Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

Archive for the ‘Art’ Category

H2O Sculptures

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Check out all the images. (It’s a store, so you can buy physical copies.)

Written by Leisureguy

2 October 2022 at 1:18 pm

Posted in Art

Transforming a wild tree into a bonsai

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Written by Leisureguy

30 September 2022 at 12:57 pm

Posted in Art, Daily life, Video

The Milkmaid, by Johannes Vermeer

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Written by Leisureguy

26 September 2022 at 1:25 pm

Posted in Art, Daily life, History, Video

Hieronymus Bosch, The Garden of Earthly Delights

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Written by Leisureguy

23 September 2022 at 12:24 pm

Posted in Art, Daily life, Religion, Video

Portrait of the Artist as a Postman

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Faune et Flore du Texas (1987), Kermit’s second scarf, was designed to commemorate the state’s sesquicentennial.
Courtesy of Hermés

Interesting and odd story by Jason Sheeler in Texas Monthly:

In July 2011, more than five thousand miles east of Waco, an assistant designer at the Hermès silk factory, in Lyon, France, unfurled a ninety-by-ninety-centimeter square of the company’s famous silk twill. It was lushly illustrated with the plants and animals of Texas. “This is my favorite scarf,” she said, pointing out the highlights to those of us assembled at the factory for a tour. The scarf, called Faune et Flore du Texas, was designed for the state’s sesquicentennial and had all the romantic detail of a vintage encyclopedia illustration. The assistant designer ran her finger around a ring of prickly pear that encircled an enormous turkey. Her hand brushed over nests of mallards, clusters of raccoons, a rearing mustang, a wild hare, and a stoic-looking Longhorn. More than fifty native animals coexisted within a viny ivy frame that blossomed with firewheels, Texas bindweed, and a particularly lovely downward-facing sunflower.

There are few labels higher on fashion’s Mount Olympus than Hermès. The 175-year-old luxury goods company is known for its handmade handbags, such as the Kelly (which is named after Grace Kelly) and the Birkin (which is named after Jane Birkin, costs between $9,000 and $150,000, and once had a legendary multiple-year waiting list). But perhaps its most coveted and collectible items—and the reason for my visit to the factory—are its $410 silk scarves. Since 1937 the company’s scarf sales have exploded; it is estimated that Hermès now sells one every twenty seconds. Jackie Onassis used an Hermès scarf to hold back her hair, and Princess Grace slung her broken arm in one. Each scarf design is an original commissioned artwork, screened on 450,000 meters’ worth of mulberry moth silkworm thread, and the scarf’s hem is hand-stitched—a process, legend has it, that was once handled by nuns.In July 2011, more than five thousand miles east of Waco, an assistant designer at the Hermès silk factory, in Lyon, France, unfurled a ninety-by-ninety-centimeter square of the company’s famous silk twill. It was lushly illustrated with the plants and animals of Texas. “This is my favorite scarf,” she said, pointing out the highlights to those of us assembled at the factory for a tour. The scarf, called Faune et Flore du Texas, was designed for the state’s sesquicentennial and had all the romantic detail of a vintage encyclopedia illustration. The assistant designer ran her finger around a ring of prickly pear that encircled an enormous turkey. Her hand brushed over nests of mallards, clusters of raccoons, a rearing mustang, a wild hare, and a stoic-looking Longhorn. More than fifty native animals coexisted within a viny ivy frame that blossomed with firewheels, Texas bindweed, and a particularly lovely downward-facing sunflower.

There are few labels higher on fashion’s Mount Olympus than Hermès. The 175-year-old luxury goods company is known for its handmade handbags, such as the Kelly (which is named after Grace Kelly) and the Birkin (which is named after Jane Birkin, costs between $9,000 and $150,000, and once had a legendary multiple-year waiting list). But perhaps its most coveted and collectible items—and the reason for my visit to the factory—are its $410 silk scarves. Since 1937 the company’s scarf sales have exploded; it is estimated that Hermès now sells one every twenty seconds. Jackie Onassis used an Hermès scarf to hold back her hair, and Princess Grace slung her broken arm in one. Each scarf design is an original commissioned artwork, screened on 450,000 meters’ worth of mulberry moth silkworm thread, and the scarf’s hem is hand-stitched—a process, legend has it, that was once handled by nuns.

