Thursday, June 02, 2011

Tennis, French Scumbags, Classic Science

I’ve just got a few little things today.

1) Maria Sharapova lost in the semifinals of the French Open today. Geez, I have a terrible history of jinxing people. I did a couple of posts wishing Elena Dementieva luck and she never won a grand slam. In fact, one time after I did a post wishing Dementieva luck, she had to withdraw from the tournament before her next match because of an injury. I’ve got to stop jinxing people. From now on, I’m not going to do any more posts wishing people luck.

2) In my post about Edma Morisot, I used a quote from a book called, “The Private Lives of the Impressionists,” by Sue Rose. I enjoyed reading this book, but I’m not sure how trustworthy the author is. I believe one of the quotes attributed to Mary Cassatt about Cezanne was long ago discovered to come from someone else, I think an amateur American woman painter. But I did enjoy this book.

The most convoluted character in the book, however, was not a painter at all.

The person with the most secret life was the wife of Edouard Manet, Suzanne Leenhoff.

First of all, she was a sad character. The author, Sue Rose, characterized Suzanne Manet as “hapless.” I feel great empathy for hapless people because I often feel completely lost myself. And Suzanne Manet—who apparently did some fibbing of her own—was surrounded by people who made lying a way of life. Berthe Morisot and her mother were particularly awful, judging by their letters to one another. Suzanne Manet treated them kindly and said nice things to them at gatherings and spoke of how happy she would be to have Berthe as a sister-in-law. Berthe and her mother reacted cordially but cooly in public and then, in the privacy of their correspondences, ridiculed the poor woman as being fat and didn’t answer her letters when Suzanne wrote to them.

And, of course, her husband Edouard constantly cheated on her. Endlessly. Openly, in public.

But the most horrible thing is imagining Suzanne’s personal life with the Manet family.

First of all, she was introduced to people as Edouard’s “friend” and the young male child with her was introduced as her young “brother.”

Then it was revealed to people that Suzanne was Edouard’s wife and the young boy was Edouard’s son.

According to the author, Sue Rose, there is apparently some reason to believe that Suzanne was actually, first, the mistress of Edouard’s father and Edouard fell in love with her while she was working for his father teaching the Manet children to play piano. This line of gossip includes the speculation that the young boy was actually the son of Edouard’s father, making the young boy passed off as Edouard’s son really his half-brother by way of his wife and his own father.

Finally—as if all that wasn’t enough—author Sue Rose devotes a lot of space to explaining that Edouard’s mother worked closely with Suzanne to craft the paperwork necessary for French officials to recognize her young son properly as a citizen but still keep the boy’s father hopelessly ambiguous. In fact, Sue Rose refers to Suzanne as a ‘special confidante’ of Edouard Manet’s mother. “Special confidante?” Is that a literary euphemism for lesbian lover? Was this poor woman used by everybody?

There is a reason the evil rich character in the movie “Chinatown” who has a child with his own daughter makes a point of saying rich, empowered people are capable of doing anything. Anything.

At this point I’ve read quite a few biographies of French painters. Monet. Degas. Toulouse-Lautrec. Suzanne Valadon. Of course Morisot. And Manet. Cezanne. Others. (I liked Daubigny.) At some point I step back from the talent and the beautiful art and say: Fuck all these people. Scumbags are scumbags. I very much want to believe Edma Morisot painted the good Morisot paintings just because she, in general, kept her distance from these monsters.

“Forget it, Jake. It’s France.”

3) Finally, I want to recommend an article in the print edition of the July 2011 issue of “Sky and Telescope” magazine.

It’s the article called “Ring Spokes Return.” It describes very obscure patterns some ground-based observers have reported seeing in Saturn’s rings over the decades. Spacecraft photos proved the patterns to be real. Only recently have astrophysicists put forward a physical model to explain the strange patterns.

Scientists now suspect lightening in Saturn’s clouds sends charged particles streaming along Saturn’s magnetic field lines and those charged particles then interact with tiny particles making up the inner rings of Saturn. (Also good reading: Spokes in Saturn's rings caused by thunderstorms on Saturn? by Emily Lakdawalla, The Planetary Society Blog.)

I found this Sky and Telescope article really interesting for a couple of reasons.

First of all, more and more everybody connected with astronomy is coming to realize that electrical phenomenon can be the driving dynamics in shaping many physical systems.

Second, because the patterns in Saturn’s rings are so low-contrast, they have been, and remain, very hard to photograph. So the few astronomers who have studied these patterns had to depend upon naked eye observations through telescopes, and observers who were skilled at sketching what they saw. What a blast from the past, to have naked eye observations, and sketching, playing a major role in cutting-edge science right at the beginning of the 21st century!

Great stuff!

No comments: