Return to the Fold

LONDON (The Borowitz Report)

In an unexpected televised address on Saturday, Queen Elizabeth II offered to restore British rule over the United States of America.

Addressing the American people from her office in Buckingham Palace, Her Majesty said that she was making the offer “in recognition of the desperate situation you now find yourselves in”.

“This two-hundred-and-forty-year experiment in self-rule began with the best of intentions, but I think we can all agree that it didn’t end well,” she said.

The Queen acknowledged that, in the wake of Brexit, Americans might justifiably be alarmed about being governed by the British parliamentary system, but she reassured them, “Parliament would play no role in this deal. This would be an old-school monarchy. Just me, and then, assuming you’d rather not have The Prince of Wales, we could go straight to The Duke of Cambridge and Prince George.”

Using the closing moments of her speech to tout her credentials, Her Majesty made it clear that she has never used e-mail or twitter and does not fire people just for disagreeing with her.

Thanks Andy Borowitz @ The New Yorker

Muslim Contributions to Civilization

Little bears have decided they want to know more about the Muslim civilizations and they have come across this story by Dr Craig Considine from Rice University, Houston for the Huffington Post, written in 2013.

In a recent article, Sam Harris, a popular critic of Islam, referred to Malala Yousafzai, the Pakistani education activist, as “the best thing to come out of the Muslim world in 1,000 years”. Hidden in this comment is the idea that Malala’s fellow Muslims are backward and that her religion, Islam, is not conducive to change or progress.

Conversely to the beliefs of Harris and others like him, Muslims have actually made enormous contributions to civilization, perhaps due to the heavy emphasis that Islam places on knowledge. People who forget or blatantly ignore major trends or events in world history can be said to suffer from “historical amnesia”. Though this mindset cannot be cured in one short blog post, I hope to dispel some of the stereotypes and misperceptions exacerbated by Harris and other anti-Islam activists by highlighting the contributions that Muslims have made to civilization over the years.

Contributions to education

Malala’s quest for universal education follows in Muslims’ long and proud history in the field of education. Two Muslim women, Fatima and Miriam al-Firhi, created the world’s first university, Al-Qarawiyyin in Fez, Morocco, in 859. For several years, students were schooled here in a plethora of secular and religious subjects. At the end of their education, teachers evaluated students and awarded degrees based on satisfactory performances. The concept of awarding degrees would spread from Fez to Andalucía, Spain, and later to the Universities of Bologna in Italy and Oxford in England, among other places of learning.

Spanish Muslims of Andalucía were especially strong advocates of education and helped to dispel the gloom that had enveloped Europe during the Dark Ages. Between the 8th and 15th centuries, Andalucía was perhaps the world’s epicenter for education and knowledge. Spanish universities such as those in Cordoba, Granada, and Seville, had Christian and Jewish students who learned science from Muslims. Women were also encouraged to study in Muslim Spain. This educational environment that stressed tolerance would not reach the “Western world” until the 19th and 20th centuries.

Contributions to philosophy

One of the greatest Muslim contributions to civilization began in the 8th century when Muslim scholars inherited volumes of Greek philosophy. The wisdom in ancient Greece texts, which had been lost to Europeans, was translated from Latin to Arabic by Muslim scholars, thus creating one of the greatest transmissions of knowledge in world history. Muslims scholars would eventually bring the ideas of great ancient Greek minds such as Socrates, Aristotle and Plato into Europe, where their philosophy was translated into other European languages. This is why Muslims are the main threshold behind the European Renaissance and the Enlightenment, two movements that resurrected Greek philosophy and gave new life into a European continent that was bogged down with religious dogma and bloody internal conflicts.

Many Muslim scholars made acquiring knowledge their life goal. Perhaps the most notable of these scholars is Al-Ghazali, a Sufi Muslim who in the 11th and 12th centuries revolutionized early Islamic philosophy by helping develop Neoplatonism, which is often described as the “mystical” or “religious” interpretation of Greek philosophy. At the time of Al-Ghazali’s writing, Muslim philosophers had read about the ideas of ancient Greece, but these ideas were generally perceived to be in conflict with Islamic teachings. Al-Ghazali helped synthesize these elements by adopting the techniques of Aristotelian logic and the Neoplatonic ways to diminish the negative influences of excessive Islamic rationalism.

