• Bob Dylan’s “Rough and Rowdy Ways” Hits Hard | The New Yorker

    few weeks into quarantine, time became liquid. All the usual markers and routines—waking up and lurching down the block to buy a cup of coffee, dressing carefully for a work meeting, corralling friends for karaoke on a Sunday afternoon—were nullified, and the days assumed a soft, amorphous quality. Then, at midnight on a Friday, Bob Dylan suddenly released “Murder Most Foul,” an elegiac, thickset, nearly seventeen-minute song ostensibly about the assassination of J.F.K., but so laden with cultural allusions that it somehow felt even bigger than that. It was the first piece of original music Dylan had released since his album “Tempest,” in 2012, and, on first listen, I found the song surreal. It went on forever; it was over before I knew it. The instrumentation (piano, bowed bass, faint percussion) is hazy and diffuse. Dylan’s vocal phrasing, always careful, felt particularly mesmeric. Rub-a-dub-dub, Altamont, Deep Ellum, Patsy Cline, Air Force One, Thelonious Monk, Bugsy Siegel, Pretty Boy Floyd. What day was it? What year?

    Two months later, “Murder Most Foul” hits different: “We’re gonna kill you with hatred / Without any respect / We’ll mock you and shock you / And we’ll put it in your face,” Dylan sings in the song’s first verse. His voice is withering. “It’s a Murder. Most. Foul.” Dylan has spent decades seeing and chronicling American injustice. Forty-four years ago, on “Hurricane,” he sang frankly about police brutality: “If you’re black, you might as well not show up on the street / ’Less you want to draw the heat.”

    This week, Dylan will release “Rough and Rowdy Ways,” a gruesome, crowded, marauding album that feels unusually attuned to its moment. Unlike many artists who reacted to the pandemic with a kind of dutiful tenderness—“Let me help with my song!”—Dylan has decided not to offer comfort, nor to hint at some vague solidarity. Lyrically, he’s either cracking weird jokes (“I’ll take the ‘Scarface’ Pacino and the ‘Godfather’ Brando / Mix ’em up in a tank and get a robot commando”) or operating in a cold, disdainful, it-ain’t-me-babe mode. Dylan’s musicianship is often undersold by critics, but on “Rough and Rowdy Ways” it’s especially difficult to focus on anything other than his voice; at seventy-nine, he sounds warmed up and self-assured. There are moments when he appears to be chewing on his own mortality—he recently told the Times that he thinks about death “in general terms, not in a personal way”—but mostly he sounds elegant and steady, a vocal grace he might have acquired while recording all those standards. “Three miles north of Purgatory, one step from the great beyond,” he sings calmly on “Crossing the Rubicon.”
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    It’s sometimes hard to think of Dylan doing normal, vulnerable things like falling in love, though he sings about heartache—his compulsion toward it, his indulgence of its wounds—constantly. My favorite track on “Rough and Rowdy Ways” is “I’ve Made Up My Mind to Give Myself to You,” a gentle ballad about deliberately resigning oneself to love and its demands. It’s not the album’s richest or most complicated song—“Key West (Philosopher Pirate)” is Shakespearean—but I’ve been listening to it constantly, mostly for its evocation of a certain kind of golden-hour melancholy. Imagine sitting on a porch or on the front steps of an apartment building, nursing a big drink in a stupid glass, and reluctantly accepting your fate: “Been thinking it all over / And I thought it all through / I’ve made up my mind / To give myself to you.” It’s not quite romantic, but, then again, neither is love. The song’s emotional climax comes less than halfway through, when Dylan announces, “From Salt Lake City to Birmingham / From East L.A. to San Antone / I don’t think I could bear to live my life alone!” Ever so briefly, his voice goes feral.

