Encore: Powers of Ten – Charles and Ray Eames’ brilliant, before-its-time film

October 10, 2018

Images from

Images from “Powers of Ten,” 1977 edition. From IconEye

Back on October 10, 2010, we celebrated “Powers of Ten Day: 10/10/10.”

We’ve only got two tens in the date today, but the work of Charles and Ray Eames deserves remembering at least every October 10.

It’s a classic film, wonderful in its earliest versions in the 1970s, long before CGI. In 2018, I think it stands up very well.

Earlier I wrote:

AMNH’s “The Known Universe” is a cool film. Putting up that last post on the film, I looked back and noted that when I had previously written about the brilliant predecessor films from Charles and Ray Eames, “Powers of Ten,” the Eames films were not freely available on line.

That’s been fixed.

I like to use films like this as warmups to a year of history, and as a reminder once we get into studying the history of space exploration, of just how far we’ve come in understanding the universe, and how big this place is.

Of course, that means wer are just small parts.

The Eames’s genius showed the scale of things, from a couple picnicking in a park, to the outer reaches of the universe, and then back, zooming into the innermost reaches of a human down to the sub-atomic level.

There’s a series of these films; this one, published on YouTube by the Eames Office, was done in 1977, one of the later versions.

How can you use this in class, teachers? (I recommend buying it on DVD, as I did; better sound and pictures, generally.)

Film information:

Uploaded on Aug 26, 2010

Powers of Ten takes us on an adventure in magnitudes. Starting at a picnic by the lakeside in Chicago, this famous film transports us to the outer edges of the universe. Every ten seconds we view the starting point from ten times farther out until our own galaxy is visible only a s a speck of light among many others. Returning to Earth with breathtaking speed, we move inward- into the hand of the sleeping picnicker- with ten times more magnification every ten seconds. Our journey ends inside a proton of a carbon atom within a DNA molecule in a white blood cell. POWERS OF TEN © 1977 EAMES OFFICE LLC (Available at http://www.eamesoffice.com)

At the Eames Office Youtube site, you may find the film in with Mandarin Chinese, German, and Japanese translations (no Spanish?).  If you’re unfamiliar with the work of this couple — you would recognize much of the stuff they designed, I’m sure — check out a short film on an exhibit on Ray Eames (which has concluded, sadly):

More:

The very recognizable, famous Eames Chair, from Herman Miller. Ideally, you can sit in your Eames Chair while watching

The very recognizable, famous Eames Chair and Ottoman, from Herman Miller. Ideally, you can sit in your Eames Chair while watching “Powers of Ten.” Herman Miller image.

This is an encore post.

Yes, this is an encore post. Defeating ignorance takes patience and perseverance.

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October 9, 2018 – St. Denis’s Day, patron saint for those who have lost their head

October 9, 2018

Dear Reader: My apologies. As Cecil might say, we’ve been fighting ignorance since 1974, and it’s taking longer than we thought.  My hopes to retire this post have not been realized.  Heck, it doesn’t even need much editing from past years. Saints save us, please!

We might pause to reflect, too:  Recent years have seen the media rise of actual beheadings. This practice, which now strikes many of us as barbaric, occurs in reality as well as memory and literature; unlike St. Denis, those beheaded do not usually carry on to do anything at all; like St. Denis, they are martyred. Vote well in your local elections, and national elections. Your vote should be directed at preventing anyone’s losing their head, even just figuratively.

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.

A later painting of the martyring of St. Denis. Though I can find a couple copies of this painting, neither lists who was the painter, nor where the painting is.

A later painting of the martyring of St. Denis. Though I can find a couple copies of this painting, neither lists who was the painter, nor where the painting is.

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 Donald Trump, Ben Carson, Rush Limbaugh, Todd Akin, Paul Ryan, intelligent design, and the Texas State Board of Education, no? In 2013, we added Ted Cruz, Mike Lee, Louis Gohmert, the entire Tea Party, and the entire GOP crew of the House of Representatives. You catch my drift. In 2018 we could add a raft of people: Marsha Blackburn, Ryan Zinke, Sid Miller, Denny Marchant, Jeff Sessions, Sarah Sanders, Mitch McConnell, Lindsey Graham. We’ve left 253 Republicans off for lack of space.

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. Or saint.

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.


Europe, mapped by famous art works

September 26, 2018

This is stunning, politically hot, and frustrating in that I cannot immediately identify the artworks (I think one is a sculpture photograph), let alone the artists.

But still cool.

Who made it? Where is the legend to identify the art?

From Simon Kuestenmacher (on Twitter: @simongerman600):

From Simon Kuestenmacher (on Twitter: @simongerman600): “Map of Europe with each country represented by one of it’s most recognizable pieces of art. How many can you name? Source: https://buff.ly/2eKIYUV”

Mr. Kuestenmacher found the map on Reddit. Ripred42, who posted it on Reddit, didn’t offer any other details as to who made the map or what the art works are; several comments identify several of the works. I have not yet found a better legend.

This map might make a good exercise for AP Geography or AP Human Geography, or AP History, or IB History. There are some possibilities for good discussion. At Reddit there is a complaint that the Mona Lisa shouldn’t represent Italy, since it was sold to a foreign king and is displayed in a foreign museum. The Gustav Klimt painting shown for Austria was determined to have been stolen from its rightful owners, who took the painting and put it on display in New York City instead (the subject of the movie starring Helen Mirren, “The Woman in Gold.”)

Is Turner really the best representative for England? Can any work be determined for Cypress or Ireland? The discussion on Twitter is better than Reddit, and most informative.

Can you identify the works? I’ll list those I can figure out in comments. Please help identify others if you can.

Tip of the old scrub brush to Simon Kuestenmacher on Twitter.


Mount Rushmore, as a tribute to a profession

April 9, 2018

It’s sort of a game: Which four people should be ensconced in much larger-than-life stone sculptures on the side of a mountain (preferably an ugly mountain that is not sacred to any First Nation, but I digress)?

Found a puzzle slanted toward a Rushmore of science, featuring Einstein, Curie, Newton and Darwin.

Puzzle created by Discover, honoring four greats of science.

Puzzle created by Discover, honoring four greats of science.

You can purchase the puzzle at MyScienceShop.com.

We’ve featured the Rushmore of Chicago blues here before, Mount Bluesmore, featured in Buddy Guy’s Legends bar and music venue. I understand the painting moved when Legends moved.

Mount Bluesmore, in the old Legends venue: Muddy Waters, Sonny Boy Williamson, Little Walter, and Howlin' Wolf.

Mount Bluesmore, in the old Legends venue: Muddy Waters, Sonny Boy Williamson, Little Walter, and Howlin’ Wolf.

Heck, this could be a great game: Name four people in any profession, art, field of endeavor, who should be featured on a Mount Rushmore-style monument. Above we’ve got science and Chicago blues. On the real Mount Rushmore, we’ve got the Rushmore of U.S. Presidents.

The real Rushmore, in South Dakota. It features Presidents Washington, Jefferson, Teddy Roosevelt and Lincoln, left to right. National Park Service image.

The real Rushmore, in South Dakota. It features Presidents Washington, Jefferson, Teddy Roosevelt and Lincoln, left to right. National Park Service image.

What other monuments could we have? Painting? Picasso and Rembrandt . . . but there are so many.

Renaissance painting. Abstract painting. Landscapes, portrait painters. Architects. Rock musicians. Classical musicians. Baseball. Football. American football. Fiction authors. Engineers. Women scientists. Tuskegee airmen (that would be tough; every one of them deserve it).

Who do you nominate, for what field?  Put nominations in comments. Include pictures if you find one. 

Others have played this game: 

Rushmore of Disastrous Presidents, featuring Trump, Hoover, George W. Bush, and Richard Nixon. By Dan Adel for Vanity Fair magazine.

Rushmore of Disastrous Presidents, featuring Trump, Hoover, George W. Bush, and Richard Nixon. By Dan Adel for Vanity Fair magazine.

Adel’s original, in 2007, featured Warren G. Harding in place of Trump.

Vanity Fair's Disastrous Presidents Rushmore, in 2007, by artist Dan Adel, adding Warren G. Harding, before Trump.

Vanity Fair’s Disastrous Presidents Rushmore, in 2007, by artist Dan Adel, adding Warren G. Harding, before Trump.

A ghost Rushmore, featuring Native American leaders:

Four Native Americans posed as alternatives for Rushmore. (Challenge: Can you accurately identify the four? Please do.)

Four Native Americans posed as alternatives for Rushmore. (Challenge: Can you accurately identify the four? Please do.)

A classical music proposal (would you choose differently?)”

Left to right, Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, Schubert. Gagambo, at Deviant Art.

Left to right, Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, Schubert. Gagambo, at Deviant Art.

Sioux tribes have undertaken a drive to respond to what many consider a desecration of their sacred lands, with a massive monument to Crazy Horse, still being carved, and incredibly impressive (if you visit, spend a lot of time at the museum):

More: 

Tribute to Sonny Boy Williamson at the Chicago Blues Festival, 2010:


Chess games of the rich and famous: Daumier’s Parisian players

March 7, 2018

Honore Daumier (1808-1879), 1863 painting

Honore Daumier (1808-1879), 1863 painting “The Chess Players” (“Les joueurs d’échecs”) Wikimedia image

You can find these two men playing chess in the Petit Palais, Paris.


