linkto: the guardian

If world leaders were hipsters... they might look a like this

At least in the eyes of Israeli illustrator Amit Shimoni, who reimagined both current and former leaders as their most hipster selves and gave them alternative biographies in a series of portraits for a book titled ‘The Hipstory postcard set’ published by Laurence King.

Donald Trump

Margaret Thatcher

Barack Obama

Angela Merkel

Queen Elizabeth II

Mahatma Gandhi

I know I am pretentious, but I’d be the first person to tell you that…It’s way more pretentious to pretend you don’t care about something. There’s this elite thing, where everybody’s petrified of the idea that you could want your music to reach lots of people, but that’s what excites me. The idea of starting in a room and then bleeding out across humanity, the idea of…a song being on when somebody has that moment when they feel really alive. I want that. I don’t want unaspirational bullshit. There is no time for it in art. I come on stage and go: ‘This is what I do and I’m proud of it.‘
—  Matty Healy [x]
Mark Gatiss is
  • the savagest person to have ever set foot on this planet (he just literally wrote a response to sherlock critics in sonet form to the guardian and that’s honestly the coolest thing anyone has ever done)
  • a huge nerdlord
  • knowing his shiit
  • the absolute fanboy legend
  • 200% BAMF
  • really good at rhyming
  • our king
  • my favourite person ever right now
  • the protector of the sherlock fandom

In the new series, Cumberbatch’s detective is less of the irritatingly smug know-it-all we saw in earlier episodes. Moffat elaborates: “Being a hero isn’t being bigger, richer, more powerful than somebody else. It’s being wiser and kinder.” He pauses and adds: “I think it’s time for the less-of-a-dick Sherlock.”
—  The Guardian

[…] Hamilton represents something of an anomaly in American history, a founding father who never transferred from official histories into popular mythology. There are many reasons for this, not least that Hamilton’s positions were incompatible with many of our myths – he was avowedly elitist, for example, and supported the idea of a president for life – while his expansion of the federal government prompted the Whiskey Rebellion of 1794, which he brutally suppressed. Neither of these facts makes it into Miranda’s musical, which is the story of a “young, scrappy and hungry” immigrant from the West Indies who became the quintessential American success story through a combination of brains, hard work and audacity. Miranda creates a myth for Hamilton by celebrating him as a symbol of immigrant inclusiveness, egalitarianism and meritocracy: historically it’s a stretch, but theatrically it’s genius.

Eventually Hamilton became a hero of the American revolution, George Washington’s right-hand man, the nation’s first secretary of the treasury, the co-author (with James Madison) of The Federalist Papers, and the primary proponent for federal government over state government. He argued for a national bank, created the national reserve as well as the national debt, and laid the foundations for the US’s economic success. His dramatic life came to a melodramatic end when he was killed in a duel by the sitting vice president, Aaron Burr. And yet, despite all these achievements and dramas, Hamilton has been marginalised by most popular accounts of American history. Washington, Jefferson, John Adams have been the subject of countless books, films, miniseries and even their own popular musical, 1776. But 1776, which tells the story of the battle over writing the Declaration of Independence, does not even mention Hamilton.

That sidelining resonated with Miranda, himself the son of Puerto Rican immigrants, as an emblematic instance of the nation’s treatment of immigrants, both as individuals and as a collective part of the nation’s history. Those twin intuitions sparked a musical about historical, cultural and political inclusion, in which an almost entirely non-white cast plays the founding fathers (and a few of the mothers, although the cast is also overwhelmingly male). The result is the most unexpected of phenomena: a Broadway hit that is about political, economic and racial history while also offering an implicit but acidic running commentary on the racial and cultural politics of the US today. Everything about the show is “meta”, as layered references compound meaning like interest: Hamilton is metatheatrical, metahistorical, metamusical, metamorphic.

Much has been written about Miranda’s wide-ranging but acute musical references, from a Britpop-inflected George III (“When you’re gone, I’ll go mad / So don’t throw away this thing we had / Cause when push comes to shove / I will kill your friends and family to remind you of my love”) to the three Schuyler sisters singing about New York in the manner of Destiny’s Child; from the Notorious BIG to Kander and Ebb. Miranda is conducting a magisterial conversation with musical theatre, which is a kind of microcosm of American popular history, marked in important ways by the mainstream’s appropriation of minority cultures (Show Boat, West Side Story). Hamilton reverses that process, exploring mainstream history through the music of subcultures. […]