    Dylan is a voracious student of United States history—he can, and often does, itemize the various atrocities that have been committed in service to country—and “Rough and Rowdy Ways” could be understood as a glib summation of America’s outlaw origins, and of the confused, dangerous, and often haphazard way that we preserve democracy. He seems to understand instinctively that American history is not a series of fixed points but an unmoored and constantly evolving idea that needs to be reëstablished each day—things don’t happen once and then stop happening. In this sense, linear time becomes an invention; every moment is this moment. This is why, on “Murder Most Foul,” Buster Keaton and Dickey Betts and the Tulsa race massacre of 1921 and Lindsey Buckingham and Stevie Nicks and the Birdman of Alcatraz can coexist, harmoniously, in a single verse. That Dylan named another dense, allusive song on the album, “I Contain Multitudes,” after a much-quoted stanza from Walt Whitman’s “Song of Myself”—“Do I contradict myself? / Very well then I contradict myself, / (I am large, I contain multitudes.)”—also seems to indicate some reckoning with the vastness and immediacy of American culture. (Dylan’s interests are so wonderfully obtuse and far-ranging that it’s sometimes hard to discern precisely what he’s referring to: Is the “Cry Me a River” that he mentions on “Murder Most Foul” a reference to the jazz standard made famous by the actress Julie London, in 1955, or to the dark, cluttered revenge jam that Justin Timberlake supposedly wrote about Britney Spears, in 2002? My money is on the latter.)

    Now thirty-nine albums in, it’s tempting to dismiss Dylan as sepia-toned—a professor emeritus, a museum piece, a Nobel laureate coasting through his sunset years, the mouthpiece of some bygone generation but certainly not this one. (It’s hard, admittedly, to imagine bars of “I Contain Multitudes” finding viral purchase on TikTok.) The sheer volume of writing about his life and music suggests a completed arc, which makes it easy to presume that there’s nothing useful, interesting, or pertinent left to say. Yet, for me, Dylan’s vast and intersectional understanding of the American mythos feels so plainly and uniquely relevant to the grimness and magnitude of these past few months. As the country attempts to metabolize the murder of George Floyd, it is also attempting to reckon with every crooked, brutal, odious, or unjust murder of a black person—to understand a cycle that began centuries ago and somehow continues apace. What is American racism? It’s everything, Dylan insists. Indiana Jones and J.F.K. and Elvis Presley and Jimmy Reed—nothing exists without the rest of it. None of us are absolved, and none of us are spared.
    Amanda Petrusich is a staff writer at The New Yorker and the author of “Do Not Sell at Any Price: The Wild, Obsessive Hunt for the World’s Rarest 78rpm Records.”

    #Bob_Dylan #Music

  • Bond Touch Bracelets and the New Frontiers of Digital Dating | The New Yorker

    Few things feel as fraught, in the modern age, as the long-distance relationship. The hazards of digital romance have been well chronicled, perhaps most prominently in the documentary and subsequent TV series “Catfish,” which exposed viewers to a new and expansive genre of horror. To “catfish” someone, in common parlance, is to meet a person online through dating apps, social-media sites, or chat rooms, and to seduce them using fake photos and fictional biographical details. On the reality-TV version of “Catfish,” lovesick victims confront those who deceived them, in grim, emotional scenes of revelation and heartbreak. Throw teens into the mix, and the narrative can turn even more ghastly. One thinks of the tabloid story of Michelle Carter and her boyfriend, Conrad Roy III, two teen-agers whose relationship developed mostly over text and Facebook message. In 2017, Carter was convicted of involuntary manslaughter for encouraging Roy to kill himself—even though the pair had met only a handful of times. Messages between the couple revealed the kind of twisted emotional dynamic that can emerge in the absence of physical proximity.

    Despite these stories, digital-first (and digital-only) relationships continue to thrive. With online dating now a fact of life, a new bogeyman, virtual-reality dating, has taken its place, threatening to cut the final cord between romance and the real world. The platform VRLFP—Virtual Reality Looking For Partner—advertises itself as the perfect solution for daters who’d rather not deal with the hassles of Tinder flirting or late-night bar crawls. (“Grab a coffee, visit an amusement park, or go to the moon without leaving your home and without spending a dime,” the VRLFP site reads. “VR makes long-distance relationships work.”) This is to say nothing of the companies designing humanoid sex robots, or the scientists designing phone cases that feel like human flesh.

