Sunday, October 21, 2012

"Hoarders" of 1947

I'm not a huge fan of the cable TV series "Hoarders," about people who live in homes crammed to the ceiling with junk, trash, and 'collectibles.' To its credit, the show tries to get at the root of the problem, which is almost always psychological and typically based on trauma (frequently childhood trauma). For me, that makes the show tragic rather than whimsical.

Nevertheless, until now I've always assumed that 'hoarding' was a modern phenomenon, somehow a decadent manifestation of post-WWII consumer culture in America.

But THIS article in today's New York Daily News, about two brothers who lived for decades as notorious hermits in a Harlem brownstone before WWII amid the clutter of a lifetime, suggests the phenomenon of 'hoarding' is much older, and is perhaps psychological, not cultural, after all. 

Homer and Langley Collyer were found dead in their dilapidated home in 1947, after not having been seen in public for years.  This article has a 21 photo slideshow of what police found when they broke into the home, looking for the men.  There were 5 grand pianos buried under the piles of junk, as well as a stash of pornography and a skeleton.  The men's bodies were also found, after an extensive search.  One brother apparently died when he accidentally triggered one of their own booby traps.  The other, already an invalid reliant on his brother for care, died helpless and unattended soon thereafter.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Why Is Gvt. Encouraging Deer To Cross Road?

"Listeners of a North Dakota radio station got a good laugh when an incensed caller complained about the government putting up deer crossing signs in high-traffic areas. But the caller, only identified as Donna, didn’t seem to understand that such signs aren’t for deer to be told where they can cross  but rather for drivers..."

“'I’ve even seen [the signs] on the interstate,' Donna said on the Fargo-area radio station, Y94 Playhouse. 'Why are we encouraging deer to cross at the interstate?' But her questioning didn’t end there. 'It seems to me that it’s so irresponsible of us to allow these deer crossings to be in an area where these deer are so likely to be struck by oncoming traffic,' she said."

You can read the entire New York Daily News article (including a link to the audio) HERE.

Bigfoot Trashed My Winnebago

"Police responding to a call of broken windows on a motor home in Dauphin County said they were told that Bigfoot may be to blame... The person making the complaint told the trooper that taillights and windows on his 1973 Dodge Winnebago had been smashed... Police said the man told them that after he saw the Bigfoot, he turned on an outside light on his motor home and upon doing so, the Bigfoot began throwing rocks at the light to prevent discovery."

You can read the entire local news story HERE.

Friday, October 19, 2012

High-End Art Heist Reveals Facts About Art Crime

Seven masterpieces, including works by Picasso, Matisse, and Monet worth over $100 million collectively, were stolen earlier this week from a Dutch museum. Thieves broke into the Kunsthal in Rotterdam at 3 AM and made off with the paintings before anyone could stop them. The director of the Kunsthal, Emily Ansenk, described it as, "every museum director's worst nightmare," and then went on to characterize the museum's security as "state of the art." But according to THIS Associated Press story, the Kunsthal had no security guards on-site, despite the pricelessness of the works on display inside. If Ms. Ansenk considers that "state of the art" security, I'd be worried if I were the owner of the works (the Triton Foundation) that she characterized their insurance coverage as merely "adequate."

This 2 minute story about the heist from ABC World News noted a couple of interesting tangential facts.  Apparently less than 10% of stolen art is ever recovered.  And yet the paintings are almost valueless to the thieves because they are un-saleable. As is to be expected, no legitimate dealer, museum, or private collector would buy the works.  But surprisingly, 'experts' cited in this piece aver that there isn't really a worldwide black market for stolen high-end art either. That assertion shocks me.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Angry Man Punches Darth Vader's Wife

What's in a name?  Well, if you legally change your name to "Darth Vader," as Mark Nokes did, you can expect to make news when anything in your life goes wrong.

According to THIS article in today's New York Daily News, one of "Darth Vader's" neighbors, 35 year old Ikbal Hare, suspected that "Darth Vader" had been sleeping with his wife.  Hare confronted "Vader," apparently, and in the ensuing scuffle Hare accidentally punched "Darth Vader's" wife when she attempted to intervene.  Hare ran home, got a knife, and then went back to "Darth Vader's" house, looking for him. "Vader" fled by crawling out a back window.

What Fidel Castro And Jimmy Hoffa Share

Speculation about 86 year old Fidel Castro's imminent death has once again reached a fever pitch in recent days. (HERE is a CNN article today.) Like reports that Jimmy Hoffa's body may finally have been found, news that Castro is on his deathbed seems to come up every few years now, very reliably, only for false hopes to be dashed predictably once more.

In related news, the recent speculation that an informer with mob ties had finally led the FBI to Jimmy Hoffa's body, buried under the driveway of Patricia Szpunar's home in suburban Detroit, proved groundless once again. Tests of soil samples taken there were revealed on October 2nd to be negative for decomposition. 

 The week before, on September 27, ABC News published THIS interview with a Jimmy Hoffa expert, who claimed also to have been contacted by this un-named mob informant months earlier.  This expert's extreme skepticism was validated a few days later when the soil tests came back negative. But he does reveal a lot of detail about the 'mystery' informant himself and also discusses how the authorities (and the Hoffa family) handle the endless stream of 'Hoffa tips.'

"Mad Libs" Creator Has Died

Do you remember "Mad Libs"?  If so, you may want to watch THIS 30 second clip from the NBC Nightly News last night.  It's a short obituary for their co-creator, who has just died.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Unintended Consequences: "False Positives"

A small seaside town in Maine near Kennebunkport has been rocked by an unlikely prostitution scandal, as you may have heard.  A 29 year old dance instructor named Alexis Wright was charged earlier this month with engaging in prostitution out of her "Pura Vida" dance studio, where she taught a Latin-inspired fitness program called 'Zumba.'

Given the sleepy, staid location, that in and of itself was sort of noteworthy, especially locally.  But these sorts of scandals only really gain traction in the national media when rumors begin spreading that there's a list of johns which may be disclosed.  And that's happened in this case, too.  According to NBC News HERE, "Police said she kept meticulous records suggesting the sex acts generated $150,000 over 18 months."  The town of Portland, Maine has been on pins-and-needles for days awaiting the promised release of this list of names.

Police began releasing the names yesterday (after getting court approval).  But it was first and last names only: no middle names, no addresses, an no ages. That was a condition imposed by the court, apparently. An unanticipated problem immediately emerged, however. "'The fact is that by releasing names only, you're getting a lot of false positives. You're implicating people who may be completely innocent and simply share the same or similar names with people charged, and that's a real harm,' Schutz told the AP."

Yesterday, the same superior court justice in Maine reversed his earlier decision and these other identifying details are now being released publicly.  So now men like Paul Main don't have to keep denying they're THE 'Paul Main' on the notorious list.  (It turns out there are 20 residents of Maine named Paul Main.)

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

FBI Now Investigating Jesse Jackson, Jr.

Jesse Jackson, Jr. is apparently under investigation by the FBI for violation of  campaign finance laws, according to THIS 3 minute video from NBC News.  The allegations swirling around the Congressman from Illinois apparently center on renovations to a Washington, D.C. townhouse he owns, which was briefly put on the market last year for $2.5 million.

You may remember that, as I wrote HERE, Rep. Jackson has been AWOL from Congress since June. His staff have said that he is receiving treatment for a "mood disorder" in Arizona.  According to this NBC News piece, Jackson has missed over 225 consecutive roll call votes in the House of Representatives dating back to June 2012, when he took a leave of absence from Congress.

Despite that, and despite a string a personal and political scandals that have plagued Rep. Jackson in recent years (as detailed in this video), and despite rumors in July that Jackson was actually being treated for alcoholism, according to NBC News Jackson is apparently highly likely to get re-elected in November anyway.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Saturday Night Live: iPhone Complaints

I thought this skit from "Saturday Night Live" a couple of nights ago, where techies complain about the new iPhone 5 to the Chinese workers who assemble them, was funny.

I also liked this parody of a ubiquitous TV commercial for a new Gillette razor.

Police Not Wearing Seat Belts

"Although most state’s laws require police to use seat belts, federal data show that only about half of them do, and over the past three decades, 19 percent of the officers killed in accidents were ejected from their vehicles."

"By contrast, 84 percent of all American drivers use their seat belts, the NHTSA estimates."

You can read more in The Washington Post HERE.