The Woman Who Made Jo van Gogh-Bonger – The New York Times

“In 1885, a 22-year-old Dutch woman named Johanna Bonger met Theo van Gogh, the younger brother of the artist, who was then making a name for himself as an art dealer in Paris. History knows Theo as the steadier of the van Gogh brothers, the archetypal emotional anchor, who selflessly managed Vincent’s erratic path through life, but he had his share of impetuosity. He asked her to marry him after only two meetings.

Jo, as she called herself, was raised in a sober, middle-class family. Her father, the editor of a shipping newspaper that reported on things like the trade in coffee and spices from the Far East, imposed a code of propriety and emotional aloofness on his children. There is a Dutch maxim, “The tallest nail gets hammered down,” that the Bonger family seems to have taken as gospel. Jo had set herself up in a safely unexciting career as an English teacher in Amsterdam. She wasn’t inclined to impulsiveness. Besides, she was already dating somebody. She said no.

But Theo persisted. He was attractive in a soulful kind of way — a thinner, paler version of his brother. Beyond that, she had a taste for culture, a desire to be in the company of artists and intellectuals, which he could certainly provide. Eventually he won her over. In 1888, a year and a half after his proposal, she agreed to marry him. After that, a new life opened up for her. It was Paris in the belle epoque: art, theater, intellectuals, the streets of their Pigalle neighborhood raucous with cafes and brothels. Theo was not just any art dealer. He was at the forefront, specializing in the breed of young artists who were defying the stony realism imposed by the Académie des Beaux-Arts. Most dealers wouldn’t touch the Impressionists, but they were Theo van Gogh’s clients and heroes. And here they came, Gauguin and Pissarro and Toulouse-Lautrec, the young men of the avant-garde, marching through her life with the exotic ferocity of zoo creatures.” . . .

” . . . Twenty-one months after her marriage, Jo was alone, stunned at the fecund dose of life she had just experienced, and at what was left to her from that life: approximately 400 paintings and several hundred drawings by her brother-in-law.

The brothers’ dying so young, Vincent at 37 and Theo at 33, and without the artist having achieved renown — Theo had managed to sell only a few of his paintings — would seem to have ensured that Vincent van Gogh’s work would subsist eternally in a netherworld of obscurity. Instead, his name, art and story merged to form the basis of an industry that stormed the globe, arguably surpassing the fame of any other artist in history. That happened in large part thanks to Jo van Gogh-Bonger. She was small in stature and riddled with self-doubt, had no background in art or business and faced an art world that was a thoroughly male preserve. Her full story has only recently been uncovered. It is only now that we know how van Gogh became van Gogh.” . . .

David Levithan | Beverly Cleary Helped Boys Love Books – The New York Times

Mr. Levithan is the author of numerous books for children and young adults. The most recent of which is “The Mysterious Disappearance of Aidan S. (as Told to His Brother).”

Credit…Harper Collins

“In third grade, I wanted to be a mouse.

Not a timid mouse. Not a quiet mouse. And certainly not Mickey Mouse.

No, I wanted to be Ralph, the mouse with the motorcycle.

In the many appreciations of Beverly Cleary that have been posted since her death at age 104 last Thursday, there has been plenty of rightful attention paid to Ramona, her most famous character. Though I have nothing but respect for Ramona, my heart has always belonged to Ralph. Ms. Cleary always said she wrote “The Mouse and the Motorcycle” for her son. In doing this, she didn’t welcome just one boy into the world of her books; she welcomed generations of boys like me.

Third grade was a crucial time for me as a reader. I felt I was coming to a fork in the library aisles, where one path led to the Hardy Boys doing hardy boy things while Nancy Drew did mysteriously girl-coded things down the other. Even though Princess Leia was my favorite character to be when I played “Star Wars” with my friends (unusual, but not that unusual) and Marion Ravenwood was my favorite when we played “Raiders of the Lost Ark” (highly unusual, to the point of oddness), I still felt I needed to head for the mountainous boy-book terrain. I was supposed to read for action, not depth. Feelings were not a mystery the Hardy Boys ever needed to solve.

Then I found Ralph.

We meet him in Room 215 of the Mountain View Inn, where a boy named Keith has just arrived. (Keith’s parents are in an adjoining room.) As soon as Keith settles in, he pokes around the room, coming very close to discovering the knothole behind which Ralph and his mouse family live. Then Keith does exactly what I would have done, had I been the one checking into Room 215: He takes out his toy cars, plays with them, and then lines them up in a neat row before he goes to sleep.” . . .

Famous cartoonist made donkey and elephant the symbols of political parties – The Washington Post

A political cartoonist associated the donkey and the elephant with the two major political parties.

Why is the elephant the symbol of the Republican Party and a donkey the symbol of the Democrats?

“A very famous political cartoonist named Thomas Nast is credited with making these animals the symbols of their parties during the 1870s. (The donkey was first associated with the Democrats during the election of 1828, but it wasn’t until Nast used it in 1870 that many people began to link the Democrats with the donkey.)

