No one dared take him on. I could never find out if the victim survived, but as I walked away from where he lay bleeding on the pavement, tended by his mother and surrounded by onlookers, I heard his brother come up the sidewalk, yelling that he knew who had done it and was going to kill him. I do not know if he ever did, or if the police ever arrested the suspect.
In the following years, such violence became terrifyingly commonplace, largely as a result of the ready availability of crack and handguns. A bodega owner and the local shoemaker were shot in daylight hours; men would stumble out of the drug-infested buildings bleeding from puncture wounds; fusillades were heard almost every summer night; and it was not unusual for helicopters to hover after dark, shining spotlights onto roofs and into back yards in search of someone on the run. When I talked to my seven-year old daughter about moving, she cried and said there was no need since she knew just what to do when there were shots outside; get down on the floor until they stopped.
It was time to go. Most of the people we left behind understood our departure. Many had wanted to leave for years but could not abandon their lifetime homes, or could not afford to buy another even with the increased resale value of the one they had owned for so long. Their good-byes were warm but tinged with sorrowful frustration. Others resented outright our pulling up stakes, and for some that resentment flowed out of the oldest and deepest of suspicions.
We were community deserters, but more than that, it proved that we were just like other whites after all. An elderly woman who until that time had always said a cheerful good morning and had occasionally stopped to chat, walked away after overhearing the news from a mutual friend, muttering in stage whisper, "Well you never liked us anyway. Much of this section, as well as Part II, was drafted before that day and before I had any intention or any opportunity to go elsewhere. Some sections are revised versions of shorter pieces while the balance was written to record experiences and feelings that I knew would change in memory and as my situation changed.
So it has. My involvement in the day-to-day dynamics of racial and cultural diversity is different now that I live in an area integrated in almost exactly the opposite proportion as Flatbush. My sources of information are different and on the whole less reliable and less well-balanced. The social distance I once traveled daily can now only be bridged by the things I read and see, which makes me evermore alert to and dissatisfied by the restricted access to black culture in the mainstream media and the general misrepresentation of the context in which it flourishes.
My stake in greater openness and inclusiveness continues to be personal; I do not want and I cannot afford to be cut-off from so essential a part of my world. White Americans have supposed "Europe" and "civilization" to be synonyms -- which they are not -- and have been distrustful of other standards and other sources of vitality, especially those produced in America itself What it comes down to is that if we, who can scarcely be considered a white nation, persist in thinking of ourselves as one, we condemn ourselves James Baldwin 2.
More than any other institution, The Museum of Modern Art has for generations publicly defined modernism's essential character and scope. From the outset, MoMA's perspective was internationalist and its approach encyclopedic as well as evolutionary. In the effort to establish the modernist canon, MoMA's founder, Alfred Barr, took it upon himself and his collaborators to look wherever the fertile conditions for modern art existed and wherever examples were reported. Although many factors influenced how that ambition was pursued in practice and significant oversight certainly did occur, the belief that modernism was multifaceted phenomenon was a decisive criterion of Barr's endeavor.
Barr thus devoted his energies to collecting and researching not only the now-acknowledged classics of the tradition -- Cezanne, Seurat, Van Gogh, Picasso, Matisse, Mondrian, Klee, Kandinsky, Malevich and so on -- but also championed work from farther afield aesthetically though sometimes closer to home geographically. For example, the museum's abiding if intermittently active interest in Latin American art no doubt owed a good deal to reasons of State, as its critics have claimed, but it also testified to the variety and importance of the modernist tendencies south of our borders, and Barr's prompt acknowledgment of them.
As it happened, Barr had first met Rivera in Russia in , a year before MoMA was founded, and the muralist was the subject of one of the 15 exhibitions devoted to Latin American art mounted by the Museum between and Awareness of Latin America peaked as a result of the hemispheric entrenchment imposed by the war in Europe, and by the permanent collection of the Museum included some Latin American works. Although institutional interest subsequently flagged, by the Museum's Latin American holdings had nevertheless increased to , thanks to a fund especially established for the purpose.
Among this number were paintings by Frida Kahlo, which languished in storage for much of the last 40 years. Only recently were they rescued from limbo and returned to the walls on a regular basis. Changing tastes have so catapulted this neglected artist's reputation that current acquisition of her work would have put a significant strain on even MoMA's resources. A further though more obscure example of Barr's risk-taking broad-mindedness has similar significance.
Following his trip to Cuba, Barr arranged for a small show of contemporary Cuban art, for which he wrote the catalogue and from which he acquired several works for the museum's permanent collection. A recent exhibition devoted to Wilfredo Lam and his artistic affinities at the Studio Museum in Harlem centered on the Cuban painter's huge gouache The Jungle , which has long hung in MoMA's lobby, and also drew on Barr's other finds.
Granted, few of these paintings have retained their freshness, but their inclusion in the collection is a testament to Barr's willingness to gamble on his taste and on the talent of non-mainstream artists. Meanwhile, the presence of these works in New York made it possible to reconsider the sources of an Afro-Asian painter primarily viewed as a disciple of European surrealism, and to do so not as a revisionist gambit but to correct the record according to the evidence that Barr, as both connoisseur and art historian, had gathered.
Parallel to Barr's involvement in Latin American art was the attention he paid to tribal and folk art, which was frequently integrated into MoMA's programs during the first decade and a half of its existence. Generally, this interest was prompted by such work's direct historical influence on major modernist movements such as Cubism and Expressionism, as was the case with the exhibition of African Negro Art. On other occasions, such as the show of the African-American stone carver William Edmondsen, the emphasis was on such tradition-based art's indirect formal correspondence with these same movements.
Under Barr's direction, the museum also mounted exhibitions devoted to American folk art in and Barr's eagerness to show the reach of modernism beyond the established cultural centers extended to his careful recording of the national origins of artists in MoMA's collection. Though some of these artists made their careers in Paris, New York, or other such capitols, many had not. Their presence, therefore, reflected both Barr's catholic interests and his adventurousness.
As in the case of the Cuban material, work from Africa was acquired in the process of his searching for art where it was made. In light of the current condemnations of multiculturalism and the published demands for the resignation or firing of museum professionals actively engaged in the promotion of diversity, it is necessary to recall that Barr's patrons were at crucial times impatient with or intolerant of his experiments and excursions.
In late , after having upset several trustees -- in particular, the aesthetically conservative board chairman Stephen C. Clark -- by offering museum space and sanction to the Hirshfield show, and by installing Joe Milone's richly ornamented shoeshine stand in the museum's lobby, Barr was fired as the Museum's Director. With the exception of the museum's exhibition, Modern Cuban Painters and Paintings by Jacob Lawrence, Barr's departure broke MoMA's tradition of culturally varied fare for years to come.
Now almost universally honored for his curatorial prescience and ingenuity, Barr is rightly held up as a model for generations of his successors. When it comes to the issue of cultural diversity, MoMA has much to be proud of and virtually all of it resulted from Barr's proactive rather than reactive engagement with the problems and material involved.
Preferring to ratify their own conservative view of modernism, however, some of his ostensible admirers conveniently forget the liberality of his pioneering approach to collecting and museum programming and take for granted its lasting consequences. All of this is preamble to the present resurgence of pluralist thinking and pluralist demands. What is notable about Barr is that he was a pluralist by choice, or rather his exacting curiosity and the range of works that attracted his attention compelled him to that conclusion. Instead of being responsive to external forces, he responded internally and spontaneously to the disparate array of art in which he divined intrinsic merit and patterns of affinity.
His judgment of quality was therefore specific before it was categorical, and when in doubt he opted for critical openness rather than the pretense of critical infallibility. In the years since his retirement and death, and even before, the American view of modernism became narrower not broader as American art gained in authority and its institutional base expanded.
During the s and s historians and critics streamlined the famously churning diagram of the course of modern art history that Barr had devised in ; and, to an increasing degree, they concentrated on a strictly, often mechanically formal interpretation of the art they deemed worthy of that tightly channeled "mainstream.
Ironically, the rebellion against modernism as it thus came to be narrowly defined, while often interpreted as a demand that the museum reject the whole of its tradition, in many respects challenges the institution and others modeled on it to do the reverse, and return to that tradition's generative spirit and empirical approach. I arrived at the Museum at just the moment when the old dogmas were imploding under pressure from critical theory while being exploded by eclectic contemporary artistic practices that they could neither explain, accommodate, nor constrain.
These combined forces have pushed MoMA back into the open field of cultural debate, a terrain made treacherous by impending social and political confrontations of far greater magnitude. After the speculation-driven boom of the s, the art world has found itself confronting a definite bust. As material circumstances have worsened and public patience has frayed, anger at the institutions identified with monied privilege and resentment over decades of officially sanctioned indifference to marginalized groups have grown.
