“The ‘convent exposé’ [was] a book, fictional or not, that purported to reveal the sin and salaciousness hidden behind the walls of religious institutions. In these books, sisters are kept captive, denied medical care, and sometimes raped or otherwise subject to sexual depravities. … These books, mostly forgotten today, were some of the most popular publications of their time.” (One was outsold onely by Uncle Tom’s Cabin.)
“As BuzzFeed‘s quizzes really started gaining steam a few years ago, a deluge of think-pieces attempted to make sense of why people just can’t get enough of them, even when they clearly have little to do with reality. Reasons included narcissism, existential searching, and boredom. … These probably are all true, to some extent. But they overlook something deeper about the nature of personality itself.”
Writes editor Adam Moss: “Sara never imagined herself a critic, but she has the makings of a great one. She comes at theatre criticism from an unusual background and perspective, which will be helpful, but she also happens to be a wonderful critical writer—vivid, wry, interesting, impassioned. We’re excited to welcome her to the dialogue.”
“In addition to being among the greatest Italian literary works, Divine Comedy also heralded a craze for ‘infernal cartography,’ or mapping the Hell that Dante had created. … There are several theories for why it was so important then to delineate Dante’s Hell, including the general popularity of cartography at the time and the Renaissance obsession with proportions and measurements. However, given the inherent limitations of mapping a fictional world, there was some debate between scholars over the specifics.”
“We take Wikipedia for granted these days, but the encyclopedia on disc was a big deal – especially because it was both cheaper and smaller than the alternative. Today’s Tedium dives into the history of the electronic encyclopedia. Eat your heart out, Encarta.”
If there is a gene for bluntness, Liu likely had it. In the 1980s, while still a graduate student in Chinese literature, he was already known as a “black horse” for denouncing nearly every contemporary Chinese writer: the literary star Wang Meng was politically slippery; “roots-seeking” writers like Han Shaogong were excessively romantic about the value of China’s traditions; even speak-for-the-people heroes like Liu Binyan were too ready to pin hopes on “liberal” Communist leaders like Hu Yaobang. No one was independent enough. “I can sum up what’s wrong with Chinese writers in one sentence,” Liu Xiaobo wrote in 1986. “They can’t write creatively themselves—they simply don’t have the ability—because their very lives don’t belong to them.”
For instance, stop saying Hobby Lobby was funding ISIS: That’s not true, but also, “in West Asia, most looting and most damage to cultural heritage generally is not being carried out by ISIS. This is not to belittle the horrible acts culminating in murderous violence that are committed by ISIS. Rather, the problem is ignoring the massive scale of threats to cultural heritage by focusing solely on one entity.”
As Wimbledon wraps up and a new McEnroe versus Borg movie is about to come out, let’s take stock. “Cinema loves boxing and baseball, and these sports, by and large, appear to love them back. Knockout punches and home-runs, after all, provide neat movie resolutions. But tennis, for better or worse, is a long-form narrative. It ebbs and flows; it doesn’t naturally convert to bite-sized screen drama.”
Speaking of persistence: “Sentenced in 1983, on her 29th birthday, to the seven-year maximum term for ‘anti-Soviet agitation and propaganda,’ Ms. Ratushinskaya composed some 250 poems in prison, many drafted with burned matchsticks on bars of soap. She memorized them and smuggled them on cigarette paper through her husband to the West, where they were published, and where human rights groups indefatigably lobbied for her release.”
Whoops: “What ticked Christie off the most, quite understandably, was a comment from theatre producer Bertie Meyer, who decided to tell the author, after seeing her recent publicity shot, that, ‘Frankly, Agatha, that photo makes you look about 70.'”
“I think it’s a golden era, too, but — hate to talk behind TV’s back — I also think artistry is in special danger of becoming mere stimulation. Even great shows surrender storytelling’s functions by overusing them, and then sacrifice the narrative to meet the frenzied demands of an industry that’s always improving upon sitting still.”
“Like a hardcover book, ‘cast album’ is starting to seem like a retronym. LPs are only available as collector’s items, and even CDs are on their way out. Instead, new scores, or just individual tracks from them, are downloaded or streamed in digital format, often before a show has opened. They can then be played in any sequence or combination a listener may devise.”
“With the possible exception of Asa Gray, no American read the Origin of Species with as much care and insight as Henry David Thoreau. … That the struggle among species was an engine of creation struck him with particular force. It undermined transcendentalist assumptions about the essential goodness of nature, but it also corroborated many of Thoreau’s own observations.”
I’ve conducted a thought experiment. If I were running a regional theater company and decided to devote an entire season to plays by women, which ones would I choose? Within five minutes, my imaginary season was planned. Not only did I make a special point of including two pre-1960 works that are now largely (if not entirely) forgotten, but I deliberately steered clear of the usual staples. No “Little Foxes,” no “Raisin in the Sun,” no Caryl Churchill or Sarah Ruhl —just six fine plays that I picked for no other reasons than that I think they’re good and are likely to appeal to the average playgoer, regardless of gender.
Judith Mackrell gives us a brief 200-year history.
“In my unfamiliar role as plain audience member, and parent, I found myself partaking of a protective view of the live performing arts that I generally abhor. All too often, I feel, live performance is treated as an invalid, something that needs to be shielded from the harshness of the outside world. It shouldn’t need this kind of special handling; and in my professional life I encourage myself and everyone to take a more active relationship, to dare not only to attend, but not to like. Yet I somehow seemed to fear, for my child, the thing that so many of my readers feel: the tacit idea that a strong critical voice might be powerful enough to snuff out the glimmerings of interest. It’s an especially patronizing view since it presupposes that, if someone is not told that something is not very good, he will not notice it himself.”
A new report from the Illinois-based initiative Open the Books provides an eye-opening look into the size of that tab. The study includes virtually every grant the NEA and NEH have made since 2016, and additional details about the endowments’ activities as far back as 2009. This includes grants to 71 entities with assets over $1 billion, and one grant to a California enterprise that celebrates the work of a Japanese-American artist best known for declaring: “I consider Osama bin Laden as one of the people that I admire.”
Dubbed the encephalophone, the instrument uses a method for recording brain activity called the electroencephalogram (EEG) to control a synthesizer. Sounds are generated via two different types of brain signals; those associated with opening and closing the eyes, and those related either to movement or just imagining movement.
Margaret Lyons: “Do you want to start with the dumbest nomination? Modern Family? … There is absolutely no reason Modern Family should be nominated ever, ever again.”
James Poniewozik: “Agreed on Modern Family – which was solid, eons ago – but House of Cards, always a disposable drama in prestige clothing, crossed straight into unintentional-comedy territory this season, but kept its lifetime pass.”
Each of the ballet’s sections is said to represent one of the art form’s great stylistic schools: French (“Emeralds”), American (“Rubies”) and Russian (“Diamonds”). Marina Harss talks with stars from the companies that embody those schools – the Paris Opera Ballet, New York City Ballet, and the Bolshoi Ballet – about Jewels, which they’ll be performing together at this year’s Lincoln Center Festival.
“‘Museums are rethinking the rush to digitise their collections amid concerns that such projects are costly and of little value,’ wrote the Times [of London] newspaper, in a report on [Tristram] Hunt‘s comments at the Hay Festival in Wales. … Responding to a question from the audience about the V&A’s use of digital technology to widen access in the regions, Hunt actually said that the museum is ‘involved in a massive programme of digitising [its] collections’ and is ‘very passionate about it’.”
“The Canterbury Heritage Museum has attracted fewer and fewer visitors in recent years, but a rescue plan involving the Marlowe Theatre is set to revitalise it. Janice McGuinness tells the story.”
Bible Bumble: The Befuddled Build-Up to the New Museum of the Bible
How is the ambitious, soon-to-open Museum of the Bible hoping to repair the collateral damage to its reputation, now that Hobby Lobby – the crafts and home decor company led by the museum’s founder, chairman and … read more
AJBlog: CultureGrrl Published 2017-07-13
“The increasingly fraught and emotional dialogue pits the progressive ideals of inclusion not just against historical business practices but also the definition of acting itself. If a role is written for a particular ethnicity, sexual identity, gender or disability, how far should the creative community go to find an actor who checks that particular box? And should the fact that many traditionally marginalized groups are fighting for better representation be taken into consideration? Who has the right to tell what stories? And who gets to make that decision?”