Monthly Archives: March 2013

“One of the Fine Arts” by Roger Grenier

March 29, 2013
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“One of the Fine Arts” by Roger Grenier

“One of the Fine Arts” by Roger Grenier, from A Box of Photographs (2013, translated by Alice Kaplan) After the war, the street photographers came back to the city. On the boulevard Saint-Michel, like just about everywhere in the world, they took pictures of the passers-by and handed them a ticket. If you wanted to, you could return later, show your ticket, and pick up your portrait on the front of a postcard. Every time it happened to me, I thought about Panaït Istrati, the Romanian vagabond whose stories I loved for their savage hymns to freedom. He practiced his art in Nice, on the Promenade des Anglais. I had a new camera. To replace the Voigtländer, I bought an old Rolleicord on sale (actually, my mother bought it when someone came into her shop and offered to sell it). So I remained faithful to the model of the poor man’s Rollei. But I’d become a journalist and little did I know that my job would force me to give up photography for years, because of union regulations. Reporters were not allowed to take photos. We used to travel as a team: a reporter, a photographer, and a chauffeur. Thomas . . .

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Martha Nussbaum on Julius Caesar and political love

March 28, 2013
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Martha Nussbaum on Julius Caesar and political love

An excerpt from “‘Romans, Countrymen, and Lovers’: Political Love and the Rule of Law in Julius Caesar,” in Shakespeare and the Law: A Conversation among Disciplines and Professions Julius Caesar shows us two different kinds of political love, in tragic opposition. Brutus is principled, but he is not cold. He loves the institutions of the Roman Republic, and he tells us that this abstract love has driven out his personal love of Caesar, as fire drives out fire. He appeals to the emotions he believes all Romans have for their threatened republican form of government. Addressing them as “countrymen and lovers” (3.2.13), he summons them to love of country and hatred of oppression. Suspicious of any particularistic attachment, Brutus prefers emotions resolutely fixed on an abstract object, which reason can justify and commend. He expects all Romans to be like him: deliberative citizens, who value liberty with both their judgment and their hearts. Brutus’s antitype is Antony, who can understand no kind of love other than the personal, who cannot refrain from calling the dead man “Julius” even in the presence of the conspirators, and whose “Oh, pardon me, thou bleeding piece of earth” spills out over this world of . . .

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A reading list for marriage equality

March 28, 2013
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A reading list for marriage equality

To better understand the shift in activist politics and policy—from rejection of marriage as an institution to lobbying for same-sex couples’ right to marry—by gay and lesbian rights organizations, read The Nuptial Deal: Same-Sex Marriage and Neo-Liberal Governance by Jay Cee Whitehead. Whitehead’s argument parallels the transformation that occurred in the minds of activists and ordinary citizens with the rise of neo-liberalism, ultimately arguing that the federal government’s resistance to same-sex marriage stems not from “traditional values” but from fear of exposing marriage as a form of governance rather than a natural expression of human intimacy.       To better grasp the pattern of waxing and waning same-sex marriage has faced in terms of public visibility—and to comprehend how policy cycles and political opportunity have characterized debates since the 1996 passing of the Defense of Marriage Act—read The Politics of Same-Sex Marriage, edited by Craig A. Rimmerman and Clyde Wilcox. The Politics of Same-Sex Marriage brings together an esteemed list of scholars who consider how court rulings and local legislatures have kept the issue alive in the political sphere, and conservatives and gay rights advocates have made the issue a key battlefield in the culture wars.       . . .

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Power to the People: On the American Underground Newspaper

March 15, 2013
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Power to the People: On the American Underground Newspaper

The American underground newspaper is a phenomenon both decidedly and ambiguously, well, American. Drawing its name from the underground presses and resistance networks that circulated among real and imagined communities along the European front in World War II, the alternative press-affiliated newspapers and zines embraced freedom of the press, low-cost offset printing, social distribution through channels ranging from freak-streeted headshops and anti-war political offices to grocery stores on college campuses. In Power to the People: The Graphic Design of the Radical Press and the Rise of the Counter-Culture: 1964—1974, Geoff Kaplan assembles more than 700 full-color images and excerpts from these publications, many of which have not been seen since they were first published almost fifty years ago. Alongside the images, he explores how the new media of the radical press marked a watershed moment in the history of American graphic design, where political engagement and critical self-representation created an archive of activist innovation that offered a story counter to that of mainstream culture.  To see a gallery of images from Power to the People: The Graphic Design of the Radical Press and the Rise of the Counter-Culture: 1964—1974, please click here. . . .

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The Connoisseurship of Cool: An excerpt from Thomas Frank

March 13, 2013
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The Connoisseurship of Cool: An excerpt from Thomas Frank

“Connoisseurship has never been more popular. Long confined to the serious appreciation of high art and classical music, it is now applied to an endless cascade of pursuits. Leading publications, including The New York Times, routinely discuss the connoisseurship of coffee, cupcakes and craft beers; of cars, watches, fountain pens, lunchboxes, stereo systems and computers; of tacos, pizza, pickles, chocolate, mayonnaise, cutlery and light (yes, light, which is not to be confused with the specialized connoisseurship of lighting). And the Grateful Dead, of course.”—“In Pursuit of Taste, en Masse,” New York Times When the Grey Lady acknowledges herself in an article about the democratization of connoisseurship, we realize how far we’ve come since the days of Giovanni Morelli—when to be a connoisseur meant to keep things close to the chest, so that the cultural treasures amassed might withhold the competition; when expertise in art historical commodities was a kind of pitiable materiality. But as the NYT points out, today connoisseurship is alive and well, if not “vital,” then at least an obviously channel of the zeitgeist for which the number of surfers is plentiful. Thomas Frank, founder and editor of the Hyde Park-originated journal of cultural and political critique The Baffler, is quoted . . .

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