Roundup: Pop Culture & the Arts ...
Movies, Documentaries and Museum Exhibits
This page features links to reviews of movies, documentaries and exhibits with a historical theme. Listings are in reverse chronological order. Descriptions are taken directly from the linked publication. If you have articles you think should be listed on the Pop Culture page, please send them to the editor email@example.com.
SOURCE: NYT (6-16-10)
So declared Mike Wallace in authoritative voice-of-God tones in “The Homosexuals,” a tawdry, sensationalist 1966 “CBS Reports,” excerpted in Kate Davis and David Heilbroner’s valuable film, “Stonewall Uprising.” Funny how yesterday’s conventional wisdom can become today’s embarrassment.
The most thorough documentary exploration of the three days of unrest beginning June 28, 1969, when patrons of the Stonewall Inn, a seedy Mafia-operated gay bar in Greenwich Village, turned on the police after a routine raid, “Stonewall Uprising” methodically ticks off the forms of oppression visited on gays and lesbians in the days before the gay rights movement....
SOURCE: LA Times (6-16-10)
"History is a nightmare from which I am trying to awake."
Wednesday, people around the world will gather in libraries and theaters, pubs and restaurants, streets and squares to commemorate a precise set of events that included the preceding snatch of conversation and that occurred between daybreak and midnight in a provincial European city on June 16, 1904 — events they know full well never happened.
This, of course, is Bloomsday, the annual celebration of the 20th century's greatest novel, "Ulysses," and of the genius of its author, the Irishman James Joyce. How he and his masterpiece came to be lionized so widely is one of cultural history's strangest and most instructive stories....
From the start, "Ulysses" enjoyed a tumultuously divided reception. The American editors of the Little Review, which serialized the novel as Joyce wrote it, were prosecuted for obscenity. Customs authorities in England, Ireland and the United States seized and destroyed copies of the completed novel. The era's greatest writers felt differently. T.S. Eliot called it "the most important expression which this present age has found," a "book to which we are all indebted, and from which none of us can escape."
Wednesday, Dublin will be awash in commemorations, from dramatic readings to special breakfasts including the kidneys that Leopold purchased and fried for Molly before he set out. Thousands will consume the lunch he ate in Davey Byrnes, "the moral pub" — a gorgonzola sandwich and a glass of burgundy. Joyce's alma mater, University College, will confer a medal named for him on the German philosopher Jurgen Habermas.
"St. Joyce has replaced St. Patrick in the new, post-Catholic Ireland," the columnist and critic Fintan O'Toole once quipped to me....
SOURCE: WaPo (6-13-10)
The renowned British sense of humor is on display in a new London exhibition that charts 300 years of the anarchic artistic spirit that produced the political satire of William Hogarth and "Spitting Image" -- as well as the sheer silliness of Benny Hill.
"Rude Britannia," which opened Wednesday at the Tate Britain gallery, is a feast of irreverence and bad taste that asks whether there is a distinctively British sense of humor, and examines how humor is intertwined with the country's cultural and political history....
The exhibition begins in the 17th century, when printing technology first allowed the mass production of cartoons and political broadsides. Then, as now, cartoonists took aim at politics, the economy and social ills.
One of the earliest works shows Oliver Cromwell, who overthrew the monarchy, donning the regalia of a king. The more things change, many of the artists here seem to say, the more they stay the same.
Some of the images are tastelessly timeless, like the anonymous 18th-century etching "Idol-Worship or the Way to Preferment," which shows gentlemen kissing the enormous posterior of Robert Walpole, a politician widely regarded as Britain's first prime minister.
Throughout the exhibition, crass toilet humor intertwines with the political. The crude slapstick of TV's "Benny Hill Show" or the "Carry On" movies is as central to the British comic tradition as the exalted Hogarth....
SOURCE: NYT (6-11-10)
Eddie Bauer is reintroducing jackets that the company supplied to World War II pilots and 1950s mountaineers. Jantzen’s ruffled halter bikini is modeled on a pin-up-girl style it sold in the 1940s. Sperry Top-Siders is selling white buck shoes based on archival pieces. And L. L. Bean has revised a hunting shoe that a 1914 catalog sold with the warning “You cannot expect success hunting big game if your feet are not properly dressed.”
