Tuesday Evening Open Thread: Ban Sidhe

Ask me, I’d say he was undergoing advanced hair repair therapy, because in press photos from the weekend his latest dye job was matching offputtingly well with the fluorescent-lime bracelets and trinkets in the audience. (Dude: Use some of the cash you’re grifting from the RNC to pay a skilled wig crafter, and save us all a lot of ugliness, okay?)

But maybe he is feeling a cold trickle of electoral doom down his spine…

Apart from politics, what’s on the agenda for the evening?


(via NYMag — yes those are Kara Walker shadow puppets!)



Open Thread: For the Hamilmaniacs

… Most of whom have no doubt been sharing the news in previous threads, but now the rest of us can enjoy the novelty of going Open-Thread-Off-Topic in “their” post. From the USAToday article:

The Tony winner confirmed his departure date to reporters at a breakfast event Thursday at Coogan’s in New York’s Washington Heights. Javier Muñoz, Manuel’s alternate who already regularly plays the part one day a week, will take over starting July 11. (He’s used to following Miranda — he also replaced him when he left In the Heights.)

Muñoz, who underwent cancer treatment during the show’s first year (during which Miranda was his understudy) says he finished his medical regimen in January and says he’s “fit and ready” to do seven shows per week.

But don’t fret — Miranda will be back. “I think this is a role I’m going to be going back to again and again. I plan to revisit this role a lot,” he said. (In other words, keep entering the lottery!)…

As for himself, Miranda is “working on his accent” for Mary Poppins Returns, due Christmas 2018, in which he’ll star opposite Emily Blunt. He’s also putting the finishing touches on the music for Disney’s animated film Moana, which arrives in theaters Nov. 23. And he’s got a revelation for you: “Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson can sing! He was really incredible.”

But before he packs up his Hamilton dressing room, the production will film two performances with the current cast this month before they start exiting, as well as shooting offstage cameos…

Any ideas how the final film will be released? Pay-per-view? I think it would be an excellent candidate for the movie-house “event cinema,” with the one-off showings of opera, ballet, and MMA bouts…
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Apart from entertainment, what’s on the agenda for the evening?



Late Night Poe-try Corner Open Thread

TBH, it was funnier before I visualized Captain Bankruptcy (h/t Jim Newell) taking credit for this ditty…



New ‘Roots’, Old Pain

Melena Ryzik, in the NYTimes, “‘Roots,’ Remade for a New Era”:

ST. FRANCISVILLE, LA. — Cannons boomed, shaking the leaves off 50-foot trees. “Ready, I need fire on that hill!” an urgent voice yelled. Weapons were reloaded. Exhausted infantrymen — black, white, young, old — were splayed around a muddy pit. “Watch your muzzles, gentlemen,” their leader called. “Don’t blow your friend’s face off!”

In a wooded grove in this town near Baton Rouge, La., a television crew was meticulously recreating the brutal Civil War battle of Fort Pillow, for a remake of “Roots,” the seminal mini-series about slavery. The carnage in the fight was significant: After Union soldiers surrendered, the Confederates disproportionately took white soldiers hostage as prisoners of war and slaughtered hundreds of black soldiers, sending survivors into the slave trade. This massacre was not in the original “Roots,” broadcast in 1977, which is exactly why the producers of the new one chose to include it.

It is one of many unexpected historical details put onscreen in “Roots,” which will air over four nights starting on Memorial Day. It will be simulcast on the History, Lifetime and A&E channels, with a sprawling cast that includes Laurence Fishburne; Forest Whitaker; Anika Noni Rose; Anna Paquin; the rapper T.I.; and the English newcomer Malachi Kirby as Kunta Kinte, the central character. The revival aims to deliver a visceral punch of the past to a younger demographic, consumed anew by questions of race, inequality and heritage. With a crew of contemporary influencers — Will Packer (“Straight Outta Compton”) is a producer; Questlove oversaw the music — the hope is to recontextualize “Roots” for the Black Lives Matter era, a solemn and exacting feat.

“I’d be lying if I said I had zero trepidation and nervousness,” said LeVar Burton, who began his career, indelibly, as the slave Kunta Kinte, and who serves as a producer on the modern version. “But I do believe that we have a lot to contribute to the very important conversation of race in America, and how it continues to hold us back as a society.”…

From NYMag‘s culture blog:

Vulture sat down with producers Mark Wolper — whose father, David L. Wolper, produced the original Roots — and Packer (Straight Outta Compton), and cast members Kirby, Regé-Jean Page (who plays Kunta Kinte’s son, Chicken George), and Erica Tazel (Chicken George’s wife Matilda), to discuss the urgency of revisiting this story

The reboot comes in a year with a number of other notable projects about slavery, including Underground on WGN, and Fox Searchlight’s forthcoming Oscar contender, The Birth of a Nation. How is your retelling of Roots distinct among these narratives? And why tell this particular story again now?

