Charlotte Airport Blogging

Well, I have an hour and a half before I even need to get to the gate, so I’m going to eat Mexican food, drink a Dos Equis, and prepare myself for 3 months away. A cheeseburger is also a good bet – Europeans just have NO idea.
Free wireless makes it all easier to deal with!

Why close the museum? To sell the art!

More on Brandeis from Felix Salmon at Portfolio, who found out about the bizarro valuation at $1 for each piece of art!

Clearly, Brandeis has come to the conclusion that by shutting down the museum, it can ignore all rules pertaining to deaccessioning, and worry only about the strings attached by donors to individual artworks.
Nathan also said something else which was extremely interesting to me: apparently all of the Rose Art Museum’s artworks are considered to be assets of the university endowment, valued at $1 each. All the proceeds from the sale of any artwork, then, is automatically a desperately-needed capital gain for the endowment.
[my emphasis]

This is one of the most underhanded financial twists I’ve seen a university do in a long time! Because they value each asset at $1, every actual sale will be a capital gain! Yay! Whoever thought that one up deserves a bonus – a big bonus! Maybe even a John Thain-style office makeover.
Earlier blogging on Brandeis.

Studies show . . . or maybe not

American college freshmen know fewer facts about science than do their Chinese counterparts, according to a new study, but both groups have a comparably poor ability to reason scientifically.

In other words, the Americans tested were bone ignorant and the Chinese at least knew some facts. A lot of facts, if you trust the test scores. I think I’d rather teach a class of freshmen to reason who knew things than to teach a class who knew nothing both facts and how to reason – but maybe that’s just me. Now this sounds likely:

Lei Bao, the study’s lead author and director of Ohio State University’s Physics Education Research Group, said this runs contrary to the commonly held belief that reasoning skills develop as students are “rigorously taught the facts.”

O.K. – reasoning skills do not come automatically with learning facts. But unless you can show that teaching the Chinese students lots of facts made it harder to later teach them scientific reasoning I’m not sure this study proves that Chinese secondary science education is anything like as bad as that in America, which that first paragraph suggests. Go look at the comparative scores!

So is it a masterpiece by Goya, a masterpiece by another hand, or have you changed your opinion of the painting entirely?

I think that’s the question I would like to use to survey the specialists about The Colossus, which may or may not be a Goya.
You see, I specialize in a period without names – and medievalists see the problems created by the idolization of genius artists very clearly. Plenty of folks who specialize in fields with better attributions to individuals, from Chinese scroll paintings to the present, see the problem, but let’s face it – lots of people don’t see or won’t admit a problem.
The questions: If the label changes to The Colossus, Asensio Juliá, will as many editors include the work in textbooks? Will the Prado keep it out all the time? Does your opinion of Goya change, or your opinion of the painting?
Here’s an example of the Genius Artist approach in the Times Online:

Nigel Glendinning, a British art historian, doubted that anyone but Goya could have painted the work. He told the Spanish newspaper ABC: “I never said it would be impossible that [someone else] might have intervened in the work of Goya, but the painting is too audacious to be by Asensio Juliá, because of the centrifugal strength of the composition and its iconic power. I hope to be able to see the study and the proofs.”

Well, maybe he’s been overestimating Goya or underestimating Juliá all these years – given that his own apprehension of iconic power depends on his belief that this painting is by Goya, even though he’s dressing it up with some formalist language (composition). One of the great founders of formalist analysis of art, Heinrich Wölflin, called for an art history without names and never got it. Will Glendinning’s opinion of Goya change, or his opinion of the painting change? What he’s saying is that it’s a masterpiece and therefore it must have been created by a certified genius. Goya. We’ll see. But the medievalists are in the corner, nudging each other and laughing quietly.

Well, at least Samantha Power wasn’t a lobbyist.

She wasn’t, was she?
But still! Obama, who fired her for being exceptionally rude to Hillary Clinton has hired her to work with Hillary Clinton. In fact, it will require her to work between Obama and Clinton, won’t it? She’ll be giving him advice on the foreign policy that Clinton is conducting?

Power will be the NSC’s [National Security Council’s] senior director for multilateral affairs, a job that will require her to work with the state department, headed by Clinton.
The appointment is expected to be announced shortly, said the aide, who requested anonymity.
Power, a foreign policy adviser to Obama during his primary race against Clinton, drew fire when she told the Scotsman newspaper in an interview that the then-New York senator’s campaign would do anything to try to win the Democratic presidential nomination.
“It looks like desperation,” the newspaper cited her as saying. “She is a monster, too — that is off the record — she is stooping to anything,” Power said, according to the paper.
On March 7, Power issued a statement saying that her comment was “inexcusable” and resigned. She said her remarks were “at marked variance from my oft-stated admiration for Senator Clinton and from the spirit, tenor and purpose of the Obama campaign.”

