28 February 2015

Teen arrested, others ID'd in muggings

Philly.com has a Philadelphia PD video (above) in an article by Robert Moran about a mugging:
A fifteen-year-old boy was arrested and other suspects were identified in connection with a series of muggings north of Center City, police said.
Four teen assailants were recorded on surveillance video in connection with a 20 February 2015 attack on a thirteen-year-old boy, police said. The boy was walking in the 700 block of North 22d Street when he was approached from behind by the group, grabbed by the neck, and wrestled to the ground. The attackers took the boy's iPhone and ran off.
Rico says they'll hopefully be turned into somebody's bitch in prison...

Pirates call 'Jihadi John' sickening

The Associated Press has an article at Philly.com about a bad guy in the wrong hat:
The Pittsburgh Pirates say it's "absolutely sickening" to see a photo of the Islamic State militant known as Jihadi John wearing a Pirates hat.
Sky News published a photo of Mohammed Emwazi, who officials say is the masked frontman for IS hostage beheading videos. The photo, taken from University of Westminster student records, shows Emwazi wearing a hat with the Pirates' distinctive logo, though the AP has been unable to verify the photo.
The Pirates said in a statement that it was sickening to everyone in the organization "to see this murderer wearing a Pirates cap in this old photo." The team says the gold P stands for Pittsburgh, and is worn by players, coaches, and fans with pride.
Emwazi was born in Kuwait, raised and educated in Britain, and is a computer science graduate.
Rico says maybe some loyal Pittsburgh fan will take the guy out...

Warning but no punishment

The Associated Press has an article at Philly.com about racist high schoolers:
Students at a Catholic high school at the Jersey shore have been warned, but not punished, after two of them dressed as a monkey and a banana during a game against a mostly black basketball team.
The Press of Atlantic City reported The Cape-Atlantic League's supervising board of referees said the students at Holy Spirit High School acted offensively during the game against Atlantic City last week.
Jay Connell, Holy Spirit's athletic director, acknowledged the actions violated league rules on sportsmanship, and promised it would not happen again. "I am not going kick anyone out of school or whip anybody. All I can do is apologize; I can't take it back," Connell said. "There is no punishment. The punishment is that it will be an event that will not happen again, and that is the punishment for Holy Spirit."
The fans also used a shower curtain to hide several spectators who jumped out from behind it in an attempt to distract Atlantic City players who were attempting free throws.
Holy Spirit's starting five players are also black.
Atlantic City Athletic Director Anthony Nistico also called the actions offensive. "What I am appalled at is there are adults there that let this happen," he said. "These two students were allowed to walk into the gym in these costumes and with this shower curtain. What were the adults thinking? Where were the refs?"
Atlantic City beat Holy Spirit, 54-53, that night.
Rico says whaddya expect from Catholic high school morons?

Prince Harry

Simon Perry has a Time article about the future of Prince Harry:
Prince Harry will leave the armed forces later this year. The prince, who is known as Captain Harry Wales in the military and served two tours in Afghanistan, wants to devote himself to continuing his work helping injured servicemen and women find new jobs or continue to contribute in the services. That is a role he is currently doing in the Army. “He is fired up by this work,” says a source who knows him well.
The job is helping Harry, 30, gain an understanding about how the system works and how he can help those who are serving or have served in the armed forces. There are still details to be ironed out about how he might carry on after he leaves the Army. But one thing is certain: it is an area he is passionate about “both personally and professionally,” a source said. “He feels he can use his position to help in the future, regardless of his military role.”
Also on his mind is his continuing love for Africa, and helping young people in Lesotho through his charity Sentebale, and he will continue to give much of his time to that.
Before he leaves the Army, Harry is planning to go to Australia to work with the military there. “There is a well-established model between the Ministry of Defense and the Australia Defense Force in sharing experience,” a source said.
He has also developed close links through his Paralympic-style Invictus Games and other work. Harry’s leaving the Army was first reported by the London Evening Standard, which says he would like to spend a lot of time in Africa, working on conservation projects and continuing to support his charity in Lesotho.
Africa will “always be part of his life, through Sentebale, his charity, and the love of the continent,” the source added. “He will go there, of course.”
A spokesman would not confirm the prince’s reported plans. “Prince Harry is currently focused on his work supporting the Ministry of Defense’s recovery capability program to ensure those who are wounded injured or sick have appropriate recovery plans and the necessary support they require,” said the rep. “It’s a natural progression from the work he did organizing the Invictus Games. This involves working alongside case officers in London District’s Personal Recovery Unit and visiting various recovery centers and partner agencies like Forces charities and the public health service around the country.”
Rico says it's been a long time since the last son of an American president (Kermit Roosevelt) was in the military, so we don't have this situation...

Critic gunned down in Moscow

Simon Shuster has an article in Time about an assassination in Russia:
Russian opposition leader Boris Nemtsov was gunned down in Moscow around midnight on Friday as he walked within view of the Kremlin walls.
Soon after the gunshots rang out in the heart of the Russian capital, President Vladimir Putin was informed of the murder, which he characterized as a “provocation”. Through his spokesman, Putin told Russian news agencies early on Saturday morning that “this cruel killing has all the signs of a hired hit and bears the distinctive character of a provocation”.
Though numerous Kremlin critics have been assassinated during Putin’s tenure, none have been as prominent as the 55-year-old Nemtsov, a former deputy prime minister in the administration of Putin’s predecessor, Boris Yeltsin. His killing will likely galvanize the opposition movement and once again test the ability and willingness of Russian authorities to investigate acts of violence against Putin’s opponents. Such crimes have tended to go unsolved since Putin took power fifteen years ago.
According to police and investigators in Moscow, Nemtsov was shot several times as he crossed the bridge that leads to the southern gates of the Kremlin fortress. Police said they have launched a citywide manhunt for the assailants, who escaped the scene of the crime in a white car.
Nemtsov’s murder took place two days before he and his allies in the opposition were due to lead a massive march in Moscow against the Putin regime. The demonstration, as well as parallel protests in more than a dozen cities across the country, is meant to condemn Putin’s handling of the ongoing conflict with the West over the Ukraine and the damage it has done to Russia’s economy.
Outrage poured in from the ranks of Russia’s opposition movement as news of the murder spread. “I’m certain that this scum will pay a high price,” said Nemtsov’s close friend and ally Mikhail Kasyanov, a former Russian Prime Minister. “Right now every member of the opposition needs society’s protection,” he told the state news agency Tass.
Rico says that letting Putin investigate this is like letting Oswald investigate the Kennedy shooting...

Leonard Nimoy’s long and prosperous life

Time has a video about the late Leonard Nimoy, aka Spock.

Rico says the guy got stuck in the role, but he did it so well...

27 February 2015

Stolen Picasso recovered

Slate has an article by Ben Mathis-Lilley about a curious reappearance:
United States authorities have recovered a 1911 painting by Picasso worth millions that disappeared from Paris, France in 2001, the Department of Justice says. La Coiffeuse was intercepted by customs agents in Newark, New Jersey after it was sent from Belgium in a FedEx package with a declared value of thirty euros, the DOJ announced in a press release that did not disclose the crucial and likely very interesting detail of why exactly customs agents realized they should be looking in low-value FedEx packages for a painting by one of the greatest artists who ever lived. From the release:
The shipping label attached to the package containing La Coiffeuse described its contents as Art Craft / 30 E / Joyeux Noel, indicating that the package contained a low-value handicraft shipped as a holiday present. The commercial invoice shipped with the painting similarly described the contents as an Art Craft / Toy valued at thirty euros, or approximately $37 dollars.
The painting was last exhibited in Munich, Germany in 1998, The New York Times reports, and disappeared from a storage area at the Centre Georges Pompidou in 2001. The United States has filed a civil forfeiture claim that would allow the painting to be returned to France; it’s not clear who sent or intended to receive the smuggled artwork. More to come on this story of international intrigue, hopefully.
Rico says there's a movie in here somewhere... (Topkapi, maybe?)

Harrison Ford in the Blade Runner sequel

Kevin McSpadden has a Time article about the sequel to Blade Runner:
Harrison Ford will grace the silver screen as Rick Deckard in the upcoming sequel to Blade Runner, Alcon Entertainment announced recently.
Ridley Scott, the original director of the 1982 sci-fi thriller, will not be coming back to direct the latest version but he has signed on as a producer, according to Variety.
Alcon Entertainment is currently in negotiations with Prisoners director Denis Villeneuve to replace Scott as the man behind the camera.
“We are honored that Harrison is joining us on this journey with Denis Villeneuve, who is a singular talent, as we experienced personally on Prisoners,” said producers Andrew Kosove and Broderick Johnson.
Apparently, Ford said the script to the sequel is the “best thing he’s ever read”.
The original film depicted a dystopian Los Angeles in the year 2019 and, despite a poor showing at the box office, became a cult classic and today is lauded for its production design.
Rico says he'll definitely see this one...

When we’ll know about the Apple Watch

Time has an article by Alex Fitzpatrcik about the iWatch that's not the iWatch:
Apple just sent out media invites for a 9 March 2015 event most likely involving the upcoming Apple Watch:
“Please join us for an invitation-only event at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts Theater in San Francisco on Monday, March 9, at 10:00 am,” the invite reads.
Apple CEO Tim Cook has said the Apple Watch will hit stores in April, making early March the perfect time to unveil new details about the device. The event could also involve other announcements, like a refreshed MacBook Air or Apple TV.
Rico says he still thinks they missed a bet by not calling it that, but everyone will call it the iWatch anyway...

And someone is making a completely ridiculous $75,000 Apple Watch:

"Slurpee" waves

Rico's friend Kelley forwards this, about 'slurpee waves' off Nantucket:
An event of the century, and you're missing it!

