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Category Archives: Zeitgeist Movement
Posted: December 4, 2019 at 9:45 am
LIVERMORE, CA - DECEMBER 6: Mick Jagger and Keith Richards of the Rolling Stones at The Altamont ... [+] Speedway on December 6, 1969 in Livermore, California. (Photo by Robert Altman/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images)
If the Woodstock festival in August 1969 represented peace and hippie idealism, then the Altamont Free Concert, held almost four months later, symbolically shattered that innocence. On December 6, 1969, about 300,000 gathered at the Altamont Speedway in Tracy, California to see the Rolling Stones perform a free concert that was seen as a Woodstock West. It was also supposed to be a triumphant conclusion for the band that year, following their successful U.S. tour. But the event was marred by violent confrontations between the Hells Angels (who were hired to do security) and the crowd, in addition to lack of organization and bad drugs. By the end of the show, a total of four people diedamong them 18-year-old Meredith Hunter, who was stabbed to death by a Hells Angels member, a moment captured in the Maysles Brothers and Charlotte Zwerins classic documentary film Gimme Shelter.
Fifty years later, Altamont is not only considered one of the most disastrous moments in rock, but it has become a convenient shorthand term for the death of the 60s. To San Francisco-based veteran music writer Joel Selvin, who wrote the 2016 book Altamont: The Rolling Stones, the Hells Angels, and the Inside Story of Rock's Darkest Day, now out in paperback, the concert was a toxic cocktail of greed and innocence. It's a subject of never-ending fascination and not just for people who were there, he explains on the eve of the milestone. It's such an anomalous event in our history. And it also is commemorated by [Gimme Shelter], which is a great movie. But that movie is a patented fiction. Its an apology for the Stones and paints them as victims.
Book jacket of Altamont, by Joel Selvin
There were a number of reasons why the free concert happened. For the Stones, said Selvin, mounting the event which also included the Grateful Dead, Jefferson Airplane, Crosby Stills Nash & Young, and Santana was their way of being part of the counterculture hippie zeitgeist as represented by Woodstock, according to Selvin. Theband was previously criticized over charging high ticket prices for their U.S. tour, particularly from San Francisco Chronicle music critic Ralph Gleason. And another incentive for mounting the show was because of the documentary film, which the Stones, primarily Mick Jagger, had a financial interest in.
They wanted a piece of that pie... to be a part of this underground that had sprung up since 1966 when they were last in America, Selvin says of the Rolling Stones. The free concert and the Woodstock ethos certainly were part of it. They definitely had their heads turned by the immense reaction to their tour in 1969, they were surprised by how famous they were and how intense the excitement was. And by that time, the movie was underway. So there's no doubt they were thinking about these things. And I know that, because Jaggers deal with the Maysles was contingent on them delivering a finished print to theaters ahead of the Woodstock movie in March .
Jagger was clearly sitting there thinking they never had a big time movie deal, they didn't do A Hard Day's Night. So he's going to go into this and he's going to surf that Woodstock wave. He doesn't quite realize that Altamont was going to have its own cachet and become an event in itself, and that the movie was worth one-million bucks, a big hunk of dough to the Rolling Stones in 1969.
In hindsight, it's remarkable that the event as the Stones were touring America starting in early November 1969was put together in a short amount of time. Driven by both the Stones and the Grateful Dead, the concert was supposed to take place at San Francisco's Golden Gate Park until the city squashed that. Plans to host it at Sears Raceway in Sonoma fell through when the company that owned the site wanted $100,000 upon learning the concert was being filmed. Finally Altamont Speedway in Tracy stepped in. In a matter of days, the staging was set up, albeit in somewhat makeshift fashion (the stage was so low, creating not much of a barrier between performers and fans). According to Selvin's book, there was no central command or figurehead running the whole concert and handling the logistics; nobody in the crew knew who was in charge.
Pictured later in the day, the increasingly packed together crowd at the Altamont Speedway for the ... [+] free concert to be headlined by the Rolling Stones. (Photo by William L. Rukeyser/Getty Images)
At the end of their tour on a Monday, [the Stones] went to Muscle Shoals to record Brown Sugar and a couple other songs, says Selvin. They sent their people to San Francisco to make the concert happen for the next weekend. There was no site, there was no sound system. There was no staging, although some of that was being sent to the Bay Area. There was no crew. There was no nothing. 'You know, we'll be there over the weekend. We'll do the show on Saturday.' The hippies that the Grateful Dead marshaled behind this were idealists and innocent in some ways. They just figured that they could do it. It just didn't matter what obstacles were thrown in their way.
The decision to have the Hells Angels to do security for $500 worth of beerwould have serious consequences. On the day of the show, they Angels were physically violent towards the crowd with pool cues; they even assaulted Jefferson Airplane co-singer Marty Balin during his band's set when he tried to intervene in a scuffle. Adding to the sense of drama were the bad drugs going around; health professionals at the medical tent were dealing with numerous people experiencing freak-outs. It's like a toxic mass psychosis, says Selvin. And the drugs were terrible. There were no longer sacraments of a movement. They were cut with all kinds of things.
Such factors as the Angels, drugs, and the lack of police intervention and proper facilities all contributed to a tense and dark environment throughout the day. Sensing the chaos, the Grateful Dead decided at the last minute to pull out. And as the Rolling Stones were trying to play Sympathy for the Devil, Jagger was telling everybody to cool out when things started to get out of control within the audience.
Meanwhile, Meredith Hunter, a young black man who went to the show with his girlfriend, was beaten up by members of the Hells Angels. Trying to get away from them, Hunter pulled out his gun near the stage and was fatally stabbed by Hells Angels member Alan Passaro (he was later acquitted in court). [He was] in many ways, Selvin says of Hunter, emblematic of being in the wrong place at the wrong time with the wrong blonde girlfriendcaught between the Hells Angels and the Rolling Stones where no black [person] could watch, dressed in a lime green suit, with his Afro combed out, having been shooting speed.
A still from the documentary film 'Gimme Shelter', showing audience members looking on as Hells ... [+] Angels beat a fan with pool cues at the Altamont Free Concert, Altamont Speedway, California, 6th December 1969. The concert was headlined and organized by The Rolling Stones. The film was directed by Albert Maysles, David Maysles and Charlotte Zwerin. (Photo by Bill Owens/20th Century Fox/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
Ironically, the Stones performed, in Selvin's opinion, a great set. They'd pick it back up finally when Mick Taylor says, Lets do the new one, and they did Brown Sugar for the first time. They just put their chins to their chests and played the set of their lives. Richard's and Taylor just locked in, and Charlie and Bill are holding down the bottom. Jagger put in a vocal performance that is so sincere, as opposed to as usual sort of cartoonish caricature type of voice. Not this time, man. He's for real and they burned from Brown Sugar to the end of their set Street Fighting Man. It could be one best sets I've ever heard from the Stones.
LIVERMORE, CA - DECEMBER 6: The Rolling Stones L-R Mick Taylor, Mick Jagger, Keith Richards and ... [+] Tour Manager Sam Cutler take a break during their set to assess the damage by The Hells Angels attacking the crowd. Sam Cutler brought The Hells Angels in to act as Security on December 6, 1969 in Livermore, California. (Photo by Robert Altman/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images)
In the years after Altamont, the Stones have rarely mentioned that event publicly, although Keith Richards recently said to The Washington Post: "It was just sort of a nightmarish day. Not just for us, but for everybody." On why the band didnt just cancelthe show, Richards responded: It could have gotten a lot worse, man. That could have been a really big disaster...Who knows what else would have happened?
The few times they've addressed it, says Selvin of the Stones, [its,] We're the victims. There has not been the slightest acceptance of responsibility. The Stones left town without paying any of their bills. That was a pirate trip: they came to the island, they ransacked it forbooty and young maidens, and then they made it back home.
Except for a few die-hard rock music fans and tons of empty wine bottles and other litter, the hills ... [+] around Altamont Speedway are serene compared to the scene the day before when an estimated 300,000 persons attended a free concert by the Rolling Stones and other rock music groups. The owner of the speedway said it would take at least a week to clear the area of debris.
