Saturday, November 30, 2013

I Love Cats, But....

[image credit here]

As reported in the UK's Daily Mail a couple of weeks ago, entitled thusly:

Feral cats to be given property rights in Los Angeles as the city proposes a law that will prevent residents from removing them

Property owners or renters will not be allowed to remove wild cats from their property if a proposed Los Angeles law is passed.

A controversial new city law that is up for debate is suggesting that feral cats be given the lay of both the city's and the city dwellers' land in response to the problem of abandoned cats in Los Angeles. 
For years, the city adopted a policy where strays were neutered and then released back to the streets and now that could be codified into law.
So, the city will spay, neuter and release cats...but property owners will not themselves be able to remove those strays should they take up station on one's property.
This article is a bit convoluted so I tried to read up on some LA articles.  Still am confused.  For example, here is one popular school of thought that says the proposed law goes way too far:
While a property owner or renter may, under local and State trespass/nuisance laws, remove (or have removed) a human or other animal who enters, urinates, defecates or otherwise damages his/her property, that will no longer be true of cats. Under the proposed L.A. City Feral Cat Program, felines will gain an inherent right to be on your residential or commercial property and conduct themselves, well, like cats.

And the kitty lovers (Feral Cats Caretakers Coalition) counter with their
core philosophies:

  1. Feral cats and kittens have a right to live and to be humanely treated and cared for.
  2. Provide managed long-term quality care in conjunction with trapping, neutering and return to home site for adult cats. (TNR) is the accepted and the best available method to control the feral cat population.
  3. Adult cats that are in jeopardy and the home site is not safe or available, must be relocated to appropriate places or sanctuaries.
  4. Kittens are taken from their colonies to continue their lives in adoptive homes.
  5. Implement solutions for the immediate and ongoing needs in supporting feral cat colonies

 Supposedly the feral cat population in LA numbers in the millions.  That's millions.  I love cats but I can't begin to get my head around the scope and solutions for a problem of this magnitude.  Good luck, LA.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Interesting Running Weather...and a Blue Flower

Happy Thanksgiving!

On Tuesday the bride dropped me off in Greencastle on her way to volunteer at Mister Tristan's school (the 5 year old human being, not the blog).  I first had to stop at the bank, then ran the 5 miles or so home. 

The east was getting lashed by a big rainmaking storm--the snow remained north of--but the temp hovered right at the freezing mark, yielding a freezing rain that stuck to anything above ground.  Thankfully, sidewalks and road were just warm enough not to ice up.

So, I needed a crappy weather run to rejuvenate my batteries.  See, whenever I run in poor weather, I ALWAYS have a great run.  It probably goes back at least partially to the notion of smugness (you're out there toughing it out while nobody else is).  Regardless, it was a great run.

When I arrived home I wanted to photograph a couple things.  First, a wren house in my front yard that I built from some old chestnut boards, today bearing icicles:

Then on the pergola out back, icicles hanging from the lattice and the outdoor (wet location) fan:

And then this reward.  I 've posted about this blue flower before, but I just love it.  Here we have a flower that I have to think is, well, optimistic, blooming as it does in late fall.  How cool is that?'s blue, my favorite flower color ever.  What a treasure! (I should say that I seem to recall that the name is something with "alpine" in it, so it is a non-native for this area...and explains the late blooming).
First a shot of the clump, then an individual flower (about 1.25" across): 

All images by Gary.  Enjoy your next bad weather run!

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Cold Day for Trail Work

On Sunday I was up at Reese Hollow shelter and trail, and up the ridge to the Tuscarora Trail, for a bit of trail work.  The Potomac Appalachian Trail Club (PATC) property adjoins some Pennsylvania State Game Lands, which are open to public hunting.  So I wanted to work on a Sunday to avoid the current rifle season for black bear, and for antlered deer (which will start on 2 Dec).

First a shot of the thermometer at the shelter:

And the mandatory shot of the spring at the shelter, with the vintage dipper hung on a post.  I bought the dipper to leave there, 'cause EVERY spring needs a dipper, right?  I trust that it will not walk off.
I helped install a new trail junction sign and added a couple signs at the shelter pointing to the spring and the privy.  Then I trudged up the Reese Hollow Trail to the Tuscarora Trail on the ridgetop, where the temp was probably 15 F with a stiff breeze.  I did some weeedwhacking using the PATC trimmer with a brush cutting head attached.  Surprisingly, the cold was not a factor; I was well bundled up and was generating a lot of heat via my activity.
Thus another proof of my theory that there is no such thing as bad weather--there is only weather for which you are unprepared.
This was my first experience with a brush cutter and it did a great job on the notorious briars that infest the ridgetop there.  Still have about 1.5 miles to do, but that'll have to wait until say Christmas when the hunters are out of the woods.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

A Miracle at my House: Should I Call the "Miracle Commission"?

