Tuesday, March 31, 2009

skinned alive

America's most revered writer Mark Twain was at Yale to receive an honorary degree; Theodore Roosevelt, currently ranked fourth best President, was there too. The President let it be known that he rather wanted the likes of Mark Twain to be skinned alive. Twain let it be known that the President was insane; in several ways: "Insanest upon war and its supreme glories."

An earlier reference to Twain here.

A reference to T.R. here.

The Three Ages of Man

Titian, 16th Century

This painting represents the artist’s conception of the life cycle in allegorical terms. Childhood, manhood synonymous with earthly love, and old age approaching death are drawn realistically as each figure reflects Titian’s attitudes toward each stage of earthly existence. A plump angel floats ethereally over two sleeping babies, protecting them, but also mirroring their purity.

To the left, he paints the joys [and exhaustion] of youth, the firmly muscled, mature male, perhaps spent from a sexual encounter, being tantalized by a pubescent girl dressed in provocative style to further endeavors. She holds two flutes and by chance is urging him on with her piped, "Siren’s song."

In the background, at the end of his days, a bearded old, stooped man gazes at two skulls, either in terror or in wonder. The exquisite detailed scenery reflects nature in her glory and decline--lofty, weightless clouds float through an azure sky. Parched trees in the foreground reflect the arid remnants of summer landscapes, as the skulls reflect those of man.

Source: here.

An earlier reference to Titian here.

over his head

Woman burning money in Weimar Germany. In post War War I Germany, Rudolf von Havenstein presided over the single biggest currency debasement in history, but refused to accept responsibility for the debacle.
There was something terribly tragic about this deeply well-intentioned man. Not simply a dutiful bureaucrat, he was by all accounts a wonderful human being, to Max Warburg "an extraordinary sympathetic personality, with an unbending sense of duty and honorable character." He was universally admired, kind, principled, and considerate, always living up to the highest virtues of his class. During the war, while most households supplemented their rations by buying under the counter, Von Havenstein not only refused to use the black market, but even donated some of his own paltry bread and meat ration stamps to the poor. In the last year, however, he seemed to have lost his grip on reality—some said that the pressure he was under had made him prematurely senile—and a few mourned his passing.
- Liaquat Ahamed in Lords of Finance on Von Havenstein, German Reichsbank Central Banker, who was "a true gentleman of the old school, kind, courteous, but completely out of his depth." [p. 187, 188, 190]

Gross National Happiness

The term Gross National Happiness was first expressed by the King of Bhutan His Majesty Jigme Singye Wangchuck. It is rooted in the Buddhist notion that the ultimate purpose of life is inner happiness. Bhutan being a Buddhist country, Bhutan’s King felt the responsibility to define development in terms of happiness of its people, rather than in terms of an abstract economic measurement such as GNP.


Monday, March 30, 2009


Emily Yoffe examines Narcissistic Personality Disorder here.
"They have a primitive, undeveloped sense of self." To compensate, they create a grandiose image to distract from an inner state that Payson says is one of "almost malignant anxiety and emptiness."
As well,
Psychologist Allan N. Schore, an associate clinical professor at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA says NPD can be summed up as, "Contempt of other people and their emotions." People with NPD are convinced there is nothing wrong with them; it's everyone around them who is impossible or crazy.
Earlier references to narcissism here and here.

Sunday, March 29, 2009


Foghorn Leghorn

Post Hoc [ergo proctor hoc]: Translation—after this, therefore because of this.

The rooster crows, the sun rises; therefore, the rooster caused the sun to rise.

Other logical fallacies here.


Regarding the Governor of the Bank of England, Montagu Collet Norman, Distinguished Service Order:
[In 1922] It was remarkable how enormous was the change that had come over Norman since August 1914. Then he had been a pathetic figure, unsure of himself and uncertain about his future, wracked by neuroses, his less than illustrious career cut short by mental illness. Now he was generally recognized as the most prominent and powerful banker in all of Europe, if not the world.
- Liaquat Ahamed, Lords of Finance: The Bankers Who Broke The World, 2009, p. 145


After World War I, not only had Britain's place in the world changed, but British society had also been transformed by the war:
The aristocracy that had ruled Britain for much of the previous century had been badly damaged—as one contemporary author wrote, albeit with some exaggeration, "In the useless slaughter of the Guards on the Somme, or of the Rifle Brigade in Hooge Wood, half the great families, heirs of large estates and wealth, perished without a cry." After enduring savage losses in the fighting—the casualty rate had been three times heavier among junior officers, many of them aristocrats, than among enlisted men—the old elite had also been hurt by wartime inflation and was now being decimated by postwar economic dislocations. Land prices had collapsed and many large estates been put up for auction. In place of the old and confident ruling class, a whole new breed—"hard-faced men who had looked as if they had done well out of the war," as one eminent politician described his new colleagues in the House of Commons—had come to power.
- Liaquat Ahamed, Lords of Finance: The Bankers Who Broke The World, 2009, pp. 136-7

Saturday, March 28, 2009

“The trouble with jogging is that the ice falls out of your glass.”

