Some of these links have been cocooned in my RSS reader for over a month, waiting for their posts to spring forth, like infant alien monsters from John Hurt's chest.
- Al Filreis, "whence the snark?"- Eight years of an awful presidency has generated the super-skepticism - the hypersatirical state of public political (and to some significant extent cultural) commentary - and that, in the most general way, makes sense. Harding and Coolidge certainly created, or at least contributed to, Roaring Twenties ironic hilarity, flapperistic farce. But this era of snark happened to coincide with the emergence of the web, the proliferation of voices, the radical democratization of the commentariat, 1000 blogs blooming, social networking in which your "Friends" are your ready audience for daily expressions of your "status," podcasts made in the breakfast room recorded on a Radio Shack microphone plugged into a $600 computer. Bush + web 2.0 = snark.
- Rebecca Tuhus-Dubrow, "Group Think" - The boom in online research may actually have a "narrowing" effect on scholarship. James Evans, a sociologist at the University of Chicago, analyzed a database of 34 million articles in the sciences, social sciences, and humanities, and determined that as more journal issues came online, new papers referenced a relatively smaller pool of articles, which tended to be more recent, at the expense of older and more obscure work. Overall, Evans says, published research has expanded, due to a proliferation of journals, authors, and conferences. But the paper, which appeared in July in the journal Science, concludes that the Internet's influence is to tighten consensus, posing the risk that good ideas may be ignored and lost - the opposite of the Internet's promise.
- Ken Johnson's (unbelievably belated) obituary of Fluxus artist George Brecht: In the mid-1950s, following the lead of Jackson Pollock, Mr. Brecht produced paintings using chance operations and materials like bed sheets, ink and marbles. In 1958-59, he attended a class in experimental music composition taught by John Cage at what was then the New School for Social Research in New York. Soon he was producing compositions even more radical than those of Mr. Cage. In the early 1960s, Mr. Brecht taught in what was then the unusually progressive art department of Rutgers University, along with Mr. Hendricks, Allan Kaprow (who became known as an inventor of the “happening”) and Robert Watts, who also became a Fluxus artist. Mr. Brecht’s first solo exhibition, “Toward Events: An Arrangement,” was at Reuben Gallery in New York in 1959. During the next five years, he participated in many group exhibitions and performances in New York. His work “Repository” (1961), a wall cabinet containing a pocket watch, a thermometer, rubber balls, toothbrushes and other objects, was included in “The Art of Assemblage,” the famous 1961 exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art, and the museum later bought it. Nine years later, Mr. Brecht was included in “Information,” another landmark show at the Modern.
- Tim Blanning, "Facing the Music": For composers, too, copyright protection is very much a creation of modern times. Until deep into the 19th century, piracy of the most flagrant kind was the norm. As soon as a score was published, it was liable to be copied right across Europe without any kind of payment to its creator. Moreover, unscrupulous publishers often borrowed the identity of prestigious composers to add allure to slow-selling catalogue items. In Paris, in 1789, the Bohemian composer Adalbert Gyrowetz went to a concert to hear a symphony advertised as being by Haydn - and found himself having to sit through one of his own com positions. Two years earlier, one of the more respectable publishing houses, Breitkopf & Härtel of Leipzig, advertised for sale 96 symphonies by Haydn, even though at that time he had written fewer than 80. If modern copyright protection had been in place in Germany in the middle of the 19th century, Richard Wagner would have been a rich man. As his biographer Ernest Newman pointed out, it was the system that made him a beggar - and then condemned him for being a debtor.
- Neal Pollack, "What If LeBron James and Wolverine Joined the New York Knicks": After LeBron's November visit to Madison Square Garden, the New York tabloids responded predictably, with headlines like "LeBron Likes What Knicks Are Doing" and "LeBron James' Pal Claims Knicks Are Favorites." It's like New Yorkers are waiting for LeBron to invite them to homecoming. The rest of the basketball punditocracy, meanwhile, has become so obsessed with next-decade scenarios that it's like this NBA season doesn't exist. Hear ESPN.com's Bill Simmons, the voice of today's fan: "The NBA's off-court subplots, in many ways, have become just as fun as anything happening on the court. Because of the Internet, sports radio, team blogs, better information guys and everything else, the whole trade/draft/free-agent market has practically evolved into its own sport to follow. ... The Summer of 2010 (it sounds like a blockbuster movie) ties everything we love about that goofy underbelly into one neat package." In other words, basketball-land has become a real-life Marvel Comics "What If" book.