“There are real, prestigious journals and conferences in higher education that enforce and defend the highest standards of scholarship. But there are also many more Ph.D.-holders than there is space in those publications, and those people are all in different ways subject to the “publish or perish” system of professional advancement. The academic journal-and-conference system is subject to no real outside oversight. Standards are whatever the scholars involved say they are.”
Archives for December 2016
“The notion that owning a bookstore is akin to an act of altruism has become a little outdated. In fact, 2016 offered encouraging evidence that after years of dire news stories about the literary industry selling books has once again become sensible business. To be fair, the past year was less a book boom than a hold-steady.”
“Neuroscientists can correlate activity in the brain with specific kinds of experience, but they cannot say this activity is the experience. In fact, the neural activity relating to one experience often seems nearly indistinguishable from the neural activity relating to another quite different experience. So we remain unsure where or how consciousness happens. All the same, the internalist model remains dominant and continues to be taught in textbooks and broadcast to a wider public in TV documentaries and popular non-fiction books. So our questions today are: Why this apparent consensus in the absence of convincing evidence? And what new ideas are internalists exploring to advance the science?”
Many of us grew up with an Enlightenment Bach, a nondenominational divinity of mathematical radiance. Glenn Gould’s commentary on the “Goldberg Variations” spoke of a “fundamental coordinating intelligence.” One German scholar went so far as to question the sincerity of Bach’s religious convictions. But the historically informed performance movement, in trying to replicate the conditions in which Bach’s works were first played, helped to restore awareness of his firm theological grounding.
Many in the publishing world reacted with outrage over the S&S signing. “Soon, however, pushback against the publisher transitioned from simple outrage to calls for organized resistance. One literary journal announced a boycott on coverage in 2017.” Authors announced they’d leave S&S and others were contemplating boycotts.
“I reached out to some of my favorite contemporary writers and asked them to name the most important books published over the last two decades. To my surprise, there wasn’t a lot of overlap in their respective choices: only 14 titles were chosen by more than one author.”
“When I read the hellfire sermon in A Portrait, I had heard some of those very words, even though I was born 40 years after the book came out. The Christmas dinner scene, with the bitter argument about Parnell between Stephen’s father and his aunt, could easily have come from many Irish tables in the 1970s and ’80s … Since corporal punishment in schools continued until as recently as the early ’80s, anyone who had the misfortune to be educated by priests or Christian Brothers (or indeed nuns) would have fully recognised the scene where Stephen is unfairly punished. It happened to us all.”
“Whether it takes phonics, whole-language learning, all-singing, all-dancing teachers, or the gradual introduction of criminal penalties for illiteracy, something has to change. A national reading push would be the moonshot that makes all others possible. How many more studies will it take? We know that readers vote more and volunteer more, and that reading literature deepens empathy. And — as finally, categorically demonstrated in a landmark Yale study last year — that readers live longer.”
“If you, in 2012, watched Adam Driver on Girls – an unhinged, distasteful walking id, as magnetic as he was bizarre – and said to yourself, ‘This guy is going to be the cast’s biggest star,’ you should probably start betting on horses. … Especially considering that the only thing more obvious than Driver’s gifts might be his presumed limitations – that topographic map of a face, that woodwind voice – the actor’s ascent raises the question of how exactly he became Hollywood’s go-to young actor of excellence.”
“I would say aged 37 I went through a complete midlife crisis. There’s this thing with an artist, you have to be very careful your self worth is not bound with your work. You’re not a bad person if you get one star. I started to meditate and I’m very proud of that and I started to work with a different community of people, and I started to work in service and sat with people in a hospice who were dying of cancer, I worked with Zen Bhuddist monks, I started to teach more.”
David Galef, who wrote the book on flash fiction, and Len Kuntz, one of the form’s most singular practitioners, have a dialogue about where a genre that can range from a few hundred words to a single sentence is headed.
“Time’s unknowable perils contributed to the flourishing of economic thought. But then something interesting happened. The creature became the creator: The economy re-invented time. Or, to put things less obliquely, the age of exploration and the industrial revolution completely changed the way people measure time, understand time, and feel and talk about time.”
“The ideal, of course, is a piece in which the artistic qualities – in dance, those would be shape, tempo, rhythm, attack, etc. – are such as to elicit a feeling that you recognize as being on the side of justice. But you never know whether that’s really justice or just your wish for a piece you admire to share your politics.” Joan Acocella writes that choreographer Kyle Abraham manages to transcend the dilemma.
“By mixing moving bodies with mechanically repeating geometries, Oskar Schlemmer pointed us at today’s world of work, where automation is everywhere in the transcendent projects of globalizing neo-liberalism. Yet the smooth, cute, and joyous mood of Schlemmer’s robotic sensibility conveys something that at least temporarily alleviates the feeling that we are living in an epoch of click-bait robotics fueled by predatory virtual capital, where memes and farcical fragments of vanity culture keep repeating before our eyes, ad infinitum.”
“Judging by the way several theatres have answered the question in recent and upcoming promotional copy, this is far from a settled matter.” Hailey Bachrach looks at that marketing copy and the approaches it takes.
Matthew Lombardo’s one-woman show Who’s Holiday – about the
heroic dastardly deeds of the Grinch’s wife – got cancelled last month when Dr. Seuss Enterprises grinched about copyright infringement. Now Lombardo is fighting back, in Federal court. (And yes, Robin Pogrebin tells the tale with rhyming couplets in dactylic tetrameter.)
