November 23, 2014

"Right now, in a place you've never visited, a person you'll never know is dying."

"If he's dying in a particularly devastating way — and, more importantly, if he is leaving behind shareable content — it is possible that millions of strangers will mourn his or her death tomorrow. Why?... Grief porn is... voyeuristic, addictive, and compulsively attractive. It grabs at a desire to indulge when indulgence is otherwise unavailable. It promises a brief, satisfying release. And, like regular pornography, the internet has transformed it. Freed from the already relaxed constraints of tabloid journalism, grief porn is no longer obligated to fake newsworthiness or importance...."

From "This Kid Just Died [VIDEO]: Grief Porn Enters the Facebook Era." Via Metafilter, where somebody said: "Even having read the article, I can't imagine how someone would see 'A Father Sings To His Dying Newborn Son After His Wife Dies Following Childbirth' and think 'I wanna click that!'"

Obama will walk your dog.

Even if you don't have a dog.

He will walk your metaphorical dog. He'll do whatever it is you need done.

"I told John Boehner, you know, I'll wash your car. I'll walk your dog, whatever you need to do."

Feel free to make that the first line of a comic monologue, Obama's Offer.

Mondrian kept an artificial flower, painted white, in his studio to express the feeling of "the lack of a woman in his daily life."

According to the card stuck to the wall in a London museum next to a 1926 photograph by André Kertész, which you can see here. The white paint — we were told by some curator — was "to banish entirely any recollection of the green he found so intolerable."

I copied those words down in my notebook in 2002 — the last time I was in London — along with a sort of diagram of the composition of the photograph:

Drawing from a photo of Mondrian's studio

That scan comes from a notebook I found, a notebook that — back in 2013 — I had talked about losing:
I have a notebook of drawings/writings done at a big Paul Klee show, done in London in about 2003, just before starting this blog. I'd like to copy the pages and blog it. I was analyzing/riffing on the... ideas that he used.

Wonder where I put that.
Back then, betamax3000 had said: "NOW you are teasing me. I want that post." Okay, I will get around to that. I have 9 pages of notes, which, if I remember correctly from 12 years ago, were intended to be the code-broken instructions for how to draw/paint like Paul Klee. But for now, you'll have to consider the womanlessness of Piet Mondrian.

Expressed by Yves Saint Laurent:

Not happy about the banal wisdom of Pinterest.

"Here you go, Internet: more examples of Bad Advice I Read on Pinterest — from the questionable to the facepalm-worthy."

Many more at the link. I chose those 2 because they worked on me... in spite of my defenses!

"The ballerina rose gracefully en pointe and extended one slender leg behind her, like a dog at a fire hydrant."

From the Wikipedia article "Bathos."

"In her 1970 book The Female Eunuch, Germaine Greer dreamt of creating a communal collective of well-heeled young mothers..."

"... at a farmhouse in Italy 'where our children would be born. Their fathers and other people would also visit as often as they could... The house and garden would be worked by a local family...'. Charming. In an issue of Shrew magazine in 1973, a contributor asked 'Are Fathers Really Necessary?' and concluded 'they are more trouble than they are worth and likely to abuse children sexually.' That sort of contempt towards men and marginalisation of fathers rings down the decades of the last half century and it finds non-stop expression and repetition everywhere you look in our mainstream culture – from children’s stories and TV soap operas to mass market advertising, newspaper columns, Woman’s Hour and the rest."

From a UK Telegraph article headed "Is Gillian Wearing's family sculpture offensive to fathers?/A sculpture depicting a 'real Birmingham family' has caused controversy due to its absence of men. Why are fathers increasingly marginalised in mainstream culture, asks Neil Lyndon." I ran across that searching for the Germaine Greer quote about female artists that's paraphrased in an article blogged in the previous post.

Why interpret a sculpture of 2 women (one pregnant) with 2 children as an expression of hostility toward fathers? The sculpture only seems to say this, too, is a family. It promotes inclusion of gay people, not the exclusion of men. To see an exclusion-of-men message is, ironically, similar to an argument I have heard from gay-rights proponents: The pervasive images of heterosexual couples in our culture send a message of marginalization toward gay people, telling them that they are less-than-ideal or outsiders.

"What struck me about the Georgia O'Keeffe sale was not the high price paid for the work."

"Nor was it the discrepancy between what the market will pay for art made by men and what it will pay for art made by women... Is it ingrained sexism, or, as Germaine Greer told me in her opinion, historically work by female artists has generally not been as good as that produced by their male counterparts? No, what caught my eye was the institution selling the painting, which was The Georgia O'Keeffe Museum. Doesn't that strike you as odd? A museum selling an artwork by the artist it was founded to represent? I can't imagine it happening in this country.... The Americans take a more strategic approach when it comes to buying and selling work in and out of institutional collections. They generally have a policy of 'trading up,' whereby lesser works are sold to raise the necessary money to buy better examples from an artist's oeuvre."

Writes BBC Arts Editor Will Gompertz, opining on the sale of a painting of "the simple white blossom of a weed" for $44.4 million, which is the most ever paid at auction for the work of a female artist. So... presumably, this painting — would it kill you to give the title?* — is a lesser O'Keeffe. Actually, Gompertz assumes otherwise — it's "considered to be of the highest quality" — as he questions the sale by the O'Keeffe Museum.

But one could reason the other way: The Museum's off-loading of the weed pic is evidence of its opinion that it is not her best work. Or perhaps: It's like other paintings in the collection — a closeup of a flower — and not the one they like best. I see 9 other flower pics at that link that could easily be considered superior to the painting the BBC assumed was "of the highest quality" but couldn't bring itself to name. It's "Jimson Weed/White Flower No 1," by the way.

Jimson weed — AKA Devil's snare, datura, hell's bells, devil’s trumpet, devil’s weed, tolguacha, Jamestown weed, stinkweed, locoweed, pricklyburr, and devil’s cucumber — is "a powerful hallucinogen and delirian... used spiritually for the intense visions it produces... fatally toxic in only slightly higher amounts than the medicinal dosage." That's some kind of metaphor for Georgia O'Keeffe. Take the right dose.

Now, let's get back to Germaine Greer. I love how Gompertz got out the opinion that female artists have just not been that good by slapping the name Germaine Greer on it. Women are so useful when it comes to insulting women. I didn't say it. Germaine said it.

* ADDED: The 7th paragraph of the article does — at least now — have the title of the painting. That's after referring to it as 1. "Georgia O'Keeffe painting," 3. "the simple white blossom of a weed,"  3. "A floral painting," and 4. "O'Keeffe's work." The separate section by Gompertz does not use the title of the painting.

Author asks the Green Bay Packers to stop selling his book on Vince Lombardi... because it has a foreword written by Bill Cosby.

"A quick reply came from Gabrielle Dow, the team's vice president of marketing and fan engagement. The books were pulled, she said."
"In this ever increasing environment of awareness in which the National Football League is taking a strenuous stance against domestic abuse and sexual assault, removal of the book in all forms would be an appropriate course of action, in my opinion," [Royce] Boyles wrote.
This might seem like a bold and selfless move by the author, censoring his own book, but the book, "Lombardi's Left Side," had co-authors — former players Herb Adderley and Dave Robinson — and Royce didn't ask them if they wanted the book withdrawn.
"I know their names are on the jacket, too, but so is mine," he told me. "I don't think you take a vote on integrity. If integrity is for sale at $26.95 a copy, I don't want to know about it."
The foreword was "written" by recording what Cosby said off the top of his head immediately upon being asked over the phone if he'd write a foreword: "Cosby said, 'Just turn on your tape recorder.'" Cosby had been childhood friends with Herb Adderley:
The rambling foreword talks about their days in school and athletics. 
Which is probably why Cosby agreed to do it. He had ready material.
He doesn't get around to Vince Lombardi until the very end.
So maybe Adderley should have been consulted. Royce has other books about Lombardi, by the way. 
"I can write another book," Boyles said. "But when they drop the lid on my coffin, I just hope that maybe somebody would say, 'He had a sliver of integrity anyway.'"
Here's the cover, note the size of the names on that list of authors:

Herb Adderley — who's in the Pro Football Hall of Fame and the Green Bay Packers Hall of Fame — is 75 years old and played from 1961 to 1972.

ADDED: You can read the whole foreword by clicking on "Look Inside" at the Amazon page for the book. The book is about Adderley and Robinson. That's why it's called "Lombardi's Left Side." Adderley was the left cornerback, and Robinson was the left linebacker. I'm reading a little of the book, right after the foreword: "Two great black men shut down the left side of the football field and opened up the right side of our minds." That strongly suggests that Boyles is the sole author.

November 22, 2014

At the Constraints of November Café...


... this tablescape expresses the smallness of my perspective over the past week.

ADDED: Go Badgers.

FBI sting leads to the arrest of 2 men "described as reputed members of a militant group called the New Black Panther Party" suspected of buying explosives...

... which they were said to be planning to use in the protests that are expected to follow the announcement of the grand jury's decision in Ferguson, Missouri. 

"A two-year investigation by the Republican-controlled House Intelligence Committee has found that the CIA and the military acted properly..."

"... in responding to the 2012 attack on a U.S. diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya, and asserted no wrongdoing by Obama administration appointees."
Debunking a series of persistent allegations hinting at dark conspiracies, the investigation of the politically charged incident determined that there was no intelligence failure, no delay in sending a CIA rescue team, no missed opportunity for a military rescue, and no evidence the CIA was covertly shipping arms from Libya to Syria.


8 posts before dawn.

It's one of those mornings! And, strangely enough, I got plenty of sleep last night. If "last" is the right word. The night is just ending.

IN THE COMMENTS: David invites us to commemorate the JFK assassination, and I reject the invitation.

What's wrong with this picture?

"If you’re not British, Labour politician Emily Thornberry’s resignation for posting a tweet of a house, some flags and a van may seem baffling. Here’s why it happened."

"Almost every time I’ve talked to a reporter has gone this way: they had already decided the narrative beforehand."

"I’m never being asked for information — I’m being used for quotes to back up their predetermined story, regardless of whether it’s true. (Consider this when you read the news.) Misquotes usually aren’t mistakes — they’re edited, consciously or not, to say what the reporter needs them to say."

Writes Marco Ament, with a vivid example of a NYT reporter working on a story about hipsters moving to Hastings on Hudson. The story became "Creating Hipsturbia." And Ament says: "The article, which was mostly bullshit, is slowly making itself more true. And our town is doing very well from it."

The town made the news ≈ the news made the town.

Hazing and hunting on the Supreme Court.

"They hazed me, this is true," Elena Kagan said. They made her head of cafeteria committee:
"It's not a very good cafeteria, so this is really just the opportunity they have to kind of haze you all the time. Like, 'Argh, you know, Elena, this food isn't very good.' "
And it's her job, as the Justice with the least seniority to take note and open the door when someone knocks:
"I take notes as the Junior Justice … and answer the door when there's a knock. Literally, if there's a knock on the door and I don't hear it, there will not be a single other person who will move. They'll all just stare at me. You might ask, Who comes to the door? Well, it's knock, knock, 'Justice X forgot his glasses.' And knock, knock, 'Justice Y forgot her coffee.' There I am hopping up and down. That's a form of hazing, right?"
Kagan also describes going hunting with Justice Scalia several times a year:
"I do like it... I'm a competitive person. You know, you put a gun in my hand and say the object is to shoot something, I'm like, 'All right! Let's do it!'"

There's some evidence that birth control pills mute a woman's natural urge toward a man who is "objectively good-looking... by evolutionary standards."

