Saturday, October 16, 2010

Where Fat is Beautiful

A country where young girls are force-fed to fatten them up for marriage - with consequent high death rate of women from untreated hypertension, diabetes and other complications of gross obesity.

Women fight Mauritania's fattening tradition
October 12, 2010|By Mohamed Yahya Abdel Wedoud, for CNN

Young Mauritanian girls are traditionally force-fed and fattened for the sake of beauty and marriage, but now some are fighting the tradition, saying it's dangerous to their health.

Heavier girls and women are viewed as beautiful, wealthy and socially-accepted while their slimmer counterparts are considered inferior and bring shame on their families in Mauritanian society.

It is this shame that has helped keep leblouh -- or forced-fattening -- in practice.

Mariam Mint Ahmed, 25, says it's time leblouh was consigned to history.

"It is our responsibility as a young generation to put an end to the custom that threatens our lives," Mint Ahmed, a married trader who lives in the capital Nouakchott, told CNN. "I know so many innocent girls that were fattened up against their will to be married off and most of them got sick. I feel sad when I constantly see them struggling with blood pressure, hypertension and heart diseases."

"Girls here in Mauritania have suffered a lot from the tradition of leblouh. They are forced to eat up very large quantities of food and drink up bowls of goat's or cow's milk,'' Mint Ahmed added as tears welled in her eyes.

Mint Ahmed, who has one son, was raised in the city of Kiffa, about 600km (370 miles) away in eastern Mauritania.

She tells us that girls who don't finish the fattening meals put before them can be punished. One method, according to Mint Ahmed, is to tie a girl's toes to sticks and if she does not eat, pressure is applied to the sticks sending shockwaves of pain through the girl's feet.

"My mother started fattening me forcibly when I was 13-years-old. She used to beat me to eat more oiled couscous and fat lamb's meat. Each time I thought my stomach would explode," Selekeha Mint Sidi recalls.

Mint Sidi was married last year and has one daughter, but she told CNN that she will never fatten her daughter "whatever the reason."

The women are not part of a group pressing for legislation to ban leblouh but they do want to educate Mauritanians about the risks.

Leblouh has its supporters though, particularly in rural Mauritania.

"Personally, I do believe that fattening girls is more than a necessity. Slim girls bring shame to their families and even their tribes as well. It's also difficult for them to attract men's eyes in our society," said 55-year-old Achetou Mint Taleb.
"I had two daughters and I fattened them while they were eight to 10 years old, so both of them grew enormously, have married quickly and got children before the age of 17. They are managing their families and come to see me on weekends. I am now very proud of what I did," she added.

The women in charge of fattening girls often think the vomiting that regularly accompanies being force-fed is normal and natural for their young charges.

Mint Taleb turns a deaf ear to the anti-leblouh voices. "I know that some of the growing generation oppose the tradition of leblouh, but I don't care as long as I am faithful to my cultural heritage. I'm not alone for sure."

Women's Military Uniforms to be Redesigned

About time.  It's not sexist to note that there are obvious physiological differences in the way men and women are built.  The changes that are described in the article are common-sense to accomodate the uniform to a female build and should have been made long ago.  No more droopy-drawer fatiques that are too tight in the butt and across the bust!

Finally, US Army makes progress for women in uniform
by Virginie Montet Virginie Montet – Sat Oct 16, 1:06 am ET
[Excerpted] FORT BELVOIR, Virginia (AFP) – The US Army is testing its first-ever combat uniform expressly designed to fit the female figure, a move seen as an overdue effort to make 160,000 US women soldiers more comfortable.

Among the key changes are the addition of vents in back that provide space for a woman's bust; narrowing of the shoulders; replacement of trouser drawstrings with elastic waistbands; adjustment of waist-to-hip ratios; and alterations to the front and back rise.

Or, as Harwood conceded in language only a fashionista could love: "more material... to accommodate the buttocks."

Other changes include a lengthening of the coat over the hips, and repositioning of rank insignias, sleeve pockets, and elbow and knee patches.

The army said feedback from soldiers complaining that the ACU "does not properly fit most females" prompted the new design, and that preliminary tests showed the uniforms are "less bulky, more comfortable, economical and have improved aesthetics for female soldiers."

The ACU is the successor to the Battle Dress Uniform, or BDU, which the US military had assigned its troops from 1981 until 2005.

Robinson said at first she was concerned that the uniform "was going to be too tight, and unnecessarily cling to a woman's figure."

But the major quickly warmed to the idea of trading in her unisex ACU for more form-fitting fatigues that make her feel like a professional soldier.

"I'm not wearing my brother's pants, I'm wearing something made for me."

Friday, October 15, 2010

"Got Milk?"

Take a look at this map:

Graphic: Expansion of crop cultivation and dairy farming during the Neolithic period.
Now I know nobody takes me seriously when I've said that chess probably came off the Ark with Noah and family -- but really, is it entirely coincidence that the area where the goat, pig, sheep and cow were domesticated is so close to the "mountains of Ararat" just a bit further to the northeast?  Hmmm...

