Archive for December, 2010

merry X-mas

Friday, December 24th, 2010

Advertisement in 1919 Christmas issue of Country Life.

You’ve come a long way baby, or so it would seem.

And on another note, has anyone noticed how Christmas cards have evolved recently? Almost every card we received this year have been those internet blank fill in the picture kind, that has the net effect of making them indistinguishable from run of the mill junk mail. I wonder how many cards have gone unnoticed in the routine daily junk mail shuffle into the re-cycle.

Like so much else the hand of art has gone missing from everyday life.

Some from the 20’s:

lisa hannigan, lillie

Thursday, December 23rd, 2010

don van vliet, captain beefheart, RIP

Saturday, December 18th, 2010

Sad news today about the death of another essential artist.

The Shiny Beast of Thought

illustration art in the 1920’s

Wednesday, December 15th, 2010

Thought I’d follow up on the 20’s posts with some period examples of the lowly peoples art of illustration. Never mind that the illustration is usually considered something beneath the crowning heights of fine art, in spite of the fact that illustration in the 20’s not only paralleled developments in fine art but anticipated beforehand, many of the ideas and did so in a fashion more easily accessible and understood by the masses of the population. Its no wonder that this era of illustration is now thought of as the golden age of illustration, between as it were, the full realization of photography and the demands of a new emerging modern consumer culture.

Enjoy these:

Cole Phillips, Girl Reading, 1925

Marjory Woodbury, McCallum Sik Hosery, 1920

Herbert Paus, Popular Science, 1929

Jorge Darradas, ABC Magazine, 1921

F.X. Leyendecker, Life Magazine, 1922

Unknown artist, Garden Magazine,1924

Unknown artist, Vanity Fair, 1925

Cole Phillips, Life magazine, 1929

Unknown artist, A new Way of Living, 1929

Jorge Darradas, ABC Magazine, 1921

Herbert Paus, Popular Science, 1929

Maxfield Parrish, Grand Canyon of the Colorado, 1927

Unknown artist, perfume advertisement, 1920’s

Leon Benigini, 1920’s

Unknown artist, Vogue Magazine, 1920

repost of carroll quigley’s evolution of civilizations – summary

Friday, December 10th, 2010

Here’s  a summary for those from MoA interested in Quigley’s theory – would love to hear any responses.

Quigley’s Evolution of Civilizations

I’ve finished reading the Carroll Quigley book The Evolution of Civilizations, and while there are a couple of presumptions that bother me, on the whole the book is really all its cracked up to be. In short, The Evolution of Civilizations is an amazing, solidly grounded empirical analysis of both the essential structure of society and civilization, and how they evolve through various predictable stages. This evolution is presented both as a structure composed of essential characteristics and is followed by four case studies of civilizations and how they illustrate the similarity in structure and evolution. There is much here that is useful/enlightening about Wester civilization in general but, particularly, how these observations may apply to contemporary American society. I will outline a short abstract of the important points by specific chapter:

#2 Man and Culture

The differential between animals and man is established through culture, which “intervenes” between man and the natural environment and instinctual drives. Human nature has a wide variety of potentialities and motivation to make these potentials “actual” – and so, human culture produces various “patterns” of beliefs, actions, and thought that are passed on as traditions. There are 6 divisions of human potentialities that account for all manner of material and spiritual human needs. These are :

1) Military

2)Political

3)Economic

4)Social

5)Religious

6)Intellectual

Culture is adaptive and integrative (but never fully integrated in the sense of being complete), trending the various potentialities into an interlocking unified, but perpetually changing system.

#3 Groups, Societies, Civilizations

Aggregates of persons can be divided into Collections, Groups, and Societies. Societies then, can be divided into either “Parasitic” or non(wealth)accumulating societies or “Producing” societies. The latter of which can evolve into Civilizations. Historically, there have been many more non-producing societies than producing ones, and fewer still the number of civilizations (with no more than two dozen in total).

#4 Historical Analysis

The 6 divisions of potentiality correspond to 6 degrees of human need:

1) the need for group security

2)the need to organize intewrpersonal power relationships

3)the need for material wealth

4)the need for human companionship

5)the need for psychological certainty

6)the need for understanding

To satisfy these needs, there comes into existence, on each level, organizations (or networks or “personal relationships) “Instruments” which are designed to address these needs with relative effectiveness. The essential problem here – and the central thesis of this book – is that these “Instruments” take on a life of their own, distinct from the original purpose, and evolve into an “Institution”. All social instruments trend toward becoming institutions, which accordingly is a “rule of history”. The institutionalization of the original instrument happens because #1) it takes on activities and purposes of its own that are different from the purposes for which it was intended, and as a consequence, an institution achieves its original purpose with decreasing effectiveness, because it s original purpose is subverted by its own needs become its own ends. #2) Because every institution is human, it is subject to the human weakness and ambitions of seeing from a self interested perspective – and away from the original intent that absorbs its time and energies. #3) And because the social conditions surrounding any such organization are constantly changing in the course of time, it makes it doubly hard to adapt to changing circumstances when its having trouble keeping the original intent in focus.

When instruments become institutions – “and they all do” – the declining effectiveness of the institution generates discontent with its performance. Which gives rise to what he calls a “tension of development” which in turn calls for three possible outcomes:

1)Reform, reorganization of the methods to return its effectiveness to instrument status.

