Whatever his accomplishments, few would call Ronald Reagan a “dove.” But, in his 2006 book Ronald Reagan and His Quest to Abolish Nuclear Weapons, an independent scholar named Paul Lettow makes the case of his title very convincingly: one of Reagan’s primary goals, never achieved, was to abolish nuclear weapons the world over.
One point in particular is crucial: this goal was Reagan’s, and it was not shared by most (if any) of his advisers. The most important program that Reagan undertook toward meeting this goal was the “Strategic Defense Initiative,” also known as SDI. Many thought this was simply a cynical attempt to “militarize” space, as another of its nicknames — “Star Wars” — strongly suggests. Lettow convincingly suggests otherwise.
The recently declassified “memcons” (memoranda of conversation) from Reagan’s summits with Gorbachev in his second term make it clear that SDI was not a cynical enterprise. Reagan was not using it as way to deploy a space shield that would give the United States an advantage in a first strike against Moscow. He repeatedly emphasized this fact, and repeatedly made it clear that once SDI was developed he would immediately give it to the USSR as well as an international body constituted for the purpose. In 1947, something like this was proposed with the “Baruch Plan” that would have internationalized nuclear power and eliminated nuclear weaponry. The plan failed, and SDI was part of Reagan’s vision for meeting its goals.
You might be surprised to read this: the original version of “Respect” was by Otis Redding, not Aretha Franklin. But even Redding realized what had happened moments after he heard Aretha’s version. As he put it at the time, “She just took that song away from me.” And so she did.
Every once in a while, a great cover, or a great use of a song, simply transforms it from one thing to another: “Respect” went from being an Otis Redding song to an Aretha Franklin song; …; and “The Final Countdown” went from being a relatively forgotten 80′s anthem (from the band “Europe”) to the theme song of Gob Bluth’s magic shows.
Another version of this phenomenon occurred on June 10, 2007, during the final moments of the final episode of The Sopranos. For anybody who’s seen it, Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believing” will never be quite the same song again. If you’ve seen it, watch it again below. But if you haven’t (lucky you!) start with episode 1.
Tanning addiction, also known as “Tanorexia” is a term used to describe a condition in which a person has a physical and/or psychological addiction to sunbathing or the use of tanning beds. Biochemical evidence indicates that tanning addicts are addicted to an opiod release that they become chemically dependant on during tanning. Interestingly, when frequent tanners took an endorphin blocker in a 2006 study, they experienced severe withdrawal symptoms, while infrequent tanners experienced no withdrawal symptoms.
Although the term “Tanorexia” has widely been used in the media and the public to describe people who excessively tan, both the word and the syndrome have not yet been widely accepted in the medical community. However, persistent Tanorexia inarguably leads to potentially negative and dangerous side effects for the sufferer, including premature aging and increased risk of developing skin cancer.
Extreme incidents of anorexia can be a symptom of Body dysmorphic disorder (BDD), a mental disorder in which a person is pathologically critical of their appearance; a sufferer of Tanorexia may perceive his or herself as having a much fairer skin complexion than would be described by others.
A great deal of 20th-century music is based on the foundation that the Viennese composer Arnold Schoenberg (1874-1951) laid with his two greatest innovations: dissonance and the twelve-tone scale.
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, the greatest composer of the classical age, was only thirty-five years old when he died. Franz Schubert, dead at thirty-one, was even younger. If Schoenberg had passed away at a similarly young age, he may have been remembered as a minor twentieth-century figure whose Gurrelieder was an impressive work in the tradition of Richard Wagner. It wasn’t until Schoenberg outlived both his Viennese predecessors that he began using his most influential techniques: atonality and the twelve-tone scale.
In the years preceding World War I, Schoenberg began to create radically new musical works, transcending what he called “every restriction of a bygone aesthetic.” His first innovation was the use of atonality. Atonality overturned the traditional relationship between “dissonance” and “consonance” in Western music. A “dissonant” chord or note is one that sounds unresolved, hanging in the air, and requires a “consonant” sound to balance it. (Imagine a conductor dramatically raising his hands near the end of a symphony, and then slowly lowering them to indicate the final, “consonant,” note.) Schoenberg ignored the distinction between consonant and dissonant sounds altogether. He declared this an “emancipation of dissonance,” still perhaps the best definition of atonality.
The twelve-tone (or “dodecaphonic”) scale is different. If atonality was a grand rejection of the Western musical tradition, the twelve-tone scale was an attempt to integrate atonality into everything that came before it. In writing a “dodecaphonic” work, a composer begins by arranging the twelve notes of the chromatic scale (C – C# – D – D# – E – F – F# – G – G# – A – Bb – B) in a non-repeating set. This forms the melody of the piece, which is repeated, inverted, reversed, and otherwise manipulated (much like the melody in a fugue). Schoenberg called this “The Method of Composing with Twelve Notes only related to one another.” It is the technique he is most famous for, but atonality had a much more lasting impact.
In 2001, Enron, after being named “America’s Most Innovative Company” by Fortune magazine six times, collapsed. How could something like this happen? How is it possible to hide hundreds of millions of dollars worth of losses?? And what is a “financial derivative” — that thing that played such a large role in the entire economy’s collapse a few years later — anyway???
Answering those questions would take more than a single post, but today’s entry on Enron in the Intellectual Devotional’s American History edition seemed like a good excuse to point our readers to some of our favorite sources on all matters financial:
Radio: The mortgage crisis. Bank failures. Health care reform. Issues like these have dominated headlines in recent months, but they take much more than a headline to explain. Whenever we’ve gotten particularly confused, we’ve turned to the Planet Money team at National Public Radio. They have a free podcast, and we feel just that much smarter and more informed every time we listen to it. Subscribe here.
Film: This is a post related to Enron, so we would be remiss if we didn’t mention Alex Gibney’s 2005 documentary The Smartest Guys in the Room. In it, Gibney follows two Fortune reporters, Bethany McLean and Peter Elkind, as they uncover the layers of Enron’s remarkable act of fraud. Dry as it sounds, there’s never a dull moment.
Pseudoexfoliation syndrome is an eye condition that is associated with two of the most common ocular diseases, cataracts (a clouding of the lens of the eye that affects vision) and glaucoma (a condition that refers to a group of disorders that affects the optic nerve). It is called pseudoexfoliation syndrome because it causes noticeable dandruff-like flaking on the anterior segment of the eye, including the lens. It has no known cause, and it usually affects both eyes (but can be asymmetrical).
Pseudoexfoliation syndrome can be differentiated from True exfoliation syndrome, which is caused by exposure to intense heat or infrared radiation, and is most typically seen in glass blowers. True exfoliation syndrome occurs when chronic heat exposure causes the capsule of the lens to become wrinkled and peeled, forming cataracts that can eventually develop into glaucoma if left untreated.
75% of people with pseudoexfoliation syndrome will eventually develop cataracts. However, surgery is not necessary until symptoms become uncomfortable for the patient. Moreover, between 15 and 20% of patients with pseudoexfoliation syndrome will eventually develop glaucoma. In these situations, the patient’s intraocular pressures, visual fields and optic nerve changes must be closely monitored for deterioration. Topical medication, laser surgeries and filtering eye surgery may all be necessary to manage the increased intra-ocular pressure.
‘Tis the season for five-o’clock dinners followed by family trips to the movie theater. If you’ve been a good Devoted Intellectual til now (and with Santa on his way, why be bad this late in the game?) you woke up this morning to the Intellectual Devotional’s entry on Nelson Mandela, the leader of the South African anti-apartheid movement and the first democratically elected president of the post-apartheid state he did so much to create. Time to follow up your reading with a trip to the cineplex!
Invictus is the latest from director Clint Eastwood. It is the story of how Nelson Mandela (played by Morgan Freeman) publicly embraced South Africa’s rugby team soon after becoming president. The team was long-popular with whites and widely-hated by blacks, and, in one of his first gestures toward interracial unity, Mandela tried to reverse this trend. In doing so, he worked closely with the team’s captain, Francois Pienaar (played by Matt Damon). The Mandela that emerges is a wily operator rather than a secular saint, and Eastwood’s film is a worthy tribute to him. A great way to spend part of your Christmas Eve!