About this painting (image credit here):
According to Catholic theology, not only God, but also Satan, can bring about unexplainable phenomena. The Vatican’s theologians therefore scrutinise all testimonies to eliminate the possibility that Satan has been involved in the mysterious circumstances. Only then can the Church regard a healing as a miracle. (Artist: Michael Pacher, Saint Augustine and the Devil, painted between 1471 and 1475)
The miracle at my house occurred on Monday about noon.  I put up 12 strings of outdoor icicle lights...and every single string, and every single bulb, lit.
That has never happened in my decades of outdoor lighting.
I have a call in to the Vatican.  But it turns out that while they are on top of this type of thing, and actually have a "Miracle Commission," it only investigates healing type miracles.  They do not, unfortunately, investigate physical phenomena such as mine since it is NOT medically-related. 
The web site I used for the image above and the explanation of the so-called "Miracle Commission" explains how a phenomenon such as mine isn't really in their purview:
The miracle commission only investigates miracles associated with healing.  The Vatican does not study phenomena such as weeping Madonna statues and bleeding palms. These phenomena are only studied by the Church’s local people. If they don’t find any evidence of cheating, they can believe in the phenomena if they wish.

So maybe I should call the local priest instead.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Cats in Art: Lovers With a Cat (Kokoschka)

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 here. Lovers with a Cat, Oskar Kokoschka, 1919, oil on canvas, 36" x 51", held by Kunsthaus, Zurich, Switzerland.

Zuffi's observation:

His paintings--superficially blotched, aggressive, textured, and rich in material--reveal an intimate gentleness and a search for affection and love, as this splendid canvas clearly demonstrates.  The feelings and poses of the two lovers, who simultaneously embrace and elude each other, reach out and withdraw, are symbolically emphasized by the silent presence of the cat.

My thoughts?  The cat (who actually kinda looks like a terrier), seems eager--like the man--for the activities to commence.  Yet it almost seems like an afterthought for the painting, like Kokoschka thought, "Maybe I'll stick a cat over here in the left foreground."

Regardless, the painting is compelling--Kokoschka renders so well the conflicting emotions of the two people.  It would be great to actually see this image in person: I bet the textures and the depth of the paint would be amazing, a feature that just can never be captured in a two-dimensional print. 

That was the element that so blew me away the first time I ever saw a Van Gogh in person: how thickly he laid the paint on, fully 1/4" deep in places.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Cats in Art: Please Hold

I beg your indulgence, but life has intervened.  I hope to put up a new Cats in Art post on Monday.

Gary (blog owner, and a relative of Mister Tristan)

Friday, November 22, 2013

The Wonders of Evolution...and Ultrarunning

Ran into this article--of course--in Boing Boing.  As I always say when I credit something from Boing Boing, if you don't visit this site at least a couple times a week, your life is poorer:

A recently discovered G tridens fruitfly that has evolved to have images of detailed, ant-like insects on each wing, complete with six legs, a thorax, antennae and a tapered abdomen. The fly uses the images defensively, waving them back and forth when threatened to create the illusion of massing ants.

This critter is in Oman, in the Middle East.  I am in awe of the way that evolution can press things to the extreme, all under the mechanism of natural selection.

The link to Ultrarunning is that I once read that canids (the greater dog family) and humans are the only trotting carnivores ever evolved on the planet.

So it seems our love of running is built-in, and we have good company.


Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Time of Death: Watch This Show!

I felt compelled to use an exclamation point above in the SUBJECT line, which implies a sort of excitement or even whimsy, but what I wish to convey is quite serious.

The bride and I just stumbled into the Showtime series, Time of Death.  It's an hour-long series about people who are dying.  From the site:

What are the final weeks, days and very moments of life really like? TIME OF DEATH offers an unflinching, intimate look at remarkable people facing their own mortality. Cameras follow these brave, terminally ill individuals as they live out the end of their lives, supported by family, friends, and dedicated healthcare and hospice workers who gently guide the process. This groundbreaking documentary series provides a tangible, hopeful reminder of the finite nature of our time here on earth.

The program is quite realistic--very few punches are pulled--and as a consequence is pretty sobering.  It is compelling and arresting and gripping and all that.  Usually by 10 pm I am dozing off on the sofa, but with this show I am wide awake, wrung out when it ends, yet still not wanting it to be over.

Watch it, just watch it.  Episode 4 airs Friday at 9:00 EST.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

On the Wrong Side of History...and Ultrarunning

Usually I don't even bother anymore with wasting any thoughts on things Cheney, having concluded that I just have to let it go rather than waste my bandwidth and energy on what should have happened in a perfect world.

(in the interests of full disclosure, my take: I wonder why the former vice-president is a free man, still a Very Important Person in political circles, rather than spending the rest of his life in jail for war crimes).

Anyway...seems that his gay daughter, Mary, and his straight daughter, Liz (who happens to be running for a U.S. Senate seat in Wyoming in 2014), are a bit at odds (credit to AP news, here):

CHEYENNE, Wyo. (AP) - Former Vice President Dick Cheney and his wife stepped into a sibling squabble Monday after their daughters became involved in a public feud over gay marriage that began on "Fox News Sunday" and soon spread to social media.
Discussing her U.S. Senate campaign on the talk show, Liz Cheney restated her support for the "traditional definition" of marriage. She added that states should be free to decide for themselves whether to allow or prohibit same-sex unions.
Her sister, Mary Cheney, who is married to a woman, shot back on Facebook: "You're just wrong."

Gay marriage is coming whether you like it or not.  And just like slavery, or women's suffrage, or civil rights, you will either be on the right side of history or the wrong side (clue: the right side of history is that who people choose to love and/or marry is their business, not the government's ..."traditional marriage" is not diminished one iota if the gay guys or ladies down the street decide to marry).

I also loved this quote from the same article:

Mary Cheney and her wife, Heather Poe, didn't waste any time challenging Liz Cheney's television comments as insufficiently pro-gay marriage.
"Liz has been a guest in our home, has spent time and shared holidays with our children, and when Mary and I got married in 2012 - she didn't hesitate to tell us how happy she was for us," Poe posted on Facebook. "To have her now say she doesn't support our right to marry is offensive to say the least."
Chimed in Mary Cheney: "Couldn't have said it better myself. Liz - this isn't just an issue on which we disagree - you're just wrong - and on the wrong side of history," she posted.

So, we have the very awkward clash of political ambitions versus alienation of family.  And Liz, seriously, does it really make sense to "leave the issue up to the states"?  Can you imagine a patchwork of up to 50 different definitions of marriage--along with all the associated issues of taxes, heirs, estates, wills, next of kin, adoptions, etc. etc. etc.?

Additional personal disclaimer: Among my family members are numbered several gay folks.  They are just ordinary people, just like you and me in every way, same hopes and dreams and needs, except that they happen to love someone of the same sex.  I love them and accept them and their partners equally and totally.  It's not my call or my business to do otherwise.

Think again about being on the right and the wrong side of history.  Reminder: you get exactly one chance to get it right.

And while I'm on a rant, let's also point out another entity that's on the wrong side of history: the United Methodist Church (link here):

A United Methodist pastor was convicted Monday of breaking church law by officiating his son's same-sex wedding and could be defrocked after a high-profile trial that has rekindled debate over the denomination's policy on gay marriage.
The Methodist church put the Rev. Frank Schaefer on trial in southeastern Pennsylvania, accusing him of breaking his pastoral vows by presiding over the 2007 ceremony in Massachusetts.
The 13-member jury convicted Schaefer on two charges: That he officiated a gay wedding, and that he showed "disobedience to the order and discipline of the United Methodist Church."

Oh, and the mandatory connection to Ultrarunning?  Imagine that you're running an Ultra, say a 50 miler.  You're a back-of-the-pack runner, say 11 hours or so finishing time. You happen to fall in with a guy (or a woman) runner going about the same pace as you.  The miles and the hours fall away quickly.

As you know if you have run any long-distance race wherein you spent at least part of the time with a stranger, there is an instant connection and bond.  As you chat, all of a sudden you are sharing things about yourself that you would never otherwise broach in normal social intercourse.  And it's perfectly normal and natural, as you both struggle in the athletic endeavor.  As your body is laid bare, so to speak, by the physical effort, so is your mind.'s not very far-fetched at all to imagine that your running buddy shares the fact that he/she is gay/lesbian.  Do you suddenly call bullsh*t and tell the runner to buzz off, you don't accept his/her lifestyle? Like,  "You're going to Hell, I'd better drop back now and let you run your own race."

Or do you have this moment of understanding and empathy and know, just know, in your heart of hearts, that the ONLY difference between them and you is that this person just happens to love someone of the same sex.

Not a big deal, is it?

Monday, November 18, 2013

Cats in Real Life (As Opposed to Cats in Art)

Right outside our great room window we have a dwarf weeping Japanese maple, a beautiful little tree.

The cats like to hide out under it, as it is immediately adjacent to our water garden, or as our cats probably refer to it, "Our big water dish full of fish."  We have placed a glazed terra cotta cat stature under the tree, so:

Of course, the kitties love to hang out there.  This one is Amanda:
I suppose if I tried real hard I could make some connection between cats in art, cats in real life, and Ultrarunning.  Nah, it's not worth the effort today.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Cats in Art: Black Cat (Kirchner)

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. This is post 4 of 4 examining the cat works of Ernst Ludwig Kirchner from the early 1900s.

I thought I was done with Kirchner after 3 paintings, but then I was browsing and came across another.  That's the thing with this series: art history is not found at one place.  For example, I've been on numerous sites that purport to be "...the complete works of xxxxx" and then another image, previously unseen (by me), pops up somewhere else.

Anyway, here's the next (last?) Kirchner painting:

Image credit Art in the Picture, hereBlack Cat, Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, 1926, oil on canvas, size ?, held by ?
Not to anthropomorphize too much, but the kitty is, well, simply gorgeous.  That's the only word, to me, that does this image justice.  Sleek, powerful, just run out of words and are left with gorgeous.
And maybe I'm playing too much of the armchair psychologist here, but notice how the background is so much more subdued that Kirchner's former use of garish, clashing colors?  I'm thinking that his WW I experiences have perhaps faded and he's just more at peace when he painted this in 1926.
Actually, the background seems almost Van Gogh-like--greenish blue plants and flowers.
Anyway, before you click off my site, take one more look at the Black Cat by Ernst Ludwig Kirchner.
I defy you to come up with a more apt descriptor than the word gorgeous.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

The Purpose of Ultrarunning

A friend is an Appalachian Trail maintainer, of a stretch just north of the PA-MD line, and always adds a nature quote to her emails.

Her latest gem:

"I go to nature to be soothed and healed, and to have my senses put in order."  --  John Burroughs


Friday, November 15, 2013

Gold Rush...and Ultrarunning

Ran across this image from National Geographic, an aerial view of gold mining operations in Peru:

An excerpt from the article: 

I flew over the Peruvian Amazon two years ago, in a small propeller plane. An aerial perspective gives you a true sense of the rainforest’s scale, as treetops stretch from one horizon to another like an infinite and unbroken array of broccoli florets.
But from the air, the damage to the jungle also becomes more obvious. We flew over charred hectares of burnt trees, huge piles of felled logs and, most memorably of all, vast (and mostly illegal) gold mines.
Before the flight, I might have pictured a gold mine as a surreptitious doorway carved into a mountainside. The largest of the ones I saw, known as Guacamayo, was more like a pustulent wound—a gash of festering yellows and whites amid the lush greens of the jungle. It even seeped into the nearby river and jaundiced its water. It was a nauseating sight, and one utterly disconnected from the glistening metal that gets fashioned into jewellery and ornaments.

I've blogged here a couple years ago about my (morbid) fascination with the Discovery Channel show Gold Rush.  I wrote then:

I've been watching Gold Rush on the Discovery Channel. There's something arresting and compelling about these naive miners trying to strike it rich in Alaska. Anyway, what really strikes me is how they literally have to excavate and wash TONS of gravel just to get a couple of flakes of gold. The scale of rape-and-pillage-the-environment is absolutely stunning.

Well, the Hoffman crew has abandoned Alaska and moved on to Guyana on the north coast of South America to strike it rich (the show still follows two other mining operations in Alaska and the Klondike).  Their rape-and-pillage extraction techniques are part of what is shown in the photo at the top.

Yet I still am compelled to watch the show.  I'm kinda ashamed of myself but can't seem to look away either.  I guess part of the fascination is the desire to believe that not everything is known, not everything is discovered.  That there still is a chance for adventure and discovery.

So, the methods are wrong although at least some of the the motives are pure.

Oh, and the link to Ultrarunning?  If you run along the Appalachian Trail in central PA, as I have many times, on the stretch between PA Rt 325 and Gold Mine Road, near the town of Tower City, you will pass an old strip mine where coal was extracted.  I understand that this is the only strip mine that the AT encounters in its 2100 mile path. 

The site is old and overgrown now with trees, but the piles of rock and dirt--aptly named "spoil banks"--still remain after decades, and are still an ugly scar on the landscape.  I can't imagine the scale of destruction resulting from industrial level gold mining.


Thursday, November 14, 2013

Another Armistice Day Post

Monday and today I'm looking some 95 years into the past. 

Last week I used The Writer's Almanac for this post.  The WA feature that day (4 November 2013) was about the poet C. K. Williams.

Well, in addition to the C. K. Williams spot, we also learned that on 4 November 1918, something else happened:

It was on this day in 1918 that British war poet Wilfred Owen (books by this author) was killed in World War I, at the age of 25. In the days before his death, Owen had been excited because he knew the war was almost over. The Germans were retreating and the French had joyfully welcomed the British troops. In his last letter to his mother, Owens wrote: "It is a great life. I am more oblivious than yourself, dear Mother, of the ghastly glimmering of the guns outside, and the hollow crashing of the shells. Of this I am certain: you could not be visited by a band of friends half so fine as surround me here." A few days later, he was trying to get his men across a canal in the early morning hours when they were attacked by enemy fire, and Owen was fatally wounded. The war ended the following week.

Still think war is a glorious endeavor?  Here is a Wilfred Owens poem, offered without further comment, Dulce et Decorum Est (source here):

Bent double, like old beggars under sacks,

Knock-kneed, coughing like hags, we cursed through sludge,

Till on the haunting flares we turned our backs,

And towards our distant rest began to trudge.

Men marched asleep. Many had lost their boots,

But limped on, blood-shod. All went lame; all blind;

Drunk with fatigue; deaf even to the hoots

Of gas-shells dropping softly behind.

Gas! GAS! Quick, boys!—An ecstasy of fumbling

Fitting the clumsy helmets just in time,

But someone still was yelling out and stumbling

And flound’ring like a man in fire or lime.—

Dim through the misty panes and thick green light,

As under a green sea, I saw him drowning.

In all my dreams before my helpless sight,

He plunges at me, guttering, choking, drowning.

If in some smothering dreams, you too could pace

Behind the wagon that we flung him in,

And watch the white eyes writhing in his face,

His hanging face, like a devil’s sick of sin;

If you could hear, at every jolt, the blood

Come gargling from the froth-corrupted lungs,

Obscene as cancer, bitter as the cud

Of vile, incurable sores on innocent tongues,—

My friend, you would not tell with such high zest

To children ardent for some desperate glory,

The old Lie: Dulce et decorum est

Pro patria mori.

NOTES: Latin phrase is from the Roman poet Horace: “It is sweet and fitting to die for one’s country.”



Wednesday, November 13, 2013

An Interesting Candidate for a College President....

From the Associated Press on 8 November 2013, an article that rather irritated me:

PHILADELPHIA (AP) — An aide to former U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice says she was approached by a firm helping Penn State look for a new president but she was not interested, a newspaper reported Friday.
The Philadelphia Inquirer ( said Rice's chief of staff, Georgia Godfrey, confirmed the overture.
"We received a request about this position through a search firm," Godfrey told the Inquirer. "Our office declined on her behalf since she intends to remain at Stanford. Penn State is a fine institution and Dr. Rice wishes the search committee the very best."

Now, I am admittedly a lefty, undoubtedly a far-lefty, but here we have a person who in her role as National Security Advisor and Secretary of State for President George W. Bush, was an avid cheerleader for the war in Iraq.

You know, the war that Bush and company deliberately started for no other reason than they could.  These guys--and Rice--felt it was important to use the cover story of WMD just to kick some middle east butt and to flex our muscles in the region and the world.

Well, that turned out pretty well.

So, far from being what she should be--a disgraced member of society with no credibility on the national stage--for some inexplicable reason Condoleezza Rice remains one of the Very Serious People, a distinguished elder stateswomen of her generation.  One who gets offered college presidencies. 

Penn State should be ashamed.  Why anyone treats her as a knowledgeable public figure rather than a war criminal boggles my mind.  She and the rest of her cronies should be emptying bedpans in Veterans Administration hospitals for the rest of her life. 

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

In the Shadow of Vultures...and Ultrarunning

Sometimes I must remind myself that the ostensible basis for this blog is the sport of Ultrarunning.  I tend to get caught up with outrage about political stuff (to wit, come back for Wednesday's post about Condoleeza Rice).
So, back to Ultrarunning, which, if you need a primer, is running distances beyond the standard 26.2 mile marathon.
Turkey Vulture, image credit Gary

"In the Shadow of Vultures": this is a phenomenon that I hope many of you have experienced: being outside, running on an open trail in the sunshine, and having a noticeable shadow sweep over you.

Momentarily startled, you look up, instinctively towards the sun (might that be a built-in survival reflex to be able to trace a shadow back?), and spot the culprit: a turkey vulture that managed to insert itself directly on the straight line drawn between you and the sun.

Seems an unlikely occurrence, yet it happens to me several times a year.  In fact, it just happened to me in my own front yard, smack dab in the middle of the Cumberland Valley, a dozen miles from any ridge.

Either there are a sh**load of turkey vultures around, or the ones that exist do a lot of flying.  Probably both.  In any case, I've experienced this many times. And each and every time a turkey vulture shadow gets cast upon me, it's cool.  In part, because among my peers, it's an experience that almost nobody else ever has.

I think, here's a scavenger that exists by feasting upon dead critters.  When they are soaring overhead along the ridgetops--as in my photo above--their chance of spotting a carcass is pretty much zero.  I like to think that they just like to fly, so sail, to soar.  Maybe later they'll look for food closer to the ground.  But for now, the flying is the thing.

So, far from turkey vultures being a disgusting scavenger feasting upon dead stuff, I now see them primarily as lazy adventurers, whose primary activity is mostly sailing about. 

Which would kinda be a pretty good life, right?

