Music

"I wrote a blog entry- where's my goddamn Pulitzer?"

To follow-up on my post last month about the shrinking ranks of publication/newspapers writers....

One of the most trotted-out arguments about the decline and fall of the professional critic is that they're not needed anymore since anyone can do their job online now. The argument that anyone can write is only partially true, which is to say that knowledge of a certain skill doesn't automatically make you an expert in the field.

Think of these comparisons:

- If I have a driver's license, should I clear out a place in my trophy case because I'll automatically win the Indianapolis 500?

- If I can jog, does that alone mean that I have a good chance on winning the New York Marathon?

- If I learn how to swim, does that mean I'll probably kick Michael Phelps' butt in a race?

You might say that some of these set-up's aren't exact because they involve measurable skills- someone who is great in their field will win a race. For writing, just like in any artistic profession, the results aren't as tangible but you can set up other comparisons: if I'm able to draw a line on a piece of paper, should I then have gallery and museum exhibits devoted to me? You might snicker that if you sleep with enough gallery owners then the answer is yes, but you get the point. If you want to go back to writing, try this out for a comparison- who would you want to work on your resume, a guidance counselor or Jessica Simpson? Jess might be able to hire a counselor (if she figures out what it means) but again, you get the point.

Take McDonald's as another example- you probably wouldn't be too shocked to learn that the kid who's flipping your burgers didn't go to the Institute of Culinary Education. You wouldn't expect such a thing, partially because the staff there aren't cooks per se but part of an assembly line. If you go to a sit-down restaurant, you don't know that the cook's been to ICE either but the end result will speak for itself- whether you have a good meal or not. Maybe the important distinction isn't just having a degree or award but a show of expertise even if in the end, it's still an aesthetic, subjective call which you make as the consumer or reader.

A great piece of writing might not look the same to you as it does to me but even for a writer who doesn't have a journalist's degree, you can see the care, effort and thought that goes into a great piece of writing and appreciate the craft behind it. That's not to say that a blogger without a professional background can't be a great writer but that everyone like ain't necessarily gonna be a post-millennium Lester Bangs (which isn't something to always aspire to anyway).

If you'd like to see a much more elegant way to say all of this, there's a fine article on the decline of photo journalism, Alissa Quart's "Flickring Out," which expresses the same sentiment: "Anyone can take a decent photo, as the bromide goes, through talent or luck, but few can extend it into masterful narratives."

So far J. J. Abrams and Rian Johnson resemble children at play, remaking the films they fell in love with. As an audience, however, we desire a fuller experience.

As recently as the lackluster episodes I-III of the Star Wars saga, the embossed gold logo followed by scrolling prologue text was cause for excitement. In the approach to the release of any of the then new prequel installments, the Twentieth Century Fox fanfare, followed by the Lucas Film logo, teased one's impulsive excitement at a glimpse into the next installment's narrative. Then sat in the movie theatre on the anticipated day of release, the sight and sound of the Twentieth Century Fox fanfare signalled the end of fevered anticipation. Whatever happened to those times? For some of us, is it a product of youth in which age now denies us the ability to lose ourselves within such adolescent pleasure? There's no answer to this question -- only the realisation that this sensation is missing and it has been since the summer of 2005. Star Wars is now a movie to tick off your to-watch list, no longer a spark in the dreary reality of the everyday. The magic has disappeared… Star Wars is spiritually dead.

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This has been a remarkable year for shoegaze. If it were only for the re-raising of two central pillars of the initial scene it would still have been enough, but that wasn't even the half of it.

It hardly needs to be said that the last 12 months haven't been everyone's favorite, but it does deserve to be noted that 2017 has been a remarkable year for shoegaze. If it were only for the re-raising of two central pillars of the initial scene it would still have been enough, but that wasn't even the half of it. Other longtime dreamers either reappeared or kept up their recent hot streaks, and a number of relative newcomers established their place in what has become one of the more robust rock subgenre subcultures out there.

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Theatre

​'The Ferryman': Ephemeral Ideas, Eternal Tragedies

The current cast of The Ferryman in London's West End. Photo by Johan Persson. (Courtesy of The Corner Shop)

Staggeringly multi-layered, dangerously fast-paced and rich in characterizations, dialogue and context, Jez Butterworth's new hit about a family during the time of Ireland's the Troubles leaves the audience breathless, sweaty and tearful, in a nightmarish, dry-heaving haze.

"Vanishing. It's a powerful word, that"

Northern Ireland, Rural Derry, 1981, nighttime. The local ringleader of the Irish Republican Army gun-toting comrades ambushes a priest and tells him that the body of one Seamus Carney has been recovered. It is said that the man had spent a full ten years rotting in a bog. The IRA gunslinger, Muldoon, orders the priest to arrange for the Carney family not to utter a word of what had happened to the wretched man.

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Aaron Sorkin's real-life twister about Molly Bloom, an Olympic skier turned high-stakes poker wrangler, is scorchingly fun but never takes its heroine as seriously as the men.

Chances are, we will never see a heartwarming Aaron Sorkin movie about somebody with a learning disability or severe handicap they had to overcome. This is for the best. The most caffeinated major American screenwriter, Sorkin only seems to find his voice when inhabiting a frantically energetic persona whose thoughts outrun their ability to verbalize and emote them. The start of his latest movie, Molly's Game, is so resolutely Sorkin-esque that it's almost a self-parody. Only this time, like most of his better work, it's based on a true story.

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7

There's something characteristically English about the Royal Society, whereby strangers gather under the aegis of some shared interest to read, study, and form friendships and in which they are implicitly agreed to exist insulated and apart from political differences.

There is an amusing detail in The Curious World of Samuel Pepys and John Evelyn that is emblematic of the kind of intellectual passions that animated the educated elite of late 17th-century England. We learn that Henry Oldenburg, the first secretary of the Royal Society, had for many years carried on a bitter dispute with Robert Hooke, one of the great polymaths of the era whose name still appears to students of physics and biology. Was the root of their quarrel a personality clash, was it over money or property, over love, ego, values? Something simple and recognizable? The precise source of their conflict was none of the above exactly but is nevertheless revealing of a specific early modern English context: They were in dispute, Margaret Willes writes, "over the development of the balance-spring regulator watch mechanism."

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