The return of Star Wars: an evil empire in Jedi clothing?Yesterday
Next month ensure the eagerly awaited arrival of The Force Awakens. A good moment to examine the franchises timeless mass appeal
A long time ago, when everyone was taking day trips to a galaxy far, far away, I decided to stay put on our drab little planet. For months I ignored the blis of the individuals who returned home babbling about the marvels they had witnessed. Eventually my resistance weakened: late in the summer of 1977, I decided to see Star Wars after all. By that stage it wasnt easy. Cultists were attaining multiple return visits, and tickets were scarce. But I managed to buy one for a late-night session in a London cinema, where the mood of contagious excitement erupted every few minutes into whoops and cheers. I was merely there, I sternly told myself, out of culture curiosity. Two hours later I stumbled back into the empty streets, my head reeling as I hummed the fanfare by John Williams a marching through space scored for blaring trumpets and thunderous drums that introduced a wild, unstoppable ride, a rollercoaster of giddy delights. Star Wars “ve earned it” terse, bold title: here was a cosmic carnival, a flaring light show that was violent but mercifully harmless.
I sampled other worlds, peopled by animals belonging to no known species, and I watched a blue planet like our own blow up in a re-enactment of the big bang. I also had a preview of our cybernetic future. People were redefined as digital wraiths, whose data could be loaded on to a disc and disgorged from a machine as flickery holograms. Upsetting traditional hierarchies, two metal servants the burnish, prissy butler C-3PO and his squat companion R2-D2, apparently a dustbin with a brain bossily managed the affairs of their accident-prone masters. I liked this pair so much that I even bought a poster of them, which I pinned up in my college rooms in Oxford, discreetly out of sight of the student to whom I was teaching English literature.
My enthusiasm faded soon enough, and I binned the poster. I wasnt seduced to see the sequels, The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi , when they appeared early in the 1980 s; by the time the writer and director George Lucas added The Phantom Menace and two more prequels to the series between 1999 and 2006, I had made up my intellect that only adolescents preoccupied by gadgetry went to the cinema, so I left them to it. From then on, my attitude resembled that of Natalie Portman, who remembers shrugging indifferently when she was offered a role in the first prequel: I was like, Star what?
Portman, however, overcame her disdain and accepted the job, and I gradually caught up on DVD with the five episodes Id missed. Now, with the series due to resume when The Force Awakens is released next month, Im obliged to admit that Star Wars is inescapable. The New York Times critic Manohla Dargis recently called it a cradle-to-grave amusement experience, which is literally true. Soon after their emergence from the womb, toddlers can be togged out in romper suits that announce I am a Jedi, or fitted with bibs on which Yoda, resembling a wizened green embryo, deploys his usual back-to-front syntax to demand Feed me you must.
At the other end of life, a Texan cancer patient called Daniel Fleetwood, who in September was given two months to live, campaigned online to be given an early viewing of The Force Awakens , pleading that he was unlikely to survive until its opening date; the movies director, JJ Abrams, granted his wish early in November, and Fleetwood died shortly afterwards. Han Solos Millennium Falcon can whizz through wormholes to emerge in galaxies on the far side of the universe: I hope that the movie eases Fleetwoods journey to his final destination, wherever it may be.
Appearing in instalments throughout the decades, Star Wars has aged with us, and as proof of its longevity the three principal actors from the first cinema goofy, toothy Mark Hamill, sassy Carrie Fisher and Harrison Ford with his sly sideways grin will return in wrinklier, more grizzled form in The Force Awakens . The series also narrates the history of the times we have lived through: not only abstruse science fiction, it is political journalism in coded form.
Over the course of the six cinemas( not in chronological order ), a libertarian republic transforms itself into a predatory global empire, much as the United States has done during the last half century. Wed like to avoid imperial entanglements, tells Alec Guinness as Obi-Wan Kenobi: he is repeating a point first made by George Washington, who in his presidential farewell advised the new country to remain isolated. America kept to itself until 1945, but during the cold war it began to behave like a global bully. In 1983 Ronald Reagan deflected attention from members of the military conceit and commercial rapacity by calling the USSR an evil empire, a phrase borrowed from the synopsis of past events in the early stages of Star Wars . Reagans plan for an aerial shield of rocket deployment platforms had similar origins: it was nicknamed Star Wars because it would supposedly transform nuclear combat into a pyrotechnical blitz to be played out far above us.
When the USSR fell apart, the focus changed. The Star Wars prequels especially Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith , made after 9/11 advise about the curtailment of autonomies in fortified, permanently embattled America. Democracy cant be bothered to put up a fight: Ewan McGregor, playing Obi-Wan Kenobi when young, statements that the senators are merely interested in serving the interests of those who money their campaigns a comment that glances at Washington DC , not the far-flung planet of Coruscant. The sepulchral monarch, who, as personified by Ian McDiarmid, has skin like desiccated parchment and teeth that are lichen-crusted gravestones, virtually quotes George W Bush and Donald Rumsfeld when he explains that security and continuing stability are his regimes imperatives. As for The Phantom Menace , the title might serve as a caption for the vial of imaginary anthrax hold back by Colin Powell at the United Nation in 2003 during his speech to rally support for the invasion of Iraq. Star Wars begins by proclaiming Princess Leias determination to restore freedom to the galaxy, though its never clear just what all those twinkling starrings need to be freed from and when we do get a clue, the explanation is dismayingly banal. For citizens of the galactic republic as for those in favour of the Republican party, the sticking point is the iniquity of taxation. Turmoil resumes in The Phantom Menace because trade routes to outlying star systems are being taxed by the greedy trade federation. A pact has to be signed by the commerce guild and the corporate alliance, which are supported by the banking clan( whose representative is a corpse with a clerical collar) and the techno union( which sends a metal leviathan to the negotiations ). Until Lucasfilms sale to Disneyin 2012, Star Wars was distributed by 20 th Century Fox, so its seducing to cast Rupert Murdoch as the baleful megalomaniac monarch, keen to widen his piratical brand of capitalism into all markets. Although the Jedi master played by Samuel L Jackson insists that We are peacekeepers , not soldiers, he unsheathes his lightsaber to keep the airwaves open for the dissemination of American entertainment.