His middle finger in particular. Kapoor strikes back on Instagram at the artist who dissed him with the pinkest-pink ban.
“With such astonishing sums of money being tossed around, one might assume that art buyers are making cool, levelheaded decisions, especially when they’re in a room full of people they know and are trying to impress. This is often not the case. To the contrary, scientists see mounting evidence of ‘auction psychology’.” Here’s how it works.
Playbill helps us bid farewell to David Bowie and Brian Bedford, Patti Duke and Patrice Munsel, Edward Albee and Zsa Zsa Gabor, and all too many more.
“The playing is beautiful, of course – Mr. Barenboim is one of the greatest pianists of his generation – but it’s the talk that matters. It turns out that in addition to being a great pianist, Mr. Barenboim also has a knack for getting straight to the point.”
It’s a cliche of course that tools define the art. The recording industry is declaring 2016 the year that streaming became the primary way people are getting their music. But it’s not just that streaming is a vehicle. It’s changing the ways artists are thinking about their projects.
Streaming music services such as Apple Music, Spotify and Tidal are shifting not just how music is consumed, but increasingly how it is funded, created and marketed. The talk of the industry is increasingly about playlists and how labels and artists can seed their music into high-rotation mixes on streaming services to blend their new offerings with old favourites.
When vinyl ruled, musicians thought about creating albums of songs, some using the form to create series of songs that fit together or played off one another. Downloading killed the album as listeners went directly for the songs they were after.
But as streaming has become the preferred format and playlists are a thing again, artists are playing with the format.
Where downloads and playlists favored the lone song, streaming gives the artist and the album a fighting chance again. Anyone interested in a particular artist, from die-hard fans to novelty seekers, can listen to a whole album repeatedly — not just song samples, not just YouTube choices — and let subtler material sink in. Musicians don’t need to think so exclusively about what sounds, beats and structures the radio gatekeepers will allow; they can get poetic, political, sonically weird or all of the above. While big and glossy still works, it’s just possible that odd and heartfelt will, too.
And because streaming reveals precisely how people are listening, artists can see exactly what works and what doesn’t:
Because streaming services automatically count clicks, they make it possible to tabulate more precisely what people are listening to. In years past, a sale of a disc or a download revealed only that the transaction had been made. But a streaming service knows exactly how many plays every song is getting; it measures usage beyond the one-time purchase. And those streaming statistics, along with sales and radio plays, are now included in compiling the pop charts (though it takes 1,500 streams to equal one album sale purchase). The combination of sales, radio and streaming is arguably a far more accurate assessment of which music is finding an audience at any given moment. And because the music business, like all creative industries, runs on ego as well as revenue, a higher chart position is positive feedback for a star who’s thinking about taking chances.
Even better, streaming changes the incentives for listeners. Paying for individual songs as downloads tore apart the album; getting a song legally for 99 cents was a commitment, one that limited the audience for the album cuts beyond radio-approved, video-promoted hits.
Inevitably this will change our expectations about music and what artists give us. And the business model that supports music. Not a minute too soon.
“I heard someone say a black girl in a ballet is a distraction. If there are 25 white girls, everyone will look at the black girl. Everyone must be alike in a company, meaning everyone must be white.”
“What happens during REM sleep if your daily routine involves assuming a new identity in front of hundreds of strangers for several hours? Even in small doses, does that repeated performance generate emotional muscle memory?” The answer is yes – Sandra Oh, Judith Light, Simon McBurney, and other actors share their examples.
And only one of them was in D.C. Other major museum/gallery towns are well-represented, though, as are two pretty out-of-the-way spots.
It wasn’t only all-Hamilton-all-the-time, though that certainly leads the list. Among the other big news was the debut of BroadwayCon, the hit show stopped in its tracks by what should have been surprising good news, and the rise of Broadway’s next dynamic duo.
“The nature of truth. Theories of fairness. The essence of bullying. These are big, weighty subjects, and apparently 9- and 10-year-olds just eat them up.”
She was traveling from Philadelphia to the Russian capital via London when someone took $12,000 worth of money and property from her suitcase.
12 Plays of Xmas: 3. Ruined by Lynn Nottage
I can’t remember how I missed the Pulitzer-winning Ruined when it played in London in 2010. It was at a favourite theatre (the Almeida) and starred favourite actors (Jenny Jules, Lucian Msamati). Maybe I was … read more
AJBlog: Performance Monkey Published 2016-12-29
My favorite posts of 2016
In addition to writing about theater and the other arts for a living, I also blog in this space purely for my pleasure. Here are ten of my favorite posts from the year almost past: … read more
AJBlog: About Last Night Published 2016-12-29
We appear to be confronted with two very different sets of criteria regarding what can be considered a “safe space.” One is rooted in alternative populations seeking respite from the omnipresent social factory and its all-pervasive marketplace; the other is based on municipal fire-code regulations intended to prevent the type of tragedies that the Ghost Ship now signifies.
“This scientific study of scientific bias would ignite a romance of the mind, one that spanned several decades and ended up transforming both psychology and economics. Danny Kahneman and Amos Tversky went on to show that mistakes in human judgment are not exceptions but the rule, resulting from a host of mental shortcuts and distortions that cannot be avoided. We do not behave like “rational actors,” as economists once presumed; rather, we’re predictably misguided—subject to a “bounded rationality.” Tversky went on to win a MacArthur “genius” grant on the basis of their work. Kahneman would get a Nobel Prize.”