Monthly Archives: April 2013

“The most basic…

“The most basic task of any museum must be the protection of works of cultural significance entrusted to its care for the edification and pleasure of future generations. This imperative rightfully takes precedence over acquisition, interpretation, outreach, or any number of other activities now believed to be crucial to the survival of our great art repositories. Sometimes a museum gains its holdings with much strategic forethought, and at other times serendipitously, as when a long-coveted neighbor’s plot suddenly becomes available. Yet the moral responsibility remains the same.”

— Martin Filler, writing for the New York Review of Books, is incensed at the Museum of Modern Art’s decision to destroy the architecturally significant American Folk Art Museum (via Required Reading)

 

For the peanut gallery:

What do you guys think is the primary concern of museums?

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by | April 22, 2013 · 3:24 pm

Pollan Cooks!

MARK BITTMAN April 17, 2013, 9:05 pm

“The seven most famous words in the movement for good food are: “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.” They were written, of course, by Michael Pollan, in “In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto,” the follow-up to “The Omnivore’s Dilemma.”

Now Pollan might add three more words to the slogan: “And cook them.” Because the man who so cogently analyzed production and nutrition in his best-known books has tackled what he calls “the middle link in the food chain: cooking.”

But Pollan isn’t about to become a cookbook writer, at least not yet. In “Cooked: A Natural History of Transformation,” out Tuesday, he offers four detailed recipes, used as examples to explore how food is transformed: for Bolognese, pork shoulder, sauerkraut and bread, each an illustration, he says, of the fundamental principles of cooking.

The recipes, while not exactly afterthoughts, are less important than his insistence that cooking itself is transformative. Almost as soon as we sit down in my living room, he says: “Cooking is probably the most important thing you can do to improve your diet. What matters most is not any particular nutrient, or even any particular food: it’s the act of cooking itself. People who cook eat a healthier diet without giving it a thought. It’s the collapse of home cooking that led directly to the obesity epidemic.”

When you cook, you choose the ingredients: “And you’re going to use higher-quality ingredients than whoever’s making your home-meal replacement would ever use. You’re not going to use additives. So the quality of the food will automatically be better.

“You’re also not going to cook much junk. I love French fries, but how often are you going to cook them? It’s too hard and messy. But when they’re made at the industrial scale, you can have French fries three times a day. So there’s something in the very nature of home cooking that keeps us from getting into trouble.”

He points out that it isn’t just that industrially produced meal replacements are cheap; they’ve also reduced the cost of the time needed to make food and foodlike products. Some would even argue that you should be working more, outsourcing as much cooking as possible — effectively defining cooking as a waste of time for anyone making more than, say, $20 an hour.

But, says Pollan: “If we decide to outsource all our cooking to corporations, we’re going to have industrial agriculture. And the growth of local, sustainable and organic food, and farmers’ markets, is going to top out if people don’t cook. Because big buys from big, and I have little faith that corporations will ever support the kind of agriculture we want to see. That’s why the most important front in the fight to reform the food system today is in your kitchen.”

We know why people don’t cook: because the marketers of prepared food have taken over our kitchens; the Food Channel fetishization of cooking has made it look intimidating, especially for those who grew up without parents in the kitchen; and people say they don’t have the time — or they just don’t like it.

“We do find time for activities we value, like surfing the Internet or exercising,” says Pollan. “The problem is we’re not valuing cooking enough. Who do you want cooking your food, a corporation or a human being? Cooking isn’t like fixing your car or other things it makes sense to outsource. Cooking links us to nature, it links us to our bodies. It’s too important to our well-being to outsource.”

And yet Big Food has convinced most of us: “No one has to cook! We’ve got it covered.” This began 100 years ago, but it picked up steam in the ’70s, when Big Food made it seem progressive, even “feminist,” not to cook. Pollan reminded me of KFC’s brilliant ad campaign, which sold a bucket of fried chicken with the slogan “Women’s Liberation.”

“We need to complete that uncomfortable conversation about the division of domestic labor, which the food industry deftly exploited to sell us processed food,” he says. “But if we’re going to rebuild a culture of cooking, it can’t mean returning women to the kitchen. We all need to go back to the kitchen.”

How does that happen? “First, we need to bring back home ec, but a gender-neutral home ec. We need public health ad campaigns promoting home cooking as the single best thing you can do for your family’s health and well-being. A tax on prepared food, but not on raw ingredients, is another good idea. And Michelle Obama could use her bully pulpit to promote home cooking, rather than spend her considerable capital persuading food manufacturers to tweak their products.”