The idea of the Force, central to the fuzzy theology of Star Wars , is disturbingly equivocal. The Jedi think of it as spiritual energy, but the word also entails power, which is colder and more brutal. Star Wars catches both Americas light and dark sides, its naive optimism and its crass, domineering pursuing of earning. Whether we think it good or evil, all of us have been colonised by this empire of images.
Now that CGI effects have become so ingeniously deceptive, its odd to remember the astonishment that Star Wars provoked in 1977. We may be more sophisticated today, but what remains eye-opening about the first three films in the series is the variety of custom-made environments through which they range arid Tatooine, gaseous Bespin with its city in the clouds, or jungly Endor and the virtual zoo of so-called lifeforms they place on display.
The week in radio: In the Dark10 days ago
The murder in the latest new Serial podcast was lately solved, but the case is no less gripping or sad
I dont like to mention the S word any more when it comes to podcasts S entailing Serial ( series 1) as weve all moved on now, havent we? Were happy living in our post-S world. Its interesting to note its influence, though. The clever, ruminative tone of presenter Sarah Koenig operates through many US podcasts, though perhaps it always did. More obviously, there has been an upsurge in true crime narratives, both reveals like Criminal , which looks at a different case each week, and podcasts that unpick old or cold lawsuits( Untold , LBCs What Happened to Vishal ? ), to varying success. Nothing has quite captured listeners imaginations in the same way, however. The closest has been the Tv equivalent Stimulating a Murderer . But now we have In the Dark . This is a podcast about an unsolved US murder case that took place in the late 1980 s, painstakingly pieced together today by a female investigative reporter Its different to Serial in many ways, of course. For a start, it focuses on a child abduction. On 22 October 1989, in Minnesota, an 11 -year-old boy, Jacob Wetterling, was taken by a man, in front of other children, and never seen again. Thats the setup. But the punchline is different, too. After 27 years of mystery, only a week before the In the Dark podcast was due to launch, the case was solved. On 6 September this year, Danny Heinrich formally confessed to Jacobs abduction, sexual assault and slaying, having already led police to where the childs body was buried.
So , no whodunnit element to In the Dark . No long Reddit deliberations about motive or phone calls or timelines. Yet this does not detract from the podcast. Actually, it enhances it, because it changes the indicates emphasis. As Madeleine Baran, the reporter-presenter says: why wasnt this case solved earlier? What went wrong? But when she asks about this, she maintains getting the same answer: Theres nothing we could have done differently.
Right from the start, Baran picks away at this idea. If a crime takes 27 years to solve and the murderer had been interviewed previously, then surely something should have been done differently. This is not a successful investigation, she tells; its a failure.
Be warned: I detected parts of In the Dark almost impossible to listen to. Not because of its violence, but because of the innocence of the children and adults affected in the case. Jacob was strolling home from a video store with two friends when he was taken and we hear, back then, his brother talking about what happened when Heinrich stopped them. We hear his parents, interviewed recently by Baran, trying to recall exactly what happened, bickering over details. Gradually, as the podcast continues, we begin to understand the vast fallout of Jacobs disappearance, the lives it turned inside out and wrecked, how it altered the local community, changed US laws.
There is much to consider; much that seems like a strange throw-forward to today. Trivial stuff, such as how the circumstances of Jacobs abduction are eerily close to that of Will in the Netflix TV drama Stranger Things . More serious: the useless, understandable community spirit that leads to a three-mile-long human chain children bussed in from other schools to show how much the locals care about Jacobs disappearance. It reminds you of candles held at vigils, of solidarity with terrorism victims after they have died. The local community belief that all individuals official is doing everything they can we need to believe that the police are infallible, that no stone is unturned, that brilliant detectives are presented with a crucial piece of information and construct the leaping to the truth. But such notions come from fiction. This is reality, and realitys messy, casual cruelty can induce you weep.
Read more: www.theguardian.com
I’m Not Shocked By The Negativity I Receive About My Interracial Relationship10 days ago
Patience is a virtue that is suggested to everyone. But if you are in an interracial relationship in 2016, patience is a necessary skill. A sense of humor will take you a long way too, but you won’t make it out the front doorway without patience.
I consider myself a biracial woman, although, based on societal stipulations, I am classified as a black female. I would categorize myself the same if my mind worked solely on a binary scale. I date an Irish-Indian-Scottish man who is, you guessed it, a white man.
Why is this important? I’m not really sure. I’m still trying to figure it out.
Being a black woman has always been my truth, and something I espouse proudly. I love everything about my heritage, culture, skin and hair. #BlackGirlMagic, if you will.
By identifying as a black woman, I often get placed into stereotypes that contradict my personality, beliefs or perspectives. This is never more present to me than when I am out with my boyfriend and get gazed at like a unicorn on a busy street corner.
Here are some facts about us 😛 TAGEND
Our lifestyles aren’t different. We grew up with similar surroundings, experiences and upbringings.Our values aren’t different, seeing as we both believes in and strive for the same qualities in life and as humans.Our respective religions, political views and overall life outlooks are remarkably similar.
But our scalp tones are vastly different shades, thus inviting a slew of ignorant the issues and premises to be placed on our relationship that normally wouldn’t be there.
At first, I believed it to be a Southern habit because living in the deep south can be hard for anyone deemed “different.” Then it started happens in our travellings out of state at the hands ofpeople who have never stepped a foot over the Mason Dixon line.
It has always baffled me as to why people am worried about the lives of others, when that person literally does nothing to influence your own life.
It’s the amount of attention that stimulates you want to shrieking, “HI. HELLO. I Assure YOU.” But, that’s not very polite, is it?
Oftentimes, it gets to a phase where you merely wishes to carry around a bunch of cards stating things via “Love Actually, ” with answers like, “No, neither of us are having problem identifying with our respective cultures.”
Actually, we haven’t “was talkin about a” kids yet but I’m sure they will identify as “human.”
No, his mommy actually loves and adores me . Yes, we both speak proper English and are natural-born citizens of the US . No, I don’t feel like I’ve betrayed my race by dating him. But thank you for having caring .
According to this report by Pew Research Center, 12 percent of newlyweds in 2013 married someone of a different race. And beyond that, 6.3 percent of all weddings in 2013 were interracial.
That’s a lot of people who are living, breathing and loving person of a different race. So why is it such a spectacle?
I’ve never understood why find an interracial couple walking down the street can elicit the same reactions as find a giraffe graze peacefully in your suburban yard like it’s not supposed to be there, but you still can’t pull your eyes and judgements away from it.
At periods, I chalk it up to my insecurities as to why this person maintains looking at us across the restaurant, or why that man is shaking his head seemingly in our direction.
But other times more specifically, when a black human asks me the issues to, How are you able support black humen/ black lives when you date a white man? I think to myself, “What the actual fucking? ”
That question is completely ridiculous and I normally refuse to answer it, but for the sake of such articles, here’s what I will say.
There is absolutely no correlation between those two things. I hate the double standard presented to women of colouring when they date outside of their race, and it’s about hour it was halted.
Also, according to this same report from the Pew Research Center, black humen are much more likely than girls to marry person of a different race. Merely 12 percent of black females married outside of their race in 2013, as opposed to the nearly full one-quarter of black men who married outside of theirs.
I’ve always been shocked by the amount of attention America pays to the color of someone’s skin, and sadly, I have been subjected to it for the better part of my life.
From the dreaded What are you? to the never-ending, Well, you’re not like normal black people” it’s rare I get away with not being questioned about my race.
But the question of interracial dating is something that never ceases to astound me. It can come from literally anyone, even your more level-headed and liberal friend.
If we continue to objectify people by their race, we’ll never get rid of the systemic racism that flows through our society.
To give in to the hatred of the world is to let people’s ignorance win. It’s devoting people the power to influence and change Their own lives when they play no pivotal role in it.
There’s not a person alive who should allow this negativity to dictate theirlives, yet sadly, there are quite a bit who do.
An Elite Daily writer wrote about her experience with interracial dating, and the personal insecurities that grew from her negative experience with it. That violated my heart, because love is love.
I’ll even hashtag it so it means a bit more. #LoveIsLove.
We shout this from the rooftops, but barely present it to one another. It’s about hour we walk the walk because I, for one, am getting sick of this shit.
Joyce Carol Oates:’ People believe I write quickly, but I actually don’t’11 days ago
The volumes interview: The prolific author on the unreality of romance, the fickle memory of Americans and how tweeting has got her into trouble
When Joyce Carol Oates, the 77 -year-old author of well over 100 volumes, told the New Yorker last year that she thought of herself as transparent, before adding Im not sure I genuinely have a personality, the admission felt scandalous. We live in a day when the concept of personhood has been enshrined, in the monetising parlance of late capitalism, as my own personal brand. To posit its non-existence is a kind of taboo. Especially if you happen to be someone often was regarded as Americas foremost woman of letters.
Oates, a five-time Pulitzer finalist, might be very intensely interested in a portrait of America, but clearly she has no truck with the ego-vaunting, personality driven paradigm of contemporary celebrity. She appears more to belong to some other, long-passed era, with a pronounced gothic streak colouring much of her fiction, which tends to be peopled by powerful men and introverted women who often experience sex shame. In the afterword to her 1994 collecting Haunted: Narratives of the Grotesque , she seems to find a human truth within horror: We should sense immediately, in the presence of the grotesque, that it is both real and unreal simultaneously, as states of mind are real enough feelings, moods, shifting obsessions, beliefs though immeasurable. The subjectivity that is the essence of the human is also the mystery that divides us irrevocably from one another.
At her home in rural New Jersey she serves mugs of herbal tea and when her bengal kitten, Cleopatra, settles against my leg, Oates tells: I see you have quite a conquest there. She presumes youre here to gratifies her.
I am here, of course, to talk to Oates about herself and her work, but Im not so interested in myself she tells. I remember someone saying that Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton loved to go bar-hopping in New York, and the last thing they wanted to talk about was themselves they were more interested in these characters in the bars. Thats the route I think many novelists are. I was of the view that way. And its often said about Shakespeare that he was transparent, and Keats that he had this negative capability to be interested in other things.
Specifically, Im here to speak to her about her new novel The Human Without a Shadow, her 44 th under her own name to go alongside her many collectings of tales, essays and plays, her memoirs and her novels written under pseudonym. It concerns the relationship between an amnesiac, Elihu Hoopes, and a neuroscientist, Margot Sharpe, for whom Hoopes is both enduring scientific topic and lifelong love object. She is a woman who cant bear herself except as a vessel of work. She is also a person who wonders, What if I have no person what will I do then?
Oates is straightforward about the personal parallels. I very much identify with Margot. And not just for her workaholic tendencies and personality doubt. I suppose, she ventures, were continually devising narrations and filling in blanks and misremembering in ways that bolster our interpretation of something. So I wanted to write about this relationship between two people engaged in different memories.
Since his memory widens no further than 70 seconds, Elihu experiences every meeting with Margot as a first. Accordingly, the novel is written wholly in the present tense, the state in which Elihu lives. In one sense then, their love is literally without foundation: how can you form any meaningful connection in a little over a minute? Yet theres also something pure about their relationship: each encounter has the wonder of the eternally new.
The relationship between them is always sort of unreal, she says, but Im wondering if many relationships that are based on love and romance are not fairly highly charged with unreality. When youre actually living with someone over a period of time you do get to know the person in a very complex and detailed way. But the romantic ideal is very much fraught with the possibility of conditioning people. Presenting your best ego. Telling things to the other that will elicits a certain response.
