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Posts Tagged ‘Oscar Wilde

“Beauty is no quality in things themselves”*…

 

“The Triumph of Venus,” by Francis Boucher (1740).

We’re all human—so despite the vagaries of cultural context, might there exist a universal beauty that overrides the where and when? Might there be unchanging features of human nature that condition our creative choices, a timeless melody that guides the improvisations of the everyday? There has been a perpetual quest for such universals, because of their value as a North Star that could guide our creative choices…

Scientists have struggled to find universals that permanently link our species. Although we come to the table with biological predispositions, a million years of bending, breaking and blending have diversified our species’ preferences. We are the products not only of biological evolution but also of cultural evolution. Although the idea of universal beauty is appealing, it doesn’t capture the multiplicity of creation across place and time. Beauty is not genetically preordained. As we explore creatively, we expand aesthetically: everything new that we view as beautiful adds to the word’s definition. That is why we sometimes look at great works of the past and find them unappealing, while we find splendor in objects that previous generations wouldn’t have accepted. What characterizes us as a species is not a particular aesthetic preference, but the multiple, meandering paths of creativity itself…

Anthony Brandt and David Eagleman offer an explanation as to “Why Beauty Is Not Universal.”

* “Beauty is no quality in things themselves: It exists merely in the mind which contemplates them; and each mind perceives a different beauty.”  –  David Hume, Of the Standard of Taste and Other Essays

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As we examine aesthetics, we might spare a thought for aesthete-in-chief Oscar Fingal O’Flahertie Wills Wilde; the novelist, essayist, playwright, poet, and master of the bon mot died on this date in 1900.

The true mystery of the world is the visible, not the invisible.

(…more of Wilde’s wisdom at Wikiquote)

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Written by LW

November 30, 2017 at 1:01 am

“We can easily forgive a child who is afraid of the dark; the real tragedy of life is when men are afraid of the light.”*…

 

The Chapman University Survey of American Fears Wave 3 (2016) offers a look into the fears of average Americans.  In April of 2016, a random sample of 1,511 adults from across the United States were asked their level of fear about 79 different potential sources across a huge variety of topics– crime, the government, disasters, personal anxieties, technology, and others.

As readers can see in the highlights chart above, the top anxiety suffered by Americans is “corrupt government officials”; fully 63% of respondents ranked it “Afraid” or “Very Afraid.”  That said, as readers will also see when they click through the link that follows, 10.2% percent of Americans are “Afraid” or “Very Afraid” of “zombies.”

Peruse the results at “America’s Top Fears 2016.”

* Plato

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As we overcome our wistfulness on remembering that this is Oscar Wilde’s birthday, we might recall that it was on this date in 1793, nine months after her husband, the former King Louis XVI of France, was beheaded, that Marie Antoinette followed him to the guillotine. (Readers who are parents– or collectors– can find commemorative dolls here.)

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Written by LW

October 16, 2016 at 1:01 am

“Celebrity is the chastisement of merit and the punishment of talent”*…

 

It’s easy to imagine that the fever pitch of celebrity consciousness in which we’re awash is a modern phenomenon, a function of reality TV, social media, and other trappings of our times.  But consider the case of Lillie Langtry…

Known in the later 19th century as “the most beautiful woman in the world,” Langtry had her portrait painted by both John Everett Millais and James McNeil Whistler; and Oscar Wilde once said of her, “I would rather have discovered Mrs. Langtry than to have discovered America.”  Married to a wealthy Irishman, she was mistress of the Prince of Wales, later King Edward VII.  Through her society connections she befriended Sarah Bernhardt, who convinced her to try acting; she made her debut at London’s Haymarket Theatre in 1881.

From her autobiography, an anecdote from 1874– before her turn on the stage:

One morning I twisted a piece of black velvet into a toque, stuck a quill through it, and went to Sandown Park. A few days later this turban appeared in every milliner’s window labeled “The Langtry Hat.” “Langtry” shoes, which are still worn, were launched, and so on and so on. It was very embarrassing, and it had all come about so suddenly that I was bewildered. If I went for a stroll in the park and stopped a moment to admire the flowers, people ran after me in droves, staring me out of countenance, and even lifting my sunshade to satisfy fully their curiosity. To venture out for a little shopping was positively hazardous, for the instant I entered an establishment to make a purchase, the news that I was within spread with the proverbial rapidity of wildfire, and the crowd about the door grew so dense that departure by the legitimate exit was rendered impossible, the obliging proprietors being forced, with many apologies, to escort me around to the back door.