2) Circumvention, where the institutions existing “vested interests” are left intact but is left impotent or largely ceremonial, while a new instrument is designed to perform its real function.

3)Reaction, where the institution fights back against reforms and wins, leaving those reliant upon its original intent, stuck with an ineffective institution for an indefinite period of time.

#5 Historical Change in Civilizations

The pattern of change within any civilization consists of 7 stages:

1) Mixture

2) Gestation

3) Expansion

4) Age of Conflict

5) Universal Empire

6) Decay

7) Invasion

resulting from the fact that that each civilization has an “Instrument of Expansion” that becomes an institution. The civilization rises when this organization is an instrument and declines as this organization becomes an institution.

An “Instrument of Expansion” is an organization that facilitates:

1)the incentive to invent new ways of doing things – invention

2) the accumulation of surplus wealth – savings

3) whereby the accumulated wealth is used either to utilize the new inventions and to invent more – investment

When the instrument of expansion becomes an institution (institutionalized) we get “tension of evolution”. The society as a whole has become adopted to expansion and the mass of people expect it and desire it. And when they don’t get it they become disappointed, restless, or bitter, because the society at large is often organized so that if it cannot expand it will collapse. While this true of all Civilizations it is especially true of late Western Civilization and particularly true of the United States – which at the time of writing, appeared to be in the stage 4 age of conflict, and threatening stage 5 universal empire – all of which are characterized by “growing class conflicts, declining democracy, dying science, decreasing inventiveness, growing irrationality, foreign entanglements, and sweeping religious movements”.

Not bad for a book written in 1961. In spite of the many dreadful epiphanies it conjures up.

Link #2 expansion

Link #3 overview

robert c. byrd “mining safety act” killed in the house

Friday, December 10th, 2010

Rallying the Miners, 1931, Herbert Paus.

h/t to grapefruit moon gallery

Just shy of a year after the West Virginia Massey mining disaster, house republicans have blocked a move by democrats to implement the Robert C. Byrd Mine Safety protection Act before the house turns republican early next year. George Miller (D) of California sought to pass the measure by bringing the measure up for a vote:

Current law on “patterns of violations” has so many loopholes that it invites delays and allows some coal mine operators to game the system.

Massey Energy’s Upper Big Branch mine was a perfect example of an operator repeatedly skirting the law and putting workers’ lives in the crosshairs.

The Upper Big Branch mine was subject to 515 violations and 54 withdrawal orders in 2009, more than any other mine in the country. Red flags were waving about this mine’s repeated unwarrantable failures.

And yet, because Massey indiscriminately appealed many of these violations, it evaded stronger sanctions that would have improved conditions and saved lives.

The bill sets clear and fair criteria to identify mines with significant safety problems and eliminate the incentives for mine owners that game the system.

Had this been in place, I believe the 29 miners who lost their lives at Upper Big Branch would be alive today.

Looks like it’s back to the future time again. And pretty soon that lovely and rare old painting celebrating the struggles of the past will look positively avant-garde. I think I’m already there.

Or, as a long lost friend of mine (John Baird) said back in the 70’s in creative euphony, “In the future people will have nostalgia for the future”. Which I suppose in retrospect, means nostalgia for a future.

moon of alabama

Wednesday, December 8th, 2010

Back in action……….so it would seem.

najaf over qum, the subliminal iraq strategy?

Thursday, December 2nd, 2010

Juan Cole has a guest post up today by al-Khoei, that’s pretty interesting in that it’s from the Wikileaks trove, and alludes to something I’ve always wondered about. Way back when, it came up on the old Moon of Alabama blog that buried in David Wurmser’s 1999 book Tyranny’s Ally: America’s Failure to defeat Saddam Hussein there was a passage that outlined a strategy of overthrowing Saddam that would have the duel purpose making Iraq an ally of the U.S. while at the same time destabilizing Iran. The idea was that the “quietist” (or uninvolved in government) clerical regime of Sistani in Najaf Iraq would displace the “activist” (dictating government policy) clerical regime in Iran because by comparison,  the people of Iran would would choose the more liberal Iraqi model. And further, this change of heart would also transfer ultimate clerical authority back to Najaf, which is the more historic seat of religious authority. Over the years I’ve brought this idea up numerous times on many different blogs (it’s been one of my pet peeves) seeing that Wurmser became Dick Cheney’s Middle East advisor prior to the run up to war, and that nothing ever alluded to by the Bush administration ever said anything about  exactly how, when a Shiite majority took power in Iraq, that they could be prevented from sliding completely into the Iranian model of governance – and no, I never got anything close to an answer as to if this might be a subliminal overall strategy the U.S. had embraced but never acknowledged.

Anyhow, heres a part of the al-Khoei piece that leads exactly in this direction:

In one of the leaked memos from the US Embassy in Baghdad, diplomats acknowledge that the 80 year-old Grand Ayatollah Sistani is Iran’s “greatest political roadblock” in Iraq. Sistani, who is living in a rented home in a narrow street in Najaf, is more of a bulwark against Iranian interests in Iraq than the military prowess of the Americans. Why? Simply because he does not believe in the system of governance in Iran that is the theological corner stone of both their constitution and zealous expansionist ideology.

Sistani is mentioned in 2 out of 4 leaked memos from the US embassy in Baghdad and his de facto status in Iraq as the most powerful man in the country will likely make him a recurring feature in the 15,000+ memos on Iraq that are to be gradually leaked to the public.

All I can say is. How Long Has This Been Going On?