Wednesday, June 30, 2010


Reposted with permission from M.BAKRI MUSA

The preceding discussion focused on society. It is the function of society and its culture to mould its members into a preexisting pattern through socialization and acculturation. The intention is to maintain the status quo; it is necessarily static to ensure that the values and nature of that society are propagated and maintained; it is a mechanism to ensure societal stability.
Individuals are by nature unique, each of has our own preferences and choices, our likes and dislikes. Left to our own devices, human society will not be possible. We would be like a bunch of wild cats, marauding on our own. Ever try to corral a bunch of them? But even with wild animals a certain pack behavior is identifiable – a primordial societal form.
Thus we are faced with a dilemma. On one hand culture and society have essentially statist tendencies, but for progress to occur there must be change, and change inevitably threatens the status quo. Consequently throughout history progress has been the result of the works of individuals, not society.
When the first hunter-gatherers made the conversion to become farmers, this was not the result of a communal decision. Their pack leaders did not sit down and decide that they had had enough of the hunting life and wanted to settle down. More than likely there was one individual, probably an inquisitive young kid who discovered that he could plant wild seeds and at the end of the season found that he could enjoy a bountiful harvest. He probably related his discovery to other members of his family or they, on seeing that he was suddenly well fed and contented, went about to discover the secret of his newfound joy. Success is its own reward, and soon the idea spread. And like any other human inventions, others began improving on the idea, perhaps trying to plant other grains like corn. Yet others would develop the concept further by storing some of the seeds for planting in the next season, or trying to preserve them by storing in the ground or drying in the sun. Not long after that would emerge the idea of planning for the next growing season.
Wild animals too were probably domesticated in a similar fashion. Again, a group of primitives did not suddenly have a gathering and decide they would capture and tame some chosen wild sheep and goats. More than likely, a doting father gave his son a pair of baby wild sheep that were orphaned after he killed their mother. The little boy grew attached to them and when they were grown up he would not let his father kill them. The pair subsequently bred and suddenly the family had additional sheep without having to go out and hunt. Then the boy discovered that he could also drink what the lamb suckled from the mother’s teats. Voila! Milk was discovered, and the idea of a primitive dairy industry took hold.
It did not take long from there for ancient Homo sapiens to discover the utility of keeping baby sheep. Not only did they prove to be ideal toys for their children, those cuddly animals also provided a ready source of meat and milk. Further, they did not have to lug the meat around or preserve it in any way. It was made readily available fresh on the hoof at any time. Soon they would discover that the milk could be converted to cheese, the wool woven into blankets, and the hide into foot coverings and clothing.
All these developments started with one inquisitive individual with one novel idea, and with success, that idea was copied, amplified, and improved. A millennium later we have fancy Florsheim shoes and Armani woolen suits, their ingredients all coming from the ever-useful domesticated animal.
This pattern is repeated throughout history. The modern integrated circuit, the brain of the computer, was designed not by some high profile national committee or the brainchild of a farsighted leader, rather by an engineer tinkering around in the laboratory pursuing his imagination. From that basic invention, others would improve and capitalize on it. But it all began with the imagination of one person.
In the Malay legend Hikayat Abdullah, a story is told of a bright young boy who suggested that the sultan plant banana trees along the coast to absorb the impact of flying fish storming upon the beaches and impaling the citizens. The idea worked wonderfully, and many citizens were spared. Unfortunately, the sultan’s advisors warned that such a bright young man could prove to be dangerous. What other brilliant ideas would he come up with when he would be older? The sultan, sensing a threat, ordered the boy beheaded.
Imagine had the sultan and his hangers-on reacted differently. Suppose he had rewarded the bright kid, given him half the treasury, offered him the princess’s hand, and showered him with glamorous royal titles? That would certainly impress the kid; he would then think very highly of the sultan. It would also motivate the young man to come up with other innovations to benefit the sultan and his kingdom. More importantly, others would be encouraged to come up with similar brilliant ideas. One might suggest collecting the impaled fish and selling them in the market, or to convert them into animal feed. Or he may cut the snouts and convert them into artistic carvings of swords and daggers for sale to tourists. Yet another would develop the entire coastline into banana plantations and sell the fruit to passing ships. The possibilities are limitless. But by killing the boy the sultan effectively stifled any original ideas coming from his subjects. As for offering the princess’s hand to the bright young boy, at the very least that would have introduced much-needed “smart” genes into the royal family!
Thinking and creating are solitary activities; the work of individuals, not groups or committees. Great works of art, beautiful music, and creative insights are the accomplishment of individuals. The progress of human society depends on such persons. One innovation begets another, with no predictable outcome. The first man who tried domesticating wild animals could have been killed by strange bacteria like anthrax. Or he could have mistakenly tried to domesticate some primitive rattlesnakes, with equally fatal consequences. The man who tried to tame the rattlesnake probably thought he could solve his food problem and take care of the rat infestation in his cave at the same time. The hunter-gatherer who first planted the seeds could have harvested fruits that turned out to be sour or even poisonous. And the first man to chisel out a tool from a rock could have been blinded by the resulting flying chips, thereby discouraging others from pursuing that lead. Occasionally however, there will be success, and such discoveries would then spread and be improved upon.
Modern inventors may make fortunes out of their inventions. The man who designed the internal combustion engine may have raked in millions in profits and royalty fees, but the benefits to society of his invention are even greater. Bill Gates may be collecting billions for his software, but the value of his programs to society is many times more. Regardless of what his motivations were to write all those wonderful software – greed, curiosity, or a desire to be famous – he has nonetheless created a useful product that enables millions to be more productive in their work. In doing something for himself he has done a great deal for mankind.
This applies to all those ingenious inventors, past and present. We should not envy the bounty they received; rather we should consider the value of their inventions on society. Gates’ word processing software helped me not only in my personal writings but also in my office. In the past I would have to dictate my letters, my secretary would then transcribe them, and I would recheck the final form. If there were errors she would have to retype all over again. Now I do not even transcribe but simply pull down a template, change a few items here and there, and a new personalized letter is produced. Imagine the increased productivity! I do not have to depend as much on my secretary anymore for correspondence.
As for my bookkeeping, I thank Scott Cook, the man who designed the accounting software, Quicken. In the past I would spend literally days at the end of every year trying to balance my books and figure out my taxes. Now these data are readily available with the click of the mouse. The value of the software to me far exceeds whatever fortune Cook received.
Even if these inventors do not have a charitable motive, nonetheless through their inventions they have contributed immensely to society, much more than the average charity giver. I have little tolerance for those do-gooders who want to save society but in the end they themselves need to be helped. I hear ad nauseam Malay leaders out to “fight and save our race.” Often these national “heroes” could not even take care of themselves and their own children – their primary responsibility. In trying to save the nation they could not even save their own family.
To me the best contribution you can make is to take care of yourself and your family first so that you and they do not burden society. By being productive, a “maker” in the economy, you make your contributions. If each of us is a producer, then we can take better care of those amongst us who truly deserve our charity: the aged, the infirmed, and the disabled.
The problem today is that many are content with being “takers” of the economy. Amongst the worse culprits are the modern-day Robin Hoods who righteously proclaim their noble intentions to help the less fortunate by taking from the producers. Many of the social welfare programs of Western democracies are nothing but variations of this sophisticated Robin Hood-type redistributionist mentality.
In his book Makers and Takers, Edmund Contoski suggested modifying President Kennedy’s famous inaugural line: “Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country.” Instead he suggested that the President should have said, “Ask what you can do for yourself.” I agree. After you have taken care of yourself and your family, then ask what you can do for your country.
When I was in high school in the 1950s there was much consternation on the lack of Malays in science. Malay politicians and leaders were exhorting the young to pursue the sciences. Many senior Malay science students then were under great pressure to mentor and tutor younger pupils. Many showpiece time-consuming tutoring programs were started. Unfortunately with their time taken up with mentoring, many of the mentors themselves suffered and failed in their own studies. Had those students concentrated on their own “selfish” personal goals of first excelling in their own studies, they would not only have helped themselves immensely but also at the same time furthered the cause of Malays much more effectively.
Today I still see many bright young Malay scientists and professionals consumed with trying to better the lot of their race at the expense of their own professional development. One scientist recently declined a prestigious post-doctoral appointment because he was in a rush to return “to serve his country.” I argued that he would serve Malaysia better by being as well trained as possible. He would advance the cause of Malaysian science much better by first being an accomplished scientist. In one’s eagerness to help society one sometimes shortchanges oneself, and ultimately the greater society. Sadly today that young scientist languishes in a remote corner of academia, the nation deprived of his full potential.
Thousands of Malay undergraduates today are diverted from their studies in their desire to “better their race.” They are consumed with political campaigning and ugly street demonstrations to the detriment of their studies. Little did they realize that they would serve society better by first excelling in their studies and then making their own contributions with the skills and knowledge that they have acquired. These students’ behaviors are conditioned by our culture. We can tell much about the values of a culture by seeing upon whom it bestows its honors and rewards. In Malay society we do not reward the producers, rather the takers. Peruse the royal honors lists. Rarely are our scientists, entrepreneurs, builders, and inventors honored. Instead we have these political do-gooders and assorted royal hangers-on. Societies progress best when they reward the producers.
Man has existed for over a million years, but 99% of the achievements of human civilization have occurred within the last millennium. The pace was even steeper within the last century. It is unlikely for humans to have changed greatly biologically within the last 1,000 years. Neither has the global climate and geography radically changed during that period. Yet during this time there have been phenomenal inventions and progress. Such advancements can only be attributed to human ingenuity, and not a function of geography or biology.
For Malaysia to advance, we must pay attention to our most valuable resource: our people. Society progresses best when it allows full expression and freedom for its individual members. And for every member of the community who is a producer, there would correspondingly be one fewer taker.
Totalitarian societies can never aspire for greatness; they seek total control of their members. Every significant progress in human civilization has been the result of the contributions of individuals. The Age of Renaissance that spawned modern Western civilization was a record of exemplary individual achievements in the arts and sciences.
I firmly believe that Allah in His wisdom and justness endows every society with its share of the gifted and talented. What a particular culture or society does with this divine gift will chart its future.
There is a natural aristocracy among men, observed Thomas Jefferson, and the grounds for this are virtue and talent. There is also the artificial aristocracy founded on wealth and birth, without either virtue or talent. Malaysia should aspire that its aristocratic class be made up of the virtuous and talented. It must ensure that its policies nurture this noble goal. Equally important we must enhance those elements in our culture that strengthen this ideal and at the same time negate those forces that place obstacles on the path of our natural aristocrats.
In the next two chapters I will cite examples of societies in the past and present to illustrate and amplify the points discussed here.
(Malaysia in the Era of Globalization #15, Chapter 2: Why Some Societies Progress, Others Regress, The Seminal Role of the Individual, Wednesday, May 19th, 2010 at at

Tuesday, June 29, 2010


Richard Yates

Richard Yates was acclaimed as one of the most powerful, compassionate and accomplished writers of America's post-war generation. Whether addressing the smothered desire of suburban housewives, the white-collar despair of Manhattan office workers or the heartbreak of a single mother with artistic pretensions, Yates ruthlessly examines the hopes and disappointments of ordinary people with empathy and humour.
Born in Yonkers, New York, Yates came from an unstable home. His parents divorced when he was three and much of his childhood was spent in many different towns and residences. Yates first became interested in journalism and writing while attending Avon Old Farms School in Avon, Connecticut. After leaving Avon, Yates joined the Army, serving in France and Germany during World War II. By the middle of 1946, he was back in New York. Upon his return to New York he worked as a journalist, freelance ghost writer (briefly writing speeches for Attorney General Robert Kennedy) and publicity writer for Remington Rand Corporation. His career as a novelist began in 1961 with the publication of the widely heralded Revolutionary Road.

First edition of Revolutionary Road

First edition of Revolutionary Road (back cover)

From the moment of its publication in 1961, Revolutionary Road was hailed as a masterpiece of realistic fiction and as the most evocative portrayal of the opulent desolation of the American suburbs. It's the story of Frank and April Wheeler, a bright, beautiful, and talented couple who have lived on the assumption that greatness is only just around the corner. With heartbreaking compassion and remorseless clarity, Richard Yates shows how Frank and April mortgage their spiritual birthright, betraying not only each other, but their best selves.
This is a story of middle-class suburban angst. Frank and April Wheeler are a 29-year-old couple but seem much older: they are settled and familied, set up for the long slide to the grave. This being the 50s, he works at something in emergent technologies and she looks after the house. But they have, as the psychiatrists say, some insight into their condition and they decide early on that they will pack up and leave the suburban dream and go and live in Europe, where Frank will "find himself" and write and paint and be the general flaneur, and April will work to keep the family. Whether you consider them naive or admirably ambitious, it will not be ruining the book to tell you that they do not make it to Europe. They may not even make it into their thirties together. The point of the book is not finding this out (though there are entirely surprising and satisfying plot developments along the way) but finding out how and why.
The best aspects of the book are the secondary characters, like John Givings, the "mentally ill" boy who naturally is the only one who talks sense most of the time; Frank's mistress, the unfortunately named Maureen Grube; and the Wheelers' best friends the Campbells, whose liking for Frank and April is only a paper-slice away from scorn and dismissal. The author, Richard Yates, also has a habit of opening chapters with blisteringly brilliant short narrative or descriptive passages, which lead into the detailed events and lend each chapter an individuality and sense of being a discrete scene, only impressionistically connected to the ones before and after.
And best of all, Yates is to be commended for not letting sentimentality or the desire for a happy ending get in the way of his vision of the book; while until at least halfway through the novel things seem still to be going pretty well for the Wheelers, you can rest assured that the ending will be unflinchingly bleak and leave no room for optimism or complacency. Revolutionary indeed.


Introduction: Secret Hearts by Richard Russo

Doctor Jack-o'-Lantern
The Best of Everything
Jody Rolled the Bones
No Pain Whatsoever
A Glutton for Punishment
A Wrestler with Sharks
Fun with a Stranger
The B.A.R. Man
A Really Good Jazz Piano
Out with the Old

Oh, Joseph, I'm So Tired
A Natural Girl
Trying Out for the Race
Liars in Love
A Compassionate Leave
Regards at Home
Saying Goodbye to Sally

The Canal
A Clinical Romance
Bells in the Moming
Evening on the Cote d'Azur
A Private Possession
The Comptroller and the Wild Wind
A Last Fling, Like
A Convalescent Ego

The author of eight novels ("Easter Parade," "Revolutionary Road") and two collections of short stories ("Liars in Love," "Eleven Kinds of Loneliness") was critically praised during his lifetime, and regularly published in major literary publications such as The Atlantic Monthly, Esquire and Ploughshares. Still, Yates never achieved a major readership, and he took it hard — gaining a reputation as a sweet man quietly killing himself with drink, until he did indeed pass away in 1992 at the age of 66.
But then, in January 2001, Yates achieved what was, during his lifetime, every fiction writer's dream: the publication of one of his stories in the New Yorker, the magazine that had rejected his work when it was new.
Well, as with seemingly everything else that appears in that magazine nowadays, the story was actually serialized from a book due out soon afterwards, a collected works — another honor that escaped him while he was still around — called "The Collected Stories of Richard Yates" (Holt)…..
A group of famous writers has volunteered to help the publisher promote the book by giving an "author's tour" — Jayne Ann Phillips, Richard Bausch, Ethan Canin, Michael Chabon, Tobias Wolff, and others will be giving readings of Yates' work around the country…..
(Dennis Loy Johnson at MOBYlives)

A GOOD SCHOOL (1978) front cover

A GOOD SCHOOL (1978) back cover

Richard Yates' books were near-universally well reviewed during his lifetime, and yet he never sold more than 12,000 copies of any of his books in hardback. Now, 15 years after his death, his books are being reissued to critical acclaim and are actually beginning to sell. A Good School (above) is probably the best starting point for anyone looking to begin reading Yates – a highly recommended activity. It's a quick read, at 169 pages, and the quality of writing is evident on every page. Yates is a master of third person narrative, only ever focusing on one character's thoughts, but constantly changing focus and entering the mind of a new character. He uses this method here to build up a picture of the pupils and staff at an all-boys private school, which is a small community unto itself. Gradually the problems of all the pupils, and worse, the staff, become apparent. And then World War Two begins, and their lives intertwine in more and more unpredictable ways. No-one is all good or all bad, and the book is riveting because of that; for good or for ill, every character evokes empathy.
(A Good School by Richard Yates by Ryan Agee, 06 Jan 2008 at THE SKINNY)
At fifteen, Terry Flynn had the face of an angel and the body of a perfect athlete...
Set in a small boarding school on the eve of America's entry into World War Two, A Good School (above) tells the story of William Grove, the nervous teenager trying to fit in; the betrayed alcoholic, Jack Draper; and Edith Stone, the teacher's daughter, who falls in love with the most popular boy in school.
Instantly acclaimed on its first publication, peopled with some of Richard Yates's most memorable characters, this tender, spare masterpiece is a haunting meditation on the twilight of youth, and an unforgettable description of the impact of war on the lives of an innocent generation.


Robert Prentice is eighteen, and his boyhood dreams have disintegrated on the battlefields of Europe. At home, his mother, Alice, wraps herself in fantasy against the relentless disappointments of life.
From his compelling portraits of these two damaged souls, Richard Yates creates a brilliant novel of post-war America, at odds with its own identity, striving to combine prosperity and ideals, mercilessly exposed in the attempt to do so. At once tender and ironic, bitterly sad and achingly funny, A Special Providence (above) is the second novel by the author of Revolutionary Road.


All the sorrows of Evan Shepard's loutish adolescence were redeemed at seventeen, in 1935, when he fell in love with automobiles...
In the small suburban town of Cold Spring Harbor (above), Evan Shephard and his young bride Rachel yearn to escape the mistakes of their parents. But as they discover, families exert a hold as tight as fate, and every way out only ends up back home.


John Wilder is in his mid-thirties, a successful salesman with a place in the country, an adoring wife and a ten-year-old son. But something is wrong. His family no longer interests him, his infidelities are leading him nowhere and he has begun to drink too much. Then one night, something inside John snaps and he calls his wife to tell her that he isn’t coming home…


First published in 1962, a year after Revolutionary Road, this sublime collection of stories (above) seems even more powerful today. Out of the lives of Manhattan office workers, a cab driver seeking immortality, frustrated would-be novelists, suburban men and their yearning, neglected women, Richard Yates creates a haunting mosaic of the 1950s, the era when the American dream was finally coming true - and just beginning to ring a little hollow.


With his second collection of short stories, Richard Yates continues to extend his range as a writer of stunning power and eloquence. Liars in Love (above) is concerned with troubled relations and the elusive nature of truth:
Hope, dread, disorder, and a nervous entangling of separate lives in Greenwich Village during the Depression, as seen by a child, in 'Oh, Joseph, I’m So Tired'. The volatile, perilous course of events set in motion when two divorced mothers agree to “pool their resources” and live together, with their children in 'Trying Out for the Race'. A young American soldier’s too-abrupt postwar reunion, on foreign soil, with the lovely, dismayingly grown-up sister he hasn’t seen since he was eleven and she was ten, in 'A Compassionate Leave'.
The seven stories in this collection showcase Yates's extraordinary gift for observation and description. The last and longest of them, a rich, lucid, and compelling piece called 'Saying Goodbye to Sally', achieves a fitting conclusion for the book – and a resonant final statement of its theme.


Even as little girls, Sarah and Emily are very different from each other. Emily looks up to her wiser and more stable older sister and is jealous of her relationship with their absent father, and later her seemingly golden marriage. The path she chooses for herself is less safe and conventional and her love affairs never really satisfy her. Although the bond between them endures, gradually the distance between the two women grows, until a tragic event throws their relationship into focus one last time. Richard Yates's masterful novel (above) follows the two sisters from their childhood in the 1920s through the challenges of their adult choices, and depicts the different ways they seek to escape from their tarnished family past.


By the time he was twenty-three, Michael Davenport had learned to trust his own scepticism...
Young, newly married and intensely ambitious, Michael Davenport is a minor poet trying to make a living as a writer. His adoring wife Lucy has a private fortune that he won't touch in case it compromises his art. She in turn is never quite certain of what is expected of her. All she knows is that everyone else seems, somehow, happier.
In this magnificent novel (above), at once bitterly sad and achingly funny, Richard Yates again shows himself to be the supreme, tenderly ironic chronicler of the ‘American Dream’ and its casualties.
Richard Yates confounded expectations by writing cautionary tales about how dangerous it is to applaud yourself for being a good person. In Yates' world, good intentions are, paradoxically, a kind of condescension bred of fear transmuted into hard resolve. But the stories also suggest the durability of the human spirit, the yearning that resonates long after the shooting star of possibility has burned out against the night sky. There's something in him of the spirit of Robert Burns, whose famous poem lamented that we cannot see ourselves as others see us. Yates' characters don't dare, because therein lies the potential for tragedy…..
Yates' characters misunderstand and miscalculate; they soldier on when their unit is retreating. They get caught in the cross fire when good intentions intersect with their own oblivion or with their vanity (often, in Yates, the two are paired). His characters are delicate, almost translucent until the moment when they become darker and are revealed to contain fear, dread or loathing. What they're resisting, ultimately, is themselves -- but they're already on what seems to be an unalterable trajectory……
On some level, they're stories about stories. Within the larger story there are recitations that express far more than the speaker means to say; they're small, perfectly imperfect monologues that in another form might take the shape of a noose. Yates' stories are unflinching and uncompromising, complex at the same time they seem to unfold naturally and simply. Once you've read him, you wouldn't mistake his voice or the way he structures a story: the music, the images, the deceptive matter-of-factness with which the characters lead their lives (which resembles the way he lays out a story)…..
(Out of Oblivion / A writer rejoices that Richard Yates' stories are back in print By Ann Beattie, May 06, 2001 at

Richard Yates

Monday, June 28, 2010


Ivan Nikolaevich Kramskoy (1837–1887)
Self portrait, 1867
Source Lib.Ru (Maksim Moshkow's Library)
From Wikimedia

Ivan Nikolaevich Kramskoy was a Russian painter and graphic artist, a master of genre, historic and portrait painting and an art critic. He was born in the town of Ostrogozhsk in the Voronezh Region in southwestern Russia into a commoner’s family. He received a basic education in a district school. During his childhood Kramskoy independently studied drawing and later began working with aquarelles. When he was 16, he worked as a color correction artist for a Kharkov (Ukraine) photographer. In 1856 he moved to St. Petersburg and continued to work with the best of the capital’s photographers. The following year he entered the Arts Academy, where he soon showed great talent in drawing and painting. During his academy years, he gathered the progressive youth around him. He was the head of the protest against painting the far-fetched pieces ordered by the council (the so-called “programs”). The artists graduating from the Academy created the St. Petersburg Team, which owed its atmosphere of mutual help, co-operation and strong spirituality to Kramskoy.
Kramskoy began to mature as a portraitist. He often employed his favorite graphic technique, using sauce, bleach and Italian pencil. With this method, he drew portraits of the artists Morozov (1868), Shishkin (1869), Myasoedov (1861), Chistyakov (1861) and Koshelev (1866). His portraits were very accurate and without obliquities, but with reserved colors. His art technique corresponded well with the image of the intellectual democrat, a common character of his paintings such as “Self Portrait” (1867) and “The Portrait of the Agronome Vyunnikov” (1868).

