Darn!  And Here I’d Thought They Named This Day After Me…

Recently we observed International Sloth Day.

When I first heard about International Sloth Day I was pleased, assuming there was Umbrella-Day-croppedfinally a day honoring me.

After all, there’s an Umbrella Day (February 10), a Donald Duck Day (June 9), and a Bicarbonate of Soda Day (December 30).

If umbrellas get their day, shouldn’t I?

Alas, no.

International Sloth Day is not all about me.

But…but…sloths and I have so much in common:

We’re cute. cute smaller
We’re cuddly. sloth 2 smaller
We like sleeping 15 hours a day. sloth 3

On the other hand, I’ll admit to some attributes I don’t share with sloths:

Sloths can hold their breath for up to 40 minutes underwater.  I’m pretty sure I can’t do this. sloth 4 smaller
Sloths live in the treetops, mostly hanging upside down.  I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t like this. upside smaller
Sloths like the green algae growing in their fur – it’s good camouflage for tree dwellers.  I’m positive I wouldn’t like this. sloth 6 horizontal smaller

And there are some other attributes sloths and I don’t share.  For instance, there are six species, some with two front toes and some with three:

know your sloths cropped

A sloth’s claws are perfect for hanging from tree branches, where they spend 90 percent of their time:

sloth 7 smaller

It’s hard to judge adult sloth size in pictures until you see how small one is next to a human:

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Adults weigh only about eight to 17 pounds, and eat leaves, buds, twigs, fruits and occasionally, insects and rodents.  And while they may resemble monkeys or bears, their closest relatives are the armadillo and anteater.

Finally, to dispel a myth – sloths are the slowest mammals on earth, but not because they’re lazy.  Their incredibly slow metabolism requires them to conserve energy, and they’ve mastered this.

I often say the same, after a nice, long nap.

OK, I accept that Sloth Day wasn’t named after me.  So why and when did sloths get their day?

International Sloth Day was established in 2010 by AIUNAU, a non-profit foundationAIUNAU dedicated to protecting all forms of wildlife.  Describing sloths as “shy, quiet creatures,” the goals of AIUNAU include reminding us humans that while sloths may be adorable, they make lousy house pets.  Sloths are best left alone in their Central and South American forests to survive and – hopefully – thrive.

And sloths are adorable.  As I read about them, a song by Anthony Newley kept running through my head.

So, to all sloths:  To show I don’t hold grudges, here’s my sloth tribute, with the lyrics from Newley’s Look at That Face:

Look at that face – just look at it,
Look at that fabulous face of yours,
I knew first look I took at it,
This was the face that the world adores.
sloth 9 horizontal
Look at those eyes,
As wise and as deep as the sea,
Look at that nose,
It shows what a nose should be!
sloth 10 smaller
As for your smile, it’s lyrical,
Friendly and warm as a summer’s day,
Your face is just a miracle,
How could I ever find words to say?
sloth 11-A larger
The way that it makes me happy,
Whatever the time or place,
I’ll find in no book,
What I find when I look at that face!
sloth 12 larger

I Love These Stories + October 28 Update

You know that Capitol One slogan, “What’s in your wallet?”

I’m changing that to “What’s in your kitchen?”

For one French woman, it was a small, dusty old painting that had hung on the kitchen wall above her hotplate for years.

Now art experts believe it’s this long-lost 13th century masterpiece by Italian artist Cenni di Pepo, also known as Cimabue:

christ mocked

The experts also believe that when the painting goes to auction in October, it could sell for $6 million.

The woman, so far, is identified only as a resident of Compiègne, near Paris.

Though I’m betting she suddenly has more new relatives, best friends and acquaintances than you can shake a baguette at.

She’d had the painting for many years, and thought it was an old Greek religious icon.

She was right about the “old” – it was created in 1280.  It’s 8” x 11”, painted on a wood panel, and called Christ Mocked.

Experts say it’s part of a larger Cimabue work – an eight-panel polyptych that would have been joined by hinges or folds, similar to this one:

van eyck polyptych
Jan van Eyck’s 15th-century “Ghent Altarpiece.”

