For years, Rudy North woke up at 9 a.m. and read the Las Vegas Review-Journal while eating a piece of toast. Then he read a novel—he liked James Patterson and Clive Cussler—or, if he was feeling more ambitious, Freud. On scraps of paper and legal notepads, he jotted down thoughts sparked by his reading. “Deep below the rational part of our brain is an underground ocean where strange things swim,” he wrote on one notepad. On another, “Life: the longer it cooks, the better it tastes.” [Read more…]
–excerpted from “China Is Laughing About This Situation,” The
Global Politico/Susan Glasser interview with Ai Weiwei.
Ai Weiwei is making a strong case for himself as America’s leading dissident of the Trump era.
Never mind that he’s Chinese, or that he lives in Berlin in de facto exile these days.
The legendary artist, who has long embraced political themes in his work, has gone full-out activist in a new feature-length documentary film about the global refugee crisis, called Human Flow and released in theaters across the U.S. Friday, and in a new, New York City-wide public art exhibit of 300 works in dozens of locations called “Good Walls Make Good Neighbors.”
Both are explicit rebuttals of the nationalistic, America-First-fueled policies espoused by Trump, from his proposed Mexican border wall to his curbs on immigration that include admitting the smallest number of refugees to the U.S. in decades. [Read more…]
Fellow NFL Players,
By now you’ve likely read the commissioner’s letter addressed to NFL executives and have seen reports about the league’s upcoming meetings. It occurs to me that any attempt to respond collectively as players is complicated by numerous challenges, and that our options for speaking with one voice are limited. This means we can either wait until we receive our respective marching orders, speak up individually, or find a way to collaborate and exercise our agency as the lifeblood of the league. [Read more…]
In the age of spectacle the icon is as durable as ancient marble. Ernesto “Che” Guevara, the exterminating angel of the Cuban Revolution, comes down to us half a century after his CIA-backed execution in Bolivia as a Janus figure — a pop icon which nevertheless provokes fierce political debate and fears. His death in October 8, 1967 set aflame waves of indignation among the world’s revolutionary fronts. [Read more…]
Madness grips the airwaves like a deafening transmission, and the overlords of the earth seem to speak in terrifyingly grim visions. Thank the gods that every age produces its own soothsayers. It is fitting, then, that just as a surreal state of affairs takes hold, David Lynch returned to us with Twin Peaks: The Return, a continuation of his landmark cult 1990s series that combined melodrama with the director’s brand of surrealist imaginings. But not only did Lynch return, he also shows himself to be fully in tune with these new dark ages. Episode 8 of the revival in particular goes beyond television or even cinema — it is one mad flow about our civilization’s communion with dark forces to unleash absolute destruction. [Read more…]
In Alan Moore’s superb and baroque graphic novel From Hell, Jack the Ripper is quoted as saying, “One day men will look back and say I gave birth to the 20th century.” If such bloody and fevered characters can be set to frame a century, then Heath Ledger’s incarnation of The Joker in The Dark Knight is the cinematic icon that frames the 21st century thus far. Christopher Nolan returned to theaters over the summer with yet another big, loud opus, the World War II epic Dunkirk. Yet his most successful film has not only aged well but has gained a potent and disturbing relevance. [Read more…]
August 15, 2017
The drama of Trump Times threatens to consume us in fire and fury.
The President found the right words when threatening North Korea, but he put them in the wrong context. With his penchant for violence made worse by illiteracy in his own native tongue, Trump moves the country to hell in a handbasket while the apparently sane seek salvation in the wrong places.
We need recognize the times in which we live and articulate a vision that moves us beyond not just this present, but also that past which got us here. [Read more…]
The geometer’s circle is a perfect abstraction, a static and timeless singularity. The naturalist prefers ripples on a pond: plural, overlapping, and dynamic. Throughout their histories, much of philosophy and art have sided with the geometer, regarding the eternal form as more real, more substantial. This perspective denounces the transitional for its decay and change; it sees permanence as superior.
In his essay “Circles,” Ralph Waldo Emerson takes a different approach. He says, “Our life is an apprenticeship to the truth that around every circle another can be drawn; that there is no end in nature, but every end is a beginning; that there is always another dawn risen on mid-noon, and under every deep a lower deep opens.” [Read more…]
July 18, 2017
Famous for the Art of the Deal even before reality shows became a big thing, Donald J. Trump has demonstrated this week that he does not even know how to play the game in Washington DC. Legislation is not the same as a political campaign. “Repeal and Replace” Obamacare was a great slogan for mobilizing those who didn’t really understand the complexity of health care (as this president himself admitted) but who hated that last guy in the White House. But without an alternative to Obamacare, this is not even a good con, as the failure in the Senate illustrates. We might then rework Trump’s sole literary claim into something more appropriate: perhaps the Art of the Fool?
Trump, however, is no fool, at least not in the tradition of the venerated Fool. [Read more…]
Epigraph: The German philosopher, Hannah Arendt, once said that ‘factuality itself depends for its continued existence upon the existence of the non-totalitarian world” (Origins of Totalitarianism, p.388). What if instead of construing Trump as an instrument, cause, an agent of his own will and power, we consider him a symptom, an extrusion of a set of complex conditions manifesting itself in the opportunistic formation that identifies as this man. Configurations of power are always dependent upon the conditions of their emergence. Mechanistically speaking, we know some of the conditions—erosion of public education, the exaggerated income gap, increased inequity mapped onto race, class, and ethnicity, the destruction of the working class and its guarantees or even possibility of a secure lifestyle. The breakdown of a democratic system rotted by the diseases of capitalism is easily trackable. We can see all of the elements of our condition and how they combine to create anger. Add to this the various drugs: literal drugs, the opiates, and the psychic drugs, the fantasy products pumped into the social system in the form of entertainment, the unreality television, the nighttime series the daytime rants–all part of the frenzy of consumption.
Power is never as effective as when it is abusive. And abuse is never so effective as when it is arbitrary. Combine these insights with a few others and the shape of the current political climate emerges starkly [Read more…]