Ibn Khaldun is another one of the most important Muslim thinkers in history. Recognized as one of the greatest historians ever and the founder of sociological sciences in the 14th and 15th centuries, Khaldun created one of the earliest nonreligious philosophies in history in his work, the Muqaddimah. He also paved the way for our expectations of modern-day Presidents and Prime Ministers by creating a framework for evaluating “good rulers”, stating “the sovereign exists for the good of the people… The necessity of a Ruler arises from the fact that human beings have to live together and unless there is some one to maintain order, society would break to pieces.”

Contributions to health care

Medicine is another crucial contribution to civilization made by Muslims in addition to education and the university system. In 872 in Cairo, Egypt, the Ahmad ibn Tulun hospital was created and equipped with an elaborate institution and a range of functions. Like other Islamic hospitals that soon followed, Tulun was a secular institution open to men and women, adults and children, the rich and poor, as well as Muslims and non-Muslims. Tulun is also the earliest hospital to give care to the mentally ill.

One hundred years after the founding of Tulun, a surgeon named Al-Zahrawi, often called the “father of surgery”, wrote an illustrated encyclopedia that would ultimately be used as a guide to European surgeons for the next five hundred years. Al-Zarawhi’s surgical instruments, such as scalpels, bone saws, and forceps are still used by modern surgeons. Al-Zahrawi is also reportedly the first surgeon to perform a caesarean operation.

Another significant Muslim discovery came in the 13th century, when the Muslim medic Ibn Nafis described the pulmonary circulation almost three hundred years before William Harvey, the English physician who is believed by many Westerners to have “discovered” it. The technique of inoculation, or the introduction of an antigenic substance or vaccine into the body to induce immunity to a disease, is also said to have been designed by Muslims in Turkey and brought to Europe by the wife of England’s Turkish ambassador in 1724.

Protecting and cleansing the body has always been a priority for Muslims. Perhaps then it is no surprised that Muslim scientists combined vegetable oils with sodium hydroxide and aromatics such as thyme oil to create a recipe for soap, which is still used today. Shampoo was also introduced to England on the Brighton seafront in 1759 at Mahomed’s Indian Vapour Baths.

Contributions to science

There is also little doubt that the development of astronomy owes a great deal to the work of Muslim astronomers. As far back as the early 9th century, the Caliph Al-Ma’mum founded an astronomical observatory in Shammasiya in Baghdad and Qasiyun in Damascus. Five hundred years later, in 1420, Prince Ulugh Bey built a massive observatory in Samarqand, which was then followed in 1577 by another observatory built by Sultan Murad III in Istanbul.

The Ottomans had particularly well-organized astronomical institutions such as the post of chief-astronomer and time-keeping houses. Taqi al-Din, a 16th century Ottoman astronomer, created astronomical tables and observational instruments that helped measure the coordinates of stars and the distances between them.

Muslims have also made contributions in the field of chemistry by inventing many of the basic processes and apparatuses used by modern-day chemists. Working in the 8th and 9th centuries in Andalucía, Jabir Ibn Hayyan, the founder of modern chemistry, transformed alchemy into chemistry through distillation, or separating liquids through differences in their boiling points. In addition to developing the processes of crystallization, evaporation, and filtration, he also discovered sulphuric and nitric acid. The historian Erick John Holmyard stated that Hayyan’s work is as important, if not more, than that of Robert Boyle and Antoine Lavoisier, two European chemists who are frequently attributed to creating modern chemistry.

Indeed our very modern and globalized world today would not be able to move so quickly if it were not for the genius of Ibn Firnas, a Muslim engineer of Andalucía who in the 9th century constructed a flying machine, thus becoming the world’s first aviator. In 852 he jumped from the minaret of the Grand Mosque in Cordoba, Spain, using a loose cloak stiffened with wooden struts. Although he hoped to glide like an eagle, Ibn Firnas did not, though he is credited for creating the first parachute.

Muslims have also influenced the study of physics, a closely linked field to flying and aviation. Mohammad Abdus Salam, a Pakistani theoretical physicist, shared a 1979 Nobel Prize for his contribution to the field of theoretical physics, specifically in unifying electromagnetic and weak forces.

I have only scratched the surface of the contributions made by Muslims to the development of civilization. Children around the world should be taught about these contributions to dispel the misperception that Muslims are backward and stagnant. Muslims worldwide must also invest more in education, medicine, and other sciences in order to continue their tradition of being pioneers for knowledge.

Dragon Day

We’re having a dragon day today!

Dragon Day

We’ll watch Mulan first. She’s my favourite princess, not only did she save the whole of China but she looked kick-ass in armour!

Dragon Day

We’ll have to go back to Disneyland to have a photo with Mulan….

Dragon Day

Mulan is wandering around Disneyland California for the Lunar Year celebrations.

