24 September 2014
17 September 2014
Rick Lowe - Project Row Houses (aka MacArthur Fellow, 2014)
15 September 2014
Local Event - UofR Roundtable Sponsired by Frederick Douglass Institute
Mark Your Calander
14 September 2014
Of late, economists have been worrying about capitalism, democracy and threats the former poses to the latter. You can read Robert Schiller 's concerns here, Joseph Stiglitz's here and Dani Rodrik's here. All at Project Syndicate.
On a lighter, but no less pointed, note The Yes Men have a new movie out you can find a review here.
Apparently, not all politicians are craven knuckleheads. As evidence for the seemingly preposterous claim, here at The New Statesman is the text of a speech (on 'Freedom & the Left') that Lisa Nandy (Labour MP - Wigan) recently delivered.
Finally two recent pieces on jazz and its cultural resonance in the U.S.; neither is persuasive to me. But this is a hard subject to sort out .... first, this dire assessment at WaPo last weekend .... then this only modestly well-targeted reply at Jacobin.
11 September 2014
40 Movies about photography every photographer should watch
08 September 2014
07 September 2014
Torture Images ... in Court
"Images of war are frequently appalling, and the safety of American citizens and soldiers is vitally important. But the greatest threat to that safety lies not in the photographs of horrific behavior; it lies in the fact of the behavior itself. The treatment of Iraqi prisoners at Abu Ghraib and elsewhere was a shameful episode in U.S. history."
06 September 2014
Markets, Copyright, Photography
Lies White Men Tell About Black Men Shot Dead by the Police
not Darren Wilson. And, of course, there are eye-witness accounts suggesting that Brown never attacked Wilson at all. Here is Mr. O'Grady:
is false too. Here is Charles Johnson:
05 September 2014
Passings ~ Roger Mayne (1929-2014)
27 August 2014
The Coase "Theorem" in Real Life ...
But let's embrace Barro's conceit. Two problems:
(1) The good Mr. Barro assumes well-defined property rights here. (actually, he mistakenly asserts that they are well defined.) As the reclined upon, I am not just "bothered" by his reclining. I arguably have purchased a property right to the space my lower extremities occupy. And his reclining infringes my property right. (Here I am just stating the converse of Barro's claim that he has a property right to the recline function.)
At this point I'd almost be willing to pay Barro to zip it! If you are going to pose as social science literate, please at least try to get things right.
23 August 2014
Freedom to Assemble
"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances."Too often complaints about how government agencies violate the first amendment there is a narrow focus on 'free speech' to the exclusion of concern for the right to "peaceably ... assemble." I've said this here before. This report from the ACLU has that quality. It concludes: "Our words, our voices, and our pictures are the most devastating weapons of all to entrenched systems of injustice." What about our collective presence?
21 August 2014
Throwing Like a Girl?
I have been keeping this blog for quite a while. Very early on I posted this comment, noting the death of political theorist Iris Marion Young. I remarked at the time that the title of one of Iris's essays "Throwing Like a Girl" seemed to capture her personality quite well. I suspect that the cover photo for SI this week would have pleased Iris no end.
The Right to Take Photographs (Yet Another in a Recurring Series)
19 August 2014
16 August 2014
Local Event(s) @ Writers & Books: Diane Ravitch
14 August 2014
"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances."(2) Here is a brief reflection from Raymond Geuss on his early book The Idea of Critical Theory.
(3) At The Nation symposium of short interventions on the importance of gender in thinking about political-economic inequality.
(4) A Project Syndicate essay by Dani Rodrik underscoring how insidious consensus among economists can be.
(5) Finally, this essay from The Atlantic on Jane Austin and Adam Smith ... no, they're not an item.
13 August 2014
Censorship American Style
"Candy came from out on the IslandAnd I think "Are you kidding me? Are we supposed to not notice?" Did anyone else notice? I am sure that this slight of ear was taken in order to avoid transgressing this or that FCC regulation concerning naughty talk on the radio. In other words it was taken in order to keep the censors happy. Walk on the Wild Side Indeed!
In the back room she was everybody's darling
But she never lost her head
Even when she was giving [SILENCE]
She says, 'Hey, babe,
Take a walk on the wild side.'"