Mark Wolper: I wasn’t sure there was any right time to reboot a project that was so monumental for the TV business and for its social ramifications, not to mention a project that my own father had produced. It was a triple whammy in that respect for me. People had been saying for years, “Let’s do Roots again. Can we do Roots again?” And my answer was always, “No.” But it was when I sat my 16-year-old son down to watch it and he said, “I understand why Roots is so important, but it’s kind of like your music — it doesn’t speak to me” that realized I had to overcome my fears. There is an entire generation of young people that needs to hear and see this story. The problems we have with race in America right now are enormous, but we can’t fix the future or understand the present unless we understand where we all came from…

Regé-Jean Page: Contrary to what many people think, our history did not start with slavery. So this project for me is very much about about filling in a history that has been mistold, or in some cases, even erased. It’s about upgrading a lot of misinformation that we’ve been told for generations. And that’s a task that doesn’t ever really end…

Tragically related, also in the NYTimes, “‘A Million Questions’ From Descendants of Slaves Sold to Aid Georgetown”, and Carl Zimmer’s “Tales of African-American History Found in DNA”:

The history of African-Americans has been shaped in part by two great journeys. The first brought hundreds of thousands of Africans to the southern United States as slaves. The second, the Great Migration, began around 1910 and sent six million African-Americans from the South to New York, Chicago and other cities across the country.

In a study published on Friday, a team of geneticists sought evidence for this history in the DNA of living African-Americans. The findings, published in PLOS Genetics, provide a map of African-American genetic diversity, shedding light on both their history and their health…



Friday Morning Open Thread: Happy News

Speaking of film-makers, let’s have a round of applause for our own Tom Levenson, Guggenheim Fellow:

Tom Levenson writes and makes documentary films about science, its history, and the interplay between scientific inquiry and the broader culture and society in which the work takes place. This extremely gratefully received Guggenheim Fellowship will support work on a new book that uses the history of the South Sea Bubble – a watershed event in early-modern capitalism – to explore the connection between the scientific revolution and the emergence of new ideas about money and exchange. A revisionist history, this project aims at both new insights into the scientific revolution as lived, and in the evolution of finance over the last three centuries, with all the wealth and woe thus produced. ..

He began work as a documentarian in 1987, and he has since produced, directed, written, and or executive-produced more than a dozen films on science, mostly for the NOVA series on PBS, among them the Origins mini-series and the two-hour biography Einstein Revealed, both for the NOVA series on PBS. He won the National Academies Science Communication Award, shared a George Foster Peabody Award, and won the AAAS science communication prize, among other honors. His short-form writing has appeared in a wide range of newspapers, magazines and digital publications, and he is currently an Ideas columnist for The Boston Globe

Congratulations, Tom!

Apart from that, what’s on the agenda as we wrap up another long week?



Monday Evening Open Thread: Respite

Many thanks to commentor Schrodinger’s Cat! I don’t have any expertise to judge Indian cinema, but per Wikipedia, Haider is a retelling of Hamlet and this clip is ‘the play within the play.’ (And a demonstration that you can do impressive political protest with giant puppets, as long as they’re being handled by military reservists.) It impressed my dance-knowledgeable Spousal Unit he’s now scouring the net for a version of the film with English subtitles.

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Apart from enjoying the finer arts, what’s on the agenda for the evening?








Winnowing the GOP Race from Within — Part the First

Many thanks to Batocchio at his Vagabond Scholar blog, for introducing me to Doctor Cleveland’s “Winnowing the GOP Field with Jane Austen” (first published in September):

… In Pride and Prejudice, Mr and Mrs Bennet have imprudently had a family of five daughters and no sons. Since there’s no son, Mr Bennet’s estate is going to distant relatives when he dies, leaving his widow and five daughters in poverty. The five girls’ only hope is to marry well. But since there are five of them, there is the real danger that they will crowd each other out so that none of them gets married. Other characters ask why the Bennets have allowed all five daughters out “into society,” meaning the marriage market, at once instead of letting one daughter out at a time, so that Daughter Number Two wouldn’t start going to balls until Daughter Number One was married. The Bennets take a laissez-faire approach which hopes that all five girls can find husbands; the neighbors fear a Tragedy of the Commons in which the glut of Bennet sisters on the marriage market keeps any of them from being married.

