Monthly Archives: April 2012

The Masterpiece

In 2003, I assured myself and my husband a comfortable retirement when I invested in Art.  And not just any old piece of art.  Nope.  I bought a Rembrandt.


You know Rembrandt, I’m sure.  He painted wonderful stuff:

The Night Watch (thanks Google)

And some seriously cool self portraits:

Google Again

OK, so now I am sure you know that I am discussing serious ART.

Well, I went to an auction in an affluent area here in NoVA the day before my husband, John’s, birthday.  They were selling all kinds of things.  Neat furniture.  Life size sculptures of animals. ( I considered buying myself a horse, and there were some available.  I like looking at horses; they are lovely animals.  But I don’t ride horses, and pooper scooping for a horse, well, that never really appealed to me.  Plus they bite.  I don’t like being bitten by animals I am feeding.)  But at this auction they were selling life-size horse sculptures.  Sculptures don’t poop, so I seriously considered buying one for the yard when the bidding started.  My niece, Jen, who was with me, held my arms down.  Thanks, Jen.  I was going for the pastoral look here at my house, but it was not to be.

The stuff that they were selling was pretty neat, actually.  An amazing assortment of furniture was on offer.  Sadly, none of it was furniture I was in the market for; and I couldn’t afford it anyway.  Nevertheless, I bought my husband John a lovely desk, one that he wouldn’t have picked out in a million years.  It was greeted with an unenthusiastic “oh, thanks.”  It was a bargain.  Unless you think of the fact that he didn’t really need a desk at the time.

But auctions are fun, and exciting.  It is easy to get caught up in the spirit of raising your hand to “win” something wonderful – to take it away from someone else.  Among the items that we could have previewed was a lot of art that I didn’t look at.  We have tons of pictures here in our house.  Way too many.

But the auctioneers were tricky.  They mixed up the art with the furniture.  And that, really, is how I came to own a Rembrandt.  Because they said the magic words:

“The next item (No. 214) is by one of the greatest Masters.  Rembrandt van Rijn!”

I looked around at the assembled crowd.  They were all ooh’ing and ahh’ing at the possibility that they might today purchase A Rembrandt.  Suddenly, I had to have it.  The fact that I had no idea what it looked like was completely and totally irrelevant.  It was a Rembrandt — a masterpiece.  How could it be anything but awe-inspiring?

The auctioneer called for an amount I could never afford, but nobody raised their hand.  The number went down.  And down again.  Still lower.  Way down to about the cost of a nicely framed poster of a Monet.

My hand went up.  For a picture I had never seen.  A Rembrandt!

After I started the bidding, several people joined me.  But by then, well, I had to have it; that Rembrandt was mine, dammit.  And I won.  For a ridiculously low price, I will add.  I think.  No, no, I’m sure it was dirt cheap.  Positive.

I took the picture home and proudly presented it to my husband for his birthday the next day.  Rembrandt is John’s favorite artist, and I knew he’d be thrilled to pieces to own a piece of his work.

John was truly delighted to know that he owned a Rembrandt.   So delighted, in fact, that he decided that we should put it up in the one room in our house where no one ever goes.

You see, the picture is an etching of Rembrandt’s father.  Who was seriously ugly.  And so, as day follows night, is the etching.

One ugly old dude. I mean, our masterpiece.

But the frame is beautiful.

And some day, when our house is robbed, the burglars will follow the signs we have put up all over the house:

“Don’t bother taking the electronics!  Upstairs is a Rembrandt.  Take the picture of the ugly old guy.  Please.”

Please don’t mention this post to our insurance company.

*     *     *

Many thanks to Eleanor of How the Hell Did I End Up Here whose recent post reminded me of my, um, Masterpiece.


Filed under Family, Humor, Stupidity

Careful — It’s Catching

You may be fond of them, but me, I don’t like assholes.  Not at all.  They scare me sometimes, because truthfully I’m pretty sure it’s a disease; they can’t help themselves.  I call it “assholism.”  And it appears to be contagious.  Worse, it seems to be striking in the most affluent of regions here in Northern Virginia.

There are some obvious symptoms.

Cigars.  I mean, look who smokes the disgusting things:

Yes, Our Fine Former Majority Leader with an ILLEGAL Cuban

And of course, our favorite conservative:

Rush is an asshole on or off the radio

Yes, anyone guilty of intentionally  lighting up one of these babies has assholism.  They stink.  And you can’t tell me that the folks who smoke them don’t know that.  They don’t care if you don’t like it.  If it makes you and the rest of the folks in the room want to puke, well, that’s your problem.

