Wednesday, December 26, 2012


10. Robert Bunsen

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Born in 1811, Robert Bunsen is mostly notable now for the invention which carries his name, the famous Bunsen Burner (actually developed by his assistant, but that’s another story).  This feat, however, was not all Bunsen was remarkable for, thanks to a lesser known yet significantly more awesome aspect of his history: Robert Bunsen was sort of like science’s answer to Die Hard.
During 1840, Bunsen decided to begin working with compounds known as cacodyls, despite the knowledge that these cacodyls had a number of well-researched risks associated with them.  Namely, they’re highly explosive, extremely toxic (containing the poison arsenic), liable to combustion in dry air, and perhaps worst of all, the name “cacodyl” is derived from the Greek word for “evil-smelling”.  Unfazed and ready to swing some punches for science, Bunsen stepped bravely into the metaphoric ring…and promptly lost an eye to a (ridiculously predictable) cacodyl explosion.
A flesh wound like a seared-out eye was not enough to diminish Bunsen’s dedication, and he continued his studies undeterred, right up until he contracted arsenic poisoning.  He continued to experiment with cacodyls, braving the effects of arsenic poisoning, which include muscle cramps, severe diarrhea, partial paralysis and death – all of which he suffered in his life (at one point or another).  Eventually, after an impressive (and kind of baffling) six years of living with cacodyls, he did move on to safer work. Namely, taking gas samples from volcanoes and inside blast furnaces.

9. Francis Bacon

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One of the most influential and famous figures of the 16th century, Francis Bacon was a renowned scientist, politician, lawyer, philosopher, and…well, he apparently did just about everything.  Aside from single-handedly raising unemployment rates in England by doing everybody’s job, the deliciously-named Bacon pretty much pioneered the scientific method still in use today.  One of Bacon’s many contributions to science was the discovery that snow could be used to preserve meat: upon having this idea, Bacon decided that there was absolutely no time to lose and reportedly charged out headfirst into the snow to investigate, without bothering to dress appropriately or return to warmth within a reasonable time frame despite the freezing temperature.  He contracted and eventually died from pneumonia, but at least the turkey he stuffed with snow was preserved.

8. John Stapp

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Back in the 1940’s (as recently as 1945), it was believed that the number of g-forces required to kill a man was 18 g.  John Stapp decided to challenge this belief, and did it in the same way any rational man of science would: he strapped himself to a rocket and subjected his own damn body to it.
He performed many variations of these experiments into deceleration throughout his career, suffering a whole host of different injuries including broken limbs, ribs, detached retina, and various other traumas which eventually resulted in lifelong lingering vision problems caused by permanently burst blood vessels in his eyes.  You’d think this might cause him to at least tone down the experiments a little, but you would be wrong; a man in a rocket is difficult to slow down.  In one of his final experiments, he subjected himself to an astonishing 46.2 times the force of gravity.

7. Santorio Santorio

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Santorio was an Italian profession and colleague of Galileo, who just happened to be curiously obsessed by the workings of the human body.  So obsessed that he elected, for 30 years (from 1590 to 1620) to spend most of his time living in a tiny room suspended by giant scales.  He also weighed everything coming into his body… as well as everything leaving it, in what has to be one of the less-pleasant bizarre experiments on this list.  His “experiment” is widely celebrated for its empirical methodology (measuring everything and ensuring all findings were accurate), and originated the study of human metabolism.

6. Lazzaro Spallanzani

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Another Italian with an obsession with digestion, Lazzaro regularly swallowed sponges on strings, pulling them back out once they had absorbed his stomach fluids.  Clearly this wasn’t already unusual enough, as he proceeded to add various kinds of food to these sponges and even hold them under his arms (reportedly taking them to such events as church services with him) in order to observe digestion in action.  His research led to the basis of our modern understanding of digestion.
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5. John Scott Haldane and John B. S. Haldane

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A British physiologist with an admirable amount of dedication to make up for his apparent lack of self-preservation instinct, John Scott Haldane was widely known for his expert knowledge of the respiratory system, along with his “intrepid self-experimenting” – namely, sealing himself within an airtight chamber and subjecting himself to lethal cocktails of gases while recording their effects on his mind and body.  His son, John B.S. Haldane, followed in his father’s footsteps, depriving himself of oxygen long enough to trigger a damaging fit and inflicting upon himself perforated eardrums.  John Scott’s experiments lead to a vast array of discoveries relating to the workings of the human body, the natures of gasses and the (often unpleasant) intersection between the two.
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4. Werner Forssmann

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Forssmann had theorized that certain drugs could be delivered more effectively into the bloodstream if they were administered directly into the heart; this was the basic principle behind what would become his revolutionary procedure, cardiac catheterisation.  In order to test this procedure, he enlisted a nurse to help him, who agreed on the condition that he would perform the operation on her, instead of himself.
So he secured her on the operating table…and then went ahead and performed the operation on himself anyway, presumably screaming, “it’s too dangerous!”  While under the influence of local aesthetic he went ahead and threaded a uretic catheter into his vein, and then straight into his heart.  Remember that next time you’re complaining about an injection.
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3. Dr. Barry Marshall

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Along with his partner, Dr. Robin Warren, Marshall was studying the bacteria H. Pylori when he became convinced of a connection between the bacteria and afflictions such as peptic ulcers and gastric cancer.  Faced with ridicule from established scientists and doctors, it stands to reason that Marshall would respond by doing the least ridiculous thing he could think of.  But his actual response was to scull an entire Petri dish filled with bacteria.
After three days he developed nausea and halitosis, after five he had progressed to vomiting, and by the eighth day he had demonstrated that his own body had become a living bacteria farm, significantly advancing contemporary medical knowledge and proving his opponents wrong in the craziest and most awesome way possible.
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2. Pierre and Marie Curie

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A French husband/wife duo with a keen interest in radiation, Pierre and Marie Curie literally defined the term “radioactivity”.  In an effort to test how this strange activity – which they suspected could be harmful to humans – affected skin, the pair settled on a method for investigating.  Pierre strapped raw radium to his bare arm, spitting in the eyes of such concepts as safety or healthy caution.  After several days, his arm became red and inflamed; the longer it stayed on, the more painful and grievous the wounds became.  This apparently just made the pair angry, as they continued experimenting for several months, eventually gaining great knowledge of radiation burn, along with “various changes in our hands during researches”.
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1. Stubbins Ffirth

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In an effort to prove that Yellow Fever isn’t contagious (note: it is), Ffirth transcended the boundaries of hygiene, common decency, and sanity itself.  He made incisions in his arms and then filled them with vomit from Yellow Fever patients, or just poured it directly onto his eyeballs.  He then moved onto blood, saliva and urine, just in case anybody wasn’t already disgusted enough.  In the end, his work was all for nothing – the samples he had obtained had come from patients who were past the point of being contagious, which we imagine would be pretty devastating to discover after spending months swallowing vomit.
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10. Mick Hucknall

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The lead singer of Simply Red is the poster boy for curly red hair. He used to wear it longer and sometimes tied it back. It’s shorter now but the striking color is still there. It never did him any harm and the band enjoyed numerous hit records, such as ‘Money’s Too Tight to Mention’, ‘Holding Back the Years’, ‘If You Don’t Know Me By Now’, and ‘Fairground’. Hucknall has said that he considers name-calling people with ginger hair to be racism.

9. Brian May

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The lead guitarist was largely responsible for Queen‘s distinctive sound. He also wrote some of the well known Queen songs. May’s unusual resume also includes his contribution to the study of astrophysics. He has said that comments on his hair ‘irritate’ him. Hair fashions will come and go but May is comfortable with his long perm, which hasn’t changed since Queen’s early days.

8. Diana Ross

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The singing diva has had a remarkable and long career, as lead vocalist with the Tamla Motown group, The Supremes and as a solo artist. She also ventured into movies, receiving critical acclaim for her portrayal of Billie Holiday in ‘Lady Sings the Blues‘. There are tips on the internet on how to achieve the big hair, so associated with her. You can even buy a ‘Diana Ross Wig’. It would seem that the hair is getting bigger and bigger and doorways may have to be widened to accommodate it.

7. Amy Winehouse

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The singer and songwriter receives as much attention for her eating disorders, alcohol and drug addiction problems, as she does for her jazz infused R&B records. Her 2006 album, ‘Back to Black’ won five Grammy Awards, a record win for a British artist. Her singing style is much admired on tracks, such as ‘Rehab’ and ‘You Know I’m No Good’. She is almost always to be seen, sporting her beehive, and fashion commentators predict a resurgence of the style amongst the general public.

6. Conan O’Brien

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O’Brien has worn many hats over the years but is best known for his hosting of the ‘Late Night with Conan O’Brien‘ talk show. He has been announced as the replacement for ‘The Tonight Show’ from June 2009, following Jay Leno’s departure. O’Brien’s talents also include comedy writing, stand-up routines and producing. The familiar hairstyle is a combination of a ‘pompadour’ and a kind of comb over.


5. Donald Trump

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Famous for his buildings in Manhattan and around the world, the business tycoon and real estate developer bounced back from financial problems in the 1990s. His companies run casinos and hotels and he is constantly looking to expand his empire. His attempt to build a golf resort in a beautiful part of Scotland has proved controversial with local people and environmental organizations. There were photographs of him in the British newspapers of his visit to Scotland, which depicted his comb over hair battling with the gale that was blowing. This seemed to counter the theory that it’s a toupee. There have been suggestions that the hair is the result of a bad hair transplant.

4. Jennifer Aniston

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The former ‘Friends’ star has made a successful film career in comedic and dramatic roles, as in ‘Picture Perfect’, ‘Along Came Polly’, ‘The Good Girl’ and ‘Marley & Me’. When she played Rachel Green, her layered and stylish hair became known as ‘The Rachel’. Women all over the globe walked into their local hair salon and demanded ‘The Rachel’. Aniston has gone through many different hairstyles since but that is the one that sticks in people’s minds. She became a bit annoyed that there were more column inches given to this phenomenon than to her acting roles.

3. Shirley Temple

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The child actress sang and tap-danced her way through the 1930s, following her breakthrough appearance in ‘Bright Eyes’ when she was six years of age. Other movies included ‘The Little Colonel‘ and ‘Wee Willie Winkie’. She starred alongside the top Hollywood performers of the day. Temple went to dancing classes when she was aged three and was destined for the limelight. Her cutesy blonde curls framed a pretty face, melting the hearts of an audience struggling with the Depression. It was someone’s job on the set to make sure her 56 ringlets were in pristine condition for each scene. Later, Temple left Hollywood behind to become a US Ambassador.

2. Don King

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Instantly recognizable with his teased up hair, Don King is usually grinning. He is the most famous boxing promoter in the world and was responsible for historic fights, including the ‘Rumble in the Jungle’ (George Foreman v Muhammad Ali) and the ‘Thrilla in Manila’ (Muhammad Ali v Joe Frazier). He has also promoted Larry Holmes, Mike Tyson, and Evander Holyfield. His personal life and career has been controversial with a prison sentence, lawsuits and various investigations into his affairs. He has said, when asked in interviews, that his hair is the result of hair spray and combing.

1. Carmen Miranda

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The ‘Brazilian Bombshell’, as she was known, brought color and gaiety to the 1940s and 1950s with her tropical fruit headdresses. Ok, this isn’t hair but her regular adornment defined a certain kind of Broadway and Tinseltown glamor. She popularized the Samba and flamboyant costumes in films, such as ‘That Night in Rio’, ‘Week-end in Havana’, and ‘The Gang’s All Here’. Carmen Miranda Square in Hollywood pays tribute to her.


