JFK, George Quintana, and tumblr

Our tumblr page is called “Thunderlads After Hours.”  If you are a tumblr user, you will be familiar with the service’s “Dashboard” feature.  All the posts on all the tumblr pages you follow appear before you in a constant stream. We follow lots of people, so we see lots of images when we log on there.  Below are a few we’ve seen there.

This is the avatar for a page we follow that goes by the name “Jack Ruby Tuesday“:

President John F. Kennedy projected a public image that was in many ways the opposite of the image Colonel Harlan Sanders projected.  They both came to international prominence in the 1960s and have remained familiar ever since, and each is strongly associated with a three-letter abbreviation.  So I think this image is worth a chuckle.  Because it simply replaces Colonel Sanders’ three-letter trademark “KFC” with Mr Kennedy’s familiar “JFK,” I think it is much funnier than the image on this T-shirt.

Also, this image caught my eye a few days ago:

I’d say this picture is sensational in more than one sense of the word.  The artist worked under the name George Quintana, though his given name was George Quaintance.

Marcel Duchamp, Calvinist

Tonight, Mrs Acilius and I were watching TV.  The program was a documentary called Paris: The Luminous Years. In a video clip from the 1960s, Marcel Duchamp said every visual artwork was a collection of shapes and colors.  The essence of art lay in the artist’s choice of these shapes and colors.  One set of shapes and colors was as eligible for this choice as another, and the actual production of the artwork was purely incidental.  Once the artist had made his or her choice of shapes and colors, the “art” is complete.

Mrs Acilius (who posts on WordPress as “Believer1“) said something about this.  “I think art is freedom.  When I paint a plate, I know that I’m painting it with fingers that have cerebral palsy.  So I have to start by accepting the fact that the picture I have in my mind is not going to be the same as the picture on the plate.”  We talked about this.  I asked her if she was saying that art wasn’t just something that happened in the artist’s mind, or just the finished product, but was to be found in the process, in the difference between what she was trying to do and what wound up happening.  She confirmed that she was saying that.

A plate by Mrs Acilius

I told Mrs Acilius that the difference between her and Duchamp reminded me of the difference between Calvinism and sacramentalism in Christian theology.  Duchamp’s idea that art is art simply because the artist has decided so, and that the events that take place in the physical world subsequent to that choice have no bearing on its status sounds rather like the Calvinist idea that the Elect are the Elect simply because God has decided so, and that events that take place in the physical world subsequent to his free election have no bearing on their status.  Her idea, by contrast, sounds like a form of Christianity that regards salvation as inseparable from particular forms of matter and particular events in time.

The Mrs is a Quaker; unlike the classical believer in the Orthodox, Catholic, or Anglican versions of Christianity, Quakers typically reject ritual.  They do, however, embrace sacraments.  Quakers do not practice baptism by water, not because they think it puts too much of God in the physical world, but because it puts too little of Him there.  Believing that the soul can encounter the Holy Spirit under any circumstances, they see the whole world as the scene of baptism.  Likewise, in their meetings for worship they do not have a ritual sharing of wine and bread, not because they lack communion, but because in their shared silences they make their fellowship a communion, and their whole persons an altar on which it is consecrated.  They do not make lists of sacraments, such as the traditional seven sacraments of Western Christianity, not because they deny that God interacts with humanity through matter, but because they believe that He interacts with us in more ways than we can count or foresee.  So when the Mrs puts an emphasis on the unpredictability of the artistic process, she is using categories familiar from the theology of her religious tradition.

ViewMaster: It’s not dead yet

The death of ViewMaster has been announced more than once, but the medium keeps rising from the dead.  The latest newsletter from Las Vegas-based 3dStereo.com brings word of some new products, including an original story in the form of a booklet and three stereo reels produced by comedy writer Eric Drysdale (of The Colbert Report fame,) a new advertising reel for Embassy Suites hotels, some new soft-core porn “glamour” reels, and a lot of reissues of old sets.  I’d also mention a release Fisher-Price made in October, a three-reel set of Where the Wild Things Are, which shows the pages of the original book with the white borders and text of the pages as a proscenium foreground and the illustrations inset in three dimensions.  It’s a very clever envisioning of a children’s book, and a perfect use of the stereoscope.  It was originally released as a gift set with a cardboard box and a Model L viewer.  It’s still available in that format from 3Dstereo, but it’s in stores as a simple 3 reel blisterpak.  Highly recommended.

Manitoba Hal wins!

The votes are in for Ukulele Hunt’s Video of the Year 2010 contest, and our favorite Manitoba Hal has won a much-deserved victory.  He edged Bella Hemming’s “Play Guitar” (which is also excellent) by 11 votes out of 1225 cast.  The big surprise was that Jonsi and Nico Muhli’s “Go Do” came last with only 31 votes; I’d expected it to be one of the top finishers.  It was my second choice.  Maybe it was lots of people’s second choice.

Edmund Lowe

I’d never heard of Seattle-based photographer Edmund Lowe until I happened upon this photograph a few minutes ago:

Prints of it are for sale, if I hadn’t already bought Mrs Acilius’ Valentine’s Day present I wouldn’t have been able to resist the temptation.  Since this plant, the Western Skunk Cabbage (alias Yellow Skunk Cabbage, alias Lysichiton Americanus) blooms at the end of winter, it would be an appropriate symbol for a fertility festival held in mid-February.  Since it emits a foul odor (whence the name “Skunk Cabbage,”) a photograph of it would be a better gift than an actual specimen.

The idea of north, and every other direction

The winner of Eleuke’s annual prize for best ukulele video is the most Canadian thing I’ve ever seen.  I kept expecting footage of Sergeant Preston of the Yukon breaking up a hockey fight.

 

We see the people we look at, we look at the people we’ve seen

In the latest issue of The Nation, Alexander Cockburn argues that the reason Wisconsin’s Democratic US Senator Russ Feingold lost his seat in this month’s election was that too many voters associated him with the Obama administration and its habit of appeasing the Republican Party.  How can the senator regain his reputation?  Cockburn recommends that he challenge Mr O for reelection, presenting himself as an independent candidate in 2012.  Cockburn does not claim that US voters in general are looking for a populist candidate who will call Wall Street to account; rather he says that exit polls show that the public at large has no definite idea as to what it would like to see next.  But more respondents in those polls blamed Wall Street for the country’s economic woes than any other force, and Feingold’s record makes him a plausible champion of real reform.  Perhaps if someone like him made a case for curbing the power of the financial elite, public opinion would start to move in that direction.  Perhaps the existence of a populist candidate might give rise to a populist movement, which might in turn reshape the public’s perceptions of what is possible in US politics.

Barry Schwabsky’s  essay about painter Nancy Spero (1926-2009) is occasioned by a new book about her visual work, the reissue of her book on The Torture of Women, and an exhibition at the Centre Pompidou.  Schwabsky focuses at length on Spero’s decision to exclude male figures from her work.  Schwabsky points out that many critics who ceaselessly attacked Spero for her supposedly narrow range saw nothing narrow about the decision many of her contemporaries made to renounce representational art altogether. For Schwabsky, these critics missed the fact that Spero was, “after Matisse, the great painter of the dance.”  He enlarges on the comparison: “Matisse, speaking of his chapel in Vence, explained, “This lightness arouses feelings of release, of obstacles cleared, so that my chapel is not ‘Brothers, we must die.’ It is rather ‘Brothers, we must live!'” Spero’s late work embodies this same sense of release. “Sisters, we must live!” could be its motto.”   Even Spero’s protest, as in The Torture of Women, is never merely angry, never a counsel of despair; rather, she always affirms that life is still to be lived, “that judgment has yet to be rendered.”

Benjamin Barber looks at the US political scene and worries that Americans are losing their grip on reality.  More precisely, he fears that in our public life we no longer make much distinction between facts and opinions.  This development, Barber argues, is lethal to democracy:

The trouble is that when we merely feel and opine, persuaded that there is no possible way our opinion can be controverted or challenged, having an opinion is the same as being “right.” Being right quickly comes to trump being creditable and provable, and we lose the core democratic faculty of admitting that we might be wrong, and that our views must be judged by some criterion other than how deeply we hold them. Our polarized antidemocratic politics of personal prejudice is all about the certainty that we are right paired with the conviction that nothing can change our mind. Yet democracy is wholly contrary to such subjective certainty. To secure our liberty in a world of collectivity, we must remain endlessly sensitive to the possibility that we might be wrong. And hence to our reciprocal willingness to subject our opinions to corroboration—and to falsification. We teach evolution not because it is “true” in some absolute sense but because it is susceptible to falsification. Creationism is not, which is why evolution is science while creationism is subjective opinion—a fit candidate for belief but inappropriate to schooling.

Barber has spent a great deal of time replying to the so-called “Public Ignorance Objection” to direct democracy, arguing that if the public does not have the knowledge needed to govern itself, that is likely because it has had no occasion to gain that knowledge.  Let the people govern, and they will have an incentive to acquire not only the information that statecraft requires, but a set of habits that can translate that information into workable policy.  It’s a bit of a disappointment he didn’t have space to develop that theme here, but could only describe the problem.

Who among the people depicted below is still alive?

For some time now I’ve kept typing into Google variations on this question: “Which of the people represented on the cover of Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band are still alive?”  Lots of sites identify the people, but nowhere does it seem that there is a list of who’s alive and who’s dead.  So I decided to take a few minutes on Wikipedia and make up such a list myself.

Alive (UPDATED)

Larry Bell

Bobby Breen

Dion diMucci

Bob Dylan

Paul McCartney*

Ringo Starr

Shirley Temple

Dead (date of death in parentheses)

Tony Curtis (29 September 2010)

Richard Merkin (5 September 2009)

Karlheinz Stockhausen (5 December 2007)

Marlon Brando (1 July 2004)

Albert Stubbins (28 December 2002)

George Harrison (29 November 2001)

Huntz Hall (30 January 1999)

William S. Burroughs (2 August 1997)

Terry Southern (29 October 1995)

Marlene Dietrich (6 May 1992)

Fred Astaire (22 June 1987)

Diana Dors (4 May 1984)

Johnny Weissmuller (20 January 1984)

H. C. Westermann (3 November 1981)

John Lennon (8 December 1980)

Mae West (22 November 1980)

Richard Lindner (16 April 1978)**

Issy Bonn (21 April 1977)

Wallace Berman (18 February 1976)

Sonny Liston (30 December 1970)***

Lenny Bruce (3 August 1966)

Simon Rodia (16 July 1965)

Stan Laurel (23 February 1965)

Aldous Huxley (22 November 1963)****

Max Miller (7 May 1963)

Marilyn Monroe (5 August 1962)

Stu Sutcliffe (10 April 1962)

Carl Gustav Jung (6 June 1961)

Tyrone Power (15 November 1958)

Oliver Hardy (7 August 1957)

Albert Einstein (18 April 1955)

Dylan Thomas (9 November 1953)

Parmahansa Yogananda (7 March 1952)

George Bernard Shaw (2 November 1950)

Tommy Handley (9 January 1949)

Aleister Crowley (1 December 1947)

W. C. Fields (25 December 1946)

H. G. Wells (13 August 1946)

Tom Mix (12 October 1940)

Sigmund Freud (23 September 1939)

Sri Yukteswar Giri (9 March 1936)

T. E. Lawrence (19 May 1935)

Oscar Wilde (30 November 1900)

Stephen Crane (5 June 1900)

Aubrey Beardsley (16 March 1898)

Lewis Carroll (14 January 1898)

Sri Lahiri Mahasaya (26 September 1895)

Karl Marx (14 March 1883)

David Livingstone (1 May 1873)

Robert Peel (2 July 1850)

Edgar Allan Poe (7 October 1849)

*If you are of this opinion, go ahead and comment.  Someone might respond.  I won’t, but someone might.

**He died on his 50th birthday

***That’s when the police say he died, but there’s a controversy about it

****The same day C. S. Lewis died.  And John F. Kennedy, also.

New Post on Weirdomatic

FotB Alexandra has posted a new gallery on her terrific site, Weirdomatic.  The title is “Happy Things Pictures,” and it’s irresistible. 

Graphic Presentation by Willard Cope Brinton

Reading the blog commonly known as “Gelman,”  we learned that Michael Stoll posted on Flickr a collection of images from a remarkably attractive 1939 book called Graphic Presentation, by Willard Cope Brinton.  Evidently hundreds of other bloggers have already found this collection and ripped images from it; why should we be any different?  As always, we’ve linked each picture to the place where we found it.