- A really good review by Avgi Saketopoulou of the critically acclaimed Slave Play that gets into the psychosexual dimensions and is a highly recommended read:
Slave Play landed on the New York theater scene with a thunderclap. The first, fully sold-out run at New York Theatre Workshop in 2018 and the current staging at Broadway’s Golden Theatre (October 6, 2019, to January 19, 2020) ignited a panegyric round of reviews, and a tide of celebratory appreciation for Jeremy O. Harris, the 30-year-old, gifted, queer, black playwright. Hailed as inaugurating a different conversation around contemporary race relations in the United States, the play has been called one of the best and most provocative new works on Broadway, praised for delivering “a shot across the bow of the Great White Way,” and seen as taxing to the max white people’s insecurities about race. Accurate though they may be, we should be cautious regarding such appraisals. It is one of whiteness’s operations to understand everything as self-referential, yet this is not necessarily a play aiming to educate white people, but, rather, one intended to problematize collective living in the shadow of America’s original sin, chattel slavery. In contrast to works of art that portray the history of chattel slavery in the past tense, Slave Play puts its audience on a collision course with how this history pulses through us in the present. Much of the commentary, thus, focuses on the play’s insistence that white supremacy blasts gratingly in the everyday.
- Instagram removed posts supporting assassinated Iranian General Soleimani, because they said they were forced to comply with US sanctions:
Instagram is one of the few western social media platforms that is not blocked in Iran. Facebook and Twitter are blocked but some Iranians access those sites using VPNs.
Twitter is not removing posts that support Soleimani, a company spokesperson confirmed to CNN Business on Monday. It said as long as Twitter users abide by company rules, their posts will not be removed.
In a tweet condemning Instagram, Iran’s government spokesperson, Ali Rabiei, called the platform’s actions “undemocratic.”
Instagram shut down Soleimani’s own account on the platform last April after the US government designated the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) a foreign terrorist organization. Soleimani was an IRGC commander.
- The battle over how Notre Dame in Paris should be renovated is heating up and this interactive feature by the Washington Post is worth a look:
The spire and the wood have become intertwined flash points that seem to divide French opinion not into clearly opposed ideological camps, but into myriad fragmentary alignments of opinion, as complex as one of the cathedral’s rose windows. There are environmental issues, aesthetic issues, cultural issues, patrimony issues and financial issues.
Is wood necessary? Would lighter materials be better, or do the vaults need the heavy weight of wood to make them secure? Is satisfactory wood available? At one point last year, a Ghanaian company even offered to dredge up giant trees preserved and strengthened by submersion when land was flooded for a dam in Africa in 1965.
The current debates and controversies have uncovered a deeper admiration for Viollet-le-Duc and his architectural changes than might have been apparent a quarter century ago. “Was he some kind of genius or someone who was a megalomaniac?” asks Barbat, the government heritage director, who adds that opinion about Viollet-le-Duc has changed markedly since the 1990s, with growing acknowledgment that his changes have become part of the cathedral’s history. Indeed, when a damaged part of the church’s Porte Rouge was repaired recently, one of Viollet-le-Duc’s elements was meticulously reproduced, a sign that preservation now includes older, 19th-century restoration efforts.
- This Ted-Ed video does a great job of telling the history and controversy of Igor Stravinsky’s ballet, “The Rite of Spring,” which shattered the conventions of classical ballet:
- This might be useful for the writers reading this. There’s an app called “Authory” that allows you to back up all the articles you’ve written online.
- If you watched the Democratic Candidate debates in the US this week, you may have noticed Tom Steyer had something on the back of his hand — it’s a Jerusalem Cross, and last year he explained to BuzzFeed what it’s all about:
Tom Steyer made his fortune in finance and has spent the last decade in politics — first building a political operation to fight climate change and support other progressive causes, and then spending a lot of money lobbying to impeach the president. I texted with him Tuesday about impeachment, whether he’s the right messenger, and that thing he draws on his hand.
- Desi Jedeikin tries to figure out why so many dudes gets obsessed with Ayn Rand in college:
Despite the fact that Rand’s work isn’t taken seriously in the academic world, she remains as popular as ever. Atlas Shrugged still sells about 300,000 copies per year, and the Ayn Rand Institute, a nonprofit think tank in Orange County dedicated to promoting Objectivism, charges forward, too — no matter that all evidence points to human survival depending on cooperation and putting the whole before the self.
“The fly in the ointment of Rand’s philosophical Objectivism is the plain fact that humans have a tendency to cooperate and to look out for each other, as noted by many anthropologists who study hunter-gatherers,” research psychologist Denise Cummins writes. “These prosocial tendencies were problematic for Rand, because such behavior obviously mitigates against ‘natural’ self-interest and therefore should not exist.”
How, then, is it possible that after the destructive effects of the “greed is good” 1980s and financial crises of the 2000s, that young male college students still find her ideas appealing?
- Ever wonder why all these Manhattan luxury condos are half empty? Writing for the Atlantic, Derek Thompson says:
In the past decade, New York City real-estate prices have gone from merely obscene to downright macabre. From 2010 to 2019, the average sale price of homes doubled in many Brooklyn neighborhoods, including Prospect Heights and Williamsburg, according to the Times. Buyers there could consider themselves lucky: In Cobble Hill, the typical sales price tripled to $2.5 million in nine years.
This is not normal. And for middle-class families, particularly for the immigrants who give New York City so much of its dynamism, it has made living in Manhattan or gentrified Brooklyn practically impossible. No wonder, then, that the New York City area is losing about 300 residents every day. It adds up to what Michael Greenberg, writing for The New York Review of Books, called a new shameful form of housing discrimination—“bluelining.”
- The anti-imperialist history of the untucked shirt (though I’m not sure how Silicon Valley’s take on it fits into this):
Even in Jamaica the call for alternative dress was taken up. Anti-imperialist politician and socialist Michael Manley pioneered the Kariba suit, which included an untucked shirt worn with an open collar, inspired by the brush shirt. Manley interpreted the suit and tie as “the first act of psychological surrender” in the “colonial trauma.”
- If you’re concerned about the 2020 US Presidential election then you should know about the OAN television network. Politico writes about one “stunning piece of propaganda” they produced with Rudy Guiliani last month:
But OAN’s pro-Trump leanings became apparent during the 2016 election, as it turned to his rallies live, and have continued into the presidency. The Washington Post’s Marc Fisher reported in a 2017 profile of OAN that CEO and founder Robert Herring “directed his channel to push Trump’s candidacy” and “steer away from the new president’s troubles.”
Charles Herring disputed the notion that his father takes such a heavy hand in news coverage. “News anchors are not allowed to express opinions,” he told the Post. “They simply deliver the news and we leave it up to the viewers to decide. It’s not our family’s mission to determine the news.”
On Twitter, Robert Herring’s views are clear. “Our ratings are going up because we treat you like you are the President of the United States,” Herring responded to Trump when touting OAN’s ratings. “Your ratings are going up because you are doing a great job. Let’s keep it up!”
- There’s a reason Star Wars keeps bombing at the box office in China:
The campaign underscores how much money is at stake in the Chinese film market, now the second largest in the world. The latest “Avengers” movie grossed more than half a billion dollars there, and series like “Transformers” and “The Fast and the Furious” consistently make hundreds of millions of dollars.
The difference, film historians and industry experts said, is that movies like “Hobbs & Shaw” or “Jurassic World” can mostly stand apart from the stories they followed, and that Chinese audiences have grown up with series like Marvel’s comic-book heroes.
But almost no one in China grew up with the original “Star Wars.” When the first films were released in the late 1970s and early ’80s, China was coming out of the Cultural Revolution, an era in which Western entertainment was suppressed and people with ties to the West were persecuted.
- A new story in Cosmo by Sarah McClure investigates the “culture of incest, rape, and abuse” in the Amish communities of the US:
The Amish, who number roughly 342,000 in North America, are dispersed across rural areas of states like Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana, Kentucky, New York, Michigan, and Wisconsin, according to the Young Center for Anabaptist and Pietist Studies at Elizabethtown College, a leading authority on Amish life. Because of their high birth rate—and because few members ever leave—they’re one of the fastest-growing religious groups in America. Lacking one centralized leader, they live in local congregations or “church districts,” each made up of 20 to 40 families. But the stories I heard were not confined to any one place.
In my reporting, I identified 52 official cases of Amish child sexual assault in seven states over the past two decades. Chillingly, this number doesn’t begin to capture the full picture. Virtually every Amish victim I spoke to—mostly women but also several men—told me they were dissuaded by their family or church leaders from reporting their abuse to police or had been conditioned not to seek outside help (as Sadie put it, she knew she’d just be “mocked or blamed”). Some victims said they were intimidated and threatened with excommunication. Their stories describe a widespread, decentralized cover-up of child sexual abuse by Amish clergy.
- I have no words for this. It’s disturbing:
Uh this woman was not buried until 1998 & before that: “Wytte’s remains were set up as a dinner-time entertainment by the Gaol’s governor … dinner guests were invited to ask questions of the skeleton, & concealed men would make the arms rap on the table” https://t.co/TDMfoppO21
— Allison C. Meier (@AllisonCMeier) January 9, 2020
Required Reading is published every Saturday, 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.