“All human nature vigorously resists grace because grace changes us and the change is painful.”
How the Little Free Library project launched a global trend. Tiny Libraries
Tiny libraries in converted phone booths, purpose-built kiosks, experimental art installations, quirky handmade boxes—and even one refrigerator—are springing up on street corners around the world at a rapid rate. These miniature lending libraries lead the communal book revolution, bringing reading material to the masses at a level that far exceeds their size.
7.When invited on a picnic - ""As a rule, the invitation will be only on a weekend, and you don’t have to prepare for something extravagant. Everything is the same as ours, only with far less booze. Bring something sporty—ball, badminton, Americans are certainly fervent fans of these things.” "
17. Don't call people ugly. "At the table is better to avoid talking about politics and religion, as the United States is a country of Puritan values. In the straight-line American culture there is a taboo forbidding calling out the physical defects of another person. This is probably due to the constant desire of Americans to always be in great shape and look young."
Cows on the Beach in South Africa
Nguni cattle take daily walks untended to the beach in the sweltering afternoons. The locals believe the cows like the salty water because it helps keep away the parasites; plus, they seem to like cooling their heels. But all that beef on the beach isn’t a new phenomenon: apparently, shipwrecked sailors first talked about these cow-dotted beaches back in the 16th century.
This video is eerie and mesmerizing. Watch Art of Ancient Greek Vases Come to Life with 21st Century Animation
The Uyuni Salt Flats: Where Land is Indistinguishable from Sky. Video at the link
It's Just Like Hogwarts! What makes Gothic architecture so magical?
Christ Church Hall at Oxford
The Spy Among Us A transcript of Steve Kroft's piece on 60 Minutes. Jack Barsky held a job at some of the top corporations in the U.S. and lived a seemingly normal life -- all while spying for the Soviet Union. So how did he quit the KGB without getting killed?
Barsky said: "There's three things I tell people that the Russians were afraid of. AIDS, Jewish people and Ronald Reagan."
He wrote them a letter saying he had AIDS and the only place he could get treatment was in the U.S. And then the FBI moved next door.
They are in such demand that there is a black market where you can buy and sell them for double or triple their face value depending on the bill’s condition. Everyone wants them. Some stores have them on display underneath glass and discretely operate exchanges.
“They bring us good luck. If you keep a $2 bill with you it will bring more money,”
How to Drink Like a Saint With moderation, gratitude, memory, merriment and ritual.
“What happens is that during a particular time of the year, particularly in May and August, young spiders in the Outback somewhere throw these threads of spiderwebs up in the air and use them as a parachute to detach themselves from the ground and move in large colonies through the sky,” Mr Basterfield explained.
“They fly through the sky and then we see these falls of spider webs that look almost as if it’s snowing.
In the Atlantic. The Wedding Sting When a police department lured all the drug dealers to one big party.
By 9:00 p.m. the party was in full swing, but behind the scenes was pure tension: Sweaty hands gripped weapons. Synchronized watches were checked. The band knew it was time to give the signal and began to play the song: “I Fought The Law (and the Law Won).”
Williams reached into her garter and felt for her revolver. Shooter jumped onto the stage, and grabbed the mic.
“Let’s have some fun,” he shouted. “Everybody here that’s a cop, stand up!”
A dozen undercover officers rose to their feet as uniformed detectives burst through the door.
“Okay!” Shooter yelled. “All the rest of you motherf***** put your hands on the table, because you’re under arrest! This is a bust!”
In Madrid, Julien de Casabianca is bringing Forgotten Classical Paintings Taken from Museums to the Streets
10 Interesting Facts About the Placebo Effect It can still work even if you know you're taking a placebo
Bigger than 87 average-sized IMAX screens, Hoover Dam Turned into an Enormous Projection Screen
Beautiful art made from old keys and coins by self-taught Australian artist Michael Moerkerk.
10 Amazingly Enjoyable Things About Having Kids
Is having kids 'all joy and no fun'? Totally wrong. If you're not having fun, you're not paying attention.
Her website here.
Artist Shen Jiawei's paintings of Chinese soldiers during the Cultural Revolution were so popular with Mao's regime that 250,000 copies of his most famous work were made into propaganda posters and distributed throughout the country.
His hopes of attending art school dashed with the closure of China's universities, Shen joined the Red Guards and then the People's Liberation Army, fully embracing the communist spirit of the times. In the PLA, his self-taught artistic talents were recognized and he became one of the legions of propaganda artists who glorified workers, farmers and soldiers in the Socialist Realism style of Soviet propaganda.
"I stopped my propaganda work in the 1970s," he said, laughing. "Even church commission work, this is part of normal artwork, part of commission and part of history."
In 1989 after the Tiananmen Square protests, he fled to Australia and was given refugee status. Largely self-taught. Shen first caught the attention of Australian church officials with a 1994 portrait of Mary MacKillop, the 19th-century nun who ministered to the poor and in 2010 became Australia's first saint.
A local Australian art teacher commissioned the work after seeing the portrait of Mary MacKillop on the wall of the Australian embassy to the Holy See. "We thought why not commission Mr Shen to paint a portrait of the newly elected and much talked about Pope Francis!"
With the seed planted, Pope Francis gave permission for the portrait to be made on his flight back from last year's World Youth Day, and last week, to his delight, was presented with the masterpiece at a special reception at the Apostolic Palace that coincided with the 40th anniversary of the Australian diplomatic mission to the Vatican.
"All this is a change of fortunes for Mr Shen who came to Australia as a refugee and scratched out a living at Darling Harbour knocking out tourist portraits," Mr. Hurst added. "A refugee artist and a Sydney school teacher finding themselves in the midst of a glittering reception in a Roman palace had us both pinching ourselves trying to believe we were there. We were surrounded by Cardinals, ambassadors and at least two Roman princesses who were all praising the painting
More about the artist and a portfolio of his paintings here.
Daily Mail From Red Guard posters to a papal portrait: Artist who fled to Australia after Tiananmen Square massacre will paint for the Vatican - four decades after his work was distributed as propaganda by communist China.
Shen's journey from favoured propaganda artist of the People's Liberation Army to papal portraitist is an unusual tale of talent and timing. 'For me, one door closed but another always opened,' Mr Jiawei said of his career in a recent phone interview from his studio in Bundeena, south of Sydney.
Blue is the overwhelming “favorite color.” Blue is seen as trustworthy, dependable, and committed. Blue is the least “gender specific” color, having equal appeal to both men and women. The color of ocean and sky, blue is perceived as a constant in our lives.
But our ancestors couldn't see it. Ancient people didn't perceive the color because they didn't have a word for it, say scientists
Ancient languages, for instance, didn't have a word for blue and scientists believe as a result our ancestors didn't notice the color even existed. In 'The Odyssey,' Greek poet Homer famously describes the 'wine-dark sea.' In 1858 William Gladstone, who later became the British prime minister, counted the color references in the Homer's Odyssey and found blue wasn't mentioned at all. Black is mentioned nearly 200 times and white about 100. Red, meanwhile, is mentioned fewer than 15 times, and yellow and green fewer than 10. It wasn't just the Greeks. Blue also doesn't appear in the Koran, ancient Chinese stories, and an ancient Hebrew version of the Bible, according to a German philologist named Lazarus Geiger. Egyptians, who were the only culture that could produce blue dyes, were the first ancient civilization to have a word for the color blue.
A few years ago I was fascinated by a Radiolab podcast Why Isn't the Sky Blue? As languages evolve with new words, red is always the first color named and blue the last. And this is the case in every language studied, Linguist Guy Deutscher tested this out with an experiment on his daughter Alma. He taught her every color but never told her that the sky was blue. One day he pointed to the sky and asked her what color it was. Alma was perplexed. She simply saw a void. Every day that was 'sky blue' Deutscher asked his daughter . One day she said white and only learned over time that it was blue.
If you go to the link you can download the podcast and read the fascinating comments. Some suggest that a vitamin A deficiency could result in a loss of the ability to see blue. Others point that the Japanese had a word for blue but not for green until contact with the west; the Vietnamese word "xanh" means both green and blue; the Hebrew Bible referenced blue in several parts.
Many people don't distinguish well between blue, cyan and green
This is the color cyan
Wikipedia on cyan
The web color cyan is synonymous with aqua. In most languages, 'cyan' is not a basic color term and it phenomenologically appears as a greenish vibrant hue of blue to most English speakers. Reasons for why cyan is not linguistically acknowledged as a basic color term can be found in the frequent lack of distinction between blue and green in many languages. Some varieties in the cyan color range are teal, turquoise, electric blue, aquamarine, and other colors described as blue-green..
This is the color blue
Wikipedia on blue
The clear sky and the deep sea appear blue because of an optical effect known as Rayleigh scattering. When sunlight passes through the atmosphere, the blue wavelengths are scattered more widely by the oxygen and nitrogen molecules, and more blue comes to our eyes. Rayleigh scattering also explains blue eyes; there is no blue pigment in blue eyes. Distant objects appear more blue because of another optical effect called atmospheric perspective.
How Many Colors Can Most of Us Actually See?
Cones are photoreceptors on the human retina responsible for color vision. Most people are trichromatic, meaning that they have three types of cones — red, blue, and green — and information from the different types of cones combines to produce color perception. Since each type of cone enables the eye to distinguish approximately 100 shades, the average human combines those exponentially and is able to see about 1 million shades.
Evidence suggests that some people have four types of cones — including an additional orange one — and are able to see 100 million shades. According to color vision researcher Dr. Jay Neitz, only women can have four types of cones. Yet, despite the fact that up to 12% of women in the world possess four cone types, most don’t test as tetrachromatic. There are actually only 99 million women in the world with true four-color vision, according to Dr. Neitz. Based on world population estimate of 7.30 billion, that would mean only 1.36% of the world’s population has true four-color vision and can be called tetrachromats,
More than 15 million people in the U.S. and over 300 million worldwide don’t see normal colors. Most are men who inherit it from their mothers’ fathers.
Jay Neitz cured colorblindness five years ago. Neitz, a professor at the University of Washington, tested two squirrel monkeys every day for a year and a half, confirming their colorblindness before experimenting on them.
Then Neitz injected their retinas with a virus that contained the genetic code for the red pigment found in human eyes. The monkeys, called Sam and Dalton—John Dalton was the first scientist to publish a paper on colorblindness in 1798—didn’t show any improvement at first. Five months later, they started passing their color-vision tests.
If injecting your eye with a genetic virus, there are glasses that can correct colorblindness.
"A 53-year-old ex-marine told me he broke down in tears when he saw the red in a brick building for the first time using EnChroma glasses. Another man said he was so overwhelmed by colors that he nearly got in an accident on his way home. “We’ll give the glasses to someone and they’ll be like, ‘Oh my god, I’ve never seen that color before,’” said a spokesman for EnChroma. “And we’ll tell them that the color is teal. And then they go around calling every new color that they see teal.”
"Most people have three types of receptor cones in their retinas—red, green, and blue. A small percentage of women have a non-functioning fourth type. If it worked, they could see 100 million colors instead of the 1 million most people see. (Colorblind people usually see between 10,000 and 100,000.) A recent study in England found one woman whose fourth cone was active; she could see hues no other known human can.
"Life is Short Even on Its Longest Days. Transcript of Bob Dylan's MusiCares Person of Year Award
I'm glad for my songs to be honored like this. But you know, they didn't get here by themselves. It's been a long road and it's taken a lot of doing. These songs of mine, they're like mystery stories, the kind that Shakespeare saw when he was growing up. I think you could trace what I do back that far. They were on the fringes then, and I think they're on the fringes now. And they sound like they've been on the hard ground.
The 600 year old butt song from Hell - Listen at the link
Luke and I were looking at Hieronymus Bosch’s painting The Garden of Earthly Delights and discovered, much to our amusement, music written upon the posterior of one of the many tortured denizens of the rightmost panel of the painting which is intended to represent Hell. I decided to transcribe it into modern notation, assuming the second line of the staff is C, as is common for chants of this era.
A long-lost Leonardo da Vinci masterpiece thought to be worth £90million and discovered in a bank vault is finally being returned to Italy. The painting of Renaissance socialite Isabella d’Este, attributed by experts to da Vinci, was seized by police after being found in a bank vault in Switzerland in 2013. Investigators said the piece had been exported illegally and was in danger of being sold on to an investment fund in the UK.
