Larry Clark and William Gedney: documentarians of the prehistory of the Trump era

A Larry Clark archive is at

A William Gedney archive is at

Forty years ago, the prophetic photographs were silent and still. We thought they were archaeologies of civilizations relegated to the archive. Now they pass among us in color and motion, telling us in their dead language what we have become and retweeting the corpus in the language of the undead. We are joining them in the archive.

To conceal short fingers, wear a cape (requires red-and-blue stereo viewer)

Every summer between 1894 and 1914, with the exception of 1906, Germany’s Kaiser Wilhelm II made a cruise to Norway on the imperial yacht Hohenzollern II. In this image from the collection of the Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe, Hamburg, cruise passengers on (probably) the German liner Viktoria Luise view the yacht in the setting of a Nordic mountainscape.

And here, with Hohenzollern in the background, the emperor approaches to receive Viktoria Luise’s salute and manifest himself before his people. Precious image of the nation that he is, he comes lavishly gift-wrapped.

His Majesty favored wrap-around capes partly because they were military and partly because he was self-conscious about letting people see his paralyzed left arm, which was about 15 cm shorter than his right arm.

As I write this post on June 13, 2017, some media controversy is being generated by a New York production of Julius Caesar featuring a Caesar accessorized, like the United States’ current President, with a too-big suit, a too-big tie, an elaborate blond wig, and a Slavic-accented Calpurnia. One problem with that à clef association, as reviewers have pointed out, is that Shakespeare’s Caesar actually was a great man. Another problem is that the military couturiers of early Imperial Rome practiced their art under the guidance of a Stoic sense that there is such a thing as too much.

But perhaps the styles and etiquettes of Wilhelmine Germany have something more historically precise to contribute to a twenty-first-century allegory of the Caesarian.

Source of the images:


Photoshopped and converted to anaglyphs.

Foucault in the seat of power

For years I couldn’t find this artifact because it turned out to have migrated to another stratum: my wife’s office. It has surfaced there now, however, so

to the memory of Michel Foucault, look, fill, and drink.

It was a present from an ex-student who was then working as a Senate aide: a young woman, Asian-American like many students at my university. And it came with an anecdote attached.

Every time my student was on the Senate floor, she told me, liberal cynosure Edward Kennedy would stop whatever he was doing, freeze, and stare.

Yes, Kennedy died many years ago, and he was alive then.

No, the Trump era is neither unique nor new.

Under the Trump administration, librarians will get the respect they deserve

Russian Revolutionary Era Propaganda Posters, Harold M. Fleming Papers, Manuscripts and Archives Division, New York Public Library, Artist: N. Pomansky. Published 1919. Photoshopped.

The headline reads, “Russian Socialist Federative Soviet Republic. Workers of the world, unite. Day of Soviet Propaganda.” The caption reads, “Knowledge for all!” The four books behind the librarian’s peasant-booted right heel are titled History of Bondage (or History of Serfdom), Socialism, Capital, and Class Conflict, and the book behind his left elbow is titled History. The names on the pediments of the buildings are University, Academy, and Library.

Administrative note: comment streams and the election of 2016

During the officially concluded but still continuing American election campaign of 2016, the kind of people who inhabit the mud at the bottom of comment streams began rising, amid bubbles of swamp gas, into the light. By way of mitigating pollution, I have closed the posts on this blog to further comments, effective December 28, 2016.

Historiographic note: the term “ever, ever, ever”

  1. From The Wall Street Journal, online:

KENANSVILLE, N.C. – Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump declared African Americans are worse off than “ever, ever, ever,” at a rally Tuesday in this town named after a slaveholder, three days after President Barack Obama said he “missed that whole civics lesson about slavery and Jim Crow.”

Speaking to a mostly white audience in this small town in eastern North Carolina, Mr. Trump made what is becoming a trademark overture to black voters. “We’re going to rebuild our inner cities, because our African-American communities are absolutely in the worse shape that they’ve ever been in before, ever, ever, ever,” he said.