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News 24.10.22 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

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News 24.10.22 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets
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News 24.10.22 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets
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News 24.10.22 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets
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I was born in 1958, and now, all these donkey’s years later, am more conscious than ever of how my consciousness was shaped by the world as it existed before I became a part of it: by the England of just-passed austerity, of rationing (which only came to a complete end in Britain in 1954), of World War II, and, going further back, of my parents’ experiences of growing up in the 1930s. So? What on earth has that got to do with Aperture and photography?

I became interested in photography in the late 1980s and early 1990s, and looking at these old issues of Aperture, I see how much my sense of photography was a direct consequence of what was happening before then, in the 1970s. Photographers were busy taking photographs, making work, but interesting photographs are always being taken, great work is always being made, whatever the decade. In the ’70s, though, photography was being examined and defined in a way that harked back to Alfred Stieglitz’s pioneering inquiries into—and tireless lobbying on behalf of—the “idea photography” at the beginning of the century.

Books by Susan Sontag, John Berger, and Roland Barthes (whose Camera Lucida was published in French in 1980) were intended for the intellectually curious general reader rather than the specialist, and certainly not for practicing photographers. As Tod Papageorge later remarked, “Garry Winogrand never read Roland Barthes, and found whatever he’d seen of [Janet] Malcolm’s and Sontag’s original articles about photography in the New Yorker and the New York Review of Books grimly laughable.” (How about photography curators? Well, there weren’t many back then, a point we’ll return to shortly.) These back issues of Aperture show the cultural texture and grain of the times, the work being done at the coal face of photographic life. As revealed in discussions and portfolios of documentary photography, color photography (as exemplified by William Eggleston), snapshot aesthetics, and so on, what we see, close-up and from a distance (of forty to fifty years), is a landscape of awareness.

Read the rest of this article at: Aperture

News 24.10.22 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

News 24.10.22 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

In 1956, rock and roll was busy being born. Ike Turner and the Kings of Rhythm had broken through five years earlier with a jump-blues hit called “Rocket 88”—a credible candidate for the ur-rock tune—but crooners and big-band acts lingered on the pop charts. Elvis scored a No. 1 Billboard hit with “Heartbreak Hotel”; Nelson Riddle and His Orchestra did, too, with “Lisbon Antigua.” But kids knew what spoke to them, and it wasn’t “Lisbon Antigua.” Robert Zimmerman, a pompadoured fifteen-year-old living in the Minnesota Iron Range town of Hibbing, was one of countless kids who went out and put together a rock-and-roll band. He called his the Shadow Blasters.

In his childhood and adolescence, he stayed up through the night, his head by the radio, absorbing everything being broadcast from nearby Duluth and from fifty-thousand-watt stations throughout the Midwest and the Deep South: R. & B., gospel, jazz, blues, and rock and roll. He was fascinated, as well, with the storytelling tricks and aural mysteries of radio dramas such as “The Fat Man” and “Inner Sanctum.” “It made me the listener that I am today,” he told an interviewer many decades later. “It made me listen for little things: the slamming of the door, the jingling of car keys. The wind blowing through trees, the songs of birds, footsteps, a hammer hitting a nail. Just random sounds. Cows mooing. I could string all that together and make that a song. It made me listen to life in a different way.”

As he was rehearsing with the Shadow Blasters, the most thrilling song in the air was “Tutti Frutti,” sung by a flamboyant piano player from Macon, Georgia, who had once gone by Princess Lavonne and now performed as Little Richard. And what Zimmerman was hearing he wanted to make his own. His father ran an appliance store in town and kept an old piano in the back. When Bobby was supposed to be sweeping the floor or stocking the shelves, he was trying out hand-splaying boogie-woogie chords on the piano instead.

On April 5, 1957, the Shadow Blasters played at a variety show organized by their school’s student council—Bobby Zimmerman’s début. “He started singing in his Little Richard style, screaming, pounding the piano,” his friend John Bucklen recalled. “My first impression was that of embarrassment, because the little community of Hibbing, Minnesota, way up there, was unaccustomed to such a performance.”

Read the rest of this article at: The New Yorker

Alan Moore, who is perhaps the greatest comic book writer to ever live, does not give many interviews. “No offense, but I am unused to publicizing my own work,” he told me from his home in Northampton, in England’s East Midlands, during one of two Zoom interviews in September, around the time of Queen Elizabeth II’s death. He was dressed, both times, in a red sweater, and occasionally dragged on an enormous rolled cigarette that smoked up the screen. Behind the couch he was sitting on were reproductions of the Enochian Tables, texts from a 16th century form of magic founded by the occultist John Dee. “Whereby,” Moore said, “he was convinced that he was capable of speaking to a range of entities that he had to describe as angels, because describing them as anything else would have probably got him burned.”

When Moore made his debut in the American comics industry in the early ’80s, taking over the little-read Swamp Thing for DC Comics, he instantly made the medium more literary and expressive, injecting it with postmodern techniques that offered a self-awareness and seriousness that previously didn’t exist in the realm of superheroes. Over the following years, he created some of the most enduring works to ever grace the comics form: Miracleman, which took an obscure British knock-off of DC’s Captain Marvel from the 1950s, and transposed him, convincingly, onto Thatcher’s England; Watchmen, a nightmarish parable that imagines how a group of masked vigilantes would actually function in the real world (not very well, it turns out); V for Vendetta, about London after a nuclear war has plunged the government into outright fascism, and the anarchist revolution that emerges as a result (a series that, among other things, popularized the Guy Fawkes mask as a contemporary symbol of dissent); From Hell, a meticulously researched account of Jack the Ripper and the Whitechapel murders; and the late-period masterpieces Neonomicon and Providence, which posit that the Cthulhu Mythos, the universe in which H.P. Lovecraft’s horror fiction was set, was not altogether fictional.

Read the rest of this article at: GQ

News 24.10.22 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

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News 24.10.22 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

The Sherry-Netherland, a slender neo-Renaissance tower at 781 Fifth Avenue, is known as one of New York’s “white glove” co-ops, for the linen gloves that the elevator attendants wear. It has panoramic views of Central Park, décor inherited from a Vanderbilt mansion, and amenities befitting a luxury hotel; room service comes from the Harry Cipriani restaurant downstairs. Through the years, the Sherry has accommodated the occasional celebrity—Diana Ross, Francis Ford Coppola, David Bowie—but, like other buildings of its kind, it tends to prefer quieter money.

On a winter day in 2015, the Sherry’s co-op board received an unusual application. A Chinese businessman calling himself Miles Guo wanted the most expensive unit in the building—a penthouse that occupies the entire eighteenth floor, with six bedrooms, nine bathrooms, and three terraces. There was no need to secure a mortgage; he could send sixty-eight million dollars in cash. Although Guo didn’t know anyone at the Sherry who could vouch for him, his lawyers, at prominent firms in Washington and New York, delivered confidential documents that identified him as a married father of two, who owned a Beijing real-estate enterprise with assets of nearly four billion dollars. He was No. 74 on a list of China’s richest people, but he avoided public attention, and even basic photographs were scarce. A reference letter from U.B.S., the Swiss bank, characterized him as a “modest gentleman with a warm heart.” A personal recommendation from Tony Blair, Britain’s former Prime Minister, said, “Miles is honest, forthright and has impeccable taste.”

The co-op board, moving with unusual alacrity, convened to approve the application. Guo arrived soon afterward, accompanied by a coterie of attendants and, later, by a white Pomeranian named Snow. Around the building, the new tenant was hard to miss. He was a handsome, ebullient man in his late forties, with an array of trim-cut Brioni suits and a broad smile.

From his adopted home on the Upper East Side, Guo spent lavishly and gained access to new worlds. He paid forty-three million dollars for a silver superyacht, Lady May, which had space to entertain fifty people and a living room that revolved on a cushion of compressed air. In London, he socialized at Mark’s Club, a members-only establishment, and travelled around town in a white Rolls-Royce. On one visit, he implored an acquaintance, whom he’d met only hours before, to borrow the car for as long as he needed.

