Renaissance Faire

Mike & Leo’s Excellent
New York City Adventure

Michelangelo and Leonardo da Vinci are having a moment at the Big Apple: a massive Met show of drawings of the former is enchanting crowds, and a work attributed to the latter just broke records at an auction yesterday. Not bad for the two Renaissance superstars who’ve been dead for five centuries.
Michelangelo’s Divine Draftsman and Designer brings to the city the largest number of drafts ever assembled for a show. And suspicions about Salvator Mundi, a newly-discovered 1500 painting of da Vinci, didn’t prevent it from reaching a staggering $450 million at an equally crowded Christie’s session.
New Yorkers have it good and don’t even know it. Don’t quote us on that, but an unscientific survey could show that museum attendance by residents is declining, as ‘voluntary’ entry fees went up. But we can always count on our lovely tourists to gladly pick up the slack.
And until they ban cellphones at these places, they’ll keep on increasingly becoming madhouses, with selfie-takers colliding with each other in the rush to impress their social media followers. Sadly, despite ever so eager to be seen as hip, many miss out on the very experience of being in the presence of a work of art, glaring at their faces.
No wonder curators bend backwards to fashion and the culture of celebrities, hoping they’ll attract a fresh crowd of art-seekers, despite having centuries of appreciation to prove the worth of their wares. In the end, the famous also take their own annoying selfies, strictly to post them on Web accounts. And walk away, ushered by handlers.

SKETCH COLLECTION OF A TITAN
The reinvigorating quality of a master such as Michelangelo, born 543 years ago next March, is that every new sighting of his works turns out another revelation. These Metropolitan Museum of Art drawings trace back the pictorial genius at the core of his innate creative verve.
Every small draft, whether it found or not its way to the splendor at the ceiling of the Vatican’s Capela Sistina, started as a subtle dialog, a tenuous answer to whatever turmoil he already had in mind, about fulfilling his task. To completely realize them, he’d need a few lifetimes.
But mankind is grateful of what he managed to accomplish in just one. Despite having to hide at times from the politics of his age, or persevere even when the other gargantuan contemporary of his had but contempt about his art, he’d live to almost 90, as if in a mission to give us all an eternal name.

THE REACH OF AN UNIVERSAL MAN
Leonardo took 67 years to explore and leave his imprint on almost as many disciplines of human knowledge, some that he discovered, others, that he redefined. Considering all his accomplishments as an inventor and artist, is astonishing that, among all, he’s known as (more)
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* Museums of Something Else
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Witch’s Crew

When People Dress Up to Party,
They Won’t Waste Time Fighting

There’s a funny reason why we can’t avoid posting something about Halloween, today: clearinghouse. After a year-worth of subjects revolving around death, cemeteries, you know, weird stuff, voilá, when Oct. 31 dawns, we’ve got ourselves a sparkling dripping, new bloody-soaked post.
So, since it’s already late, here’s a quick review, via links, of what’s been accumulating dust and spider webs in our files. Morticians, burials, new ways to dispose the deceased, endearing stories that attract us like zombies to fresh brains, or bad teeth to sugar.
It’s our way to mark a moment on the life of kids of all ages when they get to play up themes that scare the bejesus out of grown-ups. These mini Frankensteins soldier on to trick-or-treating and we wonder when they switch from daring night visitors to frightened candy pushers.
For sure, the quirky nature of this holiday is never lost. Halloween’s pagan origins and connection to the demonic and the sinister, while a source of wholesome fun, also prompts raging displays of ghoulish hate and sucking disgust, by clergy members and assorted zealots.
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* Getting There
* Everything Must Go
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It’s likely the same class of vampires preying on witches and warlocks from way before the Dark Ages. Plenty of ways to enlighten ourselves here, to never repeat what happened to Joana D’Arc, the poor souls of Salem, and countless other victims of intolerance.
Myth, astronomy, recipes and costume tips, even a queer Halloween gallery, which granted, makes a lot of sense. We can think of no other feast where attire is that important, other than religious processions, of course. Except no one is doing it for fear, hence the anonymous deadline quote. Get set for the parade & Happy Halloween.

