Jerry Lewis at 80 (more inside)
"I am an American, so that is why I make films about America. America is sitting on our world, I am making films that have to do with America (because) 60% of my life is America. So I am in fact an American, but I can't go there to vote, I can't change anything. We are a nation under influence and under a very bad influence… because Mr. Bush is an asshole and doing very idiotic things." Lars Von Trier introduces his new film at the Cannes Film Festival: «Manderlay» picks up where «Dogville» left off, with the character originated by Nicole Kidman -- now played by Bryce Dallas Howard -- stumbling onto a plantation that time forgot, where slavery still operates in the 1930s. The film (5 MB .pdf file, official pressbook) ends, as Dogville did, with David Bowie’s Young Americans played over a photomontage of images that range from a Ku Klux Klan meeting to the Rodney King beating, George Bush at prayer and Martin Luther King at his final rest, American soldiers in Vietnam and the Gulf, the Twin Towers. More inside.
Articles of Faith "By inviting articles that covered different sides of disputed issues, Father Reese helped make America Magazine a forum for intelligent discussion of questions facing the Catholic Church and the country today." Thomas J. Reese's policy -- to present both sides of the discussion -- apparentlly "did not sit well with Vatican authorities". Reese, a Jesuit and a political scientist, had made a point of publishing both sides of the debate on a range of subjects, some of them quite delicate for a Catholic magazine -- gay priests, stem-cell research, the responsibility of Catholic politicians confronting laws on abortion and same-sex unions and a Vatican document (the Dominus Iesus declaration) which outlined the idea that divine truth is most fully revealed in Christianity and the Catholic Church in particular. Reese, who had described last month the Vatican as behaving like the cranky owner of a good restaurant, resigned yesterday as editor of the magazine. More inside.
Pico's Brain. The "Discourse on the Dignity of Man" (1486) by Pico della Mirandola (1463-1494) is considered the "Manifesto of the Renaissance" and a key text of Renaissance Humanism. The Discourse merits attention today precisely on account of its affirmation that human nature, which is in itself indeterminate and weak, comes alive and obtains its identity through the plurality of human cultures, each representing customs that, though distinct, are essentially identical. Hence the possibility of harmony and grounds for "peace" among cultures. The Pico Project makes accessible a complete resource for the reading and interpretation of the Discourse within its own context, from an initial encounter through direct contact with the original text, presented here in its first printed edition (Bologna 1496) of which there exist no extant manuscripts. Of course, Pico was also a Kabbalistic scholar (Umberto Eco is not a fan of Pico's kabbalistic work .pdf file). More inside.
XXX: 30 P9RN STAR PORTRAITS (a bit NSFW, obviously) by photographer Timothy Greenfield-Sanders, is a book that features paired portraits (one clothed and one nude) of the top stars in p6rn, straight and gay, from legends like (best-selling memoirist) Jenna Jameson, Ron Jeremy and Nina Hartley to (ahem) rising stars like Sunrise Adams, Belladonna, Chad Hunt. The book includes short essays on the intersection of p6rnography and culture by a wide range of writers, from Salman Rushdie to AM Homes. XXX is, essentially, about the much-dreaded "p6rnification" of the culture at large, recently featured in the New York Times. As Gore Vidal writes in the book's introduction, “Doubtless, sex tales were told about the Neanderthal campfire and perhaps instructive positions drawn on cave walls. Meanwhile, the human race was busy establishing such exciting institutions as slavery and its first cousin, marriage.” (more inside, with totally NSFW Terry Richardson)
"The people of Dogville are proud, hypocritical and never more dangerous than when they are convinced of the righteousness of their actions" (NYT link) "The movie is, of course, an attack on America—its innocence, its conformity, its savagery—though von Trier is interested not in the life of this country (he’s never been here) but in the ways he can exploit European disdain for it." (The New Yorker). Lars Von Trier's new movie, Dogville, is under attack from critics who consider it anti-American. Von Trier, of course, has never been to the US but he counters that he knows more about U.S. culture through modern media than, say, the makers of "Casablanca' knew about Morocco. Kafka hadn't been to Amerika either. Should non US-ian artists leave America alone if they've never been there? Von Trier says that "in my own country, I'm considered anti-Danish - again, that's more about politics than issues of nationality." (more inside)