The portrait, which had been missing for centuries, was uncovered among 400 pieces of art stored in the vault. But in a further twist, when art police ruled the painting had been exported illegally and went to the vault to seize it, they found it had gone missing again.
Incredibly, it surfaced for a second time last year during a car insurance fraud, when Italian police discovered a lawyer was trying to negotiate its sale for £90million.
Prosecutor Manfredi Palumbo said: ‘As part of a separate insurance fraud investigation came to know that an Italian lawyer in Pessaro had been made the agent to tell a painting attributed to da Vinci for no less than 95 million euros (£70m).
‘Just before we seized it we discovered that the lawyer was in negotiations to sell the painting to a UK fund for 120 million euros (£90m).’
Daniel Silva writes an convincing and exciting thriller, The Heist, about the world of international art theft
Legendary spy and art restorer Gabriel Allon….embarks on a daring gambit to recover a stolen Caravaggio and learn the identity of the collector. His search will take him on an exhilarating hunt—from the shimmering boulevards of Paris and London to the gritty criminal underworlds of Marseilles and Corsica, and finally to a small private bank in Austria where a dangerous man stands guard over the ill-gotten wealth of a brutal dictator. At his side is a brave young woman who survived one of the worst massacres of the twentieth century. Now, with Gabriel's help, she will be given a chance to strike a blow against a dynasty that destroyed her family.
In Wired, This Incredible Hospital Robot Is Saving Lives. Also, I Hate It by Matt Simon
Eating the Enemy. In Massachusetts, green crabs are an invasive species that is feasting on clams.
" I’ve been stepping on these pesky buggers at the beach for years,” says Legal Sea Foods executive chef Rich Vellante. “Who knew what a pure, clean, sweet crab stock they produce?”
Lars Anderson takes Archery to a whole new level. What he can do is absolutely amazing
Bill Whittle in Number One with a Bullet. A devastatingly effective video that shows while the U.S. is number one in gun ownership per capita, it is one of the safest places to be in the world.
The Amazing Video that takes you INSIDE the Largest Photograph Ever Taken is awesome and mind-blowing.
Earlier this month, NASA and ESA released the biggest and highest resolution image of our galactic neighbor, Andromeda, that has ever been taken. The 1.5 billion pixel image was taken by the Hubble Space Telescope. Each tiny dot of light in the picture represents one of 1 trillion stars in the galaxy; many with their own expansive planetary systems.
As you watch this video and contemplate Andromeda’s mind-boggling size, remember that this is just a drop in the bucket compared to the rest of the universe. As large as this galaxy is, it is only one out of 200 billion galaxies in the known universe
Van Gogh likely based his famed Starry Night on this scientific illustration of the Whirlpool Galaxy by one William Parsons that appeared in a 19th century popular astronomy tome, according to Michael Benson's new book Cosmigraphics, a history of our efforts to illustrate the universe.
4. The string of typographical symbols comic strips use to indicate profanity ("$%@!") is called a grawlix.
7. What do you call a group of rattlesnakes? A rhumba.
8. To waste time by being lazy is to dringle.
Word soon got out and detectives from all over the country flooded the office with requests. Before long, the Vidocq Society upped its meeting schedule from four times a year to nine. Today, the 82 chartered members hail from all areas of the crime-solving trade. There are DNA specialists, experts on cults, psychoanalysts, Naval Intelligence men, polygraphers, and long-retired FBI special agents. They convene every month, except July, August, and December—even veteran sleuths need a vacation—in the upper reaches of the Union League, a stately old building in the heart of Philadelphia. And at each meeting, over a lavish multi-course meal, they hear the details of a single unsolved case.
From DeMilked, 23 Breathtaking Ice and Snow Formations like these Baikal Ice Emeralds
An amazing video if you want to know What Sound Looks Like
An Hungarian art historian was watching a Christmas movie with his daughter when what did he see but a long lost Hungarian masterpiece in the background in a scene of the movie Stuart Little. Researcher spots Sleeping Lady with Black Vase by Robert Bereny being used as a prop in Hollywood children’s movie
Artist Sacha Goldberg delights with Portraits of Superheroes in Flemish Style
The Modern Supermarket is a Miracle [M}ost Americans are but a handful of generations removed from subsistence farming. Our forebears watered the crops they planted in tiny plots of land with their own sweat; we stand in air-conditioned bazaars and pick from an endless array of produce—pears from Chile, and chilies from Mexico, and kiwis lovingly cultivated by actual Kiwis—and then complain about the Muzak.
Best video of the week. On YouTube. Hilarious Golden Retriever Really Wants To Race But.. First Things First.
Deer found with incredible single antler, a real life unicorn This roe deer, shot in Slovenia at an advanced age, had a rare antler deformity that caused its two antlers to fuse together in a single, unicorn-like protrusion central bone that was probably caused by an injury when its antlers first started growing.
In Quartz We may be close to a world of limitless power from artificial leaves Formed in 2010, JCAP is a $122 million federally funded initiative based at the California Institute of Technology. Its assignment was to develop a viable artificial photosynthesis device by 2015. The prototype had to be durable, be made from commonly available materials and convert sunlight to fuel at an efficiency of 10%….“Four years ago you would have said this would not be possible,”
Facts That Make You Smile
• Every year, hundreds of new trees are planted because squirrels forget where they bury their nuts.
• Cows get stressed when separated from their best friends.
• Otters hold hands when they sleep so they won't drift away from the group.
• This smiley animal, the size of cat, lives in Australia and is called a quokka.
Beautiful, Terrible Watercolors of a 19th-Century Whale Hunt, Found in a Ship's Logbook. These watercolors, painted into the pages of the logbook of the ship Hector during a voyage it took between 1842-1845, were made by a seaman named James Moore Ritchie.
Charles Cooke takes a trip to the Canadian oil sands, a "wonder of the world" and reports Whence Keystone Comes It's utterly fascinating.
Republished, a 1984 article: A Spreadsheet Way of Knowledge A generation ago, a tool unleashed the power of business modeling — and created the entrepreneurial boom that has transformed our economy.
This may be the most extraordinary memorial I've ever seen. A single red ceramic poppy for every British and Commonwealth soldier who died in the 'war to end all wars' was planted in the moat surrounding the Tower of London to commemorate their lives and the 100th anniversary of World War I.
Including one for my great uncle Jack Paterson. Jack, a Canadian, a member of the Cameron Highlanders, 9th Brigade, 43rd Battalion, was killed in France in 1916. When I learned that Clifford Holliday, who fought alongside of him in the Cameron Highlanders, died at the great age of 105 in May, 2004, I began to grasp that the loss of life was also the loss of length of life that would otherwise have been lived. Lost in the mud and the constant shelling ever fearful of mustard gas attacks. John McCrae, another Canadian wrote:
In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.
We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.
Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.
A sea of sacrifice; a flood of blood has drawn some 5 million visitors.
The last of the poppies is planted this morning as thousands flocked to Tower of London to see the final ceramic flower put in place by 13-year-old cadet and the nation fell silent to remember Britain's war dead
It began as a parched grass field but was turned into one of the most spectacular installations in memory - these photos show the gradual process by which 888,246 poppies transformed the Tower of London.
The site was cleared for work on the installation to begin four months ago and once completed, it went on to fill the tower's 16-acre moat and attract millions of visitors.
The artwork – the Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red – has proved so popular, with an estimated four million visitors, that there have been calls to keep the poppies at the Tower until the end of the year.
Each poppy - which represents the life of one British or colonial soldier - was made by hand and took around three days to create.
When Paul Cummins decided to create 888,246 poppies in what has now become one of the most significant pieces of artwork in British history, he knew it would be no easy task….Mr Cummins felt so overwhelmed with the sheer scale of his task that he had to draft in emergency help from two other ceramic factories to ensure the work was finished by today - Armistice Day.
After being personally asked for help by Mr Cummins, two factories in the Midlands pulled out all the stops in a bid to produce 500,000 poppies in just four months, ensuring there were enough flowers to fill the 16-acre dry moat.
Today, Harry Foster, from Johnson Tiles, Stoke-on-Trent, told how his team of unsung heroes have made nearly 400,000 poppies since July, working around the clock through nights and weekends to ensure the project was completed.
He admitted the work had been 'relentless' but added it had been a 'great source of pride' seeing the almost-finished crimson sea of poppies - and knowing some 4million people had managed to see the work.
To see how much Britain has changed, you only have to read how an Army veteran, 70 was assaulted as he walked to cenotaph on Remembrance Sunday by gang of thugs who stole his regimental beret and medals
George Gill, 70, had been walking through a park on his way to the service in Keighley, West Yorkshire, when he was attacked by a gang of Asian [Pakistani muslim] youths he said had grabbed his beret 'like a pack of dogs would a piece of meat'.
The gang then ran off laughing, leaving Mr Gill with cuts to his lip, but the courageous former soldier dusted himself off and continued to the cenotaph to pay his respects before reporting the mugging to police.
From the Art of Manliness, How to Gird Up Your Loins, an illustrated guide.
Deep Into Green by Michael Gorra, a review of Green: The History of a Color by Michel Pastoureau in the New York Review of Books
Jan Van Eyck: The Arnolfini Wedding, circa 1435
Trained as a medievalist, Pastoureau argues that the history of color is an “altogether more vast” subject than the history of painting, and this book’s concerns range from Latin etymologies to the green neon crosses that hang outside modern French pharmacies.
Pastoureau writes many pages further on, that trash cans are often green, a bit of sympathetic magic against decay, for “green cleans, green refreshes, green purifies.” It means health, and it did so long before it became the name of a political party, “no longer so much a color as an ideology.” Yet growth implies change, change betokens instability, and green is in fact “an uncertain color,” ambiguous and at times even forked in its significance.
Those pharmacy signs suggest illness as much as health, and green has often functioned as the color of poison and disease; think of the pustular figures on the Isenheim Altarpiece, and even of that work’s dead Christ. We speak of certain greens as sickly in a way that has no parallel in talking of blue or red or black, and for that there might be a reason in the very chemistry of the color itself.
In the Renaissance the color’s chemical instability made it seem “false” and even treacherous, a “deceptive color, simultaneously appealing and disappointing.” As such, it became associated with games of chance or hazard; think of the green baize with which tables for cards or craps or pool are covered even now. The color here carries a symbolic charge that is inseparable from its use—gambling means green. It connotes luck, the ups and downs of a player’s fortunes, and it also suggests avarice.
Researchers say the death throes of these early stars were unique as they exploded as supernovae and burned completely, leaving no black hole behind, but instead spewing out chemical elements into space that eventually formed our Universe.
Two Blind Sisters See for the First Time YouTube link
Sonia and Anita, two sisters living in India, have been blind since birth, but a simple eye operation makes it possible for them to see their mom for the first time. The nonprofit organization 20/20/20 provides free operations to these sisters--as well as thousands of other people in developing countries. These procedures empower people in impoverished communities to create better futures. In this short film, Blue Chalk Media shares the sisters’ poignant story and captures their initial experiences after the bandages come off.
John Malkovich transforms himself into Marilyn Monroe, Albert Einstein, Truman Capote, Ernest Hemingway, Alfred Hitchcock, The Joker, John Lennon, Salvador Dali, Bette Davis, Pablo Picasso, Che Guevera and others in an astonishing series of photographs by Sandro Miller. who said, 'I can suggest a mood or an idea and within moments, he literally morphs into the character right in front of my eyes.'
Right now, in almost every river in the world, some 12,000 different species of caddisfly larvae wriggle and crawl through sediment, twigs, and rocks in an attempt to build temporary aquatic cocoons. To do this, the small, slow-moving creatures excrete silk from salivary glands near their mouths which they use like mortar to stick together almost every available material into a cozy tube. A few weeks later a fully developed caddisfly emerges and almost immediately flies away.
After first learning about caddisflies, self-taught (and self-professed amateur) artist Hubert Duprat had a thought. Had a caddisfly ever naturally encountered a fleck of gold in a river and used it to build a home? And then one step further: what if a caddisfly had only gold and other precious stones or jewels to work with?
Colorized X-ray photographs of flora and fauna. The Telegraph has a slideshow of the astonishing 1mages by Arie van't Riet.
An illustration from a medieval manuscript depicts monks copying books by hand in a monastery.