Oates was marriage for 47 years to Raymond J Smith, a professor and editor of the Ontario Review, which he and Oates founded together in 1974. After he died in 2008 from complications arising from pneumonia, Oates detailed her heartbreak in an acclaimed memoir, A Widows Story . Soon after, she met and married Charlie Gross, a neuroscientist. Gross has been a particularly enthusiastic reader of the latest fiction, which has come about, she tells, directly as a consequence of writing A Widows Story and having to deal so rigorously with her own memory. Oates usually works on several projects at once, but it was only after shed finished the memoir that she was able to return to writing novels and narratives. Writing fiction is hard to do when real life seems so much more important, she explains.
Nevertheless: I dont have any anxiety about writing. Not truly. Its such a pleasure, and our lives are so relatively easy compared to people who are really out there in the world working hard and suffering. The art goes much subsequently in civilisation, when youve dealt with other things like poverty and strife. People think that I write speedily, but I actually dont. I recollect guessing to myself, Am I still working on this novel? Its such a slow evolution. The phase of anxiety is lost in all that. You cant be anxious every minute of every day for eight months.
Oatess extraordinary work ethic she writes eight hours a day is such that we now have a virtual sub-genre of literature that we might call where to start with Joyce Carol Oates. Its a phenomenon she mocks wryly in The Journal of Joyce Carol Oates, 19731982 : The list of my books … is overwhelming. So many volumes! So many!
Her very first was By the North Gate , a short story collection published in 1963, but it was her fifth volume, them , a 1969 novel, that won her a National book award and confirmed Oates as a major writer. Blonde , her 2000 fictionalisation of Marilyn Monroes inner life, is often regarded as her best fiction( it was nominated for both a Pulitzer and a National book award) although many readers first encounter her through the repeatedly anthologised Where Are You Going Where Have You Been, a nuanced story of a young girls rape, in which every sentence is taut with something lethal.
And then theres her criticism: lengthy, dispassionate and thorough pieces for the New York Review of Books for which she reads each writer exhaustively. She recalls, for example, sitting in Dallas airport with all these volumes of Cormac McCarthy literal volumes, I wasnt reading on a Kindle and I guessed Im dragging all these books around, and theyre so depressing! But hes such a good writer … This is where I confess to her that, in this case, I failed to adhere to my usual rule of reading a writers entire backlist before an interview. Well, you cant perhaps she murmurs. Maybe that was asking too much of yourself, only in general.
The JCO completists in this world is necessary few. Theres a man named Greg Johnson whos written a biography of me, she tells. And then maybe a few other people.
I ask whether JM Coetzees job description of a novelist as a secretary of the invisible resonates with her.( Coincidentally, Johnsons 1999 biography is titled Invisible Writer .) Im plainly making, she counters. Coetzee is somewhat coy … A secretary is someone who takes notes, but a novelist has a strong will, and is generating narrative situations, bringing people together, telling a narrative. Its a very wilful thing, and Coetzee is a very wilful person as an artist. Theres a will; it should be invisible. No one should really know about it.
Then I broach the subject of another form of writing. Oates, who has nearly 140,000 Twitter followers, has become notorious for missives met with derision or collective huh? s. When she asked, All we hear of ISIS is puritanical& punitive; is there nothing celebratory& joyous? Or is query naive? it inspired the actor Molly Ringwald to react, Okay, who got Grandma stoned?
Most egregious was a tweet that seemed to conflate violence against women with Islam. Where 99.3% of women report having been sexually harassed& rape is epidemic Egypt natural to inquire: whats the predominant religion? I venture that this was Islamophobic. Well, some of the reactions are sympathetic … Its all sort of political. But my fundamental focus is the rights of women and girls and patriarchal religion , no matter what it is, Im not sympathetic to. I have confessed that often on Twitter, that I dont believes in patriarchal religion to me its delusional, so if thats Islamophobic, I suppose that could be true. Its more like religion-phobic, or patriarchal religion-phobic. What I had to say was actually much, much longer than could be said in a tweet. But nobody makes anybody write tweets, so the negative answer that one get is basically, in a way you deserve it. Ive tweeted other things that Ive entailed sincerely, but sometimes people misinterpret it.
She adds, wearily: I dont really care that much. I write something nice about Homeland , but a bunch of people write back to say Oh, we dislike Homeland , its Islamophobic. I literally dont care. I dont even read them. Theyre sort of attacking a tweet, then its gone. The fickle memory of Americans is something you can rely on. The literary world is very different, and Im much more serious about the literary world. I write these reviews which are quite long and nuanced for the New York Review of Books thats really like my real life.
When Ive thanked her and weve both stood up theres a moment of mutual uncertainty. Oates surely wants to get back to work, but the car Ive yet to summon will probably take 20 minutes to arrive. I gesture at a small floral lounge by the front door and indicate Ill just wait there. Upstairs, I can hear the voice of Oatess contented humming receding as she moves towards her desk.
Read more: www.theguardian.com
‘ All my friends had some nightmare experience trying to get pregnant. My story took the cake’11 days ago
At five months pregnant, Ariel Levy lost her newborn. After four more years of IVF, had she left motherhood too late?
I first fulfilled Ariel Levy in 2009, soon after moving from London to New York, but I had been a fan for more than a decade. Her frank articles about pop culture and sex, which she wrote in her first task at New York magazine from the late 1990 s, the template of what I wanted to write one day. Her 2005 book, Female Chauvinist Pigs, a blister look at how young woman were being sold the lie that emulating pole dancers and Paris Hilton was empowering, became one of the defining feminist statements of that decade. At the New Yorker, where she has been a personnel writer since 2008, she breaks up the publications occasional aridity with vivid articles about sexuality and gender.( She got her job when she told editor David Remnick that, If foreigners had only the New Yorker to go by, they would conclude that human beings didnt care that much about sexuality, which they actually do .)
Heroes rarely live up to your fictions, but Levy outstripped them. Usually marriage used to go for drinkings cocktails that knocked me sideways, but scarcely seemed to touch her sides and from the start she struck me as being just like her penning: laid-back, wise, curious, kind. Sometimes Levys wife, Lucy, would join us. Isnt she hilarious? Levy would say after Lucy had said something that wasnt, actually, all that funny, but I jealousy them their mutual love after almost a decade together. I, by contrast, was lonely and, like generations of single women in their mid-3 0s before me, starting to panic. But like a lot of women of my particular generation, I felt ashamed of this. Panicking about not having a newborn? How retrograde. So I never admitted any of it to Levy, who seemed more likely to eat her own hair than indulge in such uncool, unfeminist thoughts.
