Monday, October 31, 2016

Watch out!

They'll be haunting the streets tonight!

Stay alert when driving, and keep an eye out for their safety, all through the night. It's a time for creative fun and laughter, but also for keeping all the little ghouls and goblins bright-eyed.

Unfortunately, hazards do lurk. Children (and pets) don't usually think to watch out for them. It's up to all of us to make sure the little kids stay safe and have fun.

Here's to a happy and healthy Halloween for all! 

IMAGE: Many thanks to the Pinterest page, 1000+ Toddler Halloween Costumes! Check that page out, if you're up for creativity and cute little kids--they have scads of both.

Sunday, October 30, 2016

Unique manifestations

Artdog Quote of the Week

"Other cultures are not failed attempts at being like you."

There are people in this world who don't see it that way. They can't look beyond their own frame of reference, and they resist seeing their own privilege, which simultaneously insulates them, and quarantines them from full participation with the rest of the world.

Sadly, they miss more than they know.

IMAGE: Many thanks to Quote Addicts for this image and quote. 

I hope you'll also check out Wade Davis's website. Davis is an anthropologist and author who works with National Geographic, so he really knows what he's talking about in this quote.

Saturday, October 29, 2016

Cultural exchange and a Japanese Cubist

This week's Artdog Image of Interest:

Cultural exchange flows both ways, or it isn't an exchange. In earlier posts this month, I've explored Japonisme in Europe, and the influence of Katsushika Hokusai's prints on the French painter Paul Cézanne. Japanese art clearly changed the look of Western art in many ways.

But did Western art have any effect on the art of Asia? Indeed it did! Today, I'd like you to meet Tetsugoro Yorozu's Leaning Woman

Tetsugoro was part of the Japanese Yōga ("Western-style") art movement at the turn of the 20th Century. Although he died when he was only 41 (of tuberculosis), he was an influential painter in his day. Fascinated with Western-style art from an early age, he traveled to the US to study art, but had to return almost immediately to Japan, because of the 1906 San Francisco Earthquake. 

He experimented with a variety of Western styles, but he is best known for promoting Cubism in Japan. Tetsugoro's Leaning Woman currently resides in the National Museum of Modern Art in Tokyo, Japan.

No matter where they originate, exciting new ways of looking at the world will always beguile artists--no matter where they originate.

IMAGE: Many thanks to Wikipedia for the image of Leaning Woman.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Three bad guys' worst nightmare

Here's a pre-Halloween story about three bad guys with an evil plan. Back in May, 2015, they decided--possibly as part of a gang plot--to ambush and kill a cop.

Cop's-eye view, approaching a similar Lincoln Town Car.
They set up their ambush at a deserted rest area on a lonely stretch of Highway 90, near Pearlington, Mississippi. They parked their 2000 model dark blue Lincoln Town Car, and turned off the lights. One man sat very still inside. The other two hid in the woods nearby. Then they waited.

Around 10:00 p.m., Hancock County Deputy Todd Frazier noticed the car with the motionless man in the driver's seat. Like any good cop, he pulled over and got out, to see if the man was all right.

That's when the other two leaped out of the dark woods. They attacked Frazier with fists and what probably was a box cutter. When the man who'd been in the car piled out, it was three against one. They choked Frazier, told him they were going to slit his throat, and dragged him toward the woods.

Chief Deputy Don Bass later said authorities think they planned to take Frazier into the woods, kill him, and dump his body.

Lucky for Frazier, he had a couple of secret weapons.

Meet Lucas, the hero of this story.
The first was a button on his belt. Frazier managed to get a hand free long enough to press it. That released the door of his patrol vehicle and popped it open. The device had only recently been installed: one of the first two on any Hancock County units. 

The second secret weapon was his K9 partner, 75-lb. black Belgian Malinois Lucas. Six-year-old Lucas recognized right away that this was not a training exercise, Frazier later said. The dog leaped from the vehicle and immediately attacked the three men.

Lucas bit one, possibly two of the attackers, according to Hancock County Sheriff Ricky Adam. "We don't know how many he got, we just know he had blood all over him."

By that time Frazier had blood all over himself, too. "I couldn't see anything, because the blood was all in my eyes," he said later. "I could hear [Lucas] growling and making all these sounds . . . he sounded like a wolf."

