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March 11, 2010

Sidling up to the arts

I am told that Time magazine used to call the paragraph conveying a story's news peg "the billboard graf," or sometimes the "why am I at this party" graf. So in this first posting, in the spirit of billboard grafs, I will follow Larry Blumenfeld's lead, and try to explain why I am here.

I am not technically an arts journalist. As an editorial page writer for The Providence Journal, I have sidled up to the arts off and on, writing about painters, books and music. I am eternally grateful that NAJP smiled on me, but as someone a step removed from arts journalism, I will probably have a limited amount of shop talk to offer. Also, like others reluctant to blog, I worry about sending more words into the world than I already do.

So, aside from my allegiance to NAJP, I am here mainly because of wheedling. No one will need a recitative from me on the many remarkable qualities of Robert Christgau. Suffice it to say, I once saw him use the word "adduced" correctly in a sentence. I cannot say no to such a person.

Then there is the fact that I will get to keep company with another of my former fellow fellows, the incomparable Douglas Wolk. Once, in a karaoke bar, I saw Douglas take control of "Voulez Vous." It haunts me still.

No one else blogging here was in NAJP the same year. However, the limited contact I have had with some of these writers convinces me that my sense of being honored will only expand.

As for adding to the babble (especially my own), there is a risk. But ARTicles offers a chance (I hope) to sidestep what I think of as the tyranny of the topical. So many of my arts-related thoughts have no billboard graf. ARTicles could turn out to be where they belong.

So I would start by referring readers to a column I wrote for the Journal last month on Doris Day. I once loathed Doris Day. To my surprise though, it's over. The question is, have I changed, or has history completely shifted the ground beneath her, and transformed her screen presence? And then there is her music. Supposedly Sarah Vaughn thought she was pretty good. Nellie McKay's recent tribute album ranked high on Christgau's best albums of the year list, but what about Doris herself? Too buttons and bows?

March 11, 2010 7:47 AM | | Comments (5)


Time heals all wounds. Without Doris Day in our faces constantly we can forget the atrocities in her oeuvre, which are mercifully seldom now heard. It's easier to forgive when the offense is not ongoing.

Saayyy, what about the column on Jean Arthur?

doris day was one of the many female pop culture figures whom i wished i had for a mother instead of the mother i did have. she seemed to have fun, which was less common in our house than tuna casserole. she seemed both virginal (like the nuns whom i also preferred to my mother) and sexy (what did i know about sex! nothing). so to have mj andersen's wry yet sentimental appreciation of doris day's place in a culture we could not then imagine seeping into every corner of our lives (let's hear it today for those cuties, johnny and tiger) was exhilarating in the way good writing always is.

I was just talking about how so many re-viewings of movies from decades ago make me question what the heck I was thinking when I loved them back then. (Summer of '42 -- gack! -- but like the protagonist Hermie, I was a teenager when that tripe was first-run.) So I'll take the Doris Day challenge and seek a film oeuvre that I like better now than I did earlier in life. BTW, we fans of M.J. Andersen's Providence Journal column will never worry about an increase in her verbal output.

As a point of information, my NPR review of the Nellie McKay album included a recommendation of Day's two-CD Golden Girl comp that somehow disappeared from the published version. And now, noodge noodge, I can look forward to MJ's next post.

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    ARTicles ARTicles is a project of 
    the National Arts Journalism Program, an association of some 500 journalists in the United States. Our group blog is a place for arts and cultural journalists to share ideas and information, to celebrate what we do, and to make the case for its continuing value. ARTicles is edited by Laura Collins-Hughes. To contact her, click here.

    ARTicles Bloggers Meet our bloggers: Sasha Anawalt, MJ Andersen, Alicia Anstead, Laura Bleiberg, Larry Blumenfeld, Jeanne Carstensen, Robert Christgau, Laura Collins-Hughes, Thomas Conner, Lily Tung Crystal, Richard Goldstein, Patti Hartigan, Glenn Kenny, Wendy Lesser, Ruth Lopez, Nancy Malitz, Douglas McLennan, Tom Moon, Abe Peck, Peter Plagens, John Rockwell, Werner Trieschmann, Lesley Valdes and Douglas Wolk. more

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