Weekend

Required Reading

This week, a volcano from space, the “queer crime” that birthed the Beats, problems for “ethnic” cuisines in the US, how one Chinatown helped LA’s punk scene, and more.

Beautiful. “The Raikoke Volcano on Russia’s Kuril Islands erupted this past weekend, sending a massive plume of ash and gas 8 miles (13km) into the sky from the 2,300-foot-wide (700m) crater. An astronaut onboard the International Space Station managed to capture a beautiful photo of the plume as the station orbited by 250 miles (402km) overhead.” —PetaPixel (via PetaPixel, and photo courtesy NASA)

The first time Jack Kerouac’s name appeared in the press was August 17, 1944, when he and William Burroughs were arrested as material witnesses to murder. While the headlines were consumed that day with news of the Allies’ successful landing on the southern coast of France, the murder was sensational enough to make the front page of the New York Times: “Columbia Student Kills Friend and Sinks Body in Hudson River.”

With noirish drama, the newspaper called the murder “a fantastic story of homicide”: a nineteen-year-old undergraduate had stabbed his older companion several times with his Boy Scout knife in the early morning hours in Riverside Park on Manhattan’s Upper West Side. “Working with frantic haste in the darkness, unaware of whether anyone had seen him,” the article related, “the college student gathered together as many small rocks and stones as he could quickly find and shoved them into [the victim’s] pockets and inside his clothing. Then he pushed the body into the swift-flowing water.”

The list that appears at the end of this article provides a fuller sense of the historical scope of the 2008 disaster. The recording artists whose names The Times is publishing for the first time today represent an extraordinary cross-section of genres and periods: classic pop balladeers (Rosemary Clooney, Peggy Lee, Pat Boone), jazz greats (Sidney Bechet, Betty Carter, Roland Kirk), show business legends (Groucho Marx, Mae West, Bob Hope), gospel groups (the Dixie Hummingbirds, Five Blind Boys of Alabama, the Soul Stirrers), country icons (the Carter Family, Dolly Parton, Glen Campbell), illustrious songwriters (Hoagy Carmichael, Doc Pomus, Lamont Dozier), doo-wop and rhythm & blues favorites (Johnny Ace, the Moonglows, the Del-Vikings), ’50s and ’60s chart toppers (Ricky Nelson, Petula Clark, Brenda Lee), bluesmen (Slim Harpo, Elmore James, Otis Rush), world-music stars (Miriam Makeba, Hugh Masekela, Milton Nascimento), classic rockers (The Who, Joe Cocker, Three Dog Night), folkies and folk-rockers (Sandy Denny, Crosby & Nash, Buffy Sainte-Marie), singer-songwriters (Phil Ochs, Terry Callier, Joan Armatrading), ’70s best-sellers (Peter Frampton, Olivia Newton-John, Barry Gibb), soul and disco-era stalwarts (the Dramatics, the Pointer Sisters, George Benson), AM rock-radio staples (Styx, Boston, 38 Special), divas and divos (Cher, Tom Jones), British punks and new wavers (The Damned, Joe Jackson, Squeeze), MTV fixtures (Wang Chung, Patti Smyth, Extreme), hip-hop/R&B hitmakers (Bell Biv Devoe, Jodeci, Blackstreet), ’90s rock acts (Primus, Temple of the Dog, the Wallflowers), rappers (Heavy D. & the Boyz, Busta Rhymes, Common), comedians (Rodney Dangerfield, Bill Cosby, Chris Rock), even the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., whose album “Remaining Awake Through a Great Revolution,” a recording of a keynote address given at an A.M.E. church convention, was released in 1968 on Excello, a blues label whose masters were stored in the backlot vault.

On the surface, Filipino food seems to have followed the fairy-tale trajectory for immigrant cuisine. In 2016, Washington, D.C.’s Bad Saint ranked second in Bon Appétit’s Best New Restaurant roundup. The following year, the critic Jonathan Gold proclaimed: “This is the Filipino food moment—I think we can all agree on that.” Anthony Bourdain also gave a nod to Pinoy food, picking out sisig as the dish to watch. Here in the U.K., there are new Filipino joints such as pop-up Sarap and ice cream parlor Mamasons, both in London’s bustling Soho neighborhood. Mamasons styles itself after the “dirty ice cream” sold from colorful curbside vendor carts in Manila, selling ube (the Instagram-popular purple yam), sour calamansi, and, my favorite, salty, fudgy queso.

