Old News: Genetic Savings and Clone

клонириваниеCats, as we know, have nine lives. On October 17, 2004 in the laboratory of the Genetic Savings & Clone Inc, Nikki, the Maine Coon cat started her second life. Little Nikki, a replica of the original Nikki who died a year earlier at age 19, became the first animal clone created for commercial rather than scientific purposes in a commercial rather than scientific laboratory .

petclone
A Texan cat lover named Julie has become the world’s first owner of a cloned-to-order feline, paying $50,000 for a genetic duplicate of her dead pet.

To produce Little Nikki, researchers used a technology known as chromatin transfer, in which Nicky’s DNA was transplanted into an egg cell whose nucleus had been removed. The embryo was then placed in the womb of a surrogate mother who gave birth to Little Nikki.

ulie holds her 9-week-old clone, "Little Nicky," yesterday in Texas. Little Nicky was sold to Julie by Genetic Savings and Clone for $50,000. She says its appearance and personality are identical to that of her previous cat.

Julie holds her 9-week-old clone, Little Nicky. Julie says its appearance and personality are identical to that of her previous cat.

It was a risky process, however. Lou Hawthorne, Genetic Savings and Clone’s chief executive, said that roughly a third of the clones in their experiments did not survive beyond 60 days. Between 15% and 45% of cloned cats born alive die within 30 days.

The company that offered the cloning service, Genetic Savings and Clone, was launched in 2000 by billionaire and University of Phoenix founder John Sperling. Sperling had hoped to have his hunting dog Missy cloned, but scientists were never able to accomplish that feat. Nonetheless, Sperling decided to go into the business of trying to help others recreate their dearly departed pets.

Unfortunately, even for the most devoted of pet owners, there’s a limit to how much they’ll pay to have their dearly departed feline recreated. Genetic Savings and Clone’s hefty $50,000 price tag was just too much to generate much interest in their services. The company recently reduced the price to $32,000, but still there were no takers. The company sent letters to its customers last month letting them know that they will have to close at the end of the year. The letters said that Genetic Savings and Clone has been “unable to develop the technology to the point that cloning pets is commercially viable.” (– Genetic Savings and Clone Forced to Shut Down.)

The company closed in 2006. Before Nikki there were goat, cow, rabbit, horse, mule, deer, mouse and the famous sheep Doll, all created in scientific labs. By the beginning of 2000s cloning technology was already fairly well developed, and scientists were able to clone human embryonic stem cells, an invaluable biological material from human tissue genetically suitable individual patient.

Many people were convinced that somewhere in clandestine laboratories human cloning is about to begin, or is in full swing. Reflecting the collective paranoia, in 2002, the second episode of George Lucas’ Star Wars, Attack of the Clones  in the final epic battle two armies, biological clones and mechanical droids.

Further reading:

 

That secret lair of creativity…

An artist’s studio should be a small space because small rooms discipline the mind and large ones distract it.  Those are the words of Leonardo da Vinci.

For ten years, the photographer Gautier Deblonde photographed workshops of the most famous artists of our time– his portfolio Atelier. Most of these liars of creativity aren’t small spaces, though.

This is one of them —  the studio of  Sir Antony Gormley, OBE, a British sculptor. His work space in London is a converted warehouse north of King’s Cross station.
Antony Gormley

(1) The works from the series Blockworks, having been created between 2003 and 2009. All the sculptures in this series are made of the same shape blocks in four sizes: each successive element is eight times the size of the previous one.

(2) Sculpture from the series Feeling Material. According to Gormley, it was created as an attempt to “describe the space of the body with the help of the matrix formed by the rings.”

Even if you do not know the specifics of Gormley’s creativity, it is  obvious that the artist working here is a person preoccupied with the dynamics of transformation of the human body, all that is connected with its dynamics. Iron as a main material of  Gromley’s sculptures might as well  be replaced by some entirely different substance, but most Gromley’s “men” were  made of clay replica of the artist’s own body.

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Joseph Backstein, director of the  Institute of Contemporary Art in Moscow (ICA Moscow) once visited Anthony Gromley in his studio when the atist was, quite literally, hard at work, his entire body  covered with in clay.  In the course of the ensued conversation, Backstein recalls, clay on Anthony’s body gradually solidified and, in the end, the only animated part of Sir Anthony was his mouth, his lips moving.

(4) Figure of Man in the left corner of the Deblonde’s photo, is an example of the most common manifestations of Gormley’s artwork. The artist likes to place such sculptures in different urban spaces: on rooftops, on the windows, at the edge of the sea — simply google his works and see them perched in most unusual places.

His best known works include the Angel of the North, a public sculpture in Gateshead in the North of England, commissioned in 1994 and erected in February 1998, Another Place on Crosby Beach near Liverpool, and Event Horizon, a multi-part site installation which premiered in London in 2007, around Madison Square in New York City, in 2010 and in São Paulo, in 2012, says Wikipedia.

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The sculptor Antony Gormley in his London studio with two of his works. Credit Hazel Thompson for The New York Times.

Actually, this large space on  Deblonde‘s photograph is only a small part of the sprawling lair.   Anthony Gormley– no surprise here — had long became an enterprise. His house has several floors with offices, workshops and laboratories. A huge number of assistants and workers are engaged in casting and creating models every day. Sir Anthony  is said to be very involved in the everyday activities of his staff, but he is no longer particularly hands on — or, rather, clay on — artist, like the hardening under the layer of clay self he was during Mr. Backstein’s visit.

Cosmas and Damian, Unmercenaries

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Cosmas and Damian Miraculously Transplant the Black Leg of the Ethiopian Onto the White Body of the Patient, aka Legendary Transplantation of a Leg by Saints Cosmas and Damian, Assisted by Angels, circa 1600s, artist unknown.

As it should be but not always so, good deeds, too, attract following.

Twin brothers Cosmas and Damian (died c. ad 287) were reputed physicians, and early Christian martyrs. They practiced their profession in the seaport of Aegeae, then in the Roman province of Syria.