Here are two other paintings believed to be part of the Cimabue polyptych:

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“Christ Mocked” is displayed in Paris in September 2019, alongside copies of two other Cimabue paintings thought to be part of the same polyptych.  On the left is “The Virgin and Child with Two Angels,” which belongs to the National Gallery, and on the right is “The Flagellation of Christ,” which is part of the Frick Collection in New York.

Experts appear satisfied with their verification research, which ranged from highly scientific examinations with infrared light to the less scientific (but equally important) eyeballing of tracks in the panel made by wood-eating worms.

There’s “no disputing” its origin, they said, and, “We have objective proof” it’s by Cimabue.

I’m betting Madame No-Name said “Vends le!” (“Sell it!”) faster than you can say, “Pas de merde!” (“No shit!”).

I love these stories.

And this happens more often than you think.  Here are three other recent discoveries:

Found in a closet, 2016:

apollo before apollo after.jpg
Top:  Apollo and Venus before and after restoration; the painting, by Dutch master Otto van Veen (1556-1629) was discovered in the closet of an art gallery in Iowa (below), and estimated at $4 million to $11 million.
Attic Apollo (2)

Found in an attic, 2016:

carvaggio_01 cropped larger attic carvaggio found Toulouse France
A painting believed to be by Caravaggio (1571-1610), depicting Jewish heroine Judith decapitating Assyrian general Holofernes, was found in this attic in France.  It was estimated at $115 million to $170 million.

Found in a garage, 2017:

pollock smaller pollock garage cropped
A Jackson Pollock (1912-1956) painting found in this Arizona garage was expected to sell for up to $15 million at auction.

Of the Cimabue’s original eight panels, a curator at the Frick Collection in New York pointed out, “There are still five pieces out there waiting to be found.”

So, forget what’s in your wallet.

What’s in your closet?

Your attic?

Your garage?

Attic Flashlight (2)

10/28/19 Update:

Yesterday, October 27, the Cimabue painting sold for 24 million euros ($26.6 million):

Cimabue Auction Update (2)

Acteon Auction House sold the masterpiece to an anonymous buyer near Chantilly, north of Paris.

The expected sale price had been 4 million to 6 million euros ($4.4 million to $6.6 million).

What’s in your kitchen?

Ahhh…Some Thoroughly Trump Moments

Endangered (2)

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Endangered:  Bald eagle

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“Eagle, schmeagle.  What’s an eagle ever done for ME?”

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Endangered:  Texas wild rice

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“Rice, schmice.  You want rice, buy some Uncle Ben’s.”

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Endangered:  Amazon rainforest

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“Amazon, schmamazon.  Do you know what that lumber is worth?”

Air (2)

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Carbon monoxide in our air:  Reacts with other pollutants in the air to form a harmful ground level ozone.

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“That’s fake news!  I don’t see any carbon monoxide!”

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Methane gas in our air:  Traps heat in the atmosphere, contributing  to climate change.

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“That’s fake news!  Methane gas?  Cow farts?  Forget it!”

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Coal pollution in our air:  Mercury, lead, sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides, particulates, and various other heavy metals.

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“That’s fake news!  Coal is good for Americans and good for America!”

Water (2)

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Polluted stream

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“Chemicals running into streams?  The crops are profitable, so what’s your point?”

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Polluted river

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“Hey, it’s a big river, it can handle a little dumping.

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Wetlands

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“Wetlands?  Do you know how much oil we could drill on that land?”

85 Rules (2)

And speaking of Trump being thorough:

Paris Climate Accord (2)

Steve Went…

Now Steve’s going…

bye bye cropped

Steve Eaton’s story starts with with an item we all know and use:

Shopping carts.

First introduced in 1937, shopping carts have been around a long time.

And in Steve’s situation, a lot of shopping carts have been around.

In his own collection, that is.

