War and Peace – Sergei Bondarchuk (1967)

“The movies now give us an ‘epic’ nearly every week of the year. Digital technology, corporate budgets and the public’s own current thirst for shallow escapism have paved the way for visions both ludicrous and wondrous. … But what do these films have to say? As we wallow in popcorn excess, Janus Films restores and re-releases the grandest, deepest epic of all, Sergei Bondarchuk’s War and Peace. Made in 1967, it shames everything, and I mean absolutely everything, playing at the ArcLight today. Slated for a June release on DVD and Blu-Ray by the Criterion Collection, it is touring various arthouse spots and must be seen on a proper, wide canvas. … If the average Marvel movie runs about 2 hours and 22 minutes, Bondarchuk’s sweeping rendition of Leo Tolstoy’s immortal novel clocks in at about 7 hours. It was a product of the Cold War, when political rivalry made for leaps in artistic ambition. In 1956 King Vidor directed an American adaptation of War and Peace starring the very un-Tolstoyan cast of Audrey Hepburn, Henry Fonda and Mel Ferrer. It was produced by Italian guru Dino De Laurentiis, a cutthroat known for his devotion to the gods of commercialism. Not content with letting American capitalists water down a national epic, the Soviets decided to do their own cinematic rendition, bigger and better. … James Cameron would salivate at the details of Bondarchuk’s shoot. 40 museums across the USSR loaned authentic 19thcentury relics, including furniture and chandeliers, thousands of Red Army soldiers were put to work as extras to re-create the Napoleonic battles of the era. Soviet film luminaries were cast in key roles, including ballerina Ludmila Savelyeva as Natasha. Somehow Bondarchuk still had enough chutzpah left to cast himself as the lead character of Pierre Bezukhov. James Cameron would salivate at the details of Bondarchuk’s shoot. 40 museums across the USSR loaned authentic 19thcentury relics, including furniture and chandeliers, thousands of Red Army soldiers were put to work as extras to re-create the Napoleonic battles of the era. Soviet film luminaries were cast in key roles, including ballerina Ludmila Savelyeva as Natasha. Somehow Bondarchuk still had enough chutzpah left to cast himself as the lead character of Pierre Bezukhov. …”
The Storm of History: Sergei Bundarchuk’s War and Peace
Criterion: War and Peace (Video)
Criterion – War and Peace: Saint Petersburg Fiddles, Moscow Burns
W – War and Peace (film series)
NY Times: A Peerless ‘War and Peace’ Film Is Restored to Its Former Glory (Video)
YouTube: War and Peace | Trailer, From Literature to Film – WAR & PEACE by Tolstoy and Bondarchuk 40:02

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A Schuyler of urgent concern

James Schuyler in Calais, VT, late 1960s. Photo by Joe Brainard.

“Just a little more than twenty years after his death, James Schuyler seems to be doing well, thank you. The bulk of his work is in print (his collected and uncollected poems, three of his novels, and his letters), while the out of print materials (his art criticism, his diaries) are easy and still relatively cheap to come by. The reception of his unpublished poems, Other Flowers, two years ago was hugely positive and offered reviewers an opportunity to make big claims for Schuyler’s achievement, such as Dan Chiasson’s lovely statement that ‘James Schuyler is a supreme poet of articulated consciousness’ or Ange Mlinko’s judgment that ‘the weight of the world is a ballast against the levitating effect of James Schuyler’s courteous English, which made him our most angelic poet: full of air, intelligence, light.’ Nevertheless, Schuyler still doesn’t quite fit. He might be well respected but there are, as yet, almost no studies of him. … Everyone likes Schuyler, to be sure, but few people try to write like him. Schuyler is in part to blame for this situation, because he made his agility look easy and so let his extraordinary artfulness be mistaken for an aw-shucks immediacy. He was, as he maintained in an interview, anything but a realist. Nevertheless, this admired member of the ‘last avant-garde’ has not made a direct claim on the avant-gardes that have come after him — you can hear odd echoes here and see short, sharp glimmers there, but he gets little of the full-throated emulation that goes to Ashbery and O’Hara. I think this has to do with that commitment to consciousness, with Schuyler’s admitted distrust of the unconscious. So much experimental writing of the last century has tried to make good on Rimbaud’s claim that the textual ‘I’ is an other. Schuyler’s biographical ‘I’ often really was an other. He suffered from crippling mental illness. As a result, the steady, gazing, reflecting subject of his poetry was really a remarkably psychic accomplishment, an achievement that is hard to imitate. With any luck, this small collection of essays, appreciations, and poems will help bring Schuyler’s wiliness and particularity more sharply into focus. … ”
A Beautiful Intensity of Focus
W – James Schuyler
PennSound (Audio)
NY Times: James Schuyler, Poet, Dies at 67; Won the Pulitzer Prize for 1980

