Category Archives: General

Museum discovers earliest copy of Mona Lisa…

Surely the world’s most famous painting is the Mona Lisa.  Even if you have absolutely no interest in art at all you know of that painting, not just by name but by its subject.

In Madrid, the earliest copy of the Mona Lisa has been discovered, a piece most likely done by someone in Da Vinci’s studio concurrently with the production of his work and using the same model!

I just hope it doesn’t turn out this is some elaborate hoax.  Otherwise, a terrific, intriguing story!


Politically correct Disney

This post originally appeared in November of 2011.

When you have a company that primarily caters to younger audiences, it isn’t too terribly surprising the people behind the scenes make sure the material presented to these young people is in no way controversial.  There is added difficulty when your company also happens to have existed for many, many years, and what might have been acceptable at one time becomes unacceptable in another.

Of the many films produced by Walt Disney Studios, the one you cannot get your hands on is an official release of Song of the South.  This despite the fact that the film features one of the more recognizable Disney songs ever created (Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah) and has a ride (Splash Mountain) based on the animated segments in the film.  It is the non-animated segments, however, that are -to put it mildly- a source of controversy given the depiction of African Americans in post-Civil War times.  But the movie isn’t a unique example of Disney studios going back and changing things that may be, in these modern times, deemed at best “touchy” and at worst “offensive”.

I’ve been going to Walt Disney World near Orlando for years, and it is curious to note the subtle and not so subtle changes to some of their rides.  The 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea: Submarine Voyage ride has been completely done away with.  Two others have featured some notable changes.

The first is the Pirates of the Caribbean ride.  With the success of the movie franchise, audiences have witnessed the appearance of an animatronic version of Capt. Jack Sparrow.  His presence isn’t all that bad, but it does change the focus of the ride from one of amorphous idealized pirates to a focus more in line with the movies.  What I found most intriguing was the way they changed one of the ride’s more elaborate jokes.  After we pass the “women’s” market (where a pirate group is selling women off to leering pirates, the joke being that the current woman on sale, a fat one, is of no interest in the buyers.  They have their eyes on the next woman in line, who is a knockout.  The way things are going, I suspect this particular joke won’t remain in the ride much longer!), we come upon a besieged town.  Originally the joke presented here was that we see one pirate chasing a woman around her house.  Then another doing the same.  When we get to the third house, however, the woman is far larger than the pirate and, instead of him chasing her, she’s chasing him around the house, swinging her broom at his head!

This joke was completely killed off for obvious reasons.  After all, what are the pirates doing chasing the women?  Because they are hungry and want the women to make them some breakfast or lunch?  Are they cold and want the women to fetch them a warm drink?

Clearly, this is not the case.  In fact, the “joke” presented here is that these women are in the process of being assaulted.  Once the pirates “catch” them, what follows can only be one thing.  The people behind the scenes at Disney, I’m quite certain, decided this “joke” was a little too risqué and nixed it.  Now, the first house has a pair of pirates running around in circles while carrying a (no doubt pilfered) treasure chest.  The second house has (I believe) a woman chasing away a pirate, and the third has the same big woman chasing a pirate.  The joke is officially expunged.

This last time I went to Walt Disney World, I noted another change.  If you go to the Haunted Mansion ride, in the preamble, you’re “locked” in a room with your fellow park attendees and listen as the narrator talks about the mansion.  The walls seem to move, and the lower parts of painted pictures reveal humorous “hidden” bottoms containing macabre jokes.  Toward the end of this segment, the narrator notes that the audience is trapped in a room with no doors or windows.  How, he wonders, are we to find a way out?  Our narrator then states that in a room without doors or windows, there is only one way out.  Then, you hear a scream and lightning reveals a hidden attic above us, showing…not much.

At least now.

Yes, there’s the sound of crashing and you see a ragged figure above you, but the whole conclusion to the narration makes little sense.  Why?  Because the original “way out” was clipped.  For the original “way out” was…suicide.

When the narrator says there is a way out, originally when you heard the screams and the lightning flashes illuminated the room above you, the ragged figure you saw was clearly hanging from her neck on a rope.  The implication was that in a room with no exit, the only exit is to kill yourself.  Not the most ideal of “jokes” to present little kids!  Now, the ragged figure does not sway on any rope, but is immobile, making the ending of this part of the ride rather confusing (although, granted, far more politically correct than showing the ragged remains of some poor forgotten soul who has committed suicide!).

