Month: March 2015

How ‘You Do You’ Perfectly Captures Our Narcissistic Culture

“How ‘You Do You’ Perfectly Captures Our Narcissistic Culture”

by Colson Whitehead via “New York Times

 

You will recall the fable of the Scorpion and the Frog. The Scorpion needs a ride across the river. The waters are rising on account of climate change, or perhaps he has been priced out of his burrow, who knows? The exact reason is lost in the fog of pre-­modernity. The Frog is afraid that the Scorpion will sting him, but his would-­be passenger reassures him that they would both die if that happened. That would be crazy. Sure enough, halfway across, the Scorpion stings the Frog. Just before they drown, the Scorpion says, “Aren’t you going ask why I did that?” And the Frog croaks, “You do you.”

We don’t all partake of the same slang menu — you say “pop,” I say “soda,” and we’ll all get properly sorted on Judgment Day. Wherever you hail from, you’ll recognize “You do you” and “Do you” as contemporary versions of that life-­affirming chestnut “Just be yourself.” It’s the gift of encouragement from one person to another, what we tell children on the first day of kindergarten, how we reassure buddies as they primp for a blind date or rehearse asking for a raise. You do you, as if we could be anyone else. Depending on your essential qualities, this song of oneself is cause for joy or tragedy.

You’ve also come across that expression’s siblings, like the defensive, arms-­crossed “Haters gonna hate” or the perpetually shrugging “It is what it is.” Like black holes, they are inviolable. All criticism is destroyed when it hits the horizon of their circular logic, and not even light can escape their immense gravity. In a world where the selfie has become our dominant art form, tautological phrases like “You do you” and its tribe provide a philosophical scaffolding for our ever-­evolving, ever more complicated narcissism.

William Safire, writing in these pages in 2006, coined a word for these self-­justifying constructions: “tautophrases.” This was in the midst of his investigation into the ubiquity of “It is what it is,” as evidenced in its use by cultural specimens as disparate as Britney Spears and Scott McClellan, a press secretary for President George W. Bush. (Pause to reminisce.) Whether the subject is an imperfect situation to be endured (“The new coffee in the break room is the pits”) or an existential conundrum (“My body is a bunch of atoms working in brief harmony before death returns them to the universe”), “It is what it is” effectively ends the discussion so that we can stop, nod in solemn agreement and move on.

According to Safire, “It is what it is” has many tautophrasal relatives and ancestors. “What’s done is done,” “What will be will be.” The striking thing about his examples is how many of them preserve and burnish the established order. When God informs Moses, “I am that I am,” he is telling the prophet, “Look, get off my back, I’m God.” I’ve never argued with a bush, burning or otherwise, but I imagine they’re quite persuasive. “Boys will be boys” and “A man’s gotta do what a man’s gotta do” excuse mischief and usually worse, reinforcing the dominant masculine code. It’s doubtful that “I just discovered penicillin!” or “Publishing Willa Cather’s ‘My Antonia’ was the most satisfying moment of my career” elicited a gruff “A man’s gotta do what a man’s gotta do,” but perhaps I am cynical. Popeye’s “I yam what I yam,” however, remains what it has always been — the pathetic ravings of a man who claims superstrength, when it is obvious to everyone else in the room that spinach merely ameliorates the symptoms of an undiagnosed vitamin deficiency. A scurvy dog, indeed.

While the word “tautophrase” didn’t take off, the phenomenon it described blossomed, abetted by hip-­hop. Sure, philosophical resignation has been a part of the music as far back as 1984, when Run-­D.M.C. reeled off a litany of misfortune — “Unemployment at a record high/People coming, people going, people born to die” — and underscored it with a weary, “It’s like that/and that’s the way it is.” But grandiosity, narcissism and artful braggadocio have also been integral to hip-­hop from the start, whether they were the fruit of a supercharged sense of self or a coping mechanism for a deleterious urban environment. As with everything interesting in black culture, hip-­hop’s swaggering tautophrases have been digested and regurgitated by the mainstream. Last year, Taylor Swift somewhat boringly testified that not only are “Haters gonna hate,” they’re gonna “hate hate hate” exponentially, presumably in direct proportion to her lack of culpability. Instead of serving the establishment (monotheism, patriarchal energies), the modern tautophrase empowers the individual. Regardless of how shallow that individual is.

