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Alastair Macaulay @ NY Times


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#16 bart

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Posted 17 February 2007 - 08:00 PM

S]he may just as well be writing to be proocative -- asking a question to encourage discussion.

That was certainly true of Socrates. But Scher's tone and word-choice suggest something else is going on. More was revealed than probbly was intended. :speechless-smiley-003:

#17 Ray

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Posted 17 February 2007 - 08:35 PM

Scherr's blog now includes some responses, the most substantial from Paul Parish on Macaulay's qualifications as a Londoner for the post in New York:

"Alastair's lack of a passionate interest in the New York art scene, the kind that means you have to GO SEE STUFF and develop your taste in the only way you can, which is in direct contact with the strict taste-making organ of the artists, which must be experienced over time for you to have a real feel for how that organ operates, when it constricts and when it dilates..... If you don't know that, you don't really know the first thing.
And that's what Alastair as a Londoner ain't got" (Foot in Mouth 2/17/07)

Scherr's comments aside, this is the first negative thing I've heard about him--what do others think of Parish's criticism?

#18 zerbinetta

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Posted 18 February 2007 - 01:38 AM

Scherr's blog now includes some responses, the most substantial from Paul Parish on Macaulay's qualifications as a Londoner for the post in New York:

"...If you don't know that, you don't really know the first thing.
And that's what Alastair as a Londoner ain't got" (Foot in Mouth 2/17/07

Has Macauley ever been based in New York? It would seem from the interview that his NY trips have been either on assignment for his papers or lecture and research oriented. I don't see how we can predict whether or not he may develop wider interests once he arrives. Perhaps Mr. Parish might have said 'ain't got .. '"yet"'. There seems little point in blaming someone for not possessing virtues if he has not yet had the opportunity to do so.

There is a rather snarky tone in Scherr's responses to those who disagree with her which does little to strengthen her argument.

#19 Leigh Witchel

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Posted 18 February 2007 - 08:37 AM

I just don't get this objection. Macauley was The New Yorker's dance writer for several years after Arlene Croce.

[EDITED to correct myself. I'm wrong. He did write for the New Yorker for a significantly shorter period.]

#20 ViolinConcerto

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Posted 18 February 2007 - 10:15 AM

I think the interview with Macaulay indicates lots of passion, lots of interest and lots of hard work, much of it voluntary -- all about dance.

Perhaps, like the so-called "stiff upper lip," his British style of writing translates as "disinterested" to Americans. I know that British humor has often required translation.

#21 Farrell Fan

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Posted 18 February 2007 - 11:25 AM

Perhaps, like the so-called "stiff upper lip," his British style of writing translates as "disinterested" to Americans.


Excuse the grammatical quibble, but a critic should always be disinterested (impartial). However, he should never be uninterested (indifferent). :wallbash:

#22 Ray

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Posted 18 February 2007 - 11:56 AM



Perhaps, like the so-called "stiff upper lip," his British style of writing translates as "disinterested" to Americans.


Excuse the grammatical quibble, but a critic should always be disinterested (impartial). However, he should never be uninterested (indifferent). :wallbash:


Thanks for quibbling! But see the beginning of Michael Skapinker's "Why I will continue to split hairs over split infinitives," an article in the 10 Feb. Financial Times that addresses this issue in a very interested fashion:

A few weeks ago, I implored my colleagues to maintain the distinction between "uninterested" and "disinterested" after a couple of instances of us mixing them up. You know the difference. "Uninterested" means not interested. "Disinterested" means impartial.

People say "I am completely disinterested in Celebrity Big Brother" when they mean they are uninterested. Disinterested would mean they held no shares in the production company.

Or so I thought until I read Steven Pinker's magnificent book The Language Instinct. Pinker, a Harvard psychology professor, also loathes people getting the words confused. "Since we already have the word uninterested, there can be no reason to rob discerning language-lovers of disinterestedby merging their meanings, except as a tacky attempt to sound more high-falutin'," he writes.

But having got that off his chest, Pinker tells himself: "Chill out, Professor. The original 18th-century meaning of disinterested turns out to be - yes, 'uninterested'." Oh.


You can keep reading the article at: http://www.ft.com/cm...00779e2340.html

#23 Farrell Fan

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Posted 18 February 2007 - 12:56 PM

Thanks for the link, Ray. That's an amusing article and it's instructive to note that these usage disinctions are often only temporary.

#24 bart

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Posted 18 February 2007 - 01:20 PM

Thanks from me, too, Ray, though my own rigid snobbery about split infinitives gets a (no doubt) healthy dose of correction:

[B]eginning a sentence with "because" is not ungrammatical. Neither are split infinitives. (The rule that says they cannot be split is another holdover from Latin, whose infinitives cannot be split because they are one word.) Grammatical speech is the way people speak.

