A great–and timely–sequence from the Samantha Bee show…
From their droll Q&A.
Q. A sentence in a manuscript: In a landmark collection of essays, The Division of the Kingdoms: Shakespeare’s Two Versions of “King Lear,” a range of scholars made the case . . . The book title is of course in italics—but then how does one treat that comma after Lear, and then the quote mark after the comma? Would the comma be in roman, and then the quote mark in italics?
A. This situation is a sticky wicket. The quotation marks must be italic, since they are both part of an italic book title. But the comma doesn’t belong to the title. According to Chicago’s preference for putting punctuation into the same font as the “surrounding text” (6.5), the comma would be roman. But this comma is “surrounded” by italics! If only we could use “logical punctuation,” whereby the comma would go outside the quotation marks, to render the issue moot. But that would be un-American. Editors here disagree on the best solution, so style the comma as you wish with the hope that its tiny size will allow readers to ignore it.
A New York Times story frames the continuing debate about Uber as platform versus service. “In Europe, Is Uber a Transportation Service or a Digital Platform?”
The short answer is that Uber is asking to be considered as digital service, and thus not subject to regulations, instead of taxi service, which would.
That Uber is not a taxi service seems an absurd position, although it may prevail legally. Its drivers are also plausibly employees, and its business structure should be subject to the same tax®ulatory regime as any other.
But the larger question (I can’t resist calling it the uber question), is why don’t we regulate platforms in the first place? at least platforms that are companies too. And as a company, their incentives are not necessarily in the public interest, or in the interests of those of its workers or customers. It exists to make money. That’s reasonable, but Uber’s a company, and why not regulate it as such–and in all of its businesses? Does its technical product entitle it to some fuzzy emotional “feel good” hipster exemption from the norms. If it starts selling insurance, for example, should it be exempt from the rules concerning insurance markets?
Why this should come off as a heretical position perhaps has to do with the low esteem collectivism and regulation have had over the last decades. But if the digital sphere is where we live our lives, and there are signs that at least some of it has sort of been a degenerating sphere (whether Uber contributes to that or is agnostic), do we have no standing to ask governments to say wait a minute? Platforms are not outside the pale of general activity, and are not agnostic with respect to their effects on the commonweal.
I grant, it’s not going to be an easy calculus, but not doing it seems foolish not even to ask the question.
And for enjoyable foolishness of another sort, here’s stand-up about spreadsheets.
(I do play with spreadsheets for fun, and I knew what he was up to with 255! Yikes)
Matt Taibbi has some fun (justified in my view) at the expense of Thomas Friedman’s last tome.
See, if the first line represents change, and the second line represents our ability to adapt to change, all we need to do to bring ourselves up to speed is move the first line up a little. Problem solved!
As numerous people on social media have commented, the second graph seems to suggest that the solution to “enhancing humanity’s adaptability” involves time travel. But that’s nitpicking. These two hilarious diagrams are pure Friedman, and a challenge to fans of the genre. Can you make a more meaningless graph?
T-shirts for the winners. It’s a fine genre…reminds me of a cute book, “F in Exams: The Very Best Totally Wrong Test Answers.” Cover illustration is not to shabby in the meaningless/misleading graphic category.
Day 7: A Symphony Concert: It’s not what you think
A general aim of these posts is to provide some sense of what to expect at performing arts event, and to answer the questions, “what’s it like?” & “what’s in it for you?” Both turn out to be a little hard for me to answer–in part because of the wide variety of what people want to do with their recreational time, but also because my perspective is informed, and limited, by already being interested in this. The insider status doesn’t always help.
(If somebody were trying to convince me I would enjoy watching cricket, and came at it from the perspective of an intense expertise and enthusiasm, I would appreciate the fervor, but that probably wouldn’t, in itself be persausive*).
So that end, sharing something that caught my eye this morning, the last episode of a a PBS web series on the Louisville Orchestra and their charismatic young conductor (is there any other kind) Teddy Abrams,
He, and they, may or may not grab you, but I’m betting it’s contrast with what you might have had in mind as a conductor from central casting, to wit:
The great Arthur Nikisch conducting one of the earliest recordings of Beethoven’s 5th (with a expressive elan and freedom of tempo that even the most renegade of conductors today probably wouldn’t dare). Reports of of Nikisch disclose that he controlled the orchestra mostl with his extraordinary eyes.
Day 6: When to Clap?
The whole clapping thing, like clothes, is one of these concerns that looms large–larger than it should. The problem: in classical music concerts, works are often composed of several movements, and or performed in sets. If you are unfamiliar with the music, it’s not necessarily clear whether a stop in the music represents the conclusion or just a pause between movements.
