29 July 2017

A Stoned-Reince Plowboy?

Really, now. I suppose it could have been worse, given the close-to-unprintable nickname the roughly contemporary Marine "John Kelly" I knew had… but comparison of the service histories indicates it wasn't. (Oh, my, if it was, the personality match with the designated occupant would have been frighteningly close, and might have exceeded critical mass.) At least he'll be no Alexander Haig: New White House Chief of Staff John Kelly is not an academy grad, having obtained something approaching a real education as an undergrad.

But let's ignore politics for a moment. Several disturbing data points on trends in the distributive arts indirectly reinforce that We Have A Problem.

  • On one tentacle, as anyone who has ever tried to get past distributive gatekeepers (who, one might add, are seldom themselves practitioners in the distributive arts — book editors and publishing oligarchs are seldom novelists; theatre impresarios are seldom playwrights or actors or directors; "label" A&R reps are seldom musicians or composers; and so on — let alone perceptive, qualified critics, but that's an argument for another time indeed) could tell you, the distributive arts directly reflect "history is written by the winners" in a rather disturbing way, and usually a blunt-instrument way. Instead of looking at and thinking about the implications of the pox scars on the faces of those few Renaissance-era portraits that were not consciously idealized (or thinking about the idealization itself), we're thinking only about gross-form issues like melanin content and gender. However deserving these gross-form issues are of more attention, they are not deserving of sole attention: Cultural myopia is not cured by changing which small thing is in one's focal plane to the exclusion of all else.
  • On a second tentacle, funding trends in the distributive arts bloody well epitomize The Problem. Keep in mind, too, that this blog piece concerns itself only with a subset of the distributive arts: Collaborative live scripted performance in a formal setting. Things are actually much, much worse elsewhere. Not for every individual, obviously… but making general, non-ethics-based policy that ignores virtually everyone below +2σ on a separate curve (financial success) that is mostly orthogonal to anything related to "merit" seems just a bit shortsighted, does it not?
  • And then there's the another aspect of special-snowflakism relating to the distributive arts: The place of education. It's a complex interplay of competing interests — much more complex than this otherwise reasonably balanced explanation of a current issue in Canada implies, or even acknowledges. As just one example, consider the obvious precatory question: Might York University (in this instance) — a government-financed entity — be more amenable to paying requested/appropriate permission fees if the government provided a reasonable budget specifically for doing so? More to the point, how much of those permission fees ever make their way back to the creators of the works? Thirty percent would be an astoundingly high outlier for permissions from printed works, after deducting all of the other parties' shares and expenses; it's much worse in photography and other parts of the arts, let alone film and music.

But how is any of this actually distinct from politics, you ask? Indeed, there are political undercurrents, ranging from "what level and mechanism of support should society provide to practitioners in the arts — not just the headliners, but the support staff — between blockbusters?" to "what level and mechanism of support should practitioners in the arts reasonably expect at any time?" <SARCASM> Perhaps going to the doctor to treat even "inexpensive" chronic conditions — like, say, moderate myopia — isn't too much to ask for those expected to see for others. </SARCASM>