We start by catching up on the Crimea, and offer some perspectives that aren’t getting traction in the western media. Eric Walberg gives a good background on Russian and Ukrainian history, contrasting the Ukrainian coup with the Egyptian. The Guardian gives a look at how the Ukrainian coup is being portrayed as a fight against fascism in Russia, and the Toronto Star similarly examines how the Crimean takeover looks to Russia. Widening the lens from the specific, Stephen Walt, (now emerged from behind the FP firewall), takes a realist’s view on how Obama gambled that U.S. power would trump Russia’s interests in Ukraine. (He was wrong.) And Juan Cole looks at the ripples he sees spreading into the Middle East, arguing that Syria and Iran will gain. Interesting times…
On a cheerier note, Jan Brewer, Governor of Arizona, vetoed the “right to discriminate against gays” bill, saying, “Religious liberty is a core American and Arizona value. So is nondiscrimination.” The New Yorker explores her view, while the Washington Post looks at how Apple, the NFL and other big businesses helped kill the Arizona bill. According to the most recent polls, over half of Americans, (and 69% of people in their 20’s and 30s) now support gay marriage. That’s a 21% jump in the past decade. So to help prepare you, here’s a cartoonthat shows how to explain gay marriage to kids.
There’s a tendency among the right to view privatization as a solution to all problems (in particular the politicians’ problem of taking responsibility). Ian Welsh has a wonderful piece on this, “The Four Principles of Prosperity” an intelligent analysis of how to make society work. Would that it were required reading! Moving from the general to the specific, Yes Magazine examines the myths behind public school failure: how privitization destroys schools. Truth Out looks at America’s for profit private prison system, within which states guarantee that there will be enough prisoners to keep the prisons full. (By contrast, the Netherlandsis just closing 19 prisons due to lack of criminals.)
So what are we learning about how people think, and what are best practices should you have to deal with other people? Well, Megan McArdle writes entertainingly (and convincingly) in Bloombergs on why it’s vitally important to let kids fail. In On Being, a deeply moving film shows a World War II veteran’s story of what happens when we choose vulnerability and love over anger and hatred. In a startlingly titled piece, Tiffany blogs why “I’m Giving Up the Fight Against Cancer. And You Should Too”. (Tnx, Gabe) More universally applicable, perhaps, is an analysis of the data on how long to nap for the biggest brain benefits. A cartoon that’s been wending its way through the web delightfully contrasts the difference between Mind Full and Mindful. And (related) Tara Brach reads from Mary Oliver’s “Dog Songs”: the beauty of unconditional love, at its sweetest.
It seems to have been an excellent few weeks for quizzes, and here are some that may entertain you. Find out what famous work of art you are. (I seem to be “The Treachery of Images”, by René Magritte (AKA Ceci n’est pas une pipe.)) Test whether you can recognize the artist from just a small piece of his piece? (Apparently, I can: 14/15). A clever idea for a short quiz looks at whether you can spot the difference between Islamophobia and Nazi propaganda. In the Guardian, John McNally looks at his top 10 true or false science facts. (How can it be a fact, if it’s false?) And answering these 15 questions will determine how food literateyou are (or aren’t). (Tnx, Murray!)
We start into a longish art section by looking people making art. NPR takes on the myth that good art is popular because it’s good. Right? (No, and they have a study that proves it.) The Guardian looks at the surprisingly complex question of who’s the vandal: Ai Weiwei or the man who smashed his Han urn? (tnx, Gabe) The New Yorker suggests using a camera to get a first draft of a written piece (after all, you can get the equivalent of a thousand words done in 1/500 of a second.) And the mighty Twisted Sifter offers a surprisingly easy way to make gifs look three dimensional in one step, with some clever and fun examples. (Even if you can’t imagine ever doing such a thing, it’s a fascinating revelation on how we perceive depth.) And for some examples of art, here’s Latvian photographer Kaija Straumanis’ work, “Stuff Being Thrown at My Head.” Two from the Sifter, Christopher David White’s hyperrealistic ‘Wood’ Sculptures are actually ceramic, and the melting paper sculptures of Li Hongbo. A very cute optical illusion uses coloured after images, and 27 beautiful mosques and synagogues(distinguishing hint: the mosques have minarets, and the synagogues don’t.)
The last piece leads smoothly into the around-the-world section. Here’s a map of the world, divided into regions with a population of 100,000,000. Heck, here are 57 maps that claim to “challenge what you thought you knew about the world”. (Some are excellent, others are …uh … less challenging.) Fascinating photos of ration packs tell us how the world’s armies feed their soldiers in the field. (Most interesting fact? Only the Italian army includes alcohol.) A simple map with arrows overlaid shows the favourite vacation destinations of EU residents (France wins, but there are lots of strange and wonderful details.) In Focus offers 33 photos of Carnival 2014, (but none of Québec– guess they got cold feet before they went.) And for a bonus on Carnivals, here’s Jim Zuckerman’s photo gallery of the Venice Carnival.
Some animal entertainment, as that’s why we have the internet. Here are goats having fun balancing on a flexible sheet of steel. Looks more exciting than whatever is in front of this meerkat, who is desperately trying not to fall asleep. A fascinating four minute Vimeo film looks at how the reintroduction of wolves to Yellowstone National Park causes a remarkable “trophic cascade”. and you see birds individually, in this gif of a smart budgie or en masse, in 22 glorious photos of the murmurations of starlings. We close with some nature shots, beginning with the very beautiful top 9 microscope images of 2013, followed by 26 photos of Kelud and Sinabung: Indonesia’s two erupting volcanoes, a flooded farm from the UK, and Lake Superior’s ice caves, in a rare freeze. And as it appears that winter is never going to end, here is a beautiful time lapse film of snowflakes being formed. It may help.