Their most famous surgery, performed not without a considerable divine professional assistance, is depicted above. Sts Cosmas and Damian are regarded as the patrons of physicians and surgeons.

For their services brothers charged not a single penny (silver pieces, headless chickens or whatever currency has been on circulation in those ancient times.) Thus people names them Holy Unmercenaries. Their exemplary lives and martyrdom brought many nonbelievers into a Christian faith. 400px-Bartolomeo_Vivarini_-_De_heilige_Damianus_(of_Cosmas) 400px-Bartolomeo_Vivarini_-_De_heilige_Cosmas_(of_Damianus)

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Master of Los Balbases, ‘Saints Cosmas and Damian Performing a Miraculous Cure by Transplantation of a Leg’. c. 1495

Inevitably, this  drew attention of the Roman authorities to the brothers. Soldiers were sent to summon them but the Christians hid them for the sake of those who resorted to their aid. Not having found brothers, Romans herded and seized other Christians. Cosmas and Damian, however,  left the shelter and surrendered to the captors, asking them to release the hostages taken in their stead.

These were the trying times for the budding religion — the persecution under  Diocletian. Cosmas and Damian were thus arrested and ordered to recant under torture. They stayed true to their faith, enduring being hung on a cross, stoned and shot by arrows and finally suffered execution by beheading. Anthimus, Leontius and Euprepius, their younger brothers, who were inseparable from them throughout life, shared in their martyrdom.

Northern French Martyrdom of Saints Cosmas and Damian with their Three Brothers, part of an altarpiece Date circa 1480.

Northern French
Martyrdom of Saints Cosmas and Damian with their Three Brothers, part of an altarpiece
Date circa 1480.

However, its not as much the saintly lives of the brothers as the ample inspirations their saintly lives provided for the art and painters for generations that is, obviously, the subject of this post.

Saint Cosmas and Saint Damian Condamned Date between 1438 and 1440

Saint Cosmas and Saint Damian Condamned
Date between 1438 and 1440

1024px-Angelico,_crocifissione_dei_santi_cosma_e_damiano_04

Saint Cosmas and Saint Damian Crucifixed and Stoned Date 1438-40

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Le martyre des saints Cosme et Damien Italiano: Decapitazione dei santi Cosma e Damiano Dated between 1438 и 1443

Fra_Angelico_-_Saint_Cosmas_and_Saint_Damian_Salvaged_-_WGA00513

Fra Angelico – Saint Cosmas and Saint Damian Salvaged

982px-Fra_Angelico_-_Sepulchring_of_Saint_Cosmas_and_Saint_Damian_-_WGA00518

Sepulchring of Saint Cosmas and Saint Damian Date between 1438 and 1440.

Cryptomnesia 201. Plagiarism 101

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Cryptomnesia is a disorder (see my previous post Cryptomnesia 101.)  It is characterized by forgetting about the real source of information, difficulty discerning whether the event is a reality or a figment of the imagination. Among the main symptoms of this disorder are the following:

  • difficulty in differentiating between dream and reality, hallucinations;
  • confusing own thoughts and beliefs with those the once read or heard;
  • confusing events of own life with lives of other people, either real or fictional (books,movies).

    Roswita Szyszka. Confusion.

    British scientists M. Howe and M. Debish investigated the causes of false memories and concluded that the occurrence of sensations similar to déjà vu, the most frequently found in people with the following features:

    • high IQ;
    • emotionality, sensitivity,
    • competence in a particular area of expertise;
    • communicative, friendly  personality;
    • good memory;
    • creative thinking.mod1

    Cryptomnesia can give rise to unintended plagiarism, especially when logical memories are no longer recognized as memories, but are experienced as newly created ideas. In the field of literature, the characteristics of this kind of plagiarism are, according to Jung, repetition of the general trend of a story, including some unimportant details, but in phrases which differ from the original ones.

    Unintended verbatim plagiarism is a rare occurrence. It could be caused by cryptomnesia in persons with an excellent verbal rote memory. Two possible instances are described in detail. Cryptomnesia may have been responsible in one case, but careless filing of a copied poem is the more likely explanation in the other. (Cryptomnesia and Plagiarism, F. KRÄUPL TAYLOR, 

    Cryptomnesia may  explain how the apparent plagiarism of such people as Helen Keller or George Harrison of the Beatles might actually be cases of hidden memory.

    In the 1970s, George Harrison’s “My Sweet Lord” was at the center of a heavily publicized copyright infringement suit, due to its similarity to the Ronnie Mack song “He’s So Fine“, a 1963 hit for the New York girl group the Chiffons. In 1976, Harrison was found to have subconsciously plagiarized the earlier tune.

    Helen Keller’s  The Frost King is a dead ringer of Margaret Canby’s  The Frost Fairies.

    Both may simply be cases of not having a conscious memory of their experiences of the works in question, thus cryptomnesia.

    howIn 2006, Kaavya Viswanathan, a Harvard University student, seemed to have scored about as big as a college sophomore possibly could. Not only was her novel, How Opal Mehta Got Kissed, Got Wild and Got A Life, being published by Little, Brown, but she had also secured a movie deal for an adaptation of the book. But the Harvard Crimson reported after its release that several passages bore suspicious similarities to parts of the young adult novels “Sloppy Firsts” and “Second Helpings” by Megan McCafferty.

    Viswanathan released a statement citing her “photographic memory” as the problem, saying that “any phrasing similarities between (McCafferty’s) works and mine were completely unintentional and unconscious.”  Yet another case of cryptomnesia?

    nitАllegedly, Friedrich Nietzschе was a cryptomnesiac.  As a result of traumatic brain injury, philosopher periodically suffered from depression and even psychotic episodes.   The Thinker often confused reality with fantasy and often appropriated other peoples words and ideas.  Many of his philosophical concepts were later interpreted as plagiarism. Go and figure.

