1) A mosaic of Michael Jackson composed of 230,000 brown and black paintbrushes by Albanian artist Saimir Strati has been recognised by the Guinness World Records as the world's largest paintbrush mosaic. Strati toured his work around Albania before taking it to the centre of Tirana. "All the time I was being guided by his music and made a silent deal with him to help me find the secrets of his great singing," Strati told Reuters.
He has also created the world's largest mosaics with nails, toothpicks and bottle corks. The cork mosaic, 'Romeo with a crown of grapes playing the guitar while dancing with the sea and the sun' is at the Sheraton Hotel in Tirana. "I love mosaics, they are a dying genre," says Strati. "I follow the same technique used 3,000 years ago."
2) Albania's "Gjergj Kastrioti Skënderbeu" Brandy won the Bronze Medal at the 1970 Plovdiv International Fair and the 1972 International Competition of wines and cognacs, both in Bulgaria.
3) Goat population in 2006: 940,000 (source: World Resources Institute)
Almost four years ago, I put up a post called Ira Gershwin's dog. It was very short on detail and I've never managed to get very far in embellishing it. Last Sunday, however, I was browsing the stalls at Jewish Book Week, when I can across a very fat biography of George Gershwin. I flipped through it, hoping for a few scraps of info about family pets – bupkes.
Nevertheless, I did discover that at some point in his youth, George Gershwin was kicked on the bridge of his nose by a horse. I just thought you'd like to know. (I doubt it was his horse.)
The mission of [********] is to provide society with superior products and services by developing innovations and solutions that improve the quality of life and satisfy customer needs, and to provide employees with meaningful work and advancement opportunities, and investors with a superior rate of return.
In 1621, the writer and gardener John Goodyer, had this to say about Jerusalem artichokes: '
which way soever they be dressed and eaten, they stir and
cause a filthy loathsome stinking wind within the body, thereby causing
the belly to be pained and tormented, and are a meat more fit for swine
Last night, I made a Jerusalem artichoke soup which was actually pretty tasty. I'd make it again...but I know what Goodyer means.
It's quite simple. Here is a list of 20 reasonably well-known people, followed by a list of 20 middle names. Simply match them up. Answers will be posted sometime this week; by Saturday 22nd at the latest:
Margaret Atwood James Brown César Chávez Leonard Cohen Miles Davis Doris Day Emily Dickinson Howard Hughes Robert Johnson Primo Levi Ella Fitzgerald Groucho Marx Robert Mugabe Edith Piaf Josef Ratzinger (Pope Benedict XVI) Donald Rumsfeld Oliver Sacks Ian Smith Desmond Tutu Frank Zappa
Alois Dewey Douglas Eleanor Elizabeth Estrada Gabriel Giovanna Henry Henry James Jane Leroy Mary Ann Michele Mpilo Norman Robard Vincent Wolf
Here’s a fun site to which I was alerted by an article in today’s FT. Recent winners of a Golden Bull include this version of ‘leaves on the track’:
Every Autumn a combination of leaves on the line, atmospheric conditions and prevailing damp conditions lead to a low adhesion between the rail head and the wheel which causes services to be delayed or even cancelled. NI Railways are committed to minimising service delays, where we can, by implementing a comprehensive low adhesion action programme.
...and here’s a nice one from 2000 – an easy target, perhaps, but still…
* A draft deed of indemnity from the Ministry of Defence
'We agree: '...that we shall not be discharged or released from our obligations under this deed by any arrangement or agreement made between you and the contractor or a receiver, administrative receiver, administrator, liquidator or a similar officer of the contractor, or by any renegotiation, substitution, alteration, amendment or variation (however fundamental) and whether or not to our disadvantage, to or of, the obligations imposed upon the contractor or any other person or by any forbearance granted by you to the contractor or any other person as to payment, time, performance or otherwise or by any release or variation (however fundamental) of, any invalidity in, or any failure to take, perfect or enforce any other indemnity, guarantee or security in respect of the obligations to which this deed relates or by any other matter or thing which but for this provision might exonerate us and this notwithstanding that such arrangement, agreement, renegotiation, substitution, alteration, amendment, variation, forbearance, matter or thing may have been made, granted or happened without our knowledge or assent;'
Let's hear it for rhenium, an also-ran among the elements. It tries hard, but never quite makes it to the top:
Its chemical symbol, Re, is better known as an abbreviation for reinsurance companies (Swiss Re, etc);
It failed to be selected by Primo Levi for inclusion in The Periodic Table;
It was the next-to-last naturally-occurring element to be discovered;
It is among the ten most expensive metals on Earth (but not in the top three);
It has one of the highest melting points of all elements (but is exceeded by tungsten and carbon);
It is a very dense element (though not as dense as platinum, iridium and osmium).
