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Preview: Foreign Dispatches

Foreign Dispatches



Random Remarks on Current Affairs



Updated: 2014-07-19T17:44:00+01:00

 



Medium Format Digital in the Instagram Age

2014-07-19T17:44:00+01:00

I've just been reading Michael Reichmann's overview of the Pentax 645Z, and the following passages from the article struck me as particularly insightful: Not long ago, nothing could rival MF backs, notwithstanding their usability deficits. That's all changed. The Nikon...



So Much for Egypt's "Arab Spring"

2014-07-13T19:28:43+01:00

A few years ago, I made the prediction that the so-called "Arab Spring" was doomed to fail in Egypt, in light of the fact that the vote had been given to millions of Egyptians with no real grasp of literacy,...



No, Elliot Rodger Wasn't Jewish

2014-05-29T21:40:15+01:00

I've been trying to follow the online reaction to the Elliot Rodger shooting, and one thing that struck me was the haste with which so many despicable websites (all of which I refuse to link to) have rushed to claim...



The Madness of Elliot Rodger

2014-05-25T14:07:46+01:00

Sometimes, when I'm feeling bored and not in the mood to engage in any intellectual heavy-lifting, I like to make my way to an online forum called the misc; I have never participated in the forum, and don't even have...



Free Lectures on Asian Art

2014-05-17T22:22:21+01:00

One thing I've learned over the years is that isn't easy to find decent material on Asian art traditions outside the confines of a university or museum, and this is true whether we're talking online or in traditional book form....

One thing I've learned over the years is that isn't easy to find decent material on Asian art traditions outside the confines of a university or museum, and this is true whether we're talking online or in traditional book form. Try to go beyond facile Wikipedia articles or introductory  coffee-table volumes on a topic such as, say, Chinese ink painting or Japanese lacquerware, and you quickly run into nothing but frustration, whereas even individual Western artists like Donatello, Veronese and Fragonard have any number of richly illustrated, scholarly volumes detailing their lives and work. The difference here is not due to anything innately superior in the Western artistic tradition - as anyone who has bothered to learn about Asian arts will attest - but the result of a self-perpetuating legacy of centuries of Eurocentrism, under which the assumption that there is little worth learning about the artistic traditions of other peoples serves as justification for failing to investigate further, the resulting ignorance then being seized upon as "proof" of the initial assumption.

In any case, I have not come to merely rant about the evils of Eurocentric art history, but to point out a useful means of correcting such an attitude, for those who would wish to do so. It transpires that the Asian Art Museum of San Francisco has been offering free lecture series on iTunes dating back nearly a decade, as well as performances, documentaries, and much else besides. As my own interests run particularly towards East Asian art, at present I'm working through the Arts of China and Arts of Japan courses, but the material available is by no means limited to China, Japan and Korea; there is a dedicated Arts of India course, another on South Asia, there are lectures on Islamic art, the Himalayas, and many other parts of the Asian continent. In addition, there are dedicated symposia on Chinese calligraphy, lectures on art as visual propaganda for Asian rulers, lectures on contemporary Chinese art ...

To put it simply, there is a tremendous wealth of highly informative material here, put together by real scholars, and - unlike most things on the web nowadays - this is all done free of any apparent motivation to somehow squeeze a buck out of the audience. If you remain ignorant of Asian artistic traditions after being exposed to this high-quality material, the only target for blame will be your own distraction or disinterest, rather than a lack of good sources to learn from.




Breyer on Proust

2014-05-01T21:56:40+01:00

As I've been traveling recently, I decided to make use of some of the dead time that accompanies the process by re-reading the Montcrieff-Kilmartin translation of "Swann's Way", the first volume of Marcel Proust's magnum opus. It's been nearly 2...



What Became of all those "IQ" Genes?

2014-04-12T23:58:57+01:00

Once upon a time, I used to get into online arguments about genetics with certain self-proclaimed "race realist" types, according to whom the scientific "reality" of racial differences in intelligence, which was supposedly being denied by "politically correct" types, would...



Right Wing Hypocrisy in Action

2014-04-05T10:52:27+01:00

Right on the heels of whining about how Brendan Eich's resignation represents the triumph of "bullying" over free speech - as if those who disagreed with him had no right to voice their own disapproval of his actions - comes...



Freedom of Speech is not Freedom from Consequences

2014-04-04T21:05:00+01:00

Nor is it freedom from criticism, as Mark Joseph Stern so eloquently elucidates in this Slate article. It is disheartening to see so many supposedly intelligent people failing to appreciate that it is the very same freedoms which allow Brendan...



On the Resignation of Brendan Eich

2014-05-03T12:00:22+01:00

Upon hearing that Mozilla's new CEO, Brendan Eich, had decided to relinquish his position in the face of heated criticism for his bigoted politics, I felt stirred up enough for a change to step out of my semi-retirement from blogging....



A Little Schubert

2012-03-13T13:20:35+00:00

If Franz Schubert's reputation as a melodist ever needed demonstrating - which it doesn't - one could do worse than point others to his beautiful impromptus, such as this one performed by Krystian Zimerman.

If Franz Schubert's reputation as a melodist ever needed demonstrating - which it doesn't - one could do worse than point others to his beautiful impromptus, such as this one performed by Krystian Zimerman.  

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Direct Democracy is Bad for Individual Rights

2012-02-25T00:45:57+00:00

Having railed on here repeatedly about my lack of faith in any supposed "wisdom of the masses", or the alleged merits of ever more participatory and responsive political systems, I'd like to provide some actual social science reseach to back...



The Possibilities of DSLR Video

2012-02-12T15:16:20+00:00

Having recently made my case at such length for passing over the Nikon D800, I can see how anyone reading my little essay would have been left with the impression that I have no interest whatsoever in the new developments...