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Hanging Out With Joan Didion: What I Learned About Writing From an American Master

“I arranged to meet Joan Didion in 1971 after reading Slouching Toward Bethlehem. I found her essays hypnotic, in a voice I’d never heard, expressing ideas I knew were true but couldn’t have articulated. I was reporting for several magazines and asked a colleague who’d met her to introduce us. He gave me her number and when I was in LA, I took a deep breath, dialed it, and her husband, John Gregory Dunne, picked up the phone. I asked for Joan Didion. … Although she’s shy and can be reticent with strangers, we had much in common: we’d grown up in California, gone to Berkeley, joined a sorority and quit, majored in English and studied with Mark Schorer but in different decades—she in the 1950s, I in the 60s. We talked and laughed until the early hours, and in the many dinners and visits that followed, over more than four decades, we spoke about babies, cooking, humorous or shocking news, and always, we spoke about writing. She’s probably the most imitated writer since Hemingway, and her voice, like his, is catchy but can’t be imitated without the attempt being obvious. I’ve interviewed her many times for publications over the years, though, and found that the habits and practices she described could be helpful in developing and sharpening one’s own writing. 1.  First Person Singular.  The most radical aspect of her voice when she started writing for magazines in the 1960s was that she, Joan, spoke to you, the reader, as if grabbing you by the lapels. This was at a time when, at the Columbia Graduate School of Journalism, where I was studying, it was drummed into us that we must never use the word ‘I.’ We must be ‘objective.’ The closest a journalist could come to expressing a personal impression was to refer to oneself as ‘this reporter.’ The title of the latest book of Didion’s early work is: Let Me Tell You What I Mean. That could have been the mission statement of New Journalism. … Tom Wolfe and Hunter Thompson not only wrote ‘I’ but created characters, even caricatures, of themselves: Wolfe in the white suit, Hunter as ‘Raoul Duke,’ diving headfirst into danger and drugs. …”
Vogue: Joan Didion’s New Essay Collection Reveals The Process Of A Legendary Writer At Work

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A Hard Day’s Night – The Beatles (1964)

A Hard Day’s Night is a 1964 musical comedy film directed by Richard Lester and starring the English rock band The BeatlesJohn Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison, and Ringo Starr—during the height of Beatlemania. is a 1964 musical comedy film directed by Richard Lester and starring the English rock band The BeatlesJohn Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison, and Ringo Starr—during the height of Beatlemania. … The Beatles evade a horde of fans while boarding a train for London. En route, they meet Paul’s trouble-making grandfather for the first time; he becomes so much trouble that Paul has him locked up in the brake coach’s luggage room, but he and the others soon join him inside. They play cards and entertain some schoolgirls before arriving at the London station, where they’re quickly driven to a hotel and begin to feel cooped up. Their manager Norm tasks them with answering all their fan mail, but they sneak out to party, only to be caught by Norm and taken back. They then find out that the grandfather went to a gambling club using an invitation sent to Ringo, and, after a brief dust-up, they bring him back to the hotel. … Reviews of the film were mostly positive; one oft-quoted assessment was provided by Andrew Sarris of The Village Voice, labeling A Hard Day’s Night ‘the Citizen Kane of jukebox musicals.’ When The Village Voice published the results of its first annual film poll, A Hard Day’s Night placed second behind Stanley Kubrick‘s Dr. Strangelove. …”
Criterion – A Hard Day’s Night: The Whole World Is Watching
Criterion – A Hard Day’s Night (Video)
Vanity Fair – Making Beatlemania: A Hard Day’s Night at 50
Discogs (Video)
YouTube: A Hard Day’s Night Official Remastered Trailer – The Beatles Movie

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United States: Essays, 1952-1992 – Gore Vidal

United States collects 114 essays written by Gore Vidal over the last four decades. Despite the reproduction of Jasper Johns’s forty-eight-star flag on the dust jacket, less than half of them are about politics. The rest describe books, places, and people he has known. Johnson’s Dictionary had hard words for the essay: ‘an irregular indigested piece; not a regular and orderly composition.’ Vidal serves the form better than that. He found his range when Eisenhower was president, and stuck to it. Most of these pieces are anchored to a discussion of some book. If it is a book he likes, Vidal provides a summary that is both detailed and interesting. He favors a bright, staccato prose, which draws its variety from the length of its sentences. Short fragments. Good for facts. These will be followed by long, elliptical tendrils of analysis or appraisal, occasionally wise, often witty, and when neither, at least … bitchy. Vidal’s model for his political and historical pieces is Henry Adams. ‘I cannot remember when I was not fascinated by Henry Adams’—a fascination based on identification, for as Vidal reminds us several dozen times, he too grew up in a political family, although admittedly one of humbler achievements. Adams’s grandfather, John Quincy, was author of the Monroe Doctrine, and sixth President. Vidal’s maternal grandfather, Thomas Pryor Gore, was one of the first two senators from Oklahoma. Adams’s father, Charles Francis, was minister to England during the Civil War. Vidal’s father, Eugene, was director of the Bureau of Air Commerce during the first Roosevelt administration. Only in the third generation does Vidal’s family nose ahead, for while Henry neither held nor sought public office, Gore has run twice for Congress (finishing second, the author’s bio notes, in the 1982 California Democratic senatorial primary). … When the Times doesn’t do the job, the moneyed interests turn to the likes of Howard Hunt, whom Vidal accuses of masterminding the shooting of George Wallace (to insure Richard Nixon’s re-election) and possibly the assassination of John F. Kennedy as well. Given Vidal’s opinion of the Kennedys, you would think he would approve of Hunt, but he evidently feels a professional rivalry. …”
The New Criterion: State of the essay?
NY Times: Two Score of Gore
Gore Vidal mastered the art of the burn.

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Students for a Democratic Society

Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) was a national student activist organization in the United States during the 1960s, and was one of the principal representations of the New Left. Disdaining permanent leaders, hierarchical relationships and parliamentary procedure, the founders conceived of the organization as a broad exercise in ‘participatory democracy.’ From its launch in 1960 it grew rapidly in the course of the tumultuous decade with over 300 campus chapters and 30,000 supporters recorded nationwide by its last national convention in 1969. The organization splintered at that convention amidst rivalry between factions seeking to impose national leadership and direction, and disputing ‘revolutionary’ positions on, among other issues, the Vietnam War and Black Power. … 1962–1964: Organize your own. In the academic year 1962–1963, the President was Hayden, the Vice President was Paul Booth and the National Secretary was Jim Monsonis. There were nine chapters with, at most, about 1000 members. The National Office (NO) in New York City consisted of a few desks, some broken chairs, a couple of file cabinets and a few typewriters. As a student group with a strong belief in decentralization and a distrust for most organizations, the SDS had not developed, and was never to develop, a strong central directorate. National Office staffers worked long hours for little pay to service the local chapters, and to help establish new ones. Following the lead of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), most activity was oriented toward the civil rights struggle. By the end of the academic year, there were over 200 delegates at the annual convention at Pine Hill, New York, from 32 different colleges and universities. The convention chose a confederal structure. Policy and direction would be discussed in a quarterly conclave of chapter delegates, the National Council. National officers, in the spirit of ‘participatory democracy’, would be selected annually by consensus. Lee Webb of Boston University was chosen as National Secretary, and Todd Gitlin of Harvard University was made president. In 1963 ‘racial equality’ remained the cause celebre. …”
Our Struggle Is Just Commencing (SDS, An Intro)

