TRAVELLING can work in opposite ways. It can come as wanderlust that gives one a feel of new horizons befitting a seeker. Or it can be a temptation to contaminate new climes with hidebound habits. Mirza Ghalib prescribed the first route in the 19th century. The second way has been popularised by Narendra Modi.
Hasad se dil agar afsurda hai, garm-i-tamasha ho/ Ke chashm-i-tang shaayad kasrat-i-nazara se va ho. That was Ghalib’s prescription. A good antidote to suffocating ennui or chashm-i-tang, he said, could be kasrat-i-nazara, the expansiveness of new things to see, new people to meet, new ideas to ponder. Marco Polo and Ibne Batuta would have warmed the cockles of Ghalib’s heart. T.S. Eliot captured the Urdu poet’s advice succinctly: “Oh, do not ask, ‘What is it?’/ Let us go and make our visit.” The lines from Eliot’s much-critiqued poem — The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock — have nudged many towards nirvana.
Modi’s apparent insecurities with his identity — or his search for one, as his constantly changing attire reflects — can be seen in loudly choreographed cultural assertions. This obviously was not the case with the more confident Nehru and others who preceded him, not even with A.B. Vajpayee who Modi grudgingly respects.
Modi’s avoidable complexes have found him distributing copies of the Bhagvad Gita to visitors even as he makes bold claims to insights into India’s hoary past. Come to think of it, the pope, whose job it is to proselytise, doesn’t offer free copies of the Bible to his visitors. If anything, world leaders who come to the Vatican to confer with him would not miss the opportunity to visit the Sistine Chapel and be awestruck by Michelangelo’s work of art. Modi, though, would derive greater pleasure from securing an easy sanction from the ruler of Abu Dhabi to build a temple in the oil-rich emirate.
Would Modi visit the Stonewall Inn in Greenwich Village in New York, a catalyst for the gay rights movement in the US?
Ghalib, to return to the master of cultural assimilation, memorably set off on a journey to colonial Calcutta from his modest perch in Mughal Delhi. En route, he composed an amazing tribute to the majesty of Benares and its Hindu populace, and their reverence for River Ganga. Savour an excerpt from Qurratulain Hyder’s translation of Chiragh-i-Dair or ((temple lamps):
May Heaven keep/ The grandeur of Benares/ Arbour of bliss, meadow of joy,/ For oft-returning souls/ Their journey’s end./ In this weary Temple-land of the world/ Safe from the whirlwind of Time,/ Benaras is forever spring,/ Where autumn turns/ Into the touch of sandal on their foreheads/ Springtime wears the sacred thread/ Of flower-waves/ And the splash of twilight/ Is the crimson mark of Kashi’s/ Dust on heaven’s brow.
We’ve seen snapshots of Modi’s engagements with his Indian fans abroad. Had he gone to New York to gain first-hand knowledge about a multicultural city instead, the prime minister would have visited the streets of Harlem with Savona Bailey-McClain. The African-American art curator and historian would have walked him through the evolution of the district. Ghalib described British vengeance when they flattened the old city of Delhi after 1857. Modi would now learn that the British also burnt down the district of Manhattan (centuries before the advent of Osama bin Laden) in their pursuit of George Washington’s ragtag militia.
Savona, if she found any curiosity in him, would escort Modi to Harlem’s Schomberg Centre, currently celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Black Power movement. Visitors here delve deeper into the heterogeneous and ideologically diverse global movement that shaped black consciousness.
Would Modi visit the Stonewall Inn in Greenwich Village in New York, a catalyst for the gay rights movement in the United States and around the world? Marie’s Crisis is a piano bar in the vicinity. Its main room is wedged below street level, so that you descend into it as you would to a secret rendezvous. All the men and women of varied sexual orientations can be found in the evenings singing everything under the sun — and utterly tunefully too. What they would not sing is any remotely patriotic song — a lesson for the zealous South Asians.
The inimitable pamphleteer and documentary-maker Michael Moore is currently appearing on Broadway in a play about himself. It is called The Terms of My Surrender, a 90-minute one-man show mostly about how to get even with Donald Trump’s ideology of hate and racist violence. Moore announces to each packed show how he keeps a seat in the balcony for the president of the United States. We recommend he keep a place for Mr Modi too.
“How the hell did this happen?” Moore’s opening gambit sets the tempo for the absorbing monologue. The audience goes into raptures. Moore reasons how things may not be as bad as they look. The president, the vice president, the supreme court, both houses of Congress belong to the rivals. “But we have the majority.” Moore’s optimism flows from the actual headcount, which gave the Democrats a majority of the votes while the electoral college robbed them of victory — a message for the needlessly disheartened on how to bring down a Nixon.
Ghalib would enjoy the planetarium in New York. “Our sun is an ordinary star, just one among hundreds of billions of stars in the Milky Way Galaxy,” a plaque reminds us tersely. “As the only star we can observe in detail, it provides a basis for our understanding of all stars.”
The message unwittingly summarises Ghalib’s own fulminations: Hasti ke mat fareb mein aajaaiyo Asad/ Aalam tamaam halqa-i-daam-i-khayaal hai. The universe deceptively fits into a single hole of the fisherman’s net that resembles the mind, said the poet. The Big Bang occurred 13 billion years ago. And 3.8bn years ago, life took root on Earth. How ancient is religion or any nation, including Mr Modi’s?
Art fans will be able to create their own ceramic masterpieces as London’s Tate Modern museum hosts a new ceramics “factory”.
The temporary attraction entitled FACTORY: the seen and the unseen is an installation by artist Clare Twomey, opening next month as part of the return of the Tate Exchange.
It will take over the museum’s Blavatnik Building with a 30-metre production line, eight tonnes of clay, a wall of drying racks and more than 2,000 fired clay objects.
Over two weeks, visitors will have the chance to learn, make and exchange clay items such as jugs, teapots and flowers before joining a factory tour delving into how communities are built by collective labour, celebrating the relationship between human and machine innovation.
Now in its second year, the theme of this year’s Tate Exchange is “production” and it will showcase artists’ work examining the museum’s role in various type of production from a range of viewpoints.
It will run until January before joining with a number of other organisations – including Tate Liverpool and The Royal Standard artist-led gallery – to continue the theme with further projects.
Schemes in the works so far include artists BBZ’s exploration of non-binary black artists in the UK and politically-charged group Cooking Sections’ creation that devises new systems for producing and consuming food.
The overall Tate Exchange theme aims to fit into the museum’s general plans for the year, including the upcoming Picasso exhibition, which looks at the famous artist’s period of production during the great Depression.
Tate Learning director Anna Cutler said of the interactive scheme, which saw 200,000 people take part in activities in its inaugural year: “We were overwhelmed by the generous public response to Tate Exchange in its first year.
“It became a civic space in which the public got to share their ideas, thoughts and opinions.
“We are indebted to the work of the associates who generated extraordinary programmes and took on the task of an open experiment with great skill and verve.
“In our second year we will look at the theme of production and dig even deeper into debate and the nature of exchange.”
RankTribe™ Black Business Directory News – Arts & Entertainment
While Most Spas only offer Brazilian waxing for women only, Desuar Spa Help Californian Men Feel Sexy too, with Boyzilian Wax Service.
Unlike most spas, I’m not afraid to touch or see a man’s body, and neither are my other therapists.”
— Deisy Suarez
LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA, UNITED STATES, August 17, 2017 /EINPresswire.com/ — Everyone knows by now that many spas across the country offer waxing that helps girls have nice smooth legs, hairless arms, and more. The so called Brazilian or Bikini Wax, offered to women at select spas across the U.S, helps keep women’s bikini area soft and smooth, and avoid the hassle of shaving their bikini area. Men who merely want their backs waxed have to look long and hard for a select spa that will if ever–do it for them. And, if a man wants a wax in his bikini area too? Forget it! There just aren’t any easy options to find a place that caters to the needs for such a man–until now.
Desuar Spa, located in the trendy downtown area of Los Angeles’ loft district, caters to men and women alike, giving girls and guys all of the top services they need including full body massage, facials, body scrubs, mineral body wraps, slimming treatments and waxing, among more. Currently located at 215 W. 5th Street, in Suite 1209 in downtown Los Angeles, Desuar Spa will soon be taking over a massive 4,400 square foot headquarters in the Jewelry Trades Building, directly across the street, later this year, in the Fall of 2017, with a team of top body and skin care professionals in all areas needed by clients.
Featuring only the best, Desuar Spa features top tier massages along with skin and beauty treatments, among more. The Spa is also now offering Pre-Opening Premium Membership Packages available at a discount price to celebrate the relocation Grand Opening. The philosophy of the spa includes giving the most discriminating client just what they want, and at the best level of service possible. Located in a hip, modern loft building filled with artists and young professionals, Desuar Spa’s slogan of “We’ve Got What You Need,” is no overstatement. Featuring the very best services from around the world, the additional new location will feature a unique designer space that will include eight treatment rooms, a reflexology room, one of a kind amenities including a co-ed steam room, sauna, a Himalayan Salt / Sand / Water-bed massage table, spray tanning, and a tub room for beer bath among other amazing treatments.
Founder of Desuar Spa; Deisy Suarez is an expert in self-care, with over fourteen years of experience in the spa and beauty industry in both Los Angeles and New York. A philanthropist and entrepreneur, Deisy also founded Desuar Cosmetics in 2004. She loves her work, and is dedicated to helping and enriching the lives of her many happy and regular clients. With expertise in spa management, Deisy is a certified massage therapist, a certified esthetician, and is also certified in Advanced Skin Analysis by Cidesco. She attended the National Holistic Institute, as well as Marinello School of Beauty, and UC Irvine for Spa and Hospitality Management. An unconventional day spa where clients are invited to loosen up, relax, and have fun, Desuar Spa uses all-natural essential massage oils, and also offers top of the line skin products from Phytomer and Vie Collection.
Regarding servicing men with a bikini wax, or ‘Boykini’ Brazilian or ‘Boyzilian’ at Desuar Spa, owner Deisy Suarez states, “Unlike most spas, I’m not afraid to touch or see a man’s body, and neither are my other therapists. Why should someone be deprived of getting a great massage or waxed where they want, just because they are a man? That’s not fair. We don’t discriminate against men here.” Deisy adds, “While we are very unconventional, and some of our menu and ads are very flirty, we are also very professional. We don’t offer sexual services. We only offer therapeutic and beauty treatments. My step-son works full time here at the front desk, and my husband even works here part time!” Daring, unique, and one of a kind, Desuar Spa is very proud to serve men and women all across Los Angeles at their downtown location, giving the all star treatment that only Hollywood–and only Desuar Spa can provide.
Visit the Desuar Spa website at www.spadesuar.com
And call 213-265-7908 to schedule an appointment for your needs.
Visit Desuar Spa at: 215 W 5th St. 1209, Los Angeles, CA 90013
AUG. 25: DIA DISCUSSIONS To help provide insights to the exhibition “Art of Rebellion: Black Art of the Civil Rights Movement,” on display at the DIA through Oct. 22, the museum will present two panel discussions with artists who have work included. From 10 a.m.-noon, Detroit artists Allie McGhee, Rita Dickerson, Tylonn Sawyer and Sydney James will discuss their art, the Detroit art scene for African American artists from the 1960s to the present and other issues surrounding the idea of African American art as being inherently political. From 1:30-3:30 p.m., artists Wadsworth Jarrell (whose Three Queens, 1971, is shown), Jae Jarrell, Anthony Barboza and Ademola Olugebefola will talk about their art as members of collectives established in the ’60s to combat racial and social injustices. Free with museum admission. Dia.org.
AUG. 18-26: 35MM The Detroit Actor’s Theatre Company, under artistic director Eric Swanson, presents 35MM: A Musical Exhibition. Inspired by the photos of Matthew Murphy, the multi-media musical allows each photo to create a unique song that is a glimpse at life unfolding. $15-$20. Detroit Design Center. Thedatc.org.
AUG. 25-26: THE WIZARD OF OZ Head to the Redford Theatre to see The Wizard of Ozon the big screen. Based on the classic 1900 book by L. Frank Baum, the 1939 film stars Judy Garland, Jack Haley, Ray Bolger and Bert Lahr (born Burt Lahrheim) as the Cowardly Lion, and features the beloved soundtrack by composer E.Y. “Yip” Harburg and lyricist Harold Arlen. $5. Redfordtheatre.com.
