there is a huge difference between fighting for an idea and fighting for a nickel.

I had been listening to “The Power of Myth” on my phone and an excerpt from the Martin Luther King speech came on, it is a powerful speech and I went to you tube to look for a longer version of it.

Here is the most famous bit of it:

After the video ended I let youtube go on autopilot and next came on the next video. When at first glance these videos may have something in common – they actually cannot be any more different. One is the about the power of an idea, the kind of dough humanity keeps for great holidays. And there is the fight for the nickel, the daily grind. In the daily grind the pursuit of the stockbroker, the street sweeper are the same, the head is down and the clock is ticking.

 

And here is another take on pursuit, the relentless pursuit of a goal, brought to you by Arnold:

Carl Sagan – Pale Blue Dot

Pale Blue Dot by Carl Sagan:

“Look again at that dot. That’s here. That’s home. That’s us. On it everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever was, lived out their lives. The aggregate of our joy and suffering, thousands of confident religions, ideologies, and economic doctrines, every hunter and forager, every hero and coward, every creator and destroyer of civilization, every king and peasant, every young couple in love, every mother and father, hopeful child, inventor and explorer, every teacher of morals, every corrupt politician, every “superstar,” every “supreme leader,” every saint and sinner in the history of our species lived there  – on a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam.

The Earth is a very small stage in a vast cosmic arena. Think of the endless cruelties visited by the inhabitants of one corner of this pixel on the scarcely distinguishable inhabitants of some other corner, how frequent their misunderstandings, how eager they are to kill one another, how fervent their hatreds. Think of the rivers of blood spilled by all those generals and emperors so that, in glory and triumph, they could become the momentary masters of a fraction of a dot.

Our posturings, our imagined self-importance, the delusion that we have some privileged position in the Universe, are challenged by this point of pale light. Our planet is a lonely speck in the great enveloping cosmic dark. In our obscurity, in all this vastness, there is no hint that help will come from elsewhere to save us from ourselves.

The Earth is the only world known so far to harbor life. There is nowhere else, at least in the near future, to which our species could migrate. Visit, yes. Settle, not yet. Like it or not, for the moment the Earth is where we make our stand.

It has been said that astronomy is a humbling and character-building experience. There is perhaps no better demonstration of the folly of human conceits than this distant image of our tiny world. To me, it underscores our responsibility to deal more kindly with one another, and to preserve and cherish the pale blue dot, the only home we’ve ever known.”
― Carl Sagan, Pale Blue Dot: A Vision of the Human Future in Space

The pale Blue dot as imaged by Voyager:

The Pale Blue dot as imaged by Voyager

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Narrated y Carl Sagan on youtube:

BBC animations on the History of Ideas

A History of Ideas is a BBC Radio 4 program of the same name.  BBC created animated shorts illustrating different ideas from the history of thought and narrated by Gillian Anderson.  Wondering about questions like “Why are things beautiful?” – philosophers and thinkers have already been wondering the same thing, for couple of millennia.

Here are some of my favorite animations from their collection. I have transcribed the first one but when i get a chance i will do the others as well.

Diotima’s Ladder

“In Plato’s dialog the Symposium Socrates recalls Diotama’s teaching that a desire for one beautiful man’s body is just the first rung in a ladder that leads up to the appreciation of the form of Beauty. And so is merely a means to the higher end of appreciating the Abstract Idea.

This is Diotama’s teaching. To learn about beauty first recognize the physical beauty of your desired lover. Then, if you are rational, you’ll appreciate not just the individual loved one’s beauty, but also the physical beauty of others too. It would be absurd to only see beauty in one individual since bodies are so similar. From this the next step up the ladder is to see the beauty that lies beyond appearances. The beauty in wisdom and knowledge, the beauty of beautiful minds even if they happen to dwell in bodies which aren’t particularly beautiful. The last step is to come to recognize the form of beauty itself, the Abstract Pure general notion of Beauty. This form of beauty also carries with it moral qualities of Goodness. So if you take the first step of falling for the body of a beautiful youth, Diotima thinks you can progress from this to a more cerebral appreciation of Universal Beauty. Lust is on the bottom rung of the ladder and morality at the top. If you are prepared to make the ascent.”

