Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Roger Simon, (who is extremely out of my league creatively, and maybe why I like him so) posts a review of Nanny McPhee.

Now I have to see the movie, if only for "scenery-chewing Angela Lansbury."

I had the privilege of seeing her live in "Sweeny Todd" when it was on tour in Boston somewhere around 1980. She is truly wonderful.

But how can you beat watching "scenery-chewing Angela Lansbury?"

My brain is swimming in fantastic visualizations.

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If you're not already checking JT Kirkland's site for the Artists Interview Artists project on a regular basis, I'm going to have to nag.

This time it is Anabela Jevtovic responding to five questions by Eridanus Sellen. Ms. Sellen's questions are simple, but deal with the core types of issues artists always face in the real world. Ms. Jevtovic's answers show someone thoughtful and mature in their self view. I think the only thing I might add, in response to her answer to question number three, is that such an approach is the healthy way to exist.

Keeping your individuality while not marginalizing yourself is hard. Selling out to get commercial attention is ultimately harder on the self, and is corrosive to the soul.

If you want to know what I'm talking about, go and read the interview.

God speed and good luck to both Ms. Jevtovic and Ms. Sellen

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Monday, January 30, 2006

More Book Madness, a Review of “A Masterpiece Reconstructed, The Hours of Louis XII

This is an absolutely gorgeous book, especially for anyone interested in medieval art or history. It is edited by Thomas Kren (Curator of Manuscripts, The J. Paul Getty Museum) and Mark Evens (Senior Curator of Paintings, The Victoria and Albert Museum), with essays by Janet Backhouse (Curator of Illuminated Manuscripts, the British Library, since deceased), Thomas Kren, Nancy Turner (Associate Conservator of Manuscripts, The J. Paul Getty Museum) and Mark Evans.

The subject is the remaining parts of a book of hours, commissioned by Louis XII of France from Jean Bourdichon in the mid-to-late Fifteenth Century. The writing is exceptionally clear and readable, showing the great love of the subject held by the authors whose illustrious titles might make one fear that this would be a less accessible and more technical book. The plates and illustrations are beautiful and clearly printed, with numerous details and enlargements. The essays place the Hours of Louis XII clearly within the context of Bourdichon’s work, as well showing the connections with Flemish illumination styles, and the work of Jean Fouquet (who preceded Bourdichon as illuminator to the court in France). They also show how the Hours fits into the evolving trends of figure painting and subject matter in medieval times, and even how the subject choices reflected Louis’ character. I especially enjoyed Ms. Turner’s essay explaining Bourdichon’s manuscript painting techniques and materials. The final essay covering the provenance of the manuscript after it became broken up (somewhere before 1700) is also excellent, clearly showing the academic detective work necessary in understanding and reuniting the Hours.

I highly recommend “A Masterpiece Reconstructed” for anyone interested in art history or the Middle Ages, or anyone simply interested in beauty.

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Friday, January 27, 2006

Artists Interview Artists

This project by JT Kirkland is truely wonderful. Go read the new interview of Eridanus Sellen, who is from the Sacramento, California area. The questions are from Anabela Jevtovic from Toronto, and both the questions and the answers are thought provoking.

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A roundup of interesting art sites found while browsing

EscapeRail, Fire escapes as the subject of art photos

Kenji Yanobe: Survival System Train and Other Sculpture, the unkempt aftermath of "Better Living Through Science."

Klockwerks, Unique Timepieces designed by Roger Wood
I especially like this one

I'l try to do something like this on a regular basis.

UPDATE: One of my favorite sites, BibliOdyssey has posted illustrations from 1723 of "People of the World." If you are interested in history or costume design, take a look.

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Thursday, January 26, 2006

I'm very flattered

The incomparable Alexandra von Maltzan took the time to visit here, and noted that she had a follow up post to those I linked to on Monday.

Go and read It Is About Time We Were Politically Incorrect Part II

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Wednesday, January 25, 2006

False Thinking, Science and Faith revisited

A little while ago, LaShawn Barber graciously replied to an email I had sent her. In it, she asked if I had written anything on Intelligent Design (ID) and evolution. When I replied back I linked to my earlier essay False Thinking, Science and Faith. Today interestingly enough, while I was following a link from Stephen Green I found this article titled “What Are Creationists Afraid Of?” by Edward Hudgins in The New Individualist.

Mr. Hudgins’ essay is interesting, and he does address some of the issues concerning morality that Christians have brought up in response to Darwinism in a very understanding way:

“… those who take a rational approach to knowledge must understand that deep moral concerns motivate many creationists, and that these concerns should be addressed. They fear that if humans are merely animals produced by material processes, then there is no firm foundation for ethics; indeed, some see the social breakdown around them resulting in part from the teachings of Darwin. Since they reject moral relativism, they believe they must reject evolution….”

This is indeed one of the reasons why some who believe in God reject Darwinism. But quite frankly, the issues of Evolution vs. a belief in a Creator God are almost entirely political in nature (not as in party politics but method of argument). To quote Timothy Birdnow:

“The fact is, as Jonas Salk pointed out to Herb Meyer, the left tries to use Darwin to fight an either/or battle over the validity of the Bible, and by extension the existence of God.”

This is the dynamic that has provoked Christians to question how science is taught to our children, and to provoke some into the extreme position of rejecting some parts of science.

I would consider Mr. Hudgins article on the whole to be a good faith effort on his part to address the evolution/creation controversy, and he deserves respect for that. However I might point out a number of things from his essay that seem to reveal how deeply entrenched atheistic thought patterns have become in the Darwinist’s side of the debate.

In one place, Mr. Hudgins equates a belief in the necessity of a Creator God with communistic central economic planning:

“It is also strange to see conservative creationists adopting a policy practice that was central to Stalinist Russia

….Communism is, of course, contrary to human nature—most of us look out for ourselves rather than contently sacrificing for the 'common good.' But the Reds thought that by changing our political-economic environment, we could simply will a change in our nature to make us into post-capitalistic, altruistic, socialistic men.

