MONEY Leisure

Great Ways to Spend Black Friday Not at the Mall

One of the contraptions. The 16th Annual Friday After Thanksgiving Chain Reaction Event held at MIT, featuring 34 teams and their Rube Goldberg machines.
One of the contraptions. The 16th Annual Friday After Thanksgiving Chain Reaction Event held at MIT, featuring 34 teams and their Rube Goldberg machines. Jonathan Wiggs—Boston Globe via Getty Images

Who says you must go shopping on Black Friday? Here's a roundup of suggestions for fun, worthwhile events that take place on the notoriously crazed shopping day—but don't involve shopping at all.

It’s understandable if you plan to steer clear of the mall on November 28, a.k.a. the day after Thanksgiving, a.k.a. Black Friday. A confusing, contradictory string of consumer polls suggests that “only” 11%, or perhaps as many as 28% of Americans will physically go shopping in stores on the day. Even if the true figure is at the low end of the spectrum, it’ll still mean millions and millions of people clogging shopping centers across the land. The National Retail Federation estimated that 141 individual consumers made shopping purchases last year during the Thanksgiving weekend. The majority of the purchases were made in person (not online), and as expected, Black Friday was the weekend’s biggest day for sales.

The point is that there are literally millions and millions of reasons why you might want to consider not going to the mall on Friday. Add in the fact that deal-tracking experts argue that smart shoppers should probably skip Black Friday because, with the exception of a few amazing-but-limited doorbuster deals, stores don’t have their best prices this day, and we’re left with one overarching but illogical reason why people are compelled to shop on the day: They go not in spite of the crowds and the crazed, competitive atmosphere but because of it. In certain circles, Black Friday is considered the “Super Bowl” of shopping, or a “blood sport” of consumerism if you will, and there are shoppers out there who can’t pass up the action—even if it ruins Thanksgiving because Black Friday now starts on Thursday for most national retailers.

In any event, if you decide to not go shopping on Black Friday, congratulations. You pass the sanity test. But just because you sit Black Friday out in terms of shopping doesn’t mean you have to sit at home the whole day. Here are some suggestions for the day that don’t involve elbowing a desperate mom out of the way to get the last cheap TV or video game console in a store:

Parades and Holiday Lights
Portland (OR), Seattle, Estes Park at Colorado’s Rocky Mountain National Park, and San Antonio are among the many spots that traditionally host parades on the day after Thanksgiving. The latter is a nighttime floating parade that spectators view from San Antonio’s River Walk (tickets are necessary), and the elaborate floats feature tens of thousands of lights. Black Friday is also the day that the flip is switched on for the season for holiday light displays in places such as Chicago’s Lincoln Park Zoo.

Coat Exchanges
In honor of Buy Nothing Day, an anti-consumerism event timed to coincide with Black Friday, charity organizers launched a coat exchange years ago on the day in Rhode Island. Nowadays, coats are gathered and given away all over the state on Black Friday, and similar coat exchange programs have popped up in Utah, Kentucky, and Indiana.

Museums (and Drinks!)
Museums around the country give visitors extra reason to absorb some culture and knowledge—both in short supply at the nation’s malls—with special events and discounts on Black Friday. For instance, Miami’s Frost Museum of Science has two-for-one admissions on November 28, while from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. the Oakland Museum of California waives admission for kids and offers half-price entrance and drink specials in the beer garden for those of age. In Milwaukee, the Harley-Davidson Museum is hosting its third annual Black Friday Beerfest, with samples from dozens of craft brewers on hand.

F.A.T. Chain Reaction
Every year, an inventive, entertaining, and admittedly geeky event called the Friday After Thanksgiving (F.A.T.) Chain Reaction takes place in the Boston area at the MIT campus. Teams of kids come with elaborate Rube Goldberg/better mousetrap creations made with any materials of their choosing that, like dominos, set off a wild chain reaction of moving pieces that takes between 30 seconds and three minutes to complete. In the end, each team’s creation is linked together in a giant chain reaction to delight the crowd. Tickets are $5 for children ages 5 to 17, and $15 for adults at the door ($12.50 in advance).

