Thursday, July 03, 2008

Forgotten Remnants

[I haven't found a good way yet to store random un-RSSed links that I stumble across and want to mention here. Right now they get pasted into a "Blog-Links" draft email that I rarely remember to check before I start writing up a links post ... hence this one, which comprises some I just rediscovered. Anybody found a good way to keep these handy?]

- Using astronomical and other references in Homer's Odyssey, researchers Marcelo Magnasco and Constantino Baikouzis at Rockefeller University in New York say they've pinpointed (to the day!) Odysseus' return to Ithaca ... April 16, 1178 B.C., close to noon local time. You can read their full paper (from the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences) here.

- In a strange twist of pots and kettles, Christopher Benfey (writing for Slate) takes Miles Harvey somewhat to task for Harvey's new book Painter in a Strange Land: The Strange Saga of the First European Artist in North America. Harvey (of The Island of Lost Maps fame) has tried to recreate the biography of Jacques Le Moyne de Morgues, an early French settler (at the Fort Caroline settlement in Florida) whose artwork was supposedly the basis for later engravings of American Indians, botanical specimens, &c. (the originals have disappeared). Le Moyne is an elusive figure, so Harvey's book is somewhat speculative (or, as Benfey puts it, "space-filled" and "contrived"). Since I've been known to criticize this sort of biography (and for the same reasons) I wouldn't have minded Benfey's critique ... except that he'd gone in for a very similar treatment himself from Laura Miller in the NYTimes just a few weeks ago for his A Summer of Hummingbirds.

- Also from Slate, Alex Heard writes about the FBI's records management policies, which of course anyone who's ever taken an archives course knows all too well. Heard, who's writing a book "about the 1951 execution of Willie McGee, an African-American man from Laurel, Miss., who got the death penalty in 1945" had requested a case file from the FBI which hadn't been retained ... so of course he discovers the shocking truth that not every document ever created by the federal government gets saved forever. If I'm surprising you by saying that, just wait, an oxygen mask will drop down out of the overhead compartment.