angela hewitt, on not wasting one minute

There’s a lot about Canada in the news this week, but bizarre feuds about dairy tariffs are crowding out more joyous stories out of our neighbor to the north. Earlier this month, the Canadian pianist Angela Hewitt received the Lifetime Artistic Achievement Award at the Canadian Governor General’s Performing Arts Awards, and in May, she was interviewed by Minnesota Public Radio’s Julie Amacher about her latest recordings and accolades. When Amacher asked how she felt about the Lifetime Achievement Award, here’s what Hewitt had to say:

Well, I don’t quite feel old enough for that. But it’s a huge honor, of course, a huge honor to be selected for this award in the company of such people as Geneviève Bujold, the actress. So many notable Canadians have received this award. When I do think back and think of all the repertoire I have done over the years, and the recordings, and the concerts, and everything—I haven’t wasted my life, that’s for sure. I haven’t wasted one minute of my life.

updates at philosophy paperboy

When I wrote some tips earlier this year about setting up personalized RSS feeds from PhilPapers to follow academic journals, I also suggested that people look at The Philosophy Paperboy, an aggregator of philosophy journal articles. It’s a great service that catalogs new publications from a huge selection of journals, and it features a keyword search to help sift out pertinent research.

The team behind PhilPaperboy recently got in touch with me about upcoming features, including more granular feeds of new publications and access to RSS feeds. Scope out their Patreon page for details.

othello, not caesar, is our american tragedy

Last year’s Public Theater production of Julius Caesar for Shakespeare in the Park shined a spotlight on the enmeshing of American politics and the country’s dramatic arts, far beyond the typical presidential lampooning of Saturday Night Live. Even if Caesar’s “tragic arc does not exactly make tyrannicide look like the wisest of strategies,” the 2017 Central Park staging of a Trump assassination, even on this deep-blue island off the coast of Real America, proved too scandalous for the Public Theater’s corporate sponsors, who themselves perform on a national stage.

It’s not surprising, then, that this year’s Shakespeare in the Park production of Othello, which opened on Tuesday, takes a vanilla approach to the Moor of Venice’s tale, skipping bleached bouffants and Fifth Avenue glitz and instead staging Desdemona’s demise under spare Gothic archways. There is, to be sure, no overt political commentary over which Delta and Bank of America might be pressured to distance themselves from the Delacorte Theater. But even if Ruben Santiago-Hudson’s Othello doesn’t make its American political resonances as heavy-handed as last year’s Caesar, it has even greater capacity for apt social commentary. Despite a staging devoid of modernizing aesthetic, the Public Theater’s Othello urgently draws the audience’s focus to America’s pressing issues of disunion and suspicion.

Othello is, perhaps most simply, a play about persuasion, where the title character (Chukwudi Iwuji), manipulated by the sinister Iago, learns to distrust his utterly innocent wife for infidelities she did not and would not commit. It’s striking how quickly this psychological metamorphosis into rage occurs in this production, perhaps a deliberate choice by Santiago-Hudson and Iwuji, but it’s a transformation that feels less jarring in our contemporary social climate. Even if 2018’s political outrage is often justified, the ease with which we now slip into suspicion and bad faith makes Othello seem less a story about deception than one about indignation that just happens to be misdirected.

These days, in other words, we are often quick to assume the worst in others, barely in need of an Honest Iago to convince us of the case.

The production’s Iago (Corey Stoll) provides the show’s few moments of comedy, mostly through deadpan deliveries, and his entertaining rhetoric is itself a kind of morality tale for twenty-first century viewers. Entertainment, we have learned over these past few years, is a double-edged rapier: providing levity when our headlines provide nothing of it, but catalyzing suspicion and bickering when we need anything but. More than any Caesarian caricature of Trump, Stoll’s Iago prompts the audience to reflect upon our contemporary politics through an interrogation of those who persuade us and their motives. Do our friends and compatriots propel dispassionate inquiry and cultivate an attitude of dignity toward others? Or do our sources of information stage pseudo-syllogisms, presenting them in the service of deception? Indeed, when Stoll’s Iago prompts our laughter, we’re reminded how enjoyable embracing such lies can be.

Our own media and broader political culture are drenched in “demonstrable falsehoods,” and Othello shows us how eager we sometimes are to believe them, even those as wispy as a handkerchief. The play, moreover, asks us to guard against dissembling and irony, those most effective strategies for dissolving unions, whether matrimonial or political. More than the Roman curia of those ancient conspirators, the Gothic arches of Venice might be the most fitting backdrop for contemporary culture’s political drama. It remains to be seen, however, how our own play ends. Can our political parties unlearn mutual suspicion? Must we, cocksure of our own righteousness, smother our Desdemonas?