     

     

    The Dumas’ Musketeers got their start when Dumas read the first volume of the Memoirs of Monsieur D’Artagnan written by Gatien de Courtilz de Sandras.  It is also said that he had never read past the first volume. Dumas almost duplicated the beginning/opening of the work. He also borrowed a few details from the Memoires M. le Comte de Rochefort, notably the branding of M’Lady. Alexander Dumas, was repeatedly accuses of plagiarism. He didn’t contesty this claim, what he did not argue, looking at the problem philosophically: “Everything in this world is a rip-off. Even the Lord God created Adam in His own image and likeness.

    When Shakespeare was accused of stealing someone else’s text, he reportedly said: “The text was as a girl, which I found in the mud and introduced into high society.”

    Neither Shakespeare nor Dumas were cryptomaniacs…

    I’m thinking of writing a novel. It’ll be a historical fiction focusing on the mental anguish and moral dilemmas of an impoverished ex-student in St. Petersburg, Russia, Raskolnikov — that’ll be his name — is tormented by his own nihilism, and the struggle between good and evil. Believing that he is above the law, and convinced that humanitarian ends justify vile means, he brutally murders an old woman — a pawnbroker whom he regards as “stupid, ailing, greedy…good for nothing.” Overwhelmed afterwards by feelings of guilt and terror, Raskolnikov confesses to the crime and goes to prison. There he realizes that happiness and redemption can only be achieved through suffering. Something to this effect.

Here I go:

On an exceptionally hot evening early in July a young man came out of the garret in which he lodged in S. Place and walked slowly, as though in hesitation, towards K. bridge…

Igor Ivanov. Raskolnikov

What? CRIME AND PUNISHMENT? By Fyodor Dostoevsky? Translated by Constance Garnett?  Plagiarism? Oh, no! I must be a cryptomaniac.

Let me try again. Something entirely different. How’s this for the first line: It was a dark and stormy night…? Ah, well…

Cryptomnesia 101

памятьCryptomnesia is, literally, hidden memory.  Cryptomnesia is a memory that has been forgotten and then returns without being recognized as such by the subject, who believes it is something new and original. In general, the memory returns in the form of an idea or intuition […] (Definition from International Dictionary of Psychoanalysis.)

The term was coined by Théodore Flournoy (1854-1921), the Geneva-based psychiatrist. Flournoy came up with the term and first used it in his book From India to the Planet Mars: A Case of Multiple Personality with Imaginary Languages published in 1901.from indiaThe book attempts to discredit or, rather, explain and rationalize the spiritualist phenomena. The case in point was that of the medium Catherine-Élise Müller, aka Hélène Smith. Flournoy explains that most of miracles mediums perform are latent memories that come out, often greatly altered by a subliminal work of imagination or reasoning as so often happens in our ordinary dreams.

geuu_01_img0051It seems likely that cryptomnesia is feeding most of so-called past life regressions induced through hypnosis.For example, Virginia Tighe’s hypnotic recollections of Bridey Murphy of Cork, Ireland (Bridie Murphey Corkell), if not deliberately fraudulent, are most likely an elaborate confabulation fed by recollections of events that happened in this life — events that she had forgotten.

The story goes like this: In 1952, Virginia Tighe of Pueblo, Colorado, was hypnotized by local businessman Morey Bernstein. Allegedly, Virginia spoke in an Irish brogue and claimed she was Bridey Murphy, a 19th-century woman from Cork, Ireland. Bernstein says he encouraged past life regression and his subject cooperated. He hypnotized Tighe many times. While under hypnosis, she sang Irish songs and told Irish stories, always as Bridey Murphy. She gave a birth date as1798, described her childhood in a Protestant family in the city of Cork, her marriage to Sean Brian Joseph McCarthy, and her burial in Belfast in 1864. Bernstein’s book, The Search for Bridey Murphy (1956), became a best-seller and a movie. (Tighe is called Ruth Simmons in the book.)

the searchThe sessions of hypnosis were recorded, translated into a dozen languages and sold well. The reincarnation boom in American publishing had begun.

Question, however, remained: Was there a red-headed Bridey Murphy who lived in Ireland in the nineteenth century?

Several respectable (and not so respectable) newspapers sent their investigative reporters to Ireland.

No records were found that matched Tighe’s claims for Bridey’s birth, upbringing, marriage, or death. Bill Barker, one of the staunchest supporters of the story, did find a record of a clerk named John M’Carthy working in Belfast between 1858-1862. Is that all?

But then a newspaper, the Chicago American, found Bridie Murphey Corkell in Wisconsin in the 20th century.  She lived in the house across the street from where Virginia Tighe grew up.

What Virginia reported while hypnotized were not memories of her previous life but memories from her early childhood. Whatever else the hypnotic state is, it is a state where one’s fantasies are energetically displayed. Many people were impressed with the details of Tighe’s hypnotic memories, but the details were not evidence of past life regression, reincarnation, or channeling. They were evidence of a vivid imagination, a confused memory, fraud, or a combination of the three.

Another well documented “past-life memoirs” were produced by “Jane Evans” while under hypnosis induced by Arnall Bloxham.arnall-bloxham-resim

A Welsh housewife identified under the pseudonym Jane Evans was Bloxham’s unquestioned star patient. Under hypnosis she recalled seven different lives. She was a Roman matron named Livonia (who happened to be married to the tutor of the future Emperor Constantine) and, most famously, a 12th century Jewish woman named Rebecca who lived in the English city of York.

“Jane Evans” provided extensive details oft “Rebecca of York’s” life and travails  — the savage persecution that the Jews of her era often faced. She described hiding with one of her children in a crypt beneath a small church “near a big copper gate” before they were found and brutally murdered.

Was this, too, an unconsciously produced confabulation?

STMARY

St Mary’s Castlegate was founded in 1020, probably on the site of a Saxon church. The building dates mainly from the 13th, 14th and 15th century, when the 154ft/47m spire was built.

