Arts + Culture – Articles, Analysis, Opinion

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Is it ever okay to depict the assassination of living person? KCNA/Reuters

The Interview, Hollywood and the politics of ridicule

Sony’s decision to cancel the Christmas Day release of its film The Interview is drawing harsh criticism from Hollywood’s elite. George Clooney is asking everyone to stand up against the cancellation…
Stephen Colbert created an extraordinary character: a right-wing, bloviating pundit who was both outrageous and adorable. Lucy Nicholson/Reuters

The Stephen Colbert legacy

If you were following politics over the last few election cycles, you were most likely getting some of your information from satire. In fact, research has shown that in today’s political climate, satire…
The author with his brother and father on the way to Florida

The last exiles

“Normalization” – that’s been the word of the week among Cubans and Cuba watchers. Set aside for the moment whether it’s really possible for a dictatorship and a democracy to have normal relations, since…
Whether kids play pickup sports or organized sports may have varying effects on their development. Tony Baldasaro/Flickr

Can youth sports foster creativity? It depends

Youth sports are viewed as a rite of passage in a child’s development. If the clichés that permeate sports broadcasts and locker room speeches are to be believed, sports participation teaches children…
In Cecil B. Demille’s The Ten Commandments, Charlton Heston’s Moses is presented straightforwardly as a man certain of his mission. Wikimedia Commons

Rebooting the history of the world

The term “reboot” means something particular in the movies. The metaphor is drawn from computers: a “reboot” restarts a machine whose software has malfunctioned. But in cinematic terms a reboot refers…
As much as we like to think that we vote on substance – not style – studies have shown that physical appearance matters to voters. Carlo Allegri/Reuters

Welcome to Politics4K

While much of the 2014 midterm election analysis centered on the Republican takeover of the Senate, the pundits may have overlooked an important development: the end of a time when politicians looked a…
Ridley Scott’s casting choices for Exodus: Gods and Kings are emblematic of a larger, systemic problem in the entertainment industry. Movie Pilot

Ridley Scott’s casting of white actors is symptomatic of larger problems

Director Ridley Scott recently set off a firestorm when he dismissed those who criticized him for casting white actors as every major character in the recently released Exodus: Gods and Kings, while reserving…
Painter Mark Rothko directs the installation of his murals in Harvard’s Holyoke Center in 1963. Artwork: © 2009 Kate Rothko Prizel and Christopher Rothko / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York. Photo: Elizabeth H. Jones, © President and Fellows of Harvard College

How we restored Harvard’s Rothko murals – without touching them

In 1989, I was a conservation student at the Courtauld Institute in London. During a class on varnish removal, my professor, Gerry Hedley, demonstrated how shining blue light on a picture with yellowed…
Even at major NCAA Division I schools like Alabama, whether or not their athletic programs turn a profit varies by year. Tim Murphy/Flickr

Who actually funds intercollegiate athletic programs?

Parents, government officials, and tuition-paying students are all seeking solutions to the skyrocketing costs of higher education and the burden of student debt. Currently, public universities in America…
Creativity is almost always viewed as an asset to individuals and organizations. But it can also lead to negative behaviors. Kraigsta/Wikimedia Commons

The dark side of creativity

Creativity – the generation of novel and useful ideas, products, or solutions – is seen as a valuable trait for people and organizations to possess. Organizations harness it to develop innovative products…
The Guardians of the Galaxy – whose protagonists are a morally-gray motley crew – could be seen as a satire of the classic hero tradition. BagoGames/Flickr

Guardians of the Galaxy and the fall of the classic hero

A beautiful assassin. A superstrong thug. A star-lost child of the ‘80s. A sentient tree. A gun-toting raccoon. Meet the morally gray protagonists of Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy, the film that raked…
The recent discovery of a First Folio in St. Omer, France brings the total number of known copies to 233. Victoria and Albert Museum, London, National Art Library

The strange fates of the Shakespeare First Folio

The Shakespeare First Folio (1623), the first collected edition of his plays and the sole source for half of them (including Macbeth, Antony & Cleopatra, All’s Well, As You Like It, and The Tempest…
Housing First is a program that offers housing to homeless drug users – regardless of whether or not they’re drug free – with a goal of social recovery. Bryan Guilas/Flickr

Being drug free shouldn’t be a requirement to receive housing

Over the past decade, drug use in the US has risen dramatically, with heroin use reaching epidemic proportions. The country’s policy for combating abuse has involved incarceration, abstinence-only treatment…
Frederic Bazille’s Studio 9 Rue de la Condamine (left) and Norman Rockwell’s Shuffleton’s Barber Shop (right). The computer was able to detect similarities in the composition of both paintings. Yellow circles indicate similar objects, red lines indicate composition, and the blue square represents similar structural elements.

Computer science can only help – not hurt – art historians

I was the lead of a team of computer scientists at Rutgers that published a paper this past August titled, “Toward Automated Discovery of Artistic Influence.” In that paper we reported on our research…
Rising costs, the growing difficulty of securing loans, and a lack of curating talent have made the blockbuster exhibition a hazardous enterprise. Barney Livingston/Flickr

What happened to the blockbuster art exhibition?

A blockbuster art exhibition can double the annual attendance of an art museum and pull in significant amounts of money. Bring Vermeer’s The Girl with a Pearl Earring to the Frick Collection in New York…
In 1984, British LGBT rights groups worked on behalf of striking miners. Flickr

Shared pride, then and now

The film Pride, which won the Queer Palm Award at this year’s Cannes Film Festival, is based on the true story of what seems to be a rare occurrence in human history: two oppressed groups (in this case…
Mark Ryden’s art for Michael Jackson’s 1991 album Dangerous. Augusto Podrido/Flickr

Michael Jackson: Posthuman

The album cover for Michael Jackson’s album Dangerous was painted by American pop-surrealist artist Mark Ryden. In it, he depicts a world in which the boundaries between human and animal, living and dead…
Prior to the introduction of jets, most commercial airplanes were propeller driven, like the DC-3 pictured here. These planes had a limited cruising altitude – and experienced much more turbulence. NOAA Photo Library

Longing for the ‘golden age’ of air travel? Be careful what you wish for

Long lines at security checkpoints, tiny plastic cups of soda, small bags of pretzels, planes filled to capacity, fees attached to every amenity – all reflect the realities of 21st century commercial air…
Movie theaters have seen declining box office revenues over the past two years. Michael Gabler/Wikimedia Commons

Event cinema could save the movie theater

If Dumber and Dumber To, Interstellar and Big Hero 6 didn’t get you to the movies last week, you weren’t alone: just before Thanksgiving, Box Office Mojo put year-to-date gross receipts at almost $9 billion…
Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria and slugger Giancarlo Stanton are all smiles as Stanton signs his $325 million deal. USA Today Sports/Reuters

Breaking down Giancarlo Stanton’s $325 million deal: could the first billion dollar contract happen sooner than we think?

In baseball history, nine players have signed guaranteed contracts worth over $200 million. Five of those contracts have been for ten years. Two of the five belong to Alex Rodriguez; the others include…
Lynda Carter as Diana Prince in the New Original Wonder Woman. Her bullet-deflecting bracelets are made from an impervious metal: feminum. Retrogasm/Flickr

Where have all the wonder women gone?

In the epilogue to Jill Lepore’s new book, The Secret History of Wonder Woman, we learn about Wonder Woman’s importance to the American feminist movement of the 1960s and 1970s. Lepore briefly notes Wonder…
Drummer Nick Mason and guitarist David Gilmour dug into recording sessions from 1994’s The Division Bell to mine material for their professed last album: The Endless River anyonlinyr/Flickr

In Pink Floyd’s river, time is endless

For a band that once sang “Every year is getting shorter / Never seem to find the time” – which followed an explosion of alarm clocks – Pink Floyd’s songs always seemed to take their time. During the band’s…
Temporary security measures often become permanent. Larry Downing/Reuters

Access denied: how security is transforming public space

The recent security lapses at the White House have brought to the forefront the 13-year-old question of how to effectively secure public spaces. As officials weigh increasing perimeter security and installing…