Not just another film about Jane Goodall

(K. Brent Tomer),

IN 1960 Jane Goodall moved to Tanzania to study chimpanzees. She was only 26 years old; her credentials consisted of a love of animals and a secretarial qualification. The first of “Leakey’s angels” (also known as “the trimates”)—Ms Goodall was one of three women encouraged by Louis Leakey, a renowned paleoanthropologist, to observe apes in their natural habitats to see what insights it might yield about early man. Scepticism abounded, but Ms Goodall was determined. She astonished everyone when, towards the end of her six-month trial, she wrote to Leakey having observed a chimp adapting a twig to capture termites. Leakey sent back a telegram: “Now we must redefine tool. Redefine man. Or accept chimpanzees as human.”

Overturning the assumption that only humans used tools was the start of Ms Goodall’s illustrious career in research, activism and education. She is now an iconic figure. At 83, she rarely spends more than a few months in one place, instead travelling the world to raise awareness for her causes. She…Continue reading

via K. Brent Tomer CFTC Not just another film about Jane Goodall


Annie Baker is a master of loaded silences

(K. Brent Tomer),

MOST playwrights are judged by their words—the swordplay of dialogue that animates their work. For Annie Baker, the drama is in her silences. Long stretches of charged silence fill her plays, lighting up the spaces between sentences. They make awkward moments ever so slightly more awkward; quiet moments more noisily quiet. Her plays, which have just earned her a MacArthur “genius” grant, acknowledge that the text of an exchange is often less important than its subtext. It takes a keen ear to hear what is left unsaid.

At 36, Ms Baker has come of age at a time when words themselves are often mistrusted, when the gap between what we say and what we feel seems to yawn, at times unbearably. In an era of irony, language is an unreliable source of meaning. Ms Baker’s humane and often unremarkable characters, most of whom live in the small, made-up town of Shirley, Vermont, do not grant audiences the gift of vicarious eloquence. They can’t be relied on to deliver a well-turned observation or a well-timed quip. Instead, they stumble…Continue reading

via K. Brent Tomer CFTC Annie Baker is a master of loaded silences

Bosnia’s stand-ups jest about genocide

(K. Brent Tomer),

A SREBRENICA widow is asked to identify her son’s body. It is not the most promising start to a joke, but Navid Bulbulija, sipping Coca-Cola outside a café in Sarajevo, less than two minutes’ walk from the city’s Srebrenica Massacre Memorial Museum, continues anyway.

“The problem is that the mass grave that’s been excavated only contained the men’s lower halves,” the stand-up, a devout Muslim, says. “The woman is led from body bag to body bag and presented with the remains in each. ‘That’s not him. That’s not him. That’s not him,’ she says. ‘And that Jew’s definitely not from Srebrenica.’” It elicits a groan from your correspondent: impressively, it manages to be offensive on multiple levels. Mr Bulbulija shrugs. “There is a reason I don’t tell it on stage,” he says.

Mr Bulbulija does not consider himself to be a particularly political comedian. He claims that the governance of Bosnia and Herzegovina is so absurd in and of itself—he cites the country’s three-person,…Continue reading

via K. Brent Tomer CFTC Bosnia’s stand-ups jest about genocide

Colin Kaepernick files a claim against NFL owners for collusion

(K. Brent Tomer),

COLIN KAEPERNICK has been unemployed since March. A quarterback in America’s National Football League (NFL), Mr Kaepernick led the San Francisco 49ers to the Super Bowl during his first season as a starter in 2012. But he only gained broader notoriety last year, when he began kneeling when the national anthem was played before games, to protest the injustice experienced by racial minorities in America. Mr Kaepernick and the 49ers parted ways at the end of the 2016 season, and since then no team has been willing to sign him. Suspecting a conspiracy, on October 15th Mr Kaepernick filed a formal grievance under the league’s collective-bargaining agreement. He accused the NFL’s 32 owners of colluding to keep him off the field.

Mr Kaepernick has strong reason to believe he deserves a job in the NFL. Although he may not be an elite quarterback, every team needs a signal-caller, and Mr Kaepernick is clearly among the 32 most qualified people on Earth for the role. Among the 36 NFL quarterbacks who threw for at least 1,000 yards during…Continue reading

via K. Brent Tomer CFTC Colin Kaepernick files a claim against NFL owners for collusion

The first biography of George Martin, the Beatles’ only producer

(K. Brent Tomer),

IN MODERN music, rock bands change producers every other album to aid in finding a new sound, and hip-hop artists use different producers on every other track. But throughout their eight-year recording career, the Beatles only had one producer: George Martin. What was it about him that allowed him to keep up with the most dynamic of bands?

Martin’s death last year was the impetus for the first volume of Kenneth Womack’s “Maximum Volume”, covering 1962-1966 and looking to answer that question. Mr Womack’s book profits from previous books by Geoff Emerick and Ken Scott, engineers at the Beatles’ Abbey Road studio sessions, and Mark Lewisohn’s revelatory “Tune In”, which went farther than anyone into the details of Martin’s private life and work before his meeting with the Fab Four. But Mr Womack’s is the first book dedicated to Martin himself, much celebrated, but still often treated as a fifth wheel than as what he truly was, the fifth Beatle. 