Everything Must Go

Houdini, Who Was Not a Believer,
Died on the Day of the Living Dead

Harry Houdini once made a promise that he was sure not to honor: if there’s life after death, he said, I’ll let you know. If he could pull that trick, it’d be a treat. But since that Halloween, 90 years ago, he’s sent no message, denying validation to many a believer.
The irony is that the great illusionist was a debunker of mediums, and left a coded message with his wife to unmask fraudsters. He knew the Big Sleep pulls no bluffs. Just don’t tell that to pilgrims who every year flock to his grave at New York Machpelah Cemetery, in Queens.
It must have taken guts. And those he had, until they literally burst out by blows, administered with his consent, by an admirer. When he died of acute Peritonitis, hundreds of new cults had flooded the world to claim ownership over the ‘supernatural’ phenomena and challenge organized religion.
The dominant figure of the so called Occult Movement, Helena Blavatsky, had died less than 30 years before, but not before inspiring a lot of deranged minds into believing that they too, had something different about them. And they did, alright, although not exactly what they believe they had.

NO RESPECT TO BELLS & WHISTLES
At the turn of the 19th century, backwater America was festering too with the roots of these messianic cults, led by an assortment of lunatics, snake oil salesmen, and plain mentally ill visionaries, many of which turned later into some of the tax-exempted religious faiths we have today.
A crucial difference between those who time forgot and say, a Joseph Smith, who went on to ‘invent’ Mormonism, was arguably sheer survival skill. And maybe an absurdly non-sensical ‘origins’ story, to rival any of the astonishingly fantastic tales upon which all three major religions of our time stake their claims.
In many ways, Hungarian-born Erik Weisz, whose ‘Harry Houdini‘ stage name topped a string of less known aliases, was ahead of his time in two main ways: he worked really hard to perfect (more)
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* Hallowed Ground
* A Tale of Two Cities
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Shh… Hear That?

Gunshots? Feisty Couples? Nah.
A Hum Is Robbing Folks of Sleep

People who live in war zones and disaster areas have learned it long ago. And so have those of the fickle slumber kind. For the great majority of mankind, the quest for a silent night of sleep gets harder every day. And then there is that humming.
What used to be called the Bristol Hum has now been reported all over the world, and well-rested ears are finally tuning in. As thin walls or jumpy imagination are not longer blamed for it, a reasonably sound explanation may settle the mystery.
Conclusive research have proved how lousy sleepers we’ve all become, at least since the bulb came to light (sorry). As more is learned about the depths of our unconscious state, less is known about how much we’ve lost trying to be up and running at all hours.
People and animals show considerable loss of performance and overall quality of life, when sleep is restricted. There are many fascinating studies on the subject, but it’s better to put that to rest for now, so not lead everyone into a loud snore.
Is not that insomnia is more prevalent, even if it is, or that we’ve all been dreaming about a good night of sleep, or so we should. It’s our days, crammed with so many chores rammed up deep into penumbra territory. When we’re finally done, it’s already time to get up.
Some try Zen and the art of not giving a hoot about an ever ‘on’ world, full of lamps, neon, and TV sets. If not that, then the vain effort of carving extra hours from the canyons of the night, to jam them with big blobs of extra wakefulness.
The Worldwide Map of the Hum (Glen MacPherson)
THINGS THAT GO HUMING INTO THE NIGHT
No wonder. Not just external noise is increasing, hammering our heads with insane bangs and clangs, but also low noise, the almost imperceptible humming of billions of electronic appliances and, if one’s to believe some Internet sites, the aliens’ very own breath.
Research conducted by geoscientist David Deming since 2004 may have broken the puzzle, and to many, all the fun: surprising absolutely no one, but making a lot of sense, he concluded that Very Low Frequency (VLF) radio waves, between 3 and 30kHz, are the culprit for the hum.
It’s the frequency used by, you guessed, the world’s military to communicate with submerged submarines, via industrial-strength land-based and airborne transmitters. It’s powerful enough to penetrate a solid inch of aluminum. And drive light sleepers insane.

