Cultural Affairs

Upstart Oilman

06.1.2006 | George Zucker | Cultural Affairs | 2 Comments
But the big news that day was the source of all these divers and worthy tidings – the debut edition of The Titusville Morning Herald, a four-page broadsheet launched with lofty purpose in the heart of this prosperous oil town. It was Wednesday, June 14, 1865 – just two months to the day that a local oilman, John Wilkes Booth, gunned down President Lincoln.

Mother of All Peace Protests

05.13.2006 | George Zucker | Cultural Affairs | 53 Comments
One of America’s best Mother’s Day cards didn’t come from Hallmark or go to anyone’s mom. But in its own sweet way, it helped end the war in Vietnam and warmed the hearts of millions across the country. This special Mother’s Day greeting was mailed by the bagful in 1967 to President Lyndon B. Johnson. On the face of the simple, black and yellow card was a crude drawing of a sunflower. Between the leaves in a child’s scrawl were the poignant words, War is not healthy for children and other living things.

Literature for the Age of Unease: Reading Pynchon Today

“If they can get you asking the wrong questions, they don't have to worry about answers,” runs one of the Proverbs for Paranoids in Thomas Pynchon’s Gravity’s Rainbow. That weird little morsel of advice, offered thirty years ago, remains relevant today, with American society careening with a grim surety towards the Pynchonian vision of freedom as an illusion and democracy as a script already written by those clever enough to recognize the fault lines of exploitation.

Citizens of Limbo

04.11.2006 | Robert Latona | Cultural Affairs, Literature | 5 Comments

So how, exactly, did Richie end up where he did? Or me? Or anyone? In Richie’s case, the bottom line might be that he just isn’t into body hair. I’ve seen odder specimens, with odder reasons for being where they are, drift in and out the slipstream in the course of 30 plus years of slogging it out in Spain: alcoholics, remittance men, second-home owners, English teachers (hey—if it was good enough for James Joyce….) Vietnam draft dodgers gone potbellied and gray, people who get on and off yachts, Army brats and many, many lost souls with too much money or with no money at all.

Artful Apes

01.25.2006 | George Zucker | Cultural Affairs, Media Affairs | 5 Comments

Let's set things straight for Shirley Temple Black, whose signature song has long been dissed as a maritime metaphor. Mrs. Black told me many years ago that she rarely meets anyone who knows the "Good Ship Lollipop" was an airplane, not a boat.

And let's stop dumping on "The Ugly American." He was the book's good guy.

My Lady Nicotine -- J.M. Barrie Offers Up The Grandest Scene in History

With the introduction of tobacco England woke up from a long sleep. Men who had hitherto only concerned themselves with the narrow things of home put a pipe into their mouths and became philosophers. Poets and dramatists smoked until all ignoble ideas were driven from them. Petty jealousies no longer had hold of statesmen, who smoked, and agreed to work together for the public weal. Soldiers and sailors felt, when engaged with a foreign foe, that they were fighting for their pipes. The whole country was stirred by the ambition to live up to tobacco.

Large and Literal, or, What's Wrong With the Ground Zero Memorial

07.7.2005 | Tony Dokoupil | Cultural Affairs | 2 Comments
Looking over the master plan — a “Defending Our Freedom” exhibit, complete with a look at American race riots; a 1,776-foot tall steel monument to stubbornness planned for the old south-tower footprint, and a tacky basement replete with crushed fire trucks, a fake waterfall and ready-for-purchase kitsch — I find myself wondering what it is we are ignoring.

M for Fake — Welles, Moore and Other Tricksters

06.30.2005 | Edward Driscoll | Cultural Affairs | 4 Comments
While Welles intended F For Fake to be a warning against the growing popularity of hucksters, I doubt that even he could have foreseen what a surprisingly bright future they would soon have.The public has shown an increasing appetite for Hollywood fakers and charlatans who have launched careers with a serious bit of reality manipulation and then parlayed those early efforts into the big leagues of power and stardom.

Everything Bad Is Good For You (But Only You)

06.23.2005 | Tony Dokoupil | Cultural Affairs | 3 Comments
As Johnson has it, human intelligence is reduced to an instrumental tool for the cocktail hour, no more laudable than muscles at the beach. His is a trivial, non-cumulative, even regressive intelligence. It is hucksterism, rather than humanism. Which again begs the question: What is so great about an electronically conditioned intellect? 

Florida's Forthcoming Gun Fun

06.21.2005 | George Zucker | Cultural Affairs | 3 Comments
The last time Florida passed such a law, restaurant and tavern owners had to put up signs: “No Guns Allowed.” The law worked wonders, though, for my mom's friend Al, who patrolled the condo grounds, stopping every now and then to make hushed reports into his unlit pipe. She remembers: "He was always hearing sounds. He'd wake his wife up and tell her, 'The English are coming!' Then he'd grab his flashlight and gun and go out." It ruined the lake as a make out spot, mom told me.

Should White Rappers Be Executed?

06.20.2005 | Tim Marchman | Cultural Affairs, Music | 4 Comments

Black and white culture are inextricably bound, rising as they do from the same common American experiences. In America, race is arbitrary: A white kid fascinated by hip-hop is fascinated by himself.

Jackson and Wilde, Faces and Masks

06.17.2005 | Scott McLemee | Cultural Affairs | 2 Comments

With the trial over, perhaps it’s appropriate to recall the question Wilde once asked someone about a mutual friend: “When you are alone with him, does he take off his face and reveal his mask?”

Our Man on Dahlberg, Absolution and the Lady Barber

05.9.2005 | Robert Latona | Cultural Affairs, Literature | 2 Comments
Lizzie was just as luckless in her affections. Fruit peddlers found she would much rather believe their solemn pledges than finger the squishy produce.

Plug In, Tune Out

04.29.2005 | Scott McLemee | Cultural Affairs | 1 Comment
Any halfway serious bout of procrastination is, of course, quite exhausting. The obligation you try to escape keeps returning.

Outing Dad and Other Sins of the Familial Biography

04.26.2005 | Robert Latona | Cultural Affairs, Literature | 3 Comments
Turns out dad led a double life, keeping company with a mistress who bore him three daughters that were farmed out to a governess and to whom he paid sporadic but sincere paternal attention in the guise of dear “Uncle Bodger”. Upon this discovery, the son asks, if Ackerley Sr. had one secret life, why not two? And why shouldn’t that other one have been gay enough to turn tricks way back when dad was a young, good-looking and penniless trooper in the Royal Horse Guards, where the younger Ackerley found easy pickins for pickups.

Anthony Haden-Guest -- "too uptown for downtown and too downtown for uptown.”

04.19.2005 | Jonathan Leaf | Cultural Affairs, Urban Affairs | 22 Comments
“I still think New York, despite its negatives, is the most exciting city in the world. But it’s the not the city it was, or the one I came to. New York then had this whole lot of Euro-trash that was very colorful, and there was the Warhol scene. Also, it had a literary world that seems not to exist now. In those days you could go to Elaine’s and writers would just hang out and smoke.”

Drilling Lincoln

04.1.2005 | Michael Dorr | Cultural Affairs | 2 Comments
If the great man encounters Tripp in the great beyond, I hope that Abe channels the better angels of his nature. Otherwise, Tripp should expect no presidential pardon for turning history into his personal punk. And I can only hope to God that he doesn’t run into Mary Todd.

Tears Shed Over Answered Prayers, or, How to Marry a Millionaire

03.25.2005 | Jonathan Leaf | Cultural Affairs | 6 Comments
Men with kinky or odd sexual tastes are easier to cater to insofar as they’ll put up with a lot to have these desires fulfilled. A man who will send a private plane to pick a woman up is actually very insecure.

Genius, Sex and Character

03.21.2005 | Scott McLemee | Cultural Affairs, Unfairly Forgotten | 2 Comments
There are many great books and countless weird ones. Yet there few great weird books. Sex and Character is one of them, the product of a tortured genius. Or at least of someone devoted to the role.

What's Wrong With Inside the Actors Studio

01.24.2005 | Jonathan Leaf | Cultural Affairs | 6 Comments
An interview with Pierce Brosnan passed over his youthful experiences working with Tennessee Williams so that there was time to expatiate about his work on “Remington Steele”.

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