whenever selfish high heels plays on my youtube playlist
Man of the moment Keanu Reeves has shown his generosity by giving away £50 million of his earnings from the Matrix sequels. The 38-year-old decided to hand over the money to the unsung heroes of the sci-fi blockbusters - the costume and special effects teams.
Confirmed. He’s also dumped millions into cancer research. I really do love Keanu Reeves a lot.
Keanu Reeves is like the nicest person. He still lives in an apartment/flat and he gives most of his money away to charities and people who need it. He even invites some paparazzi people to sit down and eat with him when he’s at a coffee shop or restaurant. He’s such a nice person.
When I was working on the UWS, one of my delivery guys accidentally backed his scooter into a parked car in front of the restaurant. I went out to help, since the driver didn’t speak much English, and it turned out the car belonged to Keanu Reeves. He helped us pick the scooter up, and when I asked if we could exchange insurance information (because the front of the car was pretty banged up), he kept telling us not to worry about it and put his hand on the driver’s shoulder and said “I just want to make sure you’re okay, man. Are you okay?” And he was so sincere about it and so kind that I decided in that moment I would always defend Keanu Reeves at all costs. He is an excellent man.
I need to be more like Keanu Reeves because I’m evil compared to him.
“Next few centuries”
Keanu dropping hints that he is an immortal.
i love keanu reeves
My wife and I were dining at Nobu’s in Honolulu and sitting across from us was Keanu or at least I thought it was. We kept talking about whether it was him or not and finally, I decided to throw some old school Bill & Ted at him.
I stood up and threw my arms up into the motion of an air guitar, my wife is begging me to sit back down, and I pointed at the guy who may be Keanu Reeves, and said, “Most Excellent.”
He stood up and did it back at me. Then we both had a moment and pointed at each other. I sent him another of whatever it was he was drinking. It was a cucumber sake martini. That was the end of it.
Or so I thought.
He left before we finished our meal. By the time we were done, dessert came that we didn’t order. We thought, “oh, must be compliments of the chef.” Then the bill never came. When we asked for it, our waitress said Keanu Reeves took care of it.
IT WAS REALLY HIM. And he left a note. It said, “thanks for the refresh. Keanu.”
When I finally saw him again years later, because of work. I brought it up. Then he air guitar and said, “most excellent. I remember. At Nobu’s. Thanks for the drink.” We chatted a bit and I got an autograph for my mum because she’s a huge Keanu fan. Then that was that.
What a moment.
serahcullen: i keep seeing that one post about ‘wanting a sword but not being sure What to do with...
i keep seeing that one post about ‘wanting a sword but not being sure What to do with it practically’
when i was like 15 my brother asked me what i wanted for christmas and i jokingly said i want a sword like a knight sword he bought me one from some historical replica place and i just hung it on my wall
and for YEARS what i always did
was whenever i was going out somewhere fancy and i was in my dress and my heels and my hair all nicely done i would take the sword around and just walk around the tile part of my house with it kind of loosely gripped in my hand, just all slow and casual, hear my heels click, carrying it bc you would be amazed what looking rly hot AND carrying a sword will do for your confidence l i ke. i’d feel ready for anything
and my mom would always come out because she’d be expecting it and just watch me with some mixture of amusement and bewilderment but she never actually asked
five years later i still do this in college… before job interviews… formal affairs… dates…. just get ready and then carry the sword around for a while you’ll feel so good i promis
I feel like this is important information on its own and also anecdotal evidence that the sword plan would provide unlooked-for side benefits in addition to its stated goal.
Amid a night characterized by chaos and confusion, one unsettling question still lingers from this year’s Academy Awards: Why does Nicole Kidman clap like that? What is wrong with Nicole Kidman that she doesn’t know how to clap? Why does it feel like we’ve punched through some ragged hole in the space-time continuum and the mask of normalcy that once barely covered the rictus grin of madness just beneath is now peeling away? Can you please stop clapping like that, Nicole Kidman? You’re freaking everyone out.
Kidman’s version of what you humans call “clapping”—palms lightly touching, fingers rigidly arched away from each other as though embarrassed by such vulgarity—was caught by cameras twice during the broadcast, leading viewers to wonder aloud what ...
How studying the Enneagram can expand one’s empathy.
Last month, right after the New Year, on a day I was feeling distracted and listless at work, my friend Ella mentioned a personality-typing system known as the Enneagram over G-chat. She described it as Myers-Briggs but better, and though I was skeptical, I clicked around the Internet until I discovered a test at the Enneagram Institute that would produce my “full personality profile.” It had been independently scientifically validated in El Paso, Texas.
I didn’t take the test because it costs twelve dollars and consists of 140 questions. (It felt too early in the year for impulsive wastefulness.) But I became absorbed in learning about this theory of self-discovery anyway. I read the website, then I borrowed a book from Ella, then I gave in and ordered The Wisdom of the Enneagram: The Complete Guide to Psychological and Spiritual Growth for the Nine Personality Types, via overnight mail.
The Wisdom of the Enneagram vacillates between scientific analysis and spiritual fervor. It describes an origin story for the Enneagram that name-checks Sufism, Pythagoras, Plato, Taoism, the Kabbalah, and The Canterbury Tales, among other religious and philosophical texts. In an introductory passage, one of the authors describes the moment he began to believe in the path to self-actualization articulated by the Enneagram:
I saw clearly that everyone is made of light—that we are like forms of light—but that a crust has formed over it. The crust is black and rubbery like tar and has obscured the inner light that is everyone’s real, inner self.
