Wednesday, July 31, 2013

The Speech That President Obama Should Give

I'm now feeling about this president the same way I felt about President Carter: hope and change were in the air, and the time was right for a bold, strong person with vision to correct the erroneous course that the U.S. had been on.

Unfortunately, President Carter didn't get the job done while in office, although in his case, I am in awe of his post-presidency humanitarian efforts.  And it remains to be seen how former President Obama will perform after 2016. 

But I must observe that unlike Carter, President Obama will have a whole lotta rehabilitation to do to repair his reputation (think warrantless surveillance, drones, coddling Wall Street while the middle class tanked, focusing on the deficit rather than jobs, failing to prosecute known war crimes committed by his predecessor....)

Which leads me to a great post by David Atkins at the blog Hullabaloo.

If I were President, I would go on camera and say:

"You know, I want what the American people want. Like you, I want to increase the minimum wage. I want to boost jobs, increase incomes for middle class Americans, and fix our decaying infrastructure. I want to do something to stop the epidemic of gun deaths in this country. I want to invest in green jobs, move away from the old fuels that fund our enemies, slow down and stop climate change and make America the leader in the technologies of the 21st century. I want to invest in our children's education and stop students from taking on a lifetime of debt just to go to college.
Like you, I want to do all these things. But I'm not a king. I can't force Congress to put these bills on my desk. They have to bring them to me, and Republicans in Congress refuse to do so. I'm asking them directly: give me these bills. The American people want them. I got elected by a significant margin in order to get these things done that I talked about on the campaign trail.
I'm as aware as the American People that nothing is getting done in Washington. It's all bickering and no action. But that doesn't mean everyone is equally to blame. I'm trying to get these things done to bring relief to my fellow Americans. Most of my Democratic colleagues in the Senate are trying to do the same. But the House of Representatives is refusing to do its job. In fact, they're planning on taking America hostage--again!--refusing to pay the bills we've racked up unless we slash even more jobs and hurt our economy even worse than they hurt it already.
Enough is enough. I'm waiting for the House to act, and for Republicans in the Senate to stop filibustering every bill we put forward to help the American people. The Republican Senate Minority has already blocked twice as many bills during my Presidency than in any other Presidency. I've tried compromising, I've tried threatening, I've tried pleading. Nothing works. There's nothing to trade. The Republicans are so invested in trying to make my Presidency fail that they're will to let American go down with it.
They don't want to raise the minimum wage. They want to cut taxes for the rich. They don't want to invest in green jobs and infrastructure: they want to cut jobs and privatize our roads and bridges. They don't want to reduce the number of guns on our streets and in our schools; they want to increase them. They'd rather regulate women's bodies than regulate corporations that evade taxes and pollute our air and water. There's no compromise to be had there. Trust me, I've tried--though the press often pretends I haven't, I've tried as hard as anyone can. They just don't want the same things the American people do.
My message to the American People is this: you elected me to do a job and make your lives better. I'm doing all I can, but I can't do it alone. I need Congress--and Republicans in Congress especially--to do their jobs rather than cater to the interests of a few big corporations and the wealthiest Americans. Everything I can do alone, I'm doing. But I can't do the big things without some help. If you want change as much as I do, if you want to realize your and my hope for a better future, call up and email your members of Congress and tell them to do their jobs and send these bills to my desk."

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

"I Foresee Terrible Trouble...." and Ultrarunning

Well, it's the end of an era.  I've blogged here before about my oldest and favorite garment.

Well. today was its last run:


The collar has pretty much given up the ghost.  I should have something like a flag retirement ceremony and consign the shirt to the flames.
I am uneasy, however, about no longer having this trusty garment.  In the immortal words of Steely Dan in "Dirty Work," I foresee terrible trouble unless I quickly rotate in a suitable replacement shirt.


Sunday, July 28, 2013

Cats in Art: Panel of the Lions (Unknown Prehistoric Artist)

Go. See. Cave of Forgotten Dreams.

Or use Netflix, like I did, since the movie is now available there.  If you are like me, the theatrical release never made it to my backwoods area.

Image credit The Bradshaw Foundation, here, black drawing on rock, 30,000 years ago, unknown artist, approximately 4 meters square.

From the Bradshaw Foundation website, where you can view stills of the various images in the cave:

The wall to the right of the central recess has a large number of animals drawn on to it. The overall scene depicts a hunt. On the right of the composition there is a rhinoceros and a mammoth. On the left, there are four bison heads, and two more rhinos. Then there are seven bison, pursued by a pride of sixteen lions, mainly depicted by their heads alone. Above all of this drama, at a different scale, there is a large feline figure shown standing face to face with a lion cub. Almost all of the animals on this panel face left. This composition is unique in Palaeolithic art.