10. Elsa Schiaparelli

This Italian designer was known for her love of surrealistic art and she used this influence to great effect in her offbeat, irreverent designs. She is also known as the inventor of a bright pink shade known as “shocking pink”.
Born in Rome in 1890 to an aristocratic mother and an intellectual father, Schiaparelli soon rebelled against the conventional life of the upper classes. Her desire for exploration and experimentation landed her in hot water as a teen, when she published a book of poems with decidedly sensual overtones. Her work deeply offended her parents, who punished her by placing her in a convent. Schiaparelli was so determined to escape from the nunnery that she initiated a hunger strike which resulted in her release. By her early twenties she had fled to London, where she could live under less scrutiny. Later, during a foray in New York, she joined with artist friends and they all made their way to Paris…
In the City of Light, during the years from 1927 to 1940, Schiaparelli’s reputation for daring designs grew steadily. Soon, Parisians developed a passion for her unusual dresses, sweaters, and accessories. Her signature style always encompassed some whimsical elements, such as lobster motifs or skeleton ribs and bones (made with trapunto quilting); however, the construction of the garments themselves was often quite strict and tailored…this dichotomy made for original pieces that were often “knocked off” by other designers.
In fact, Schiaparelli’s designs were often all too simple to copy, unlike the work of her chief rival, Coco Chanel. After World War II, Schiaparelli, who had lived in New York during the war, returned to Paris and found a different sensibility among its people. The post-war desire for simplicity and practicality made the unique embellishments of her designs less popular, and the endless knock-offs also cut into her profits.
Schiaparelli’s fashion house closed its doors in 1964, but her achievements continue to inspire and amaze. In every sense, she was a pioneer, and her friendships with artists, such as Surrealist Salvador Dali and Modernist Man Ray, gave her work an unforgettable edge.

9. Christian Dior

Born in January of 1905, this French designer was best known for his distinctive “New Look” silhouette. First shown in 1947; his suits and dresses revolutionized the way women dressed after the Second World War.
A designer with a notorious past, Christian Dior was also known for being in cahoots with the enemy during WWII, when he dressed Nazi wives and French collaborators in his designs. Despite this questionable choice, he still rose to prominence during the late-forties when the war was over…primarily due to his unparalleled mastery of line and shape. He gave women a desirable “flower silhouette” which always featured a nipped-in waist, a full, voluminous skirt, and a feminine, corseted bodice. Often, the hips of his suits and dresses were padded to balance the bust line and accentuate the wasp-waisted effect.
Dior died in 1957 under mysterious circumstances. It was rumored that he succumbed to a heart attack during a sexual encounter; others have reported that choking on a fish bone spurred his cardiac arrest.
Today, gifted designer John Galliano carries on the legendary designer’s legacy in Paris, where he creates dramatic couture ball gowns, chic prêt-a-porter, and luxurious accessories for Dior. Galliano’s talent and his over-the-top runway shows have ensured that the brand remains strong and viable in today’s world…

8. Roy Halston Frowick

Roy Halston Frowick, better known as Halston, was an Iowa native who was born in 1932. His most famous designs were fluid, silky, and sexy – they became a symbol of 1970’s disco culture, with all of its freedom and decadence.
His interest in sewing and fashion started at an early age; as a young boy, he tailored clothes and created hats for his mother and sisters to wear. After graduating from high school, Frowick went to University in Indiana, but he lasted only one semester. Dropping out of University led him to a more creative life: he took night school courses at an art institute in Chicago and began to work as a window-dresser.
The hats Roy Frowick created in his spare time became his entrée into the world of high fashion. After garnering some publicity for his designs in a Chicago newspaper, he was able to open his first boutique in 1957. Around this time, he dropped his first and last names, opting for a more glamorous moniker that has became synonymous with American glamour…Halston.
Moving to the Big Apple was the next stage in the rapid career ascent of Halston; a stint working as a co-designer with lauded milliner Lilly Dache led to a gig at tony Bergdorf Goodman, where he became the house designer of fashionable hats.
Halston’s association with Jackie Kennedy was a crucial factor in his rising fame; she generally eschewed hats until she became charmed by Halston’s distinctive pillbox styles during the Sixties. She wore one of his designs to the Presidential Inauguration in 1961; she was also wearing a pillbox hat (in pink) on the day her husband, John F. Kennedy, was assassinated.
In the Seventies, Halston befriended (and dressed) members of the international jet set, including Bianca Jagger, Liza Minnelli, and Liz Taylor. Dressed in his trademark black turtleneck, he could often be found partying at Studio 54 and enjoying his success with a host of celebrity friends. Licensing deals made him very wealthy, but tragedy lay in the distance…drug addiction and an AIDS diagnosis in 1988 led to his downfall. Unable to cope with the demands of his career, he was fired from his own company…Halston died of AIDS-related complications in 1990.

7. Calvin Klein

Like Halston, Calvin Klein epitomized disco glamour in the freewheeling late Seventies. His tight designer jeans, which clung to the sleek bodies of the greatest beauties of the day, including the young Brooke Shields, cemented his fame and made him millions of dollars. However, Calvin Klein’s reign continued well into the 80’s and 90’s – his spare, stripped-down designs offered a minimalist perspective that carried a very modern message. The use of sexuality in his ads was often a keystone of his success; his campaigns were designed to send overt messages and perhaps to shock. Today, his empire is still strong, despite some turbulence in the late nineties: his suits, dresses, and couture still offer a unique viewpoint.
Born in 1942 in New York, Klein also capitalized on his own charisma and lean good looks. Throughout the decades, rumors about his own sexual orientation seemed to fuel the ongoing mystique and appeal of this designer. His biggest business rival, Ralph Lauren, was believed to envy Klein’s ability to charm so effortlessly, and to “work a room”.
Klein received his education at the renowned Fashion Institute of Technology in NYC. His Calvin Klein underwear line, as well as his array of successful perfumes, helped him to build his empire. His ability to choose the sexiest, hippest stars for his ad campaigns also revealed his tremendous savvy and perceptiveness: celebs such as musician/actor Mark Wahlberg and supermodel Kate Moss also benefited from his uncanny ability to read the zeitgeist.