26 February 2015

The first slavery museum

Rico's friend Kema (she of the on-line Slavery Museum) forwards this article by David Amsden from The New York Times, about a physical museum:
Louisiana’s River Road runs northwest from New Orleans to Baton Rouge, its two lanes snaking some hundred miles along the Mississippi and through a contradictory stretch of America. Flat and fertile, with oaks webbed in Spanish moss, the landscape stands in defiance of the numerous oil refineries and petrochemical plants that threaten its natural splendor. In the rust-scabbed towns of clapboard homes, you are reminded that Louisiana is the eighth-poorest state in the nation. Yet, in the lush sugar plantations that crop up every couple of miles, you can glimpse the excess that defined the region before the Civil War. Some are still active, with expansive fields yielding thirteen million tons of sugar cane a year. Others stand in states of elegant rot. But most conspicuous are those that have been restored for tourists, transporting them into a world of bygone Southern grandeur, one in which mint juleps, manicured gardens and hoop skirts are emphasized over the fact that such grandeur was made possible by the enslavement of black human beings.
On 7 December 2014, the Whitney Plantation, in the town of Wallace, 35 miles west of New Orleans, celebrated its opening, and it was clear, based on the crowd entering the freshly painted gates, that the plantation intended to provide a different experience from those of its neighbors. Roughly half of the visitors were black, for starters, an anomaly on plantation tours in the Deep South. And while there were plenty of genteel New Orleanians eager for a peek at the antiques inside the property’s Creole mansion, they were outnumbered by professors, historians, preservationists, artists, graduate students, gospel singers, and men and women from Senegal dressed in traditional West African garb: flowing boubous of intricate embroidery and bright, saturated colors. If opinions on the restoration varied, visitors were in agreement that they had never seen anything quite like it. Built largely in secret and under decidedly unorthodox circumstances, the Whitney had been turned into a museum dedicated to telling the story of slavery, the first of its kind in the United States.
Located on land where slaves worked for more than a century, in a state where the sight of the Confederate flag is not uncommon, the results are both educational and visceral. An exhibit on the North American slave trade inside the visitors’ center, for instance, is lent particular resonance by its proximity, just a few steps away outside its door, to seven cabins that once housed slaves. From their weathered cypress frames, a dusty path, lined with hulking iron kettles that were used by slaves to boil sugar cane, leads to a grassy clearing dominated by a slave jail, an approach designed so that a visitor’s most memorable glimpse of the white shutters and stately columns of the property’s two-hundred-year-old Big House will come through the rusted bars of the squat, rectangular cell. A number of memorials also dot the grounds, including a series of angled granite walls engraved with the names of the hundred thousand slaves who spent their lives in Louisiana before 1820. Inspired by Maya Lin’s Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, DC, the memorial lists the names non-alphabetically to mirror the confusion and chaos that defined a slave’s life.
Mitch Landrieu, the mayor of New Orleans, was among those to address the crowd on opening day. He first visited the Whitney as the state’s lieutenant governor in 2008, when the project was in its infancy, and at the time he compared its significance to that of Auschwitz. Now he was speaking four days after a grand jury in New York City declined to indict a police officer in the chokehold death of Eric Garner, a black man who was stopped for selling untaxed cigarettes; thirteen days after another grand jury in Missouri cleared an officer in the shooting death of Michael Brown, an unarmed black teenager; and two weeks after Tamir Rice, a twelve-year-old black boy playing with a toy gun in a Cleveland park, was killed by a police officer. Evoking the riots and protests then gripping the nation, Landrieu said, “It is fortuitous that we come here today to stand on the very soil that gives lie to the protestations that we have made, and forces us as Americans to check where we’ve been and where we are going.”
The mayor concluded his speech by extending his hand to an older man standing just offstage to his left. Stocky and bespectacled, with a thick head of unkempt white hair, John Cummings (photo, right) was as much a topic of conversation among those gathered as the Whitney itself. For reasons almost everyone was at a loss to explain, he had spent the last fifteen years and more than eight million dollars of his personal fortune on a museum that he had no obvious qualifications to assemble.
“Like everyone else,” John Cummings said a few days earlier, “you’re probably wondering what the rich white boy has been up to out here.”
He was driving around the Whitney in his Ford SUV, making sure the museum would be ready for the public. Born and raised in New Orleans, Cummings is as rife with contrasts as the land that surrounds his plantation. He is 77, but projects the unrelenting angst of a teenager. His disposition is exceedingly proper— the portly carriage, the trimmed white beard, the florid drawl— but he dresses in a rumpled manner that suggests a morning habit of mistaking the laundry hamper for the dresser. As someone who had to hitchhike to high school and remains bitter about not being able to afford his class ring, he embodies the scrappiness of the Irish Catholics who flooded New Orleans in the nineteenth century. But as a trial lawyer who has helped win more than five billion dollars in class-action settlements and a real estate magnate whose holdings have multiplied his wealth many times over, Cummings personifies the affluence and power held by an elite and mostly white sliver of a city with a majority black population.
“I suppose it is a suspicious thing, what I’ve gone and done with the joint,” he continued, acknowledging that his decision to “spend millions I have no interest in getting back” on the museum has long been a source of local confusion. More than a few of the 670 residents of Wallace, ninety percent of whom are black, many the descendants of slaves and sharecroppers who worked the region’s land, have voiced their bewilderment over the years. So, too, have the owners of other tourist-oriented plantations, all of whom are white. Members of Cummings’ close-knit family (he has eight children by two wives) also struggle to clarify their patriarch’s motivations, resorting to the shoulder-shrugging logic of “John being John,” as if explaining a stubborn refusal to throw away old newspapers rather than a consuming, heterodox and very expensive attempt to confront the darkest period of American history. “Challenge me, fight me on it,” he said. “I’ve been asked all the questions. About white guilt this and that. About the honky trying to profit off of slavery. But here’s the thing: Don’t you think the story of slavery is important?” With that, Cummings went silent, something he does with unsettling frequency in conversation. “Well, I checked into it, and I heard you weren’t telling it,” he finally resumed, “so I figured I might as well get started.”
This was a practiced line, but also an earnest form of self-indictment: Cummings’ way of admitting his own ignorance on the subject of slavery and its legacy, and by extension encouraging visitors to confront their own. As with the rest of his real estate portfolio, which includes miles of raw countryside and swampland, a twelve-story luxury hotel near the French Quarter, a cattle farm in rural Mississippi, and a twelve-hundred-acre ranch in West Texas that he has never set foot on, he initially gravitated toward the Whitney simply because it was for sale. (“Whatever Uncle Sam and the bartender let me keep,” he likes to note, “I bought real estate with it.”) Originally built by the Haydel family, a prosperous clan of German immigrants who ran the property from 1752 to 1867, the grounds had been uninhabited for a quarter century. “I knew I wasn’t going to live here,” Cummings said as he drove past the blacksmith’s shop that he spent $300,000 rebuilding, where a plaque noted that a slave named Robin worked on the plantation for 40 years and where the actor Jamie Foxx, playing a slave in “Django Unchained,” was filmed being branded. “But aside from that, I didn’t know what I would do with the place.”
It takes just a few minutes of conversation with Cummings, however, to understand that he would never have been keen on restoring the Whitney in the mold of neighboring plantations, which rely on weddings and sorority reunions to supplement the income brought in by picnicking tourists. Pet projects he has taken up in recent years include outlining for the Vatican a list of wrongs the Catholic Church should formally apologize for and — to the chagrin of, in his words, “my friends who have all had political sex changes in the past 15 years” — exploring ways to curb the influence of conservative “super PACs.” Decades ago, his interest in abuses of power led to his involvement in the civil rights movement; in 1968, he worked alongside African-American activists to get the Audubon Park swimming pool in New Orleans opened to blacks. “If someone is going to deny someone rights simply because they have the power to do it — well, I’m interested,” he explained. “I’m coming, and I’m going to bring the cannons.”
Still, his plans for the Whitney might have gone in an entirely different direction, if not for the existence of an unlikely document. The property’s previous owner was Formosa, a plastics and petrochemical giant, which in 1991 planned to build a $700 million plant for manufacturing rayon on its nearly 2,000 acres. Preservationists and environmentalists balked. Looking for avenues of appeasement, Formosa commissioned an exhaustive survey of the grounds, with the idea that the most historic sections would be turned into a token museum of Creole culture while a majority of the rest would be razed to make way for the factory. In the end, it was wasted money and effort: The opposition remained vigilant, rayon was going out of fashion, the Whitney went back on the market and Cummings inherited the eight-volume study with the purchase. “Thanks to Formosa, I knew more about my plantation than anyone else around here — maybe more than any plantation in America outside of Monticello,” said Cummings, a litigator accustomed to teasing secrets from dense paperwork. “A lot of what was in there was about the architecture and artifacts, but you started to see the story of slavery. You saw it in terms of who built what.”
After digesting the study, Cummings began reading “any book I could find” about slavery. Particularly influential was “Africans in Colonial Louisiana,” by Gwendolyn Midlo Hall, a professor at Rutgers. Certain details startled Cummings, like the fact that 38 percent of slaves shipped from Africa ended up in Brazil. No wonder, he thought, that the women he watched on television celebrating Carnival in Rio de Janeiro so closely resembled those he saw dancing in the Mardi Gras parades that surrounded him as a youth. “I started to see slavery and the hangover from slavery everywhere I looked,” he said. As a descendant of Irish laborers, he has no direct ties to slaveholders; still, in a departure from the views held by many Southern whites, Cummings considered the issue a personal one. “If ‘guilt’ is the best word to use, then yes, I feel guilt,” he said. “I mean, you start understanding that the wealth of this part of the world — wealth that has benefited me — was created by some half a million black people who just passed us by. How is it that we don’t acknowledge this?”
Cummings steered the vehicle past the yellowing fronds of banana trees and pulled to a stop in front of a sculpture, a black angel embracing a dead infant, the centerpiece of a memorial honoring the 2,200 enslaved children who died in the parish in the 40 years leading up to the Emancipation Proclamation of 1863. At traditional museums, such memorials come to fruition only after a lengthy process — proposals by artists, debates among the board members, the securing of funds. This statue, though, like everything on the property, began as a vision in Cummings’s mind and became a reality shortly after he pulled out his checkbook. Perhaps most remarkable is that this unconventional model has yielded conventionally effective results: at once chastening and challenging, beautiful and haunting. “Everything about the way the place came together says that it shouldn’t work,” says Laura Rosanne Adderley, a Tulane history professor specializing in slavery who has visited the Whitney twice since it opened. “And yet for the most part it does, superbly and even radically. Like Maya Lin’s memorial, the Whitney has figured out a way to mourn those we as a society are often reluctant to mourn.”
Before leaving the grounds, Cummings stopped at the edge of the property’s small lagoon. It was here that the Whitney’s most provocative memorial would soon be completed, one dedicated to the victims of the German Coast Uprising, an event rarely mentioned in American history books. In January 1811, at least 125 slaves walked off their plantations and, dressed in makeshift military garb, began marching in revolt along River Road toward New Orleans. (The area was then called the German Coast for the high number of German immigrants, like the Haydels.) The slaves were suppressed by militias after two days, with about 95 killed, some during fighting and some after the show trials that followed. As a warning to other slaves, dozens were decapitated, their heads placed on spikes along River Road and in what is now Jackson Square in the French Quarter.
“It’ll be optional, O.K.? Not for the kids,” said Cummings, who commissioned Woodrow Nash, an African-­American sculptor he met at Jazz Fest, to make 60 heads out of ceramic, which will be set atop stainless-steel rods on the lagoon’s small island. “But just in case you’re worried about people getting distracted by the pretty house over there, the last thing you’ll see before leaving here will be 60 beheaded slaves.”

