Celebrating Dostoevsky in contemporary culture

Embacy, a Russian design studio, made an interactive site dedicated to Dostoevsky and his contributions to pop culture. The site features the likes of Sigmund Freud, Columbo, The Simpsons, and Akira Kurosawa. I’ve yet to read Dostoevsky’s work but I’ve always been aware of his work. What I didn’t know was how far-reaching his legacy was in pop culture.

Maybe I’ll read Crime and Punishment one day (instead of just buying it for someone’s Christmas present)

Copyrighted works from 1926 enter the public domain today

Fausto 1926 F. W. Murnau HD 1080p 📽

Happy new year to you all. This time last year, I hoped for a better 2021 compared to 2020 but that never happened. So I’m just gonna take whatever comes in 2022 and wish you all love, warmth, guidance, and strength.

Today is Public Domain Day again and that means copyrighted works from the US from 1926 are open to all. (For more information on it, we wrote about it in 2019 and 2021.) The official Public Domain Day 2022 page explains why this year is so good:

In 2022, the public domain will welcome a lot of “firsts”: the first Winnie-the-Pooh book from A. A. Milne, the first published novels from Ernest Hemingway and William Faulkner, the first books of poems from Langston Hughes and Dorothy Parker. What’s more, for the first time ever, thanks to a 2018 law called the Music Modernization Act, a special category of works—sound recordings—will finally begin to join other works in the public domain. On January 1 2022, the gates will open for all of the recordings that have been waiting in the wings. Decades of recordings made from the advent of sound recording technology through the end of 1922—estimated at some 400,000 works—will be open for legal reuse.

The most notable inclusions are the original Winnie the Pooh by A.A. Milne (which might be subject to Disney extending the copyright), the works of Louis Armstrong, Ivor Novello, Jim Morrison, and Arnold Schoenberg, and the film Faust (directed by F. W. Murnau). Note that the works of the aforementioned creatives are only part of the public domain in countries with copyrights of “life plus 50 years” or “life plus 70 years” (see the last link in the list below for more info)

Below you will find a list of applicable works from 1926. Always remember to check works from any years prior to 1926 to make absolutely sure you follow any licence requirements (if there are any).

Lists of public domain work from 1926

Winnie the Pooh related: Jim Cummings tells stories behind 4 fan-favorite characters he’s voiced

Doug Bradley reading A Visit from St. Nicholas by Clement Clarke Moore

Doug reads A Visit From St Nicholas (aka The Night Before Christmas) by Clement Clarke Moore

Merry Christmas to everyone! No matter what you’re doing, I hope you’re safe and well. To get you into the Christmas spirit, Doug Bradley (better known as Pinhead from the Hellraiser series) read A Visit from St. Nicholas by Clement Clarke Moore last night. Having a model of Pinhead wearing a Santa hat in the background just adds to the macabre charm.

Santa related: The oldest Santa Claus movie in the world from 1898

bell hooks (1952–2021)

bell hooks has passed away at the age of 69. It’s a tragic loss to the world and she will be sorely missed but her work in writing, feminism, and activism lives on. I remember reading her essay ‘Plantation Mistress or Soul Sister‘ for my dissertation and how it changed a lot of my perspectives on Black music, Madonna, and Blackness as well as giving me new ones.

Below are some links to obituaries, dedications, and essential reading for those unfamiliar with her work. In the words of Raquel Willis:

If you’re just learning about bell hooks, there’s no shame. You can always read her words and meet her on the page.

Articles and papers

Videos

Books (note: links are from Bookshop but aren’t affiliate links)

Phaidon's 'African Artists: From 1882 to Now'

Phaidon has published a new book called ‘African Artists: From 1882 to Now‘, covering 140 years of African art through the work of 316 artists from 51 countries. The book aims to showcase art from the whole continent rather than specific countries or regions. That means you get to see North African art alongside West African, East African, and Sub-Saharan art (without the stereotypical homogeny).

