Rapspot’s 2009 Rap-Up

As per tradition over at rapspot.dk, us contributors have curated our annual awards show for our favorite hip hop music of the past year, plus miscellaneous foolishness. Although I can’t say many of my personal favourites made it to the final list, it’s still a pretty great compilation of quality hip hop music released in 2009, so skip over there and check it out. Meanwhile I’ll try to get my act together a write about my year of listening. Or just listen to the track of the year, from the Mighty Mos Def.

David Levine RIP

levine_nixon_lbj_vietnam.gifI just briefly wanted to pay homage to the recently passed master cartoonist. Possibly the most recognisable caricaturist of the past 40 years, Levine has come almost to incarnate the discipline, especially with his withering cartoons of the main players in the Nixon administration and of other unsavoury world leaders of that era.

Contrary to assertions I’ve heard made, he was far from single-mindedly, or even reductively, acerbic (his most vicious caricatures are indeed pretty fierce, but are also animated by the kind of outrage necessary to political cartooning); he was rather a finely rounded cartoonist. His portraits are more often than not reverent, humanising their subjects with humor and verve. With thousands of such cartoons under his belt (most of them for the New York Review of Books) he ranks, rather, amongst the most significant portraitists of the last forty years.

Read Michael Kimmelman’s appreciation here.

The First Piece of Bad News

I didn’t take long for the New Year’s first piece of crap news to arrive here. Some idiot broke into the home of Danish cartoonist Kurt Westergaard wielding an axe, evidently in “retaliation” for the latter’s cartoon of the prophet Muhammed. The cartoonist saved himself by fleeing to the house’s panic room. His grandchild was also there. The police thereafter arrived and disabled the attacker with shots to the leg and hand, and he has now been charged with attempted murder and is recovering in the medical wing of the prison Vestre fængsel, Ã…rhus. Congratulations asshole, you’ve just made the world a little less tolerable a place to live.

For what little it’s worth, our sympathies and best wishes and hopes for a peaceful rest of the new year go out to Westergaard and his family.

Above: one of the infamous cartoons (not by Westergaard); prescient at the time, painfully topical now.

He came here the same way the coin did

A short note on the Coen Brothers’ A Serious Man. It seems to me that this incisive fable about one man’s search for answers is the equivalent of the filmmakers handing us the keys to their art. Only now, after 25 years of making movies, have they created an overtly Jewish film. Characters such as John Turturro’s shifty bookie, Bernie Bernbaum, in Miller’s Crossing (1990) and John Goodman’s unforgettable, devout convert Walter Sopchak in The Big Lebowski (1998) now appear as discrete signposts in the oeuvre, wild cards tipping the winning hand the Coens have been playing all along.

Merry Christmas!

Things remain busy here — still working on that diss. Have just finished the introduction, so I’m getting there. But now it’s Christmas, with all that entails, so the blogging here will remain rather perfunctory, but I wanted to at least get something up here and since I was just in Paris for a day and a half, here are some thoughts on the big Venetian show currently at the Louvre.

It’s basically a much expanded reconfiguration of the Titian Tintoretto Veronese exhibition displayed at the MFA in Boston over the summer. That show was a focused if somewhat academic effort with an impressively high-quality selection of paintings. The Paris version includes most of those works, with a few notable exceptions, adds loads more and expands the scope to cover Jacopo Bassano and other artists of the late 16th century. So, lots of great paintings and well worth a visit, but is it a better show? Not really.