Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Earring Depicting Nike in Her Chariot

Greek, 4th Century BCE. In the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Egyptian Figurines

Red jasper duck amulet.

Frog amulet, faience

Hippopotamus head weight, 1549-1296 BCE.

Baboon, 3100 to 2650 BCE

Dog, 664 to 332 BCE.

Hedgehog, faience, 1294-1279 BCE

Jerboas, 1850 to 1640 BCE. These are so cute I would suspect fraud, except that they are in the Met.

Bear, steatite, 664-332 BCE.

Fly, 1500 to 1070 BCE.

Glass fish, 664 to 332 BCE.

Cat, 664-332 BCE.

Antelope head, Memphis, 525 to 404 BCE.

And another cat, 2nd millennium BCE.

The Changing Reasons People Hate Hillary

Michelle Goldberg makes an interesting observation. Many people have hated Hillary since she first emerged on the national scene, but not for consistent reasons:
Over the last two decades, the something that pisses people off has changed. Speaking to Gates, former Republican speechwriter Peggy Noonan described “an air of apple-cheeked certitude” in Clinton that is “political in its nature and grating in its effects.” Noonan saw in Clinton “an implicit insistence throughout her career that hers were the politics of moral decency and therefore those who opposed her politics were obviously of a lower moral order.”

Noonan’s view was a common one. Take, for example, Michael Kelly’s 1993 New York Times Magazine profile, mockingly titled “Saint Hillary.” “Since she discovered, at the age of 14, that for people less fortunate than herself the world could be very cruel, Hillary Rodham Clinton has harbored an ambition so large that it can scarcely be grasped,” Kelly wrote. “She would like to make things right. She is 45 now and she knows that the earnest idealisms of a child of the 1960s may strike some people as naive or trite or grandiose. But she holds to them without any apparent sense of irony or inadequacy.” Kelly’s piece painted Clinton as a moralist, a meddler, a prig.

Few people dislike Hillary Clinton for being too moralistic anymore. In trying to understand the seemingly eternal phenomenon of Hillary hatred, I’ve spoken to people all around America who revile her. I’ve interviewed Trump supporters, conventional conservatives, Bernie Sanders fans, and even a few people who reluctantly voted for Clinton in the Democratic primary but who nevertheless say they can’t stand her. Most of them described a venal cynic. Strikingly, the reasons people commonly give for hating Clinton now are almost the exact opposite of the reasons people gave for hating her in the 1990s. Back then, she was a self-righteous ideologue; now she’s a corrupt tool of the establishment. Back then, she was too rigid; now she’s too flexible. Recently, Morning Consult polled people who don’t like Clinton about the reasons for their distaste. Eighty-four percent agreed with the statement “She changes her positions when it’s politically convenient.” Eighty-two percent consider her “corrupt.” Motives for loathing Clinton have evolved. But the loathing itself has remained constant.
What are we to make of this? Is it that something about Hillary sets people off at an instinctive level, and they then search for any coherent justification? Or is it, as she would have it, that her enemies have been savaging her for decades, for political reasons, creating a bad reputation?

Monday, July 25, 2016

July 4th in Vicksburg, 1877

Vicksburg, Mississippi surrendered to the Union on July 4, 1863. It is a bit of American folk history that Independence Day was not celebrated again in the town until well into the twentieth century. I believe I have written this myself, or at least said it. But I just learned from Dead Confederates that this is not true:
From the Vicksburg Daily Commercial, July 3, 1877:

To-morrow being the anniversary of our Nations independence, all patriotic citizens of this great Republic are expected to observe it as a holiday. We desire to be reckoned among this class of patriotic citizens, consequently no paper will be issued from this office to-morrow. The glorious Fourth happens to come in hot weather this year, and we are glad to be able to observe it ‘neath the shade of country forests.