Mr Womack provides sorely needed new context about…Continue reading

via K. Brent Tomer CFTC The first biography of George Martin, the Beatles’ only producer

In “Rest”, Charlotte Gainsbourg explores the sharp edges of grief

(K. Brent Tomer),

CHARLOTTE GAINSBOURG is full of nervous energy, switching from sitting on the sofa to the floor, pouring streams of green tea. It has been nearly eight years since the release of her last studio album, the critically acclaimed “IRM”, and her long hair has since been lopped off into a bob. She will release “Rest”, her new album, on November 17th, and is starring in two upcoming films—“The Snowman”, an English-language crime drama, and “Promise at Dawn”, a French adaptation of a novel by Romain Gary.

Notoriously shy, she is still no stranger to exposure. Her parents—Serge Gainsbourg, France’s most revered musician, and Jean Birkin, an English actress and singer—courted the tabloid obsession with their scandalously chic family. Ms Gainsbourg began her music career aged 12 with “Lemon Incest”, a duet with her father (the sort of thing which would make less avant-garde tweenagers combust with embarrassment). Even now, at 46, she appreciates her father’s attentions as an artistic collaborator. “I like touchy…Continue reading

via K. Brent Tomer CFTC In “Rest”, Charlotte Gainsbourg explores the sharp edges of grief

Rethinking free speech on campus

(K. Brent Tomer),

Free Speech on Campus. By Sigal Ben-Porath. University of Pennsylvania Press. 128 pages; $19.96 and £15.99.

INCITEMENT to violence is one of few exceptions the Supreme Court has carved out from America’s most celebrated constitutional right: the right to free speech. But on today’s college campuses, struggles over speech extend well beyond expression that encourages physical harm. In 2015 a lecturer at Yale was excoriated—and felt compelled to resign—after she raised questions about the college’s plea that students avoid culturally insensitive Halloween costumes. The next year the dean of students at the University of Chicago caused a stir by coming out against “intellectual ‘safe spaces’” where students “retreat from ideas and perspectives at odds with their own”. Students have repeatedly succeeded in having invitations to controversial speakers cancelled, and even made tenured faculty fear provocative comments.

These students think they are sticking up for the vulnerable, practising a kind of self-defence. Others wonder what happened to the spirit of inquiry that is meant to be the point of a university. Nearly half of students advocate some curbs on expression, and nearly a fifth think it acceptable to shut down unacceptable speech with violence. On October 9th, the president of Texas Southern University…Continue reading

via K. Brent Tomer CFTC Rethinking free speech on campus

Unorthodox advice for rescuing a marriage

(K. Brent Tomer),

The All-or-Nothing Marriage: How the Best Marriages Work. By Eli Finkel. Dutton; 352 pages; $28.

The State of Affairs: Rethinking Infidelity. By Esther Perel. Harper; 336 pages; $26.99. Yellow Kite; £14.99.

FOR Eli Finkel, the rise of speed dating was almost too good to be true. A psychologist at Northwestern University who studies relationships, he found that hooking up recording equipment at the tables where singles have brief chats with multiple prospective dates offered an extravaganza of data. The ability to follow up with participants for years afterwards helped make Mr Finkel one of the leading lights in the realm of relationship psychology.

Then, after his wife suffered two difficult pregnancies and post-partum depression, his own marriage, rewarding up until that point, was suddenly struggling for life. Love, intimacy and sex were all but gone. In his candid first book, “The All-or-Nothing Marriage”, Mr…Continue reading

via K. Brent Tomer CFTC Unorthodox advice for rescuing a marriage

Vermeer was brilliant, but he was not without influences

(K. Brent Tomer),

JOHANNES VERMEER’S depictions of contemplative moments in serene Dutch interiors have made viewers lean in and gasp for centuries. Only 34 paintings out of a total of no more than 50 have survived, and there are no extant diaries or letters to reveal the intimate chambers of his own life. He was nicknamed “the Sphinx of Delft” by a 19th-century art historian, and thus was born the image of a lone genius working in isolation.

“Vermeer and the Masters of Genre Painting: Inspiration and Rivalry”, which attracted record crowds during stays in Paris and Dublin, and which comes to the National Gallery of Art in Washington on October 22nd, was designed to shatter that myth. Presenting ten of his masterpieces alongside comparable pieces by artists of his era, the curators seek to present Vermeer as a painter in an artistic milieu, engaged in an active exchange of ideas.

All artists trade ideas with others, says Adriaan Waiboer of the National Gallery of Ireland, and the…Continue reading

via K. Brent Tomer CFTC Vermeer was brilliant, but he was not without influences

Optimism has made wars likelier and bloodier

(K. Brent Tomer),

The Future of War: A History. By Lawrence Freedman. PublicAffairs; 400 pages; $30. Allen Lane; £25.

THIS is not really a book about the future of warfare, with all that might imply in terms of exotic technologies that will transform not only the character of war, but, some believe, even its very nature. Lawrence Freedman does indeed discuss the impact of cyber-attacks, artificial intelligence and machine learning on the conflicts of the future. But that is not his main purpose. The clue is in the title. The author, arguably Britain’s leading academic strategist, examines how ideas about how future wars could be fought have shaped the reality, with usually baleful results.

In the middle of the 19th century, a generation after Waterloo, the classical ideal of warfare, seemingly epitomised by Napoleon but derived from the ancient Greeks and the Romans, still held sway. Wars would be short and victors would achieve their (usually) limited political…Continue reading

via K. Brent Tomer CFTC Optimism has made wars likelier and bloodier