Live Sports
We all know that the NFL is the dominant sport for Thanksgiving Day. The day after, however, has increasingly become a hot day for the other two major pro sports being played right now: A dozen NBA games take place on Black Friday 2014 (including a 1 p.m. tipoff of the Chicago Bulls versus the host Boston Celtics), and three of the 11 NHL games scheduled for Friday get underway during family-friendly afternoon times. Plenty of college football games kick off around the country on Friday, November 28, as well.

 

MONEY Odd Spending

You Can Buy the Mona Lisa for $25,000

Mona Lisa by Leonardo da Vinci, oil on wood
Is it real...or is it a Mark Landis? Fine Art Images—Getty Images

It's a forgery rather than the real "Mona Lisa" by Leonardo da Vinci, of course. But the asking price is still pretty steep.

The world’s most famous portrait hangs on a wall at the Louvre. It’s not for sale, and it’s hard to imagine that it ever will go on the market. But perhaps the next-best thing went on sale this week, at a coffee shop in Manhattan’s Soho neighborhood.

The Bedford + Bowery blog reported that a painting that some are calling the “Fauxna Lisa” is hanging on the wall at the Mercer Street Think Coffee shop. This portrait is most definitely for sale, with an asking price of $25,000.

Such a sum for what’s admittedly a forgery might seem absurd. Until you learn that the creator of this artwork, while not a household name like Leonardo da Vinci, is fairly famous—even infamous—in his own right.

The remarkably high-quality forgery was done by Mark Landis, a notorious art forger who has been profiled by the likes of The New Yorker and has done copies of artworks by sources ranging from Picasso to Disney. The quality of his reproductions has been good enough to fool dozens of museums, including the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery. Landis is also the subject of a new documentary called “Art and Craft,” and apparently the makers of the film approached Think Coffee recently with a proposal to hang Landis’s faux version of the “Mona Lisa” on the walls and sell it.

By one account, Landis completed the “Fauxna Lisa” in just 90 minutes. In a recent “Ask Me Anything” session on Reddit, however, the painter said that the reproduction of the “Mona Lisa” was the most challenging forgery he’s ever done. “It took me a whole weekend,” he wrote in response to a question on the forum. When asked how he was able to do such intricate work, and so quickly, Landis responded, “Well, it’s like a magic trick you know. If I told people, it wouldn’t be worth anything anymore.”

Surprisingly, Landis says that he has never benefited financially from his forgeries; in most cases, he simply donated them to institutions. He was busted (but not arrested) in 2010, and while it was originally reported that proceeds from the sale of his “Fauxna Lisa” were intended to go to the Lauren Rogers Museum of Art, which is located in the Mississippi town where Landis is from—and which, fittingly, was duped in the past into accepting a forgery by Landis, a museum representative reached out to MONEY and said this is not true.

[CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story reported that proceeds from the sale of Mark Landis’s “Mona Lisa” forgery would benefit the Lauren Rogers Museum of Art. The museum’s director of marketing said that this is not the case.]

TIME society

These Are the 25 Best Museums in the World

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The Art Institute of Chicago Charles Cook—Getty Images

Chicago's Art Institute tops this list by Trip Advisor, with Mexico City's National Museum of Anthropology close behind

If you’re booking vacations for the holidays, take note: TripAdvisor has released a list of the 25 best museums in the world.

The rankings — part of TripAdvisor’s Travelers’ Choice awards — are based on millions of reviews from travelers across the globe over the past 12 months.

Coming in at number one is the renowned Art Institute of Chicago. Founded in 1879, the popular Windy City destination houses more than 300,000 pieces of art, including famous works like Grant Wood’s American Gothic, Claude Monet’s Stack of Wheat and Georges Seurat’s A Sunday on La Grande Jatte. (You’ll also remember this museum from that awesome scene in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.)

Other top museums on the list include the National Museum of Anthropology in Mexico City, the State Hermitage Museum and Winter Palace in St. Petersburg, the Getty Center in Los Angeles and the Musee d’Orsay in Paris. The full list is here.

Oh, and if these museums seem a bit too quotidian for you, check out our list of the 10 weirdest museums in the world. You know, for some variety.

 

TIME movies

Star Wars Creator George Lucas Has Chosen Chicago for His Museum

Lucas Museum-Chicago
This 2013 file photo shows an aerial view at night of the downtown Chicago skyline. Star Wars creator George Lucas has selected Chicago to build his museum of art and movie memorabilia Kiichiro Sato—AP

Both San Francisco and Los Angeles campaigned to host the movie-memorabilia and art museum, but "aggressive" lobbying by Chicago won Lucas over

After sort of retiring from Hollywood in 2012, director George Lucas has announced that he will open a museum in Chicago showcasing both his 40-year career as a filmmaker and the extensive art collection he amassed along the way.

Some have criticized the museum as a monument to hubris, but perhaps he’s earned it. Few dispute that Lucas has established himself as one of the successful and influential figures in the history of American cinema: this is the man, after all, who gave us Star Wars and Indiana Jones.

The Lucas Museum of Narrative Art is slated to open in 2018 next to Soldier Field. Lucas will put down at least $700 million to finance its construction. In addition to paraphernalia from the sets of Lucas’ films, the museum will house his immense collection of American art by painters Norman Rockwell, N.C. Wyeth and others.

He said in a statement that choosing the planned museum’s location proved a “difficult decision,” and only came after fierce bidding between Chicago, Los Angeles and San Francisco. The latter was his first choice — he grew up across the San Francisco–Oakland Bay Bridge in the sleepy town of Modesto — but he turned his attention elsewhere when he couldn’t nab a desired location on the city’s waterfront.

A social media campaign led by Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti to bring the museum to the crucible of American cinema apparently failed to compete with Chicago’s lobbying effort, which the Chicago Tribune described as “aggressive.” (Personal factors may have directed Lucas’ choice as well — Mellody Hobson, whom he married last summer, grew up in the city.)

“This is a milestone for the city, but it is just one milestone on a journey as we build this new museum,” Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel said when announcing the decision.

Chicago welcomed a record 46.37 million tourists in 2012.

TIME History

Head On Over to Germany to Check Out a Live Replica of Vincent van Gogh’s Severed Ear

Germany Van Gogh's Ear
Undated picture shows an ear made of human cells grown from samples provided from a distant relative from Dutch artist Vincent van Gogh, in the center for art and media in Karlsruhe, Germany, Tuesday, June 3, 2014. Diemut Strebe / AP

Thanks to DNA provided by one of the artist's distant relatives

You’ve probably heard the legend of how Dutch painter Vincent van Gogh cut off his own ear. Or how perhaps someone else cut off his ear. Either way, somebody cut off van Gogh’s ear, and that has fascinated everybody ever since.

If you’re especially fascinated by van Gogh’s ear, then you should find some time in your schedule to head over to the Center for Art and Media in Karlsruhe, Germany, to see a copy of it grown from DNA samples provided by one of van Gogh’s living relatives.

Artist Diemut Strebe crafted the replica with living cells from Lieuwe van Gogh, the great-great-grandson of Vincent’s brother Theo, the Associated Press reports. She used a 3D-printer to shape the cells into an ear-like shape, and then, because of this process, basically deemed herself an artist just like van Gogh.

“I use science basically like a type of brush, like Vincent used paint,” Strebe told the AP. Okay, sure.

The ear is now being kept alive with nourishing fluid and could, in theory, remain preserved for years, so that gives you plenty of time to go check it out. This current exhibition only lasts until July 6, and then the artist is considering putting it on display in New York.