The article at Der Spiegel - it turned me off.  The author makes a lot of assumptions and value judgments (for instance, calling hunter-gatherers in Europe "backward" and the farmers of the "middle east" "advanced.")  Thing is, by the time these farmers finally got to Europe, they hadn't been "from" the middle east" for at least a couple of thousand years.  LOL!  Well, check it out for yourself and see what you think:

Neolithic Immigration
How Middle Eastern Milk Drinkers Conquered Europe
By Matthias Schulz

Is The White Horse of Uffington Really a Dog?

Now that he mentions it...

White Horse of Uffington is a dog, claims vet
Animal expert says 3,000-year-old Oxfordshire landmark may have to be renamed
James Meikle,
Tuesday 12 October 2010 13.11 BST

Photo by Alamy.
 It is one of Britain's most-loved ancient hill figures, careering across the downland. Now vets are being urged to question whether the White Horse of Uffington was meant to be a horse at all.

Challenging the traditional description of the Oxfordshire landmark, retired vet Olaf Swarbrick asks whether the "beautiful, stylised" figure might instead be a dog such as a greyhound or wolfhound.

In a letter to the Veterinary Record, his profession's journal, the former cattle and poultry specialist suggests a canine origin for the 110-metre by 38.5-metre animal, which was carefully dug into the downland. He invites alternative theories, too.

Swarbrick says: "Looking at it again, it seems that it is not a horse at all: the tail and head are wrong for a horse and more suggestive of a dog. It appears more like a large hound at full stretch. I thought it may be a greyhound, but an anthropologist suggests it is a wolfhound, which (assuming it is not a horse) makes more sense."

The horse, if it is one, is about 3,000 years old, dating from 1250-850BC if most recent theories are correct. It was earlier believed to have Anglo-Saxon origins, and perhaps to be a memorial to King Alfred's victories over the Danes in the ninth century AD. Doubts over its equine origin have been aired before but written records suggest the hill on whose slopes it gallops has been named after the white horse since at least the 11th century.

Swarbrick told the Guardian: "I was just saying it was not a horse which will perhaps infuriate some archaeologists." If colleagues agreed with him, "quite a lot of people, including the Ordnance Survey, will have to change their terminology".

He added that other horse hill figures in Britain were "quite clearly horses", even if more recent than the Uffington one. And the Long Man of Wilmington in Sussex and Cerne Abbas giant in Dorset were clearly human.

Keith Blaxhall, the National Trust warden for the area, was not convinced. "I think we all think it is a horse," he said, adding that coins from roughly the same period show a similar stylised horse and chariot. "Horses were enormously important. It signified power. You were mobile.

"I have always called it a he, for some reason. There is no 'stallion effect' to it but it is a very proud and powerful symbol on the landscape." There had been claims it might be St George's white charger, he said, but the figure long predated his era. The dog suggestion was new to him. "I have really only heard the theory it is feline because of its sinuous design."

Blaxhall was unworried by the site's equine symbolism being doubted. "It is different things to different people. Who is really to know? It is prehistory. No one wrote anything down. It is just a magical place and people are drawn to it."

Some prior posts here regarding white horses, the first two have photos of other white chalk horses in England:

Synchronicity at Work - The White Horse
White Mares and Crop Circles
Rhiannon: Goddess of Horses

Thursday, October 14, 2010

A Paeon of Praise to the Malaysian Olympic Chess Teams

I always look forward to reading Quah Seng Sun's chess columns at The Star. I especially appreciate this column, which features the results of the Malaysian Women's Chess Olympiad team and some of their games. He thought they were well worth reporting on, and so do I.

Friday October 15, 2010
Well done!

Kudos to our players for turning in their best.

IN the last week or so since the end of the Chess Olympiad, I have witnessed heated debates in the local chess scene about the selection process and the performance of our men’s team in Khanty Mansiysk.

The post-mortem was lively but personally, I believe that while everyone has a right to say whatever he wants about chess in this country, the debates do not matter anymore. It’s moot; the Chess Olympiad’s over.

It’s important to me, however, that we look on the positive side. At the Olympiad, what struck me was that our players tried their best. Each and every one of them, in their own way, gave their best to the Malaysian team. Collectively, it was a team effort from start to finish.

So allow me to acknowledge the contributions of our players, both the men’s and women’s teams.

Neither was it supposed to be easy for Alia Anin Bakri who played on the first board of the women’s team. However, she turned in the most memorable result for the Malaysian contingent. Seven points from 11 games for a 63.6% score. It’s uncertain whether her results would merit her the title of woman international master (WIM) but at the very least, it should be good enough for a WIM norm.

I’m crossing my fingers that FIDE, the World Chess Federation, will award her the title.

On the second board in the women’s team was Nur Nabila Azman Hisham. Like Alia, Nabila played in all 11 rounds and she scored five points for a 45.4% result. Although Nurul Huda Wahiduddin brought in only one point from six games on the third board, she achieved an important draw against a Dutch woman international master in the ninth round.