The memorial had lately become a source of controversy among locals, who were concerned that it would be too disturbing.
“It is disturbing,” Cummings said as he pulled out past Whitney’s gate. “But you know what else? It happened. It happened right here on this road.”
A nation builds museums to understand its own history and to have its history understood by others, to create a common space and language to address collectively what is too difficult to process individually. Forty-eight years after World War II, the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum opened in Washington. A museum dedicated to the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks opened its doors in Lower Manhattan less than 13 years after they occurred. One hundred and fifty years after the end of the Civil War, however, no federally funded museum dedicated to slavery exists, no monument honoring America’s slaves. “It’s something I bring up all the time in my lectures,” says Eric Foner, a Columbia University historian and the author of the Pulitzer Prize-winning “Fiery Trial: Abraham Lincoln and American Slavery.” “If the Germans built a museum dedicated to American slavery before one about their own Holocaust, you’d think they were trying to hide something. As Americans, we haven’t yet figured out how to come to terms with slavery. To some, it’s ancient history. To others, it’s history that isn’t quite history.”
These competing perceptions converge with baroque vividness in the South. The State of Mississippi did not acknowledge the 13th Amendment abolishing slavery until 1995 and formally ratified it only in 2013, when a resident was moved to galvanize lawmakers after watching Steven Spielberg’s “Lincoln.” While some Southern states have passed resolutions apologizing for slavery in the last decade, a majority, Louisiana among them, have not. In 1996, when Representative Steve Scalise, now the third-highest-ranking Republican in the House, was serving in the Louisiana State Legislature, he voted against such a bill. “Why are you asking me to apologize for something I didn’t do and had no part of?” he remarked at the time. This episode recently came to light amid the revelation that in 2002 he addressed a gathering of white supremacists at a conference organized by David Duke, formerly the grand wizard of the Ku Klux Klan, an organization founded the year the Civil War ended.
Slavery is by no means unmemorialized in American museums, though the subject tends to be lumped in more broadly with African-American history. In 2004, the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center opened in Cincinnati with the mission of showcasing “freedom’s heroes.” Since 2007, the Old Slave Mart in Charleston, S.C., has operated as a small museum focusing on the early slave trade, on a site where slaves were sold at public auctions until 1863. The National Civil Rights Museum, which opened in Memphis in 1991 and was built around the Lorraine Motel, where the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated, offers a brief section devoted to slavery. Next year, the National Museum of African American History and Culture is scheduled to be dedicated in Washington as part of the Smithsonian Institution, a project supported by $250 million in federal funding; exhibits on slavery will stand alongside those containing a trumpet played by Louis Armstrong and boxing gloves worn by Muhammad Ali. “It has to be said that the end note in most of these museums is that civil rights triumphs and America is wonderful,” says Paul Finkelman, a historian who focuses on slavery and the law. “We are a nation that has always readily embraced the good of the past and discarded the bad. This does not always lead to the most productive of dialogues on matters that deserve and require them.”
What makes slavery so difficult to think about, from the vantage point of history, is that it was both at odds with America’s founding values — freedom, liberty, democracy — and critical to how they flourished. The Declaration of Independence proclaiming that “all men are created equal” was drafted by men who were afforded the time to debate its language because the land that enriched many of them was tended to by slaves. The White House and the Capitol were built, in part, by slaves. The economy of early America, responsible for the nation’s swift rise and sustained power, would not have been possible without slavery. But the country’s longstanding culture of racism and racial tensions — from the lynchings of the Jim Crow-era South to the discriminatory housing policies of the North to the treatment of blacks by the police today — is deeply rooted in slavery as well. “Slavery gets understood as a kind of prehistory to freedom rather than what it really is: the foundation for a country where white supremacy was predicated upon African-American exploitation,” says Walter Johnson, a Harvard professor. “This is still, in many respects, the America of 2015.”
In 2001, Douglas Wilder, a former governor of Virginia and the first elected black governor in the nation, announced his intention to build a museum that would be the first to give slavery its proper due — not as a piece of Southern or African-American history but as essential to understanding American history in general. Christened the United States National Slavery Museum, it was to be built on 38 acres along the Rappahannock River in Fredericksburg, Va. Wilder, the grandson of slaves, commissioned C. C. Pei, a son of I. M. Pei, to design the main building, which would be complemented by a full-scale replica of a slave ship. A number of prominent African-Americans, including Bill Cosby, pledged millions of dollars in support at black-tie fund-raisers. The ambition that surrounded the project’s inception, however, was soon eclipsed by years of pitfalls. By 2008, there were not enough donations to pay property taxes, let alone begin construction; in 2011, the nonprofit organization in charge of the project filed for bankruptcy protection. As it happens, it was during the same period Wilder’s project unraveled that John Cummings, unburdened by any bureaucracies, was well on his way to completing a slavery museum of his own.
For much of the last 13 years, Cummings has been joined on the Whitney’s grounds by a Sen­egal­ese scholar named Ibrahima Seck. A 54-year-old of imposing height, Seck first met Cummings in 2000, when Seck, who has made regular trips to the South since winning a Fulbright in 1995, attended a talk at Tulane with Gwendolyn Midlo Hall, the Rutgers professor. Cummings put up Seck at the International House, the hotel he owns in downtown New Orleans, and invited him to see the Whitney. Though at that point it was little more than a series of decrepit buildings entangled in feral vegetation, Seck was impressed that Cummings was thinking about it exclusively within the context of slavery. As someone from the region of Africa that provided more than 60 percent of Louisiana’s slaves, he was disturbed by the way other plantations romanticized the lives of the white owners, with scant mention of the enslaved blacks who harvested the land and built the grand homes fawned over by tourists. After walking the property with Seck for a few hours, Cummings invited him to return to New Orleans the next year to help crystallize the Whitney’s mission. Seck took him up on the offer, and for the next decade, Cummings flew Seck in from Africa each year during the scholar’s summer vacation.
Since 2012, Seck has lived full time in New Orleans to serve as the director of research for the Whitney. “As historians, we do the research and we write dissertations and we go to conferences, but very little of the knowledge gets out,” Seck said one afternoon in his French-inflected baritone while seated on the antique upholstered sofa in the parlor of the property’s Big House. “That’s why a place like this is so important. Not everyone is willing to read nowadays, but this is an open book.” He took a moment to glance around the lavish room, its hand-painted ceiling now meticulously restored. “Every day I think about how remarkable this is,” Seck said. “One hundred and fifty years ago, I would not be able to do what I’m doing here now. I would have been a slave.”
The alliance between the two men has been an auspicious one, with Seck’s patience and expertise serving as a counterbalance to the instinctual eccentricity of Cummings. While Seck researched the Whitney’s history, Cummings became something of a hoarder, buying anything he thought might one day be relevant to the project. When he learned about a dilapidated Baptist church in a neighboring parish that was founded by freed slaves in 1867, for example, he brought it across the Mississippi and had it restored on the grounds at a cost of $300,000. When recordings of interviews with former slaves that were made in the 1930s as part of the W.P.A.’s Federal Writers’ Project were acquired, Cummings hired a son-in-law who works as a sound engineer in Hollywood to clean them up; he plans to install a speaker system near the slave cabins, where the recordings will play on a loop, allowing visitors to hear the voices of former slaves while staring into the type of homes in which they once lived. After Seck unearthed in old court documents the names of 354 slaves who worked on the land before emancipation, Cummings bought an engraving machine so they could be etched in Italian granite in a memorial he christened the “Wall of Honor.”
“By 2005, it was clear to me that we were building a museum, but I’m not sure John was thinking about it in those terms,” Seck said. “If John feels something, he just goes ahead and does it. His stubbornness can be frustrating, but who in the world is willing to put so many millions of dollars into a project like this? If you find one, you have to support it.”
In his years of working on the Whitney, Seck has come to see the museum as both a memorializing of history and a slyly radical gesture: Cummings’s desire to shift the consciousness of others as his own has been altered, and in the process try to make amends of a kind that have been a source of debate since emancipation.

“If one word comes to mind to summarize what is in John’s head in doing this,” Seck said, “that word would be ‘reparations.’ Real reparations. He feels there is something to be done in this country to make changes.”
In 1835, a biracial child named Victor was born on the grounds of the Whitney, the son of a slave named Anna and Antoine Haydel, the brother of Marie Azelie Haydel, the slaveholder who ran the plantation at the time. One hundred and seventy-nine years later, a group of both the black and white descendants of the Haydels made their way to the Whitney’s opening in December. Many were meeting for the first time, and the sight of them embracing and marveling at the similarities in their appearances was as powerful as any memorial on the plantation. Among the black Haydels in attendance was one of Victor’s great-grandchildren, Sybil Haydel Morial, a well-known local activist who is the widow of Ernest Morial, the first black mayor of New Orleans, and the mother of Marc Morial, a subsequent mayor. “I was with John when he helped get the pool in Audubon Park opened to blacks,” she said in a later conversation. “Now, with the Whitney, he has given us a place where we can come and clear the air. If my slave great-grandfather had lived eight more years, I would have known him. Yet growing up, whenever my elders talked about slavery, they’d always get quiet when we kids were near.” Morial added that she hoped “some people around here may find their views changing” after visiting the Whitney, which seemed to be the case with some of her white relatives at the opening.
“I have to say, I was a little offended when I heard that slavery, of all the stories, was going to be the focus,” Glynne Couvillion, a white Haydel, said while standing inside the Baptist church, surrounded by dozens of ghostly sculptures of child slaves that Cummings commissioned to represent those interviewed by the Federal Writers’ Project as they would have looked when enslaved. “But after today, I’m just in awe and proud to be connected to this place.”
For all the time and money Cummings has dedicated to the Whitney — and he is by no means finished, with plans to build an adjacent institute for the study of slavery — the museum was built on a shoestring budget compared with traditionally financed institutions. (The Holocaust Memorial Museum cost about $168 million.) Besides Seck, there were only two full-time staff members, an energetic young woman named Ashley Rogers, who serves as the director, and her deputy, Monique Johnson, a descendant of sharecroppers from the area, and it was evident that they were still finding their footing. Like the other plantations along River Road, the Whitney can be seen only through a guided tour — the cost is $22 — and a number of the docents struggled to find the proper tone. (“Time to depress you a little more,” one could be heard saying at various points.) Others struggled to answer questions about how, exactly, sugar cane was harvested by slaves, responding instead with generalities intended to incite emotion rather than educate: “It was the hardest, most grueling slave work imaginable.”
Yet this awkwardness might well serve as one of the Whitney’s strengths. Talking about slavery and race is awkward, and the museum stands a chance of becoming the rare place where this discomfort can be embraced, and where the dynamic among the mainly mixed-race tours can offer an ancillary form of education. A man who grew up in a “maroon community,” as bayou enclaves founded by runaway slaves are known, was so moved during his tour that he volunteered to work as a guide. A young black woman mentioned that she avoided tours at another nearby plantation because an ancestor was lynched on the grounds. Among the Whitney’s first visitors was a black man named Paul Brown, whose father was a field hand and who arrived dressed in a sharp blazer and a fedora on opening day “to shake the man’s hand who made this place possible.” During his tour, he offered personal anecdotes that served to buttress the white guide’s skittishness — bringing the past into the present, for instance, by pointing out how the images of slaves etched in one memorial were reminiscent of portraits of his ancestors. “I wish some of my white co-workers would come to this place,” he said afterward. “They’d understand me in ways they’ve failed for 30 years.”
Jonathan Holloway, a dean at Yale College and a professor of African-American studies, arrived for a tour in late January. He was in the area to give a talk at Louisiana State University about the ways the horrors of slavery are confronted and avoided in heritage tourism, and he found the Whitney to be a “genius step” in a long-overdue direction. “People have tried to do a museum like this for years, and I’m still stunned that this guy made it happen,” he said afterward. “There I was, coming down to talk about how in trying to tell the story, it’s often one step forward and two steps back, and boom, here’s the Whitney.” Holloway was particularly taken by the museum’s subversive approach. “Having been on a number of tours where the entire focus is on the Big House, the way they’ve turned the script inside out is a brilliant slipping of the skirt,” he said. “The mad genius of the whole thing is really resonant. Is it an art gallery? A plantation tour? A museum? It’s almost this astonishing piece of performance art, and as great art does, it makes you stop and wonder.”
Cummings, for his part, has been on the grounds every day since the Whitney opened, where he is in the habit of approaching visitors as they enter and telling them how they should feel afterward: “You’re not going to be the same person when you leave here” — a line that some found more grating than endearing. Inwardly, though, he was constantly making notes on what could be done to improve the experience.
“Look, we’re not perfect, and we’ve made a lot of mistakes, and we’ll make more,” he said one afternoon as the sun set across the sugar-cane fields that surround the plantation in much the form they did when slaves worked them 200 years ago. “We need all the help we can get — not financial, but we need brains.” With this in mind, he recently started reaching out to prominent African-American academics, hoping to create a board of directors — typically the first step for a museum, not one taken six weeks after opening day. “I’m firing before I’m aiming, O.K.?” he said. “I’m smart enough to know I don’t have the answers, but so far it looks like it’s the right thing.”
Rico says WHAT

25 February 2015

Sea level

The BBC has an article about the effects of global warming:
Sea levels north of New York City rose by 128mm in two years, according to a report in the journal Nature Communications. Coastal areas will need to prepare for short-term and extreme sea level events, say US scientists.
Climate models suggest extreme sea level rises will become more common this century.
"The extreme sea level rise event during 2009-10 along the northeast coast of North America is unprecedented during the past century," Professor Jianjun Yin of the University of Arizona told BBC News. "Statistical analysis indicates that it is a 1-in-850 year event."
Scientists at the University of Arizona and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) in New Jersey studied records of tidal levels along the east coast of the US and Canada. They divided the coastline into three areas: north of New York City, New York City to Cape Hatteras on the coast of North Carolina, and south of Cape Hatteras. They identified what they call an extreme sea-level rise during 2009-10, when the coastal sea level north of New York City jumped by 128mm.
"When coastal storms occur, extreme sea levels can lead to elevated storm surge," said Professor Yin. "In addition to long-term and gradual sea level rise, coastal communities will need to prepare for short-term and extreme sea level rise events."
Commenting on the study, Professor Rowan Sutton, climate scientist at the National Centre for Atmospheric Science at the University of Reading in the UK, said climate models suggest an increase in such events. "This study identifies a record breaking high sea level event that occurred along part of the east coast of the US in 2009-10. There is strong evidence that the likelihood of such events has been increased by climate change, and that we should expect more such events in the future. This example illustrates how individual extreme events are influenced by multiple factors, in this case the global rise of sea levels, regional changes in ocean circulation, and wind patterns."
Dr. Dan Hodson, also from the University of Reading, said the analysis underlined the importance of understanding the connections between surges in sea levels and ocean currents. "Sea level change is a complex phenomenon, especially on the regional scale, where changes to the global ocean circulation can play a major role," he said. "The east coast of North America is quite close to an area of active, fast ocean currents, and so is quite sensitive to changing ocean circulation." He said the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation (AMOC), a major current in the Atlantic Ocean, had implications for Europe and Africa as well as the US. Research at the University of Reading has shown how it could make British summers wetter, and may influence rainfall patterns in parts of Africa.
Rico says the UK doesn't need to be wetter, and Africa doesn't need to be dryer, but, before everyone panics, 128 millimeters is only five inches. (But, hey, Rico says his dick sounds a lot bigger as a hundred and thirty millimeters...)

Holes in Russia

Rico's friend Kelley forwards this, about strange holes in Russia:
More holes in the tundra. Awhile back they were saying that methane coming unfrozen was blasting these craters. In this case, they're saying they don't know. The article didn't even discuss whether or not these were the same. Any way, the photos are interesting. Shows the size (big!) and the walls are so smooth. 