It should have been easy enough to dismiss this as woo-woo mumbo jumbo, but I couldn’t stop reading.
The Enneagram’s theory of the human condition relies on a dualistic faith: that humans are essentially dissimilar from each other, but that their temperaments can be broadly categorized and thus provide unity among all people. (“The Enneagram can therefore be enormously valuable in today’s world to show white and black, male and female, Catholic and Protestant, Arab and Jew, straight and gay, rich and poor that if they search beneath the surface difference that separate them, they will find an entirely new level of common humanity.”) The word enneagram refers to a nine-sided geometric figure that charts the traits behind the personality typing system. Its shape, which resembles a pentagram, is numbered around its circumference from one to nine—like a clock with too little time. Each number signifies a different personality type, and each personality type is rooted in a different primal fear—or motivation, to think of it in another light. For example, type one—“The Reformer”—has a fear of corruption, therefore they are motivated by ideology and ethics. Type two—“The Helper”—fears being unwanted, which motivates them into affection and intimacy.
Each personality type comes with a road map for emotional development, with different “levels” representing psychological health. These are also numbered from one to nine, with level one representing the healthiest state of a type and level nine representing the least healthy. The least healthy state of a type three (“The Achiever”), is described as “Monomaniacal and Relentless”:
Unhealthy threes feel that there is nothing they can do to win the positive attention of the people whose approval they need, and may lose control of their repressed hostility and rage.
At average levels, threes can be “Self-Promoting and Grandiose” or “Success Oriented and Performing.” At their healthiest state (level one), threes are “Inner-Directed and Authentic”:
[Healthy] threes let go of the belief that their value is dependent on the positive regard of others, thus freeing them to discover their true identity and their own heart’s desire.
I pored over each variant, enthralled by the complexity and openness of each categorization. Most friends I’ve shared the website with have been able to identify their type quickly enough by scanning through the descriptions. And if not, there are pages devoted to disambiguation and helpful guides to the relational dynamics created within the combinations.
I should admit here that I might be more delighted than most when it comes to entertaining the absorbing and egocentric work of self-identification—I’m an Aquarius, an earth dragon, an ENTJ, a Shoshanna—but I’ve never found any practical application in these often entirely superstitious means of self-reflection. Unlike the zodiac, the sorting hat, or Jungian archetypes, the Enneagram’s philosophy is rooted in fluidity and growth. Even as the system categorizes a person by her essential qualities, it simultaneously urges her to challenge those traits by understanding the limitations of a fixed pattern. “It is meant to initiate a process of inquiry that can lead us to a more profound truth about ourselves and our place in the world,” the book says. “In short, knowing our type is not the final destination.” Wrangling our psychological impulses helps free our minds for the real work of self-discovery.
I identify as type six—“The Loyalist.” I have an inclination to draw out every worst-case scenario, distrust groupthink, and ice overly friendly strangers. But I’m also willing to take great risks on behalf of the people and ideas that I believe in. It does not hurt that Bruce Springsteen, a personal hero, also types as a six. Enneagram philosophy advises our people to push toward trusting others rather than remaining forever suspicious. (Sit tight, take hold, Thunder Road.)
And I’ve been surprised to find that even in the past month, it’s worked. I can’t have a conversation without part of my brain flipping through what I’ve memorized about types, and determining whether my ambitious colleague who is mouthing off on Twitter is a healthy three or an unhealthy one. I’ve found myself thinking about the fluidity not just of myself but of others around me, too. I am more curious about considering a person’s priorities as I interact with them, rather than dismissing them straight away, if, say, they’re visibly annoyed that I cancel a drinks date last-minute to have some alone time. Oh of course, I think to myself, classic two. Most often, we think of empathy in relation to pain—it’s the tricky work of attempting to understand another person’s experience by exploring why and how they were hurt. But lately, I’ve found it more rewarding to exercise my capacity for empathy in mundane interactions instead.
I called my mother for Chinese New Year last weekend—I’ve surmised that she’s type seven (“An Enthusiast”)—and sometimes I am hurt by her tendency to spend our time on the phone cataloguing every event she and my father have attended and every dish they have eaten since we last spoke. (Why isn’t she spending more of her time reinforcing our family unit? my six tendencies cry out). But even if she isn’t a seven, even if the Enneagram is bogus, even if I have been coaxed into a cult, completely brainwashed, now I’ll stay on the line and feel some joy in listening to her, in the understanding that perhaps she is telling me because it gives her pleasure to do so.
Wei Tchou is a member of The New Yorker’s editorial staff and is one of the Daily’s correspondents.
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February 3rd, 2017: Next week I will be in the UNITED STATES as part of a book tour! It's for Squirrel Girl but I'll also be happy to talk/sign anything else, INCLUDING Dinosaur Comics stuff! Wednesday Thursday and Friday in San Diego, Portland, and Seattle: the details are RIGHT HERE.
Coming Distractions: David Byrne and twirling flags are together at last in the Contemporary Color trailer
As a musician, visual artist, filmmaker, and author, David Byrne has sung about buildings, made buildings sing, and given beauty and meaning to the average American shopping mall. In 2015, this fixation with overlooked or undervalued cultural fixtures led to Contemporary Color, a multi-venue performance celebrating color guard, the flag-twirling, rifle-tossing, saber-thrusting accompaniment to countless halftime shows and marching bands across the United States. At the Barclay’s Center in Brooklyn and the Air Canada Centre in Toronto, 10 color guards collaborated with a roster of musical artists including St. Vincent, Ad-Rock, Blood Orange’s Devonté Hynes, and Byrne himself. The performances and preparations were documented by directors Bill Ross and Ross, for a film that premiered at the 2016 Tribeca Film Festival and begins a theatrical run on March 3. Watch the official trailer for its bright pops of color, acrobatic derring do, and footage of Byrne’s amusingly ...
