Caturday spirit

The cheers are over, the bunting is down, the mad hysteria is at an end. For another year, anyhow.
Luckily we don't partake in any of these Christmas things. Alas half of the modern world does and there is no escaping it.
Even the Turkish guy in the kebab shop wished us a happy Christmas. Nice try, but it doesn't work for the likes of secular humanists.
I'd rather call it Caturday. 'Have a nice Caturday' would actually sound nicer. And I'd even politely reply: 'Why thank you good Sir, and a very merry Caturday to you and your family'.
Shops and staff are eager to close and scarper off the day before Sandy Claws comes along. I was bundled out of the library on Thursday ten minutes before closing time. One of the librarians standing next to the door to unfasten the heavy iron door securing the valuable collection of manuscripts of the university was incessantly jingling the bunch of keys like a prison warden. They should put up a sign: 'We're closed 10 minutes before closing time'. They've got signs for everything else. I'm sure one more won't do any harm.


Batman & Robin' the garden

Those silly birds. I put out some bread for them but it's been laying there for two days now.
This morning: Success! The two pheasants had a little nibble. I'd only seen one of them about the previous week, I thought the other one had been shot. Game hunters were pretty active the weekend before last.
And a little red robin has been fluttering round the house. Much to the enjoyment of Mouser, who's at the window all hours of the day. Its bird watching activities interrupted with thought-exercises: Not really being able to decide whether to stay indoors or go out.
It usually boils down to the former.
Mouser's been drinking a lot of water lately, methinkst it is because Dr Livingstone has been throwing salt everywhere to keep the stairs from being icy and snow free. Every time Kitteh returns from The Cold Outdoors it licks its paws. I think cat could have raised blood pressure. It certainly is thirsty.



Portable oven wants you!

Today I received one of the most hilarious emails I've had in a while. The resourcefulness of some spammers really is sidesplittingly funny. Here's a small excerpt:

If you have any old portable wood burning oven and in case you don't use it anymore, we will be very grateful to you if you can donate it to us and organize transport of this oven to our home.
We are located in central part of Russia, 180km from Moscow.


The groupie awakens

Dr Livingstone surprised me with yet another swell present this morning. He got me an OMD t-shirt and had it signed by the band! Andy McCluskey, Paul Humphreys, Mal Holmes and Martin Cooper all decorated it with sharpies.
I can never wash it now!



Dr Livingstone has finally returned from the touring jungle. He brought me some prezzies! I'm looking formward to leafing through Praeterita, John Ruskin's autobiography. It was wrapped in super lovely wrapping paper covered in old 17th and 18th century books form the Bodleian.


Enjoying a pheasant stroll

These Ring-Necked pheasants have been strutting around the garden as of late. The hunters have driven them out of the woods and they're seeking shelter here. Every day around the same time they walk the same stretch and then slip next door for their morning stroll. Their feathers are absolutely gorgeous.


Feline Philistine

I'm studying Italian Renaissance sculpture at the moment. Mouser isn't being very helpful. Kitteh just stood on Andrea del Verrocchio's ensemble of John the Baptist and Thomas and two of Ghiberti's Old Testament scenes from the Baptistry doors in Florence.

Now there's a feline philistine if I've ever seen one.


Oldies but Goodies

Went by to see Dr Livingstone yesterday evening in Vorst Nationaal. It was jam-packed for the Simple Minds. They played a two hour long set. Their support act, OMD, did a one hour stint. Although one thing puzzeled me. The are called Orchestral Manoeuvers in the Dark but they were pretty well lit up from where I was standing.


Validate one scam with another

For once kudos to the Standaard for at least reporting about the story of the Serbian placenta scammer, the one I blogged about 10 days ago.
BUT then again, I have to shake my head at the headline and shake my fist at Bernard Spitz.

He says: ''Het therapeutische effect zal ook beperkt zijn. Ik betwist niet dat er een helende werking kan uitgaan van moederkoekzalf, maar het zal eerder iets in de ordegrootte van homeopathie zijn.''

Did he just validate one scam with another?

I can read this in two ways:
1) He states the placenta cream works, just like homeopathy does.
2) He was being sarcastic.

Although I am inclined to think he might be pulling a number one on us.

Compensate somewhere

Click on the body parts to make your ideal woman...

