Johnny Damon Is Now Fox & Friends’ Idiot

In today’s Morning Mediawire, Poynter Institute hall monitor James Warren examines ESPN’s failure to cover itself with, well, coverage.

The Undefeated is a terrific ESPN-created site on sports, race, culture and politics. If you’ve missed it, start checking it out. But don’t spend too much time looking for a story on ESPN show host Jemele Smith [he meant Hill] calling President Trump a racist and being reprimanded. And Sarah Huckabee Sanders attacking the network two days in a row.

Plenty of others are also taking ESPN to task, Warren notes, including some unexpected chinstrokers. “[The attacks] continued this morning on ‘Fox & Friends’ with Johnny Damon, a former baseball star of conservative bent, beckoned to affirm the show’s thumbs-down take on Hill.”

Yes, that Johnny Damon – former Red Sox center fielder/pennant race traitor. Here he is offering up his ruminations on the Hill rumpus (around 1:25).

 

 

Love that – after saying that things get “touchy” when politics intersects with sports, Damon compares ESPN to MTV: “It used to be a music channel. Now there’s no music on it.”

Not the sharpest spike on the baseball cleat, eh?

As you splendid readers well remember, Damon was the one who said of the Red Sox in 2004, “We are not the cowboys anymore — we are just the idiots this year … ”

In his case, of course, make that every year.

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Quote o’ the Day (Name That President Edition)

During our post-prandial reading last night, the hardworking staff came across this passage:

He put, aides noticed, more more concentration into watching the news than into almost anything else, you could watch with him but you could not talk. He felt that what went on these shows was terribly important. Perhaps it was not reality and perhaps it was not even good journalism, but it was what the country perceived as reality and thus in a way was closer to reality than reality itself.

Donald Trump, right?

Wrong.

That was David Halberstam’s description, in his 1979 magnum opus The Powers That Be, of Pres. John F. Kennedy, TV’s first political rock star and a man who 1) thoroughly understood the power of television in American society and 2) thoroughly stage-managed the coverage of his administration.

Plus ça change and etc., oui?

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NYT Still Can’t Find 50 People for Its $135K Worldwind Tour

As the hardworking staff noted several months ago, the New York Times Journeys travel agency has faced an uphill battle selling out its Around the World by Private Jet: Cultures in Transformation.

Full-page from yesterday’s Times.

 

 

The 26-day, $135,000 jaunt by private chartered jet for a select 50 travelers is described by the website thusly:

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.

Said journalists who will accompany the luck 50 (or so):

But . . .

The Washington Post’s Paul Farhi asks whether the Times is “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?”

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

Regardless, you gotta wonder when the Times can’t sell out its highest-profile sellout, no?

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Dead Blogging ‘Ideation’ & ‘Constellations’ at Area Playhouses

Well the Missus and I trundled out to Watertown last week to catch Ideation (through September 24) at the New Repertory Theatre and say, it was swell.

Playwright Aaron Loeb has created “a darkly comic psychological thriller” that starts out as your run-of-the-mill brainstorming meeting at a consulting firm for a mysterious client, then turns increasingly sinister as we learn more about both the “morally ambiguous” hypothetical project being pursued and about the consultants themselves.

The actors – Christine Hamel, Ed Hoopman, Matt Ketai, Jake Murphy, and Lewis D. Wheeler – submit uniformly sharp performances. Jim Petosa’s direction is tight, and the set design by Ryan Bates nicely captures the play’s fractured sensibility.

* * * * * * *

On Saturday the Missus and I trundled over to the Central Square Theater to see Constellations (through October 8), Nick Payne’s play about life as a multiple choice test, and say, it too was swell.

A mesmerizing romantic journey begins simply. Marianne and Roland meet at a party. They go for a drink. They fall madly in love and start dating. Or do they? There are infinite possibilities, and a single word may alter their lives at any moment.

Beyond that there’s beekeeping and quantum physics and ballroom dancing and lots more disconnected topics and emotions.

Marianna Bassham is wonderful as Marianne, and Nael Nacer is equally moving as Roland. Both exhibit an amazing ability to shift gears and personalities as their twinned narrative splits, resolves, unravels, and resolves again.

Kudos also to scenic designer Susan Zeeman Rogers and lighting designer Jeff Adelberg for their inventive staging.

This interview with Nael Nacer (who was heartbreaking in the Lyric Stage production of Intimate Apparel two years ago – for which he won an Elliot Norton Award) might give you a sense of the Russian Nesting Dolls quality of the drama.

 

* * * * * * *

So, to summarize:

Two really smart, thought-provoking, superbly acted plays are currently running in the Boston area.

You’d be smart to catch them.

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What the Hell Was Caroline Kennedy Thinking With This Dress?

From our Whiskey Tango Foxtrot desk

This item by Meredith Goldstein ran in yesterday’s Boston Globe Names column.

