Culture Briefs

Question of the Day

Is it still considered bad form to talk politics during a social gathering?

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Books and technology

“Inventing the printing press was not the same thing as inventing the publishing business. Technologically, craftsmen were ready to follow Gutenberg’s example, opening presses across Europe. But they could only guess at what to print, and the public saw no particular need to buy books. …

“Nor was print clearly destined to replace manuscript, from the point of view of the book owners of the day. A few fussy color-printing experiments aside, the new books were monochrome, dull in comparison to illuminated manuscripts. …

“As in our own Internet era, culture and commerce went through upheaval as Europe tried to figure out what to make of the new medium and its possibilities. Should it serve to spread familiar Latin texts, or to promote new ideas, written in the vernacular? Was print a vessel for great and serious works, or for quick and sloppy ones? As with the iPad (or the Newton before it), who would want to buy a printed book, and why?”

Tom Scocca, writing on “Ideas,” on Aug. 29 at the Boston Globe

Wanted: Trade jobs

“Having taught in art schools for most of my four decades in the classroom, I am used to having students who work with their hands — ceramicists, weavers, woodworkers, metal smiths, jazz drummers. There is a calm, centered, Zen-like engagement with the physical world in their lives. In contrast, I see glib, cynical, neurotic elite-school graduates roiling everywhere in journalism and the media. They have been ill-served by their trendy, word-centered educations.

“Jobs, jobs, jobs: We need a sweeping revalorization of the trades. The pressuring of middle-class young people into officebound, paper-pushing jobs is cruelly shortsighted. Concrete manual skills, once gained through the master-apprentice alliance in guilds, build a secure identity. Our present educational system defers credentialing and maturity for too long. When middle-class graduates in their mid-20s are just stepping on the bottom rung of the professional career ladder, many of their working-class peers are already self-supporting and married with young children.”

Camille Paglia, writing on “Revalorizing the Trades” on Aug. 29 at the Chronicle Review

On being stupid

“It is hard to read encomiums to [Judd] Apatow without the sense that his champions are desperate to bear witness to a comic filmmaker who is both popular and worthy of their attention during an age of dreck. They strain to wring relevance out of Apatow’s pro-family message. (Who in America is against families and children?) They strain to argue for his place in a tradition. They use him as a cudgel against flawed filmmakers who are both smarter and more ambitious than he is.

“All the while they miss the simple moving force behind the gratuitous cameos, the accumulating in-jokes, the repeated casting of the director’s wife, children, and friends, and the constant carping about aging in Apatow’s films; they miss all the vanity. He is allowed this vanity because he delivers a message Americans crave to hear. As long as you behave yourself, take on a modicum of responsibility, and wear the yoke of commitment, it is entirely acceptable — even preferable and profitable — to be stupid.”

Christian Lorentzen, writing on “Dicking Around” on Aug. 23 at N+1

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