THE DEEP SEA WHISTLE HEARD FROM SPACE
Speaking of which, not all theories invoked to explain the phenomenon were by conspiracy-driven nutcakes. For the Earth does make sounds the human ear is not equipped to detect, and the wind, well, it blows and sings and haunts and everything else.
An intriguing study, by University of Liverpool Chris Hugues and his team, for instance, found that the Caribbean Sea (more)
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* Singing Suns

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Thinking With Tentacles

Mad Penguins & Whale Accents
in the Court of the Octopus King

Research into the natural world has been a reliable way of gauging our walk on this planet, and where we’re probably heading to. But a new approach, devoid of any rancid anthropomorphism, has offered fresh insights into animal intelligence. And the results are remarkable.
Heard the one about whales with a Caribbean accent? Or penguins having sex parties wilder than drunken priests? But no one was ready to witness an octopus opening a jar from inside, or sneaking out at night to feed on crabs nearby, before returning to its tank. Or not.
What these and other animals prove is that cognitive ability is not a human monopoly. In fact, whenever the need to compare them with us is subtracted from the equation, crows, cephalopods, and pigeons, to name a few, can outsmart a thinking bloke often in a radical way.
Evolution has proposed alternatives to some species so far from our own, that they could be almost aliens raised in Pluto for we know. Since we no longer equate physiology with identity, it’d be better get acquainted with mental prowess that owes nothing to rationality.
Not that we even apply it to everything, and yes, to us, there is something wrong with that. But elephants have always cried of sadness, and chickens do side up with individuals in danger. We were just too busy trading their tusk for the ivory, or simply eating them, to pay any attention.

ADÉLIES JUST WANT TO HAVE FUN
Let’s get this out of the way: penguins are not humans, thus morality is not an issue, even if a colony, in the distance, looks like a black-tie cocktail party. And for belting out loud, the Adélies have nothing on the singing lady Adele. But when it comes to parties, theirs do get wild.
During Capt. Scott‘s second, and doomed, trip to Antarctica, between 1910-13, George Murray Levick wrote of widespread necrophilia, males sexually coercing young chicks, before killing them, and shock, having sex with other males. To him, it was ‘depravity,’ and his notes (in Ancient Greek, to harden access to them) went missing.
Till now: they’ve been uncovered and bad ‘science’ journalism have ensued, of course. But the biggest recent news about the Adélie had nothing to do with sex. In February, it was reported that 150,000 penguins died, after being landlocked by the fracture of a giant iceberg.
But it was a hoax, better researched stories have confirmed. Neither sex fiends nor massacred by climate change, yet, penguins are just, once again, being victims of bad reporting. Why we care has nothing to do with humanity either: they just look like us. We’re already changing their history. Time to tell their stories way better, too.

DEEP SONGS & ACCENTED CLICKS
Since at least the 1970s, news about whales is always surprising, even as their numbers keeping receding towards extinction. The size of their brains, rich social lives, their songs, complex and uniquely identified with their pods. And then there’s the loneliest of them all.
The fact that research into these massive but elusive species has reached such a level of sophistication is, in itself, (more)
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The Spanglish Twins

Shakespeare & Cervantes
Who Improved Our DNA

They never knew it, but when William Shakespeare and Miguel Cervantes left this earth, 400 hundred years ago this Saturday, their work were destined to become part of humanity’s greatest treasuries. And English and Spanish, two of the world’s most spoken languages.
Their art not just redefined their mothers’ tongues, but helped England and Spain conquest most of the world, way beyond what their powerful armies were capable of. Four centuries later, over a billion people speak an accented form of what they once put on writing.
Language has always been, arguably, a weapon of global domination. In 1616, with Europe deeply involved in wars of subjugation, Portugal and the Netherlands, for instance, were also militarily capable and actively jockeying for control of resources and trade.
But either for lacking of geographical advantage, strategical wherewithal, or visionary drive, by the time Cervantes published the first part of Don Quixote, or Shakespeare, what was to become the First Folio, none of them were matches to Spaniards and Britons.
That’s of course a simplification. To many, Portuguese Luis de Camões was their equal, and his The Lusiads, the definitive account of the Discovery Era. But neither he nor Portugal’s mighty at sea survived the new century. And today, considerably less people speak his tongue.