It seems that Steve was an avid shopping cart collector, his sources including:

From Walmart:  Five.
From Kroger:  Three.
From Dollar Tree:  Two.

He was what you might call an equal opportunity collector.

And discerning, as well.

We’re not talking those plain-old-push-it-yourself carts – Steve was a true aficionado.

He collected only motorized shopping carts.

Discerning, yes?

Kentuckysportsradio.com displayed this tasteful montage of Steve and two motorized carts, though I was unable to ascertain if these were part of his collection:

Image from Kentucky Sports Radio

Recently the Laurel County, KY sheriff’s office was dispatched to an apartment complex after receiving reports that a man – allegedly intoxicated – was riding a motorized shopping cart around the complex’s parking lot.

carts cropped
None of these no-motor numbers for our Steve!

When deputies arrived they found Steve – he’d selected a Walmart cart for this excursion – and determined he was under the influence.  They also found the other nine carts that Steve had…um…collected.

Steve was charged with theft – and since motorized carts run (no pun intended) around $2,000 to $3,000 – the state of Kentucky may consider this a Class C felony theft.

And that could mean Steve may be saying “Bye Bye” for five to 10 years.

He was also charged with alcohol intoxication in a public place, and on a warrant for failure to appear in court on previous charges of alcohol intoxication in a public place.

Our Steve has shown the same thoroughness in his cart collecting as in his crime committing in recent years; he’d previously been found guilty of:

  1. Public intoxication.
  2. Criminal trespassing.
  3. Resisting arrest.bye bye cropped
  4. Criminal mischief.
  5. Terroristic threatening.
  6. Fourth-degree assault.
  7. Possession of a controlled substance.
  8. Disorderly conduct.
  9. Contempt of court.

To round out his record, back in 2017 Steve was accused of “cussing people out” in front of a Speedway gas station, which led to an alcohol intoxication charge, of which he was also found guilty.

Whoa!

Thanks to Steve, I now know that “cussing people out” in front of a Speedway gas station in Kentucky is a crime!

It might not get me five to ten, but when I’m in Kentucky I’d best be careful or…

wash

Movies And Me

Snap judgments can be lifesaving, but they can also be unfair.

Lifesaving:  Fight-or-flight, a basic survival instinct.  When confronted with danger, we make a snap judgment and act on it.  Our instinct to avoid danger has contributed much to the survival of our species.

handshakeUnfair:  We judge someone by her hair, his suit, their handshake.  “Geez, that hair!” and “Geez, that suit!” and “Geez, that handshake!” and dismiss them.

I don’t like it when people make snap judgments about me, but I, in turn, am guilty of making snap judgments.

Like when I was reading A Selective List of Upcoming Fall 2019 Film Releases in the entertainment section of my newspaper.

(Did you just snap judge me because I read the newspaper?  “Geez, what a dinosaur”?)

I love movies, but not all genres of movies.  Here’s a partial list:

Horror:  Never.teen-angst cropped

Sci-Fi:  Not unless Raiders of the Lost Ark is considered Sci-Fi?

Coming of Age:  Teen angst is, like, so, like, totally boring.

Overweight Actress Who Body-Shames Self.  No, no, no.

Historical:  Yes, with reservations.  If I’m familiar with the actual history and the movie turns out to be wildly inaccurate, I do get miffed.

Rom-Com:  Yes, with qualifications.  The eight-millennial-couples-all-sleeping-with-each-other plot?  No.

Documentaries:  Yes, with exceptions.  If I’m not interested in the subject, I’ll skip it.  But that still leaves me with lots of documentaries to enjoy and learn from.

(Did you just snap judge me, based on my semi-summary?  “Geez, how narrow-minded”?)

Back to the Selective List of Upcoming Fall 2019 Film Releases.

The new movies were listed in order of the release date with the title, and a one-sentence summary that included the leads, and sometimes the director.

There were 40 movies listed.

Here’s an example of my movie snap judgment:

September 6, It:  Chapter 2:  A sequel to the 2017 horror snap-1 cropped 50 px

snap-1 cropped 50 pxis where I stopped reading.