Scientific evidence did not support this belief, but the Bolsheviks did; so they mandated that this ideological article of faith be taught in schools, and they simultaneously repressed the critical, empirical approach to biology.

Anti-communist creationists certainly have disagreements with Darwin that are different than (Communism). But creationists also hold beliefs based on ideology rather than the scientific process and wish to foist those beliefs onto the science curricula by power of law. No, they are no longer pushing to ban the teaching of evolution from classrooms, as did their predecessors in many states, including John Scope’s Tennessee. But their political pressure has had a chilling effect on textbook publishers and teachers, making them reluctant to openly discuss the purely rational pursuit of knowledge.”

It would be just as respectable a comparison as equating Stalinism with science, because some scientists ridicule a belief in God and there is a current bureaucratic trend toward ejecting all discussion of a belief in God from the public arena and in schools, in deference to those who don’t believe. (It could also be said that this has had a ‘chilling effect’ on textbook publishers and teachers who wished to teach theology.) Since the communists suppressed religious belief - then science could be equated with Stalinism. This is such an obviously false and idiotic argument as to be rejected out of hand. My question is, why is the reverse comparison any less ridiculous?

The above quoted comparison, which verges on an ad-hominum attack on faith, would seem to reveal Mr. Hudgins’ biases. Now, I don’t deny Mr. Hudgins the rights to his biases and beliefs, as it is simply impossible to exist in life without them (meaning bias in the strictly neutral moral sense). However it behooves all of us to admit them, both to each other and more importantly to ourselves, if we want to have a true discussion. That he would make such a false comparison in an otherwise cogent and, as I have previously said, understanding essay makes me think that Mr. Hudgins may not have made such admissions to himself, at least not fully.

Now, as to the matter of teaching creationism or Intelligent Design as a science, well I would agree (as a Christian) with Mr. Hudgins that it is not science. However, it is a legitimate philosophic question (I refer you again to my essay). To deny that it is a valid question, and to obscure the focus of the debate by making attacks on either science or faith is the worst form of anti-intellectualism. Since science claims the high ground of intellectual endeavor it is then lowering itself to use such tactics (or more often, to allow others such as the Media, teachers unions, and the academic humanities to use such tactics without rebuke).

In another part of his essay, Mr. Hudgins takes on the issue of Morality, and it’s nature. In it, he has many excellent thoughts that are worth looking at, and which certainly show his optimism about what it means to be human:

“We humans are what we are today regardless of whether we evolved, were created, or were intelligently designed. We have certain characteristics that define our nature.

We are Homo sapiens. Unlike lower animals, we have a rational capacity, an ability to fully, conceptually understand the world around us. We are self-conscious. We are the animal that knows—and knows that he knows. We do not survive automatically, by instinct, but must exercise the virtue of rationality. We must think. We must discover how to acquire food—through hunting or planting—how to make shelters, how to invent medicines. And to acquire such knowledge, we must adopt a rational methodology: science.

Furthermore, our thinking does not occur automatically. We have free will and must choose to think, to focus our minds, to be honest rather than to evade facts that make us uncomfortable—evolution, for example—because reality is what it is, whether we like it or acknowledge it or not.

But we humans do not exercise our minds and our wills for mere physical survival. We have a capacity for a joy and flourishing far beyond the mere sensual pleasures experienced by lower animals. Such happiness comes from planning our long-term goals, challenging ourselves, calling on the best within us, and achieving those goals—whether we seek to nurture a business to profitability or a child to adulthood, whether we seek to create a poem or a business plan, whether we seek to design a building or to lay the bricks for its foundation.

But our most important creation is our moral character, the habits and attitudes that govern our actions. A good character helps us to be happy, a bad one guarantees us misery. And what guides us in creating such a character? What tells us how we should deal with our fellow humans?
A code of values, derived from our nature and requirements as rational, responsible creatures possessing free will.”

I am warmed by Mr. Hudgins optimism on human nature.

Unfortunately, the history of the 20th century (and all of history for that matter) shows that there is a real need for an external, objective and absolute moral force outside of man. History itself proves the contrary to Mr. Hudgins’ argument that our capacity for using our human minds for more than physical survival provides for the moral interaction of human kind. Not only that, but his argument on the condition and ends of moral character are questionable.

Does “a good character help us to be happy, and a bad one guarantee(s) us misery?” Can we prove that Stalin was any less happy than Mother Theresa? Did Sharon Tate’s moral character guarantee the misery of being brutally slaughtered at the behest of Charles Manson? Are the miseries of destruction by hurricane and typhoon the result of the bad characters of people in Bangladesh or New Orleans? (I seem to remember some recent outrage at the last suggestion.)

Without an external, objective and absolute moral force which is above human philosophy, authority and argument then any form of morality becomes subject to human agreements. And what if I individually do not agree? On what basis can it be proven that my morality is in error?

The excesses of communism and nihilism (which Mr. Hudgins alludes to) show the possible end of human based morality, that would either be morality based on the rule of the gun, or no morality at all. For morality to be anything but mere sophistry there must be an absolute moral force of some kind.

An example of this lack of morality is provided by, and refuted by Mr. Hudgins. Speaking of Clarence Darrow's court defence of the murders Nathan Leopold and Richard Loeb:

“He argued that the killers were under the influence of Nietzschean philosophy, and that to give them the death penalty would hurt their surviving families. 'I am pleading for life, understanding, charity, kindness, and the infinite mercy that considers all,' he said. 'I am pleading that we overcome cruelty with kindness and hatred with love.' This is the sort of abrogation of personal responsibility, denial of moral culpability, and rejection of the principle of justice that offends religious conservatives—in fact, every moral individual, religious or atheist.”

Mr. Hudgins is quite right to disdain such amoralism, but he glosses over the fact that it is the natural result of the abrogation or abandonment of a superior external moral force.

Whether you call such an external moral force God or something else is a matter of theological and philosophical discussion. The human need of such a force is by nature a discussion of the need for morality itself.