Chika Okeke-Agulu wrote the introduction, discussing issues such as the representation of African artists and Africa in the global art world. You can grab a copy from Bookshop (affiliate link) or any good bookshop, online or offline.

African art related: Ekow Nimako’s Afrofuturistic LEGO® universes, Sophia Tassew’s Khula jewellery brand is dope, Daniel Obaweya is Nigerian Gothic, and The visual art of Uzoma Chidumaga Orji

Tobi Kyeremateng on the joy of Nigerian childhood parties

iNews published an excerpt by Tobi Kyeremateng from the book Black Joy about her love of Nigerian parties as a child. I’ll keep the quote short and brief as you should definitely read the original link and the whole book:

There was a particular pride to be taken in hosting parties, especially “Why not?” parties that didn’t call for any specific occasion to circle its way back around the sun. “People say we Nigerians take parties too seriously – and yes, we do!” D Boss would say, punctuating the air with a nod in agreement with himself. “It’s part of our tradition. Parties are never forgotten.”

My earliest memories of these parties are distinct. The familiar scents of hard liquor and spiced foods carry me towards the kitchen. In the corner of my eye is a blue bucket full of ice moving like Tetris, cradling bobbing bottles of Supermalt and cans of Lilt. As soon as you arrived, the aunties would say, “Oya, go and play with your cousins!” – as if they had been waiting for the moment they could drop their shoulders and just be – and off you went with a group of children who you weren’t sure were your actual cousins or just the children of the elders.

There’s just something about Black parties. That warm buzz of community and togetherness, people enjoying themselves, laughing and drinking, dancing and eating—I’m not nearly as social as I used to be but when it comes to a Black party, I feel right at home.

More from Nigeria: Johnson Eziefula on his art and his relationship with identity and Daniel Obaweya as Nigerian Gothic

BlookUp turns your social media updates and blog posts into books

(This is not an ad.)

When I was looking for a way to make a photo book out of some of my photos, I came across BlookUp. The project, created by Philippe Bruno, allows you to upload your tweets, blog posts, Facebook posts, or even Tumblr posts and create books for anyone who wants them.

This can work for people or companies who pride themselves on their social media presence or want to reset online but keep some of their favourite thoughts and memories in physical form. The main reason I wanted to make my own photobook was because Sean Brown did the same with his book, In No Particular Order (available at the Curves Shop and Selfridges if you’re in the UK). The ethos behind it was this: “don’t delete your old work”. Services like BlookUp help you from throwing that work in the digital trash.

How'd you like them apples?

William Mullan has an Instagram account called @pomme_queen. It’s dedicated to unique apple variants and flowers and this year, he put wrote “Odd Apples“, a book about those unorthodox cultivars.

Where does this fascination come from? Apparently, it began during childhood when Mullan discovered the Egremont-Russet apple variety. But it wasn’t until years later, during a trip to a farmer’s market in New York, that Mullan decided to explore the subject artistically. There, he bit into a Pink Pearl for the first time, and the taste gave him such an experience that from then on, he began to photograph apples in an “extraordinary way”.

via Creative Boom

Of all the apples on show, my favourite is the Black Oxford (top right) because it reminds me of the Galaxy frog which I’ll hopefully cover on this site in the future. It looks so… celestial.

Apple-related: Indo apples, samurai, and Japanese farmers

Tina M. Campt's 'A Black Gaze'

I follow MIT’s tech blog and stumbled upon a book from their press called ‘A Black Gaze’:

In A Black Gaze, Tina Campt examines Black contemporary artists who are shifting the very nature of our interactions with the visual through their creation and curation of a distinctively Black gaze. Their work—from Deana Lawson’s disarmingly intimate portraits to Arthur Jafa’s videos of the everyday beauty and grit of the Black experience, from Kahlil Joseph’s films and Dawoud Bey’s photographs to the embodied and multimedia artistic practice of Okwui Okpokwasili, Simone Leigh, and Luke Willis Thompson—requires viewers to do more than simply look; it solicits visceral responses to the visualization of Black precarity.

