Harry Potter makes an enchanting transition from page to stage

(K. Brent Tomer),

This article contains minor plot details of “Harry Potter and the Cursed Child”

“PEOPLE say parenting is the hardest job in the world,” Draco Malfoy declares. “It isn’t. Growing up is.” For a few hours in London, in the dark, swirling furnishings of the Palace Theatre, audiences can return to childhood days when choices between light and dark, friend and foe, sacrifice and selfishness, were easily made—while cosily wrapped up and reading. The first “Harry Potter” story appeared in 1997; millions have queued outside bookshops and cinemas since. The faithful will be enchanted by “Harry Potter and the Cursed Child”, a two-part, five-hour play and a tale of generational strife in the Potter and Malfoy clans set 19 years after the seventh and final book.

The play opens its doors on July 30th—the day before the hero’s 36th birthday and the 51st of his creator, J.K. Rowling. That makes Harry a millennial (just). Unlike his muggle (non-wizard) peers, Harry hasn’t had to struggle with student debt and housing costs (magic, was it?): he married when barely out of his teens. Two of his three…Continue reading

via K. Brent Tomer CFTC Harry Potter makes an enchanting transition from page to stage

Playing it long

(K. Brent Tomer),

The Long Game: How Obama Defied Washington and Redefined America’s Role in the World. By Derek Chollet. PublicAffairs; 247 pages; $26.99 and £17.99.

WHEN Barack Obama comes to write his memoirs they will no doubt be an elegantly persuasive account of the ideas that guided his presidency. Until then “The Long Game”, Derek Chollet’s apologia for what he sees as Mr Obama’s distinctive approach to grand strategy, is likely to be the closest that anyone will come to understanding the thinking behind a foreign policy that has many critics.

Having served in senior positions in the State Department, the National Security Council and the Pentagon, Mr Chollet has been close to the action throughout the Obama years. His contention is that the foreign-policy establishment in Washington (of which he admits to having been a “card-carrying member for over two decades”) has underestimated the extent of Mr Obama’s achievement. Policymakers at home lambast Mr Obama for having overlearned the lessons of Iraq, for his extreme caution and aversion to the use of America’s hard power in support of global order and for an…Continue reading

via K. Brent Tomer CFTC Playing it long

Mean girls

(K. Brent Tomer),

The Girls. By Emma Cline. Random House; 355 pages; $27. Chatto & Windus; £12.99.

IN AN essay called “The White Album” Joan Didion once wrote: “Many people…believe that the Sixties ended abruptly on August 9, 1969.” Indeed for some, the night of the Manson murders, which were orchestrated by Charles Manson, a charismatic cult leader, and then violently acted out by his “family” of followers, marked the brutal end to a decade of peace and freedom. But to others, the murders were instead a symbol for 1960s America, emblematic of the Vietnam war, growing social unrest and the psychosis of the times.

Since then, people’s fascination with the Manson crimes has far from diminished. For Emma Cline, a young American writer born long after the killings, the legacy of the Manson murders hangs heavy in the air of her debut, “The Girls”. A compelling novel, it traces one teenage girl’s summer spent in a Californian cult (not unlike that of the Manson clan), exploring how the ties of sisterhood can inextricably unite—and divide—adolescent girls for ever.

Bought as part of a three-book deal…Continue reading

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Liberal blues

(K. Brent Tomer),

AMERICAN politics reached one of its quadrennial high points this month, as the two major parties met to nominate their candidates for president. Amid the hoo-hah, one word was curiously in abeyance. “Liberalism” is disappearing in America—and elsewhere.

Once “liberalism” was the proud banner of the Democrats—and the bogeyman of Republicans. Pat Buchanan, an insurgent Republican conservative, declared a “cultural war” against “liberals and radicals” in a rousing convention speech in 1992. Frank Luntz, a Republican consultant, advised Republicans to use words like “liberal”, “sick”, “corrupt” and “traitors” together, to tarnish the Democrats.

Older liberals still embrace the term: Paul Krugman, an economist, blogs for the New York Times under the banner “The Conscience of a Liberal”, and Thomas Frank has written a book called “Listen, Liberal” chiding Democrats for losing sight of the working class. But the young American left increasingly prefers a different label. When Hillary Clinton introduced Tim Kaine, her choice for vice-president, in an e-mail, she knew the word eager…Continue reading

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Fanfare

(K. Brent Tomer),

First of the big spenders

The Games: A Global History of the Olympics. By David Goldblatt. W.W. Norton; 516 pages; $29.95. Macmillan; £20.

IN 1892, Baron de Coubertin, a French educator and historian, called for the restoration of the Olympic games, hoping that they would promote peace and also help achieve his decidedly conservative political aims. De Coubertin considered the games a way to promote ideals of manliness. He argued that women’s sport was “the most unaesthetic sight human eyes could contemplate” and that the games should be reserved for men.

The Olympics have always been intertwined with politics, as David Goldblatt shows in an elegant and ambitious new study. The International Olympic Committee (IOC) has never wavered from its underlying conservatism. Taiwan preserved its place in the Olympics far longer than it did in the United Nations. Ludicrously, the IOC maintained the “hypocritical and ultimately forlorn” pretence of amateurism until 1988—even as Soviet athletes were amateurs in name only. And from 1928 until 1968, there were no women’s races of more…Continue reading

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Playing outside the box

(K. Brent Tomer),

Hell of a wardrobe

“JAZZ isn’t dead,’’ Frank Zappa once said, “it just smells funny.” If he were around today, Zappa might point to the music of a London-based trio, The Comet Is Coming, with its curious scent. At the Montreal International Jazz Festival earlier this month, the fiery saxophone of Shabaka Hutchings, Dan Leavers’s pulsating synthesiser and Maxwell Hallett’s arresting percussion dazzled an audience with its mash-up of jazz and cosmic sounds. Halfway through the show, some entranced listeners rose from their seats and danced to a tune perfect for a rave. The trio calls its music “apocalyptic space funk”. More important, Mr Leavers adds, is the group’s goal: like a comet it “travels through distant galaxies exploring musical concepts”.

Jazz is evolving with the help of a new breed of musicians who are creating an innovative sound that challenges convention and defies categorisation. After originating from the streets and clubs of New Orleans in the late 1800s, the art form produced subgenres such as Dixieland, Afro-Cuban jazz, swing and bebop. Along the way, some purists scolded…Continue reading

via K. Brent Tomer CFTC Playing outside the box

Superstar Rajini, India’s doughy, bald megahero

(K. Brent Tomer),

HE DEFLECTS bullets off his palm, catches grenades blindfolded, whips up a dust-storm with a whirl of his leg and hurls a bottle to kill the villain from a mile away. Meet Shivaji Rao Gaekwad, better known as Rajinikanth, or simply Rajini, a bigger-than-life Indian film star, revered by legions of fans across the country.

On July 22nd just before dawn, his well-wishers flocked to a temple in Mumbai to pray for the success of his new film, “Kabali”, a Tamil-language thriller set in Malaysia. In Chennai, Rajinikanth’s hometown, shows ran almost round-the-clock from 4.00am. In some cinemas, the audience performed a ritual by burning camphor inside a sliced pumpkin before smashing it near the screen when the words “Superstar Rajini” appeared.

His devotees fling garlands, coins and even banknotes when he makes an entrance on-screen, back or boot first. They dance in the aisles and bathe his posters with milk and honey. “It is our way to show respect,” says Sumukh SP, a diehard fan at Urvashi, a single-screen theatre in Bangalore which erupts every time Rajini delivers a line or when thugs dare insult him. The…Continue reading

via K. Brent Tomer CFTC Superstar Rajini, India's doughy, bald megahero