I posted about Bob Dylan's paintings back in 2011, on the occasion of a show at the Gagosian Gallery in New York. There were accusations - very well founded accusations - of plagiarism. One canvas in particular was a more or less straight copy of a 1915 photo by Léon Busy. As I said of Dylan at the time:
The thing is, he doesn't care. It's how he works. One of the main interests of his Theme Time Radio Hour shows was the way he happily played so many of the songs that he had, in effect, plagiarised during the course of his career. As for this art show, he must have realised that his sources would be unearthed. How could he not?
The quotation waiting in the wings here, begging to be brought out and dusted down, is that old Oscar Wilde chestnut "Talent borrows, genius steals". For Dylan's music I think that's right. He brazenly pilfered from all manner of sources: blues, folk, country. But what he did with it was genius. Finding the original sources may be an interesting game (and it's not hard), but it does nothing to detract from the man's extraordinary achievements.
His art, though...well, it would be very generous to make any claims of genius. I saw some of his work earlier in the year here in London. It's perfectly competent, pleasant stuff, but nothing at all special. At this level, yes, the kind of plagiarism that's been uncovered here does matter, I think. It's not a huge deal, and if he'd added "after a photograph by Léon Busy" to the title of his "Opium" picture, no one would have been that bothered. But there is an expectation of originality in an art show at a major gallery.
Well, he's done it again with his latest exhibition of paintings, The Beaten Path. And the victim of his plagiarism? Our very own Diamond Geezer. A photo he took of Blackpool pier has been re=assigned by Bob to Norfolk, Virginia. Read all about it here - and a follow-up post here.
Old industrial structures, now mostly demolished, photographed by Harald Finster in the early 1990s:
Coal mining mostly, though that's a steel works at the top.
In the tradition of Bernd and Hilla Becher.
Harald Finster previously.
It's Donald Trump's - President Trump's - catch-phrase. A reminder of its history:
the center of his foreign policy vision, Donald Trump has put “America First,” a phrase with an anti-Semitic and isolationist history going back to the years before the U.S. entry into World War II.
Trump started using the slogan in the later months of his campaign, and despite requests from the Anti-Defamation League that he drop it, he stuck with it.
Friday, he embraced the words as a unifying theme for his inaugural address.
“From this day forward, a new vision will govern our land,” Trump said on the Capitol steps. “From this day forward, it’s going to be only America First. America First.”
Those same words galvanized a mass populist movement against U.S. entry into the war in Europe, even as the German army rolled through France and Belgium in the spring of 1940.
A broad-based coalition of politicians and business leaders on the right and left came together as the America First Committee to oppose President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s support for France and Great Britain. The movement grew to more than 800,000 members.
While the America First Committee attracted a wide array of support, the movement was marred by anti-Semitic and pro-fascist rhetoric. Its highest profile spokesman, Charles Lindbergh, blamed American Jews for pushing the country into war.
"The British and the Jewish races," he said at a rally in September 1941, "for reasons which are not American, wish to involve us in the war."
The “greatest danger” Jews posed to the U.S. “lies in their large ownership and influence in our motion pictures, our press, our radio, and our government,” Lindbergh said.
It is unclear if Trump is bothered by the ugly history of the phrase....
“It is such a toxic phrase with such a putrid history,” said Susan Dunn, professor of humanities at Williams College and an expert in American political history, in an interview.
Lindbergh and other prominent members of the America First organization believed democracy was in decline and that fascism represented a new future, Dunn said.
Those words “carry an enormous weight,” said Lynne Olson, author of “Those Angry Days,” a book about the clash between Lindbergh and Roosevelt over entering the war.
“That time was strikingly familiar to now,” Olson said. “There was an enormous amount of economic and social turmoil in the country, anti-Semitism rose dramatically as well as general nativism and populism.”
Amnesty International on Iran:
Iran’s persistent use of cruel and inhuman punishments, including floggings, amputations and forced blinding over the past year, exposes the authorities’ utterly brutal sense of justice, said Amnesty International.
Hundreds are routinely flogged in Iran each year, sometimes in public. In the most recent flogging case recorded by Amnesty International, a journalist was lashed 40 times in Najaf Abad, Esfahan Province, on 5 January after a court found him guilty of inaccurately reporting the number of motorcycles confiscated by police in the city.
“The authorities’ prolific use of corporal punishment, including flogging, amputation and blinding, throughout 2016 highlights the inhumanity of a justice system that legalizes brutality. These cruel and inhuman punishments are a shocking assault on human dignity and violate the absolute international prohibition on torture and other ill-treatment,” said Randa Habib, Amnesty International’s Regional Director for the Middle East and North Africa.
“The latest flogging of a journalist raises alarms that the authorities intend to continue the spree of cruel punishments we have witnessed over the past year into 2017.”
Under Iranian law, more than 100 “offences” are punishable by flogging. These cover a wide array of acts, ranging from theft, assault, vandalism, defamation and fraud to acts that should not be criminalized at all such as adultery, intimate relationships between unmarried men and women, “breach of public morals” and consensual same-sex sexual relations.
Many of those flogged in Iran are young people under the age of 35 who have been arrested for peaceful activities such as publicly eating during Ramadan, having relationships outside of marriage and attending mixed-gender parties. Such activities are protected under the rights to freedom of belief, religion, expression and association and must never be criminalized.
As a party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), Iran is legally obliged to forbid torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. However, Iranian law continues to allow internationally banned corporal punishments including amputation, stoning and flogging and claims to justify it in the name of protecting religious morals.
In one case last April, an unmarried couple convicted of “having an illegitimate relationship” were sentenced to 100 lashes each. A month later 35 young women and men arrested in Qazvin Province for dancing, mingling and consuming alcohol at a party were sentenced to 99 lashes each. The sentences were carried out immediately. Lashing sentences were also carried out in May 2016 against a group of 17 miners who protested against their employment conditions and dismissals in West Azerbaijan Province.
