Wednesday, April 29, 2009

What Makes A Writer Necessary?

I think of writing as the creation of beauty and the cultivation of craft in language, as self-expression and social communication and political practice, and I also think of it as a form of spiritual sustenance--but what makes a writer necessary? I would have said honesty, intelligence, sensitivity, eloquence and imagination when I was much younger; and I would have added range and mastery of subject matter and philosophical heft a few years ago, but now I am not so sure. Are writers and their work necessary to most people?

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

100 Hundred Days, 100 Nights

“The world, which is the private property of a few, suffers from amnesia. It is not an innocent amnesia. The owners prefer not to remember that the world was born yearning to be a home for everyone,” says the writer Eduardo Galeano in an interview (“Through the Looking Glass”) with Parul Sehgal, online at Publishers Weekly (April 27, 2009).

This week marks President Barack Hussein Obama’s first one-hundred days in office, during which the Democratic president has made or supported a wide range of initiatives (one tally has the count at more than one-hundred), initiatives involving the economy, education, health care, international relations and more. Meanwhile, the longtime Republican senator from Pennysylvania Arlen Specter has become a Democrat, reports The New York Times (April 28, 2009); and that seems as symbolic an event as any.

The Journal of the History of Philosophy, a quarterly publication from Johns Hopkins University Press that is focused on the history of western philosophy, is looking for a new editor to serve a five-year renewable term, beginning July 1, 2010. The contact is Prof. Al Martinich, search committee chair (Professor Martinich is located at the University of Texas in Austin).

The web allows everyone to be a curator, claims Jim Richardson, a scheduled speaker at a June conference in Malaga on “communicating the museum” (The Art Newspaper, online April 32, 2009; Issue 202, May 2009).

Festival International took place this past weekend in Louisiana, beginning April 22nd and ending April 26, a very impressive event featuring musicians from around the world, particularly from Francophone countries. Next year’s Festival International is scheduled for April 21-25, 2010.

I am looking forward to listening to new music by Marshall Crenshaw and Jill Sobule, among others; and am still enjoying Andrew Bird and Death Cab for Cutie.

This Tuesday afternoon, today at 3 p.m., the poet C.K. Williams is reading his poetry in Alexander Hall, the Richardson auditorium (Princeton University) in New Jersey. Kevin Young follows in the same place at 5 p.m. As well the legendary (and incendiary) Jayne Cortez is reading her poetry tonight at Dixon Place, 161 Christie Street, in New York, 7 p.m., part of a program featuring Anne Waldman and Cara Benson.

This morning I watched a television news program and topics included film and music and there were even a few books mentioned but there was not literature, not fiction. I was trying to remember the last time I heard a discussion of literature as part of mainstream television. Didn't such books used to be discussed? Literature has become more marginal to our lives.

Is Anybody There?, a film starring Michael Caine, opens on Friday, May 1st, as does X-Men Origins: Wolverine, with Hugh Jackson. Atom Egoyan’s film Adoration opens a week later, May 8th, as does Carlos Cuaron’s soccer film Rudo Y Corsi featuring Gael Garcia Bernal and Diego Luna; and Ron Howards Angels & Demons, starring Tom Hanks, will play beginning May 15th. (Source: Roger Moore, Orlando Sentinel, April 28, giving release dates through August 2009)

The African Film Festival is held in New York in April and May; and there are film screenings scheduled for Columbia University for May 22nd through 25th, 2009: including screenings of the acclaimed film Shoot the Messenger. It is true that African films are shown at other times of the year and some of those dates can be seen with a visit to the AFF calendar at the web site of African Film Festival New York.