Polemicists who comment on blogs often blame the Church for the Dark Ages. Actual historians know that the Dark Ages, insofar as they were dark, were darkened by the barbarian invasions that inundated the western Roman Empire, and that it was only in the Church (and in its monasteries in particular) that any light was preserved. It might be a bit of a stretch to suggest (as Thomas Cahill did in his book of similar name) that “the Irish (i.e. the Irish monks) saved civilization,” but it is certain that whatever vestiges of earlier Roman civilization managed to be saved were saved by the Church.
It was the pagan Gothic tribes sweeping down from the north and east that submerged classical Roman and Christian culture in a sea of barbarism. It was the Church that tried to preserve what learning it could, and which strove valiantly to convert them. After centuries of work it did a passable job, and it was only thanks to this that classic learning was preserved to become the foundation for later progress. On that foundation the west has built many things, including modern democracy, modern science, and the concept of human rights. But the foundation upon which they were built was a Christian one, one laid painfully and laboriously by the Church in the so-called Dark Ages. In short: it was the pagans who turned out the lights. It was the Church who kept a lamp burning, and eventually turned the lights back on again.
In all these debates about the Church and the Dark Ages, the real disagreement is not between the Church and the secularists, but between real scholars and ignoramuses. . Real historical scholars know that the concept of “the Dark Ages” is an historical construct of fairly recent vintage, and that the Church of that period was the defender of learning and the arts.
Some of the most important work carried on during the Dark Ages was done by humble monks copying ancient manuscripts in cold, dark monasteries.
The printing press had not yet been invented and all documents were copied by hand on parchment. Scribes copied thousands of Bibles and classical works for circulation in the Christian areas of Europe. Theirs was the labor that would lift the western world out of the darkness of ignorance and illiteracy.
Fortress Protection From Viking Barbarian Attacks
Viking invasions were a major danger for the peaceful monastic communities in Europe. The scriptorium was the most important room in a monastery next to the chapel itself and for this reason, these writing rooms were often built at the top of an attack-proof fortress tower with curved walls resembling a tall cylinder. The towers were separate buildings enclosed within the walls of the compound. The monks climbed 15 to 20 feet up a ladder to the scriptorium and then pulled a ladder up after them. This made it almost impossible for the attacking warriors to reach them.
A Monastic Scribe’s Workday
After lauds, the morning prayer, each scribe entered the scriptorium and worked hunched over at a tiny table while seated on a backless stool. The desk was placed in front of a small window that provided the only available light in the room. No candles or fires for warmth were allowed because of the flammability of the parchment material. They worked in these conditions no matter how cold or wet the weather might be.
The threat of the Vikings and the perilous nature of life in the Dark Ages is brilliantly told in The Secret of the Kells, the most beautiful animated movie I've ever seen. Variety called it "A Tour-de-Force!" and "Absolutely luscious to behold!". The LA Times movie critic Kenneth Turan said, "Four Stars! Ravishing! Magical! Glorious!" Now on dvd, it's a marvelous film for families and children.
And then there is the engaging classic by Thomas Cahill How the Irish Saved Civilization: The Untold Story of Ireland's Heroic Role From the Fall of Rome to the Rise of Medieval Europe
But the best is probably by Thomas Woods, How the Catholic Church Built Western Civilization. You can download as a free ebook chapter 3 How the Monks Saved Civilization here. You will learn how during a period of great turmoil as Roman rule collapsed all over Europe, Benedictine monasteries were "oases of order and peace".
"“Wherever they came,” adds still another, “they converted the wilderness into a cultivated country; they pursued the breeding of cattle and agriculture, labored with their own hands, drained morasses, and cleared away forests. By them Germany was rendered a fruitful country.” Another historian records that “every Benedictine monastery was an agricultural college for the whole region in which it was located.
For the monks, manual labor was a channel of grace. "They chose the most secluded and inaccessible sites to reinforce the communal solitude of their life and partly because this was land that lay donors could more easily give the monks. Although they cleared forests that stood in the way of human habitation and use, they were also careful to plant trees and conserve forests when possible.
They introduced new crops" "Here they would introduce the rearing of cattle and horses, there the brewing of beer or the raising of bees or fruit. In Sweden, the corn trade owed its existence to the monks; in Parma, it was cheese making; in Ireland, salmon fisheries—and, in a great many places, the finest vineyards." They pioneered in the production of wine and one monk Dom Perignon is credited with the discovery of champagne.
Monks as Technical Advisors. Cistercian monks were superb metallurgists. "In effect, whether it be the mining of salt, lead, iron, alum, or gypsum, or metallurgy, quarrying marble, running cutler’s shops and glassworks, or forging metal plates, also known as firebacks, there was no activity at all in which the monks did not display creativity and a fertile spirit of research. Utilizing their labor force, they instructed and trained it to perfection. They explored aviation. In the early 11th century, a monk named Eilmer flew more than 600 feet with a glider. Centuries later, a Jesuit priest , Father Francesco Lana-Terzi explored the subject of flight more systematically and earned the honor of being called the father of aviation. They built the first clocks one of which from the 14th century still sits in excellent condition in the London Science Museum.
Their charitable works ranged from the monasteries themselves that served as gratuitous inns for foreign travelers, pilgrim and the poor
to the building of lighthouses, the establishment of libraries, the preservation of classic texts and the preservation of the Bible.
Above all, they built schools and were teachers and laid the foundations for universities. "They were the thinkers and philosophers of the day and shaped the political and religious thought. To them, both collectively and individually, was due the continuity of thought and civilization of the ancient world with the later Middle Ages."
"The monastic contribution to Western civilization, as we have seen, is immense. Among other things, the monks taught metallurgy, introduced new crops, copied ancient texts, preserved literacy, pioneered in technology, invented champagne, improved the European landscape, provided for wanderers of every stripe, and looked after the lost and shipwrecked. "
Terry Teachout's remarks on accepting the Bradley prize. Freedom and the Role of the Artist
….But what am I? Not long ago I was introduced to an audience as an "intellectual." To me, an intellectual is a person who is primarily interested in ideas. What I am is an aesthete, a person who is primarily interested in beauty. That's why I write about art. What's more, I think there's much to be said for my preference. All history, and most especially the history of the 20th century, argues against placing ideas in the saddle and allowing them to ride mankind. Too often they end up riding individual men and women into mass graves.
That's one of the reasons why I choose not to call myself an intellectual. …. Aesthetes have it all over intellectuals in one very important respect: You'll rarely catch us hustling anyone off to the nearest guillotine. We're too busy trying to make the world more beautiful. Our hands are stained with ink and paint, not blood.
…. the artist must first of all be able to tell the truth as he sees it about the world he sees around him. That task can only be pursued to the fullest degree under the aspect of freedom. Where there is no freedom, there is no art, save at the risk of the artist's neck. And this freedom includes, among many other things, freedom from the paralyzing obligation to persuade.
The artist whose chief goal is not to make everything more beautiful but to enlist his audience in a cause—no matter what that cause may be—is rarely if ever prepared to tell the whole truth and nothing but. He replaces the true complexity of the world with the false simplicity of the ideologue. He alters reality not to make everything more beautiful, but to stack the deck.
Great art doesn't tell—it shows. And this act of showing is itself a moral act, a commitment to reality.
A man who thought otherwise said, "Philosophers have hitherto only interpreted the world in various ways; the point is to change it." But Karl Marx, as usual, got it wrong. The greatest philosophers and the greatest artists seek not to change the world, but to see the world as it is, then show it to the rest of us with the transforming clarity that is beauty. That is a supreme act of freedom. It's what Shakespeare and Mark Twain and Flannery O'Connor did. What Rembrandt and Sargent and Edward Hopper did. What Mozart and Aaron Copland and Louis Armstrong did. They looked, they saw, they showed—and we understood.
Vintage postcards of New York City from the Boston Public Library.
One of my very favorite writers Bill Bryson is absolutely right when he says the great failure in education is a lack of excitement
Throughout the talk, Bryson demonstrated, through personal experience, how excitement in a subject can propel continued learning, and how embracing curiosity – a trait that he argues is “undervalued” – can stimulate this initial excitement…..
So how do you keep that curiosity alive in children; an apt question put to Bryson by one teacher in the Q&A session at the end of the lecture, which Bryson – boldly, in my opinion – agreed to take part in.
“I suppose the main thing,” he laughs, “is to do your very best to be interesting. But also to remind kids – as I was trying to do with my talk – that even the most obvious things, if you stop and think about them, are amazing."
He practices what he preaches. I've read many of his books and have been captivated by how interesting he makes everything. A Walk in the Woods: Rediscovering America on the Appalachian Trail: A classic and laugh-out-loud funny. In a Sunburned Country: "Every time Bill Bryson walks out the door, memorable travel literature threatens to break out" His guide to Australia is a "deliciously funny, fact-filled, and adventurous performance by a writer who combines humor, wonder, and unflagging curiosity." A Short History of Nearly Everything : "Sometimes profound, sometimes funny, and always supremely clear and entertaining adventure in the realms of human knowledge, as only Bill Bryson can render it. Science has never been more involving or entertaining." At Home: A Short History of Private Life: "Bryson has one of the liveliest, most inquisitive minds on the planet, and his sheer prose fluency makes At Home one of the most entertaining books ever written about private life"
22 Masterful Body Paintings That Disguise Humans As Animals
James Henry writes Big Bills: How Western central bankers and Treasury Secretaries cater to illicit drug syndicates, money-launderers, racketeers, and kleptocrats.
Pope Francis cradling the bones of St Peter
At the closing Mass of the global church's Year of Faith, the relics of St Peter were publicly unveiled for the first time since they were discovered in the 1940s and were held by Pope Francis during the recitation of the Nicene Creed. In his homily, he said, "God’s grace is always greater than the prayer which sought it."
So How Does the Vatican Know That Those Old Bones Are the Relics of St Peter? After all, he died nearly 2000 years ago.
It was the Vatican’s art historian, Elizabeth Lev, who first told me the story of the remarkable discovery of Peter’s bones. It’s a story which has been told often in history books and reports, but I draw some of my information from Paul of Tarsus: A Visionary Life by Edward Stourton.
The Church has had a long tradition that St. Peter’s Basilica, construction of which was funded by the Emperor Constantine, was built in the early fourth century atop the burial site of St. Peter. But in 1939–less than 100 years ago–a team of workmen digging a grave for Pope Pius XI in the crypt beneath the Basilica uncovered what was plainly the top of a Roman building. The new pope, Pius XII, ordered further investigation; and archeologists gradually unearthed a well preserved Roman necropolis, or city of the dead, immediately beneath the foundations of St. Peter’s.
In actuality, we don’t know with certainty whose bones those are. There are strong evidences through history: writings by early popes and kings, graffiti messages in the tomb, and the placement of the graves themselves. The early Christians, it seemed, considered it a great honor to be buried near the remains of Peter, the first pope. And DNA testing has confirmed that the bones are from a male in his 60′s who likely died in the first century.
And here is the remarkable truth: If one were to drop a plumb line from the center of the Dome of the great St. Peter’s Basilica, 460 feet above, it would extend downward
• through Bernini’s baldacchino,
• through the Basilica’s great papal altar, then
• through the twelfth-century altar of St. Callistus.
• through the sixth century altar of Gregory the Great, then
• through the fourth century Constantine shrine.
• to the second-century trophy (a kind of triumphal arch built to mark the burial place of great men), and finally,
• it would land upon the burial place of this great martyr of Christ, St. Peter.
“It doesn’t miss a foot,” writes Stourton.
Diagram from St Peter's Basilica
St Peter's Confessio under the Papal High Altar
Photographer Rose-Lynn Fisher's latest project is called “Topography of Tears. She uses microscopes to give us an unexpected view of dried human tears.
In the Smithsonian. The Microscopic Structures of Dried Human Tears
“I started the project about five years ago, during a period of copious tears, amid lots of change and loss—so I had a surplus of raw material,” Fisher says. …..“everything we see in our lives is just the tip of the iceberg, visually,” she explains. “So I had this moment where I suddenly thought, ‘I wonder what a tear looks like up close?’”
Scientifically, tears are divided into three different types, based on their origin. Both tears of grief and joy are psychic tears, triggered by extreme emotions, whether positive or negative. Basal tears are released continuously in tiny quantities (on average, 0.75 to 1.1 grams over a 24-hour period) to keep the cornea lubricated. Reflex tears are secreted in response to an irritant, like dust, onion vapors or tear gas.
