Hartford Ballet and Dance Connecticut both collapsed in debt. But “the demise of the Hartford Ballet has allowed smaller troupes, many of whom existed in its shadow, to gain attention, opening the door to experimental works in intimate settings that supporters hope will please experienced dance enthusiasts as well as attract new eyes. ‘The idea of a traditional company being a central institution in a city like Hartford may have played itself out’.”
For centuries, scientists held that the brain was a fixed entity, that it was hard-wired for each individual function, and incapable of reorganizing after injury. In the last half-century, however, new technology and cutting-edge experiments have exploded that dogma, revealing not only that the brain does in fact reorganize and adapt, it does so all the time. ‘A large part of our brains is devoted to vision-some estimate more than half. A question we are asking is what happens to that part of the brain when there is no input from the eyes’?”
“The existence of a universal aesthetic psychology has been suggested, not only experimentally, but by the fact that the arts travel outside their local contexts so easily. Displays of virtuosity make audiences’ hair stand on end, regardless of their specific cultural context. It’s no surprise this is a universal aspect of human nature: over thousands of generations, hunter-gatherer bands that exercised dexterity, and encouraged it by admiring it, would have survived better than their less skilful cousins against predators and the rigours of a hostile environment.”
An independent filmmaker gets fed up with the way the secretive movie industry’s ratings board does its work. So he tracks down its members and makes a film about its deliberations…
“We trust it. Should we? John Ioannidis, an epidemiologist, recently concluded that most articles published by biomedical journals are flat-out wrong. The sources of error, he found, are numerous: the small size of many studies, for instance, often leads to mistakes, as does the fact that emerging disciplines, which lately abound, may employ standards and methods that are still evolving. Finally, there is bias, which Ioannidis says he believes to be ubiquitous.”
Literary controversies rarely generate much national debate these days, but the dust-up over James Frey’s alleged fibbing in his memoir exploded into something larger this week when Oprah Winfrey, who had selected Frey’s tome for her famed on-air book club, weighed in with the opinion that Frey’s manufactured truth just isn’t that big a deal. The controversy is bigger than Frey, of course, and even bigger than Oprah. The issue is that major lies seem to have lost their power to outrage us as a nation. “Are we so used to being duped that over time, our outrage muscles have gone all slack and gooey? … Softened up by relentless hyperbole and the hot air of advertising, it’s easier for us to roll over and play dead when confronted with an actual lie.”
The Academy Awards are supposed to represent the last word in Hollywood quality, and to make a practice of honoring the best, not just the best-connected. But a quick glance through the best picture winners of the last two decades shows another side of Oscar. It would appear that Academy voters are absolute suckers for shameless tear-jerkers, and will always reward raw emotion over substance and relevance. It’s that preference for over-the-top melodrama that explains how Forrest Gump beat out Quiz Show, how Saving Private Ryan lost out to Shakespeare in Love, and it’s also the reason that such thought-provokig films as Syriana, Munich, and Good Night and Good Luck haven’t got a chance against Brokeback Mountain.
A new generation of art enthusiasts is coming of age (as are their investment portfolios,) and museums are scrambling to find new ways to integrate the new blood into their existing mix. “All the major museums in New York sponsor junior groups,” which seem to exist mainly to throw lavish parties and attract celebrities and cash. “Junior museum boards were originally closed, invitation-only groups aimed at the children of established donors. Over the years, however… the boards have opened wider. Today the junior groups are open to anyone who can pay the annual dues (which range from $500 to $1,000), and foot the $150 to $200 needed to attend the galas. And each party is more opulent than the last.”
“Government funding for the arts in Scotland will be increased, it will be announced this week, although the figure looks set to fall significantly short of the extra £100m recommended by the Cultural Commission… Although negotiations are continuing this weekend, it now seems certain that the Scottish Arts Council will be stripped of responsibility for the national companies – Scottish Opera, Scottish Ballet, the National Theatre of Scotland, the Scottish Chamber Orchestra and Royal Scottish National Orchestra – and merged with Scottish Screen… In future, the five national companies will be funded directly from the Scottish Executive, although sources say they will be protected from any direct influence from civil servants.”
Whether New York is really losing its primacy as the undisputed American center of the arts is quite debatable. But it is becoming increasingly clear that the heart of the American orchestral organism is beating strongly 3,000 miles southwest of the Big Apple. The Los Angeles Philharmonic has achieved that rarest of confluences in recent years – a first-rate ensemble, a finely tuned promotional operation, a top-flight music director, and an outstanding and inviting concert hall. Perhaps more importantly, the LA Phil’s success may provide a blueprint for America’s more staid and stagnant orchestras (one of which resides in New York) to overhaul their own product.