JEFFREY IVERSON took great care in verifying Rebecca’s story. Working with historians, Iverson established that “Rebecca’s” recall matched known historical accounts of Jewish persecution during that time period and also identified the church she described as St. Mary’s Church, near Coppergate in York. Even more astoundingly, an actual crypt was discovered beneath the church in 1975 which had been previously unknown.

Elated, Jeffrey Iverson published his findings in a 1976 book titled More Lives Than One?: Evidence of the Remarkable Bloxham Tapes. The book, along with the BBC broadcast, was presented as absolute proof of reincarnation.  more lives

Unfortunately for Bloxham and Iverson, later critics weren’t quite as impressed and far more skeptical. As Ian Wilson pointed out in his 1982 book, Reincarnation? The Claims Investigated, all of the evidence that Bloxham and Iverson had presented could be explained by the phenomenon of — what else? — cryptomnesia.

As for their star case, Jane Evans and “Rebecca of York”, Wilson raised a rather obvious point:

“Rebecca of York” was a fictional character. While the persecution of Jews in the 12th century was very real, Rebecca of York was a central figure in Sir Walter Scott’s classic novel, Ivanhoe (give yourself a literary pat on the back if you spotted this too). Many of the details “recalled” by Jane Evans matched points in Scott’s book (not to mention the 1952 movie of the same name featuring Elizabeth Taylor as Rebecca). Several of Jane Evans’ other past lives also resembled fictional characters (the Roman matron Livonia strongly resembles a character in Louis de Wohl’s novel, The Living Wood). The Bloxham Tapes.

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William Stanton Moses, a prominent nineteenth-century medium, could levitate, produce lights, and materialize objects during séances. mosesSo there. All of that and a small detail: the first recorded instance of cryptomnesia occurred in 1874 and involved William Stanton Moses. 

During a séance, William Stanton Moses claimed to be in contact with the spirits of two unfortunate  brothers who had recently died in India. The deaths were verified, but “further research showed that the obituary ran in a newspaper six days before the séance and all information in the obituary was given in the séance and nothing more was added.”

Well, let’s give the medium a benefit of doubt — perhaps he wasn’t a total fraud and a charlatan. His brains, somehow and totally unbeknownst to him, retained the information in the obituary and, a few days later, emerged in a form of “communication with the dead.”  William Stanton Moses was a cryptomnesiac… but still a talented trickster and a charlatan.

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Double, double, toil and trouble…

halloweendouble[1]Theater scene: two women making a call on a witch (the three of them wear theater masks). Roman mosaic from the Villa del Cicerone in Pompeii, now in the Museo Archeologico Nazionale (Naples). Work of Dioscorides of Samos.

787px-Pompeii_-_Villa_del_Cicerone_-_Mosaic_-_MANWitches have a long and elaborate history. Their forerunners appear in the Bible, in the story of King Saul consulting the so-called Witch of Endor. They also crop up in the classical era in the form of winged harpies and screech-owl-like “strixes” – frightening flying creatures that fed on the flesh of babies. (– Alastair Sooke.)

Jacob Cornelisz. van Oostsanen (circa 1472/1477-1533) Saul and the witch of Endor. Date 1526

Jacob Cornelisz. van Oostsanen (circa 1472/1477-1533) Saul and the witch of Endor.
Date 1526

Abandoned by God, desperate to get a reply from Him, Saul summons witches to foretell his future. Scrolls in the skies cite passages from the Bible. In the center, inside a magic circle, a witch is crafting her witchery.

Hans Baldung Grien, The Weather Witches (1523), oil on panel, Städel Museum, Frankfurt. Français : Deux sorcières Date 1523

Hans Baldung Grien, The Weather Witches (1523), oil on panel, Städel Museum, Frankfurt. Français : Deux sorcières Date 1523

Dosso Dossi (1490–1542) Witchcraft (Allegory of Hercules) Date c. 1535

Dosso Dossi (1490–1542) Witchcraft (Allegory of Hercules)
Date c. 1535

After Pieter Bruegel the Elder The Witch of Malleghem. The witch and her assistants prepare to cut stones of foolishness out of the heads of three victims in the foreground; around them gathers a crowd to witness the surgery. 1559 Engraving

The Witch of Malleghem. After Pieter Bruegel the Elder
The witch and her assistants prepare to cut stones of foolishness out of the heads of three victims in the foreground; around them gathers a crowd to witness the surgery. 1559
Engraving

The tumultuous 16th and 17th centuries were ‘golden age’ of witchcraft imagery. Witch trials convulsed Europe, witch-hunts lasting from 1550 to 1630.

“Across Europe, there was the Reformation and Counter-Reformation, the Thirty Years’ War, fantastic poverty and social change,” says Petherbridge. “Even King James in his text Daemonologie [1597] was asking: why was there such a proliferation of witches? Everybody assumed it was because the world had got so foul that it was coming to an end.” As a result there was an outpouring of brutally misogynistic witchcraft imagery, with artists taking advantage of the invention of the printing press to disseminate material rapidly and widely.(– Deanna Petherbridge, artist and writer.)

Frans Francken the Younger: Witches’ Kitchen, c. 1610:

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Fillet of a fenny snake,
In the caldron boil and bake;
Eye of newt, and toe of frog,
Wool of bat, and tongue of dog,
Adder’s fork, and blind-worm’s sting,
Lizard’s leg, and owlet’s wing,—
For a charm of powerful trouble,
Like a hell-broth boil and bubble.

A fine recipe from the three Shakespearean witches — an easy meal for the whole family to enjoy.

Theodore Chasseriau, Macbeth and Banquo Encounter the Three WitchesThree Witches, 1855 Postcards, Witchy

Theodore Chasseriau, Macbeth and Banquo Encounter the Three WitchesThree Witches, 1855 Postcards, Witchy

In the 19th Century, the Pre-Raphaelites and the Symbolists were both drawn to the figure of the witch, whom they recast as a femme fatale. But their sinister seductresses arguably belong more to the realm of sexual fantasy than high art.

