“Rose Gold,” an exhibition of photographs and a film by Sara Cwynar, is at Foxy Production through May 14. Cwynar, who lives and works in Brooklyn, New York, took the title of her show from Apple’s most coveted iPhone color, introduced in 2015. In the film at the center of the show, also called Rose Gold, two voices, one male and one female, offer observations about consumer desire, at once pointed and disaffected: “I keep finding watch advertisements where all the clocks are set to 8:20 … what time was it really? I go to check what time the Apple Watch is set to and end up wanting one … Several male artists have told me that I’m having a moment, as if the moment will pass soon. Rose Gold is having a moment, too … What is the right way to talk about something? People understand more if you communicate through things bought and sold.” Cwynar also examines Melamine, a brand of luridly colored plastic kitchenware from the fifties—the plastic was supposed to be unbreakable, but over time it grew brittle and faded. Her photos include studio portraits of her friend Tracy overlaid with found objects and detritus; and a set of shiny Avon “presidential aftershave” bottles from the seventies. Robbed of their caps—i.e., their golden presidents’ heads—they look denuded, as if forcibly neutralized.
Jim Harrison, who died last year at seventy-eight, was a gourmand with a trencherman’s appetite—food comes up in his Writers at Work interview several times. Though he evokes an atmosphere of overindulgence, the man was sensible and had rules for his dinner guests, the first being very practical considering: “No one is allowed to use cocaine before the meal when I cook … Cocaine creates a sort of bubblegum nimbus that slaughters the palate and sensuous capacities, in addition to shrinking the wee-wee and tearing holes in the social fabric.” Jane and Michael Stern once described Harrison’s food writing as a “combo plate of Hunter S. Thompson, Ernest Hemingway, Julian Schnabel, and Sam Peckinpah.” The years didn’t change him, evidenced by the new, posthumous A Really Big Lunch, a collection of essays from the 2000s in which Harrison goes on about “left-leaning, spit-dribbling, eco-freak readers” who wouldn’t want to eat freshly killed meats and suggests that Ronald Reagan “eat my menudo in order to regain the foreign affairs advantage.” He compares a red wine from Chateau Grillet to the “seductive quality of the minute hairs on the back of a woman’s thigh in high summer” and reminds us that of all the animals, man alone cooks. The collection is chockablock with these zingers as well as plenty of half-baked, hilarious theories you can ponder while planning your first summer barbecue. —Jeffery Gleaves
Craig Morgan Teicher is fast becoming one of my favorite contemporary poets. In his new collection, The Trembling Answers, I love that he recognizes small moments of wonder in the quotidian without trying to have those moments transcend the workaday world. So, for instance, he thinks on “high school nights // spent grieving high school nights—they stick / in the heart like sharp bones, / clog the way like / artery-fat.” There is also an overriding sense in his poems that the life he once imagined for himself is not exactly the one he now leads. Who doesn’t gaze into a mirror with their younger self and see dissatisfaction looking back while, in turn, trying to elicit an understanding that the future they behold, though spare and sometimes troubled, is on balance pretty terrific. Teicher’s poems transpire in a “plain mood,” during “eventless afternoons,” and end “on a low / note, or so tonight would have it,” nights when “I put the kids to bed. I did the dishes.” These humdrum moments contain both contentment and regret—the latter, “the hooks that won’t come out.” This is a book about facing, daily, “this one life that is all I am.” —Nicole Rudick Read More
- All those years of watching old wedding footage and searching for dead authors has really paid off: they’ve found Proust! In what’s believed to be his only appearance on film, Marcel races down the stairs, celebrating the 1904 nuptials of Élaine Greffulhe. He’s dapper. He’s alone. He’s Proust: “The black-and-white footage of a wedding cortège filmed in 1904 shows a brief glimpse of a man in his thirties with a neat moustache, wearing a bowler hat and pearl-grey formal suit, descending a flight of stairs on his own. Most of the other guests are in couples … ‘Because we know every detail of Proust’s life, we know from several sources that during those years he wore a bowler hat and pearl grey suit … It’s moving to say to ourselves that we are the first to see Proust since his contemporaries … even if it would be better if he was descending the steps a little less quickly! It’ll be fine when we have slowed the film down.’ ”
- People say late-night TV is improving in the age of Trump. Man, Colbert really brought it last night, they’ll say; or, Seth Meyers is on fire lately; or, Gee whiz, that Saturday Night Live program sure gave the administration what-for! But make no mistake: the late-night variety show is a pale and desiccated husk of what it once was. For a counterexample, Joan Walsh revisited the one-week stand Harry Belafonte had on the Tonight Show, where he filled in for Johnny Carson in February 1968: “The week featured Belafonte’s searing, in-depth interviews with Robert F. Kennedy and Martin Luther King Jr., just months before both were assassinated … A few days later, King kibitzed with comedian Nipsey Russell, the blacklisted African-American singer Leon Bibb, and actor Paul Newman, who played his trombone. Another episode featured basketball star Wilt Chamberlain and actor Zero Mostel, who stood on the couch to shake the giant NBA player’s hand. Other guests included singers Buffy Sainte-Marie, Petula Clark, Dionne Warwick, and Robert Goulet; comedians Tom and Dick Smothers; actor Sidney Poitier (Belafonte’s close friend); American poet laureate Marianne Moore; water-skier Ken White; and Metropolitan Museum of Art director Thomas Hoving. Fifteen of the twenty-five guests that week were African-American. Only Belafonte could have pulled that off, says TV producer Norman Lear almost fifty years later. ‘He was an ambassador in both directions—to his own people and to the Caucasian community. There wasn’t anyone else like him. It is rare to this day.’ ”
Elena Passarello’s column is about famous animals from history. This week: two flamingos escape to the Gulf.
It is a black eye, to be honest. It was basically an error. We are not fond of this story.
—Scott Newland, Sedgwick County Zoo
Jay points the boat in the direction of a couple of large pink dots. And as we approach closer, the dots start developing long necks and legs.
—The birder Neil Hayward
Every once in a while they’d walk 10–15 feet apart, but then they’d just come back together and move as one.
—The birder Nate McGowan
Names: 492 and HDNT
Species: Phoenicopterus roseus and Phoenicopterus ruber, respectively
Years Active: 2005–present
Distinguishing Features: yellow ID tags, monogamous tendencies
Skills: escape artistry, international travel, standing on one leg
Habitat: The Gulf Coast (by way of Tanzania, Kansas, Wisconsin, and the Yucatán)
Additional Notes: On June 27, 2005, a ten-year-old flamingo escaped the confines of its Wichita zoo with another pale-pink inmate. Zookeepers hadn’t properly clipped either flamingo’s wings—a regrettable error, they later confessed—and the birds simply took flight when no one was watching. The fugitives, members of an “old world” species called the greater flamingo, had recently arrived in Kansas from a colony in Tanzania. They hadn’t even been named yet and were only identified by the numbered tags on their right legs; their sex was also undetermined. Despite this lack of human knowledge, the flamingo known only as 492 would soon join a long list of headline-making runaway animal celebrities, thanks to its bold escape.
Famous animal fugitives are legion; this past year alone has featured the viral jailbreaks of Inky the Octopus (who squished across an aquarium floor to slip out a drainpipe); Ollie Bobcat, reported missing from her enclosure in the National Zoo last Monday (but found near the bird exhibit Wednesday); and Sunny, a red panda that ghosted from the Virginia Zoo (and is still at large). We humans thrill over the creatures that outsmart us—those that go on the lam and rewild themselves into the free world. Perhaps we see in them a covetable wiliness, or maybe the escapees just make our planet—so much of it now cultivated, mapped, and conquered—feel vast again. And as long as these runaways have no taste for humans, we tend to support their newfound freedom. Read More
In anticipation of Casablanca’s seventy-fifth anniversary this year, I’ve made a sustained attempt to reappraise the significance of the film and its illustrious afterlife—in particular how the film, which involved so many European-refugee actors and studio professionals, resonates in the current political climate, with the increasing turn to the right, toward protectionism and isolationism, and a global refugee crisis of a similar scale. But in searching out some of the lesser-known, and least likely, voices on the subject, I’ve been reminded of another critical reappraisal of the film, one that dates back several decades and that hasn’t really received much attention.
Tucked away in My Lunches with Orson, those delicious recorded snatches of midday schmoozing between directors Henry Jaglom and Orson Welles (edited by Peter Biskind and published in 2013), is a late chapter titled “Gary Cooper turns me right into a girl!” in which Welles admits, among other things, his hidden affection for Casablanca. The recordings took place at Wolfgang Puck’s Ma Maison, in West Hollywood, in the early 1980s, by which time the once-towering American auteur was approaching his final years; after a string of box-office disappointments and financial hardships, he was notoriously crotchety about all things Hollywood. At different points in his conversations with Jaglom, he skewers the producer Irving Thalberg, snubs Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor, throws shade at everyone from Bette Davis, Laurence Olivier, and Joan Fontaine to Woody Allen and Marlon Brando, and expresses untrammeled contempt for Hitchcock’s Rear Window, Ford’s The Searchers, and Polanski’s Chinatown. All of which makes his fondness for Casablanca, the seeming apogee of classical Hollywood and “the most decisive exception to the auteur theory,” as Andrew Sarris once called it, that much more surprising. Read More
Dipping into the thousands of ephemeral films in the Prelinger Archives.
There’s a scene in Ed Wood, Tim Burton’s 1994 biopic of the director of Glen or Glenda, that has always struck me as profound. The young Wood, played by Johnny Depp, is doing thankless work as a stagehand on a Hollywood-studio lot where he kills time watching stock footage of bomb detonations and rampaging bison. Visibly rapt, he asks what’s to become of these clips, only to be told by the kindly clerk, “Probably file it away and never see it again.” He replies, “If I had half a chance, I could make an entire movie using this stock footage. The story opens on these mysterious explosions. Nobody knows what’s causing them, but it’s scaring all the buffalo!”
Since 1982, the archivist, filmmaker, and open-access advocate Rick Prelinger has curated the Prelinger Archives, which comprises upward of sixty thousand sponsored, ephemeral, and industrial films. Some six thousand of these are available for free viewing on the Internet Archive. Like Ed Wood, I can while away hours watching these movies, many of which were originally made to be shown before feature films, as part of expos, or in classrooms. I am so grateful for the opportunity to take a journey by cable car in “A Trip Down Market Street” (1906), which captured downtown San Francisco just before the fire and earthquake reshaped the city; or to observe the industrial constructivism of the Chevrolet-produced “Master Hands,” (1936) where the toil of autoworkers converts the assembly of machine parts into a kind of proletariat ballet. Read More