Brands are combing their archives in the hope that old clothing styles with a classic feel will assuage consumer anxiety in shaky times. With some Americans feeling as if they can’t trust government, Wall Street or big business, the brands are betting their heritage lines will evoke memories of better times — and help pry open shoppers’ wallets.
“We’ve been through a very unsettling time, and it’s when people are discontent with the present that they really start appreciating or having a nostalgia for the past,” said Nigel Hollis, chief global analyst for the market research firm Millward Brown. “Marketers are seeking to tap into that.”
The public has little confidence in most American institutions, particularly Congress and big business, according to Gallup polls taken over the last several years. And consumers are not spending: after months of sales growth, for example, the Census Bureau reported on Friday that May retail sales declined 1.2 percent, much further than analysts expected and the first decline since the fall....
SOURCE: Lee P Ruddin (6-10-10)
The official movie exhibition has been put together especially for Nottingham Castle by the film’s set designer, Sonja Klaus, and features costumes, props and behind the scene materials. Scott was also involved in the selection of which items would be displayed. Its uniqueness, however, does not make up for the lack of exhibits. Granted, visitors will see Russell Crowe’s khaki-coloured outlaw attire and suede cloak and Cate Blanchett’s demure, wasp-waist canvas corset. But there is little in the way of maps of Nottingham or the Holy Land, religious icons or exclusive screen shots.
Given its setting, though you would expect to be transported into the world of Robin Hood. After all, film director Scott said: “The exhibition will give visitors the opportunity to really get up close and personal with the film and feel part of the production itself, along with understanding the importance of the surroundings we filmed it in.” Yet visitors to the exhibition will not feel “part of the production”. This is not to say that a visit to Nottingham Castle will be a wasted one, however, since the “importance of the surroundings” provides the story behind the legend.
The castle today is a vibrant museum and art gallery which attracts local, national and international visitors. Visual art exhibitions in the galleries change throughout the year as part of a lively programme of activities. Exhibitions can focus on individual artists, ideas and issues. They often include historic and contemporary collection pieces and significant loans from galleries such as the Tate and the British Museum. It is a permanent one, the Story of Nottingham, though, which justifies the admission fee.
Beginning with the story of Snotingham, as it was then called, you will be taken through fifteen centuries of history to discover how Nottingham developed to become the large, thriving city that it is today. All of this is enhanced by a multi-media presentation that recreates life and turmoil within the castle from its hey-day to the present. A superb model of the castle as it was in around the year 1500 also gives you a strong image of this once magnificent Royal residence. And of course the story of Nottingham’s legendary hero Robin Hood is not neglected.
A cinema ticket is £7.50. Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves is available for less than half that in HMV and is worth every penny seeing as Kevin Costner does not sound like “an Ulsterman trying to imitate John Lennon” (Anthony Lane on Crowe in the New Yorker). My advice, then, would be to visit Nottingham Castle and purchase a copy of Kevin Reynolds’ 1991 version before heading back to the train/bus station.
Robin Hood – The Movie runs until 31 October 2010. Nottingham Castle is open Tuesday – Sunday 10am - 4pm (last admission 3.30pm).
SOURCE: Artinfo (6-8-10)
The 1,250-square-meter space is spread over three floors of an early-20th-century industrial building that has been impeccably restored by the Office of the Historian of Havana, which layered a spare renovation over the bones of the original structure — all under Fontenla’s watchful eye. ARTINFO sat down with the gallery director, who also runs the commercial gallery Factoría Compostela in Santiago de Compostela....
SOURCE: Medieval News (6-4-10)
Shogun 2 is set in the middle of the 16th Century Japan. The country, once ruled by a unified government, is now split into many warring clans. Players take on the role of one Daimyo, the clan leader, and will use military engagements, economics and diplomacy to achieve the ultimate goal, re-unite Japan under his supreme command and become the new Shogun – the undisputed ruler of a pacified nation.
Shogun 2: Total War will feature enhanced full 3D battles via land and sea, which made a name for the series, as well as the tactical campaign map that many refer to as the heart and soul of Total War. Featuring a brand new AI system inspired by the scriptures that influenced Japanese warfare, the millennia old Chinese “Art of War”, the Creative Assembly brings the wisdom of Master Sun Tsu to Shogun 2: Total War. Analysing this ancient text enabled the Creative Assembly to implement easy to understand yet deep strategical gameplay.