The program may or may not help.
To wit, if you see:
Beethoven, Symphony No. 5 in C-minor, Opus 67
Allegro con brio
Andante con moto
But all you have ever heard are the famous first measures, what do you about the rest? How do you know when the whole thing ends? How do you keep from being the only person in the concert hall who reveals that you don’t know when to clap?
My first advice is not to worry about it. You are not on trial. (And even you were, the most you might be sentenced to is a raised eyebrow of a neighbor.) Although it’s not appropriate to clap (or make any sound) during the music, after it ends–particularly when there is a big finale–somebody is likely to clap. Sometimes the conductor or soloist will acknowledge and even appreciate it, other times, if they want to go on and maintain the mood, they will you let you know that too. (I once heard Renée Fleming ask a Boston audience not to clap between songs in a lieder recital and the arresting Jaap Van Zweden, a conductor to see if you get the chance, managed, with a shrug of his shoulders, to silence a hall that began to erupt after a radiant movement in a Rachmaninoff Symphony.)
Context is all too. A singer doing a star turn in an opera or a dancer executing an extraordinary solo in a ballet will get applause. It’s a human connection. (The clapping for the reveal of a set is another matter, and that usually seems a little weird to me. Although I have seen shows in which the set was by far the most impressive creative achievement, so I guess it makes sense.)
Part of the context is community. The pleasure (at least in ideal circumstances) of going to a live performance is that you are there with the artists and with your fellow listeners. (That sometimes this is a mixed bag, I’ll address in a future post). When something special is happening–I recall the rapt magic that Leontyne Price could summon in her recitals, something that was followed by a tumultuous roar of applause–everybody is in it together, listening, rejoicing, then clapping. If you are tuned into that, your applause will join in with your fellow listeners. A wonderful thing.
Day 5: What to Wear?
When I worked at an opera company, I was surprised that one of the most frequent questions from patrons at the box office was about what to wear. Given that I’m not particularly tuned into to clothing, I had underestimated the concern–or interest–in concert going clothing.
Despite widespread assumptions to the contrary, attending formal live arts events (I’m thinking opera and ballet in specific) does not call for formal evening wear; there is nothing special to buy. Unless you are going to a gala opening night, or invite-only event that has attire requirements listed on the ticket or invitation, you can wear what you want. That said, most people do end up wearing something along the lines of business casual (meaning a button shirt for men and slacks, if not a sport jacket or suit and something at a similar level of formality for women.)
But the range is wide…I go fairly regularly to the Boston Symphony on Friday afternoons, a concert heavy with retirees, who general just come as they are (particularly near my seat up in the second balcony). My uncle, a life long opera fanatic, has not worn a tie or sport jacket to a performing arts event in my memory, and is usually wearing casual slacks, sneakers, and a shirt I will generously describe as ‘vintage.’
From the arts administrator side of the equation, I can assure you that any arts organization I have been involved in as an employee was happy to see people in whatever clothing they wanted to wear. (Well, clean was good, but beyond that no worries.) We were glad you were there–and if you were young, hip, and in jeans, not only would we welcome you, but we’d take a picture of you for next year’s subscription brochure to show that we weren’t hopelessly old-fashioned.
By this point, you might–at least some of you might–be asking “but I want to dress up! What about me?” The good news about the democratizing of dress is it works both ways. Shows and concerts are still opportunities to put on your best ‘going out’ clothes, should you desire. A Friday night at Lincoln Center is certainly a chance to see some elegant clothes (Kennedy Center, not so much, that’s D.C. for you). I personally have taken (after many years of slobitude) to wearing a suit and tie to some performances at least. Not because I particularly love dressing up, but because when it is an event–say a special trip to a show out of town–it somehow feels like it honors the occasion and the artists. But that’s subjective.
I’ll end this somewhat meandering advice with one final note. If you are attending something with other people, it’s worth it to find out what they are wearing. If you are sitting next to strangers who are dressed up or down, it’s not a big deal, but if you are the only person in a group of four in spats or sneakers, it can feel a little weird. If somebody’s regular pleasure for the holidays is getting dressed up for an annual trip to the Nutcracker and taking you along, then don’t show up looking like you are ready for the early bird special at the Olive Garden. By the same token, if you are hanging with a bunch of hard-core new music hipsters and getting to hear the latest Saariaho String Quartet at the Gowanus Ballroom, probably best to leave the white tie at home and pull out Fluevogs.