Roslina Marmono had a 50% result as our fourth board player, collecting 3½ points from seven games while our debutant reserve board player, Fong Mi Yen, who is also the current national women’s champion, had the tournament of her life with 5½ points from nine games (a 61.1% result).

I’m still waiting for word from the Malaysian Chess Federation whether this would warrant Fong a woman candidate master title from FIDE.

Finally, the games this week feature some of the best moves from our women players:

White: Alia Anin Bakri (Malaysia)
Black: IM Baquero Martha Fierro (Ecuador)

1. d4 g6 2. Nf3 Bg7 3. e4 d6 4. c4 Nf6 5. Nc3 O-O 6. Be2 Nbd7 7. O-O e5 8. Be3 Ng4 9. Bg5 f6 10. Bd2 c6 11. Ne1 Nh6 12. d5 f5 13. dxc6 bxc6 14. Bxh6 Bxh6 15. Qxd6 Rf6 16. Qd1 Qe7 17. Qc2 Nc5 18. Rd1 a5 19. Bf3 Ne6 20. Ne2 Ng5 21. Ng3 f4 22. Ne2 Nxf3+ 23. Nxf3 g5 24. Qd3 Bg4 25. h3 Bh5 26. Qd7 Re8 27. Qxe7 Rxe7 28. Rd8+ Bf8 29. Ra8 g4 30. hxg4 Bxg4 31. Rd1 Rg7 32. Kf1 Rh6 33. Neg1 Bxf3 34. Nxf3 Rh1+ 35. Ke2 Rxd1 36. Kxd1 Rxg2 37. Ke2 Kg7 38. Rxa5 Kf6 39. Rxe5 Bd6 40. Rf5+ Ke7 41. Rh5 Rg7 42. Nd4 Kd7 43. Kf3 Re7 44. Ne2 Ke8 45. Nxf4 Rf7 46. Rf5 Ra7 47. a3 Ra4 48. c5 Bxf4 49. Kxf4 Rc4 50. f3 Rc2 51. b4 Rc3 52. Rh5 1-0

White: Damaris Abarca Gonzalez (Chile)
Black: Alia Anin Bakri (Malaysia)

1. e4 e6 2. d3 d5 3. Nd2 Nf6 4. g3 Bc5 5. Bg2 dxe4 6. dxe4 e5 7. Ngf3 Nc6 8. O-O O-O 9. Qe2 Qe7 10. c3 a6 11. b4 Bd6 12. a4 Be6 13. Nc4 Rfd8 14. Bg5 h6 15. Bxf6 Qxf6 16. Ne3 Ne7 17. Rab1 c6 18. c4 b6 19. Qc2 Bc7 20. Rfd1 Ng6 21. b5 cxb5 22. axb5 axb5 23. Nd5 Bxd5 24. cxd5 Bd6 25. Rxb5 Bc5 26. Qe2 Ra7 27. h4 Rda8 28. Rdb1 Qd6 29. h5 Ne7 30. R5b2 Qf6 31. Qd3 Ra3 32. Rb3 Ra2 33. R1b2 Ra1+ 34. Bf1 R8a3 35. Rxa3 Rxa3 36. Rb3 Ra2 37. Be2 Nc8 38. Rc3 Nd6 39. Rc2 Ra4 40. Qb3 Ra1+ 41. Kg2 Nxe4 42. Qb2 Ra8 43. Qxe5 Qxe5 44. Nxe5 Rd8 45. f4 Nf6 46. Bc4 Bd6 47. Rb2 Bxe5 48. fxe5 Nxd5 49. Kf3 Nc7 50. Rxb6 Re8 51. Rc6 Re7 52. Kf4 Kf8 53. Rd6 Ne8 54. Rd8 Rb7 55. Bd5 Rc7 56. Bb3 Rb7 57. Bd5 Rc7 58. Kf5 Ke7 59. Rb8 Rc1 60. Bb3 Rc3 61. g4 Nc7 62. Rb7 Rf3+ 63. Ke4 Rc3 64. Kd4 Rc1 65. Bc4 Rd1+ 66. Bd3 Kd8 67. Ke4 Ne6 68. Rb5? Re1+ 69. Kf5 Nd4+ 70. Kf4 Nxb5 71. Bxb5 Ke7 72. Bc4 Rc1 73. Bd5 Rf1+ 74. Ke4 Re1+ 75. Kf4 f6 76. e6 Re5 77. Bc4 Kd6 78. Ba2 Rb5 79. Kf3 f5 80. Kf4 fxg4 81. Kxg4 Rg5+ 82. Kh4 Ke7 83. Bc4 Kf6 84. Ba2 Rb5 85. Kg4 Rb2 86. Bd5 Rb4+ 87. Kg3 Rb5 88. Bf3 Kxe6 89. Bg4+ Kf6 90. Be2 Rb4 0-1

