Good morning, everyone. Big news first: The actor behind the original Big Bird and Oscar the Grouch will retire from Sesame Street today: “The friendly, bearded face of Caroll Spinney may not be one you recognize immediately. But if you have watched TV at any point in the past 50 years or so, you are almost certainly familiar with his work. Since 1969, he has played the parts of the gentle, inquisitive Big Bird and the lovably disgruntled Oscar the Grouch on ‘Sesame Street,’ the long-running children’s program. This Thursday, as he so often has, Spinney, 84, plans to travel to the studios in Astoria, Queens, where ‘Sesame Street’ is produced, and record some voices for his colorful alter egos. Then he will retire from the program.”
In other news: Image Journal has a new editorial team, with James K. A. Smith taking the helm as the new editor in chief. That’s a bit of head-scratcher to be honest. Everything I’ve read by him on poetry and fiction is pretty much what you’d expect from a well-read theologian writing on poetry and fiction. That’s not a slight. Theologians and critics tend to approach texts in different ways, even if they might arrive at some of the same conclusions. For the critic, style is argument. For the Protestant theologian—and I’m generalizing here, so forgive me—style mostly contains argument. I can’t say this is always the case with Smith. He certainly has something like this view regarding form at least when it comes to liturgy, but I have never thought of him as being particularly interested in style in writing or in the forms of poetry or the novel. Anyway, he has a strong team under him, it seems, and I am sure he will bring in new readers. Good luck to the whole crew!
Anthony Paletta writes about the modern Indian architecture of B.V. Doshi, winner of this year’s Pritzker Prize: “First-time visitors to India are often struck by the abrupt contrasts in the built environment. A realm of older, urban-fabric chaos—one that works extremely well in the manner that pedestrian-oriented cities do anywhere—will suddenly give way to a realm of more recent dysfunctional sprawl. Traditional urban forms in India show an adaptive response to climate and to centuries of patterns of use. But the country’s newer, road-emphasizing development applies 20th-century models of Western planning—models that we in the West have ourselves come to lament. Such urban growth patterns have unintended, undesirable consequences even in places where nearly everyone can afford a car; they can be disastrous in places like India where many people cannot. And it’s not just the road patterns that are ill suited to the country’s needs. Disregard for local circumstances also characterizes much 20th-century Indian architecture—resulting in climate-controlled structures indistinguishable in style from buildings you might see in the United States, Scandinavia, China, or Africa. Realigning contemporary design and architecture to the needs of India has been a major theme in the life’s work of B.V. Doshi. He is the winner of this year’s Pritzker Prize, often described as the Nobel Prize of architecture.”
Oh, dear. PEN America sues Donald Trump for how he treats the press. I’m no fan of how the president tweets about the press—and let’s face it, this is more about what he says than what he does—but this is a silly way to respond.
The first abstract painting was done by Swedish artist Hilma af Klint, not Wassily Kandinsky, Nana Asfour reminds us at The Paris Review.
Ann M. Kring writes about what schizophrenia can teach us about pleasure.
Make your Thursday a little better and read Helen Andrews’s review of Elizabeth Currid-Halkett’s The Sum of Small Things: A Theory of the Aspirational Class. Here’s a snippet: “Her central finding is that today’s upper class spends less on ‘conspicuous consumption’ (jewelry, cars, clothes) and more on ‘inconspicuous consumption’ (organic groceries, CrossFit memberships, labor-intensive parenting). Who are the ‘aspirational class’ of the subtitle? Well, white people spend more on inconspicuous goods than blacks and Hispanics with equivalent incomes, while blacks and Hispanics spend more on conspicuous goods. Residents of big cities spend more on inconspicuous consumption than those in small cities. In other words, the people who make up the ‘aspirational class’ are exactly who you think they are: urban-dwelling, rich, well-educated white people. They’re the ladies who brunch. What does the shift to more discreet forms of status-signaling say about society’s values, priorities, and the way we live now? Currid-Halkett evidently believes that it means today’s ruling class is, compared to its predecessors, just better.”
Essay of the Day:
You know Harvey Milk, right? The first openly gay elected official in America who was a great defender of freedom (at least LGBT freedom) and supposedly an inspiration to us all. Ever hear that he was also a huge fan of Jim Jones—yes, that Jim Jones? Daniel Flynn writes about the connection between two:
“Harvey Milk became one of Jones’s most effusive advocates. He sent gushing letters to Jones and lobbied prominent leaders on behalf of Peoples Temple. Milk sent the president of the United States a letter so fawning that, in the words of one Temple chronicler, it ‘reads as if it were written by a Temple publicist.’ To the prime minister of Guyana, Milk declared, ‘Such greatness I have found at Jim Jones’ Peoples’ Temple.’
“Before Peoples Temple drank Jim Jones’s Kool-Aid, powerful people in San Francisco did. Harvey Milk imbibed most enthusiastically.
“The popular treatments of Milk’s life do not leave this impression. In the Academy Award–winning movie Milk, starring Sean Penn, the Peoples Temple preacher, who proved crucial to Milk’s political rise and whose rise crucially depended on Milk and other Bay Area pols, appears nowhere. Leading biographies of Milk and Jones barely mention how the two San Francisco leaders helped each other.”
Photo Credit: Fox17