In the News 03.16.18 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets


In the News 03.16.18 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets
In the News 03.16.18 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets
In the News 03.16.18 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

The Miracle of Van Morrison’s
“Astral Weeks”

Van Morrison’s “Astral Weeks” has always seemed like a fluke. In November, 1968, the irascible songwriter from Belfast released a jazz-influenced acoustic song cycle that featured minimal percussion, an upright bass, flute, harpsichord, vibraphone, strings, and stream-of-consciousness lyrics about being transported to “another time” and “another place.” The album was recorded in three sessions, with the string arrangements overdubbed later. Many of the songs were captured on the first or second take. Morrison has called the sessions that produced the album “uncanny,” adding that “it was like an alchemical kind of situation.” A decade later, Lester Bangs called the album “a mystical document” and “a beacon, a light on the far shores of the murk.” Bruce Springsteen said that it gave him “a sense of the divine.” The critic Greil Marcus equated the album to Bob Beamon’s record-shattering long-jump performance at the Mexico City Olympics, a singular achievement that was “way outside of history.”

Ryan H. Walsh’s new book, “Astral Weeks: A Secret History of 1968,” takes up Morrison’s sui-generis masterpiece and unearths the largely forgotten context from which it emerged. Though the songs on “Astral Weeks” were recorded in New York and are full of references to Morrison’s childhood in Northern Ireland, they were, in Walsh’s words, “planned, shaped and rehearsed in Boston and Cambridge,” where Morrison lived and performed for much of 1968. In documenting the milieu out of which the album came, Walsh also argues for Boston as an underappreciated hub of late-sixties radicalism, artistic invention, and social experimentation. The result is a complex, inquisitive, and satisfying book that illuminates and explicates the origins of “Astral Weeks” without diminishing the album’s otherworldly aura.

Read the rest of this article at: The Guardian


Perfectly Boring

In the News 03.16.18 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets
Untitled (The photographer with T. C. Boring, Greenwood, Mississippi, ca. 1974) by William Eggleston © Eggleston Artistic Trust, courtesy of David Zwirner

One afternoon two years ago, I drove to Memphis to see an Eggleston photograph in person. I’d been interested in the photograph, which might be his most famous, for years: a bare light bulb hanging from the ceiling in a room painted a stark, eerie red. A red room in Greenwood, Mississippi, in 1973. It had come to resemble a puzzle. And I’d noticed a quote by Eggleston, in the introduction to his book Ancient and Modern, in which he himself seemed baffled by the image: “It shocks you every time,” he’d said, adding that it was “so powerful, that in fact I’ve never seen it reproduced on the page to my satisfaction.” This was why I had decided to go to Memphis. Because I’d realized, despite having long admired the photograph, that I had never, in a certain way, actually seen it.

The Eggleston Artistic Trust, which houses Eggleston’s archives, is on the first floor of a nondescript brick office building across the street from a high school. I was buzzed in by Eggleston’s youngest son, Winston, who ushered me past tall metal shelves and filing cabinets into his office, which was warm and dimly lit. There were contact sheets from Eggleston’s books on the walls, displaying familiar photographs in long, narrow rows—small glimpses of traffic and vernacular architecture and otherworldly Southern lawns. The room was a miniature Eggleston museum, complete with memorabilia. “I collect things that are in Dad’s photographs,” Winston told me, referring, among other things, to a haggard human skull that had appeared in his father’s mid-seventies film Stranded in Canton. 

He was busy that day. The National Portrait Gallery in London was staging an Eggleston retrospective soon, and this would involve a great deal of preparation on the part of the Trust. Selecting pictures, packaging them for the trip overseas. They were even having new prints made of some photographs, which was no small task given the rapidly decreasing availability of the materials necessary for the dye-transfer process Eggleston famously used. This was an expensive and laborious chemical procedure made more difficult—impossible, for most—after Kodak discontinued production of its matrix film and other dye-transfer materials in the 1990s.

Since then, the family had been relying on a printer who had bought up large quantities of the remaining Kodak stock years before, freezing it for safekeeping. But his supply was dwindling. “He’s almost out,” Winston admitted. What happens then? “It’s over.” We rarely consider the fallibility of analog photography, so it was unsettling to learn that we’ve been quietly approaching a low-level extinction event. “It’s a lost art,” he said. “It’s sad, really.”

Read the rest of this article at: Oxford American

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Meek Mill loves dirt bikes the way Mick Fanning loves big waves and Jimmy Chin loves hanging off four-mile-high towers. It’s an inconvenient passion that may one day maim or kill him – but if you’d seen as much death as he did by 18, you wouldn’t be particular about your poison. “It’s the only time I ever feel peace,” he says, “kicking wheelies on the freeway, doing 60. You’re out there 20 deep, just a brotherhood of dudes. No gang shit. There’s like this . . . freedom you can’t get from nothing else.”

