Came across this article in the NYT about "art genome mapping." The idea is to create a massive data base of art through the ages which supposedly can analyze your artistic inclinations and direct you to works of art you may enjoy. Amazon has done this for years with books and Netflix does it with films and Pandora with music. Most internet sites selling things do the same to an extent. For some reason, I feel that the algorithm for predicting taste in visual art may be harder to crack than music and literature. We rarely can say what exactly catches our eye in a painting - the color, the composition, the subject matter, the light, the shadow, the reputation of the artist and sometimes even whether one comes across it in a tasteful museum setting or a roadside flea market. We can to a fair degree of accuracy say for ourselves or about others the *style* of artwork that could have an aesthetic appeal for a particular viewer but not a specific painting. I suppose the Art.sy project will be useful in putting a person in a particular artsy 'box' of sorts but I will wait to see how often its You may also like... recommendation hits the mark with art browsers.
I have written a fair number of times here what I think about formulaic thinking about visual aesthetics. Here is an old post which may be relevant to Art.sy's analytic scope.
I love the Williams sisters, Venus and Serena, - loved them from the moment they arrived on the scene and shook up our notion of how women's tennis is played ... and much more. Ever since they made their debut on the Grand Slam circuit, I have heard it said, in different grudging ways, that the sisters are ungracious, un-sportsmanlike, arrogant and amazingly enough, too good and too strong for other players to beat! I rarely saw any evidence of the the first three characteristics while the last two were on display again and again. So what is it (or is not) about Venus and Serena that it took so long for sports fans to cheer for them and their extraordinary playing skills, even their fellow Americans? After all, Americans love winners.
All the while that I was watching Serena play and win yesterday's US Open final, I was telling my husband that these two superb athletes have been asked repeatedly to "behave" just so that their presence in the upper class white milieu of professional tennis can become acceptable to an audience who took notorious tennis nasties like John McEnroe and Jimmy Connors in their stride with a shrug and awe. While no one will admit it, the Williams sisters faced the same racial barriers to their mainstreaming as did Jackie Robinson, Joe Louis and Tiger Woods in the sports arena and as does Barack Obama in the realm of politics - discomfort with a physically and socially alien person, no matter how good they may be at what they do. Implicit biases are hard to overcome even when excellence is undeniable. This article by Brian Phillps in Grantland examines the Williams Sisters (Serena in particular) phenomenon and the tennis public's discomfort with their larger than life presence on the courts. Excerpted in the article is Tony Hoagland's The Change, a controversial poem that minces few words.
"I liked Venus better. Not that you had to pick one, in a John vs. Paul sort of way. The real question, back when they first appeared on the semi-serious tennis fan's radar screen in the mid- to late '90s, was whether you liked them, period — whether you thought "the Williams sisters," that strange collective being, were something worth rooting for. They were going to overthrow women's tennis; that was clear from the very beginning. They were too big, too powerful, too fast, and too fierce for everyone else. The entire established order of the Hingis-Davenport era was under threat from the moment they arrived. After the 17-year-old Venus reached the final of the U.S. Open on her first try in 1997, the old guard subtly reconfigured itself, became a concerted, doomed effort to stop them from breaking through. It's hard, now that they've been so dominant for so long, to remember the kind of low-grade panic they caused, so let's put it this way: The day before Venus and Serena arrived, the game was a fully functioning system complete with plots and subplots and rivalries. The day after Venus and Serena arrived, all that seemed about as relevant as political squabbles in Constantinople right after the Turks showed up.
And they were controversial. I mean, John Rocker was "controversial"; the Williams sisters were divisive in ways that almost defy analysis. Simply by virtue of being black, confident, from Compton, and physically on a different plane from their competitors, they raised a swarm of issues — about race, class, gender, who was inside, who was outside, what we were supposed to identify with in sports — that society, much less the WTA Tour, barely had the vocabulary to address. Tennis, in its unimportant way, had long since become one of those numb zones in which everyone more or less means well but also tacitly agrees that certain things are nicer not to discuss. Semi-serious tennis fans, as a class, were whiter, richer, and better educated than society overall.2 After the Williams sisters appeared, it was no longer possible for these fans to stay pleasantly unconscious of the fact that their chosen sport trended almost ludicrously white and upper-class, and that most of them, without being in any way self-identifyingly racist, were actually pretty OK with that. A lot of white tennis fans, in other words, suddenly felt besieged by an enemy they hadn't even known they were against."
