Colored With Complexity

Nov 28 2014 @ 8:47am

Sebastian Smee celebrates the 50th-anniversary edition of Joseph Albers’ design classic Interaction of Color:

Color’s relativity had been established (and scorned by chromophobes) long before Interaction of Color came along. What was ingenious, and groundbreaking, was the way Albers presented the evidence: clearly, rationally, with each concise lesson leading on to the next, so that he achieved his goal – the honing of color sensitivity – in an unfolding, absorbing process. Using colored paper salvaged from printers’ workshops and bookbinders, pieces of magazine pages, paint samples, and rolls of unused wallpaper, he crafted extraordinarily effective demonstrations of color’s startling and deceptive behavior.

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A Win For Retail Workers

Nov 28 2014 @ 7:41am

The San Francisco Board of Supervisors gave a holiday gift to city retail workers on Tuesday, unanimously approving a package of measures “aimed at giving retail staffers more predictable schedules and access to extra hours”. Claire Zillman elaborates:

The ordinances will require businesses to post workers’ schedules at least two weeks in advance. Workers will receive compensation for last-minute schedule changes, “on-call” hours, and instances in which they’re sent home before completing their assigned shifts. Businesses must also offer existing part-time workers additional hours before hiring new employees, and they are required to give part-timers and full-timers equal access to scheduling and time-off requests. …

San Francisco’s proposal takes sharp aim at employers’ tendency to schedule workers’ hours with little notice—a practice especially prevalent in retail. Earlier this year, University of Chicago professors found that employers determined the work schedules of about half of young adults without employee input, which resulted in part-time schedules that fluctuated between 17 and 28 hours per week. Forty-seven percent of employees ages 26 to 32 who work part time receive one week or less in advance notice of the hours they’re expected to work, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Bryce Covert cheers:

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It Means The World

Nov 27 2014 @ 9:09pm

Adam Frank suggests we should all be grateful for “this corner of the universe as embodied in the unlikely blue world we call home”:

A quick review of our solar system makes it clear that good planets are hard to find. The sun hosts eight worlds, at least six large moons, countless asteroids and countless comets. Of all those bodies there is only one place with warm oceans and blue skies and cool breezes and rainfall. And, of all the sun’s children, there is only one place where life has run riot.

It’s easy to take the Earth — and its ceaseless buzzing of wings and legs and fins — for granted. It’s easy to forget its staggering beauty or its almost incomprehensible strangeness in the near vacuum of interstellar space. But in its subtle coupling of air, ice, water and rock, our planet is nothing short of a miracle.

There are, likely, much worse places in the cosmos to try and eek out a lifetime. Places with less color, less majesty, less warmth, less coolness, less joy, less wonder. So, no matter what your year has been like — no matter what you may have lost — there is always the Earth.

A Poem For Thanksgiving

Nov 27 2014 @ 8:32pm

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“First Thanksgiving” by Sharon Olds:

When she comes back, from college, I will see

the skin of her upper arms, cool,

matte, glossy. She will hug me, my old

soupy chest against her breasts,

I will smell her hair! She will sleep in this apartment,

her sleep like an untamed, good object, like a

soul in a body. She came into my life the

second great arrival, fresh

from the other world—which lay, from within him,

within me. Those nights, I fed her to sleep,

week after week, the moon rising,

and setting, and waxing—whirling, over the months,

in a steady blur, around our planet.

Now she doesn’t need love like that, she has

had it. She will walk in glowing, we will talk,

and then, when she’s fast asleep, I’ll exult

to have her in that room again,

behind that door! As a child, I caught

bees, by the wings, and held them, some seconds,

looked into their wild faces,

listened to them sing, then tossed them back

into the air—I remember the moment the

arc of my toss swerved, and they entered

the corrected curve of their departure.

(From Blood, Tin, Straw: Poems by Sharon Olds © 1999 by Sharon Olds. Used by permission of Alfred A. Knopf, an imprint of the Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group, a division of Random House LLC. All rights reserved. Photo by Tom Wachtel)

High From A Holiday Spice?

Nov 27 2014 @ 7:55pm

Deborah Blum separates fact from fiction when it comes to having fun with nutmeg:

In the 1965 book, “The Autobiography of Malcolm X,” the activist describes purchasing it from inmates in a South Carolina prison, concealed in matchboxes, and stirring it into water. “A penny matchbox full of nutmeg had the kick of three or four reefers,” he wrote.

Toxicologists say that description is somewhat misleading, an overly romantic account of nutmeg’s generally unpleasant effects. It takes a fair amount of nutmeg — two tablespoons or more — before people start exhibiting symptoms. These can include an out-of-body sensation, but the most common are intense nausea, dizziness, extreme dry mouth, and a lingering slowdown of normal brain function. Dr. Gussow said nutmeg experimenters have compared it to a two-day hangover.

