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Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Fooled by Ambiguity and the Unexpected in Amherst, Massachusetts

Compared with their brethren in more criminally poignant zip codes, the Amherst, Massachusetts police still have their challenges. Like periodically solving dubious problems for high-maintenance residents. Judging by the four local newspaper* clippings below, some Amherstites would do well to embrace ambiguity and think twice about attributing sinister causes to unexpected events. 

*from The Daily Hampshire Gazette

Item #1:

Item #2:

Item #3:

Item #4:

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Marketing at the Clark: Nudes from the Prado in Williamstown, Massachusetts Evoke Boyhood Reveries

Who can blame The Clark Art Institute in Williamstown, Massachusetts—arguably one of America’s elite small museums—for titillation via a mailer that trumpets:

Nudes from the Prado. A must-see exhibition, exclusively at the Clark!

And on the reverse side of the envelope just above my name:

  .  .  .  a sensuous exhibition of masterpieces . . .

Undressing the envelope for details revealed more:

Included in this sensuous exhibition are major paintings by Titian, Peter Paul Rubens, Jacopo Tintoretto, Diego Velázquez, Jan Brueghel the Elder, Guercino, Nicolas Poussin, Luca Giordano, Guido Reni, Jusepe de Ribera, and others. 

Delightful, I thought, but where in the bejesus was Goya?

 Nobody (including Quixote) trained a shaper lance on the consummately repressed culture that spawned the Inquisition and its descendant—ultraconservative Catholicism with feeling. And who but Goya—at the turn of the 19th century no less—would have spawned La Maja Desnuda and her scantily clothed alter ego, La Maja Vesta. By all accounts, he painted them for his friend and Spain’s prime minster, Manuel de Godoy, who displayed them discretely in a dedicated room with other “sensuous masterpieces.” More details here.

I first encountered La Maya in 1961 as an eleven year-old stamp collector. Spain had issued the first Majas in a centennial celebration of Goya in 1930 in the final years of the monarchy. It had hoped to draw revenues through her limited distribution targeted to stamp collectors. But some of the Majas did escape into the mails—with less than pacific results.  More philately here

As an 11-year-old lad, the Maja rocked my world, immediately occupying a place of honor beside several subequatorial issues of National Geographic. For moral support, I draw on the late Robert Hughes via his biography of Goya:

Compared with the classical and idealized nudes of the Renaissance, this is a sexy and straightforward girl, and her level gaze, which both entices and sizes up the (male) viewer, has filled more than one art critic—and, presumably, many more than one visitor to the Prado—with feelings of inadequacy verging on alarm. It is, in effect, a Spanish Olympia, and it rouses the same kind of feelings that are provoked by Manet’s great painting in all its sharp and independent sexuality.

Next up, a supreme test for a 65-year-old:

Can a Goya-less, Maja-less exhibit at The Clark work for me?

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Mixed-Message Branding at CAT-Scan Springs

Last week, in a CAT-scan waiting area, I toasted two other patients while downing my EZ EM Barium Sulfate Smoothie. (four glasses; one every 15 minutes) You drink it for its “contrast” coating that articulates the diagnostic dye injected during the scan.

The flavored, thick-textured smoothie is supposed to mask the drink’s underlying metallic taste. But the pained expressions of my waiting room mates (one had opted for banana; the other berry) told no lies: The drink proved less than a mixological triumph. I did somewhat better with vanilla, but all three of us shared equally in onset bloating.

Too Many Choices?

Pouring my second round, I took comfort in the bottle’s label depicting a foamy smoothie accompanied by a vanilla floret and beans. But then, my eye spotted the graphic of a gastrointestinal track in the label’s southwest corner. How whimsically it mirrored the smoothie graphic with its exclamatory straw. And what an addition to a kid’s crazy straw that gastro-appendage might make.

Inspiration for a crazy straw?

But why ruin vanilla imagery with that alimentary distraction? The answer: Consumers don’t purchase the product. It’s the clinics and medical technicians who do. Let's drink to them all.
The Barista's Delight: Mochaccino