Saturday, June 23, 2018

links for the weekend-a new study on alcoholism and the brain, Americans moving less, Harvard admissions, John McWhorter on atonement as activism (HT Cal), and TNR on how freedom in dating raises the stakes of mistakes

there's new research involving mice and alcoholism analyzing brain dynamics that may be applicable to understanding alcoholism for people. 

https://www.theatlantic.com/science/archive/2018/06/a-landmark-study-in-the-origins-of-alcoholism/563372/


Americans are moving less than ever. Given how expensive the more famous urban centers are to live in it's no surprise if people are moving less than before.

https://slate.com/business/2018/06/americans-are-moving-less-often-than-ever.html?via=homepage_taps_top

and another variation on "it can happen here" where an American Hitler could emerge
http://www.nybooks.com/articles/2018/06/28/hitlers-rise-it-can-happen-here/

For those keeping some tabs on the academic world, there's the Harvard Admissions personality test situation ...

https://www.theatlantic.com/education/archive/2018/06/harvard-admissions-personality/563198/

with a hat tip to reader Cal, here's a piece by John McWhorter on woke politics as a kind of atonement for the original sin of white guilt that a certain strand of self-identifying progressive whites are embracing.

https://www.the-american-interest.com/2018/05/24/atonement-as-activism/

...

Coates is a symptom of a larger mood. Over the past several years, for instance, whites across the country have been taught that it isn’t enough to understand that racism exists. Rather, the good white person views themselves as the bearer of an unearned “privilege” because of their color. Not long ago, I attended an event where a black man spoke of him and his black colleagues dressing in suits at work even on Casual Fridays, out of a sense that whites would look down on black men dressed down. The mostly white audience laughed and applauded warmly—at a story accusing people precisely like them of being racists.

This brand of self-flagellation has become the new form of enlightenment on race issues. It qualifies as a kind of worship; the parallels with Christianity are almost uncannily rich. White privilege is the secular white person’s Original Sin, present at birth and ultimately ineradicable. One does one’s penance by endlessly attesting to this privilege in hope of some kind of forgiveness. [emphasis added] After the black man I mentioned above spoke, the next speaker was a middle-aged white man who spoke of having a coach come to his office each week to talk to him about his white privilege. The audience, of course, applauded warmly at this man’s description of having what an anthropologist observer would recognize not as a “coach” but as a pastor.

...

I wonder, though, if there's a Manichean element to it or even a vaguely Mazdaist aspect.

https://newrepublic.com/article/149142/birth-breakups

...

Still, with the admission the conversation might feel dull for anyone whose partnership choices have always been considered transgressive, Hard to Do speaks mostly to Korducki’s cohort, and my own: unmarried, heterosexual millennial women living in cities with at least a modicum of “disposable income and expendable time.” The unprecedented freedom such women now have to make or break relationships has raised the stakes, she reflects, when it comes to selecting a partner: “With autonomy comes great responsibility to either choose exactly right or to undermine the very existence of our own freedom to follow our hearts.” If there are now more methods of pairing up than ever, and more time in which to do it, there are also more ways to get it wrong. Such mistakes carry more weight in an increasingly atomized society, in which romantic partners are expected to fulfill multiple social and emotional needs—consider the ubiquity of the phrase “I can’t wait to marry my best friend!” [emphasis added]

Of course, much of this freedom is illusory: While it’s become gauche to acknowledge explicitly the relationship between money and, well, relationships, the economy still exerts a powerful influence on our romantic lives. Dating apps like The League that cater exclusively to an “elite” clientele, but even the less exclusive ones tend to match people on the basis of shared tastes—in film, food, travel, or music—which tend to indicate class. And although women can now drink in bars unchaperoned and get a divorce, precarity continues to keep women in bad relationships. When unemployment rises, divorce rates drop proportionally. In an economic system that pays women less for their work than it pays men, sometimes leaving is just not financially viable.

...

There's a tradeoff in the autonomy department. Assortive pairing means that people are more likely to try to date and mate more strictly within their socio-economic bracket. 

Not surprisingly, one of my relatives told me about Richard Brody's take on Bird's new film and it sounds like it's as idiotic as I'd expect from Brody by now.  Not going to link to it though. Sometimes stupid does not deserve to be linked to.
 
 

a piece at Harpers intones the death of New York City

https://harpers.org/archive/2018/07/the-death-of-new-york-city-gentrification/

New York has been my home for more than forty years, from the year after the city’s supposed nadir in 1975, when it nearly went bankrupt. I have seen all the periods of boom and bust since, almost all of them related to the “paper economy” of finance and real estate speculation that took over the city long before it did the rest of the nation. But I have never seen what is going on now: the systematic, wholesale transformation of New York into a reserve of the obscenely wealthy and the barely here—a place increasingly devoid of the idiosyncrasy, the complexity, the opportunity, and the roiling excitement that make a city great.

As New York enters the third decade of the twenty-first century, it is in imminent danger of becoming something it has never been before: unremarkable. It is approaching a state where it is no longer a significant cultural entity but the world’s largest gated community, with a few cupcake shops here and there. For the first time in its history, New York is, well, boring.

This is not some new phenomenon but a cancer that’s been metastasizing on the city for decades now. And what’s happening to New York now—what’s already happened to most of Manhattan, its core—is happening in every affluent American city. San Francisco is overrun by tech conjurers who are rapidly annihilating its remarkable diversity; they swarm in and out of the metropolis in specially chartered buses to work in Silicon Valley, using the city itself as a gigantic bed-and-breakfast. Boston, which used to be a city of a thousand nooks and crannies, back-alley restaurants and shops, dive bars and ice cream parlors hidden under its elevated, is now one long, monotonous wall of modern skyscraper. In Washington, an army of cranes has transformed the city in recent years, smoothing out all that was real and organic into a town of mausoleums for the Trump crowd to revel in.

By trying to improve our cities, we have only succeeded in making them empty simulacra of what was. To bring this about we have signed on to political scams and mindless development schemes that are so exclusive they are more destructive than all they were supposed to improve. The urban crisis of affluence exemplifies our wider crisis: we now live in an America where we believe that we no longer have any ability to control the systems we live under.

...

To playfully put a twist on a phrase penned by the lately departed Tom Wolfe, when the affluent of New York considered the question of how "you don't think the future knows how to cross a bridge?" people with the power to do so zoned the possibility of crossing that bridge out of existence for people without the means to afford to stay, after crossing the bridge.

...
The immediate cause of the increase in poverty doesn’t require much investigation. The landlords are killing the town. Long ago, the idea that “rent is too damn high” in New York was so thoroughly inculcated into the city’s consciousness that it became a one-man political party and a Saturday Night Live sketch. But the rent is too damn high, and getting higher all the time. Whereas the old rule of thumb was that your rent should be one paycheck a month, or about 25 percent of your income, the typical New York household now spends at least one third of its income on rent, and three in ten renter households pay 50 percent or more, according to the latest New York Housing and Vacancy Survey.

And the situation is getting rapidly worse. According to the same survey, the price New York landlords wanted for vacant apartments from 2014 to 2017 increased by 30 percent, while the median household income for all renting families from 2013 to 2016 went up by 10 percent. The burden has fallen hardest on those who can least afford it, according to the real estate database StreetEasy, with rents rising fastest on the lowest wage earners in the city.

...

The rent being too high in cities like New York or Seattle seems like something we should have anticipated over the decades.  If anything it would seem like those who openly advocated for the "Urban Archipelago" over against all the red-state voting morons in fly-over country should have seen this coming. No matter how big a city is still a city, cities have limits, and it's nearly axiomatic that the more progressive the city is in its political sympathies the more confining its zoning customs are. Nor can it be said that arts interests correspond well with the interests of regular working people as anyone who has read coverage of the zoning battle in Boyle Heights could recall. 

If an American arts scene has a place for a Jeff Koons why should it be a surprise that a city like New York can end up overpriced, gentrified to the point at which it's too expensive for regular people to live in, and in some way a hollow shell of the art scene it may have once been? 

But having grown up all my life on the West coast I have not been won over to the art religion of New York as the center of the world.  I met an aspiring jazz musician decades ago who matter-of-factly declared that if you could make it in New York you could make it anywhere.  I asked, "Why don't you just make it anywhere first and then go to New York if you feel like it?"

All the alleged awareness of "the one percent" at this point seems moot if the upper twenty-percent considers themselves to have not and have never contributed to the situation. 

And the rest of us may have, without thinking through the implications, Amazon-delivered our regional culture away.

Now while I've got my objections to the legacy of German idealism and 19th century European art religion I am not so sure that a newer era of intersectionally-informed poptimist culture is necessarily going to be better.  I like animation and I enjoy a range of popular music from the 20th century.  I'm a classical guitarist but I can appreciate that hip hop has become "the" dominant popular music in terms of raw sales across the nation and change happens.  Given the lag between formalized theory and musical practice (with the former dragging behind the latter for maybe a half a generation or so in musical historical terms if we don't count all the 20th century avant garde bids at prescriptive theory from Schoenberg through the total serialists and so on) we may not have a clear or concise range of theories of what takes for a solid hip hop number that can make its way into a music education textbook for another generation.  The racial ideological narratives are still too front and center in the realm of educators who want to discuss the music.  I'm not saying that part doesn't need to be discussed, it's just that when I consider the messages I heard and read from Civil Rights leaders it seemed like sustaining a purity politics wasn't necessarily foremost in the minds of King and others. 
But then the assumption that hip hop can only traffic in misogyny and anarchy and anti-establishment thought seems far too glib, too. 

But the purported demise of New York City seems like part of a larger trajectory I've been thinking about in the last few years.  The Atlantic-based circle of economic and political power-brokering has a shelf-life and while the rise of Trump is glibly taken as a sign that America is going to be fascist (and it could be, because democracies don't seem to really last that long if we consider the thousands and thousands of years of human history), it could betoken something else.  A declining New York could be just another potential indicator that the Atlanticist power dynamic that has governed the world for half a millennium is inching ever closer to some unofficial end of its shelf life.  There's no reason to think that people at Silicon Valley are less terrible in terms of the world-shaping influence they have compared to a place like New York, but I'm thinking, too, in terms of cultural-artistic paradigms.  If New Yorkers could think of themselves as the artistic-cultural center of the American universe that era can end, especially if fewer and fewer normal people can afford to live there.  If a high-end retailing arts district and financial district chain is what New York becomes then the insularly middle-to-highbrow can only go so long without becoming ... what's the phrase?  Decadent?  Maybe.

Of course I've lived on the West coast my whole life.  I saw the Seattle music scene emerge.  Meh.  I witnessed what I regarded as a renaissance of animation as an art form and that has been fantastic to observe as a lifelong admirer of the art form. Whether we're talking about the first eight years of The Simpsons, South Park over 18 years, Batman: the animated series, the emergence of a mainstream market for Miyazaki's works by way of Disney distribution, the development of Flash-based animation shows ranging in style and content from My Little Pony to Archer, animation has exploded with life. 

And ... a lot of the in-between and cel work gets done by studios in South Korea.

I've been thinking in the last few years how we may have already been shifting from an Atlancist to a Pacific nexus of power. If by some chance the Trump administration or whatever "deep state" power brokers sense that that is the change in the tide, then I don't feel a great need to bewail the demise ofa  New York city I've never had any incentive to visit. 

We seem to have a mythology popular among the liberal arts and journalists that if you just promote the liberal arts human liberty flourishes but there's no real reason to believe that has ever been the case.  If anything in geo-political and military terms it seems that the stronger and more stable empire is the context within which liberalization trends can emerge, but the culture-industry types or "culture-makers" keep thinking that the cart really must somehow come before the horse. 

When I was still in school I remember hearing and reading that the future of the American economy was in information markets and in service-based economies and that the days of industrial production were gone.  Well, here we are and it seems it sucks.  When Trump was running I didn't like him but if the rebuttal to "make America great again" is "America already is great" and "I'm with her", that latter slogan was the most insufferably smug slogan I've heard in thirty years.  If that was the best the DNC could do their failure is not altogether mysterious.  As Truman reportedly put it, if you give the public the opportunity to choose between a fake Republican and a real one they vote for the real one. 

But then with the current guy, I just don't see how fifteen to twenty years of the likes of Jon Stewart or Stephen Colbert or Samantha Bee or even Rachel Maddow couldn't give us the emergence of someone from within the castes of television of someone like Trump.   If Reagan was our movie star president then Trump is our reality TV star president and yet the entertainment industry does not seem to have stepped back enough to recognize how it played a part in making it conceivable for such a man to throw his hat into the ring.  What if a leader like Trump can show America, and more particularly New York, what it has really been as distinct from what its people and its literati in particular have convinced themselves its supposed to have been?

In that sense, native Pacific Northwesterner that I am, I'm just not sure that the decline (perhaps more imagined than real) of New York City is automatically tragic because someone at Harpers has written about it.  It is sad, and Seattle is set to be too expensive for many of its lifelong residents to feel able to stay around. We have a comparable shift going on over there, too.  But that is, I think, the inevitable outcome of attempting to cultivate power and influence across that urban archipelago.  What blue state types don't seem to realize is that what this long-term policy nexus would encourage could look suspiciously like the emergence of powerful city states that are expected to (absent the existence of a functional Electoral College system) completely dominate the course of the United States. 

Friday, June 22, 2018

a little critical analysis of the new Brad Bird film is up at Mbird

Criticism as a literary art and discipline is a great deal of fun for me. I write about stuff at this blog, of course, and kicked off this month with a lengthy discussion of Jessica Johnson's book Biblical Porn.

https://wenatcheethehatchet.blogspot.com/2018/06/prelude-and-review-of-jessica-johnsons.html

and wrote a little bit about Raymond Knapp's Making Light: Haydn, musical camp, and the long shadow of German idealism

https://wenatcheethehatchet.blogspot.com/2018/06/raymond-knapps-making-light-haydn.html

because I'm too much a fan of Haydn to not give the book a shot. 

Some regulars may notice I haven't written any new posts in the long-form analysis of Nikita Koshkin's 24 preludes and fugues for solo guitar in a while.  I really do plan to get back to those posts and do more work on that but there's enough stuff going on in offline life I have to set that aside.  You can probably guess from the first two links I have been doing the kind of reading and writing and listening that isn't guitar focused.

Plus ... regulars have to know at this point that you can't have a new Brad Bird film out there in theaters that goes unwatched, let alone unexamined.  So ...

http://www.mbird.com/2018/06/the-real-battle-lines-in-the-incredibles-2/

as these things go there are spoilers-for-the-whole-film and callbacks to the first film like usual.  Given how readily blue-state urban film critics in some circles have tried to read Brad Bird as some Randian objectivist it seemed about time to layout the case for why Bird's humanistic liberalism is as easily observed as any random sidewalk if you're not trying to analyze his movies through the goggles of assuming animated films aimed at children can't deal seriously with the human condition or the nature of technocratic or political concerns. 

Who among those who saw The Incredibles could forget Wallace Shawm's cold-blooded bottom-line insurance management bureaucrat who fires Bob Parr (with cause, for assault!) but who also complains to Bob Parr that his customers have inexplicable knowledge of Insuricare's bureaucracy, able to get coverage and help that the system is designed to keep them from getting.  That's why insurance was such a life-sucking line of work for Mr. Incredible.  He went from saving people's lives to working in a field where the baseline expectation is that he use every pretext possible to deny coverage to people seeking to use their insurance to deal with problems in life. That Bob and Helen Parr are superheroes who do battle with callous authoritarian technocrats isn't just the primary plot line of narrative, it permeates the subplots and even the tossed off comedic interludes ...

Norman Lebrecht on the corruption permeating music competitions where teachers on juries reward each others students

Norman Lebrecht has an article about the corruption of you scratch my back that permeates a lot of  music competitions

https://www.spectator.co.uk/2018/06/you-vote-for-my-pupil-ill-vote-for-yours-the-truth-about-music-competitions/

which kind of seems in keeping with a theme we've looked at this last week about academic musicology having a self-reinforcing caste dynamic even if the job prospects in real-world terms for advanced degrees in music study are ... slim.  Perhaps that can explain why within the realm of pedagogy there's a simple, understandable desire for teachers to ensure their students can do well even if those who may engage in jury-rigging on behalf of their students don't entirely grasp the long-term significance of such practices. 

With stories like Lebrecht's it seems as though the idea that critics, criticism and pedagogy being a self-perpetuating priesthood is hard to ignore.  What can often be passed off as "anti-intellectualism" may partly be a reflection of some allegedly mass disdain for complex ideas and scholarship but couldn't that be the reflexive assumption of a taste-making caste that hasn't examined its history?  It's just as possible in our day and age that what is called "anti-intellectualism" could be a legitimate grievance against graft and insularity in academic and critical establishments.  The idea that a liberal arts degree makes the world a better place and gives you a richer and more meaningful life just doesn't seem like it can honestly be squared with the sheer amounts of student debt that has accumulated in the last generatio nor two. 

But arts teachers and arts critics are probably all too loathe to recognize that they have shown themselves to be a self-reinforcing set of ruling castes. Sure, if they compare themselves to the proverbial "one percent" they'll feel better but to take up the verbiage of Richard Reeves, the top twenty percent tends to assume it is more with "the ninety-nine" than the upper twenty percent. 

Caspar Salmon proposes that "everyone" needs film critics at The Guardian

https://www.theguardian.com/film/2018/jun/20/who-needs-film-critics-diversity-hollywood-oceans-8-wrinkle-in-time

The rebuttal to the charge that film critics aren't necessary is to the reactions that have proposed that some badly reviewed films like A Wrinkle in Time and Oceans 8 have gotten bad reviews because white male critics are too dominant in the critical establishment. I vaguely recall that claims that misogyny was to blame for the Ghostbusters remake not doing as well as hoped was bandied about a couple of years ago.  Mercenary sequel-churning from a studio doesn't seem like it can be ignored in the case of the Ghostbusters gambit.  Coverage from the time that attempted to present it as a woman-led action comedy seemed to just skip blithely past the success of the Underworld and Resident Evil franchises.  The idea that the Ghostbusters film had anything unusual to commend it simply because the female-team was supposedly unusual had to forget that two long-running action-horror genre franchises were headlined by Milla Jovovich and Kate Beckinsale (unless film critics want to seriously claim that everyone was watching the Underworld movies for Scott Speedman)

There are points Salmon raises about how inaccurate review aggregation at a site like Rotten Tomatoes is about what critical consensus even is.  That's worth noting.  A film could do well despite being labeled "rotten" at Rotten Tomatoes.  Salmon proposes that if female film-makers are given more projects and responsibility (which we could interpret as creative control) within production that they will have opportunities to make more films; by contrast, having more female film critics is not going to make things any more than indirectly better for women in film.  As stated the argument seems very nearly unassailable.  Let Patty Jenkins make another Wonder Woman movie and if it does well then whether or not white male film critics can bring themselves to take superhero films seriously is less significant.

But the concluding argument has me completely unconvinced by Solomon's overall case that film critics are somehow "necessary".  It's not that I can't appreciate the value of a review written by someone who would suggest you spare yourself the twenty you have to spend these days to see a movie that may eat up a couple of hours of your life. One of the many reasons I read criticism is because in many cases I'd rather read about a film more than I care to see a film.

But I just finished reading Jacques Ellul's The Empire of Non-Sense, out in an English translation since 2014. His last chapter addresses critical establishment from a late 1970s early 1980s moment in history in the West, and he points out that critics had by then largely sloughed off the recognition of how the emergence of the critic and critical tradition was inextricably tied to the bourgeois.  He wrote that just as bankers and businessmen have brokers so arts consumers have critics who tell them via reviews and critical traditions and expectations what product is worth buying.  Ellul pointed out that the critical tradition as we've come to recognize it in scholastic and literary terms was not an aristocratic tradition. The aristocrats who paid artists and musicians had no need of a critic to tell them what to invest in because the aristocrats already had the leisure, money and education to decide what they would and would not pay for. 

Though Ellul didn't give more specific examples the Esterhazy dynasty had no need of a music critic to tell them to hire Haydn, for instance.  The counts and dukes who commissioned Beethoven to compose music for them already knew Beethoven was good at what he did.  But as classical music became a middle-class proposition, as published sheet music became a popular and profitable means of sharing and promoting musical culture the 19th century polarity of profound Beethoven vs puerile Rossini kicked into high gear among critics and musicians. The arbiters of such a narrative were, historically speaking, critics.  Writers like Scott Timberg can lament that arts critics and writers can hardly get work these days but given the trajectory of post-industrial economics and globalism in the last forty years who could have expected things to turn out differently? 

To put it another way, if the middle class is dwindling then it's a matter of course that the middle-class tradition of arts criticism in connection to arts pedagogy is going to fade.  Ellul's polemic from 1980 was that art had devolved to the point where in a post-Barthes critical Western scene the critic was at the peak of the arts hierarchy by being able to decide what X or Y means for the consuming and commissioning social worlds.  The problem, as Ellul formulated it, was that arts critics wielded power at cocktail parties and social gatherings which was where artistic careers were really made rather than on the basis of looking at works as works.  Critics had been established as the priesthood that decided what was really art to begin with and therefore worth discussing but all without this priesthood coming to terms with its own inherently bourgeois nature amidst highbrow theorizing that Ellul believed served more to entrench a self-perpetuating critical aristocracy than the interests of art, an art that Ellul thought had devolved into theory-heavy jaunts into what might be dorm-level weekend pranks rationalized as art theory and art-as-politics rather than as anything like a traditional art discipline.  It's a cranky book, one I may have to write about later but it's an interesting book.  But then regular readers know I've been going through a few Ellul books in the last few years. 

If we can think of arts critics as priests who pronounce "clean" and "unclean" then it may be all the more salient why we "need" critics.  I'm all in favor of criticism as an artistic discipline and literary tradition, actually, but what I'm more skeptical about as I get older is how often criticism seems to not examine its own ... class distinctives.  It seems more and more as I get older and see the bromides about critical crisis that the bros may not recognize the privilege and ease with which they can dedicate their lives to writing about entertainment as if it is the Bible and they are exegetes who get to decide what is and isn't canonical. 

at CJR a discussion of proposed changes to copyright law and precedent in the EU with pre-emptive than post-facto takedown

at the Columbia Journalism Review, there's a proposed change in copyright law in the European Union some are concerned could have a chilling effect on internet journalism.

https://www.cjr.org/the_new_gatekeepers/eu-copyright-law.php
...
The European market currently follows a “notice and takedown” copyright system, in much the same way that the US does. In the US, the Digital Millennium Copyright Act gives platforms and content providers a certain amount of immunity (known as “safe harbor”) for hosting content that might infringe on copyright, provided they act immediately to remove it if infringement is brought to their attention. The proposed EU law would replace notice and takedown with a requirement to remove any infringement before it ever goes online.


One risk of this approach is that service providers will remove content that doesn’t infringe because they are afraid of contravening the law. So, for example, they might block a “meme” that uses a copyrighted image to make fun of something, even though that kind of use is typically allowed under “fair use” rules (known as “fair dealing” in the UK and a number of other countries). The signatories of the letter also argue that the cost of this new filtering approach will hit smaller internet services harder, since larger platforms like Google and Facebook will have more than enough resources to comply.


The filtering/censorship risk isn’t the only downside of the proposed law. It also includes a “link tax,” which would give copyright holders to ability to charge online platforms or providers for using even short snippets of text from a work such as a news article. Germany and several other countries have been working on variations of this idea as a way of charging Google and Facebook for taking their content, but critics of the law say its real impact could be a crippling of the internet’s inherent power to link to original source material.
 
...

It's been interesting to see how precipitously traffic from EU nations has dropped to this bog post just in the last few weeks. 

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

in keeping with a theme this week, a report in the UK says just one in three arts students think their arts degree is good value for th expense


Just one in three arts students think degree is good value for money over in the UK, it seems
https://www.thestage.co.uk/news/2018/just-one-three-arts-students-think-degree-good-value-money/
https://studentsunionresearch.files.wordpress.com/2018/03/value-for-money-the-student-perspective-final-final-final.pdf

If the rents keep going up then London will become too expensive for artists to stick around
https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2018/mar/17/london-losing-creative-eminence-high-studio-rents-force-artists-out

The head of a leading arts organisation has warned that London’s status as a world-class creative city is at risk because artists are being forced out of the capital.

Anna Harding, the chief executive of Space studios, which provides premises for nearly 800 artists including three Turner prize winners, blamed rising property prices and shrinking studios for dramatically squeezing the time and space available for creative activity. Artists now face a choice between working full time to pay the rent and fitting in a few hours in their studios at weekends, or giving up entirely, she said.

Harding’s stark warning comes in a book, Artists in the City: SPACE in ’68 and Beyond, which celebrates the 50th anniversary of the organisation set up by Bridget Riley and Peter Sedgley, leading proponents of Op art, who were frustrated that London’s artists had to work in cramped garden studios. The pair renovated a warehouse in St Katharine Docks which allowed them and others to create art on a much larger scale. Space now operates 17 studios in London and Colchester, a model used by similar organisations like Acme and Bow Arts. Tenants include the Turner prize winners Laure Prouvost, Mark Leckey and Tomma Abts, as well as Heather Phillipson whose work will occupy the fourth plinth in Trafalgar Square in 2020.
...
Put in these sorts of terms an attempt to say there's some kind of inherent value to liberal arts as a study is to make a foundationally religious argument ... which you would think nobody would try to make these days.  The "intrinsic value" argument is a religious argument.

https://www.chronicle.com/article/Stop-Trying-to-Sell-the/243643

Art as religion would seem like a throwback to a 19th century approach if it's not simply a transubstantiation of religious study being a foundation for traditional humanism which, again, sure seems like precisely the opposite of the kinds of arguments people would prefer to make in academic contexts these days.  But if the entry costs of joining the priesthood of arts and letters keeps going up with less and less chance that said priesthood will lead to gainful employment then why would it be shocking if a new kind of Protestant reformation for the art-religion of the West might emerge?  What might the priesthood of all believers in art religion look or sound like?  Well ... hiphop, maybe? Videos on youtube?  Blogs?  These are things you can take up without having to go tens of thousands in debt to get a certification that won't get you a job.

Monday, June 18, 2018

a few pieces from The Stage about how arts degrees are a bad earnings investment but "enrich lives"

When I was in college decades ago I loved studying the liberal arts.  But I settled on a journalism degree thinking that, at least compared to literature or music composition or biblical studies that journalism, of all the ostensibly useless fields of study that intrigued me in college, might have been most likely to land me a job. 

So much for that.  I managed to find work but much of the work I landed in the last twenty years was not really directly or even indirectly connected to studying journalism.  Certainly I put the journalism degree to something I considered a good use, chronicling the peak and decline of Mars Hill while the mainstream and even independent press seemed to more or less fail to do that job. 

Yet I'm glad I studied journalism and didn't attempt to make my degree more officially liberal arts.  The more I read about the academic job market and the more I read about the longitudinal studies that show what a bad return on investment liberal arts degrees are for the job market relative to expense the less bad I feel I couldn't get into more advanced degrees.  There's a lot in the age of the internet you can learn by sharing ideas with people in person and online.  There's a lot of resources that are public domain that you can study. 

So it's not a surprise to see that there's a recognition that arts degrees offer the worst earning potential ...

https://www.thestage.co.uk/news/2018/arts-degrees-offer-worst-earning-potential-institute-of-fiscal-studies/

Nor, however, is it a surprise to see defenses of advanced degrees in liberal arts defended on the basis of what amounts to a purely ideological bid.
 
 
 
by Lyn Gardner - Jun 18, 2018
 
News that creative arts graduates earn 15% less than the average university leaver five years after graduation – and so may expect to have considerably lower earnings over an entire career – will not surprise many who work in theatre.
 
The report, carried out by the Institute for Fiscal Studies on behalf of the Department for Education, points out that, while earnings of an Imperial College maths graduate were double the average, those graduating from Liverpool Institute for Performing Arts or Guildhall were as much as 50% below average.
 
Quelle surprise. I don’t think the IFS needed to be funded to tell us bankers earn more than set designers. Just like artists, of course, nurses and teachers also know that pay is not linked to value. As Edward Bond once asked: who is the more valuable? The chauffeured or the driver?
 
Rather than being scandalised by the fact that those who are most creative – and the most creative thinkers – are likely to be paid less, the IFS draws the conclusion that students should consider later-life earnings when picking their subjects at GCSE and A level. This will allow them to access degree courses with a greater financial return. I guess that’s what happens when you turn higher education into a market-place and sell the old canard that the purpose of a degree is to boost earnings.
 
If the state is paying for the education does the state have no interest in wanting some kind of career return on investment?  This reminds me of a friend I made in high school who was from Germany who said that what the government did (this was ... about thirty years ago ish) was work out where you tested best, steered you into that vocational path, and then you had the opportunity to pursue other hobbies on the side.  One of his hobbies was playing violin and singing but it wasn't the career path he was taking. 

What we should be scandalized by is more the assumption that liberal arts devotees should be considered "most creative".  I refuse to assume that a sculptor, painter or novelist is more creative than a stay-at-home parent.  It just does not follow that people with the leisure time to learn how to write novelsor poetry are in any way demonstrably more creative than people who work in trades or are parents at home.  It may be peopleeducated in the arts want to believe they are the most creative but when critics complain about how many movies all seem to blur together year after year and how "Hollywood has run out of ideas" this betrays ignorance of how Hollywood never had its own ideas on the one hand and how it gives the lie to he idea that people in the arts, merely by dint of being in the arts, could be considered "most creative" or "most creative thinkers".

...
 
Up to 40% of current jobs may become automated, but a robot cannot replace an artist
  
In any case, when increasing numbers of jobs are becoming automated, including those such as accountancy that were considered solid jobs for life, it may turn out that running away to join the circus rather than joining a bank could be the better long-term career option.Particularly in the 21st century, when cultural and technological shifts are bringing about undreamed-of disruptions in our everyday lives – from how we shop and earn a living to what we do with our leisure time and how we interact with each other. It has been estimated that up to 40% of current jobs may become automated in the coming decades. But a robot cannot replace an artist.

It's not that there cannot be an argument formulated as to "why" this should be so but that the assertion is, well, simply asserted.

