Sunday, March 30, 2014

Cats in Art: Two Cats (Marc)

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 my fourteenth post on Franz Marc (1880-1916), a key German painter whose life tragically ended early on the Western Front in 1916. Maybe he even knew my great-grandfather. This will be a multi-week series (I am still uncovering his cat works)

Image credit The Atheneum, hereTwo CatsFranz Marc, 1913, Gouache and Indian ink,  3.5" x  5.5", held by Franz Marc Museum, Kochel, Germany.

Unlike the kitties of the past couple weeks, which were engaged in play, today's pair of cats are just kinda hanging out.  Maybe the play is over, maybe these are old cats that don't really cavort around much, but these guys are relaxed.  The red/orange kitty up front seems dead out, while the one in the back is regarding the painter through mostly-closed eyes. 

There are a couple items of note here: first is Marc's incorporation of the night sky--stars, and a crescent moon over there in the upper left.  I just love the use of celestial images in paintings: stars, moon, cats--what's not to like?

The other thing is a phenomenon I have noted before with a couple other painters.  When you look at an image on the web or in an art book, it's two-dimensional.  You just don't have any sense of depth...nor do you have a sense of original size.  And that's the thing about this image: it is TINY, only a hair larger than your typical 3 x 5 notecard.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Another Reason To Go On Living...and Ultrarunning

As widely reported on the "news," this is guaranteed to brighten your sojourn toward immortality:

Musician and media mogul Sean Combs, who has gone by Sean "Puffy” Combs, P.Diddy and just plain Diddy, announced that he is returning to his old stage name Puff Daddy on Tuesday.

And the link, of ocourse, to our fine sport of Ultrarunning, is simply this: I can, without a shred of doubt in my mind, run thousands of miles in the backcountry and never once think of this man.

That said, there are probably runners out there who have Mr. Combs--or whatever he happens to be called--on their iPod playlist, and love his music.

As my mother-in-law likes to say, "There's no pot so crooked that a lid won't fit."  This meme is also known as "Different strokes for different folks."

And so on.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

More Science Goodness

On the heels of Monday's post, I seem to be on a rant about stupidity when it comes to science:

[Credit here]

Hope this cartoon from Daily Kos is readable.  I am still having tons of trouble adjusting to the iMac world.  Nothing seems intuitive after decades of living in the PC world.

Monday, March 24, 2014

This Guy is an Actual U.S. Representative

Rep. Paul Broun (R-Georgia), in 2012:

All that stuff I was taught about evolution, embryology, Big Bang theory, all that is lies straight from the pit of hell. It’s lies to try to keep me and all the folks who are taught that from understanding that they need a savior. There’s a lot of scientific data that I found out as a scientist that actually show that this is really a young Earth. I believe that the Earth is about 9,000 years old. I believe that it was created in six days as we know them. That’s what the Bible says. And what I’ve come to learn is that it’s the manufacturer’s handbook, is what I call it. It teaches us how to run our lives individually. How to run our families, how to run our churches. But it teaches us how to run all our public policy and everything in society. And that’s the reason, as your congressman, I hold the Holy Bible as being the major directions to me of how I vote in Washington, D.C., and I’ll continue to do that.”

I sometimes would like to live in a totally black-and-white world like Broun does, where everything is known and fits neatly into his narrative of choice. 

However, I prefer to think and to use my brain and to consider alternative explanations and theories.  I shut nothing out and consider it all using the scientific method.

And Broun's statement above fails the test of the scientific method, miserably.

Oh, and lest you think this guy and his ideas don't matter much, here's a list of his current House committee assignments:

Paul Broun Jr. sits on the following committees:

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Cats in Art: Playing Cats (Marc)

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 my thirteenth post on Franz Marc (1880-1916), a key German painter whose life tragically ended early on the Western Front in 1916. Maybe he even knew my great-grandfather. This will be a multi-week series (I am still uncovering his cat works)

Image credit The Atheneum, herePlaying Cats (also known as Picture of Cats)Franz Marc, 1913, oil on canvas  17" x  26", held by Staatsgalerie Stuttgart (Germany).

This trio of kitties is a lot like last week's, with the cavorting and all.  These three are all pointed and looking the the left, where presumably someone or something noteworthy is lurking.

