A new study in the UK says that the wealthier a child’s parents are, the more advanced a reader that child will be. “A government-funded study reveals that the gap occurs irrespective of natural ability, parents’ education or how often mothers and fathers read to their child.”
A new book by Philip Nobel chronicles the messy process of coming up with a design for something at the World Trade Center site. “A decade or two from now, New York City will have gotten what it wants and deserves – not a magnificent citadel but a patchwork of pragmatism, profitability and symbols. One day the World Trade Center site will bear the traces of its history – not just the epochal events, but also the pettier chronicle of craven compromises, showdowns and power plays.”
“Woman is the goddess, the poetess, the muse,” Balanchine once said. “That is why I have a company of beautiful girl dancers.” Would he have been happy, in that regard, with the current company? There are some very attractive women (and men, but Balanchine cared less about them) in today’s City Ballet. Yes, when he came to the United States he sought to make a company of all-American dancers, fresh-faced and perky. But some of the company’s biggest female stars now are spectacular dancers without being spectacular beauties. Is it merely sexist to lament that the current roster is not “a company of beautiful girl dancers?”
Workers at three UK museums have voted to go on strike. “Hundreds of staff are set to walk out on a one-day strike during the week beginning 14 February, to coincide with the school half-term holidays. London’s Science Museum, the National Railway Museum in York and the National Museum of Photography Film and Television, Bradford, will all be hit. Staff have rejected a 2.5% pay offer, which unions say was below inflation and derisory.”
“It would be nice if everyone agreed that somebody who creates a speech, composes a piece of music or writes a book has the right not to be ripped off. But it’s not that simple. Every work of art builds on what has gone before, using ideas and images that entered the public domain long ago. David Bollier argues that those who plunder it and lock up the loot with copyrights and trademarks are robbing humanity of its ability to create new works of art. What’s worse, many corporations copyright things they obviously oughtn’t, simply because they can get away with it. Who can afford to fight armies of well-paid corporate lawyers? Not the impoverished poet in a garret who borrows a small image from, say, a popular song and transforms it into a huge new one.”
Kevin Spacey’s debut running London’s Old Vic Theatre wasn’t exactly a smash with the critics. This season, though, he’s taking to the stage doing what he’s best-known for: acting.
Critics are torn when it comes to writing about the surprise ending of Million Dollar Baby. “Plot twists are sacred in entertainment culture, as lovingly protected as slumbering infants. And people who give away surprise endings are shunned and ostracized, treated as if they’ve raffled off nuclear secrets to terrorists. Apparently, the worst sin a critic can commit — judging from the zealous care with which many critics announce that they are tiptoeing delicately around certain plot points or earnestly warn that they’re about to spill the beans — is to mistakenly give away a surprise ending.”
The press is in for a rough time on Chicago stages these days. “Maybe newspapers had it coming. All those egos running around in fedoras the first half of the 20th Century. Then, more grimly toward the end of that century and in this one, all that unattractive insecurity and self-loathing and corporatespeak. All that nervous-nelly focus-grouping. All those scandals. The stereotypes of reporter-as-scum are legion.”
Far from being risky, conscience has proved lucrative for impresarios. Last year’s hit political plays were mostly built on verbatim evidence with a bit of spin and make-believe thrown in. This year, the formula has changed. Donald Rumsfeld look-alikes are out. The arts have stopped grumbling about the results of bad political decisions and moved towards driving the agenda. Still, two can play at that game. As artistic directors wrestle with the great social issues of the day, Tony Blair has, in a modest way, been dabbling in culture.
What’s with all the mechanical special effects in Broadway theatres? “It’s an odd irony. The performing arts, by their nature, are handmade and transient. But on Broadway, the temptation to reach for the power tools is almost overwhelming. Why, the logic too often goes here, hone your concept with fine-grit sandpaper when a chainsaw will do the job so much more efficiently? There may be some ragged edges here and there, but everyone will get the general idea, and, these days, who wants more than a rough outline?”