FRIDAY REVIEW: Politics, Photography, and Survival
My editor, a few readers, and, frankly, the Lord God Almighty have told me that I should write more. So instead of once, I’ll be posting at least twice per week. I intend for one of those weekly posts to be a sort-of dustpan of the many bits of culture and ideas I encounter each week not big enough to bend over for. Here, then, is what's caught in my lint trap.
Best Of Enemies
This 2015 documentary from Morgan Neville and Robert Gordon describes the televised debates between William F. Buckley Jr. and Gore Vidal leading up to the 1968 presidential election. The success of the debates changed television election coverage as well as the personal lives of both men, and none for the better. Wikipedia’s summary of the film says the debates “usher[ed] in a new era of public discourse and pundit TV."
The film is interesting on several levels: the personal stories of these two men whose animosity grew as the debates went on, the ideological arguments on both sides, the marked difference in this early form of televised debate from the shout-downs we’re exposed to now, and the affect of the medium itself.
The final minutes of the film include this voice over:
That was a time when television was still a public square where Americans gathered and saw pretty much the same thing. There’s nothing like that now. The ability to talk the same language is gone. More and more, we’re divided into communities of concern. Each side can ignore the other side and live in its own world. It makes us less of a nation, because what binds us together is the pictures in our heads. But if those people are not sharing those ideas, they’re not living in the same place.
Buckley, one of the subjects of the study, summed it up thus:
"There is an implicit conflict of interest between that which is highly viewable and that which is highly illuminating."
Finding Vivian Maier
Another Netflix documentary (I kind-of binge sometimes), this one tells the mysterious, often sad, sometimes creepy story of a reclusive spinster nanny who lived in Chicago, New York and Paris, and who turned out to be a world-class talent. Filmmaker John Maloof not only “discovered” thousands of photos she took, but then made the documentary and advocated for more exposure for her work. My friend J.D. Lemming recommended the film and then another friend, Ryan Behring, told me about an exhibition of Maier’s photography in Arlington. So I took the family to find Vivian for ourselves. I definitely recommend the experience of the story and images together. The exhibition at the Arlington Museum of Art runs through August 21.
UPDATE: A staffer at Artsy.com has been following Vivian Maier chatter online and contacted me to suggest the following link. Artsy's mission is to make the world's art available to the whole world online. Check out the Vivian Maier page here.
After visiting Yellowstone on vacation last week, I circled back to some articles I had saved about Hugh Glass when I first saw The Revenant. The true story is not the same, yet no less improbable, than the movie.
Finally, returning to the theme of politics, I read this frightening piece by George Saunders about Donald Trump, his supporters, and the state of the American electorate.