Weekend

Required Reading

This week, Eau de Nil, the fake internet, a right-winger’s freakout over a new museum director, reviewing new books about Islam, Scottish coorie, and more.

Brazilian designer Pedro Venzon has designed a trio of sculptural wooden stools that are supposedly “inspired by sinful bodies,” but I just think they look gorgeous and seemed like a simply perfect thing to post before the New Year.  Happy New Year! (via Dezeen)
  • Katy Kelleher reflects on Eau de Nil, the light-green color of Egypt-obsessed Europe:

Eau de Nil (“water of the Nile”) is a tricky color to pin down precisely. It is a light-greenish hue, more saturated than celadon, less gray than sage. It has tan undertones and a cool bluish cast. It is, confusingly, an entirely different color from Nile green. (Another bewildering color, Nile green is defined as a “pale yellow green” by Merriam-Webster, a “pale bluish-green colour” by Collins English Dictionary, and marketed as a bright emerald green by Benjamin Moore.) While the color experts at Pantone do have a green prefaced by Nile, they do not have a single color named eau de Nil. Like the ever-changing waters of Flaubert’s Nile, the color itself changes. Sometimes it is yellowish and springy; other times it is bluish and murky. There is something about “ishy” colors like this that seems to call forth memories more vividly than their primary counterparts. In the introduction to the book Life in Color, the designer Jonathan Adler writes that the “dusty blue-green” eau de Nil “is wartime London. When I see eau de nil, I am transported to the lobby of Claridge’s hotel in London with its signature eau de nil china, its melancholy glamour, its stirring portrait of Winston Churchill framed with an eau de nil border.”

In late November, the Justice Department unsealed indictments against eight people accused of fleecing advertisers of $36 million in two of the largest digital ad-fraud operations ever uncovered. Digital advertisers tend to want two things: people to look at their ads and “premium” websites — i.e., established and legitimate publications — on which to host them.
The two schemes at issue in the case, dubbed Methbot and 3ve by the security researchers who found them, faked both. Hucksters infected 1.7 million computers with malware that remotely directed traffic to “spoofed” websites — “empty websites designed for bot traffic” that served up a video ad purchased from one of the internet’s vast programmatic ad-exchanges, but that were designed, according to the indictments, “to fool advertisers into thinking that an impression of their ad was served on a premium publisher site,” like that of Vogue or The Economist. Views, meanwhile, were faked by malware-infected computers with marvelously sophisticated techniques to imitate humans: bots “faked clicks, mouse movements, and social network login information to masquerade as engaged human consumers.” Some were sent to browse the internet to gather tracking cookies from other websites, just as a human visitor would have done through regular behavior. Fake people with fake cookies and fake social-media accounts, fake-moving their fake cursors, fake-clicking on fake websites — the fraudsters had essentially created a simulacrum of the internet, where the only real things were the ads.

Kimball takes exception with what his essay describes as the “National Gallery of Identity Politics.” No surprise there: Curmudgeons like to believe that fine art belongs under glass, its authority the sole function of pedigreed gatekeepers who lurk in library stacks. Above all, in Kimball’s book, art must never associate itself with the -isms of the left, which pretty much rules out any painting made after World War II. Although Kimball would do well to learn his art history: Andrew Mellon seeded the National Gallery through his purchase, in 1931, of nearly two dozen European masterpieces from the Soviet Union. Launching the National Gallery facilitated Stalin’s first Five-Year Plan. (Russia used to trouble Reagan-era culture warriors.)

There can be no resolution without knowledge. This is not glamorous, nor is it cheap; it is the slow, arduous work of provenance research, and museums must be equipped and resourced to undertake it. History, memory and dignity must to be restored to artefacts. Better, deeper stories need to be told to the public; the archive needs to be enriched. Where items are found to have been acquired wrongfully, restitution must follow. Museums lie at the root of these difficult and painful disputes over memory; they are also the places best able, in the end, to resolve them.

Paleoscatologists determined that the human who deposited this now-renowned, seven-inch specimen had a diet of meat and bread. Unfortunately for that poor, long-dead soul, they also had a handful of intestinal issues. The scat was scattered with Whipworm and Maw-worm eggs, which would have caused stomach aches and other more unfortunate gastrointestinal symptoms.

