Chatty women and strong, silent men

(K. Brent Tomer),

UBER was having a bad week: accusations of sexism in the ride-hailing company had turned it from a Silicon Valley “unicorn” into something more of an ogre. Matters were not helped by a board meeting to discuss the mess. Arianna Huffington, a director, cited research showing that the likelihood of a board bringing on a woman is higher if it already has at least one female member. David Bonderman, her colleague, quipped that this would just mean more talking. He later apologised and quit.

Some might quietly grumble that, rude or not, Mr Bonderman had a point. It is widely thought in the West that women talk more than men. One popular-science book called “The Female Brain” said they use three times as many words per day as men. Maybe that is why senators kept interrupting Kamala Harris, a Californian senator, during her questioning of Jeff Sessions, America’s attorney-general, at a hearing on June 13th. Or why Jim Holt, hosting a panel on cosmology at a science festival in New York,…Continue reading

via K. Brent Tomer CFTC Chatty women and strong, silent men

The rise of performance art

(K. Brent Tomer),

Have you heard about the latest thing?

IN THE medieval town hall of the small Westphalian city of Münster, Alexandra Pirici, a young Romanian artist, prepares to tell a story. Word has gone out that she has something special to say; people have been queuing for hours to get in. As things get under way, her six performers give short occasional statements: how long since the shooting of a man crossing the Berlin Wall, how far to the edge of our galaxy. The actors use their bodies to create shapes reminiscent of collapsing monuments, commemorative sculptures and famous posters, moving among the rooms of the Rathaus, singing all the while. The audience is mesmerised. This is a piece of performance art at Skulptur Projekte Münster (SPM), a festival that takes place once a decade, designed to present cutting-edge contemporary sculpture, though this is not sculpture in the conventional sense. The artist describes the performers as “human search engines”.

This…Continue reading

via K. Brent Tomer CFTC The rise of performance art

South Korea like you’ve never seen it

(K. Brent Tomer),

Familiar Things. By Hwang Sok-yong. Translated by Sora Kim-Russell. Scribe; 216 pages; £12.99. 

The Impossible Fairy Tale. By Han Yujoo. Translated by Janet Hong. Graywolf Press; 225 pages; $16. Tilted Axis; £8.99. 

IN THE mega-cities of Asia and Africa, from Cairo to Manila, urban sprawl throws up trash mountains where enterprising slum-dwellers gather a bare living collecting recyclable junk. Seoul, South Korea’s spruce high-rise capital, no longer looks like such a place. However, Hwang Sok-yong has to travel back just one generation, to the time of Super Mario console games and early Star Wars films, to tell a story about the garbage-pickers of the so-called Flower Island. In his novel “Familiar Things”, on a squalid landfill site outside Seoul amid “towering mounds” of waste, 6,000 people sift and sell the rubbish ferried from the booming city in convoys of…Continue reading

via K. Brent Tomer CFTC South Korea like you’ve never seen it

Barbershops as confessionals, newsrooms and therapists

(K. Brent Tomer),

A YOUNG actor settles into a chair and tells the barber he is nervous: he has an audition for the part of “a strong, black man”. The barber laughs and tells him he is overqualified, but the actor is convinced that he won’t fit their notion of masculinity: he doesn’t know what the description entails. The barber asks what his father thinks. “Never really knew him” comes the reply; there were no uncles or other male role models, only his mother. “Jesus” mutters the barber. “No, not him either.” 

This is a snapshot of the humour with which “The Barbershop Chronicles” tackles hefty subjects. Written by Inua Ellams, a Nigerian-born British poet, it is a piercing examination of black masculinity as seen through a prism of barbershops in Accra, Harare, Lagos, Kampala, Johannesburg and London.  Mr Ellams once described himself as a “Muslim-Christian, Libra-Scorpio, Irish-English-Nigerian skinny, black immigrant” and so his play—perhaps unsurprisingly—is very much concerned with identity and…Continue reading

via K. Brent Tomer CFTC Barbershops as confessionals, newsrooms and therapists

“The Big Sick” feels awfully familiar

(K. Brent Tomer),

IF you have visited a comedy club at any point in the past two decades, you have probably heard some variation of the same joke. “My parents don’t understand why I want to be a comedian,” it begins—then the stand-up does an impression of their immigrant parents yelling at them in an exaggerated accent. It’s an easy bit that usually garners laughs, but there isn’t really a joke there. It is the sort of thing that Kumail Nanjiani—as someone “eager to avoid being known as an immigrant comedian”—typically tries to avoid.  

Yet “The Big Sick”, a new film based on the story of his life, plays like an extended version of this half-baked bit about negotiating the world as a second-generation immigrant. Ostensibly about a Pakistani-American paying his dues as a comic and searching for love, the film inevitably touches upon the tensions between him and his parents, who want him to adhere to more traditional values….Continue reading

via K. Brent Tomer CFTC “The Big Sick” feels awfully familiar

Will the US Open be remembered for Brooks Koepka or Erin Hills?

(K. Brent Tomer),

IF, many years from now, you ask a golf aficionado what name their memory conjures from the US Open of 2017, it might not be that of the victor. Brooks Koepka, a burly 28-year-old from Florida, earned his first major title on June 19th after triumphing in America’s oldest championship. But the lingering protagonist could well be Erin Hills—that is, the course in the wetlands of Wisconsin on which Mr Koepka returned his trophy-winning scorecard of 16 under par, four better than his nearest challenger and the joint-best tally in the competition’s history. Younger fans of the future, while perusing the honours board, might spot Mr Koepka’s score-to-par and assume that he had played four rounds of god-like golf, up there with the best of Jack Nicklaus or the late Arnold Palmer. Some greyer heads in the clubhouse would disagree, grumbling about an easy course. Who would be right?

The youngsters could point out that the US Open has generally been…Continue reading

via K. Brent Tomer CFTC Will the US Open be remembered for Brooks Koepka or Erin Hills?

Italy’s enduring love affair with Emilio Salgari

(K. Brent Tomer),

LAST month, Neapolitan anti-mafia investigators announced plans to indict Francesco “Sandokan” Schiavone, a local gangster, for the killing of a policeman in 1989. Naples has long been used to Mr Schiavone and his ilk: he is already in jail for murder, along with dozens of his colleagues. What distinguishes Mr Schiavone is his nickname. “Sandokan” was first conjured by Emilio Salgari, a writer who died over a century ago. That his most famous character is still considered relevant hints at his influence.

Born in Verona in 1862, Salgari led a sad and quietly dramatic life. Although he was prodigious—writing more than 200 novels and stories in his short life—and popular, Salgari struggled with poverty. He was also crippled by personal tragedy: his wife was sent to an asylum, and his father committed suicide. Salgari eventually took his own life, disembowelling himself in the style of a Japanese samurai. “You have kept me and my family in semi-penury,” he wrote to his publisher. “I salute you as I break my…Continue reading

via K. Brent Tomer CFTC Italy’s enduring love affair with Emilio Salgari