And a follow-up, on July 5:

The people of Vicksburg came nearer celebrating the glorious Fourth yesterday than they have done for several years. True, there was no general suspension of business, as indicated by closed doors, but so far as the profits of trade were concerned doors might as well have been closed, for the salesrooms were deserted almost entirely. Everybody was out of town, apparently, enjoying the holiday in some way. Several hundred people attended the Hibernian picnic at Newman’s Grove, and not withstanding the extreme heat, all seemed to enjoy the festivities of the day. The colored population turned out in large force, fully one thousand men of them going down the river on excursion boats to picnic-grounds, yet there were enough of them left in the city to form a very respectable procession of colored Masons, and a very large audience to listen to the oration of Judge J. S. Morris, and to assist in laying the corner-stone of King Solomon’s Church. There was no prolific display of fire-works on the streets, but occasional reports from fire-crackers and large torpedoes could be heard, accompanied now and then by a patriotic cry, “rah for the Fourth of July!” We do not wonder at the lack of patriotic enthusiasm displayed on our streets. No amount of patriotism could have induced any sane man to exert himself very considerably on such a day when the thermometer registered very nearly 100° Farenheit [sic.] in the shade. However, the observance of Independence Day yesterday, slight as some may have thought it, was yet sufficient to indicate the prevalence of a broader National sentiment and a determination to at least partially forget the past which renders the Fourth of July especially distasteful to Vicksburgers, and make it in future “The Day We Celebrate” as much as any other National holiday.

Art Nouveau Florence

Who knew that Florence held an amazing array of Art Nouveau houses? I mean, who has time in Florence to see anything but the glories of the Renaissance?

But the stile Liberty, as Italians call it, was big in Tuscany, and today I stumbled across this amazing photo set of beautiful houses. Above and top, Villino Lampredi, 1908-1909.

Villino Lampredi details.

Villino Broggi-Caraceni, 1910-1911.

Villino Broggi-Caraceni details.

Casa-galleria Vichi, 1913-1914

Details. Most of these pictures come from Italian wikipedia, since as I said only locals pay attention to post-Renaissance architecture in Florence.

Misled by Sanders, Some of his Supporters Still Demanding Revolution

Chris Cillizza:
Bernie Sanders spoke to a large group of his supporters on Monday in Philadelphia. The crowd cheered as Sanders ran through all of the successes he and his self-professed "political revolution" had run up this year: the millions of votes he won, the reduction in superdelegates, the takeover of state parties by Sanders supporters.

Then came time for the pivot. Sanders tried to tell the crowd that now was the time to line up behind Hillary Clinton and her running mate, Timothy M. Kaine. Boos cascaded down. Shouts of "no!" And then a Sanders chant started up.

Sanders was at a loss. Here he was telling his most loyal supporters what needed to happen next in order to unify the party and beat Donald Trump. And they weren't listening. They wanted revolution. Now, not later.

What was clear for anyone watching Sanders's unsuccessful attempts to calm the churning among his supporters is that the revolution he started is no longer one he can totally control. Or maybe even control at all.
See, when you go around the country riling people up with talk that the system is so rotten that only a revolution can solve our problems, some of them will believe you. I think this scene is the best evidence yet that Bernie didn't really mean it. He doesn't want a revolution; his hero is FDR, who was very proud of having prevented a revolution. He wants a much more liberal government, but he wants to achieve that through elections; he has no notion at all of any other way to proceed, and would probably be shocked at the notion of attaining power any other way. Some of his supporters have decided that the elections are rigged, and they aren't interested in abiding by the results.

A Reformist Confronts Trump

These days Noah Millman writes for the American Conservative, even though he no longer considers himself a conservative. He says that the old left/right divide, and the two parties that equate to it, is simply not providing the answers we need. In other words, he likes to see himself as a critic of the American system in a very deep sense. But then along comes Trump:
And the other point is that Trump’s blustery, impetuous approach to these matters is prompting people like me, who should be arguing against the Washington consensus, instead to argue that it’s too risky to break with that consensus, at least in the Trumpian manner.

Little League Embezzlement

Fascinating series of stories in the Times about embezzlement from youth sports teams, which has become a big national problem. One prosecutor told the Times that she has been involved in so many such cases that she couldn't count them all.
A husband and wife were implicated in Michigan after a neighbor, an accountant whose sons played for the baseball league, joined the board and scrutinized the books, leading investigators to a case that uncovered $300,000 in missing money.

In Winslow, Me. (population 7,794), there were three theft charges against members of volunteer sports clubs in a four-year span, including one person who was charged with stealing from two clubs.

In Wisconsin, a self-described soccer mom confessed to another soccer mom about taking money from the local club, only to discover she was taking even more money.

A woman in Vermont was convicted of stealing from a fund established to honor a dead child who had been a club member.

The exposure of embezzlement leaves communities thunderstruck and wounded at the revelation of neighbors stealing from neighbors, friends cheating friends. The children of the accused are often best friends with the children of the accusers.
Times reporter Bill Penington got interested in these cases because someone embezzled money from his own kids' soccer team.

