Critical Difference: March 2010 Archives
Quinn Dombrowski went to the University of Chicago because Quinn Dombrowski is a great big giant nerd. She is cheerfully geeky, insistently nerdy. Quinn Dombrowski is such a huge nerd she frets that the University of Chicago is becoming too social -- that the university has been gently cultivating a more well-adjusted, outgoing student body, which clashes with its famously studious reputation, which is why she went there to begin with. She has been worrying a lot about this lately. For the past two years she has made a quiet project of studying graffiti at the Regenstein Library, the school's largest library, and during that time she has noticed an increase in fraternity and sorority letters scrawled into its pale walls and wooden carrels.
The biggest challenge: shifting from telling a story that's read to one that's heard or watched. Radio is a much more intimate and conversational form of storytelling, a voice in your ear. With radio and television and our Web videos, we're learning to resist the urge to "explain" and let the visuals and audio do the talking. Sounds simple enough but to folks who've been writing for the page for years, it can sometimes feel like putting your pants on inside out.
The relentlessly changing metropolis is a story as old as New York, and the basic narrative of the Ohio Theatre drama -- about how gentrification makes it difficult for artists to remain in once-seedy neighborhoods that they helped to make safer and more attractive -- plays out in cities across the country. Still, it's worth pausing to consider, in the theater's final six months, what will be lost with its passing.
If you listen to NPR's "Morning Edition" in a loop, catching the end of the show before you hear the beginning, today's program would have brought you a story on Andrew Lloyd Webber's sequel to "The Phantom of the Opera," complete with comments from its West End director, Jack O'Brien.
A while later, at the top of the show, you'd have been forgiven for thinking -- if your attention had wandered, or you'd been multitasking -- that they were already rerunning the same story, or another one on the same subject. "Standing near the back of the audience, Jack O'Brien would occasionally shout out his disapproval," reporter Don Gonyea intoned, and you might have imagined the three-time Tony Award winner at a tech, getting boisterous with his team.
Then Gonyea finished his sentence -- "once even causing the president to pause, briefly" -- and you might have thought, distractedly, "What's this? Obama's at a tech rehearsal?" But, no, this Jack O'Brien turns out to be a self-employed electrician who opposes the Democrats' health care legislation "because he believes it will use federal dollars to help cover abortions," and because he thinks the country can't afford the price tag. And Obama was at a university in Pennsylvania, not a theater in London.
Ah. That explains it.
ARTicles, the recently dormant blog of the National Arts Journalism Program, comes back to life today with an excellent, much-expanded group of bloggers: Sasha Anawalt, MJ Andersen, Alicia Anstead, Laura Bleiberg, Larry Blumenfeld, Jeanne Carstensen, Robert Christgau, Thomas Conner, Lily Tung Crystal, Richard Goldstein, Patti Hartigan, Glenn Kenny, Wendy Lesser, Joe Levy, Ruth Lopez, Nancy Malitz, Douglas McLennan, Tom Moon, Abe Peck, Peter Plagens, John Rockwell, Patrick J. Smith, Werner Trieschmann, Lesley Valdes, Douglas Wolk and me.
Already up today are posts by Robert Christgau (on Robert Forster's criticism and on sportswriting as cultural journalism), Wendy Lesser (on the beauty of small music venues), and me. It's worth taking a look.
Update: There are fresh posts, too, by Larry Blumenfeld (on the morphing of "alternative" spaces), Richard Goldstein (on jazz manouche in Paris) and Peter Plagens (on the link between Holden Caulfield and Andy Warhol).