s Piano Man

(With apologies to Billy Joel)

Sing us a song, you’re the piano man,

Sing us a song tonight.

Well we’re all in the mood for a melody,

And you’ve got us feeling alright.

As the hardworking staff previously noted, the new Harvard Art Museums debuted last month to decidedly mixed reviews.

But Wall Street Journal architecture critic Julie V. Iovine fairly swooned yesterday in her review of the new triplex.

Piano’s ‘Teaching Machine’

Screen Shot 2014-12-12 at 1.36.11 AM

Harvard should probably prepare for a significant uptick in art history majors. The new Harvard Art Museums building that opened on Nov. 16 is an alluring new museum scaled perfectly for individual human, as opposed to swarming public, use.

More than 15 years in the making, the structure brings together under one roof three very disparate collections—the encyclopedic study collection of the fabled Fogg, founded in 1895; a stunning array of Asian art masterworks from the Arthur M. Sackler Museum; a medieval-to-modern array of central and northern European works from the Busch-Reisinger Museum—in a conceptually generous and thoughtfully detailed building by Renzo Piano.

Conceptually generous and thoughtfully detailed, eh? Depends on where you look, as this Critical Round-Up from Architecture News illustrates.

Anyway, WSJ pull quote:

Forget the gift shop – this museum wants visitors to engage with art.

Wait – as opposed to museums that want visitors not to engage with art?

Okaaaay.

In fairness, read the whole piece and you tell us.

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Jimmy Faillon – Sorry, Fallon – Gives Murky Mark a Free Pass

Marked Mark Wahlberg, who has to be wishing he never sought a pardon for his entirely racist past, turned up on the Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon last night to promote his new movie, The Gambler.

And hit the jackpot – as in, no questions about his questionable quest.

 

 

Maybe Fallon shouldn’t be expected to ask the tough questions about Wahlberg’s dicey gamble to seek redemption.

But we think Jay Leno would have. Or David Letterman. Or . . .

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When a Nation Forgets Its Own Clichés . . .

. . . well, that’s just sad.

The hardworking staff has plied the differently clichéd beat for quite some time now, but this week we had our first twofer: A pair of mangled phrases in the course of one day.

Begin with this piece from Boston Magazine’s Boston Daily blog about Marked Mark Wahlberg and his quest to eradicate his entirely racist past.

Is he nuts? graf:

Upon hearing the news that Wahlberg was looking to be forgiven for his role in assaulting a man with a wooden club and punching another man in the face, back in 1988 during a Dorchester Avenue robbery, The Blackstonian drudged up other allegations about the the burger joint-owning Hollywood star—namely, his excessive use of the “n-word,” and the harassment of black residents at the time.

Traditionally, people dredge up allegations, but maybe BoMag reporter Steve Annear was alluding to the bottom-feeding Drudge Report.

Maybe.

Later that day, we heard this on PRI’s The World:

People have been calling on President Obama to make due on his promise to close Guantanamo.

Not to get technical about it, but people make good on a promise. Or a promise comes due.

Not both.

Whatever, here are some other recently mangled phrases.

• From Politico last month, in a piece about a joint press conference with President Barack Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping:

[W]hen a New York Times reporter posed a series of questions to both Obama and Xi, the U.S. president responded to the queries directed to him, but the Chinese president initially failed to respond to the questions put to him about the U.S. pivot to Asia and about refusal of residence permits for U.S. journalists working in China.

Instead, a Chinese press aide called on a Chinese reporter who asked a stilted question of Xi, producing a protracted, prepared statement from the Chinese leader.

The unexpected move produced a quizzical look from Obama, who seemed to think his hosts might have pulled one over on him.

Put one over on him, perhaps. Pulled one off, definitely.

(Recommended reading: John McWhorter’s Gray Matter piece in last Sunday’s New York Times headlined “Why Save a Language?”

(Why indeed.)

• Boston Herald headline last month, in a story about Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid luring Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren into the Democratic leadership with a Potemkin position:

Reid plays Liz like a chump with new post

No.

He either played her like a violin, or played her for a chump.

There’s no third way, as Sam Spade might put it.

• Splendid reader Mike Barry contributed this one from an October Toronto Star piece about Maple Leafs winger Phil Kessel’s lack of fitness in the season opener.

“Obviously we want to be better,” said Kessel. “There’s 81 more to go. I think it’s a little too soon to jump on the gun.”

Yeah, but . . .

You either jump the gun or – we dunno – fall on your sword?

Whatever.

• Headline from the September 30 New York Times:

Twangy Homilies About Shouldering Through the Pain

Shouldn’t that be soldiering through the pain?

Just askin’.

• PRI’s The World in August about Kate Bush returning to the concert tour after a 35-year absence:

She really does beat to her own drum.

Roll your own.

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Dead Blogging ‘The Best British TV Spots’ at the ICA

Well the Missus and I trundled down to Boston’s Institute of Contemporary Art last night to catch the museum’s showing of the 2014 British Arrows Awards and say, it was . . . brilliant!

The Brits have long produced smart, engaging commercials largely because 1) they’re kind of embarrassed to be peddling stuff so they try to make the pitch worth your while; and 2) they actually respect consumers as intelligent beings, unlike American advertisers who think you’re a moron.

(Five decades ago legendary (Scottish!) adman David Ogilvy admonished his staffers by saying, “The consumer isn’t a moron. She is your wife.” Apparently, the majority of their successors married down.)

Among the finalists was this inspired wheelchair basketball ad from Guinness.

 

 

And this sweet spot from Cesar dog food.

 

 

And this smart series from Aldi. Representative sample:

 

 

Bronze winners included this AXE Apollo commercial.

 

 

Among the Silver winners was this haunting anti-cyberbullying video from The Cybersmile Foundation.

 

 

And, finally – drumroll . . .

Commercial of the Year:

 

 

Love it!

There are dozens more, most of which you can watch here, most of which are a hoot.

You’re welcome.

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