White: Roslina Marmono (Malaysia)
Black: Sohair Basta (Eqypt)

1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. Nc3 Bb4 4. Qc2 c5 5. e3 cxd4 6. exd4 Nc6 7. Nf3 O-O 8. Bd3 h6 9. O-O d5 10. c5 Bxc3 11. bxc3 Qc7 12. Re1 a6 13. h3 Bd7 14. Ne5 Ne7 15. Bf4 Qa5 16. Nxd7 Nxd7 17. Rab1 Ra7 18. Bd6 Re8 19. f4 Qd8 20. f5 exf5 21. Bxf5 Nxf5 22. Qxf5 Nf6 23. Rxe8+ Qxe8 24. Qe5 Qxe5 25. dxe5 Ne4 26. Rb3 Nxd6 27. exd6 Kf8 28. c4 dxc4 29. Re3 Ra8 30. Rc3 Ke8 31. Rxc4 Kd7 32. Kf2 Re8 33. Rc2 Re5 34. Kf3 g5 35. g4 Kc6 36. Kf2 Re4 37. Rd2 Kd7 38. Re2 Rc4 39. Re7+ Kd8 40. Rxb7 Rxc5 ½-½

White: Fayrouz Elgohary (Eqypt)
Black: Fong Mi Yen (Malaysia)

1. d4 g6 2. Nf3 Bg7 3. e4 d6 4. Nbd2 Nc6 5. c3 Nf6 6. Bd3 e5 7. O-O O-O 8. h3 Nh5 9. Nb3 h6 10. Be3 Qf6 11. Nc1 Kh7 12. Ne2 Bxh3 13. Ng3 Bg4 14. Nxh5 gxh5 15. Be2 Rg8 16. dxe5 dxe5 17. Nh2 Rad8 18. Qc2 Qg6 19. Nxg4 hxg4 20. Rad1 Bf6 21. Rxd8 Bxd8 22. g3 h5 23. Kg2 Rh8 24. Rh1 Kg7 25. Bd2 Ne7 26. Bd3 Qf6 27. Qd1 Ng6 28. Be3 a6 29. Bc2 Be7 30. Qe2 b5 31. a3 c5 32. Bd1 Nf4+ 33. gxf4 exf4 34. Bxf4 Qxf4 35. Qd3 Rd8 36. Qg3 Qxe4+ 0-1.

Another Female Chess Prodigy Claims a Title in India

I am so glad to see female chessplayers blossoming in India and garnering more and more press coverage.  The enduring presence of current World Chess Champion GM Vishy Anand, who has been among the elite players in the world for years, and the second highest rated female chessplayer in the world, GM Koneru Humpy, along with a push for chess in schools at various (albeit somewhat disorganized) levels in India's states, and the appearance of a competing chess federation vying for players from All-India, has invigorated chess in India.  Indeed, I don't think it's too much to say that, literally, chess has exploded in popularity in India within the past seven or so years, and there is a new crop of eager GMs, WGMs, IMs and WIMs bringing home fine performances in world-class events.

Here is another young lady to keep an eye on:

Andria L D’souza wins Karnataka State Under 17 Girls Chess Championship
Mangalore October 15, 2010: Mangalore’s Chess prodigy 12 year old Andria L D’souza has won the Karnataka State Under 17 Girls Chess Championship 2010. The Championship was organised by SKDCA under the auspices of UKCA from 12th to 14th October at Bharathiya Vidya Bhavan, Mangalore.

Andria D’souza, FIDE rated 1696, in her glorious path to victory, defeated higher seeded Commonwealth chess silver medalist Shristi J Shetty FIDE rated 1958 (in 4th round) and Nisha Patkar FIDE rated 1747 (in 5th round). She scored a clean sweep victory with 5 points in as many rounds.

Andria D’souza is daughter of Victor D’souza and Smt avith D’souza. She is studying in 7th standard in St Agnes Eng Primary school, Mangalore. Her sister Vanessa D’souza is current State Under 15 (Sub Junior Girls) Champion and was also Asian qualifier.

She is selected to represent Karnataka in the National Under 17 Girls Chess Championship to be held during November at J & K.

2011 U.S. Women's Chess Championship Announced

The good news is that the Chess Club and Scholastic Center of St. Louis will once again be hosting (and paying all expenses for, including prize money) the U.S. Chess Championship and U.S. Women's Chess Championship.  It is a beautiful venue and the players have excellent conditions.

Prize money for 16 competitors in the U.S. Chess Championship: $170,000.

Prize money for 8 competitors in the U.S. Women's Chess Championship: $60,000.

The female players, exactly half the announced field of what is, essentially, a Men's Championship with, in prior years, the addition of the U.S. Women's Chess Championship also invited - won't have an opportunity to play for half the money the highest-rated chess dudes in the US will be vying for in their Championship.

Disappointing.  Particularly disappointing in light of the excellent job the CCSCSL has done since it assumed sponsorship for both Championships beginning in 2008.  Each year, CCSCSL has increased the local and national press exposure the Championships have received by skillfully integrating these premiere chess events featuring top U.S. chess talent with local charitable, artistic and sporting events. 

