Archive for October 20, 2013

Integrity in Decision Making

October 20, 2013 Leave a comment


[Tony Gutierrez/Associated Press]

Above we see Bill Hancock, executive director of college football’s Bowl Championship Series, announcing Condoleezza Rice’s selection last Wednesday as a member of the College Football Playoff committee. From the AP article:

Former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, former Nebraska coach Tom Osborne and College Football Hall of Fame quarterback Archie Manning are among the 13 people who will be part of the College Football Playoff selection committee in 2014.

The committee members were officially unveiled Wednesday, though the names had been reported last week by The Associated Press and other media outlets. Earlier this week, Arkansas athletic director Jeff Long was announced as the chairman of the first selection committee for the new postseason system that replaces the Bowl Championship Series next year.

The committee will choose four teams to play in the national semifinals and seed them. The winners of those games, played on a rotating basis at six bowl sites, will meet a week later for the national championship.

Long and BCS Executive Director Bill Hancock, who will assume the same position in the new postseason format, announced the committee members at a news conference at the College Football Playoff offices in Irving, Texas. The panel is made up of current athletic directors, former players and coaches and college administrators, and a former member of the media.

“Our work will be difficult, but rewarding at the same time,” Long said. “We have important judgments to make during that process. We realize we represent all of college football.”

Word spread days earlier that Rice would be on the committee, prompting both criticism and praise—criticism that she isn’t a football expert, praise that, well, beats me. There’s this, from Sports Illustrated’s Michael Rosenberg, intent on fighting back against the sexism of the criticism. But he never does say what her virtues are.

And then there’s this glorifying piece by Greg Bishop to appear in tomorrow’s NYT. It reaches its low point near the end.

Larry Scott, the commissioner of the Pacific-12 Conference, first broached to Rice the idea of her fit on the selection committee. “Why me?” was her initial reaction. He told her that the conference commissioners wanted a variety of backgrounds, integrity in decision making, not just insiders but also others who understood the game.

“I thought it would be amazing to get someone of that caliber that is a really serious sports fan involved,” Scott said last week in an interview. “It takes the caliber of the committee to a whole different level.”

Rice plans to draw on her diplomatic background. She is, after all, familiar with the collaborative process: seek data, refine data, question data, argue data, come to some sort of consensus. She is pleased that strength of schedule will be heavily considered. Her father would have liked that.

So if you want integrity in decision making, you choose Condoleezza Rice? What am I missing here?

Let’s review. We can start with the report on torture released last April, about which NYT reporter. Scott Shane writes:

A nonpartisan, independent review of interrogation and detention programs in the years after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks concludes that “it is indisputable that the United States engaged in the practice of torture” and that the nation’s highest officials bore ultimate responsibility for it.

The sweeping, 600-page report says that while brutality has occurred in every American war, there never before had been “the kind of considered and detailed discussions that occurred after 9/11 directly involving a president and his top advisers on the wisdom, propriety and legality of inflicting pain and torment on some detainees in our custody.”

I do believe Ms. Rice was our country’s National Security Advisor at the time, a high official and top advisor. That’s all the review I need.

Why does she continue to be the subject of admiration and recipient of honors. She’s a simple war criminal.

Categories: Football, Torture

Kingdoms of the Sun and the Moon

October 20, 2013 Leave a comment


[Photo: Daniel Giannoni]

A new exhibition, Peru: Kingdoms of the Sun and the Moon, opened this week at the Seattle Art Museum. A description from the website:

Discover the mysteries of Machu Picchu, treasures from royal tombs and archeological wonders from one of the cradles of civilization in Peru: Kingdoms of the Sun and the Moon. More than 3,000 years of artistic history reveal a land of rich complexity and startling beauty.

This unusually wide-ranging exhibition covers archeology, ancient rituals, royal ceremonies, conquest and colonization, the formation of the republic and the emergence of a new national identity. Experience the unfolding of culture through the creative achievements of Peru, from gold funerary masks to modern folk art.

The Seattle Art Museum is proud to be the only U.S. venue presenting this spectacular exhibition of more than 300 works, including national treasures never before seen outside of Peru.

And also this:

Discover Peru, land of hidden treasures, home to the first city in the Americas, a country of beauty and mystery. Travel back 3,000 years through the pottery, textiles, and stunning gold work of cultures that developed in isolation before the Inca ever built Machu Picchu. Trace the incorporation of indigenous motifs into European-style paintings and religious objects during colonization, and watch a new national identity emerge after independence.

Each work has a place in history, and together, they provide an expansive view of the deep and complex artistic heritage of Peru.

As is our custom, we went to the opening celebration, which took place Tuesday night. All four of the usual components were available: a program in the auditorium, food and drink, entertainment, and the exhibition itself. We arrived shortly before the 6:30 start time for the program. After grabbing drinks (water for me, white wine for Gail, no red wine allowed in the auditorium), we took our seats.

The program began at 6:45 with remarks by the board president, Winnie Stratton. She was followed by museum director Kim Rorschach, who played the essential role of listing all the sponsors. Then came Harold Forsyth, the Peruvian ambassador to the US, who offered a high-level speech about the significance of the show, the role of Peru, and US-Peru relations, the details of which completely escape me now. Luis Jaime Castillo Butters followed. He is currently a government official, the Vice Minister of Cultural Patrimony and Cultural Industries, but also an archaeologist and scholar. Thus, he could talk knowledgeably about the significance of the exhibition itself, which he did, rather than operating at the platitudinous level.

