Golberg reflects on the history and fragility of organizing time @ The Smart Set
The evening of December 29, 2011 was a Thursday evening. Most of the citizens of Samoa — a mere 190,000 in total — came home from work, had their nightly meal, and went to sleep. But when they awoke, it was Saturday morning. Friday, December 30, 2011 had disappeared. More precisely, December 30 was erased from the routine progression of time. Those with December 30th anniversaries, lovers of Fridays, and people not quite ready for the next year were out of luck. The clocks had been turned forward, a full day forward. December 30, 2011 was a day no Samoan would know.
The government of Samoa had decided the previous June to move westward across the international date line, so everyone knew the lost Friday was coming. The Samoan government made this change because they wanted to better align Samoa with trading partners in the East: Australia, New Zealand, China, the rest of Asia in general.
Samoans had actually been on the Asian side of the date line before, back in the 19th century. Then, in 1892, an American business house trading in the region convinced the king of Samoa that slipping over the date line to the other side, facilitating trade with California rather than Asia and Australia, was in everyone’s best interest. At the time, it made sense to the king. San Francisco was proving to be a much more influential trading partner than Sydney, and American ships lined Samoan shores. So Samoa left its time zone, and was suddenly just three hours behind California. In a twist of diplomatic self-congratulation, Americans had Samoa perform the shift backward in time on July 4, giving Samoans the opportunity to celebrate American Independence Day twice. In herLetters from Samoa, Margaret Isabella Balfour Stevenson — the mother of Robert Louis Stevenson, who had emigrated to Samoa with her son in 1890 — described the double Fourth of July thus:
It seems that all this time we have been counting wrong, because in former days communication was entirely with Australia, and it was simpler and in every way more natural to follow the Australian calendar; but now that so many vessels come from San Francisco, the powers that be have decided to set this right, and to adopt the date that belongs to our actual geographical position. To this end, therefore, we are ordered to keep two Mondays in this week, which will get us straight.
For 120 years, America’s trading authority has been encapsulated in the Pacific island nation of Samoa. Now, Samoa is three hours ahead of eastern Australia rather than 21 hours behind it, and 22 hours ahead of California. You could say the ever-shifting time zones in Samoa are symbolic of the ever-shifting tides of geopolitical influence: then from East to West; now from West to East.International journalists, delighted by the story of Samoa’s latest dance with time, saw the symbolism, too. And yet, the headlines were not “American Drones Go the Way of British Naval Ships” or “Australia Leaves the West for Asia”, as one might expect. Rather, the headlines indicated an altogether different fascination:
Golberg reflects on the history and fragility of organizing time @ The Smart Set
Paula Marantz Cohen reflects on recently published conversations with the First Lady @ The Smart Set.I am trying to get a handle on the latest publishing event: the transcription and accompanying CDs of Jacqueline Kennedy’s interviews with Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr. in 1964, less than four months after her husband’s assassination. Upon her order, these tapes were not to be released for 50 years, but her daughter jumped the gun by three, publishing them now to commemorate the 50th anniversary of her father’s election to the presidency. I first read excerpts from these interviews in a front page story in the New York Times. The story’s tone was reverent but the quotes were rather bitchy, making me want to see if greater context would help explain the reverence. Thus I paid $60 for the transcripts and CDs.I should note that I never did “get” Jackie Kennedy. I thought she had good taste and was enviably thin, but she seemed wooden and wide-eyed and had that grating little-girl voice. The view I’ve heard expressed is that this is what women were like at the time, but I happened to be alive at the time and didn’t know women like Jackie Kennedy. I am around the age of Caroline Kennedy, and I had a mother who was a clothes horse and spoke French but who otherwise did not resemble Jackie. She had strong opinions and an inflected, exuberant voice. Her friends were a diverse group of people, but none had Jackie’s particular brand of coy femininity.read more
Morgan Meis on the language of Cy Twombly's art @ The Smart Set. In the early 1950s, Cy Twombly worked for the army as a cryptologist. That fact seems hugely significant since Twombly was one of the more elusive artists of his generation. That is what the conventional wisdom says, anyway. In this case, the conventional wisdom is probably correct. Cy Twombly's art first acquired its distinctively elusive characteristics when he started using letters and words in his paintings.
In a number of his paintings can be found the letter “e.” Twombly painted his “e”s in a cursive style most of the time, drawn with a freehand nonchalance. The “e”s in Twombly's paintings often look like something you would find in the notebook of a young person first learning to write in cursive. This person is drawing the same letter over and over again in loops in the attempt to get the form of the letter right. Maybe they have learned how to make one word and they are copying that word over and over again with varying success.Letters, in general, are meant to make up words and words are meant to make up sentences and sentences are meant to convey meaning. Breaking sentences back down into individual words and words back down into individual letters has the opposite effect. Meaning is reduced, taken apart, decomposed. Still, the letters and the words contain a lingering residue of the meaning they are meant to lead toward even if they never get there. In Twombly's paintings, the individual “e”s looping off one another across the canvas contain a lot of promise. There is something tantalizing about the fact that they might mean something after all.
Jesse Smith experiences an airport disaster drill and lives to reflect on it @ The Smart Set.
Thursday, June 9 was an active night at Arnold Palmer Regional Airport in Latrobe, Pennsylvania, as it was both Parmesan night at the airport’s Italian restaurant and the air disaster drill for the airport at large.The Arnold Palmer Regional Airport lies 40 miles west of Pittsburgh and more than 60 miles west of Pittsburgh International Airport in a small town of 8,338. From Pittsburgh International, travelers can make direct flights to New York, Los Angeles, Las Vegas, Toronto, Cancun, and Paris. From Arnold Palmer, travelers can fly directly to either Fort Lauderdale or Myrtle Beach on Spirit Airlines, and only to either Fort Lauderdale or Myrtle Beach, and only on a Monday, Wednesday, Friday, or Saturday.I learned about the airport’s air disaster drill from a friend who traveled through Latrobe and saw a flier calling for volunteers to play air disaster victims. The flier was decorated with a clip-art illustration of an airplane. It said the airport was looking for 150 volunteers, and that they should wear clothing that could get dirty. My friend thought disaster drill training at Arnold Palmer Regional Airport would be right up my alley, and it was. Miniatures speak to many people: Some people like model railroads, some like dollhouses, some like baby animals. I like scaled-down versions of places you’re not used to seeing scaled-down. I’m drawn to tiny zoos, regional department stores, and restaurant chains with only three actual restaurants. These kinds of public institutions and commercial enterprises sit at the very bottom of hierarchies dominated by corporate and civic giants; but what sits at the bottom helps define what lies above. That Pittsburgh has an airport is such a forgone conclusion that the airport itself almost fades away as a place and becomes instead an interface between Pittsburgh and some other place. That Latrobe has an airport is so unexpected it makes you stop and think about what it means to be an airport.read more
Greg Beato reflects on 50 years of Ken @ The Smart Set.
As Harley-Davidson Ken #2, Barbie’s perennial boy toy is presented with a scruffy beard and a stand of old-growth chest hair that would make Tom Selleck proud. His leather and denim duds are accessorized with testeronic man-bling: a heavy-duty Harley belt buckle and a dangling wallet chain. On his left forearm, his tough plastic flesh has been permanently ornamented with a “Born to ride” tattoo. Harley-Davidson Ken Doll #2 is aimed at collectors and the ladies love him. “What I would not have given to have this bad-to-the-bone sexy Ken when I was growing up!!” enthuses one at Amazon. “My Barbie’s [sic] are all falling over themselves trying to get next to this bad boy,” exclaims another. And yet it turns out that even rugged, undomesticated Ken — Ken at his most virile, redolent of leather and gasoline and lusting for the open road — is not quite as autonomous as he looks. “Although he cannot stand unsupported, he is fully jointed and easy to pose,” Amazon’s official description of the product advises.Unable to stand alone, readily compliant — such is the fate of Barbie’s perpetual plus-one. Fifty years ago, on March 11, 1961, Mattel introduced to Ken to the world. With his trim crewcut, stiff carriage, and vacant but beseeching eyes, he looked like an earnest All-American zombie ready to do Barbie’s bidding. A half-century later, he’s even more servile, devolving into Sweet Talking Ken, an incarnation Mattel describes as the “ultimate boyfriend for every occasion.” With a built-in voice recorder and microphone, Ken possesses the power of speech — but he can only say “whatever you want him to say.”read more