Phyllis Wheatley was abducted from the West African coast and sold to a Boston couple at roughly age seven. Their daughter taught the young slave to read, and within two years, Phyllis fluently read and wrote English and started learning Latin. When she was 18, her owners took her to London to publish a book of her poems, and – once disbelieving publishers and others were convinced that Phyllis had written them herself – she became famous on both sides of the Atlantic.
Archives for December 2017
Adam Gopnik: “Christmas has always been a happily mixed-up holiday for mixed-up people and confused cultures. It is, at its roots, the very model of a pagan-secular-synthetic festival as much as it is a religious one – just the kind, in fact, that the imaginary anti-Christmas forces are supposed to favor.”
For decades, the theaters of Broadway — now numbering 41 — were the moneymaking breeding ground for these plays. But what was once the rule on Broadway is now the rare exception. And the traditional for-profit, new Broadway play is disappearing almost as surely as the dodo.
It all started with Richard Branson’s Virgin Atlantic (“make flying fun again”), which used hand-drawn cartoons. “In the ensuing years, airlines have pulled out nearly every gimmick imaginable to make their safety video a YouTube sensation. A Qatar Airlines video takes place at an FC Barcelona match, an El Al video takes the form of a cringeworthy Devo tribute, and … even sedate, legacy brands like British Airways, Singapore Airlines, United, and Air France have succumbed to the trend in recent years, with tasteful videos that offer their own unique spin on the genre.” Then there’s the undisputed champion, Air New Zealand …
Texas attorney Anthony Buzbee probably thought his evening was going well when he brought 29-year-old blonde Lindy Lou Layman to his $14 million mansion. But she got overly inebriated, and when he tried to send her home in an Uber, she hurled two sculptures across the room, ripped three paintings – including two original Warhols – off the wall, and poured some as-yet-unidentified liquid on them.
Reporter Judith Newman recounts a story that takes in the late monologuist, a Cleveland architect, his Weimaraner, his clients, Sherwin Williams, and, in the end, Gray’s widow and old house.
Thanks to Milo’s breach-of-contract lawsuit against Simon & Schuster for withdrawing publication of his book Dangerous, the draft manuscript with comments by editor Mitchell Ivers is now public record. So the Internet is having a high old time with it, and you can join in. (Our personal favorite note: “Beauty regime moved to box at end of chapter, after Nietzsche section.”)
In an extensive Q&A that also covers the history of the ancient Syrian city, its destruction by ISIS, the lack of an international or UN intervention to save it, and the trade in looted antiquities, Andreas Schmidt-Colinet, an archaeologist who worked at Palmyra for three decades, makes his case for what the West should and shouldn’t do at the site now that the shooting there is over.
Karen Brooks Hopkins, longtime president of the Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM): “As fundraisers, we are constantly told to look at the bright side: If at first you don’t succeed; smile though your heart is breaking, etc. But as a former president and chief fundraiser for a large multidisciplinary arts organization, I have decided, in the spirit of the season, to present my ‘bottom 10 list’ delineating the worst, most excruciating parts of the job.”
These dreams range from the very-much-doable (Norman Foster extending Madison Square Park) to the interesting-but-unlikely (requiring the new super-tall apartment towers to provide public space) to the good-but-too-expensive (elevated bike lanes) to the insane (damming and draining the East River and using the riverbed as farmland) to why-aren’t-we-doing-this-already? (a “cultural Airbnb” offering vacant storefronts for temporary use as performance or art venues).
Sure, the casting may have been ill-starred, but backstage, in the “opera factory, … the company’s army of artists and artisans started work nearly a year before its opening night, on New Year’s Eve.” Photographer Todd Heisler and reporter Michael Cooper give us a look at what the troops have been whipping up.
She began working as a singer at age 3, had a national radio show at 5 (she went on a national vaudeville tour at 7 to prove she wasn’t really an adult), and had a decades-long television career that included three Emmy nominations for playing comedy writer Sally Rogers on The Dick Van Dyke Show and nearly 20 years as a favorite on Hollywood Squares. She was doing voiceover work as late as this year, and a documentary about her came out just last month. (Fun fact: she says her father was an arsonist for Al Capone.)
Scientist Amanda Schochet and designer Charles Philipp are the founders of MICRO, which creates six-foot-tall pop-up museum kiosks that can be installed in hotel lobbies, transit stations, office buildings – even DMVs and post offices.
Ashley Rivers talks to Vandana Hart about We Speak Dance, in which Hart travels from Bali to Vietnam to France to Nigeria to Lebanon to watch and meet with dancers – traditional and contemporary – and sees how the art form is used for everything from religious ceremony to political weapon.
CBS’ broadcast of Kennedy Center Honors clocked its lowest ratings result in people-meter history, dating back to 1987. The Tuesday 9-11 PM broadcast fumbled 28% of last year’s 8.620 million total viewers, to 6.169 million. The demo dive: 30% from last year’s 1.0 rating to 0.7.
Algorithms that amplify fear and help foreign powers put a finger on the scale of democracy? These things sound dangerous! That’s a shift from just a few years ago, when “algorithm” primarily signified modernity and intelligence, thanks to the roaring success of tech companies such as Google—an enterprise founded upon an algorithm for ranking web pages.
There have been plenty of star-crossed productions in Met history, including the premiere of Samuel Barber’s “Antony and Cleopatra” that opened the Met’s Lincoln Center home in 1966 (amid serious last-minute technical glitches and labor woes) and Robert Lepage’s recent “Ring” cycle (built around a 45-ton set that had a habit of breaking down). But Mr. Gelb said that he had never before had to recast all the leads in a new production. “Luckily, there are only three principal roles,” he said dryly.
“I think the biggest change that is still to come is that much of the tracking and experimentation that we associate with online behavior will increasingly apply to our offline behavior. That is, right now, many researchers are aware that all our behavior online is tracked and subject to experimentation. For example, when you visit Amazon, they are recording and analyzing your browsing behavior, and they are running experiments to improve their business metrics. However, increasingly, more and more of these same things will happen with our off-line behavior because of so-called ubiquitous sensing and the internet of things.”
In a speech on Tuesday, Jo Johnson, the universities minister, said that universities “should be places that open minds not close them, where ideas can be freely challenged and prejudices exposed. But in universities in America and increasingly in the United Kingdom, there are countervailing forces of censorship, where groups have sought to stifle those who do not agree with them in every way under the banner of ‘safe spaces’ or ‘no-platforming.’ However well-intentioned, the proliferation of such safe spaces, the rise of no-platforming, the removal of ‘offensive’ books from libraries and the drawing up of ever more extensive lists of banned ‘trigger’ words are undermining the principle of free speech in our universities.”
“Despite the many advantages conferred by digital goods, comparable versions of physical goods are valued more. When a physical good such as a paper book, a printed photograph, or a DVD is digitized, it loses some of its value to buyers. Our experiments suggest that the key driver of this value loss is not the resale value of the good, or how much it costs to make, or how long it can be used, or whether it’s unique or popular. We find that the key difference is that digital goods do not facilitate the same feeling of ownership that physical goods do.”
Most of us believe we’re working smarter not harder. The fact is though, we’re caught in scarcity’s flywheel and it’s cascading a fire fighting, scarcity mindset throughout our organizations, magnifying the problem as things become worse for everyone. We’ll never “catch up.” Worst of all, we’re often oblivious to what will help us out of the bind as we focus on the fires, or assume if we just score that big grant — come onnnnn, lucky major foundation grant! — or sell out our season, we’ll finally be able to get ahead.
“From the get-go, the project was a behemoth. The Library of Congress was essentially vacuuming up every tweet, archiving it, and attempting to turn it into a public searchable destination. In 2013, the data already represented hundreds of terabytes. Even back then, creating this archive was an immense task, and as Twitter has grown and changed, it became more and more unfeasible. According to the U.S.’s oldest federal cultural institution, the decision to not archive every tweet was brought on by the platform’s growing volume.”
“The malign genius of the private equity business model, of which more in a moment, is that it allows the absentee owner to drive a paper into the ground, but extract exorbitant profits along the way from management fees, dividends, and tax breaks. By the time the paper is a hollow shell, the private equity company can exit and move on, having more than made back its investment. Whether private equity is contained and driven from ownership of newspapers could well determine whether local newspapers as priceless civic resources survive to make it across the digital divide.”
People used to say Atlanta has the “potential” to be a destination city for the nation’s great dancers and choreographers. Like a L.A. with Southern hospitality or a New York City with affordable housing and better weather. I would argue that the sophistication and quality of the work puts us in a world class. The work is here.
“Think of the way that life really can become lifeless. You know what it’s like: rise, commute, work, lunch, work some more, maybe have a beer or go to the gym, watch TV. For a while the routine is nurturing and stabilizing; it is comfortable in its predictability. But soon the days seem to stretch out in an infinite line behind and before you. And eventually you are withering away inside them. They are not just devoid of meaning but ruthless in their insistence that they are that way. The life you are living announces it is no longer alive. There are at least two natural, but equally flawed, responses to this announcement: constantly seek out newness or look for a stable, deeper meaning to your existing routine.”
The blistering growth has prompted new criticism from theaters and studio owners — namely that MoviePass will never be able to make money by charging $9.95 a month when a single ticket can cost almost twice that amount. They say that will cause MoviePass to either raise prices or go out of business, disappointing audiences and ultimately hurting the fragile multiplex business.
“Performing solo and with others, Z’ev improvised surrounded by homemade percussion instruments. He delved into attacks and resonances, propulsion and meditation. He worked with found objects and later with digital processing. He was intrigued by the properties of materials and by the paths linking sounds, images, the body, nature and spirituality. In a globe-spanning career, he collaborated with musicians, dancers, poets, performance artists and visual artists. His discography includes more than 70 albums as well as multimedia work.”
“As of Christmas Day, the domestic total for the year was $10.68 billion, or 2.7% behind the same time frame a year ago. The final six days of 2017 are likely to generate somewhere between last year’s six-day total of $408 million and 2015’s six-day haul of $431 million, according to box office tracker comScore.”
In a New York Times Acting Class video, “[the actor] explains how he becomes 19 characters in David Cale’s play Harry Clarke, which follows a shy Midwesterner as he reinvents himself as a Cockney Englishman.”
“Chanson Douce, [Leïla Slimani’s] second novel, sold six hundred thousand copies in its first year of publication, making Slimani, who lives in Paris, the most-read author in France in 2016. Elle put her on the cover, in red lipstick and a jumpsuit: ‘leïla slimani superstar.’ Politicians of varying persuasions clambered to reheat themselves in her glow. … Emmanuel Macron, now France’s President, reportedly invited her to be his minister of culture. ‘I love my freedom too much,’ she told me when I asked about it.”