Sometimes we have good intentions but make enemies anyway. Sometimes just wanting to achieve independence and integrity in our own lives frustrates those who want to control and exploit us; and they develop a great dislike for us and our activities.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Male Sensitivity

I think that it is hard, still, for many people to tolerate male sensitivity. Men are expected to be active, to do something, or to be stoic, silent and strong, rather than to be articulate and expressive about difficult matters that concern and trouble them. It is one reason why men become loners; and one reason why some men become artists--to have a place in which to put their feelings. It is hard for some people to accept that a man is not simply cursed with sensitivity (too weak to be anything else) but that he chooses to be sensitive; and that does not include a desire for suffering but it can include an acceptance that suffering may come--and suffering is to be lived through and lived through honestly, with acknowledgement, with candor, with intelligent pragmatism as well as the belief that things can, should be, and will be different, that suffering will end.

Art in Movies: Incognito; and Mona Lisa Smile

I saw on the small screen two films that took place in the art world this past weekend, a nice bit of film programming from the CW network: John Badham’s Incognito, starring Jason Patric as an art forger and Irene Jacob as an art expert; and Mike Newell’s Mona Lisa Smile, with Julia Roberts as a college art teacher and Kirsten Dunst, Maggie Gyllenhaal and Julia Stiles as her students. Each film managed to ask some good questions about art--what is it, why is it made, how is it understood and evaluated, and what is its ultimate worth?

The first film, Incognito, was a late 1990s crime thriller with some romance, and the second was a "teacher-who-inspired-me" story with feminist themes and some romance. Love is the universal subject, so those uninterested in the subject of art had something that might engage. Art is such a special subject and as I began to watch Incognito, I thought about how rare it is to hear sustained discussion of art in a popular medium and how hard it must be for a film director to know what tone to take (I wasn't sure that the tone at the beginning of the film wasn't off--but that may have been me just becoming acclimated to the subject, a subject I think about often but do not expect to hear spoken of by many others). I thought that Incognito seemed like an update of the kind of suspense film that Cary Grant used to make (Jason Patric is a good-looking man but he doesn't have the charm or spirit of Cary Grant, or even of Hugh Grant, whose movie Four Wedings and A Funeral was screened as well on Sunday; and there could have been more of, and more to, Irene Jacob). Incognito looked good, it was intelligent, and there was nothing "wrong" with the acting (I look forward to seeing the film again, at some point), but the film lacked that extra something--a bit of spirit and style that can make a competent film into a good film or a good film into a great one.

In Mona Lisa Smile, a film from a few years ago, Julia Roberts supplies the idiosyncratic spirit and style that makes an entrancing film object, a movie star. She understands what a film requires and she gives it. Her performance as the art teacher balanced wanting to be liked in a new place, wanting to do a good job, wanting to be true to rigorous intellectual standards, and also being subject to insecurities and physical attraction. She brings a liberal sensibility to a place that is conservate in old-fashion terms (marriage and bland conformity are respected goals). The circumstances and issues that both films present are the kinds of things that recur in different generations, in different cultures: the battles are won or lost but the war goes on. I think both films handled the issues involving art very intelligently (appropriate care was taken), possibly handling the subject of art better than they handled other matters touched on. Both films have their predictable aspects (in some instances, predictability might be another word for form or logic). I enjoyed both films, and am glad I saw them.

Criticism, As An Establishment Tool

It may be less so today than it is has been in the past, thanks to the social changes of the 1960s and 1970s and the cultural and theoretical leaps of the 1970s and 1980s, but criticism can be an establishment tool: a way to reaffirm conservative traditions and values. Criticism can be a way of solidifying the status quo, of policing works, things, and people who are different. Sometimes those people who are different are people who belong to traditional minorities--but sometimes they are people whose cultural interests are different: people who prefer Rembrandt to installation art or video; people who prefer European classical music and jazz to indie rock and hip-hop. Criticism can be used to mock, to shame. It can be used to disseminate prejudice. It can express malice and resentment toward figures of mastery, toward what is perceived as safety and security in a society that is impressed by hedonism and riot. Criticism can be a way for the mediocre to join together against excellence. It can be a form of laziness, a rebellion against having to recognize the abundant, diverse talent in the world. It can be an establishment tool simply by encouraging things as they are, the prevalence of the lowest common denominator in much of popular culture.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Earth Day, etcetera

Today, April 22, is Earth Day, a commemoration that began as an environmental education day in 1970 at the behest of Gaylord Nelson, a United States senator: an estimated twenty million people participated in the first Earth Day and it is sometimes called the beginning of the modern environmental movement.

Wendy Weinstein at Film Journal International has given the film The Soloist, directed by Joe Wright and starring Jamie Foxx and Robert Downey Jr, about the friendship between a journalist and a homeless musician, a very mixed review.

The Los Angeles Times, in association with UCLA, is sponsoring the Festival of Books, scheduled for this coming weekend, April 25th and 26th.

The Ford Foundation is providing ten-million dollars for the establishment of a new foundation to support indigenous American artists, according to the April 21 New York Times. (It is nice to have that news during a time when is watching the new documentary on PBS about the brutal historical treatment of native Americans.)

Yesterday, the Southern Poverty Law Center released a report titled Under Siege that focuses on poor Latino workers in the American south, based on surveys conducted with 500 low-income Latinos, legal residents and those not recognized by law, in Nashville, Charlotte, New Orleans, rural southern Georgia, and towns in northern Alabama. According to the Center’s web site, “The survey findings, coupled with accounts from in-depth interviews, depict a region where Latinos are routinely cheated out of wages by employers and denied basic health and safety protections. They are racially profiled by overzealous law enforcement agents and victimized by criminals who know they are reluctant to report crime to these same authorities. Even legal residents and U.S. citizens of Latino descent said racial profiling, bigotry and other forms of discrimination are staples of their daily lives.”

Personal Notes, Southern Blues

I am not happy to be in Louisiana today. I was in New Iberia yesterday, leaving the library and riding my bike on the sidewalk as the street was too crowded with cars, and a oldish—in her 50s? early 60s?—blonde, extremely pale woman in white shorts was coming toward me and she clutched her purse, which was on the farthest side of her body away from me already. After I passed her, I turned and looked at her go down the street and saw that she was no longer clutching the purse. The mental illness of too many “white” people continues. It does not help that in news reports criminals are identified by race, rather than age, height, and distinguishing marks or dress. (How helpful is it to say only that a black male or white male committed a crime, if there are more than two of either in any locale?) I must say, the purse-clutching is not as prominent here as in New York but it is annoying as it often is just so impractical, such nonsense (it is always contextually inappropriate: there is always some physical detail that makes theft unlikely or impossible even if one wanted to steal—such as purse-clutching in an elevator: where is one to go with the purse in a closed elevator, inside a building with other people around?).

According to the Associated Press (April 22, 2009), “The Tangipahoa Parish School Board will vote Monday on the final version of its multi-million-dollar school desegregation plan.” A school desegregation plan in year 2009—still? The plan is due April 30 in New Orleans, and will likely include school construction and renovation, and is motivated by a 1965 school desegregation case.

I was on the bike two days ago, and someone called out to me: a man doing work on a large agricultural truck (his job, a blue-collar job). He said my name and asked if I remembered him—I did not recognize him, and he gave his nickname, which I vaguely recalled, and then he gave me his full name and I knew who it was, though he, of course, did not look at all the way he did when I last saw him, when we were both very young men. (I am slim, so am more recognizable.) He told me that not much is going on in Louisiana. He made a comment about my riding the bike (rather than driving a car), and added that I’d been one of the smartest people. I told him that I had been here for only a couple of months, that I had been living in New York, and that I didn’t drive. (I did not say: I had not planned to come back to Louisiana without significant money or power—but, as Frank Sinatra used to sing, “That’s Life.”)

Blueprint Louisiana advocates a knowledge-based economy for Louisiana and states the problem as this: “Louisiana’s economy is driven mostly by ‘old’ industry sectors that, while they remain essential to our economy, are not growing sectors. In fact, more recent trends in these industries have been toward fewer full-time employees, either through improved efficiencies, a reduction of fixed costs or a shift of capital investment overseas. While many other states have increased their focus on knowledge-based industry sectors that will grow substantially in the coming decades, Louisiana has lagged in this pursuit. As a result, Louisiana now has little internal capacity to grow jobs in these ‘new economy’ sectors. This is confirmed by our low rankings in the numerous indexes that measure and assess states’ readiness for and participation in the new economy.”

According to the Associated Press (April 22), Louisiana lawmakers will be reconsidering film industry tax incentives: “If the Legislature takes no action in its session opening Monday, the current 25 percent tax credit for movie and TV show makers will drop to 20 percent next year and 15 percent in 2012. That’s a scenario those heavily invested in the industry say would be disastrous.”

The Public Affairs Research Council of Louisiana (PAR) published the Guide to the 2009 Louisiana Legislature, a pocket-sized that includes biographical information and photographs of Louisiana’s legislators, statewide elected officials and congressional delegation, with committee assignments and contact information. Copies are $10 each plus tax and shipping, from: PAR at P.O. Box 14776, Baton Rouge, LA 70898-4776. Order forms can also be faxed to (225) 926-8417, or requests can be sent by e-mail to

New Orleans City Business (April 22) reports that a couple of Louisiana towns have been included in Relocate America’s “Top 100 Places to Live” list: Metairie and Mandeville and Bossier City.

In March 2009, the Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities gave its Humanities Book of the Year Award to writer Ned Sublette for his book The World That Made New Orleans: From Spanish Silver to Congo Square.

I have been listening to the new recordings of two Louisiana musicians, Allen Toussaint (The Bright Mississippi, a very elegant recording of some jazz standards) and Buckwheat Zydeco (the smart, fun Lay Your Burden Down, featuring zydeco and popular music songs, even a Springsteen song!).

There is a crawfish festival scheduled for the Louisiana town of Breaux Bridge at Parc Hardy in early May 2009, and, in May also, a Bunk Johnson jazz festival in New Iberia, with an artwalk in downtown Lafayette May 9th, a Juneteenth celebration in Opelousas at the Farmer’s Market for June 20th, and a July 4th parade in New Iberia. There is a bluegrass music event planned for August 8th at the Rice Theatre in Crowley. A cultural festival, featuring reggae music, is slated for August 29th and 30th in Carencro’s Pelican Park, with a zydeco festival parade scheduled for Opelousas’s South Park in early September, and an arts and crafts show at Shadows-on-the-Teche in New Iberia, October 3rd. The Festivals Acadiens et Creoles is to take place October 9th through 11th in Lafayette.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Criticism, As Companion to Art

I have thought of art as a necessity; and I have thought of criticism as a companion to art, and it has become a necessity as well.

I see a film and read a review of it--before seeing or after; and sometimes, if I find the film interesting enough I write a review of it. I listen to music and try to imagine how I would describe it to a friend or a disinterested acquaintance. The content I discover in a work of art or entertainment, and the pleasure I find, is deepened and extended by a review--or a bunch of reviews.

Criticism is the recovery, in language and thought, of objects from the near and distant past; and it provides context, an explanation of genre, and a disclosure of artistic strategies that are social as much as they are aesthetic. Critics can help us to understand the current work of an artist in light of standards established by the artist's own work as well as the tradition or traditions to which he or she belongs; and criticism can celebrate the highest manifestations of craft, as it introduces us to new talent or reminds us of the existence of neglected or obscure artists: describing the rare qualities of each artist.

There is little more valuable culturally than the reinterpretation of misunderstood or maligned artists, sometimes offering retrospective summaries of artists' careers: that reinterpretation can tell us as much about ourselves, our society, and our values as anything, illuminating the politics of art.