Tears of Grief
Tears of Laughter
Cute, but babies are always cute.
Most parents monitor their child's development by the first time they crawl, walk and eventually talk. But now there's a new milestone that mothers and fathers can eagerly look forward to: the first use of a mobile phone.
Nearly two in five babies have used a mobile phone or tablet - before they can even speak full sentences, new research has found.
A survey has found that 38 per cent of children aged under two have used gadgets like iPhones or Kindles for playing games or watching films. In 2011 the same figure was just 10 per cent.
The researchers said that the findings showed a ‘fundamental change in the way kids consume media’.
They should also serve as a wake-up call to parents who increasingly turn to gadgets to entertain their children - but could be doing them harm.
The current recommendation from the American Academy of Paediatrics is that the under-twos should have no screen time at all.
If you want some really cute photos of kids, look at the Crazy Photos a Creative Dad Takes of His Daughters.
For five centuries, it has been one of the art world’s greatest mysteries, with even its very existence in doubt.
But now, almost 500 years after he painted it, a priceless Leonardo da Vinci masterpiece has been unearthed in a Swiss bank vault.
The painting is a canvas and oil, finished rendering of a well-known pencil sketch of the same woman, the wife of the Marquess of Mantua and one of Renaissance Italy’s most influential women. The sketch, which was drawn in 1499, hangs in the Louvre, and is considered a forerunner to his most famous painting, the Mona Lisa.
Isabella, who appears to share the world-famous subject's mysterious smile and rounded chin, wanted to be painted by the all the greatest artists of the day, which naturally included da Vinci.
Professor Carlo Pedretti of the University of California, Los Angeles, the world’s leading expert in da Vinci told Italy’s Corriere della sera newspaper. 'There are no doubts that the portrait is the work of Leonardo.
'I can immediately recognise Da Vinci’s handiwork, particularly in the woman’s face.'
Pablo Picasso who had, however, his moment of honesty when he wrote to Giovanni Papini as long ago as 1952: “In art people no longer seek consolation and exaltation…they seek after whatever is new, odd, original, extravagant or scandalous. And since cubism and what followed, it is masters and critics such as these that I have sought to please with whatever bizarre extravagances entered my head, and the less they understood, the more they admired me. By dint of amusing myself with such fun and games and meaningless head-splitting riddles, I became a celebrity in no time. And fame for a painter means sales, gains, riches, a fortune. Today, as you know, I am both famous and rich.
“But when I am alone, alone with myself, I haven’t the courage to consider myself an artist in the former grand sense of the term. Giotto, Titian, Rembrandt, Goya, these were great painters. I am only a public clown who has understood his period and has exploited as best he could the imbecility, the vanity and the cupidity of his contemporaries.”
An elderly writer on Catholic subjects once told me “Art should elevate us.” In that he would have included the “consolation and exaltation” that Picasso mentioned: the inner journey towards truth, glimpsed through beauty, which is especially significant for those who have not (yet) encountered the God who is beauty himself. What happens to art in a society when belief in God has withered away? Or when you have prodigious gifts of draughtsmanship but no inner vision? I suppose Picasso is the answer. The story of Western art -including the great Gothic cathedrals of Europe – and its magnificent flourishing in the Christian centuries has been told by the late Lord Clark in the celebrated 1960s TV series “Civilization.” Significantly, the series ended with the 20th century – just when Picasso stepped into the circus ring.
Vincent Scully, the architectural historian, not to be confused with Vin Scully, the sports announcer, said that arriving at the old Penn Station was very different from arriving at the new, “One entered the city like a god. One scuttles in now like a rat.”
Via Jay Nordlinger who wrote today in Paris Journal, Part 1,
By rights, the Gare du Nord and the Gare de l’Est should be spaced far apart — the one somewhere near 12 o’clock in Paris, the other somewhere near 3. But no: They’re very close together. Beautiful structures, too.
Which makes me think of the train stations back home in New York. I was just discussing this with someone, the other day. Grand Central is just what it should be — glorious. But Penn Station? Quite possibly the ugliest train station in all the world. And many people’s introduction to New York — a shame.
Amazing self-portraits by a 14-year-old boy named Zev who manipulates photos to show his world.
They are fabulous.
If you are going to be in London in the next few months, don't miss the new exhibit at London's Natural History Museum by one of the world's greatest photographers.
Sebastião Salgado's Genesis exhibition offers A God's eye view of the planet
Salgado has described Genesis as a “love letter to the Earth and to the resilience of nature” and it is impossible to look at the photographs and not wonder whether Genesis is an elegy as well as a hymn. “I did not do Genesis as a journalist or an anthropologist or as a biologist,” he says. “I did it for pleasure. It was my idea of fun. To do a two-month walk or to go to the Himalayas and Antarctica gave me a huge amount of pleasure and I want to share that. But I am also much more hopeful about the future of the planet after this project than I was at the start.
’S HERTOGENBOSCH, the Netherlands — High on the cathedral (ed. St John the Evangelist) in this trim Dutch town, amid a phalanx of stone statues of local noblemen, crusaders, saints and angels, one figure stands out. Smiling faintly, with lowered eyelids, one of the angels wears jeans, has a laptop bag slung over one shoulder and is chatting on a cellphone. The angel gets about 30 calls a day on the phone.
That is because, shortly after the statue was unveiled last April, a local couple, the parents of two children, set up a number so people could call the angel. Business cards soon appeared in pubs, restaurants and hotels with a picture of the angel and the number. So successful was the line that the couple opened a Twitter account, @ut_engelke, managed by the husband, which now has about 2,700 followers.
“The telephone is ringing all day,” said the wife, who like her husband agreed to meet a reporter on the condition that they not be identified. “It was a fairy tale,” she said over beer and snacks. “Now, it’s real.” To identify them, she said, would end it.
What began as a joke continues because the cellphone number has become something of a hot line, dialed by people of all ages, some in need of help, others just because they are lonely.
At the holidays, the calls became so frequent and so pressing that the couple was tempted to give up. “Between Christmas and New Year’s, that was an emotional time frame, it was so heartbreaking,” she said. A small girl called begging the angel to pray for a grandmother who had just died; a woman asked help to celebrate her first Christmas without her parents. A widow sought prayers for her dead children.
The statue of the Little Angel arose out of a 1997 competition, won by the Dutch sculptor Ton Mooy, to create 40 statues, including 14 angels, to replace those on the cathedral that time and pollution had ruined. The Little Angel was the only unconventional one.
“You can make a phony Gothic statue,” Mr. Mooy, 63, said in his studio in Amersfoort, about an hour north of here. “That’s not what I wanted. It had to fit in with what was always on the church, namely, refinement, emotion. Angels are there to guide, to protect people, they get messages from above. How do you show that? With a cellphone.”
“I tell kids, ‘There’s one button on that cellphone,’ ” he said with a chuckle — a direct line to heaven. “So she doesn’t get naughty, calling other angels.”
The cathedral, which dates to 1220, has a centuries-old tradition of unusual, sometimes bawdy, art. One medieval statue is of a bricklayer bending over and baring his bottom. Some is tragic. A stained glass window over the main entrance depicts the apocalypse with a panel showing the Sept. 11 attack on the twin towers.
Reconstruction of Rembrandt's The Night Watch in a Dutch shopping mall to promote the re-opening of the Rijksmuseum. It's great and only a minute long.
After 10 years of comprehensive renovations, the Rijksmuseum—the Dutch national museum of art and history, where masterpieces by Rembrandt van Rijn and Johannes Vermeer mingle with 17th-century blunderbusses and Delft blue pottery—triumphantly reopens its doors in the Dutch capital this Saturday to reveal a profoundly transformed institution, whose elegant public spaces and intelligent presentation of collections are likely to serve as models for other museums around the world in years to come.
The Rijksmuseum's original 1885 Renaissance Revival building, designed by Dutch architect Petrus Josephus Hubertus Cuypers, has been painstakingly restored to its former splendor and outfitted with all the modern infrastructure a 21st-century arts institution requires—climate control, fire suppression, handicapped access, security systems, shops, restaurants, auditoriums—under the guiding hand of the Spanish architectural firm of Cruz y Ortiz, which has boldly reconfigured the museum's underground levels to create a vast new interior plaza that dramatically improves the flow of visitors throughout the building.
In this new scheme, Rembrandt's greatest masterpiece, "The Officers and Shooting Company of Capt. Frans Banning Cocq and Lt. Willem van Ruytenburch" (1642), popularly known as "The Night Watch," is the only object that remains in its original location—at the end of the second floor Gallery of Honor, where it looks splendid under natural light, just as it was meant to be seen.
….The Gallery of Honor…..is surely one of the most beautiful museum spaces in the world. Its colonnaded central hall and intimate side galleries are perfectly proportioned, the vaulted ceilings are splendidly embellished in an array of pastel tones, and the very air seems to crackle with abundant, magical daylight. The sumptuous anthracite-gray hue of the walls—a perfect complement to Old Master paintings—was specially formulated for the Rijksmuseum by the French designer Jean-Michel Wilmotte, known for his brilliant work at the Louvre. The Rijksmuseum has prepared meticulously to make the grand reopening a truly special event, even revamping its website and publishing a wonderful new collection guide—a model of concision and insight—available in most major languages.
Artists Karoline Hjorth and Riitta Ikonen have been collaborating on a multimedia project that started in Norway. Website iGNANT introduced us to Eyes as Big as Plates, a photo series featuring seniors (including a few 90-year old parachuters) immersed in the landscape as a play on characters from Norwegian folklore. Organic costumes and headdresses were created with scavenged materials — a poignant suggestion that each subject has embraced their eventual return to the earth.
At some stage, most artists struggle to find a captivating subject matter. But when Sebastien Del Grosso, 32, looked in the mirror, inspiration was staring straight back at him.
After taking a self-portrait, the digital artist began to sketch himself into the picture.
The best use I've seen of photoshop in a while.
Holy Wednesday or Spy Wednesday is the day in Holy Week when Judas Iscariot made his deal with the Sanhedrin to betray Jesus for 30 pieces of silver.
The Sanhedrin was gathered together and it decided to kill Jesus, even before Pesach if possible. In the meantime, Jesus was in Bethany, in the house of Simon the leper. Here he was anointed on his head by a woman with very expensive ointment of spikenard. In John's Gospel, this woman is identified as Mary, the sister of Martha and Lazarus. Some of the disciples, particularly Judas, were indignant about this. Judas went to the Sanhedrin and offered them his support in exchange for money. From this moment on, Judas was looking for an opportunity to betray Jesus.
The Taking of the Christ by Caravaggio
The painting above is the "lost' Caravaggio that is the subject of Jonathan Harr's best-selling 2005 book, The Lost Painting: The Quest for a Caravaggio Masterpiece .
It reads more like a thriller with real characters that include a young female graduate student in art, a 91-year-old Caravaggio expert and a restorer at the National Gallery of Art who "ultimately discovers the lost masterpiece grime-covered masterpiece in a house owned by Jesuit priests.
Wonderful news for the world - Cheap, clean water may soon be available for the whole planet.
According to Reuters, defense contractor Lockheed Martin has developed a filter that will hugely reduce the amount of energy necessary to turn sea water into fresh water. The filter, which is five hundred times thinner then others currently available, lets water pass through but blocks all salt molecules. It will use almost 100 times less energy than other methods for making salt water drinkable, giving third world countries another way of expanding access to drinking water without having to create costly pumping stations.
A righteous and humble man gets recognized for his life-saving acts of kindness. YouTube link
In 1938, Nicholas Winton helped 669 Jewish kids escape certain death from the Nazis. He never told anyone that he did this.
While on ski trip in Switzerland, Winton took a detour in Czechoslovakia to help the children of refugees. Nazi Germany had recently annexed a large part of Czechoslovakia and the news of Kristallnacht, a violent attack on Jews in Germany and Austria, had just reached Prague.
Winton set up a rescue operation for the children, filling out the required paperwork for them to be sent to homes in Sweden and Great Britain. He had to raise money to fund foster homes for all of them, and then he sent 669 children away from Czechoslovakia on trains before the Nazis closed down the borders.
Winton told no one that he did this, not even his wife. In 1988, his wife found a scrapbook full of pictures of the children and letters from parents in their attic. She arranged to have Winton's story appear in newspapers. Many of the children Winton saved went on the BBC television program, That's Life, to meet him for the first time since the war. They refer to themselves as "Winton's children".
