Archive for November, 2013
26 Nov 2013

Not Fond of the Emperor

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Also in the December Maine Antiques Digest Letter from London, sold at the 18-19 September last Sale 1186, the Collection of architect and scholar Professor Sir Albert Richardson, P.R.A., a patriotic Georgian Pearlware chamberpot, painted on the exterior with a band of ochre leaves within brown trailing circular branches and bands, and featuring within a bust of Napoleon accompanied by the motto: PEREAT. Let Him Perish!

The item, Lot 271, estimated to bring £400 – £600 ($610 – $900), actually fetched a whopping price of £6,250 ($10,081), despite a (repaired) crack across, a chip, and more than one riveted repair.

26 Nov 2013

Tipu Sahib’s Sword

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Maine Antique Digest runs a monthly Letter from London column which describes some of the more interesting items appearing in recent sales.

At Sotheby’s “Art of Imperial India” sale, London, October 9th last, was sold a captured and re-hilted British sword decorated with the bubri symbol of Tipu Sahib, “the Tiger of Mysore,” one of the most formidable enemies of British rule in India, slain finally defending his own fortress at the Siege of Seringapatam in 1799.

Tipu is quoted as saying: “Better to die like a soldier than live a miserable life dependent on the infidels… I would rather live two days as a tiger, than two hundred years as a sheep.”

Interestingly, this sword was not taken at Seringapatnam, as it comes from the estate of Sir Charles Malet, Bart., who had left India a year before the siege. It was probably a trophy of the Third Anglo-Mysore War.

The sword sold for $157,695 (98,500 GBP). Lot 249.

26 Nov 2013

Havery Ward, The Last Shovel Maker

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Harvey Ward was known as, The Last Scoop Maker. That title came to him from the documentary that film maker, Jack Ofield made about his scoop making that was broadcast on PBS in 1974. Harvey was the last of his family line to make wooden shovels for a living. Each wooden shovel was cut with an ax and carved out by hand. He made scoops just about everyday of his life, starting when he was about 14 years old or for about 78 years. Making a Wooden Scoop requires a great deal of upper body strength. Harvey managed to perfect his craft so well that the entire process of building a scoop from start to finish was done in 51 minutes. He claims he wasn’t the fastest though. That titled belonged to his father, Joseph, who was not only renowned for making the fastest shovels but also for an extremely smooth finish which was achieved with a single ax head. Harvey used a double ax head for his craft.

Harvey’s family made “scoops” for hundreds of years which was traced back to his Delaware Indian roots. In Native American tribes families were assigned roles. Harvey’s family was assigned to make all the wood tools and other wooden utilitarian ware needed by the tribe.

In the 1700-1800s, in the northeastern United States there were plenty of wooded forests. In later years, Native American’s traded beaver skins with the English to obtain metal tools. These metal tools made making wooden shovels and handcrafted objects much easier. Often tribesmen melted down the metal and customized their own tools to suit their needs.

Harvey’s family made wooden bowls and plates to eat off of and other needed objects such as firewood boxes. The tradition was passed down from one generation to another until Harvey and his brothers were taught as teenagers to make wooden shovels.

Last Shovel Maker from Jack Ofield on Vimeo.

25 Nov 2013

Yale on Lockdown After Reports of Gunman


One of those armored vehicles (with unmanned machine-gun turret) can be seen sitting just outside the campus.

Around 9:30 A.M. this morning, an anonymous caller phoned New Haven Police warning them that his roommate was going to Yale to shoot people. There have been reports of a man being sighted carrying a long gun. Yale is on Thanksgiving break. Most people are not on campus. And police have swarmed the area between Chapel & Elm and High and College Streets.

NBC Connecticut News


Constant Yale Daily News updates by Twitter.

25 Nov 2013

Polar Bear Attacks in Vermont

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25 Nov 2013

Week of Greatness Commercial


Footlocker Commercial: Mike Tyson gives Evander Holyfield back his ear. Dennis Rodman flies one way to North Korea, Brett Favre finally walks away, and Craig Sager decides to change his wardrobe.

24 Nov 2013

Franz Schubert: Der Erlkönig, D. 328

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Heinrich Schlusnus (1888-1952), accompanied by Franz Rupp. Recorded 1933.

23 Nov 2013

Dancing Satyr

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Dancing Satyr of Mazara del Vallo, fourth-century B.C., Greece


The over-lifesize Dancing Satyr of Mazara del Vallo is a Greek bronze statue, whose refinement and rapprochement with the manner of Praxiteles has made it a subject of discussion.

