How the Monument’s Men Saved Italy’s Treasures – Smithsonian
“The idea of safeguarding European art from damage was unprecedented in modern warfare. The brainchild of experts associated with American museums, the concept was embraced by President Roosevelt, who established the American Commission for the Protection and Salvage of Artistic and Historic Monuments in War Areas. The commission assisted the War Department by providing maps of European cities and towns where significant monuments and religious sites were highlighted, to be used by bombing crews and commanders when planning operations. In Britain, Prime Minister Churchill approved a parallel committee in the spring of 1944. Like all sections of the Allied military government, the MFAA would be composed nearly equally of American and British officers. The commission selected a few enlisted men to serve in Italy with the Allied armies—MFAA ranks would increase to more than 80 as the war progressed across Europe and reached France, Austria and Germany—and charged them to report on and bring first aid to damaged buildings and art treasures, and indoctrinate troops on the cultural heritage of Italy.”
The Secret Life of Everything: Where Your Stuff Comes From – Nautilus
“If you’re a brilliant young mathematician, one of the things you might do, if you don’t feel like theorizing about quantum physics or engineering suspension bridges or figuring out how genomes work, is move boxes. It blew my mind. So did the idea that, from a certain perspective, the actual products almost matter less than the informational structure that guides them.”
The Deadly Sport of Mushroom Forging – Aeon
“Mushrooms are bloodthirsty. The clues are in the common names: destroying angels, devil’s boletes, poison pies, beechwood sickeners. The Roman emperor Claudius, the Habsburg Charles VI and even the Buddha are all thought to have succumbed to their poison. While walking through a Highland estate in 2008, Nicholas Evans, the author of The Horse Whisperer, picked some brownish wild mushrooms that he took to be porcini. He and his wife and brother-in-law ate them fried with butter and parsley. And then, one by one, their kidneys began to fail. (Evans received a replacement kidney from his daughter, and his wife accepted one from a friend, but his brother-in-law is yet to find a donor. He must still undergo five hours of dialysis several times a week).”
Palmerston: The Island at the End of the Earth – BBC
Part of the Cook Islands, Palmerston is one of a handful of islands connected by a coral reef which surrounds the calm waters of a central lagoon. But within this entire area the reef sits too high in the water for sea planes to land – and outside it the ocean is simply too rough. It is also too far from anywhere for a normal helicopter to fly to. The sea is the only access.
I Decided to Delete All My Facebook Activity, and It Was Incredibly Hard – Business Insider
“If I had my way, Facebook would have a hard and fast expiration date for posts. I generally don’t want most of what I say hanging around longer than I’d keep eggs in the fridge. Sure, some links and videos are worth revisiting—but does anyone really care that I was tired on that Monday in 2008?”
Based on a True Story? Fact Checking 5 Oscar Contenders – The Week
“Awards season kicks into high gear this weekend, with the Golden Globes set to crown winners that will probably go on to score more than a few Oscars in March. As always, the list of nominees is packed with films that claim to be based in reality — but a closer look reveals that they may not even resemble the truth.”
Big in Japan – The New York Times
“In 2010 I published a novel, “The Serialist.” It did fine for a debut, which is to say well enough to warrant a second, but my daily life didn’t change much: I wrote, I ran, I hung out with my friends. Then a Japanese translation came out, and things got strange. My book won a major Japanese literary contest, which was nice. Then it won another. Then another. Apparently this was extraordinary: No one had ever won all three before.”
Photo courtesy of Steve Bennett.