The Birth of Venus by the Italian artist Sandro Botticelli is one of the most famous paintings in the world and is seen at it's home in the Uffizi Gallery in Florence, Italy by upwards of 2 million people per year. Painted sometime in the 1480s, it depicts the goddess Venus arriving at the shore after her birth, when she had emerged from the sea fully-grown.
Ideally this is how one would like to view the painting, up close, alone, with lots of time for inspection and admiration.
This is how most people probably experience the painting - in a busy, perhaps noisy crowd of people jockeying for time and space to get a few minutes of close viewing.
Now there is a new way to appreciate this, and many other great works of art; Google Arts & Culture is a relatively new initiative by Google to provide free access to the artistic wealth of the world in unprecedented digital quality.
Google uses a new gigapixel camera to scan famous paintings at resolutions of up to one billion pixels, which allows one to zoom in...
and in until your entire screen is filled with sharp detail of Venus's left eye.
You can check it out at the link below:
There is a new Amazon Prime mini-series coming out this week which is a remake based on the novel of the same name by Joan Lindsay:
There was a movie version of the book released in 1975 by Peter Weir which I watched recently and quite enjoyed. It's mysterious, thought provoking and frustrating all at the same time. The story revolves around the young women at a boarding school in Australia at the turn of the 20th century who go on a day long picnic outing.The atmosphere during the first part of the movie is quite dreamy and lush with romantic suggestions and connections between the girls.
The new mini-series stars Natalie Dormer (Game of Thrones) as the head-mistress of the boarding school.
This is a short 6 minute documentary about a queer gender-less social dance group called The Mid-cent-Shake where people can be free to socialize, learn how to dance swing, make new friends and have a lot of fun. What a great idea!
Warning: Potential Spoilers Below!!
When I learned that this was a Charlize Theoren movie I made plans to see it as soon as possible, and I did this past weekend. I loved her as Furiosa in Mad Max: Fury Road and I was expecting her to portray a cold, tough badass spy, like a female version of John Wick crossed with James Bond. She fulfilled those expectations brilliantly and her character, Lorraine Broughton, will become an icon for feminist badassery.
Earlier this summer I was slightly disappointed that Wonder Woman had to be surrounded by helpful males in her quest to save the world. I was delighted to see that Lorraine didn't require male sidekicks; she is cunning, ruthless, relentless and fully capable to complete her missions on her own.
I was expecting her to have a sexual relationship with another woman at some point during the movie but I was surprised by how it was portrayed. Her sexuality is vague with a suggestion of her being involved in the past with a male spy so when she gets involved with Delphine Lasalle (portrayed by Sofia Boutella), a French spy, we can conclude that she is bi-sexual, but sexual identities are never mentioned. Their attraction, and subsequent pleasure with each other is shown as unfolding naturally without the need for labels.
The relationship between Lorraine and Delphine is more than raw passion and we see moments of vulnerability and tenderness unlike anything that we usually see between a conventional heterosexual couple in action movies. As this romantic sub-plot was being developed I found myself silently cheering them on and I fervently hoped the movie was about to undergo a radical genre change halfway through from action to romance (my hopeless romantic self being fully engaged) but alas, my hope went from full to less, as it usually does.
Still I'm very encouraged by the way their relationship was developed and I see it as a very positive step towards fully normalizing attraction, love and sex between women on the big screen, and in our society. I really wanted and wished for a happy romantic ending in the movie but sadly that wasn't in the cards this time, perhaps I'll get that wish in a future movie (#HopelessRomantic).
A trailer for the upcoming movie (Fall 2017) Professor Marston and The Wonder Women has been released and it looks like it will deal honestly with the polyamorous lifestyle of Marston, his wife Elizabeth and their shared partner Olive Byrne who together were the creators of Wonder Woman. Even by today's liberal standards their family arrangement was quite radical.
I wonder if/how the release of this movie, so soon after Gal Godot's very successful Wonder Woman, will have an impact on the public's perception of Wonder Woman as a beloved icon and hero for girls and women. If it is well received it might be an event that starts larger discussion in society about polyamoury and female bisexuality.
The trailer looks great and I'm really looking forward to seeing it!
I've always wanted to visit the US Southwest and we just returned from spending 2 glorious weeks traveling around visiting various cities, museums, national parks and other interesting places. The highlights were:
Most days there wasn't a single wisp of a cloud in the sky, just a vast uniform blueness that seemed to extend up to the very edge of space. The sunshine was constant and intense and especially glorious after a dreary Canadian winter and an unusually wet and gloomy spring.
The sky at night was even more incredible, especially out in the desert, away from civilization's light pollution. One can see thousands upon thousands of stars and even the faint glow of the Milky Way arcing across the sky.
The Grand Canyon
I had a mental image of what to expect from people's anecdotes and pictures but when we got off the tour bus and walked to the edge I was shocked by how much larger, and more beautiful it was compared to my feeble mental image. It staggers and overwhelms one's sense of distance and scale and there is also an appreciation of the immense passage of time during its creation.
The village at the Canyon where we stayed overnight was busy and full of tourists from all over the world. Despite the many differences of languages, origins and cultures there was an atmosphere of shared awe and wonder that united us all in a spiritual kind of way and that feeling of group harmony was as uplifting as the spectacular vista of the Canyon.
On day when we were staying in Flagstaff we had a late lunch at a popular local restaurant that provided the setting for a totally unexpected and delightful experience. My chair was facing in a direction that gave me a good view of the front of the restaurant where a hostess greeted new arrivals and where waitresses would pass towards the kitchen to place and pick up orders.
