1. Bush’s portraits

    Hendrik Hertzberg at the New Yorker once described George W. Bush’s portraits as bad paintings, but good art. That sounds about right. As someone interested in political portraiture, I’ve enjoyed the coverage of his recently-unveiled gallery of world leaders at his presidential library in Texas.

    Unlike a lot of “professional” political portraits, which, as I’ve discussed previously, tend to be filled with tacky gimmicks and vain nonsense, Bush’s portraits, which only depict his subjects’ faces, seem intimate, human, and personal. You get a sense that Bush painted these trying to depict some essence of the leaders’ character, as well as their physical appearance, and I think that’s what makes them fairly compelling despite their roughness.

    What makes them less impressive, however, is the fact that they are all very obviously drawn from internet pictures, often pictures from Wikipedia or ones that appear within the first two or three matches when you Google Image search their name.

    Observe:

     
  2. 14:11 31st Mar 2014

    Notes: 1

    My very talented pal Angela has included me in her comic, Wasted Talent. This charming little exchange actually happened, ostentatious mannerisms and all.

    In the strip, the book I’m getting from her is Cubical Warrior, a fun collection of her beautiful comic strips about living and working in Vancouver. It’s her third book. I never cease to be inspired by how much content Angela’s able to produce, given that she spends most of her life just being a normal person with a normal 9-to-5 job. It certainly gives a zero-book dilettante like me a lot to feel insecure about.

     
  3. 01:17 17th Mar 2014

    Notes: 1127

    Reblogged from whatsdifferentincanada

     
  4. Bearish on the Canadian Economy IV

    Some interesting charts posted in Canadian Business magazine. The most interesting two are near the bottom, one of which compares Canadian and US economic growth, as determined by GDP per capita, the other Canadian and US “productivity,” which is to say GDP per hours worked — or to put it even more bluntly, how economically useful our work is. Though Canada has kept almost exact pace with the US on GDP per capita, we still lag on productivity.

    The author concludes:

    By looking at individual rather than family income, we see that wage gains from this period were largely thanks to rising commodity prices and increasing number of women entering the labour force. These are not trends we can expect to continue indefinitely.  Furthermore, these trends served to mask slow Canadian productivity growth.

    Being bearish on the Canadian economy means being prepared for the possibility for some kind of moment of reckoning in the near future, when the unsustainable nature of some of our current economic Good Times finally catches up with itself.

     
  5. Bush money

    The role played by “big money” in American politics tends to be overrated, or at least misunderstood. There’s a world of difference between the fact that it costs a lot to run for president, which is undeniable (and predictable, given we’re talking about the world’s second-largest democracy) and the simplistic idea that “the most money wins" — though the two concepts are often lazily merged in the popular imagination. Mitt Romney actually slightly outspent Barack Obama in 2012.

    A new story from the Washington Post claims that “every single Romney donor we spoke with this week” wants Jeb Bush to be the GOP nominee in 2016, which has led to a flurry of fatigued editorials speculating on yet another possible Bush-Clinton match up. I’m just posting this for posterity, because I am not personally that bullish on Bush’s chances, but it’s worth remembering at this early stage who the “big money” evidently wants in the White House.  

     
  6. 14:38 25th Feb 2014

    Notes: 1604

    Reblogged from pbsthisdayinhistory

    image: Download

    pbsthisdayinhistory:

February 25, 1870: America’s First Black Senator Is Sworn In
Hiram Rhodes Revels, the country’s first African American member of U.S. Congress, took his seat on this day in 1870, representing the state of Mississippi. Southern Democrats, who were for the most part supporters of segregation, tried to block his nomination.
From the U.S. House of Representatives Archives:

Just before the Senate agreed to admit a black man to its ranks on February 25, Republican Senator Charles Sumner of Massachusetts sized up the importance of the moment: “All men are created equal, says the great Declaration,” Sumner roared, “and now a great act attests this verity. Today we make the Declaration a reality…. The Declaration was only half established by Independence. The greatest duty remained behind. In assuring the equal rights of all we complete the work.”

Revel’s term lasted little more than a year. Hiram Rhodes Revels impressed many political observers with his oratorical gifts and moderate temperament.Dive deeper into the story behind Revel’s election with Henry Louis Gates, Jr.’s The African Americans: Many Rivers to Cross.

Another reminder that the history of tolerance is complex:

    pbsthisdayinhistory:

    February 25, 1870: America’s First Black Senator Is Sworn In

    Hiram Rhodes Revels, the country’s first African American member of U.S. Congress, took his seat on this day in 1870, representing the state of Mississippi. Southern Democrats, who were for the most part supporters of segregation, tried to block his nomination.