Non-Muslims who take the time to read the Quran may end up feeling a bit baffled, though. For they will hear a lot about Abraham, Moses, Joseph or Jesus, but almost nothing about the person they may be expecting the most: Muhammad. For while the Quran often speaks to Muhammad, it almost never speaks about him.

That is why the Islamic tradition developed a post-Quranic literature on the life and times of Muhammad, recorded in the books of sira, or biography. And a cutting-edge version of sira comes from the pen of Juan Cole, a professor of history at the University of Michigan and the author of the popular blog Informed Comment.

“Coorie is about embracing all things Scottish in order to find a sense of deep happiness,” she wrote. Being able to strive for a better quality of life by getting back to basics makes her feel “part of something much, much bigger than yourself” because the land in Scotland “is huge… it is a world of extremes”.

In 2002, Burnett rented Wollman Rink, in Central Park, for a live broadcast of the Season 4 finale of “Survivor.” The property was controlled by Donald Trump, who had obtained the lease to operate the rink in 1986, and had plastered his name on it. Before the segment started, Burnett addressed fifteen hundred spectators who had been corralled for the occasion, and noticed Trump sitting with Melania Knauss, then his girlfriend, in the front row. Burnett prides himself on his ability to “read the room”: to size up the personalities in his audience, suss out what they want, and then give it to them.

“I need to show respect to Mr. Trump,” Burnett recounted, in a 2013 speech in Vancouver. “I said, ‘Welcome, everybody, to Trump Wollman skating rink. The Trump Wollman skating rink is a fine facility, built by Mr. Donald Trump. Thank you, Mr. Trump. Because the Trump Wollman skating rink is the place we are tonight and we love being at the Trump Wollman skating rink, Mr. Trump, Trump, Trump, Trump, Trump.” As Burnett told the story, he had scarcely got offstage before Trump was shaking his hand, proclaiming, “You’re a genius!”

What those who oppose and dismiss antifa don’t know, though, is that there is far more to the movement than readily meets the eye. Those few hours on the streets are outweighed by the days and months invested in surveillance and information gathering (to say nothing of flyering, wheatpasting, tearing down fascist propaganda, monitoring local bars, fundraising, jail support, self-defence skillshares, child care…).

As activists emphasize, there are so many other tactics involved in this work – and before and after any kind of action at all takes place, so much research, and so many meetings.

“Research is like the anti-fascist version of watching TV,” Rev, an anti-fascist organizer based in the New York City area, tells me. “It’s something you do to pass the time if you’re bored at a bus station, or home with an hour to kill – you research what new Nazi groups are there, what are they about, do they have militias, have they violently attacked anyone, have any of them been doxxed recently. It gets oddly addictive, because you want your family and friends to be safe, so obviously you want to know the most you can about these idiots. Some people have research parties – maybe have some food, some wine, get some music, then you decide which groups and people you want to do research on.”

  • A ridiculous list of things people got stuck in their body orifices this year, as published by the US Consumer Product Safety Commission’s database of emergency room visits. Let’s get straight to the good stuff, like things stuck in rectums:
    • CHRISTMAS ORNAMENT BALL
    • BILLIARD BALL
    • NAIL FILE
    • SHOT GLASS
    • “CRACK COCAINE WITH SEX OBJECTS”
    • SD CARD
    • “JUMPED ON BED – TOOTHBRUSH WAS ON BED AND WENT UP PATIENT’S RECTUM”
    • “SAT DOWN ON THE SOFA AND ACCIDENTALLY SAT ON A BALL POINT PEN, PEN LODGES IN RECTUM”
    • PLASTIC PENCIL CASE
    • MARKER
    • GREEN CRAYON
    • IPAD STYLUS
    • LUBE BOTTLE WITH CAP ON
    • LEG OF TELESCOPE …
  • A man walked around New York in a t-shirt that used the Washington Redskins brand but replaced the racist “Redskins” name and image with “Caucasians” and a white man’s face. The reaction, as he describes it in this video, was terrible:

Required Reading is published every Sunday morning ET, and is comprised of a short list of art-related links to long-form articles, videos, blog posts, or photo essays worth a second look.

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