For the second time in a quarter century, the country, in general, and museums, in particular, are being forced to reckon the costs of squandering an interlude of prosperity and civil peace. And once again, we are being brought back to the unfinished business of forming a polity and a culture out of a heterogeneous population that is celebrated in patriotic myth but whose actual distinctions are regularly ignored if not disdained. The fault-line between the black and white worlds is both symbolic of this incomplete social fusion and the single most intractable impediment to overall cohesion.
Despite legal and economic advances that have generally benefited the African-American middle class, that gap has widened rather than closed. It has done so not only because of the deteriorating conditions of the inner city, the gradual erosion of our global economic advantage, and a loss of national nerve, but also because, with tempers shorter than ever, the very terms employed to describe this dangerous state of affairs are themselves in dispute. The debate about multiculturalism is, in that measure, a fight over words. Skirmishes about acceptable nomenclature have proven that any term is a provocation when employed as a euphemism for attitudes the speaker has not examined or hopes to hide.
From what one group calls another, the problem extends to what any collectivity calls itself. Depending on age, attitude, or circumstance, a person in my old neighborhood of Flatbush might identify themselves as a Black, an African-American, a Negro, or, as is defiantly common on the streets and among a younger generation of rappers and comedians -- a Nigger.
Over the years, the rotation of these usages, and the shift back and forth between their positive and negative interpretation, has been a chief indicator of changing racial sensitivities. This need to keep revising or exchanging vocabulary testifies to the basic unreliability of language in relation to its social function. On all sides, our inability to speak about or name the chronic condition from which we suffer is a principal source of our discomfort.
We cannot say what ails us because the very phrases we use are at once symptoms and aggravating factors of that condition. Nevertheless, like any physical pain, the sharp pang we feel on hearing or speaking some words is an urgent and healthy reminder of the fundamentally unattended causes of our plight.
Proliferating attempts at formulating a semantic balm for raw social sores have in the meantime provided endless amusement to commentators of a disenchanted-liberal to conservative bent. Double-speak is always fair game, of course, and without question there has been ample foolishness to fuel the satirists' fancy. Anecdotes of loony self-righteousness are a staple of conservative complaints in the same way that talk of welfare-queens driving Cadillacs once highlighted warnings about the folly of providing economic subsidies to the poor.
On the whole, however, the eager debunking of "politically correct" speech has offered journalistic cheap thrills while simultaneously providing an alibi for those anxious to evade serious engagement with the underlying issues. In short, it is a way of ruling out discussion by incessantly calling verbal fouls. Formerly a self-critical part of radical left-wing parlance, the label "P.
Suggesting rote agreement among members of every stirring social group when in reality there is none, at the same time implying a policed intellectual Left at a time when the Left has all but ceased to exist as a coherent force, the epithet "P. Above all, conservatives recoil from pluralism because it means accepting a world that is in constant flux. In order to persuade people of the dangers of change, the Right conjures up the opposite of the diversity it actually dreads -- that is, a monolithic, undifferentiated alien horde making unfair demands on an innocent, individualistic Everyman.
Alternatives to conventional wisdom are regarded as proof of a conspiracy of "them" against "us," and the ensuing confrontation is an ideological civil war between "our" common sense and time-honored beliefs and "their" mysterious and irrational creeds. Correspondingly, the mention of multiculturalism has come to evoke the Red Menace, the Yellow Peril, Black Rage, and the Spanish Inquisition all rolled into one.
By the same chain of unreason, the derisive use of the term "P. By rapid rhetorical contagion, "P. The term's broad appeal derives from genuine frustration as much as from polemical opportunism. Many, who would like to think well of themselves, at least to the extent that they do not in general think badly of others, feel unfairly called to judgment by those drawing attention to the denigrating assumptions and disastrous consequences of "benign neglect" in all dimensions of our public life. Among those professionally or otherwise committed to philanthropic enterprises, this sense of personal disorientation is sometimes exacerbated by fear and resentment that good works undertaken in good faith will or have become counters in a struggle for power among factions who may have no loyalty to or investment in the institutions that are the temporary site of their crusade.
There is also the matter of styles of cultural consumption. In reading rooms, silence prevails while books argue; in museums, which are the public libraries of visual culture, people reverently contemplate works of art that often quarrel with one another's poetic or philosophical rationale. In these places, it is expected that intellectual and artistic cacophony will be met with quiet appreciation. When those conflicting views are echoed aloud and amplified by a citizenry rarely heard from in or outside such establishments, that church-like decorum is broken.
As accustomed to the disruptive mobbing of "blockbuster" exhibitions as museums have become, they still find it hard to deal with people who identify "too" strongly with what they see or react "too" directly to what perplexes or disturbs them. Hybrid in its origins, multiform in its realization, and arguable in its import, modern art was made for controversy; for the most part, however, the institutions created to house and display it are ill-prepared to be forums for that controversy when it inevitably erupts.
Never was this more uncomfortably obvious than in the s and early s. During the sharp waning spasms of the Civil Rights and Black Power movements and the Viet Nam War protests, major museums were frequently the focus of demonstrations and the locus of mostly ill-fated experiments aimed at broadening their audience and artistic purview and making their programs more "relevant. It was a short jump for hysterics to assume that the art world agitators were essentially illiterate iconoclasts bent on destruction for its own sake: if they changed slogans or made agitprop posters, so the logic went, they must be deaf to T.
Eliot and blind to Henri Matisse. Within the beleaguered pro-modernist old guard, many, once militant in their own day and for their own causes, were appalled by what they perceived as a fall from the idealistic grace of the ideological battles of the s, '40s, and '50s. From their ranks came many of today's chief neo-conservative advocates and apologists, determined to defend the ground they had long ago won as artistic and social progressives against all newcomers inspired by the tradition of which they still claim to be the exclusive representatives.
Having lost control of artistic and social discourse in the '60s and '70s, such aging warriors retreated from the fertile chaos of the contemporary scene to their various professional citadels to nurse their bruises and plot their revenge. Widely broadcast from these far-flung redoubts, their obsessional contempt for the partisans of cultural diversity set the tone for a rising generation of younger conservatives.
Having missed the social and artistic crucible experienced by old and new vanguardists alike, the young conservatives of the s fed upon canned images of bad political theater, from gun-toting students at Ivy League colleges to Leonard Bernstein's infamous party for the Black Panthers. Besides making them prematurely dyspeptic, this diet of outdated radical chic convinced converts to cultural reaction that the exigencies and expediencies of the "real" world were entirely incompatible with aesthetic activity.
Having no stomach for contradiction and no understanding of how it fuels the creative process, they argued that formal and philosophical purity must be protected at all costs from contamination by social impurities. To be sure, the cause of art-for-art's sake is hardly new; nor is it inherently wrong-headed.
Motivated by the positive if illusory ambition of completely transforming life by art or life into art, total immersion in the aesthetic is one of the exhilarating constants of modernist thinking from Baudelaire to Wilde to Cage -- all of whom were worldly indeed.
The pessimistic and backward-looking version of this same impulse is another thing entirely, since it constricts imaginative freedom in both the artistic and the social domain. Maintenance rather than creation becomes the sole objective; passive longing for the Golden Age coupled with active hostility toward an unruly present consume the spirit and skew the mind. The dichotomous concept of the imagination supposed by this negative aestheticism also assumes that all true artists have the luxury of removing themselves from mundane circumstances and struggles to compose their disinterested thoughts or images.
If not an aristocracy of talent in the old sense, this view posits a protected cultural meritocracy, where the worthy are guaranteed sufficient material and mental security to insulate them from "extra-artistic" distraction. Utterly ignored by this approach are the artists whose subject is, in fact, the impossibility of taking refuge in their thoughts or existing comfortably in the world as they find it.
At regular intervals in its history, modernism's direction has been altered by individual as well as organized efforts to reflect upon and examine this exact dilemma. Some of the work has been overtly political in form and content but much has not been, though it has been deeply rooted in social realities without which the art makes no sense at all. Recent events have recast this problem and revived interest in these precedents.
The new work that addresses art's critical relation to its context thus fruitfully complicates the task faced by museums dedicated to deepening public understanding of modernism's continued development in our day. It is no accident that African-American artists count prominently among those caught between aesthetic dreams deferred and wide-awake nightmares.
One of these artists is Adrian Piper. Over the last several years, Piper has created a series of installations that probe many of the aforementioned issues. Cornered , for example, was a self-portrait of the artist as racial enigma. The centerpiece was a videotape in which Piper, assuming a politely insistent schoolmarmish tone, described how she was often mistaken for white because of the fairness of her skin and the double-bind of being privy to what whites say when they think no blacks are around. In the course of her talk, Piper also explained how she came to have two birth certificates, one identifying her as black, the other as white -- thus giving her the option to "pass.
That theme was reiterated by a chorus of voices on other monitors -- all the speakers were apparently white -- while aligned around the periphery of the room were eye-level photographs of African-American women. Each face was recognizably black, yet different in skin tone, "Negroid" features, dress, and make-up. Avowedly didactic, Piper takes a minimalist adaptation of mathematical Set Theory and applies it to social classifications, in this case diagramming the permutations of a racial paradigm the way Sol LeWitt dismantled and displayed all the structural subdivisions of a standard geometric cube.
And like LeWitt's piece, it makes one fundamentally reconceive the object of one's attention, where before one looked only in order to confirm a prior definition of that object. Piper's response to the conceptual inquiries of LeWitt -- for whom she worked as an assistant early in her career -- goes much further than formal methodology and delves into the problems of aesthetic idealism.
Another of her recent installations addressed the matter head-on. It consisted of a square room with bleacher seating on all four sides, rising to a height of about seven feet. Mounted on the wall just above the uppermost step, a ribbon of mirrors ran around the room. In the middle of the small amphitheater was a column. A video screen, level with the mirrors, was set into the top of each of the column's four facets.
Every surface in the room, including the column, the ceiling, and the squared-off floor was painted the same hard white, made brighter still by an overhead grid of naked, high-intensity light bulbs. Spectators entered through a narrow cut in the corner of the structure, and were free to climb the bleachers and to sit anywhere. As they came and went and changed places, taking the measure of the space and notice of one another, a man's head appeared on the screen.
Shot from the left, right, front, and back, he appeared in the round as if trapped inside the vertical box. At intervals he would shift his head to the right, rotating like a lighthouse beacon and seemingly casting his glance on each side of the room and on everyone in it, though in fact his gaze met his own eyes reflected in the mirrors. Against the rising and falling of an exultant soul song, the man, who was young, quiet in demeanor, and black, would haltingly, wincingly repeat, "I am not shiftless, I am not smelly, I am not dirty Speaking to, and presumably for, this hostile constituency, one critic concluded, "Upstairs, though, the installations can be summed up in a sentence or two, and looking at them isn't very different from reading about them In the center of the amphitheater is a blue pillar with a television screen on each face, and on each screen runs a videotape of a black man chanting, 'I'm You sit down on one of the tiers in the amphitheater and watch the tape, and that's the piece.
The point of [the] piece is exactly as obvious as it seems. Setting aside the self-disqualifying observation of a writer who glibly asserts that "looking at [the work] isn't very different from reading about [it]" and then misinforms his readers about the "blue pillar" at the center of the all-white room, the crux of this appraisal lies in its telling critical mistakes and oversights. Evidently predisposed to judge all art "with a message" as crudely moralizing and aesthetically obvious, the reviewer concentrated solely on the "message" spoken from the video monitor, assuming that the audience to whom it was being delivered was racially enlightened and predominantly white, in which case the man on the screen was preaching to the liberal choir while exploiting their vestigial guilt.
The issue in this review and several like it, was not, after all, Piper's simplistic notion of her artistic mission, but rather what Ezra Pound called the "ambition of the reader," which in the text cited was damningly low. Unfortunately, inattentiveness on the part of such expert readers-turned-writers tends to diminish curiosity in their lay following. Insofar as that audience already shared similar assumptions about the make-up of the museum public and the ethical self-satisfaction of socially oriented art, those attitudes quite literally colored the reactions of people who, had they been encouraged to analyze their personal experience fully, might have arrived at a distinctly different assessment of a situation in which they had an active part to play.
Take away these preconceptions -- which, unwittingly, have all the practical consequences of overt prejudice -- and the dynamic relations of the elements in Piper's installation are altered dramatically. Consider, for starters, that rather than lecturing the people in the room, the man in the box was engaged in a monologue.
Consider also -- all the while remembering that the performer was embodying character and not just mouthing the scripted opinions of the artist -- that this man was at least as focused on the bitter inner resonance of his words and their outwardly reflected expression as he was upon being witnessed by or bearing witness to those gathered round. Further, suppose that while listening to his voice, the eyes of individual spectators drifted away from the video image, fell skittishly on faces next to or across from them, then wandered up to the mirrors in which their own gaze was captured and multiplied, along with that of everyone else present including the man on the screen, so that altogether in each other's sight they became a crowd.
Factor into that optically tessellated group a number of African-Americans, and envision the looks they exchanged amongst themselves and with their non-African-American neighbors as they simultaneously heard the repeated slurs and repeated denials. Then let the balance shift, so that a few whites are scattered among many blacks in the blanched chamber resounding with the bitter voice. Or, as was in fact the case one day when I went in to check on things -- picture a group of teenage boys from Harlem sitting by themselves in the same space, attending to the same hurtful phrases articulated by a man who could be their father, uncle, or brother.
The idea that art's content is ultimately determined not only by its creator's intention but by all the possible interpretations and misinterpretations it prompts is basic to contemporary aesthetics. In creating a work the artist initiates a collaboration wit the public, and that collaboration is important because its self-revealing and catalytic nature adds to a greater understanding of the diverse components that form the work itself and its audience. Rather than presenting a fixed idea to a universal spectator, the artist sends out a coded proposition that will elicit reactions that illuminate the disparities between perception and expectation among those who respond.
By contrast, protest art tries to transmit the same message to all people, hoping to affirm in a uniform way the human values it proclaims. Piper's practice, however, follows the principle that the consciousness must be stimulated before the conscience can be addressed. Hence, the discomforts felt by the various people who entered her environment -- anger at hearing the slurs; shame at having once uttered them; fear of showing true emotion; irritation at being watched while trying to hide that emotion; awkwardness in attempting to express empathy in a social vacuum; uncertainty about whether to identify others with the man speaking; uncertainty about identifying oneself with him; and uncertainty about being identified with that man and, if so identified, in what way -- all are part of the raw material from which the work was composed, and all brought to the surface the intricate, often clashing patterns of feeling, thought, and behavior that make up the irregular texture of race relations.
It juxtaposed the elegant otherworldliness of the art-space to the grim everyday world inhabited by the man speaking. Instead of condemning the former as "unreal" by interjecting the irrefutable reality of the latter, and thereby reiterating the old radical argument that we cannot afford artificial beauty until moral ugliness is defeated, Piper fused her dialectical opposites into a visual and spatial oxymoron. She thus made viewers conscious of the cognitive dissonance created by the confrontation of the two forms of idealism she invoked -- the dream of aesthetic harmony and the demand for social justice.
Incommensurable with one another, both of her symbolic terms involve extremes of abstraction: the first, positive archetypes of artistic perfection; the second, negative racial stereotypes. Although the rational structures of the minimalist architecture cannot be reconciled with the irrational concepts at the heart of racism, in context each compels our attention. The relative power of these two concerns is decided largely by who we are and where we are. The contemplation of absolutes -- in which Piper, a Kantian philosopher, firmly believes -- requires a trust that the detachment required will not be violated.
Like other African-Americans, Piper knows by experience that access to the ivory tower is extremely limited and that living in your head can be very risky. Nevertheless, by evoking without irony exactly the sort of transcendence that has been a goal of art in every era, Piper asserts her equal claim to such transcendence -- refusing, in effect, to cede her rights to the "White Cube" of high modernism simply because she is black but also refusing to permit others to continue to enjoy its sanctuary without constant thought of what lies outside.
Piper's installation, therefore represented the opposite of what it was accused of being. Rather than merely taking sides and pointing fingers, the artist set out to demonstrate the complex uncertainties of interracial association by providing the grounds for a particularly intimate experience of ambivalence and alienation. Rather than casting aside art for the sake of a cause, Piper contrived a space of gleaming formality that plainly indicated her belief that aesthetics are as much at stake in any critique of the existing order as social conditions are the inescapable framework of pure and practical reason.
His project was inspired by the statue of Theodore Roosevelt that stands in front of the Museum of Natural History, which he passes frequently en route between uptown and downtown. Seated on horseback in a Gattamelata-like pose, the Imperial President and great outdoorsman is attended by two noble savages -- one African, the other Native American.
No longer willing to ignore or psychologically "grandfather" this glaringly anachronistic vision of the white man's burden, Hammons decided to symbolically unburden himself and the rest of New York of it. The centerpiece of his environment was a precariously leaning three dimensional photo-mural of the monument surrounded by sand bags, machine guns, patently fake sticks of dynamite, miniature cannons, and model attack planes zeroing in from above.
Streamers and balloons festooned the ceiling in celebration of this domestic Desert Storm; deep piles of dried leaves covered the floor and filled the air with their fragrance. One full wall of floor-to-ceiling windows opened over the museum's garden; Hammons painted the other three walls a mottled sap green and scrolled them with gilt filigree so that they shaded into the gold-tinged autumnal trees outside.
Combined with the leafy odor, the optical illusion made it feel as though one had stepped through the museum looking glass and back into the city. This blurring of the environmental boundaries was as basic to the work's meaning as its theatrically enhanced iconography. Hammons is an ironic poet of place, not an editorial cartoonist. The city has long been Hammons preferred field of operations. For almost two decades, he has fashioned his major projects out of doors, from cast-off materials.
In one piece, for instance, he attached basketball hoops and backboards to towering telephone poles which he embellished with scavenged beer bottle caps, much as African craftsmen would decorate fetishes with cowry shells. In doing so, he created a monument to the lure and frustration that professional sports represents to young black men. Entitled Higher Goals , these poles were planted in a vacant lot in Harlem and in a park in downtown Brooklyn, where those to whom they would have most meaning would easily run across them.
Like much traditional African art -- and like the costumes of Brooklyn's annual Caribbean Festival which are part of that tradition's legacy in exile -- Hammons' work is often inherently impermanent; in fact, none of these totems survive except in memory. Nor does Public Enemy survive.
What remains, besides a burlesque after-image of the tottering Rough-Rider and his carnival bright Armageddon, are some afterthoughts about the differences between it and Piper's piece. Although both dealt with race, they did so in ways that could hardly have been more dissimilar. In contrast to Piper's critical and aesthetic restraint, Hammons used mordant but engaging humor coupled with a restless suspicion of institutional culture and its programmed audience ability to respond to what he calls the madness of America.
Altogether rejecting the "White Cube" as sterile and foreign, Hammons went beyond introducing one discordant element into its precincts. He did everything he could to bring the street into the gallery -- to turn the museum inside out and transform its marshaled public into meandering pedestrians. From Piper and Hammons alone it is evident that among African-American artists who directly broach the matter in their work -- and many do not -- there is no single black view of racism.
The assumption that Hammons and Piper were, in their separate ways, saying the same thing, begged the essential question of the relation of content to form, which is usually the first question asked of work dealing with less political issues but generally the last asked of art addressing controversial social problems. Rather than simply echoing each other's anger at a common enemy, Piper's and Hammons' installations revealed deeply considered and sharply contrasting attitudes toward the historical, philosophical, and artistic dimensions of their situation as black creators in a predominantly white society.
Rather than constituting a chorus of accusations directed at the white majority, theirs was a dialogue between peers, conducted in the presence of that majority and serving as a forum for other "minorities" to join. Many other voices are indeed taking part. While Piper, Hammons, and a handful of other artists whose careers began in the turmoil of the s and early 70s have re-emerged in recent years, we have also witnessed the rise of a younger generation of African-American painters, sculptors, photographers, multimedia artists, and critics.
It is an artistic flowering that more than rivals the "Harlem Renaissance" of the s and 30s in its vigor, range of expression, and accomplishment. This new generation is very much aware of that past and of the episodic, often abruptly truncated development of previous movements and of the individual careers of those involved in them. The reason for such discontinuity is no mystery. Attention to and inclusion of blacks in the established white art world is rarely timed to the creative seasons of the artists but is all too often determined by the intermittent need of whites to check the pulse of the black community and publicly show their concern for it.
Besides periodically reaffirming a moral involvement, this cyclical interest is prompted by an anxious desire to be told in encapsulated form what the current issues and etiquettes are so that one will know what to expect and how to behave. Once that desire has been satisfied, attention frequently wanders. The treatment awaiting black artists in these circumstances thus taps into the subtlest forms of bias, since it is predicated upon the notion that blacks are "the problem," and that among their number are those who, with the support of whites, will provide "the solution," or at least help keep matters from getting worse.
It is in the spirit of tokenism, then, that African-American artists are first and foremost regarded as spokespersons of their kind. To avoid confusion, only so many can be given prominence at a time and only so long as their work clarifies rather than complicates the understanding that whites hope to gain of the prevailing state of interracial affairs.
In this context, the currently burgeoning and contentious community of black artists poses a special challenge to art institutions. The difficulty they must deal with, though few have fully accepted this fundamental reality, is not which black artists to select as representatives, but how to accommodate and present the multiplicity of aesthetic attitudes and practices that demonstrably exist, and how, according to the other criteria, to integrate them into the broader history of art.
Although focus-collections and alternative spaces have pioneered the way, the stage where it is acceptable to think of the work of black artists as merely tributary to the mainstream and therefore primarily suitable to the care of ethnically defined venues has long since passed.
For the foreseeable future, however, these specialized institutions will continue to play the leading role in researching the past and nurturing new talent. They will always remain essential to the long-term support of African-American art in particular, just as the exclusively black colleges and universities have had and will have a special role in black education and cultural scholarship.
It is easy to compile a long and substantial roll of black visual artists, living and dead, whose work has in some measure contributed to the creation of a distinct and varied tradition, which is as much a part of the American tradition as a whole as the more generally acknowledged achievements in African-American literature, music, dance and film. Among those who come to mind are Horace Pippin, William H. Obviously, not all the serious creative work by black artists is of the first rank, just as not all the novels and essays by black authors worthy of being read are equally good.
Nor is every Impressionist painting or Cubist sculpture that can be seen in our museums an undisputed masterpiece. Living culture is never just a matter of the widely agreed upon greatness of a few artists or works. The best museums reflect this fact by showing and interrelating the various threads that give culture its textural richness. Given then that understanding depends on more than an appreciation of a handful of recognized classics, the sheer quantity and diversity of what is presently available necessitates comparative judgments of quality. True discernment -- as opposed to gross discrimination, blanket approval, or the reflex preferences of unexamined taste -- requires a general knowledge of the field that is constantly fed by ready access to and careful study of particular works.
While established museums have made some progress by mounting retrospective exhibitions together with historical and contemporary surveys, chances for the general public, as well as for art professionals and patrons, to educate themselves are still few and far between. All too often these exhibitions are treated as socially mandated exercises, effectively signaling them as duties acquitted rather than as artistic options enthusiastically chosen. Moreover, the educational opportunity they create is frequently lost in the rush by the Right and the Left alike to use the art in question as interchangeable pawns in what has become a contest between a difference-muddling brand of liberalism and a difference-scorning school of conservatism.
Such was the case with the Whitney Biennial, which over the course of its rocky run became a virtual referendum on socially encoded art. Having just defended two works in an exhibition that I organized against what I considered to be dismissive reviewers, I am not now going to venture a hit-and-run analysis of the flaws in the Whitney show, except to say that my disappointment with aspects of its conception and content was compounded by the unhappy realization that the backlash it had provoked was narrowing art-world appreciation of specific artists in whom I also shared an active interest.
Ironically, it was precisely because of its unevenness that the Biennial was the ideal occasion for setting standards for a variety of contemporary forms of "political" work. Disappointingly, few commentators took advantage of it. In sum, these reviews constituted an inquest without evidence. That said, much of the work was limited by the obviousness of its confrontational attitude or polemical intent. Felix Gonzalez-Torres, an artist represented in the previous Biennial but absent from this one, and one of the canniest young artists working with social signs in social settings, said it best: "Taken altogether, the show made it look as if we didn't know what metaphor was.
There were notable exceptions. Some pieces with a specific point to make did so by indirect means. Byron Kim, a former student of figure painter Philip Pearlstein and a realist of the flesh in his own right, contributed a mural consisting of small rectangular paintings, each covered by a different monochrome coat of an earthen hue, ranging from bleached tan to rich coffee brown.
At first sight, it looked like a tonal version of Ellsworth Kelly's chromatic grid, Colors for a Large Wall. Randomly placed, each panel was identified as the skin color of an acquaintance of the artist. Just as Kelly observes color in the world around him, distills it and represents it in formal, sometimes chance-derived patterns that prepare one to experience the very same visual epiphanies as the painter, Kim, in assembling his modulated swatches, created a catalogue of nuances that, once noticed, trains the eye to recognize them in reality.
