In a forum I frequent, Michael C. described both the problem our country faces and its only solution:
A strategy needs to be developed to exert effective mass pressure on the Congress, as there are many [measures] which do enjoy wide support that are presently unobtainable due to corporate dominance in both parties.
Last year the Boston Globe published an amazing set of 24 photos taken by the Hubble Space Telescope as a kind of Advent calendar. They don't seem to have done another calendar this year, but the photos are still there and they are magnificent.
The Metropolitan Museum of Art presented an exhibition of Les Belles Heures earlier this year. The exhibition has closed, but the accompanying website, The Art of Illumination, lives on. And it is quite remarkable. If you like illuminated manuscripts, it is not to be missed!
I had never read this before until yesterday, but it has made a big impression on me. Nicolo Machiavelli, when he was forced into exile, retired to his estate at Sant'Andrea in Percussina near Florence. There he began writing the treatises that would ensure his place in political philosophy. In a famous letter to his friend Francesco Vettori, he described how he spent his evenings during this time:
When evening comes, I return home [from work and from the local tavern] and go to my study. On the threshold I strip naked, taking off my muddy, sweaty workday clothes, and put on the robes of court and palace, and in this graver dress I enter the courts of the ancients and am welcomed by them, and there I taste the food that alone is mine, and for which I was born. And there I make bold to speak to them and ask the motives of their actions, and they, in their humanity reply to me. And for the space of four hours I forget the world, remember no vexation, fear poverty no more, tremble no more at death; I pass indeed into their world.
In the New Year, I hope to finish reading, at long last, Dante's Inferno. In thinking about the work this evening, I was reminded of one modern novelist's statement that his motive for writing is the same as that of Beatrice in the Inferno (l. 72) --
Love moved me, and makes me speak (amor mi mosse, che mi fa parlare).
The online exhibition Panoramas: The North American Landscape in Art has been around for a good few years. It offers Canadian, American and Mexican art, a lot of it quite good. There's a useful site map and a terrific search page.