The Sunday dozen

16th December 2023

John Wyver writes: taking this one week at a time, but nonetheless I’m pleased to offer a second selection of articles, podcasts and broadcasts that engaged or informed or challenged me during the past week. There is some hard-edged politics below, but there are lighter, seasonal recommendations too. For the image above, see the penultimate entry.

Seeing genocide: the curator, filmmaker and theoriest Ariella Aïsha Azoulay’s overwhelmingly powerful essay for Boston Review about photography, history and the Israel-Hamas conflict.

Deeper into Ozu: to celebrate the 120th anniversary of the great Japanese filmmaker’s birth, Criterion commissioned six writers each to discuss one of his lesser-known works; it’s a delightful miscellany whether you know anything about his cinema or not, and will hopefully convince you to watch more.

The Wizard of AI: the link is to Alan Warburton’s 20-minute video essay about generative AI, along with a discussion of how he made it, as he says:

The video itself was produced using generative AI tools, and is 99% comprised of images and videos created with Midjourney, Stable Diffusion, Runway and Pika. Yet the artist is careful not to give in to the ‘wonderpanic’ brought about by generative AI, using generative AI tools themselves to discuss and critique the legal, aesthetic and ethical problems engendered by AI-automated platforms.

Stonebridge Park, Brent: a Century of Change. Part I: Two World Wars, a Land Fit for Heroes and a Welfare State: in an absorbing guest post on the recommended blog Municipal Dreams, which chronicles the aspirations of municipal reform, Jill Stewart, associate professor in public health, University of Greenwich, relates the story of council housing in NW10. Part II is here, with Part III forthcoming.

A ‘right turn’ that put First Past The Post onto a precarious path: a richly original analysis of British politics, voting systems and inequality of the past 40 years from Stuart Donald at Bylines Scotland:

Something happened 40 years ago that turned FPTP from being an adequate albeit clunky mechanism of democracy into a malfunctioning one, only able to cater for the wants of the ‘haves’, to the exclusion of the ‘have nots’.

Jean Cocteau, The Art of Fiction No. 34: each week The Paris Review unlocks one of its in-depth writer interviews from the past, and this one is a true treat (although I’m not sure how long it will be open) – William Fifield visits the French poet and filmmaker on the Riviera a few months before his death in the fall of 1963; Cocteau’s bon mots include this:

Why do we write—above all, publish? I posed this to my friend Genet. “We do it because some force unknown to the public and also to us pushes us to,” he said. And that is very true. When you speak of these things to one who works systematically—one such as Mauriac—they think you jest. Or that you are lazy and use this as an excuse. Put yourself at a desk and write! You are a writer, are you not? Voilà! I have tried this. What comes is no good. Never any good. Claudel at his desk from nine to twelve. It is unthinkable to work like that!  

Conspiracism is killing us — and our democracy: a fascinating essay by David Neiwert at The Spystop about links between conspiracy theories and mass killings; his focus is events in the United States but the analysis has resonances here too.

The best shots of 2023: contributing one of the most inventive year-end lists, Adam Nayman at The Ringer details ‘those cinematic images that either jumped off the screen or burned themselves into our memories so deeply that they remained visible over everything that followed’; his short responses to a clutch of individual images demonstrate a delightful way of thinking about cinema.

Raymond Williams exposed the ruthless class oppression behind our literary traditions: from Jacobin back in September, this is a terrific tribute by Daniel Hartley marking the 50th anniversary of the publication of The Country and the City; in 1979 Mike Dibb made an exemplary BBC documentary with Williams from the book, which you can view here:

How the Georgians celebrated Christmas: a lovely seasonal treat, this is a Yale Books blog post by Penelope Corfield, professor of history at Royal Holloway, University of London, and author of The Georgians: The Deeds and Misdeeds of 18th-Century Britain.

Mickey, Disney, and the public domain – a 95-year love triangle: for the copyright nerds among you (and count me in), this is a compelling (long) exploration by Jennifer Jenkins, Director, Duke Center for the Study of the Public Domain, of the complexities of (a version of) Mickey Mouse entering the public domain on 1 January 2024.

There Is no Mary problem in It’s a Wonderful Life: of Frank Capra’s glorious movie, Clare Coffey for The Bulwark writes, ‘its emotional punch grows, not diminishes, with rewatching over the years’. Oh yes. And her discussion of the character of Mary in the film is spot-on.

• and finally (natch)…

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