- Martin Mull [born 1943], Carpe Diem

Memory Man

A Los Angeles man can recall almost everything he's ever done since the age of five.

TV producer Bob Petrella, 58, remembers up to half the days of his own life in shockingly vivid detail.

He was diagnosed with hyperthymestia, meaning overdeveloped memory, after putting himself forward for a study about memory at the University of California last year.

The rare condition, also known as Super Autobiographical Memory, has been discovered in just four people around the world.

Scientists are still baffled as to how and why it happens and no cases have yet been recorded in the UK.

Mr Petrella recalls the day and date he first met a good friend, and all the conversations he's had on most days throughout the last 53 years.

He first discovered his amazing talent at primary school, when he could pass every test easily without even revising.

Mr Petrella, said: "I always had this amazing memory but I never liked to advertise it or boast to strangers.

"I remember things best when they interest me, whether that's sporting events, or historical or political dates, or just good days I've had in the past."

He added: "I remember everyone's telephone number. I lost my cell phone on September 24, 2006. A lot of people would panic... But I didn't have any numbers in my cell phone because I have them stored in my head."



Michael Sellers
Do you still love us daddy?
Peter Sellers
Of course I do, sweetheart. Just not as much as I love Sophia Loren.
From The Life and Death of Peter Sellers, 2004.

An earlier reference to Sellers here.

beyond the brain

Our thoughts and desires are shaped by more than neurons firing inside our heads, argues Alva Noë:
Imagine that we find the Holy Grail of neurobiology, the patterns of neural activation that correlate perfectly with different events in our mental lives. We would still never understand or make sense of why those correlations exist. There is no intrinsic relationship between the experience and the neural substrates of the experience. We always need to look at what factors bring the two together. The environment, other people, our needs and desires -- all these things exist outside the brain and have to be seen as essential parts of our selves and consciousness. So we aren't just our brains, we're not locked inside our craniums; we extend beyond our skulls, beyond our skin, into the world we occupy.

Friday, March 27, 2009

unwashed hands

The Fifth Plague of Egypt, 1800

J.M.W. Turner was regarded by his contemporary critics as a "parvenu who wallowed in the muck."

An earlier reference to Turner here.


"A man is the childhood he has had, the family, the streets he has walked, the house he has lived in, his friends and enemies, the books he has read, the music he has heard, the paintings he has seen, his convictions and ideas, his breakfast, lunch and supper, the sunrises and sunsets he has seen, the words he has spoken, the decisions he has made, the life he has led."
- Bulgarian photographer Hristina Tasheva

An earlier reference to photography here.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Father of 35 mm photography

Robert Frank with his wife June Leaf. Photograph: Eamonn McCabe.

Annie Leibovitz [born 1949] includes Robert Frank in the ranks of Henri Cartier-Bresson. Portable, personalized reportage.

An earlier reference to Frank here; to Henri Cartier-Bresson here.

an artist makes his case

Shepard Fairey explains here.

An earlier reference to Fairey here.

who have you outlived?

Not got much done with your day? At least you’re not dead.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

thin brain

A study indicates that people who have a high family risk of developing depression had less brain matter on the right side of their brains:
[Dr. Bradley Peterson of Columbia University Medical Center and the New York State Psychiatric Institute] said having a thinner right cortex may increase the risk of depression by disrupting a person's ability to decode and remember social and emotional cues from other people.

They did memory and attention tests on the study subjects and found the less brain material a person had in the right cortex, the worse they performed on attention and memory tests.

"Our findings suggest rather strongly that if you have thinning in the right hemisphere of the brain, you may be predisposed to depression and may also have some cognitive and inattention issues," he said.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009


"Nothing in the world can take the place of Persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent. The slogan 'Press On' has solved and always will solve the problems of the human race."
- Calvin Coolidge [1872-1933], 30th President of the USA, who ranks 26th out of 42 Presidents here.

