Monday, September 22, 2014

Cats in Art: Cat Catching a Bird (Picasso)

From my continuing weekly Sunday series of cats in art. I'm using some ideas from the coffee table book, The Cat in Art, by Stefano Zuffi.  

[Note: sorry this is posting a day later than usual.  The bride and I were on the road a bit last week.]

Image credit WikiArthere.  Cat Catching a Bird, Pablo Picasso, 1939, oil on canvas, 32" x 39", held by Musee Picasso, Paris, France.

Most of us don't think of our kitties as killers, but Picasso's surrealistic painting kinda dispels that notion, at least for this cat.  A few thousand years of domestication don't negate the millions of years of evolution that produced such an efficient and successful predator....that also delivers and receives cat love with such style.

That's one of the reasons why we love them, I think: the undercurrent of wildness behind the purring, the inability to know what cats are thinking, the aloofness and distance that many kitties keep.  You know, the mysteriousness, the dangerousness, which Picasso captured so very well in this image painted a lifetime ago.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Jack in the Pulpit Fruits

We have several of these wonderful plants growing around our property in various flower beds.  I particularly love them since they are Pennsylvania natives.

Anyway, the growing season is over, the plants have withered, and the fruits are set:

[image credit Gary]

These are the fruits of two plants that grew closely together.  The larger fruit is about the size of a golf ball, if elongated.  The color in this image is true: a very scarlet red.

I should read up on whether the fruit is edible or has any medicinal uses.  Regardless, it sure is pretty!

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Asics Shoes...NOT Made By Extraterrestrials!

Over the decades I have always had good luck with Asics shoes.  They are affordable, and right out of the box they slip onto my feet and just go.

So, the other day I was surfing online for another pair.  I do confess that I typically get my running shoes online rather than in local store.  This is a screenshot of one I was looking at:

So far so good, just another running shoe (I guess perhaps my only quibble with Asics is that they have way too many shoes, making the choice process needlessly hard).  But as I drilled down to the actual product info, this screenshot struck me.  Check out the "Features + details":

Guess what?  The shoe is manmade.  Just in case you were thinking that Asics had all their shoes made by extraterrestrials.  Or meerkats.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Good Guys With Guns

This cartoon points out to me the simple dilemma that the NRA conveniently glosses over in its whole shtick about "The only way to stop a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun":

Credit to Tom Tomorrow, here

Along these lines, courtesy of Crooks and Liars, here, a philosophy professor offers an amazing response to open carry activists who enter family-friendly establishments with guns strapped to their backs. He notes,"As many have pointed out, there is no way for bystanders to know whether the people with guns are "good guys" or "bad guys." It is rational to be afraid of someone with a weapon, especially if you know nothing about them."

His solution:

My proposal is as follows: we should all leave. Immediately. Leave the food on the table in the restaurant. Leave the groceries in the cart, in the aisle. Stop talking or engaging in the exchange. Just leave, unceremoniously, and fast.

But here is the key part: don't pay. Stopping to pay in the presence of a person with a gun means risking your and your loved ones' lives; money shouldn't trump this. It doesn't matter if you ate the meal. It doesn't matter if you've just received food from the deli counter that can't be resold. It doesn't matter if you just got a haircut. Leave. If the business loses money, so be it. They can make the activists pay.

Following this procedure has several advantages. First, it protects people. Second, it forces the businesses to really choose where their loyalties are. If the second amendment is as important as people claim, then people should be willing to pay for it. God knows, free speech is tremendously expensive.

I kinda like this idea.  Remember:  it is rational to be afraid of someone with a weapon, especially if you know nothing about them. 

Monday, September 15, 2014

Obama...Who Fails to Occupy the High Ground

Via Avedon Carol, I was directed to a Salon article in which Thomas Frank interviews Cornel West, a professor at Union Theological Seminary and noted public intellectual.

NOTE: this interview came before the Obama speech on ISIL on 10 September.  The highlighting in BLUE is mine.  Professor West nails it for me: I was so ready, so excited, for a progressive president back in 2008.  But that's not what we got.


FRANK: So that’s my first question, it’s a lot of ground to cover but how do you feel things have worked out since then, both with the economy and with this president? That was a huge turning point, that moment in 2008, and my own feeling is that we didn’t turn.
WEST: No, the thing is he posed as a progressive and turned out to be counterfeit. We ended up with a Wall Street presidency, a drone presidency, a national security presidency. The torturers go free. The Wall Street executives go free. The war crimes in the Middle East, especially now in Gaza, the war criminals go free. And yet, you know, he acted as if he was both a progressive and as if he was concerned about the issues of serious injustice and inequality and it turned out that he’s just another neoliberal centrist with a smile and with a nice rhetorical flair. And that’s a very sad moment in the history of the nation because we are—we’re an empire in decline. Our culture is in increasing decay. Our school systems are in deep trouble. Our political system is dysfunctional. Our leaders are more and more bought off with legalized bribery and normalized corruption in Congress and too much of our civil life. You would think that we needed somebody—a Lincoln-like figure who could revive some democratic spirit and democratic possibility.

FRANK: What on earth ails the man? Why can’t he fight the Republicans? Why does he need to seek a grand bargain?
WEST: I think Obama, his modus operandi going all the way back to when he was head of the [Harvard] Law Review, first editor of the Law Review and didn’t have a piece in the Law Review. He was chosen because he always occupied the middle ground. He doesn’t realize that a great leader, a statesperson, doesn’t just occupy middle ground. They occupy higher ground or the moral ground or even sometimes the holy ground. But the middle ground is not the place to go if you’re going to show courage and vision. And I think that’s his modus operandi. He always moves to the middle ground. It turned out that historically, this was not a moment for a middle-ground politician. We needed a high-ground statesperson and it’s clear now he’s not the one.
And so what did he do? Every time you’re headed toward middle ground what do you do? You go straight to the establishment and reassure them that you’re not too radical, and try to convince them that you are very much one of them so you end up with a John Brennan, architect of torture [as CIA Director]. Torturers go free but they’re real patriots so we can let them go free. The rule of law doesn’t mean anything.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Cats in Art: Still Life With Cat and Lobster (Picasso)

From my continuing weekly Sunday series of cats in art. I'm using some ideas from the coffee table book, The Cat in Art, by Stefano Zuffi.  

Image credit WikiArt, here.  Still Life With Cat and Lobster, Pablo Picasso, 1962, oil on canvas, 51" x 63", held in a private collection.

Whenever I write the words, as I just did above, "held in a private collection," I kinda cringe a bit.  Because beautiful art should belong to all of us and be held for the benefit of everybody in public museums.  I guess that's the Socialist in me, thinking of the greater good of society rather than the private pleasures of the few who can afford it.

Anyway, political rant OFF now, and back to Picasso: this is probably the first Picasso painting that I have carefully investigated.  My focus, is of course, the kitty, and quite the kitty it is: one-eyed, zombie-like, ghoulish, yet somehow not sinister.  Just a scruffy kitty about to score really big in the seafood department.

As I look at the two-dimensional image, I am drawn to the brush strokes that look as though Picasso really slathered on the paint, and am immediately reminded of the first time I saw some Van Gogh paintings and was stunned to see just how thick Van Gogh laid on the oils: at least 1/4" thick at some points.  This brush strokes in the cat in this painting appear the same way to me.  Just to stand in front of this painting--and it is big, bigger than 4' high and 5' wide--to scope out the textures would be like heaven.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Trail Work and Decompression

[image credit Gary]

Last week the blog was largely dark because I took some time off to decompress from the death of my father-in-law, with whom I was very close.

I spend a lot of time doing volunteer maintenance for the Potomac Appalachian Trail Club, and I just figured it was the right time to go to "my" shelter and trail and just chill. Typically when I go there I am wielding a weedwhacker, loppers, and/or a mattock.  The work is long and sometime intense.  This time I only did some minimal maintenance activities and spent most of the days in reflection.

I took plenty of reading material, some adult beverages, my camp stove, and trusty old battered coffee pot.  I spent 3 days and 2 nights at the Reese Hollow Shelter and did not see another soul...which was as I wanted it.

This image is of the trail signpost adjacent to the Reese Hollow Shelter, at the origin of the Reese Hollow Trail**.  I made the two lowermost signs.  The ferns in the background are characteristic of the entire area--a veritable sea of ferns--as far as the eye can see.

**southern PA, Franklin County, just west of Mercersburg

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Running With a Friend on the Appalachian Trail

Earlier this summer my good running buddy, Jody, and I ran the 15 mile stretch of the Appalachian Trail in southern PA from Caledonia Park south to the Rt 16 road crossing at Blue Ridge Summit.

Jody is an excellent photographer and took a number of shots using a high-end pocket camera (sorry, I don't have the make & model handy).  These two photos (of me!) struck me so I'll share them here:

A ghostly chestnut oak tree on the ridge top

On top of Chimney Rocks

The first scene: this site always kinda gives me the willies whenever I run under that particular tree.  This area was logged probably 100 years ago, I'm guessing, but this tree was spared and is now way larger than any other tree along that ridge.  The way the lateral limb hangs across the trail (did you note the white Appalachian Trail blaze, which being out on a horizontal limb has to be an AT rarity?).

For some reason this tree seems eerie, almost, but not quite sinister, and putting it behind me always is a relief, especially if I am running there alone.

Then the lovely vista from Chimney Rocks practically knocks your socks off.  It's well worth the trip.  Heading south you then have a screaming downhill of about a mile and a half that passes the twin Tumbling Run shelters, a mountain brook, and a wonderful spring.