Winton is now 101 years old and has received awards from Israel and the Czech Republic as well as Knighthood from the Queen of England in 1993.
Toy Stories Fantastic Photos of Children from Around the World with Their Prized Possessions.
Italian photographer Gabriele Galimberti spent 18 months photographing children from around the world and their most prized toy possessions. His website
Peter Schjeldahl's article about the Piero della Francesca exhibition at the Frick makes me want to dash to New York to see what he calls Heaven on Earth
The supreme early-Renaissance master Piero della Francesca is like no other artist in my experience: not better, exactly, but loftily apart, defying comparison
Writing of Piero’s “Virgin and Child Enthroned with Four Angels” (circa 1460-70)
The work is only three and a half feet high, but it feels monumental and, at the same time, intimate, as if it were addressing you alone. It’s a kind of art that may change lives
One hot August, when I was twenty-three, I traversed Tuscany on the back of a Vespa driven by a painter friend, George Schneeman….Then we stopped at a tiny cemetery chapel, in the hill town of Monterchi, to see Piero’s highly unusual “Madonna del Parto.” An immensely pregnant but delicately elegant young Mary stands pensively in a bell-shaped tent, as two mirror-image angels sweep aside the flaps to reveal her. One angel wears green, the other purple. Here was the circumstantial drama of a ripeness with life in a place of death…
In another age, the experience might have made me consider entering a monastery. Instead, I became an art critic.
The Blessed Virgin Mary as the New Ark of the Covenant
His performance is both a tribute and a thank you to his father Chris, who brought him up after his mother walked out of the family home in Australia when Hugh was just eight years old. Both parents are English-born, but settled in Australia, where Jackman was born.
Without him, I wouldn’t be where I am today. Without him, I wouldn’t have had an inspiration for my role in Les Miserables. Dad underwent the same kind of life-changing experience that my character undergoes in the film.
‘Dad was converted by the Christian evangelist Dr Billy Graham when he was 30 years old, and underwent a life-changing epiphany, too.
‘I thought about that constantly when I was playing Valjean, I tried to inject as much of Dad’s goodness, and change of life, into the character I was playing.
‘And he was wholly sincere. He lived —and lives — his life through a firm foundation of principle and he is both my inspiration and my hero.’
A new blog to me and a delightful one is Mme Scherzo who posts countless times a day sharing beauty she has discovered.
She's chosen this portrait by Denner Balthasar, a German portraitist (1685-17490 as her avatar. Isn't it a gorgeous painting of an old woman.
This is what she says about Christmas
I would say Merry Christmas to some of my more surlier atheist friends and acquaintances, but seeing how this annoys them, just let me say this instead:
“May the glory and joy of Our Savior’s birth kindle in you a desire to know the One who created you, and who loves you enough to lay aside His Glory for a scant 33 years to live among us, and to reconcile us to Him. It is a free gift, given to people of free will. You can take it or leave it.
Just don’t take it from us, is all I ask.
Look at these clever and witty 33 ideas for do-it-yourself Christmas trees
False killer whale, White beaked dolphin, Humpback whale
White beaked dolphin, Northern minke whale, Humpback whale
Mark Fischer, the owner of Aquasonic Acoustics in California, takes whale songs and transforms them into beautiful images. The 51-year-old converts the voices of the 100-ton mammals into 'wavelets' and then colors them in with imaging software. He also uses the technique to capture the melodies of humpback whales, dolphins and birds.
The Californian said the images were well received by the public - but only aesthetically. 'Rarely are they interested in how the images are made, what kind of mathematics is behind the image or even what species made the sound,' he added.
Camille Paglia How Capitalism Can Save Art
Today's blasé liberal secularism also departs from the respectful exploration of world religions that characterized the 1960s. Artists can now win attention by imitating once-risky shock gestures of sexual exhibitionism or sacrilege. This trend began over two decades ago with Andres Serrano's "Piss Christ," a photograph of a plastic crucifix in a jar of the artist's urine, and was typified more recently by Cosimo Cavallaro's "My Sweet Lord," a life-size nude statue of the crucified Christ sculpted from chocolate, intended for a street-level gallery window in Manhattan during Holy Week. However, museums and galleries would never tolerate equally satirical treatment of Judaism or Islam.
For the arts to revive in the U.S., young artists must be rescued from their sanitized middle-class backgrounds. We need a revalorization of the trades that would allow students to enter those fields without social prejudice (which often emanates from parents eager for the false cachet of an Ivy League sticker on the car). Among my students at art schools, for example, have been virtuoso woodworkers who were already earning income as craft furniture-makers. Artists should learn to see themselves as entrepreneurs.
Young people today are avidly immersed in this hyper-technological environment, where their primary aesthetic experiences are derived from beautifully engineered industrial design. Personalized hand-held devices are their letters, diaries, telephones and newspapers, as well as their round-the-clock conduits for music, videos and movies. But there is no spiritual dimension to an iPhone, as there is to great works of art.
Thus we live in a strange and contradictory culture, where the most talented college students are ideologically indoctrinated with contempt for the economic system that made their freedom, comforts and privileges possible. In the realm of arts and letters, religion is dismissed as reactionary and unhip. The spiritual language even of major abstract artists like Piet Mondrian, Jackson Pollock and Mark Rothko is ignored or suppressed.
Thus young artists have been betrayed and stunted by their elders before their careers have even begun. Is it any wonder that our fine arts have become a wasteland?
They would do well to read Pope Benedict's Address to Artists in the Sistine Chapel.
He quotes Pope Paul VI
"This world in which we live needs beauty in order not to sink into despair. Beauty, like truth, brings joy to the human heart, and is that precious fruit which resists the erosion of time, which unites generations and enables them to be one in admiration. And all this through the work of your hands . . . Remember that you are the custodians of beauty in the world."
What is capable of restoring enthusiasm and confidence, what can encourage the human spirit to rediscover its path, to raise its eyes to the horizon, to dream of a life worthy of its vocation -- if not beauty? Dear friends, as artists you know well that the experience of beauty, beauty that is authentic, not merely transient or artificial, is by no means a supplementary or secondary factor in our search for meaning and happiness; the experience of beauty does not remove us from reality, on the contrary, it leads to a direct encounter with the daily reality of our lives, liberating it from darkness, transfiguring it, making it radiant and beautiful.
That Cathedral had been there over 600 years when The Red Barron's canvass and wood plane did battle in the First World War. Those old stone steps were as old as the US Constitution by the time Christopher Columbus set sail for the New World. And yet there we stood in 1989, struck dumb it seemed, trying desperately to comprehend the sheer size and endless intricacies of this colossal structure which literally dwarfed everything around it. To view it from the outside is to feel rather like an ant contemplating a redwood.
To venture inside and see The Shrine of the Three Holy Kings (purported to hold the crowned skulls of the Three Wise Men), or the Gero Cross which dates back to 976, or the legions of statues, is to become virtually intoxicated with the divine devotion that conceived and constructed such a solemn place.
Where is there anything in modernity to compare?
You could say the same of almost any cathedral or Basilica in Europe. The list is endless - St. Peters, Chartres, Notre Dame, Toledo, Westminster, York….
Roger Scruton Beauty and Desecration. We must rescue art from the modern intoxication with ugliness.
At any time between 1750 and 1930, if you had asked an educated person to describe the goal of poetry, art, or music, “beauty” would have been the answer. And if you had asked what the point of that was, you would have learned that beauty is a value, as important in its way as truth and goodness, and indeed hardly distinguishable from them. Philosophers of the Enlightenment saw beauty as a way in which lasting moral and spiritual values acquire sensuous form. And no Romantic painter, musician, or writer would have denied that beauty was the final purpose of his art.
At some time during the aftermath of modernism, beauty ceased to receive those tributes. Art increasingly aimed to disturb, subvert, or transgress moral certainties, and it was not beauty but originality—however achieved and at whatever moral cost—that won the prizes. Indeed, there arose a widespread suspicion of beauty as next in line to kitsch—something too sweet and inoffensive for the serious modern artist to pursue. I
The haste and disorder of modern life, the alienating forms of modern architecture, the noise and spoliation of modern industry—these things have made the pure encounter with beauty a rarer, more fragile, and more unpredictable thing for us. Still, we all know what it is to find ourselves suddenly transported, by the things we see, from the ordinary world of our appetites to the illuminated sphere of contemplation. It happens often during childhood, though it is seldom interpreted then. It happens during adolescence, when it lends itself to our erotic longings. And it happens in a subdued way in adult life, secretly shaping our life projects, holding out to us an image of harmony that we pursue through holidays, through home-building, and through our private dreams.
"I think we are in danger of losing beauty and with it the meaning of life," says Roger Scruton in the full BBC production of Why Beauty Matters on YouTube
In centuries past, royal artists portrayed monarchs as grand, imposing and often rather stern. But the latest portrait of the Queen pictures her in a moment of quiet reflection as she stands on the spot in Westminster Abbey where she was crowned 60 years ago.
Artist Ralph Heimans said he sought to capture 'her humanity' in the 9ft by 11ft portrait, commissioned by the Palace to mark the Diamond Jubilee.
She stands on the Cosmati pavement – a spot where every English monarch has been crowned since it was commissioned by Henry III in the 13th century.
The Tyranny of Artistic Modernism by Mark A. Signorelli'
Whereas earlier traditions of artistic creation embraced symmetry within complexity, modernism has embraced extreme simplicity, dislocation, and imbalance. Whereas earlier traditions sought to bring pleasure to an audience — “to teach and delight,” as Horace’s famous dictum would have it — modern art attempts to “nauseate” or “brutalize” an audience (the terms are from Jacques Barzun’s The Use and Abuse of Art). Whereas pre-modern architecture employed scale and ornament, modern architecture aggressively promotes gigantisms and barrenness. Whereas classical literature was grounded in regular grammar and public imagery, modern literature routinely resorts to distortions of syntax and esotericism.
This is how the farce of modernism ends, with the anti-bourgeois rebel revealed to be a money-grubbing little fraud.
Nothing is so important to the spiritual and mental flourishing of a people as its art. The stories they tell, the buildings they inhabit, the public spaces in which they gather, the songs they sing, the fashioned images they gaze upon — these things shape their souls more permanently and effectively than anything else. We live in a time when the art all around us accustoms men to, and insinuates into their souls, the most erroneous and degrading ideas imaginable about themselves and their world. A humane society can hardly be expected to grow out of such an adverse cultural environment.
You can read about the multi-millionaire artist Jeff Koons at Wikipedia and be dismayed to learn that he holds the record for the most expensive piece of art created by a living artist ever sold at auction. His Hanging Heart sold for $23 million.
His balloon flower beat that by selling for $25 million.
Here's another example, Acrobat Popeye
And he doesn't even do his own work! He's the 'idea' person and how banal his ideas are.
“I’m basically the idea person,” Jeff Koons once told an interviewer. “I’m not physically involved in the production. I don’t have the necessary abilities, so I go to the top people.” He paid me $14 an hour, doubling my previous salary as an undergrad shelf-stocker at the Columbia library.
My job was simple: Paint by numbers. The most intricate sections required miniature brushes, sizes 0 and 00, their bristles no longer than an eyelash. The goal was to hand-fashion a flat, seamless surface that appeared to have been manufactured by machine, which meant there could be no visible brush strokes, no blending, no mistakes.
When you see this, does beauty even enter your mind? Are you inspired in any way? Or do you realize how fraudulent it really is?
Every two years, a huge floral carpet is laid out on the Grand Place in Brussels
It takes just four hours with everyone pitching in.
Possibly as an act of vengeance, a history professor--compiling, verbatim, several decades' worth of freshman papers--offers some of his students’ more striking insights into European history from the Middle Ages to the present.
Winners of the National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest 2012 The one below is by Ken Bower. But you really have to go to the link to see winners in all their glory.
What do you see when you look in the mirror? Tom Hussey's series on Reflections
Father Barron comments on "The Dark Knight Rises" and the problem of evil. Evil is solved by the great heroic self-sacrificing act of love on the part of a savior. The Christ archetype, he argues, haunts the Western culture even in a secular age. Bruce Wayne is an icon of Christ.
Honesty is the best policy as telling fewer lies 'improves your physical and mental health' People reported feeling better after they stopped exaggerating or making excuses.
