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Eight Artists on the Influence of Tom of Finland


We kind of take Tom of Finland for granted, because, let’s be honest, as gay men, do we really need any more images of super muscular white dudes? No, of course not. But, also, he was an excellent portraitist, probably the last of the greatest of them, in a world where the camera has become omni-accessible.

Also, when he was creating, I don’t think anybody really understood how out of vogue or how hyper-questioned hypermasculinity would become. But the thing that was absolutely radical was that he was doing this in the ’40s. When you do the residency [Purnell was a resident at the Tom of Finland Foundation in 2019], you get access to his room, and I saw drawings from when he was like 8 years old, and he’s doing these little comics about cops and robbers. So, he was definitely all about dudes in uniforms.

Credit…Courtesy of the Tom of Finland Foundation, Los Angeles, and David Kordansky Gallery, Los Angeles

When I was the artist in residence there, it says Tom of Finland, so you would expect a bunch of German dudes in leather, but it was a pretty diverse group of people. The people who run that organization are very, very near and dear to me. I think they still have a very, very deep and intentional hand in L.A. queer radical art. The month I was there, I saw that house be a welcoming spot for so many different people — so many walks of queer life.

It’s a thing that I think is seemingly dead in San Francisco — the house is maybe the last bastion of the radical, queer, underground meeting place. But also through the filter of these still amazing drawings. With Tom of Finland, it’s important to be able to place him in his time period. He was definitely doing something that was going to get his ass killed, but he said, “This is my art. This is the type of beauty I want to enact in the world,” and there is no way to not be in awe of that.

Credit…Courtesy of David Kordansky Gallery, Los Angeles

In the pocket-size Physique Pictorial magazines, I first saw Tom of Finland drawings. As a frustrated, horny adolescent thinking myself alone in my perverse desires, I reveled in his mind-blowing sex fantasies. But I never thought those men or what they were up to could be real. In the late ’50s and early ’60s, few men had the physiques he idealized. And I saw no evidence that Tom’s world existed beyond his imagination. But that didn’t stop me from joining in his adventures with my dick in hand. Years later, I learned that Tom drew with one hand and held his dick in the other. That revelation speaks to the authenticity of his art.



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‘Days of the Whale’ Review: A Battle Between Art and Power


For all the stress and strife endured by the teenage protagonists of “Days of the Whale,” a drama set in Medellín, Colombia, the movie also puts across the bright beauty of its urban environs. After all, Medellín is known as a “city of eternal spring.”

Cristina (Laura Tobón) and Simon (David Escallón) are two sweet-natured graffiti artists suspended between the street and their dysfunctional homes. Cristina, who goes by “Cris,” copes with a tetchy father who has a much younger girlfriend, and video calls with her mother, a journalist whose work in the city, has put her in such danger that she’s had to set herself up elsewhere. Simon has an overprotective mom, and is subjected to taunts by a gang. That gang also tries to extort protection money from Lucas (Carlos Fonnegra), who manages a youth house where the graffiti crew hangs out.

These factors provide the tension throughout this concise movie. They also underscore a battle of values, as one character puts it, between art and power. A battle the kids aren’t wholly ready for, but have to engage.

But “Days of the Whale,” written and directed by Catalina Arroyave Restrepo, is mostly an account of the pleasures and pains of adolescent days at liberty, in a not dissimilar mode to that of the excellent 2018 film “Skate Kitchen.” The cast is appealingly natural, the cinematography subtly seductive, and the Colombian pop songs on the soundtrack establish a sinuous groove.

Days of the Whale
Not rated. In Spanish and English, with subtitles. Running time: 1 hour 20 minutes. Watch through virtual cinemas.



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Taylor Swift and Kanye West Will Tangle Again, With Dueling Albums


Taylor Swift and Kanye West, the most reliably combustible pair of stars in pop music, may well face off yet again on Friday.

West announced last week that his next album, apparently called “Donda: With Child,” would come out on July 24. Since then he has been teasing details of the project on social media, in between developing a chaotic campaign for president.

Then on Thursday, Swift made the surprise announcement that she was releasing her own album, “Folklore,” which she said had come together in isolation — like other performers, Swift had canceled her touring plans for this year amid the coronavirus pandemic.

“Before this year I probably would’ve overthought when to release this music at the ‘perfect’ time,” she wrote in a statement on her social media accounts, “but the times we’re living in keep reminding me that nothing is guaranteed.”

“Folklore” will come out at midnight, and Swift’s website is selling the album in a large array of physical configurations, which will all but guarantee a huge showing for “Folklore” on Billboard’s chart. The album — made up of 16 songs, with a bonus track for the deluxe editions — will come out in eight CD versions and eight vinyl LP versions. Those will be available for sale for one week, she said, with variants of artwork and edition titles like “Clandestine Meetings,” “Stolen Lullabies” and “Betty’s Garden.”

Also on Friday, Swift will release a video for the song “Cardigan,” with cinematography by Rodrigo Prieto, known for his work with Martin Scorsese. She tweeted the precautions taken in the production: “The entire shoot was overseen by a medical inspector, everyone wore masks, stayed away from each other,” she wrote, “and I even did my own hair, makeup, and styling,” adding the “face with tears of joy” emoji.

Swift’s album includes contributions from Jack Antonoff, her frequent producer; Aaron Dessner of the brooding band the National, who Swift said co-wrote or produced 11 songs; the songwriter William Bowery; and Bon Iver — who has had a long association with West.

The punctuality of West’s album, as always, is not guaranteed. His last several releases have had tumultuous rollouts, which have drawn almost dizzyingly thorough coverage yet also tested fans’ loyalty. “Donda: With Child” is apparently linked to West’s series of Christian-themed releases over the last couple of years, including the gospel-infused “Jesus Is King,” which came out in August 2019. The album is named after West’s mother, who died in 2007.

Exactly what form “Donda” will take, however — and indeed when it will come out — is unclear. Two days ago West called it an “album and movie”; a tweet just a few hours later simply had a track list. With West, last-minute creative changes are often part of the art itself.

Yet West’s album announcement has also come amid a confusing, and at times troubling, campaign for president. On Sunday, West held a rally in South Carolina, at which he broke down in tears and made an outrageous statement about Harriet Tubman. Later, his wife, Kim Kardashian West, made a poignant appeal about West’s mental health, noting that he has bipolar disorder and asking the public for “compassion and empathy.”

Swift and West have been combatants on the celebrity stage since 2009, when West interrupted her acceptance speech at the MTV Video Music Awards. Swift described the incident as a significant fracture in her understanding of herself in the documentary “Miss Americana” last year: “For someone who based her whole belief system on getting everyone to clap for you, the whole crowd booing is a pretty formative experience.”

Since then their feud has bubbled up repeatedly, with each step generating reams of tabloid ink and untold numbers of fan tweets. The most explosive episode surrounded West’s song “Famous,” from his 2016 album “The Life of Pablo,” which included a lyric about Swift and a provocative video featuring nude depictions of various celebrities, including Swift. She denounced it, and the two stars and their camps have made warring statements over the line’s origins over the past four years.





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How New York’s Jewish Museum Anticipated the Avant-Garde


The show for which McShine is best remembered — and which is one of the most celebrated exhibitions of the late 20th century — is “Primary Structures: Younger American and British Sculptors,” from 1966. McShine assembled works by East Coast, California and British sculptors, early in their careers, who shared what we now call a Minimalist aesthetic. Here for the first time together were artists like Carl Andre, Donald Judd, Dan Flavin, Larry Bell, Anne Truitt, Ellsworth Kelly, Robert Morris and Ronald Bladen, who used various materials (painted steel or aluminum, colored plastic, coated glass) in different ways (structured repetition of prefabricated units, heroically scaled steel) but shared an interest in machine-made objects, smooth planes of vibrant color and the removal of the sculpture from a pedestal. “It had tremendous impact because it was really the first show including those artists,” says the dealer Paula Cooper, who went on to represent many of the show’s contributors at the eponymous New York gallery that she founded in 1968. “I think it was the beginning.”

“Primary Structures” had its eye trained so thoroughly on the future that it would take years for its importance to be recognized. Judy Chicago, then known as Judy Gerowitz, exhibited “Rainbow Pickett,” a sequence of six brightly painted wooden beams that leaned against the wall. “I got nowhere with a lot of that big sculpture,” she says. “My male peers would get picked up and be on the choo-choo train, and I had to constantly start over again. After a decade and a half of that, I changed direction.” Robert Grosvenor, who installed “Transoxiana,” a 31-foot-high V-shaped sculpture of painted wood and steel that was destroyed after the exhibition, says the show “had no impact whatsoever” on his career. For Hunter, too, “Primary Structures” did little to help his standing at the museum. He was forced to resign in October 1967.

Hunter’s replacement, Karl Katz, who had been a curator at the Israel Museum in Jerusalem, had a reputation as being “open to pretty much anything,” says the curator Susan Tumarkin Goodman, who in 1970 organized “Using Walls,” with a group of artists — the roster included Richard Artschwager, Lawrence Weiner, Richard Tuttle, Sol LeWitt and Bochner — who drew and painted directly onto the museum’s walls. But Katz’s daredevil spirit would also indirectly end the museum’s improbable run as the primary promoter of the avant-garde. His 1970 exhibition “Software: Information Technology and Its New Meaning for Art” was a flawed but visionary look at the impact of computer science on art. Everything in the show — the exhibitions, the performing artists — ran on programmed instructions or were issued from a prescribed system. Those artists included Vito Acconci, John Baldessari, Allan Kaprow, Joseph Kosuth and Nam June Paik, most of whom were still largely unknown to the general public. The day before “Software” opened, Katz gave a tour to the seminary chancellor, Rabbi Louis Finkelstein, and a representative of the Smithsonian, which wanted to stage the show and therefore defray some of its costs. The three men viewed Nicholas Negroponte’s installation, “Seek,” in which a computer-controlled claw moved 2,000 metal-coated plastic cubes of a maze navigated by gerbils. Then they advanced to a video recording by Les Levine. As Katz recalls in his memoir, all was fine until they got to the footage that depicted the artist stark naked in the company of two equally unclad women. The rabbi sputtered in furious disbelief.

“I think, Mr. Katz, that this is the end,” he said.

And it was. A fire at the Smithsonian, coupled with technical failures in the challenging show, led to the cancellation of the Smithsonian showing, and “Software” finished at least $50,000 over budget. The combination of salaciousness and shortfall was insurmountable, and the seminary declared it would no longer subsidize a program that was not “basically Jewish.” Katz submitted his resignation the next day.



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A Work in Progress That Explores Our Collective Ignorance


In this new series, The Artists, an installment of which will publish every day this week and regularly thereafter, T will highlight a recent or little-shown work by a Black artist, along with a few words from that artist, putting the work into context. Today, we’re looking at a piece by Pope.L, who’s known for his paintings, performances and installations that often explore themes of endurance alongside the history of race in America.

Name: Pope.L

Age: Ageless

Based in: Chicago, also home of the former governor and convicted felon Rod Blagojevich.

Originally from: A reed basket found floating on the Passaic River flowing through Newark, N.J.

When and where did you make this work? I made this work over the last 5 years or so in Chicago, the land of Lincoln. It’s still being made.

Can you describe what’s going on in it? This work is about our need for self-blinding and encourages reflection on our use, as a community, of unknowledge, misinformation and ignorance. The recent controversy regarding The New York Times allowing the printing of a hot topic Op-Ed by Senator Tom Cotton without proper vetting is a layered example. Who, in this scenario, is the most ignorant actor? The Cotton? NYT? Or us? Is it the Senator, because he recommends killing his own? Is it the “Tombs,” because they condoned his ignorance and then claimed they did not know what they were publishing? Or is it Us’n, myself included, because, well, it’s The Times, and they stand for us all? Well. Maybe they do not. Maybe they cannot. Maybe they have not. For a while now. And we, and we were too self-blinding to admit it?