But what if she's got a rotten character?

I dunno if a larger breast size and ghetto booty would actually compensate.


Team Belgium activate!

De Standaard online newspaper today showed no less then two pictures with the captions 'New government sworn in' and 'Van Rompuy government in 2008'.

Just fancy that! Who'd have though King Albert, pour que c'est lui, had a ministerial post in that federal body!


Let me just post this again shall I?

And there is also a Facebook group that numbered about 25,250+ members this morning.
According to Christophe Deborsu only Queen Fabiola has done better.
Pronounced dead three times, and raised from the dead three times.

Leterme couldn't cut it after his prime ministerial stints. But as a foreign affairs minister he hasn't done any better. He even missed his appointment when on a trade mission in Saudi Arabia last October, being late for a Sunday morning meeting with prince Saud al Thenayan.
Riyadh doesn't switch to DST as any fule no.
Anyway, I hope they got a good deal on the oil prices. And the Walloons got some lucrative weapon deals.
I'm sure the 250+ delegation wasn't there to promote Belgian chocolates.
He was also late for a Saturday luncheon. Oh, and on the way back Leterminateur missed his rescheduled plane because he'd dozed off somewhere.

*Double Picard Facepalm (because when the fail is so strong, one does not suffice)

What kind of a moronic country do I actually live in?


O really?

Who writes these headlines at the New York Daily? Have they actually taken a good look at the picture?


No Berlusconi Day

Bearing the food incident in mind, maybe Dr Livingstone should become a fan on Facebook and fly out to Rome on the 5th?


Haiku Herman speaks

Bad ninjas copy. Good ninjas steal.

Gotta love it.

This is what Haiku Herman had to say about me:

Computer says no

Your file was so big.
It might be very useful.
But now it is gone.


Votez Elio!

Het Laatste Nieuws had a poll on its website yesterday and this morning (click the image to enlarge).
The poll on the left was the result around half past ten yesterday evening. The poll on the right hand was the situation this morning around nine. It has now been removed from the front page.

Where did that di Rupo clown all of a sudden spring from? It was bad enough Leterme didn't even know the anthem of the country he was prime minister of, but du Repos Elio! hasn't even mastered all the languages of the country he lives in. I can only hope the Laatste Nieuws readers gave the poll the middle finger vote.
Or maybe PS headquarters sent an email to everyone urging 'Votez Elio!'.

But I'd like to put it in di Rupo's own words: 'J'en ai marre des parvenus'.

Mr Nobody, Haiku Herman

Nice titles those papers are giving the new president of the European Union: Mr Nobody, Haiku Herman.

And très funny this:

No comments as of yet. I laugh. And then I cry.


Plonkers of the week: Herminator and Leterminator

Just what the world needs. Another puppet president.

Being useless at leading Belgium was a good try-out to get started on being useless at running Europe.

And on a side note: It's pretty obvious isn't it. An overwhelming 70% says loud and clear: 'We don't want that other plonker back!'

Update: This excerpt from the Wall Street Journal says it all:

But in the end, the man picked to answer Henry Kissinger's famous question -- who do I call when I want to call Europe? -- was Herman Van Rompuy.
"I'm anxiously waiting for the first phone call," Mr. Van Rompuy said.

And another smashingly accurate headline: Belgium Faces Chaos Without Its Conciliator



If it sounds like nonsense...

If it sounds like nonsense... it probably is.

Arsenal striker Van Persie is travelling to Serbia to meet up with a quack doctor. According to the footballer: "She is vague about her methods but I know she massages you using fluid from a placenta. I am going to try. It cannot hurt and, if it helps, it helps. I have been in contact with Arsenal physiotherapists and they have let me do it."

In the Telegraph it said: Arsenal physiotherapist Colin Lewin has decided that the massage therapy treatment in Serbia cannot cause further damage although there is scepticism as to whether it will speed up Van Persie's recovery. But even if it provides only a psychological fillip to the player, it will be of some help.

It was on Dutch television. The reporter actually said it sounded like nonsense, and the footballer agreed but then defended it.

