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  • Author: Daniel Wahl
  • Publication Date: 06-2014
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: The Objective Standard
  • Institution: The Objective Standard
  • Abstract: Seven Pleasures: Essays on Ordinary Happiness, by Willard Spiegelman. New York: Picador, 2009. 208 pp. $16 (paperback). In Seven Pleasures: Essays on Ordinary Happiness, Willard Spiegelman asks: “In adulthood, what should—what does—one read? No longer having the luxury of youthful promiscuity, knowing that the clock ticks, that every choice of something eliminates something else, what should you do?” (p. 49). Spiegelman suggests rereading “those books that gave pleasure in the past.” He adds: A photographic memory is not necessarily a blessing; there's a charm in forgetting, so if you're not cursed with perfect recall, you'll have the joy of discovering some things as though for the first time, while others will hit you with the refreshing rush of repetition. As an older version of the person you've always been, you can have things two ways at once: something old, something new; something recalled, something revealed. (p. 49) Although Spiegelman does not directly advise going back to what one loves and extracting still more pleasure from it, or learning to convert a declining memory into a source of enjoyment, he nevertheless provides example after example of himself doing just such things. Whereas other books about happiness tell readers how to become happy, in Seven Pleasures Spiegelman simply discusses the activities that have made him happy and shows how he has learned to deeply enjoy his life.
  • Political Geography: New York
  • Author: Daniel Wahl
  • Publication Date: 06-2014
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: The Objective Standard
  • Institution: The Objective Standard
  • Abstract: So Good They Can't Ignore You: Why Skills Trump Passion in the Quest for Work You Love, by Cal Newport. New York: Business Plus, 2012. 304 pp. $26 (hardcover). In So Good They Can't Ignore You: Why Skills Trump Passion in the Quest for Work You Love, Cal Newport challenges (among other things) the idea that “the key to occupational happiness is to first figure out what you're passionate about and then find a job that matches this passion” (p. 4). This is a widespread idea with the full backing of American pop culture and of many successful people. But is it true? Newport doesn't think so, and, in arguing that it is not, he observes (for starters) that passions rarely match up with specific jobs. In a 2002 study he cites, for example, 539 Canadian university students were asked if they had passions and, if so, what they were. Eighty-four percent replied that they did have passions, but the top five listed were dance, hockey, skiing, reading, and swimming. Newport sums up this list by concluding what the students themselves likely have found out by now—that “these passions don't have much to offer when it comes to choosing a job” (p. 14). Newport also observes that passions take time to develop. Here he cites a paper by Amy Wrzesniewski, published in the Journal of Research in Personality, that explores the differences between a job, a career, and a calling. A job, in Wrzesniewski's formulation, is a way to pay the bills, a career is a path toward increasingly better work, and a calling is work that's an important part of your life and a vital part of your identity.
  • Political Geography: America
  • Author: Daniel Wahl
  • Publication Date: 08-2014
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: The Objective Standard
  • Institution: The Objective Standard
  • Abstract: The Dictionary of Human Form, by Ted Seth Jacobs. Santa Fe: Mariposa Press, 2011. 819 pp. $150. Reviewed by Daniel Wahl Ted Seth Jacobs painted The Open Window—one of the most beautiful paintings of the twentieth century. He taught Jacob Collins and Tony Ryder—two of the realist movement's most influential teachers. And he has written three books on art—Drawing What the Eye Sees, Light for the Artist, and The Dictionary of Human Form. This last is his latest, and it is arguably one of the greatest books of art instruction ever written. In fact, with more than twenty-five hundred drawings and diagrams on the structure of human form, no other book comes close to being as detailed and as comprehensive. Most books about how to render the human form focus on anatomy. But Jacobs, who has a unique view on this issue (and many others), does not think the study of anatomy is necessary or helpful for artists. He says, for example: Anatomy gives a picture of the skeletal system, of where muscles originate and insert, and their names and functions. I have talked with doctors and biologists, and both have assured me that the appearance of muscles in a dead dissected body is entirely different from that of a living subject. Perhaps that is why, most often, muscles drawn in anatomy books resemble skinny, attenuated, paramecium forms. (p. 10) And: I have not seen all the extant anatomy books for artists, but I have never seen one with what I would consider a mastery of drawing. Anatomy is more applicable to scientific disciplines than to the needs of the artist. Most commonly lacking in anatomy books and courses, is the sense of the special three-dimensional shapes of forms on the surface of the body. (p. 10) And: If you know anatomy as thoroughly as a doctor, but don't know structure, you will not be able to draw correctly. If you don't know any anatomy, but thoroughly understand structure, you will be able to learn to draw like an old master. (p. 1) The Dictionary of Human Form is thus not at all about anatomy; its focus is structure. Jacobs defines structure, most broadly, as “the way in which living organic forms are organized” (p. 7). He then explains why studying the structure of the body is of value to artists.
  • Author: Daniel Wahl
  • Publication Date: 08-2014
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: The Objective Standard
  • Institution: The Objective Standard
  • Abstract: The Rape of the Masters: How Political Correctness Sabotages Art, by Roger Kimball. New York: Encounter Books, 2005. 200 pp. $17.95 (paperback). Reviewed by Daniel Wahl Roger Kimball begins The Rape of the Masters: How Political Correctness Sabotages Art by asking why we teach and study art history. “It is a question,” he says, “that elicits a complicated answer.” To learn about art, yes, but also to learn about the cultural setting in which art unfolds; in addition, to learn about—what to call it? “Evolution” is not quite right, neither is “progress.” Possibly “development”: to learn about the development of art, then, about how over the course of history artists “solved problems”—for example, the problem of modeling three-dimensional space on an essentially two-dimensional plane. Those are some of the answers, or some parts of the answer, most of us would give. There are others. We teach and study art history—as we teach and study literary history or political history or the history of science—partly to familiarize ourselves with humanity's adventure in time. We expect an educated person in the West to remember what happened in 1066, to know the plot of Hamlet, to understand (sort of) the law of gravity, to recognize Mona Lisa, Botticelli's Birth of Venus, or Manet's Bar at the Folies-Bergère. These are aspects of a huge common inheritance, episodes that alternately bask in and cast illuminations and shadows, the interlocking illuminations and shadows that delineate mankind's conjuring with the world. All this might be described as the dough, the ambient body of culture. The yeast is supplied by direct acquaintance with the subject of study: the poem or novel or play, the mental itinerary a Galileo or Newton traveled, the actual work of art on the wall. In the case of art history, the raison d'être—the ultimate motive—is supplied by a direct visual encounter with great works of art. Everything else is prolegomenon or afterthought: scaffolding to support the main event, which is not so much learning about art as it is experiencing art first hand. Or so one would have thought. What has happened to the main event? (pp. 1–2) As Kimball makes clear, the main event has changed.
  • Political Geography: New York
  • Author: Daniel Wahl
  • Publication Date: 01-2013
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: The Objective Standard
  • Institution: The Objective Standard
  • Abstract: In 2009, Salman Khan quit his job as a hedge fund analyst in order to devote time to Khan Academy—a grand name, explains Khan, for an entity with meager resources.
  • Author: Daniel Wahl
  • Publication Date: 01-2013
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: The Objective Standard
  • Institution: The Objective Standard
  • Abstract: At the beginning of The Dictator's Learning Curve: Inside the Global Battle for Democracy, William Dobson states a fact that is all too clear for anyone who studies history or reads the news: Authoritarian governments rarely fret over United Nations sanctions or interference from a foreign rights group that can be easily expelled. Indeed, the mere threat of foreign intervention, whether from the United States, the United Nations, or a body like the International Criminal Court, can be a useful foil for stirring up nationalist passions and encouraging people to rally around the regime. (p. 9)
  • Topic: United Nations
  • Political Geography: United States
  • Author: Daniel Wahl
  • Publication Date: 03-2013
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: The Objective Standard
  • Institution: The Objective Standard
  • Abstract: Directed by David Gelb. Starring Jiro Ono and Yoshikazu Ono. Released by Magnolia Pictures. Rated PG for mild thematic elements and brief smoking. Running time: 81 minutes.
  • Author: Daniel Wahl
  • Publication Date: 03-2013
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: The Objective Standard
  • Institution: The Objective Standard
  • Abstract: A few years ago, on an assignment for a magazine, Daniel Coyle started visiting what he calls talent hotbeds, or "tiny places that produce large numbers of world-class performers in sports, art, music, business, math, and other disciplines".
9. Island
  • Author: Daniel Wahl
  • Publication Date: 06-2013
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: The Objective Standard
  • Institution: The Objective Standard
  • Abstract: From Victor Hugo's The Man Who Laughs to Nevil Shute's Trustee from the Toolroom, many of the best books ever written have until recently been hard to find and therefore often expensive to purchase.
  • Author: Daniel Wahl
  • Publication Date: 06-2013
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: The Objective Standard
  • Institution: The Objective Standard
  • Abstract: One way to determine the practical significance of ideas is to try practicing them. In The Year of Living Biblically: One Man's Humble Quest to Follow the Bible as Literally as Possible, A. J. Jacobs sets out to do just that.