RankTribe™ Black Business Directory News – Arts & Entertainment
I can’t recall a night at the theater as electric as the performance of “Julius Caesar” in the park that was halted when a protester stormed the stage and had to be escorted out. Was that a sign of theater’s power? A misreading of Shakespeare? Both?
JESSE GREEN That “Caesar” was electric in part because it was the very rare recent instance of a play exciting the interest of a world it mostly fails to engage. But be careful what you wish for. The theater may not really want so much excited attention, especially where touchy funders are involved.
ALEXIS SOLOSKI Theater mattered — in wrong and terrible ways. And that felt so emblematic of the moment: I don’t think the protesters were reacting to the play or even the Public’s somewhat confrontational staging. If they’d read to the end or stayed to the end, they would have seen that yes, a group of conspirators assassinate a power-hungry Caesar, who in this production was styled like Trump, but the conspirators pay for that action dearly. It’s a cautionary tale.
BEN BRANTLEY What’s sad, in terms of the level of our national conversation, is that the image of Trump-Caesar post-stabbing, his suit splattered with blood, quickly became a Pavlovian meme, like the picture of Kathy Griffin with Trump’s severed head. The question is, have we seen anything that isn’t conducted on the quick-take insult level of Mr. Trump’s tweets?
GREEN It’s the quick-take part I worry about. “Building the Wall” imagined a near-future landscape of concentration camps and immigrant death centers in the Southwest. Hastily written to express the author’s outrage at the new administration, it was thin as drama and old-hat as polemic. Its audiences already had worse thoughts. It was scare-baiting the converted.
Here’s what one of those audience members had to say on the website Show-Score: “The writers are trying to frighten Americans into believing we are headed for Nazi fascism… This show went from being realistic to the twilight zone, making it counter productive.” Interesting to consider that comment after the white supremacy rally in Charlottesville, but also worth exploring more deeply how politically engaged theater can be “productive.” Or should it aim to be at all?
SOLOSKI I go back and forth between thinking: Theater doesn’t matter! We should all be out in the streets! Or running for office! Or weeping at our kitchen tables! But I’m still looking for plays to help me understand the moment. So far, explicitly political theater hasn’t done that for me. You?
GREEN Nope, none. Some shows comforted me with commiseration, or made me laugh, but no real news, emotionally or otherwise.
BRANTLEY Agreed. The (aspiringly) timely production of “1984,” was meant, I think, to cause us to find parallels with the direction in which we are headed, but I can’t say it did that for me. (A friend of mine said, “Trump is Little Brother, for God’s sake!”) But if we go back to the spring on Broadway, there was Lynn Nottage’s “Sweat,” a portrait of blue-collar discontent in Pennsylvania. No matter what you thought of the play as a work of art, it did try to dig into the mind-set of people who would vote for Trump.
SOLOSKI I had a warmer response to the play and I did wonder about its closing. Was it too soon for audiences to want to know these people, to feel sympathy with them? Would the play have felt more comfortable if the election had gone another way?
GREEN I think you may be right, Alexis. Its analysis of the conditions that led to the Trump victory was less compelling somehow when it in essence proved true.
Leave analysis to the editorial page for now. Shouldn’t theater offer drama? Catharsis?
BRANTLEY Yes, but I don’t experience catharsis unless I’m startled into feeling more deeply than I do just reading the headlines on my phone.
SOLOSKI That was the problem most of us critics had with the Michael Moore show. During the election he had some pretty probing arguments, but “The Terms of My Surrender” boiled down to: Annoy Trump. Also, make some calls. Book-ended by two hours of self-aggrandizing stories. It was like one endless victory lap. And Michael Moore hadn’t even won.
GREEN We are talking about fundamental problems of political theater in a moment when politics has become more incredible than anything the stage can deliver. So while I crave drama that makes its points through the traditional — and I would argue longer-lasting — means of character and conflict, I’m not sure that anything in that vein can do what “Angels in America” and “The Normal Heart” did during the height of the AIDS epidemic or, for that matter, what “A Raisin in the Sun” and other seminal civil rights dramas did to change the way Americans — or white Americans anyway — looked at racism.
SOLOSKI Maybe theater will. But not soon. In the meantime try topping Scaramucci for comedy or Charlottesville for tragedy.
BRANTLEY I keep thinking of the Odets plays of the Great Depression — the pro-union drama “Waiting for Lefty” and “Awake and Sing” — or the musical “The Cradle Will Rock” that had audiences on their feet and, by all accounts, energized in the name of a cause. What’s happening now are plays of affirmation for middle-class theatergoers (is that the only kind?) who don’t want to be challenged in their melancholy and anger.
SOLOSKI But even they don’t want to be bored or condescended to. I hope.
There was no MSNBC or Twitter in Odets’s time. Perhaps politically engaged theater for the 24-hour news cycle demands a different intensity?
GREEN No theater I’ve seen has been as trenchant as Dave Chappelle and Chris Rock were on “S.N.L.” right after the election. By comparison the theater has been comforting the miserable and cheerleading for future action, which are legitimate. “Me the People” was clumsy in its satire but a lot of fun in its fury. The highlight was when a Hillary figure led the audience in an epithet-laden singalong of a Cee Lo Green song — the epithets aimed at the president.
BRANTLEY I suppose there is cathartic value in swinging a bat at a piñata of the Enemy. But that could happen just as easily in a theme night at a bar.
O.K., no theatrical “anger rooms.” But can each of you share a moment from this stage summer that held thoughtfulness and anger in the right balance?
SOLOSKI None for me so far. For that sense of force and engagement, I think about the women’s march, that sea of pink pussy-hatted women and men crowding the U.N. plaza. Millions of us were actors that day. It wasn’t a play, but it was cathartic.
BRANTLEY For me, that happened at the Almeida Theater in London, in James Graham’s “Ink,” a play in which Trump’s name wasn’t mentioned. It was about Trump’s buddy Rupert Murdoch, the Australian media czar, in his first years in London in the late ‘60s, when he revitalized The Sun. And at a certain point, I realized that Murdoch’s populist press created the social media landscape that made Trump possible.
