Archive for the ‘Culture’ Category

Teddy Roosevelt Had Donald Trump’s Number

August 28, 2016

President_T. Roosevelt_-_Pach_Bros President Theodore Roosevelt

“Of all corruption, the most far-reaching for evil is that which hides itself behind the mask of furious demagoguery, seeking to arouse and to pander to the basest passions of mankind.”

Donald_Trump_August_19,_2015_(cropped) Wannabe President Donald Trump

TR disliked windbags, fakers, demagogues and phonies in general. His Trump was William Jennings Bryan–politician, famous orator, later infamous for the Scopes Trial–who in 1908, Roosevelt’s last year in office, was running for President against William Howard Taft, Roosevelt’s hand-picked successor. In a long letter, TR told Bryan what he thought of him. (Cited in The Wilderness Warrior: Theodore Roosevelt and the Crusade for America, by Douglas Brinkley.) (Trump photo credit Michael Vadon.)

The Voice in Your Ear

August 19, 2016

Why does the voice in your ear seem so much more intimate than the image in your eye?

Partly, we’re conditioned to it: someone leans in and whispers in your ear: it’s secret; confidential.

I’ve been FaceTiming regularly with a friend; our conversations have been intimate. I enjoy seeing my friend leaning forward in the FaceTime frame on my laptop screen, listening intently or speaking. But one day when my friend’s FaceTime wasn’t working and we spoke on the phone, my friend’s voice alone, coming directly into my ear, felt infinitely more intimate.

1939 Brit soldier & girlfriend

The same thing happened with a livestream of The Encounter—a play collaboratively developed by the British theater company Complicite, directed and performed by its artistic director, Simon McBurney—from the Barbican Theater, London. Coming soon to Broadway, The Encounter—two hours of one man on a bare but cluttered stage—involves you in an elaborate soundscape that, if you let it, completely enmeshes you with the voice in your ear. (more…)

Democracy vs. Theocracy: the Kentucky Marriage License Contretemps

September 6, 2015

What’s really at stake when a Kentucky county clerk cites “God’s authority” for her refusal to issue marriage licenses to gay couples—putting that authority above the Constitution, the Supreme Court’s order and her own sworn oath to uphold the laws of the state of Kentucky—and is willing to go to jail for her stand?

It’s striking that ordinary people on both sides of the issue apparently have no idea. Nor do Rand Paul or Ted Cruz—who, as U.S. Senators and Presidential candidates, ought to know better.

The clerk, Kim Davis, and her supporters see it as a First Amendment issue: according to a fellow clerk, “a lot of people … died for that right, and I think we should we able to exercise it.” Rand Paul says it’s “absurd to put someone in jail for exercising their religious liberties.” Ted Cruz asks “every Believer, every Constitutionalist, every lover of liberty to stand with Kim Davis.”

Religious_Freedom_3c_1957_issue

But the First Amendment only guarantees your right to hold your personal religious beliefs and personally express them; it doesn’t guarantee your right to impose your beliefs on others. As an elected, sworn civil servant, the clerk is obliged to carry out the law—in this case, by issuing marriage licenses to all qualified applicants, including gay ones.

On the other side, according to the New York Times, “Ms. Davis’s critics, many of whom appeared to be in their 20s and 30s, argued that she personified a dated approach to marriage.” Also, as one said, “Christianity … supports love in all ways, so it seems kind of contradictory that they’re out here … discriminating.”

But this case has no more to do with progress, love, or discrimination than it does with the exercise of personal First Amendment rights. It’s about the rule of civil law in a democracy.

No less a founding father than Thomas Jefferson wrote, in the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom, the words that have been used to set legal precedent in this area: while it would be a “dangerous fallacy” for the state to “restrain the profession or propagation of principles,” it is time for the state “to interfere when principles break out into overt acts against peace and good order.”

Or, as Judge David L. Bunning of Federal District Court, who has ruled three times against Davis’s position, put it: “If you give people the opportunity to choose which orders they follow, that’s what potentially causes problems.”

In this case, “peace and good order” means issuing licenses as the law directs; the “problems” caused by refusing to do so amount, essentially, to anarchy. And if we held the “authority of God” above that of the Constitution, we’d be living in a theocracy, not a democracy.

Since Ms. Davis refuses either to comply or resign, the law, in the form of Judge Bunning, has sent her to jail. That may make her a martyr to all those Christians who seem to think they’d rather live in a theocracy. To them, I would say, take a good look at theocracy in action: the Islamic State.

Day of the Dead in San Miguel de Allende I

November 3, 2013

It Goes Back a Long Way

The dead are always with us, and in Mexico on the Day of the Dead they are invited to enjoy the ofrendas, or offerings—of food, photos, favorite objects—that the living set out for them. Under the portales that flank San Miguel’s Jardin Principal, the living and the dead may eat in close proximity:

DoD1_1

The Day of the Dead descends from the great cultures of Mesoamerica— Olmec, Maya, Zapotec, Teotihuacan, Toltec, Mixtec, Aztec—spiritual ancestors, masters of death and life:

Dod1_2 Read on

Fall for Dance, Indoors and Out

September 28, 2013

It’s hard to give focus to ensemble work.  City Center’s annual Fall for Dance series generally showcases newer work, but In the first two programs—one outdoors, one in—an older work showed us how it’s done. Indoors, it was the duets that focused our attention.

