Recent Discovery Not a Caravaggio, Experts Say

In this “year of Caravaggio” — the 400th anniversary of the controversial artist’s death has seen a major exhibit in Rome, as well as the possible discovery of what’s left of his mortal remains — there was news again last week when the Vatican newspaper L’Osservatore Romano reported on a newly found painting by the late Italian Renaissance master called “The Martyrdom of St. Lawrence.”

However, numerous experts have disputed the attribution, and today the Vatican has withdrawn their claim.  Vatican Museums head Antonio Paolucci now says the painting is “most likely a copy of an original by a Caravaggio-influenced artist.”      

Caravaggios do turn up occasionally.  A few years ago, Jonathan Harr wrote a best-seller, The Lost Painting, about the rediscovery of one of the artist’s works in Ireland in 1990.    

Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio (1571-1610) was fairly obscure until the rekindling of interest by Roberto Longhi and others in the 20th century.  He is now viewed by some as essentially the first modern artist; many are intrigued by his troubled personal life, the details of which are mostly preserved in ancient court records, while others are fascinated by the use of strong contrasts of light and dark and the homoerotic elements in many of his paintings.       

At any rate, if you’re interested in reading about Caravaggio, follow this link to a previous post which lists some of Greensboro Public Library’s books on the great artist.

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Guilford Unemployment Up Again

The State of North Carolina’s county unemployment data is out today, and it suggests the recovery is still a little shaky with 45 counties showing month over month increases in June.  

Guilford’s jobless is now 10.9%, up from 10.6% in May.

Please remember, if you’re in the ranks of the unemployed and looking for work, Greensboro Public Library would like to help.  Why not try out our Job and Career Information page?

Passing of Daniel Schorr

Just a brief post here noting the death of journalist Daniel Schorr.

While I’m old enough to recall the days when he was with CBS News and made President Richard Nixon’s “enemies list,” his frequent commentaries on National Public Radio are what I’ll always best remember about him.

Greensboro Public Library has three books by Daniel Schorr:  Clearing the Air (1977); Staying Tuned:  A Life in Journalism (2001); and Come to Think of It:  Notes on the End of the Millennium (2007).

Schorr was 93 and continued working almost up to the very end.

More on the Lost Ships of the Franklin Expedition

Nearly a year ago we blogged on how rising temperatures and the melting Arctic ice meant a race was on to find the HMS Erebus and Terror, the lost ships of Sir John Franklin’s expedition, which became ice-bound during a search for the Northwest Passage in the 1840s.

As I wrote last September,

For those unacquainted with the story, the Franklin Expedition set sail from England in 1845 in search of the Northwest Passage, a route between the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans through the Arctic Ocean along the northern coast of North America. 

By September, 1846, the ships had become trapped in ice off King William Island and were finally abandoned by their crews in April, 1848. 

Eventually the whole of both crews — 128 men in all — would perish, most probably from starvation, though not before resorting to cannibalism; other factors in their demise may have been scurvy and lead poisoning.  According to a message left behind and discovered by a search party in a cairn in 1859, Franklin himself had died in June, 1847.

Despite repeated efforts to locate the vessels over the last century and a half, their final resting places still remain a great mystery.  But if found, owing to the low temperatures in the Arctic, they are likely to be extraordinarily well-preserved, veritable time capsules of information about the expedition and its fate. 

As I said in my earlier post, these lost wrecks rouse the imaginations of historians, explorers, and adventurers to an unprecedented degree, much like Robert Ballard’s quest for the HMS Titanic did many years ago — so much so in fact that the Erebus and Terror are not unjustifiably called the “Holy Grail of marine archaeology.”      

Last September’s post was prompted by publicizing of yet another search to be led by Rob Rondeau of Procom Diving Services, a private effort which had conflicted with the Canadian government over its failure to consult with local authorities.

More to the government’s liking is the approach of Parks Canada, which relies heavily upon testimonies and traditions of native Inuits on the fate of the Franklin Expedition.

Now there’s word of a new Parks Canada effort to find the ships — they had earlier mounted a search in 2008 — and in addition to their quest for the Erebus and Terror Parks Canada will also be looking for a lost rescue ship which sailed from England in 1848, the HMS Investigator.

If you’re as intrigued as I am by the story of the Franklin Expedition and the efforts to solve the mystery of these lost ships, try Scott Cookman’s Ice Blink:  The Tragic Fate of Sir John Franklin’s Tragic Polar ExpeditionBuried in Ice by Owen Beattie and John Geiger (juvenile); The Man Who Ate His Boots:  The Tragic History of the Search for the Northwest Passage by Anthony Brandt; The Arctic Grail:  The Quest for the North West Passage and the North Pole, 1818-1909 by Pierre Berton; Ordeal by Ice:  The Search for the Northwest Passage by Farley Mowat; or Across the Top of the World:  The Quest for the Northwest Passage by James P. Delgado, all available from Greensboro Public Library.

Brown University Expedition Locates Tomb of Mayan Ruler

In the jungles of Guatemala, a Brown University expedition has discovered an extraordinary tomb of a Mayan ruler believed to be 1,600 years old, it was reported on MondayHere’s a link to another good article on the find. 

Led by archaeologist Stephen Houston, the Brown team’s find is being compared to that of King  Tutankhamen, which remains the most complete tomb of an Egyptian ruler yet discovered. 

The site is located in the Mayan city of El Zotz, and from the top of the temple-pyramid where the burial is located the famous site of Tikal can be seen in the distance.  The ruler’s tomb was situated deep within the temple and well-sealed — so much so that when the chamber was opened fragile textiles were still preserved and a faint smell of putrefaction could be detected. 

In addition to the textile fragments and bones of at least seven individuals, investigators found ceramics, jade, and even residues of foodstuffs.  Houston speculates the tomb must have belonged to a very important individual, perhaps the founder of a dynasty. 

If you’re interested in the ancient Mayan civilization of Central America, you may like some of the following items available from Greensboro Public Library:  Secrets of the Maya, from the editors of Archaeology magazine; The Fall of the Ancient Maya:  Solving the Mystery of the Maya Collapse by David Webster; Secrets in Stone:  All About Maya Hieroglyphs by Laurie Coulter (juvenile); The Maya World:  The Rough Guide, written and researched by Peter Eltringham, John Fisher and Iain Stewart with additional research by Alex Robinson, Dominique Young and Nastasha Ward; and Maya:  The Blood of Kings (DVD).

Krugman Now Warning About Deflation

Ever since the financial crisis really took hold of the economy back in September, 2008, Princeton economist Paul Krugman has been warning about the grim prospect of Japanese-style deflation — a grinding, slow-growth economic malaise that could go on for years.

This past week he expressed the same views again (here, here and here), following an article by John Makin appearing in the conservative American Enterpise Institute’s Outlook Series which makes much the same argument.

Krugman writes that “it’s a good bet that we’ll be seeing deflation by sometime next year.”  Makin believes it may be even sooner.  “By later this year,” he says, “persistent excess capacity will probably create actual deflation in the United States and Europe.”  

Deflation is already happening in other countries.  Prices have been falling every year in Japan since 2004, Ireland’s deflation rate is 2.7%, Spain is close to being deflationary at a year-over-year core inflation rate of 0.1%, and core inflation rates are dropping in both the United States and Europe.

But deflation means lower prices, so how could lower prices be bad, you may wonder?

Well, deflation is great for folks who have plenty of cash (the further prices drop, the more their money is worth), but the great risk is a deflationary spiral in which reduced economic activity leads to lower and lower production and wages, less lending, more layoffs, and a general stagnation.

If you’d like to learn more about deflation, Greensboro Public Library has a couple of titles which look particularly useful:  Conquer the Crash:  You Can Survive and Prosper in a Deflationary Depression by Robert R. Prechter, Jr.; and Deflation:  What Happens When Prices Fall by Chris Farrell.

We also have quite a few recent books on the economic crisis.  For a list of those, please see this post.

More on E-books and the Future of Books

In a follow-up to our recent post on the future of electronic books and libraries, check out this neat article from the LA Times about all the innovative ways books are being transformed by technology.  

Apple’s new iPads, for example, have multi-media potential to create “living books” with links to pictures, videos and audio files; and a new electronic publisher called Vook (combining the words “video” and “book”) is reissuing old, out-of-print titles jazzed up with video and sound.

How books are written and published is also changing.  Some readers are experimenting with collaborative books in online fan communities, coming up with different story-lines for popular characters or creating totally new characters (fanfiction.net). 

Novels are even being written through text-messaging  — one such recently discovered text-message novelist was awarded a $10,000 advance by a “real” publisher, St. Martin’s.  Other developments include online swap meets for digital books (scrib.com) and social networking or book club sites such as goodreads.com.

As the article puts it:

Now that anyone with an Internet connection — or even a cellphone — effectively owns a digital printing press, the distinction between professional and amateur writers is rapidly blurring.

Developments are obviously moving very rapidly.  What will eventually emerge as “the new eBay of book publishing” (i.e., the dominant electronic vehicle for online publishing in much the same way as eBay has come to dominate online auctions)?  I suppose that’s anybody’s guess. 

Similarly, it is still not clear how the mere reading of electronic books will shake out.  Will we need a dedicated device like Amazon’s Kindle or Apple’s iPad to read them, or will Google — which can be accessed on any computer — ultimately dominate the future of e-books?        

But surely all must agree these are interesting times for the book.