Promoting a film and a family member here. I haven't seen the movie and don't know whether I will be able to unless it is released on DVD. It is being shown in the Indy film circuit in India, Canada and the US. My interest in it is that my niece, my sister's daughter, Saba Joshi plays the female lead Saroj. Saba is not a career actress. After some modeling and a bit of acting, she finished a master's degree in international reltions in Geneva where she is currently working for a non-profit labor organization.
This is a short post to share a surprising discovery today while reading a Bengali essay by a Belgian Catholic priest (he may be French - I am not wholly certain but definitely a French speaker who reads and writes fluent Bengali; things are getting mixed up already).
Haven't played a game of cards for a long time except the solitary ones on the computer. It used to be a favorite pastime during the long hot summer vacations. We used the Bengali, Hindi/Urdu and English names for the suits of cards depending on the game and the company. At home, where my mother was very often a participant, we almost always used Benglai. I had always wondered about the Bengali card names because unlike their counterparts in English and Hindi / Urdu, they do not mean anything. Now I know why. They are distortions of foreign words. Three of the four names of the suits of playing cards in Bengali derive from Dutch! Ruhiton, Haroton and Ishkapon (diamonds, hearts and spades respectively) in Bengali correspond to Ruiten, Harten and Schoppen in Dutch. The exception is the suit of clubs which is Chiraton in Bengali and Klaveren in Dutch for clover. Chiraton is related to the Hindi / Urdu name, Chiri meaning bird. It seems that Bengalis learnt to play the western (French origin) 52 card game from sailors of the Dutch East India Company.
Prior to that card games with 96 card decks were popular in India. The cards were called Ganjifa (or Ganjipha) and they had been imported to India by the Persians employed by the Mughal courts. Ganjifa cards had some similarity with the French system in assigning value to each card but were otherwise distinct. Gradually they assumed regional flavor in different parts of India, often supplanting Persian iconography with Hindu religious mythology, such as the ten Avatars of the god Vishnu and other folklore. The production of the handmade Ganjifa cards became an art form. From the distinct Persian form of the Mughal court in the north, different versions of the card game became popular in Maharashtra and Gujarat in western India and Bengal and Orissa in the east, giving rise in the process to new artistic renditions and games with local rules.
(Mughal Ganjifa deck) (Ganjifa cards depicting Hindu gods)
(The title of my post refers to a popular Bengali dance drama written and composed by Rabindranath Tagore. Perhaps Sujatha can provide some good links to the music. Thanks to my sister Mandira for educating me on the history of Ganjifa.)
In other news, Queen Elizabeth II became a Bond girl, Mr.Bean played ostinato in his inimitable style with the London Symphony Orchestra, Danny Boyle presented a fantastic spectacle of the transformation of Bucolic to Belligerent Industrial Britain, and highlighted the NHS that every Brit loves to complain about, but no one wants to lose.
Too bad, there are no official online replays of the whole Olympics opening ceremony to be found, it would have been nice to have a BBC version to compare against the dreadful and inane commentary of Bob Costas, Matt Lauer and Meredith Viera that US viewers were forced to endure, and pointless ad breaks.
(For those who missed it, here at least is a playful liveblog play-by-play of the event, with additional Brit-wit to delight the reader. I missed the bucolic baaing of the sheep, and started to watch only as the smokestacks went up.)
My cousin, Louis Defilippi, is a biochemist and lives in Chicago. When he is not tinkering with peptide chains he is the resident geneologist for the Costa family. On his Facebook page, Louis dedicated this Fathers Day to our great, great, great, great, great, great, great, great, great, great grandfather Honofrio La Mantia, born in Sicily around 1566, and named after the Greek Egyptian saint, "Onuphrius or Onoufrios (Greek: Ὀνούφριος, from Egyptian: Wnn-nfr meaning "he-who-is-continuingly-good")."
Louis included a link to an icon art piece of Saint Onoufrios (I prefer the Greek.) The Saint was revered in the Roman Catholic Church, and Eastern Othodox, Oriental Orthodox, and Eastern Catholic Churches. The icon depicts Onoufrios as he was known to live his life, as a revered desert hermit. His life is interesting and curious in the way most stories about 4th century desert hermits are interesting and curious to us who are removed by many centuries.
I found the icon, itself, fascinating. The resolution of the art work is sufficient to examine and enjoy the detailed work of the artist. The provenance and date of the icon are unknown. You can see it in full resolution HERE. It shows an old hermit dressed only in his long hair and a loincloth made of leaves. I did say he was a desert hermit. You can see an angel bringing him the Eucharist, the sacramental bread that becomes the Body of Christ.
A couple of things fascinate me about the painting, starting with color. I love the gold that is both deep and bright. Light shines with a white-out on his beard. The reds have a deep blood feel to them. The green of trees and loincloth leaves are like the German Schwarzwald. Most interesting, though, is the strange depiction of the body form. That is what brings me to the Grand Odalisque of Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres (1814.) The oil on canvas is in the Louvre, in Paris.
I am in Fort Worth for a couple of days. I took this picture of downtown Fort Worth reflected on the glass facade of a building. I was wondering why I took the photo this morning from the balcony of my hotel room directly across the street while enjoying a cup of coffee. I normally don't take photos unless I am officially in a "tourist" mode. It could well be that reflections and city structures were on my mind subconsciously because I am currently in the middle of a crime thriller set in Los Angeles and Hong Kong in which the location of a crime scene is deciphered through an accidental flash on a video that catches the images of surrounding buildings as reflected on a window pane. The police work backwords, or rather flip it from left to right to figure out where the place is.
After seeing the photo on my Facebook page a blogger friend sent me the link to one of his essays on 3 Quarks Daily.
On July 7, 2005, one day after Londoners received word that the city would host the 2012 Olympics, terrorist bombs tore through the public transit system, killing 56 people. To prevent a repeat attack and protect the roughly 25,000 athletes, family members, coaches, and officials attending (along with roughly 700,000 spectators), spending on security has topped $1.6 billion. Sydney's pre-9/11 Olympic security in 2000 cost only $179.6 million.
Some privacy advocates have questioned the efficacy of such huge outlays of taxpayer cash. James Baker, the campaign manager for the privacy organization No2ID, points out that in May, a concerned workman at The Sun tabloid was able to smuggle a fake bomb into the Olympic Park in spite of spite of iris and hand scanners at the site. Baker also wonders if authorities will be able to use the web of surveillance technologies quickly enough to be effective -- he points out that in 2009, several of the more than 10,000 license plate scanners around the country detected the car of Peter Chapman 16 different times -- he was wanted for arson, theft, and violation of his status as a sex offender. But police were inundated with hits from the system and did not follow up. Two days later, he raped and murdered a teen he met via Facebook.
More from our own Andrew Rosenblum in CNN Money magazine.
A Fishy analysis of The Hunger Games (yes, I know, that is So Last Month, but please bear with the professor, he is not quite upto speed with the 'passé'ness of some memes) ) vs. my own market-colored (and timelier, of course) take on the books.
"A century-old collection of photographs of India has been discovered in the RCAHMS archive.
The rare and fragile glass plate negatives, which date back to around 1912, show life on the subcontinent at the high point of the British Raj.
The 178 negatives were found in a shoebox for a pair of grey, size 9, Peter Lord slip-on shoes, and were stored in their original five-by-eight-inch plate boxes, wrapped in copies of TheStatesman newspaper dating from 1914. Founded in 1875, TheStatesman is one of India’s largest circulation English language newspapers, and is still published today."
Does the latest music album sound more than perfect to your ears, as it dribbles or blasts out of the earbuds of your music player? Not a note out of place, no little rough edges that would make you squirm?
There's a reason for that in this world of hyperdigitization. Auto-tuning is the trick. Steve Guttenberg of Cnet.com muses on whether technology is robbing music of its soul.
Today, for example, Auto-Tuned vocals are so ubiquitous that my friend, mastering engineer Dave McNair, exclaimed, "The only way to know for sure a vocal hasn't been Auto-Tuned, is an out of tune vocal." So once a new technology is available, the engineers can't resist using it. This isn't so much about analog versus digital recording formats. No, it's the way recordings are made. Too many are assembled out of bits and pieces of sound to create technically perfect, but soulless music. It's not that great music can't be made with computers, but it's sure less likely to get my mojo workin'.
I love the ability of some of the new software to manipulate vocals, having toyed with Audacity myself. I record myself singing, wince over how it sounds, raise the pitch by one step or two, sit back and listen to myself singing as I would have sounded when I was in my twenties, with all the technique honed by the added years, yet more of the sweetness that is lost to age and countless infections thickening the vocal cords.
But using Auto-tune to change that which is unmusical into a tune, while not new, has been taken to new heights, in this 'music video' consisting of auto-tuned utterances of well-known scientists.
When a performance has been digitally pieced together off several imperfect takes,or slight off-pitches corrected, what does it do to the experience of the listener? We often listen without realizing the amount of correction and can only sigh at our inability to replicate the perfect renditions, a feeling of audio envy, much like the photoshopped perfect models on magazine covers who trigger look envy.