Also unfortunate - the new "knock-out" play format.  Knock-out sucks.  It is not a true measure of relative chess skill, it's the luck of the draw on any given day whether a player is in form - or not.  Blech.  Why, why, WHY go the knock-out route when it has universally been lambasted by every chess commentator (pro and am) since the 1999 FIDE World Chess Championship employed it in Las Vegas? 

Here is the first article on the 2011 Championships from the CCSCSL website.  I look forward to seeing what St. Louis events the Championships will be tied to in 2011.  I hope Jen Shahade and Ben Finegold will return as commentators on the games, I really enjoy listening to them.  I actually understand what they're talking about (with the aid of the live graphics) and they play off of each other perfectly.  I also enjoyed GM Maurice Ashley's commentary in 2010. 

"Time" on the Politics of the FIDE Presidential Election

I think this is as clear a description of the events surrounding the recent FIDE Presidential election as I've read anywhere online.  It is understandable even to those who know nothing about chess.  I believe Karl Rove gives lessons to the boys in the Kremlin.

Russia's Chess Feud: Checkmate, Kremlin
By Simon Shuster / Moscow, October 14, 2010


From the 1972 Cold War battle of Boris Spassky and Bobby Fischer, to the defection of some of the Soviet Union's greatest players to the West, chess has long been a proxy for international conflict, and a tool to project power. In Vladimir Putin's Russia, it seems, not much has changed.

This year, members of the creaky, chipped Central House of Chess in Moscow staged a mutiny against the Kremlin — one that saw two of the game's greatest legends in open conflict with the country's political elite. The coup ended in pathetic failure on Monday, but by the time it had run its course — which featured armed goons taking over the Chess House and talk of UFOs — the Kremlin showed that it cannot stomach even a marginal threat to its influence, not even when it comes to comes to the politics of chess.

The trouble started in the spring, when two former world chess champions and rivals, Anatoly Karpov and Garry Kasparov, decided to join forces to run against the incumbent president of the game's international ruling body, which is known as FIDE. This irked the Russian government. Kasparov's political activism against Russian Prime Minister Putin in recent years has branded him an enemy of the state: He is banned from Russian politics, frequently arrested, and his projects tend to be harpooned by the Russian bureaucracy at every step. Aside from that, the Kremlin already has a loyal ally as FIDE president, and didn't much care to replace him.

For the past 15 years, FIDE has been ruled by Kirsan Ilyumzhinov, a Putin loyalist who governed the poor Russian republic of Kalmykia for 17 years before agreeing to step down last month. As a consolation prize, the Kremlin is widely thought to have promised him success in the FIDE elections. But Karpov and Kasparov (who served as Karpov's campaign manager and fundraiser) embarked on a globe-trotting campaign that made this promise difficult to keep. After visiting some 30 countries, the duo managed to recruit the support of chess federations in the United States, Canada and most of western Europe, appearing to split the world of chess along Cold War lines ahead of the FIDE vote last month.

Rest of article.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Links for You ---

Sorry - it's one of those weeks. 'Normal' may return by mid-week next week. Starting tomorrow through Monday will be absolutely crazy personally, including my very first every OTB chess tournament, so please bear with me, darlings :)

Here is a selection of links to stories I hope you will enjoy:
Tarini wins national chess title
Posted: Mon Oct 11 2010, 01:17 hrs
Posted by Chandigarh
Adding another feather to her cap, Tarini Goyal, the chess prodigy from Chandigarh, won the title in the 24th Under-9 Girls National Chess Championship played at Ahmedabad. Tarini, a Class IV student of Sacred Heart School, scored 10 points in the 11-round tournament.

Check out Pogonina at
Sexy and smart: Natalia on Brazilian Radio Xadrez
11.10.2010 – She is beautiful, smart, fun and super strong in chess. We are talking about the WGM Natalia Andreevna Pogonina, 25 years old, a resident of Saratov in Russia. At 2491 Elo points (she's had up to 2501), she defended the #1 board of Russia-2 in the Chess Olympics. Now Natalia, a law student, has given an indepth interview on different aspects of her life.

Perhaps the most exsquisite silk made in ancient China, "jili" silk, may soon go the way of the dinosaur. How absolutely fricking sad. This silk was traded along the ancient Silk Road, that introduced games from the east into the west, and games from the west into the East.  Hey - China - can't you learn from the mistakes of countries that entered the "industrial age" 150 years before you, heh? Geez!
From The New York Times:
Silk Craft Fades in Village That Clothed Emperors
Published: October 11, 2010

Chile Miner No. 31 Just Reached the Surface

OHMYGODDESS!  I, along with millions of other people, have been watching news reports off and on all day at the office and now here at home this evening.  I just watched miner 31 rescued.  The rescue team above-ground and below-ground have got it down to a science now and the speed of the rescue has increased enormously since I saw the very first one last night, shortly after 10:00 p.m. local time.  Wow - incredible.  It's just incredible watching it.  I know it is real, I know it is live, and yet - there is something so 'otherworld' about what I see happening on the screen.

