I’ve been bookmarking toothsome links for weeks, but only just found sufficient time to knock them together into a posting. Some turned out to have a short shelf life, but these are all fresh:
– My Wall Street Journal colleague Eric Gibson nailed it last week:
If Americans are generous, they are also vain. That’s the sad conclusion to be drawn from the fact almost every new concert hall, museum, hospital wing and university building bears at least one donor’s name. The “naming opportunity,” as it is called, is the instrument of choice for development officers–their tried-and-true method of coaxing money from wealthy people. The strategy has raised hundreds of millions of dollars for worthy causes. But with its bald pandering, it has also corrupted the true spirit of philanthropy….
According to Leslie Lenkowsky, a professor at the Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University, anonymous philanthropy accounts for only about 1% of total annual giving–a drop in the bucket. The number might be larger, but anonymous philanthropy, by its nature, doesn’t receive much publicity. There are no published surveys that might give it visibility and present it as an attractive option. Business Week, the Chronicle of Philanthropy and Slate all overlook it. “The fund-raising community dislikes it,” says Mr. Lenkowsky. “Named donors are like seals of approval and are thought to generate more funds.”
It is long past time for someone to publish an annual list of the country’s largest anonymous donations. The idea would be not to recognize individuals, as other lists do–an impossible task anyway–but to celebrate the spirit in which such gifts were made and, by encouraging more of them, to help American philanthropy recover its honor. Perhaps such a list could, over time, make anonymous giving so fashionable as to eliminate “named giving” altogether, or at least reduce its greedy prominence….
– Household Opera on being a city person:
I’m troubled by the mindset that everyone has to do their own thing, have their own vehicle, own their own house, go their own way, pull their own weight, not lean on other people, not reach out, not connect, not be reminded of the millions of other lives going on in the world (and if you don’t, you’re a freak, or a naive Pollyanna who’ll just get mugged or knifed). It’s the same thing that bothers me when I read about how people in this country are getting less and less involved with social groups outside their families, bowling by themselves, not going to the movies when they can sit in their living rooms and enjoy “home theater,” and retreating more and more into the private sphere….
– I am soooo into twang twang twang, the British harpist-blogger (you can move to Manhattan any time now, Helen!). Here’s another example of why:
Is it possible to be a perfect artist? To deal plainly, there is always more to do. That is the performer’s Catch-22, striving for something we can only manage in patches, if at all. As Eliot remarks in The Dry Salvages, “For most of us this is the aim/Never here to be realised./Who are only undefeated/Because we have gone on trying.” But that is why it is moving to see a performance. It is heroic–it carries on regardless of difficulty, and it aspires to something that, because it does not come easily, is rare and precious. When somebody performs astoundingly well, they defy their human limitations and deliver something rich and strange….
– I recently stumbled across a now-mislaid link to a site that included a long list of “break-up lines of the philosophers.” Way geeky, but also way cool. Excerpts:
The Solipsist: It’s not you, it’s me.
The Rationalist, v. 3.0: If you can’t see your faults, there’s nothing more I can say.
The Atheist: These things just happen.
The Kantian: You lied to me!
The Hegelian: Do we have to go through this again?
– Another cool list, this one of “the things I will not do when I direct a Shakespeare production on stage or film” (and no, I can’t remember where I found this link, either). Highlights:
1. The ghost of Hamlet’s father will not be played by the entire ensemble underneath a giant piece of diaphanous black material….
4. I will not imply that Hamlet is sleeping with his mother, or wants to….
12. I will not cast actresses as Helena and Hermia who are the same height.
13. Richard II’s minions will not be made to wear pink….
25. I will not use long red ribbons to represent blood, particularly if the long red ribbons bear an unnerving resemblance to pasta.
To the unknown author of this list: a grateful drama critic salutes you!
– Alex Ross (whom OGIC and I ran into at the Metropolitan Opera on Saturday) posts on a bloodcurdling phenomenon:
Just now I found myself typing the sentence, “La Mer, of course, depicts the sea.” Has anyone else had the experience of more or less forgetting how to write–not to mention forgetting how to talk or think–toward the end of a book-writing process? The other troubling sensation I have is that the more verbiage I produce, the farther I am from being done.
You don’t know the half of it, buddy. Just wait till you spend ten years working on a book….
