dimarts, 29 de gener de 2019

Tehran bans dog walking in public spaces by Martin Morgan

Tehran bans dog walking in public spaces by Martin Morgan
By News from Elsewhere...

Tehran Police Chief Hossein Rahimi said "we have received permission from the Tehran Prosecutor's Office, and will take measures against people walking dogs in public spaces, such as parks".

'Fear and anxiety'
He told the Young Journalists Club news agency that the ban was due to dogs "creating fear and anxiety" among members of the public.

As if this were not draconian enough, Brigadier-General Rahimi added that driving with a dog in your car was also banned.

"It is forbidden to drive dogs around in cars and, if this is observed, serious police action will be taken against the car-owners in question," he told the agency, which was set up by Iran's state broadcaster to train young journalists.

Owning dogs as pets, and walking them in public, has been contentious ever since the 1979 Islamic Revolution in Iran, and owners have sometimes had their dogs confiscated.

Dogs are viewed as "unclean" by Iran's Islamic authorities, who also regard dog-ownership as a symbol of the pro-Western policy of the ousted monarchy.

The Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance banned the media from publishing any advertisements for pets or pet-related products back in 2010, and there was a push in parliament five years ago to fine and even flog dog-walkers.

The latest anti-dog drive has not created great waves on social media, although one Twitter user asked whether the people of Tehran will be forced to ride camels next.

Reporting by Martin Morgan

Bill Gates says poverty is decreasing by Jason Hickel

Bill Gates says poverty is decreasing. He couldn’t be more wrong
Jason Hickel
An infographic endorsed by the Davos set presents the story of coerced global proletarianisation as a neoliberal triumph
Tue 29 Jan 2019 09.28 GMT
Endorse: If you endorse someone or something, you say publicly that you support or approve of them.
Davos set: You can refer to a group of people as a set if they meet together socially or have the same interests and lifestyle. ( el grup de Davos / el grupo de Davos )

Last week, as world leaders and business elites arrived in Davos for the World Economic Forum, Bill Gates tweeted an infographic to his 46 million followers showing that the world has been getting better and better. “This is one of my favourite infographics,” he wrote. “A lot of people underestimate just how much life has improved over the past two centuries.”

Of the six graphs – developed by Max Roser of Our World in Data – the first has attracted the most attention by far. It shows that the proportion of people living in poverty has declined from 94% in 1820 to only 10% today. The claim is simple and compelling. And it’s not just Gates who’s grabbed on to it. These figures have been trotted out in the past year by everyone from Steven Pinker to Nick Kristof and much of the rest of the Davos set to argue that the global extension of free-market capitalism has been great for everyone. Pinker and Gates have gone even further, saying we shouldn’t complain about rising inequality when the very forces that deliver such immense wealth to the richest are also eradicating poverty before our very eyes.
Trot out: If you say that a person trots out old ideas or information, you are criticizing him or her for repeating them in a way that is not new or interesting. (tornar a treure / sacar a relucir)

It’s a powerful narrative. And it’s completely wrong.

There are a number of problems with this graph, though. First of all, real data on poverty has only been collected since 1981. Anything before that is extremely sketchy, and to go back as far as 1820 is meaningless. Roser draws on a dataset that was never intended to describe poverty, but rather inequality in the distribution of world GDP – and that for only a limited range of countries. There is no actual research to bolster the claims about long-term poverty. It’s not science; it’s social media.
Sketchy: Sketchy information about something does not include many details and is therefore incomplete or inadequate.
Meaningless: If something that someone says or writes is meaningless, it has no meaning, or appears to have no meaning.
GDP: Abbreviation for 'gross domestic product'. (PIB)
Bolster: Reinforce

What Roser’s numbers actually reveal is that the world went from a situation where most of humanity had no need of money at all to one where today most of humanity struggles to survive on extremely small amounts of money. The graph casts this as a decline in poverty, but in reality what was going on was a process of dispossession that bulldozed people into the capitalist labour system, during the enclosure movements in Europe and the colonisation of the global south.
Bulldoze: If someone bulldozes a plan through or bulldozes another person into doing something, they get what they want in an unpleasantly forceful way.
Enclosure movements: Enclosure (sometimes inclosure) was the legal process in England of consolidating (enclosing) small landholdings into larger farms.