With an increasingly progressive population we have the potential to create a gender-agnostic cooking culture. There’s no longer a stigma attached to males cooking, and cooking is not only a democratic pleasure, it is also daily creativity, it’s economic, it’s healthy, and it’s a link to the natural world. And though it may take time, cooking can be about patience and letting things happen. Good things, on many levels.”

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by | April 22, 2013 · 2:02 pm

Barbie Body Would Be Pretty Odd-Looking In Real Life (INFOGRAPHIC)

The Huffington Post  |  By 

Posted: 04/12/2013 10:44 am EDT  |  Updated: 04/12/2013 10:44 am EDT

“At this point, it’s common knowledge thatBarbie’s body isn’t the most realistic. But what would it actually look like if the famous Mattel doll was a real woman? That’s what Rehabs.com set out to find out.

The search engine for locating mental health treatment centers put together an infographic using data from the 1996 study “Ken and Barbie At Life Size,” which was originally published in the academic journal Sex Roles. The graphic compares the proportions of a Barbie’s body to the body of the average American woman as well as the average model and the average anorexic woman.

Some of the numbers are quite striking. While Barbie’s head would be two inches larger than the average U.S. woman’s, her waist would be 19 inches smaller and her hips would be 11 inches smaller. Since her waist would be four inches thinner than her head, Barbie’s body wouldn’t have the room it needs to hold all of its vital organs, and her uber-skinny ankles and child-size feet would make it necessary for her to walk on all fours.

The infographic was created as part of a larger report on body hatred among young women. And although January 2013 research showed that peer influence may impact body image even more than pop culture, it’s never bad to be reminded just how unrealistic the bodies of the dolls you grew up playing with are.”

LOOK: How A Barbie Body Measures Up To Real Bodies

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by | April 22, 2013 · 1:58 pm

Grumpy Cat Is Not Impressed by TIME’s Photoshoot

cat cover
ELIZABETH RENSTROM FOR TIME

“Grumpy Cat visited TIME, and it was awful. Actually, that’s far from true — though the adorable mixed-breed cat was enduring an exhaustive day-long romp through the New York City media circuit, it seems as though she rather enjoyed herself.

The Internet celebrity known as Grumpy Cat pounced on TIME’s Manhattan office Friday, toting with her an entourage larger than that of many celebrities. The brown-and-white kitty, whose real name is Tardar Sauce, came flanked by owner Tabatha Bundesen and her brother Bryan Bundesen, the man responsible for Grumpy Cat’s viral fame. The 11-month-old cat leaped to fame when Bryan posted a photo of the frowning feline to Reddit in September 2012 while visiting his sister in Arizona.

And it’s not hard to see Grumpy Cat’s appeal: her beaming blue eyes, shining coat, diminutive stature and of course, her permanent frown — all due to a form of feline dwarfism — has clearly made her stand out among the web’s most popular felines.

Since then, Grumpy Cat has inspired numerous memes (or “copy cats”), her YouTube video has racked up more than 7.7 million views, and she has appeared on national television, from The Today Show to Good Morning America. (As expected, after these early-morning visits, photos of her famous frowning face have been flanked by bubble text explaining “Not a morning person.”) Earlier this month, more than 600 people — including celebrities like musician Andrew W.K. and Ian Somerhalder of Lost fame — lined up to pose with the purse-lipped feline at South by Southwest in Austin, Texas.

Hers is the face that has launched a thousand memes. So when Grumpy Cat reached TIME’s headquarters in the middle of a long day promoting Friskies’ web series “Will Kitty Play With It,” it was only logical that we wanted her to pose with some of our favorite animal-centric covers. In 1981, TIME ran a cover story titled “Cats: Love ‘Em, Hate ‘Em,” featuring a snowy white house cat on the cover, looking just the slightest bit grumpy. We wondered if the cover could cheer up Grumpy Cat — after all, she could be a cover model one day soon. Even the pug from TIME’s 2010 cover story “What Animals Think” did little to perk up Tardar Sauce. In the end, Grumpy Cat just wanted to pose for pictures and cuddle with our editors.

cat hold

 ELIZABETH RENSTROM FOR TIME

“She’s cool with the fame,” says owner Tabatha Bundesen, a waitress at Red Lobster, which gave her a month-long leave from her job to hit the road with Grumpy Cat. “I think she was actually excited to come to N.Y. this time. I was packing my bags and she came to my room. Normally doesn’t hang out in my room, but she was sniffing at my bag and looking at me like, ‘You’re taking me right?’” Little did Tardar Sauce know, she was the reason for the trip.