Them?  They’re just being assholes ill.  They need treatment.  An exploding cigar would be my prescription.  Or a rocket ship to another planet.  One way.

Hummers.  Yup, Hum-Vees.  Another symptom.  Especially if the owner has a cutesy license plate that says “Just HumN” or “HUMTHIS” or has an American Flag decal on the back.  Yup.  Assholism.

[A few years ago the JD Power survey of car owners identified that Hummer owners are not just assholes, but that they are idiots, too.  The biggest complaint of Hummer owners?  The Poor Gas Mileage.  Um, sir?  You bought a TANK.]

But today, in the Washington Post, I read about a family with the worst case of assholism I have ever heard of.  Yes, it’s true.  You can read about it here.  Or you can just trust me to tell you what symptoms they’re showing.  It’s dreadful. Truly frightening.  People will be rushing from the movie theaters en masse when they learn about it.

Because the folks in this story suffer from that awful combination syndrome of assholism AND   “Environmental I-don’t-get-it-ism.”

Because this family wiped out 5 acres of trees across the street from a U.S. National Park to build a 25,424-square-foot mansion modeled on the Palace of Versailles.  They will call it  The Chateau De Lumiere.  

Photo Credit: The Washington Post

I really hope they can find a cure for assholism soon.  Before someone starts building pyramids.






Filed under Humor

Too Much!

“Two” is my second favorite number.  Although I am the fifth child, I was raised with two older brothers and two older sisters.  None of them ever beat me up, so two is a pretty good number of each to have, if you ask me.

My love of twos continued.  In my second year of high school, I had my second audition ever, with my friend Sue and I singing “Tea For Two” while doing a cute, simple little two-step.  Sue taught me enough dance steps so that our duet was respectable.  Actually, I’m thinking that it must have been twice as good as anyone else’s, because Sue ended up playing the lead in our high school’s production of Guys and Dolls.  Me?  Well, let’s just say that I was only forced to forgo an important role in the play because of my grades.  Otherwise, I would have been great.  Twice as good as everybody else, in fact.

So why all the two’s today?  And if two is so damn important, shouldn’t I have written this up on Tuesday?

Nope.  It had to be today.  Because today is a two-fer fer me.

Yup.  Today, two things happened to me, blog wise.

First, But Mostly Hers became my 200th follower.  Appropriately, BMH has two names, the other one being her blog address which is:  Thanks BMH!  And thanks to the 199 that I will not name (you’re welcome) — but to whom I want to say two things:

  1. Thanks for spending time here on FiftyFourAndAHalf
  2. Don’t you have anything better to do?

Second, today, just a short while ago, my blog got it’s 20,000th hit!  See:

I had to prove it, didn't I?

So I just wanted to say thanks to you guys, my virtual friends.  I have been blogging for nearly a year now, and I have made a whole bunch of new friends.  I’ve learned a lot from all of you, I’ve peered into your souls and let you into mine.

Learning and laughing.  The two reasons I blog.

Thanks everybody.  I’ll stop writing now.  It’s too late to say anything more!


Filed under Humor

Back from Beyond

As you may know, today the Shuttle Discovery took its last flight, from Florida to here in DC, where it will go on display at the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum’s Udvar-Hazy Center in Chantilly, Va.

But first it did a victory lap around Washington, DC.  From my office perch across the Potomac, I had a window on the flight.  These pictures were taken by my colleague, Julie Pearce.


From my office window. Photo credit: Julie Pearce

And this one:

Photo credit: Julie Pearce

And yup, I’m a lucky girl; I get paid to sit here.



Filed under Real Estate, Technology

To Infinity and Beyond

Monday, Dr. Jim Yong Kim was formally elected to be the next president of the World Bank.  He will take office in June.

Now in recent years, the World Bank has become a wee bit politicized.  And that was even before Paul Wolfowitz became president 10 years ago.  But the mission, the real mission of the World Bank is to reduce poverty and help the people in the less developed world develop.  Dr. Kim is the first president of the World Bank who has worked towards ending illness and its impact on world poverty.  And as our own debates here in the US have shown us, an enormous factor in perpetuating poverty is “mortality and morbidity” — sickness and the toll it takes on society.

Jim Kim is a doctor and anthropologist who has spent his life helping fight poverty and disease.  He co-founded Harvard’s Partners in Health to help get healthcare to folks in developing countries.  He was the head of the World Health Organization’s HIV/AIDS Program, President of Dartmouth University and now President of the World Bank.

Not to mention, a seriously cool rapper:


Filed under Health and Medicine, Humor, Science, Technology