Monday Reads: Esoteric Interests

bear-reading-book-01Good Morning!

I’m going to try to put some interesting reads up this morning just because the political theater surrounding the budget discussions has gotten to me.  So, here are some things to read that are a little more esoteric.  Most of these things have little hints of hidden secrets that are just tantalizing to me and hopefully a few of you too.

The Atlantic‘s Benjamin Schwartz has a feature article on ‘The Education of Virginia Woolf’ that you literature fans may want to read.

Taken as a whole, Woolf’s essays are probably the most intense paean to reading—an activity pursued not for a purpose but for love—ever written in English. Her assessment of “the man who loves reading” (in contrast to “the man who loves learning”) fit both herself as an essayist and her audience:

A reader must check the desire for learning at the outset; if knowledge sticks to him well and good, but to go in pursuit of it, to read on a system, to become a specialist or an authority, is very apt to kill … the more humane passion for pure and disinterested reading. The true reader is a man of intense curiosity; of ideas; open-minded and communicative, to whom reading is more of the nature of brisk exercise in the open air than of sheltered study.

That passage, from Woolf’s essay “Hours in a Library,” a title she borrowed from a multivolume collection of her father’s essays, recalls Stephen’s passion for reading, walking, and climbing. She invoked her father again in “The Leaning Tower,” an essay adapted from a wartime lecture she gave in 1940 to the Workers’ Education Association, in which she conflated her expansive concept of amateurism with her hopeful, democratic vision of the reading life:

Let us bear in mind a piece of advice that an eminent Victorian who was also an eminent pedestrian once gave to walkers: “Whenever you see a board up with ‘Trespassers will be prosecuted,’ trespass at once.” Let us trespass at once. Literature is no one’s private ground; literature is common ground … It is thus that English literature will survive this war … if commoners and outsiders like ourselves make that country our own country, if we teach ourselves how to read and how to write, how to preserve and how to create.

freudThe American Psychiatric Association’s new diagnostic manual will be published in May with some interesting changes.

The now familiar term “Asperger’s disorder” is being dropped. And abnormally bad and frequent temper tantrums will be given a scientific-sounding diagnosis called DMDD. But “dyslexia” and other learning disorders remain.

The revisions come in the first major rewrite in nearly 20 years of the diagnostic guide used by the nation’s psychiatrists. Changes were approved Saturday.

One of the most hotly argued changes was how to define the various ranges of autism. Some advocates opposed the idea of dropping the specific diagnosis for Asperger’s disorder. People with that disorder often have high intelligence and vast knowledge on narrow subjects but lack social skills. Some who have the condition embrace their quirkiness and vow to continue to use the label.

And some Asperger’s families opposed any change, fearing their kids would lose a diagnosis and no longer be eligible for special services.

But the revision will not affect their education services, experts say.

The new manual adds the term “autism spectrum disorder,” which already is used by many experts in the field. Asperger’s disorder will be dropped and incorporated under that umbrella diagnosis. The new category will include kids with severe autism, who often don’t talk or interact, as well as those with milder forms.

So, for all of you that appreciate some real life thriller and spy drama, Salon has “James Bond and the killer bag lady” for your reading pleasure.  The suspect is Lois Lang.  Even her name sounds like something that should be in the movies!

lois_lang_arrest3On the morning of Nov. 19, 1985, a wild-eyed and disheveled homeless woman entered the reception room at the legendary Wall Street firm of Deak-Perera. Carrying a backpack with an aluminum baseball bat sticking out of the top, her face partially hidden by shocks of greasy, gray-streaked hair falling out from under a wool cap, she demanded to speak with the firm’s 80-year-old founder and president, Nicholas Deak.

The 44-year-old drifter’s name was Lois Lang. She had arrived at Port Authority that morning, the final stop on a month-long cross-country Greyhound journey that began in Seattle. Deak-Perera’s receptionist, Frances Lauder, told the woman that Deak was out. Lang became agitated and accused Lauder of lying. Trying to defuse the situation, the receptionist led the unkempt woman down the hallway and showed her Deak’s empty office. “I’ll be in touch,” Lang said, and left for a coffee shop around the corner. From her seat by a window, she kept close watch on 29 Broadway, an art deco skyscraper diagonal from the Bowling Green Bull.