6. Ralph Lauren

Born Ralph Lifshitz in 1939, this Bronx native changed his last name as a young man, due to years of cruel teasing from schoolmates. “It has shit in it”, he was known to remark, when he was questioned about his birth name and why he changed it.
Growing up, Lauren was encouraged by his mother to become a rabbi, but he chose a much different course. Influenced by the easy, preppy elegance of the country club set, as well as the glamour of old Hollywood, he chose to emulate the work of Brooks Brothers and other WASP-y retailers, creating a look that seemed to embody easy American elegance. His interest in luxury, refinement and a certain “taste level” put a different spin on the staid classics of the past.
Lauren first gained acclaim with his wide ties, which were often made of unusual fabrics. These standout accessories were not yet trendy in the late Sixties, when he began to try and sell them to New York stores. Soon, word spread about Lauren’s somewhat dandyish personal style and his flashy neckwear; he used this success to find investors and then he branched out into men’s and ladies suits and casual wear. Eventually, his clothing lines were sold at high-end stores such as Saks Fifth Avenue, where they became extremely popular.
In time, he opened his own stores, which mimicked elite mansions. Careful staging and set design made his shops unforgettable, but their construction, décor and maintenance were so expensive that they often made it difficult to turn a profit.
In the 80’s, Ralph Lauren really became a force to be reckoned with, as his signature polo shirts for men, with their ubiquitous polo pony and rider, became coveted items for many different demographics. Available in every color of the rainbow, they lined his coffers and allowed him to put more money into his glamorous women’s wear lines; he especially enjoyed producing couture pieces and overseeing glossy runway shows.
Ralph Lauren is known for his desire to control every facet of his company’s image: some of his ex-employees tell tales of a control freak with a quick temper and little patience for mistakes. In fact, the whole Lauren saga, with its many reversals of fortune and huge comebacks, was recorded with biting accuracy in the nasty, unauthorized tell-all book, Genuine Authentic.
Today, his basic polo shirts and khaki pants continue to remain the base of his empire, along with fragrances like Lauren (for women) and Polo, his famous men’s cologne.

5. Gianni Versace

Flamboyant and so very Italian, Gianni Versace was born in December of 1946 in Reggio di Calabria, Italy. Gianni’s mother owned a tiny tailoring shop, and she supported her children through her sewing. The young Versace watched and learned as a boy, adopting techniques that he would put to exemplary use later on.
After years spent helping his mother embroider and tailor garments, he decided to study architecture; by the time he was 26, he changed directions again…he knew that fashion would be his life’s work. Versace moved to Milan to pursue his dreams…
Talented and charismatic, he soon drew the attention of VIP’s in the fashion world; they appreciated his chic knitwear and his creativity. Always influenced by art, Gianni Versace drew inspiration from ancient Roman and Greek paintings and sculpture, as well as modern abstracts and Pop Art – producing bold, current designs using color, prints, and careful fitting that accentuated the lines of the body,
A steady ascent through the ranks of the fashion world led to Versace’s creative independence, by the mid-Seventies he was producing lines under his own name. He began with women’s wear, but soon starting designing for men as well.
Versace was a homosexual and lived openly as a gay man; he found true love in 1982, when he met his life partner, an Italian model named Antonio D’Amico. They remained together until Versace’s shocking death in 1997.
This man, who was known for being kind, generous, and a doting uncle, succumbed to a gunshot wound inflicted by bitter social climber Andrew Cunanan, who killed himself just a few days afterward. Versace was only 50 years old when he died.
It is a sad fact that the lurid details of Versace’s murder sometimes overshadow the vast achievements of the designer, whose over-the-top, glamorous pieces gave the supermodels of the 80’s even more power and sex appeal.

4. Valentino Garavani

Valentino Garavani, better known as Valentino, was born in northern Italy in 1932. From childhood, he was interested in fashion, and he pursued apprenticeships and training from family and local designers. By his late teens, he was ready for Paris. His parents helped him to move there, and when he arrived, he began to study art and design in preparation for his chosen career.
Stints with notable fashion houses, such as Fath and Balenciaga, led him to connect with celebrities who recognized the originality and genius of his sketches. After five years with a luxe dressmaker in Paris, he was fired under a cloud of controversy; reputedly, he spent too long holidaying in Saint Tropez and was let go.
This development led to a more independent life for Valentino, who began to produce his own designs under his own name. In 1959, he returned to Italy and opened his first shop on Rome’s Via Veneto. His trademark scarlet dresses became his signature designs; women enjoyed the drama and femininity of his gowns.
In the 60’s, Valentino made a decision that would enhance his reputation; he sent Jacqueline Kennedy, the American First Lady and fashion icon, a series of his pieces to look over. She was enchanted with his designs, and even chose to wear one of his dresses when she married her second husband, Greek shipping tycoon Aristotle Onassis: her influence led to greater fame and fortune in North America.
Valentino is known for his flamboyant lifestyle and his love of luxury and beauty. He lives with his lover of 50 years in a series of lush villas throughout the world. His jet-set lifestyle and extensive collection of priceless art are not the only rewards he has received for his talents: France’s President Chirac also awarded him the Legion d’Honneur in 2006.

