Okay, it started with those damn Chocolate Roses!
You know what I mean: Every Valentine's Day or Mother's Day the "news-radio" station WBUR (90.9fm) does a really heavy saturation-infomercial job of selling a dozen roses or a box of chocolates, pre-empting Any news three or more times every hour to iterate and Reiterate and ReReREiterate the same damn hard-sell spiel again and again and again and I just had Enough!
I discovered that on the poor-relation of our local Public Television company, WGBH (89.7fm) broadcasts Concert Music all day long and Jazz all Night long, interrupting only during the commute-home hours to do their own special news program ("The World" with the ever-lovely Lisa Mullins) plus All of ALL THINGS CONSIDERED And MARKETPLACE --- and apparently two hours of MORNING EDITION when no one in his right mind would be awake to listen. Yes, like all of the "Public" airways, they too deal in fund-raising and they do indeed sell chocolate roses. But if we're lucky the infoMercial-frenzies do Not overlap and a destitute freeloader on the public dole such as myself can usually pick the advertising-free station whenever necessary.
However, I do wish that WGBH would stop pretending to be "The ArtS and Culture Station" here in Boston.
It's the PLURAL, the "ArtS" that I object to. I mean, both concert-music and jazz music are, both, just Music, right? The station doesn't ever even Mention Theater, nor "cover" any news of painting, or dance, or sculpture, or photography or The Novel. Not ever. Oh, maybe once in a great while THE WORLD or ATC will let slip the fact that some art Other than music Exists, but Boston's Arts And Culture Station couldn't be bothered.
[I am restraining myself from a diatribe demanding an hour a week Somewhere in the schedules of EITHER Public Radio outlet here for broadcast of a show I would call "The Ten-Minute Play" that would broadcast three such plays by playwrights living right here in Boston, with interviews with either or both the playwrights and the theater-companies that could produce each playlet ... plus a five-minute weekly segment I'd call "What Happened In Boston, LARRY?" Would that Really cost any more than a live string-quartet? Don't get me started! ]
But after freeing myself from the wall-to-wall-NEWS station because of the advertising there, I began hearing, though in a lower key, a sub-text to the music-programming on their rival two steps up the fm dial:
Think about it: the concert-music hosts are always eagerly proud to play the latest recording or the latest CD by the hottest orchestra or singer or chorale or quartet. And where does their library of The Latest records come from? They're "donated" to the station as "REVIEW Copies"; and haven't I been telling you for decades now that "Reviewer's Comps" are paid for out of any company's Advertising Budget? The mostly new jazz recordings and boxed-sets come in exactly the same way. Low-key or not, this is Advertising, pure and simple.
Then think back to the interviews that Terry Gross, on FRESH AIR, does over WBUR with actors, directors, authors, or writers of movie or television scripts --- always with the Hottest new names in the Biz. She may be the most insightful go-for-the-jugular interviewer in the business, but keying the interviewees to current popularity is indeed a kind of advertising, isn't it? I began to notice that with the Friday FRESH AIR shows, which are "from the archives" shows: often the intro to an interview weeks or years old will note the book's republication this week as a paperback, or that the movie was just released in DVD. That is supposed to make it, once more, "topical" --- but isn't it really another ad?
[ Not that I object that much! I don't own a t-v, I hardly ever see a movie in a theatre, and about the only window on those worlds I have are Terry's conversations with their makers. She, and the Sunday New York TIMES and TIMES Book Review, keep me a well-rounded person --- slightly gibbous* in the area of Theater, of course!]
There ARE other arts. I got a chance some weeks back to walk up Newbury Street (the only Free Museum left in Boston) and look in all its art-galleries between Arlington and Dartmouth Streets. And I found a new Art Magazine called "artsMEDIA" with tastefully tiny and descriptive reviews, good page composition and fine reproductions of art. It's a BImonthly and I can't afford $36 for a year's subscription, but I think I snagged a copy for free in one of the Newbury galleries.
In a totally other genre, did you notice that CEREBUS The Aardvark did indeed die as predicted, alone and un-loved, in monthly issue # 300 of Dave Sim's heroic social-satirical comic. Sim and "background artist" Gerhard made a continuous saga that stretched a foot and a quarter along my bookshelf in 13 paperbound "phone-book" compilations --- over twenty years of excellence that I think of as the comic-book equivalent of Joyce's ULYSSES, only much funnier and more serious.
Since that black-and-white comic title ceased, however, a very serious magazine called FOLLOWING CEREBUS has published three solidly serious appreciation-issues and shows no signs of stopping. The latest issue tackles the twin subjects of Satires and Copyrights, for instance.
But on a much bitterer note, it also contains the first few pages of an essay called "WILL EISNER REMEMBERED --- 1917-2005" recognizing the real death of a truly epic creative personality and role-model of mine, the creator of the weekly newspaper comic-book THE SPIRIT Weekly and later in his life a series of genuine "graphic novels" --- beginning with the collection THE CONTRACT WITH GOD --- that (long before MAUS) forced the world to re-assess the importance of comic-books as a serious story-telling medium.
Oh, and if you retrace my steps gallery-going, stop in at 108 Newbury Street at TEALUXE where one of the purveyers of loose teas (brewed cups, or tinned to take home) is an actor with The 11:11 Theatre Company named Joey Pelletier. Have a cup of "Golden Tippy Assam" (from Bin #104) and, if you don't like it I'll refund your money.
I'd better stop. Drinking tea isn't really an Art, it's just a ritual, Right???
*"gibbous" as in "a gibbous moon" is "hump-backed" or "swollen" --- i.e. between half and full; opposite of crescent.
Until I finally looked it up, you'd be surprised what possibilities the phrase "a gibbous moon" conjured up in my weird mind!