Mathematics & Beauty
"I don’t think that everyone should become a mathematician, but I do believe that many students don’t give mathematics a real chance. I did poorly in math for a couple of years in middle school; I was just not interested in thinking about it. I can see that without being excited mathematics can look pointless and cold. The beauty of mathematics only shows itself to more patient followers."Beauty, of course, is an aesthetic value. And here Mirzakhani seems to be making it a central characteristic of mathematics and an animating reason for her intellectual pursuits.
12 August 2014
11 August 2014
Libertarian Fantasy Indeed!
He is, however, far too kind in at least one respect. It is not just that free markets can't solve all our problems. As Jack Knight and I have argued for many years* - we cannot rely on the various market mimicking decentralized solutions (Coasian bargaining, community, incentive compatible mechanisms, etc.) that libertarians peddle for much either. Why? The models that suggest otherwise tend to rely on incredibly restrictive assumptions. In some instances the underlying mechanism the models invoke operate a cross purposes. Conversely, as Tim Besley has recently argued**, the well know difficulties underscored by principle-agent models in no way sanction any wholesale reliance on decentralized solutions either. So, while Krugman makes his point on the basis of homely examples, there is good reason in theory to think his conclusions are quite general.
* See our paper in APSR (2007) and the book length version The Priority of Democracy: Political Consequences of Pragmatism (Princeton, 2011).
** See Tim Besley. Principled Agents? The Political Economy of Good Government (Oxford 2007). I recommend reading the final couple of paragraphs first, then working through the book from the beginning.
10 August 2014
09 August 2014
War Photography - The Impact of Images?
"It’s hard to calculate the consequences of a photograph’s absence. But sanitized images of warfare, The Atlantic’s Conor Friedersdorf argues, make it “easier … to accept bloodless language” such as 1991 references to “surgical strikes” or modern-day terminology like “kinetic warfare.” The Vietnam War, in contrast, was notable for its catalog of chilling and iconic war photography. Some images, like Ron Haeberle’s pictures of the My Lai massacre, were initially kept from the public, but other violent images—Nick Ut’s scene of child napalm victims and Eddie Adams’s photo of a Vietcong man’s execution —won Pulitzer Prizes and had a tremendous impact on the outcome of the war."*I can understand how the My Lai images could've impacted the prosecution of the war as evidence in or impetus to a legal proceeding. But I regularly here people say that the Ut and Adams images had a major impact on the prosecution of the war. How? I'd like to be persuaded. But I'd also like to have some way of justifying the claim. Did those images impact public opinion in a discernible way? Did they simply scare elected officials who thought they might lose their jobs for supporting (or not opposing) the war?
I happen to agree with Friedersdorf's claim about diffuse consequences for public discourse. But the more specific claim about the Vietnam images , while maybe plausible, seems under-supported. (note that the latter claim is empirical and causal.)
If we cannot cash out the claim that actual images have impact on politics, it is difficult - maybe impossible - to think how we can make the counter-factual case - namely that withholding images somehow has a specific impact.
* This is a passage from this important piece at The Atlantic.
06 August 2014
From Animal Rights to Animal Copyright? Sounds like Monkey Business to Me.
05 August 2014
What Could Be More Glamorus than a Gang Rape?
In this offering, published in Vogue Italia, photographer Raj Shetye* mixes glamor and sexual violence - a woman attacked by a group of men on a bus, just like the real world - and when criticized for the series, expresses disbelief that anyone could object to his work.
* All four images © Raj Shetye Studio 2014
Not a Socialist Plot
"Our review of the data, as well as a wealth of research on this matter, leads us to conclude that the current level of income inequality in the U.S. is dampening GDP growth, at a time when the world's biggest economy is struggling to recover from the Great Recession and the government is in need of funds to support an aging population." ~ Standard & Poors Finacial Serves, LLCs
LEGO Straightens Out
03 August 2014
Digest - Gaza
P.S.: (4 August 2014) New Politics has published this pointed response to Walzer's attempt to justify the Israeli invasion of Gaza.
P.S.2: (4 August 2014) An unimpressive assessment here by Peter Singer.
28 July 2014
"The Grindstone of Israeli-Palestinian Violence"
And, at Haaret'z, reports of anti-war protests of anti-war protests in Tel Aviv and of resistance among IDF veterans.
