February 1st, 2011


A Yay and a Boo

First a big yay to Fidelity Brokerage Services. They maintain the UC Retirement Savings Program, and with one simple, pleasant phonecall, I was able to get them to cut me a check to rollover my modest sum to my IRA. Besting the stated 7-10 day turnaround, I had the check in my hand in 4 days, and now it wings its way toward its final destination in my account at E*TRADE. Fidelity is wonderful. Use their services, buy their investment products. This has kindof been a paid endorsement.

And then a big BOO! to VALIC [formerly AIG VALIC, but they dropped the AIG, when that association would even sully VALIC's name] who administers the retirement account from NDA, where I worked for one year and racked up a paltry sum. I have a desire to perform the same rollover transaction, but have been stymied on several occasions. A couple years ago, I called the person who administers the account at VALIC. She said, 'no problem' just use ETRADE's system to request the rollover transfer. This sounds great. I go to ETRADE, fill out some forms, send off the request. Then get a message back 'Unable to process at this time.' I try to sort out the mess, and am finally led to the conclusion that VALIC person #1 didn't know what she was talking about. What I need, is a properly filled out form from VALIC. Which requires my signature, my wife's signature -- notarized -- to prove I'm not swindling her out of her fair share of the $800, which might have sheltered her in her dotage after I'm gone, if only I hadn't moved the money from a retirement account with one company to a retirement account with a different company, AND the signature of the plan administrator at NDA. Sadly, I fall for VALIC's trap and get discouraged and give up.
But encouraged by my excellent interaction with Fidelity, a company not unlike a mixture of kittens and unicorns in the deep affection and great esteem I feel for it, I tried again with VALIC, calling not the incompetent plan administrator, but the general line. VALIC person #2 beats out #1 by following her flowchart relentlessly to -- The Form -- which she emails to me. She does at least give me the name of the person at NDA who needs to sign the form. Or at least she tries. "It's Hope, no Pope Beauwaeauoy. That's B-A-Y-H-A-Y." I guess I'm just glad she didn't say Pope Benedict. Anyway, it appears the name I want is actually Hope Bowhay.
But I am going to make this happen. Despite everything VALIC throws in my way. I am going to get my money from VALIC!
But let this be a warning to all and sundry! Do not patronize VALIC. Do not warn VALIC of oncoming cars. Do not pee on VALIC if VALIC is on fire. VALIC is composed of slugs and nightsoil.
(The foregoing opinions are uttered with satiric intent and do not allow VALIC to keep my money or take more of it.)

History of Beauty edited by Umberto Eco

A very peculiar work, hard to epitomize. It is a history of the theory of beauty, illustrated not only by artworks, but by extensive quotes from important and unimportant figures in the history of that theorizing. Roughly chronological in format, Eco provides short meditations on the aspect at hand, and 'hyperlinked' phrases in bold lead one to the quotes from the original sources. So, in the classical period, beauty is proportion and symmetry to the Platonists, while to Sappho: "Some men say an army of horse and some men say an army on foot and some men say an army of ships is the more beautiful thing on the black earth. But I say it is what you love." Later, beauty is an expression of light and color, or a physical analogue to the divine. Or the sublime. Or form and function.
It's an interesting way to trace the development of art, and many of the artworks and quotes are interesting and/or surprising. But, particularly as the modern era approaches, I think the narrative loses its way (or maybe Art did), and Eco's words get more rambling and devoid of content (to me anyway, art ignoramus that I am). It's also sad, though pragmatic, that (apart from sources in English) the quotes are retranslated into English from the Italian edition, and some of the passages suffer a bit from being shuttled from language to language. Or maybe they started as gibberish, for all I know.
The book itself is a thing of beauty from Rizzoli, with oodles of nicely reproduced artwork, although the rare double page spreads suffer from being stuck in the gutter.

Anyway, here's a few more images that struck me as being A) interesting and B) not-so-well-known (again for an art tyro like myself).
Let's begin with what the Goth Gardener called "the most homoerotic piece of fine art I've ever seen."
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