Science, Trying to Pick Our Brains About Art

“Does a Rembrandt portrait or a van Gogh still life press some special buttons in every human being’s brain? Will a red painting speak to us in ways a blue one never could? Are we wired in ways that make every one of us enjoy a smiling bust and shiver at a frowning one?

And if our brains determine how art works on us, what does that tell us about art, or us — could studying the way we’re wired determine crisply that the ‘Mona Lisa’ is truly great, or do we need some history to tell us how a complex painting speaks, or not, to all its different viewers?

The Third International Conference on Neuroesthetics, subtitled ‘Emotions in Art and the Brain,’ was held earlier this month at the Berkeley Art Museum and tried to get a start at least on answering such questions. It was a showcase for the progress that’s been made in figuring out what goes on in the brain when art is seen or made.” —Washington Post

More on the neurology of creativity, with the complementary (and at least as interesting) question of that is happening when one has an aesthetic experience. However, the article ends with the same question I have — why assume there is just one sort of aesthetic experience and any uniformity to the neurology behind it?

Staging the Next Fantasy Blockbuster

His Dark Materials, which began as a trilogy of young-adult novels with extravagant themes but humble commercial expectations, has turned into a serious international phenomenon and bestowed on its author the sort of celebrity that prompted him to move to a house with an unlisted address. The books, luminous adventures that address life after death, religious faith and the complicated intermingling of good and evil, have been translated into 37 languages and sold more than 7 million copies in Britain and the United States alone.” —New York Times

Why the Golden Globes are a joke

Hollywood gives awards voters star treatment:

“What is the Hollywood Foreign Press Association? Though the group claims to represent the world media that connect Hollywood to its vast international audience, few of the world’s most prominent publications are members. Correspondents for Le Monde, The Times of London and Yomiuri Shimbun are not members.

Some major publications, including the Italian newspaper La Repubblica and the German newspaper Stern, are represented, but the association has repeatedly rejected applications from prominent foreign publications while accepting freelancers for small publications in Bangladesh and South Korea. Members need write only four articles a year to maintain active membership. The group accepts a maximum of five new members a year, and each member must be accepted unanimously. Last year, three members of the association died, but it accepted only one new member, Margaret Gardiner, who writes for South African publications.

There is little question that members of the association would get little attention if they did not have the Golden Globes.” —Chicago Tribune

Not that critics for the ‘major publications’ are the only ones entitled to their opinions…

Secret of historic code:

It’s gibberish: “t is covered with drawings of fantastic plants, strange symbols and naked women.

Its language is unknown and unreadable, though some believe it bears a message from extraterrestrials. Others say it carries knowledge of a civilisation that is thousands of years old.

But now a British academic believes he has uncovered the secret of the Voynich manuscript, an Elizabethan volume of more than 200 pages that is filled with weird figures, symbols and writing that has defied the efforts of the twentieth century’s best codebreakers and most distinguished medieval scholars.” —Observer.UK

R.I.P. ‘Captain Kangaroo’

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“Bob Keeshan, who delighted millions of children and their parents for three decades as television’s gentle, patient Captain Kangaroo and before that as the original Clarabell the Clown on the old ‘Howdy Doody Show,’ died yesterday in Vermont, his family said in a statement to The Associated Press. He was 76.” —New York Times