Re-Imagining Palestine: Ariella Azoulay
Parfit and Photography
"Sometime after he gave up the idea of being a poet, Parfit developed a new aesthetic obsession: photography. He drifted into it—a rich uncle gave him an expensive camera—but later it occurred to him that his interest in committing to paper images of things he had seen might stem from his inability to hold those images in his mind. He also believed that most of the world looked better in reproduction than it did in life. There were only about ten things in the world he wanted to photograph, however, and they were all buildings: the best buildings in Venice—Palladio’s two churches, the Doge’s Palace, the buildings along the Grand Canal—and the best buildings in St. Petersburg, the Winter Palace and the General Staff Building.
I find it puzzling how much I, and some other people, love architecture. Most of the buildings that I love have pillars, either classical or Gothic. There is a nice dismissive word that applies to all other buildings: “astylar.” I also love the avenues in the French countryside, perhaps because the trees are like rows of pillars. (There were eight million trees in French avenues in 1900, and now there are only about three hundred thousand.) There are some astylar buildings that I love, such as some skyscrapers. The best buildings in Venice and St. Petersburg, though very beautiful, are not sublime. What is sublime, I remember hearing Kenneth Clark say, are only the interiors of some late Gothic cathedrals, and some American skyscrapers.Although he admired some skyscrapers, he believed that architecture had generally declined since 1840, and the world had grown uglier. On the other hand, anesthetics were discovered around the same time, so the world’s suffering had been greatly reduced. Was the trade-off worth it? He was not sure.
He believed that he had little native talent for photography, but that by working hard at it he would be able to produce, in his lifetime, a few good pictures. Between 1975 and 1998, he spent about five weeks each year in Venice and St. Petersburg.
I may be somewhat unusual in the fact that I never get tired or sated with what I love most, so that I don’t need or want variety.He disliked overhead lights, in which category he included the midday sun, but he loved the horizontal rays at the two ends of the day. He waited for hours, reading a book, for the right sort of light and the right sort of weather.
When he came home, he developed his photographs and sorted them. Of a thousand pictures, he might keep three. When he decided that a picture was worth saving, he took it to a professional processor in London and had the processor hand-paint out all aspects of the image that he found distasteful, which meant all evidence of the twentieth century—cars, telegraph wires, signposts—and usually all people. Then he had the colors repeatedly adjusted, although this was enormously expensive, until they were exactly what he wanted—which was a matter of fidelity not to the scene as it was but to an idea in his head."
23 July 2014
Annals of Narcissism
August arrived here July 12th. Today is July 23rd. This evening his mother announced that she had reason to think he brought with him an infestation of head lice. The question is why it took mommy dearest nearly two full weeks to disclose her suspicion. She is not at home - having set off for a Yoga retreat at a fancy new age joint here in NY state. And she has spoken to August numerous times since he arrived. So, that suggests that she suspected the infestation pretty much all along and just didn't bother to mention the problem.
And the lice had lots of time to spread too. For instance, August and I shared a bed (pillows) for a week in Ann Arbor and a hair brush then and since. He has been hugging his nine month old sister repeatedly each day. He has been in camp with other kids pretty much every day. And so on ...
August spent much of the night in tears. In part, he is upset because he feels guilty for infesting our household (especially his sister). In part he is in pain because I've been pulling a lice comb through his long thick hair. (That is an experience we will repeat daily for a week or so.) Susan has been gathering up pretty much anything August has rested his head upon so that we can wash it all.
All the spiritual practice in the world does not mitigate the level of self-absorption (perhaps actual maliciousness?) that mommy dearest has displayed here. Many readers will know the person of whom I speak. The rest should count themselves lucky.
22 July 2014
"MA: Your work often has a political undercurrent - if not an explicit acknowledgment of the political situation.In The NYRB this week is this brief notice about a new short film - Skinningrove (2013) - made by Michael Almereyda about his friend photographer Chris Killip and his work. You can find the movie in its entirety (approximately 15 minutes) here. I have posted on Killip here several times before. The exchange above, from a 2012 interview Almereyda did with Killip will offer some insight into why I so much like his work.
