Good morning, my friends, and welcome to the weekend. Ready for some brunch?
The beauty of animals has always haunted and delighted us. The first artwork were cave sketches of animals. But George Wheelhouse takes a novel approach: “I started photographing animals against dark backgrounds due to my obsessive instinct to remove as much distraction as possible from my images. At times I’ve also played with the idea of how little I can show off an animal, with the rest falling to shadow. The aim of this project is to spark a connection between subject and viewer, and present animals in ways they haven’t been seen before.”
I will be interspersing his photos throughout the brunch. Let’s start with this:
Let’s just get this out of the way: “Imagine” is worst song ever written. Well, maybe not the absolute worst. We do, after all, live in a world in which Muskrat Love made the Billboard Top 10 at one point. But certainly the most over-rated. And certainly, beyond-a-doubt, the worst song shallow politicians will evoke after weeks like this one. Matthew Walther gives us some of the problems with “Imagine.”
Where do you even begin? The droopy four-bar intro? The soporific nasal whine of Lennon’s voice? The mind-numbing facetiousness of ending the verses with ‘youuuuuuuu’ and then starting the chorus with the same word? The other lyrics that insult the intelligence with such ferocity that I’m pretty sure singing it violates the Geneva Convention? The part where the rock star who wrote this song in about an hour (it shows, by the way) in one of several luxury homes he owned encourages you maybe to consider having ‘no possessions,’ presumably including underwear and a toothbrush, and then passive-aggressively insists that you’re so attached to your stuff that you can’t even contemplate the idea?”
The real problem with “Imagine” is the theme, if that word can be used fairly to describe a series of nonsensical propositions delivered according to no detectable logical pattern.
Start with the word salad of Marxism, anarchism, and existentialism. Nowhere is there even the faintest hint of how any of the hypotheticals we are being asked to consider might be realized. Instead Lennon does the political equivalent of telling us that the real magic was inside us all along. A far more serious problem is that even if additional verses did somehow outline a series of discrete practical steps that tomorrow could bring about the actual world he envisions, no one would want to live in it. This is because it is fundamentally nihilistic, a vision of a reality in which “lol nothing matters” is elevated to a first-order principle. This is a problem. A world in which nothing is worth dying for is one in which exactly zero of the things from which we derive meaning and pleasure could exist. The effect is worse than purgatorial: It is an actual vision of hell.
Did some ancient Israelites use weed during worship? A well-preserved substance found in a 2,700-year-old temple in Tel Arad has been identified as cannabis, including its psychoactive compound THC. Researchers concluded that cannabis may have been burned in order to induce a high among worshippers. This is the first evidence of psychotropic drugs being used in early Jewish worship, Israeli media report.
The temple was first discovered in the Negev desert, about 95km (59 miles) south of Tel Aviv, in the 1960s. In the latest study, published in Tel Aviv University’s archaeological journal, archaeologists say two limestone altars had been buried within the shrine. Thanks in part to the dry climate, and to the burial, the remains of burnt offerings were preserved on top of these altars.
Frankincense was found on one altar, which was unsurprising because of its prominence in holy texts, the study’s authors told Israeli newspaper Haaretz. However, tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), cannabidiol (CBD) and cannabinol (CBN) – all compounds found in cannabis – were found on the second altar.
The Uffizi Gallery in Florence is by far the greatest museum I have visited. Its collection of Renaissance art is unmatched. This week the director of the Uffizi said that religious art in museums should be returned to churches: “Eike Schmidt, who has led the museum since 2015, told the Art Newspaper that ‘devotional art was not born as a work of art but for a religious purpose, usually in a religious setting.’ Schmidt cited a specific example from the Uffizi’s own collection, the Rucellai Madonna painted by the Sienese artist Duccio di Buoninsegna in the Middle Ages. The gold-ground panel of the Virgin and Child enthroned, the largest painting on wood from the 13th century known to date, was removed from the church of Santa Maria Novella in 1948. Viewing such a work in the context for which it was created, says Schmidt, is not just appropriate from an historical perspective, but could also connect the viewer with its spiritual significance.”
