Why Did The FBI Spy On James Baldwin? (And How Did They Get So Much Wrong?)


“[His] file contains 1,884 pages of documents, collected from 1960 until the early 1970s … [while] the FBI accumulated 276 pages on Richard Wright, 110 pages on Truman Capote, and just nine pages on Henry Miller. … [Yet] what is perhaps most interesting about the Baldwin dossier is that it reads like a long, poorly written novel itself – it is, in every sense, fiction produced by the state.”

Gore Vidal – A Life In Feuds

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Capote. Mailer. Buckley. Hitchens. “As he put it himself,” writes longtime friend Jay Parini, “‘I am at heart a propagandist, a tremendous hater, a tiresome nag, complacently positive that there is no human problem that could not be solved if people would simply do as I advise.’ That he was also a brilliant novelist and essayist was often beside the point.”

Luminato Loses Its Artistic Director


The announcement is brisk and matter of fact. But to me it brings on a rich array of unmentioned questions about timing, possible consequences and future changes in Luminato’s survival strategy.

Was Racism Really Why Nina Simone Wasn’t Admitted To Curtis?


“It’s one of those stories that has lodged in the minds of many for its injustice and irony. Nina Simone – before she was Nina Simone, when she was still an aspiring classical pianist named Eunice Waymon – auditioned for the Curtis Institute of Music and was rejected on grounds of her race.” Yet there is evidence to indicate that she simply didn’t make the cut at an extremely competitive school.

Is David Oyelowo Going To Play James Bond? Sort Of


“His performance will be heard rather than seen – in an audiobook. The announcement on Thursday follows long-standing rumours that Idris Elba is in line to replace Daniel Craig when the latter’s run playing James Bond on the big screen comes to an end, potentially in two movies’ time.”

Why We’re So Fascinated By Whether Shakespeare Smoked Weed


“It’s no wonder then that new claims about Shakespeare’s life draw so much attention. Take, for instance, the alleged discovery of Shakespeare’s dictionary by two New York booksellers, which prompted a piece in The New Yorker questioning the collective hunger for relics tied to the playwright. Articles from earlier this year reported on the claim that a likeness of Shakespeare had been discovered in a late-16th-century botanical book, and still others puzzled over several different portraits purported to depict the “real” Shakespeare. And that’s without even delving into articles about whether Shakespeare was a secret Catholic, or gay, or hey, did he even write any of those plays?”

Tenor Sings During His Own Brain Surgery


“Joined by a pianist in the operating room, Slovenian tenor Ambroz Bajec-Lapajne delivers the first and last couplets of Schubert’s ‘Gute Nacht’ (in major and minor) so doctors could monitor his ability to sing and recognize key changes” – making sure that they didn’t inadvertently damage his brain further during the operation. (video)

Philosophers Jürgen Habermas And Charles Taylor To Share $1.5 Million Prize

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The John W. Kluge Prize for Achievement in the Study of Humanity, “inaugurated in 2003 and awarded by the Library of Congress, is intended to recognize work in disciplines not covered by the Nobel prizes. Mr. Habermas, 86, is widely recognized as one of the most important German thinkers of the past half century, a defender of the Enlightenment tradition … Mr. Taylor, 83, is the author of several influential books questioning individualism and examining the enduring religious underpinnings of morality in the modern world.”

When Harry Houdini Met Arthur Conan Doyle

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“[They] were an improbable pair. One was very much the bluff Scottish Victorian gentleman, educated at a minor Catholic private school; the other a largely self-educated Hungarian immigrant to the US who had spent most of his life in rackety vaudeville. The two men were brought together by a shared interest in spiritualism, but it was also spiritualism that destroyed this unlikely friendship.”

W.B. Yeats, The Art Teacher And An Evening At The Sexologist’s


We’re not making this up. “It’s a story that has lain hidden in a plastic bag at the back of a dusty drawer and forgotten for more than 40 years before being uncovered, alongside faded letters and old diaries – a description of an extraordinary encounter between an art teacher and WB Yeats during a debate on methods to restore sexual potency.”

Shakespeare’s Pipes Test Positive For Cannabis (Seriously)


“The pipes from Shakespeare’s garden might have been used to smoke pot, but they tested negative for cocaine, which was also consumed by some in the playwright’s era. ‘Shakespeare may have been aware of the deleterious effects of cocaine as a strange compound,’ Thackeray writes. ‘Possibly, he preferred cannabis as a weed with mind-stimulating properties.'”

An Unwitting Young Teen Viral Star Grows Up

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“More than any other 18-year-old alive, Rebecca Black is all of our anxieties about oversharing online made flesh: the fact that more than 350 million photos are shared to Facebook each day and 300-plus hours of video hit YouTube every minute; the nagging sense that kids born into a world where social networking exists are worse off — when it comes to college applications, job prospects, romantic relationships.”

The Art Historian Who Knew How To Tell A Story


“Her detailed, original research, empathy with the artists she wrote about and insight illuminated the subject. Her approach was both methodical and imaginative: she knew that this was precious historical material that needed to be gathered and recorded before it was lost; but Marion [Whybrow] knew how to tell a story, too, and how to pick out an anecdote that summed up a character.”

‘To Me, They Are Art World Royalty’ – The Guerrilla Girls, 30 Years On


“After three decades as masked crusaders for gender and racial equality in the art world – and increasingly, everywhere else – the Guerrilla Girls have lately been enjoying a victory lap. … What follows is an oral history of the Guerrilla Girls and their big-footed leaps across the cultural world, recounted by the Girls themselves, their art-world contemporaries and younger artists they inspired, as well as curators, dealers and museum directors who were witness to their insurrection.”

How’s This For A Risky Family Business? Political Stand-Up Comedy In Myanmar

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The Moustache Brothers, “active for more than three decades, is renowned in the country for political satire, which still risks a prison sentence for its performers if delivered in Burmese in a public site. Since 2001, the troupe’s members have shared their act from this garage seven nights a week for gatherings of as many as 40 foreigners, who pay the equivalent of $10 each.”

Ai Weiwei Gets Assuances From China That He Can Return


“Ai traveled to Munich last week after having his passport returned, four years after it was confiscated, for a medical checkup and to see his young son. In an interview with the Munich-based daily Sueddeutsche Zeitung published on Wednesday, the dissident artist said Chinese authorities now have a more positive attitude toward him.”

The Melancholy Pop Idol Who Haunts China

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“There’s another popular saying: Wherever there are Chinese people, there is Teresa Teng’s music. I never appreciated her symbolism as a child, back when her music seemed soft and ubiquitous. But it’s not hard to imagine how Teng’s songs about love and distance spoke to the various migrations and political estrangements throughout the Chinese-speaking world. For immigrants throughout the Chinese diaspora, her music was a reminder of their journeys, an excuse to indulge in nostalgia, three or four minutes at a time.

UK Apologizes To Ai Weiwei, Grants Him Six-Month Visa

Chinese dissident artist Ai Wei wei films the media next to Bavarian Green politician Margarethe Bause, right, after his arrival at the airport in Munich, Germany,  Thursday, July 30, 2015. Ai Weiwei is on his way to Berlin where part of his family lives. (AP Photo/Matthias Schrader)

“On Thursday Ai disclosed that the British embassy in Beijing had turned down his request for a business visa, saying he had failed to disclose a criminal conviction. Instead it gave him a visa covering 20 days in September, when a major exhibition of Ai’s work is opening at London’s Royal Academy.”