I agree with Mr. Hudgins that Homo sapiens is unlike the ‘lower’ animals. Homo sapiens is the only animal that knows how to fully extinguish itself, to create a ‘speciecide’ of ourselves and potentially all other life. The propensity of humans to embrace evil for our own short term gain even to the point of self annihilation makes us the only animal that actively and regularly plots its own anti-survival. Ironic for the species that could envision Darwinism.

The need to consider and embrace a Creator God is more than an issue of what to teach in schools, it is an issue of the survival of the species.

I’d further suggest for reading, Paul Shlichta, here and here and Jonah Avriel Cohen here

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OK, it makes sense...

I'm a Dodge Viper,

Althought I would have prefered being a

'70 Buick GSX,

or if I had to be a viper, at least in black.

Oh well, take the Which Sports Car Are You? quiz.

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Tuesday, January 24, 2006

One more photographer!

Magdalena Taber is a photographer here in the North-of-Boston area. She just emailed me with a link to her new website In the field of possibilities. Beautiful work. She has a very different esthetic than Henk Van Rensbergen or Edward Burtynsky, and if you need a break from all the post-industrial chaos of their work Ms. Taber's art is an excellent place to go.

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Another excellent photographer

Henk van Rensbergen at Abandoned-places has updated his site with new photos from "Le Hasard", Coalmine of Cheratte and the Ammoniac Paradise.

Make a second cup of tea (see below) click on the link, and hit the updates button in the lower left corner.

That he and Mr. Burtynsky are my two favorite photographers probably goes a long way toward explaining the imagery I use in my work.

Mr. Van Rensbergen is definitly worth your time.

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The Photographs of Edward Burtynsky

Something I have been meaning to do for a while is add Edward Burtynsky to my list of Highly Admired Art, Music and Photography.

His incredible photographs of shipbreaking in Chittagong, Bangladesh have been haunting favorites of mine from the first I saw them. (I have paid homage to his photos in one of my paintings)

His more recent work in China is every bit as intense and beautiful as his work with shipyards, quarries and heavy metal pollution from mine tailings.

Make a cup of tea, and sit and browse his work for a while.

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Artists Interview Artists: Sean Hennessy

Once more, JT Kirkland posts an installment of "Artists Interview Artists," this time with Sean Hennessy who hails from D.C. Take a look at the interview, and follow the links to Mr. Hennessy's site. His answers are clear and cogent, with a little bit of whimsey, and his art work is wonderful.

If you're an artist, take part in the interview project.

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Monday, January 23, 2006

Anna L. Conti's web journal is moving to Working Artist's Journal

I'm updating my links below, and this is a good time to suggest that you take a look at her blog, and her artwork. Both are excellent.

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Alexandra von Maltzan at All Things Beautiful has two excellent posts covering the Myth Of Diversity that lies within Political Correctness and Multiculturalism.

It Is About Time We Were Politically Incorrect

Jesus Christ On Trial In Italy

They are worth the time to read yourself, in full.

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Saturday, January 21, 2006

More Book Madness

My lovely wife ordered Spectrum 12 for me, and it just came today.

(She got me the Science Fiction Book Club edition; the link above is the regular hardcover version from Amazon)

The Spectrum series is an annual compendium of "the Best in Contemporary Fantastic Art" edited by Cathy & Arnie Fenner. The images are gorgeous, well and carefully reproduced, covering fantasy, science fiction, editorial and illustration art, as well as unpublished works and three-dimensional art. This edition's jury included the artists Jon Foster, Anita Kunz, Karen Palinko (sculptor) and William Stout (a favorite of mine) as well as Irene Gallo, the art director of Tor Books and David Stevenson, the art director at Del Rey Books.

The pages are graced by the work of Brom, John Jude Palencar, Michael Whelan, Michael William Kaluta, and many many others.

Especially interesting are a number of paintings by Dave DeVries, (like “Old Scratch and The Fish”, which won the Silver award for Institutional art) where he beautifully and very faithfully creates paintings with depth and chiaroscuro based on the drawings of various seven year olds (which are included for comparison).

Movie fans will be happy with the many pieces of concept art from "Robots: The Movie" and "The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe."

I have to say that I'm not a big fan of this year's Grand Master Award winner, H.R. Giger, although I can understand his place in SF and fantasy history. His images are far too dark, dwelling upon evil and corruption for my tastes. I also need to warn some of my readers who may be offended by some of the other disturbing images dealing with monsters/evil and sexuality. They really aren't many, but they are a part of the illustration market where some of the bigger consumer/publishers are companies like Playboy enterprises. If you are squeamish about such then you may want to avoid Spectrum.

I am pleasantly surprised at the even hand given to political images, especially considering the level of vindictiveness in current politics. A couple of the images fit that vindictive level, but they are pretty evenly split between the left and the right of the political spectrum. Kudos to the Fenners, there really is a part of the press that is impartial!

Spectrum 12 will get a lot of handling from me, like all of the previous volumes in the series. Anyone with an interest in art that strays away from the strictly real world will enjoy it as well.

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Friday, January 20, 2006

Today, the family went to the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston.

We have a family membership, and my wife takes the kids in each week for an arts and crafts class. I should know better than to tag along, as inevitably the first thing I do is browse through their excellent bookstore.

An expensive mistake...

Now on the shelf,

A Masterpiece Reconstructed, the Hours of Louis XII Thomas Kren & Mark Evans eds. ISBN 0-89236-829-2; The J. Paul Getty Museum and The British Library, in association with the Victoria and Albery Museum

Gothic Sculpture, 1140-1300 Paul Williamson, ISBN0-300-07452-2; Yale University Press, Pelican History of Art

the Gothic Enterprise, a Guide to Undestanding the Medieval Cathedral Robert A. Scott, ISBN 0-520-24680-2; University of California Press

I also picked up "Medieval Objects in the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, Metalwork" from the discount bin, and the 2006 Artist's & Graphic Designer's Market (ISBN 1-58297-396-2; Writers Digest Books).