The place was about half-full of customers but there seemed to be a lot of staff milling about, perhaps 7 or 8 waitresses in addition to the hostess. They were all busy - one was filling up salt and pepper shakers, another was cleaning menus, others were taking orders from customers. They were working diligently, but often, when they passed near each other, they would pause to say a few words which elicited smiles, or chuckles or amused looks.
I became fascinated with them, as a group, and with the positive morale they were creating by their brief encounters with each other, and it occurred to me that what I was seeing was a kind of supportive network of appreciation, similar in a way to Shybi, but up close in person, in real time. My fascination started to include happiness and I could feel the frubble building up inside.
At one point I glanced over to the kitchen order counter and I saw our waitress, and she was looking at me! When our eyes met she tilted her head slightly and gave me an incredibly broad, persistent and warm smile, a knowing smile, and I felt connected to her and the network of appreciation.
I've been looking forward to seeing a female superhero movie for a long time and the wait is almost over as Wonder Woman opens on June 2. The initial reviews are very good - on IMDB it gets an 8.4 and on Rotten Tomatoes it is getting 97% from critics. It's "only" a superhero movie but Wonder Woman has been an important cultural icon in decades past and hopefully with a successful premiere movie she'll continue to be in future decades.
It will be interesting to see if the movie version is close to the feminist vision of her creator William Moulton Marston. I'll add my impressions after seeing it.
The Surprising Origin of Wonder Woman
I'm not sure that I believe in love at first sight but I have no doubt whatsoever about book-love at first sight. This was confirmed for me recently when I became aware of a book published only 8 days ago on May 9, 2017. The book in question is The Evolution of Beauty: How Darwin's Forgotten Theory of Mate Choice Shapes the Animal World - and Us by ornithologist Richard O. Prum.
The early reviewers on Amazon are raving about this book - so far it's average rating is 5 out of 5 stars. I've read the first 2 chapters and I'd have to agree - it's superlative.
What is it about? Charles Darwin wrote a second book after The Origin of Species titled The Descent of Man, and Selection in Relation to Sex which was largely vilified and/or ignored by scientists for the past 145 years since it was published in 1871. In it Darwin proposed a second distinct engine of evolutionary change operating alongside natural selection called sexual selection which posited that sexual choice in mates, usually by the female in species, is responsible for the beauty we see in nature. When it was first published the idea that females could be a major driving factor in evolution was incomprehensible to patriarchal Victorian society. In this book Prum uses many examples from his lifelong career as a field ornithologist to show that Darwin was right all along and he had in fact written not one, but two revolutionary books about evolution and life.
I'll write another fuller blog post after reading and digesting this wonderful book.
A Blue Jay - I see these birds frequently when I go for walks in the forest ravine near my home.
The Descent of Man, and Selection in Relation to Sexhttps://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Descent_of_Man,_and_Selection_in_Relation_to_Sex
The Top Ten Most Beautiful Birds in the World
Welcome to the first post of my new blog where I will post interesting stories, trends, events, or whatever strikes my fancy.
The renowned author Neil Gaiman recently wrote a poem called The Mushroom Hunters to remind us that women played a major and critical role in the very beginnings of scientific thought. The poem was recently read at The Universe in Verse by his wife Amanda Palmer to honour and celebrate women's crucial role.
THE MUSHROOM HUNTERS
Science, as you know, my little one, is the study
of the nature and behaviour of the universe.
It’s based on observation, on experiment, and measurement,
and the formulation of laws to describe the facts revealed.
In the old times, they say, the men came already fitted with brains
designed to follow flesh-beasts at a run,
to hurdle blindly into the unknown,
and then to find their way back home when lost
with a slain antelope to carry between them.
Or, on bad hunting days, nothing.
The women, who did not need to run down prey,
had brains that spotted landmarks and made paths between them
left at the thorn bush and across the scree
and look down in the bole of the half-fallen tree,
because sometimes there are mushrooms.
Before the flint club, or flint butcher’s tools,
The first tool of all was a sling for the baby
to keep our hands free
and something to put the berries and the mushrooms in,
the roots and the good leaves, the seeds and the crawlers.
Then a flint pestle to smash, to crush, to grind or break.
And sometimes men chased the beasts
into the deep woods,
and never came back.
Some mushrooms will kill you,
while some will show you gods
and some will feed the hunger in our bellies. Identify.
Others will kill us if we eat them raw,
and kill us again if we cook them once,
but if we boil them up in spring water, and pour the water away,
and then boil them once more, and pour the water away,
only then can we eat them safely. Observe.
Observe childbirth, measure the swell of bellies and the shape of breasts,
and through experience discover how to bring babies safely into the world.
And the mushroom hunters walk the ways they walk
and watch the world, and see what they observe.
And some of them would thrive and lick their lips,
While others clutched their stomachs and expired.
So laws are made and handed down on what is safe. Formulate.
The tools we make to build our lives:
our clothes, our food, our path home…
all these things we base on observation,
on experiment, on measurement, on truth.
And science, you remember, is the study
of the nature and behaviour of the universe,
based on observation, experiment, and measurement,
and the formulation of laws to describe these facts.
The race continues. An early scientist
drew beasts upon the walls of caves
to show her children, now all fat on mushrooms
and on berries, what would be safe to hunt.
The men go running on after beasts.
The scientists walk more slowly, over to the brow of the hill
and down to the water’s edge and past the place where the red clay runs.
They are carrying their babies in the slings they made,
freeing their hands to pick the mushrooms.