Wednesday’s Random Stuff

– For years I’ve been saying that the “Drug War” isn’t really a war on “drugs”, it’s a war on “people” and a war on “civil rights”. And now the blue-ribbon Global Commission on Drug Policy agrees with me. The panel, which includes “former presidents of Mexico, Brazil and Colombia, Greece’s prime minister, former U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan, former U.S. officials George P. Schultz and Paul Volcker, the writers Carlos Fuentes and Mario Vargas Llosa, and British billionaire Richard Branson” has concluded “that criminalization and repressive measures have failed with devastating consequences for individuals and societies around the world” and recommends decriminalizing many drugs, especially marijuana. Predictably, White House drug czar Gil Kerlikowske called the report “misguided”.

– Delta Airlines has discontinued the discount it once offered for checking bags online. A Delta spokesperson called the move a “competitive response”… because no other airline offered such a discount. So yes, Delta thinks it’s becoming more competitive by removing something that used to make it unique. The mind boggles. Read more here.

– Speaking of confusing, The Episcopal Church and the Evangelical Lutheran Church are paving the way to approving same sex unions. However (and you’ve gotta love this), the two denominations are careful to differentiate between “marriages’ and “same sex unions”. Heterosexual couples in TEC and ELCA will only be able to get traditional marriage ceremonies and not the “civil union” ceremony gay couples can get. Why? Lutheran Bishop Wayne Miller said: “If pastors start performing civil unions, it sets up a very confusing message about whether or not this church still holds marriage as the standard for how a man and a woman enter into a lifelong commitment with one another”. Why thank you, Bishop, that all makes perfect sense!

– Since the Anglican Communion is going to hell anyway (in North America and England at least), you might as well have fun with it. The English church of St Mary The Virgin, in Surrey, has doubled their average Sunday attendance (ASA) since hiring Stephanie Nadarajah as a vicar:

Stephanie Nadarajah

To her credit, the 29 year-old Nadarajah has a theology degree from Cambridge and worked at a few high-level jobs at the NHS before becoming a vicar, so she’s a pretty smart cookie in addition to having a pretty face.

– Speaking of “pretty English girls with strange jobs”, Harriet Haslam-Greene was a model. Now she’s a soldier, stationed in Afghanistan with The Highlanders, 4th Battalion the Royal Regiment of Scotland.

– And what would a news update be without a strange story from England? Tom Clarke, a 15 year-old boy, was kicking a soccer ball around the back yard of a pub when he accidentally kicked the ball through a glass panel in a neighbor’s green house. Like most teenagers, the scared teen fled the scene. The owner of the greenhouse, perhaps understandably, called police. But when the cops couldn’t find a suspect, they called in a helicopter with a thermal imaging camera! What should have been a teenage accident turned into something from a Will Smith summer blockbuster, and instead of the “stern talking to” you might have expected Clarke to get, he now faces criminal charges.

The Strangest Theft

Around two-thirds of the way through the 1962 James Bond film Dr. No, the eponymous villain gives 007 a tour of his hideout. During the tour, Bond does an obvious double-take at one of Dr. No’s paintings:

Dr. No
(click to enlarge)

For those of us born well after the film’s release, the double-take is confusing. Why is Bond interested in this painting? Why does he have such a startled reaction to it?

The scene was an inside joke for people of the era, especially British viewers. And that’s because it references one of the strangest art heists in history.

The man in the painting is Arthur Wellesley. Born on April 29, 1769 to an aristocratic English family in Ireland, Wellesley attended several top-notch schools. But the death of his father and the subsequent exhaustion of his estate required Wellesley to seek work. So, on March 7, 1787 he was accepted into the British Army as an ensign in the 73rd Regiment of Foot. After namedropping and schmoozing the right people, Wellesley was promoted to lieutenant. He was then sent to India and promoted to major general after victories at Srirangapatna and Mysore, and in the Second Anglo-Maratha War. Thereafter, he returned to England, where his services were soon needed against France in the Peninsular War, which culminated in his famous victory over Napoleon at Waterloo. Wellesley became a national hero, and a grateful George III named him “Duke of Wellington”, which is how you probably know him.

Duke of Wellington
(click to enlarge)

The likeness was created by famed Spanish painter Francisco Goya. Unlike many artists, Goya was popular and well-regarded in his own day. He is known for being both the last of the “Old Masters” and the first “modern” painter, in much the same way that Beethoven is considered the last great composer of the “Classical period” but also the first of the “Romantic period”.