The connection between writing and dancing has been much on my mind recently: it’s a channel I want to keep open. It feels a little neglected – compared to, say, the relationship between music and prose – maybe because there is something counter-intuitive about it. But for me the two forms are close to each other: I feel dance has something to tell me about what I do.
One of the most solid pieces of writing advice I know is in fact intended for dancers – you can find it in the choreographer Martha Graham’s biography. But it relaxes me in front of my laptop the same way I imagine it might induce a young dancer to breathe deeply and wiggle their fingers and toes. Graham writes: “There is a vitality, a life force, an energy, a quickening that is translated through you into action, and because there is only one of you in all of time, this expression is unique. And if you block it, it will never exist through any other medium and it will be lost. The world will not have it. It is not your business to determine how good it is nor how valuable nor how it compares with other expressions. It is your business to keep it yours clearly and directly, to keep the channel open.”
Fred Astaire represents the aristocracy when he dances,” claimed Gene Kelly, “and I represent the proletariat
What can an art of words take from the art that needs none? Yet I often think I’ve learned as much from watching dancers as I have from reading. Dance lessons for writers: lessons of position, attitude, rhythm and style, some of them obvious, some indirect. What follows are a few notes towards that idea.
Fred Astaire and Gene Kelly
“Fred Astaire represents the aristocracy when he dances,” claimed Gene Kelly, in old age, “and I represent the proletariat.” The distinction is immediately satisfying, though it’s a little harder to say why. Tall, thin and elegant, versus muscular and athletic – is that it? There’s the obvious matter of top hat and tails versus T-shirt and slacks. But Fred sometimes wore T-shirts and slacks, and was not actually that tall, he only stood as if he were, and when moving always appeared elevated, to be skimming across whichever surface: the floor, the ceiling, an ice rink, a bandstand. Gene’s centre of gravity was far lower: he bends his knees, he hunkers down. Kelly is grounded, firmly planted, where Astaire is untethered, free-floating.
Likewise, the aristocrat and the proletariat have different relations to the ground beneath their feet, the first moving fluidly across the surface of the world, the second specifically tethered to a certain spot: a city block, a village, a factory, a stretch of fields. Cyd Charisse claimed her husband always knew which of these dancers she’d been working with by looking at her body at the end of the day: bruised everywhere if it was Kelly, not a blemish if it was Astaire. Not only aloof when it came to the ground, Astaire was aloof around other people’s bodies. Through 15 years and 10 movies, it’s hard to detect one moment of real sexual tension between Fred and his Ginger. They have great harmony but little heat. Now think of Kelly with Cyd Charisse in the fantasy sequence of Singin’ in the Rain! And maybe this is one of the advantages of earthiness: sex.
When I write I feel there’s usually a choice to be made between the grounded and the floating. The ground I am thinking of in this case is language as we meet it in its “commonsense” mode. The language of the television, of the supermarket, of the advert, the newspaper, the government, the daily “public” conversation. Some writers like to walk this ground, recreate it, break bits of it off and use it to their advantage, where others barely recognise its existence. Nabokov – a literal aristocrat as well as an aesthetic one – barely ever put a toe upon it. His language is “literary”, far from what we think of as our shared linguistic home.
One argument in defence of such literary language might be the way it admits its own artificiality. Commonsense language meanwhile claims to be plain and natural, “conversational”, but is often as constructed as asphalt, dreamed up in ad agencies or in the heart of government – sometimes both at the same time. Simultaneously sentimental and coercive. (The People’s Princess. The Big Society. Make America Great Again.) Commonsense language claims to take its lead from the way people naturally speak, but any writer who truly attends to the way people speak will soon find himself categorised as a distinctive stylist or satirist or experimentalist. Beckett was like this, and the American writer George Saunders is a good contemporary example. (In dance, the example that comes to my mind is Bill “Bojangles” Robinson, whose thing was tapping up and down the stairs. What could be more normal, more folksy, more grounded and everyday than tapping up and down some stairs? But his signature stage routine involved a staircase pressed right up against another staircase – a stairway to itself – and so up and down he would tap, up and down, down and up, entirely surreal, like an Escher print come to life.)
Astaire is clearly not an experimental dancer like Twyla Tharp or Pina Bausch, but he is surreal in the sense of surpassing the real. He is transcendent. When he dances a question proposes itself: what if a body moved like this through the world? But it is only a rhetorical, fantastical question, for no bodies move like Astaire, no, we only move like him in our dreams.
By contrast, I have seen French boys run up the steps of the High Line in New York to take a photo of the view, their backsides working just like Gene Kelly’s in On The Town, and I have seen black kids on the A train swing round the pole on their way out of the sliding doors – Kelly again, hanging from that eternal lamppost. Kelly quoted the commonplace when he danced, and he reminds us in turn of the grace we do sometimes possess ourselves. He is the incarnation of our bodies in their youth, at their most fluid and powerful, or whenever our natural talents combine ideally with our hard-earned skills. He is a demonstration of how the prosaic can turn poetic, if we work hard enough. But Astaire, when he dances, has nothing to do with hard work (although we know, from biographies, that he worked very hard, behind the scenes). He is “poetry in motion”. His movements are so removed from ours that he sets a limit on our own ambitions. Nobody hopes or expects to dance like Astaire, just as nobody really expects to write like Nabokov.
Harold and Fayard Nicholas
Writing, like dancing, is one of the arts available to people who have nothing. “For 10 and sixpence,” advises Virginia Woolf, “one can buy paper enough to write all the plays of Shakespeare.” The only absolutely necessary equipment in dance is your own body. Some of the greatest dancers have come from the lowliest backgrounds. With many black dancers this has come with the complication of “representing your race”. You are on a stage, in front of your people and other people. What face will you show them? Will you be your self? Your “best self”? A representation? A symbol?
The Nicholas brothers were not street kids – they were the children of college-educated musicians – but they were never formally trained in dance. They learned watching their parents and their parents’ colleagues performing on the “chitlin” circuit, as black vaudeville was then called. Later, when they entered the movies, their performances were usually filmed in such a way as to be non-essential to the story, so that when these films played in the south their spectacular sequences could be snipped out without doing any harm to the integrity of the plot. Genius contained, genius ring-fenced. But also genius undeniable.
“My talent was the weapon,” argued Sammy Davis Jr, “the power, the way for me to fight. It was the one way I might hope to affect a man’s thinking.” Davis was another chitlin hoofer, originally, and from straitened circumstances. His logic here is very familiar: it is something of an article of faith within the kinds of families who have few other assets. A mother tells her children to be “twice as good”, she tells them to be “undeniable”. My mother used to say something like it to me. And when I watch the Nicholas brothers I think of that stressful instruction: be twice as good.
The Nicholas brothers were many, many magnitudes better than anybody else. They were better than anyone has a right or need to be. Fred Astaire called their routine in Stormy Weather the greatest example of cinematic dance he ever saw. They are progressing down a giant staircase doing the splits as if the splits is the commonsense way to get somewhere. They are impeccably dressed. They are more than representing – they are excelling.
But I always think I spot a little difference between Harold and Fayard, and it interests me; I take it as a kind of lesson. Fayard seems to me more concerned with this responsibility of representation when he dances: he looks the part, he is the part, his propriety unassailable. He is formal, contained, technically undeniable: a credit to the race. But Harold gives himself over to joy. His hair is his tell: as he dances it loosens itself from the slather of Brylcreem he always put on it, the irrepressible afro curl springs out, he doesn’t even try to brush it back. Between propriety and joy, choose joy.
Michael Jackson and Prince
On YouTube you will find them, locked in many dance-offs, and so you are presented with a stark choice. But it’s not a question of degrees of ability, of who was the greater dancer. The choice is between two completely opposite values: legibility on the one hand, temporality on the other. Between a monument (Jackson) and a kind of mirage (Prince).
But both men were excellent dancers. Putting aside the difference in height, physically they had many similarities. Terribly slight, long necked, thin-legged, powered from the torso rather than the backside, which in both cases was improbably small. And in terms of influence they were of course equally indebted to James Brown. The splits, the rise from the splits, the spin, the glide, the knee bend, the jerk of the head – all stolen from the same source.
Yet Prince and Jackson are nothing alike when they dance, and it’s very hard to bring to mind Prince dancing, whereas it is practically impossible to forget Jackson. It sounds irrational, but try it for yourself. Prince’s moves, no matter how many times you may have observed them, have no firm inscription in memory; they never seem quite fixed or preserved. If someone asks you to dance like Prince, what will you do? Spin, possibly, and do the splits, if you’re able. But there won’t appear to be anything especially Prince-like about that. It’s mysterious. How can you dance and dance, in front of millions of people, for years, and still seem like a secret only I know? (And isn’t it the case that to be a Prince fan is to feel that Prince was your secret alone?)
Prince's shows were illegible, private, like the performance of a man in the middle of a room at a house party
I never went to see Michael Jackson, but I saw Prince half a dozen times. I saw him in stadiums with thousands of people, so have a rational understanding that he was in no sense my secret, that he was in fact a superstar. But I still say his shows were illegible, private, like the performance of a man in the middle of a room at a house party. It was the greatest thing you ever saw and yet its greatness was confined to the moment in which it was happening.
Jackson was exactly the opposite. Every move he made was absolutely legible, public, endlessly copied and copyable, like a meme before the word existed. He thought in images, and across time. He deliberately outlined and then marked once more the edges around each move, like a cop drawing a chalk line round a body. Stuck his neck forward if he was moving backwards. Cut his trousers short so you could read his ankles. Grabbed his groin so you could better understand its gyrations. Gloved one hand so you might attend to its rhythmic genius, the way it punctuated everything, like an exclamation mark.
Towards the end, his curious stagewear became increasingly tasked with this job of outline and distinction. It looked like a form of armour, the purpose of which was to define each element of his body so no movement of it would pass unnoted. His arms and legs multiply strapped – a literal visualisation of his flexible joints – and a metallic sash running left to right across his breastplate, accentuating the shift of his shoulders along this diagonal. A heavyweight’s belt accentuated slender hips and divided the torso from the legs, so you noticed when the top and bottom half of the body pulled in opposite directions. Finally a silver thong, rendering his eloquent groin as clear as if it were in ALL CAPS. It wasn’t subtle, there was no subtext, but it was clearly legible. People will be dancing like Michael Jackson until the end of time.