September 20, Rambo snap-1 cropped 50 px

October 11, Gemini Man:  Ang Lee directs this 3-D science-fiction snap-1 cropped 50 px

November 8, Doctor Sleep:  An adaptation of Stephen King’s snap-1 cropped 50 px

Out of the list of 40, I ended up with eight I wanted to check out further.

Only one-fifth.

movie prodPerhaps there is something not quite right about snap judging a movie so quickly.

When I think of the time and money invested in movies, and the great hopes of the directors, producers, writers, actors, productions crews – all that for naught after I’ve read only a few words (or even just the title)?

But…life is short, and why waste time reading further about a movie I know I won’t see?

While I’m talking about that day’s newspaper’s entertainment section, here’s an observation:

On the front page, two-thirds was devoted to a lengthy article and color photos about the new movie Joker, starring Joaquin Phoenix.

The remaining one-third of the front page was a list of movies newly available on DVD.

One of them was Mary Magdalene, starring Joaquin Phoenix as Jesus.

I thought it was a nice juxtaposition:

Mary Magdalene phoenix joker_01 smaller

Joaquin Phoenix as Jesus…and the Joker.

Joaquin Phoenix in Jokersnap-1 cropped 50 px

The catalyst for this post was the Selective List of Upcoming Fall 2019 Film Releases, yet not once have I used the word “film.”

I’ve often wondered why some people choose to say “film” or “movie,” and that left me with a vague sense of discomfort – as if one was somehow better than the other.

I went online to research that, and found opinion piece that seemed to agree:

movie is more concerned with plot and easy answers.  A film attempts to convey or explore something larger than itself.  A movie is about giving the audience exactly what they want.  A film forces the audience to grow in some way, to leave the theater slightly better humans than when they came in.

I read that far, and then…

snap-1 cropped cropped

(Did you just snap judge me?  “Geez, you are so snap-judgmental”?)

Justice, Maybe – Justice, Maybe Never – Justice, Never

Justice, Maybe:   Someone You’ve Heard Of

Actress Felicity Huffman is one of the people involved in the “nation’s largest college admissions scandal.”

She pleaded guilty in May to one count of conspiring to commit mail fraud and honestscandal headline services mail fraud, which don’t sound all that serious until you add in words like “felony conspiracy,” “money laundering” and “prison sentences.”

Huffman is one of a group of 52 people charged including parents, coaches and others, and the first to be sentenced; in mid-September a judge gave her fourteen days in a federal prison, a $30,000 fine, supervised release for a year, and 250 hours of community service.

Huffman had paid $15,000 to inflate her daughter’s SAT test score, an attempt to help her daughter get into a “better” college.  It’s widely believed that kids who attend prestigious colleges like the University of Southern California, Yale, Stanford and Georgetown tend to earn more, make significant and long-lasting social contacts, and have more satisfying lives.

What parent doesn’t want that for their kids?

felicity-huffman-cropped
Huffman and daughter Sophia, 19.

Maybe not to the point of committing a felony, but still.

Part of me can see Huffman’s actions as an example of the road to Hell being paved with good intentions – Huffman was trying to help her daughter and didn’t personally stand to gain anything from this.

But the fact is that she broke the law, is being punished for it, and reported to federal prison October 15.

And that’s how our justice system works:

  1. Investigation.
  2. Accusation.
  3. Trial, or
  4. Guilty plea and sentencing.

That’s how it works sometimes.

So I say “Justice, Maybe” because of the stories that follow.

Justice, Maybe Never:  Someone You’ve Never Heard Of

Entrepreneur Richard Zeitlin is on almost nobody’s radar.

Almost nobody, except for the Center for Public Integrity, “an independent, investigative newsroom that exposes betrayals of the public trust by powerful interests,” according to its website.

I’d never heard of Zeitlin until a recent story on National Public Radio’s The Takeaway with this headline:

Takeaway (2)

The story’s intro says,

Nonprofit charities often raise money for important causes like cancer research and legislation.  But according to new reporting, lax legal oversight also makes them easy targets for companies looking to take money from charitable giving for themselves.

