Saturday, January 29, 2005

eBay spelling

One of the wonderful things about eBay is it's ability to connect the spelling-impaired with paying customers.
Description: up for auction is a huge morter shell casing. that was hand hammered by a soldier during ww 1. it is in great condition with no dents and origanal patina. it has a carving of statue of liberty on one side and an eagle on the other. and a the word us. the detail and condition and patina of this piece is remarkable. it also comes with top of casing and it is is a great piece of american history any war mileteria collector would love to own.
Through eBay, ppl can not only make a decent living but they can be self-emploid.

Pierre Amydar deserves every buck he makes.

Fools running the schools

More on Zero Tolerance, this time in PA. (Does it occur to anyone in a responsible position that zero tolerance is a deeply anti-American concept? I doubt it, but I bet they would be incensed at the accusation that they are philosophically anti-American). A high school student took an Aleve (non-prescription pain reliever) for menstrual cramps, then made the unpardonable mistake of admitting it to the school nurse:
The Aleve affair was deemed a level 5 violation, subject to a maximum three-day suspension prior to a hearing with the principal. Both girls were sent home. Based on findings, initial suspensions may be extended, with possible referral to an assessment team, or the police when appropriate. Disciplinary actions are recorded on school records. ...While those "mistakes" are recorded on school records, the information is purged annually and never released, Rotoli said.
I think it is the fools and hysterics who make policy who should be purged. An "assessment team, or the police?" I'll tell you what some of the students will leave high school with: The utterly correct conviction that authority figures are fools with power. The scary thing is that others will leave school without that conviction.

Fortunately some parents are not amused.

Clik above or:

Hillary positions herself for a Presidential run

Who knew the Times of London had a sense of humor? Gerard Baker comments:
Raising aloft what she described as one of the favourites from her collection of AK47 automatic weapons, Mrs Clinton declared to wild cheers: “If they think some unelected judge in Washington is going to take away my constitutional rights, let them think again!...They’ll have to prise this beauty from my cold, dead hands.”

...Mel Gibson, the actor and film director, announced yesterday that he had concluded an agreement with Hillary Clinton to make a biographical movie about her life as first lady and senator of the United States.

Called, tentatively, The Passion of the Wife, the film will star Arnold Schwarzenegger as Bill Clinton, Scarlett Johansson as Hillary and Glenn Close as Monica Lewinsky. It tells the story of how Mrs Clinton fought for eight years while in the White House for tougher abortion laws and an end to Church-State separation. It also describes her long campaign to cleanse her husband of perverted and sinful desires.
Don't miss the whole thing.,,19269-1459713,00.html

Hat tip to South Dakota Politic blog:

Nigerian Investment Opportunity

I hardly ever get one of these. I guess I'm not in the right demographic to be offered such opportunities on a regular basis. Still, this came in today.

Dear Sir/Madam:

We are members of the "Contract Award Committee", Ministry of Petroleum Resources,
Nigeria. We search for an agent who will assist us in the transfer and receipt of Twenty Seven Million,
Five Hundred Thousand US Dollars US$27.5.Million) and subsequent investment of
same in lucrative ventures in your country.

You will be required to;( 1) Assist in the transfer/claim of the said sum, (2) Advise on lucrative
area(s) of investment, and (3) Assist in the management of same investments after you
must have claimed the funds.

For your services as above you shall be rewarded with 15% of the total sum/funds,
while 10% of the investments profit shall be paid to you annually. Indicate the tax regime in
your country and how best you would want the money funds invested to ensure good
investment return thereafter. We shall have our lawyers draw up the investment agreement
for you to study, make ammendment(if any), sign and return hereto.

We wait your urgent and positive response so that we can work out all the modalities for the
wire/transfer to you. Do keep this transaction to your self due to our position. But feel free
to direct your questions to me if any.

Yours faithfully,

Dr Frank David
Unbelievably good offer.

