Sunday, September 27, 2015

Cats in Art: The Idle Servant (Maes)

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.  This is the second week in a row that I'll feature the work of Nicolas Maes, with yet another bad kitty misbehaving.

Image credit Web Gallery of Art, The Idle Servant, Nicolas Maes, 1655, oil on panel, 28" x 21", held by National Gallery, London.

And a close up of the infamous idle servant, plus the bonus kitty:

Again, a misbehaving kitty taking advantage of a human lapse.  Looks like the cat is going to make off with a small chicken or piece of meat.  The mistress or head servant seems rather unconcerned, even bemused, by the dozing young lady, despite the mess on the floor that needs cleaned yup.  The boss might not be so complacent if she saw the kitty's evil deed in progress somewhat behind her.

As we saw last week, Maes--a student of Rembrandt--uses diffuse light to focus our attention on the primary elements of the scene, letting the background recede into darkness.

The Web Gallery of Art site offers this analysis, which kinda leaps out at you once you read it:

Maes's personal contribution is the emphasis he places upon creating the illusion of interior space in which the scene is set. Here the stress on the expanse of the floor is not fully successful - the pots and dishes are dangerously close to sliding off it.
Once you read that, the floor definitely seems slanted and the dishes look about to tumble onto the viewer's lap!  But at least the cat seems stable on the cupboard.

Friday, September 25, 2015

Appalachian Trail Maintenance...and Ultrarunning

Well, I've reached a life goal that I've had for many years: I am now officially a maintainer of a piece of the Appalachian Trail!!

I've been a volunteer with my local trail maintenance organization--the Potomac Appalachian Trail Club (PATC)--for a few years now, but to this point my responsibilities have been for the Reese Hollow Trail and Shelter, which feeds to the area's other long-distance trail, the Tuscarora Trail.

So now I've added another task, that of being co-overseer for the 4+ mile section of the AT that heads south from Pine Grove Furnace State Park in southern PA.  The existing co-overseer, Dan, and I did a walk-thru yesterday with a bit of weed lopping and shelter clean up (overseeing the Tom's Run Shelter is also part of the job).

I've run this section of the trail many times, but seeing it at a walk is a bit different, especially when one's eye is focused upon the work that may need doing, rather than foot placement to keep from face-planting.

[Image credits Gary]

Perhaps 1/4 mile away from the AT through this stretch is the site of a former POW camp used in WWII.  Nothing remains but foundations, but this is just another example of the kinds of cool history one can find along the AT:

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Cats in Art: Old Woman Praying (Maes)

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.  

Unremembered by me until I searched through my Cats in Art archives, I have previously posted twice on the work of Nicolas Maes, here and here.  The former work, Woman Plucking a Duck, is one that the bride and I actually saw in 2012 at the Philadelphia Museum of Art.  

Today's image, by the same artist, Old Woman Praying, is in that same genre:

Image credit here, Old Woman Praying, Nicolas Maes, 1655, oil on canvas, 52" x 44", held by Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam.

Zuffi's analysis:

This justly famous canvas is considered to be Maes' masterpiece, and one of the most moving paintings of 17th century Dutch art.  Maes was a a gifted and original pupil of Rembrandt.  The modest yet neat simplicity of the table, and the woman's sincere religious ecstasy create an image of exemplary value.  But the painting contains a surprise, which may elude viewers who are concentrating on the protagonist's intense devotion: a large cat peers out from the lower far right of the canvas, tugging at the tablecloth with its claws.  While the woman is saying her silent evening prayer, the greedy, predatory spirit of the hungry cat makes its appearance.

Which brings us to the close-up (of course!) of that busy kitty down in the right corner:

That is a very bad cat, who not only ignores the act of prayer but attempts to swipe food.  Cats have a way of introducing disorder and chaos into an otherwise orderly situation.  And they don't care.  They don't care.  They're cats.  That's what they do.

As another aside, I may have also seen this work with my own eyes, for the bride and I were at the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam last fall.  As we roamed the halls we were deliberately keeping our eyes peeled for, well, cats in art, to use here at Mister Tristan (the blog, not the 7-year old human being).  But if we saw this painting--we simply cannot recall now--we obviously missed the bad kitty in the corner.

Gary note: With my Cats in Arts posts, I encourage you to scope out the art appreciation site Artsy (I have no financial interest in the site, I just like it), where you can explore many aspects of the world of art.  You'll certainly be entertained and enlightened!

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Bopping Around in my Minivan

The other day when I was driving my Sienna minivan--that some would call the essence of suburbia--the Who came on the Classic Vinyl channel of my Sirius XM radio, singing We Won't Get Fooled Again (link is here if the embed doesn't play):

I immediately did some cranking: cranked down the window, cranked up the air conditioning (it was 85 F outside), and cranked up the volume to DEAFENING.  Oh, and sang at the top of my lungs.

Passing motorists must have thought I was nuts.  Perhaps I am.

Then I thought about what other classic tunes I would do the same for.  One that immediately came to mind was this gem from Steppenwolf (again, link here if the embed playeth not):

As above, the routine is to crank thusly:

--Window: DOWN
--Air conditioning: UP
--Singing: WITH ALL I HAVE

With the presidential primary circus ongoing, my confidence in the political system coming up with a leader who truly puts the people first rather than "the establishment" is pretty much nil.

So, heed the words of The Who above:

There's nothing in the streets 
Looks any different to me 
And the slogans are replaced, by-the-bye 
And the parting on the left 
Are now parting on the right 
And the beards have all grown longer overnight 
I'll tip my hat to the new constitution 
Take a bow for the new revolution 
Smile and grin at the change all around 
Pick up my guitar and play 
Just like yesterday 
Then I'll get on my knees and pray 
We don't get fooled again 
Don't get fooled again 
No, no!

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Cats in Art: 15th Massachusetts Monument at Antietam

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. In this case I am departing widely from the book and using some real-life stuff from near my home.

The bride and I were traveling on MD Route 65 past nearby Antietam National Battlefield the other day, and we passed this monument.  Unfortunately, we were on a schedule and could not pause to take photos.

But...part of the Google Machine is Google Images, where it was but a few seconds' work to obtain some photos of this monument and to identify it as belonging to the 15th Massachusetts Infantry:

Image credit The History Tourist, here.  

The 15th MA got pretty much wrecked in the battle; the site lists casualty information for the regiment as follows (I did not independently corroborate these data):

The 15th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry had the highest casualty rate of any Union regiment.  Of the 606 men in the regiment, 75 were killed and 255 wounded.  Another 43 later died of their wounds.   Dedicated in 1900, their granite monument is of a wounded lion and it stands where they were positioned the morning of the battle, where most of their casualties happened.  The monument is inscribed with the names those who were killed, and in the foundation is a roster of the entire regiment.

And from another site, a close-up image of the front of the lion:

Image credit John Banks, here

The lion is referred to as a "wounded lion"; I can't verify that, but want to observe that to me the first image seems to project defiance more than anything, while the second image emphasizes fierceness.  I obviously don't know the sculptor's intent without a bunch more research, but those are the immediate reactions I have to the lion from two different perspectives.

I really need to stand there in person and see how the sculpture affects me then.  As with any art, being there is waaaay different from viewing 2-dimensional images in a book or on a screen.

This was particular brought home to me the very first time I ever saw a van Gogh painting in person.  It was a seaside painting, and Vincent really slopped on the paint: it was literally 1/4" deep, an effect that you can never get from a photo of it.  Absolutely amazing!

Which brings me to one final point on art and art appreciation.  Diana, a representative of the web site Artsy, recently contacted me about adding a link to their page here on Mister Tristan (the blog, not the 7-year-old human being).  I have checked out Artsy and see that it is a valuable resource for anyone wanting to dig deeper into a particular art-related topic.  So I heartily endorse it here and am adding a link to my right-hand sidebar (note I have no financial interest or connection to Artsy, it's just a great site).

I'll let Diana explain their mission, with an example included:

We strive to make all of the world’s art accessible to anyone online. Our Vincent Van Gogh page, for example, provides visitors with Van Gogh's bio, over 70 of his works, exclusive articles, as well as up-to-date Van Gogh exhibition listings. The page even includes related artist and category tags, plus suggested contemporary artists, allowing viewers to continue exploring art beyond our Van Gogh page.

I’m contacting certain website and blog owners, and asking them to help us achieve our mission by adding a link to Artsy.   

So now you have another tool with which to better enjoy and understand your art.  Scope out Artsy, where I am certain you will be entertained and enlightened!

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Cats on Quilts

In the foreground we see Ca Beere, who, like any self-respecting cat, simply cannot help from getting onto any new item left on the floor.  In this case, it's one of the bride's quilts:

Image credit Gary

In the background we see Amanda, who pretends she is not really with us.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Haven't Posted on Chuck Norris in Awhile

I'm sorry--and this must be a profoundly deep-seated character flaw--but I just can't help liking Chuck Norris jokes...and inflicting them upon you.  Though, truth be told, you have sufficient recourse: liberal use of the DELETE key, or simply not clicking in the first place.

So, here are a new newer ones.  My personal fav is the last one:

--10 Mar 2015: Chuck Norris celebrated his 75th birthday. Or should I say, 75 celebrated  Chuck Norris' birthday. 

--Chuck Norris wears sunglasses so that his eyes won't hurt the sun.

--When Google has a question, they "Norris" it. 

--Chuck Norris can sing sign language and capitalize numbers.

--Chuck Norris knows the location of the undisclosed location.

--Chuck Norris can slap the headless horseman.

--On the day God created Adam and Eve, Chuck Norris stopped by with a tray of cookies.

You're welcome.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

More American Chestnut

I'm on the mailing list of the Keystone Trails Association, a sister organization here in PA to my trail maintenance club, the Potomac Appalachian Trail Club (PATC).

KTA puts out a really decent newsletter, and I was fascinated to read an article by Richard Gardner focused on the American Chestnut.  In July I did a post I called The Return of American Chestnut to the Forest...which was not exactly what the title might lead you to believe.  Here's the link.

Anyway, back to the Gardner article in the KTA newsletter.  Here's an excerpt; you should go read the rest.

As an ecologist, I’m accustomed to testing paradigms that have become science doctrine to determine whether they’re true. This spring and summer, I surveyed the American chestnut tree (Castanea dentata) along the Appalachian Trail (AT) and other parts of Blue Mountain in central Pennsylvania to see whether there was any truth to the generally believed story of the American chestnut being extinct (or almost so) from the chestnut blight. I decided to do this survey based on a few casual observations, gut instinct, and intuition. As an invasive plant ecologist, I dispel myths in my field by walking and following my instincts and intuition. So naturally I decided to walk, look, and photograph the AT and related trails in central Pennsylvania using a camera with a GPS. I chose the stretch of AT from the Rausch Gap Shelter to Lehigh Gap, as well as related trails from Pennsylvania Route 501 to Hawk Mountain Road. Instead of finding a tree going extinct, I found the American chestnut thriving.

Again, go read the whole article, here, it's definitely worth doing so.  The largest wild American Chestnut I've encountered is near the Cunningham Falls and the Catoctin Trail in nearby Maryland.  If I recall correctly it was nearly a foot in diameter and was bearing nuts.  I can clearly picture the tree in my mind's eye, but finding it again might be quite a different matter.

Monday, September 7, 2015

Coolest Epitaph Ever: "Good Night Gath"

I recently posted here about George Albert Townsend (and the JFK 50 Miler) when a local minor team, the Hagerstown Suns, offered bobbleheads of him as a promotion.  I thought it was waaaay cool that they elected to use a figure from local American Civil War history.

George Alfred Townsend (who added an "H" to his initials and frequently went by "Gath") was a member of the press, and considered to have been the youngest war correspondent of that conflict. 

Anyway, further reading made me decide to do a post about his death, which itself is quite interesting.  Here's a shot of George Albert Townsend's (Gath's) tomb along the Appalachian Trail piece of the JFK course:

Image credit seeker of revelation, here, who sums up Gath's afterlife situation thusly:

 Here were have the tomb constructed for George Alfred "Gath" Townsend, the man after whom Gathland State Park was named. Gath had it created many years before his death, and by the time he died he lacked the money to have his body transported to what was supposed to be his final resting place. It now sits empty in the park, while Gath's mortal remains dwell up in Pennsylvania

Which at length brings me to the real money quote, the inscription over the door of the empty tomb:

Image credit Marios Kritiosis, here.  

Evidently Gath had a real sense of humor.  You know, sometimes people get asked--pageant contestants or political candidates come to mind--about what historical figure that they would like to meet, and why.

The empty tomb symbology notwithstanding, I think I'd vote for meeting George Alfred Townsend, who evidently had a good sense of humor, even about dying.

Good night, Gath.

Sunday, September 6, 2015

Cats in Art: A Glaring of Cats Making Music and Singing (unknown artist)

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.  

This is the 2nd of a pair of bizarre images (see my Cats in Art post from two weeks ago, here) that would seem to be from the same unknown Flemish artist, circa 1700.

Image credit here, A Glaring of Cats Making Music and Singing, unknown artist, circa 1700, oil on panel, 19" x 25", sold at auction to private collector.

I love the earnest expressions on the part of the kitties here.  None look quite comfortable, or look like they really get it or are enjoying it.  Yet they strive mightily anyway.

Some of the smaller relatives in my family are of the ages where we sing to them, and with them.  On occasion I break into a cat version of a familiar tune.  For example, the iconic first six instrumental notes of Jethro Tull's Locomotive Breath (we being a classic rock family) lends itself quite nicely to "Meow meow meow meow meow meow."

The familiar part begins at 1:05 into this video (link is here in case the embed fails):


Saturday, September 5, 2015

Classic Rock

Went with friends to Baltimore Wednesday night for some classic rock: Gregg Allman followed by the Doobie Brothers.

Hard-driving 70s rock n roll to the max!  I'm hoarse from singing and my hands hurt from clapping.  

I did clap to the best of my abilities, and "hurt" is relative and comes easily to me...ever since my snowblower accident a year and a half ago where I lost the last joint of my right ring finger, I clap like a sissy.  Much like you would imagine Queen Elizabeth would clap.  But my heart was certainly in it!

We are so fortunate that we have some friends with whom to re-experience rock n roll from 40+ years ago.

[image credit Gary, of Gregg Allman at Pier Six in Baltimore]

More rock n roll stuff coming tomorrow, as part of Cats in Art...stay tuned!

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Garden Spiders are Back

It's late summer, so the late season garden spiders are making their appearance.  Wonder if that makes them a harbinger, although I only ever hear of harbingers of spring?

[image credit Gary, plus a spider who refused to give his name]

When I was a kid we'd catch bugs and toss them into the webs of these guys.  The spider would instantly pounce, bite the victim, and roll it up in a bundle of silk in what seemed to be only the blink of an eye.

Seems pretty gruesome to think about now, but that what kids did then (and still do).  Part of that whole "nature red in tooth and claw" thingy.