Even live performances aren't immune to this kind of doctoring, with stars resorting to lip-syncing to their own recorded vocals, just because of the physical impossibility of dancing vigorously while belting out high notes.
I came across this video of a Kathak dancer who actually sings and dances, admittedly one of the slower types of dances. No lip-syncing here, you can hear her breath grow slightly heavier after fancy footwork in places. So what if it isn't perfect, the genuineness of the experience more than makes up for the occasional off-pitch note.
That's the reason why even crackling, terrible old recordings of long lost gurus are capable of moving me to tears. even with the imperfections, speeded up audio, flubbed lyrics or more. The quest for digitized perfection leaves an older generation of listeners in the cold, while the newer generations get used to a degree of improbable perfection that will never be matched by the pleasures of a live performance.
Instrument maker Keith Hill responded to Elatia's query related to Prasad's recent post on violin sounds. It failed to appear in the comments section (TypePad!). I am publishing Hill's opinion as an independent post.
This is the third time I have read about this interesting experiment, from three different sources.
The first thing I would say is that I have yet to encounter a great antique violin that has not been tampered with by repairmen over the last two centuries. Each instance of tampering degrades the quality of the sound. What we hear in the great old instruments is probably 75 - 80% of what they should sound like had their sound not been too degraded. So it is not so amazing that violinists may select a new violin.
I have noticed since the publication of my discovery (back in the 1980s) of Area Tuning in the old violins that a few of the best makers today are using that discovery. And when they have used it, they have figured out how to make it work...some perhaps even more successfully than I have. Still there was a great deal known by the 17th and 18th century violin makers about the art -- and it is an art (to contradict Mr. Hunt) -- of enhancing sound that we have yet to discover.
What makes the violin so challenging to puzzle out is its incredible complexity. To date, I have uncovered 22 distinct tuning systems in a violin and more than 113 acoustical adjustments to get a violin to exhibit the 34 criteria I have learned of from the great old violins. And that doesn't even include anything relating to the preparation and varnishing.
But my work has nothing to do with the modern science of acoustics, as practiced by many modern makers, because it is ear-oriented not eye-oriented. When I hear the sounds of the great antique violins what I hear is sounds that stir my soul because they sound like human voices. In art, the aspect of paradox is essential -- otherwise our senses are quickly sated. When I hear the work of modern makers, what I usually hear is loud violins that sound like loud violins (no paradox), having little sculptability (flexibility) and sounding tepid from the point of view of carrying power (intensity)
“Loud” doesn't necessarily have carrying power. I have made intense sounding clavichords that can fill a large concert hall--and a sound that is difficult to mold and sculpt isn't worth very much except to a mere technician. Intensity of sound and flexibility of sound are cardinal traits of an acoustically enhanced sound and must be tested for at a significant distance. At a distance of 100-300 feet the sound of most modern violins falls off and gets lost when accompanied by an orchestra. Whereas in this same test, the sound of the great antique violins blossoms, almost doubling in volume the further you are from the violin, and their exquisite timbre cuts through the sound of an entire orchestra to be heard distinctly over all the other competing sounds. These qualities are what the greatest musicians value most, according to my understanding. And these are what the violins made in Italy from 1600 to 1790 (give or take a few years) excel in.
Ease of playing was another trait the violinists in this experiment mentioned. However, it is my view that violins that are not acoustically enhanced for intensity and flexibility are easy to play because they are not subject to the distortion resistance effect that makes the sound difficult to start without whistling, an effect that Stradivari's violins are known for. The real trick is making a violin that is both flexible and intense to be, as well, easy to play -- so that the music flows out of the instrument, instantly following the will of the player. This assumes that the player is a true artist and has a will backed by real musical understanding.
If you enjoy a good debunking, this one's a doozy. A scientist and contemporary violin maker conducted blind comparisons, getting professional violinists to try and choose among three old Cremonese violins, including two by Stradivari, (total value 10M) and three high-end modern violins (total value 100k). They used a clever blinding protocol:
With modified welders’ masks on their faces, to restrict vision, and a dab of scent under the violins’ chin rests, to mask tell-tale odors, the participants got to play compare six violins, including two by Stradivari and one by Guarneri. In an initial test, they quickly compared 10 pairs of violins — nine distinct new-vs.-old pairings and one repeat pair. They got to play each instrument for one minute, without visiting the first instrument played, in a room with neutral acoustics. In a second test, they were allowed to compare and contrast the six instruments in a more natural way, playing them all however they wished, for 20 minutes.
The results are unsurprising to any decent cynic:
In the head-to-head tests, the players preferred new and old instruments at equal rates, except in one case: One violin by Stradivari, crafted in roughly 1700, was clearly preferred less often than the others. “It seems that under these test conditions, only a conspicuously least-preferred violin differentiates itself,” the authors write. (What’s more, when the violinists compared the same two instruments twice, they made the same choice only 52% of the time.)
In the more leisurely comparison, the same Stradivari model was again voted as worse than the other violins (new or old); four instruments received statistically indistinguishable ratings. This time, however, a distinctly preferred model arose — and it happened to be a new violin.
The story has been received enthusiastically on science and technology sites, and the analogy to high-end wine has been drawn more than once. I don't think that's quite right though. This isn't really like the claim that wine snobs can't really tell plonk from Chateau whatsisface - the new violins themselves cost tens of thousands of dollars each. Indeed, even in this group of six superb violins, there appears to be some degree of agreement at least on the best or worst instruments. Nor is the psychology really related to the rubbish about finding notes of badger and ear-wax in a single-malt; This is about love, not bull-shit. Great musicians fall in love with great instruments they've played with.
But we do need to expand our sense of what a great instrument (and instrument-maker) is. It's remarkable that craftsmen hundreds of years ago could make instruments that can (almost) hold their own against our labs and years of accumulated practice. But clearly there are superb violin-makers today, and the very best might even be better than the Great ones. It seems like a shame for them to not be well-known, and positively wrong to impose upon them the burden of predetermined, unwinnable comparisons with the long-dead. And it's long past time for the audiophile-type magic-fiddle stuff to die.
Please excuse the lack of postings of late. Who knows when one of us will find the time to write something worth your attention. In the meantime, please amuse yourself with this little art project. A very happy New Year to everyone.
Last night, Sunday, I spent an evening with friends. I convinced myself that I provide an indispensable service by encouraging the cook and her dinner-in-progress. "What are you chopping up? Is that parsnip? It tastes like celery. Oh! It's celery root. That explains it. Terrific!" Toward the end of dinner, before dessert, I seconded her motion that adding capers and black oil cured olives would be even better, next time.
Of course, Roberta doesn't need my culinary advice and cheering, but sitting on a kitchen stool in the proximity of gastronomic events is an opportunity to paint a picture of my life events since the last time we gabbed and ate. Sergio was finishing his laundry so he could garb himself, confidently, for work the next morning. Sitting amid these very domestic of chores I announced that I wanted to tell them about my recent encounters with poetry.
Poetry is a big deal for me. It is only in recent years that I have been able to read and enjoy good poetry. Roberta writes poetry, herself, and can reach to her book shelf and pull out a poem that is apropos to any topic of discussion. I was telling her and Sergio about my earlier posting on Accidental Blogger, "To Hint of Religion, Or Not to Hint of Religion." HERE. In the comments, Dean Rowan mentioned Wallace Stevens' poem, "Sunday Morning," and we exchanged a few thoughts about it.
I found the poem so alluring that I couldn't get myself away from it. Each time I read it, I enjoyed it that much more, but seemed to understand it less and less. Perhaps I should rephrase. I was less and less certain of what Stevens was trying to do, to say, to get across. I think it is a religious poem, a Christian one at that, but he seems unsure about what he believes. No matter. I still enjoyed reading it.
With Sergio's and Roberta's agreement and attention, I read the first two of eight stanzas, intending to go no further. Upon completion of my quarter way around the track, Sergio said, "Wow! That's very Pagan." "Yes," agreed Roberta, "it's a very Pagan poem." I was surprised and asked as to what made it Pagan. They said it was rife with nature symbols from beginning to end - of the first two stanzas. [You should know that they are both Pagans, and among an entire coven whom I count as friends.] "Would you like me to read the rest it?" I asked. "YES! Go on. But slower, this time."
And so I did. Now the poem is even more curious, intriguing, and mysterious. I enjoy it even more. Maybe you will, too.
The Warburg Method teaches us that devotional art is not only not always beautiful, but rarely beautiful -- because it is deeply coded and the untutored eye doesn't always get it. Is not intended to get it. This is true across civilizations, not just true in the Western painting tradition.
As the blogger knows, his stock represents about 400 years of devotional painting, in the Byzantine as well as Western traditions. This is interesting not because it makes his blog title inaccurate but because it's a crash course in how observation-based painting changes things, and in how it doesn't.
