Sara Holbrook: “These test questions were just made up, and tragically, incomprehensibly, kids’ futures and the evaluations of their teachers will be based on their ability to guess the so-called correct answer to made up questions. … Stop it. Just stop it.” (includes test questions, plus annotations)
“Self-actualization is there at the top of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, and it’s what many games deliver. That’s all people ever truly want: to be.” And they can do it with minimal consequences IRL.
It’s not just that they can sing, dance, and act – that’s no longer enough. Programs are teaching them to write their own shows.
Benj Pasek, Justin Paul, Kirsten Childs, Nell Benjamin, Stew, Adam Gwon, and Kevin Del Aguila explain how they found their way into this specialized craft – one you can’t go get a degree in.
“All Russian loans to the US were halted in 2011 amid fears that they could be impounded after a US federal judge’s ruling that Russia must transfer a collection of books seized by the Bolsheviks to the Brooklyn-based Chabad-Lubavitch, an Orthodox Jewish community that fled the Soviet Union. Russia refused and, as a result, major US museums stopped lending to Russia.” But that deadlock seems to be about to break.
The Helen Hayes Theater has fewer than 600 seats (and had half that before a balcony was added). The Off-Broadway company Second Stage bought the venue in 2015 and is renovating it. “In the process, the theater company, which focuses on work by living American writers, is trying to figure out how best to use interior design to signal the organization’s decidedly contemporary bent in a decidedly noncontemporary building.”
Movie writer and director Barry Jenkins grew up a year older and just a block or two away from playwright Tarell Alvin McCraney – but somehow they didn’t meet until Jenkins was working on the movie that’s rocketing through awards season and audience emotions. “They remember the same swinging tree, dancing at jams held in the amphitheater, and the annual turkey bowl.”
“While translations do cross borders, broadening our cultural knowledge as they present one language in the terms of another, they can also become an impediment to free communication. As a translator of contemporary Japanese fiction, I’ve seen both the flow and the congestion, and have witnessed at close range the unintended consequences—and our lack of control as translators—when it comes to the way our texts move or fail to move across borders.”
“When we use the word [dandy] casually, we refer to men (it’s almost always men) who are fussy, even anachronistic. But the figure of the dandy, historically, has been far more subversive.”
The problem is, as Jessica Lahey writes, figuring out what the term does (and doesn’t) mean.
“The producer said he had given the Claude-Michel Schonberg and Alain Boublil musical ‘three shots’ and acknowledged that the writing team had ‘unfinished business’ with it. But he added: ‘I firmly believe there is something wonderful in there but I am not the person that will ever get it out of them.'”
“[Juma’a Ali] is fiercely proud of his role as the bookseller of Malakal. His little shop stands as a source of education and distraction from the often unbearable conditions the camp’s residents live with on a daily basis.”
“The high fees for television’s 1% — at a time when business models, episode orders, and distribution strategies are in the midst of a massive transition — has exacerbated the earnings gap between stars and supporting players.”
Great – but vinyl sales only accounted for about two percent of the market. Still, it shows that “people want tangible objects – it’s human nature, and there is still nothing as satisfying as cracking open a new record, placing it with care on the turntable, and letting the sound take you away, as you look at the album sleeve. Formatting a Spotify playlist will never compete with that, no matter how many millions of songs are at your disposal.”
For Simon & Schuster, publishing controversial nationalists can be immensely profitable. “During Milo Yiannopoulos’s tenure at Breitbart – where he’s told gay people to ‘get back in the closet‘ and women to ‘log off‘ the internet – he has amassed more than 1 million followers on Facebook. Threshold Editions, the Simon & Schuster imprint dedicated to ‘innovative ideas of contemporary conservatism’, has a hit on its hands.”
“Over the past century, popularity has shifted between certain drugs – from cocaine and heroin in the 1920s and ’30s, to LSD and barbiturates in the 1950s and ’60s, to ecstasy and (more) cocaine in the 1980s, to today’s cognitive- and productivity-enhancing drugs, such as Adderall, Modafinil and their more serious kin.” (Someone’s forgetting about heroin and crystal meth.) “If Huxley’s progression is to be followed, the drugs we take at a given time can largely be ascribed to an era’s culture.”
