Posts tagged with "SFGate"

‘Last Week Tonight’ host John Oliver shows his wacky art collection at San Francisco’s Cartoon Art Museum

January 7, 2022

John Oliver has a thing for weird art. Over the past year, the comedian/news commentator and host of “Last Week Tonight” has acquired what he describes as a “small but high-quality collection of modern masterpieces,” reports SFGate.

Among them: A portrait of fellow talk show host Wendy Williams poised to take a bite of a lamb chop. A bizarre still life of several striped ties wrapped up on top of a briefcase, courtesy of Judy Kudlow, the wife of Fox Business Network host and former economic adviser to former President Donald Trump, Larry Kudlow. And “Stay Up Late,” created by Pennsylvania artist Brian Swords, which portrays two rodents embraced in a compromising position that Oliver has proudly lauded as “high-quality rat erotica.”

It’s all on garish display in “The Last Week Tonight Masterpiece Gallery,” a monthlong exhibition that has toured four other museums across the country and will make its final stop in San Francisco at the Cartoon Art Museum on Beach Street.

Selected by Oliver’s team from thousands of galleries and museums that had applied, the Cartoon Art Museum was the only venue on the West Coast to receive the honor of showcasing the eccentric assortment of art.

“Just like Linus trying to get the Great Pumpkin to visit his pumpkin patch, I like to think I won them over with sincerity,” said curator Andrew Farago.

Oliver announced the open application process on his show in late October—encouraging museums to apply for the opportunity to receive $10,000 to facilitate the collection in addition to a matched donation to their nonprofit organization of choice.

It almost didn’t happen, according to Farago, who explained he’s a big fan of the late night show, but somehow missed Oliver’s announcement that he wanted to share his art collection with the masses. It was a friend of Farago’s who sent him a note and suggested that he apply.

With nothing to lose, Farago decided to go for it.

“I wrote a brief email to ‘Last Week Tonight,’ talking up the Cartoon Art Museum and its history, letting them know how the pandemic had impacted us—and I told them that we’d be the perfect venue for John’s collection,” said Farago.

A few months later, Farago received a call from Nicole Franza, a producer on the show. The Cartoon Art Museum was in the running, she said.

After some back-and-forth regarding logistics and scheduling, Farago learned they had made the cut.

“I don’t remember what we did to celebrate,” he said. “Probably a high-five, then back to work on whatever grants and exhibitions were coming up next. That’s life in the nonprofit sector.”

The Cartoon Art Museum has been around since 1984 and is one of the only galleries of its kind in the United States. But is this collection truly among the weirdest art it has displayed over the years?

“Maybe,” said Farago. “Our focus has always been on cartooning and illustration, so it’s rare that we venture into subjects like Wendy Williams eating a lamb chop. That’s more the kind of thing that you’d expect to find in fine arts museums and galleries than our institution, but all bets are off during the pandemic.”

He said the museum chose the San Francisco-Marin Food Bank as the recipient of the matched donation, adding that he was “thrilled” by the producers’ efforts to reach out during a challenging time and foster a “really special event.”

But he’s also pleased by another small accolade stemming from the exhibition.

“I’m just glad that the Last Week Tonight Masterpiece Gallery is now the first thing that comes up when you Google my name and ‘rat erotica,’” said Farago.

Research contact: @SFGate

‘Find me a Proud Boy’: Dating fix-up request outed California woman at Capitol riot, FBI says

June 9, 2021

A California woman who participated in the January 6 Capitol insurrection was outed by a video in which she said she “want[ed] to find me a Proud Boy,” the FBI says, according to a report by SFGate.

Stephanie Baez, 27, was arrested and charged with “knowingly entering or remaining in any restricted building or grounds without lawful authority” and “violent entry and disorderly conduct on Capitol grounds” after authorities say she posted repeatedly from Washington D.C.

According to the FBI’s criminal complaint, the agency received a tip that a woman with the Instagram handle @stephmb293 was posting videos of herself at the insurrection. Investigators also were directed to a Reddit post that showed the same woman being interviewed outside the Capitol on January 6.

“How do you feel about the Proud Boys?” a man off-camera asks, referring to the Southern Poverty Law Center-designated hate group, of which multiple high-ranking members have been arrested for their involvement in the riot.

“I love the Proud Boys,” she replies, according to SFGate. “I want to find me a Proud Boy.”  The man then asks for her number, and the woman provides her Instagram handle.

The FBI says that account is linked to a phone number with 714 area code, which includes Orange County, and that Baez posted repeatedly posted from the Capitol that day.

The complaint also shows multiple photos of Baez inside the Capitol—wearing red, white and blue eye shadow and tee-shirt adorned with George Orwell’s face. She posted a selfie of herself wearing the shirt, the FBI said, with the caption: “Welcome to 1984!”

When a photo of Baez circulated online in a tweet seeking to identify Capitol rioters, the complaint says she messaged an Instagram friend, “It’s my proudest moment. Just sucks they used such a horrible pic, I want to send them the one of me in my USA bikini and be like ‘here, please use this at least lol.'”

In an April interview with the FBI, Baez admitted the photos were of her, the complaint says. Baez also allegedly gave a series of reasons for why she was there that day, claiming she was in D.C. to attend a Trump rally and “look at medical schools.”

The FBI says Baez told investigators “she had authority to be inside the Capitol because she had looked up the Capitol’s hours ahead of time and confirmed that the Capitol would be open so that she could tour it,” but “later stated that it is possible that she read the website wrong.”

The complaint alleges Baez boasted to several friends on social media that she couldn’t get into legal trouble for what she did. “I already checked,” the complaint says she wrote. “Since we are legally allowed into the Capitol Building and I didn’t damage anything, I didn’t break the law.”

Baez was apprehended in Alabama, where she made a court appearance Friday and was released on a $10,000 bond. She is due back in court on June 9.

Research contact: @SFGate

Mars Perseverance rover’s giant parachute carried secret message

Febraury 25, 2021

It’s not exactly a message in a bottle, but it did travel 292.5 million miles from Earth before its message was read and spread to the rest of humanity. The huge parachute used by NASA’s Perseverance rover to land on Mars contained a secret message, thanks to a puzzle lover on the spacecraft team, SFGate reports, courtesy of AP.

Systems Engineer Ian Clark used a binary code to spell out “Dare Mighty Things” in the orange and white strips of the 70-foot (21-meter) parachute. He also included the GPS coordinates for the mission’s headquarters at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.

Clark, a crossword hobbyist, came up with the idea two years ago. Engineers wanted an unusual pattern in the nylon fabric to help them determine how the parachute was oriented during descent. Turning it into a secret message was “super fun,” he said Tuesday.

Only about six people knew about

the encoded message before Thursday’s landing, according to Clark. They waited until the parachute images came back before putting out a teaser during a televised news conference Monday.

It took just a few hours for space fans to figure it out, Clark said. Next time, he noted, “I’ll have to be a little bit more creative.”

“Dare Mighty Things” — a line from President Theodore Roosevelt — is a mantra at JPL and adorns many of the center’s walls. The trick was “trying to come up with a way of encoding it but not making it too obvious,” Clark said.

As for the GPS coordinates, the spot is 10 feet (3 meters) from the entrance to JPL’s visitor center.

Another added touch not widely known until touchdown: Perseverance bears a plaque depicting all five of NASA’s Mars rovers in increasing size over the years — similar to the family car decals seen on Earth.

Deputy project manager Matt Wallace promises more so-called hidden Easter eggs. They should be visible once Perseverance’s 7-foot (2-meter) arm is deployed in a few days and starts photographing under the vehicle, and again when the rover is driving in a couple weeks.

“Definitely, definitely should keep a good lookout,” he urged.

Research contact: @SFGate

Bye, bye baby! Trump blimp enters Museum of London collection

February 4, 2021

In parallel with the political fortunes of former U.S. President Donald Trump, the once high-flying Trump Baby Blimp has come down to earth with a resounding thud, SFGate reports.

The Museum of London said on February 1 that it had added the giant balloon—which depicts Trump as a wailing orange baby in a diaper—to its collection as an illustration of the protests that greeted the U.S. president when he visited the city in 2018.

“By collecting the baby blimp, we can mark the wave of feeling that washed over the city that day and capture a particular moment of resistance,” Sharon Ament, the museum’s director, said in a statement.

The blimp will become part of the museum’s protest collection, which includes artifacts from the women’s suffrage movement, peace activists who opposed the war in Iraq during the early 2000s, and more recent protests against public spending cuts.

The Trump Baby Blimp was designed by a group of friends who met in a London pub to discuss how they could speak out against Trump’s policies. What they came up with was a giant balloon that caricatured Trump as a screaming, diapered baby clutching a smart phone and topped by a quiff of yellow hair.

According to SFGate, the blimp flew outside the Houses of Parliament on July 13, 2018, when thousands of demonstrators crammed the streets of central London to protest Trump’s visit to the capital.

“We hope the baby’s place in the museum will stand as a reminder of when London stood against Trump, but will prompt those who see it to examine how they can continue the fight against the politics of hate,” the blimp’s creators said in the statement.

While visiting London, Trump and his team avoided the blimp assiduously at every stop.

Research contact: @SFGate

A German city offers $1.1M to prove it doesn’t exist

September 9, 2019

A city with a population of 340,000 in the North Rhine-Westphalia region of Germany is daring people to prove it doesn’t exist—for a prize of 1 million euros (US$1.1 million).

Officials in Bielefeld announced the competition last month, saying that there are “no limits to creativity,” but only incontrovertible evidence will be rewarded, according to a report by SFGate.

What is known as the “ Bielefeld Conspiracy “ originated in 1994 as a spoof on Internet conspiracies, in general. A member of a German Internet forum claimed at that time that the city existed “only as an illusion, possibly invented by the CIA.

It has been 25 years, yet the conspiracy continues to spread —so much so, according to Atlas Obscura, that German Chancellor Angela Merkel has joked about the hoax. What’s more, Mayor Pit Klausen of Bielefeld says that he receives emails from across the country asking if the city truly exists.

Indeed, believers in the conspiracy ask three questions:

  • Have you ever been to Bielefeld?
  • Do you know anybody who lives there?
  • Do you know anyone who has ever been there?

The city’s marketing agency said on September 5 that it had received more than 2,000 emails by the September 4 deadline—close to 300 of them, from abroad. The winner will be announced on September 17.

Research contact: @SFGate