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Cannes: Anatomy of a Standing Ovation for ‘The French Dispatch’

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CANNES, France — Wes Anderson has been waiting a long time for “The French Dispatch” to premiere at the Cannes Film Festival.

A star-studded comedic anthology about the final issue of a literary magazine, “The French Dispatch” was meant to debut here last year until the pandemic prevented the festival from being held. Instead of putting his movie out in the interim, Anderson held on to it for another year, and at Monday night’s glitzy Cannes premiere, he finally got his wish.

So did the film festival. Cannes runs mainly on auteur worship and movie stars, and “The French Dispatch” offered heaping helpings of both. Cast members, including Timothée Chalamet, Bill Murray, Tilda Swinton, Benicio Del Toro and Owen Wilson, all turned out in support of Anderson’s film, contributing to what is almost certainly the biggest movie premiere that has been held since the pandemic began.

Cannes responded in kind, and the audience at the Grand Théâtre Lumière offered “The French Dispatch” a nine-minute standing ovation after the closing credits rolled. These epic-length orgies of applause are one of the festival’s best-known quirks, but to outsiders, the ovations must be baffling: Does the audience really stand up and clap for that long? Wouldn’t that get old fast?

Let me explain how a Cannes standing ovation works, using last night’s standing O for “The French Dispatch” as the minute-by-minute model. It’s an ovation that Anderson must have been anticipating for over a year, even if it appeared that he wanted it to end as soon as it began.

1 second in: The credits end, the lights go on, and the cheering audience gets to its feet. A cameraman scurries toward the middle of the theater, where Anderson and his cast are sitting. As he films them, the image is simultaneously broadcast on the Lumière’s big screen, which gooses the crowd’s applause even further.

6 seconds in: Though Anderson has risen from his seat, the rest of his cast pointedly stays seated. Nervous, he tries to coax them to stand alongside him, but the actors hold fast: They want Anderson to have his own moment where he can be singularly applauded for his work.

36 seconds in: A half-minute of adulation is about all the visibly uncomfortable Anderson can stand. To his right are Chalamet and the actress Lyna Khoudri, who play French revolutionaries in the film, and Anderson pleads with them to stand up. They begin to, but when Chalamet looks around and sees that no other actor has risen, he stays in his seat.

45 seconds in: Murray stands up and waves to the cheering audience. You can see the rest of the cast doing mental calculations: “Well, if Bill Murray is going to stand, then I guess it’s time to get up.” They all rise.

1 minute and 10 seconds in: Murray pulls out a fan and begins to whip cool air at his director. Hey, if the standing ovation is going to go on for several minutes, you might as well sprinkle in some comic bits to pass the time.

1 minute and 30 seconds in: The actor Mathieu Amalric pulls out his iPhone and starts recording a video of the cast. Fitting, since everyone else in the Lumière has an iPhone trained on them, too.

1 minute and 50 seconds in: Swinton goes down the line of her co-stars, giving del Toro and Adrien Brody double kisses on the cheek. Let me attempt to describe Swinton’s outfit, which consists of a satiny pink blouse, glittery green sleeves and an orange skirt: She looks like the most glamorous fruit plate you’ve ever seen.

2 minutes in: How can a standing ovation at Cannes possibly sustain itself past two minutes? Here’s the trick: The Lumière cameraman, who has previously been recording a wide shot of the cast, now moves to sustained close-ups of each actor. This allows the audience to give each of the performers their own round of applause, and it’s also why Cannes films with a large ensemble tend to get longer ovations.

2 minutes and 20 seconds in: While the camera is panning from a close-up of Amalric to Khoudri, Brody races from his place at the very end of the cast lineup and heads to where the action is. He hugs Amalric, who is near the front of the line, and the camera pulls back to cover him.

2 minutes and 37 seconds in: Now Chalamet gets his close-up. “Thank you,” Chalamet says as the audience applauds wildly. He then points to Anderson, encouraging the cameraman to film him instead.

2 minutes and 55 seconds in: Anderson is standing with Wilson and seems wholly uninterested in enduring another half-minute of the audience’s prolonged attention. The camera instead locates Swinton, a Cannes veteran who is in three films here this year. Though she is a seasoned pro at accepting a standing ovation, Swinton shakes her head no and points to her director. Eventually, she takes the initiative and pushes the camera toward Anderson herself.

3 minutes and 23 seconds in: The cameraman lingers on a close-up of Anderson, which whips the tired crowd into another round of whoops and cheers. But it’s clear the director doesn’t know what to do with himself when he’s the sole focus of the frame. He’s saved by Murray, who comes in for another hug.

3 minutes and 53 seconds in: Brody leans in to kiss Anderson on the cheek and tousles his hair. We are not even halfway through this thing.

4 minutes and 30 seconds in: Swinton takes the taped “Tilda Swinton” placard from her seat and affixes it to the back of Chalamet’s silver jacket. We have reached the improv-comedy portion of the night.

5 minutes and 25 seconds in: After locating del Toro at the end of the lineup of actors, the cameraman has now fulfilled his obligation to let each of the performers have their own solo session of applause. So what will keep the ovation going? Cast mischief. The camera drifts back to Chalamet, who hides his face with the “Tilda Swinton” sign. Swinton snatches it from his hands and tapes it onto his back again, where it belongs.

5 minutes and 50 seconds in: Now hugging Brody, Chalamet turns to the camera and makes the “L.A. fingers” hand gesture. Brody blows a very serious kiss to the camera.

6 minutes and 5 seconds in: Yes, we’re going into Minute 6. Anderson pulls out a pink handkerchief and wipes his brow. He appears to be teary-eyed.

6 minutes and 35 seconds in: Chalamet turns to Anderson and bows in an “I’m not worthy” salute. The applause is starting to flag a little. It’s time to pull out the big guns.

7 minutes and 7 seconds in: Anderson is handed a microphone. He winces and tries to turn it away, but Cannes officials press it into his hands anyway.

7 minute and 15 seconds in: Anderson, who lives in Paris, begins to speak to the audience in French. He calls the premiere “un honneur pour moi,” but after seven seconds of that, he turns to Chalamet and cracks in English, “I don’t know what else to say.” The audience laughs and Anderson adds, “I hope we come back with another one soon. Thank you so much.”

7 minutes and 30 seconds in: Anderson’s short speech was enough to resuscitate the crowd, and the applause surges back to its initial levels.

7 minutes and 50 seconds in: Several French-accented cries of “Bravo!” are heard as Anderson tucks his long hair behind his ears and scans the audience.

8 minutes and 24 seconds in: Murray goes over to Anderson and suggests that he’s ready to leave. Anderson could not possibly agree more, racing up the aisle so quickly that he bumps into the cameraman, who is still filming him.

8 minutes and 40 seconds in: It appears the cameraman has blocked Anderson’s path. He won’t get away that easily! Instead, Anderson is forced to stand in the aisle and absorb even more applause and encouraging whistles from the crowd. The expression on his face is somewhere between an awkward grimace and pure, stunned joy, which is what nearly nine minutes of a standing ovation will do to you.

9 minutes in: The cameraman relents and allows Anderson to move forward. As the director and his cast leaves the theater, the ovation finally subsides. The French rush outside to smoke, the Americans rush outside to tweet, and in a few different languages, I hear one plaintive question: “Is there an after-party?”

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Late Night Has Plenty of Virgin Jokes

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“That’s right, the flight went more than 50 miles high to the edge of space. Southwest heard and was like, ‘Big deal. We did that last week when one of our pilots fell asleep.’” — JIMMY FALLON

“Eighty kilometers? That’s not even worth mentioning at a party.” — SETH MEYERS

“Just ’cause you touched net doesn’t mean you can say you dunked. Branson’s like one of those guys who say, ‘Yeah, I’ve been to Texas’ and then you find out he changed planes once at Dallas-Fort Worth.” — SETH MEYERS

“Call me when you’ve reached the moon, Richard. Surprised he didn’t call me yesterday — he’s probably got cell service up there.” — SETH MEYERS

Seth Meyers’s “Closer Look” delved into some of the more notable moments from the Conservative Political Action Conference over the weekend.

Richard Branson, just back from space, will check in with Stephen Colbert on Tuesday’s “Late Show.”

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Book Review: ‘Landslide,’ by Michael Wolff

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Books like this usually burst out of the gate with a few newsmaking anecdotes, and Wolff does provide some of these. Trump believed that the Democratic Party’s elders would pull Biden, sure to lose, at the last minute, and replace him with a ticket of Andrew Cuomo and Michelle Obama. He toyed with the idea of using the pandemic as a pretext for indefinitely postponing the election. The most notorious line in his speech to the incipient mob on Jan. 6 — “we’re going to walk down to the Capitol” — was an ad-lib, not in the text his staff had prepared. But the strength of “Landslide” comes less from these stories and more from a coherent argument that Wolff, in partnership with his sources, makes about how we should understand the period between Nov. 3 and Jan. 20. Most quickly produced books about political events don’t do that.

Trump, in these pages, is self-obsessed, delusional and administratively incompetent. He has no interest in or understanding of the workings of government. He doesn’t read or listen to briefings. He spends vast amounts of time watching conservative television networks and chatting on the phone with cronies. The pandemic puts him at a special disadvantage; many of the people around him are either sick or afraid to come to work because that would entail complying with a regime of Covid noncompliance that Trump demands. If anybody tells him something he doesn’t want to hear, he marginalizes or fires that person and finds somebody else to listen to, who may or may not hold an official position. If Fox News becomes less than completely loyal, he’ll switch to Newsmax or One America News Network. He lives in a self-curated information environment that bears only a glancing relationship to reality.

Before the belief that the election was stolen had taken full control of Trump’s mind, the idea was already there — because he chose to regard all forms of expanded access to voting, which tend to favor the Democrats, as stealing. He turned down entreaties from his staff to set up a Republican get-out-the-early-vote operation, just as he also turned down entreaties to endorse masking and social distancing during the height of the pandemic: off-brand. He was utterly disorganized, with endless firings and reshufflings of the key players. And during his second impeachment trial, Trump was represented by a comically incompetent, squabbling team of lawyers whom he had barely met.

In the early hours of election night, when he was running well ahead of the pre-election polls, Trump decided he had won. After it became clear to everyone but him that he hadn’t, he empowered an alternate-reality team of advisers, headed by Rudy Giuliani and including people whom even Giuliani considered to be unacceptably out-there, like Sidney Powell, the freelancing lawyer, and Mike Lindell, the C.E.O. of MyPillow, and he embraced every available conspiracy theory and strategic fantasy about how he could change the result. To Trump, in Wolff’s telling, elections are roughly similar to the due dates for loans in his real-estate business — a place to start negotiating. Because he divides people into two categories, strong and weak, and because he has the deep cynicism of an unprincipled person, he chose to believe that he was not the first result-denying presidential candidate, only the first who was manly enough to challenge a typically corrupt outcome.

Nobody holding official power in the White House or the Republican Party — in particular, Mike Pence and Mitch McConnell — took Trump’s ravings seriously, so the horrifying events of Jan. 6 came as a surprise, probably even to Trump himself. The various rallies that day had been organized by independent right-wing political entrepreneurs with businesses to promote, not by the White House, and it wasn’t yet clear to most Republicans in Washington how fully Trump’s followers had accepted his insistence that the election had been stolen. Almost nobody in the White House was actively trying to persuade members of Congress to vote for the election challenges that were before them on Jan. 6.

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Scattered Among the Himalaya, Glimpses of a Changing Tibet

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I was sitting inside the dark, yak-hair tent of a nomad family in Ladakh, in the Indian Himalaya. Outside, some scruffy sheep searched for greenery among the cold and barren moonscape, and large raptors circled in the thermals. As we huddled around the hearth, the old man handed me a small glass of salty, yak-butter tea.

“There were wolves here two nights ago,” he told me through a translator. “This time I chased them away, but they will come back again and try and get at my sheep. It’s happening more and more.”

“Everything about being a herder is getting more difficult,” he added. “Maybe my sons won’t want to continue this life. My wife and I might be among the last of the nomads here.”

It was a story I’d heard time and again across the Himalaya and the Tibetan plateau. Whether because of climatic changes, the call of a more comfortable life in the cities, political repression or the demands of education, life is changing fast for the people of Tibet and the surrounding Himalayan regions.

I have been traveling to and walking around the Himalaya and Tibet for some 25 years. During that time, I’ve written a number of guidebooks on the region — for Lonely Planet, Rough Guides and Bradt. I always travel with a local guide who acts as a translator, and I like to spend as much time as I can walking, because doing so increases contact with local people. There’s nothing I enjoy more than sitting down in a remote tea shop or nomad tent and talking to people about their lives.

Defining the borders of Tibet can be difficult. This is because, in some ways, there are several Tibets.

The area we commonly think of as Tibet today — and the area marked on most maps as Tibet — is the Tibet Autonomous Region. This is the second largest region or province of modern China, and its regional capital is Lhasa.

Before Communist forces seized control of Tibet in 1950, it was a functionally independent nation, and its borders were larger than they are today. (China refers to its takeover of Tibet as a “peaceful liberation.” At the time, China says, the new Communist government was reasserting sovereignty over a territory that was lost after the fall of the Qing dynasty.)

Much of what is today the mountainous western part of China’s Sichuan Province was, before the 1950 takeover, politically and culturally a part of Tibet, known as Kham. Likewise, to the north of the Tibet Autonomous Region is the Chinese province of Qinghai; this was also historically a part of Tibet, known as Amdo, though it fell under Chinese control in the 18th century.

And then there are the parts of the Himalaya that are culturally Tibetan even if they have never — or not for a long time, anyway — been politically a part of Tibet. These include the Himalayan Kingdom of Bhutan, parts of Nepal (most notably Upper Mustang and Dolpo, as well as some valleys to the north of the main mountain peaks) and parts of India, especially Ladakh, the setting of a longstanding border dispute.

Tibetans are mostly adherents of their own tradition of Buddhism, and monasteries and nunneries have long been a central part of their culture and life.

The spiritual leader of Tibet is the Dalai Lama, who was based in Lhasa until 1959, when he and many of his supporters fled in the wake of a failed uprising. He’s now based in Dharamsala, in northern India, where an entire Tibetan government in exile has been set up.

There are also large Tibetan exile communities in Nepal, other parts of India and a smaller community in Bhutan.

Chinese domination of Tibet has undoubtedly brought much-needed development and a higher standard of living to the plateau. (In 1959 Tibet was one of the least developed places in Asia.) But it has also brought with it massive suppression of Tibetan rights and the crushing of Tibetan culture and religious practices. Mining and damming have also resulted in significant environmental damage.

Many Tibetans living under Chinese rule have little in the way of freedoms. Positions of power are dominated by Han officials, often from other parts of China. There are widespread reports of human rights abuses, infringement on religious freedoms, allegations of arbitrary arrest and the torture of political prisoners. Tibetans that I know who live in Chinese-run parts of Tibet have told me in private that they feel like they are living in a giant prison and are under constant surveillance.

The Chinese government disputes these claims and says that it has done much to change Tibet for the better — efforts that have put an end to feudal serfdom, profoundly reduced poverty and doubled the life expectancy. Literacy rates have also risen under Chinese rule — to 85 percent today, up from 5 percent in the 1950s.

Because of the suppression of traditional Tibetan life and culture within the Chinese-run parts of Tibet, it’s often easier to find a more traditional classical Tibetan culture in the culturally Tibetan parts of India, Nepal and Bhutan.

But, even in areas where Tibetan culture is allowed to flourish, there have been significant changes in recent years.

In the past, many Tibetans lived a seminomadic lifestyle as they moved with their livestock — often yaks — to and from summer and winter pastures. Today, though, the desire to ensure that children receive the best education possible is making such a lifestyle increasingly challenging. The push to earn a reliable wage in the towns and cities has also meant that many formerly nomadic families have left the mountains behind. Other changes are coming from the increasing construction of roads, widespread ownership of motorbikes, and the ubiquity of telephones and internet.

All of these developments are bringing new ideas, new opportunities and — for better or worse — great changes to traditional Tibetan and Himalayan lifestyles.

Tourism has also played a part in the changes being wrought on the region. In certain areas, a massive trekking and adventure travel industry has developed. While the arrival of thousands of international tourists brings environmental and social changes, it has also allowed families to remain in the mountains and to profit off the nature around them and Tibetan culture.

A case in point would be the nomadic Tibetan family I met on the grasslands of the Kham region, who, working side by side with a local guesthouse, were offering tourists the chance to stay with them in their traditional yak-wool tent and learn something of traditional Tibetan nomadic life.

In addition to generating much-needed income for their family, they were also retaining pride in their traditional way of life — and finding the means to carry it on for another generation.

Stuart Butler is a writer and photographer based in France. You can follow his work on Instagram.



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Medieval French Coins Unearthed in Poland? A Mystery Begins

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BISKUPIEC, Poland — During more than 10 years of tramping through fields and forests with a metal detector, a Polish treasure hunter has found the wreckage of an American-made Sherman tank, the scabbard of a French sword used by a soldier in Napoleon’s army, a Prussian helmet and many other relics of Europe’s bloody past.

In November, however, he made a discovery that has startled even scholars steeped in the ebb and flow of European warfare and left them wrestling with a tantalizing question: How did a cornfield in northeastern Poland come to hold silver coins minted more than 1,100 years ago and nearly 1,000 miles away by the medieval rulers of what is now France?

One theory, promoted by a Polish archaeologist leading the hunt for an explanation, is that the silver coins date from one of Europe’s earliest and most traumatic episodes of armed extortion — when an invading Viking army laid siege to Paris in 845, and had to be paid off with more than two tons of silver to prevent it from destroying the city.

The Vikings — Scandinavian warriors greatly feared because of their unruly habits and military prowess — later systematized what became an elaborate protection racket in the 11th century by imposing taxes in England known as Danegeld, tribute payments in return for safety.

What happened to the huge ransom they received for sparing Paris in 845, however, has always been a mystery.

The Vikings had a major trading post called Truso just 30 miles from Biskupiec, the Polish village where the coins were found. That has led some experts to speculate that the silver extorted in Paris made its way there and then spread into nearby areas as part of a flourishing Baltic-region trade, whose main commodity was slaves.

“This is an exceedingly rare and surprising find,” said Lukasz Szczepanski, the head of archaeology at a regional history museum in the Polish town of Ostroda. “We previously only knew what happened in Paris from written sources, but now, suddenly, we have it in a physical form.”

Others are skeptical. Simon Coupland, a British expert, noted that the coins found in Biskupiec seemed to date from several years before the 845 siege.

But, he added, they could be part of the booty extracted by the Vikings during earlier attacks on the western part of the empire established by Charlemagne, or simply the proceeds of regular trading and raiding by the Vikings.

Mr. Szczepanski acknowledged that his theory that the coins were part of the ransom the Vikings extorted to spare Paris was merely a “working hypothesis.”

A clearer picture, he said, would emerge after a chemical analysis of the coins and a full excavation of the site where they were discovered by the local treasure hunter, Przemyslaw Witkowski, and a fellow scavenger, Maciej Malewicz.

But, no matter what, Mr. Szczepanski said, the discovery of silver coins in a Polish hamlet from so far away and so long ago was both exciting and unsettling.

In a country whose own capital, Warsaw, was occupied and then obliterated by the Nazis during World War II, the survival of Paris more than a millennium before thanks to a payment to the Vikings has a painful resonance.

Despite their reputation for violence, medieval Vikings, Mr. Szczepanski said, behaved far better than 20th-century Germans, whose actions during the war “are incomparable with anything in world history.”

The trauma of World War II, he added, has severely hampered archaeological work in northern Poland. Much of the area used to be part of Germany, and postwar Polish archaeologists, focused on uncovering and celebrating their battered country’s own past, have had little interest in digging up reminders of German hegemony.

Tipped off by Mr. Witkowski about the November find in the cornfield, Mr. Szczepanski joined forces in March with amateur treasure hunters. Using metal detectors, they uncovered more than 100 more silver coins minted during the Carolingian Empire, which was founded in the early ninth century by Emperor Charlemagne. His empire once covered most of the territory that today makes up France, Italy and Germany.

Mr. Szczepanski is now making plans for a full-scale excavation of the field this year, once the farmer who owns the land finishes harvesting his crops. The discovery of yet more Carolingian coins, the archaeologist said, would strengthen his belief that the area contains part of the vast horde of silver paid to the Vikings.

All but one of the coins found so far date from the rule of Louis the Pious, Charlemagne’s son, with the rest minted under his grandson Charles the Bald, who ruled the western part of the Carolingian Empire and was in power during the Viking siege of Paris.

This, according to Stéphane Lebecq, an emeritus professor at the University of Lille in France and a leading expert in French medieval history, suggests that the stash had been “collected together at the beginning of Charles’s reign, so around 840-850, in the heart of his kingdom, which was situated in the Paris basin.”

So far, however, archaeologists have found only coins, not any of the silver ingots that almost certainly featured in the payment extorted by the Vikings from Charles the Bald. The discovery of ingots, Professor Lebecq said, would strengthen the ransom theory.

The silver coins so far uncovered, many of them intact but others smashed — apparently by the farmer’s plow — have been sent to Warsaw to be analyzed by experts at an archaeology laboratory run by the Polish Academy of Sciences.

Mateusz Bogucki, the head of the laboratory, said he was skeptical about the Paris ransom payment theory but said the coins were still a very significant find, indicating the reach of the Carolingian Empire far beyond its heartland in Western Europe.

The coins, he said, have little financial value and would most likely fetch under $200 each on the open market, “but their value as a source of information is absolutely amazing.”

Particularly important, Mr. Bogucki said, is the light they shed on medieval trade routes, many of which revolved around the buying and selling of local people who had been captured in battle and sold or forced into bondage by slave merchants.

The Vikings played a major role as intermediaries in a brutal business fed by a voracious appetite for slaves from Europe among wealthy Muslims in the Middle East and later Central Asia. Silver coins found previously in the area have mostly been Arab dirhams, used by Muslim merchants to pay for human chattel.

Mr. Witkowski, the treasure hunter, said he had initially paid little attention to his find because buried coins are often just an annoyance — usually dropped Polish zlotys.

“I generally don’t like coins,” he said.

But, after washing his find at home and realizing it was not just ordinary pocket change, he sent photographs to Mr. Szczepanski at the history museum in Ostroda. The archaeologist quickly called back and “was so excited I could not understand what he was saying,” Mr. Witkowski recalled.

“I realized that I had found something important,” he added.

Fearful that unscrupulous treasure hunters will start searching for and stealing the silver coins, the authorities have now sealed off the site near Biskupiec and declared its exact location a state secret.

At the same time, they recently rejected Mr. Witkowski’s application for a search permit, complaining that maps he submitted detailing the areas he and his associates would like to search were in the wrong format.

“There would be a lot more stuff in our museums if they did not make everything so complicated,” Mr. Witkowski said. Except for the archaeologist at the history museum, he added, “nobody has even said thank you for finding these coins.”

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What’s on TV This Week: ‘Catch and Kill’ and the MLB All-Star Game

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Between network, cable and streaming, the modern television landscape is a vast one. Here are some of the shows, specials and movies coming to TV this week, July 12 — July 18. Details and times are subject to change.

CATCH AND KILL: THE PODCAST TAPES 9 p.m. on HBO. This documentary features interviews with whistle-blowers, journalists and private investigators from Ronan Farrow’s 2019 book “Catch and Kill: Lies, Spies and a Conspiracy to Protect Predator,s” which delved into decades of sexual assault allegations against the film producer Harvey Weinstein. The documentary, produced by Farrow, includes never-before-heard interviews he conducted throughout the process of writing his book. Monday’s premiere features two back-to-back episodes of the six-part docuseries.

KING KONG (1933) 9:15 p.m. on TCM. If you’re looking for a classic this week, you couldn’t do better than “King Kong,” starring Fay Wray, Robert Armstrong and Bruce Cabot. Retold in many remakes since, this story centers on a film crew who discover a massive ape while shooting on a tropical island. They capture him and bring him back to New York City for public exhibition, which is when things quickly go awry. “Needless to say that this picture was received by many a giggle to cover up fright,” wrote Mordaunt Hall in his 1933 review for The New York Times.

2021 MLB ALL-STAR GAME 7 p.m. on FOX. The MLB is hosting its 91st annual All-Star Game, pitting the American League against the National League. Keep an eye out for their jerseys, which received mixed reviews online after the MLB opted to put all players in white uniforms instead of team colors.

LOVE IN THE AFTERNOON (1957) 8 p.m. on TCM. If you’re in the mood for love on Tuesday evening, this is a perfect choice. The film, directed by Billy Wilder and starring Audrey Hepburn, Gary Cooper and Maurice Chevalier, tells the story of a playboy, the detective who entraps him and the detective’s daughter. It’s “a charming lot of detail,” Bosley Crowther wrote in his 1957 review for The Times. Those details help Wilder and the screenwriter I. A. L. Diamond “keep their unmoral story going for a couple of minutes over two hours,” he added.

THE SECRET OF SKINWALKER RANCH 9 p.m. on History. In this documentary series, the astrophysicist Dr. Travis Taylor leads a team of research scientists to explore Utah’s notorious Skinwalker Ranch, thought to be a hot spot for U.F.O. activity. As details of U.F.O.s (and the U.S. government’s explanation of them) continue to lack, these researchers use technology to investigate the possibility of otherworldly factors at the ranch, owned by Brandon Fugal.

GOOD TROUBLE 10 p.m. on Freeform. A spinoff of the family drama “The Fosters,” this series follows Callie Foster (Maia Mitchell) and Mariana Foster (Cierra Ramirez) as they navigate young adulthood in Los Angeles. Unlike other prime-time shows, including “Grey’s Anatomy” and “This Is Us,” the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic is not a plot point.

DARK SIDE OF THE 90s 10 p.m. on Vice. This Vice original show is a spinoff of “Dark Side of the Ring,” which focused on the world of professional wrestling. This spinoff features deep dives into pop-culture moments, trends and personalities of the decade, from beanie babies to “Baywatch.” All 10 episodes are hosted by the Sugar Ray singer Mark McGrath.

ICON: MUSIC THROUGH THE LENS 9 p.m. on PBS (check local listings). This six-part series documents the lives of people who photographed some of the most famous moments in music. Interviews reveal what was happening on both sides of the lens. This Friday’s episode looks at photos of Snoop Dogg, Bob Dylan and Madonna, and how these images impacted their public perception.

BETTY 11 p.m. on HBO. The season finale of “Betty,” a scripted show about the lives of young women navigating the male-dominated culture of skateboarding, airs on Friday. The show stars actors Dede Lovelace, Moonbear, Nina Moran, Ajani Russell and Rachelle Vinberg, who all previously starred together in the film “Skate Kitchen.” The series, shot in New York City, has used this season to show supportive female friendships, as well as touch on topics, including the pandemic and gentrification.

SAY YES TO THE DRESS 8 p.m. on TLC. The show, which began in 2007 and is celebrating its 20th season, features brides picking out their perfect dresses at the well-known shop Kleinfeld Bridal in New York City. This season looks a little different as it was filmed during the pandemic: Randy Fenoli, the designer and star, and brides join the show virtually and in person.

AN AFFAIR TO REMEMBER (1957) 3:45 p.m. on TCM. This romantic classic, directed by Leo McCarey, stars Cary Grant and Deborah Kerr. As emulated by many movies and TV shows that followed, the story centers on two people who meet on a trip back from Europe, and fall in love despite both being with other people. They decide to meet at the top of the Empire Building in six months if they are both single — but does it happen? If you do not already know the ending, tune in on Sunday to see.

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Prominent Lawyer in Discussions to Represent Britney Spears

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A prominent Hollywood lawyer has had discussions in recent days with Britney Spears about representing her in her conservatorship battle, and he plans to attend a hearing in Los Angeles on Wednesday to begin the process of taking over as her counsel, according to a person briefed on the matter.

For the past 13 years, under a strict legal arrangement that curbs many of her rights, Ms. Spears has been represented by a court-appointed lawyer whom she criticized at a hearing last month as she urged the court to let her hire her own counsel.

Ms. Spears has told others she wanted to take a far more aggressive legal approach. In recent days she began having discussions with Mathew S. Rosengart, a former federal prosecutor who has represented several celebrities in recent years, about having him take over and push for an end to the conservatorship, according to the person.

The person spoke on the condition of anonymity because Ms. Spears has not retained Mr. Rosengart and a judge will need to sign off on any such arrangement. TMZ first reported that Ms. Spears was interested in having Mr. Rosengart represent her.

If allowed by the court, Ms. Spears’s retaining of Mr. Rosengart would signal a drastic change in the handling of the case. Confidential court documents recently obtained by The New York Times revealed that Ms. Spears had expressed strong objections to the conservatorship over several years and questioned her father’s fitness as conservator. Mr. Rosengart would be expected to aggressively pursue a path to ending the arrangement.