They took 2 sets of women who were on birth control pills when they chose their male partners. Group 1 had objectively good-looking men, and Group 2 had objectively not-so-good-looking men. They stopped the birth control pills, and supposedly the women in Group 2 became less attracted to the men, but the women in Group 1 did not.

If this is true... then what? My thoughts flowed in this order:

1. So this is the real force behind the push for birth control — to serve the interests of unattractive men.

2. Do these men realize the stake they have in getting and keeping women on the pill or are they bellyaching that women are getting a benefit and men are not?

3. Should women want to take the pill so they can enlarge the group of potential sexual partners or should they want to stay off the pill so their natural urges remain intact?

4. Attractiveness in the evolutionary sense is a bit irrelevant under the conditions of the modern world, so it might be personally advantageous to strip this distraction away from the process of mate-selection.

5. It's horrible to use pills to change something so fundamental to one's being, and yet people take all sorts of pills that restructure their mind.

6. Natural hormones restructure your mind over time. Would my thoughts have flowed out in this order if I were 40 or 30 or 20? 

How Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush talked about illegal immigration in April 1980.

Via Reason, this is from the debate before the Texas primary, answering a question from an audience member about whether "the children of illegal aliens should be allowed to attend Texas public schools free":

Transcript at the link. I was struck — perhaps because I'm also in the middle of reading "41: A Portrait of My Father" — by Bush's spontaneous and a bit awkward expression of empathy:
... we're creating a whole society of really honorable, decent, family-loving people that are in violation of the law.... If they're living here, I don't want to see...six- and eight-year-old kids being made, one, totally uneducated, and made to feel like they're living outside the law.... These are good people, strong people. Part of my family is Mexican.
This education issue doesn't come up anymore, because —2 years after that debate — the Supreme Court determined that it violated Equal Protection to exclude these children from school. Reagan's contribution ignores the school question and stresses the need for work permits:
Rather than talking about putting up a fence, why don't we work out some recognition of our mutual problems? Make it possible for them to come here legally with a work permit, and then, while they're working and earning here, they'd pay taxes here. And when they want to go back, they can go back. They can cross. Open the borders both ways.

"To the extent that large-scale use of prosecutorial discretion is ever appropriate, it is surely so..."

"... in the case of helping people whose only violation of the law is fleeing poverty and oppression under terrible Third World governments. Few other offenders have such a compelling moral justification for breaking the law. I strongly support the legalization of marijuana and the abolition of the War on Drugs more generally. But illegal immigrants violating the law to escape Third World conditions are considerably more deserving of our compassion than college students violating it to experiment with marijuana or other illegal drugs. If exemption from prosecution is acceptable for the latter, it should be permitted for the former too."

Writes Ilya Somin in "Obama, immigration, and the rule of law."

"Do you not see that so long as society says a woman is incompetent to be a lawyer, minister, or doctor, but has ample ability to be a teacher, that every man of you who chooses this profession tacitly acknowledges that he has no more brains than a woman?"

A quote from 1853 (from Susan B. Anthony) that appears in a NYRB piece by Jonathan Zimmerman titled "Why Is American Teaching So Bad?"

Here's the second-to-last paragraph:
Indeed, the biggest insult to the intelligence of American teachers is the idea that their intelligence doesn’t matter. “The teaching of A, B, C, and the multiplication table has no quality of sacredness in it,” Horace Mann said in 1839. Instead of focusing on students’ mental skills, Mann urged, teachers should promote “good-will towards men” and “reverence to God.” Teachers need to be good, more than they need to be smart; their job is to nurture souls, not minds. So Garret Keizer’s first supervisor worried that he might have too many grades of A on his college transcript to succeed as a high school teacher, and Elizabeth Green concludes her otherwise skeptical book with the much-heard platitude that teachers need to “love” their students.
Garret Keizer is the author of "Getting Schooled: The Reeducation of an American Teacher," and Elizabeth Green is the author of "Building a Better Teacher: How Teaching Works (and How to Teach It to Everyone)."