Lindsey A. Freeman: The Uncanny Bohemia in Black Mountain

When the Black Mountain School began last summer, many folks were skeptical of this new school growing up in the ghostly space of the old. The site had what Michel de Certeau calls “an uncanniness of the already there,” a feeling of the past that is so familiar in a space that it overpowers the present, making unknown places feel known. Ragan and Void have since changed the name of their experiment in education to School of the Alternative. Even with the name switch, the inspiration of the original BMC shines through. A pedagogical sensibility clearly exists between the old avant-garde school and the new one. This can be seen in classes such as: Lose Your Mind and Come to Your Senses, which promises instruction in Fluxus methodologies, mindfulness, and chance operations; Giant Loom Weaving, which is just what it sounds like and takes place outdoors; and Tablows Vivant, which, according to the course description, is “a series of posed scenes to communicate a story or idea. In between each scene is a mini dance party. At night, with dramatic lighting! With some bodies involved.” Continue Reading Lindsey A. Freeman: The Uncanny Bohemia in Black Mountain

Brian L. Tochterman: Birth of a Vigilante

As I argue in The Dying City this was a fantasy universe with critical consequences for the real world. Normalizing the vigilante was one key contingency of Spillane’s bestselling writing. Hammer was by no means the first, he’s preceded in time and succeeded in fame by Batman among others, but he did demonstrate that the vigilante no longer had to hide behind a mask or escape into a cave. He could operate in public, carry a private detective’s shield and a licensed gun and kill suspected criminals because “I like to shoot those dirty bastards.” In my book I connect Hammer with his filmic counterparts in 1970s New York, in particular Paul Kersey (Charles Bronson) of Death Wish, and their unfortunate 1980s analogues like Bernard Goetz, the so-called subway vigilante, or the teenage terrorists of Howard Beach, Queens. Continue Reading Brian L. Tochterman: Birth of a Vigilante

Brian L. Tochterman: A Telling Inscription

In New York City’s larger bookstores, like the Strand (“home to 18 miles of books”) near Union Square, there’s always a table devoted to the eight million stories from the naked city’s past. It’s where you go to grab a copy of Robert Caro’s The Power Broker, Joseph Mitchell’s Up in the Old Hotel, Jane Jacobs’ Death and Life of Great American Cities, Colson Whitehead’s The Colossus of New York, Luc Sante’s Low Life, or Weegee’s The Naked City. And there’s always a stack of E. B. White’s Here is New York, typically the 1999 edition featuring a young White on the cover and an introduction by his stepson Roger Angell. The slim book with a little over sixty pages offers a tiny window onto New York City in the summer 1948, but its observations, gleaned from White’s active participation in city life, seem to endure among transients and recent arrivals. Continue Reading Brian L. Tochterman: A Telling Inscription

Nicole Eustace: Borders, Culture, and Nationhood in Early-Nineteenth-Century America     

As the United States leaders of 2017 contemplate dividing families and decimating workforces with new rules strictly limiting travel and immigration, they might do well to contemplate the human costs and historical errors inherent in such attempts. If American inhabitants were “warring for America” in the era of 1812, the struggle itself has never truly ceased. Continue Reading Nicole Eustace: Borders, Culture, and Nationhood in Early-Nineteenth-Century America