Berlin Wall in the U.S., the FDR Library

March 31, 2014

"Freedom from Fear," sculpture made from cutouts of sections of the Berlin Wall, photo by gwenvasil, FDR Home & Presidential Library Hyde Park, NY, October 20, 2013.

“Freedom from Fear,” sculpture made from cutouts of sections of the Berlin Wall, photo by gwenvasil, FDR Home & Presidential Library Hyde Park, NY, October 20, 2013.

Interesting, perhaps somewhat silly sculpture, found on the grounds of the Roosevelt Family estate in Hyde Park, New York, near the FDR Library and Museum.

Unless and until one knows the rest of the story.

  • These rather free form human forms, covered in what looks like graffiti, were cut from sections of the Berlin Wall, after the collapse of East Germany.
  • This is close to the bust of FDR’s ally in war for peace, Winston Churchill.  Appropriate, because,
  • Sculpture was created by Churchill’s granddaughter, Edwina Sandys.
  • Actually, these  sculptures were arranged together in a suite, in an area now known as Freedom Court
    • “In 2007, a new dimension was added to this hallowed ground by the construction of the Freedom Court. In honor of the friendship between the two legendary leaders, Edwina was instrumental in commissioning a bronze bust of Winston Churchill by sculptor Oscar Nemon, to be placed opposite one of FDR already in existence. The two sculptures flank the entrance to the court so that now and forever the two old wartime allies will be able to look at each other in a dynamic ‘outdoor room’ made of trees and shrubs.”Edwina’s ‘BreakFree’ now stands center stage in the Freedom Court, bearing witness to the ideals these great statesmen stood for, and bringing all three sculptures together in a magical web of connectedness.”
  • Segments of the Berlin Wall from which these cutouts came now stand in Fulton, Missouri, at the National Churchill Museum — the cutout figures were christened “BreakFree” by Edwina Sandys; the wall, from which they came, is called “BreakThrough.”

A few parts of the Berlin Wall are displayed across the U.S.  At Fulton, Missouri, are eight segments, made into liberating art by Edwina Sandys; at Hyde Park, New York, the cutouts from those segments form another artwork dedicated to freedom.  Other pieces of the wall and one of the guard towers, can be seen at the Newseum in Washington, D.C.

Nice touch to borrow the phrase from FDR’s “Four Freedoms” speech for the pedestal.

I found this photo from a Tweet from the FDR Library earlier today, alerting people to the collection of photos at the Flickr site of gwenvasil.  Follow the links, you’ll find other photos worth serious pondering.

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π Day tribute from Arches National Park

March 14, 2014

Happy Pi Day!

Arches National Park Happy Pi Day! “PsyPhi” by Pete Apicella, 2010 Community Artist in the Parks (kh)

Hey, I wonder when Fibonacci’s birthday falls. π


Beautiful Antarctica: Photos, or painting?

January 27, 2014

This one is cropping up all over the internet.

But just try to get a commitment as to its origins.  Photographic, or artist’s image?

I wagered the latter. Note general lack of thick clouds, angle of sunlight, etc.

Beautiful Antarctica from space. Photographic image, or artist's rendering?  Who deserves credit for the image?

Beautiful Antarctica from space. Photographic image, or artist’s rendering? Who deserves credit for the image?

Then, at Twisted Sifter (shout out to Annette Breedlove; and everyone outside my family will be mystified by that reference) I found this, the full image from NASA.  Notice how some selective editing, changing the perspective, makes the image above more fascinating — while stripping out the identifying credits:

Image via Twisted Sifter; NASA image of Antarctica, available at Flickr Commons

Image via Twisted Sifter; NASA image of Antarctica, available at Flickr Commons

Well, that’s a different thing, then.

Twisted Sifter’s explanation of details, excerpt:

Seen above is a view of the Earth on September 21, 2005 with the full Antarctic region visible. The composite image shows the sea ice on September 21, 2005, the date at which the sea ice was at its minimum extent in the northern hemisphere. The colour of the sea ice is derived from the AMSR-E 89 GHz brightness temperature while the extent of the sea ice was determined by the AMSR-E sea ice concentration. Over the continents, the terrain shows the average land cover for September, 2004. The global cloud cover shown was obtained from the original Blue Marble cloud data distributed in 2002. [Source]

Due to the position of Antarctica in relation to our Sun it would not look like this to the naked eye. This is a composite that shows what Antarctica looks like if the entire continent were illuminated.

Click here for the full resolution 8400×8400 pixel TIFF version (63 mb) and click here for the 8400 x 8400 px JPG version.

