Why Turkish students are turning to speculative fiction

(K. Brent Tomer),

IN CAFES outside Istanbul University, students pore over a glossy leaflet. It is not one of the many political pamphlets being distributed ahead of the presidential and parliamentary elections on June 24th; inside are not campaign promises, but stories of fantasy fiction set in supernatural or imaginary worlds. 

Since the attempted military coup in July 2016, the suppression of freedom of expression has swept through Turkey’s universities. Nearly 5,000 academics were dismissed; books, many written by prominent political journalists, were confiscated. At Istanbul University, common areas have been closed, political gatherings are forbidden and students are obliged to attend classes in shifts to reduce mingling. There was a temporary ban on students entering faculty buildings other than their own. In April a bill submitted to parliament proposed splitting up the university. One professor called it an attempt at control through a “divide and rule policy”.

In this difficult climate, speculative fiction has thrived as students turn to…Continue reading

via K. Brent Tomer CFTC Why Turkish students are turning to speculative fiction

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Can Russia’s national football team emerge from its recent slump?

(K. Brent Tomer),

ON JUNE 14th Russia kicked off its home World Cup with a thumping 5-0 win. Few of the 78,011 delighted fans at Moscow’s Luzhniki Stadium cared that the opponents, Saudi Arabia, had the lowest-ranked squad at the tournament, according to most forecasters. Nor did they worry about “expected goals”—a statistic that estimates how often a team would have scored and conceded on average, given the quality of its chances. Number-crunchers suggested that the most probable margin would have been about 2-0. Most commentators dwelt instead on a pair of outrageous curling strikes by Denis Cheryshev and Aleksandr Golovin. 

The win gave the hosts a 92% chance of reaching the knockout rounds, according to FiveThirtyEight, a statistics website. The last time Russian players progressed that far, they were wearing the colours of the Soviet Union. Yet their current opportunity is largely a reflection on <a…Continue reading

via K. Brent Tomer CFTC Can Russia’s national football team emerge from its recent slump?

At a loss for words? Join the Bureau of Linguistical Reality

(K. Brent Tomer),

CASAPERDIDA, noun: A feeling of anxiety that your house will be lost as a result of a torrential storm or event related to climate change. You might say, for instance, “I am unable to sleep at night as I am overwhelmed by a nagging sense of casaperdida.” This was an example provided by the Florida resident who submitted the word to The Bureau of Linguistical Reality (BLR). The word was approved and thus “created”.

Founded in 2014 by Heidi Quante and Alicia Escott, the BLR is a participatory dictionary and conceptual art project. The artists, who are based in San Francisco, see it as addressing what they consider an absence of language—“a linguistical void”—that accurately reflects the modern world. In their mission statement, they write that: “Our species (Homo Sapiens) is experiencing a collective ‘loss of words’ as our lexicon fails to represent the emotions and experiences we are undergoing as our habitat (earth) rapidly changes due to climate change…Continue reading

via K. Brent Tomer CFTC At a loss for words? Join the Bureau of Linguistical Reality

In “Queer Eye”, wardrobes and world-views are made over

(K. Brent Tomer),

“OH SHIT.” Karamo Brown, a black American, is driving with his colleagues in Winder, Georgia, when blue lights begin to flash in the rear-view window. The passengers make a few jokes—about who should have driven, the racial makeup of the party—but the unease is palpable. The officer asks Mr Brown to step out of the vehicle, drawing protests from the group. But the cop reveals that it is a stitch-up: he knows they are filming a television show, and the producers were in on the traffic stop. “You can’t do that to brown people!”, one of the hosts cries. 

“Queer Eye” is a makeover show, but one which brings contemporary issues to the fore in almost every episode. Mr Brown (the show’s culture maven), Bobby Berk (interior design), Tan France (style), Jonathan van Ness (grooming) and Antoni Porowski (food and wine), a quintet of gay men known as the “Fab Five”, teach hapless individuals the virtues of taking better care of themselves. To bond with their subjects, the men share their own formative experiences. In the first…Continue reading

via K. Brent Tomer CFTC In “Queer Eye”, wardrobes and world-views are made over

“Hereditary” is an accomplished horror film—but not a masterpiece

(K. Brent Tomer),

AT THE very start of “Hereditary”, the camera glides across an artist’s studio full of meticulously constructed miniature rooms and houses. With a soundtrack of ominous violin shivers and double-bass groans, the camera approaches one of those miniature rooms, getting closer and closer until the viewer is somehow peering into an actual full-sized bedroom in which an actual boy is sleeping. This directorial sleight-of-hand does two things. First, it hints that the characters themselves live in a kind of doll’s house, as playthings of some powerful unseen force. Second, it promises that “Hereditary” is going to be pretty damn stylish compared to most Friday-night horror films.

