Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Taking on an LA Times blog post

Here in Arkansas, every once in a very small while, I hear a shade of contempt in the polite "oh, really?" response I get when I say I'm from the East Coast.  Inevitably its followed by a huge Southern smile and a heap of genuine (or a good imitation of it) curiosity about how I found my way to the middle of the country.  And immediately following that, a very sincere "so, you like it here, don't you?"  

After assuring my companions that I do, indeed, like it here, we are off into some other small talk and this little exchange is left behind.  But as a transplanted Yankee who also happened to grow up in a very small New Hampshire town, I don't begrudge them their suspicion of my homeland. I find it awesome that people here actually care if I like their town.  Because as much as I might complain about the lack of oceans and Red Sox fans, it's a great town, full of great people.  There are hundreds of small towns around this country that are also great towns, full of great people.  That's why this little gem from an LA Times blog made me steam earlier today.  It's a story about Gustavo Dudamel, the new music director for the LA Philharmonic, who just last night conducted the Vienna Philharmonic in a town of 18,000 in Kentucky.

The title of the entry is "Gustavo Dudamel and Vienna Philharmonic go to a small town in Kentucky. But why?"

Why?!  As several comments pointed out, "why not?!" Is there something about Kentuckians that make them unworthy of great symphonic music? To give the blogger her due, she did explain that this little town in Kentucky has a pretty impressive history of presenting "known" artists (kind of like a PAC in Arkansas that I happen to know of).  But then she began her final paragraph with this:

"The nagging question about this was always: Why? Surely students can just watch the DVD like everyone else in small-town America."

I have to admit that when I read this, my jaw nearly hit the floor.  I don't like being reactionary, and I want to think that this blogger was just trying to make a point about the remarkable nature of this concert.  But, the contempt and dismissal of millions of people in that one little sentence was enough to make me immediately forward the article to a half dozen people to share my outrage (oooh, scary, I know!  Beware the email forward!).  To imply that I don't have as much right as anyone else in this world to experience world-class art is not only elitist, it's downright silly.  I had to come to Arkansas to ever have a chance to meet Yo-Yo Ma or see the Blue Man Group live from the 10th row.  Our little corner of the world is doing its damnedest to bring the arts to every child in our community, and we're doing it without millions of people in our MSA.

I know many who live on the Coasts or in large "cultured" cities think such thoughts, but I figured they were generally too PC or polite to say them aloud in quite so blatant a manner.  In that, I guess, I should commend this blogger.  At least she didn't try to hide her bias. But then again, I'm live in Arkansas.  I doubt my opinion is worth much to her.  I think I'm goin' to go git some cultcha an' watch me a DVD.  Maybe I'll watch one about Joshua Bell.  Since he'd never come here to Arkansas, right?

Monday, September 20, 2010

Madison's greatest hits

Inevitably, when you leave one place to go to another for nothing more than a new job, the former takes on a nostalgic glow in your memory.  Madison, WI is that place for me.  The city is situated between two lakes, and houses Wisconsin's state capitol, the University of Wisconsin-Madison and probably hundreds of arts organizations and non-profits.  It also hosts the best Farmer's Market I have ever been to.

UW Madison has a distinguished arts past, as I learned when the UW Chancellor welcomed National Endowment for the Arts Chairman Rocco Landesman (who also went to Colby, my undergrad alma mater).  It had the first dance program in the country, the first glass fine arts program (who knew?) and best of all, the first (and best) Arts Administration program ever.  The latter was my reason to visit Madison, for the bi-annual convening of the alumni of the Bolz Center for Arts Administration, known as Collegium.

Collegium was a two-day arts geek-fest, as we explored (with the help of some super-smart (and super-quotable) folks like Russell Willis Taylor) such exciting topics as "traditional arts audiences are declining...now what?", "should we care about the distinction between for-profit and non-profit arts?" and how to train the next generation of arts leaders.

(My favorite Russell quote was about fundraising.  It went something like this:  "It's like piracy.  They have the money.  We want the money.  So we go get the money."  My friends who fundraise didn't find this nearly as funny as I did.) 

Strangely, I found this gathering far less exhausting than past ones; I think it's because I'm older, wiser and a little more jaded - I don't expect that we'll all rush back to our organizations and make the changes that seem so obviously necessary.  Organizations are large, clunky things that resist change - as a friend once said, it takes a lot of spins of the wheel to turn a big ship.

But beyond this academic reflection, I got to enjoy the best of my favorite Madison haunts.  Here they are, in no particular order:
Do you sense a trend?  Here's the view from the Terrace:

All of these, of course, are only fun because of the people who come with them.  I love these friends - people with whom I shared grad school, who talk smack about the arts as much as they do about football.  We're all a little older now, a little more seasoned, but I'm glad to know we can still spend an afternoon at the Terrace doing nothing more than talking and enjoying each other.

Whenever I wax sentimental about Madison, I usually find a way to coat all the memories in a glorious autumn glow.  I somehow choose to forget things like the miserable treks down State Street in December, during which I would use the 1/2 mile from the office to class in the freezing cold to dry tears of frustration caused by a certain traditional Christmas theatrical extravaganza.  Or the winters that stretch into April, or the hassle of digging my car out of the snow every single day for months on end.  But really, those negatives don't amount to much in the face of great memories of friends, football, theater, music, dance, parties and yes, geeky arts-talk.

