genius

Photo of the Day

Legendary CIA counterspy James Jesus Angleton. Photo: Harvey Georges/AP

?Wilderness of Mirrors?

It is inconceivable that a secret arm of the government has to comply with all the overt orders of the government ?

-James Jesus Angleton

Long before?Game of Thrones?dubbed its spymaster The Spider, James Jesus Angleton earned that name. His internal witch hunts still leave people wondering?madman, genius, or both?

Angleton had been forced to resign from the Central Intelligence Agency after two decades running its counterintelligence operations. In news reports and in?outright fiction, Angleton was portrayed as amazingly eccentric and wildly paranoid, the mastermind who kept American intelligence operations safe from Soviet ?moles,? and the madman whose ?sick-think? destroyed careers and paralysed the agency with his obsessive hunt for traitors. Indeed, there were some who said he?d done so much damage that?Angleton?must be the mole.

His name became part of every enigmatic event of the 1960s, including the assassination of President John F. Kennedy?and the subsequent murder of one of his mistresses?(the ex-wife of another CIA man).

As chief of counterintelligence for the Central Intelligence Agency from the early 1950s to the early 1970s, James Jesus Angleton built a formidable reputation. Although perhaps best known for leading the agency’s notorious ?Molehunt??the search for a Soviet spy believed to have infiltrated the upper levels of the American government?Angleton also played a key role in the U.S. intervention in the Italian election of 1948, in Israel’s development of nuclear weapons, and in the management of the CIA’s investigation of the assassination of John F. Kennedy.

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Photo of the Day

b9c55e7759d53b3b297af5ffa252f657A Story Of A Genius

William James Sidis was a genius. He was by far the most precocious intellectual child of his generation. His death in 1944 as an undistinguished figure was made the occasion for reawakening the old wives tales about nervous breakdowns, burned out prodigies and insanity among geniuses.

Young Sidis was truly an intellectual phenomenon. His childhood achievements ranked with those of John Stuart Mill, Thomas Macaulay, and Johann Goethe. By the time William Sidis was two he could read English and, at four he was typing original work in French. At the age of five he had devised a formula whereby he could name the day of the week for any given historical date. At eight he projected a new logarithms table based on the number twelve. He entered Harvard at the age of twelve and graduated?cum laude?before he was sixteen. Mathematics was not his only forte. At this age he could speak and read fluently French, German, Russian, Greek, Latin, Armenian and Turkish. During his first year at Harvard University the boy astounded students and scientists with his theories on “Fourth Dimensional Bodies.”

The “man behind the gun” in this boy’s amazing intellectual attainments is supposed to have been his father, a graduate in psychology at Harvard and a close friend of William James, after whom the boy was named. Dr. Boris Sidis believed in awakening in the child of two an interest in intellectual activity and love of knowledge. If you started early enough and worked intensively, Dr. Sidis claimed that by ten a child would acquire knowledge equal to that of a college graduate. The boy?s father published articles urging other parents to follow his methods. He castigated the school authorities for their “cramming, routine and rote methods,” which he said, “tend to nervous degeneracy and mental breakdown.”

Sidis pointed to his son, William, as a successful example of his methods. He wrote: “At the age of twelve the boy had a fair understanding of comparative philology and mythology. He is well versed in logic, ancient history, American history and has a general insight into our politics and into the ground-work of our constitution.

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Where does genius come from, and why is it often linked to mental illness?

Bit of a heavy start to a Monday morning, I’ll admit. ?But interesting all the same.

I was examining the anecdotal link between creativity and mental illness, and Kurt was an excellent case study.

He was intermittently depressed, but that was only the beginning. His mother had suffered from depression and committed suicide on Mother?s Day, when Kurt was 21 and home on military leave during World War?II. His son, Mark, was originally diagnosed with schizophrenia but may actually have bipolar disorder. (Mark, who is a practicing physician, recounts his experiences in two books,?The Eden Express?and?Just Like Someone Without Mental Illness Only More So, in which he reveals that many family members struggled with psychiatric problems. ?My mother, my cousins, and my sisters weren?t doing so great,? he writes. ?We had eating disorders, co-dependency, outstanding warrants, drug and alcohol problems, dating and employment problems, and other ?issues.???)

While mental illness clearly runs in the Vonnegut family, so, I found, does creativity. Kurt?s father was a gifted architect, and his older brother Bernard was a talented physical chemist and inventor who possessed 28 patents. Mark is a writer, and both of Kurt?s daughters are visual artists.

It’s one of those “you don’t have to be mad to work here, but it sure helps!” kind of situations. ? Read more »

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