Apocalypse not now?

apocalypse now david denby
Photo by Miramax – © 1979 – United Artists
David Denby’s Do the Movies Have a Future? worries about a vanishing sense of “specific time and place” in major studio films. 0ne unforgettable scene he thinks would never be produced today: Robert Duval strutting on a smoldering beach in Francis Coppola’s Apocalypse Now (1979) as helicopters scorch the earth to the sound of Wagner’s “Ride of the Walkyries.”

You can read highlights from his interview on NPR or listen here.

Broadcast TV’s leaky basement

Recent court rulings have upheld the rights of Hopper (Dish Network’s ad skipping tool) and Aereo (feeding broadcast TV channels to your home via internet) to continue their digital challenges to the broadcast TV business model, as recounted by David Carr in his July 29 Media Equation column. aereo_antenna_array1a These upstart services threaten TV advertising and retransmission license fees, respectively, representing worrisome leaks in the basement of the broadcast TV business model. Studies on ad-skipping have shown its appeal. Time-Warner Cable exploited Aereo threat as a bargaining chip in its contentious carriage negotiation with CBS this summer. Though largely unknown to the public, you have to wonder how quickly these digital disruptions could catch on once consumers take notice.

The Heart of the Matter

hssReportCover“The Heart of the Matter,” a high-profile report this week from a commission of U.S. university presidents and cultural leaders, seeks to rally support for American humanities and social sciences — and the value of a liberal arts education — in the same way a 2007 report addressed the STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) disciplines. This at a time when only 7 percent of U.S. college students major in the humanities, a 50 percent decline over 5 decades.

Watch Duke Univ. president Richard Brodhead and actor John Lithgow discuss the report (PBS NewsHour)

The report, available here, drew sympathetic op-ed commentary from observers including commission member David Brooks (“The Humanist Vocation“) and Verlyn Klinkenborg (“The Decline and Fall of the English Major“).

Far from decrying digital media as a disrupter of cultural literacy, the report offers a heartening positive outlook on the role digital technologies should play:

The digital world offers vast new possibilities, not only for delivering instruction, but also for facilitating research and for making the past and future possibilities come alive to students of all ages: historic buildings are reconstructed; family trees can be traced; classic texts and manuscripts are made accessible.

See Washington Post coverage of the report.

The Heart of the Matter (2013) report [pdf]

Online resources cited in the report:
Academy of American Poets
Museum of Modern Art
Perseus Digital Library
Online Library of Liberty
acls Humanities E-Book

Rising Above the Gathering Storm (2007) from the National Academies of Science [pdf]