It's been nearly 8 years since I went back to school.  Frankly, it wouldn't bother me to go back again.  Provided, of course, that all the days are sunny and Terrace-worthy.

On Wisconsin!

Sunday, September 12, 2010

9 years later...

The last year FLEW.  I can still remember blogging last year about the anniversary of 9/11.  It will be 10 years next year.  Hard to believe.

Yesterday, I found myself feeling angry at a lot of things.  Strangely, it's not the terrorists that I feel the anger for - they've become something like phantoms in my mind.

I felt anger against the Florida pastor who's had more than his share of attention for a Quran-burning stunt.

I felt anger against the Limbaughs and Becks of the world, who have found a magic formula of fear and suggestion that has hijacked so many people's minds.

I was even angry at Jon Stewart, for being so incredibly cynical and pessimistic. 

I was angry at the things I don't like about my job.  About how I'm not sure I will ever find someone nice and caring to share my life with.  About how selfish and stupid people are (including myself), every day.  About how many people make billions of dollars doing things that harm the earth, their employees and humanity.  About how much more accepted it is to be mean than it is to be naive.

I was angry that thousands of people die in our cities everyday, but because they weren't working in the towers that morning, no one is writing tributes to them.

I was angry that sometimes, it feels that no matter what I do, I can't change anything for the better.  And that it may be I'm fooling myself into thinking I am trying.  

Today, I stumbled across a blog entry from someone who has far more of a right than I do to be angry and sad.  She lived blocks from the World Trade Center.  Here's the entry.

And the anger drains away when I realize how many people ran back into the Towers to try to help.  So many lives were saved by kindness and courage.  Why does it take a massive tragedy for us to take care of each other?  It shouldn't. Why don't we try to comfort the sick and the scared like that in our daily lives?  Because it's easier not to?

Something to ponder.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

More fun links...and a few random thoughts...

Oooh!  I'm liking this "linking to other blogs" stuff.  But before I share some more, two things.

One - last night I was reading some old blog posts, and I realized I never posted the conclusion of the Lawn Mower Wars.  Shame on me!  The abridged version is that the key to our heroine's mowing troubles was the height of the wheels.  Simple fix, right?  Just raise them up, using the handy little levers!  Alas, those were rusted solid.  Ok, so.  Next tactic - WD-40!  After that failed, our heroine stared at the mower for long moments, then, with a calm, serene smile, found her hammer and beat the crap out of those levers.  And guess what?  They moved!  Victory!  Well, sort of.  The levers were moved too high, and so mowing the lawn was largely ineffective.  So next time out, out came the hammer again, and back went the levers.  Now all works as it should.  A true triumph of persistence and brute force over the evil forces of "just-hire-someone-or-find-a-guy-so-he'll-mow-your-lawn."

Two - I am APPALLED at the attention one pastor in Florida is getting these days.  We should all be embarrassed by how much ink, digital or otherwise, we have wasted on this guy.  The best I can say is not an original thought.  This guy is making the comparison clear - he's representing a fundamentalist brand of Christianity, that does NOT represent the many good, decent people who practice that religion, in protest of the fundamentalist brand of Islam, which does NOT represent the many good, decent people...you get it.  Enough of that.  Back to sharing the blogging love!

This actually isn't a blog, but I like the site - Hipcooks - it's a cooking program in LA that I took with some friends a few weeks back.  This is the kind of stuff that makes me miss living in a big city.

Next on the list is Seth's Blog, a marketing blog which a lot of people follow.  Seth is a bit too quick to make sweeping generalizations (and once in a while I wonder whether he gets out into the real world enough), but he never fails to make me think. And, I have a soft spot because by subscribing to his blog, I was able to have my name appear in a real, honest book!  Check out the latest version of Purple Cow (page 180-181), which features my short essay about Trey McIntyre Project.

And finally, my friend Angie runs two blogs, but this is her running blog.  She's pretty determined in her running goals, and it's really inspiring.  And there are cute pictures of her son, Miracle Max.  That's hard to beat.

It's almost Friday!  Rejoice, y'all!

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

new look (and links!) for my blog

Oooh...look.  Pretty new background and style for my blog.  It's like a makeover, but doesn't require me to lose weight or wear fake eyelashes.

Today I start a new weekly feature where I highlight a few blogs/websites I like (and add them to the new list at right). I finally realized that it's time to started talking about all of the other great bloggers, thinkers and talkers out there.  Because after all, the 6 of you who read this blog are just dying for my wisdom.

Today's featured blogs/site:

The Artful Manager - widely one of the most respected arts administration bloggers out there, the author just happens to be the guy who edited my thesis and allowed me to get my graduate degree.  He's always good at asking those tough (and often abstract) questions to get you thinking.

Catalog living - this one's just funny.  It imagines the lives of people who live in our catalogs.

not a CRUMB left - a blog by one of my favorite people to run into at work.  The recipe for the beer margarita won me over. 

Enjoy!  The weekend is almost here.  Three cheers for 4 day weeks.