ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) — A modern-day glassblower believes he has unraveled the mysteries of Renaissance-era Venetian glassmaking, a trade whose secrets were so closely guarded that anyone who divulged them faced the prospect of death.
Today’s glassblowers work with methane-fired furnaces, electric-powered kilns, good lighting and proper ventilation. The craftsmen of Murano, an island near Venice, didn’t have such technology, yet they still turned out museum-worthy pieces known for their artistry and beauty, using techniques that remained exclusive for centuries.
Through years of researching Venetian glass collections at American and European museums and comparing the artifacts with more contemporary glasswork from Venice, plus his own experimentation and many trips to Italy, William Gudenrath has created an online resource he believes explains Venetian glassmakers’ methods.
“The Techniques of Renaissance Venetian Glassworking” — which contains videos, photographs and text — details how Gudenrath surmises glassworkers produced works of art with little more than wood-fired furnaces and metal blow pipes and tongs. The information was posted this week on the website of the Corning Museum of Glass in upstate New York, where Gudenrath is a resident adviser and teacher of Venetian techniques.
The gilding and enameling the Murano glassmakers added to their glass products had to be fired at higher temperatures than the glass itself to make the decorations permanent. The Venetians couldn’t simply turn a nob to regulate the temperature of their furnaces, Gudenrath said, yet they mastered the tricky art of glass decoration by continuously reheating and shaping the vessel after the decorations had been added, a process he demonstrates in several videos.
“It’s just amazing to me that they did what they did in those conditions,” he said.
Gudenrath’s knowledge of Venetian glassmaking and his research into the process, something he has focused on for 25 years, are a “fantastic resource for artists,” said Jutta-Annette Page, curator of glass and decorative arts at Ohio’s Toledo Museum of Art.
Gudenrath, 65, became fascinated with Venetian glass while a teenager in Houston, where he started blowing glass at age 11. But finding written documents detailing how Murano glass was created proved difficult, a result of restrictions placed on the trade hundreds of years ago.
To prevent fires, the Venetian government ordered glass furnaces moved to Murano in the late 13th century. The move also was aimed to prevent secrets of the glassmaking guild from being smuggled to competitors. Anyone attempting to do so could be executed under Venetian laws created to maintain the city’s monopoly on the European luxury glass trade.
“Industrial espionage and that sort of thing was taken very seriously,” Gudenrath said.
Competition from other European nations eventually weakened Murano’s hold, and Napoleon’s closing of the factories after conquering Venice sent the industry into further decline. Venetian glass experienced a rebirth in the mid-19th century, but Gudenrath said much of the practical knowledge of the original, secretive methods had been lost.
Some of the old techniques have been reinvented and are being again used on Murano, still home to vibrant, albeit smaller, glassmaking operations and studios.
Associated Press writers Michael Hill in Albany and Mike Householder in Detroit contributed to this report.
Corning Museum of Glass: http://renvenetian.cmog.org
SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Facebook is giving friendship collages to its 1.6 billion users in celebration of the social network’s 12th birthday.
The collages will be packaged in video presentations of photos of friends and family that have been previously been posted on Facebook. The photos are picked out by automated technology, although each Facebook user will be able to delete some and select other pictures instead.
The videos won’t be seen by anyone else unless a user decides to share the presentation.
Most Facebook users should start seeing the videos at the top of their Facebook feeds by noon Thursday, which the Menlo Park, California, company is hailing as “Friends Day.” It coincides with the 12th anniversary of Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg starting the social network in his Harvard University dorm room.
ANN ARBOR, Mich. (AP) — Jim Harbaugh, hailed like a rock star, strolled onto a regally lit stage in a sharp suit instead of his signature khakis and tucked-in blue pullover.
Maize-and-blue clad fans rose out of rose-colored, plush seats and roared to adore the Michigan coach.
Welcome to Signing Day, the reboot.
Harbaugh attracted an array of celebrities and 3,500-plus fans to pack a 103-year-old auditorium staged for a dramatic performance Wednesday that topped just about any production schools have put on to welcome their newest class of football recruits.
Even though the show included visits from stars such as Tom Brady, Derek Jeter and even Ric Flair, Harbaugh was the real star of the Wolverines’ “Signing With the Stars” spectacle.
Teams have been turning signing day into an event in recent years, engaging their fans, getting alumni involved and trying to come up with flashy ways to welcome their newest players. Social media, billboards, live streaming online and signing day parties have become fairly common.
Harbaugh took it to another level, welcoming the newest class as if celebrity status was already a given.
Lou Holtz, who was on stage behind a TV-studio like desk, predicted the extravagance would be copied by other schools in the future.
