subjects of personal interest

Monday, June 11, 2012

My Favorite Paintings in the NY Metropolitan Museum of Art

in some ways I wish this was me... boating with a friend.

I love the painting galleries at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in NYC.
I've been to the museum on a number of occasions over the past few years with different missions, but it is always the paintings that move me to want to create, to record the simple vanity of life.
The bottom line is that it's all pretty pointless- this painting of canvases thing.

We have cameras that capture frames of reality much more distinctly.
I love photography. Really, I do- I even have a Flickr site that no one visits but me.
Photography is arguably a lot more "fun" than painting.

Painting is hard work. Long hours alone in the studio (or wherever) staring at canvases in various stages of completion, trying to figure out how to make it convey the intended experience.
Painting,.... repainting.
Going cross-eyed with proportions and composition.
I don't think many people really care about paintings.
We live in a media-saturated culture.
What's another image?

Typical conversation:
"Oh, you painted that?"
"Yeah. I've been working on it for a while...finally finished it."
"It's nice..."
"What do you like about it?"
"Um, it's pretty. The colors are nice. Do you have others?
 (heard: ....I'm bored with this.. do you have another painting?  Quick!...entertain me...before I have to think about the whys and whats of your work..)"
"Yeah. I have lots more...
(but you would probably find them boring too..)"

I'm tired of boring people who want to be entertained.
They are... boring... and I don't have time to be bored.
I don't know if I've ever been bored for longer than the time it takes to think of something.
I have probably a couple hundred unfinished projects going on all round me.
Pretty much no one cares about any of them but me, but I'm definitely not bored.

My life is one un-boring, unfinished project that I happen to be right smack-dab in the middle of.

Well.... I wish I could say that I have an original thought or some great vision.
I don't...right now... just give me another minute and when one comes it'll be scribbled on a blue post-it and then it can join the medley of ideas stuck all over my walls..... Names, and themes, lines of verse, rough sketches of composition, to-do lists, and business ideas. Whatever.
I'm a pretty lame duck really. I've given some great ideas away to businessmen who in one way or another promised returns on the ideas, which have yet to arrive. Tons of slogans, logos, images, random verses, and creative ideas are always drifting across the fertile lands of my brain. Every once in a while I try to tame them and put them to work. Sometimes they're just sketched on napkins and left for the busboy.
Many of my clients have been honorable and financed their ambitions in the art department generously.
To them, I extend my appreciation. You know who you are. May it continue to go well for you!
I guess if securing bread for the day was a bit easier I'd be much more productive with my art;
but there's more to it than that. 

Like I said before, it's all vanity, and I didn't even figure that out myself-
I learned it in the Bible, in one of the most insightful books ever, Ecclesiastes.
If you never read it, now is a good time. It won't take long; it's a short book in the middle of the Bible.
So basically, today, I feel like saying, "I give up."
No one but God really cares.
I, too, should read Ecclesiastes. I would feel better.
We are all just a beautiful mess of dust and I'm tired.

You probably are reading this because for whatever reason, you like my paintings.
So, with true sincerity, I thank you for caring enough to read some of my stream of consciousness;
the same sort of pathetic drivel I usually skim-read on other blogs, and generally strictly avoid.
I'm having a weak moment.  What follows is an exercise in art therapy.
Yup. Now I can claim "quack-psychotherapist" on my resume.
Some folks pay good money to soothe their souls with this stuff.
For you, my dear, loyal reader, I provide it free of charge.

This is a selection of my favorite paintings found at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in NYC.
This post has been a work in progress. I've been putting it together slowly for about 5 months now.

I've tried to include links to the Met museum website so you can see high quality images and learn the background information on each piece.

We'll start with my favorite painting in the world:
"Wheatfield with Cypresses" - Vincent Van Gogh 1889

"Cypresses"  - Vincent Van Gogh -   1889   36.75 x 29.125 in.

"Regatta at Saint-Adress" - Claude Monet   1867    29.625 x 40 in.

"Boating" - Edouard Manet  1874    38.25 x 51.25 in.

 "View of Vetheuil" - Claude Monet   1880    31.5 x 23.75 in.

"Garden of Vaucresson" - Edouard Vuillard 1920 59 1/2 x 43 5/8

"Young Ladies of the Village" - Gustav Courbet  1852  76.75 x 102.75

"The Gulf of Marseilles Seen from L'Estaque" - Paul Cezanne   1885    28.75 x 39.5

Red Sunset on the Dhiaper- Arkhip Kuindzhi

sorry about the reflection on this one.."East River from the Shelton Hotel" - Georgia O'Keeffe  1928    12 x 32 in.

"Golden Gate" - Charles Sheeler 1955

"The Rocky Mountains" - Albert Bierstadt   1863   73.5 x 120.75 in.

"Soap Bubbles" - Thomas Couture - 1859  51.5 x 38.625

"Princesse de Broglie" Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres   1851-53   47.75 x 35.75 in.

"William Fraser of Reelig" - Sir Henry Raeburn  1801   29.5 x 24.5 in.

"Banks of the Loing"  William Lamb Picknell   c.1894-97   58.25 x 83 in.

"Oak Tree" - Wolfgang Adam Topffer   12.25 x 9.75 in.

"The Weeders" - Jules Breton   1868    28.125 x 50.25 in.

"Vetheuil in Summer" - Claude Monet
"The Eruption of Vesuvius" Johan Christian Dahl

"leogar" - Modrian
"Spectrum" - Ellsworth Kelly

Joan of Arc" - Jules Bastian-Lopage 1879

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Beware of the Chemical Invasion!! Where's the canary?


 the chemical invasion!!
      The canaries aren't singing the
            company song anymore.....

As the son of a doctor, who was the son of a doctor, who was the son of a doctor (whew..), I have experienced an unusual amount of cumulative exposure to doctorly advice. The unusual thing here is that it was my father, the doctor, who was always playing with chemicals. The warnings came from my mother.

Throughout my life, my mother has always been extremely sensitive to environmental smells. Her troubles began in her young twenties. She used to work in a florist shop. One day on the job she experienced an acute exposure to the pesticide methionine while tending to plants in a greenhouse. Since that heavy exposure, the condition of hypersenstivity to chemicals has progressed. It was something I grew up with. Most don't realize that just about everything is somehow tied in to chemicals, and it seems like just about everything can be toxic to someone with hypersensitivities. My mother has had it pretty rough in the chemical department of life. Generally, the chemicals arrive in the form of various fragrances.

Basically, almost all fragrances cause severe and debilitating reactions in my mother- from the obvious fragrances of perfumes and colognes, laundry detergents, cleaning agents, and shampoos and cosmetics- to the less obvious items like hand sanitizers and lotions, new cars, carpeting, and building materials like plywood and MDF board.  While I was growing up, I knew fragrances were a serious matter, but it was hard to relate to the condition. Smells never bothered me- except those of cats and mildew. As the years have passed, however, I realize the wisdom in her motherly advice regarding the use and storage of chemicals. Especially since the condition has developed in my own life.

                                                    "Better living through chemistry..."
That was a saying that the business world tossed around during the chemical revolution 50 years ago. "Everything" was safe for human use- despite the fact that the chemical substances themselves were adept at eliminating various forms of life. A family I grew up with in central Jersey used to tell me stories how one of their childhood delights was when the Mosquito Control trucks would come down their rural road. They would ride their bicycles and play in the "big fog cloud behind the truck."  The joys of following the truck down the road on their bicycles as children wore off when, as adults, they learned about their DDT exposure.  There are probably millions of similar (but untold) stories worldwide.

As a painter for many years, I have been using all sorts of paints and solvents since my youth. Despite the availability of latex paints in my youth, my father preferred oil-based paints, and trained me how to use them starting when I was about nine or ten.  Dad was the ultimate handyman; he could build a fishpond and perform a tracheotomy in the same day if he wanted to.  He was always painting something- we had a large colonial house and we basically restored the whole thing as a family as I was coming of age. There were always lines of old coffee cans with paint thinner in various stages of refinement in our garage.