Almost all of Hamilton is sung through, as opera: there is very little spoken dialogue, and much less rap than some accounts might suggest. When rap comes in, it is with “practical tactical brilliance”, as when Miranda turns cabinet debates into rap battles, in which Jefferson and Hamilton face off and drop the mic, in reference to Eminem’s 8 Mile. Hamilton and Burr’s fatal duel is likened to gang violence by sampling the legendary “Ten Crack Commandments” by Notorious BIG, himself notoriously the victim of gang violence. “It must be nice to have Washington on your side,” sung by Burr, Jefferson and Madison, is ostensibly about President Washington’s patronage of Hamilton, but it also becomes about modern disenfranchisement, alienated citizens who feel that Washington DC is not on their side. A song called “Wait for It” is about Burr’s character, but it is also about – wait for it – how destructive it has been for communities of colour to be told to wait their turn.

As with the lyrics, the music is used to make historical points, rather than simply to score points. Jefferson and Burr each have a standout solo in the second act. (Miranda is markedly generous, giving his co-stars most of the best songs.) Returning from Paris, Jefferson sings “What’d I Miss?” over boogie-woogie piano with riffs on other Dixieland jazz sounds, including stride and ragtime. Its invocations of the origins of jazz as the kind of grandfather of rap are at once facetious – as performed by Daveed Diggs, Jefferson even uses “jazz hands” – and serious. Because Jefferson was considerably older than Hamilton and his contemporaries, Miranda gives the younger characters hip-hop influences, while Jefferson sings old-school jazz, which also lets Miranda tip his hat to classic performers such as Cab Calloway, whose vocals pointed the way to rap. As the act progresses, Jefferson’s influence on Burr deepens. By the time Burr breaks out into his great second act number, “The Room Where It Happens”, his musical style has subtly shifted, as he picks up Jefferson’s Dixieland jazz. Burr’s song is the kind of gospel-inspired, choir-backed showstopper that composers have used for more than a century in American musical theatre to get audiences on their feet, from Cole Porter’s “Blow, Gabriel, Blow” to Frank Loesser’s “Sit Down, You’re Rockin’ the Boat”. But unlike those songs, which are great fun but almost entirely meaningless, “The Room Where It Happens” is a foot-stomping, barnstorming, surge-to-your feet instant classic about – the historical record.

It’s a turning point in the show in many senses: Burr stops waiting for it, and the gaps in the historical record become a metaphor for political exclusion. “The Room Where It Happens” is about the way in which historiography constructs mythologies of power, and it’s about realpolitik, how politics gets done. […]

The question of what gets left out of the narrative is one that can also be asked of Hamilton’s own mythmaking, however. Although Miranda invokes popular histories to accuse them of colour blindness, the fact is that even 1776 confronted the question of slavery far more directly back in 1969 than Hamilton does today. To be sure, 1776 features an all-white cast arguing about whether slavery is bad; Jefferson terribly misses his terribly blond wife and can’t write the Declaration of Independence until she joins him, while his slave Sally Hemings, who probably mothered six of his children, is never mentioned. But 1776 also ends on “Molasses to Rum”, a startlingly frank and brutal account of the triangle trade, and an indictment of the north’s hypocrisy about slavery. Hamilton does mention Hemings – once – and has some other references to slavery, but strongly implies that only Jefferson owned slaves, while suggesting that Hamilton was a far more dedicated abolitionist than the record shows. In fact, Washington and Madison also owned slaves, while Hamilton bought and sold slaves for his wife’s family, and was inconsistent in regards to manumission.

Hamilton features black and brown actors, but its story never depicts a slave. That said, it’s also true that minstrelsy is crucial to Miranda’s project: he takes the long American minstrelsy tradition of white people in blackface on stage and reverses it. He appropriates its music, rewrites its lyrics, turns its politics on its head, and fashions the whole thing into a show that is simultaneously an excoriation of current American political realities, an encomium to American revolutionary energies, and a celebration of American musical theatre history. If you live in Britain, you will have to wait until next November for it, but when it comes, believe me, you’ve gotta be in the room where it happens.

What do you ask Santa for when you are a child locked up by the US government?

At an immigration detention center in Pennsylvania, a group of 19 children – some as young as two – are about to spend their second consecutive Christmas essentially behind bars as immigration laws leave them in limbo.

The Guardian published their Christmas wishlists – all of which asked for freedom.

‘To leave here with my mommy’

“Dear Santa, this Christmas I would like: Frozen-themed headphones, shoes, an iPad, candy, a skateboard, to leave here with my mommy. I am 6 years old.” 

‘To be with the person waiting for me’

“Dear Santa Clos? I am a girl who has her whole life ahead of her and I want the same freedom as any other girl and on this day, the only thing I ask is to be with the person who is waiting for me on the outside and that person has a very tiny heart [she is referring to her little sister].”

‘Roast beef pupusas’

“Dear Santa, I love computers, PlayStation, go to the beach, video games, but in here it’s not allowed. That’s why I want my liberty. I also love roast beef pupusas. I’m six years old.”

‘My liberty and more things’

“Dear Santa Claus, I want a present and that present should be my liberty and more things. I’m two years old.”

Sherlock is slowly and perversely morphing into Bond. This cannot stand

With its abseiling assassins, bloody shootouts and underwater fisticuffs, Sherlock has ceased to be the brainy, vital show that became a phenomenon. What happened to the violin and pipe?

It doesn’t take a sleuth to tell you that Sherlock Holmes is cooler than James Bond. 007 may drink and gamble, but Holmes is the emperor of his own mind palace. Bond may drive an Aston Martin and fight with his fists, but Holmes can captivate a room with nothing more than his words. If you can think at the speed of light, you don’t need a pen that’s also a grenade.

So there should be cause for grave concern that the greatest mind in fiction is currently channelling the secret service agent whose main objective is to kill baddies but try not to get the dinner jacket dirty. Meetings must be held and pitchforks held aloft. This cannot stand.

The detective at 221B Baker Street has always occupied the natural realm. His capabilities, while breathtaking, are just about comprehensible. Holmes uses science and a phenomenal application of logic to make sense of physical evidence. Unlike Bond, he is just about human enough to remind us of people we have met at parties. He is a nerd, not an action figure; a scientist, not a spy. But, as Sherlock’s stakes have risen, and as the guns and assassins have multiplied, it is starting to feel worryingly like we are watching villains be taken to task by a mutation named Sherlock Bond.

Arthur Conan Doyle tells us in his short stories that Holmes has considerable athletic abilities, but chooses to keep these skills – boxing, bartitsu and singlestick – a titillating prospect: a stockinged leg poking out from behind a curtain. Because the most scintillating thing about Holmes is his mind, his displays of physical prowess ought to be rationed. Conan Doyle wanted his protagonist to rise above the cheap thrills of the penny dreadful. Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss should be aware that their protagonist is at risk of suffering the fate Conan Doyle swerved.

For a while, there was a clear line between the BBC show and the Guy Ritchie films that took inspiration from the same detective. Ritchie’s films are absurdly, knowingly over-the-top; his Holmes is played by a man who has spent most of his 40s in a red superhero outfit. The only thing anyone remembers about the films is that Robert Downey Jr does some good bare-knuckle boxing – and that at the end of the first film, Holmes doesn’t just fight his adversary, he fights him while wobbling precariously on top of Tower Bridge. Given that they are not based on any of the stories, Ritchie’s films may as well fly free, entirely divorced from the Baker Street detective. They are, as Michael Sragow writes in The New Yorker, camp.

When its budgets and audience were smaller, Sherlock could not have been accused of being camp. It mapped out Holmes’ mental machinations with verve and integrity. It was mischievous but loyal to the source material; and, crucially, it felt plausible.

The problems with the show, once so surprising and so vital, began in series three, when it had become a phenomenon. A single decision shoulders much of the blame. When Moffat, Gatiss or both decided that Mary Watson just had to be a ninja assassin with a murky past, they took ill-advised liberties with Conan Doyle’s stories in what one can only assume was an attempt to make the programme even sexier. It failed. None of the scenes involving Mary ring true. How can the viewer be expected to believe that both John Watson’s best friend and his wife could be waist-deep in such extraordinarily cool activities? The show began to feel implausible, a fate from which it has never recovered.

As the Miss Marple TV series reached the autumn of its years, its writers did not decide that what the character really needed was to pump lead into some bad guys. Poirot would not have been a better show if the moustachioed detective had an assistant who was also a Navy SEAL. There is obviously an audience and an appetite for abseiling assassins, machine-gun shootouts and Benedict Cumberbatch getting sopping wet while kicking ass in an expensive suit – as he does in latest episode The Six Thatchers. But, like the perverse instincts that lurk in the palaces of our minds, this is an appetite that ought to be resisted. Sherlock’s unofficial tagline is “brainy is the new sexy”. It feels like it gave up being brainy a while ago. Soon it may even cease to be sexy. Before you know it, it will have become James Bond.

The Guardian