Saturday, September 21, 2019

On The Dangers Of Inadvertent Plagiarism

I recently saw this 1569 portrait, painted by Antonis Mor, and immediately felt that it looked familiar in a very odd way.

Here's why:  It looks like the pattern of an embroidery I made more than ten years ago:

At the time I liked to relax by creating weird things out of fabric, thread, costume jewelry and so on.  My supplies came from yard sales and flea markets and the Salvation Army stores.

The above "portrait" is a companion to another one, both shown together below (apologies for the flash in the picture and the dirty glasses on the pictures):

The idea behind them was to provide "important ancestor pictures" for people who don't own castles or manor houses, but who would like to pretend that their ancestors belonged to European nobility or even some royal family.

It's an Echidne joke, and may not be that funny for others.  In any case, I hung them in my bathroom for a few years.

Now why I write about this is because my portraits are not direct copies of any paintings*, but were created based on my recollections of all the paintings I had seen, either in museums or in books or on television.  In particular, I did NOT copy that Antonis Mor picture when I created my gentleman.

But if you were shown just the first two pictures in this post, and you were on a jury tasked to decide whether Echidne is a plagiarist, you would conclude that the evidence condemns her.  Or me. 

Even I would agree that the prosecution would have proven their case, and I know that the embroidery was not a direct copy of Mor's painting, in the sense that plagiarism means.

I certainly must have seen that painting earlier, and stored it in the dusty attic of my memory, so that when I designed the embroidery the pattern came from that memory attic.  But without any awareness that it was the memory of one single painting!

This frightens me:  I realized how extremely easy it could be to plagiarize someone else's writings without at all intending to do so.  But it also makes me quite elated:  Somewhere, inside our memories, we may have exact pictures of everything we have ever seen.

Now to figure out how to get all of those into our awareness.


*  The lady was, however, largely put together from various paintings of queen Elizabeth I and of some other royal queens and princesses.

In case you are interested in such things, all the fabric in the clothing of the pair comes from one silk scarf I bought at Sally Army, the other bits (faces, hair and the unfortunate beard) are from my old tops, and the jewelry is from yard sales.

Wednesday, September 18, 2019

Today's Political Thoughts: On Electability, The Use of Synecdoches in Politics And Harmless Fun

1.  Isn't it funny that Warren's DNA debacle left a giant scar on her* while Trump saying that his ancestors came from Sweden (when they did not) mattered not at all?

Trump's history is so full of all sorts of misdeeds that the smaller ones get ignored, while the one clear problem people have been able to unearth in Warren's history is repeatedly mentioned.  As repetition is the mother of learning, well, this works very well for Trump and his party.

Monday, September 16, 2019

Mirror, Mirror On The Wall

The only psychologically healthy way to interact with a narcissist is not to.  But when the president of a powerful country is a narcissist* we don't have that luxury of total disengagement.  We are all strapped into the seats of a roller-coaster built and controlled by one Donald Trump, his narcissistic injuries and the immature rages those create.

We live in a world where a mental two-year old with those famous Terrible Twos temper tantrums rules over us, if we let him.  So we can't let him, but that means we have to play his games because we can't put him on timeout.

This makes me so very tired**.  I imagine him going "mirror, mirror on the wall, who's the greatest of them all?" and if the answer displeases him, well, someone, somewhere, is going to get attacked, probably out of all proportion.


This article from early August gives several examples of Trump's narcissistic behavior and puts it into the context of being the president of one of the most powerful countries on this planet.

** And probably others are tired of the need to cope with his narcissism, too.

It's particularly difficult for those of us who would like to do policy analyses, because it takes place within the usual right-wing political plots:  Cut taxes for the rich, kill Social Security and all transfers to the poor, give money to the oil industry and so on. 

Those plots also include that weird Republican yearning to invade certain Middle Eastern countries while kissing the asses of other Middle Eastern countries. 

How is Trump's concern with nothing but his own ego going to play in that context?

You tell me, because I have no idea.  So far the one good thing about Trump has been his reluctance to go to war for no good reason.  I hope nobody learns to manipulate his ego into wanting to invade Iran, the next country on the conservatives' to-invade list.