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Do you ever feel as if you just need to be scrubbed clean? As if there were some authentic self there, but you just haven't seen her in a while, distracted as you've been with work and family and the difficult work of maintaining everyday life? Like you know the real you climbs mountains and writes haiku every weekend, but you somehow just haven't found the time to deal with her lately? Like maybe there's something hiding beneath the surface, like, say, a $600,000 lighthouse.
Allow me to explain: according to Art Info's In the Air blog, an 18th century painting attributed to the studio of French painter Claude-Joseph Vernet was recently sent to the cleaner's by an art dealer in preparation for the LAPADA Art & Antiques Fair this week. (Check out the blog for the dingy pre-cleaning painting.) When the dealer got the bright-and-shiny-painting back, he found there was an entire section that had been painted over. There was now a lighthouse completing the composition, which not only changed the whole feel of the painting, but most significantly, revealed the painting to be in fact a work of Vernet himself, vastly increasing its value -- 16 fold.
There's always something exciting about a work of art that harbors a secret. And I love the idea that something so simple as a good cleaning could change a painting's fate, make an art lover a mint, and most of all, reveal a work's authenticity.
If only there were official restorations for people. It would be something between a spa day and a religious conversion, just a good soul-scrubbing, a little life-brightener.
The Power of Authenticity
Cultivate Your Own True Self
Each week, we'll be letting you know about the new releases the editors of O and Oprah.com couldn't stop reading. This week, we're enthralled by the page-turning novel:
The Incense Game: A Novel of Feudal Japan
By Laura Joh Rowland
It's 1703, and Japan's capital, Edo (now known as Tokyo), has been ravaged by an earthquake. The city is filled with rubble, and the rubble is filled with bodies. While surveying the wreckage, Sano Ichiro, samurai, former police investigator and chamberlain to the shogun, Japan's ruler, finds three female corpses with crimson eyes—two women and their teacher, who, at the time of their demise, were playing an ancient game that required them to guess the ingredients in complex blends of incense. Sano senses that something is off about the bodies, and a cursory probing reveals that they don't owe their deaths to violent seismic activity but rather to arsenic. Sano reports the murder to the police, only to find himself blackmailed into finding the killer himself. Along with his brilliant and just plain butt-kicking wife, Lady Reiko, and his adroit and precocious 12-year-old son, Masahiro, he sets out into the decimated city. The ensuing investigation is fascinating, in large part because of the window it gives into the universe of the shogun's court, whose calculating politics are as chilling as Edo's gray, decimated winter landscape. As Sano mournfully observes, when it comes to his colleagues who work in this system, "There's always someone who wants to knock the high chestnut out of the tree." It shouldn't be so much fun to watch the courtiers play their deadly games, but as anyone who's ever gone on a weekend-long Tudors binge knows, there are few things as delicious as a good old-fashioned power struggle—especially the costume-drama variety, involving sword battles and perfectly timed barbs exchanged by witty women pretending that they're just drinking tea.
September 22 was the Autumnal Equinox, when day and night will be the same length for one strange day, before we slip into that cozy-or-depressing-depending-on-your-perspective darkness of autumn and winter. Every year the equinox inspires a 50/50 night and day of mixed emotions, too. I mean, don't you just love fall, with all its appley-pumpkiny-leafy crispness and opportunities for sweaters? And then there's Halloween, basically the only holiday worth celebrating. And yet there's always that dark, cold, mucky winter-chaser to gulp down afterwards, about which most of us feel less enthusiastic. So what do you do on the equinox? It must be something slightly mysterious, I think, slightly odd, in touch with nature in some askew way. Like, maybe, silent dancing?
Allow me to explain: a friend of mine recently shared this video, AKA the most beautiful, strange, haunting "What I Did On My Summer Vacation" report in the whole land of Facebook. She explained that she was strolling along on a hot summer night in Lisbon when she came across these people silently dancing the tango outside a church. The result is a dreamy spectacle, captured in a hazy camera-phone movie that I've since watched approximately 80,000,000 times, wishing I were one of those dancers. Something about the silence and the darkness make them seem not like individuals but like a force of nature.
So why not dance silent tangos at midnight in the week after this equinox? You don't need a church, just any sacred-ish space will do -- a backyard, or a courtyard, or a roomy fire escape -- and the will to give yourself permission to dance to the moon even when there is no music. Or at least watch this video a few times, while contemplating the mysteries of the universe. Happy Equinox.
The Making of Oprah's Flash Mob
A Democracy of Dancing
Who knows why we all keep saying ridiculous things like "I'm too old for that," when this is proven to be nonsense again and again? For example, say you're past your 20s (or 30s) and looking to take up a new, non-old-ladyish hobby. "I always loved gymnastics as a kid," you might say to yourself, "but that's impossible now, so I guess I'll take up crocheting." If you're German athlete/grandma Joanna Quaas, however, you resume your former gymnastics habit, and by 86 you're winning a Guinness World Record for oldest gymnast alive. And the unofficial Life Lift blog award for awesomest gymnast alive. You absolutely must see the photos and videos of her performing -- in her granny-glasses and all (and, bonus, the video also features a female sumo wrestler):
Of her world record, Quaas told The Daily Mail,"I hope the record inspires others to realize it's never too late." She also explained that her exercise routine includes running up and down the stairs, yoga, and running. She is in much, much, much better shape than I have ever been or ever will be, but that's okay. She reminds us all that in a world more than ready to discourage a lady, or a senior citizen for that matter, we might as well encourage ourselves to try. Besides, I have a couple decades to attain my inner athletic greatness. And to find the perfect crushed-velvet leotard of my own.
The Lovetown, USA singles are off on a road trip, and while one couple finds love, things don't go exactly as planned for the others. Be sure to watch this rocky ride tonight at 10/9c on OWN.
Happy Friday everyone! Here are a few more things to be grateful for:
Ben Folds Five teams up with Fraggle Rock for one of the happiest music videos around
In an art installation in Melbourne, 10,000 books glow in the streets (and makes one beautiful walk in the city) [via Thrash Lab]
Happy 30th birthday emoticons! Here's a brief history of the icons :) [via ABC News]
"All that matters is what you leave on the page." Zadie Smith's 10 rules of writing [via Brian Pickings]
When a shocking secret tears a family apart, Iyanla steps in to bring them back together and learn how to forgive. Be sure to tune in to Iyanla: Fix My Life on Saturday, September 22, at 10/9c on OWN.
San Francisco Chronicle TV Critic David Wiegand asked several Emmy nominee what they do to calm their pre-award-show jitters, and their answers ranged the gamut, from drinking "buckets"-worth of alcohol to drinking "small children's pools"-worth of alcohol. Mood-altering substance aside, some of the actors had some great advice to share.
-Mayim Bialik, of "Blossom," whoops I mean, "Big Bang Theory," said, "Music soothes the savage beast," recommending Adele and The Decemberists.
-"New Girl" Zooey Deschanel reminded us quite sensibly that actors are used to being nervous, but conceded that she "would just drink a glass of water and take a deep breath."
-And finally, her fellow "New Girl" actor Max Greenfield dispensed some advice we could all do to follow, every day: "A case of presence. Yes. Not 'presents.' Presence. Yes, we want to bring ourselves into the present moment and say, 'Hey! Look at this. Look what's happening. Let's be grateful for this moment and take it all in.' You know what I mean?"
Mr. Greenfield, we do.
More relaxation tips -- and drink ideas! -- from the stars at SFGate.com.
Meditation for Beginners
Three Unexpected Ways to Relax
It's no secret that I love a good cry. Why else would I keep that darn copy of the bittersweet kid-growing-up-mist-maker Knuffle Bunny Free around? I can't even get near the end of that book without welling up, which my kids find exceedingly bizarre. And don't get me started on Toy Story 3, the consumate mom-mascara-melter. What is it about those stories? Kids grow up, they give up their toys. Those of us who have to wade through Lego minefields every day should rejoice at the promise of a teddy-bear-free living room, right?
But those toys, they are childhood. Every parent watches with wonder as toddlers go from chewing on their lovies to making them dance around and tell stories; as your kid bestows a particular personality on a stuffed monkey you start to play along, and soon you're as attached as the kid. Maybe this is why this YouTube viral video Ah-Ah's Back is such a tear-jerker: Here we have the story of a family living through the lovey nightmare -- their kindergartener's beloved monkey Ah-Ah, who went with him everywhere, was lost on a vacation. THREE YEARS LATER, the mom found the monkey inexplicably for sale on eBay, bought it, and realized it really was Ah-Ah himself. Here, the boy's reaction:
to have that beloved monkey back, but nicest of all must be the lesson of the mysterious ways the universe can work, the feeling this kid will now have, his whole childhood, his whole life, that anything is possible.
Class Ring Found After 33 Years
Good Samaritan Returns a Lost Purse