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Posts tagged ‘United States’

Clay vs Liston: how a new horizon was opened

Fifty years ago, Cassius Clay “shook up the world” by winning the heavyweight title – and embracing the Nation of Islam

by Mike Marqusee

On the night of February 25, 1964, the 22 year old Cassius Clay defeated the supposedly undefeatable Sonny Liston to become the Heavyweight Champion of the World. It was an upset of historic proportions – Liston had been an eight-to-one favourite – and a shock to the sports-writing fraternity, which had written off Clay as a self-publicising loudmouth.

But the result in the ring was to prove only a prelude to a series of greater shocks. Read more

“On the Waterfront”: doubts and reflections

After watching ‘On the Waterfront’ this afternoon for the first time in ages, I was struck by the film’s mix of strengths and weaknesses, but most of all, I have to say, by the severity of the latter.

Brando’s subtle, supple embodiment of the protagonist is legendary for good reasons, and the surrounding performances justify Kazan’s reputation as an “actor’s director”. There are some wonderful, inventive moments: when Brando tells Eva Marie Saint he’s responsible for her brother’s death, his words drowned out by a thunderous factory horn; the airy and intimate roof top scenes; and the famous back seat dialogue between Brando and Rod Steiger. I also like the combination of the black-and-white palette with the Hoboken locations.

Overall, it’s watchable and dramatic, but also at times melodramatic, and in the end far too preachy and dubiously moralistic. Read more

Cricket in the USA: watching and being watched

In the strangest and most distressing cricket story of the summer, it appears that New York police have compiled lists of the city’s cricket grounds, along with cafes and restaurants where people gather to watch international cricket on TV, in order to facilitate surveillance of the Muslim population. Read more

Atreverse a fracasar, atreverse a ganar

“Dare to fail, dare to win”

Spanish translation (for Rebelion) of Red Pepper column on “Success, failure…”

En la lucha por el cambio social, el éxito y el fracaso son a veces difíciles de determinar. Sólo si aceptamos que podemos fracasar asumiremos los riesgos que podrían conducir a un mundo mejor. Traducido para Rebelión por Christine Lewis Carroll. Read more

“The greatest nation on earth”? Obama’s victory speech viewed from overseas

Level Playing Field, The Hindu, 17 November

I woke early on Wednesday morning to check the results. First, I was relieved. Romney had failed, and more importantly the bigots and obscurantists who backed him had failed. Then I watched Obama’s victory speech, and what I felt was something other than relief.

The speech was dubbed “magnificent” on the Guardian’s front page by Jonathan Freedland, who hailed it, as did others, as a return to the bold, inspirational style of 2008 and a harbinger of a more ambitious second term.

I understand why people in the US clutch at straws, but I wonder how many times Freedland and other liberal commentators will clutch at this particular straw before they realise that it is in fact only a straw?

What struck me about Obama’s “soaring rhetoric” was just how rhetorical it was, and especially how heavily it leaned on the rhetoric of American exceptionalism. Read more

Olympic icons

Contending for the Living
Red Pepper, June-July 2012

In a world where the words ‘iconic’ and ‘icon’ have been cheapened by gross overuse, it’s salutary to recall their original meanings. In a religious context, an icon is a representation that is more than a representation, an image that contains a power beyond itself. It’s not merely familiar or typical (or self-referential). It’s not a triumph of image over reality; it’s a deeper connection between image and reality, in which the former draws power from the latter.

That’s what makes the image of Tommie Smith and John Carlos on the podium at the 1968 Mexico City Olympics that rare thing: a genuine icon. But its iconic power can only be reactivated, and the image saved from the banality of contemporary “iconography”, if we delve into the moment and its meaning, its background and aftermath. Read more