The attackers fled in the Town Car. Sheriff Adam said that as they drove away, Lucas was still hanging onto the leg of one of them

A multi-agency manhunt ensued after the attack on Deputy Frazier.

The bad guys didn't get away unscathed--at least one of them probably had serious dog bites. But neither did Frazier or Lucas. Frazier's injuries, while not life-threatening, put him in the hospital for a while. Lucas broke several teeth and tore a neck muscle and an ACL. 

Lucas in 2015, with his medal from BARL.
Despite a multi-agency manhunt that expanded into Louisiana, the attackers have not yet been found. But that doesn't mean the police aren't still looking. DNA swabs and other evidence were taken from the scene, so even if it takes years, they should still have the means to link suspects to this case. If you know anything that would help, please contact the Hancock County Sheriff's Department at (228) 467-5101 or call your local law enforcement.

It took a while for Frazier and Lucas to get back on their feet. Unlike at many agencies, where the department owns the K9s, Lucas is Frazier's own dog. Since their close brush with death in 2015, Frazier has started TLB K9 Enterprises, his own business training K9s, and they also do federal search and rescue work for FEMA.  

Lucas has been recognized for his bravery with a PETA Heroic Dog Award, and by the Brookhaven Animal Rescue League (BARL) as the Hero of the Year for 2015

I found an animated re-enactment of Lucas and Frazier's story from TOMO News, that you may enjoy:

IMAGES: Many thanks to WeBeAutos on YouTube, for the screenshot of a 2000 model dark blue Lincoln Town Car, as the videographer approaches the drivers' side front window. This would be similar to Todd Frazier's viewpoint as he walked into the ambush--only it was a lot darker that night. I am indebted to the Australian website for the dramatic photo of Lucas in mid-leap. Many thanks to the Clarion Ledger for the photo of the investigation at the crime scene, and for the photo of Lucas with his BARL award. Finally, many thanks to TOMO News on YouTube, for the animated re-enactment of Lucas's heroic night.

Monday, October 24, 2016

Essential to the world's beauty

Artdog Quote of the Week 

There is strength and beauty in cultural diversity. Cultural exchange, cultural interaction, is the way we achieve it.

IMAGE: Many thanks to Quote Addicts for this image and quote.

Saturday, October 22, 2016

A tale of Hokusai and Cézanne

This week's Artdog Images of Interest: 

A couple of weeks ago, I shared a painting from the age of Japonisme in Europe. Today I'd like to offer an example of how the Japanese Ukiyo-e woodblock prints that arrived in Europe during the Meiji Era changed European art, and inspired the aesthetic that created "modern" art. 

Tokaido Hodogaya, one of the Thirty-six Views of Mt. Fuji, by Katsushika Hokusai, shows us a glimpse of the ukiyo-e prints that took Europe by storm in the latter half of the 19th Century.

Many people in Europe, and especially such painters as Claude Monet, Vincent van Gogh, James A. McNeill Whistler, and Paul Cézanne amassed large collections of Japanese prints. Monet had a whole living room full. Van Gogh didn't have many physical possessions, but he did have a cherished collection of ukiyo-e prints. The radically different way in which the Japanese artists viewed space, color, and perspective influenced these artists deeply--some more directly than others.

Paul Cézanne painted The Chestnut Trees of Jas de Bouffan in Winter, a view that included Mont Ste. Victoire, one of his favorite subjects, from the courtyard of his home. Hokusai's influence is hard to miss.

Paul Cézanne was such an ardent admirer of two print series, each titled Thirty-six Views of Mt. Fuji--one created by Katsushika Hokusai, and the other by his younger rival Ando Hiroshige--that he created his own series of thirty-six paintings of Mont Ste. Victoire, a distinctive mountain near Aix-en-Provence, visible from Cézanne's home and studio at Bastide du Jas de Bouffan.

There was no question about cultural appropriation in Cézanne's day. Europeans considered themselves and their culture to be the apex of human civilization. They felt free to draw upon any source they wished, and never questioned whether they had a right to do so. I am not sure that Cézanne's painting count as "appropriation" per se, though it's easy to detect a touch of "the sincerest form of flattery." Similarities are also easy to see in others he painted, whose compositions bear a striking resemblance to certain prints by Hokusai and Hiroshige--I may share them at some point in the future.

IMAGES: I found this great image of Hokusai's Tokaido Hodogaya through the Ukiyo-e Search website. Many thanks to the British website Poster Lounge for the photo of Cézanne's Les Marroniers du Jas de Bouffan en hiver. 

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Space Station DIY: Should we go Tubular?

NASA artist Don Davis gave us a vision of how
it might look inside an O'Neill cylinder with
reflected sunlight.
My quest to find a plausible, space-based home for the characters in my novels continued.

I needed a space-based habitat that would feel earthlike-enough for me (and my readers) to believe that humans could be comfortable there long-term. But it also must be believable, based on what we know or can reasonably extrapolate from physics, space, engineering, and technology.

So far in this DIY Space Station series we've considered space stations/colonies in general, Dyson structures, and Bernal spheresThe next design I considered was the O'Neill Cylinder, a design developed by one of the founders of this area of engineering and design, Dr. Gerard K. O'Neill, of Princeton University. 

The idea for this design evolved out of O'Neill's work for NASA and at PrincetonHis Island One and Island Two designs were Bernal spheres, but the larger Island Three design proposed a paired-cylinders design that sought to solve several problems with the Bernal sphere design.

His 1976 book, The High Frontier: Human Colonies in Space described the "Islands," and developed the concept of the paired cylinders. Why paired cylinders? So they can  cancel out a gyroscopic effect that would make it difficult to keep them aimed at the sun. Each cylinder was to be four or five miles in diameter and up to 20 miles long, with six sections: three "window" areas, interspersed with three "land" areas. Each cylinder could provide habitat for several million people.

There would be a separate section for agriculture, designed much like the so-called "Crystal Palace" of the Bernal sphere design. As I pointed out in my Bernal sphere post, today we know far more about the pitfalls of industrial-style agriculture than we did in the 1970s. I'll go into more detail about space-based agricultural issues in a future post.

O'Neill cylinders utilize a shape identified by the creators of Kalpana One as the most efficient for a space habitat (more about Kalpana One in a different future post), but I ultimately found it difficult to imagine living in one, for many of the same reasons as the Bernal sphere.

Also, I didn't like the slight Coriolis effect that would occur if the habitat was built the size O'Neill originally proposed. There were economic reasons for that size: O'Neill was trying to get the US Government to consider funding one of his "Islands." Their size was dictated by 1970s-based calculations. Unfortunately, the head of the Senate subcommittee that handled NASA's funding considered a large-scale space habitat a "nutty fantasy," and the project was killed.

Senator William Proxmire (D-WI) thought Gerard K. O'Neill's space-settlement ideas were a "nutty fantasy." Proxmire was famous for identifying government programs he thought were silly, and awarding them the Golden Fleece Award. Fear of his wrath led NASA to kill O'Neill's project.

Of course, there's no reason to think a larger version couldn't be built, if the economics of the builders supported it. Rama, the space habitat described by Arthur C. Clarke in his 1973 novel Rendezvous with Rama, is about 50% larger than the classic O'Neill cylinder, but as I understand it, it's based in part on O'Neill's design. I found a video that offers a 3D-animated "tour" of Rama. I enjoyed it, and I hope you do too.

Side note: yes, my own Rana Station's name was chosen with a nod to Rama, although I ultimately chose a different design configuration for my space habitat. The name "Rana" (with an n) means "attractive, eye-catching, elegant," which is what cinched the choice for me. I'm an artist: it had to appeal to my eyes, too!

Besides Clarke's Rama, other famous O'Neill cylinders in science fiction include the space station Babylon 5 and the space habitats (sides) in the Gundam Universe.

Babylon 5--but where are the windows? And are those solar panels, or heat exchangers?
Animators of the Mobile Gundam series paid close attention to the design of O'Neill cylinders. This is an interior view of Loum (Side 5).
IMAGES: Many thanks to Wikipedia/Wikimedia Commons and Don Davis for the upper image of the cylinder interior; for the High Frontier first edition cover featuring art by Rick Guidice; for the 1970s rendering of an exterior view of paired cylinders, also by Guidice; and for the photo portraits of Senator William Proxmire and Gerard K. O'Neill
I am indebted to the Maveric Universe Wiki for the GoetzSheuermann image of Island One. 
Many thanks to YouTube and Eric Bruneton for the Rama animation, to Science Fiction & Fantasy Stack Exchange for the image of the Babylon 5 Space Station, and to The Universal Century, for the interior image of Loum (Side Five) a space colony from the Mobile Gundam universe.