While the Stones and the Dead came out of it relatively unscathed, the incident forever changed them in Selvins view. I don't think the Stones would ever be so fierce and fearless and unrestrained ever again, having had to confront real evil face to face in the performance of their music. You can see [in the movie] the fear, anxiety and despair that the Stones experienced when their stage was nearly invaded and taken over by these Hells Angels, who are very clearly the masters of the stage. And that has been an inviolate space for them, it was a humbling experience to the bone. I don't believe the Stones ever really recovered from it as artists.
Today Selvin takes issue with the idea that Altamont represented the death of the 60s. The probable end to the 60s was the fall of Saigon in 75. Woodstock was a disaster. [The violence there] just didn't happen. That's all it was. They burned down the concession stand when they got there and saw the prices. They broke the fences, they turned it into a free concert. They blocked the interstate highway. The Woodstock myth is pretty fragile, and don't blow on it too hard because it'll just crack under pressure.
Now 50 years later, much has changed for the Stones as their subsequent live tours have been extremely professional and tightly-organized affairs. So has the live music business in generalyet there have been occasional disasters from Woodstock '99 to most recently the Fyre Festival. As for lessons to take from Altamont, Selvin says: Everybody has a different lesson to learn. Meredith Hunters lesson was entirely different from Mick Jagger's. There's abundant evidence to indicate that whatever lessons there were, [they] were not learned.
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Posted: at 9:45 am
If you walked into either San Diego or New York Comic Con this year, youd have been bombarded by inescapable superhero marketing. But, unlike previous conventions where the Justice League-led DCEU or the Avengers-focused MCU pushed big reveals, 2019 was all about the anti-superhero superhero show. Amazons The Boys, built to showcase awful superheroes doing awful things in the real world as a sort of televised Larry Niven essay, had a huge presence at SDCC while HBOs Watchmen debuted its cops and KKK in masks take on superhero fare at NYCC. Both went on to be heavy hitters: The Boys became one of [Amazons] most watched series ever while the critically acclaimed Watchmen has already earned a devoted audience devouring its recaps, explainers, and various in-universe appendices.
Thats because these shows are playing to the same audience that made Avengers: Endgame the highest-grossing movie of all time. Theyre certainly reaching the audience that pushed reactive anti-blockbuster Joker past the R-rated billion-dollar boundary. People who feel inundated by super-nonsensethe ones getting a little sick of unpacking the alternate realities created by time travel and debating whether, canonically, Ant-Man could destroy Thanos by crawling inside his anusare looking for an outlet.
Those topics come up when a monotone, action-adventure sameness dominates comic adaptations, which in turn (thanks to the DCEU and MCU) dominate the film and TV industries. When going to see a summer blockbuster featuring a comic character, moviegoers can expect bloodless violence against non-humans, quippy characters, a degree of impermanent loss, and the ultimate victory of their heroes. Marvel or DC, hero or heroine, talking raccoon or Amazon princess. If theres a departure from this standard that still isnt something that doesnt contain a comic character (god forbid), thats very attractive to a culture thats been dominated by masks and capes over the last decade.
Its easier (and more lucrative) to poke fun if the culture is saturated and the audience is given something familiar. The 70s were rife with disaster filmsAirplane!, which roasted them to death in 1980, lifted its plot and characters from one of their precursors, 1957s Zero Hour! You better believe moviegoers were familiar with, and mostly over, the material: The Poseidon Adventure was a smash in 1972; its 1979 sequel, Beyond The Poseidon Adventure, sank. The current financial situation may not yet have reached this tipping point for superhero films, but the collective groan from the fandom when Kevin Feige suggested that Disney+ would be necessary to understand the MCU was portentous.
The Boys (no Airplane!, to be sure) might not name names directly, but its sexually deviant Seven has a lot in common with those leading the box office disappointment Justice League. Every outrageous set piece is like a Mallrats gag about Superman: A speedy Flash analog zips right through a woman, vaporizing her, while Aquaman-esque The Deep is a useless pretty boy who talks to fish. These gags play better if you know your superheroes; they play best if youre more than a little tired of them.
Watchmen, formulated as an anti-superhero comic with Rorschach as a big bean-eating middle finger to Batman, exists in a world immersed in the authoritarian dilemmas of the superhero genre. The HBO show it inspired gives this insight a new spin. All cops wear masks. So too, do the racist Seventh Kavalry. Some comic fanboys, presumably those that didnt get the Rorschach joke in the original, werent ready to accept that commentary and review-bombed the show. Among their other problems, they wanted a show that played like their kickass CGI movies. The rest of us, while not kicking kickass CGI out of bed, happily devoured a series willing to explore the PTSD that surviving said kickass CGI (like the squid-filled parallel to the Marvel snap) will give youenjoying it even more because of how little these films care about that kind of thing. When youre burned out on superheroes, bringing them back to reality feels like sticking it to the man even if the man is still behind it all.
Its not just the content of these reactionary shows thats attractive to some superhero fans. To get that lucrative demographic, the marketing for these shows mimics tentpole cinema almost indistinguishably. In a world where superhero movies are the biggest business in town, anti-superhero TV is having to match them stride for stride simply to be their edgy alternative. Ad buyouts, social media dominance, and prime panel positioning at the biggest genre gatherings in the worldcounterprogramming now just means putting on a different mask.
The comic-based entertainment bubble has become so massive that while Marvel partisans wage war against Martin Scorsese, Scorsese knock-off Joker does gangbusters. The Joaquin Phoenix-led film bested Shazam!s box-office gross and also beat the hell out of Dark Phoenix. Sure, there are still three MCU movies ahead of Joker in the years top ten money-makers. But its success makes it clear that the markets for straightforward superhero media and those making a self-conscious effort to avoid that designation are blending. For example, this Halloween, you could spy a blue muscle-suited The Tick costume on the same rack as Iron Man.
Somehow I dont think those behind either character thought that Spoon! and I am Iron Man (or, for maximum contrast, I love you 3000) were operating on the same level. The punk acts have gone mainstream well, even more mainstream, since DC published both Watchmen and The Boys comics while The Tick has been one of the weirder properties to air on the Fox network since the 90s. The second season of the big blue bug of justices modern-day, live-action incarnation, which ended its run at Amazon in April, was all about mocking the literal hero business via bureaucratic nightmare A.E.G.I.S., but the realities of the real-world entertainment industry mean that merchandise still reigns.
The Boys, with its similarly corporate (if far raunchier) subject matter, may not have official tie-in products for sale, but the swag Amazon has handed out at con appearances is readily available on eBay. Even if the items bear Fuck Supes instead of, say, the Superman S, nerdy superhero consumers crave the branded goodies. The Boys embraces it: It even released a fake action figure commercial. The first seasons soundtrack reps the in-universe Vought International label, while Watchmens (released as Sons Of Pale Horse album The Book Of Rorschach) hides a self-referential history in the liner notes. Amazon even created fake endorsement ads, positioning its heroes as celebrities in the same system that placed Gal Gadot on the cover of Rolling Stone. When we did this takeover around when [Avengers: Endgame] launched, we ran the fake commercials on television, Mike Benson, head of marketing for Amazon Prime Video, said. It was really aggressive.
The shows may revel in deconstructing costumed crimefighterstaking apart capitalism, celebrity, fandom, ego, power, and exploitationbut the content criticizing and satirizing superheroes is still marketed using the same channels in the same ways. Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram feeds are full of trailers, light super-humor, and secretive cast pictures from set. That strategy has been seen all over these brands pop culture presence, and its paying off with results similar to those theyre aping.
Watchmen and The Boys, both in their first seasons, havent yet reached the live-tweeting, GIF-flooding social media dominance of Marvels most-loved show (Daredevil) or DCs biggest series (Arrow). The R-rated and meta nature of both might require a more specific audience (one that enjoys, used to enjoy, and/or is hungry to deconstruct superhero content), but the numbers seem to indicate that such an audience exists. The newer series have higher average follower-per-month gains on their Twitter accounts than their serious counterparts in past years, according to social media stat site Social Blade. That growth reflects a marketing plan thats logistically unchanged, despite the shift in tone.
