Archive for March, 2010

Need a hit of good news? How about this story out of Montreal last week:  a Paul Klee painting stolen in 1989 —that’s 21 years ago!—was recovered and returned. “Portrait in the Garden” (below), valued at $100,000, was stolen from New York’s Marlborough Gallery.

Robert Landau, owner of Landau Fine Art in Montreal, says he was offered the stolen painting at the Art Basel Miami contemporary art fair last December. Landau told the specious dealer (whose name hasn’t been released to the public) that he had to investigate the picture before he could buy it — Landau then had it sent to his gallery. When a little digging turned up info confirming that it was hot, Landau called the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

The Art Loss Register, who now owns the painting, will auction it at Christie’s. The investigation into the theft is ongoing. With the number of world-class works of art that are stolen and never heard from again, it’s awfully satisfying to hear about one turning up again. Mr. Landau, I salute you!

Listen to our story about a heist that didn’t end so happily … yet.

– Cary Barbor

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After 15 years and several false starts, the Large Hadron Collider research program has finally begun.  Early this morning, 3300 feet below the Swiss-French border near Geneva, it successfully smashed two protons at record-setting energies.

“There were cheers in all the control rooms,” Caltech physicist Harvey Newman told the LA Times, shortly after witnessing the achievement at 3:58 PDT. “As soon as we get the data, we’re analyzing it — it’s been a long time coming.”

And data from the collision is already streaming. Scientists hope that the experiments will test long-unsolved physics theories about dark matter, a unifying force, and the origins of the universe.

At 17 miles long and costing $10 billion, the L.H.C. is the biggest machine on the planet.  And because its magnets are cooled by 120 tons of liquid helium, it’s also the coldest place on the planet — perhaps in the universe.  Yet when Kurt visited the behemoth earlier this year, he found it has a particularly steam-punk look, like something dreamed up by Jules Verne.

Studio 360 found out that the machine is as colorful (and beautiful) as it is complex:

– Jess Jiang and Jenny Lawton

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Fever Ray
Fever Ray

First there was the Knife, the Swedish Electronic duo of brother and sister Karin and Anders Dreijer.  Now there’s Fever Ray. Last year sister Karin went her own way (as she’s been known to do) and formed a new band. Fever Ray’s self-titled album is full of dark Scandinavian incantations and it is spectacular. Karin’s haunting voice on “Keep the Streets Empty for Me” is best enjoyed driving through Copenhagen suburbs on a summer night, whereas “I’m Not Done” sounds really good in a crowded New York subway. In concert, she wears enormous feathered bird costumes in one strangest and most original stage shows around.

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Kid Sister

The prize for best booty-shakin’ performance of SXSW in Austin last week goes to Chicago rapper Kid Sister.  Her first single, “Pro Nails” (featuring Kanye West), is just the tip of iceberg. Ultraviolet takes the best of high-energy 80s dance hip-hop and shoots it through a 21st century indie-electro filter: tight, fast beats, crazy synths, rapid-fire lyrics and irresistible hooks. If the opener, “Right Hand Hi,” doesn’t get you off your ass and dancing, I don’t know what will.

– Leital Molad

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Last week on Studio 360, we explored how arts and creativity can teach us about autism.  And last year, Kurt talked with Pulitzer Prize-winning music critic Tim Page whose Asperger’s Syndrome wasn’t diagnosed until he turned 40.  For others, it may go undiagnosed for a lifetime.  But is it possible that a character on a TV series have Asperger’s and the writers not know it?

Fans of CBS’s “The Big Bang Theory” are raising this very question.  Might the loveable yet seemingly neurotic Dr. Sheldon Cooper have Asperger’s Syndrome? Sure, he has his quirks: he searches for the acoustic sweet spot in a movie theater; he studies his hamburgers for optimal bun to meat to condiment ratio; he prefers Rock Paper Scissors Lizard Spock over the more mundane and provincial Rock Paper Scissors; he’s devised an algorithm for making friends. And, of course, he has a certain fixation with sitting in a specific spot in the apartment due to the perfect combination of cross-breeze and radiator warmth:

The actor who plays Sheldon, Jim Parsons, says he’s not sure either. In an AV Club interview, Parsons postulates that Sheldon’s social- and emotional-disconnect may be part of his genius or part of a disorder. But he also notes that the writers disagree. The show’s co-creator Bill Prady tells TV Squad that he’s hesitant to label Sheldon with Asperger’s. The character he and his team have in their minds as they write the show each week does not have the disorder.

Perhaps unintentionally, this TV show about geeky scientists has illuminated the very difficulties and stigma associated with Asperger’s.  But at least they’re not alone – they’ve got each other, and over ten million faithful viewers.

– Jess Jiang

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We all know that the Internet has its drawbacks. (Why do I know that Sandra Bullock’s husband cheated on her?  Why does a certain relatives think I enjoy videos of kittens?)  But its power to aggregate—pulling material from across time and around the world—can still knock your socks off.  I stumbled across an example this week: the UK Guardian’s list of 50 greatest arts videos on YouTube.

The list is a couple of years old, but the clips are classics.  Madonna’s very un-polished first show at Danceteria in 1982.  Vladimir Nabokov and Lionel Trilling discussing Lolita.  Stravinsky conducting Firebird.   Pollock dripping paint, Nirvana practicing in a garage before they hit.  All these things existed before, somewhere; but you’d have spent years of your life hunting them down.  In the mountainous slag heap of YouTube, there are plenty of loose diamonds, if you know where to look.

And if you do want to see some kittens, click here.  

—Cary Barbor

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Don’t Cry
Mary Gaitskill

In her new collection of short stories, now out in paperback, Mary Gaitskill plumbs the depths of her characters’ hearts and minds. As always, her insight into their behavior is spot-on.  When Gaitskill induces cringing, it’s only because her characters’ actions ring so true.

– Cary Barbor

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Last fall, Andrew Stelzer went to Iowa for Studio 360 to tell the story of a unique amateur theater group, Teatro Indocumentado.

The group formed in the aftermath of the largest immigration raid at a single site in United States history. In May 2008 Federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents arrested 389 undocumented migrants in Postville, Iowa. Most of the workers were quickly tried, sentenced, and deported, but a few remained in the country to testify in the trial of their plant’s owners.

Unable to work, the remaining migrants formed Teatro Indocumentado, or the Theater of the Undocumented, and staged a play to tell their stories. They’ll perform that play, “La Historia de Nuestras Vidas” (The Story of Our Lives), for the last time on Monday, March 22, in Chicago, Illinois, before they are deported the following morning.

You can hear Andrew’s story here.

-Michael Guerriero

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#1 Indie Rocker

Like Michael Jackson, Alex Chilton hit it big young, charting #1 with “The Letter” before he could vote. But Chilton was not like Jackson. His most serious effort at stardom, the early-70s Big Star, never went mainstream; the songs were too innocent, too authentically teenage – the sex and drugs was about not having sex and not having drugs. In 1971, the cool kids were into decadent, egotistical jet setters, Mick and Keith; Big Star produced perfect and honest pop songs about 8th-grade crushes and driving around with nothing to toke. In other words, the lives of actual American kids who listened to rock and roll.


Rep. Steve Cohen of Tennessee commemorates the life of Alex Chilton in a speech to the House of Representatives.

It didn’t take. Whether he liked it or not (and who would?), Chilton became a mark of underground cool. He was punk before there was punk, touchstone for a kind of cognescenti that hadn’t existed before: indie rockers. Generations of college kids passed down Chilton on cassettes and saw him in skanky clubs, and each generation thought it had discovered a new continent. I’m talking before the internet, when the world wasn’t at your fingertips, and you might wear down the Maxell before you did the math and said, “Wait; how old was I when Alex Chilton started?” You weren’t born, kid. But maybe your mom had on the oldies station, and “The Letter” came on in its permanent rotation, and she hummed along while she was changing your diaper. He was there before you knew it.

-David Krasnow

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Rather abruptly, an icy, slushy, uncommonly frigid winter has melted into blue skies and mellow sunshine. In New York, we’re taking advantage of the thaw to head to the High Line.

The High Line is the city’s newest park – it opened mid-last year – and it’s an amazing feat. It was built on a dilapidated elevated rail line that served the city’s old industrial West Side, and today it’s a beautifully planted public space that sits 30 feet above the street. Studio 360 scouted it a few weeks ago, on a relatively mild day, with New Yorker architecture critic Paul Goldberger. While we didn’t have the patience to wait for the real weather, we’ve got some great photos that have us itching to head back. Check them out on the audio slideshow we put together, and listen to Paul’s thoughts on the park he calls “one of the great [planning] stories of our time, with great results.”

-Michael Guerriero

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