Dresden art dealer Petra Kujau was found guilty of forgery this week, after passing off three hundred paintings she had come into possession of as the work of her "great-uncle", Konrad Kujau. The 51 year-old singer turned dealer would add a facsimile of Kujau senior's signature to the paintings, then sell them on at a greatly inflated price.
So far, so mundane. What makes this story particularly WU worthy is that Konrad Kujau was himself a forger, and his self-proclaimed niece was selling her forgeries as "genuine forgeries" created by her famous uncle Konrad. It all begins to make sense once you learn that Mr. Kujau did not limit himself to forging paintings, but was also known to forge the odd diary or two, specifically those of one Adolf Hitler. Although ultimately unsuccessful, his forgeries of the Hitler Diaries were good enough to fool not just many newspapers and magazines, but also at least two historians, and the unmasking of the hoax caused many a journalist and editor a red face. But the notoriety afforded Konrad Kujau as the man "behind" the Hitler diaries meant that he could command considerable sums for something a small as Hitler's signature on a card, and original "Kujau forgeries" soon became enough of a collector's item that he could make a comfortable living from them after his release from prison in 1987.
After his death in September 2000 his business was carried on by Petra Kujau, who evidently decided that one forgery was as good as another, and began importing cheap copies of famous works from Asian suppliers and passing them off as eminently more desirable "Kujau forgeries", which in one sense they were. But soon the sheer volume of Kujau forgeries on the market aroused the suspicions of at least one collector, who tipped off the police to the double forgery.
Which just leaves the question, just where can I get hold of a genuine Petra Kujau double forgery? Now that's something I'd like to own!
If you lease a car for two years from any car company, you would still say it's "my" car. You wouldn't go around telling people "no that's not my car, it actually belongs to X company, I'm just leasing it." Of course you wouldn't, that would be ridiculous! But apparently the FAA has a very different set of rules. Case in point, the US Department of Transportation recently fined a non-profit air ambulance company (Mercy Flights of Medford, Oregon) $30,000 for saying that the helicopter they are leasing is "ours". You can read the details here. Thank goodness our government has the time and money to keep such blatant violations under control!
As magic tricks go, the "I can vomit wine" claim has died a deserved death. One imagines that neither David Copperfield, nor even Penn & Teller, will be reviving the spectacle of Floram Marchand any time soon.
Floram Marchand: The Great Water Spouter
In the summer of 1650, a Frenchman named Floram Marchand was brought
over from Tours to London, who professed to be able to 'turn water into
wine, and at his vomit render not only the tincture, but the strength
and smell of several wines, and several waters.' Here - the trick and
its cause being utterly unknown - he seems for a time to have gulled
and astonished the public to no small extent, and to his great profit.
Before, however, the whole mystery was cleared up by two friends of
Marchand, who had probably not received the share of the profits to
which they thought themselves entitled. Their somewhat circumstantial
account runs as follows.
It’s been a weird week for divorcees, starting with an Indian couple from Pune near Mumbai. After years of arguments over the wife’s penchant for Hindi soap operas, the husband finally barred her from watching them any more. She promptly filed for a divorce, which was granted on the grounds of his “cruel treatment” of her (World News AU).
Next is the case of the divorce granted to the Chinese couple who had not seen each other since their wedding, three years previously. The ceremony took place in China’s Machong district and was the result of an arranged marriage by the parents of the couple, called Ma and Mo, who were good friends. But Ma, the groom, left for a job elsewhere straight after and the newlyweds did not even try to stay in touch. With no children or property to argue over, the divorce went fairly uneventfully (China Daily).
Staying in China for a moment, Shoutsee Li and Han Fucheng of that country’s Mentougou district are hoping a judge will annul their marriage so they can marry again, this time legally. The couple originally married in 2006 after meeting nine years earlier, but Li was in China under false papers and now faces deportation. But while the police don’t recognise Han and Li’s marriage, the registrar does, and will not let them remarry until their current marriage is dissolved (People’s Daily).
Not so likely to remarry are recently separated couple Robin Williams and Anthony Hull of Kingsfold in England. Attempts to reach an agreement on how to divide their £500,000 ($850k) house have stalled amid arguments over who keeps the cheese grater and whether paint pots are communal property. The couple have now taken their grievances to Britain’s High Court (Daily Express).
Also in court this week was Stanley G. Hilton of Hillsborough, CA who is suing San Francisco, its airport, every airline that uses it, and the manufacturers of the airplanes landing there for $15 million each for ruining his marriage. All in all Hilton, a former attorney (now disbarred), cites 37 parties as contributing to the breakdown of relations with his wife, which amounts to a cool $555 million in the unlikely event that he wins (Wired).
Coleridge's Rime of the Ancient Mariner includes the line "Water, water, everywhere, nor any drop to drink!" to evoke the torment of Tantalus that was visited on the eponymous anti-hero for killing an albatross. It seems a similar punishment may have befallen two fugitives from justice after they starved to death on board the luxury yacht they stole to escape in.
Peter Clarke and Sharon Arthurs-Chegini went on the run in the last weeks of 2005 after being charged and bailed for theft and fraud. Dubbed a modern-day "Bonnie and Clyde", the pair had previously enjoyed a "champagne and cocaine lifestyle", according to Ms Chegini's step-daughter, before one of Clarke's schemes, claiming to be refurbishing a Devon hotel - to include a heliport among other extravagances - so as to serve the celebrity elite, came crashing down. Clarke and Chegini had thrown lavish parties to separate potential investors from hundreds of thousands of pounds, but were caught trying to sneak out of their hotel without settling the £1000 bill and placed under arrest. When Clarke was unable to settle the debt, he and Sharon jumped bail and stole a yacht, only to sail it a scant 25 miles round the coast of England before being caught and charged with its theft. This time when the ran, they made a better job of it, finally making their way to Portugal in May 2006, where they stole another yacht and sailed it out to sea.
They were not seen again until September of that year, when the yacht was spotted drifting off the coast of Senegal, storm-damaged and with a torn sail. On board were the badly decomposed bodies of Clarke and Chegini, along with Chegini's diary, in which she detailed how they had not eaten for weeks and had only urine mixed with sea-water to drink. In her entry for June 19th, Sharon wrote "I dream of my mum’s steak and kidney pie, steak pie and sausage and mash" (Telegraph).
Not @%#&?! likely! But this post is on a subject close to my heart, pain (must see a doctor about that).
Cartoon expletives aside, a bit of invective can do you the world of good, or so said scientists recently. A research team from from Keele University asked volunteers to hold their hand in freezing water for as long as they could manage while repeating either an innocuous word or the swear-word of their choice. The swearers held out for an average of two minutes, while non-swearers managed only 1 minute 15 seconds. But while Rohan Byrt of the Casual Swearing Appreciation Society claimed the study demonstrated the benefits of swearing, team leader Richard Stephens warned that everyday swearing would lessen its painkilling effects. "Swearing is emotional language" he explained, "but if you overuse it, it loses its emotional attachment" (BBC News).
From this week, pregnant women throughout Britain considering "letting it out" to help with the pain might also want to direct their curses towards Dr Denis Walsh, associate professor of midwifery at Nottingham University in England. In an article in the journal Evidence Based Midwifery, Dr Walsh claimed last week that the pain of childbirth was useful and a "timeless rite of passage", and women should not be trying to avoid it with epidural anaesthesia. Walsh based his statement on the fact that the use of epidurals has almost doubled in the past two decades, claiming that in 20% of cases, the procedure was unnecessary. While some, like Dr. Justin Clarke of the Birmingham Women's Hospital, rejected Walsh's data, saying it was wrong to characterise modern women as "less stoical", others supported him, such as Mary Newburn of the National Childbirth Trust who spoke of there being an "epidural culture" (Telegraph).
But perhaps women might be convinced to trade in the needle for a fancy rubber suit? Baltimore company Under Armour has developed a hi-tech, full length bodysuit that is said to allow athletes recover more quickly after strenuous activity. Under Armour's "Recharge" range gently squeezes the athlete's body forcing excess fluid out of the muscles and back into the bloodstream over a period of hours after a workout, reversing the "pumped" effect of the exercise. Research by the University of Connecticut showed that doing so resulted in subjects feeling less soreness and swelling of the muscles and recuperating faster (Journal Gazette).
Thomas Inch (1881-1963) was a famous weightlifter from England. He is most famous for having a 172 pound dumbbell that nobody else could lift off the floor with one hand. He would offer large sums of money to anyone that could lift it. It is possible, however, that his act was a scam, as he had 4 dumbells that looked the same but were different weights (bait and switch?) and he never challenged a handful of lifters that were considered stronger than him. He was also very careful in how he phrased his own lifting of the weight as he never really mentioned putting it overhead with just one hand.
Paul Di Filippo
Paul has been paid to put weird ideas into fictional form for over thirty years, in his career as a noted science fiction writer. He has recently begun blogging on many curious topics with three fellow writers at The Inferior 4+1.