New Drawing

Drawn from life in pastel on toned paper, 11x14 inches

I finally got access to a scanner, though only for 10 minutes.

Here is a drawing I finished a little while ago, but hadn't been able to scan until today.

I have some more stuff, but they are all rather large, and have a whole host of logistical issues involved with scanning. They will be posted sometime later.

A Cultural Interpretation of the British Industrial Revolution

Aaron Fung
This essay explores the role the Enlightenment played in the British Industrial Revolution, specifically the Industrial Enlightenment, as described by Professor Joel Mokyr. Central to the Industrial Enlightenment is Francis Bacon’s philosophy of understanding nature to harness its power for human progress. However, in order for this knowledge to be of use, it had to be spread to those that could make use of it for economic and technological progress; the knowledge had to be popularized and spread. This implies the formation of links between the discoverers of knowledge, such as scientists, and more practical men, like inventors and businessmen: links were formed between savants and fabricants. Finally, Professor Robert Allen’s opposition to the cultural interpretation of the Industrial Revolution is addressed. Allen offers an alternative thesis that cheap coal and high real wages of English laborers are the relevant metric, which led to the creation of labor-saving devices, leading to the Industrial Revolution; this thesis is addressed as well.

Joel Mokyr believes that at the heart of British economic growth of the Industrial Revolution is a set of beliefs formed out of the Enlightenment, which he terms the “Industrial Enlightenment” which he defines as “... the part of the Enlightenment which believed that material progress and economic growth could be achieved through increasing human knowledge of natural phenomena and making this knowledge accessible to those who could make use of it in production” (Mokyr, 40). Mokyr argues that it is this set of beliefs, the Industrial Enlightenment, that both led to and sustained the economic growth of the British Industrial Revolution.

Important to the Industrial Enlightenment is the figure of Francis Bacon. Bacon’s thoughts would play only an ancillary role in the story of economic history were it not for his influence on Enlightenment thought: “...the influence of Francis Bacon was central to the Industrial Enlightenment” (Mokyr, 40). Francis Bacon was particularly interested in acquiring knowledge of nature, through observation. “Man, being the servant and interpreter of nature, can do and understand so much and so much only as he has observed in fact or in thought of the course of nature; beyond this he neither knows anything nor can do anything.” (Bacon, Novum Organum aphorism I). For Bacon, only empirical knowledge gained through measurement and observation could be of any use, and this data was to be used to understand the natural world. “Nature to be commanded must be obeyed....”(Bacon, Novum Organum aphorism III) Bacons seeks to understand nature, to obey natural laws, in order to harness the power of nature.

Mokyr argues that Bacon’s agenda, by the Industrial Revolution, had become widespread. “It was believed that social progress could be attained through the ‘useful arts,’ what we today call science and technology, which should inform and reinforce one another. This belief spawned what has been called ‘the Baconian program.’” (Mokyr, 40) Important to “the Baconian program” is the utility of the knowledge, for in the use of this knowledge one could positively affect society. Bacon himself betrays this bias for utility in the fifth aphorism of the “Preparative Toward a Natural and Experimental History” where he states, “Among the parts of history which I have mentioned, the history of arts is of most use because

How to Find your True Self

Aaron Fung

Nietzsche says somewhere (paraphrasing from my notes because I lost my copy of the Portable Nietzsche): Seek out what you love and admire in your self-chosen educators – that is who you are, your true self.

“What have you really loved till now?”

In Nietzsche’s philosophy I admire the affirmation of life, not with Stoic resolve, but with joy and laughter.

I want to extend this concept and apply it to my own area of the visual arts:

One of my beacons in the visual arts is Rembrandt van Rijn not only for the depth of space he creates through technique, but also for the the psychological depth displayed within his work.

Depth is my current mantra for my life; when I become overwhelmed, flustered, I go deeper and seek the calm beneath the surface, beneath the torrents and tempests of daily life; I have a feeling that is where insight may be found.

