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There’s Plenty to Argue About in the Arts


by Stephen Becker 1 Dec 2008

As we return back to daily life from our tryptophan-enduced hazes, there are plenty of interesting arts debates happening on the Web to reinvigorate the ol’ brain. The producers of artsjournal.com have assembled a blue-ribbon panel to discuss the value of arts education in America. The talk is supposed to go on all week, so […]

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As we return back to daily life from our tryptophan-enduced hazes, there are plenty of interesting arts debates happening on the Web to reinvigorate the ol’ brain.

The producers of artsjournal.com have assembled a blue-ribbon panel to discuss the value of arts education in America. The talk is supposed to go on all week, so be sure to check back to see which direction the wind is blowing. My only quibble with this one is that it’s doubtful that anyone on this panel is going to come up with any argument against a healthy arts education. Not that I am suggesting there is a valid one, but it would have been nice to hear from those who would seek to limit what our kids are learning about the arts in favor of other subjects.

Next up: how much in author royalties should a non-profit theater premiering a new play take? On the one hand, the theater is largely responsible for giving the work a solid lift-off and creating value for it going forward. On the other hand, is the 40 percent that some of the top New York theaters are asking for too steep?

Finally, there’s little doubt that many of us will be giving and (hopefully) receiving a few books this holiday season. But which books do you decide to keep in your collection? There are various questions to ask yourself is seems: what should the balance of read vs. unread books be, should a collection be used mainly as a reflection to others of your personality, etc. My philosophy? Keep one book shelf, and when a new book comes up for permanent membership status, conduct a little book-by-book face-off. If it can’t unseat anything on the shelf after you’ve read it, it’s off to Half Price Books.

If you’ve got an opinion on any of these topics, by all means leave us a comment and let’s get a little discussion going over here at Art&Seek.

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  • Rawlins Gilliland

    Stephen, to your point about books being a floating and manageable finite collection at home: Oh how I wish you had spoken to my mother when I was growing up because, the entire time, she was book reviewer for the Dallas Morning News and galley editor for Random House. Many of the books she reviewed came un-bound, others hard copy ……but ALL remained on our home’s bookshelves, mandating that my father build additional shelves ongoing. Now my sister and I have a ‘pass it on’ non-hoarder of book mantra, chanted seasonally.

    Books I house like Bibles are biographical or adventuresome. Give me Abraham Lincoln, Eleanor Roosevelt or Lowell Thomas. Per my once (late 60s) East Dallas neighbor Ken, who founded Half Price books, (talk about pioneering re-cycling!) may everyone recognize that your kids need to be affordably galvanized by stimulating words written by and for intellectually curious minds.

    FYI: Your kids need to also know nature/ outdoors to have strong mental bodies. I say that as I leave for the forest, per my usual daily ritual, to re-read the latest commentary I sent Sam Baker to consider. It’s about the good old days being right now, believe it or not. Romantic optimism… and a sense of being in the historical moment…aka Now…coupled with disciplined nostalgia…is something you can learn when you are raised by fascinating parents. Become one if you’re not already.

    PS: The other night I was at a neighborhood divey bar happy hour filled with young and alternative edgy 20-somethings. I was sitting outdoors with my laptop when I heard a familiar musical riff. Wafting from the kitchen, where the quite young and heavily tattooed fry-cook was preparing quesadillas, was the sound of the All Things Considered theme music. You see what I mean when I say that America’s best future is in good hands?

  • Anne

    Oh Stephen, one book shelf? One?
    I can’t imagine it. Though it’s not a bad idea. The movers who got me into my apartment would certainly agree.
    I am proud to say that I’m just one box away from having all CDs fit in available CD storage though.

  • Jennifer

    Since I don’t like to encourage dust-collecting collections, I agree with your one-shelf idea. And Half-Price Books rules.

  • Grace

    Whoo-boy! We are polar opposites when it comes to our book collecting behaviors.

    I adore books – not just the wonderful stories and characters they contain, but their actual physical presence. I love the way they smell, the crackling sound they make when you open a new purchase, the softness acquired by the pages of favorites that have been read again and again. I love the colorful riot created by scores of bindings lined up on rows and rows of shelves. Most of all, I love the feeling I get when standing in a room surrounded by books – a sense that friends old and new are waiting to be met.

    With the rare exception of a book that I truly disliked, I keep every tome that I buy. I’ve long since run out of shelf space and am currently waiting to see how tall the pile in my living room can grow before tumbling down on an unsuspecting houseguest.

    Wherever I may live, my decorating sense is largely influenced by the sentiment expressed by Robert Southy – “Give me a room whose every nook is dedicated to a book.”