A Brain RAM Problem?

“If the computer is bringing such momentous intellectual gains, where is the evidence of it? Only 42% of the 2003 freshman class in the California State University system were proficient in math and English. SAT scores, reading levels and other measurements of achievement reported by the press show a steady decline and a consistent lowering of levels of understanding, knowledge and abilities, most markedly since the God-like computer came on the scene. Certainly there are social, cultural and economic reasons for some of it, but the most basic cause may be neurological.”

Minority Opinion

“Every black writer has a piece about the special challenges of being black. Every Latino writer has a piece on growing up Latino or speaking Spanglish. Native American writers lament their treatment at the hands of Caucasian police or describe journeys they made to rekindle their lost heritage. Chinese American and Korean American writers have pieces about the difficulties their Asian-born parents have living in America. And so on. Please don’t misunderstand me. I rejoice at these honest and exciting essays, and I teach some of them in my classes every semester. But it seems that writers who happen to be members of minority groups are getting pigeonholed.”

Touring Theatre Moves On…

The days of the sell-em-out touring mega-musicals is over and the business of touring theatre has changed substantially. Eight years ago Equity actors logged 44,000 tour-weeks of work. By last season it was 21,000. More shows are hiring non-union actors, and more venues are vying for the shows that are out there. It all makes current negotiations on a new union actors contract a dicey affair…

Who Will Run CBC TV?

The CBC is looking for a new executive to run its English-language TV netork. The “job isn’t quite the plum it was even 10 years ago. The television universe is more crowded, competitive and confused than ever. Even with the continued popularity of Hockey Night in Canada, the CBC, like most traditional broadcasters, has lost audience share to the sundry cable and satellite-delivered services out there. Then, of course, there’s the constant insecurity over just how much the CBC can expect each year from its parliamentary appropriation.”

Axelrod Strads Can’t Travel To Canada

“The efforts of Stratford Summer Music to bring the Axelrod Stradivarius String Quartet to Canada for a series of concerts have fallen through — and have left the Stratford concert presenter and Washington, D.C.’s Smithsonian Institution pointing fingers at each other.” The quartet plays on instruments worth $50 million, and the Smithsonian has clamped down on how often it allows them to travel in recent years. What actually caused the breakdown in this case is still murky, but the connection of the instruments to now-incarcerated philanthropist Herbert Axelrod is high on the list of speculative hang-ups.

PBS Takes Aim At FCC

Ever since Congress started murmuring about abolishing the supposedly left-leaning and elitist institutions of American public broadcasting over a decade ago, NPR and PBS seem to have been running either to the right or just to blandness. So the fact that an action-packed new cop drama is being produced by public television might qualify as a minor surprise. Even more surprising is that the producers of “Cop Shop” are taking some serious shots at the FCC’s recent crackdown on “indecency.”

The Original iPod

The Sony Walkman turns 25 this month, and if that doesn’t sound like a big deal to you, you’re probably too young to remember life without portable music. But Daniel Rubin isn’t: “For a mix-tape obsessive, this was like sprouting wings. Countless new soundtracks beckoned. I made running tapes, sunning tapes, sauntering tapes, strutting tapes. It provided groove for the quotidian, put joy in waiting. I was no longer prisoner of Donna Summer or Molly Hatchet on the radio.”

Is Sotheby’s Trading In Forgeries?

This year, Sotheby’s came within hours of auctioning off what it claimed was an authentic painting by the Russian artist Ivan Shishkin. The asking price was £700,000, a huge number, especially when it turned out that the painting was actually a forgery created on a £5,000 work by an obscure Dutchman. The backstage fallout from the near-auction has been swift and cutting. “Behind the scenes there are growing recriminations in the secretive world of Bond Street dealers. One accuses Sotheby’s, which dominates the market, of lack of competence.” Others are alleging that this is hardly the first time the auction house has been duped.

The Intellectual Musician

Pianist and author Charles Rosen may well be classical music’s most important intellectual of the last hundred years. But his devotion to the inner workings of musical style may have led to his reputation as an ultra-intellectual performer who sometimes doesn’t see the forest for the trees. “The fact that he has chosen to write about the physical experience of making music… may indeed be a reaction not just to some critics’ views of his performances but to the fact that his brilliant reputation as a writer and intellectual has distracted public attention from his considerable career as a concert virtuoso and recording artist.”

Why Do They Hate Us? Well, We Gave Them The Idea.

Since 9/11, the mainstream media can’t get enough of the question: ‘Why do the terrorists hate us?’ The answers tend to divide along political lines, but there is very little question that many in the Muslim world view the West as decadent, materialistic, imperialist, and dangerously secular. “But how did such ideas develop? One surprising source turns out to be a little-known group of 20th-century European intellectuals. They passed these ideas on to small groups of ardent followers, but their books and pamphlets gradually shaped a worldwide subculture of belief and devotion.”