But Prince, precious, elusive Prince, well, there lays one whose name was writ in water. And from Prince a writer might take the lesson that elusiveness can possess a deeper beauty than the legible. In the world of words, we have Keats to remind us of this, and to demonstrate what a long afterlife an elusive artist can have, even when placed beside as clearly drawn a figure as Lord Byron. Prince represents the inspiration of the moment, like an ode composed to capture a passing sensation. And when the mood changes, he changes with it: another good lesson.
There’s no freedom in being a monument. Better to be the guy still jamming in the wee hours of the house party, and though everybody films it on their phones no one proves quite able to capture the essence of it. And now he’s gone, having escaped us one more time. I don’t claim Prince’s image won’t last as long as Jackson’s. I only say that in our minds it will never be as distinct.
Janet Jackson / Madonna / Beyoncé
These three don’t just invite copies – they demand them. They go further than legibility into proscription. They lead armies, and we join them. We are like those uniformed dancers moving in military formation behind them, an anonymous corps whose job it is to copy precisely the gestures of their general.
This was made literal on Beyoncé’s Formation tour recently, when the general raised her right arm like a shotgun, pulled the trigger with her left and the sound of gunshot rang out. There is nothing intimate about this kind of dancing: like the military, it operates as a form of franchise, whereby a ruling idea – “America”, “Beyoncé” – presides over many cells that span the world. Maybe it is for this reason that much of the crowd I saw at Wembley could be found, for long periods, not facing in the direction of the stage at all, instead turning to their friends and partners. They didn’t need to watch Beyoncé any more than soldiers need to look fixedly at the flag to perform their duties. Our queen was up there somewhere dancing – but the idea of her had already been internalised. Friends from the gym stood in circles and pumped their fists, girlfriends from hen nights turned inwards and did “Beyoncé” to each other, and boys from the Beyhive screamed every word into each other’s faces. They could have done the same at home, but this was a public display of allegiance.
Beyoncé's lesson is quite clear. My body obeys me. My dancers obey me. Now you will obey me.
Janet Jackson kicked off this curious phenomenon, Madonna continued it, Beyoncé is its apex. Here dancing is intended as a demonstration of the female will, a concrete articulation of its reach and possibilities. The lesson is quite clear. My body obeys me. My dancers obey me. Now you will obey me. And then everybody in the crowd imagines being obeyed like Bey – a delightful imagining.
Lady writers who inspire similar devotion (in far smaller audiences): Muriel Spark, Joan Didion, Jane Austen. Such writers offer the same essential qualities (or illusions): total control (over their form) and no freedom (for the reader). Compare and contrast, say, Jean Rhys or Octavia Butler, lady writers much loved but rarely copied. There’s too much freedom in them. Meanwhile every sentence of Didion’s says: obey me! Who runs the world? Girls!
David Byrne and David Bowie
The art of not dancing – a vital lesson. Sometimes it is very important to be awkward, inelegant, jerking, to be neither poetic nor prosaic, to be positively bad. To express other possibilities for bodies, alternative values, to stop making sense. It’s interesting to me that both these artists did their “worst” dancing to their blackest cuts. “Take me to the river,” sings Byrne, in square trousers 20 times too large, looking down at his jerking hips as if they belong to someone else. This music is not mine, his trousers say, and his movements go further: maybe this body isn’t mine, either. At the end of this seam of logic lies a liberating thought: maybe nobody truly owns anything.
People can be too precious about their “heritage”, about their “tradition” – writers especially. Preservation and protection have their place but they shouldn’t block either freedom or theft. All possible aesthetic expressions are available to all peoples – under the sign of love. Bowie and Byrne’s evident love for what was “not theirs” brings out new angles in familiar sounds. It hadn’t occurred to me before seeing these men dance that a person might choose, for example, to meet the curve of a drum beat with anything but the matching curving movement of their body, that is, with harmony and heat. But it turns out you can also resist: throw up a curious angle and suddenly spasm, like Bowie, or wonder if that’s truly your own arm, like Byrne.
I think of young Luther Vandross, singing backup a few feet behind Bowie, during Young Americans, watching Bowie flail and thrash. I wonder what his take on all that was. Did he ever think: “Now, what in the world is he doing?” But a few performances in, it was clear to everybody. Here was something different. Something old, and yet new.
Rudolf Nureyev and Mikhail Baryshnikov
When you face an audience, which way will you turn? Inwards or outwards? Or some combination of the two? Nureyev, so fierce and neurotic, so vulnerable, so beautiful – like a deer suddenly caught in our headlamps – is faced resolutely inwards. You “can’t take your eyes off him”, as people like to say, but at the same time he is almost excruciating to watch. We feel we might break him, that he might crumble – or explode. He never does, but still, whenever he leaps you sense the possibility of total disaster, as you do with certain high-strung athletes no matter how many times they run or jump or dive. With Nureyev you are an onlooker, you are a person who has been granted the great honour of being present while Nureyev dances. I don’t mean this sarcastically: it is an honour to watch Nureyev, even in these grainy old videos on YouTube. He’s a kind of miracle, and is fully cognisant of this when he dances, and what did you do today to warrant an audience with a miracle? (See also: Dostoevsky.)
Baryshnikov's face dances as much as his arms and legs. He is whatever you need him to be
With Baryshnikov, I have no fears of disaster. He is an outward-facing artist, he is trying to please me and he succeeds completely. His face dances as much as his arms and legs. (Nureyev’s face, meanwhile, is permanently lost in transcendent feeling.) Sometimes Baryshnikov wants to please me so much he’ll even try tap dancing with Liza Minnelli, risking the scorn of the purists. (I am not a purist. I am delighted!) He is a charmer, an entertainer, he is comic, dramatic, cerebral, a clown – whatever you need him to be. Baryshnikov is both loving and loved. He has high and low modes, tough and soft poses, but he’s always facing outwards, to us, his audience. (See also: Tolstoy.)
Once I met Baryshnikov over a New York dinner table: I was so star-struck I could hardly speak. Finally I asked him: “Did you ever meet Fred Astaire?” He smiled. He said: “Yes, once, at a dinner. I was very star-struck, I hardly spoke. But I watched his hands all the time, they were like a lesson in themselves – so elegant!”
• Swing Time by Zadie Smith is published on 15 November (Hamish Hamilton, £18.99). To order a copy for £15.57, go to bookshop.theguardian.com or call 0330 333 6846.
A Swedish Girls’ Team at the 2016 Rope Skipping World Tournament (video here)
(I’d never seen competitive jump rope, and it kind of blew my mind, so thought I’d share. have a good friday, tumblr.)
Watch both videos.
Getting a surprise from a friend is always nice, but it’s probably especially delightful when your friend is famously quirky French film director Michel Gondry. Gondry—whose most recent film, Microbe & Gasoline, debuted back in July—apparently was feeling especially whimsical in the shower the other day, and so he set up his camera and decided to make a music video for the recently unearthed White Stripes song “City Lights”:
According to a press release from White Stripes frontman Jack White, the video was made completely independently by Gondry without asking permission from the band first. They clearly weren’t mad about it, though—who would be?—and they’re now sharing this cute gesture of friendship and fandom with the public. Gondry, of course, has worked with The White Stripes before, most notably directing their famous Lego-based video for “Fell In Love With A Girl.”
As for ...
Just when you think technology has taken over irrevocably, nature has a way of striking back and asserting her dominance. Such is the case with Guard From Above, a raptor-training program currently operating out of the Netherlands. The Netherlands’ national police have teamed up with the program to snatch unauthorized drones out of the sky with the expert precision of bald eagles, Design Boom reports.
As drones increase in popularity, managing them will pose a major headache for several organizations including air traffic control agencies, firefighters, and local police. Using birds of prey to keep rogue drones in check isn’t as wild of an idea as you might think, says chief operating officer and co-founder Ben de Keijzer, who has more than 25 years of experience training birds. According to Guard From Above’s website, it’s a “low-tech solution for a high-tech problem.”
The National Audubon Society’s Geoff LeBaron says that tension between drones and birds of prey already exists thanks to the invasive, aggressive nature of the unmanned aircrafts. LeBaron, who also runs the organization’s Christmas Bird Count which tracks U.S. bird populations, said in an interview with The Guardian,
“The drones are pretty much the size of a bird of prey, so smaller birds on the ground aren’t likely to mob a bird of prey when it’s flying—but larger birds are, especially when it’s around their nests. The birds of prey are having an aggressive interaction to defend their territory from another bird of prey.”
LeBaron also commented on the expert precision of these large birds, explaining that the “birds can hit the drone in such a way that they don’t get injured by the rotors.” He adds, “They seem to be whacking the drone right in the center so they don’t get hit; they have incredible visual acuity and they can probably actually see the rotors.”
Watch the video above to see the birds in action, and think twice next time you decide to fly your drone into unchartered territory.
The Daily Show, September 6, 2016
Great Job, Internet!: Disney princesses reimagined as cats reimagined as sharks that are not Disney princesses
If there’s one thing that the internet loves more than Disney princesses, it’s cats! And if there’s one thing that the internet loves more than cats, it’s sharks! Particularly sharks that don’t have anything to do with Disney princesses. That’s why the internet’s gonna go on a feeding frenzy for this series of illustrations.
Ariel should be trying to get her voice back, but at the moment she’s kind of preoccupied with this ball of yarn, not to mention the many sea mammals, like seals and small whales, that she feeds on almost exclusively.
For Jasmine, this beam of sunlight on the living room couch is like “a whole new world,” and, by the way, her jaw is on a hinge allowing her to open it extra wide when feeding on deep-water fish and crustaceans.
TV Club: ESPN’s five-part O.J. Simpson documentary is a masterful portrait of a crime and its context
Thanks to one of those odd periodic showbiz confluences—the kind that gives us two killer earthquake movies in the same year or two animated films about talking ants or two Truman Capote biopics—the 30 For 30 docuseries O.J: Made In America is hitting TV screens just two months after FX had one of its biggest hits with The People V. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story. The FX series was so excellent and revelatory that the millions who watched it might feel like they don’t need the ESPN version. But that’d be a mistake. This 30 For 30 is its own animal: a five-part, eight-hour stunner, of which less than half is about the Hall Of Fame running back’s murder trial. The rest is spent on who O.J. Simpson really is.
Better points of comparison for Made In America might be The Jinx ...
"They're accusations. They're not in the headlines. There's no obligation to mention them." These were the objections from a producer at my network. It was September 2014 and I was preparing to interview a respected journalist about his new biography of Bill Cosby. The book omitted allegations of rape and sexual abuse against the entertainer, and I intended to focus on that omission. That producer was one of several industry veterans to warn me against it. At the time, there was little more than a stalled lawsuit and several women with stories, all publicly discredited by Cosby's PR team. There was no criminal conviction. It was old news. It wasn't news.
So we compromised: I would raise the allegations, but only in a single question late in the interview. And I called the author, reporter to reporter, to let him know what was coming. He seemed startled when I brought it up. I was the first to ask about it, he said. He paused for a long time, then asked if it was really necessary. On air, he said he'd looked into the allegations and they didn't check out.
