Sidney Pollack RIP

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One of Hollywood’s elder statesmen, the director, actor and producer Sidney Pollack has died. He was one of Tinseltown’s consummate craftsmen, never flashy but always solid — a comfortable presence in American mainstream cinema that, much like his contemporary Sidney Lumet, never lost sight of quality and subtle auteurial voice. From the caustically satirical They Shoot Horses Don’t They? (1969) to the pitch-perfect Three Days for Condor (1975) and Tootsie (1982) — each of the latter a sort of quality blueprint for their genres, of political thriller and romantic comedy respectively — his best films are unassuming, intelligent and gripping pieces of classic Hollywood cinema.

Camu Tao RIP

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Columbus, Ohio-based MC Tero Smith, alias Camu Tao, has passed away after a three-year battle with lung cancer, reports his long-time collaborator El-P of Definitive Jux Records. In his press release, he writes:

“To those who knew Tero, he was an almost uncategorizable force of nature. Wild, hilarious, proud, loving, tough, outspoken, spontaneous and brilliant. He wore his heart on his sleeve and he dripped creativity, leaving inspiration and awe in the hearts and minds of anyone who was fortunate enough to see him work. “

Bringing It All Back Home

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Public Enemy brought it all back home Friday night. Performing, for the first time ever, their classic album It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back (1988) in its entirety, they returned to a defining moment in modern music history and consolidated their status as perhaps the greatest hip hop group ever. Though not held at the Hammersmith Apollo, where they performed on the Def Jam Tour in 1987 — the show that was subsequently immortalised in live segments on the album — but rather at a sold out Brixton Academy across town, it was still one hell of a homecoming.

Picks of the Week

So why it is such an upsetting photograph is not just because we see someone smiling in the context of the horrible, but that when we look at her, we begin to have to resist smiling ourselves. So it’s a terrible, terrible picture for that reason alone.

— Paul Ekman, Professor Emeritus of Psychology at the University of California, San Francisco.

The picks of the week from around the web.

  • New York Times: “The Most Curious Thing.” Errol Morris, director of the documentary on Abu Ghraib writes about his investigation into one of the most infamous photographs associated with the scandal, that of reservist Sabrina Harman posing over the body of the murdered prisoner Manadel al-Jamadi. This is a great humanist piece of journalism. Read it.
  • Let’s take it back to the Old School. Great live recordings from back in the days — from Funky 4+1 at the T-Connection to Marly Marl spinning at Mr. Magic’s Rap Attack. Fantastic stuff.
  • Will Elder. In honour of Mad‘s Maddest Artist, who passed away last week, here’re some links to his work: Download his Harvey Kurtzman’s classic “Goodman Goes Playboy here, read their Mad stories “Dragged Net” here, and “Outer Sanctum” here and here, and here’s some original art from the Kurtzman’s Humbug. Also, check out this fine, short documentary on his work and life: part 1, part 2. And read the director and Elder’s his son-in-law Gary VandenBergh’s eulogy here.
  • Shot in the Head II

    OK, since yesterday I’ve been looking over some more of this Gregorius Nekschot’s work and let’s just say that I’m not interested in reproducing any of it here. I may be missing some kind of mitigating knowledge of context, but have a hard time seeing how his work is different from this, this, or this (and if you want more comparative material, check out the Nazi Propaganda Archive. Be warned, however, that all of those links contain disturbing racist imagery).

    It seems to me a pretty accurate assessment when the Dutch Public Prosecutor’s Office calls this hate speech. The question, of course, is whether it should be banned by law and whether producers of such material, such as Nekschot, should be prosecuted for spreading it. I don’t believe that’s the way to go about things — it’s a slippery slope towards greater censorship and will only worsen the situation. And, in any case, garbage like this is ultimately just a symptom of serious problems in the society that fosters it. Problems that obviously and urgently need to be addressed.

    What I find shocking is not so much that some crank produces this crap, but that many people apparently take it seriously instead of rejecting it outright. Where the hell are we, if depicting our fellow human beings like this is somehow acceptable enough that it gets published in newspapers? Where do we, as self-proclaimed enlightened and civilised societies, draw the line?

    Funny how staid and measured the Bomb in the Turban seems these days.

    At Nightfall

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    There is a distinct sense of hesitation to the work of the Italian Renaissance painter Sebastiano del Piombo (1485-1547). In spite of a high level of craft and an acute visual sensibility, many of his pictures are characterised by a searching insecurity, which also seems reflected in his notoriously low rate of productivity. According to Vasari’s biography, his longtime friend and mentor, Michelangelo, went as far as to describe him as plain lazy. He did this at a time when the two artists had fallen out — allegedly over the older master choosing fresco instead of oil as the medium for his Sistine Last Judgement — but is somehow characteristic of the professional relationship that more than anything determined Sebastiano’s career as an artist. The creative boost he got from the older artist’s Protean vision developed over time to become a crushing creative dependency.

    Shot in the Head

    The arrest and 30-hour detainment of Dutch cartoonist Gregorius Nekschot and the seizure of his property by police at the end of last week is disturbing news. The arrest was part of an investigation into alleged spreading of hate-speech in his cartoons and political commentary, based on a complaint made by a Dutch imam in 2005. I’m not familiar with Nekschot’s work, but what I’ve seen — coarse and repulsive as it is — is not substantially different from the hateful agitprop of a Geert Wilders for example, and not even his garbage merits this kind of action. Ignoring this kind of idiocy is the best way of combatting it.

    What the hell is wrong with the Dutch government?

    Reporters without Borders’ report. Nekschot’s website. Detailed commentary by blogger sympathetic to Nekschot.

    Origin

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    As you may have read, an anonymous donor recently gifted a complete set of the original art to Amazing Fantasy #15, in which the first Spider-Man story, by Steve Ditko and Stan Lee, appeared, to the Library of Congress.

    This is the story Morten Søndergård in an article published on this site, suggested was based on layouts by Kirby. This hypothesis was subsequently rejected by a number of specialists. I hereby post an image of one of the original pages as Exhibit A: what do YOU think? Is there any Kirby in it? (more images at the link).

    Bonus: Charles Yoakum speculates about the identity of the donor.

    UPDATE: Blake Bell has a slew of info on the original AF #15 pages, including images of all of them, up on his Ditko website.

    Marvel Steps Up

    Looks like I may have spoken too soon when I wrote that Marvel could not be counted on to support ailing artist Gene Colan in his hour of need. Apparently, they have agreed to contribute towards paying for his treatment, though the exact amount will remain confidential. Great, but it’s still a disgrace that there would even be doubt about them doing this in the first place. But good on Marvel for this one.

    Remember: YOU can also help the Colans. More information here.

    UPDATE: Tom Spurgeon has great commentary up concerning the broader issue of the lack of a safety net in the American comics industry.

    A Word on Our Hype

    It has gotten to the point where we’re receiving so many press releases, announcements and other advertisements here at the Metabunker that we have decided to impose certain restrictions on what gets posted. A lot of what you, the readers, have been sending looks great and we certainly appreciate and pay attention to it, but lest this site drown in hype-type, we shall from here on restrict ourselves to publishing announcements we have some kind of foreknowledge of. Stuff for which we feel we can vouch. So keep it coming, but please don’t take offense if it doesn’t get published.

    Thanks for reading!