“Developing Shogun 2: Total War gives us the opportunity to use recent technology to portray one of history’s most exciting civil wars.” commented Mike Simpson, Creative Director at The Creative Assembly and father of the Total War franchise. “Ever since we developed Shogun: Total War 10 years ago, the team at The Creative Assembly has always dreamt of using our accumulated experience to revisit Total War in Feudal Japan.”
SOURCE: PR Newswire (6-7-10)
In "Moon Museum," HISTORY DETECTIVES reveals the story of how six major artists — Andy Warhol, Claes Oldenburg, Robert Rauschenberg, David Novros, John Chamberlain and Forrest Myers — all contributed drawings that were then reduced onto a tiny ceramic "mini-canvas," which NASA may have unwittingly smuggled to the moon aboard the Apollo 12 lunar landing mission in November 1969.
HISTORY DETECTIVES delves into the story and narrows the focus to "John F.," allegedly an elusive Grumman engineer believed to be responsible for sneaking the artwork aboard the Apollo 12 mission by clandestinely affixing it to one of the legs on the lunar module.
For this intriguing investigation, series host and historian Gwendolyn Wright interviews several of the individuals close to these historic events, including retired Apollo 12 astronaut Captain Alan Bean. The story begins with Jade Dellinger, the Florida art curator who purchased a cryptic piece of art in an online auction and contacted HISTORY DETECTIVES to trace the story behind it. Most revealing is the story of Richard Kupczyk, the Grumman launch pad foreman for the Apollo 12 mission, who speaks out for the first time in 40 years and candidly reveals how, at no risk to the mission, some employees stowed various personal items and objects not approved by NASA onto the lunar module before launch....
SOURCE: Irish Central (6-2-10)
The quarrel scene though included in the preview version of the movie was edited out in the final review. Dennis Quaid, who plays Bill Clinton, felt that scene should have remained in the final cut.
His co-star Hope Davis, who plays Hilary Clinton, on the other hand, was glad it was axed. She said “We shot a really good scene but I'm happy it was left out."...
SOURCE: The Nation (5-30-10)
Ever since Sex and the City 2 hit theaters last Thursday, reviewers have been battling over the cleverest way to call four grown women spoiled, shameless and self-absorbed. While critics have found fault with everything from the women's continued interest in men to their gossipy natures, the thickest venom has been reserved for, you guessed it, the shoes. From the series inception, no topic has inspired more vitriol than the women's penchant for conspicuous consumption, and the movies have only made matters worse. The first threatened to turn Anthony Lane of The New Yorker, who dubbed the characters "hormonal hobbits," into a "hard-line Marxist, my head a whirl of closets, delusions, and blunt-clawed cattiness." Reviews of the sequel have been equally harsh. Roger Ebert used the words "flyweight bubbleheads," while the Washington Post went straight for "demented and self-serving."...
Unfortunately, this discrepancy is not terribly surprising. The image of women spending money, especially on themselves, has long been a controversial subject—one that taps into cultural anxieties about women's progress and its effect on masculinity. As historian Kathy Peiss, author of Cheap Amusements: Working Women and Leisure in Turn-of-the-Century New York, has pointed out, when young single women—Carrie's forerunners—first started to enter the workforce in cities like New York and Chicago over a hundred years ago, it wasn't even assumed they should be allowed to spend the money they made. Unlike their brothers, they were expected to give their entire paycheck to their families, saving none for themselves. When women broke this taboo—when they went dancing with a new hat or dress—they were often criticized for breaking traditional gender and class boundaries.
But in many ways that was the point. As Peiss has suggested, "putting on style" was a way to announce women's arrival in the world. When factory girls lunched in Washington Square Park (like some other women we know), their purposefully conspicuous attire told the male onlookers something they had never been told before: women were making their own money and they were no longer giving it all away.
From that point on, a shoe was no longer just a shoe, but often an outspoken symbol of women's advancement—on the economic front and elsewhere. As Betsy Israel, author of Bachelor Girl: The Secret History of Single Women in the Twentieth Century, has noted about the flapper, another fashion icon who was frequently dismissed as foolish and materialistic: "while she drove and danced and all the rest, she also went to school in greater numbers than any woman before her." Indeed a rise in female consumer spending is often accompanied by higher education and employment rates among women.
This fact has rattled conservative politicians and critics for over a century now. But, despite their attempts to trivialize images of female consumption, who is allowed to make and spend money is a serious political issue for women. After all, in 1932, to offset male unemployment during the Depression, twenty-six states prohibited married women from working. And until 1974, a woman couldn't reliably get credit unless it was in her husband's name....
As for Carrie & Co., they should keep their chin up. After all, they know a little something about sore heels but also sour critics. In the new movie, when Carrie receives a dismal review for her new book, she says of the reviewer, he "turned me into a cartoon and slapped tape over my voice." She's heartbroken at first, but bounces back. Here's hoping this worthy franchise does the same.
SOURCE: Reason (6-1-10)
For the general public, Dennis Hopper was identified to the end with the '60s counterculture, thanks to his career-making role as a hippie biker in Easy Rider. So when he died this past weekend, you're forgiven if you were surprised to read that he spent the last few decades of his life as a Republican. Unlike many famous figures who moved from one end of the spectrum to the other, Hopper never underwent a big public conversion. The man who once "was probably as Left as you could get without being a Communist" voted for Ronald Reagan in 1980, but he didn't make a stink about it at the time; the closest he came to giving his past persona a public burial came when he disavowed the drug abuse that just about wrecked his career in the 1970s. When no less a leftist than Abbie Hoffman criticized celebrity ex-dopers for issuing atonements that "look like cartoon confessions extracted under threat," the old radical nonetheless singled out Hopper's renunciation as one of a few "sincere" repudiations "by people I know and admire." This was in 1987, seven years after the actor started quietly casting his ballots for the GOP....
In 1984, it was possible for Gene Siskel to contrast Easy Rider (which, he informed us, "trashed establishment America") with the anti-Communist thriller Red Dawn (which was "nothing less than a military manifesto for our nation's youth"), concluding that "After more than two decades of pervasive liberalism, the Hollywood film industry is suddenly producing popular pictures that can only be called conservative." As it happens, Red Dawn director John Milius is a self-described "Zen anarchist" and a product of the same New Hollywood that gave us Easy Rider, but it's easy to miss those sorts of nuances when you're looking through the distorting prism of the Culture War. In retrospect, the New Hollywood was too big to be contained by either the counterculture or the left; it included John Milius as well as Robert Altman, Clint Eastwood as well as Jack Nicholson, Hopper the budding Republican as well as Hopper the hippie. In the best movies of the period, the animating idea wasn't some clichéd battle between the hipsters and the squares. It was the concept that powered those westerns of an earlier era: the tension between the home and the road, and the happiness and horrors to be found in both.
In that tug of war, Hopper embodied the most extreme sorts of rootlessness, playing a series of unconstrained ids and the wrecked shells they left behind. Sometimes, as in Hoosiers, the Hopper character managed to climb back into the community; other times, as in Apocalypse Now, he stayed out on the edge. His great gift was to make those excesses exciting and perversely attractive, even when his characters were at their darkest and most damaged.
SOURCE: Lee P Ruddin (5-30-10)
This is not to say that the exhibition does not bring together important paintings and sculptures or a large number of posters and documents, though. Indeed without the generosity and support of a large number of lenders – including those from Lichtenstein and Czech Republic as well as those in London and Cologne – an exhibition of the scale envisioned by co-curators Lynda Morris and Christoph Grunenberg would not have been possible. The Charnel House, the pièce de résistance of the Tate exhibition, is a case in point. Thanks to Ann Temkin of the Museum of Modern Art in New York, the iconic painting is returning to the UK for the first time in half a century.
It must be said, however, that the curators assume too much historical knowledge on behalf of gallery-goers. The exhibition guides you fairly well through Picasso’s role in the Peace Movement during the Cold War: from 1944 when the Spanish-born modernist joined the French Communist Party (PCF) until his death in 1973. But for all the talk of the Communist poster-boy becoming its poster-designer, we are told nothing about how the selfish playboy of the 1920s metamorphosized into the selfless peacenik of the 1940s.
The Charnel House was based on a short documentary film about a Spanish Republican family who were killed in their kitchen and acts as a memorial to those killed in France during the Nazi Occupation and under the Vichy Government. Yet you need to purchase the overpriced accompanying guide to learn about the influence of Francisco Goya’s Ravages of War (from his series The Disasters of War of 1810 to 1814) or discover that Picasso’s 1944-5 work “is a clear continuation of the themes and style of Guernica 1937.”
His masterpiece shone light on the fascist slaughter at the Basque town of Guernica during the Spanish Civil War and was the point at which, says Simon Schama in his 2006 BBC series The Power of Art, “Picasso … got politics” and his Cubism a “conscience.” Picasso’s pacifist painting might have gone almost unnoticed at the 1937 Paris World Fair, as journalist Alastair Sooke reminds us in his 2010 BBC series Modern Masters. But this is no reason to not include a tapestry replica (like the 20ft long one at Whitechapel Art Gallery in London, for instance, on loan from the United Nations building in New York), since it would have contextualised what Picasso stood for.
Professor Morris and Dr Grunenberg say as much in the opening chapter of the 224-page edited catalogue: “It was the Spanish Civil War that contributed decisively to the politicisation of Picasso.” It is certainly true that the exhilaration experienced in the summer of 1944 with the Liberation of Paris acted as a catalyst for Picasso’s decision to join the Party later that fall. Yet any re-examination of the political nature of Picasso’s post-war art should include Guernica alongside, say, for example, the little-studied material labelled “Political Correspondence sent to Picasso” displayed at Liverpool and on loan from the artist’s papers held by the Picasso Archive at the Musée National Picasso in Paris.
According to the Tate website, the exhibition reveals a “fascinating new insight into the artist’s life as a tireless political activist and campaigner for peace.” Yet Picasso’s engagement with politics was examined, analysed and chronicled a decade ago.
If you are interested in Picasso’s commitment to the Communist Party and the Soviet cause more generally, then, my advice would be to purchase a copy of Gertie Utley’s Pablo Picasso: The Communist Years (2000). The artist’s political activism is recorded here and, according to one reviewer, makes “sense of a very murky period”. Morris, professor at Norwich University College of the Arts, may have approached Grunenberg, Director of Tate Liverpool, a decade ago with the idea for the exhibition, but Utley poured over the voluminous boxes of uncatalogued correspondence in the archives of Paris’s Musée two decades ago as a PhD student at New York University’s Institute of Fine Arts.
Talking of the mastermind behind the exhibition, however, it must be said that Morris mounts nothing if not a spirited defence of Picasso as a principled politico. One reviewer goes as far as to say Picasso: Peace and Freedom is “almost an apologia.”
Picasso’s commitment to the struggle against capitalism is understandable yet you cannot help question his silence in the face of Josef Stalin’s crimes; refusing to obey Communist calls for Socialist Realism and representing Stalin as something other than “the eternal father of the people” in Les Lettres Françaises was as loud as it got. I wonder, though, how a man who prided himself on being an anti-fascist would feel about the news that comrade Stalin blocked two attempts to kill Adolf Hitler in an effort to gain more influence in Eastern Europe. Pretty idiotic, I would say. But then again, Lenin did describe Soviet sympathisers in the West as “useful idiots” and, according to one reviewer, “few were more idiotic or more useful to the Soviet cause than Pablo Picasso.”
The artist once quipped: “I am proud to say that I’ve never looked upon painting as an art intended for mere pleasure or amusement.” This explains why I was neither pleasured nor amused by what was on show.
Picasso: Peace and Freedom is on display at Tate Liverpool from May 21 till August 30.
SOURCE: RealClearPolitics (5-17-10)
The new Ridley Scott film"Robin Hood", which has opened to mixed reviews on its merits as entertainment, is also drawing some critics' political ire. In New York's leftist weekly, The Village Voice, Karina Longworth laments that"instead of robbing from the rich to give to the poor, this Robin Hood preaches about 'liberty' and the rights of the individual" and battles against"government greed"; the film, she scoffs, is"a rousing love letter to the tea party movement." On a similar note, the New York Times' A.O. Scott mocks"Robin Hood" as"one big medieval tea party":
"You may have heard that Robin Hood stole from the rich and gave to the poor, but that was just liberal media propaganda. This Robin is ... a manly libertarian rebel striking out against high taxes and a big government scheme to trample the ancient liberties of property owners and provincial nobles."
