Reem With A View

"Names and attributes must be accommodated to the essence of things, and not the essence to the names, since things come first and names afterwards." – Galileo

The Greatest Document in the History of Mankind – THE BILL OF RIGHTS.

There are many reasons that made the United States of America a great nation, the spirit of freedom, capitalism,  protection of minorities and so on. They were the first to reject a monarchy in modern society & declare themselves a democracy  after beating fair & square the greatest Empire in history (Britain). They helped defeat one of the most evil & dark regimes in the history of the earth: the Third Reich. They are probably the only nation that can defeat the dark forces of Global  Islamists which are creating havoc on every nation today taking advantage of  the collapse of another evil: The Iron Wall of Communism.

But ALL of the above is because the Founding Fathers of America created what I personally believe is the single greatest document ever written by Man that has benefited Mankind worldwide: The Bill Of Rights.

The Greatest Document in the History of Mankind

The United States Bill Of Rights

Read the full text here:  Bill of Rights

This one document alone  separates America from the rest. This is the only instance where  the Founding Fathers of a nation had the foresight about Government’s tendency to impinge the rights of citizens and hence decided to set clear limits on Government actions in regard to personal/civil liberties.

What is so amazing about the Bill of Rights is that it FOLLOWS directly from the principle set forth in the Declaration of Independence (which I persoanlly consider to be the greatest single sentence ever crafted by Mankind)

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

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Cézanne’s The Card Players – the $250 Million painting

Cézanne’s The Card Players

Cézanne’s The Card Players

So Qatar has bought the world’s most expensive painting, or rather converted a Cezanne painting into “the world’s  most expensive piece of art” by BUYING it for $250 Million. But is it worth it? Am not an art expert, but Alexandra Peers of Vanity Fair thinks it might be worth it:

If the price seems insane, it may well be, since it more than doubles the current auction record for a work of art. And this is no epic van Gogh landscape or Vermeer portrait, but an angular, moody representation of two Aix-en-Provence peasants in a card game. But, for its $250 million, Qatar gets more than a post-Impressionist masterpiece; it wins entry into an exclusive club. There are four other Cézanne Card Players in the series; and they are in the collections of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Musée d’Orsay, the Courtauld, and the Barnes Foundation. For a nation in the midst of building a museum empire, it’s instant cred.

Is the painting, created at the cusp of the 20th century, worth it? Well, Cézanne inspired Cubism and presaged abstract art, and Picasso called him “the father of us all.” That said, “$250 million is a fortune,” notes Victor Wiener, the fine-art appraiser called in by Lloyd’s of London when Steve Wynn put his elbow through a Picasso, in 2006. “But you take any art-history course, and a Card Players is likely in it. It’s a major, major image.” For months, he said, “its sale has been rumored. Now, everyone will use this price as a point of departure: it changes the whole art-market structure.”

Read the whole report exclusively on Vanity Fair.

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R.I.P. Christopher Hitchens (1949 – 2011)

Witty, unapologetic, brave and one of the most well read journalists in history.

He had a way with words, written and spoken.

One of the leading lights of Reason… gone forever.

Christopher Hitchens

Christopher Hitchens at home in Washington, D.C., July 18, 2010. Photograph by John Huba for Vanity Fair.

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How did Alexander the Great solve the problem of the Gordian Knot?

Dear Readers,

I came across a superb post in The Hannibal Blog (highly recommended for its thoughtful essays as well as meaningful discussions by readers) which I found very insightful and am reproducing it here as is with permission from the author, Andreas Kluth (who is a correspondent for The Economist). You can also read his post in the original site as well as the comments of the same.

The Alexandrian Solution

Alexander the Great - The Gordion Knot

Alexander the Great & The Gordian Knot

A lot of people have a very famous story … wrong.

The story is that of the Gordian Knot and precisely how Alexander the Great loosened it. Most people imagine Alexander slashing the knot with his sword, as pictured above. But he did not.

In the nuance of how he really untied the knot lies hidden a worldview: the supremacy of simplicity and elegance over brute force and complexity. The true “Alexandrian Solution” was, for example, what Albert Einstein was looking for in his search for a Grand Unified Theory — a formula that was simple enough (!) to explain all of physics.

I’ll give you the background and the nuance of the story in a moment, but first another fist bump to Thomas for reminding us to make the association.

We are, remember, talking about complexity. The Gordian Knot is the archetypal metaphor for mind-numbing, reason-defying complexity; Alexander’s triumph over the knot is the archetypal metaphor for triumphing over complexity. Now read on…
I) Background
a) Phrygia

The Gordian Knot was, as the name implies, a knot in a city called Gordium. It was in Phrygia, an ancient kingdom in Anatolia (today’s Turkey).

The Phrygians lived near (and may have been related to) those other Anatolians of antiquity: the Trojans and the Hittites. They were Indo-European but not quite “Greek”. Their mythical kings were named either Gorgias or Midas (and one of the later Midases is the one who had “the touch” that turned everything into gold). Later, they became part of Lydia, the kingdom of Croesus. And then part of the Persian Empire. And then Alexander showed up.
b) The knot

Legend had it that the very first king, named Gorgias, was a farmer who was minding his own business and riding his ox cart. The Phrygians had no leader at that time and consulted an oracle. The oracle told them that a man riding an ox cart would become their king. Moments later, Gorgias parked his cart in the town square. In the right place at the right time.

So fortuitous was this event and Gorgias’ reign that his son, named Midas, dedicated the ox cart. He did so by tying the cart — presumably by the yoke sticking out from it — to a post.

And he made the knot special. How, we do not know. But Plutarch in his Life of Alexander tells us that it was tied

with cords made of the rind of the cornel-tree … the ends of which were secretly twisted round and folded up within it.

It was a very complicated knot, in other words, and seemed to have no ends by which to untie it.
Lots of people did try to untie it, because the oracle made a second prophesy. As Plutarch said,

Whosoever should untie [the knot], for him was reserved the empire of the world.

II) Alexander, 333 BCE

Alexander, aged 23 and rather ahead of me at that age, arrived in (Persian) Phrygia in 333 BCE. The knot was still there, un-untied.

Alexander had already subdued or co-opted the Greeks, and had already crossed the Hellespont. But he had not yet become divine or conquered Egypt and Persia. All that was to come in the ten remaining years of his short life. And it began with the knot, since he knew the oracle’s prophesy.

Here he his, his sword drawn, approaching the knot:

Did he slash?

No, says Plutarch (ibid,. Vol. II, p. 152, Dryden translation):

Most authors tell the story that Alexander finding himself unable to untie the knot, … cut it asunder with his sword. But … it was easy for him to undo it, by only pulling the pin out of the pole, to which the yoke was tied, and afterwards drawing off the yoke itself from below.

III) Interpretation

I leave it to the engineering wizards among you to re-create the knot as it might have been. But what we seem to have here is a complex pattern that was nonetheless held together by only one thing: the beam.

It was, Einstein might say, like quantum physics and gravity: intimidatingly complex and yet almost certainly reducible to one simple reality.

Alexander, being Great, understood this. He saw through the complexity to the simple elegance of its solution, and pulled the peg.

This is how I understand “the Alexandrian Solution.” I intend to look for it in all of my pursuits.

Posted  May 24, 2010 in The Hannibal Blog by Andreas Kluth

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Mona Lisa Mystery Solved!

So it turns out to be the original suspect –  Lisa del Giocondo,  after all! What an anti-climax. Would have been good fun if it was Leonardo Da Vinci himself in drag or some hidden trick painting.

Mona Lisa

The stupid irony is that the Louvre Museum in Paris has ALWAYS maintained the painting’s title as “Portrait of Lisa Gherardini, wife of Francesco del Giocondo”. In other words, Miss Lisa del Giocondo… Duh!!!

Anyways, you can read the Reuters News report below:

German experts crack Mona Lisa smile

By Sylvia Westall Mon Jan 14, 2:00 PM ET

BERLIN (Reuters) – German academics believe they have solved the centuries-old mystery behind the identity of the “Mona Lisa” in Leonardo da Vinci‘s famous portrait.

Lisa Gherardini, the wife of a wealthy Florentine merchant, Francesco del Giocondo, has long been seen as the most likely model for the sixteenth-century painting.

But art historians have often wondered whether the smiling woman may actually have been da Vinci‘s lover, his mother or the artist himself.

Now experts at the Heidelberg University library say dated notes scribbled in the margins of a book by its owner in October 1503 confirm once and for all that Lisa del Giocondo was indeed the model for one of the most famous portraits in the world.

“All doubts about the identity of the Mona Lisa have been eliminated by a discovery by Dr. Armin Schlechter,” a manuscript expert, the library said in a statement on Monday.

Until then, only “scant evidence” from sixteenth-century documents had been available. “This left lots of room for interpretation and there were many different identities put forward,” the library said.

The notes were made by a Florentine city official Agostino Vespucci, an acquaintance of the artist, in a collection of letters by the Roman orator Cicero.

The comments compare Leonardo to the ancient Greek artist Apelles and say he was working on three paintings at the time, one of them a portrait of Lisa del Giocondo.

Art experts, who have already dated the painting to this time, say the Heidelberg discovery is a breakthrough and the earliest mention linking the merchant’s wife to the portrait.

“There is no reason for any lingering doubts that this is another woman,” Leipzig University art historian Frank Zoellner told German radio. “One could even say that books written about all this in the past few years were unnecessary, had we known.”

The woman was first linked to the painting in around 1550 by Italian official Giorgio Vasari, the library said, but added there had been doubts about Vasari’s reliability and had made the comments five decades after the portrait had been painted.

The Heidelberg notes were actually discovered over two years ago in the library by Schlechter, a spokeswoman said.

Although the findings had been printed in the library’s public catalogue they had not been widely publicized and had received little attention until a German broadcaster decided to do some recording at the library, she said.

The painting, which hangs in the Louvre in Paris, is also known as “La Gioconda” meaning the happy or joyful woman in Italian, a title which also suggests the woman’s married name.

(Editing by Giles Elgood)

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