Jon Stewart loves Barbie; should government support the arts?; learning Na’vi; more: leftover links

Every week my browser gets cluttered up with tabs for stuff that I stumble across and figure I might be able to use as a Question of the Day or a WTF Thought for the Day or grist for some other post. And inevitably, I end the week with most of that material unused. But there’s no reason to let this stuff go to waste: I can still share it with you, for your amusement, and start the new week with a clean slate.

Herewith this week’s leftover links, in no particular order:
When It Comes to Wooing Barbie, Jon Stewart Puts Ken to Shame

Fox Cancels 24

Cash for culture can boost UK economy, says arts alliance

Film Critic’s Notebook: When an actor is also a friend

and a reaction:

When the Critic Met the Star: A Movieline Ethics Seminar

Twenty Years of NC-17

The New Klingon: Without so much as a dictionary, Avatar fans are learning how to speak Na’vi

Levi Johnston Pitching an Alaska Reality Show of His Own

Demi Moore, saving the world one tweet at a time?

Godzilla gearing up for new big-screen rampage

Teaching Reading by Teaching Nonfiction

Kick-Ass banned in Korea

Is the world ready for an Independence Day sequel?

Christopher Eccleston in “Lennon Naked”

Who Would Be Cast in The Coen Brothers’ Star Wars?

Why we need eccentricity

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Tonio Kruger
Tonio Kruger
Sun, Apr 04, 2010 1:41pm

A true eccentric wouldn’t need to consult a checklist on whether or not they’re eccentric.

Then again the compulsion I feel to roll my eyes at many of those who consider themselves eccentric and yet continuously wax judgmental about actions that don’t really harm anyone undoubtedly makes me eccentric to some people.

Mon, Apr 05, 2010 6:51am

Government support for the arts seems in practice to mean arts that people wouldn’t pay to see. The theatre occupied only by the one cast member’s boyfriend who isn’t also in the cast is all too familiar to anyone who’s been on the edges of this field…

Has any government grant ever produced any art worth having? Genuine question. I haven’t seen any.

Mon, Apr 05, 2010 12:38pm

Has any government grant ever produced any art worth having? Genuine question. I haven’t seen any.

You can browse the website of the National Endowment for the Arts (here in the US) and see what they’ve funded in the past. Whether those projects meet your definition of “art worth having” is up to you. :-)

Here is a list of books that were made possible by NEA Literature Fellowships, which were subsequently made into movies, including:

Smoke Signals based on a book by Sherman Alexie

Short Cuts based on Raymond Carver short stories

The Hours by Michael Cunningham

The World According to Garp and Cider House Rules by John Irving

Clockers by Richard Price

Brokeback Mountain from a short story collection by Annie Proulx

The Color Purple by Alice Walker

…and on and on.

Pulitzer-Prizewinning books whose authors relied on NEA grants include The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, Middlesex, The Corrections, The Shipping News, The Mambo Kings Play Songs of Love, etc.

In the 1950’s the US State Department funded a Jazz Ambassadors program that sent musicians around the world as cultural diplomats, including Dizzy Gillespie, Dave Brubeck, Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, Thelonious Monk, Benny Goodman, and Miles Davis. They played for millions and met with heads of state.

The NEA funds not only individual artists but also literary organizations and youth-directed programs like The Big Read and Poetry Out Loud, to encourage the next generation of readers and writers.

So, yes, I think there’s a role for government to play in supporting the arts. The question that interests me is: Will government-funded artists feel beholden to the government, and be less willing to criticize it? And will government have the wisdom to let the artists say what they want, even if they’re critical of government or promote views that may be seen as antithetical to the government’s agenda?

On the one hand, I can see the point that some might make, that the government (i.e. the taxpayers) shouldn’t involuntarily pay for something that displeases or disturbs them. On the other hand, what better way to show that you’re committed to ideals like liberty and free speech (not to mention the value of art to provoke thought), than to fund even those who have critical or shocking messages without trying to suppress what they say? If government can refrain from attempting to censor art (e.g. threats to withdraw public funding from the a museum because of an “objectionable” exhibition) as well as refrain from using artists for propaganda (although were the Jazz Ambassadors propaganda? hmmm…) then I don’t see why government funding for the arts can’t be a good thing.