Superbugs. These dreaded bacteria are the result, says Pulitzer Prize winner Laurie Garrett, of decades of improper use of antibiotics. The real culprits, she says are the titans of industrial agriculture. Read her terrifying interview in the latest Octavian Report.
If you have fond memories of reading Dubliners in high school but never got around to reading James Joyce’s other landmark and increasingly experimental works, well, don’t jump headfirst into Finnegan’s Wake just yet. Widely acclaimed and intimately written, A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man came out to the public in full roughly two years after Dubliners had been finalized. With the latter, Joyce exhausted himself convincing publishers to print his work — at one point declaring in a letter to one stubborn businessman that to not publish Dubliners would be to “retard the course of civilization in Ireland by preventing the Irish people from having one good look at themselves in my nicely polished looking-glass.” For Portrait of the Artist, Joyce gave up on British publishers altogether and, at the behest of a well-connected Ezra Pound, went ahead with an American publishing house.
The story captures, probably better than other literary work ever, the essence of experiential development from childhood to maturity; this is a subject-matter with lends itself to the stream of language, thoughts, fascinations, and fears that Joyce, with revolutionary style, embeds into each page. The very first lines: “Once upon a time and a very good time it was there was a moocow coming along the road and this moocow that was coming down along the road met a nicens little boy named baby tuckoo…” Toddler-speak never seemed so ripe for study.
A man, a gun, and a treasure to find — plus one of John Williams’ greatest music compositions. Raiders of the Lost Ark tells the enticing story of part-time academic, part-time treasure hunter Indiana Jones and his relentless pursuit to stop a batch of confident Nazis from acquiring the Ark of the Covenant. Held together by the picture’s masterful balance of story, atmosphere, personality and, of course, a legendary soundtrack, the world of Indiana Jones has not only retained its near universal appeal for decades, but is also a testament to the fact that good, emotionally-gripping movies can still be fun to watch.
Raiders of the Lost Ark is set in 1936 when Europe, nay the whole world, was about to plunge into chaos and wanton violence. Most movies that set in the late 1930s aggressively play up the fact that these were some of the darkest years of the 20th century — a time when it did, in fact, look like Nazism was poised to take over the world. People are moved by serious action-adventure movies framed by dire historical realities all the time, and that’s not to say that films such as Saving Private Ryan or Lawrence of Arabia don’t deserve the praise they rightfully receive. It is, however, worth recognizing that it requires a special touch to craft a movie like Raiders of the Lost Ark that is so exciting to watch, easy to enjoy, wholly unpretentious, and still counted alongside Citizen Kane or Gone with the Wind as one of the most meaningful motion-pictures ever made.
Not all great artists had to accuse their contemporaries of suppressing the advancement of civilization for the sake of getting a break in their career, as Joyce did. On this day in history, 1501, Michelangelo Buonarotti began work on David after he, an ambitious 26 year-old, convinced the Florentine authorities that it was he who should resume work on a previously halted commission to sculpt David for placement on top of the Florence Cathedral. The assignment had originally gone out to Agostino di Duccio in 1464 but, after only completing minor work on the bottom half of the marble he withdrew from the project in 1464. Another artist, Antonio Rossellino, was brought it and rapidly dismissed a decade later.
The block of marble proceeded to sit in the Florentine Cathedral’s work yard for 25 years. For the Overseers of the Office of Works in Florence, this was a disgrace: of the twelve total Old Testament statues their office had originally sought to craft for the cathedral, their only success so far had been Joshua, made by Donatello in 1410. With a new century upon them, it was time to put this oversize piece of marble — people familiar with the project called it the The Giant — pointlessly sitting in their backyard to use. Fresh off of his Pietà, enter Michelangelo. He would work for two years on the gargantuan marble sculpture starting on this night, 516 years ago. Although the final product proved too large to be placed on top of the Cathedral, David has been remembered ever since; for 25 years its original material sat lonely in Florence, awaiting the perfect artist. It’s almost fate that the marble should have sat there for nearly as long as Michelangelo had been alive by the time he crossed paths with it. Great artists, apparently, know when something is meant to be.