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!


Magritte painting stolen

Olympia, a work by René Magritte has been stolen in Jette. Two men gained access to the house where Magritte lived. Mrs B did a little digging. One of the staff gave a description of the men and apparantly they had disgused themselves. The picture on the left is the photo fit the police came up with. They are now looking for two Asians with wigs in bowler hats.

The work is too well known to be sold anywhere, on the radio I heard they speculated it was stolen on commission.
But I don't buy it, I think they'll ransom it.
The police estimate the value of the painting around 700.000€, other sources report it to be worth 3 million.
Meh, it's true value would probably only emerge during auction.


Serious business

I thought going back to university involved learning some serious complicated stuff 'n all.
Until I ran across this drawing which will feature in a course I'm starting next week. It is used to illustrate polymers.

I believe my intellect has just been insulted.


Walking with Mrs B

Dr Livingstone put in some extra time so I could go see Walking with Dinosaurs last weekend. It was awesome! If I were a little kid I'd probably have been going 'Dinosaur, dinosaur, dinosaur' for weeks on end.
Amazing how the dino's are controlled and constructed. I have it on good authority the show currently touring in Europe is better then the one in the US.
Here's a picture of me geeking out backstage. That's a T-Rex I'm scratching on the chin!


Go Kim!

Kim Clijsters wins the US Open 2009!


Undecided value

Even Google turns up the true nature of the man.



Some trivial news from the Royal Family. According to De Morgen, Prince Philip of Belgium has been annoying his neighbours in Brussels with his daily eight minute flights with his chopper. Laken is a no-fly zone, but the crown prince got an exemption from the then Minister for Transport Durand and the State also pitched in with a permit to construct a landing pad and a hanger.
So if you're in Brussels and see a red Robinson flying about with registration OO-PFB: It's him. You can't miss it.
And he can't either.
PFB: Prins Filip België.
In case he gets confused and doesn't know which one is his.

I tried to Simpsonize Prince Philip and the machine gave me Steve Buscemi.
My sincerest apologies to Steve Buscemi.


Howard who?

It looks like summer is over. It has gotten quite chilly so I've been cleaning out our hat and cloak area. When rummaging around in the draw where we keep gloves and the like I found a rather unusual item.

It's one of those cloth bags. The sort you get when attending a business fair. You never use them afterwards. They're not sturdy, they're useless for keeping something in them. People always have masses of them thrust upon their person, but never seem to get rid of them after they've taken them home. The bag as Ding an Sich wasn't that strange, but it was the print on it that puzzeled me.

Howard Carpendale - Alles ok. With a picture of a square-faced, open-armed, blond German guy.

He sounds and looks like an eighties 3rd rate pop idol. So I looked him up. His music is absolutely horrid.

To be absolutely clear on this: It is not my bag.
So I confronted Dr Livingstone. Is he a Howard Carpendale fan?

Dr L: 'Who is that guy?'
Mrs B: 'I dunno. He's on your bag.'
Dr L: 'Where did you find it?'
Mrs B: 'In the draw.'
Dr L: 'I've never seen it before.'

It sounded like one of those cheesy dialogues the police have in those crime series on the telly.
He probably got the bag when doing a show somewhere once upon a time.

Come on, how is it possible to forget the famous Howard Carpendale? Once you've seen him, you'll never. And just to tune your musical taste buds: here it is for all of you to 'enjoy'.

The bag is definitely going in the trash.


Turn off your lights!

"Of all the pollutions we face, light pollution is perhaps the most easily remedied."

As my faithful dear readers know I am a dirty, rotten amateur astronomer.
So for the love of science: please, please, please turn your lights off!
Light pollution is so bad most of us cannot see the stars we so much want to gaze upon.
I live in one of the most brightly lit area's in the world and no one seems to care, not even in the International Year of Astronomy!

So everyone: Stop playing football on those illuminated pitches blinding out the night sky. Every godforsaken village has at least four football clubs. If you love your footie that much, play during daylight hours, or go and play indoor during winter season. Or take up another sport that does not involve massive amounts of light.
You know you're cold, you're gonna get dirty and have people curse you for bringing home loads of dirty gear that makes the washing machine clog up. So save yourself the hassle and do the sensible thing!
Save energy and enjoy the night sky. So look up instead of looking down.

If I ever go house hunting, I'll probably give everyone a hard time and will want to:
a) visit the house after sunset
b) want to know if there's any football pitches nearby.
c) if so, they'll have to knock a few euro's off the asking price.

If we reduce light pollution, then we may all experience the infinite wonders of the universe. This is only possible, however, if we stop outside light from shining above the horizon. The sky literally has to be the limit.

My plan of action:
-Retract permission to floodlight sport fields and adapt light sources so they cut back spill light dramatically.
-Villages and Towns must stop illuminating buildings with inadequately aimed light that point nowhere.
-All new stadia must have a closed roof.
-There must be an amendement to regulation concerning illumination of private buildings and houses.
-Instead of giving away free energy saving light bulbs, money should be spent for awareness campaigns on turning lights off and saving energy, especially during festive seasons.
-Street light grids should be adapted so they can be turned off in smaller sections.

I hope the council will be interested, saving a few bob and making a few constituents happy.


To bee or not to bee

Please make the silliness stop! India's largest news agency the Press Trust has launched yet another crazy ZOMG PHONE RADIATION IS KILLING THE BEES !!! article. And I'm afraidy wady every single news reporting outlet has done another horrific, unsceptical copy/paste job. Like De Morgen for instance.

The whacky idea that cell phone tower radiation disorientates bees isn't new, this story pops up here and there with an unrelenting mechanical regularity. About two years ago it got some press in The Independent. This feeble cell phone argument was used to explain Colony Collapse Disorder. If you go and dig around and find the actual 'studies' they refer to it is all very dubious. The scientific method is flawed, the argumentation one-sided and other causes are factored out or completely ignored.

As early as 2005 real scientific evidence pointed in the direction of mites that parasite on the bees. Honeybees are attacked by numerous pathogens including viruses, bacteria, fungi and parasites. Recently scientists have isolated the parasite Nosema ceranae (Microsporidia). The infection was treated with complete success. The hives that were infected made a complete recovery.
We're not home and dry yet, but it is a big step in the right direction to combat the decline in honey bee population.

Papers should stop this nonsensical reporting and hire some real science journalists instead of copying their google alerts and showing their complete lack of knowledge and interest in science. It is a sign of utter disdain for the intellectual and practical activity encompassing the systematic study of the structure and behavior of the physical and natural world through observation and experiment.

To use the famous words of xkcd: Science. It works, bitches!

Try it, goofballs! (my words)