The arts blogosphere (artosphere?) has been buzzing lately with the news of the demotion of the NEA’s erstwhile Director of Communications, Yosi Sergant, in response to Glenn Beck’s paranoid delusions about two conference calls that Yosi helped to organize to get artists involved in community service. Jeff Chang says this is the new shape of the culture war: going after movement progressives in the administration regardless of what they do. Piling on, Senator John Cornyn has written an open letter warning against what he calls the “politicization” of the NEA. Meanwhile, Americans for the Arts is fighting back, publishing a letter to the Washington Times from Bob Lynch responding to an editorial in that paper today. It’s worth noting that no one, other than the 75 call participants and Beck himself, has actually heard the entire audio recording of the call; that’s because the man driving this story, Patrick Courrielche (who just happens to be Yosi Sergant’s former boss), secretly recorded the conversation and went straight to Beck with it.
You can listen to some of the excerpts at this link (warning, you’ll have to sit through a lot of blathering first). Here’s the main one that they repeat several times:
This is just the beginning. This is just the first telephone call of a brand new conversation. We are just now learning how to bring this community together to speak with the government, [and] what that looks like legally. We’re still trying to figure out the laws of putting government websites on Facebook, and the use of Twitter. This is all being sorted out–we are participating in history as it’s being made. So bear with us as we learn the language so that we can speak to each other safely, and we can really work together in a sense to move the needle, and to get stuff done.
Taken out of context and accompanied by Beck’s and Courrielche’s innuendos (“they know exactly what they’re doing…I’m going to show you some artwork that maybe, coincidentally, came out two weeks after this phone call”), it all sounds a little creepy–until you realize that if they had anything more damning than this, they would have played it. I mean, come on: “learn the language so that we can speak to each other safely?” “what that looks like legally?” At least they’re interested in actually following the law, unlike a certain previous administration that just left office!
Anyway, for more commentary, you can read a rant from 99 Seats, a response from Chris Ashworth that I don’t really agree with but has a nice diagram to illustrate his point, and surely Leonard Jacobs will freak if I don’t include a link to the Clyde Fitch Report’s original analysis of the situation, which I neglected to mention the first time around. (Jacobs, to his credit, saw the right-wing culture war revival coming long before anyone else did as far as I can tell.)
Well, enough of that. Here’s some other stuff that’s been going on this week.
- Speaking of Leonard Jacobs, he has a funny story about the reporter who contacted me last week.
Funnily enough, the Fox reporter that contacted Moss also contacted me after Perez Hilton got into that stupid fight earlier this year with Will.I.Am and called him a “faggot.” I agreed to be a source for the reporter, but he wasn’t very happy with me. His first question was, and here I’m paraphrasing: “As a leader of the gay-rights movement, do you think Perez Hilton was justified in calling Will.I.Am a homophobic slur?” Well, I was just aghast. I said, “Um, I was unaware that Perez Hilton was a leader of the gay-rights movement.” At that point, said reporter reminded me of the whole Carrie Prejean nonsense — as anybody might need such a reminder — and pressed the point, that Hilton is a seminal figure in the gay cause. I replied to said reporter, “I think you want him to be a leader of the gay-rights movement, that that’s your agenda.” We volleyed a bit after that and it was quite clear the reporter didn’t get what he wanted. Shame.
- ArtsJournal turned 10 years old over the weekend. What an amazing resource from Doug McLennan and company. One of the original ArtsJournal bloggers, Andrew Taylor, is announcing an innovative arts management class that seeks to bring the world to the students and the students to the world: it even has its own blog. Will be interesting to see how this one unfolds.
- A few oldies but goodies that I’ve meant to link for the past few weeks but that have gotten lost in my browser window: 1) Perhaps portending a trend, the Sarasota Arts Council is refocusing its energies on lobbying efforts; 2) Art & Seek has a great story about the arts-led revitalization of tiny Ben Wheeler, Texas; and 3) Wired sees a revolution coming in “good enough” technology–slimmed-down, cheaper versions of things like cameras whose features we mostly don’t use anyway.
- More evidence for recent college grad misery: their post-college earnings have not been keeping up with growth in tuition, by a long shot. (I would imagine that there has been a growth in financial aid at the same time, but is that enough?) And if you think that’s bad, African-Americans (taken as a group) have been in recession for nine years, according to this excellent article by Barbara Ehrenreich and Derek Muhammad. A particularly telling quote:
Plenty of formerly middle- or working-class whites have followed similar paths to ruin: the layoff or reduced hours, the credit traps and ever-rising debts, the lost home. But one thing distinguishes hard-pressed African-Americans as a group: Thanks to a legacy of a discrimination in both hiring and lending, they’re less likely than whites to be cushioned against the blows by wealthy relatives or well-stocked savings accounts. In 2008, on the cusp of the recession, the typical African-American family had only a dime for every dollar of wealth possessed by the typical white family.
If you are breaking even or slowly bleeding money, having a cushion, even a small one, makes all the difference in the world. It gives you flexibility, reduces your stress, enables you to pursue opportunities you wouldn’t have been able to otherwise. Scrapping for every dollar is a dehumanizing experience no matter who you are.
- Did Bach discover serialism 200 years before Schoenberg? The musicologists don’t seem to think so, but I still hold that Beethoven was the originator of ragtime in Op. 111. Meanwhile, Pierre Ruhe reports on a composer using a different method to write wind band music: Facebook consensus.
- Hewlett Foundation Philanthropy Program Officer Jacob Harold writes a column in defense of regranting. I used to be not so hot on regranting (it seemed to me like it just added middlemen into the process needlessly), but in the past year I’ve changed my mind somewhat, and Jacob makes some really compelling points in the article. Though I’m not sure I agree with him that giving $35 to the Gates Foundation is necessarily a smart idea.
- This is interesting: Arts Council England is hiring 150 “assessors” to go out and review 10-14 events a year for two years, basically crowdsourcing their site visits. I think it’s a cool idea, but not without problems, as the Guardian explains.