Comments: Week of October 28, 2013

1. In our annual international-design issue, Wendy Goodman focused on the work of a new global vanguard, young people building and designing and decorating bamboo palaces and renovating elementary schools (Global Design Fall ’13,” October 21). Readers voiced their pleasure with the package on Twitter, calling out their favorite pieces and responding, as is the case with many design issues, mostly with envy: “this tree house in Bali is incredible,” tweeted ­@abchome. “The design collective is back,” added ­@Sight_Unseen. And from ­@designsponge: “Awesome article on the new generation of furniture designers.”

2. “Something happens to people when they sign with the megas,” Jerry Saltz warned in an essay about the increasingly bloated and business-driven world of Gagosian, Pace, Zwirner, and Hauser & Wirth (The Trouble With Mega-­Galleries,” October 21). “I think the mega-galleries scare artists,” wrote one commenter on “The sheer volume of space they need to fill is daunting. The pressure to perform must be equally daunting. Artists lose connection and become a mere ­spectacle.” “It’s part of the arc of the artist’s career,” opined another. “If it represents the decline, so be it. Mega-galleries are intoxicating in their appeal: worldwide, unlimited budget, the ego boost, etc. … I can’t imagine anyone being able to question the artist at that point because of all the moving parts behind them.” “Regardless of the quality of these big gallery shows, I always find myself going,” argued another reader. “I really do love seeing what happens when any artist thinks big, and these mega-galleries do offer them that opportunity. Smaller galleries can’t do that.” Others felt that galleries’ growing too big wasn’t the only thing to worry about: “The metas­tasizing gallery is part of a larger metastasizing art scene. Of course, this is also the age of the Big Critic. While a lot of it hits home, I sincerely wish the image of you admiring yourself in the mirror as the Mega Pontificator did not come so readily to mind.”

3. “The present-day anti-government radicals in Congress, and the Americans who voted them into office, are in the minority, but they are a permanent minority that periodically disrupts or commandeers a branch or two of the federal government,” wrote Frank Rich in an essay suggesting that the forces that brought us the recent government shutdown and debt-ceiling showdown may not be all that anomalous in American history (The Furies Never End,” October 21). “Their brethren have been around for much of our history in one party or another,” he continued, “and with a constant anti-democratic aim: to thwart the legitimacy of a duly elected leader they abhor, from Lincoln to FDR to Clinton to Obama, and to resist any laws with which they disagree.” “Dems may have forgotten that the last confrontation is basically the same as the current one, but the radical Republican base most definitely hasn’t,” wrote one commenter on But another reader suggested that it wasn’t radicals who were to blame for the crisis, now over, but the two-party system that failed to properly accommodate them. “If it weren’t for the two parties’ collusion in preventing strong third-party options from taking hold, they would have split as in the country’s past and the stronger would survive. More than likely, it would sweep an actual national tea party into the dustbin of history with the Whigs.” A few others wanted to dive into the dustbin with them: “I think I’ll be John C. ­Calhoun for Halloween,” wrote one. “I hope when I’m old and crazy I can have hair like Calhoun,” wrote another. And a third: “My Aunt Ethel had hair like that, and yes she was a little crazy.”

4. This week sees the publication of Guide to Urban Moonshining: How to Make and Drink Whiskey (Abrams), by New York editor David Haskell and his partner in booze-brewing, Colin Spoelman. In 2010, they founded Kings County Distillery, the first whiskey distillery in New York since Prohibition; their book is part how-to, part history of American whiskey and survey of the American whiskey scene, and part coming-of-age tale.

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Comments: Week of October 28, 2013