Don't microwave clothes, use a hair dryer if you must. Brit sets fire to home by microwaving socks.
Useful for any cook is this article, Common Cooking Mistakes: Cooking Tips and Questions Answered.
If you are going to NYC in the next month, don't miss Churchill: The Power of Words’ is at the Morgan Library, but first, read this review, Winston Churchill: American's enduring love for Winnie and his words.
Imagine being a child who never ever saw the outside world or even the sun. Islamist sect found living underground near Russian city for 10 years.
Ever fancy yourself becoming an archeologist? Now's your chance to participate in The Ancient Lives Project from home. Thomas McDonald has the details
A collaborative effort by Oxford, the Egypt Exploration Society, the Imaging Papyri Project, and other groups and institutions, Ancient Lives is trying to speed up the transcription process by crowd sourcing and computerization. This means that you can help decipher the Oxyrhynchus papyri… it could speed up the transcription and identification of fragments, allowing them to be published. It’s also about the coolest way to be an archaeologist without ever leaving your home.
As part of Operation Nightingale, recovering wounded soldiers performing a routine excavation found a warrior just like themselves, only buried 1400 years ago.
What united them all was an abiding happiness, which I can only describe as youth, not in chronological age but in soul…..
They had never known the subtle and corroding nihilism of a government school, for they had never gone to one; they had been taught at home. That meant, at the least, that they spent their days among people who loved them, and whom they loved in turn. And they seemed well on their way to becoming young men and women possessing that most attractive of character traits, the one that Chesterton embodied so well: that of being at once wise beyond their years
The Tragedy Europe Forgot Some 12 million Germans, mostly women and children, were expelled from Eastern Europe in 1945, an Allies-endorsed ethnic cleansing.
A question I've never been able to answer. Why Aren't Murderous Communists Condemned Like Nazis Are?
The medics believed he was in a persistent vegetative state, devoid of mental consciousness or physical feeling.
Nothing could have been further from the truth. Marsh was aware, alert and fully able to feel every touch to his body.
But he still weeps when he remembers watching his wife tell the doctors that they couldn't turn off his life support machine.
"The doctors had just finished telling Lili that I had a 2% chance of survival and if I should survive I would be a vegetable," he said. "I could hear the conversation and in my mind I was screaming 'No!'"
Funniest video of the week. Olympic Sailing. Commenting by Someone Who Has No Clue What's Going On. It's hilarious. Watch it to the end.
Growing Up with Two Moms: The Untold Children's View by Robert Oscar Lopez
Quite simply, growing up with gay parents was very difficult, and not because of prejudice from neighbors….. People in our community didn’t really know what was going on in the house. To most outside observers, I was a well-raised, high-achieving child, finishing high school with straight A’s.
Inside, however, I was confused. When your home life is so drastically different from everyone around you, in a fundamental way striking at basic physical relations, you grow up weird. I have no mental health disorders or biological conditions. I just grew up in a house so unusual that I was destined to exist as a social outcast.
50 different towns in 50 different states, Piero Ribelli spent 6 years interviewing and photographing the residents of 50 Main St.
A fascinating photo essay of Main Street USA
The resulting book, '50 Main Street', provides an honest observation on what it means to be American, focusing on the fundamental similarities rather than the differences.
Italian-born Piero Ribelli spent six years interviewing fifty people, in fifty towns across the fifty states for the project, which he says is 'a reminder of our roots, values and history, based on immigration, opportunities and hard work.'
One of the most beautiful places in the world is an archipelago above the Arctic Circle is Lofuten where I had the good fortune to visit some years ago.
Here are some gorgeous photos of the Arctic Circle Anomaly.
I lived in Gloucester for several years and was struck by the beauty of the place. And there's about the light there that's attracted artists for years. Like Edward Hopper who created many paintings in the bright Gloucester light.
Photographer Gail Albert located the original houses used in his paintings and took pictures of them as they stand today. It's now a New York Times photo essay you can enjoy. The Original Edward Hopper Houses.
Without further ado.
I loved the reaction of the little children.
The swirling spectacles were snapped using long exposure lenses by Australian photographer Lincoln Harrison.
The colorful spirals are the result of the earth's rotation, which gives the impression the stars are hurtling across the horizon.
Lincoln Harrison's gallery here.
Lately, I've come across several artists who use books in their art. I've decided to feature them in a series of posts and this is the first.
Alexander Korzer-Robinson creates 3D book sculptures by cutting around some of the illustrations and removing others.
A fascinating gallery of his work in the Telegraph.
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.
Spectacular underwater images from the University of Miami's annual Underwater Photography contest.
'The quality of photos keeps getting better each year,' UM lecturer and photographer Myron Wang who judged among the panel of experts said in a release by the school
Under mangrove trees
Sea nettle jellyfish swimming
Photographer Randy Scott Slavin using a fish-eye lens and stitching photos together makes extraordinary landscapes of America. Below is the Empire State Building.
You don't want to miss this, The Night I Met Einstein by Jerome Weidman
Apparently I was in for an evening of chamber music….
After a while, becoming aware that the people around me were applauding, I concluded it was safe to unplug my ears. At once I heard a gentle but surprisingly penetrating voice on my right: “You are fond of Bach?”
I knew as much about Bach as I know about nuclear fission. But I did know one of the most famous faces in the world, with the renowned shock of untidy white hair and the ever-present pipe between the teeth. I was sitting next to Albert Einstein….
“I don’t know anything about Bach,” I said awkwardly. “I’ve never heard any of his music.”
A look of perplexed astonishment washed across Einstein’s mobile face.
“You have never heard Bach?”
The most inventive use of airplane time I've ever seen. Kudos to Nina Katchadourian.
While in the lavatory on a domestic flight in March 2010, I spontaneously put a tissue paper toilet cover seat cover over my head and took a picture in the mirror. The image evoked 15th-century Flemish portraiture.
I decided to add more images made in this mode and planned to take advantage of a long-haul flight from San Francisco to Auckland, guessing that there were likely to be long periods of time when no one was using the lavatory on the 14-hour flight.
I made several forays to the bathroom from my aisle seat, and by the time we landed I had a large group of new photographs entitled Lavatory Self-Portraits in the Flemish Style.
I was wearing a thin black scarf that I sometimes hung up on the wall behind me to create the deep black ground that is typical of these portraits. There is no special illumination in use other than the lavatory's own lights and all the images are shot hand-held with the camera phone.
Astonishing visualization from Alexander Tsiaras at TED, Conception to Birth
Here is his profile
Another beautiful image of the heart glowing in an open chest cavity at JAMA, Art from the Heart
His mission: "We want to change how people think about health, think about their bodies. The way to do that is by telling stories--beautiful, compelling, visual stories that show what an amazing thing the body is."
His company is Anatomical Travelogue is "a pioneer in illustrating the intricate details of the human body in images that are at once high-tech, anatomically faithful and artistically striking—the ultimate "insider art," he jokes."
From a feature article at Business Innovation Factory
Tsiaras isn't a doctor; he's a photographer, technologist and visionary with an expert knowledge of anatomy and a passion for the human form. The books he has produced—including From Conception to Birth: A Life Unfolds, The Architecture and Design of Man and Woman: The Marvel of the Human Body, Revealed, The InVision Guide to a Healthy Heart and The InVision Guide to Sexual Health — have spawned educational videos and exhibits at the National Museum of Health and Medicine.
The images are 'visualizations' that Tsiaras and his team create using full-body scans, ultra-powerful microscopes and molecular modeling tools that allow him to illustrate the body in vivid detail, for both 3-D pictures and animations. He has described his work as "'Fantastic Voyage' meets the TIME-LIFE book series."
Some see Tsiaras as a digital-age Leonardo da Vinci, whose anatomical renderings set the standard for centuries. But Tsiaras describes himself in more prosaic terms.
"Most of this is just about information," he says. "I look at myself as a storyteller who works with artists and technologists."
Anatomical Travelogue is growing rapidly—it's now at 60 employees and has amassed what Tsiaras says is the largest library of high-resolution volume data on the body in the world—and Tsiaras believes its future is limitless.
How wonderful photography that we can see so many of nature's marvels.
More astonishing shots by Charlie Hamilton James here.
An extraordinary voice. I had tears by the end. When they came on the stage, Simon Cowell whispered "Just when you thought it couldn't get any worse." When 17-year-oldJonathan Antoine began singing with his partner Charlotte Jocanelli, Cowell said, "Wow! Wow! Wow". All four judges gave them a standing ovation.
I can't embed the video from Britains Got Talent, but you can see it here. Don't miss it.
Thanks for tip from the Deacon who said "Move aside, Susan Boyle"
I'm sick of the news. Time to be refreshed by beauty.
These wonderful paintings are by Isabel Guerra who is a self-taught painter and a nun at the Cistercian monastery of Santa Lucia in Zaragoza, Spain.
More over at lines and colors,
A don't miss video that can't be embedded. Rita Hayworth Dancing to Stayin' Alive.
A wonderful piece, Simcha Fisher's A Little Proof of a Large Thing.
If she looks down and then moves her eyes in a sweeping motion across the floor it almost certainly means that she is attracted to someone. But an instant stare into a man's eyes or over his head on meeting is very bad news for a suitor
The pink slime burger also was perfectly seared and drew me in with an equally alluring aroma. But no juices collected on the plate. Or dribbled out. Or were apparent in the meat in really any way. The taste was - OK...t was not bad. But nor was it good. It was flat. I added more salt. No. It was simply one-dimensional....And then there was the texture. Unpleasantly chewy bits of what I can only describe as gristle, though they were not visible, seemed to stud the meat of the pink slime burger. The result was a mealy chew that, while not overtly unpleasant, didn't leave me wanting another bite.
Menopause 'brain fog' is real, study confirms No surprise to millions of women.
The less you sleep, the fatter you become. Tiredness makes us eat more, about 500 calories more on average.
You can see how white the cliffs of Dover are when a part collapses. Thousands of tons of chalk crash into sea after frost and drought.
Astonishing discovery of a major Leonardo da Vinci painting hidden for 500 years in Florence, just yards from his famous statue of David.
A hidden message in a painting has led to the first evidence of a 'lost' Leonardo da Vinci masterpiece that has lain hidden for 400 years in a secret compartment behind another mural in Florence, scientists announced today.
An 'endoscopic' probe was inserted into the interior of the wall in the Palazzo Vechio, and obtained chemical samples of a dark pigment which Da Vinci also used in the Mona Lisa.
The painting is thought to be one of Da Vinci's most significant works - but was long assumed to have been destroyed by fire in the 16th century. Now researchers believe that it may have been preserved by a hidden wall built by another painter.
Art 'detectives' searching for a long-lost Leonardo masterpiece in a palazzo in Florence have found traces of paint which match that used by the Renaissance genius for the Mona Lisa.
Prof Seracini, of the University of California at San Diego, has spent the last 35 years trying to prove that the palazzo conceals one of the great undiscovered treasures of the Renaissance.
He believed the existence of the lost Leonardo was indicated by a cryptic clue which Vasari painted on his work for the benefit of future generations – a military banner which bears the words “Cerca Trova”, or “Seek and you shall find”.
To prove his theory, his team drilled a series of tiny holes no more than two centimetres wide in existing cracks and fissures in the Vasari.
The scientists pushed probes and micro-cameras through the holes and discovered traces of white, orange and black pigment. The probes also found an organic red material which may be lacquer or varnish, used to protect the painting, and a patch of beige material that appears to have been applied with brush strokes.
Prof Seracini said it would be possible to remove the Vasari fresco, take out the Leonardo work and replace the Vasari without damaging it. The question now is whether the Italian authorities will give permission for the Vasari painting – a valuable work in its own right – to be removed from the wall to reveal the Leonardo.
Photographer's 20-year project puts together series of amazing pictures of his relatives without using Photoshop
Some are spliced with younger selves - while others combine parents with their children
The incredible series of pictures called AgeMap is a 20-year project by Bobby Neel Adams, who also merges portraits of family members into one image in his Family Tree series.
Watch artist Chan Hwee Chong draw Girl with a Pearl Earring with a single spiral line! Amazing.
See more here
Dustin Farrell has made astonishingly beautiful time-lapse videos of the American West that you must see. I can not embed them.
You can see Landscapes Volume Two on Vimeo here and learn how he did them.
