“Well that was a ridiculous waste of space. There is obviously little understanding by this author of the nineteenth century. I suggest some research into Dickens and his life during that time, which would include wealth, customs and culture. Perhaps if a better understanding were reached, the public would have been spared such a smug piece of twattle.”—Tara Hopwood of Sarnia, Ontario weighs in on my Christmas Carol post.
“That is probably the worst written, americanised review of characters in a Christmas carol. It’s a British book, stop adding totally irrelevant and implausible things, it just dampens a novel with incredible atmosphere and depth. For example,Jay Gabler, your awful interpretation of Fezziwig is laughable, such an unrelated, ranting piece of writing is littered with disgraceful vocabulary.Why would any of that happen? Right from the title I was surprised this was the work of a professional newspaper, and i was correct. Don’t attempt to belittle Dickens, it’s impossible…”—Reader comment on my Tangential post "The Five Most Overrated Characters in A Christmas Carol”
One of the most interesting things I learned on a recent arts journalism fellowship came from conversations with Washington Post reporter Katherine Boyle. Most Americans assume that federal government’s role in the art world is limited to the National Endowment for the Arts, but in fact, probably the most consequential branch of government for the arts—especially the visual arts—is the Internal Revenue Service. U.S. tax policy is the reason Americans are so philanthropic, and makes fine art a great place to shelter wealth.
The specific policies get extremely complicated—so much so that even the New York Times may not have correctly understood why an ultrarich financier is selling some of his most valuable holdings in art. The short version: gains in fine art can offset losses in other areas of a portfolio, so they’re not taxed as highly as they would be in a year where an investor made mad cash.
“There is something undeniably screwy about a justice system that makes it de facto legal to kill people, even when it is clearly your fault, as long you’re driving a car and the victim is on a bike and you’re not obviously drunk and don’t flee the scene.”—Daniel Duane, "Is It O.K. to Kill Cyclists?"
“Does this spell the end of the mid-sized regional arts organization? Will it be increasingly difficult to build an audience and a donor base for a $10 million arts organization? Will boards simply give up trying to fund ever-increasing budgets? Will many of these organizations shrink, or disappear entirely?”—
There could be an interesting parallel to the beer industry, which is at the end of a transition from mid-sized regional breweries to (a) megabreweries and (b) microbreweries. It used to be that mid-level regional brews (a la Hamm’s in Minnesota) were king, but now you go into your local bar and are likely to find Budweiser, Coors, and a host of microbrews. Distribution and production technology changes rendered a certain mid-level of brewery obsolete, but they also allowed a million flowers to bloom. I think the same might prove to be true of the arts in decades to come—and no one would say we’re in a dark age of beer right now, so there’s reason to be optimistic about this transition.
“I followed their darn directions! I put everything in a plastic bag! I don’t know how much more butt-chewing I can take today.”—The woman sitting next to me at the airport is calling everyone in her address book to tell them how she got her “butt chewed” at security for not taking her toiletries out of her suitcase.