With regular discourse around cultural appropriation and Black art that falls under the white gaze, it’s important to bring the conversation back to Black people creating for Black people and what that means for us.

You can buy a copy from Bookshop (affiliate link) or head to the book’s official MIT Press page for more stockists.

Liam Wong – After Dark

Liam Wong's After Dark book

We’ve featured Liam Wong previously and now he’s back with a new book called “After Dark”.

After Dark is a one-of-a-kind publication documenting Wong’s nocturnal journeys through the world’s most captivating cities. Following his début monograph, TO:KY:OO, which captured Tokyo’s beauty at night, Wong widens his lens from the city that became his spiritual and photographic muse to Osaka to Kyoto, London to Seoul, Paris and Rome. But he goes still further, seeking the rich tapestries of night-life in the foggy historical streets of his hometown Edinburgh, penetrating the backstreets of the megacity Chongqing, seizing the verticality of Hong Kong from its rooftops.

In classic Liam Wong style, the book has been crafted with a meticulous eye for detail. I particularly like the cinematic feel of the shots and the custom typeface, designed by Toshi Omagari exclusively for the book. 

If you love photography or cinematography, you’ll love After Dark. A crowdfunding project was set up by Volume and met its goal within 48 hours. You can still pledge for a copy here.

A review of Emily Rapp Black's book, 'Frida Kahlo and My Left Leg'

Sophia Stewart reviewed Emily Rapp Black’s new book, ‘Frida Kahlo and My Left Leg’ for Hyperallergic:

The question that propels Emily Rapp Black’s Frida Kahlo and My Left Leg is simple and self-implicating: “Why do we (I) love Frida?” Throughout the book’s fourteen loosely-linked essays, Black lays claim to Kahlo for unique reason: like the painter became later in life, Black is an amputee, and both women’s lives were shaped by physical disability. In her youth, the author formed what she calls “the perfect imaginary friendship” with Kahlo. “I chose to try and understand the story of her body as a way of knowing or accessing mine,” Black writes, “as if the story of her life set out a path or trail that, no matter how difficult, I might follow.” Latching onto public figures like this is common among young disabled people, who are desperate to find other people in the world like us, to trace a possible road map for our own lives. Still Black admits the limits of an attachment to a woman who “lives only in the terrain of my imagination where I set all the terms of the story.”

But what about the rest of Kahlo’s legion of fans? Few, if any, other artists have become objects of such intense parasocial affection. Kahlo’s disembodied likeness adorns lipsticks, coasters, aprons, magnets, leggings, notebooks, keychains, backpacks, even Christmas ornaments. (Full disclosure: I have previously owned a Kahlo-emblazoned pencil case, t-shirt, pair of socks, and sticky-note pad; I still display her “Self-Portrait with Cropped Hair” in my bedroom.) Surely the outspoken communist would have abhorred the commercialization of her image and art. But what would she make of how her life has been interpreted, packaged, and flattened by her own admirers?

Hero worship is commonplace with the ever-evolving popularity of social media and the need to show the world and fellow fans that they love their fave and they’re better than yours. But with that adulation comes problematic behaviours, misguided quotes, and misunderstood ideologies. Frida Kahlo is no exception.

'Barbican Stories' details racism experienced by current and former employees at the Barbican

The Barbican holds a lot of sentimental value to me but after hearing of racial discrimination in the workplace, I don’t look quite as fondly at the Brutalist icon. Barbican Stories details accounts of racism by current and former employees and I first heard about it from their article for gal-dem:

As in many workplaces, 2020’s summer of protest – triggered by the murder of George Floyd – brought increased visibility to the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement which meant conversations about “diversity and inclusion” could no longer be tabled.

The Barbican’s response was bureaucratic at best, and gaslighting at worst. For me, it felt like BLM was a “comms issue” for the institution, it was not about change but image. Barbican Stories was a way to cut through this delusion, and hold a mirror up to the institution. It breaks systemic racism down into everyday occurrences to show the Barbican that it is not in a position to simply comment on racism, it needs to recognise itself as an organisation that is currently racist. 

The stories are plentiful; enough to warrant a second print run of the book “for distribution to public records and archives”. The Barbican’s response was standard—”We fully recognise the pain and hurt caused by these experiences“, so if they’re recognisable, why wasn’t anything done?—and it remains to be seen if anything will actually be done about the past, now, and in the future to ensure working environments are safe.

What if there was a '48 Laws of Power' for cats?

McSweeney’s, at their irreverent best, posted some excerpts from “The 48 Laws of Power for Cats”:

Law 3: Conceal Your Intentions

For humans, this simply means hiding your intentions from other humans, which they seem to do quite frequently. As a cat, you need to go further and conceal your intentions from all living things, including yourself. To truly master this Law, you must have no idea what you intend to do. You must be able to suddenly bolt out of a room at full speed for reasons that nobody, even you, can fathom. Let go of purpose and meaning. Embrace the chaos. Discernable intentions are for lesser creatures, like dogs and social media influencers.

Law 6: Create an Air of Mystery

For humans, this probably means stupid and petty stuff like using a pseudonym, starting rumors about yourself, or changing your style dramatically and abruptly. You, a cat, are already poorly understood by your human housemates, so you must be extreme to achieve real mystery. For example, every now and again, try staring into the empty upper corner of a room for hours. You will become an enigma, an unsolvable cipher. They will talk about this for years, always trying to determine why you did it. Only you will know the truth.

Cat literature-related: Pussy and Her Language – A Pamphlet For Cats

Zinesters of colour discuss the forgotten origins of their work

Christine Fernando spoke to a group of zine-makers of colour for USA Today.

Zines have long been a way for marginalized communities to share stories, spread information, build community and organize movements, several archivists and zine-makers said. Often, they offer historical records of communities that have been ignored in other publications. But many zine-makers (“zinesters”) of color say their communities have only recently received credit and gained visibility for their contributions.

One of the interviewed zinesters described her feelings of isolation at zine events:

Marya Errin Jones said she’s often one of the only Black women at some zine festivals and events. White people often skip her table because “they assume my zines are only for Black and brown people or are about a topic they weren’t interested in or don’t want to talk about,” she said.

She added: “It’s always isolating. Sometimes you wonder, ‘What am I doing here?’”

The last time I went to Nottingham Contemporary, I spent a lot of time in their zine section, reading through the various DIY magazines and diaries that people left behind. They were unique and uncensored views into their lives and the groups they were part of. I loved them (I even emailed someone to compliment their work and took photos to read later.) It’s imperative that zinesters of colour get the love, space, and recognition they deserve and don’t get pushed out by the sanitised homogeny of the mainstream.

Out now: 'Clarks in Jamaica' (revised second edition)

Jamaica loves Clarks shoes and Clarks in Jamaica by Al Fingers celebrates that with its second revised edition:

Clarks in Jamaica is a colourful, in-depth study into Clarks’ celebrated status in Jamaica, where for decades they have ruled as the “champion shoes”. Starting with the origins of the Clarks brand in 1825, the book goes on to detail the arrival of the brand in the West indies over one hundred years ago, the adoption of the Desert Boot as the rude boy and Rasta shoe of choice in the 1960s, and the filtering of this popularity into reggae and dancehall song lyrics.

Featuring current and historic photographs, interviews and never-before-seen archive material, this classic style reference explores how footwear made by a Quaker firm in the quiet English village of Street, Somerset became the “baddest” shoes in Jamaica and an essential part of the island’s culture.

Clarks in Jamaica is out now, available at Gardners (UK) and SCB (US) for £39.99 and $59.99, respectively.