Monday, November 11, 2013

Armistice Day...Every Family has a Story

I am reposting the same post I have put up for the past 3 years on 11 Nov, commemorating the end of World War I.

For Veteran's Armistice Day (as it was originally called)....

Every family has a story. My mother told me of my great-grandfather, Julius (or Jules?) Brinkmann, who was killed on this date in 1918 in World War I on the Western Front.

Word of the armistice, which took effect the 11th hour, of the 11th day, of the 11th month of 1918, did not reach all the lines in real time. He was killed sometime later that day, AFTER the armistice.

He would have been one of the very last casualties of the Great War. You know, the war that was supposed to end all wars.

Oh, and he was a German. Funny, that really doesn't seem to matter, does it?

What is your family story? Please comment.

This is a generic photo, not of Julius--because my Mom's family lost ALL their possessions, including family photos, when they were bombed out in Frankfurt in WW II--but it could have been.

Photo credit here.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Cats in art: Girl With a Cat (Franzi) (Kirchner)

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.  This is post 3 of 3 examining the cat works of Ernst Ludwig Kirchner from the early 1900s.

As a side note, due a mental processing failure, I simply cannot bring myself to use the convention of saying "early 20th century.''  It bears some relation to dyslexia, I believe, rendering it too hard for me to process and think through to get the number right.  When somebody says "1900s" I know immediately the time period they are talking about.  When somebody says "20th century" it's a 2-stage process to figure out they mean the 1900s.

Besides, "__th century" sounds pretentious to me.

Image credit WikiPaintings, hereGirl With a Cat (Franzi), Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, 1910, oil on canvas, 89 x 116 cm.
As in many of Kirchner's paintings, we see nudes and glaring primary colors.  In this image, the question becomes whether the purple cat is going to engage the girl in play.  And whether the play would be wholesome and playful, or instead would deal with fighting.  The girl seems preoccupied with her thoughts while the cat is gathering steam behind her, for what purpose?
And the the girl's name Franzi...or is the cat's name?
Here are some thoughts from Kirchner himself on the notion of art (as found in The Art Story, here):

"A painter paints the appearance of things, not their objective correctness, in fact he creates new appearances of things."
"My paintings are allegories not portraits."
"It seems as though the goal of my work has always been to dissolve myself completely into the sensations of the surroundings in order to then integrate this into a coherent painterly form."
"All art needs this visible world and will always need it. Quite simply because, being accessible to all, it is the key to all other worlds."

The comment I like best?   "My paintings are allegories not portraits."


Saturday, November 9, 2013

Heartwarming Owl Story...and Ultrarunning

Image credit here.

Some of my regular reads are a few blogs that loosely could be categorized as feminist blogs, to include Echidne of the Snakes.  Miss Echidne picked up a cool story from Finland about an owl and a kayaker:

Pentti Taskinen, a 61-year-old experienced kayaker, was out on Tuusula lake and saw something splashing in the water, through a thick mist. When he got closer, he found that it was an owl, swimming, exhausted, near death. Owls are not water fowl. How that owl got into the water is a mystery. Some bird watchers think it got lost in the fog, others suggest crows which sometimes chase owls away as a group.

The animal had initially tried to swim away, but apparently soon realized that the kayak which appeared from nowhere might be its last chance. Water reached in all directions half a kilometer and its temperature was six degrees Celsius.

The owl started struggling towards Taskinen's kayak and tried to get into it, but was unable to do so on its own.

"What was fine was when I got it into the kayak and took a couple of pictures. It then crawled near me and put its head inside my life vest."

And there it remained. According to the Taskinen the owl was otherwise calm, but shook nervelessly. He suspects that the bird would not have survived much longer in the water.
Taskinen sought the nearest inhabited shore, the owl was given heat, shelter and food, and it flew away the following morning.

And that, my friends, is your feel-good story of the day.

I may have told here my favorite personal owl story, but here goes.  I was running on the C+O Canal, along the Potomac River a few miles upstream of Williamsport, MD (the finish line of November's JFK 50 Miler).  I needed to pee, so I just stopped at a convenient tree just off the edge of the towpath.

While in the middle of going, all of a sudden I hear a commotion directly above me--it was a pair of owls hurriedly leaving the tree I was peeing on.  Of all the trees in the forest, I pick the one with a pair of owls in it!  And they were big, and majestic: I am not sure of the species, but it definitely was one of the larger species in our neck of the woods.

I felt at that moment that the gods of nature had indeed smiled upon me to grant me that experience.  Had I picked any other tree, I would have run past these owls, oblivious to their presence, as they quietly looked down on the passing runner.

Friday, November 8, 2013

More "Thinking Thoughts"...and Ultrarunning

On Wed this week I posted this, in part:

The other day while I was driving and listening to National Public Radio. The host was interviewing a guest--I believe his name was Robert McFarlane, or something close to that, whose passion was walking--who offered the following gem of an observation:

There are some thoughts that can only be had while on foot.

Well, I have a corollary, occasioned by me running in the rain yesterday.  Oh, and it was deliberate; the bride was off to do some volunteer work at Mister Tristan's (the 5-year old human being, not the blog) school, so I had her drop me off for a one-way run the rain.

Which leads to this:

There are some thoughts that can only be had while in the rain.

And I mean actually IN the rain: no ponchos, no umbrellas, just you in the rain.  And to be inclusive, I did not stipulate that one had to be running, just to be out in the rain.  Although in my case, the running is implied. 

See, when you run, you generate plenty of heat such that getting wet per se is usually no biggie.  Of course you must wear the proper clothing, to include synthetic "technical" shirts and shorts/tights (no cotton!) that keeps you warm even when it is wet. 

The payoff is this: we spend a lot of time trying to stay dry, such that few people actually have the experience of being wet, outside, on purpose.  It's kinda liberating, actually.

Mental health advocates tell us it's important as we age to exercise our brains.  This could include such techniques as putting on your pants or socks wrong-leg first, eating lefthanded if you are righthanded, doing puzzles and games, etc.  In short, doing things that may create or foster new neural pathways in your brain's wiring is thought to be beneficial in warding off decline of your mental faculties.

Thus running in the rain can have major mental health least that's my story and I'm sticking to it.

My brainchild during yesterday's rainy run was to mentally work out the details of the treehouse I am planning for Mister Tristan.  Once I get the rest of my leaves gathered I expect to have a couple weeks of dead time outside during which I can get at least the framing done.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Knuckles That Promote Literacy

Via Boing Boing, the geeky site that if you do not visit at least a couple times a week, your life is poorer.

Image credit Boing Boing, with a reference to Flickr, here.
The bride is a (now retired) reading specialist, having worked in the public schools of PA for 30 years.
This photo is dedicated to her.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Thinking Thoughts...and Ultrarunning

The other day while I was driving and listening to National Public Radio.  The host was interviewing a guest--I believe his name was Robert McFarlane, or something close to that, whose passion was walking--who offered the following gem of an observation:

There are some thoughts that can only be had while on foot.

I thought, yippee!!  Somebody else gets it!

All of us get those blank stares or disbelief when it becomes known in conversation that we run long distances.  "Don't you get bored?" they say.

I politely answer some (usually longer) version of "No," but in my mind I'm thinking that my mind is so richly fertile while I am running that I can't wait to think those thoughts.

There are some thoughts that can only be had while on foot.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Primeval Hope, Vibrance, Optimism...and Ultrarunning

It's been awhile since I posted about something I saw on The Writer's Almanac.

This is a website that provides a free daily email about "things literary," but it's more, so much more.  It's nominally written by Garrison Keillor--at least it is he who reads the corresponding daily spot on National Public Radio that I sometimes catch. 

Today's feature, here, is a short poem from C. K. Williams, entitled Droplets.  It's often when people see poetry they can't hit that DELETE key fast enough.  But...if you like rain (and what Ultrarunner worth her or his salt doesn't?) you should click on over to read it, here.  It's short.

But today's focus isn't a Williams poem, it was a quote that he offered about his grandchildren that arrested me so:

I have three grandsons. Who, of course, are above average — way above average, needless to say. And when I'm with them I feel a sort of primeval hope, their vibrance, their optimism, the way they're so firmly in the world without thinking about it. When I'm not with them and I think about the world, I am not in a very hopeful mood. I'm in a very fearful mood.

Later today when I see Mister Tristan--the 5-year-old human being--I plan on loving the daylights out of him.  He won't know why, but I will.

There's the immortality that all of us somehow seek.

The link to Ultrarunning?  This sport is a long sojourn across many miles, sometimes vast distances, much like the journey of raising a child or grandchild.  The journey has highs and lows, times of triumph and times of disaster, physical depths and spiritual heights, all wrapped up in one neat little package.  Like the running philosopher Dr. George Sheehan used to say, sport--particularly running--is a metaphor for life.  All the elements are there.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Cats in Art: Gray Cat on a Cushion (Kirchner)

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. This is post 2 of 3 examining the cat works of Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, and, like last week, is a post-World War I work.

Image credit Art is Not for Sissies, hereGray Cat on a Cushion, Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, 1919-20, oil on canvas, 31" x 27", held by Museum am Ostwall, Dortmund, Germany.
Zuffi comments: 
A comparison between Kirchner's works before and after the First World War highlights with dramatic effect the state of mind of a German intellectual.  The cat is tense, the forward-pointing whiskers a clear sign of nervousness; and its tail looks as it is about to beat against the cushion.  The animal's glaring eyes and the violent colors in the background, where the fabric seems to evoke explosive flashes of light, add to this painting's sense of tension.
In this image Zuffi descriptively nails it--the kitty is agitated, restless, ready to detonate.  One would try to pet this cat at one's own risk (I know this, for we have a similarly twitchy cat who can go from a hiss to a purr in less than 10 seconds).
I do love the background as well.  The colors are quite at odds with the central image of the cat, but contribute to the overall discordance of the scene.
In looking at the series of chronological works of Kirchner, I could see the light openness of his earlier works being supplanted by his somewhat darker post-war art.  He was quite changed by his experiences as a soldier in the war...and who could not be?
Here is a telling quote from Kirchner himself on the war (as found in The Art Story, here):
"The heaviest burden of all is the pressure of the war and the increasing superficiality. It gives me incessantly the impression of a bloody carnival. I feel as though the outcome is in the air and everything is topsy-turvy. All the same, I keep on trying to get some order in my thoughts and to create a picture of the age out of confusion, which is after all my function."
Through all the madness, Kirchner still knew what he had to do as an artist:

 "...I keep on trying to get some order in my thoughts and to create a picture of the age out of confusion, which is after all my function."


Saturday, November 2, 2013

Tuscarora Trail Maintenance

I was over at the Tuscarora Trail on Thurs this week doing some weedwhacking of the rampant briars and weeds along the ridgetop trail.  Due to disease and insects, many of the trees along the crest have died (gypsy moth, oak leaf roller), letting more sunshine reach the ground, resulting in a veritable explosion of weedy understory growth.

The trail is barely passable in certain parts between PA 16 south to PA 456--long pants and long sleeves are a necessity or you'd be cut to ribbons by the briars.

So, although my official overseer duties are limited to the Reese Hollow Shelter and the Reese Hollow Trail, there's not much point in having "my" trail (which links the valley access point with the ridgetop Tuscarora Trail) be all spiffied up with nowhere to go after you reach the top.  So I pitched in.

Let me tell you, this type of weedwhacking is pretty arduous.  My objective was to cover the 3 miles between Hell's Hill Trail and Reese Hollow Trail, heading south to north.  However, due to me going off trail on my way up the poorly marked Hell's Hill Trail and veering south somewhat, I reached the Tuscarora perhaps a mile south of the Hell's Hill junction (towards the Yellow Trail).

Thinking the day would go faster, I just began my weedwhacking there.  Turns out in actual experience, my pace was about 1/2 mile per hour, so in 5 hours of work I was able to cover perhaps 2.5 best.  By the end of the time I was pretty much shaken to pieces from the incessant vibration. 

Left undone is approximately 2 miles of trail directly south of the Reese Hollow Trail junction heading towards the junction with Hell's Hill Trail.  So another trip is required, but this time hopefully the overseer for this section will be back from a trip and we'll be able to team up.

Friday, November 1, 2013

Fire on the Mountain: Lessons Learned

I ran the Fire on the Mountain 50K on Sunday.  As I posted earlier this week (here), I had some struggles in the race, so here in no particular order are some of my take-aways:

1. Don't drop unless continuing would create or exacerbate an injury.  In other words, if you can locomote forward, just keep doing it.  It doesn't always keep getting worse.  Were it not for my running companion, who encouraged me strongly (with an implied threat of bodily harm), I probably would have bailed at the half-way mark, when I was feeling quite low physically and mentally.  But I kept on going, and the second half actually was easier than the first.

2.  "Muscle Memory" is a poor theory on which to base running a race when you are seriously undertrained. 

3.  To me, the race ran long...meaning that each interval between aid stations felt much longer than expected.  Case in point: the first aid station was 5.5 miles in, but it felt like 7 or 8.  I chalk this up to simply running slower, as in the famous formula:

     distance = rate x time

And solving for time:

     time = distance/rate

Thus we see that over a fixed distance one's rate (pace) is the variable upon which elapsed time rests.  Or stated another way: Running slowly takes longer.  Duh.

4.  Despite being in the heart of a the vast near-wilderness that is western Maryland, I saw a grand total of zero vertebrate animals while running (except for runners and other humans).  No birds, no squirrels, no deer, no turkeys, no bear.  Nada.  Possible reason: the woods were too noisy and the critters vamoosed.  Conditions were dry with the trails covered by fallen leaves.  Also there was a 10 mph breeze out of the west, which also created some noise.

5.  Having a running companion is wonderful, especially if when you hit a rough patch.

6.  An iced vanilla frappe and a burger at the finish line tasted heavenly.

7.  I found myself a solidly back-of-the pack runner on Sunday, a position I am unfamiliar with. Most of my running career I've been a fairly successful recreational runner, usually finishing in the top third.  I gotta get used to being at that end of the pack, it's the new normal.

8.  This race did not have awards by age category (as most standard road races do), but if they did, I would have won the 60+ age group.  Go figure.