The Love Potion by  Evelyn De Morgan.

The Love Potion by Evelyn De Morgan. The Love Potion is a 1903 painting by Evelyn De Morgan depicting a witch with a black cat familiar at her feet. According to Elise Lawton Smith, the painting “exhibits a Pre-Raphaelite fascination with medieval subjects and decorative detailing.” The Love Potion pushed the boundaries of society’s expectations of women by “exploring the nature of female authority through the practice of sorcery.”

The Sorceress  by John William Waterhouse
The Sorceress by John William Waterhouse

The Sorceress is a painting by John William Waterhouse completed between 1911 and 1915.

 The Magic Circle (Waterhouse painting) The Magic Circle is an oil painting in the Pre-Raphaelite style, created in 1886 by John William Waterhouse. The painting depicts a witch or sorceress drawing a fiery magic circle on the earth to create a ritual space.
The Magic Circle is an oil painting in the Pre-Raphaelite style, created in 1886 by John William Waterhouse. The painting depicts a witch or sorceress drawing a fiery magic circle on the earth to create a ritual space.

And a rather non-threatening witches of Jean-Baptiste Monge:

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Many art critics agree that throughout the history of the art having the witchcraft imagery as its subject the one constant is — surprise, surprise! — misogyny (save the sexy Pre-Raphaelites’ sorceresses, obviously, which more comfortably fall into the category of sexual objectification.)Quotation-Charlie-Huston-attention-women-Meetville-Quotes-34875“I believe that men are generally still a little afraid of the dark, though the witches are all hung, and Christianity and candles have been introduced.”
Henry David Thoreau

Never send a monster to do the work of an evil scientist

Never send a monster to do the work of an evil scientist.

“Never send a monster to do the work of an evil scientist,” thus spoke evil scientist in the Warner Bros. Looney Tunes Bugs Bunny short titled “Water, Water Every Hare.

There are numerous “anthologies” about “mad doctors” on the Internet, just google them. The four below are my “favorites.” More than a century apart, the first two look like amateur showmen, experimenting on cadavers in front of fascinated spectators, while the other two are true evil. And Josef Mengele, Angel of Death, isn’t even on the list…

Giovanni Aldini

Giovanni Aldini

Giovanni Aldini professor of physics at Bologna in 1798, was the nephew of Luigi Galvani, Italian physician, physicist, biologist and philosopher, recognized as the main pioneer of the bioelectromagnetics, the man who pioneered galvanism. Aldini spent most of his life testing the medical applications of his uncle’s discovery. He traveled Europe staging shows of his experiments.

In 1802, Aldini electrically stimulated the heads and trunks of cows, horses, sheep and dogs with high powered batteries. The animals’ jaws and eyes moved as though animal cadavers came to life.  Aldini2

His most famous experiment was publicly demonstrated in January 1803. Aldini sent electric charge through the face of a hanged criminal, George Forster, who had been executed for the murder of his wife and child. The face moved and contorted, eyes opened. By all accounts, the hanged murderer came alive. To freak out the horrified but fascinated audience some more, Aldini inserted an electric rod straight up the corpse’s anus. The cadaver, then, truly made a show, kicking and hitting Aldini’s assistants with his violently twitching legs. People were duly impressed. Some spectators even demanded to hang George Forster again.
aldini

Andrew Ure (1778-1857), a Scottish doctor, scholar, chemist and early business theorist.

Andrew_UreIn December 1818 Ure created a public sensation when he announced that he had been carrying out experiments on a murderer called Clydsdale after his execution. Ure claimed that by stimulating the phrenic nerve, life could be restored in cases of suffocation, drowning or hanging. It has been claimed that Mary Shelley used Ure as a model for her main character in the book, Frankenstein (1818).

Appropriate dissections exposed the various sites on the body selected for electrical stimulation.
No bleeding occurred proving that Clydesdale was indeed dead. Application of the connecting rods to the heel and the spinal cord at the level of the atlas caused such violent extensions of the bent knee ‘as to nearly overturn one of the assistants’.

In an attempt to restore breathing, the rods were connected to the left phrenic nerve and the diaphragm.
The success of it was truly wonderfull. Full, nay, laborious breathing instantly commenced. The chest heaved and fell; The belly was protruded and again collapsed, with the retiring and collapsing diaphragm’.

The real drama occurred when the electric current was applied to Clydesdale’s supraorbital nerve and heel.
By varying the voltage, ‘Rage, horror, despair, anguish, and ghastly smiles united their hideous expression in the murderer’s face’.

Ure

More on Ure’s experiments: Glasgow: The Matthew Clydesdale Story.

shiroSurgeon General Shirō Ishii was a Japanese army medical officer, microbiologist and the director of Unit 731, a biological warfare unit of the Imperial Japanese Army.

A doctor’s “god-given mission,” Ishii said, was to block and treat disease, but the work “upon which we are now about to embark is the complete opposite of these principles.”

In the name of defeating Japan’s enemies, Ishii and his staff spent the next five years mixing witch’s brews of pathogens that cause some of the world’s most horrific diseases: anthrax, plague, gas gangrene, smallpox, and botulism, among others.

Unit 731 used Chinese prisoners (dismissively termed maruta, or “logs”) as guinea pigs, forcing them to breathe, eat, and receive injections of deadly pathogens. Allied POWs were also allegedly targeted.

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Victims were often killed before the diseases had run their course, so autopsies could show their progress through the body. Ishii’s men also supplied the Japanese Army with typhoid, cholera, plague, and dysentery bacteria for battlefield use. In addition, they contaminated water sources, released disease-carrying fleas, and dropped contaminated wheat from airplanes.

