Saturday, December 22, 2012
Random Musings 13
It's been a while since I posted one of these "Random Musings," briefly bringing in a hodge-podge of stories. This week there were a few things worth noting. The first has to do with the destruction...excuse me, "renovation"...of the New York Public Library's main research building. bklynbiblio followers may recall that I (and others!) have had a few things to say about this plan here and here. This week the NYPL released the official reconstruction plans, with swanky drawings (image above) and an eye-catching video on their website, to demonstrate how incredible the renovation will be to the public at large. The biggest attraction is that everyone will have wonderful views of Bryant Park. The worst part about the release of these plans is that it's going to have exactly the effect they want: suddenly now even I'm finding myself instinctively rethinking my criticism. That doesn't mean I support the changes; rather, it means the advertising about the changes is designed to make you think it's for the greater good and to make you forget all the negative things about the historic building and its collections. This is Mad Men in action, 2012 style. Even though this week noted preservationist Ada Louise Huxtable published an excellent article in the Wall Street Journal about the destruction of this building, this is one of those moments where it's obvious now that it's irrelevant what people think. The NYPL is moving forward with their plans.
Elsewhere in NYC depressing news, the MTA has announced that starting in March they're raising prices again for the subways and buses. My 30-day unlimited pass is going up to $112 and a regular one-way pass will now be $2.50. This is the 4th increase in 5 years. Word has it that FEMA is supposedly going to pay for the hundreds of millions of dollars of repairs and operational costs the MTA suffered as a result of Hurricane Sandy, so apparently this increase was just a regularly scheduled one. I have to admit that following the hurricane I was among those who were impressed by how quickly the MTA got mass transit back up and running, so I can't completely knock them these days. The fact that the MTA chairman Joseph J. Lhota is suddenly so popular for that must be the reason why he's resigning...and apparently running for Mayor next year.
On a more positive side of things, New York magazine has published their 8th annual "Reasons to Love NY," which is always a delightful reminder of why NYC is so great. Among the highlights this year: our governor (Andrew Cuomo) isn't afraid to talk about global warming; our mayor (Michael Bloomberg) isn't afraid to talk gun control; Donald Trump finally became the joke we always knew he was; you can get anything in a bodega; and we screw in public (my favorite of them all!). You can read all these and more here.
In the art world, the Blanton Museum of Art at the University of Texas, Austin, made news recently after conservation work on a 17th-century French painting suddenly revealed that the nude woman you see on the left was actually a mythological subject, with images of the god Zeus/Jupiter and a putto/Cupid. The over-painting probably had been done in the 19th century. It's always amazing to me how art can surprise us still sometimes. Here's an article about it from The Art Newspaper.
Archaeology magazine has issued their annual "Top 10 Discoveries" for 2012. They had previously discounted the whole Mayan-end-of-the-world story, so that wasn't on the list. Two of the more interesting that did make the list, however, are the discovery of the remains of "Frankenstein"-like creatures made of body parts from different people all laid to rest in a ritualistic grave in Scotland, and a 2000-year-old bag filled with coins and jewelry in Israel that was probably hidden by a woman during an uprising with the Romans. The best, however, has to be the image you see here. It's a 37,000-year-old stone engraving found in France depicting, of all things, a vulva. There's not much one can say after that, is there?