The artist behind Faune et Flore du Texas, said the assistant designer, first caught the attention of Hermès in the eighties. According to company lore, Jean-Louis Dumas, the CEO at the time, loved driving across the United States. On one trip, while visiting Texas, he encountered a painter whose work was so bold but simple, so impressive in its portrayal of animals, that Dumas immediately commissioned a scarf design. That scarf had since been reissued several times and always sold out. The painter’s style was so popular that in the past thirty years, the company had commissioned fifteen more original designs from him. He was the only American artist ever to have designed scarves for Hermès.

Who was this man? I asked the assistant designer. He was very special, she told me. His name was Kermit Oliver, and he was a postal worker in his late sixties who lived in Waco. . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

22 September 2022 at 5:43 pm

Posted in Art, Business, Daily life

Only Iran censored a Pultizer-prize-winning playwright — until Florida decided it agreed with Iran

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Fabiola Santiago reports in the Miami Herald (no paywall):

I told you, my fellow Cuban Americans, that the censors would get around to us, too.

And they have.

The same afternoon after the Miami-Dade School Board voted to suspend the district’s recognition of national LGBTQ History Month in October, school officials also quietly rejected — via email — the work of one of the most prominent Cuban Americans in U.S. cultural life.

Miami-Dade County Public School’s Division of Academics is refusing to allow high school students to attend — as they have in the past — Miami New Drama’s staging of Nilo Cruz’s Pulitzer Prize-winning work “Anna in the Tropics.” This year’s is the 20th-anniversary presentation of the play.

Why the rejection?

The school district’s not saying.

Is it because Cruz is gay? The district would never say that outright. But after the spectacle of last week’s School Board meeting, at which members were cowed into voting down recognizing LGBTQ History Month by hostile parents and un-Christian-like religious leaders — even the Proud Boys showed up — it’s not too far a leap in logic these days.

MDCPS students have been bused to see this stellar play before. The district should tell them — and the rest of us — what’s changed.

“My work has been staged around the world — and the only place where it has been censored is in Iran,” Cruz, 62, told me in an interview from his Miami home.

Until now — when the first Hispanic to win the Pulitzer Prize in drama, a distinction that, in 2003, also brought prestige to his hometown’s booming literary and theater scenes, appears to have become the latest victim of Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ culture wars. . .

Continue reading. (no paywall)

Apparently the GOP now admires Iran in addition to Russia and Hungary and North Korea.

Written by Leisureguy

13 September 2022 at 11:51 am

A Virtual Museum Trip Can Improve Your Physical, Mental, and Social Health

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SciTechDaily reports an interesting finding:

Scientists have known for a long time that social isolation is linked to a variety of health issues, such as an increased risk for heart disease and stroke, as well as mental deterioration and even early mortality. Because they are more prone to be socially isolated and lonely, older adults are particularly vulnerable. The coronavirus pandemic worsened the situation by requiring social distancing, particularly to preserve the health of the world’s senior population.

However, when paired with interactive art-based activities, the same digital technology that let workers connect remotely might help older adults become more physically, mentally, and socially healthy. This is the conclusion of a recent study, which is the first to show how trips to virtual museums may considerably improve the quality of life for elderly people who are confined to their homes. The researchers’ findings were published in the journal Frontiers in Medicine.

Researchers from Canada and the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts (MMFA) collaborated to look at the advantages of conducting weekly virtual visits over the course of three months. 106 Montreal metro area residents 65 and older were recruited for the research. One guided tour each week was attended by half of the participants, whereas no cultural activities were taken part in by the control group over the same time period.

Art improves life

The intervention group showed significant improvements in their social isolation, well-being, quality of life, and frailty assessment scores when compared to the control group, according to the paper.

“Our study showed that art-based activity may be an effective intervention,” said lead author Dr. Olivier Beauchet, a professor at the University of Montreal. “On a global scale, this participatory art-based activity could become a model that could be offered in museums and art institutions worldwide to promote active and healthy aging.”

The biggest benefit of the 45-minute virtual museum tours, which also included a 15-minute Q&A at the end with a museum guide, was an improvement in frailty.

Frailty refers to a “vulnerable condition exposing individuals to incident adverse health events and disabilities that negatively impact their quality of life and increase health and social costs,” Beauchet explained. “Health and social systems need to address the challenge of limiting frailty and its related adverse consequences in the aging population.”

A creative way to improve health

The new study is an extension of previous research that investigated the potential health benefits of an ongoing MMFA program for seniors called “Thursdays at the Museum.” Findings from the single-arm pilot study in 2018 indicated that art-based activities hosted by the museum can improve well-being, quality of life, and health in older adults.