I left New York in 2012 and, despite my doomy fears, had twins when I was 37. Levy and I stayed in touch by email, and although her messages became shorter and more distant, I presumed everything was fine, because she was Ari. But in 2013, I opened the New Yorker and learned that it was not.
When we meet for brunch on a cold Saturday in February, it has been five years since we last comprehend each other. Its a typical New York scene: weary and winter-pale mothers eating scrambled eggs in a trendy restaurant while their sugar-rushed toddlers play on iPads. Levy, by contrast, looks calm, happy and healthy, and not only because she has a tan from a recent five-week stay in South Africa.
If we had this conversation five months ago, I would have been in a bad way, she says, in a lilting voice that are typically sets an unspoken Oh my God! and Can you believe it? behind her terms. But Im so much less miserable Im not even miserable at all. So what the frack are we going to eat?
We are just around the corner from Levys flat, where she has expended the past year writing a memoir. This in itself is something of a surprise, because she is not usually a first-person novelist. But Levy, after negotiating her order with the waiter( Ooh, the cheddar scramble is that good? But do we have to have the creme fraiche with it? I mean, lets not ), shrugs off any concerns about self-exposure: Im pretty open book-y, you know? I never understood what the big deal is about privacy. The hardest part was realising that Id better entail what I say. The whole schtick of the book is acceptance and surrender. So after I finished writing it, I believed, Wow, I guess Id better follow my own advice now.
In 2012, Levy conceived a newborn with sperm from a friend, having overcome the reservations shed long had about parenthood. She was about to turn 38: It felt like attaining it on to a plane the moment before the gate shuts you cant help but thrill, she wrote in her 2013 New Yorker article, Thanksgiving In Mongolia.
When she was five months pregnant, she flew to Ulaanbaatar for run. Her friends were concerned but, she wrote, I liked the idea of being the kind of woman whod go to the Gobi desert pregnant. After two days of abdominal discomfort, she ran into the hotel bathroom, squatted on the floor and blacked out from the ache. When she came to, her newborn was on the floor next to her. I heard myself say out loud, This cant is all very well. But it looked good. My newborn was as fairly as a seashell, she wrote. She gazed in awe at his mouth, opening and closing, opening and closing, swallowing the new world.
She had suffered a severe placental abruption, a rare complication in which the placenta detaches from the uterus. In shock, Levy held the 19 -week foetus while blood spread across the tiles. She eventually called for help, taking a photograph of her son before the ambulance turned up. She was taken to a clinic where a kind South African doctor tended to her while she hemorrhaged and sobbed. And I knew, as surely as I now knew that I wanted small children, that this change in fortune was my fault. I had boarded a plane out of vanity and selfishness, and the dark Mongolian sky had punished me, she wrote.
Levy flew back to New York and, within two weeks, her relationship with Lucy came to an objective. For months afterwards, Levy continued to bleed and lactate: It seemed to me sorrow was leaking out of me through every orifice. She appeared obsessively at the photograph of her newborn, and tried to make others appear, too, so they could see what “shes seen” and they did not: that she was a mother who had lost her child.
Her article, which won a National Magazine Award in 2014, aims at that point, and I assumed that the end of Lucy and Levys marriage was tied to the loss of their child. In fact, that was a whole other shitshow, Levy tells now. When she returned from Mongolia, she realised through her cloud of grief that Lucy, who had struggled with alcoholism before, needed to go to rehab, poorly. The girls, still in love but too broken to support one another, separated. Today, they are in touch, but, Levy tells, There are times when one of us says, I gotta stop talking to you for a while because this is too painful. Because we are get divorced, you dont magically stop caring about each other.
The breakup is one of merely several shitshows recounted in Levys memoir, The Rules Do Not Apply, which looks, in self-lacerating detail, at events in her life before she went to Mongolia, and hints at some that came as. It is not the book that many expected would follow Female Chauvinist Pigs , not least because it could be spun as a warning to women about the perils of waiting too long to have a newborn. Placental abruption, Levy writes, usually befalls women who are heavy cocaine users or who have high blood pressure. But sometimes it only happens because youre old. She doesnt go into this in the book, but Levy, who is now 42, has not been able to conceive again, despite having undergone a ridiculous amount of IVF over the past four years.
The alternative way of looking at Levys memoir is that she is dealing with a subject that feminism has never been able to resolve: the immovable boulder of fertility, butting up against female progress. Levy says she had always wanted to be a writer, so I construct my life with that as my priority; by the time she realised she also wanted to be a mom, she was in her late 30 s. She writes that she and her generation were given the lavish gift of agency by feminism, coupled with a middle-class, western sense of entitlement that resulted them to believe that anything seemed possible if you had ingenuity, money and persistence. But the body doesnt play by those rules.
Of course, this is partly about class, she says now. I dont hear women who are less privileged supposing theyre entitled to everything, whenever they want it. Thats a privilege phenomenon, but it is a phenomenon. It constructs me laugh when people say, Why dont you simply do surrogacy, or merely adopt? Believe me, there is no just about them. Surrogacy expenses $100,000 – $150,000 in the US, while adoption expenses are on average between $ 20,000 and $45,000( costs in the UK are much lower ). After the money Levy spent on IVF( A plenty. A plenty, a lot, a lot ), those options are less possible than ever.
Doomy warnings that women need to stop shillyshallying and sprog up are published in the Daily Mail every day. They are far less common from prominent feminist novelists, and Levy concurs there is no point in lecturing young lady, because it doesnt do anything, and they know it already. Theyre like, Eff you: Im busy trying to earn money and figure myself out. Its just a design flaw that, at the exact moment so many of us ultimately feel mature enough to take care of someone beside ourselves, the bodys like: Im out.
Read more: www.theguardian.com
The beauty of art can counter Islamophobia- but it won’t be easy29 days ago
A Qatari-funded Arab and Islamic art museum is opening in New York to challenge delusions but has the US already made up its mind?
What kind of Islamic art has the power to open American hearts and intellects, at a time when Donald Trump has relaunched his attempt to ban entry from several Muslim-majority nations?
In May, a new Institute of Arab and Islamic Art, set up by Qatars Sheikh Mohammed Rashid Al-Thani, will open in downtown Manhattan. The timing is not accidental. Al-Thani is trying to humanise Islam and broaden perceptions of it in the US. He hopes the institute will not only showcase the breadth of art and culture from the Arab and Islamic worlds, but also challenge certain stereotypes and misconceptions that hinder cross-cultural appreciation, he told the Art Newspaper.
Some hope, you may say. The depth of prejudice flaunted by Trump( and apparently shared by many of his voters) is so aggressive in its refusal to engage with a complex world that it seems unlikely to be healed by a little bit of Islamic art in New York. Surely thats the wrong location, anyway the hearts and intellects that need opening are barely those of Manhattanites who voted Hillary.
Read more: www.theguardian.com
Grimsby review- Sacha Baron Cohen’s gags fall flat in cod-Bond caper1 month ago
The Ali G and Borat creator shows little of his anarchic grandeur in this tame comedy, which is just kept from flatlining by moments of high-impact grossout
Sacha Baron Cohen brings his B-game or maybe even his C-game to this moderate new comedy that basically defeated my attempts to like it.
The film features a lairy football fan from Grimsby with Gallagher-esque hair and position, called Nobby( Baron Cohen ); he discovers that his brother Sebastian( Mark Strong, gamely playing it straight) long-lost in the foster care system, is now a sleek assassin for MI6. Of course the hapless Nobby, along with an entire barmy army of mates, is the only one who can help Strong out after get him into a terrible jam and foil a sinister eugenicist plot to rid an overpopulated world of the working classes.
Steve Coogan once toured a depict called As Alan Partridge and Other Less Successful Characters. Sadly, a less successful character is exactly what Nobby is. There is hardly a sliver of the real anarchic magnificence Baron Cohen proved in Borat, his ruined innocent from Kazakhstan, the satirical punch of his great urban hero Ali G or his Austrian fashion maven Bruno, or even his corrupted Despot from the Middle East. Nobby feelings dated and off-target. Even his northern accent often misses the mark.
For me, the best moment was a bad-taste gag set at a charity event, involving Nobby reacting to some football news just as a child with a terminal illness is brought on stage. Theres also a great line about LinkedIn. But I couldnt help hoping in vain that every line would be that good.
Grimsby has the occasional chuckle and a succession of finely wrought grossout spectaculars which are reasonably entertaining, especially the egregiously yucky elephant bukkake scene, which does deserve an awarding of some kind( perhaps MTVs WTF Moment prize ). Like a kind of high-voltage defibrillator, these touches do keep the movie from flatlining. But with its cod-Bond and mock-action material it carries a weird overall feel, like kids Tv but produced on a lavish scale with added filth. And often theres a worrying hint of late-period Carry On Britfilm sadness.
Nobby himself is a cheerfully outrageous idler and skiver who has a startling way of celebrating football victory with a firework and like Borat, he is the subject of underclass comedy though here slathered with supportive sentimentality. He occupies a bizarre ruining of a hellhole and is utterly happy in a cheekily imagined white-trash world with dozens of children and grandchildren by various partners, the most recent of whom( played by Rebel Wilson) is his devoted love.
Strong, for his part, occupies the entirely different world of the top intelligence officer, but his own lifestyle is of no great interest, and not brought into any sort of meaningful contrast with Nobbys. He merely needs a place to lie low after a hit goes bad, and is forced to settle for grim old Grimsby.
But here he observes to his horror that Nobby has been unable to keep his mouth shut about his brother being a top snoop. The fact is alluded to in the banner strung across the pub for his welcome home party. His cover, once again, is blown. From there, the action soon relocates to South Africa for some of the high-impact disgust humour, the commitment of which I couldnt assist but admire.
There is a string of supporting players dedicated little or nothing to do and no funny lines: Ian McShane and Isla Fisher in mission control; Penelope Cruz as the international woman of mystery; and down the pub in Grimsby there is Johnny Vegas, John Thomson and Ricky Tomlinson. Its possible that they improvised some great stuff which got lost in the edit. They are staggeringly underused in the end product.
Baron Cohens grandeur in character slapstick has created some glorious movies, but the character route is now coming to an end. This unique talent needs to take another direction.
Read more: www.theguardian.com
This family has been designing fireworks displays for 166 years. They explain how it’s done.1 month, 11 days ago
Phil Grucci is rewarding himself after a three-mile run. He left work at 2:30 a.m. and had to be back at 8. But the running couldn’t wait.
“I got my three miles in, then I put a nice New York bagel onto the plate. I do that so I can have a bagel, ” Phil told Upworthy on his way out of the kitchen.
He could be forgiven for maintaining an extreme schedule. It’s three days before the Fourth of July, and it’s Phil’s job to coordinate and execute dozens of fireworks shows across the country.
“We have to make sure that a loading coming up from our Virginia factory constructs it through the city by six oclock in the morning, ” he told.
Because of security concerns , no explosives can be moved through New York City during rush hour 6 to 10 a. m. and 3 to 6 p. m.
Making assured that Phil’s trucks make it over the George Washington Bridge with enough time to reach their destination on schedule involves careful planning, and the margin for error is razor-thin.
“Its critical to reached that window before that close happens, ” he told.
Every Fourth of July, millions of Americans watch fireworks explosion from beach blankets, out windows, or on Tv.
We watch them explode. We ooh and aah. We eat our soft-serve ice cream.
It’s astonishing .
But most of us have no idea how it all works.
“We start with a blank piece of paper.”
Phil is the CEO and creative director of Fireworks by Grucci, a company that has been designing and creating fireworks displays since 1850, when Phil’s great-great-grandfather began launching them over the Adriatic Sea in Bari, Italy.