Thursday, January 27, 2005

Chimeras are just the beginning

National Geographic has an article up on makng chimeras (human-animal hybrids) which is pretty interesting.

I like the idea, actually. It would be nice to have some really good gills, although I don't relish using them in this neck of the woods (Wisconsin) in winter. Southern resorts might help fund research and development tho.

I also like the idea of bringing back some extinct species, either as they were or somewhat modified. Miniature mammoths appeal, house mammoths or lap mammoths if you will. They could hang out on the couch like a labrador retreiver, paws in the air, whilst checking out the insides of their eyelids.

I don't think I'd like bringing back saber-toothed cats, at least not for release into the wilds of the Milwaukee suburbs. With a wee bit of gene-splicing tho we could enjoy the unquestionable benefits of Saber-toothed Basset Hounds.

Back in the good old days...

...Marxists were smart enough to realize that overthrowing mass-murdering fascists was a good thing. Despite his remarkable failings as a national leader and as a human being, even Stalin had that down pat.

Nowadays it's the Marxists who love mass-murdering fascist military dictators. I guess that's because they understand that fascist military dictators are the enemies of America, and under the "The enemy of my enemy is my friend" principle, Marxists have to defend fascists' right to national self-determination. Even when the fascists use plastic shredders.

This has come to mind once again because Ward Churchill, a Marxist prof at University of Colorado is in the news: some students at Hamilton College are objecting to his giving a speech there, apparently in part because he calls the people who were murdered at the World Trade Center such charming things as "little Eichmanns."

Well, I'm in favor of free speech and as someone I won't bother looking up once said, "Better to be thought a fool than to open one's mouth and remove all doubt." Our friend Ward is intent on opening his mouth at some length, so I say let him. That doesn't mean the students have to like it or even go, though. And I do understand their objection to spending good money to bring him all the way to Clinton New York, but that's part of the expense of college, folks.

The article of Churchill's which seems to be drawing much of the ire (clik above for the link or paste from the bottom) is called: "Some People Push Back: On the Justice of Roosting Chickens." Below are a few quotes. I won't bother with much of the silliness about the jillions we slaughtered in Iraq, apparently for no better reason than Bill Clinton and Madeline Albright grooved on it, or perhaps because their corporate masters did. Anyway:

On mass-murder at the World Trade Center: "If there was a better, more effective, or in fact any other way of visiting some penalty befitting their participation upon the little Eichmanns inhabiting the sterile sanctuary of the twin towers, I'd really be interested in hearing about it."

On the Gulf War: "It was a performance worthy of the Nazis during the early months of their drive into Russia." Well, at least Churchill seems to dislike Nazis. I'll give him credit for that.

On American anti-war protestors: "nobody went further than waving signs as a means of "challenging" the patently exterminatory pursuit of Pax Americana. So pure of principle were these "dissidents," in fact, that they began literally to supplant the police in protecting corporations..." Uh oh. Corporations. And the protestors are doing their bidding. Things are looking bad.

On evil: "Evil – for those inclined to embrace the banality of such a concept – was perfectly incarnated in that malignant toad known as Madeline Albright, squatting in her studio chair like Jaba the Hutt, blandly spewing the news that she'd imposed a collective death sentence upon the unoffending youth of Iraq." This is by a college professor, mind you. I guess he understands the polemical importance of de-humanizing the opponent in order to make acceptable the assault they deserve, but where are the little wriggling feet protruding from Jaba's mouth?

And, of course, (it hardly need repeating): It's all Amerikkka's fault: "Had it not been for these evils, the counterattacks of September 11 would never have occurred." Yup, Osama the Humanitarian would still be building hospitals.

I'd love this if the writer wasn't a professor responsible for helping educate people: "In sum one can discern a certain optimism – it might even be call (sic)humanitarianism – imbedded in the thinking of those who presided over the very limited actions conducted on September 11." The 9/11 Hijackers: Humanitarians engaged in Tough Love. But only a wee bit. Yep. He means it.