Oh, and if this was not creepy enough for you already, you can “talk” to the ear.

 

TIME museums

The 5 Best Museum Heists in History

Travel Destination: Paris
Visitors take pictures of Leonardo da Vinci 'Mona Lisa' inside the Louvre museum on Feb. 28, 2014 in Paris. Christian Marquardt—Getty Images

Talk about a sinking feeling in your stomach

In honor of International Museum Day, we collected the five best museum heists in history. Just thank your lucky stars you weren’t a museum director during any of these thefts.

1) The Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, The United States: On March 18, 1990, two thieves disguised as Boston Police officers demanded entrance to the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum. They told the guard on patrol that they were responding to a disturbance, then drew him away from the alarm button and asked him to call his partner. The thieves then handcuffed both of them and threw them in the basement, where they duct-taped their hands and feet to pipes.

The bandits then stole around $500 million worth of priceless art, the largest art heist in history. Priceless works like Vermeer’s The Concert, Rembrandt’s Storm on the Sea of Galilee, and Manet’s Chez Tortoni were taken, never to be found again. Empty frames currently hang in some rooms of the Gardner museum where the paintings originally hung, and tourists visit to see the scene of the crime.

2) The Stockholm Museum, Sweden: Armed burglars stole $30 million worth of art by Renoir and Rembrandt from the Stockholm Museum on December 22, 2000. They staged two car explosions nearby to distract police, then a gunman with a semiautomatic terrorized the museum while his accomplishes grabbed a Rembrandt self-portrait and two Renoirs. Then the thieves escaped in a small boat.

3) The Kunstahl Museum, The Netherlands: Romanian gang members stole seven paintings by Picasso, Matisse, Gaugin and Monet in under three minutes from the Kunhstahl Museum in Rotterdam on October 16, 2012. The thieves got away with the artworks, worth more than $24 million, even though they tripped the small museum’s alarm system — probably because the small museum had no guards.

Last year, the mother of one of the alleged thieves claimed to have burned the paintings, perhaps to protect her son from prosecution. Olga Dogaru’s son was the alleged ringleader of the heist, and his and his accomplices had already been arrested. Dogaru first buried the paintings in different locations, then burned them so the police could never find them. The two thieves have been sentenced to 6-8 years in prison.

4) National Museum of Anthropology, Mexico: Robbers stole 140 precious objects from Mexico’s National Museum of Anthropology on Christmas Eve, 1985, in the largest heist of pre-Colombian objects in history. The bandits picked a sleepy time when they knew the guards would be distracted by holiday cheer, and grabbed several gold, turquoise, and jade objects, as well as an obsidian monkey-shaped-vase worth over $20 million. Most of the stolen objects were very small and easy to transport, making them especially difficult to track down.

5) The Louvre, France: Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa is now the most famous painting in the Louvre, but it wasn’t always that way. In fact, getting stolen might have been the best thing that ever happened to this tiny Renaissance portrait. On August 21, 1911, three Italian handymen hid in a supply closet overnight in order to sneak into the museum and steal the Mona Lisa. One of them, Vincenzo Perugia, was the man who had installed the protective glass over the Mona Lisa in the first place. The theft was all over the French newspapers, since many people feared that German or American businessmen were buying up all the good art from their museums. The painting became so famous that he couldn’t sell it without getting caught. So he hid it in the false bottom of his trunk until over two years later, when he finally tried to sell the painting. Of course, the police showed up, Perugia was arrested, and the painting was returned, more famous than ever.

TIME World

The 10 Weirdest Museums in the World

The 6th World Instant Noodle Summit Held In Osaka
Instant cup noodles are on display at the Instant Ramen Museum on April 8, 2008 in Osaka, Japan. Junko Kimura—Getty Images

In honor of International Museum Day, a look at the wackiest exhibitions across the globe, featuring everything from toilets to instant noodles

If the word “museum” conjures up images of stuffy corridors full of highfalutin culture, you’ll be happy to learn that plenty of the world’s museums are, in fact, wonderfully weird tributes to highly specific topics and bizarre artifacts.

