Monthly Archives: August 2016

Afternoon Art Break

“Woman Drying Her Hair”
Joseph DeCamp (1899)


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Afternoon Links

Wear your favorite painting on your clothes

The Bard in Bhojpuri: How Shakespeare’s storytelling resonates with Indian culture

In case you needed further proof we’re living in the movie “Idiocracy”

Colin Kaepernick has a right to free expression. And so does everyone else.

Gene Wilder, Comedian of Kindness:

In a 2013 interview at the 92nd street Y in New York City, a frail Wilder explained why he did not star in any films in the final two decades of his life. “The swearing, and the, the loud bombing, after a while I said, they were so..they were dirty,” Wilder said, “and once in a while a nice, a good film, but not that many. I don’t mean when I was starting out, but later on. And I said, I don’t know, I don’t want to. If something comes along that is really good, and I think I would be good for it, I’ll be happy to do it, but not too many came along.”

In making that choice, Wilder would leave millions of dollars on the table and millions of fans disappointed that they had seen the last of his comic genius. But comedy had passed him by, and he knew it. Not only because of the tragic death of his beloved wife Gilda Radner, but because society had changed. The clean, pleasant, and kind comedy that he had grown up with and eventually mastered had given way to crass and callous yuks, and that was a style Wilder would never embrace.

In Wilder’s work, in “The Producers,” “Young Frankenstein,” “Blazing Saddles,” “Stir Crazy,” “Willy Wonka,” and others, we find a kind of comedy even more rare today than it was then. It is a comedy of kindness we can show our children, as I showed my brother, that lets us laugh at the best, not the worst, that we are. This was a singular gift, and one we ought to cherish for as long as people keep making us laugh.

I hope you’re sitting down because you won’t believe this but 30 of the “non-work” emails Hillary tried to permanently delete via BleachBit were actually about the Benghazi terror attack.

Edward Short reviews Auden’s collected prose

ISIS’ Amaq News Agency is confirming that spokesman Abu Muhammad al-Adnani is dead. Adnani was far more than the mouthpiece of ISIS. He was head of the Emni, the Secret Service of ISIS which plotted external terror attacks. An AQI/ISIS veteran, he was a member of the original Zarqawi network since 2002.

Italian 18-year-olds to receive €500 “culture bonus”

The true story of Doctor Zhivago‘s Lara

America Is Already Great

The Urbanism of Frank Lloyd Wright shows a side of the architect you never knew.

Emily Brontë may have had Asperger syndrome, says biographer

There is a vast literature on Wagner. Is it any longer possible to really hear the music?

Nero in paint

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Your Morning Cup of Links

You can like Wyeth or you can be wrong. Those are your choices. The “modern art establishment” is garbage.

Ever wonder why your Facebook feed is a nightmarish dystopia of fact-free partisan agitprop?

Amen. Let him golf.: “Every hour Barack Obama spends on the links is an hour he is not wrecking the republic, distorting its character, throwing monkey wrenches into its constitutional machinery, or appointing sundry miscreants and malefactors to its high offices.”

New virus breaks the rules of infection

Waste and Corruption: A Classic Washington Tale

I suspect these idiot ‘peace activists’ didn’t ask to visit any of Assad’s torture centers. Ignorance is bliss.

Hooray government health care hooray

2016 gets to us all eventually

Would be nice if the GOP had nominated someone who could attack her on this, but they nominated someone who won’t release any of his records either and who is more interested in scoring points off of people’s deaths than criticizing his opponent, so oh well.

Obama’s idiotic Syria policy:
1. Back a force regarded as terrorist by a NATO ally
2. Switch sides to NATO ally once it intervenes
3. Goggle at the resultant mess

Thomas Hardy altarpiece discovered in Windsor church


Bernie Sanders doesn’t have the first clue how an EpiPen works or what went into developing it, but he’s sure he knows what one should cost, and he’s sure who should decide — him. You know what Bernie Sanders is? He’s a bum. He was damn near 40 years old before he ever found his way into a full-time job, and that was in elected office; before that, he collected benefits, sold his creepy rape fantasies for left-wing newspapers at $50 a pop, and never lifted a finger toward any genuinely productive enterprise. He’s been suckling greedily at the public teat since way back when he could remember where his car keys are. Funny thing, though: Now he’s a bum with a third home on the waterfront of a Vermont island worth the better part of a million dollars. Every good apparatchik eventually gets his dacha. Mrs. Clinton is a bum and a crook who used the State Department as a funnel to guide the money of favor-seeking business interests at home and abroad into the Clinton Foundation, a sham charity that exists to pay six-figure salaries to Clintons (Chelsea is full-time executive there) and their courtiers. These people are parasites. They make: nothing. They create: nothing. They produce: nothing. But they feel perfectly justified — they positively glow with moral frisson — standing between the people who create and build and the people who benefit from those creations.