This image is a bit different from many of Marc's cat paintings in that the kitties here are all neutral colors: charcoal gray, pale gray, and white.  Here we have no garish oranges or reds, and even the background is much more muted than usual.

Mr. Marc may have gotten up on the wrong side of bed 101 years ago.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Fences, Gettysburg...and Ultrarunning

From Issue 48 of The Gettysburg Magazine* (link here), an article entitled Gettysburg's Small Occurrences: The Story Behind Gettysburg's Ubiquitous Farm Fences.  I will never again just think of the fences at Gettysburg as a routine feature of the landscape.

From a participant 150 years ago:

The time it took to climb to the top of the fence seemed to me an age of suspense.  It was not a leaping over; it was rather an insensible tumbling to the ground in the nervous hope of escaping the thickening missiles that buried themselves in falling victims, in the ground, and in the fence, against which they rattled with the distinctness of large rain drops pattering on a roof.

Way back in 1980, I ran my first marathon, at Gettysburg.  I finished in 4:00 and a few seconds, but I was not bummed out at barely missing the 4 hour barrier.  I had run well, I had stopped to help a runner in distress, and when I crossed the finish line I breathlessly told the bride "There is no wall!"

I could say that because my  sole goal that day was to finish my first marathon comfortably and with something left--no death marches for me.  In truth and in hindsight I was overtrained and held back during the race, but that was a better strategy than the alternative that bites so many first time marathoners.

Back then the philosophy of Gettysburg National Military Park had a bit more of a recreational focus; I doubt that road races are held today on park roads.

*I do some American Civil War research and writing and have had 2 articles published here.  Am working on another right now.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

"Journalist" and War Criminal

(Note: I just updated this post from March 2014: I had misidentified Katie Couric, formerly of the Today Show, for Savannah Guthrie.  Oops, and thx to Batocchio!)

[image credit Huffington Post]

I am in the habit of watching the Today Show in the morning, a habit that dates back to 1974 when the bride and I first moved to Franklin County, PA, in the heart of the Cumberland Valley (the northern extension of Virginia's famed Shenandoah Valley).

See, in 1974 we could not afford cable (even if it was available, which it wasn't out in the country), so we relied on what broadcast stations we could receive over the air using rabbit ears.  Nearby Hagerstown, MD, boasted an NBC affiliate station, thus by default NBC became our network of choice.

So...back to the Today Show and the image from the 2014 Super Bowl above: I know it's much more a feel-good social program rather than hard news, but still.  To purport to be a journalist and to tweet a photo of yourself giddily grinning with a war criminal, crosses the line.

Can you now imagine a real interview by Ms. Guthrie Ms. Couric of former vice-president Cheney that would include hard-hitting, probing, deeply uncomfortable questions, taking Cheney to task for the debacle of the war in Iraq?  How about torture?  Me either.

Ms. Couric should be ashamed of herself.  In socializing with the news subjects with whom she may be journalistically interacting in the future, she blurs the line of separation and objectivity that should be there.  It's kinda like the video that gained widespread attention s couple years back of David Gregory of NBC News dancing with Republican strategist Karl Rove.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Last Gasp of Winter Along Harshman Road

[updated to include image, which failed the first time]

[image credit Gary]

I don't know why the farmer keeps this solitary oak  tree right out there on the boundary between two fields.  After all, the shade it brings plus the hassle of plowing around it make it a detriment and inconvenience.

But it's beautiful, so that's why I think it remains.  Farming is not always about profit maximization, it's also about the beauty of growing things.

Monday's snow is just about history.  Let's hope that's it for the winter of 2013-2014.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Me and My Bee Kit...and Ultrarunning

[updated to include image, which failed the first time]
[updated to include image, which failed the first time]

[image credit Gary]

I did make it out for a short run today amidst the new 5" of snow that landed here in south-central PA overnight.

I had been getting in the rototiller frame of mind, anxious to begin gardening as soon as the soil dries out a bit...but alas, it seemingly is still snowblower season.  At any rate, I was able to clear a couple of blockages of the snowblower chute without severing any more fingers, so I guess that's progress.

Anyway...back to the photo: first off, I didn't get stung.  At least not today.  I've been allergic to bee stings for a couple decades now, a condition that only manifested itself in adulthood.  But the point of the photo is that even in the dead of winter--when no self-respecting bee would be caught dead outside the hive--I keep the habit of carrying my bee kit, formally known as an EpiPen.

When I get stung it delivers a pre-measured dose of Epinephrine to prevent the closure of my airways.

So, it's easier for me to simply carry it EVERYWHERE, including when I run, rather than try to judge when it might be warm enough for bees.  Amazingly, I have yet to use it on the trail, although there have been some close calls.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Cats in Art: Three Cats (Marc)

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 my twelfth post on Franz Marc (1880-1916), a key German painter whose life tragically ended early on the Western Front in 1916. Maybe he even knew my great-grandfather. This will be a multi-week series (I am still uncovering his cat works)

Image credit The Atheneum, hereThree Cats, Franz Marc, 1913, oil on canvas  28" x  40", held by Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen - Dusseldorf (Germany).

This is my first post using my brand new iMac desktop computer.  I am used to posting something new practically every day, so thank you all for your patience during this light blogging week.

I gotta say, after decades of PC usage in the Microsoft environment, this is going to take me some time to figure things out.  It's just, well, way different.  Not necessarily better, but just different, although I am hopeful that the Apple world will prove to be a better environment.  One very noteworthy observation: I must say that I am not seeing all those annoying, overlapping ads that were practically commandeering my web usage.

I'm sure that all the functionality is here somewhere, it's just that I can't figure out where things are.  I was used to going to "My Documents" or "My Computer" and as of yet I haven't hit upon those equivalents.  

But I've only been up and running for a few hours, so patience is indicated. for this image of 3 cats, here we have a white and black one in the center kicking up its heels like a wild horse aiming a shot at the striped kitty's jaw; the striped kitty on the right with the goofy look like it has a just caught been licking its own parts; and the huge red/orange cat in the back, the only one with dignity and suaveness.  And the one that I would like most to "own."

Here as with previous Marc paintings, we have realism mixed with stylistic features, and the continued usage of big, bold colors.  

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Tough Running

Another short post due to computer problems but hopefully those issues will be soon solved.

Finger issue still is complicating my ability to run, although that is improving.  Wound care doctor and my ortho see steady healing after the secondary infection that put me in the hospital a couple weeks ago.  The pain is now manageable, so today's run is mostly dependent upon my desire to run in the teeth of a howling wind and bitter temperature.

We'll see.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Grief...a Perspective

From Brilliant at Breakfast, a thoughtful and sad perspective on grief from a woman who recently lost her husband.  This excerpt deals with options for bereavement leave, which are pretty bleak.

You should read it all, here:

I decided to look into a leave of absence, to rest up, get my head together, and breathe a bit. And the only options available to me are pretty distasteful. Under the Family Medical Leave Act, I could take an unpaid leave for up to twelve weeks (six weeks paid like unemployment because I am in New Jersey), with job protection, but I would have to have a physician certify that I have a "serious disability", in my case, depression. I am not depressed. I do not need medication, nor to be committed to a psych hospital. I have had four major losses in less than a year and I am grieving. And I will not pop pills just because I live in a society that insists you be smiling all the time. The other option is a "personal leave of absence", which must be approved by your manager, takes you off health insurance, and doesn't protect your job. In America, lose a spouse or a child -- the primary relationships of your life -- and the response is "Suck it up and deal."

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Cats in Art: Last Supper (Rosselli)

My PC is dying, can't easily compose, edit etc.  So here's a repost from 3 years ago...still a goodie!


Sunday, March 13, 2011

Cats in Art: Last Supper (Rosselli)

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.

Two weeks ago I put up another version of the Last Supper, by Huguet. Last week, same subject, that time by Domenico Ghirlandaio.  This week, again the same topic (didn't those guys have any other ideas?), this time with the cat in the right foreground having an altercation with a dog.

Image credit here.  From Zuffi:

Last Supper, 1482
Fresco, 111.5' x 7.3', Sistine Chapel, Vatican City

It is to Cosimo Rosselli that we are indebted for the presence of a cat in Catholicism's most sacred place, the space in which the most solemn papa; ceremonies, including papal conclaves, are held...This is without doubt one of the most suggestive and realistic images of a cat in art from the second half of the fifteenth century.  The color of its fur, with its gray and white stripes, and its aggressive pose toward the dog--which seems to want to steal the cat's bone--all hint at the new cultural significance that the cat, now freed from its medieval heritage, has acquired in humanist culture.
I just like the cat.  It's feisty!


