Here’s a very nice article on detecting fakes in collections of pre-Columbian art — thinking about tooling, close comparison with authetic objects (with perfect provenance), and (of course) photographs. Didn’t Bernard Berenson say “the one with the largest collection of photographs wins” or some such?

Posted in Art

Happy Easter, I think.

Sorry to whine, but my parochial loyalty meant that I subjected myself to a Dan Schutte/Suzanne Toolan songfest; there were tambourines. I had to read the Exsultet to myself (Schutte used much of the text but arbitrarily rearranged it) and then look up a sound file on Sunday. I’m really not particularly musical, but the Exsultet is a great, great thing, in English or Latin I found this version via, of all places, – Adriana Cronin likes it, too.
This is two years in a row for the particular musical selections we had at the Vigil. I think that next year I may call around and find a parish singing something less objectionable.
There was one utterly odd and unrubrical experience – rather than asperging the congregation with the newly blessed water between the baptisms and the confirmations we were invited to come forward and “bless ourselves with the water.” This, of course, took even longer than the communion; there was only one basin of water (well, plastic punch bowl, I think) in the front center. Without extraordinary ministers of the renewal of our baptism it took a LONG time. I think that innovations which make the Easter Vigil slower than it already is are not a good thing. Maybe someone thought it would give us a chance to stretch and move around in the middle of things?

Speaking of Proofreading . . .

I commented about spelling a few days ago – the forth/fourth error is one I see occasionally – but seldom expect to see on the printed cover of a manual for FOURTH grade math teachers. The deputy chancellor for teaching and learning blames staff mistakes, the president of the United Federation of Teachers blames the evils of top-down administration (sharing and group work, of course, solves all errors). I blame poor reading skills and innumeracy. It only takes one person to proofread.

Cataloguing Woes

It may surprise some readers to know how much in museum and library storage rooms sits there uncatalogued. The New York Times has an article online about a grant for cataloguing the costume collection at the Brooklyn Museum. Much of the collection has never been photographed or described in detail.
It’s an exaggeration (a pardonable one, perhaps) when museum folks say things like “we have no idea what’s in storage.” Long-time employees usually do have some idea, but often only an idea. A rigorous and thorough cataloguing always turns up things no one had ever noticed that have been sitting on a shelf for 30 years. Conservation also turns up surprises when people look very, very closely at objects and realize they have been misidentified all along.

‘Tis the Season to be Effusive

Yes, it’s recommendation time for jobs. I’ve already gone through a few rounds of recommendations for graduate schools, and now we have the recommendation requests coming in for folks who’ve been out a year or two. Luckily I am kind of cranky, and the students who ask for recommendations in the first place are pretty good. Then, of course, I explain that I keep them on disk and all they have to do until they can ask several former employers for letters and don’t need me any more (*sob*sob*) all they need to do is email me and I can revise a paragraph or two and drop the new and improved letter in the mail. The fun part is that I demand an updated resume, so it’s an illuminating way to keep up with them.

Spelling Woes

This is an absolutely fascinating article about spelling and brain science from the Washington Post; it’s the kind of article that makes me marginally more sympathetic about my students — though why they can’t seek out proofreaders I don’t know. Steve Hendrix, a career journalist, can’t spell to save his life. A lifelong friend of mine – one of the best-educated people I know – is in exactly this position, too. Of course, he’s left-handed, to boot, and we all know about those people.
Hendrix does seem to think that spelling education as practiced in his daughter’s school is better than it was in his day, but is afraid that it’s too late for him.
I came across this via Chris Nolan, who says she can’t spell either.

Wireless Living

Gosh, an Airport Express is a good thing – I’m sitting here reading blogs and playing DJ – currently playing, from the Girls in Trouble playlist, “Is you is or is you ain’t my baby,” Dinah Washington, the VerveRemixed version. Next, I think, “No me llores más,” Omara Portundo. Anyone know how to do a hard link to the Apple iTunes music store? Hmmm – “Sunbeam,” by Submarine after that . . . .

Yeah, yeah, “Stranger than Fiction”

People, that is. Here’s a New York Times article about people who WANT to have limbs amputated. The article talks about the attempts of psychiatrists to come up with a good name for the situation and the pros and cons of getting it included in the D.S.M. The main doctor interviewed compares this to gender identity disorder — and the rationalization of a Scottish surgeon who is “helping” people with the problem sounds analogous to early surgical sex changes:

“The Hippocratic oath says first do your patients no harm,” he said in the film “Whole.” But maybe the real harm, he said, is to refuse to treat such a patient, “leaving him in a state of permanent mental torment,” when all it would take for him “to live a satisfied and happy life” would be to amputate.

The Columbia university psychiatrist, after all, suggests that the surgery doesn’t cure the underlying problem. He doesn’t seem to have proved that it doesn’t, but nothing the surgeon says suggests that he has anything other than anecdotal amputation satisfaction to prove his point.
Oh, well. It’ll be a while before insurance covers this one, I think.

The Long Road to Islamic Liberalization

Amina Wadud has set off another firestorm – she led Friday prayers in a mixed-sex assembly. Note that she had to do so “at the heavily-guarded Synod House at the Episcopal Cathedral of St. John the Divine in Manhattan, after several mosques refused to host it.”
Prof. Wadud spoke at these Colleges a couple of years ago on the subject of her book Qur’an and Woman: Rereading the Sacred Text from a Woman’s Perspective.
If today’s event is any indication, change is going to be very, very slow. It’s worth following the links from the first link above to see some reaction.