The film world is hard for women directors

(K. Brent Tomer),

WOMEN directors are thinly represented at the Cannes film festival, though with three in competition out of 19 entries, this was a good year. Only one woman has won the top prize, the Palme d’Or—Jane Campion for “The Piano” in 1993 (and she shared that year’s award). “Seventy years of Cannes, 76 Palmes d’Or, only one of which has gone to a woman. No comment,” Isabelle Huppert, a French actress, declared coolly at the festival.

This year’s prize could well have been the second, and maybe should have been. The Palme d’Or winner, “The Square”, a satire on the art world by Ruben Östlund, received mixed reviews. Sofia Coppola took the festival’s prize for best director for her entry, “The Beguiled”, becoming only the second woman to win that award.

But it was another woman, Lynne Ramsay, from Glasgow, who gave the festival perhaps its most memorable film. Ms Ramsay was editing her entry, “You Were Never Really Here”, until just before…Continue reading

via K. Brent Tomer CFTC The film world is hard for women directors


Why “Eugene Onegin” resonates in Charleston

(K. Brent Tomer),

IT WAS a sweltering evening in Charleston, South Carolina, but snow was falling inside the Gaillard Centre. The performance of “Eugene Onegin” on May 26th transported its audience to an estate in tsarist Russia and then, in the final act of Tchaikovsky’s opera, to St Petersburg. Consider the venue and the setting closely, though, and the mental journey becomes shorter than the weather made it seem.

“Onegin”, directed by Chen Shi-Zheng, was the opening showpiece of the Spoleto Festival USA: an annual arts extravaganza, featuring top-notch music and theatre, which this year runs until June 11th. Like St Petersburg, Charleston, the festival’s base, was once home to a storied aristocracy, members of which flocked to the city from their estates for grand balls. In both, the opulent lifestyles were supported by the backbreaking labour of others, serfs in Russia (until 1861), slaves in the American South. Mythologies have evolved around both of these compromised leisure classes, involving pageantry and elegance, gallantry and, as…Continue reading

via K. Brent Tomer CFTC Why “Eugene Onegin” resonates in Charleston

Realism, Indian cinema’s parallel success story

(K. Brent Tomer),

ONE country alone made a staggering 2,336 feature films in 2016. Big budgets, showmanship and flair have made India’s film industry, Bollywood, a behemoth. Not only is Hollywood’s penetration less than 10% of the Indian market, but Bollywood is also predicted to grow by 11% this year. But Bollywood is not synonymous with Indian cinema; South Asian filmmaking has a long heritage as varied as the region itself, with its alternative success story in Indian realism. India’s realists eschew Bollywood’s formulaic plots, melodrama and escapism, handling complicated real-life themes within simple stories and artistic camera work. Realism is now taking bolder leaps than its costly sister industry—and its social seriousness is grabbing first-time Indian filmmakers and youth audiences.

India’s 100-year film history spans colonialism, independence,…Continue reading

via K. Brent Tomer CFTC Realism, Indian cinema’s parallel success story

The worst idea the Beatles ever had

(K. Brent Tomer),

AS JUNE nears, baby boomers—and not only boomers—are commemorating the fiftieth anniversary of one of the biggest events in popular music history. The 60s were a febrile decade that began with “Itsy Bitsy Teeny Weeny Yellow Polka-Dot Bikini” and ended with “Led Zeppelin II”. But critic after critic has ranked one album one of the most important, if not the best, of all time: “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band”. Before, the 1960s were Kennedy, and after, they were Woodstock. John Lennon and Paul McCartney’s songwriting reached new imaginative heights. It wasn’t George Harrison’s most productive album, but fans of his Indian work still admire “Within You, Without You”. Ringo Starr even pitched in with his most beloved ever vocal on “With A Little Help From My Friends”. 

So as the memories roll round—Liverpool is planning weeks of celebrations—the visual iconography of the album will be everywhere, prompting a question that can’t be…Continue reading

via K. Brent Tomer CFTC The worst idea the Beatles ever had

Why translators have the blues

(K. Brent Tomer),

TRANSLATION can be lonely work, which may well be why most translators choose the career out of interest, not because they crave attention. Until recently, a decent translator could expect a steady, tidy living, too. But the industry is undergoing a wrenching change that will make life hard for the timid.

Most translators are freelancers, and with the rise of the internet a good translator could live in Kentucky and work for Swiss banks. But going online has resulted in fierce global competition that has put enormous downward pressure on prices. Translators can either hustle hard for more or better-paid work—which means spending less time translating—or choose an agency that fights for the work for them, but which also takes a cut.

The alternative to schmoozing oneself or working with an agency is to market one’s skills in online marketplaces. But these display the most relentless price pressure of all: fees as low as $13-15 per 1,000 words translated are not unknown….Continue reading

via K. Brent Tomer CFTC Why translators have the blues

An economist’s bleak view of the future of globalisation

(K. Brent Tomer),

America’s helping hands

Grave New World: The End of Globalisation, the Return of History. By Stephen King. Yale University Press; 290 pages; $30 and £20.

GLOBALISATION is not new. In the late 19th century capital moved freely across the world and goods crossed national borders (despite tariffs) with the help of cheap transport. People, too, migrated across the oceans on a proportionately far bigger scale than they do today. All that came to a dramatic end with the outbreak of the first world war.

Trade did not recover its share of world GDP until the 1960s. But after the Berlin Wall fell in 1989, it became tempting to believe in a kind of “Whig theory of globalisation” with economies growing ever more linked thanks to the internet and the spread of liberal capitalism. Perhaps the world is due for another change of trend. That is the view of Stephen King, an economist at HSBC, which, as it happens, is one of the most…Continue reading

via K. Brent Tomer CFTC An economist’s bleak view of the future of globalisation

The deadliest disease in history

(K. Brent Tomer),

Pale Rider: The Spanish Flu of 1918 and How it Changed the World. By Laura Spinney. Jonathan Cape; 282 pages; £20. To be published in America by PublicAffairs in September; $28.

BY EARLY 1920, nearly two years after the end of the first world war and the first outbreak of Spanish flu, the disease had killed as many as 100m people— more than both world wars combined. Yet few would name it as the biggest disaster of the 20th century. Some call it the “forgotten flu”. Almost a century on, “Pale Rider”, a scientific and historic account of Spanish flu, addresses this collective amnesia.

Influenza, like all viruses, is a parasite. Laura Spinney traces its long shadow over human history; records are patchy and uncertain, but Hippocrates’s “Cough of Perinthus” in 412BC may be its first written description. Influenza-shaped footprints can be traced down the centuries: the epidemic that struck during Rome’s siege of Syracuse in 212BC; the…Continue reading

via K. Brent Tomer CFTC The deadliest disease in history

How to find out what people really think

(K. Brent Tomer),

Everybody Lies: Big Data, New Data, and What the Internet Can Tell Us About Who We Really Are. By Seth Stephens-Davidowitz. Dey Street; 288 pages; $27.99. To be published in Britain by Bloomsbury in July; £20.

TO MANY people Big Data is less shiny than it was a year ago. After Hillary Clinton’s defeat at the hands of Donald Trump, her vaunted analytics team took much of the blame for failing to spot warnings in the midwestern states that cost her the presidency. But according to research by Seth Stephens-Davidowitz, a former data scientist at Google, Mrs Clinton’s real mistake was not to rely too much on newfangled statistics, but rather too little.

Mrs Clinton used the finest number-crunchers. But their calculations still relied largely on traditional sources, such as voter files and polls. In contrast, Mr Stephens-Davidowitz turned to a novel form of data: Google searches. In particular, he counted the frequency of queries for the word…Continue reading

via K. Brent Tomer CFTC How to find out what people really think

Rachel Seiffert shines a new light on the holocaust

(K. Brent Tomer),

A Boy in Winter. By Rachel Seiffert. Virago; 237 pages; £14.99. To be published in America by Pantheon in August; $25.95.

HALFWAY through Rachel Seiffert’s new novel, when the SS death squad starts shooting, most readers will shudder. They all know, they think, what is coming: not just a gruesome depiction of the Nazis’ murderous campaign against European Jews, but the Holocaust narrative itself, by now a well-stocked shelf. It is a mark of Ms Seiffert’s gifts that her slender tale, “A Boy in Winter”, upends these expectations.

Here, Ms Seiffert, a British writer of German-Australian origins, returns to the subject of “The Dark Room”, her bestselling first book. As before, she focuses on the small and particular to evoke this largest of historical crimes.

In November 1941 a Ukranian town is the site of both a brutal roundup of the Jewish population and the building of a highway…Continue reading

via K. Brent Tomer CFTC Rachel Seiffert shines a new light on the holocaust

Why women excel in podcasting

(K. Brent Tomer),

BROADCAST radio’s relationship with women’s voices has always been complicated. In the early days of the BBC, women were not allowed to be announcers or newsreaders. In the 1980s, Linda Wertheimer, Nina Totenberg and Cokie Roberts, three high-profile broadcasters at America’s National Public Radio, were nicknamed the “Fallopian Troika” by male colleagues. And as recently as 2015, “This American Life” devoted a segment to the strange phenomenon in which listeners were complaining about young female presenters and their “vocal fry” (a low creaky vibration, usually at the ends of words and phrases, occurring when vocal cords flutter) even though the habit was just as common among the men on the show.

With shows such as “IT Conversations” (which ran from June 2003 until December 2012), podcasts began life as a favourite pastime for software developers and nerdy tech-obsessed men. But now, the medium is providing women space to take the lead. One example on the production side is Jenna Weiss Berman, the founder of…Continue reading

via K. Brent Tomer CFTC Why women excel in podcasting