Zeitlen and brother Alan cropped
This screen shot from the Center for Public Integrity’s website is the only image I could find of Zeitlin, with his brother Alan, though I don’t know which is which.

That’s what Richard Zeitlin appears to have done.  Zeitlin is the founder of two telemarketing fundraising companies, Donor Relations and the now defunct Courtesy Call, and he and his companies are the subject of a new investigation by the Center for Public Integrity.

The nonprofit charities and political action committees that Zeitlin’s companies contracted with reported raising at least $153 million since 2006, but Zeitlin’s companies kept about $133 million of that amount – that’s nearly 90 percent.

On the Center for Public Integrity’s website, the story notes that “…nonprofits and political committees are allowed to spend almost everything they collect on fundraising.  What’s not legal:  lying to prospective donors about how their money will be used.”

So let’s say you get solicitation letters from charitable organizations – and who doesn’t?

This is the Children’s Leukemia Support Network website:

Childrens-Leukemia-cropped
“just cancer”?  Would you give money to an organization with this website?  People did, and do.

The letter you received from the Network says, in part, that it will:

“provide the parents of children stricken with Leukemia emotional support and information on new discoveries and cutting-edge treatments” and “continue the fight for further funding and research.”

The letter caught you at just the right moment, so you write a check for $100 and mail it.  You feel that nice little glow you get from doing the right thing, for no other reason than to help those kids with leukemia.

But, says the Center for Public Integrity, $84 of your donation won’t do anything to help those kids.

And therein lies the lying.

Here are some of the other “charities” connected to Zeitlin:

  • Breast Cancer Outreach Foundation, Inc.donate
  • The American Children’s Society
  • Disabled Veterans Services, Inc.
  • U.S. Veterans Assistance Foundation
  • International Union of Police Associations
  • Firefighters Charitable Foundation, Inc.

All these names sound legit.

And sadly, too many people donate to charities without verifying that the charities are legit, at websites like CharityNavigator.org and CharityWatch.org.

The story on the Center for Public Integrity’s website ended with a Center reporter contacting Zeitlin at his office in Henderson, a suburb of Las Vegas, NV:

zeitlin office cropped
Zeitlin’s office; a sign on the outside said “TRC” and “Results you can rely on.”

The reporter introduced herself to Zeitlin, who told her to leave, then told his receptionist to call the police.

He followed her out to the parking lot and threatened her:  “You’re coming at me.  I’m going to come at you.”

Maybe, someday, we’ll hear more about Richard Zeitlin.

But Justice?  Maybe Never.

 Justice, Never:  Someone You’ll Never Hear Of

Joe Cassano, Dick “The Gorilla” Fuld, Angelo Mozilo, Gary Crittenden, Arthur Tildesley, Jr., Fabrice “Fabulous Fab” Tourre, Ralph Cioffi, and Matthew Tannin.

Names we don’t know, so let me introduce you.

These are just a few of the many Wall Street bankers, traders, and executives who brought us the Great Recession, which – officially – began in December 2007 and ended in June 2009.

“Ended,” though, is inaccurate – for the millions of people who lost their homes, their jobs and their savings.   Some are still recovering, and some will never recover:

Northwestern (2)

The Great Recession collectively destroyed over $30 trillion of the world’s wealth.

And not one of those many Wall Street bankers, traders, and executives went to prison.

Stories abound as to why none of them went to prison, like this:

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And this:

Business insider (2)

And this:

ATlantic (2)

These and other stories offer many reasons about why these people never went to prison.

Plenty of reasons, but I won’t recount them because they don’t matter.

What matters is, the people who caused the tragedy of the Great Recession didn’t go to prison.

And they didn’t pay for it either – the banks paid:

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They didn’t suffer for it, but we did.

So for those of us who suffered, those who continue to suffer, those who will always suffer:

Justice:  Never.

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