In fact, the success of the pilot study led to a three-year multinational study to test the effectiveness of such art-based interventions across societies and cultures. In addition, . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

12 September 2022 at 10:32 am

John Atkinson is a great cartoonist

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Check out the mother lode.

Written by Leisureguy

29 August 2022 at 9:40 am

Posted in Art, Books, Daily life, Humor, Music

How a simple, Bauhaus-designed chair ended up everywhere over the past 100 years.

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Written by Leisureguy

16 August 2022 at 6:38 pm

“Princess Mononoke”: The masterpiece that flummoxed the US

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Princess Mononoke is currently available via Netflix, and it is certainly worth (re)watching. Stephen Kelly writes for BBC Culture:

In 1997, the British fantasy author Neil Gaiman received a call out of the blue from then-head of Miramax, Harvey Weinstein. “This animated film, Princess Mononoke,” Gaiman recalls him saying, “it’s the biggest thing in Japan right now. So I thought I’ve got to get the best to do it. I called Quentin Tarantino and said, ‘Quentin, will you do the English language script?’ And he said, you don’t want me, you want Gaiman. So, I’m calling you.” Miramax, a then-subsidiary of Disney, had acquired the rights to distribute Princess Mononoke, the newest film from Japanese animation studio Studio Ghibli, in the United States, and Weinstein wanted to fly Gaiman to Los Angeles to watch a cut of the movie.

“I had zero plans to do it,” Gaiman tells BBC Culture. “But the moment that changed everything for me was the scene where you’re looking at this large pebble. And then a raindrop hits it. And then another raindrop hits it. And then another raindrop hits it. And now it’s raining and the surface is slippery and wet. And I’m like, ‘I have never seen anything like this. This is real filmmaking. This is David Lean-level filmmaking. This is Akira Kurosawa-level filmmaking. This is the real deal.'”

When Princess Mononoke was first released in Japan on 12 July 1997, 25 years ago this week, it represented something of a departure for master animator and director Hayao Miyazaki. During the late 80s, Miyazaki had built his reputation (along with the success of Studio Ghibli, which he founded with fellow director Isao Takahata) on films like Kiki’s Delivery Service and My Neighbour Totoro; formally ambitious, thematically rich works, but generally affirming in tone and family-friendly in nature. But something changed during the 90s. Firstly, he began to bristle at the popular idea that Studio Ghibli only makes gentle movies about how great nature is. “I begin to hear of Ghibli as ‘sweet’ or ‘healing,'” he grumbles in Princess Mononoke: How the Film Was Conceived, a six-hour documentary about the film’s production, “and I get an urge to destroy it.” Yet even more significant was his growing despair at a world which he had increasingly come to believe was cursed.

“He used to be what he called leftist in sympathy, a believer in people power,” explains Shiro Yoshioka, lecturer in Japanese Studies at Newcastle University. “But for obvious reasons [the collapse of the Soviet Union, and the escalation in ethnic conflicts across Europe], his political beliefs were totally shaken in the early 1990s.”

Japan itself was also going through something of an existential crisis. The country’s bubble period, an economic boom during the late 80s, burst in 1992, stranding Japan in a seemingly endless recession. Three years later, in 1995, the country was hit by the Kobe earthquake, the worst earthquake to hit Japan since 1922. It killed 6,000 people, and destroyed the homes of tens of thousands more. Only two months after that, a terrorist cult by the name of Aum Shinrikyo launched a sarin gas attack on the Tokyo Metro, killing 13 and injuring thousands. Miyazaki, who was sickened by the materialism of the bubble period, was now living in a country traumatised and confused – both by its relationship with nature, and a creeping sense of spiritual emptiness.

“He began to think,” says Yoshioka, “maybe I should not make this entertaining, light-hearted stuff for children. Maybe I should make something substantial.”

A new anger

Set during the 14th Century, the Muromachi period of Japan, Princess Mononoke tells the story of Ashitaka, a young prince cursed by . . .

Continue reading. But perhaps it’s best to read the article after you’ve watched the movie. The article has many spoilers.

Written by Leisureguy

6 August 2022 at 12:56 pm

An Infinity of Young Talent

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Corporations go out of their way to be disgusting, in this case mocking young musicians to try to sell cars. (I wonder when we’ll see the commercials mocking those with disabilities.)

Written by Leisureguy

5 August 2022 at 9:50 am

Inside the British Columbia Parliament building

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BC Parliament building, click to enlarge; Photo by JG.pixel – instagram.com/jg.pixel/

Written by Leisureguy

1 August 2022 at 9:52 am

Posted in Art, Daily life, Government

The power of zooming

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Written by Leisureguy

31 July 2022 at 1:02 pm

A.I. and the fiction it writes

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Josh Dzieza has an interesting article in Verge on AI-assisted fiction writing. (Careful disclaimer: There is no AII involved in the writing of my blog, though I have indeed seen ads for AI software to assist in writing blog posts. I write my own.) Dzieza’s article begins:

On a Tuesday in mid-March, Jennifer Lepp was precisely 80.41 percent finished writing Bring Your Beach Owl, the latest installment in her series about a detective witch in central Florida, and she was behind schedule. The color-coded, 11-column spreadsheet she keeps open on a second monitor as she writes told her just how far behind: she had three days to write 9,278 words if she was to get the book edited, formatted, promoted, uploaded to Amazon’s Kindle platform, and in the hands of eager readers who expected a new novel every nine weeks.

Lepp became an author six years ago, after deciding she could no longer stomach having to spout “corporate doublespeak” to employees as companies downsized. She had spent the prior two decades working in management at a series of web hosting companies, where she developed disciplined project management skills that have translated surprisingly well to writing fiction for Amazon’s Kindle platform.

Like many independent authors, she found in Amazon’s self-service publishing arm, Kindle Direct Publishing, an unexpected avenue into a literary career she had once dreamed of and abandoned. (“Independent” or “indie” author are the preferred terms for writers who are self-publishing commercially, free of the vanity-press connotations of “self-published.”) “It’s not Dostoevsky,” Lepp said of her work, but she takes pride in delivering enjoyable “potato chip books” to her readers, and they reward her with an annual income that can reach the low six figures.

However, being an Amazon-based author is stressful in ways that will look familiar to anyone who makes a living on a digital platform. In order to survive in a marketplace where infinite other options are a click away, authors need to find their fans and keep them loyal. So they follow readers to the microgenres into which Amazon’s algorithms classify their tastes, niches like “mermaid young adult fantasy” or “time-travel romance,” and keep them engaged by writing in series, each installment teasing the next, which already has a title and set release date, all while producing a steady stream of newsletters, tweets, and videos. As Mark McGurl writes in Everything and Less, his recent book on how Amazon is shaping fiction, the Kindle platform transformed the author-reader relationship into one of service provider and customer, and the customer is always right. Above all else, authors must write fast.

Lepp, who writes under the pen name Leanne Leeds in the “paranormal cozy mystery” subgenre, allots herself precisely 49 days to write and self-edit a book. This pace, she said, is just on the cusp of being unsustainably slow. She once surveyed her mailing list to ask how long readers would wait between books before abandoning her for another writer. The average was four months. Writer’s block is a luxury she can’t afford, which is why as soon as she heard about an artificial intelligence tool designed to break through it, she started beseeching its developers on Twitter for access to the beta test.

The tool was called Sudowrite. Designed by developers turned sci-fi authors Amit Gupta and James Yu, it’s one of many AI writing programs built on OpenAI’s language model GPT-3 that have launched since it was opened to developers last year. But where most of these tools are meant to write company emails and marketing copy, Sudowrite is designed for fiction writers. . .

Continue reading. There’s much more. “Sudowrite” is, I assume, a gentle acknowledgment that the product is not actually “writing.” (Sudowrite = Pseudowrite)

Written by Leisureguy

22 July 2022 at 4:24 pm

Frank Lloyd Wright: The Lost Works – The Imperial Hotel

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Written by Leisureguy

20 July 2022 at 3:53 pm

Posted in Art, Daily life, Video

“Sonata”: A video animation

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Written by Leisureguy

13 July 2022 at 10:57 am

Posted in Art, Music, Video

“A novel is a prose narrative of some length that has something wrong with it.”

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The title quotation is from Randall Jarrell’s introduction to Christina Stead’s novel The Man Who Loved Children. I came across it in reading Wyatt Mason’s wonderful article (gift link, no paywall) in the NY Times about Akhil Sharma, who rewrote (and is about to publish) his first novel, published 22 years ago and started 30 years ago.

