Ocher, saffron, sepia, umber, vermilion

Orin Hargraves at the Visual Thesaurus:

ScreenHunter_02 Oct. 04 09.01 Once you step away from the main compass points of the color wheel, however, English gets more interesting, and more grabby. English speakers came into contact fairly early on with names of pigments and dyes through trade and cultural exchange and these words, mostly of foreign origin, have been kicking around in English for many centuries. Perhaps even more so than the principal colors, they have retained their power to evoke specific and vivid images: consider, as a sample, alizarin, bistre, cochineal, henna, indigo, lapis lazuli, ocher, saffron, sepia, umber, vermilion. Add to these the partly-overlapping list of color names with a real-world referent (whether natural or manufactured) such as amber, burgundy, chartreuse, ebony, fuchsia, ivory, lilac, olive, turquoise — all of which are also mainly foreigners with long-time, permanent resident status in English.

From the rich vocabulary available you might get the impression that English speakers are connoisseurs of color, but usage statistics tell a different story.

More here.

Punishment, Personal Identity, and Polanski

Nick Smyth weighs in, over at Yeah, OK, But Still:

It has been notoriously difficult to say what makes a person the same person over time, especially given then enormous physical and psychological changes that a person undergoes. In the span of a decade, a person can completely reform their beliefs, their values, and their patterns of action, and can even suffer total memory loss. It seems natural to say, as Derek Parfit does, that they are not really “the same person”, but rather they are connected to that past person, only insofar as they share that past person's psychology. They are thus (say) 25% connected, and that former person survives only to this small degree.

Let's assume that Polanski is significantly different in this way: that he is no longer Polanski1973, that person's youthful immorality and disregard has been completely wiped out and replaced with kindness and thoughtfulness. The former criminal only survives to some small extent (say, 25%, though the number doesn't really matter).

As Bernard Williams quickly pointed out, there is something seemingly absurd in attempting to apply this result to the question of his responsibility for a 30 year-old rape.

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad revealed to have Jewish past

Damien McElroy and Ahmad Vahdat in The Daily Telegraph:

Ahm_1494743f A photograph of the Iranian president holding up his identity card during elections in March 2008 clearly shows his family has Jewish roots.

A close-up of the document reveals he was previously known as Sabourjian – a Jewish name meaning cloth weaver.

The short note scrawled on the card suggests his family changed its name to Ahmadinejad when they converted to embrace Islam after his birth.

The Sabourjians traditionally hail from Aradan, Mr Ahmadinejad's birthplace, and the name derives from “weaver of the Sabour”, the name for the Jewish Tallit shawl in Persia. The name is even on the list of reserved names for Iranian Jews compiled by Iran's Ministry of the Interior.

Experts last night suggested Mr Ahmadinejad's track record for hate-filled attacks on Jews could be an overcompensation to hide his past.

More here.

the mystery of the four birds

Photo of Bernardo ATxaga1

It was a very short song, and the birds that were mentioned, four in number, were only small; but the secret the song concealed, the clear meaning it contained for anyone able to see beyond its absurd surface, had a great deal to do with what we term the “major themes.” The song was a traditional song and widely known, sung over and over by generations of Basque children, and it went like this:

Txantxangorria txantxate,
Birigarroa alkate,
Xoxoa dela meriante,
Txepetxa preso sartu dute.

Which means:

The robin sings his song,
The song thrush is the jailer,
And, with the blackbird’s help,
They’ve put the poor wren in prison.

It obviously wasn’t pure nonsense, nor was it a folk version of some English limerick, since, albeit obscure, it did make some kind of sense. But the idea that a bird—the poor wren—should have ended up in prison on the orders of the authorities—the song thrush—and to the great delight of Robin Redbreast, was not much help in gaining an overall understanding of the story, nor did it answer the fundamental question: what had gone on between the robin and the wren? Or to put it another way: why was one so overjoyed at the other’s misfortune?

more from Bernardo Atxaga at Threepenny Review here.

philosopher-bums, filthy-minded teenage prostitutes, and incorruptible government ministers


When Jakov Lind died in 2007, The Guardian hailed him as a writer who was a consummate survivor, an odd, sort-of Jew who had lived through the peak of Nazi power “inside the lion’s mouth” where he did not “have to feel the animal’s teeth and claws.” The author wrote some decidedly odd books, books that his publisher once said “never made a profit,” though “it was an honor to publish him,” and when he died he left behind a brilliant body of work that was largely out of print. Thanks to the efforts of an enthusiastic few, this work, translated by the legendary Ralph Manheim, is now experiencing a resurrection. Lind is not only a major post-Holocaust writer; he is also a modernist of extraordinary talent and vision. His writing shows an intriguing, Beckettian dissolution of reason, and it owes a clear debt to the absurdists, whose themes of obsession and the perversion of reality closely resemble Lind’s work. Born in Vienna a decade before the Anschluss, Lind also owes something also to the Austro-Jewish literary tradition exemplified by Stefan Zweig—there’s a humanist regard that colors his work and tinges his cynicism with a smirking regret. This sort of weeping giddiness characterizes all of Lind’s writing, from his excellent dramatic efforts like The Silver Foxes Are Dead to his short stories and his extraordinary dark novels.

more from Jeff Waxman at The Quarterly Conversation here.

To be an American this patriotic, it probably helps to be Scottish


Craig Ferguson isn’t kidding. That’s what struck me as I turned the pages of the Scottish late-night comedian’s memoir, “American on Purpose: The Improbable Adventures of an Unlikely Patriot.” Almost every time Ferguson has a chance to go for a cheap, easy laugh — the mother’s milk of late-night comedy — he runs in the opposite direction. Take the opening scene in which he meets George W. Bush at a reception before the 2008 White House Correspondents’ Association dinner, where Ferguson, a newly minted American citizen, is to be the entertainment. He recognizes that making fun of Bush near the end of his catastrophic presidency would be like shooting fish in a barrel, so what does he do instead? He bonds with Bush as a fellow recovering alcoholic, clinking glasses of sparkling water with him as the president makes an earnest toast to America. I repeat: this is the opening scene of a book by a comedian. That’s what we in the comedy business call courage, and it pretty much sets the tone for the rest of this memoir, in which Ferguson admirably avoids wisecracks and instead goes for something like wisdom.

more from Andy Borowitz at the NY Times here.

What Scorsese and All the Rest Know About Roman Polanski That Maybe You Don’t

Allison Benedikt in The Village Voice:

Roman-polanski If it's weird to you that every filmmaker you've ever liked is taking Roman Polanski's side in the curent controversy, perhaps it's because you don't know Polanski like we know Polanski.

Sure, it seems obvious: Polanski raped a kid, Polanski fled the country, Polanski should pay for his crime. But if all that were true, why would the world's most prominent filmmakers and artists sign a petition demanding his release? I'm not just talking cranks like Pedro Almodovar. Good, stand-up Americans like Wes Anderson and Alexander Payne are demanding that justice be served by forgetting about all this rape business. And if you knew Roman Polanski like we know Roman Polanski, you would surely understand how artistically narrow-minded it is to treat him like a rapist just because he raped someone.

More here. [Thanks to Maud Newton.]

Darwin In Chile

From Edge:

Edge was invited by Alvaro Fischer, the Director of Fundacion Ciencia Y Evolucion in Chile to attend the Foundation's Darwin Seminar in Santiago, entitled “Darwin's Intellectual Legacy To The 21st Century” and join the eight speakers (all Edge contributors) on a trip to the “extreme south” including a trip along “The Beagle Channel”, named after the ship HMS Beagle which surveyed the coasts of the southern part of South America from 1826 to 1830.


The Seminar, which ran for two days, attracted an audience of 2,200 people on each day…

Pinker Dennett Our intention is to illuminate and discuss how Darwinian thought influenced the disciplines that focus on the study the individuals (biology, neuroscience, psychology); the individual within their social interactions (anthropology, sociology, economy, political science); and how these concepts pertain, in general, to a moral philosophy.”

“We wish to explore how, from Darwinian thought, there emerges a vision of what it is to be a human being. And that this vision is fundamental and coherent with the entire body of accumulated scientific knowledge. With reverence for the details of their application, it is the impact of Darwin's ideas that is the reason we are celebrating Darwin's anniversary.”

More here.

Kid Stuff

From The New York Times:

Kid As if we needed yet another indicator of economic collapse, note that the men who once chronicled financial high jinks have turned to baby sling strategy and sibling rivalry. First Michael Lewis, author of “Liar’s Poker,” hit the best-seller list with a memoir about the perils (and awww, rewards) of being a dad. Now Po Bronson, who made his name novelizing Bay Area bond trading and Silicon Valley upstarts, has come out with a book on child-rearing.

But not just any book! “NurtureShock,” with its Toffleresque title, promises to revolutionize parenthood with “New Thinking About Children.” According to Bronson and his co-writer, Ashley Merryman, who runs a church-based tutoring program for urban youth, “nurture shock” is the panic common to new parents that “the mythical fountain of knowledge is not magically kicking in.” It’s that gut-pummeling doubt that hits the moment you bring your first child home from the hospital— “They let us keep this thing?” — and snowballs from there. Such feelings of inadequacy, the authors suggest, are justified. But, as they write with deeply felt earnestness, “small corrections in our thinking today could alter the character of society long term, one future-citizen at a time.”

More here.

There’s no bally God, so put a sock in it and have a gargle with the lads


Richard Dawkins has a go at some P.G. Wodehousery:

I was hoofing it down Regent Street, admiring the Christmas decorations, when I saw the bus. One of those bendy buses that mayors keep threatening with the old heave-ho. As it drove by, I looked up and got the message square in the monocle. You could have knocked me down with the proverbial. Another of the blighters nearly did knock me down as I set a course for the Dregs Club, where it was my purpose to inhale a festive snifter, and I saw the same thing on the side. There are some pretty deep thinkers to be found at the Dregs, as my regular readers know, but none of them could make a dent on the vexed question of the buses when I bowled it their way. Not even Swotty Postlethwaite, the club’s tame intellectual. So I decided to put my trust in a higher power.

