Venus Figurines

Figurines of women carved or sculpted from stone, ivory, or clay are a type of Paleolithic art found widely across Europe. These figurines share many striking similarities. While details such as facial features and feet are largely ignored, feminine sexual characteristics (breasts, belly, hips, thighs, and vulva) are often exaggerated. The focus on features related to sexuality and fertility, and the round body shapes depicted (during the Ice Age fat would have been a precious commodity) suggest that the figurines may have played a symbolic role as a charm relating to childbirth or, more generally, fertility.

Some researchers believe that the figures represent a “mother goddess,” but there is no real evidence for such an interpretation. Others have focused instead on the fact that the figurines demonstrate widely shared cultural ideas and symbols. These would have been crucial to social interactions and exchanges of resources, information, and potential marriage partners in the Ice Age world.

Blowin’ In The Wind – Bob Dylan

Blowin’ In The Wind

Bob Dylan / 2:46

Musician: Bob Dylan: vocals, guitar, harmonica

Recording Studio: Columbia Recording Studios / Studio A, New York: July 9, 1962

As surprising as it may seem, Dylan wrote “Blowin’ in the Wind” in just ten minutes on April 16, 1962. He was in a coffee shop, the Commons, opposite the Gaslight, the mythical center of the folk scene in the heart of Greenwich Village, where not only Dylan but also Richie Havens, Jose Feliciano, and Bruce Springsteen, among others, got their start. In 2004, when CBS newsman Ed Bradley asked Dylan about the speed with which he wrote, Dylan replied honestly: “It came from… that wellspring of creativity.”  To Scorsese, he also said that regardless of where he was—in the subway, a coffee shop, “sometimes talking to someone”—he could be hit by inspiration. It was an exceptional period, and many years later he tried in vain to re-create it.

During the months following its release, “Blowin’ in the Wind” was at the heart of a controversy that had nothing to do with music. A high school student from Millburn, New Jersey, named Lorre Wyatt claimed to be the real composer of the song, which he said he sold for a thousand dollars. Several students even stated they heard Wyatt singing “Blowin’ in the Wind” before the singles by Peter, Paul and Mary and Dylan came out. This claim was taken very seriously, and Newsweek magazine repeated it in November 1963. It was only in 1974 that Lorre Wyatt admitted having lied to impress the other members of his group, the Millburnaires.

Starting with the New World Singers and Peter, Paul and Mary, hundreds of artists inserted “Blowin’ in the Wind” into their repertoire. These include Marlene Dietrich (1963), Joan Baez (1963), Marianne Faithfull (1964), Sam Cooke (1964), and Stevie Wonder (who reached tenth place on the charts), as well as Judy Collins, Elvis Presley, Neil Young, and Ziggy Marley.

How many roads must a man walk down
Before you call him a man?
How many seas must a white dove sail
Before she sleeps in the sand?
Yes, and how many times must the cannonballs fly
Before they’re forever banned?

The answer, my friend, is blowin’ in the wind
The answer is blowin’ in the wind

Yes, and how many years must a mountain exist
Before it is washed to the sea?
And how many years can some people exist
Before they’re allowed to be free?
Yes, and how many times can a man turn his head
And pretend that he just doesn’t see?

The answer, my friend, is blowin’ in the wind
The answer is blowin’ in the wind

Yes, and how many times must a man look up
Before he can see the sky?
And how many ears must one man have
Before he can hear people cry?
Yes, and how many deaths will it take ’til he knows
That too many people have died?

The answer, my friend, is blowin’ in the wind
The answer is blowin’ in the wind

SourceBob Dylan: All The Songs

Leonardo da Vinci

The original Renaissance man died 502 years ago (1452–1519), but the nature of his genius continues to fascinate us:

Leonardo’s science was grounded in the Aristotelian world as shaped by 18 centuries of interpreters. He developed a system of what he called the four powers of nature: movement, weight, force and percussion. Although he struggled to define these concepts, and many of the ideas are archaic, it is telling that he developed a coherent model for all natural phenomena ranging from the macrocosm (e.g., geological forces that lead to the formation of rivers and oceans) to the microcosm (e.g., human anatomy).

Harpokrates Stelae

An amuletic plaque of the god Harpokrates (Horus the Child) standing in the center on the heads of two crocodiles and beneath a mask of Bes, a god especially associated with the protection of children and of pregnant women and those giving birth. In each hand Harpokrates clutches a scorpion by the stinger as well as two serpents. He also grasps a quadruped by the horns with his right while his left grips a lion by the tail. In addition, he is flanked by standards in the form of lotus and papyrus columns.

The plaque is extensively inscribed with magical spells to protect against scorpions, snakes, and the other noxious forces subdued by the god, and to heal the stings and bites of wild creatures.

The object is made of chlorite schist and is dated to the Ptolemaic Period (304-30 BCE). This type of stelae was often set up in homes, but examples have also been found in burials. This suggests that they were believed to extend their protective powers to the deceased.

This piece is now in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, USA.

The Devil Heads (Želízy, Czech Republic)

The Devil Heads (Želízy, Czech Republic)

A disturbing sight awaits hikers exploring the forest above the village of Želízy in Czechia. Looking out over the Kokořínsko nature reserve, two enormous demonic faces carved from the native stone stare back with empty eyes.

Created by the renowned Czech sculptor Václav Levý in the mid-19th century, the nearly 30-foot-tall sandstone heads are known as Certovy Hlavy, or “the Devil Heads,” and they have been a local attraction for generations. Now suffering slightly from the ravages of time and weather, the monstrous faces have grown less distinct over time—but no less creepy.

John Muir

John Muir was born April 21, 1838 also known as “John of the Mountains”, was an American naturalist, author, environmental philosopher, glaciologist and early advocate for the preservation of wilderness in the United States. His letters, essays, and books describing his adventures in nature, especially in the Sierra Nevada, have been read by millions. His activism has helped to preserve the Yosemite Valley, Sequoia National Park and many other wilderness areas. The Sierra Club, which he founded, is a prominent American conservation organization. The 211-mile (340 km) John Muir Trail, a hiking trail in the Sierra Nevada, was named in his honor. Other such places include Muir Woods National Monument, Muir Beach, John Muir College, Mount Muir, Camp Muir and Muir Glacier. In Scotland, the John Muir Way, a 130-mile-long route, was named in honor of him.

In his later life, Muir devoted most of his time to the preservation of the Western forests. He petitioned the U.S. Congress for the National Park bill that was passed in 1890, establishing Yosemite National Park. The spiritual quality and enthusiasm toward nature expressed in his writings has inspired readers, including presidents and congressmen, to take action to help preserve large nature areas. Today Muir is referred to as the “Father of the National Parks” and the National Park Service has produced a short documentary about his life.

John Muir has been considered “an inspiration to both Scots and Americans”. Muir’s biographer, Steven J. Holmes, believes that Muir has become “one of the patron saints of twentieth-century American environmental activity,” both political and recreational. As a result, his writings are commonly discussed in books and journals, and he is often quoted by nature photographers such as Ansel Adams. “Muir has profoundly shaped the very categories through which Americans understand and envision their relationships with the natural world,” writes Holmes. Muir was noted for being an ecological thinker, political spokesman, and religious prophet, whose writings became a personal guide into nature for countless individuals, making his name “almost ubiquitous” in the modern environmental consciousness. According to author William Anderson, Muir exemplified “the archetype of our oneness with the earth”, while biographer Donald Worster says he believed his mission was “…saving the American soul from total surrender to materialism.” On April 21, 2013, the first ever John Muir Day was celebrated in Scotland, which marked the 175th anniversary of his birth, paying homage to the conservationist.

