"Yes, the written word has been in decline since the advent of film and then television, though recent technological change has undoubtedly hastened its fall. But this has led many to assume that the problem is one of form, that if the book could adapt to our multi-screen age, its cultural retreat would end. This optimistically assumes that the decline is reversible, which it isn’t. Books were overtaken by other media decades ago. The problem isn’t that books don’t have enough television in them, or enough internet in them; it’s that they are just one form of readily available cultural consumption among so many."
"The very nature of Bollywood films is changing. Though big-budget films are by no means extinct, such productions are increasingly viewed as financial gambles that must compete with the wider range of high-quality options available to viewers. Even if quite a few Bollywood releases have sold more tickets by virtue of their wider releases, it’s the smaller, more critically acclaimed releases like Newton and Hindi Medium that were among 2017’s most profitable films. This apparent shift has been underway for the past decade—it’s the sense of panic gripping the industry that is new."
"The dance world tends to compartmentalize itself: There is uptown dance (code word for ballet) or downtown dance (the more experimental variety). I follow both and everything in between. What am I looking for in terms of any kind of performance? Imagination. To see how a choreographer thinks, how a dancer responds and how the art of theater creates an atmosphere."
"For the first time, helped by recent advances in artificial intelligence, researchers are able to analyze large quantities of images, pulling out data that can be sorted and mined to predict things like income, political leanings and buying habits. In the Stanford study, computers collected details about cars in the millions of images it processed, including makes and models."
Given in reverse chronological order, from Elizabeth Kolbert's The Sixth Extinction (2014) back to the King James Bible (1611), Robert McCrum's choices include historical monuments (The Federalist Papers, A Vindication of the Rights of Woman); landmark reference works (Samuel Johnson's and Noah Webster's dictionaries, Roget's first thesaurus); great memoirs (Ben Franklin, Frederick Douglass, Vera Brittain), scientific texts (A Brief History of Time, On the Origin of Species, reportage, polemics; provocative modern choices Barack Obama, Naomi Klein) - and a few WTF titles that'll make you go, "Wait, that's not nonfiction!"
Robert McCrum: "Literary classics cluster on the north face of Parnassus. For this vertiginous terrain there are different sherpas. Italo Calvino says that a classic is 'a book that has never finished what it wants to say'. Ezra Pound identifies 'a certain eternal and irresponsible freshness' ... Alan Bennett wryly notes: 'Definition of a classic: a book everyone is assumed to have read and often thinks they have.'" (includes lame reason for including drama, poetry, and religious scripture)
What We Liked in 2017
When Doug McLennan asked me to write a description for my blog that ArtsJournal would begin hosting in 2017, I thought about the topics which move me to spend time writing—the things that I feel ... read more
AJBlog: The Bright RidePublished 2017-12-30
Recent Listening And Viewing: Ernie Watts
Ernie Watts, Wheel Of Time (Flying Dolphin) From his years with Buddy Rich in the 1960s through his long membership in the late bassist Charlie Haden’s Quartet West and for years since, ... read more
AJBlog: RiffTidesPublished 2017-12-30
Some Home Thoughts from Abroad as Hurricane Hamilton Hits Britain
The hoop-la surrounding the London staging of Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Hamilton is almost as interesting as the musical itself. The ticket-tout-defeating instructions for admission to the Victoria Palace Theatre that came with my pair of ... read more
AJBlog: Plain EnglishPublished 2017-12-30
That's not the only idea, of course, but: "Offering a full range of activities will help to combat the stereotypes and 'cultural norms' that are putting girls off sport before they reach junior school, according to Ruth Holdaway, who is chief executive of Women in Sport. In addition to giving female pupils the option to play cricket and football,'boys should also be asked what they want, and given the opportunity to do a zumba class or whatever,' she said."