We can learn about the nature of experimental art (what is to be gleaned from it); and about false radicalism, when experiment exists merely to impress and not to express or teach. We can be reminded that art has a spirituality, that it is infused, always, with the human spirit. We can learn about each other--through folk art, international art, expanding knowledge. Criticism can help us to understand how artists express themselves in ancillary words (in books, speeches, interviews) and how that complements or contradicts their works? And criticism can help us to appreciate, to sympathize with, to tolerate, how practical matters--money and power--affect the artistic world. Criticism can be a companion to art, to us.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Seeing Things

“I think my basic job as a critic is to get people out of the house, to get them interested, energized, inspired, or riled enough to just go see what I’m talking about,’ says New York Times art critic Roberta Smith to Irving Sandler in The Brooklyn Rail (April 2009). Smith talks about her early career and influences (including Sanford Schwartz, Pauline Kael, and Edmund Wilson). Smith also says, “I believe in individual taste, but taste-making is a kind of fiction. It’s just a way to organize things that as time passes are going to fall apart again.” There are more, and more complex, comments in the worthwhile interview, available online.

In an interview with Eliane Raheb, a Lebanese filmmaker and a founder of an Arab film festival called “Ayyam Beruit,” the journalist Mona Sarkis of asks Raheb about new Arab films. The "Ayyam Beruit" festival yields thousands of attendees every two years. Eliane Raheb speaks about a film category referred to as author cinema; and Raheb says, “We have noticed that author cinema is one of the true and rare mirrors of our identity. The truly authentic films are being made by filmmakers who express their individual vision of human beings with stories and experiences that seem unique to them and through which they question ‘reality’. This is, for example, the case in The One Man Village by Simon al Habre or low-budget fiction films like Ein Shams by Ibrahim Battout.”

David Hudson, formerly of the web log Greencine Daily, is now presenting his film commentaries and notes and assorted links, through The Daily at IFC (Independent Film Channel); and as of today he’s got items on Jean-Pierre Melville’s Leon Morin, Priest; Armando Iannucci’s In the Loop and Eran Riklis’s Lemon Tree and more…

Isn't it interesting, and good, to learn something we did not know?

Marc Broussard, musician, with writer Cody Daigle

Cody Daigle is a south Louisiana writer, and I have been reading his diverse, intelligent, lively work in The Times of Acadiana and sometimes in The Daily Advertiser; and I was impressed, just yesterday, with a piece he did on the musician Marc Broussard, whom he interviewed (Times, April 16). In the interview article, Broussard talked about his work, the music business and its single-minded search for "hits," and the peculiar reception Broussard's work gets in Louisiana: "I've grown up around this scene all my life, so I've seen bits and pieces of the irreverence to what's going on on stage but I'm not sure why it goes on." Yet, the balance of the piece is about Broussard pleasure with the state of his career and his life in Louisiana. It's worth reading for its candor.

Unanswered Questions

Greg Kot of “Sound Opinons,” What developments would you like to see in how music is reported and evaluated?

Gerald Early, essayist and Washington University professor, Do you think that the essays and reviews published by African American writers in established publications demonstrate intellectual, literary, political, and temperamental range; and what developments would you like to see?

Cecil Doyle of KRVS, How long have you been producing radio programs, and what have been some of the high points and frustrations?

Jane Ciabattari, National Book Critics Circle president, What kinds of things can writers, editors, and publishers do to make literary criticism more significant for others?

Wilson Savoy of the Pine Leaf Boys, How do you see your work, and the work of other Louisiana artists, in relation to the larger world?

Eddie Glaude author of In a Shade of Blue, What do you imagine political activism and political writing will look like, following the election of Barack Obama, in the years to come?

Frank Wilderson, author of Incognegro, What is the focus of your forthcoming book, Red, White and Black: Cinema and the Structure of US Antagonisms?

Manthia Diawara, NYU Africana Studies chairman, In what ways would you like to see African culture integrated in the lives of African-Americans?

Jesse Kercheval, author of Cinema Muto, What are some of the similarities and differences between poetry and film; and how did you approach these disciplines in your own work?

