That’s Dr. from New York to You

While I was waiting for my laptop to dry out, I gave some thought to how boring this blog is, and how that’s because my life is dull and nothing ever happens in it. So, being that I have so little material to work with, I’ve decided to just embrace my boringness and write about my life anyway, which for now means lots of posts about things that happen in my head because I never actually do anything.

I’ve decided to write a series on my biggest pet peeves, which I’ll post whenever I feel like it. I got the idea when a friend on Facebook included Dan Brown’s Da Vinci Code in her “Top 5 Things I Hate That Everyone Else Seems to Like.” I am in complete agreement with her. To be fair, I should admit that I only made it through the first thirty pages because, in addition to the unconvincing and unoriginal storyline, there were just too many adverbs. Honestly. But I don’t hate the book because it’s poorly written and derivative. I hate it because it’s dangerous, and not because its ideas are dangerous (they’re just kind of goofy, really,) but because of that prefatory page that claims that everything in the book is true. Because there are people who are gullible enough, that if they read such a thing, they will believe it.

I know this because there was always at least one of them in my classes. Just to set the record straight, I want to clarify: St. John looks like a girl in Leonardo’s Last Supper because he always looks like a girl. Leonardo was just following a long-standing visual tradition. But there was always someone who wouldn’t take my word for it, because if it’s in a book it must be true, especially if there’s a page that says so right at the beginning. I remember one student whose insistence was so exasperating that I shouted at him, “It is a novel, a work of fiction. It is made up, it is not real, do you get it?!” (He had already tried my patience by repeatedly addressing me as “Miss,” which was one of my pet peeves, but not the subject of this post.)

But I hated that book even before my students began reciting its claims in my classes, even before I attempted to read it, in fact, I hated it even before I opened the cover to find that pernicious prefatory statement. I hated it as soon as I’d heard the title, and this leads me, finally, to

The Pet Peeve:

That’s not his name! His name is Leonardo. “Da Vinci” means “from Vinci.” Calling him “da Vinci” is like, as I used to tell my students, referring to me as “from New York.” I used to ask them, “do you ever say, ‘Professor from New York, could you repeat that?’ After class, will you turn to the person sitting next to you and ask, ‘is it just me or did from New York not make any sense today?'” Besides, isn’t he famous enough that we can call him by his given name? Everyone calls Raphael and Michelangelo by their first names even though both have proper last names. (How many of the people who refer to Leonardo as “da Vinci” even know Raphael’s or Michelangelo’s last name?)

A confession: whenever someone who purports to be knowledgeable refers to Leonardo as “da Vinci” I stop paying attention. I ignore whatever comes next, because I know it will not be interesting or enlightening. You know what I’m talking about, some fathead in a museum starting a sentence with something like, “It’s reminiscent of a da Vinci blah blah.” When you hear something like that, stop listening! I give you permission.

This leads me to a somewhat related but much smaller pet peeve: why was one of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles named Donatello? He doesn’t fit in with Raphael, Leonardo and Michelangelo at all. It seems so random to me. I feel like they should have called him Bramante. Have you seen the Tempietto? The integration of classical and Christian architectural vocabulary in that structure is a true work of bravura. Donatello, what did he ever do?

I’m just kidding about Donatello, but I still think the fourth turtle should have been Bramante.

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15 responses to “That’s Dr. from New York to You

  1. I’m with you on the da Vinci code. I couldn’t get past the first 15 pages, I just wasn’t interested. I felt so bad because my grandparents gave me an autographed illustrated edition that my friends were drooling over, and I still wasn’t excited about it.Thanks for the education! That means there are several people I should stop listening to right now…

  2. That still confirm that you must be a great teacher!I think Bramante is not so famous all over the world to become a ninja turtle!

  3. Cape House, you must be more discerning than I am, I should have stopped at page 15, but kept on going! Yes, stop listening to those pretentious people!Thank you, Claudia. I always worried that I wasn’t patient enough. You’re right about Bramante…but he should be that famous!