Chauvet Cave was discovered in 1994...or should I say, rediscovered, since prehistoric man obviously entered and used the cave some 30,000+ years ago, leaving behind stunningly beautiful and haunting art on the walls of the cave. You should go to the Bradshaw site and read more.

The story of the cave itself and its exploration:

These cat images--or should I say lion images, since the house kitty was still thousands of years in the future--are breathtaking in their detail. The artists of today paint house cats, and the event is totally non-threatening. The life of the artist in this image would literally been in danger just to have seen a lion.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Another Reason to Like President Jimmy Carter

I keep finding reasons to really like the worldview and actions of our former president: (via Firedoglake)

Former President Jimmy Carter announced support for NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden this week, saying that his uncovering of the agency’s massive surveillance programs had proven “beneficial.”
Speaking at a closed-door event in Atlanta covered by German newspaper Der Spiegel, Carter also criticized the NSA’s domestic spying as damaging to the core of the nation’s principles. “America does not have a functioning democracy at this point in time,” Carter said, according to a translation by Inquisitr.

“He’s obviously violated the laws of America, for which he’s responsible, but I think the invasion of human rights and American privacy has gone too far,” he told CNN, saying that nations were within their right to offer asylum to Snowden. “I think that the secrecy that has been surrounding this invasion of privacy has been excessive, so I think that the bringing of it to the public notice has probably been, in the long term, beneficial.” 

Guess Jimmy and I should expect a visit from the feds sometime soon.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Cats in Art: Fur Traders Descending the Missouri (Bingham)

Life is interfering with blogging...this is a repost...but the kitty is still mysterious and compelling, and Bingham as a painter sure knew how to intrigue the observer....

The above photo is entitled Fur Traders Descending the Missouri, by George Caleb Bingham (1811–1879), painted in 1845, oil on canvas, dimensions 29 x 36 1/2 inches. Credit for the image here.

Why post this? I love cats, I love art, and this is a natural confluence. I've decided that I'm going to do a continuing series of posts on instances of cats appearing in works of art. I've previously done this here, when I posted on a 122 Year Old Cat in a Night Cafe, based upon a painting by Paul Gauguin, with an adorable kitty under the table.

The cat really is the focus of this Bingham painting. The two men are backgrounded by the island, while the cat is silhouetted by the pale river as background and pops from the image. I wonder if Bingham strategically placed the cat in the bow of the boat for purposes of realism, or if he was just a cat lover and used the painting as a venue to get a kitty in there.

Also, think about the title--Fur Traders Descending the Missouri. This implies that their trapping journey is nearly over (also evidenced by the pile of furs on the canoe). So the cat, presumably, was along for the entirety of the trip, unless they got the kitty from Indians (who only had dogs as domestic animals, I think).

That's one loyal cat. Wonder how many lives he/she used up on the trip?

Friday, July 19, 2013

Religious (Catholic) Quirks in the Media Age...and Ultrarunning

Seems that the Vatican is trying to become "with it" or "hip":

In its latest attempt to keep up with the times the Vatican has married one of its oldest traditions to the world of social media by offering "indulgences" to followers of Pope Francis' tweets.
The church's granted indulgences reduce the time Catholics believe they will have to spend in purgatory after they have confessed and been absolved of their sins.
The remissions got a bad name in the Middle Ages because unscrupulous churchmen sold them for large sums of money. But now indulgences are being applied to the 21st century.
But a senior Vatican official warned web-surfing Catholics that indulgences still required a dose of old-fashioned faith, and that paradise was not just a few mouse clicks away.

Read the whole story here.

The nexus to Ultrarunning?  Now, if instead of time off Purgatory, if we could get time off the interminable middle part of some of our long runs, now that would be a breakthrough I could endorse.  Might be enough for me to reactivate my dormant Facebook account.


Thursday, July 18, 2013

Cricket, Baseball...and Ultrarunning

Found on National Public Radio.  It's short, and even a non-fan will enjoy it.  I just about blew coffee out my nose.

Suppose you have never seen a baseball game. All you know is cricket, and somebody sticks you at a Yankee/Red Sox game and says, "Do the play by play. Now. You're on!" There's no time to prepare. You don't know the rules, the names or the positions. All you know are the rhythms of your beloved cricketeers, but these "NY" players, whatever they're doing, it's not quite cricket. So you try to describe what's going on. What might that sound like?

The link to Ultrarunning, of course, is that nobody understands what we do.  And if you try to describe it, the result may be incomprehensible.


Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Yeah, It's "Only" a Marathon, but....

A close running buddy passed on this race announcement for Freedom's Run, a marathon on 12 October.

Why might you be interested?

Advertised as "26 miles through 4 national parks," the race starts in Harper's Ferry, runs upstream along the C+O Canal, through Antietam National Battlefield, and finishes at Shepherd University.

In short, it is FULL of history, both natural and man-made.  The parks it traverses are Harpers Ferry, the C+O Canal, Antietam National Battlefield, and the Potomac Heritage Trail.

Note that some of the JFK 50 Miler route along the C+O Canal is included. 

What's not to like?


Monday, July 15, 2013

Wesley the Owl—and Ultrarunning


I recently re-read a wonderful book, Wesley the Owl, by Stacey O’Brien. It’s a true story about a young researcher at Cal Tech, Stacey, who fosters an injured barn owl from infancy thru his ultimate passing at the ripe old owl age of 19. She writes lovingly and compellingly of her lifelong relationship with Wesley. It’s full of love, science, spiritualism, and is just a delightful and memorable book.

Photo credit here.

You should go read it.

Here’s one example of the science part. Although I have a couple degrees in Biology, I never quite understood the Northern Spotted Owl issue from the Pacific northwest. Sure, I knew that logging was threatening this owl and I—of course—was on the side of the owl, thinking that those who favored logging were shortsighted and uninformed. But here’s why (from page 164):
Biologists were warning the public that the old-growth forests, a delicate habitat that can’t be replaced, were disappearing at an alarming rate. The streams and rivers were silting and warming up, destroying the salmon runs and the entire ecosystem because of the runoff from clear-cut areas. The apex predator of these forests, the northern spotted owl, was endangered. When the apex predator is thriving, then so is the environment. But when the predator is faltering, biologists know that means the entire system is falling apart.

Most of the loggers didn’t understand the “canary in the coal mine” connection and thought the entire issue was about saving the owls, rather than their habitat. Because the loggers had been told to stop destroying the ancient forests before the forests were completely gone, they would lose their livelihoods sooner than if they kept cutting down trees until the entire ecosystem went extinct. Focusing only on their own livelihoods, they didn’t want to be told what to do, got angry, and took it out on the owls….

They didn’t understand—or they just chose not to—and they reminded me of the buffalo hunters of the nineteenth century determined to hunt down every last animal. They failed to see that they were going to have to find something else to do anyway after the last buffalo was gone.

We who run trails and treasure them can learn a lesson from this analogy. Our areas that are wild and free are a precious—and finite—resource. Nobody is making any more wilderness. So that’s why we must fight tooth and nail to preserve what we have, set aside more threatened areas, and ensure that encroachments from mineral rights, logging, etc., are not permitted.
This issue is particularly germane here in PA where unrestricted drilling for the gas of the Marcellus shale formation is looming large.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Cats in Art: Girl With Cat in the Birch Forest (Modersohn-Becker)

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

Image credit The Athenaeum, here [click to enlarge]. Girl With Cat in the Birch Forest, Paula Modersohn-Becker, 1905.

The girl seems on a mission to somewhere, while the kitty is along--unwillingly, it appears--for the ride.
I sense an attempted feline escape coming very soon.
I like the simplistic lines, the childlike faces, and the overall sense of observational detachment that Modersohn-Becker conveys.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Another Golf Ball...and Ultrarunning

[image credit Gary]

Well, while running last week I found yet another mysteriously placed golf ball, this one with the enigmatic logo "Titleist 3."

This latest was along the edge of a field, a good quarter mile from any habitation.  Even Tiger Woods at his prime could not drive a ball 440 yards.  So I don't see it as an errant shot of some backyard duffer.

I keep returning to this frightening theory: these are really alien eggs awaiting some activation signal, as I blogged about here.

Better say goodbye to the loved ones and finish that catch-up blitz of previous seasons of Dexter or Game of Thrones.  Or better yet, run that Ultra that you always dreamed about.  You haven't much time.


Sunday, July 7, 2013

Cats in Art: The Folly of Innocence (Paton)

Life/Blogging continue to conflict: a repost from a year ago.



Sunday, July 8, 2012

Cats in Art: The Folly of Innocence (Paton)

From my continuing weekly Sunday series of cats in art. In my first post on 1 July on the artist Frank Paton, I was using some ideas from the coffee table book, The Cat in Art, by Stefano Zuffi. In researching Paton I uncovered several other cat works, so the entire month of Sundays in July will be devoted to him.

Image credit artnet galleries, here [click to enlarge]. The Folly of Innocence, Frank Paton, 1881, oil on canvas, 17" x 14", private collection.

The poor kitty above is about to traffic with some bees, with a likely unfortunate outcome. We once had a cat we called Charlotte (because I maintain that humans never really know what a cat's name is, only what we decide to call them) who liked to bat at bumblebees as they visited low flowers.

Once day poor Charlotte came limping home with a paw swollen to twice its normal size. Not knowing what was wrong, we made the the trip to the vet. After ruling out broken bones or wounds, the vet diagnosed bee sting, and the swelling went away in a couple of days.

We never again saw Charlotte batting at bumblebees.

As for the painting, Paton again demonstrates his mastery of the sweet feline face.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013