Robert Rauschenberg

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

I am generally skeptical of Pop Art and Abstract Expressionism. While I do believe that there were brilliant practitioners of these movements, there were not many, and even those who did great work were often sullied by the temptation to produce subpar work for a ravenous art market.

Still others, unfortunately, produced “art” that may have been of conceptual and, possibly, historical value, but lacked intrinsic aesthetic value.

Of course, beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but no one looks upon an Winslow Homer watercolor and fails to see beauty. And, frankly, if a work is purely conceptual, I’d rather just have the concept written on a napkin.

Robert Rauschenberg, who died today at 82, was guilty of all of the above. Nevertheless, I am inclined to give him the benefit of the doubt. I have seen a few of his mixed media paintings and found some of them to be compositionally beautiful, moving, true expressions of artistic talent.

But a lot of it was junk. So, as always, judge for yourself. Here’s his bio and video from PBS’s American Masters site.

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The Chinese Challenge

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Mark Helprin of the Claremont Institute contributed an opinion to the Wall Street Journal today about China’s rising prosperity and military capability, and how America should respond. It’s a little reactionary, but worth reading.

Like many of the Cassandras alarmed by the shifting balance of global power, Helprin sees the rise of potential threats to American dominance growing unimpeded, as though China and the rest of the world won’t face any problems in their ascent to parity with the United States (or regional competitors). But just like America is sometimes burdened with foolish leadership and buffeted by storm tides, so the rest of the world will experience problems of their own. Not least, in China’s case, a vast, restless, and still very poor population.

That said, it’s hard to argue with much of Helprin’s logic. China’s GDP has grown on average by 9% per year for twenty years. They are building nuclear subs, and are planning for both asymmetrical and conventional war. Without trying to be overly cynical, planning for a war with China – which would put this little police action against the terrorists in stark relief – seems prudent.

Knowing this, what should we do?

Naturally, Helprin suggests a military buildup; a thousand ships, 40 carriers, a thousand F-22s.

I am afraid to agree, but if I had to choose, I would probably do the same.

We just need to get our financial ship in order first (or simultaneously), or America truly will find itself in a bipolar (or worse, Chinese unipolar) world.

Here is a more optimistic view from Chris Patten, the former governor of Hong Kong.


Dems Win Again: Mississippi Runoff Today

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Update: As predicted, Democrat Travis Childers has won the heavily contested seat of Roger Wicker in Mississippi’s 1st Congressional district.

Republicans have suffered a couple of significant Congressional losses recently. First, they lost the special election to replace Dennis Hastert in Illinois. That seat had been in Republican hands for 76 years (barring one term after Watergate).

Second, they suffered another loss in the special election for Louisiana’s Sixth Congressional District a couple of weeks ago. Bush carried that district by 19 percentage points in 2004 and Republicans had held it since 1975.

Today, in Mississippi, there is a runoff election to fill the House seat vacated when Roger Wicker was elevated to the Senate. The conservative Democrat Travis Childers won the previous vote for the seat (but did not win an absolute majority – hence the runoff) and is likely to win today.

There is a clear trend here. Democrats are winning in Republican strongholds; places that were once considered “locks,” without the possibility of a competitive race. If there is one narrative that will hold true through the November elections, it is this: Republicans are facing a massacre.

Today’s election is just another sign that Americans are fed up with the dishonor and incompetence of the Republican Party.