Friday, August 27, 2010

Palace Of Odysseus Found In Ithaca?

A team of archaeologists claims they have found the palace of Odysseus, the mythical king of Ithaca who fought in the Trojan War and who famously took 10 years to find his way home after the war ended.

Despite the fantastical stories about Odysseus told in the Odyssey, the archaeologists believe there is some truth to his existence and that the palace they discovered on the island of Ithaca, in the Ionian sea off the north-west coast of Greece, belonged to him.

A team from the University of Ioannina found the remains of the extensive three story building. The palace complex features a well from the 8th century BC, which is approximately the period in which Odysseus is believed to have been king of Ithaca.

However, it’s still questionable as to whether or not Odysseus actually existed. Also, some believe that ancient Ithaca was not in the same location as its modern namesake. They believe ancient Ithaca was located on the Paliki peninsula, on the island of Cephalonia.

Sing to me of the man, Muse, the man of twists and turns driven time and again off course, once he had plundered the hallowed heights of Troy.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Kodak 1922 Kodachrome Film Test

This is the 1922 Kodachrome Motion Picture Test No. III made at Paragon Studios in Fort Lee, New Jersey. It’s stunningly beautiful in its simplified color and tenebrist style with illuminated subjects and black background. It is one of the earliest color film examples existing.

The test footage includes actresses Mae Murray and Hope Hampton, with the latter modeling costumes from the movie The Light in the Dark (1922), which contained the first commercial use of Two-Color Kodachrome in a feature film. Ziegfeld Follies actress Mary Eaton and an unidentified woman and child also appear.

The Two-Color Kodachrome Process was an attempt to give natural lifelike colors to film using a subtractive color system. The subtractive part is done by using a dual-lens camera with color filters to record images on black/white negative stock. The negatives would show not just light and dark, but with color filters, show where the unfiltered color existed (or didn’t exist depending on your perspective). Through a complicated process of treating the negatives and dyeing one side of the finished film stock (that had double sided emulsion) with green/blue and red on the other, a range of colors could be produced.

A full three color process was used in a full length feature film for the first time 13 years later, in 1935.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da For Fun

This may be the best version of Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da ever made. It’s classic. 

The Gameboy Music Club formed in the Summer of 2002. A lot of their music is created using music programs and the Nintendo Game Boy. The objective is to provide general and simple access to the infinite world of the present day music. It’s about the allure of using a cheap electronic musical instrument and music software and reducing music to the essentials.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Forma Urbis Romae: The Severan Marble Plan Is Tantalizing Jigsaw Puzzle From Hell

The Forma Urbis Romae, or Severan Marble Plan, was an immense 3rd century map of the city of ancient Rome, carved into 150 adjoining slabs of marble and covering a wall rising over four stories tall. It was created at an approximate scale of 1:240 and measured 60’ wide by 45’ high. The map depicted the location of the buildings and structures that existed in central Rome, and it was detailed enough to show the floor plans of nearly every temple, bath, house, shop, warehouse, and apartment building in the city’s core. Unfortunately, only fragments of the map still survive, but they provide details about the topography and lesser-known neighborhoods of ancient Rome that otherwise would have been unknown today.

The map was created sometime between 203 and 211 A.D, during the time of the emperor Septimius Severus. It may have been used by the city prefect (praefectus urbis) or, perhaps was merely a decoration for his office, which stored more practical sized maps drawn on papyrus. The marble map was affixed to an interior wall of what was then the Temple of Peace (Templum Pacis). The same wall is now an exterior wall of the 6th century Church of Saints Cosmas and Damian (Basilica of Santi Cosma e Damiano). The holes in the wall where the bronze clamps attached the marble slabs in place can still be seen.

The Severan Plan was gradually destroyed during the Middle Ages, as the marble stones were torn away to be used as building materials or for making lime for fertilizer or cement. Whatever was left fell to the ground, breaking apart into many unrecognizable pieces and becoming buried over time.

In the 16th century fragments of it were found, but they did not elicit much lasting interest. In later years, as more fragments were found (or lost and then rediscovered) there was an interest in trying to fit the pieces together. The work was like a giant jigsaw puzzle, with only a few famous landmarks, like the Colosseum, incised into the stone to give any clue as to how the pieces should be assembled.