Does it matter if the painter is going for naturalism? This is something no Byzantine painter ever heard of doing. A Virgin enthroned on a huge wall 30 feet up from where the viewer stands is not meant to look like a sweet British mom wondering at the miracle of her rosy child. The heavy dark lines describing the faces are meant to suggest modeling and somberness from a great distance, in candlelight. The wall painter of any era knows -- the image must read. If you look at what the painter has done up close, in a book or in a photo blog, you miss that point and see only a coarse, hirsute appearance, one that seems inexplicable and uglified. The somberness and linear quality of Byzantine images is present in hand held icons too, but these are more delicately painted. What you will never see is a Byzantine genre scene -- painting was for depicting holiness. To be holy is to be set apart, and to look it. If you notice, the Buddha is never represented as a conventionally handsome South Asian man -- other stuff is going on in those representations, as it is in the way Byzantine painters represented holy men, women and babies.
There are eras in painting where you would find only Madonna and Child images that speak of what an agonizing fate it is, to be the Son of God, and how grave and sorrowful His mother must be. There are other eras wherein the cult of the Holy Infant took a different turn, the art focusing on the deep joys of Christianity, on the life the Christian is given that is as new and as disburdened as an infant's life. Virgin and child are emblematic of perfect trust, even in the presence of great foreboding. If, as a painter, you mean The Awful never to be very far away, you will have your ways of demonstrating that. Christ is not "a guy like you," and the most strangely powerful images of Christ are intended to show the viewer the aspect of Christ that he can empathize with -- the Christ who is set apart, and bears about himself even in infancy the traces of an unendurable but splendidly meaningful life. What woman can be sadder than the Madonna, yet more convinced of her unique significance? Should she not occasionally look the part? A huge if not often explicated purpose of devotional art is to give courage to the devotee; images of extreme conventionality may fail in this aim.
Well, I am NOT an authority, only a lifelong student and reader, with a (very) distant degree in Art History. But! The observation of children _as_ children, not as trainee adults who need to be fit to enter the labor force ASAP, is a moder...n phenomenon, in art and in literature. With that shift in focus comes all kinds of romanticizing: the savage, the angel, the superb victim, the young hero, and so on, with many of these categories overlapping or morphing into one another. Restricting myself to art, I want to point out that observation based painting and drawing is modern, as in Renaissance and Post-Ren., the Greeks and Romans being another subject. It was against Church and other laws to learn anatomy via dissection, and even Michelangelo risked much when he learned anatomy from corpses, so this left the art of the Middle Ages, and Byzantine art, as well as the art of the Early Renaissance, at a certain powerful disadvantage, IF good art is supposed to look like what you see with your eyes, not your inner eye. An important part of learning about art, of having the full experience of art, is to allow your own inner eye to magnify what is deep and true in many forms of expression, over many stylistic conventions. I am not the world's biggest fan of Byzantine holy images, for instance, but not liking them on the grounds of their being stylized, static, and a failure at resembling human beings is like thinking Haiku might be better if it were longer. And, yes! In any era, if an artist needed to take a wife away from her labors to "sit in" for a missing Madonna, or to borrow a toddler for John the Baptist or an infant for Christ, you may be sure it was over very quickly!
(Elatia tried to write the above as a comment on my last post on this subject. But for some reason even after several attempts by her as well as me, TypePad failed to publish it. She conjectured that our blog wouldn't accept " such a blatant appeal for treasuring religious images" :-)
Believe it or not there is a blog devoted entirely to this unusual subject. The comments accompanying the images may be on the juvenile side but the paintings are real.
More than a decade ago, my sister and I suffered from paroxysms of hysterical laughter in front of a Biblical painting containing an incongruously mature looking Baby Jesus in Mary's lap. The infant reminded us of an adult of our acquaintance. Our faces red and tears running down our cheeks by the efforts to suppress the hilarity we attracted the attention of a museum guard nearby who looked askance at our unseemly behavior. We evaded eviction by quickly moving on to another gallery.
There may be a cultural / religious explanation for why indeed some of the babies in Madonna paintings were so homely. I do not know and neither does the blogger as is clear from the following comment on page 3.
chicagonorth asked: it's inaccurate to call this "ugly Renaissance babies," because most of the images are from Byzantine/Medieval/Proto-Renaissance periods...
This is very true! Though, in our defense, a blog called “Ugly Byzantine/Medieval/Proto-Renaissance Babies” doesn’t really have the same ring to it.
Regardless of the specifics, I think we can all agree that ugly babies are both timeless and hilarious.
Perhaps someone with knowledge of this artistic phenomenon will leave an explanation in the comments section. (link via Anna Levine)
Time Travel News Network (TTNN): Thursday, November 24, 2011, 0200 hours EST
'Pepper Spray Cop' of UC Davis goes back in time to make things right (Norman Costa)
Scientists are hailing the 'first of its kind' opportunity to go back in time and undo a terrible mistake. Lt. John Pike, now known as the infamous 'Pepper Spray Cop of U.C. Davis,' went back in time to change the way he handled the breakup of a peaceful student protest. It was not something he planned on, but, a freak accident gave him the opportunity for a do-over, and be the first human to travel back in time.
Immediately after Pike was suspended, he fled to Europe to avoid the press and aggressive process servers. Quickly, he got a job as a security guard at a scientific research lab in Switzerland. The accident happened on Wednesday, November 23, 2011 at 1650 hours, GMT. He walked into an area where neutrino research was underway. Officer Pike thought he was going into a utility room for HVAC. He walked directly in front of a massively energized neutrino beam and vanished from sight.
Two days ago Lt. John Pike gave a press conference to explained what happened today. He said he was dazed for a short time before realizing he had traveled back in time to about 3 days before the pepper straying incident at UC Davis. He went to an airport, immediately, to fly back to Davis. After a complication regarding his frequent flier miles – he hadn't yet flown from California to Switzerland so his mileage had not been recorded – he was issued a ticket and flew home.
We at TTNN received a video tape, three days ago, of Pike's 're-do' of handling the protest. We were stunned when we saw it, and we concluded it was a some kind of hoax and threw it out, but not before transcribing the audio. With the benefit of hindsight – actually time travel – we changed our minds and will now read the transcript of the audio portion.
May I have your attention. I am Lt. John Pike, Supervising Officer of the Security Police at UC Davis. My officers and I are a legitimate law enforcement and peace keeping force under the Constitution of the State of California. We have the same powers of arrest, enforcement, and investigation that other police units have in California.
We respect and will protect your rights to protest and assembly. However, some of you are blocking a passage that is usually used for pedestrian traffic for members of the university and others. You can continue your peaceful demonstration 15 yards in that direction, and avoid blocking other people who are exercising their rights to come and go on this campus.
My superior in the University Administration directed me to clear the pedestrian traffic areas blocked by this demonstration. I am empowered to give you a lawful order to move out of the pedestrian traffic flow. Before I have to do that, I am asking you to move, of your own accord, 15 yards to your right. If you do not, then I have the legal authority to order you to disperse. If you do not obey a lawful order from the police, you are subject to physical removal by my officers, and being arrested.
I am now giving you a lawful order, for the third time, to disperse and clear the pedestrian traffic area. In a moment I will give my officers the order to clear you from the area. Before I do that, I want to tell you how it is going to work. First, there will be no use of tear gas, pepper spray, billy clubs or truncheons. You have not been violent, so there is no need for us to use that kind of force. The officers will separate you, one at a time, handcuff you, and take you to a staging area over there. You will be photographed, and then issued an appearance summons. That means you must appear before a judge and explain yourself. After a period of time you will be released from your handcuffs and you will be free to go.
If you do not release your arm locks with each other, my officers will have to use physical force to separate you. We do not wish to cause you harm, and I do not want any harm to come to my officers. However, my officers will have to pry your arms and fingers loose. We will not use any more force than is necessary. When my officers approach you they will tap you on the shoulder. That is your command to release your hold, stand up, and go with the officer to the staging area. If you do not respond to this command then the officers will pry you loose and take you forcefully.
If you struggle against my officers, or you attempt to use any force on them, they will subdue you on the spot, put you to the ground, cuff you, and you will be arrested and brought to jail. We do not want to do this. We appreciate that you have been peaceful in your protest. This is your last chance to remove yourself from the pedestrian traffic area.
Officers, clear the protesters from this area and take them into custody as planned.
So there you have it – two of the strangest confrontations of police and protesters in history, and in history. There was another complication in this matter, one that pleased the many arrested protesters. Yesterday was the first day of the scheduled hearings before a judge. The court was thrown into disarray and confusion for most of the session. The one-time protesters presented their appearance tickets, but there was nothing on the docket, and there were no records of the summonses being issued. A number of UC Davis police officers were called into court to verify the arrests. The surprised officers could not recall making any arrests on the day in question. This went on for several more days until all 87 arrested protesters presented themselves in court. The judge sent everyone home.
NYC Mayor Bloomberg Clears Out Wall Street Executives (Norman Costa)
Future News Network (FNN), December 5, 2011, 6:35 pm EST:
New York City Mayor, Michael R. Bloomberg, defended his decision to clear out the top executives of the finance, banking, insurance, and investment companies who have a presence in the Wall Street area of lower Manhattan.
At a press conference that ended only moments ago, Mayor Bloomberg justified the raids on corporate offices that began this morning at 10:00 am, EST.
Over 600 middle and upper level executives were expelled from their offices, with approximately 387 being arrested for a variety of charges including disorderly conduct, refusal to comply with a lawful order, and assaulting a police officer.
Twelve police officers and as many as 32 executives were taken to local hospitals for injuries related to the police operation, and at least one police officer is in serious condition after being struck in the face with an executive's Stueben Glass award statue that was on her desk.
One week ago Bloomberg released a statement apologizing for ordering the expulsion of peaceful OWS demonstrators from Zuccotti Park in lower Manhattan in the early morning hours of November 15, 2011.
He said he had, "...and epiphanial moment, and personal spiritual awakening, after realizing that the demonstrators were the real victims, and that the perpetrators of suffering and loss for the entire country were unscrupulous, immoral, and greedy corporate executives."
The Mayor went on to say that, "...corporate America, as a whole, contributes greatly to our society and economy, but these leeches want all the blood they can get their hands on, even if they don't need it."
When questioned about the legality of ordering the raids on executive offices, Bloomberg said he was taking a moral stand against the kind of greed that inflicts suffering on so many people.
Mayor Bloomberg refused to comment about learning, two weeks ago, that four of his grand nieces and nephews were ruined by the financial collapse, and that one had committed suicide, leaving a widow and three orphans.
This would have been unthinkable a few weeks ago but Penn State University saw no way out other than to clean house, a house that had been made into a citadel of national repute and a cash cow by some of the same people who have been given the axe. Penn's head football coach Joe Paterno, one of the two people let go this evening by the university is a decent and likable man by all accounts. But focused stubbornly on the tree of football, he failed to see the unruly forest in the real world outside the athletic arena. He had knowledge of a crime committed by a grotesquely opportunist predator who was a valuable associate whereas his helpless victims were inconsequential to the business of college football. Coach Paterno decided to look the other way. I feel no great joy in seeing an eighty four year old man's hard work and successful career come to an inglorious end full of shame. But this is the fitting outcome when in the mistaken judgment of a powerful football fraternity and an administration in its awe, the bottom line, booster clubs and NCAA rules trumped the law of the land.
Since my arrival in the US I have always lived in "football country." So I know a little about football as religion. But as they say, when you live by the sword, you are most likely to die by one. The recent scandal surrounding Penn State's fabled football program is being treated in the media as a shocking development. I wonder why. When athletic programs in colleges and universities are treated with more reverence than academics (purportedly the primary reason why universities exist), it leads to hubris, closely guarded cliques, misplaced priorities and occasionally, criminal negligence. Many like me, are not surprised.
(I am linking to Maureen Dowd after ages. I believe a woman's voice here is apt and she doesn't mince her words.)
.... So I’ve got to wonder how the 84-year-old coach feels when he thinks about all the children who look up to him; innocent, football-crazy boys like the one he was told about in March 2002, a child then Anthony’s age who was sexually assaulted in a shower in the football building by Jerry Sandusky, Paterno’s former defensive guru, according to charges leveled by the Pennsylvania attorney general.
Paterno was told about it the day after it happened by Mike McQueary, a graduate assistant coach who testified that he went into the locker room one Friday night and heard rhythmic slapping noises. He looked into the showers and saw a naked boy about 10 years old “with his hands up against the wall, being subjected to anal intercourse by a naked Sandusky,” according to the grand jury report.
It would appear to be the rare case of a pedophile caught in the act, and you’d think a graduate student would know enough to stop the rape and call the police. But McQueary, who was 28 years old at the time, was a serf in the powerfully paternal Paternoland. According to the report, he called his dad, went home and then the next day went to the coach’s house to tell him.
“I don’t even have words to talk about the betrayal that I feel,” the mother of one of Sandusky’s alleged victims told The Harrisburg Patriot-News, adding about McQueary: “He ran and called his daddy?”
Paterno, who has cast himself for 46 years as a moral compass teaching his “kids” values, testified that he did not call the police at the time either. The family man who had faced difficult moments at Brown University as a poor Italian with a Brooklyn accent must have decided that his reputation was more important than justice.