3. Giorgio Armani

Another Italian designer with a unique vision, Giorgio Armani was born in 1936 in Piacenza, Italy. During his early years, he dabbled in different careers, including photography and medicine. Like Halston, a stint as a window dresser at a department store opened up new horizons…
After working for renowned fashion house Nino Cerruti, he branched out on his own, delivering his first women’s wear collection in 1974. Armani’s designs were always influenced by menswear, and his immaculate tailoring and cutting gave his pieces a timeless air. He is famous for his deconstructed jackets, which feature a softer shoulder and a longer line.
Today, A-list stars such as Michelle Pfeiffer and Jodie Foster often opt for his evening suits and gowns when they walk the red carpet. Armani delivers elegance that is never overtly sexual or brash. For today’s power brokers and celebrities, owning Armani suits and separates is a status symbol – his clothes always send a message of quiet confidence.
Armani’s impact grew stronger after Richard Gere donned his designs during the filming of American Gigolo in 1980. Gere’s smoldering good looks and perfect proportions were the ideal complement to Armani’s clean, elegant pieces.
This Italian superstar’s career has not been without its ups and downs. Armani is known for being quite difficult and temperamental, and he is believed to have disliked one of his chief fashions rival in Italy, the late Gianni Versace. In 1996, he pleaded guilty to charges of corruption – he was convicted of bribing tax officials.

2. Yves Saint Laurent

Born in Algeria in 1936, Yves Henri Donat Mathieu Saint Laurent’s gifts were apparent from a young age. After winning third prize in an important contest held by the International Wool Secretariat, he made his way to Paris and met with French Vogue’s editor, who was very impressed with the innate talent of Yves Saint Laurent.
Shortly thereafter, he began to work closely with Christian Dior, who was nearing the end of his life. Dior recognized the skill and creativity of his young protégé, and he chose him as his successor. When Dior died of a heart attack, Saint Laurent found himself holding the reins of one of France’s most venerable fashion houses: he was only 21 years of age.
Known for his stunning couture designs and his sophisticated women’s tuxedo jackets (known as le smoking), Saint Laurent was destined to carve out his own identity, but his career was not without its challenges. After a poorly received collection at Dior, which featured hobble skirts and other unusual designs, he was sent into mandatory military service. The stress of being in the army (although he lasted only 20 days) took a tremendous toll on the sensitive designer. He suffered from teasing and hazing by his fellow soldiers, and he soon plunged into a nervous breakdown; he was sent to a mental hospital for treatment.
During his short military service, the House of Dior fired him. A series of harsh treatments (including powerful drugs and electroshock therapy) at France’s Val-de-Grace Mental Hospital were thought to be the trigger for Saint Laurent’s later drug addictions and ongoing emotional issues.
He rebounded in the 60’s and 70’s, designing his own line and stunning Paris and the entire fashion world with his own brand of French elegance. However, the stress of his work led him to abuse booze and drugs; in time, the fragile designer’s health became precarious. By 1987, he was unable to fulfill his responsibilities, and allowed others to design his prêt-a-porter line.
In 2008, after living a life of a hermit for several years, Yves Saint Laurent succumbed to brain cancer and died.

1. Coco Chanel

Born in August of 1883, Gabrielle Chanel was a French native who was destined to liberate women from the constraints of corsets and other uncomfortable garments. A true rebel and visionary, Chanel, who changed her name to Coco after a brief career as a singer, preferred to wear clothes she could move freely in; often, her style were imbued with a mannish aesthetic. Indeed, Coco Chanel, who designed her first cardigan to avoid pulling any garment over her head, was really the originator of modern women’s sportswear. Her desire for freedom and self-expression gave women style without sacrifice…
Her childhood was not easy; her mother died young, when Gabrielle was just six years old, and in time, the young girl was sent to live in an orphanage…the nuns who cared for her also taught her the rudiments of sewing.
Intelligent and pragmatic, Chanel used her powers of seduction to gain a foothold in the competitive fashion world; in succession, she became the mistress of two powerful and wealthy men. Both of her lovers were quite happy to use their money and influence to give her a start in business. From a beginning as a milliner, she rose to prominence in 1920, when her signature fragrance, the incredibly iconic Chanel No. 5, was launched.
The first true “Chanel suit” was produced in 1925; Coco used chains to weigh down the fabric, so that it hung “just so”. She favored ornamentation such as ribbons, pretty buttons, and ropes of pearls. Her feminine touches added style and impact to her wearable designs; in fact, even vintage Chanel designs remain remarkably timeless and easy to wear.
Chanel led a long and fascinating life, which included some darker episodes, such as an affair with a Nazi officer during World War II. He used his influence to ensure that she could continue to live in comfort at the Hotel Ritz during the conflict. Many wondered why Chanel was not charged for collaborating when the war ended – it is believed (and very likely true) that friends in high places protected her from retribution. Coco Chanel died in Paris, at the Ritz, in 1971.


10. California and the Midwest “Airship” Sightings, 1896-97

Not many people know that seeing unidentified lights in the sky goes back over a century, when the first UFO “flap” (a grouping of UFO sightings made over a specific area within a few months) occurred over a hundred years ago in the waning years of the nineteenth century. It all began when a mysterious unidentified light was observed by hundreds of people moving slowly over Sacramento, California in November, 1896, apparently moving against the wind at a leisurely thirty miles an hour. It was seen again a week later, this time over San Francisco; by the end of the year hundreds of reports of the thing were coming in from all over the Pacific coast, creating a media frenzy. After a two-month absence during the winter of 1896-97, the mysterious object—described by some witnesses as being suspended beneath a dark, cigar-shaped craft—reappeared over the Midwest, where it was reportedly seen from Nebraska to Michigan and from Minnesota to Texas before abruptly disappearing for good in April of 1897. Though generally dismissed by modern skeptics as an example of media-driven mass hysteria (perhaps helped along by sightings of the planet Venus), the sheer number of reports—several thousand by some estimates—makes it unlikely it was nothing more than the press having a good laugh. Some have even suggested the intriguing possibility it may have been an early airship making its appearance years before the Wright Brother’s plane ever flew—making it more terrestrial than extraterrestrial in nature (and evidence of a nascent technology emerging years before it was supposed to). In any case, “the great airship of 1897”—or whatever it was—remains as much a mystery today as it did in our great, great grandparent’s day.

