Thoughts on Art

The other day, I spotted a postcard in the mail from a New York art gallery. I process mail for an upscale part of Naples, so that's not unusual. This particular postcard featured a detail portion of a painting by an artist named Larry Poons. If you click on his name, you can see a page with a number of his works on it. They are all extremely abstract.

To be honest, I'm not much for abstract art. I like art where the artist is trying to make me think or make me feel something, but in order to do that, it's generally necessary for the work to actually be clearly representative of something. If you can rotate the work by 90 degrees, either way, and not be able to say, "That's sideways," then in my opinion, it's not representative enough. It's just a color Rorschach test, and it's not for me.

There was another postcard a few days ago from a Naples gallery about an exhibition titled "Let's Go To the Beach," featuring paintings of the beach in various styles. One artist (I don't remember his name) had a couple of beautifully photorealistic paintings, one of waves rolling in from the Gulf, the other of water bubbling and pooling at the tide line, with sea shells on the sand. Most of the other works were impressionistic. As I told my partner on the machine, "Hey, if I want impressionistic, I'll just take my glasses off!"


The Difference Is...

Seems that Iceland is about to appoint an openly gay woman as its new prime minister. Johanna Sigurdardottir, a former flight attendant turned labor organizer turned politician, will lead the troubled island nation. The most interesting line in the story to me was this one:
She lives with journalist Jonina Leosdottir, who became her civil partner in 2002, and has two sons from a previous marriage.
The difference between America and Iceland is that when our journalists go down on the president, they only do it figuratively.


Gettin' Hopey-Changey

Well, not really, but I can at least play with the Obamicon.me site's poster maker like all of the other cool kids are doing. Here are my two efforts, so far. First, we have the generic photo for my Blogger pic:

And then we have the modified logo:

For my next poster, I've got to find a picture of Vladimir Lenin. It's gonna say "Change."

Ah, here we go:

You say you want a revolution, well, you know...


Manatee Park

Things have warmed up nicely. I read in the paper that there were hundreds of manatees at the Manatee Park on State Road 80, seeking the warm water that discharges from the nearby power plant. I decided to make a trip over there and try my luck at seeing some manatees. I've been there before and seen two or three. Let's just say that my luck definitely changed today.

When I left the house at 10:00, the temperature was up to 59 degrees and rising. By the time I got to Manatee Park, it was up to 63. The place was packed, with auxiliary parking in the grassy areas near the fence. I found a place to park and took my camera with me to the observation area. There were manatees all along the river, but the best spot for observing them was a shallow alcove where there were at least forty of them visible. They came in all sizes, from large bulls and cows all the way down to the babies. I really liked this shot of the baby manatee cuddling up to his mother:

Mostly, they lazed about in the shallow water, coming up every so often for air and to blow water out of their nostrils. We did see one that swam swiftly from one side of the alcove to the other as if he was late for dinner. He was the only one who showed any signs of being in a hurry, though.

I fired off a bunch of pictures, hoping that some of them would turn out well. I was surprised to find that most of them came out pretty well. Here is a nice group shot:

Many of the older manatees have scars on their hides from unfortunate meetings with boats and their propellers, as you can see on the big one in the middle of the picture above. I liked this picture of the baby manatee poking out of the water next to the two grizzled veterans:

All in all, not a bad morning. It's turning into a beautiful day.

Just Chillin'

Why? Because baby, it's cold outside! Not quite as cold as yesterday, when temperatures were below freezing (28 degrees) when I got home from work, but still cold. In fact, there was actually ICE on my windshield and back window yesterday morning when I got off work (it was 34 degrees there, according to my car's thermometer)! I had to run the heater for a couple of minutes before the windshield wipers could knock it away. (No, I don't own an ice scraper any more!)

The last three days have all been in the 30s when I got off work, but today is a few degrees warmer than yesterday. The added benefit is that due to the cold dry air, the sunrises have been marvelous the last three days, a Technicolor rainbow from purplish-red through orange, yellow, green, blue and then into indigo, all before the sun cleared the horizon.

I'm sure most of you are saying, "Hey, low 30s, sounds pretty nice to me compared to what we have here." And comparatively, you're probably right. What must be understood, however, is that low 30s is within spitting distance of record cold temperatures for the day in Southwest Florida. 30 degrees for us is about like -10 or -20 where you're at.

In any case, the cold sent me into hibernation. I slept most of yesterday, mainly because I could. I was well-rested for work last night. They're talking about one more cold morning tomorrow, and then things should warm back up to normal.



That's the number of days after the terrorist attacks of 9/11/2001, without another mass casualty terrorist attack on the United States. Thank you, President Bush, for a job well done. And I hope that President Obama keeps that streak going for at least the next 1,460 days, which would take him through the end of his term of office.

As many have noted, it was ironic that on the day a black man was inaugurated as President of the United States of America, the Senate's only former Ku Klux Klansman collapsed. And with two superannuated Democrat Senators being felled yesterday, that's not a good trend for the Democrats. If they keep dropping like that, it won't be long until the Republicans regain the majority.

So, how long do you think it will be until we start seeing some of those ancient liberals on the Supreme Court announcing their retirements, now that their replacements would be named by a Democrat? You know that the old coots have been hanging on, saying to themselves, "I can't die or retire yet, because then George Bush would name a conservative to replace me!" Maybe now they'll get a chance to stop and smell the roses... Or maybe they'll go out like Chief Justice Rehnquist did, with their boots on.


Inauguration Day

I'm watching President Obama giving his inaugural address. Well, nobody ever said that he doesn't give a good speech. It will be interesting to see what deeds may follow. I'll say the same thing to President Obama that I said to President Bush on Inauguration Day eight years ago: "I didn't vote for you, but I'm willing to give you the benefit of the doubt. Let's see what you can do."

God bless America.

Update 12:30 p.m.: They could have skipped the poet at the end. I don't like stream-of-consciousness masquerading as poetry. Poetry is supposed to have rhyme and meter. It's like abstract art where somebody sloshes paint on a canvas. Anyone can do that. Well, I'll say it: The emperor has no clothes, and the poet has no poetry.


Economic Silver Linings

The economy is a big, dark cloud right now. There are at least three commodities that are bucking negative economic trends, however. And two of them can be traced directly to the election of Barack Obama as president.

First, there are video games, whose sales were over $21 billion last year, with a big jump in December. People like to be entertained, and video games can provide good value for their money, with good games offering hundreds of hours of game play. Video games were among the few bright spots in an otherwise bleak Christmas season for retailers.

Second, sales of guns and ancillary products such as ammunition and clips took off immediately after Obama's election in November. Some think that Obama may be the "gun salesman of the year." Firearms enthusiasts believe, rightly or wrongly, that "Obama's coming after my guns," so they figure they need to buy and squirrel away as many of them (and as much ammo for them) as possible. Never mind the fact that they've been saying the same thing every time a Democrat has been elected since at least Jimmy Carter's time. Nope, this time the Obamapocalypse is upon us, and woe be unto him who is unarmed.

Finally, there are the thousands of kitschy products out there honoring soon-to-be-President Obama. Whether it's commemorative plates or coins, t-shirts, tattoos, and yes, even sex toys, there's an Obama product out there for everyone. In the future, everyone will own some kind of Barack schlock for fifteen minutes.

I wondered a bit about this phenomenon. I think it's comparable to a baseball card collector wanting to get the rookie card of the next hot "can't-miss" phenom. Sure, the kid hasn't played a day in the majors, but when he hits it big, the value of the card will skyrocket. Never mind that most of those "can't-miss" rookies never become superstars.

Similarly, people seem to want a piece of the man that the liberal media has already anointed as being as great as Abraham Lincoln or Franklin Roosevelt, in hopes that it similarly would skyrocket in value. Americans are still entrepreneurs at heart, looking for the main chance. They still want to buy something for a little now and sell it for a lot later.

But they are forgetting that value goes up only when things are scarce or hard to obtain. A memento of Lincoln is expensive because there are not that many of them, because so many disappeared over the years. But if there are hundreds of thousands of Obama items out there, they aren't rare. They are common. And that Obama quarter that people are paying ten bucks for is still only worth a quarter. It may have sentimental value to them, at least for now, but it is extremely unlikely to send their kids to college in twenty years.


It Was Twenty Years Ago Today...

January 13, 1989, was a much anticipated day for me. And why not? It was the ETS date on my military ID card, the date when my enlistment would be up. I had re-enlisted once, back in early 1985, but this time, I was ready to get out. If I'd stayed in, the Army wanted to send me to Fort Hood, Texas, no doubt to spend long stretches of time in the motor pool or on field training exercises. The Reagan era was coming to a close, with the first George Bush getting ready to take office. It was time for me to do something new.

And so, after painting my graffiti on the Berlin Wall, I caught a flight from Berlin to New York, and a bus from there to Fort Dix, New Jersey, the very same place where I'd begun my military career in 1981. I got there late on January 12th, and spent my ETS day outprocessing. Being a sergeant who was ETSing was certainly a much nicer experience than being a buck private going through basic training.

And then, I got a plane ticket from Philadelphia to Fort Myers via Tampa, and got out of Dodge. There was snow on the ground in Philly that day, and that was the last time I saw snow from that day to this. I had made the transition from soldier to civilian again.

Twenty years! Where does the time go?


Blago's Surreal Friday Press Conference

I wrote this up as a comment at Althouse.com, but it's unlikely to be read by many people there since it was an old thread, so I put it up here, where not many people are likely to read it either:

That press conference was surreal. Blago on the dais with a couple of American flags and a small gaggle of unfortunates, including a fellow in a wheelchair, telling his tale of standing like St. Blago against the besieging Saracen horde, doing great works for the little people despite the opposition of the Illinois legislature. Fox News' Shepard Smith was beside himself, talking over Blago's filibuster and demanding, "What about selling the Senate seat? What about shaking down a children's hospital? What about trying to get journalists fired?" And you know that to Shep and the media, the latter was probably the worst of the three.

Still, you have to admire Blago's chutzpah. He's certainly been entertaining, definitely the best side effect of the election of Barack Obama as President. And if he gets more kids to read classical literature, well that's just one more human service he's done along with helping poor women get mammograms and poor kids get organ transplants.

A question for the lawyers out there: If the Illinois Senate convicts Blago and removes him from office, does that mean that the Feds wouldn't be able to try him on the same charges due to double jeopardy? Is it possible that a clever lawyer could argue that and get him off scot-free on the federal charges?


One Might As Well Be Hanged For A Sheep As For A Lamb

This morning, while driving home from work, the talk radio host was talking about the proposed increases in fines for speeding and other traffic infractions here in Florida. It's going to become even more expensive to break the law, but as one person noted, if it's going to be that expensive, you might as well go all out. No sense in getting nailed for a piddly 10 or 15 miles per hour over the limit. If you're going to be handing over your bank account to the county for a traffic infraction, you might as well get your money's worth.

I was reminded of that when I read about this story in the morning newspaper:
2 leaders of polygamist group arrested in Canada

VANCOUVER, British Columbia (AP) — Two top leaders of a polygamous community in western Canada have been arrested and charged with practicing polygamy, British Columbia's attorney general said Wednesday.

Attorney General Wally Oppal said Winston Blackmore is charged with marrying 20 women, while James Oler is accused of marrying two women. Oppal, who said the charges carry a maximum penalty of five years in prison, said the case will be the first test of Canada's polygamy laws.

Again, if you're going to be a polygamist, you might as well go all out. With 20 wives, Mr. Blackmore can sleep with a different woman every night for almost three weeks. But Mr. Oler? How can he call himself a polygamist with only two wives? He's a bigamist! It's like he's hardly even trying!

And with 20 wives, I'd say that Mr. Blackmore is not just practicing polygamy; I'd say he's perfected it!


Last Night's Annoyance

Which was going into the break room at midnight and having someone tell me, "Look at the prices of the candy bars! They jumped from 85 cents to a dollar!" I looked and sure enough, what had been a ripoff had turned into blatant highway robbery. The yo-yos at the Division of Blind Services who stock the machines buy in bulk, and are probably making at least a 100% profit. I think the worst thing is that they didn't just go up by a nickel or a dime. No, the greedy SOBs jacked up the prices by a full fifteen cents in one jump. The last time they increased prices, which was not that long ago, they went from 75 cents to 85 cents. I've now decided that I'm not going to buy anything else from them from now on, from any of their machines, period. I'll stock up in bulk at the store and bring my own snacks. Let 'em get the money for their white canes and guide dogs from some other sucker, because I'm done with them.


Like A Country Song

You may have seen in the news that Governor Bill Richardson has withdrawn his name for consideration as Barack Obama's Secretary of Commerce, due to some possible shady dealing involving political favors for campaign contributions. Oops! Now he'll have to return to Sante Fe. It reminds me of a twist on a country song. Richardson's lament: "I shaved my beard for this?"

Spotted in the Mail

Last night, I spotted a brochure for a company named Heritage Auctions that was advertising a "Natural History Auction," including such items as the fossilized skull of a triceratops (7-1/2 feet long, 5 feet wide) and the skull of a saber-toothed cat. The first item is expected to bring $240-280,000 at auction, while the second is a relative bargain at an expected $40-50,000.

I showed the triceratops skull on the cover of the brochure to my partner on the machine and asked, "Where would you display it? What are you going to do, put it out in your formal garden with the bonsai?"

I told someone else about it, and he said, "Well, you could put it in your hunting lodge with the elk heads." I pointed out that it would make the elk heads look downright puny, and besides, people would say, "Well, I KNOW you didn't kill THAT one!"

Anyway, follow the link if you've got that kind of money burning a hole in your pocket and a nice big room in your house that needs a triceratops skull to complete the decor.


Quadrantid Update

I did, indeed, go out early Saturday morning and watch the meteor shower. I was out for about half an hour, from 3:30 to 4:00 a.m. The sky was mostly clear, and I saw about ten meteors during that time, as well as a couple of other flashes out of the corner of my eye that might have been something. It was cool but not cold, around 58 degrees or so. The only fly in the ointment, so to speak, was a stray mosquito who started buzzing around my head toward the end. I'm amazed that there are any of them left; we've had some cold weather (into the upper 30s and lower 40s a couple of times) that should have killed them all off until the rainy season hatches the eggs they laid. It didn't bite me, anyway, it just buzzed threateningly.

After about a half hour or so, I'd seen enough. It was starting to get cloudy around the edges, and I'd seen what I'd gone out to see. It wasn't as good as the Leonid meteor storms of 2001 and 2002, but it wasn't a total bust like the 2008 Leonids, when I went out and it was too cloudy to see anything.


Quadrantids Tonight (Maybe)

There's a meteor shower tonight or early tomorrow morning. If the weather permits, I'll probably go out to watch. Now, I know what you're thinking: Going outside in early January for a couple of hours in the early morning to look for shooting stars is crazy! It's got to be freezing out there! Except, of course, here in Florida, it isn't. It will be cool, but the low overnight is supposed to be in the upper 50s. Nothing that jeans and a hooded sweatshirt can't handle.

While I'm not worried about the temperature, the possibility of cloud cover may scrub the mission. I figure I'll take a look outside around 4 a.m. tomorrow. If it's cloudy, then I won't bother driving to my usual meteor-watching spot. If it's clear, though, then I'll head out and see if I'm lucky enough to spot any. They're predicting a pretty good show, perhaps up to 100 meteors an hour, and good viewing since the moon is only a crescent at this point. I'll keep my fingers crossed for clear weather tonight.


Happy New Year!

And so 2009 begins, as 2008 slinks away to die. Best part about 2009: No elections! Worst part about 2009: All those politicians that were elected in 2008 take office, or in the case of the many incumbents who infest the body politic like lice, remain in office. It should be entertaining, especially Blagofest '09.

Question: Are you reading and saying 2009 as "two-thousand-nine" or "twenty-oh-nine"? Some of the radio people are using the latter formulation. 2000 was definitely "two-thousand." Nobody called it "twenty-hundred." Kind of odd when you think about it, because 1900 was "nineteen-hundred" and 2100 will definitely be "twenty-one-hundred", even if most of us are unlikely to be around to say it. And for most of this decade, most of us have been using the "two-thousand-" phrase rather than the "twenty-oh-" phrase. From next year on, it's almost certain that everyone will just be saying "twenty-ten," "twenty-eleven," etc. But this decade has been an odd aberration in the way we refer to our years.