Feminine Beauty: A social construct?

Edmund Burke on the sublime

A link to the whole collection on the BBC website: http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/articles/3vVjcY47k2p5Wsnj3ZFHV5W/a-history-of-ideas

The Relativity of Wrong by Isaac Asimov, or, nitpicking on Socrates

My brain gets poisoned by news and chewing through recent events with the teeth of media. So I often find myself in the company of dead people. The thoughts of man and women from the past, with the perspective of the occurred future.

Often find solace in science fiction, with the freaks and creatures that inhabit strange worlds. I recently read a science fiction book written in 1964 by a Czechoslovakian science fiction author Ludvík Souček. It was a throwback to Jules Verne but naive, from a 21st century points of view, in its basking in communist propaganda. Yet I didn’t put the book down as it walked me through a time when selfies from space weren’t very common and humanity was not yet a space faring civilization, yet on the verge of it and dreaming of what is out in the void.

What was I saying – I already forgot why I began this page to begin with, but what Isaac Asimov is saying in his essay is that there is a critical mass to being wrong. Sometimes a difference between a 0 and 0.00000000000003 makes all the difference.

Read  the entire essay here – The Relativity of Wrong by Isaac Asimov.

An excerpt where Asimov literally nitpicks on Socrates but is not entirely wrong in doing that:

First, let me dispose of Socrates because I am sick and tired of this pretense that knowing you know nothing is a mark of wisdom.
No one knows nothing. In a matter of days, babies learn to recognize their mothers.

Socrates would agree, of course, and explain that knowledge of trivia is not what he means. He means that in the great abstractions over which human beings debate, one should start without preconceived, unexamined notions, and that he alone knew this. (What an enormously arrogant claim!)

In his discussions of such matters as “What is justice?” or “What is virtue?” he took the attitude that he knew nothing and had to be instructed by others. (This is called “Socratic irony,” for Socrates knew very well that he knew a great deal more than the poor souls he was picking on.) By pretending ignorance, Socrates lured others into propounding their views on such abstractions. Socrates then, by a series of ignorant-sounding questions, forced the others into such a mélange of self-contradictions that they would finally break down and admit they didn’t know what they were talking about.

It is the mark of the marvelous toleration of the Athenians that they let this continue for decades and that it wasn’t till Socrates turned seventy that they broke down and forced him to drink poison.

 

Tomorrow, and tomorrow. Ian McKellen analyzes Macbeth speech

Analysis by Ian McKellen of a Macbeth speech. It is not the “music” of the verse but rather the “sense”, its meaning that should be expressed. An actor should “think” rather than “act” the verse. In his own words:

“If this workshop has done anything, I hope it scotched the … wrong belief that Shakespeare’s verse is music and all you have to find out is the tune and everything will be all right. Rather, I believe that if you look after the sense, the sounds will look after themselves.

One of the greatest things of 21st century is the ability to learn from other people’s process. I really am not a big fan of celebrity worship. It just happens that the thoughts of more productive people are more readily accessible. It is not necessary that their thoughts are more valid. I always make a point to have not just understanding, but critical understanding of what surrounds me. So, even if it’s McKellen, take it with a grain of salt and let it enhance your own understanding, rather than replace it.

The relevant excerpt from Shakespeare’s  Macbeth:

MACBETH

She should have died hereafter;
There would have been a time for such a word.
To-morrow, and to-morrow, and to-morrow,
Creeps in this petty pace from day to day
To the last syllable of recorded time,
And all our yesterdays have lighted fools
The way to dusty death. Out, out, brief candle!
Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage
And then is heard no more: it is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
Signifying nothing.

Relevant excerpt from Extras on Sir Ian’s Method ( I so much love Extras by the way, and although I gave up television about 6 years ago it is as if I’ve never left the good stuff behind wink-wink netflix wink-wink youtube ):

Hoe to do archery properly. Actually, how to do anything properly

The perfect example of practice makes perfect and committing to a craft. Welcome to Archery. It has less to do with the actual craft and more to do with the “eternal values of centering our lives” ( line in quotes by Joseph Campbell, I am just using it frivolously and out of context because this video is not about archery, it is about a level of comprehension and awareness ).

Tokyo walks

Tokyo walks.

Music – ( Public Domain recording ) Ride of the Valkyries performed by The University of Chicago Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Barbara Schubert:  archive.org/details/uso-2004-10-31

 

I created Tokyo walks for my some kind of street series, for the some kind of project. Tokyo and Japan in general have never been a tourist destination but rather an obsession I have had to pursue. It is only appropriate that I picked the Ride of the Valkyries for this piece as my experiences during my solo trip to  Tokyo and Kyoto were pure ecstasy and until this day I cannot unravel this feeling into anything that makes sense, on any rational level. I simply have the hots for Japan.

Every cake I ate, every fist of rice, every foot I planted on the pavement felt emotionally charged and even today I feel as much charged about my experiences as I was the moment I dropped into Narita airport.

The note in my diary reads:

My plane ride to Tokyo was a bit like a train ride on a train with square wheels.
I was flying from nearby Korea and despite the fact that the ride was fairly short – I was crazily afraid of flying, I still am afraid of flying and every flight I take is a rigorous test of my character.

Yet, the most exciting parts of my life have and are starting with a plane ride. After the rocky introduction to Japan I entered into an immigration procedure in a room with a sign that read:

PRIORITY LANE – only FOR:
-GREAT AGED
-FEEL BAD
-PREGNANTS

Since I was fairly amused I wasn’t feeling bad anymore, neither too aged or pregnant, and proceeded without trying the Priority lane, into what I eagerly awaited to get into – Japan.

 

Day 4000 of Mars rover Opportunity’s 90 day mission

As I sit here on my little desk in front of my little computer, the last thing I’d like to lose is the ability to be astounded. It is important to get groceries and to plan the next big drawing, taxes are also pretty valid concern. But what will get us out of the pit of ignorance and every-day obtuseness is our continuing ability to be astounded.

It is pretty astonishing the Mars rover Opportunity has been on Mars 45 times its intended lifespan. And, thank God, there are these crazy people that continue to run it.  The rover was designed, built, and operated by JPL, which is managed by Caltech.

NASA”s Opportunity tracks on Mars:

Opportunity tracks on Mars
Opportunity tracks on Mars

Here is Opportunity’s detailed  traverse map on Mars:

Opportunity: Detailed Traverse Maps - link goes to NASA's website
Opportunity: Detailed Traverse Maps

The entirety of Opportunity’s decade of driving on Mars:

Opportunity map of driving on Mars
Opportunity’s First Decade of Driving on Mars

Leonardo da Vinci’s Codex on Bird Flight is also on Mars.

For all those who submitted your names, Congratulations! Your name was successfully etched onto a microchip and is officially on Mars!

And here is how it all happened – http://mars.jpl.nasa.gov/msl/participate/sendyourname/

Opportunity map of driving on Mars

 

And, finally, the ability to be astounded as borrowed from a 3 years old:

 

A dreamlike drawing produced in a dreamlike manner.


Dreams, 31 x 32 inches, dip pen and ink on hot pressed board

The purpose of this drawing was to implement a new language and the way it worked was that it developed into a language as it went. Never knew what a particular detail would look like until the very moment it was done. It was like a play with no script where I was the only audience.

Tiny changes happened along the way, and the world of the drawing changed incrementally.

By the time the drawing was fished – it had evolved into a dream tapestry that would draw you in just like a rabbit hole.

More on the happening of works here:
http://mirenarhee.com/mirena-rhee-video.html

The Smartest Book About Our Digital Age Was Published in 1929

One of the best media articles of 2014 which I found on an old internet haunt – digg. It has always been the case that we sooner or later discover that everything has already been thought of, or painted, or expressed. We get on our phones, the signal goes out to space and back to tells us that Plato is still pretty much interesting.  When googling the Chauvet Cave I can’t help but think about Picasso and the studies he did for Guernica.

Rest assured, nothing profoundly changed in 2014,

and

Happy Holidays.

 

Below is the article as it appeared in the The Daily Beast.

How José Ortega y Gasset’s The Revolt of the Masses helps us understand everything from YouTube to Duck Dynasty.  

I first read José Ortega y Gasset’s The Revolt of the Masses more than thirty years ago. I still remember how disappointed I was by this cantankerous book. I’d read other works by Ortega (1883-1955), and been impressed by the Spanish philosopher’s intelligence and insight. But this 1929 study of the modern world, his most famous book, struck me as hopelessly nostalgic and elitist.

Yet I recently read The Revolt of the Masses again, and with a completely different response. The same ideas I dismissed as old-fashioned and out-of-date back in the 20th century now reveal an uncanny ability to explain the most peculiar happenings of the digital age.

Are you, like me, puzzled to learn that Popular Science magazine recently shut down comments on its website, declaring that they were bad for science? Are you amazed, like me, that Duck Dynasty is the most-watched nonfiction cable show in TV history? Are you dismayed, like me, that crappy Hollywood films about comic book heroes and defunct TV shows have taken over every movie theater? Are you depressed, like me, that symphony orchestras are declaring bankruptcy, but Justin Bieber earned $58 million last year?

If so, you need to read The Revolt of the Masses. You’ve got questions. Ortega’s got answers.

First, let me tell you what you won’t find in this book. Despite a title that promises political analysis, The Revolt of the Masses has almost nothing to say about conventional party ideologies and alignments. Ortega shows little interest in fascism or capitalism or Marxism, and this troubled me when I first read the book. (Although, in retrospect, the philosopher’s passing comments on these matters proved remarkably prescient—for example his smug dismissal of Russian communism as destined to failure in the West, and his prediction of the rise of a European union.) Above all, he hardly acknowledges the existence of ‘left’ and ‘right’ in political debates.

Ortega’s brilliant insight came in understanding that the battle between ‘up’ and ‘down’ could be as important in spurring social and cultural change as the conflict between ‘left’ and ‘right’. This is not an economic distinction in Ortega’s mind. The new conflict, he insists, is not between “hierarchically superior and inferior classes…. upper classes or lower classes.” A millionaire could be a member of the masses, according to Ortega’s surprising schema. And a pauper might represent the elite.

The key driver of change, as Ortega sees it, comes from a shocking attitude characteristic of the modern age—or, at least, Ortega was shocked. Put simply, the masses hate experts. If forced to choose between the advice of the learned and the vague impressions of other people just like themselves, the masses invariably turn to the latter. The upper elite still try to pronounce judgments and lead, but fewer and fewer of those down below pay attention.

He understands that the rise of new technological tools gives a global scope to the unformed opinions of people who, in a previous era, would have only focused on what was nearby and familiar.
Above all, the favorite source of wisdom for the masses, in Ortega’s schema, is their own strident opinions. “Why should he listen, when he has all the answers, everything he needs to know?” Ortega writes. “It is no longer the season to listen, but on the contrary, a time to pass judgment, to pronounce sentence, to issue proclamations.”

Ortega couldn’t have foreseen digital age culture, but he is describing it with precision. He would recognize the angry, assertive tone of comments on web articles as the exact same tendency he identified in 1929. He would understand why Yelp reviews have more influence than the considered judgments of restaurant reviewers. He would know why Amazon customer comments have more clout than critics in The New Yorker. He would attend an angry town hall meeting or listen to talk radio, and recognize the same tendencies he described in his book.

Recently I had dinner with a friend who is affluent, educated, and a noted wine connoisseur. We were talking about wine critic Robert Parker and other experts, and my friend asserted that he now relies more on wine advice from websites where anyone can post their evaluations of different vintages. And if the mass mentality has taken over wine-tasting, what can we expect from film reviews or rock criticism?

Of course, this rise of mass opinion comes at a cost. For example, music criticism is turning into lifestyle reporting. Even specialist magazines avoid dealing with any technical descriptions of what a performer is doing, and I have a hunch that the less critics know about the structure of music, the more likely they are to succeed today. This same tendency, outlined with precision by Ortega back in 1929, can be seen in numerous other fields where experts once reigned, but have now been replaced by the opinions of the masses.

Strange to say, not all kinds of expertise are ignored nowadays. The same people who denounce expert opinion about movies or music will praise a skilled plumber or car mechanic. The value of blue-collar expertise is accepted without question. The same people who get angry when I make judgments about the skill level of a pianist, would never question my decision to pay more to hire a superior piano tuner. This is a peculiar state of affairs, but very much aligned with the “revolt of the masses.”

Ortega also predicted the close connection between advancing technologies and these new rude attitudes. He devotes an entire chapter to the co-existence of “primitivism and technology.” He understands that the rise of new technological tools gives a global scope to the unformed opinions of people who, in a previous era, would have only focused on what was nearby and familiar. Above all, he marvels at the fact that the “disdain for science as such is displayed with greatest impunity by the technicians themselves.” Or put differently, skill in manipulating a technology (say, Instagram or the iPhone, in our day) has nothing in common with a zeal for facts and empirical evidence. That shocked Ortega, but we encounter it daily on in the web.

I wish Ortega were around nowadays to comment on digital age culture. At one point in The Revolt of the Masses, he complains about a woman who told him “I can’t stand a dance to which less than 800 people have been invited.” So how would the Spanish philosopher respond to the crowd mentality that seeks out viral videos with a hundred million views? How would he evaluate TV reality shows in which the best singers or dancers are determined by the verdict of the masses? What would he think of political judgments shared by the millions in the form of 140-or-fewer-characters tweets?

I can’t do justice to all of this book’s riches in a short article. On almost every page, Ortega addresses some issue that still resonates today—for example, the rise of consumerism; or the possibility for barbarism to flourish in tandem with technology; or the unbalanced specialization which favors science over the humanities; or (in his words) “the loss of prestige of legislative assemblies.” You recognize all of those hot topics, don’t you?

Okay, we encounter these dysfunctional tendencies every day, but Ortega forces us to see them with a different perspective—from the standpoint of ‘up’ versus ‘down’. Indeed, his book is more valuable for the speculations it will spur in a current-day reader than in the specific situations Ortega addresses. But isn’t that always the measure of a timeless thinker?

Winter wearable artwork

Winter is a wearable artwork based on a frame form Winter Diagrams: December,  animated pen and ink drawings.

This whole struggle with paintings that look like dresses comes from a single well – I have  always pushed the third dimension in my drawings and this comes directly from being a 3d artist for so long.  My brain has been completely rewired to think three-dimensionally.  I can’t imagine a satisfactory flat plane and there is this anxiety to twist it in another direction.

The thirst for dimension pushed me to animate the drawings, and, in turn, to take the animated drawings in yet another dimension with the wearable work. The wearability comes from sensory seeking, craving tactile things, feeling the work with the whole body, literally occupying the work.

Winter wearable artwork by Mirena Rhee
Winter wearable artwork

New Installations and Performance Art site – XquisiteCorpse.org

Mirena Rhee's  Xquisite Corpse Act Two - Installation and Performance Art
Xquisite Corpse Act Two before the public entered the studio

Xquisite Corpse is an ongoing project, a series of Installations and Performance Art pieces with open public participation. I began Xquisite Corpse in 2010  as a continuation to a series of earlier works I created with a  group of artists called Absurdas.

The Xquisite Corpse work is about the body, the body as a landscape, and whatever surrounds the body, also as a landscape.

Xquisite Corpse doesn’t have an audience or a script, no money change hands, no models, no artists, no plan of what is going to happen, because anyone that stepped into the work played their own script, became the artists, the models, the canvas, the audience of their own painting.

http://xquisitecorpse.org/

Figment Installation and Performance
Mirena Rhee's Xquisite Corpse Act Two - Installation and Performance Art
Xquisite Corpse Act Two
Mirena Rhee's Xquisite Corpse Act Two - Installation and Performance Art
Act Two – into the night
Mirena Rhee's Xquisite Corpse Act Two - Installation and Performance Art
Our most Xquisite Corpse was Gymnos Alitheia
Mirena Rhee's  Xquisite Corpse Act Two - Installation and Performance Art - The Runway
Gymnos Alitheia disappeared into the Runway
Mirena Rhee's Xquisite Corpse Act Two - Installation and Perfromance Art. The Morning After.
Xquisite Corpse Act Two – Installation and Perfromance Art. The Morning After.

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