Two observations: First, as you can see from the Trump campaign and a thousand other such campaigns, we like to believe that we can trust our neighbors, at least the ones who look like us. Threats, we like to think, come from outsiders. But this is not so; unless you are involved in gangs or drug dealing, the person who murders you is overwhelmingly likely to be someone you know very well. If your house is burgled, the burglar probably lives within walking distance. And if there is embezzlement in your community, it will probably be committed by a neighbor trusted completely by everyone.

Second, the world is not divided into good people and bad people. All people are mixes of good and bad, and almost everyone will commit awful acts in the wrong circumstances. The reason youth sports teams have become such frequent targets of theft is that their simple organizations rely on trusting one or two people to do things right. Thefts like Karen Dimitrie's could almost all be prevented by simple annual audits, because people who know they are likely to be caught are much less likely to steal. But if you put $50,000 in the hands of people who have no oversight, many of them will start stealing.

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Meanwhile in Pokemon Land

My youngest son talked me into taking him on a Pokemon safari to Ellicott City, Maryland, a nice little historic downtown now full of restaurants, bars, and antique shops. Which has become the center of the Pokemon universe in this part of the world. The town has about ten Pokestops and on this summer Sunday lures had been planted around most of them, so the whole town was full of Pokemon. On a 97-degree afternoon, there were at least a hundred people walking back and forth along Main Street, their phones held out in front of them. Except for the toddler on that guy's hip, all of these people are playing Pokemon Go.

And these. To this must be added dozens more people in restaurants, bars, and coffee shops; the ice cream shop Ben and I went into was half full of Pokemon players.  One of the two gyms in town – a gym is a place where players can play something like king of the mountain, knocking each other off the perch – is within range of a popular bar, and it changed hands every two or three minutes, I suppose because the bar was full of players. It was downright weird to be in such a throng of people all doing the same thing, their phones putting them in touch with a virtual world that is quite similar for everyone in town.

Etruscan Antiquities at the Villa Giulia, Rome

The Villa Giulia in Rome was built in 1551-1553 for Pope Julius III; the first architect was Giacomo Barozzi da Vignola, who was responsible for the facade.

However, the many porticoes and courtyards and so on were designed by others, including Giorgio Vasari.

These days the villa is the Museo Nazionale Etrusco, that is, the National Etruscan Museum. It houses an amazing array of Etruscan artifacts and Greek artifacts recovered from Etruscan tombs. This is the Apollo of Veii, a painted terracotta Etruscan statue of Apollo discovered in the Portonaccio sanctuary of ancient Veii. It dates from c. 510 - 500 BC. It was probably made by Vulca, the only Etruscan artist whose name is known.

The golden tablets of Pyrgi, which contain a bilingual inscription in Etruscan and Phoenician, one of the most important clues in the still incomplete decipherment of the Etruscan language.

The famous Sarcophagus of the Spouses.

The Chigi Vase, a Greek vessel with one of the best surviving depictions of early classical hoplites in battle.

The Euphronios Krater. This signed masterwork of the painter Euphronios was purchased by the Met in 1972, despite doubts as to whether the provenance produced for it was genuine. Then in 2006, during the trial of Italian antiquities dealer Giacomo Medici, evidence was introduced showing that the vessel was looted from an Etruscan tomb in 1971. So the Met sent it back to Italy in 2008, as part of a deal that included long-term loans to the Met of other objects. This scene shows the death of the hero Sarpedon; Hermes directs Death and Sleep in carrying away the body.

Out behind the villa is this remarkable little gem, the reconstruction of a small Etruscan temple. It was built in 1891 by Count Adolfo Cozza, who based the design on excavations made in the 19th century and on a description by the Roman writer Vitruvius.


View inside, showing that it is used as a sort of storage space for second-line artifacts. I encountered this many times in Greece; step around a corner at the back of the museum and you find a yard full of columns and other pieces of architectural sculpture, just sort of sitting there.

A Note to Young Journalists

If you think something is unprecedented, it’s probably not.

– Corey Robin

The Westbury Quilt

One of the most beloved pieces of Anglo-Australian folk art, the Westbury Quilt was embroidered by the Misses Hampson, two sisters living on a farm near Westbury, Tasmania between 1900 and 1903. It is now in the National Gallery of Art in Canberra.The file above is pretty big. Below, some details.