If you thought modern art was bizarre before...

... Then you'll be stunned when you find out it was supported by the CIA

They did it to make the point that the United States stood for freedom of speech, even bizarre speech, in contrast to Soviet totalitarianism. It's a goal we find surprisingly holistic after generations of Bond films portraying spy organizations as ruthless killer-protectors.

The means toward that goal had to be secret, ironically, because the American public by and large hated the new art. It couldn't be supported through official channels - they tried. To picture (npi) the backlash, recall the NEA support of Robert Mapplethorpe.

"It takes a pope or somebody with a lot of money to recognise art and to support it".  Reading this phrase in the article caused me to imagine a scene in a cave, thirty thousand years ago, featuring another artist and his Pope.

"Thog want to paint more elk on walls."

"Gord want that too."

"Thog have babies to feed, cannot stab real elk when painting spirit elk"

"Gord believe Thog spirit elk bring slow lazy meat animals to tribe area, help everybody, also express ineffable link between human condition and meat animals"

"Thog got to get paid, son."

"Gord have childless brothers who will stab elk for Thog's babies. Thog keep painting."

Winning the MPG/0-60 tradeoff

A friend of mine just bought a car.  He happily told me it gets amazing gas mileage and accelerates great from a stop.  I smiled and kept my mouth shut; I've seen the car's spec sheet so I know it's not fast, but why spoil his fun?  On the other hand, instead of pitying his misunderstanding, maybe I should envy him for successfully faking himself out:  he got the feeling of acceleration without paying for actual acceleration.

He traded in a giant American V8 sedan with some unholy level of horsepower.  I'd been in that car - driven it, even - and I know he liked the power.  His new car is a VW Passat TDI.  That's also a full-sized sedan, and not a lightweight one, but the TDI engine makes about half the horsepower his last car did.  It gets from zero to 60 about one second faster than a Prius.  So how is it that he's so happy about its acceleration?

Answer:  it's a diesel.  Power is torque times RPM, and diesels tend to have a lot of torque but they can't rev to high RPMs.  So when the light turns green and you step on the gas, a diesel makes a deep HURRRRR sound instead of the higher pitch of a gas engine.  Psychologically, in your head you're expecting that deep tone to go along with lazy acceleration, but the diesel's torque accelerates you better than you expect.  It feels fast.

Car design involves compromises.  Quick cars tend to be thirsty.  My friend values fuel mileage, so he found a way to be happy with the acceleration of a fuel-efficient car:  he's fooling himself.  He probably even knows it, he's got an engineering degree.  But I'm not going to be a jerk and point it out, and risk ruining it for him.  I wouldn't want someone to pull a hipster move like that on me.