Novelist Christopher Moore says he isn’t very good at giving elevator speeches — those quick pitches on your latest project that Hollywood screenwriters are so good at. “[That’s] one of the reasons I probably don’t work in Hollywood,” Moore tells NPR’s Scott Simon. But if he had to give a brief rundown of his latest novel, Sacre Bleu: A Comedy d’Art, he says, “I’d talk about it being a book about the color blue, and about solving the murder of Vincent van Gogh and the sort of mystical quality of making art. And it’s funny.” The narrative winds all around late 19th century Paris through artists’ homes, cafes and brothels. But it begins and ends with a meditation on blue.
A new book, written by Pulitzer winners, is raising eyebrows over how it says the great Dutch painter Vincent Van Gogh died. Van Gogh: The Life by Steven Naifeh and Gregory White Smith, posits that Van Gogh did not kill himself as is popularly believed. Instead, the authors argue, Van Gogh was murdered. Here’s how The Telegraph explains their thinking: “The theory contradicts the accepted version of events, which holds that Van Gogh shot himself in a field, staggering more than a mile back to an inn where he was staying. Before dying 30 hours later, he was asked if he meant to commit suicide, and said: “Yes I believe so”.But this does not explain why the easel and brushes that he had taken to the fields with him that day, not to mention a gun, were never found, and nor was a suicide note. The book questions whether the artist, who was known to have spent time in an insane asylum, could have got hold of a gun.” The authors say that 16-year-old Rene Secretan, who bullied Van Gogh, was the one responsible for his death. They talked about this on a long 60 Minutes segment that aired yesterday:
“The life and death of Vincent van Gogh” CBS 60 Minutes (101611) Part 1 | Part 2
I’ve canoed on Lake Superior for almost as many years as I’ve been losing eyesight. I return year after year like a migrating loon to learn the other side of a slow, uncertain process that we could call “going blind.” After 35 years with the lake as my teacher, I know what lies on the other side. I call it letting go of sight. Read Big Water. See more about the Great Lakes.
Not This Pig
If there is an emerging genetic underclass, I could run for class president or class clown. Read more in Not This Pig (2003).
Media in Transition @ MiT
Disabled Americans today have to negotiate for the kinds of accommodations made for FDR, and the caveat “reasonable accommodation” is built into the law. President Franklin Roosevelt did not have to negotiate. He could summon vast resources of the federal government – money as well as brains – to accomplish the work of disability. And it was accomplished with such thoroughness and efficiency that its scale could be called the Accessibility-Industrial Complex had it been directed toward public accommodations and not solely the needs of a single man. Read FDR and the Hidden Work of Disability [MiT8 2013]
Shepard Fairey claimed that his posterization of a copyrighted AP news photo of Barack Obama was a transformative work protected by the fair use doctrine. In other words, it was a shape-shifter. I claim fair use, too, when I reproduce and transform copyrighted works into media formats that are accessible to me as a blind reader. Read Shape-Shifters in the Fair Use Lab [MiT6 2009]
The social engineers who created a system for licensing beggars in New York never imagined that a blind woman had culture or could make culture. She herself may not have imagined it, either. In the moment when Paul Strand photographed her surreptitiously on the street in 1916, he could not have expected that one day blind photographers would reverse the camera’s gaze. Read Curiosity & The Blind Photographer. [MiT5 2007]