Though the satyr is missing both arms, one leg and its separately-cast tail (originally fixed in a surviving hole at the base of the spine), its head and torso are remarkably well-preserved despite millennia spent at the bottom of the sea. The satyr is depicted in mid-leap, head thrown back ecstatically and back arched, his hair swinging with the movement of his head. The facture is highly refined; the whites of his eyes are inlays of white alabaster.

Though some have dated it to the 4th century BCE and said it was an original work by Praxiteles or a faithful copy, it is more securely dated either to the Hellenistic period of the 3rd and 2nd centuries BCE, or possibly to the “Atticising” phase of Roman taste in the early 2nd century CE. A high percentage of lead in the bronze alloy suggests its being made in Rome itself.

The torso was recovered from the sandy sea floor at a depth of 500 m (1600 ft.) off the southwestern coast of Sicily, on the night of March 4, 1998, in the nets of the same fishing boat (operating from Mazara del Vallo, hence the sculpture’s name) that had in the previous year recovered the sculpture’s left leg. …

Restoration at the Istituto Centrale per il Restauro, Rome, included a steel armature so that the statue can be displayed upright. … [I]t is on permanent display in the Museo del Satiro in the church of Sant’Egidio.

Via Ratak Monodosico.

23 Nov 2013

Managing Millennials


Hat tip to Veronique de Rugy.

22 Nov 2013

They’ll Be Sorry!

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Randy Barnett posted, at Volokh:

Restoring the Lost Constitution just got much easier.

This is an historic moment on our constitutional history. With the change of Senate rules today by a simple majority to [allow a simple majority to] close debate on judicial nominations, a Rubicon has been crossed. Restoring the Lost Constitution has now been made far more feasible, and will make the 2014 & 2016 of enormous importance to our constitutional future.


Krauthammer gleefully observed:

I’m always amused by the nuclear option debate because it is without a doubt the most spectacular display of Congressional hypocrisy, which is saying a lot. Because whenever the minority party is arguing, it says that this is a very important, indeed a majestic part of our constitution. And as soon as the minority become the majority, like Harry Reid and the Democrats and Obama, all of a sudden it’s terrible instrument of obstruction.

Look, as a matter of the means in which this was done, it was a rather lowdown way. This is a fundamental change of the structure of the rules of the Senate and done on strict party lines, which it should not be. The same way, incidentally, Obamacare, a major reform, on party lines. That should not be. But on the substance of the change, I think the Democrats have stumbled upon the truth as they do every decade or so. If you are not to know who is in power, I think it’s a better idea for the president to have the ability to nominate his nominees, judicial and executive, without having to get a supermajority.

And the other part of it, as a conservative, I am extremely happy that the Democrats are doing this. The prospects are very strong that the Democrats are going to lose the Senate next year and there is an excellent chance of losing the White House. And the Democrats will absolutely rue the day because they not only are going to allow a Republican majority — which will come one day anyway — to get its nominees through, but Chuck Grassley has said that when Republicans come into you power, they’re going to include Supreme Court nominees, and that will be a devastating blow to the liberals on the Court and to the liberals in the country. So I don’t think Democrats will remember this day with any joy in the near future.

22 Nov 2013


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21 Nov 2013

Planning Versus Reality

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Clay Shirky
describes how government IT cannot effectively translate planning into reality, avoids testing, and insists on shunning a phased roll-out approach but then finds itself experiencing exactly that.

It’s certainly true that Federal IT is chronically challenged by its own processes. But the problem with was not timeline or budget. The problem was that the site did not work, and the administration decided to launch it anyway.

This is not just a hiring problem, or a procurement problem. This is a management problem, and a cultural problem. The preferred method for implementing large technology projects in Washington is to write the plans up front, break them into increasingly detailed specifications, then build what the specifications call for. It’s often called the waterfall method, because on a timeline the project cascades from planning, at the top left of the chart, down to implementation, on the bottom right.

Like all organizational models, waterfall is mainly a theory of collaboration. By putting the most serious planning at the beginning, with subsequent work derived from the plan, the waterfall method amounts to a pledge by all parties not to learn anything while doing the actual work. Instead, waterfall insists that the participants will understand best how things should work before accumulating any real-world experience, and that planners will always know more than workers.

This is a perfect fit for a culture that communicates in the deontic language of legislation. It is also a dreadful way to make new technology. If there is no room for learning by doing, early mistakes will resist correction. If the people with real technical knowledge can’t deliver bad news up the chain, potential failures get embedded rather than uprooted as the work goes on. …

[Emphasis added:] The vision of “technology” as something you can buy according to a plan, then have delivered as if it were coming off a truck, flatters and relieves managers who have no idea and no interest in how this stuff works, but it’s also a breeding ground for disaster. The mismatch between technical competence and executive authority is at least as bad in government now as it was in media companies in the 1990s, but with much more at stake.