Irene Vandever of the Arts and Humanities Council of Southwest Louisiana, What are the principal arts of Louisiana and what might be their appeal to the larger world?

A. Deniz Balgamis, co-editor of Turkish Migration to the United States, What are the complexities—contradictions and possibilities—within Turkish modernity?

Lucious Fontenot of Valcour Records, What are some of the similarities and differences between Creole and Cajun music in Louisiana?

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Alain Locke, scholar

Ross Posnock, on Alain Locke in the article "Black Is Brilliant," in The New Republic, posted online yesterday, April 15:

"Locke regarded his iron confidence as his birthright as a proper and proud member of an old free black family of educators. The son and grandson of highly cultivated people on both sides, Locke was nearly blase about entering Harvard in 1904. His letters home from college bear little evidence of anxiety. By 1912 he was a professor of philosophy at Howard, where he would teach for four decades."

Posnock's article is a review-essay in response to the new Harris/Molesworth biography of Alain Locke. I have admired Locke for years, and am hoping to read the rest of Posnock's article on the man soon. For the last two weeks, I have been doing a little writing on music and film, and trying to imagine the future...Locke remains an inspiring figure.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Elizabeth Alexander, Poet

Elizabeth Alexander published her first book of poetry, The Venus Hottentot, in 1990, followed by the poetry collections Body of Life (1996), Antebellum Dream Book (2001), American Sublime (2005), and, with co-author Marilyn Nelson, Miss Crandall’s School for Young Ladies and Little Misses of Color (2008), a book for young adults. In her poetry Elizabeth Alexander captures the ideas, the moments, the perceptions, and the sensations, that are missed, usually, in the first and second drafts of history, the real stories of human lives. I found her American Sublime a particularly beautiful book and was surprised that her essays in The Black Interior were as interesting, as impressive. Alexander, who teaches in Yale’s African American Studies department, has a second, more recent, book of essays, Power and Possibility. She is a writer to watch, and to listen to, as much of America learned when she participated in the inauguration of President Barack Obama; but, more significantly, she will be, for a very long time, a poet whose work is to be read. There have been appreciative and critical comments made about the poem she wrote for that historic day in January, and I was curious to know what Elizabeth Alexander herself had learned from the experience (I sent her an e-mail query at the end of March and she quickly responded).

What did you learn about public poetry as a result of your inauguration experience?

Elizabeth Alexander:
"From the literally thousands of letter and emails I have received form strangers, I learned that so many people are open and receptive to public poetry. They meet it as it comes to them and respond with their own words, feelings, stories. That has been very powerful and affirming of the ability of art to have a place in the everyday lives of Americans."

April, National Poetry Month

April has been National Poetry Month, established by the Academy of American Poets, since 1996, an opportunity to read and celebrate poetry and learn more about the nation’s historic literature and the work being made now. Poets Out Loud is a web site featuring poets reading poetry, sponsored by the publisher W.W. Norton, which published Robert Pinsky’s anthology on poems to read out loud. There are, also, recommendations for teachers in how to present poetry at Scholastic’s online page and that of TeacherVision.

Poets Jorie Graham, Mark Strand, and Rose Styron participated in the Academy of American Poets April 1st event at New York's Lincoln Center, “Poetry and the Creative Mind,” reciting poetry, as did trumpeter Wynton Marsalis (reading Sterling Brown’s “Riverbank Blues”), actress Maggie Gyllenhaal (reading Akhmatova), scientist Harold Varmus (reading John Donne) and others, an official beginning to April as poetry month.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009


I awake today in Louisiana, rather than New York. It is April Fool’s Day. Apparently, the top internet searches for the day, thus far, regard fashion model Heidi Klum’s pretending to be an ordinary worker for the television special “I Get That A Lot”; the story of a woman who starved her son for refusing to say “Amen” at mealtime; Sarah Palin’s replacement by Newt Gingrich for a scheduled Republican dinner; the retirement of automaker General Motors’ chief executive officer; and the death, as a result of heart disease, of actor-singer Andy Hallett (“Angel”). Several of these topics suggest mediocrity of mind—but, then, it is April Fool’s Day.

