John Coltrane’s creative flame was burning at its brightest in 1964. The saxophonist had recently let go of his fixation on complex, layered harmonies, and he would soon pioneer a dry, squalling approach to group improvisation — nearly abandoning Western harmony altogether, and changing the course of jazz history.
Amid the transition, that year he recorded what would be his two most potent albums, “Crescent” and “A Love Supreme.” These works thrive at the crossroads: They are in touch with the driving, cohesive sound that his so-called classic quartet had established, but push into a blazing beyond.
Yet history is not this simple. Even for Coltrane — a symbol of tireless creative momentum, who is said to have never stopped hurtling forward — detours came up.
That spring, Coltrane was approached by Gilles Groulx, a young Canadian filmmaker at work on his first feature, “Le Chat dans le Sac.” Groulx asked his musical hero to record the film’s soundtrack, and to his surprise, Coltrane said yes.
Alfred Stieglitz was the most famous photographer in America, and a forceful advocate for advanced art of all kinds, when a nervous 25-year-old Paul Strand brought his photographs to Stieglitz’s influential Manhattan gallery at 291 Fifth Ave. in 1915. The work gained Strand a favored position among the acolytes dedicated to the older artist’s mission of “offering new ways to see the world.”
The Stieglitz-Strand connection was the first in the tangled weave of personal and professional ambitions anatomized in “Foursome,” Carolyn Burke’s sharp-eyed group portrait of two artistic couples.
The year after Strand arrived, Georgia O’Keeffe dispatched a roll of her charcoal sketches to 291, inspired by the gallery’s exalted atmosphere. Her swirling expressions of “a woman’s feeling” so overwhelmed Stieglitz that he put them on display without telling the artist. When she stormed in to complain, it launched a charged relationship in which O’Keeffe played…
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No doubt you know it well –
You probably watched Porky and Daffy star in Looney Tunes productions before you discovered Walters beer.
an old movie theater from rŌbert past
“There is infinite hope,” Kafka tells us, “only not for us.” This is a fittingly mystical epigram from a writer whose characters strive for ostensibly reachable goals and, tragically or amusingly, never manage to get any closer to them. But it seems to me, in our rapidly darkening world, that the converse of Kafka’s quip is equally true: There is no hope, except for us.
I’m talking, of course, about climate change. The struggle to rein in global carbon emissions and keep the planet from melting down has the feel of Kafka’s fiction. The goal has been clear for thirty years, and despite earnest efforts we’ve made essentially no progress toward reaching it. Today, the scientific evidence verges on irrefutable. If you’re younger than sixty, you have a good chance of witnessing the radical destabilization of life on earth—massive crop failures, apocalyptic fires, imploding economies, epic flooding, hundreds of millions of refugees fleeing regions made uninhabitable by extreme heat or permanent drought. If you’re under thirty, you’re all but guaranteed to witness it.
If you care about the planet, and about the people and animals who live on it, there are two ways to think about this. You can keep on hoping that catastrophe is preventable, and feel ever more frustrated or enraged by the world’s inaction. Or you can accept that disaster is coming, and begin to rethink what it means to have hope.
Even at this late date, expressions of unrealistic hope continue to abound. Hardly a day seems to pass without my reading that it’s time to “roll up our sleeves” and “save the planet”; that the problem of climate change can be “solved” if we summon the collective will. Although this message was probably still true in 1988, when the science became fully clear, we’ve emitted as much atmospheric carbon in the past thirty years as we did in the previous two centuries of industrialization. The facts have changed, but somehow the message stays the same.
Psychologically, this denial makes sense. Despite the outrageous fact that I’ll soon be dead forever, I live in the present, not the future. Given a choice between an alarming abstraction (death) and the reassuring evidence of my senses (breakfast!), my mind prefers to focus on the latter. The planet, too, is still marvelously intact, still basically normal—seasons changing, another election year coming, new comedies on Netflix—and its impending collapse is even harder to wrap my mind around than death. Other kinds of apocalypse, whether religious or thermonuclear or asteroidal, at least have the binary neatness of dying: one moment the world is there, the next moment it’s gone forever. Climate apocalypse, by contrast, is messy. It will take the form of increasingly severe crises compounding chaotically until civilization begins to fray. Things will get very bad, but maybe not too soon, and maybe not for everyone. Maybe not for me.
“If you think you’re woke, it’s because someone woke you up.”
We are building something immense together that, though invisible and immaterial, is a structure, one we reside within—or, rather, many overlapping structures. They’re assembled from ideas, visions and values emerging out of conversations, essays, editorials, arguments, slogans, social-media messages, books, protests, and demonstrations. About race, class, gender, sexuality; about nature, power, climate, the interconnectedness of all things; about compassion, generosity, collectivity, communion; about justice, equality, possibility. Though there are individual voices and people who got there first, these are collective projects that matter not when one person says something but when a million integrate it into how they see and act in the world. The we who inhabits those structures grows as what was once subversive or transgressive settles in as normal, as people outside the walls wake up one day inside them and forget they were ever anywhere else.
The consequences of these transformations are perhaps most important where they are most subtle. They remake the world, and they do so mostly by the accretion of small gestures and statements and the embracing of new visions of what can be and should be. The unknown becomes known, the outcasts come inside, the strange becomes ordinary. You can see changes to the ideas about whose rights matter and what is reasonable and who should decide, if you sit still enough and gather the evidence of transformations that happen by a million tiny steps before they result in a landmark legal decision or an election or some other shift that puts us in a place we’ve never been.
I have been watching this beautiful collective process of change unfold with particular intensity over the past several years—generated by the work of countless people separately and together, by the delegitimization of the past and the hope for a better future that lay behind the genesis of Occupy Wall Street (2011), Idle No More (2012), Black Lives Matter (2013), Standing Rock (2016), #MeToo (2017), and the new feminist surges and insurgencies, immigrant and trans rights movements, the Green New Deal (2018), and the growing power and reach of the climate movement. Advocacy of universal healthcare, the elimination of the Electoral College, the end of the death penalty, and an energy revolution that leaves fossil fuels behind have gone from the margins to the center in recent years. A new clarity about how injustice works, from police murders to the endless excuses and victim-blaming for rape, lays bare the machinery of that injustice, makes it recognizable when it recurs, and that recognizability strips away the disguises of and excuses for the old ways.
My formative intellectual experience was, in the early 1990s, watching reactions against the celebration of the quincentennial of Columbus’s arrival in the Americas and the rise in visibility and audibility of Native Americans that radically redefined this hemisphere’s history and ideas about nature and culture. That was how I learned that culture matters, that it’s the substructure of beliefs that shape politics, that change begins on the margins and in the shadows and grows toward the center, that the center is a place of arrival and rarely one of real generation, and that even the most foundational stories can be changed. But now I recognize it’s not the margins, the place of beginnings, or the center, the place of arrival, but the pervasiveness that matters most.
Washington (CNN)President Donald Trump, in his push to make good on his promise to supporters by Election Day, has told officials he will pardon them should they break any laws in attempting to finish construction on the wall at the US-Mexico border, The Washington Postreported, citing current and former officials involved with the project.
Trump has instructed aides to speed up the process of building the wall, directing them to rush through billions of dollars’ worth of construction contracts, blow past environmental regulations and to “take the land” necessary by eminent domain, the Post reported Tuesday.
“Don’t worry, I’ll pardon you,” Trump has told officials during meetings at the White House about the wall when aides raised that some of those orders would be illegal, according to the Post. An unnamed White House official told the newspaper that the President is merely joking when he makes such statements about pardons.
A week after a punishing heat wave torched the eastern two-thirds of the country, setting numerous records, AccuWeather chief executive Joel Myers cast doubt on the scientific finding that heat waves in the United States and elsewhere are worsening because of climate change. This point of view, at odds with peer-reviewed research, is reminiscent of the contrarian position AccuWeather took on the climate change issue in the 1990s, which historical documents recently obtained by The Washington Post shine light on.
Both then and now, AccuWeather has landed on the wrong side of the science.
Myers’s essay “Throwing cold water on extreme heat hype,” published online Wednesday, attempts to debunk the scientific finding that heat waves in the United States are becoming more severe, but he cherry-picks data and shows an incomplete understanding of the drivers of temperature change.
“[A]lthough average temperatures have been higher in recent years, there is no evidence so far that extreme heat waves are becoming more common because of climate change, especially when you consider how many heat waves occurred historically compared to recent history,” Myers writes.
In saying this, he ignores the U.S. government’s National Climate Assessment, published in 2018 and signed off on by 13 federal agencies, which flat out states — with very high confidence — that the frequency of heat waves has increased since the mid-1960s.
Myers relies mostly on historical data from the 1930s to make his case that heat waves haven’t gotten worse. “Here is a fact rarely, if ever, mentioned,” he writes, “26 of the 50 states set their all-time high temperature recordsduring the 1930s that still stand (some have since been tied).”
He concludes: “Given these numbers … it cannot be said that either the frequency or magnitude of heat waves is more common today.”
But there are problems with this argument that have been addressed in the scientific literature and independent analyses.
The heat waves of the 1930s were exacerbated by land mismanagement tied to the Dust Bowl. A combination of springtime drought and farming practices left fields bare of vegetation, which allowed summer temperatures to skyrocket. In other words, the extreme heat of the 1930s is a reflection of specific circumstances in that decade and does not invalidate a link between today’s heat waves and climate change.
Zeke Hausfather, a climate scientist for Berkeley Earth, which specializes in temperature data, points out that although the heat waves in the 1930s may have had higher daytime temperatures, present-day nighttime temperatures are much higher. This is an expected outcome of climate change as the atmosphere responds to increased concentrations of greenhouse gases.