Archive for the ‘Culture’ Category

Voyage to the Center of the Earth: Georges Méliès and the Chilean Miners’ Rescue

October 17, 2010

When it looked pretty certain that all the miners would be rescued, I began to notice details—irresistibly, the clunky, even comical details. Like the rescue rig. Twenty-first century technology had been necessary to contact the trapped and nearly starving men, to calculate and prepare the “rescue diet” that brought them back to health and sustained them for 52 more days, to drill the rescue shaft and, finally, to enable all of us to watch the entire rescue operation both above and below ground. Yet, from the outside, the rescue itself seemed to be carried out with, basically, 19th-century technology: a metal cage, a winch and a lot of steel cable. Although probably the steel cable would be 20th-century. But the basic principles, I think, go back to Archimedes and his lever:

The rig looks like an illustration out of an old physics book: Read on

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Paving the Callejon

May 11, 2009

Valvino and his family are paving the callejon. His sons Oscar and Rolando are men enough for real work, swinging the pick or sledgehammer, pushing a full-sized wheelbarrow full of cobblestones or cement. Various small grandsons share a child-sized wheelbarrow and have a go with the pick whenever anyone is willing to indulge them. Valvino’s wife sometimes comes out in the afternoon to kibitz, as do his two daughters, one of whom brings her own small daughter. A couple of friends stop by to work or hang out. Ian, who grew up with Valvino’s oldest son, Antonio, and is now in law school, kibitzes, too; his parents live on the callejon. Antonio himself comes by on weekends to pitch in, bringing his two small children to watch.

Road Crew at Work

Road Crew at Work

As I write this in the office of the casita I rent from my friend Sue, the excited chatter of children cuts through the deeper tones of the men, with a woman’s voice chiming in occasionally. Then all is silent but the thud of the sledgehammer. Read on

Welcome to Beyond the Zeitgeist in Mexico

May 10, 2009

Zeitgeist: The spirit of the time – and place.

Beyond the Zeitgeist started as a New York City arts-and-language blog—random acts of culture from beyond the Zeitgeist.

After a hiatus, the blog relocated to San Miguel de Allende, a Central Mexico mountain town inhabited by a considerable (about 10% of the total) population of gringos—Mexican for “Americans.” Random acts of culture here mean culture in the broadest, or anthropological sense—anything that goes on, or the way things are. (From time to time we may report on the arts, but as likely as not from an anthropological, as opposed to a critical, perspective.)

Written by a gringa in Mexico, this blog is doubly beyond the Zeitgeist. And yet—the Zeitgeist is always the present time and place. So we can and do inhabit, legitimately, the spirit of our present situation.

Uptown Oasis Caught in the Madoff Debacle

December 26, 2008

The New York Psychoanalytic Institute is not where you’d expect to go to hear jazz licks or banjo riffs, but on two consecutive Saturday afternoons in December the third floor rocked. Or, at least, reverberated. The venue was The Philoctetes Center for The Multidisciplinary Study of Imagination—a long name that has sheltered a multitude of different events, from poetry readings to films to “round tables”, free-ranging discussions by experts on anything from New York dance in the 1960’s, to the art and craft of magic, to cell biology and cancer, to the history of violin-making.

And music. Before the bad news, the good: an appreciation of those two events. On the 14th, three “world-renowned jazz artists and long-time collaborators”, pianist Fred Hersch, bassist Drew Gress, and soprano saxophonist Jane Ira Bloom, got together to explore “Jazz Improvisation: The Art of the Ballad”. This was about playing slow and moody, what Bloom described as “breath[ing] together slowly, with the bass at the bottom.” Hersch, doing his best with an upright piano, spoke of the “shape of the [ballad] beat, softer and wider, with the piano as percussion”. Gess said that with ballads he “became aware of wide open spaces….the tone is important, because you don’t have the overt rhythm”. Read on…

Welcome to Beyond the Zeitgeist

September 13, 2008

Zeitgeist: The spirit of the time.

This is a blog for people who, finding themselves beyond the zeitgeist, nevertheless remain in a dialogue with it.

Read on…