22 February 2015

Quote for the day

"A society that systematically shuts its eyes to an urgent peril to its physical survival and fails to take any steps to save itself cannot be called psychologically well."
Jonathan Schell

Rico says, can you say ISIS?

Author, author

Rico says that, like Stephen Becker for fiction, he both admires and envies John McPhee for non-fiction. Rico is currently happily re-reading La Place de la Concorde Suisse, and so should you.

Movie for the day (RR)

Rico saw it awhile back, but Rough Riders (directed by John Milius) is worth watching again; it's got everything and everybody, from Buffalo Soldiers to Teddy Roosevelt, and an amazing cast, including Tom Berenger (as Teddy), Sam Elliott as Bucky O'NeillBrian Keith as President William McKinleyDale Dye (a real veteran) as Colonel Leonard Wood, a Medal of Honor winner who had a fort named after him, Pablo Espinosa as Frederick Funston, another Medal of Honor winner who also had a fort named after him, and Francesco Quinn (Anthony's son) as Rafael Castillo:

Movie preview for the day (Fury)

Rico says he saw it, and highly recommends it:

Dine for the day

Julie Turkewitz has an article (with the usual can't-download-it video) in The New York Times about the issue of gay marriage in an unlikely place:
Tradition reigns on the Navajo reservation, where the words of elders are treated as gospel and many people still live or pray in circular dwellings called hogans.
The national debate over gay marriage, however, is prompting some Navajos to re-examine a 2005 tribal law called the Dine Marriage Act, which prohibits same-sex unions on the reservation. Among the tribal politicians who have said they are amenable to repealing the law is Ben Shelly, president of the Navajo Nation, who has said he will go along with a repeal if the Navajo Nation Council votes in favor of it.
And at least one Navajo presidential aspirant— Joe Shirley Jr., a former president who is running again— favors legalizing same-sex marriage. “Our culture dictates acceptance,” Shirley, 67, said of gay Navajos in a slow, grandfatherly tone during an interview. “They are part of our family, they are our children, and we don’t need to be partial.”
A second presidential contender, Chris Deschene, 43, who was disqualified from running but might be able to get back into the race, said he was "most likely" to support gay marriage.
To Navajo traditionalists, however, the rapid redefinition of marriage in states around the country has made the 2005 tribal law more important than ever.
“It’s not for us,” Otto Tso, a Navajo legislator and medicine man from the western edge of the reservation, said of gay marriage. “We have to look at our culture, our society, where we come from, talk to our elders. I do respect gay people,” he continued, but as far as permitting same-sex unions, “I would definitely wait on that.”
The Supreme Court is expected to decide this year whether states can prohibit same-sex marriages, a move with the potential to lead to the legalization of gay unions in all fifty states. But the ruling would not apply to the Navajo Nation, because the country’s 556 tribes are sovereign entities.
Leading the charge for gay marriage here is Alray Nelson, 29, a top aide to Shirley, the presidential contender. Nelson, who would like to marry his partner, Brennen Yonnie, has pushed for years to repeal the Dine Marriage Act and has a small coalition of core supporters, about fifteen of them, he said. But some gay Navajos, he said, have not joined the coalition for fear they will be ostracized.
Other gay tribal citizens say they support same-sex marriage but do not consider marriage rights a priority, pointing out that many gay Navajos suffer from drug abuse and debilitating depression.
Fixing these ills, said Jeremy Yazzie, 33, who counsels gay and transgender Navajos, is far more important. “Everyone is worried about repealing the gay marriage act,” Yazzie said. “That’s far from my work. How can we love somebody else if we can’t even love ourselves?”
Nelson and Yonnie, 29, a caseworker for the tribal welfare agency, could marry in Arizona, Utah, and New Mexico, the states that border the reservation, if they wanted. “These states surrounding the Navajo Nation are taking big steps forward — steps for equality,” Nelson said. “The Navajo Nation is not.” Nelson grew up in a mobile home on the reservation, tending sheep and doing homework by kerosene lamp. He came out in an email to his family in his early twenties, was largely accepted, and soon became a powerful force in reservation politics, working for two tribal presidents. He met Yonnie through Facebook about four years ago and they now live with Yonnie’s mother. “Marriage to me is security,” Yonnie said over dinner recently.
But Nelson’s efforts to sway legislators have been hindered by his damaged credibility. In 2011, he admitted to filing false claims to the police, saying he had been threatened because of his race and sexuality. At the time, Nelson said in a recent interview, he had been suffering from depression and stress after the death of a family member. “I did some stupid stuff and said some stupid things,” he said. But he has pressed on. In the last year or so, Nelson has attended five tribal meetings to argue for changes to the law; he has briefed tribal presidential candidates on the issue and attended community events to hand out information and ask people to sign cards pledging their support. Sometimes he is accompanied by other Navajos, but other times, he and Yonnie are alone. “In many ways, it’s just been Brennen and I,” Nelson said.
Most tribal lawmakers say they have other priorities; creating jobs, for example, or channeling electricity to those without it.
The nation’s tribes have taken varying approaches to same-sex unions. At least ten have affirmed the right of gay couples to marry under tribal law, sometimes doing so ahead of the state in which the tribe is located.
In 2009, the Coquille tribe in Oregon became the first Native American nation to recognize same-sex marriages, though the Oregon Constitution still prohibited such unions. Kitzen Branting, a member of the Coquille tribe who was 26 at the time, and Jeni Branting, then 28, were the first to wed in the state.
But the largest Indian tribes— the Navajo Nation, here in the Southwest, and the Cherokee Nation, in Oklahoma— have specifically prohibited same-sex weddings. Each tribe has about three hundred thousand citizens.
These laws will stand even if the Supreme Court decides that bans on same-sex marriage are unconstitutional, according to Lindsay Robertson, director of the Center for the Study of American Indian Law and Policy at the University of Oklahoma, because tribes were not signatories to the United States Constitution and are therefore not bound by it.
Gay Navajos tend to maintain a quiet existence here, connecting with potential partners on the Internet and coming out to their families, but keeping their sexuality largely private. In interviews, several said they would not hold hands in public. Others said they had endured taunts or even physical abuse in school or in their neighborhoods, leading to depression and attempts to harm themselves. Some had moved off the reservation to places where they felt more comfortable.
Central to the debate over same-sex marriage is the question of the role that gay people have played in Navajo history. Several historians, including Jennifer Denetdale, a member of the Navajo Nation Human Rights Commission and a professor at the University of New Mexico, assert that gay and transgender people have long been part of tribal society, typically holding positions of great respect.
In an academic paper about the Dine Marriage Act, she recounted a traditional tale in which First Woman and First Man argue and set up camp on separate sides of a river, each accompanied by other members of their sex. The men were accompanied by nadleehi— men who dressed as women and took on feminine identities. “The nadleehi provided crucial domestic duties and provided an outlet for the men’s sexual desires,” Dr. Denetdale wrote.
Some opponents of gay marriage cite their attachment to local churches— which hold powerful sway here— as a reason to keep the Dine Marriage Act on the books. The Reverend Dale Jamison is a Roman Catholic leader whose church in Tohatchi draws about a hundred worshipers each Sunday. He said he could not imagine his congregants favoring gay marriage. “My people don’t necessarily want to talk about what they would consider Anglo, mainstream issues.”
At a beauty salon in Chinle, Arizona, about a hundred miles from Nelson’s home in Tohatchi, Jaye BTode, 55, dipped a client’s long tresses into the wash basin as she considered the issue. A photo of a Navajo supermodel hung by the door; music played softly in the background. “That’s not for us,” BTode said of gay marriage. “No, no, no, no.” Her client, Julie Begaye, 54, lifted her head out of the sink, shaking her wet locks. “That’s not our tradition,” she said. “If you want to do that, get off the reservation and do that somewhere else.”
Rico says this ain't over, but some people can laugh about it:

