Chomsky: “Plodding Unsexy Application To The Facts”

Noam Chomsky, 76, has been voted the world’s top public intellectual by Prospect magazine, but he has no interest in that. “He believes that there is a misconception about what it means to be smart. It is not a question of wit, as with no 5 on the list (Christopher Hitchens) or poetic dash like no 4 (Vaclav Havel), or the sort of articulacy that lends itself to television appearances, like no 37, the thinking girl’s pin-up Michael Ignatieff, whom Chomsky calls an apologist for the establishment and dispenser of ‘garbage’. Chomsky, by contrast, speaks in a barely audible croak and of his own, largely unsuccessful, television appearances has written dismissively: ‘The beauty of concision is that you can only repeat conventional thoughts.’ Being smart, he believes, is a function of a plodding, unsexy, application to the facts and ‘using your intelligence to decide what’s right’.”

Italians Get Serious ABout Recovering Their Antiquities From American Museums

Italian police are heating up their cases against museums that may have stolen art. “The Getty case is just a slice of an illicit global trade in antiquities that stretches from the Egyptian desert to Chinese tombs to Peruvian monuments, and pulls in some of the most- respected names in art and academia. At least 52 items the Getty has acquired or handled were looted or came from smugglers, according to charges against Hecht, Medici and True that were contained in Italian court documents obtained by Bloomberg News. Eight such pieces are in the Metropolitan, 22 are in Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts and one each are in the Princeton University Art Museum and the Cleveland Museum of Art, the documents say.”

The Economics Of Textbooks

“College students now spend more than five billion dollars a year on textbooks, while states spend another four billion on books for elementary and high-school students. And the revenue is not being spread around: five publishers account for eighty per cent of new college-textbook sales in North America. But dominance has its discontents, and textbook publishers are routinely denounced as price gougers. The average price of a book is around fifty dollars, and many, particularly in the sciences, will run you well over a hundred.”

No Beethoven In Schools? How Absurd

“What does social reform and democracy mean, if great art is withheld from the populace? The ancien regime that confined the artistic canon to a prosperous few has no place in our culture. Nothing could be more patronising than to decide for our young people that some art is ‘too highbrow’ for them, perhaps because of their ethnic background or an unpromising urban environment. The idea that the western artistic canon is not ‘relevant’ in today’s multicultural classroom need only be reversed to be exposed as ridiculous. Imagine decreeing that a class of white teenagers cannot relate to West African drumming.”

World Cup Disses Bavarian Dance

“Members of Bavaria’s folk dancing association are incensed that they have been allocated just 45 seconds to perform during next year’s World Cup opening ceremony on June 9 in Munich. Millions of TV viewers from across the globe are expected to watch the opening celebrations before the first match of the tournament between Germany and a team to be drawn next month. The folk dancers are also furious after organisers banned women from performing – leaving the men, who wear Lederhosen and Bavarian hats decorated with the beard of a mountain goat, to slap their thighs alone.”

So Audiences Are Older… And Your Point?

“Though I have seen some strikingly young audiences for events in London and elsewhere while working with a touring company, you do quickly realise that the backbone of many audiences around the country is on the senior side of 60. There are certain venues where, if the comedy in a show is too raucous, you worry whether all of the audience is going to survive to the end of the show. As hearing aids produce their weird dog-whistle whine, and large sections mutter continuously to themselves, while other sections nod blissfully off, you can feel a little of the exasperation that impels the Arts Council. Yet is this anything new? The prejudice against the aged is always quick to surface, however dumb.”

Newspaper As Art Facilitator

The Guardian newspaper launches an international project to bring artists together. “Imagine if you put fourteen artists from seven different countries in a room together. What would they talk about? What would they learn? What would they reveal? Simply put, that’s what imagine art after is all about. We can’t put those artists together in one room – they’re in locations as far-flung as Tehran and Tirana, London and Lagos – but, using the web, we can showcase their work, put them in touch with each other and get them to talk.”

Hollywood’s Alternate Reality

“Since Hollywood is an industry dedicated to perpetrating illusion, its leaders often assume they have license to take liberties with the factual elements that support the movies they make. This practice is euphemistically described by marketing executives as ‘pushing the reality envelope.’ The way in which Hollywood crosses the boundary between the make-believe and the real world takes myriad forms.”

The “Silent Spring” Of Global Warming?

“Following in the tradition of policy-changing books like Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle, Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring and Ralph Nader’s Unsafe at Any Speed, Tim Flannery’s The Weather Makers, published in Australia four weeks ago, was cited by that country’s Environment Minister in an announcement yesterday that the government will officially recognize and address global warning as a growing threat. Now the book’s American publisher, Grove/Atlantic, hopes it will prompt U.S. policymakers to do likewise.”

San Antonio’s Stinson: Arts Funding Is A Bottomless Pit

The city of San Antonio is boosting its cultural budget. Columnist Roddy Stinson thinks that’s a bad idea, particularly after private fundraising failed to make much headway. “The annual March of the Mendicant Arts Mavens will not disappear from the City Hall stage anytime soon. Neither will taxpayers be relieved of an ever-increasing arts-agency financial burden.”