Today, the number of accusers has risen to 60. The author has apologized. And reporters covering Cosby have been forced to examine decades of omissions, of questions unasked, stories untold. I am one of those reporters — I'm ashamed of that interview.
Some reporters have drawn connections between the press' grudging evolution on Cosby and a painful chapter in my own family's history. It was shortly before the Cosby story exploded anew that my sister Dylan Farrow wrote about her own experiences — alleging that our father, Woody Allen, had "groomed" her with inappropriate touching as a young girl and sexually assaulted her when she was 7 years old.
Being in the media as my sister's story made headlines, and Woody Allen's PR engine revved into action, gave me a window into just how potent the pressure can be to take the easy way out. Every day, colleagues at news organizations forwarded me the emails blasted out by Allen's powerful publicist, who had years earlier orchestrated a robust publicity campaign to validate my father's sexual relationship with another one of my siblings. Those emails featured talking points ready-made to be converted into stories, complete with validators on offer — therapists, lawyers, friends, anyone willing to label a young woman confronting a powerful man as crazy, coached, vindictive. At first, they linked to blogs, then to high-profile outlets repeating the talking points — a self-perpetuating spin machine.
Mia and Allen with Ronan (left) and daughter Dylan in 1988.
The open CC list on those emails revealed reporters at every major outlet with whom that publicist shared relationships — and mutual benefit, given her firm's starry client list, from Will Smith to Meryl Streep. Reporters on the receiving end of this kind of PR blitz have to wonder if deviating from the talking points might jeopardize their access to all the other A-list clients.
In fact, when my sister first decided to speak out, she had gone to multiple newspapers — most wouldn't touch her story. An editor at the Los Angeles Times sought to publish her letter with an accompanying, deeply fact-checked timeline of events, but his bosses killed it before it ran. The editor called me, distraught, since I'd written for them in the past. There were too many relationships at stake. It was too hot for them. He fought hard for it. (Reached by The Hollywood Reporter, a spokesperson for the Los Angeles Times said the decision not to publish was made by the Opinion editors.)
When The New York Times ultimately ran my sister's story in 2014, it gave her 936 words online, embedded in an article with careful caveats. Nicholas Kristof, the Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter and advocate for victims of sexual abuse, put it on his blog.
Soon afterward, the Times gave her alleged attacker twice the space — and prime position in the print edition, with no caveats or surrounding context. It was a stark reminder of how differently our press treats vulnerable accusers and powerful men who stand accused.
Perhaps I succumbed to that pressure myself. I had worked hard to distance myself from my painfully public family history and wanted my work to stand on its own. So I had avoided commenting on my sister's allegations for years and, when cornered, cultivated distance, limiting my response to the occasional line on Twitter. My sister's decision to step forward came shortly after I began work on a book and a television series. It was the last association I wanted. Initially, I begged my sister not to go public again and to avoid speaking to reporters about it. I'm ashamed of that, too. With sexual assault, anything's easier than facing it in full, saying all of it, facing all of the consequences. Even now, I hesitated before agreeing to The Hollywood Reporter's invitation to write this piece, knowing it could trigger another round of character assassination against my sister, my mother or me.
But when Dylan explained her agony in the wake of powerful voices sweeping aside her allegations, the press often willing to be taken along for the ride, and the fears she held for young girls potentially being exposed to a predator — I ultimately knew she was right. I began to speak about her more openly, particularly on social media. And I began to look carefully at my own decisions in covering sexual assault stories.
I believe my sister. This was always true as a brother who trusted her, and, even at 5 years old, was troubled by our father's strange behavior around her: climbing into her bed in the middle of the night, forcing her to suck his thumb — behavior that had prompted him to enter into therapy focused on his inappropriate conduct with children prior to the allegations.
Allen with Farrow (then known as Satchel) in 1994, after the director lost his custody battle with ex-girlfriend Mia Farrow.
But more importantly, I've approached the case as an attorney and a reporter, and found her allegations to be credible. The facts are persuasive and well documented. I won't list them again here, but most have been meticulously reported by journalist Maureen Orth in Vanity Fair. The only final legal disposition is a custody ruling that found Woody Allen's behavior "grossly inappropriate" and stressed that "measures must be taken to protect [Dylan]."
On May 4, The Hollywood Reporter published a cover interview with Woody Allen, quirky auteur. To me it is a sterling example of how not to talk about sexual assault. Dylan's allegations are never raised in the interview and receive only a parenthetical mention — an inaccurate reference to charges being "dropped." THR later issued a correction: "not pursued."
The correction points to what makes Allen, Cosby and other powerful men so difficult to cover. The allegations were never backed by a criminal conviction. This is important. It should always be noted. But it is not an excuse for the press to silence victims, to never interrogate allegations. Indeed, it makes our role more important when the legal system so often fails the vulnerable as they face off against the powerful.
Here is exactly what charges not being pursued looked like in my sister's case in 1993: The prosecutor met with my mother and sister. Dylan already was deeply traumatized — by the assault and the subsequent legal battle that forced her to repeat the story over and over again. (And she did tell her story repeatedly, without inconsistency, despite the emotional toll it took on her.) The longer that battle, the more grotesque the media circus surrounding my family grew. My mother and the prosecutor decided not to subject my sister to more years of mayhem. In a rare step, the prosecutor announced publicly that he had "probable cause" to prosecute Allen, and attributed the decision not to do so to "the fragility of the child victim."