* Triple Picard Facepalm

By the way: the Daily Mail's headline is just so full of win: Desperate housewife treatment: Arsenal striker Robin van Persie off to Serbia to have placenta rubbed on damaged ankle


20th Anniversary collapse Berlin Wall

Anyone else notice Brown was holding his umbrella slightly at an angle so Sarkozy got a good soaking during the celebrations in Berlin?
Those Anglo-French relations haven't changed much, have they? Little Nicoleon wasn't holding an umbrella, it looked like he was relying on some shelter from Merkel's brollie.
Hmmm. Perhaps I'm reading too much into this.

Some of the media reported Lech Walesa lost his own balance after pushing the first of the domino stones symbolising the collapse of the wall.
Not true. Poor old Walesa was hit from behind by a cameraman on a Segway.


A French Bird?

How did I manage to miss this?

From the CERN Press Office:

On Tuesday 3 November, a bird carrying a baguette bread caused a short circuit in an electrical outdoor installation that serves sectors 7-8 and 8-1 of the LHC. The knock-on effects included an interruption to theoperation of the LHC cryogenics system. The bird escaped unharmed but lost its bread.

The standard failsafe systems came into operation and after the cause was identified, re-cooling of the machine began and the sectors were back at operating temperature last night. The incident was similar in effect to a standard power cut, for which the machine protection systems are very well prepared.

I have a lot of questions about this.

My guess is it was a French Bird.


Faking the Axe-effect

I don't believe my eyes. Someone please tell me I'm dreaming. For the gazillionth time I still cannot comprehend how on earth a paper manages to do a copy paste job without checking anything.

The Indian political and social satire site Faking News, universally known for publishing fake news, dreamed up a story about a man suing Unilever because he'd been using Axe deodorant for seven years and was still single after all this time.
Strangely enough both the Telegraaf and De Standaard ran the stories as though they were written in stone.
Ugh. Subs on holiday again?

UPDATE: Looks like the Daily Record and The Australian also copied it.


Is art history a 'pseudo science'?

This is a belated response to Derek Fincham's interesting points raised in his post on the 'New Leonardo".

A lot of comments have been made and several hasty conclusions drawn in the last two weeks all over the net.
There are a rather diverse set of arguments involved in this matter and I would like to tackle the different aspects of this recent Leonardo news by unraveling the different thought lines that have all been mashed up together.

There are several overlapping issues here:
- the use of forensic techniques in art history
- the place of scientific research in art historical research
- the interpretation of scientific results
- the benefits of using scientific research to unmask fakes
- the distinction between the art market and fundamental art history
- the conclusions we may draw from this New Leonardo case study
- and finally a critique of Jonathan Jones' piece in the Guardian.

Forensic art research is still only a small part of the bigger picture.
Traditional scientific research (involving the use of chemical analysis, different waves of the EM spectrum,...) has helped to right some wrongs in high profile forgeries, dispel 19th century art history myths, shed new light on old subjects etc.
It has also become standard practice to use certain techniques when writing condition reports (e.g. when art works are being moved).

As in general history, art history is constantly re-written as we approach subjects from different angles. When our gaze and society change over the decades a new light is shed on the past (e.g. gender themed approach). Even progress in science is welcomed to help our research. Why wouldn't we take advantage of 'new' methods? If more accurate and different ways of physically examining an object are at our disposal, let's use them.
However, there is a limit to the benefits forensic art research may seem to have at first due to:
1) lack of funding,
2) the conclusions that may be drawn from this and
3) the money/knowledge pay off: does it really help to have such an extensive examination when it may not even contribute to the whole research at all?

Luckily we are very fortunate to live in an era where we can use scientific technologies to unmask fraudulent pieces (and have been using for over seventy years).
Opportunists have existed as long as man has been producing art, there is nothing recent about this either.
Although interdisciplinary research is stimulated, the concern for the lack of skepticism involving this science is very real and the overly amount of trust the 'new' generation of art historians put in the hard core science without nuancing the results or understanding the implications is not to be taken for granted.

If works like, what has, already been dubbed 'The New da Vinci' on the basis of hazy press releases, are authenticated by whomever and makes it to auction on the feeble argument of a 'highly comparable' fingerprint, then that is just very sloppy research and will, not for a second, be taken seriously within academic circles. If it does not stand up to peer review than it simply hasn't happened.
It still frowns upon web based & media-trumpeted revelations. Unless it passes unscathed through the peer reviewed mill, it will not hold.
In any case, this has already been touched upon briefly in several lectures this and last week by some professors of mine and they are highly skeptical due to the lack of information about this work at this stage.

[This reminds me of the cold fusion antics of Messrs. Pons & Fleischmann and their 'ritualized excommunication' from the scientific world. To illustrate my point let's read a piece Dr Goodstein wrote on this subject:

"The Cold Fusion story seemed to stand science on its head, not only because it was played out in the popular press without the ritual of peer-review, but also because both sides of the debate violated what are generally supposed to be the central canons of scientific logic. Science in the 20th century has been much influenced by the ideas of the Austrian philosopher, Karl Popper. Popper argues that a scientific idea can never be proven true, because no matter how many observations seem to agree with it, it may still be wrong. On the other hand, a single contrary experiment can prove a theory forever false. Therefore, science advances only by demonstrating that theories are false, so that they must be replaced by better ones. The proponents of Cold Fusion took exactly the opposite view: many experiments, including their own, failed to yield the expected results. These were irrelevant, they argued, incompetently done, or lacking some crucial (perhaps unknown) ingredient needed to make the thing work. Instead, all positive results, the appearance of excess heat, or a few neutrons, proved the phenomenon was real. This anti-Popperian flavor of Cold Fusion played no small role in its downfall, since seasoned experimentalists like Lewis and Barnes refused to believe what they couldn't reproduce in their own laboratories. To them, negative results still mattered."
For more on this I recommend Cultural boundaries of science: credibility on the line By Thomas F. Gieryn. It has a chapter on science and mass media and also discusses the Pons & Fleishmann case.

So, in light of this (and I can cite plenty more examples off the top of my head) I can hardly believe anyone is still willing to fork out an exuberant amount of money over this 'New da Vinci' claim. But then again, there are a plethora of examples in big auction houses that prove me wrong.

[Again in a non-art related way I think of the cricket ball that was sold at Christie's three years ago for a whopping £26,400 while the whole authentication was suspicious. They new it was dubious (someone told them it couldn't be the item the seller was claiming it was) but they just chose to ignore facts and included it in their November sale anyway. For more on this check out Christie's and a lot of balls in Private Eye issue nr 1222 on page 27.]

It is widely accepted by art historians that art history still belongs to the realm of the humanities (as is vigorously pointed out at my university where sound art historical research is one of the key factors in the curriculum) and is not in any way hard core science.
But I do object to dub it a pseudo science. This has a distinct pejorative associative tone to it.
Kooks who willfully peddle bullshit to deceive people in order to make a few bob or two is pseudo science. Pseudo science may disguise itself under a number of labels. For a clear definition of what pseudoscience is and masquerades as see Carrol.
I do not think art history belongs among the likes of homeopathy, acupuncture, YEC,...
Art history employs the means of science for case studies and applies the scientific method of research, scrutiny, peer review and skepticism. But it does not, and never has, claimed to be science an sich.

Trained art historians are very much aware of the fact art history is part of the humanities. It cannot break away from the anthropological gaze. (I will not delve deeper into this now, it will lead us down the path of philosophy too far). But on par with the exact sciences researchers' reputations are at stake with every new publication and academic credibility is easily damaged. The publish or die credo has not yet died down entirely.

On the same note art history has always been subject to being dubbed a pseudo science. The foundations of where we stand today in art historical research are based on exactly that: connoisseurship and eliteness. Which reminds me of something Mark Roskill wrote thirty odd years ago in his book What is Art History. He writes: 'From being the dilletants hobby, art history has become a highly skilled and professional discipline, but a discipline that needs flair, judgement and aesthetic perception.'

I feel the need to point out that Mr Jones confused the contemporary art trade and art investment climate with fundamental art historical research.
Plus he boasts knowing a thing or two about spotting fakes a mile off and has a go at researchers. 'Today's art experts marshal techniques such as infrared photography to make their knowledge seem all the more scientific.'
What does he mean, seem all the more scientific? Researchers do not tart up their research with imaging techniques to seem more scientific. The aim of using technology available is to interperet what we see accordingly. And we can examine pieces of art in a non-intrusive way.
I bet Mr Jones would be one of those people who would physically open up mummy caskets just to see if there's anything inside.
His lamentations are proof of his poor understanding of how historical research is carried out.
According to Morelli in his collected Critical Studies :
"Art connoisseurs say of art historians that they write about what they do not understand; art historians, on their side, disparage the connoisseurs, and only look upon them as the drudges who collect materials for them, but who personally have not the slightest knowledge of the physiology of art."

It seems Mr Jones does not fit either of Morelli's descriptions. So therefore Morelli says he is neither an art connoisseur nor an art historian.
[And before I get any comments: I know I am using the dishonest argument from authority to prove something, but I found it hilarious when reading with Mr Jones in the back of my mind.]

A propos to the 'New da Vinci's new value price: It is not new to this day and age paintings have been re-ascribed to other names in order to fetch a higher price. I think of Murray Pease, one of the world's most famous art detectives (and of course once conservator of the Met in Manhattan) who proved in 1945 that Andrea Mantegna's signature on the Meditation on the Passion had been painted over Vittore Carpaccio's. He used one of the 'earliest' forms of what we now dub 'forensic art research'; infrared film and chemical analysis.
And the art world surely remembers Van Meegeren and all the pro's who got conned.
I once again recommend Edward Dolnick's The Forger's Spell. It is a light read and clearly demonstrates how the art conaisseurs failed in recognizing all the red flags which we would find straight away in this day and age and how they were chocked by the art world climate.
Actually now I come to think of it, it is uncanny how someone like Martin Kemp could easily fall into this trap the way Abraham Bredius did.

Bluntly put (and I know there are a lot more nuances to be added) only in the cross section of the domains of art history and economy can we see auction prices to be of paramount importance.
If this really were to be a new da Vinci work, it will not topple previous conceptions about the Renaissance artist. Just a handfull of people will be disappointed they did not stumble upon the work earlier. If it turns out to be a 19th century drawing (what it certainly looks like) the price will become irrelevant again and the whole hubub will die down, fade into the background once more and a different handfull of people will be disappointed.
I think the primary mover of the people involved in this will case is the money that can be made on the art market. They are very probably not really interested in the art historical research. Because, believe me, there really is no money to be made from art historical research alone!
Alas, as some case studies of works in the past have proven, not all scientific methods or art historical approaches are conclusive.
For some interesting comments and an introductory read on this I recommend a new publication Scientific Investigation of Copies, Fakes and Forgeries by Paul Craddock.

This has turned into a rather lengthy post and I've not even scratched the surface of this subject.

Perhaps to be continued...


The Birth of Venus

I bought this book based on the title, as Botticelli's 'The Birth of Venus' is an interesting painting with a lot of petites histoires attached to it. Set in Renaissance Florence, I expected Botticelli and his paintings to play a key role. And this, in a way, is what is promised in the blurb on the back cover. While there is indeed a painting in this story, the novel has nothing to do with the painting it steals its name from, and nothing really to do with Botticelli.
I own a Dutch translation of the book made by Tinke Davids.
I must stay it is utterly awful. There are a plethora of annoying mistakes and some sentences do not work very well due to wording. It was like reading a ten year old essay. Poorly constructed sentences, not an agreeable read on a technical level.
Either it is a very bad translation, or the translator didn't have a lot of interesting language to work with for starters. I suspect Dunant's original text in English gives off the same vibe. It was quite frankly a very boring read. I've heard her prose is very flat, and she changes tense within the same paragraph. In other words: She is a terrible writer.

Entire passages didn't seem to get a move on, a lot of things were unnecessarily stretched out. She makes you anticipate something is going to happen and you hang on, and nothing happens. It's like a Wagner opera. Even the so-called 'intelligent' conversations were steeped in banality. Most plot elements where rather uneventful. Even the sibling rivalry between the main character and her brother, which is a critical point in the whole narrative, isn't claws out at all.
This story promised a lot, but what could have been interesting was made boring. She barely scratched the surface of the matter. Because of the setting of the novel, amid all the political and religious turmoil in Florence, she could have tried harder to make the Allesandra character more involved. Her story amounts to being a rather decaf melodramatic version of the real thing. So more umph and less ooh would have been nice.
And worse still, her main character is blatantly anachronistic. Thoroughly modern, she thinks and acts just like a 21st-century woman.

This is the trouble with, I'd say, sixty percent of all historical fiction, the author desperately wants to link her character to the important people or artefacts in Florence of the time however unlikely it may seem. Alas, the Allessandra character simply does not make a very interesting narrator, the narrative doesn't feel very credible (even if we are fully aware it is fiction).

I'd recommend The Agony and the Ecstasy by Irving Stone well above this one if you want to read fiction about Florence set in the Savonarola/Medici age. It stands head and shoulders above this one.

The Birth of Venus is an excellent example of poorly written historical fiction. It has the flavor of slightly fluffy escapist reading.

Luckily I only forked out 3,75 Euros for my copy which I bought through a second hand web site from someone living in my own village.


Taste blood

I asked Dr Livingstone if dinner was alright. He took me completely aback with the following answer:

'Yes, it was very nice. It tasked like Berlusconi's death sentence.'

I think I should keep an eye on him.


Not to be missed

I can't stand hypocrisy. And I absolutely detest the saying: 'Don't speak ill of the dead'.
Because I will. On Friday Dré Steemans passed away (a.k.a. Félicé Damiano).
I can't believe all this media outpour. 'Oh, he was so nice to work with.... Always the cheery fellow etc. etc.'

That is simply not true. He was impossible. He was a stuck-up, short-tempered little pain in the arse.
I worked on a plethora of shows of his and he was not a very nice man to work with.
I can hardly count the times he flew into a terrifying rage. Shouting and screaming at people in the studio, stamping his feet like a little kid.
Even walking off the set and leaving behind an entirely bewildered crew.

The only nice thing I can actually say about him is he used to drive a nice Maserati.


Back on monday

A word of advice for countries thinking of invading Belgium: Now's your chance.
Yesterday I was looking for weather warnings.
The weather information site of the Belgian Armed Forces displayed the following message: 'De voorspellingen voor de wegtoestand zijn beëindigd en worden hernomen de derde maandag van oktober.'
Looks like the military weather forecaster is on holiday. So if you're planning on doing any invading, get it over with by Monday.


The Great World Wide Star Count

During the Great World Wide Star Count, citizen-scientists of all ages will gaze skyward in October 2009, helping map light pollution around the world.

What can you see when you look up at the nighttime sky? Do you see stars, constellations, satellites, or the Milky Way? For many people around the world, the Milky Way is something known only through books and pictures, not something visible in their nighttime sky. Astronomers have long known that light pollution impairs our ability to clearly see the night skies and now the general public is also experiencing this phenomenon. Light pollution is often described as an undesirable byproduct of our industrialized civilization. It is a broad term that refers to multiple problems, all of which are caused by inefficient, annoying, or arguably unnecessary use of artificial light.

Recognizing the interest and concern regarding the decreasing quality of our night skies, UCAR’s Windows to the Universe launched a new citizen science project in October 2007, The Great World Wide Star Count. This Windows to the Universe program is an international citizen-science event that encourages everyone, astronomers and non-astronomers alike, to measure their local light pollution and report their observations online. The Great World Wide Star Count is designed to raise awareness about light pollution as well as encourage learning in astronomy. No prior experience is necessary—all information needed to participate is on the Star Count Web site, along with a downloadable activity guide available in eight languages. All observations will be available online via Google Earth and as downloadable datasets.

The Great World Wide Star Count is an engaging project for teaching about the impact of artificial lighting on local environments and in raising awareness about the ongoing loss of people’s ability to study or simply enjoy the night sky in many parts of the world. Participants can explore the different light sources in their community learning the relationship between science, technology and their society, as well as investigate the economic and environmental impacts of light on a local and global scale.

More then half the worlds population (3.3 billion people) live in urban areas. As cities grow, so does their impact on the environment, including excessive lighting. Light pollution is a global problem, but with a local solution.
In the first two years, more than 8,000 observations from over 65 countries were reported online. Please join us during the International Year of Astronomy to map the effects of light pollution world wide! The 2009 Star Count will take place from October 9-23.

For more information, magnitude charts and how you can get involved go to http://starcount.org


Don't be afraid of the dark

Walloons are switching off lights on roads, which saves them a bob or two on the national budget, cuts down on electricity consumption and even benefits the reduction of light pollution.