Anyway, if you’re interested in more changes (some dealing with far less controversial material within the parks), I found this pretty interesting website that details some of those people have noted:

Lincoln assassination witness…

I couldn’t find the actual post, but as I was thinking about posts from my old blog that I wanted to re-post to this new one, there was one that simply had to appear again.  The video below is from the Feb. 9, 1956 episode of I’ve Got A Secret, a game show involving celebrities figuring out, natch, what “secret” the person appearing before them has.

In the case of one Samuel J. Seymour, it turned out his secret was something both unique and quite incredible:  As a very young child, he was present in the Ford Theater the night that Abraham Lincoln was assassinated.

The fact that he could still remember some of the details all those years later is incredible.  I think it’s fair to say on the night of the taping of this program Mr. Seymour was the very last living person to have been present at the Ford Theater that tragic night.

Mystery find in Baltic Sea

I first heard about this fascinating story a little while back. When exactly I can’t remember, but this video from CNN is probably the best update (to now) of that particular story, involving a very mysterious looking shape -a UFO?- discovered by sonar at the bottom of the Baltic Sea.

The most fascinating thing about the story -other than the odd shape of the object!- is its size.  That combination adds to the mystery.  According to the report, we’ll have to wait until at least May, when the Baltic waters become smoother, before getting a closer look.  I’m curious to hear what they find then!

Billion Dollar Bank Error

Read this article by Bruce Watson on the Daily Finance and had to pass it along:

Yes, indeed, the story is about one Parijat Saha who found that he had 9.8 BILLION dollars in his bank account and what he did afterwards.

I’ll spoil it a bit for you:  He did the right thing.

However, if you read the rest of the article it presents some other examples of errors in people’s bank accounts and the actions of said people with the…ahem…extra cash they found at their disposal.

I’m rather torn about this.  On the one hand, if you find a huge amount of cash appear in your bank account that you know isn’t yours, it seems stupid to think that you can simply claim it as your own, use it as you please, and assume no one will ever find out.  Particularly when the amount of money that appears in your account may be very, very large.  Someone will eventually figure it out.

On the other hand…you didn’t make the error.  The bank did.  And if they made the error why should you be held…

Ok, Ok, I know.  Fanciful thinking.  It’s not your money to begin with and by using it you are effectively “stealing” what is not yours.

But at 9.8 billion dollars…what a temptation!

The other side of Rick Steves

Another post from the past, one that featured a fascinating interview with one Rick Steves.  If you are at all familiar with him, he appears on the show to be someone in the Mister Rogers mold.  My comments are quite brief and the link to the interview is presented at the end:

This is why I like websites like Salon and Slate.  The link below leads to an interview with PBS traveller/showhost Rick Steves, who offers some interesting comments on the world, terrorism, and marijuana!  Fascinating stuff, whether you agree or disagree with his views (and interesting to note that such an apparently laid back and pleasant host could have such strong views on a host of issues!).  The interview appears in and was conducted by Kevin Berger.

Re-reading the interview today, now almost three years old, it is fascinating how much/little we’ve progressed in that time.  I can’t say I agree with everything Mr. Steves says, but this question and answer from the article, in particular, I found very enlightening.  Your mileage, as they say, may vary:

What’s the most important thing people can learn from traveling?

A broader perspective. They can see themselves as part of a family of humankind. It’s just quite an adjustment to find out that the people who sit on toilets on this planet are the odd ones. Most people squat. You’re raised thinking this is the civilized way to go to the bathroom. But it’s not. It’s the Western way to go to the bathroom. But it’s not more civilized than somebody who squats. A man in Afghanistan once told me that a third of this planet eats with spoons and forks, and a third of the planet eats with chopsticks, and a third eats with their fingers. And they’re all just as civilized as one another.

Olivia Munn…naked!…well…for PETA ad…

For the past four or so days, whenever I click on to and view the “latest news” items on the left side of the page, toward the bottom of this list I’ve seen this headline and link to the Entertainment Weekly posting:

“Olivia Munn poses nude for PETA ad”.

Now, I grant you, Olivia Munn is a very, very pretty woman.  I first discovered her on G4’s Attack of the Show where she was not only gorgeous (something I suspect she is incapable of not being…it’s in her DNA), but also delightfully funny.

However, having said all that, is CNN so starved for news that this article/link deserves to be up there for all these days?  I mean, I’m as red blooded a male as anyone out there, but…


Those are some nice pictures! 😉

Paving Paradise

Articles like these by Charles Kenny and posted on Foreign Policy are incredibly fascinating -to me- and open my eyes to realities I hadn’t quite considered.

While many point out the negatives of the concrete jungle many of us live in, Mr. Kenny points out that living with a bit of concrete is actually a good thing, both financially and from a health standpoint.

As I said before, a fascinating article: