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In the News 13.09.17 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

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In the News 13.09.17 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets
In the News 13.09.17 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets
In the News 13.09.17 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

Angelina Jolie, Unbroken

LOS ANGELES — Angelina Jolie was sitting barefoot on the porch of her luscious new home, explaining why she wants to save the world, when duty called. Her youngest son, Knox, 9, poked his little blond head around the screen door.

“Shiloh needs you,” the boy said quietly, referring to his middle sister, who is 11.

“Shi?” Ms. Jolie called, before disappearing with a whoosh of her black caftan. Ten minutes later, she was back. Shiloh’s beloved bearded dragon, Vlad, had fallen ill and was now, to Shiloh’s distress, convalescing at the vet’s. “That will be the rest of my day,” Ms. Jolie said, settling into a cushioned patio chair, “learning all about the health issues of the bearded dragon.”

Ms. Jolie went on to lament the imbalance of a world where Californian pets get cushy care while millions of people the world over lack access to proper medical treatment. It went unmentioned that she was saying this from her $25 million two-acre hilltop estate, in a gated pocket of the Los Feliz neighborhood, a home she bought for herself and her six children in the spring, following her split from Brad Pitt.

Read the rest of this article at: The New York Times

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The Weird Brilliance
of Joaquin Phoenix

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‘‘I’M 42!’’ JOAQUIN PHOENIX EXCLAIMS when asked why he has zero social-media presence. It’s a late afternoon in May — a few weeks before he wins Best Actor at Cannes for playing a contract killer in Lynne Ramsay’s ‘‘You Were Never Really Here’’ — and he’s sitting by an open window on the 11th floor of a high-rise overlooking the flatlands of West Hollywood. One hand clutches an iPhone-5, earbud wires are wrapped around his neck, a pack of American Spirits are balanced on his knee, his sunglasses are hung in the crook of a white tee. He has a dad bod and his stubble is grayish. Phoenix is an activist, primarily concerned with animal rights (he’s been a vegan since he was 3) and has supported, among others, PETA, Red Cross and Amnesty International — but how would anyone know this, since he has no social-media presence (no Facebook, no Instagram, no Twitter) to connect with followers and inspire them? It seems indicative of Phoenix himself; extremely passionate but unconcerned with the reality, the tangible facts, of what he does and who he is: the most soulful screen actor of his generation, and arguably its greatest.

His reticence to engage with Hollywood and the media is famous, and probably has its roots in how the press covered his older brother River’s overdose outside the Viper Room on Sunset Boulevard in 1993. (Joaquin, 19 at the time, made the anguished 911 call.) But it also comes from the fact that he’s noticeably uneasy accepting what he sees as the fake confines of the celebrity interview. He talks about it now: the photo shoot he just endured for this piece, sitting here in this office with me, trying to form answers to questions that don’t really mean anything to him. (‘‘Everyone lies on talk shows,’’ he told Ellen DeGeneres in 2015 when he was promoting ‘‘Inherent Vice.’’) When flailing for an answer about the perils of doing publicity and his refusal to get comfortable with the fitting of suits and posing amid the flashes of cameras on red carpets, he finally admits, in a high strangled voice, that this reluctance might stem from ‘‘some antiquated idea of rebellion as I plummet into middle age, desperately clinging to something.’’

Read the rest of this article at: The New York Times

The Case Against Civilization

Science and technology: we tend to think of them as siblings, perhaps even as twins, as parts of stem (for “science, technology, engineering, and mathematics”). When it comes to the shiniest wonders of the modern world—as the supercomputers in our pockets communicate with satellites—science and technology are indeed hand in glove. For much of human history, though, technology had nothing to do with science. Many of our most significant inventions are pure tools, with no scientific method behind them. Wheels and wells, cranks and mills and gears and ships’ masts, clocks and rudders and crop rotation: all have been crucial to human and economic development, and none historically had any connection with what we think of today as science. Some of the most important things we use every day were invented long before the adoption of the scientific method. I love my laptop and my iPhone and my Echo and my G.P.S., but the piece of technology I would be most reluctant to give up, the one that changed my life from the first day I used it, and that I’m still reliant on every waking hour—am reliant on right now, as I sit typing—dates from the thirteenth century: my glasses. Soap prevented more deaths than penicillin. That’s technology, not science.