So when Flemish Minister of Mobility Crevits was asked if there were any similar plans in the pipeline the answer was at the very least miserably inadequate: 'Wallonië heeft een totaal ander wegennet: daar heb je rechte en verlaten stukken, waardoor verlichting minder belangrijk is. In Vlaanderen heb je om de honderd meter een kruispunt en staat er om de haverklap een bloembak.'

Well, thanks a bunch. Amateur astronomers like myself give her reaction a big thumbs down (see my earlier post on light pollution). Is it because she hopped from the Environment to the Mobility ministerial job the policy is not to give a rat's ass about things that really matter? Very strange indeed.
When she was still minister for Environment she sang to a different tune as we can still read on the Exxon Mobil website: 'Als je energie bespaart, wordt het eenvoudiger om de doelstellingen te halen, zoals de nieuwe voorgestelde Europese norm voor België om 13 procent duurzaam op te wekken in 2020. Het totale energieverbruik daalt immers. Maar we kunnen niet wachten tot de laatste kilowattuur is bespaard. Rationeel energieverbruik en hernieuwbare energiebronnen moeten dus hand in hand gaan.'

A few remarks:
- Raised flowerbeds are a means of slowing down cars in streets so they have to zig zag and can't proceed to race through full throttle. They are usually put in roads that run in a straight line... Did she forget that implementing them are a means of trying to reduce speed and thus accidents resulting thereof? Or does road safety not fall under the guise of the department of Mobility? So no straight secondary roads in Flanders?
Hmmm. I think Crevits should go out more. Or just take up gardening if she thinks the flowerbeds are just there because they are pretty.
- Why does, according to her answer, every intersection need to be fully lit up? If an intersection is unsafe for crossing, then it is usually due to lack of visibility in the structural sense. Not the presence or lack of lighting.
It might also be a remark expressing a reluctancy to really take on structural measures. 1) ensuring people drive more safely (prevention, information, better checks on technical car safety), 2) building or changing intersections so they are easier to oversee (roadworks) and 3) stemming the juridicalization of our society (I'm thinking of the numerous court cases the last few years brought by citizens who summon mayors because the judges rule there was no lighting at an intersection).

On a different note. Judging from Crevits' remarks it seems as if she has never actually been in the southern part of the country, or hasn't travelled anywhere else in Europe for that matter. Straight and abandoned pieces of roads? No need to be lit just because of that?
I get dizzy most of the time when driving in the Walloon part. Because of the geological appearance most roads wind a lot. I'd say the opposite of Flanders. Or maybe she wasn't paying attention because her chauffeur does all the driving. Or she could be a bit dim... (geddit?)

What is it with this fixation on lighting every inch of every road? We have the most lit up country by far but still manage to have very high figures of road accidents with deadly outcome in Europe. And they're not due to bad lighting alone. Statlovers go here.

Bleh. I still renew my plea for darker skies. Even in the International Year of Astronomy.

Remember what The Robert Cray Band sang: 'Don't be afraid of the dark'.


Idiot gets 'science' award?

Many thanks to chionactis for the photoshopping.


Famous first lines

The past is a foreign country: they do things differently there.

from The Go-Between by L.P. Harley


The armchair detective

According to brusselnieuws André Garitte, curator of the Magritte museum in Jette, said in De Standaard newspaper the Brussels and Federal government are co-responsable for the theft of Olympia, stolen on Thursday. He repeatedly pleaded for support for his museum but his requests fell on deaf ears.
Although the picture was kept behind a glass door and guarded by a double alarm system, the thieves got hold of the painting and were out of the museum in just two minutes. How? Apparently, the alarm system is always switched off during the daytime and no security camera's were fitted.
The museum did receive subsidies but not enough to provide for an adequate security system according to Garitte. Is he fending off critics by pointing the finger at someone else? I get the impression he is trying to waver his responsability. I'm not entirely sure the people from the insurance company will agree with him. The Magritte museum in Jette is still a private initiative, thus the main sources of income depend on donations from patrons.

Yet again the long felt dismay about the new Magritte museum that opened in June of this year resurfaces after the high profile art theft.
The new museum dedicated to René Magritte attracted over 100.000 visitors in only two months time. Estimates in 2005, when there was talk of a new museum, were around 200.000 a year. The Jette museum only hails about 10.000 visitors a year.
In 2006 Garitte declared in an interview with Agenda the museum didn't plan on getting squashed by the new museum:
We krijgen nu al telefoons van toeristen die verward zijn door de identieke naam. De naam van ons museum is beschermd, we gaan ons niet laten platdrukken”.

Well, the small museum will almost certainly get a piece of the publicity cake now. A robbery is the best thing that could have happened to it to get some extra press.
Hmm, I wonder if staging a robbery was the best way to go about it... In press reports Garitte was the first to insinuate it was a commissioned theft and not a ransom theft as the police and everyone else seem to think.
If I go by the Morse-rule that a crime is usually commited by a family member or someone closely associated with the murder victim then it makes him a a prime suspect in my uninformed fantasy world.
Ok, ok, I know I've been watching too many detective series on the telly, but I like playing the armchair detective.

The alleged mutual antagonism between the René Magritte Museum (the one that got robbed) and the Musée Magritte Museum (the one with the 200+ works) was insinuated by Jean-Marie Binst in Brussel deze week. The Royal Fine Arts Museum issued a press release stating that the theft had nothing to do with them to avoid confusion. But Binst applies some of his infallible logic and came up with this: "Komt daarbij de onbegrijpelijke arrogantie van de Koninklijke Musea voor Schone Kunsten van België, die volgend kort perscommuniqué rondstuurden:
“Wij betreuren het ten zeerste dat er bij de opening van het Magrittehuis op 24 september een werk van René Magritte op gewelddadige wijze werd ontvreemd. Dit museum, dat gesitueerd is in een Brusselse randgemeente, maakt geen deel uit van de Koninklijke Musea voor Schone Kunsten van België die het Musée Magritte Museum huisvesten.”
Voor alle duidelijkheid: met het Magrittehuis bedoelen ze het René Magritte Museum, dat zo niet genoemd mag worden; met een Brusselse randgemeente bedoelen ze Jette, en ‘geen diefstal bij ons’ insinueert dat een miljoenenschade door vochtontregeling in de reserves minder erg is dan een diefstal die nog kan worden opgelost."

What a strange conclusion Mr Binst has drawn from the press release. And the humidity thing he is referring to is the entirely unrelated Dalkia incident from Januari this year.
In light of his little profile blurb on the Prix des musées' site it is even more ridiculous: "...quelque chose que je ne considère pas comme une activité professionnelle mais comme un passe-temps passionnant. Cette passion me permet de rester objectivement attentif à l’attention portée ou non au patrimoine culturel à Bruxelles." Objectiveness? Hmmm. I fail to detect any in his 'objective' piece on the press release.

How much more surreal can this get? I'm sure Magritte would have looked upon this bickering with impish glee.

If it is a question of ransom theft, we'll probably never hear about it. Negotiations between thieves and owner are usually kept from the police, up until the picture magically resurfaces after a year or so. Which reminds me of a similar Magritte theft in London a couple of years ago when ‘Les Reflets du temps’ turned up.

Janpiet Callens, a former police art detective, who now runs his own consultancy firm, has been put in charge of the investigation for the insurance company.

Oh, and the police released the photo fits of the two robbers.


BB 75 today

Although Brigitte Bardot's buttocks have turned 75 today and we do not want to see them again in their present state, they once graced the terrace of a villa in Capri in the sixties.
The Villa Malaparte features prominently in Jean-Luc Godard’s film, “Le Mépris”.
The Italian poet Curzio Malaparte commissioned the architect Adalberto Libera to build it for him back in 1938.

Some fairly recent pictures of the bad state of the interiour can be found here.


Belusconi sells papers

Berlusconi is a godsend to news papers all around the world struggling to sell a few copies.
Sex sells, as any fule kno, and with the Italian PM's naughtie nighties exposed it is the best excuse the so-called 'serious' rags did not dare to come up with themselves: Just plaster pictures of young, pouting, barely clad females across the front pages and Bob's your uncle.
As De Morgen clearly demonstrated on its online version of the paper today.
The article sported no less than 5 pictures of call girl Patrizia D'Addario in various stages of undress. Not bad for a 260-ish word piece.
Hang on a sec. This has been done before. There was a magazine that used to sell loads of copies for the articles too. Let me think.... Oooh! I've got it! It's Playboy Magazine.

If only we could say we were really buying news papers for the articles these days...
Now that would be front page news worthy!