Visit to the National Museum of the American Indian

From September, some photos of an awesome exhibit of commercial exploitation of Native American culture at the National Museum of the American Indian. The building itself is as beautiful as ever.

Hundreds of products are featured, including a Tomahawk missile:

Elvis played Indian characters twice in films. Also depicted is Justin Trudeau’s cousin:

Let’s not forget South Park:

Sorry for the poor image quality, but this Post Toasties ad is essential:

Adjacent to this exhibit is one that claims Pocahontas “saved America.” As much of a Pocahontas fan as I am, to the extent that she helped European invaders, wouldn’t it be more accurate to say that she helped destroy America?

It is interesting to compare this museum with the nearby National Museum of African American History and Culture, also run by the Smithsonian. More than 95 percent of Native Americans were killed by European immigrants, either through violence or the diseases that Europeans brought (which then spread via mosquito). Their land was stolen. Yet their museum is mostly positive and celebrates Indian achievements in art and culture. The African American museum, on the other hand, is at least 2/3rds negative, focusing on African Americans as victims. A railroad car with identical (but separate) seating for blacks and whites, for example, gets a sign explaining how the black passengers were deprived of “oversized luggage bins” and a chair inside the restroom:

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Visit to the Hirshhorn Museum

From a late September visit to the Hirshhorn Museum

Walk past the Smithsonian Castle:

In front is a crushed car sculpture by Jimmie Durham, who identifies as a Native American (see “Why It Matters That Jimmie Durham Is Not a Cherokee”):

He has long claimed to be Cherokee but that claim has been denied by tribal representatives: “Durham is neither enrolled nor eligible for citizenship in any of the three federally-recognized and historical Cherokee Tribes: the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, the United Keetoowah Band of Cherokee Indians of Oklahoma, and the Cherokee Nation.” He has “no known ties to any Cherokee community”

A sculpture by a white cisgender heterosexual man:

Viewers of this Andy Warhol might have imagined that we were never experience a worse president than Richard Nixon (who created the Environmental Protection Agency):

Artists who identify as “women” and call themselves the “conscience of the art world” establish a 10 percent quota for an art gallery not to be shamed:

Then they discuss how to identify “an art world token” (“8. Everyone knows your race, gender and sexual preference even when they don’t know your work.”):

Some more from this group…

(If art by people who identify as “women” costs only one third as much as art produced by those who identify as “men,” wouldn’t all real estate developers and hotel owners purchase art exclusively from “women”? Why pay 3X the cost for the same quality?)

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National Museum of African American History and Culture

The crowds are thinning out at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture. I simply showed up on a recent Sunday afternoon and was able to walk in (in theory this is possible only on weekdays in the off season).

The most prominent funders of the museum are white do-gooders:

And they are challenging stereotypes by serving fried chicken and collard greens in the cafeteria:

Slavery is presented as something that white Europeans did to African blacks. This sign regarding Olaudah Equiano is about as close as the museum ever gets to noting that black Africans were predominantly captured and sold into slavery by fellow black Africans and/or Arabs.

The museum confidently presents an economic history in which black labor is the basis of American wealth:

The Smithsonian does not explain how it is possible that enslaved blacks generated most American wealth and yet the South was much poorer than the North, to the point that it lost a war where the defense had a big advantage.

Suppose that the $250 million number for the value of cotton produced by slaves in 1861. A guesstimate of U.S. GDP at the time was $4.6 billion (source, in which it is noted that the $8.3 billion number for 1869 might be good, but earlier numbers are extrapolations).

Also, if slaves guarantee long-term wealth, why aren’t the other parts of the world that had a lot of slaves in the mid-19th century very rich today?

Most of the exhibits consist of “artifact plus explanatory written sign” that would have been familiar to a visitor to the British Museum circa 1759. And the collection is actually kind of short on artifacts, so much of the experience becomes reading while standing in a crowd. Will this be compelling for visitors in 25 years after everyone has grown up wearing AR glasses?

That said, there are some cool artifacts. A Stearman open-cockpit biplane trainer used by the Tuskegee Airmen:

The most shocking revelation to me was that the future P-51 fighter pilots were also doing needlepoint:

A KKK hood from New York and Chuck Berry’s Cadillac:

An updated touch-screen lunch counter for sit-ins:

The museum explicitly notes that “the critical role played by women in the Civil Rights Movement has not received enough recognition,” that attention should be paid to a “black lesbian feminist group,” and that the Third World Women’s Alliance “encouraged women to recognize their ‘triple jeopardy’: racism, imperialism, and sexism.”

After telling visitors that women are important, the museum shows that one man’s achievements far exceed those of all women collectively:

The shrine to Barack Obama, whose connection to formerly enslaved African Americans is never explained, continues in the bookstore:

A giftshop section “Because of Her Story” does not come close to tilting the scales in favor of women against Barack Obama:

(Unrelated, but fun:


Does black gay man beat black straight woman in the Victimhood Order of Hands? If so, the museum is ready:

African Americans are the group whose prosperity is most injured by low-skill immigration (Harvard study) and the museum notes that “Caribbean immigration increased 1,000 percent from 50 years earlier.”

(Result: lower wages, but some awesome calypso albums.)

The art museum part of the museum has some great pieces that are conventionally organized and presented:

The first African American to star in a TV drama is a challenge for the curators:

Fortunately, we will always have Oprah:

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Vanity Fair on Amazon Prime

In preparation for three weeks away from decent Internet, I downloaded a five-hour adaptation of Vanity Fair, the mid-19th century novel, from Amazon Prime.

To appreciate the achievement of Gwyneth Hughes, the screenwriter, download the Project Gutenberg text of the novel. It is heavy sledding compared to modern works and contains minimal dialog. Hughes had to create characters’ speech patterns from whole cloth. A woman refers to Becky Sharp as a “treasure-hunting jade”, but I couldn’t find this phrase searching the text of the book. I’m not sure to what extent she leaned on previous TV miniseries, but very little seems anachronistic.

Readers: If you’ve seen this, what do you think? Can anyone compare it to previous adaptations?

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Asking museum visitors for feedback… and getting it

The (awesome) Viking Ship Museum in Roskilde, Denmark holds five restored 1000-year-old ships:

The museum also features seaworthy replicas on which visitors can travel in the summer.

One fun part of the museum was the feedback wall:

Dressing up is popular:

There is some passion for American culture:

The Vikings had only two gender IDs:

“Send Them Back” stickers in the adjacent parking lot:

I wonder what would happen if American museums allowed this kind of open feedback whiteboard!

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ARKEN: Copenhagen’s contemporary art museum

Some pictures from a summer visit to ARKEN, a waterfront concrete museum that opened in 1996.

The entrance…

The regular collection is heavy on Damien Hirst…

More exciting… Benedikte Bjerre built an airport conveyor system out of IKEA bed parts (she says “the work addresses our dreams and hopes of the good capitalist life and social mobility across global borders”):

The museum was doing a big show of work by Australian Patricia Piccinini:

Does your dog like to jump up and share the bed?

Can you explain this traffic accident to Hertz?

Is it fair to say that not all concepts for Little Mermaid sequels are successful?


Many of the artists claim to be concerned about “marginalised individuals and groups,” but how many of those folks will ever purchase or view a contemporary artwork?

Exit through the gift shop…

And then fold your big Danish frame into a tiny Danish car…

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Movie: The Last Breath

Apollo 11 is an interesting way to relive the first moon landing through documentary footage (restored and organized into a 1.5-hour experience).

The Last Breath (streaming on Netflix) is the flip side of Apollo 11. The mission is equally dangerous, but the direction is down into the sea rather than up into space. Instead of certain fame and possible fortune that astronauts enjoyed, the aquanauts of The Last Breath will receive a modest paycheck at best.

The movie involves a group of people who choose to live on a small ship being tossed around in the North Sea. (No gender IDs are provided explicitly, but male pronouns are used for everyone in the film who goes onto or under the water. This page shows that 0% of people certified to do the kind of diving shown in the movie identify as “women.” Therefore I will use male pronouns in this post.)

Being part of the crew is horrible, battered regularly by 45-knot winds and 20-foot waves. But the divers must live at 100 meters of pressure (10 atm) for 28 days straight, the monotony of living in a small pressure chamber broken up only by visits to the ocean floor. For 28 days they will breathe a mixture of helium and oxygen and depend on technologies such as diving bells, diving suits, and umbilical cords.

Typical of the Scottish understatement that permeates the film… Regarding the Donald Duck voice from breathing helium: “The first thirty seconds is always quite humorous. After that, the novelty wears off.”

I don’t want to ruin the suspense by saying more, but I recommend the film and would be interested to see comments from readers who have seen it. (Folks who don’t want any spoilers can refrain from clicking on the comments.)

Readers: Obviously the pay is going to be better than what one could receive working in a supermarket, but what else motivates men to take these kinds of jobs?

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Taxpayer-funded favoritism for one gender

There are approximately 58 gender IDs (NBC News story on Facebook). Yet government officials apparently feel comfortable saying that 1 out of these 58 is more important than the other 57.

Convicted (by NYT and Facebook) rapist and Supreme Court Justice Kavanaugh: “I am proud that a majority of my law clerks have been women.” (NYT)

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg: “Justice Kavanaugh made history by bringing on board an all-female law clerk crew. Thanks to his selections, the Court has this Term, for the first time ever, more women than men serving as law clerks.” (Washington Examiner)

Here are the items that were featured in July 2019 at the front of the American Art Museum (Smithsonian, which receives $1 billion/year in taxpayer funds) gift shop:

What else did they have at the museum, you might ask? A 19th century sculpture of sleeping children embracing:

… and they also have another sculpture of two humans embracing. Before you look, see if you can guess to which of the 58 above-referenced gender IDs they might belong…

Louise Nevelson, famous for (a) being a great artist, and (b) explicitly saying “I am not a feminist” (she refused alimony, for example, and one pillar of modern feminism is getting regular paychecks from male former sex partners), is parked in the “Feminism in American Art” section:

And some works that don’t relate to gender ID at all, e.g., Nam June Paik’s Electronic Superhighway.

Circling back to the main topic… why is it okay to use taxpayer funds to promote one gender ID above the other 50+ gender IDs?

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Keep obscure languages (such as Irish) alive via free videogames?

My Irish host’s son is just finishing what we would call high school. At great cost to the Irish taxpayer and himself he is now fluent in Irish. I asked whether this had any practical value. “Not really,” he replied. “There are only about 80,000 speakers of Irish.” Had he ever used Irish outside of the classroom or organized immersion program? “No.” Would he be able to use Irish to shop at the local supermarket or any other nearby merchant? “Not a chance.”

Did the Irish language have any communication value? I.e., among those 80,000 speakers were there any who did not speak English? “Maybe somewhere on the Aran Islands you could find one person.”

How can he possible maintain his fluency under these circumstances?

One idea: Dedicate 1 percent of the current Irish instruction budget to developing video games and apps that require reading, writing, listening, and speaking Irish. Give them away free. Refuse to make a version in any other language, no matter how popular a game becomes. If successful, maybe young people in China will learn Irish so as to be able to enjoy the games.

Readers: Could this work? Would it be more cost-effective than other methods of keeping a mostly-dead language alive?

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Why don’t rock stars have dogs?

An Irish friend who is unaccountably fond of English music and English cars (haven’t the English in Ireland mostly been unwanted immigrants and/or oppressors/exploiters?) took me to see Rocketman. The subject is portrayed as lovelorn and alone in bed, partly due to others’ disapproval of his heavy use of drugs and alcohol and having had sex with a prodigious number of partners. Who would forgive this behavior? Not Elton John’s parents or friends, we learn.

Similar scenes were included in Bohemian Rhapsody.

Why wouldn’t the managers/handlers for these rock stars have set them up with loyal dogs as soon as their popularity began to soar? A golden retriever wouldn’t complain about a pop star’s need to ingest drugs or indulge in Roman Emperor-style sexual exploits. Perhaps a Bernese Mountain Dog on tour would reduce a pop star’s need to rely on groupies for companionship (or at least reduce the groupie count slightly by taking up space in the bed).

Enya has essentially complete control over her life and has organized it around companion animals, though not dogs (The Sun).

How was the movie? Friend’s review: “It glorified cocaine use. His only worry was if he would still be just as good when he came off it. It also glorified therapy. One trip to rehab and he was cured. That’s bullshit. They were always breaking out in song, like a 1950s movie.” He preferred Bohemian Rhapsody. (Wikipedia suggests that the movie was essentially based on the subject’s own perspective: “Elton John and husband David Furnish had tried to produce a film based on his life for almost two decades.”)

I thought the “have ordinary folks break out in song” elements were creative and interesting. I noticed that the discredited practice of heterosexuality was written out of the lyrics. “I miss my wife” in the “Rocket Man” song turns into “I miss my life” in the movie version. (Doesn’t make sense unless sung by a dead astronaut?) Also, as in Gillette’s toxic masculinity video, wisdom in the film comes primarily from the non-white-males, e.g., some African-American musicians helping Elton John realize his true potential as a flamboyant gay singer and a black therapist who turns him sober through the miracle of talking about his childhood (just as victimhood is being celebrated worldwide, we learn that Elton John was a major victim of emotionally abusive parents, at least according to Elton John (the parents are dead so can’t defend themselves); Elton John now describes himself as a “survivor”).

[Elton John was born in 1947 to parents who were both 22 years old at the time (the father in the movie, though, is given an elderly appearance). The standard of parenting back in the 1950s was much less exacting. The movie shows the father completely indifferent to the son’s spectacular success (a fact check), which does not ring true. Mom is passionate about having sex with a neighbor, reminiscent of the Specsavers Golf Course ad]

The dialog is anachronistic. For example, Elton John admits to the group therapy session that he is a “sex addict.” A pop star drenched in naked groupies was not considered an “addict” back in the 1970s, I don’t think.

Readers: Who has seen Rocketman? What did you think? And should every young rising rock star have a companion dog to keep him or her steady?

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