Soon everyone that is still in the mine space below will be out - including five rescue workers who went down intermittently starting with the first one last night.

For 24 hours, the world was united in willing a successful rescue of those miners and the men who went down into that mine to help.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Art Up The Ying-Yang (Part 2)

A painting owned by a Buffalo, New York family might be an original Michelangelo "Pieta" (more than a couple hundred million than Boldini's Woman in Pink - see prior post.  Personally, I like Boldini's painting much better).

Story from The New York Post:

A 'Mike' found in Buffalo?
Last Updated: 1:04 PM, October 11, 2010

This unfinished painting of Jesus and Mary could be a lost Michelangelo, potentially the art find of the century.

But to the upstate family on whose living-room wall it hung for years, it was just "The Mike."

When the kids knocked the painting off its perch with an errant tennis ball sometime in the mid-1970s, the Kober clan wrapped it up and tucked it away behind the sofa.

There it remained for 27 years, until Air Force Lt. Col. Martin Kober retired in 2003 and had some time on his hands. His father gave him a task -- research the family lore that the painting was really a Michelangelo.

Now, with your newfound free time, do something with this!" Kober recalled his father telling him.

Kober, now 53, dug into the history of the painting, contacting auction houses, Renaissance art scholars, European archives, and even meeting museum directors in Italy. He found Antonio Forcellino, an Italian art restorer and historian and told him of the tennis ball, and something more horrifying.

"It wasn't the story that had scared me, but that it had been exposed to heating commonly found inside a middle-class home," Forcellino writes in his new book, "La Pieta Perduta," or "The Lost Pieta," published in Italy and due out in the United States next year.

And he did not believe in the existence of another version of Michelangelo paintings that are hanging in Italian museums.

"I had assumed it was going to be a copy," Forcellino said.

Still, Forcellino skeptically visited Kober's home outside Buffalo to view the painting, and the trip left him a bit breathless.

"In reality, this painting was even more beautiful than the versions hanging in Rome and Florence. The truth was this painting was much better than the ones they had. I had visions of telling them that there was this crazy guy in America telling everyone he had a Michelangelo at home," Forcellino said.

A scientific analysis of the painting proved that the Michelangelo claim was not so crazy.

Forcellino told The Post that infrared and X-ray examinations of the painting -- on a 25-by- 19-inch wood panel -- show many alterations made by the artist as he changed his mind, and an unfinished portion near the Madonna's right knee.

"The evidence of unfinished portions demonstrate that this painting never, never, never could be a copy of another painting," Forcellino said. "No patron pays in the Renaissance for an unfinished copy."

Additionally, the provenance, or ownership history, points to the work being done by Michelangelo around 1545 for his friend Vittoria Colonna. That was about 45 years after Michelangelo did his famed "Pieta," or pity, sculpture of Mary holding Jesus, housed in St. Peter's Basilica.

The Pieta painting was passed to two Catholic cardinals, eventually ending up in the hands of a German baroness named Villani.

The work ended up in the Kober family after Villani willed it to her lady-in-waiting Gertrude Young. Young was the sister-in-law of Kober’s great-grandfather and she sent the work to America in 1883, according to an account by Kober.

Forcellino said Herman Grimm, a noted Michelangelo biographer, saw the "Pieta" in 1868 and attributed it to the master. Additional evidence includes a letter in the Vatican library discussing a Pieta painting for Colonna, he said.

"I'm absolutely convinced that is a Michelangelo painting," Forcellino said.

Michelangelo expert William Wallace, a professor of architecture and art history at Washington University in St. Louis, said he saw the painting before Kober had it privately restored to remove 500 years of wear and tear.

Since there is no definitive scientific way to attribute such a painting, Wallace said it would be the weight of experts over time that would hold sway on whether it is a Michelangelo.

One thing is certain, however -- the painting's potential worth. It is now in a bank vault.

The rare Michelangelo drawings that have come up for sale in recent years have sold for as much as $20 million. And a possible Michelangelo at the Metropolitan Museum of Art could be worth as much as $300 million.
"Millions and millions," Wallace said of the lost Pieta's value.

Additional reporting by Isabel Vincent and Clemente Lisi

Art Up The Ying-Yang (Part 1)

Darlings - all I'm trying to do is work on my friend's family tree and get it ready for a surprise present because her birthday is next month -- AND get the yard ready for winter -- AND get laundry done -- AND study chess for my very first OTB tournament on Saturday October 16 -- AND clean this way too big house (when did it grow to 3,000 square feet from 1,500, I ask you?) that hasn't been touched except for token dusting for my ladies' investment club meetings since I took it off the market in February 2010.  Okay, so I haven't vacuumed in awhile, big dustball deal.  I have regularly laundered my bedding so I don't have bedmites.  Whatever. 

But I've got to keep the blog up too.  I am told - ahem - that I cannot "miss" every other day except if - perhaps - I'm on my death bed; that depends on whether I can still work a mouse and type by using a straw in my mouth, or maybe blink --

So, I've got some stories stored up -- here you are, lovely fans.  Hope you enjoy --

This first one is definitely a femme jolie!  She's so fricking gorgeous, I hate her.  So what if she's been dead over 100 years.  Muslin never looked so good.

Handout from French art expert house Marc Ottavi

This handout from French art expert house Marc Ottavi(MO) shows a painting by Italian artist Giovanni Boldini that was found in June 2010 by an auctionner in a flat which was closed since her owner, who moved to southern France before the war, never returned to her Paris flat and died at the age of 91. The painting was sold for 2,1 million euros at Drouot saleshouse in September 2010(AFP/MO-HO/File)

Reported at:

Yahoo News
Mystery masterpiece emerges from dusty Paris flat
October 6, 2010

The Epoch Times
Giovanni Boldini Painting Found in Paris Flat
October 6, 2010

The Telegraph (UK)
Parisian flat containing €2.1 million painting lay untouched for 70 years
For 70 years the Parisian apartment had been left uninhabited, under lock and key, the rent faithfully paid but no hint of what was inside
October 4, 2010
Reporting in this article leaves something to be desired.  It implies that it was the lady in pink herself who locked up the apartment at the start of WWII and never returned, but died at the age of 91?  Er, I don't think so.  She'd be a hell of a lot older than 91 when she died if it was actually the lady herself, Mde. Marthe de Florian.  If it was her, she would have been 65 or so when she locked up the apartment in 1939 (outbreak of WWII).

A granddaughter?  Perhaps.

So why did she lock up the flat never to return after c. 1939?  You own an exclusive flat in Paris and you don't return to it for 70 years?  You have enough money to pay "the fees" on it every year -- Are you nuts?  Was the woman institionalized?  If not - why not?  And where did she come up with the money to pay "the fees" on the apartment for so long?  I'm sure they weren't cheap! 

What's the story behind the story? 

Are there any French probate lawyers out there in the audience who can do a little research and find out if an estate proceeding has been filed by the now deceased granddaugter of this lady of the evening

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Mathematics Embedded in Poetry

Very interesting - do I get it? Hell no.

How Pascal's Triangle Explains Poetry
By Heather Horn | October 08, 2010 3:15pm

Taking apart poetry with mathematics? Sacrilege! Or is it? Genetics professor Steve Jones shows how the two ancient disciplines can get along in The Telegraph. Certainly poetry uses patterns in its rhyme schemes, and poets such as Robert Frost have famously not just accepted but celebrated the place of rules in verse. But the math-poetry relationship goes far beyond a mere appreciation of an iamb or an ABAB structure, he explains. The arranging of long and short syllables, crucial even to Sanskrit poets "as early as 200 BC," has a hidden bit of numerical beauty:

A syllable is short, with one beat, or long, with two. In how many ways can a metre of four syllables be constructed? Four shorts or four longs have just one pattern for each, while for three shorts and a long, or three longs and a short, there are four (SSSL, SSLS, SLSS, and LSSS, for example). For two of each kind of syllable, there are six possibilities. Do the sum for metres of one, two, three, four and more and a mathematical pattern emerges. It is Pascal's Triangle, the pyramid of numbers in which the series in the next line is given by adding together adjacent pairs in the line above to generate 1, 1 1, 1 2 1, 1 3 3 1, 1 4 6 4 1, and so on.

As in a great poem, hidden within that elegant structure are deeper truths that touch on apparently unrelated things; on fractal patterns, on the theory of numbers, on primes, and of complexities too deep to be accessible to mere mortals untrained in the mathematical art. One useful property is that Pascal makes it possible to ask in how many ways it is possible to arrange a group of objects, be they footballers in a league, or lines in a poem.

"The Onion" Delivers Incredible Expose of Academic Fraud

Wisconsin's national treasure :)

Historians Admit To Inventing Ancient Greeks
October 7, 2010 | Issue 4640

The Parthenon was built over a summer in
the early 1970s by Emily Nguyen-Whiteman.
WASHINGTON—A group of leading historians held a press conference Monday at the National Geographic Society to announce they had "entirely fabricated" ancient Greece, a culture long thought to be the intellectual basis of Western civilization.

The group acknowledged that the idea of a sophisticated, flourishing society existing in Greece more than two millennia ago was a complete fiction created by a team of some two dozen historians, anthropologists, and classicists who worked nonstop between 1971 and 1974 to forge "Greek" documents and artifacts.

"Honestly, we never meant for things to go this far," said Professor Gene Haddlebury, who has offered to resign his position as chair of Hellenic Studies at Georgetown University. "We were young and trying to advance our careers, so we just started making things up: Homer, Aristotle, Socrates, Hippocrates, the lever and fulcrum, rhetoric, ethics, all the different kinds of columns—everything."

