From the Stolen and Found Department

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“The Scream” can scream publically again in Oslo and every Nowegian can breath a sigh of relief. Not to slight the country but they don’t have that many famous people and Munch is at the top of the list. I read about the heist in the New Yorker and let me tell you, those guards were some incompetant bastards. It was a blackeye on the whole country but all’s well that ends well. After jump, read all about it.
OSLO, Norway (AP) — Police recovered two paintings they believe are the Edvard Munch masterpieces ”The Scream” and ”Madonna,” two years after masked gunmen seized the priceless artworks from an Oslo museum in a bold, daylight raid, authorities announced Thursday.
Both paintings, stolen from the Munch Museum in August 2004, were in better-than-expected condition, police said at a news conference.
”The pictures came into our hands this afternoon after a successful police action,” said Iver Stensrud, head of the police investigation. ”All that remains is an expert examination to confirm with 100 percent certainty, that these are the original paintings. We believe these are the originals,” Stensrud said.
“I saw the paintings myself today, and there was far from the damage that could have been feared,” he said.
They were recovered following the conviction of three suspects in the case in May, an international police hunt and the offer of a nearly $300,000 reward by the City of Oslo, which owns the artworks.
During the hunt for the paintings, Norwegian news media reported that they might have been burned to get rid of evidence.
Stensrud said it was not possible for the news media, or the public, to see the paintings yet. He also refused to discuss the methods or details of the search that led to the stolen artworks.
Munch’s emotionally charged painting style became a major influence in the birth of the 20th-century expressionist movement.
The two paintings recovered Thursday were part of his ”Frieze of Life” series, focusing on sickness, death, anxiety and love. ”The Scream,” which shows a waif-like figure apparently screaming or hearing a scream, has become a modern icon of human anxiety. There are three other versions of the painting.
Munch died in 1944 at the age of 80.


Dork Jeopardy

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I was watching Jeopardy’s “Tournament of Champions” tonight and when Alex introduced the first 6 categories at the start of the show I just laughed at the sheer magnitude of the dork factor:

  • Star Trek, Star Wars or Lord of the Rings
  • Action Figures
  • Dinner for one
  • In need of a date
  • Still living with “Mom” and “Dad”
  • You have no life

The writers must have had a field day!
In honor of this great night for geeks, here are the 5 questions in the first category:

  • $200: A council that takes place at Rivendell is central to its plot
  • $400: In its lore, a Bagoran wormhole leads to the Gamma Quadrant
  • $600: This one lent its name to a defensive weapons system that many felt was a pie-in-the-sky fantasy
  • $800: A race called the Andorans causes trouble for the humans in this one
  • $1000: Its creator was born in South Africa

If you don’t know the answers, check it out after the jump

  • $200: LOTR
  • $400: ST
  • $600: SW
  • $800: ST
  • $1000: LOTR

Modern Dylan

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“Modern Times,” the first studio album by Bob Dylan in 5 years, is being streamed this week by AOL Music so feel free to “try before you buy.” Thus far, I’ve listened to the first 3 tracks. He sounds, for want of a better term, strong. The first track is robustly bluesy, not stripped down like his Grammy winning “Time Out of Mind” album. The second track sounds like it could have been played at the “Enchantment Under The Sea” dance. The third track is bit bluesy and a bit rockabilly. Enjoy!


30 Millions Americans Can Be Considered "Working Poor"

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The term “working poor” should be an oxymoron. If you work full time, you should not be poor, right? Unfortunately, more than 30 million Americans — one in four workers — are stuck in jobs that do not pay the basics for a decent life. Read that again. One in four – g-d damn! Then again, when the minimum wage hasn’t moved above $5.15 an hour since 1997, what do you expect..
A new POV special on PBS titled “Waging a Living” chronicles the day-to-day battles of four low-wage earners fighting to lift their families out of poverty. Its on PBS tonight at 10 PM. If you missed it, or can’t TiFaux it in time, I’m sure like other great PBS programming you’ll be able to watch it online. When I hear a hard working mother say, “I was brought up to believe in the “American Dream” that if you work hard you’ll be successful. I’ve worked hard my whole life and I’m still stuck. There’s no “American Dream” anymore.” I just want to cry.