In short, Kim's paintings provide the perfect optical tuning for a walk down Flatbush Avenue, or anywhere else in the city that one finds a broad range of human shades and tints. The simplicity of his premise guaranteed its effectiveness; like all successfully provocative works of art, Kim's prompted the viewer to experience a phenomenon before he made his case. At least as significantly, Glee forced its largely non-gay, non-kid audience to confront the existence and the struggles of queer children in a sustained way. In that, the show accomplished something television can do better than almost any other medium—it normalized a conversation.
Savage understood that if one role of entertainment is to kick down a barrier, the job of activism is to make sure it never gets rebuilt. And in ten years, some of them will run for local, state, and national office. The first woman to argue a case before the Supreme Court did so in It would take another years for a woman to sit on that bench rather than stand before it. Even then, progress was fitful. But there was something antiquated, practically mutton-choppy, about that portrait.
Then President Obama proposed, for the first time in history, that a Latina help interpret the legal cases that flummoxed everyone else. Also like Obama, she was raised by a single mother. If you can watch the two Sotomayors embrace with dry eyes, you are doing better than nearly everyone else in that room. Obama explained that he had been in the market for empathy, a word that to some ears sounded, will always sound, dangerously like activism. That would be, on one occasion or another, The jury remains out on whether there is such a creature as female jurisprudence; surely justice should be no more gendered than a shapeless black gown.
It has, however, been argued that women tend to reason more holistically and with an increased tolerance for gray. Whether or not they introduce more compromise into the courtroom, they necessarily introduce a different perspective. Here is a disorienting thought: What if someone who has actually had an abortion were called on to rule on the legality of one?
How many female justices would be sufficient? Nine, says Justice Ginsburg, noting that no one ever raised an eyebrow at the idea of nine men. LB : But it was also the first huge celebrity death to happen in the age of social media, or at least the age of Twitter. Frank Guan : In a lot of ways, the culture prefers the death of artists to their continuing to live. They run out of timely or groundbreaking material and the audience starts tuning out.
At some point, their fame eclipses their art, and then the only way to get the general audience to appreciate them anew is for them to die. LB : People seem to like the grieving process so much that even lesser celebrities get the same treatment. In a secular society, we want to guarantee that at least someone will have an afterlife.
Also, death is a one-time-only thing. There were enormous changes. For example, General Motors had something like different job classifications that the union had. And we wiped all that stuff out. We basically gave back management the freedom to manage, to hire, to fire. People stopped getting paid even when they were on layoff. The Pakistani government report later said he was a civilian. The dead numbered around Some were apparently Taliban members, but none were major leaders.
And none were Mehsud. Roughly nine people were killed and another four wounded. Their identities were never announced, though a Pakistani official said some of the dead had belonged to the Taliban. The commander died, along with at least four other inhabitants. As villagers recovered the bodies, CIA personnel dispatched their drones to the nearest town, anticipating that the funeral would be held the same afternoon.
Hours later, officials in Virginia watched on TV screens as mourners chanted around the burial site and the missiles began to fall, three altogether. In the end, dozens of bystanders were killed, perhaps as many as 86 — but not Mehsud. By one account, he was receiving an IV drip for his diabetes; by another, a woman was massaging his legs. CIA personnel, watching the video in real time, ordered a strike, and two Hellfire missiles from a Predator incinerated the house. His wife, father-in-law and mother-in-law, a lieutenant, and seven bodyguards were also killed in the blast.
The hand-launched Raven surveillance drone, which flies at feet at 50 mph. The ScanEagle , also for surveillance, flies higher, at up to 19, feet, at 90 mph. The RQ-7B Shadow , which operates at 18, feet at mph. The armed MQ-1 Predator , which can travel to about 25, feet and fly at mph.
The armed MQ-9 Reaper , which flies at 30, feet at mph. A Taliban attack in Kabul kills 17 people and injures 83; Cuban officials complain the U. The next morning, he will learn he has won the Nobel Peace Prize. If I have to buy a pair of shoes, then I have to eat ramen noodles for dinner.
I still apply. Every day is a gamble with my health. Struggling builds character. But at the end of the process, you feel that your voice was heard. For the surge in Afghanistan, there was an enormous amount of pressure to make a decision. There were all kinds of numbers being floated around in the press, lots of unfortunate leaks. This might have been a day or two before the election, but the point is: There is no doubt that we did not stay on top of that the way we needed to.
This underscored a failing in my first year, which was the sort of perverse faith in good policy leading to good politics. Is the auto industry going to collapse? Will layoffs accelerate? It was better to go ahead and push through and then show that we had gotten something done that was really important to the American people.
But I give Nancy and Harry and a whole lot of Democrats enormous credit. It was one of those moments where a lot of people did the right thing even though the politics of it were bad. For all its warts and all the mistakes that any political party makes — including catering to the interest groups that help get people elected — the truth is that the ACA vote showed that when people had to do something they thought was right even if it was not going to be helpful to their reelection, the majority of Democrats were willing to do it. Certainly Nancy and Harry were willing to do it.
One thing that I had to learn fairly early on in the process is that you have to have a plan B. But we had begun to look at what other paths might be possible. Once we knew it was possible, then it was really just a matter of working Congress. A year later, when the left got irritated with me because of budget negotiations, there was always this contrast between Obama and LBJ, who really worked Congress. But I tell you, those two weeks, that was full LBJ.
Every day we were working Democrats, because at this point there was no prospect of us getting any Republicans. Poll numbers were rotten, people were angry. Good-government reforms have hamstrung an administration, which I think is for the most part for the best. The folks who I will always consider the real heroes of the ACA were the legislators, mostly younger and in swing districts, who had tough races and were just a great bunch of guys.
Three thousand years ago, confronted with the mysteries of the universe, the Greeks invented a pantheon of gods and assigned each of them power over the sky and ocean, over love and intelligence. To explain the unexplainable is the realm of mythology. So when America woke up to find that a black man from Planet Harvard with a Star Trek name was suddenly the president — the commander-in-chief!
Thus the Obama Conspiracy Theory was born. Here are an even dozen:. The good news is the Obama-conspiracy period is unlikely to survive his presidency. As Obama leaves office, one of the more painful memories is the recollection of all that talk of the post-racial society he was supposed to usher in. Now that was a real conspiracy theory. One small child wounded. Ah, damn. Oh, well. She needs to get evaced. We need your location, over. It was the first time where we learned how to work through that noise. Objectively, if you look back, we managed what was the largest environmental disaster in American history — at least on the continental United States — better than or as well as any administration ever has.
But in the midst of it there was this sense that things were completely out of control. The gap between the perception and the reality of what we were doing was stark. We were on top of this thing from the start. When it happened, we assigned all our best people from all our agencies to start working on it. What made it unique was that, to my chagrin and surprise, nobody had ever seen anything like this before. And we had to invent a way to solve it. It came in very handy that I had a Nobel Prize—winning physicist as my Energy secretary.
And he literally designed a little cap that essentially served as the specs for the construction of a mechanism to close the darn hole. But that took three months. What you realized was the degree to which [it mattered that the] camera down there is showing the plume of oil coming out. We started having gallows humor about the pelican, that it seemed like they had one pelican that they showed over and over again, covered in oil.
Staying focused and disciplined in moments where people — and certainly the press — are most likely to panic has overall served us well. Our hard-won reputation for good management took a well-deserved blow.
That was dropping your left and getting socked in the jaw. He likes to roll in style, comfort and convenience. His over-the-top idea in Paris that winter started as a limo timeshare service. I think his original pitch had me and him splitting the costs of a driver, a Mercedes S-Class, and a parking spot in a garage, so that I could use an iPhone app to get around San Francisco on-demand. Tech bro lolz! And btw thanks for introducing surge pricing after the Chelsea bombing the other week.
On a recent visit to Toronto, I was lucky enough to stay part of the week in a townhouse chosen through Airbnb, a quirky number in a surprising neighborhood that opened up the city in a way that three days at the DoubleTree by Hilton conspicuously failed to do. Viewed through the lightest imaginative scrim we use to turn the quotidian into a kind of ongoing romantic-dramatic narrative, interactions with the so-called sharing economy have added value to my life in ways I never expected.
The prevailing and largely correct narrative is about the isolation and dislocation wrought by the smartphone and social media, but societal trends inevitably provoke strong countertrends. The explosion of DIY handcrafting of everything from beer to chocolate to butchering to the crap you find on Etsy likely would not have happened but as a back-to-the-farm reaction to the alienation of digital-only life. Likewise, the sharing economy has begun to allow us to grow back the connective social tissue that social media tore asunder.
