Friday, January 30, 2015

Westeros in 4D

Westeros 4D Puzzle, 2015

Season 5 of Game of Thrones begins April 12, and to bide ourselves over during the interminable gaps between seasons we've read all of the books, rewatched the previous seasons, and taken up making 4D puzzles of Westeros.
Unveiled at a recent IMAX showing of the last two episodes of season 4 of GoT was a trailer for season 5 that is meant to whet your palate for the upcoming season and it succeeds.
My mother always warned me not to wish my life away, but cold dark days like these crawl by until the show returns.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Facebook Friends

Maxo Vanka Mural, Millvale, 2014

I have this facebook friend - which, if you are on facebook know this - who is not really a friend in any sense of the word.  She is instead a person who rode the same school bus as I did almost forty years ago.  That's the extent of my firsthand knowledge of this woman.   She posts pictures of her cat (who doesn't), talks a little about her 80 year old wealthy husband, and flirts with the guys she went to high school with.  It's pretty tame.  Still, how much of your past can you truly leave behind?  What vestiges of it will never fade entirely?  The other day a bit of that reared it's head when "Jane" posted and old picture of herself, stylishly dressed, posing for a photo shoot, she claimed.  It didn't look like a photo shoot, it looked like a snap shot taken inside a dress shop.  I didn't pay much more attention to it and continued scrolling through my feed.  The next day the picture popped back up again in my feed, at the top of the page in fact, and I started mentally complaining about how fb figures out how to order your news feed.  Nothing comes through in chronological order, oh no.  That would be too convenient. 
There was Jane's picture, and before I could just scroll it in oblivion, I noticed that there were a lot of comments, so I scanned over them only to discover profanity, accusations of boyfriend stealing (from the late 1970s, no less), and guys requesting some pictures from those 'other' photo shoots she used to do.  Well what do you know.  And, apparently, Jane doesn't realize that when you post something you are also in control of deleting it because she just left it up there. 
Online communication, even when you vaguely know the person, still has the capacity to get so much uglier than it would if you were standing next to the person, face to face.  The lack of filter from what you are thinking and what you are typing, also the drunken posts that come late at night when all of your demons are in control.  See, this is why I go to bed at 9pm.  I don't have to worry about humiliating myself, or reading other people's humiliation.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Bird Conversations

Bird Conversations, CM, 2013

My oldest son is a painter, and as with any young artiste, he experiments wildly with style.  Some I like, and with some I choose my words carefully.  This one I like.  The form, the color, the eye, and especially the cut-out bird placed in the lower right hand corner.  That bird has attitude, possibly even rage.  Who doesn't love an angry bird?

Monday, January 26, 2015

Wild Sunflower on a Winter's Day

Helianthus divaricatus, Laurel Highlands, 2012

" Sunflower heads form an intriguing geometric pattern that is characterized by spirals that extend from the center outward in both clockwise and counter-clockwise directions.  The spirals are formed in the achenes as they develop, their position relative to proceding achenes optimized to maximize exposure to the sun.  The angle that they form is related to the Golden Ration, Phi, a number that is approximately 1.618034.  The Golden Ration has the unique property that Phi-1=1/Phi.  The Golden Ration is related to the Fibronacci numbers (1,2,3,5,8,13,21...).  As one extends this ration to infinity, the ratio of any number to the one that precedes it approaches Phi (thus 21/13=1.62).  Because of Phi, the number of spirals in either direction on a sunflower head will always be one of the Fibronacci numbers, such as 8, 13, or 21."
- Hiker's Notebook, Wild Sunflowers

While considering Van Gogh's representation of turbulence in 'Starry Night', I wondered about the science and math in the form of wild sunflowers, or even domesticated sunflowers since they follow the same pattern.  Van Gogh wrote to his brother Theo, "The sunflower is mine," and though he created a series of sunflower paintings, I can't see that the Golden Ratio or the Fibonacci Sequence influenced his work, at least in an overt way.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Man And Deer, Unknown Date/Place

Man And Deer, Unknown Date/Place

Sometimes old and errant photographs make their way into my hands.  This is an example of that phenomenon.  I don't know who the man captured here is/was.  I assume that he shot the deer, and he's smiling because now his starving family can finally eat...It's always so tempting to spin a tale from a photograph that you know nothing about except what's presented in it.
The winter was relentless, the wind howling from the northwest with a vengeance, cutting through the warmest of coats like a glass shard...

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Not All That

For years I've heard from a few people that The Wire is the best show that's ever been on television.  Ever.  EVER!  That's saying a lot, so you would think that I would rush out and watch the show, but it's been off the air for seven years and I am only just now getting around to it.  While I do watch police procedurals, it's not my preferred genre.  Still, we decided it was time to see what the fuss was about, so we checked the first season DVDs out at our local library.
Immediately upon viewing the first few minutes of the premier episode it became excruciatingly obvious that Dominic West, a British actor cast to play a Baltimore detective, could not do an American accent.  His approximation of an American accent sounds an awful lot like an Irish accent.  It's extremely distracting and detracts from the viewing experience as a whole.  Another problem that I have is that out of a cast of seemingly thousands there are what, two women?  Two women.  Boo Hiss!  The show itself is ok, not this towering colossus of small screen utter genius and staggering brilliance that I'd been led to believe.  
I'll finish out the first season, I'm half way through it right now, and then decide if I'll check out the next season at the library.  It's no Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Game of Thrones, The Walking Dead, hell, it isn't even The X-Files - including the bad years.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Veronica persica

Common Field Speedwell, Veronica persica, Pittsburgh, 2014

A tiny bit of spring and summer pressed and preserved on tea dyed paper, errant ink blot in lower left corner.  Speedwell is a salad green/herb so small it's often overlooked.  The fresh young leaves have a flavor similar to watercress, and a tea from the dried leaves and flower heads can be used for respiratory ailments.  I don't collect speedwell for medicinal purposes because it is exceptionally small and too time consuming, but I have foraged the leaves when picking greens for a salad and they are quite good, very mild.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

The Affordable Floors

I am currently pulling up all of the wall-to-wall carpets in the house.  Shown here is the dining room, which has already been completed, as have the stairs, upstairs landing/hallway, both spare bedrooms, and a quarter of the living room.  Only the master bedroom and three quarters of the living room remain.  This has proven to be exhausting.  I'm sore all over.  First, moving all of that furniture, then cutting up the carpets in sections, rolling it up, tying it off, piling it up in the basement until trash day, then crawling around on the floor wrenching free countless tack strips, brads, and staples.  Please do not make the erroneous assumption that I am some DIY devotee.  No, what I really am is cheap, or more kindly, frugal.  So, so many home improvement projects I've undertaken myself solely because I didn't want to part with the cash it would require to get someone else in here to do it.  The biggest upshot with getting rid of these carpets is that the hardwood floors underneath are in excellent condition, and progress can be seen immediately.  That's what keeps me going.  That, and the thought of a Duquesne beer at the end of a long day.
The dog and the cat, as pictured here, are no help and often get in the way.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Visual Clutter

Pug On Rug In A Frame, Backed By Wallpaper, Pittsburgh, 2015

There are quite a few people on both sides of the family who paint.  This masterpiece was rendered by my mother-in-law several years ago of a dog who is now dead.  Bea feels less dead in this portrait than I'm sure she appears at the back of the garden in her grave.  But this isn't about that.  No.  This is about visual clutter, which this is a prime example of.  What do we have here?  A wall, covered in hideous wallpaper, a framed and mercifully matted (blessed negative space!) painting of a dog lying on a bright and busily patterned rug.  Just looking at this makes me want to have a seizure.  There is Too Much Going On!  The eye barely knows what to look at, and even then the brain doesn't know what to think.  This sort of artwork/wallpaper pairing should be avoided at all costs.  And since I am railing against a wall that is in my own home, I've begun to remove the wallpaper.  I wish I could put the dog portrait in the attic, but I am forbidden from doing that, at least as long as my mother-in-law is alive.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Battered Moonlight, Exterior, Day

Battered Moonlight, Exterior, Day, Pittsburgh, 2014

Poet Elizabeth Bishop wrote an evocative poem, 'The Man-Moth' that begins:
Here, above,
cracks in the buildings are filled with battered moonlight.
The whole shadow of Man is only as big as his hat.

The poem goes on from there, but the first line is what I always think of when I'm in the city, surrounded by buildings, day or night, it doesn't matter.  They are filled with battered moonlight!

Saturday, January 10, 2015

All Hail Agent Carter!

     I found it impossible to watch ABC's recent addition to the Marvel Universe, 'Agent Carter', and not compare it to its network companion show, 'Agents of Shield'.  The link provided shows that I am not alone in this assessment.  "Agents of Shield' is a show that I would dearly love to stop watching, but alas, my wife likes it, and thereby is the source of my quandary.  I try not to complain while we're suffering through another episode (oh precious baby Jesus the acting and writing is soooooooo bad!) because I am goddamn thoughtful that way.  But, even she noticed while watching 'Agent Carter' that here is a show worthy of her attention and time, not some half-assed knock-off meant to tie-in to the blockbuster movie franchises and maybe get decent ratings and drift along with the current, bobbing above the low bar set by broadcast television.  I have a real fear that if I trash it too much here that the next time I have to suffer through an episode I'll be plagued by pangs of guilt, and it doesn't deserve that.  Not from me, not from anyone. 
    Instead, I'll focus on what 'Agent Carter' gets right.  First off, the casting is pitch perfect.  Hayley Atwell crawls into Peggy Carter's skin and every word, every action is set on a slow burn until the action explodes.  It's riveting.  And then there is all of that period circa 1940s overt and covert sexism, which the writers wisely use to their advantage instead of trying to pretend that this wasn't the norm.  Sadly it was, and if it makes a lot of the men look like jerks, that's because on this score, a lot of them were.  Much of the writing has that snappy 1940s Hollywood feel to it as well.  Clever banter back and forth, sometimes at a rapid pace, peppered with double entendres, it's a pleasure to behold.  This show is definitely a keeper! 

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

A Conga Line Of DNA In Deep Time

Widowed Housewife, 1968

My family origins are all European, but they do cover the entire continent.  Some French Huguenot, Dutch, Scotch-Irish, Welsh, German, Italian, and whatever else sneaked in.  For Christmas I was given a DNA tester kit so that I can better trace my lineage.  I hauled out the old file on my family tree, I don't work on it because I know, like many other things, I will never finish it, but there are smatterings of information, documents, photos.  The last of my ancestral group to arrive in the U.S. was the Italian side who came over on the S.S. Cincinnati in 1914.  Legend has it that they were too poor to live in Italy, with three of their five children dying in infancy.  So, they stole olives from the plantation they worked at, and in time saved up enough to gain passage in this land of opportunity.  Like most parts of the U.S., we had and have 'Little Italy' communities where the immigrants and their descendants settled, built churches, gathered together for support and familiarity.  For whatever reason my Italian ancestors chose not to live in any of the thriving Italian communities in our region.  Instead they settled in a rural and decidedly German community.  It was odd, and there are few answers and a lot of speculation, but they left the Catholic Church, and subsequent generations all married outside of the Italian ethnicity as well.  This is my mitochondrial DNA line, my mother, grandmother, and great grandmother and beyond with these Italian roots.  I'm really curious to see what my DNA reveals, if anything.

Sunday, January 4, 2015

In Bloom

White Waterlily, Nymphae adorata, North Park Lake, Pittsburgh, 2014

The waterlily belongs to one of the oldest species of flowering plants, Amborella, dating back 140 million years.  It makes sense, since land plants first migrated from shallow pools of water to land.  The rise of flowering, or angiosperm, plants and trees coincides with the rise of mammals, a neat dove-tail in evolutionary trends owing to food production and seed dispersal.  Angiosperms provided a food source by way of nuts, seeds, grains, and fruits, while the mammalian consumption of same ensured that the seeds were deposited away from the parent plant, preferably in a nutrient rich mound of stool.  Although we don't eat waterlilies, all parts of Nymphae adorata are edible, with the tuberous rootstock being the most nutrient rich.

Friday, January 2, 2015

Two Heads: A Mural

Two Heads, Mural/Street Art, Columbus, OH, 2014

When we were in Columbus last April, it became obvious on our first walk about that this is a city serious about art.  Murals are everywhere, and they are fun and engaging.  Columbus is also serious about being a biking friendly city with bike rentals every few blocks.  I look forward to our return there this spring.