19th June 2022
Ted Gioia’s art appreciation
I’ve been reading and enjoying the music critic Ted Gioia’s popular substack The Honest Broker. Here’s how he describes his objective:
I know how difficult it is to find trustworthy guidance in matters of music and culture. I’m a writer and a musician, but I’m also a fan at heart, and always looking for a great new album, or a book that will expand my horizons, or a way of figuring out what’s happening in our fast-changing popular culture. It’s always been hard to cut through the noise and get this kind of guidance, but in recent years it’s become almost impossible.
Newspapers have downsized their music and culture coverage to the point of near extinction. There once were full-time jazz writers at every major newspaper in the United States, but I doubt there’s even one left now. And the same is true of other categories of culture. Book reviews, concert reviews, and full-length culture features ought to be put on the endangered species list. And the few articles that get published have often been squeezed and downsized and sometimes dumbed-down too.
But even more, there’s a crisis of confidence. Sometimes I’m a little bit suspicious that reviewers have some other priority than building the reader’s trust and offering honest guidance. Maybe it’s more important for them to please an editor, or they’re writing to impress other critics, or make friends with musicians, or get tenure, or—well, who knows what they’re trying to do? But after getting guided to disappointing albums, books or films too many times, I’ve become far less trusting of the system. You probably have too.
So I made a vow to be the Honest Broker.
I think his model is exactly what we need and he highlights the problem further here in a piece called 14 Warning Signs That You Are Living in a Society Without a Counterculture.
So I’ve been thinking, if cultural criticism moves to independent critics on substack and there are many Ted Gioias, it could open up the space for real artists, musicians and writers to work and to know that they won’t just be blocked by gatekeepers of regime culture, but instead can just bypass them entirely. Now wouldn’t that be interesting?
With markets gyrating all over the shop, it's easy to forget the big picture. The price of energy is the foundational price in any economy. Right now it's too high, but it will come down. And, getting it down, plus achieving net zero on carbon emissions are two of the most critical objectives for the entire globe. So how do we get enough clean energy to power the world, and bring down pollution? Nuclear has to be on the cards and in the mix. Let's explore.
Will Europe experience decline or be forced into rebirth as a result of the Russia-Ukraine conflict? Two possibilities:
What will be the war aims of the United States, acting for and with Europe through NATO? …A lasting confrontation between Russian and Ukrainian, or “Western,” armies on Ukrainian soil would unite Europe under NATO and conveniently oblige European countries to maintain high levels of military spending. It would also force Europe to continue wide-ranging, indeed crippling, economic sanctions on Russia, as a side effect reinforcing the position of the United States as a supplier of energy and raw materials of various sorts to Europe. Moreover, an ongoing war, or almost-war, would stand in the way of Europe developing a Eurasian security architecture of its own, inclusive of Russia. It would cement American control over western Europe and rule out French ideas of “European strategic sovereignty” as well as German hopes for détente, both presupposing some sort of Russian settlement.
In Beyond Good and Evil (1886), Friedrich Nietzsche mused on the possibilities of the Russian threat to unite Europe into a great civilisational power… Whatever his own Nietzschean qualities, Emmanuel Macron appears to agree. Always a civilisational thinker, endlessly returning to the idea of Europe as a great civilisational power standing between the fading American empire and the rising Chinese civilisation state, Macron’s new-found commitment to Ukraine’s European destiny seems to stand within this vein of thought.