This feeling of unsettling intimacy was familiar from every Sam Gold production I’ve seen — from his downtown tragicomedy “The Flick,” to his Tony-winning Broadway musical “Fun Home,” to his wrenching “Othello,” which played this winter at the New York Theater Workshop. At 38, Gold is one of the most celebrated theater directors in New York, a master at gently stripping both audience and actors of their expectations and creating a sense of collective interdependence. He does this by dispensing with theatrical conventions — showy sets and costumes, a clear separation between stage and audience, acting that titillates or entertains — so that the focus stays fixed on the bodies of the actors and their words. “I’m not very interested in pretend,” Gold told me. “I’m interested in putting people onstage. I want people. And I want a world that reflects the real world.” His pared-down worlds are, paradoxically, inviting: They corral everyone in the theater toward maximum receptivity. Once you learn the rules and submit to them, it’s as if you’ve been initiated into a family.
For fifty years the philosopher Daniel Dennett has been engaged in a grand project of disenchantment of the human world, using science to free us from what he deems illusions—illusions that are difficult to dislodge because they are so natural. In From Bacteria to Bach and Back, his eighteenth book (thirteenth as sole author), Dennett presents a valuable and typically lucid synthesis of his worldview. Though it is supported by reams of scientific data, he acknowledges that much of what he says is conjectural rather than proven, either empirically or philosophically.
Not long ago an editor asked me for one of those end-of-the-year pieces predicting “the kale of 2017.” That I knew exactly what she was talking about is less a comment on my clairvoyance than on the current ubiquity of food trends — those “hot” ingredients and photogenic dishes that populate our Instagram feeds and drive editorial calendars. Yet the notion of a breakout food isn’t new. And just as our infatuation with kale salads was born of phenomena like the farm-to-table movement and the elevation of the chef to social arbiter, the culinary fads and innovations of previous eras reflected their own concerns and conflicts.
In the years that I was sucking at life, I learned how to garden. For someone with an obsessive personality, a garden is a godsend. There is no end to the amount you can care about a garden. No limit to the work you can pour into plants and dirt. As an added bonus, humans have been writing about gardens and plants for as long as they’ve been writing about anything. The literature is boundless and colorful, both historical and contemporary. And the names! For every plant, there is a Latin botanical name and at least one common or whimsical name: foxglove, botanical name Digitalis. Solomon’s Seal, Polygonatum. And every plant has subspecies and cultivars—Digitalis grandiflora, Digitalis lutea, Digitalis purpurea—words upon words one can stuff into a stressed-out brain and feel incrementally calm, like being surrounded by clever and useful friends who arrive well-dressed, bearing fun recipes.
Nowadays, when we see giant creatures stomping across our screens, it goes without saying that there’s some nifty computer graphics behind the action. And that’s certainly the case in Jordan Vogt-Roberts’ Kong: Skull Island, which features incredible visual effects from Industrial Light & Magic.
You can track the history of visual effects through the 80+ years of King Kong movies; creating the massive ape has often pushed the limits of VFX and been the inspiration for new techniques and technologies.