News 05.22.20 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets


News 05.22.20 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets
News 05.22.20 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets
News 05.22.20 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

It’s a funny thing, Zooming with Spike Lee. He’s remote, confined within a box within a box on your computer screen, and yet somehow undiminished.

Maybe it’s the look — the ball cap and the glasses — or maybe it’s the way he looks at you. Lee has been staring directly into cameras for more than 30 years. Think of his most famous characters — Mars Blackmon, from his 1986 feature “She’s Gotta Have It,” and a series of Nike commercials with Michael Jordan; or Mookie from “Do the Right Thing” — and they’re confronting you head-on. This is Lee’s preferred stance: undaunted, in your face, eye-to-eye. And it works. Even on a stuttering videoconference, the man is unmistakable.

He’s been isolating at his home on the Upper East Side since March, when the coronavirus pandemic shut down much of New York City. His only regular contact with the outside world comes via his bike — a gift, custom-painted orange and blue in honor of his beloved New York Knicks — which he rides alone for three to five miles each morning, wearing a mask and helmet. At night, he has family dinners with his wife, Tonya, and two children, Satchel and Jackson, just as the neighbors begin cheering and banging pots and pans as part of citywide tributes to beleaguered health care workers.

Read the rest of this article at: The New York Times

News 05.22.20 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

As soon as my wife and I started sheltering in place, I got concerned emails and queries on social media: “Jerry, how are you eating and drinking coffee during this?” I haven’t seen anyone else asked this. These queries were specific to me and my wife, Roberta Smith, also an art critic. We’ve made no secret of her battling cancer since 2014. Today she’s doing well on immunotherapy drugs, though she is in several high-risk categories for COVID-19 and our sheltering in place has a lot of moving parts. But people asked us about food and coffee for reasons other than these. Namely, that anyone who has ever heard about how we eat and drink thinks we are insane.

First, coffee. In normal times, every few nights I buy six large black deli coffees; three caffeinated and three decafs. I put them in the fridge. Each morning, I combine the two into a 7-Eleven Double Gulp cup, add ice, Lactaid, and stevia. I drink two a day, which I tell myself equals one big cup of coffee. We bought a dozen 7-Eleven cups and tops in 2017; we wash and reuse them; ditto four metal straws. Foodies and the art world are aghast when I post myself drinking these. I grew up in an art world where everyone drank this kind of coffee, but the world has changed, and I get it.

Neither of us really cooks. Roberta can but doesn’t; I can’t but do, in a manner of speaking. We rarely go out to eat. It takes too much time. We can’t plan it with two regular deadlines in the same house — two critics living on the manic edge while trying to write, daily battling the demons that tell every writer “You’re through; quit.” Honestly, being in public at all in those flaky states always seems hair-raising to me. We do go out for pizza slices on weekends, after galleries have closed and the openings are over and people are off to big dinners and after-parties. I haven’t gone to more than five sit-down art-world dinners in ten years. Instead, over slices on paper plates, we go over lists of things we’ve seen, what we missed, gossiping about which dealers wouldn’t leave us to look in peace (hi, Gavin, you know we adore you!) and scraping over each other’s wrong ideas about shows.

We don’t do takeout either. It just seems like an invitation to overeat, which is something I worry about constantly. I haven’t had a pancake, waffle, or piece of French toast in decades — afraid I’d instantly become addicted the same way I know if I took one puff of a cigarette, I’d start smoking again. I did this once in 1986, a month after Roberta and I met. I wanted to show her how cool I looked with a butt in my mouth. I took a drag, and as the smoke filled my lungs, I still remember thinking, I am going to dedicate the rest of my life to smoking. And so I did, for 18 months from that day, before going cold turkey. Do I sound like someone with food or possible substance-abuse issues? I do. But I’ve white-knuckled it this far.

Read the rest of this article at: Vulture


Shop Wicker & Rattan at

Cameron Crowe’s famously divisive 2001 sci-fi thriller Vanilla Sky has been called a lot of things over the years: an “incoherent jumble,” “tremendously vivid,” “self-destructive cinematic havoc,” “scrupulously moral.” As an unapologetic appreciator of this big, messy film, I’d like to add another adjective to the list: prescient. A remake of Alejandro Amenábar’s 1997 Spanish film Abre Los Ojos, Vanilla Sky follows David Aames (Tom Cruise), a fabulously wealthy New Yorker who inherited his dad’s publishing empire and essentially does whatever the fuck he wants. He lives in an apartment that could’ve belonged to Patrick Bateman, casually sleeps with and discards beautiful women (including Cameron Diaz’s Julianna Gianni), and throws lavish birthday parties attended by Steven Spielberg.

David’s seemingly charmed life slips through his fingers, though, after he falls hard for Sofia (Penélope Cruz), recklessly abandons Julianna, gets in a disfiguring car accident, and loses everything that once mattered to him: his power, his charm, his friends, his empire, his Tom Cruise face. Without getting too spoilery (though we’ll do that below), the film sharply pivots from a relatively straightforward narrative into a labyrinthine meditation on loneliness, alienation, loss of identity, and the nature of reality itself. These themes certainly have a lot to do with our current moment, where everything that once defined us feels slippery and diffuse, and where we’re all unwilling shut-ins pacing around our apartments in masks. But it’s Vanilla Sky’s opening scene that feels particularly eerie to watch right now.

Read the rest of this article at: Vulture

News 05.22.20 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

News 05.22.20 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

My husband emerged from the basement the other day, glowing and incredulous, and exclaimed: “Did you realize you can actually do a whole, legitimately good yoga class right at home?” A one-time college athlete, he used to hit the gym daily. But now, weeks into quarantine, he remains impressed by the endless permutations of downward dog and pigeon pose—not to mention classes from bootcamp to KidzBop cardio—available under our roof. Home exercise is a multi-billion dollar industry with roots a century old, but it’s not so surprising it took being housebound for him to “discover” it, or that my preferred platform, Obé Fitness, has a pastel-pink aesthetic: working out from home has for decades been marketed mostly to women assumed both to spend more time in the house and more energy on their appearance.

It wasn’t always that way. Men were aggressively marketed at-home fitness in the 1920s, when the whole idea of “purposive exercise” began to take hold. As the white-collar sector expanded, (overwhelmingly white) men engaged in “civilized” cerebral work learned they needed to deliberately exercise their bodies. Hours hunched over their desks, they feared, would make them weak, unattractive, and, eugenicists predicted, unable to procreate as fast as immigrants and minorities with hardier bodies and higher birth rates: effectively complicit in “race suicide.” But gyms were few and far between, and were generally considered sleazy gathering spots for men more interested in their appearance—or the company of other men—than appropriately masculine pursuits. Bodybuilder-cum-gym-entrepreneur Vic Tanny reflected that when he opened his first gym in the 1930s, getting men in the door was the biggest challenge. Men were doubly embarrassed: “to expose their potbelly and desire to get rid of that potbelly in a public gymnasium.”

Mail-order fitness was one solution. “Just a few minutes a day” and “no apparatus needed!” promised Charles Atlas, of the “Dynamic Tension” home exercise regime he began marketing in 1929. Atlas laid on the heteronormative masculinity thick, advertising in comic books with promises to beef up effeminate “97-pound weaklings” into real men who could attract beautiful women and beat up any male interlopers who tried to steal them. Any indication men sought aesthetic outcomes, like “banishing such ailments as…pimples, skin blotches, and the others that do you out of the good things and good times in life” was buried in the fine print, for such issues were embarrassingly womanly.

Read the rest of this article at: Jezebel

News 05.22.20 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

“What time exactly does your clock say?” asked the voice on the telephone, the first words Edward Snowden ever spoke to me aloud. (Our previous communications had all been via secure text chats over encrypted anonymous links on secret servers.) I glanced at my wrist—3:22 p.m. “Good. Meet me exactly at four. I’ll be wearing a backpack.” Of course he would; Snowden would never leave his laptop unattended.

The rendezvous point Snowden selected that day, December 5, 2013, was a gaudy casino hotel called the Korston Club, on Kosygina Street in Moscow. Enormous flashing whorls of color adorned the exterior in homage to Las Vegas. In the lobby, a full-size grand player piano tinkled with energetic pop. The promenade featured a “Girls Bar” with purple-neon decor, stainless-steel chairs and mirrors competing for attention with imitation wood paneling, knockoff Persian rugs, and pulsing strobe lights on plastic foliage. Also, feathers. The place looked like a trailer full of old Madonna stage sets that had been ravaged by a tornado.

As I battled sensory overload, a young man appeared near the player piano, his appearance subtly altered. A minder might be anywhere in this circus of a lobby, but I saw no government escort. We shook hands, and Snowden walked me wordlessly to a back elevator and up to his hotel room. For two days, throughout 14 hours of interviews, he did not once part the curtains or step outside. He remained a target of surpassing interest to the intelligence services of more than one nation.

He resisted questioning about his private life, but he allowed that he missed small things from home. Milkshakes, for one. Why not make your own? Snowden refused to confirm or deny possession of a blender. Like all appliances, blenders have an electrical signature when switched on. He believed that the U.S. government was trying to discover where he lived. He did not wish to offer clues, electromagnetic or otherwise. U.S. intelligence agencies had closely studied electrical emissions when scouting Osama bin Laden’s hideout in Pakistan. “Raising the shields and lowering the target surface” was one of Snowden’s security mantras.

On bathroom breaks, he took his laptop with him. “There’s a level of paranoia where you go, ‘You know what? This could be too much,’ ” he said when I smiled at this. “But it costs nothing. It’s—you get used to it. You adjust your behavior. And if you’re reducing risk, why not?”

Over six hours that day and eight hours the next, Snowden loosened up a bit, telling me for the first time why he had reached out to me the previous spring. “It was important that this not be a radical project,” he said, an allusion to the politics of Glenn Greenwald and Laura Poitras, the other two journalists with whom he’d shared digital archives purloined from the National Security Agency a few months earlier. “I thought you’d be more serious but less reliable. I put you through a hell of a lot more vetting than everybody else. God, you did screw me, so I didn’t vet you enough.” He was referring to my profile of him in The Washington Post that June, in which I had inadvertently exposed an online handle that he had still been using. (After that he had disappeared on me for a while.)

When we broke for the night, I walked into a hotel stairwell and down two floors, where I found an armchair in a deserted hallway. I might or might not have been under surveillance then, but I had to assume I would be once back in my room, so this was my best chance to work unobserved.

I moved the audio files from the memory card of my voice recorder to an encrypted archive on my laptop, along with the notes I had typed. I locked the archive in such a way that I could not reopen it without a private electronic key that I’d left hidden back in New York. I uploaded the encrypted archive to an anonymous server, then another, then a third. Downloading it from the servers would require another private key, also stored in New York. I wiped the encrypted files from my laptop and cut the voice recorder’s unencrypted memory card into pieces. Russian authorities would find nothing on my machines. When I reached the U.S. border, where anyone can be searched for any reason and the warrant requirement of the Fourth Amendment does not apply, I would possess no evidence of this interview. Even under legal compulsion, I would be unable to retrieve the recordings and notes in transit. I hoped to God I could retrieve them when I got home.

Read the rest of this article at: The Atlantic