In Vatican Fresco, Visions of the Brain

It has been hiding in plain sight for the past 500 years, and now two Johns Hopkins professors believe they have found it: one of Michelangelo’s rare anatomical drawings in a panel high on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel.

Michelangelo was a conscientious student of human anatomy and enthusiastically dissected corpses throughout his life, but few of his anatomical drawings survive. This one, a depiction of the human brain and brain stem, appears to be drawn on the neck of God, but not all art historians can see it there.

This is not the first picture of a human organ someone has found, or at least imagined, in Michelangelo’s Sistine frescoes. In 1990, in an article in the Journal of the American Medical Association, a physician described what he saw as a rendering of the human brain in the Creation of Adam, the panel showing God touching Adam’s finger. And one physician, a professor of medicine at Baylor University, published an article in a medical journal in 2000 suggesting that Michelangelo had included a drawing of a kidney in another ceiling panel. The author was, perhaps not coincidentally, a kidney specialist.

The latest find, described in a study in the May issue of the journal Neurosurgery, appears directly above the altar in “The Separation of Light From Darkness,” another panel from the series of nine depicting scenes from the Book of Genesis.

God, clothed in flowing red robes, is viewed from below and foreshortened, and seems to be rising into the sky. His arms are raised above his head, and he faces up and to his right, exposing his neck and the underside of a short beard. It is here that the study’s authors, the medical illustrator Ian Suk and Dr. Rafael J. Tamargo, a neurosurgeon, believe that Michelangelo concealed a drawing of the underside of the brain and the brain stem, with parts of the temporal lobe, the medulla, the pons and other structures clearly drawn.

To Dr. Tamargo’s eye, God’s neck in the fresco is distinctly different from those of other figures depicted in more or less the same posture. Usually, the neck looks smooth, but in “The Separation of Light From Darkness” there are lines and shapes quite different from the normal external anatomy of the neck, irregularities that he believes cannot be accidental. “The anatomy of the neck is very, very unusual,” he said, and if it were not intentionally drawn that way, “you would have to postulate that Michelangelo had a very bad day, which is very unlikely because he was very meticulous.”

Is it really there, or are the authors seeing patterns where there are none? The interpretation, Dr. Tamargo said, “is certainly subjective — artists don’t accompany their work with a description of what they’re putting in there. But I think that as with any finding, it’s either validated or rejected by what others think.”

What others think varies considerably. “Suk and Tamargo appear to have done their homework well,” said Gail L. Geiger, a professor of art history at the University of Wisconsin, Madison. “I find the core of their piece quite convincing.”

But Joanna Woods-Marsden, a professor of art history at the University of California, Los Angeles, was outraged as much by the authors’ hypothesis as by their audacity in presenting it. “My initial reaction on looking at the illustrations is that this is complete nonsense, to put it politely,” she wrote in an e-mail message. “To draw arbitrary lines all over Renaissance paintings and expect to be taken seriously by the scholarly community!”

Some details seem to support the authors’ position. God’s beard, usually depicted as long and flowing, appears here short or rolled up to expose the neck. Light provides another hint. The fresco is illuminated from the lower left, but on God’s neck light shines head-on and slightly from the right. The authors insist that Michelangelo, a master of the depiction of light, could only have done this to draw attention to that part of the painting.

Still, some scholars remain dubious. “I think this may be another case of the authors looking too hard for something they want to find,” said Brian A. Curran, an associate professor of art history at Pennsylvania State University. “I don’t want to discourage people from looking. But sometimes a neck is just a neck.”

NY Times

Oscar Organizers Ponder Earlier Show Time to January

Academy Awards organizers are talking about moving up the date of the show, possibly as early as January.

At a Tuesday meeting, the academy’s board of governors discussed the idea of holding the Oscars earlier. Most recent shows have been held in late February.

A statement Wednesday by the academy said the earliest any date change could take effect would be for the Oscars in 2012. A firm date of Feb. 27 already has been set for next year’s 83rd Oscars.

