Dead Blogging ‘It’s Alive!’ at the Peabody Essex Museum

Well the Missus and I trundled up to Salem yesterday to catch It’s Alive! Classic Horror and Sci-Fi Art from the Kirk Hammett Collection (through November 26) at PEM and say, it was scary good.

Kirk Hammett, best known as the guitarist of the rock band Metallica, is also an avid collector of classic horror and sci-fi movie posters. This exhibition explores the interplay of creativity, emotion and popular culture through 135 works from 20th-century cinema, including posters by an international array of graphic designers, rare works by unidentified masters as well as related memorabilia such as electric guitars, lobby cards, film props and costumes.

The exhibit is a total hoot, chockablock full of posters like this one.

Full disclosure: The Missus and I didn’t get the whole “Karloff the Uncanny” thing, which seemed to surface in the early ’30s and disappear around 1935. This 1933 New York Times movie review isn’t all that enlightening, but this Google Books link to After Dracula: The 1930s Horror Film by Alsion Peirse is more helpful (if a bit oblique).

Back at PEM, don’t miss Ocean Liners: Glamour, Speed, and Style (through October 9th) while you’re up there.

From the mid-19th century through the mid-20th century, ocean liners were floating showcases of technology, opulence and social sophistication. As icons of modernity and aspirational living, artists, engineers, architects and passengers all vied for influence and access in the creation and enjoyment of these man-made islands at sea.

Ocean liners were intricately constructed pieces of culture — in the appearance of their design, the elegance of their engineering and the division of their social space — and each with its own distinct personality. Drawing from international institutions and private collections, the exhibition brings together nearly 200 works including paintings, sculpture, models, furniture, lighting, wall panels, textiles, fashion, photographs, posters and film.

Man, that’s the life, yeah?

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Is ‘Trump TV’ Really All That Different From ‘Obama TV’?

There’s been a fair amount of pearl clutching the past few days over the “Real News” videos that TrumpWorld has just started cranking out. The debut edition appeared on Donald Trump’s Facebook page last week and featured First (or Second) Daughter-in-Law Lara Trump, wife of Eric, gushing about all the wonderful things Trump has done lately that the fake news of course ignored.

Then yesterday came this Real News edition from Trumpkin Kayleigh McEnany, charter member of RoboBlondes for Trump and newly minted mouthpiece for the Republican National Committee.



Almost immediately, windmill-tilter Evan McMullin went DEFCON 3 on his Twitter feed.

Actually, no.

Given that it’s Trump’s campaign organization that’s paying to produce the videos, what Jeff Greenfield told CNN’s Reliable Sources is more, well, reliable.  It’s just, Greenfield said, part of a “long tradition, if not entirely noble tradition, of political campaign propaganda.”

That makes the whole enterprise, in turn, quite different from the media machine Barack Obama constructed during his two terms in the White House.

ABC News detailed the moving parts in this 2011 piece.

Obama’s Media Machine: State Run Media 2.0?

As the 2012 presidential campaign kicks into gear, President Obama’s White House media operation is demonstrating an unprecedented ability to broadcast its message through social media and the Internet, at times doing an end-run around the traditional press.

The White House Press Office now not only produces a website, blog, YouTube channel, Flickr photo stream, and Facebook and Twitter profiles, but also a mix of daily video programming, including live coverage of the president’s appearances and news-like shows that highlight his accomplishments.

Let’s take just one: West Wing Week, specifically the April 13, 2012 edition that chronicled, among other things, the annual White House Easter Egg Roll.



Did you catch that nothing-but-net jumpshot Obama hit at 1:50? Here’s what really happened (via Politico).




(To be sure graf goes here.)

To be sure, there’s nothing earth-shattering about that particular fudge. But it’s indicative of how “state-run media” can shape reality.

So, to return to the original question.

Is Trump TV really all that different from Obama TV?


Obama TV – posted on, bankrolled by taxpayer dollars – was much worse.

