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Entries in Icons (9)


Ladies and gentlemen, Phil Spector


There is a lot of style in this picture.


Napoleon on his Imperial Throne, 1806, as hideous as it is engrossing:

Is this bad art? It certainly oozes moral ugliness. Its Napoleon is not merely idealized, he is fetishized; I find the typically delicate little Ingres-hands (and his wee foot) almost nauseating in the middle of all this material concupiscence. The picture prefigures the Nuremberg Rallies. It is one of the most reactionary things I’ve ever seen. There is nothing lovely about it at all, and no trace of anything human. But I can’t stop looking at it.


Ann Margret in Tommy, 1975.


And he writes like him, too!

Production still from Kerouac: The Inevitable Biopic, starring Steve Gutenberg in the role he was born to play.


“Pull my finger.”


Great Moments in American Prudery

Speaking of Woody Allen, a post from the inimitable Adam Lisagor sent me to PBS looking to catch the American Masters documentary while it was still online. Alas, the window had already closed. I did not torrent the film and watch it; I deny that strenuously. Anyway, it is excellent, but what I wanted to say was that while on the PBS page I made the mistake of scrolling down and grazing on the comments (which is a mistake almost regardless of the site, the topic, or the phase of the moon, but, come on, in this case I really should have known better). Leaving aside all the other excellent arguments—including the one that says we’d all do better to just mind our own business—can we not, finally, dispense with the poisonous accusations of pedophilia? The woman is 41 years old, and has been his wife for 14 years. That this still passes in some apparently indefatigable quarters for pedophilia must have Humbert Humbert rolling in his grave.

Also excellent, and shorter: Woody Allen’s Fresh Air interview from last summer. It is sad, I suppose, that he is so guarded, so closed, even with as sympathetic and graceful an interviewer as Terry Gross. Still, it’s nice to hear him speaking in his own voice; it is a useful tonic against the tendency to imagine he and Alvy Singer are the same person. Note that it is only his delivery that turns Alvy’s line, “I was all-schoolyard” into a joke; with Gross, he is at pains to insist that he really was all-schoolyard, and we believe him.


Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor on the set of The Sandpiper, 1965.


Fiorenzo Magni

Born 1920, seen here in his final race, the 1956 Giro d’Italia. This is the 12th of 23 stages. He has broken his collarbone, and is using a tube held between his teeth to exert upward force on the handlebars. Two days after this, he will break his humerus. Some 60 riders, including the leader, will drop out of the race during a snow storm on stage 20; Magni will finish second overall.