Maybe a Big Clue

Lots of print publications remain confused on how to integrate the Internet most effectively. Even after a good decade of fantastic-yet-narrowing options, good ideas seem elusive. Then, there’s Gordo:

I think a lot of traditional newspaper publishers say, ‘Wouldn’t it be great if one day we make as much money on our Web sites as we do in print?’ … Our strategy is for business leaders to engage with The Wall Street Journal all day long. Coca-Cola for years said they wanted to get a can of Coke within arm’s reach of everyone in the world. We now have the Journal within arm’s length to everyone in the world who wants it.”

— Gordon Crovitz, publisher of The Wall Street Journal, as quoted in Editor & Publisher online, Dec. 29, 2006.

Nearly all daily newspapers do not have online-savvy “business leaders” as their dominant readers. But to brainstorm with the Coke metaphor as a starting point is smarter than presuming the Web has an apples-to-apples comparison with paper. “Ain’t it a TV with text?” If it was that simple, we’d all already be there. -30-

Wal-Mart takes Liberty Bell to Arkansas

Copyright 2006 Ben S. Pollock


liberty bell 03 stress test
Andrew Lins (sitting), chief conservator of the Philadelphia Museum of Art, works with MicroStrain’s Steven Mundell to clamp sensor devices to the Liberty Bell. This is NOT a photo of Crystal Bridges curators sizing up the project. Photo: National Science Foundation

PHILADELPHIA — The Liberty Bell is moving to America’s heartland, specifically Bentonville, Ark., the National Park Service has announced.

The bell, one of the nation’s most prominent treasures, will be a permanent exhibit in the sculpture garden of the planned Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art.

Park Ranger Donald Oversight explained the federal government is taking out several birds with one stone.

“More people will be able to see ‘Ol Ding-dong’, what with the horrid midtown traffic here,” Oversight said, using the government’s fond nickname for the relic. “We’re worried about terrorists, too. By being in the Ozarks, you have both greater access to Americans for the Liberty Bell and limited means for extremists.”

Also, the moderate weather of Northwest Arkansas should keep the bell’s famous crack, which occurred in 1846, from growing.

The Liberty Bell’s relocation plan came after the museum, a project of Wal-Mart heiress Alice Walton, lost its bid for Thomas Eakins’ classic painting The Gross Clinic.

Thomas Jefferson University of Philadelphia had announced in November that it was selling the canvas to a partnership of Walton and the National Gallery of Art in Washington, unless its $68 million selling price could be matched. The school is raising funds to expand its facilities. Local individuals and groups announced a financial package on Dec. 21. The Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts and the Philadelphia Museum of Art now will own and exhibit the picture.

The 1875 oil shows Dr. Samuel Gross performing surgery before Jefferson medical students.

Walton has been buying classic works of American art for years for the museum, which is expected to open in 2009 in Bentonville, headquarters of Wal-Mart Stores Inc.

The Liberty Bell should be in place, however, by April 1, 2007, as it is to be displayed separately from the building, in an old-fashioned Southern gazebo in the sculpture garden. The pavilion will be a prefabricated model sold at Sam’s Clubs that can be constructed in minutes, or your money back.

“I know the Liberty Bell came from England. It’ll be the sole exception in our U.S. collection,” said the daughter of Wal-Mart’s late founder Sam Walton.

The symbol of democracy, “Let Freedom Ring,” will not only enjoy the mid-American protection of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and the FBI, but also the celebrated Arkansas State Police, Benton County sheriff’s office and Bentonville Police Department.

If that isn’t enough, the Minuteman Project has offered those of its volunteers who are back from rotation duty guarding the nation’s border with Mexico, armed with lawn chairs, binoculars and ice chests.

“The Liberty Bell will be safe in my home town,” Walton said, praising “the strapping masculinity” of Minuteman Project members.


Stone Not Stoned

Just to be self-referential, to refer to something I’ve published elsewhere, here is my review of the new biography of iconoclast commentator I.F. Stone. (No, not self-reverential.)

Reading other reviews is very interesting. Essentially all the majors come in already liking or hating Stone, and that colors their write-ups. At least one is a fan who was a protege and there is one by an enemy who also was a protege but then changed politically. You can’t guess where Christopher Hitchens would come down, but he likes the man and the book. The New Yorker’s had a couple of facts that must have come from some direct knowledge or other sources, as they disagreed with what I wrote, which came straight from the book — like what year Stone moved to Washington (link not readily available).

I say McPherson convinces me that Izzy Stone was politically influential. He was as influential as a relatively little-known journalist can be. He came up with scoops that then were followed up by top publications and broadcasters over a fairly long career. But did he end the Cold War or the Vietnam War, or cause either to end even a minute sooner?

Naw. -30-

Half staff is half mast

(… unless the old sailor or old soldier gets insulted then you never forget that here in landlocked Arkansas it’s always half staff)

Several American flags in the town of Lowell, home of the headquarters of J.B. Hunt Transport Services, have been flying half staff the last few days. Of note are two: the Northwest Arkansas Business Center’s flag pole, between its three brick buildings, and the McDonald’s a block away.

Hunt died this week, of a fall. Though widely admired, he was not a public official, and no online search indicates the governor ordered flags flown at half staff. And if the governor did, he could only order state flags to be dropped in respect. Hunt’s tragic passing is the only death of note in the area — or nation.

Yet, in driving around I saw that two banks’ flags are all the way to the top in the little city, as is the Lowell post office’s. Dropping the Stars and Stripes is to be done due to an official’s proclamation; not by the well-meaning impulse of a flag’s owner.

I stopped in the McDonald’s to ask why the flag was set for mourning, and the two young clerks told me they didn’t know why and that in fact they were unaware the flag was not all the way up. They assured me that when there was a free moment, they’d go out and raise the flag.

More than six hours later, after the drive-in had closed, I drove by on my way home. “And the flag was still there” — half-way down. Maybe it was half-way up. -30-

Elements of Life

On Wednesday, a prominent farmer’s house caught fire (here and here). He and his wife got out, due to smoke detectors waking them, but he went back in. He didn’t leave.

On Thursday, trucking magnate J.B. Hunt died, several days after slipping on ice outside his home (here and here).

Now, both were men up in years, so should have been expected to have passed in a more conventional and peaceful way. Yet, one was by fire, and one was by ice. -30-

Take Five, and Five More

It’s not that I see a lot of concerts. I don’t. So in the context of relative superlatives let it be henceforth:

Sunday’s concert of the Dave Brubeck Quartet followed by the Ramsey Lewis Trio was the best jazz concert I have ever seen.

This includes seeing Mr. Brubeck in Little Rock in 1993, ’94 and ’95, which would have rated fourth through sixth. The third-best concert was of Pharoah Sanders in late 1985 or early ’86 (The progressive Mr. Sanders turns out to have been a Little Rock native and was in town visiting family) playing sincerely in a Little Rock bar that wasn’t designed for live music, much less his intense jazz. Second best was Sonny Rollins at Stanford University in about 1978, when his horn’s microphone went out and he played on, changing his embouchure and breath to fill the auditorium acoustically.

Brubeck a decade ago moved slowly until he sat at the piano then he dropped 30 years; we thought we were seeing the last of him. Later this week, he is to turn 86 years old. He still moves slowly, and he still plays majestically. Two of his sidemen were the same; the bassist was new (though of a comparable age). Brubeck’s is still a largely cerebral music, even when he and his group play a standard like “St. Louis Blues.” The blues feel there was authentic, though, and the improvisations throughout the set all were fresh, neither canned nor frozen.

Fellow pianist Lewis followed, and the change was like sunshine breaking open after a dramatic thunderstorm. He and an incredible drummer showed both tremendous flexibility and a playfulness that was just implicit in Brubeck’s men. Lewis himself is 71, but he is comfortable even sneaking in a rock motif occasionally.

It can’t be unusual for any professional, but a cell phone interrupted a long solo of his. I only watched Lewis: He instantly stopped playing, holding his fingers directly over the keys to next be struck. He stared ahead, upstage. When the commotion died, he began exactly where he left, face still impassive. The audience after just that unaccompanied piece gave him a standing ovation that he accepted gracefully: We’re better than that, the applause said, and his smile said, I know.

I asked around afterward; we knew some people who sat close to the jerk. It seems his cell rang and he fumbled around for the phone so long that it stopped squawking. He looked at its screen to ascertain who the caller was, and he returned the call from his seat! He began to say, “I’m at a concert,” when at least dozens of people shushed him. He silenced the phone, Mr. Lewis resumed his piece, and a couple of minutes later the jerk walked out and did not return.

Lewis’ sidemen came back for the next song. As they wrapped up, the whole of the evening became as clear as the metaphorical post-storm above. Dave and Ramsey demonstrated a range of American jazz. It wasn’t the whole continuum by a long shot, but their sonorous contrast will stay with the audience for a long time. -30-