Rest of article.

Incredible "Helmet" Sells for over $3.6 Million

It is a shame the Cumbrian museum, even with strong financial support from an anonymous donor and the public, was unable to win the bidding to keep this treasure in Cumbria, where it was found and where it belongs.  Will it ever be seen by the public again, or has it disappeared forever into the vault of some New Yorker, middle east potentate or higly ranked Chinese official? 

Report at Art Daily:

LONDON.- The Crosby Garrett Helmet sold today at the auction of Antiquities at Christie’s South Kensington for £2,281,250 / $3,629,469 / €2,593,781 (estimate: £200,000 to £300,000). An exceptional survival from Roman Britain, the helmet was discovered by a metal detectorist in Cumbria in May 2010 and dates from the late 1st-2nd Century A.D. It was bought by an anonymous telephone bidder.

Georgiana Aitken, Head of Antiquities at Christie’s, London: “When the helmet was first brought to Christie’s and I saw it first hand, I could scarcely believe my eyes. This is an exceptional object – an extraordinary and haunting face from the past – and it has captured the imagination and the enthusiasm of everyone who has come to Christie’s to admire it over the past few weeks. The universal appeal of the helmet saw it draw interest from a diverse group of bidders at today’s auction – collectors of antiquities competed with those who have more often bought in other fields including modern art and old master paintings. In all 6 bidders fought for the helmet; 3 by telephone, 2 in the room and one via the internet from California. It was sold for £2.3 million to an anonymous client bidding by phone.”

With its enigmatic features, the Crosby-Garrett Helmet is an extraordinary example of Roman metalwork at its zenith. It is one of only three Roman Cavalry Parade helmets that have been discovered in Britain complete with face-masks, the others being the Ribchester Helmet, found in 1796 and now in the British Museum, and the Newstead Helmet, in the Museum of Antiquities, Edinburgh, found circa 1905.

The Crosby Garrett Helmet sets itself apart by virtue of its beauty, workmanship and completeness, particularly the face-mask, which was found virtually intact. In addition, the remarkable Phrygian-style peak surmounted by its elaborate bronze griffin crest appears unprecedented.

These helmets were not for combative use, but worn for hippika gymnasia (cavalry sports events). The polished white-metal surface of the Crosby Garrett face-mask would have provided a striking contrast to the original golden-bronze colour of the hair and Phrygian cap. In addition, colourful streamers may have been attached to the rings along the back ridge and on the griffin crest. Arrian of Nicomedia, a Roman provincial governor under Hadrian, provides us with the only surviving contemporary source of information on cavalry sports events. He describes, in an appendix to his Ars Tactica, how the cavalrymen were divided into two teams which took turns to attack and defend. He suggests that the wearing of these helmets was a mark of rank or excellence in horsemanship. Participants would also carry a light, elaborately painted shield, and wear an embroidered tunic and possibly thigh-guards and greaves, all of which would contribute to the impressive spectacle.

These events may well have accompanied religious festivals celebrated by the Roman army and were probably also put on for the benefit of visiting officials. The displays would also have been intended to demonstrate the outstanding equestrian skill and marksmanship of the Roman soldier and the wealth of the great empire he represented.

Bahrain has a "Tree of Life"

The ruins - bleh - the Tree of Life - fascinating stuff!  Obviously there is an underground water source.  I'm surprised no one has dug it up and killed the tree - yet.

Ruins of fort are unearthed
October 05, 2010

EXTENSIVE excavation work has unearthed ancient ruins at one of Bahrain's most famous landmarks - the Tree of Life.

Archaeologists have discovered the ruins of a fort that had been buried under sand around the tree, which survives alone in the desert despite an apparent absence of water.

"We always suspected archeological findings near the tree and upon excavation found a fortification with few rooms that dates back 500 years," Culture Ministry Under-Secretary Dr Isa Amin told the GDN yesterday.

He said the excavations had turned up artifacts and pottery, which had since been preserved.

"The Tree of Life is at the centre of the fortification that has been excavated by our team of experts," added Dr Amin. "We are in the process of co-operating with Bapco to work on projects in the area to improve facilities there."

However, the discovery has been criticised by members of the Southern Municipal Council - who fear the area could now be developed into a tourist destination and lose its natural appeal.

"The archaeological excavation work started a year ago near the Tree of Life and they explored different layers of the site," council services and public utilities committee chairman Dhiab Al Nuaimi said.

"Our concern is that the ministry wants to turn this natural wonder into a tourist attraction."

He said he would prefer the area to be left alone due to fears that people could start worshipping at the site.

Mr Al Nuaimi has previously expressed concern that the Tree of Life was being used for strange religious rituals, after old clothes and incense sticks were found stuck to the tree and some of its branches were burnt.

A soil and tree ring analysis conducted more than 20 years ago by historian Dr Ali Akbar Bushiri concluded the Tree of Life was an Acacia planted in 1582 AD. It was fenced off in 2007 after being targeted by vandals.
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