Tuesday, May 11, 2004

Mission Statement Impossible

I started this blog because the public was clamoring to hear my thoughts. Which is to say, my sister suggested it. She advised me that if I was going to spend hours telling her about the theatre of John Van Druten and Vincente Minnelli's long uninterrupted takes and why I think musical-theatre singing has gone to hell and why Boy Meets World was actually a well-written show and the way John Culshaw produced opera recordings and Vaudeville and Verdi everything else, I might as well write some of this stuff down in case anybody else wants to hear about it.

(The above list isn't a joke, by the way; those are some of the subjects I hope to write about here in the future.)

I wouldn't say I know more than anybody else about any one aspect of culture, pop or otherwise. But I have accumulated a lot of arcane facts and out-of-left-field opinions over the years (Sidney Kingsley was a better writer than Arthur Miller; and so on), and I think that if you're interested in TV or movies or musicals or music or whatever, you might find something here worth reading, or at least worth arguing with.

So that's my justification for starting a blog, that I think I might have something interesting to say. Hopefully I can prove it. The other justification for starting a blog is to do something a little different from the other blogs. Hence the title. Most arts blogs are at least in part about recent developments -- the latest books, the latest movies, the latest concerts. This blog will mostly be about stuff that is not the latest, about stuff that isn't all that widely seen or even widely remembered any more. In other words, I'm hoping to give a blog a fresh perspective by dealing with non-fresh subject matter. It's worth a shot.

One more thing: I suppose anyone who starts an arts blog has to say where he or she stands on the high art vs. low art question. (One of the most enjoyable arts bloggers, Terry Teachout -- described as "a commentator of rare daring" by the critic for the excellent newspaper The Boston Globe, and "an idiot and a blowhard in a cheap toupee" by the author of the excellent opera site Parterre Box -- builds a lot of his work around the tension between his desire to uphold "high culture" and his love of lots of things that don't qualify as high culture.) I'm going to be writing about Mozart and Animaniacs in this blog, probably at equal length. Do I think they're on the same level? No. On the other hand, I think the high art/low art distinction is very tricky, because certain definitions of high art would exclude almost everything. People routinely talk about the greatest movies as high art, but I think there's a very strong case to be made that movies are so collaborative and so haphazardly made that no movie can qualify as high art, not like a painting or a poem that is truly the personal artistic expression of one person.

Ultimately, though, I don't worry about the distinction because, you'll soon find, I over-analyze everything, whether the highest art or the lowest. I've always been the sort of person who spends too much time researching and thinking about and analyzing anything he likes, and even some things I don't like. (I think Family Guy is a truly awful show, but I can tell you why in tiresome detail.) One time I was corresponding with a writer for a terrific TV show, and after reading my endless ruminations on the show, he said "I'm flattered that someone likes the show enough to spend so much time thinking about it." He was nice enough to say that where a less friendly person would have told me to get a life. Well, the life I've gotten appears to be here online, and if I'm going to spend so much time thinking about things like this, I hope you'll enjoy some of my thoughts, and maybe contribute some thoughts of your own.

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