    Perhaps the most innocuous entry in the digital-dating marketplace is a new product called Bond Touch, a set of electronic bracelets meant for long-distance daters. (Shawn Mendes and Camila Cabello, one of the most P.D.A.-fluent couples of our time, were recently spotted wearing the bracelets.) Unlike the cold fantasias of VR courtship, Bond Touch bracelets are fundamentally wholesome, and they reduce long-distance relationships to a series of mundane concerns. How can you sustain a healthy amount of communication with a long-distance partner? How can you feel close to someone who’s physically distant? And how do you simulate the wordless gestures of affection that account for so much of personal connection? Created in Silicon Valley by a developer named Christoph Dressel—who is also the C.O.O. of an environmentally minded technology firm called Impossible—the bracelets are slim, chic devices that resemble Fitbits. By wearing one, a person can send a tap that generates a light vibration and a colored blink on the screen of a partner’s bracelet. The bracelets are also linked through an app that provides information about a partner’s weather and time zone, but their primary function is to embody presence. Like Facebook’s early “Poke” feature, they impart the same message as a shoulder squeeze or a gaze across the room at a party: “I’m here, and I’m thinking about you.”

    In theory, the bracelets could service any form of long-distance relationship—military members and their families, partners separated by jobs or school, siblings living in different cities—but they seem to be most popular among teen-agers who’ve forged romantic relationships online. Bond Touch is a hot topic of discussion in certain corners of YouTube and Reddit, where users provide excessively detailed reviews of their bracelet-wearing experience. These users seem less concerned with simulating touch or affection than with communicating when they don’t have access to their phone, namely during class or at part-time jobs. They often develop Morse-code-like systems to lend layers of meaning to their taps. “When I really want his attention, I just send a very long one, and then he’s, like, ‘What do you want?’ . . . Three taps means ‘I love you,’ ” one YouTuber, HeyItsTay, explains, in a video that’s garnered over 1.8 million views. Safety is also a chief concern: almost all of the vloggers explain that Bond Touch is an effective way of letting someone know that you’re O.K., even if you’re not responding to text messages or Instagram DMs.

    Something like a Bond Touch bracelet ostensibly solves a communication problem, but it also creates one—the problem of over-availability, in which no one can be unreachable and no sentiment goes unexpressed. (One can imagine the anxieties that might arise from a set of unanswered taps, and the bracelets have already inspired plenty of off-label uses. “Great way for cheating in class,” one user commented on HeyItsTay’s Bond Touch video.) Not all technology is corrosive, of course, but there is something disheartening about a relationship wherein digital bracelets are meant to replace the rhythms of conversation and the ebbs and flows of emotional connection. The problem has less to do with the bracelets themselves than with the trend that they advance. In lieu of facetime, we seem willing to accept even the most basic forms of emotional stimulus, no matter how paltry a substitute they present.

    Reading about Bond Touch, an episode of the 2019 breakout comedy “PEN15” came to mind. The show is set in the era of the dial-up connection, and at one point its main characters, the awkward middle schoolers Anna and Maya, experiment with AOL Instant Messenger. Maya meets a guy named “Flymiamibro22” in a chat room, and their conversation quickly sparks an infatuation—and, eventually, something resembling love. “I love you more than I love my own DAD!” Maya tells Flymiamibro22 in a violent flurry of messages. Flymiamibro22 is a self-described “gym rat,” but in reality he’s one of Maya’s classmates and friends, Sam, posing online as an older guy. At the peak of her obsession, Maya begs her crush to meet her in person, and they arrange a date at a local bowling alley. FlyMiamiBro never materializes, but Sam reveals his true identity soon after, at a school dance. This admission produces a rush of fury and humiliation. But it also, finally, leads to catharsis, the growth and wisdom that flows from a confrontation with reality. That sort of confrontation seems increasingly avoidable today.

    Carrie Battan began contributing to The New Yorker in 2015 and became a staff writer in 2018.