Impromptu and confusing art. Or is it construction?

February 28, 2018

Our family, our sons and my wife, will recognize this thread, in spirit at least.

Funny enough.

Then . . .

The whole thread is worth reading.

My family? Well, there was that tour of the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth a few years back . . .

Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth - Diagonal of May 25, 1963 1963 Dan Flavin American, 1933-1996 Warm white fluorescent light, edition 2/3 96 inches

Diagonal of May 25, 1963 1963 Dan Flavin American, 1933-1996 Warm white fluorescent light, edition 2/3 96 inches Although Dan Flavin is invariably described as one of the patriarchs of Minimalist sculpture—along with his colleagues Donald Judd, Sol LeWitt, Carl Andre, and Robert Morris—he has generally rejected the appellation “Minimalist” and even the term “sculpture” as too confining a designation, often pointing out that his works are ephemeral, temporary, and installed in relation to given architectural conditions. Flavin began making his signature works of industrially prefabricated fluorescent tubes and fixtures in 1963. Emanating different colors of light, Flavin’s installations have an indeterminate volume and appear virtually without mass, and it is true that their ethereal presence remains distinct from the emphatic physicality of most Minimalist sculpture. A more rigorous connection can be seen with Marcel Duchamp’s Readymades, which offer an important precedent for Flavin’s off-the-shelf materials and his reliance on the common, found object. Like Duchamp, Flavin considered his works to be “proposals” rather than sculptures, part of a system of investigations rather than static objects. Diagonal of May 25, 1963, 1963 is one of Flavin’s first and most important investigations into the formal possibilities of using standard fluorescent light fixtures in commercially available colors. The image of the diagonal was a critical early theme executed by the artist, in series and according to simple mathematical configurations. Flavin made a number of diagonal “proposals” in different colors, alternating their angles from right to left. Flavin executed the first diagonal in gold light, subsequently making diagonals in green, yellow, and red. The Museum’s Diagonal of May 25, 1963 may be the most conceptually and formally pure work in the series: pure white, ultraviolet light. In his 1965 essay “‘…in daylight or cool white.’ an autobiographical sketch,” Flavin refers to the Diagonal of May 25, 1963 as a “diagonal of personal ecstasy” describing its “forty-five degrees above horizontal” position as one of “dynamic equilibrium.” The artist envisioned the diagonal as a contemporary symbol that “in the possible extent of its dissemination as a common strip of light or a shimmering slice across anybody’s wall, had the potential for becoming a modern technological fetish.”(1) – Michael Auping (1) Dan Flavin, “‘…in daylight or cool white.’ an autobiographical sketch,” Artforum 4 (December 1965): 20–24.

For the record, we tend to seek out modern art pieces that compare to Flavin’s work now, having found some in later visits to Fort Worth, some in the Dallas Museum of Art, and some in the Whitney Museum in New York, and in other places, that offer wonderful opportunities to ponder modern life, what is art, and to laugh.


FDR’s hands, and Fala’s ears

January 24, 2018

How do humans interact with sculpture?

This is a photo (I do not know the photographer) of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, and his dog Fala, from the FDR Memorial on the Mall in Washington, D.C.

FDR Memorial in Washington, D.C., sculpture of President Roosevelt, in his Navy Cape, in his wheelchair, and his dog, Fala. (Do you know the photographer?)

FDR Memorial in Washington, D.C., sculpture of President Roosevelt, in his Navy Cape, in his wheelchair, and his dog, Fala. (Do you know the photographer?) (Photo borrowed from the Facebook page, The Commons)

Some sculptors understand people want to touch the statue, and design them for touching. Others do not — but the public tends to have its way. Bronze statues within touching distance of the public offer an opportunity to see where people actually touch the things, over time. At my visit to this memorial in 2012, only the tips of Fala’s ears showed the affectionate touches of the public.

An exception can be found near this extended garden of statues (the FDR Memorial includes statues of his wife, Eleanor, and bronze portrayals of American life in the Great Depression, whose ending Roosevelt presided over). At the Korean War Memorial, a stunning and sobering display of statues, a patrol of 19 U.S. Army men prowls across the landscape. So many people walked among the statues and touched their sometimes delicate features that the National Park Service, with approval of the sculptor I understand, chained it off. Look but do not touch.

What do these repeated touchings of statuary tell us about ourselves?

More:


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