Superstitious artists – Pablo Picasso

On April 8th, 1973, Pablo Picasso, a successful multi-millionaire painter, died in Southern France. Due to his longstanding aversion to the idea of death, there was not an adequate enforceable will. Under the French law, half of his immense fortune should have gone to his second wife, the former Jacqueline Roque, and the other half to Paul, his only legitimate child born out of Olga Khoklovla, his first wife. His three illegitimate children and his nephew could lay a claim for a piece of his vast fortune. They all did, entangling his estate in bitter years of legal proceedings that ended with negotiations.

Why wouldn’t a prominent figure like Picasso—who had the privilege of earning vast amount of money for his works during his lifetime, unlike many other painters—sit down to prepare a will? Because he was terribly superstitious and had always forbidden any talk of “death” in his presence.

Pablo Ruiz Picasso was born on October 25th, 1881, in Málaga, Spain, to two artists, his mother Maria Ruiz Picasso and his father Jose Ruiz Blasco, a professor in the Arts and Crafts School; popular lore says that the artist learned how to draw before he even could learn a single word. Under the aegis of his gifted parents, he developed quickly as an artist in prestigious schools. But there was another trait that he inherited from them: a superstitious nature. When we first visited Málaga, we searched for his home, which is located by a central square, right in the middle of the most kalé-influenced city in the Iberian Peninsula, renowned for its many superstitions. Location does matter.

Picasso’s superstitions involved even menial tasks like getting one hair’s cut by a barber. Being visually accustomed to his bald profile in later years, we forget that he had a lot of hair as a young artist living in Montmartre with the golden generation of artists from la Belle Epoque. In her book, Françoise Gilot, one of his former lovers, wrote that he believed that hair had magical powers and he could only trust a well vetted barber with its cutting and proper disposal. The assignment of power to hair is a constant theme in Mythology, starting with the story of Samson and Delilah.

However, most artists, including Picasso, are convinced that superstition can play a positive role to safeguard their gifts and to promote the much-coveted inspiration to continue producing work. The atelier of Rafael, the great Italian painter, has a bespoke machine to produce colored mineral additives that he had used in his magnificent tableaus. When Picasso visited his home, he planted both hands on the mineral residue, pressed hard and then lifted them ceremoniously; he laid both hands on his son’s forehead, expecting to magically transmit his predecessor’s inspiration to paint.

A much-camouflaged fact that shook his early career in Paris was the denunciation that he had arranged for the stealing of Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa from the Musée du Louvre in 1911. The police arrested Pablo Picasso and the French poet Guillaume Apollinaire, who had earlier arranged for the theft of two African statues that he eventually gave to the painter for inspiration. During his public trial, Picasso broke down in tears, but he never confessed to the crime; they were both acquitted and the painting surfaced, unscathed, in an Italian home in 1914. Did they do it?

What do you think? Please tell us.

Don’t leave me alone.

Cannabinoid research is stalled by red tape  

How can you soar like a majestic eagle in azure skies if your take-off is blocked by turkeys? That is precisely the gut feeling many medical and pharmaceutical investigators have at present when they have to confront the varied bureaucratic hurdles set by a tone-deaf US administration. Believe it or not, the critical clinical research on the potential value of Cannabinoids in severe chronic illnesses like Epilepsy, Parkinson’s Disease, Post-Traumatic Stress disorder, etc., is being haunted by the sorely outdated Marijuana Tax Act of 1937, which had  banned its use and sales.

At present it is legal to prescribe—with varying limitations—marijuana and the active components for medical use in all the American states except four of them; however, it remains in the Class I of the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) registrar of controlled substances, which makes it illegal to possess, cultivate, distribute it, according to the Federal statutes, Only in the handful of states that have approved its recreational use (including our state of Florida) have these rules being somewhat put in a “legal limbo” in order to allow the personal consumption of the drug.

In the February 2019 Senate hearing on the Opioid Crisis, many prestigious medical researchers decried that the fuzzy, confusing legal status of the drug has impeded the full deployment of academic resources to fully design and carry out comprehensive clinical trials for its usage. That has left many patients in dire need of relief with unanswered questions about the reliability and usefulness of many commercial preparations that might not have met stringent quality standards. Only the drug Epidiolex, a CBD derivative, was approved by the FDA in June 2018 for the treatment of Lennox-Gastaut and Drayet syndromes , two severe forms of Epilepsy affecting the very young,

