The Sunday dozen

6th January 2024

John Wyver writes: something like normal service is resumed this week with a numerically specific number of recommendations of articles and other stuff that I have been engaged and amused and challenged by over the past week.

The secret fuel that makes Ferrari such a triumph: finally, Michael Mann’s ‘sublime’ movie (above) receives the respect it so richly deserves, and from no less a critical giant than The New Yorker‘s Richard Brody [£, but limited free access]; do catch it in a cinema if you can.

[I]t’s the kind of purified, rarefied film that major filmmakers make late in their careers, in which they get to the heart of the matter plainly and present their subjects unadorned and unamplified.

The missing conversation: in a rich essay for aeon, Lorraine Haston and Peter Harrison propose that scientists and historians need to talk to each other (much) more.

Do anything, say anything: James Meek for London Review of Books [£, but limited free access] with a very good response to Peter Biskind’s book about recent television and streaming services in the States, Pandora’s Box: The Greed, Lust and Lies that Broke American Television.

Court of Appeal ruling will prevent UK museums from charging reproduction fees—at last: for The Art Newspaper, Bendor Grosvenor, who has been pleasingly and productively vocal about this issue, celebrates a recent key legal ruling that ‘confirms that museums do not have valid copyright in photographs of (two-dimensional) works which are themselves out of copyright. It means these photographs are in the public domain, and free to use.’ Note, this is a short-ish news piece included here not so much for its literary qualities but more for its signal importance for those of us who use artworks in our professional lives.

Difficult and bad: really terrific from Rachael Allen in Too Little/Too Hard online about publishing, class and complexity, making a key observation that, as Kenan Malik pointed out on bluesky, ‘is true of broadcasting, too. The number of times I have been told that certain ideas or concepts are too difficult to engage the listener or viewer. It’s the view of the public as philistines.’ If you only have time for one of these recommendations this week, make it this one.

[T]here is a deep-seated, complex, and classist anti-intellectualism that pervades the UK that fears difference, difficulty, and experimentation. I find this anti-intellectualism most prominently in middle-class surrounds, an outlook that fears or ignores (or doesn’t believe in) the working reader, like my father, who is hungry to think critically and with complexity.

Studio trickery: Owen Hatherley contributes to New Left Review on The Beatles, AI, politics and nostalgia.

Grief in the cinema: a very personal and moving post by Lawrence Napper, who writes wonderfully well about films and feelings.

The problem of misinformation in an era without trust: Jennifer Szalai contributes an overview essay to The New York Times [£, but limited free access], referencing a number of important recent books, about trust and truth. Lots to mull over here.

‘Poetic glimpses of postwar America’: Garry Winogrand’s colourful streets – in pictures: by and large, I’m avoiding recommendations from mainstream publications in Britain like the Guardian, but I’m going to make an exception for this selection of glorious colour images (including the one above, ‘Easter Parade, New York City, 1952–55’) by one of my favourite photographers; taken from Winogrand Color newly published by Twin Palms Press.

Mr Bates vs The Post Office depicts one of the UK’s worst miscarriages of justice: here’s why so many victims didn’t speak out: this week’s ITV series has set an extraordinarily high bar for this year’s British television drama, and if you’ve missed it so far, do catch up with it now. In this fascinating contribution to The Conversation, business and management academics Grace Augustine, Jan Lodge and Mislav Radic identify the four main barriers that the victims of this scandal faced when it came to speaking out; as they note:

we know the Post Office wrongly prosecuted 736 sub-postmasters for theft, false accounting and related charges because of technical faults in the Horizon IT system, and these accusations persisted for 16 years – from 1999 to 2015, which equates to an average of roughly one person charged each week.

LIVE: Biden speaks at Valley Forge ahead of Jan. 6 anniversary | NBC News: if you can make the time (it runs for a half-hour) it’s well worth watching President Biden’s passionate defence of democracy on Friday:

The Brexit self-punishment machine: I need to ration my mentions of Chris Grey’s excellent Friday blog or otherwise it would feature here every week. His detailed and deeply informed and informative discussion of the wine-in-pints announcement gets even better after the following start:

[T]his is a dismally instructive story, enfolding generalized myths about the second world war and specific myths about champagne bottles, metrication, and the supposed outlawing of imperial units, stirred in with the faux-victimhood of martyrdom. Layered on this are the silly Brexit boosterism of Boris Johnson and the laboured antiquarianism of Jacob Rees-Mogg, all topped off with the disingenuity of the manner in which the whole stupid episode has finally been laid to rest. Even treated as no more than a symbol of Brexit, that makes it revealing. But there is more to it than that..

And finally… singing the song Stephen Sondheim composed for her, the glorious Glynis Johns, who we lost this week at the wonderful age of 100:

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