POINTS OF COLOR

POINTS OF COLOR

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POINTS OF COLOR

October 23, 2015

Opening Quote

“When you’re through changing, you’re through.”

Bruce Barton (1886-1967) was a founder of the celebrated Batten, Barton, Durstine, and Osborne (BBDO) ad agency and served as the firm’s leader from 1919 to 1961. He was also a well-known author and a champion of optimism; his columns and quotes were collected in two volumes: More Power to You (1919) and Better Days (1924). Two more books examined Christian values–The Man Nobody Knows (1925) and The Book Nobody Knows (1926). Barton was an advisor to the Republican party for many years and served in Congress representing a district in Manhattan from 1937 to 1941. He unsuccessfully ran for a New York Senate seat in 1940.

Dirt

In 1940, the United States couldn’t defend itself. It had a tiny, mostly obsolete air force and the 17th largest army in the world. As Hitler’s Blitzkrieg conquered most of the European continent and turned it into a Nazi fiefdom, the U.S. had soldiers on maneuvers; they were forced to use beer cans filled with sand because there were no hand grenades available. A recent history, The Arsenal of Democracy by A.J. Baime, describes the massive industrial effort that transformed the U.S. into the strongest nation in the world and a fount of material support for Great Britain and Russia, its allies in distress. Much of this amazing story unfolded in Detroit, and specifically at Ford. Readers are taken inside the Ford family and discover that Henry Ford, in addition to being a business genius, also abused Edsel, his son, for virtually Edsel’s entire life. (Edsel’s widow accused the father of killing his son.) Ford also hired Harry Bennett, a thug, to create a gangster security froce to frighten and intimidate his workforce and to brutally suppress any union activities. Henry also was a world-class anti-Semite. Where Edsel sought to lead the nation in wartime production, Henry, a staunch isolationist, vetoed the action. Although Edsel was company president, Henry belittled him by frequently overruling his decisions and thereby causing Edsel to be savaged by the press and throughout the nation. Henry also received a “Grand Cross of the German Eagle,” a Nazi medal made of gold and featuring four swastikas. (Charles Lindbergh received the same award.) It’s no wonder that in the early days of the war Hitler described the United States so disparagingly: “What is America but beauty queens, millionaires, stupid records, and Hollywood.” But America proved the Fuhrer to be fatally wrong. In a dazzling display of the power of mass production, Edsel Ford and his associates created the first assembly line for the production of a complex four-engine airplane. The concept of mass producing B-24 heavy bombers was mocked and disparaged. General thinking at this time was that you needed a specialized aircraft company to build planes. Edsel proved his critics to be dead wrong. At its peak, Willow Run, the huge revolutionary factory he developed to produce Liberators, was rolling one B-24 off the assembly line every hour. Following the death of Edsel and Henry the internal squabbling continued at Ford. Bennet, Henry Ford’s gangster-in-residence, sought to become Ford’s chief executive but was defeated by Henry Ford II, Edsel’s son. Bennet was forced to ressign (after being convinced at gunpoint).

Arts

The vast majority of Americans do not go to museums to revel in the creativity of the world’s greatest artists. In fact, in 2012, only one-in-five visited an art museum or gallery, a figure down more than 5% from 2002. The National Endowment for the Arts conducted a survey to determine why men and women did not attend all kinds of visual and performing arts attractions, and the key reasons cited were: lack of time (47%); cost (38%); access (37%) and lack of someone to attend with (22%). The U.S. boasts 35,000 musuems but many are very small. Focus on the most visited museums in the country and the number melts down to 61. Then specify fine arts and the total drops further–to 31. Although art museums in 2014 had a total attendance exceeding 61 million, a significant proportion were domestic and foreign tourists. According to data from 2008, American museum-goers are overwhelmingly white (78.9%), with African-Americans (5.9%) and Hispanics (8.6%) at very low percentages. In terms of programming, contemporary art does not fare as well as more traditional works. The British newspaper The Daily Mail sent visitors to a London museum. They were timed on how long they stopped to view each of the art works selected. Viewers tended to glance quickly at the contemporary works and move on; the traditional pieces held their interest for a significantly longer time. In addition, listings of the “most famous” paintings usually incorporate only a tiny handful of art works from the second half of the 20th century, and none from the past 25 years. About seven years ago I took my youngest daughter to the Whitney Museum of American Art’s Biennal. After walking around a bit and taking in what was on display, she commented with teenage certainty: “This is not art.” That opinion, of course, is wildly incorrect. However, I must admit that much of today’s art does not move me. I worked in a fine arts museum for four years and tried to collaborate with currators who sought to tightly control the artist and exhibition information they had developed. Since my task was to fashion compelling, easy-to-read marketing copy that would entice visitors to the exhibition in question, this situation was highly problematic. In addition, in critical discourse, there is a jargon-laded voice that is virtually indecipherable to most people. And it’s that mindset that pervades a good deal of today’s art, which seems to be appreciated chiefly by a closed circle of museum curators, art historians, critics, fellow artists, auction houses, and collectors. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but to my taste, in much of what passes for art today, there’s far too little beauty.
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Bosch, Hieronymus. The Garden of Earthly Delights (c. 1590-1610). Prado, Madrid. On the Listology site, this painting is listed as Number 1 in “The 100 Greatest Paintings of All Time.”

Income

On October 13th, actress Jennifer Lawrence complained that men made more money than women in movies. “When the Sony hack happened,” Ms Lawrence wrote in her friend’s newsletter, “and I found out how much less I was being paid than the lucky people with dicks, I didn’t get mad at Sony. I got mad at myself. I failed as a negotiator because I gave up early. I didn’t want to keep fighting over millions of dollars that, frankly, due to two franchises, I don’t need.” It might surprise the star of The Hunger Games–who is Hollywood’s highest-paid female actor, earning $52 million pre-tax in one year—that women are beginning to succeed as negotiators and are earning more than men in some cases. In August, a report from the Federal Reserve of New York disclosed that in 29 of 73 college majors–including engineering, treatment therapy, construction, and business analytics–new female graduates are being paid more than their male counterparts. A 2010 study pointed out that in major cities, unmarried, childless 20-something women now earn a median of 8% more than equivalent male workers. The reason: higher education. The National Center for Education Statistics reported that in 2014, 37.2% of women had earned a bachelor’s degree compared to 30.9% for males; in graduate studies, 9.3% of women had received master’s degrees or higher while only 5.9% of males achieved this level of educational attainment. Although it is relatively miniscule, the trend of higher-earning women is taking root; data released in April listed 22 cities where women out-earned men across all occupations. In the summer, the Bureau of Labor Statistics issued a report assessing the earnings of husbands and wives. In couples where both partners are employed, 29.3% of women make more money than their husbands. However, the United States is still a patriarchal society in which motherhood is economically punished. As President Obama commented in his 2015 State of the Union speech, “Today, we’re the only advanced country on Earth that doesn’t guarantee sick leave or paid maternity leave to our workers.” In the past, unions and government agencies might have negotiated these practices with corporate leaders. But unions have been gutted and conservatives continue to slash the budget. It’s all part of a macho, Darwinian business environment in which any time off–a few sick days or a few years to care for a child–is viewed as feminine weakness. Real men aspire to male role models such as Army Rangers or Navy Seals and don’t need–or want–time off. In many nations, workers are required to take vacation time: France, 30 days; Sweden, 24 days; Germany, 24 days; Canada, 10 days; and the U.S., 0. Women choose to have children so they deserve to suffer. Meanwhile, coporate profits go through the roof. The Federal Reserve study points out that after starting their careers as higher wage pioneers, by mid-career males are back on top by 15%. And throughout the nation, taking the economy as a whole, the gender gap in income persists: the census reports that “median earnings for women working full time, year-round have been just 77% of men’s earnings.”

Technology

In 1455, the Gutenberg Bible, in Latin, became the first work to be printed on a press with movable metal type. Fifty-one years later, or in 1516, the Bible was printed in Greek; 1530, France; and 1534, Germany. A flood of clasical works followed, translated and printed in the vernacular, and this sudden injection of knowledge hastened the Enlightenment. Previously, these classical Greek and Latin books were solely available in fragile, hand-scribed editions and never became available for wider dissemination. The Internet became a mass medium of communication in 1999–only 16 years ago. It was designed to be as open and easy to use as possible to facilitate back-and-forth communication. Yet, this very accessibility may force the Internet to change as fundamentally as printing did when it began spewing out titles in different languages. Because right now, the web is virtually a cookie jar which may be abused at will be savvy individuals and nations. Fromer Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta put the potential danger in context: “The potential for the next Pearl Harbor,” he told a Congressional committee in 2011, “could very well be a cyber-attack.” (This is a different magnitude of threat than the almost routine hacking of corporations, non-profits, and individuals that’s driven by greed. One estimate put the total cost of computer breaches across the economy at $100 billion. The security expertise of the intelligence and military communities are not extended to the private sector, so security varies wildly for each individual organization.) Giving reality to Panetta’s fearful vision is the U.S. nuclear stockpile, which receives millions of daily hacking attempts. Critical infrastructure we take for granted–the electric grid, gas pipelines, water deliver systems–are open to disruption by a few keystrokes, and might take months to repair. For example, imagine a cyber-attack on a huge hydroelectric turbine. The government ran this scenario in 2007’s Project Aurora, and cameras revealed how easily a turbine could be permanently crippled by a remote computer. A machine of this size and complexity could not be replaced in a day or a week. Now imagine someone targeting key electric generation and distribution facilities across the nation, and suddenly you are considering an extended blackout that would devastate the economy and change the way we live. Nations have already militarized the Internet. The first cyber-war was fought in 2007 between Russia and Estonia. The Russians tried to get the Estonian system to crash; Estonia, with U.S. and NATO support resisted the attempt. Stuxnet was the initial cyber-weapon, a joint U.S.-Israeli undertaking that successfully targeted Iranian centrifuges dedicated to enriching uranium; the deadly worm knocked out nearly 1,000. China has been accused of an exceedingly embarrassing hack in which highly sensitive security clearance data maintained by the Federal Government’s Office of Personnel Management was looted. Extremely sensitive information for four million current and former workers was compromised. The Sony Pictures hack, by North Korea, exposed top executives to ridicule and worse, led to key executives leaving the corporation and could cost Sony up to $100 million. For the future, the U.S. is seeking to create the most destructive possible offensive cyber-weapons through the Department of Defense’s Cyber Command. The undertaking, now five years old, is budgeted in 2015 at $509 million (and that does not include construction costs for new facilities to house the organization.) There is some humor in this potentially catastrophic corruption of a peaceful, individually empwering web. A few days ago, a high school student successfully hacked the personal email of CIA Director John Brennan and Wikileaks published the results. Two sources will bring you up to date on the national security aspects of the Internet. Nova broadcast an episode dedicated to cyber-warfare that was broadcast on October 14 and is available for immediate online viewing. Experienced broadcast reporter Ted Koppel has written a new book: Lights Out: A Cyberattack, A Nation Unprepared, Surviving the Aftermath. This new title is officially scheduled for publication October 27. Fifty years from now it will be interesting to see how the Internet has evolved. For example, will there be multiple webs: some as open as now for consumers and others with highly restricted access for encrypted data that requires significantly more protection?
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Handel, Ken. The Confusion of France and Italy. 2015. This piece, togehter with more than 20 others, are available as prints at Etsy.com.

The Points of  Color blog by Ken Handel appears weekly. Please send comments/suggestions to WordsandAbstracts@gmail.com. To subscribe, please send the message, “Please send Points of Color to my e-mail [__Please Insert Your E-mail Here_________________________] whenever it is distributed.” Send to WordsandAbstracts@gmail.com.

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