In a press conference held March 23, 2009, President Obama reiterated his belief in 'Persistence' as the key to success:

coup d'état

Matt Taibbi is worried:
They cemented and formalized a political trend that has been snowballing for decades: the gradual takeover of the government by a small class of connected insiders, who used money to control elections, buy influence and systematically weaken financial regulations.
His Rolling Stone article is here.

double A-bomb victim

Japanese man certified as double A-bomb victim
By Mari Yamaguchi
Associated Press Writer / March 24, 2009

TOKYO—A 93-year-old Japanese man has become the first person certified as a survivor of both U.S. atomic bombings at the end of World War II, officials said Tuesday.

Tsutomu Yamaguchi had already been a certified "hibakusha," or radiation survivor, of the Aug. 9, 1945, atomic bombing in Nagasaki, but has now been confirmed as surviving the attack on Hiroshima three days earlier as well, city officials said.

Yamaguchi was in Hiroshima on a business trip on Aug. 6, 1945, when a U.S. B-29 dropped an atomic bomb on the city. He suffered serious burns to his upper body and spent the night in the city. He then returned to his hometown of Nagasaki just in time for the second attack, city officials said.

"As far as we know, he is the first one to be officially recognized as a survivor of atomic bombings in both Hiroshima and Nagasaki," Nagasaki city official Toshiro Miyamoto said. "It's such an unfortunate case, but it is possible that there are more people like him."

Certification qualifies survivors for government compensation -- including monthly allowances, free medical checkups and funeral costs -- but Yamaguchi's compensation will not increase, Miyamoto said.

Japan is the only country to have suffered atomic bomb attacks. About 140,000 people were killed in Hiroshima and 70,000 in Nagasaki.

Yamaguchi is one of about 260,000 people who survived the attacks. Bombing survivors have developed various illnesses from radiation exposure, including cancer and liver illnesses.

Details of Yamaguchi's health problems were not released.

Thousands survivors continue to seek official recognition after the government rejected their eligibility for compensation. The government last year eased the requirements for being certified as a survivor, following criticism the rules were too strict and neglected many who had developed illnesses that doctors have linked to radiation.


An earlier reference to the A-bomb here.

commercial performance artist

An earlier reference to Warhol here.

Monday, March 23, 2009

70,000 unique pieces

Parthenon: When constructed under the leadership of Pericles in the 5th century BCE, it was the largest building in the world. The ultimate expression of Athenian ideals. The goal of visual perfection was achieved with optical refinements: curves; without right-angles.

"Man is the measure of all things."
- Protagoras [490-420BCE]

$2,500 CAD

Launched today, Tata must sell 250k Nanos to break even, but expected sales exceed more than one million units in the first year alone. Story here.


Art lover attends auction, gets into bidding war over minor painting by his favorite artist, and blows his entire life savings to fend off high rollers and win it. Spiffy: he's only 16 years old. Story here.


Frequently referred to surgical dissecting scissors on M*A*S*H.

An earlier reference to M*A*S*H here.


Hat Tip: Emo

Native American's Dying Languages

Comanche Camp, 1873

A little more than a century ago, the Comanche ruled the Great Plains. Now, The Guardian reports, the 14,000 strong tribe is one of several Indian tribes making desperate bids to preserve their language. The Comanche Language and Cultural Preservation Committee has created a dictionary, holds language courses and has even offered financial incentives for parents to teach their kids Comanche. Perhaps only 100 native speakers survive, and none of them are under 60. One woman wept as she described how her grandmother failed to pass on the language because her school teachers beat her for using it. "The first English words she learned were 'Yes, Ma'am'," the woman said.

The Gaurdian story here.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Scotland's independence from England

Image source here.

In 1793, Robert Burns imagines a speech Robert the Bruce may have given before the Battle of Bannockburn in 1314 here.

An earlier reference to Robert Burns here.

The Formula That Killed Wall Street

Story here.

Investor Emotions

Article here.

Friday, March 20, 2009

mind was on other things

"Quilted all day, but sewing seems no longer my calling."
- Elizabeth Cady Stanton [1815-1902]; no greater proponent of women's rights and equal rights, according to Fredrick Douglass [1818-1895].

only Prime Minister of Jewish heritage

"Read no history—nothing but biography, for that is life without theory."
- Benjamin Disraeli [1804-1881]


Top: The She-Wolf, 1943. Bottom: Jackson Pollock walking in field with wife Lee Krasner, Springs, New York, 1949.

Lee Krasner
What's this? I see the head, the body. This isn't Cubism, Jackson, because you're not really breaking down the figure into multiple views. You're just showing us one side. And what is this? Free Association? Automatism?
Jackson Pollock
I'm just painting, Lee.
From 2000's Pollock.

Earlier references to Pollock here and here.

ridiculous campaigns

9 Corporate Attempts At "Edgy" That Failed here.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

electric shock

David Hockney [born 1937] by Lucian Freud [born 1922], who has favored longer sessions of several months to capture his subjects. "He's looking, looking. Peering, peering. Coming closer."

Revenge of Karl Marx

Christopher Hitchens in the April edition of  The Atlantic here:
[Communism was] compelled to educate and train people up to a certain level. But beyond that level, it forbade them to think, or to inquire, or to use their initiative. Thus, while it created a vast amount of “surplus consciousness,” it could find no way of employing this energy except by squandering and dissipating and ultimately repressing it.
An earlier reference to Hitchens here.

La Era de Trujillo

Rafael Trujillo [R]

The Dominican Republic's Rafael Trujillo [1891-1961] is still regarded as the most evil dictator of the New World; paradoxically, his self-interested environmental policies have been beneficial for the country.

poorest country in the western hemisphere

Image source here.

Haiti is 99% deforested partly due to cooking fuel needs. 

America's oldest brewery

Image source here.

D.G. Yuengling & Son was founded in Pottsville, Pennsylvania in 1829.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009


"These are the times a genius wants to live."
- Abigail Adams [1744-1818]


World War II Japanese soldier 2nd Lt. Hiroo Onoda took 29 years to surrender to the allies; story and links here

Power of Art

Stendhal Syndrome: Overwhelmed by immense beauty.

An earlier reference to Stendhal here.


Image source here. 360° view here.

The second largest square in the world, Iran's Meidan Emam, was built in the 17th century Safavid era.

Police recruit test

Choose the correct spelling of the word:

A) Maryjuana

B) marijuana

C) majuana

D) all incorrect

Take the rest of the test here.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

stop motion


UCLA Geographer Jared Diamond [born 1937] points out that crises can be good for humanity.

An earlier reference to Diamond here.

if sharks stop swimming, they sink

Always in motion; otherwise death. Great White photo source here.

Monday, March 16, 2009

25 sons, 29 daughters

Steve Coll [born 1958] discusses the rise of al Qaeda. Muhammed, Osama bin Laden's [born 1957] father, had 25 sons and 29 daughters.

France after Napoleon's defeat

"A novel is a mirror that strolls along a highway. Now it reflects the blue of the skies, now the mud puddles underfoot."
- Stendhal [1783-1842], from Le Rouge et le Noir, 1830

An earlier reference to Napoleon here.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

stepping over the rope

[Dr.] Sternberg explained to me that there are four fallacious assumptions that impede wisdom and lead smart people into self-destructive mistakes -- the kind that will get you kicked out of school, fired, sued, attacked in the press, and even impeached. These are the fallacies of egocentrism ("When we start to think the world revolves around us"), omniscience ("We know more than everyone else -- the others are just big idiots"), omnipotence ("We, unlike others, can do what we want and get away with it"), and invulnerability ("We are so smart that we can cover our tracks").

Sternberg's theory of foolishness emphasizes the tendency of these fallacies to befall the traditionally stupid and the traditionally very smart. He explained that while the smart act stupidly because they think they can get away with it, the stupid simply "lack the cognitive capacity to realize how foolish these fallacies are."
When asked for the examples foolishness he sees most in Yale students, Sternberg was quick to cite three examples: cheating, shoplifting and heavy drinking. In all three cases, there is some perceived short-term gain to be had, with a heavy possible long-term loss if the perpetrator is caught off guard.

"Smart people turn into self-saboteurs when they do stupid things," he said. "Yale students are more likely than others to think things like 'I can get drunk and take a test tomorrow' or 'Other people have to study, but I don't.' They may be setting themselves up for a really big fall."
A related earlier reference to Sternberg here.

experiencing with the other

Former Catholic nun Karen Armstrong [born 1944] maintains that compassion is far more important than belief; learn what motivates the other.



Morty Seinfeld
My son bought me the car. It's a present.
Jack Klompas
(disbelief) You bought it?
Jerry Seinfeld
That's right. I bought it.
Morty Seinfeld
You ever see one so nice?
Jack Klompas
Some car.
Morty Seinfeld
You wanna take a ride?
Jack Klompas
No, thank you.
Morty Seinfeld
C'mon, take a ride.
Jack Klompas
I don't wanna take a ride.
Morty Seinfeld
Why not?
Jack Klompas
I don't feel like taking a ride. Do I have to take a ride?!
Jerry Seinfeld
He doesn't wanna take a ride.
Morty Seinfeld
Uh huh.
Jack Klompas
What d'you think? I've never ridden in a Cadillac before? Believe me, I've ridden in a Cadillac hundreds of times. Thousands!
Morty Seinfeld
An earlier reference to Cadillac here.


Image source here.

"I thought it was perfectly harmless. I thought I'd prefer him to do that more than getting drunk. I support legalisation, not because I think young people take a great deal of notice of the law – they don't – but because I think that with legalisation comes control. Give people more information: vulnerable young people need to know what this drug can do. If anything makes me really angry it is that this is such a polarised debate, an immature debate. It's either that cannabis is good or it's bad."

For Tory MP Charles Walker, the chair of the all-party parliamentary committee looking at children and cannabis, the damage that has been done both by the historical and generational tolerance of cannabis and by the government's out-of-date attitudes has meant that a seriously dangerous drug is not recognised as such.

"I have met and spoken to so many families who have been devastated – I mean devastated – by this drug," he said. "It is clearly highly addictive both psychically and psychologically and the damage is terrible: high-achieving children turning into shadows of their former selves and creating widespread misery."

"I think there is a historical legacy, which is why cannabis has been so downgraded by people in their 40s and 50s like me who don't understand that we are facing a different drug from the one everyone smoked in their youth. I wish we could change its name from cannabis to emphasise that."

Cannabis: a history

• Cannabis has been used for more than 4,000 years, including for medicinal purposes in Indian, Chinese and middle eastern civilisations. In China, it has been used to treat such conditions as malaria, constipation and rheumatism.

• Doctors in the west began to take an interest in its medicinal use in the middle of the 19th century. Queen Victoria was prescribed cannabis by her doctor to relieve period pain.

• The drug was outlawed in the United Kingdom in 1928, following an international drugs conference in Geneva, at which an Egyptian delegate claimed that it was a threat to society and as dangerous as opium.

• Recreational use in the UK began in the 1950s as migrants from the Caribbean arrived. It soared in popularity during the "flower power" years in the 1960s.

• A Home Office investigation in 1968 concluded: "There is no evidence that this activity is causing violent crime or aggression, anti-social behaviour, or is producing in otherwise normal people conditions of dependence or psychosis requiring medical treatment."

• Advanced cultivation techniques have led to an increase in potency over the past 20 years. Average levels of THC (tetrahydrocannabinol, the main psychoactive ingredient) in marijuana sold in America rose from 3.5% in 1988 to 8.5% in 2006. "Skunk" is the most potent strain and now dominates the UK market, according to Home Office research.

Excerpts from The Gaurdian.

An earlier reference to Cannabis Psychosis here.


Ernest Hemingway holding an aperitif, Cuba, 1953.

Hemingway, who, when asked to write a short story in six words, responded: "For sale, baby shoes. Never worn."

More on the 6 word theme here.

An earlier reference to Hemingway here.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Goldberg Variations

Glenn Gould [1932-1982] ] plays Johann Sebastian Bach [1685-1750]

he's not done

Inventor of the world wide web, Sir Tim Berners-Lee [born 1955], has further ideas.

An earlier reference to Berners-Lee here.

Friday, March 13, 2009

greatest landscape architect

Chatsworth House, Derbyshire, England.

Capability Brown [1716-1783]: formal to the natural.

He also redesigned the landscape at Blenheim Palace.

guns, germs and steel

Pulitzer Prize winner Jared Diamond [born 1937].

businessman as hero

Nicholas Rutz in Russian sable fur by Rembrandt [1606-1669]; acquired by J.P. Morgan [1837-1913] 

Commencement Speech to the Havard Class of 2000

Text here.

sick of himself


Six employees of a Texas home for mentally disabled adults have been charged with encouraging residents to fight each other. Story here.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

sins of omission and commission

U.S. Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr., 1908.

"So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin."
- James 4:17

“The omission of good is no less reprehensible than the commission of evil.”
- Plutarch [46-120 CE]

“You commit a sin of omission if you do not utilize all the power that is within you. All men have claims on man, and to the man with special talents, this is a very special claim."
- Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. [1841-1935]


YESTERDAY This Day's Madness did prepare;
TO-MORROW's Silence, Triumph, or Despair:
Drink! for you not know whence you came, nor why:
Drink! for you know not why you go, nor where.

- From The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyám [1048-1123]