Archive for November 6th, 2017

The Da Vinci Goad

In Renaissance Florence, a number of designated boxes placed throughout the city allowed citizens to make anonymous denunciations of various moral crimes—in 1461, for example, the artist-monk Filippo Lippi was accused of fathering a child with a nun. But the crime that the government was really trying to control was sodomy, so notoriously prevalent that contemporary German slang for a homosexual was Florenzer. The common nature of the verrocchios_david_photooffense did not erase the threat of serious consequences. In 1476, Leonardo da Vinci, on the verge of his twenty-fourth birthday, was named as one of four men who had practiced “such wickedness” with the seventeen-year-old apprentice of a local goldsmith. There is little doubt that Leonardo was arrested. Although any time he may have spent in jail was brief, and the case was dismissed, two months later, for lack of corroborating witnesses, he had plenty of time to ponder the possible legal punishments: a large fine, public humiliation, exile, burning at the stake. It is impossible to know if this experience affected the artist’s habit, later cited as a mark of his character, of buying caged birds from the market just to set them free. But it does seem connected with the drawings he made, during the next few years, of two fantastical inventions: a machine that he explained was meant “to open a prison from the inside,” and another for tearing bars off windows.

Claudia Roth Pierpont


The GOoPer Guide To Pest Control

UnknownJust watch Texas Governor Greg Abbott explain that “killing is illegal,” then go on to note that there are also incidents in which people kill with trucks and knives, and such murders happen even in places where there aren’t many guns in private hands. This is an argument you hear repeated often: we see yet another mass shooting, and Republicans rush to point out that it’s possible to kill people without guns. It’s as though you turned on the light in your kitchen to find thousands of cockroaches covering the floor, and I said, “Look, I know a guy across town who once saw an ant in his basement. So there’s really nothing you can do.”

Paul Waldman

When I Worked

November 2017
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