Although dissolution of Unit 731 in 1945 led to the destruction of many of its records, there is no doubt that Ishii and his men had caused the death of many thousands of Chinese, and possibly hundreds of Russian and Allied prisoners of war.

sidneygottlieb

Sidney Gottlieb, aka Dr. Feelgood  was an American chemist and spymaster best known for his involvement with the Central Intelligence Agency’s 1950s and ’60s assassination attempts and mind control program, known as Project MKUltra.

There are stories that have come to light, over the years, that make the Central Intelligence Agency look like a collection of Looney Tunes shorts. The violence, the slapstick, and the over-the-top ridiculousness of the experiments that have been conducted over the years boggle the mind. They came from the (slightly-boggled) mind of one man: Sidney Gottlieb.

Sidney Gottlieb proved to the world that there are few things more dangerous than a chemist with a metaphysical streak – especially if he collects a few thwarted ambitions. Born in 1918, he was deemed physically unfit for duty in the Second World War. Instead of going to war, he went to the University of Wisconsin, and graduated with a degree in chemistry. His degree didn’t help him [get] into the army, but it did [get the CIA extremely interested.]

The Central Intelligence Agency, barreling into the Cold War, was trying to devise new ways to get an advantage over the enemy. Old warfare strategies wouldn’t work. They had to brainstorm new ones. It’s said that there are no bad ideas in brainstorming. The CIA, at the time, seemed set out to prove that there were no bad ideas at all. And Gottlieb was just the guy to try to help them.

gottlieb

Image via National Geographic

MKUltra was a nebulous plan to dose pretty much anyone the project could get its hands on with LSD. In San Francisco, prostitutes paid by the CIA secretly gave their clients LSD and dropped them in a room with a two-way mirror to let agents observe what happened to them. In Kentucky, mental patients were dosed with LSD, supposedly as part of their treatment. Around the country, prisoners were given LSD and subjected to mind-control experiments. The CIA even tried to discredit Fidel Castro by dousing a TV station in which he was about to give an interview in LSD.

The project was an unqualified failure. One person died (not Castro), many had lasting mental damage, and quite a few went on to sue the nation when the records eventually went public. LSD, Gottlieb found, did make some people more suggestible, but it did not give anyone the ability to ‘control’ someone’s mind – at least not to get any kind of predictable action as a result.наркота

When Gottlieb wasn’t trying to break someone’s brain, he was trying to poison people. He was the one to come up with the infamous ‘poison cigar’ and ‘exploding seashell’ gags which failed to take out Fidel Castro. When he didn’t aim to kill, he simply aimed to annoy. He wanted to spray thallium on Castro’s shoes. Supposedly this was to make his beard fall out, but more likely it was yet another murder plot. Thallium is an element that is so toxic it has earned the nickname of “The Poisoner’s Poison,” or “Inheritance Powder.” Although it can be treated with dialysis or chemicals that absorb the element, thallium isn’t just a depilatory.

One idea Gottlieb oversaw, meant to poison Castro, was instead used on an Iraqi general. It involved a poisoned handkerchief tucked into a suit pocket. It did not work. Another failed assassination scheme involved a tube of poisoned toothpaste meant for Patrice Lumumba, the Prime Minister of the Republic of the Congo. This toothpaste was meant to be doused with a biological agent, rather than a chemical one. This was a bit outside Gottlieb’s experience, so he experimented with many different possible agents, including smallpox, tuberculosis and equine encephalis. Lumumba eventually died in 1961, the victim of an uprising against him.

The Things We Won’t Know

Before Gottlieb left the CIA in 1972 to (no kidding) work with lepers in India, he became the head of the Technical Services Staff. There, with access to records, he destroyed about eighty percent of extremely damaging files, many of them about his own projects. This is frustrating for those who want to know the facts. (From the article in io9 Every crazy CIA plot you’ve heard of originated with one man.)

There is this place…

Larung -image-m-9_1429267845462

Buddhist monastery of Larung Gar, the focal feature of the Larung Gar Buddhist Academy, the world’s largest Buddhist settlement.

Larung Gar Buddhist Academy, also known as Serthar Buddhist Institute, is by far the largest Buddhist settlement in the world. Larung Gar sits in the Larung Valley at an elevation of 4,000 meters, about 15 km from the town Sêrtar, in Sertar County, Garze Prefecture in the Tibetan region of Kham.

Inside the village, some 40,000 monks and nuns are segregated and televisions are banned… but iPhones are allowed.larung4

The campus of Larung Gar is enormous. Houses for monks and nuns sprawl all over the valley and up the surrounding mountains. A huge wall through the middle of Larung Gar separates the monk side from the nun side. Monks and nuns are not allowed out of their designated areas except in front of the main monastery assembly hall which is common to both nuns and monks. The houses are all built in a wood style that is traditionally found in this region, and built so close together that they appear almost on top of each other. (From the article in Amusing Planet.)

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The incredible academy was established in 1980 in the uninhabited valley by Jigme Phuntsok, an influential lama of the Nyingma tradition.

Larung Gar is not a place overrun by tourists. For once, its location is quite remote. The nearest large city is Chengdu, some 650 kilometers away. Allow between 13 and 15 hours to reach the settlement by vehicle. Sertar is not particularly eager to host tourists and is often closed to foreign travelers.larung5

More than half of those who come to study are women.  Unlike any other Buddhist monasteries and institutions in other areas of Tibet, Serthar opened its doors to virtually anyone who genuinely sought to become a student of Khenpo Jigme Phuntsok’s ecumenical vision.
larung-gar-19 larung-gar-9[1] larung-gar-12[1]The huts of monks and nuns are segregated by a winding road through the middle.Larung

Ethnic Chinese, Taiwanese, students from Hong Kong, Singapore, and Malaysia, attend separate classes taught in Mandarin, while larger classes are taught in Tibetan.
Larung Monks_pray_inside_the_biggest_temple_of_the_town_during_hours_In-a-29_1429438485050

larung-gar-8

Larung Prayer_stones_decorate_the_colourful_Buddhist_academy_which_is_o-a-35_1429438756019

Prayer stones of Larung Gar

larung-gar-10[1]The settlement is also home to a number of Tibetan people who share the land with the monks and nuns.