Deak-Perera had been headquartered on the building’s 20th and 21st floors since the late 1960s. Nick Deak, known as “the James Bond of money,” founded the company in 1947 with the financial backing of the CIA. For more than three decades the company had functioned as an unofficial arm of the intelligence agency and was a key asset in the execution of U.S. Cold War foreign policy. From humble beginnings as a spook front and flower import business, the firm grew to become the largest currency and precious metals firm in the Western Hemisphere, if not the world. But on this day in November, the offices were half-empty and employees few. Deak-Perera had been decimated the year before by a federal investigation into its ties to organized crime syndicates from Buenos Aires to Manila. Deak’s former CIA associates did nothing to interfere with the public takedown. Deak-Perera declared bankruptcy in December 1984, setting off panicked and sometimes violent runs on its offices in Latin America and Asia.

Lois Lang had been watching 29 Broadway for two hours when a limousine dropped off Deak and his son Leslie at the building’s revolving-door rear entrance. They took the elevator to the 21st floor, where Lauder informed Deak about the odd visitor. Deak merely shrugged and was settling into his office when he heard a commotion in the reception room. Lang had returned. Frances Lauder let out a fearful “Oh—” shortened by two bangs from a .38 revolver. The first bullet missed. The second struck the secretary between the eyes and exited out the back of her skull.

So, those of you that know me also know that my Saturday night ritual consists of a good red wine, some great music, and a long soak in a hot tub with my latest edition of The Economist I got more than I bargained for with this article which was a review of a book.  And I REALLLLLLYYYYY quote:

The penis

Cross to bare

Anatomy of a seminal work

Dec 1st 2012 | from the print edition

Behind the figleaf

God’s Doodle: The Life and Times of the Penis. By Tom Hickman. Square Peg; 234 pages; £12.99. Buy from Amazon.co.uk

THE problem with penises, as Richard Rudgley, a British anthropologist, admitted on a television programme some years ago, is that once you start noticing them, you “tend to see willies pretty much everywhere”. They are manifest in skyscrapers, depicted in art and loom large in literature. They pop up on the walls of schoolyards across the world, and on the walls of temples both modern and ancient. The Greeks and Japanese rendered them on statues that stood at street corners. Hindus worship the lingam in temples across the land. Even the cross on which Jesus was hung is considered by some to be a representation of male genitalia.

Yet the penis has also been shamed into hiding through the ages. One night in 415BC, Athens’s street-corner statues were dismembered en masse. Stone penises were still causing anxiety in the late 20th century, when the Victoria and Albert Museum in London pulled out of storage a stone figleaf in case a member of the royal family wanted to see its 18-foot (5.5-metre) replica of Michelangelo’s “David”. Nothing, save the vagina, which is neither as easy nor as childishly satisfying to scrawl on a wall, manages to be so sacred and so profane at once. This paradox makes it an object of fascination.

Yes, since I put up a picture of Freud I just had to follow-up with something phallic. I leave the discussion to you.

So, what would one of my esoteric posts be without a mention of a historic grave. This time it’s the Tomb of a Renaissance Warrior that may have run awry of his famous Medici Family.  This guy’s been dug up a lot so the story is a little twisted.

A noble-but-brutal Renaissance warrior who fell to a battle wound may not have died exactly as historians had believed, according to a new investigation of the man’s bones.

Italian researchers opened the tomb of Giovanni dalle Bande Nere, or Giovanni of the Black Bands, this week to investigate the real cause of his death. Giovanni was born in 1498 into the wealthy and influential Medici family, a lineage that produced three Popes and two regent queens of France, among many other nobles (Another branch of the family, the Medicis of Milan, boasted a fourth Pope). He worked as a mercenary military captain for Pope Leo X (one of the Medici family’s Popes), and fought many a successful skirmish in his name. When Pope Leo X died in 1521, Giovanni altered his uniform to include black mourning bands, earning him his nickname.