To date, only about 10% to 15% of the original surface area of the plan is known to still exist, and that much is broken into almost 1200 pieces of various sizes. Some of these fragments are relatively easy to piece together, but others are more difficult since their adjoining pieces don’t exist, or because the fragments have been altered (such as when their edges were sawn off in the 18th century to fit within display frames in a museum). In modern times, archaeologists have turned to using computer and coded algorithms to try to determine the correct placement of the pieces.

Additional fragments continue to be discovered in Rome, and there may be more so in the near future. Excavations for Rome’s new Line C metro subway are being done at the site of the Forum of Peace, where the plan was located. Great care is being taken to preserve any antiquities that may be found, and it is hoped that among the artifacts they find will be more pieces of the plan. Since some of the map fell from the wall to the ground through the years as it was torn away or dropped, it is possible that more fragments may yet be unearthed from this important archaeological site.

The piecing together of the world’s greatest jigsaw puzzle continues.

BYOP: Bring Your Own Potato (Mr. Potato Head History)

Mr. Potato Head got his start when his inventor George Lerner would take potatoes from his mother’s garden and, using other fruits and vegetables as facial features, would make “dolls” with which his younger sisters could play. In the early 1950s,  Lerner came up with the idea of making a marketable toy that consisted of small, manufactured body and face pieces that could be inserted into ordinary fruits and vegetables to create a “funny face man”.

Lerner shopped the idea around to toy companies, but the concept was unpopular. World War II and its food rationing were still present in people’s memory and the use of fruits and vegetables to make toys was considered too wasteful. No toy company would buy the invention.

After several years of trying to sell the toy, Lerner finally convinced a food company to distribute the plastic parts as premiums in cereal boxes. He sold the idea for $5,000. In 1951, Lerner showed the idea to textile manufacturers Henry and Merrill Hassenfeld, who conducted a small school supply and toy business called Hassenfeld Bros. (that later became Hasbro). The brothers paid the cereal company $2,000 to stop production and $5,000 for the rights. Lerner was offered an advance of $500 and a 5% royalty on every kit sold. The toy was named Mr. Potato Head and went into production and has never stopped being made since.

Mr. Potato Head was first sold in 1952. The original toy cost 98 cents, and contained hands, feet, ears, two mouths, two pairs of eyes, four noses, three hats, eyeglasses, a pipe, and 8 felt pieces resembling facial hair. There was no potato body in the kit. Parents had to supply the potatoes to make the finished product.

On April 30, 1952, Mr. Potato Head was the first toy advertised on television directly to children. Before, all advertising about toys had been directed toward parents. Over one million kits were sold in the first year. In 1953, Mrs. Potato Head was added, and soon after, Brother Spud and Sister Yam completed the Potato Head family with accessories reflecting the affluence of the fifties that included a car, a boat trailer, a kitchen set, a stroller, and pets called Spud-ettes.

It wasn’t until 1964 that the boxed Mr. Potato Head started to contain a plastic potato to insert the face and body pieces into.

In 1975, like other fat Americans, the plastic potato and accessories doubled in size. This was done mainly because new toy child safety regulations required toy pieces big enough to prevent being a choking hazard. The change in size also increased the market to younger children, enabling them to play and attach the facial pieces easily.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Who Does The Kremlin Belong To?

Descendants of one of the ruling dynasties from Russia’s history have gone to court to regain control of property they say is rightfully theirs. The case is notable because the property in question, the Kremlin in Moscow, is some of the most famous real estate in the country. It’s also notable because a court has actually agreed to hear the case. Strangely, the case is not necessarily open-and-shut since it has been discovered that there is no official owner registered for the enormous complex. So who owns the Kremlin?

If people are familiar with a Russian dynasty, it is likely to be the Romanov dynasty of Czar Nicholas II. However the people bringing the suit are descendants of the earlier Rurik dynasty, which ruled for 700 years until 1598. It was during the times of the Rurik rulers that the stone structures in the Kremlin were first built.