Portrait of the Artist Grigory Myasoyedov
Oil on canvas
The Tretyakov Gallery
Moscow, Russian Federation
From ARC

Under the influence of ideas of the Russian revolutionary democrats Kramskoi asserted representation about a high public duty of artist, principles of realism, moral substance and a nationality of art. He became one of the main founders and ideologists of Company of Mobile Art Exhibitions (or Peredvizhniki). In 1863–1868 he taught at drawing school of a society of encouragement of applied arts. He created gallery of portraits of the largest Russian writers, scientific, artists and public figures (Leo Nikolayevitch Tolstoy, 1873, Ivan Shishkin, 1873, Pavel Mikhailovich Tretyakov, 1876, Mikhail Saltykov-Shchedrin, 1879, Sergei Botkin, 1880) in which expressive simplicity of a composition, clearness of figure emphasize the leading part of the profound psychological characteristic.

Portrait of the Agronomist Vyunnikov
Oil on canvas, 1868
State Museum of Byelorussia
Minsk, Russian Federation
From ARC

Portrait of the Artist Feodor Vasilyev
Oil on canvas, 1871
The Tretyakov Gallery
Moscow, Russian Federation
From ARC

Portrait of the Artist Konstantin Savitsky
Oil on cardboard, 1871
Museum of Fine Arts
Voronezh, Russian Federation
From ARC

Portrait of the painter Ivan Shishkin, 1873
Moscow, Russian Federation
From Wikipedia

Portrait of the Writer Leo Tolstoy
Oil on canvas, 1873
The State Tretyakov Gallery
Moscow, Russian Federation
From Wikimedia

In 1873 Tretyakov commissioned the Portrait of Leo Tolstoy (above) for his gallery. Tolstoy had refused several times. “Please use all your charm to persuade him “, wrote Tretyakov to Kramskoy. And Kramskoy managed to do this, the writer and the artist were both impressed by each other’s personalities. Kramskoy painted one of the best of all Tolstoy’s portraits. Tolstoy was working on Anna Karenina at the time and he used Kramskoy’s character as one of the secondary personages in the novel – the artist Mikhailov.
(Olga’s Gallery)
Kramskoy always understood the capturing charm of color, admired Alexander Ivanov, his younger contemporaries – Repin, Vasiliyev, Polenov, French Impressionists - “…Just a small group of laughed at painters, but the future belongs to them…”, he wrote in the 70s about his French colleagues. But he himself was a poor colorist. Once during the work on the portrait of Adrian Prakhov, the mother of the sitter saw the portrait after the first day of painting and impressed by it, took it away and did not allow Kramskoy to finish it, she said that if the artist went on working he would dry it as usual. Kramskoy himself understood his drawbacks and limits, but was afraid to change his manner.
(Olga’s Gallery)

Portrait of Sophia Kramskaya, the Artist's Wife
Oil on canvas, 1879
The Tretyakov Gallery
Moscow, Russian Federation
From ARC

Portrait of Adrian Prakhov
Art Critic and Historian
Oil on canvas, 1879
The Tretyakov Gallery
Moscow, Russian Federation
From Olga’s Gallery

Portrait of the painter Ivan Shishkin, 1880
Staatliches Russisches Museum
St. Petersburg, Russian Federation
From Wikipedia

Portrait of Empress Maria Fiodorovna, ca. 1880
Born Princess Dagmar of Denmark
Wife of Russian Tsar Alexander III
From Wikimedia

Portrait of Empress Maria Fiodorovna
Head-Dress Decorated with Pearls
Oil on canvas, 1880
Hermitage Museum, St Petersburg, Russia
From Wikimedia

Portrait of the Actor Vasily Samoilov
Oil on canvas, 1881
The Tretyakov Gallery
Moscow, Russian Federation
From ARC

Portrait of A.P.Lensky, 1883
From Wikimedia

Portrait of a Woman (Unknown Woman)
Oil on canvas, 1883
The Tretyakov Gallery
Moscow, Russian Federation
From Wikimedia

Portrait of a Woman (detail)
From ARC

This is the most intriguing and well-known painting by Kramskoy (above). It shows a haughty, exquisitely dressed woman riding in her open carriage on the Anichkov bridge in St. Petersburg. Stasov (art critic from that time) said of the painting, "She is a coquette in a carriage... Over time, however, the Unknown Woman has become a symbol of sophistication, beauty and spirituality; the Russian Madonna."

Portarait of philosopher Vladimir Solovyov, 1885

Portrait of Alexander III (1845-1894)
The Russian Tsar,
Oil on canvas, 1886
From Wikimedia

Portrait of the Doctor Karl Rauchfus
Oil on canvas, 1887
The Russian Museum
St. Petersburg, Russian Federation
From Olga’s Gallery

The artist died on 24 March 1887 during his work on the portrait of Doctor Rauhphus (above) with brush in his hand. His works embody the high moral and social ideals of his time. For him, artistic truth and beauty, moral and aesthetic values were inseparable. His works greatly influenced his contemporaries’ ideology. Today they still affect people because the artist’s attitude to life was based on love and respect of man, on his belief in truth and justice.
(Olga’s Gallery)

Sunday, June 27, 2010


Gustave Boulanger (1824-1888)
From Mémoires du pays de Glux

Gustave Clarence Rodolphe Boulanger
Source ARC
From Wikipedia

Boulanger, born in Paris, lost both his parents when he was fourteen. He was taken in by an uncle who sent him to Algeria where he did many studies of its exotic landscape and the people. When he returned to Paris, Boulanger became a student of Pierre Jules Jolivet and also studied with Paul Delaroche. In 1846 he enrolled at the École des Beaux-Arts, and was awarded the Grand Prix de Rome in 1849.
Boulanger first exhibited the Salon de Paris in 1848 where his two paintings, A Moorish Café and Indians Playing with Panthers, caused a sensation.....

