Sunday, March 26, 2006

Protest Babes + Protest Cat

Samizdata has pictures from a free-speech rally at Trafalgar Square.

Past protest babes:
Cedar Revolution in Lebanon 1 2 3 4
Women's Suffrage in Kuwait 1 2
Orange Revolution in Ukraine 1 2 3

Saturday, March 11, 2006

Giorgione, Manet, Vanity Fair, titillation, duality, and pears

In this post, neo-neocon discusses how the Vanity Fair photo is a descendant of the Manet painting just below, and of the earlier Giorgione painting further below:

So, here we have an interesting trajectory: from Giorgione's allegory in which the sexuality is a subtext, although still present; through Manet's shocking modernized grouping that refers back to those earlier nudes, but shorn of any pretense of classicism except as a facile reference point. Then, on to the modern photo that is sold on newsstands and overtly meant to titillate, and which has only a vague and very hidden reference to its predecessors. But to me, all three works stand in an unbroken line, and even the last refers all the way back to the first.

The paintings and the photo remind me of the dual sensibilities of woman. In the Manet, the robed woman in the meadow reminds of Milo Kundera's account of Karel's mother, and the pears and the tanks. Kundera is the author of The Unbearable Lightness of Being(also credit neo-neocon for first pointing to this Kundera passage):

One night, for example, the tanks of a huge neighboring country came and occupied their country [a reference to the 1968 Russian invasion of Czechoslovakia]. The shock was so great, so terrible, that for a long time no one could think about anything else. It was August, and the pears in their garden were nearly ripe. The week before, Mother had invited the local pharmacist to come and pick them. He never came, never even apologized. The fact that Mother refused to forgive him drove Karel and Marketa crazy. Everybody's thinking about tanks, and all you can think about is pears, they yelled. And when shortly afterwards they moved away, they took the memory of her pettiness with them.

But are tanks really more important than pears? As time passed, Karel realized that the answer was not so obvious as he had once thought, and he began sympathizing secretly with Mother's perspective--a big pear in the foreground and somewhere off in the distance a tank, tiny as a ladybug, ready at any moment to take wing and disappear from sight. So Mother was right after all: tanks are mortal, pears eternal.
I intend to write about the pears and the tanks, someday. I wish I was more attracted to the "eternal" pears, but I am not. I suspect being less attracted to the pears is a form of denying reality, and of having a complaint against God. I suspect it's a rebellion against God's design. However, it is a perplexing question. Maybe men are hardwired to like the excitement of the tanks.

Update, July 2008:
I'm a different person, now, than when I wrote this in March, 2006. I am more interested in the pears than I used to be - although: world events still fascinate. I comprehend and understand world events better than I did even 5 years ago. Still: the pears are my life. I cannot control the tanks.

Friday, March 10, 2006

Don't Blame Me For What You Are

An interesting thing about the blogosphere: if you blog, and if you comment at other blogs, you will be ripped by emailers and commenters. I suspect the blogosphere must especially attract people who get a jolt from the hurt feelings of others. In real life, their acquaintances and their relatives must flee at their approach. But the blogosphere is their nirvana. The blogosphere is their crack cocaine.

What you soon enough notice, when you're commenting in a blog, is just how much some people are living in fantasy worlds. You can even recognize - because is is so obvious and blatant - some denial, projection, displacement, and narcissism; and you can observe how those things infringe upon reality.

If you're like me, you come to trust your own reasoning more and more, and your own grasp of reality more and more. It's been a growing-up experience for me. Three years ago, when I commented at a blog, I could not help desiring that other commenters would appreciate my comment, and I could not help being somewhat devastated when they did not. I still hope other commenters will appreciate my contributions, but now I am completely undevastated when they do not. In fact, I couldn't care less. When occasion arises: I'm perfectly willing to admit to illogical or uninformed thinking, then publicly change my opinion. I'm confident of my IQ and wisdom. Both are certainly surpass-able by many people, and I'm fine with that. And I truly don't care about whatever the delusional and the narcissistic and the otherwise goofy can dream up to say.

Now, that's a big deal for me, because I have cared about that stuff for almost all my life - up until about two years or so ago, when it finally dawned that I was in many instances wiser than the delusional, the overtly narcissistic, and the goofy. I'm very grateful that realization finally, honestly and truly, dawned in me. It's a big step forward. I've been thinking about that step forward a lot lately, probably because I've been noticing how the barbs coming my direction have been making absolutely zero impact. When you are confident in who you are, and in your strengths, and in your limitations, it's like a deflector shield against meaningless manure. Barbs  bounce away - maybe even faster than they came in, with no effort needed on my part to aid the bouncing.

I started commenting, about eight months ago, at a blog written and frequented mostly by Canadians. It is filled with commenters who believe the vast majority of Christians and conservatives are evil, and who believe the vast majority of Christians and conservatives have nefarious motives for their actions. The blogger is very smart, and is a decent guy, and even has some conservative leanings, but he also buys into the construct that Christians and "American-type" conservatives are evil people with nefarious motives. For the entire time I've been there, I've been the only person on that blog who disagreed with the "evil and nefarious" construct.

Lately, without having any particular plan in mind, I've steered two comment threads in the direction of discussing that construct, because it seemed relevant to the particular discussions. Some commenters responded, without any sense of irony, that I was simply too stupid to understand how evil and nefarious I truly am. Though they were smart enough to understand how evil and nefarious I am, they had to admit they were not smart enough to explain it in a way my feeble mind could understand. They assured me that was terrible luck for me, and actually for my equally evil state, region, and nation, as one and all are part of what is f___ing up the world. One commenter unleashed a week-long string of invective, which I went back and collected, then published in the comment section, because his entire oeuvre is quite entertaining. I had a vague idea someone might point out the overkill inherent in this commenter's methodology, but no one did. And, actually, overkill is part of his shtick. Anyway, here is the comment I left, complete with the week's worth of accumulated insults. I hope you find them amusing:

Dr. P,
Just for fun, and out of a sense of nostalgia, I've accumulated the names you've called me in the last week or so - a period in which I did not once resort to calling you names. I tried to stay on the points of contention which were raised. Despite your protestation to the contrary, I've yet to find where you did the same. In place of reason, you substituted the following name calling. I admit, it is a fun list to peruse. It has the entertainment value:

--head further up your ass than almost anyone I've ever encountered on the internet
--really stupid, and not just regular stupid either, you're Ann Coulter stupid.
--a loathsome worm, fit only for execution
--narrow minded
--marked by a lack in intelligence
--Like a woman who can't escape the husband who beats her
--you sound like an idiot
--religious Christians who almost without exception are the most narrow minded, rigid, people I've ever met
--How old are you? 18? Because you sound like some kinda schoolboy
--totally insane
--a goddamn anti-Semite

Picasso had his "blue" period. Near the end, you had your "stupid" period.

He responded thusly:

"Don't blame me for what you are."

I really enjoyed, and was intrigued, by that particular riposte. It has stuck with me:

Don't blame me for what you are.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

More Oscars "Do's" (from various years)

Subtitle: "A Middle-Aged, Middle American, Not-Dead-Yet Man Looks at Oscars Looks"

Kate Blanchett's yellow frock with the wide belt(below): this is about as good as an Oscars dress and an Oscars look can get. Regal. Beautiful.

An excellent choice for Kirsten Dunst. She has such a well-scrubbed, All-American look that she can turn up the glamour meter as high as possible, yet never seem overdone. She looks like a silent screen star.

There's something about Heather Graham. She seems accessible. Fun loving. Up for anything. Almost any man would love to romance Rollergirl.

Speaking of, why is the man directly below smiling?
Charlize Theron looks like a Greek goddess. Very, very nice choice. Very, very nice Charlize. Julianne Moore: most everything I said about Kate Winslett, here, applies to Julianne Moore. It's odd that both are English. Or, maybe not. Julianne is talented, and she seems like a completely decent broad. She would wear well over time. You could imagine being with her for the long term. This lustrous green brings out the color in her hair. Striking.

Speaking of Greek, Diane Lane looks like a woman of Sparta: a vision of health and vitality. Her maturity shows through in the openness evident in her eyes; and in her confident, graceful bearing. She is not vamping. She is not coquettish. She squares up and looks straight into the camera - a woman at her best. Her maturity enhances her attractiveness.

Sandra Oh and Virginia Madsen really get it. They've made selections which are appropriate for the occasion, and they look to be completely enjoying the moment. Salute!

With the choice of this beautiful dress, Reese Witherspoon shows she has excellent taste. It's not a dress a twentysomething would typically choose, yet she carries it off with class. I liked her acceptance speech, also. Very classy.

Salma Hayek makes consistently excellent choices. The darker blue dress (below left) is sort of a "do me, do me" look - but in a good way. The Oscars is the perfect occasion for such a look.

Look at how pretty Scarlett Johansson is! She has classic facial structure, and it will wear well over time. I also included her as an excuse to reprint the photo at bottom(so to speak!).

Salma Hayek's pose below is reminiscent of Marilyn Monroe.

On the Vanity Fair cover, Scarlett Johannson looks like a wood-nymph come to life. She also looks like an illustration on a fancy and luxurious box of ladies' bath powder, circa about 1935. It feels as though we could open the top of this picture and pull out an extravagant, powder-dusted puff.

Notice how Keira Knightly looks severe and harsh in comparison? Ms. Knightly is an example of the glamour industry exalting a skinny slip of a girl. If you saw her away from the camera, she would seem stick-like, with pointy edges. I'm sure she's very nice, and very talented. But the severity of her look starkly contrasts with the womanly earthiness, and the desirability, of a Kate Winslett.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Oscars "Do's" of Kate Winslett

I was at Yahoo's "Oscars Roundup", looking at pictures of "Do's and Don'ts" from past years, and I noticed picture after picture of Kate Winslett, listed under "Do's." I like this young woman very much. Not only is she a kick-ass actress, but she seems personable, down to earth, and smart. Ms. Winslett has the type of classic beauty which endures, and is a throwback to early Hollywood glamour days. Hollywood should be embarrassed for trying to pass off airheaded waifs as actual beauties. I'll point to an example: Gwyneth Paltrow. Gwyneth might be a nice person, but she pales next to Kate Winslett's talent, and next to Kate Winslett's life-force. Imagine what Ms. Winslett could've done with Ms. Paltrow's juicy role in "Shakespeare in Love." Ms. Winslett might've made that movie an all-time classic. She might've made Ms. Paltrow's role an all-time memorable performance. I would like to have seen it.

Try to imagine "Titanic" without Ms. Winslett's energy, and earthiness. Imagine it with, say... Winona Ryder? Or Jennifer Aniston? Booorrriiing. Now imagine "Legends of the Fall" with Ms. Winslett, instead of Julia Ormond. A very nice movie gains some needed spice. Ms. Winslett would've improved it for sure.

Kate Winslett's first notable role was in "Heavenly Creatures", the true story of teen-aged lesbian lovers who killed one of their Moms in a bid to stay together. Ms. Winslett stole that movie with her ebullience. She instantly became the dream teenaged lover of lesbians around the world. So, she's also got that going for her! Without further ado, the final three Oscars "Do's" of Kate Winslett: