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February 25, 2020

Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead


A superb 2009 novel by 2019 Nobel Prize in Literature winner Olga Tokarczuk, translated from Polish into English by Antonia Lloyd-Jones.

I remember a long, long time ago, reading his review of Camus' "The Stranger," critic Justin O'Brien's remark that the mark of a great book is an abundance of potential quotations.

Below, those that struck me in just the first 67 pages of Tokarzuk's book.

Of course I had one, but I wouldn't be able to tell where it was until morning, in the daylight. It's a feature of torches that they're only visible in the daytime.

To my mind, Death should be followed by the annihilation of matter. That would be the best solution for the body. Like this, annihilated bodies would go straight back into the black holes whence they came. The Souls would travel at the speed of light into the light. If such a thing as the Soul exists.

Long years of unhappiness cause a Person worse degradation than a fatal illness. 

There we stood in the cold, damp room, in the frosty vacuum prevailing at this dull, grey time of night, and it crossed my mind that the thing that leaves the body sucks a piece of the world after it, and no matter how good or bad it was, how guilty or blameless, it leaves behind a great big void.

I looked out the window. Dawn was breaking, and idle snowflakes were gradually starting to fill the nothingness. They were falling slowly, weaving their way through the air and spinning on their own axis like feathers.


Anger makes the mind clear and incisive, able to see more. It sweeps up the other emotions and takes control of the body. Without a doubt Anger is the source of all wisdom, for Anger has the power to exceed any limits.

What a joy it is in life when you happen to have a clean, warm kitchen. 

Once we reach a certain age, it's hard to be reconciled to the fact that people are always going to be impatient with us. In the past, I was never aware of the existence and meaning of gestures such as rapidly giving assent, avoiding eye contact, and repeating "yes, yes, yes" like clockwork. Or checking the time, or rubbing one's nose — these days I fully understand this entire performance for expressing the simple phrase: "Give me a break, you old bag."

Sometimes, when a Person feels Anger, everything seems simple and obvious. Anger puts things in order and shows you the world in a nutshell: Anger restores the gift of Clarity of Vision, which it's hard to attain in any other state.

Sometimes I feel as if we're living in a tomb, a large, spacious one for lots of people. I looked at the world wreathed in grey Murk, cold and nasty. The prison is not outside, but inside each of us. Perhaps we simply don't know how to live without it.

It is at Dusk that the most interesting things occur, for that is when simple differences fade away. I could live in everlasting Dusk.


In a way, people like her, those who wield a pen, can be dangerous. At once a suspicion of fakery springs to mind — that such a Person is not him or herself, but an eye that's constantly watching, and whatever it sees it changes into sentences; in the process it strips reality of its most essential quality — its inexpressibility.

One must keep one's eyes and ears open, one must know how to match up the facts, see similarity where others see total difference, remember that certain events occur at various levels or, to put it another way, many incidents are aspects of the same, single occurrence. And that the world is a great big net, where no single thing exists separately; every scrap of the world, every tiny last piece, is bound up with the rest by a complex Cosmos of correspondences, hard for the ordinary mind to penetrate. That is how it works. Like a Japanese car.

February 25, 2020 at 04:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Let's go outside

It was 54° so I figured Gray Cat would enjoy a little fresh air. Very little, turns out.

February 25, 2020 at 02:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)

44,000-year-old Indonesian cave painting may be oldest figurative art yet discovered

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From Scientific American:

Archaeologists have eagerly sought the origins of our distinctive artistic behavior.

For a long time, the oldest examples of figurative art (as opposed to abstract mark making) and depictions of fictitious creatures all came from sites in Europe dated to less than 40,000 years ago.

But in recent years, researchers have uncovered older instances of figurative art in Southeast Asia.

Now archaeologists working on the island of Sulawesi in Indonesia have found the oldest figurative art to date.

In a paper published on December 11 in Nature, Maxime Aubert, Adhi Agus Oktaviana, and Adam Brumm, all at Griffith University in Australia, and their colleagues report that the art — a cave painting — appears to shows several fantastical humanoid figures hunting real-life animals.
If they are right, the find could also constitute the oldest pictorial record of storytelling and supernatural thinking in the world.
The team discovered the ancient painting in 2017 in a cave known as Leang Bulu' Sipong 4 in southern Sulawesi's karst region of Maros-Pangkep, a dramatic landscape of jutting limestone towers and cliffs.
On the cave's craggy wall, six tiny hunters confront a large buffalo, brandishing ropes or spears.
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Nearby, other hunters set upon more buffalos, as well as pigs.
The hunters appear humanlike but exhibit mysterious animal traits — one possesses a tail, for instance, and another has a beak.
Such beings are called therianthropes, and they are considered to be indicators of spiritual thinking.
The researchers suggest that the various figures — all rendered in a pigment with the color of old rust — are part of the same scene and that it may show a communal hunting strategy known as a game drive, in which prey are flushed from cover and driven toward hunters.
To date the images, the researchers measured the radioactive decay of uranium in mineral deposits that had formed atop them.
Sampling deposits from various parts of the scene, the team obtained minimum dates ranging from 43,900 to 35,100 years ago.
If the painting is at least 43,900 years old, as Aubert and his colleagues argue, it would best the previous record holder for oldest figurative artwork — a 40,000-year-old painting of a cowlike animal found in a cave in Borneo — by several thousand years.
It would also beat the 39,000- to 40,000-year-old Löwenmensch ("lion man") figurine from Germany, which has long held pride of place as the earliest therianthrope, as well as a 17,000-year-old hunting scene from France's famed Lascaux Cave.
The location of the newly discovered painting some 21 feet above the ground, in a spot that is hard for modern visitors to access without a ladder or climbing equipment, is intriguing.
In Europe, early cave paintings are often found in deep, pitch-dark passages that would have been difficult to get to and work in, hinting that these places perhaps had special meaning to the artists.
Brumm notes that in Sulawesi, ancient images are mostly found near the entrances to caves and rock-shelters, so they occur in the light zone, not the dark one.
But as in the case of the Leang Bulu' Sipong 4 painting, they were created in high, hard-to-reach caves and niches in the region's limestone towers and cliff faces.
"Apart from the art, these sites otherwise show no evidence for human habitation, and we assume ancient people used them just for image making," Brumm remarks. "Why, we don't know. But perhaps creating cave art in such inaccessible, liminal locations high above the ground surface had some sort of deeper cultural and symbolic significance."
He adds that to reach these spots, the artists presumably had to climb up vines or perhaps bamboo poles — or, in some cases, pick their way through the networks of interior cave passages inside the karst towers.
But though the ancient artists in Sulawesi and their counterparts in Europe may have made their creations in places imbued with meaning and used some similar stylistic conventions in portraying their subjects, "any direct historical or cultural connection between the ice age animal art in Indonesia and Europe is unlikely," Brumm says.
Indeed, although the newly found painting may push back the date for the earliest figurative, therianthropic and narrative art, it reveals little about the driving force behind the emergence of such creative expression.
For decades scholars have puzzled over what seems to have been a long lag between the origin of modern human anatomy and modern human behaviors such as making art.
Whereas modern anatomy evolved hundreds of thousands of years ago, the elements of modern behavior — as revealed through the material culture preserved in the archaeological record — coalesced rather later.
Some have posited that a late-breaking cognitive shift might have supercharged our ancestors’ powers of ingenuity.
Others suppose that cultural, social, or environmental factors — or some combination thereof — stoked their creative fires.
"This cave art we have dated doesn't provide any direct insight into this interesting question — sadly!" Brumm says. But based on the available evidence, he suspects that fictional storytelling arose long before the this painting—"perhaps even before our species spread out of Africa."
Regarding who painted the figures in Leang Bulu' Sipong 4: No human skeletal remains have turned up in that cave or any other site on Sulawesi from that time period.
We know human species besides H. sapiens, including Neandertals, made art, although, thus far, it appears to have been exclusively abstract.
We also know other human species inhabited Southeast Asia in the not so distant past: Homo floresiensis resided on the Indonesian island of Flores 60,000 years ago; Homo luzonensis lived in the Philippines as recently as 50,000 years ago; and a genetic study has concluded that a late-surviving group of Denisovans may have interbred with H. sapiens in Indonesia or New Guinea just 15,000 years ago.
Asked whether one of these other species might have painted the hunting scene, Brumm says, "Given the sophisticated nature of the imagery, our working hypothesis is that modern humans — people with essentially the same cognitive 'architecture' as us—made this cave art. It is presumed that these people became established in Sulawesi as part of the initial wave of migration of Homo sapiens into Indonesia at least 70,000 to 50,000 years ago."
But the sophistication of the imagery is a matter of some dispute.
Archaeologist Paul Pettitt of Durham University in England, an expert on early art who was not involved in the new study, points out that although one animal in the group is at least 43,900 years old, most of the other figures are not dated.
"'Scenes' are very rare in Pleistocene art," he observes. "If this were in Europe, Africa, or North America, it would date to no more than [10,000] years ago." Pettitt notes that the so-called therianthropes are out of scale with the animals they are said to be hunting. "Could they be unrelated to the animals?" he wonders. Or might they even have been painted at a much later time? "We know that in Europe, 'painted caves' were actually decorated in several phases, separated by thousands of years," he says.
Geochemical analysis of the pigments involved could be used to establish confidence that the images in Leang Bulu' Sipong 4 are contemporary.
Pettitt is also not convinced that the hunters are therianthropes — or even humanoid.
"Some of them are vague and certainly open to question," he asserts. "Even the clearest examples could be quadrupeds," he adds, remarking on the horizontal depiction of these figures. And the alleged spears are merely "long lines that just pass close to some 'humans' — hardly weapons in hand," he says. "Thus, it is an open issue as to whether these represent humans and, if it is a scene, one of hunting."
Future work may bring resolution.
The discovery team's surveys in the region have turned up many more sites containing figurative paintings that remain to be dated.
Perhaps they will furnish new clues to the origins of the image-making, storytelling, myth-inventing modern human mind.

February 25, 2020 at 12:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Balenciaga Dystopian Newscast

From TIME:

Between global warming, precarious international politics, and the stress of impending presidential elections, there's a lot to worry about in this current moment, a feeling that Balenciaga creative director Demna Gvasalia appears to tapping into with his latest advertising campaign for the high fashion brand.

He created a remarkable dystopian evening newscast where water is disappearing, the planets are realigning, and all of the newscasters and subjects speak monotone gibberish over an ominous soundtrack, while dressed in head-to-toe Balenciaga.

The effect is futuristic and disturbing.

February 25, 2020 at 10:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (1)

McDonald's Quarter-Pounder-Scented Candle

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From designboom:

McDonald's has launched a collection of burger-scented candles.

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Each candle is made to replicate the scent of the ingredients that make up its Quarter Pounder: beef, ketchup, pickle, cheese, onion, and sesame seed bun.

The set of 6 custom-scented candles celebrate the burger's 50th anniversary of being on the menu.

The listing on the fan club website recommends burning all the scents at once for "maximum deliciousness."

McDonald's debuted the collection as part of its Quarter Pounder Fan Club, which features merchandise crafted for Quarter Pounder fans.

Other items include a Quarter Pounder

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a Quarter Pounder pin,

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Quarter Pounder couples mittens,

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a 2020 Quarter Pounder calendar,

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and a Quarter Pounder Fan Club t-shirt.

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February 25, 2020 at 08:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

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