The academy statement said the idea is “being explored as a possibility.”

For many years, the Oscars were held in late March but were moved to February to shorten what many consider a prolonged Hollywood awards season.

(Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press.  All Rights Reserved.)

Apple Unveils New iPhone

I don’t own an iPhone and don’t plan to get one anytime soon….but I did think this graphic was interesting to read. What would I do with all these things!?

Just imagine over 150 years ago Americans had to wait six weeks to get mail from the Pony Express. And now, we learn about things literally within milliseconds of it happening! Still buggles my mind.

Crowds expected for new iPhone model debut Thursday

‘Toy Story 3’ Chock Full of Hidden Facts, Movie References

The toys are back in town: All the gang - including Woody, Buzz Lightyear and Mr Potato Head, return for the third instalment in the Toy Story franchise, released on July 19

Toy Story 3” has entertained children and parents alike (and has made at least one childless, unmarried adult male in his thirties cry) to the tune of $110 million dollars in its opening weekend.

Chances are, considering the amount of money the film made over the weekend, that if you’re reading this, there’s a better than average chance you’ve seen the film. If you have, there are a few hidden “Easter eggs” (the cinematic term for meaningful images or references buried in a movie) worthy of a second look. Even if you haven’t seen “Toy Story 3,” it’s worth reading on for some fun facts you can impress your friends with. 

Slashfilm and have put together exhaustive lists of the Easter eggs hiding in “Toy Story 3,” and the New Orleans Times-Picayune also did some digging and found a few pieces of trivia that bear repeating. Highlights of those lists include:  

• “A113,” the number of a classroom at CalTech where many Pixar animators studied, shows up as an Easter egg in every Pixar film. In the “Toy Story” series, it’s the license plate on Andy’s mother’s car.

• Sid, the bully from the first movie who wears a skull T-shirt, appears as a garbage man in the new film wearing the same skull T-shirt.

• There’s a postcard on Andy’s dresser addressed from the featured characters from last year’s “Up,” Carl and Ellie Fredrickson.

• Lightning McQueen from “Cars” is referenced a few times throughout the film: A miniature toy car at the daycare center, on a child’s shirt at the center and on a fictional train that shares McQueen’s number, 95. That number is itself an Easter egg, referring to 1995, the year the first “Toy Story” was released.

• A calendar from Pizza Planet is clearly seen. Pizza Planet has appeared in every Pixar film except “The Incredibles.”

• Pixar has a history of hiding a character to be featured in a later movie somewhere in a current film. Nemo first appeared in “Monsters, Inc.” and “Toy Story 3” newcomer, Lots-o-Huggins Bear (who, ironically, is not very huggable), first appeared alongside a bed in “Up.” A poster on Andy’s wall shows a character from next year’s “Cars 2.” It shows Finn McMissile, a British sports car/secret agent who plays a major role in the sequel.

• Buzz Lightyear’s batteries are from “Buy ‘N’ Large,” the giant corporation responsible for ruining the planet in “WALL-E.”

• Totoro, the furry, friendly creature from Hayao Miyazaki’s Japanese animated classic “My Neighbor Totoro,” shows up as a toy that Woody meets. Pixar founder John Lasseter has called Miyazaki an inspiration for his work, and Lasseter produced his most recent film, “Ponyo.”

• A significant amount of the film takes place at a daycare center. At the daycare center, Mr. Ray the Scientific Stingray from “Finding Nemo” makes a cameo. Nemo himself appears as a sticker on Andy’s toybox.

• “Toy Story 3” director Lee Unkrich performs one line in the movie, as the voice of the Jack in the Box character.

• The “Toy Story 3” screenplay took 2 1/2 years to write and storyboard.

John Ratzenberger keeps his streak alive of appearing in every single Pixar film made to this point. For “Toy Story 3,” he reprises his role as Hamm.