And the shift from communal work spaces like those offered by WeWork to communal, hostel-style living is already under way. He was signing as a free agent with a team filled with really good friends, rather than the one that had criminally underpaid him and refused to sign any decent players to surround him with.
Strange as it is to say, their careers ran in parallel. Before Obama gave his career-catapulting speech at the Democratic National Convention, reporter and later Obama biographer David Mendell asked if he was ready for his big moment. Obama smiled wide, Mendell later wrote. I got some game. But at the time, LeBron was a year-old, still just a month out of his rookie season, figuring his way around a league that eyed the young phenom and all his hype warily. After all, if a skinny black kid with an awkward jumper could make it all the way to the White House, what else is possible?
Is that too strong a word for you? BS : Reform would be to say that it is bad public policy when six financial institutions have assets equivalent to 57 percent of the GDP of the United States. That would be reform. In fact, the major banks are larger today than they were before Dodd-Frank. FF : Okay, you like Obama. BS : This country is a lot better as a result of Obama, and he had to do that against fierce opposition. On the other hand, to my mind, the great issue of our time is the movement toward oligarchy. And that means the power of Wall Street, the power of corporate America, the power of the billionaire class to own the politics of this country.
So we have made progress, but the fundamental issue of taking on the one percent and the greed of the billionaire class, that has not occurred. Do you think that that misses the point? BS : The president appoints people. President Obama, in a big mistake, basically did what Republicans wanted and appointed Erskine Bowles and Alan Simpson to chair a commission on the deficit crisis. So that tells you something. Still, the bottom line is: Today in America, the economy is in much better shape than when Obama first came in. He deserves credit. More people have health insurance, poverty is down.
On the other hand, the angst of the moment is that people see this country moving into an oligarchic form of society — where we have a grotesque level of income and wealth inequality where the political system is being bought by Sheldon Adelson and the Koch brothers. BS : Right. I think what the president had to do, which he chose not to do, is to make it clear that we have got to deal with the greed of the one percent of corporate America and Wall Street, that their practices cannot continue.
That is an approach he has chosen not to take. In order to have real leverage going forward, he needed to scare the crap out of these guys on some level. BS : In , he ran one of the great campaigns in the history of the United States. Brilliant campaign. Did he mobilize the energy and the coalition that he put together into a powerful political force which would have helped him fight for the change that this country needed? The answer is no. BS : Yeah, it is harder than you think to mobilize people. That is a true point.
Did he do everything that he could have? I think the answer is no, he did not. Rather than making the Republicans an offer they could not refuse because millions of people were standing behind him, he chose to sit down with Republicans and negotiate. I think his politics are not the politics of taking on these people. Americans are addicted to hope. We think the world is infinitely malleable and that with enough pluck and elbow grease anything is possible. We believe that everything and everyone can be redeemed, that the movie will always end with the hero walking away from the wreckage or the town cheering.
We believe in conversions and getting a new life. We scoff at the ancient Stoic lesson that recognizing limits and living within them is the key to happiness. Limits are undemocratic, reality a construct. And tomorrow is another day. We bring the same attitude to politics. That and a very short memory.
We spend the next two years stewing and blaming Washington and the media, encouraged to do so by Washington and the media. And then, as the debates and primaries and conventions come round again, we forget all that and convince ourselves that this time the messiah really is coming.
We are a nation of children. Barack Obama understood the power of hope — he campaigned on it. Even Bill Clinton, who ran as the man from Hope, did not have the audacity to present himself as the man heading for Hope. It appears that Obama genuinely believed his own rhetoric. But once elected, Obama did what grown-up politicians do: He got to work. He learned and talked to experts; he read documents and stayed up late. He was responsible. For this, he was punished. He raised expectations he could not meet, which just infuriated the kids, who kept pouting until Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders offered them ice cream.
Even Shepard Fairey, the artist who designed his famous hope campaign poster, abandoned Obama for Sanders. When, he wonders, will they ever grow up? The answer is never. Because we treat bowing to reality as a punishable offense, we are stuck in this cycle. There is no exit. Once an anxious friend who read his stories asked him whether he thought there was any hope in the world at all. Under the radar, they and their donor group poured money into races all over the country.
Many of the ugly lies and slurs you see now were first trotted out in those midterm races. The single most important item the Koch network has obstructed is congressional action on climate change. They and their allies represent the combined force of the fossil-fuel industry, and they have funded contrarian science that denies the reality of climate change.
By spending strategically, they successfully killed efforts to put a price on carbon pollution — the so-called cap-and-trade bill — as well as many other efforts to help the country move toward alternative energy. The president told the New York Times recently that climate change is the most terrifying issue we face. The story of the economy in the Obama years is in many ways a tale of loose money.
Back in the grim autumn of , Chair Ben Bernanke took the most important weapon in his arsenal, the Fed-funds target rate, and slashed it all the way to zero — an unprecedented move and a clear signal of just how seriously he was taking the economic emergency. That move, along with three rounds of so-called quantitative easing, or QE, where the Fed pumped money into the financial markets by buying bonds, constituted the biggest and mightiest monetary-policy experiment ever undertaken: an unorthodox attempt by the Fed, along with other leading central banks, to prevent the collapse of the global economy.
There was one minuscule rate hike, of one-quarter of one percent, in December The effects of ZIRP and QE were wide-ranging and mostly felt in the prices of financial assets, like stocks, bonds, and real estate. For financial investors, the Obama years turned out exceptionally well. But really they have the central bank to thank, much more than the president. What if we had the singularity and nobody noticed?
In , Barack Obama had been on the trail for weeks, using a BlackBerry like all the cool campaigners, when the new thing went on sale and throngs lined up for it. The new thing had a silly name: iPhone. The iPhone was a phone the way the Trojan horse was a horse. At the Rio Olympics you could see people, having flown thousands of miles to be in the arena with the athletes, watching the action through their smartphones. As though they needed the mediating lens to make it real.
This device, this gadget — a billion have been made and we scarcely know what to call it. Contact lenses have been rumored; implants are only a matter of time. Silicon passes carbon in the life-form sweepstakes. You may consider this an apocalypse or an awakening, according to taste. Machinery that takes over our biological functions may serve us, like prosthetics, expanding and amplifying our humanity, but not everyone feels expanded or amplified. With every gain comes a loss — memory being the first to go. Amnesiacs with prosthetic memory. We become sidewalk zombies, downward facing, oblivious to our immediate fellows and the storefronts past which we glide.
We resemble wraiths. Still, the zombies are often smiling — evidently chatting or texting with invisible spirits who are, after all, just other humans. Before, the internet was just a place we visited. Now we seem to have moved in. That is the true purpose of the magic box. So, sure, call it a fancy phone. A mini-camera. An electronic commodity, a status object, a bit of bling.
But in a short few years, it has changed what it means to be human. ADAM PLATT: Many things in Foodlandia, these days, have a political element to them, and if you want to emblazon a flag to be carried into battle, you could do worse than a bristly, semi-digestible bunch of locally grown kale. AP: The idea of kale is much more powerful than kale itself.
In short order it went from being discovered, to appreciated, to being something that was parodied. AS: The same thing happened to pork. Remember bacon peanut brittle? Bacon-fat cocktails? AP: Ahhh, bacon versus kale. The two great, competing forces of our time. AS: Do you think one gave way to the other? Bacon is the great symbol in the comfort-food, farm-fresh-dining movement, a kind of merry, unbridled pulchritude. AS: But pork has an advantage: People like the way it tastes. All the bridesmaids have come to the fancy bridal shop to see Maya Rudolph try on wedding dresses.
This should be a familiar scene: The bride emerges from the changing room and … This is the dress! The friends clap. The mother cries. Everyone is a princess. Go ahead and twirl! But when the bride emerges in Bridesmaids, almost all of her friends have started to feel sick. Sweat coats their skin. Red splotches creep over their faces. It starts with a gag from Melissa McCarthy, followed by another gag. Then a gag that comes simultaneously with a tiny wet fart. We breathe a sigh of relief. Then sweet Ellie Kemper gags, and the sound effect is surprisingly nasty. They look bad. They are embarrassed.
How far is this going to go? Wendi McLendon-Covey wet-farts quietly, and the manager is horrified. Now we get another fart from Melissa. This one is deeper and darker. Kristen Wiig stares at Rose Byrne, as both women realize how serious this could be. Wendi tells everyone she has to get off the white carpet.
She runs to the bathroom. The bridesmaids follow. This must be where it ends. Suddenly, we are in the bathroom, running alongside Wendi as she races for the toilet. We barely have time to react, when Melissa runs in after her. The camera pans up fast to see her desperation. We are watching a war now. I need the toilet! It will be funny, and then it will be over. That is the limit of our imagination. We cut wide again to see the bathroom. Why are we in such a wide shot? Melissa knocks the Kleenexes and towels off the bathroom counter.
And then … she starts to hike up her dress. This is the moment. Change for women in this country has come in many forms. Some change is big and loud and hard-won and can be put in writing. Some change is as small and simple as a handshake. Melissa McCarthy starts to hike up her dress.
She hoists her body up onto the sink. She is fully on top of the sink now. The kicker. The cherry on top. The camera cuts.
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We are above now. We look down from a safe perch as the release we have been anticipating and dreading begins. A woman has just pooped in a sink. The revolution has begun. I think they both shared a belief in the art of the possible, and they both did not think compromise was a dirty word. When our cover was blown — a Wall Street Journal editorial came out saying that Boehner and Obama were working on this and attacking the whole premise — that was devastating.
It resulted in Cantor being a part of the talks. Paul Ryan said if we do this deal, it will guarantee your reelection. If we agree with Barack Obama on spending and taxes, that takes away one of our big weapons. That conversation was quite illuminating. Both parties like their daggers. That was the dance. There was a moment in time where they had the outlines of an agreement and we went off to fill in some additional details between the two staffs pursuant to a meeting that had occurred on a Sunday morning at the White House.
We shipped them some paperwork Sunday night. Monday — nothing. I literally probably had a couple hundred hours of private meetings at my home with them. One of the problems, though, is that old bad joke: What happens when the dog catches the bus? Well, they caught the bus in But we spent an awful lot of time in detailed, detailed discussions about how to deal with everything from the potential for a government shutdown in to the budget deal in to the fiscal cliff in and beyond.
Not a single thing leaked out of those discussions, and we went through the budget literally line by line — where would they be willing to raise revenue? Could they, for example, raise revenue by eliminating the tax cuts for small aircraft that are not taxed the same as commercial airlines? It got that detailed. We would shake hands and have a deal.
Illustrations by Lauren Tamaki. And the very next year, I was one of the most hated men in America. What I remember from my show is the fact that I did get an opportunity to warn people of what could be over the horizon. I was trying to teach them the history of our country and the Founding Fathers.
They would be horrified by his policies and by everything he says. But because he has an R after his name, they suddenly accept it and hold him up as the great savior. And I was worried our country was hurtling toward a disastrous, self-inflicted economic crisis.
That morning, when it became clear the vote was going to be close, my husband, Mark, and I knew we needed to get to Washington quickly. I went straight from my rehabilitation appointment to the airport, and Mark was at our house in Houston packing our bags so he could meet us at the plane. That night, I remember seeing the Capitol for the first time since I was injured and feeling so grateful to be at work.
I will never forget the reception I received on the floor of the House from my colleagues, both Republicans and Democrats. And then, like I had so many times before, I voted. After I resigned from Congress to continue my recovery, and Mark retired from the U. Navy and NASA, we hoped to have a second chance at service. We wondered what our path might be. The tragedy at Sandy Hook gave us the answer.
There is a sea change happening in the movement to prevent gun tragedies. Groups like ours are finally helping to bring some balance back to the politics of this issue; no longer does the gun lobby have the playing field to itself. I worked so hard to get my speech back, and honestly, talking to people who share my determination helped me find my words again.
Best of all, I got back on my bike. Riding my bike once seemed like such a huge challenge. It seemed impossible. It was a nice tactic on their part—they set up a meeting in the Great Hall of the People with more press than I thought lived in China. All the financial reporters came too because Biden was going to get his comeuppance: Man, the United States was downgraded for the first time.
I walked in, and Hu was being very smart. He looked at me and said he thought America would come back and that they wanted to be able to help, but he wanted to be sure their investments in our Treasury bills were secure. I went and saw him in midst of that at the White House. We went down to the basketball court. He went off on vacation shortly after that and he spent a lot of time thinking about how to come out of this and fight his way back. On September 17, , three years after the financial crisis and the dawn of the Great Recession, there was every reason to believe that public attention to bank fraud, massive foreclosures, executive wealth, and middle-class debt had come to an end — if it had ever really begun.
While the city and the current owners bickered over who should eject the unwanted public, they built a library, a free canteen, a sleeping village, a drum corps, and a media center, and held a twice-daily town meeting to deliberate the running and political purpose of their Occupation. It was, more or less, a working model of real democracy, steps from where the Bill of Rights had been adopted, in the heart of the financialized fake Manhattan that had paved democracy over.
The sitting and talking of a few hundred, then many thousands, of people, in Manhattan and then at sites across the United States and Europe, for about two months accomplished several things. It pushed media, not very skillful with abstractions, to focus on long-known truths about the redistribution of wealth upward to the richest one percent. Historians are obligated to use positive data: unemployment reports, foreclosure peaks, homicides eyewitnessed and livestreamed.
But those of us who lived through it can insist on the importance of mood, of atmosphere, and of silence. There was the belief, at the election in and after, that even though Obama propped up the big banks in the Great Recession, he was going to save the rest of us, too. He would prosecute wrongdoers, at least, or halt foreclosures and fraud. A three-year lag. And there was a belief in that Obama, in his second term, would now have the political safety to launch measures to save African-Americans specifically — to deliver the country from the era that threw people in jail for practically nothing and shot them for black skin and a justified fear of the cops.
A two-year lag. Yet its curious effect was primarily to set the stage, through caution and blocked action, for an upsurge of genuine social movements that began from his absences. Perhaps the old community organizer knew that for a real democracy, citizens must do things for themselves. That winter and going into , we began raising rounds pretty quickly. At one point, we were growing at new people every two weeks in the Chicago office. So you would come in and not only would your desk be gone, but that entire wall would be missing. We did pranks for our own employees, just so they were excited to come to work every day.
We got accustomed to things like that. You were wondering what fun, crazy things happened. Every day we would share by email different success stories of merchants whose businesses we had saved. I remember there was one about us saving a zoo, where this woman had a llama farm and she was going out of business.
We put her on Groupon, and suddenly she was booked for six months. I would wake up ina cold sweat and think: Oh, maybe I have a cold. Oh my God, it was difficult for me to go into a crowd. I isolated myself. After I left work I stayed in my condo. Total-shutdown mode. I was angry at everything. It could have been ants walking across my coffee table. I was angry because my dog Rocsi was wagging her tail. Of course I was angry that — why was I chosen to go back the second time? I mean, you got me in , then you sent me again in ? When I got home, I was back working in a hospital. For years, I thought I was doing well.
I was still functioning as a mom. Then, in , my daughters were gone and I had nobody else to worry about. Graduating from a liberal-arts college in meant finding yourself cast in a bleak comedy and realizing quickly that no one felt all that sorry for you. She was also someone with an HBO series, as opposed to a self-involved intern with a half-finished manuscript.
From the beginning, the volume of analysis the show generated threatened to overwhelm the show itself. What did Girls mean for millennials? Why was the cast on the first season so white, and so populated by the children of famous people? Dunham went through the ringer of creating pop culture in the era of social media as few others had before: Girls gave her a platform just as more people than ever could publicly question who got such platforms, and why, and how they used them.
She knew that daytime calls signaled an emergency. The worst one had come the previous year, when her sister told her ICE agents had placed their father in federal custody. Garcia was attending Mercer University in Macon, Georgia, when her father was marched out of her childhood home. But this call was different. Undocumented immigrants who had arrived in the United States as children could apply for Social Security numbers and work permits.
Garcia qualified: Her parents had brought her to this country when she was 7 years old. DACA transformed her into a premed student who could actually become a doctor. And those hundreds of thousands of immigrants are outnumbered by the approximately 2. The daughter is poised to join the U. The father was caught up in a policy that has expelled almost as many immigrants as the George W.
Bush and Clinton administrations combined. At first, President Obama saw this as a necessary first step to immigration reform. He came to the attention of ICE agents after they combed through the personnel records at the carpet factory where he worked. He is required to periodically check in with ICE authorities, however, and had to wear an ankle bracelet for several months. His deportation is still a live possibility. There were moments during the Obama years when the Garcias thought they might be able to come out of the shadows, just like their daughter. After the election, the administration pushed hard for immigration reform; it passed the Senate but never received a vote in the House.
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In , Obama tried to expand the DACA program to include undocumented parents of children who are citizens. The Garcias would have qualified, because their youngest daughter was born in the U. The Supreme Court deadlocked on its constitutionality this past June. A man told me that he had a son with multiple sclerosis, and he and his wife were always worried that if something happened to them, and they no longer could use their health insurance to cover him, what would happen to their son?