If the education bubble is as bad as some are saying is it necessarily "bad" that people of color are less represented in academic or less represented by way of earning advanced degrees in an era of what some consider scandalous degrees of student debt?

https://www.theatlantic.com/education/archive/2018/06/the-college-graduation-problem-all-states-have/562973/

If people are getting educated that's wonderful so long as they aren't crushed by debt that functionally renders them some kind of wage slave for their rest of their adult lives.

But why should someone get a liberal arts degree to learn how to write music?  Why should someone even necessarily have to learn music in school?  To be clear a lot of people learn music in school. I learned about music in school but it wasn't always where people learned music, not school in the more modern sense of the term. 

if I had tried to go the academic music study route I have no clear idea that I would have been encouraged to go in the direction of studying contrapuntal cycles composed for solo guitar, for instance.  Nor, for that matter, would I suspect I would have been much encouraged to take a historical survey of the evolution of sonata forms in solo guitar literature from early 19th century guitar sonatas.  Neither would I imagine musicology as it has played out in the last fifteen to twenty years would have had much use for theoretical explorations of the ways in which the syntactic scripts of sonata forms from 18th century literature could be used to refract the melodic, rhythmic and harmonic vocabulary of ragtime or blues.  There's almost no truer truism than the canards that blues and Afro-American music "doesn't follow the rules" of classical music even if you have a tonic, a subdominant and a dominant chord and even if the twelve-bar blues can be mapped out in such a way as to demonstrate adherence to the golden ratio! 

But academic musicology probably doesn't not want to hear the suggest that it is, as an entire field, the most probable enemy of a fusion of "Eurological" and "Afrological" idioms to the extent that we even "should" pretend to ourselves that these taxonomies are as real as academics want to believe they are.  It's not clear in the realm of practical and practicing musicians that these boundaries have to be so clearcut. 

Meanwhile, the idea that arts study enriches the world ... eh ... I wonder more and more if that' s just an ideological gambit. 

a little piece at Slate on the three major forms of surveillance Facebook does

 
Facebook is the most pervasive surveillance system in the history of the world. More than 2 billion people and millions of organizations, companies, and political movements offer up detailed accounts of passions, preferences, predilections, and plans to one commercial service. In addition, Facebook tracks all of the connections and interactions among these people and groups, predicting future connections and guiding future interactions. It even compiles contact information on those who do not have a Facebook account.
 

Facebook exposes us to three major forms of surveillance. We might think of them as three perches or viewpoints. Commercial and political entities are able to exploit the targeting and predictive power of Facebook through its advertising system. Through what we reveal on our profiles, other Facebook users can watch and track us as we build or break relationships with others, move around, recommend and comment on various posts, and express our opinions and preferences. And governments use Facebook to spy on citizens or anyone they consider suspicious, either by establishing Facebook accounts that appear to be those of friends or allies or by breaking through Facebook security to gather data directly.
Facebook itself conducts commercial surveillance of its users on behalf of its advertising clients. Facebook has no incentive to offer any third-party access to the data that it uses to drive user-generated posts and direct advertisements. The commercial value of Facebook lies in its complete control of this priceless account of human behavior. But the interface that Facebook provides to both advertisers and those who run Facebook pages allows them to learn significant amounts about their audiences in general and track the level of response their posts and advertisements generate. To profile users for precise targeting, Facebook uses much of the data that users offer: biographical data, records of interactions with others, the text of their posts, location (through Facebook apps on mobile phones equipped with GPS features), and the “social graph”—a map of the relationships among items on Facebook (photos, videos, news stories, advertisements, groups, pages, and the profiles of its 2.2 billion users).
 
The chief danger from the Facebook commercial surveillance system lies in the concentration of power. No other company in the world—with the possible exception of Google—can even consider building a set of personalized dossiers as rich as Facebook’s. These data reinforce Facebook’s commercial dominance in the advertising business (again, mostly shared with Google, which has different ways of tracking and targeting content and advertising but generates many of the same risks and problems). The very fact that we cannot expect another digital media company to generate that much data from that many people and that many interactions means that—barring strong regulation—serious competitors to Facebook will be rare or nonexistent in the near future.

But there are other dangers that come with Facebook having and holding all of this information on us. They come from the two other surveillance positions: peers and states. Many common behaviors of Facebook friends sever our images or information from our control, regardless of how careful any individual is with privacy settings. Other Facebook users can act maliciously, especially when relationships degrade. And other Facebook users might be more promiscuous in their habits of tagging photographs of people who would rather not be identified beyond a tight circle of known friends.