“Devotional art was not born as a work of art but for a religious purpose, usually in a religious setting”, he told The Art Newspaper. He went on to say that, returned to the building for which it was created, it would be seen in the right historical and artistic space and the viewer would potentially be led to recognize its spiritual origins. “If we did not believe that context was important”, he said, the Italian state would not have the legal concept of the art or architectural fixture [vincolo pertinenziale], or practice contextual archaeology instead of an Indiana Jones-type scrabble for mere masterpieces”.
Hmmmm. What do you think?
For the first time, the police in Hong Kong prohibited an annual vigil to honor the victims of the 1989 Tiananmen Square protests.
Why the great anger among the black community towards the criminal justice system? The New York Times sums it up well:
For most white Americans, interactions with the police happen rarely, and they’re often respectful or even friendly. Many white people don’t know a single person who’s currently behind bars.
In many black communities — and especially for black men — the situation is entirely different. Some of the statistics can be hard to fathom:
- Close to 10 percent of black men in their 30s are behind bars on any given day, according to the Sentencing Project.
- Incarceration rates for black men are about twice as high as those of Hispanic men, five times higher than those of white men and at least 25 times higher than those of black women, Hispanic women or white women.
- When the government last counted how many black men had ever spent time in state or federal prison — in 2001 — the share was 17 percent. Today, it’s likely closer to 20 percent (and this number doesn’t include people who’ve spent time in jail without being sentenced to prison). The comparable number for white men is about 3 percent.
The rise of mass incarceration over the last half-century has turned imprisonment into a dominant feature of modern life for black Americans. Large numbers of black men are missing from their communities — unable to marry, care for children or see their aging parents. Many others suffer from permanent economic or psychological damage, struggling to find work after they leave prison.
A recent study by the economists Patrick Bayer and Kerwin Kofi Charles found that 27 percent of black men in the prime working years of their lives — between the ages of 25 and 54 — didn’t report earning a single dollar of income in 2014. “That’s a massive number,” Charles, the dean of the Yale School of Management, told me. Incarceration, including the aftereffects, was a major reason.
The anger coursing through America’s streets over the past week has many causes, starting with a gruesome video showing the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis. But that anger has also been building up for a long time. It is, in part, anger about incarceration having become normal.
Where did the CDC go wrong? The New York Times waded through thousand of emails and conducted a hundred interviews, and they summarize the problems here:
Aging data systems left the agency with blind spots.
The C.D.C. clashed with White House aides who viewed them as the ‘deep state’.
The culture at the C.D.C. — risk-averse, perfectionist and ill suited to improvising in a quickly evolving crisis
The Director Redfield felt he was ‘on an island’ between his agency and the White House.
Confusing guidance left doctors, public officials and others to look elsewhere.
The customer is ALWAYS right. That was the mantra of this loader after the buyer of his top soil insisted that five yards of top soil would fit in his trailer. Enjoy!
I really, really, really don’t like to mention a certain politician in the brunch. But I was outraged at the way Trump used the Bible and Church as props to his verbal assault on the rioters. Even televangelist Pat Roberts criticized Trump’s photo op at St. John’s Church this week. Jimmy Fallon said, “You know we live in crazy times when we’re all agreeing with the guy who once said gay people cause hurricanes.”
A high school sports policy in Connecticut that allows transgender students to participate in athletics based on their gender identity violates federal law and could cost the state federal education funding, the Education Department’s Office for Civil Rights has found. The students bringing the lawsuit contended that the policy gave transgender students an unfair advantage in athletic competition and in the race for public recognition that is critical to college recruiting and scholarship opportunities. The office said that, after an investigation, it had found that the policy violated Title IX, the 1972 federal law that prohibits sex discrimination in programs that receive federal funding. By allowing transgender students to compete on female track teams, the policy “denied female student-athletes athletic benefits and opportunities, including advancing to the finals in events, higher level competitions, awards, medals, recognition, and the possibility of greater visibility to colleges and other benefits,” the office said.
Okay, we are going to end this brunch with an amazing video of Captain and Tennille singing their classic, Muskrat Love. Why? Because I don’t like you. And because no matter how bad things get in 2020, we need to remember that we no longer live in a time when this would be broadcast on network TV. (By the way, make sure you listen to at least the 2:20 mark, otherwise you will likely never hear the diarrhea setting on a keyboard again).