Monday Reads: Esoteric InterestsPosted: December 3, 2012 Filed under: morning reads | Tags: Asperger's disorder, autism specrtum disorder, God's Doodle, Hillary Clinton, Killer bag lady, Lois Lang, Medici Family grave, Meryl Streep, Virginia Woolf 22 Comments
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.
The 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!
On 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:
Cross to bare
Anatomy of a seminal work
Dec 1st 2012 | from the print editionBehind 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).
So, 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?
Novelist, Screenwriter, and Humorist Nora Ephron has DiedPosted: June 26, 2012 Filed under: just because | Tags: Carl Bernstein, celebrity deaths, Dan Greenburg, Karen Silkwood, Meryl Streep, Nicholas Pileggi, Nora Ephron 13 Comments
Nora Ephron, who gained a devoted following for her perceptive, deeply personal essays and parlayed that renown into a screenwriting career of wistful romantic comedies such as “When Harry Met Sally” and “You’ve Got Mail,” the marital exposé “Heartburn” and the whistleblower drama “Silkwood,” died June 26 at a hospital in New York. She was 71.
The death was confirmed by her friend Richard Cohen, a Washington Post columnist. She died of complications from the blood disorder myelodysplasia, with which she was diagnosed six years ago.
As a young woman, Ms. Ephron modeled her self-deprecating and deadpan writing style on Dorothy Parker, part of the Algonquin Round Table of sophisticated New York writers and humorists that also included Robert Benchley and S.J. Perelman. Of the philandering husband in her 1983 novel “Heartburn” — modeled on her marriage to former Washington Post journalist Carl Bernstein — Ms. Ephron wrote he was “capable of having sex with a Venetian blind.”
In time, Ms. Ephron became a social confederate of New York playwrights, filmmakers and wits, including Mike Nichols, Woody Allen and Calvin Trillin; Washington journalists including former Post executive editor Benjamin Bradlee and his journalist wife, Sally Quinn; and a Hollywood coterie that included Rob Reiner, Tom Hanks, Steve Martin and Steven Spielberg.
The New York Times calls her a “woman of letters.”
She was a journalist, a blogger, an essayist, a novelist, a playwright, an Oscar-nominated screenwriter and a movie director — a rarity in a film industry whose directorial ranks were and continue to be dominated by men. More box-office success arrived with “You’ve Got Mail” and “Julie & Julia.” By the end of her life, though remaining remarkably youthful looking, she had even become something of a philosopher about age and its indignities.
“Why do people write books that say it’s better to be older than to be younger?” she wrote in “I Feel Bad About My Neck,” her 2006 best-selling collection of essays. “It’s not better. Even if you have all your marbles, you’re constantly reaching for the name of the person you met the day before yesterday.”
Nora Ephron was born on May 19, 1941, on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, the eldest of four sisters, all of whom became writers. That was no surprise; writing was the family business. Her father, Henry, and her mother, the former Phoebe Wolkind, were Hollywood screenwriters who wrote, among other films, “Carousel,” “There’s No Business Like Show Business” and “Captain Newman, M.D.”
“Everything is copy,” her mother once said, and she and her husband proved it by turning the college-age Nora into a character in a play, later a movie, “Take Her, She’s Mine.” The lesson was not lost on Ms. Ephron, who seldom wrote about her children but could make sparkling copy out of almost anything else: the wrinkles on her neck, her apartment, cabbage strudel, Teflon pans and the tastelessness of egg-white omelets.
Ephron’s first marriage, to writer Dan Greenburg, ended after nine years. In 1976 she married Bernstein, who along with Bob Woodward had broken the Watergate scandal for the Washington Post a few years earlier. “Heartburn,” her 1996 novel, found humor in the ruins of her marriage to Bernstein, who, she said, had an affair while she was pregnant with their second son. The Bernstein-based character was played by Jack Nicholson, the Ephron-based character by Meryl Streep, in the 1986 film version.
Streep had also starred three years earlier in the Mike Nichols-directed “Silkwood,” a drama based on the real-life story of a labor organizer at a nuclear-processing plant whose whistle-blowing was abruptly ended when she died in a car accident.
Ephron’s third marriage was to journalist Nicholas Pileggi, who adapted his 1985 book “Wiseguy” into the movie “Goodfellas” (1990), directed by Martin Scorsese.
Pileggi survives her, as do her two sons from her marriage to Bernstein, Max and Jacob.
I loved Ephron’s humorous essays, and her novel Heartburn was absolutely hilarious. I had no idea she was the model for the Sandra Dee role in Take Her, She’s Mine–a romantic comedy starring Jimmy Stewart as the worried father of an attractive teenager. I wasn’t wild about some of Ephron’s sappy movies like You’ve Got Mail, but Silkwood is one of my all-time favorites. As an aside, I don’t think most people really believe Karen Silkwood’s “accident” was anything other than murder.
Rest in peace, Nora. You’ve left us far too soon.
Tuesday Reads: Crime and Movies, Obama’s Second Term, How the Wisconsin Uprising Got Hijacked, and Other NewsPosted: June 12, 2012 Filed under: 2012 presidential campaign, morning reads, The Great Recession, U.S. Politics | Tags: A Cry in the Dark, Azaria Chamberlain, Barack Obama, Bashar al-Assad, Carl Levin, Citizen's United, Clint Eastwood, Escape from Alcatraz, fascism, Habeas Corpus, Lindy Chamberlain-Creighton, Meryl Streep, Obama's kill list, SCOTUS, second term, Seinfeld, the dingo ate my baby, Wisconsin recall election 22 Comments
I’ve got a selection of interesting reads for you today.
Late last night, the top story on Google news was this:
Coroner rules dingo to blame for Australian baby’s death.
A coroner ruled Tuesday that a dingo, a wild dog native to Australia, caused the death of a baby more than 30 years ago.
Azaria Chamberlain was just two months old when she disappeared from a tent during a family holiday to Uluru, also known as Ayers Rock, sparking one of the country’s most sensational and enduring murder mysteries.
“The cause of her death was as the result of being attacked and taken by a dingo,” Elizabeth Morris, coroner for Northern Territory, announced to Darwin Magistrates court early Tuesday. “Dingos can and do cause harm to humans.”
The girl’s mother, Lindy Chamberlain-Creighton, long maintained that a dingo took her baby, even as she was sentenced to life in jail for daughter’s murder, a conviction that was later quashed.
Meryl Streep played Lindy in a movie about the case, A Cry in the Dark.
The movie was satirized in a Seinfeld episode.
Seriously, though, I’m glad that Lindy has finally received justice.
Another long-ago crime story has been in the news: the mysterious escape from Alcatraz by three convicts 50 years ago yesterday, June 11, 1962.
Fifty years ago, on the night of June 11, 1962, the three convicts were locked down as usual. Guards walking the tier outside their cells saw them at 9:30 and checked on them periodically all night, looking in at the sleeping faces, hearing nothing strange. But by morning, the inmates had vanished, Houdini-like.
Guards found pillows under the bedclothes and lifelike papier-mâché heads with real hair and closed, painted eyes. Federal agents, state and local police officers, Coast Guard boats and military helicopters joined the largest manhunt since the Lindbergh baby kidnapping in 1932, scouring the prison complex on Alcatraz Island, the expanse of San Francisco Bay and the surrounding landscape of Northern California.
A crude raft made of rubber raincoats was found on a nearby island. But the fugitives were never seen again. Federal officials said they almost certainly drowned in the maelstrom of riptides, undertows and turbulent, frigid waters of the 10-mile-wide bay, their bodies probably swept out to sea under the Golden Gate Bridge.
But for aficionados of unsolved mysteries, the fantasy that Frank Lee Morris and the brothers Clarence and John Anglin had successfully escaped from the nation’s most forbidding maximum security prison and are still alive, hiding somewhere, has been a tantalizing if remote possibility for a half-century now.
The escapees would be in their 80s if they are still alive. According to this NPR story, there was a legend that they would meet again at the prison on the 50th anniversary of their escape. Believe it or not, U.S. Marshalls were there to meet them just in case. I haven’t heard of any old men being captured yet, but I’m writing this at 11:30PM, so I guess it could still happen.
Fifty years ago, three men set out into the frigid waters of the San Francisco Bay in a raft made out of raincoats. It was one of the most daring prison escapes in U.S. history.
As one newsreel put it: The spoon proved “mightier than the bars at supposedly escape-proof Alcatraz prison.”
“Three bank robbers serving long terms scratched their way through grills covering an air vent, climbed a drainage pipe and disappeared from the forbidding rock in San Francisco Bay,” the report continued.
The men — Frank Morris and two brothers, John and Clarence Anglin — were never seen again. It was a brilliant plan, carried out with meticulous care and patience, but with such an unsatisfying ending. Did they make it? Or are they, as most people assume, at the bottom of the bay?
The legend has always held that if the men are alive, they will return to Alcatraz on the 50th anniversary of their breakout. There’s little chance that’s going to happen. But the anniversary is Monday, and I’m headed to the island to see if they show up. The U.S. Marshals say they will be there, too.
There have been a number of movies made about the daring escape. Clint Eastwood made a good one.
In political news, I’ve got a couple of long reads for you.
Ryan Lizza has a piece in The New Yorker about Obama’s second term: What would Obama do if reelected? In case you don’t want to plow through the whole thing, Atlantic Wire has a Reader’s Digest version: Obama’s Advisers Want You to Know He’ll Be a Lame Lame Duck President
If The New Yorker’s Ryan Lizza is right, we might be in for four more years of compromise on things like climate change and nuclear proliferation. Lizza has an article this week forecasting Obama’s second term, or rather, what Obama’s advisers want you to know about the President’s second term.
Don’t expect much. Obama and his team aren’t revealing their cards on the pressing issues like the economy (Lizza mentions there’s time for one big policy change) or inflammatory issues like same-sex marriage. And their lack of specifics about the President’s second term has been a story in itself, especially when contrasted with Mitt Romney who has already imagined his first days in the White House. As Lizza reports, the message that the president’s team wants out there is that Obama will be banking on bipartisan support (a word that’s peppered the president’s first term) to maybe get things done in the short time he has.
It sounds a lot like the first term.
At TomDispatch, Andy Kroll has a lengthy article about how Wisconsin was hijacked.
The results of Tuesday’s elections are being heralded as the death of public-employee unions, if not the death of organized labor itself. Tuesday’s results are also seen as the final chapter in the story of the populist uprising that burst into life last year in the state capital of Madison. The Cheddar Revolution, so the argument goes, was buried in a mountain of ballots.
But that burial ceremony may prove premature. Most of the conclusions of the last few days, left and right, are likely wrong.
The energy of the Wisconsin uprising was never electoral. The movement’s mistake: letting itself be channeled solely into traditional politics, into the usual box of uninspired candidates and the usual line-up of debates, primaries, and general elections. The uprising was too broad and diverse to fit electoral politics comfortably. You can’t play a symphony with a single instrument. Nor can you funnel the energy and outrage of a popular movement into a single race, behind a single well-worn candidate, at a time when all the money in the world from corporate “individuals” and right-wing billionaires is pouring into races like the Walker recall.
Colin Millard, an organizer at the International Brotherhood of Bridge, Structural, Ornamental, and Reinforcing Iron Workers, admitted as much on the eve of the recall. We were standing inside his storefront office in the small town of Horicon, Wisconsin. It was night outside. “The moment you start a recall,” he told me, “you’re playing their game by their rules.”
Check it out. It’s well worth the read.
In other news,
Yesterday the Supreme Court declined to hear appeals from some detainees at Guantanamo. At Mother Jones, Adam Serwer asks: Did the Supreme Court Just Gut Habeas Rights?
The Supreme Court’s decision on Monday not to hear appeals from a group of Gitmo detainees leaves the remaining 169 detainees at the facility with little chance of securing their freedom through US courts.
In the 2008 case Boumediene v. Bush, the Supreme Court ruled detainees at Gitmo could challenge their detention in US courts. That decision was seen as effectively ending the Bush administration’s attempt to carve out a legal black hole for suspected terror detainees. Shortly thereafter, Gitmo detainees began appealing their detentions—and frequently winning in court. But in the years since the decision, conservative judges on the DC Circuit have interpreted the law in a way that assumes many of the government’s claims are true and don’t have to be proven in court. By not taking any of these cases, the Supreme Court has ensured these stricter rules will prevail. Civil-libertarian groups say that essentially leaves detainees at Gitmo with habeas rights in name only, since the rules make it virtually impossible for detainees to win in court. A Seton Hall University School of Law report from May found that, prior to the DC Circuit’s reinterpretation of the rules, detainees won 56 percent of cases. Afterwards, they won 8 percent.
The march toward fascism continues. In other cheery news, a new Federal Reserve report says that the “Great Recession erased nearly 40% of family wealth.”
The Great Recession took such a heavy toll on the economy that the typical American family lost nearly 40% of its wealth from 2007 to 2010, shaving the median net worth to a level not seen since the early 1990s.
The Federal Reserve said in a new report Monday that median family net worth, the point smack in the middle of those richer and poorer, fell to $77,300 in 2010 from $126,400 three years earlier after adjusting for inflation.
The fall came with the collapse in the housing market and massive layoffs that slashed people’s incomes, and the pain was felt by families across the board — young and old, well-educated and less so, with children or not.
But the biggest impact was felt by young middle-age families, those headed by people ages 35 to 44. For this group, the median net worth — total assets minus debts — fell a whopping 54% in the three-year period to $42,100 in 2010. Such was their financial hardships that only 47.6% of these families said they had saved money in 2010; that was the lowest among all age groups, where an overall average of 52% of families saved some money that year.
Senator Carl Levin (D-Michigan) is “‘worried’ by influx of dark money” in the 2012 election because of the Citizen’s United decision.
“The thing that worries me frankly the most is the huge amount of hidden money which is going to get into — it already is in — the Romney campaign,” he said on Current TV’s War Room.
“The Super PAC money worries me. The fact that Mr. Romney will not disclose who is bundling his money, he is keeping that secret as well… It’s bad enough that we have these unlimited amounts of money that go into Super PACs.”
Levin says that Congress could force SuperPacs to reveal the names of donors, but so far the Republicans have blocked his bill to do that.
At The Daily Beast, Peter Beinart asks why Bashar al-Assad isn’t on President Obama’s “kill list.” After all, he claims the right to kill just about anyone in the name of terrorism. If Assad isn’t a terrorist, who is?
Fine, you say, but there’s an executive order against assassinating heads of state. That’s true, but we don’t exactly abide by it. During the Cold War, the United States helped orchestrate coups that led to the deaths of South Vietnam’s Ngo Dinh Diem and Chile’s Salvador Allende. The Bush administration launched the 2003 Iraq War with a decapitation strike aimed at killing Saddam Hussein. And whether or not the United States had a hand in Muammar Gaddafi’s death last fall, it was the predictable—and perhaps desired—result of the war we launched.
But doesn’t assassinating foreign leaders set a worrisome precedent? If we can kill Bashar al-Assad, what’s to stop the Syrian government from trying to kill Barack Obama? We might ask the same question about the sanctions we impose and the wars we launch. The point is that the U.S. violates other countries’ sovereignty in all kinds of ways we wouldn’t appreciate if they did it to us. And the reason they don’t is not because they lack a precedent; it’s because they lack the power.