Journalists and bloggers have also been sentenced to flogging in relation to their work. In July, an appeal court sentenced journalist Mohammad Reza Fathi to 459 lashes for “publishing lies” and “creating unease in the public mind” through his writing....
After seeing that orgone accumulator earlier in the week, I checked out the Wiki entry. They list the uses of "orgone" in popular culture: the usual suspects like Burroughs and Kerouac, and then - Kate Bush, with her Cloudbusting song about Wilhelm Reich, inspired by his son Peter's extraordinary Book of Dreams. And I thought, hang on, there's another earlier much much better song inspired by the same book that they're not mentioning here: Patti Smith's Birdland, from the 1975 Horses album.
So I remembered what an extraordinary record that was, and how I saw her live at the Rainbow in 1978, supported by reggae man Tapper Zukie, and what an exceptional, brilliant concert it turned out to be. [The Rainbow is now home to the Universal Church of the Kingdom of God, but that's another story.] And then I found this: a brief interview, and then, live from The Old Grey Whistle Test, 1976....
Back then she was out on her own. There was no one else to touch her.
She dropped out of the music business in 1980, before making her comeback in 1995. I haven't really followed her career since, but she seems kind of annoying nowadays - right up to that somewhat embarrassing Nobel Prize performance on behalf of Dylan. Couldn't she have just left us with the memories? But yes, I'm being unfair.
A mass parade and military display held in Sanaa, Yemen, in support of the Iranian-backed Houthi movement, with women brandishing weapons and vowing to fight the infidels, as part of a campaign called "Forceful against the Infidels"...."Death to America! Death to Israel! A curse upon the Jews! Victory to Islam!":
Special bonus: forceful messages from the "free women of Yemen", completely covered in black cloth.
Fortunately for the Yemenite Jews, they're nearly all in Israel now. Some 51,000 have immigrated, with maybe 50 now remaining.
We went to see La La Land last night. I have nothing particularly profound to add to the debate. I enjoyed it, but not perhaps with the passion that so many people seem to feel. The music, I thought, was forgettable, and that dancing scene on the freeway at the beginning didn't blow me away as promised. But yes, it's fun, and it's clever and moving, and Emma Stone in particular is wonderful. I thought she carried the movie.
It is, of course, an easy film to criticise from what we might call a progressive viewpoint, along the lines of: its exclusive concern for its wealthy white cast, its nostalgia, and, in particular, its take on jazz. Ryan Gosling's Seb is a jazz snob - a purist. Accusations of white appropriation of black music are inevitable. This piece by Geoff Nelson pretty much covers it - The Unbearable Whiteness of La La Land:
What Gosling’s Seb and Stone’s Mia share is a commitment to the past—a place where, supposedly, dreamers dream their dreams awake. But which dreamers dreaming what dreams? Why do white Americans (in politics and film) often so wistfully return to the era before federally mandated desegregation, voting and civil rights? (Would La La Land ever have been made with two leading actors of color? Obviously not.) The film only functions as an ode to a lost era of white supremacy, and its viewers, consciously or unconsciously, participate in the delusion. The film’s politics of nostalgia and whiteness are inextricable.
La La Land contains other more explicitly problematic politics—in fact, Gosling’s “white jazz savior” narrative has been unpacked well by MTV’s Ira Madison III. John Legend’s Keith is cast as a sell-out to “pure jazz,” which Gosling promises to successfully save by the movie’s end. The movie concludes with Gosling taking over the piano from a black musician: The erasure of black art is complete.
Much of this criticism is, I think, answered in the film itself. John Legend's (black) Keith character leads a jazz group which he invites Seb to join. They're old friends. The band becomes successful, and we see one of their concerts, with backing singers, dancers, all the rest. It's exciting. In fact it's the most exciting music in the film. By Seb's standards this is indeed a sell-out. He's obsessed with the old-style purist jazz of small smoky clubs, with Bird and Monk and all the other legends of the past jamming on stage. But, as Keith tells him in a particularly telling scene which Nelson here ignores, jazz is a revolutionary music. It's essence is change. To keep it the same - to embalm it, as Seb wants to do - is to kill it. You're a pain in the ass, he tells Seb. You're good, but you're a pain in the ass.
Now you can see that scene as Keith trying to justify what Seb sees as commercialisation. But this is in a way the story of jazz. In fact it's pretty much the story of Black American music. It has been, in general, the white folks who want to keep the music pure - whether its Blues, or Jazz, or Soul. They discover it: they think it's wonderful and exciting and different and, above all, authentic. So when new musicians come pressing for change, it's more often than not the white listeners and critics who want to stop what they see as the commercialisation of the authentic Black experience - which is, it turns out, playing in clubs to a white audience, and not making much money. Whether it was Charlie Parker blowing away the old easy rhythms of swing, Miles going electric, or the Jazz-Rock innovators, it was, nearly always, the white purists who wanted things to stay the same - to stay authentic - and the black musicians who wanted to move on and try something new. Dixieland to Swing; Swing to Bebop; Bebop to Fusion or whatever, the whites would declare that the true spirit of jazz was being killed, while the black musicians just went on ahead and kept the jazz revolution going.
These are generalisations, of course. It was never quite as clear cut as that. But I think there's enough truth in there to be able to say that director Damien Chazelle had thought about this, and that Keith's speech was specifically put there to provide some kind of response to precisely these concerns. The idea of a young white musician wanting to preserve a particular style of jazz, being a snob about it, opening a jazz club for that purpose, while his black friends go off and make new music, does I think have some kind of truth about the dynamics of race in the American experience of jazz.