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April 4, 2007

Is the Stendhal syndrome a fiction?


Richard A. Friedman, M.D., in a provocative piece that appeared in the March 28, 2007 New York Times, suggested just that; his essay follows.

    Shoulder-to-Shoulder Swooning

    We humans take our art very seriously. How else to explain the throngs who will brave the foulest weather just to stand three or more deep to glimpse the latest blockbuster exhibition?

    Not that I’m above the fray. This winter, armed with a friend’s museum pass, I rushed off to take in the Holbein show at Tate Britain in London.

    At first, things looked promising; for about half an hour I actually got to see Holbein’s arresting portraits. Soon, however, I found myself in the museum equivalent of a scrimmage, elbowing my way through the crowd to a corner where I could get a view of some art — instead of the back of some museum visitor’s head.

    This brought a few minutes of one-on-one with Jane Seymour, one of Henry VIII’s luckier wives who escaped the ax. But soon the room was packed; I decided to call it quits and do the only sensible thing I could: study the crowd.

    There was a lot of hushed talk of Holbein’s genius and the horror of Henry VIII’s cruelty. But the prize had to go to a cheeky young boy, probably 10 or 11, who, after listening attentively to his well-educated father explaining that Anne Boleyn had been beheaded, remarked casually, “Well, she probably deserved it.” Apparently, he didn’t like her portrait.

    Clearly, there were some patrons who were more acutely aware of their aching backs and empty stomachs than the paintings and who were busy with lunch plans as they breezed past the art.

    Just when I thought I’d taken in the crowd, I noticed a young woman who was seated on one of the strategically placed couches, looking somewhat flushed. “It’s just too much to take in,” she sighed to her friend. “I’m exhausted.”

    Being a physician — and a psychiatrist at that — I quietly sat down next to her, pretending to gaze at a few more portraits. She had apparently been stricken with an attack of lightheadedness halfway through the exhibition. At first I thought she’d either had a panic attack or had forgotten to eat breakfast when I realized the true nature of her malady: it had to be a case of Stendhal syndrome!

    Named after the French writer who was overwhelmed with feeling at the sight of art during his 1817 trip to Florence, the so-called illness is characterized by symptoms like disorientation, palpitations, faintness and confusion.

    Stendhal himself described “ecstasy” and “celestial sensations” when face to face with the frescoes in Florence’s Church of Santa Croce.

    Fittingly, the syndrome was first named and described by the Italian psychiatrist Graziella Magherini, who has made the diagnosis in more than 100 tourists and visitors to Florence. In one survey, Dr. Magherini found that 56 percent of the patients stricken with Stendhal syndrome had a known prior psychiatric history.

    Just as I suspected: the majority of those with the putative syndrome had mental problems in the first place. This all makes me wonder if there isn’t a simpler explanation. After all, is it any surprise that some people feel queasy or even disoriented in the sea of bodies that regularly fill our temples of art? Why blame beauty when it might be nothing more than a reaction in certain psychologically vulnerable people to being packed like sardines in an unfamiliar place?

    To take an extreme example, remember the sculpture of the curly-haired youth that sat unnoticed in the lobby of the French Embassy for nearly a century until, in 1996, several art historians suggested it might actually be a Michelangelo?

    What do you think people would do if they saw the very same sculpture sitting in a museum in Italy, properly labeled, and surrounded by a tightly packed crowd? That’s right. They’d be swooning.


Here's a link to a more in-depth Times article on Stendhal syndrome.

The 1996 movie (top), directed by Dario Argento and starring his daughter Asia, seemed quite interesting so I took a $12.99 Amazon flyer on it.

April 4, 2007 at 04:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Corner Mesh Sink Strainer


Think outside the kitchen space: this device has many other potential applications, such as in a studio or workshop where small parts have a habit of dropping down the drain as they're being washed.

From the website:

    Corner Mesh Sink Strainer

    Our Corner Sink Strainer keeps scraps neatly out of your drain.

    Takes up very little space but provides a big service.

    Also great as a colander to rinse fruit, lettuce, etc.

    Ideal for sinks with or without disposals.

    Dishwasher-safe stainless-steel mesh.

    9¾" x 7" x 3½".


April 4, 2007 at 03:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack



Different; interesting.

April 4, 2007 at 02:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

DutchTub: From the outhouse to the penthouse


In January of 2004 I wrote about this ultra-cool hot tub after reading an item in the newspaper about its creation in The Netherlands by Dutch designer Floris Schoonderbeek.

Boing Boing picked it up — back then I hadn't a clue what that meant — and suddenly I had lots more readers.


Years have passed and lo and behold, what do I espy on the cover of the latest Hammacher Schlemmer catalog, propped up right next to me, but a chic version of the very same DutchTub, now styled "Portable Wood-Burning Hot Tub."

From the website:

    Portable Wood-Burning Hot Tub

    Made in The Netherlands, this handmade portable hot tub requires no electricity, hot water or plumbing and provides ample soaking space for up to four adults.

    Made of durable polyester, the tub rests on four sturdy feet spaced evenly to prevent tipping.

    Once filled to its 200-gallon capacity, a stainless-steel heating coil system uses burning wood to provide hot water for the tub; water from the tub flows through the tub's lower pipe into the heating coil full of burning wood, and is naturally circulated using convection, emptying hot water through the top pipe into the basin and heating the tub to 104°F in 2-1/2 hours.

    A stainless-steel basket holds firewood within the coil, allowing you to adjust the heat level by raising or lowering the basket .

    The tub's floor has a raised convex dome that allows you to stretch out your feet as if sitting on a chaise lounge, and the tub has a built-in ledge with a bottle holder.

    Includes a cover for faster heating.

    36" H x 60" Diam.

    165 lbs.



I suspect that you could build your own for a whole lot less money, just like the creators of the original.

MAKE magazine readers?

Ray Earhart?



April 4, 2007 at 01:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Ducts.org — The webzine of personal stories


A ton of stuff by some very good authors — all free.

The way we like it, and the way it should be.

Jonathan Kravetz, the editor-in-chief, writes in the current issue (No. 18), "Ducts.org has published nearly a thousand personals essays, memoirs, short stories and more since 1999."

April 4, 2007 at 12:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

iHome iPod Alarm Clock

From the website:

    iHome™ Alarm Clock for iPod®

    This stylish alarm clock gives you the choice of waking up or falling asleep to your own iPod tunes while charging your iPod at the same time.

    Reson8™ speaker chambers offer detailed, dynamic sound that gives life to every track on your playlist at any volume.

    The attractive space saving design of the clock includes adjustable accent lighting to suit your mood.

    Also features an SRS TruBass setting for a big sound and dynamic bass response.

    The Aux/MP3 line-in jack provides a connection for non-docking iPod models.

    Includes iH4 home system, AC adapter, and dock inserts.

    Plug unit in or use the included CR032 battery.

    Removable dock inserts fit all docking iPods.

    Also has snooze and dimmer adjust.

    You can also wake to a buzzer.


More, including a video of the device in action, here.


$49.99 (iPod not included).

April 4, 2007 at 11:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Participatory Urbanism — The cellphone as a 'networked mobile personal measurement instrument'


First there were SmartMobs, then twitter, now this.

A higher, better use for your cellphone.

Just the beginning.

Now where's my iPhone?

[via James ThornburgJ

April 4, 2007 at 10:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

What is it?


Answer here this time tomorrow.

April 4, 2007 at 09:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

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