Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Join Starfleet Academy @ NYC’s Star Trek Exhibit

Flights Of Fantasy

Space Shuttle Enterprise, the prototype NASA orbiter that paved the way for the space shuttle program. Peter Bright writes for Ars Technica: “On the flight deck of the USS Intrepid aircraft carrier that gives the museum its name is, much to the chagrin of my Houston friends, the space shuttle Enterprise. The Enterprise has an important link to Star Trek, since its name was chosen after a write-in campaign by fans of the show. Temporarily parked alongside the Enterprise is the Star Trek shuttle craft Galileo, which was lovingly restored a few years ago after being abandoned and left exposed to the weather for decades.”
Image Credit & SourceIntrepid Museum 

Some museums can be more fun and interactive than others, and help us both learn and feed our escapist fantasies and fuel our imagination. For example, an article, by Peter Bright, in Ars Technica showcases the Starfleet Academy at New York’s Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum, located in the Hell’s Kitchen area of Manhattan. The museum is on the flight deck of the USS  Intrepid aircraft carrier.

In “Join Starfleet Academy at New York’s Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum” (July 23, 2016), Bright writes:
As a cadet at the academy, a wide range of interactive exhibits allow you to diagnose injured Klingons in sick bay, set phasers to stun in security, investigate the unknown at the science station, and more. After completing and signing in to each interactive portion with your RFID wristband, all Starfleet cadets must take the Kobayashi Maru test from the bridge of the Enterprise. At the conclusion of your training, the system says which part of Starfleet you'd be best at: are you captain material, or would you be better off as the next Mr. Spock? I learned that I'm not really cut out for security, because phasers are actually hard to aim. Gun-shaped guns turn out to be much easier!
Because it's kid-oriented, the academy portion isn't too complicated or involved. For parents, the exhibit's various historical artifacts will probably be the most interesting. Props and costumes from the show are a window into how technology evolved from (ugh) Enterprise to the unfairly maligned Voyager. I know it had some ropey episodes, but c’mon, as a starship, the Intrepid-class Voyager was easily the coolest of the main ships: it had sports car styling, and the ability to land on planets in a starship beats the pants out of beaming down or riding a shuttle.
The exhibit coincides with the 50th anniversary of the original series (1966) and the release on July 22nd of Star Trek Beyond, the 13th film of the Star Trek franchise. There is good reason why the film will do well, particularly among a certain segment of the population who find the humanistic values put forth by “Star Trek” to be enviable. Humans (and non-humans) get to act “human.” Contained within its narrative is hope, the possibility that humans can always and eventually get their act together.

At a time when such values are not overly evident, they become for those who admire them more desirable—at least by those who care about such things as collaboration, compassion and opportunity.  And of course, Peace. At a time and place when war might be arise, peace is still the goal and it is a place where its is also achieved in time. If there is war, peace ought to follow, as surely as day follows night.

Something enviable, to be sure, because this idea seems far from our grasp today. Humanity today can’t seem to find the way to peace. Is it for lack of trying or something else altogether? This much I can say, and although it sounds very much like a cliché, this does not make it less true. Without the very real possibility of peace, there is no hope. The Starfleet Academy experience runs through October 31st at the museum.

For more, go to [ArsTechnica]

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

British Vogue: 100 Years Of Fashion

Fashion Photography

Naomi Campbell (1987) in one of the more than 280 prints on loan from London’s National Portrait Gallery and on display at the Manchester Art Gallery, which writes about this exhibit, entitled Vogue 100: A Century of Style, as follows: “Highlights of the exhibition include the entire set of prints from Corinne Day’s controversial Kate Moss underwear shoot, taken in 1993 at the pinnacle of the ‘grunge’ trend; Peter Lindbergh’s famous 1990 cover shot that defined the supermodel era; a series of exceptional Second World War photographs by Vogue’s official war correspondent, Lee Miller; a rare version of Horst’s famous ‘corset’ photograph from 1939, which inspired the video for Madonna’s hit song Vogue; and vintage prints by the first professional fashion photographer, Baron de Meyer.” The exhibit, which is open to the public for free, runs to October 30th, 2016. For more, go to [ManchsterArt].
Photo Credit: Patrick Demarchelier, 1987

