The woman who played the title role in the ‘90s TV show 'Where in Time is Carmen Sandiego?’ ended up being a lot like her character. After filming the show, stage actress Janine LaManna took a break from performing, went off the grid, married an army officer, and travels all over the world with him. Source


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The Battle Between Art And Entertainment

Art is in flux these days. There seems to be equal opposing sentiments that art is either intrinsically important or a complete waste of time.

When art galleries acquire highly valuable pieces with public money, people jump at the chance to sass it on some newspaper comment section. There seems to be a response among a significant fraction of the population that our money should not be wasted on things that don’t pay returns. Yet at the same time, we are a species with sight as our primary sense and take in more visuals than the average Renaissance Italian could’ve imagined in a wet dream—movies, television, graphics on billboards and Internet videos. Single movies make hundreds of millions of dollars and more people viewed a video of a juvenile panda than voted in every major election in the history of most provinces….read full article

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(Image via Financial Times)

The Myth of the Mona Lisa

Leonardo Da Vinci’s Mona Lisa is the most famous painting in the world. It’s an enduring tourist attraction, immediately recognisable by millions, and highly coveted by art lovers, but La Joconde remains one of the most puzzling paintings that exists. We don’t know when she was painted, who she is, or what it is about her expression that’s so alluring.

Theories regarding her identity are plentiful. The most credible is that she’s Lisa del Giocondo, a member of the Gherardini family of Florence and Tuscany, but several other candidates have been proposed, including Isabella of Naples, the mistress of Giuliano de’ Medici, and even Leonardo himself. And the theorising doesn’t stop there. Donald Sassoon noted, in his book on the painting, that a “paucity of evidence keeps the experts divided.” That paucity of evidence also keeps the crackpots divided. An Italian researcher claims there are miniscule letters on her eyes, such as “LV” (da Vinci’s initials) and “BS” (“bullshit” probably isn’t the intended meaning, but it’s what comes to mind). There’s also the Canadian professor that thinks the Mona Lisa is simply an interpretation of love poems by Horace and Petrarch. Even Sigmund Freud had his pet theory that Mona Lisa’s smile was modelled on da Vinci’s mother’s.

Most of these theories are impossible to prove (and many are simply unprovable by their ridiculous nature), but some recent discoveries are helping us uncover her history. High resolution photoraphy has revealed that she used to have eyebrows that were wiped away during some stage of restoration, and some scientists in Spain think the secret to her changing moods is explained by which part of the eye sees her mouth first. The latest discovery should shed more light on the mystery: a copy of the Mona Lisa, painted by one of Leonardo’s pupils. It’s believed to have been painted at the same time as the original, and, without the cracked, yellowing varnish of the original, does a much better job of showing the subject’s youthfulness and other details.

The sheer enigma of the Mona Lisa lends a lot of weight to its high standing, but its fame didn’t reach its greatest heights until 1911, when an employee at the Louvre smuggled the painting out under his coat. (Also covered recently by Financial Times and Smithsonian Magazine.) Vincenzo Perrugia was an Italian patriot who was seized with a desire to return many of Italy’s stolen art treasures to Italy. (The Mona Lisa, of course, was not in fact stolen from Italy but finished there and sold to the king.) In the course of the two year investigation – which took so long that there were whispers of a hoax – even French poet Guillaume Apollinaire was briefly a suspect, and he in turn fingered Pablo Picasso for the theft. Both were eventually exonerated and Perrugia was caught when he inadvertently tried to sell the painting to the directors of a gallery in Florence.

The Mona Lisa’s theft is one of very few excursions from the Louvre. She was removed and hidden during World War II as Germans invaded France. And then there was the time Jackie Kennedy wanted to borrow her. France’s minister of culture André Malraux promised it to her at a dinner in Washington, presumably unaware of the public and private turmoil it would cause. The Mona Lisa’s handler at the Louvre didn’t want her to travel, its chosen handler in Washington didn’t think it should travel, and the French media exclaimed “La Joconde must not leave the Louvre!” Nevertheless, after 6 months of tortured negotiation, the exchange was made. In the end, the events unfolded during the Cuban missile crisis, and Malraux and Charles de Gaulle framed the loan to be a gesture of amity, while President Kennedy was able to use the loan to his political advantage, amplifying his domestic and international popularity.