9. Washington, DC Sightings, 1952

In 1952 Washington, D.C. was all abuzz when ground controllers at Washington National Airport (now Reagan International Airport) spotted multiple targets on their radars as well as observed glowing orbs of light on the horizon, prompting the Air Force to launch fighters in a futile attempt to close with the objects. The incident, which took place on two consecutive weekends between July 13 and July 29, 1952, even got the President’s attention and had almost immediate repercussions. Deciding that the best defense was a strong offense, the government implemented something called the Robertson Panel. The Robertson Panel was a committee of prominent scientists appointed to spend two days examining the “best” UFO cases collected by Project Blue Book (an eighteen-year-long Air Force study that was to look into more than 12,000 UFO reports before it was discontinued in 1969). They promptly concluded that the Air Force and Project Blue Book needed to spend less time analyzing and studying UFO reports and more time publicly debunking them. Unfortunately, this decision to debunk rather than investigate has haunted the government ever since and remains the chief reason “official” government explanations generally fall upon deaf ears to this day.

8. Phoenix Lights, 1997

Probably one of the more famous recent incidents due to the large number of witnesses involved (including, apparently, the Governor of the state), the citizens of Arizona watched as a series of lights—along with a very large triangular shaped saucer—were seen hovering silently in the skies over their fair state for nearly three hours on the evening of March 13, 1997. Some of the lights were later explained away as flared dropped by A-10 Warthogs on training exercises southwest of the city, though what the big triangular ship might have been remains unexplained (some skeptics have suggested aircraft flying in formation). Whatever they were, however, they did not make a return appearance, leaving the people of Phoenix and the world scratching their collective heads and creating a media-driven phenomenon that remains fiercely debated to this day.

7. Kecksburg, Pennsylvania UFO Crash, 1965

On December 9, 1965, a large, brilliant fireball was seen by thousands in at least six states and Ontario, Canada as it streaked through the night sky, eventually coming down somewhere near the small Pennsylvania town of Kecksburg. Assumed at the time to be an especially large fireball (a meteor of unusual brightness), residents were concerned when the army quickly converged on the area and were seen to haul away some kind of bell shaped craft from the woods, again fueling speculation that the government was up to its old tricks again. Some later speculated it was a crashed Soviet satellite, though this remains hotly disputed by ufologists to this day. However, it should be noted that recovering a Soviet satellite during the height of the Cold War would explain the reason for the heavy-handed army presence and the secrecy; of course, so would a crashed Venusian saucer, so the debate continues.

6. Mantell Incident, 1948

In what might be the first fatality directly attributed to an unidentified flying object, Air National Guard pilot Captain Thomas F. Mantell crashed his P-51 fighter while in pursuit of an unusual object in the skies over Kentucky on January 7, 1948. Flying without oxygen at high altitude in pursuit of a “silver disk shaped” craft, he apparently blacked out when he tried to get closer to whatever the thing was, with tragic consequences. Later investigation suggests that what Captain Mantell may have been chasing was actually a large Skyhook weather balloon, which can take on a disk-like appearance when seen from below and has a highly reflective silvery surface to boot. If that’s the case, then Mantell was a victim of his own zeal and disregard for Air Force procedures in flying above his safe maximum altitude, demonstrating that presumption may be more dangerous than extraterrestrials. The incident did manage to change the public perceptions of UFOs, however, leading some people to see the alien visitors as potentially dangerous rather than the fun-loving little green men they had been assumed to be up to then.

5. Barney and Betty Hill Abduction, 1961

In the first of the abduction incidents (but definitely not the last) on the evening of September 19, 1961, Betty and Barney Hill spotted what they believed was a UFO while they drove down a lonely stretch of road near Groveton, New Hampshire. Though they couldn’t consciously recall what happened after that (and were missing several hours, for which they couldn’t account) for weeks afterwards they each complained of having frightening dreams about being prodded and poked by “grey aliens” as part of some sort of bizarre medical examination before being released. The nightmares became so acute they eventually sought help and were eventually hypnotized and interviewed by a Doctor Benjamin Simon of Boston, who concluded the couple may have been significantly influenced by a television episode featuring humanoid aliens they saw a few weeks before their “encounter” and were innocently fantasizing the event, though he also admitted that did not satisfactorily explain every aspect of their case. Whether the victims of an overactive imagination (the couple were noted for their eccentricities) or genuine abductees, the case remains a source of considerable debate to this day, and probably laid the groundwork for the more spectacular Travis Walton and Pascagoula, Mississippi abduction cases in the 1970’s.

4. JAL Flight 1628, 1986

On November 16, 1986 a UFO described as being “three times larger than an aircraft carrier” flew alongside Japan Air Lines Flight 1628 for 50 minutes as it flew over northeastern Alaska, with the objects even being intermittently picked up by both civilian and military ground radar. What makes this incident so impressive was the amount of time the object was seen, the credibility and sheer number of witnesses (the crew and all the passengers) and the fact that it was also picked up on radar, instantly rendering it one of the most impressive UFO sightings on record and one that remains inexplicable to this day. What’s even more remarkable is that it is one of the few cases in which the crew of a civilian airliner was willing to discuss the incident in public, making it even more extraordinary.

3. (Tie) Tehran, Iran Incident, 1976

Up until 1976, the complaint had always been that UFOs seemed remarkably resistant to being spotted on radar (though not always) implying that they were more imaginary than extraterrestrial. That all changed when in the predawn hours of September 19, 1976, Iranian jet fighters (this was before the Islamic Revolution when the U.S. and Iran were close allies) were sent to chase after a wildly maneuvering UFO in the skies over Tehran after several radar stations picked the thing up. Even more impressive, the craft effected the jet’s systems directly whenever they drew too close, rendering their electronics equipment inoperable and, in one case, even causing one jet’s weapons system to fail completely as it closed to fire. The incident is regarded as one of the premier UFO encounters ever recorded, not only due to the quality and preponderance of evidence (the craft may have even been picked up by the military satellite DSP-1) but because of the direct impact it had on the instrumentation and radars of several different aircraft involved in the pursuit. Skeptic’s charges that the pilots were simply in hot pursuit of an especially bright planet Jupiter was met more with laughter than anything else.

3. (Tie) Belgium Incident, 1990

In an incident remarkably similar to the Tehran case in 1976, NATO jets were again scrambled on the evening of March 30, 1990 to pursue a series of dark, triangular-shaped UFOs over the Belgian countryside. What was especially impressive about this sighting were the speeds and capabilities of the craft, which appeared capable of making maneuvers that would have killed a human pilot. Also like the Tehran incident, not only were the craft seen by numerous ground witnesses, but they were also picked up by ground controllers and the aircraft’s onboard weapons radars and even photographed, making it hands down the best documented UFO sighting on record.

2. Kenneth Arnold’s Mount Rainier, Washington Sighting, 1947

In what is considered the true start of the modern UFO era, Seattle pilot and businessman Kevin Arnold spotted a number of “undulating” shapes flying over Mount Rainier one afternoon in May, 1947, moving at speeds many times faster that the best aircraft of the day could achieve. Somehow he got the media’s attention after he landed and, upon declaring that the objects seemed to “skip like saucers across a pond”, the term “flying saucer” was born, thus starting a new chapter in the world of aerial phenomena. Skeptics today continue to challenge Arnold’s assessment of the craft’s actual speed and distance or claim they were merely light reflections off his own cockpit window, but it can’t be denied that whatever it was Mr. Arnold saw that day, his curious encounter in the skies over the Pacific Northwest had a greater effect on our culture than even he could have imagined.

1. Roswell, New Mexico Crash and Recovery, 1947

No single incident did more to put allegedly crashed saucers and little green men into the public consciousness than what took place in July of 1947 some fifty miles north of the New Mexico city of Roswell when an unassuming farmer named Matt Brazell discovered a debris field strewn with tiny metallic strips and wooden sticks near his farm. Having heard about “flying disks” in the papers (the Arnold sighting having made national headlines two months earlier), Matt wondered if he hadn’t stumbled across his very own crashed flying saucer and immediately contacted local military authorities. Curiously, at first they agreed with the farmer’s assessment and declared that a “crashed disk” had been recovered, only to recant hours later and claim the debris was part of a crashed weather balloon all along. That seemed to put an end the story and it was quickly relegated to the dustbin of UFO folklore until the late seventies when the Army Air Force intelligence officer who had been sent to pick the stuff up (which he stuffed into the trunk of his car)—one Jesse Marcel—claimed the material he recovered was extraterrestrial after all, creating a conspiracy theory of epic proportions that refuses to die to this day. So ingrained in the popular culture did the Roswell “crash” eventually become, that even when the Air Force came clean in 1995 by declassifying its up-to-then top secret Mogul project and admitting they had made the whole crash disk part up in an attempt to divert attention from Mogul’s true mission (high altitude balloons carrying long arrays of instruments designed to detect evidence of Soviet atomic blasts in the upper atmosphere), most ufologists refused to accept it. Since then, the story has diverged from its original account of a single debris field into stories of multiple crashes, loads of dead aliens, and charges that the technology recovered from it and a half dozen other crashes since (apparently UFOs crash with some regularity) is behind most of the great technological advances of the last fifty years. It also turned the formerly sleepy little enclave of Roswell into a Mecca for UFO buffs and created a cottage industry that will probably stand longer than the Roman Empire did.







Tuesday, December 25, 2012



10. Her Secret Is Patience (2009), by Janet Echelman

her-secret-is-patience
First up is the most recent sculpture on the list. Echelman’s works are made from galvanized steel and polyester twine netting. This one, the title of which derives from a quote by Ralph Waldo Emerson,  is suspended above Civic Space Park at Arizona State University and moves with the wind, a process Echelman deems “wind choreography,” which simulates a cumulus cloud. At night, it is lit with colored lights, giving it the air of a giant jellyfish or a terrestrial version of the aurora borealis. For more on Echelman’s vision, view her TED Talk.

9. Metalmorphosis (2007), by David Cerny

metalmorphosis
Cerny is a Czech sculptor who specializes in big heads and controversy. His TowerBabies is a work installed on the 709-feet tall Zizkov Television Tower in Prague. As the name implies, it’s a series of cast bronze infants climbing the main tower. Another sculpture in Prague features two nude men facing each other, peeing. It’s a fountain, naturally. But Metalmorphosis, at Charlotte’s Whitehall Technology Park, is something else entirely, a fountain made of multiple slices of reflective stainless steel plates that rotate independently. When they align, the plates form a man’s head that is 30 feet tall. The layers move in different directions, forming patterns that become familiar upon repeated viewings. Want to see it in action? Check it out on YouTube. You can just picture the local kids hanging out and getting high watching this thing.

8. Watts Towers, aka Nuestro Pueblo (1921–1954), by Simon Rodia

nuestro-pueblo
From a distance, these giant folk art structures look like steampunk Christmas trees. All together there are 17 structures, and two of them are 99 feet tall. Essentially, the towers are made of found objects—the detritus of urban life, such as bed frames, bottles, and steel pipes. They spiral into the sky, a lacey exoskeleton that is at once futuristic and medieval. Rodia wrapped some of the towers with wire mesh and coated them with mortar, embedding in them little bits of ceramic, sea shells, soda bottles, and especially broken pottery from the factories nearby. It’s a bit like a DIY Sagrada Familia.
Like many eccentrics, Rodia was not well-loved by his neighbors, and he left in 1955, permanently fed up with their scorn over his artistic vision in 1955. The structures came perilously close to being razed, but posterity won out and they were designated a National Historic Landmark in 1990. As the work of one untrained man, the Watts Towers are a monument to bringing one’s vision to fruition.

7. Cloud Gate (2004), by Anish Kapoor

Cloud-Gate
Chicago’s public art scene has so many famous images to choose from: Buckingham Memorial Fountain, Calder’s Flamingo stabile, the Chicago Picasso, Dubuffet’s Monument with Standing Beast, etc. You have to admire the city’s commitment to art in public spaces, no matter how you feel about post-modern metal monstrosities. With the inauguration of Millennium Park in 1004, the city’s residents have a host of new sculptures to enjoy. The most recent favorite statue is Kapoor’s Cloud Gate. A shiny metal bean arising from a concrete plaza, Cloud Gate attracts visitors like a picnic does ants. You want to touch it, gaze into it, whip out your iPhone and take all sorts of pictures as you walk around and through it. You stare at the reflection of your surroundings, picking out details you never noticed before. It’s art with looking-glass precision, kind of like the world’s biggest bathroom mirror: reapply your lipstick, check for parsley in your teeth!

6. Spoonbridge and Cherry (1985–1988) by Claes Oldenburg and Coosje van Bruggen



This beauty is part of the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden, adjacent to the Walker Art Center. It’s a giant white spoon, with a perfect cherry perched precariously on its tip. Oldenburg and his wife van Bruggen were a fun couple. Their oeuvre includes a giant typewriter eraser (thank god those are extinct), Clothespin outside Philadelphia City Hall, and Free Stamp in Cleveland, Ohio. It’s kitsch with a point. The sculpture is also a fountain of sorts, with a fine mist spray moistening the gazing faces of summer visitors to the park. In the winter, the sculpture, caked with snow, continues to be simultaneously incongruous and integral to the environment.

5. Crazy Horse Memorial (1948– ), by Korczak Ziolkowski

crazy-horse-memorial
It’s the politically correct neighbor of Mount Rushmore, this massive, and unfinished, monument being carved from Thunderhead Mountain in South Dakota’s Black Hills. Depicting the Oglala Lakota warrior Crazy Horse, when finished (don’t hold your breath), it will dwarf Mount Rushmore. The presidents’ heads are 60 feet high, and Crazy Horse’s will be 87. The whole sculpture, consisting of the warrior’s torso, his arm, and his horse’s head and chest, will rise 563 feet. That’s much bigger, and much further from completion, than the ode to the Presidents. A nonprofit endeavor, work has continued since Ziolkowski (who also worked on Mount Rushmore) died in 1982. Like many works of art, this one is not without controversy. Many Lakota oppose the memorial based on the fact that destroying a mountain to honor a man is a perversion of Native American culture.

4. Spiral Jetty (1970), by Robert Smithson

spiral-jetty
One of the original earthwork sculptures, Smithson’s Spiral Jetty is also one of the most enduring. On the shores of the Great Salt Lake near Rozel Point, the Jetty is a great curlicue formed of mud, rocks, salt, and earth, that is a total of 1,500 feet long. Despite its massive size, it took only six days to construct. For most of its existence, the Jetty has been submerged beneath the lake, but visible from the air. Fluctuating water levels, based on drought and snow melt, mean that viewing the work is based on the whim of Mother Nature.
Smithson was inspired by his love of geology and paleontology. In recent years, the work has been threatened by the possibility of oil drilling nearby. Whereas many have rallied to protect Spiral Jetty, Smithson, who died in a plane crash in 1973 at the age of 35, would more than likely prefer that nature take its course, rather than have people take extraordinary measures to preserve it.

3. Gateway Arch (1968), by Eero Saarinen

gateway-arch
You can see it from miles around; it’s a perfect beacon for navigation if your GPS craps out while you’re cruising downtown. Best of all, you can go inside and travel to the top via tram. The Gateway Arch is the tallest stainless steel monument in the world, as well as the tallest memorial in the United States. Memorial of what, you ask? Well, the long form of the park’s name where the arch was built is the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial, which commemorates the Louisiana Purchase and the westward expansion of the United States. Finnish architect Eero Saarinen died just as work began on his soon-to-be beloved monument.

2. Vietnam Veterans Memorial (1982), by Maya Lin

Vietnam-Veterans-Memorial
When you’re talking about the National Mall in Washington, everyone’s got an opinion. Many of the statues are really memorials to past Presidents (Lincoln, Washington, Jefferson), or wars (World War II,Vietnam, Korea). What is undeniable, no matter what your opinion of the current elected officials, is that this grassy expanse will make any US citizen’s heart swell with pride.
Lin’s Vietnam Veterans Memorial is notable for the controversy surrounding its design and construction. The upshot is that Lin’s minimalist design, and inclusion of the names of the war’s fallen, made it an instant cultural icon and destination for the bereaved. Its remarkable power is unusual and undeniable for a work of public art. Its placement in the mall, and its stark design, are in contrast with everything else in the vicinity. Rather than a typical chest-swelling ode to heroism, the memorial is a contemplative, somber manifestation of a historical event that still arouses strong feelings after all these years.

1. Liberty Enlightening the World (1886), by Frederic Auguste Bartholdi

Statue-of-Liberty
Lady Liberty is one awesome gal, and her place at number one is anti-climactic for its obviousness. A gift from the French, she has aged like one of their fine wines. We gave her an island, and you can visit her by boat. You can climb into her crown for a spectacular view of the Manhattan skyline. What more could you ask for? This venerable depiction of hope and freedom is the most enduring symbol of how Americans view themselves.

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