Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Texas man found asleep with corpse inside closet

A Houston man found asleep with a corpse inside a closet of a vacant home has been charged with misdemeanor drug offenses, authorities said Monday. Cody Jean Plant, 21, was discovered Sunday after the owner of the house reported hearing voices and seeing signs of forced entry at the home in Cypress, about 25 miles northwest of Houston, according to a Harris County Precinct 4 Constable official. Authorities did not immediately release the dead man's identity.

"There were two guys in the closet. They appeared to be sleeping, one was snoring and the other was deceased," said Assistant Chief Deputy Mark Herman. "It appeared that they were doing some sort of narcotics, at least the one that they woke up."

Plant was charged with one count of possession of a dangerous drug and two counts of possession of a controlled substance of more than three grams and less than 28 grams. All are punishable by up to a year in jail. It was not immediately clear what kind of drugs Plant allegedly had in his possession.

Plant also had been charged with abuse of a corpse after prosecutors alleged he treated the body "in an offensive manner," but that charge was dropped Monday during a probable cause hearing.

Plant remained in the Harris County Jail in lieu of $15,000 bail Monday. Jail officials did not know Monday night whether Plant had an attorney.

A big hunk o' hair -- Elvis locks go under the hammer

Elvis Presley fans keen to own a chunk of their idol now can: locks of what is claimed to be The King's hair are up for auction next week.

The large quantity of hair is one of about 200 items of Elvis memorabilia collected by the late Gary Pepper, who was the president of the Tankers Fan Club set up for Elvis fans.

Chicago-based Leslie Hindman Auctioneers said the hair, which is expected to sell for between $8,000 and $12,000 at the October 18 auction, was given to Pepper to mail to Presley fans and was believed to be from when the singer had his hair cut to join the U.S. Army.

"In 1958, the nation's newspapers announced that Elvis Presley, having been newly recruited into the U.S. Army, had received two haircuts trimming his famous locks and sideburns down to a greatly modified crew cut," said a statement by the auction house.

"Individual strands of Elvis Presley's shaved locks have since been treasured by his fans who wish to own a piece of The King himself."

The auction house has not had a DNA test carried out on the hair but quoted "an expert in celebrity hair authentication," John Reznikoff, saying it matched the Elvis hair he has in his collection.

Presley died in 1977 at the age of 42.

Other items up for sale include signed photos, albums, publicity shots, souvenirs, and clothing.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

The Mystery of the Declaration of Independence

This story started in June 2004, when Artemy Lebedev was engaged in researching some documents in the sheet materials section of the Central State Archive of Foreign History of Ukraine based in Kiev. Much agitated Nikolay Kislenko, the head of the archive, approached him and said, “Now come, there’s something I want to show you. You’ve never seen anything like it.”

On one of the storage shelves in the vaults lay a thick lincrusta-bound folder with Nor[th] Am[erica]. [War 17]75–83 written on it in correction fluid. Among the letters, etchings, a variety of billboards and fly-sheets lay a moldering sheet folded three times—the U.S. Declaration of Independence of 1776.

The text of the Declaration was adopted on July 4, 1776 and signed by two officials: John Hancock, President of the Continental Congress, and Charles Thomson, Secretary. On the same date the printer John Dunlap printed the endorsed document (of which there are 24 copies left as of today) that were dispatched to different assemblies, conventions, and committees of safety the next day.

The handlettering of the engrossed Declaration of Independence as it is known today began on July 19, and it was physically signed by the representatives of the Continental Congress on August 2, 1776.

The questions that still remained unresolved were how one of the pillars of the US national pride happened to wind up in the Kiev archives, and why the document of historical importance was entitled “United States of Жmerinca” (russian letter “Ж” corresponds to "Zh").

On July 19, Congress ordered that the Declaration be “fairly engrossed on parchment with the title and stile (sic!) of ‘The Unanimous Declaration of the thirteen United States of America’ and that the same, when engrossed, be signed by every member of Congress.”

Timothy Matlack, Assistant to Charles Thomson, was assigned with engrossing the document. At this point the tone of the official records of the Declaration history shifts, and the rest of the data is provided in an extremely piecemeal manner. It is only known that the delegates of Congress affixed their signatures to the Declaration on August 2.

After that an obscure period in the life of the 24¼ × 29¾ inch sheet of paper sets in. The Declaration was rolled and stashed away in an archive. Throughout this time, the document is never exhibited in public: instead, a fly-sheet with its text is distributed. In the meantime, the original document travels from one archive to another, until its arrival in Washington in 1814.

The fact is the real name of Timothy Matlack who penned the Declaration of Independence is Tomislav Matlakowski. Several years before the revolutionary events began to unfold in the New World, he left the voivodship of Bratslav and sailed for America, where he at first worked as a brewer, then took some interest in the Quaker movement and finally went for politics. Sometimes he was given calligraphic work: he penned some landmark official documents, including George Washington’s commission as commanding general of the Continental Army.

According to the State Archive of the Ukraine Health Ministry, Matlakowski was born in the place named Zhmerinca (a city since 1903).

In all likelihood, the nostalgic Matlakowski wrote the title in mixed alphabets, while Congress members didn’t notice anything wrong on the day when the Declaration was signed. But it was apparently discovered the next day by Charles Thomson, the discovery leading him to order immediately that the original be hidden from the public eye, and Matlack be demoted from the Secretary of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania to the Congress Delegate from the same state.

There were two attempts to make a facsimile of the Declaration: in 1818 and 1819. But these facsimile printings were declared unsuitable for public display, since the copyists commissioned to produce the facsimiles decorated the document with ornamental designs and patterns. But Congress needed to have an exact copy that would be exhibited for public display. So William J. Stone was commissioned to do the job in 1820. It took Stone three years to complete the facsimile, and the Department of State purchased the plate from the engraver.

On June 5, 1823 the (Washington) National Intelligencer observed: “The facility of multiplying copies of it, now possessed by the Department of State will render furthur (sic!) exposure of the original unnecessary.”

The outcome of the engraver’s painstaking work was the image that’s printed on posters and sold these days.

Stone failed to solve two problems: the one with the letter “Ж” and the one with the dissymmetry of the heading against the text body.

Under the canons of the time, the heading was supposed to be as broad as the text body, or centered, but a special Congress commission decided that the error was insignificant. Stone convinced the commission members that the unknowing public would have no doubt that what they see is the letter “A”.

Ever since the original document hasn’t been shown to anyone and the data on its destiny has been missing. An aged copy that’s exposed under a bulletproof glass among the three Charters of Freedom in the National Archives Rotunda in Washington was placed on display in the middle of the 19th century.

The story of the film “National Treasure” starring Nicolas Cage hinges on this copy. A curious thing is that the film producers saw to it that the heading is never shot in a close-up, while all posters were made as collages where the letter “Ж” is concealed one way or another.

[Via Artlebedev.com]