As a youth, I experienced side-effects from paint solvents that would be described as normal- the most prominent of which being headaches. I noticed though, that some people didn't seem to be bothered by the chemicals at all- even the smell of glues, diesel, gasoline, kerosene, exhaust fumes. Some kids actually seemed to like the smell of gasoline.  I always hated fueling up the garden tractor and, especially, dealing with the fuel tanks on our family's boat. In time, I noticed some fragrances began to bother me, especially perfumes and colognes. Then motor oil, greases, dish soaps, hand soaps, other people's shampoos, new carpeting, vinyl floors, and artificial colors.

When I was a little kid my mother recalls that I would complain "the food was poisoned." after I ate standard American junk food (you know- the stuff with all those unpronounceable chemical ingredients, like HoHos, Snowballs, and Twinkies.)   Even today, I hardly eat any junk food except ice cream, and at that, I can only handle the all-natural types.  The food at fast food places often gives me a pretty nasty headache that only goes away by sleeping it off. Sometimes it lingers for a day or two.

So why all this personal information? What's my point?
I don't get sick from natural foods.
So what is the difference between natural foods and regular supermarket fare?
It must be the chemicals involved in the production, processing, and/or preservation of the food. Chemicals- that's my point. Excessive, ever-present, illness-causing chemicals.

Most schoolchildren are taught that miners used to bring canaries into the mines. The birds served as detectors for poisonous gas in the air. Since the gas is both odorless and invisible, the only way for the miners to detect its presence was by paying attention to the health of the canary.  In the absence of the gas, the canary would be its usual self- happily singing away; but if the bird stopped singing, or even died, there was major cause for alarm! The miners knew that swift and decisive action was required before the gas would overwhelm them too! Thus, the canary was a vital companion in the depths of the mine.

Is there a modern equivalent to the canary in the coal mine?

The prevalence of synthetic manufactured chemicals in our living environments is generally thought of as a normal thing by most people I encounter. In casual conversation, most folks are quick to defend their perfumes, pledge spray, and fabric softeners as "completely harmless."
If that was true, why would they cause splitting headaches in some people??
Even worse, some people can go into forms of shock, respiratory arrest,.. even die.  True, most people in the population don't suffer extreme adverse reactions. But scientists have shown that many of the chemicals in everyday products are dangerous to the health of humans.

Hey, how come the canary stopped singing?

The fact is- many chemicals are not completely harmless; they are products consisting of long lists of artificially synthesized chemical compounds with known effects on living creatures. Depending on a person's location on the planet and the governmental jurisdiction they find themselves under, often the list of chemical ingredients is considered "proprietary" and thus a trade secret. The result; ignorance is bliss. "The lotion smells nice, so I use it everyday." Do you know what's in it? "What do you mean, it's lotion."
Right... exactly my point.
Lotion is made of many separate ingredients called chemicals, some harmless and others...not so much.
Google all those ingredients, then find out about what ingredients are not required on labeling.
Do you trust that manufacturer implicitly? I'm not just talking about just lotion either. What about the laundry soap, the air freshener, the spray cleaner, the floor wax, the paint cans in the closet, the deodorant in your bathroom, etc., etc.

Long-term exposure through deliberate and even joyful use of chemical products seems to be an unwise course for those wishing to minimize an untimely demise by way of cancer.

Did I say cancer?
No, I scream CANCER!! Everyone around here, it seems in NJ, is dying of one form of cancer or another. NJ is a scary place; hardly alone in the modern world. People are dropping like flies near a bug zapper around here.

