Cultural criticism and the city.

Hi. You haven’t heard from me in a while. Let me reintroduce myself.

I’m James Russell. A lot has professionally changed since my last post. After two years blogging, editing, writing and pissing folks off I left the Dallas Voice, in April 2015. I left to go freelance full-time. I still contribute to the Voice, but now research and write primarily for Quorum Report. I also write for the Texas Jewish Post. (No, I’m not Jewish.) My clips and more info are at Muck Rack.

But enough of that. Let me talk about this blog.

I like to say I was 5 years old when I decided I would be a writer, specifically a cultural critic. I’m not quite sure if I knew what that was, but I liked the idea. Writing was cultural criticism. I didn’t pursue my profession until I was 23 or 24 though. I was scared before that. Can you blame me? I mean, I don’t have a trust fund and am entering a dying profession. (Both statements still are accurate.)

I’ve been in the profession since 2010. With each journalism gig I became a clearer and sharper writer, found my voice and learned a lot. I learned my role, and the journalist’s, in the world is to engage the public. I have done that, and I will continue to engage and enlighten until I’m unable.

But I also want to tap into my ideas. I think a lot about Fort Worth, where I live, and big issues. When I think about a city, like Fort Worth, or, as a whole, buildings and landscapes, I think how they form political and social systems. I see a big picture. That’s where the arts, culture and society meet. Combine with writing and you get that cultural criticism thing.

I’ll continue to contribute and report on all sorts of issues to all sorts of publications. I’ll write about and critique cultural life here, especially when it comes to Fort Worth.

Perhaps you won’t be surprised my heroes are critics. They are dead, like the late James Agee, James Baldwin, Pauline Kael, Susan Sontag. They are also alive, like the Boston Globe‘s Sebastian Smee, Philadelphia Inquirer‘s Inga Saffron, Washington Post‘s Philip Kennicott, New York Magazine‘s Jerry Saltz and The New Yorker’s d Emily Nussbaum. (I adore Nussbaum’s colleague Adam Gopnik but his work, like The New Yorker, can be inaccessible at times.)

They success as critics because they universalize the issues. The irrepressible Saltz uses art and associates the work with current political environment. He believes in artists as much as he believes in his readers. Saffron is cool, almost cold, but knows architecture criticism must include an understanding of urban planning, history, and a willingness to question not just the intentions of developers, who are too easily characterized as evil and money hungry, and neighborhood associations, who are too often seen as merely concerned citizens and resisting development and change.

Most importantly they firmly believe criticism is not just a job but an imperative. Criticism is, in that regard, a democratic practice. I believe that, too.

Hopefully I will provide on this blog a fresh perspective on issues at the intersection of arts, culture, society and Fort Worth and maybe Texas too.

That’s the point of this blog.

Thanks for reading. I hope we get to know one another.