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For the Last Time, People: It’s Bullwinkle T. (Not J.) Moose

Dear splendid readers,

If the hardworking staff has told you once, we’ve told you one time that the name of Rocket J. Squirrel’s sidekick is Bullwinkle T. Moose.

The death of the great June Foray, who voiced Rocky, has resurfaced the issue. Before we get to that, though, respeck for the First Lady of Animated Voicing, via her New York Times obituary.

Often compared to Mel Blanc, the cartoon virtuoso who supplied the voices of Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck and Porky Pig, Ms. Foray cackled, chirped, meowed and sometimes sang her way through nearly 300 animated productions, often playing several parts at once with quick shifts of accent, dialect and personality. Her work, unlike that of Mr. Blanc, was often uncredited, particularly in her early years . . .

“June Foray is not the female Mel Blanc,” said Chuck Jones, the legendary animator who proposed her star on Hollywood’s Walk of Fame. “Mel Blanc was the male June Foray.”

Unfortunately, Ms. Foray’s Associated Press obit (which ran in both the Boston Globe and the Boston Herald) included this paragraph.

“Rocky and His Friends” ran on ABC weekday afternoons from 1959 through 1961, and then “The Bullwinkle Show” was on NBC from 1961 to 1964, first in prime-time and later in daytime.

Besides Bullwinkle J. Moose and Rocket J. Squirrel, the show featured such sequences as “Fractured Fairy Tales”; “Peabody’s Improbable History”; “Aesop and Son”; and “Adventures of Dudley Do- Right.”


We say emphatically he was Bullwinkle T. Moose.

You, of course, have questions.

Question #1: Can 400,000 Google results and Wikipedia be wrong?

Answer: Absolutely.

Question #2: How can you be so sure?

Answer: First, it’s impossible to believe that the brilliant Jay Ward and Bill Scott would give two characters the same middle initial. Second, we can still hear – five decades later – Bullwinkle saying, T is for The(e).

Bonus visual evidence:



Trust us, folks: It’s Bullwinkle T. Moose.

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NYT Editing Slashback: ‘Lawyers . . . Views Their Client’ Edition

As the hardworking staff has noted on several occasions, the New York Times has over the past few months jettisoned its “low-value line editing” and replaced it with “bespoke editing.”

Cashiered Times public editor Liz Spayd wrote earlier this year that the paper’s “editing architecture” has traditionally employed multiple layers of editors, with most stories blue-penciled by three editors, “with up to six or more if the article is headed for home page prominence or A1.”

After a bitter round of layoffs, though, you can pretty much cut those numbers in half.

The editing slashback has created enough of a rumpus that the Times published this piece by in-house historian David W. Dunlap in Tuesday’s print edition.

‘The Heart of a Newspaper’

As the deadline nears for Times newsroom employees to apply for a buyout, it is already clear that the elimination of free-standing copy desks will be a wrenching change.

Of course, it falls most heavily on the copy editors who were told they do not have a future at The Times. But in time, it will fall on just about everybody in the news department, as the responsibilities of copy reading are dispersed.

Whether readers are in for a wrenching change remains to be seen. The management of The Times believes that the editing process can be streamlined without jeopardizing the accuracy of the news report. Many employees are less optimistic.

Not to mention many readers, some of whom saw this in an online Business section piece Tuesday about Pharma Bro Martin Shkreli.


Except in the print edition the hardworking staff received on Tuesday, it looked like this.




Two things to note: 1) The Times has declared itself a digital-first news organization, and 2) The Times has declared itself a subscription-first business (in the last quarter digital-only subscription revenue exceeded print advertising revenue for the first time).

So does that mean the Times is now a print-second news organization?

On Tuesday, at least, it sure looked that way.

P.S. Before any of you splendid readers start bombarding me with barbed comments: No, the error above is certainly not earth-shattering, but it also was not the only example of sloppy editing in that edition of the newspaper – or any edition lately.