I found out about him from this article in the Daily Mail Astonishing photographs in time-lapse video which capture the American landscapes as you've never seen them before
His Twitter followers described the photographs as 'breathtaking', 'spectacular' and 'stunning'. One wrote: 'Name your superlative. Just brilliant.'
Advertising art can be glorious. Just look at what Guido Daniels has done with painted hands to sell AT&T.
Carribean Fish and Coral
Thailand White Elephants
Watch and Listen to Keith Jarrett writes Michael Moriarty. So I did.
Many years ago I went to two of his concerts and fell in love with his music and his genius. But then, in time, I forgot about him. Moriarty, in his ecstatic appreciation for Jarrett, reminded me what I had forgotten.
Now, thanks to YouTube, I can not only listen again to his playing, I can see his amazing facial expressions.
It's as if he channels from some place beyond the very heart and soul of the song.
Keith Jarrett playing Danny Boy
It’s somewhere between a photo and a video, a piece of artwork that seeks to perfectly capture a fleeting moment in time.
New York City-based photographer Jamie Beck and Web designer Kevin Burg “hand-stitch” together her photos and his Web design to make animated gifs they now call “cinemagraphs.”
I can't embed them but you can see how charming they are at the link. There are more at their Tumblr link, From Me to You
A painting which has been hanging in a student hall of residence at Oxford since the 1930s could be a Michelangelo masterpiece worth £100million.
The mid-16th century work depicting the crucifixion of Jesus was believed to be by one of the Renaissance artist’s contemporaries, Marcello Venusti.
But Italian scholar Antonio Forcellino claims that infra-red technology revealed the 12-inch by 27-inch work to have been painted by Michelangelo himself. ‘No one but Michelangelo could have painted such a masterpiece,’ Mr Forcellino wrote in his book The Lost Michelangelos.
Uncanny: An image of a painting of the crucifixion of Christ by Michelangelo, left, and the painting which was hanging in Oxford University, right, previously thought to be by Marcello Venusti but is now considered to be by Michelangelo
The 15th Leonardo Salvator Mundi, Savior of the World
Salvator Mundi was in an American private collection from that point until 2005, when it was purchased from what appears to be a consortium of art dealers, but the owners are keeping fairly mum about it. They commissioned New York art historian and dealer Robert Simon to study the piece and he saw through the repaint, dirt, varnish and tragic cleanings past to the details of Leonardo-level quality like the pattern of the stole and the bubbles in the crystal orb.
They still didn’t think it was an actual Leonardo original at that point. It was only after years of cleaning and restoration that the full beauty of the painting gradually revealed itself. In the fall of 2007, they called in the big Leonardo guns.
It's a cloudy Monday morning, so here is some sunshine to start the week, thanks to the Jive Aces.
The photographer is Alex Saberi.
From the Deacon's Bench, the beauty of humility in a wonderful story about Pope John Paul 2 and the beggar
Coating concrete destined to rebuild America's crumbling bridges and roadways with some of the millions of tons of ash left over from burning coal could extend the life of those structures by decades, saving billions of dollars of taxpayer money, scientists reported in Anaheim, California at the 241st National Meeting & Exposition of the American Chemical Society on March 29. They reported on a new coating material for concrete made from flyash that is hundreds of times more durable than existing coatings and costs only half as much.
Indeed, the boilerplate metaphor could itself be a metaphor for a larger transformation, two centuries in the making, that has taken many of us away from extracting coal and forging iron and assembling boilers toward waiting for an inspector to come sign off on a certificate that needs to be filed with the local Department of Buildings.
'One of the reasons that meditation may have been so effective in blocking pain was that it did not work at just one place in the brain but instead reduced pain at multiple levels of processing.
For the 46 days of Lent, J. Wilson is forgoing solid food and only drinking beer and water - just as Bavarian monks did hundreds of years ago.
Wilson is a husband, father, newspaper editor and beer enthusiast. The 38-year-old is the proprietor of the beer blog brewvana, where the motto is, "An ideal condition of harmony, beer and joy."
"Three hundred or four hundred years ago, a group of Paulaner monks in a Bavarian region had made a stronger beer in a town called Einbeck and they called it bock. The monks started making a stronger beer, a double beer, called doppelbock," Sorensen said. "The story goes the monks would give up eating and literally would drink this 'liquid bread' to sustain them through their Lenten fast."
How's it going? Here's Wilson's diary of a part-time monk
In the four months of their honeymoon, a Swedish couple survived six natural disasters: severe snowstorm, cyclone, flooding, bush fires and two earthquakes in Christchurch, New Zealand and Tokyo.
Conflict History Browse the timeline of war and conflict across the world and down the centuries.
One man makes a shocking confession. The Cause of All Discrimination? Me.
American composer Eric Whitacre is a rock star in choral circles. His music is performed by amateur and professional choirs alike, his chiseled good looks have earned him a modeling contract, and, Thursday night, he unveils his Virtual Choir 2.0 on YouTube.
The video has been viewed more than 2 million times on YouTube. It is very beautiful and visually stunning.
What a terrific performance.
A wonderful jazzy treat that gets better and better, a video of videos.
via Gerard Vanderleun who calls it A Long, Languid, Heartfelt Plea Launched Into the Ether.
Some articles that caught my eye last week that you might enjoy.
As our knowledge of the material world, of science, has exploded in modern history it has only been proven time and time again that what was revealed long ago is true. God "ordered all things in measure, and number, and weight." (Wisdom 11:21) Indeed if the material world were not ordered and in constant motion, there could be no "science."
That Pepsi you are drinking may only be as good as the aborted fetal cell lines that were evidently used in its flavor-enhancement development. Pepsi, Nestle, Kraft, and others, partner with Senomyx (SNMX for you financial-wire watchers), which does just that. Campbell’s has severed its ties with Senomyx, but so far Pepsi stands firm ….
Not the first and certainly not the last to bemoan the downside of feminism, S.E. Cupp : For all too many women, the joys of motherhood are gone.
And I've been fairly content, living unencumbered in relative peace and quiet with my curdling dairy products and impressive collection of takeout menus, all of which are evidence of my go-go lifestyle, a successful career and a decidedly postmodern self-sufficiency. I own nothing and am responsible for no one, save a few friends who rely on me to occasionally accompany them to weddings, as they, too, have put off the seminal responsibilities of adulthood.
But as liberating as my life has been, I can't help but wonder if my mother's generation made a wrong turn somewhere. Their success has been our failure. By getting married, starting a family, working hard as a public school teacher (how quaint!) and happily making all the sacrifices that come with that, my mother unwittingly but definitely ensured that I would grow up to want different things: an Ivy League education, a promising career with higher earning potential and the independence to travel the world. It's doubtful she ever imagined that that would all come at the expense of making life's ultimate investment: becoming a mother myself.
Dr. Meeker paints a blunt medical picture for any mom or dad being coy about parenting: “Here’s how we know. In 1979, when I graduated from college, there were two sexually transmitted infections snaking their way through the sexually ‘open’ teens and adults who chose to explore their sexuality through freer sexual expression. Herpes 2 broke upon the scene in a fierce way, increasing 500 percent from 1980 to 1990. By the time 2000 rolled around, there were over 30 STIs in the then–15 million Americans each year who contracted a new STD. Now, in 2011, the CDC reports that 20 million Americans each year contract a new STI, and almost 50 percent are young people (teens and college students). This is completely unacceptable.”
In praise of the homely female arts, Jillian Tamaki's beautiful cross-stitch covers of deluxe Penguin classics, Emma, Black Beauty and the Secret Garden.
The Anchoress recommends "The Music Box" by Daniel Cloud Campos
Things I learned at ProCommerce
Al Jazeera has more complete news than the New York Times and its bias against Israel is much smaller.
The technological advance in vegetable packaging is due to nitrogen and plastic that looks like cellophane.
Life expectancy is increasing by five hours a day. IQ keeps going up by three points a decade. Agriculture gets ever more productive, leaving more land to remain wild. Even economic inequality is decreasing, with poor countries getting rich faster than rich countries are getting richer....Overall global warming is proceeding slower than was predicted. Humanity has been decarbonizing its energy supply steadily for 150 years as we progressed from wood to coal to oil to natural gas. A few years ago it was thought that only 25 years of natural gas was left, but with the invention of hydrofracking shale gas, the supply is suddenly 250 years worth, and it is a hugely cleaner source than coal.
There is one and only one reason that American education never improves. It is not Darwinian. Failures don’t disappear and successes are not reproduced.
Minimum wage increases kill jobs and here is data to prove it. More than two million jobs paying the minimum wage of $7.25 or less were lost between 2010 and 2006
Why it's good that Millions of Spiders in Pakistan Encase Entire Trees in Webs
His fast-acting and super-strong adhesive was invented in 1942 as a side effect of another project to create transparent plastic gun sights. The sights didn’t work out because the material created stuck everything together, but the adhesive that came out of those experiments was eventually sold as a super glue called Eastman 910.
If you follow the Original Superglue blog, you'll learn that dermatologists recommend superglue to seal the cracks on winter dry hands. But don't use superglue to attach a tiny top hat to your head, lest you look like Sean Murtagh who had to go the the emergency room to get it cut off.
John Allen gives us the Top Nine Reasons why Baseball is to Sports what Catholicism is to Religion.
1. Both baseball and Catholicism venerate the past. Both have a Communion of Saints, all the way down to popular shrines and holy cards.
2. Both feature obscure rules that make sense only to initiates.
3. Both have a keen sense of ritual, in which pace is critically important.
5. In both baseball and Catholicism, you can dip in and out, but for serious devotees the liturgy is a daily affair.
David Chancellor won the 2010 Taylor Wessing Photographic Prize awarded by the National Gallery in London.
He says about 14 year-old Josie Slaughter from Alabama on her first hunting trip to South Africa:
‘Josie had hunted her buck earlier in the day and was returning to camp. As we arrived, the sun set below the cloud cover and I had almost unreal light for around a minute. The contrast between the peace and tranquillity of the location, plus Josie’s ethereal beauty and the dead buck, was what I wanted to explore. Here was a vulnerability and yet also a strength.’
Lightening hits the copper-clad Statue of Liberty about 600 times a year. It took photographer Jay Fine more than 40 years to capture the exact moment.
More on The Lost Pieta which just could be the art find of the century.
When their children knocked it off the wall with a wayward tennis ball, the Kober family wrapped up the painting they knew as ‘The Mike’ and shoved it behind the sofa.
There it remained for the next 27 years, ignored and forgotten along with the family legend that it was actually painted by Michelangelo.
Now, having finally consulted the experts the Kobers are reeling with the news that it does indeed appear to be genuine - and could be the art find of the century.
It has already been whisked out of their modest suburban home and put in a safe, with a possible price tag of $300million (£188million).
It appears that Michelangelo painted the painting in 1545 for his friend Vittoria Colonna, some 45 years after his famous ‘Pieta’ of Mary holding Jesus at St Peter’s Basilica in Rome.
The painting was handed to two Catholic cardinals before it found its way to a German baroness called Villani.
She gave it to her lady-in-waiting called Gertrude Young - the sister-in-law of Kober’s great great grandfather - and she sent it to the U.S. in 1883 where it has remained ever since.
His parents gave "The Mike" to their son Martin, a pilot in Buffalo nine years ago. They called it "the Mike" because they also believed the painting of the Virgin and Child they grew up with done by Michelangelo.
If the attribution is confirmed, the work will rank alongside only three surviving panel paintings by the Italian master, potentially making it worth more than the record $118 million so far achieved for a work of art.
Antonio Forcellino, an art historian and restorer who has worked on Michelangelo's masterpieces, first came across the pieta, a 63cm x 48cm oil painting on a panel made of fir, when he was contacted by email by its US owner.
He has since spent five years seeking documentary evidence in Europe and examining the painting at its location in Buffalo.
"The first time I saw it, I was so struck by the strength of it that I felt breathless," said Mr Forcellino, an Italian.
This poor little boy was painted in his jean jacket with a piece of pie 400 years ago by an anonymous Northern Italian painter. A whole trove of his painting is now on display at the Canesso Gallery in Paris. Livius at the History Blog tells the story of The Renaissance jean jacket.
What caught my eye was the splendid color and pattern in the Boston Globe story.
I will definitely see "Gods in Color: Painted Sculpture of Classical Antiquity at Harvard's Sackler Museum.