Investigators emphasized the lack of a proper supply of consistent research-grade marijuana to conduct the necessary clinical trials as there is only one US facility, the University of Mississippi, approved to cultivate it; some researchers have openly criticized the quality of its samples, with several of them being contaminated by mold. According to the US Attorney’s office, twenty applications have been filled to cultivate marijuana but none of them have been approved so far. In spite of the talk pour la gallerie of politicians of all stripes in Washington, D.C. the reality sur-le-champ is that the Federal government might be effectively impeding the set-up of experimentation.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has declared in February 2019 that marijuana should not be considered as a controlled substance in international treaties, paving the way for governments to take a fresher look at their legislation. Sadly, the USA has a long history of ignoring the call of international organizations and stubbornly insisting on a pernicious attitude of “father knows best.” There are two countries that have approved the use of marijuana for medicinal and recreational purposes—Uruguay and Canada—and it seems that a few others will follow the lead very soon. When will our do-nothing representatives in Washington D.C. finally wake up to the need of implementing the proper clinical research trials on Cannabinoids and is derivatives for medical use ?

What do you think? Please tell us.

Don’t leave me alone.

Bon anniversaire Joseph Antoine Ferdinand

On October 14, 1801, Joseph Antoine Ferdinand Plateau was born in Brussels, Belgium, and he would become the mathematician and scientist that pioneered the use of fixed images to create the illusion of movement, the primitive forerunner of our cinema. The fabulous featured image of his invention in this posting has been reproduced from a Wikipedia article.

In 1829 he submitted his doctoral thesis where he discussed in a mere 27 pages the data on his experiments of the effects of color on the retina, the intersections of revolving curves, the distortion of revolving images and the reconstruction of distorted images through counter-revolving discs. On December 1832, he made a primitive stroboscopic device that gave the illusion of movement to the observing eye, which he initially named as the fantascope.  It basically consisted of two discs rotating in opposite directions; the front disc had several little windows carved out and the back disc had a series of images. Provided with the right spinning speed, an illusion of moving is recreated in our brains.

In a June 1833 article in the daily Le Figaro, his new stroboscopic device was re-named as the phénakistiscope, which is a compound derivation of the Greek Language; the word phenakisticos means “to deceive” and the word óps means “the eye” or “the face.” His critical invention is certainly to blame for the zillions of hours of enjoyable deception that Humankind has been enjoying in the glimmering light of a cinema or at home.

Coup de chapeau pour toi, génial inventeur et grand innovateur. Bon anniversaire!

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Don’t leave me alone.

Eppur Cristoforo e arrivato

Dear readers and fellow bloggers:

Good morning. Today is a special day for all the Americans (meaning all those persons born in the American continent and not just the USA) and especially for us Italian-Americans. On October 12, 1492, Cristoforo Colombo, a Genovese navigator at the service of the Spanish Crown, landed somewhere in the Abacos Islands of the Bahamas and claimed the land. For generations we have celebrated this day in schools of Uruguay and Argentina under the guise of the mendacious “Discovery of America” or the disgusting “Day of the Race.”

Precisely in Uruguay the genocide of the indigenous population by the European settlers was systematic with the last few members of the Charrúa tribe transported to Paris in the Nineteenth Century where they were paraded in the ultimate humiliation. Uruguayans pride themselves in the moniker of “charrúa” in the football competitions of the national team, a tragi-comic endurance of the name of an extinguished community. We must pause and ponder our collective guilt in their persecution and extermination.

However, the date is still the valid reminder that some hardy Spanish sailors did arrive in these coasts and started a colonization that with its illuminated and dark aspects has marked the inhabitants of this great continent for many past, present and future years. The European conquerors, with cruelty and determination, did bring a modicum of innovation to our countries when the Industrial Revolution changed the production of marketable goods for a more massive consumption and the rising of living standards.

We salute the valiant and gallant Cristoforo Colombo for his feat of exploring the fringes of the known world at the time; moreover we applaud his decision to renounce your Royal commission when he could not impede the pillage and assassination of natives. Moreover the dark complicity of many members of the Catholic Church hierarchy and priesthood must be emphasized by all the honest active Catholics in the continent. Would the economic and sociological development of the Americas have taken a more benign course without the European invasion and sacking of its natural resources?

Eduardo Galeano wrote in Las venas abiertas de America Latina that the present day power dynamics in Latin america has been enabled by the tragic Spanish conquest. He wrote his seminal book five decades ago, when the oligarchies and military dictatorships had all the levers of power in our countries, sidelining the rest to slow death by misery. In the past few decades there has been a slow democratization and empowerment of the middle classes that has pulled millions of Americans out of ignorance and squalor. Will this democratic process continue in favor of the more deprived segments of society?

We don’t have the answer to that question as these societies are still in constant flux .

What do you think? Please tell us.

Don’t leave me alone.