Read the whole thing.

Hat tip to the Dish.

21 Nov 2013

Need Literary Inspiration? “Remember Death”

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We used to have this (in plaster casting) sitting atop my grandmother’s oak server in our living room. (Finally movers broke it.)

Joe Fassler interviewed Russell Banks for the Atlantic about the inspirational role of his Puritan gravestone casting.

[J.S.] When I asked Russell Banks—whose new story collection, A Permanent Member of the Family, is out today—to contribute to this series, he chose to write about his own prized curio. For five decades, he’s shared his office with a gravestone angel. Its inscription, both a mandate and reminder, has been an inspiration throughout Banks’s writing life. …

[R.B.] I read the phrase the first time a half-century ago in the dark and dusty window of a used furniture store in Keene, New Hampshire. Remember Death. Both words capitalized. They were incised beneath the winged head of a wide-eyed, open-mouthed, plaster angel cast from a late 17th- or early 18th-century slate gravestone. I’d remember if I paid much more than 10 dollars for it—I was newly married then, working as an apprentice plumber and living on a tight budget.

It was a memento mori. I don’t think I even knew what a memento mori was exactly, although growing up in New Hampshire and eastern Massachusetts, I’d certainly seen plenty of them in old cemeteries and churchyards. Mostly, they struck me as unpleasant reminders of Puritanism, the wages of sin and the flames of hell, more creepy than religious. This was 1963. I was pointedly irreligious and whatever the opposite of puritanical is. But something about this particular reminder got through to me, as if I had never linked the two words together before, had never probed the meaning of either one alone or truly considered the imperative mood, and I had to own it, had to bring it home to our little apartment and hang it above my writing table, so that every time I looked up from my struggle to write my first poems and stories, I would see it, and I would remember death. Which is not all that easy to do when you are still in your early 20s, in excellent health, have not been to war, and have not yet lost to death anyone close to you. Even Jack Kennedy was still alive and well in Washington, D.C.

The phrase and the image of the messenger who carries it—in this case, an angel, which is to say, a servant of the lord, but more often a skull—long precede Puritanism and probably even precede Christianity itself. Tertullian in his Apologeticus (Chapter 33, 4) tells of an ancient Roman general who assigned a servant to stand behind him whenever the crowd celebrated his exploits and remind him, “Respice post te! Hominem te esse memento! Memento mori!” (“Look behind you! Remember that you are a man! Remember that you will die!”)

Wise counsel, but not nearly as simple as it may seem. Especially when boiled down to those two words. For to remember death is to look both ways before crossing, to gaze simultaneously into the past and towards the future. You’re being told to look back and remember what has occurred to every human being who has ever lived, and look ahead and remember what will inescapably happen to you as well. You’re also being told to monitor your behavior, your past and future behavior, because all behavior has lasting consequences. Your future is lashed to your past. And you’re being told that every second counts, don’t waste a one. It’s not just a hip, winking reminder, saying, like the title of Jim Morrison’s autobiography, “Nobody gets out of here alive.” No, on a profound level, beyond the purely personal, beyond pop-romanticism, beyond politics, beyond history, beyond even genocide and terrorism, it’s saying, Never forget. I took it as a command, not a mere reminder. …

For half a century I have carried that memento mori with me—from New Hampshire to North Carolina in the mid- and late-’60s, back to New Hampshire, to Jamaica in the mid-1970s, to New York City and Princeton, New Jersey, to upstate New York where I have lived in recent years, and now to Miami where I spend winters. Wherever I have set up my desk and sat myself down to write, my angel has looked down and murmured, Remember Death.

Then in January 2003, on the occasion of my upcoming 60th birthday, my wife and I, my daughter Caerthan and her husband, Alex, and two old friends climbed Mount Kilimanjaro together. One of the two friends was Mark Saxe, a stone carver and sculptor from Rinconada, New Mexico. Unbeknownst to me, halfway up the mountain my wife hired Mark to dig up, literally, if necessary, a rough piece of gray granite large enough to mark a grave and carve into it the words, Remember Death. In early March, a few weeks before my birthday a large wooden crate arrived at our home in the Adirondacks. It weighed close to 200 pounds and took an hour to open. The stone is the size of a sleeping Labrador dog, more or less the shape of the province of Labrador. The words have been beautifully carved into the stone in a classic Times Roman typeface. My name and birth and death dates are not there yet, for which I remain thankful. But there it is, my gravestone, prepared ahead of time (well ahead of time, one hopes) sitting in the corner of my studio, waiting.

21 Nov 2013

Air New Zealand Safety Video

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Hat tip to Karen L. Myers.

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