NASA’s details, from the Flickr file:

NASA on The Commons

Global View of the Arctic and Antarctic on September 21, 2005

Collection: NASA Scientific Visualization Studio Collection

Title: Global View of the Arctic and Antarctic on September 21, 2005

Instrument: Terra/MODIS

Instrument: Aqua/AMSR-E

Description: This image shows a view of the Earth on September 21, 2005 with the full Antarctic region visible.

Abstract: In support of International Polar Year, this matching pair of images showing a global view of the Arctic and Antarctic were generated in poster-size resolution. Both images show the sea ice on September 21, 2005, the date at which the sea ice was at its minimum extent in the northern hemisphere. The color of the sea ice is derived from the AMSR-E 89 GHz brightness temperature while the extent of the sea ice was determined by the AMSR-E sea ice concentration. Over the continents, the terrain shows the average landcover for September, 2004. (See Blue Marble Next Generation) The global cloud cover shown was obtained from the original Blue Marble cloud data distributed in 2002. (See Blue Marble:Clouds) A matching star background is provided for each view. All images include transparency, allowing them to be composited on a background.

Completed: 2007-02-08

Credit: *Please give credit for this visualization to* NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center Scientific Visualization Studio The Blue Marble data is courtesy of Reto Stockli (NASA/GSFC).

Studio: SVS

Animator: Cindy Starr (Lead)

Scientist: Ronald Weaver (University of Colorado)

Data Collected: AMSR-E Sea Ice: 2005-09-21; Blue Marble cloud layer 2002; Blue Marble Next Generation Seasonal Landcover 2004-09

UID: SPD-SCIVS-http://svs .gsfc.nasa.gov/vis/a 000000/a003400/a0034 02/NSIDCimages__SPcl ouds.2158-IMAGE

Original url: svs.gsfc.nasa.gov/vis/a000000/a003400/a003402/index.html

SOURCE: nasaimages.org/luna/servlet/detail/NSVS~3~3~7128~107128

Visit www.nasaimages.org for the most comprehensive compilation of NASA stills, film and video, created in partnership with Internet Archive.

The image, and it’s odyssey and story, are reminders that reality is often better than the made up stuff; and it’s wise to properly attribute stuff you borrow.  Is this just a cool image, or an opportunity for teachers to enrich the classroom and an argument for boosting NASA’s budget?

More:


Christmas 2013: Do we know who invented Santa Claus? Who really wrote the “Night Before Christmas?”

December 10, 2013

An encore post and Millard Fillmore’s Bathtub tradition from 2007

Thomas Nast invented Santa Claus? Clement C. Moore didn’t write the famous poem that starts out, “‘Twas the night before Christmas, and all through the house . . . ?”

The murky waters of history from Millard Fillmore’s Bathtub soak even our most cherished ideas and traditions.

But isn’t that part of the fun of history?

Santa Claus delivers to Union soldiers, "Santa Claus in Camp" - Thomas Nast, Harper's Weekly, Jan 3, 1863

In Janaury 1863, Thomas Nast portraye Santa Claus delivered gifts to Union troops in Washington, D.C., wearing a blue, star-spangled coat, just a few days earlier.

Yes, Virginia (and California, too)! Thomas Nast created the image of Santa Claus most of us in the U.S. know today. Perhaps even more significant than his campaign against the graft of Boss Tweed, Nast’s popularization of a fat, jolly elf who delivers good things to people for Christmas makes one of the great stories in commercial illustration. Nast’s cartoons, mostly for the popular news publication Harper’s Weekly, created many of the conventions of modern political cartooning and modeled the way in which an illustrator could campaign for good, with his campaign against the graft of Tammany Hall and Tweed. But Nast’s popular vision of Santa Claus can be said to be the foundation for the modern mercantile flurry around Christmas.

Nast is probably ensconced in a cartoonists’ hall of fame. Perhaps he should be in a business or sales hall of fame, too.  [See also Bill Casselman's page, "The Man Who Designed Santa Claus.]

Nast’s drawings probably drew some inspiration from the poem, “Account of a Visit from St. Nicholas,” traditionally attributed to Clement C. Moore, a New York City lawyer, published in 1822. The poem is among the earliest to describe the elf dressed in fur, and magically coming down a chimney to leave toys for children; the poem invented the reindeer-pulled sleigh.

Modern analysis suggests the poem was not the work of Moore, and many critics and historians now attribute it to Major Henry Livingston, Jr. (1748-1828) following sleuthing by Vassar College Prof. Don Foster in 2000. Fortunately for us, we do not need to be partisans in such a query to enjoy the poem (a complete copy of which is below the fold).

The Library of Congress still gives Moore the credit. When disputes arise over who wrote about the night before Christmas, is it any wonder more controversial topics produce bigger and louder disputes among historians?

Moore was not known for being a poet. The popular story is that he wrote it on the spur of the moment:

Moore is thought to have composed the tale, now popularly known as “The Night Before Christmas,” on December 24, 1822, while traveling home from Greenwich Village, where he had bought a turkey for his family’s Christmas dinner.

Inspired by the plump, bearded Dutchman who took him by sleigh on his errand through the snow-covered streets of New York City, Moore penned A Visit from St. Nicholas for the amusement of his six children, with whom he shared the poem that evening. His vision of St. Nicholas draws upon Dutch-American and Norwegian traditions of a magical, gift-giving figure who appears at Christmas time, as well as the German legend of a visitor who enters homes through chimneys.

Again from the Library of Congress, we get information that suggests that Moore was a minor celebrity from a well-known family with historical ties that would make a good “connections” exercise in a high school history class, perhaps (”the link from Aaron Burr’s treason to Santa Claus?”): (read more, below the fold)

Clement Moore was born in 1779 into a prominent New York family. His father, Benjamin Moore, president of Columbia University, in his role as Episcopal Bishop of New York participated in the inauguration of George Washington as the nation’s first president. The elder Moore also administered last rites to Alexander Hamilton after he was mortally wounded in a tragic duel with Aaron Burr.

A graduate of Columbia, Clement Moore was a scholar of Hebrew and a professor of Oriental and Greek literature at the General Theological Seminary in Manhattan. [See comment from Pam Bumsted below for more on Moore.] He is said to have been embarrassed by the light-hearted verse, which was made public without his knowledge in December 1823. Moore did not publish it under his name until 1844.

Tonight, American children will be tucked in under their blankets and quilts and read this beloved poem as a last “sugarplum” before slipping into dreamland. Before they drift off, treat them to a message from Santa, recorded by the Thomas Edison Company in 1922.

Santa Claus Hides in Your Phonograph
By Arthur A. Penn, Performed by Harry E. Humphrey.
Edison, 1922.
Coupling date: 6/20/1922. Cutout date: 10/31/1929.
Inventing Entertainment: The Motion Pictures and Sound Recordings of the Edison Companies

Listen to this recording (RealAudio Format)

Listen to this recording (wav Format, 8,471 Kb)

But Henry Livingston was no less noble or historic. He hailed from the Livingstons of the Hudson Valley (one of whose farms is now occupied by Camp Rising Sun of the Louis August Jonas Foundation, a place where I spent four amazing summers teaching swimming and lifesaving). Livingston’s biography at the University of Toronto site offers another path for a connections exercise (”What connects the Declaration of Independence, the American invasion of Canada, the famous poem about a visit from St. Nick, and George W. Bush?”):

Henry Livingston Jr. was born in Poughkeepsie, New York, on Oct. 13, 1748. The Livingston family was one of the important colonial and revolutionary families of New York. The Poughkeepsie branch, descended from Gilbert, the youngest son of Robert Livingston, 1st Lord of Livingston Manor, was not as well off as the more well-known branches, descended from sons Robert and Philip. Two other descendants of Gilbert Livingston, President George Walker Herbert Bush and his son, President-Elect George W. Bush, though, have done their share to bring attention to this line. Henry’s brother, Rev. John Henry Livingston, entered Yale at the age of 12, and was able to unite the Dutch and American branches of the Dutch Reformed Church. At the time of his death, Rev. Livingston was president of Rutgers University. Henry’s father and brother Gilbert were involved in New York politics, and Henry’s granduncle was New York’s first Lt. Governor. But the law was the natural home for many of Henry’s family. His brother-in-law, Judge Jonas Platt, was an unsuccessful candidate for governor, as was his daughter Elizabeth’s husband, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Smith Thompson. Henry’s grandson, Sidney Breese, was Chief Justice of the Illinois Supreme Court.

Known for his encyclopedic knowledge and his love of literature, Henry Livingston was a farmer, surveyor and Justice of the Peace, a judicial position dealing with financially limited criminal and civil cases. One of the first New Yorkers to enlist in the Revolutionary Army in 1775, Major Henry Livingston accompanied his cousin’s husband, General Montgomery, in his campaign up the Hudson River to invade Canada, leaving behind his new wife, Sarah Welles, and their week-old baby, on his Poughkeepsie property, Locust Grove. Baby Catherine was the subject of the first poem currently known by Major Livingston. Following this campaign, Livingston was involved in the War as a Commissioner of Sequestration, appropriating lands owned by British loyalists and selling them for the revolutionary cause. It was in the period following Sarah’s early death in 1783, that Major Livingston published most of his poems and prose, anonymously or under the pseudonym of R. Ten years after the death of Sarah, Henry married Jane Patterson, the daughter of a Dutchess County politician and sister of his next-door neighbor. Between both wives, Henry fathered twelve children. He published his good-natured, often occasional verse from 1787 in many journals, including Political Barometer, Poughkeepsie Journal, and New-York Magazine. His most famous poem, “Account of a Visit from St. Nicholas,” was until 2000 thought to have been the work of Clement Clarke Moore (1779-1863), who published it with his collected poems in 1844. Livingston died Feb. 29, 1828.

More on Henry Livingston and his authorship of the Christmas poem here.
Thomas Nast, Merry Old Santa Claus, Harper's Weekly, Jan 1, 1881

Our views of Santa Claus owe a great deal also to the Coca-Cola advertising campaign. Coca-Cola first noted Santa’s use of the drink in a 1922 campaign to suggest Coke was a year-round drink (100 years after the publication of Livingston’s poem). The company’s on-line archives gives details:

In 1930, artist Fred Mizen painted a department store Santa in a crowd drinking a bottle of Coke. The ad featured the world’s largest soda fountain, which was located in the department store of Famous Barr Co. in St. Louis, Mo. Mizen’s painting was used in print ads that Christmas season, appearing in The Saturday Evening Post in December 1930.

1936 Coca-Cola Santa cardboard store display

  • 1936 Coca-Cola Santa cardboard store display

Archie Lee, the D’Arcy Advertising Agency executive working with The Coca-Cola Company, wanted the next campaign to show a wholesome Santa as both realistic and symbolic. In 1931, The Coca-Cola Company commissioned Michigan-born illustrator Haddon Sundblom to develop advertising images using Santa Claus — showing Santa himself, not a man dressed as Santa, as Mizen’s work had portrayed him.
1942 original oil painting - 'They Remembered Me'

  • 1942 original oil painting – ‘They Remembered Me’

For inspiration, Sundblom turned to Clement Clark Moore’s 1822 poem “A Visit From St. Nicholas” (commonly called “‘Twas the Night Before Christmas”). Moore’s description of St. Nick led to an image of Santa that was warm, friendly, pleasantly plump and human. For the next 33 years, Sundblom painted portraits of Santa that helped to create the modern image of Santa — an interpretation that today lives on in the minds of people of all ages, all over the world.

Santa Claus is a controversial figure. Debates still rage among parents about the wisdom of allowing the elf into the family’s home, and under what conditions. Theologians worry that the celebration of Christmas is diluted by the imagery. Other faiths worry that the secular, cultural impact of Santa Claus damages their own faiths (few other faiths have such a popular figure, and even atheists generally give gifts and participate in Christmas rituals such as putting up a decorated tree).

For over 100 years, Santa Claus has been a popular part of commercial, cultural and religious life in America. Has any other icon endured so long, or so well?

________________________
Below:
From the University of Toronto Library’s Representative Poetry Online

Major Henry Livingston, Jr. (1748-1828)

Account of a Visit from St. Nicholas

1 ‘Twas the night before Christmas, when all thro’ the house,

2 Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse;

3 The stockings were hung by the chimney with care,

4 In hopes that St. Nicholas soon would be there;

5 The children were nestled all snug in their beds,

6 While visions of sugar plums danc’d in their heads,

7 And Mama in her ‘kerchief, and I in my cap,

8 Had just settled our brains for a long winter’s nap –

9 When out on the lawn there arose such a clatter,

10 I sprang from the bed to see what was the matter.

11 Away to the window I flew like a flash,

12 Tore open the shutters, and threw up the sash.

13 The moon on the breast of the new fallen snow,

14 Gave the lustre of mid-day to objects below;

15 When, what to my wondering eyes should appear,

16 But a miniature sleigh, and eight tiny rein-deer,

17 With a little old driver, so lively and quick,

18 I knew in a moment it must be St. Nick.

19 More rapid than eagles his coursers they came,

20 And he whistled, and shouted, and call’d them by name:

21 “Now! Dasher, now! Dancer, now! Prancer, and Vixen,

22 “On! Comet, on! Cupid, on! Dunder and Blixem;

23 “To the top of the porch! to the top of the wall!

24 “Now dash away! dash away! dash away all!”

25 As dry leaves before the wild hurricane fly,

26 When they meet with an obstacle, mount to the sky;

27 So up to the house-top the coursers they flew,

28 With the sleigh full of Toys — and St. Nicholas too:

29 And then in a twinkling, I heard on the roof

30 The prancing and pawing of each little hoof.

31 As I drew in my head, and was turning around,

32 Down the chimney St. Nicholas came with a bound:

33 He was dress’d all in fur, from his head to his foot,

34 And his clothes were all tarnish’d with ashes and soot;

35 A bundle of toys was flung on his back,

36 And he look’d like a peddler just opening his pack:

37 His eyes — how they twinkled! his dimples how merry,

38 His cheeks were like roses, his nose like a cherry;

39 His droll little mouth was drawn up like a bow.

40 And the beard of his chin was as white as the snow;

41 The stump of a pipe he held tight in his teeth,

42 And the smoke it encircled his head like a wreath.

43 He had a broad face, and a little round belly

44 That shook when he laugh’d, like a bowl full of jelly:

45 He was chubby and plump, a right jolly old elf,

46 And I laugh’d when I saw him in spite of myself;

47 A wink of his eye and a twist of his head

48 Soon gave me to know I had nothing to dread.

49 He spoke not a word, but went straight to his work,

50 And fill’d all the stockings; then turn’d with a jerk,

51 And laying his finger aside of his nose

52 And giving a nod, up the chimney he rose.

53 He sprung to his sleigh, to his team gave a whistle,

54 And away they all flew, like the down of a thistle:

55 But I heard him exclaim, ere he drove out of sight –

56 Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good night.

Online text copyright © 2005, Ian Lancashire for the Department of English, University of Toronto. Published by the Web Development Group, Information Technology Services, University of Toronto Libraries. Be sure to visit this site for more information on this poem, on Maj. Livingston, and on poetry in general.

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Chess games of the rich and famous: Thomas Eakins’s version

November 19, 2013

“The Chess Players” by Thomas Eakins (1844-1916), 1876; in the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Wikipedia image

One must appreciate Eakins’s great skills, even if one does not love his work — but I love it.

In this 1876 painting, he portrays a game of chess.  Was it a real game?  “The players are Bertrand Gardel on the left, and George Holmes on the right. The artist’s father, Benjamin Eakins, stands and watches the match.”  Some critics claim the painting carries allegory to several levels: “Art historian Akela Reason proposes that the painting is a tribute to a number of the artist’s father-figures: Holmes probably was Eakins’s first art teacher; Gardel was his French teacher; Benjamin Eakins was his literal father; and Jean-Léon Gérôme, his master at the École des Beaux-Arts, is represented by a print of Ave Caesar Morituri te Salutant, over the clock.”

It’s a game of chess.

Sadly, the cat is unidentified.

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October 9 – St. Denis’s Day, patron saint for those who have lost their head (Tea Party? House GOP?)

October 9, 2013

October 9 is the Feast Day of St. Denis.

Who?  He’s the patron saint of Paris (and France, by some accounts), and possessed people.   Take a look at this statue, from the “left door” of the Cathedral of Notre Dame  in Paris (Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Paris: portail de gauche).  He was martyred by beheading, in about 250 C.E.

English: Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Paris: porta...

St. Denis greets vistors to the Cathedral of Notre Dame, Paris (Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Paris: portail de gauche)

Our trusty friend Wikipedia explains:

According to the Golden Legend, after his head was chopped off, Denis picked it up and walked two miles, preaching a sermon the entire way.[6] The site where he stopped preaching and actually died was made into a small shrine that developed into the Saint Denis Basilica, which became the burial place for the kings of France. Another account has his corpse being thrown in the Seine, but recovered and buried later that night by his converts.[2]

Clearly, he is the guy to pray to about Michelle Bachmann, Rush Limbaugh, Todd Akin, Paul Ryan, intelligent design, and the Texas State Board of Education, no?  In 2013, you can add Ted Cruz, Mike Lee, Louis Gohmert, the entire Tea Party, and the entire GOP crew of the House of Representatives.  You catch my drift.

Perhaps you can use this factoid to some advantage, enlightenment, and perhaps humor.  In Catholic lore, St. Denis is one of the “14 Holy Helpers,” and his aid is sought to help people with headaches, or who have been possessed.

Crazy GOP members who I suspect of having been possessed give me and America a headache.  St. Denis seems to be our man.

Who else do you know of in this modern, vexatious time, who keeps talking after losing his/her head?

As Rod Stewart sang, just “let your imagination run wild.”  Maybe St. Denis is listening.

More:

Statue to St. Denis, in Cluny

Another portrayal, in sculpture, of St. Denis. Notice how this one’s face doesn’t really look like the one above? Ouvre du Musée de Cluny, Wikipedia photo by Guillaume Blanchard (Aoineko), June 2001, FinePix 1400Z.

Yes, this is mostly an encore post. I had hoped to have to retire this post someday.  I still hope.  Perhaps this will be the last year we’ll have so many wackaloons running loose. Pray to St. Denis.


Imagequilts, with Edward Tufte and Adam Schwartz

September 5, 2013

These are pretty cool.

Can you use them in a classroom?  Some of these Imagequilts pack a lot of information into a small space — such as the one for Cézanne.

Here, “Subatomic Particles“:

Subatomic Particles, by Tufte and Schwartz

Subatomic Particles, by Tufte and Schwartz; click image to see much larger version

Paul Cézanne“:

Paul Cezanne, Imagequilt by Tufte and Schwartz

Paul Cezanne, Imagequilt by Tufte and Schwartz. Useful in art history? European history?

Super Advanced Placement (AP) history teacher John Irish created outstanding PowerPoints showing off art of European eras, or American eras, for use in introducing a unit of history (see a smattering of examples here).  Could these Imagequilts substitute, or do it as well, and — especially — faster?

Here’s another, “Pablo Picasso“:

Imagequilt Pablo Picasso, by Tufte and Schwartz

Imagequilt Pablo Picasso, by Tufte and Schwartz

This one could be particularly useful in a physics course, or a unit on the history of science.  Richard Feynman may be most famous, pedagogically at least, for his invention and use of Feynman Diagrams.  Most discussions simply mention the things, though a few attempt short explanations.  Rare is to find a good example of a Feynman Diagram, to see just what they are and how they work.  Tufte and Schwartz offer a bunch:

Feynman Diagrams, an Imagequilt from Tufte and Schwartz

Feynman Diagrams, an Imagequilt from Tufte and Schwartz (click for a larger image)

Imagequilts is a Chrome App, available for download so you can make your own.  Of course, you’ll need to use Google Chrome to get full effect.

Got any Imagequilts you’d like to share?

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Signs: Cthulu’s return? Don’t kick jelly fish?

August 12, 2013

Don Knuth at Stanford University collects signs.

Actually he collects photos of signs, especially the diamond-shaped informational-warning signs.

What in the world is this one?

A sign photographed in Australia, in the Knuth Collection.

A sign photographed in Australia, in the Knuth Collection.

Your nominations for captions welcomed in comments.

More, sorta — or maybe, “tangentially related” is a better description:  

Donald Knuth at a reception for the Open Conte...

Donald Knuth at a reception for the Open Content Alliance, hosted by the Internet Archive. Taken October 25, 2005 by Jacob Appelbaum in San Francisco. (Wikipedia image)


Signs of life: Tufte’s signs that ought to be

August 7, 2013

From Edward Tufte:

Edward Tufte, Road Never Ends, print on canvas, 29 ½

Edward Tufte, Road Never Ends, print on canvas, 29 ½” x 29 ½”, edition of 3

Philosophy on road signs.  Will it catch on?  Has it caught on already?


Edward Tufte channels Richard Feynman

August 6, 2013

Tufte writes at great length — well, writes and demonstrates — about yellow warning signs.  (Yes, that Edward Tufte.)

In one of his demonstrations, the art comes from the ideas and sayings of Richard Feynman.

Edward Tufte makes art out of Feynman's ideas.

Edward Tufte makes art out of Feynman’s ideas. Sorta. Edward Tufte, Nature Cannot Be Fooled, print on canvas, 78″ x 27 ½”, edition of 3

This guy makes money doing that? What kind of charmed life is that?

More:

Just how fitting is it that Tufte uses the words of Feynman, probably more famous for Feynman diagrams than the work that got him a Nobel?

English: Picture of a Feynman diagram, inscrib...

“Picture of a Feynman diagram, inscribed by Richard P. Feynman to me [who MFB has not identified], in my copy of Volume 3 of his Feynman Lectures on Physics (Quantum Mechanics). Picture taken by self. if you can’t read the symbols, they are \gamma_\mu to \gamma_\mu and 1/q^2 .” Wikipedia image

English: Edward Tufte giving a class and holdi...

Edward Tufte giving a class and holding a scanned copy of a first edition book by Galileo. Wikipedia image


Postage stamp tempest: Why can’t the U.S. have scandals like this?

July 15, 2013

Hey, David Dewhurst:  Do you really think the women who opposed your oppression of them were out of line?  None of them has said you must lick her derriére.

Here’s how they do it in Europe; from The Guardian:

Femen-inspired postage stamp angers French right

Designers say youthful depiction of Marianne for new stamp was partially inspired by Femen founder Inna Shevchenko

You know enough about France from your world history class to know that the nation has, for decades, used an image of a woman as their symbol of liberty (“liberté“).  For obscure reasons, the French have come to call their Liberty, Marianne.  Her image appears on coins, stamps, and wherever else an image can be used.  Most often an artist uses a beautiful French woman — Catherine Deneuve was the model for years — but about as often the name of the model is more obscure.  This is the first time anyone has said a non-French woman might be the model, though the woman named is living in France now, as a refugee from the Ukraine.

Francois Hollande at the unveiling of the new Marianne stamp. Photograph: Francois Mori/AFP/Getty Images

Francois Hollande at the unveiling of the new Marianne stamp. Photograph: Francois Mori/AFP/Getty Images

 

It was supposed to be a straightforward new postage stamp to mark François Hollande’s presidency: a more youthful depiction of Marianne, the feminine symbol of the French Republic, reflecting the Socialist president’s promise to help the younger generation.

Instead, the portrait has sparked a spat on the political right after one of its designers said it was partially inspired by Inna Shevchenko, a leading member of the feminist activist group Femen.

The designers, David Kawena and Olivier Ciappa, had previously said their inspirations ran from the Renaissance to French comic strips and Japanese manga. But after the stamp’s launch on Sunday, Ciappa tweeted: “For all those who are asking who the model was for Marianne, it’s a mix of several women, but above all Inna Shevchenko, founder of Femen.”

Probably the most famous image comes from the painting by Eugene Delacroix, Liberty Leading the Nation:

Eugene Delcroix's paiting, Liberty Leading the Nation,

Eugene Delacroix’s paiting, Liberty Leading the Nation, commemorating the 1830 uprising against the French King. That’s “Marianne” holding the flag.

That painting is in a division of the Louvre; it was defaced just this past February, in an odd September 11 protest, by a wacko who insisted the attacks on the World Trade Center and the United States were government-sponsored.   But I digress.

Christine Boutin, a former minister under Nicolas Sarkozy and founder of the Christian Democrat party, tweeted her disgust and her party called for a boycott of “this outrageous stamp”, saying it was an attack “on the dignity of women and the sovereignty of France” and should immediately be withdrawn.

Inna Shevchenko, a member of the women's rights group Femen. Photograph: Charles Platiau/Reuters

Inna Shevchenko, a member of the women’s rights group Femen. Photograph: Charles Platiau/Reuters

Femen, which often stages topless street protests, was started in Ukraine but is now based in Paris after Shevchenko was granted political asylum following outrage at her felling of a giant cross in Ukraine in support of the Russian band Pussy Riot.

Femen’s most high-profile protests in France have targeted the street demonstrations against same-sex marriage. It also recently staged an anti-fascist protest in Notre Dame cathedral and attempted to ambush the French president at an airshow.

Ciappa, whose exhibition of photographs of imagined gay couples was vandalised in Paris the anti same-sex marriage protests, wrote on Facebook on Monday that he had received “messages of threats and hatred” against him on Twitter, “some violent and some funny, such as Christine Boutin’s call to boycott my stamp”.

Yeah, but here’s the money line:

Shevchenko tweeted: “Femen is on French stamp. Now all homophobes, extremists, fascists will have to lick my ass when they want to send a letter.”

Several French artists have designed different Mariannes for French stamps, but this is thought to be the first inspired in part by a woman who isn’t French.

I have some bad news, perhaps, for U.S radical right-wing wackoes:  I understand that the model for the French symbol of Liberty, Marianne, was really Texas State Sen. Wendy Davis.   The artist was seeking a model who demonstrated the French ideal of a woman standing up to lead her nation against the supposed juggernaut of Fascist oppression and repression.  President Hollande is fearful of noting that, however, because he doesn’t want Texas Gov. Rick Perry to make a trip to France to poach businesses to move to Texas.

Texas State Sen. Wendy Davis reading documents at her Senate desk, in the photo perhaps used as a model for the new Marianne.

Texas State Sen. Wendy Davis reading documents at her Senate desk, in the photo perhaps used as a model for the new Marianne.

Hollande doesn’t fear any businesses would actually relocate from France to Paris; he just doesn’t want to waste any good French cheese or wine on a visiting Rick Perry.

In other Austin rumors, according to my sources at the groseille à l’oignon,  the Texas Republic asked France for rights to the image for their own anti-State of Texas postage stamps just to tick off Rick Perry and the FBI, and the Texas Tea Party is considering using Marianne as their image on their stationery, posters and bumper stickers.  If only they knew.

In the end, we have an entirely pointless, postage stamp tempest, with an artist sneaking in as a model a topless protester to play the role of the top-slipping symbol of French liberty, and typical French insouciance in arguments.  You know darn well that Harry Reid would love to use that line Ms. Schevchenko Tweeted — and so would Wendy Davis, and Rick Perry, and Joe Biden, and even Orrin Hatch.

Maybe all they have to do is pose topless, protesting some infringement on freedom.  Would they do that, even for freedom?