“People have told me that it feels like you are encased in mud,” said Dr. Edward Boyer, professor of emergency medicine and chief of the division of medical toxicology at the University of Massachusetts Medical School. “You’re not exactly comatose, but you feel really sluggish. And your remembrance of events during this time period is incomplete at best.”

Dreher actually tried it:

Teenage Home Experiment here. Let’s say you are a 17-year-old boy living in a residential high school in Natchitoches, Louisiana, and you and your friends are bored out of your minds.

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Face Of The Day

Nov 27 2014 @ 7:04pm

California Turkey Farm Supplies Birds For Thanksgiving Dinners

A turkey sits in a barn at the Willie Bird Turkey Farm in Sonoma, California. An estimated forty six million turkeys are cooked and eaten during Thanksgiving meals in the United States. By Justin Sullivan/Getty Images.

Thank God, Or Not

Nov 27 2014 @ 6:29pm

Emma Green contemplates why “secular, Thanksgiving-flavored gratitude seems so fuzzy”:

Religions from Christianity to Hinduism to Wicca all emphasize the importance of thankfulness, especially as a form of prayer. This is because they rely on the premise of an other, some sort of non-human being that has some sort of control or influence in the world who you can thank for the world and the good things in it.

“One of the things that’s really interesting about the human mind is that we seem to want to see agency in the world, almost intuitively,” said Michael McCullough, a psychologist at the University of Miami. “The mind really craves an explanation for the good and the bad, in terms of agency.” By “agency,” McCullough means something along the lines of “a force that can act in the world and cause events to happen.” In crude sociological terms, people give thanks to the forces that act in the universe—God, or god, or gods—as a bid for cosmic benevolence, whether that means making it rain or preserving a loved one’s health or bringing a baby into the world. But these thanks are also an implicit metaphysical claim: Humans owe their existence, their longevity, and perhaps even their daily fortunes to a being beyond ourselves.

While expressing gratitude for the good in her life, Kate Cohen confesses that “as an atheist, I don’t ever ascribe these gracious gifts to God; I never believed a supernatural being to be the source of the bounties that I enjoy”:

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Map Of The Day

Nov 27 2014 @ 5:50pm

Megan Gambino unearths the first map to bear the name “New England,” published by Captain John Smith in 1616:

In his new book, A Man Most Driven: Captain John Smith, Pocahontas and the Founding of America, [Peter] Firstbrook argues that historians have largely underestimated Smith’s contribution to New England. While scholars focus on his saving Jamestown in its first two harsh winters and being saved by Pocahontas, they perhaps haven’t given him the credit he deserves for passionately promoting the settlement of the northeast. After establishing and leading the Virginia Colony from 1607 to 1609, Smith returned to London, where he gathered notes from his exploration of the Chesapeake Bay and published his 1612 map of Virginia. He yearned for another adventure in America and finally returned in 1614.

When Smith was mapping New England, the English, French, Spanish and Dutch had settled in North America. Each of these European powers could have expanded, ultimately making the continent a conglomerate of similarly sized colonies. But, by the 1630s, after Plymouth and the Massachusetts Bay Colony were established, the English dominated the East Coast—in large part, Firstbrook claims, because of Smith’s map, book and his ardent endorsement of New England back in Britain. “Were it not for his authentic representation of what the region was like, I don’t think it would be anywhere near as popular,” says Firstbrook. “He was the most important person in terms of making North America part of the English speaking world.”

So, Friendsgiving Is A Thing

Nov 27 2014 @ 5:01pm

Kay Steiger explains that she and her pals inaugurated a tradition of non-family get-togethers “because we all thought we could make better versions of Thanksgiving food and it’s more fun to get drunk with your friends anyway”:

[F]or all the cleverer recipes and the fancier food, what actually matters is getting everyone together for another year – which was the point of the family Thanksgivings we all either couldn’t or didn’t want to go back to our hometowns for. We aren’t related by blood, but we’re still a family.

The idea of Friendsgiving isn’t particularly unique to us, but it is quietly radical in its way …. The conservative view is that your second family starts with a marriage between one man and one woman, preferably long before the ages we all our now – and, until then, your original family Thanksgiving should take top priority. But creating – and celebrating – families with the people you like rather than the people you might feel stuck with provides a lot of people more reason to give thanks.

But not everyone is so Friendsgiving-friendly. Foster Kamer insists it’s “the ne plus ultra of dumb, idiotic, made-up, fake holidays created exclusively for the most middlebrow human beings intent on perpetuating middlebrow, capital-b Basic culture”:

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Mental Health Break

Nov 27 2014 @ 4:20pm

Finally, a “Thanksgiving Carol” made especially for short attention spans: