Jazz, Age, and the NEA
January 13, 2012

Empowered to endow in more ways than one, the National Endowment for the Arts did its job of bestowing prestige at a lavish event at Jazz at Lincoln Center this past week in honor of five musicians named as NEA Jazz Masters: the drummer Jack DeJohnette, the saxophonist Von Freeman, the bassist Charlie Haden, the singer Sheila Jordan, and the trumpeter Jimmy Owens.

The Creative Potential of Occupy Wall Street's Cooperative Power
December 10, 2011

The night before the first big Occupy Wall Street rally at Foley Square in early October, I went to my local bookstore to hear Chris Lehmann speak about his new book, Rich People Things, which explores, with penetrating hilarity, the follies of the “one percent.” During the discussion, a number of us were struck by the way the obscenely wealthy few are proud to be an “elite” in contrast to the way the term, along with kindred ideas like taste, discrimination, and distinction, have been completely discredited—vilified—in matters of culture.

Remembering the Monstrous Stan Kenton
December 09, 2011

It takes a special awfulness for an artist to be worth remembering not for the value but for the faults of his work. In American music, few well-established figures went quite so wrong as Stan Kenton, the pianist and orchestra leader whose centennial on December 15 will be recognized by concerts at Jazz at Lincoln, the Manhattan School of Music, and the University of North Texas, which houses an archive of Kenton’s papers and scores.

The GOP vs. TR
December 07, 2011

One of the reasons that it was clever for Obama to give his Dec.

The Cotton Club Parade Marches Backward
November 26, 2011

An origin narrative needs grounding in place, and the myth of jazz’s maturation during the Harlem Renaissance positions the music in the nexus of black expression, white emulation, cross-exploitation, and kitsch at the Cotton Club. From the time of its rise in the Prohibition Era, the club has been notorious for packaging African-American performance as exotica for white oglers. A newly staged production at City Center in New York, Cotton Club Parade, does some repackaging of that packaging for the 21st-century.

Context, Schmontext
November 22, 2011

A few days ago, when Rick Perry put up an ad taking wildly out of context President Obama's remark that American business had "gotten a little lazy" about encouraging foreign investment in the U.S., some of TNR's clever commenters noted that the potential for this sort of shameless cutting and pasting was virtually boundless. Observed commenter "Fishpeddler," "I hope Obama is careful when he is discussing movies.

A Modest Proposal: Why We Have Nowhere Near Enough Republican Debates
November 10, 2011

After last night’s spectacle, the American public—or at the least, American pundits—would be forgiven for demanding (or whimpering for) an end to the litany of Republican debates. After all, they’re unedifying, agonizing, somewhat grotesque, and offer little of substance aside from a terrifying glimpse into the dark, pitiless recesses of the Republican soul.  All of that is clear enough. But allow for a modest proposal: Rather than fewer debates, what we need is more. Many more.

The Trouble With Neutrality
September 14, 2011

A World on Fire: Britain’s Crucial Role in the American Civil War By Amanda Foreman (Random House, 958 pp., $35) The world’s biggest superpower has a problem. The citizens of a nation overseas have risen up against their tyrannical rulers, determined to claim liberty even if it takes a civil war. As the most powerful global advocate of freedom, the superpower has to admire the rebels’ cause. Should it help them? Humanitarians argue that intervention can prevent hundreds of thousands of civilians from suffering hideous state-sponsored subjugation.

What’s with Romney’s Awkward Jokes? Harvard’s ‘Wit and Humor’ Professor Explains
September 12, 2011

Why do Mitt Romney’s attempts to be funny fall flat? Most of the Romneyisms that get quoted only seem funny to his critics—“Corporations are people, my friend,” or “Look, I’m not going to eat Barack Obama’s dog food.” But he knows he has to try. As he rather grimly told Time in 2008, “One of the rules we had was we were going to have fun. The first rule was every meeting had to begin with a joke. And it took some work to find jokes.” People who know Romney say that in private he’s actually quite funny, and—contrary to his reputation—he does, at times, pull off a good joke or two.

Hey Conservatives! Stop Trying to Appropriate Martin Luther King.
August 30, 2011

Leading conservatives seem to adore Martin Luther King. Jr. As president, George W.