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Required Reading

‣ Artist Vivien Sansour founded the Palestine Heirloom Seed Library to preserve cultural and ecological heritage, especially crucial amid the Israeli military’s attacks on Gaza. Doug Bierend writes about the space and its genesis for Atmos:

Jars full of seeds line the room’s walls alongside a small library of instructional books. Many of these crop varieties arrived at the PHSL after elder Palestinians recalled to Sansour a dish or plant from their youth, initiating a search for their seeds. Local farmers can retrieve seeds to plant on their land, access to which is increasingly constrained and dangerous as settler violence intensifies. 

The PHSL doesn’t systematically track who takes the seeds or where they end up. Sansour sees in them the same urge for life and liberty that she does in people—an agency to “sprout wings” and go where the winds take them, to find root, and take on roles as good neighbors in new lands. “It really symbolizes the freedom we hope to achieve ourselves,” she said. “If we can’t fly, our seeds are flying, and they are the teachers, not us.”

The library largely exists, like many Palestinians, in a diaspora—a term drawn from the sowing of seeds. In California for instance, Palestinian-Venezuelan professor Riad Bahhur tends to seeds from the PHSL at his Sacramento home. Among them are long-necked gourds known as yaqteen, white cucumbers, and Battiri eggplants, which he grows with gardeners from the Sacramento-Bethlehem Sister City group. Bahhur befriended Sansour shortly before she launched the library. They bonded over a shared conviction that growing ancestral foods can keep Palestinians “connected to the land under the immense pressures of Israeli practices to break that connection.”

‣ How has Criterion’s archive quietly swayed cinematic tastes from the wings? Joshua Hunt reports for the New York Times:

Criterion’s staff was fewer than 50 employees, each with different interests and tastes, and they were soon forced to confront a question that film buffs argue about to this day: What makes a film worthy of inclusion in the Criterion Collection? In 1989, the company’s most controversial choice was “Ghostbusters,” a comedy starring Bill Murray that grossed more than $200 million at the box office. “It was important, but in a different way than the other films in the collection were — you know, the Bergman films and the Kurosawa films,” Holly told me. “It was an important film because a lot of people watched it.” Some of Holly’s colleagues nevertheless disagreed vehemently with the decision. “There was one producer, I won’t name his name, but he wrote this 10-page internal memo about why we should not do ‘Ghostbusters,’” he told me.

That was one of many attempts Criterion made to curb its stuffy image, among them “The Rock” and “Armageddon,” by Michael Bay. “Those are frequently cited as outliers in the collection,” a former Criterion producer, Issa Clubb, told me. And yet, he said, they serve as examples of what was once “a very important genre” of Hollywood blockbusters built around big budgets and big movie stars, which has been supplanted by franchise properties — a shift Bay played a prominent role in as the director of the first five films in the “Transformers” franchise.

‣ For Gothamist, Precious Fondren speaks with the costume designers working to make filming intimate scenes more comfortable for actors:

“There’s nothing worse than going to your actor and being like, ‘Alright, these are the garments that I tried to make for you,” said Smith, 35, in an interview at Shapiro’s Williamsburg apartment last month.

She said modesty garments “should be as standard as giving them a bra to wear for a scene.”

And yet there are no standards in the industry around what actors wear during sex scenes. Smith and Shapiro said that although wardrobe departments have always used some kind of covering for scenes, the pieces were often “Frankensteined” together.

At a time when the movie and television industry is increasingly recognizing the need for intimacy coordinators on sets, Smith and Shapiro want modesty garments to be written into actors’ contracts. And they want theirs to be go-to pieces.

‣ Ukrainian artist Mari Kinovych shares a comic on everyday life amid Russia’s ongoing attacks:

‣ Even Steinways are getting tech upgrades, writes Seth Mnookinarchive for the MIT Tech Review:

Elisha, who runs the education division of M. Steinert & Sons, the world’s oldest Steinway dealer, is an award-winning pianist and composer—but I wanted to hear how the piano handled a virtuoso like Lang Lang going to town on, say, “We Don’t Talk About Bruno,” Lin-Manuel Miranda’s hit from the Disney film Encanto.

No problem: Elisha called up a video of Lang performing in New York’s Steinway Hall on a nearby wide-screen TV. Once he hit Play on the video, whatever Lang played was perfectly reproduced on the piano in front of me. When Lang’s right hand flew up the keyboard to produce the opening flourish in the “Bruno” video, the keys on the piano in the room where I stood were depressed with precisely the same velocity for precisely the same amount of time.

This was, I realized, the first time I had ever heard a truly lossless recording. Acoustically, I was getting the equivalent of a private concert from one of the most famous pianists alive, courtesy of Steinway’s Spirio. It’s a thoroughly modern take on the player piano—a device, popular in the early 20th century, that used rolls of paper with holes punched in them to play specific tunes, no pianist required.

‣ In McSweeny’s, Emily Delaney delivers a message from a “short afternoon walk” to us readers, the people who put too much pressure on it to solve all our problems:

When this little routine first started, I thought it was the greatest thing in the world. I was an escape. I was an adventure. I was beloved. But somewhere along the way, I became your everything.

Now, I’m both your leisure activity and your only form of exercise. I’m the last thing tethering you to reality, yet your only way of escaping it. I’m the singular effort you make to maintain your sanity and your sole means of experiencing joy, hope, and happiness. It feels as if I’m your lover, friend, and therapist all wrapped into one, and, frankly, it’s making me uncomfortable.

‣ Didn’t need more fuel for my sugar cravings but here we are:

‣ Some public transportation shenanigans to brighten up your week:

‣ Speaking of shenanigans

‣ Rare c. 1498 footage unearthed:

‣ The glorious Oompa-Loompa Manet you didn’t know you needed (thank you, Wonka immersive debacle):

Required Reading is published every Thursday afternoon, and it is comprised of a short list of art-related links to long-form articles, videos, blog posts, or photo essays worth a second look.

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