So, to celebrate International Museum Day, we present 10 museums around the world that are anything but mundane.

1. Icelandic Phallological Museum

Reykjavik, Iceland

If the name didn’t tip you off, this museum is dedicated to all things penile. According to its website, it houses more than 215 penises and penile parts belonging to almost all the land and sea mammals found in Iceland. Be sure not to miss the special section dedicated to whale penises.

2. The Museum of Bad Art

Brookline and Somerville, Massachusetts, USA

Known as MOBA for short, this museum touts itself as “the world’s only museum dedicated to the collection, preservation, exhibition and celebration of bad art in all its forms.” Why waste your time at art museums showcasing quality art, that will only makes you feel untalented? As you stroll through MOBA, you’ll grow more and more confident about your own artistic abilities. All the pieces “range from the work of talented artists that have gone awry to works of exuberant, although crude, execution by artists barely in control of the brush.”

3. Sulabh International Museum Of Toilets

New Delhi, India

Ever wanted to learn about the entire evolution of toilets throughout human history? Then get yourself to India to visit this museum, which traces the history of the toilet for the past 4,500 years. From simple chamber pots to elaborate decorated Victorian toilet seats, you’ll see it all. There’s even a toilet disguised as a bookcase.

4. Avanos Hair Museum

Avanos, Turkey

Want a creepier option than toilets, penises and bad art? Look no further than this hair museum created by potter Chez Galip, in the rural Turkish town of Avanos. It features a huge collection of hair gathered from more than 16,000 women, and if that doesn’t sound creepy enough for you: it’s situated in a small, dark cave.

5. The Museum of Broken Relationships

Zagreb, Croatia

This museum evolved “from a traveling exhibition revolving around the concept of failed relationships and their ruins,” its website explains. Visitors are encouraged to donate artifacts from their own broken relationships as “a chance to overcome an emotional collapse.” You’ll see obvious artifacts — rings, clothing, Valentine’s Day gifts — but you’ll also spot some stranger remnants like fuzzy pink handcuffs or a wooden watermelon.

6. Momofuku Ando Instant Ramen Museum

Osaka, Japan

Millions of college students have Momofuku Ando, creator of Cup Noodles, to thank for the cheap meal that kept them alive for four years. The museum, dedicated to Ando and his culinary creation, even includes an instant ramen workshop where visitors can make their own “fresh” noodles.

7. International Cryptozoology Museum

Portland, Maine, USA

Cryptozoology is literally “the study of hidden animals” and involves the search for animals whose existence has not been verified, like the Yeti or Bigfoot. This museum’s collection includes specimens and artifacts purportedly related to these types of mythical, unverified creatures. It includes everything from hair samples, fecal matter and native art — and it just might turn you into a Bigfoot believer.

8. Meguro Parasitological Museum

Tokyo, Japan

Learn everything you’ve ever wanted to know about tapeworms, head lice and plenty of other parasites you’ve probably never heard of. The collection boasts 300 specimens, including a 29-foot tapeworm. Not recommended for anyone with a weak stomach.

9. Museum of Medieval Torture Instruments

Amsterdam, Netherlands

If you can forgive them for using Comic Sans on their website, check out this museum for its diverse collection of more than 100 torture devices. Some you’ll look at and say, “Okay, yeah, I see how that would work.” Others will have you scratching your head wondering how the heck they were used and just how brutal the resulting torture was. Fun for the whole family!

10. The Kansas Barbed Wire Museum

La Crosse, Kansas, USA

Yes, there’s really an entire museum dedicated to barbed wire. It features more than 2,400 varieties and explores the role barbed wire played in the settlement of the United States. We’ll go ahead and recommend not touching any of the displays.

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