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Amusing story in the Guardian where a reporter spent a day at the Louvre hanging out next to the Mona Lisa.
This year the crowds lining up to see it have grown thicker than ever, with the influx of millions of new Chinese tourists into Europe. A day spent in the room where the picture hangs reveals much about the global tourist industry - illustrating which countries are doing well enough economically to allow their middle classes the chance to visit France.In her quick rundown of the history of the painting, the writer gives two principal reasons for its current fame: the adoration of the romantic 19th Century poets, who were obsessed with the femme fatale, and the theft of the painting in 1911, which caused the image to be reproduced all over the world. She doesn't mention the names of those poets, but Theophile Gautier wrote that "the head makes you dream for hours" and perhaps even more well-known was Walter Pater's assessment, which Kenneth Clark called "the most famous description of a work of art in the English language":
The presence that rose thus so strangely beside the waters, is expressive of what in the ways of a thousand years man has come to desire. Hers is the head upon which all the ends of the world are come and the eyelids are a little weary. It is a beauty wrought out from the flesh, the deposit, little cell by cell, of strange thoughts and fantastic reveries and exquisite passions. Set it for a moment beside one of those white Greek goddesses or beautiful women of antiquity, and how would they be troubled by this beauty, into which the soul with all its maladies has passed? ... She is older than the rock upon which she sits; like the vampire, she has been dead many times and learned the secrets of the grave; and has been a diver in deep seas, and keeps their fallen day about her; and has trafficked for strange webs with Eastern merchants; and, as Leda, was the mother of Helen of Troy, and, as Saint Anne, the mother of Mary; all this has been to her but the sound of lyres and flutes, and lives only in the delicacy with which it has molded the changing lineaments, and tinged the eyelids and the hand (Pater, 1869).This might explain those crowds, and perhaps should have rated a mention in the Guardian article. Nowadays we would call it the power of spin.
I took some notes on an early 20th C. quilt show at the American Folk Art Museum a few years ago and am just now getting around to processing them. For the above pattern, I had a sketch of one complete tile and notes on how the others went. These "computer recreations" (woo) are accurate except there were 6 rows, not four, and I believe the white diamonds (tinted red in the bottom jpeg) were black, or grey.
Tom Tomorrow thinks October Surprise the First was when Reagan cut a deal with the Iranians--"I'll give you guns if you wait till my inauguration day to release the hostages." He explains, therefore, it was kind of a "secret surprise." This is contorted. The actual history was, the October Surprise was what the Republicans feared in the 1980 election--that Carter would somehow secure hostage release right before the election. As long as we're exploding myths about the Carter era, do you think Carter wore a sweater to demonstrate energy conservation? Well, wrong! See this earlier post on the subject. It makes Republicans mad because they love their folklore as much as the Dems.
More on the increasing evidence that Pres. Bush cheats by using a wire in public appearances (including the debates): according to Dave Lindorff, who's been covering the story for Salon and Counterpunch, the Letterman Top 10 is emblematic that the media intends to treat it as a joke. The US media, that is. Lindorff says he was interviewed for an extensive story on Bush bulge that ran on international CNN but not in America.
The New York Times got criticized for calling Jacques Derrida abstruse in its obit headline, so it ran a Derrida-lovin' editorial (scroll down) by academic Mark C. Taylor as a way of making amends. Taylor declares Derrida, Wittgenstein, and Heidegger "the three most important 20th Century philosophers"--a thesis topic that reads like a TV news headline. It's like, all three must be continental philosophers, and we need one post-structuralist. So Derrida edges out Foucault and Lyotard because D. just died. The piece attempts to humanize him and make him warm and fuzzy for Times readers, talking about how important religion was to him. But Taylor's description of deconstruction mutes its dark side: as I understand it, Derrida was saying all sentences were hegemonic, i.e., territory conquering--Taylor softpedals that as "working by exclusion." Thus we don't use "grammatically correct," tightly-constructed sentences to study sentences, we play complex, punning language games that tease out their biases and inadequacies, which Derrida could apparently do well but not everyone has a gift for. The result is legions of mediocre sub-Derridas ensconced in college departments, making students hate reading. That's one reason Derrida's death is a slightly charged issue--it's not just because the neocons hate him.
The friendly spirit who lives in a cigarette watches over my kitchen and reminds me to eat my vegetables. The sculpture is by Thor Johnson, ca. 1990.
My predecessor Eyebeam reBlogger Beverly Tang has posted photos from her summer roadtrip, from the West Coast to Tennessee and back. My favorite are her shots of skies and sunsets from the moving car, particularly on the Arizona and Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas parts of the trip. They're crisp, striking images in terms of pure old-fashioned photographic values, but they also conjure for me the loneliness of that part of the country, where I lived and drove for years--places where some days the sky is the only thing happening (that and cafeteria shootings).
Like everyone else in the blogosphere, I enjoyed watching Jon Stewart attack the CNN Crossfire hosts on their own show (I saw the Windows Media clip via BitTorrent). The only problem is the confrontation took place on Crossfire, which means reaction shots of the guffawing audience, a pre-prepared graphic of Stewart's softball Kerry questions designed to make Stewart look weak and stupid, the emphasis on gotchas and zingers that seems to be TV's sole reason for being, and, worst of all, the presence of the two toxic hosts, doing their best to get the better of their guest. Stewart's admission that he watches their show every day considerably weakened his case in my eyes. Attacking the show on the show innately smells of co-opting--it just provides more "good television."