The exhibition was organized by the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, whose director, Nathalie Bondil, spoke next. She was the star of the show, a charming, light-hearted Frenchwoman who quickly confessed her lack of expertise and ordered her Curator of Pre-Columbian Art (and exhibition organizer) Victor Pimentel to join her onstage. They proceeded to work through a series of slides of exhibition objects, with Nathalie giving some of the background then, on occasion, dragging Victor by the sleeve to the microphone to pinch hit.

At 7:50, we were released to see the objects for ourselves. Not having eaten dinner, we decided to join the long line in the lobby for food. The line moved fast, and soon we were at the buffet table, prepared by in-house restaurant Taste. A spicy potato dish, a spinach pastry of some sort, a bean dish, and steak skewers, all excellent. While we ate, we listened to a local Andean folk music group, Hanumanta, with the Sonia Porras Dance Company performing.

With such good food and festive atmosphere, it was easy to forget why we were at the museum. But there was the exhibition to see, and so we did. We made an unfortunate error, relying on habit to pass from the opening room to a second one in a clockwise direction, not realizing that this time the natural route was counter-clockwise. The nineteenth- and twentieth-century paintings were evidence something was amiss, but maybe objects were grouped by medium, not chronologically. Plus, the exhibition showpiece—the forehead ornament featured at the top of the post—was in a neighboring space. (Forehead ornament with feline head and octopus tentacles ending in catfish heads, 100-800, Peruvian, Mochica, North Coast, possibly La Mina, gold, chrysocolla, shells, 11 1/4 x 16 5/16 x 1 3/4 in., Museo de la Nación, Lima.) So maybe there wasn’t a strict chronological order.

Off we went, room to room, evidence mounting that we were walking backwards. I should note that we weren’t alone in this choice, the people moving in both directions adding to the confusion. Well, no matter. We saw many extraordinary objects. And we can go counter-clockwise on our next visit.

What did we see? I’ll offer some examples from the website. You can go there to see and read more. (Click “Art”.)

First we have a feathered hanging from 700-1200: Peruvian, Huari, South Coast, possibly Rio Grande Valley, cotton, feathers, 25 7/8 × 85 1/16 in., The Montreal Museum of Fine Arts. It is “one of 90 identical works found in the 1940s in a burial cache on Peru’s south coast. The Inca also made offerings at this site, suggesting it was a sacred place in the landscape over a long period of time.”


[Photo: Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, Denis Farley]

Perhaps my biggest surprise was finding a wall of photos by Irving Penn.

In December 1948, after completing a photo shoot for Vogue in Lima, the fashion photographer, Irving Penn (1917–2009), did not immediately return to New York with his colleagues, but went to Cuzco, where he stayed for several days. He rented a local photographer’s studio.

“By incredible providence, there in the center of town was a daylight studio! A Victorian leftover, one broad wall of light to the north, a stone floor, a painted cloth backdrop—a dream come true. I hired the use of the studio for the next three days, sending the proprietor away to spend Christmas with his family, and set myself up as town photographer. When subjects arrived to be photographed they found me instead of him. Instead of them paying me, I paid them for posing, a very confusing affair.”

Here is one of the photos, “Cuzco: Three Sitting Men in Masks.”


[The Irving Penn Foundation, New York]

Going back in time, here’s the back of a litter, dated from 750-1375: Peruvian, Lambayeque, North Coast, wood, gold, silver, cinnabar, sulphurous copper, ammonia, shells, turquoise, feathers, 22 13/16 × 44 7/8 × 1 15/16 in., Museos “Oro del Perú” – “Armas del Mundo”.

While they lived, the rulers of ancient Peru traveled on litters, or platforms carried by servants. In death, their mummified bodies were also placed on litters, and carried to their tombs in great ceremonial parades. This remarkable backrest from a Lambayeque litter is inlaid with gold, silver, turquoise, cinnabar, shells, and feathers. The carving is an image of a funerary procession and features an audience of ancestors who await the leader in the afterlife.


[Photo: Joaquín Rubio]

Next, an altarpiece from around 1970 by Joaquín López Antay, Peruvian, 1897-1981: Painted wood, polychrome paste, 36 7/16 × 46 7/16 × 5 1/2 in., Colección Museo de Arte de Lima.

Retablos are small three-dimensional altars featuring tiny figures arranged in scenes, usually telling an important religious story. The first retablos were placed behind the altars of Catholic churches in Spain, and carried by soldiers worshipping far from home during the Crusades against non-Christians in the Near East, Northern Africa and Eastern Europe during the 11th, 12th and 13th centuries.

In Peru, they were used to proselytize the native peoples during the colonial period. Peruvian folk artists then adopted the form to tell their own stories. While this retablo shows scenes from Catholic teachings on the top tiers, the lower tiers depict daily life in south-central Peru: the harvest of the prickly pear cactus, a celebration with music and dancing.


There’s an article in ARTnews from last March about the Montreal exhibition that has some excellent photos. I will close with one depicting an Inca noblewoman: Gran Nusta Mama Occollo, Cuzco, Peru, early 1800s, oil on canvas mounted on board, Denver Art Museum.


The exhibition closes January 5. If you can, see it.

Categories: Art, Museums