Larung Gar isn’t on my list of places I’d like to visit before death do me part with this world. However, it’s certainly a unique place, fascinating to know exists. See more pictures here.

Lisa Was Really Sick

 Leonardo Painting the Mona Lisa Aimee Brune Pages 1845 Engraved by Charles Lemoine from the oil original. 1845. Paris, Bibliothèque Nationale.

Leonardo Painting the Mona Lisa Aimee Brune Pages 1845 Engraved by Charles Lemoine from the oil original. 1845. Paris, Bibliothèque Nationale.

 LEONARDO DA VINCI (Vinci, 1452 - Amboise, 1519) - Portrait of Lisa Gherardini, wife of Francesco del Giocondo, known as the Mona Lisa (the Joconde in French), c. 1503–06)

LEONARDO DA VINCI (Vinci, 1452 – Amboise, 1519) – Portrait of Lisa Gherardini, wife of Francesco del Giocondo, known as the Mona Lisa (the Joconde in French), c. 1503–06) Detail.

“Thin, gradually widening nose with nervous, quivering wings and pale pink nostrils… Great details for an understanding of Mona Lisa: it might as well she is hard of hearing, otherwise her ears would not have been covered by flowing hair — she would have cherished her auditory impressions more.

Her gaze is uncertain, but she has a subtle sense of smell, which is often coupled with a rather weak perception of a other sensory impressions. She is sensually attuned to smells but hardly sensitive to the suffering of living beings. To be compassionate, we must have good eyesight and hearing.”

“Something painfully degenerate emanates from this person, and I feel that this woman has a hidden ills. Her famous smile is a fixed grin, nasty, annoying, giving Mona Lisa’s entire face that is lacking of beauty, a hint of peculiar ugliness, unprecedented in art, either before or after Leonardo… 

The gloomy genius hovers over this portrait. Despite the bright colors of spring landscape, Mona Lisa looks as though she just emerged from a dark dungeon.” (Russian art critic Akim Volynsky  (1861 –1926))

Well, how’s that opinion fares against the most common one: Leonardo’s Mona Lisa is sheer perfection and her most famous feature, her lingering smile, is nothing less than a beautiful enigma!?

smileIt isn’t easy to be a heroine of, perhaps, the most famous works of art of all time.

These days Mona Lisa is being regularly given medical diagnoses.
In 2005, the paint­ing was ana­lyzed at the Uni­ver­sity of Ams­ter­dam using “emo­tion recog­ni­tion soft­ware”. Based on com­par­ing her fea­tures (pri­mar­ily her eyes and lips) to a ‘neu­tral’ expres­sion, it was concluded that the subject of the Mona Lisa is 83% happy, 9% dis­gusted, 6% fear­ful, and 2% angry.

Lately, numerous medical doctors — physicians, dentists, surgeons, ophthalmologists — Mrs. del Giocondo was a very sick lady. The list of her ailments includes (!) strabismus, hemiatrophy, discrepancy, congenital idiocy, diseases of the spine, excess of cholesterol in the blood, alopecia, toothlessness.Mona_Lisa Fingers

Take a closer look at Lisa Gherardini del Giocondo’s fingers. In the opinion of Danish physician Finn Becker Christensen, “discrepancy” in Mona Lisa’s fingers is one of the signs of congenital idiocy. Another evidence of this condition is her high convex forehead. Mona Lisa’s famous smile is asymetrical, “left-sided” — yet another sign of disturbed emotional state.Eyes

English ophthalmologist Clive Novis suggests that Mona Lisa’s unfocused gaze is a clear symptom of strabismussquint,  a disorder of vision due to a deviation from normal orientation of one or both eyes so that both cannot be directed at the same object at the same time. Other words, Lisa was cross-eyed.

These and other curious medical discoveries were collected for the article Беззубое совершенство (Toothless Perfection) in Вокруг Света (Around The Word) magazine. Half-way through retelling the article in English I stumbled across a blog post where someone  have already done it. To learn more about poor Lisa’s earthly suffering, see  Mona Lisa medical diagnosis.
Clearly, to the  doctors there are no healthy patients, only underdiagnosed. Soon it will be possible to test their hypothesis. Perhaps, soon enough it’ll be possible to prove or disprove some or all of the diagnoses: Mona Lisa search: Test results on ‘muse’ Lisa Gherardini bones to be announced.

Painter works on copying Leonardo's masterpiece, surrounded by finished copies.

Painter works on copying Leonardo’s masterpiece, surrounded by finished copies.

For a close-up view of the Mona Lisa, visit the Musée du Lou­vre web­site where you can zoom in for more detail than you could even see in per­son, and also com­pare the results of sci­en­tific tests done with infrared, x-radiography, and UVF scans.

Aristotle As A Pony

Aristotle (385 -322 BC)

Aristotle (385 -322 BC)

As a prolific writer and polymath, Aristotle of Stagirus (384 BCE – 322BCE) radically transformed most, if not all, areas of knowledge he touched. He was a tutor of Alexander the Great (Alexander III of Macedon). In a word — an outstanding man no matter which way you look at him, his life or his philosophy.

Aristotle mentors Alexander

Aristotle mentors Alexander

“Love is composed of a single soul inhabiting two bodies,” Aristotle taught young Alexander, initiating the future warrior-king in philosophy of carnal love.

Campaspe, also known as Pancaste, Phyllis and Phillida, initiated the young Alexander in love beyond philosophy, the first women with whom Alexander was intimate. She was thought to be a prominent citizen of Larisa in Thessaly.

One of the most popular legends and artistic motifs of the Northern Renaissance was the tale of Phyllis, Alexander’s mistress (in some accounts, his wife) who once rode the Greek philosopher Aristotle like a pony.

