Remembering Ernest Hemingway: The Old Man and the Sea

Remembering Ernest Hemingway: The Old Man and the Sea

This year marks the 50th anniversary of Ernest Hemingway’s death (July 21, 1899-July 2, 1961). Hemingway achieved world-wide fame and influence as a writer by a combination of great emotional power and a highly individual style, which could be parodied but never successfully imitated. His best single work is quite possibly The Old Man and the Sea, which had the essence of the uncluttered force that drove his other stories.

In 1952, the 53 year-old Hemingway shrugged off the decay of his own weary, abused body, an increasingly scarred mind, and the pulsating aches of his five tools of anguished expression to compose his tale of an old Cuban who battles his own decay, a crippled left hand, and a giant marlin. The novel received the Pulitzer Prize in 1952 and was specifically cited when he was awarded the 1954 Nobel Prize in Literature.

In 1997, 40 year-old Alexander Petrov of Prechistoe, Russia, struggled against a strange environment (Canada), a new and intimidating technology (IMAX), and with the use of his finger tips, transformed Hemingway’s ode to masculinity from splashes of oil paint into a vibrant, coherent, fresco in motion. Petrov’s 22-minute interpretation of The Old Man and the Sea was created at Montreal’s Pascal Blais Productions. The magnificent paint-on-glass-animated short film won many awards, including the 1999 Academy Award for Best Animated Short Film.

Ernest Hemingway: The Old Man and the Sea

(Best Viewed in HD Full-Screen Mode)

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Case History: Behold the Anonymous Homeless, Downtrodden, Insulted and Injured

Photography by: Boris Mikhailov

Case History: Behold the Anonymous Homeless, Downtrodden, Insulted and Injured

Ukrainian-born Boris Mikhailov is one of the leading photographers from the former Soviet Union. For over 30 years, he has explored the place of the individual within the historical mechanisms of public ideology, touching on such subjects as the Ukraine under Soviet rule, the living conditions in post-communist Eastern Europe and the fallen ideals of the Soviet Union. Although deeply rooted in a historical context, Mikhailov’s work also presents profoundly engaging and personal narratives of humor, lust, vulnerability, aging and death.

Case History is a study of the homeless, a collection of photographs by Mikhailov of homeless people in the Ukraine. His raw images of the homeless are sometimes intensely painful and not for the squeamish; they are hard to look at, but also hard to look away from and hard to forget. The photographs from Case History are currently on exhibition at New York City’s Museum of Modern Art, the first in-depth presentation of Mikhailov’s seminal series (1997-98) at an American museum. The photographs portray people who are far from conventionally attractive in grungy rooms or in wintry outdoor sites, naked or pulling aside their clothes to expose parts of their bodies ordinarily hidden from view.

Mr. Mikhailov began making photographs in the 1960s, but he was arrested and interrogated twice by the K.G.B. In 1996, five years after the collapse of the Soviet Union, he began making portraits of people who had been disenfranchised and left homeless by the rise of a new capitalist oligarchy in his hometown of Kharkov, Ukraine, where he was born in 1938. He published 400 of them in his book Case History, from which the photographs here were selected.

What does it mean to present images like these as art in a museum? In one respect, they carry on the tradition of picturing the downtrodden exemplified in photographs by countless artists from Walker Evans to Andres Serrano. Works like those tell us that, whatever their outward appearances and circumstances, the poor have souls that are worthy of respect. However, Mr. Mikhailov’s photographs are not so ennobling. They render their subjects as exotic and even demonic. Like specimens in a freak show, they elicit sympathy, revulsion or amazement, but not admiration or empathy. Because there are no titles or captions, you don’t know who the people are or anything about their lives. Maybe some were research scientists, or university professors fired for not toeing party lines or for crossing paths with a ruthless plutocrat at the wrong place and time; maybe they were all rounded up from an insane asylum, or from detox center for alcoholics.

All of his subjects seem to belong to a tribe or extended family of outcasts. But “the homeless,” one might object, is not composed of a homogeneous population. The homeless include alcoholics, drug addicts, criminals, prostitutes, con artists, people with mental illnesses and hard-working citizens going through rough times. But Mr. Mikhailov is not concerned with personal particulars. In his enterprise, the subjects are, above all, actors who function mainly as allegorical symbols. They stand as expressions for the underbelly of society, and their challenging revelations of their own usually hidden body parts is a metaphor for the whole project of exposing what polite society would prefer to keep under wraps. To the extent that they appear everywhere around the world, including in New York City, they are universal signs of capitalism’s failure to care for the less fortunate.

Viewers can read more about Mr. Mikhailov’s work in The New York Times here

Boris Mikhailov: Photographs from “Case History” (1999)

Slide Show: Case History/Behold the Homeless, Downtrodden, Insulted and Injured

(Please Click Image to View Slide Show)

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The Poetics of Hope: A Wish for Peace in Our Time

Dove of Peace: Pablo Picasso, Lithograph (1949)

Playing For Change: Song Around the World-“Stand By Me”

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Grief: A Lonely Misery That Could Flood the Whole World

Grief: A Lonely Misery That Could Flood the Whole World

To whom shall I tell my grief?  Misery tears my heart more cruelly than ever.
Can I not find among the crowd of thousands someone who will listen to me?

Grief is a deeply moving short film directed by the German filmmaker Daniel Lang, which is adapted from Anton Chekhof’s short story, Misery.  On a rainy and gloomy night, a battered taxi drifts through the streets of Berlin.  Iona, a Russian immigrant, is behind the wheel.  His son had supported the family by driving the taxi until his sudden, unexpected death the previous week.  Now Iona has taken his son’s place, trying hard to make his way as a blundering taxi driver.  But what he really wants is to find someone, anyone to talk to about his son’s death.

Grief: A Lonely Misery That Could Flood the Whole World

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The Door: A Symbol of Life and Death

The Door: A Symbol of Life and Death

The Door is a poignant, emotional short film by Irish filmmaker Juanita Wilson, which was a 2010 Academy Award Nominee for Best Live Action Short Film.  The film opens with what appears to be a very simple act, the stealing of a door.  However, as the film progresses and the narrative unwinds, we discover this act is far more complex than we could have initially imagined.  The door is in fact a vital part of a traditional ritual, carried out by a grieving family in the aftermath of the Chernobyl tragedy.

The Door: A Symbol of Life and Death

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Melanie Oudin Rallies Past Nadia Petrova, Reaches U.S. Open Quarterfinals!!

Melanie Oudin Rallies Past Nadia Petrova, Reaches U.S. Open Quarterfinals!

It has been an amazing summer for seventeen-year-old Melanie Oudin, who hasn’t quite finished growing up but who’s in the midst of a life-changing season of big emotions and pulling off very big upsets.  Melanie is still very much a teenager from Marietta, Ga., enjoying the trip of her life in the Big Apple, playing foosball in the players’ lounge and using words like “amazing” and “cool” as she works her dizzying way through the draw at the U.S. Open in Flushing Meadows.  Despite standing just 5 feet 6 inches, she’s standing tall at her country’s most important tennis tournament.  Last Saturday, she knocked off three-time Grand Slam Champion and former No. 1 Maria Sharapova 3-6, 6-4, 7-5 to reach the U.S. Open’s fourth round.

With her upset win over Russia’s Nadia Petrova on Monday, Melanie’s surprising and inspiring run through the draw has taken her all the way to her first Grand Slam quarterfinal.  The 13th-seeded Petrova looked as though she might actually write a sad ending to Oudin’s U.S. Open fairy tale when she ripped through the first set in 31 minutes, reeling off six games in a row.  But Oudin stayed true to her September form by calming down, extending the rallies, developing a deeper understanding of Petrova’s serve and giving herself and her fast-growing public what they both craved by prevailing, 1-6, 7-6 (2), 6-3.

Melanie Oudin Rallies Past Nadia Petrova, Reaches U.S. Open Quarterfinals!

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This Momentary: 23 Years After The Chernobyl Nuclear Disaster

This Momentary: 23 Years After The Chernobyl Nuclear Disaster

The Chernobyl disaster was a nuclear reactor accident in 1986 at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant in the  Ukraine, which was then part of the Soviet Union.  It is considered to be the worst nuclear power plant disaster in history and resulted in a severe release of radioactivity following a massive power excursion which destroyed the reactor.  Four hundred times more radioactive fallout was released than had been released by the atomic bombing of Hiroshima.  The World Health Organization has attributed 56 direct deaths to the disaster, and has estimated that there may be an additional 4,000 cancer deaths among the approximately 600,000 most highly exposed people.  There is a 17-mile Exclusion Zone around Chernobyl where officially nobody is allowed to live, but people do.  These “resettlers” are elderly people who lived in the region prior to the disaster.  Today there are approximately 10,000 people between the ages of 60 and 90 living within the Zone around Chernobyl.  Younger families are allowed to visit, but only for brief periods of time.

This Momentary is a short film by Dave Ma, which brings us back to the Chernobyl area, shows us the place today, 23 years after the disaster, and the people who still live there.  The director of the film wanted to show portraits of the abandoned town near the power plant, the abandoned villages where many elderly people still live and the towns to which people were relocated.  The film is an attempt to show the humanity of the people and to capture little moments in their lives in a composed and photographic way.

This Momentary: 23 Years After The Chernobyl Nuclear Disaster

Slide Show: Portraits from The Chernobyl Nuclear Disaster

(Please Click Image to View Slide Show)

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