Imagine, says Pinker, watching a wildlife documentary. The narrator does not like what he sees. "Dolphins do not execute their swimming strokes properly. White-crowned sparrows carelessly debase their calls . . . the song of the humpback whale contains several well-known errors and monkeys' cries have been in a state of chaos and degeneration for hundreds of years."

To get back to the topic, I doubt that Macaulay EVER splits infinitives (in print, anyway).

#25 Paul Parish

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Posted 18 February 2007 - 01:29 PM

Nobody doubts that Alastair Macaulay will be a better head critic than either of his predecessors at the Times. I supported Apollinaire because she was bringing an idealist's perspective to the question. It's clear that she knows that Alastair will be a big improvement over his predecessors, and that nevertheless there STILL ARE THINGS about the appointment that are less than ideal.

He is a dancer, demonstrates in the lobby with panache, can lose himself in hte movement with the best of them. What a relief! He won't be rehashing the secondary sources, which was all Rockwell could do.

But if he knows who, say, Ellen Cornfield is, I'd be very surprised. I suspect it would only be as a great jumper in the Cunningham company of old, not as the very fine, almost unregarded choreographer she is. And that's the old guard. He can come to know the scene, eventually, but it won't be easy arriving with lots of fanfare and a high profile to put in hte time sitting on hte floor trying to figure out what the artists are including and what they're in all their fastidiousness excluding from their work, and why, and whether he really cares.

#26 Dale

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Posted 18 February 2007 - 01:58 PM

Paul, I understand what you're saying. But does the head critic ever sit on the floor in the East Village? Or do they assign others to do that? The way I usually see it, the writers would go to the head critic/editor and pitch an assignment (or the other way around, the people in charge get an idea and then pick which of their writers or freelancers is up for the job). The New York Times hasn't really been covering those sort of events for a long time (if ever).

#27 Paul Parish

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Posted 18 February 2007 - 02:09 PM

Sitting on the floor in the east Village: Dale, I'm sure Denby did it.

And i'd bet Alastair has done it (in London, of course).

And this is really the problem with the Times -- they're gray. The head man is a man and would not sit on hte floor in the East Village, he'd lose caste.

#28 Ray

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Posted 18 February 2007 - 02:09 PM

Nobody doubts that Alastair Macaulay will be a better head critic than either of his predecessors at the Times. I supported Apollinaire because she was bringing an idealist's perspective to the question. It's clear that she knows that Alastair will be a big improvement over his predecessors, and that nevertheless there STILL ARE THINGS about the appointment that are less than ideal.

He is a dancer, demonstrates in the lobby with panache, can lose himself in hte movement with the best of them. What a relief! He won't be rehashing the secondary sources, which was all Rockwell could do.

But if he knows who, say, Ellen Cornfield is, I'd be very surprised. I suspect it would only be as a great jumper in the Cunningham company of old, not as the very fine, almost unregarded choreographer she is. And that's the old guard. He can come to know the scene, eventually, but it won't be easy arriving with lots of fanfare and a high profile to put in hte time sitting on hte floor trying to figure out what the artists are including and what they're in all their fastidiousness excluding from their work, and why, and whether he really cares.


I really respect Paul's well-supported criticisms. While Scherr's feminism may be a bit reactionary, I think we always have to interrogate choices that put yet more men in charge in a field dominated by women's labor, insight, and expertise. As far as Macaulay's expertise goes, Paul's (and other's) criticism in this regard suggests to me that perhaps his writing might constitute a case of style over substance. Too harsh? We'll see... I'll be a careful reader indeed of his Times reviews.

#29 Ray

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Posted 18 February 2007 - 02:11 PM

And this is really the problem with the Times -- they're gray. The head man is a man and would not sit on hte floor in the East Village, he'd lose caste.


There's a reason the Times is often characterized as "middlebrow"!

#30 kfw

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Posted 18 February 2007 - 02:24 PM

Sitting on the floor in the east Village: Dale, I'm sure Denby did it.

And i'd bet Alastair has done it (in London, of course).

And this is really the problem with the Times -- they're gray. The head man is a man and would not sit on hte floor in the East Village, he'd lose caste.

We don't know that, and we won't know that until he's been in town for awhile. This is a guy who long ago demonstrated his passion for dance. He deserves a chance.

Ray wrote:

As far as Macaulay's expertise goes, Paul's (and other's) criticism in this regard suggests to me that perhaps his writing might constitute a case of style over substance.

He had two fill-in stints at The New Yorker, a magazine known for style with substance. :wallbash:


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