    From the U.S. House of Representatives Archives:

    Just before the Senate agreed to admit a black man to its ranks on February 25, Republican Senator Charles Sumner of Massachusetts sized up the importance of the moment: “All men are created equal, says the great Declaration,” Sumner roared, “and now a great act attests this verity. Today we make the Declaration a reality…. The Declaration was only half established by Independence. The greatest duty remained behind. In assuring the equal rights of all we complete the work.”

    Revel’s term lasted little more than a year. Hiram Rhodes Revels impressed many political observers with his oratorical gifts and moderate temperament.

    Dive deeper into the story behind Revel’s election with Henry Louis Gates, Jr.’s The African Americans: Many Rivers to Cross.

    Another reminder that the history of tolerance is complex:

     
  7. 12:07 19th Feb 2014

    Notes: 4

    How intolerant was the past?

    I found this recent piece by Jim Loewen in Salon to be quite thought-provoking. Loewen’s main conceit is that James Buchanan (1791-1868), president of the United States from 1857 to 1861, was gay, and that a lot of people in his own time knew this, and didn’t care. I don’t think the author provides nearly enough evidence for that conclusion, but he does go on to ask an interesting question about why our first instinct is to angrily assume that’s impossible. Why do we always unthinkably assume everyone in the past was more intolerant than we are in the present? Why does this have to be true to satisfy our assumptions about the modern world?

    I’ve been reading about the poet Walt Whitman (1819-1892) lately, another man from the same era who was quite openly gay. He even wrote quite explicit poems about same-sex love. And it was controversial with some people, but by no means defined the man’s reputation, which was of course that of one of the most beloved literary celebrities of the mid-19th century. According to contemporary narrative, this is hard to accept. Logically, Whitman should have been extremely persecuted and marginalized, just as we assume a gay politician would have been.

    Loewen argues that American history is better understood by embracing the idea that only the years “between 1890 and about 1940” were uniquely regressive on a whole host of racial, sexual, and religious issues — a “nadir” of tolerance in the United States — and it’s from this nadir that we get our contemporary cliches about how awful the past used to be. 

    It seems like a useful theory that can be used to explain a lot.

     
  8. 16:23 17th Feb 2014

    Notes: 1

    This is quite a brilliant little essay about our modern culture of outrage and taking offense. The thesis is that it’s never been easier to find some outrageous opinion that will offend you, but the question is whether tracking down such opinions actually reflects anything other than our desire to feel self-righteous. 

     
  9. More family statistics

    Statistics about relationships are interesting. As I noted in a previous post, they’re a form of scientific data that tends to be quite unfashionable these days, since people — especially young people — don’t like being judged for how they choose to live with their partners or have kids, and that’s basically all these sorts of statistics do.

    I recently came across this 2000 academic study on infidelity from the Journal of Marriage and Family. It has some interesting conclusions.

    • Though both cohabiting and married couples tend to be faithful in the vast majority of cases, faithfulness is higher (92%) for couples that never lived together before getting married, compared to couples currently cohabitating (88%). As the study says, “living together before marriage raised the net odds of marriage infidelity by 39%.”

    • "Being male raised the odds of infidelity by 120%," though this mostly has to do with the fact that men are more sexually permissive and interested in sex than women. A woman who displays high levels of those sorts of qualities is likely to be a cheater, too.

    • Being close with your partners’ friends and family reduces the chances of adultery.

    Second, here’s an interesting column by Kay Hymowitz in The New York Times the other day. She talks about some of the new data reenforcing the conclusion that “single motherhood hurts kids” and cites a stat from the Centre for the Future of Children that only 33% of unmarried partners who have children together stay together longer than five years. This is troubling when you consider that “a full 23 percent of all births within the past five years have been to non-married cohabiting women” according to a 2013 study from the US department of Health and Human Services.

    Third, here’s a recent column by Terry Gaspard in the Huffington Post’s famed divorce-themed blog. She looks at a bunch of published data in regards to cohabitation with children, and finds interesting stuff:

    • Over 50 percent of couples who cohabitate before marriage are broken up within five years (Cherlin, 2009)
    • Over 75 percent of children born to couples who are not married no longer live with both parents by the age of fifteen (Cherlin, 2009)
    • 47 percent of American women who give birth in their twenties are unmarried at the time (New York Times)
    • U.S. taxpayers spent $112 billion in 2011 helping to support children and families with unmarried parents (Washington Post)

    It’s all stuff that’s worth knowing. Before you buy a phone or a car, you’re expected to do the research. Picking a family style or living arrangement should be no different. 

     
  10. image: Download

    More Sonic fan art.

    More Sonic fan art.