Meek, the fiercest and most prolific rapper to come out of Philadelphia in two decades – millions of albums sold, multiple high-end beefs provoked, and one very public breakup with Nicki Minaj – picks at a bulbous clump of vending-machine pasta in the visitors’ room of the Chester state prison. It’s a place of emasculated, tube-lit sadness: men in orange jumpsuits sitting with their loved ones, barred from leaning close enough to touch them. Meek, by his own design, spurns all visits from anyone besides his lawyers and a few friends. “I won’t let them come,” he says of his family, a huge and intensely close tribe in Philadelphia, about 15 miles east of these walls. “If they see me like this – fucked-up beard, hair all ganked – then it’s like I’m really in here. Which I’m not.”

Since the day last November when he was sent to prison on parole violations, he’s packed off his spirit to roost somewhere else, a disappearing act from the neck up. To rage or steep in sadness would be “letting [that woman] win,” meaning the judge, Genece Brinkley, who convicted him 10 years ago on drug and gun counts brought by a disgraced cop. Since then, she’s sent him back to prison twice; tacked on 14 years of stifling parole; and repeatedly torched his rap career each time he was poised for mega-stardom. Her latest decree, jailing him two to four years for a sheaf of minor infractions, triggered broad outrage and a suite of investigations, including one by this reporter. For 15 years, per the evidence I’ve obtained, she’s committed acts unbefitting her office; a full accounting can be found below. Perhaps worse, though, say lawyers who have sat before her in court, is her treatment of defendants. “She’s a sadist,” says a Philadelphia attorney who asked that I not name him for his clients’ sake. “She puts long-tail probations on young black men, then jerks them back to jail for small infractions.”

Read the rest of this article at: RollingStone

In the News 03.16.18 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

Nominally a book that covers the rough century between the invention of the telegraph in the 1840s and that of computing in the 1950s, The Chinese Typewriter is secretly a history of translation and empire, written language and modernity, misguided struggle and brutal intellectual defeat. The Chinese typewriter is ‘one of the most important and illustrative domains of Chinese techno-linguistic innovation in the 19th and 20th centuries … one of the most significant and misunderstood inventions in the history of modern information technology’, and ‘a historical lens of remarkable clarity through which to examine the social construction of technology, the technological construction of the social, and the fraught relationship between Chinese writing and global modernity’. It was where empires met.

Long before it could be a technological reality, the Chinese typewriter was a famous non-object. In 1900, the San Francisco Examiner described a mythical Chinatown typewriter with a 12-foot keyboard and 5000 keys. The joke caught on, playing to Western conceptions of the Chinese language as incomprehensible, impractical and above all baroque: cartoons showed mandarins in flowing robes, clambering up and down staircases of keys or key-thumping in caverns. ‘After all,’ Thomas Mullaney writes, ‘if a Chinese typewriter is really the size of two ping-pong tables put together, need anything more be said about the deficiencies of the Chinese language?’ To many Western eyes, the characters were so exotic that they seemed to raise philosophical, rather than mechanical, questions. Technical concerns masqueraded as ‘irresolvable Zen kōans’: ‘What is Morse code without letters? What is a typewriter without keys?’ A Chinese typewriter was an oxymoron.

Read the rest of this article at: London Review of Books

Journeys in Trump World

In the News 03.16.18 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

It’s just after dark in Vancouver’s downtown financial district, on a chilly autumn evening, and I’m gazing up at the twisting, triangular, neo-futurist Trump International Hotel & Tower, rising 63 stories and 616 feet into the air. If you’re impressed by tall things, the Trump tower is pretty tall. But then I glance across West Georgia Street, at the Living Shangri-La tower, rising 62 stories but standing 659 feet tall. Which means that the Living Shangri-La is the tallest building here. For someone like Donald Trump who is obsessed with superlatives, it must be tough to have your name emblazoned on the second-tallest building in Vancouver.

From where I stand, the Trump International Hotel & Tower is not particularly welcoming. It’s 7:30 p.m., but I see very few lights on the higher floors, and I wonder who lives in the darkened condominiums in the upper parts of the tower. Below the condos, the hotel occupies the first 15 floors. All over the outside of the property, there are large white bloblike sculptures, as if a giant sneezed.

I’m paying nearly $300 per night to stay in one of the 147 five-star hotel rooms in the tower. When I arrived to check in, I gawked at the two Lamborghini Diablos parked in front of the hotel entrance. After I got to my room, I tried on the robe embroidered with “TRUMP,” along with the “TRUMP”-branded shower cap, in my marble-tiled bathroom. At the Trump Champagne Lounge, I ate a “delectable playful bite” — a trio of not-all-that-delectable toothpicked sliders — and ended up only ordering a cheap by-the-glass sparkling wine, since bottles on the Trump Champagne Lounge’s list range from $150 to $1,350. Throughout the lounge, which is interspersed with pillars that look like huge, gold-plated Jenga stacks, everyone else seemed to be speaking Chinese.

Read the rest of this article at: The Washington Post

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