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The Obamas | A First Lady Unhappy with President's Men

The Obamas

Anne can’t wait to get her hands on Jodi Kantor’s new book The Obamas, one that will bring peace to her heart. Our unwavering support of the First Lady has remained strong, but Anne did abandon her website devoted to the first lady, as President Obama compromised one issue after another with Republicans,

His capitulation to the Catholic bishops brought her particular pain, as the President made it clear that he would deal away women’s health care rights for his larger goal of getting Obamacare passed. It was during those sad days that Anne’s disillusionment with President Obama became totally clear, although we remain committed to his re-election.

In her new book, published Tuesday, New York Times reporter Jodi Kantor presents Mrs. Obama as fiercely opposed to much advice given President Obama by his team and especially by deal maker White House Chief of Staff Rob Emmanuel, now mayor of Chicago, and former press secretary and presidential adviser Robert Gibbs.

In today’s NYT article Michelle Obama’s Evolution as First Lady, Kantor makes it clear:

The first lady never confronted the advisers directly — that was not her way — but they found out about her displeasure from the president. “She feels as if our rudder isn’t set right,” Mr. Obama confided, according to aides.

Rahm Emanuel, then chief of staff, repeated the first lady’s criticisms to colleagues with indignation, according to three of them. Mr. Emanuel, in a brief interview, denied that he had grown frustrated with Mrs. Obama, but other advisers described a grim situation: a president whose agenda had hit the rocks, a first lady who disapproved of the turn the White House had taken, and a chief of staff who chafed against her influence.


Anne is so moved by what she is reading, that she will write a Dear Michelle letter of apology to the first lady. Even though we have always celebrated her grace, charm and caring leadership on so many issues, Anne admits feeling defeated also by the capitulation of the Obama White House, and especially on women’s health care issues. To know that Michelle wasn’t just walking with bowed head behind her man, but fighting against the status quo raises her stature even higher in our eyes.

Updated: The First Lady has accused Jodi Kantor of portraying her as an angry black woman. What a pity — to play the race card when most pundits say Michelle is very strong in the book and that the Gibbs event really happened, as one example. No apology will be forthcoming from Anne — sadly.



Backyard Oasis: The Swimming Pool in Southern California Photography

These sunny images are included in Palm Springs Art Museum’s latest exhibition Backyard Oasis: The Swimming Pool in Southern California Photography, in 1945 – 1982. The show opens Jan 21, 2012 and closes May 27, 2012. 

Senior curator Daniell Cornell amassed 135 carefully selected photographs, including David Hockney’s sun-flecked scenes alongside Herb Ritts and Lawrence Schiller’s glamorous Hollywood-style portraits and more surreal takes from pop-art master John Baldessari. “These individual water-based environs in the arid landscape are an integral part of the region’s identity,” says Cornell, “a microcosm of the hopes and disillusionments of the country’s post-World War II ethos.”

As a private setting, the backyard pool became a stage for sub-culture rituals and clandestine desires. As a medium, photography became the primary vehicle for embodying the polar emotions of consumer optimism and Cold War fears. Crossing the boundaries of popular and high culture, commercial merchandising, journalistic reporting, and vernacular memorabilia, photography conveyed the developing ideologies of the period. As such, its visual language forms a network of discursive topics that open onto each other, offering a rich study of physical and cultural geography. For the first time, this exhibition, its catalogue, and attendant programs trace the integrated histories of photography and the iconography of the swimming pool, bringing new light to aspects of this complex interaction.

The exhibitions’ companion catalogue shows work from noted names of post-war photography and offers lengthy essays on the cultural relevance of the pool as a symbol not only of the rich and famous but also narcissism and escape.

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Brene Brown's 'The Gifts of Imperfection' Book & TED Talk

Brene Brown is a research professor at the University of Houston Graduate College of Social Work and presenter of this fantastic TED Talk. Brown, who has a doctorate in social work, has spent the past ten years studying vulnerability, courage, authenticity, and shame. She spent the first five years of her decade-long study focusing on shame and empathy, and is now using that work to explore a concept that she calls Wholeheartedness. She poses the questions:

How do we learn to embrace our vulnerabilities and imperfections so that we can engage in our lives from a place of authenticity and worthiness? How do we cultivate the courage, compassion, and connection that we need to recognize that we are enough – that we are worthy of love, belonging, and joy?

In her TED Talk Brene Brown shares her own story of confronting vulnerability as a woman who entered the field of research believing that everything can be measured — or it’s not real. Her own in-depth research journey landed her in the therapist’s office, where she sought professional insights on her intellectual confusion without going into her own personal issues.

Embracing Imperfection

With refreshing candor, Brene Brown admits that her therapist specialized in seeing therapists and was known to have a high bs meter. And so all Brown’s rational walls came tumbling down until she grasped vulnerability as key to self-love and personal growth.