It has the widest range of oxidation states of any known element (Unfortunately I have no idea if that is good or bad).
FACT: Rhenium wire is used as a filament in flash photography. FACT: Chile has the world's largest rhenium reserves. FACT: There is a band called Rhenium from Houston, Texas. There is a picture of them here.
Is more information available about rhenium? You bet! Dazzle strangers at parties with your wealth of rhenium-related observations. To begin your journey with rhenium, go here,here or here.
Mark Rothko and Gertrude Stein had at least one thing in common. Both were the youngest of several siblings. Mark had two brothers and a sister. Gertrude had three brothers and a sister.
Mark's eldest sibling was his sister Sonia, with whom he travelled to the US from Dvinsk, Russia (now Daugavpils, Latvia) as a ten year old, accompanying their mother Anna. Their dad Jacob and two brothers had preceded them to Portland, Oregon. Jacob died not long after their arrival. Sonia and her two other brothers spent a while working for their Uncle Sam's clothing business. The two brothers, Albert and Maurice (Moishe), then set up a pharmacy, following in their father's footsteps, while Sonia went to work for a dentist.
An interview with Ruth Cloudman the year before she died in her mid-nineties unfortunately reveals little about Sonia's relationship with her little brother. Though lucid, her memory is clearly failing. The interview does,, however, give some idea of the family dynamics and the pressures the young Rothko was under. After the death of their father, Sonia reveals, Mark sold newspapers on the street and was regularly beaten up for being chubby and not knowing how to fight.
An interesting discrepancy arises in the reported attitudes of Mark and Sonia to their arrival in the USA. According to James Breslin, citing an earlier interview with Sonia, they were pretty excited about the prospect of coming to America.
Rothko's sister Sonia remembered the elation of their journey to the New World: "We all thought we were coming to Heaven."
Sonia, however, tells a different story in the Cloudman interview:
MS. CLOUDMAN: Was Mark excited about going to America? MS. ALLEN: I don't know. He was just a youngster then. MS. CLOUDMAN: What image of America did you have before you arrived? MS. ALLEN: Not very good. I don't know. I didn't want to go. MS. CLOUDMAN: You didn't. Were you leaving friends behind and your life behind? Why didn't you want to come? MS. ALLEN: We had an idea that America is all mercenary, all money and nothing else. And I kind of leaned to the other side. MS. CLOUDMAN: Do you think Mark had any vision or image of what America was like before he came? MS. ALLEN: I don't know. I don't think he did.
Gertrude Stein went the other way. Born in Pennsylvania, she and her siblings were taken to Vienna when she was three, returning to the US via Paris a year or two later. While Gertrude is most often bracketed with her brother Leo, it was eldest sibling Michael who arguably had a greater influence on her life in Paris. Michael Stein kept her afloat financially until she made her own money from the Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas. When her father died in her late teens, Michael took over the family business and became the family breadwinner.
He won a lot of bread. In 1893, two years after his father's death, Michael oversaw the consolidation of street railways in San Francisco – near where the family was then living – into the Market Street Railway Company. His judicious investments for the family trust fund provided the seed money for the art collection that Gertrude and Leo began to accumulate in 1903 in Paris. It was also Michael who was responsible for the meeting of Alice B. Toklas and his little sister.
Michael and his wife Sarah Samuels were significant art collectors in their own right. They were the first patrons and collectors of Matisse:
Michael ..., a shy, bearded Harvard-man... took over his father's business of operating San Francisco's famed cable cars. He and his wife Sarah lived mostly in and around Paris: they not only commissioned Le Corbusier to build them a villa, but they also got interested in Matisse and Picasso at a time when few Frenchmen would touch them.
Gertrude Stein always maintained that she was the first to recognize Matisse's great gift. Leo said that it was he. But according to Matisse himself, "Mme. Michael Stein was the really intelligently sensitive member of the family."
Bonus Gertrude Stein goat quote:
A long war like this makes you realise the society you really prefer, the home, goats chickens and dogs and casual acquaintances. I find myself not caring at all for gardens flowers or vegetables cats cows and rabbits, one gets tired of trees vines and hills, but houses, goats chickens dogs and casual acquaintances never pall.