I gotta believe this prof put WAY too many mushrooms on his pizza. He's really flying here: "Since they've (Amerikka's victims.TTB)shown no sign of being unreasonable or vindictive, it may even be anticipated that, after a suitable period of adjustment and reeducation (mainly to allow them to acquire the skills necessary to living within their means), those restored to control over their own destinies by the gallant sacrifices of the combat teams the WTC and Pentagon will eventually (re)admit Americans to the global circle of civilized societies. " Not too clearly written for someone who teaches at the college level, but what the heck, you get the idea. Chopping the heads off reporters and other prisoners...oh, excuse me, lackies of their corporate masters is humanitarian tough love. I forgot.

Bummer, there's a downside, tho: "Unfortunately, noble as they may have been, such humanitarian aspirations were always doomed to remain unfulfilled. For it to have been otherwise, a far higher quality of character and intellect would have to prevail among average Americans than is actually the case. Perhaps the strategists underestimated the impact a couple of generations-worth of media indoctrination can produce in terms of demolishing the capacity of human beings to form coherent thoughts." Damn. Slaughtering the little Eichmanns and sending the survivors to re-education camps won't work: we're too dumb and degenerunt.

But hey, wait a sec: If we are so durn dumb and indoctrinated, how can we possibly be responsible for the evils committed in our names? How can we do other than vote for the Demopublicans? Our corporate masters make us. Ward Churchill doesn't address that issue, but I intend to bring it up at my trial.

It goes on and on.

A truncated version appears at

which notes it is a mirrored version:

That site notes: "The Marxism list is a worldwide moderated forum for activists and scholars in the Marxist tradition". Hence I have concluded, possibly without justification, that Ward Churchill is a Marxist. If I am mistaken and it happens to be that he is a laissez faire capitalist of the Ayn Rand, Friedrich Hayek, or Milton Friedman persuasions, my most sincere apologies.

PS: The Rocky Mountain News article by John Ensslin which inspired this rant is at,1299,DRMN_957_3501617,00.html

UPDATE: Guess who is protesting Iraqi democratic elections. "Meanwhile across the road, a small group of protesters from the World Communist Party assembled to demonstrate against the elections." The story is in The Australian, about the voting by Iraqis living there. I'd call them pathetic twits, but judging from the above they are far too angry to qualify as twits. Copy & Paste:,5744,12076779%5E1702,00.html Update II: Ignorance equals Wisdom. Our friend Mr. Churchill is interviewed: "I can give a talk to a university in North America, to students and professors, and they are fundamentally confused about things that are automatically self-evident to people when you go to a village in Latin America, where the average educational attainment is third grade. Now why can these “peasants” automatically grasp concepts that are just beyond the reach altogether of your average university audience in North America?" I don't suppose that it could even conceivably be the case that the people with a third grade education are WRONG? That the earth really does orbit the sun and not vice versa?


What happened to "Rage, rage against the dying of the light"?

The fascists have won one in Holland.
Murdered director Theo van Gogh's controversial film Submission has been pulled from the Rotterdam Film Festival because of security fears.

It was one of three of his works to be shown as part of a freedom of expression event in tribute to the late film-maker's life.
The Dutch may get more of what they reward.

Ayn Rand would turn 100 this year

Andrew Stuttaford in the New York Sun:
Even the smaller details of Rand's life come with the sort of epic implausibility found in - oh, an Ayn Rand novel. On her first day of looking for work in Hollywood, who gives her a lift in his car? Cecil B. DeMille. Of course he does. Frank Lloyd Wright designs a house for her. Years later, when she's famous, the sage of selfishness, ensconced in her Murray Hill eyrie, a young fellow by the name of Alan Greenspan becomes a member of the slightly creepy set that sits at the great woman's feet. Apparently he went on to achieve some prominence in later life.

...When, after nearly 50 years, her beloved long-lost youngest sister, Nora, made it over from the USSR, they promptly fell out - over politics, naturally. Poor Nora was on her way within six weeks, back to the doubtless more easygoing embrace of Leonid Brezhnev.
It still seems odd to me that she compromised her otherwise uncompromisable principles to favor the draft during the Vietnam War. Even her hatred of the state and slavery were overwhelmed by her hatred of communism and the Soviet Union.

Important anatomical research on Michelangelo's David has been completed...

...but leaves an important question unanswered.

The AGE of Melbourne reports.

Wednesday, January 26, 2005

Why not summary executions?

This weirdness has been going on all over the country since about the time of the Columbine school shootings.
OCALA, Fla. -- Two boys, ages 9 and 10, were charged with felonies and taken away from school in handcuffs, accused of making violent drawings of stick figures...Ocala police spokesman Russ Kearn said. "However, we have to put ourselves in his mind(the mind of the "victim" depicted.TTB) and that's the bottom line here. It is his well-being and the way he perceived that picture to be. It actually put him in extreme fear and he was in fear for his life."
Girls expelled for having a gun charm on a charm bracelet, kids expelled for drawings like the one here. Expulsions for aspirin and Tylenol. Expulsions for pointing a finger and saying "Bang!"

Either the news reports are consistantly lacking important other factors or some of the school systems have been taken over by wackos. And wackos in cahoots with wackos in law enforcement circles. The news video linked in the story does mention this isn't the first time the little felons have been in trouble, but that doesn't help a lot: how many other kids have been in trouble from time to time? Do we arrest all the naughty nine year olds and charge & convict them of felonies? Then they could never vote or hold public office, so they would never be an election threat to these loonies. Why not just authorize the principals to put their felonious little heads on pikes in front of the school as warning to the rest of the Crayola Criminals?

As for having "to put ourselves in his mind", that is a sure formula for the end of free speech, and it is a formula being adopted all over the place: witness the state assault on free speech in Britain, requiring the removal of billboard advertisements because Muslims in the neighborhood were offended, prosecuting a preacher for "hate speech" because he said god condemns gays.

We are seeing some significant victories by people claiming they have a legally enforceable right to be unoffended. Berkeley has tried it, University of Wisconsin-Madison tried it (where it was quashed) and it is rising in truly scary form in the EU.

Oh, the Horror!

WASHINGTON, DC—As the nation approaches the one-year anniversary of the Super Bowl XXXVIII tragedy, an FCC study shows that millions of U.S. children were severely traumatized by the exposure to a partially nude female breast during the Feb. 1, 2004 halftime show.

"No one who lived through that day is likely to forget the horror," said noted child therapist Dr. Eli Wasserbaum. "But it was especially hard on the children."
It is interesting to see the contrasting incentives between the private economy and the government-owned economy. The private cable tv stations maximise their capital by catering to those willing to pay the most- frequently those who like sexual themes- while the politicized portion of the economy (remember that the US Government owns the broadcast spectra) maximizes political capital by catering to voters in ways which reduce its economic capital and creates social conflict.

The obvious way to reduce the conflict would involve selling the broadcast spectra to the highest bidders and get the government entirely out of that portion of the economy. I suspect that would be way too capitalist a solution tho, so I won't hold my breath.

Art Prof who had himself shot as "performance art" wigs out when...

..a grad student fakes Russian Roulette. Go figure.

The professor:
Burden made his name in the early 1970s with influential and controversial performance art. In his best-known piece, "Shoot," performed in a Santa Ana gallery while he was a graduate student at UC Irvine, Burden had an assistant stand 15 feet away and shoot him in the upper arm with a .22-caliber rifle.
The student:
The brief performance involved a simulation of Russian roulette, in which the student appeared before the class holding a handgun, put in what appeared to be a bullet, spun the cylinder, then pointed the gun at his head and pulled the trigger, according to one student's account that was confirmed by law enforcement sources. The weapon didn't fire. The student quickly left the room, then the audience heard a shot from outside. What ensued is not clear, but police said no one was hurt.

