Face Of The Day

Sep 20 2014 @ 1:53pm


Photographer Nicolas Rivals creates portraits out of spinning molten metal:

While other artists use pigments to paint, Nicolas Rivals uses light. His work isn’t exactly a painting as it is an photo captured through long exposure then flipped to create a sort of Rorschach image made of light. Nicolas has another series of light paintings featuring a bright circle of light floating in the middle of an urban setting. He said: “There is always hope that even in the depths of night a glimmer will appear. Light is never as reassuring as the anguish of the shadow. A little light, a little sense, would for a moment, make the chaos disappear”.

Rivals is a member of the Prisme Noir collective. See more of his work here.

Authoring Anxiety

Sep 20 2014 @ 1:13pm

Ben Mauk sums up The Emerald Light in the Air, the new story collection from Donald Antrim:

These stories appeared in The New Yorker over the span of about 15 years. Yet how conspicuously consistent their interests! They are at once many stories and the same story, with slight but ultimately trivial differences among the various shades of alcoholism, childlessness, parental ambivalence, dead mothers, artistic ambitions, mood-stabilizing medications, and myriad other signifiers of middle-class “anxiety and suicidality.”

This arresting sameness … I would attribute not to any creative drought on the part of Antrim (whose novels are enormously fecund, fun, and surreal), but to the peculiar ambition of the collection: it wants to be a miniature mythology. Its stories don’t aim to delight us with rare and precise Flaubertian details, or to present a wide and sparkling array of humanity. Instead, the book wants to wash over us in waves of familiarity. We are made to recognize the human hubris at work in each story precisely because the humans depicted are sketchily, almost indifferently drawn.

In a profile of Antrim, John Jeremiah Sullivan offers insight into the roots of the author’s “art of anxiety.” He relates the story of how Antrim got over his fear of electroconvulsive therapy – with the help of a phone call from David Foster Wallace:

Read On

A Short Story For Saturday

Sep 20 2014 @ 12:27pm

This week’s short story, Andre Dubus’ “Killings” (pdf), is notable not just for the way it portrays the way one family grieves, but for being turned into a brilliant film by director Todd Field, In the Bedroom. We suggest reading the story – it’s not long – then watching the movie counterpart. Here’s how the story begins:

On the August morning when Matt Fowler buried his youngest son, Frank, who had lived for twenty-one years, eight months, and four days, Matt’s older son, Steve, turned to him as the family left the grave and walked between their friends, and said: ‘I should kill him.’ He was twenty-eight, his brown hair starting to thin in front where he used to have a cowlick. He bit his lower lip, wiped his eyes, then said it again. Ruth’s arm, linked with Matt’s, tightened; he looked at her. Beneath her eyes there was swelling from the three days she had suffered. At the limousine Matt stopped and looked back at the grave, the casket, and the Congregationalist minister who he thought had probably had a difficult job with the eulogy though he hadn’t seemed to, and the old funeral director who was saying something to the six young pallbearers. The grave was on a hill and overlooked the Merrimack, which he could not see from where he stood; he looked at the opposite bank, at the apple orchard with its symmetrically planted flees going up a hill.

Keep reading here. You can also find “Killings” in Dubus’ Selected Stories. Rent In the Bedroom here. Peruse previous SSFSs here.

The View From Your Window Contest

Sep 20 2014 @ 12:00pm


You have until noon on Tuesday to guess it. City and/or state first, then country. Please put the location in the subject heading, along with any description within the email. If no one guesses the exact location, proximity counts. Be sure to email entries to contest@andrewsullivan.com. Winner gets a free The View From Your Window book or two free gift subscriptions to the Dish. Have at it.

Also, check out this extra-credit guess for last week’s contest, in which a reader didn’t just ID the city and hotel, but dug even deeper to determine the day, time and exact moment of the live baseball game being played in the background:

Read On

Why Shame The Messenger?

Sep 20 2014 @ 11:23am

In a review of Glenn Greenwald’s No Place to Hide, Andrew O’Hagan shakes his head that “crazily, it was often journalists who opposed Snowden’s actions and hated what Greenwald was writing”:

On the not at all ironically titled CNN show Reliable Sources, there was a discussion about the leaks with a dramatic onscreen graphic carrying the legend ‘Should Glenn Greenwald be prosecuted?’ Walter Pincus of the Washington Post felt it was all Julian Assange’s doing (which it wasn’t), while Andrew Ross Sorkin of the New York Times used his CNBC show to say he would arrest Greenwald for seeming to want to get Snowden to Ecuador.

Perhaps we should just be grateful that these commentators didn’t form the wellspring of journalistic endeavour in the darkest days of apartheid. But Greenwald brilliantly describes the period they have brought into being under Obama’s extended wing. We learn that journalism, perhaps in imitation of Western governance itself, has ripped up the rulebook since 2001. It’s less a question of ‘What’s the real story?’ as ‘Whose side are you on?’ That this should be a disaster for the generally liberal-minded will not occur to these bin-rakers and text-inspectors, who think warriors for digital privacy are not that different from the men who would cut off your head. Such commentators are building the dark places they claim to hate – they spread their own kind of terror and advocate their own intolerance – and for such people, no matter what cave or desert or studio they reside in, the truth is always the enemy.

Sacking Plastic Bags, Ctd

Sep 20 2014 @ 10:28am

A researcher who studies the environmental effectiveness of recycling admits that he “can’t stand” the plastic-bag ban:

Part of the reason can be found in the quote you cited:

Although plastic bags’ manufacture is relatively energy intensive (according to the Australian government, a car could drive 36 feet with the amount of petroleum used to make a single plastic bag) …

Doesn’t the author realize that she has just refuted herself? The proper gist of that sentence is:

Plastic bag manufacture is remarkably energy-cheap (a car could drive 36 feet with the amount of petroleum used to make a single plastic bag).

Thirty-six feet is a little more than four parking spaces. What the writer is saying – and this is a fact – is that if you recycle your plastic bags, you literally burn more fuel driving across the parking lot to the recycling bin than you save by recycling! It’s just another example of innumeracy that such an argument can actually be made in favor of the ban.

He adds:

Read On

Gang Rule

Sep 20 2014 @ 9:42am

Graeme Wood flags research from David Skarbek, author of The Social Order of the Underworld, suggesting that prison gangs play an indispensable role in maintaining order in California penitentiaries:

“Prison gangs end up providing governance in a brutal but effective way,” he says. “They impose responsibility on everyone, and in some ways the prisons run more smoothly because of them.” … For example, consider the Aryan Brotherhood – a notoriously brutal organization whose members are often kept alone in cells because they tend to murder their cell mates. You can take the Brotherhood at its word when it declares itself a racist organization, and you can do the same with the Black Guerrilla Family, which preaches race war and calls for the violent overthrow of the government. But Skarbek says that at lights-out in some prisons, the leader of each gang will call out good night to his entire cellblock. The sole purpose of this exercise is for each gang leader to guarantee that his men will respect the night’s silence. If a white guy starts yelling and keeps everyone awake, the Aryan Brothers will discipline him to avoid having blacks or Hispanics attack one of their members. White power is one thing, but the need to keep order and get shut-eye is paramount.

The Beauty Of Plumes

Sep 20 2014 @ 9:09am


Thomas Herbich captured the surprising elegance of cigarette smoke:

Over the last three months photographer Thomas Herbrich snapped some 100,000 individual photographs of smoke, looking for unexpected anamalies and fortuitous coincidences where familiar shapes emerged. It’s fascinating to see how the brain tries to create order out of chaos, just like looking up at the clouds, suddenly familiar patterns seem to stand out: faces, hands, or scrolls of paper.

Herbich spoke to D.L. Cade about the project:

I was very surprised by how extremely quickly smoke move[s]. It’s easier to photograph a racing car! The rising of cigarette-smoke is actually so quick that conventional flash equipment is too slow, as is the photographer – only a few milliseconds pass between recognition of the subject and the taking of the shot, a length of time in which the smoke has already changed again.