Read the rest of this article at: The New Yorker

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Where Pain Lives

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For patient after patient seeking to cure chronic back pain, the experience is years of frustration. Whether they strive to treat their aching muscles, bones and ligaments through physical therapy, massage or rounds of surgery, relief is often elusive – if the pain has not been made even worse. Now a new working hypothesis explains why: persistent back pain with no obvious mechanical source does not always result from tissue damage. Instead, that pain is generated by the central nervous system (CNS) and lives within the brain itself.

I caught my first whiff of this news about eight years ago, when I was starting the research for a book about the back-pain industry. My interest was both personal and professional: I’d been dealing with a cranky lower back and hip for a couple of decades, and things were only getting worse. Over the years, I had tried most of what is called ‘conservative treatment’ such as physical therapy and injections. To date, it had been a deeply unsatisfying journey.

Like most people, I was convinced that the problem was structural: something had gone wrong with my skeleton, and a surgeon could make it right. When a neuroscientist I was interviewing riffed on the classic lyric from My Fair Lady, intoning: ‘The reign of pain is mostly in the brain,’ I was not amused. I assumed that he meant that my pain was, somehow, not real. It was real, I assured him, pointing to the precise location, which was a full yard south of my cranium.

Like practically everyone I knew with back pain, I wanted to have a spinal MRI, the imaging test that employs a 10-ft-wide donut-shaped magnet and radio waves to look at bones and soft tissues inside the body. When the radiologist’s note identified ‘degenerative disc disease’, a couple of herniated discs, and several bone spurs, I got the idea that my spine was on the verge of disintegrating, and needed the immediate attention of a spine surgeon, whom I hoped could shore up what was left of it.

Read the rest of this article at: aeon

Jeff Koons: Or, Who’s Liberating Whom?

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In 1988, Jeff Koons created the work of art known as Michael Jackson and Bubbles. It’s a life-sized porcelain sculpture–actually the largest handmade porcelain sculpture ever made. It depicts the aforementioned pop star leaning back on a field of flowers as he cradles his famous chimpanzee. Both the monkey and the man are clad in golden outfits. The sculpture is extremely shiny.

Michael Jackson and Bubbles is part of a series of sculptures known, collectively, as the Banality series. The series includes a sculpture depicting a topless Jayne Mansfield holding a stuffed Pink Panther (Pink Panther) and another life-sized porcelain sculpture depicting a smiling brown bear in a T-shirt hugging a policeman (Bear and Policeman).

Koons has his defenders, but with works like Pink Panther and Michael Jackson and Bubbles, he has driven many in the art-critical establishment into what can only be called paroxysms of outrage. Jeff Koons’ recent retrospective at the Whitney Museum (2014) was another chance for the critics and academics to take their whacks. Jed Perl, in a piece for the New York Review of Books, summed up the feelings of many. Perl titled his piece, “The Cult of Jeff Koons.” Here’s the opening paragraph:

“Imagine the Jeff Koons retrospective at the Whitney Museum of American Art as the perfect storm. And at the center of the perfect storm there is a perfect vacuum. The storm is everything going on around Jeff Koons: the multimillion-dollar auction prices, the blue chip dealers, the hyperbolic claims of the critics, the adulation and the controversy and the public that quite naturally wants to know what all the fuss is about. The vacuum is the work itself, displayed on five of the six floors of the Whitney, a succession of pop culture trophies so emotionally dead that museumgoers appear a little dazed as they dutifully take out their iPhones and produce their selfies.”

“You Can’t Like This”

If Perl is right (and he may well be) the only thing that is really interesting about Jeff Koons is the magnitude of the boondoggle. The question is how we square Perl’s contempt with, for instance, the following claim to be found at the Whitney Museum of American Art’s website: “Jeff Koons is widely regarded as one of the most important, influential, popular, and controversial artists of the postwar era.” There are, moreover, a number of important critics who have held this view, the best and most intelligent being philosopher and art critic Arthur Danto.

Danto wrote a piece about Koons in 2004 titled “Banality and Celebration: The Art of Jeff Koons.” Here’s how Danto described the sorts of objects and experiences that inspired Koons in his work:

“Cute figurines in thruway gift shops; the plaster trophies one wins for knocking bottles over in street carnivals; marzipan mice; the dwarves and reindeer that appear at Christmastime on suburban malls or the créche before firehouses in Patchogue and Mastic; bath toys; porcelain or plastic saints; what goes in Easter baskets; ornaments in fish bowls; comic heads attached to bottle stoppers in home bars.”

Read the rest of this article at: The Easel

P.S. previous articles & more by P.F.M. // Top images: @thestreetpie; @housebeautiful; @domsli22

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