Our job is to stay awake to that fact and to stretch our minds as quickly as we can to encompass what is going on in front of our eyes — not to distract everyone by saying, “Oh, well, this reminds me dimly of something that happened in the early modern period.” My impulse isn’t to tell you that we’ve seen all this before; it’s to say we ain’t seen nothing yet.
John Wyver writes: another weekend, another bunch of stuff that I have found interesting, illuminating and helpful; my thanks as always to those who point me to good things via Twitter and in other ways.
Beck’s contribution in Risk Society was to offer a compelling sociological interpretation of th[e] pervasive sense of undefined but omnipresent threat, both as a matter of personal and collective experience and as a historical epoch. But more than that, Risk Society is a manifesto of sorts, proposing a novel attitude toward and politics for contemporary reality.
John Wyver writes: another selection of stuff that has caught my attention over the past week, kicking off with four essential analyses of contemporary geo-politics – as usual, I am more than grateful to those on my Twitter timeline and elsewhere who, explicitly or not, offer suggestions for inclusion.
• Whose century?: for LRB, Adam Tooze reviews four recent books about, broadly, China and America, while spinning a breathtakingly broad overview of postwar global economics and security.
[PS. the latest LRB, from which Adam Tooze’s article comes, is a bulging suitcase of brilliant writing from, among others, Frances Stonor Saunders, William Davies, Randall Kennedy, Neal Ascherson and Linda Colley; £, of course, but worth every penny if you can afford it.]
• A ‘new start’ built on old lies: meanwhile looking to our our own backyard, here’s another recommendation for the latest from Chris Grey’s ‘The Brexit Blog’ – immaculate, anger-provoking political analysis of the highest order.
• The great climate migration: and then looking a little further out, although not much, this is an exceptional interactive by Abrahm Lustgarten for The New York Times Magazine, with photographs by Meridith Kohut.
John Wyver writes: another group of links to articles, occasional videos and Twitter threads that have engaged and on occasion challenged me over the past week – thanks, as ever, are due to those on my Twitter feed that so unselfishly recommend great writing and reading.
• John Lewis was an American founder: lots of exceptional writing this weekend about the late and truly great activist, and this is among the best, by Adam Serwer for The Atlantic.
• Rethinking collections research: ‘Head of Collections [at Science Museum Group] Tilly Blyth examines how the choices we make about what to research can help us to understand the role objects in our collection had in supporting colonial structures and the new roles the collection might play in creating spaces that are open for everyone.’
• Flailing states: a wide-ranging, coruscating LRB essay about Anglo-America from Pankaj Mishra.
• Let them eat cake: for Avidly, this is excellent by Adam Fales about consumption, anti-capitalism and this…
John Wyver writes: the usual suggestions about articles, together with occasional videos and tweets, that have engaged and informed me over the past week. My thanks, as is also customary, to those on Twitter and elsewhere who have alerted me to likely candidates.
• A theme park of Donald Trump’s dreams: was it only a week ago that 45 ordered into existence ‘a statuary park named the National Garden of American Heroes’? Masha Gessen for The New Yorker is the piece you need to read on this truly bizarre notion:
This is America as Trump sees it: a skeletal, heroic history, with a lot of shooting, a lot of flying, and very little government. Excluded from this history entirely are Native Americans… The proposed park, in other words, is one of settler-colonialist history.
• How can the press best serve a democratic society?: the intro to Michael Luo’s fascinating article for The New Yorker sums it up well: ‘In the nineteen-forties, a panel of scholars struggled over truth in reporting, the marketplace of ideas, and the maintenance of a free and responsible press. Their deliberations are more relevant than ever.’
John Wyver writes: My previous post ‘Earl Cameron and a lost play’ traced my research explorations prompted by a repeat transmission in 1971 as a Play for Today of a 1968 BBC (now lost) production of Wind Versus Polygamy by Obi Egbuna. I sketched the context for what was one of the first dramas by a Black writer to be produced by the BBC for both radio and television, and I included brief mentions of Obi Egbuna’s life in Britain at the end of the 1960s. What I want to do in this second post is outline a little more of the that remarkable story and its political context, as well as highight two notable occasions when the playwright’s story became entwined with the workings of the BBC. Incidentally, I remain uncertain of the occasion of the BBC photograph above of Obi Egbuna with Peggy Ashcroft, but Nick Stanton’s Comment below (for which many thanks) gets us a lot closer to it than we have been previously.
Coincidentally, on Friday, while working towards a documentary about the BBC1 series Play for Today (1970-84), about which I’ll write (much) more later, I stumbled across a trace of one of Earl Cameron’s later performances. In 1968 the actor took a leading role in a BBC2 production for the Theatre 625 strand of Wind Versus Polygamy, a play I’d not heard of by a writer, Obi Egbuna, of whom I was similarly (shamefully) ignorant. Following up on this sent me down a research rabbit-hole to encounter the Pan-African Players, the British Black Panther Movement and the complexities of the politics of race in late 1960s Britain. From which has come this first element of a two-part post, the conclusion of which will follow later this week.
John Wyver writes: more links to more stuff that has engaged and interested and informed me over the past week, much of which is thanks to Twitter recommendations for which I remain very grateful. PS. I realise these collections feature a lot of pieces from the United States, which I rationalise by the fact that they may be less familiar to readers in Britain and because some (most?) of the most interesting and challenging and distinctive cultural writing comes from across the Atlantic – not to mention some of the most interesting culture.
• Full-length version of Portland State’s national anthem duet: the accompanying text says, ‘While filming the national anthem for Portland State University’s virtual commencement ceremonies on the South Park Blocks in downtown Portland, a stranger asked if they could sing with PSU graduate Madisen Hallberg.’
You also need to know, as a Youtube contributor writes: ‘His name is Emmanuel Henreid. He’s a well known & respected, Classically trained Singer, Dancer, Actor, & Pianist. He currently sings for the Portland Opera Co, Maui Opera Co, St. Mary’s Cathedral, Gospel Choir Kingdom Sound, & teaches students around the Globe.’ I found the — socially distanced — duet very moving.
Today, I thought I might mark the occasion by noting a handful of screen productions that have come to light since the book was published and that I would most certainly have included had I come across them during my research. One of the joys of a project like this, of course, is the continuing process of discovery of new slices of an adaptation history, and I feel certain that there is more to emerge.