    #Pratiques_numériques #Sites_rencontre #Dating #Bracelet #Culture_numérique

  • When the Beatles Walked Offstage: Fifty Years of “Abbey Road” | The New Yorker

    Excellent article sur le plus grand album de la pop musique.

    In the spring of 1969, Paul McCartney telephoned George Martin to ask if he would be willing to work with the Beatles on a new album they planned to record in the months ahead. Martin, who was widely regarded as the most accomplished pop-record producer in the world, had overseen the making of all nine albums and nineteen singles that the Beatles had released in Britain since their début on E.M.I.’s Parlophone label, in 1962. His reputation was synonymous with that of the group, and the fact that McCartney felt a need to ask him about his availability dramatized how much the Beatles’ professional circumstances had changed since the release of the two-record set known as the White Album, in the fall of 1968. In Martin’s view, the five months of tension and drama it took to make that album, followed by the fiasco of “Get Back,” an ill-fated film, concert, and recording project that ended inconclusively in January, 1969, had turned his recent work with the Beatles into a “miserable experience.”

    “After [‘Get Back’] I thought it was the end of the road for all of us,” he said later. “I didn’t really want to work with them anymore because they were becoming unpleasant people, to themselves as well as to other people. So I was quite surprised when Paul rang me up and asked me to produce another record for them. He said, ‘Will you really produce it?’ And I said, ‘If I’m really allowed to produce it. If I have to go back and accept a lot of instructions that I don’t like, then I won’t do it.’ ” After receiving McCartney’s assurance that he would indeed have a free hand, Martin booked a solid block of time at Abbey Road studios from the first of July to the end of August.

    To speak of “sides” is to acknowledge that “Abbey Road,” like most Beatles albums, was originally released as a double-sided vinyl LP. This was the format with which the group had revolutionized the recording industry in the sixties, when its popularity, self-sufficiency, and burgeoning artistic ambition helped to establish the self-written album as the principal medium of rock. Earlier, in the fifties, when “long-playing” records first became available, their selling point was their capacity. Unlike the 78-r.p.m. records they replaced, LPs could hold more than twenty minutes of music per side, which made them an ideal format for the extended performances of classical music, Broadway shows, film soundtracks, modern jazz, and standup comedy that accounted for the lion’s share of the record market at the time. Best-selling pop singers like Frank Sinatra, Harry Belafonte, and Elvis Presley also capitalized on the potential of the LP, not least because a prime virtue of albums in the pop market was their packaging. The records were sold in foot-square cardboard sleeves, faced with a photograph or illustration that served as an advertisement for the product within. By providing a portrait of the artist and a platform for the sort of promotional copy that had previously been confined to fan magazines, album “jackets” served as a tangible accessory to the experience of record listening. LP covers became an established form of graphic art, and the high standard of the graphic design on the Beatles’ early albums was one of the ways that Brian Epstein and George Martin sought to distinguish the group from the patronizing stereotypes that applied to teen-age pop.

    All of this, it goes without saying, is ancient history in an era of digital streaming and shuffling, which threatens the very concept of a record album as a cohesive work of art. In this sense, the fiftieth anniversary reissue of “Abbey Road” is an anachronism, a throwback to a time when an LP cover could serve as a cultural icon and the order of the songs on the two sides of an album became etched on its listeners’ minds. In the iconography of Beatles album covers, “Abbey Road” ranks with the conclave of culture heroes on the front of “Sgt. Pepper” and the mysterious side-lit portrait on the group’s first Capitol LP. Yet, like so much else on the album, its cover was a product of compromise. After entertaining the notion of naming the album “Everest” and travelling to Nepal to have themselves photographed in front of the world’s tallest peak, the Beatles elected to simply walk out the door of the studio on an August afternoon. The famous tableau of the four of them striding purposefully across the now-landmarked “zebra crossing”—Lennon in white, Starr in black, McCartney in gray, and Harrison in hippie denim from head to toe—advertised the differences in a band that had first captured the attention of the world in matching suits and haircuts. But its iconic status owed to the way it came to serve, in retrospect, as a typically droll image of the Beatles, walking off the stage of their career as a group.

