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« The Return of J. Cassian | Main | Lawmakers are Back in Town »

January 18, 2006

Elsewhere

Michael Blowhard writes:

Dear Blowhards --

* Lexington Green expands on some remarks he made in response to FvB's posting about the American Revolution and its causes. Good lord, but I learn a lot from surfing the blogosphere ...

* Colleen's of the (strongly-worded) opinion that computers ought to serve humans, and that it's about time that Microsoft caught on.

* This excellent NYTimes article by Charles Isherwood is an eye-opening look at the rough living-and-money conditions endured by most actors. (Thanks to FvB for the link.) Nice passage:

She'd been working in television for a couple of decades, and is today making less per job than she earned in the beginning; guest spots that would once have provided a week's work were being squeezed into two days. No more "breaking top" - paying over strict scale - for actors with extensive experience. But if actors feel increasingly marginalized economically, it was their neglect as artists that rankled perhaps even more at the conference. (As Ruben Santiago-Hudson somewhat ruefully observed: "You can explore the depths of your soul. That is your pay." Which is doubtless true, but it won't buy you much at Whole Foods.)

* Tyler Cowen asks if longer and bigger in the arts might not sometimes also be better.

* I thought Steve Sailer's Vdare piece about Puerto Rican nationalism was a fascinating piece of cultural history.

* It's Roger Kimball vs. Michael Fried.

* "Most of my friends are liberals," writes Arnold Kling. "This series is the conversation I wish that I could have with them."

* On a visit to Turkey, Steve Bodio samples a local delicacy: a dish of spices, onion, bulgur, and uncooked, minced raw mutton.

* Shouting Thomas's beloved Myrna recalled her days as a stripper fondly even after she'd found respectability as a cube-dweller.

* Should the survivors of a California mudslide be allowed to sue the county they live in? Reid Farmer wonders.

* Affirmative action for whom? Right Reason's Steve Burton does the bean-counting and concludes that "white Christian males are almost as underrepresented at America's top schools today, compared to their representation in the overall population, as African Americans and Hispanics are."

Best,

Michael

posted by Michael at January 18, 2006




Comments

The acting article is excellent. I think the solution is for smaller more nimble theatre companies not tied down to specific venues. Also, I think the problem is being mitigated by actors taking a direct role in producing their own video projects. Another idea is sharing space with locations that have different functions during business hours.

One thing whose viability I think about is symphony orchestras. I don't go often as I'd like, but I'm guessing that the economics of it will make symphonies rarities in anywhere but the big cities.

Theatre and classical music are two fields where amateur work can be every bit as prestigious and satisfying as professional work. On the other hand, who can afford to donate all their time?

The economics of the arts is vastly different in big cities vs. smaller cities. Certain projects which are self-sustaining in NYC or Chicago just can't be sustained somewhere smaller and vice versa.

Posted by: Robert Nagle on January 18, 2006 7:17 PM



Reading the acting article was a bit frustrating, especially for someone like me who has little knowledge of the field, because it says almost nothing about what these second-tier actors actually earn. All we know is that an actor in an Off-Broadway production of Troilus and Cressida made "significantly less" than $600 a week. That seems quite low, but we aren't told whether it's unusually low for a non-household-name actor. We also hear that actors today seldom make over strict scale ... but what _is_ scale? More details would have been appreciated.

Posted by: Peter on January 18, 2006 8:02 PM



Does anyone think the Founders knew about the massive famine in India during the 1760s that killed 10,000,000? Inspiration, maybe? "See, this is what British rule get you."

Posted by: Kelly on January 18, 2006 8:19 PM



Robert, Peter -- The economics of the arts is fascinating, isn't it? I wish more economists and journalists were out there trying to figure it out. Part of what's fun/interesting/maddening is how fluid and undefined it can be. Actors are an example. Who do you count as an actor? Only those who make a certain amount of dough a year? It would at least eliminate a lot of pretentious people who say they're actors but aren't really. But would exclude many really serious actors. I know a bunch, for instance, who probably make less than ten grand a year from acting. Yet they're good, they're serious, their whole lives are about acting. And who knows, maybe next year they'll get spots on sitcoms or in movies. So even on that most-basic "how do you count?" level it's a mess. I wish the Isherwood article had been more substantial, but because of how fluid and vague the field is I appreciate the impression and the information. It'd probably have to be a very sympathetic, imaginative economist ... Tyler Cowen, maybe?

Kelly -- There was a massive famine in India in the 1760s? Wow. I'm obviously not a history buff. I wonder what the real history buffs would have to say about your idea...

Posted by: Michael Blowhard on January 19, 2006 11:56 AM



Thanks, Michael, for the plug of Myrna's thoughts on stripping.

So many people have come to read that bit, and quite a number of them have gone on to read her eulogy.

She was such a stunningly brilliant woman. I can do nothing for her now but tell her story. The story of her life is one of incredible triumph. I am struggling to find the wherewithal to tell that story in full.

She was only four foot ten, and her motto was: "Tiny But Mighty!" And she was.

Posted by: Shouting Thomas on January 19, 2006 1:11 PM



Let's see if we can't boil that Times article down a bit.

Remember, in past issues of the NY Times we've learned that educators are struggling, white collar workers are struggling, Walmart employees are struggling, college graduates are struggling, working families are struggling, musicians are struggling, vineyards are struggling, fishermen are struggling, Hollywood studios are struggling. The only people in the NY Times who aren't struggling are the zillionaire kids in the wedding announcements.

If one were a cynic, one might almost accuse the paper of purveying a "gloomy litany of dissatisfaction".

But no cynicism today! Everyone tells me the Times has great reporting, great resources. It's the paper of record after all, and no New Media amateurs will ever vanquish it. Okay then. So let's see what this brand new and thoroughly researched article submits for our approval.

Data point one: An actor tells of earning $600 bucks twenty years ago, and now, twenty years older, earning "significantly less" in a different production, theater, and city.

Data point two: Another actor, with whom the author had "a recent conversation", tells tales of hardship on the coast. She too is earning less at fifty-ish than she did at twenty-ish.

A Rotary Club booster speech... a half-remembered anecdote... enough then with the statistics!

Now, the actors themselves, who are having a convention, are used to this, don't mind any of it terribly, and plan to keep on acting regardless. But since "the perogatives of mega-corporations, their chieftains, and their stock prices hold sway" in American culture, we may soon be seeing "the cast of Friends performing Eugene O'Neill, and Paris Hilton as Hedda Gabler".

And somewhere, deep in my cortex, my alligator brain awakens, labors, and gives birth to a tiny but insistent urge to - you guessed it - Blame Bush™.

Uh huh.

I haven't read that paper since October of 2001. I don't know why they bother. I really don't. Is this what they plan on doing with their lives? I mean, this and nothing else? For gosh sakes why? Why?

Posted by: Brian on January 19, 2006 4:17 PM



Brian - LOL. Very perceptive. I had a similar experience when I flipped between a Democratic primary debate late in 2003 and a college football game. On one channel, whining and pure unadulterated negativity -- problems everywhere; on the other, a bunch of (mostly) underpriviliged guys trying their hardest. It was jarring.

Posted by: jult52 on January 20, 2006 2:00 PM






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