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Comments: Week of September 27, 2010

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1. In last week’s cover story, Chris Smith profiled The Daily Show host and comedian–cum–political journalist Jon Stewart (America Is a Joke,” September 20), much to the delight of Stewart’s many fans. “Reminds us again how politics and television journalism have become a joke,” wrote Pete Golis on his blog at the Press Democrat.Never mind that the joke is on us.” “There is definitely something wrong with the system when you feel more confident in Comedy Central to deliver the facts than Fox, MSN, or CNN,” wrote one commenter on nymag.com. Others suggested, however, that The Daily Show profits from the same media culture that Stewart enjoys skewering: “It is just one more example of the echo chamber,” wrote one. “I love Jon,” wrote another, “but I know that the only reason he’s behind the faux-anchor desk is because he makes a lot of money for a lot of people.” Others revived an earlier Daily Show controversy regarding the women hired on the show. “Number of words devoted to Jon Stewart in NY Mag: 5,053. Number of those words that are ‘Jezebel’ or ‘sexist’: 0,” tweeted culture reporter Dave Itzkoff. “No question about Jezebel’s exposé on the lack of female writers? Was this a condition of the profile?” asked a commenter. (For the record: Of course not.) Another rebutted the people “who still think, after the women of The Daily Show wrote their response, that Jezebel’s piece on ‘sexism at TDS’ was anything but a hit piece.” Readers were also surprised by Stewart and talk-show nemesis Glenn Beck’s mild opinions on one another. “One of the revealing angles,” noted Matthew Nisbet on the website Big Think about the Beck-Stewart connection. “Despite their ideological differences, they apparently respect—even admire—each other’s ability to entertain and engage viewers.”


2. Robert Sullivan’s survey of the bountiful flora and fauna thriving around and under New York’s urban landscape (The Concrete Jungle,” September 20) came as a surprise to readers. “An amazing article,” wrote Jess Leber at Change.org’s environment blog. “These ecosystems create a uniquely wild playground that stop even I’ve-seen-it-all New Yorkers dead in their tracks.” “Not what I was expecting when the city has been teeming with fashionistas and urban wildlife on the pop edge of culture,” wrote Sarah Webb on her blog, Webb of Science, referring to the story’s publication during Fashion Week. “[The article]’s a challenging metaphor for the city and our global community. As urban dwellers, we’re both part of the problem and part of the solution … I love my city and I’m glad to appreciate it as nature, too.” The New York Times featured the article on its Ideas blog, suggesting a tweak to the Green Acres theme song: “Dahling I love you, but give me those abandoned dumping grounds of Canarsie.”

3. New York art critic Jerry Saltz appeared this summer as a judge on Bravo’s reality-competition show Work of Art, and he reflected on the experience in last week’s “Culture Pages” (Judge Jerry,” September 20). Readers discussed the show’s impact on art criticism and the effects of popularizing the fine arts. “It did nothing for the public understanding of the artistic process, or even identifying what ‘good art’ is,” wrote a commenter on nymag.com. “But it shimmied the perceived art world out of its tight crevice of thinking and brought new audiences in who would never discuss art in the first place. I consider that progress.” “I don’t object to a TV show about art, but this ‘reality’ game-show version, albeit a cultural hallmark of the age, was nonetheless not serious enough for me if we are really here to be more than entertained,” argued another. “[Work of Art] created a fierce conversation that viewers wrote about all week long,” noted Tracey Harnish at Culturemob’s art blog. “I have this crazy idea: What if people were talking about art in addition to American Idol? Wouldn’t it be great if art was part of the national conversation?” Not everyone thought our critic’s participation in the show was as democratic as he did. “Despite Saltz’s continued championing of the ‘populist’ art world, only ‘somebodies’ like Linda Yablonsky and Powhida get proper citations in his article,” wrote the blogger at Purple Links. “Saltz keeps praising the magical polyphony of the Internet and how it’s paradigmatically changing art criticism, but he has a habit of referring to writers on the web as if they’re some kind of wild, free-floating energy untethered to bodies or identities. Saltz writes about the groovy benevolent Borg vibes of the web’s quintillions, but he’s really just abstracting and anonymizing everyone who, to him, isn’t a name worth mentioning.” Others, however, visited nymag.com to thank Saltz for his participation. “Though a critic of your criticism on the show, I sincerely hope you are again a member of the cadre of judges for season two,” wrote one. “I look forward to seeing you on TV again, where you succeeded in furthering and expanding the phenomenon of art viewing and popular criticism.”

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