This week: A penetrating portrait of artist Chuck Close, a reality check on meritocracy as a concept, a look at anger and our access to visceral emotion in a media-saturated world, the enduring meritocracy of the Emmy as measure of success, and a Prime Minister exits stage right, humming.
- A Virtuoso Artist Profile: Wil S. Hylton’s profile of Chuck Close for the New York Times endeavors to figure out what happened to the artist over the past several years that has his friends and colleagues wondering. What the piece actually does is give a singular window into the art world and being an artist. One of the best artist profiles we’ve ever seen at ArtsJournal.
- We Assume Meritocracy Is The Proper Order Of The World (But What If It’s Not?) Here’s an idea that might rock your world: many of us have an unwavering sense that skill, talent, competence are basic criteria for success, and those who have more on the list should be rewarded more. But what if this whole idea of meritocracy is just wrong? “The basic idea—that we should rank candidates for power according to some desirable quality, then pick the best of them—seems too obvious to have needed inventing, but invented it was, and (at least in the West) not so long ago. If we go back to the occasion of its first appearance in the English-speaking world, we will find a group of men who opposed it, not just because they did not think it would work in practice, but because they disagreed with it in principle.”
- Anger Anger Everywhere (What To Do?): Why does everyone seem angry these days? Anger pervades our culture, and anger plays well in our popular culture: “We get Batman and Superman — once the extensions of our better selves — battling each other in a grim rain; the take-no-prisoners TV commentaries of Samantha Bee and John Oliver; abrasive, if clever, comics like Amy Schumer; rage and betrayal in Beyonce’s “Lemonade”; meth and degradation in “Breaking Bad”; beheadings, dragons, torture and wars for supremacy in “Game of Thrones.” So what to do with it all? At the same time, we’re closer and closer to evil in the world. “Social media makes the joy, suffering and anger of millions of people feel like our own. That is empowering and overwhelming. Social media also gives us the illusion that we can be effective merely by talking or feeling. The technology of this new form of mass communion has probably developed faster than our emotional capacity to process it.”
- There Are More Than 500 Scripted Shows On American TV. So What’s The Measure Of Success? It’s not a small question with so many shows competing for attention. There’s still one traditional marker that holds. “Over the last decade, television has both taken flight and blown itself up. In the new landscape, where the armies of cable networks, streaming platforms and video-on-demand services have trampled all the old mileposts, an Emmy is the last traditional, tangible mark of success.”
- Two Stories just For Fun:
1. Longtime Detroit symphony fan Marjorie Fisher could have given $390,000 to the orchestra when she died, but chose not to. Instead, she directed that a check for $5000 was to be given to each of the orchestra’s 78 full-time players. “She didn’t know many of them personally, but she had tremendous respect for their lifetime commitment to excellence and the quiet sacrifices they make to bring the joy of music to others.”
2. Outgoing British Prime Minister David Cameron became a musical meme this week. On his last day as Prime Minister, Cameron came out to speak to reporters and when we was done, turned away and hummed a short tune followed by “right!” But his mic was still on, and after news outlets played it, musicians began turning it into full-blown pieces of music, some of it ominous, some of it hilarious.