On this day in the year 64, the emperor Nero gave his most acclaimed musical performance. Some musical historians credit him with the invention of hot jazz.


In a hypothetical 1980s 8-bit video game based on the works of prominent Pittsburgh architects…

…this is the monster that eats you if you make a wrong turn in the maze.

Coraopolis Methodist Episcopal Church, 1924, architects T. B. & Lawrence Wolfe. Photograph by Father Pitt.


La Tricoteuse, by William-Adolphe Bouguereau

It is an odd thing to hear astronomers prattle about how the world goes around in circles. It seems far too substantial and solid for that. When you stand on a rock, you do not feel it flying through space at speeds unthinkable: you feel it sitting there in one place, like a rock, the very image of sitting­there­in­one­place­ness.

Yet once in a while Dr. Boli has an experience that makes the circular motion of the earth strangely evident. One of those happened yesterday, thanks to William-Adolphe Bouguereau, the notable French painter. That we are able to call him notable is the thing that makes us feel the movement of the earth.

This curious mental journey began when Dr. Boli remembered visiting an art museum in Ocala, Florida, some years ago, shortly after it was opened. What was the name of the museum? He could not recall; but he could recall that it was on Silver Springs Boulevard east of the city. Google Maps did the rest; the museum was the Appleton Museum of Art, founded to display the collection of a rich fellow named Appleton, who snatched up a wide variety of art, including a first-class collection of Asian art and an important collection of pre-Columbian American art, but also some European masters. (And he also got his hands on the desk on which the Treaty of Versailles, the one that ended the First World War, was signed, because, you know, somebody has to own it.)

The museum site divides the permanent collection into several categories, and the painting chosen to represent the “European” category (the painting you see above) immediately struck Dr. Boli as a Bouguereau. If you know Bouguereau’s work, you know why: the idealized and impossibly clean poor girl staring straight at us is just his sort of thing. That first instinct was right: it was Tricoteuse (“Knitter”) by William-Adolphe Bouguereau.

In his lifetime, which ended in 1905 at a good old age, Bouguereau was the most notable of all living artists. Dr. Boli remembered when his paintings were eagerly absorbed by European aristocrats and American millionaires as fast as M. Bouguereau could turn them out. To own a Bouguereau was the infallible sign that you were a collector of taste and discrimination.

Then Bouguereau died, and within a dizzyingly short time, his reputation plummeted into the gutter. To own a Bouguereau was the infallible sign that you were a philistine. For almost the whole twentieth century, to admit to liking Bouguereau was a gaucherie from which one’s reputation as a connoisseur could never recover. When the Appleton Museum of Art opened in 1987, advertising the museum’s collection of European art with a Bouguereau would have been like advertising the museum’s collection of American art with a painting of Elvis on black velvet. You could have bought that Bouguereau in a flea market for fifteen dollars and a book of S&H Green Stamps. Now it is probably worth hundreds of thousands, if not millions.

The world has spun in a circle.

What does this observation mean? It means either that the art world has come to a cheering and long-deserved appreciation of the skill and talent of the best French Academic painters, or that you should be scouring flea markets for paintings of Elvis on black velvet.


The China National Native Produce and Animal By-Products Import-Export Corporation having chosen not to renew the naming rights to China National Native Produce and Animal By-Products Import-Export Corporation Stadium, formerly Acrisure Stadium, formerly Heinz Field, the Stadium Authority has sold the rights to Canabeer Corporation, which plans to name the stadium for its moderately priced higher-alcohol brand, Pansy Malt Liquor. If the sale is finalized, the Steelers will be playing in Pansy Field beginning this fall. Team sources, speaking on condition of anonymity, report that several members of the team have been placed on suicide watch.

Meanwhile, over at Ink…

Are we becoming our devices? More and more it seems as though we perceive the world, not through our senses, but as it is presented to us on a screen. This observation suggests a useful principle for people whose business it is to communicate with the denizens of the twenty-first century.