Michael Gross: The Art of Back-Scratching

It's been almost eleven months since the Metropolitan Museum named Thomas Campbell, a British tapestries expert, its new director. Since then, he's given only a few interviews, none of them particularly revealing of either his personality (shy but graceful) or his plans for the museum (spend less, update the web site). But his -- or more likely, the Met's press office -- choice of outlets for those interviews says quite a bit more. The museum is only interested in publicity it can control.

Campbell's first tentative conversations were with the New York Times, which has functioned as the Met's in-house newsletter ever since its former chairman Arthur Ochs Sulzberger took the same title at the museum, and British newspapers. More recently, he's spoken to two glossy magazines -- both arms of Conde Nast, the famously Anglophile publishing house -- Vogue and The New Yorker; at the latter, his interlocutor was even a British-born writer. Considering that the Met was born from the desire of 19th Century New Yorkers to demonstrate that Americans were the equals of Europeans in things cultural, these choices send a curious message. A more practical explanation may be found in Conde Nast's longtime financial support of the museum, funneled through its Costume Institute, the fashion and fundraising venture behind the museum's image-enhancing Party of the Year.

Although the Institute first merged with the museum as evidence of its desire to live up to its promise to the public that it would support education and local industrial arts, it has since been remade as the Met's glitziest (if least substantial) crowd-pleaser. Though its annual fundraising party is said to be downsizing next year (possibly in response to criticism that it tarnishes, rather than polishes, the museum's luster, but more likely as a result of the shrinking fortunes of the luxury brands that float the boats of fashion magazines), the museum's continuing dependence on that source of funding is evident in its choice of stages for its new director's ongoing dance of the seven veils -- magazines guaranteed to respond with what journalists call slow wet kisses. After Campbell wipes all the lickspittle lipstick off his cheek, perhaps he'll get around to giving the American public a peek at his thoughts on the future of our greatest art museum.

Michael Gross is the author of Rogues' Gallery: The Secret History of the Moguls and the Money That Made the Metropolitan Museum

Birther Maven Orly Taitz Brags Of Friendship With Michele Bachmann

Last night, Orly Taitz, the lawyer who has positioned herself at the top of the "Birther movement" bragged on her blog that she had made a new friend on the Facebooks. Whoever could it be? Why, it's Minnesota Representative Michele Bachmann! On the face of it, this should surprise no one.

But here's the curious thing! I have been out to Orly Taitz's Facebook page this morning and there's no evidence that they've become Facebook friends. What could be going on here? There are a few possibilities.

1. I am terrible at searching Facebook.

2. Michele Bachmann, or proxies on her behalf, befriended Taitz, and then thought better of it, which would be an unprecedented demonstration of cognitive thought from Bachmann, or her proxies.

3. Bachmann has merely joined some random Orly Taitz group or fanpage, which sort of isn't the same thing as becoming Facebook friends, but whatever, I'm not going to go leafing through every crackpot Facebook group to penetrate the mystery.

4. Orly Taitz and Michele Bachmann have attached two tin cans to a string and hung this apparatus in their respective domiciles, and are calling this arrangement "Facebook."

Full disclosure! Only a few days ago, I myself, passed on the opportunity to become Taitz's Facebook friend. Yes, I declined because she is, in a word, CRAZY, but also because she failed one of my other Facebook friending criteria -- no middle aged women named after Internet memes. I do have five mutual friends with Taitz, who I believe are all her "ironic" friends, including MSNBC host Ed Schultz.

Anyway, with Bachmann and Taitz, the standard "birds of a feather" saying applies and, like I said, that Bachmann and Taitz are on each other's radar is not something that shocks. If you want to be concerned with who is friending Taitz on Facebook, attention should be focused on mainstream GOP figures like House Minority Whip Eric Cantor and RNC Chair Michael Steele. Their names appear on Taitz's Facebook page where Bachmann's does not.

[Would you like to follow me on Twitter? Because why not? Also, please send tips to tv@huffingtonpost.com -- learn more about our media monitoring project here.]

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Bill Hemmer Talks About CNN Audition

Applying to be an anchorman is a lot like auditioning for a movie role; you need to send in a reel of clips and oftentimes try out in front of the camera. "When I was applying at CNN, I had to do a live audition where they messed up the teleprompter to see how I handled it on the fly. And they'd send breaking news my way to test my ad-libbing skills." You also need an agent, explains Hemmer, because they know how to negotiate your contracts when you get hired.

Judd Apatow Lobbies For Time Magazine Cover

Judd Apatow is working much harder on this article than I am. He wants to meet at 8 a.m., suggests six different events I can accompany him to and sends me more e-mails checking on my progress than my editor does. The two-minute video interview that I promised TIME.com turns into Apatow taking my camera, directing me for 15 minutes and editing it himself. It's not entirely surprising -- after all, I'm lazy -- but it helps explain how Apatow has become the most influential person making comedy in Hollywood

Suspicious Package Outside Oprah’s Harpo Studios

CHICAGO (AP) -- Chicago Bomb and Arson detectives are investigating a suspicious package found outside Oprah Winfrey's Harpo Studios.

Chicago Police News Affairs Officer JoAnn Taylor says security personnel found a dark backpack with wires hanging out of it early Friday in a flower bed near Harpo.

She says no injuries have been reported, and the building hasn't been evacuated.


Shelly Palmer: The Pirate Bay Ordered to Shut Down in Netherlands: MediaBytes with Shelly Palmer July 31, 2009

The Pirate Bay has been ordered by a Ditch court to close its operations in the Netherlands. The court noted that for every day the Pirate Bay kept operating in the country it would be forced to pay a $42,000 fine. Between the impending Swedish ruling, the Hollywood assault and the Dutch ruling, the Pirate Bay as we know it may be on its last legs.

Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer defended the Yahoo search deal to reporters, nothing that "nobody gets it." Ballmer's statement came after Yahoo's stock fell 12% almost immediately after the deal was announced. Ballmer also said that Yahoo will receive 88% of the revenue from search ads sold on its properties.

The National Cable & Telecommunications Association estimates that bundled voice, video and data plans may be worth as much as $35 billion a year to telecommunications companies. The NCTA noted that the valuation includes "enormous cost savings, lower prices and enhancement in value to consumers." With all the major telecom's offering triple play deals, the organization noted that 23% of all cable customers are now triple play subscribers.

Cablevision is moving ahead with its plan to spin-off its Madison Square Garden division, as well as each of its sports franchises. The metro-area media conglomerate made the news official yesterday at its board meeting in New York. CEO James Dolan emphasized the value of the MSG franchise as a sports entertainment entity, and reiterated that Cablevision will continue to operate in the telecom industry.

Disney reported a 34% decline in operating income for the third fiscal quarter. While the Mouse noted that international syndication of hits like Grey's Anatomy and Criminal Minds were positive for ABC, the network could not overcome the slumping ad market. CEO Robert Iger while disappointed did not sound discouraged, noting the strength of Disney's brand and business.

Shelly Palmer is a consultant and the host of MediaBytes with Shelly Palmer a daily show featuring news you can use about technology, media & entertainment. He is Managing Director of Advanced Media Ventures Group LLC and the author of Television Disrupted: The Transition from Network to Networked TV. Shelly is also President of the National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences. You can join the MediaBytes mailing list here. Shelly can be reached at shelly@palmer.net For information about Get Digital Classes, visit www.shellypalmer.com/seminars

Judge Denies Fox Business Request

NEW YORK -- A U.S. judge on Thursday denied a bid by Fox News Network LLC seeking details from the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve about the central bank's loans to companies affected by the financial crisis.