Monday, July 25, 2016

A Defense Of Social Wasps

Stinging Insects
Pleading Innocent: Simon Barnes for The Spectator writes not only in defense of the wasp (Hymenoptera), but also says that humans ought to give them more respect than they often get, perhaps, even some gratitude: “Wasps changed the way we humans act as a species, but we have seldom shown much gratitude, or for that matter much sense. We have created a series of chemicals that kill invertebrates, never thinking for a second that it’s actually quite a good idea to look after insects. In parts of China they’ve got rid of insects so efficiently that they have to pollinate their fruit trees by hand. Wasps are important pollinators.”
Image Credit: Heath
Source: The Spectator

An article, by Simon Barnes, in The Spectator says that despite their bad reputations—one that I view as well-earned—wasps perform a valuable service for humanity. In effect, Barnes has decided to act as an advocate for all wasps, including social wasps, many of which sting. In “Why all civilized people should love wasps” (July 23, 2016), Barnes writes for the British magazine:
We never see the best of wasps because of the way they act in late summer, when their labour is done. Before that they have led exemplary lives. There are nine species of social wasps in this country, including the much-feared but comparatively mild–mannered hornet, and they’re all honest toilers for most of their existence. Hornets can give a pretty fearsome sting, but you have to go out of your way to experience it. They come into the ancient category of ‘this animal is dangerous — it defends itself when attacked’.
Seriously? I remain unconvinced and am not sorry about my unrepentant heart in regards to the stinging insects. (I know that many species of wasps are of the non-stinging variety, so my argument against wasps is about the stinging variety.) Social wasps, like the familiar yellow jacket (Vespula), sting, and such is my mental association. That they help humanity is overshadow by the fact that they sting, and act aggressively, despite protests from their advocates that they sting only in self-defense.

Well, here is a story of one social wasp that acted contrary to such theories. A number of years ago, I was at the beach with my family to celebrate Canada Day. It was a glorious July 1st holiday outing. We brought a cooler of food with us, including sandwiches of various cold cuts. While my wife and children were playing in the water, I was sitting in a chair, deciding to eat one of the sandwiches we had brought with us. As I placed the sandwich in my mouth and took a bite, unbeknownst to me, a wasp entered my mouth and stung me on my tongue. The pain was immediate, as was the accompanying swelling of my tongue. In what way, was this wasp defending itself?

As for being wonderful pollinators, honey bees (Apis) are also wonderful pollinators and rarely act in such an aggressive manner. I will welcome a bee over a stinging wasp any day. So, the best that I can muster is a begrudging admiration and respect for these stinging hooligans, and agree that their colors are beautiful and striking—albeit I do so from a distance. I think that I am being more than fair, considering the history and recent circumstances.

For more, go to [TheSpectator]

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Manfred Mann Earth Band: Blinded By The Light (1977)

Manfred Mann Earth Band perform “Blinded by the Light” on The Midnight Special in 1977. The song, written by American rocker Bruce Springsteen and released in 1973, is the first track on the  a British band’s 1976 album The Roaring Silence. It’s a fun song that has lots of rhyme in it, but I am not sure if it has much meaning behind it. Blinded by the light/Revved up like a deuce/Another runner in the night. The band's lead is Manfred Mann [born Manfred Sepse Lubowitz; 1940], who was born into a Jewish family in Johannesburg, South Africa, and who left the country in 1961, in opposition to its apartheid system.

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Hubble Image Of ‘The Final Frontier’


“Space: the final frontier. These are the voyages of the starship Enterprise. Its five-year mission: to explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life and new civilizations, to boldly go where no man has gone before.”
Capt. James T. Kirk  of the U.S.S. Enterprise, “Star Trek” (1966)

Abell S1063, an estimated 4 billion years old: This image was taken by the Hubble Space Telescope, which has been exploring the universe from an orbit around the Earth since 1990. One could say that we humans have been prepared to become awed of such momentous impressions of the final frontiers of space much earlier. perhaps since the now immortal words of  Capt. James T. Kirk (first uttered by William Shatner) were broadcast in a TV show, “Star Trek” in 1966. The power of this particular mystical-like photo, the power of words and the possibility of imagination and their link to the popular sci-fi film & TV franchise is intimated by Elizabeth Howell for, who writes : “‘The newest target of Hubble’s mission is the distant galaxy cluster Abell S1063, potentially home to billions of strange new worlds,’ just like those visited by the USS Enterprise, according to a European Space Agency description. The cluster's massive gravity magnifies light from background galaxies due to an effect known as gravitational lensing.” For more, go to [Space].
Image Credit: NASA, ESA, and J. Lotz (STScI)

Friday, July 22, 2016

Lots Of Mammals Call The Philippines Island Of Luzon Home


Long-Whiskered Tree Mouse is found exclusively on the island of Luzon in The Philippines.
Photo Credit: Larry Heaney, Field Museum

Luzon, an island of The Philippines, has the greatest number of distinct animals—mammals not found elsewhere on our planet, says an article, by Ben Garrod, in The Conversation. In “A Philippines island has the world’s greatest concentration of unique mammals – here’s why” (July 15, 2016), Garrod writes:
We’re taught that evolution is all about “survival of the fittest”. But that’s not always the case. In fact, sometimes evolution can be the result of a lucky animal finding “any port in a storm”. And the finding that Luzon, an island in the Philippines, has the greatest concentration of unique mammals in the world – even more than Madagascar – is the perfect example.
Islands are often examples of an evolutionary free for all, where a newly-introduced species may find itself in the perfect situation, whether that’s a new and different type of habitat and resources or even a complete lack of competitors and predators. Being introduced to an island ecosystem can turn a rather mediocre mainland species into a weird and wonderful new creation.
Examples of species found on one island and nowhere else (known as island endemics) can be found almost anywhere we look. The lemurs on Madagascar are found nowhere else on Earth, the Galapagos islands are home to flightless cormorants and aquatic iguanas and there are even quirky examples of island species from across the British Isles such as the Scilly shrew or the Orkney vole.
What this says is that our understanding of evolution is evolving, and what was the case before is no longer the case today. Our knowledge changes with our understanding and this is the case in how scientists explain how an island can have a concentration of species not found anywhere else in the known world. Evolution is a long process, but our understanding of its processes can take place much quicker.

For more, go to [TheConversation]

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Diane Arbus: The Outsider Photographer

Human Faces

Diane Arbus: At the “New Documents” show at the Museum of Modern Art, in 1967.
Photo Credit: Dan Budnik, 1967
Source:New Yorker

Diane Arbus [born Diane Nemerov; 1923–1971] liked to photograph people who would not ordinarily be photographed, including the outcasts and marginal: the people who resided on the margins of, or were outside of, respectable society. These people were in no way beautiful, not in any conventional sense and certainly not how high fashion photography views beauty.

This desire, on the part of Arbus, to take photos of such people seems all the more remarkable for two reasons: she grew up visibly wealthy, wrapped in the garments of privilege; and she started out in early adulthood as a fashion photographer, working for such magazines as Vogue & Harper’s Bazaar for nearly a decade before exiting this life of unfeeling artifice, aged 33. Then 15 years later, she made a final exit of this world altogether by committing suicide, aged 48.

Yet, during those years she changed photography, and yet was acutely unaware of it. In “Was Diane Arbus the Most Radical Photographer of the 20th Century,” Alex Mar writes for NY Mag:
Diane Arbus would continue numbering her negatives over the next 15 years, up until her suicide at the age of 48. But this first moment of self-awareness, when she confessed to herself that she was an artist, is pivotal to both a new book and a show of her earliest works opening today. “I can’t do it anymore” — that’s how Arthur Lubow’s essential biography, Diane Arbus: Portrait of a Photographer, starts out; the exhibit at the MetBreuer, “diane arbus: in the beginning,” features about 70 never-before-seen prints, the experiments that immediately followed “#1.” Together, these go a long way toward making whole an artist who’s long been distorted by a cult of personality.
By the late ’60s, Diane would become renowned for her striking, often confrontational black-and-white images of outsiders, from cross-dressers to drag performers to circus “freaks.” She gave a human dimension to extravagant individuals living on the fringe, while her photos of American families, children, and socialites had an undeniably dark tenor — she flipped the social balance, as if the entire country had gone through the looking glass. With her sudden death in 1971, she became one of the best-known American photographers in history — and one of the most controversial.
If she (or more so, her photos) were viewed as controversial, it is because her curiosity of people and the lives they lived was in a large sense about the desire for experience, for understanding of the larger questions. As is common with artists with a sensitive nature, she was also conflicted—yet, after so many years of internal conflict, she could no longer hold it together. In so many ways, she was the outsider, a photographer who could momentarily win the trust of people and take personal photos, often intimate.

Perhaps, she had no choice and she was fated to live as she did, seeking out to understand and portray the inner lives of people who were supposedly miserable, the kind that she was not supposed to have known in her formative years, where she was protected from the realities that so many others faced. The hard-edged unpretty realities that also, at times, contain hints of love in some form. This is all speculation on my part, but speculation based on hard-fought life experience. One could say that Arbus/Nemerov sought out in adulthood what was denied her in childhood, the foundational truths of life itself.

For more, go to [NYMag]