Here's my theory-

3 factors for isolating the cause:

1. Food- from the environment our food is grown in to the manufacturing processes that prepare it for market, a huge assortment  of chemicals are often involved in the production of our food. For example: pesticides, fertilizers, herbicides, preparation baths, preservative fogs/ mists, colorings, flavorings, binders, stabilizers, etc. Especially suspect are the processed, preserved, and packaged varieties of food. The food with a paragraph worth of ingredients that you have no idea to pronounce may be common at the supermarket, but does that make it good for us? I say caveat emptor!! There have been a number well-researched books and documentaries on the subject over the years. A good introduction to the treachery of the food industry would be to visit and watch a documentary or two. Try Food, Inc. or The Future of Food. Both films tend to open eyes to the blind trust that society has in the food industry. Though not specifically movies about chemicals, plenty of food chemistry is discussed. The films both films highlight the extent to which food production is controlled by a relatively small number of corporations, who's only true motive is to turn profits, and the dangers that situation presents to us as consumers. A number of those companies are actually chemical companies! Their products are used every step of the way through the production chain. Granted, all those chemicals have enabled large, uniform, predictable crops. Unfortunately, there are side effects to the huge amounts of poisons they spray everything with to ensure that, in the end, only humans (or our livestock) will eat any of that food.
WE EAT THAT STUFF. We need food, but we don't need chemically-saturated processed food.

2. Water- the clear stuff that comes out of the tap,
is clearly a suspect to me. In central NJ it tastes terrible- that's never a good thing. It just plain tastes polluted; not minerally, but toxic.
And why not, within a 35 mile radius is one of the biggest industrial environmental nightmares of this country There are superfund sites, chemical manufacturing plants,pharmaceutical campuses, refineries, abandoned industrial areas, and plenty of roundup-ready fields being converted to house farms and strip malls everywhere. My drinking water is from a watershed that can't dilute poison effectively enough to taste good. Now it seems that all around the country the chemical companies have been actually injecting the poison straight down into the aquifers in their quest to make a quick buck in the natural gas extraction process. What a shame. Have you researched the hydraulic fracturing process of extracting natural gas yet? You should!  Watch the documentary "Gas Land."  Natural Gas is any thing but a "clean" form of energy, when it comes at the destruction of groundwater and entire communities. Poisoning the air and surface of earth is bad enough, but it's going to take divine intervention to decontaminate aquifers.

3. Immediate
living environment- The products and materials involved in the constant personal living space of individuals. Basically, this would be the home, car, and work or school and the "local neighborhood/ microclimate of our personal living areas"  The problems here are the smells that so many love for all the wrong reasons. The smells of "success"- new car smells, new cabinets smells, new carpet, new microfiber plush upholstery, new corporate office cubicle, new refrigerator, new paint---formaldehyde, and pthalates, pthalates, and more pthalates. There's a lot to be said (in the health department) about driving an older car that's outgassed significantly. I believe the same could be said for living in an older stucco house made of concrete block and real wood lumber (not glue-lam and plywood), with an interior of traditional plaster walls and tile floors. That's all pretty inert stuff. The old cabinets are probably made of solid wood, and the floors too. A whole different reality from the laminate cabinets, formica-topped pressboard countertops, and MDF/laminate floors of modern houses. The modern "wood" floors are essentially sawdust held together with an enormous amount of formaldehyde glue. Oh...., then they put a thin veneer of real wood on top to hide the toxic innards. Then everyone who doesn't know any better says, "Look at my new cherry cabinets and walnut floor!" Yup. Duped. It cost a buck less a square foot- and contributed to the $15K bill for chemotherapy.

People are having problems some serious McMansion problems around here.

There's only so much that can be done without being totally neurotic. That only makes life more difficult.
Nevertheless, minimizing exposure to unnecessary (hard to define) chemical exposure is an excellent idea. Living with the problem of chemical sensitivities is terribly debilitating; it makes lot of normal activities practically impossible. Research tends to indicate that the condition often develops after an acute (intense) exposure at a specific time.
Cancer, on the other hand is specifically called out as a result of handling chemicals (just read the back of your paint and solvent cans.)

Do what you can to avoid developing the condition of chemical sensitivities by limiting your exposure to chemicals!!
Read labels. Don't just dismiss what they say.
Think about what you are absorbing through your skin, what you are eating, what your liver and kidneys have to filter out of you afterward.