Yesterday, was Arts Advocacy Day. I have thought often that troubled people require more art not less; and Morris Dickstein’s article on culture during the great economic depression of the 1920 argues that. In today’s Los Angeles Times, cultural critic Morris Dickstein recalls, “The engine of the arts in the ‘30s was not escapism, as we sometimes imagine, but speed, energy and movement at a time of economic stagnation and social malaise. When Warner Bros. -- which avoided bankruptcy with its lively and topical gangster films, backstage musicals and Depression melodramas -- promised a 'New Deal in Entertainment,' it was offering the cultural equivalent of the New Deal, a psychological stimulus package that might energize a shaken public” (“How song, dance and movies bailed us out of the Depression,” April 1, 2009).

Of course, money itself makes up for a lot (if it cannot buy friends, it can help you forget you do not have any). New Scientist, Issue 2700: “In a study to be published soon in the journal Psychological Science, [Kathleen] Vohs and psychologists Xinyue Zhou of Sun Yat-Sen University in Guangzhou, China, and Roy Baumeister of Florida State University, Tallahassee, found that people who felt rejected by others, or were subjected to physical pain, were subsequently less likely to give a monetary gift in a game situation. The researchers then went on to show that just handling paper money could reduce the distress associated with social exclusion, and also diminish the physical pain caused by touching very hot water” (Mark Buchanan, “Why Money Messes with Your Mind,” March 18, 2009).

Louisiana has a unique cultural heritage (it has been multicultural always), and is known especially for its food, language, and music; and it is a culture that gets a lot of enthusiasm but not always adequate financial support: and, Louisiana governor Bobby Jindal is proposing a budget that makes severe cuts in the state’s arts funding for the coming year; and the Louisiana Partnership for the Arts is asking concerned citizens to write state legislators and ask them to restore arts funding and support the arts.

According to “This spring, from now through May 24, the New Orleans Museum of Art presents ‘A Discourse in Abstraction: Jennifer Odem and NOMA’s Permanent Collection,’ an exhibition of new sculpture by the New Orleans-based artist juxtaposed with modern and contemporary works from the permanent collection.

‘A Discourse in Abstraction’ is the first in a series of exhibitions dedicated to highlighting Louisiana contemporary art. Situated in dialogue with abstract paintings from NOMA’s permanent collection, Odem’s works position themselves at the crossroads between monumentality and playfulness. Combining materials such as Hydro-stone with flocking fiber, Odem’s sculptures walk the line between extreme contrasts.”

The Hollywood Reporter has announced the many of the big media companies are experiencing a decline in the value of their stock. As well, Bloomberg says that Time Warner is no longer the largest media company, in terms of financial returns (that would be Disney, followed by News Corps). And, it is said that Conde Nast is letting a bunch of receptionists go and Forbes is planning staff cuts. It is always sad when hard-working people lose their jobs—it’s less so when billionaires lose a few dollars.

Blender, the music publication, is going out of business. I was not a fan. Its sensibility was relentlessly superficial. The “consumer guide” approach, so affixed to current taste expressed as snark, is part of the reason for the diminishment and disrespect of popular music criticism. Hardley remembered is the tradition of thoughtful criticism and cultural intrepretation—lengthy and logical, explanatory and exploratory.

Even some of the better publications do not serve us well. I think of how the New York Review of Books ignored Barack Obama for months and months and then, when Obama was winning in the presidential campaign, the publication used writer Daryl Pinckney (his books: High Cotton, Out There) to play catch-up and introduce its audience to the man and his ideas. Meanwhile, now, President Obama is in England, meeting with the world’s top foreign leaders (there’s a nice photograph of him and his wife with the queen of England, following his meeting with the British prime minister). In England, there are mass demonstrations against capitalism, against things as they are.