Giovanni was wounded in battle in 1526; reportedly, his leg was amputated and he died several days later of infection. However, the new investigation of the Giovanni remains reveals that it was not his leg that was sawn off, but his foot. Nor is there any damage to the man’s thigh, where the shot supposedly hit.

Giovanni’s grave has been opened five times already, including an investigation in 1945. This confirmation of the man’s actual wound has created a medical mystery.

“Giovanni was wounded in the right leg (maybe above the knee) but was amputee[d] [at the] foot,” Marco Ferri, a spokesman for the Superintendent of Fine Arts of Florentine Museums, wrote in an email to LiveScience. “Why? The surgeon was not a good doctor or the news [that] reached us [is] not accurate.”

Giovanni’s bones rest with those of his wife, Maria Salviati in two zinc boxes in the crypt of the Medici Chapels in Florence. The man’s tibia and fibula, the bones of the lower leg, were found sawed off from the amputation. There was no damage to the femur (thigh bone).

35th Kennedy Center Honors - Gala DinnerSo, let me end with something a little lighter.   Let’s just call it a palate cleanser after all of that.

BFFs? We can dream. But Meryl Streep and Hillary Clinton looked pretty chummy on Saturday night.

The Oscar-winning actress and the Secretary of State met up at the Kennedy Center Honors gala, held at the State Department.

According to the AP, Streep used her iPhone to snap a photo of the two powerful women.

Earlier this year, Streep compared herself to the former First Lady.

“I find a lot of similarities,” Streep said when introducing Clinton at the Women in the World Summit. “We’re roughly the same age, we both have two brothers — mine are annoying — we both grew up in middle-class homes with spirited, big-hearted mothers who encouraged us to do something valuable and interesting with our lives. We both went from public high schools to distinguished women’s colleges … We both went on to graduate school at Yale.”

How about Meryl playing Hillary in a Biopic?  It could work!!!

So, that’s a little something different for you to read while getting your Monday going.

I’d like to end with a great big thank you for those of you that helped me pay our annual bills this month.  We have to pay a little extra to get the blog to look this way and to have enough room to store things and move around.  Thanks a lot for all your support and comments!   I think we have one of the best blogging communities on the internet and I adore you all!!!

 What’s on your reading and blogging list today?

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22 Comments on “Monday Reads: Esoteric Interests”

  1. Pat Johnson says:

    Not sure how much the public is aware of the fact that congress will have met for a total of 126 days at the end of the year which averages out to about 10 a month and this from the same congress who is looking to increase the age of retirement to 67!

    The outrageousness of this one fact alone should be enough to convince the voters that a complete overhaul is needed when much of this schedule is built around Bohener’s need to cancel Friday sessions so that he can return home to Ohio for his weekly golf matches.

    The best healthcare money can buy, a retirement package that can’t be withheld, and a more than decent annual salary awarded to these elected officials who only meet “occassionally” as it turns out should elicit pure outrage from the public, some of whom are still struggling to find a job.

    What’s wrong with this picture?

    • janicen says:

      What really blows my mind is when they dare talk about increasing the retirement age. I know of several people who would be delighted to work until age 67 or even age 60 for that matter but their money-loving employers have “downsized” them at age 55. I wish someone would make that point to some of these Republicans. Sure we can raise the retirement age to 67 if employers will sign contracts agreeing to actually employ people until age 67.

    • RalphB says:

      126 days per year is a good work regimen. Too bad it’s only available to the House. They aren’t even pretending any more.

      • NW Luna says:

        Let’s see … if each work-year is 126 days, most of us (who don’t live off investments) already qualify for retirement.

  2. Fannie says:

    Thanks Dak, love Meryl and Hillary’s photo……………..when is Hillary’s last day on the job?

  3. RalphB says:

    The story of Lois Lang is a great link! If this stuff was written into a spy novel, no one would believe it for a minute yet it’s all real.

  4. NW Luna says:

    Virginia Woolf’s thoughts on reading are perceptive and invigorating. Paradise will contain a good library.

  5. RalphB says:

    The shrill one has another great editorial. :-)

    Paul Krugman: The Big Budget Mumble

    In the ongoing battle of the budget, President Obama has done something very cruel. Declaring that this time he won’t negotiate with himself, he has refused to lay out a proposal reflecting what he thinks Republicans want. Instead, he has demanded that Republicans themselves say, explicitly, what they want. And guess what: They can’t or won’t do it.

  6. NW Luna says:

    Good investigative series on the fate of elephants in zoos:

    GLAMOUR BEASTS: The dark side of elephant captivity
    … the decades-long effort by zoos to preserve and protect elephants is failing, exacerbated by substandard conditions and denial of mounting scientific evidence that most elephants do not thrive in captivity

    • janicen says:

      My daughter still has a poster of Hansa hanging in her room. She won it by correctly answering a question when she was on a field trip to the Woodland Park Zoo with her third grade class. The Woodland Park Zoo is pretty awesome and does it’s best to create a natural habitat for the animals but I still think keeping animals in captivity for our entertainment is wrong.

  7. NW Luna says:

    New governor at Bank of England is Canadian

    The Bank of Canada governor is a highly educated economist with Wall Street experience who is widely credited with helping Canada dodge the worst of the global economic crisis. He gained a reputation along the way as a tough regulator who stood up to JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon.

    Moving to the top job at Canada’s central bank just before the global financial crisis hit in 2008, Carney slashed interest rates to historic lows and was the first central banker to commit to keep them at a historic-low level for a definite time, a step the U.S. Federal Reserve would follow.

    Dak, if you have time to comment, what’s your take on this story?

    • HT says:

      I don’t have an economic background other than econ 101, but Carney did a good job at the BOC – as a Canadian, I’ve seen his work firsthand. He kept interest rates low for many years in order to stimulate the economy. He warned repeatedly about the global meltdown before it happened. Canada came through the major one with a relatively strong economy, although I suspect we are currently headed for a recession. Don’t know how he will do on the world stage, but I for one am sorry to see him go – his replacement is making noises about raising interest rates with other rather dubious suggestions about cutting spending on social programs. Disturbing to say the least.

      • NW Luna says:

        Thanks HT. It’s not good that there’s talk about cutting social-program spending. Canada’s loss may be the world’s gain. The article on Carney implies he may very well return to Canada in a few years and run/stand for office — Prime Minister.

  8. RalphB says:

    Ed Kilgore has a look at the “race to the bottom” by states and localities in the hunt for jobs.

    Currently Austin has a proposal up to throw $10 million at a corporation for a project which would eventually create 800 new jobs here. It seems to me you could get a lot more bang for your buck by throwing that $10 million into support for local small and medium sized businesses. There is a movement afoot to ensure they do just that.

    TNR: Cavemen in Neckties

    This is hardly a new subject—TNR’s Alec MacGillis among others did some serious investigative reporting back when Rick Perry was a viable presidential candidate—but Louise Story of the New York Times takes a long look at the whole sleazy business of state-funded “investment incentives” for corporations as exemplified by Texas, and how it affects public budgets and services there and elsewhere.

    I strongly encourage you to read the whole thing, and reflect on the systemic atmosphere of corruption that surrounds the “race to the bottom” of state and local government officials happy to trade off revenues, regulations, every law or ordinance protecting the citizenry, and every shred of self-respect, in exchange for the right to grip-and-grin with “job-creators” at ground-breaking and ribbon-cutting ceremonies.

  9. bostonboomer says:

    Thanks for the interesting reads, Dak. I finally finished the Salon article–very weird, but not unbelievable based on what I know about the CIA and MK-ULTRA. It took me this long because I had to go for a hearing aid appointment.