The leader of the organization of Rurik descendants, Grand Prince Valery Kubarev, explains that his group (the Princes’ Foundation for the Advancement of Religious and National Consensus) is not asserting ownership as much as they are just wanting to gain access to the buildings and have management rights over the property. The prince said he wants “indefinite and 24-hour use” of at least one of the Kremlin’s four palaces or of several of its 19 towers for the Princes’ Foundation. The Prince also wants the head of the Russian Orthodox Church to be housed there, and for his foundation to be allowed to hold cultural, political and religious events inside the famous walls.

“The property was not purchased from us, was not lawfully taken away from us, and the federal authorities do not have any right to our property. The Ruriks demand the return of our property, rent from the government for the illegal possession of our property, and financial compensation,” Kubarev said.

The Moscow Arbitration Court decided to hear the case and granted the Princes’ Foundation’s request for official documentation regarding the status of the architectural elements of the Kremlin and of the underlying land. The government must present its evidence by September 14th and the case itself will be heard October 18th.

The defendants are the Russian Federation, the Ministry of Culture and the Federal Agency for State Property Management (Rosimushchestvo). A lawyer for Rosimushchestvo told a newspaper that the Kremlin is the property of the Russian state, but surprisingly admitted that at the current time no property rights to the historic complex have been registered by anyone. Even so, the lawyers for the Russian government have dismissed the lawsuit as a “farce” without merit and with no chance of success.

Pointing to the government’s acknowledgment of no deed, Kubarev said, “The court noted that there is no document that proves that the Kremlin is somebody’s property. All we have is a presidential decree that says that the Kremlin is his residence,” Kubarev said. “Well, I could write my own decree, too.”

On the other hand, it might make sense for the Romanovs instead of the Ruriks to bring a claim, since they were the last ruling family in Russia. However, Alexander Zakatov, a historian and spokesman for the House of Romanov, ridiculed the lawsuit as insane. “Our psychiatric hospitals are working very well in the country. They [the Ruriks] should turn first to those institutions before going to court.” He said the House of Romanov has never claimed any rights to state-owned buildings because they belong to the nation, not a single family. “We won’t do it, even if Russia becomes a monarchy again,” he said.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Who owns Michelangelo’s David?


The city of Florence and the national government of Italy are in a dispute over which of the two owns Michelangelo Buonarroti’s famous statue of David. The dispute is more than about just pride of ownership; it’s also about who should be getting how much of the annual $10 million in admission ticket sales from visitors paying to see the statue.

The claim by Florence has been put forth for many years, but more recently a request was made by Florence to the Italian government to hand over the earnings, on the basis of Florence’s right of ownership. Following the request, the Italian Heritage Ministry commissioned a study to determine the rightful owner.

Looking through centuries of archival material, two lawyers commissioned by the national government produced a nine-page document that concluded that David belongs to Italy. The major legal point they made was that between the time of Republic of Florence, which existed at the time David was created, until the unification of Italy in 1870, the city was part of a number of successor states and they did not provide a clear continuity in ownership. More importantly, the unified Italy was the final successor state of all the Italian states and so the inheritor of all the states’ assets.

The city’s argument is that there is a legal document that Italy was a party to from 1871 that decreed that the Palazzao Vecchio (the town hall outside of which David was located at the time) and everything in it was given to the city of Florence. The counter argument from the national givernment’s lawyers is that the document did not explicitly mention David, “even though by this time it had acquired an enormous symbolic value”. In addition, when David was moved to La Galleria dell’Accademia in Florence in 1873 (to bring it inside for conservation purposes), the city did not assert any rights to the sculpture. In fact, a year later, the mayor of Florence at the time claimed David belonged to the Italian government and for that reason billed Rome for its moving cost.

The Italian Heritage Minister stated that he hoped an amicable agreement could be worked out between Italy and Florence to avoid any further controversy.

The money for the admission to the state run L’Accademia gallery in Florence goes to the Italian government, and not the city. The gallery has 1.5 million visitors a year and Florence has to pay for cleaning and security in the area. The mayor doesn’t feel that it is fair that the burden of maintaining the city and its centuries-old buildings should be paid by its citizens without them being able to share in the profit its key attractions provide.

The ruling on David is considered even more dangerous because Florence also claims ownership of many pieces of art in other local state-run museums such as the Uffizi Gallery.