A GENTILHOMBRE & THE WINDMILLS
Miguel Cervantes de Saavedra was pretty much the fruit of Spain’s Siglo de Oro, the period between the first decades of the 1500s and the end of the 16th century. Having reconquered their country from the Muslims, Spain was at the center of the world and expanding.
Unprecedented stability and trade, along a vigorous art tradition, forged the nation and inspired Cervantes to embrace the age, but not without struggle. From a humble family, he became a soldier and a crown’s servant, in order to support a career as a writer in his later years.
His tale of a delusional nobleman, chasing a doomed dream of love and peace, with a witty sidekick to counterpoint his reveries, still resonates. The poignancy of his adventures can be traced to Cervantes’ own quest for redemption, which included having been captured and enslaved.
It was all worthy, apparently. After his tomb was discovered last year in Madrid, and as his bones go through forensic analysis, there’s no question about whose history is being exhumed. More than the Inquisition, or the Armada, Spain’s now best represented by Cervantes.

THE BARD WHO MAY NOT HAVE LIVED
Some scholars have grown exasperated about the still lingering questions about Shakespeare authorship. For them, those who believe his works were penned by Edward de Vere, Earl of Oxford, thus the Oxfordians, had their shot and it missed the point. It’s understandable.
There was never any question about the quality, or depth and breadth, of the multiple sonnets, poems, comedies, tragedies, stories, and romances attributed to that person who, despite thought of (more)
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52 From the Coup

A Day for Brazil to Count

Its Democratic Blessings

The Ominous Use of Brazil's National Colors (A Tarde, 2015)There are two wrenching, overlapping moments hitting Brazil right now: one punctual, threatening to postpone the future for another 40 years. The other is a permanent state been of self-doubt, of insular auto-sabotage that betrays a profound fear of realizing the dreams that it has been dreaming for so long.
Thus, if Brazil were a person, March 31th would feel like having a screwdriver making turns while deeply encased in the gut. Any other year, it’d be a day to be quickly forgotten, as it’s been for over half a century. But this year, the pain’s different and the bleeding, worse.
When the tanks took the streets of Rio de Janeiro, São Paulo, Porto Alegre, Belo Horizonte, and other Brazilian capitals, on that March of 1964, they were not just aborting democratically elected President João Goulart. They were strangling a nation trying to come on to its own.
For the 1950s had been Brazil’s rebirth, and the promise of a time unlike anything that had come before. It was the decade the nation discovered its blackness, its youth exploding with possibilities, and most people started moving to live in modern cities, with an emerging industry to boot.
Suddenly, Brazilian popular culture, music, cinema, fine arts, architecture, even its passion for football, acquired an exuberance, a gusto for living that surpassed that of all ethnicities that had been thrown in the mix since the founding of the nation in 1500.

WHEN BOOTS HIT THE GROUND
That’s what the truculent military coup hoped to squashed like tropical cockroaches. The country’s powerful oligarchy, and the always unsecured middle class, readily embraced the muscular support from the U.S., who couldn’t bear seeing Brazil fall into the Soviet Union lure.
The military showed a unified front, swiftly consolidating power, even as they were at each other’s throats behind the scenes. Their single-file determination drove great Brazilian minds to exile, or to an early grave, but also had a tenacious resistance to fight from day one.
While tirany indebted the nation, and mercilessly punished dissent and free expression, Brazil grew around and despite it. It took 21 years to restore democracy. It may take many more (more)
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