Looking at a Kandinsky in a dingy power station

Wassily Kandinsky (1866-1944) is considered a pioneer in abstract art. In an example of art-within-art, director Nastia Korkia chose to display his 1932 work Dramatic and Mild in what was once the dingy break room of a Moscow power station and film the reactions of the viewers where only one or two people could see it at a time after standing in line for a long time.

This article describes the background to this unusual exhibit.

Whether it’s the Mona Lisa being crowded by selfie-happy tourists at the Louvre, or perhaps, more recently, a digital, from-your-desk tour of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, setting is an inescapable vital part of how we respond to an artwork. Capturing a scene in which three disparate elements – the Wassily Kandinsky oil painting Dramatic and Mild (1932), a small room, and an exceptionally fit security guard – come together in the context of a unique exhibition, this short from the Russian director Nastia Korkia invites viewers to contemplate the central role of place in the experience of art.

On its surface, Korkia’s film – eponymously named for the Kandinsky painting at its centre – is an unfussy exercise. It chronicles a small slice of the 2017 ‘Geometry of Now’ arts festival, which was held inside the decommissioned power station-turned-art-complex GES-2 in Moscow. With a fly-on-the-wall observation style, the short unfolds almost exclusively within what was once (and still very much looks like) a small workers’ lounge, where Kandinsky’s painting is on temporary display. However, that painting doesn’t make a cameo until the very end, as Korkia’s focus is on the people and small interactions that percolate in the space.

Making way for emergency vehicles

When you hear the sound of an ambulance, you are expected to make room for it to pass. There are plenty of video compilations on the web about how drivers in different countries react to the sound of an ambulance and in some cases, drivers seem to ignore the siren. Most of us try to make way as quickly and as safely as possible, but may not pay as much attention as to whether what we are doing is strictly legal since we may think that yielding immediate right of way to the ambulance takes priority over minor traffic rules, and that we would not be penalized.

But in the UK at least, you can be fined for making way for emergency vehicles if you break a rule. The link gives you the things that you should not do, such as:
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Great diving performance in Tokyo Olympics

Diving, like gymnastics, involves a lot of acrobatics in the air and it takes place too quickly for me to be able to judge it in real time, which tells you something about how difficult it must be to judge the event. The only indicator I have for how good it is at the very end. In the case of gymnastics, it is the landing. In the case of diving, it is how small a splash the diver makes upon entry into the water. In the Tokyo Olympics Chinese diver Quan Hongchan broke all manner of records with her gold-medal winning performance. Even an ignorant observer like me could tell that she was spectacular.


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Silly gift giving

My family knows that they should never buy me any gifts for my birthday, Father’s day, Christmas, or any other occasion. The reasons are simple. Some gift giving traditions are purely driven by commercial considerations to benefit businesses and I do not want to be part of this mindless consumption. I also do not see the point of giving gifts to adults who can well afford to buy anything they need or want for themselves. I also know that it is very hard to buy a gift for me because the things that I might like are very unlikely to be guessed by even those close to me because my wants are few and highly specialized. I hate getting clothes and books because I know that there is a 99% chance that I will not wear those clothes or read those books.
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True sporting spirit

It is good to note those moments during the Olympics when sportsmanship won out over the intense drive drive to win.

Days later, at the Olympic Stadium, Gianmarco Tamberi of Italy and Mutaz Barshim of Qatar found themselves in a situation they’d talked about but never experienced — they were tied.

Both high jumpers were perfect until the bar was set to the Olympic-record height of 2.39 meters (7 feet, 10 inches). Each missed three times.

They could have gone to a jump-off, but instead decided to share the gold.

“I know for a fact that for the performance I did, I deserve that gold. He did the same thing, so I know he deserved that gold,” Barshim said. “This is beyond sport. This is the message we deliver to the young generation.”

After they decided, Tamberi slapped Barshim’s hand and jumped into his arms.

“Sharing with a friend is even more beautiful,” Tamberi said. “It was just magical.”

Watch the moment.
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Long haired sprinters

I usually only watch the track events at the Olympics and that too only after it is over. I was watching the finals of the women’s 100m and noticed that the top three medal winners (all from Jamaica) all had long ponytails, with the silver medalist’s hair an eye-catching yellow and red.

I wondered whether having long hair might slow them down just a fraction due to increased wind resistance. It is true that resistance is not as significant as in swimming where everyone wears caps. But in an event where one-hundredth of a second can make all the difference, wouldn’t sprinters want to minimize drag as much as possible?

Since almost all the eight finalists had long or longish hair, I have to assume that they have concluded that it does not matter and that does seem to be the case.

Flowing locks increase air resistance insofar as they boost a runner’s surface area. More hair creates more opportunities for friction between the runner and the air, so a full-headed athlete would have to work harder to maintain the same speed as a bald one. And since Olympic sprinters are already close to maxing out in terms of effort, any situation that requires them to do more work has the potential to extend their times.

But hair is pretty light, so athletes know it’s the styling, not the quantity, of their tresses that could dash their hopes. Hairdos like ponytails, braids, and or buns, which comb the mane behind the neck, have little effect on overall surface area, while hair that sticks out from the sides of the head increase it (and might also whip into the runner’s eyes).

All the sprinters had their hair in ponytails that stayed behind their backs and did not swish back and forth.

Why English spelling is so weird

The origins of languages are buried deep in time and teasing out why they have the features they do is not easy and hence often speculative. For those of us whose language is English, one mystery is the way things are spelled, which is a source of humor for comedians like Eddie Izzard.

Arika Okrent says that English is unusual in the level of weirdness of its spelling
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How to raise children not to be jerks

I have described before that I think a good philosophy to live by is “Try not to be a jerk”. While it is more limited in scope and not as elegant or high-minded as some of the more well known ones like treating others as you would like them to treat you, it has the advantage that jerk behavior is easily recognizable in pretty much every situation and thus can be more easily avoidable if one wants to.

So naturally my attention was caught by this article that had the title How to Raise Kids Who Don’t Grow Up to Be Jerks (or Worse). It consists of an interview with Melinda Wenner Moyer, the author of a book that discusses how to raise children to not be jerks. (The book’s title is actually How to Raise Kids Who Aren’t Assholes which is pretty much the same thing.)

Moyer says that the key is helping children develop a theory of mind.
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The horrific abuse of female gymnasts

I hadn’t heard the terms ‘yips’ and ‘twisties’ until reading some of the many articles following Simone Biles’s withdrawal from her events at the Olympics. This article explains what the terms mean.

People who watch the types of sports that are broadcast on a regular basis are more familiar with the yips than the twisties because generally, we only gather to watch champion gymnasts compete every few years. However, people mainly associate the yips with uncharacteristically poor performance on fields or courts leading to errors and low scoring.

However the twisties, which involves a sudden loss of spatial awareness mid-air, can result in serious injury, possibly even death. Most of us heard about it for the first time after other athletes came forward to defend Biles from attacks accusing her of a weak mental fortitude, citing feats from past Olympic medalists as evidence that pushing through physical pain is what makes a champion a champion.

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