If nothing else, I am entranced by the beautiful mystery.

[Originally posted as comment in response to Ms. Brook's post

Hanoverian Policy, Clausewitzian Friction, and the Preconditions to British Industrialization

 Aaron Fung

Economic growth is simple; one need only produce more this year than the previous year. This does not mean that economic growth is easy. All attempts to grow an economy are met with challenges, often unforeseen. Carl von Clausewitz says “...the simplest thing is difficult. The difficulties accumulate and end by producing a kind of friction that is inconceivable...” (von Clausewitz, 138) He goes on to define friction as the force that makes the simple difficult. Friction may be brought upon oneself. Friction may also be caused by external forces. The Marine Corps Doctrine FMFM1Warfighting manual says, “...we should attempt to minimize self-induced friction … we must attempt at the same time to raise our enemy’s friction to a level that destroys his ability to fight” (Warfighting). The Industrial Revolution came first to Britain: the Industrial Revolution did not come to France. This essay argues that this occurred because Hanoverian policy minimized friction, as defined by Carl von Clausewitz, within its empire while increasing friction experienced by its enemies, primarily France. The increased friction experienced by Britain’s enemies hampered their ability to threaten British security and interests, allowing the British economy to grow. France, on the other hand, suffered as a result of increased friction experienced, and this prevented an economic take-off.

Britain faced many threats from within its empire. These threats created friction that obstructed the economic growth of Britain. Though in name it was a united, in reality the United Kingdom had trouble politically integrating the kingdoms of Scotland and Ireland. “...while the new regime... successfully maintained a free trade area within England and Wales it took several decades to integrate Scotland politically into a single market and more than a century to incorporate Ireland into a unified kingdom and economy” (O’Brien, 129). Not only were Scotland and Ireland difficult to incorporate, they were the source of much bloodshed and property destruction. “Parliament deposed James II peacefully but his departure from London provoked civil war and considerable destruction of life and property in Scotland as well as Ireland” (O’Brien, 129). This Jacobite opposition to the Hanoverian authority, with its destruction of life and property, increased the friction within the British empire, adversely affecting the stability of the government and the economy. If a functioning market economy were to come about, this Jacobite threat had to be addressed.

In 1745, the Jacobite threat had been engaged and terminated by Hanoverian use of armed force. General Cumberland met and defeated Bonnie Prince Charlie’s Jacobite army at Culoden Moor. “...the state slowly became immune to Jacobite sedition and other threats to good order” (O’Brien, 150). This army under the command of Bonnie Prince Charlie was the critical strength of the Jacobite cause; its defeat meant the end of Jacobitism as a serious political force in European politics. Jacobitism had ceased to be a threat to Hanoverian rule. During the eighteenth century, the English government was willing to use armed force to deal with

The Art and Technique of Romantic Poetry: On Waxing Poetic with a Measured Tread

Aaron Fung
I'm not certain I would describe myself as a particularly literary person, but I do have a few poems I do like.

Byron's The Destruction of Sennacherib

Quite often, I find that there are parts of poems that just speak to me, rather than a whole, like aphorisms, with or without meaning. One particular passage that caught my attention immediately when I first read it (I think I actually read it in a George Orwell essay on God knows what) are the last two lines of Lord Byron's The Destruction of Sennacherib.

"And the might of the Gentile, unsmote by the sword,
Hath melted like snow in the glance of the Lord!"

What at first caught me about these lines, and indeed the entire poem, is the rhythm: the entire poem is written in anapestic tetrameter, lending the poem a galloping quality such as a galloping horse. These particular lines are beautiful in the juxtaposition of the invincible Gentile and how he is defeated by a mere glance (a very little thing compared to such words as "might" and "unsmote") .