The issue with EpiPen isn’t too little government interference in the market. It’s too MUCH.

The problem with the pharmaceutical industry isn’t that they’re unregulated just like chairs and mugs. The problem with the pharmaceutical industry is that they’re part of a highly-regulated cronyist system that works completely differently from chairs and mugs.

If a chair company decided to charge $300 for their chairs, somebody else would set up a woodshop, sell their chairs for $250, and make a killing – and so on until chairs cost normal-chair-prices again. When Mylan decided to sell EpiPens for $300, in any normal system somebody would have made their own EpiPens and sold them for less. It wouldn’t have been hard. Its active ingredient, epinephrine, is off-patent, was being synthesized as early as 1906, and costs about ten cents per EpiPen-load.

Why don’t they? They keep trying, and the FDA keeps refusing to approve them for human use. For example, in 2009, a group called Teva Pharmaceuticals announced a plan to sell their own EpiPens in the US. The makers of the original EpiPen sued them, saying that they had patented the idea epinephrine-injecting devices. Teva successfully fended off the challenge and brought its product to the FDA, which rejected it because of “certain major deficiencies”. As far as I know, nobody has ever publicly said what the problem was – we can only hope they at least told Teva.

In 2010, another group, Sandoz, asked for permission to sell a generic EpiPen. Once again, the original manufacturers sued for patent infringement. According to Wikipedia, “as of July 2016 this litigation was ongoing”. In 2011, Sanoji asked for permission to sell a generic EpiPen called e-cue. This got held up for a while because the FDA didn’t like the name (really!), but eventually was approved under the name Auvi-Q, (which if I were a giant government agency that rejected things for having dumb names, would be going straight into the wastebasket). But after unconfirmed reports of incorrect dosage delivery, they recalled all their products off the market. This year, a company called Adamis decided that in order to get around the patent on devices that inject epinephrine, they would just sell pre-filled epinephrine syringes and let patients inject themselves. The FDA rejected it, noting that the company involved had done several studies but demanding that they do some more.

So let me try to make this easier to understand. Imagine that the government creates the Furniture and Desk Association, an agency which declares that only IKEA is allowed to sell chairs. IKEA responds by charging $300 per chair. Other companies try to sell stools or sofas, but get bogged down for years in litigation over whether these technically count as “chairs”. When a few of them win their court cases, the FDA shoots them down anyway for vague reasons it refuses to share, or because they haven’t done studies showing that their chairs will not break, or because the studies that showed their chairs will not break didn’t include a high enough number of morbidly obese people so we can’t be sure they won’t break. Finally, Target spends tens of millions of dollars on lawyers and gets the okay to compete with IKEA, but people can only get Target chairs if they have a note signed by a professional interior designer saying that their room needs a “comfort-producing seating implement” and which absolutely definitely does not mention “chairs” anywhere, because otherwise a child who was used to sitting on IKEA chairs might sit down on a Target chair the wrong way, get confused, fall off, and break her head.

Researchers find North Atlantic Great White Sharks spend their first 20 years in a “shark nursery” in the waters off Montauk, Long Island.

“The Exiled Rabbi and the Executed Poet: A Soviet Jewish Story”

How did a famed painting of Frederick Douglass go missing from Fisk? No one has any idea apparently.

The Islamist militant responsible for the destruction of artifacts in Timbuktu goes on trial at The Hague. He has pled guilty—the first person ever to do so at the International Criminal Court.

Is it time to take the most-published man in human history seriously?

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Afternoon Art Break

“Portrait of an Artist (Pool with Two Figures)”
David Hockney (1972)


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“We are the music makers, and we are the dreamers of dreams.” RIP Gene Wilder


RIP to the incomparable Gene Wilder. A true comedic genius. You filled so many childhoods, mine included, with wonder, laughter, and joy. Thank you. Wilder’s death is difficult like Robin Williams’ death was difficult. I think we feel closer to people who make us laugh.

Here’s his family’s statement:


I think Kyle Smith sums it up well here. “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory” is just another failed, weirdly disturbing kids movie without Wilder (as you can see in the horrible remake with Johnny Depp). Instead, it lives forever because of him.

In his first notable role, a walk-on in 1967’s “Bonnie and Clyde,” Wilder only had a couple of minutes of screen time, but he made them count as a meek bystander who gets himself kidnapped by the Barrow Gang and tries to get a grip on himself as the bank robbers tease him. Caught up in the high as he starts to think he might actually survive, he is hooting at their jokes when someone asks him what he does. “I’m an undertaker,” he says quietly. It’s a surgical puncture wound to the fun. “Get him out of here,” says Bonnie.

