Vermeer: Rags to riches in just 300 years

When Jan Vermeer’s masterpiece “Young Woman Seated at a Virginal” sold at auction in 2004, it fetched $30 million, a record for the artist and a remarkable achievement for the Dutch Baroque painter who left his wife and 10 children destitute when he died 335 years ago.

While Vermeer, Frans Hals and Rembrandt are the three big names in the golden age of Dutch art, Vermeers are rare, with fewer than 40 known.

Part of Vermeer’s holdup in turning out work seems to be that he was extremely methodical. Rembrandt, by comparison, produced some 300 painting and another 300 prints.

According to author Sandra Forty, “(Vermeer) seems rarely to have sold a painting, although when he did it apparently paid well: one is known to have sold for 600 guilders, although fashionable Amsterdam painters could command much higher prices for their work.”

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Bombed baboons wreaking havoc in suburbs

And you thought living in a college town had some disadvantages.

A British paper is reporting that exclusive South African suburbs around Cape Town are being plagued by drunken baboons.

The invading baboons have developed a taste for grapes used by wine makers, according to The Telegraph. “Each day, dozens of Cape Baboons gather to strip the ancient vines – the sauvignon blanc grapes are a particular favourite – before heading into the mountains to sleep. A few, who sample fallen fruit that has fermented in the sun, pass out and don’t make it home.”

While it all sounds quite entertaining – there’s nothing like a band of plastered primates for laughs – apparently it’s not all fun and games for those who have to put up with the bamboozled baboons.

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Sunlit Uplands: Where reason dares not tread

A sure sign of a geographical entity’s “arrival” is when it gets its own propaganda machine. Here in South Carolina, we have a blog called “Sunlit Uplands,” our own little online version of Pravda and Tass all rolled into one.

Sunlit’s author doesn’t spend a lot of time writing his own pieces but he does enjoy slapping up other folks’ stuff up when it matches his worldview. It doesn’t matter how far detached from reality the article is; if it fits with the opinions of super-ultra far-right wing of the Nut-Nut Party, Sunlit is all over it.

The more entertaining copy can be found in the “Sunlit News” bar, along the righthand side of the site. Headlines read like the something out the Weekly World Newsif it were taken over by the John Birch Society.

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Regulators watching high number of SC banks

South Carolina has 16 fewer state-based banks than North Carolina, yet the Palmetto State has eight more institutions that have been placed under some sort of regulatory action since 2008, The State newspaper reports.

“Nearly one of every four banks based in South Carolina has received public enforcement actions from federal regulators since the recession began 2 1-2 years ago,” the paper reported.

“At least 21 S.C.-based banks now have received orders to improve their balance sheets since 2008, according to records from regulators’ websites,” it added. “The number has doubled this year.”

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TSFG execs enter into agreements with TD

Several top-ranking South Financial Group executives have entered into lucrative employment contracts with TD Bank Financial Group, which is in the process of acquiring the Greenville-based financial services company.

According to information filed late last week with the US Securities and Exchange Commission, South Financial Group Chief Executive H. Lynn Harton will receive $450,000 annually under terms of a deal with TD.

Other high-ranking TSFG officials who will be paid handsomely for continuing on with TD include:

  • Christopher S. Gompper, president, Carolina First Bank, $300,000;
  • J. Ernesto Diaz, president, Mercantile Bank, $300,000;
  • Robert A. Edwards, chief credit officer, $200,000; and
  • Tanya A. Butts, chief operations and technology officer, $200,000.

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National litmus test for SC pols ridiculous

Plaudits to blogger Brad Warthen for his recent piece taking the South Carolina media to task for going along with the game of applying a national “litmus test” to Democratic gubernatorial candidate Vincent Sheheen.

Warthen was referring to an article in the Charleston Post and Courier that outlined Sheheen’s views on issues that he’ll ultimately have no say over should he be elected governor:

Sheheen said he has answered questions throughout his campaign about his national policy stances, such as abortion rights.

“My answer is the same: I support life. I have always supported life and my voting reflects that,” he said.

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Ports Authority says it will save Rice Mill

The South Carolina State Ports Authority has committed to restoring the Bennett’s Rice Mill, the elaborate brick facade on Charleston’s Union Pier that dates back to the antebellum period, when former Gov. Thomas Bennett began work on it.

Ports Authority Chief Executive Jim Newsome met last week with preservation groups and assured them the state agency will cover the cost of the facade’s stabilization while seeking grants and other private donations, spokesman Byron Miller told the Charleston Post and Courier.

Initial work could begin soon to ensure it survives this hurricane season, the paper reported.

Gov. Bennett began work on the mill in 1844, “creating by far the grandest piece of industrial architecture among the many Charleston area mills that processed the lucrative rice crop. Bennett’s mill opened the following year and stayed open until the 1911 hurricane wiped out most of the Lowcountry’s remaining rice fields,” according to a 2009 Post and Courier article.

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French WWII ace dies in Texas at 92

Marcel Albert, a French pilot who defected to the Allies from the Vichy regime following its collusion with the Nazis, and went on to become the second-leading French ace of World War II, died Monday in Texas at age 92.

Flying Russian-built Yak-1 fighters and later Yak-9 in duels with German aircraft on the Eastern front, Albert scored 24 victories in 262 combat missions, second only to Pierre Closterman, who has been credited with 33 kills.

In November  1944 he was awarded the Soviet Union’s highest decoration, the Gold Star and title of “Hero of the Soviet Union” — a reward almost never given to foreigners.

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2010 cotton prospects a mixed bag for US

Cotton prospects across the US range from potentially fantastic to possibly awful, depending on weather patterns so far this year, Southeast Farm Press reports.

Weather has touched the extremes — too much rain in south Texas and too little in parts of Louisiana, Virginia, Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Virginia and the Carolinas, the publication reported.

South Carolina cotton farmers, who increased acreage by 50 percent this year over last, are expecting an average crop.

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