Since then , no two of the company’s fireworks demonstrates have been the same.
“People dont generally understand the amount of effort, and surely ingenuity and planning, that goes into any firework performance, ” Phil said. “You dont just have the fireworks sitting on the shelf labeled firework demonstrate A, B, C, D.”
When work begins on a new show, Phil fulfils with a squad of designers a “think tank” to start sketching out the indicate duration, music involved, types of fireworks required, and dramatic arc of the demonstrate.
A Grucci fireworks show in New York City for Chinese New Year. Photo via Fireworks by Grucci/ Facebook, used with permission.
Their ideas become a large spreadsheet, which then becomes actual, real-life explosives, specially manufactured at the Virginia factory, which are then transported by truck to the launch site and assembled by a team of dozens of pyrotechnicians all in preparation for the big moment.
The process takes months. The show is often over in less than 20 minutes .
“Its a tremendous honor for us to have that ability to be on stage even though its not us personally for our art form, ” he said. “Our imagination is on that stage for that 20 -minute period of time.”
For a firework event to succeed, it needs an emotional arc a bold opening, followed by rising action, with a peak somewhere near the middle before “intermission, ” Phil tells like a Broadway show.
After the infringe, he explains, the tension should ebb and flow, until ratcheting up for a spectacular closing sequence, which should leave without doubt that the show is over.
“When we put on a good performance, a fantastic, well-thought-out, well-choreographed program, the prove could be six-minutes long, and when the audience walks away fully entertained … they guess the show is 30 minutes, ” Phil said.
And the individual fireworks? They’re “characters.”
“If you envision a stage, and you envision a blank script, the characters that are going to perform on that stage, in the form of choreography and dancing, if you will, are the fireworks, ” he explained.
With each new performance, there’s new fireworks technology for the team to learn.
“Recently, we developed another type of shell with a microchip built inside of it, ” Phil said.
While a traditional shell can explode up to a half-second off from the desired period, Phil has pointed out that the detonation of a microchipped shell is predictable down to the millisecond.
“You can control where you can place a dot in the sky, at what elevation.”
Each of these miniature dots, or “pencil bursts, ” generates a single dot. Connect 1,000 or more, and you can create fascinating, abstract designs in the sky, like the 600 -foot high American flag the Grucci team created for a depict celebrating the 200 th anniversary of “The Star-Spangled Banner.”
The company is also investing in ways to make its product more environmentally sound in order to remain sustainable for the long term, including biodegradable casings, smoking reduction, and removing certain chemicals from the manufacturing process .
“That’s just as important as the aesthetic side, ” he said.
“Im out in the water, so the service is a little sketchy.”
Lauren Grucci is on the phone from a barge in the middle of Boston’s Charles River. She’s a member of the sixth generation of Gruccis to enter the family business.
Like her parent, Phil, she’s starting as a pyrotechnician, working with a team of 25 people to stage a reveal for an audience of an estimated half-million people.
A Grucci crew poses. Photo via Fireworks by Grucci/ Facebook, used with permission.
“Its a little hot out, but we were here last year, so were kind of familiar with it, ” Lauren told Upworthy.
For the ground squads, Fourth of July fireworks proves are like a gauntlet.
The displays are longer. The days are hotter. Everyone is out working. And there’s little time to catch your breath.
“Were out here all day, so its a lot of passion and a lot of stamina.”
Each member of the team does a little of everything. They lift boxes. They set up the launch site with cranes. They hook up regulation to computers.
“Theres a camaraderie that comes with it because you know that its kind of like a big household, ” Lauren said.
For Lauren, that includes her real-life household as well.
“There are some times when Im on a depict, and the pyrotechnicians are my uncles and my cousins and my brother and my friends, ” she told.
Phil Grucci( centre) with family members. Photo via Fireworks by Grucci/ Facebook, used with permission.
Working closely with her relatives has given Lauren some of her most treasured on-the-job memories like the time she climbed the outside of a hop storage tower at Dublin’s Guinness brewery to photograph a present with her cousin.
“We were kind of always raised to merely do it; tell ‘yes, ‘ and figure it out after.”
It’s a value, she explained that was instilled by her great-grandmother Concetta, who helped manage the reveals when she was a baby.
“She was at every event, talking to whoever, whenever on stage. She simply had a really great spirit and had a really great attitude about everything, ” Lauren said.
She thinks about her every time she launches a “gold willow” firework.
“That was her favorite shell, and it reminds me a lot of her.”
Both technical know-how and passion for the work are passed down through the generations in the Grucci family.
“As a 6-year-old, Id go out on the barge with my father, and it was the coolest thing in the world to be out there with the guys and setting up the fireworks prove, ” Phil said.
Too young to sail out with the barge, he would hang out on shore with his grandfather, watching his daddy defined them off from the barge.
“People that would come up to him and congratulate him and give him great wishes and congratulations, and thats how I got hooked, ” Phil said.
He explained that his grandpa encouraged him to embrace change atypical for the patriarch of a long-running household business.
“He began with shooting fireworks and lighting them with a cigar or a very tightly wrap burlap container, ” Phil told.
Of course, the situation is … a little different these days.
“Now were shooting and displaying our fireworks with laptop computers.”
He said he hopes his children and nephews will continue to embrace new technology as they move into leadership roles.
Perhaps most importantly, Phil hopes that no matter what technological changes come along in the next 10 to 20 years fireworks audiences continue to enjoy the demonstrate, blissfully unaware of the elaborated, frenetic ballet happening behind the scenes.
So if you spend this Fourth of July on a beach blanket, eating your soft-serve , not worrying about how the fireworks explosion above your head got there, that’s by design.
As long as “youre leaving” wanting merely a little more, Phil considers his chore done.
“For me, thats what the thrill is about. Thats what keeps you here at 2:30 in the morning and back in here by 8 the next morning to keep the machine going.”
Read more: www.upworthy.com
‘Welcome to NRA Country’: how the handgun lobby tried to tap into country music1 month, 13 days ago
With big name supporters including Blake Shelton and Thomas Rhett, NRA Country is being used to entice younger members to the NRA by using country credibility. But with some artists distancing themselves, can it survive?
I love the NRA, sang Preston Brust on stage at a recent concert in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. Brust, who comprises one half of the country duo LoCash, was performing the groups hit single, I Love This Life, a typical feel-good country ode to small towns, trucks and girls.
The setting was the 2016 Great American Outdoor Show, the NR-Abacked hunting and angling trade-show, held for a week each February, that depicts over 200,000 yearly guests and claims to be biggest customer outdoor show in the world.
Saturday evenings concert was presented by NRA Country, the lifestyle brand outgrowth of the NRA that fosters partnerships between the National Rifle Association and the country music industry.
Since its founding in 2010 , NRA Country has tried, with varying degrees of success, to develop close ties to Nashvilles country music industry, partnering with several of the genres biggest superstars and some of its more prominent institutions.
Those ties were on display at the Great American Outdoor show concert, where bright yellow banners that read This is NRA Country, complete with the organizations logoes of two firearms joining together to form bull horns, adorned all corners of the arena. Between acts, video screens above the stage played looped videos of NRA executive vice-president Wayne LaPierre telling things such as: We need to take our country back and fight like hell to save America.
The first words uttered on stage were from the evenings MCs, DJs Nancy and Newman, from the local country station 94.9, who greeted the crowd by saying: Welcome to NRA Country and imploring the crowd to sign up for an NRA membership.
Throughout the concert, the three musical acts performing namedropped the NRA a total of 20 times. During their 45 -minute set, LoCash alone mentioned the organization on 13 occasions, or approximately once every three minutes.
With I Love This Life, LoCash were also the only group that managed to sneak in a lyric about the NRA into one of their ballads. After Brust sang his line about the NRA, the group then handed out NRA Country T-shirts to the crowd and mentioned the organization a half-dozen more hours before closing their situate. God bless the NRA, they screamed, before vanishing offstage.
Read more: www.theguardian.com
Why Beauty and the Beast isn’t the first Disney movie for LGBT audiences1 month, 18 days ago
The studio has promised fans its first exclusively gay moment in the live-action fairytale but that betrays a history of covert messages in its animated films
Its unprecedented for a major studio blockbuster, much less a family film, to seek the LGBT audience. Gay spectators seeking mainstream self-identification in the cinema have usually had to settle for winking nuances and allusions, or at the worst, the more oblivious homoeroticism of sundry Michael Bay-style brawnfests. No more, apparently: in an age when a film as overtly queer as Moonlight can win the creation honour of a best painting Oscar, a corporation as large as Disney can also ultimately acknowledge the love that once dared not speak its name.
Well, sort of. A commotion of headlines ranging from the too enthused to the too outraged greeted Beauty and the Beast director Bill Condons announcement in Attitude magazine that the Mouse Houses live-action remake of their 1991 fairytale smash-up would boast the companys first exclusively lesbian moment. The more we heard about this supposedly startling breakthrough, however, the less encouraging it got. Historys first overtly gay Disney character, it turns out, is LeFou, unctuous manservant to preening, hyper-macho scoundrel Gaston an underling who, in Condons words, on one day wants to be Gaston and on another day wants to kiss Gaston.
An obsequious maid who alternates between worshipping and hopelessly desiring his straight-out master? With a name that translates as madman and has also been used as a gay slur in French? In the reliably exacerbating kind of Josh Gad? Its not exactly the recognition that lesbian viewers have been waiting for, even if the finished cinema dedicates LeFou the most fleeting of clues at future romance with a kindred spirit.
Condon, a homosexual film-maker known for such intelligent queer investigations as Divinities and Ogres and Kinsey, must realise that this is no giant leap forward for on-screen representation, though credit him for stoking the off-screen conversation on the subject. This week has also considered him advancing the hypothesi, allegedly founded by the 1991 films late lyricist Howard Ashman, that the Beasts story functions as a metaphor for Aids: He was cursed and this curse had brought sorrow on all those people who loved him and maybe there was a chance for a miracle and a style for the curse to be lifted, Condon explains. The phrasing is wince-inducing its fair to say most people with Aids would prefer not to think of themselves as cursed, or indeed as animals but its a bolder way to queer the material than running a comic-relief subplot around a secondary characters sexuality.
Exclusively gay is a curious turn of phrase , not least when appealing to a community for whom inclusivity has always been a higher priority. One presumes Condons implication is that LeFous passions are unambiguously lesbian , not that theyre identifiable or relatable exclusively to gay spectators. For Disney animation has a long history of LGBT coding, intended and otherwise, that induces Beauty and the Beasts more official lesbian gestures look instead colourless.
Disney may not have awarded a lesbian identity to any of its characters prior to LeFou, but audiences have been doing so for decades. A quick graze of the internet will provide fan theories to feed any hunches youve long felt about the happy-go-lucky companionship of Timon and Pumbaa, and their effective adoption of newborn Simba, in The Lion King or indeed the foppish villainy of the same films Scar, an alpha lion “whos never” detected a mate in the pride. Same goes for Baloo, the nurturing, carefree single bear of The Jungle Book, or the coy, eyelash-batting male skunk who introduces himself to young fawn Bambi with the immortal terms, You can call me Flower if you want to. A few playful Disney animators have even teased us with queer allusions of their own: the character design of Ursula, the vampy, spectacularly tentacled ocean witch of The Little Mermaid, was famously modelled on hotshot drag queen Divine.
Speculating in this way can be superficial, stereotype-dependent fun but doesnt truly get to the essentially queer heart of so many classic Disney narrations, in which socially isolated foreigners yearn either for acceptance or transcendence. Pinocchios dream of being a real boy is a journey of self-actualisation that has inspired many a metaphorical comparison to the coming-out process; the same goes for sweet, sensitive Dumbo, whose chief phase of difference from the rest those enormous ears at first builds him a figure of fun for bullying peers, before it enables him to rise.
Read more: www.theguardian.com