What inspired you to make this work? Knowing I don’t know.

What’s the work of art in any medium that changed your life? Survivor, the band AND the TV show.



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‘Helmut Newton: The Bad and the Beautiful’ Review: Man With a Camera


Any artist who visibly raises the hackles of Susan Sontag deserves a closer look, and Gero von Boehm’s “Helmut Newton: The Bad and the Beautiful” is eager to oblige. Yet this brisk documentary, steered by the fond recollections and admiring voices of famous beauties — Charlotte Rampling, Catherine Deneuve, Isabella Rossellini, Grace Jones — is as averse to analysis as its irrepressible subject.

Not that Newton, a photographer of uncommon wit and unabashed eroticism (he died in a car crash in 2004), would have appreciated being called an artist. (To him, “art” was a dirty word.) As a Jewish teenager living in Berlin under the Nazis, he was inspired by Leni Riefenstahl’s images of athletes and apprenticed to the theatrical photographer Madame Yva (who was later killed in a concentration camp).

These influences flourished in his often controversial fashion shoots for Vogue in the 1960s and beyond. An avowed lover of breasts, legs and attitude, he could turn stiletto heels and skintight skirts into weapons of empowerment, drawing the eye to the muscled flesh beneath. His statuesque nudes, positioned as unattainable Valkyries, were immune to the stares of the men who often crouched below them in the frame. Like those of the artist Robert Crumb, Newton’s compositions could waver between objectification and celebration, animosity and desire. Yet “Helmut Newton” alights only glancingly on their more troubling readings, leaving Sontag’s accusations of misogyny (here voiced on a French talk show) essentially unplumbed.

What dominates instead is a gossipy portrait of a charmingly naughty boy whose genius is perhaps best appreciated on a second viewing with the sound off and the eyes wide open.

Helmut Newton: The Bad and the Beautiful
Not rated. Running time: 1 hour 33 minutes. Watch on Kino Marquee.



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Welcome to the Great Indoors: Museums Beckon in the Berkshires


WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. — Museums that seemed on the brink of reopening in New York are staying shut after Gov. Andrew Cuomo modified the state’s reopening plan last week. In California, arts institutions that had briefly reopened have had to padlock their doors once again. As the coronavirus epidemic continues to intensify across the country, museums have had to recalibrate their plans for renewed engagement. Remember when you thought your “first” museum visit would feel like a payoff as the pandemic abated?

Here in the Berkshires, after four months when the only museums I saw were on my phone screen, I went to two: the Clark Art Institute in Williamstown, and the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art in neighboring North Adams. Both now require advance booking, as well as masks. Both limit admissions to a fraction of total capacity, though you shouldn’t have trouble finding a slot; with all of the region’s cultural festivals canceled — Tanglewood, Jacob’s Pillow, the Williamstown Theater Festival — the museums have regrouped for local audiences and the hardy art lovers ready to travel here. (Massachusetts requires visitors from out of state to self-quarantine for 14 days, though those from New York, New Jersey and the other New England states are exempt from the directive.)

I expected what would surprise me most were the new sanitary rules: how circulation is regulated, how guards handle their new responsibilities, what happens in the cafes and the bathrooms. But the rules weren’t that obtrusive — if you can handle a supermarket aisle in these bad new days, you can handle an enfilade of galleries. The greater surprise was the impact of the art itself, which in some rooms felt like a salve for miserable times, and in others like trivialities from a vanished world.

The mechanics of arrival at Mass MoCA, once you’ve got a ticket on your phone, are nearly painless. In the museum’s courtyard, under a tent set up beside Natalie Jeremijenko’s grove of upside-down trees, a masked attendant scanned me in, asked if I had any Covid symptoms, and went over some basic social distancing principles. Inside, a few stairwells and doorways have one-way indicators, white dots on the gallery floors indicate sensible places to stand, and six-foot arrows on the walls suggest appropriate interpersonal gaps.

Not that breathing room was hard to come by: Mass MoCA’s 250,000 square feet of converted factory buildings offer ample acreage for hygienic art appreciation, and I was often the only person in a gallery. The more than 100 wall drawings by Sol LeWitt, whose colors and lines ripple across three stories of an old mill, were all mine on a Saturday afternoon, as were the galleries devoted to Jenny Holzer, whose viperous axioms — “PROTECT ME FROM WHAT I WANT,” “MONEY CREATES TASTE,” all the classics — appear on wheatpasted posters or curved LED signs.

Mass MoCA has also opened two new exhibitions, just a little delayed by the Covid closure. One is a large showcase by Blane De St. Croix, an ecologically minded artist from New York. Tumbledown stacks of painted wood and resin, or a huge sheet of punctured, deliquescent Styrofoam, suggest melting permafrost and worn rock formations; cast sheets of crumpled paper map changing Arctic surfaces. His work has a worthy green heart, though I’m far more interested in art that dramatizes the experience of living through climate change (as suggested through some documentary footage shot in Utqiagvik, Alaska, the northernmost city in the U.S.) than the mere fact of its occurrence.

A group exhibition, “Kissing Through a Curtain,” features 10 artists working around the topic of translation, though the theme is so broadly defined — words into new languages, images into new contexts, people into new nations — that it collapses into itself. Its strongest participant is the Brooklyn-based artist and writer Kameelah Janan Rasheed, whose room-filling collages recut Black poetry, philosophy and archival matter into compelling environments of new meaning. But far too many artists here “translate” as literally as the Duolingo app: Justin Favela remakes academic Mexican landscape painting, but this time with the tissue paper of piñatas; Jessica Vaughn remakes the minimalist grid, but this time with Chicago subway seats.

Just west in Williamstown, the Clark has had to make some significant recalculations to its exhibition program. Two shows have been delayed for a year. A summer show of site-specific outdoor sculpture, meant to be encountered across the institute’s bucolic 140-acre estate, is now being installed on a rolling basis. Right now just one work is ready: Analia Saban’s charming “Teaching a Cow How to Draw,” a wooden fence running across the pasture, whose diagonal split rails recall lessons in an introductory art course: one point perspective, the Rule of Thirds, the golden ratio. The fence is a drawing in space for both human visitors and the Clark’s resident bovines, who’ve already taken a liking to it. (Sculptures by Nairy Baghramian, Haegue Yang and others will be installed later this summer.)

Further interspecies collaborations can be found in a pavilion at the top of the hill, where the Berlin artist Lin May Saeed’s darkly humorous exhibition “Arrival of the Animals” features sculptures, drawings, bas-reliefs and metalwork that probe the ethics and emotions of human-animal relationships. There are motifs both familiar (St. Jerome and the lion) and unforeseen (a camel hanging out in front of the Doha skyline), but one polystyrene effigy, completed before the pandemic, has an unexpected new resonance: say hello to the pangolin, the long-snouted, scaly mammal suspected of being the host of the novel coronavirus. A zoonosis like Covid-19, Ms. Saeed’s art suggests, is just the most virulent manifestation of a boggling net of interdependence between us and the animals we love, sell, eat, draw.

Still, it’s the historical collection of the Clark, which generously kept its grounds open to the Williamstown public throughout the lockdown, that feels most meaningful to return to. (Each gallery has a maximum capacity posted at its entrance; on the Sunday I went, I never had to wait to enter one.) There’s a Constable wheat field painted in 1816 whose bounty belies that year’s calamitously cold summer, when failing crop yields provoked health and economic crises not unlike our own.

There’s an impossibly tender late still life by Manet, each rose petal so fugitive and modern that I felt my breath catching beneath my sweaty surgical mask. There’s my favorite Bonnard, an 1891 picture that compresses two women playing with a dog into a riotous clash of polka dots, gingham and sunflowers. And a presentation of newly donated drawings, from the collection of Herbert and Carol Diamond, includes lovers by Ingres and saints by Delacroix that are models of rigorous perception.

Is it frivolous to say that the 19th-century French paintings and drawings at the Clark offer as much or more today than the installations and videos at Mass MoCA? I don’t think so. If one of the hallmarks of the Covid crisis has been its acceleration of changes already in progress, then in the art world we’ve seen how quite a few practitioners who trumpeted their relevance are not as relevant as they claimed. What have we needed these past four months? What have we not missed after all?

In Mass MoCA’s translation show, a pamphlet tells us that the artists “address timely, urgent questions,” even as new wall texts anxiously apologize that the show came together before the coronavirus outbreak and the murder of George Floyd. Might we now accept that contemporary art — even when it turns its gaze to race and nation, disease and climate — is not as “urgent” as a breaking news report? Might the truly urgent enterprise, in a time of plague and protest, be not posing questions over and over, but helping to forge a public capable of answering them?

Apologies for going all Kantian, but what’s revealed in the Covid-era museum is that art’s political power still derives, above all, from having no pragmatic application. It can’t fix the world. It doesn’t function as a slower, more elite communication medium. It stands for itself, it confronts our imagination and our intellect, and so it shapes our capacities as free citizens. Which means there’s as much relevance in an Ingres drawing or Bonnard painting as in Mr. De Saint Croix’s ecological installations or Ms. Rasheed’s textual collages, insofar as each offers us just a glimpse of human freedom — that promise that every day now we feel slipping away from us, and that we still cannot do without.

If I seek out art in a time of national catastrophe, it’s not because I need that catastrophe explained to me. And it’s not because I want to block that catastrophe out with a veil of pretty pictures. It’s simpler than that. It’s because I need to be reminded what to live for.


Mass MoCA

1040 Mass MoCA Way, North Adams, Mass.; 413-662-2111, massmoca.org. Advanced tickets are required, available at the website.

Clark Art Institute

225 South Street, Williamstown, Mass.; 413-458-2303, clarkart.edu. Advance timed tickets are available at the website.



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Stephen Colbert Thinks Trump’s ‘Virus-Side Chat’ Came a Bit Late


“When asked about former associate of Jeffrey Epstein and accused sex trafficker Ghislaine Maxwell at his press conference yesterday, President Trump said, quote, ‘I wish her well.’ And then somewhere an assassin said, ‘That’s the code!’ and started screwing together a plastic rifle.” — SETH MEYERS

“In front of millions of Americans, the president publicly sent well wishes to an alleged sex trafficker, while reminding everyone he’s been friends with her for years. I mean, you just can’t teach that kind of political talent. Now all Trump has to do is sit back and watch the votes roll in.” — SETH MEYERS

“Oh, no, that’s going to become a Trump rally chant, isn’t it? ‘Wish her well! Wish her well!” — SETH MEYERS

“Later on, Trump had everyone sign a Hallmark sympathy card that said, ‘Sorry for your sex-trafficking arrest.’” — JIMMY FALLON

“So, OK, if you’re keeping score at home, if you’re accused of spray-painting a statue of a Confederate soldier, you’re human scum who should be billy-clubbed in the trachea, but if you’re accused of recruiting middle schoolers to be sexually assaulted by millionaires, you get a greeting card.” — STEPHEN COLBERT

“Right after he wished her well, Trump’s staff was like, ‘Oh yeah, this is why we stopped doing these.’” — JIMMY FALLON



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‘Intimations’ Book Review: Zadie Smith Applies Her Even Temper to Tumultuous Times


Anxiety lurks through these few pages. This is a work of minor dimensions at — and about — a major time. (Royalties from the book will go to two charities, The Equal Justice Initiative and The COVID-19 Emergency Relief Fund for New York.)

Smith herself left New York early on in the pandemic’s course, and she expresses guilt about this without over-performing it. She bemoans, when thinking about the apocalypse or anything even approaching it, her lack of a survival instinct. “A book like ‘The Road’ is as incomprehensible to me as a Norse myth cycle in the original language,” she writes. “Suicide would hold out its quiet hand to me on the first day — the first hour.”

In an essay called “Suffering Like Mel Gibson” (its title is a play on a popular meme), she writes provocatively of Christ on the cross, looking at those crucified beside him and wondering “whether his agonies, when all was said and done, were relatively speaking in fact better than those of the thieves and beggars to his left and right whose sufferings long predated their present crucifixions and who had no hope (unlike Christ) of an improved post-cross situation.” This thought comes in a passage addressing the word of this century so far, “privilege,” which she does with her usual many-sidedness: She notes her own advantages; parses the stubbornness of inequality; and outlines the explanatory (and experiential) limitations of privilege, including its ultimate inability to shield anyone from suffering, sometimes to the point of suicide. In Zadie Smith’s universe — meaning, for my money, the one we’re all living in — complexity is king.

She sympathizes with the generations coming up behind her, born into a beleaguered century and now living through the current crises with worried eyes on a deeply tenuous future. In one of the finest lines in “Intimations,” Smith writes: “The infinite promise of American youth — a promise elaborately articulated by movies and advertisements and university prospectuses — has been an empty lie for so long that I notice my students joking about it with a black humor more appropriate to old men, to the veterans of wars.”

It might be engrossing to hear Smith in conversation with those she now teaches, to see where their ideas overlap and diverge. Toward the end of the book, she writes elliptically of identity as an “area of interest.” Elsewhere she argues for solidarity among “the plague class — that is, all economically exploited people, whatever their race.”

Interested in what she once called “coalition across difference,” Smith has some opinions that she defines as commonplace but that she must know are now hotly debated.

She resists, for instance, the idea of “hate crime” as a desirable distinction, calling it “an elevation of importance in what strikes me as the wrong direction,” lending an undeserved power to the bigotry that inspires the term.

“The hatred of a group qua group is, after all, the most debased and irrational of hatreds, the weakest, the most banal,” she writes. “It shouldn’t radiate a special aura, lifting it into a separate epistemological category. For this is exactly what the killer believes.”



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7 Podcasts to Lighten the Mood


Starter episode: “The Job Interview”

Early in the first episode of this scripted mockumentary from The Onion, there’s a skit that perfectly captures how the show skewers true-crime podcasting. The fictional host, David Pascall — voiced by David Sidorov in an earnest NPR-esque monotone — enlists a supercomputer to help him find a murder case that’s tailor-made for a podcast investigation. “Set a filter for female victims only,” he tells the bot, explaining that he needs to find a culturally relevant and thought-provoking case that also involves “a murder where a really hot white girl dies.” After identifying the perfect (fictional) murder of a prom queen in a small factory town, “A Very Fatal Murder” delivers snappy 15-minute bursts of true-crime satire, complete with incongruously chirpy ads for fake meal-delivery services that interrupt the gruesome murder investigation.

Starter episode: “A Perfect Murder”

There’s no shortage of podcasts that follow the basic format of “Las Culturistas”: witty banter between co-hosts, followed by a guest-of-the-week interview. But thanks to the comedians Bowen Yang’s and Matt Rogers’s palpable passion for pop culture, this is one joyful and uplifting audio experience with a perfect balance of snark and heart. In each episode, a guest discusses the pop culture that shaped him or her — and, in a regular segment titled “I Don’t Think So, Honey!”, rants for 60 seconds about a pop culture pet peeve. Even as the hosts have found wider recognition — Yang recently became the first Chinese-American cast member on “Saturday Night Live” — the show has avoided becoming too insider-y, retaining the relatable perspective that makes it such a rewarding listen.

Starter episode: “Someone Spilled Sauce”

Though this breakout show from Jessica Williams and Phoebe Robinson has since become an HBO series, the Brooklyn-based audio original is arguably superior. Hosted regularly for two years in front of live audiences, the now-defunct podcast is led by the charismatic duo, whose laugh-out-loud banter runs the gamut from raunchy reflections on celebrity crushes to their experiences of being racially stereotyped in Hollywood and in everyday life. Interspersed among the hosts’ segments are standup sets from comedians like Michelle Buteau, Paul Scheer and Naomi Ekperigin, and occasional guest appearances from comedy-adjacent stars including Jon Hamm and LeVar Burton.