Definitely, Sculpture show of a different color
Susanne Ebbinghaus, Harvard's curator of ancient art, says the painting on classical sculptures "has been studied by so few people. The biggest obstacle has been our own preconceptions." And even though we may know intellectually that ancient statues were painted, the brilliantly toned reconstructions in "Gods in Color," with their riotous patterns and alert gazes, are a shock to behold.
Reconstructions in such detail are possible now in part thanks to advances in technology. German researcher Vinzenz Brinkmann has spearheaded this work for the past 25 years. In addition to his trusty flashlight, which reveals unexpected finds on the surfaces of sculptures, he employs ultraviolet light, which shows ghosts of paint patterns. He and his team deploy even more high-tech tools such as polarized light microscopy and X-ray fluorescence to examine the pigments. They then use 3D scanners to create plaster and synthetic marble reconstructions, which Brinkmann has painted by hand using the same kinds of mineral pigments classical painters would have mixed themselves.
"Gods in Color: Painted Sculpture of Classical Antiquity" at Harvard's Arthur M. Sackler Museum deals a thrilling blow to a popular notion - indeed, a paradigm of beauty and purity - of monochromatic ancient sculpture. Setting polychrome reconstructions alongside original sculptures, it's a carnival of color, parading wild patterns and gaudy tones.
It's grounding to see true antiquities beside Brinkmann's reconstructions, which have such comic-book pizzazz they seem almost unbelievable. While many questions remain about painted classical sculptures, "Gods in Color" makes boldly clear that history is not what we have pictured. The ideal forms of physical beauty and realism have not changed. They're just a lot more colorful than many of us ever imagined.
A photograph of the ash spewing from the Iceland volcano that's now causing havoc in Europe. Eyjafjallajökull is its name.
Health chiefs in Europe say 'Stay inside' especially if one has breathing problems. For the second day, the vast ash cloud has shut down all airports in Britain and all flights in or out, stranding tens of thousands of travelers.
Below is the radar image showing the crater of the volcano
One reporter saw the resemblance to the famous Edvard Munch painting, 'The Scream'.
Coincidentally, it is thought that the masterpiece was inspired by the blood red skies caused by the powerful volcanic eruption of Krakatoa in 1883.
In his diary Mr Munch wrote: 'I was walking along a path with two friends - the sun was setting - suddenly the sky turned blood red - I paused, feeling exhausted, and leaned on the fence - there was blood and tongues of fire above the blue-black fjord and the city - my friends walked on, and I stood there trembling with anxiety - and I sensed an infinite scream passing through nature.'
The picture was taken by the ELTA radar from an Icelandic Coast Guard airplane.
The Armistice between the Allies and Germany calling for the cessation of hostilities and ending WWI took effect.
Twenty million died.
In Flanders Fields
In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.
We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved, and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders Fields.
Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders Fields.
Over the past 50 years these Houses have transformed from modest white cubes into a vibrant display of personality and present a rebellion against conformity. My work asserts that human individuality cannot be contained. Inevitably it shines through even the most average facade.
Absolutely stunning body art by Craig Tracy with more examples here. Above is 'Butterfly'. I'll leave it to you to find the human body.
This is just wonderful. Man decorates basement with $10 worth of Sharpie pens
Good work, Charles Kratzer, the lawyer who did this art project in his spare time.
But where do you put all your junk?
From the National Geographic comes a photo gallery by Charlie Hamilton James, featuring the Eurasian kingfisher, a Blaze of Blue
Leonard Cohen turns 75 next week and in his honor Mark Steyn reprises a piece about his favorite Cohen song, Dance Me to the End of Love
the song is almost like a lyric-writing exercise, as if Mr Cohen had wearied of avoiding the four-and-a-half rhymes for "love" and set himself the challenge of using them in fresh but entirely natural ways.
But then I chanced to stumble across an interview in which Cohen talked about how "Dance Me To The End Of Love" came to be written:
It's curious how songs begin because the origin of the song, every song, has a kind of grain or seed that somebody hands you or the world hands you and that's why the process is so mysterious about writing a song. But that came from just hearing or reading or knowing that in the death camps, beside the crematoria, in certain of the death camps, a string quartet was pressed into performance while this horror was going on, those were the people whose fate was this horror also. And they would be playing classical music while their fellow prisoners were being killed and burnt.
Just like Irving Berlin, the Gershwins and all the rest, Cohen is a Jewish songwriter. But, as that genesis suggests, he's far more explicitly Jewish in his work. On the other hand, just like the best songs of Berlin & Co, "Dance Me To The End Of Love" is trembling on the brink of becoming a standard - a song for anyone to sing, and to bring anything you want to it, for now and till the end of love:
Oh let me see your beauty when the witnesses are gone
Let me feel you moving like they do in Babylon
Show me slowly what I only know the limits of
Dance Me To The End Of Love.
Atul Gawande is one of the those writers I never miss. Writing in the Annals of Medicine in The New Yorker, he writes unforgettable articles that have illuminated the world of medicine for me like no one else. They "open up like an umbrella" said his New Yorker editor Henry Finder.
Some of my favorites are:
So I was quite interested in this profile on Atul Gawande in Harvard Magazine, Surgeon, Health Policy Scholar and Writer.
On the desk in his office at the Brigham is a framed copy of Sylvia Plath’s poem “The Surgeon at 2 a.m.” She describes a patient’s innards as “tubers and fruits/Oozing their jammy substances.” From the surgeon’s perspective, she writes: “I worm and hack in a purple wilderness.” Gawande notes that Plath, not a surgeon, nevertheless got things just right. “That,” he says, “is the really amazing thing, and that’s the difference between me and a real writer.”
He likes the Plath poem because it casts the surgeon in an ambiguous light. “Most writing about people in medicine casts them as either heroes or villains,” he says. “That poem captures the surgeon as a merely human, slightly bewildered, a little bit benighted person in a world that is ultimately beyond his control.”
The artist is Scott Wade from Texas
The images are so incredible that motorists often stop at traffic lights and jump out of their own cars to admire them.
See more at A life of car grime
He said: 'I lived on a long, dirt road for over 20 years. Our cars were always dirty and I would often doodle in the dust on the rear windows of our cars.
'Mostly I would draw funny faces, then I started experimenting with ways to get shading.
'At first I would use the pads of my fingers and brush very lightly to get grey tones.
'Once I tried using the chewed-up end of a popsicle stick as a brush - I liked the effect, so I started trying paintbrushes, and eventually developed the techniques I use today.'
Roger Scruton on Beauty and its corruptions
Kitsch is a mould that settles over the entire works of a living culture, when people prefer the sensuous trappings of belief to the thing truly believed in. It is not only Christian civilisation that has undergone kitschification in recent times. Equally evident has been the kitschification of Hinduism and its culture. Massproduced Ganeshas have knocked the subtle temple sculpture from its aesthetic pedestal; in bunjee music the talas of Indian classical music are blown apart by tonal harmonies and rhythm machines; in literature the sutras and puranas have been detached from the sublime vision of Brahman and reissued as childish comic-strips.
Simply put, kitsch is a disease of faith. Kitsch begins in doctrine and ideology and spreads from there to infect the entire world of culture. The Disneyfication of art is simply one aspect of the Disneyfication of faith -and both involve a profanation of our highest values. Kitsch, the case of Disney reminds us, is not an excess of feeling but a deficiency. The world of kitsch is in a certain measure a heartless world, in which emotion is directed away from its proper target towards sugary stereotypes, permitting us to pay passing tribute to love and sorrow without the trouble of feeling them.
The paradox, however, is that the relentless pursuit of artistic innovation leads to a cult of nihilism. The attempt to defend beauty from pre-modernist kitsch has exposed it to postmodernist desecration. We seem to be caught between two forms of sacrilege, the one dealing in sugary dreams, the other in savage fantasies. Both are forms of falsehood, ways of reducing and demeaning our humanity. Both involve a retreat from the higher life, and a rejection of its principal sign, which is beauty. But both point to the real difficulty, in modern conditions, of leading a life in which beauty has a central place.
To point to this feature of our condition is not to issue an invitation to despair. It is one mark of rational beings that they do not live only -- or even at all -- in the present. They have the freedom to despise the world that surrounds them and to live in another way. The art, literature and music of our civilisation remind them of this, and also point to the path that lies always before them: the path out of desecration towards the sacred and the sacrificial. And that, in a nutshell, is what beauty teaches us.
Fyodor Dostoevsky once made an enigmatic remark, "Beauty will save the world" about which Alexander Solzhenitsyn organized his Nobel Lecture on Literature in 1970
And so perhaps that old trinity of Truth and Good and Beauty is not just the formal outworn formula it used to seem to us during our heady, materialistic youth. If the crests of these three trees join together, as the investigators and explorers used to affirm, and if the too obvious, too straight branches of Truth and Good are crushed or amputated and cannot reach the light—yet perhaps the whimsical, unpredictable,
unexpected branches of Beauty will make their way through and soar up to that very place and in this way perform the work of all three.
And in that case it was not a slip of the tongue for Dostoyevsky to say that “Beauty will save the world,” but a prophecy. After all, he was given the gift of seeing much, he was extraordinarily illumined.
And consequently perhaps art, literature, can in actual fact help the world of today.
Would you still think Van Gogh was mad if you learned that Van Gogh didn't cut off his ear - it was 'chopped off by Gaugin in a row over a woman outside a brothel?
"The more I think it over, the more I feel that there is nothing more truly artistic than to love people." Vincent Van Gogh as quoted in Van Gogh : The Self-portraits (1969) by Fritz Erpel. Here's another.
Schematic diagram From Restoration of the Last Supper
The Last Supper by Leonardo da Vinci finished in 1498 on the refectory wall of of Santa Maria delle Grazie in Milan
The artist Makoto Fujimara, taking up the invitation to Come and See, travels to Milan to stand under the masterpiece.
"If you want to 'understand' something," said my friend Bruce Herman, "you have to be willing to 'stand under' it." Bruce, an art professor at Gordon College, went on to cite C. S. Lewis' Experiment in Criticism:
We sit down before the picture in order to have something done to us, not that we may do things with it. The first demand any work of art makes upon us is surrender. Look. Listen. Receive. Get yourself out of the way.
Leonardo painted in a grand, dominating scale for a small space. Even standing in the far back of the refectory, it is difficult for the eye to decipher the whole painting all at once. He painted The Last Supper in such a way as to force the viewer to enter the painting, physically and emotionally, and to viscerally become part of the narrative.
Only when the viewer stands under the painting can it be seen as it was intended to be (plate A). Leonardo had a specific visual message for those who stand under the painting. He had the visual sophistication to carry off what very few artists could even dream of doing: he painted the complex psychology of betrayal. It starts with Philip, and ends in a moneybag. Invited to walk into Leonardo's funhouse of mirrors, we are all meant to be part of this narrative, which is refracted within our own dark journeys.
As an artist, I naturally try to identify the source of light in a painting, because I know that artists often use light to reveal what they want the viewer to see. In this painting, it would be easy to assume that the light is coming from behind from the windows, through which we see a Renaissance landscape. But the source of light in this painting actually is the face of Jesus reflecting on all of the disciples – all but Judas, who is under-painted with black, denied a brightened countenance.
For him to have painted as he did, he had to be convinced of a center that holds.
So who is at the center? Where does the “vanishing point” end?
It ends on the forehead of the Savior.
And that foundation will hold, no matter how full our moneybags get, nor how little it takes for us to engage in betrayal. To Leonardo, the triangular shape of Jesus literally holds the painting in its visual movement.
A very high resolution photograph (16 billion pixels ) of the painting can be explored here
Timothy Verdon, an art historian and priest explains the profound meaning of the masterpiece from an artistic, theological and liturgical perspective in The Last Supper According to Leonardo published last week in L'Osservatore Romano.
By the use of perspective, the artist focuses the attention on Christ, making him the convergence point of the entire pictorial cosmos defined by the room. In fact, the diagonal lines that draw the eye forward inevitably lead to Christ, everything meets in Him, He is the center of the visual logic of the whole, as well as its narrative logic. He is not the last point, the vanishing point in the perspective; the diagonal lines, instead, converge behind Christ, in the evening sky outside of the window; but that vanishing point remains hidden. Seeking the infinite, our gaze comes to a halt with Christ, as if He were still saying, "He who has seen me has seen the Father" (John 14:9).