The feud has escalated in recent months as scrutiny of the unusual conservatorship has intensified and Ms. Spears has publicly questioned its legitimacy. The guardianship was instituted in 2008, when concerns about her mental health and potential substance abuse led her father, James P. Spears, to petition for legal authority over his daughter. Since her June 23 statement to the court, several pillars of the conservatorship have fallen: Bessemer Trust, the wealth-management firm that was set to take over as the co-conservator of her estate, requested to withdraw; Ms. Spears’s longtime manager, Larry Rudolph, resigned; and Samuel D. Ingham III, the lawyer appointed by the court in 2008 to represent her when she was deemed unfit to hire her own counsel, asked the court if he could step down.

Mr. Ingham said in a court filing that he would serve until the court had appointed new counsel for Ms. Spears, but it is not clear how a new lawyer would be selected or whether Judge Brenda Penny, who is overseeing the case, would allow Ms. Spears to have a say in the matter.

Mr. Rosengart, 58, once served as a law clerk for the former New Hampshire state judge David Souter, shortly before he was nominated to the Supreme Court. Mr. Rosengart worked at the Justice Department as an assistant United States Attorney in the 1990s.

After leaving the Justice Department, he worked as a white-collar defense attorney and civil litigator. In recent years, he has represented several high profile Hollywood personalities, including Sean Penn, Steven Spielberg and Kenneth Lonergan.

In Mr. Penn’s case, Mr. Rosengart helped him win a defamation case against a director who made claims about Mr. Penn’s past behavior. The lawyer produced an affidavit from Madonna, the actor’s ex-wife, that refuted the director’s assertions. Mr. Penn said in a statement on Sunday that Mr. Rosengart “is a tough as nails streetfighter with a big brain and bigger principles.”

At a hearing on June 23, Ms. Spears vehemently criticized the conservatorship, claiming she had been forced to perform, take debilitating medication and remain on birth control.

She also raised questions about Mr. Ingham’s advocacy on her behalf. She said in court that she had been unaware of how to terminate the arrangement.

“I didn’t know I could petition the conservatorship to be ended,” Ms. Spears, 39, said in court. “I’m sorry for my ignorance, but I honestly didn’t know that.” She added, “My attorney says I can’t — it’s not good, I can’t let the public know anything they did to me.”

“He told me I should keep it to myself, really,” the singer said.

It is unknown what private discussions Mr. Ingham and Ms. Spears have had about whether or how she could ask to end the conservatorship. Last year, Mr. Ingham began seeking substantial changes to the setup on behalf of Ms. Spears, including attempts to strip power from her father, who remains in control of the singer’s nearly $60 million fortune.

Mr. Ingham’s request to withdraw also included the resignation letter of the law firm Loeb & Loeb, which Mr. Ingham had brought on last year to assist him in preparation for litigation.

A lawyer for Lynne Spears, Ms. Spears’s mother and an interested party in the conservatorship, has asked the court to allow Ms. Spears to hire her own private legal counsel.

Ms. Spears’s personal conservator, Jodi Montgomery, recently filed an urgent request for the court to appoint a guardian ad litem who would be assigned solely to help Ms. Spears choose her own lawyer. The filing stated that Ms. Spears had been “repeatedly and consistently” asking for Ms. Montgomery’s assistance in finding a new lawyer and that Ms. Spears deserved to be represented by a top-tier firm.

Mr. Rosengart is a partner at Greenberg Traurig, a major international firm that has hundreds of lawyers with a range of expertise.

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Danny Shanahan, Cartoonist With an Absurd Touch, Dies at 64

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Danny Shanahan, a mirthful cartoonist who had a stand-up comic’s gift for one-liners but whose long association with The New Yorker ended last year under a cloud, died on July 5 in a hospital in Charleston, S.C. He was 64.

The cause was multiple system organ failure, his wife, Janet Stetson, said. He had been living in Mount Pleasant, S.C.

From 1988 through last year, Mr. Shanahan published about 1,000 cartoons in The New Yorker. Drawn with a casual style and an absurdist’s eye, they were populated by a panoply of characters, including clowns, snowmen, praying mantises, cats, dogs, cave men, elves, monkeys, athletes, businessmen, politicians, Santa Claus and Elvis.

In one cartoon, a dog looks up from his menu in a restaurant, and asks the waiter, “Is the homework fresh?” In another, titled “Mr. October,” a headless New York Yankee reaches into his locker for his pumpkin head. In a third, called “Batmom,” Batman reads a message beamed to him in the sky that says, “Your sister got another promotion!”

But Mr. Shanahan’s long run at The New Yorker ended with his arrest by the New York State Police in December on a charge of possession of child pornography. Citing “deeply disturbing” accusations against him, The New Yorker suspended his contract.

Mr. Shanahan pleaded not guilty. His lawyer, Phil Smallman, said the case had not been resolved at his death, adding that a conference with the presiding judge was scheduled for Monday.

Michael Maslin, a fellow New Yorker cartoonist,said of Mr. Shanahan by phone: “He was like a human Pez dispenser of humor, his mind always working. He was funny, like his work. He was never off.”

He was invariably silly. In the first half of a two-panel cartoon, Mr. Shanahan depicted a drowning boy screaming to a famously helpful dog: “Lassie! Get help!” In the second panel, Lassie reclines on a therapist’s couch — getting help. In one of his many clown cartoons, Mr. Shanahan drew one clown giving advice to another, who is wearing a round nose as big as a bowling ball: “Ask yourself, ‘Does it make me a better clown?’”

And in his 2018 parody of “Christina’s World,” Andrew Wyeth’s painting of a young woman lying in a field and staring at a distant farmhouse, Mr. Shanahan added a soccer goal behind her and put red goalkeeper’s gloves on her hands to create “Christina’s World Cup.”

Bob Mankoff, a former cartoon editor of The New Yorker, described Mr. Shanahan’s humor as universal. “People will be laughing at some cartoons in The New Yorker next week and next month, but they won’t be laughing at them 10 years from now,” he said in an interview. “But 10 years from now, they’ll be laughing at Danny’s cartoons. He was a master of the cartoon joke.”

Daniel Patrick Shanahan was born on July 11, 1956, in Brooklyn and raised in Northport, on Long Island, and Bethlehem, Conn. He was one of 11 children of Bernard Shanahan, a manager at the electronics company Perkin-Elmer, and Kathleen (Novosel) Shanahan, a homemaker.

“He was always drawing,” Ms. Stetson, his wife, said. “His parents had a large family with a modest income, but they always had lot of books and lots of paper on the table. And he was always funny. He had a unique way of looking at the world.”

Mr. Shanahan was largely self-taught; he took one or two courses at Paier College of Art in Hamden, Conn. He worked as a bartender while selling cartoons, mostly to small magazines but also to TV Guide.

“I’ve been cartooning for over 30 years,” he told the website A Case for Pencils in 2017. “I started, back in the ’80s, as the unofficial cartoonist for the United States Tennis Association, thanks to a good friend who was an editor for World Tennis magazine. Thankfully he saw a glimmer of possibility in this Bleecker Street bartender’s Kliban and Larson knockoffs,” referring to B. Kliban, known for his one-panel cat cartoons, and Gary Larson, the creator of “The Far Side.”

By 1988, Mr. Shanahan and Ms. Stetson were married and seeking a less expensive place to start a family. They moved from Rhinebeck, N.Y., to Corrales, N.M. Soon afterward, he sold his first cartoon to The New Yorker: a conspicuously musclebound little boy reading his essay, “What I Did on My Summer Vacation,” to his classmates. The family lived in New Mexico for seven years, time that Ms. Stetson called “the best thing that could have happened” to her husband “because he was able to develop his style.”

In addition to The New Yorker, Mr. Shanahan’s work appeared in Time, Esquire, Playboy, Fortune, Newsweek and The New York Times.

He published several collections of cartoons and two children’s books: “The Bus Ride That Changed History” (2005, written by Pamela Duncan Edwards), about Rosa Parks’s refusal to surrender her seat to a white person on a bus in Montgomery, Ala., in 1955; and “Buckledown the Workhound” (1993), which he both wrote and illustrated. He also illustrated “More Weird and Wonderful Words” (2003), edited by Erin McKean.

In addition to his wife, Mr. Shanahan is survived by their sons, Finnegan Shanahan and Render Stetson-Shanahan; his sisters, Jane Petersen, Eileen Stevens, Kathryn DeAngelis, and Celia, Rita and Lillian Shanahan; and his brothers, Bernard Jr., Francis, Matthew and Terrence. (His son Render received notoriety when he was sentenced to prison on a manslaughter charge last year in the stabbing death of his female roommate in 2016.)

Mr. Shanahan’s final cartoon for The New Yorker appeared in November. It shows one pilgrim woman holding a cooked turkey on a platter and telling another pilgrim woman, “He says my eagle tastes fishy, so this year I’m trying something new.”

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Chicago in the Summer: 8 Places to Go

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As the pandemic ebbs in the United States, many travelers have been favoring outdoor, away-from-it-all getaways. According to the travel planning site TripIt, over Memorial Day weekend, major cities like Washington, D.C., and New York were trending down, while outdoorsy spots like Palm Springs, Calif., were newly popular. “Two-thirds of my clients are booking houses, ranch stays and hotels in smaller coastal communities,” said Shawna Owen, the owner of Huffman Travel, part of the Virtuoso Network.

But as residents of big cities know, their hometowns are roaring back to life. Take Chicago’s Loop neighborhood. It was a ghost town at the height of the pandemic. Now, the area south of the Chicago River, known for its architecture and art-infused green spaces like Millennium Park, is abuzz with new hotels and restaurants and performances at Grant Park, which have returned after a pandemic hiatus.

The nearby West Loop, an industrial quadrant that runs on the east side of the Chicago River, has been flourishing since pioneering chefs like Stephanie Izard (Girl and The Goat), Sarah Gruenberg (Monteverde) and Paul Kahan (The Publican) opened restaurants there about 15 years ago. Incredibly, new hot spots emerged during the pandemic, including a groovy boîte modeled after an old school Chicago “slashie” (a hybrid liquor store and bar).

All of this plus a star-studded lineup for Lollapalooza in late July signals what could be the tail end of the city’s Covid-19 cultural drought.

The Carbide & Carbon building has been turning heads on Michigan Avenue since 1929, its polished black granite and green-and-gold terra-cotta a testament to Art Deco bravado. It was reborn as the Pendry Chicago hotel in May, embracing the grandeur while incorporating contemporary conviviality into the 364 rooms and public spaces. Of particular interest: the 24th floor terrace, which has never been open to the public. Called Château Carbide for the summer season, the deck’s striped lounge chairs, rattan lanterns, palm trees and fragrant rosemary bushes aim to channel Provence’s Côte d’Azur. In keeping with the theme, there will be a rosé-focused wine list, charcuterie and French house music. From this perch, guests have an exceptional perspective of the skyline and the top of the Carbide & Carbon Building, which resembles a glittering champagne bottle. Reservations are recommended (230 North Michigan Avenue; 312-777-9000).

The Grant Park Music Festival is back after taking 2020 off, with 21 concerts at the Frank Gehry-designed band shell at the Jay Pritzker Pavilion in Millennium Park. On tap as part of the 80-year-old classical music festival: the Grieg Piano Concerto, the “New World Symphony,” the “William Tell Overture” and loads of Dvorak, Beethoven, Brahms and Haydn. Other Millennium Park events include a performance of “Goshen” by Deeply Rooted Dance Theater, featuring the gospel singer Le’Andria Johnson and, as part of American Ballet Theater’s ABT Across America, a production of Jessica Lang’s “Let Me Sing Forevermore,” set to the music of Tony Bennett; and “Indestructible Light,” a new piece choreographed by Darrell Grand Moultrie, featuring music by Duke Ellington, Count Basie and Billy Strayhorn. The series continues through Aug. 21 with concerts every Wednesday, Friday and Saturday. Free open seating is available in the Seating Bowl and on the Great Lawn. Reserved seating is $25.

Throughout the summer, a portion of State Street, the Loop’s main drag, from Lake to Madison, will close to traffic for a multi-block pop-up called Sundays on State. On tap: D.J. sessions with Soulphonetics, creative movement classes by Ballet Chicago, live mural painting, karaoke-style Broadway singalongs by Porchlight Music Theater, and a lounge by Southside Jazz Coalition where you can listen to vinyl. There will also be recreation (yoga, ballet, self-defense classes), dining and retail vendors on site. Events run July 11 to Sep. 12, with no events scheduled on Aug. 1 or 15; free.

Earning three Michelin stars for four consecutive years, the chef Curtis Duffy cemented Chicago’s stature as a gastronomic epicenter. When his restaurant Grace abruptly closed in 2017, the city mourned the loss. Mr. Duffy and his longtime business partner, Michael Muser, are back with Ever, where a 10-course tasting experience unfolds in a space as wildly innovative as the menu. Diners traverse a curved walkway with walls intricately layered in plaster (Moab Slot Canyon? Mars?) to a nook for amuse-bouche bites beneath dehydrated ingredients dangling, Calder-esque, from the ceiling. The dining room — just 14 tables — is a soundproofed, windowless cocoon that appears to glow as soft lighting bounces from plates to the solid white ash slatted screens that divide the room. Dishes, like a luxurious mound of black truffles perched upon popcorn-spiked, corn-husk-oil-kissed corn custard, are so poetic and visually arresting that eating them feels untoward. But eat them you will. Adding to the wow factor, the restaurant opened mid-pandemic and has already earned two Michelin stars. A 10-course tasting menu is $285 per person. Wine pairings, $185 per person, nonalcoholic pairings, $105 (1340 West Fulton Street).

Just before the pandemic struck, the Chicago-based fashion designer Maria Pinto, who has frequently dressed Michelle Obama, set up shop in a hulking black box steps from Fulton Market. Inside, Ms. Pinto’s sculptural, seasonless garments are set off by polished black concrete floors and a two-story steel-and-glass-paneled wall that floods the room in light. An interior courtyard blooms with prairie grass and colorful anthropomorphic sculptures by the local artist Nathan Mason. If they are lucky, shoppers can meet Ms. Pinto and score a tour of her on-site design studio. Prices range from $125 for a top to $350 for a dress or wrap to $750 for a jacket (M2057 by Maria Pinto, 210 North Morgan Street; 888-868-2057).

At his debut restaurant, Rose Mary, the “Top Chef” winner Joe Flamm channels the lively, local spirit of family-run Croatian taverns, or konobas. Flavor-packed dishes like citrusy coal-roasted beets with pistachios, honey and kaymak (a thick cheese); beef burek; puffed pastry stuffed with onions and mozzarella; roasted clams with smoked ramp butter and bread crumbs; and gnocchi with pasticada (beef cheeks seared in bacon fat and slow-cooked with prunes and figs) pair perfectly with a wine and beer list also sourced from the region. The whitewashed walls accented with brick, red clay and deep blue tile succeed in evoking the rustic beauty of the Adriatic. Coming soon: a chef’s table experience with a bird’s-eye view of the open kitchen. Entrees start at $17 (932 West Fulton Street, 872-260-3921).

Smyth has always been a bit of an outlier. The cozy ambience — exposed brick, rough hewed wood rafters, cozy rugs, simple wooden furniture, classic rock playlist — is matched by emphatically pretense-free service. This, plus whiz-bang flavors that are high-concept yet enticingly familiar have earned the restaurant a cult following and, not surprisingly, two Michelin stars. The chefs and owners, John and Karen Shields, are celebrated for their commitment to small producers and specialized farmers like Mike Murphy, the Shields’s source for dragon’s head, Vietnamese cilantro, lemon leaf and other esoteric herbs grown exclusively for Smyth. Not all vendors are Midwestern. An agricultural cooperative in Valley Center, Calif., called San Gabriel Ranch provides the exotic produce for an avocado dish seasoned with cured citrus, eucalyptus oil, finger limes and a tangy paste of Bangkok guava that has the texture of gelato. A new relationship with Monterey Bay Seaweed has ratcheted up fresh ocean flavors in seafood and found its way into a wasabi-scented foie gras dish swimming in a broth of guinea hen. A 16-course tasting menu is $240; wine pairings start at $125 (177 North Ada Street, #101; 773-913-3773).

Juice @1340, an easy walk south of Fulton Market, is not your typical wine shop. First off, it’s what Chicagoans call a “slashie,” where you can drop in for a drink and also take home a bottle or a six-pack. It’s also run by a triumvirate of cool kids with pedigrees from some of Chicago’s most popular restaurants. The bartender Danielle Lewis spearheads the beer arm which focuses on niche breweries, including local outfits like Hop Butcher, Marz and Pipeworks. Tim Williams, a cocktail impresario, crafts riffs on classics and the sommelier Derrick Westbrook shines a spotlight on lesser-known wines or wine options like Austrian Evolúció Blaufränkisch and Black-owned vineyards such as Brown Estate Vineyards, Theopolis Vineyards, Michael Lavelle and Maison Noir Wines. Events will be a focal point: think pop-ups for emerging culinary talent and a beverage version of a Chef’s Table called Fresh Pressed. Cocktails and wines by the glass are $10 to $14; bottles of wine, -to $200; Fresh Pressed events will be $100 per ticket (1340 West Madison Street).


Follow New York Times Travel on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook. And sign up for our weekly Travel Dispatch newsletter to receive expert tips on traveling smarter and inspiration for your next vacation. Dreaming up a future getaway or just armchair traveling? Check out our 52 Places list for 2021.



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Is It Art? You May Have to Ask a Neanderthal Critic.

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In 2019, a team of archaeologists climbed a steep, rocky hill in central Germany and burrowed inside the collapsed entrance of the Unicorn Cave, named as such because people in the Middle Ages once scoured it for unicorn bones. Today it is famous for its animal fossils.

Over the course of about a month, they excavated an area of just 16 square feet, pulling out of the brown dirt dozens of ancient mammal bones. Most were unremarkable, either the remains of bears who had once used the cave to hibernate, or the butchered castaways from carcasses hunted by Neanderthals tens of thousands of years ago.

But one specimen, a 2-inch-long foot bone of a giant deer, stood apart. It was carved with six thick rectangular notches, in a distinct chevron pattern.

When Thomas Terberger, the project’s leader, first saw those cut marks, he knew they could not have been made by accident. “We realized it was more profound — it was something intentionally carved into the bone surface,” said Dr. Terberger, an archaeologist with the State Service for Cultural Heritage Lower Saxony in Hannover, Germany.

The bone was likely boiled before being carved, and took about an hour and a half to make, Dr. Terberger said. When the bone stands upright, the chevron pattern points to the sky.

Even though Neanderthals were known to have lived in and around the cave, Dr. Terberger initially thought the carving had to have been made by an early Homo sapiens. Such cultural artifacts from Neanderthals are extremely rare, after all, and often contested. But radiocarbon dating showed that the foot was 51,000 years old — meaning it was made several thousands of years before the first early modern humans showed up in the region.

So the carving, as the scientists published this week in Nature Ecology & Evolution, was almost certainly made by Neanderthals. As Silvia Bello, a researcher at the Natural History Museum in London who was not involved in the discovery, wrote in the same issue of the journal, the finding is “one of the most complex artistic expressions by Neanderthals thus far known.”

Ever since the first major Neanderthal fossil was found in another German cave in 1856, our hominin cousins have been thought of as thick, dumb brutes. Although more recent discoveries have shown that Neanderthals used sophisticated tools, buried their dead and, of course, mated with Homo sapiens, “we are still somehow a bit imprisoned in our image of the Neanderthals from the 19th century,” Dr. Terberger said.

The new carving is one of only a handful of examples of Neanderthal art, like body ornaments, rock engravings and notched animal bones. Many scientists have raised doubts about whether some of these Neanderthal art pieces were actually tools, and whether they picked up their creative proclivities from interactions with early ancestors from our species.

The carving was made on the foot of a giant deer, a majestic animal that was rare in the area and may have had symbolic meaning to the people who killed it, Dr. Terberger said.

But is this bone carving with its chevron patterns really art? Dr. Terberger prefers to call it a complex decoration, perhaps a precursor to art. “But they do not make a decoration complex like this just to have fun,” he said.

“The size suggests it’s something you can hold in your hand, look at it and inspire your imagination,” he said. “Everybody can decide for themselves what he sees in this.”

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Variety: Puns and Anagrams – The New York Times

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This Sunday, I’m picking up the Variety column for the first time, filling in for Caitlin Lovinger. I was a little apprehensive about unzipping the advance file of puzzles, not knowing what I would find. Inside, was a brand of brainteaser that I had not solved before: a PandA, or Puns and Anagrams puzzle. PandAs, where have you been all my life?

PandAs, as I’m sure most of you know, may resemble cryptics, but are something else entirely. A few days ago, I would have told you that cryptics were more my cup of tea and that I appreciate them for the extremely rigorous, concentrated little works of art they can be. While I patiently chip away at them, happy to arrive at three or four answers at each nibble, friends say they devour cryptics and given a choice for their puzzle workout, they prefer the British ones, with their extra layer of regional impermeability.

But who can turn away a lovely anagram, or turn up their nose at a fine or even corny pun? Laughing is as important as it ever was, if not more so. Still, when I first joined The New York Times, I tried to dodge puns in an overreaction to a stylebook caveat about indulging unwisely in wordplay, as it were.

But no such constraints bind Daniel Raymon and his puzzle, which I tackled by skipping and tripping among the clues and filling in the ones that felt right, then going back over the blanks and shaking up the letters that remained, hoping to see the answers fall into place.

Even though, when I was solving, the only other creature stirring was one of the cats, 1D caused me to chuckle aloud. The clue is “Head covering mother holds.” It took me the longest time to reach MAHATMA, or MAMA holding HAT. Get it? I know you do.

I didn’t, at first. My problem came from my misinterpretation of a crossing clue. Although I’m enjoying the fact that PandAs, unlike cryptics, have more of a scaffolding of crossing words that supports the solver, I keep expecting the answers to be sewn up as neatly as they are in some cryptics.

In this case, it was 17A that led me astray. Reading the clue: “What a fellow does to an envelope,” I made an assumption — or failed to make one. I thought of a fellow as one who receives a fellowship rather than as a male human, and I ended up with “readdresses,” when the actual answer was HE ADDRESSES. That helped me get MAHATMA, but I kept wishing there had been a millinery joke in the envelope, or maybe the HEADDRESSES/HAT cross was the millinery joke?

At 19A, “Cartoon character in Acapulco,” I stopped. I did not expect to see APU, a longtime regular on “The Simpsons,” who was caught up in a controversy over racial and ethnic stereotyping. Hank Azaria, the white actor who voiced the character — a highly educated immigrant from India who runs a convenience store — decided, in response to public disapproval, that he would no longer be the voice of Apu. He continued in other roles on the show.

The clues that most closely resembled those of a cryptic were easier for me to decipher, like 15A, “Expresses a rustic tale well.” The answer, ARTICULATES, means “expresses” and the anagram comes from recombining “a rustic tale.” (We’d have to toss away the “well,” though.)

I burst into laughter at 59A, “Redloh god toh,” which I mistook for a moment as an expression in a vaguely familiar foreign language. Then I had to decide whether the “redloh” should be a NUB or “bun.” (Snoino eht dloh.)

I think I’m in love with PandAs, and I want to try more of them. But I can’t say I totally grasp the significance of every answer. Maybe you readers who are experienced with this form can help me pick apart 1A, “Social Security Administration operating in four states.” I worked out that the answer is MISS AMERICA. And I found CA for California, RI for Rhode Island and either MI for Michigan or MISS for Mississippi. And either way, I have letters left over and no fourth state.

Where did I go wrong?

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The Eclectic Lives BehindAlice Neel’s Portraits

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My introduction to the painter Alice Neel was a screen print that hung on the living room wall of my grandparents’ home in Woodstock, N.Y. — a provocative portrait of Neel’s pouting granddaughter lounging on a striped chair. That portrait then moved within my family, to Minneapolis, San Francisco and, finally, to my apartment on the Upper West Side of Manhattan — down the street from where Neel painted and lived —  where it now hangs on my wall.

I discovered last weekend, when I saw Neel’s stunning retrospective at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, that the same striped chair has appeared in many of her paintings. The many portraits in the exhibition, “Alice Neel: People Come First,” were of Neel’s friends and lovers, or of well-known artists, activists, critics, scholars — including many radicals my grandmother admired, among them Mike Gold, an author and activist, and Linda Nochlin, a celebrated feminist art historian.

I became curious about Neel’s subjects and learned about their lives from their obituaries in The New York Times. Below is a sampling.

Jackie Curtis was a playwright, director and performer who acted in Andy Warhol films like “Bad” (1977), a comedy about a hairdresser who runs an electrolysis parlor in her home, and the 1971 satire “Women in Revolt.” He also wrote screenplays for Warhol, including “Flesh” (1968), about a hustler working on the streets of New York City.

He began to write plays in the late 1960s, and often took the lead female role in them.

Read his obituary here.

Andy Warhol’s paintings and prints of presidents, movie stars and soup cans made him one of the most famous artists in the world.

Neel’s portrait of him, “nude from the waist up, revealing his scars and the surgical corset he wore after he was shot by Valerie Solanas,” as Phoebe Hoban wrote in the introduction to “Alice Neel: The Art of Not Sitting Pretty” (2010), demonstrates the collaborative exchange Neel had with her subjects.

James Farmer was a principal founder of the Congress of Racial Equality and the last survivor of the “Big Four” who shaped the civil rights struggle in the United States in the mid-1950s and ’60s.

His main colleagues in the civil rights movement were the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Whitney Young of the National Urban League and Roy Wilkins of the N.A.A.C.P.

Read his obituary here.

Linda Nochlin was a celebrated art historian whose feminist approach permanently altered her field.

She earned a place of honor in both art-historical and art-world circles in January 1971 with the groundbreaking essay “Why Have There Been No Great Women Artists?”

Her answer examined assumptions behind the question, enumerated the centuries of institutional and social conventions that had militated against women’s succeeding in the arts, and discredited what she called the myth of innate genius.

Read her obituary here.

Henry Geldzahler was a curator, critic and public official whose enthusiastic advocacy of contemporary art made his name synonymous with the art scene in New York for three decades.

He began his career as a curator of American art at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. At the age of 33 he put together the museum’s sweeping centennial exhibition, “New York Painting and Sculpture: 1940-1970,” a highly personal selection of 408 works by 43 artists that thrust the staid Met into the swirling currents of modern art and led one journalist to call him “the most powerful and controversial art curator alive.” He excluded Alice Neel from the exhibition.

Read his obituary here.

David Bourdon was a critic who was closely involved in the innovative Manhattan art world of the early 1960s and was one of the early writers on the Minimalist movement.

Among his books were studies of the artists Christo (1972), Alexander Calder (1980) and Andy Warhol (1989). His book on Warhol was a detailed insider’s account of the artist’s career in which he reported having assisted Warhol in producing a series of his 1963 Elvis Presley silk-screen paintings. A friend of the artists Robert Smithson and Michael Heizer, he also wrote about the Earth Art movement in the late 1960s and ’70s. He was a past president of the United States section of the International Association of Art Critics and an arts editor at Vogue from 1983 to 1986.

Read his obituary here.

Geoffrey Hendricks and Bici Forbes had been married for years and had two children when they faced up to a conundrum.

“By the time of our 10th wedding anniversary,” Mr. Hendricks recalled years later, “which is June 24, 1971, it was like: ‘Well, what should we do? Because we’re both gay.’”

Hendricks was an artist who was part of the boundary-stretching Fluxus movement, so it was perfectly in character when he and his wife, the artist known as Nye Ffarrabas, decided to turn their disunion into performance art. On their 10th anniversary, they staged what has become known as the Flux Divorce in their Manhattan home.

Read his obituary here.

Alice Childress was an actress and a writer of plays and novels, including “A Hero Ain’t Nothin’ but a Sandwich.”

In a review of “Hero” in The New York Times in 1973, the playwright Ed Bullins wrote: “There are too few books that convince us that reading is one of the supreme gifts of being human. Alice Childress, in her short, brilliant study of a 13-year-old Black heroin user, achieves this feat in a masterly way.”

Read her obituary here.

Michael Gold, Neel’s friend, lover and mentor, was the author of the novel “Jews Without Money” and other works of social protest. He was a columnist for the Communist newspaper The Daily Worker and a founding editor of New Masses, a copy of which is visible on the bottom left of Neel’s portrait. The title of Neel’s retrospective at the Met comes from a 1950 article about her that Gold wrote for The Daily Worker.

“But for me, people come first,” he quoted Neel as saying. “I think I have tried to assert the dignity and eternal importance of the human being in my portraits.”

Read his obituary here.

Cindy Nemser was an art critic and historian who, half a century ago, began calling out sexism in the art world, decrying the way women artists were treated and how their work was evaluated.

Nemser was already writing for arts publications in 1969 when someone invited her to an early meeting of Women Artists in Revolution, a New York coalition that pushed back against the marginalization of women in the art world. At the time few women had gallery representation or were being shown in major museums.

Read her obituary here.

Benny Andrews was a figural expressionistic painter and teacher whose work drew on his African-American roots in Georgia.

He was a vivid storyteller who used memories of his childhood in the segregated South to create narrative-based works that addressed human suffering and injustice. Over his lifetime, his social concerns ranged from the civil rights struggle and the antiwar movement to the Holocaust, poverty and the forced relocation of American Indians.

Read his obituary here.

Erica Ackerberg is a photo editor on the Obituaries and Books desks at The New York Times.

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