And, of course, there is that exotic quality found in the Orientalism of the nineteenth century that is kind of fun, in a strange way: all this talk of temples of Baal and Assyrian cavalry with scimitars; not the most literate or progressive reason to like a poem, I admit, but I think this is part of the appeal of much of Lord Byron, is his fascination with the East and lands that sound like fantasy (as in Byron's time only explorers, merchants and militarymen traveled much outside their little village.)
Earlier in the poem:

"For the Angel of Death spread his wings on the blast,
And breathed in the face of the foe as he passed;
And the eyes of the sleepers waxed deadly and chill,
And their hearts but once heaved, and for ever grew still!"

Again, there's that anapestic tetrameter, lending that galloping quality to the verse, that hurries the reader on and gives the poem an air of action and excitement; it is as though Death himself were on horseback, riding before the pillaging armies. And again, this action and excitement is juxtaposed with Death's breath, and the dead falling asleep and growing still: the rhythm of

In the Sphere of Dream and Spell

Aaron Fung

When questing for the Holy Grail, the Arthurian knight began his journey alone, where the forest was thickest and darkest - where none had tread before; to tread in the path of another is dishonor: it is the knight's - the individual's - sacred duty to find his own way through the dark.

Most are afraid of the dark, the unknown fog that envelopes all that is unknown, mysterious and sublime. We fear the unknown - the depths.

The artist wanders the depths, the darkness where few dare to tread, for it is in the depths that insight is found.

This the artist's role: to tread where the forest is darkest.

How to Hear Art and the Distant Roar of History

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Aaron Fung

Kierkegaard once said something to the effect that the one does not so much read a great book so much as he is read by that book.

And I'm sure Kierkegaard would have agreed with Mr. Nabokov's article "Moonshine of Generalization", in which Nabokov argues that the reader ought approach work of literature on its own, without preconceived notions sullied by the opinions of others: 

Nabokov suggests we be passive readers rather than active readers; one ought not read so much as be read. 

However, no human, no artist, not even the genius exists in a vacuum. Even the most solitary, hermetic genius must be influenced by his society.And, assuming the artist is a true genius and/or part of a culture's literary canon, he has probably exerts an influence on society. 

Maybe genius artists create their own worlds, their own realities; these imagined worlds affect and even manifest our own real world.

A work of art must be embraced with the reader's entire being. I disagree a little with Nabokov here; the brain, the heart and the spine will play a role, but most importantly the work must be read by the soul of the reader. when the brain and spine are busy acting detached and intellectual, the true meaning of the writing may enter the soul unimpeded by the cold intellect and the parochial individual experience. 

