"Neither highbrows nor lowbrows nor midbrows, but elastic-brows.” — George Orwell
László Moholy-Nagylmn

A practical­minded brand of utopian modernism…

Categories: HiLo Heroes | 3 Comments
holliday 500holliday thumb

A brilliant, principled actress typecast as a ditz or naïf.

Categories: HiLo Heroes, Jazz, Music | 2 Comments

“I use all my skills to make situations as chaotic as possible.”


Andre Bazin wrote “he directs facts” — but did he?

Categories: HiLo Heroes | 1 Comment

“I decided to face reality by writing lyrics.”

Categories: HiLo Heroes, Movies | 3 Comments
ErnstLubitschlubitsch thumb

He preferred thieves and roués to bosses, bureaucrats, and burghers.


His bulk and blokeishness made him the perfect frontman for Madness.


His pursuit of formal balance hardly numbed him to racial concerns.

Categories: HiLo Heroes | Add a Comment

For Beckett, joking — like farting — is a futile but necessary stay against death and time.

Categories: HiLo Heroes | Add a Comment

His stylistic mastery renders all encomia to his “voice” ridiculous.

Categories: HiLo Heroes | 5 Comments

G.P.’s writing is both ludic and lucid, and anything but inhuman.

Categories: HiLo Heroes | Add a Comment

Vs. the psych­olo­gizing and soft-soap liberal­ism of “white ele­phant art”

Categories: HiLo Heroes | 1 Comment

Given his much-imper­son­ated rasp and gift for Menckenesque quips (“Horse sense is the thing a horse has that keeps it from betting on people”), it’s surprising to find W. C. FIELDS (1879-1946) telling Photoplay, as of 1925, “I prefer pantomime over dialogue. The laughs can come quicker.” While the former Claude Dukenfield might still be […]


Recalling SUSAN SONTAG (1933-2004) as “a leading public intellectual” — a category she did not invent, but perhaps perfected — is no substitute for rereading the early, electrifying essays collected in Against Interpretation and Styles of Radical Will. Open but never credulous, her approach to high- and low-cultural innovations marked a sea change from the […]

Categories: HiLo Heroes | Add a Comment

Interviews with TODD HAYNES (born 1961) are well-stocked with the film-studies and queer-theory jargon the filmmaker absorbed at Brown and Bard, and several of his movies have the air of academic exercises, at least on paper: the anorexic decline of Karen Carpenter, told entirely with Barbie dolls (Superstar, his career-launching, copyright-flouting 1987 short); an oblique, […]

Categories: HiLo Heroes | Add a Comment

Even if Brooklyn-born JEAN­MICHEL BASQUIAT (1960-88) had never taken brush (or spraycan) to canvas (or wall, or door panel, or helmet), he would merit a berth in New York cultural history for producing K-Rob and Rammelzee’s “Beat Bop,” a 1983 12-inch that brought together the city’s No Wave and hip-hop undergrounds. But paint he did, […]

Categories: HiLo Heroes, Music, Punk | 1 Comment

What musician has been more unfairly burdened with expectations set by his early work than TOM VERLAINE (Thomas Miller, born 1949)? His band Television’s 1977 debut Marquee Moon — especially Verlaine’s solo flight on its ten-minute title track — cemented the boarding-school runaway’s place as the CBGB scene’s reigning guitar wizard. Television broke up before […]

Categories: HiLo Heroes | 1 Comment

“St. Louis Blues” may be “the jazzman’s Hamlet,” as one critic has it, but its author, W.C. HANDY (1873-1955) might be compared more fairly to Aeschylus than to Shakespeare. Just as the Greek’s works served to codify the conventions of tragic drama, the very genera “blues” derives from Handy’s early compositions, as do its characteristic […]


The last man standing of Sun Records’ early roster has been known to set himself among even loftier company. “Al Jolson, Jimmie Rodgers, Hank Williams, and JERRY LEE LEWIS [born 1935]…. That’s your only four fuckin’ stylists that ever lived.” A typically outsized boast, but there’s something to it. His monomaniacal singing and gliss-happy church-meets-cathouse […]


Like Bea Arthur, Pearl Bailey, and Redd Foxx, the televisual omnipresence of JULIUS “NIPSEY” RUSSELL (1918?-2005) belied his status as a veteran of less sanitized showbiz pursuits. He tap-danced his way out of his native Atlanta, acted with a Chicago stock company, and by the early ’50s was a popular emcee at Harlem’s Café Society-styled […]

Categories: HiLo Heroes, Theory | 1 Comment

He began his critical career as a Welsh signalman’s son drawn to English literary tradition, and ended it as a Cambridge don extolling the vitality of rural and working-class life. In between, RAYMOND WILLIAMS (1921-88) wrote copiously, for academic and popular audiences, on topics from Orwell and Ibsen to advertising (which he called “the magic […]


Over his fecund scientific career, ERWIN SCHRÖDINGER (1887-1961) placed quantum wave mechanics on a firm mathematical basis, contributed to the theory of color measurement and perception, and, in the 1944 lecture “What Is Life?”, anticipated the molecular basis of genetic coding. Still, it’s that damned cat-in-a-box Gedankexperiment, proposed in 1930s correspondence with Einstein, that has […]


Kurt Weill settled into a successful Broadway career after escaping Nazi Germany, but the American soujourn of Brecht’s other major Weimar-era musical collaborator did not end so fortunately. HANNS EISLER (1898-1962) set his Schoenberg-trained hand to scoring high-quality (but hardly radical) fare by such fellow emigres as Fritz Lang (Hangmen Also Die) and Douglas Sirk […]

Categories: HiLo Heroes, Jazz, Music | 1 Comment

For much of the 1940s, LENA HORNE (born 1917), Hollywood’s “sepia Cinderella,” was relegated to one or two set-piece numbers per film. Opulent, glamorous, and static, her turns in Two Girls and a Sailor and As Thousands Cheer bespeak segregation in action, but even these were risky at a time when so much as an […]