“Jarvis”, I sang out, as I latchkeyed self into the old headquarters, shedding hat and stick on my way through the hall to consult the oracle. “I say Jarvis, what about these buses?”


“You know, Jarvis, the buses, the ‘What is this that roareth thus?’ brigade, the bendy buses, the conveyances with the kink amidships. What’s going on, Jarvis? What price the bendy bus campaign?”

More here. [Thanks to Ruchira Paul, who has a post on Wodehouse here.]

Understanding the Anxious Mind

Robin Marantz Henig in the New York Times Magazine:

ScreenHunter_03 Oct. 03 08.53 Jerome Kagan’s “Aha!” moment came with Baby 19. It was 1989, and Kagan, a professor of psychology at Harvard, had just begun a major longitudinal study of temperament and its effects. Temperament is a complex, multilayered thing, and for the sake of clarity, Kagan was tracking it along a single dimension: whether babies were easily upset when exposed to new things. He chose this characteristic both because it could be measured and because it seemed to explain much of normal human variation. He suspected, extrapolating from a study he had just completed on toddlers, that the most edgy infants were more likely to grow up to be inhibited, shy and anxious. Eager to take a peek at the early results, he grabbed the videotapes of the first babies in the study, looking for the irritable behavior he would later call high-reactive.

More here.

On Roman Polanski and Moral Luck

Morgan_meis_photo Morgan Meis in The Smart Set:

Roman Polanski may have finally turned out to be morally unlucky. Let me explain what I mean.

When Immanuel Kant was thinking about morality, lo those many years ago in Königsburg, he made an important distinction. Morality, he reasoned, cannot be about what actually happens in the world — it has to be about the pure moral will. Here’s why. Let’s say I walk out of the house on my way to murder as many people as possible. I trip over a vagrant and accidentally push a small child. The child falls down and thus narrowly misses being decapitated by a falling sheet of glass. Whoopee, I’m the moral hero of the day, having saved the little tyke’s life.

“No way,” says Kant. I am still morally bad because I was a murderous fiend in intent, even as I saved the tiny crumb snatcher. Morality is about the purity of my choices and decisions, not about happenstance. One can’t be accidentally good, or bad.

A century and a half or so after Kant, Bernard Williams — a Cambridge man who eventually ends up at Berkeley in the 1980s — thinks about moral philosophy and warms his disapproval of strict Kantians. For Williams, outcomes matter. Let’s say, after inadvertently preventing the gruesome decapitation of the child, I intend to resume my killing spree but, curses! my weapon jams. According to Williams I am less morally culpable (as an attempted murderer) than if I actually achieved the intended body count (as a first-degree murderer). Outcomes matter, and we prove it in the way we treat crime and justice all the time.

Roman Polanski Has a Lot of Friends

Katha Pollitt in The Nation:

It’s enraging that literary superstars who go on and on about human dignity, and human rights, and even women’s rights (at least when the women are Muslim) either don’t see what Polanski did as rape, or don’t care, because he is, after all, Polanski–an artist like themselves. That some of his defenders are women is particularly disappointing. Don’t they see how they are signing on to arguments that blame the victim, minimize rape, and bend over backwards to exonerate the perpetrator? Error of youth, might have mistaken her age, teen slut, stage mother–is that what we want people to think when middle-aged men prey on ninth-graders?

The widespread support for Polanski shows the liberal cultural elite at its preening, fatuous worst. They may make great movies, write great books, and design beautiful things, they may have lots of noble humanitarian ideas and care, in the abstract, about all the right principles: equality under the law, for example. But in this case, they’re just the white culture-class counterpart of hip-hop fans who stood by R. Kelly and Chris Brown and of sports fans who automatically support their favorite athletes when they’re accused of beating their wives and raping hotel workers.

No wonder Middle America hates them.

i am my own wife


‘We are an eccentric English person,” says the artist Genesis Breyer P-Orridge, greeting me at his apartment, where he’s touching up collages. “You’re okay with that?” I nod. “Good,” he purrs, his voice dropping an octave. “Then we’re going to do just fine.” I’m here to discuss the curatorial interest in his work as of late—his opening at the Lower East Side gallery Invisible-Exports, the films about his life, the Tate’s acquisition of his archives. But what I see, when he sits down on his bed, is that his potbelly props up his C-cup breasts. As we speak, his thick fingers brush away strands of his platinum bob from bloated lips slicked pink with gloss. He looks like a funhouse version of Courtney Love. More accurately, he has refashioned himself to look uncannily like his late wife, the woman with whom he has come to share an identity, a profile, even beauty marks.

more from Erica Orden at New York Magazine here. 3QD friend Marie Losier’s music video starring P-Orridge (with cameos by many fluxers including Stefany Anne Golberg) below…