I therefore used a quick flash with a flash duration of 1/10000 sec. or faster – and took more than 100,000 digital photos in three months (which killed one camera). The “poor” photos were immediately separated out on the laptop and rejected. Only 20 or so of the photos actually made the shortlist.

See more of his work here.

A Poem For Saturday

Sep 20 2014 @ 8:16am

Dish poetry editor Alice Quinn writes:

There is no one I would rather read on the subject of Frank O’Hara than John Ashbery. He introduced the LunchPoems50thLO1995 paperback of the Collected Poems of Frank O’Hara, which Alfred A. Knopf originally published in 1971, edited by Donald Allen. And now he’s written a short introduction to the 50th anniversary edition of Lunch Poems, which debuted as Number Nineteen in the legendary City Lights Pocket Poets series, and is now reissued with facsimiles of previously unpublished letters between O’Hara and his editor, Lawrence Ferlinghetti.

On the outside, though, the book looks exactly as it always has, and we learn in one of the O’Hara letters that the familiar—and to so many of us cherished—cover was the choice of the poet, “What color is lunch? Maybe some sort of lipsticky red? (My favorite colors are actually orange and blue.)” We also learn that he didn’t care about the chronological arrangement of the poems in his first major book but did want the date of composition listed after each poem “as it is in Allen’s [Ginsberg’s] Reality Sandwiches.”

“No other poetry collection of the ‘60s did more to shatter the congealed surface of contemporary academic poetry,” Ashbery writes. “Freed from his Museum of Modern Art desk job for an hour or so at lunchtime, O’Hara wanders the streets of midtown, free-associating about trips he has taken, including a recent one to Spain on MoMA business, on which I accompanied him, and to Paris, where he has many friends. . . .Frank’s disabused enthusiasm carries the reader to a marvelous half-fictive universe where we bump elbows with Lana Turner, Billie Holiday, Rachmaninoff, and the Mothers of America, whom he urges: ‘let your kids go to the movies! . . .They may even be grateful to you/ for their first sexual experience.’ Horrors! To compound this unthinkable suggestion, O’Hara even gets away with using the word ‘fuck’ more than once, and yet he’s no macho spewer of hard truths, but a kind, inquiring, deeply curious and attractive youngish man, passing a few minutes of speculative rumination before heading back to the office, like all of us.”

“Song (Is it dirty)” by Frank O’Hara:

Is it dirty
does it look dirty
that’s what you think of in the city

does it just seem dirty
that’s what you think of in the city
you don’t refuse to breathe do you

someone comes along with a very bad character
he seems attractive. is he really. yes. very
he’s attractive as his character is bad. is it. yes

that’s what you think of in the city
run your finger along your no-moss mind
that’s not a thought that’s soot

and you take a lot of dirt off someone
is the character less bad. no. it improves constantly
you don’t refuse to breathe do you

– 1959

(From Lunch Poems, Expanded 50th Anniversary Edition © 1964, 2014 by Maureen Granville-Smith, Administratrix of the Estate of Frank O’Hara. Used by permission of City Lights Books, San Francisco)

Feminism Meets Occupy Wall Street

Sep 20 2014 @ 7:29am

Rachel Hills profiles feminist writer Laurie Penny, author of Unspeakable Things: Sex, Lies and Revolution:

[Penny] is skeptical of attempts to take the bite out of the gender equality movement. “I think the whole question [of rebranding feminism] is very indicative of how threatening a lot of people find feminism and gender liberation in general,” she says. “My first response to that is always that feminism is threatening to the status quo. It is a legitimately scary idea for people who are invested in things staying the way that they are. There’s only so far you can dress it up.”

But Penny seems unsettled by the increased acceptance of feminism by society at large:

Not for her is the “tepid and cowardly” mainstream feminism focused on getting more women into boardrooms, or stamping out sexy music videos. “Let others construct an unchallenging feminism that speaks only to the smallest common denominator,” she writes.

Tara Wanda Merrigan provides an overview of Penny’s arguments. A big one:

Read On