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Royals remember Princess Diana 10 years after death August 31, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in The Royals.
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Royals and celebrities joined Princes William and Harry to honor their mother Princess Diana on Friday, the 10th anniversary of her death in a high-speed limousine crash in Paris.

Hundreds of mourners lined the streets outside a chapel near Buckingham Palace where the Queen, Diana’s ex-husband Prince Charles, her brother Charles Spencer and other royals and celebrities gathered for the memorial service.

Paying their own tribute, members of the public attached flowers, photographs and messages to the gates of Kensington Palace, her London residence, although in far fewer numbers than a decade ago. Then a vast outpouring of grief stunned Britain almost as much as her death whereas now, many Britons feel the public display of sorrow 10 years ago was over-the-top.

Both Princes William and Harry addressed the 500-strong congregation, recalling their mother’s warmth and charisma. “William and I can separate life into two parts. There were those years when we were blessed with the physical presence beside us of both our mother and father,” Harry said. “And then there are the 10 years since our mother’s death. When she was alive we completely took for granted her unrivalled love of life, laughter, fun and folly. She was our guardian, friend and protector. She will always be remembered for her amazing public work. But behind the media glare, to us, just two loving children, she was quite simply the best mother in the world.”

In Paris, where she died in the early hours of August 31, 1997, alongside her boyfriend, Dodi al-Fayed, following a crash in a tunnel, small crowds of mourners gathered to lay flowers and leave wreaths at the scene of the incident.

“I loved the princess before her death and even more after,” said mourner Dominique de Fontenay. “She did great things for the people and was glamorous, and a symbol of modernity.”

Prince Charles’ second wife, Camilla, with whom he had an affair while still married to Diana and whom Diana referred to as “The Rottweiler,” did not attend the memorial service to avoid controversy, although she was invited.

Dubbed the “People’s Princess” following her death, aged 36, Diana was adored by millions of people who never met her but who contrasted her charisma with what they viewed as a stuffy and hidebound royal family.

The emotional outpouring when she died led many commentators to question how long the monarchy might endure without her, but 10 years on it appears as solid an institution as ever. In a sign that perhaps, with hindsight, Britons feel that they may have overdone the grieving over Diana’s death, a survey conducted by Sky News on Friday showed that 55 percent of people thought the mourning had been excessive.

Among the absentees at the service was Dodi’s father, Egyptian-born Mohammed al-Fayed. Al-Fayed, owner of the luxury London store Harrods, accuses Britain’s royal family of ordering the couple’s murder to prevent them from marrying.

Despite comprehensive police inquiries ruling out foul play, some Britons share al-Fayed’s suspicions that the deaths were not an accident. An official inquest into the deaths will begin on October 2, propelling Diana into the headlines once again.


Ancient screen wall unearthed in north China August 30, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Architecture, Culture.
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Chinese archaeologists say they have discovered the remains of a screen wall for a large state granary dating back 260 years in north’s China’s Hebei Province.

The wall’s main body, was unearthed about 20 meters outside the front gate of the Yingyi granary built in 1747 in Shenzhou city, 260 kilometers south of Beijing.

The main body of the screen comprised four stone slabs, each 0.2 meters wide and 1.2 meters long, inscribed with the names of fund donors and costs for the reconstruction of the granary in 1897 and its managers, said Xing Enze, director of the Shenzhou Cultural Relic Institute.

The well-preserved Yingyi granary has 54 storage rooms covering 3,000 square meters. It could hold at most 1,500 tons of grain, archaeologists said. The granary’s structure was designed to be damp-proof and earthquake-proof, they said. Xing said the folding screen would be valuable in the study of ancient granary buildings.

The screen, known as “zhaobi” in Chinese, is located at the immediate entry of a house. It is a distinctive character of traditional Chinese buildings. Ancient Chinese people believe that “zhaobi” could prevent evil spirits from coming into the house. It is also a decoration with the practical use of preventing people from peeping into the courtyard.

Painting mistakenly attributed to Van Gogh August 5, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Arts.
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A painting in an Australian gallery attributed to Vincent Van Gogh for more than 70 years was not by the Dutch master but was probably created by one of his peers, the museum’s director said Friday.

Gerard Vaughan, the director of Australia’s National Gallery of Victoria, said a specialist team at the Van Gogh Museum in the Netherlands found the painting had strong stylistic differences from the Dutch artist’s other works, and was mostly likely painted by one of his contemporaries.

The painting, “Head of a Man,” was brought to Australia in 1939 as part of a contemporary art exhibit owned by Keith Murdoch, father of media mogul Rupert Murdoch. The piece became stranded in Australia with the outbreak of World War II, and the gallery bought it in 1940 for around $3,500.

“It was purchased as a Van Gogh work, and had been accepted as a Van Gogh for more than a decade before the gallery’s purchase,” Vaughan said in a statement. He stressed the painting had simply been misattributed to Van Gogh. 

“It is very important to make the point that it’s not a forgery,” he told reporters. “There is no evidence to suggest that someone produced this picture … to pass it off as a work by Van Gogh.”

The painting’s authenticity was first called into question last August when it was on show at the Dean Gallery in Edinburgh, Scotland. Critics said the work, dated 1886, was of a different style to other Van Gogh paintings of the same period and was not mentioned in any of the Dutch master’s letters.

When the exhibit closed, the National Gallery of Victoria sent the painting, a portrait of a bearded, curly haired man against a brownish background, to the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam for verification. As a Van Gogh, the painting had been valued at around $21 million.

Temporary gay street opens in Rome August 5, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Gay Life.
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Italian gay and lesbian activists are asking Rome’s municipality authorities to create a gay-street

Rome marked the opening of its first “Gay Street” with flags, banners and protests amid a row over a homosexual couple who claimed they were detained by police for kissing in front of the nearby Colosseum.

Campaigners welcomed a 300-metre zone in the centre of the city, filled with shops and bars, as an area where gays can “feel at ease,” after days of heated debate in predominantly Roman Catholic Italy over the kissing incident. The two men were detained briefly last week for what the police said were lewd acts in public, a crime that can carry a sentence of up to two years in jail.

“This will be an area where people can feel at ease, and it is also meant to be a bridge between the citizens and the homosexual community,” activist Fabrizio Marrazzo, the leader in Rome of Italy’s Arcigay gay rights movement, said in a telephone interview Friday. “We hope this will become a contact point to for us to make our differences known to others and create a climate for peaceful coexistence.”

The two men, one of whom took part in the street’s festive inauguration, insist they only shared a gesture of affection after a night out. Gay couples held a small “kiss-in” rally near the monument on Sunday to protest what they say was an act of discrimination. 

The issue sparked controversy and some legislators said they would debate the issue in parliament. Police said the two were not just kissing and would have behaved the same way if it had been a heterosexual couple. Right-wingers have protested the City Hall’s decision to close the area to traffic for three nights a week through September 8.

“Nobody wants to condemn those who practise a different sexuality, but to dedicate a street only to gays and lesbians I think it’s a sort of useless and marginalizing project,” right wing politician Piergiorgio Benvenuti was quoted as saying by daily Il Giornale.

Gay rights recently came into the spotlight in Italy when the government proposed a bill aimed at granting legal rights to unmarried and same-sex couples. The legislation sparked controversy and angered the Vatican, which under Pope Benedict has been conducting a fierce campaign to protect traditional family based on marriage between man and woman. The bill requires parliamentary approval.

Soviet Architecture from 1922 to 1932 August 4, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Architecture.
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“Lost Vanguard: Soviet Modernist Architecture, 1922-32” in an exhibition hosted at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, documenting the changes, ideas, techniques and projects in the Soviet avant-garde architecture, in the first decade after the Revolution.

Most of the projects presented in this show, although they are an important part of the history of modern architecture, have rarely been exhibited or published before, remaining a mistery even for specialists. These modern and often strage projects had not only been dedicated to Moscow or St Petersburg, but also throughout the former Soviet Union.

The most important part of the exhibition is a selection of 80 photographs made by the architect and photographer Richard Pare, who travelled several times between 1992 – 2002, gathering almost 10.000 images of these forgotten project, many of them nearly destroyed by the passing of time. To complement the works of Pare the curators have also selected several Soviet newspapers and magazines from that time, to build the historical context needed.