Arts &
  Arts Culture Analysis  
Vol. 20, No. 5, 2021
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Robert J. Lewis
  Senior Editor
Bernard Dubé
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David Solway
Louis René Beres
Nick Catalano
Chris Barry
Don Dewey
Howard Richler
Gary Olson
Jordan Adler
Andrew Hlavacek
Daniel Charchuk
  Music Editors Serge Gamache
Diane Gordon
  Arts Editor
Lydia Schrufer
Mady Bourdage
Jerry Prindle
Chantal Levesque Denis Beaumont
Emanuel Pordes
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Irshad Manji
Richard Rodriguez
Navi Pillay
Ernesto Zedillo
Pico Iyer
Edward Said
Jean Baudrillard
Bill Moyers
Barbara Ehrenreich
Leon Wieseltier
Nayan Chanda
Charles Lewis
John Lavery
Tariq Ali
Michael Albert
Rochelle Gurstein
Alex Waterhouse-Hayward

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Nick Catalano is a TV writer/producer and Professor of Literature and Music at Pace University. He reviews books and music for several journals and is the author of Clifford Brown: The Life and Art of the Legendary Jazz Trumpeter, New York Nights: Performing, Producing and Writing in Gotham , A New Yorker at Sea,, Tales of a Hamptons Sailor and his most recent book, Scribble from the Apple. For Nick's reviews, visit his website: www.nickcatalano.n


In the last issue of this publication I bemoaned the lack of intensity and scope in our education institutions especially with regard to the Arts. The lack of acquaintanceship with classic artists as well as other pivotal geniuses deprives students of the knowledge of outstanding achievements in human evolution. This practice forces limits on information vital to intellectual development. So if such exposure is increasingly unavailable in schools how can individuals advance their thinking and wisdom?

Actually, there are some surprising sources. After years of frustration at college, students lack of knowledge of even the most popular mythology, I noticed a sharp change during recent semesters. At initial classes I posed my usual questions expecting blank stares when asked about basic figures i.e. Agamemnon, Priam, Andromache, etc. but instead received knowledgeable answers in detail. The mystery continued for a couple of classes until we began a discussion of video games.

It turns out that the many hours that students spend playing video games (to the frustration of many parents) can result in substantial knowledge of classical mythology. So many of the games’ developers rely heavily on the myths and the more games that are played the more players encounter mythic figures. And so, rather suddenly, knowledge of mythology has become a bonus gained from video gaming.

One of the best of satellite creations in recent years has come in radio. Incisive learning can come from Sirius SXM radio - an outlet with hundreds of channels that mostly feature specialty music platforms but also contain comedy, sports, talk shows, and TV simulcasts. For less than the price of some radios, customers can significantly advance their knowledge while driving a car. At present channel 76 airs Symphony Hall, a format in classical music and for both new listeners and longtime experts important information flows steadily. The DJs are extremely knowledgeable and provide interesting anecdotes re the composers and recordings they play. From 12 to 6 EST on weekdays. The host is Preston Trombly a Yale graduate school alumnus whose gossipy interludes about the lives of star composers and their writing and living habits is entertaining and always educational. In addition, Trombly and his colleagues air music of lesser known figures that invites constant comparison with the masters. In this regard they not so subtly raised the issue of aesthetic reputations both good and bad that ‘critics’ have hung on various composers through the years -- an area that I addressed in last issue’s essay. Channel 76 is the least expensive way I know of getting a first-rate classical musical education and certainly more preferable than many courses taught by dull professors at many universities.

Virtual learning is, of course, widespread but often some of the best sources are overlooked. Articles on computer innovations and the latest technology abound in newspapers and magazines but guidance re the quality of programming is sketchy. At present, an exhibition dubbed “The Medici: Portraits and Politics, 1512-1570” is being featured at New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art. The show focuses on the vagaries undertaken by the famous Florentine banking family and utilizes the popular tradition of portraiture to convey their multitude of political, social, and aesthetic activities. Interestingly, the portrait artists featured are relatively minor names in the pantheon of Florentine art. Artists such as Jacobo Pontormo, Agnolotti Bronzino, and Francisco Salviati, provide myriad clues to a variety of subjects in their portraits of the Medici family and other celebrity figures. The show supplies insights into all sorts of strategic topics that conspired to create this golden age and does so without the usual focus on Michelangelo, Leonardo or Raphael.

This exhibition is available on YouTube. It contains information and analyses hitherto unavailable from the usual academic sources. The value of the learning experience cannot be exaggerated. One studious viewing of this exhibition offers more opportunity for student insight into this famous era than I could provide in a standard university Renaissance Survey course.

For accuracy and historical truth students need to have frequent acquaintanceship with television news from PBS style channels and journalistic reporting from the New York Times, Washington Post, Toronto Star, The Guardian or similarly well respected media sources. It is important to understand that media excellence exists quite apart from the political philosophy espoused by the editors or producers. Too often parents, teachers and other authoritarian figures dismiss a source because it doesn’t reflect a desired political view and fails to account for the truth/accuracy reputation it may have which is surely its principal value. Youngsters and students of all ages are victims of this failure.

The Covid pandemic has occasioned an astounding amount of false news, amateurish medical opinions, and John Barleycorn propaganda which has caused millions to turn their backs on even basic medical common sense such as obtaining proven vaccines and wearing masks. There are many reliable sources such as the Mayo Clinic Health Letter, Harvard Health Publishing, and Columbia Public Health Now (a podcast) that offer sound medical information for small subscription costs.

And how about a relatively recondite subject such astronomy? The average college graduate these days knows less about the stars, constellations and planets than ordinary Persian peons did 3000 years ago! Although there are many astronomy apps, an excellent one is SkyView Lite which instructs observers on celestial bodies by having the users simply pointing their devices to any section of sky.

As I noted in my previous essay, the absence of classic coursework in legions of mediocre universities, many of which charge outrageous tuitions, is certainly cause for alarm. Graduates from such schools go into business, politics, health professions and other vital areas often with transcripts containing an absurd amount of transitory vocational coursework and a mere smattering of conceptual knowledge. There can be no dramatic renaissances or ages of enlightenment for a nation’s masses if this practice continues.


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By Nick Catalano:
Aesthetic History and Chronicled Fact
Terror in China: Cultural Erasure and Computer Genocide
The Roller Coaster of Democracy
And Justice for All
Costly Failures in American Higher Education
Trump and the Dumbing Down of the American Presidency
Language as the Enemy of Truth
Opportunity in Quarantine
French Music: Impressionism & Beyond
D-Day at Normandy: A Recollection Pt. II
D-Day at Normandy: A Recollection Pt. I
Kenneth Branagh & Shakespeare
Remembering Maynard Ferguson
Reviewers & Reviewing
The Vagaries of Democracy
Racism Debunked
The Truth Writer
#Me Too Cognizance in Ancient Greece
Above the Drowning Sea
A New York Singing Salon
Rockers Retreading
Polish Jewry-Importance of Historical Museums
Sexual Relativity and Gender Revolution
Inquiry into Constitutional Originalism
Aristotle: Film Critic
The Maw of Deregulated Capitalism
Demagogues: The Rhetoric of Barbarism
The Guns of August
Miles Ahead and Born to Be Blue
Manon Lescaut @The Met
An American in Paris
What We Don't Know about Eastern Culture
Black Earth (book review)
Cuban Jazz
HD Opera - Game Changer
Film Treatment of Stolen Art
Stains and Blemishes in Democracy
Intersteller (film review)
Shakespeare, Shelley & Woody Allen
Mystery and Human Sacrifice at the Parthenon
Carol Fredette (Jazz)
Amsterdam (book review)
Vermeer Nation
The Case for Da Vinci's Demons


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