The incident prompted investigations by university police and the dean of students' office into whether the student violated criminal law or student conduct codes. There is some confusion over whether the gun was real.
Prof Burden and spouse have both resigned from UCLA because of "university officials' lack of urgency about the handgun incident."

SO, a guy who had himself actually shot resigns in outrage because UCLA got insufficiently upset when one of his students pretended to shoot himself?

This did cost them $216,600 in lost salaries, so I give them credit for taking an expensive stand against transgressive art. Maybe they'll take up landscape painting.

Thanks to for the tip.

And thanks for the refreshing attitude from UCLA.


Monday, January 24, 2005

Who'd have thought dust could be...


Cool Space Pic of the Day.

Alien space ship debris found


Pocket nukes, superthermites, and nanoaluminum

I used to kid around about pocket nukes, but the reality will not be nearly so much fun- sort of like laughing at Calvin (of Calvin & Hobbs fame) until you have a kid like him.


NYTimes: Good news in Iraq

Of course, they put it 14 paragraphs down, in an article opening with Zarqawi's tape attacking democracy: ""We have declared an all-out war on this evil principle of democracy and those who follow this wrong ideology," said the speaker, identified on the tape as Mr. Zarqawi. "Still:
Ambassador John D. Negroponte and Gen. George W. Casey Jr., the top American military commander here....said...stepped-up offensives across the so-called Sunni Triangle areas south, west and north of Baghdad...have resulted, apart from the crushing of the resistance in Falluja and the arrest of hundreds of rebels there, in the capture during the past two months of more than 1,000 suspected insurgents - about 100 of them in raids during this weekend alone...
Plenty of problems, but not all the news is bad.


UPDATE: Wm. Safire addresses this very thing (Burying the lede/lead/important thing):
2. Never look for the story in the lede. Reporters are required to put what's happened up top, but the practiced pundit places a nugget of news, even a startling insight, halfway down the column, directed at the politiscenti. When pressed for time, the savvy reader starts there.
Of course, he placed this insight well before halfway thru the column.

Sunday, January 23, 2005

Anarchy on wheels: It works

On traffic design:
'They're treating you like you're a complete idiot, and if people treat you like a complete idiot, you'll act like one.'

"Here was someone who had rethought a lot of issues from complete scratch. Essentially, what it means is a transfer of power and responsibility from the state to the individual and the community."
Hans Monderman has different ideas on how to control traffic: get rid of the signs. And the sidewalks
He made his first nervous foray into shared space in a small village whose residents were upset at its being used as a daily thoroughfare for 6,000 speeding cars. When he took away the signs, lights and sidewalks, people drove more carefully. Within two weeks, speeds on the road had dropped by more than half.
Radical stuff. I know I read something which seems almost the same word for word, and recently.

Reopen the Villa of the Papyri?

The Sunday Times has an article about a move to extend excavations at the Villa of the Papyri in Pompeii: there may be more of an intact library down there, the texts now readable with multi-spectral imaging (MSI):
(Optimism) follows the first detailed analysis of the 1,800 papyri, now largely unrolled and deciphered thanks to a technique known as multi-spectral imaging (MSI). What appear to the naked eye as jet-black cinders are transformed by MSI into readable text. Thirty thousand images are now legible on CD-Rom; suddenly poems and works of philosophy are speaking again, 2,000 years after they were sealed in their cedar-wood cabinets in the summer of AD79.
Clik above or paste:,,2087-1452244,00.html

Thanks to NRO The Corner for the tip.

Michael Moore sees these guys as patriots?

A report in the Telegraph:
"We have declared a bitter war against the principle of democracy and all those who seek to enact it," the speaker, who was identified as Zarqawi, said.

"Candidates in elections are seeking to become demi-gods while those who vote for them are infidels. And with God as my witness, I have informed them (of our intentions)."...

Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, who has declared Zarqawi his deputy in Iraq, has urged Iraqis to boycott the election, saying it was an infidel practice.
Michael Moore apparently thinks these are the good guys.