Even the in-universe satire corresponds to on-the-nose real-world activity. The Boys pushes reluctant newcomer heroine Starlight on the terrible media circuit, signing autographs and making public appearances, while Starlight actress Erin Moriarty walked the press line and gave interviews at SDCC. These shows, though successful in their messaging to various degrees, are still flattening the landscape to a place where irony and earnestness are sold so similarly that audiences may soon stop caring or all superhero content will evolve a standardized, market researched, semi-self-aware tone to split the difference.
Shazam!performed this trick on the big screen for one of the Big Two, introducing a wry hero that gains powers in a world that already has superheroes, while the Deadpool films did the same for its competitor across the aisle. Shazam!s in a world where Batman and Superman have lore and action figures, where a kid blessed with superpowers has an idiom to fit intoand rebel against. Deadpool, a superhero who has long been a cosplay haven for men who think theyre Spencers Gift to the world, pokes fun at superhero landings, casting, and lucrative film deals, both origin stories and larger ensemble team movies. Here too, parody becomes reality: Until Joker surpassed them, Deadpool 2 and Deadpool were the highest-grossing R-rated movies of all time.
Some Watchmen viewers may bitch about the satirical elements of the series and still watch, simply because its easy to cling solely to its amped-up versions of traditional superhero offerings (violent hand-to-hand combat, bloody effects, cool masked characters) when living through this zeitgeist. While those of us sick to death of these ubiquitous elements are happy to see them parodied, those unwilling to engage on a deconstructive level have some shred of plausible deniability. The Boys falls harder into that trap: At a certain point in the show, its easy to tell the writers were looking more into What awesome and nasty thing can we get away with? than How can we really say something about our subjects? And why not: Its actually been helpful, critically and popularly, to blur that line.
Shazam! and Deadpool, despite their minor deconstructions, will still exist as parts of greater superhero universes. Theyll still sell comics and action figures. Superhero shows, as their audiences blend the zealous and the jaded, may follow suit. Though its off to a strong start, its too soon to say how Watchmens themes will shake out from its sometimes violent but thoughtful narrative. The Boys, however, is already on the cusp of fully following the R-rated super-route of empty gore and gags. Even at this end of the cycle between conviction and cynicism, pop cultures superhero industrial complex is dangerously easy to join.
Posted: at 9:45 am
Whats new in the food and hospitality scene in Miami for 2019 Art Basel? Below, our guide for where to eat and stay for this year.
Given the balmy climate, Miami isnt exactly a bakers paradise but ice cream is another story. Frohzen, among a trio of new dining concepts by the late Jel Robuchons successors and protgs, promises to do for icy confections what the Cronut did for doughnuts. Besides being delicious, its focused menu is meant for Instagram (what isnt these days?) and explores desserts white space.
I dont think anyone has made a cupcake almost entirely out of ice cream, says executive pastry chef Salvatore Martone, of his exclusive recipe that churns sponge cake and ice cream into a frozen cupcake topped with soft serve, in lieu of frosting. Flavors are inspired by traditional combinations like red velvet cake with cream cheese frosting.
Macarons elevate ice cream sandwiches of childhood memory, and hybrid popsicles called cakesicles are piped with semifreddo. Though not a fan of the rainbow unicorn drink fad, Martone gets its appeal. His treats come with custom blends of gourmet crumbles such as cinnamon and key lime.Martone, who will take Ben & Jerrys over Hagen-Dazs any day, says I always go for textured ice creams. I love finding that little swirl of caramel or crunchy nut.
Cannibalism isnt exactly polite dinner conversation unless its in the name of art, and youre Alan Faena. The provocative visionary has partnered with Unigram Theatrical, a young British company founded by music and theater veterans Amanda Ghost and James Orange, for a dinner theater production based on Peter Greenaways chillingly disturbing cult classic The Cook, the Thief, His Wife & Her Lover. Like the films denouement, cannibalism is indeed on the menu (at least for the thief), but so is Miami chef Michelle Bernsteins duck and chocolate sphere dessert served with individual mallets to violently crack for a bit of audience participation. The immersive, meta experience re-creates the movies otherworldly set, a gourmet restaurant called Le Hollandais, where the lines of reality and the stage are blurred.
Youre actually dining with the actors, Faena says of his first immersive concept that involves a functioning restaurant as if Sleep No More meets fine dining. The timing is very difficult to synchronize serving courses between acting scenes and music numbers.
In the age of Trump and #MeToo, through the shows subject matter and support of the Florida Coalition Against Domestic Violence, its timing nails the zeitgeist. Yet its been brewing in Faenas thoughts since Greenaway spoke at the original Faena in Argentina more than a decade ago.
It was a very revolutionary movie 30 years ago, and I thought it would make a great musical someday, says Faena, who has grander plans when it closes here in May. Well take it on the road to other cities.
That East Coast-West Coast rivalry is put to rest by Palisociety, whose Palihouse Miami Beach imports the hospitality brands California vibes a couple blocks from the Atlantic Ocean. The 71-room boutique property with the frisson and community spirit of Soho House (sans the heart-palpitating bill) adds to Mid Beachs thriving collection of hip hotels and hostels.
Most of our L.A. hotel clients are from New York and London, and New Yorkers go to Miami a lot, says founder Avi Brosh, regarding his foray east of the Mississippi River. But the hotels story isnt too Miami. It has more of a coastal Italian feel.
To celebrate his bicoastal status, he commissioned Los Angeles designer Heidi Merrick for exclusive SRF MIA sweatshirts in hot pink and black. Real surfers or not, guests can ride the house Moke to the shore, where beach butlers set up beach umbrellas, chaises and picnic lunches. Rather than a full-service restaurant, snacks from grilled cheeses to smoothies can be ordered in the lobby and poolside and residential-style studios, the majority room category, feature kitchenettes.
The beautiful Mandolin Aegean Bistro may be the fashion worlds favorite dining destination here, but its husband-and-wife restaurateurs roots lie in humbler sustenance. They return to their immigrant ancestors livelihood with Gregorys diner, which is as much a salute to the waning American dream as a sorely lacking all-day neighborhood catchall to recharge. It helps that diners are making a comeback with veg-forward and gluten-free options, according to cofounder Anastasia Koutsioukis, whose Greek grandparents owned and operated a diner for decades in St. Louis.
Its not a concept but our story and their story as well as a relatable story to many Americans, she says, having named their new venture in the mid-century-modern Vagabond Hotel in Miamis Upper East Side after her grandfather. We laugh that were following in their footsteps but in our own way.
Mandolin patrons will recognize Koutsioukis signature flair for design. A portrait of her grandparents, a handsome pair in their day, hangs at the entrance. They slept in gender-specific, color-coded his and her bedrooms, so Koutsioukis used a lot of blue tones in Gregorys French brasserie setting with plaid wallpaper and mahogany veneer. (Her grandmother gets her due when Marias Living Room, a pretty-in-pink cocktail lounge, opens next to the hotels lobby in December.)
Im trying to create environments that are as soulful as the food, she says. Weve already become an anchor.
Before the 1980 Mariel boatlift when thousands of Cubans arrived in Miami, the city was Southern through and through. New Yorkers and Jewish migrs further diluted its regional heritage, as delis and Cuban restaurants competed for clout. Barbecue, a Southern institution, fell by the wayside.
Though not authentically Southern, Brooklyn-born Hometown Bar-B-Ques outpost here (whose name has been altered to Hometown Barbecue) offers meticulously smoked meats and other staples that pitmaster owner Billy Durney picked up in Texas. It opened in a former produce warehouse kitty corner to the new Rubell Museum in Allapattah, a gritty industrial neighborhood on the verge of gentrification, a similar scenario to the original in Red Hook.
Barbecue can change a neighborhood quickly plus we didnt really have good barbecue here, says Jeff Weinstein, a Miami developer who partnered in the expansion. But more selfishly, I wanted to eat at Hometown without flying to New York.
Even Red Hook regulars should visit the Miami location for exclusive dishes. Being one foot in Latin America, it adds thrice-jerk (brined, slathered and spiced) slab bacon and mole-dusted chicken wings with poblano crema. The latter take four days to make. The place has inadvertently become known for natural wines, too, a nascent movement here.