I had previously gotten Gothic Architecture by Paul Frankl, from Yale University Press, Pelican History of Art, and was very pleased with it. Clear, concise, plenty of quality illustrations (though mostly small and black and white) and excellent research for my painitngs.

As soon as I'm done with one, I'll attempt my first book review for the weblog. It will probably be 'the Hours of Louis XII' as I already started reading it in the car while waiting for the family to get out of their class. The reproductions are excellent and the scholarship (being a companion book to an exhibit) looks to be of matching quality or better.

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Thursday, January 19, 2006

GW channels Samuel Clemmons

(from todays Opinion Journal)

Newsmax.com quotes President Bush as saying that his wife will never run for Senate: "She's not interested in running for office. She's interested in literacy."

"Suppose you were an idiot. And suppose you were a member of Congress. But I repeat myself."
-Paine, 'Mark Twain: A Biography.' 1912, vol. 2, p. 724

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Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Sigmund, Carl & Alfred have posted in part a speach, The Four Freedoms delivered to Congress on January 6, 1941 by Franklin Delano Roosevelt. It is an excellent reminder of what America stands for, and how a Liberal Republic (speaking of kind, not party) should view its place in the world.

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Monday, January 16, 2006

Gnosis and the Image

The Assistant Village Idiot had an excellent link to a piece on the cultural differences of thought and perception between East (especially Chinese) and West. This is of course the piece referenced below that I so botched in terms of commenting. By way of intellectual apology, (and a way to distract you all from my blushing) here is a link to another aspect of cultural perception from the New Atlantis by Christine Rosen titled The Image Culture.

This piece was originally published last fall, but I just came across it today. It covers a lot of ground I’ve been thinking about over the last few years. Ms. Rosen talks about how the ubiquity and shear mass of images in modern culture, both static pictures and video/movies, have begun to erode the primacy of the written word as the our chief means of communication.

She writes:

“Historians and anthropologists have explored the story of mankind’s movement from an oral-based culture to a written culture, and later to a printed one. But it is only in the past several decades that we have begun to assimilate the effects of the move from a culture based on the printed word to one based largely on images. In making images rather than texts our guide, are we opening up new vistas for understanding and expression, creating a form of communication that is “better than print,” as New York University communications professor Mitchell Stephens has argued? Or are we merely making a peculiar and unwelcome return to forms of communication once ascendant in preliterate societies—perhaps creating a world of hieroglyphics and ideograms (albeit technologically sophisticated ones)—and in the process becoming, as the late Daniel Boorstin argued, slavishly devoted to the enchanting and superficial image at the expense of the deeper truths that the written word alone can convey?”

I’ve previously written about Postmodernist Gnosis here and Ms. Rosen brings new insight to the issues involved with the degeneration of quality in discourse in our culture.

We have a historically rare intellectual climate in the modern West, and the blogosphere is an excellent example of this. For most of history, a very few had the keys to information, and controlled it as a method of controlling their societies. Gnosis, or special elite knowledge reserved for the highest rank has always been a hallmark and a tool of repressive societies. A free society depends on the ability to freely exchange, explain and understand information. A two tier society, where the masses only understand visual images and are taught by pictures, and where only ivory tower people have command of the written word is the type of dystopia illustrated by Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451 and George Orwell’s 1984. Ms. Rosen writes of how digital image technology undermines our trust in the veracity of images. In the early 80s, no less than the National Geographic got flak for having a digitally manipulated image on one of its covers. One of the big three weekly news magazines suffered backlash in manipulating a photo of OJ Simpson to make him darker and strengthen the contrast between his skin and stubble (accusers claiming this showed racial stereotyping). The technologies for this type of image handling are now in the hands of many ‘regular’ people, and numerous magazines provide tips and techniques monthly. Very, very few instances of photo manipulation are meant for anything other than purely innocent purposes, but it’s easy to project a time when every court case using photographic evidence will need an “Image Scientist” to explain why the evidence is trustworthy for a jury who know how to press a button on their home computers to remove “red-eye” from Christmas photos.

As an artist, I know how images are subject to personal interpretation, and are incapable of pure clarity. A replacement of literacy for the instantaneous gratification of an info-image would be a great blow to our society. As Christine Rosen asks, “Does every cultural trend make a culture genuinely better?”

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Sunday, January 15, 2006

Mea Culpa,

Over at the Assistant Village Idiot I commented on Dean Esmay's Art essay, pasting in the majority of my post from below.

Problem is, that wasn't the site I got the link to Mr. Esmay's post from. Needless to say, my comment had nothing to do with the post to which it is linked. Assistant Village Idiot was very gracious about it, just asking that I post a comment that actually related to his post. (Which links to an excellent piece at Albion's Seedlings talking about how language and cultural differences between Anglo and Asian culture create very different methods and focuses in our perception of the world. Go read it).

I still can't figure out where I found the link to Dean Esmay.

So, I've now commented on the blog of the 'Assistant', but I guess we know who the Head Idiot would be.


Dean Esmay has an interesting post called Art's in The Eye of the Beholder, BUT...

Go read the whole thing, and the comments.

A couple of notes, in my opinion Mr. Esmay is not correct in saying that Dada "showed its greatest contempt" in Marcel Duchamp's "Fountain." Another Duchamp piece holds that position, LHOOQ. The following description is from Wikipedia (in its listing on the Mona Lisa):

"The avant-garde art world has also taken note of the undeniable fact of the Mona Lisa's popularity. Because of the painting's overwhelming stature, Dadaists and Surrealists often produce modifications and caricatures. In 1919, Marcel Duchamp, one of the most influential Dadaists, made a Mona Lisa parody by adorning a cheap reproduction with a moustache and a goatee, as well as adding the rude inscription LHOOQ, when read out loud in French sounds like "Elle a chaud au cul" (translating to "she has a hot arse" as a manner of implying the woman in the painting is in a state of sexual excitement and availability). This was intended as a Freudian joke, referring to Leonardo's alleged homosexuality. According to Rhonda R. Shearer, the apparent reproduction is in fact a copy partly modeled on Duchamp's own face."

LHOOQ shows Dada's contempt not just for the art viewer and the art world of the time, but for art as history and tradition.

Another thing to note, Dada came from the Post-Great War era, where nihilism and cynicism were central in European thought, especially in the Arts and the intelligentsia. This nihilism and its concomitant apathy were part of the cultural forces that allowed (and overlooked) the rise of Fascism in Europe.

Considering some of the strains of current culture, and the historical forces at work in world politics, the history and results of Dada and its times worth studying today.

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Saturday, January 14, 2006


No less than David Byrne is calling for a boycott of the major-label music industry.

I was looking forward to buying Aerial by Kate Bush...she's on EMI. Time to rethink. If the esteemed Mr. Byrne (who's lifeblood is music) thinks this is an issue, then I'd say it's worse than I had thought.

Damian Kulash of the band OK Go says his piece, and it begins "DRM just flat out s**ks!

David Byrne has a list of the "shocking top 20" disks, which I think are all Sony/BMG. I can't seem to find a list of EMI disks affected, but Damian Kulash says that the effective date for EMI's DRM being loaded on every new release was the date of their last album's release (he says that for some reason, OK go's album sneaked out the door without copy protection). Looking on Amazon OK go's latest release seems to have been August 30th.

Well, another reason to save my money.

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Memento Mori II

Irony in industrial death...

I came across the excellent photo galleries of Jakob Ehrensvärd on pbase including this incredible photo.

Take a look at all of his stuff. It's really incredible.

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Friday, January 13, 2006

Irony alert!

My wife and I are watching 20/20 on the crisis in schools in America. A teacher who had brought suit in Florida to stop school vouchers essentially said that competition was wrong for schools and for kids...

...right! Competition is wrong for schools and kids, but don't talk about creationism, teach only Darwin! *

*(this is not advocating either theory, just a note on the absolutism and incoherency of the public school unions)

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Hat Tip Mark Butterworth

Mark Butterworth links to a Chicagoland artist Daniel Mitsui. He's an interesting discovery, especially in light of my interest in religious and medieval art. It's beautiful work, and very painstaking by the look of it. Go have a gander while I add Mr. Mitsui to my blogroll.

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Artists Interview Artists

JT Kirkland has kindly included me in the "Artists Interview Artists" project. My interview can be seen here.

It's quite a project, and there is a long list of excellent participants.

If you want a break from my bloviating, go to the link, scroll past my stuff and start browsing through some of the other interviews of creative people out there!

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Pork Busters has an open letter to the Republican Leadership in the House, calling for transparency and accountability. This is incredibly important, and if you are interested you can sign on here

Here is the text of the letter (from The Truth Laid Bear);

An Appeal from Center-Right Bloggers

We are bloggers with boatloads of opinions, and none of us come close to agreeing with any other one of us all of the time. But we do agree on this: The new leadership in the House of Representatives needs to be thoroughly and transparently free of the taint of the Jack Abramoff scandals, and beyond that, of undue influence of K Street.

We are not naive about lobbying, and we know it can and has in fact advanced crucial issues and has often served to inform rather than simply influence Members.

But we are certain that the public is disgusted with excess and with privilege. We hope the Hastert-Dreier effort leads to sweeping reforms including the end of subsidized travel and other obvious influence operations. Just as importantly, we call for major changes to increase openness, transparency and accountability in Congressional operations and in the appropriations process.

As for the Republican leadership elections, we hope to see more candidates who will support these goals, and we therefore welcome the entry of Congressman John Shadegg to the race for Majority Leader. We hope every Congressman who is committed to ethical and transparent conduct supports a reform agenda and a reform candidate. And we hope all would-be members of the leadership make themselves available to new media to answer questions now and on a regular basis in the future.


N.Z. Bear, The Truth Laid Bear
Hugh Hewitt, HughHewitt.com
Glenn Reynolds, Instapundit.com
Kevin Aylward, Wizbang!
La Shawn Barber, La Shawn Barber's Corner
Lorie Byrd / DJ Drummond , Polipundit
Beth Cleaver, MY Vast Right Wing Conspiracy
Jeff Goldstein, Protein Wisdom
Stephen Green, Vodkapundit
John Hawkins, Right Wing News
John Hinderaker, Power Line
Jon Henke / McQ / Dale Franks, QandO
James Joyner, Outside The Beltway
Mike Krempasky, Redstate.org
Michelle Malkin, MichelleMalkin.com
Ed Morrissey, Captain's Quarters
Scott Ott, Scrappleface
The Anchoress, The Anchoress
John Donovan / Bill Tuttle, Castle Argghhh!!!

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These are two sketches for an upcoming painting...

images copyright 2005 MJ Andrade

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Thursday, January 12, 2006

the Refuse of the Alchemist
1998 - 2004

cracker box, palette scrapings (acrylic paints), beer bottle caps copyright 2006 MJ Andrade

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Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Memento Mori

images copyright 2006 MJ Andrade

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Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Thinking about Art has another excellent "Artists Interviewing Artists" post, Artists Interview Artists: F. Lennox Campello.

Go read it!

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Postmodernist Gnosis

Dr. Sanity linked to this article where Roger Kimball takes on Postmodernist Art History, as personified by Michael Fried. The type of thinking Mr. Kimball describes is an extention of the pretentiousness I saw when in college in the late 70s and early 80s. Even back then, so much of the discussion I saw in the humanities was couched in obtuseness and obsfucation. It seemed that the idea was to make you think that the speaker was smart, because he or she used so many big words strung together that it was impossible to understand them.

It's the same strategy used by the print industry when printing science journals. Wow, tiny sans serif print, in three narrow columns, it's so hard to read, I must be really smart to be able to understand it! (This is a real tactic, I remember taking a weekend seminar on print and layout where it was discussed) The difference is, the science journal is trying to stroke your ego, by making you work harder to read an article so that you feel smarter when you've finished all the hard work of reading it. The arts-humanities professors were trying to make themselves feel smarter by making it harder for us as students or their readers who loved art to understand, and then when the Gnosis, the hidden meaning was finally revealed we would be 'elevated into the elite priesthood' of those who understood the truth and the secret words of knowledge.

Thankfully, in the Theatre Department we didn't actually get much of this, as too much time and effort had to be put into the practical craft of making a show work. Even in the acting classes, which by nature had to focus on the emotional touchy-feely side of life, it was a practical matter of knowing your body and your emotions so that you could control them and use them as tools within your performance.

Having talked with so many artists who struggled through art school feeling like outcasts because their politics, or religion, or brand of art didn't fit the mold of the 'artiste' I am thankful that I studied in such a craft-oriented enviroment. (I think that, at least on the university level Art was a lot less diverse then than it is now)

The result of this posturing is this, in an economy where so many more people are rising up past the financial (and educational) levels of their parents generations, many people who would otherwise be excited to own or view art feel inadequate to participate in the art world, even as viewers. Think about it, how often do you talk with someone who, when they find out you're an artist, preface their next sentence with, "Well, I don't really know much about art..." before trying to find out what you do or talk about your work? My response invariably is "What do you like? It's enough to know that you like it."

Art should be participatory. When the Arts exclude people by making them feel inadequate or uneducated, it diminishes the role that art plays in our society, and it reduces the number of potential patrons that might make our art a livelyhood.

UPDATE: Sigmund, Carl & Alfred provide related insight.

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Monday, January 09, 2006

Sketches for the angel in Ascension

copywrite 2005 MJ Andrade

These are three of the permutations that I considered before finally choosing the one on the right. It gave the best feeling of rising movement. I was surprised because I thought that having the wings extend higher would give more of a feeling of flying, but it ended up turning the angel into an arrow pointing down. The nearly full extension of wing in the final choice ended up as the right choice in context, when a different one viewed by itself (as a stand alone image) would have been more dynamic.

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The New England Homeschool Resource Guide

My wife and a good friend have put together a book listing resources for homeschoolers in the New England states. If you homeschool, or just like to do quality extra-curricular things your kids, then you should check it out.

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Friday, January 06, 2006

Piano with A Tension Deficit Disorder

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Since my first interest in blogs and blogging four years ago or so, I had been concentrating on political and cultural blogs. Of course, now that I’m doing a blog dealing with art, I’m spending more time looking at Art Blogs. I am finding so many good ones that it’s driving me nuts! I’m going to continue adding stuff to the blogroll, and some (like this) will get added right away because of the quality of artwork. Other stuff will get read for a while and then added, so that I have an idea of what the blog is really about. My hope is that my blogging can be a dialogue. It’s hard to have a dialogue if I’m not listening to other people.

One thing though, I was really intrigued by J.T.Kirkland’s Artists Interview Artists project, and have signed up for that. Now, to think of five questions to ask an artist I haven’t met or seen the work of, questions that won’t be trivial but could work for a realist or abstractionist or, well, whatever….

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Thursday, January 05, 2006

Those of you who know me, know I am conservative politically, and have been so all of my adult life. However, this is an issue of methodology, not temperament. Go read this post by Sigmund, Carl and Alfred and then the post of the Anchoress which he links to. Both of these posts explain my thoughts far better than I can.

My fear is not that the Democrats would win the Presidency or the Congress, but that the current vituperative atmosphere of blame-shifting, accusation, and posturing in both parties would continue until the popular backlash really does undermine our republic and our freedoms. God, if only (and I mean that as a prayer, not an expletive) Joe Lieberman would be taken seriously by the Democrats, or someone of his character, abilities, and temperament. Then there would be someone that I would have to really think and research before I voted. Imagine actually having to weigh real policy strategies and issues, to think about real matters of substance before going to the voting booth, instead of having to choose against Howlin’ Howard or I-was-for-it-before-I-was-against-it Kerry. (*) We no longer have a government “Of the people, by the people, and for the people,” but of the politics, by the politics, and for the politics, and it is by an large an issue of both parties.

One of my best friends, Chris (who politely declines to bring up politics with me because we disagree so greatly about it and yet is gracious enough to place his friendship with me above such things, setting an example quite the opposite of most members of congress and the media) replied by email to my first post on evolution and creation;

“I love the essay about evolution vs creationism, and I feel the same way. Strange to me that the discussion is even taking place in 2006...seems better suited for 1890. But there we are.”

It seems strange to me that in 2006 during a war against an enemy who chooses to target innocents, wants to destroy freedom of religion, universal sufferage, equal rights, or any of the principles that both parties claim to want to defend, that we are so bent on political bigotry, the cult of personality, and an attitude that places winning office before serving the people. Such things seem better suited to the time of Sforza and Machiavelli.

But there we are.

Pray God we don’t stay there long.

(*) Please note, as I said I'm conservative by nature, which makes my current political default Republican. This does not mean that I'm automatically pleased with every Republican candidate, or the current domestic policies and spending of President Bush, which are decidedly not consevative.

UPDATE I: Go read Peggy Noonan. Again, someone who can say it better than I, and apply it to real life in more effective way.

UPDATE II: This article by James H. Joyner, Jr at TCS Daily; The Triumph of 'angry and Stupid' hits on the same issues.

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Wednesday, January 04, 2006

The Process of Painting

Here are a number of shots of one of my recent paintings Ascension as it was being created. Some of the shots are fuzzy, and my apologies. All images are copywrite 2005 by the artist.

Based on some photo research into caves and sinkholes, the first level of underpainting begins. Because the view is from inside the sinkhole, the perspective is rather forced. I like to work with Raw Umber a lot for my ground tones, mixing with Mars Black for shadows which gives a warmth to dark areas. I tend to reserve Ivory (or Bone) Black for 'ultimate' shadows, as this gives me a greater range in shadow.

Here I have begun cutting in the deeper darks, and toning the stone into cooler colors.

The next step pushes the darks deeper and more into the blue range, anticipating the colors needed to suggest mist in the cave. I work up from the bottom in order to work from dark-to-light. Also, I am at this point completely ignoring where the copper spire will go. There is so much open work and windows and such that will show the rock walls through the spire that it will be simpler to paint the architecture in after, over the rocks.

Here the next two steps, where the basic stone colors have been laid in and the individual stone faces are begun.

Working from dark to light the rock face becomes more defined. The plants start being added in.

Here I have taped two parallel strings stretched from the top and bottom of the painting to aid the laying in of the waterfalls.

After having sketched out and then drafted out the spire, it gets transfered onto the canvas, and loosely cut in with Raw Umber. For anyone interested, I might add that I work mostly with Golden Acrylics, with a few Liquitex Acrylics that I haven't replaced yet. The Golden paints have a wonderful smooth working quality that I like, have excellent coverage for their opaque colors, and yet can glaze extreemly well. Their transparent colors are vibrant and gorgeous. For greater intensity their High Load Colors are well worth the additional cost, although the color range is much smaller than the regular line.

Here the copper work on the spire is begun. Beginning with some very dull greens and then working into dark turquise and more acidic greens I layered it in with small brush strokes following the pattern the metal would have been attached to the origional wooden framework of a real gothic spire.

In the first of these steps the paler and duller tones of the verdigris are added in to the spire roof. Then the rest of the spire's copperwork is laid in, and the angel is added to the top. Finally the rest of the plantwork is laid in, the foggy sky at the top of the sinkhole is based in, and plants added around the top in successive layers. In order to create fog over the top of the whole painting, a thinned off-white glaze was brushed on, and then hurriedly wiped off with paper towels. I'd never tried this and thought at first I had ruined the painting, but it worked! (Thank God!) At the very end, darker vines were added in on either side of the foreground, to give the feeling that the hole wrapped around and that the viewer was standing inside it with plants closer and between them and the spire.

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Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Resistance is Futile


Rick Berry at Gallery 263

I just heard from a good friend, Anna Newbold, that Rick Berry has some paintings hanging in Anna's place, "Gallery 263", at 263 Pearl Street in Cambridge Massachusetts. If any of you reading this are within striking distance I would highly recomend that you go see his stuff, his work is excellent.


Anna reminded me that the gallery's phone number is 781-393-0000. Since Gallery 263 is both a show gallery and a working artist studio, it's best to call her for times and availability if you want to see Rick Berry's work.

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Monday, January 02, 2006

False Thinking, Science and Faith
Posted by mja

(Previously posted on “Concrete Frog” posted again here as it deals with concepts I find important. It has been mildly edited for clarity)

False Thinking, Science and Faith

God created the heavens and the earth. On the sixth day, God created man. This was the first action of God that was ever criticized, and the denouncements have continued to this very day.

On the whole, God has handled this fairly well.

In the 12.10 issue of Wired magazine was an article “The Crusade Against Evolution.” The article and the subsequent replies to the editors (Rants and Raves 12.12) trotted out all the well worn, familiar arguments of both Creationists and Darwinists.
Familiarity breeds contempt, and reading those letters provided plenty of contempt from either side.
Now I am not a scientist (with but one failed year in college Physics to my credit – or lack there of), so I have no professional standing to judge the arguments of Intelligent Design as laid out in the article, nor have I read enough outside of the Wired article to judge if it represents Creationism well or to pursue a layman’s opinion on that philosophy. I am not a learned theologian or apologist either, though I try to read my Bible regularly with a critical and practical eye. Given my humble foundation from which to speak, I must say this ‘Adam vs. the Monkey’ thing is highly annoying.
The majority of public discussion, which I have read on creation and evolution, has completely missed the mark. Those speaking from either side have not even been able to ask the right questions, and then they become incensed at the answers they hear.
First, to be totally candid, you may be hard pressed to find a person of the Christian persuasion who is more fundamentalist than I (theologically, not politically speaking).
I believe that the Bible should be taken as the literal truth divinely inspired by God, that Jesus was born of a virgin, that he died and then rose on the third day. Pick a religious or philosophical topic and I will do my best to provide you with a Biblically correct reply. I even believe in baptism specifically for the remission of sins as essential for salvation, which makes me more “fundamental” than the average Southern Baptist.
I also believe in evolution.

If I were James Tiberius Kirk, then at this point the evil alien computer would begin to shake and smoke.

As far as I can tell, the reason most people (or at least those who write or reply to journal articles on the subject) cannot reconcile science and faith is that they have pre-disposed themselves not to do so. Even the scientists I have read who testify to their faith in God stay stuck in the old forms of the discussion, and do not face the central issue of both faith and science.

The central issue of science is, “I don’t know.”

The central issue of faith is, “I don’t know.”

From the statement, “I don’t know,” the scientist proceeds to ask what seems to him or her to be relevant questions, in the hope of not having to say, “I don’t know,” tomorrow, at least on that one subject.
The person of faith says, “I don’t know,” and realizes that he or she may only receive an answer after their death and from the very mouth of God. The person of faith then proceeds to act based on what he or she does know, and meanwhile to search for answers in study, prayer, meditation and good work until they can know or thankfully don’t need to worry about it anymore.
Both people, if they truly are who they claim to be, meet “I don’t know,” dynamically, not passively. Ignorance is not a void that exists around their character; it is a motivator that produces who they are.

