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Monday, March 31, 2003

Are Our Universities Being Bought? "Just how far have industrial sponsors actually gone in seeking to use higher-education institutions and professors for their own commercial ends? How willing have universities been to accept money at the cost of compromising values central to the academic enterprise? Now more than ever, they [universities] have become the principal source of the three most important ingredients of progress in a modern, industrial society: expert knowledge, highly educated people, and scientific discoveries. At the same time - in a depressed economy, with the federal budget heavily in deficit and state governments cutting investments in higher education - campus officials are confronting a chronic shortage of money to satisfy the demands of students, faculty members, and other constituencies." Chronicle of Higher Education 04/04/03

Sunday, March 30, 2003

Difficult To Digest - Art Requiring Reaction So now there's evidence that modern art was used as a torture device in Spain during the Civil War. John Rockwell ponders the ability of art to provoke a strong reaction. "A subcurrent of shock and provocation has always lurked within avant-garde art, which deliberately sets out to challenge bourgeois convention and to elicit a strong response. My own experience has been that opponents of new art are much too quick to presume provocation, let alone provocation intended literally to torture. Still, there can be no doubt that outrage was and is a goal of some artists." The New York Times 03/30/03

An Older Appreciation Of Music You might think - given the youth-obsession of marketers, that music buyers are almost all in their 20s. Far from it. "The most powerful record buying bloc in America is made up of people over 40. And they're buying a wide variety of music - from newcomers such as Norah Jones and John Mayer, to new work by veteran artists such as James Taylor and Bruce Springsteen. There's more to the story than Baby Boomers flexing their demographic muscles yet again, though America's 81 million 35-to-54-year-olds do outnumber the country's 75 million 15-to-34-year-olds, according to 2000 Census figures. Boomers not only have the critical mass and the cash, they also have an entirely different relationship to music than young people do." Chicago Tribune 03/30/03

Thursday, March 27, 2003

When Ideas Exceed Needs Building in a sustainable way is a cultural problem. For example: "The idea of a tall building has existed since architecture’s beginnings and came to fruition in the Gothic era with the race towards the tallest nave and spire, and again in the United States during the early 20th century. Developing countries like Malaysia and China have now entered the global competition for the tallest building, indifferent to the building type’s ecological footprint and vying for the longest time holding the height record. The cultural footprint of a building of this kind then by far exceeds its ecological footprint. It is unlikely that rational argument will ever deter clients and architects from pursuing goals like the tallest buildings, goals that are deeply lodged in mental landscapes and reinforced by various media over decades or centuries. Similar forms of competition exist in other areas of architectural discourse." Harvard Design Magazine 03/03

Tuesday, March 25, 2003

The Objective Image - Is There Such A Thing? When it comes top journalism, facts are not just facts. A case in point - Americans are fascinated by pictures of the war, yet, "difficult" images of the war - dead bodies, for example - aren't being shown, as they are elsewhere. "At issue are several questions central to reporting and consuming news in the era of 24-hour television coverage and the burgeoning independent news media on the World Wide Web: Are images facts or illustrations? If a fact is ugly, should it be kept at a distance from readers and viewers? And what do news organizations do with the simple fact that there is both an eager appetite for, and a sincere disgust with, graphic images?" Washington Post 03/25/03

Monday, March 24, 2003

What Happens When The Definition Of "Classic" Changes Classic movies aren't what they used to be. That's not a judgment - more of an observation. "The canon has been changing over the last decade, and what makes a classic of cinema is now drastically different to discerning young moviegoers than it has been to their teachers or to the critics or to Leonard Maltin. The implications of the new canon are vast, much bigger than the specific films themselves, and they speak to the ways in which a new generation perceives history, reality, and even perception itself." Boston Globe 03/23/03

Sunday, March 23, 2003

Try To Remember... "Trying to be important is a zero-sum game for artists," writes playwright Jon Robin Baitz. "To be a blocked artist is to have a disease: Almost blind, often numb, you don't stop wanting to make art. And you don't want to find yourself staring at others', riven with rage like Rumpelstiltskin tearing himself asunder. I have seen that loss of direction and rage imprinted into the visages of so many artists I admire; this strange admixture of terror and bluster, the need to be loved, in combination with the need to dominate." Los Angeles Times 03/23/03

If It's Really Art, It Doesn't Fit In A Cliche Blake Gopnik has had it up to here with silly cliches about what art is or isn't. In fact, he has a top ten list of the silliest pigeonholes critics and pundits try to force art into. Included are such gems as "Good Art Is The Mirror Of Its Times," "Good Art Is Abstract," and "Good Art Is Finely Crafted." Says Gopnik of that last cliche, "a cuckoo clock is finely crafted." Washington Post 03/23/03

Madness And The Arts "Charles Dickens fought recurrent bouts of depression with hyperactivity. Hemingway, Sylvia Plath and Virginia Woolf took their own lives. Dylan Thomas drank himself into an early grave. Percy Bysshe Shelley suffered from recurring nightmares and hallucination and died at 30. William Blake heard voices. All artistic geniuses, definitely. All more or less mad." A new Toronto festival examines the connection between madness and artistic genius, from both clinical and cultural perspectives. The Globe & Mail (Canada) 03/22/03

Art Amidst The Guilt With soldiers dying 6,000 miles away, it's easy for those of us at home to descend into a spiral of 'arts guilt.' How dare we (pick one) read a novel/listen to a pop song/attend a play when matters of such import are afoot in the world? "Guilt isn't really guilt; it's recognition of ambiguity. It's realizing that we don't always know the right thing to do, that sometimes we'll end up doing the wrong thing, but that our desire to have the arts in our lives - to keep before us the simple pleasure of appreciating the audacity of creativity - can't be a bad thing, no matter how dark the skies grow in Baghdad, or, God forbid, Boise." Chicago Tribune 03/23/03

Tuesday, March 18, 2003

Iraq: A Looming Archaeological Crisis "Virtually all of Iraq is an archaeological site. Some 10,000 sites have been identified in Iraq, and many more, perhaps half a million, await discovery. They range from the size of a small city to the size of your backyard. Each has its own stories, each is unique, each is irreplaceable, each is crucial. The sum of those stories is a fundamental part of who we are today. Our archaeological heritage is a nonrenewable resource, and when part of it is destroyed, that part of us is lost forever. The political turmoil of the last decade in Iraq has turned its archaeological emergencies into catastrophes." Public Arts (WBUR.org) 03/18/03

Sunday, March 16, 2003

Wake Up... Now How Did You Do That? A new book examines the properties of human consciousness. "Scientists tend to concentrate on the locations, mechanisms and functions of consciousness. Philosophers, meanwhile, worry away at problems that used to be very old but, thanks to neuroscience, are now very new again. What has the mind to do with the brain? Is it true, as Descartes argued, that if I think, therefore I am? If so, what precisely does the thinking?" The Telegraph (UK) 03/16/03

The Best Art: Perceptions Over Ideas "Most debates about what is good or bad in art, desirable or undesirable, significant or insignificant are debates about preference. Theories are evolved to vindicate that preference and, like ideologies, are stultifying. The best artists are driven by their experience to reflect that experience. Few artists worth their salt begin work with a theory of art. If they do, they end proving theory rather than reflecting perceptions about experience. Perceptions are everything." The Guardian (UK) 03/15/03

Thursday, March 13, 2003

How To Enjoy Your Museum Visit Haven't been to a museum in awhile and you're wondering what the right way to appreciate what's inside? The Onion has a helpful guide. Tip #12: "Spend a minimum of 30 seconds, ideally 45, staring at each exhibit so no one will suspect that every molecule in your body is screaming to get the hell out of there and go to the mall." The Onion 03/03

Oops! Congress Accidentally Funds The Arts From the groundbreaking news organization that brought you such exclusive reports as "White House Pretty Sure Uzbekistan Diplomat Stole A Bunch Of Soap" comes stunning news concerning the U.S. Congress. It seems that the nation's top legislative body has accidentally approved a large amount of money to be spent on the arts. Members of Congress are, quite naturally, horrified by the revelation, with the Senate majority leader quoted as barking, "We approved what?" A House member was aghast at the implications of the funding allocation: "This means some limp-wristed NEA member will decide what qualifies as art rather than Congress or the president. Remind me never to skim a bill again, no matter how long it is." The Onion 03/12/03