“Keep close to Nature’s heart… and break clear away, once in awhile, and climb a mountain or spend a week in the woods. Wash your spirit clean.”
~ John Muir

Leonardo da Vinci

Today in 1452 Leonardo da Vinci was born. Leonardo di ser Piero da Vinci (15 April 1452 – 2 May 1519), more commonly Leonardo da Vinci or simply Leonardo, was an Italian polymath whose areas of interest included invention, painting, sculpting, architecture, science, music, mathematics, engineering, literature, anatomy, geology, astronomy, botany, writing, history, and cartography. He has been variously called the father of palaeontology, ichnology, and architecture, and is widely considered one of the greatest painters of all time. Sometimes credited with the inventions of the parachute, helicopter and tank, he epitomised the Renaissance humanist ideal.

Many historians and scholars regard Leonardo as the prime exemplar of the “Universal Genius” or “Renaissance Man”, an individual of “unquenchable curiosity” and “feverishly inventive imagination”. According to art historian Helen Gardner, the scope and depth of his interests were without precedent in recorded history, and “his mind and personality seem to us superhuman, while the man himself mysterious and remote”. Marco Rosci notes that while there is much speculation regarding his life and personality, his view of the world was logical rather than mysterious, and that the empirical methods he employed were unorthodox for his time.

Born out of wedlock to a notary, Piero da Vinci, and a peasant woman, Caterina, in Vinci in the region of Florence, Leonardo was educated in the studio of the renowned Florentine painter Andrea del Verrocchio. Much of his earlier working life was spent in the service of Ludovico il Moro in Milan. He later worked in Rome, Bologna and Venice, and he spent his last years in France at the home awarded to him by Francis I of France.

Leonardo was, and is, renowned primarily as a painter. Among his works, the Mona Lisa is the most famous and most parodied portrait and The Last Supper the most reproduced religious painting of all time. Leonardo’s drawing of the Vitruvian Man is also regarded as a cultural icon, being reproduced on items as varied as the euro coin, textbooks, and T-shirts. Perhaps fifteen of his paintings have survived. Nevertheless, these few works, together with his notebooks, which contain drawings, scientific diagrams, and his thoughts on the nature of painting, compose a contribution to later generations of artists rivalled only by that of his contemporary, Michelangelo.

Leonardo is revered for his technological ingenuity. He conceptualised flying machines, a type of armoured fighting vehicle, concentrated solar power, an adding machine, and the double hull. Relatively few of his designs were constructed or even feasible during his lifetime, as the modern scientific approaches to metallurgy and engineering were only in their infancy during the Renaissance. Some of his smaller inventions, however, such as an automated bobbin winder and a machine for testing the tensile strength of wire, entered the world of manufacturing unheralded. A number of Leonardo’s most practical inventions are nowadays displayed as working models at the Museum of Vinci. He made substantial discoveries in anatomy, civil engineering, geology, optics, and hydrodynamics, but he did not publish his findings and they had no direct influence on later science.

Today, Leonardo is widely considered one of the most diversely talented individuals ever to have lived.

#LeonardoDaVinci #RenaissanceMan #Artist #Scientist

The Beatles and Astrid Kirchherr

If you’re a Beatles fan, the Guardian has a good article on Astrid Kirchherr, once engaged to the ex-Beatle Stu Sutcliffe, and who photographed, mothered, and molded the style of the Beatles (i.e., suggesting their “mop top” haircuts) when they played in Hamburg before they were famous. She also received lots of letters from the Beatles, One is below, along with a photo of her with Ringo and John.

Kirchherr died in 2020, and the letters are up for auction.

The Beatles Monopolize Top 5 Billboard Hits

Today in music history —> On this date in 1964, the Fab Four monopolized the top five on the Billboard Hot 100, marking the only act ever to lock up the region in a week.

On the Billboard Hot 100 dated April 4, 1964, the Beatles made history as the only act ever to occupy the chart’s top five positions in a week.

With a 27-1 second-week blast to the top for “Can’t Buy Me Love,” the Fab Four locked up the chart’s entire top five:

No. 1, “Can’t Buy Me Love”

No. 2, “Twist and Shout”

No. 3, “She Loves You”

No. 4, “I Want to Hold Your Hand”

No. 5, “Please Please Me”