But the success of Filipino food has been bittersweet. According to research by food-studies professor Krishnendu Ray, in 2017 the NYC Zagat guide listed only three Filipino restaurants (compared to 75 Japanese ones and a remarkable 301 Italian). What’s more, in an analysis of New York Times restaurant coverage between 1851 and 2018, Ray found that Filipino restaurants were featured in less than 0.2% of articles. Even now, at the crest of the wave, and despite a population of over 3.4 million Filipino-Americans, few non-Filipinos know about sinigang, described by prolific Filipino food writer Doreen Fernandez as “the dish most representative of Filipino taste,” or delicious, salty bagoong—fermented fish paste. At a push, a non-Filipino might be able to name adobo, but Filipino food is not one thing—it is as varied as the country’s 7,000 islands.

LA punk was far from all-white (Chicano kids, especially, had been part of the scene from the start), but, for non-Asians, immigrant-run Chinatown still held a certain transgressive allure. For people in the scene at the time, both living in rundown apartment buildings—alongside refugees and the other urban poor—and playing in Asian restaurants were intentionally political, and aesthetic, decisions. “The racialization of the space and the poverty of these spaces brings a certain sort of cachet in terms of being part of a political underclass,” explains Ngo.

The relationships between the punks and the proprietors could be … complicated. Esther Wong, the Chinese owner of Madame Wong’s, became infamous for her strong opinions; she insisted on vetting every band that played at her restaurant, and even told one Los Angeles Times reporter in 1980 that if she was given a bad tape, she liked to “throw it outside the window.” (Shigekawa says the restaurateur was also fiercely competitive, sometimes calling the fire department on the Hong Kong Café to break up its shows.) In the end, Wong was demonized by the scene when she became exasperated with the fights breaking out in her restaurant and banned certain groups—such as the Alley Cats and the Bags—from playing there.

Still, it’s Velázquez who has earned broad acclaim as ranking among a handful of the greatest European painters who ever lived. Along with the aforementioned works by El Greco, Zurbarán, Murillo, plus 47 other artists, three Velázquez paintings are at the San Diego Museum of Art in “Art & Empire: The Golden Age of Spain.” Even if there weren’t other compelling reasons to see the exceptional exhibition — and there are — these would be enough.

Velázquez could have overwhelmed “Art & Empire” — if more examples of his hard-to-borrow work had been assembled. And, more to the point, if Michael Brown, the museum’s ambitious curator of European art, hadn’t done something unusual: In considering Spain’s Golden Age, he chose to assemble art produced across all the vast Habsburg empire, not just on the Iberian Peninsula.

According to the show’s fine catalog, this is the first time an American museum has considered Spain’s colonies within the Golden Age rubric. One hundred and nine paintings, sculptures and decorative objects (ceramics, furniture, jewelry, liturgical pieces, etc.) represent every corner of the empire. Like Velázquez, the curator includes the main event; but he also looks away, curious to see what was going on elsewhere.

On June 10, the Wikimedia Foundation did something unprecedented in its decade and a half history: It banned a user from the English-language Wikipedia for a year. The San Francisco–based nonprofit that hosts the world’s greatest information resource has historically kept its hands off the individuals who use and edit it. Penalties for bad behavior on the English Wikipedia are typically determined and meted out by the community itself, often represented by the Arbitration Committee, the 15-person all-volunteer body elected by fellow Wikipedians. ArbCom is commonly referred to as “Wikipedia Supreme Court.”

But the foundation is a higher power. The 300-person organization, which in fiscal year 2017–2018 received more than $100 million in donations, can make unilateral decisions about users. These cases are rare, referred to in the community as a “nuclear option.” Though the foundation does not disclose the nature of the offenses it investigates, it is widely held among Wikipedians that “office actions” apply only to extreme cases: child pornography, pedophilia advocacy, terrorism, realistic threats. And they sometimes come only after a referral from ArbCom. The community that labors every day to polish the crown jewel of the collaborative internet fiercely guards its ability to police itself. As befits the most committed members of a project dedicated to decentralization and transparency, Wikipedians don’t take well to top-down decisions.

Indeed, the foundation has only given out 36 global bans since 2012, and never, until now, a temporary one. A permanent ban is a lifetime prohibition from participation in any Wikimedia Foundation website, a death penalty. This was something else: A jail sentence with a release date, imposed from above, without a trial.

During this process, a few high-profile Twitter Trump supporters saw me communicating with (as opposed to bashing) Silverman and other liberals like Andy Lassner and Chelsea Clinton. The Trump train mob turned their vileness toward me, just for talking respectfully to those they thought of as the enemy. I, a U.S. Army war Veteran of 13 years, was being called a traitor to the country. I never realized how hateful this group was until I became the subject of their abuse (which doesn’t make me feel very good). From then on, my eyes were open to the kind of person Trump was — an amoral bully like his base that supported and elected him. There was the MAGA way or the wrong way, and Trump and his followers would use Twitter to bully those who thought differently. Trump’s tweets were both divisive and dishonest, and everything had to be about him personally. I decided to no longer be part of the Trump Train or MAGA team and ended my blind loyal support.

A few reasons why I had such high hopes, despite having very little info to go by. The festival’s flyer gave a few promising hints: eschewing the Monster Energy, nu-metal aesthetic of today’s popular rave flyers, it looked more like an ancient scroll, with a Minotaur leaping over hieroglyphic snakes against an earthy background of veiny rocks and sliver of blue ocean. Instead of predicting some creepy dystopian future, this evoked a return to some ancient, primordial roots. The lineup was also impeccably curated, tracing a global network of today’s most exciting club music DJs and heavily skewing femme, queer, and trans. (Even the festival’s logo was a deep U with small concentric circles — probably not a coincidence that it looked like a tit.) When I asked Greek DJ and festival co-founder Abyss X if she thinks women are better DJs, she laughed and said “this isn’t even a question — obviously, the answer is yes.”

  • Are you as confused as I was as to why the US government argued against giving immigrant kids toothbrushes? Writing for the Atlantic, attorney Ken White breaks it down:

The government’s “safe and sanitary” argument did not arise from a new case generated by Trump-administration policies. It arose in 1985, during the Reagan administration, when a 15-year-old Salvadoran child named Jenny Lisette Flores was detained after entering the United States illegally, hoping to escape her country’s vicious civil war. Flores spent two months at a facility in California, confined with adult strangers in poor conditions and strip-searched regularly. In July 1985, she and three other minors brought a class action against what was then called the Immigration and Naturalization Service, challenging its policies for the care and confinement of minors.

In 1997, after a dozen years of litigation, the parties settled the lawsuit in what became known as the “Flores Agreement.” The Flores Agreement requires, among other things, that the government hold minors in facilities that are “safe and sanitary” and that they be released from confinement without delay whenever possible.

Race was central to City Bank’s work, too. In its encounters with the nations and colonies of the Caribbean and Latin America, Wall Street helped reorder those economies along racial lines, exporting the U.S. racist imaginaries in which Wall Street was embedded and through which it functioned. When conducting business in the Caribbean, U.S. bankers understood people of color—whether Africans or indigenous peoples—through the same racist lenses they viewed them through at home. White representations of African Americans, in particular, were exported to the West Indies and inscribed in a vast and diffuse archive of pamphlets, reports, circulars, press releases, prospectuses, and journal articles produced by Wall Street about the Caribbean and Latin America. At the same time, in their dispatches back to the United States, bankers translated the Caribbean to U.S. businesspeople, investors, and the general public. In some cases they debunked stereotypes as a means to encourage investment. In others they replicated and reconstituted racial stereotypes in order to further the expansion of white supremacist control of the region—with returns to investment found not in the extraction of capital values, but in the ledger of white racial dominance.

One example of this practice can be found in City Bank vice president John H. Allen, one of the new slate of managers and vice presidents appointed by Vanderlip as part of the bank’s modernization of its bureaucracy. Allen aided the bank’s expansion into Cuba and Argentina and was the manager of the City Bank–controlled Banque Nationale de la République d’Haiti in the 1910s. In the City Bank’s foreign trade journal The Americas, Allen evoked a picture of Haiti that would have been recognizable to white U.S. audiences but for its tropical setting. “Cock-fighting and card playing,” Allen asserted, “are the national pastimes, and these, together with a supply of Haitian rum, are all that is necessary for a Haitian citizen’s perfect day.” He claimed that during his visits to Haiti, he found that “humorous incidents were of almost daily occurrences.” For Allen, such incidents “showed the naivete and also the restricted mentality of the people, which latter was plainly noticeable even among the more highly educated.”

Required Reading is published every Sunday morning ET, and is comprised of a short list of art-related links to long-form articles, videos, blog posts, or photo essays worth a second look.

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