JFK’s grandson named to Vanity Fair’s Best-Dressed List

Jack Schlossberg, John F. Kennedy’s grandson, has made Vanity Fair’s 2017 International Best-Dressed List, which was released Wednesday. The 24-year-old, who has a degree from Yale and is on the John F. Kennedy Library New Frontier Award Committee, starts Harvard Law this fall. Vanity Fair says Schlossberg wore his most memorable look at the Met Gala in May. It was a black suit with a gray camouflage tie. He was at the event with his mom, Caroline Kennedy.

The same Caroline Kennedy, clearly, who is a first-ballot lock for any and all 2017 International Worst-Dressed Lists.

Paging Ivana Martini. Paging the Boston Herald’s Ivana Martini.

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How the Walter Becker Obits Got Steely Dan All Wrong

Sad to see that Walter Becker, the great guitarist and songwriting partner of Donald Fagen in the redoubtable Steely Dan, died last week at the age of 67.

Sadder yet, most obituaries wrote off the Becker/Fagen lyrics as (in the words of New York Times music critic Jon Pareles) “far from straightforward.”

Or, as Becker’s Associated Press obit characterized them, “subversive and literary lyrics that neither expected many fans to understand — and which they themselves sometimes claimed to not understand.”

Seriously?

Tell us you don’t get the heartachey narrative of Any Major Dude from Pretzel Logic.

 

 

Or the cinematic train wreck of Haitian Divorce from The Royal Scam.

 

 

Or the suicide-by-cop plea in Don’t Take Me Alive from the same album.

 

 

Or the Trumpian-before-its-time Chain Lightning from Katy Lied.

 

 

Sure – maybe Your Gold Teeth from Countdown to Ecstasy is a bit of a headscratcher, but over all, Steely Dan was far from “far from straightforward.”

Quite the opposite. In so many songs, Walter Becker and Donald Fagen were right on target.

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NYT’s ‘New York City Haiku’ Has Nothing on Félix Fénéon

A few months ago the New York Times ran a New York City in 17 Syllables contest, soliciting haikus (three lines of five, seven and five syllables) about the Big Town.

For National Poetry Month, The New York Times asked readers to write haiku about the city: three lines of five, seven and five syllables. The response — more than 2,800 submissions in 10 days — was as impressive, and as exhausting, as the city itself. Writers were asked to stick to six subjects: the island, strangers, solitude, commuting, 6 a.m. and kindness. Beyond that, poems could be fashioned from whatever inspiration the five boroughs provided.

Representative samples:

Now there’s a book of the city ditties, as this ad in yesterday’s Times announced.

Excellent: A thoughtful and fun testament to the city and its people.

But those haiku are a trifle compared to what Félix Fénéon produced in 1906 with his 1,220 faits-divers (“sundry events”) in the Paris daily Le Matin, almost all of which are collected in Novels in Three Lines.

Félix Fénéon was “invisibly famous,” as Luc Sante wrote in his introduction to the book, a major literary and cultural figure who “kept himself to himself.” In a 2007 London Review of Books piece, Julian Barnes provided a partial resumé.

Art critic, art dealer, owner of the best eye in Paris as the century turned, promoter of Seurat, the only galleryist Matisse ever trusted; journalist, ghost-writer for Colette’s Willy, literary adviser then chief editor of the Revue Blanche; friend of Verlaine, Huysmans and Mallarmé, publisher of Laforgue, editor and organiser of Rimbaud’s Les Illuminations; publisher of Joyce and translator of Northanger Abbey.

Best of all: Fénéon was a committed anarchist – while working for 13 years as a clerk in the French government’s War Office. Barnes again:

He supported the cause as journalist, editor and – almost certainly – bomb-planter. In 1894, he was arrested in a sweep of anarchists and charged under the kind of catch-all law which governments panicked by terror attacks stupidly tend to enact …

When the presiding judge put it to him that he had been spotted talking to a known anarchist behind a gas lamp, he replied coolly: ‘Can you tell me, Monsieur le Président, which side of a gas lamp is its behind?’ This being France, wit did him no disservice with the jury, and he was acquitted.

In his work for Le Matin, Fénéon was in many ways the first micro-blogger, so it’s only fitting he has his own Twitter feed.

A far cry from an upside-down map, eh?

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Rarer Than the Eclipse! Wall Street Journal Runs Ad in NYT!

Here’s something else you’ll see about once every hundreds years: The Wall Street Journal taking out a full-page ad in the Sunday New York Times.

 

The hardsipping staff  has no idea how many Times readers will discover the WSJwine Discovery Club, but here’s hoping the Grey Lady runs one of her around-the-world-for-$135,000 ads in the Journal soon.

And while we’re waiting for the actual eclipse, here’s another full-page ad that ran in yesterday’s Times.

 

Close-up (using special eclipse-ad glasses):

 

 

Pretty clever, no?

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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).

 

//players.brightcove.net/1155968404/r1WF6V0Pl_default/index.html?videoId=1553849499001

 

(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?

Yes.

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

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