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How Nathanael West’s Classic Satire ‘A Cool Million’ Warned of a Donald Trump Presidency

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As the Civil War was ending, a Massachusetts author by the name of Horatio Alger was making a name for himself with a series of books about young boys who by the will of their efforts and work ethic were able to pull themselves up by their bootstraps into the middle class. Ragged Dick, the most popular of these tales, …

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“Just Off Route 66” presentation focuses on WPA

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One of the good things that came out of a very hard time, the Great Depression, was art: the making of more than 80,000 paintings, photos, murals, posters, sculp­tures and crafts. Many of them were cre­ated because the artists and craftspeople were supported through the federal Works Progress Administration. Smaller than the WPA’s public works projects, the art project eventually …

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Working-class voyeur

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Photographer Walker Evans confessed to being a “penitent spy and an apologetic voyeur”. But he wasn’t a pervert or a paparazzo. His photographs appeared in the most glamorous magazines of the 20th century, including Harper’s Bazaar, Vanity Fair and Vogue. Yet he never shot a celebrity. Asked why, Evans replied: “It’s an impure thing to do – too easy … …

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Iconic WPA Posters Are Becoming Gorgeous Postage Stamps

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Next year’s commemorative stamps will feature a retrospective on the Works Progress Administration, better known as the WPA. Created by the Franklin D. Roosevelt Administration in 1935 as a way to create jobs for a populace still recovering from the Great Depression, the WPA at its peak employed more than 3 million workers. WPA workers spanned a wide variety of …

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Taschen’s New Deal Photography goes well beyond familiar Depression-era image

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If you purchase a copy of New Deal Photography: USA 1935-1943 by Peter Walther hoping to find iconic Farm Security Administration images, such as the migrant mother by Dorothea Lange or the father and his two sons running in a dust storm by Arthur Rothstein, you will not be disappointed. With almost 400 photographs filling its 608 pages, including numerous …

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James Franco, Lola Sultan talk Steinbeck’s ‘In Dubious Battle’

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The guy will just not stop. James Franco continues to defy any definition of rational workload. The actor-director-writer-artist-producer-teacher has an ambitious new project making the film festival rounds. In Dubious Battle, adapted from one of John Steinbeck’s earlier and lesser known novels (published in 1936), tells the story of a fruit-workers’ strike in California. “I always liked Steinbeck.”, says James …

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Walker Evan’s look at the Lehigh Valley in the Depression era

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A cross-shaped gravestone sits atop a hillside cemetery. At the bottom of the hill, rowhomes, telephone polls and smokestacks from a steel mill clutter the area. The gravestone is in St. Michael’s Cemetery. The homes are part of a neighborhood in South Bethlehem. Those smokestacks belong to Bethlehem Steel. The year is 1935. The photographer who captured the image is Walker …

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NY Times: 20 places to travel in your 20s

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New York Times: There’s no better way to change your perception of the world — and maybe yourself — than travel. You’ll experience different cultures, meet new friends and make lifelong memories. But traveling in your 20s poses challenges: You might have financial constraints, limited time off from work and concerns about safety. So think of this selection of 20 …

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Revisiting Agee’s “Let Us Now Praise Famous Men” as an Act of Social Change

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Let Us Now Praise Famous Men by James Agee is a book perhaps best read aloud. At the least, it’s a book the reader is advised to approach with respect, like being quiet as a thunderstorm approaches. The vivid power of this strange classic made this landmark piece of social documentary one of the most influential books of the twentieth …

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Dorothea Lange and the Making of “Migrant Mother”

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Recently, a community in Nipomo, CA came together to celebrate the 80th anniversary of Dorothea Lange’s now-iconic photograph known as Migrant Mother. In the 1930s, Lange was a photographer working for the Farm Securities Administration (FSA), one of the governmental agencies President Franklin Roosevelt helped to establish in order to address the country’s large-scale unemployment. Lange and her colleagues were charged …

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Talking Jane Jacobs and Urban Planning with Citizen Jane director

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Don’t call “Citizen Jane: Battle for the City” a biopic. Matt Tyrnauer’s fleetly paced but exhaustive documentary, having its world premiere at the Hot Docs Cinema today, isn’t concerned with the life of the journalist, self-trained urban planner, and long-time Toronto resident so much as the life of the key idea she brought into the world: that cities like New …