When Tardar Sauce is not on FacebookTwitter, and Tumblr, she likes to sunbathe, take cat naps, and play with her brother “Pokey” — who also has feline dwarfism. With such a tough life, we wondered if Grumpy Cat’s name reflects her personality. Not so, Tabatha revealed; Pokey is actually the grumpiest of the two. “Grumpy is happy,” she notes.

And there’s something about her perpetual frown that makes everyone smile — TIME editors included. And the sour humor might even be good for our health. Bryan Bundesen related a story he heard about Grumpy Cat’s healing powers: “There’s a lady we met in Texas who said she made Grumpy Cat a part of her cancer treatment. Every morning before she went to her chemotherapy, she would flip through pictures of Grumpy Cat, and it would help her get through it. And she’s in remission now.”

dogcover

ELIZABETH RENSTROM FOR TIME

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by | April 20, 2013 · 4:51 pm

9 Rules for Success by British Novelist Amelia E. Barr, 1901

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“”Genius is nothing more nor less than doing well what anyone can do badly.”

The secret of success – like its very definition – remains amorphous and forever elusive. For Thoreau, it was a matter of greeting each day with joy; for Jad Abumrad, it comes after some necessary “gut churn”; for Jackson Pollock’s dad, it was aboutbeing fully awake to the world; for entrepreneur Paul Graham, it’s aboutpurpose rather than prestige; for designer Paula Scher, it meansbeginning every day with a capacity for growth. But perhaps, above all, success is about defining it yourself.

Still, those who have succeed – by their own definition, as well as history’s – might be able to glean some insight into the inner workings of accomplishment. From the 1901 volume How They Succeeded: Life Stories of Successful Men Told by Themselves (public library;public domain) comes a wonderful essay by British novelist Amelia E. Barr (1831-1919) who, the despite devastating loss of her husband and three of their six children to yellow fever in 1867, went on to become a dedicated and diligent writer, eventually reaching critical success at the age of fifty-two.

At the end of her essay, under a section titled “Words of Counsel,” Barr offers nine tips for success, echoing some familiar themes – Tchaikovsky’s insistence on work ethic over inspiration, Ray Bradbury’s case for perseverance in the face of rejection, the importance of having a good routine and working with joy, and the necessary reminder that success requires a deliberate investment of effort and good writing takes time.

  1. Men and women succeed because they take pains to succeed. Industry and patience are almost genius; and successful people are often more distinguished for resolution and perseverance than for unusual gifts. They make determination and unity of purpose supply the place of ability.
  2. Success is the reward of those who “spurn delights and live laborious days.” We learn to do things by doing them. One of the great secrets of success is “pegging away.” No disappointment must discourage, and a run back must often be allowed, in order to take a longer leap forward.
  3. No opposition must be taken to heart. Our enemies often help us more than our friends. Besides, a head-wind is better than no wind. Who ever got anywhere in a dead calm?
  4. A fatal mistake is to imagine that success is some stroke of luck. This world is run with far too tight a rein for luck to interfere. Fortune sells her wares; she never gives them. In some form or other, we pay for her favors; or we go empty away.
  5. We have been told, for centuries, to watch for opportunities, and to strike while the iron is hot. Very good; but I think better of Oliver Cromwell’s amendment – “make the iron hot by striking it.”
  6. Everything good needs time. Don’t do work in a hurry. Go into details; it pays in every way. Time means power for your work. Mediocrity is always in a rush; but whatever is worth doing at all is worth doing with consideration. For genius is nothing more nor less than doing well what anyone can do badly.
  7. Be orderly. Slatternly work is never good work. It is either affectation, or there is some radical defect in the intellect. I would distrust even the spiritual life of one whose methods and work were dirty, untidy, and without clearness and order.
  8. Never be above your profession. I have had many letters from people who wanted all the emoluments and honors of literature, and who yet said, “Literature is the accident of my life; I am a lawyer, or a doctor, or a lady, or a gentleman.”Literature is no accident. She is a mistress who demands the whole heart, the whole intellect, and the whole time of a devotee.
  9. Don’t fail through defects of temper and over-sensitiveness at moments of trial. One of the great helps to success is to be cheerful; to go to work with a full sense of life; to be determined to put hindrances out of the way; to prevail over them and to get the mastery. Above all things else, be cheerful; there is no beatitude for the despairing.

    Apparent success may be reached by sheer impudence, in defiance of offensive demerit. But men who get what they are manifestly unfit for, are made to feel what people think of them. Charlatanry may flourish; but when its bay tree is greenest, it is held far lower than genuine effort. The world is just; it may, it does, patronize quacks; but it never puts them on a level with true men.

    It is better to have the opportunity of victory, than to be spared the struggle; for success comes but as the result of arduous experience. The foundations of my success were laid before I can well remember; it was after at least forty-five years of conscious labor that I reached the object of my hope. Many a time my head failed me, my hands failed me, my feet failed me, but, thank God, my heart never failed me.

For more of history’s timeless wisdom on writing, see H. P. Lovecraft’advice to aspiring writersF. Scott Fitzgerald’letter to his daughterZadie Smith’10 rules of writingKurt Vonnegut’8 keys to the power of the written wordDavid Ogilvy’10 no-bullshit tipsHenry Miller’11 commandmentsJack Kerouac’30 beliefs and techniquesJohn Steinbeck’6 pointersNeil Gaiman’8 rules,Margaret Atwood’10 practical tips, and Susan Sontag’ssynthesized learnings.”

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by | April 20, 2013 · 4:39 pm

The Science of Love: How Positivity Resonance Shapes the Way We Connect

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“The neurobiology of how the warmest emotion blurs the boundaries by you and not-you.

We kick-started the year with some ofhistory’s most beautiful definitions of love. But timeless as their words might be, the poets and the philosophers have a way of escaping into the comfortable detachment of the abstract and the metaphysical, leaving open the question of what love really is on an unglamorously physical, bodily, neurobiological level – and how that might shape our experience of those lofty abstractions. That’s precisely what psychologist Barbara Fredrickson, who has been studying positive emotions for decades, explores in the unfortunately titled but otherwise excellent Love 2.0: How Our Supreme Emotion Affects Everything We Feel, Think, Do, and Become (UKpublic library). Using both data from her own lab and ample citations of other studies, Fredrickson dissects the mechanisms of love to reveal both its mythologies and its practical mechanics.

She begins with a definition that parallels Dorion Sagan’s scientific meditation on sex:

First and foremost, love is an emotion, a momentary state that arises to infuse your mind and body alike. Love, like all emotions, surfaces like a distinct and fast-moving weather pattern, a subtle and ever-shifting force. As for all positive emotions, the inner feeling love brings you is inherently and exquisitely pleasant – it feels extraordinarily good, the way a long, cool drink of water feels when you’re parched on a hot day. Yet far beyond feeling good, a micro-moment of love, like other positive emotions, literally changes your mind. It expands your awareness of your surroundings, even your sense of self. The boundaries between you and not-you – what lies beyond your skin – relax and become more permeable. While infused with love you see fewer distinctions between you and others. Indeed, your ability to see others – really see them, wholeheartedly – springs open. Love can even give you a palpable sense of oneness and connection, a transcendence that makes you feel part of something far larger than yourself.

[…]

Perhaps counterintuitively, love is far more ubiquitous than you ever thought possible for the simple fact that love is connection. It’s that poignant stretching of your heart that you feel when you gaze into a newborn’s eyes for the first time or share a farewell hug with a dear friend. It’s even the fondness and sense of shared purpose you might unexpectedly feel with a group of strangers who’ve come together to marvel at a hatching of sea turtles or cheer at a football game. The new take on love that I want to share with you is this: Love blossoms virtually anytime two or more people – even strangers – connect over a shared positive emotion, be it mild or strong.

Fredrickson zooms in on three key neurobiological players in the game of love – your brain, your levels of the hormone oxytocin, and your vagus nerve, which connects your brain to the rest of your body – and examines their interplay as the core mechanism of love, summing up:

Love is a momentary upwelling of three tightly interwoven events: first, a sharing of one or more positive emotions between you and another; second, a synchrony between your and the other person’s biochemistry and behaviors; and third, a reflected motive to invest in each other’s well-being that brings mutual care.

She shorthands this trio “positivity resonance” – a concept similar tolimbic revision – and likens the process to a mirror in which you and your partner’s emotions come into sync, reflecting and reinforcing one another:

This is no ordinary moment. Within this mirrored reflection and extension of your own state, you see far more. A powerful back-and-forth union of energy springs up between the two of you, like an electric charge.

What makes “positivity resonance” so compelling a concept and so arguably richer than traditional formulations of “love” is precisely this back-and-forthness and the inclusiveness implicit to it. Fredrickson cautions against our solipsistic view of love, common in the individualistic cultures of the West:

Odds are, if you were raised in a Western culture, you think of emotions as largely private events. you locate them within a person’s boundaries, confined within their mind and skin. When conversing about emotions, your use of singular possessive adjectives betrays this point of view. You refer to ‘my anxiety,’ ‘his anger,’ or ‘her interest.’ Following this logic, love would seem to belong to the person who feels it. Defining love as positivity resonance challenges this view. Love unfolds and reverberates between and among people – within interpersonal transactions – and thereby belong to all parties involved, and to the metaphorical connective tissue that binds them together, albeit temporarily. … More than any other positive emotion, then, love belongs not to one person, but to pairs or groups of people. It resides within connections.

Citing various research, Fredrickson puts science behind what Anaïs Nin poetically and intuitively cautioned against more than half a century ago:

People who suffer from anxiety, depression, or even loneliness or low self-esteem perceive threats far more often than circumstances warrant. Sadly, this overalert state thwarts both positivity and positivity resonance. Feeling unsafe, then, is the first obstacle to love.

But perhaps the insight hardest to digest in the age of artificial semi-connectedness – something Nin also cautioned against a prescient few decades before the internet – has to do with the necessary physicality of love:

Love’s second precondition is connection, true sensory and temporal connection with another living being. You no doubt try to ‘stay connected’ when physical distance keeps you and your loved ones apart. You use the phone, e-mail, and increasingly texts or Facebook, and it’s important to do so. Yet your body, sculpted by the forces of natural selection over millennia, was not designed for the abstractions of long-distance love, the XOXs and LOLs. Your body hungers for more.

[…]

True connection is one of love’s bedrock prerequisites, a prime reason that love is not unconditional, but instead requires a particular stance. Neither abstract nor mediated, true connection is physical and unfolds in real time. It requires sensory and temporal copresence of bodies .The main mode of sensory connection, scientists contend, is eye contact. Other forms of real-time sensory contact – through touch, voice, or mirrored body postures and gestures – no doubt connect people as well and at times can substitute for eye contact. Nevertheless, eye contact may well be the most potent trigger for connection and oneness.

[…]

Physical presence is key to love, to positivity resonance.”

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by | April 20, 2013 · 4:33 pm

Susan Sontag’s Radical Vision for Remixing Education

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“A new order of knowledge for cultivating lifelong learning.

“Our whole theory of education,” Henry Miller famously lamented“is based on the absurd notion that we must learn to swim on land before tackling the water.” With its factory schooling model, its biologically unsound schedules, and its failure to account for different types of intelligence, the modern education system leaves much to be desired in terms of encouraging creativity, critical thinking, and hands-on learning.

From the recently released volume of Susan Sontag’s diaries, As Consciousness Is Harnessed to Flesh: Journals and Notebooks, 1964-1980 (public libraryUK) – one of the best psychology and philosophy books of 2012, which gave us Sontag’s wisdom on writing,boredomcensorship, and aphorisms, and her illustrated insights on love and art – comes a somewhat radical but in many ways brilliantly sensible vision for education. Writing 40 years ago, in a diary entry from January of 1973, Sontag inverts the traditional sequence of schooling, envisioning for education what Stefan Sagmeister has done for work with his model of time-shifted retirement via distributed sabbaticals, and above all seconding Miller’s insistence on learning by doing.

Sontag writes:

Why not eliminate schooling between age 12-16? It’s biologically + psychologically too turbulent a time to be cooped up inside, made to sit all the time. During these years, kids would live communally – doing some work, anyway being physically active, in the countryside… Those four ‘missing’ years of school could be added on, at a much later age. At, say, age 50-54 everyone would have to go back to school. (One could get a deferment for a few years, in special cases, if one was in a special work or creative project that couldn’t be broken off.) In this 50-54 schooling, have strong pressure to learn a new job or profession – plus liberal arts stuff, general science (ecology, biology), and language skills.

This simple change in the age specificity of schooling would a) reduce adolescent discontent, anomie, boredom, neurosis; b) radically modify the almost inevitable process by which people at 50 are psychologically and intellectually ossified – have become increasingly conservative, politically – and retrograde in their tastes (Neil Simon plays, etc.)

There would no longer be one huge generation gap (war), between the young and the not young – but 5 or 6 generation gaps, each much less severe.

After all, since most people from now on are going to live to be 70, 75, 80, why should all their schooling be bunched together in the first 1/3 or 1/4 of their lives – so that it’s downhill all the way

 

Early schooling – age 6-12 – would be intensive language skills, basic science, civics, the arts.

 

Back to school at 16: liberal arts for two year

Age 18-21: job training through apprenticeship, not schooling

Complement with Sister Corita Kent’s 10 rules for students and teachers and Bertrand Russell’s 10 commandments of education.”

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by | April 20, 2013 · 4:25 pm