April 27, 2012

A Pause for Beauty

Every day there comes the point when I can not stomach any more news.  That's when I turn to  Beauty. 

A newly-discovered, but now essential blog for me is Colossal.  Christopher Jobson, creator and editor says,

I often describe Colossal as a blog that explores the intersection of art, design, and physical craft. I enjoy artwork that is tactile, physical and non-digital in nature, especially sculptural work and installations that use impossible numbers of components, or sequences in a process. During the course of a week you’ll find roughly 15-20 posts on photography, design, animation, painting, installation art, architecture, drawing and street art. I share things that I feel are accessible to everyone, requiring little explanation or theory, so in that sense, I hope people not involved directly in the arts can also find it interesting.
Some examples:

Gravity-Defying Land Art by Cornelis Konrads

 Moment Of Decision

Drawing with Leaves

 Drawing With Leaves

Book Igloo


Gorgeous Macro Photographs of Dew-Soaked Dandelions by Sharon Johnstone

 Dew Soaked Dandelion

24 Hours of Photographs Merged into a Single Panoramic Image

 24Hr-Panormaic Chris Kotsiopoloulos

Posted by Jill Fallon at 6:13 PM | Permalink

Italian style

Italy can still teach our Congressmen a thing or two.

What is it with you Italians?

The Italians despise the politicians they elect because they are hugely paid, hugely corrupt, and hugely useless. They can blame no one but themselves, because each nation gets the politicians it deserves. Once upon a time before I knew better I used to think there was a solution: Catch the Italians young before it is too late and force them to spend an entire day each week at school learning the difference between right and wrong and why this matters. But then I remembered that they are all Catholics and the Catholic Church does all that anyway. And look where that has got the Italians! So then it dawned on me: It’s gotta be in their DNA.
There are 435 Congressmen in America (population 311 million) and 100 Senators; their gross basic salary is $174,000. There are 630 Deputati, as members of the Lower House are called in Italy (population 60 million) and 315 Senatori. Average salary is around 200,000 euro ($261,000) according to a recent survey of European politicians’ incomes.

Italy’s politicians the highest-paid in Europe.
Italian politicians usually have second jobs, because let’s face it: They have a lot of time on their hands. I know one of them: He is a newspaper columnist with whom I am coauthoring a book on Benito Mussolini. My coauthor declared earnings for 2011, I noted recently with a great deal of irritation, of 340,000 euro ($444,000).
after three years on the job, for example, they are entitled to a fat inflation-proof pension when they reach 60 (which most of them already are). Planes, trains, stamps, gym, cinema, theater, life and personal-injury insurance, hairdresser, tennis, and English lessons—you name it, they get it free.

Obviously, they also get free private health and dental care for themselves and their families.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 5:52 PM | Permalink

Obamacare and Pope Leo XIII, the handwriting on the wall

Recommended by the Scrapbook. here are a couple of very good articles to read over the weekend

The most intelligent article I've read about How to Replace Obamacare by James Capretta and Robert Moffit in National Affairs .

The Handwriting on the Wall by George Weigel

the words on the wall at this moment in history speak of the results of a negation — a deconstruction — of the deep truths on which the civilization of the West has been built. And one of the main things that the "handwriting on the wall" in the early 21st century is telling us is that the secular project is over.

By "secular project," I mean the effort, extending over the past two centuries or more, to erect an empty shrine at the heart of political modernity.
In both its hard and soft forms, the secular project was wrong. Above all, it ignored the deep truth that it takes a certain kind of people, living certain virtues, to make democracy and the free economy work properly. People of that kind do not just happen. They must be formed in the habits of heart and mind, the virtues that enable them to guide the machinery of free politics and free economics so that the net outcome is human flourishing and the promotion of the common good. There is no such formation in the virtues of freedom available at the empty shrine.

A glimpse of what the empty shrine does produce was on offer late last summer in Great Britain, when packs of feral young people rampaged through city after city in an orgy of self-indulgence, theft, and destruction. The truth of what all that was about was most powerfully articulated by Lord Jonathan Sacks, the chief rabbi of the United Hebrew Congregations of the Commonwealth, writing in the Wall Street Journal:

This was the bursting of a dam of potential trouble that had been building for years. The collapse of families and communities leaves in its wake unsocialized young people…[who are the products of] a tsunami of wishful thinking that washed across the West, saying that you can have sex without the responsibility of marriage, children without the responsibility of parenthood, social order without the responsibility of citizenship, liberty without the responsibility of morality, and self-esteem without the responsibility of work and earned achievement.
That false worship of the Self — the worship of that which is not worthy of worship — has led to a severe attenuation of the moral sinews of democratic culture: the commitment to reason and truth-telling in debate; the courage to face hard facts squarely; the willingness to concede that others may have something to teach us; the ability to distinguish between prudent compromise and the abandonment of principle; the very idea of the common good, which may demand personal sacrifice.
Taking a cue from that great philosophical celebrant of irony, Richard Rorty, Colgate University's Robert Kraynak has neatly described the net result of all this as "freeloading atheism": Like Belshazzar's lords, wives, and concubines, those formed by the empty shrine and the worship of the imperial, autonomous Self have been drinking profligately out of sacred vessels, freeloading on moral truths that they do not acknowledge (and in many cases hold in contempt), but which are essential for sustaining democracy and the free economy, which the freeloaders claim to honor. But as Lord Sacks pointed out last summer, that jig is up.
What I have called the "empty shrine" at the center of political modernity was, for Leo XIII, the result of a dramatic revolution in European intellectual life in which metaphysics had been displaced from the center of reflection, thinking-about-thinking had replaced thinking-about-truth, and governance had therefore come unstuck from the first principles of justice. Science, which had replaced metaphysics as the most consequential of intellectual disciplines, could provide no answer to the moral question with which all politics, in the Western tradition, begins: How ought we to live together? Worse, when science stepped outside its disciplinary boundaries and tried its hand at social and political prescription, it let loose new demons, such as Social Darwinism, that would prove astonishingly lethal when they shaped the national tempers that made possible the great slaughters of the First World War.
Leo XIII insisted that freedom is not sheer willfulness. Rather, as Leo's successor John Paul II would later put it, freedom is the human capacity to know what is truly good, to choose it freely, and to do so as a matter of habit, or virtue. According to this line of argument, a talent for freedom grows in us; we cut short that learning process if we insist, with the culture of the imperial autonomous Self, that my freedom consists in doing what I want to do, now.
"The handwriting on the wall" at this moment in history is telling us that a political culture detached from the deep truths embedded in the human condition eventually yields traits of selfishness and irresponsibility that ill befit citizens of a democracy. "The handwriting on the wall" is telling us that a democratic politics that ignores those deep truths eventually dissolves into thinly disguised dictatorship — the dictatorship of relativism. And if that is the message, then our duty comes into clearer focus, too.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 4:27 PM | Permalink

Repeating patterns in nature and the cosmos

God, being a fine artist does not repeat himself, but he does rhyme.

 God Braincell Universe

See it in hi-res and read the text.

From sea shells to spiral galaxies, repeating patterns are the law of nature and the cosmos.  There's a long article at the Journal of Cosmology by Rhawn Joseph that teases out the mathematical implications with some beautiful examples

The symmetry and patterns exhibited by elementary particles, atoms, snail shells, sea shells, whirlpools, cyclones, solar systems, and spiral galaxies, should be applied to all galaxies, collectively, and to the cosmos. What these patterns have in common is they can be predicted from formulations first proposed by Pythagoras, and secondly, all orbit an eye or hole at their center.


Posted by Jill Fallon at 4:14 PM | Permalink

Why Women Make Less Than Men

They work fewer hours for pay

Kay Hymowitz: Why Women Make Less Than Men

In studies from the U.S. to Sweden, pay discrimination can't explain the disparity. Women earn less because they work fewer hours.
The main reason that women spend less time at work than men—and that women are unlikely to be the richer sex—is obvious: children. Today, childless 20-something women do earn more than their male peers. But most are likely to cut back their hours after they have kids, giving men the hours, and income, advantage.
Women, in fact, make up two-thirds of America's part-time workforce
A 2007 Pew Research survey came up with similar results for American women: Among working mothers with minor children, 60% said they would prefer to work part-time, while only 21% wanted to be in the office full-time (and 19% said they'd like to give up their job altogether). How about working fathers? Only 12% would choose part-time and 70% wanted to be full-time.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 3:37 PM | Permalink