Getting a computer science degree at Northeastern University now requires the completion of a course in theatre and improvisation, taught by professors in the drama department. “The class is a way to ‘robot-proof’ computer-science majors, helping them sharpen uniquely human skills, said Joseph E. Aoun, the university president. Empathy, creativity and teamwork help students exercise their competitive advantage over machines in the era of artificial intelligence”
This is basically a restatement for the computer age of the special, critical, role that the Arts and Humanities have always played in higher education, and in public schools in general. Just replace the word “machines” above with the word “incomprehension” and presto. The Arts and Humanities expose students to well-rounded thinking, thus fostering qualities essential for cooperative citizenry in a democracy. That is why they have always been at the core of general requirements curriculums. From personal experience, the first assignment in the first CS class I ever attended was to watch two specific famous movies (art). Those movies helped set the intellectual frame for much of the subsequent learning and production in my career. Neither of them had anything to do with technology. Sadly, recent enrollment and graduation trends show the diminishing influence of subjects, like history, english, philosophy, art etc. which, if it continues apace, may render most universities as glorified vocational schools. That may not bode well for our form of social contract.
Comedy, on the other hand, almost always bodes well…
Elegy to the Spanish Republic No. 110 by Robert Motherwell, 1971, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum
Robert Motherwell’s Elegies to the Spanish Republic has been interpreted as the artist’s on-going personal expression of his belief “that a terrible death happened that should not be forgotten.” Motherwell was referring to the events of the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939). The savage nature of that war—more than 700,000 killed, including the mass-executions of thousands of civilians—roused a legion of artists to action. Pablo Picasso’s famous painting Guernica (1937) expresses his outrage over the unfair nature of the conflict, specifically the bombing of defenseless civilians from the sky by the Generalissimo’s Nazi allies. That painting has become the enduring symbol of the war.
For Robert Motherwell, the war became a metaphor for all injustice. Elegies to the Spanish Republic (over 100 paintings completed between 1948 and 1967) is a commemoration of human courage in the face of terror and suffering. He saw the heroism of the defenders of the elected government in stark contrast to the duplicitous dealings of the fascist alliance that ultimately prevailed. To portray this visually Motherwell’s recurring theme is a sublime contemplation of life and death, equating to light and dark. The abstract concept common to the Elegies—an alternating pattern of oval shapes slotted between columnar forms—has been said to represent the dialectical nature of life itself, expressed through the juxtaposition of black against white—the colors of death and life. The Republic is evoked as a bull (the symbol of Spain), once strong and radiant, heartbreakingly butchered by Franco, now only a dark memory.
The match between FC Barcelona and UD Las Palmas was played with empty stands at Camp Nou in protest of the Spanish government’s actions in Catalonia. (Alex Caparros / Getty Images)
Barcelona plays Las Palmas in an empty stadium due to the vote today for Catalonian independence from Spain. Barcelona is in Catalonia. Las Palmas is in the Canary Islands. In the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939) one of the great fears of the Nationalists was that the Republican government would allow Catalonia to split from Spain. When the Nationalists launched the war to overthrow the elected Republican government their top general, Francisco Franco, was flown from the Canary Islands to lead the insurgency. In the decades that followed the Nationalist victory, a victory aided and abetted by Hitler and Mussolini, Franco brutalized the Catalonians. One of the only avenues left for them to get back at him, and hold on to their independence, was through their beloved soccer club– Barcelona. Today Las Palmas wore the Spanish national flag on their uniforms to protest the vote. History rhymes in mysterious ways. Barcelona won the game! We’ll see what happens with the vote.
Posted in Essays, Europe, History, Politics, Spanish Civil War, Sports
Tagged barcelona, catalonia, Franco, independence vote, las palmas, Spain
Released in January 1943, when the most important battle of the war, the battle of Stalingrad, was still raging, with Normandy still a year and a half in the future, and the tide not yet turned against Hitler’s war machine. Most of Europe and North Africa was under the jackboot of Nazi tyranny. Many of the actors in the scene were actual refugees who had fled from the Nazis, so the emotions were real. This celluloid moment may capture the spirit of hope and resistance better than any other. It is a true testament to the power of movies.
In real life Jean Moulin, murdered by the Gestapo in 1943, became the symbol of the French Resistance.
Posted in Africa, Art, Culture, Europe, History, Movies & TV, Spy, Video, War, WWII
Tagged casablanca, Humphrey Bogart, ingrid bergman, victor laszlo