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The fine arts don’t matter any more to most educated people. This is not a statement of opinion; it is a statement of fact.

As recently as the late 20th century, well-educated people were expected to be able to bluff their way through a dinner party with at least some knowledge of “the fine arts” — defined, since the late 18th century, as painting, sculpture, orchestral or symphonic music, as distinct from popular music, and dance/ballet. (“Starchitects” notwithstanding, architecture has never really been one of the fine arts — it is too utilitarian, too collaborative and too public).

A few decades ago, in American gentry circles, it would have been a terrible faux pas not to have heard of Martha Graham. You were expected to know the difference between a French impressionist and an abstract expressionist. Being taken to the symphony and ballet as a child was a rite of initiation into what Germans call the Bildungsburgertum (the cultivated bourgeoisie).
More… “Artless”

Michael Lind is a contributing writer of The Smart Set, a fellow at New America in Washington, D.C., and author of Land of Promise: An Economic History of the United States.

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“Thou has conquered, O pale Galilean; the world has grown grey from thy breath; We have drunken of things Lethean, and fed on the fullness of death.”

Algernon Charles Swinburne wrote those lines in 1866 in “Hymn to Proserpine.” If he returned from the Elysian Fields today, he would see no reason to alter his conclusion. Flipping through the channels of cable television, Swinburne would find the TV series “A.D.” (about early Christianity), “Killing Jesus” (based on the Bill O’Reilly book) and dozens of cheaply-produced shows about the supposed historical or scientific basis of this or that tale in the Bible. The Weather Channel has run a program entitled “Top 10: Bible Weather,” described thus: “Weather stories from the Bible are compared to modern-day weather catastrophes.”
More… “Who the @#$% is Proserpine?”

Michael Lind is a contributing writer of The Smart Set, a fellow at New America in Washington, D.C., and author of Land of Promise: An Economic History of the United States.

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I go to fewer and fewer big Hollywood blockbusters, because they are so predictable. The villains are too villainous and the heroes and heroines are too virtuous. The underdogs always defeat the overdogs.

Would it kill Hollywood producers to make a movie or two in which the overdogs are the good guys?

Over the years, I’ve come up with scenarios for a number of motion pictures in which the scrappy rebel outsider is not necessarily the hero and in which authority is not necessarily evil. I think of these as “15-minute movies” because, for reasons which will become clear, they would tend to come to a crashing halt at what would merely be the first act in a traditional Hollywood melodrama.
More… “15-Minute Movies”

Michael Lind is a contributing writer of The Smart Set, a fellow at New America in Washington, D.C., and author of Land of Promise: An Economic History of the United States.

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