There is no doubt that chemistry has advanced the capabilities of mankind enormously in the past century. Is it better living through chemistry?
Yeah. probably. The fault is not in technology and the scientific advancement that we have experienced. It is in the greedy commercial world's exploitation of that technology in a way that harms people. To go further, fault can be directed at the governments of the world who have failed their subjects by allowing the products of those commercial interests to repeatedly harm people. The history books are written. I've read a few of them. Man has dominated man to his injury.

Chemicals are everywhere! But we can use good judgement and take simple, practical steps to guard ourselves against excessive exposure and health risks.

Prevent unnecessary injury to yourself- research what is actually in that lotion before you go spreading it all over your beautiful body every day. Just because it says "all-natural" on the label does not mean it's not toxic- that's just what the company is trying to infer by a clever slogan; a slogan that has been the source of much litigation and legislation. Take the principle in the last sentence and apply it to your daily life. Just because people say something doesn't mean it is true.
Especially suspect are those saying things in order to market products.
"The inexperienced one puts faith in every word but the shrewd one considers his steps carefully."
Consider your use of chemicals carefully, your life will be better for it.

             May it be a long and healthy one!

Sunday, January 22, 2012

The Netsilik Eskimo Series- documentaries by Quentin Brown

The Netsilik Eskimo Series of documentaries (1967), directed by Quentin Brown,
are, in my opinion, the best documentary films ever created.
There is no polical message here, no clever marketing scheme, no depressing account of the world's ecological demise- just an endearing family of Netsilik Eskimos going through their daily routines.
I originally saw some of this series when I was at 18 in an anthropology course.
It was a life-changing experience for me.

These beautifully-simple films bring a completely foreign, but totally real, culture to life.
The films documented the daily survival of the family in the Far-North, over the course of a year. They take us, as the viewers, through the annual migration of the Netsilik people. A people who, up until the mid 1900's, lived like this with hardly any knowledge of the rest of modern people. With only a few metal tools, this family survives the year living in the traditional manner, traveling to the food sources available depending upon the time of year.

I would say these have been some of the most enlightening films I have ever viewed. Life may have a lot of difficulties in our current human condition of imperfection, however, very little with regard to possessions is required to live. These films help to remind me that, with a simple lifestyle and a supportive family, everything will be fine. The Netsilik family work hard at the tasks at hand and make it through each day- one day at a time. They seem to enjoy the daily activities and the company of each other.

These are not action films... They are slow-paced; it's like spending the day, the year, with a family from the far north as an invisible viewer.
One thing that really appeals to me is that no soundtrack was added to distract from the natural sounds of their environment and activity.
It is a documentary series of films in the purest and most beautiful form; a piece of media masterpiece that helps me to stay human.
I hope you enjoy them as much as I have!

There are many more of these short films in the Netsilik Eskimo Series. Unfortunately the price to own them on DVD is ridiculous ($650+) or else I would definitely own a copy. Nevertheless, I'm happy to be able to put this short playlist in order thanks to the website which had made all of these available to embed here on my blog. You can visit the NFB website to view other cultural anthropology films.

I have attempted to facilitate viewing the series by arranging the links into chronological order so that you can enjoy learning about this culture without too much distraction.
If you know of a method to include more of these Netsilik Eskimo videos on this page, please leave a comment and let me know. Thanks. Enjoy!

1967 (31 minutes 56 seconds) In this short documentary about the Netsilik Inuit, more wildlife returns as winter draws to an end. The family is now living in a karmak. The man chips a hole on the lake ice and jigs the line to attract the fish. His wife joins him, and both remain at the hole through a severe blizzard.

1967 (26 minutes 40 seconds) Inuit families travel across the sea ice. Before night falls, they build igloos. A boy practices throwing his spear at a figure he has made in the snow. A woman crimps the sole of a sealskin boot she is making.

1967 (26 minutes 36 seconds) Men hunt seal through the sea ice. A hunter strikes, and takes his catch home to skin. A polar bear skin is pegged out to dry, and people nibble on raw fish from the cache.