My mother still feels it was the only choice she could make to protect her daughter. But it is ironic: My mother's decision to place Dylan's well-being above all else became a means for Woody Allen to smear them both.
Farrow with his mother, Mia Farrow, at the Time 100 Gala in April 2015.
Very often, women with allegations do not or cannot bring charges. Very often, those who do come forward pay dearly, facing off against a justice system and a culture designed to take them to pieces. A reporter's role isn't to carry water for those women. But it is our obligation to include the facts, and to take them seriously. Sometimes, we're the only ones who can play that role.
Confronting a subject with allegations from women or children, not backed by a simple, dispositive legal ruling is hard. It means having those tough newsroom conversations, making the case for burning bridges with powerful public figures. It means going up against angry fans and angry publicists.
There are more reporters than ever showing that courage, and more outlets supporting them. Many are of a new generation, freed from the years of access journalism that can accrete around older publications. BuzzFeed has done pioneering reporting on recent Hollywood sexual assault stories. It was Gawker that asked why allegations against Bill Cosby weren't taken more seriously. And it is heartening that The Hollywood Reporter asked me to write this response. Things are changing.
But the old-school media's slow evolution has helped to create a culture of impunity and silence. Amazon paid millions to work with Woody Allen, bankrolling a new series and film. Actors, including some I admire greatly, continue to line up to star in his movies. "It's not personal," one once told me. But it hurts my sister every time one of her heroes like Louis C.K., or a star her age, like Miley Cyrus, works with Woody Allen. Personal is exactly what it is — for my sister, and for women everywhere with allegations of sexual assault that have never been vindicated by a conviction.
Tonight, the Cannes Film Festival kicks off with a new Woody Allen film. There will be press conferences and a red-carpet walk by my father and his wife (my sister). He'll have his stars at his side — Kristen Stewart, Blake Lively, Steve Carell, Jesse Eisenberg. They can trust that the press won't ask them the tough questions. It's not the time, it's not the place, it's just not done.
That kind of silence isn't just wrong. It's dangerous. It sends a message to victims that it's not worth the anguish of coming forward. It sends a message about who we are as a society, what we'll overlook, who we'll ignore, who matters and who doesn't.
We are witnessing a sea change in how we talk about sexual assault and abuse. But there is more work to do to build a culture where women like my sister are no longer treated as if they are invisible. It's time to ask some hard questions.
Farrow's investigative reporting series, "Undercovered With Ronan Farrow," airs on NBC's 'Today.'
A version of this story first appeared in the May 20 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.
If the future looks anything like the Met Gala red carpet looked last night, it’s going to be boring, and rest too heavily on conventional tastes. The theme, Manus X Machina, should have inspired more outlandish and innovative designs, but celebrities and designers alike were inhibited by a deference to traditional beauty and a lack of imagination. Even Lady Gaga looked comparatively normal in a bedazzled body suit and jacket. The truth is, “the intersection of art and technology” is a bit of cliche in the creative industry. Too often, it serves as a placeholder for “the future”. But that interpretation ignores the realities we’re living in now, a present in which unmanned planes trawl the skies and surveillance technology is helping corporations and governments build robust databases of our facial maps. What does fashion look like when it takes into account our high-surveilled environments, or the facts of climate change? Here are some suggestions for our tech-challenged celeb colleagues:
Stealth Wear “Anti-Drone” Burqa by Undisclosed LLC
This metal-plated garment shield against thermal surveillance used by military drones. The interior is lined with black silk and it comes with a thermally reflective visor while the silver-plated exterior is hand oxidized with a brush stroke camouflage pattern. The item will set you back $2,500, but this is drone protection we’re talking about. No amount of “fiber optic woven organza” in a Zac Posen gown (that would likely cost more than double) is going to protect you from that.
Camoflash, An Anti-Paparazzi Handbag by Adam Harvey
This project is the creation of Berlin artist and researcher Adam Harvey, who wanted to create a functional handbag that would also protect celebrities from the prying lenses of paparazzi cameras. This accessory—currently just a prototype—flashes a 12,000 lumen LED pulse when activated, effectively overexposing the camera’s sensor. Camera-shy celebs like Sia might find this high-tech clutch useful.
Wearable Solar by Pauline Van Dongen
Here’s fashion for a progressively warmer planet: Van Dongen’s beautiful wool and leather designs implement the use of solar cells, which, when exposed to the sun, produce enough electricity to charge your smartphone battery to 50 percent. There’s already a coat, dress and shirt in the collection (all prototypes), so pretty soon your entire wardrobe will be capable of generating sustainable energy.
Anti-Surveillance Makeup by Jillian Mayer
Mayer, who is an artist and filmmaker, diverges from the typical smokey eyes and winged eyeliners typically demonstrated on YouTube makeup tutorials and instead shows viewers how to make up their facse to evade cameras and facial recognition technology. Nothing about this is conventionally beautiful—and some Hollywood makeup artists might even be repulsed by it—but it will allow you to navigate the world undetected by computers, machines, robots and other facial recognition devices. And all you need is white eyeshadow, black lipstick, and a few other implements.
Biomimetic 3D Printed Fashion by Neri Oxman
Neri Oxman’s biomimetic wearables would turn heads in any room. These flamboyant pieces are not only inspired by nature but actually mimic its functions. The capillaries that compose Al-Qamar, store and generate oxygen, with pockets for “algae-based purification” and “biofuel collection”. Lady Gaga could have really pulled off Otaared, a piece of protective headgear that is designed to contain calcifying bacteria, which, over time, would grow bone structures.