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American Caesar — a reread after 30 years

Wednesday, September 4th, 2013

[by J. Scott Shipman]

American Caesar, Douglas MacArthur 188-1964, by William Manchester

Often on weekends my wife allows me to tag along as she takes in area estate sales. She’s interested in vintage furniture, and I hope for a decent collection of books. A sale we visited a couple months ago had very few books, but of those few was a hardback copy of American Caesar. I purchased the copy for $1 and mentioned to my wife, “I’ll get to this again someday…” as I’d first read Manchester’s classic biography of General Douglas MacArthur in the early 1980’s while stationed on my first submarine. “Someday” started on the car ride home (she was driving), and I must admit: American Caesar was even better thirty years later. Manchester is a masterful biographer, and equal to the task of such a larger-than-life subject.

MacArthur still evokes passion among admirers and detractors. One take-away from the second reading was just how well-read MacArthur and his father were. When MacArthur the elder died, he left over 4,000 books in his library—both seemed to possess an encyclopedic knowledge of history and warfare. Highly recommended.

PS: I visited the MacArthur Memorial, in Norfolk, Virginia, recently while in town for business and would recommend as well.

The Buddha, the Barbie, and Walter Benjamin

Sunday, February 17th, 2013

[ by Charles Cameron — iconoclasm, Iranian style ]
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From AP today:

Iran confiscates Buddha statues from shops.

TEHRAN, Iran (AP) – An Iranian newspaper is reporting that government authorities are confiscating Buddha statues from shops in Tehran to stop the promotion of Buddhism in the country.

Sunday’s report by the independent Arman daily quotes Saeed Jaberi Ansari, an official for the protection of Iran’s cultural heritage, as saying that authorities will not permit a specific belief to be promoted through such statues.

Ansari called the Buddha statues symbols of “cultural invasion.”

He did not elaborate on how many have been confiscated so far, but said more would be seized from shops.

Iran has long fought against items, such as Barbie dolls and Simpsons cartoon characters, to defuse Western influence, but this appears to be the first time that Iranian authorities are showing an opposition to symbols from the East.

**

Walter Benjamin, very much apropos, in The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction:

The uniqueness of a work of art is inseparable from its being imbedded in the fabric of tradition. This tradition itself is thoroughly alive and extremely changeable. An ancient statue of Venus, for example, stood in a different traditional context with the Greeks, who made it an object of veneration, than with the clerics of the Middle Ages, who viewed it as an ominous idol. Both of them, however, were equally confronted with its uniqueness, that is, its aura. Originally the contextual integration of art in tradition found its expression in the cult. We know that the earliest art works originated in the service of a ritual – first the magical, then the religious kind. It is significant that the existence of the work of art with reference to its aura is never entirely separated from its ritual function. In other words, the unique value of the “authentic” work of art has its basis in ritual, the location of its original use value. This ritualistic basis, however remote, is still recognizable as secularized ritual even in the most profane forms of the cult of beauty. The secular cult of beauty, developed during the Renaissance and prevailing for three centuries, clearly showed that ritualistic basis in its decline and the first deep crisis which befell it.

**

Sources:

Barbie Sitting Acrylic Cut Out
Buddha, seated


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