But unless she’s been a registered lobbyist for a foreign government she won’t need a waiver.

Brandeis museum situation

Clearly the Brandeis board has been considering art as an investment all these years, and thinking of gifts of art just like gifts to the endowment. When I first heard the talk about shutting down the museum and selling its contents I thought this was a scare tactic to force some major gifts out of the art folks – you know, “we have a $10 million deficit this year – give us $7.5 million or we’ll sell the collection.”
Now I’m not so sure. In today’s story in the Boston Globe we read:

Among those joining the chorus of outrage yesterday was Lois Foster, the widow of a former Brandeis trustee, for whom a new museum wing is named.
In an interview, Foster said university trustees raised the idea of closing the Rose a decade ago, recognizing the potential millions that could be raised by selling off a collection that includes works by Warhol, Lichtenstein, and de Kooning.
Her late husband, Henry, “talked for hours to get them to change their minds, and they did,” Lois Foster recalled yesterday.
Eventually, the Fosters gave more than $5 million to the school for the museum’s Lois Foster Wing, which opened in 2001.

At least according to Mrs. Foster they did use the scare tactic technique on her husband a decade ago – but now they seem to be in earnest about selling.

So WHERE is the SSPX in America? How many masses do they say they say?

I’ve blogged in the past about the coffee problem chez Tinkler. Well, this morning my parents are off to a doctor’s appointment leaving me with ALL the coffee in the second pot! Bwah hah hah!
In my caffeine induced state of well-being, I got to thinking about the SSPX in America. I had never actually looked to see in detail what they say they are doing and where they say they are. So I checked here – on their own Chapels of the SSPX in the USA page. Since they want to maximize attendance we have to assume that this is a regularly updated list – and at the bottom of the page we see 2009.
I did some counting and find:
97 places with Mass scheduled at least once a month
16 places with priories or priests’ residences
3 places with daily and Sunday masses but no listed priory or residence
50 places with Sunday Masses (and perhaps another day or two). I didn’t see any places with weekly Masses where there wasn’t a Sunday Mass – but I may well have missed some.
I put my list into the extended entry. Click on the “continue reading” link at the bottom if you’re interested.
This information is interesting in case of a corporate reunion with the Roman Catholic Church – there will be a lot of complications over what Cardinal Ricard described as “the integration of the juridical structure of the Fraternity of St. Pius X in the Church.” In other words, if and when there were to be a entry into full communion, under what circumstances will they be allowed by local bishops to work in a particular diocese.
That will be a difficult process.
Though I pray everything will go smoothly, I won’t be surprised if some priests and even whole congregations refuse to go along.
Compare the 16 priories and 3 places with daily Mass with this map I did back in the Fall (and haven’t updated since November – has anything changed lately?) of the residences of priests (etc, etc) who say Mass in the Extraordinary Form. That is to say, most (if not all) of these places also have daily Mass according to the books in use in 1962. Looks to me as though there are more of them than there are of the SSPX.
All of this is based on self-reporting, but there you go. I’m an amateur.

Continue reading

I hate packing

Someone pointed out to me that I haven’t really blogged about what I’m doing this spring.
My idea of a fun sabbatical is 2 months of intensive German. So I’m off to Freiburg, Germany, for a Goethe Institut. I have reservations to come back in late April, but we’ll see how the money holds out for some time in Italy after the German course. I’m thinking that I might finally get a week in Istanbul this trip!
Meanwhile, I got 90 days worth of asthma, sinus, and blood pressure meds today. I’m doing things like staring at my suitcases, wishing they would fill themselves without my intervention. Friday is going to be the usual mess of me wandering around cussing and wondering why I get myself into this kind of situation – why don’t I just stay home with my hands folded and think deep thoughts quietly? Why did I have to become an art historian, whose life always involves running to LOOK at things? Why didn’t I stick to literature!
But that will pass. I love being places – I just hate getting there. Especially by contemporary air travel. And deciding how many pairs of shoes I can take. The preliminary answer this year? Wear one, pack two, and buy boots or something snow-proof in Germany if it turns out I really need them. My stout walking shoes may be enough, if they shovel diligently. But things are going to Hell all over, and maybe German street cleaning will show that.

Bishop Williamson – what WAS he saying?

I’ve read a lot of different stuff about the Society of St Pius X situation this week and last – though I’ve been reading about Bishop Williamson for several years.
Is he an antisemite? I’ve read a lot of commenters on Catholic blogs saying that Williamson is not a Holocaust Denier because he does at least agree that some hundreds of thousands of Jews died in concentration camps. I’m of the opinion that that kind of statement is denial of the reality of the Holocaust and what the Nazis were about. However, it’s worse than that. One can argue that anti-Zionism or Holocaust minimization is not antisemitism, but I don’t think anyone can argue about the antisemitism here, in an excerpt from Bishop Williamson’s letter of September 1, 2002.

By lies, Judeo-Masonry brought about the first two World Wars. To get Americans to enter the First World War, President Woodrow Wilson told them that it would be the “war to end all wars.” In fact, WWI established the Masonic League of Nations in Geneva and the Communist Revolution in Russia, and crushed numerous Christian monarchies, in particular the Catholic Austro-Hungarian Empire. And the Masonic Treaty of Versailles ending WWI deliberately paved the way for WWII, of which President F.D. Roosevelt promised it would “make the world safe for democracy.” In fact, WWII established the Masonic United Nations, hugely promoted socialism in the USA and in the Western “democracies,” and crushed the Eastern “democracies” under Communism.
By lies, Judeo-Masonry is preparing for the Third World War. As the Depression of the 1930’s necessitated WWII, triggered for the US by the supposed treachery of the Japanese at Pearl Harbor, so we see all the conditions created for another much worse Depression in the US, with the supposed treachery of Arabs last year against the Twin Towers in New York already igniting American public opinion to go to war against Afghanistan and now Iraq. And as we now in 2002 know with certainty that our governments and media told us far from the complete truth in 1941 as to who was truly responsible for the attack on Pearl Harbor, so we will eventually know that those truly responsible for the attack on the Twin Towers were certainly not those primarily held up as being responsible by our governments and media.

Feel free to say that all this is just produced by a hatred of Modernity or Modernism (the latter being defined as a specific error in Catholicism). I can’t see it. Anyone who blames World War I and World War II on Judeo-Masonry and sees a coming World War III to lay at the same feet is an antisemite.
And this man was in charge of training English language seminarians for the SSPX for how long? And for the last few years running a seminary in Argentina?
The most interesting commentary by someone who knows Williamson, a former student, is here at The Sensible Bond, commenting on the recent video from Swedish TV:

The second thing which strikes me about his remarks is that when he quotes revisionists, he follows the Thomistic principle ‘not to heed who says a thing but heed what it is they say.’ Now, we really are in the thicket. This principle, forged by St Thomas as a means of students’ developing their theological arguments, is thought sufficient by BW+ as a principle of historical research. Bad idea. The principle more appropriate here is: ask not what they say but why they say it. It is a principle he seems able to apply to the liberals but – proof again of his anti-modern passion – not to those who attack the liberals. Did nobody ever teach him that the enemy of my enemy is not necessarily my friend?

I find that helpful for understanding how a man lots of folks assure us in intelligent could go wrong; Thomism (and the dialectical method in general) is not an adequate resource for practicing history. However, that’s not enough to explain the “Judaeo-Masonry” as anything other than Jew-hatred. I’m glad his superior in the SSPX now says “For this reason I have prohibited him, pending any new orders, from taking any public positions on political or historical questions.” I hope it works.
Actually, I hope Bishop Williamson goes off in a huff into honest schism. I prefer that he not be associated with the Roman Catholic Church in any way.

Culinary Racism or Really Strict Historical Zoning?

The City of Lucca (my pictures from last year here) is banning foreign food (including American fast food!). Is this culinary racism, as Bloomberg reports? An extreme example of historical preservation zoning? Tuscan bigotry on the march? (As someone whose interest in Italy is profoundly un-Florentine, I reach for the last almost too readily – rolling my eyes and sighing “Tuscany” in a tone of voice very different from all those people who want to live in Chiantishire.)

Lucca’s municipal council ruled yesterday that “with a view to safeguarding culinary traditions and the authenticity of structure, architecture, culture and history, establishments whose activities can be tracked to different ethnicities won’t be allowed to operate.” Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi’s People of Liberty party controls the town council.
The architects of the ban say it applies to fast-food outlets, which includes not just kebab stalls, but also pizza stands, and the aim is to highlight the local cuisine based on beans, rabbit and salt cod. A spokeswoman confirmed the new rule — an update to a 2000 ordinance — and said it applies only to the area within the town’s fortified medieval walls inhabited by 8,000 residents.

Here’s a google view of the city – the walls are obvious.
It sounds to me like slow food meets historical preservation – two fundamentalisms whose union may not be all that helpful! But if you want a kebab in Lucca, you’ll have to stop between the train station and the old walls. I recommend the trip if you’re in Pisa or Florence. Here are my posts from last year about the city.