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Round Midnight at the Global Worldwide Headquarters (Cole Porter Edition)

Latest from our (very) occasional series

The Great American Songbook is filled with splendid renditions of Cole Porter’s work (see especially Ella Fitzgerald and Frank Sinatra), but for our money Bobby Short is the best of the bunch.

So the Missus and I were listening to Bobby Short Loves Cole Porter over dinner last night when this song came on.





It’s standard-issue Cole Porter: smart, sophisticated, and snappy. But it’s these two verses that really struck us.

Do you from the moment you met her
Swear that you will never forget her?
Do you when she sends you a letter,
Begin to go into a dance?

Coupled with:

Do you from the moment you met him
Swear that you will never forget him?
Do you when he wants you to let him,
Begin to go into a dance?

Man, that is some sweet songwriting.

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The Arts Seen in Philly (Tim & Julia’s Excellent Wedding Edition)

Well the Missus and I trundled down to Philadelphia this past weekend for the wedding of our nephew Tim and, say, it was swellegant.

On the endless drive down there (hey, Friday . . . summer . . . 95 South – nightmare, right?), we stopped by the Bush-Holley House Museum to break up the trip. The house was  built in stages starting in 1728 and has quite a history, but what interested us was the part it played in the Cos Cob Art Colony.

From the early 1890s until the 1920s the Holley House was the gathering place for a group of artists and writers who were members of what became known as the Cos Cob Art Colony, the first Impressionist art colony in Connecticut. The Cos Cob Art Colony played a major role in the development of American art, because it was here that the leading American Impressionist artists gathered to discuss their work and to teach. Among the early members were Childe Hassam [his Clarissa at right], Ernest Lawson, Theodore Robinson, John Henry Twachtman and J. Alden Weir.

We got a lovely tour of the house from Deborah, then we got back on the road and drove. And drove. And drove . . .

The next morning we moseyed over to the (relatively) new Barnes Foundation, the staggering collection of artwork acquired by Albert Barnes (46 Picassos, 59 Matisses, 69 Cézannes, a knee-buckling 181 Renoirs, and countless other master works from Greco-Roman art to El Greco) that was formerly housed in a two-story Renaissance-style building in Merion, Pennsylvania, 20 minutes from downtown Philadelphia.

The Barnes was established much like the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum – nothing moves, everything stays the same in perpetuity. But after a protracted – and extremely bitter –  legal battle, the Barnes collection was uprooted and relocated to Benjamin Franklin Parkway, Philly’s Museum Mile, where a new building houses the collection along with two classrooms, a great hall, a restaurant, a gift shop, and an indoor garden.

Here’s how art critic Lance Esplund described the proposed move in a 2010 Weekly Standard piece titled “No Museum Left Behind.”

The Barnes Foundation is not just another way to look at art; it is the way artists look at art.

To move the Barnes collection is to inflict havoc on a distinctive museum experience, one designed to get us closer to the minds of art’s makers. To invite in all of the available 21st-century museum amenities and distractions (merely because we can) is to kill the essential spirit of the Barnes.

(New Republic art critic Jed Perl didn’t like it any better after the move. “The Barnes Foundation, that grand old curmudgeonly lion of a museum, has been turned into what may be the world’s most elegant petting zoo,” he wrote in 2012. New York Times art critic Roberta Smith begged to differ. All three are great reads,)

Anyway, here’s a representative sample of the collection.



According to one of the lawyers for the Movers (vs. the Stayers), “the new galleries . . . retain the scale, proportion, and configuration of the existing galleries and, through an interior garden, will reinforce the connection between art and nature.” (There’s a fascinating exchange between Esplund and the lawyer, Brett Miller, here.)

Now, I am nowhere near as smart at the aforementioned art critics, but it seems to me that if the Barnes Foundation had to be moved (the question at the very heart of that whole rumpus), what now sits on Benjamin Franklin Parkway (cost: north of $150 million) is about the best we could have expected.

There. That should tick off both sides.