Papal stuff

Julia Terruso has an article in The Philadelphia Inquirer about commemorative crap:
More than one million people are expected to flood the Benjamin Franklin Parkway in September of 2015 to try to get even a speck-size glimpse of Pope Francis.
But there is an easier way: organizers are selling life-size cutouts of His Holiness.
For $120 (that's the twenty-five-percent-off price available through Saturday), you can own a "life-size standee" of Pope Francis.
The World Meeting of Families, the organization fund-raising and hosting a weeklong Catholic conference and the papal visit, is also selling tabletop papal cutouts for $15, an I heart Pope Francis t-shirt (with the heart substituted for a red mitre) for $14.25, and official Welcome Pope Francis posters for $9.
All that is available on the organization's website: http://wmof.myshopify.com/.
The Pope's visit to Philadelphia on 26 and 27 September 2015 caps a five-day visit to the United States, with stops in Washington, DC and New York City.
In Philadelphia, fund-raising efforts are well underway. The World Meeting said recently that it had raised thirty million of its forty-five million dollar fund-raising goal.
The merchandise scene will surely boom as the visit approaches. In Manila, where Pope Francis celebrated Ash Wednesday Mass this week, cutouts were placed around the city months ahead of his visit, according to local news reports. Local newspapers provided lists of websites and locations where people could purchase mementos.
Meg Kane, a spokeswoman working with the World Meeting of Families, did not know how many cutouts had already sold, but said a Philadelphia-area family, originally from the Philippines, came into the World Meeting of Families office to purchase a cutout.
The popular Pope has a wide array of tributes to him for sale on Amazon, including a Pope Francis baby onesie with his coat of arms, and Pope Francis soccer jerseys.
Another item for sale on the World Meeting of Families website is a fifteen-dollar Pope Francis quote mug with many of his sayings, including: "If money and material things become the center of our lives they seize us and make us slaves."
Rico says he won't be buying any of this stuff, and remind him to not go downtown the end of September...

History for the day

On 22 February 1980, in a stunning upset, the United States Olympic hockey team defeated the then-Soviets at Lake Placid, New York, four-to-three. (The American team went on to win the gold medal.)

21 February 2015

Movie preview for the day (E3)

Rico says he missed this one, full of boom & whango, too:

Piet Hein's egg

Rico says he wishes he'd bought one when he first saw one, back in the 1970s in Nantucket, but they're expensive (if still brilliant) now, what with the shipping costs:

Quote for the day

Rico's long-time friend Bill Champ sends this, from the late Steve Jobs:

"Death is very likely the single best invention of life."

Winter, still

Rico says he's had enough of cold and snow, thank you...

Art history for the day

Randy Kennedy has an article in The New York Times about some newly-discovered Cezannes:
In 1921, the wily art collector Albert C. Barnes wrote to Paris, France to his friend and fellow collector Leo Stein, who was in dire need of money and had deputized Barnes to sell some of his holdings in the United States. They included five watercolor landscapes by Paul Cézanne, but Barnes reported that he had failed to find “anybody who seems to think they are sufficiently important to want to own them.”
It was pure mercantile flimflam. Barnes turned around and bought the watercolors for himself, at a hundred dollars each, installing them permanently in his personal museum near here. Now it turns out that Barnes got a better deal than even he had thought: a conservation treatment of the watercolors has revealed two previously unknown Cézanne works— a graphite drawing (above) and a watercolor with graphite— on the reverse side of two of the watercolors.
Hidden beneath brown paper backing, the newly discovered pieces are unfinished, but they have sent tremors through the world of Cézanne scholarship, where additions to his body of work are exceedingly rare and where even the resurfacing of long-unseen pieces can be huge news. A watercolor study for Cézanne’s coveted The Card Players paintings, discovered in Dallas in 2012 after a six-decade absence from public view, brought nineteen million dollars at auction that year, an indication of the work’s importance but also of Cézanne’s place among the most sought-after artists of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.
“Many people come to me and say, ‘I found a Cézanne,’ and I’ve never, never, never found one that was actually by Cézanne,” said Denis Coutagne, president of the Paul Cézanne Society in Provence, France, who has been conducting research for the Barnes for several months to determine where Cézanne was standing in the landscape of Aix-en-Provence when he drew one of the newly discovered works. “It was a very fortunate day in Philadelphia when they found these,” Coutagne said in a telephone interview from Aix-en-Provence, where Cézanne (1839-1906) was born and spent most of his painting career.
There is nothing in Barnes’ correspondence to indicate that he was aware of the existence of the two works. The Barnes, which relocated in 2012 from its original home in Merion, a Philadelphia suburb, to a new building in Philadelphia, has begun a yearsl-ong conservation program for many of its works. It knew that the acidic backing of the five Cézanne watercolors needed to be removed to prevent damage. And in January of 2014, when Gwenanne Edwards, a paper expert at the Conservation Center for Art and Historic Artifacts in Philadelphia, was beginning that long removal process, millimeter by millimeter, with a tool called a microspatula, she suddenly came to an area where she found a patch of blue-green color and then graphite lines.
Edwards, looking at the uncovered works again last week on a table at the Barnes Foundation’s conservation lab, added: “It was quite thrilling.”
Barbara Buckley, the senior director of conservation at the Barnes, described the reaction at the foundation a bit more emphatically: “There were screams of delight.”
One of the works, found on the back of a watercolor of mountains dated to 1885-86, is a view of what seems to be a path leading through trees, with what might be a well or cistern in the distance. At some point in the work’s history, someone — probably not Cézanne — wrote an “X” and the word “non” on the lower right-hand corner of the work, with what might be a question mark following it, indicating that it was rejected or questioned as a completed or salable piece.
The second discovered work, a graphite drawing with no color, found on the back of a watercolor of trees dated to 1900 or earlier, shows a view of the Massif de l’Etoile mountain range, looking toward a prominent button-shaped limestone peak known as the Pilon du Roi, with a large manor house in the foreground and a farmhouse in the distance. From where Cézanne was most likely standing when he drew it, the peak of his beloved Mont Sainte-Victoire, whose craggy mass he returned to in paint again and again, would have been visible to his left.
“These are a perfect example of how much we still don’t know about this collection,” said Martha Lucy, a consulting curator at the Barnes and an expert on its Renoir and Cézanne holdings. “To add new work to Cézanne’s oeuvre is incredible.”
While Barnes’s chief passion was Renoir — he amassed 181 works by him during his lifetime — he also fell in love with the work of Cézanne in the early years of the 20th century. In 1914, he wrote to Stein that he was in Cézanne’s “good strong grip,” enthralled by his “crudity, his baldness of statements, his apparent lack of skill in the handicraft of painting, and the absolute sincerity of the man.” Among artists, Cézanne’s watercolors were particularly prized. Renoir and Degas were reported to have drawn lots to see which one would get to own a Cézanne watercolor still life in 1895, at the time of a Paris exhibition organized by the dealer Ambroise Vollard, which vaulted Cézanne to public recognition.
While the Barnes remains bound by its founder’s strict charter and bylaws, which prohibit moving or rearranging the works on the walls, the foundation plans to show the uncovered works briefly in double-sided frames, from April 10 to May 18, along with video of some of the conservation work. Barnes officials said they recently presented the plan to the office of the Pennsylvania attorney general, which oversees the governance of nonprofit institutions, and received its blessing to keep the watercolors temporarily away from their usual spots on the wall.
Barnes conceived of his foundation more as an educational institution than as a museum, sometimes fiercely repelling those seeking a casual visit. (His one-word response on T. S. Eliot’s application: “Nuts.”) Ms. Lucy said she believed one of the chief benefits of the discovery would be educational, shedding new light on how Cézanne worked, particularly how he “pried apart color and line.”
“I don’t want to say that these are spontaneous, but there’s more spontaneity,” she added. “You can see how they’re made, and for anyone who cares about Cézanne, that’s an amazing thing to get to see.”
Rico says WHAT

One-way (if historic) ticket

Sonia Van Meter (photo) has a Time article about why she wants to go to Mars:
One of the Mars One finalists reveals what it's like to face leaving Earth forever:
It’s a peculiar thing to imagine leaving our planet forever. But when a Dutch nonprofit called the Mars One Project announced in 2013 that they were accepting applications for a one-way trip to another planet, I didn’t think twice about signing up.
It started off simply enough. Answer some questions about yourself, put together an audition video, and submit the application fee. More than two hundred thousand people answered the call, and I was excited to be one of them. That was really enough for me. I was sure my efforts would go nowhere, but at least I’d be able to say that I’d thrown my hat in the ring. It’s not like I’m a trained astronaut, after all. I’m not even a scientist. I’m a political consultant with a husband, two extraordinary stepsons, and a black lab dog. But I wasn’t going to let a lack of training stop me from trying.
Space exploration has inspired me since I was a little girl. I would watch Star Trek with my parents and daydream about what other life forms might be out there waiting to meet us, and what challenges we would face as a species if (and when) we find out we’re not alone in the universe. As I got older, the daydreams became a tad more realistic. Could we ever reach out far enough into our galaxy to find that life? What technology would we need to develop to cover such tremendous distances? Are humans physically capable of spending that kind of time in space?
These are questions we’ll no doubt wrestle with for generations to come, as we take the next small steps into outer space, but one thing is certain: space exploration and colonization are the next “giant leaps” for humanity. It’s human nature to explore, to question, to look out and wonder what lies beyond the horizon.
That spirit is at the heart of the Mars One Project. They’ve picked up where Apollo left off, reigniting the dream of spaceflight in a way that low-Earth-orbit shuttle missions, the International Space Station, and unmanned cargo ships cannot. They talk of “going boldly” where we’ve yet to put human beings. But there’s just the tiniest catch: you do not get to come home.
That’s where I usually lose people. “How can you leave forever?” “What does your family think about this?” “Your husband’s okay with you leaving him?” These are the questions I’m peppered with when I tell people this is a one-way trip. And these are reasonable questions, perfectly understandable, and they deserve well considered answers. So here they are:
Space exploration is worth a human life. Every astronaut that has ever flown has known the risks they were up against, once they strapped into that ship. And there’s no guarantee that I won’t be crushed by a collapsing roof tomorrow, or diagnosed with a terminal illness next year. Some call this a suicide mission. I have no death wish. But it would be wonderful if my death could be part of something greater than just one individual. If my life ends on Mars, there will have been a magnificent story and a world of accomplishment to precede it.
But that’s not what people really want to know. “How can you leave your family/your life/Earth for certain death?” they ask. Simple: in the beginning, it didn’t seem real. This was an easy conversation because there were so many applicants. When you’re one of more than two hundred thousand, the odds are so long that you’ll be picked— never mind the technical hurdles— that the entire enterprise seemed like a lark, both theoretical and improbable, like writing your own name in for President. If there were consequences, they seemed abstract.
When I made the candidate list of just over a thousand, things became more interesting. People wanted to talk to me about it. I began to come up with answers and repeat them, which in itself became a way of not facing up to the potential reality of stepping off this planet forever. Staying on message became a way to stay away from my real feelings about this.
Now that I’m one of one hundred, the world is watching, looking to me for answers to questions that were easily brushed off when this was all just a fantastical daydream. The reality of this presses up against me, and I stay on message to protect that private space for me and my husband where I can face the hard questions that come at night. It’s one thing to imagine the good that can come from a manned mission to Mars, but it’s quite another to tally up the cost and see one’s life on the bill.
Paradoxically, I couldn’t even be contemplating this without the support of my family. My stepsons think it’s neat that their stepmom wants to fly off into space even if it means I might not be around to see grandchildren. In doing this, I want to show them that there is no dream so great that it shouldn’t be chased. My father and sister think I’m a little nuts, but they know my reasons for doing this are about furthering a dream for mankind, not making a name for myself. And my husband, my incredible husband, has been my greatest advocate since the day I first applied. The promise I made to him on our wedding day was that our marriage would serve to make us the best versions of ourselves. He knows I’d walk away from Mars One without a second’s hesitation if he asked me to. And that’s why he won’t. He know what this mission means to me.
The first launch of human beings won’t happen until 2024. That means we’re in chapter one of a very long story. No one knows how this story will end. The mission might be scrapped due to technical feasibility issues. The funding might not come together. They might have a hard time finding the right candidates. There are millions of things that have to happen for this to be a success, and there are plenty of things that can and will go wrong along the way. But Mars is humanity’s inevitable destination, and Mars One has accepted the challenge to take that next great leap. Now it’s up to us to live up to the adventure. 
Rico says that he won't be going, and the place is a little bleak:

Idiots (female division) for the day

NBC News has an article about three girls headed for disaster:
British counter-terror officials were urgently searching for three teenage schoolgirls they feared had run away from home to travel to Syria, police said recently.
The girls, all good friends aged fifteen to sixteen, boarded a Turkish Airlines flight at London's Gatwick Airport and arrived in Istanbul, Turkey later that evening, police said in a statement. Thousands of wannabe ISIS rebels have crossed into Syria through Turkey since the civil war there started four years ago.
The girls were last seen at their homes that morning, where they made plausible excuses to their families as to why they would be out for the day, officials added.
Surveillance photos (above) of the three teenage girls, who were last seen at Gatwick Airport in London, England; from left to right, sixteen-year-old Kadiza Sultana, a fifteen-year-old whose name was withheld by authorities, and fifteen-year-old Shamina Begum.
"We are extremely concerned for the safety of these young girls and would urge anyone with information to come forward and speak to police," said Richard Walton, counterterror commander of the Metropolitan Police. "Our priority is the safe return of these girls to their families."
Launching an appeal for information about the three, officials in London also said they were concerned about how many of young women traveling to the part of Syria controlled by the extremist group ISIS. "It is an extremely dangerous place," Walton said.
The girls were identified as Shamima Begum, Kadiza Sultana, and a fifteen-year-old who has not been named at the request of her family. Begum and the third girl were reported missing to police by their families later that evening when they did not return home. Sultana was reported missing by her family on Wednesday morning.
All three went to school in Bethnal Green in East London, according to police. Police said that Begum and Sultana had London accents, and also spoke Bengali, the unnamed fifteen-year-old spoke English and Amharic, a language native to Ethiopia.
Police said they were attempting to reach out to the girls through social media and the Turkish press.
Rico says they'll find out, unfortunately too late, that this was a dumb idea... (Rico had them, too, when he was fifteen, but never acted on them, fortunately.)


Casino Deposit Bonus