Michelangelo was commissioned in 1501 to create the sculpture for the city’s cathedral. However, when it was finished in 1504, it was placed in the Piazza Della Signoria at the entrance to the Palazzo Vecchio. It was considered a masterpiece from the beginning, even though David has a major flaw: an uncircumcised penis on one of the most famous Hebrews of all time.

A replica was placed in the Piazza della Signoria in 1910, which remains on view for the public for free.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

I Love Monsters Band

The “free credit report” people are looking for a new band for its commercials, one that will cause people to take notice and hopefully recognize and remember the product. They may have found it with New York’s I Love Monsters band. The group has been appearing in a commercial for the new website, as part of a contest by the site’s owner to select an official band for the site’s advertisements. The commercial features the vocals of lead singer Brett Spigelman, and whether you like or hate him, his voice will cut through the drone of the usual commercial fare.

The I Love Monsters commercial is one of four commercials that is televising to show each of the four finalists in the site’s contest to select its new band. The credit reporting company that owns the site, Experian, had a lot of success with its previous set of commercials for (note the name difference). In those commericials, a fake band sang a series of very popular jingles that brought a lot of attention to the site. That campaign is over, but to help introduce its new product, new website, Experian decided to reuse the concept, but this time hire a real band that would present its own sound and not just lip-sync to session recordings.

Experian did talent searches in New York, Chicago, and Los Angeles, using event people and promoters to find the best “undiscovered” local talent and have them apply. Experian also allowed bands from all over to submit videos of themselves for consideration. The candidates were narrowed down to four finalists by the company and those bands were then shown on TV for the first time during the MLB All-Star game in July, 2010. At that time, the contest was opened to the public to vote for their favorite. The voting contest continues through August 9th, 2010, after which the winner will be announced. Among other prizes, the winning band will be part of the FCS advertising campaign for 18 months. 

Singer Brett Spigelman’s voice can be characterized as either addictive or nails on chalkboard (see video below), but either way it would cause the listening public to notice the advertisement. Brett (pictured below) graduated from Connecticut College in 2005, where he studied music and philosophy. He spent some time with a group called “Shorty 2 Inch”, and later in “4gether”.  He has notably been involved with charity work, including AIDS Walk in New York and San Francisco.

Brett is on bass and vocals. The other members are Micah Weisberg on guitar and vocals, Jonathan Tortora on percussion, and Jeff Joseph Jeudy also on guitar and vocals.

I Love Monsters formed in early 2008. Three of the four members of the band, including Brett, met while in college. The fourth member, Jeff, was added later.

The group got the inspiration for its name from seeing a little boy crossing Sixth Avenue in New York City with his finger in his nose and wearing a shirt that said “I Love Monsters.” They are indie-rock, and considers their sound to be a mixture of dance rock and pop. Their stated influences include The Arctic Monkeys, Weezer, Phoenix, The Get Up Kids and The Beatles.

Their music is available for free download at The songs available are Spine, Satellites, Stop Pretending, Heart/Beat, Rescue, Practice with Your Heart, and Seen a Ghost.

The music from their song Heart/Beat was used in a clip on the show Entourage. Their music has also been used several times on commercials for the show American Pickers.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

David Archuleta Doesn’t Give Up On Love

The video for David Archuleta’s Something ‘Bout Love, the first song released from his new album, The Other Side Of Down, has been released. It shows a reflective and exuberant David wandering the streets and then going to a party, while thinking and singing about love.

The song is another brilliant and thrilling accomplishment by Archuleta. It was originally scheduled for its digital release on July 13th, but it was delayed a week to the 20th. His people explained that he “wants to give his fans WAY more than just a single, and needed an extra week to do it.” Archuleta clearly succeeded.

The album release was also postponed, from September 14th to October 5th. About the delay, his people said, “Like the last time we dealt with a date change, this one is definitely for the best. David would like to make sure he’s delivering the best possible album and he needs just a little more time to do it.”

About the nature of the album, Archuleta said, “Most of the songs on the album represent thoughts and experiences that I’ve personally gone through. I hope this album helps people understand more of where I’m coming from as an artist and as a person. It’s about moving forward in life, making progress in accomplishing your goals and dreams while appreciating what life has given you.”

About the video for Something ‘Bout Love (below), Archuleta explained, “The video and the song are about people who are feeling a little down and a little alone and just feeling a little frustrated with love or their situation in life. Even though you might feel down with love, there’s something about it you shouldn’t give up on.”

The video also allows people to see how well Archuleta is maturing, to see what he is going to look like as an adult instead of the cute kid on American Idol. The Honduran-American hottie is still looking good, although he should probably comb his bangs down.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Ann Coulter As The Right Wing Judy Garland

In news of the bizarre, the conservative gay group GOProud announced that its “first annual Homocon – a party to celebrate gay conservatives,” would be headlined by controversial big-mouth Ann Coulter.

Coulter claims she is not anti-gay, saying, “I do want to point out one thing that has been driving me crazy with the media — how they keep describing Mitt Romney’s position as being pro-gays, and that’s going to upset the right wingers. Well, you know, screw you! I’m not anti-gay. We’re against gay marriage. I don’t want gays to be discriminated against. … I don’t know why all gays aren’t Republican. I think we have the pro-gay positions, which is anti-crime and for tax cuts. Gays make a lot of money and they’re victims of crime. No, they are! They should be with us.”

“The gay left has done their best to take all the fun out of politics, with their endless list of boycotts and protests. Homocon is going to be our annual effort to counter the ‘no fun police’ on the left,” said Christopher Barron, Chairman of the Board of GOProud. “I can’t think of any conservative more fun to headline our inaugural party then the self-professed ‘right-wing Judy Garland’ – Ann Coulter.”

Homocon 2010 will take place in New York City on the evening of Saturday September 25th. Adds Barron: “I can promise you, Homocon 2010 will be a hell of a lot more fun than chaining yourself to the White House fence.”

3 Musketeers Candy Bar


Do you know how the 3 Musketeers® candy bar got its name?

The 3 Musketeers® Bar takes its name from the original design of the product, which was three pieces and three flavors: vanilla, chocolate, and strawberry. It was first sold that way in 1932 by the Mars candy company. Supposedly, during WWII, due to difficulty in getting vanilla and strawberry flavorings, Mars changed the candy bar to be all one flavor.

How is it made?

The 3 Musketeers® Bar is made of chocolate-flavored nougat covered with milk chocolate. The nougat center is first formed into very large slabs, which are cut to size, and after the centers are formed they are coated with thick, rich milk chocolate, through a process called “enrobing.” The actual enrobing process begins when the centers pass through a continuous curtain of liquid chocolate, which coats the top and sides of the bar. At the same time, a rotating chocolate covered wheel beneath the mesh belt coats the base of the bar. To ensure an attractive, glossy, smooth coating, the chocolate must be just the right temperature. The fully enrobed bar is then cooled and prepared for wrapping.

What is nougat?

Nougat is made by whipping egg whites until they are light and frothy. Sugar syrup is then added, stabilizing the foam and creating “frappe.” A number of other flavoring ingredients are then added to the frappe; each ingredient creates nougat with a different taste.

Easy A

September 17th, 2010 is the release date for the movie Easy A. It looks like it is going to be hilarious.

After a little white lie about losing her virginity gets outs, Olive, a clean cut high school girl (Emma Stone) sees her life paralleling Hester Prynne’s in The Scarlet Letter, which she is currently studying in school - until she decides to use the rumor mill to advance her social and financial standing. She wears the letter A and the process becomes both the most popular and hated girl in school.

Olive pretends to lose her virginity to a gay friend to help his social standing. Word gets around with the unpopular male set in school and others in that group want her to do the same for them. She starts a business in creating the appearance that the unlayable have gotten laid. Somewhere along the line she falls for Woodchuck Todd (Penn Badgley).

Emma Stone is wonderfully funny in this film and makes it a must see.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Banana Republic Herring-boner Pants

The Banana Republic states that their tailored herringbone suit pant is available for both “big” and tall men, and to prove the former, their photo of the pants showed an example of a really big man (see above). The description on their website stated, “Pure wool offers a luxe softness in our slimmer, more tailored suit pant. The fine, herringbone pattern adds classic sensibility.”  It also appears to offer some luxe stimulation with a slim fit that shows what a man has to offer. The patten may add some classic sensibility, but it doesn’t add any modesty to keep within polite society’s sensibilities.

