Mona Lisa experts crack a smile and Alec Baldwin plays himself
Aaron Hutchins, Jaime Weinman, Tamsin McMahon and Barry Hertz
Paris, FRANCE: Picture taken 05 April 2005 in Paris Louvre Museum of the Portrait of Mona Lisa, painted by Leonardo da Vinci. An expert on the "Mona Lisa" says he has ascertained with certainty that the symbol of feminine mystique died on July 15, 1542, and was buried at the convent in central Florence where she spent her final days. Giuseppe Pallanti found a death notice in the archives of a church in Florence that referred to "the wife of Francesco del Giocondo, deceased July 15, 1542, and buried at Sant’Orsola," the Italian press reported 19 January 2007. AFP PHOTO / JEAN-PIERRE MULLER (Photo credit should read JEAN-PIERRE MULLER/AFP/Getty Images)
Jean-Pierre Muller/AFP/Getty Images

Searching for Mona Lisa’s smile

While Mona Lisa hangs in the Louvre in Paris, researchers are opening up a tomb in Florence, Italy, in hopes of identifying the bones behind the famed half-smile. Art historians generally agree that Lisa Gherardini, who lived across the street from Leonardo da Vinci, was likely the model for his masterpiece. Using DNA samples from the Gherardini family tomb, researchers are aiming to confirm a familial connection with the skeleton. The next step will be a virtual reconstruction of the skeleton’s face in the hope of matching the bone structure to the famous smirking woman. It is a serious undertaking, but one that could uncover the mystery of the Mona Lisa smile. Was it the cause of congenital palsy or just bad teeth? If no one alive can explain it, maybe a skeleton can.

Canadian tennis, anyone?

Although he became the first Canadian ever to move into the top 10 of the ATP rankings, 22-year-old tennis star Milos Raonic couldn’t best Spain’s Rafael Nadal, 27, at the Rogers Cup in Montreal last weekend. The native of Thornhill, Ont. lost 6-2, 6-2, though he did become the first Canadian since 1969 to reach the finals of Canada’s major tennis tournament. In another boost for Tennis Canada, Vasek Pospisil, 23, of Vernon, B.C., moved up to No. 40 in the world rankings after advancing to the Rogers Cup semifinals, where he lost to Raonic in three sets. The results come as a big confidence boost leading up to next month, where both Raonic and Pospisil will team up for Canada in the Davis Cup semifinals against Serbia.

So, no free cars for Switzerland?

Oprah Winfrey may not be the TV star she once was at home, but people don’t even seem to recognize her overseas. While on a trip to Zurich, Winfrey, 59, claims she went into a store and asked to look at a luxury handbag, only for the clerk to refuse, telling her it was “too expensive” for her to afford. Winfrey felt the clerk was making the assumption based on her skin colour, and the official tourism office of Switzerland put out an official apology for the way she was treated. But the owner of the store claimed that the assistant was just trying to suggest a different bag, and the message got lost in translation.

A disturbing status update

Derek Medina claims to be many things: neighbourhood watchman, self-help guru, ghost hunter and now murderer. Last week, the 31-year-old Miami man updated his Facebook profile to say he had shot and killed his wife, 26-year-old Jennifer Alfonso, during an argument. He uploaded a photo of what appeared to be Alfonso’s bloody body lying on the couple’s kitchen floor as proof. The picture was shared more than 100 times before Facebook took it down. Medina is no stranger to the online world, with nearly 150 YouTube videos to his name and six self-help books published on Amazon in the past year. In his last message before being charged with first-degree murder, Medina told his 164 Facebook followers: “I’m going to prison or death sentence for killing my wife. Love you guys. Miss you guys. Take care.”

What would Jack Donaghy think?

Now that 30 Rock is over, NBC is giving Alec Baldwin a chance to play the role he loves best: himself. According to the website Mediaite, NBC’s 24-hour news channel MSNBC is planning to give the 55-year-old actor a weekly talk show on Fridays, where the outspoken liberal can talk about each and every one of his opinions. MSNBC is considered the most left-leaning of the major news networks, but its ratings have tumbled since U.S. President Barack Obama’s re-election, and Baldwin, who has guest-starred on the network before, could bring some much-needed star power back to the franchise, though MSNBC has so far called it only an “unconfirmed report.”

Be kind and rewind this clip

While YouTube is great for exposing allegedly tipsy politicians and rude pop stars, it can also be used to inspire random acts of kindness. Or that’s what Victoria’s Kim Faganello is hoping after the motorcyclist posted a video of himself stopping to help pull a woman in a wheelchair out from a patch of dirt and back onto the sidewalk. “There you go, had to lock the hubs,” Faganello says in the video before riding off. “Have a good one!” The minute-long clip, titled “How we do a drive-by in Canada,” was shot using a helmet-mounted camera Faganello happened to be wearing at the time, though he insists it wasn’t uploaded to stroke his ego. “The video wasn’t posted to say, ‘Hey everybody, look at me, I’m so awesome,’ ” he told the Vancouver Sun. “It was to encourage people to step out of their comfort zone.” The move seems to have worked, with the YouTube clip racking up more than 50,000 views since being posted last Friday—with a version garnering more than a million—and a score of tweets urging others to commit “random acts of Canadianness.”

Departing for jail

Martin Scorsese might want to think about a sequel to The Departed this week after the conviction of James “Whitey” Bulger, the infamous Boston mob boss who served as the model for Jack Nicholson’s character in the 2006 Oscar-winning movie. The 83-year-old Bulger, who was found guilty of 11 murders and other gangland crimes, spent 16 years on the run after a retired FBI agent tipped him off about upcoming indictments, and was finally caught in 2011 in Santa Monica, Calif. While the charges against Bulger are shocking enough, his connections to the FBI are almost as astonishing, given that he committed many of his crimes while serving as an informant.

A Scientologist scorned

Just a few years ago, Leah Remini, the King of Queens sitcom star, was one of the Church of Scientology’s most high-profile evangelists. Now she’s all but accusing the movement of foul play, filing a missing-persons report for Shelly Miscavige, the wife of Church leader David Miscavige. Pointing out that Shelly hasn’t appeared in public in six years, Remini, 43, asked the Los Angeles Police Department to look into her disappearance. The LAPD announced the report was unfounded and that they’d contacted Mrs. Miscavige, but the Church seemed rattled enough to release a statement calling the report “nothing more than a publicity stunt for Ms. Remini.” Well, it worked.

Au revoir

The founder of Quebec’s Option nationale, the province’s newest pro-sovereignty party, is calling it quits and moving to England to resume his finance career. Jean-Martin Aussant, who resigned from what he considered a timid Parti Québécois to create Option nationale in 2011, is rejoining Morgan Stanley Capital International as a vice-president. “No substantial [job] offers came in Montreal or Quebec City,” Aussant, 43, said in a blog post on Monday. “Was this the result of a soft market in Montreal or was I hurt within certain circles by my too-close association with sovereignty?” he wrote. “I don’t know. I’d like to believe it’s not the latter reason—not in 2013, for heaven’s sake.” Aussant was one of the PQ’s rising stars when he was elected in 2008, but saw his Option nationale party, which attracted a young base and gained endorsement from Jacques Parizeau, falter in last year’s provincial election, failing to win a single seat.

Jerry Lewis’s clown cries again

The Day the Clown Cried, a 1970s Holocaust drama by director-star Jerry Lewis, is perhaps the most famous, or infamous, unreleased movie of all time. Although Lewis still refuses to screen the footage, a bit of it leaked out last week, thanks to a clip of a Dutch television crew going behind the scenes during the making of the film. The clip mostly consists of Lewis talking about his greatness as a director, with only a few clips of his role as a sad clown who leads children into the gas chambers. But that brief taste became enough to cause a social media sensation, and increased demand to see the whole film. Lewis so far has made no comment on the film, or his clown makeup.

A superstar’s Atlanta family drama

R&B musician Usher embraced his former wife, Tameka Foster, this week after an Atlanta judge rejected her emergency request for custody of their two children, following their five-year-old son’s near-drowning in his father’s pool. The accident came almost a year after Foster’s 11-year-old son Kile Glover, then Usher’s stepson, died after being run over by a watercraft on a lake near Atlanta.