The Flute Concert
From Wikimedia

Theatrical Rehearsal in the House of an Ancient Rome Poet
Oil on canvas, 1855
The Hermitage, St. Petersburg
From Web Gallery of Art

Boulanger’s knowledge of the ruins at Pompeii, which he visited while studying at the Ecole de Rome, gave him ideas for many future pictures, including the Rehearsal in the House of the Tragic Poet (above), in which the influence of Stratonice is still obvious. This was later developed into the Rehearsal of the ‘Flute Player’ and the ‘Wife of Diomedes’ (1861; Versailles, Château), which recorded the preparations being made for a performance given before the imperial Court in Napoleon’s mock-Pompeian Paris house. Boulanger specialized in painting studies of daily life from ancient Greece and Rome, as well as Arab subjects. He also painted a number of decorative schemes, at the theatre of the Casino in Monte Carlo (1879), at the Paris Opéra (1861–74) and other locations, opportunities gained through his friendship with CHARLES GARNIER, his fellow pensionnaire at the Ecole de Rome. He entered the Institut de France in 1882 and became an influential teacher, well known for his dislike of the Impressionists and their successors.

An Arab Horseman
Oil on canvas, 1865
Private collection
From ARC

C'est Un Emir
Oil on canvas, 1870
Private collection
From ARC

Reception Of An Emir
Oil on canvas, 1871
Private collection
From ARC

A Tale of 1001 Nights
Oil on canvas, 1873
Private collection
From ARC

Traveling with the Prized Horse
The Return
Oil on Canvas
From Rafael gallery

La Cour du Palais de Dar Khdaouedj El Amia, Alger
Oil on canvas, 1877
Source The Artbook
From Wikimedia

La Cour du Palais de Dar Khdaouedj El Amia, Alger (above) is undoubtedly Gustave Boulanger's masterpiece and one of his most mature, elaborate and detailed compositions. However, no records of its commission have been found, and scarce records of its history are available. In fact, during the last decade, La Cour du Palais de Dar Khdaouedj El Amia, Alger has resurfaced at auction with different titles, yet never with the proper identification of the landmark building depicted.
Boulanger, a great enthusiast of the Middle East, traveled to the region for the first time in 1845, and executed numerous detailed sketches of the places he visited. The courtyard of the palace in the present work is arguably the most famous landmark in the coastal city of Algiers in Algeria. The history of the palace of Dar Khdaouedj El Amia suggests that around the time of Boulanger's visit to the French Colony of Algeria the building would have been open to the public or to privately arranged visits, especially to French travelers…..
Scenes depicting palace courtyards in Algeria and Morocco with lounging men, and singing and dancing women were a favorite of many Orientalist artists. Frederick Arthur Bridgman, Jan-Baptist Huysmans, and Antonio Maria Fabres y Costa are other influential Orientalists to name a few who have also used these settings in their paintings. Such compositions were extremely popular for they allowed artists to represent the exotic luxuries of urban life in North Africa through splendid objects and exquisite architecture.
Boulanger was a Professor at the École des Beaux Arts and at the Académie Julian. He was elected to the membership of the Académie des Beaux-Arts in 1882. Boulanger’s work is found in the permanent collections of a number of museums, including the Musée d’Orsay in Paris; the Hermitage in St. Petersburg; Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; Cleveland Museum of Art; as well as museums in Amiens, Narbonne, Dunkerque, Rennes, and Vire. The Flute Lesson, perhaps his best known work, is in the Museum of the Château of Versailles. He painted the mural decorations of the foyer of the Paris Opéra.
Boulanger had a direct influence on American art in that he taught some of its most prominent 19th century artists, including Edmund Tarbell, Thomas Wilmer Dewing, and George Hitchcock.

A Woman with an Urn
Oil on canvas, 1888
Private collection
From ARC

Gustave Clarence Rodolphe Boulanger in his studio, 1888
Photograph attributed to Auguste Giraudon

Saturday, June 26, 2010


Ignorance and lack of definite purpose, the two prime causes of misfits, have many different ways of bungling people into the wrong job and keeping them there.
The first of these is immaturity of judgment on the part of young people. There is a popular fallacy that the thing which a young man or a young woman wants most to do must be the thing for which he or she is preeminently fitted. "Let him follow his bent," say some advisors, "and he will find his niche." This does not happen often. The average young man is immature. His tastes are not formed. He is undeveloped. His very best talents may have never been discovered by himself or others. It is well known to those who study children that a boy's earliest ambitions are to do something he thinks spectacular and romantic. Boys long to be cab drivers, locomotive engineers, policemen, cowboys, soldiers and aviators.
It is unquestionably true that if children were given full opportunity to develop their tastes and to express themselves in various ways and then given freedom of choice of their vocations, they would choose more wisely than they do under ignorant, prejudiced, or mistaken judgments of parent or teacher. Yet the tragedy of thousands of lives shows how unscientific it is to leave the choice of vocation to the unguided instincts of an immature mind.
Parental bad judgment is one of the most frequent causes of misfits. Even when parents are sincere and try to be wise, choice of a child's life work is very difficult for them. In the first place, they either underestimate or overestimate their children. What parent, worthy of the high privilege, can be absolutely impartial in judging the talents of his child? Arthur Brisbane says that Nature makes every baby look like a genius in his mother's eyes, so that she will gladly sacrifice her life, if necessary, for her child. It may be a wise provision, but it does not tend to make parents reliable guides to vocations for their offspring.
On the other hand, there are parents who consider their children prodigies, geniuses, intended to occupy some great and magnificent position in the world. Most frequently they hold their judgment entirely apart from any real talents on the part of the child. Few human woes are more bitter than the disappointment and heartache of both parent and son when a young man who might have been a successful and happy farmer or merchant fails utterly as an artist or writer.
Parents often persuade their children to enter vocations upon the flimsiest possible pretexts. Almost every child takes a pencil and tries to draw, yet there are many parents who spend thousands of dollars in trying to make great artists of children who have only the most mediocre artistic ability. Mere purposeless drawing of faces and figures is an entirely different thing from the drudgery necessary to become a great artist. The mere writing of little essays and compositions is quite a different thing from the long, hard training necessary to become a writer of any acceptability. Merely because a child finds it easier to dawdle away the hours with a pencil or a brush than to go into the harvest field or into the kitchen is not a good reason for supposing that this preference is an indication of either talent or genius.
Thus, in many ways do the prejudices of parents, based upon ignorance, work tragedy in the lives of children. Either through a sense of duty and loyalty or because they have not sufficient solid masonry in their backbones, children follow the wishes of their parents and many all but ruin their lives as a result…..
Perhaps one of the most potent causes of misfits in vocation is economic necessity. The time comes in the life of most boys when they must earn their own living or, perhaps, help support the parental family. In such a case, a search is made for a job. Local conditions, friendship, associations, chance vacancies—almost any consideration but that of personal fitness governs in the choice of the job. Once a boy is in a vocation, he is more than likely to remain in it—or, because of unfitness, to drift aimlessly into another, for which he is even less adapted. An entertaining writer in the "Saturday Evening Post" has shown how the boy who accidentally enters upon his career as a day laborer soon finds it impossible to graduate into the ranks of skilled labor. He remains not only a day laborer, but an occasional laborer, his periods of work interspersed with longer and longer periods of unemployment. Unemployment means bad food, unwholesome sanitary conditions and, worst of all, bad mental and moral states. These are followed by disease, incompetency, inefficiency, weakness, and, in time, the man becomes one of the unemployed and unemployable wrecks of humanity. Crime then becomes practically the only avenue of escape from starvation or pauperism.
Thousands of young men taking a job, no matter how they may dislike the work, feel compelled to remain in it because it is their one hope of income. The longer they remain in it the harder it is for them to make a change. Sad, indeed, is the case of the boy or girl who is compelled, in order to make a living or to help support father, mother, brothers and sisters, to drop into the first vacancy which offers itself.
One reason for continuing in the wrong vocation is social ambition. Rightly or wrongly—probably wrongly—there are certain vocations which entitle one to social recognition. There are others which seem, at least, to make it difficult for one to secure social recognition. Social ambition, therefore, causes many a man to cling desperately to the outskirts of some profession for which he is unfitted, in the everlasting hope of making a success of it and thus winning the social recognition which is his supreme desire.
Poor, short-sighted, and even blind, victims of their own folly!
They do not see that any work which is human service is honorable. They miss the big truth that the man who delivers better goods or renders better service than other men is not only entitled to profit, but also has, by divine right, unassailable social standing…..
One of the most potent causes of failure is laziness. And the worst form of the malady is mental laziness. Once a man is in any line of work, he simply remains there by following the lines of least resistance. It requires, in the first place, hard mental effort to decide upon a new line of work. It requires analysis of work, analysis of one's self, of conditions, and of environment, in order to make an intelligent and worthy change. Not only this, but an advantageous change in vocation usually involves additional study, additional training, hard, grinding work in preparation for the new task. And it is altogether too easy for the lazy man to drift along, mediocre and obscure, in some vocation for which he is poorly fitted than to go through the grueling, hard work of preparing himself for one in which he will find an opportunity for the use and development of his highest and best talents.
(Adapted from The Project Gutenberg eBook, Analyzing Character, by Katherine M. H. Blackford and Arthur Newcomb, 1922.)

Friday, June 25, 2010


Full name: Harry Livingston Hillman, Jr.
Gender: Male
Height: 5'11" (180 cm)
Weight: 146 lbs (66 kg)
Born: September 8, 1881 in Brooklyn, New York, United States
Died: August 9, 1945 in Hanover, New Hampshire, United States
Affiliations: NYAC, New York (USA)
Country: United States
Sport: Athletics
Medals: 3 Gold, 1 Silver (4 Total)
1904 Olympics: 200 m hurdles (1st)
1904 Olympics: 400 m - 49.20 (1st)
1904 Olympics: 400 m hurdles (1st)
1906 Olympics: 400 m (5th)
1908 Olympics: 400 m hurdles - 55.30 (2nd)

Harry Hillman

Originally scheduled for Chicago, the 1904 Olympics Games were moved to St. Louis and held in conjunction with the centennial celebration of the Louisiana Purchase.
The program included more sports than in Paris, but with only 13 nations sending athletes, the first Olympics to be staged in the United States had a decidedly All-American flavor—over 500 of the 687 competitors were Americans. Little wonder the home team won 80 percent of the medals.
The rout was nearly total in track and field where the U.S.–led by triple-winners Ray Ewry, Archie Hahn, Jim Lightbody and Harry Hillman–took 23 of 25 gold medals and swept 20 events.
The marathon, which was run over dusty roads in brutally hot weather, was the most bizarre event of the Games. Thomas Hicks of the U.S. won, but only after his handlers fed him painkillers during the race. And an impostor nearly stole the victory when Fred Lorz, who dropped out after nine miles, was seen trotting back to the finish line to retrieve his clothes. Amused that officials thought he had won the race, Lorz played along until he was found out shortly after the medal ceremony. Banned for life by the AAU, Lorz was reinstated a year later and won the 1905 Boston Marathon.
(Fact Monster™)

The 400m race
1904 Olympics

Hillman scored a unique triple victory at the 1904 Olympics, winning the 200-meter and 400-meter hurdles and the 400-meter run. He had Olympic record times in all three events, but his time in the 400-meter hurdles wasn't admitted as a record because he knocked over the last hurdle.
En route to Greece for the "intercalated" Olympics of 1906, Hillman was one of a half-dozen athletes who were injured by an enormous wave that washed over the deck of the ship. He finished only fifth in the 400-meter run, his only event that year. Hillman won a silver medal in the 400-meter hurdles at the 1908 Olympics. He and Charley Bacon of the U. S. went over the last hurdle simultaneously, but Bacon won the run to the tape to win in a world record 55.0 seconds.
On April 24, 1909, Hillman and Lawson Robertson set a record that has never been equalled, running the 100-yard three-legged race in 11.0 seconds.

Harry Hillman (L) and Charles Bacon
1908 Olympics 400 hurdles
From Ian McGowan / Winged Fist Organization

Charles Bacon (above right) clearing a hurdle to defeat fellow U.S. team member Harry Hillman of the New York Athletic Club with a world record breaking time of 55 seconds in the 400 meter hurdles.
(Ian McGowan / Winged Fist Organization)
The men's 400 meters hurdles was the longer of two hurdling events at the 1908 Summer Olympics in London. It was the third time the event had been featured at the Olympics. The Olympic record was beat three times in the course of the Games. Ten sets of hurdles were set on the course. The hurdles were 3 feet (= 91.5 centimeter) tall and were placed 35 meters apart beginning 45 meters from the starting line. The competition was held from Monday, July 20, 1908 to Wednesday, July 22, 1908. 15 runners from six nations competed.
The track coach at Dartmouth College from 1910 until his death, Hillman advised hurdlers to swallow raw eggs, which he believed to be "excellent for the wind and stomach." He was on the Olympic track and field coaching staff in 1924, 1928, and 1932 Summer Olympics. One of his most famous athletes was hurdler Earl Thomson, the winner of the gold medal in the 110 metres hurdles at the 1920 Summer Olympics.
(SPRINTIC magazine)

Thursday, June 24, 2010


Full name: Alain Mimoun O'Kacha
Nickname(s): Alel
Gender: Male
Height: 5'7" (170 cm)
Weight: 123 lbs (56 kg)
Born: January 1, 1921 in Le Telagh, Sidi Bel Abbes, Algeria
Affiliations: Racing Club de France, Paris (FRA)
Country: France
Sport: Athletics
Medals: 1 Gold, 3 Silver (4 Total)

Emil Zatopek and Alain Mimoun
Helsinki 1952

Alain Mimoun, J.O de
Melbourne 1956
From Picasa Web Albums

WHEN you are close to having your foot amputated, you savor every subsequent walking moment. But for Alain Mimoun, there has been much more to life than that. Algerian-born and winner of Olympic gold 54 years ago in Melbourne, he was still running 10 miles a day aged 80, and at 86 he remains an inspiration to young athletes. Such a prolonged active life all seemed very problematic when he was badly injured by shell-fire in the Second World War battle for Monte Cassino in 1944.
Mimoun was known as Emil Zatopek's Shadow, three times taking Olympic silver behind the Czech legend, and twice finishing runner-up to him in European championships. But in 1956 he made it to the top step of the podium, when he won the marathon.
By then he was 35, and it was his first attempt at the distance, but he was convinced it would be his lucky day. He had learned that a daughter (whom he named Olympia) had been born the previous evening, and then he drew No.13, which he considered to be lucky. It must also have boosted his confidence to know that Zatopek had undergone hernia surgery just six weeks earlier.
The day of the Melbourne Olympic marathon was so hot (97F) that it melted the tarmac. He had a moist handkerchief over his head, but it felt so heavy he threw it away. He was reckoned to have lost four litres of body fluid.
He inspired himself by recalling his wartime struggles and admits his spirits were uplifted when a pretty blond blew him a kiss. He won by 92 seconds. Zatopek was sixth, more than four and a half minutes behind, but Mimoun waited for his friend at the finish. Zatopek took off his cap, saluted his rival, and embraced him. "That was better than the medal," said Mimoun.
(Adapted from "Alain Mimoun" by DOUG GILLON, at

Emil Zatopek and Alain Mimoun
Melbourne 1956

But such was the bond between them that Mimoun says his greatest moment was not winning in Melbourne, it was when Zata finished, realized Mimoun had won, went up to him, took off his cap, and in his best military fashion, since he was a colonel in the Czech Army, saluted the victor…..
Since Mimoun is now close to 90, and still running an hour every other day(!), as you might imagine, his account of his career describes another world.
He was born in Algeria in 1921, enlisted in the French army when he was 18, fought on the eastern front, almost had a foot blasted off in the battle for Monte Cassino, and discovered a talent for running almost by accident - says he joined in a race as he was passing a suburban track with some pals after his recuperation.
He joined a Parisian club post-war, and worked as a waiter in a restaurant on the edge of the Bois de Boulogne, where he would also do his training…..
(Adapted from ALAIN MIMOUN - A LEGEND by Pat Butcher, March 10th, 2010 at Globe Runner blog)
Mimoun won the world cross-country title four times, including in 1952 on Hamilton racecourse in Lanarkshire. He was selected 85 times by France and set 20 national records. He also won four titles at the Mediterranean Games, and 19 French titles, the last of these aged 45 in 1966, more than 22 years after he almost lost his foot.
He won the Croix de Guerre and was decorated by four French presidents including General de Gaulle, the French wartime commander. When they met, he told Mimoun: "You and I have something in common. We last."
Some 40 sports centres in France bear his name. Among them is the stadium at Bugeat where he trained for the 1956 Games. He still turns out there to encourage young athletes.....
(Adapted from "Alain Mimoun" by DOUG GILLON
There have been a lot of Olympic champions. Of those, there have been a few who have stood out from the crowd, either by their super-extraordinary feats, or by their strength of character. Alain Mimoun fits the bill on both counts.
(ALAIN MIMOUN - A LEGEND by Pat Butcher, March 10th, 2010 at Globe Runner blog)

Alain Mimoun O'Kacha