Friday, July 31, 2015

Even in the Art World, Sexism is Pervasive

One of my favorite paintings at Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York is the portrait of Mademoiselle Charlotte du Val d'Ognes. (It's also one of the Met's most popular works.) At the time it was acquired, it was believed to be a painting by the famed French painter Jacques-Louis David. It was described, by art critics, as one of David's lost masterpieces. The sitter's classical white tunic, Grecian curls, spartan setting, and masculine brush stoke could only have been painted by David. 

But in 1951, it was determined that it had actually been painted by a woman named Marie Denise Villers. Once the painting was attributed to a woman and not David, its monetary value plummeted and critics began to reevaluate its merit, ascribing "feminine attributes" to the image. As one critic put it, "its very evident charms, and cleverly concealed weakness, its ensemble made up from thousands of subtle attitudes, all seem to reveal the feminine spirit."

When one thinks of the art world , one generally thinks of a place of openness and tolerance--yet as this assessment of Villers's work illustrates, this is hardly the case. Sadly, the 'art world' shares the same prejudices and stereotypes we see in the real world. Forms of sexism still dominate our culture whether it be in art or the world at large. 

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Polari: The Vanishing Gay Dialect

The persecution of gays in the first half of the twentieth century was so severe that gay people developed their own way of talking, a kind of secret code that amounted to an English dialect, which is known as Polari (from the Italian 'parlare' to talk). Polari declined in usage in the early 1960s, mainly due to the decriminalization and relative acceptance of homosexuality in the United Kingdom. As gays attain greater acceptance, the need for a gay subculture and language diminishes. It's an unfortunate, but long-awaited trade-off for freedom.

Putting on the Dish is video short by London filmmakers Brian Fairbairn and Karl Eccleston, which shows two gay men having a conversation on a park bench, entirely in Polari. First, watch the film to see how much you understand. Then look at the translation below. I understood about 25 percent of what was happening, primarily from context.

Translation by Amelia Bee, YouTube Commentator.

Two gay men are on a bench. One comments that he doesn't like the book The Clockwork Orange. Using coded language they check to see that one another is gay before letting their guard down and speaking frankly, ogling other men as they pass by, etc. They gossip about a promiscuous mutual acquaintance that got thrown in prison after getting caught having sex with men. The one on the left then laments that he nearly got locked up himself once, after the cops came knocking right as he finished going down on a guy, but narrowly escaped by telling them there was a “poof” inside and ran as they arrested his lover. The one on the right is rightfully disgusted by this revelation and

Deconstructing the Looney Tunes

Chuck Jones, one of the great masters of animation, directed many of the classic cartoon shorts starring Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, the Road Runner, Pepe Le Pew, and Porky Pig. This video from Every Frame a Painting explores the evolution of Mr. Jones as an artist and the maturation of the Looney Tunes. After all these years, these little masterpieces can still entertain and make us laugh. 

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Flugtag: Homemade Flying Machines

Each year, Red Bull organizes Flugtag (flying day) events around the world, where participants build and pilot homemade flying machines. Flugtag challenges the brave and the brainy to design, construct and fly these machines off a 28-foot-high flight deck above a body of water. Entries are judged for distance, creativity, and showmanship. This criteria has inspired flying tacos, prehistoric pterodactyls, and all sorts of animals. The aerodynamics of these machines is questionable and most plummet into the water rather than fly. Here are some creative examples. 

Graduate from High School and Get $200,000

Graduate from High School and get $200,000. That's what happens to young adults of the Ho-Chunk Native American tribe. The tribe owns a string of casinos in Wisconsin, and Ho-Chunk kids get a share of casino profits once they graduate and turn 18. Watch this short video from the Guardian to see the impact of this so-called 18 Money on their lives.

Monday, July 27, 2015

Shocking New York Magazine Cover

The current cover of New York magazine features 35 of the 46 woman that have accused actor-comedian Bill Cosby of sexual assault. The women are all seated in exactly the same pose against a white background. Like Pete Rose (gambling), Charles Lindbergh (Nazi sympathizer and bigamist), and Joan Crawford (child abuse), Mr. Cosby's accomplishments will likely be over-shadowed by his own reckless behavior .

Thursday, July 16, 2015

My Neighbor President Bush

Sen. Prescott Bush, Pres. H. W. Bush, Pres. W. Bush and Gov. Jeb Bush
(From L to R)
Celebrities don't often come to Portland, Maine, but just down the street from where I live, former President George H. W. Bush has taken up residence at the Maine Medical Center. The eldest Bush is recuperating after breaking a bone in his neck. I'm keeping an eye out to see if we get a visit from son and former President George W. Bush or failing that, a visit from son and presidential hopeful Jeb Bush. It would make a great photo op for Jeb, who, according to recent polls, is trailing Don Trump. 

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Hero: Nicole Elliot

Nicole Elliot and Chester
Nicole Elliot has a passion for rescuing animals who need special help. So she decided to rescue a dog who was suffering from terminal cancer and make his last days an enjoyable adventure. She created his own special bucket list, which included walks, lunches, and lots of love. Read their story

Monday, July 6, 2015

What are the Best American States?

Gilsland Farm
Falmouth, Maine
People like to rank things. There's a list for almost everything: the best colleges, the best movies, the best restaurants, the best states to live in. There's even the Definitive and Final Ranking of All 50 States list. A list that ranks an American state on everything (economy, taxes, physical beauty, food, weather, etc.).

At the bottom of the heap are Florida (50), Delaware (49), Ohio (48), Utah (46) and Mississippi (45). The states deemed the best are Michigan (1), Maine (2), Kentucky (3), Wisconsin (4) and Louisiana (5). Maine is ranked number 2, in no small part, because of Portland, a magnet for great restaurants, livability and access to nature. 

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Is this Maine Man a Possible Darwin Award Winner?

Tragic and Senseless Loss of Life Story:

The 4th of July is a time to celebrate the nation's independence, but sometimes people go overboard. That's the case of Devon Staples of Calais, Maine. Mr. Staples died instantly after he placed a mortar tube firework on his head and set it off. Sounds like Mr. Staples might be eligible for a Darwin Award. The Darwin Awards are awarded posthumously to people who significantly improve the gene pool by eliminating themselves from the human race in an obviously stupid way. 

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Spider-Woman Has a New Look

Parent by Day. Hero by Night

Jessica Drew (aka Spider-Woman) has a new look. Jessica appears noticeably pregnant in an upcoming issue of Spider-Woman. As if female superheroes don't have a tough time already fighting misogyny, overtly sexual costumes, and hazardous long flowing hair, Spider-Woman now has pregnancy. It's not easy being a 21st century female superhero. 

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Anything Your Fitbit Says Can and Will be Used in a Court of Law

I love my Fitbit, but be aware that the information it tracks could be used in a court of law. Recently, a woman in Pennsylvania was charged with knowingly filing a false report after data from her Fitbit undermined her claim of rape. Data from her Fitbit tracker showed that the woman was awake and active during the night, including the time she told police she was sleeping. Jeannine Risley claimed she'd been sleeping before she was awaken and raped. Yet, data from her Fitbit contradicted her account, leading investigators to determine she had lied. 

In another case, data from a Fitbit was used to defend a person seeking compensation in a personal injury action. The Fitbit data established that the plaintiff's level of fitness was below someone of like age and profession. 

So whether it's a Fitbit, Apple Watch, or Google Wristband, your wearable computing device could be used in a court of law either for or against you.