Saturday, November 05, 2005

David Syndrome!

This is wonderful!
(ANSA) - Florence, November 5 - The emotional effect of Michelangelo's
stunning David statue is to be gauged in a year-long study in Florence
.Florentine psychiatrist Graziella Magherini says she aims to "assess the impact
of the sculpture on cultivated onlookers." Magherini thinks a certain kind of
visitor "establishes a direct relationship" with the masterpiece .She has dubbed
this bond 'The David Syndrome' - similar to the dizzy and disorientating
'Stendhal Syndrome' Magherini identified in the late '70s .
The psychiatrist, who is president of Italy's Art and Psychology
asociation, believes the David statue may cause symptoms of "a more rarefied but
equally mindbending" variety .
Stendhal's Syndrome is a psychosomatic illness that causes rapid heartbeat,
dizziness, confusion and even hallucinations when the individual is exposed to
an overdose of beautiful art. At least once a month, foreign tourists have been
rushed to Florence's Santa Maria Nuova Hospital suffering from an attack of the
syndrome .It is named after the famous 19th century French author Stendhal
(pseudonym of Marie-Henri Beyle), who gave an early detailed description of
experiencing the phenomenon during his 1817 visit to Florence .
Although there are many descriptions of people becoming dizzy and fainting
while taking in the art in Florence, especially at the famed Uffizi Gallery,
from the early 19th century on, this was not described as a specific syndrome
until Magherini wrote it up in 1979 .Magherini observed and described more than
100 similar cases among tourists and visitors in Florence, the cradle of the
Renaissance .The psychiatrist recently said that more than half the patients are
tourists from European countries. Italians, on the other hand, appeared to be
immune to the condition, along with the Japanese, "who are apparently so
organized in their sight-seeing that they rarely have time for emotional
Hmmmm... I wonder what this syndrome would be called if it were associated with the Dominican gift-store at Santa Sabina? Any ideas, Lauren?
Another very British obituary (Lady Rose McLaren):
She took to driving glamorous cars and owned a series of Aston Martins and
an Alvis convertible, all of which she drove with considerable élan. In later
life she was proud of her membership of the Institute of Advanced Motorists,
whose test she last took at the age of 80; it was a qualification that did not,
however, always reassure her passengers, who tended to compete for seats in the
back of her car.
In north Wales she taught her two grandsons to play cricket and backgammon,
beating one of them at the latter in the last few weeks of her life (when he
accused her of cheating, she maintained that she was palming pieces only because
the morphine she was prescribed made her absent-minded).
For many years she
patiently endured the pain that may have been caused by her early days as a
dancer, and she overcame three bouts of cancer, the first in 1965, before the
fourth killed her; she died on November 1.
Lady Rose McLaren was a strong
character who expressed firm, if not always logical, views. But she was always
ready to change her mind, and proved a loyal friend. She loved handsome men,
fast cars, skiing, cricket and her garden.
In the Telegraph there's also a fascinating portrait of what's happening in Azerbaijan:
A gluttonous ruling elite, a browbeaten population and a police force fond
of cracking opposition heads - as corrupt autocracies go Azerbaijan seems pretty
humdrum. Except in one peculiar respect: it appears to be ruled by a dead
In bronze or in marble, on billboards and roundabouts from the capital
Baku to the remotest mountain village, Heidar Aliyev glares down at his people
two years after his
. Government officials and even ordinary citizens talk about him in the
present tense; to do otherwise is to invite suspicion.
In spirit at least, Mr Aliyev does live on. His son, Ilham, took over as
president in 2003 and generously allowed his father's chums and relatives to
keep their lucrative sinecures.
President Aliyev may be flawed, but he is an important American ally
running a country that has lots of oil and is strategically placed in the war on
terror, so change may not be a good thing, at least from the US administration's
perspective. As the many western oil men here are fond of saying, Azerbaijan may
be a banana republic, but at least it's a banana republic we can work
Britain shares America's qualms. British Petroleum has led the oil rush in
Azerbaijan and predicts that its oil field in the Caspian Sea will satisfy up to
a quarter of all new global petroleum demand over the next decade.
The reform-minded economy minister was replaced with a man whose son is
marrying the daughter of President Aliyev and his wife, who is said to be the
true power in Azerbaijan. Her cousin is foreign minister, her father president
of the military academy and her uncle is ambassador to the United States. They
have turned Azerbaijan into a family business, where 27 of the 30 richest people
are members of the government or related to the first family.

Because it proved so popular the last time, I present another panda photo!
And the Times has a piece about betting on scientific theories.
WHEN Ladbrokes teamed up with New Scientist magazine in August last year to
offer odds on five great breakthroughs being made by 2010, it looked like a
typical silly-season stunt.
It is now expected to become a very expensive
one. As soon as the book opened, physicists began to put their money where their
theories were and backed themselves to find gravitational waves — ripples in
space and time predicted by Albert Einstein but not yet proven to exist.
Alan Watson, of the University of Leeds, was astounded
to see odds of 500-1 on a discovery that he considered a matter of when, not if,
and promptly wagered £50.
So many other scientists did likewise that by
lunchtime Professor Jim Hough, of the University of Glasgow, who leads a team
seeking the waves, was allowed to stake only £25 at odds that had fallen to
100-1. When his colleague Sheila Rowan placed her bet in the early afternoon,
the odds were down to 5-1, and when the book was closed they were 2-1.
Ladbrokes is bracing itself for payouts of more than £150,000 — £25,000 to
Professor Watson alone — as researchers have switched on an experiment that
promises to prove the existence of gravitational waves as early as next year.

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