    To return to Ned Rorem’s formulation: How good were the Beatles, notwithstanding the fact that everyone knew they were good? Good enough to produce this self-allusive masterpiece with their dying breath as a band. Good enough to enlist the smoke and mirrors of a modern recording studio to simulate the merger of musical sensibilities that they had once achieved by means of an unprecedented concentration and collaboration of sovereign talent. In this sense, “Abbey Road” memorializes a paradox of the group. The singing, songwriting, and playing on the album affirm the extent to which all four of the Beatles became consummate musical professionals in the course of their eight-year career. But the ending of that career affirms the extent to which these four “mates” from Liverpool, whose lives were transformed by such a surfeit of wealth and fame, never gave a thought to professionalizing their personal relationships with one another.

    Their contemporaries, such as the Rolling Stones and the Who, would carry on for decades as lucrative rock franchises, long after the bonds of adolescent friendship that originally joined them together had withered away. But, for the Beatles, whose adolescent friendship institutionalized the archetype of the rock group, a ubiquitous mode of musical organization that has endured to the present day, the deterioration in their personal relations completely outweighed the financial incentives that came with their status as the most successful musical artists of their time. From the beginning, they were understood to be a “band” in both senses of the word: as musicians, of course, but also, on a more elemental level, as a group of young men who shared a sense of identity, solidarity, and purpose. “I’ve compared it to a marriage,” Lennon would say. “Up until then, we really believed intensely in what we were doing, and the product we put out, and everything had to be just right. Suddenly we didn’t believe. And that was the end of it.”

    #Musique #The_Beatles #Abbey_Road #Vinyls

  • James Charles and the Odd Fascination of the YouTube Beauty Wars | The New Yorker

    Watching Westbrook’s video, I might have felt boredom (forty-three minutes?), but, instead, I felt the excitement that must overwhelm an anthropologist discovering a lost culture, obscure but oddly fascinating, with its own dramas, alliances, and enmities. Added to this effect was the comedy of the gaping chasm between the flimsiness of the conflict and its melodramatic presentation. Speaking directly to the camera, her hair and skin smooth and gleaming and her legs drawn up to her chest, Westbrook’s tone often seems more appropriate for a bereavement support group than a skirmish kindled by a supplement sponsorship. At one point, she claims that she feels betrayed because she and her husband helped Charles with business decisions for years, without expecting payment in return. “Life will never stop being painful,” she says. “No matter where in the world you are, no matter your circumstances, you are always going to experience heartbreak, and that’s part of being human.” Viewers responded enthusiastically. “Tati is no longer a beauty guru… she’s a freaking legendary life guru,” a fan wrote, in a comment that received a hundred and seventy-four thousand likes. In response, Charles came out with his own YouTube statement, in which he appears weepy and makeup-less, apologizes in vague terms to Westbrook and her husband for “everything I have put you through over the last few weeks,” and promises, in possibly even vaguer terms, to “continue to learn and grow every single day.” (He also said that he didn’t receive any payment for his SugarBearHair promotion and instead did it as a favor to the company; SugarBearHair, he said, had recently given him an artist pass when he felt “unsafe” in the less secure V.I.P. area at the Coachella music festival—the traditional ground zero for influencer drama.)

    In an Instagram post from the Met Gala earlier in the week, Charles had written, “Being invited to such an important event like the ball is such an honor and a step forward in the right direction for influencer representation in the media and I am so excited to be a catalyst.” His suggestion that influencers are a marginalized group that deserves affirmative-action-style media attention was justifiably met with derision, but it did evoke the strange, liminal position that they occupy. On the one hand, people like Charles and Westbrook—so-called civilians who have amassed millions of followers through a combination of relentless vlogging and a savvily fashioned persona—now wield enormous financial power by using their accounts to promote brands. (One report predicts that the influencer economy will be worth ten billion dollars by 2020; Instagram recently partnered with several prominent influencers to test out a program that would enable direct sales on the social-media platform.) On the other hand, influencers’ power relies on their relatability. (“I want to show you guys that, no matter who you are, you can make it,” Westbrook says, feelingly, toward the end of her “Bye sister . . .” video. “I had freaking nothing, nothing, when I started out.”) Traditional celebrities serve as powerful marketing tools precisely because, though we are enticed by the fantasy that they offer, we understand that we could never really be like them. With influencers, conversely, it feels like, with a little help and a little of their product, we could be. Influencers: they’re just like us.

