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Artist Yayoi Kusama's “The Obileration Room” is on display through March 12 at the Gallery of Modern Art in Brisbane, Australia. Photo Credit http://thedailywh.at

This “domestic installation” would have caused me so much anxiety as a child – WHERE DO I PUT THE STICKER!? (is what I would have been thinking as I frantically looked for a place to stick my colorful, circle stickers. WHERE!?!?) Stickers are just so permanent…

Luckily, Australian children didn’t have as much trouble as I would have. Artist Yayoi Kusama let a bunch of kids in Brisbane at the Gallery of Modern Art do an extreme home makeover on her entirely white space. Kids were given colorful circle stickers and allowed to run wild.

The space is called “The Obileration Room” and is on display through March 12. at the Gallery of Modern Art in Brisbane, Australia.

I love the way this space looks. Would it be weird to re-create this look in my own kitchen???

Artist Yayoi Kusama's “The Obileration Room” is on display through March 12 at the Gallery of Modern Art in Brisbane, Australia. Photo Credit http://thedailywh.at

Artist Yayoi Kusama's “The Obileration Room” is on display through March 12 at the Gallery of Modern Art in Brisbane, Australia. Photo Credit http://thedailywh.at

– Ann Erling Gofus

Mona Lisa at Madrid's Museo del Prado. Photo Credit Javier Soriano/Getty Images

Leonardo da Vinci’s The Mona Lisa might be one of the most copied pieces of art in history, and certainly one of the best known. But recently, curators at  Madrid’s Museo del Prado are claiming to a certified, genuine copy of Mona – a copy that had Leonardo’s seal of approval.

While comparing these two paintings (using infrared technology), one can see that various layers and steps the artists completed – both paintings have almost identical layers and both artists appear to have made the exact same changes at the same time.

“The changes mirrored the changes which Leonardo made on the original,” Martin Bailey, correspondent with The Art Newspaper in London, tells NPR’s Melissa Block. “[Conservators] concluded that the two pictures had been done side by side in the studio, and it was probably on easels which were two or three yards away from each other.”

Bailey went on to suggest that the artist who painted Mona Lisa‘s twin is likely to have been one of Leonardo’s main assistants: Melzi or Salai (who was rumored to have been da Vinci’s lover). Scandalous!!

The Original Mona Lisa by Leonardo da Vinci at the Musee du Louvre in Paris. Image Credit Jean-Pierre Muller/Getty Images

While the two paintings are very similar, the newly discovered copy is noticeably brighter and much more colorful. Layers of varnish that has darkened and cracked over the decades, obscures the face of the original Mona Lisa. The copy brings a whole new life to Mona, and more vibrant detail to a world famous painting.

What do you think of the copy?

Do you think it’ll ever be as popular at The Louvre’s original copy of The Mona Lisa?

– Ann Erling Gofus

Photo Credit Jason de Caires Taylor/jasondecairestaylor.com

It’s a magical thing when doing something you love can make such a large impact on the environment – all while also being stunningly beautiful (although a little eerie).

Coral reefs are huge, beautiful and very fragile underwater eco-systems, as well as popular destinations for tourism diving. But, unfortunately, the more attention we pay coral reefs, the more damage is done.

This is where Jason deCaires Taylor comes in. Taylor created statues out of pH-neutral cement designed to host host sponges, tunicates and underwater life – some statues even have holes for lobsters.

Photo Credit Jason de Caires Taylor/jasondecairestaylor.com

The idea was two fold:

1. Anchor the statues to the ocean floor near a natural coral reef in the hopes of drawing the diving crowds away from the fragile reef and toward the underwater statue garden.

AND

2. Create a NEW coral reef. The ocean is teeming with microscopic organisms just looking for a solid places to latch on. Only 10 or 15 percent of the ocean floor is solid enough for reefs to form naturally. Therefore, these statues are a great place for coral reefs to get a head start.

Jason deCaires Taylor’s art is breathtaking. So eerie, so awesome and so eco-friendly.

La Evolucion Silencia by Jason de Caires Taylor. Photo Credit Jason de Caires Taylor/jasondecairestaylor.com

A majority of the photos I have posted here are from Taylor’s Granada installment. But Taylor also recently anchored a crowd of 400 statues to the ocean floor off the coast of Mexico. Check out his website for more incredible photos.

I LOVE snorkeling. So, excuse me as I go and try to convince my husband to vacation at one of these diving spots. SO AMAZING!!

