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Saturday, 17 January 2004

Topic: Review
Death imitates art: as reported in The Guardian.

In Romania, local media report that the country's "first" institution of higher learning, the University of Arts, in Iasi, was the scene of an official investigation this month after police removed the corpse of a man believed to have hanged himself on the campus. Builders and students at the university had initially mistaken it for a modern work of art.

According to Reuters, the body hung for a whole day in a sculpture-laden garden building that had been re-opened for repairs before onlookers twigged to what it was and called the cops.

Gosh, what happened to the traditional line between Art and Not-Art-But-Dead-Body?

Posted by conniechai at 12:10 AM PST
Updated: Sunday, 18 January 2004 10:09 PM PST
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Topic: Review
A television image shows an Argentine man lying with a lion named Quique on top of him, after he leapt over a fence at the Buenos Aires Zoo, in Argentina, on January 11, 2004. Television footage showed Quique the lion sitting on top of 22-year-old Lucas Tomas, padding him with his paw and leaving only superficial injuries to his head, arm and chest, doctors said. The lion was sedated with a tranquilizer dart and Tomas was taken away to be examined by a psychiatrist. (Reuters TV)

He's either on too much drugs or not enough.

Posted by conniechai at 12:07 AM PST
Updated: Sunday, 18 January 2004 10:10 PM PST
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Friday, 16 January 2004

Topic: Review
This website is awesome. Finally, an on-line gallery with hi-resolution images for those of us who can't fly to distant art collections.

Une Vocation,
W Bouguereau
God Speed,
Edmund Blair-Leighton
Pelt Merchant of Cairo,
Jean-Leon Gerome

The Art Renewal Center website has thousands! of images of paintings (and some photos of sculptures) from hundreds of Academic, Classical and Romantic artists. It has a deep commitment to excellence in representational art, and the academic skills necessary to execute them. "Additionally, the Art Renewal Center is a non-profit educational organization committed to reviving standards of craftsmanship and excellence. Only by gaining a full command of the skills of the past Masters can we create the Masters of tomorrow. This is a step forward for our culture. Experimentation and creativity can only succeed and prosper when built on a solid foundation of past accomplishments, with the tools which empower artists to realize their visions.

I know their view is not a popular one - how can it be when fashionable and snobby art world fawns all over a toilet seat covered in cheese and called art because the artist claimed it is so? But how can a person call themselves an artist when they can't convincingly draw a human figure, or reproduce perspective, or give the illusion of texture with only one medium?

When I go to art museums I tend to skip over the "modern" wings - where someone has nailed a shellaqued car tyre to the ceiling, for example - and spend my limited time in the exhibits that move me - a finely painted lace collar in a portrait, the almost touchable "pearling" of a new-born lamb's wool. I can stand all day before a finely executed portrait of a woman, and wonder who she was, what she liked, what life she led. This special sense of wonder hardly ever comes to me when I'm looking at modernist non-representational works. It's always been the way I felt about art, and now I am old enough to understand that I needn't feel inferior because the trendies tell me I "just don't understand."

I do not understand modernism, but I know clever trend-driven marketing when I see it.

This is not to say that I turn away from all "installations". For example, at the San Diego Mingei Museum, I have frequently enjoyed excellent exhibits of room-size installations full of texture, color, and movement - such as ART THAT SOARS - Kites and Tails by Jackie Matisse. However, the Mingei is not really a place for modern art - "Mingei is a special word increasingly used throughout the world for "arts of the people." It was coined by the revered scholar, the late Dr. Soetsu Yanagi, through combining the Japanese words for all people (min) and art (gei). His keen eye observed that many useful, pre-industrial articles made by unknown craftsmen were of a beauty seldom equaled by artists of modern societies.

"Within these timeless arts of the people (Mingei), he recognized a quality of expression in which there was no fragmentation of body, mind and spirit. He realized that to balance the weight of increasing technology there is a growing urgency for man to continue to make and use objects that express his whole being."

For me, this is very different than the modernist movement of the trendy art world. Objects that are beautiful because they are used, have a grace all their own, and because they were obviously made and used by people. When I look at a Shaker chair on display in the museum I can close my eyes and imagine the straight-backed black-clad woman who may have sat in it with her prayer-book at one time, and almost feel like I'm with her standing behind me and with every other person who have ever looked upon this object. How can anyone get this feeling of connectedness, of humanity, when all there is to look at is a wall of paint splatters?

