Gimme that Old Time Radio

I bought my parents a CD collection of Stan Freberg‘s radio show for Christmas this year, and they loved it. I knew they would because many a year ago, I came across an old double album of his comedy in my grandmother’s house which my dad had gotten back when the earth was new.

Anyway, Stan Freberg is a brilliant comedian, and his show was a perfect use of the medium. Insane stereo tests, faux commercials taking the place of sponsors he couldn’t get, satires of everything from history to popular TV shows to network censorship to politics.

Thanks to the marvels of the modern era, you too can listen to his short lived and much mourned radio show: The Stan Freberg Show. If that just whets your appetite for the good ol’ days of pre-visualization, you can browse 11,985 other radio shows in the Old Time Radio library.

Millionaire forgers on the dole

Do these look like master forgers who made as much as $4 million selling “antiquities” cooked up in their garden shed to major galleries, auction houses and museums around the world?

Because they are.

The family had fooled art galleries and auction houses from Vienna to New York. Last week the Art Institute of Chicago disclosed that “The Faun,” a half-man, half-goat sculpture attributed to Paul Gauguin, was also a Greenhalgh forgery. The family had made perhaps as much as $4 million from their crafty labors. But, curiously, they all lived off state welfare benefits. Money doesn’t seem to have been their only motivation, police say. They also wanted to ridicule the art establishment. “They were just normal people,” one neighbor says. “They were just happy having a drink of cider in front of telly.”

And they would have gotten away with it too, if it weren’t for them meddling cuneiform typos.

Ancient Chinese shipwreck, huh?

First, I apologize up front and without reservations for the cheap Calgon shot in the title. I just couldn’t help myself.

Having said that, Chinese archaeologist raised a 100 foot 13th century shipwreck packed with porcelain and other goodies from the South China Sea last Saturday. It was delivered to its new watery home, a seawater pool in the Crystal Palace at the Marine Silk Road Museum in Yangjiang, yesterday.

As many as 6,000 artefacts have already been retrieved from the 13th Century vessel, mostly bluish white porcelain, as well as personal items from crew members, including gold belt buckles and silver rings.

A further 70,000 artefacts are believed to be still on board, many still in their original packing cases.

This is a major deal not only because the find is extraordinary, but also because this is China’s first major foray into underwater archaeology and preservation, and they’re going full guns.

The salvage team began building a massive steel cage around the 30m (98ft)-long vessel in May in order to raise it and the surrounding silt.

The cage was made up of 36 steel beams, each weighing around 5 tons. Together with its contents, the cage weighed more than 3,000 tons. […]

The ship will be stored underwater in a massive tank, in which the water temperature, pressure and other conditions will be identical to where it lay on the seabed, allowing visitors to watch as archaeologists uncover its secrets.

China has invested about $40m in this project, in the hope of reclaiming a part of the country’s history, and this time ensuring it stays in Chinese hands.

Frodo and the Dead Marshes of WWI

There’s a fascinating article on my favorite World War I site about J.R.R. Tolkien’s experiences with the horrors of the Western Front. According to his daughter, he actually modelled Frodo, Sam and Gollum’s journey through the Dead Marshes in The Two Towers on the bombed out and devastated battlefields of Belgium and France.

the Journey through the Dead Marshes (in The Two Towers), looks very much like a description of the marshy and swampy battlefields in Northern France and in Flanders. In the course of the war these areas were transformed into deadly mud swamps with slithery clay and shell craters filled with water and corpses. Innumerable soldiers lost their footing and drowned in those treacherous pits.