Prior to colonisation, most people lived in subsistence economies where they enjoyed access to abundant commons – land, water, forests, livestock and robust systems of sharing and reciprocity. They had little if any money, but then they didn’t need it in order to live well – so it makes little sense to claim that they were poor. This way of life was violently destroyed by colonisers who forced people off the land and into European-owned mines, factories and plantations, where they were paid paltry wages for work they never wanted to do in the first place.
Paltry: A paltry amount of money or of something else is one that you consider to be very small.
In other words, Roser’s graph illustrates a story of coerced proletarianisation. It is not at all clear that this represents an improvement in people’s lives, as in most cases we know that the new income people earned from wages didn’t come anywhere close to compensating for their loss of land and resources, which were of course gobbled up by colonisers. Gates’s favourite infographic takes the violence of colonisation and repackages it as a happy story of progress.
Gobble up: If an organization gobbles up a smaller organization, it takes control of it or destroys it.

But that’s not all that’s wrong here. The trend that the graph depicts is based on a poverty line of $1.90 (£1.44) per day, which is the equivalent of what $1.90 could buy in the US in 2011. It’s obscenely low by any standard, and we now have piles of evidence that people living just above this line have terrible levels of malnutrition and mortality. Earning $2 per day doesn’t mean that you’re somehow suddenly free of extreme poverty. Not by a long shot.
Not by a long shot: Not in any circumstances. (Mai de la vida / ni por asomo )

Scholars have been calling for a more reasonable poverty line for many years. Most agree that people need a minimum of about $7.40 per day to achieve basic nutrition and normal human life expectancy, plus a half-decent chance of seeing their kids survive their fifth birthday. And many scholars, including Harvard economist Lant Pritchett, insist that the poverty line should be set even higher, at $10 to $15 per day.

So what happens if we measure global poverty at the low end of this more realistic spectrum – $7.40 per day, to be extra conservative? Well, we see that the number of people living under this line has increased dramatically since measurements began in 1981, reaching some 4.2 billion people today. Suddenly the happy Davos narrative melts away.
Melt away: If a crowd of people melts away, members of the crowd gradually leave until there is no-one left.

Moreover, the few gains that have been made have virtually all happened in one place: China. It is disingenuous, then, for the likes of Gates and Pinker to claim these gains as victories for Washington-consensus neoliberalism. Take China out of the equation, and the numbers look even worse. Over the four decades since 1981, not only has the number of people in poverty gone up, the proportion of people in poverty has remained stagnant at about 60%. It would be difficult to overstate the suffering that these numbers represent.
Stagnant: If something such as a business or society is stagnant, there is little activity or change.

This is a ringing indictment of our global economic system, which is failing the vast majority of humanity. Our world is richer than ever before, but virtually all of it is being captured by a small elite. Only 5% of all new income from global growth trickles down to the poorest 60% – and yet they are the people who produce most of the food and goods that the world consumes, toiling away in those factories, plantations and mines to which they were condemned 200 years ago. It is madness – and no amount of mansplaining from billionaires will be adequate to justify it.
Ringing indictment: A ringing statement or declaration is one that is made forcefully and is intended to make a powerful impression. If you say that one thing is an indictment of another thing, you mean that it shows how bad the other thing is.(crítica alarmant / crítica enérgica)
Trickle down: The trickle-down theory is the theory that benefits given to people at the top of a system will eventually be passed on to people lower down the system. For example, if the rich receive tax cuts, they will pass these benefits on to the poor by creating jobs.
Toil away: Toil away means the same as toil. When people toil, they work very hard doing unpleasant or tiring tasks.
Mansplaining: To explain something to someone in a way that suggests that they are stupid; used especially when a man explains something to a woman that she already understands. Origin: by 2008, from man (n.) + second element from explain (v.). The form 'splain, as a clip of explain, had been used at least since the 1960s as a colloquialism.

• Dr Jason Hickel is an academic at the University of London and a fellow of the Royal Society of Arts. His most recent book is The Divide: A Brief Guide to Global Inequality and its Solutions.

diumenge, 27 de gener de 2019

Why do we dream? You asked Google by David Shariatmadari

The autocomplete questions Sleep
Why do we dream? You asked Google
– here's the answer
David Shariatmadari

Every day, millions of internet users ask Google life’s most difficult questions, big and small. Our writers answer some of the commonest queries

Wed 3 Jun 2015 08.33 BST

Maybe we should ask the duck-billed platypus.

Duck-billed platypus: Ornithorhynchus anatinus
-billed: Combines with adjectives to indicate that a bird has a beak of a particular kind or appearance.
Beak: A bird's beak is the hard curved or pointed part of its mouth.

Back in the 1950s, scientists working on humans identified a state marked by increased brain activation, accelerated breathing and heart rate, and muscular paralysis. But perhaps the most remarkable feature was a flickering of the eyes beneath closed eyelids – because all these physiological changes took place while the subjects were fast asleep.
Flickering: Moving swiftly, esp back and forth
Beneath: Under
Fast asleep: Someone who is fast asleep or sound asleep is sleeping deeply.

What the researchers had discovered became known as the “rapid eye movement” (REM) phase. Under normal circumstances, it recurs every 90 minutes or so, and takes up around 25% of our total time spent sleeping. It quickly became clear that people woken during REM had much better recall of their dreams; in fact, they would often say they’d just that moment been dreaming. As a result, the scientific community began to think of REM as the outward manifestation of the dream state. For the first time in human history, the most extraordinary and fantastical part of our lives had been subject to experimental observation.
Recall: Total recall was translated in Spain as Desafio total.
They’d just that moment been dreaming: They said they only dreamed at that moment.

Not only that, but animals were found to experience REM as well – some of them more often and for longer than humans. We now know that the REM-iest mammal of them all is, bizarrely enough, Ornithorhynchus anatinus, known to you and me as the duck-billed platypus. Perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised, since, as Nature notes, “an account from as long ago as 1860, before REM sleep was discovered, reported that young platypus showed ‘swimming’ movements of their forepaws while asleep”.
REM-iest: Note the superlative construction
Bizarrely: Something that is bizarre is very odd and strange.(de manera estrofolària / de forma estrafalaria)
Forepaws: Either of the front feet of most land mammals that do not have hoofs
Hoof: The hooves of an animal such as a horse are the hard lower parts of its feet.

Authors might conjure up androids that dream of electric sheep, but can we now say for sure that platypuses dream of juicy crayfish? Not quite. Oneirology, despite all we now know about the physiology of sleep, remains a puzzling and controversial field. During non-REM sleep DNA is repaired and the organism replenishes itself for the day ahead. But the question of why we – and probably most other mammals – dream, one that troubled our ancestors, is still pretty hard to answer today.
Conjure up: If you conjure up a memory, picture, or idea, you create it in your mind.

Until relatively recently, it was taken as a given that dreams were meaningful. These strange visions that came during the night, when the darkness all around spelt danger, must be messages from the gods, or glimpses of the future. The dreams of powerful men or women could become famous; a class of people emerged whose job was to decipher them, since they might foretell the fate of the clan or nation. The Old Testament tells the story of Joseph, called on to interpret the pharaoh’s dreams of seven “fatfleshed” cows and seven “leanfleshed” ones. He trusted in God, who gave him to understand that this meant years of plenty for the kingdom, followed by a terrible famine. ( fæmɪn )
Meaningful: If you describe something as meaningful, you mean that it is serious, important, or useful in some way.
Spell: The first sense is speak each letter in the word in the correct order. In this case is more related with magic. If something spells a particular result, often an unpleasant one, it suggests that this will be the result. A spell is a situation in which events are controlled by a magical power.
Foretell: If you foretell a future event, you predict that it will happen.
Fatfleshed & leanfleshed cows: Flesh is the soft part of a person's or animal's body between the bones and the skin. Fat is to hava a lot of flesh. If meat is lean, it does not have very much fat. (vaques groses i vaques magres / vacas gordas y vacas flacas)

Premonitions aren’t just the stuff of ancient history, however. Ten days before he was shot by John Wilkes Booth, Abraham Lincoln dreamt this:

I heard subdued sobs, as if a number of people were weeping. I thought I left my bed and wandered downstairs. There the silence was broken by the same pitiful sobbing, but the mourners were invisible. I went from room to room; no living person was in sight, but the same mournful sounds of distress met me as I passed along ... I kept on until I arrived at the East Room, which I entered. There I met with a sickening surprise. Before me was a catafalque, on which rested a corpse wrapped in funeral vestments. Around it were stationed soldiers who were acting as guards; and there was a throng of people, some gazing mournfully upon the corpse, whose face was covered, others weeping pitifully. ‘Who is dead in the White House?’ I demanded of one of the soldiers. ‘The President’ was his answer; ‘he was killed by an assassin!’ Then came a loud burst of grief from the crowd, which awoke me from my dream.
Subdued sobs: Subdued sounds are not very loud. When someone sobs, they cry in a noisy way, breathing in short breaths.
Weep: Cry
Pitiful: Sad
Mourner: A mourner is a person who attends a funeral, especially as a relative or friend of the dead person.
Sounds of distress: Sounds of suffering, sounds of pain.
Sickening: You describe something as sickening when it gives you feelings of horror or disgust, or makes you feel sick in your stomach.
Wrap / wrapped: When you wrap something, you fold paper or cloth tightly round it to cover it completely. A wrap is a piece of clothing which women wear round their shoulders, either to keep them warm when wearing an evening dress, or for decoration over a coat. So, in Spain it can be a “rebequita” and the thing that covers a “burrito”. Note the definition of Rebeca in RAE: “Chaqueta femenina de punto, sin cuello, abrochada por delante, y cuyo primer botón está, por lo general, a la altura de la garganta. Del n. p. Rebeca, título de un filme de A. Hitchcock, basado en una novela de D. du Maurier, cuya actriz principal usaba prendas de este tipo.
Throng: A throng is a large crowd of people.

Coincidence, of course. Lincoln was at constant risk of attack, on the brink of victory after a bitterly fought civil war. But we can all recognise the uncanny quality of his dream: that chilling, portentous atmosphere. Where does it come from?
Brink: Limit, edge, point, border
Fight / fought / fought
Uncanny: If you describe something as uncanny, you mean that it is strange and difficult to explain.
Chilling: If you describe something as chilling, you mean it is frightening.

For the psychologist Linda Blair, there are two types of dream. The first represents a sorting-through of the contents of the day, a settling of sediment that is of no great consequence. But there are others, “those dreams that are accompanied by an emotional reaction, whether that’s happy, sad, or angry. They do have meaning.”
Sorting-through: Classification
Settling: To put in order; arrange or adjust as desired

These, she believes, are attempts to deal with issues in our lives that we have been unable to resolve consciously. “They travel down into our unconscious mind to be worked on, where they don’t distract us and distress us so much.” Does she believe in premonition? “Dreams are predictive in my opinion,” she says, adding that “they don’t really predict the future, because no one can do that. But what they predict is what you’re going to be solving soon in terms of problems.” As a result, her patient’s dreams are valuable tools, allowing her to take a shortcut to the heart of a problem that’s clinically important but may not have been articulated in any other way.

Though Blair’s work draws on a range of sources, it has its roots in the revolution begun by Sigmund Freud at the turn of the 20th century. He was the first to attempt dream interpretation within a scientific framework, and saw dreams as the disguised expression of unconscious sexual and aggressive drives. But what he regarded as scientific many now see as mere conjecture.
Draw on: Approach
Disguise: If you disguise yourself, you put on clothes which make you look like someone else or alter your appearance in other ways, so that people will not recognize you.

“Freud was incredibly important in giving people another way of thinking about dreams,” says John Aggleton, professor of cognitive neuroscience at Cardiff University. “But the problem has been converting those ideas into something that’s truly testable. And that’s where, from a neuroscientist’s viewpoint, there’s always been a stumbling block.” But, he concedes, “there are a number of common themes in dreams. A lot of people dream about sex. The couple of recurring dreams that I have, and I’m sure other people have the same dreams, one of them is about losing my teeth, and another – and this is the classic one lecturers have – is just going to talk and finding out I’ve got no clothes on, no trousers and no underwear and there’s nothing I can do about it.”
Stumbling block: If you stumble, you put your foot down awkwardly while you are walking or running and nearly fall over. A stumbling block is an obstacle

Surely these kind of dreams demand a psychological explanation? “Yes, but they could also point to a really boring thing which is the fact that you dreamed you’ve lost your teeth because you’ve put your hand across your mouth and made it feel uncomfortable. Likewise, it wouldn’t be terribly surprising if feedback from how your clothes or lack of clothes feel might be guiding the way in which some of these dreams recur.”

What else have those sceptical of psychological theories of dreaming come up with? In the 1960s, scientists found that when an evolutionarily ancient structure called the pons was removed in cats, all REM sleep stopped. Some concluded that, during the REM phase, chemical messaging from the pons activated higher areas of the brain, prodding them to produce images and sensations, completely randomly. Dreams, then, were the higher brain making “the best of a bad job in producing even partially coherent dream imagery from the relatively noisy signals sent up from the brain stem”.
Pons: a piece of connecting tissue; specif., the bridge of white matter at the base of the brain, containing neural connections between the cerebrum, cerebellum, and medulla oblongata
Prod: To stimulate, to provoke

For some, this provided a new basis for understanding dreams: they’re the sparks and effusions of a system in standby mode – like the crackles of an old TV set cooling down. For Patrick McNamara, director of the evolutionary neurobehaviour laboratory at Boston University, it’s a myth that still needs busting. “One of the main things that gets on my nerves is [the idea] that dreams are just random flux during the night, that they mean nothing.” Instead, he says, “there’s pretty good evidence now that dreams are functional”.
Crackle: If something crackles, it makes a rapid series of short, harsh noises. The radio crackled again.
Cool down: If someone cools down or if you cool them down, they become less angry than they were. In this case means that the TV set is closing.
Get on one’s nerves: To irritate, annoy, or upset one

Recent research has eroded the idea that dreaming only occurs during REM sleep, and that it’s a “bottom-up’ process”, with older parts of the brain activating the more recently evolved ones. But the paradigm initially shifted as a result of hundreds of studies of the content of individual dreams. These showed that people across cultures dreamed about similar things: for McNamara, evidence of an adaptive mechanism at work.
Erod: If someone's authority, right, or confidence erodes or is eroded, it is gradually destroyed or removed. Geological term.
Bottom-up process: from the lowest level of a hierarchy or process to the top

But why are they adaptive – beneficial to our survival as a species? Is it the old psychotherapeutic idea that dreams are the keys to unlocking problems involving relationships? “I think there’s good data that suggests that some of the things dreams do is help facilitate better social interactions,” McNamara says. But for him the real advantage is somewhat less poetic.

“Most scientists who study dreams think that we dream in order to practise avoiding threatening situations during the day … Men tend to dream about aggressive interactions with other men, whereas women tend to dream about verbal interactions with both men and women. And another pattern that was found repeatedly was that whenever male strangers appear in dreams, they tend to signal physical aggression.”

He goes on: “For men, the primary competitors for sexual access to females were other men, so they dream of aggressive interactions with other men. The appearance of male strangers signalling physical aggression probably relates to the fact that the most severe threats in ancestral times came from them. Raiders from a different tribe coming around and trying to steal women and resources: those were major survival threats.”

It’s interesting that, more than a century after Freud, whose focus on sex and aggression was ridiculed as an obsession by his detractors, they can once again be deemed the reason we dream. For therapists like Linda Blair, working in a broader framework – and for whom evidence is what helps a patient in distress – this can never be enough.
Broader: Wide

“I think there’s too much richness in each person’s brain to reduce things so specifically. For me dreams can mean anything. I don’t know until the patient and I work it out together.” Blair sees dream interpretation – which can itself produce subsequent clearer, or more baffling, dreams – as like “kneading dough”, working with an issue that might at first be too frightening or repulsive to apprehend, until it’s in a state that you’re ready to deal with. This can mean gradually coming to understand metaphors that are the subconscious’s way of bringing difficult issues to our attention. She cautions against jumping to conclusions over the meaning of fatfleshed cows and catafalques, however. “There are no universal dream symbols. Each person has their own symbol system, their own special private language and one of the real fun things to do in therapy is to decipher that.”
Baffling: Impossible to understand; perplexing; bewildering; puzzling
Knead dough: When you knead dough or other food, you press and squeeze it with your hands so that it becomes smooth and ready to cook. Dough is a fairly firm mixture of flour, water, and sometimes also fat and sugar. It can be cooked to make bread, pastry, and biscuits. (massa, pasta / masa, pasta)

One thing we’ll never be able to access, of course, is the private language of the platypus. And the likelihood that animals dream – as Aggleton says, “anybody’s who’s got a pet dog or cat will be sure of that” – is a good reminder of the fundamental mysteriousness of all this. For humans, dreams are bestial, instinctive and intellectual all at once. They are distorted versions of our desires and the taut thrillers we write every night. Why do we dream? Because we are alive.
Taut: Something that is taut is stretched very tight. (tibant / tirante)

dissabte, 26 de gener de 2019

The myth of the Mona Lisa by Charles Nicholl

London Review of Books
The myth of the Mona Lisa (by Charles Nicholl)
She's a global icon, celebrated in songs, poetry and Pop Art. Yet, 500 years after Leonardo da Vinci painted the Mona Lisa, we are no closer to unravelling the mystery surrounding the phenomenon. In the latest exclusive online essay from the London Review of Books, Charles Nicholl considers the enduring appeal of the world's most famous portrait.