Shaker chairs as displayed in the exhibition From Mt. Lebanon to the World, at the Shaker Museum and Library in the main gallery.

Posted by conniechai at 9:22 PM PST
Updated: Tuesday, 24 February 2004 9:51 PM PST
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Wednesday, 14 January 2004

Topic: Opinion
Realism-Only Policy at Hirschl & Adler Galleries

Lord Frederick Leighton, 1877, "The Music Lesson"

I never liked non-representational art, and have had to defend it against some of my friends in college who snobbed it. HAH! H&A is a respected art gallery who have seen the light. I can't believe we as a society has been bamboozled into believing that dipping a cat in blue paint and hurling it at policemen is art.It's funny, but it's not art.

Maybe soon poems that rhyme will make a come-back?

Excerpted from reviewer Sherry Lazarus Ross: "Inherent to Hirschl & Adler's recognition of realism is their understanding that artists of stature must now be dedicated to the kind of training and skill acquisition that was expected of an artist in pervious centuries. In other words, the hard work of learning how to draw and paint.

"The modernist ideologies are no longer convincing this new generation of collectors and art enthusiasts, i.e. that abstract art is art, simply because they are told so. Hirschl and Adler see this so clearly, that they have now made it their policy to no longer represent abstract artists. They now represent a wide range of Realist artists who have obviously made the commitment to mastering the skills of drawing and painting in the Realist Tradition. It was the only form of art that truly mattered throughout history - for the language of Realism is not fashionable, it is universal, and will still be the visual language of the human race in the distant future, as it always has been."

Posted by conniechai at 2:35 PM PST
Updated: Tuesday, 20 January 2004 10:07 AM PST
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Topic: Review
I love The Explainer on Slate.

explainer: Answers to your questions about the news.

Why Is Mars Red?
Basically, the whole planet is rusty.
By Brendan I. Koerner
Posted Monday, Jan. 12, 2004, at 12:56 PM PT

Spirit, NASA's scrappy exploration robot, has been snapping some breathtaking photos of Mars. More portraits of red-tinged landscapes should emerge shortly, as Spirit ventures forth from its lander. But why does every nook and cranny on Mars invariably look red?

The simple explanation is that the planet's soil is rich in iron oxide, but there's much debate as to why the mineral is so ubiquitous in the Martian environment. The old theory is that the oxidization process began early in Mars' life cycle, when warm water flowed on the planet--water that may have carved out the long, now-barren channels that snake through portions of the planet. Rocks containing iron would have slowly been worn away by rivers and seas, and the oxygen in the water would have combined with the iron to create iron oxide--or, in lay terms, the iron would have rusted into red dust. Flecks of the reddish mineral would then have been dispersed all over the planet via raindrops. Scientists who believe that Mars was once flooded with water have pointed to the abundance of iron oxide as proof of their claims. And where there's water, of course, there may also be life.

[for full article follow link above]

Posted by conniechai at 11:15 AM PST
Updated: Wednesday, 14 January 2004 11:15 AM PST
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Topic: Review

Eat Catfish!

hey, wait a minute The conventional wisdom debunked.

The Perils of Aquaculture
It's the salmon farms, not the risks of dioxin in farmed salmon, that we ought to be worried about.
By Douglas Gantenbein
Posted Tuesday, Jan. 13, 2004, at 6:42 AM PT

What's in your salmon?

It turns out that farmed-raised salmon, touted as inexpensive fare for heart-healthy diets, may not be such a good mealtime addition after all. On Jan. 9, the journal Science published an article detailing an exhaustive analysis of some 700 farm-raised salmon. Most had levels of dioxin--cancer-causing chemicals that are the byproduct of various industrial processes--as much as 11 times higher than those found in wild salmon. The best explanation for the big dose of dioxin is that farm-raised fish are eating badly themselves--food pellets mostly derived from ground-up fish. A less-diverse diet than wild salmon eat, it allows concentrations of chemicals to pass easily to farmed salmon.

There's a certain "So what?" element to all this. The tested fish were not skinned or cooked, two steps that greatly reduce dioxin. And, as many food experts have pointed out, the added risk of the dioxin is probably more than compensated for by the benefits of eating salmon. That's because salmon, an oily fish, is rich in omega-3 fatty acids, a substance that almost certainly helps protect against heart disease and may also reduce the risk of cancer and Alzheimer's. Salmon--even farm-raised salmon--also are low in mercury, a chemical prone to show up in tuna and other fish. The average American is far more apt to croak from heart disease due to too many Big Macs than from cancer caused by a few helpings of ranch-raised salmon.

That doesn't let farmed salmon off the hook, though. Why? Because the aquaculture industry that creates them also creates plenty of other problems. Farm-raised salmon were largely unheard of 20 years ago. But after getting their start in northern Europe and then spreading to places such as Chile and British Columbia, Canada, "salmon farms" grew rapidly. Today they account for some 60 percent of salmon worldwide--1.4 million metric tons in 2002, which is a lot of salmon steaks. The abundance of farmed salmon has helped make a fish that once was largely a luxury item (or an expensive canned fish) into a commonplace meal in homes and restaurants.

[for rest of the excerpted article follow link above]

Aquaculture doesn't have to be a bad deal. Catfish and other species are raised successfully and fairly cleanly by fish farmers. (Asian shrimp farms, though, may be even worse than salmon farms.) Good aquaculturalists carefully monitor water quality, use minimal antibiotics and pesticides to keep fish healthy, and ideally raise their crop in closed systems--not in pens stuck near the open ocean. (And they push for better quality pellets to feed their fish, too.) If the current scare inspires consumers to make it clear they want wild salmon, not farm-raised fish, then perhaps the market will help rein in what has become a marine menace.

Posted by conniechai at 8:21 AM PST
Updated: Wednesday, 14 January 2004 8:48 AM PST
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Tuesday, 13 January 2004

Topic: Personal

Have gained 10 pounds since the wedding. If same rate of increase continues, by the time I'm 40 I would be generating my own gravitational field. Small animals would be orbiting my butt in a spacious and yet somehow mildly aesthetic series of ellipses. This planetary prospect fills me with dread.

Posted by conniechai at 10:58 AM PST
Updated: Tuesday, 13 January 2004 11:33 AM PST
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Monday, 12 January 2004

Topic: Personal
On Monday, I came to work in the morning to find no computer at my desk. The IT technician had taken it away for rebuilding, and had promised me that it'd be back by Monday. So, I call the help desk, and it being Monday morning, got transferred to their "overflow" answer service, which I think is located in Bangladesh, based on the amount of help I was able to get from them.

Anyways, the technician arrives with my computer at 9am, by which time I was fuming. The man walked into such a tirade as you would not believe. I had sadly lost my normally composed mien, and berated him roundly for several minutes. Then, while he was busy working on my computer, I start to go through my InBox...where I found some health-insurance snafu paperwork. So I call R, and berate him roundly for a minute or two, just to stay on my roll.

I put the phone down, looked at the technician beavering away at the computer (and trying to make himself as small as possible), and said, "You a married man, John?" He replies, "Hell no."

Ah ha ha.

So finally he's finished with the work, and informs me that I needed FMIS installed but he couldn't do it, the FMIS guy has to come do it. I shot him a look - perhaps you know to what type of 'look' I am referring here - and he stepped back away from me, whipped out his Nextel, and says, "I'll call him RIGHT NOW."

Laughing, I said, "Yeah, better him than you, eh?"

His response? "Well, I wouldn't wish you on anybody or anything, but..."


"...when you call the help desk, we all draw straws, and the short straw has to call you back."

I related the story to S, who said, "Is that what happened to R? Did he take one for the team?"

Oh, people think they're so funny...

Posted by conniechai at 3:50 PM PST
Updated: Saturday, 1 May 2004 12:25 PM PDT
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Topic: Review
How simple stories move me.

Every Cat, by Laura Wenger, as posted on

Posted by conniechai at 12:15 PM PST
Updated: Monday, 12 January 2004 12:26 PM PST
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Thursday, 8 January 2004
Seems as good an idea as any.
Topic: Fun
Japanese businessmen hold a service aimed at fending off viruses and glitches for their computers in a purification ceremony conducted by a Shinto priest according to Shinto rituals at Kanda Myojin shrine in Tokyo January 6, 2004. REUTERS/Haruyoshi Yamaguchi

Posted by conniechai at 12:50 PM PST
Updated: Sunday, 18 January 2004 10:16 PM PST
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