Start The Week With The Lord God Bird

Posted September 8, 2014 by Tom
Categories: Art, Art and science, Cool Images

Tags: , ,

66_Ivory-billed_Woodpecker_(Duke_of_Portland_Audubon_edition)

A nice start to what might be a tolerable week* comes in the form of a message from Harvard’s rare books collection, the Houghton Library.  Its collection of 114 early J.J. Audubon drawings is now online in high resolution.  Among the treats, a depiction of two Ivory Billed Woodpeckers, the “lord god bird,” having their way with a tree.

According to the announcement, these early drawings are rare/of heightened interest because of Audubon’s practice of destroying sketches and alternate versions after selecting what he saw as the best of any subject.  The earliest images in this collection date back to when Audubon was 18, and, says Harvard, they probably survived Audubon’s rolling erasure of his tracks in the hands of one of his patrons.  In any event, the images are gorgeous, and there for the gazing.

That said, the image above is a later Audubon not from the Houghton collection, as Harvard requires permission from the curator before reusing their images. I’m asking for same; if I get it, I’ll add one from this trove.

*Hah! Who am I kidding.  There are still Republicans with actual power!

Image:  John James Audubon, Plate 66 of Birds of America, depiction of the Ivory Billed Woodpecker, 1838.

Oooh Baby, You Are So Talented!…

Posted September 5, 2014 by Tom
Categories: MSM nonsense, Republican follies, ridicule, Stupidity

Tags:

And they are so dumb.

“They” in this case refers to the mouthpiece for he whom Charles Pierce indelibly dubbed the C-plus Augustus, one Dana Perino, who complained that in some photographs of President Obama’s visit to Stonehenge, ” he’s standing alone.”

Ma_Yuan_Walking_on_Path_in_Spring

Why is  this a problem for the former White House Press Secretary, who, in that job, got to watch her boss amble past a global financial melt down?  It’s obvious!

I don’t think that’s a good optic. [via TPM]

You know what’s scariest about this latest Fox News craptasm?  Perino was actually the least insane voice in the conversation.  The other two hacktaculars on air with her were upset that Obama had the effrontery to stop by the monument at all, where as Perino, at least, thought it OK for a President to get a few minutes at the site.

But dear FSM, give me strength.  I take a couple of messages from this bit of foolishness.

First, again, Peak Wingnut lies in Cantor territory:*  it infinitely retreats, to be approached but never reached.  Second, last time I looked there were actual problems in the world, here at home and abroad as well.  Just one or two.  Our society formally locates the process of addressing such problems in our political system.  It would help if those who interpret politics for the public actually connected their analysis to anything real.

Instead, we get a Stonehengegazi.**

When future historians wonder just how it was we were able to trigger the afterburners in the power dive of our republic, the transcript of this little snippet will give them a clue.

*Georg, not Eric.

**Saw that in a tweet. Wish I’d thought of it myself. Actually, no I don’t.

Image:  Ma Yuan, Walking on a Path in Springbefore roughly 1225.

He Could Have Been A Contender

Posted September 5, 2014 by Tom
Categories: Republican follies, ridicule, Stupidity

Tags:

Well, no, he couldn’t, not really.

I’m talking about Bobbie Jindal, and I’m of the opinion that there never was any there, there.  But up until his never-to-be-forgotten impression of Kenneth the Page the usual suspects spent a lot of bytes talking up this New Republican™ epitome of competence, intelligence and non-old-white-maleness.

Not anymore, of course, for an over-rich list of reasons, not the least of which is that after spending several years in close proximity, those who know him best, his constituents, have come to loathe him.

Still, give the man credit.  He’s hit bottom, but does he give up?  No! Not Bobby Jindal. Now’s the time he grabs a shovel.

His latest?  This [via Think Progress, a few days ago, actually,* h/t Brad Delong]:

Louisiana’s state school superintendent John White supports Common Core, an effort to foster interstate consistency in education standards. So does the state board of education. So does the state legislature, for that matter, which passed a law in 2012 enabling the state to opt in to Common Core standards. Indeed, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal (R) actively pushed for this 2012 law, which he signed. Recently, however, Jindal decided that he actually opposes Common Core…**

 So Jindal has turned to what has become the lastrefuge for conservative officials and activists who can’t get what they want through a legitimate lawmaking process. He’s suing the Obama Administration in federal court. [links in the original]

OK, so far, not impressive.  This is garden variety stuff:   the ability to forget in an instant any previous held position is part of any ambitious Republican’s mental toolkit.

Laughing jester

But Jindal, famously (once) one of the “smart” ones*** goes for All-Star goofery with the reasoning underpinning his suit:

The crux of Jindal’s lawsuit, however, is that the grant programs that reward participation in Common Core somehow violate the Constitution and federal law because they force Louisiana to enter into an entirely voluntary program that it did, in fact, enter into voluntarily. 

Yup. That’s it.  Bobbie Jindal haz a sad ’cause that nasty Kenyan Socialist Mooslim™ allowed him to choose to do — or not do — something he once thought he wanted to do, but doesn’t anymore.

Now that’s professional-grade horse shit — and that, my friends, is a once seriously considered contender for the GOP invite to the big dance in 2016.

*So I’m slow.  Sue me.  Use Bobbie J.’s lawyer.

**I’m not even remotely convinced by the common core, myself (I guess I read too much Diane Ravitch).  But that’s not the point, is it.  I didn’t go haring after federal cash to implement in my living room, no did I?

***self-selectedly so, too.

Image: Anonymous, Netherlands The Laughing Jester, 15th C.

What Could Possibly Go Wrong? Border Cosplay Edition

Posted August 31, 2014 by Tom
Categories: Guns, Stupidity, Who thought that was a good idea?

Tags: ,

Via TPM:

A border patrol agent fired several shots at an armed militia member while chasing a group of immigrants Friday near Brownsville, Texas…

the man was wearing camouflage and was carrying either a rifle or shotgun.

Claude_Monet_-_Jean_Monet_on_his_Hobby_Horse

 

The self appointed guardian of the galaxy was lucky — the border patrol officer (like most people) was no Dead-eye Dick, and our last line of defense from the Ebola-carrying and Mooslim terrorist hordes of twelve year olds crossing our southern border was unhurt.  But, as we say in the portending business, It’s Only A Matter Of Time.

The shorter:

The sheriff said militias really aren’t needed at the Texas-Mexico border given the number of law enforcement agencies already working to secure the area.

“It just creates a problem from my point of view, because we don’t know who they are,” Lucio told the AP.

This has been another episode of Listen To The Man.

Image:  Claude Monet, Jean Monet on his Hobby Horse1872.

WTF Is Wrong With These People?

Posted August 28, 2014 by Tom
Categories: bad behavior, Gender, Technology

Tags: ,

By these people, I mean (some) male gamers:

Earlier this week, feminist critic Anita Sarkeesian posted the latest in a series of crowdfunded videos called Tropes vs. Women, devoted to aggregating and analyzing games that portray women as damsels in distress, ornamental eye candy, incidental victims, and other archetypes that tend to be written in service of and subordinate to male players and characters….

…Since the project launched on Kickstarter way back in 2012, the gaming community has been treated to an incessant, deeply paranoid campaign against Tropes vs. Women generally and Sarkeesian personally….now, she’s apparently spent the night with friends after contacting law enforcement about “some very scary threats” against her and her family. She’s published a page of extremely violent sexual threats from the person who apparently drove her to call the police; in it, the user mentions the location of her apartment and threatens to kill her parents, who the user names and claims to be able to find.

Hemessen,_Jan_Sanders_van_-_Tarquin_et_Lucretia

Sarkeesian has tweeted out that she’s safe.  The good news is that some very prominent people in and around gaming and tech have weighed in on her project.  The bad news is that such public encouragement may be making Sarkeesian even more of a target:

In this case, the vitriol might have been compounded by the support her latest video received from popular developers and media figures. Joss Whedon and William Gibson, among others, mentioned it, and Tim Schafer of Double Fine — known for Psychonauts and the Kickstarter-funded Broken Age spent several hours fielding responses after urging everyone in game development to watch it “from start to finish.”

I started to write here about how this is a test of the gamer community, and the need to shame and shun and all that, but we know.  We do.  Take it as read.

And, of course, it ain’t just gamers, though it’s pretty damn obvious at this point that tech in general has a dude-bro problem.  I’ve recently been engaged in efforts to respond to gender bias and sexual harassment on my own patch, science writing, so I know better than to suggest that this is an isolated pathology.  The hate and genuine danger may vary by degree, but it’s hardly confined to one corner of contemporary life.

IOW: if this is a test, it’s a test that we’re all are taking.  Judge for yourself whether, when or if we manage to pass it.

Jan Sanders van Hemessen, Tarquin and Lucretia, before 1579.

This Is Not Good News

Posted August 22, 2014 by Tom
Categories: Foreign Policy, War

Tags: ,

And don’t say “yeah, except for John McCain”….

Russian “aid”:

The Russian military has moved artillery units manned by Russian personnel inside Ukrainian territory in recent days and is using them to fire at Ukrainian forces, NATO officials said on Friday….

“Russian artillery support — both cross-border and from within Ukraine — is being employed against the Ukrainian armed forces,” [NATO spokeswoman Oana Lungescu] added.

Putin’s playing a very dangerous game, obviously, and we’re seeing the prescience of those who suggested that he hadn’t, or couldn’t, figure out how turn the knobs up and down on the nationalist wave he hopes to use to distract from his crappy governance.