On Wednesday, September 25, in the first indoor program (repeated on the 26th), the duets—ballet and tango—were book-ended by two companies presenting very different modern-dance ensemble works—one, ballet-inflected, to ragtime; the other, old-fashioned, literal-minded romanticism.

Boys Playing Music_Luca Della Robbia_FlorenceLuca Della Robbia, Boys Playing Music

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Fashion Trumps Dance: NYC Ballet Fall Gala

September 22, 2013

There were two choreographers represented at New York City Ballet’s Fall Gala Thursday night: Justin Peck and George Balanchine. The rest was all smoke and mirrors—and fashion.

The intermissionless, hour-and-three-quarters program consisted of three premieres, by Peck, Benjamin Millepied and Angelin Preljocaj, followed by the last two sections of Balanchine’s Western Symphony, which premiered in 1954 and still has more to offer than the Preljocaj or Millepied. Only one of the premieres, the Preljocaj, will be seen again this season. Would that it were the Peck instead!l

Pas-de-QuatrePas-de-Quatre: Carlotta Grisi, Marie Taglioni, Lucile Grahn, Fanny Cerito

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Ai Weiwei, Stasiland and the Persistence of the Police State

September 6, 2012

Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry is the story of a world-famous artist who provoked the Chinese police state and, so far, seems to be getting away with it—if you don’t count being slugged by a Sichuan policeman in 2009 and almost dying of a subdural hematoma, being arrested in 2011 and held for 81 days and, now, being forbidden to leave the country and liable for a fine of almost $2 million for alleged tax evasion. His provocation: leading an effort to document and publicize the deaths of more than 5,000 schoolchildren, buried or crushed when their poorly constructed schools collapsed in the 2008 Sichuan earthquake. And, on top of that, first demanding an investigation of the Sichuan police slugging and then suing. Plus photographing, filming and tweeting everything that happened to him along the way.

We see him, strong and confident, at his huge Beijing studio / residence, overseeing the production of his work, organizing the investigation of the student deaths. We see heartbreaking photographs of fields of small backpacks, dirty, torn open, their contents spilling out—all that’s left of the children who wore them to school that day. Read on

Anselm Kiefer Digs the Dirt

August 21, 2011

Over Your Cities Grass Will Grow
A Documentary Film by Sophie Fiennes

It’s great fun to watch Anselm Kiefer work. It’s also sometimes heart-stopping, as when he patters around in flip-flops while he and assistants smash large panes of glass into piles of shards. Or when, sans goggles, mask, or gloves, he wields a powerful, long-handled blowtorch, melting lead in a cauldron while standing precariously atop the steep slope of a giant pile of dirt.

Watching him work is the best part of Over Your Cities Grass Will Grow, a documentary by Sophie Fiennes, who followed Kiefer around his vast art-making complex outside of Barjac, France, shortly before he decamped to Paris in 2008. In fact, the amount of installation-work he was doing at a point apparently close to his departure suggests a whole dimension of performance art designed to be filmed.

Kiefer moved to Barjac from Germany in 1993, and made a lot of art—at one point he casually mentions “112 lorries full” of art already trucked away, presumably to galleries, museums and private sales. But, he says in the film, he plans to leave a lot in Barjac, too—some kind of sculpture or painting in every room or house, of which there are many. Some appear to be freestanding sheds, small outbuildings with doors through which you can peer at a painting or installation. Others are bare suggestions of houses: cobbled together from pieces of cast cement in varying sizes, they are stacked one atop the other, so many mad leaning towers across the landscape.


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Jerusalem: the Play by Jez Butterworth

August 5, 2011

Do we  believe that Johnny “Rooster” Byron is having sex with Phaedra, the 15-year-old girl he’s sheltering from the stepfather who has apparently been sexually abusing her? And, if we do, how come we don’t think Johnny’s abusing her, too? Or do we?

These questions go to the heart of what makes this play so interesting and disturbing—and the answer is only partly that Mark Rylance embodies Johnny as such a vivid life force that we might almost forgive him anything.

Painted Wooden Roof Boss from Rochester Cathedral, Kent (Medieval)

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Welcome to Beyond the Zeitgeist

August 5, 2011

Zeitgeist: The spirit of the present time.

Simply by being, you embody it—until the zeitgeist moves on, and you find yourself wired into previous versions.

Unless all zeitgeists continue to flow, separate currents in the same stream, so that anyone can swim in any one at will. In that case, welcome to this one.

Signe Hammer

Sole Author of All Posts on This Site