And now they could rest easy. I also felt extremely privileged to have the opportunity to play this role in history. Some of the political folks in the White House were wary because it was in the spring of an election year — and their concern was that Obamacare could be parodied or tarred as just a big tax. But the president made a judgment back then that we ought to include an argument about the tax power, and he basically never looked back. When I became the solicitor general, I increased the focus and attention on the tax argument. It became a bigger part of our briefs. We argued it in more detail.
We added some important precedents into the analysis, and we just gave it more emphasis, more oomph, in the Supreme Court, than when it was in the lower courts. It took a lot of work to get it on the table, but eventually I did. It was an example of trying to craft legal arguments in the recognition that in order to prevail, we needed to secure the votes of one or more justices who were jurisprudentially conservative and who were skeptical about the broad exercise of federal-government power.
The border of West Virginia and Ohio is full Appalachia, deep football country. In the back of the car and at that party, they pushed a penis in her mouth, forced their fingers inside her, ripped off her shirt. And they took photos and videos of it all, which made their way from texts to Twitter and to Facebook and soon to the national media.
Hormones and alcohol and all that! The football team went undefeated last season. It was the same education agenda that had proliferated across the country since Undoubtedly, in the years that followed, the teachers have won the PR war. From Brooklyn to Baton Rouge, battalions of teachers and parents have since joined forces against so-called corporate school reform.
Perhaps the only area of agreement among rural tea-partyers and gentrifying urban hipsters — both on their respective upswings in the s — is the venality of the Obama-backed Common Core standards. If Obama lost public opinion, though, he and his supporters won the policy war. For all the red solidarity T-shirts, charter schools in urban areas continue to proliferate, traditional public schools continue to be closed, and standardized tests live on.
The Common Core? Once upon a time, a willingness to look for love online was considered a sign of insanity or desperation. But internet dating never really lost its stigma as a last recourse for loners and crazy perverts until it migrated from computers to phones and got rebranded as the kind of game you could play with friends at a bar. Sort of like Erotic Photo Hunt, but with the possibility of actual sex.
We had armed him with a joke — it was his 20th anniversary, and he addressed Michelle — and it turns out Romney was expecting just such a line and had a really great comeback. Obama looked like he was at a press conference. When we went down to Williamsburg, Virginia, for the next debate camp, he seemed really eager to engage in the prep. We had a decent first night.
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That was on Saturday. On Sunday night, [John] Kerry, playing Romney, got a little more aggressive and Obama a little less so; it looked very much like what we had seen in Denver. A few of us basically had an intervention the next morning, and he was very, very candid. I have to prepare in a different way. After that conversation, he came back and just worked really hard, question by question. He did what he hates to do, which is to kind of script himself. And when we got up the next morning and we were getting ready to go, he had outlined 14 of the most likely questions on one sheet of paper, front and back, with his own notes of how he was going to handle it.
When we went to see him in his locker room before the second debate at Hofstra University, he was sitting, and on the table was this sheet of paper. Again, we knew within the first ten minutes that he was right. He just completely absorbed what he wanted to do, and he nailed it. It was really the first time that I worked closely with him that he experienced failure on a large stage. On the way to the third debate, when he was really very confident, he reflected on what happened in Denver and he said the hardest thing about it was traveling around after and seeing all these young volunteers who were keeping a stiff upper lip to encourage him.
In , no state allowed for the legal sale of weed. Now four do, and after November, another five could well join them. The number of states allowing medical marijuana has doubled, from 12 to So has the percentage of adults who say they smoke marijuana, from 7 to 13 percent, just in the last three years alone. In the early s, it was a tiny-minority position within a tiny minority. In the s, when support for gay marriage was a mere 27 percent, a Democratic president signed the Defense of Marriage Act. When Obama became president, only two states, Massachusetts and Connecticut, allowed same-sex couples to marry.
But by , that had increased to five, including Iowa. By , it was By , it was 36 — and then, a year later, Over 60 percent of the country now supports marriage equality — and 40 percent of Republicans do. Why were these two issues different from all the others? Notably, Obama never openly campaigned for either. He dismissed legalization of marijuana with a condescending chuckle in his reelection campaign. This year, in a classic Obama straddle, his DEA continued to insist that cannabis remain a Schedule I drug — more dangerous than many of the addictive opioids devastating America — but simultaneously opened up marijuana research.
That crucial element of federalism allowed Republicans to acquiesce in something they would otherwise ferociously oppose at a national level. But most important, both issues could be seen as both conservative measures as well as liberal ones. Conservatives who believe in individual freedom already had one foot in the legal-weed camp, and those who had spent the previous few decades lauding the social benefits of civil marriage found it somewhat awkward to suddenly insist that those same values did not apply to gays.
Neither measure required government itself to do much or spend anything ; government just had to get out of the way. Support for both phenomena also transcended the usual demographic polarities. And with gays, every family, red and blue, turns out to have them. Fazio Sr. Kennison Jr.
Montgomery Sr. Depayne V. Daniel Simmons Sr. Rios Jr. Next one! But binge-watching as an alternate method of consuming culture truly came of age a year later, on February 1, It made little sense — for starters, no one had seen even a single episode, so who, exactly, was clamoring for instant access to all 13? Not to mention that, while viewers no longer tended to watch everything at the same time, they did tend to gravitate to social media to buzz about their favorite episodes every week. How could anyone buzz when everyone is watching a different episode?
The tactic seemed not only nonsensical but counterintuitive.
Instead, it was revolutionary. Netflix based the choice largely on internal data about how people watched old shows on Netflix. So why not offer the same option for a brand-new show? As often happens with technical innovation, creative repercussions followed. TV creators can now assume a different kind of attention from their audience.
The way-before-its-time show Arrested Development , stuffed full of inside jokes and Easter eggs that thwarted weekly network audiences, turned out to be perfectly suited to the streaming environment. The coy weekly striptease of network TV now seems quaintly anachronistic, and TV as a whole feels less like an all-you-can-eat buffet of delights than like the overkill of the apocryphal Roman vomitoria. Of course, as in every feminist golden age, there has also been dissent: furious clashes over the direction and quality of the discourse, especially as the movement has become increasingly trendy, shiny, and celebrity-backed.
Perhaps the most public feminist conflagration of the Obama years came at the nexus of policy and celebrity, of politics and pop power. The book, which tackled the variety of social and psychological traps laid for women in the contemporary workplace, was an instant best seller.
But the critical resistance, both to the often misunderstood messages Sandberg was sending and to her unlikely perch as a feminist spokesperson, was loud and fierce.
Sandberg, many noted, was a wildly wealthy woman, and in urging women to reform themselves rather than the systems — from the gendered and racial pay gap to the lack of paid leave and subsidized child care — that left them with less power than their male counterparts, she was simply adding to the pressures they faced, blaming them in some way for their own inequitable predicament.
But to skeptics, the danger was that Lean In feminism would eclipse a movement for bigger alterations to our social and economic policies. What we are not talking about in nearly enough detail, or agitating for with enough passion, are the government policies, such as mandatory paid maternity leave, that would truly equalize opportunity. We are still thinking individually, not collectively. But a funny thing happened while feminists were yelling at each other about Sheryl Sandberg: The United States started to make big, swift strides on economic policies favorable to women and families.
Since , five states — including New York in — have passed paid-family-leave bills, with campaigns active in 20 more states. In , Barack Obama talked about federally mandating paid leave in his State of the Union address and established paid sick leave for federal workers. The same year, California congresswoman Barbara Lee introduced the EACH Woman Act , which would override the Hyde Amendment which prevents poor women from accessing abortions through federal insurance programs including Medicaid.
And in this election, Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton supports paid sick leave, paid family leave, subsidized child care, and higher wages for child-caregivers, more-affordable education, expansion of the health-care system, a higher minimum wage, free community college, and the abolishment of Hyde. We have, as they say, come a long way, baby. But neither did her brand of feminism get in the way of those advances, as many seemed to fear it would.
Perhaps it would even be fair to argue that the amplification of these discussions — thanks to Sandberg and, yes, her many critics — has helped to raise the volume and awareness of gendered inequities enough that we have managed to move forward faster than we thought possible. Sometimes, attacking from all angles is the most effective strategy. The message that came out of Washington at that time is that Al Qaeda had been decapitated, that the group was on the run, that whatever was left of it were these isolated cells.
At that point I was based in North Africa. I was just about to become a bureau chief for the AP. The thing that was transformative for me was that in Timbuktu, in Mali, in a building that had been occupied by the jihadists, I was able to retrieve some of the pages of documents that they had left behind after the French pushed them back in