Whatever one may think of Scott's newest incarnation of the Robin Hood legend, it is more than a little troubling to see alleged liberals speak of liberty and individual rights in a tone of sarcastic dismissal. This is especially ironic since the Robin Hood of myth and folklore probably has much more in common with the"libertarian rebel" played by Russell Crowe than with the medieval socialist of"rob from the rich, give to the poor" cliché. At heart, the noble-outlaw legend that has captured the human imagination for centuries is about freedom, not wealth redistribution -- and this is reflected in many previous screen versions of the Robin Hood story.
As scholars have noted, the earliest Robin Hood ballads, which date back to the 13th or 14th century, contain no mention of robbing the rich to give to the poor. The one person Robin assists financially is a knight who is about to lose his lands to the machinations of greedy and unscrupulous monks at an abbey. (Corrupt clerics using the political power of the Church are among Robin Hood's frequent targets in the ballads.) The Sheriff of Nottingham is Robin's chief opponent; at the time, it was the sheriffs' role as tax collectors in particular that made them objects of loathing by peasants and commoners. Robin Hood is also frequently shown helping men who face barbaric punishments for hunting in the royal forests, a pursuit permitted to nobles and strictly forbidden to the lower classes in medieval England; in other words, he is opposing privilege bestowed by political power, not earned wealth....
SOURCE: NYT (5-28-10)
Using prolific visual comparisons, it tries to show how Cubism, founded by Picasso and Braque in 1907, supposedly translated the movies’ revolutionary portrayal of time, space and motion into fine art. Photography had already captured moments that might have eluded the eye. The movies enabled visual artists to freeze blocks of time and analyze them at varying speeds. In consciously anatomizing motion and adopting multiple perspectives, the documentary implies, the Cubists may even have been trying to co-opt the brash new art form.
“Picasso and Braque Go to the Movies” is filled with celebrated talking heads, including Martin Scorsese, who produced the film with Mr. Glimcher and Robert Greenhut; artists like Julian Schnabel, Chuck Close, Eric Fischl and Lucas Samaras; and the video performance artist Robert Whitman (the most articulate), discussing the relationship of movies to the artists’ work. Much of the documentary is a jumble of people extemporizing about this and that, but there is no connective overview....
SOURCE: Lee P Ruddin (5-24-10)
In it a biographer is hired to ghostwrite the memoirs of a former Prime Minister, Adam Lang, who soon becomes indicted for war crimes thanks to a resentful ex-colleague he fired as Foreign Secretary. In the nature of the war, the alleged crimes, Lang’s ancestry, personality, ideology, wife, and slavish subservience to an incompetent American president – not to mention the fact that he is “writing” his memoirs for an equally vast sum – the similarities with Blair are hardly camouflaged.
It is sheer coincidence, however, that the director of The Ghost Writer, Roman Polanski, is a figure beleaguered and trapped as much as Harris’s Lang is: held under quasi house arrest and unable to leave the country for fear of being arrested by the authorities.
Polanski and Harris are friends, and since the latter co-writes the screenplay it will come as no surprise to learn that the film of the former is a literal adaptation of the novel – line by line of dialogue, page by page of plot. The prime concern now, though, is the greater number of people who will be subjected to Harris’s plot as it unfolds on the big screen; one which serves to confirm what the conspiracy theorists believed all along (except in one crucial respect). As laughable as some plot turns undoubtedly are, such as unraveling the CIA via Google, and the disclaimer inside the front cover of the book that “Any resemblance to actual persons living or dead, events or locales is entirely coincidental,” it remains a movie unserious enough to be taken seriously.
In the book and subsequent film, fiction draws closely on fact and moulds the two. Harris pushes restlessly, some would say bitterly, at the line that separates the two. In other words, he wants to have his cake and eat it: asking readers and viewers to separate act from character (for obvious legal reasons) while aware that act is inseparable from character (he is, after all, writing about real political acts, indeed a political situation, that has come about under Blair’s premiership).
Harris elucidates our conundrum in an interview with the Daily Mail:
“So Adam Lang is not Blair, but he shares some of Blair’s characteristics, clearly, and the dates are more or less the same, as well as the war and the impending possibility of prosecution. And also the sense that here is a Prime Minister who would have done nothing that would have potentially offended the Americans. He might as well have been an American in Downing Street.”
