Friday, May 31, 2013

Guess the date

Guess the date of this drawing: 1494? 1694? 1894?

           Answer: 1494.

Albrecht Dürer’s drawing of his fiancée Agnes Frey shows Agnes twisted up in a knot of anxious introversion. A New York Review of Books blog comments that there had never been a drawing quite like this before, with its frank portrayal of an informal moment of unguarded emotion. She looks withdrawn and preoccupied, and the circles under her heavy-lidded eyes may even make one think she has been crying. Typically portraiture at that time was honorific and represented the sitter's exemplary virtues. Dürer instead often sought to capture the idiosyncratic and psychological characteristics of the people he portrayed. He was fascinated with the close scrutiny of dark and brooding emotion, it says.

And here's a watercolour of a hare that Dürer did in 1502.

I should have said 1902, if you had covered up the artist's monogram. Puts me in mind of a Victorian wildlife illustration.

This self portrait on the other hand does not deceive:

We can all see that it dates from about 1498. The artist flaunts himself as a style icon. His grey over suit is trimmed in black, and he sports matching cap and white gloves. His bright white undershirt is trimmed in gold and he completes the ensemble with a brown cloak tied with a black and white intertwined rope.

According to Wikipedia Dürer is conventionally regarded as the greatest artist of the Northern Renaissance. He wrote a work on geometry called The Four Books on Measurement, which includes the application of geometry to architecture and engineering.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Belated thoughts on Woolwich and other musings

I saw a list of don’t’s for Twitter. One was don’t sit in front of the tele and tweet BREAKING NEWS. Even worse, don’t lend spurious urgency to the thoughts gushing from your overtaxed brain by tweeting BREKAING NEWS. I've done a search on Twitter and people actually do this. Yes really. But there again maybe they're ironising and I just don't get it. Another rule is not to tweet “it's too soon to comment on this story …”. Very true that one. That’s my excuse for coming in with my comments about a fortnight late. So the first story I'm going to comment on late is the Woolwich meat cleaver murder on 22nd May. Shocking though it was, that wasn’t what made it a story. Had the killers run off we wouldn't have read about it. It was the videos. And that they didn't even bring their own cameras. We're sorry you saw this but it happens to Muslims every day. The more arrests are made, 10 at present, the less it can be passed off as the acts of crazed psychopaths. And the bigger the question over Jonathan Freedland’s Guardian piece saying the left should not use Woolwich to make its case on foreign policy. Crazed psychopaths they may be, but there's more to it.  

Health Minister James Reilly with
disgusting plain pack cigarettes
At this point I have to interrupt my flow and infringe my own rules. I'm sitting in front of the tele. And it really is brekaing news. Ireland is to be the second country after Australia to have plain cigarette packs with no logos or trademarks.   A lot of mean things have been said and written about health minister Reilly but hats off for this one. Some thoughts on this a few months ago. Reilly is also likely to introduce a 10% tax on fizzy drinks, sweets, biscuits, crisps, and chocolate as a way of tackling Ireland’s obesity problem. The Irish Examiner editorialised : “One thing can be said with some certainty about the war against sugar and fat misuse — we cannot prevaricate for decades like we did on tobacco before making the right decisions, even if they are the hard ones. The stakes are just far too high.”  Good, but oh dear, also bad. "Prevaricate" doesn't mean put off till tomorrow, it means to be devious.  On NPR in October 2009 Diane Rehm hosted a debate about taxing soft drinks. An industry spokesman arguing freedom of choice. Totally demolished. Worth listening to.  But sadly no longer available for download so ask me for the mp3 file if you like but I'll have to remove this sentence if they catch up with me.

Then there's Google and Amazon not paying tax. The salient fact here is they appear not to have broken any laws. These corporations are smirking at states and politicians. Read Google’s Eric Schmidt in The Observer and hear him gloat. And you’ve got countries like Ireland saying come and pay your taxes here we won't ask for much.  And Britain is little better, read Nick Cohen, also in The Observer, about Britain’s reluctance to pursue multinationals.

Next the US has launched an experimental full size fighter drone aircraft from an aircraft carrier called USS George H W Bush. Bet you didn't know they had a ship of that name. A defence analyst is quoted saying “This will be the future of warfare, and it will be a warfare that is a little less risky for humans”. He forgot to specify which humans he had in mind. My thoughts on this.

That’s all for now. Am working on a piece debunking the notion that neolithic passage tomb builders believed the sun would die in midwinter if they didn't do sacrifices; interesting times in the Catholic church with the new pope; and Eileen’s uncle Mickey’s civil war exploits.