Enter the wood-killing airbrush. Apparently the web prudes complained and BR decided they needed to doctor their image (see below). No word on how much sales went limp after the original herring-boner pants were replaced with the Ken doll version.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Nick Jonas Co-chairs Reagan Youth Leadership


As part of the celebration in 2011 of the 100th anniversary of the birth of President Ronald Reagan, a National Youth Leadership Committee, representing America’s next generation of leaders, has been formed to help honor his legacy. The committee consists of 35 young people, all under the age of 25, and includes race car drive Marco Andretti and speedskater J.R. Celski. There are four co-chairs for the committee, including singer Nick Jonas. The committee will participate in commemorative events during the Centennial Celebration.

About Reagan, Jonas said, “My father and my family were supporters of Reagan,” Jonas said. “I’m proud to be a part of this. It’s amazing.” Jonas also said in a statement, “Ronald Reagan is a personal hero of mine. I admire the way he stood up for causes he believed were right, no matter what.”

It was noted that the participants were selected on the basis of all having been inspired in a personal way by Reagan’s vision of freedom and by his leadership.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

The Poets Dance

The Poets Dance

“As Seen On TV”, the Rockford, Illinois band The Poets Dance is gaining a lot of nationwide popularity thanks to its appearance in a commercial for The catchy tune along with the band’s unique electronic sound and visual appeal is causing a lot of people to look-up who the band is and how they can hear more of their music.

The commercial that The Poets Dance is in is one of four commercials that is televising to show each of the four finalists in the site’s contest to find an official band to use in its advertising. The credit reporting company that owns the site, Experian, had a lot of success with its previous set of commercials for (note the name difference). In those commericials, a fake band sang a series of very popular jingles that brought a lot of attention to the site. That campaign is over, but to help introduce its new product, new website, Experian decided to reuse the concept, but this time hire a real band that would present its own sound and not just lip-sync to session recordings.

Experian did talent searches in New York, Chicago, and Los Angeles, using event people and promoters to find the best “undiscovered” local talent and have them apply. Experian also allowed bands from all over to submit videos of themselves for consideration. The candidates were narrowed down to four finalists by the company and those bands were then shown on TV for the first time during the MLB All-Star game in July, 2010. At that time, the contest was opened to the public to vote for their favorite. The voting contest continues through August 9th, 2010, after which the winner will be announced. Among other prizes, the winning band will be part of the FCS advertising campaign for 18 months.    

The Poets Dance refer to their style as rocktronica, although Experian has labeled them as progressive electro-rock. On the site, it also states that, “The name, The Poets Dance, encompasses what the style of music is all about. The instrumentation combines synthesizers and guitars with up-beat rhythms to really ignite an energy in the sound, while being led with poetic and intriguing melodies that all demographics can relate and latch on to.”

About themselves, the band says, “The Poets Dance music arises from a variety of genres, incorporating progressive club rock elements to shape a sound that is truly unique. The guitars and bass drive hard and are intricately entwined into synthesizers that explore the depths of electronic manipulation. A trio of vocalists empty their lungs into smooth, poetic lyrics, on top of a heart-pounding beat that will leave you breathless yourself.”

The band has been around for about six years, but has gone through several name changes. At one time is was known as “Kissing Kimberly”, but with the addition of another lead vocalist, Luke Larson, in 2006, the band changed its name to “A Perfect Paradigm”. At some point it became just “The Paradigm” and then more recently, became “The Poets Dance.” The name changes reflected some changes in the music style as the group matured. The current name reflects a passion for dance music coupled with emotionally charged lyrics.

Early in 2010, the band released an album titled “2013”. They will be releasing a 6 track EP later this year.

Here are the band members:
  • Luke Larson - Lead Vocals / Guitars
  • Ryan D. Jensen - Lead Vocals / Synthesizers
  • Sean Gomez - Vocals / Bass
  • Andrew “Dobber” Dobson - Auxiliary Synthesizers
  • Jarrett Kimberly - Drums / Percussion
To vote for The Poets Dance, go to FreeCreditScoreBand.Com. You can vote once every 24 hours through August 9th, 2010.