“I think people will do something similar or they’ll criticize it,” said Harbaugh, who at one point did a “dab” dance move with Holtz. “What do I think of that? I probably won’t think much of it.
“It worked for us. It was wonderful for us, and why not?”
The event was meticulously produced, including having James Earl Jones, a Michigan graduate, touting the institution as the “best university in the world” in a video montage that revved up the crowd.
It included in-person visits from a string of stars from stage and screen, but it didn’t last long enough for Harbaugh to announce the signing of his top recruit.
Toward the end of the 2-plus-hour event, the top recruit in the country, defensive tackle Rashan Gary of New Jersey, announced he was going to Michigan. As word spread via social media, a murmur turned into a buzz and the crowd cheered when Harbaugh said they got “good news” backstage. Michigan officially confirmed the commitment later in the day, and later posted a video on Twitter, showing Harbaugh pumping his right hand when he got the news.
Harbaugh said 28 or 29 scholarships would be given, and seven of those recipients are already on campus and will be joining the Wolverines for another one of his push-the-envelope experiments. Entering his second year at his alma mater, Harbaugh plans to take his team to Florida for four practices during the school’s spring break.
Harbaugh has done a lot differently as a recruiter, including spending the night at the houses future players. It’s a trick in an era where coaches know creating social media buzz around a recruit is as important as anything.
One of his sleepovers was with Quinn Nordin, the nation’s top kicker, who had been committed to attending Penn State.
It worked. Nordin was shown on a videoboard with his family as it was announced he was coming to Michigan.
Jeter, whose company, The Players’ Tribune, hosted the standing-room only event, was also given a standing ovation. Jeter claimed he knew Harbaugh would end up back at Michigan after seeing how things were playing out for him with the San Francisco 49ers.
“He’s brought excitement back to the university and the program as you can see today,” Jeter said.
Flair later fired up the crowd.
The former professional wrestler said that in 1968, he signed a letter of intent to play at Michigan, and said he spent a fun week at a fraternity house.
“I made up my mind I was never leaving Ann Arbor,” Flair said. “Woooooo!”
He didn’t stay, and instead became a famous entertainer in the squared circle.
The Wolverines haven’t won a Big Ten title since 2004, their longest drought without a conference championship in more than a half-century. They haven’t won a national championship since 1997.
Brady believes that will change.
“Our biggest recruiting day was last year when we got coach Harbaugh back,” he said. “I’ve competed against him, and lost.”
“Can we get that in writing?” Harbaugh cracked.
He also joked he had nothing like this when he signed his letter of intent. How different was it for him when he committed to Michigan a couple of decades ago?
“Slightly,” the New England Patriots quarterback joked.
AP college football website: http://collegefootball.ap.org
Follow Larry Lage at http://www.twitter.com/larrylage and follow his work at http://bigstory.ap.org/content/larry-lage
The latest developments on college football signing day (all times EST):
COMMITMENT TRACKER: The last major recruit to make a signing-day decision was linebacker Caleb Kelly from California. He picked Oklahoma over Notre Dame and Oregon and became the highest-rated player of Bob Stoops’ class.
The last remaining five-star player is Demetri Robertson, an athlete from Georgia who has said he planned to delay his choice. Robertson is considering Georgia and Notre Dame among his options.
So with the final unofficial standings using the average of the various web sites that rank that classes looks like this:
2. Florida State
4. Ohio State
6. Ole Miss
14. Notre Dame
18. Texas A&M
19. Michigan State
21. Penn State
THE FINAL (unofficial) STANDINGS: Recruiting ratings can move even after signing day if some highly rated players sign late.
Demetris Robertson, a top-notch athlete from Savannah, Georgia, rated either a five- or four-star by the recruiting services, has said he won’t sign for a few days. When he does, he could move the numbers.
But using the numbers available at 5:30 p.m. and taking an average of the four most popular web sites that rank the classes (Rivals, Scout, 247Sports and ESPN) here is a “consensus” top 25.
Earlier rankings mistakenly left out Michigan State. The Spartans came in at No. 18
2. Florida State
3. Ohio State
14. Notre Dame
17. Texas A&M
18. Michigan State
20. Penn State
WAITING ON KELLY: The last big-name recruit to commit on signing day will be linebacker Caleb Kelly, whose top choices are Oklahoma and Notre Dame.
LES IS MORE: Remember when LSU almost fired coach Les Miles back in November? Well, it didn’t hurt recruiting. LSU’s highly rated class took a couple of hits on signing day, most notably losing stud linebacker Erick Fowler to Texas.