– Ann Erling Gofus

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Hilarious… and a little offensive. Ha.

Postcard: Leap year, 1908 Description: Cartoon on theme of women proposing in leap years. Caption: "Maidens are eagerly awaiting ..."

One extra day in February means one extra history lesson for 2012. Because who doesn’t want to learn about Lead Year?

According to Wikipedia, “A leap year (or intercalary or bissextile year) is a year containing one additional day (or, in the case of lunisolar calendars, a month) in order to keep the calendar year synchronized with the astronomical or seasonal year.”
Blah blah blah, this is NOT the interesting part. What’s interesting are the fascinating traditions that come along with a Leap Year.

One folk tradition states that women can only propose during a Leap Year or on Leap Day. Supposedly, this tradition started with either St. Patrick or St. Brigid in 5th century Ireland.According to tradition, a 1288 law by Queen Margaret of Scotland (then age five and living in Norway), required that fines be levied if a marriage proposal was refused by the man. The fine differed from country to country – some places it was fabric for a new dress, a kiss, money, or a pair in gloves.

Now, note the postcard (pasted above):

Maidens eagerly waiting Leap Year (1908) for their chances to propose to a man. I love how these women are armed with guns, axes and a telescope. I’m also loving how their bear trap is baited with a bag of money.

I promote women proposing to their prospective mates whether or not it’s a Leap Year, but if you need an excuse (and a little extra courage) what better day than TODAY! (Leap Day!) to pop the question??

Postcard: Leap Year, 1908 Description: "In 1908 / 'Be Careful, Clara, that's a fine Specimen!'"

 

– Ann Erling Gofus

Have you seen the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial in Washington, DC?

The quote was carved into the side of the statue — "I was a drum major for justice, peace and righteousness" — was truncated to accommodate space limitations.

The quote was carved into the side of the statue — "I was a drum major for justice, peace and righteousness" — was truncated to accommodate space limitations. Image Credit: Jacquelyn Martin/AP

In October 2011 the MLK Memorial was unveiled alongside the Tidal Basin and just blocks from the National Mall. DC was buzzing with excitement over the dedication of the newest memorial to grace the National Mall – but the buzz quickly changed from excited to dubious.

Since its unveiling, the MLK Memorial has received some harsh criticism. The most criticized aspect of the memorial is an abridged quote chiseled into the side of MLK’s likeness. The quote reads: “”I was a drum major for justice, peace and righteousness”. The quote was pulled from a sermon that King gave at Atlanta’s Ebenezer Baptist Church in 1968.

During this sermon, King said, “There is deep down within all of us an instinct.”. He continued, “It’s a kind of drum major instinct — a desire to be out front, a desire to lead the parade, a desire to be first.”

Towards the end of the sermon King explained how he’d like to be remembered: “Yes, if you want to say that I was a drum major, say that I was a drum major for justice. Say that I was a drum major for peace. I was a drum major for righteousness. And all of the other shallow things will not matter.”

While it sounds perfectly appropriate in its entirety, not too many people were happy with the abbreviated quote.

In August, The Washington Post ran a piece arguing that the paraphrased quote made King sound boastful, and Maya Angelou said the abbreviated quote made King sound like “an arrogant twit.”

Visitors at the new Martin Luther King, Jr. National Memorial in August 2011. Image Credit Amy Ta/NPR

After a lot of opinions were heard,  and the King family agreed the quote should be changed, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar recently instructed the National Park Service to fix the quote.

And now the question of the hour: HOW does one fix something literally set in stone?

Andy Uhl, a stone carver at the National Cathedral, “I think their options are: To reduce the surface back and recarve, or maybe take out the whole section and install it with matching material and then carve that installed panel.” (via NPR.org)

Keep in mind – this was a multi-million dollar project which was years in the making. You’d think a quote set to be chiseled into stone (more permanent than a tattoo, it would seem) would be checked and double checked BEFORE putting chisel to stone.

What do you think about the quote?
Have you seen the MLK memorial?
Thoughts?

– Ann Erling Gofus

A sketch of the bunker which was once home for nuclear missiles and military personal during the Cold War 1950s. Image Credit: Sotheby's International Realty.

Yesssssss! Green architecture! I love to see interesting buildings retro-fitted and re-purposed for living. Especially when it’s a Cold War era missile silo. Yes, a silo. You know, where missiles used to live. I WOULD TOTALLY LIVE IN A SILO.