GREEN The further away from the chaotic, unknowable figure of Trump a play got, the better — that is, the more successfully political — it was. In the drama “While I Was Waiting,” about the destruction of Damascus during Syria’s civil war, the political was never absent but rather hovered ghostlike around a domestic story. And “Master,” about the legacy of “Huckleberry Finn” for black artists, reframed my thinking about racism more than anything that aimed at that subject directly.
What about that “Julius Caesar”? With a little distance, how do you think the production holds up?
BRANTLEY The best part of that “Julius Caesar” was what happened after the initial crowd-baiting presentation of Caesar as Trump. Oskar Eustis, the director, did a good job of keeping the show tight and fleet-footed, and suddenly — as Alexis pointed out — if you were paying attention, what had seemed like a hoot suddenly became a sobering admonition.
GREEN Scheduling and producing the play that way was a master stroke of judging the New York moment. But it’s not a template going forward. Artists and producers are going to have to figure out how to engage Trumpism without being merely opportunistic. Last weekend I saw a one-man show called “Trump Lear” in a flyspecked grotty grotto of a theater on St. Marks Place. In the show, “Trump” interrogates the author, David Carl, a Trump impersonator, about the value of his work. It’s quite damning. “You do over 100 impressions Carl,” he says. “You could have done a show about anyone, and you picked me for one simple reason. I put butts in seats Carl … I have employed you, and thousands of artists like you, and you should all be thanking me!”
SOLOSKI Should we? I dunno. And it’s not like white male actors were the ones hurting for work pre-Trump. I’ve noticed that nearly all of the responses have been by white men and in some ways for white men. Of course I’m curious about what Tony Kushner will do with all of this. David Hare, too. But what about Suzan-Lori Parks or Dominique Morisseau or Robert O’Hara or Ayad Akhtar? We haven’t yet been hearing from artists who are part of the communities Trump is working against.
BRANTLEY What I want is a play that actually offers insights into a man who is, let’s face it, a real character. I learn more about Trump’s inner workings from the nuances of Alec Baldwin impersonating him than I do from anything I’ve seen on a stage.
SOLOSKI But I don’t think we can put a moratorium on political plays until everyone has a chance to cool their respective jets. Whether or not this will exhaust ticket buyers, that’s another question. In the meantime, what deserves to be revived and will speak to the moment? Ben, I know you and I would both like to see “Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson.”
BRANTLEY Hell, yeah. Any show that begins with a song about populism being born of rejection captures the anger and disaffection of a time that is much like our own.
GREEN No no no. Puerile humor we already have plenty of. I want mature complexity, which is to say I want to see anything by Caryl Churchill. She finds ways of embedding political terror in ordinariness, which is what life is beginning to feel like. Or, for some, has always felt like.
BRANTLEY Sarah Kane, please. Her pain and rage, conveyed in portraits of individual-crushing worlds, grabs you in way more obvious satire can never do.
SOLOSKI “Richard III.” “The Madness of King George.” “The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui.” Maybe Wallace Shawn’s “Aunt Dan and Lemon,” a play about creeping fascism. (Yup. More white guys.)
BRANTLEY Might I hover briefly on a moment I’m feeling nostalgic for? I’m talking about 2015, when “Hamilton” opened on Broadway and the world — by which I mean different classes, different ages, and even people who are not classic theatergoers — seemed united in its enthusiasm for a musical that celebrated diversity on so many different levels. The night when cast member Brandon Victor Dixon addressed audience member Mike Pence from the stage during curtain calls (on the subject of inclusiveness) remains for me the most important conversation about the Trump presidency that the theater has initiated.
SOLOSKI Do you think that changed Pence’s mind, or even rattled him momentarily?
BRANTLEY I doubt it changed Mike Pence’s political views, but it was in fact a dialogue starter, and done in the context of a musical that had captured national attention and good will. Are we going to be changing hearts and minds via any art form at this moment? I doubt it, sadly and sincerely.
GREEN Perhaps the theater can arm or armor hearts to fight and survive nontheatrical battles.
SOLOSKI Put down the sippy cup, take up the (metaphorical) sword!
You’re sounding like Michael Moore himself, who shared his hopes for his show with a Times reporter: “I think people will find themselves laughing one minute and wanting to go look for some pitchforks and torches the next.”
SOLOSKI No torches post-Charlottesville, please.
BRANTLEY Call me sappy, but I would most like a play that makes us all ask questions about how we got to where we are, rather than one that underscores entrenched hate and disgust.
Easy to joke, understandable to despair. But as we’re having this conversation, over my computer I’m watching scenes from Charlottesville on CNN. Isn’t it a moral imperative for artists to engage, engage, engage?
BRANTLEY Yes, but that doesn’t have to mean inflame, inflame, inflame.
SOLOSKI Would Charlottesville have been solved by engagement? By theater?
GREEN I don’t criticize any of these artists for trying — except maybe Mr. Moore, who was pulling a narcissistic bait-and-switch. But if we are dreaming of theater that can successfully engage our moment, we’re going to have dream better, and probably longer.
Tell those artists how to do it better. And remember, you’re fighting for their attention.
SOLOSKI Startle us. Surprise us. Make us want to do and know more.
GREEN Confuse us with contradictions we hadn’t considered. Leave the rest to the comics; they do it better.
BRANTLEY There you have encapsulated the playwright’s dilemma, Scott. Fast and furious is for Twitter, not theater.
FIFTY Million Elvis Fans Can’t Be Wrong was the over-the-top title of Elvis Presley’s 1959 greatest hits album, whose cover featured 16 images of the singer dressed in a gold lame suit made by tailor to the stars Nudie Cohn. It wasn’t even the hip-swivelling chart star’s first foray into greatest hits territory – that had come a year earlier with Elvis’s Golden Records – though in its defence, Presley had reputedly sold at least that many singles by then so perhaps we can forgive the album title its note of bombast.
Today, however, could 50,000,000 Elvis fans even be found, far less judged to be right or wrong? And if not today, then how about on Wednesday, which marks the 40th anniversary of the singer’s death?
Elvis Presley breathed his last on August 16, 1977 in Graceland, the palatial Memphis mansion he had bought in 1957. He died young in real terms but was old for a rock star whose executors found themselves with an icon to sex up and a reputation to burnish. Nor was his end one of those seedily glamorous deaths that had taken Jimi Hendrix, Jim Morrison, Janis Joplin and Brian Jones to early graves.
They all died aged 27, giving rise to the so-called 27 Club (later members would include Kurt Cobain and Amy Winehouse). Presley was 42 when he was found slumped in his toilet, and the official cause of death was given as heart failure though it was certainly exacerbated by years of abuse of prescription drugs and medicines. “Live fast, die young and leave a beautiful corpse” runs the famous line attributed (wrongly) to James Dean. Presley only managed the first of the three.
So the answer to the question posed above is yes – and also no. Certainly the thousands who’ll flock to Memphis to take part in the annual Elvis Week’s programme of events (highlights include the the Ultimate Elvis Tribute Artist Contest And Showcase) will view themselves as members of a millions-strong family of fans. So too will those who think tuning into a live stream of Elvis Week’s all-night candlelit vigil is a worthwhile way to spend 12 hours. And so will the pilgrims who’ll pay to stay at The Guest House At Graceland resort (it opened last year and features the largest hotel to be built in Memphis in nearly a century) or who’ll queue to enter Graceland’s latest blockbuster attraction, Elvis Presley’s Memphis.
French fan Jocilyne Bellanttr, interviewed by an American news crew at the opening of the new $45 million, 40 acre visitor centre, probably speaks for many of those who treat a trip to Memphis as something akin to a pilgrimage. “When Elvis died, I said, ‘Well my life is over, my fan club will close and I will be lost’. But after all these years I’m still here, my fan club is still big and it’s a miracle. So to me, I’m living a miracle every day with Elvis.”
Bellanttr’s French Elvis fan club is one of around 400 still in operation around the world, according to The Elvis Presley Fan Club Of Great Britain, which was founded in 1957 and bills itself as “the world’s most respected” Elvis fan club. It has around 10,000 members itself and some 300 are travelling to Memphis for the events marking the 40th anniversary of Presley’s death. Multiply that by every other Elvis fan club worth its leather jumpsuits and, while it probably doesn’t come to 50,000,000, you can appreciate how busy Memphis International Airport will be this week.
But anyone who experienced the visceral thrill of Elvis when he was at his most potent – the mid-1950s – would now be in their late 70s or 80s. So it’s safe to assume that these Elvis fans are more recent converts, drawn not so much to the idea of Elvis the man as to the idea of Elvis the legend or even Elvis the dead showbiz icon. And what draws them to events like Elvis Week, what gives Graceland its title as the most-visited private residence in the world, what makes otherwise sane people fork out $20,000 for five nights in the light-filled Beverly Hills pad Elvis lived in between 1967 and 1973, is the lure of a very particular type of American celebrity – one built on graft and talent, but tinged with something darker and more tawdry.
More than that, these Elvis fans may be drawn to something they cannot quite explain. In his 1991 book Dead Elvis: A Chronicle Of A Cultural Obsession, hawk-eyed critic Greil Marcus dips into what he terms Elvis’s posthumous “second life”, “a great, common conversation, sometimes a conversation between specters [sic] and fans, made out of songs, art works, books, movies, dreams; sometimes more than anything cultural noise, the glossolalia of money, advertisements, tabloid headlines, bestsellers, urban legends, nightclub japes”. In other words, an Elvis constructed from a tissue of supposition, wishful thinking, rumour, conspiracy theory – is he really dead? – and nostalgia.
One thing we can say with certainty is that even 40 years after his death, Elvis is a serious money-spinner. Elvis Presley Enterprises (EPE), founded in 1979 to manage Presley’s estate, controls Graceland and its associated assets, of which Elvis Presley’s Memphis is just the latest. EPE also controls all Elvis-related products, films, television shows, plays and musical ventures and is in turn majority-owned by Authentic Brands Group (ABG), a New York-based brand development and licensing company.
“We are brand owners. Curators. Guardians,” runs the spiel on the ABG website. “We build brand value.” Other icon-related “brands” in ABG’s considerable portfolio include Marilyn Monroe, Muhammad Ali and Michael Jackson. In that sense, the King is in pretty good company – or Monroe, Ali and Jackson are, depending on how you look at it.
What people often forget, though, is the music. But the last few years haven’t been short of weighty box sets to buff the legacy and Elvis completists still snap them up. In 2010, for example, The Complete Elvis Presley Masters was released, a 30 CD set containing all 711 official recordings Presley made. In 2016 a 60 CD box set titled Elvis Presley: The Album Collection was released containing all the material the singer released on the RCA label between 1956 and 1977.
And last month came a more manageable three CD set called Elvis Presley: A Boy From Tupelo – The Complete 1953-1955 Recordings. As well as a containing alternate takes, outtakes, live recordings and early interviews, it features a 120-page book and (get this) a week-by-week chronology of Presley’s movements and activities in the period concerned. “Musical bedrock” was the phrase used by Rolling Stone magazine in a glowing five-star review.
The man behind that last release is Danish Elvis enthusiast and archivist Ernst Mikael Jorgensen. To his mind, you cannot over-stress the importance of Elvis Presley and he thinks that by reducing Presley’s career almost to the length of a tweet – he was in the right place at the right time, made great records in the 1950s, some terrible films in the 1960s and then died in the 1970s from popping pills and gorging on burgers – “you skip most of what’s really interesting along the way”.
“I’m convinced that history needs to be told and retold and retold again,” he said in a recent Los Angeles Times interview. “If nothing else should come through, it’s that we don’t need to go back to [the idea that] Elvis got lucky. He didn’t just get lucky. Chuck Berry didn’t just get lucky. Little Richard didn’t just get lucky. They adjusted to a new form of music that wasn’t like any other form of music. They did something original, something that affected everything that came later.”
It’s 63 years since Presley’s first single That’s All Right, a cover of a 1946 song by African-American blues artist Arthur Big Boy Crudup. “When you listen to that track now, you have to be reminded of how important, how groundbreaking it was,” said Jorgensen’s collaborator on the A Boy From Tupelo project, RCA’s John Jackson, in that same Los Angeles Times interview. “There was a lot of stuff released right around that time that sounds very similar, but to have that song, in that time, sung by that individual in that studio was one of the most important events of the 20th century. It set the stage for everything that followed.”