    An influencer is, by definition, a creature of commerce. Unlike with a traditional celebrity, there is no creative project necessary to back up the shilling of products (say, a movie franchise used to promote merchandise)—the shilling is the project. But, paradoxically, the commercial sway that influencers hold over their fans depends on their distinctive authenticity: the sense that they are just ordinary people who happen to be recommending a product that they enjoy . Charles’s sin, according to Westbrook, was trading their friendship for lucre (or at least a Coachella pass). “My relationship with James Charles is not transactional,” Westbrook says in her video. “I have not asked him for a penny, I have never been on his Instagram.” Railing against Charles’s SugarBearHair sponsored post, she continues, “You say you don’t like the brand. You say that you’re the realest, that you can’t be bought. Well, you just were.” Later in the video, she takes on a Holden Caulfield-like tone: “You should have walked away. You should have held on to your integrity. You’re a phony.” She, herself, she claims, would never pay anyone to promote her beauty supplement in a sponsored post: “My product is good enough on its own. We’re selling like hot cakes.” Indeed, one shouldn’t underestimate the value that authenticity, or at least a performance of it, carries in the influencer marketplace. Since “Bye sister . . .” was posted, it has been viewed a staggering forty-three million times, and Westbrook has gained three million subscribers. Charles has lost roughly the same number.

    #Culture_numérique #Influenceurs

  • “The American Meme” Records the Angst of Social-Media Influencers | The New Yorker

    The new Netflix documentary “The American Meme,” directed by Bert Marcus, offers a chilling glimpse into the lives of social-media influencers, tracking their paths to online celebrity, their attempts to keep it, and their fear of losing it. Early on in the film, the pillowy-lipped model Emily Ratajkowski (twenty million Instagram followers and counting), who first became a viral sensation when, in 2013, she appeared bare-breasted in Robin Thicke’s “Blurred Lines” video, attempts to address a popular complaint raised against social-media celebrities. “There’s the attention argument,” she says, as images of her posing in lingerie and swimwear appear on the screen. “That we’re doing it just for attention . . . And I say, what’s wrong with attention?” “The American Meme” can be seen, at least partly, as a response to Ratajkowski’s question. It’s true that the model, with her superior bone structure, lush curves, and preternatural knack for packaging her God-given gifts into an enticingly consistent product, is presented to us in the limited capacity of a talking head, and so the illusion of a perfect influencer life—in which attention is easily attracted and never worried over—can be kept. (“Privacy is dead now,” Ratajkowski says, with the offhanded flippancy of someone who is only profiting from this new reality. “Get over it.”) But what is fascinating, and valuable, about “The American Meme” is its ability to reveal the desperation, loneliness, and sheer Sisyphean tedium of ceaselessly chasing what will most likely end up being an ever-diminishing share of the online-attention economy.

    Khaled, his neck weighted with ropes of gold and diamonds, is one of the lucky predators of the particular jungle we’re living in, but Bichutsky isn’t so sure whether he’s going to maintain his own alpha position. “I’m not going to last another year,” he moans, admitting that he’s been losing followers, and that “everyone gets old and ugly one day.” Even when you’re a success, like Khaled, the hustle is grindingly boring: most of it, in the end, consists of capturing Snaps of things like your tater-tot lunch as you shout, “We the best.” And, clearly, not everyone is as blessed as the social-media impresario. During one montage, viral figures like the “Damn, Daniel” boy, “Salt Bae,” and “Chewbacca Mask Lady” populate the screen, and Ratajkowski muses on these flash-in-the-pan meme sensations: “In three or four days, does anyone remember who that person is? I don’t know.”