Arthur_Devis_-_Gentleman_with_a_Cannon_-_Google_Art_Project

And with that bit of obviousness, I’ll stop, given that my analysis of Russian politics and the regional dynamics is worth not what you paid for it, but quite likely less.

Image: Aruther Devis, Gentleman with a Cannon, 1741

For Our Own Good

Posted August 22, 2014 by Tom
Categories: Cool Images, Journalism and its discontents, MSM nonsense

Tags: , ,

If there was a golden age for American media, it was long ago and it was short.

Over at The Atlantic, Torie Rose DeGhett has an excellent, utterly unsurprising article about a photograph taken in the last hours in the first Gulf War.

The work of  the the then 28 year old  photographer Kenneth Jarecke, the image captures a fact of war hopelessly obscured by the shots that angered  Jarecke enough to postpone a planned hiatus from combat photography.  “’It was one picture after another of a sunset with camels and a tank.” — or, once combat actually began, gaudy displays of gee whiz toys, the disembodied beauty of missile exhausts, or bloodless shots of tires and twisted metal.  War as video game, or a spectacle for the folks back home.

Here’s DeGhett’s description of Jarecke’s riposte:

The Iraqi soldier died attempting to pull himself up over the dashboard of his truck. The flames engulfed his vehicle and incinerated his body, turning him to dusty ash and blackened bone. In a photograph taken soon afterward, the soldier’s hand reaches out of the shattered windshield, which frames his face and chest. The colors and textures of his hand and shoulders look like those of the scorched and rusted metal around him. Fire has destroyed most of his features, leaving behind a skeletal face, fixed in a final rictus. He stares without eyes.

Go to the link.  Look at the shot.

It’s a great photograph — great technically, and better as a work of art, in that it tells a story and commands empathy, all  in a single frame.  Most of all, though, it is essential journalism.  It said, clearly, what war costs.  It reframed — really, it guttted — the narrative of violence without pain that was so much the preferred description of the Gulf War in Washington DC.  Its viewers got to see what was done in their names.*

Or rather, it didn’t and they didn’t.  DeGhett documents the photograph’s journey from the battlefield to it’s near complete obscuration.  The in-theater Time photo editor sent it back to New York; Time passed and so did Life.  The AP in New York pulled the shot from the wire.  No one would touch it in the US, and in Europe, only the British Sunday paper The Observer, and the French daily Libération ran the image.

The key here, as DeGhett writes, is that there was no military pressure not to publish Jarecke’s photograph.  The war was over by the time his film got back to the facility in Saudi Arabia where the press pools operated.  The decision to withhold the shot from the American public was made by the American press, by editors at the major magazines, at The New York Times, at the wire service. The chokehold on information at the top of the mainstream media was tight enough back then that most newspaper editors, DeGhett reports, never saw the image, never got to make their choice to publish or hide.

You can guess the excuses.  “Think of the children!” For the more sophisticated, a jaded response:

Aidan Sullivan, the pictures editor for the British Sunday Times, told the British Journal of Photography on March 14 that he had opted instead for a wide shot of the carnage: a desert highway littered with rubble. He challenged the Observer: “We would have thought our readers could work out that a lot of people had died in those vehicles. Do you have to show it to them?”

Why yes, Mr. Sullivan, you do.

This is an old story, and as DeGhett notes, it’s not one that would likely play out the same way today.  It’s not as if, what with Twitter and ‘net journalism and the camera phones and all that, horrible images of value and images that are violence porn are not hard to find.  (As always, for each of us, YMMV in drawing the line.)  But her piece is still a very useful piece of journalism, for two reasons.  For one — the picture is really extraordinary, and it has a minatory value that exceeds the tale of the moment it was not allowed to tell.  When John McCain and Lindsay Graham and their merry band of bombers call for war here, war there, war everywhere — and even or especially when a situation like the rise of ISIS seems to a broader slice of our country to merit the attention of the US military — we should remember what such attention looks like on the ground.

For the other:  this reminds us what it looks like when the media — national press in particular — conforms its narratives to the needs of its sources, or even just to the wisdom that prevails among a handful of fallible, comfortable, Village elders.  They’re doing it still, as best they can — and their best is still pretty effective.  This shot is a reminder of that power, and the amoral disdain for the reader, the viewer, the citizenry with which that power is too often wielded.

Let me (as DeGhett does) give Jarecke the last word:

As an angry 28-year-old Jarecke wrote in American Photo in 1991: “If we’re big enough to fight a war, we should be big enough to look at it.”

*You’ll note the obvious.  Unusually for me, there is no image accompanying this post.  Jarecke’s photograph is under copyright and can be seen at the link.  No allusive work of fine art really works against that shot, I think, so, none is offered.

 

 

 

 

 


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