The last sentence is the all-important one here. If the book and film are light as a Blair-character portrait, it is certainly stronger as an indictment of the Blair years; in particular the perceived PM’s lap-dog relationship with George W. Bush. As the ex-Foreign Secretary, Richard Rycart, challenges the ghost:
“Come on,” he says. “It’s not a trick question. Just name me one thing he did that Washington wouldn’t have approved of.
“I have friends in Washington who just can’t believe the way that Lang ran British foreign policy. I mean, they were embarrassed by how much support he gave and how little he got in return.”
Journalists and novelists have every right to question whether or not Britain has an independent foreign policy; whether the UK has, in effect, become a ghost to the US. Prominent British broadcaster James Naughtie has even written a book called The Accidental American: Tony Blair and the Presidency (2004). Yet cinemagoers are warned: the fictional device invented for the purpose of settling a political score turned off readers.
For good or ill, though, it is Blair’s political philosophy that explains his unflinching support for White House policy. In his article, “‘I’m Proud of the British Empire’: Why Tony Blair Backs George W. Bush,” Inderjeet Parmar “shows that Blair is a liberal imperialist who believes that the world needs to be remade by an active Anglo-American alliance” (The Political Quarterly, 2005).
It was Blair, too, let us not forget, who warned about an evil dictator going unchallenged and needing “to spill infinitely more blood and treasure to stop him later,” at the Economic Club of Chicago in 1999, some 21 months before Bush entered the Oval Office.
Given the historical record, then, you wonder why Harris and Polanski did not focus their creative energies on the tyrannical regime of, say, Saddam Hussein’s Iraq. This is all the more perplexing considering what Nick Cohen intelligently illuminates in his Standpoint article, “The Golden Age of Conspiracy” (June 2009). “[P]aranoid politics” and “fraudulent history” propagated by those in the West, says the British columnist, undermines “the victims of real conspirators with the power to kill” in the East.
After all, what are Kim Il-sung’s North Korea, the military junta’s Burma and Ayatollah Khomeini’s Iran if not states of terror held together by a conspiracy theory (be it British colonialism or American imperialism)? In short, Western conspiracies help Eastern conspirators.
Unchallenged, the belief that the British Prime Minister was a right-wing freelancer, a sleeper in No. 10 or a Manchurian Candidate will consume popular culture. Such “counterknowledge,” as one author writing on the subject of conspiracy theories labels it, is dangerous given that it distorts history and leads to disastrous decisions today. “[C]onspiracy theories about past events usually carry with them a political agenda for today,” historian Stephen E. Ambrose is quoted as saying in David Aaronovitch’s Voodoo Histories: How Conspiracy Theory Has Shaped Modern History (2009). In this context that means not only an end to the use of the term Special Relationship, as the House of Commons Foreign Affairs Select Committee called for earlier this year, but a reluctance by democracies to confront autocracies in the near future. It is apt to conclude with a quote from the start of the very last chapter in Lang’s memoirs:
“Professor Paul Emmett of Harvard University has written of the unique importance of the English-speaking peoples in the spread of democracy around the world: ‘As long as these nations stand together, freedom is safe; whenever they have faltered, tyranny has gathered strength.’ I profoundly agree with this sentiment.”
Andrew Roberts, author of A History of the English-Speaking Peoples Since 1900 (2006), agrees with this sentiment and concludes his very own book by writing that today “they are the last, best hope for Mankind.”
SOURCE: NYT (5-24-10)
Its publisher, HarperCollins, is trying to tap into what appears to be a near-endless reserve of affection for the book by helping to organize parties, movie screenings, readings and scholarly discussions. The publisher has recruited Tom Brokaw and other authors to take part by reading from the novel — which tells the story of the small-town lawyer Atticus Finch, who defends a black man accused of rape, and his family — in their hometowns.
Of course, there is also the hope that the events, which are scheduled to run through Sept. 22, will drum up more sales of the book. HarperCollins plans to issue four new editions of the novel next month, each with a different cover and all to be placed on special “Mockingbird”-themed floor displays in bookstores.
Perhaps the largest concentration of celebrations for the book are in Monroeville, which calls itself the “literary capital of Alabama” after its most famous resident, the “Mockingbird” author Harper Lee. The city is planning four days of events, including silent auctions, a walking tour of downtown, a marathon reading of the book in the county courthouse and a birthday party on the courthouse lawn.