In 1874, Nast drew the cartoon shown above with a donkey wearing a lion’s skin and scaring all the other animals in the forest. One of the animals was an elephant, and it was labeled “The Republican Vote.” And the rest, as they say, is history.”

Source: Famous cartoonist made donkey and elephant the symbols of political parties – The Washington Post

A 639-Year Concert, With No Intermission for Coronavirus – The New York Times

David Lindsay Jr.
Hamden, CT | Pending Approval
A humorist for the New Yorker one upon a time saw a musical with a title like My Wild Irish Rose, or something like that, and wrote that the fact that an American audience liked such rubbish was proof that democracy would never survive. This also describes my feelings about this music piece. This story didn’t belong on the front page, but in the the section called Health and Mental Disorders. I second the comment that the money for this concert? could have gone to a soup ktichen. David Lindsay Jr. is the author of “The Tay Son Rebellion” and blogs at InconvenientNews.net.

When I revisited this article, to review my comment, I had been recommended once.

I looked at the top comments, and learned a great deal about my own limitations. Both of these comments were so profound, I had to recommend them, even though they each conflict with my first reaction, diametrically.

CClevelandMorristown NJ5h ago

As a donor to this undertaking (year 2355), I have been happy to support a project that, for almost two decades already, repeatedly renews a public conversation such as that I’m reading here. For me, this work requires an uncomfortable contemplation of the human lifespan, for example. As we venture deeper into the Anthropocene — and acknowledge more and more how the human species is irrevocably shaping our planet — an artistic creation that cannot be experienced within a single human lifetime humbles me to reflect on worlds beyond my possible contemplation. Just as I wonder about the time perception of creatures with such disparate lifespans as a common housefly or a giant tortoise, so too can I revel in imagining an entity for which a 639-year composition might be perceived as little more than a brief tune. For years, even when I wake in the night, I think about this continuum of sound in Halberstadt, and feel connected to past and future. As a human statement, and as a work of art — the exact opposite of narcissim, I find — this ongoing performance, is truly humbling and inspirational.

37 Recommended

Gabrielle Rose commented 6 hours agoGGabrielle RosePhiladelphia, PA6h ago

Years ago I was with a friend at the Boston Ballet watching a piece by Merce Cunningham. It went on for quite some time in dead silence. I glanced at the program and showed my friend the line “Music by John Cage. “ In the absolute stillness of the theater we were laughing with tears streaming down our faces, but in total silence, one of those terrible moments when you CAN NOT make a sound, which makes the moment that much more absurd. It was more than 40 years ago. All I had to read was John Cage and it set me off.

33 Recommended

‘Hamilton’ Review: You Say You Want a Revolution – By A.O. Scott – The New York Times

Hamilton
NYT Critic’s Pick, Directed by Thomas Kail. Biography, Drama, History, Musical. PG-13,   2h 40m

“The opening scenes of the filmed version of the Broadway musical “Hamilton,” which starts streaming on Disney+ on Independence Day weekend, pull you back in time to two distinct periods. The people onstage, in their breeches and brass-buttoned coats, belong to the New York of 1776. That’s when a 19-year-old freshly arrived from the Caribbean — the “bastard, immigrant, son of a whore” who shares his name with the show — makes his move and takes his shot, joining up with a squad of anti-British revolutionaries and eventually finding his way to George Washington’s right hand and the front of the $10 bill.

But this Hamilton, played with relentless energy and sly charm by Lin-Manuel Miranda, who wrote the music, book and lyrics, also belongs to the New York of 2016. Filmed (by the show’s director, Thomas Kail, and the cinematographer Declan Quinn) in front of a live audience at the Richard Rodgers Theater in June of that year, the movie, while not strictly speaking a documentary, is nonetheless a document of its moment. It evokes a swirl of ideas, debates, dreams and assumptions that can feel, in the present moment, as elusive as the intrigue and ideological sparring of the late 1700s.”

A Defense of Cursive, From a 10-Year-Old National Champion – By Tracey Tully – The New York Times

By 

“A fifth grader in New Jersey is a master of curlicues and connecting loops. His technique is so good he was named a state and national champion of a dying art: cursive writing, a skill that once seemed destined to go the way of the typewriter.

The boy, Edbert Aquino, who is 10, took home last year’s national trophy, $500 and bragging rights for his Roman Catholic elementary school in Bergen County.”

Image

But competition for the prize might just get stiffer in New Jersey.

Assemblywoman Angela McKnight, a Democrat from Jersey City, has introduced legislation that would require public schools to again teach a skill that had been phased out across the country, but is now enjoying something of a revival.

Billy Elliot at the Goodspeed Opera house last night – by David Lindsay

David Lindsay

We saw Billy Elliot at the Goodspeed Opera house last night, and it is good news and bad news. The good news, is it a great production with amazing music and dance. An 8 out of 10, with a complicated dark story full of huge laughs. I laughed harder than at The Book of Mormon. The bad news, it closes after this Sunday, and there are limited seats left. I learned today at the Trinity Christmas Market that there is a movie version I was unaware of! The music is by Elton John, and story, is about a young boy’s courage to pursue ballet, wich is seen as totally gay, in a coal mining town of northern England as the town goes through the hell of the only mine closing.
YOUTUBE.COM
Sept 12 – Nov 24, 2019 at The Goodspeed, East Haddam, CT Young Billy Elliot is pulled between his family’s coal-mining roots and his newly discovered passion…

‘Inferno’ by Dan Brown – by Janet Maslin – NYT book review

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/05/13/books/inferno-by-dan-brown.html

“But it takes more than geography to keep a Brown escapade spinning. The formula also calls for sinister cultism of some sort, and in this case the dark scheming involves overpopulation. One character, Zobrist, is a wealthy Malthusian with a powerful, secretive, high-tech army at his command (Mr. Brown says it is real, but he has given it “the Consortium” as a fake name) and a doomsday plot to implement. While talking about controlling the rapid growth in population with the head of the World Health Organization, Zobrist is told, “We’re at seven billion now, so it’s a little late for that.” His reply, a fine specimen of mustache-twirling villainy: “Is it?”

There’s a lot more in “Inferno” along these lines. And it all ties together. Dante’s nightmare vision becomes the book’s visual correlative for what its scientific calculations suggest. And eventually the book involves itself with Transhumanism, genetic manipulation and the potential for pandemics. Just as Mr. Brown’s “Lost Symbol” tried to stir interest in the noetic sciences (studying mind-body connections). “Inferno” puts the idea of a plague front and center, invoking the black plague, its casualty count and its culling effect on mankind. Mr. Brown is more serious than usual when he invokes Dante’s dire warning: “The darkest places in hell are reserved for those who maintain their neutrality in times of moral crisis.”

But the main emphasis here is hardly on gloom. It is on the prodigious research and love of trivia that inform Mr. Brown’s stories (this one makes mincemeat of all those factoid-heavy wannabes, like Matthew Pearl’s “Dante Club”), the ease with which he sets them in motion, the nifty tricks (Dante’s plaster death mask is pilfered from its museum setting, then toted through the secret passageways of Florence in a Ziploc bag) and the cliffhangers. (Sienna: “Don’t tell me we’re in the wrong museum.” Robert: “Sienna, we’re in the wrong country.”) There is the gamesmanship that goes with crypto-bits like “PPPPPPP.” (Sienna: “Seven Ps is … a message?” Robert, grinning: “It is. And if you’ve studied Dante, it’s a very clear one.”)

And finally there is the sense of play that saves Mr. Brown’s books from ponderousness, even when he is waxing wise about some ancient mystery or architectural wonder. Once the globe-trotting begins in earnest, private planes figure in the story and Langdon calls his publisher to ask for one. No, says the publisher, then adds: “Let me rephrase that. We don’t have access to private jets for authors of tomes about religious history. If you want to write ‘Fifty Shades of Iconography,’ we can talk.”Guess what: Mr. Brown has already written it. And then some.”

Is Climate-Themed Fiction All Too Real? We Asked the Experts – by Livia Albeck-Ripka – NYT

Climate Effect: Adaptation‘The Machine Stops’

by E. M. Forster

Forster’s eerily prescient novella imagines a world where life on earth’s surface — besides ferns and “a little grass” — has become impossible. Humans live underground, where they communicate via glowing blue-lit plates and eat, drink and sleep to the rhythm of the eternally humming “Machine.”

Written in 1909 — just over a decade after the Swedish scientist Svante Arrhenius suggested anthropogenic emissions could change the climate — “The Machine Stops” prophetically described something like the internet. But it was far off in imagining how we would adapt to climate change, said Jonathan Foley, executive director of the California Academy of Sciences.“The idea that we could have self-sufficient civilization underground basically requires we replace the sun,” Dr. Foley said. “And any technology that’s capable of doing that — whether it be fusion, or some kind of magical technology — would have to be so powerful that I’d ask: Why didn’t we solve the climate problem first?”

Dr. Foley said the novel’s ideas weren’t that far from the science-fiction-like discussions he heard coming from Silicon Valley, where vertical gardens, orbiting microwave transmitters or machines that harvest carbon are touted as silver bullets for climate change. “The actual solutions are far simpler,” he said. “But they’re not as sexy. Like, hey: What if we threw less food away, or we ate less meat?”

Dr. Foley said that if he ever wrote a novel, it would be one in which “we all do the slow, hard muddling work of just pitching in, but no hero rides in on a spaceship to save us all.” It would be a terrible novel, he admitted. “No one would buy it, and Hollywood wouldn’t make a movie, but it’s the one I want, and it would surely save the world.”