In her 2010 book ‘The Gifts of Imperfection’ — which remains #357 in books at Amazon over a year later, the author shares her philosophy, reminding us:

Each day we face a barrage of images and messages from society and the media telling us who, what, and how we should be. We are led to believe that if we could only look perfect and lead perfect lives, we’d no longer feel inadequate. So most of us perform, please, and perfect, all the while thinking, “What if I can’t keep all of these balls in the air? Why isn’t everyone else working harder and living up to my expectations? What will people think if I fail or give up? When can I stop proving myself?”

In her ten guideposts, Brown engages our minds, hearts, and spirits as she explores how we can cultivate the courage, compassion, and connection to wake up in the morning and think, “No matter what gets done and how much is left undone, I am enough,” and to go to bed at night thinking, “Yes, I am sometimes afraid, but I am also brave. And, yes, I am imperfect and vulnerable, but that doesn’t change the truth that I am worthy of love and belonging.”


Ken Robinson | 'Out of Our Minds: Learning to be Creative' | 'The Element: How Finding Your Passion Changes Everything'

On the recent fifth anniversary of TED Talks, it was announced that Sir Ken Robinson’s TED Talk is the most watched video to date.

Sir Ken Robinson: Do Schools Kill Creativity?

The author of Out of Minds: Learning to be Creative, a 10th anniversary edition of which was published in March, and The Element: How Finding Your Passion Changes Everything, Robinson has dedicated much of his professional life to helping governments, educational systems and businesses understand that creativity is not a fanciful luxury.

In this extensively revised and updated version of his best-selling classic, Out of Our Minds, Ken Robinson offers a groundbreaking approach to understanding creativity in education and in business. Robinson argues that people and organizations everywhere are dealing with problems that originate in schools and universities and that many people leave education with no idea at all of their real creative abilities.

Creativity in Decline

We have reason to believe that creativity is declining in America. Professor E Paul Torrance tracks creativity, not only assessing it in children but being able to predict creativity in future adults.In Jan. 2010, Newsweek wrote ‘The Creativity Crisis’, assessing Torrance’s theories and results:

Nobody would argue that Torrance’s tasks, which have become the gold standard in creativity assessment, measure creativity perfectly. What’s shocking is how incredibly well Torrance’s creativity index predicted those kids’ creative accomplishments as adults. Those who came up with more good ideas on Torrance’s tasks grew up to be entrepreneurs, inventors, college presidents, authors, doctors, diplomats, and software developers. Jonathan Plucker of Indiana University recently reanalyzed Torrance’s data. The correlation to lifetime creative accomplishment was more than three times stronger for childhood creativity than childhood IQ.

Kyung Hee Kim at the College of William & Mary has analyzed almost 300,000 Torrance scores of children and adult, finding that creativity scores rose until 1990. The downward decline of American creativity scores is constant since 1990. Most alarming is the fact that it is the scores of younger children in America — from kindergarten through sixth grade — who are losing the most creativity.

The potential consequences are sweeping. The necessity of human ingenuity is undisputed. A recent IBM poll of 1,500 CEOs identified creativity as the No. 1 “leadership competency” of the future. Yet it’s not just about sustaining our nation’s economic growth. All around us are matters of national and international importance that are crying out for creative solutions, from saving the Gulf of Mexico to bringing peace to Afghanistan to delivering health care. Such solutions emerge from a healthy marketplace of ideas, sustained by a populace constantly contributing original ideas and receptive to the ideas of others. via Newsweek

Sir Ken Robinson agrees. Out of Our Minds is a passionate and powerful call for radically different approaches to leadership, teaching and professional development to help us all to meet the extraordinary challenges of living and working in the 21st century.

In Britain secondary-school curricula is being revamped to emphasize idea generation, and Torrance tests are being used to assess progress. Newsweek writes:

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Book | Unnatural Selection by Mara Hvistendahl

Gender Selection & A World Full of Men

Asia now has 163 million females “missing” from its population. Gender imbalance reaches far beyond Asia, affecting Georgia, Eastern Europe, and cities in the U.S. where there are significant immigrant populations. The world, therefore, is becoming increasingly male, and this mismatch is likely to create profound social upheaval.

Historically, eras in which there have been an excess of men have produced periods of violent conflict and instability.

In some areas of Punjab, among high castes, the ratio of girls to boys was 300 to 1,000. This fact is a staggering statistic, one that represents the worst example of gendercide in India and it’s occurring in the upper class.

Mara Hvistendahl is unflinching and also pro-abortion rights. Like Anne she is dismayed that the only loud voices dealing with the strong preference for boys in Asia and Eastern Europe are the anti-abortion forces. The left internationally — as they are in America — remains silent in support of any logical cultural approach to this challenge that focuses on maternal health, maternal rights and a cultural understanding that educated women with fewer children offer the best hope for the 21st century.