Rock & Roll Bookend

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I wish I always could be so lucky: this past week I started and ended it at a concert. On Monday, I saw the Foo Fighters play an acoustic show at the Beacon Theatre (Frank Black – Pixies – opened). Last night, I saw Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young (CSNY) perform at the Theatre at MSG after two different people in my life, separated age-wise by over 20 years, both raved about their performance on this tour. While I immensely enjoyed both shows, I was struck by the amazing emotional gulf between the two, mostly in terms of relevancy and importance. One was simply music – the other was music and so much more.
The Foo show was great and left me all smiles. Dave Grohl was engaging, a regular chatty Kathy actually, and their expanded roster of musicians (Pat Smear was back w/ them – gotta love a punk rock dude who was in a band called the Germs whose name rhymes with pap smear) played a lot of the new tracks off of the acoustic side of their new record along with a good number of older songs – “Its all about the catalog dude!” Dave yelled at one point. The songs were all really well done but one song sticks out in particular after last night’s show: “In Your Honor,” the title track from their latest album. Dave wrote that in honor of John Kerry while he was out on the campaign trail with him. He sung it well and the band rocked it out but he never mentioned the campaign, the current world we live in, Bush or anything political at all. He simply played the tune and moved on to other tunes, like “Everlong.” Looking back, it was like listening to rock & roll cotton candy – all fluff and no substance.
Comparabily, the CSNY show didn’t feed you at all: it threw a bucket of cold water in your face and let you know that shits all sorts of fucked up and then worked up your appetite to do something about it. I thought that CSNY would stick to a “safe” show of their classic hits but instead they grabbed the show by the balls. In a surprise, the group played a ton of songs off of Neil Young’s new album Living With War which completely slams the Imperial Bush Presidency and the GWOT (global war on terror for those not up on the lingo). I urged you months ago to listen to the Neil’s new disc and I urge you again now. The group displayed on a huge video screen US deaths broken out by month and lambasted the president for not attending a single soldier’s funeral. They showed a picture of every single dead soldier thus far – 2,607 of them (a fact I know because of last night’s show) – while they played a song dedicated to the troops. They put the words to the new Neil Young song “Let’s Impeach the President” on screen and urged the crowd to sing along. They played “Teach Your Children” and Crosby said “Every teacher’s salary should be tripled!” before launching into it. They played “Ohio” and as everyone was singing “4 dead in Ohio” it felt in a way like Kent State could have just happened.
My friend and I over and over again just couldn’t believe that it was 2006, almost 40 years after these gents made their debut, and that we were watching these 4 strong, clear voices belt out songs with such meaning, harmony and clarity, that we were watcing their fingers run wild and pluck out tunes that scarily matter more than ever. Their stamina too must be commended – they played for a total of 3 hours (with only a 20 min break in the middle so the show was almost 3.5 hrs long). Their message of peace is still a sound one. The peace symbol on the stage wasn’t a dated relic of the 60’s. It was a stark reminder that the more things change, the more they stay the same. There is a battle for peace too and that battle needs to be fought and not ignored.
Sitting around reflecting this morning, I wish every concert now packed the same emotional punch that the CSNY show did. Art for art’s sake in a world gone crazy sometimes is not enough. Someone has to be out there making art with a purpose, art with a message. It was like watching Lou Reed’s perfomance at the Hurricane Katrina Summerstage benefit for 3 hours. I feel blessed, energized and motivated. Maybe if every show packed this type of punch I would feel battered but a good slap in the face once in a while to me is a good thing.


The Reasonist Party

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My friend and fellow “reasonist’ Mr. Neu sent me a depressing link today. I’ve known for a while that Pat Roberson is a nut but yesterday Pat had David Horowitz, a right-wing writer, on his Christian Broadcast Network new show. Keep in mind that Pat’s TV network is one that most of America doesn’t watch but that a lot of God fearing voters do watch. Keep in mind that half of Americans do not vote – obviously the “Rock the Vote” and “Vote or Die” campaigns just aren’t working – so you really need to pay attention to the ones that do in order to properly gauge the nation’s pulse.
Part of what depressed me was how the show featured paranoid ravings about, the Center for American Progress, America Votes and the “shadowy group” Media Matters and how they are forming their own party as part of a George Soros plan “to take over the political structure of the United States.” While doing so, it repeated a baseless slur that Soros, a Hungarian-born Jew, collaborated with the Nazis as a 14-year-old boy. It was a sickening and sad display, and anchored by a smiling preacher who is worth between $200 million and $1 billion dollars. Say Hallaluyah!
Maybe Horowitz was attacking Media Matters because this moderate group showed how his recent book on these groups titled Shadow Party had “doctored quotes, shoddy scholarship, factual errors, and baseless insinuations on matters both small and large.” I know he is scared by and CAP most likely because these moderate, centrist, “third way” organizations all advocate reason and restraint, not hysteria and fear. If you go point by point through the groups he trashed, you see how they are on the side of reason and moderacy – virtues and not sins in my book.
What really made me feel down in the dumps is that this sort of thing airs every day in the good old U S of A. This poison is being fed and happily swallowed by millions of voting Americans. I cannot stress enough how voting maters because as the Middle East has shown, democracies can be perverted by religious fundamentalism if those leaders win elections. Hamas was elected by the Palestinians because their secular leaders, the PA, were letting them down. One cannot deny the strong link because the fundamentalist movement and conservative Republicans. Rick Santorium, one of the most radically fundamentalist Republicans around, is one of only a hundred Senators in the entire country. He is one of only two Sentors from the great state of Pennsylvania. He is also believes that homosexuality is the same as if not worse than bestiality and he probably watches his good buddy Pat all day long whenever he can.
I bring all of these points up because I think the time is right to start a new poitical movement called the Reasonist movement to counteract the nutso religious fundamentalism that is running rampant in America. Our slogan is “We make good sense.” We will advocate for laws that make good fiscal and moral sense, for policies, both foreign and domestic, that make good fiscal and moral sense. We won’t shout down the shouting opposition’s lies. We will simply wait out their yelling and bluster the way a parent endures a child’s temper tamtrum and then will logically respond with facts that simply make sense. I am a rational philosopher – instead of hysteria I prefer reason. The more extreme our nation becomes, the more I will take the middle road of reason. At the lead up to the 2004 election, I was solidly blue and very anti red but I don’t want to make a Blue State thing. Barak Obama’s speech at the Democratic National Convention said it best – to paraphrase, we are all basically purple – both red and blue. To that end, I want to reframe the entire discussion and create a third way: a way of reason. Who’s with me?


Stick a Fork In Pluto…

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…it’s done. No, this post is not a bad joke about how certain Asian countries eat dog but about Pluto, formerly known as the ninth planet in our solar system. Whether or not Pluto is a true planet has been a subject of much debate over the last decade. Finally, the debate is over. When the definition of planet was solidified today by the International Astronomical Union, Pluto got the boot.

According to the Union, a planet is “a celestial body that is in orbit around the sun, has sufficient mass for its self-gravity to overcome rigid body forces so that it assumes a … nearly round shape, and has cleared the neighborhood around its orbit.” As Pluto’s orbit intersect’s Neptune’s orbit, it is automatically disqualified. A new category called “dwarf planets” has been created and that is where Pluto lives. I wonder if Disney will now change it to the 8 Dwarves and make Pluto an honorary member of the troop… plutotoy.jpg

After the jump, read all about it from the AP
Astronomers Decide Pluto Is Not a Planet
Filed at 12:20 p.m. ET, 8/24/06
PRAGUE, Czech Republic (AP) — Leading astronomers declared Thursday that Pluto is no longer a planet under historic new guidelines that downsize the solar system from nine planets to eight.
After a tumultuous week of clashing over the essence of the cosmos, the International Astronomical Union stripped Pluto of the planetary status it has held since its discovery in 1930. The new definition of what is — and isn’t — a planet fills a centuries-old black hole for scientists who have labored since Copernicus without one.
Although astronomers applauded after the vote, Jocelyn Bell Burnell — a specialist in neutron stars from Northern Ireland who oversaw the proceedings — urged those who might be ”quite disappointed” to look on the bright side.
”It could be argued that we are creating an umbrella called ‘planet’ under which the dwarf planets exist,” she said, drawing laughter by waving a stuffed Pluto of Walt Disney fame beneath a real umbrella.
”Many more Plutos wait to be discovered,” added Richard Binzel, a professor of planetary science at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
The decision by the prestigious international group spells out the basic tests that celestial objects will have to meet before they can be considered for admission to the elite cosmic club.
For now, membership will be restricted to the eight ”classical” planets in the solar system: Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune.
Much-maligned Pluto doesn’t make the grade under the new rules for a planet: ”a celestial body that is in orbit around the sun, has sufficient mass for its self-gravity to overcome rigid body forces so that it assumes a … nearly round shape, and has cleared the neighborhood around its orbit.”
Pluto is automatically disqualified because its oblong orbit overlaps with Neptune’s.
Instead, it will be reclassified in a new category of ”dwarf planets,” similar to what long have been termed ”minor planets.” The definition also lays out a third class of lesser objects that orbit the sun — ”small solar system bodies,” a term that will apply to numerous asteroids, comets and other natural satellites.
Experts said there could be dozens of dwarf planets catalogued across the solar system in the next few years.
NASA said Thursday that Pluto’s demotion would not affect its US$700 million New Horizons spacecraft mission, which earlier this year began a 9 1/2-year journey to the oddball object to unearth more of its secrets.
“We will continue pursuing exploration of the most scientifically interesting objects in the solar system, regardless of how they are categorized,” Paul Hertz, chief scientist for the science mission directorate, said in a statement.
The decision on Pluto at a conference of 2,500 astronomers from 75 countries was a dramatic shift from just a week ago, when the group’s leaders floated a proposal that would have reaffirmed Pluto’s planetary status and made planets of its largest moon and two other objects.
That plan proved highly unpopular, splitting astronomers into factions and triggering days of sometimes combative debate that led to Pluto’s undoing. In the end, only about 300 astronomers cast ballots.
Now, two of the objects that at one point were cruising toward possible full-fledged planethood will join Pluto as dwarfs: the asteroid Ceres, which was a planet in the 1800s before it got demoted, and 2003 UB313, an icy object slightly larger than Pluto whose discoverer, Michael Brown of the California Institute of Technology, has nicknamed Xena.
Charon, the largest of Pluto’s three moons, is no longer under consideration for any special designation.
Brown, who watched the proceedings from Cal Tech, took Thursday’s vote in stride — even though his discovery won’t be christened a planet.
”UB313 is the largest dwarf planet. That’s kind of cool,” he said.
AP Science Writer Alicia Chang in Los Angeles contributed to this story


Fucking Kids From Shaolin

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ESPN is now using a 5 second delay, instead of a live feed, for all Little League WS games because a foul mouthed kid from Staten Island was picked up by their microphones. Learning this news after a weekend full of loud and extremely foul mouthed 23 year olds from SI, I just had to laugh. In honor of the second Island borough, feel free to listen to some good Ghostface Killah tunes or feel free to read all about it courtesy of the AP after the jump.
From the AP yesterday:
Staten Island Manager Nick Doscher and one of his players were reprimanded by Little League World Series organizers yesterday after an incident Sunday during the team’s 1-0 loss to Lemont, Ill., in which the player yelled an obscenity and Doscher appeared to respond by striking him.
Staten Island, trailing by a run, had just turned a double play in the top of the sixth when the unidentified player swore as the players huddled in the dugout before the team’s final turn at bat. The obscenity was clearly heard on ESPN’s prime-time broadcast of the game, just before the network cut to commercial. It appeared that Doscher then struck the player with an open hand.
Neither Doscher nor the player was immediately available for comment. ESPN said it had decided to use a five-second delay for remaining Little League broadcasts.


Summer Camp: 2006 Edition

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This past weekend I headed up to the Berkshires in the lovely state of Connecticut (highest per capita income in the Union baby!) to see what it was like to go to camp as an adult. My wife and I, along with another couple that we are really good friends with, grabbed a 4 bed cabin and the biggest take away is that going to camp as an adult leaves you sore as all bloody hell but smiling none the less.
Over 2 days, I enjoyed:

  • getting stuck on the side of an Upstate NY road for 2.5 hrs when the bus to camp broke down
  • almost getting an open container ticket by the NYS Highway Patrol who came to see why a big bus was in a no-standing zone and found about 50 people drinking heavily (there was a huge supermarket right where we were stuck thankfully)
  • seeing lots of stars (the night kind)
  • okay-to-bad food with plenty of bug juice
  • rock climbing
  • hiking and rock scrambling
  • archery
  • lake swimming (technically a pond according to Google Maps)
  • very loud people from Staten Island
  • softball along with a keg
  • drunken Uno
  • not writing any letters home
  • riding a mechanical bull
  • mountain biking
  • more swimming
  • an all-out dodgeball war where I happened to win one match by nailing a dead ringer for Jean Gerrard (character in Talladega Nights) in the leg right as he was going to peg me
  • winning the Bonnie and Clyde award for best married couple at the awards lunch (okay, there weren’t that many married people there but still…).
Now, just about two days later, my body keeps getting more and more sore. It hurts to walk, hurts to bend and I love it! I’m inspired to take up climbing again too, and since there is a sweet vert wall in NYC in the UWS called the Atrium and because my sis goes to New Paltz, which is smack dab in the heart of great climbing country, I am really psyched! Overall, the weekend was a bit dorky and a bit cheesy but a ton of fun and I would do it again, as long as I brought a posse back with me the next time. I mean, where else but camp are you going to jam all of those activities above into 2 days!

George Allen: American Idiot

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I just love it when Sen. George Allen (R – VA), calls the Indian gentleman who is following him around on the campaign trail a “macaca,” which is a form of monkey, and tells him “Welcome to America.” First off, as he’s in the Senate, can’t he at least be able figure out the difference between an Indian and a black guy? If you are going to make a racial slur, make it the right one and call him a turban head or something witty like that. Second, Mr. S. R. Sidarth is an American citizen, born and raised in Virginia, who goes to UVA so he was welcomed to America a long time ago by the doctor who delivered him. Not only that, he’s a potential voter! Who cares if he is trailing him because he works for the Webb campaign (Jim Webb is his Democratic opponent). If he was crafty enough, he’d be able to win his vote.

FYI, I just contributed $10 to Jim Webb, George Allen’s opponent, who I really hope wins (and not just because he’s a Democrat but because his opponent is a racist idiot).