Mona Lisa’s Skeleton, Festive Edinburgh, Mischa Maisky….


Last week, Huffpost reported on the latest developments in the apparent discovery of Mona Lisa’s grave. Pretty awesome if the tomb does indeed hold the remains of Lisa Gherandini. Perhaps even more exciting than finding Mona Lisa herself, are the forensic techniques employed to identify her:

Mona Lisa’s Supposed Skeleton May Finally Solve Centuries-Old Mystery

For historical background on Lisa Gherandini, her husband Francesco del Giocondo, and their Florentine milieu, see the following Mona Lisa Foundation article. It is lengthy, but interesting for all the famous names woven into Lisa Gherandini’s family circle. Apparently, “Mona Lisa” was related to Amerigo Vespucci and may have been acquainted with Machiavelli:

Francesco [Lisa’s husband] also had a relative, Giannetto Giocondo, operating a branch of the family business in Lisbon. In turn, Giannetto had business dealings with Amerigo Vespucci, a relative of Agostino Vespucci, who was Machiavelli’s assistant. The Machiavelli and Gherardini families both came from the same parish: Santa Trinita. So between inter-marriages, family, business and political connections, it is not surprising that a lasting union between the Gherardini and del Giocondo families was arranged.

Who knew?

Who were Francesco del Giocondo and his wife Lisa Gherardini? » The Mona Lisa Foundation

Arts news from elsewhere:  In Scotland, the Edinburgh International Book Festival launched its 30th season coinciding with the Fringe, the alternative performance arts festival. This year it runs from the 2nd to the 26th. The Book Festival runs from the 10th-26th.

About Us | Edinburgh International Book Festival

About us | Edinburgh Festival Fringe



Sadly, now that the Fringe has grown so large, it might be experiencing some growing pains. Or maybe something else has happened to the great happening in Edinburgh.

Edinburgh festival: are we in a fringe recession? | Stage |

Pippa Bailey’s article is embedded in the Guardian link, but I thought I’d just draw attention to it because I think her primary concerns hold relevance beyond the evolution of the Fringe:

Reflections on Fringe | Biding Time



Inserting a digression here on political theater and dramatic comedy… backing up to move forward… I found this in my stack of obscure things, and it seems fitting to mention it here in the context of creative theater…. it’s a spitting invective against plays,  players and the role of the stage in society, published 1587, entitled A Mirror of Monsters.

The full title, entertaining in and of itself (edited for spelling):

A Mirrour of Monsters wherein is plainely described the manifold vices, & spotted enormities, that are caused by the infectious sight of playes, with the description of the subtile slights of Sathan, making him his instruments.

A couple of choice bits (edited for spelling):

Players are caterpillars and cankers that cleave to the branches of forward wits… What men are these? (nay rather monsters) that thus corrupt so sweet a soil: such are they, as in outward show seem painted sepluchres, but dig up their [deeds], and find nothing but a masse of rotting bones.

I’m rather partial to the word cleave because it denotes dual and diametrically opposed meanings. Depending on its usage it could mean “to stick” or “to split.”  Another fragment:

They color their vanity with humanity: Some term them comedians, othersome players, many pleasers, but I monsters, and why monsters? Because under color of humanity, they present nothing but prodigious vanity. These are wells without water, dead branches fit for fuel, cockle amongst corn, unwholesome weeds, amongst sweet herbs, and finally, fiends that are crept into the world by stealth, and hold possession by subtile invasion.

Give me the unwholesome weeds any day. As to weeds, I encourage them in my garden. I even have pet weeds that overgrow the sidewalk to cushion my step. Who wants to walk on hard concrete? I took some snapshots of the darling masses which serve as my “walking weeds;” they make lovely patterns in between the cracks of the sidewalk. Here’s an engaging clump of variegated weeds that keep my foot steps cushy:


walking weeds


Meanwhile on the biodiversity front, another mirror of monsters…

33 undiscovered species of predatory ants surface in the New World. This new cache of ants will apparently give you the willies according to Jack Longino, the myrmecologist who has described them:

Their faces are broad shields, the eyes reduced to tiny points at the edges and the fierce jaws bristling with sharp teeth.

They look a little like the monster in ‘Alien.’ They’re horrifying to look at up close. That’s sort of what makes them fun.

New Ant Species Named After Hellish Mayan Demons : Animals : Nature World News

NPR’s interview with Longino and some good photos of the ants:

Jack Longino, ‘The Astonishing Ant Man,’ Finds 33 New Species : NPR

100 new species of predatory beetle discovered in Tahiti:

Tahiti: A very hot biodiversity hot spot in the Pacific | e! Science News

And a new species of cave fish is found in Madagascar:

New species of cave fish identified – CBS News


Fairy Tale Eggplant


Of course nothing stimulates the appetite like ants, beetles, and fever-inducing cave fish…. and as it happens I’ve found a couple of really excellent recipes for the new variety of eggplant I’m growing in my garden. The fairy tales (pictured at left) are smaller than the classic eggplant, and they look a bit like the purple eggplants Tom Philpott uses in his Baba Ghanoush:

Tom’s Kitchen: The Coolest, Easiest Summer Eggplant Trick | Mother Jones

Apparently, fairy tales don’t need to be leached of bitterness like classics do, the skins are edible, and excellent for grilling. I haven’t tried it yet, but from what I understand, it’s super easy. Just slice them lengthwise in about 1/2″ strips, brush with oil and seasonings then grill on each side for one minute to one and a half minutes.

And now for something entirely unrelated, just because I dig it:



That’s what’s on my mind this afternoon, what’s on yours? Anybody have ideas for eggplant?


8 Comments on “Mona Lisa’s Skeleton, Festive Edinburgh, Mischa Maisky….”

  1. bostonboomer says:

    Fascinating story about the Mona Lisa. I didn’t even know the subject had been identified.

    Here’s a summer eggplant appetizer that I like a lot.

    Eggplant Caviar

    1 med. eggplant
    1 med. onion, finely minced
    1-2 cloves garlic, finely minced
    1 ripe tomato, seeded, finely chopped
    1 tsp. sugar
    3 T olive oil
    2 T vinegar
    Salt and freshly ground pepper

    Broil eggplant 5-6 in. from heat until skin is black and blistered and pulp is soft (or use method from post). Cool, peel, and chop finely. Blend well with remaining ingredients, cover and refrigerate for at least 4 hrs (overnight is better). Serve with pita bread or crackers or as a salad on romaine leaves.

  2. Peej, I love your post..they are filled with so many interesting things. I have to go back and read the links but this was very cool indeed.

    The ants make me think of The Naked Jungle…. Marabunta: