Readings: USB Plug, Nabokov’s Lepidoptery, Art Forger

A few interesting readings from today:

1) “USB Plug Goes Both Ways” [Yanko Design Blog] – wonderful concept for a double sided USB plug. Would alleviate a ton of hassles of trying to correctly connect the USB thumb drives and other devices to our computers.

2) “Nabokov Theory on Butterfly Evolution is Vindicated” [New York Times] – when he wasn’t writing novels, Nabokov had a deep passion, lepidoptery:

Nabokov inherited his passion for butterflies from his parents. When his father was imprisoned by the Russian authorities for his political activities, the 8-year-old Vladimir brought a butterfly to his cell as a gift. As a teenager, Nabokov went on butterfly-hunting expeditions and carefully described the specimens he caught, imitating the scientific journals he read in his spare time. Had it not been for the Russian Revolution, which forced his family into exile in 1919, Nabokov said that he might have become a full-time lepidopterist.

This piece explains how one of Nabokov’s most interesting (and controversial!) theories about a group of butterflies he studied (the Polyommatus blues) has been vindicated:

Few professional lepidopterists took these ideas seriously during Nabokov’s lifetime. But in the years since his death in 1977, his scientific reputation has grown. And over the past 10 years, a team of scientists has been applying gene-sequencing technology to his hypothesis about how Polyommatus blues evolved. On Tuesday in the Proceedings of the Royal Society of London, they reported that Nabokov was absolutely right.

I love the inclusion of Nabokov’s poem near the end:

I found it and I named it, being versed

in taxonomic Latin; thus became

godfather to an insect and its first

describer — and I want no other fame.

3) “The Forger’s Story” [Financial Times] – a fascinating piece about Mark Augustus Landis, who may be described as a reverse-forger. That is to say, he forged paintings not for the purpose of selling them, but to see if they would be accepted into museums:

For nearly three decades, Landis has visited ­museums across the US in various guises and tried to donate paintings he has forged. As well as Father Scott, he has posed as “Steven Gardiner” among other aliases. He never asks for money, although museums have often hosted meals for him and made small gifts. His only stipulation is that he is donating in his parents’ names – often his actual father, ­Lieutenant Commander Arthur Landis Jr, a former US Navy officer.

Landis has been prolific and consistent in his endeavor:

Matthew Leininger, chief registrar of the ­Cincinnati Museum of Art, has spent more than two years tracking Landis’s progress. He estimates that Landis has tried to fool at least 40 museums – and probably many more – in 19 states in cities from Boston and Chicago to Savannah and ­Oklahoma City. Some forgeries have been spotted, yet he has persuaded museums not only to add works to ­collections, but even to hang them in galleries.

What’s fascinating is that what Landis does isn’t against the law:

The difficulty is that, however annoying and disruptive Landis’s activities may be for museums, he does not seem to have broken the law. “The criminal statute [of fraud] says there must be a loss and that’s the problem. There hasn’t been a loss to any victim,” says Robert Wittman, an investigator who used to run the FBI’s Art Crime Team.

As always, I recommend reading the entire piece.