I know this stupid blog has readers across the country, so I must ask our Milwaukee correspondents what they make of the Stradivarius theft — and subsequent recovery — in their fair city.
I first heard about it via this New York Times story, which did not disappoint:
It should have been one of those nights musicians live for. Frank Almond, the concertmaster of the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra for nearly two decades, had just closed a chamber concert in his own “Frankly Music” series with Messiaen’s hushed, eerily intense “Quartet for the End of Time.” Mr. Almond drew the graceful, ringing high notes of the finale from his prized 1715 Stradivarius violin, producing a tone so intensely focused that the audience in the Wisconsin Lutheran College’s 388-seat auditorium sat in awed silence for 20 seconds before applauding.
But the glow of the moment evaporated quickly, once Mr. Almond, 49, stepped into the college art center’s parking lot at 10:20 p.m. Monday, his violin carefully swaddled against the subzero temperatures and minus-25-degree wind chill. And as he neared his car, a figure stepped up to him and shot him with a stun gun.
It happened in a matter of seconds: Mr. Almond dropped the violin, the attacker scooped it up and jumped into a late 1980s or early ’90s maroon or burgundy minivan, where an accomplice was waiting to speed away.
Based on that early information, I figured the violin was already halfway around the world, bound for a Russian, Chinese or perhaps a Japanese mobster’s bunker, there to lie in suspended animation, decay setting in for lack of proper care and play, until it was found years later, maybe when the mobster’s junkie nephew tried to pawn it.
I mean, clearly, this was the work of professionals, no?
No. Or, at least, not very skilled ones. The instrument was recovered in Milwaukee, in the attic of a home, and two guys, one of them named Universal Allah, are in custody. Neither one looks anything like like Alan Rickman or Jeremy Irons, which is the only acceptable face for this crime, IMO — European, faded good looks and a deep appreciation for classical music as played by stringed instruments. Hell, I’d believe Hannibal Lecter stole the thing before these guys.
What, do you suppose, is the story here? More will be revealed, I expect.
Alan informed me that most Stradivari and similar violins are technically owned by zillionaires, who form buyers’ syndicates and lend them to worthy musicians to play. Makes sense. They really need to be played to stay in shape, just as pearls need to be worn to stay pretty. I expect Frank Almond will continue to play this one, but he’ll be walked to his car by orchestra hall security now.
So, then. In the bloggage today, a friend sent this along, one of those great data maps on the most pleasant places to live. I notice that when I moved from Fort Wayne to Detroit, I gained eight “pleasant” days a year along with a radically higher homicide rate, so hey! Win! The most pleasant places are all in coastal or near-coastal California, the least-pleasant in Montana, Nevada, Wyoming and some place called East of Cedarville, Calif. Discuss. (The fact North Dakota isn’t contributing to the least-pleasant list is a mystery to me, too.)
I only read two sections of the Detroit Free Press when it arrives on Sunday, so I missed the Great Cleavage Debate, which followed this story, which is probably good, because if I’d read this sentence cold, my head might have exploded:
Cleavage is a powerful, powerful thing.
The story became a journalism story, mainly because of a poll attached about who has the best cleavage, blah blah blah. That’s not what interests me today. Rather, I don’t think I’m working with the same definition as everybody else. What, exactly, is cleavage? I thought cleavage occurred when you had enough breast heft that, when displayed in a low-cut neckline, you actually had a cleft. By that measure, two of the three women in the accompanying photo don’t actually have cleavage at all. Am I wrong? Don’t misunderstand, they all look great, but in that picture, only Sofia Vergara is rocking cleavage. Amy Adams has a lovely top half, but she’s slight-breasted enough, in the ’70s style, to be free of it. And Lupita Nyong’o has one of those enviable rock-hard fashion bodies that makes every dress look fantastic, in large part because she doesn’t have much boobage at all.
You guys take 20 or 30 minutes, examine the picture, maybe do some outside research, and get back to me on that. I have a weekend to start. Hope yours is great.