Friday, December 15, 2006

The Da Vinci Cold

I came home the other night and found my wife thinking like Leonardo Da Vinci. This was a distressing turn of events, I thought to myself. Leonardo, while a genius, was probably not the easiest person to live with, what with all those sheaves of mechanical drawings and poisonous tinctures of cobalt for making paint lying about. I imagine he was a bit distracted, as well, finishing very few of the projects he started. His garage was probably full of half-painted porch furniture and various kinds of saws (wet saws, table saws, band saws) for all those home improvements he meant to get around to.

My wife had come down with a cold, and so spent the day at home listening to the book How to Think Like Leonardo da Vinci: Seven Steps to Genius Every Day, by Michael J. Gelb, on CD. We listened to the rest of book while eating dinner, playing pick-up sticks (I’m not kidding) and gin rummy, and then building houses of cards (which seemed like a very Da Vinci thing to do). Two bottles of wine later, we figured out that this book belongs to a certain genre of books I call “pseudo-intellectual,” or “stupid as hell.” They’re books for people who majored in business in college and are now realizing that maybe there’s more to life, books to make them feel educated without putting in the actual effort to become educated. Like most books in the genre, this one mixes capitalistic business school ethos with warmed-over new age hippy crap, along with a good dose of over-simplified interpretations of history.

At the end (of the wine, not the book), we had learned a number of amazing things:

Nothing at all of any importance happened during the middle ages (I’ll have to re-check the dates of the founding of the University at Bologna, the building of Notre Dame, the creation of the Hanseatic League, the development of the long bow …)

Da Vinci, if he were alive today, would prefer the stemware from a specific manufacturer and would work as a consultant to multinational corporations. (This second one might actually be true; that’s what he did when he was alive.)

There are people out there, somewhere, who are “modern renaissance people”, and I don’t meant those “creative anachronism” folks.

Building a house of cards is really hard.

My wife kicks butt at pick-up-sticks.

Drinking good wine, even two bottles, doesn’t give you a hang-over.

For a more in-depth view of the phenomenon of new-age capitalism, I suggest the book Bobos in Paradise, by David Brooks.

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