Students carried signs protesting the U.S. government’s announcement of a draft lottery in 1969.
Posted in Black Power, Books, Civil Rights Mov., Draft board, Feminist, SDS, SNCC, Vietnam War | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Stax ’68: A Memphis Story

“When it comes to soul, Stax Records owned the ’60s. Classic records from Otis Redding, Sam & Dave, Rufus & Carla Thomas, and a legion of others helped transform what was once known as rhythm ‘n’ blues into rugged, emotionally bare “soul” music. This made Stax one of the decade’s most influential labels of any genre. It all crescendoed in 1968, a tempest-tossed year when the label redefined its own sound and, in the process, channeled a larger historical zeitgeist. Stax ’68: A Memphis Story, captures this crossroads in stunning, beautiful detail. The five-disc box set contains the A- and B-sides of every single released under the Stax banner in 1968, including the company’s sub-labels. With a 56-page book including revelatory, in-depth liner notes by Andria Lisle, Robert Gordon, and Steve Greenberg, as well as rare and previously unseen photos, the set presents more than 120 songs from this unprecedented creative period in American music. Some tracks are by soul legends (Isaac Hayes, The Staple Singers, William Bell, Booker T. & The M.G.’s, Johnnie Taylor) and some come from the deeper Stax catalog, and are equally incredible artists (Linda Lyndell, The Soul Children, The Mad Lads). Three earth-shattering events altered the state of Stax in ’68. America reeled following the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., whose death occurred practically in Stax’s back yard. The resulting social, political, and cultural cataclysms profoundly affected the label’s direction. Stax was also working overtime to reinvent itself in the wake of Otis Redding’s untimely December ’67 passing and the dissolution of a deal with Atlantic Records that gave the label perpetual rights to Stax’s back catalog. When the deal ended, Stax also lost one of their leading artists, Sam & Dave, who were signed to Atlantic, but released their music on Stax. Redding’s iconic ‘(Sittin’ on the) Dock of the Bay’ and Sam & Dave’s ‘I Thank You’ were the label’s first singles of ’68. The former showed how much Redding was evolving and how much Stax (along with the rest of the world) had lost with his passing….”
Stax Records (Video)
allmusic (Audio)
YouTube: Sweet Lorene – Otis Redding, Albert King – Blues Power, Mable John – Running Out, Johnnie Taylor – Hold On This Time, (Sittin’ On) The Dock of the Bay – Otis Redding etc.

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The Hospital Occupation That Changed Public Health Care

On July 14, 1970, members of the Young Lords occupied Lincoln Hospital in the South Bronx — known locally as the ‘Butcher Shop.’ A group of activists, many of them in their late teens and 20s, barricaded themselves inside the facility, demanding safer and more accessible health care for the community. Originally a Chicago-based street gang, the Young Lords turned to community activism, inspired by the Black Panthers and by student movements in Puerto Rico. A Young Lords chapter in New York soon formed, agitating for community control of institutions and land, as well as self-determination for Puerto Rico. Their tactics included direct action and occupations that highlighted institutional failures. Through archival footage, re-enactments and contemporary interviews, the documentary above shines a light on the Young Lords’ resistance movement and their fight for human rights. The dramatic takeover of Lincoln Hospital produced one of the first Patient’s Bill of Rights, changing patients’ relationship with hospitals and doctors nationwide. …”
NY Times (Video)
How Acupuncture Became a Radical Remedy in the Bronx (Nov. 2020)
A New York City Hospital Is Investigating a Nurse for Sharing Video Footage With The Intercept (May 2020)
W – Lincoln Hospital (Bronx)

17th June 1970: Members of the Puerto Rican activist group the Young Lords gather near the chest X-ray unit they seized in East Harlem, New York City.
Posted in Black Power, Chicano | Tagged , | 1 Comment

Computer art

Desmond Paul Henry, Picture by Drawing Machine 1, c. 1962

Computer art is any art in which computers play a role in production or display of the artwork. Such art can be an image, sound, animation, video, CD-ROM, DVD-ROM, video game, website, algorithm, performance or gallery installation. Many traditional disciplines are now integrating digital technologies and, as a result, the lines between traditional works of art and new media works created using computers has been blurred. For instance, an artist may combine traditional painting with algorithm art and other digital techniques. As a result, defining computer art by its end product can thus be difficult. … On the title page of the magazine Computers and Automation, January 1963, Edmund Berkeley published a picture by Efraim Arazi from 1962, coining for it the term ‘computer art.’ This picture inspired him to initiate the first Computer Art Contest in 1963. … The precursor of computer art dates back to 1956–1958, with the generation of what is probably the first image of a human being on a computer screen, a (George Petty-inspired) pin-up girl at a SAGE air defense installation. Desmond Paul Henry invented the Henry Drawing Machine in 1960; his work was shown at the Reid Gallery in London in 1962, after his machine-generated art won him the privilege of a one-man exhibition. … In the summer of 1962, A. Michael Noll programmed a digital computer at Bell Telephone Laboratories in Murray Hill, New Jersey to generate visual patterns solely for artistic purposes. His later computer-generated patterns simulated paintings by Piet Mondrian and Bridget Riley and became classics. Noll also used the patterns to investigate aesthetic preferences in the mid-1960s. In 1968, the Institute of Contemporary Arts (ICA) in London hosted one of the most influential early exhibitions of computer art called Cybernetic Serendipity. The exhibition, curated by Jasia Reichardt, included many of those often regarded as the first digital artists, Nam June Paik, Frieder Nake, Leslie Mezei, Georg Nees, A. Michael Noll, John Whitney, and Charles Csuri. One year later, the Computer Arts Society was founded, also in London. …”

A 1968 computer art contest
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PBS: “Muhammad Ali” Four-part documentary series

Like many aspects of Muhammad Ali’s life, this photo of him defeating Sonny Liston in 1965 transcended boxing. A new documentary assesses Ali’s impact inside the ring and out.

“There it was, legendary frame by legendary frame, frozen in time — continual snapshots when gladiators armed with red gloves and the power to persuade either championed the twisted hearts of this country, or drew the endless ire of it. And to think: This film reel of immortals was rescued from being dispatched to a landfill. If not for one Pennsylvania archivist, 38 reels of 16mm color reversal film of the best, most brutal boxing match in history would’ve landed in a sea of rubbish. Untouched, unseen, unfulfilled. Years earlier, Janice Allen salvaged a number of boxes tossed in a dumpster outside a film lab that had recently shut up shop for good. One box had ‘Ali’ written on it. She stashed it away in her warehouse, never knowing that one day someone she knew would call and ask about footage of the greatest ever. This was early on during the production of ‘Muhammad Ali,’ the upcoming documentary film series on PBS by Ken Burns, Sarah Burns and David McMahon. PBS producer Stephanie Jenkins had worked with Allen on previous productions, and when she reached out to inquire about any Ali footage that could be used in the film, the light bulb went off. There was that unexplored piece of treasure buried in the warehouse somewhere. Allen found the old box, and Jenkins immediately drove two hours from New York City to the offices of the John E. Allen archive in Newfoundland, Pa., to see what precisely was on those reels. For two days, Jenkins’ existence was hand-cranking — manually putting the reel of film up on split reels and gently spinning through the footage while looking at individual frames to see what they contain — through 38 reels of the ‘Thrilla in Manila,’ the third and most brutal installment of the ruthless Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier rivalry. The footage, including some of the lead-up to the fight and much of its ringside action, had never seen the light of day. Jenkins ordered a 4k digital transfer of 10 reels of fight footage, including the cringiest slow-motion hits delivered by both Ali and Frazier. It reduces, as the film details, grizzled sportswriters to tears reliving a night they cannot forget. … The film, an eight-hour inspection of Ali’s fabled life, serves as a reminder for those lucky enough to watch him fight and listen to his words and as a necessary exploration for younger generations who know about Muhammad Ali, but have yet to meet him the way previous generations had. …”
‘Muhammad Ali,’ Ken Burns’ new docuseries, transcends, revealing unexplored pieces of historic treasure (Video)
NY Times: ‘Muhammad Ali’ Explores the Many Layers of ‘the Greatest’
PBS: Muhammad Ali | Watch All Episodes (Video)

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