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Current Topic: Arts

Turn of the Century Posters | NYPL Digital Gallery
Topic: Arts 10:44 am EST, Feb 16, 2007

Hundreds of American posters printed from 1893 through the first years of the 20th-century. The collection represents the inception and heyday of magazine, book, and newspaper posters of the last decade of the 19th-century, and well into the 20th-century.

Turn of the Century Posters | NYPL Digital Gallery

YouTube - Video explains the world's most important 6-sec drum loop
Topic: Arts 10:23 pm EST, Feb 15, 2007

This fascinating, brilliant 20-minute video narrates the history of the "Amen Break," a six-second drum sample from the b-side of a chart-topping single from 1969. This sample was used extensively in early hiphop and sample-based music, and became the basis for drum-and-bass and jungle music -- a six-second clip that spawned several entire subcultures. Nate Harrison's 2004 video is a meditation on the ownership of culture, the nature of art and creativity, and the history of a remarkable music clip.

YouTube - Video explains the world's most important 6-sec drum loop

Well Versed: Questions for John Ashbery
Topic: Arts 10:28 am EST, Jan 14, 2007

Q: In the past few years, poetry sales have reportedly been climbing, perhaps because a poem appeals to shortened attention spans.

A: That’s true. It doesn’t take so long to read a poem, and if you need a quick fix or consolation, you can get it.

For a while now I've been considering Assassin's Gate, George Packer's book about his time in occupied Iraq. Yesterday I noticed the following quote at the beginning of the prologue:

Dive into the sea, or stay away.
- Nizar Qabbani

I almost bought the book on that alone.

Andrew Bacevich also found this noteworthy:

As the epigraph for his new book on the politics of America's intervention in Iraq, George Packer has chosen a verse by the Arab nationalist poet Nizar Qabbani: "Dive into the sea, or stay away." The poet's charge aptly captures the thesis of The Assassins' Gate: a great enterprise requires unequivocal commitment; to act halfheartedly is worse than not acting at all.

I am reminded of Rita Katz:

Rita Katz has a very specific vision of the counterterrorism problem, which she shares with most of the other contractors and consultants who do what she does. They believe that the government has failed to appreciate the threat of Islamic extremism, and that its feel for counterterrorism is all wrong. As they see it, the best way to fight terrorists is to go at it not like G-men, with two-year assignments and query letters to the staff attorneys, but the way the terrorists do, with fury and the conviction that history will turn on the decisions you make -- as an obsession and as a life style. Worrying about overestimating the threat is beside the point, because underestimating the threat is so much worse.

Bacevich concludes his review on a dour note:

Sometimes the effect of diving into the sea is anything but cleansing.

Well Versed: Questions for John Ashbery

On Losing the House
Topic: Arts 7:29 pm EST, Nov 10, 2006

Arresting though the outdoors photos are, with their silent testimony to a catastrophe that swept through humble neighborhoods accustomed to being ignored, it is the wrecked, mildewed interiors that take our eye and quicken our anxiety. Would our own dwelling quarters look so pathetic, so obscenely reflective of intimate needs inadequately met, if they were similarly violated and exposed? The third photograph in the Tisch Galleries, 6328 North Miro Street, brings the viewer shockingly close to a four-poster bed sagging beneath a dark weight of dried and crackled mud; carved pineapples blandly stand watch at the head of the posts, a chunky cabinet of some sort has been tossed by the evaporated flood into a corner, and lace curtains admit daylight between yellow curtains that have bent their valence under a weight of water. 5417 Marigny Street displays a gruesomely stained and still-soggy-looking orange sofa holding a lamp, TV table, and gaudy throw pillows amid a surrounding clutter that includes a vacuum cleaner, a broom, a baseball cap, a TV set. On the mold-spotted wall a small sign distinctly promotes SOUTHERN COMFORT.

On Losing the House

Rock ‘n’ Roll High School
Topic: Arts 8:56 am EDT, Oct 14, 2006

CBGB’S shuts down this weekend.

It was a private world. We dreamed it up. It flowered out of our imaginations.

How often do you get to do that?

CBGB’s was like a big playhouse, site of conspiracies, orgies, delirium, refuge, boredom, meanness, jealousy, kindness, but most of all youth.

God loves CBGB’s.

Rock ‘n’ Roll High School

A Splashy Los Angeles Debut by Banksy
Topic: Arts 8:29 am EDT, Sep 17, 2006

Earlier this month Banksy surreptitiously placed a blow-up doll dressed as a Guantanamo detainee inside the fence of the Big Thunder Mountain Railroad ride at Disneyland, where it apparently remained for more than an hour before park officials shut down the ride and removed it.

I had heard about the Paris Hilton CD thing, but not this.

A Splashy Los Angeles Debut by Banksy

How to Sell Books by Really Trying
Topic: Arts 10:43 am EDT, May  7, 2006

This one is for all the authors out there.

Having earlier piqued one browser's interest in "Hitler Laughing" by playing up its rarefied quality ("Everyone thinks 'Weimar: funny,' but not everyone thinks 'Third Reich: funny' "), I now tried the same trick with the Duras book. "It's sort of like 'Where's Waldo?' for plots," I told him. Tom handed me five dimes.

How to Sell Books by Really Trying

Denis Dutton on Bad Writing
Topic: Arts 7:21 am EDT, Apr 13, 2006

Having spent the past 23 years editing a scholarly journal, Philosophy and Literature, I have come to know many lucid and lively academic writers. But for every superb stylist there are a hundred whose writing is no better than adequate — or just plain awful.

Fed up, I resolved to find out just how low the state of academic writing had sunk. I could use the Internet to solicit the most egregious examples of awkward, jargon-clogged academic prose from all over the English-speaking world. And so the annual Bad Writing Contest was born.

Denis Dutton on Bad Writing

Condoleezza Rice on Piano
Topic: Arts 8:50 am EDT, Apr  9, 2006

This enjoyable article is a friendly, humanizing portrait of Rice.

"Before I leave this earth, I'm somehow going to learn the Brahms Second Piano Concerto," she said, "which is the most beautiful piece of music." It is also dauntingly hard.

Whether Condoleezza Rice some day becomes commissioner of the National Football League, president of Stanford or president of whatever is anyone's guess. But don't bet against her learning Brahms's Second Concerto.

Condoleezza Rice on Piano

NYT on the freedom tower
Topic: Arts 8:25 pm EST, Mar 20, 2006

The temptation is to dismiss it as a joke. Unfortunately, the tower is too loaded with meaning to dismiss. For better or worse, it will be seen by the world as a chilling expression of how we are reshaping our identity in a post-Sept. 11 context.

Let's just forget about a tower; I could really go for another Botanical Garden.

NYT on the freedom tower

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