Fables Of The Reconstruction: Cue The World’s Tiniest Violin Edition — Plus: Bonus For A Good Time On The Cape!

Posted October 25, 2014 by Tom
Categories: Art

Tags: ,

Attention conservation notice (term stolen from Cosma): What follows is mostly purely Levenson-domicile maundering.  The good stuff is at the end; great art by someone I love.  Now you know.

I’ve gone silent on our kitchen renovation farrago, for the obvious and very good reason:  it’s the eternal return of the same, and thus boring. Everyone who’s lived through (or, FSM-forbid, DIY’d) a major house project knows the one universal truth: it sucks.  It’s like parachuting without the thrill:  August 1 at 7 a.m. we were riding a perfectly functional airplane had a perfectly functional kitchen.  By 8:30 we’d jumped.

And the usual followed:  the house is filled with dust; we’ve broken so many glasses in our makeshift sink that we’ve finally given up and gone to plastic; and as the weeks go by the house looks more like a communal grad-student flop than I ever thought I’d inhabit again.

But there’s hope.  Yesterday — all in one day! — saw the transition from this:

IMG_1876

 

To this:

IMG_1881

 

Of course, the resulting upsurge in that sweet feeling that suggests, yes, this may someday end, is “hope” only in the sense that Robin Williams describe here. (Round about 1:48 for the reference.)   Yeah, the room finally looks more or less like a room again — but now we’re going head on into the fiddly stage, where two or more skilled craftspeople will nudge something or other into some precise configuration that takes hours to work out, for an indefinite and seemingly unending future.  Again…tiny violin time.

Never mind.  We still cook — this week I managed a lamb stew, even, browning the meat on the gas grill — in the midst of a thunder squall — before finishing everything else on 12o0 watt burner on the hot plate:

IMG_1874

Tasted fine.

There’s HOOOOOOOOPE (18 f**king times!)

Meanwhile, of course, life continues to do its thing — and given that, can I draw your attention to something that makes me very happy, and that I think (as I should) shows real power as a work of art.

That would be the new installation show my wife, Katha Seidman, is about to open with two other artists at the Cotuit Center for the Arts — calling all Cape Cod-proximate Balloon Juicers!.

Inspired by and in conversation with Giacometti’s The Palace at 4 a.m. (to be seen at MOMA in New York), the installation opens tonight.  Details on the card:

ecard

Lots more on the installation (with photos of both the stages of creation and some of the more sculptural elements) can be found at its Facebook page.

I’ve seen it go through all the stages of gestation, from sketches and models to huge bits and pieces, some of which we trialled on our lawn.  It’s (in my no-doubt utterly unbiased opinion) a deeply conceived and executed work of art, powerful as spectacle and more so as I’ve lingered with what its elements say in themselves and with and through each other.  So, if you happen to be passing anywhere near that way in the next month, check it out.

Last, just for grins, here’s a picture of me, singing cooking in the rain:

IMG_1873

Ah well. It’s sunny today, at least.

Winner Of The “I Need A (Chocolate) Cigarette After Reading That” Award

Posted October 22, 2014 by Tom
Categories: seriously, Sharp thinking, Stupidity

Tags: , ,

Chris Kluwe on Gamergate:

Dear #Gamergaters,

Do you know why you piss me the fuck off?

Because you’re lazy. You’re ignorant. You are a blithering collection of wannabe Wikipedia philosophers, drunk on your own buzzwords, incapable of forming an original thought. You display a lack of knowledge stunning in its scope, a fundamental disregard of history and human nature so pronounced that makes me wonder if lead paint is a key component of your diet. You think you’re making piercing arguments when, in actuality, you’re throwing a temper tantrum that would embarrass a three-year-old.

Pieter_Quast_Jansz._-_Cellar_Interior_-_Google_Art_Project

Read the whole thing.  It’s a truly righteous rant.  The man has a gift for invective.  One more brief sample:

There’s this herd of people, mainly angsty teenage caucasian men (based on an informal survey of 99 percent of the people who feel the need to defend this nonsense to me on Twitter), who feel that somehow, their identity as “gamers” is being taken away. Like they’re all little Anne Franks, hiding in their basements from the PC Nazis and Social Justice Warrior brigades, desperately protecting the last shreds of “core gaming” in their unironically horrible Liveblog journals filled with patently obvious white privilege and poorly disguised misogyny. “First they came for our Halo 2’s, and I said nothing.”

I liked his use of the term “slackjawed pickletits” too.

(PS:  I know I’ve been even more conspicuous by my absence lately than my usual absent self.  This is kind of a peace offering.  I promise something at least a little bit more substantive (and hopefully not about Ebola) in the near future.)

Image Pieter Quast Jansz, Cellar Interior, 1636.

Ebola Derangement Syndrome…Some Context

Posted October 8, 2014 by Tom
Categories: Guns, public health

Tags:

As of October 5  — the period covered by the World Health Organization’s latest Ebola Situation Report [PDF]  — there have been 8,033 cases of Ebola identified, with 3,879 deaths.  The one US Ebola death isn’t in that total yet — it will show up in next week’s report.

Using 2011 numbers (I can’t dig up more recent CDC data), forty weeks worth of gun deaths in the US would produce almost 25,000 men, women, kids, dead by homicide, dead in domestic battles, dead by accident, dead of the misery that leads to self-murder.

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A single US Ebola case has completely deranged the Republican party and their pack of running dogs.  There have been calls for summary execution of the ill and scorched earth assaults on some of the world’s poorest; someone managed to conflate Ebola and ISIS; a truly timorous sour (when did the GOP become such cowards?) now demands panic [h/t Edoroso] in response to this (genuinely) terrible disease that has, just to go back to the numbers again, the death of one person on American soil.

None of these trembling, vicious GOP hacks offers anything remotely so…determined…in the face of stories like this.  Or these. [PDF].  Or all those documented here, until the slaughter became too much for witnesses to bear.

Ebola is a terrifying disease.  It is doing immense damage to extremely vulnerable people and societies.  We should bring all we can to bear to block further transmission, to care for those already infected, and to discover whatever there is to be found to treat or prevent it.  But as we do so, it’s worth remembering that there is an epidemic disease claiming the lives of  more than eighty Americans a day, and we aren’t doing anything to stop it.

Image:  Alexandre-Gabriel Decamps, The Suicidec. 1836.

Girls Just Want To Have Fun — China “Red Princess” Edition

Posted October 2, 2014 by Tom
Categories: Oops

Tags: ,

I’ve not commented at all about Hong Kong and the umbrella protests because I don’t know enough to add anything to what much more informed people have saying.  As noted in Anne Laurie’s post this morning, old China hand Jim Fallows has been tracking the story closely, and has been writing himself and keeping tabs on other smart takes on the situation.  Here I’ll highlight from that list only the rather meta essay Henry Farrell put up at the Monkey Cage blog on the perils of explanatory journalism in cases, like this one, when the explaining journalist can fall afoul of his or her unknown unknowns:

Explainer journalism rests instead on the authority of the person doing the explaining.

The problem with this is twofold. First, the explainers are sometimes going to get things wrong. This is especially likely in international politics, where the explaining journalist is supposed to have expertise in far more countries and far more issues than any human being can possibly know much about. Second, the explainer is going to have difficulty in admittingthat he or she has gotten something wrong. If your authority and livelihood as a writer rests on your supposed ability to explain, you are not going to want to admit that you got things seriously wrong, even if you did.

Very useful correctives to keep on hand as we read just about any source on just about any kind of story.

So, my ignorance stipulated and reiterated, let me just add this to the mix.  If I’m CY Leung, the head of the Hong Kong government, facing an unprecedented level of protest and demands for more transparent, more democratic, and more open government, I probably really, really, don’t want to read a post on my 22 year old daughter’s Facebook page saying this:

The necklace on my profile pic is not a dog collar, silly!!!” she said. “This is actually a beautiful necklace bought at Lane Crawford (yes – funded by all you HK taxpayers!! So are all my beautiful shoes and dresses and clutches!! Thank you so much!!!!).

Collier,_Evert_-_Vanitas_Still-Life_-_1705

And I’m really, REALLY sure I would wish she hadn’t added this:

Actually maybe I shouldn’t say ‘all you’- since most of you here are probably unemployed hence all this time obsessed with bombarding me with messages.

In the context of stories like this one, this is just so much not what any senior official would want to see splashed across headlines around the world.  I have no idea how this moment of scandal (or simply gaucherie) will play into events on the streets of Hong Kong and in government offices there and in Beijing.  But damn…that’s some spectacular buffoonery from someone who I guess fits the definition of a red princess.

Image: Evert Collier, Vanitas Still Life 1705.

I Like To Think Of This As The Universe Expressing An Opinion About Today’s Incarnation Of The Party Of Lincoln

Posted October 2, 2014 by Tom
Categories: astronomy, geek humor, Snark

Tags:

I mean, this picture sure seems to make a cosmic viewpoint clear:

Keyhole_Nebula_-_Hubble_1999 crop

Ah well.  It’s back to work for your humble bloghost.

Image:  NASA, The Hubble Heritage Team (AURA/STScI) – Space Telescope Science Institute, Keyhole Nebula, crop of the feature known as “God’s Birdie,” 1999.

And I’ll Take Racist Media for $200, Alex

Posted October 1, 2014 by Tom
Categories: Evil, Journalism and its discontents, Massive Fail, MSM nonsense, words mattter

Tags: , ,

Alex:  What is the question that evokes the answer:  “A cartoon with a watermelon punchline referencing the President of the United States.”

We reply in chorus: “What was the racist garbage in the Boston Herald today?”

Again, this has been picked up in the comments, but it’s been making me crazy for a couple of reasons.  For the obvious one, I’m just going to outsource to Charles Pierce, who knows the Herald very well indeed:

 Let’s move along down my personal resume to The Boston Herald, where the current editors, whom I know well, today made me ashamed ever to have set foot in the place, let alone worked there for six years. They ran an editorial cartoon by someone named Jerry Holbert. In the cartoon…the White House intruder is in the bathtub while the president is brushing his teeth. The caption reads: “White House Invader Got Farther Than Originally Thought.” This is what the cartoonist, Holbert, has the intruder saying from the tub.

“Have you tried the new watermelon-flavored toothpaste?”

Pierce notes the hollow contempt for those of us disgusted by this in the non-apology that followed our outcry, the assertion that there’s not a racist bone in Holbert’s body, that he was just referencing his own kids toothpaste, and that, wait for it….

…we didn’t mean to offend anyone.  Take it away, Charles:

Of course, it was not meant to offend anyone. That was just a bonus. What it was meant to do was to appeal to the base prejudices of the elderly white suburban demographic to which the Herald has been pitching itself for three decades. It is racist hooey pitched to fans of racist hooey. Period. And, like so many other things, it is different with this president. It is different because there are no rules.

I got the remnants of my day job to get back to, so I’m just going to touch on the most clueless bit of attempted contrarian justification for this bit of garbage, this, coming from Jonathan Chait:

I don’t think the joke hinges upon black people liking watermelon. I think the joke is about the Secret Service’s security failures. Obama himself is not even the subject of the joke — his perspective is that of, or close to, the reader’s. The point of the joke is that White House security is so lax that a random person could wander into the president’s living quarters undetected and take a bath, and regard this as so casual he could chat about a commonplace topic as toothpaste.

Glad that’s clear.

Black people liking watermelon is certainly not the main comic premise of the cartoon

Well, that’s alright then, dear, isn’t it?

and was probably not intended as a secondary premise, either.

And you know this, how? Because you’ve peered deeply into Holbart’s eyes?  You’ve seen into his soul?  You know him to be a good man?

The cartoonist, Jerry Holbert, explained that he came up with watermelon because he was thinking of his kids’ Colgate watermelon-flavor toothpaste.

My kids. Yeah. That’s it!

Possibly he made a subconscious connection between a black president and watermelon.

Because, of course that’s what anyone would do when contemplating the first African American president.

But it seems very doubtful this was his intent.

“Seems?”

“Seems!”

“Seems…”

Two things:  1 — when an experienced reporter falls back on “seems” you know they got nuthin.  They’re telling you what the wish to be true, not what they know, or necessarily even think is likely.

and 2:  Chait should know better, but has tangled himself up around race before, so may not, but racism, like sexism, or anti-Semitism or any form of bigotry and dehumanization of the other, is not about what is in someone’s heart.  It’s not a question of essence, of identity, of who someone is.  It’s all about what one does and says.  Action in the world defines both the sin and the good deed.

In this world, as opposed into that swelling in Chait’s spotless mind’s eye, Holbert used one of the oldest caricturers with which slave-holders benefiting from stolen lives and labor sought to limn African Americans as simple, lazy and unoppressed by their oppression.  It’s an explicitly racist trope, and everyone who’s reached the age of reason (Holbert is my age to the year) knows it.

Turner Slave-ship

Holbert may be certain that he has not one prejudiced bone in his body, but what he or Chait thinks about intent or the “real” import of this cartoon is utterly irrelevant.

The cartoon speaks for itself, and its creator, and its defenders…to the shame I fear they will not feel.

J. M. W. Turner “Slave-ship”  1840

Not Even Trying To Hide It: Politico’s The President Must Die Edition

Posted October 1, 2014 by Tom
Categories: Evil, Journalism and its discontents, MSM nonsense, Republican knavery, Why Do They Hate America So?, words mattter

Tags: , ,

So, today we learn via  TPM* that a bottom feeder by the name of Ronald Kessler, writing at Politico, has nailed the real take-away from the Secret Service scandal:

Agents tell me it’s a miracle an assassination has not already occurred. Sadly, given Obama’s colossal lack of management judgment, that calamity may be the only catalyst that will reform the Secret Service. (h/t Commenter JPL at Balloon Juice)

Give him credit (sic).  With this, Kessler hits the daily double.  He blames President Obama for something no other — and for “other,” read, I’m afraid, white — President would be expected to do:  get involved in the day to day management of his protective detail.  And then Kessler adds that in imagining a fix for the problem, he regrets the necessity of the president’s death.

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I’m gobsmacked. Completely.  On the one hand, there’s nothing new here.  It is just one more instance in the long-running guerrilla propaganda war to delegitimize and disempower a twice elected president.  Its impulse is profoundly anti-democratic, deeply committed to the control of government by any means available.  It’s part and parcel of the series of incidents large and small that run from heckling during a State of the Union (imagine the reaction if someone had done that to C+ Augustus!) to a claim that somehow this President mustn’t appoint anyone to be approved by the current sitting Senate.

And yet, this ain’t just the eternal return of the same.  You have here a writer openly near-predicting the murder of the first African American president; accusing him of the basic failures that make that murder likely, and consoling himself that after that murder, things may get better.  It’s as near to cheerleading an assassination as I can imagine, while steering just clear of an explicit call for that event.

In a civilized society, advertisers and readers would flee Politico as if it suffered from the combined effects of Ebola, the bubonic plague and rabies.  And they would spit on the sidewalk anytime Mr. Kessler dared show his face.  In this one…

*No link to Politico; no rewarding the sewage rakers.

Image: Jean-Léon Gérôme, The Death of Caesarbetw. 1859 and 1867.


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