Monday, October 17, 2016

Piecing it together

Artdog Quote of the Week

IMAGES: Many thanks to Immigrant Times for the puzzle-pieces photo, and to Quote Addicts for the Felix Adler quote. 

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Just Don't

The Artdog Image(s) of Interest
As you contemplate the upcoming Halloween season, remember:

In Wednesday's post I discussed cultural appropriation, and how it differs from cultural exchange. If today's post startles or confuses you, might want to look back at that one again.

IMAGE: Many thanks to Iffat Karim in The Rattler for this collection of images.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Cultural exchange, versus cultural appropriation

According to some people, I have an unsavory past.

Well, not me, personally. I've never committed any crime worse than exceeding the speed limit, and I'm pretty sure that's true for most of my immediate family as well. We don't tend to be colorful in that way.

What lurks in your family tree?

But I have both English and German roots, and the last several generations of my European-American ancestors have lived in the United States. In the eyes of many people around the world, those simple facts make me and my family complicit, at least by association, with centuries of oppression, racism, and perhaps even genocide.

Not much I can do about it, no matter what my ancestors thought or did. But in the minds of some, my ancestry and presumed understandings make me a suspect interpreter of culture. How dare I even try to make art about any culture but my own? Isn't that tantamount to cultural appropriation?

Yikes! Um, well . . . no, actually. For good reason.
First, like many people, I've tried to live my life in as fair and unbiased a way as I can, but the fact is that sometimes we don't realize what we've done or said (or what those things mean to others--see below) until we've had our consciousness raised. Every one of us is a product of our culture, and it's only through experience that we can learn more appropriate approaches and frames of reference.

Artist Kristen Uroda created this image for NPR, to help convey the concept of a frame of reference. It's also an illustration of my point that art can help us understand our world

In other words, none of us will get it right 100% of the time. But cross-cultural understanding can be built, even by unsavory characters such as me. It requires mutual respect and openness, and patience with each others' mistakes.

Why try? When we don't understand something, our brain still tries to make sense of it. That's an innate response. We don't always get it right, because synthesizing from impressions and separate events is an inaccurate process. But the human brain seems hard-wired to try.

I've always seen artists (in all of the arts disciplines) as crucial to the process of building cross-cultural understanding--and in our ever-shrinking world, where globalization affects lives everywhere, developing more and better tools for cross-cultural understanding is becoming ever more vitally important.

Yet anytime we consider a cultural exchange, there tends to arise the concern over cultural appropriation.

Cultural  Exchange is a healthy, desirable, increasingly necessary function in society. Governments, organizations, and businesses are wise to foster it whenever possible.

Cultural Appropriation is a perversion that wounds, and inhibits mutual growth. It is what happens when members of a dominant culture ignorantly or disrespectfully use racial stereotypes or the outward symbols of a less-dominant culture for its own gain or racist purposes. Unfortunately, people who look like me can stumble all too easily across this line. Consider these examples:

But we've already established that we don't get it right 100% of the time, especially when we encounter an unfamiliar culture. How and where do we draw the line?

First must come the awareness that there is such a thing as a dominant culture. Moreover, membership in a dominant cultural group automatically bestows privilege. When you ignore privilege, you lose an essential perspective that is important for helping you see where that line falls.

That's why people who look like me, and whose ancestors came from the places my ancestors did, are automatically suspects, when it comes to cultural appropriation. Whether we want to be or not, and whether we think it's right or not, we're privileged. THAT'S my "unsavory past," noted at the top of this article. When you automatically have had privilege all your life, it looks "normal."

And it's really easy to ignore, until you've had your consciousness raised to the fact that everyone else who doesn't look like you has to evaluate situations based on your privilege, and work around it.

After that, drawing the line gets a lot easier. Cultural exchange is mutual. It enriches members of both cultures. Cultural appropriation demeans members of one culture for the amusement or gain of more-privileged members of another. Ultimately, it comes down to RESPECT. Without it, every single one of us is an unreliable witness.

IMAGES: The elaborate family tree chart by Pietro Paolini is from the Castello di Nipozzano in Tuscany, courtesy of The Independent. Many thanks to NPR and its Invisibilia shows, for Kristen Uroda's simultaneous illustration of two of my points. I am grateful to Top Famous Quotes for the Abbe Pierre quote and image, to Iffat Karim and The Rattler for the "Native Americans" example of cultural appropriation, to illustrator Terry Tan, whose illustration, "Cinco de Mayo/Drinko" was posted in a very good article by Matt Moret in ThePittNews, and to Wikipedia for the poster image from a minstrel show in 1900. Many thanks to The Orbit, for the nutshell definition of privilege (the essay that goes with the image is a good one, too). And finally, many thanks to A-Z Quotes, for the Dalai Lama image and quote.

