Posts Tagged ‘politics’
April 12, 2013 | by John Reed
Timeline to this Timeline
September 9, 2001, I’m walking down Lafayette Street with my wife. We’re close to my apartment, with the Tribeca sky, the sky of my youth, hovering above our destination. I have a title idea. “Snowball’s Chance,” I say, “there’s something to it.” She isn’t so sure.
Then, 9/11. Then, 9/13, I understand the title. Animal Farm. Snowball returns to the farm, bringing capitalism, which has its own pitfalls. I’ll turn the Cold War allegory on its head—apply Orwell’s thinking to what had happened in the fifty years since the end of World War II. Three weeks later I have a clean draft.
I start to think about publication, and run into a bump: the feeling in the publishing world, in the entertainment world, is that parody is about to lose its protected status in the United States. Several major lawsuits are underway (2 Live Crew, The Wind Done Gone), copyright has been extended indefinitely for major corporations, and the Supreme Court has never looked more conservative. Given the climate, and that parody is not protected in the United Kingdom, the Orwell estate announces itself “hostile” to my manuscript. The book is nevertheless released in 2002 (by a small but longstanding press, Roof Books), and supported in part by a state grant. At the same moment I see fit to attack Animal Farm as a Cold War allegory—an allegory that I see as conservative, xenophobic, and a bludgeon for radical thinking—Christopher Hitchens, who has taken a sharp turn to the right, sees the need to defend it. In Why Orwell Matters, also published in 2002, Hitchens attempted to apply Orwell’s later-life “Cold War,” a term he popularized, to a stance against terrorism. The media picks up on Hitchens, and Snowball as a counterpoint, and the books are accordingly praised or derided.
Nikolai Kostomarov (1817–1885) pens his story Animal Riot, a farmyard allegory that takes as its analog a hypothetical Russian revolution. A century later, in 1988, the English-language Economist will compare Kostomarov’s 8,500-word story to George Orwell’s 20,000-word Russian Revolution allegory, Animal Farm (which, unlike Animal Riot, ends badly), finding numerous points of comparison. For example, a bull in Animal Riot:
March 25, 2013 | by John Lingan
Way back in 2004, the artist Neil Freeman debuted a novel idea on his Web site, Fake is the New Real: a map of the United States, redrawn so that each state has a more or less equal population. This, Freeman proffered, would correct the current problem with our electoral college system, in which sparsely populated states wield tremendous political influence for no real justifiable reason.
He remade the map in 2010 to reflect current census data, but took the idea to its most exhaustive and visually impressive heights in December 2012. Since the country had just survived yet another election where Ohio and Florida were agreed to be the only states of any import; since the governments of certain conservative-leaning states went out of their way to make voting a nearly constitution-violating ordeal for many minority populations; and since the last few years have seen many congressional districts gerrymandered out of political contention, I was touched by Freeman’s effort to envision an American political process that was, to put it plainly, more fair.
“The states of the United States are too disparate in size and influence,” he introduced the 2012 map. “The largest state is sixty-six times as populous as the smallest and has eighteen times as many electoral votes.” I e-mailed Freeman to discuss his problem with that reality, and how his map could theoretically change it.
You’re pretty vague in the artist’s statement to this piece, saying only “reforms are needed.” What compelled you in 2004 to start this project? What do you ultimately think it says about our politics?
The project grew out of two goals, which have tended to get braided and knotted over time. The first is to visualize the population distribution of the country in a novel way. The second is to critique the electoral college.
The roots of the project go back to the early days of the 2004 presidential campaign. The 2000 election made the limitations of the electoral college painfully obvious. Not only does the system make the popular vote irrelevant, but the college gives different levels of influence and power to citizens of different states based on competitiveness and House apportionment.
There was a fair degree of momentum to reform the electoral college after the 2000 election, and nothing happened. The electoral college is deeply naturalized into our political narrative, and rational discourse seems to have little ability to dislodge it. I hope that a more creative approach to the electoral college helps to lay bare its shortcomings and the possibility of effective reform.
Presidential campaigns are also a moment when everyone pays close attention to maps of states, and the weaknesses of state maps as a visual tool become apparent. After the 2000 and 2004 election, a county-by-county map that showed that the country as a mostly red country with little blue bits on the coast began showing up as a proof of the irrelevance of the Democratic vote. This is downright silly, and it really saddens me that people confuse geographical space with population density. If—when—we get rid of the electoral college, one of the benefits will be the irrelevance of geographical state-by-state maps for illustrating campaign trends.
To tie that up—by redrawing the political map, I hope to draw attention to the limitations of our political system, and the ways that we commonly represent it. Read More »
March 20, 2013 | by Molly Crabapple
When a woman artist looks for her forebears, she sees a void.
There are, needless to say, great female artists. There’s Tamara de Lempicka, queen of art deco. There’s Artemisia Gentileschi, forever in paintings, cutting off her rapist’s head. There’s love-ravished Camille Claudel, making the hands of her lover Rodin’s sculptures before being institutionalized for forty years. There are Mary Cassatt’s paintings of children. But it can’t be denied: the canon of Western woman’s art is nothing compared to the canon of Western woman’s writing.
Noted Audre Lorde, “Of all the art forms, poetry is the most economical. It is the one which is the most secret, which requires the least physical labor, the least material, and the one which can be done between shifts, in the hospital pantry, on the subway, and on scraps of surplus paper.” While a writer may require only a room of one’s own, an artist needs years of training, muses, a studio, canvas, paints, patrons, and, fundamentally, a world that lets her be grubby and feral and alone.
Growing up, the women in art history who inspired me were primarily models: Victorine Muerent. La Goulue. Far from pampered, indolent odalisques, these are sexy, tough, working-class women, often with backgrounds in the sex trade. Notable contrasts to the genteel girls who studied flower painting along with piano and embroidery, my archetypes were flamboyant, glamorous self-creations, unabashedly employing themselves as their own raw materials in a world that would give them nothing else. I too worked as an artist’s model. For an artist, the job is a paradox: you’re clay for someone else’s creation while longing to make your own. Read More »
December 17, 2012 | by Yevgeniya Traps
David Opdyke’s studio is, at the moment, mostly emptied of his intricate, deceptively beautiful sculptures, though it is filled with neatly organized boxes, helpfully labeled with the names of the particular bit of flotsam (“Sand,” “Seaweed”) each contains. The artworks are on display at Bryce Walkowitz Gallery in Chelsea, where Opdyke’s PVC-pipes-cum-cherry-blossom-trees (the petals are tiny pink toilets!) bloom in the gallery’s picture window. The piece is part of Opdyke’s first solo show at the gallery, which is entitled Accumulated Afterthoughts.
I met Opdyke at the gallery on a May afternoon, so he could describe the making of his intricate pieces, painstakingly assembled in a process at once “zen” and “after a point, frustrating.” Later that afternoon, I visited his studio. Part of the loft where he currently lives with his wife and two children, it is located right by the Williamsburg Bridge. (When I asked whether the noise of bridge traffic ever bothers him, Opdyke observed that the late-night drunken cell-phone conversations of nearby restaurant patrons are the far greater menace.)
December 11, 2012 | by Emily Greenhouse
Grace Paley was born Gracie Goodside ninety years ago today, and my grandmother still calls her that. My grandmother’s parents separated when the Depression hit: her father lost his job, and couldn’t countenance his wife, a beautician, the household’s only breadwinner. In summer, her mother stuck around the beauty salon, but my grandmother would visit her aunt and uncle in Long Pond, in Mahopac, fifty miles north of the city. Uncle Al was a piano teacher, and one of his students a girl named Grace. Two years older than my grandmother, Cyril, Grace spent the whole summer in Mahopac. Her father, a doctor, built a house there, and he’d bring the family up from their Bronx brownstone, at Hoe Avenue and 172nd Street.
I first picked up Paley after my father’s father, Mortimer, died. I hadn’t realized she was part of their same world of meetings, but my grandmother told me. My grandmother remembers everything.
Dr. Goodside—Isaac—he had a chauffeur, Saunders. God forbid, you could never use that word. It was a driver. Gracie’s father, he came from a large city in Russia, not the Pale of Settlement. They spoke Russian, they did not speak Yiddish. He went to medical school in Italy, and his great pleasure was when the Italian fruit vendor came, you know, with his truck. He’d come once or twice a week, and Dr. Goodside came to talk to him in his broken Italian. Gracie’s father, he also was a great fan, a lover, of Victor Hugo—and his son, who became an ophthalmologist, was named Victor. Gracie was the youngest, she must have been at least ten years younger than Jeanne, Jeanne after Jean Valjean. And she was named Grace, and her sister said to me, in Italian, it was Grazie—thanks, thanks. Jeanne told me this when she was already teaching. She was much older, and she was married to a child psychologist, a real son of a b—a child psychologist who hated children. They never had children.
Gracie was unusual, she was extremely bright. Every day she was made to read at least an hour, I think she was made to study Russian. And they had a large house in Mahopac, her parents always encouraged kids to come to the house. Her father was a music lover, and he would invite people over to his house, and play music. He had this phenomenal record player. My Uncle Al, the piano player, was such an SOB—he would say, “I’m not going, he doesn’t know anything about music.” But that’s how I knew Gracie, the lessons. Her parents, they wanted us to come to her house, we went there, we played Monopoly. I would see Gracie almost every day—we would go swimming, we would have a hare and hound race, try not to fall for the false trails the guys set up. And we’d discuss politics and sex and stuff, whatever kids at that age discuss. She was the leader because we always went to her house, and she was the one who had ideas, and who could give advice. Even at that age. Wherever you went to meet, it was always at Gracie’s house. All the kids would follow Grace.
The other children—Victor, he was not a talker, and Jeanne, Jeanne was always apologizing. I don’t think they ever really answered the father. And their mother was a quiet woman. Gracie was always the one who was really challenging him.
November 8, 2012 | by Casey N. Cep
Computers, phones, radios, televisions, and carrier pigeons are chirping with talk of Tuesday’s hard-fought presidential election. The election is a time-honored American tradition. But long before there were exercises of democracy to occupy our collective attention, Americans were preoccupied with a different kind of election entirely.
The Pilgrims brought their belief in predestination with them to Plymouth, and the Puritans planted the doctrine in the Massachusetts Bay Colony. Many are called, they argued, but few are chosen. Those chosen by God for salvation receive mercy, while the reprobate receive the justice they deserve.
The question of whether or not one had been elected for salvation filled one’s wakeful days and dreaming nights. Read More »