FBI Part III: Splendor and Cataclysm

Posted: September 22, 2014 by Paul R Solomon in Uncategorized

Faith, Beauty and Iconography, Part II: Splendor and Cataclysm.

Class Monday linked contemporary issues to those we are studying involving Greek and Roman spectacle; the uses of spectacle for social and political control; and the history of Europe and the Middle East, looking most closely at how religion has motivated the creation of art and the destiny of peoples and nations. The contemporary issues discussed were foremost, violence against women (and men) in the United States brought to this country’s attention again, this time by revelations of crimes and alleged crimes by NFL players. (Statistics on abuse on the U.S. is here.  In addition we discussed violence in other sports and more so, in our society at large. Another significant topic was the role that money and American corporations as well as institutions such as universities, play in how the public perceives important issues. We looked closely at the Crusades and how Christian Europe systematically committed genocide against Muslims and Jews for centuries, and did their best to camouflage or cover up their crimes against humanity. Class in the morning was noteworthy for some intense but respectful argument and discussion. For whatever reasons, the response of the  afternoon class was more muted. Your thoughtful comments are invited.

I want to encourage you to read other people’s comments and create a more interactive discussion by clicking the red word Reply under the other person’s comment. This will change the format of the blog page so that your response stands out as a reply.  Potentially, this will also give you more points for your comment. See Blog Grading Criteria if you need more info.



Emma Sulkowicz, a Columbia senior, in her art studio. On the walls are rules for her performance piece, a protest against the university’s handling of her charges of sexual assault on campus.  Photo by Jennifer S. Altman for The New York Times, published Sept. 21, 2014.


Left: Actor Joaquin Phoenix as Emperor Commodus in the film Gladiator, release in the year 2000.

Right: George W. Bush as a fighter pilot aboard the Amercan aircraft carried the USS Abraham Lincoln on May 1, 2003, announcing “Mission Accomplished,” and the end of significant combat involvement by U.S. forces in Iraq. Eight years later most American military personnel came home (December 2011), however warfare causing thousands more casualties of all kinds continues to this day.


Richard I (Richard the Lionhearted) overseeing the massacre of 2,700 to 3,000 Muslim prisoners, who together with the Jewish population of Jerusalem, attempted to halt the Catholic invasion of their city in the year 1191. More at: http://www.eyewitnesstohistory.com/lionheart.htm

This post was published on Monday, Sept. 22 and will remain open until Wednesday, Sept. 24 at about 8 am. 

From the Acropolis to the Pantheon: Tour I

Posted: September 18, 2014 by Paul R Solomon in Uncategorized

We were fortunate to have an especially beautiful day to explore downtown Kalamazoo on Wednesday. Was this your first time looking around downtown Kalamazoo? What impressed you? How does Kalamazoo compare to the town or city where you grew up? If you grew up here, did you learn anything new about your hometown during the tour, or in class before the tour? How could life on campus be better connected to downtown Kalamazoo? What surprised you most about Kalamazoo? If you are already quite familiar with Kalamazoo, what improvements would you like to see? All other comments are welcome. I suggest you NOT try to answer all or even most of the questions above. Rather, choose one or two and post a thoughtful in-depth response. acropolis_kalamazoo Postcard showing WMU’s original campus. Inset: the Parthenon atop the Acropolis in Athens, Greece —  the source of inspiration for the construction of East Campus. WMU destroyed most of East Campus this year. The central portion of East Hall will be preserved as the new center for alumni affairs. DSC_0934 - Version 2 William-Wood Upjohn House, South Street, Kalamazoo, erected 1877. A very stylish expensive post-Civil War home. One of many extraordinary homes we looked at Wednesday.

Note: This post closed Monday, September 22 at 8:45 am 

Ancestors, I ask for your guidance.

Posted: September 15, 2014 by Paul R Solomon in Uncategorized


L: Russell Crowe as Maximus Decimus Meridius in the film Gladiator, directed by Ridley Scott in 2000. R: Judy Garland as Dorothy in the 1939 film The Wizard of Oz, based on the 1900 novel The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum.