Once upon a time, Aristotle taught Alexander that he should restrain himself from frequently approaching his wife, who was very beautiful, lest he should impede his spirit from seeking the general good. Alexander acquiesced to him. The queen, when she perceived this and was upset, began to draw Aristotle to love her. Many times she crossed paths with him alone, with bare feet and disheveled hair, so that she might entice him. 

 At last, being enticed, he began to solicit her carnally. She says, 

“This I will certainly not do, unless I see a sign of love, lest you be testing me. Therefore, come to my chamber crawling on hand and foot, in order to carry me like a horse. Then I’ll know that you aren’t deluding me.” 

When he had consented to that condition, she secretly told the matter to Alexander, who lying in wait apprehended him carrying the queen. When Alexander wished to kill Aristotle, in order to excuse himself, Aristotle says, 

If thus it happened to me, an old man most wise, that I was deceived by a woman, you can see that I taught you well, that it could happen to you, a young man.” 

Hearing that, the king spared him, and made progress in Aristotle’s teachings. 

And they lived happily ever after. 

Phyllis riding Aristotle

Lucas Cranach — Phyllis und Aristotle (1530) Aristotle and his lover Phyllis. Phyllis is riding on the great philosopher, which is used to symbolize the power of the women. Story often pictured by Renaissance artists.

As Aristotle admitted, “There is no great genius without a mixture of madness.” 

Whether a true story or a mythical one, it was duly, gleefully and plentifully reflected in numerous artworks through the ages. Images of  Aristotle on all fours with Phyllis on his back has become more popular a subject than that of Aristotle in less compromising positions.

The writing tablet with a depression for wax on the underside, but the lid that protected the wax is missing. Legends about wily women making fools of intelligent men from classical times were very popular in the late Middle Ages. The relief on this writing tablet contains two such episodes. In the upper register, the Roman writer Virgil, who thought that he was being drawn up in a basket for a secret rendezvous with a beautiful woman, was left suspended in mid-air for all to laugh at. Below, on the left, Alexander asks his lover Campaspe (also known as Phyllis) to ensnare the Greek philosopher Aristotle. Her success is depicted on the right.

The writing tablet with a depression for wax on the underside, but the lid that protected the wax is missing. Legends about wily women making fools of intelligent men from classical times were very popular in the late Middle Ages. The relief on this writing tablet contains two such episodes. In the upper register, the Roman writer Virgil, who thought that he was being drawn up in a basket for a secret rendezvous with a beautiful woman, was left suspended in mid-air for all to laugh at. Below, on the left, Alexander asks his lover Campaspe (also known as Phyllis) to ensnare the Greek philosopher Aristotle. Her success is depicted on the right.

Hans Baldung - Aristotle and Phyllis.

Hans Baldung – Aristotle and Phyllis.

Lucas van Leyden: Arisztotelész és Phyllis

Lucas van Leyden: Arisztotelész és Phyllis

Maltererteppich, Augustinermuseum Freiburg

Maltererteppich, Augustinermuseum Freiburg

Master Of The Housebook - Aristotle and Phyllis

Master Of The Housebook – Aristotle and Phyllis

phyllis2

French Casket with Scenes of Romances.The  casket is carved with scenes from romances and allegorical literature representing the courtly ideals of love and heroism. In the center of the lid, knights joust as ladies watch from the balcony; to the left, knights lay siege to the Castle of Love, the subject of an allegorical battle. The remaining scenes on the casket are drawn from well-known stories about Aristotle and Phyllis, Tristan and Iseult, and tales of the gallant, heroic deeds of Gawain, Galahad, and Lancelot. The box may originally have been a courtship gift.

French Casket with Scenes of Romances. The casket is carved with scenes from romances and allegorical literature representing the courtly ideals of love and heroism. In the center of the lid, knights joust as ladies watch from the balcony; to the left, knights lay siege to the Castle of Love, the subject of an allegorical battle. The remaining scenes on the casket are drawn from well-known stories about Aristotle and Phyllis, Tristan and Iseult, and tales of the gallant, heroic deeds of Gawain, Galahad, and Lancelot. The box may originally have been a courtship gift.

French Box. Front with Scenes of Alexander and Pyramus  Walters  (1)The first two scenes, from the left, show Aristotle teaching Alexander and Aristotle ridden by Phyllis, observed by Alexander. The next two scenes show Thisbe and the lion and the death of Pyramus and Thisbe. There is a roughened area for the lock in the upper center. The upper border is recessed for the lid and has been cut down on each side. A piece of raised border is missing at each end. There is a longitudinal break, and pieces of ivory are mssing along the break and at the right end. Although the first two scenes depict two of the same subjects fround on the Paris box (Walters 71.264), the work here is somewhat coarser and must either have come from another shop or been done by a lesser hand. The change of the second two scenes from the Fountain of Youth to Pyramus and Thisbe suggests that there was a variety of subjects available to the carvers.

French Box. Front with Scenes of Alexander and Pyramus Walters (1)The first two scenes, from the left, show Aristotle teaching Alexander and Aristotle ridden by Phyllis, observed by Alexander. The next two scenes show Thisbe and the lion and the death of Pyramus and Thisbe. There is a roughened area for the lock in the upper center. The upper border is recessed for the lid and has been cut down on each side. A piece of raised border is missing at each end. There is a longitudinal break, and pieces of ivory are mssing along the break and at the right end. Although the first two scenes depict two of the same subjects fround on the Paris box (Walters 71.264), the work here is somewhat coarser and must either have come from another shop or been done by a lesser hand. The change of the second two scenes from the Fountain of Youth to Pyramus and Thisbe suggests that there was a variety of subjects available to the carvers.

аристотелъ и филлида

And a contemporary rendition:аристотелъ

Indeed, For the things we have to learn before we can do them, we learn by doing them. (–Aristotle, Nichomachean Ethics)

There is an interesting article on the subject Phyllis Rides Aristotle by Justin Erik Halldór Smith.