Monday, March 10, 2003

Controversial Cleaning Cleaning art to make it clearer alters the work in a way some find unacceptable. "If one were to suggest that a Bach Cantata should be transposed and reconstructed to make it 'listenable' to a wide audience, many would find the proposition unacceptable. The same might be said of remaking T. S. Elliot's 'Wasteland' so that the poem would become 'understandable' to neophytes and school children. The situation surrounding a painting from the past is rather different in one crucial aspect, however. Re-writing Bach's musical score for a new redaction or Elliot's poetic structure for another less complex one does not affect the original text. The correct, uncorrupted text is still there and can always be consulted. Such is not the case with a painting which has been made more readable. The restoration operation requires that making the object more readable be conducted on the original, unique and only text itself." ArtWatch International

Sunday, March 9, 2003

Declaration Of Dependence Much of the history of the world has been the story of struggle against the powers that be, a fight for independence. But artists can no longer delude themselves into thinking they are independent - at least not if they want to be successful. "She and he calculate, measure and double-guess their art's compatibility with the rigid rules of the distribution of art, which dictate that art should be packaged in novelty and product-recognition or name-recognition, regardless of the esthetics or ideology represented in it..." ArtKrush 01/03

The Price Is Right? Wrong? Who Knows The price of something rarely has to do with how much it costs to make it. Setting prices is a complicated psychological game. "Anyone who sells anything knows that price is the pivot of business, the ultimate leverage. If you can raise prices - even a bit - you can increase profits dramatically. If you can't raise prices, you feel like your business is struggling, regardless of what is happening with cost, quality, or service. Meanwhile, anyone who buys anything knows that almost nothing has a single price anymore. Want to know the price of something? Well, you get back a series of questions: Who are you? How long have you been a customer? How much are you buying? How good are you at unblinking negotiation? Did you bring your frequent-shopper card?" FastCompany Issue 68

Thursday, March 6, 2003

Envisioning The City No one wants their city to become a sprawling, ugly mess. So why do so many cities end up that way, and why is it so difficult to reverse the trend? A combination of economic and political factors make for a wall of resistance against "building smart," and city zoning codes and neighborhood objections (also known as the Not-In-My-Backyard phenomenon) play a significant role in slowing responsible urban growth. As a result, only the most doggedly determined urban planners ever see their visions come to fruition in American cities. The Next American City 03/03

Tuesday, March 4, 2003

Clamping Down On Free Speech How does the Digital Millennium Copyright Act threaten freedom of expression? "The DMCA gives corporations the power to essentially purge from the Internet what they deem to be copyright and trademark violations, usually by forcing Internet service providers to remove offending Web sites. The act encourages such behavior because the law states that ISPs and Web host companies can avoid liability only if they comply with copyright owners’ demands to quickly remove so-called infringing materials. Search engines are also liable under the law for simply pointing users to Web sites, though they too can avoid lawsuits if they cave to the demands of overzealous copyright owners by removing certain search results. Intellectual property owners can simply make your voice disappear if they do not like what you have to say about them—whether you are liberal, conservative or neither. This is something that was much more difficult in a non-digital world." In These Times 01/03

Venice - A Theme Park Of The Past Venice - it looks so old, so preserved, so of another time. And it is. But it has been a battle - between those who believe it should always look the way it looked and those who wanted the city to evolve. So Venice now sits a prisoner of the past - but not really. Like all theme parks, Venice must be maintained and restored to keep the illusions alive. "In 1966 a great flood deluged Venice, and when it was repaired it looked exactly as it had done. After decades of restoration it looks as well as it ever has. Its international audience luxuriates in Venice. But the numbers of tourists rise uncontrollably and the city is flooded with monotonous regularity." The Economist 03/01/03

Sunday, March 2, 2003

Is Stupidity A Medical Condition? Is low intelligence a disease? Fifty years after the discovery of DNA, one of the co-discoverers says he believes that "low intelligence is an inherited disorder and that molecular biologists have a duty to devise gene therapies or screening tests to tackle stupidity." New Scientist 02/28/03

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