CK: Well, it would, wouldn't it? I mean, I was living in the industrial community of Newcastle, starting in the mid-1970s. I remember the editor of the Saturday magazine of the Sunday Telegraph asking me to photograph the men from the miners' strike. I didn't want to do the story for them because it is such a right-wing newspaper. He asked me which side was I on? I was quite shocked by the question. It had never occurred to me that I could be on anything other than the side I was on!
MA: But including political elements in your work is not about picking sides; it's about openly saying that your work, your worldview, is conditioned by historical forces.
CK: It was natural. I had no wish to deny it. I was also influenced by John Berger's TV program Ways of Seeing. I was so excited by that. I was just trying to understand then that no matter what you did, you inevitably had a political position. How declared it was was up to you, but it was going to be inherent in the work, and it was something you should think about as a maker. I never worried about my position in the art world. I thought time and history would ultimately judge me, that my job was to get on with it, to make the work and to make it wholeheartedly from what had informed me."*
* From: "The Past and Other Countries: Chris Killip in Conversation with Michael Almereyda,' Aperture (Fall 2012, Issue 208) [Link].
21 July 2014
Forget Heidegger (2)
"Of course, none of the recent revelations about Heidegger should be suppressed or dismissed. But neither should they turn into mantras and formulas, meant to discredit one of the most original philosophical frameworks of the past century. At issue are not only concepts (such as "being in the world" or methodologies (such as “hermeneutical ontology”) but the ever fresh way of thinking that holds in store countless possibilities that are not sanctioned by the prevalent techno-scientific rationality, which governs much of philosophy within the walls of the academia."Having already sought to minimize any concern for Heidegger's anti-Semitism, the best the author can do is intone about his "ever fresh way of thinking?" If you say so, I suppose. But to me this sounds an awful lot like a demand that we sequester the man's Nazism from his philosophy. Indeed, that is pretty much the thrust of the entire essay. But the entire basis for ongoing criticisms of Heidegger precisely is that in his case it is not possible to do that in any plausible way. And if we have to read as extensively as the author's example seems to require (well beyond, by the way, "those minimally versed in his thought") in order to grasp the oh-so-subtle way that Heidegger the philosopher actually was not anti-Semitic, well doesn't that just suggest how his politics inflects his philosophy?
20 July 2014
Inequality Within & Inequality Between
Not pretty. But well-deserved.
P.S.: Dan also posted a link to this (now decade+ old) article by Robert Wade at The Economist. Punch Line? "Many analysts apparently take it for granted that global inequality is falling. Others think it sufficient to focus on poverty, and ignore inequality as such. Both these views need to be challenged. New evidence suggests that global inequality is worsening rapidly." Unless things have really turned around in the past 10 years, the basic empirical premise of Cowen's essay appears to be false.
16 July 2014
Annals of Human Perversity (2) - There is No Such Thing as an Unintended Civilian Casuality
I heard on the radio recently that Manhattan has a population density of roughly 65,000 per square mile while the comparable figure for Gaza is upwards of 400,000 per square mile. And of course, residents of Gaza essentially are locked in. You might call civilians there sitting ducks. But then you might seem as callous as the Israelis in their lawn chairs.
My boy August is 8 years old. This photo makes me nauseous.
A Border Patrol agent reads the birth certificate of Alejandro, 8 -- the only thing he brought with him as he and others crossed the Rio Grande near McAllen recently. Alejandro is one of more than 52,000 minors traveling without parents who've been caught crossing the border illegally since October (Dallas Morning News).
Not a PR Problem! - HWS Doubles Down
I suppose the fact that virtually everyone who reads about the case finds the precipitating assault as well as the Colleges' response totally outrageous should not be seen as an indication that something truly is amiss on campus?
Both President Gearan and Ms. Zupin seem to miss the real problem. The problem here is NOT the article in The Times. The problem is a sexual assault and a deeply flawed institutional response to it. And the response should not involve invoking "best practices" (typically little more than a ploy to limit legal exposure) but an effort to change the culture on campus.
PS: Here is the Change.org petition signed by 3000+ people criticizing the Colleges' handling of this matter.
Annals of Human Perversity - Bombardment as a Spectator Sport
The day before yesterday The New York Times ran this story about Israelis gathering in lawn chairs and eating popcorn as they watched the bombardment of Palestinians. It turns out that this was a reasonably common occurrence. And it is not new. (As I recall this is the same spectatorship captured in the cover photo of Ariella Azoulay The Civil Contract of Photography [MIT Press/Zone Books, 2012].) While this practice speaks volumes about the political degradation of many Isrealis, I doubt that it speaks much about Israelis in particular. They are not, in other words, uniquely callous.
14 July 2014
Passings ~ Nadine Gordimer (1923~2014)
Passings ~ Charlie Haden (1937-2014)
P.S. (26 July 2014): Here is a post consisting of recollections and tributes by Haden's fellow musicians.
13 July 2014
Shame on Hobart & William Smith Colleges
11 July 2014
Reflections on Summer Travels
First, Americans are really, really crappy drivers. Invariably, if there is someone sitting in the passing lane at three miles an hour above the speed limit in Canada, it is a car with US plates of some sort. Of course this creates backups and provokes passing on the right, thereby endangering everyone. Difficult to tell whether this is purposeful crappiness or just obliviousness. No behavioral difference. In the US, on both the MI and NY legs, each driver apparently thinks they have a natural right to stay in the passing lane. Infuriating driving. Canadians exhibit the opposite pattern, doing their best to get out of the way of faster traffic.
08 July 2014
Annals of Censorship -2014 Edition
07 July 2014
Local Event ~ Recalling the Riots of 1964
P.S.: You might also - not alternatively, but also - watch Carvin Eison's July '64.
* In general terms, I think this assessment (also drawn from the symposium at The European) is on point:
"But if we are no longer to define ourselves negatively, by our opposition to Capital, what will be the name of our positive project? I don’t believe that the old signifier communism can be revived for this purpose. It is now irretrievably tainted by terrible associations, forever tied to the nightmares of the 20th century. At the moment, our desire is nameless – but it is real. Our desire is for the future – for an escape from the impasses of the flatlands of Capital’s endless repetitions – and it comes from the future – from the very future in which new perceptions, desires, cognitions are once again possible. As yet, we can grasp this future only in glimmers. But it is for us to construct this future, even as – at another level – it is already constructing us: a new kind of collective agent, a new possibility of speaking in the first person plural. At some point in this process, the name for our new desire will appear and we will recognize it." ~ Mark Fisher
04 July 2014
Adieu July 4th 2014
__________"and I am waiting
for the American Eagle
to really spread its wings
and straighten up and fly right"*
* From: Lawrence Ferlinghetti. "I am Waiting" (find the entire poem here).
It Bears Repeating
24 June 2014
The Webbs Visit Rochester
P.S.: (6/25/2014) And here they are at The Guardian. Slow news day?
Labels: Political Theory
18 June 2014
More Reasons - If Any Were Needed - Dick & Liz Cheney Are a Joke
Unfortunately, the Cheney's reportedly have launched a 'grass roots' outfit to counter Obama's policy. They not only seem oblivious to their own abject unsuitability as sources of foreign policy advice. They also seem to not get the definition of grass roots - describing any organization launched by a former US Vice President and his privileged offspring as 'grass roots' is a laughable category mistake. And, might I add that the link to the WaPo Editorial Page (basically a free advert for the Cheneys) suggests that they are not far from the WSJ as peddlers of propaganda.
P.S.: And, it turns out the Cheneys are not alone among architects of the BushCo fiasco who seem oblivious to the disaster they created.
13 June 2014
The Salt of the Earth
I recall, as I first began (mostly here) to think semi-seriously about photography and its uses, watching Spectre of Hope the short film consisting mostly of a conversation between John Berger and Sebastião Salgado. As I noted at the time, it really crystallized one of the primary insights I have developed on Salgado's work specifically and the politics of documentary more generally. In any case, there is a new film - The Salt of the Earth, a collaboration between Wim Wenders and Juliano Salgado (the photographer's son) - documenting the elder Salgado's work. You can find two stories on the undertaking here and here at The Guardian.
10 June 2014
World Cup Politics
"Soccer, metaphor for war, at times turns into real war. Then “sudden death” is no longer just a name for a dramatic way of deciding a tied match. These days, soccer fanaticism has come to occupy the place formerly reserved for religious fervor, patriotic ardor, and political passion. As often occurs with religion, patriotism, and politics, soccer can bring tensions to a boil, and many horrors are committed in its name." ~ Eduardo Galeanothis report at The Guardian on street art in the host country protesting the games. And, perhaps the best writing on "soccer" is by Eduardo Galeano who has dissected the political-economy of football in pretty exquisite ways. You can find a sample here but really ought to track down his book Soccer in Sun and Shadow (Nation Books). That is where I lifted the opening passage above.
P.S.: My fellow political scientists have written a series of posts at The Monkey Cage (WaPo) on the politics of the world cup; it is fair to say that some of these are howlers, while others are more interesting. But here they are nevertheless: 1, 2, 3. 4. 5, 6
P.S.2 (Added 6/12/2014): My friend Navine Murshid alerted me to this OpEd by Dave Zirin at The New York Times which is germane to this post. FIFA is as corrupt and authoritarian as the NCAA and the International Olympics Committee.
09 June 2014
The Bullet Point Guide to Photography Theory
08 June 2014
Seeing the Occupation and Hearing It
"A Palestinian farmer looks toward the horizon of a beautiful landscape in the Jordan Valley. His farm and house were demolished twice by the Israeli authorities, as was the rest of his village. He decided to stay, to fight against the continuing attempts to uproot him. He fights using his very existence as a tool. This is the story of Burhan Basharat from Khirbet Makhoul in the Jordan Valley. This is also the story of many others."I lifted this image and caption from this collection here at +972, an online web magazine focusing on the reality of Israeli-Palestinian interactions in the occupied territories. And then, this morning, I discovered this report at The Guardian on Breaking Silence - an initiative undertaken by former IDF members to describe those interactions in words. A powerful convergence.
Ethical Reasons to Oppose Political-Economic Inequality
02 June 2014
Annie Appel The Occupy Portraits
25 May 2014
Passings - Bunny Yeager (1929~2014)
Mary Halvorson - Star Spangled Banner (2014)
24 May 2014
David Levi Strauss Words Not Spent Today Buy Smaller Images Tomorrow
23 May 2014
20 May 2014
The Left Front: Radical Art in the “Red Decade,” 1929-1940
17 May 2014
Photographer Nina Berman here in Columbia Magazine on the infrastructure and point of contemporary photojournalism.
An interview with Thomas Piketty here at the Institute for Public Policy Research (UK) and, also at The Guardian, this "manifesto" issued by he and a baker's dozen other French intellectuals defending a basic proposition: "It is time to recognise that Europe's existing institutions are dysfunctional and need to be rebuilt. The central issue is simple: democracy and the public authorities must be enabled to regain control of and effectively regulate 21st century globalised financial capitalism."
Finally, this essay by pianist Vijay Iyer at the Asian American Writers Workshop exploring 'Our Complicity With Excess.'
Age-Progressed Images - No Thanks
This is a picture of my boy Jeffrey doing one of the things he loved most, playing lacrosse. Jeff died eight years ago. He was 14. And I often wonder what he'd be like - I hope he'd have turned out as truly wonderful as his older brother Doug has done - or what he'd be up to. He would have been due to graduate college this spring. He'd be turning 21 next month. His friends are growing up, graduating, finding jobs and love out in the world. Some have or will be playing in the NCAA national lacrosse tournament. I wish them best of luck.
I have said here often that I miss Jeff every single day. I have many, many photos of Jeff and I cherish his memory. I have my memories. And I have my life. I do not want the former to tyrannize the latter. So, I must say that what appears to be an emerging practice discussed here at The Guardian pretty much horrifies me. I have no wish to see a forensic-like reconstruction from his childhood photos. None. The companies peddling this service are exploiting deep and abiding grief for profit. That makes me want to spit.
Seeing Grantley Bovell & Cecily McMillan
16 May 2014
On Lee Friedlander ~ Whatever Happened to Milt Hinton?
I lifted this image of Lee Friedlander's off the MoMA web page because it reminded me of a review, from 1986, that historian Eric Hobsbawm wrote for the NYRB. The review discussed Good Morning Blues: The Autobiography of Count Basie (Albert Murray) and The World of Count Basie (Stanley Dance) and was entitled "Playing for Ourselves." The title was excised from a remark Basie's long time drummer Jo Jones made in an interview in the Dance volume. Looking back on the travails black jazz musicians encountered in depression era Kansas City Jones says "We were really behind the iron curtain. There was no chance for us. So there was nothing to do but play for ourselves."
This week at the NYRB is a review occasioned in part by this exhibition at the Yale Art Gallery some of which is devoted to Lee Freidlander's images of jazz musicians in New Orleans. (The other images in the exhibition are by Milt Hinton - an accomplished bass player and photographer who, being African-American, goes unmentioned in the review.) The review also is occasioned in part by the appearance of this accompanying collection of Friedlander's photographs:
The new collection is an updated and expanded version of this 1992 work:
What happened to Milt Hinton in all this remains a mystery. It is the same sort of effacement of African American musicians that, as I've noted here before, occurs (among other places) each spring at the Rochester International Jazz Festival. More on that another time.
Nothing I've said thus far should detract from Friedlander's work. Here, followed by just one of the portraits it mentions, is a comment from the recent NYRB review:
"Friedlander’s most indelible images are his portraits of musicians. Friedlander arrived in New Orleans at a high point in the jazz revivalist movement, when fans of jazz as it was originally played in New Orleans in the first two decades of the twentieth century (before the perceived corruptions of swing and bebop) descended on the city with tape recorders and notepads and cameras, hoping to catch some of the old magic and document it for posterity. [. . .]
Friedlander’s portraits do not feel celebratory, however. He found authenticity all right, . . . in the toll taken on his subjects by decades of privation and indifference. In his portraits the musicians—most of whom didn’t have the chops to follow Joe Oliver and Louis Armstrong north to Chicago forty years earlier—stare wistfully into the distance, or at the wall, as if indulging in some bittersweet private nostalgia. Many sit beside old family photographs, including pictures of themselves as young men. Some are photographed with their instrument, which they hold impotently, or rest in their laps. Their apartments are spare and poorly lit. There is dignity in these portraits, to be certain, and pride, but there is also despair."
It is refreshing to focus in on Friedlander's accomplishment as a portraitist just because it upsets somewhat conventional views of his work. But there are other images as well, and these bring me back to the Hobsbawm review I mentioned at the start.
"This sense of melancholy also shadows Friedlander’s photographs of performances. When George Lewis’s band plays a Bourbon Street tourist trap called the Paddock Lounge, the ceiling is so low that he almost has to duck, and nobody else in the frame—a patron, two bartenders—seems aware that they are in the presence of jazz royalty, an impression that is amplified by the insulting presence of the lawn jockey posing directly in front of Lewis. There are no audience members, for that matter, visible in most of the performance pictures, giving the impression that the musicians are playing for themselves."
Just so. And the portraits of elderly musicians capture part - surely, only part - of what trails behind their pursuit of so demanding and ultimately so isolating a profession.
14 May 2014
Passings ~ Lynne Cohon (1944-2014)
13 May 2014
Passings ~ Camille Lepage (1988-2014)
06 May 2014
01 May 2014
28 April 2014
On Piketty ~ A Compendium of Reviews
In any case, you can find reviews by Tyler Cowen at Foreign Affairs (May/June 2014), James Galbraith at Dissent (Spring 2014), Paul Krugman at NYRB (8 May 2014), Timothy Shenk at The Nation (5 May 2014), and Robert Solow at The New Republic (22 April 2014), as well as a troika of short commentaries by Jacob Hacker and Paul Pierson, Heather Boushey, and Branko Milanovic at The American Prospect (10 March 2014). And, of course, there was an extended pre-publication discussion by Thomas Edsall at The New York Times (28 January 2014).
Update (6 May): Here is another review by Doug Henwood at Book Forum, yet another one by Robert Skidelsky here at Prospect, still another here at The American Prospect by Robert Kuttner, a fourth here at The Boston Review by Mike Komczal, and a commentary here by Brad Delong on the right-wing response to Piketty.
Update (14 May): Another handful of commentaries: Deborah Boucoyannis; Thomas Edsall (again); Thomas Frank; John Judis; Dani Rodrik; Kenneth Rogoff; Robert Schiller; and Lawrence Summers.
Update (16 May): More commentary - from the right, grumbling from Martin Feldstein here at the WSJ; from the left, some grumbling by Alex Callinicos here at Socialist Worker.