March 26, 2019

No, You Don't Need to Have It All

“In the first act of Stephen Sondheim’s Sunday in the Park With George, a painter sings “Finishing the Hat,” a melancholic but sweepingly lovely confession that art will always come first. The impulse, for George, to paint—to finish the hat, the dog, the grass, the sky—even when it costs him love, is paramount. “When the woman that you wanted goes, you can say to yourself, Well, I give what I give,” he sings. “But the woman who won’t wait for you knows that however you live, there’s a part of you always standing by, mapping out the sky, finishing a hat … Look, I made a hat.”

Amy Sherman-Palladino, who knows a thing or two about hats, it must be said, borrowed from Sondheim to title a Season 2 episode of The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel. In “Look, She Made a Hat,” Midge (Rachel Brosnahan) is introduced to the late-1950s art scene in New York by her new boyfriend, Benjamin (Zachary Levi), a collector. The two of them attend a gallery opening, where Benjamin buys a large, highly prized painting, while Midge’s eye is drawn to a smaller work in a back room. Later, Benjamin takes Midge to a bar frequented by artists, where they encounter the reclusive genius Declan Howell (Rufus Sewell), who’s infamous for refusing to sell any of his paintings. Captivated by Midge, Declan invites her to his studio, where—when Benjamin ducks out to make a phone call—he shows her his masterpiece.

The scene is among the most interesting moments of Season 2. It’s uncharacteristically quiet, for one thing, and spare in detail, unlike the prodigal, picture-postcard detail of the rest of the show. Viewers don’t even get to look at Declan’s painting: The camera positions itself behind the canvas, so all we get to see is a backdrop of brown paper, and Midge’s face. “It’s the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen,” Midge tells Declan. People should get to see it, she argues. The artist explains that the painting was supposed to hang in his home, when he had a home and a wife. But he can never have that life now, because everything he ever had, he put into his work. “That’s the way it is, if you want to do something great,” he tells her. “If you want to take something as far as it’ll go, you can’t have everything. You lose family, a sense of home. But, then, look at what exists.””

Read more

JJ Editor's Daily Picks

"THE CAPTURE of the last territory controlled by the Islamic State on Saturday was far from a final victory over the movement, as U.S. commanders and diplomats were careful to emphasize."

"How a Gay Teen, an Internet Nazi, and a Late-Night Rendezvous Turned to Tragedy. When self-loathing meets the new age of online extremism."

"Benjamin Netanyahu ignored the intelligence operations of Beijing and Moscow for too long. Now, the Israeli government is finally paying attention, but it could be too late."

"Former Nick Jr. kids are now reckoning with this all-grown-up intrepid explorer, whose obstacles are a lot bigger than Swiper the Fox. And that is a hard pill to swallow."

"At the end of last week, the three-month Treasury bills' yield rose above the yield for 10-year Treasuries for the first time since 2007, prompting warnings that the U.S. is headed for recession later this year or in early 2020."

"A team of researchers from Ben-Gurion University of the Negev and Technion-Israel Institute of Technology attempted to answer some questions about voting with the help of artificial intelligence (AI)."

"The experts I spoke with all said that the internet had changed the way conspiracies spread, but conspiracies, both dangerous and petty, have always been with us."

"Pop culture today is obsessed with the battle between good and evil. Traditional folktales never were. What changed?"

"Trustful parents allow their children as much freedom as reasonably possible to make their own decisions. They trust their children’s instincts, judgments, and ability to learn from mistakes."

"Arugulagate. In 2007, Barack Obama was in Iowa, speaking as a presidential hopeful to a group of farmers who were worried about the stagnation of their crop prices while America’s grocery bills continued to rise."

"To say that information exists in and of itself is akin to speaking of spin without the top, of ripples without water, of a dance without the dancer, or of the Cheshire Cat’s grin without the cat."

"Ted Cruz replaces the Democrats’ muddled manifesto with a clear and unequivocal exploration of the hatred of Jews and its particular evils."