Affleck is getting awards and nominations galore for his performance in Manchester by the Sea. Last summer, Nate Parker was considered an even more likely contender for The Birth of a Nation – until word of his rape trial during college spread, whereupon his prospects plummeted. (Parker was acquitted.) Is the difference because Affleck is white and Parker is black? There are certainly reasons to think not, but the question keeps coming up.
“Fifty percent of the jobs will be gone in ~20 years. Not from the great sucking sound of jobs to Mexico that can be stopped with a wall. Not from moving offshore to China. From automation that is moving quickly from blue collar manufacturing to white collar information work. Second only to climate change, this is the greatest disruption of our time, and I don’t mean that word in a good way.”
“There are, of course, different types of unreliable narrators; those who are fooling themselves, those who are fooling others, and a range in between. Here are a few of the ones that stand out.”
“The fact that someone with extreme views considered offensive by many people got such a significant book advance shows how the publishing world reflects, and plays to, many of the divides in our culture. Few left-leaning readers realize that within mainstream publishing, conservative books are a booming business.”
The Academy just looooves movies about Hollywood. (Exhibit A: The Artist) (What, you don’t remember The Artist?)
For a new staging of The Tempest starring Simon Russell Beale at Stratford-upon-Avon, the Royal Shakespeare Company is using the same techniques and equipment, including a costume filled with digital sensors, for the character of Ariel that Hollywood has used for Gollum and King Kong.
Sister Frances Carr, a resident of the sole remaining Shaker community, at Sabbathday Lake in Maine, passed on Monday at age 89. “Carr apparently didn’t like when people called her, 60-year-old [Brother Arnold] Hadd and 78-year-old Sister June Carpenter the ‘last’ Shakers – she was convinced others would eventually convert to the religious sect, something Hadd still hopes for.”
“[Drew Skillman and Patrick Hackett] were trying to build a 3-D chess application one night a couple of years ago when they discovered it had an unexpected side effect: As you moved the chess pieces around in virtual space, they left trails of light behind.”
“In Unbounded Histories, which can be streamed on any web-enabled phone as you enter the collection, [Andrea] Hornick creates soundscapes and recites poems keyed to individual artworks, all to encourage viewers and listeners to reconsider each work through her series of provocations.”
Joana Carneiro has just withdrawn from her third straight program there in four months – and for the previous two, no reason was given. Now we know why – and, fortunately, it’s good news.
“[He] led many of the world’s leading orchestras during a remarkable 70-year career that lasted through October when, visibly frail, he gave an emotional farewell concert with the Vienna Symphony, of which he was honorary conductor. At the end of the concert, he blew kisses to the musicians.”
“The Writers Guild of America hands out only three movie awards – a paltry number compared to the guild’s 26 TV categories – but this year’s list of nominees is complete with an interesting split from the Academy.”
The death of critic John Berger, who is best known for his four-part BBC series called “Ways of Seeing,” has prompted a number of reflections on what it means to be a critic, what makes a great critic, and whether or not the current age values such criticism. Berger wrote often about being skeptical about perceptions of art and hardened wisdom about what it meant. He suggested a way of looking at art that was fresh and personal and questioned the generic.
Today, criticism is often seen as old-fashioned – why rely on some old fart at a newspaper to tell you what’s what when you can bloody well make up your own mind? We usually have immediate access to the music, films, art and books under discussion, so we can just see for ourselves. This is a reasonable position; why peruse a dozen 150-word album reviews if you’re just looking for something new to listen to? Spotify can do that for you. In a world where culture is merely entertainment, criticism has no function.
It’s tempting to think that criticism has been reduced to a Consumer Reports function that gets straight to the point about whether or not the art in question is worth engaging with or not. But
we have to believe that people – ordinary people, sitting at home at night – are interested in nuanced, complex and even difficult art. Only through that will we find someone like Berger, who might help us learn how to look at it.