That’s true. Nobody denies the effect Presley had on the musical landscape of the mid-20th century. But since his death, and despite the continual flow of boxsets repackaging his work, much of his musical legacy has either been obscured by the achievements of those who came after him or simply forgotten about. Elvis may still be The King, but it’s not clear what he is king of or what his relevance is to many people under the age of 40.
Even 13 years after his death that was already starting to become the case. In a 1990 study of eight- and nine-year-olds conducted in a mostly white primary school in Tennessee and cited by Greil Marcus, English professor Charles Wolfe asked the question: do you know who Elvis Presley was? The answers are illuminating. “He was an old guy who was a king somewhere,” said one. “He lives in a big house in Memphis and he only comes out at night,” said another. “He was this guy who sang with his brothers Theodore and Simon,” said a third, confusing Elvis with Alvin, lead singer of 1950s children’s novelty act The Chipmunks.
One problem for Presley’s legacy as an artist is that he didn’t write his own songs. He was given co-writing credits on a few of them, including Love Me Tender, though that was mostly at the behest of his grasping manager, the infamous Colonel Parker. And he certainly put his stamp on any song he recorded, even going so far as to tweak the arrangements. But for modern music fans in thrall to the cult of the singer-songwriter and desperately seeking authenticity in the cultural material they consume, it makes Presley a performer rather than an originator.
The fact that in his early career he often covered songs recorded originally by black artists doesn’t help either. In the age of Spotify and iTunes, when virtually everything is available at the click of a mouse, why listen to Presley’s versions of That’s All Right, Hound Dog or Mystery Train when it’s so easy to find the earlier, earthier, rootsier – and blacker – versions recorded by Arthur Crudup, Big Mama Thornton and Junior Parker respectively?
And while we’re on the subject of anniversaries, last Friday’s Google Doodle was an interactive celebration of the 44th anniversary of the invention of hip-hop – arguably a musical form which is more influential and meaningful today than the rock music that Elvis Presley originated. Ask a group of American eight- and nine-years olds today who Jay-Z is and they’d have no problem telling you.
Likewise, any young teenage rock fan in 2017 would recognise the cover of The Clash’s ground-breaking 1979 album London Calling, with its famous picture of bassist Paul Simenon smashing his instrument. But how many would know that the design was a deliberate homage to Elvis Presley’s equally ground-breaking 1956 debut album?
So back to the opening question: how many Elvis fans are there really and which Elvis is it they relate to? The Elvis that got fat and lost his way, becoming a befuddled, right-wing, anti-Black Panthers gun nut who genuinely thought Richard Nixon would/could make him an undercover agent for the Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs? The Elvis that Andy Warhol turned into a rock and roll cowboy and potent symbol of American rebellion when he used a still from his 1960 western Flaming Star to make a series of Elvis screenprints, one of which – 1963’s Eight Elvises – mimics that 1959 album in its replication of the singer’s image? The Elvis that crooned and hollered on those wonderful early records while Scotty Moore threw out his inimitable guitar licks? The Elvis who played Vegas in a costume that would become the go-to garment for a generation of middle-aged impersonators? Elvis as Christ? As Satan? As Buddha?
The only answers about Elvis’s appeal that Greil Marcus could come up with was that there was no answer, and that seems equally true in the 21st century. “There is a good deal in this book I cannot explain,” he wrote in an introduction to the 1999 paperback edition. “It’s easy enough to understand a dead but evanescent Elvis Presley as a cultural symbol, but what if he – it – is nothing so limited, but a sort of cultural epistemology, a skeleton key to a lock we’ve yet to find?” Elvis made history, he states, but when he died “many people found themselves caught up in the adventure of remaking his history, which is to say their own”.
Here’s a tempting line to end on, then: The King is dead, long live The King. But from a 2017 viewpoint, things aren’t quite as simple as that. For a start, the king is dead and not dead at the same time – and even if his “second life” is as long as that hoary old proclamation wishes it might be, it’ll unspool in a kingdom whose boundaries are continually being eroded and re-drawn.
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Jodi Baker will take a spot on the main stage alongside New York Times Bestselling author Steve Barnes and multiple Emmy Nominated producer and author Deborah Pratt this Saturday.
Jodi Baker, Author of the YA Between Lions Series
SANTA MONICA, Calif. – Aug. 15, 2017 – PRLog — This fall, the 11th Anniversary Leimert Park Village Book Fair returns to Leimert Park and has selected YA Author Jodi Baker to be on a panel at the event. Jodi received praise by the New York Times, Los Angeles Times, and USA Today. Ms. Baker will participate on the panel: Sci Fi and Fantasy R Us: The Rise of Afro-futurism – From Octavia Butler to Black Panther. LPVBF attracts hundreds of fans and readers every year with their selection of celebrities, authors, poets, speakers, storytellers, performers and educational exhibitors. Baker has been fascinating critics with her Between Lions series and has captivated audiences across the nation and internationally. The Arriviste Publication has called Baker “America’s Answer to Harry Potter.”
“Loved the mysticism and magic…..world building made me want to jump in the fight alongside Anna… must read YA”- USA Today
The Leimert Park Village Book Fair is Saturday, August 19, 2017 in Los Angeles. The book fair will run from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on the grounds of the Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Plaza (BHCP), located at 3650 W. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. The family-oriented event is held in the heart of Leimert Park, which is considered the center of the African American arts/intellectual scene in LA. Jodi’s Panel starts promptly at 1:00 p.m.
“Trust, Book I and II are the perfect companions. We need more books like this that take a strong young woman who is faced with many obstacles and comes out shinning on the other side…. Truth took me on a real journey as if I was there, ingenious! This series should be on every young woman’s bookshelf. I can’t wait until I’m covering the film adaptation at Cannes!”- The Los Angeles Times.
“Between Lions is the series to follow!”- The New York Times.
As a child, the only punishment Jodi ever feared was not being allowed her weekly visit to the library. Ms. Baker is a graduate of Carnegie Mellon University and she spent several months performing plays on the island of Cyprus, which was where she fell in love with mythology. When she returned to the U.S.A. Jodi lived in New York City. After a summer of working as a tour guide for the Natural History Museum, Jodi developed an addiction for wandering through all of NYC’s incredible Museums –in particularly, The Met. She also spent many hours sitting between the infamous library lions dreaming up the kinds of books she wanted to create. She happily lives in Los Angeles in a house lined with books instead of wallpaper. In addition to this series, Jodi is working on a middle grade fiction fantasy series. Subscribe to her blog and on follow her on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook. Jodi Baker is represented by Andrea Somberg at Harvey Klinger Literary Agency in New York City and Publicist Miranda Spigener-Sapon at MS Film PR Literary in Los Angeles.
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Juliet Gordon wrote most of the songs on Survival of the Softest, The Classical’s third album, after splitting with her creative and romantic partner Britt Ciampa. This prompted her to dwell on how vulnerability predisposes some people to destruction. “I went through so many endings,” she said. “The way we survive as people who are soft, who open ourselves up to pain — that deserves merit.”
This theme of perseverance, though, belies another significant detail about the album: Survival of the Softest is the final release by The Classical, which will perform for the last time Friday, August 11, at Eli’s Mile High Club in Oakland.
Gordon, 27, says that Survival of the Softest features less of the literary melodrama on Diptych, which the Express dubbed the finest local release of 2014, yet it’s a difference of degree, not kind. The songwriter, whose background is in theater, still thrives on dramatic distance, embodying characters both mythical and contemporary.
Opener “Theme for a Gorgon,” a smoky dirge, suffused with degraded vocal samples, is inspired by the tale of Medusa — a woman brutalized for her beauty, and transformed into a monster. “Uh Oh,” based on dancehall’s diwali rhythm, is a bright mélange of piano and handclaps. It takes up a sturdy pop theme: good-feeling yet ultimately unhealthy relationships. This highlight, lighter and brighter than anything before, perhaps reveals Gordon’s creative inclinations post-Classical.
“The last album, I was trying to do Scott Walker and Death Grips,” she said. “Now, I’m just trying to go in the direction of bouncing rhythms off people’s bodies.”
[embedded content] The Classical started in Colorado Springs, Colorado, and in 2013 Ciampa and Gordon moved to San Francisco. Ciampa’s stuttering, jazz-inflected drumming leant swing to Gordon’s electronic arrangements; their songs assumed shapes befitting the elastic contours of Gordon’s voice. The Classical evinced comic severity and serious play, and Gordon’s winking diva gestures distinguished live sets.
Gordon, who’s since moved to Berkeley, reformed the lineup following Ciampa’s departure last year with the three members of Be Quiet. They wear cut-off black hoodies and headlamps on stage, playing drum pads and midi-controllers like technicians. Gordon remembers reassembling a band as nightmarish, uncomfortably like her administrative day-job. So, when one member decided to move, she opted to dissolve The Classical.
Gordon offered few details of her next band, insisting only that his columnist refer to it as a “super group.”
• • •
Days after administrators at Mills College reversed their plan to dismiss Roscoe Mitchell, the seminal composer and improviser released a two-disc set of bold new music, Bells for the South Side.
In 2015, Mitchell performed a concert series at the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago to celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians — a pioneering collective of Black artists that elevated the philosophy and practice of improvisation.
Mitchell and a fleet of players — Mills colleague William Winant, disciple Tyshawn Sorey, and longtime collaborator Tani Tabbal, among others — used instruments, on display in the galleries, that once belonged to members of the Art Ensemble of Chicago, which the 76-year-old luminary cofounded in 1969.
Yet their performances, captured on Bells for the South Side, reflect none of the nostalgia suggested by the retrospective occasion. Instead Mitchell leads the ensembles through eleven disparate pieces — alternately austere and ecstatic, swarming and spare to the point of disappearance.
Opener “Spatial Aspects of the Sound” is ascetically restrained, with just clusters of notes at listeners’ aural periphery, while “Six Gongs and Two Woodblocks” marshals monstrous intensity. The latter piece pits James Fei’s dour, droning electronics against Mitchell’s wavering saxophone sustain, which relies on his circular breathing skills.
The title track, a reference to Mitchell’s hometown of Chicago, is a reverie of sleigh bells and chimes, evoking a gust of wind through a rustic neighborhood at dusk. “Panoply,” a spirited and skittering highlight, is also the title of an abstract painting by Mitchell, printed on the back of Bells for the South Side’s CD booklet. It’s all earthy, warm colors and kinetic lines, suggestive of teardrops, masks, and outstretched hands.
The fiftieth of the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians meant ample opportunities for Mitchell to perform and discuss his legacy, and Bells for the South Side proves a timely reminder — not least because of his employer’s austerity measures — of his ongoing role as a mentor and vanguard artist.
So did last week’s people of color-centered punk fest The Universe is Lit, considering the organizers adopted an old AACM slogan: “Great Black Music, Ancient to the Future.”
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If you had any doubts that the future of TV is streaming, then let network television queen Shonda Rhimes explain it; On Sunday, Rhimes signed a multi-year deal with Netflix to produce new and original Shondaland shows.
“Shonda Rhimes is one of the greatest storytellers in the history of television,” said Ted Sarandos, Chief Content Officer, Netflix. “Her work is gripping, inventive, pulse-pounding, heart-stopping, taboo-breaking television at its best. I’ve gotten the chance to know Shonda and she’s a true Netflixer at heart — she loves TV and films, she cares passionately about her work, and she delivers for her audience. We’re so excited to welcome her to Netflix.”
One Netflix spokesperson stated pointedly that the company wants to be a home for black artists pushing the boundaries of visual storytelling:
Shonda joins so many of the best black creators in the game that have chosen to call Netflix home, including Spike Lee (Director: She’s Gotta Have it), Ava DuVernay (Director: 13th, Central Park Five), Justin Simien (Director: Dear White People), Dee Rees (Director: Mudbound), Yance Ford (Director: Strong Island) and Marlon Wayans (Producer: Naked).
Netflix offers creators like these something that other networks don’t: complete creative freedom. You can watch pure, unfiltered #BlackGirlMagic / #BlackBoyJoy whenever you want, wherever you want, and on whatever device you want with Netflix.
Netflix currently streams Scandal, Grey’s Anatomy, and How to Get Away With Murder from the Shondaland world, but working with Netflix means Rhimes and her colleagues aren’t restricted by schedules, ratings, or — most importantly — standards and practices. That means Shondaland with swears, Shondaland with uninhibited sex scenes and probably a lot more of that murder everyone gets away with.
It’s going to fantastic.
Current Shondaland shows on ABC will continue to air there, but Rhimes was likely already on her way out of ABC, with a year left in her deal with the network. Last year, she expressed an interest in leaving “traditional TV” with large-batch episode releases or varying episode running times. It was reported in 2016 that ABC was also hunting for more procedurals and live shows rather than traditional scripted drama, which are Rhimes’ specialty.
Lastly: Netflix is PETTY AF. Disney took something from them; they took something from Disney.
“Shondaland’s move to Netflix is the result of a shared plan Ted Sarandos and I built based on my vision for myself as a storyteller and for the evolution of my company,” Rhimes said in the release. “Ted provides a clear, fearless space for creators at Netflix. He understood what I was looking for — the opportunity to build a vibrant new storytelling home for writers with the unique creative freedom and instantaneous global reach provided by Netflix’s singular sense of innovation. The future of Shondaland at Netflix has limitless possibilities.”
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Detroit’s riots began early on the morning of Sunday, July 23, 1967, set off by a police raid on a “blind pig,” local terminology for an illegal club. A combination of tensions, from employment, discrimination, police brutality and increasingly crowded living conditions finally boiled over. Parts of Detroit burned for nearly a week, leaving 43 dead.
“It’s like 9/11,” said Mr. Stone, a Detroit native. “Everyone remembers where they were and what they were doing in 1967 in Detroit.”
The historical museum’s exhibition, “Detroit 67: Perspectives,” has three sections: before, during and after the riots. In the first, timelines, photographs, movies, newspaper clippings and other ephemera plot the growth of Detroit’s black community during the Great Migration, with earlier examples of racial tension highlighted.
In addition to timelines and placards, visitors are exposed to the riots through more immersive displays, including a midcentury living room with TV sets blaring ABC News, and a mock-up of looted 12th Street businesses, including Joe’s Record Shop.
A mock tank is around the corner, its side split open, displays graphic-novel-style montages of residents recounting the riots. Tanks are a common theme. Sounds from the looted shop fronts and TVs compete for attention, a cacophony of smashing glass, crackling fires and panicked news coverage that brings a heart-pounding sense of confusion.
The historical society has also created programming outside the museum, including at the site where the riots began. It has dedicated a historical marker in Gordon Park, which is built over the site of the long-gone club. Curators from all three museums put together the program of events with input from focus groups of locals, academics and activists. The society also coordinated with Brothers Always Together, known as the BATs, a group of African-American men who were children at the time of the riots and have long held a commemorative neighborhood festival on their anniversary.
Aspects of the exhibitions at the Detroit Institute of Arts and the Wright Museum align. Their exhibitions share artists, including Jason H. Phillips, Jeff Donaldson and Wadsworth Jarrell, reflecting the museums’ collaboration. For the institute, that cooperation was an important component in seeking closer ties with African-Americans in the city, a goal of the museum director, Salvador Salort-Pons.
Looking beyond Detroit, the institute’s exhibition, “Art of Rebellion: Black Art of the Civil Rights Movement,” examines the civil rights movement’s artistic impact. Some pieces are influenced by African traditions, and are grouped by various African-American art movements, including Spiral, the Kamoinge Workshop and the Black Arts Movement. The exhibition curator, Valerie Mercer, said she hoped that museum-goers learn how, from the 1960s on, “artists participated in their own way in the civil rights and black power movement.”
Recent works by Detroit artists exemplify this, including Mario Moore’s 2015 “Queen Mother Helen Moore,” painted on shimmering copper and portraying his grandmother, protectively holding photos of her sons. “1967: Death in the Algiers Motel and Beyond,” by the Detroit artist Rita Dickerson, who was 21 during the riots, features the cherubic faces of the three young black men killed in the incident, which is dramatized in Ms. Bigelow’s movie. In Ms. Dickerson’s work, the names of young black men recently killed by the police are juxtaposed with the names of the victims from 1967.
Taking its name from a James Brown song, and with indoor and outdoor components, the Wright’s exhibition, “Say It Loud: Art, History, Rebellion,” is the most conceptually difficult of the three shows in Detroit. Groupings of artworks also highlight contradictions for African-Americans who might fight alongside whites to protect American freedoms, yet still have trouble reaching full equality, according to Erin Falker, an assistant curator at the museum.
Ms. Falker said that they chose to place “Flag for the Moon: Die Nigger” by Faith Ringgold, a distortion of the United States flag from 1969 that spells out the racial epithet in its stripes, across from the khaki-colored “Patriot” by Jeff Donaldson, from 1975, and “Weight” by Mr. Phillips, from 2001. Ms. Falker said the grouping highlighted the remembrance that, on the night of the raid that sparked the riots, the club was having a party for African-American soldiers returning from Vietnam.
One of the most uncomfortable works at the Wright is Sanford Biggers’s 2015 “Laocoön.” The cartoonish, bulbous black male is made from inflatable vinyl and is clothed in a bright orange shirt and bluejeans. He resembles a sleeping Fat Albert, but the museum placard suggests that the work depicts Eric Garner, the black man who died in 2014 after being restrained with a chokehold by the New York City police.
Today’s Black Lives Matter movement is reflected in all three shows. The institute’s final piece is a room almost entirely filled with Adam Pendleton’s 2015 work “Black Lives Matter #3.” The historical museum examines Black Lives Matter and that movement’s use of new media. At the Wright, in Mr. Phillips’s 2015 work “Uneven Fight,” “Black Lives Matter” is tattooed across the chest of a black boxer surrounded by menacing white police figures.
In a Detroit area with changing demographics, the Wright’s collaboration with the institute allows “people to see a much broader perspective of ’67 than they would have if they had just seen one or the other,” the Wright’s president and chief executive, Juanita Moore, said. She said she hoped it might also encourage more white visitors to her museum.
Another goal at all the museums is teaching millennials and other young people to make connections between the past and present. The Wright’s curator of exhibitions, Patrina Chatman, a Detroit native who was a teenager during the riots, said art with Black Lives Matter elements mixed with earlier civil rights references reminds young people that “history is repeating itself.”
Ms. Chatman added, “This occurred and pay attention, because it can happen again.” The question she wants all museum visitors to ask themselves is “how can we move forward” in racial understanding, in Detroit and throughout the United States?