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“Are these the remains of a two-million-year-old playground? Stones found at Chinese site could be toys used by man’s early relatives, say scientists”

The problem of Modern archaeology. The item is either a gift fro a mother that shows the loves caringly placed into making it or random stone fragments. We’re not really sure. **EB

“Are these the remains of a two-million-year-old playground? Stones found at Chinese site could be toys used by man’s early relatives, say scientists”

by Julian Robinson via “Daily Mail

Scientists believe they may have uncovered evidence of a two-million-year-old playground in China.

Researchers found more than 700 stone artefacts in an area of less than six square metres in the Nihewan Basin, Hebei province.

Experts working at the Heitugou site have suggested the items were toys made by early hominids between 1.77million and 1.95million years ago.

Discovery: Scientists believe they may have uncovered evidence of a two-million-year-old playground in China (file picture)

Discovery: Scientists believe they may have uncovered evidence of a two-million-year-old playground in China (file picture)

The leader of the project, paleoanthropologist Wei Qi, has described the discovery as ‘amazing’.

The South China Morning Post quotes the Chinese Academy of Sciences expert as saying: ‘The site is a treasure chamber that may hold some useful clues to answer a lot of important questions, from the social structure of the early hominids to whether, when and how they arrived in Asia all the way from Africa.’

Close to 20,000 fragmented pieces but larger items – the majority between 20 and 50mm long – are believed to have been made by women and children.

Wei said one ‘finely made and beautifully shaped’ item was possibly a gift made by a mother for her child adding that ‘you can almost feel the maker’s love and passion’.

Researchers said the lack of evidence of animal remains and large stone tools added weight to the argument that the area was used by children rather than adults.

Scientists dated the site, discovered in 2002, using a special geochronological tool.

Researchers found more than 700 stone artefacts in an area of less than six square metres in the Nihewan Basin (pictured), Hebei province

Researchers found more than 700 stone artefacts in an area of less than six square metres in the Nihewan Basin (pictured), Hebei province

The items have been excavated and documented with the findings due to be published in an archaeological journal in China.

Nihewan Basin used to be a huge lake and it is thought the items were buried in a sudden landslide.

However, a debate has surfaced over the findings and researcher Gao Xing of the CAS Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology said it was important to determine whether the artefacts were all hand made.

The South China Morning Post report him as saying: ‘It is difficult to rule out the possibility that they were just stone fragments created by natural forces.

‘To determine whether they were hand-made artefacts may go beyond the limit of science today.’

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Italian millionaire sues Christie’s over record-breaking $40m sale of his father’s ‘stolen’ pink Princie Diamond he claims the auction house had no right to sell

“Italian millionaire sues Christie’s over record-breaking $40m sale of his father’s ‘stolen’ pink Princie Diamond he claims the auction house had no right to sell”

by Pete D’Amato

A rare pink diamond that surfaced in 2013 to fetch $40million at auction has fueled a feud among relatives of a late Italian senator as his son claims the stone was stolen by a backstabbing step-sibling.

Amedeo Angiolillo, who currently lives in New York, filed suit against Christie’s on Friday, alleging the auction house had sold off the 300-year-old, 34.65-carat Indian diamond to an anonymous buyer on behalf of someone other than its rightful owner.

Named the Princie Diamond, the pink gem ‘is one the rarest, perhaps most famous and illustrious pink diamonds in the world,’ according to the complaint filed in Manhattan supreme court.

Rare: The Princie Diamond that surfaced in 2013 to fetch $40million at auction has fueled a feud among relatives of a late Italian senator as his son claims the stone was stolen by a backstabbing step-sibling

Rare: The Princie Diamond that surfaced in 2013 to fetch $40million at auction has fueled a feud among relatives of a late Italian senator as his son claims the stone was stolen by a backstabbing step-sibling

According to Christie’s website, the diamond received the name after being purchased at auction by jewelers Van Cleef & Arpels, who named it in honor of the 14-year-old Prince of Baroda, son of Maharani Sita Devi.

The gem had been passed down through generations of Indian rulers before landing in the possession of Mir Osman Ali Khan of Hyderabad, who eventually sold it through Southeby’s.

The jewel came into Angiolillo’s family’s possession when his father, Renato Angiolillo, the founder of Italian newspaper Il Tempo, purchased the stone in 1961, the New York Post reports.

Having just wed his second wife, Maria Girani, Renato made a gift of the diamond – one that carried a caveat.

Renato’s new bride would ‘not have unfettered access to’ her husband’s collection of precious stones, according to the complaint.

The arrangement would last up until the newspaper magnate’s death in 1973, when Amedeo cut a deal with his step-mother that allowed her to continue wearing the diamond, the lawsuit states.

Prized possession: The jewel came into Angiolillo's family's possession when Renato Angiolillo (pictured), the founder of Italian newspaper Il Tempo, purchased the stone in 1961

Prized possession: The jewel came into Angiolillo’s family’s possession when Renato Angiolillo (pictured), the founder of Italian newspaper Il Tempo, purchased the stone in 1961

High society: Renato Angiolillo (right) had a taste for precious stones, and was reported to have bought the diamond in Paris after losing big at the Monte Carlo casino

High society: Renato Angiolillo (right) had a taste for precious stones, and was reported to have bought the diamond in Paris after losing big at the Monte Carlo casino

The younger Angiolillo agreed to let Girani hold onto the diamond ‘because she was quite active and influential in Italian politics and sponsored political, social and business meetings at her home,’ a gift Renato bequeathed her in his will.

‘Girani had a good relationship with her husband’s children and grandchildren, confirming on several occasions that the gems in her possession, including the Princie Diamond, belonged to them by inheritance, and that they would be returned to them after her death,’ according to documents filed.

Yet when Girani, too, passed away in 2009 and her husband’s heirs came looking for the precious stone, they say it wasn’t among her belongings.

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Your Opinion

To My Artistic Readers, what do you think? Is this true?  I’m not so sure. . . 

“No great art has ever been made without the artist having known danger.”

**Rainer Maria Rilke

Coming Exhibition: Inventing Impressionism

“Inventing Impressionism”

Who:  National Gallery (London)

When: Mar. 4, 2015 – May. 31, 2015 (View Hours Here)

Where: 

National Gallery
Trafalgar Square
London, UK

How Much:  (View Pricing Here)

More Information: Here

“So universally popular are the Impressionists today, it’s hard to imagine a time when they weren’t. But in the early 1870s they struggled to be accepted. Shunned by the art establishment, they were even lambasted as ‘lunatics’ by one critic.

One man, however, recognised their worth from the beginning. Paul Durand-Ruel, an entrepreneurial art dealer from Paris, discovered this group of young artists – including Monet, Degas, Manet, Renoir, Pissarro and Sisley – and gambled.

Realising the fashionable potential of their derided ‘impressions’ of urban and suburban life, Durand-Ruel dedicated the rest of his life to building an audience for their work – creating the modern art market in the process.

Such was his perseverance, Durand-Ruel nearly bankrupted himself twice, before successfully globalising his operation with outposts in London, Brussels and New York, and establishing the one-man show as the international norm for exhibitions.

The ‘Impressionists’ – a term first used derogatively by critics – was to become the household name that stands today.

‘Inventing Impressionism’ features 85 masterpieces from the movement, all but one having passed through Durand-Ruel’s hands, including three of Renoir’s famous ‘Dances’ and five from Monet’s ‘Poplars’ series.