• Ken, voiced by Michael Keaton, was based on a 1988 version of him called “Animal Lovin’ Ken” which included his “own chimpanzee to care for and love.” Um, okay. The Barbie featured in the film is based on a 1983 version titled “Great Shape Barbie.”

• Ken wears 21 different outfits in the movie.

• Woody has 229 animation points of movement in his face. Buzz has 215 animation avatars in his face.

• There are 302 characters in the film.

“Toy Story 3” marks the best opening weekend in the history of Pixar, which is quite a feat, considering all eleven Pixar films have opened as the number one in their respective weekend. “Toy Story 3” is the first film in the “Toy Story” series to be released in the very lucrative 3D format. Considering the added cost per ticket, plus the demand to see the film, it’s little surprise that “Toy Story 3” is on pace to pass the $400 million mark in domestic box office.

Found via Yahoo!

Once Just a Site With Funny Cat Pictures, Now a Web Empire

Three years ago Ben Huh visited a blog devoted to silly cat pictures — and saw vast potential.

Mr. Huh, a 32-year-old entrepreneur, first became aware of I Can Has Cheezburger, which pairs photos of cats with quirky captions, after it linked to his own pet blog. His site immediately crumbled under the resulting wave of visitors.

Sensing an Internet phenomenon, Mr. Huh solicited financing from investors and forked over $10,000 of his own savings to buy the Web site from the two Hawaiian bloggers who started it.

“It was a white-knuckle decision,” he said. “I knew that the first site was funny, but could we duplicate that success?”

Mr. Huh has since found that the appetite for oddball Internet humor is insatiable.

Traffic to the Cheezburger blog has ballooned over the last three years, encouraging Mr. Huh to expand his unlikely Web empire to include 53 sites, all fueled by submissions from readers. In May, what is now known as the Cheezburger Network attracted a record 16 million unique visitors, according to the Web analytics firm Quantcast.

A more recent success for the company is a site called Fail Blog, which chronicles disastrous mishaps and general stupidity in photos and video. The network’s smaller sites include Daily Squee, with pictures of cute animals, and There I Fixed It, for photos of bad repair jobs.

Mr. Huh said his company, which makes most of its money from Web advertising, has been profitable since Day 1.

“Then again, it was just me and Emily in the beginning,” he said referring to his wife, who also works at the company. Cheezburger now has more than 40 employees and has not sought additional investment.

As the company has grown, so have the opportunities to make money, said Todd Sawicki, the company’s chief revenue officer.

“Only 1 percent of what gets submitted goes on the Web site,” he said. “The rest we can turn into T-shirts, books and other content that the audience loves.”

This year alone, Mr. Sawicki said, the company will generate a seven-figure sum from advertising, licensing fees and merchandise sales.

The company has published five books based on its blogs, one of which, a collection of the cats-with-misspelled-captions images known as Lolcats, hovered on the New York Times list of miscellaneous paperback best sellers for 13 weeks. Three more books are in production, along with a line of greeting cards and desktop calendars.

One secret to the company’s success is the way it taps into the Internet zeitgeist. It seeks clues to what is funny right now by monitoring the Web for themes bubbling up on community forums, blogs and video sites. Then it spins off new sites devoted to the latest online humor fads.

“Cheezburger figures out what’s starting to get popular and then harvests the humor from the chaff,” said Kenyatta Cheese, one of the creators of a popular Web video series called “Know Your Meme” that documents viral online phenomena, known as memes. “Things like Lolcats and Fail are easy to make, easy to spread and hit on an emotional level that crosses a lot of traditional boundaries.”

Most of the material the company posts is created by readers, who can Photoshop a funny caption onto an image or remix a popular video in minutes and submit it to one of the Cheezburger sites for consideration. The company says that each day it receives more than 18,000 submissions from readers.

Joe Olk, 28, is one of two dozen staff members who spend their days deliberating over exactly what makes something laugh-out-loud worthy.

Skimming through images on a computer monitor in the company’s spacious office in downtown Seattle, Mr. Olk paused over one photograph of a neon sign advertising services described as “Internet Massage.” “Now that is just weird,” he says with a snicker. “But also funny.” And with a click, it is posted online.

Employees do not check to see whether the person submitting content actually owns it before they put it on a company site, but they will remove it if they receive a complaint after the fact. The company says that before it puts an image into a book or calendar, it does seek permission from its creator, who might receive a free book or T-shirt.

Submissions that are funny but don’t fit into any of the current blog themes can inspire new blogs. For example, after noticing an influx of photos featuring comically bad knock-off toys and other products, the company decided there were enough to warrant a new site, which is slated to be introduced in the next week or two.

The tricky part, said Kiki Kane, 36, who oversees new site development for the network, is gauging whether an Internet trend has legs. She aims to introduce a new blog every week.

“We’re constantly monitoring the Web for new memes,” she said. “Those bits of cultural shorthand, inside jokes that you get right away just by seeing a visual image.”

Not every new site is a hit. One called Pandaganda, which collected images of pandas looking comically evil and sinister, fizzled after a few weeks, so Mr. Huh pulled the plug. “We kill about 20 percent of all the sites we start,” he said.

The idea of quickly tailoring a blog network to satisfy the fickle tastes of a Web-savvy audience, generating new sites to capitalize on a viral sensation and dropping the ones that don’t catch on, is what convinced Geoff Entress, a noted angel investor in the Seattle area, to help Mr. Huh purchase the original company.

“Being flexible and able to change as the environment changes is a huge asset to a consumer Web site,” said Mr. Entress, who has backed more than 35 local start-ups, including an online community for booklovers called Shelfari that was eventually bought by Amazon.

“The risk wasn’t that people wouldn’t like the product,” he said. “We already had the numbers showing they did. The risk was whether or not we could prove this was more than a fad.”

If the wacky cats are a fad, they are one that has had surprising staying power, as shown by a recent Cheezburger happy-hour event at Safeco Field before a Seattle Mariners game.

More than 1,000 fans turned up to listen to cat-themed songs blasted over the loudspeakers, snack on miniature cheeseburgers, slurp from plastic cups of beer and pose for pictures with Mr. Huh.

Tess Mattos, a 41-year-old knitting instructor who traveled up from Portland, Ore., for the event, said she had been a fan of the network’s flagship site for three years.

“It’s just a good, simple break from real life,” she said, adjusting the pair of sequined cat ears she was wearing. “It’s clever, but not mean-spirited.”

“People think we’re weird,” she quipped. “But have you seen the fans of ‘Twilight?’ ”

NY Times

Utah Execution Video Fail

I found this by total accident yesterday. I know what the editors were trying to say, but it just doesn’t come across that way.

And to make it worse, it’s listed on the entertainment page too!

Dolce & Gabbana Team Up with Martini for Drink Debut

 Italian designers Dolce & Gabbana have teamed up with Bacardi’s vermouth brand Martini to launch their first co-branded drink this month in a rare diversification move for the fashion duo.

Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabbana have designed and tested the drink which will be unveiled during Milan’s upcoming menswear fashion week, the fashion house said on Thursday.

“As a result of a joint commitment, this new co-branding project strengthens a partnership started more than 10 years ago,” Dolce & Gabbana said in a statement.

Unlike many fashion groups which branched out into jewelry, tableware or hotels to tap a wider client base amid the global financial downturn, the fashion duo has been cautious over diversification.

The drink marks the debut of Dolce & Gabbana in the wines and spirits sector and is their second co-branded product after launching a mobile phone with Motorola five years ago.

As part of their partnership with Martini, the designers have opened bars at their stores in Milan and Shanghai and launched a menswear line.

Privately-owned Bermuda-based Bacardi, which owns the Martini vermouth brand, will produce and sell the drink.

Dolce & Gabbana celebrate the 20th anniversary of their menswear line on June 19-20 in Milan