– Alicublog, my favorite Blue American grouch, has also been known to write on matters apolitical. Somebody sent me a link to a mini-essay he posted last year on Glen Campbell’s recording of a pop song I love, Jimmy Webb’s “Wichita Lineman”:
That Jimmy Webb song is basically a dramatic fragment: a lineman in a barren stretch of the Great Plains during wintertime talks about the burdens of his business and the burdens of his love in alternating passages, but with a similar attitude: it’s hard work, and things might go wrong at any time. It’s pretty sophisticated for mainstream 60s pop, but it’s the arrangement on this record that lifts it into glory. The orchestral sweeps and twang guitar are perfectly normal–a little C&W, a little Living Strings–but because the song is so weird, they actually promote rather than assuage a feeling of unease, like a haggard-looking guy at the end of a bar methodically peeling the labels off each of his beers. The main riff supports the feeling: the telegraphic guitar part, thin and insistent, cushioned in distant, ethereal strings….
Nice, really nice, except that I think maybe he underestimates the quality of the song itself, perhaps just a little. Listen to this recording and see if you don’t agree.
UPDATE: A reader just wrote to remind me of the original link that led me to this posting. Thanks for helping me give credit where it’s due….
Apparently, it is ballet that will provide my ultimate salvation. It has come to my rescue on three significant occasions: during my childhood, at the outset of my major depression a year ago, and more recently when I plunged into a similar depressive episode. On each occasion, it was the exquisite beauty of ballet that redeemed me.
There is nothing in my childhood that would portend my intense love of dance, especially classical ballet. I grew up in a hardscrabble industrial town, several of my grandparents were immigrants, and “the arts” was something that strange men in capes and berets did with each other….
Don’t I know it.
– On the other side of the coin, here’s a retired dancer who reminisces wryly about the mixed blessing of appearing in Balanchine’s Nutcracker, year in and year out:
My first adult role was Grandmother in the Party Scene of the first act. The Grandfather I was paired with was Misha Arshansky, a pal of Balanchine’s. I would be prepped for our solemn entrance with penciled age lines, a gray wig and a dowdy lace shawl. Then we would shuffle and hunch through the frolicking kids until I made my exit, and had exactly 18 minutes to transform myself into one of the shimmering Snowflakes. I’d throw off the wig, wipe away my “wrinkles,” get my pointe shoes on and my tulle skirt in place and return to the wings in time to dance through the rising drifts of confetti snow. Onstage, I’d keep my eyes squinty and my mouth closed. The stuff was coated with some fireproof material, and if a piece got lodged in your throat, it tasted awful and you couldn’t cough to get rid of it. Ballet rule No. 1: music from the pit, silence from the stage….
Memo to parents: remember to be more grateful next time.
– Speaking of dance, my Washington Post colleague Sarah Kaufman wrote a great profile of Paul Taylor the other day:
When he’s creating a new dance, Taylor overnights in the 19th-century house he owns in New York’s SoHo, within walking distance of his company’s studios. But it is here, on Long Island’s North Fork, where a hillside of gnarled trees leads to an unbroken view of Long Island Sound, where Taylor spends most of his time. Snugly tucked in among the bare, twisted flora, his wind-beaten house is more of a burrow, like something furry animals would inhabit in a children’s book. Taylor has owned it since the 1970s….
That’s exactly right.
I suspect that as a cinematic genre, the Western might integrate language and action more thoroughly–and successfully–than most other types of filmic narrative. In this stark terrain, where civilization is ostensibly absent (even though its artifacts are everywhere), characters have little to do but fight and talk to each other. They do both in abundance….
Says the Hag:
Have you been looking for a book that combines an anthropological examination of a small New England town with the vagaries of lost rich-girl love with a desperate, almost frantic crisis revolving around a promotion at a bank? Have you ever suspected that such a book could be the best book in the world, with a heart-stopping last line that rivals Katherine Anne Porter’s Pale Horse, Pale Rider closing (“Now, there would be time for everything”) with its simultaneous blast of redemption and cruel irony? Well, have you? Look no further.
– The Brazilian Muse muses on the birth of a life-changing obsession:
I’m glad that Brazil found me when it did. Better late than never, I say. Because my interest in the music coincided with my move to the city, that curiosity for all things Brazilian helped introduce me to a whole side of New York City that I never would have found otherwise. It wasn’t because of New York that I discovered Brazilian music, but it was thanks to New York that my love for that music and culture could grow and thrive and evolve….
Yes on both counts. New York is the cafeteria of obsessions.
Lastly, two technology-related posts deserving of a quick peek:
– Here‘s a nifty little primer for those who’ve run across the word “podcasting” but don’t quite know what it is, much less how it works. (Trust me, it’s going to be big.)
– As for this, I smell a brilliant idea whose time is near–or here. When the price comes down a bit, I’m so there….