Liberal Arts FTW!

Never tell me that an art history degree is useless.

Art history doesn’t usually have much to offer in the way of practical, directly actionable lessons. But Sarah Parcak, a renowned professor of Egyptology at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, recently plumbed humanity’s cultural past to offer some very concrete advice. On Sunday, she posted detailed, step-by-step instructions on Twitter (including a helpful diagram) for how to tear down an obelisk, culled from her research into ancient Egypt. (For every 10 feet of monument, you need 40 or more people; use rope attached to a chain; everyone should wear gloves; pull hard in unison from either side.)

After she shared the sketch, she added, “There might be one just like this in downtown Birmingham! What a coincidence. Can someone please show this thread to the folks there.”

You’d be surprised at what you can learn with a little education.

Also, while protesters failed to totally destroy the monument, the mayor of Birmingham promised to finish the job, which has prompted the state of Alabama to sue the city. Don’t worry! Liberal arts students are also fearless!


  1. kome says

    Right-wingers really care about their Civil War participation trophies, don’t they?

  2. wzrd1 says

    You’ll never hear me suggest art history or any humanities degree is wasted.
    Howinhell else am I to figure out the difference between a Monet and a Matinee?
    Still, despite a practice test in the humanities convincing me that I’m inhuman, I do at least know that Monet had cataracts and portrayed what vision looks like through cataracts perfectly.

  3. leerudolph says

    wzrd1@4:” I do at least know that Monet had cataracts and portrayed what vision looks like through cataracts perfectly.”

    About 50 years ago, I saw a similar claim made for Goya, that he was astigmatic, and portrayed what vision looks like with astigmatism. I couldn’t understand how that made sense then, and I can’t understand how your claim makes sense now.

    In the case of astigmatism (which I do not have), the image on the retina of an illuminated object in the visual field is distorted (by inhomogeneities in the aqueous humour inside the eye) in a particular geometrically-describable way (that was the context in which it came up, at a time when I was among differential geometers), and throughout all the neural processing that the image on the retina is subjected to, that distortion is appropriately transmitted. Therefore (I assume) whether the illuminated object is (1) a painted canvas “faithfully depicting” some other object (by, say, the standard rules of perspective), in the sense that a non-astigmatic person comparing the object to its faithful depiction will say “yup, that’s what it looks like!”, or (2) the object itself, both retinal images will be transformed and transmitted in exactly the same way. So if, to a non-astigmatic person, the canvas looks like the astigmatic transform of the actual object, to Goya it will look like the astigmatic transform of the astigmatic transform of the object—which will NOT be the same as the astigmatic transform of the object (because of the assumed geometric description of the transform).

    In the case of cataracts, which I did have (and which I had removed, successfully), the distortion is in the lens, not the aqueous humour, and is not purely geometrical…colors can change, bright lights can have halos around them, and perhaps other such things. Still, once the distorted light lands on the retina, it is processed and transmitted without further input from the eye itself. So, again, a painter who paints the perceived image by changing the colors, adding halos, etc., will produce a canvas which, when that same painter looks at it, will itself be transformed! The colors may change more, the halos certainly (I think, on my memories of my cataract experience) would themselves have halos, and possibly etc. As in the previous case, if Monet wants his painting to portray to others what he himself sees, he cannot paint what he himself sees (the once-transformed scene), for then what his painting will portray to those others is the twice-transformed scene.

    This could probably be a lot clearer. Sorry.

  4. unclefrogy says

    I think that in the case of Monet as he got older and his eyesight became more reduced the paintings became more indistinct almost abstracted to such a degree that the course of the cataracts can almost be seen. It helps that he was painting the same scenes his own designed and built garden. It does follow his aesthetic sensibility and his “style” in a logical progression as well.
    I am in favor of keeping the monuments even in the vandalized form for the history they can tell but I see no good reason they should be in prominent and important places some place that would be dedicated to telling the history if no other place can be found maybe they could just put them in the city street maintenance yard under a tarp way in the back
    uncle frogy

  5. Rich Woods says

    @jrkrideau #5:

    Best laugh of the day!

    (Unfortunately it’s been a pretty shitty day so that was the only laugh, but it still counts.)