  4. I LOVED the Da Vinci Code book! Read it cover to cover in one day. Of course i didn’t believe anything in it, and it was full of adverbs, but, well, so are lots of other books. Didn’t see the film though, i heard that was total crap. Ha. Angels and Demons was also a great read. His other books are a bit yawn I think though. OK now this is going to make me sound totally airhead, but if Leonardo was referred to as just Leonardo, I would probably think Di Caprio. Vanessa the non historian!!PS reading the Da Vinci Code also made me visit a few places in the book and think about things that I wouldn’t ordinarily, so i guess it was a bit educational to me even.

  5. PPS if i had to add a something to that list (top 5 i hate that others love) it would be Jurassic Park (the film). After purposely not seeing it for months and hearing rave review after another, I suffered through the whole dreadful thing. Vanessa

  6. I don’t think your blog is boring at all! About the Da Vinci Code, I read the whole book, waiting for the plot to at least get interesting and then the book ended on me. I wasn’t impressed with the the book to say the least. It seemed like it was just Catholic-bashing to me. (I’m not Catholic, but must one nationality/group/religion be stigmatized to make a story?) Can’t a decent plot do it on it’s own? It’s not easy to find a book with a decent storyline anymore.

  7. Yes, Vanessa, but when you visited those new places, were you thinking crackpot things about them, lol? As for Leonardo DiCrappy-O, I can see that. Thanks, J.Doe! I didn’t get far enough into the book to perceive any of the anti-Catholicism, but I did hear that many people thought that. I’d read a couple of the books that Brown lifted much of his material from, so that doesn’t surprise me.

  8. I’m one of those dreadful people who call him da Vinci … but consider me educated now! And I wouldn’t claim to be particularly well informed re art history, so maybe my doing it wasn’t quite so obnoxious?I love reading about pet peeves, always amusing, I look forward to more.

  9. Not at all! When people who haven’t studied art history call him that, it doesn’t bother me, because how/why should they know? (If I’m having a conversation with someone who does it, I won’t even correct them.) But when people who should know better do it, it drives me mad!

  10. Okay, SO NOT BORING (your blog). And I found your pet peeve very interesting given your art historical background. I have to say I did think it was a great read even though I did not believe anything in it (okay, maybe I wanted to believe a few things…very persuasive book, and I agree with you, very dangerous in that when you read it you want to believe!)

  11. Well, I suppose the blog isn’t so bad, but believe me, my life is pretty dull. I agree, that type of book can be persuasive- I consider Foucault’s Pendulum by Umberto Eco to be similar (though much better, excellent, actually) and I find myself wanting to believe quite a bit of it.

  12. I think you are an outstanding writer. I know blogs are certainly not intellectual, however they are an indicator of correct use of language, descriptive phrases etc. I find that you communicate in a way that makes me want to know more and I am dissapointed when the days entry ends. At the moment you are mostly Mamma, so have you considered writing a childrens book? Perhaps about an extraordinary little girl who likes art and adventure? Just an idea.

  13. Thank you, reading that from an anonymous person who has no reason to flatter me or humor me means more to me than you can know. I think writing a children’s book is an excellent idea, and one I have considered, though I was thinking more along the lines of writing a children’s bestiary. What stopped me from developing the idea any further was my fear that I’m just not very imaginative. I think a book about a little girl might be easier for me, and in the end much more accessible for children. Thank you for the suggestion, I will seriously consider it!

  14. KC, I too would like to add to that I don't think your blog is boring. I love hearing about all the Italian bureaucracy that you've had to endure, even though it was painful to you. It just amazes me at how they make the simplest things, such as picking up lab reports, so difficult. They try to organize themselves with which office does what, etc, but in reality no department seems to know what they're doing.Good luck with everything!

  15. Thanks, Passage to Italy. I think I felt the blog was getting boring because I wasn't doing anything, so I had nothing to write about.

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