Mulan and Mushu
Mulan and Mushu celebrate the Lunar New Year

Mickey, Minnie, Chip and Dale have joined the celebrations as well.

Minnie and Mickey celebrate the Lunar New Year
Minnie and Mickey celebrate the Lunar New Year
Chip and Dale celebrate the Lunar New Year
Chip and Dale celebrate the Lunar New Year

Back to Mulan, little bears are very excited to watch the movie, again… 🙂

Dragon Day

Dragon Day

Dragon Day celebrates Mushu, the unsung hero from Mulan. He motivates. He inspires. He gets Mulan out of bed in the morning AND gives her a balanced breakfast.

Mushu is all about protecting those who are close to him.

Dragon Day

He’s… confident.

Dragon Day

He’s a great travel companion.

Dragon Day

He always tries to cheer his friends up.

Dragon Day

He’s super motivational.

Dragon Day

He never leaves friends behind.

Dragon Day

His one-liners are on point.

Dragon Day

He’s not afraid to ask people for help.

Dragon Day

He allows himself to get emotional.

Dragon Day

And most important of all, he knows how to cut loose!

Dragon Day

Mushu at Disneyland California
Mushu at Disneyland California

Mulan is getting a Disney live-action retelling. The film is being fast-tracked to be released in November 2018, 20 years after the release of the animated film.

Like the 1998 animated film, Mulan is based on the Chinese legend of Hua Mulan, the daughter of an aged warrior who disguises herself as a man in order to take her father’s place in the army and go to war. Aided by her trusted dragon, Mushu, she becomes a skilled warrior and one of the country’s greatest heroines.

Mulan looks set to be the most intriguing live-action adaptation to date. It faces a challenge like no other Disney movie; it has to transcend culture, and appeal both to the Western audiences who are familiar only with Disney’s previous movie, and to the Chinese audiences who weren’t so struck with the original.

In the meantime, time to watch the continuing legend in Mulan 2.

Dragon Day

Mushu is back 🙂

Dragon Day

We Love Dots

Ouch!

We Love Dots

Isabelle, what are you doing?

We Love Dots

Everybody has to wear dots today!

We Love Dots

Hee! Hee!

We Like Dots

Little Isabelle is helping Minnie and Yayoi Kusama spread the dots obsession 🙂

Minnie with Puffles and Honey at Disneyland
Minnie with Puffles and Honey at Disneyland

'Dot Obsessions - Tasmania' is featured in the exhibition 'On the Origins of Art', at MONA Museum of Old and New Art, Tasmania (5 November 2016 - 17 April 2017)
‘Dot Obsessions – Tasmania’ is featured in the exhibition ‘On the Origins of Art’, at MONA Museum of Old and New Art, Tasmania (5 November 2016 – 17 April 2017)

The New Versailles

Although the Trumps have not made public who their designer or designers are, immediate changes are sure to be coming to the Oval Office and private quarters. Donald Trump is extremely image-conscious: He reportedly is very involved with architects and designers for his various hotels, condos and office buildings and knows his way around high-end fixtures (preferably gold) and fabrics. — Washington Post.

PHOTOGRAPH BY DAMON HIGGINS / ZUMA PRESS / ALAMY
PHOTOGRAPH BY DAMON HIGGINS / ZUMA PRESS / ALAMY

All existing doorknobs, which are way too big, by the way, will be replaced with smaller, more terrific gold doorknobs for people of all hand sizes.

The Situation Room will annex the Treaty Room, thereby forming the Toughness Chamber.

In lieu of water, the fountains on the North and South Lawns will begin dispensing Vladimir Putin’s personal collection of flavoured vodkas.

Any area named after a former President will be renamed in honour of the American heroes who emerged victorious on “Celebrity Apprentice.” As such, the Lincoln Bedroom will become the Bret Michaels Bedroom.

The Bret Michaels Bedroom will feature mirrored ceilings and a circular water bed—filled with liquid gold.

To avoid the appearance that the United States is paying tribute to any country other than the United States, the China Room will be renamed the Room of Fancy Plates.

The Office of the First Lady will be outfitted with the required equipment for impromptu, professionally lit boudoir photo shoots.

The Portrait Gallery will commission a mural of Vice-President Mike Pence stopping and frisking the cast of “Hamilton”.

Toilets will be gold, and will be equipped with cell-phone chargers to empower anyone struck by the late-night urge to tweet.

The Rose Garden will be paved over with a great road or a fantastic bridge, depending on the President’s mood at the time of renovation.

Both “porticos” will henceforth be called “porches” because even though “portico” is technically English, it doesn’t sound like American English.

The same goes for all “colonnades”, which will now be referred to as “outside hallways”.

Seating will be removed from sitting rooms to facilitate the awkward male looming necessary to intimidate female foreign dignitaries.

Private dressing rooms will be furnished with closed-circuit cameras that feed directly into the Oval Office, for security purposes.

Unmanned turrets, electrified barbed wire, and attack eagles will be added along the White House fence. The White House’s dangerous neighbours, including and especially the nearby Chipotle, will pay for any and all construction costs.

The Library will be closed until further notice 🙂

Thanks Zain Khalid @ The New Yorker

To Infinity and Beyond

Yayoi Kusama is one of the most exciting and prolific artists working today. With a practice encompassing performance, film-making, painting, drawing, sculpture, installation, fashion, poetry, fiction and public spectacles (or ‘happenings’) over some 60 years, this leading Japanese practitioner has been widely acknowledged as a major influence on several generations of contemporary artists.

Yayoi Kusama with recent works in Tokyo, 2016.  Photo by Tomoaki Makino.  Courtesy of the artist © Yayoi Kusama
Yayoi Kusama with recent works in Tokyo, 2016. Photo by Tomoaki Makino. Courtesy of the artist © Yayoi Kusama

A luminary in the cultural sphere, she became the first woman to represent Japan at the Venice Biennale in 1993 and was named one of the most influential people by Time magazine in 2016. Born in 1929, the artist spent her youth near her family’s plant nursery in Matsumoto, Japan. At nineteen, after having worked at a parachute factory during World War II, she left home for Kyoto, where she studied the traditional Japanese style of painting known as Nihonga. While there, she also began experimenting with abstraction, but it was not until she arrived in the United States, in 1957, that her career took off. Living in New York from 1958 to 1973, Kusama participated in avant-garde circles while honing her signature polka dot and net motifs, developing soft sculpture, creating installation-based works, and staging Happenings—performance-based works—around the city. The artist moved back to Japan in 1973 and, over the years, she has attained cult status, not only as an artist, but as a novelist.

Little bears discovered one of Yayoi Kusama’s stunning Infinity Mirror Rooms at GOMA and now they will happily travel half way around the world to experience an Infinity Mirror Room again!

GOMA - Yayoi Kusama, Soul under the moon, 2002. Mirrors, ultra violet lights, water, plastic, nylon thread, timber, synthetic polymer paint.
GOMA 2015 – Yayoi Kusama, Soul under the moon, 2002. Mirrors, ultra violet lights, water, plastic, nylon thread, timber, synthetic polymer paint.

How about experiencing six infinity rooms in the same exhibition?!? Organized by the Hirshhorn Museum in Washington DC, Yayoi Kusama: Infinity Mirrors will embark on the most significant North American tour of the artist’s work in nearly two decades. The Hirshhorn’s exhibition is the first to focus on the infinity mirror rooms and will present six of the rooms, the most ever shown together. From peep-show-like chambers to multimedia installations, each of these kaleidoscopic environments offers the chance to step into an illusion of infinite space. The Infinity Mirror Rooms will be on show alongside two large-scale installations and key paintings, sculptures and works on paper from the early 1950s to the present.

Yayoi Kusama, Infinity Mirrored Room—The Souls of Millions of Light Years Away, 2013. Wood, metal, mirrors, plastic, acrylic panel, rubber, LED lighting system, acrylic balls, and water. Collection of The Broad Art Foundation, Los Angeles. Installed in I Who Have Arrived in Heaven, David Zwirner, New York, 2013
Yayoi Kusama, Infinity Mirrored Room—The Souls of Millions of Light Years Away, 2013. Wood, metal, mirrors, plastic, acrylic panel, rubber, LED lighting system, acrylic balls, and water. Collection of The Broad Art Foundation, Los Angeles. Installed in I Who Have Arrived in Heaven, David Zwirner, New York, 2013
Yayoi Kusama, Dots Obsession – Love Transformed Into Dots, 2007. Interior view of large balloon dome with mirror room. Installation: Suspended vinyl balloons, large balloon dome with mirror room, peep-in mirror dome, and projected digital video. Mirror room dome height: 156 in. (396.2 cm); diameter: 234 in. (594.4 cm). Peep dome diameter: 78 in. (198.1 cm). Installed in Dots Obsession—Love Transformed into Dots, Haus der Kunst, Munich, 2007
Yayoi Kusama, Dots Obsession – Love Transformed Into Dots, 2007. Interior view of large balloon dome with mirror room. Installation: Suspended vinyl balloons, large balloon dome with mirror room, peep-in mirror dome, and projected digital video. Mirror room dome height: 156 in. (396.2 cm); diameter: 234 in. (594.4 cm). Peep dome diameter: 78 in. (198.1 cm). Installed in Dots Obsession—Love Transformed into Dots, Haus der Kunst, Munich, 2007
Yayoi Kusama, Installation view of Infinity Mirrored Room—Love Forever, 1994, in My Solitary Way to Death, Fuji Television Gallery, 1994. Wood, mirrors, metal, and lightbulbs. Collection of Ota Fine Arts. © Yayoi Kusama
Yayoi Kusama, Installation view of Infinity Mirrored Room—Love Forever, 1994, in My Solitary Way to Death, Fuji Television Gallery, 1994. Wood, mirrors, metal, and lightbulbs. Collection of Ota Fine Arts. © Yayoi Kusama
Yayoi Kusama, Installation view of Infinity Mirror Room—Phalli’s Field, 1965, in Floor Show, Castellane Gallery, New York, 1965.  Sewn stuffed cotton fabric, board, and mirrors. Courtesy of Ota Fine Arts, Tokyo/Singapore; Victoria Miro, London; David Zwirner, New York. ©
Yayoi Kusama, Installation view of Infinity Mirror Room—Phalli’s Field, 1965, in Floor Show, Castellane Gallery, New York, 1965. Sewn stuffed cotton fabric, board, and mirrors. Courtesy of Ota Fine Arts, Tokyo/Singapore; Victoria Miro, London; David Zwirner, New York. ©
Yayoi Kusama, Aftermath of Obliteration of Eternity, 2009. Wood, mirror, plastic, acrylic, LED, black glass, and aluminum. Collection of the artist. Courtesy of Ota Fine Arts, Tokyo/Singapore; Victoria Miro, London; David Zwirner, New York. © Yayoi Kusama
Yayoi Kusama, Aftermath of Obliteration of Eternity, 2009. Wood, mirror, plastic, acrylic, LED, black glass, and aluminum. Collection of the artist. Courtesy of Ota Fine Arts, Tokyo/Singapore; Victoria Miro, London; David Zwirner, New York. © Yayoi Kusama
Yayoi Kusama, All the Eternal Love I Have for the Pumpkins, 2016. Wood, mirror, plastic, black glass, LED  Collection of the artist. Courtesy of Ota Fine Arts, Tokyo / Singapore and Victoria Miro, London. © Yayoi Kusama
Yayoi Kusama, All the Eternal Love I Have for the Pumpkins, 2016. Wood, mirror, plastic, black glass, LED Collection of the artist. Courtesy of Ota Fine Arts, Tokyo / Singapore and Victoria Miro, London. © Yayoi Kusama

Kusama began using mirrors in 1965 when she produced Infinity Mirror Room — Phalli’s Field, transforming the intense repetition of her earlier two-dimensional works into a perceptual experience. Over the course of her career, Yayoi Kusama has produced more than twenty distinct Infinity Mirror Rooms. Yayoi Kusama: Infinity Mirrors traces the development of Kusama’s iconic installations alongside a selection of her other key artworks. The show highlights the artist’s central themes, such as the celebration life and its aftermath, and aims to reveal the significance of these installations amidst today’s renewed interest in experiential practices and virtual spaces.

Following its Washington, DC, debut, the show will travel to five major museums in the United States and Canada. Little bears have to patiently wait for the exhibition to reach the Art Gallery of Ontario in 2018. Hopefully they will be distracted by other adventures in the meantime, patience is not their strongest virtue!

GOMA - Yayoi Kusama, Flowers that bloom at midnight, 2011
GOMA 2015 – Yayoi Kusama, Flowers that bloom at midnight, 2011

They can distract themselves with a visit to MONA to see Dot Obsessions.

'Dot Obsessions - Tasmania' is featured in the exhibition 'On the Origins of Art', at MONA Museum of Old and New Art, Tasmania (5 November 2016 - 17 April 2017)
‘Dot Obsessions – Tasmania’ is featured in the exhibition ‘On the Origins of Art’, at MONA Museum of Old and New Art, Tasmania (5 November 2016 – 17 April 2017)

The National Art Center Tokyo will showcase YAYOI KUSAMA: My Eternal Soul from 22 February to 22 May and
National Gallery Singapore will showcase YAYOI KUSAMA: Life is the heart of a rainbow from 9 June to 3 September, the first large-scale survey of Kusama’s work in Southeast Asia, including Infinity Rooms.