(Charles Nicholl is writing a biography of Leonardo da Vinci.)

Thu 28 Mar 2002 18.29 GMT

Mona Lisa: The History of the World's Most Famous Painting by Donald Sassoon. HarperCollins, 350 pp., £16.99, 17 September 2001, 0 00 710614 9

Leonardo da Vinci's Mona Lisa may be 'the world's most famous painting' but almost everything about it is obscure. We don't know precisely when it was painted, we don't know for certain who she is, and as we stare at her puzzling features for the umpteenth time we are inclined to ask ourselves: what is it about her? It is that question, in all its historical and cultural ramifications, which is addressed in Donald Sassoon's elegant and comprehensive study of the Mona Lisa phenomenon.


The other life-changing event in the career of the Mona Lisa was her abduction from the Louvre on the morning of Monday, 21 August 1911. The thief was a 30-year-old Italian painter-decorator and petty criminal, Vincenzo Peruggia. Born in the village of Dumenza, near Lake Como, he had been in Paris since 1908, one of thousands of Italian immigrants in the city: 'les macaroni', as the French dubbed them. He had worked briefly at the Louvre, which was why he was able to get into the building unchallenged - and out again, carrying the Mona Lisa stuffed under his workman's smock. A police hunt ensued, but despite his criminal record, and despite having left a large thumb-print on the frame, Peruggia's name never came up. Among those suspected of involvement were Picasso and Apollinaire; the latter was imprisoned briefly, and wrote a poem about it. Peruggia kept the painting in his lodgings, hidden under a stove, for more than two years. Then, in late November 1913, he sent a letter to an antique-dealer in Florence, Alfredo Geri, offering to 'return' the Mona Lisa to Italy. He demanded 500,000 lire. The letter was signed: 'Leonardo Vincenzo', with a PO box number in the place de la Republique in Paris. On 12 December, Peruggia arrived in Florence, by train, with the Mona Lisa in a wooden trunk, "a sort of seaman's locker"; he checked into a low-rent hotel, the Albergo Tripoli-Italia on via Panzani (still in business, though now called - what else? - the Hotel La Gioconda). Here, in the presence of Alfredo Geri and Giovanni Poggi, the director of the Uffizi, Peruggia opened the trunk, revealing some old shoes and woollen underclothes, and - as Geri relates - "after taking out these not very appetising objects" he "lifted up the false bottom of the trunk, under which we saw the picture . . . We were filled with a strong emotion. Vincenzo looked at us with a kind of fixed stare, smiling complacently, as if he had painted it himself." He was arrested later that day. Efforts were made to turn Peruggia into a cultural hero - Gabriele d'Annunzio was as vocal as usual - but at his trial he proved a disappointment. He said he had first intended to steal Mantegna's Mars and Venus, but had decided on the Mona Lisa instead because it was smaller. He was imprisoned for 12 months; he died in 1947.
A police hunt ensued: A hunt is a chase or search. If something ensues, it happens immediately after another event, usually as a result of it.
Lodgins: If you live in lodgings, you live in a room or rooms in someone's house and you pay them for this.
Stove: A piece of equipment which provides heat, either for cooking or for heating a room.
Wooden trunk: Wooden box
Vocal: You say that people are vocal when they speak forcefully about something that they feel strongly about.

Mantegna’s Parnasus:      159 cm × 192 cm
Gioconda:                             77 cm × 53 cm

The theft and recovery of the Mona Lisa were, in Sassoon's view, the clinching of her international celebrity. Both unleashed a swarm of newspaper features, commemorative postcards, cartoons, ballads, cabaret-revues and comic silent films. These are the heralds of the painting's modern existence as global pop-icon. Marcel Duchamp's defaced Gioconda of 1919, saucily entitled LHOOQ (i.e. 'Elle a chaud au cul', or 'she's hot in the arse') is the most famous of the send-ups, though it is predated by more than twenty years by the pipe-smoking Mona Lisa, drawn by the illustrator Sapeck (Eugene Bataille). And so the way is open for the endless versions: for Warhol's multiple Gioconda (Thirty Are Better than One); for Terry Gilliam's animated Gioconda in the Monty Python title sequence; for William Gibson's 'sprawl novel' Mona Lisa Overdrive; for the classic citations in Cole Porter's You're the Top, Nat 'King' Cole's Mona Lisa and Bob Dylan's Visions of Johanna; for the spliff-smoking poster and the novelty mouse-pad. 

Personally I suspect that I first became aware of the Mona Lisa through the Jimmy Clanton hit of c.1960, which began:

'She's Venus in blue jeans,
Mona Lisa with a pony tail.'

This allusion seems to have escaped the net of Sassoon's compendious research, though its wonderful bubblegum blandness illustrates well enough the fate that has befallen this mysterious and beautiful painting.

Clinch: Definitive
Unleashed: Start suddenly
Swarm: To be filled or crowded. In other sense a swarm of bees or other insects is a large group of them flying together.
Sprawl: In William Gibson's fiction, the Sprawl is a colloquial name for the Boston-Atlanta Metropolitan Axis (BAMA), an urban sprawl environment on a massive scale, and a fictional extension of the real Northeast megalopolis.
Spliff: A spliff is a cigarette which contains cannabis or marijuana.
Befall: If something bad or dangerous befalls you, it happens to you

divendres, 25 de gener de 2019



Italian Workingman Resented Art Spoliation by the First Napoleon.
Art Dealer Through Whom Painting Was Recovered May Get Reward of $48,000.

FLORENCE, Italy. December 13.-The authenticity of the "Mona Lisa" found yesterday in possession of Vincenzo Perugia was confirmed by experts after further examination today.

The picture bears the seals of the Louvre and other galleries in which it has been hung; while the traces of repairs at the back of the canvas also are visible. The prisoner was again interrogated by the police authorities this morning. He repeated his story of having stolen the picture as an act of patriotic vengeance for Napoleon's depredations in Italy. He displayed the utmost indignation at his treatment by the police, declaring it unjust after the risks he had run and the abnegation he had demonstrated out of patriotic sentiment.

A number of prominent Italians have written to the Italian minister of public instruction requesting him to permit "'Mona Lisa" to be placed on exhibition in Florence, its former home, before returning it to the French government.

Some weeks ago an Italian wrote to Signor Geri, an antiquary of Florence, saying: "I am in possession of the missing 'Mona Lisa," but being a patriotic Italian I desire that it shall remain in Florence, the center of Italian art."

He signed the letter "Leonard," and the antiquary at first paid small attention to it thinking he had to do with a madman. Later, however, he communicated with Dr. Poggi, director of the Florentine museums, who suggested that he continue the correspondence with the man. This was done, and an appointment was arranged whereby Geri was to view the picture at Milan. The date set was November 17, but unforeseen circumstances prevented the meeting.

Recognizes "Mona Lisa."
A young man fairly well dressed, visited Geri Thursday. He said he was "Leonard" and was staying at the Hotel Tripoli. He asked Geri to go with him to see the picture. The dealer notified Dr. Poggi. who hastened to the hotel, and on being shown the painting recogii'zed it as the genuine "Mona Lisa."

Dr. Poggi asked to be allowed to take the picture with him, so that he might compare it with other works. He made an appointment to meet "Leonard" yesterday afternoon at the hotel, to agree upon the price. The director took with him several officers, who placed the man under arrest.

On being interrogated the prisoner said his real name is Vincenzo Perugia, that he was born in the province of Como, is by profession a decorator, and is unmarried. For six years he lived in France, and for three years was employed at the Louvre.

Perugia posed as a patriot. "I was ashamed." he said, "that for more than a century no Italian had thought of avenging the spoliation committed by Frenchmen under Napoleon, when they carried off from the Italian museums and galleries pictures, statues and treasures of all kinds by wagonloads. ancient manuscripts by thousands, and gold by sacks.”

Stolen Early in Morning.
He had often observed, he said, in the Louvre many works of art stolen from Italy, and conceived the idea of returning to its true home Leonardo da Vinci's masterpiece. He entered the Louvre early in the morning, detached the picture and removed the painting from the frame. He concealed the frame under the back stairs, where it was afterward found. He hid the picture beneath his workman's blouse, and succeeded in leaving the place without attracting suspicion.

At the time of the theft Perugia was not employed in the Louvre, but he knew all the exits and entrances, and how to avoid attention. He kept the painting concealed, he said, until his patriotism led him to offer it to the Italian people.

The picture was identified by Dr. Corrado Rieci, director general of the department of fine arts, who was dispatched hurriedly to Florence from Rome by the minister of public instruction, Luigi Credaro.

Government Acts Promptly.
News of the discovery of "Mona Lisa" spread in the chamber of deputies, in session at Rome, where extremist members were engaged in fisticuffs in an endeavour to prevent a vote on the election of a nationalist deputy for Rome. The disorded ceased immediately. The deputies surrounded the minister of public instruction, who exhibited a telegram from Dr. Ricci confirming the statement he had already made by telephone.

All laughed at the defense of the thief. Some of them remarked that Napoleon's deeds were too antiquated to constitute grounds for feuds. If it were not so, Italy would quarrel with the whole world, as all countries had stolen masterpieces from her, not excluding the United States The famous Ascoli cope, stolen from the cathedral at Ascoli, which was returned by J. P. Morgan, was cited, however, as an instance of American generosity.

Senor Credaro announced that Italy would apply the same generosity, as he had immediately notified the French ambassador, Camille Barrere, of the discovery of the painting. He added:

Pomp to Mark Return.
'Mona Lisa' will be delivered to the ambassador with a solemnity worthy Leonardo da Vinci and a spirit of hapiness worthy of 'Mona Lisa's smile. Although the masterpiece is dear to all Italians as one of the best productions of the genius of their race. we will willingly return it to its foster country, which hat regretted its loss so bitterly, as a fresh pledge of friendship and brotherhood between the two great Latin nations." ,

Strangely enough, the painting is in an almost perfect state of preservation, notwithstanding the vicissitudes it must have undergone.

The French ambassador expressed his thanks to the Italian premier, Signor Giolitti: the foreign minister. Marquis di San Giuliano, and the minister of public instructon Signor Credaro for the notifcations he had received regarding details of the recovery of the picture. He said that the French government and the French people would feel the deepest gratitude for the promptitude of the Italian government and its generosity in desiring to return the masterpiece to the Louvre.

Finger Prints Confirm Confession.
PARIS, December 13. -Rene Viviani, French minister of public instruction, announced at the cabinet council today that there was no doubt the picture "Mona Lisa" had been recovered and was now at Florence, Italy. He said he had telegraphed to the Italian premier thanking him and the Italian government for their prompt action.

A representative of the fine arts department is on the way to Rome to bring the picture back to Paris.

Fresh proof that "Mona Lisa ' was taken from the Louvre by Vincenzo Perugia was established today when his finger prints taken when he was convicted some time ago of carrying firearms without a permit were compared with those on the frame and glass of the picture and found exactly similar. The finger prints on the glass and frame were preserved by the police and the similarity with those of Perugia is apparent.

Excitement in Paris.
With ' Mona Lisa" found what was one of the unfathomable mysteries has been solved. The sensation caused by its recovery was equaled only by that caused by its disappearance in August 1911.

Special editions of the newspapers carried the news the length and breadth of Paris, and last night it was the sole topic of conversation.
The Florence dealer, Geri. it is believed, will be entitled to claim rewards amounting to 240.000 francs ($48.000) offered by the Society of Friends of the Louvre and Paris newspapers.

Regarded as Priceless.
"Mona Lisa," or "La Joconde," is one of the world's famous paintings, and regarded as priceless. Leonardo da Vinci took as his model for the picture Lisa del Glocondo. a woman of Florence. He worked on the picture for four years, from 1500 to 1504.

It was bought for France by Francis I. The value of the work can only be imagined since all offers to buy it were refused among them one reported to have been made by the British government of

The famous painting had hung in the place of honor in the Louvre in a room which was supposed to be always watched. It disappeared on the morning of August 22, 1911, and its absence was not noticed by its guardians until some hours later.

Image from The Omaha Sunday 1914 February 15th