LSU locked up its loaded class filled with the top talent in its state, including nine of the 10 highest rated players, and came away with a class that will rank in the top five national, according to most of the experts.
RANKINGS QUIP: There was some talk that Michigan State’s recruiting class could end up in the top 10 this year — which would be unusually high for a program that has been hugely successful of late despite middling showings in the signing day rankings.
By the time coach Mark Dantonio spoke Wednesday, the Spartans were down around the edge of the top 20 in some of the major recruiting rankings — solid, but not spectacular.
“When I retire from here, I’m going to get a job in one of those places and I’m going to run my own service,” Dantonio joked.
BIELEMA DIALS IT BACK: Ole Miss coach Hugh Freeze told Sports Illustrated that Arkansas coach Bret Bielema apologized to him for a comment he made earlier in the day on ESPN that sounded as if Bielema was being crictial of the way the Rebels and Florida recruit.
Bielema said: “Florida is kind of the new Ole Miss. They’re doing some things recruiting that kind of shocks you a little bit.”
Bielema later said he meant it as a compliment to the Gators: “This past week, we were competing versus them for a lot of guys, and we hadn’t seen that before.”
COMMITMENT TRACKER: De La Salle (Ca.) High School teammates Devin Asiasi and Boss Tagaloa announced their commitments at the same ceremony. One is staying in California, the other is leaving the state.
Asiasi, a tight end, picked Michigan over UCLA and USC.
Tagaloa, a defensive tackle, picked UCLA.
COMMITMENT TRACKER: As it reaches midday on the West Coast, UCLA is poised to finish strong. The Bruins scored big with California five-star linebacker Mique Juarez, who was also considering Ole Miss and Alabama.
COMMITMENT TRACKER: Not all the best players pick Alabama. Auburn landed one of the top defensive tackles in the country when Derrick Brown from Georgia picked the Tigers over the Crimson Tide and Georgia.
No one will cry for the Tide, of course. A little earlier, defensive end Terrell Hall from Washington, D.C., chose the Tide over Maryland.
COMMITMENT TRACKER: USC went all the way across the country to grab offensive tackle E.J. Price from Atlanta away from Auburn and Georgia.
HARBAUGH ON THE ROAD: Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh announced that the Wolverines will hold part of their spring practice in Florida.
MEANWHILE, IN COLUMBUS: While Harbaugh turned Michigan into a signing day spectacle, it was a quiet morning for Ohio State and that was just fine for Urban Meyer and the Buckeyes.
Ohio State lost out on a highly rated defensive back to Florida State, but otherwise a class that came into the signing day figuring to be one of the best in the country ended it as just that.
The most notable name in the Buckeyes’ latest class — Nick Bosa, the brother of Ohio State All-American Joey. Like his big brother, Nick Bosa is defensive end.
BIELEMA BOMB: Arkansas coach Bret Bielema is never shy about sounding off on opponents. During an interview on ESPN2 he took aim at Florida — and Mississippi.
“Florida is kind of the new Ole Miss. They’re doing some things recruiting that kind of shocks you a little bit.”
COMMITMENT TRACKER: Another blue-chipper for Alabama. Linebacker Mack Wilson picked the Crimson Tide. Not a big surprise, though when Kirby Smart left Alabama to become head coach at Georgia there was some speculation Wilson could end up in Athens with the former Tide defensive coordinator.
Wilson joins buddy and fellow linebacker Ben Davis, who committed to the Tide earlier in the day. The two took their official visit together.
COMMITMENT TRACKER: The top junior college recruit in the country picks Tennessee. Jonathan Kongbo, a defensive end who played for Arizona Western College, chose the Volunteers over USC and Florida State.
Kongbo committed to Tennessee last year, the de-committed earlier this year before ultimately signing with the Vols.
COMMITMENT TRACKER: Rashan Gary, the nation’s No. 1 recruit, picks Michigan. The defensive tackle from Paramus Catholic High School in New Jersey made his announcement on ESPN.
Michigan was the presumptive front-runner. His old high school coach works for the Wolverines, Michigan’s star defensive back Jabrill Peppers also went to Paramus Catholic and there are several other New Jersey players heading to Michigan in this recruiting class.
Clemson was in the running, as well as a few Southeastern Conference schools.
COMMITMENT TRACKER: Offensive tackle Landon Dickerson picks Florida State over Alabama and Tennessee, adding to a great day for Jimbo Fisher and the Seminoles.
A little earlier, Florida State flipped defensive tackle Shavar Manuel, who had been expected to sign with the rival Gators.
Florida State and Texas were in the running for strongest performances signing days.
COMMITMENT TRACKER: After losing out to Ole Miss on highly touted receiver A.J. Brown, a Starkville native, Mississippi State got a big win on signing day by landing defensive tackle Jeffrey Simmons, who was considered the top prospect in the Magnolia state.
The sleepover worked. Quinn Nordin, the nation’s No. 1 kicker, signed with Michigan. Nordin, you might recall, was previously committed to Penn State but Jim Harbaugh lured him away with a sleepover.
During the Wolverines’ signing day extravaganza in Ann Arbor, Harbaugh said his bed at the Nordin’s home was one of the most comfortable he has ever slept in.
COMMITMENT TRACKER: Always nice to take a player from a conference rival.
Running back Vavae Malepeai from Hawaii flipped from his Oregon commitment to go to Southern California.
The Trojans also lured Jamel Cook, an athlete who could wind up in the secondary, away from his Florida State commitment on signing day and beat Michigan for defensive end Connor Murphy.
Rashan Gary, the top-rated recruit in the country from Paramus Catholic High School in New Jersey, was scheduled to announce where he will attend school at about 1:10 p.m ET on ESPN. He was headed to Bristol, Connecticut, by limousine, from his high school.
Gary will choose from Michigan, Clemson or an SEC school.
THE SCOTT EFFECT?
Tennessee added former Miami interim head coach Larry Scott to its staff last month, and the move apparently is already paying dividends. Tennessee signed two Florida residents who previously had been committed to Miami. The two players to make the switch were athlete Tyler Byrd of Naples and wide receiver Latrell Williams of Lake City.
Scott, who served as Miami’s interim head coach for the final six games of the 2015 season after Al Golden was fired, is Tennessee’s new tight ends coach. — Steve Megargee reporting.
COMMITMENT TRACKER: The scores keep on coming for Texas. Linebacker Jeffrey McCulloch picked the Longhorns over Notre Dame and Stanford.
COMMITMENT TRACKER: Receiver Drake Davis is heading to LSU. He picked the Tigers over Alabama.
COMMITMENT TRACKER: Receiver Nate Craig-Myers from Tampa, Florida, pulled out a mini-statue of Aubie, Auburn’s costumed Tiger mascot, to choose Auburn over North Carolina.
COMMITMENT TRACKER: Receiver A.J. Brown is one of the best prospects in the state of Mississippi and he grew up in Starkville, home of Mississippi State. But he’s going to Ole Miss.
Brown told the Clarion-Ledger in Jackson, Mississippi: “I was going to stay (home), but I felt like they didn’t do a good job of recruiting. I didn’t feel wanted.”
COMMITMENT TRACKER: Linebacker Dontavious Jackson from Texas is heading to Florida State. Charlie Strong and the Texas made a later push to get Jackson, but the Seminoles closed the deal on him.
It’s the third big signing day commitment for the ‘Noles who also landed defensive end Brian Burns and cornerback Carlos Becker, who was considering Ohio State.
COMMITMENT TRACKER: Deontay Anderson won the day as far as spectacular commitments go. The four-star safety released a video on Bleacher Report of him skydiving, landing and opening up his jump suit to reveal and Ole Miss T-shirt.
AP College Football website: collegefootball.ap.org
HONG KONG (AP) — A Chinese state-owned chemical maker offered to buy Swiss pesticide giant Syngenta for $43 billion in what would be the biggest-ever foreign acquisition by a Chinese company.
Syngenta AG said Wednesday its board is recommending shareholders accept the offer from China National Chemical Corp., also known as ChemChina. Basel-based Syngenta said in a statement that ChemChina’s cash offer is worth the equivalent of 480 francs ($482) a share, including a special 5 franc dividend for shareholders if the deal goes through.
The deal is part of a global acquisition spree by Chinese companies, which are diversifying abroad to counter a slowdown at home while also seeking foreign expertise and technology. Last month Chinese home appliance maker Haier Group bought General Electric’s home appliance business while conglomerate Wanda Group acquired Hollywood movie studio Legendary Entertainment.
The Syngenta deal, if completed, would overtake CNOOC’s 2012 purchase of Canadian energy company Nexen as the biggest foreign acquisition by a Chinese company, according to Dealogic data.
Beijing-based ChemChina will keep existing Syngenta management in place following the deal, which is expected to be completed by the end of the year. It said it would also consider an initial public offering of the business “in the years to come.”
“We think it’s a very good deal for Syngenta and all the stakeholders will benefit from this transaction,” Syngenta Chairman Michael Demaré said in a video posted on the company’s website.
Last month, ChemChina bought German machinery maker KraussMaffei for about $1 billion and took a 12 percent stake in Swiss energy trader Mercuria. In March it bought Italian tire manufacturer Pirelli.
The Syngenta deal is also part of a shake-up of the global agricultural and chemical industry, which is being pressured by tumbling commodity prices that are forcing farmers to spend less on seeds, pesticides and equipment. The company reported Wednesday that net income for 2015 fell 17 percent to $1.3 billion as it struggled with low crop prices, instability in emerging markets and currency fluctuations.
For China, it’s an opportunity to beef up its expertise in the “ag-chem” industry as part of President Xi Jinping’s plan to modernize the country’s farms to keep up with demand from a rising consumer class.
“Our vision for Syngenta is all about growth,” ChemChina Chairman Ren Jianxin said in a video posted online. “We see big opportunities for the company to expand its presence in emerging markets and notably in China where there is rapid modernization driven by the need to increase grain productivity and increase food quality.”
Sygenta agreed to the takeover bid after spurning a $46.5 billion offer from agricultural giant Monsanto.
NEW YORK (AP) — Yoenis Cespedes says he chose happiness over more dollars.
Of course, the lower offer was a $75 million, three-year contract that kept him with the New York Mets.
“It’s not always about the amount of money being offered,” he said through a translator Wednesday in his first public comments about his Jan. 22 decision. “It’s about wanting to be in a place you want to play in, that you’re happy in. And as you can see, this is just what happened in that case.”
Still, the slugging outfielder has the right to terminate his contract after one season and $27.5 million, then become a free agent once again.
Acquired from Detroit on July 31, Cespedes had 17 homers and 44 RBIs for the Mets, helping the team reach its first World Series since 2000. Fans at Citi Field likely expect him to keep up that pace.
“From my first day when I came last season after the trade, that very first day … the fans showed incredible support, my teammates were so welcoming, as well as the full Mets organization,” the 30-year-old Cespedes said. “And I think that was what encouraged me to make the decision to come back.”
New York treated Cespedes as a newly signed player, showing video highlights of his performance last season after he entered the news conference.
Chief operating officer Jeff Wilpon and general manager Sandy Alderson presented Cespedes with his No. 52 jersey, which fit snugly over his street clothes. The Mets gave him his own hashtag: “GotYoBack.”
Since starting his big league career in 2012, the Cuban star played for Oakland, Boston and Detroit before landing with the Mets.
Washington was among the clubs that pursued Cespedes and was said to have offered a $110 million, five-year deal that included deferred money.
“There were several teams that wanted to give me five years,” Cespedes said.
New York, shaken by underperforming players with large salaries in the 2000s, refused to consider a contract of that length.
“I don’t think it had specifically to do with Yoenis,” Alderson said. “I think it had as much to do with just the history of long-term deals, both generally throughout baseball as well as in recent years with the Mets.”
Cespedes was driving on his Florida farm when his agent told him the deal with the Mets had been agreed to.
“It was a big relief for me,” he said.
Cespedes is expected to see time in center field as well as left, relegating Juan Lagares to mostly a platoon and late-game defensive role. With Cespedes’ return, Alderson said Michael Conforto could be used in right field during spring training.
Playing time could be limited for outfielder Alejandro De Aza, signed as a free agent. While the Mets haven’t pursued a possible trade, Alderson said interest from other teams during spring training was conceivable.
“We’re happy to have another left-handed hitter that hits well against right-handed pitching, and we’ll figure it out,” Alderson said.
Cespedes’ deal raised the Mets’ payroll to about $140 million, its highest level since 2011. Alderson said the team likely would not agree to any more major league contracts with free agents during the offseason, which probably precludes the return of reliever Tyler Clippard.
Mets home attendance increased to nearly 2.57 million last year, its highest since the club drew more than 3 million during Citi Field’s inaugural season in 2009. Executive vice president and chief revenue officer Lou DePaoli said season-ticket equivalents had doubled since this point last year, although he would not specify a figure.
“We’re happy that the franchise is reasonably healthy and that we’re able to make some of these moves that we haven’t been able to make for a few years,” Alderson said.
NOTES: Closer Jeurys Familia agreed to a $4.1 million, one-year contract, settling the team’s last salary arbitration case. … Catcher Kevin Plawecki may see some time at first base during spring training, Alderson said, adding he could see starting catcher Travis d’Arnaud “playing one or two other positions” during the exhibition season. “He thinks he’s a shortstop,” Alderson said.
AP Sports Writer Ricardo Zuniga contributed to this report.