Art of the Steal

After 25 years, authorities are no closer to solving the mystery of who stole $500 Mil worth of artwork from the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston, and where said artwork is.

Back in 1990, on the evening of St. Patrick’s Day (I don’t think enough credit is given to the robbers for this brilliant tactical move. I mean, next to Christmas, is there a better time to stage a massive art heist in the heavily Irish Boston area than on the evening of St. Patty’s Day? I didn’t think so.) a couple of robbers posed as Police men and talked their way into the Gardner Museum, where they then duct taped the guards and stole a lot of very expensive artwork. The thing that has baffled authorities and art historians for years though, is that the robbers left far more valuable artwork in the museum:

They handcuffed [the guard] and another watchman in the basement, duct-taped their wrists and faces and, for 81 minutes, brazenly and clumsily cut two Rembrandts from their frames, smashed glass cases holding other works, and made off with a valuable yet oddball haul.

It included the Rembrandt’s “Christ in the Storm on the Sea of Gallilee”, Vermeer’s “Concert” Manet’s “Chez Tortoni”, Degas sketches, a bronze-plated eagle, and a Shang dynasty vase secured to a table by a bulky metal device that by itself probably took 10 minutes to pull apart. Left behind were prizes like a Titian, some Sargents, Raphaels and Whistlers, and, inches from the Degas works, a Pieta sketch by Michelangelo

Many theories and scenarios have been investigated, including one theory that James “Whitey” Bulger was behind the heist. However, as the years have gone by and potential suspects have died off, it could be many years before these lost masterpieces are ever found.

Crowdsourced Map of Boston

Boston is well known for it’s distinctive neighborhood residents and the sheer insanity in which the streets in that city are laid out. And with this combination comes the question of what are the streets that define the “boundaries” each neighborhood?

Some cartographers over at Bostonography took to crowdsourcing the answer to that question by asking people/residents what their definition of specific neighborhoods were and then plotting the results based on the confidence that the people expressed of their point of view.

It is a wicked pissah analysis.

Via Bostonography

Red Sox – Cubs

Super cool to see the Chicago Cubs playing the Red Sox at Fenway this weekend for the first time in 93 years. If the baseball Gods had not been so cruel back in 2003 – the year of Steve Bartman in Chicago and Aaron (F***ing) Boone in Boston – these two storied (and until this past decade, cursed) franchises would have met in the 2003 World Series. And then the world would have come to an end (until that time, neither team had won a World Series in pretty much forever).

Bing Crosby and The Kid

Teddy Ballgame

Over the weekend, there were two great vintage baseball stories in the NY Times.

The first was a profile of John Updike’s seminal baseball essay The Hub Bids Kid Adieu. The essay documented the famous last game that Ted Williams played for the Red Sox, when he hit a home run in his final at bat in the majors yet refused to acknowledge the crowd and the press as he rounded the bases for the final time. Over the years, Williams’ relationship with the Boston press and the Red Sox fan base was hardly cordial. The irony is that Updike was not even planning on being in attendance at that game:

Only 10,455 fans turned up to say goodbye to Williams, who was 42, hobbled by aches and pains. Among them, sitting behind third base, was 28-year-old John Updike, who had actually scheduled an adulterous assignation that day. But when he reached the woman’s apartment, on Beacon Hill, he found that he had been stood up: no one was home. “So I went, as promised, to the game” he wrote years later, “and my virtue was rewarded.”

If you have not read the original essay in the New Yorker, I highly recommend it.

An even more important story surfaced this weekend about Bing Crosby and his passion for the game of baseball. I was surprised to learn that Crosby was a part owner of the Pittsburgh Pirates back in the late 1950’s and early 1960’s. His ownership spanned the 1960 season when the Pirates famously beat the NY Yankees in the seventh game of that series on Bill Mazeroski’s 9th inning, game 7 home run. With Crosby’s hectic travel schedule due to his “day job”, he did not get to see his Pirates play as much as he would have liked. During the 1960 World Series, he was too nervous to watch the series so he traveled to France and listened to the game on wireless radio. So what else did he do? He recorded the broadcast!

He knew he would want to watch the game later “if his Pirates won” so he hired a company to record Game 7 by kinescope, an early relative of the DVR, filming off a television monitor. The five-reel set, found in December in Crosby’s home, is the only known complete copy of the game, in which Pirates second baseman Bill Mazeroski hit a game-ending home run to beat the Yankees, 10-9. It is considered one of the greatest games ever played.

Crosby, the singer and movie, radio and TV star, had more foresight than the television networks and stations, which erased or discarded nearly all of the Major League Baseball games they carried until the 1970s.

A canny preservationist of his own legacy, Crosby, who died in 1977, kept a half-century’s worth of records, tapes and films in the wine cellar turned vault in his Hillsborough, CA., home.

So for the first time in 50 years, the full broadcast of the famous 7th Game of the 1960 World Series will be able to be viewed in its entirety when its re-broadcast this October. I can’t wait and like Mr. Crosby, I’ll have to find a nice scotch on the rocks to enjoy during the broadcast

Your Own Music Video

Caught this article on Techcrunch about how the band Arcade Fire teamed up with Google, Google Chrome and Google Streetview to show off what HTML5 can do as part of a Google Chrome Experiment. After typing in your childhood home address, a “modular” video of Arcade Fire’s song “We Used to Wait” starts playing that includes a guy running through streets with a hoodie on. And after a few minutes, the video brings in Google Streetview and Google Earth aerial views of your childhood neighborhood and then uses those visuals as the backdrop for the video. Its really cool and an intensely personal way to connect you to the video/song and the band.

Here is my video using my childhood home in Boston as the address.  NOTE: Be sure to only have this browser open. Its a very processor intensive app and video.

Blizzard of 1978

Here is a nice piece on “celebrating” the 30th anniversary of the Blizzard of 1978. If you grew up or lived in the New England area around that time, you will no doubt remember that “mother of all storms”. To this day, I don’t think I’ve experienced anything like it. I vividly remember the streets and alleys of Boston having snow over my head. It was crazy. Good times, good times.

Sports Life Is Good

The Red Sox are in the World Series for the second time in four years, the Patriots are undefeated at 7-0 and looking like they are well on their way to a very special season, and (shudder) the Celtics are looking like a formidable team to beat in the NBA Eastern Conference. In fact, William C. Rhoden of the NY Times wrote a piece about how its such a good time to be a New England/Boston sports fan.

Now about that Syracuse University football program.

The Red Sox Brand

Knowledge@Wharton recently posted an article on the Red Sox from a branding and marketing perspective. It talks about the Sox’ run to the 2004 World Series Championship and the notion that Red Sox Nation may not exactly know how to react to the fact that the Sox won it all, after 86 years of frustration and painful defeats. Its an interesting article however it re-inforces the notion that as much as we want to think “its just a game”, the reality is that its really all business.

And as irony would have it, the Red Sox lost last night to the White Sox in typical Red Sox fashion, when an error by Tony Graffanino led to a 5 run inning for Chicago. As the NY Times put it, “Just because the Red Sox won the World Series last season does not mean that baseball can nont torture them on occasion.”