After we left the Barnes, the Missus and I dropped by the Rodin Museum, whose Beaux-Arts-style building was designed by Paul Philippe Cret, who also designed the original Barnes.  As the museum’s website says, “[w]ith over 140 bronzes, marbles, and plasters, the distinguished collection housed in the Rodin Museum represents every phase of Auguste Rodin’s career.”


Then it was on to the Philadelphia Museum of Art, which has always struck us as truly impressive. A great collection of European paintings, wonderful sculpture, and major galleries from a Japanese teahouse to this New York town house drawing room.

Also currently on view (through September 17th) is the eye-popping exhibit, Wild: Michael Nichols.

“It’s all about respect for the natural world.”—Michael Nichols

Explore the work of legendary photographer Michael “Nick” Nichols: artist, technical innovator, and ardent advocate for preserving natural habitats. Be transported through the split-second magic of images captured in some of the most remote areas of the world. Nichols’s stunning photographs offer intense confrontations with the power and fragility of the wild and a reflection of our own humanity.For more than three decades, Nichols has ventured to the farthest reaches of the world to document nature’s wildest creatures and landscapes. As an award-winning photographer for National Geographic, he has recorded animals and habitats in locations as expansive as the Congo Basin, the Serengeti, and the American West with an unparalleled intensity.


(One other note: Although the denizens of the City of Brotherly Love are legendarily rude, the museum personnel and guards there were the nicest people we’ve ever encountered in those roles. Go figure.)

Then it was on to the main event: The splendid nuptials of Tim (my brother Bob’s boy) and Julia, a most delightful couple who tied the knot at the Free Library of Philadelphia. It was a wonderful night and we wish them many years of happiness.

The next day we drove home without incident, unless you count that thing at the Joyce Kilmer rest stop on the Jersey Pike. But, hey – that’s life on the road.

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The Grey Lady Moneti$es Yet Another of Her Journalists

As the hardworking staff has diligently chronicled, the New York Times is turning itself into a full-service, well, service.

Travel agency, tchotchke shop, conference center – you name it, the Times will do it.

For money, of course.

Now comes the Grey Lady’s latest money-making scheme: The Corner Office Master Class, touted in this full-page ad in Wednesday’s Times.

Nuts ‘n’ bolts graf:

Hosting the master class is Times reporter Adam Bryant, “a celebrated authority on leadership,” who writes a column called, yes, Corner Office. As our kissin’ cousins at Sneak Adtack recently noted, the Times is “increasingly blurring the line between advertising and editorial” in its efforts to offset knee-buckling declines in print ad revenues.

(See Jeff Gerth’s major Columbia Journalism Review takeout for further details.)

We totally get the need for newspaper organizations to find new sources of revenue. But there’s a fine line between selling Times coffee mugs and selling access to Times journalists.

Here’s hoping the Grey Lady doesn’t cross it.

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Shut Up: Ring Lardner Explained

From the first time I read a Ring Lardner short story (“Haircut,” I believe, like a billion other American high schoolers), I’ve been a huge fan of his work. So much so that back in the ’70s and ’80s I set out to collect original editions of all his books, haunting used bookstores from New York to California and multiple stops in between.

(That was, of course, pre-Amazon, pre-eBay, pre-Internet. So it took awhile. Like 15 years, at which time I got the last one for my collection, Own Your Own Home. I could buy it now in 15 seconds.)

As I’ve mentioned before, every October I re-read “A World’s Serious,” one of my favorites (available in The Portable Ring Lardner). Another favorite is The Young Immigrunts, which gave us this immortal exchange between one of Lardner’s sons and the old man.

Are you lost daddy I arsked tenderly.

Shut up he explained.

So I’m a bug for Lardner, as he might put it. Consequently, I read with interest Andrew Ferguson’s piece, “The Savvy Rube,” a review of the new book The Lost Journalism of Ring Lardner in the current issue of The Weekly Standard.

It started out a bit ominously.

“All readers know the disappointment of returning years later to some fondly remembered piece of writing and finding it withered with age.”

Been there, felt that, eh?

But then, this:

Every tendril of 20th-century American literature and entertainment shows [Lardner’s] influence. You find him in art high and low. The grotesques of Flannery O’Connor, Eudora Welty’s sly Southern hicks, the laconic heroes of Hemingway’s first stories, Liebling’s boxers, the rummies of Joseph Mitchell​—​they are unimaginable without Lardner’s having gone before. We can say the same about James Thurber and Dave Barry, Li’l Abner and Pogo, even the great Warner Bros. cartoons, on up to the surreal comedy of Donald Barthelme and George Saunders. Lardner the short-story writer looms at the top of the family tree.

But what about Lardner as a journalist, writing at times a thousand words a day, six days a week? Ferguson renders this judgment.

He was a slap-hitter, going for singles and doubles, rather than a long-ball slugger, swinging the heavy lumber and aiming for the fences. He considered himself a tradesman, a journalist through and through, from his spats to his boater. It seems accidental that he produced imperishable art.

And yet, “here and there some of the journalism rises to the sublime level of the short stories, and in it you can hear Lardner’s most enduring voice. It’s the strange mix that gave his fiction its power​—​the mind of a journalist married to the heart of an artist, making a creature as rare and improbable as the jackalope and heffalump.”

If you love good writing, you should read Ferguson’s piece.

If you love Ring Lardner, so much the better.

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Seats Still Available for NYT’s Worldwind Global Journey!

In journalism nowadays, there’s sell out, and then there’s sold out. The New York Times’s Around the World by Private Jet: Cultures in Transformation might be the former, but it’s apparently not the latter.

Here’s how the Times Journeys site describes the globetrotting adventure.

Fly around the world in a customized Boeing 757 jet for the ultimate in luxury travel. Spend 26 days visiting such places as Israel, Cuba, Colombia, Australia, Myanmar and Iceland. Four award-winning New York Times journalists will accompany you, each for several days as you visit areas where they have expertise.

(Helpful webinar here detailing the axis of travel: New York Times Company/Abercrombie & Kent/NYT journalists.)

But . . .

Here’s how the Washington Post’s Paul Farhi describes it.

[The Times’s trip raises] a question among journalism ethics experts about ethics and access: Is the Times effectively selling its journalists to private interests? Could, for example, corporate lobbyists or political operatives sign on and seek to influence the Times’s coverage?

A Times spokeswoman told Farhi that’s nonsense. “Danielle Rhoades Ha said the paper’s travel packages are ‘educational travel experiences’ and that its journalists don’t engage in any reporting or writing while abroad or afloat.”

Other media hall monitors note that these schmooze cruises happen all the time – from The Weekly Standard to the PBS NewsHour.

Then again, Andrew Seaman, the chairman of the ethics committee for the Society of Professional Journalists and a reporter for Reuters, told Farhi “[an] already skeptical public is left wondering if the paper may give preferential treatment to the person who just gave a very large chunk of change to their news organization. I don’t think that’s the question the Times or any news organization wants floating around in the world.”

Regardless, this ad ran in Thursday’s Times.

So, to recap.

The Times global private jet romp might or might not be a sell out.

But it’s not yet sold out.

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The Grey Lady Opens the Kimono All the Way

As the hard tracking staff at Sneak Adtack has dutifully noted, the New York Times is increasingly blurring the line between advertising and editorial.

Especially prevalent are the Russian nesting ads the Times has developed – advertising in the print edition that promotes online native ads that its T Brand Studio creates for marketers. (Representative sample here.)

It’s State of the Cuisinart marketing.

And now it’s mating with the extracurricular activities the Times has initiated in an effort to “monetize the Times brand.”

As the hardworking staff  has previously documented, the Times is more than a news organization these days. It’s also “the Times Journeys travel agency, the Times Store retail outlet, and New York Times Conferences, which brings together the international chinstrokerati ‘to deepen understanding of vital topics, advance innovative solutions to major challenges and provide new opportunities for businesses.’”

Sounds, well, vital – yeah?

Now comes former Times investigative reporter Jeff Gerth’s fascinating Columbia Journalism Review takeout of the news and advertising pas de deux at the Times.

In the digital age, The New York Times treads an increasingly slippery path between news and advertising

The April 2 edition of the Sunday New York Times, where the paper features its best journalism, included a six-page special section, “Women Today,” pegged to a summit in Manhattan a few days later.

The featured piece, on the state of the women’s movement, was by Tina Brown, the well-known journalist who founded the summit. In addition, eight women participating in the conference offered brief first-person accounts, and other articles appeared on topics that ranged from campus feminism to abortion.

What wasn’t in any of the stories was the fact that the Times itself owned a minority stake in the conference. Although the paper’s own standards call for transparency in this area, the section didn’t disclose the paper’s financial interest.

There are all kinds of other shenadigans going on at the Times as well.

Exhibit A: “[T]he newsroom and the company’s marketing department now work together in an effort to generate new sources of revenue. The editor of these sections meets once a week with the advertising department to discuss possible projects, while the advertising studio of the Times acts as a matchmaker between reporters and sponsors.”

Drive the purists nuts graf:

Dean Baquet, who has been executive editor of the paper since May 2014, says flatly that the traditional news-advertising divide has become a luxury the Times can no longer afford.


You should read Gerth’s entire piece just for the priceless Half Moon Bay/New Work Summit Conference rumpus.


Times business reporter fillets hedge fund manager Ray Dalio.

Times monetizer Charles Duhigg woos Dalio to appear at conference.

Dalio agrees.

Times business reporter re-fillets Dalio on day one of conference.

Dalio spends conference appearance filleting Times.

Duhigg defends Times in aftermath.

Dalio buys online ads re-filleting Times. Some run in the Times.


As fascinating as Gerth’s piece might be, it was hardly exhaustive. One week later, the Washington Post’s redoubtable Paul Farhi filed this piece.

The New York Times will fly you around the world for $135,000. Is that a problem?

It’s the trip of a lifetime — around the world in 26 days, with stops in nine countries. Just 50 people will travel on this guided tour next year via a private Boeing 757 to places like Marrakesh, Easter Island and Reykjavik, Iceland.

The price: $135,000 per person.

And that’s not all. Those who make the journey will be accompanied on various legs by journalists from the New York Times. The newspaper is organizing and promoting the package, which it calls “Around the World by Private Jet: Cultures in Transformation.” Among those scheduled to join the traveling party are Washington bureau chief Elisabeth Bumiller, op-ed columnist Nicholas Kristof and Publisher Arthur O. Sulzberger Jr.

So – is that a problem?

[T]he Times “essentially gives unrestricted access to some of the paper’s best-known journalists and names,” said Andrew Seaman, the chairman of the ethics committee for the Society of Professional Journalists and a reporter for Reuters.

Said Seaman: “No matter what safeguards the paper puts in place, it looks like a bunch of journalists flying off to far corners of the world with incredibly wealthy people. Of course, it looks like that, because that’s what it is.”

Not so brilliant!

But definitely relevant.

P.S. Yes, the Post piece did acknowledge its own checkered past in access-mongering.

Although the question [about the Times promotion] is largely theoretical, the issue has come up before in a somewhat different context. In 2009, The Washington Post aborted an effort to produce “salons,” or small private dinners that would bring together the newspaper’s top editors and publisher with government officials and industry lobbyists. The off-the-record dinners were to be sponsored by individuals or corporations willing to pay anywhere from $25,000 to $250,000.

Media reports about The Post’s plans triggered a public outcry. Critics said the paper was violating its own principles by peddling its journalists to vested interests and cutting its readers out of the dinner party. The acrimony prompted the paper to back away from the idea before it was ever implemented.


Originally posted at Sneak Adtack.

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