| |1. Italy’s World Cup exit is far from an apocalypseПн., 20 нояб.[−]
“FINE” (“the end”), howled the front page of La Gazzetta dello Sport, Italy’s most popular sporting newspaper. “Apocalisse, disastro” wailed Corriere dello Sport, one of its rivals. Muted supporters, some of them weeping, filed out of bars across the land. An impotent 0-0 draw against Sweden in Milan’s San Siro stadium on November 13th, following a 1-0 defeat in Stockholm three days before, meant that the impossible had happened. Italy’s four World Cup titles have only been surpassed by Brazil. Yet the Azzurri have failed to qualify for next summer’s tournament in Russia—their first absence in 60 years.
In a country which treats football like a religion, such a debacle is an occasion for national mourning. Gianluigi Buffon, the team’s beloved goalkeeper (pictured), tearfully apologised for having “failed... Continue reading
|↑|2. How the world changed around Sergio Aragones and Mad magazineПн., 20 нояб.[−]
THE world in 2017 is a confusing place. It is often difficult to tell whether a news story is genuine, fake or an advertisement. Hollywood studios churn out repetitive superhero franchises with sequels veering dangerously close to double digits. Politicians, entertainers and media professionals across the spectrum are being exposed as hypocritical sex fiends. It is almost as if somebody pulled the curtain back and exposed the world for the farce it really is.
This world will be familiar to anybody who has read Mad, a satirical comic magazine published since 1952 by a stable of writers, cartoonists and satirists credited as “the usual gang of idiots”. In Mad’s view of the world the news is never the same as the truth, movies are cynical, creatively bankrupt enterprises and men always have sex on their minds. Its brand of humour influenced a generation of American comics and writers.
Yet for a magazine that predates “The Daily Show”, the Onion and “The Simpsons”, its... Continue reading
|↑|3. “Mudbound” is an earthy, compelling portrayal of 1940s MississippiПт., 17 нояб.[−]
“WHEN I think of the farm, I think of mud,” intones Laura McAllan (Carey Mulligan) in the opening scene of “Mudbound”. “I dreamed in brown.” It’s true that Dee Rees’s new film for Netflix has a palette reminiscent of a painting by Rembrandt. The omnipresent sticky, sodden earth of the Mississippi Delta exerts a force over the characters that is seemingly irresistible. Land is a burden—always on the brink of becoming waterlogged; always needing breaking, sowing, hoeing; always fickle, dragging its owners to their knees with toil and financial woe. And yet it has a fascination for the men and women of “Mudbound”, too. They are indeed bound to it, owning it, craving it, their lives encircled by the same few acres of claggy clods.
On this land, two families work cheek-by-jowl in 1940s Mississippi, but in vastly different circumstances. One family—the McAllans—are white. The Jacksons, Hap (Rob Morgan) and Florence (Mary J. Blige) and their children, are black. The story is an adaptation of a novel by Hillary... Continue reading
|↑|4. Another look at East German artПт., 17 нояб.[−]
NOVEMBER 9TH marked the 28th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, meaning that Germany has nearly been without the wall as long as it was with it. But disparities between East and West remain, particularly in terms of wages, business clout and political power. According to a recent poll, 74% of East Germans and 53% of West Germans say that the differences between them are “big” or “very big”. The “wall in the mind” still makes many former East Germans feel like second-class citizens, their achievements unacknowledged in the united country.
This is true of East German art as well. All too often dismissed as propagandistic “state art”, thousands of paintings, sculptures, prints and other artworks were removed from public buildings in the East after the wall fell. Museums left them to fester in their storage facilities. National exhibitions of German modern art have often excluded these artworks, or hung them without chronological or thematic context.
Critics say that this shows a lack... Continue reading
|↑|5. Jaron Lanier’s memoir recalls a life spent in virtual realityЧт., 16 нояб.[−]
Dawn of the New Everything. By Jaron Lanier. Henry Holt; 351 pages; $30. Bodley Head; ?20.
WHAT is virtual reality (VR)? Over 21 chapters and three appendices, Jaron Lanier, a tech pioneer, puts forward 52 definitions. Some are geeky: “a media technology for which measurement is more important than display”. Others are poetic: “the technology of noticing experience itself”. And a few are terrifying: “a training simulator for information-age warfare”. VR is all of these things and more besides. Yet at a time when the malign influence of social media is grabbing headlines, it is the last of these that seems most urgent.
Mr Lanier is a Silicon Valley grandee. In 1984 he started the first VR firm, VPL Research, which sold early headsets and accessories, and is widely credited with popularising the term “virtual reality”. He has seen the tech industry go from being a bunch of start-ups run by counterculture idealists to global companies.... Continue reading
|↑|6. The rise and rise of performance artЧт., 16 нояб.[−]
BY THE late 1990s, the small and marginal world of performance art seemed stunted by nostalgia and self-parody. “I would go to [New York’s] Lower East Side and see these scruffy works that felt like a repeat of the 1970s,” says RoseLee Goldberg, a South African-born curator and art historian in New York. “I was seeing works by visual artists like Shirin Neshat, Gillian Wearing and Steve McQueen, and I was wondering why aren’t we seeing this kind of power or beauty in performance? Why are we still doing monologues?”
As a former director of the Royal College of Art in London who went on to shape New York’s performance-art scene in the 1970s, Ms Goldberg was well-placed to diagnose artistic torpor. She worked with artists such as Laurie Anderson, Philip Glass, Robert Longo, Meredith Monk and Cindy Sherman as a curator at the Kitchen, a renowned downtown venue. But New York in 2000 seemed to have little interest in art that couldn’t be bought or sold, and experimental artists were increasingly decamping to Berlin,... Continue reading
|↑|7. A British travel writer evokes the magic of the Baltic SeaЧт., 16 нояб.[−]
Icebreaker: a Voyage Far North. By Horatio Clare. Chatto and Windus; 213 pages; ?14.99.
