When he started releasing hour-long comedy specials ten years ago, Louis C.K.’s material was long on kids, marriage, men and women, and getting older and fatter. These subjects are still a big part of his acts, especially in Louie, but he’s gotten even more traction with observations about our national mood disorder: the irritable, selfish public behavior and private melancholy of Americans in the smartphone age (or sometimes, more specifically, affluent white Americans). He’s most effective when he uses himself as representative American jerk and melancholic.
To the Editors: In an otherwise characteristically sensitive piece on Diane Arbus, Hilton Als repeats without qualification and as a truism that Diane Arbus “used the word ‘freaks’ to describe [her] subjects….” While often repeated, and in this case possibly unintentional in the implicit breadth of its meaning, nothing could be further from the truth, and the promulgation of the idea harms the reputations of both the photographer and the writer.
To the Editors: Michael Wood, alluding to Robert Bresson’s practice of letting quotations speak for him, writes, “When Mozart says of certain works of his that ‘they are brilliant…, but they lack poverty,’ he is close to the heart of Bresson’s aesthetics.” Mozart, unfortunately, never quite said this.
In The Islamic Enlightenment, Christopher de Bellaigue aims to address a bias he perceives among general readers about the history of Islamic political liberalization. According to widespread assumptions, efforts to transform Islamic nations into modern societies were mainly imposed “from above” by Western-leaning autocrats—the underlying premise being that the Enlightenment was an exclusively Judeo-Christian (or post-Christian) movement that had no parallel in Islamic societies. This “historical fallacy,” in de Bellaigue’s view, has led “triumphalist Western historians, politicians and commentators, as well as some renegade Muslims who have turned on the religion of their births,” to insist that “Islam [still] needs its Enlightenment.” By contrast, de Bellaigue argues convincingly that efforts to bring modern political ideas to the Muslim world had a “natural constituency” among the educated minority and that, despite opposition, they slowly gained general acceptance.
One of the favorite sports of Renaissance artists was a contest called the paragone, the “comparison,” the age-old debate about the most expressive form of art. Like sport itself, the fun lay in playing the game with headlong passion, insisting that painting, or sculpture, or architecture reigned as queen of all the other arts. This spring and summer, the Florentine exhibition “Bill Viola: Electronic Renaissance,” organized around the work of the acclaimed American video artist Bill Viola, has brought the paragone into the twenty-first century.
Matisse, unsurprisingly, had strong feelings about the objects of his daily life. They delighted, inspired, or confounded him, in their humble ordinariness and in all that they evoked. These mundane items, the organizing principle for the exhilarating show at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, served as sparks for Matisse’s art. The exhibition’s considerations of these objects enable us to see Matisse’s works anew.
About forty minutes into Risk, Laura Poitras’s messy documentary portrait of Julian Assange, the filmmaker addresses the viewer from off-camera. “This is not the film I thought I was making,” she says. “I thought I could ignore the contradictions. I thought they were not part of the story. I was so wrong. They are becoming the story.” By the time she makes this confession, Poitras has been filming Assange, on and off, for six years. He has gone from a bit player on the international stage to one of its dramatic leads.
It’s easy to see why Oliver Stone puts up with being lied to in The Putin Interviews, Stone’s new four-part documentary. He needs Putin’s indulgence to make the series. The harder question is why Putin made so much time for Stone, given that Putin has a country to run. Stone does not have much to offer, and Putin cannot help but run rings around him for three of the four interviews.
Since the implementation of President Obama’s Affordable Care Act—and the mandatory coverage it brought—most patients needing a procedure such as an echocardiogram can count on some form of insurance. But Obamacare put no controls on the pricing of drugs or clinical care, leaving the profit-driven health industry mostly intact. As a result, patients are too often required to pay large out-of-pocket costs while insurance premiums have continued to rise.
To continue seeing the conflict in Afghanistan only through the prism of war and troop numbers as the US does will only lead to continuing erosion of the government’s legitimacy. and loss of territory. Taliban attacks will increase, there will be continued loss of territory, and the government may collapse. This is a recipe for failure.