So, let us then proceed. What is the story of creation from the point of view of Biblically faith? Please keep in mind that I am writing as a “fundamentalist” person, that is as someone who thinks what the Bible says is true. Starting with “I don’t know,” we go to the story itself, at the beginning of Genesis. First we notice that out of such a large tome (the 39 books of the Old Testament and 27 of the New; if you are Catholic or include the Apocrypha your results may vary) precious little space is accorded to such a seemingly important subject as creation. God, who has publicly declared that he “wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth…” * must not think that the details of creation are important in that quest.
All books are written for a purpose and to an audience. For instance, Harry Potter is written to provide pleasurable reading for people who like fiction, and to provide a (now very comfortable) living for its’ author J.K. Rowling. The Old Testament was written firstly for Old-Testament-type-people. We get the benefit of it without having to live through Cecil B. DeMille special effects and while we now get to enjoy indoor plumbing. Tradition says that the first five books of the Bible were written (by Moses, or at least some other really old guy) as the Law for the Israelites to follow after they got out of Egypt. Remember that these are the folks who took off their jewelry and made it into a ‘Heifer-O-Gold’ in order to worship it, just because Moses went away for a month to meditate and commune with God. Mind you, they had seen plagues from God, the death of all the firstborn of Egypt, their slave masters pay them to leave the country, the destruction of Pharos’s armies, the Red Sea open and shut like an automatic door at Wal-Mart, and had been lead personally by God himself as a pillar of flame by night and a pillar of smoke by day. Oh, and by the way, the presence of God was covering the top of the mountain they were camped around with fire and smoke, whilst they danced the Macarena in front of the Tiffany Holstein.

Uh huh, God’s gonna tell these people all about the Allosaurus.

Yeah, right.

Experience shows that the Bible is pretty straight forward on it’s core competencies. There is not a whole lot of wiggle room in the Ten Commandments, nor in the teachings of Jesus. On the other hand, if a subject doesn’t directly effect your salvation, be prepare to have to use your own noggin to figure things out. You may even have to look someplace else to get info. The Bible never ever mentions house-cats (the only commonly domesticated animal not mentioned) let alone tell me how often to change the litter box. I guess there are some things God thinks we just might be smart enough to do on our own. So the fact that the Bible never mentions the Triassic period is probably not an oversight on God’s part.
You may ask the person of faith, “what about the evidence not in the Bible, like fossils,” or “What about the age of the earth?”
Hmmm…“I don’t know.” Let’s continue to discuss this from the “fundamentalist’s” point of view.
God made everything, there is nothing made that he didn’t make (except for things made by people out of stuff God already made.) There is an evil one, often but not necessarily referred to as Satan, who always lies and is the father of lies. He can’t make anything, just lie – so if there is something made, then God made it. Oh, by the way, God does not lie. Ever.
Well, the physical laws of the universe like thermodynamics, Newtonian motion, the speed of light, et cetera, govern the things God made. So he must have made the laws too. And since He does not lie then these physical laws must be trustworthy and operate consistently (unless it’s one of those “I don’t know,” things like General Relativity and Quantum Physics, but scientists are working on the finding the right questions even as we speak).
So then the stuff we find buried in the ground and date by following the laws of science must be real and must be what they look like (the bones of long dead creatures) and be as old as science tells us, because otherwise God would be lying and he doesn’t do that.
“Ah Ha!” you say, “What about the timeline of the Biblical creation story?”
Hmmm…“I don’t know,” (you folks should all be chanting this on cue by now.)
Let’s go back and look at Genesis. It says that the earth was made in “seven days,” but a calendar day is based on the observed path of the sun across the sky caused by the earth’s rotation. Since there is no Sun or Moon created until the fourth “day,” maybe the word is used as a generic term for the passage of time, not a specific twenty-four hour period. And where was man made? Well, Genesis says that God “planted a garden in the east, in Eden, and there he put the man he had formed.” So the area at the confluence of the Tigris and Euphrates rivers commonly thought to be Eden is not where Adam originated. Maybe God formed him, oh, I don’t know, in Africa? Is Adam the first man (numerically)? The word Adam in Hebrew can be both a name and a generic term for the species. And as for where all the people came from, there is no real timetable for how long people stayed “in the garden,” or if Eve had children before they were driven out (which is highly likely from a literal reading of the story, as her curse for sin included having the pains of childbirth “greatly increase.” How do you increase something that has never happened?)
The whole story of the Garden of Eden is formed like a parable, with the lesson being that we’re fallible, make mistakes, and those mistakes can hurt a lot. Sometimes they are so big that we need divine intervention to sort stuff out, and we are unlikely to enjoy the outcome of the fix. A ‘fundamental’ reading of Genesis (i.e. reading what the words actually say, not some handed down interpretation) doesn’t tell us how God made the universe, or even why. It just says he did, and that by the way we need his help because we’re all a bunch of spiritual maladroits.

OK, so that’s the argument of a fundamentalist of faith, now what about science?

I’ve already shown my credentials as a non-scientist. However, I have been told, have read, and otherwise have learned and absorbed the idea that science is concerned with questions of the physical world. What can be proved by creating a hypothesis, testing it either in the laboratory where possible, or by comparing it to the evidence when it won’t fit in a lab (like with evolution). Issues of faith, like the existence of God and his hand in forming the universe, are by definition not physically or scientifically definable. If they could be, they would be FACT, not FAITH. This doesn’t mean that scientific efforts disprove God; it means that God is outside of the scientific discussion. So, except maybe for an occasional “Wow, so that’s how he did it…” the scientist need not concern himself or herself with the existence of God while working on her or his latest theories, in the same way that they do not need to concern themselves with the existence of my mother-in-law. She is a wonderful, understanding, kind and intelligent lady who has nothing to do scientific research (except her own work as a microbiologist). In the same way, scientists should not feel concern over whether their soul fits into a relativistic or quantum theory of being, unless of course there is a research grant for it.

Therefore, as a “fundamentalist” on faith I do not see anything in my faith that contradicts the theory of evolution, nor anything in evolution that would contradict my faith.
I am not very old, but I’m old enough to realize that it would be hubris to tell God how to do something, especially in hindsight, like how he should have created life.

So in conclusion, I suggest we all respect each other and get back to “I don’t know.”

And when that stops all the arguments, maybe we’ll all find some interesting questions, and the right answers for them.

On a related note, please read the excellent thoughts of Kobayashi Maru on der Spiegel interview of Daniel Dennett (Professor of Philosophy at Tufts University, Boston) “Darwinism Completely Refutes Intelligent Design.” KB’s thoughts can be found here (part 1) and here (part 2)

* It’s in the New Testament. You’re smart, go get a concordance and look it up. Hint – it’s in the Epistles.

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