    The idea of achieving some sort of longevity, or at least managing to cash in on one’s viral hit, is one that preoccupies the influencers featured in “The American Meme.” “I’m thirty; pray for me,” Furlan mutters, dryly, from her spot posing on her bare living-room floor. In that sense, Paris Hilton, an executive producer of the film and also one of its subjects, is the model everyone is looking to. Hilton has managed to continue playing the game by solidifying her brand—that of a ditsy, sexy, spoiled heiress. Rather than promoting others’ products, like most influencers, she has yoked her fame to merchandise of her own: a best-selling perfume line, pet products, clothes, a lucrative d.j. career, and on and on.

    #Influenceurs #Instagram #Culture_numérique

  • Aretha Franklin’s Astonishing “Dr. Feelgood” | The New Yorker

    On peut voir la vidéo à : https://youtu.be/V2x8zpoHkTU

    The passage (of what, in a black religious context, might be called “tuning up”) extravagantly justifies Franklin’s claim that, although she recorded secular music, she never left the Church; she took it with her. But the very structure of this performance, from blues to prayer, makes an additional case: that a woman’s sexual authority need not compromise her spiritual leadership but might actually fuel it. There is apprehension, too. Franklin “gets a little worried” and “fearful” like everyone else. But she knows that “everything’s gonna be alright.” “Don’t put worry on you before worry gets to you”: she repeats the injunction twice, so that what begins as an admonition becomes an assurance of divine clemency, of a force that might take you beyond where you thought you could go—“You’d be surprised what big bridges you can meet when you get there.”

    Franklin often said that she didn’t put her politics into her music, but her public support for black radical figures meant that she didn’t have to. She was a tireless fund-raiser for Martin Luther King, Jr., a family friend; in 1970, she offered to post bail for Angela Davis. These social commitments add depth to her music. They allow us to hear in her reference to bridges, for instance, such tortured, bold crossings as that of the Edmund Pettus Bridge by civil-rights activists marching to Selma. They allow us to hear, in her reference to fear for one’s children, a moment when black youth were on the front lines—integrating schools, joining freedom rides, or simply navigating hostile home towns.

    This was the promise of soul: that pain granted depth, and that one was never alone but accompanied by a vibrant community that had crossed too many bridges in order to survive. Franklin was the queen not only of soul music but of soul as a concept, because her great subject was the exceeding of limits. Her willingness to extend her own vocal technique, to venture beyond herself, to strain to implausible heights, and revive songs that seemed to be over—all these strategies could look and sound like grace. She knew that we would need it.

    #Musique #Aretha_Franklin

  • Will the Benalla Affair Sink Emmanuel Macron?
    The New Yorker- By Alexandra Schwartz - August 2, 2018

    What followed was a tangle of denials, accusations, recriminations, and non-apology apologies: in other words, politics. Benalla was fired. The Assemblée Nationale and the Senate both launched official hearings. Through it all, Macron kept curiously silent, refusing to speak to the press, tweeting only to express sympathy for Greece as it battled wildfires. Finally, after nearly a week of furious news coverage and speculation, the President got around to saying his piece. Standing in front of a phalanx of deputies from his political party, he delivered a typically Macronian speech, flecked with irony, rhetorical flourish, and a certain steely self-regard. Macron, who once recited Molière from memory on the campaign trail, is highly attuned to dramatic cadence, the theatrical power of rhythm and repetition. “Alexandre Benalla has never had the nuclear codes,” he said, as he began to work his way through the catalogue of rumors that had been circulating. “Alexandre Benalla has never earned ten thousand euros a month. Alexandre Benalla has never been my lover.” (Capped with a little smile: I went there.) What had happened was serious, a deception, a treason, but, Macron said, it was ultimately his own fault. He had trusted the wrong man. “If they want to find the person responsible, he’s before you.” Macron spread his arms. “Let them come and find him. I answer to the French people.”

    The President was right. The Benalla Affair is not about Alexandre Benalla. It is about Emmanuel Macron, and the brash, self-confident manner with which he has blasted through his first year in office. As a candidate, Macron promised the modernization, and the liberalization, of the French state.


  • A New History of Arabia, Written in Stone | The New Yorker

    A few years ago, Ahmad Al-Jallad, a professor of Arabic and Semitic linguistics at Leiden University, in the Netherlands, opened his e-mail and was excited to see that he had received several photographs of rocks. The images—sent by Al-Jallad’s mentor, Michael Macdonald, a scholar at Oxford who studies ancient inscriptions—were of artifacts from a recent archeological survey in Jordan. Macdonald pointed Al-Jallad’s attention to one in particular: a small rock covered with runelike marks in a style of writing called boustrophedon, named for lines that wrap back and forth, “like an ox turning in a field.” It was Safaitic, an alphabet that flourished in northern Arabia two millennia ago, and Al-Jallad and Macdonald are among a very small number of people who can read it. Al-Jallad began to transcribe the text, and, within a few minutes, he could see that the rock was an essential piece of a historical puzzle that he had been working on for years.

  • A New History of Arabia, Written in Stone | The New Yorker

    Not all of them will be pleased by the way that new research rewrites old understandings. In traditional historiography and common lore, southern Arabia is believed to be the primeval homeland of the Arabs and the source of the purest Arabic. In this telling, Arabic was born deep in the peninsula and spread with the Islamic conquests; as it made contact with other languages, it gradually devolved into the many Arabic dialects spoken today. Classical Arabic remains the preëminent symbol of a unified Arab culture, and the ultimate marker of eloquence and learning. To Al-Jallad, the Safaitic inscriptions indicate that various ancient forms of Arabic were present many centuries before the rise of classical Arabic, in places such as Syria and Jordan. He argues that the language may have originated there and then migrated south—suggesting that the “corrupt” forms of Arabic spoken around the region may, in fact, have lineages older than classical Arabic. Macdonald told me, “His theory will inevitably meet a lot of opposition, mainly for non-academic reasons. But it’s becoming more and more convincing.”

    Si l’histoire de la #langue_arabe vous intéresse... Tout juste passionnant ! (via Angry Arab)

  • The Mapping of Massacres in Australia | The New Yorker

    From New York to Cape Town to Sydney, the bronze body doubles of the white men of empire—Columbus, Rhodes, Cook—have lately been pelted with feces, sprayed with graffiti, had their hands painted red. Some have been toppled. The fate of these statues—and those representing white men of a different era, in Charlottesville and elsewhere—has ignited debate about the political act of publicly memorializing historical figures responsible for atrocities. But when the statues come down, how might the atrocities themselves be publicly commemorated, rather than repressed?

    #australie #aborigènes #massacres #cartographie #art

  • Why Are So Many Fascist Monuments Still Standing in Italy?

    In the late nineteen-thirties, as Benito Mussolini was preparing to host the 1942 World’s Fair, in Rome, he oversaw the construction of a new neighborhood, Esposizione Universale Roma, in the southwest of the city, to showcase Italy’s renewed imperial grandeur. The centerpiece of the district was the Palazzo della Civiltà Italiana, a sleek rectangular marvel with a façade of abstract arches and rows of neoclassical statues lining its base. In the end, the fair was cancelled because of the war, but the palazzo, known as the Square Colosseum, still stands in Rome today, its exterior engraved with a phrase from Mussolini’s speech, in 1935, announcing the invasion of Ethiopia, in which he described Italians as “a people of poets, artists, heroes, saints, thinkers, scientists, navigators, and transmigrants.” The invasion, and the bloody occupation that followed, would later lead to war-crimes charges against the Italian government. The building is, in other words, a relic of abhorrent Fascist aggression. Yet, far from being shunned, it is celebrated in Italy as a modernist icon. In 2004, the state recognized the palazzo as a site of “cultural interest.” In 2010, a partial restoration was completed, and five years later the fashion house Fendi moved its global headquarters there.

    #Italie #fascisme #histoire #mémoire #monuments