Sure enough, the debut feature from Ari Aster joins “Get Out”, “A Quiet Place”, “The Witch”, “It Follows” and others in the new wave of scary movies which are just as suited to an art-house cinema as they are to a multiplex. Unlike so many of the last decade’s biggest horror films, they aren’t designed to establish lucrative long-running…Continue reading

via K. Brent Tomer CFTC “Hereditary” is an accomplished horror film—but not a masterpiece

Why predicting the winner of the World Cup is so difficult

(K. Brent Tomer),

IF ONLY Paul were still alive. Though he had never watched a game of football, learnt how to use a spreadsheet or issued a press release about his state-of-the-art machine-learning-based forecasts, he was globally renowned for his preternatural ability to predict results at major international tournaments. Throughout the European Championship of 2008 and the World Cup of 2010 he was wrong on only two occasions. That Paul had only ever issued 14 predictions before his untimely death in October 2010 did not detract from his legendary status. Nor did the fact that he had tipped his native Germany 11 times. For Paul was an oracular octopus, who could prophesy the footballing future by choosing between two flag-bearing boxes containing oysters.

Paul’s secret methodology went with him to his watery grave. Attempts from zoos around the world to produce an equally gifted seer have proved futile. Eight years on, football fans could be forgiven for missing the authoritative decrees from his aquarium in Oberhausen. Ahead of this summer’s World Cup they…Continue reading

via K. Brent Tomer CFTC Why predicting the winner of the World Cup is so difficult

How Alberto Giacometti became a legend

(K. Brent Tomer),

The legend in his lair

THE man strides forward, bent slightly at the waist as if resisting a stiff breeze. He is not so much gaunt as spectral, stretched out like chewing gum, as insubstantial as smoke. And yet, despite his frailty, he is determined, even heroic. “Walking Man I”, a bronze made by Alberto Giacometti in 1960, is a searing monument to an era of anxiety, and a symbol of endurance in the face of overwhelming odds.

During his own life Giacometti, who was born in Switzerland in 1901, sometimes seemed too outmoded and idiosyncratic to win acclaim. But his reputation has continued to grow while those of his contemporaries, who clung to modernist orthodoxy, have faded. Today his humanity and pathos appeal to audiences in a way that more formal sculptors cannot. A flurry of recent activity has solidified his place among a small group of artists, including Pablo Picasso and Frida Kahlo, whose work and persona have seeped into public consciousness.

A…Continue reading

via K. Brent Tomer CFTC How Alberto Giacometti became a legend

David Lynch’s memoir illuminates the origins of his art

(K. Brent Tomer),

Damn good coffee in “Twin Peaks”

Room to Dream. By David Lynch and Kristine McKenna.Random House; 592 pages; $32. Canongate Books; £25.

ONE evening in the 1950s David Lynch and his brother were wandering along the quiet, dimly lit streets of Boise, Idaho, when they encountered a stumbling, naked woman. “Maybe it was something about the light and the way she came out of the darkness, but it seemed to me that her skin was the colour of milk, and she had a bloodied mouth,” Mr Lynch remembers. He wanted to help her, but did not know what to do or say. “She was scared and beat up, but even though she was traumatised, she was beautiful.”

Fans of Mr Lynch will recall a disturbing scene like this one from “Blue Velvet”, a film released in 1986 that starred Isabella Rossellini. That movie, the director’s fourth, established him as an auteur of woman-in-trouble surrealism. Critics have…Continue reading

via K. Brent Tomer CFTC David Lynch’s memoir illuminates the origins of his art

A startling debut novel from a South African poet

(K. Brent Tomer),

OK, Mr Field. By Katharine Kilalea.Tim Duggan Books; 208 pages; $21. Faber & Faber; £12.99. 

WHEN Max Field, a failing British concert pianist, breaks his wrist in a train accident, he tries out a new life. He buys a replica Le Corbusier house in Cape Town that was, according to the estranged wife of its architect, intended only as a modernist holiday home. After Max moves there with his wife Mim, his life seems to deteriorate further. Out of this simple premise emerges a dazzling debut novel.

Katharine Kilalea is a poet who grew up in South Africa and has worked in an architecture practice. All these experiences inform “OK, Mr Field”, whether through her luminous use of language, her descriptions of Cape Town or her understanding of how space can be constricting and expansive, vertiginous and comforting, at the same time. Details are observed intimately, like pin-pricks. The muscles around the eyes of Hannah…Continue reading

via K. Brent Tomer CFTC A startling debut novel from a South African poet

Does inequality cause suicide, drug abuse and mental illness?

(K. Brent Tomer),

The Inner Level: How More Equal Societies Reduce Stress, Restore Sanity and Improve Everyone’s Well-being. By Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett. Allen Lane; 352 pages; £20. To be published in America by Penguin Press in January 2019; $28. 

THERE is something peculiarly haunting about the recent suicides of Kate Spade, a well-known designer, and Anthony Bourdain, a chef and author (see Obituary). Evidently success—building brands and businesses, achieving wealth and fame—does not ease the psychic pain that many people suffer. Even at the top of the capitalist pyramid, these deaths insist, there is no escape from inner demons. That sad rule applies to nations as much as celebrities. Nearly 45,000 Americans took their own lives in 2016, an increase of almost 30% since 1999, according…Continue reading

via K. Brent Tomer CFTC Does inequality cause suicide, drug abuse and mental illness?