Donald Trump became the Republican Presidential front-runner that summer, and Guo’s instincts proved well suited to the emerging era; he had already joined Mar-a-Lago, Trump’s club in Palm Beach, and he wasn’t shy about praising his own business acumen (“I’m a genius at making money!”). He boasted of expensive tastes: handmade Louis Vuitton shoes, a rare variety of tea that he reportedly declared was worth a million dollars a kilo. Even before he was introduced to Steve Bannon, Trump’s chief strategist, Bannon had heard enough about Guo to pronounce him “the Donald Trump of Beijing.” (Years later, when federal agents went looking for Bannon in connection with an allegedly fraudulent scheme to raise money for a wall on the Mexican border, they found him aboard Guo’s yacht, in Long Island Sound.)

Read the rest of this article at: The New Yorker

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News 24.10.22 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

When I moved from the United States to South Africa in 2009, the phrase cancel culture did not exist. By the time I returned this year to publicize my new book, it was commonly portrayed as a pervasive reality. Publications I read said that American public discourse had been reshaped in the 13 years I’d been out of the country, like a barrier island after a hurricane, and that institutions such as publishers, newspapers, and universities now directed extraordinary resources and energy toward appeasing cancel-culture warriors. “However you define cancel culture, Americans know it exists,” The New York Times wrote in an editorial. In a recent Times guest essay, a writer sympathetic to concerns about diversity in literature noted—almost as an obvious aside—that anyone “with a public-facing persona must [now] contemplate the prospect of having her reputation savagely destroyed.” Her column’s inquiry was how to deal with this reality. Listen to the “mob” intent on censoring speech, resist it, or ignore it?

Friends and colleagues told me that one of my biggest jobs ahead of publishing my book would be to take careful steps to avoid cancellation for writing about race. (I am white.) My book, The Inheritors, follows several South Africans as they grapple with their white-supremacist country’s rapid transfiguration into a Black-led democracy. It begins with a young Black woman’s memory of preparing to go to school—she was one of the first Black students at an elementary school that for a century accepted only white kids—and ends on her mother’s reflections. Ninety percent of South Africans are Black, and I’d felt frustrated reading decades’ worth of writing, even by Nobel-winning progressives, that envisioned South Africa through anxious white families’ eyes. Two editors, though, told me in private conversations to evade criticism by cutting the manuscript so it focused exclusively on white people. I’d discussed representation for years with the people I interviewed. No South African believed it was possible—not to mention desirable—to write about the country’s white people without writing about its Black citizens; everybody’s self-understanding incorporates ideas proposed by people unlike themselves.

“That doesn’t matter,” one of the editors told me, warning me I’d be “misread.” A white writer, prominent in New York, warned me that my publisher now demanded “at least three sensitivity readers” and that I would not “be allowed” to object to anything these readers wanted to change or delete.

In the run-up to the book’s publication, two writers of color said that although they wished it wasn’t necessary, I should spend days memorizing a perfect, canned answer to the question “What made you think you had the right to write a book that includes Black people?” The question would arise “in every interview,” one said.

I began to feel like a Squid Game participant in that episode where players have to guess which pane of glass on a bridge will hold their weight and which one will give way. Statistically speaking, there’s no way to proceed far without falling to your death. But the contestants still furiously scrutinize the panes’ textures, trying to figure out what could make a step safe. A publicist warned me not to send copies of the book to three writers I’d long admired, because the writers were Black. “They’ll tear into you” online, she said, because they might assume “the only reason you sent it is because they’re Black.”

One morning, I woke up from a vague but terrifying nightmare that my life had been ruined by a single harsh tweet. The whole week after, I refrained from talking about the book on social media. I never did send it to the Black writers whom my friend advised me against contacting. I also didn’t send it to some conservative-leaning and religious podcasts I initially thought might be interested, worried their attention could be a bad look.

I hid the book a little, in other words. I self-censored, not—it seemed to me afterward—because of a direct fear of censorious mobs, but because of the way the threats to free speech are now depicted in innumerable essays and whispered rumors from elders in the world of letters.

Read the rest of this article at: The Atlantic

P.S. previous articles & more by P.F.M.