The festivities are not expected to attract an appearance by the mysterious Ms. Lee, who is 84 and still living quietly in Alabama after never publishing another book. “Harper Lee has always been a very private person,” said Tina Andreadis, a spokeswoman for HarperCollins. “The legacy of ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ speaks for itself.”
SOURCE: WaPo (5-24-10)
The coat, estimated to be from the early 1900s and possibly more than 100 years old, was exquisitely crafted of sapphire blue velvet with what looked to be soutache embroidery in a swirling pattern of fern leaves. The decoration had long ago faded into a delicate shade of pale brown, but its original extravagance remained evident. The trumpet-shaped sleeves are trimmed in fur, the origin of which remains unknown until experts from the Museum of Natural History have spoken. It's easy to imagine a pampered and cultured lady wrapped in this coat for an evening of high art.
The garment was designed and created by its onetime owner, Louvenia Price. Price is notable for what she is not. She is not an upper-class lady for whom "help" was always a noun and never a verb. Price was a former slave. Which makes her coat, with its aura of prideful elegance, an especially audacious statement.
Where was a former slave going in a regal velvet opera coat? Who, pray tell, did she think she was?...
SOURCE: NYT (5-24-10)
On a windy Southern beach Orville and Wilbur Wright pore over physics statistics to a disjointed melody, their progress confounded by problems of equilibrium. Anxious to be the first to cross the Atlantic, Charles Lindbergh fights off an array of competitors who trade vaudevillian turns. Amelia Earhart sings ardently of emotional rebirth as she defies convention in her bid to become the first woman to defy gravity, Lindy style.
The separate but sympathetic quests of these famous figures have been stitched together to create a musical collage of dream chasing by three notable theater talents: the composer David Shire, the lyricist Richard Maltby Jr. and the book writer John Weidman, who collectively have logged plenty of hours navigating the choppy skies of musical making.
As these veterans well know, achieving liftoff in this tricky art form has always posed daunting challenges. And sadly, despite the talents and experience of the authors, “Take Flight” remains earthbound and conventional, notwithstanding all those heady lyrics describing the exhilaration of kissing the sky....
As it shuttles between stories, “Take Flight” keeps returning to similar sentiments, as all of the pioneers being depicted sing of their dreams of surfing the wind, and the melodies soar upward with them. The dream of flight is a natural metaphor for human aspiration, of course, but by the time these three histories arrive at their preordained destinations, the idea has been so overworked that you may feel yourself coming down with a mild case of jet lag.
SOURCE: NYT (5-23-10)
The idea of having people jump for the camera can seem like a gimmick, but it is telling that jumpology shares a few syllables with psychology. As Halsman, who died in 1979, said, “When you ask a person to jump, his attention is mostly directed toward the act of jumping, and the mask falls, so that the real person appears.”...
One of the purest examples of this joy is an image of Halsman himself, holding hands with a smiling Marilyn Monroe several feet off the ground. Facing his partner, he seems ecstatic, as if he cannot believe his luck. He will hang with one of the world’s most photogenic beauties for eternity. The two are caught in nearly matching, tucked-knees positions. Only a few other subjects, including Murray Kempton and Bridget Bardot, achieved a similar sense of height and compactness. (Ms. Bardot is in a one-piece bathing suit on a rocky bluff, making you wonder how she landed.)...
SOURCE: NYT (5-23-10)
This hourlong film by Dave Davidson, Monday on PBS, seems on the surface to be a simple documentary: the history of an all-black school in Bordentown, N.J., that existed from 1886 to 1955. But by the time the story is told, you have come to see the school as a microcosm of all the good intentions, misguided theories and veiled prejudice that have made equality so elusive for so long....
Sounds like a laudable idea: establish a residential school where black educators could find employment and black youths could learn in a safe environment, free of the harassment by white students and teachers they might encounter at an integrated school. And Bordentown established itself as a model institution that emphasized discipline and personal responsibility.
But the seemingly feel-good story is not so clear cut after all. Bordentown was for much of its history a vocational school; the formal name was the Manual Training and Industrial School for Colored Youth. And it reflected a view that was racist in its own way: Sure, it’s great to educate blacks, as long as they’re educated to be chauffeurs and laundresses....