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Delcroix's painting on display in Lens, France, earlier in 2013.  Foreign Policy image.

Delcroix’s painting on display in Lens, France, earlier in 2013. Foreign Policy image.

The 2008 version of Marianne, under President Sarkozsy.

The 2008 version of Marianne, under President Sarkozsy. This is the immediate predecessor of the 2013 version.

1945 version of Marianne

From Stampboards.com: “Marianne” is a national emblem of France and an allegory of Liberty and Reason. She has been portrayed in various ways on a number of stamps issued by France over the years, often wearing a Phrygian cap, symbolic of Liberty. Here is an image of a stamp featuring my favorite version of her: the “Grande Marianne de Gandon,” designed and engraved by Pierre Gandon, and issued by France on March 12, 1945, Scott No. 556, Y&T No. 733.

Bust of Marianne sculpted by Théodore Doriot, in the French Senate.

Bust of Marianne sculpted by Théodore Doriot, in the French Senate.

 


Thunder is impressive, but it’s lightning that does the work

July 11, 2013

Nice photo from Texas Storm Chasers:

David Reimer's great shot of lightning, about 10:00 p.m. in Norman, Oklahoma, July 11, 2013

David Reimer’s great shot of lightning, about 10:00 p.m. in Norman, Oklahoma, July 11, 2013

Good luck, and keep ‘em coming, David!

(Mark Twain observed:  “Thunder is good, thunder is impressive; but it is lightning that does the work.” (Letter, August 28, 1908))


History of America, or art in America, or American art, or . . .

July 9, 2013

Brilliant piece from Grant Snider — history teachers, this should be a poster in your classroom, no?  Art teachers?

Grant Snider's

Grant Snider’s “American Art, exploring a country through its paintings”

In the course of a junior-level, high school U.S. history class, students should experience each of these works, and many others.  This is one whimsical way to work with serious and uplifting material, no?

Mr. Snider has a short essay — inspiring — and the information on each of the works he portrays, at the Modern Art site (I’ve added links below, here).

Since that formative vacation, the art museum is always one my of first stops in visiting a new city. In the comic above, I’ve curated my ideal collection of 20th-century American art. Here’s a list of works in order of appearance:

Jasper Johns, “Flag”

Edward Hopper,Morning Sun

Ellsworth Kelly, “Red Blue Green”

Wayne Thiebaud, “Refrigerator Pie”

Grant Wood, “Young Corn”

Roy Lichtenstein, “Whaam!”

Stuart Davis, “Colonial Cubism”

Andy Warhol, “Campbell’s Soup Cans”

George Bellows, “Dempsey and Firpo”

Jackson Pollock, “Autumn Rhythm”

Georgia O’Keeffe, “Sky Above Clouds III”

What are your favorite American art works, and what do they portray or demonstrate that you like?

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L Banks: Artist’s version of the world’s oldest animation

May 3, 2013

L. Banks illustrated a publication about an ancient bowl found at the Burnt City, in what is now Iran.

L. Banks illustrated a publication about an ancient bowl found at the Burnt City, in what is now Iran.

It’s a nice rendering of . . . gee, what is that?

If you remember correctly, it’s a goat.  It’s a goat.

More specifically, it’s the goat depicted on “the world’s oldest animation,” a bowl more than 5,000 years old that some researchers think may have been the earliest attempt to depict animals in motion.

I wrote about the bowl back in 2008.  I learned of it from Kris Hirst at About.com, and I thought it was interesting.  “Animation” in the headline, at spring break, and tens of thousands of kids took a look at the little .gif animation from photos of the bowl.  The post took about ten minutes to compose, and it remains the single most popular post ever at Millard Fillmore’s Bathtub (even more popular than the posts about the imaginary Texas chainsaw massacre).

So I stumbled on Banks’s drawing.  Illustration is often high art — the image above is identified as an educational image.  Children’s book?  Don’t know.

Banks has some other very nice illustrations on display, on completely different subjects.  You should go see.

What was that bowl maker trying to show with the goat and tree on that bowl?  Did s/he dream that people would be making images inspired by the bowl, 52 centuries later?

World's oldest animation; bowl from the Burnt City

An animated .gif made from photographic images of a bowl found at the Burnt City, and dated at 5,200 years.


Millard Fillmore waxes on

April 5, 2013

Millard Fillmore at Madame Tussaud's, D.C.

President Millard Fillmore, as displayed at Madame Tussaud’s Wax Museum, Washington, D.C.; photo from About.com

Ever on the lookout for images of Millard Fillmore, I found this photo at About.com.  This is the “wax” sculpture of Fillmore displayed at Madame Tussaud’s Wax Museum – D.C.

Is it art?

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