My own stance on abortion didn’t change, in that I continue to be pro-abortion rights. I was, however, dismayed at how much American abortion politics on both the right and the left has come to bear on the issue of sex selection in ways that are reshaping the developing world. On the right, conservatives have made this an issue about the fetus and when life begins. They are using what happens in Asia to try to push through restrictions on abortion in the U.S. But I don’t see much concern for what’s happening to men and women in the developing word. On the left, people are generally pretty scared to tackle this issue because it deals with abortion, and the result is that we don’t see much international action.

More reading at AOC

Gendercide of Girls Increases Worldwide AOC FP

India’s Sex Ratio Problem Deepers As Technology Aids Patriarchy AOC World’s Women

Will Polyandry Become a Way of Life in China and India? AOC World’s Women

In the Himalayas, there’s an existing tradition of polyandry, with roots that run deeply in Buddhist and Hindu cultures. Although polyandry is illegal in the region, it exists in Himachal, Pradesh, a week’s journey from the China border.


Book | Helmut Newton's Polaroids

Helmut Newton’s Polaroids by June Newton AOC Body|Beauty|Culture

Note | Nudity In the digital age Polaroids are all but obsolete in the arsenal of working photographers.

Luckily for us, legendary photographer Helmut Newton saved his test Polaroids, allowing a privileged and rare chance to see the tests from a selection of his greatest shoots over a period of decades, including many from the TASCHEN titles SUMO, A Gun for Hire, and Work. Most of these images have never been published.

The 224-page book is edited by Newton’s widow, June Newton and is scheduled for publication on August 1, 2011.


Book | 'Dancing in the Glory of Monsters' Examines War in Congo

The Collapse of the Congo

It’s estimated that over the past 15 years, war in the Democratic Republic of Congo has consumed about 5 million lives.  In writing Chronicle of death ignored, the Economist reminds us that it was only with the trial of Adolf Eichmann in 1961 that the term ‘Holocaust’ became common knowledge and currency to describe Germany’s extermination of the Jews.

Jason Stearns, author of Dancing in the Glory of Monsters: The Collapse of the Congo and the Great War of Africa, says that Congo should be ranked with Germany, Russia and China as one of the great vortexes of recent human violence.

Half a million women raped, some young girls of only five raped with gunbarrels or sticks, pregnant women disembowelled. Mr Stearns has met men who routinely killed 100 people a day, “using a rope to crush their windpipes and strangle them”. He asks how you become a mass murderer and finds unthinking machismo and delirium from years of abuse, but also strategic considerations. He seeks “a rational explanation for a truly chaotic conflict” and refuses to fall back on easy answers like the wanton savagery of Joseph Conrad’s “Heart of Darkness”. “The killers wanted to show the villagers…the consequence of any resistance. There were no limits to their revenge—they would kill the priests, rape the nuns, rip babies from their mothers’ wombs, and twist the corpses into origami figures.”

AOC has written extensively about the women of the Congo.

In this devastatingly bleak place for women, two good things happened in 2011.

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Book | A Billion Wicked Thoughts On Sexuality Search Patterns

Human Sexual Desire

Ogi Ogas and Sai Gaddam have written a new book ‘A Billion Wicked Thoughts: What the World’s Largest Experiment Reveals about Human Desire. 

Our Internet searches reveal much about us and so does neuroscience and brain scans. Understanding these facts gives us a much better understanding of sexuality and especially female sexuality where what we say and what we do are frequently at odds with each other.

One of the most interesting topics I’ve covered in my consulting work on female sexuality is that semantics mean everything. 

2006 Internet search stats confirm that women hate  the word porn, hitting the return key only 4% of the time in the 23 million searches for the word porn.

Having spent more time researching adult sites than I ever want to admit to, I understand totally why women detest the word porn. It’s gross out there.

The astute researcher digs deeper into women’s habits in the Internet’s erotic arena.  If I told you that in 2006 women executed 50% of the 75 million searches for the word sex and 56% of the 14 million searches for teen sex, are you surprised? Read on: Sexy Doublespeak | American Women & Sexual Honesty.


'The Art Instinct' | Did Darwin Discover Our Inner Artist?

“Men did not become giant elephant seals to lord over female cows. The equality of the sexes, their nimbleness in dealing with each other, their notions of charm, skill, are rather matched. The tastes of neither sex dominate artistic creativity.”

Buy book at AmazonArtTracker| This is just one of several positively disruptive comments and insights expressed in Arts & Letters Daily editor and founder Denis Dutton’s Seed Magazine interview on his new book, The Art Instinct.

I’ve not read this book, but the crux of Dutton’s argument is that the arts are not mere by-products of evolution but central to the essence of human nature.

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