Monday, October 10, 2016

Saturday, October 8, 2016

The Pot and the Bowl

Artdog Image(s) of Interest 

We often hear that the United States is a great big melting pot, where immigrants come from all over and get assimilated, so that they can become Americans. As you can see from the style of the image above, this idea has been around for a while.

This "melting pot" idea assumes the cultural differences will get melted right out, and we'll all turn into generic Americans. Everybody will share the same cultural references, speak English, and leave the Old Country behind.

It's balderdash, of course. People don't "melt" that easily, and they can only interact with the world via the cultural references they have. Even several generations after the first, many aspects of a person's cultural heritage live on in them. I do like the "Equal Rights" spoon Miss Liberty is using to stir us with, though. It would be nice if we saw that spoon a lot more often in public life.


Or maybe we're like a salad bowl, as a more contemporary image says: all the assorted individuals mix together and interact with each other, but they maintain most of their original flavors and characteristics. (in this illustration, is the English language kind of like the . . . salad dressing?)

I'm not sure that's an entirely apt metaphor, either, because after a while we do grow more like our nearer neighbors, while older ties and influences may loosen. Assimilation may never be total, but it is an important force.

Fact is, neither is a perfect image, because people aren't (normally) pieces of food. We're way more complicated than that. This is a worry and an irritation to those who like to keep things simple, but I have a feeling those folks have enough frustrations already: life is rarely uncomplicated.

If you're the kind of person who lives in fear, then the "otherness" of people from different cultures can be frightening. If you're the kind of person who finds variety to be the spice of life, then nothing tastes better--pot OR bowl--than cultural diversity.

IMAGES: Many thanks to the WYPR article America: Melting Pot or Salad Bowl? for the image of Melting Pot Stirred by Liberty, and to the Oswego (NY) City Schools Regents Prep website for the Salad Bowl of Immigration image. 

Monday, October 3, 2016

An impossible mission?

The Artdog Quote of the Week 

I'm not sure Suzuki is correct--either that international cultural exchange is impossible, or that it is impossible to see beyond one's own cultural context.

Instead, I think that when people from different cultures interact, they almost inevitably are affected by the new ideas and approaches they encounter. Far from being impossible, it seems to me that cultural exchange is inevitable.

Moreover, once cultural interaction has taken place, the new approaches or ideas (or visuals, or sounds, or flavors, or any of the other aspects of cultural interaction) have been experienced, they are impossible to un-experience. And what does that change? Cultural context.

Not completely, of course. Not all the way to seeing in terms of the newly-experienced culture's context, certainly. But it still can be interesting, startling, or occasionally even life-changing, to experience life surrounded by a culture not our own.

Suzuki and Bogart are correct, however that making the effort to see beyond one's own context has the potential to break down rigid assumptions. And once the walls of those assumptions have fallen, who knows what creative things might happen?

IMAGE: Many thanks for this quotation and image to A-Z Quotes.

Saturday, October 1, 2016

When cultures meet, stuff happens

The Artdog Image of Interest 

This week's Image of Interest is The Japanese Parisian, painted by the Belgian painter Alfred Stevens in 1872. It was painted during a time period when Europe had begun trading with a newly-opened Japan (the Meiji Era), and many European artists, intellectuals and elites were seized with a deep fascination with Japanese art and culture.

Japonisme, as this fascination was called, influenced many aspects of European culture and arts. It inspired and revolutionized the work of the Impressionists and Post-Impressionists, including Monet, Degas, Van GoghGaugin, and Whistler, as well as the Art Nouveau movement.

The allure of the exotic, the fascination with other cultures and their arts, is a human reaction we've seen in many times and places. But when is it a healthy cultural exchange, and when is it cultural appropriation?

I plan to spend some time this month looking at that and related questions, as we move toward Halloween, the Days of the Dead, and all the opportunities to explore other cultures--or cross inappropriate lines--that abound at this time of year.

OUR IMAGE: Many thanks to Mimi Matthews for a very nice image of one of Alfred Stevens's more famous paintings.