Friday, March 7, 2014

"Rocket Cats" and War

An interesting article from the Associated Press.  Some medieval dudes--it HAD to have been men--envisioned the use of cats and birds in warfare:

[image credit AP]
In an article entitled 16th-century Manual Shows 'Rocket Cat' Weaponry, we learn the following:
You're a 16th-century German prince plotting to crush a peasant rebellion, or perhaps you're leading an army against the Ottoman Empire or looking to settle the score with a rival nobleman. What's a guy looking for a tactical edge to do?
Bring on the rocket cats!

Fanciful illustrations from a circa-1530 manual on artillery and siege warfare seem to show jetpacks strapped to the backs of cats and doves, with the German-language text helpfully advising military commanders to use them to "set fire to a castle or city which you can't get at otherwise."
I've often written in these pages about the stupidity of war, but to use our feline friends to assist our aggression is over the top.  I keep going back to what an elder statesman of the blogging world, Dancan Black, once said about war (link here):

Wars Are Bad
And if for some reason the people who run the United States feel the need to start one, it means they've failed. It means they should all resign in shame and let someone else clean up their mess. This country has immense power - military, economic, political - and if you can't use the latter two, along with the implicit threat of the first one, to make war unnecessary then you've fucked up and it's time to go home.

The words "war" and "cats" should never be found in the same sentence.  For that matter, along the same theme, neither should the words "war" and "people."

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Bravery...and Ultrarunning

The state of Kentucky has passed legislation against recognition of other states' same-sex marriages.  This law--unfortunately--is supported by a majority of voters.  However, in what to me is a very brave move, the Attorney General of the state, Jack Conway, has just come forward to say that he will not defend that law:

Kentucky's chief lawyer Jack Conway went against his governor and arguably the will of his constituents when he tearfully announced on Tuesday he wouldn't defend a Kentucky law banning recognition of out-of-state gay marriages.

"I felt like I would be defending discrimination," the Democratic attorney general since 2008 told TPM in an interview on Tuesday. "And for me that's a line in the sand. I couldn't do it."

It was a rare and extraordinary move that split the administration of Gov. Steve Beshear (D), who revealed that he would appeal a federal judge's ruling against the statute after his top lawyer refused to do so.

You are a brave man, Jack Conway, to do the right thing in the face of pressure and the inevitable political and personal blowback.  For me, here is the money quote.  At the end of the day, some years or decades from now, we all will know what side of history we were on: discrimination, or equality:

"I thought long and hard. I thought about the arc of history," he said. "I thought about the fact that at one time in this country we discriminated against women. At one time we discriminated against African-Americans and people of color. At one time we discriminated against those with disabilities. This is the last minority group in this country that a significant portion of our population thinks it's OK to still discriminate against in any way. And I didn't think hat was right."

And so with those words, Jack Conway has taken his stand: "I didn't think that was right."

The link to Ultrarunning is simply this. In our sport we reenact the struggles inherent in everyday life: striving for goals, reaching for excellence, overcoming setbacks, finding out what you are made of when the chips are down. 

Our sport represents life, although in fairness you could probably say this about any sport--the reenactment of life's dramas in games.  The fact that people do sports must reflect that inherent need to go to the edge--on purpose--just to see what you've got.


Wednesday, March 5, 2014

"...Invading Another Country on a Completely Trumped Up Pretext"

I was wondering the same thing myself, but the Earth Bound Misfit is more succinct:
Why Hasn't John Kerry's Head Exploded? When he makes statements like this:  

"You just don't in the 21st century behave in 19th century fashion by invading another country on completely trumped up pretext," [U.S. Secretary of State John] Kerry told the CBS program "Face the Nation."

Right. As a senator, Kerry voted to invade another country based on a completely trumped up pretext. 

Let's admit the fact that Putin took a page out of our own playbook: Gin up a false rationale for military action, get legislative approval and then invade another country.

It seems we Americans have a pretty short memory.  But that's OK because the Very Serious People remain in charge, so we're in capable hands.


Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Downton Abbey...and Ultrarunning

Since the bride was away cavorting in the Caribbean, it was only last night that we watched the season finale of Downton Abbey.

I am an unapologetic fan--I LOVE this show!  The essential issues that this family faces are the same real issues that can face any one of us, yet the extreme wealth and connections of the extended Grantham family offer solutions that are not available to the masses.  As with the 1% today, the Granthams are far removed from the day-to-day struggle for existence that occupies the rest of the world.  Thus one of the pressing problems of this episode dealt with some real or imagined embarrassment that would befall some royal.  See, even a whiff of a scandal is devastating.

As Echidne put it in a recent post:

The way politics is financed in the US, combined with the increasing inequalities in income and wealth, means that democracy is at risk.
And the larger the wealth differences between the rich and the rest, the more will the political goals of the two groups diverge.  Whose goals will be taken care of when money comes from the top one percent of the one percent?  

One article argues that the current US wealth and income inequalities match those of the 1920s UK, portrayed, in its extreme form,  in the 'Downton Abbey' television series.   It's the Lord Granthams of this world who are funding the US elections, and it's their concerns and goals which will weigh the most.  Even very nice Lord Granthams will not have the same worries and concerns in life as Daisy, the kitchen maid.

And the link to Ultrarunning is simply this tenuous one: this endeavor has yielded countless riches to me.  The day I stumbled into the joys of endurance running has proven to be of immeasurable wealth. 

Monday, March 3, 2014

Joint Replacement and Ultrarunning

Computer is on the fritz (by the way, where does that expression come from?) so this post will be short.

I was thinking about joint replacement surgery yesterday--knees and hips--and realized that I do not know a single runner or Ultrarunner who has had such a surgery.

Not one.

All the artificial joint recipients I know tend to be sedentary or inactive.  I need to investigate this further, realizing that correlation does not necessarily mean causation.  But it certainly is food for thought.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Cats in Art: The White Cat (Marc)

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 my eleventh post on Franz Marc (1880-1916), a key German painter whose life tragically ended early on the Western Front in 1916. Maybe he even knew my great-grandfather. This will be a multi-week series (I am still uncovering his cat works).

Image credit The Atheneum, here. The White Cat (also known as Tom Cat on Yellow Pillow), Franz Marc, 1912, oil on cardboard, 19" x  24", held by Staatliche Galerie Moritzburg (Germany).

After last week's enigmatic painting, full of layers of hidden images, this one is simple and straightforward: a kitty relaxing on a pillow.  What could be more natural than that?

This is quintessential Marc: bold colors (white, yellow, red); very natural and lifelike cat pose; and evoking the emotions of contentment and total relaxation.

Plus it looks like the bride and I are not the only cat owners to overfeed their cat babies.

Saturday, March 1, 2014

The Cost keeps Climbing

This article comes from early in 2013, but is quite relevant.

When the Very Serious People in DC talk about how we cannot afford unemployment benefits or food stamps or Social Security, it would be well to consider this:

The U.S. wars in Afghanistan and Iraq will cost taxpayers $4 trillion to $6 trillion, taking into account the medical care of wounded veterans and expensive repairs to a force depleted by more than a decade of fighting, according to a new study by a Harvard researcher.

Washington increased military benefits in late 2001 as the nation went to war, seeking to quickly bolster its talent pool and expand its ranks. Those decisions and the protracted nation-building efforts launched in both countries will generate expenses for years to come, Linda J. Bilmes, a public policy professor, wrote in the report that was released Thursday.

“As a consequence of these wartime spending choices, the United States will face constraints in funding investments in personnel and diplomacy, research and development and new military initiatives,” the report says. “The legacy of decisions taken during the Iraq and Afghanistan wars will dominate future federal budgets for decades to come.”

Bilmes said the United States has spent almost $2 trillion already for the military campaigns in Afghanistan and Iraq. Those costs, she said, are only a fraction of the ultimate price tag. The biggest ongoing expense will be providing medical care and disability benefits to veterans of the two conflicts.

“Historically, the bill for these costs has come due many decades later,” the report says, noting that the peak disbursement of disability payments for America’s warriors in the last century came decades after the conflicts ended. “Payments to Vietnam and first Gulf War veterans are still climbing.”

Guns versus butter.  It's always guns versus butter.