Who are we?

From Frank Bruni at The NY Times:

Opinion: “Trump snuffed out my confidence, flickering but real, that we could go only so low and forgive only so much. With him we went lower — or at least a damningly large percentage of us did. In him we forgave florid cruelty, overt racism, rampant corruption, exultant indecency, the coddling of murderous despots, the alienation of true friends, the alienation of truth itself, the disparagement of invaluable institutions, the degradation of essential democratic traditions.

He played Russian roulette with Americans’ lives. He played Russian roulette with his own aides’ lives. In a sane and civil country, of the kind I long thought I lived in, his favorability ratings would have fallen to negative integers, a mathematical impossibility but a moral imperative. In this one, they never changed all that much.

Polls from mid-October showed that about 44 percent of voters approved of Trump’s job performance — and this was after he’d concealed aspects of his coronavirus infection from the public, shrugged off the larger meaning of it, established the White House as its own superspreader environment and cavalierly marched on.

Forty-four percent. Who in God’s name are we?”

Don’t steal a Banksy

Via www.streetartbio.com/artists/banksy/

Most people familiar with the artist Banksy. He (or she. I will use ‘he/his’ moving forward) is known for not being known. And he is also known for his distinctive modern art that ‘pops up’ in unique spots all around the world. With the nature of Banksy’s art being so public and displayed in such public spaces, it is really interesting how he (or she) goes about distributing ‘Certificates of Authenticity’ to verify that the person who possess his art acquired it legitimately.

Banksy has established a virtual portal to authenticate whether specific works of his are both genuine and genuinely obtained — and, as the guy trying to get a painting valued admits, he’d visited the site and been told that the painting could not be validated because it was not obtained legally. 

Dubbed Pest Control, the service offers an easy-to-use interface to determine a particular work’s validity. Elsewhere on Pest Control’s site, they offer a more extensive explanation of what they do — namely, issue certificates of authenticity.

As for what that means, well — here’s what Pest Control themselves have to say: “The certificate of authenticity (COA) means you can buy, sell or insure a piece of art knowing it’s legitimate and the wheels won’t fall off,” they write. “Pest Control is the only source of COA’s for Banksy. We issue them for paintings, prints, sculptures and other attempts at creativity. We don’t issue them for things like stickers, posters, defaced currency or anything which wasn’t originally intended as a ‘work of art’.”

Pest Control also offers a “Keeping It Real” service, which lets prospective buyers of a work by Banksy confirm that the work is, in fact, legitimate. 

This situation came into full relief recently as someone who had ‘acquired’ an Banksy in Brighton UK had brought the piece onto Antiques Roadshow to get it appraised, only to be taken to the woodshed by the host, who chastised the person for not providing the ‘Certificate of Authenticity’.

I am a fan of Banksy’s work because of the way his art communicates a clear, many times withering, message about a topic, movement or circumstance that people need to pay attention to. What brings this home is not only the art itself, but the surface in which the art is painted and/or the environment surrounding the art. One of my favorite pieces that he has done was a mural on the corner of a garage in Port Talbot, Wales, UK. On one wall of the corner, it depicts a child in winter clothes with his arms outstretch and mouth open, seeming to be catching snowflakes with his tongue. If you look on the wall on the other side of the corner, you see that it is a burning garbage bin that is producing the flakes. The message he was sending had to do with the fact that Port Talbot is the home of one of the largest steel mills in the UK that produces immense pollution in and around that area. The accompanying video that he published on his Instagram account really brings the message home.

Update: Maybe my observation that Banksy may be a woman wasn’t too far off! From an article on Bloomberg from 2014:

But what Banksy Does New York makes plain is that the artist known as Banksy is someone with a background in the art world. That someone is working with a committee of people to execute works that range in scale from simple stencil graffiti to elaborate theatrical conceits. The documentary shows that Banksy has a different understanding of the street than the artists, street-writers, and art dealers who steal Banksy’s shine by “spot-jocking” or straight-up pilfering her work—swagger-jackers who are invariably men in Banksy Does New York. All of which serves as evidence against the flimsy theory that Banksy is a man.

The Half Life of A Twinkie

All the stories and legends about the half-life of Twinkies are a lie. The perception has always been that when global warming renders the world into a barren wasteland, or when a massive asteroid hits the earth like in the movie Armageddon, the one food product that would survive would be the Twinkie. With the level of chemicals and artificial sweeteners and flavors contained within the iconic snack, why would you think otherwise? Back in 2012, the Twinkies brand was on life support as Hostess was going bankrupt and people were starting to hoard the snack for posterity and to ensure their supply did not run out, as one does. And that is what Colin Purrington did, unaware that a real life pandemic would take hold of the world and drive him to search his basement eight years later for that old box of Twinkies. They’re Twinkies. They will last forever.

Like many people, Purrington believed Twinkies are basically immortal, although the official shelf life is 45 days. He removed a Twinkie from the box, unwrapped it — it looked fine — and took a bite. Then he retched.

“It tasted like old sock,” Purrington says. “Not that I’ve ever eaten old sock.”

That’s when he examined the other Twinkies. Two looked weird. One had a dark-colored blemish the size of a quarter. The other Twinkie was completely transformed — it was gray, shrunken and wrinkly, like a dried morel mushroom.

Enter some scientists from West Virginia University who did a full on scientific study of the 8 year old Twinkies and the fascinating dichotomy between some of the specimens, who on the outside looked as fresh as if you would have bought them today at your local 7-11, and others who had been completely ravaged by a fungus that had transformed the Twinkie into a shriveled mess, while sucking the air out of the packaging.

They noticed that the wrapping on the mummified Twinkie seemed to be sucked inward, suggesting that the fungus got in before the package was sealed and, while the fungus was consuming the Twinkie, it was using up more air or oxygen than it was putting out.

“You end up with a vacuum,” Lovett says. “And very well that vacuum may have halted the fungus’s ability to continue to grow. We just have the snapshot of what we were sent, but who knows if this process occurred five years ago and he just only noticed it now.”

Lovett had expected a horrific smell to hit them when they opened the snack cakes. “I though the smell would possibly kill one of us, but because of the mummification there really was no smell at all,” he says, “which was really a pleasant surprise.”

Moral of the story. Your snacks won’t last forever, even those as artificial as Twinkies. Eat them when they are fresh.