Archive for August, 2009

Let Us Relax Ctd: Paul Gauguin

August 31, 2009

Paul , (Eugène-Henri-) Gauguin (b. June 7, 1848, Paris, Fr.–d. May 8, 1903, Atuona, Hiva Oa, Marquesas Islands, French Polynesia), one of the leading French painters of the Postimpressionist period, whose development of a conceptual method of representation was a decisive step for 20th-century art. After spending a short period with Vincent van Gogh in Arles (1888), Gauguin increasingly abandoned imitative art for expressiveness through colour. From 1891 he lived and worked in Tahiti and elsewhere in the South Pacific. His masterpieces include the early Vision After the Sermon (1888) and Where Do We Come From? What Are We? Where Are We Going? (1897-98).

Although his main achievements were to lie elsewhere, Gauguin was, to use a fanciful metaphor, nursed in the bosom of Impressionism. His attitudes to art were deeply influenced by his experience of its first exhibition, and he himself participated in those of 1880, 1881 and 1882. The son of a French journalist and a Peruvian Creole, whose mother had been a writer and a follower of Saint-Simon, he was brought up in Lima, joined the merchant navy in 1865, and in 1872 began a successful career as a stockbroker in Paris.

gauguin.swineherd
The Swineherd, Brittany 1888 (180 Kb); Oil on canvas, 74 x 93 cm (29 x 36 1/2 in); Los Angeles County Museum of Art

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Return Of The Trustbusters

August 31, 2009

Will the Obama administration’s actions match its tough talk on antitrust? Asks “The Economist”

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The new head of the antitrust division of America’s Department of Justice, Christine Varney, sees Thurman Arnold, a predecessor who took office in 1938, as a model. Arnold’s appointment created an uproar. His book, “The Folklore of Capitalism”, published a year earlier, was widely seen as a satire on the inadequacy of the country’s antitrust laws. He was, in his own words, “responsible for the first sustained programme of antitrust enforcement on a nationwide scale.” This vigorous approach, in Ms Varney’s view, was an important part of “that era’s legacy for modern economic policy”. In other words, Ms Varney means business.

How Does Porn Work?

August 31, 2009

Jonah Lehrer explains what’s going on inside your mind when watching a dirty movie:

Why do humans (especially men) get so excited by seeing someone else have sex? At first glance, the answer seems obvious: watching porn triggers an idea (we start thinking about sex), which then triggers a change in our behavior (we become sexually aroused). This is how most of us think about thinking: sensations cause thoughts which cause physical responses. Porn is a quintessential example of how such a thought process might work.

But this straightforward answer is probably wrong. Porn does not cause us to think about sex. Rather, porn causes to think we are having sex. From the perspective of the brain, the act of arousal is not preceded by a separate idea, which we absorb via the television or computer screen. The act itself is the idea. In other words, porn works by convincing us that we are not watching porn. We think we are inside the screen, doing the deed.

Mirror neurons facilitate this process by allowing the brain to automatically imitate the actions of somebody else. So if I see you smile, or lick an ice cream cone, or do something X-rated, then my mirror neurons light up as if I were smiling, or licking an ice cream cone, or doing something X-rated. We mirror each others movements, which allows us to make sense of all these flailing limbs and contorted muscles; the body is a pretty tough thing to read.

Did Texas Execute an Innocent Man?

August 31, 2009

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Cameron Todd Willingham insisted he was innocent of setting his house ablaze, killing his three children. He refused to plead guilty to the murder charges in exchange for a life sentence. But with a seemingly air-tight case against him, Texas condemned him to die. An amazingly detailed piece by The New Yorker’s David Grann argues that Willingham was really was innocent and suggests that “Texas could become the first state to acknowledge officially that, since the advent of the modern judicial system, it had carried out the ‘execution of a legallly and factually innocent person.'”

Read at the New Yorker

Let Us Relax Ctd: Paul Cézanne

August 29, 2009

Paul Cézanne (b. Jan. 19, 1839, Aix-en-Provence, Fr.–d. Oct. 22, 1906, Aix-en-Provence), one of the greatest of the Postimpressionists, whose works and ideas were influential in the aesthetic development of many 20th-century artists and art movements, especially Cubism. Cézanne’s art, misunderstood and discredited by the public during most of his life, grew out of Impressionism and eventually challenged all the conventional values of painting in the 19th century through its insistence on personal expression and on the integrity of the painting itself. He has been called the father of modern painting.

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Jas de Buffan, The Pool
c. 1876 (150 Kb); Oil on canvas, 46.1 x 56.3 cm (18 1/8 x 22 1/8 in); The Hermitage, St. Petersburg; No. 3KP 530. Formerly collection Otto Krebs, Holzdorf

Gem Quote Of The Day

August 29, 2009

I’ll be danged if I am going to give up my Social Security because of socialism,” councilman LeRoy Schaffer, addressing Michele Bachmann at a town hall.

This Is On National Television

August 29, 2009

Now that his advertisers leave him, Glenn Beck’s show becomes more and more bonkers. Just watch.

Need I say more besides he can’t even spell?

One Year Of Sarah Palin

August 29, 2009

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One year ago this weekend, a little-known Alaskan governor was introduced to America. Samuel P. Jacobs on how the punditocracy predicted her spectacular rise and fall.
One year after John McCain tapped Sarah Palin to be his running mate, it’s hard to imagine there was a day when America needed help pronouncing her name. But revisiting the media’s first attempts to make sense of Sarah Barracuda is revealing. Well before the stunning August 29 pick, the outlines of Palin’s meteoric rise and fall were already clear. We just refused to see it.

Please Welcome The “Tenthers”

August 28, 2009

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After the “truthers” and “birthers” here come the “tenthers”. Ian Millheiser explains:

… a movement whose members are convinced that the 10th Amendment of the Constitution prohibits spending programs and regulations disfavored by conservatives. Indeed, while “birther” conspiracy theorists dominate the airwaves with tales of a mystical Kenyan baby smuggled into Hawaii just days after his birth, these “tenther” constitutionalists offer a theory that is no less radical but infinitely more dangerous.

Tentherism, in a nutshell, proclaims that New Deal-era reformers led an unlawful coup against the “True Constitution,” exploiting Depression-born desperation to expand the federal government’s powers beyond recognition. Under the tenther constitution, Barack Obama’s health-care reform is forbidden, as is Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security. The federal minimum wage is a crime against state sovereignty; the federal ban on workplace discrimination and whites-only lunch counters is an unlawful encroachment on local businesses.

Unfortunately for this “movement”, many tea-baggers love the argument against health care reform but are less enthusiastic about suppressing Medicare and Social Security.

Let Us Relax Ctd: Raphael

August 28, 2009

Italian in full Raffaello Sanzio (b. April 6, 1483, Urbino, Duchy of Urbino [Italy]–d. April 6, 1520, Rome, Papal States [Italy]), master painter and architect of the Italian High Renaissance. Raphael is best known for his Madonnas and for his large figure compositions in the Vatican in Rome. His work is admired for its clarity of form and ease of composition and for its visual achievement of the Neoplatonic ideal of human grandeur. (here)

“While we may term other works paintings, those of Raphael are living things; the flesh palpitates, the breath comes and goes, every organ lives, life pulsates everywhere.”
— Vasari, Lives of the Artists

raphael-lvr-george
St. George Fighting the Dragon 1505; Oil on wood, 30 x 26 cm (12 x 10 1/4 in); Musee du Louvre, Paris