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April 9, 2014

Jonathan Tobin: Why Did Kerry Lie About Israeli Blame?

Samuel G. Freedman: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Jessica Ivins: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Kim Giles: Asking for help is not weakness

Kathy Kristof and Barbara Hoch Marcus: 7 Great Growth Israeli Stocks

Matthew Mientka: How Beans, Peas, And Chickpeas Cleanse Bad Cholesterol and Lowers Risk of Heart Disease

Sabrina Bachai: 5 At-Home Treatments For Headaches

The Kosher Gourmet by Daniel Neman Have yourself a matzo ball: The secrets bubby never told you and recipes she could have never imagined

April 8, 2014

Lori Nawyn: At Your Wit's End and Back: Finding Peace

Susan B. Garland and Rachel L. Sheedy: Strategies Married Couples Can Use to Boost Benefits

David Muhlbaum: Smart Tax Deductions Non-Itemizers Can Claim

Jill Weisenberger, M.S., R.D.N., C.D.E : Before You Lose Your Mental Edge

Dana Dovey: Coffee Drinkers Rejoice! Your Cup Of Joe Can Prevent Death From Liver Disease

Chris Weller: Electric 'Thinking Cap' Puts Your Brain Power Into High Gear

The Kosher Gourmet by Marlene Parrish A gift of hazelnuts keeps giving --- for a variety of nutty recipes: Entree, side, soup, dessert

April 4, 2014

Rabbi David Gutterman: The Word for Nothing Means Everything

Charles Krauthammer: Kerry's folly, Chapter 3

Amy Peterson: A life of love: How to build lasting relationships with your children

John Ericson: Older Women: Save Your Heart, Prevent Stroke Don't Drink Diet

John Ericson: Why 50 million Americans will still have spring allergies after taking meds

Cameron Huddleston: Best and Worst Buys of April 2014

Stacy Rapacon: Great Mutual Funds for Young Investors

Sarah Boesveld: Teacher keeps promise to mail thousands of former students letters written by their past selves

The Kosher Gourmet by Sharon Thompson Anyone can make a salad, you say. But can they make a great salad? (SECRETS, TESTED TECHNIQUES + 4 RECIPES, INCLUDING DRESSINGS)

April 2, 2014

Paul Greenberg: Death and joy in the spring

Dan Barry: Should South Carolina Jews be forced to maintain this chimney built by Germans serving the Nazis?

Mayra Bitsko: Save me! An alien took over my child's personality

Frank Clayton: Get happy: 20 scientifically proven happiness activities

Susan Scutti: It's Genetic! Obesity and the 'Carb Breakdown' Gene

Lecia Bushak: Why Hand Sanitizer May Actually Harm Your Health

Stacy Rapacon: Great Funds You Can Own for $500 or Less

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Ways to Save on Home Decor

The Kosher Gourmet by Steve Petusevsky Exploring ingredients as edible-stuffed containers (TWO RECIPES + TIPS & TECHINQUES)

Jewish World Review Sept. 17, 2008 / 17 Elul 5768

Art for the artist's sake

By Paul Greenberg


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http://www.JewishWorldReview.com | Walking by the U.S. courthouse here in Little Rock, a flash of metal outside impinged on my vision, though not much on my consciousness. From a distance, it looked like a pile of leftover construction materials. And indeed the courthouse had just acquired a spiffy new addition.


Not until I saw the story in the paper ("Harsh judgment passed on courthouse fountain") did I realize what that pile of shiny stuff was: a water fountain.


Excuse me, a Water Feature. It has a name, as befits a work of art: Echo Dynamics.


Well, sure. That fits right in with Greenberg's Rule No. 17: The more pretentious the name, the less satisfying the product.


Echo Dynamics. It would make a fine name for a corporation that makes steel tubing, or maybe recording equipment. But by any name, the new fountain hasn't been getting many rave reviews.


To quote Her Honor Susan Webber Wright, the judge who served as liaison between her colleagues on the bench and the committee that chose the artist: "I'm just horrified by it. ... It wasn't what we ordered."


In the diagram she was shown, the judge recalls, there were benches and trees, and the end result "didn't look like structural steel." It was supposed to be "an oasis, a soothing place for the public to come by and enjoy the spot, and it certainly has none of those attributes."


Her Honor was also horrified by the cost: $391,000. Her verdict: "That is shocking." Well, Your Honor, maybe not so shocking. This was, after all, a federal project.


All the critical reviews sent me back to the courthouse to see what the fuss was about. Just to check out Echo Dynamics in the ferrous flesh.


How describe it? A series of banked troughs, it bears a vague resemblance to a urinal, though without as clear a function.


Viewing it up close, you can see what Echo Dynamics was intended to be: a kind of low-slung, metallic waterfall. But the sound of the water, once you can hear it above the traffic, is more a sanitary gurgle than that of a natural spring.


The fountain's shape may have been intended to reflect the Romanesque curve of the courthouse's new addition, only it doesn't curve. It's jagged, like a brittle metal W set down in a concrete cul-de-sac. Its straight lines jab at each other instead of melding. It kind of hurts to look at it.


It isn't the fountain/water feature/steel trough that offends so much as the leaky prose used to describe it. Note the wince-inducing language produced by Ms. Tye DeBerry, a senior adviser somewhere within the U.S. General Services Administration's Arts in Architecture program.


The agency's purpose: "to facilitate a meaningful cultural dialogue between the American people and their government." Facilitate. Meaningful. Dialogue. Certain words are a sure sign that atrocious prose is being committed. And here they were all lined up in a single phrase.


To quote Senior Adviser DeBerry on Echo Dynamics, "the work shapes and is shaped by its surroundings." Actually, it just sort of lies there like a big old, forgotten pair of pliers left off to the side of some completed project. I didn't see it shape its surroundings or anything else while I was there. Or be shaped by them, more's the pity.


There's more of this kind of language from Ms. DeBerry, if you can stand it: "Thin sheets of water moving through the stainless steel channels animate the plaza both visually and aurally." I think she means we're supposed to see and hear the fountain/trough.


What we have here is another sad example of the widespread artistic exhibitionism that doesn't serve the public so much as the artist's need to make a statement. Or money. (Why not both? It's the land of opportunity.)


The new fountain is one (debatable) thing. But whoever is responsible for the words used to justify it shouldn't be let near the English language. It's not language so much as wordage. This kind of verbal assault on the mother tongue — no mod art show seems complete without it — would make ordinary profanity come as a relief. It brings to mind a passage from "Pictures from an Institution," Randall Jarrell's still relevant, and still delightful, little satire on the academic life:


"Some of what she said was technical, and you would have had to be a welder to appreciate it; the rest was aesthetic or generally philosophical, and to appreciate it you would have had to be an imbecile."

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JWR contributor Paul Greenberg, editorial page editor of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, has won the Pulitzer Prize for editorial writing. Send your comments by clicking here.

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