R.I.P. Peter Matthiessen

Author and Naturalist Is Dead at 86. “[His] nonfiction explored the remote endangered wilds of the world and whose fiction often placed his protagonists in the heart of them.” (NYTimes.com).

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The Lost World of Stefan Zweig


Wes Anderson’s new film The Grand Budapest Hotel does much to bring Zweig’s particular brand of elegiac to the screen. Once one of the world’s most celebrated living writers, Zweig had lapsed into an undeserved obscurity, and Anderson goes far to resurrect a wondrous sensibility. From Zweig’s almost cloying candy-colored atmospheres — virtually tailor-made for Anderson’s brand of visual whimsy — to the inevitability of global catastrophe, casting a pall over even the happiest moments of domestic comfort, The Grand Budapest Hotel manages to capture nearly all of Zweig’s most striking qualities. Yet the film’s final tragedies — the rise of a (spoiler alert!) Nazi-esque regime in the fictional republic of Żubrówka, the 11th-hour execution of the hotel’s effete concierge, the untimely death due to illness of our young protagonist’s new bride — veer from Zweig’s sensibility in the grandness of their scale, a grandness much more evocative of Hollywood than of Vienna in the 1930s.

What The Grand Budapest Hotel forgets, and what Zweig never does, is that what humans do, and leave undone, is no less catastrophic at the hearth than it is on the battlefield.’ (LA Review of Books)

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Dolphin Talk and Human Credulity

‘It appears to have been just bad luck that one British newspaper, The Independent, chose April 1 as the day to publish James Vincent’s science report about a significant animal-to-human communication breakthrough.

I hope it worries animal researchers at least as much as it worries me that I had to do some reading around and cross-checking to be sure that the report wasn’t an Onion-style April Fool’s Day hoax. But I found that The Daily Mail had already reported on the same finding on March 27, so I’m quite sure both newspapers are serious.’ (The Chronicle of Higher Education).

The Pernicious Rise of Poptimism

0457 Music Critic
Music Critic

‘Should gainfully employed adults whose job is to listen to music thoughtfully really agree so regularly with the taste of 13-year-olds? Poptimism is a studied reaction to the musical past. It is, to paraphrase a summary offered by Kelefa Sanneh some years ago in The New York Times in an article on the perils of “rockism”: disco, not punk; pop, not rock; synthesizers, not guitars; the music video, not the live show. It is to privilege the deliriously artificial over the artificially genuine. It developed as an ideology to counteract rockism, the stance held by the sort of critic who, in Sanneh’s words, whines “about a pop landscape dominated by big-budget spectacles and high-concept photo shoots” and reminisces “about a time when the charts were packed with people who had something to say, and meant it, even if that time never actually existed.” ‘ (NYTimes.com).

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Mega-Donors Are Now More Important Than Most Politicians…Again

John D. Rockefeller founded the University of ...
John D. Rockefeller

‘Quick: Name a senator who served between the Civil War and World War I. Struggling? Now name a tycoon who bought senators during the same period. J.P. Morgan, John D. Rockefeller … it’s easier.

And for good reason. The tycoons mattered more.

In the post-McCutcheon world, the 0.1 percent are far more important than most candidates. The press needs to treat them that way and subject their views to scrutiny.’  – Peter Beinart (The Atlantic).

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