Instead of the excitement abating, it increased to such an extent that it became risky for me to indulge in a walk, on account of the crushing that would follow my appearance. To better illustrate my predicament I may state as a fact that, one Sunday afternoon, a young girl, with an aureole of fair hair and wearing a black gown, was seated in the park near the Achilles statue. Someone raised the cry that it was I, people rushed toward her, and before the police could interfere, she was mobbed to such an extent that an ambulance finally conveyed her, suffocating and unconscious, to St. George’s Hospital.

Via Lapham’s Quarterly

* Emily Dickinson

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As we slake ourselves on selfies, we might spare a thought for Clara Bow; she died on this date in 1965.  Bow appeared in 46 silent films and 11 talkies, including Wings (1927; the winner of the first Academy Award for Best Picture).  But it was her appearance as a plucky shopgirl in the film It (also in 1927) that brought her global fame and the nickname “The It Girl.” Bow came to personify the Roaring Twenties and to become its leading sex symbol.  At the height of her stardom, she received more than 45,000 fan letters in a single month (January, 1929).

After marrying actor Rex Bell in 1931, Bow retired from acting and became a rancher in Nevada, where she lived, relatively quietly, for another 34 years.

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Written by LW

September 27, 2015 at 1:01 am

For tonight’s debate…

Logical Fallacy Bingo

Definitions of each flavor of fallacy, and clean copies of the board at Lifesnow.com.

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As we overcome our wistfulness on remembering that this is Oscar Wilde’s birthday, we might recall that it was on this date in 1793, nine months after her husband, the former King Louis XVI of France, was beheaded, that Marie Antoinette followed him to the guillotine. (Readers who are parents– or collectors– can find commemorative dolls here.)

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Written by LW

October 16, 2012 at 1:01 am

You wear it well…

 

Photographer Ari Versluis and profiler Ellie Uyttenbroek have worked together since the mid-90s.   First in Rotterdam, then in other cities across Europe, they invite pedestrians into their studio for posed portraits, which are then displayed in clusters.  As Wim van Sinderen, Senior Curator of the  Museum of Photography at The Hague observes,

They call their series Exactitudes: a contraction of exact and attitude. By registering their subjects in an identical framework, with similar poses and a strictly observed dress code, Versluis and Uyttenbroek provide an almost scientific, anthropological record of people’s attempts to distinguish themselves from others by assuming a group identity. The apparent contradiction between individuality and uniformity is, however, taken to such extremes in their arresting objective-looking photographic viewpoint and stylistic analysis that the artistic aspect clearly dominates the purely documentary element.

See many more “tribal group portraits” at Exactitudes.  [TotH to EWW]

For more trend-spotting fun, readers can visit Bill Cunningham’s weekly photo round-up in the New York Times (a series that began when Versluis and Uyttenbroek were children).  And for an extra-special treat, see the documentary Bill Cunningham’s New York.

 

As we check ourselves in the mirror before going out, we might send witty birthday wishes to Oscar Fingal O’Flahertie Wills Wilde; the novelist, essayist, playwright, poet, and master of the bon mot was born on this date in 1854.

The true mystery of the world is the visible, not the invisible.

(…more of Wilde’s wisdom at Wikiquote)

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Written by LW

October 16, 2011 at 1:01 am

Going out gracefully…

Twenty-four more valedictions at Buzzfeed’s “The Last Words Of 25 Famous Dead Writers.”  And many more parting shots– like Oscar Wilde’s “My wallpaper and I are fighting a duel to the death. One or the other of us has to go”– at Wikiquote’s Famous Last Words.

As we rehearse our final scenes, we might spare a tuneful thought for trumpeter, bandleader, and composer Miles Dewey Davis III; he died on this date in 1991.  Davis was a pioneer of a number of jazz forms– bebop, cool jazz, hard bop, modal jazz, and jazz fusion, among others– but was perhaps even more influential for the musicians he launched in his bands (an extraordinary roster that includes Bill Evans, Gerry Mulligan, John Coltrane, Cannonball Adderley, Wayne Shorter, Herbie Hancock, Keith Jarrett, Chick Corea, Elvin Jones, and Jack DeJohnette) and for the bands and musicians he influenced (and equally amazing list that includes Lalo Schifrin, Tangerine Dream, King Crimson, Steely Dan, Frank Zappa, Duane Allman, Radiohead, The Flaming Lips, Lydia Lunch, Jerry Garcia, and Prince).

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It’s a Bard! it’s a plain (Jane)! It’s…

Literary Action Figures!  Shakespeare, Ms. Austen, plus Oscar Wilde, Edgar Allan Poe, and Charles Dickens

Order now, and as a special bonus receive:

(TotH to Brainpickings)

As we save up our allowance, we might recall that it was on this date in 1881 that Charles Darwin published The Formation of Vegetable Mould Through the Action of Worms-– the work he considered a more important accomplishment than The Origin of Species (1859).

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