Unlike Nabokov, I believe that it is only through the

An Analysis of Cortez's Conquest of the Aztecs

Aaron Fung

The internet is a wonderful thing, the epitome of modern technology. It connects old friends through social networking and makes so much information available at the touch of a button that the very library at Alexandria appears pitiful by comparison. Some say the internet was invented by Al Gore: Al Gore has never made such a claim, but makes a good story. Rather, the internet was born out of Cold War fears of atomic annihilation the loss of vital military data: the internet was born in a concrete bunker into a world of fears and suspicion. It is strange how often advancement in military technology leads to advancement in the civilian sector. Indeed, advanced military technology has allowed our own relatively numerically small American military to dominate the world, for good or for ill. But it is not only fancy gadgets that allow our own American military to exert such influence: American officers study the theory and tactics of modern warfare, from von Clausewitz to Sun Tzu, in order to leverage their gadgets for maximum effect. And all this would be for nought were it not for America's key alliances that allow America to set up bases in key locations arounnd the world. But these keys to American military ability is not limited to modern times. Nearly five-hundred years earlier, Cortez's conquest of the Aztecs; a numerically small Spanish force facing a numerically superior Aztec force; was the result of superior military technology, superior military tactics, and the formation of key alliances with native tributary states.
The Spaniards were a modern military force who were facing a less militarily advanced Aztec troupe. Put more simply, while the Spaniards fought as an army, the Aztecs fought as a band of individuals. Indeed, Aztec warriors were "highly individualistic" who were "in direct competition with his peers, as he searched through the dust-haze and the mind-stunning shrieking and whistling to identify and engage with an enemy warrior of equal, or preferably just higher, status." (Joseph, 65) By contrast, the Spaniards fought as a unit, employing modern military tactics and formations that require cooperation amongst soldiers and a submission of the soldier to his superior officers. "Aztecs were not soldiers, at least not in the modern European sense...They had no organized 'army,' nor officers either." (Joseph, 64) The Aztecs fought like the Medieval European fighters, with emphasis placed on individual acts of courage and fighting prowess. And individualism and martial prowess are both very noble virtues. However, the old cliche about two heads are better than one applies to this situation. European military tactics had just recently transformed from an emphasis on the individual warrior to the fighting of groups of men fighting as a unit. This was in part due to advances in firearm technology. The formerly unreliable "handgun," which was more dangerous to the soldier firing the gun than his target, was replaced by the more reliable matchlock rifle. This was a technological advantage as it allowed a relatively untrained soldier to cause damage to the enemy: a major advantage over the longbow, which required training since childhood. Spain had few such archers, as the best archers tended to be English. The only other weapon of note is the crossbow, of which it is certain the Spaniards had a few. It is even more certain that the Aztecs had none. What is perhaps more important to this transformation in European military theory is the slow dissolution of feudalism and the rise of more centralized monarchical states. No longer were the relatively primitive, individualistic military strategies of the Middle Ages adequate to face the new, organized armies of these large kingdoms. The Visigoths, the Ostrogoths, the Vandals, indeed even the Vikings were Christianized and had given up their pillaging ways, making the system of feudalism obsolete; no longer was there a need for the privileged, military class to exact feudal oaths from serfs and vassals. Indeed, the farmhands of England had not been tied to the land for a long time, and were paid a wage based on their productivity.  Also, the dissolution of feudalism made the knight a near impossibility; knights were very expensive to equip and support. Indeed, much of the feudal system was in place to equip and support the knight, the individualistic knight, an individualism that a modern European soldier could not afford on the modern battlefield. Here is a description of the Aztec individualism in battle: "Certainly sentiment toward one's companions on the field of battle was firmly and officially discrouaged. To go to the aid of a threatened comrade would probably provoke a charge of having tried to steal his captive, and not only the false claiming of a captive, but the giving of one's captive to another, was punishable by death..."(Joseph, 65) Imagine that! For behavior that would be rewarded in an American army with a medal the Aztecs punished with death. This worked fine in the ritualistic warfare of the Mexican Indians, but against a modern European army with superior technology and military theory this is grossly inefficient and ineffective. Against a modern army whose objective is the annihilation of enemy forces, such vain egoism and callousness is suicide.
In modern times, the romantic image of the knight is of a knight in shining armor. Pure sentimental tripe, the stuff of bad romance novels, and yet this image holds the key to yet another technological advantage the Spaniards had over the Aztecs:

Some Thoughts on Richard Tuttle's 10th Wire Piece and Inside the Still Pure Form

Aaron Fung

On a visit to the SF Museum of Modern Art, the “Tenth Wire Piece” of 1972 in particular caught my eye. Well, perhaps caught my eye is not really the right phrase to describe my fascination with this piece’s ephemeral quality.

It is nothing more than a piece of wire, much like its surrounding pieces, with a rather crude pencil line drawn under it to approximate its cast shadow. At the same time its real cast shadow lies somewhere It was simple, yet elegant, with a fragile quality as though it were quite of this world and yet it was still rough and unrefined as it was a piece of normal wire.

The commonplaceness of Mr. Tuttle’s materials imparts a very down to earth, everyday quality to the piece, while the ephemeral quality of the work is almost unearthly, as if it bordered reality and non-reality. It exhibits both seemingly contradictory aspects at the same time in complete harmony.

It borders on simply not being at all. The wire traced itself about the wall, like a figure skater upon the ice, and where the wire ends on the wall its cast shadow begins. This cast shadow is a part of the entity of the wire in that it would not exist without the wire, and yet it does not exist at all.

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