All posts by Grant

Adieu Bourdieu?

According to Robin Pogrebin in the New York Times (Oct. 16, 2002), symphonies have a problem. Some people who used to buy season tickets prefer single ticket sales.

In a culture of commotion, this makes sense for three reasons.

First, we are moving from the culture that reveals the Arnoldian notion of culture, the idea of a hierarchy of taste that puts fine things on high and more popular culture below. This conceit, hypnotically powerful in one form or another in the West for at least 500 years, is now losing its vise-like grip on the way people think about themselves, the culture they care about, the things they consume. (See book 2, Transformation, for more on this.) This means that the status giving, identity defining importance of symphony subscription is on the wane. This is not to say that people don’t care about high culture and the status it brings them. It is to say they care about many other kinds of culture and identities as well.

And this brings us to the second reason. Because people now have bundles of selves that cover a range of class, age, experiential, stylistic, gender definitions, they are obliged to have access to a range of cultural events. This means we have to spread the same dollar over symphonies, clubs, web access, diverse books, several magazines and so on. That symphony subscription takes up too much of our available resources. Better to dip into the symphony season as and when it looks useful and leave those other resources for deployment in a different venue, for a different purpose.

There’s a third reason. The just-in-time nature of our culture. We can’t know when we are asked to sign up for symphony season who we will be at the end of it. And we certainly dont know where contemporary culture is going to be. Don’t make us choose early. Give us the latitude to choose as and when it becomes apparent who we are becoming and where the several groups to which we belong are heading.

Thoughts only.

Hiya Gaia

Last night I was coming home from dinner through the ornate, lo-fi, rain slick streets of my neighborhood in Montreal. It was about 10:00. And there, in the rain and the dark and October, was my neighbor…gardening…with a pick ax.

She was struggling to remove the ashphalt between her building and her sidewalk. The idea was to plant vines that would take root in the earth and cover the 3 stories expanse of the wall above her. This summer she put down planter boxes and grew climbers. But what she wants is one of those high, deep vineries. We have one down the street, it covers the entire wall, standing, in full leaf, about 4 inches deep, and serves as a kind of bird condo, with hundreds of sparrows, mostly, coming and going, and carrying on. and holding forth. For this she needs plants that can take deep root.

Montreal, and especially the plateau, is filled with acts of reclamation/reforestation. My own contribution, planters on my 3rd story balcony, with sun flowers, morning glories, “meadow” flowers, and a little tree that is quickly out growing its box and will shortly have to be transplanted to the mountain. Everywhere you look people are planting as opportunistically as nature herself. Give us a horizontal surface, we give you a garden.

Victorians would have got this, I think. They were digging out from the predations of the industrial revolution. But not the 1950s, a decade quite in love with asphalt. I used to keep an eye out for those period post cards that put the motel, the shopping centre, the factory, high and way back in the image, the better to show off the expanse of asphault that was their pride and joy.

We dug for some time, and eventually a great chuck of ashpalt sprang from the earth. Eight inches deep. Why did they pour so much of it? And one little vine took root.

Vin Diesel, endangered?

I picked up the latest Entertainment Weekly to figure out why and how Vin Diesel has become such a big hit. (Yes, I saw Fast and Furious. I still didn’t get it.)

Here’s what they say:

“What’s going on,” explains one Hollywood agent, “is that there’s a shortage of action stars in Hollywood.”

How could Hollywood run out of one of its staples.

I figured this would be a good problem to put before popular culture experts not least because it cannot be (well) answered with the usual platitudes about Hollywood. You actually have to know something the industry and the moment in the industry.

Second, this is a genuine wobble in popular culture, something truly anomalous. It satisfies the anomaly test: “If someone had written an essay 10 years ago saying that Hollywood would someday run out of action stars, would anyone have taken it seriously?” The answer here has to be no.

So what happened? How and why fail to produce more action adventure stars?