Playwrights unite across the country for short plays about gun violence, and to plan for longer productions as well. Why? “Today’s cultural climate is being dominated by fear and division. Theatre is an ideal space to challenge the dividing forces at work—a space for empathy, expression, and dialogue.”
Yeah, immigration didn’t just pop into international consciousness when Donald Trump was on the campaign trail. “Marginalized writers are told by white editors, we need your stories now more than ever, as if we have not always needed them urgently. We are told our experiences are timely, exotic, and trendy. We are told our stories are not authentic if our characters do not suffer, as if the only way to prove that we are human is to bleed.”
This widespread rejection of scientific findings presents a perplexing puzzle to those of us who value an evidence-based approach to knowledge and policy. Yet many science deniers do cite empirical evidence. The problem is that they do so in invalid, misleading ways. Psychological research illuminates these ways.
A clearer sense of the greater science ecosystem is required to figure out what role science should play and how society can best make that happen. Who gets to do research in the 21st century, and why? How has it changed over time? Is science in good shape, and how can we know? When I started asking these questions I realized there’s a lot that even scientists still don’t know about themselves.
“Why do two movies with nearly identical sex scenes get different ratings for sexual content? And why does the same thing happen with violence, drugs, and swearing? Is our ratings system totally arbitrary? Not quite. … In this episode of Watch Smarter, we explore how the subject shown on screen matters to the MPAA less than how that subject is shown – and the impression the MPAA believes a certain depiction leaves on the audience. Our journey begins with the F-word.” (video)
Well, okay, if he does it himself, it’s not exactly a forgery. But here’s the story of a couple who rushed to buy Duchamp’s then-reviled Nude Descending a Staircase (No. 2) from the 1913 Armory Show, only to find that someone else had beaten them to it, and how they ultimately convinced Duchamp to make them another one.
“Why was the Bard so fascinated with the fall of the Roman Republic? Why do we tend to turn to this play when we worry about society’s future? … Isaac [Butler] talks to theater critic Helen Shaw and English professor Andrew Hadfield about what was going on in Shakespeare’s time that led him to look back to ancient Rome. We also talk to theater directors Rob Melrose and Tyler Dobrowsky about the choices they made in their recent staged renditions of Caesar.” (podcast)
“When a Washington librarian made a polite request for patrons to cease using cheese as a bookmark in her library’s books, librarians across the Twitterverse chimed in with their tales of strange library book finds. The May 1 tweet by Anna Holmes was reportedly triggered by the discovery of a Kraft Singles slice, which to some librarians was a tame deposit.” (slideshow)
“An artist, teacher, and experimentally minded gallery owner who continued to make art after suffering a traumatic brain injury in 2010, … Bloodgood made abstract pieces that fracture and layer space with an offhand sophistication. They allude to Clyfford Still’s craggy patches of color, Brice Marden’s idiosyncratic lines, and Hans Hofmann and Joan Mitchell’s sparer and scrappier canvases.”
“Timpani is played by a rolling pin with spikes. A trombone slide is equipped with a mallet that hits a xylophone. A horn has a Hindustani tabla drum stuffed in its bell; it’s both blown and tapped. Rather than having a bow play a cello, the cello – strapped to a rocking chair, swaying back and forth – plays the bow. The piece is Mauricio Kagel’s Zwei Mann Orchester (‘Two-Man Band’), heard last week in the first of a series of ‘Sound Machines’ performances … The opening-night audience was slack-jawed.”
It’s not just that Donald Glover keeps dancing as violence spreads all around him, writes Aida Amoako. It’s our own kinesthetic empathy – the action of mirror neurons in the brain that makes us want to move along as we see someone else dance. “An internal struggle begins in the viewer’s body, which is pulled between joy and horror. Just as the video questions how we can dance when there is pandemonium all around, the audience struggles with whether to continue moving, too, after witnessing such brutality.”
“The prospect of ‘necessary’ art allows members of the audience to free themselves from having to make choices while offering the critic a nifty shorthand to convey the significance of her task, which may itself be one day condemned as dispensable. The effect is something like an absurd and endless syllabus, constantly updating to remind you of ways you might flunk as a moral being. It’s a slightly subtler version of the 2016 marketing tagline for the first late-night satirical news show with a female host, Full Frontal With Samantha Bee: ‘Watch or you’re sexist.'”
It is a collection of iconoclastic thinkers, academic renegades and media personalities who are having a rolling conversation — on podcasts, YouTube and Twitter, and in sold-out auditoriums — that sound unlike anything else happening, at least publicly, in the culture right now. Feeling largely locked out of legacy outlets, they are rapidly building their own mass media channels.
To the extent that the cultural-appropriation police are urging their targets to respect others who are different, they are saying something that everyone needs to hear. But beyond that, they can plunge into doomed tangles. American popular culture is a mishmash of influences: British Isles, Eastern European, West African, and who knows what else. Cole Porter committed no wrong by borrowing from Jewish music; Elvis Presley enriched the world when he fused country-and-western with rhythm-and-blues.
Once upon a time, Univision, an American broadcasting operation aimed primarily at Spanish speakers in the United States, was a tremendous golden goose laying tremendous golden eggs: It made incredible amounts of money and had to do essentially nothing for it other than run programming produced by Televisa, a Mexican broadcasting operation. The fairy tale ended long ago. Univision has been in decline for years, thanks to a disastrous private equity buyout finalized in 2007; an aging audience; a burdensome program-licensing deal with Televisa; competition from Telemundo and Netflix; layers of overpaid and useless middle management; and a general failure to position itself for a digital future.
While the self-proclaimed Resistance debuted with vibrant-pink mass action, the most-distinctive cultural creations that have accompanied it so far—at least in the rapid-response popular mediums of music and TV—haven’t been so fired up. Nor have they been, to use the clichéd dismissals that plenty of political art readily invites, shrill or didactic. Instead, the general drift has been in the spirit of Jeff Rosenstock’s album: self-questioning, tentative, conciliatory, emotional. It is, for better or worse, the art not of a revolution but of a failed revolution.
TouchTunes made itself a visible front-runner in a jukebox revival of sorts, in part because it allows users to choose music from their phones. In March 2016, the company—which has since merged with PlayNetwork—debuted an overhauled version of its mobile application which now “allows users to be the DJ and take control of TouchTunes’ jukeboxes” in 65,000 locations across North America. Through the app, these locations delegate musical, and therefore atmospheric, control to patrons and profit in the process. For dive imitators, these devices make it harder to maintain their neighborhood-bar veneer, while actual dives start to resemble their faux peers. TouchTunes erodes the premise of quaint regionalism as bars of all kinds transform into Top 40 danceries.
When Jesuit missionaries first arrived in what is now eastern Bolivia at the end of the 17th century, they found the indigenous peoples of the area to be musically inclined and taught them to sing, to make and play fiddles, harps, wind instruments and such, and to compose music in a hybrid European-South American idiom. Reporter Nicholas Casey travels to the old mission and cathedral town of Concepción to find that the tradition of music-making has remained strong – and that, to the amazement of musicologists, thousands of scores from the 18th century have survived there and even remained in use.
“[Jeff] Dunham is no children’s entertainer. His puppets are dysfunctional, foul-mouthed and unashamedly stereotypical, from Seamus the drunken Irish baby to José the Mexican immigrant and Achmed the jihadi suicide bomber. Spurning all accusations of racism, sexism and homophobia, Dunham has become a comic phenomenon. He doesn’t just hold the Guinness World Record for most tickets sold for a standup comedy tour – 2m across 386 venues – he is also ranked by Forbes as one the highest paid comedians on the planet, up there with Jerry Seinfeld, Chris Rock and Amy Schumer.”
Professional deputy stage manager Katie Jackson: “In theory, this should be quite a simple task; the actor dries, they ask me to read out their line to them, I do so and then they repeat it and carry on with the scene. However, ask any DSM and they will say that it can be one of the most stressful parts of the job. Every actor has a different way of telling you that they want to be prompted, … [and,] unfortunately, it is very rare for actors to tell you their particular way of acknowledging the need for a prompt.”
“The Los Angeles County Museum of Art is teaming up with the Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts at Arizona State University to establish a three-year program that combines academic training and work experience to develop a new generation of diverse curators, directors and other museum professionals.”
“The New York State Supreme Court on 7 May denied an injunction sought last week by collector Hubert G. Neumann to block Sotheby’s from offering a Jean-Michel Basquiat painting from his late wife’s estate. The work, titled Flesh and Spirit (1982-83), is to be offered in the auction house’s 16 May evening auction of contemporary art.”
When the Baltimore Symphony music director started OrchKids ten years ago – with $100,000 of her own money as seed funding – 30 students enrolled. Now there are 1,300, and Alsop hopes to see 5,000 kids taking part in the next five years. Reporter Michael Cooper traveled to Baltimore to have a look.
“French newspaper Nice-Matin reports that a minor stroke prevented director and Oscar-nominated screenwriter Terry Gilliam from attending May 7 court arguments on whether his The Man Who Killed Don Quixote will be permitted to close the Cannes Film Festival. … Paulo Branco (Cosmopolis), a onetime producer on the project, sought an injunction to stop both, claiming he has held the rights to the film since August 2016.”
Simon Rattle’s landmark 3-D high-def Mahler festival with the London Symphony Orchestra
So often when star musicians such as Simon Rattle hit a golden spot in their late 30s and early 40s, you stand back and ask, “Where can they possibly go from there?” … read more
AJBlog: Condemned to Music Published 2018-05-08
The Problem of “Engagement”
In March I had the privilege of participating in the Intersections Summit hosted by Milwaukee Repertory Theater. It was a heady gathering of community engagement practitioners from theaters (mostly) across the U.S. As frequently happens, … read more
AJBlog: Engaging Matters Published 2018-05-08
A Little Masterpiece in Central Asia
There are many reasons to visit Uzbekistan, which I did last fall. … [One of them is] the Samanid Mausoleum in Bukhara. The little structure not only survived the 13th-century marauder Genghis Khan but also many earthquakes and other natural shifts … read more
AJBlog: Real Clear Arts Published 2018-05-08
“Are We All Done?” Christie’s Delivers a Dull (but effective) “Sale of the Century” Debut
Maybe I’m getting jaded, but tonight’s first installment of the “Sale of the Century” — the David Rockefeller estate disposals at Christie’s — seemed to me as exciting as a wet blanket. (I suppose that would be me.) … read more
AJBlog: CultureGrrl Published 2018-05-08
Propwatch: the fans in The Way of the World
There’s no limit to how much bad acting you can do with a fan, if you’re in a folderol frame of mind. Point it for emphasis. Snap it shut in high dudgeon. Make peekaboo … read more
AJBlog: Performance Monkey Published 2018-05-08