Staff Picks: Stirrups, Stravinsky, Sink-feet


This Week’s Reading

Meryl Meisler, Butterfly Bedroom Telephone, East Meadow, NY, June 1975, black-and-white photograph, 1975, 20″ x 14 1/2″. Image via Steven Kasher Gallery.

Among the black-and-white photographs in Meryl Meisler’s show at Steven Kasher Gallery is a vitrine that houses ephemera from Meisler’s youth in Massapequa, Long Island. One piece, from 1969, is an invitation to a swingers’ party that asks attendees to rendezvous in the Island Discount parking lot and boasts that “Our Color Coded Computer Carefully Coordinates Closely Compatible Couples, (put that in your Funk & Wagnalls).” Group adultery aside, this sounds like a fun bunch. And Meisler’s photographs, which she began taking in her early twenties, bear out that notion. In one, an older woman lounges on a bed (whose butterfly spread matches the wallpaper that matches the curtains) while staring openmouthed and goggle-eyed at the camera. In another, a young man in a too-short terry bathrobe shaves while a woman brushes his hair, another man climbs onto the counter to stick his foot in the sink, and a third man, visible only in the mirror, views the scene over the top of the shower doors. The Meislers and their friends are like Tina Barney’s affluent subjects gone astray: kitchsy, boisterous, and lovin’ it. —Nicole Rudick

A year ago, our director of advertising (read, “the person who sells our ads”) left the Review to host a TV show about fashion weeks around the world—Pakistan, China, the Gaza Strip, you name it. Since then, we haven’t seen much of Hailey Gates (though she did attend one Paris Review party via FaceTime from the Congo). So it was with delight and curiosity that we received the trailer for her show, “States of Undress.” It premieres next month on Viceland. We’re staying tuned … —Lorin Stein 

Hailey Gates in States of Undress.

I spent the other night curled up on my couch, watching Les Blank and Gina Leibrecht’s charming 2014 documentary How to Smell a Rose: A Visit with Ricky Leacock on His Farm in Normandy. The film comprises one delicious conversation after another with a man who revolutionized documentary filmmaking and pioneered cinema verité in America. Leacock decries big-budget pictures—“Get rid of horrible professionalism,” he says. “What kind of bullshit is that?”—and revels in the art of making films about “nothing in particular.” We’re fed delectable clips from his oeuvre—from Primary (1960) to Happy Mother’s Day (1963) to A Stravinsky Portrait (1966). Mostly, though, we watch Leacock, invariably dressed in a plaid button-down shirt, puttering around his kitchen, making bouillon and pot-au-feu, and talking about the woman he loves (Valerie Lalonde, who is only “slightly younger than my oldest daughter”), about working with Robert Flaherty on Louisiana Story (1948), and about the time a lamb sucked on his finger until he orgasmed. How to Smell a Rose is a film much like one of Leacock’s own in that it is, as he himself once described his most-prized documentaries, a “compendium of tiny incidents,” and lovely ones at that. —Caitlin Youngquist

Last night at the Cabinet offices, Paul Lukas gave a funny and disturbingly well-informed PowerPoint presentation about the history of baseball-uniform stirrups: “The Evolution of Baseball’s Pants/Hosiery Dialectic.” Fans of the sport have probably wondered why players wear stirrups at all: the tradition dates to 1868, when the Cincinnati Red Stockings made the scandalous decision to expose the socked calves beneath their pant legs. Problem was, players used to really spike one another in those days, and dyes weren’t colorfast—so when one player apparently died from sock dye–related blood poisoning, the league mandated a white “sanitary sock,” to be worn under the more colorful, dangerously dyed stirrups. From there the fashion saw a lot of ebb and flow, even after the advent of colorfast dyes: high stirrups, low stirrups, socks with a fake stirrup printed on them, baggy pants to conceal any evidence of the stirrup … you name it, it’s been in vogue. Late last year, Lukas offered some of his knowledge in an interview with the MLB—you can read it here. These are great facts to have on hand as Opening Day approaches: half your friends will find them fascinating, the other half dreadfully dull. You know, like baseball itself. —Dan Piepenbring

Gus Triandos, first basemen of the Baltimore Orioles, stirruped up in 1956.

Tom Hooper’s The Danish Girl is a visually stunning film—idyllic and painterly. Eddie Redmayne plays Einar Wegener, a popular landscape artist who broke barriers by dressing as a woman and eventually undergoing one of the world’s first sex-change operations. The film’s artworks are all faithful imitations of Wegener’s real landscape work, adapted to fit the film’s actors and locations, and the scenery gives a real taste of the beauty that inspired Wegener’s work. More stunning than the scenery and artwork, undoubtedly, is Redmayne himself. He is gorgeous as a woman. It’s one thing when he puts on his wig, makeup and the rest; wait until he smiles and blushes. —Ty Anania