Two entrepreneurial cousins, Bruce Francisco and Gregory Gibbons, retro-fitted one of these silos located in beautiful Adirondack State Park near Lake Placid. This $2.3 million luxury home has its own private airport… so you can fly home… of course. Thinking $2.3 million is a lot? Consider that this silo cost $18 million to build in the 1960s.

Interior of silo home. Image Credit: Sotherby's International Realty.

“The missile silo home sits on 105 acres of manicured grounds, forest and trails.  Above ground, it features a hangar and spacious open living room and fireplace with wrap around porch.  Below ground, and accessible via stairs from above ground home in what was once the launch control center, now is a two level, 3 bedroom 2-1/2 bath with open living area and kitchen adjoined by a spiral staircase.  Huge doors open to a large tunnel that accesses the silo with an additional 20,000 square feet of usable space with unlimited possibilities.” (via http://adirondackrealestate.com)

In the two lower-levels “windows” stream simulated daylight (that looks pretty real). The lower levels also include a 2000 pound door that leads to a 185-foot-deep missile storage room. And the best part? The entire steel structure hangs from gigantic spring suspension system designed to absorb the shock of a direct nuclear hit.

The renovated circular control room which was filled with water a for 30 years after it was abandoned. Image Credit: Sotherby's International Realty.

This, ladies and gentlemen, is my dream home.

Historical, green, totally re-purposed, safe, interesting and totally nuclear bomb proof. Not to mention, safe from the zombie hordes which may (or may not) follow the nuclear attack.

– Ann Erling Gofus

The National Museum of African American History and Culture. Image Credit: http://nmaahc.si.edu

On Wednesday (22 February) ground was broken on the National Mall in Washington, DC  for The National Museum of African American History and Culture – the newest addition to the Smithsonian museum family.

The National Museum of African American History and Culture will explore the richness and diversity of the African American experience. The museum has been collecting artifacts and documents since 2005, and expects to open in 2015. Museum director Lonnie Bunch was quoted in an NPR piece saying that most major moments in this nation’s history have been shaped by race issues. The African-American experience is central to the American experience, he said, so the stories the museum will tell are for everyone, or every race (via npr.org).

President Obama, who spoke at the ground breaking, said on Wednesday that the museum was a long time coming – I totally agree. The last Smithsonian museum to be built in DC was the National Museum of the American Indian in 2004. African American history plays such a large role in America’s story, it’s about time there was a museum in our nation’s capital exploring this history and culture.

Now all we need to do is wait 3 years until it opens.

– Ann Erling Gofus

Mark Twain Museum, Hartford

In “not so breaking news” (at least to those in the non-profit sector), the controller for the Mark Twain Museum in Hartford, pleaded guilty to fraud and filing false income taxes this past August.  How did she do it?  Through the use of ghost employees.  Up until 30 minutes ago, I was completely unaware of this (apparently) common scandal that happens often in the non-profit sector.  According to Easy Office Blog, “For those of us in the sector who have seasonal workers, or a large part-time staff, ghost employees can be a real problem…the bookkeeper simply “invents” an employee and pays them.  Management often doesn’t notice as payroll gets entered into the accounting system in a lump sum.”

Ghost employees "add up" via aicpa.org

How can you prevent employees from committing this fraud?  Well the most important way is having a pre-payroll register approved and signed by department head so that people and amounts can be verified and approved.  Other tactics may include:

  • Ensure the payroll preparation, disbursement and distribution functions are segregated.
  • Look for paychecks without deductions for taxes or Social Security. Completely fictitious employees frequently don’t have any.
  • Examine payroll checks that have dual endorsements. Although most of them are legitimate, two signatures could signal the forgery of a departed employee’s endorsement, which the thief also endorses and deposits into his or her own account.
  • Use direct deposits. This method, although not foolproof, can cut down on payroll chicanery by eliminating paper paychecks and the possibility of alteration, forgery and most theft, although it doesn’t prevent misdirection of deposits into unauthorized accounts.
  • Check payroll records for the presence of duplicate names, addresses and Social Security numbers.
  • On occasion, hand-deliver paychecks to employees and require positive identification. If you have leftover paychecks, make sure they belong to actual employees, not ghosts.
  • Be wary of budget variations in payroll expense. Higher-than-budgeted labor costs can indicate ghost employees.

Arguably, in smaller organizations, this type of fraud may be difficult to complete.  But, at the Mark Twain Museum, staff had been cut from 49 to 17 — two years before the fraud even started!  Suffice it to say, being smart about transactions of your organization and behaviors of co-workers is extremely important!

– Kate