Annals of Cultural Diplomacy: Obama and Ed Ruscha
“Words matter.” This was what Obama said during his campaign. Did his celebrated belief in—and unique gift with—language factor into his choice of artist Ed Ruscha when considering a gift for the British Prime Minister? And is the fact that David Cameron, in return, gave our American President a piece of art composed of words similarly significant? Or, was it simply casual coincidene. Even if the latter, it is hard not to remark on the gifts symbolizing the “shared language” of these two nations, one reason for the historical special relationship.
Many of Ruscha’s most beautiful canvases consist of words. The print Obama chose, Column With Speed Lines, does not, and so it may not be, to those less familiar with the artist’s work, immediately identifiable. But when we think about visual artists who use words as tools we think of Ruscha first among equals in twentieth-century art. His works are beautiful in their politics. Google image him, and you’ll see.
There is no Ruscha canvas that reads SPECIAL RELATIONSHIP, but this recent exchange of art feels inimitably Anglo-American, especially when the artists in question employ language any English or American school child would know. The Daily Beast framed the transaction through the lens of the art world:
“The exchange indicates a new moment for contemporary art. It signifies that art is a currency for gratitude and esteem, and that these works are measurable national treasures.”
Yes, and: the transaction says something not only about the essential modernity of these two leaders (there being a certain conscious absence of pretense in their choices), but as well something about these men’s essential urbanity. Ruscha may be as American as an iPod, but his skill—and his message—is vastly more cerebral and sophisticated. Ruscha might be the artist Jackie Kennedy would have chosen for a diplomatic exchange. The former First Lady paid deep, reverent attention to the relationship between art and diplomacy, and knew that the things with which we surround ourselves can serve as uniquely powerful symbols of our ideals and our intentions, as uniquely powerful as the things that we say, or the bills that we sign.
Whether or not Ruscha’s market value rises as a result of this, something in Obama’s fundamental ideology has been confirmed: intelligence. Ruscha was an intelligent choice, a cool choice, and a choice that affirms the power of language as a tool which, when used well, has the power to change the world. Or, at the very least, to solder diplomacy.
Antimicrobial resistance is growing worldwide, rendering many "work horse" medicines ineffective. Without intervention, drug-resistant pathogens could lead to millions of deaths by 2050. Thankfully, companies like Pfizer are taking action.
- Antimicrobial-resistant pathogens are one of the largest threats to global health today.
- As we get older, our immune systems age, increasing our risk of life threatening infections. Without reliable antibiotics, life expectancy could decline for the first time in modern history.
- If antibiotics become ineffective, common infections could result in hospitalization or even death. Life-saving interventions like cancer treatments and organ transplantation would become more difficult, more often resulting in death. Routine procedures would become hard to perform.
- Without intervention, resistant pathogens could result in 10 million annual deaths by 2050.
- By taking a multi-faceted approach—inclusive of adherence to good stewardship, surveillance and responsible manufacturing practices, as well as an emphasis on prevention and treatment—companies like Pfizer are fighting to help curb the spread.
No, the Syrian civil war is not over. But it might be soon. Time for a recap
- The War in Syria has dropped off the radar, but it's not over (yet)
- This 1-minute video shows how the fronts have moved – and stabilised – over the past 22 months
- Watching this video may leave you both better informed, and slightly queasy: does war need a generic rock soundtrack?
Sarco assisted suicide pods come in three different styles, and allow you to die quickly and painlessly. They're even quite beautiful to look at.
Death: it happens to everyone (except, apparently, Keanu Reeves). But while the impoverished and lower-class people of the world die in the same ol' ways—cancer, heart disease, and so forth—the upper classes can choose hip and cool new ways to die. Now, there's an assisted-suicide pod so chic and so stylin' that peeps (young people still say peeps, right?) are calling it the "Tesla" of death... it's called... the Sarco!
Entrepreneur and author Andrew Horn shares his rules for becoming an assured conversationalist.
- To avoid basing action on external validation, you need to find your "authentic voice" and use it.
- Finding your voice requires asking the right questions of yourself.
- There are 3-5 questions that you would generally want to ask people you are talking to.
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