Feasting on a Fiend

And so, the monster that is Harvey Weinstein has been banished, and soon, perhaps, he will be incarcerated. Troops of celebrities have rushed to condemn him, some claiming ignorance about his m.o. and nearly all expressing horror. It’s been a long time since the word disgusting was used by so many men who, if the tropes of pornography are to be believed, harbor fantasies very close to what Weinstein acted upon. I suspect that the conflict between what men and women feel sexually (which isn’t a single thing) and what we feel politically (which is) reflects a climate of anxiety amplified by social media and by newspapers and TV shows that have everything to gain from scandalizing. The result has been a two-edged sword. There’s a real struggle against sexual oppression and a more ambiguous fostering of uneasiness about sex that is potentially as oppressive as the situation it is meant to address.

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Power Trips & A Lover’s Transport

“Everybody fucking knew” about Harvey Weinstein’s predatory side says screenwriter Scott Rosenberg in a self-lacerating post in which he called out complicit Hollywood. Rosenberg blamed himself and bigger players for their not-knowing stance toward the monstrous mogul. Rosenberg’s rant on the low motives that kept all of them on Weinstein’s team seemed spot on, but as I read him last night, I found myself resisting his larger claims for Weinstein’s cultural import:

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Stuart Hall’s Legacy

Cultural Studies 1983 (2016) Stuart Hall; Duke University Press
Familiar Stranger: A Life Between Two Islands (2017), Stuart Hall, (Editor, Bill Schwarz); Duke University Press

Resistance Through Rituals (1976) S. Hall and T. Jefferson; Hutchinson & Co.
“Subcultural Conflict and Working Class Community” Phil Cohen in Culture, Media, Language (1981) edt. by S. Hall, D. Hobson, H. Lowe, P. Willis; Hutchinson & Co.
Meantime (1984) Directed by Mike Leigh

Back in the mid-60s, on a visit to the University of Birmingham’s Centre for Contemporary Cultural Studies, my dad ran into a Judge Dread who pronounced this sentence on one of the Center’s main men: “Stuart Hall is the smartest black man in England.” It might be better to forget such gross gossip. OTOH, Hall’s posthumously published memoir, Familiar Stranger, covers an era when meritocracy wasn’t multicultural. And it suggests Hall’s movement of mind may have been shaped in part by his impulse to slip being singled out as The One.

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Notes on a Diabetic Body

Sugar Time

I’m alone one night watching Field of Dreams on TV. As my blood sugar drifts down, the movie becomes more and more profound. Death isn’t the end! We’re too bounded by reason to catch the shafts of light all around us! I look up from the screen at the living room. The bookcase is swaying, the arm chair mumbling quietly to itself. My hands are attached to long, rubbery strips, and the hairs on my arms, light brown and silky, are beautiful and mysteriously meaningful. A drop of sweat runs down my forehead, splashes onto my thigh, and ripples out on the surface of a pool. And I think—slowly and with a dangerous smile—I’m having a really low blood sugar.

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La La Land: The Loneliness of The Long-Distance Egotist

The fetishization of the past is inevitable in a society where virtually no work of pop culture goes unmemorialized and hack creatives can shamelessly co-opt the iconography of cultural landmarks to shine reflected glory on their anemic pastiches. In La La Land, Damien Chazelle really really really wants you to think about classic Hollywood musicals, but not too closely.

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Eminent Domain

It was a raw winter night in Greenwich Village in 1978.    I was tending bar at Bradley’s, a now long gone, legendary saloon on University Place that featured the best piano jazz on the planet.  The supremely gifted veteran, Jimmy Rowles, was at the keyboard, Sam Jones was playing bass, and all was right with the world.  I loved my job because I loved the music. 

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Fit to Print

Last week, The New York Times ran a strange story about Louis C.K., whose comedy walks an artful line between insight and indecency. The piece cited “unsubstantiated internet rumors of his sexual misconduct with female comics.” I call this story strange because of that word–unsubstantiated. Substantiation is the essence of good reporting. You don’t print what you can’t pin down. But at the Times, this standard is changing, at least when it comes to allegations of sexual abuse. Hearsay is permissible, as long as women are doing the saying.

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“Wild and Blue”: Celeste Dupuy-Spencer’s Populist Visions of America

Celeste Dupuy-Spencer has been painting up a storm. The artist told art blogger Brienne Walsh she usually takes 6 months to a year and a half to finish a picture but for “Wild and Blue,” her first solo show in New York (which runs until October 7th at the Marlborough Contemporary Gallery), she only had the summer and the “paintings just got ripped out of me.” More than a few of her pictures hint at hurricane weather. And Dupuy-Spencer, who’s lived in New Orleans (though she’s based in L.A. now), knows from floods of feeling. Pictures like Cajun Navy and Lake Pontchartrain look back to Katrina’s aftermath but are all up in this time of climate change.

Cajun Navy

LakeDupuy-Spencer is “painting the news” as one reviewer has written in New Republic, citing her picture of the Confederate monument torn down last month in Durham, which “amounts to a kind of monument to the search for social justice.”

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Mancunian Lincoln

Mancunian Lincoln

It seems like maybe we could all use a good story about a civil war statue, a good story about an American President, and a good story about the power of the common people against the rich and powerful, so I’m going to start with this one. It’s probably for the best that you’re reading this here because I haven’t managed to tell this story in person without crying.

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