Mood and Emotion: The History of Blue

April 5, 2019

French historian Michel Pastoureau has written Blue: The History of a Color. The Claremont Review of Books published a review that describes the work as:

“an exhilarating and richly informing book on how the European peoples from the Iron Age until today have decorated themselves and their cultural artefacts with the color blue.”

Early Mediterranean civilizations had little use for blue:

Homer’s sea was “wine dark”; blue would not be used as water’s color until the seventeenth century .. [T]he Romans associated blue with the savage Celtae and Germani, who used the woad herb’s rich leaves for their blue pigments.

And this remained the state of affairs going into the Middle Ages.  However:

“Artisans employed by the mysterious twelfth century Abbot Suger of St. Dennis Abbey developed what would become known as “St. Denis Blue.” Its beauty inspired Christians to adopt it as fitting for heaven, nobility, and the Virgin Mary, who had traditionally been shown in dark clothes highlighting her suffering.”

Pastoureau’s book carries the history of blue (and often green and red and black, too) through the medieval period, the introduction  of indigo in the 1640s, of Prussian blue in the 1700s, the adoption of blue by the Romantics, the French Revolutionary militias, the Napoleonic army, Levi Strauss, and on into today.

“For Pastoureau, color schemes are the essential building blocks of our conceptualization of the world … The introduction of blue, yellow, and other colors in the Western palate reflected not simply a broadening of the easel, but a broadening of consciousness, which entertained increasingly new ideas.”

The effect of colour on culture and society is a fascinating subject and I can thoroughly recommend the review.

For related material, I wrote about the strange history of Prussian Blue some time ago.

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Image: Red Tulips #4

April 5, 2019


Changes To Internet Copyright Laws

April 5, 2019

The European Parliament has voted in favour of new copyright laws that contain sections strenuously opposed by some creators. This important story is impeccably told in an article by Zachary Small at Hyperallergic.

“Two weeks ago, thousands of protesters marched across Germany in staunch opposition to the Copyright Directive and its controversial section called Article 13, which makes online platforms like Google, Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter liable for user-generated content that may violate existing copyrights. Another portion of the law, called Article 11, could make sites like Google News responsible for paying publishers for using snippets of their content.  Critics have characterized the bill as far overreaching …

Tech companies have warned that Article 13 will force the implementation of expensive “upload filters” on user-generated content … [I]nternet activists say these measures would turn large social media companies into censors and damage freedom of expression …

“The European Union’s fair dealing laws are [already] much more restrictive than America’s fair use laws. Things like parody and satire are still accepted, but nothing is foolproof.”

But the proposed legislation does have its supporters.

“Record labels, artists, and some media companies have also come to the law’s defense, saying that the updated copyright protections will ensure that they are fairly paid for their content …

“It provides artists with more data, more opportunities for remuneration, and more chances that their work will not be misappropriated or used without their knowledge,” [Columbia Law School’s Philippa] Loengard said.

Personally, I am with Jimmy Wales, founder of Wikipedia:

“The free and open internet is being quickly handed over to corporate giants at the expense of ordinary people. This is not about helping artists, it is about empowering monopolistic practices.”

This battle is being fought in Europe, but business practices make it likely that the repercussions will be global.

““If you are a large ISP and you have branches in Europe and the United States, it may be wise to implement changes worldwide,” explained Loengard.

This might all seem to some like a parochial business confrontation, but given the dominance that the internet and its myriad associated services has become in our lives, such a potentially significant lessening of available competitive content is sure to affect everyone sooner rather than later.