Per Weinstein, People automatically think of beer with barbecue, but a crisp wine cuts through the fat better.
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Posted: at 9:45 am
The word to sum up 2019 has been decided. (Well, its two words.)
Spurred on by societys growing disquiet with reprehensible behaviour, the Macquarie Dictionary has crowned cancel culture as its word of the year.
By the dictionarys definition, cancel culture means: the attitudes within a community which call for or bring about the withdrawal of support from a public figure, such as cancellation of an acting role, a ban on playing an artists music, removal from social media, etc., usually in response to an accusation of a socially unacceptable action or comment.
Its origin and usage can be linked to the Me Too movement, which was 2018s word of the year.
So far this year, weve cancelled people like Israel Folaufor his comments against homosexuals. Alan Jones got the C-word treatment for his tirade against New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinta Ardern.
Death doesnt excuse you from cancellation: The revealingFinding Neverland documentary about Michael Jackson had society questioning the King of Pops status in pop culture.
Every year, a group of about eight are tasked with the job of finding the word that perfectly encapsulates the culture of the previous 12 months.
A term that captures an important aspect of the past years Zeitgeist an attitude which is so pervasive that it now has a name, societyscancel culturehas become, for better or worse, a powerful force, the committee said in a statement.
Runner-up words included eco-anxiety (a strong emotional reaction to climate change and the environment), thicc (a curvaceous figure), and coffice (a mix of cafe and office, where a worker sets up shop for the day and probably nurses a small flat white for several hours just to use the free wifi).
Literary lovers who have strong opinions on what words should get attention (and which shouldnt) can throw their vote behind their favourite 2019 word, through the peoples choice awards.
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Posted: at 9:45 am
We are setting up a live streaming/video channel to do things like reviews of books, interviews, and then eventually we will do staff meetings as well.(1)
But while it was once limited to something like Facebook live, with Restream we can go out to YouTube Live, Mixer, and Twitch, all at once.(2)
You never want to have a dud, because we are a nonprofit and we are wasting donor money if we create a dud, so I used those services for a few weeks to try and get the feel for how successful channels are managed. Aside from big personalities like Ninja, Mixer also highlights various "streamers" to get them exposure on their main page and one time they had a blonde lady who seemed to be doing nothing but whispering into a microphone. Then she changed what I assumed was a "pop" filter (called such to reduce the impact of consonants like "p" and "b" which come across as explosive when recording) to something else.
She wasn't changing the pop filter because she was worried about recording, she was changing the cover to give listeners a different "feel." It was streaming ASMR.
ASMRASMR is an acronym for Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response. I've probably known about it since 2012 or so but hadn't known the name and I basically ignored it because it seemed made up. I already debunk food nonsense, chemophobia hype, and supplement claims, there is no reason to go after apparently pleasant women who think they are helping others relax.(3)
And they are almost all women, which is strange. But are they helping, or is this also a placebo? And does it matter?
Just like supplements or organic food or supernatural claims of the u-shaped curve of endocrine disrupting chemical cocktails, ASMR proceeds from a kernel of truth. Do you like the sound of a gentle flowing stream? Okay, sure. That doesn't mean you will like living next to raging rapids. And to some people the world around them is often a raging river so they want a sensory way to feel like they near a babbling brook. ASMR has some foundation even if how it is implemented seems silly; the same way science knows the microbiome is important, but not how or why it works so buying into expensive yogurt or Dove soap marketing is stupid.
So from a science and health point of view, it may bepointless, but that may not be a bad thing.
Being pointless or even absurd can be beneficial
On the evening I began researching this, I went outside with a projector and a screen and watched a movie despite it being far less hassle to watch a movie in my temperature controlled living room. In that sense, my behavior was pointless, and yet I paid for a projector, a screen, and a movie to do so, with multiple opportunities along the way to realize it was easier to watch a movie in my house. Just like some people watch pointless advertisements so people get paid to make videos of them folding towels.
Absurd might be also watching someone talk for 10 minutes about blank videocassettes they have no interest in, and yet that is what Rhodri Marsden liked. ASMR was a realization that finally gave him an answer why he liked watching shopping channels but not buying anything; "The more gentle and redundant their explanations are, the more pleasure I get."
Absurd is often the case when people simply don't share your interest. Someone might find it absurd that I stayed up until 2:30 AM to beat the "Frostpunk" video game on a weekday when I could have paused it at any time but I rationalized it that I wanted to write a review. However, game reviews are not an official program of Science 2.0, the way agriculture and medicine are, making that a suspect argument. I didn't even get the game for free.
I am more likely to fall asleep during a NASCAR race (the drone of the engines) than I am watching Bob Ross paint, yet he's wildly popular decades after he died for the same reasons many ASMR proponents claim it works for them. He is soothing.
I do wake up for the crashes during NASCAR races.A lot of NASCAR fans have told me the same thing. It's anecdote but over time I assume fans have trained themselves to fall asleep during NASCAR races, and so they swear by them.
Is it real, or is ASMR a way to "medicalize" something simple for legitimacy?
Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response itself is just a jumble of words that have an air of truthiness but don't really mean anything. Sure, we can map other words to it if we try but if I say brain cancer, you know what brain and cancer are. Meridian is instead Traditional Chinese Medicine mumbo-jumbo, just like chakra or ch'i or whatever other mystical nonsense tries to sound quasi-biological.
Some people in America do love to believe that peasants in the Far East know something magical about health, so they will buy into Meridians and then dangerous and adulterated supplements to "optimize' this made-up system while hucksters laugh all the way to the bank.
Just because a chart with a human body can be created does not make it science or medicine.
By KVDP - Own work, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=8989443
This does make it seem like a whole lot of Americans who have no real issues to worry about are medicalizing "life".Practitioners have to pretend believe ASMR is some kind of automatic response to a made-up part of our bodies that is impacted by these sounds.
And many people, maybe Americans are worse about this than other cultures, love to legitimize their interests. There are people whose families have been in America for a hundred years who say they are Italian, there are more people in New York claiming to be Irish than there are actual people in Ireland. And we love to medicalize everything, we take more medication than any country in the world by far. We also have the highest adult science literacy, so obviously we love science and medicine and know a lot compared to places like Europe. Even the most overt anti-vaccine or anti-GMO zealot knows just enough science to be wrong; they know it because they want to validate their beliefs against science, so they do real work to accomplish it.
It is no surprise a scientifically literate culture would want to medicalize a way to de-stress before going to sleep that is basically free. And it is no surprise people feel like they are cliinically stressed, when almosteveryone else is claiming some kind of condition. Though celiac patients are a tiny fraction of the public, the gluten-free fad became a $5 billion industry because a bunch of people who wanted to feel like they had something important claimed it made them feel better, even if physiological effects never show up on tests.
It is a condition if you say it is, and you'll get the Internet cancel culture after you if you say otherwise.
ASMR doesn't seem to have all that medical legitimacy desperation, it is just people who want to sleep better.
Is ASMR actually just sexual pretending to be about stress?
ASMR proponents and participants say it is not sexual but when ASMR proponents talk about tingling all over their bodies or having a "brain orgasm" that lends itself to a certain sexuality.
And participants can pretend they have no idea it might be sexual but, ummm...
When participants dress up as a flight attendant and stroke tea bags, it's also easy to draw a link.
This constant yammering would actually make me crazy on a plane. I want flight attendants to not be seen after five minutes into an overnight flight and I bet they feel the same way about me, so what is this if not fantasy? What is next, a nurse?Sure, anything you want, really.
So it at least pretends not to be sexual.
But I am not the target market, most especially because I am not part of the following demographic.
Is this for rich white people who want therapy more than an hour a week?
If you want to find a demographic constantly flitting from fad to fad, look to rich white people who need to occupy themselves.
When you see pictures of people exposing their naked rectums to Sol - sorry, we have to use medical terms for idiocy to legitimize them so let's call it perineum sunning - it's going to be a white person with money to burn.
In the ASMR video below both "organic" and "cacao" are featured prominently, and the author says Happy Earth Day, which may be an indicator of the demographic that are most "helped" by this - wealthy white people. What does organic have to do with anything in sensory perception?(5)Even highly paid organic industry economist Chuck Benbrook never tried to claim organic beans sounded better than conventional, and a lot of his methodologies look like they were created on a dare.
Is America really that stressful or are we so rich we need to invent new pathologies?
Giant swaths of culture are racing to note how awful their lives are. On one fringe we have a "special snowflake" problem, who like to claim victim status, and on another people who see themselves as saviors. We can talk about the poor but being poor is relative. In America, poor people can afford to be fat. Tell someone in a developing country you are poor and fat and they will laugh at you. A poor family in America lives in more square footage than the same size middle class family in France.
I grew up poor, we were poor in a rural community where 30 percent of the public lived below poverty, I do not recommend it, but growing up that way means I have perspective people with existential dread about life may lack. They are searching for answers, and think the answers may be found in sunning their buttholes or listening to someone crinkle teabags on the Internet or buying Non-GMO Project water.
If people throwing around words like "gestalt" and "zeitgeist" for effect were the end of it, fine, but along with Snowflakes, we have Saviors, so we can't just be limited to arguments about whether or nor an emotional support dog gets to sit next to us in a restaurant, the Savior side will hit us with talk of trigger warnings and calls for social authoritarian control of speech if we dare to object.
In ASMR's defense, I have not seen any of them call for any of those things. No one claims if it isn't covered by health insurance, they are oppressed, no one seems to feel like they need us to legitimize it the way vegans get so preachy.
That attack mentality is why organic food shoppers are so annoying, and ASMR simply avoids that cloying posture. They feel like if it works, there is no downside because no one is penalized. And that is better than supplements or environmental groups who manufacture problems they can claim to solve.
So ASMR is not as weird as you might think, unless it is, because what it is must remain entirely subjective. There is no forced ASMR video filming industry, nor are proponents claiming you will get cancer or ruin the environment if you don't participate. It may not be scientific, but so what? When the weather warms and I head outside to watch a movie I am not doing anything any less pointless than someone watching a YouTube video or NASCAR race to help them sleep is doing.
The benefit to being the apex predator, running the world, is we have it so good we can do pointless things.
(1) I've done them in the past because I think it's valuable for the public to be able to see how scientists and writers talk about topics, especially given persistent claims by activists that Science Is A Vast Corporate Conspiracy.
Anyone who has watched any of my meetings know that is not true. We argue, we joke, sometimes we're boring, sometimes we have great ideas, but no one controls what scientists think. It's more like herding butterflies than the secret manipulation environmental groups, organic food trade groups, and chemophobes (often the same) try to portray to raise money.
"Science is a corporate conspiracy" sells and they don't want to spoil that. We have to refute it so often we now just wear it on t-shirts.
(2) Literally the only one missing now is Facebook Live, because while they won't let me use a social media tool like Hootsuite to post to my personal page, they will only let me broadcast video to my personal page. We can't have live streaming on Science 2.0 or Scienceblogs or Science 2.0 Europe unless we do them individually, despite those being far more traffic than Twitter or video sites.
(3) Maybe chiropractors, since in Maine they provide 33 percent of the funding behind the anti-vaccine movement there, much as they did in California in 2015. And though they have never let an employee attend one of their special conferences where they talk about cracking the spines of infants and worshiping discredited former MD Andrew Wakefield, I will continue to try.
(4) Just like a gurgling stream and raging rapids, I wouldn't be able to sleep at an actual NASCAR race.
(5) Earth Day was created to celebrate the 100th birthday of Lenin and the biggest supporters of it today are staunchly opposed to feeding poor people in other countries, yet these are cacaco beans grown in other the same countries white environmentalists in America are all Malthusian about not helping.
Posted: at 9:45 am
This article represents a continuation of my series titled China, America and Russias Game of Influence in Africa, published on this page on 10 July, 2019, which was followed by The Road to Sochi 2019 Russias Influence in Africa published on 2nd October, 2019. This articles focus is on USA-Africa relations. 2019 marks the 400thanniversary of the arrival of the first Africans in USA. As Nikole Hannah-Jones reminds us in her highly acclaimed piece, titled Our Democracys Founding Ideals were False When They Were written Black Americans have Fought to Make Them True, published in the New York Times Magazine of 14th August 2019, In August 1619, just twelve years after the English settled Jamestown, Virginia, and one year before the Puritans landed at Plymouth, the Jamestown colonists bought 20 to 30 enslaved Africans from English pirates [who] had stolen them from a Portuguese slave ship. The arrival of that first batch of African slaves marked the beginning of the relations between United States which was then still a colony of Britain and Africa, that was relatively free of colonial exploitation. Thus, the relations between the USA and Africa were born in adversity and fear.
United States -Africa relations can be divided broadly into three phases: Pre-Cold War; Cold War; and Post-Cold-War era. Although the beginnings of the Cold War can be traced to the time when the former Soviet Union refused to participate in the Marshall Plan for Europe, its crystallization for the developing countries occurred, when John Foster Dulles, then US Secretary of State, famously remarked in 1956 that Non-alignment was immoral and opportunistic. He was reacting to the emergence of the Non-alignment Movement (for developing countries) after its founding conference held in Bandung, Indonesia in 1955. From that perspective, I date the Cold War experience for Africa from 1956 to 1991when the Soviet Union formally ceased to exist. One may notice that virtually all African countries gained their independence during the Cold War era. In other words, African countries reclaimed their freedom at the peak of the intense ideological rivalry between the USA and the former USSR.
There were three significant developments in USA-Africa relations during the pre-Cold War era. The first was the decision to repatriate some African ex-slaves to, and settle them in present day Monrovia in 1822 during the tenure of President James Monroe for whom the Liberia capital is named. The second was President Franklin D. Roosevelt insistence on guaranteeing sovereignty for those nations still controlled by colonial empires. Roosevelts advocacy was consonant with the zeitgeist (spirit of the time) and provided inspiration, in more ways than one, for the first generation of African students who were studying in the US and Europe at that time and who later became leaders in their countries: It inspired them to organize Pan-African conferences abroad; to launch pro-independence movements in their respective countries; and to emphasise the inextricable link between the struggle by African-Americans for their civil rights and for the independence of African countries. The third was the pressure exerted by the US on Britain, France and Israel to end their brief occupation of the Suez Canal which had been nationalized by the Gamal Abdel Nasser regime in Egypt. United States action impelled Britain and France to accelerate their decolonization process.
It is difficult to overstate the impact that the Cold War era had on the nature of the relations between USA and Africa. In as much as the competing ideologies framed the contest and context of the Cold War, United States appeared to find more comfort in cultivating ties with some abhorrent regimes in Africa, who claimed to be anti-communist: DRC (Zaire) under Mobutu; Somalia under Barre; Apartheid regime in South Africa; and Liberia under Master Sergeant Samuel Doe, who President Reagan called Moe during a State Visit to Washington DC. More significantly, on the great issues that confronted Africa at that time, the general view was the United States was on the wrong side of history: US equated every liberation movement in Africa with a communist movement; resisted sanctions against Apartheid South Africa, instead promoted the idea of constructive engagement as an alternative to the global economic sanctions and divestment campaign against the Apartheid South Africa regime; and showed distrust for, and reluctance to engaging with, the Organisation of African Unity (the precursor of African Union). On the positive side, the USA supported a number of agricultural research institutes in Africa; dispatched many professionals under the Peace Corps programme to teach in Africa; and offered scholarships and training opportunities for the second generation of Africans students those who came to study in the US shortly after their countries independence. On their graduation, they returned to their countries to assume high positions in government, business and academia.
The Post-Cold war era has been marked by five distinct US policy orientations towards Africa. First has been United States interest in conflict management in Africa. This was first evidenced by US launching of Operation Restore Hope that was later transmuted into a United Nations approved and US-led Unified Task Force in Somalia from December 5, 1992 to May 4, 1993. Then, there was an effort to create an African Crisis Response Initiative during the Clinton Administration in the early 1990s. That effort was viewed with great suspicion by, and met resistance from, African countries. Subsequently, that initiative morphed, in 2007, into the African Command (AFRICOM) now headquartered in Stuttgart, Germany. United States is also currently helping many African countries to combat terrorism, resulting in its enhanced military presence in Africa. The second was the enactment of Africa Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) in 2000, which offered improved market access for African exports into USA, resulting in the growth of USA-Africa trade from US$38.60bn in 2000 to US$61.85bn in 2018. The challenge ahead is what happens when AGOA expires in 2025. Third is the assistance that United States has channeled to Africa through both the Millennium Challenge Account (MCA) and the Presidents Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), both created during the tenure of President George W. Bush.
The fourth policy orientation was the launching of several initiatives by President Obama to support governance, economic and social development in Africa. These included the Young African Leaders Initiative (2010), Feed the Future (2010), the Trade and Invest Hubs (2013), and the US Power Initiative (2013) aimed at doubling electricity for Sub-Saharan Africa, supported by US government pledged investment of US$7billion and private sector contribution of US$9billion.At the first US-Africa Leaders Summit held in 2014, President Obama announced $7billion for financing exports to and investment in Africa. However, these amounts pale in comparison to the estimated US$33billionthat China had committed to financing Africas power sector alone by 2016 (the last year of the Obama administration), by which time, US had committed just US$3.1bn of the $7billion for the power initiative. Not a few African policy makers and analysts of US-Africa relations remain disappointed that the funding for the Power Initiative was not significantly augmented and no follow-up mechanism for the summit was proposed. The fifth policy orientation is that the Trump Administration has proposed increases in defence spending and reduction in development aid for three years in a row 2018, 2019 and 2020.
At the same time, the Trump Administration has also launched a Prosper Africa Initiative which aims to deepen trade and investment ties between USA and Africa.The US government convened the first roundtable discussion between its senior officials on trade and investment and foreign ministers from six African countries in New York in September 2019.
African countries need to grow out dependence on aid. At the same time, the probable termination of AGOA combined with a reduction in US aid and increased military footprint in Africa mean that the manifestation of US power in Africa will be felt more in its military presence than in development support (aid and trade) to the region. The US is well placed more than the two other powers to help African countries through a variety of soft power resources and would do worse than framing its actions in Africa as countering China and Russias influence.
Otobo is author of Africa in Transition: A New Way of Looking at Progress in the Regionwhich was nominated for the Grand Prix of Literary Associations Award 2018.
Posted: at 9:45 am
The major centre-right and centre-left groupings were always going to have a tough election, the question was on what scale?
When the results came, it was clear they had lost their combined majority in the European Parliament as voters shied away from the mainstream. But they still held more than 43% of the vote.
The mainstream blocs lost votes to the Liberals, Greens and nationalists, creating a new, fragmented reality for the European Parliament.
Turnout was at its highest since 1994, with some observers suggesting this was due to more young people voting.
The centre-right European Peoples Party (EPP) and centre-left Socialists and Democrats (S&D) have long held more than half the seats in Parliament between them. That is set to change.
The sense of an end of an era was symbolised in Germany, where the centre-right Christian Democrats of Chancellor Angela Merkel polled just 29% of the vote their worst-ever performance in European elections. The centre-left Social Democrats (SPD) came a poor third with 16%.
Official projections, based on exit polls, now suggest the EPP and S&D will lose 83 seats, bringing their share down to around 44%, from a comfortable control of more than half the previous parliament.
The centrist Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe (ALDE), is heading for big gains, with its share rising from 67 seats to 107. That is largely because the newcomer-party of French President Emmanuel Macron has decided to join up and could play a kingmaker role.
Outgoing ALDE group leader Guy Verhofstadt hailed a historical moment and a new balance of power.
Many member states, from the Nordic countries to Portugal, saw a rise in the Green vote.
And while they may have come second in Germany, the Green party is being hailed as the big winner there, doubling its vote share to 21%, incomplete results showed.
The Greens captured the zeitgeist while the other parties struggled to put together a coherent environmental policy, said Berlin correspondent Jenny Hill.
Around one in three people under the age of 30 voted Green. In the run-up to the vote, 90 influential YouTubers urged followers to vote for parties that took climate issues seriously. They told voters to avoid the far-right AfD, which they said denied climate change was even happening.
In France, green group Europe cologie Les Verts (EELV) is on course to come third with 13%. Both Mrs Le Pen and Mr Macron have emphasised their green credentials. Mr Macron wants to shift to green technology and energy while Mrs Le Pen said her brand of localism was good for the environment.
In Portugal, the green PAN party (People-Animals-Nature) is on course to win its first ever seat in the European Parliament, possibly even two.
The Greens have won an historic second place in Finland but in Sweden, home to climate activist Greta Thunberg, they have gone into reverse. They are projected to poll 11%, down almost 8%.
In Ireland, early exit polls give the Green party 15%.
This was to be the election that sparked a right-wing force to seize the agenda in Europe. It has not quite happened.
The two dominant nationalist figures in France and Italy won the national vote.
Matteo Salvini, whose right-wing nationalist League party is predicted to win over 30% of the Italian vote, is hoping to found a new grouping, the European Alliance for People and Nations, with the support of a dozen other parties.
In France Marine Le Pens National Rally party formerly the National Front is heading for first place with 23.5% of the vote, narrowly ahead of President Emmanuel Macrons centrist grouping, which got 22.4%.
Turnout was reportedly high in areas where her party has previously done well and also in areas where support for the anti-government gilets jaunes (yellow-vest) movement is strong. Mrs Le Pen has changed her position on EU membership, saying she now wants to stay in the bloc.
But after that the nationalist surge appears to fall away.
In Germany the far-right AfD is predicted to get under 11%, up from 7.1% five years ago, but down on its general election showing in 2017.
In the Netherlands the Freedom Party of Dutch anti-Islam politician Geert Wilders has lost all its seats in parliament. Much of his vote appears to have been taken over by another populist party, Forum for Democracy.
Results in Spain give new far-right Vox party getting only 6.2% of the vote, down from the 10.3% it achieved in Spains national election only a month ago.
Far-right and Eurosceptic parties are currently split between three groupings in the European Parliament: the European Conservatives and Reformists (ECR); and the two far-right groupings, Europe of Freedom and Direct Democracy (EFDD) and Europe of Nations and Freedom (ENF).
In the UK a new anti-EU party, the Brexit Party, is heading for victory at the expense of the Conservative Party, while pro-EU Liberal Democrats are taking votes from the traditionally centre-left Labour party.
Here is the original post:
Posted: November 30, 2019 at 10:19 am
As the lovely New York spring of 1977 turned into the worst kind of New York summer, I did two things over and over again: I watched Robert Altmans mid-career masterpiece 3 Women, at a theatre in midtown, and I read Joan Didions astounding third novel, A Book of Common Prayer. Released within weeks of each other that year, when I was sixteen, these two revelatory pieces of art shared a strong aesthetic atmosphere, an incisive view of uneasy friendships between women, a deadpan horror of consumerism, and an understanding of how the uncanny can manifest in the everyday. Reading and watchingit wasnt long before Altmans and Didions projects merged in my mind, where they constituted a kind of mini-Zeitgeist, one that troubled, undid, and then remade my ideas about how feminism might inform popular art.
After falling under the sway of A Book of Common Prayer, I turned to Didions first two novels, Run River (1963) and Play It as It Lays (1970). (All three novels were reissued in November, as part of a handsome volume from the Library of America, Joan Didion: The 1960s and 70s.) Run River, published when Didion was not yet thirty, was conventional in a way that reflected not the fascinating slant of her intractably practical mind but, rather, her formidable ambition: writers wrote novels, so she wrote one. Still, the book, which is set in Didions home town of Sacramento, is not just a reflexive or academic exercise. Its protagonist, Lily Knight McClellan, is a kind of ruined Eve living in relative wealth in an Eden that the next generation will want no part of. Lily cries, drinks, cheats on her rancher husband, Everett, and aborts a child, because she cannot forgo the comfortable loving fictionsthe story of being a wife and thus socially acceptable, according to the rules of her tribe. What no Didion heroine can entirely reconcile herself to is the split between what she wants and what a woman is supposed to do: marry, have children, and keep her marriage together, despite the inevitable philandering, despite her other hopes and dreams. Didions women have an image in mind of what life should look liketheyve seen it in the fashion magazinesand they expect reality to follow suit. But it almost never does. In Didions fiction, the standard narratives of womens lives are mangled, altered, and rewritten all the time.
Play It as It Lays also centers on a woman failing to live up to social expectations, and it comes as close as any book has come to representing what repression does to the soul. In this slim novel, where sometimes a few words constitute a chapter, Didion gives shape to ghosts, the ghastly, and the ephemeral. Maria Wyeth, a sometime B actress, suffers a number of misfortunes, including the birth of a disabled child, but what makes her still the best known of Didions early heroines is how she queers the image of American womanhood even as she presumably lives it, in her nice house in Los Angeles, a city where failure, illness, fear... were seen as infectious, contagious blights on glossy plants. Maria feels an existential gnawing in her bones, a dread she can never quite shake, but instead of clinging tighter to the rules she has presumably been taughtpolish the furniture, make an apple pie, prepare her husbands Martini as he rolls up the drivewayshe makes a list of the things she will never do: ball at a party, do S-M unless she wanted to,... carry a Yorkshire in Beverly Hills.
Play It as It Lays was published not long after the Stonewall riots, in New York, at a time when there were few stories about gay male life out there, representing. The book, which features a significant gay male character, could be read both as a metaphor for queernessthe girl who doesnt fit inand as an early, un-camp depiction of the fag hag, a woman who questions convention by avoiding it and finds safety in the company of gay men. I admired Play It as It Laysthere isnt a closeted gay adolescent on the planet who wouldnt identify with its nihilism played out in the glare of glamorous privilegebut it didnt thrill me like A Book of Common Prayer, which has a full-bodied pathos and yearning that Didions other early fiction lacks or suppresses.
When A Book of Common Prayer came out, the country was still drunk on Bicentennial patriotism; 1976 had given us a big dose of pomp and ceremony. Over the receding jingoistic din, Didions voice told another story, about womens inner lives formed in a nation that was, as Elizabeth Hardwick put it, in a 1996 essay about Didion, blurred by a creeping inexactitude about many things, among them bureaucratic and official language, the jargon of the press, the incoherence of politics, the disastrous surprises in the mother, father, child tableau. The first three items listed have to do with language generally and rhetoric specificallyhow we fashion the truth, and why. In Didions noveland in most of her fiction, including her 1984 masterpiece, Democracybelieving that empirical truth exists is like believing that the water in a mirage will satisfy your thirst. What interests her is why people still want to drink it. Certainly Charlotte Douglas does. Charlotte is the person whom the books narrator, Grace Strasser-Mendana, is referring to when she says, at the start of the novel, I will be her witness. When I first read those words, that long-ago summer, I was struck, as I am now, by the feminist ethos behind them: I will remember her, and therefore I, too, will exist.
I had grown up with the art and politics of such early heroes as Toni Morrison, Sonia Sanchez, Nikki Giovanni, and Ntozake Shange, but Altmans potent film and A Book of Common Prayer were the first works I encountered that embodied the second-wave white feminism that mattered to me as well. Not that Didiona graduate of Berkeley and a staffer at Vogue during the age of Eisenhower, who was already writing pieces steeped in originalitywas part of the feminist movement. In her 1972 essay The Womens Movement, she objected to several of the movements tendencies, including its invention of women as a class and its wish to replace the ambiguities of fiction with ideology. It was clear from Didions writing that not only was she allergic to ideology, which she avoided like a virus in most of her work, but her ways of thinking and of expressing herself were unlike anyone elses. In a 2005 essay in The New York Review of Books, John Leonard recalled how startled he was, in the sixties, by Didions syntax and tone: Ive been trying for four decades to figure out why her sentences are better than mine or yours... something about cadence. They come at you, if not from ambush, then in gnomic haikus, icepick laser beams, or waves. Even the space on the page around these sentences is more interesting than could be expected, as if to square a sandbox for the Sphinx. Still, in A Book of Common Prayer, Didion tried to close the gap between herself and others, to write about the responsibility inherent in connecting.
To me, A Book of Common Prayer was feminist in the way that Toni Morrisons Sula, published four years earlier, was feministwithout having to declare itself as such. But, whereas the two friends in Sula live inside their relationship, Didion wrote about a woman trying to enter into a friendship and a kind of love with another woman who is ultimately unknowable. A sixty-year-old American expatriate living in the fictional Central American city of Boca Grande, Grace inhabits an atmosphere of opaque equatorial light. Boca Grande, a sort of ersatz movie set, has no real history; its airport is a way station between more desirable destinations. A stomping ground for arms dealers and rich people with offshore accounts, Boca Grande is as good a place as any for Grace, who has cancer, to live and die. Not once during the course of the novel does she ask who will remember her when shes gone. Grace, who shares some of her creators moral rigidityIn order to maintain a semblance of purposeful behavior on this earth you have to believe that things are right or wrong, Didion told an intervieweris always looking out, rarely looking in. In a way, by moving to Boca Grande, Grace sought to escape life, or, at least, the life she was supposed to have as an American woman. And yet it followed her across the sea, in the real and ghostly presence of Charlotte, who died before Grace began telling this story.
Born in Denver, Grace was orphaned at a young age: My mother died of influenza one morning when I was eight. My father died of gunshot wounds, not self-inflicted, one afternoon when I was ten. Until she was sixteen, she lived alone in her parents former suite at the Brown Palace Hotel. Then she made her way to California, where she studied at Berkeley with the cultural anthropologist A.L.Kroeber, before being tapped to work with Claude Lvi-Strauss, in So Paulo. But make no mistake: her pursuit of anthropology was not the result of an intellectual passion, or any kind of passion. I did not know why I did or did not do anything at all, she says. After marrying a tree planter in Boca Grande, Grace retired (quotation marks hers) from anthropology. She gave birth to a son, and was eventually widowed and left, she says, with putative control of fifty-nine-point-eight percent of the arable land and about the same percentage of the decision-making process. Graces inheritance makes her the head of the household, but money isnt everythingit isnt even a start, when your real interest lies in something other than profit and waste. The flesh and the spirit are on Graces mind; her terminal illness no doubt contributes to our sense that, for her, the day is a long night filled with questions about being, questions she attaches to her memories of Charlotte.
Referred to by the locals as la norte-americana, Charlotte, during the brief time that Grace knows her, is a perfect denizen of Boca Grande. Pretty, ginger-haired, she seems to have no past, though she has an intense interest in the past, which spills over to the present and infects the future. She believes in institutions and conventionality, but they dont believe in her. She has a daughter, Marinmodelled on Patricia Hearstwho has disappeared after participating in a plane hijacking. Charlotte fills that absence with invention: she makes up a version of Marin who is forever a child. Charlottes husband, Leonard, isnt around much, either. When asked about him at one of many cocktail parties, Charlotte says carelessly, He runs guns. I wish they had caviar. That Charlotte is a mystery to Grace is part of the story: what sense can be made of a woman who spends half her time at the airport, watching planes take off for other places? Grace tries to shape these fragments and images of Charlotte into a coherent whole because she loves her, though she has no real language to express that love and Charlotte isnt around to receive it.
A Book of Common Prayer is an act of journalistic reconstruction disguised as fiction: a Graham Greene story within a V.S.Naipaul novel, but told from a womans perspective, or two womens perspectives, if you believe Charlotte, which you shouldnt. In a review of The Executioners Song, Norman Mailers 1979 book about the Utah murderer Gary Gilmore, Didion writes, of life in the West, Men tend to shoot, get shot, push off, move on. Women pass down stories. This is true of life in Boca Grande, too. Grace wants to pass down what she knows about Charlotte and, thereby, what she might know about herself. And yet some of the drama rests, of course, in what she cant know. After marrying, Grace says, she pursued biochemistry on an amateur level. The field appeals to her because demonstrable answers are commonplace and personality absent. She adds:
I am interested for example in learning that such a personality trait as fear of the dark exists irrelative to patterns of child-rearing in the Mato Grosso or in Denver, Colorado.... Fear of the dark is an arrangement of fifteen amino acids. Fear of the dark is a protein. I once diagrammed this protein for Charlotte. I dont quite see why calling it a protein makes it any different, Charlotte said, her eyes flickering covertly back to a battered Neiman-Marcus Christmas catalogue she had received in the mail that morning in May.... I mean I dont quite see your point.
I explained my point.
Ive never been afraid of the dark, Charlotte said after a while, and then, tearing out a photograph of a small child in a crocheted dress: This would be pretty on Marin.
Since Marin was the child Charlotte had lost to history and was at the time of her disappearance eighteen years old, I could only conclude that Charlotte did not care to pursue my point.
Also, for the record, Charlotte was afraid of the dark.
Facts dont necessarily reveal who we are, but our contradictions almost always do: its the warring selfthe self thats capable of both caring for others and intense self-interestthat makes a story. And if Grace is drawn to anything its a story; narrativeinvestigating it, creating itgives her something to live for. Part of what so captivates me about A Book of Common Prayer is that, on some level, its a book about writing, which captures Didions love of cerebral thriller-romances, such as Joseph Conrads 1915 tale Victory or Carol Reeds 1949 film version of Graham Greenes The Third Man, in which a man tries to piece together the story of his friends life. But the dominant ethos of the novel is one that Didion discovered as a teen-ager, while reading Ernest Hemingway. Writing about Hemingway in this magazine in 1998, Didion noted:
The very grammar of a Hemingway sentence dictated, or was dictated by, a certain way of looking at the world, a way of looking but not joining, a way of moving through but not attaching, a kind of romantic individualism distinctly adapted to its time and source.
Charlottes failure is that she attaches. She cant move through in the way that Grace can, or believes she can. Charlotte has her own stories to tell, but how can you give force or form to a piece of writing when youre immune to veracity? You can only write fantasy, tell the world not who you are but who you want to be. Charlottes fantasy includes the conviction that her strange and troubling family is a family. In many ways writing is the act of saying I, of imposing oneself upon other people, of saying listen to me, see it my way, change your mind, Didion noted in her wonderful 1976 essay Why I Write. Theres no getting around the fact that setting words on paper is the tactic of a secret bully, an invasion. Charlotte composes several Letters from Central America, with a view to having The New Yorker publish her reportorially soft, inaccurate work, but the editors decline. Charlottes ineptitude doesnt keep us from rooting for her, though, because, despite it all, she doesnt complain and never loses heart, and how many of us could do the same, if, like Charlotte, we loved a child who couldnt love us, or married a man who was indifferent to our pain? Graces sometimes smug responses to Charlottes high-heeled strolls into political and emotional quicksand are more upsetting than Charlottes mistakes, because Grace believes she knows better, when, in fact, no one does. What Charlotte teaches Grace, directly and indirectly, is that, no matter how much you want to tell the truthor, at least, your truththe world will twist and distort your story. Didion closes her most lovelorn and visceral novel with Grace saying, with sad finality, I have not been the witness I wanted to be.
I dont think its necessary to read chronologically through the Library of America volumewhich, in addition to the novels, includes Didions seminal essay collections Slouching Towards Bethlehem (1968) and The White Album (1979). Almost any page of this invaluable book will take you somewhere emotionally and offer a paramount lesson in the power of Didions voice. Some readers came to Didion later in her careerthrough her National Book Award-winning memoir, The Year of Magical Thinking (2005), about the death of her husband, the writer John Gregory Dunne, for instance, or Blue Nights (2011), about the death of her daughterand its interesting to go back and explore the origins of the impulse that drives those memoirs. Indeed, in The Year of Magical Thinking, Didion confesses a Grace-like tendency to try to distance herself from the unfathomable through writing and research: writing, for her, can be a means of controlling the uncontrollable, including grief and loss.
A story thats as interesting as the ones Didion tells in important works like A Book of Common Prayer is how she found and developed that authoritative literary voice. In her review of The Executioners Song, this daughter of California wrote:
The authentic Western voice... is one heard often in life but only rarely in literature, the reason being that to truly know the West is to lack all will to write it down. The very subject of The Executioners Song is that vast emptiness at the center of the Western experience, a nihilism antithetical not only to literature but to most other forms of human endeavor, a dread so close to zero that human voices fadeout, trail off, like skywriting. Beneath what Mailer calls The immense blue of the strong sky of the American West... not too much makes a difference.
So whats out there in the blue? What words can we try to grab and shape as theyre fading away? How can we describe intimacy, or the failure of intimacy, without getting too close to it? Part of Didions genius was to make language out of the landscape she knewthe punishing terrain of Californias Central Valley, with its glaring hot summers and winter floods, its stark flatness, its river snakes, taciturn ranchers, and lurking danger. Those extremes affect the way you deal with the world, she said in a 1977 interview. It so happens that if youre a writer the extremes show up. They dont if you sell insurance.
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Posted: at 10:19 am
Zeitgeist translates as Spirit of Time and the Zeitgeist brand philosophy is to absorb the essence of interconnectedness that the Zeit Geist movement portrays and through that reflect the dominant global influences of streetwear, catwalk, culture, music and art of our time.
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Original design and constant innovation is very important and capsule collections are done and updated all the time using the best in internationally sourced fabrics and trims. Production runs are limited to maintain exclusivity and to allow new stock to be introduced continuously so that the collection refreshes several times within a season. Zeitgeist regularly takes part in fashion showcase like South African Menswear Week.
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Friday NBA Predictions, Picks & Betting Odds (Nov. 29): Can the Lakers Slow the Wizards Offense? – The Action Network
Posted: at 10:19 am
This NBA season, Im trying something new. Im going to write a daily piece that highlights everything bettors and DFS players need to know for that nights slate. For more on what to expect, read the inaugural piece.
On Wednesday I finished 3-6 for -2.9 units. While I dont want to get sucked into the past, I think its worth reviewing things each day.
The best way to do that is to look at closing line value (CLV), which is just measuring whether the line you bet moved for or against you by closing.
It ended up being a pretty mediocre day for CLV, although it looked better at times. The Rockets were up at -8 for the entire day but got bet down at the last minute to -7. The Jazz moved from +1.5 to a pickem or even favored after it was announced Rudy Gobert was playing, but late action pushed it back.
Anyway, the only game I lost value against the closing line was in the Lakers-Pelicans game, which moved down a half point.
Overall, it was a frustrating night. I think my process was right on my main writeup of Rockets-Heat with impending Miami regression and Jimmy Butler out, but I was apparently wrong about the Jazz, which I bet pretty hard. I have been expecting more from this Jazz team all season.
They havent been crazy disappointing or anything; theyre still above .500 and look to make the playoffs. But there are some concerning things about this team. The defense has been just fine better than expected even but the offense has been a problem. Its not really shooting; theyre 13th in eFG% while 20th in offensive efficiency overall.
The main issues have been turnovers and their shot profile, the latter of which is most concerning. Theres some data that suggests while shooting numbers are especially volatile early in the season (and in small samples anytime), a teams shot profile is a fairly sticky thing. After a month or so, if a team is taking mid-rangers at a high rate or getting to the rim a bunch, thats likely to stay the same for the season.
That makes sense: Shot profiles mostly come from personnel and scheme, which dont change unless theres a major injury or coaching change, whereas on-courtperformance can be very luck-based.
And the Jazz have been weird:
Maybe that reverts once players get more used to each other adding in any primary ball-handler (Mike Conley in this case) is a shock to a system but maybe it doesnt.
And if it doesnt, it potentially lowers their ceiling long-term, even if they still remain fine in the regular season and push toward the playoffs. It also potentially makes them more vulnerable on a night-to-night basis, especially if they get down.
I know it might get old to hear about shot profiles, analytics and the Moreyball movement in basketball constantly, but its a defining part of the current NBA zeitgeist for a reason. Math is important. And when youre consistently taking non-optimal shots, you are not the best version of yourself.
Anyway, enough about the Jazz and Wednesdays games. Lets get to todays huge 12-game slate (were skipping the Celtics-Nets early game) and find some angles.
Note: For updates, see the chat at the bottom of this post.
Lets run through a couple angles Im eyeing.
What a way to start off the post-Thanksgiving holiday: betting on the New York Knickerbockers.
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