Just a year later, Wilder made his name with a supporting role in a very small movie that proved to have a very long life: “The Producers.” Zero Mostel was a looming comic zeppelin meant to dominate the movie, but it’s Wilder, morphing from a timorous accountant into a blithering hysteric, who created a series of character arcs — a character roller coaster. Wilder got an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actor and a promotion to big-time leading man.

Wilder’s greatest performance, little recognized at the time, was as the mysterious king of candy in 1971’s “Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory, ” a total flop on its initial release that, thanks to regular broadcasts on NBC over Thanksgiving weekend, became an indelible classic. As was evident from Johnny Depp’s hideously off-kilter choice to turn Wonka into a high-voiced man-child pervert seemingly modeled on Michael Jackson, everything hinges on Wonka’s balance, his mystery. Is he a sadistic child hater with a knack for creative torture, or is he merely a big-hearted father figure who yearns for a deserving heir he can lavish with all of the wonders of paradise? It was Wilder’s idea to introduce Wonka with a pathetic limp that turns into an expert somersault: The audience wouldn’t know whether to believe anything about Wonka after that. As with “The Wizard of Oz,” the film captured the essence of childhood — a journey into a frightening landscape of undreamt-of perils and pleasures. Wilder’s increasingly threatening sprechstimme as he sings a bizarrely unnerving song during the infamous tunnel sequence provides the nightmare that makes the film’s final resolution such a glorious epiphany.

Making the 1976 road comedy “Silver Streak” gave Wilder yet another boost — his character’s blackface portrayal of a stereotypical jive-talking dude was seen as comedy gold at the time, though it would probably get movie theaters burned down today. Wilder finally got the chance to play off Richard Pryor, who had co-written “Blazing Saddles” but had been nixed for the co-lead of the black sheriff (a role that went to Cleavon Little) because Warner Bros. was worried about his drug problems.

TCM will be doing a tribute to Wilder next month. Here’s the schedule:


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Your Morning Cup of Links

Why are people so stupid?

*bangs head against wall* Massachusetts to tax ride-hailing apps, give the money to taxis

MY GOD, what a terrible life she has. The poor dear. God I fucking hate these people.

Meanwhile, in the category of Useful Human Beings: this “One-Woman FEMA” is changing lives amid disaster in Baton Rouge

Paris exhibition to celebrate life and works of Oscar Wilde

And so shines a good deed in a weary world:

The University of Chicago sent a message to incoming students this week that it does not accept the culture of “safe spaces” and “trigger warnings” that has taken hold on many American college campuses.

What an incredibly brave woman

Clinton, Inc. made millions off deals with Skolkovo, which “just happens” to be a front for Russian intelligence. Both major party candidates are completely unfit for office. #NeverTrump #NeverHillary

Missing the night sky

Community-based projects on the local level do far more to alleviate poverty than federal welfare programs. Someday Americans will understand this again.

Remember when the Nobel Peace Prize was given to the weapons inspectors? Good times.

Fuck D.C.

Five years ago, a new quirky-sounding consumer-rights group set up shop in a sleepy corner of Capitol Hill. “Consumers for Paper Options is a group of individuals and organizations who believe paper-based communications are critically important for millions of Americans,” the group explained in a press release, “especially those who are not yet part of the online community.”

This week, Consumers for Paper Options scored a big win, according to the Wall Street Journal. Securities and Exchange Commission chairman Mary Jo White has abandoned her plan to loosen rules about the need to mail paper documents to investors in mutual funds.

Mutual funds were lobbying for more freedom when it came to mailing prospectuses — those exhaustive, bulky, trash-can-bound explanations of the contents of your fund. In short, the funds wanted to be free to make electronic delivery the default, while allowing investors to insist on paper delivery. This is an obvious common-sense reform which would save whole forests of trees.

Consumers for Paper Options fought back. The group warned that changing the default from paper to electronic delivery would “Confuse potentially millions of investors who suddenly stop seeing important printed fund performance material from investment firms.”

Floating oyster bar tests owners’ mettle

Burke in an age of Trump

The secret Jews of The Hobbit

Closest rocky planet to our solar system found

Goddamn Europeans:

The Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership may make it illegal for American cheese makers “to use common names rooted in regional European culinary traditions like feta, muenster, or parmesan” for their cheeses. “This provision is just the latest in a long crusade by traditional European cheese makers against the willy-nilly usage of their region’s dairy terms by foreigners. In the early 20th century, some European states blocked the importation of foreign products using their names, hoping to protect the integrity of their culinary heritage.”

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Artwork of the Week

Orazio Gentileschi (1621)


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