This may be a first: Maximus and Dorothy side by side. Indeed class on Monday covered a lot of territory – beginning with a new playlist of songs about Home, understood as actual and metaphorical. Reflect on our discussion that began on last Wednesday’s post and your writings about Home and continued in class. “Home is where the heart is,” was one of many references that help us to understand how vital the concept of home is to our personal lives, and our culture. We also devoted significant time to looking at how the Ancient Greeks developed a culture so sophisticated and enduring that it influenced not only the Romans but our lives today. Through an examination of The Spear Bearer by Greek sculptor Polykleitos and the Roman sculpture of Marcus Aurelius I hope you now have an idea of how mathematics, science and the arts developed side by side in Greece and became still more sophisticated in Rome. Recall that critical to these developments was the creation of a formula allowing the representation of the ideal human form. We also traced the development of spectacle in Greece and Rome. This led us to the Colosseum and to Gladiator. In addition to your thoughts on any of the above topics, feel free to hold forth on the three realities to do with Gladiator: The nature of spectacle as perfected by the Romans; the artistry of the making of the film Gladiator; and the ‘play within a play:’ The Battle of Carthage, featuring Russell Crowe.

This post closed for comment on Wednesday morning at 9:25 am with 93 comments.

Lost in Translation

Posted: September 10, 2014 by Paul R Solomon in Uncategorized

This post will serve for Wednesday’s class with guest Lynn Houghton, co-author of Kalamazoo Lost and Foundkalmz_lostfoundKEY: Top left in b&w: Temple B’Nai Israel, dedicated 1875; interior of Penn Station, NYC, erected 1903 – 1910; view of the World Trade Center towers during the late 1970’s. Second row: East Hall, circa 1908; the Pantheon, Rome, built circa 27 BCE, rebuilt circa 126 CD. Third Row: The Wood-Upjohn House, erected 1878; Notre Dame Cathedral, Paris, erected 1163 – 1345 (Medieval period); First Presbyterian Church, Kalamazoo, erected 1931. Bottom Row: WMU students on the trolley circa 1950’s; plus on the right hands side, a photo we haven’t yet looked at: What location is shown in this photograph? First correct answer emailed to Prof. Solomon receives 10 points. (NOTE: Cody Canfield gave the correct answer at 5:27 pm Weds.)easthall_demo_through_fence.008-001       View through a chain link fence of the demolition/construction site for East Hall. Photographed from the parking lot at Walwood Hall where we will begin our tour on Wednesday, September 17.

Class began with songs about Home. What is a home? What does “home” mean to you? In your comment please refer specifically to the songs, and/or to visual content in class; and/or to what you learned about the history of architecture in Kalamazoo and in Jerusalem, Greece, Rome, Paris and New York. Class covered many places, many buildings and many ideas. Pick one or two that most resonated for you.

REMEMBER: It is essential that you first read and understand Blog Grading Criteria, before you attempt a comment.

UPDATES, as of Friday, Sept. 12.  First: In my haste to bring class to a conclusion Weds. afternoon I neglected to thank Lynn Houghton and give you all a chance to applaud for her. I have apologized to Lynn!  Second: Lynn has offered to log into our blog and answer any/all questions you may have based on her talk and in general, about Kalamazoo! 

This post closed on Sunday, September 14 at 8:03 pm with 88 comments. 

In the Beginning

Posted: September 9, 2014 by Paul R Solomon in Uncategorized

After listening to nine other songs about “Faith,” we focused on Frank Ocean and his song “Bad Religion.”

If your feelings/opinions about the song changed since class on Monday, please write about it here.

In what way is faith motivating factor in your life? Was there anything you experienced during the first class that in any way has changed how you look at faith as it affects your life?

If you’ve answered one of the two questions above, and would also like to comment on other specific topics from this class, such as Camille Paglia having said that “In the Beginning was nature.” go ahead. Other potential topics for discussion here include the presumed belief systems of Paleolithic people related to their fertility figures and cave paintings, or the history of idol worship.

This post closed on Friday, September 12 at 5:52 pm with 103 comments. 





Welcome to Direct Encounter with the Arts

Posted: September 4, 2014 by Melissa Sparks in Uncategorized



In recent times, while other classes worried about H1N1 and other viruses, Direct Encounter with the Arts students protected themselves from the far more serious risk of CONTAMINATION caused by repeated exposure to ART…

Please post your DEARTS BlogShot test here by following the instructions on the ‘BlogShot Assignment’  handout. Please note that comments left here will NOT be evaluated as part of your blogging grade. What counts is that you post your Headshot, Class and Full Name.

If you have any questions about this assignment please contact Melissa Sparks at melissa.sparks@wmich.edu

PLEASE NOTE: Comments about the most recent class need to go on the post at the top of the page in order to be evaluated and scored for credit. This post is only for testing your DEARTS BlogShot. 

Thank you.