The Sunday dozen

14th April 2024

John Wyver writes: another gathering in of articles and other bits and pieces that have engaged me and enriched my thinking across the past week. The image is from the controversial, seemingly both complex and simplistic Civil War, released this week, © A24; see below.

Unwrapping Ancient Egypt, ten years on: on her blog this week, my friend Christina Riggs published three fascinating posts [the link is to the first, the others are here and here] marking a decade since the publication of her major study, Unwrapping Ancient Egypt, now available via Bloomsbury. She combines a personal account of her path to and beyond the book with lessons for us all about writing and publishing, with a brilliant top-level critique of Egyptology and its deep entanglement with colonialism (including excellent links to further reading, much of it open access), and with more wide-ranging thoughts about decolonisation across museums and academia.

Crying myself to sleep on the biggest cruise ship ever: a simply wonderful long read by Gary Shteyngart (with photos by him also) for The Atlantic [limited free access] about his experiences on the inaugural cruise of Royal Caribbean’s very big boat ‘Icon of the Seas’. Delightful and delicious.

Did you really need to be there to see the eclipse?: for The New York Times [gift link], and with photographs by Christopher Valentine, Gideon Jacobs looks most engagingly at people looking at the eclipse in Rochester, NY, the home of Eastman Kodak and once ‘the imaging capital of the world’:

We live in a moment of competing impulses: one defined by our bottomless appetite for making and consuming images, the other by a sneaking suspicion that we are what we eat and that the tangible world still offers something more. Even if the crowds in Rochester on Monday were the result of an eclipse mania fueled by images circulated online, even if those crowds spent much of their precious seconds of totality taking pictures, it seems that, for many, for now, images alone are not enough.

Women film eclipses, 1898-1901: … and from 2022, this is great historical context by Dan Streible for the NYU website associated with The Orphan Film Symposium, which has been running this past week at the Museum of the Museum Image in Astoria, NY.

Chin: as part of an excellent series of posts about ‘awful British comedians’, David Cairns is very good on Jack Hulbert and the 1934 profoundly racist but nonetheless interesting interwar imperial comedy and sort-of-Biggles-adaptation The Camels are Coming, which should you be intrigued is available in full here:

The Golden Age of the MGM Musical: pure pleasure – via BBC Sounds, last Sunday’s wonderful aural essay by Neil Brand marking the centenary of MGM.

Can a film star be too good-looking?: Anthony Lane on Alain Delon in The New Yorker [limited free access], by way of Kant, Nietzsche, Stendhal and Garbo.

Kirsten Dunst and Alex Garland on Civil War: ‘I don’t feel any need to add to the number of films that spell everything out’: for the BFI, Lou Thomas sits down with the star and director of the much-anticipated film, an image from which leads this post, which is now on release, and which I’m seeing at BFI IMAX on Wednesday. A particularly good take on the film is from Jamelle Bouie, What are the stakes of Civil War, really?

Original BBC TV studios at Alexandra Palace: Bryan Jones’ photos and 360 virtual tours of the current state of the studio spaces at Alexandra Palace where the the BBC’s ‘high definition’ television service began in 1936.

Hunting for AI metaphors: Brigitte Nehrlich on the University of Nottingham’s Making Science Public blog begins a productive categorisation of the metaphors we’re applying to try to make sense of generative AI.

Harold Wilson’s lessons for Labour: David Edgerton for the New Statesman [limited free access] with a finely argued plea for a more nuanced and sympathetic view of the Prime Minister:

Wilson was the great hope of British social democracy, and his failure was its failure. He had a project, and one which involved a rare understanding of the nature of the British state and power in Britain. Wilson did much to change the Attlee legacy, not least to address its deficiencies in both industrial policy and in welfare. But his key initiatives did not survive. Yet it was under Wilson that Labour last wished to undertake a programme of national renewal while in office.

Radical Mismatch: the most thought-provoking book review I’ve read this week is Stephen Holmes’ LRB essay [limited free access] responding to Samuel Moyn’s Liberalism Against Itself: Cold War Intellectuals and the Making of Our Times.

A few final words from the incomparable Linda Hirshman: the ‘feminist provocateur’ who decided to end her life at the age of 79, and consequently knew exactly when she would die, entrusted a last essay to Margaret Sullivan, who here publishes it on her substack. It’s funny, smart, much engaged with opera and food, moving, loving and, paradoxically (or not) full of life. Do please read it.

And finally: this past week saw the 126th anniversary of the birth of the great singer and actor Paul Robeson, which is an excuse to include probably my favourite item from the National Coal Board’s regular newsreel Mining Review, with Robeson singing ‘I dreamed I saw Joe Hill last night’, and produced in 1949 in circumstances that are recalled in a wonderfully vivid interview by Patrick Russell with director Peter Pickering, Memories from the mine: the day I filmed Paul Robeson:

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