Starter episode: “How To Channel Your Inner White Lady”

For fans of the beloved British comedy mainstay “QI,” the emphasis on obscure trivia in this spinoff podcast will feel familiar. For the uninitiated, “No Such Thing As a Fish” sees the researchers behind “QI,” which stands for Quite Interesting, gather to discuss the best surprising facts they’ve recently learned — like the eponymous fact that there is, in fact, no such thing as a fish. The regular hosts, Dan Schreiber, James Harkin, Andrew Hunter Murray and Anna Ptaszynski, have such a wealth of reliably weird, fascinating knowledge at their fingertips that the show has never had a dud episode in its six-year run.

Starter episode: “No Such Thing As A Glowing Ballet Dancer”

The self-described mission of this show from the comedians Kid Fury and Crissle West is “throwing shade and spilling tea with a flippant and humorous attitude,” which means delivering frank truths about pop culture and its stars. Now in its seventh year, the show’s episodes break down into a few broad segments: the dryly hilarious Fury and Crissle discuss pop culture news, respond to listener emails and hand out a weekly “Black Excellence” award. Finally they “read” (that is, give their brutally honest opinions on) a person, trend or event, delivering well-deserved takedowns with nuance and a lightness that never feels meanspirited.



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What’s on TV Thursday: ‘Tokyo Olympiad’ and ‘Greatness Code’


TOKYO OLYMPIAD (1965) Stream on Criterion Channel and HBO Max; rent on Google Play, iTunes and YouTube. Athletes and aesthetes alike can appreciate this documentary by the Japanese filmmaker Kon Ichikawa. “Tokyo Olympiad” covers the 1964 Summer Olympics in Tokyo, exploring glory and defeat at the games through a free flowing collage of meticulously framed wide-screen footage. Ichikawa pays more attention to the athletes and their emotions than to the competitions themselves — a decision that helped the movie stand out and become influential. Criterion Channel is streaming it along with a number of other artful films about the Olympics — including Claude Lelouch and François Reichenbach’s 13 DAYS IN FRANCE (1968) — that offer a high brow alternative to the postponed 2020 Tokyo Olympics, which were originally scheduled to open this week.

GREATNESS CODE Stream on Apple TV+. For snack-size sports programming with an unconventional bite, consider instead this series of short documentaries, which combines animation and live-action footage to look at critical moments in the careers of seven athletes. They include LeBron James, Usain Bolt and the swimmer Katie Ledecky, who reflects on the first time she won a gold medal at the Olympics. “It’s something where people tell you, ‘no, you should visualize the worst case scenario, the best case scenario, something in the middle,’” she says. “But I just couldn’t visualize myself winning anything but gold.”

THE WEEKEND (2019) Stream on Amazon and Hulu; rent on iTunes. Before the filmmaker Stella Meghie wrote and directed “The Photograph,” an old-school, sincere love story with Issa Rae and Lakeith Stanfield that hit theaters on Valentine’s Day this year, she spun this funny love tale. “The Weekend” revolves around Zadie (Sasheer Zamata), a stand-up comic who gets into the kind of situation a comedian might recount onstage: She goes for a weekend getaway with her just-friends-now ex-boyfriend Bradford (Tone Bell) and his new girlfriend, Margo (DeWanda Wise). It’s a delicate situation — even before a new potential suitor, Aubrey (Y’lan Noel), enters the picture.

OBVIOUS CHILD (2014) 6:35 p.m. on Showtime. Make a “comedian navigates tricky romance” double-feature by pairing “The Weekend” with “Obvious Child,” Gillian Robespierre’s romantic comedy about a Brooklyn comic’s accidental pregnancy. The pregnancy happens after the comic, Donna (Jenny Slate), spends a night with Max (Jake Lacy), a preppy nice guy she meets shortly after a breakup. Donna’s decision to have an abortion — and the dilemma of how or whether to involve him in it — adds emotional heft to the story of the pair’s romance. “Even liberals may balk at the idea of a comedy about an abortion,” A.O. Scott wrote in his review for The New York Times, but Scott added that Robespierre “is more matter-of-fact than provocative in her approach to the issue.” He wrote that the movie is “funny and serious without trying too hard to be either, and by trying above all to be honest.”



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