Mental Floss Presents Condensed Knowledge: A Deliciously Irreverent Guide to Feeling Smart Again
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Mental Floss Presents Condensed Knowledge: A Deliciously Irreverent Guide to Feeling Smart Again

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by Mental Floss Editors
     
 

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Loaded with meaty trivia and tasty, bite-sized facts!

mental_floss is proud to offer a delicious, hearty helping of brain-food that's sure to fire up your neurons and tantalize your synapses. Condensed Knowledge is a mouthwatering mix of intriguing facts, lucid explanations, and mind-blowing theories that will satisfy even the hungriest mind!

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Overview

Loaded with meaty trivia and tasty, bite-sized facts!

mental_floss is proud to offer a delicious, hearty helping of brain-food that's sure to fire up your neurons and tantalize your synapses. Condensed Knowledge is a mouthwatering mix of intriguing facts, lucid explanations, and mind-blowing theories that will satisfy even the hungriest mind!

Ingredients include:

5 tiny nations that get no respect • 4 civilizations nobody remembers • 5 classics written under the influence • 4 things your boss has in common with slime mold • 3 schools of thought that will impress the opposite sex • 4 things Einstein got wrong • 5 classical tunes you know from the movies • 3 famous studies that would be illegal today • 2 religious mysteries solved by chemistry • 5 scandals that rocked art, and much more ...

Editorial Reviews

Newsweek
“The titans of trivia.”
Calgary Herald
“An ideal reference to settle arguments or jog your memory.”
Charlotte Observer
“Part scholarly journal, part Spy magazine protégé.”
Washington Post
“A delightfully eccentric and eclectic new magazine.”
Chicago Tribune
“For the discerning intellect, Mental Floss cleans out the cobwebs.”

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780060568061
Publisher:
HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
04/27/2004
Pages:
352
Sales rank:
377,071
Product dimensions:
7.37(w) x 9.12(h) x 0.88(d)

Read an Excerpt

Mental Floss presents Condensed Knowledge PLM


By Jeff (None)

HarperCollins Publishers, Inc.

Copyright © 2004 Jeff (None)
All right reserved.

ISBN: 0060729171

Chapter One

5 Scandals That Rocked Art

Forgeries, thefts, and outright vandalism? That's right. Art history's about to get a whole lot more interesting.

_01:: The Vermeer Forgeries
Every age sees art through its own eyes, and the cleverest forgers play up to this. One of the most notorious forgeries ever occurred in the 1930s. A Dutchman named Han van Meegeren (1889-1947) produced forgeries of early works by the Dutch 17th-century master Jan Vermeer. They were technically brilliant and faultless, using old canvas and the correct 17th-century pigments. Cunningly, van Meegeren chose religious imagery that some experts believed Vermeer had painted, but very few examples of which existed. Most (though not all) of the greatest experts were completely taken in, but when you see the paintings now, you'll wonder why. All the faces look like the great film stars of the 1930s, such as Marlene Dietrich and Douglas Fairbanks.

_02:: The Mona Lisa Theft
It's sometimes suggested that rich criminals arrange for famous works of art to be stolen so that they can have them exclusively to themselves in private. Such theories have never been proven, and the truth is usually just a bit simpler. One of the most bizarre thefts was of the Mona Lisa from the Louvre in 1911. An Italian workman, Vincenzo Perugia, walked into the gallery, took the painting off the wall, and carried it out. Security was nonexistent.

About two years later it was discovered in a trunk in his cheap lodging rooms in Florence. So, why did he take it? It was nothing to do with money. He said that as the painting was by an Italian, Leonardo da Vinci, it was part of Italy's national cultural heritage, and he was simply taking it back to where it belonged: Florence. (The painting was returned to the Louvre.)

_03:: The Auction Houses Scandal
The major commercial scandal of recent years has been the alleged collusion between the two big international auction houses Christie's and Sotheby's. As the supply of expensive masterpieces began to run out, competition between the two firms became increasingly fierce and each of them found it difficult to make a profit. They got together secretly to fix not the price of works of art themselves but the commission that they would each charge to sellers. In certain parts of the world, such an arrangement is quite legal but not in the United States. Eventually the practice came to light. The federal authorities imposed fines running into hundreds of millions of dollars, and prison sentences were also handed out.

_04:: The Portland Vase
Wanton acts of destruction in the art world are fortunately rare. One of the strangest occurred in 1845 in the British Museum, London, and is worthy of a Sherlock Holmes story. The Portland Vase, the most famous example of ancient Roman glass, decorated in dark-blue-and-white cameo technique, was brought from Italy in 1783 and purchased by the Duchess of Portland. A drunken young man entered the museum and without explanation smashed the vase and its glass display case. He was imprisoned for breaking the case but not the vase, as British law didn't impose penalties for destroying works of art of high value. The vase has since been repaired; however, you can still see the bruises.

_05:: Cellini's Saltcellar
A recent art world disaster/scandal occurred on May 13, 2003 (and it wasn't even a Friday!). Thieves climbed scaffolding and smashed windows to enter Vienna's Art History Museum and stole the "Mona Lisa of sculptures" -- Cellini's Saltcellar. This intricate 16-centimeter-high sculpture was commissioned by François I, king of France, from Benvenuto Cellini (1500-1571), the Renaissance's most ingenious and gifted goldsmith. Crafted with amazingly rich detail and skill, its principal figures are a naked sea god and a woman who sit opposite each other, with legs entwined -- a symbolic representation of the planet earth. The thieves set off the alarms, but these were ignored as false, and the theft remained undiscovered until 8:20 A.M. The reasons for the theft are as yet unknown. The fear is that these thieves will destroy the sculpture or melt it down, an act of vandalism that would be the equivalent of burning the Mona Lisa.



Continues...

Excerpted from Mental Floss presents Condensed Knowledge PLM by Jeff (None) Copyright © 2004 by Jeff (None). Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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