Neither scenario is correct. Three sisters get married, two do not, and the two who do not are never in even the remotest danger of a marriage proposal. The Bennet sisters offer three, rather than five, real choices for potential suitors. Two of the five sisters are eliminated from consideration by the Pareto principle, which says that any option which comes behind another in all criteria being considered is thereby eliminated from consideration: “Pareto dominated,” as they like to say at 538…

Doctor Cleveland’s analysis of the Bennet sisters and their society is charming (you should go read the whole thing). But it’s his Pareto ranking of the GOP candidates, as of September, that I want to discuss:

… Now, our crowd of Republican candidates likewise represents a number of significant alternatives, each with its own sector of the decision space, and a number of also-rans who are basically ruled out. The candidates are competing on different strengths, most obviously on their conservatism and their electability, but there are other characteristics that resonate with Republican primary voters; the exact list is up for debate…

… Huckabee and Santorum are both running as not-very-electable champions of Christian conservatives. But Huckabee is both more appealing to Christian conservatives and more electable than Santorum is (meaning not so very electable, but not as hopeless as Santorum). This leaves Santorum no air to breathe at all…

Where we are really not seeing much competition is in the Electability sweepstakes, with the candidates whose basic appeal is that they can win in the general election. Right now the primary voters don’t seem interested in electability at all… As I’ve argued before, the most surprising thing is not how well Trump is doing but how poorly Jeb Bush, the presumptive electable alternative, is doing. And no one has yet emerged as the main electable candidate, the way Mitt Romney emerged last time around. The 2012 Republican primaries featured one main Electable Option, Romney, and a bunch of competitors for the role of Uncompromising Conservative. This time we have a clear Uncompromising Outsider, pretty much safe from challenge on his native turf, and no solid Electable Mainstream Option. In 2012, no Republican could hold onto the Lydia Bennet role for more than a week or two. This time, no Republican has seized the Elizabeth Bennet role for even a week…

Where I would expect to see movement in the Republican campaign is on the mainstream, electable side. Trump cannot be beaten at Trump’s game. Candidates like Cruz or Rand Paul are going nowhere this year… But someone could conceivably take over the mainstream/establishment/viable-in-a-general-election role that Jeb Bush hasn’t managed to keep or win…

In the comments, at the time, Doctor Cleveland would add:

Trump (and Carson) have set Cruz’s ceiling of support already. Cruz’s appeal is that he’s against the entirely liberal status quo, and especially against Obama. He can’t match Trump on that issue. Trump is actually a birther. He’s the only candidate who’s publicly gone on record saying that Barack Obama is not from this country. That is very, very salient for a big batch of Republican voters, and that Cruz is a more orthodox Tea Partier (what an oxymoron!) won’t be enough… Cruz’s hope this year was to be the Hardcore Opposition Guy. That is his role in the Republican Party: the insurgent ideologue who challenges the party leadership. He is running as the Keeper of the Pure Conservative Flame. But the outsider/challenger role is taken this year, so that Cruz is really stuck in the mud, unless Trump collapses and the primaries revert to the 2012 Freak-of-the-Week pattern, with rotating outsiders taking short turns as “front-runner.”…

Ted Cruz, or the people behind Ted Cruz, turned out to be craftier than that. Three months later, Trump has solidified his role as the “Burn It All Down” candidate — he’s not really a GOP candidate any more, just a free-floating freelance Anger Translator who’s using the Repub label and facilities because doing so proved far easier than starting his own party from scratch. He’ll run as the GOP candidate if he (improbably) beats out his remaining competitors (and doesn’t get distracted/indicted before the Cleveland convention). But if he and his more devoted acolytes aren’t given the respect to which they feel entitled, he’ll just as happily run as an independent; he’d run as a Democrat, if for once we weren’t the more organized, self-protecting party.

And Cruz has moved very efficiently into position as the top “Insurgent” not-Establishment TeaParty/religious conservative candidate. While Rubio, Bush, Christie, and Kasich stumble around trying to win as the Good Son for the permanent Republican apparatus, Talibangelical Ted has swooped in to consolidate his position as the perfect figurehead for all the social conservatives in Iowa, the South, and the Midwest. He’s effectively eliminating any chance for Carson, Huckabee, or Rick (“It’s His Turn!”) Santorum to move the publicly pious primary voters and donors towards their rapidly fading campaigns. (Rubio was sending out feelers towards these folks, but now he’s got a solid backup going, as the reliable Microsoft permanent-party candidate to Cruz’s artsy-fartsy Apple schtick.)…

(To be continued)