“ICEBREAKER” by Horatio Clare, a British nonfiction writer, is an encounter with the void. It describes ten winter days on a Finnish icebreaker, one of a fleet that works at perilously close quarters with ice-trapped cargo ships in the Bay of Bothnia at the northern limit of the Baltic Sea. It is a silent region, almost empty of birds and animals, tideless and still. He writes of seeing silence, and the ship itself seems to him no more than “the tip of a pencil line trailing off into empty space”.
By the end of the journey, the “shuddering emptiness” has got to Mr Clare. He describes a nightmare in which he foresees a world populated solely by humans and machines: “no bird…no flourish of being in landscape, no iteration of spirit in form”. It is the culmination of a steady drumbeat through the book about... Continue reading
|↑|8. A modern history of IranЧт., 16 нояб.[−]
Iran: A Modern History. By Abbas Amanat. Yale University Press; 1,000 pages; $40. To be published in Britain in January; ?30.
ABBAS AMANAT is an authority on Iranian culture and political history. In his new book he presents the past five centuries of Iran’s history in its Persian, Shia context. At 1,000 pages, it is not for the fainthearted. But Mr Amanat is a skilful narrator whose use of sources and anecdotes is illuminating. His book should be read by anyone who is curious about the history of political philosophy and ideas.
It is especially strong on cultural, literary and intellectual history and the role this has played in Iran’s interpretations of political and clerical authority. Mr Amanat dips into the lives and works of key figures, from those who articulated the country’s responses to European imperialism, such as Mirza Malkom Khan, a prominent modernist who died in 1908, to the ideologues of the Islamic revolution of 1979. These include Jalal Al-e Ahmad... Continue reading
|↑|9. What does America’s Second Amendment really say?Чт., 16 нояб.[−]
JUST weeks after the deadliest mass shooting in American history, in Las Vegas, America faced its fifth-worst attack, in Sutherland Springs, Texas, on November 5th. Both assailants were armed with military-style rifles. Why does American law let people buy such weapons?
The answer is the Second Amendment to the constitution, which reads: “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.” (Commas were used differently in the 18th century, but these do not affect meaning.) Gun-rights advocates insist the second half of that sentence is absolute.
Those in favour of tighter regulation insist that the framers used the first clause to tie gun-rights to the need for a militia. Since no American state has the sort of militia that existed in the 1780s (consisting of all able-bodied men, subject to call-up at any time and expected to bring their own weapons), this would make wider curbs... Continue reading
|↑|10. Hybrid models are changing the piano market, tooСр., 15 нояб.[−]
HYBRID is all the rage. Buyers want the reliability and beauty of the traditional product but are also keen on the flexibility, cost-effectiveness and modernity provided by electric innovations. With a hybrid, they can have it both ways.
We are, of course, talking about pianos. Sales figures for acoustic pianos have long made for depressing reading. Over the past decade, sales of upright pianos have dropped by 41.1%, while grand piano sales plummeted by 61.1%. That decline is accelerating. Last year, sales of grand pianos in America—a key market—fell by 15.8%, according to the National Association of Music Merchants. Sales of upright pianos fell by 5.7%. One might assume that the piano is falling out of favour.
But the figures do not reveal the whole picture. Sales of piano books in the US are enjoying an uptick, suggesting that there are still plenty of keen pianists. Sales of digital pianos look promising, too. Last year Americans... Continue reading
|↑|11. Robin Hood Gardens and the divisiveness of brutalismВт., 14 нояб.[−]
IT HAS an almost mythical status in the canon of post-war British buildings. Clad in precast concrete panels, with apartments rising and descending from wide, raised decks (referred to as “streets in the sky”), Robin Hood Gardens embodies the brutalist desire to renegotiate the relationship between architecture, citizens and society. Built as two long concrete superstructures with a ceremonial mound at the centre of its ample public gardens, it is considered the realisation of the ideas that Peter and Alison Smithson, the great ideologues of brutalism, had promulgated through their teaching. The buildings, and its 252 flats, were to be a “demonstration of a more enjoyable way of living…of a new mode of urban organisation”.
But by the time of the building’s completion in 1972, brutalism was already old hat. As with many public housing projects, the local authority budgets used to manage the estates were slashed in the late 1970s, and it fell into disrepair. Despite a campaign to have it placed on Historic England’s... Continue reading
|↑|12. The defiance of Tove Jansson, mother of MoominsПн., 13 нояб.[−]
ASK any Finn of their fondest childhood memory, and it is likely to involve the Moomins in some way. The affable, hippopotamusesque little trolls adorn collectible mugs, confectionaries, linens and anything worth branding, but they are also a key part of their native Finland’s national identity and cultural consciousness. For Tove Jansson, their creator, what started as a way to escape the horror and anxiety of the second world war turned into an accidental empire. A new retrospective at the Dulwich Picture Gallery—the first major show of her work in Britain—reveals the full breadth of her artistic output.
Many of the pieces on display have never been exhibited outside Finland. A prolific painter, illustrator and caricaturist, Jansson built her worlds in her attic studio in central Helsinki or in her cottage on the island of Klovharu in the Gulf of Finland. The show opens with her early self-portraits as a young woman in the 1940s. Drawn to the vibrant aesthetic of Matisse and other impressionists, she was... Continue reading