That caught my attention, but I also find myself revising and augmenting things I previously wrote — in fact, I spent time last night and this morning polishing (again) my post on Stephen Covey’s method, a post that I initially wrote more than 5 years ago and have revisited (and revised) many times over the years.

Needless to say, Akhil Sharma is a much better writer than I, but then it’s even more appropriate for me to revisit and revise things long since written.

The article begins:

“Hey, man, can I give you a hug?”

The unexpected question was posed by a man I’d just met — the 50-year-old, Delhi-born Indian American novelist, essayist and short-story writer Akhil Sharma — as we stood at the top of the chilly little hill we had climbed. The hill was part of a loop we would end up taking a number of times over two days, the three of us, which is to say me, Sharma and his baby daughter, asleep in her stroller. Her need for a nap had been the pretext for our circuit around Hollins, a small university outside Roanoke, Va., where Sharma was a writer in residence.

A plum gig, it required that Sharma teach one graduate-level fiction course to a small group of students at Hollins. So Sharma and I had taken his daughter for her daily stroller nap through the not particularly lovely campus, which, beyond its lackluster borders, was ringed in the distance by the oceanic peaks that make up the Virginia quadrant of the Blue Ridge Mountains.

As we walked, Sharma and I fell easily into the discussion of uneasy things. The particulars of those uneasy things haven’t much bearing here, except to say that we — two men in our early 50s — were addressing, with candor, the difficulties through which people at midlife pass. And it was at one materially insignificant moment in our conversation, when we reached the crest of that hill on that loop, that Sharma posed the unexpected question.

Sharma, who is slight and dapper, opened his arms. I opened mine. His leatherette puffer parka compressed slightly as he held me and I him.

It is unusual to hold a stranger in a loving way, and yet it didn’t feel strange. What’s odd to me, retrospectively, about that moment in Sharma’s arms is how congruent the feeling of it was with the feeling of reading his work: to be brought suddenly, unexpectedly, un-self-consciously close to another human — a pressure that’s palpable on every page of his work.

I realize the same assessment might be made of any number of contemporary writers, and while I stand by it and will try to qualify it, there is something undeniable about Sharma that can be said of very few novelists, and it was for this reason that I went to see him. Sharma had done a weird thing, something white-rhino rare in the history of literature: He had revised and radically rewritten a novel, his first, “An Obedient Father,” one he published 22 years earlier. Considerably shorter, with a very different ending but the same title, the novel was about to be published a second time — it reappears this month — more than 30 years after Sharma began it.

It’s not as though the first version of “An Obedient Father” was ignored. It met with the kind of success few first novels receive. It was excerpted in The New Yorker and won the PEN/Hemingway Award, and Sharma received a Whiting Award — career milestones for any writer. Novelists reached out to its 29-year-old author out of the blue. Sharma was not shy to say that among them was the Nobel laureate J.M. Coetzee. Still, the book would sell only adequately for a literary novel: according to Sharma, 6,000 hardcover copies and then 11,000 paperback copies over the next two decades, taking 17 years to earn back what the publisher advanced him for it and certainly not paying well enough that it let Sharma live off his writing.

Aside from those encouraging/discouraging realities, Sharma was secretly displeased with the novel when he published it. He’d had doubts, yes, but he had been arrogant enough, or insecure enough, or hopeful enough to want to be hailed as a genius, and when it was clear that, despite the praise the book received, “genius” was not a word being thrown around, Sharma’s sense of failure, of not living up to his hopes for the novel, was confirmed. In that little way, what he already knew to be true was borne out: Whatever the book did well, aesthetically, it had real things wrong with it, formal problems he hadn’t been able to name, much less fix.

“An Obedient Father” is a brutal book. It tries to integrate two first-person reports of family life, one by a father and another by his daughter, with a larger, social story about modern India, its political history and its fraught, failed attempts at change. The father . . .

Continue reading. (gift link, no paywall)

Written by Leisureguy

12 July 2022 at 1:24 pm

Posted in Art, Books, Daily life, Writing

Secrets of the Voynich Manuscript

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I have a variety of posts on the Voynich manuscript. (The first in the list will be this post, but continue scrolling.) 

Written by Leisureguy

11 July 2022 at 8:55 pm

Posted in Art, Books, History, Video

The Biology of Bonsai

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Written by Leisureguy

21 June 2022 at 7:25 pm

Posted in Art, Daily life

The Golem – An Inanimate Matter.

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Written by Leisureguy

17 June 2022 at 8:48 pm

Posted in Art, Video

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