I prefer the fat guy with a seegar. (See below)

UPDATE: I goofed: this is in the Telegraph, not the Guardian. I have corrected the above.

Warning: Fat guy with a seegar and a gat

If you don't know who this is, he was a Major Honcho during our previous major fight against fascism. One of the Good Guys.

Clik above or do the paste thing:

Sex based differences

Olivia Judson, an evolutionary biologist at Imperial College in London, has also been inspired by the Larry Summers affair to say some things about sex-based differences.I infer she is somewhat critical of Summers' critics.
The interesting questions are, is there an average intrinsic difference? And how extensive is the variation? I would love to know if the averages are the same but the underlying variation is different - with members of one sex tending to be either superb or dreadful at particular sorts of thinking while members of the other are pretty good but rarely exceptional
The life of a male green spoon worm might appeal to some fellers:
He spends his whole life in her reproductive tract, fertilizing eggs...
Well, OK, maybe his method of fertilizing ("by regurgitating sperm through his mouth")wouldn't appeal so much to the average hetero-type male, but overall...

The much-reviled Charles Murray...

...comments in the NY Times on the Larry Summers affair.
We may find that innate differences give men, as a group, an edge over women, as a group, in producing, say, terrific mathematicians. But knowing that fact about the group difference will not change another fact: that some women are terrific mathematicians. The proportions of men and women mathematicians may never be equal, but who cares? What's important is that all women with the potential to become terrific mathematicians have full opportunity to do so.
Murray points out something that has been ignored by nearly all the "reporting" on Summers' remarks: he was speaking of groups, not individuals. And he was suggesting possibilities to be investigated, not making pronouncements of Truth. Beware your single source.

UPDATE: The National Association of Scholars (NAS) Online Forum for Friday 21 January has more on the Summers thing. Not too surprisingly they are critical of his critics.

Another update: Ruth Marcus, editorial staff of the Washington Post concludes:
The Summers storm might have been easy to forecast. But it says less, in the end, about the Harvard president than it does about the unwillingness of the modern academy to tolerate the kind of freewheeling inquiry that academics and intellectuals above all ought to prize rather than revile.
Is Summers in retreat exactly when people are coming his support?t

UPDATE III: The Washington Post has this:
One of the women sharply critical of Summers at the meeting was Denice D. Denton, chancellor-designate of the University of California at Santa Cruz. She took issue with his suggestion that women are less likely to achieve top professional positions than men because they are encumbered by child-rearing and family commitments. "Four of the 10 campuses at the University of California are run by women, who are all highly respected in their field," said Denton, an electrical engineer by training. "These are all clear examples of women reaching the top of their profession."
Four out of ten is less than half. Doesn't that datum in isolation support "less likely," whatever the actual cause? Denton's anecdote is meaningless: it is possible that UC through assiduous affirmative action, has found and employed all four of the women in the world who are capable of running a UC campus. This is untrue, but Denton's statement doesn't prove it untrue. Also, un-noted is whethor any of them have children. It is quite likely tho that given the low quality of reporting on this, her comments were both distorted and taken out of context: perhaps this is more revelatory of the reporter than the reported. Summers, as far as I can tell from the lousy reportage on this story, never said all women are less capable than men, only that it is possible that the distribution is different, and that if that is the case, one of the possible explanations is genetic differences, and that another is family commitments which are not identical to those of men competing for the same jobs.

This story is enough to make a critic of journalism spit: absolutely awful reporting of what the guy actually said with enough context to let the reader decide. Could there be a reason for that? I expect it is sheer laziness, not malevolence, but the result is the same.

UPDATE IV: This seems to have taken a life. Monday's NY Times has a decent article on the issue of sex-based differences which is less breathless than many. Conclusion: Of course there are differences, but what do they mean when sex-based discrimination in socialization and employment are clear and of greater import? Of course, the inability to explain the causes of the differences- to distinguish between those which are inherent, those which are socialized, and those which might be a combination remains a problem. Thanks to Volokh Conspiracy ( for the pointer.

Sontag might have considered this evidence for Europeans as first settlers of the Americas

Others might merely proclaim that the Indians (I decline to use the racist term "Native Americans") were attuned to their environment, using renewable resources at sustainable levels.
(Aztec's) Victims had their hearts cut out or were decapitated, shot full of arrows, clawed, sliced to death, stoned, crushed, skinned, buried alive or tossed from the tops of temples.

Children were said to be frequent victims, in part because they were considered pure and unspoiled...
Pure and unspoiled? Isn't that the child molesters' shtick?Does it turn out the Aztecs were ruled by some of the sickest child molesters around? It does look like they were equal opportunity types tho: they'd do it to anyone.
``It's now a question of quantity,'' said Lopez Lujan, who thinks the Spaniards -- and Indian picture-book scribes working under their control -- exaggerated the number of sacrifice victims, claiming in one case that 80,400 people were sacrificed at a temple inauguration in 1487.

``We're not finding anywhere near that ... even if we added some zeros,'' Lopez Lujan said.
Well, at least they weren't as bad as contemporay critics claimed. Still, it sounds a bit like a theocratic government by sadistic versions of Jeff Dahmer bent on the Three Cs: Cut 'em, Cook 'em, and Consume 'em.

The above is from today's NY Times:

Whither goest art prices?

An article by Linda Sandler in the Miami Herald questions the sustainability of the current run up in art prices:
Prices of the top 25 percent of the most expensive contemporary pictures sold at auction more than tripled since 1996, according to London index-maker Art Market Research...

Art was bid up in the 1980s by European and Japanese collectors, then collapsed as the effects of the 1987 stock- market crash spread. The top 25 percent of works in Art Market Research's Art 100 Index peaked at 9,040 in 1990, up from 1,658 in 1985. It dived 59 percent to 3,686 by 1992.

The Art 100 index, which tracks prices from 1976, includes artists from Rembrandt van Rijn to Pablo Picasso. The Contemporary index fell harder and longer. Higher-priced works in the Contemporary Art 100 Index peaked at 4,979 in 1990, and fell to 1,915 in 1996.
Contemporary art is by it's nature much more speculative. It isn't old enough to have withstood the test of time. A large block of lard selling for several hundred thousand dollars? Oh, please. (That isn't referred to in this article, but did take place several years ago.)

One key to me:
''Friedman says...``Many of the new collectors do not have a grounding in art history or a fundamental understanding of what they are buying.''
Some percentage of well heeled new collectors seem to think they need to start at the top. Their problem is that they don't yet have the experience, the knowledge required to evaluate for themselves which are the top pieces and which are only decent or even problem pieces by the top artists.

Many don't socialize with more experienced collectors and dealers, so they miss the scuttlebutt, the opinions from deep in the cups. The opinions aren't always correct, and may be self-serving: it can be hard to tell, but nearly impossible to tell if relying on a single source.

Bar none the best book for beginning art collectors which I have ever seen is "Buy Art Smart" by Alan S. Bamberger. It came out 15 years ago, but as I write this there are 5 copies available used at It lays out pretty much everything one ought to know about the process. If you are an art collector you should read this book.

The toughest advice to follow well is to find knowledgeable and honest dealers. I don't know how to do that as a beginner, unless you ask around among a lot of experienced collectors, and first you have to find those. There are plenty of collectors who hook up with dealers who turn out to have an easy conscience, and a problem in seeking advice is the reluctance of many to bad mouth a dealer: it can cause legal repercussions. That's where socializing comes in. There is no substitute for viewing lots of collections, public and private. Period. Reading up on the area you are interested is necessary, but looking at the stuff and talking about it with more knowledgeable people cannot be over-emphasized. Books and articles cannot be a substitute: they all have omissions and errors. You have to talk with people.