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The Buzz, 12-6: Philistines at the temple
The unbearable lightness of Alastair Macaulay

By Paul Ben-Itzak
Copyright 2010 Paul Ben-Itzak

In a feeble attempt to counter his being called out by myself and others over his latest cat-calling masquerading as criticism, in which he snipped that New York City Ballet's Jenifer Ringer and Jared Angle, seen in "The Nutcracker," must be eating too many sugar-plums, Alastair Macaulay has now made it clearer than ever how unqualified he is to be a critic. How long is his shameless employer the New York Times going to continue embarrassing itself and denigrating the high arts of dance and criticism by setting loose this unqualified intellectual feather-weight on a major high art?

In a response to my and others' criticism published in Saturday's Times, Macaulay's attempt to justify his picking on performers for what he considers to be their excess pounds actually backfires, instead revealing his own lack of substance as a critic and total lack of understanding of what art is all about.

"Go to any gallery and you see how painters and sculptors for centuries have made fat an issue," Macaulay writes. "The nudes of Titian, Rubens, Rembrandt, and Renoir show women with curves that are no longer part of any fashionable idea of beauty. Venus or Diana had a belly like that? I love most of them myself, but I have friends who object. Either way, all of us acknowledge that weight plays a part in our response." What you mean 'Us,' white man?

Not content to confine his philistine perspective to one art, Macaulay is now angling to become the Times's resident village idiot on the visual arts (which is not to insult the village idiot, who would be expected to be less judgmental). This statement has got to be the most idiotic I've read from the mouth of an alleged critic ever. It's almost hard to know which idiocy to start with.

The 'issue' for Renoir was not 'fat,' but how to use nature (chiefly light), matter(his painting tools), his own technical prowess and aesthetic perspective, and his human subjects to make a work of art. And a critic is not "all of us." His or her role is, chiefly, to evaluate the work of art -- how, and how well, the artist uses the tools of his trade to capture the subject, be it on a canvas or on a stage, and how effective the work is as art.

"Some... have argued that the body in ballet is 'irrelevant,' Macaulay goes on. "Sorry, but the opposite is true. If you want to make your appearance irrelevant to criticism, do not choose ballet as a career.... I am severe -- but ballet, as dancers know, is more so." No Alastair: If you can't tell the difference between appearance and art, do not choose criticism as a career. And the problem with you is not that you are too severe, but that you are so superficial. The only legitimate weight problem here is the featherweight quality of your pen and your intelligence.



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