Wednesday, September 27, 2006


PARIS - Researchers using three-dimensional technology to study the "Mona Lisa" say the woman depicted in Leonardo da Vinci's 16th century masterpiece was either pregnant or had recently given birth when she sat for the painting.

That was one of many discoveries found by French and Canadian researchers during one of the most extensive physical examinations ever carried out on the artwork.

"Thanks to laser scanning, we were able to uncover the very fine gauze veil Mona Lisa was wearing on her dress. This was something typical for either soon-to-be or new mothers at the time," Michel Menu, research director of the French Museums' Center for Research and Restoration, said Wednesday on LCI television.

Menu said a number of art historians had suggested that she was pregnant or had just given birth.

Researchers have established that the picture was of Lisa Gherardini, wife of obscure Florentine merchant Francesco del Giocond, and that Leonardo started painting it in 1503.

The name "Mona Lisa" is the equivalent of "Madame Lisa." La Joconde, as the painting is referred to in many countries, is the French version of her married name.

The scan revealed depth resolution so detailed it was possible to see differences in the height around the paint surface cracks and in the thickness of the varnish.

"We now have very precise information about the thickness of the layers," Bruno Mottin, of the French restoration center, told reporters in Ottawa, Canada. "We know how the painting is painted, with very thin layers of painting. That's one of the things we couldn't see by the naked eye, and that Canadian technology brought

John Taylor of Canada's National Research Council said there were no signs of any brush stroke. "That includes the very fine details of the embroidery on the dress, the hair," he said. "This is the 'je ne sais quoi' of Leonardo. The genius. We don't know how he applied it."

The scan even revealed Leonardo's first conception of Mona Lisa.

"The 3-D imaging was able to detect the incised drawing to provide us with da Vinci's general conception for the composition," said Christian Lahanier, head of the documentation department of the French research center.

The artist brought the painting to France in 1517. It has been in the Louvre Museum since 1804.

The data collected in 16 hours of scanning, starting in 2004, took a year to analyze. It shows warping in the poplar panel Leonardo used as his canvas, but the Mona Lisa smile is not threatened.

"We didn't see any sign of paint lifting," Taylor said. "So for a 500-year-old painting, it's very good news. And if they continue to keep it the way they have in an environment-controlled chamber, it could remain like that for a very long time."

Menu said all the secrets behind the enigmatic painting have yet to be revealed, including Leonardo's techniques.

"We particularly want to understand how he painted his shadows, the famous 'fumato' effect," Menu said.

Monday, September 25, 2006


When someone announces that they are having a baby, here is a list of what NOT to say:

~Was it planned?

~Aren't you overpopulating the world?

~I thought you were done!

~How are you going to afford it?


Sunday, September 24, 2006


So, I've told everyone I need to tell in person and over the phone.

This is why I've had no energy the past three months, no poems.

Friday night, in the din of the Cheesecake Factory, in the glare of the over-the-top decorating (what would you call it Bizantine, Big Top meets Egytptian, gauche?) we tell my parents and two kids we are having another baby. They open their mouths, dark Os around the table. My daughter says, "You're kidding, stop joking," over and over until she is finally convinced of our seriousness. Then, she cries.

Later, we show her ghost-like pictures of the grain of rice, and she says, "Ok, NOW I believe you." She is excited now, wants to shop for onsies and pacifiers, and asks question after question. She is needy: needs assurances that she will still fit on my lap when my tummy gets real big, that she will still be loved.

My son, on the other hand, has been happy about the news all along. He is the one, after all, who wants a baby brother for Christmas named "Thunder Storm." He will have to wait until April, and we'll see about the name.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006


You Should Be a Joke Writer

You're totally hilarious, and you can find the humor in any situation. Whether you're spouting off zingers, comebacks, or jokes about life...You usually can keep a crowd laughing, and you have plenty of material. You have the makings of a great comedian - or comedic writer.

Sunday, September 10, 2006


Before the Next Day

J.B. Rowell

The decision was made to carry on with the day like nothing
happened—let the parents tell their children in their own way.

When the second tower fell live
each hair on my arms rose up.
The classroom empty except
two teachers sitting side by side
in small, hard chairs
made for third grade bodies
now at gym class:
shoes squeaking
on glossy, wood floor.
Their reality the textured, red ball
hitting too hard,
while other children were losing
moms and dads.

The fluorescent lights off,
and the light
of the telecasted catastrophe
flickered off
the other teacher’s eyes
as we looked at each other:
What do we tell them?
How do we explain?
Why does math matter now?

Walking along the sidewalk
toward the gym,
an airplane flew low
in the too blue September sky.
An idea once ludicrous,
now possible,
brought fear here
as our students ran toward us
scrambling to be first in line

I want to keep them from the news,
keep them from becoming
who they will be tomorrow.
Don’t ever want to see them draw
what I just saw.

Don’t go home don’t
go home tonight.

Friday, September 01, 2006


My most triumphant publication yet . . .

I survived the first full week of teaching, which had the usual ups and downs, punctuated by a couple of bizarre incidents that I have never encountered in my six years of teaching. Maybe it's that I'm teaching middle schoolers now. Maybe it was Ernesto.

Speaking of Ernesto, the air is so cool, fresh, and delicious now that he has passed through. My grass and Brown-Eyed Susans are so very happy. The roses too.