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Watching Z in Pakistan

Watching Z in Pakistan

Z is “no more about Greece than The Battle of Algiers was about Algeria,” said Roger Ebert, in 1969.  Ebert spotted parallels with the United States and South Vietnam, and last night, in the industrial city of Faisalabad, I spotted more than a few with Pakistan.  Indeed, the legendary drama feels timeless in its portrayal of political crises, and elites willing to undermine democracy. More»

Consuming Amy Winehouse

Consuming Amy Winehouse

Asif Kapadia’s documentary Amy, about the singer Amy Winehouse, is suitably gutting. How could it not? Hers is a tragic story of a vibrant young woman with extraordinary talent whose life is cut short by drugs, alcohol, and an eating disorder. It is also, Kapadia takes care to show, the story of a girl surrounded by thousands, all who wanted a piece of her until, bit by bit, she disappeared. More»

You're Welcome

You’re Welcome

“You’re Welcome,” reads this most appropriate tagline to the sequel to Magic Mike. Once a snide reminder of forgotten thanks, this phrase has come to mean the inevitable grateful outpouring in response to something highly desirable or cool. The anticipated gratitude could be for a number of things. More»

Museums From Below

Museums From Below

One of the benefits of living in a small-ish city like Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania is that I frequently run across people I actually want to see, like my old friend Shaun Slifer, one of the area’s many multi-talented and underappreciated artists, as well as a longtime champion of the underdog. Enthusiastic as always, he told me about a project he had been working on called the West Virginia Mine Wars Museum. More»

Stories Matter

Stories Matter

The ending of a fiction represents the point at which its essential artificiality is most acute. While individual lives do end, life itself does not end (or at least, will not end on earth for a literally unthinkably long time). When a fiction ends, it is the apotheosis of the human ability and desire to chop up the flow of time into manageably finite stories. More»

The Revolution Must Be Documented

The Revolution Must Be Documented

A glance at the photo inspires a tortuous quest for meaning. The handsome man, presumably of Middle Eastern descent, strikes a pose that would please the most severe proponent of Socialist Realism. And he has his mobile phone out to document it. Or does he? That’s the beauty of having both a rear and front-facing camera. Mobiles are the mirror-shades of our era. More»

Sticking It to The Man

Sticking It to The Man

At a time when the word “fascism” is being thrown around with increasing carelessness, on both the Right and Left, the fight against it is plagued by confusion. Most people, regardless of their ideological position, adhere to the belief that being a fascist requires some form of totalitarian behavior. But the role of the state in that behavior is no longer taken for granted. More»

Music for Palestine

Music for Palestine

Israeli pop has never crossed over. Though a few artists have gotten airplay on European radio, and spawned a YouTube meme from time to time, with the exeption of Ofra Haza, it’s never been a big success internationally, and it’s not for lack of trying. Dozens of licensing agents  have tried to place it abroad over the years, at best landing niche artists at boutique labels and ad agencies. Think Idan Raichel, and Monotonix. More»

Red Scares

Red Scares

When Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels wrote the first lines of The Communist Manifesto, they turned the conventional notion of haunting on its head, conjuring the “ghost”, not of something that had passed away, but of something that had not yet come to pass. Since the collapse of the Eastern Bloc, though, this has changed decisively. The world is haunted instead by the communism that was — and wasn’t. More»

In Defence of Patricia Arquette

In Defence of Patricia Arquette

When she won the Oscar for Best Supporting Actress for her role in Boyhood, Patricia Arquette delighted many with her call for wage equality in her acceptance speech. It was a timely call, for its political appeal and because it likely struck a nerve for many in Dolby Theatre, seeing as the Sony hack had revealed that actresses, even top box office earners, receive less than actors. More»

Fifty Shades of Blue

Fifty Shades of Blue

When I take my dad to watch the Metropolitan Opera broadcasts on Saturday mornings at the movie theater near my house, I know what to expect: slow-moving senior citizens who force the staff to bend over backwards satisfying their demands before the performance starts. That’s what made this past weekend so surprising. The same people were there, but many of them were going to see Fifty Shades of Grey instead. More»

None Too Pure

None Too Pure

The history of leftist politics is a history of bad habits. Whenever a goal is within reach, they return to wreak havoc: a fondness for drink, a fondness for drugs or a fondness for disputing precisely those questions that aren’t immediately pertinent. But of all the habits that have undermined the Left, the most pernicious may be the conviction that a devotion to purity is the solution. More»