Continue reading “The Strangest Theft”

Twitter Weekly Updates for 2011-06-05

  • @Beadlush OMG! You have to let us know how Midwood Smokehouse is! #
  • @gastongazette Any news about a power outage in Bmont? Aldi is closed and Bi-Lo is barely open! #
  • reviewed Luna Nueva: My GF and I came to Atlanta for a concert in L5P and ended up eating here because the wait was… #
  • reviewed Jim 'n Nick's Bar-B-Q: The food is pretty good here. The smoked sausage app is to die for, and the sides… #
  • @1outside Yeah. It took Matt Weiner and Lionsgate too long to make a deal, so it got pushed to next year. #
  • @1outside AMC wanted to trim 3 mins. off each ep., add more product placement and get rid of some cast members. Most won't happen. #
  • "It is better to be a Mayan during the Great Rain Festival than an Aztec venerating Huitzilopochtli." #

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Quote of the Day

“Men make their own history, but they do not make it just as they please; they do not make it under circumstances chosen by themselves, but under circumstances directly encountered, given and transmitted from the past. The tradition of all the dead generations weighs like a nightmare on the brain of the living.”

– Karl Marx

The 30 Day Music Challenge (Part 2)

If you’re on Facebook, you’ve probably heard of the “30 Day Music Challenge”. Basically, you post a link to a song or YouTube clip every day for a month. Some versions of the challenge have silly guides, like “Day 1 – A song that makes you think of your best friend”. While I have accepted the challenge, I’m not following those rules. I’m just making it up as I go.

Here are the songs for days 11-20; part 1 is here and part 3 is here.

Day 11: “Bette Davis Eyes” by Kim Carnes

I went to the skating rink a lot in my grade school years… only I never really skated all that much. I’d take the $4 my mom would give me for skate rental and play pinball and video games instead. However, there was one time when a bunch of kids from my school were there, and they convinced me to get out on the rink. I was wobbling around out there, like you do, when suddenly “Bette Davis Eyes” came over the speakers. All the kids from my school who weren’t skating let out a squeal and rushed to the rink. But, more importantly, the older folks rolled their eyes and skated off. I did a couple of laps around the rink, staring at the reflected disco lights on the ceiling and surrounded by my friends. Although I was only 10 at the time, I had just discovered the generation gap, and realized that there was much as thing as “my” music versus “their” music. And for some reason this made me deliriously happy. This song, this moment in time and space were mine, not theirs. I wobbled around the rink throughout the song in a daze with a giant grin on my face. Although I was unaware of it at the time, it was the same feeling people at Woodstock or people who saw Blondie’s first shows at CBGB must have felt, albeit on a much smaller scale.

Day 12: “Pump Up The Volume” by M\A\A\R\S

Shortly after I got a car, I got a job delivering flowers for Flowerama at Gwinnett Place. My high school sweetheart Jodi worked there too, and so it was nauseatingly sweet all around. But then Valentine’s Day came. My boss bought an entire (tractor) trailer full of roses and rented a vacant storefront as a staging area. He also hired Cindy Bollegar as a temp. I had been working for 18 hours straight when my boss asked me to get some roses from the trailer and take them to the staging area. I got the flowers and took them to the room, where Cindy worked alone. We made some small talk for several minutes, and then I signaled my intention to leave by letting out a deep sigh and unenthusiastically singing “Pump up the volume, pump up the volume, pump up the volume…” To my complete shock, Cindy looked at me with one of the most come hither looks I’ve ever seen and sexily said “Dance! Dance!”. I leaned in to kiss her. She leaned in to me. And just then the door opened, and Jodi walked in. I don’t think she saw anything, and if she did she certainly never mentioned it. A small part of my mind was FURIOUS with me for almost cheating on my girlfriend. Another small part was FURIOUS that I wasn’t able to seal the deal with Cindy. The other 80% of my brain, the part that hadn’t been to sleep in 30+ hours by this point, just wanted the other parts to shut up and leave it alone. To this day, every time I hear this song, I think of Cindy’s blue eyes, and that devilish smirk of hers saying “Dance! Dance!”

Day 13: “Caro mio ben” by Cecilia Bartoli

I saw Cecilia Bartoli at Emory in 1995 and she did this song for her third or forth encore. Every single neuron in my mind was intently concentrated on her persona and her voice, and every hair on my neck and arms stood at attention. I knew enough Latin to roughly translate it on the fly (it’s the saddest song ever written), but I was just BLOWN AWAY by her voice. It’s sometimes hard to believe that so much beauty can exist in this world.

Continue reading “The 30 Day Music Challenge (Part 2)”