1967 (26 minutes 35 seconds) A hunter, travelling alone with sled and dogs, snares and kills a squirrel. In camp, a sled is made from a polar bear skin. The family breaks camp, and moves ashore for the summer.



1967 (34 minutes 15 seconds) It is late June and much of the land is bare. There is plenty of activity in the camp as a man fashions a bow from bone and sinews while the children play. The following day the men move out on the sea ice to look for seal pups.

1967 (27 minutes 56 seconds) The men are out on the sea ice and the women work at tasks at the camp, such as drying out the sealskins, cooking sea gulls, gathering moss as fuel. Everyone ends up playing a juggling game.

1967 (33 minutes) The men are out on the ice catching seals and relishing their liver and blood. Upon their return, the women cut away the blubber from the meat and everyone sits down to eat.

1967 (30 minutes 20 seconds) It is the height of summer. The skin tents are up, and it is time to fish. The men go into the river to form enclosures to trap fish. Once trapped, they are speared with three-pronged leisters. A woman cleans the catch, which has been strung on a thong. Everyone enjoys bits of raw fish.

1967 (26 minutes 54 seconds) The summer fishing continues. The plentiful catch is stored in stone caches after the women have cleaned it. Some of the fish is cooked in a stone pot.

1967 length: 32 minutes 20 seconds An Inuit depicts the initial steps in the construction of a kayak. The run-off is in full flow and it is time for the Inuit to build a watercraft. The whole family is involved in shaping this invaluable tool.

1967 length: 32 minutes 46 seconds

1967 (30 minutes 17 seconds) The time is early autumn, the place an Inuit camp in the Pelly Bay region of the Canadian Arctic. A woman, a boy and two men are shown occupied with their various activities. A woman works on caribou skins. Men return from the hunt with another caribou. A boy picks berries and then plays at being a hunter.

1967 (29 minutes 27 seconds)  Two men join the four people at camp. The men build a row of inukshuit, manlike figures which they use to deflect the oncoming caribou into the water, where they are subsequently speared and floated ashore. A great feast follows.

1967 (26 minutes 18 seconds) It is late autumn. The Inuit move to the river valley where they build karmaks--shelters with snow walls and roofs of skins. The men fish with spears and their catch is cooked over an exterior fire. The family then eats inside the karmaks.

1967 (33 minutes 6 seconds) The family moves once again, this time into an igloo built by the men. A sleigh is constructed from skins, frozen fish and caribou antlers. When ready, it is loaded and the family heads down the river to the coast.

1967 (35 minutes 42 seconds) The Inuit family stop their trek and make camp. It is late winter when the cold is severe. The men cut blocks for an igloo while the women shovel the site. During the day, the men sit patiently on the ice, waiting for seals.

1967 (36 minutes 16 seconds) Life at the campsite. Children amuse themselves with makeshift toys. Women tend their children, make clothes, and repair the igloos. When the men return with their catch, everyone goes inside where work, story-telling and games occupy each one's time.

1967 (30 minutes 14 seconds) Work begins on a spacious community igloo. When the men return to their hunt, the women continue with their work and play games with the children. A seal is dragged into the igloo to be shared by everyone, including the dogs, who are called in to clean up.

1967 (34 minutes 40 seconds) The life of the community inside the igloo. A stone chip is removed from a woman's eye. Men and women gamble at spear-the-peg game. The day ends with a drum performance. The next day the big igloo is deserted and the Inuit are again trekking over the broad expanse of sea ice.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012


a totally dated 80's girl - Patrick Nagel

Is this timeless art?
It's awesome 80's pop art that's for sure; but it basically screams its era its so dated.
So why write about this in my blog? Keep reading...

I had a great conversation with my friend Brian at an art gallery the other day.
It was about about "timelessness" and how paintings become dated by fashion.
The subject was a beautiful woman in a distinctively 80s ladies' suit (not the illustration pictured above.)
Even though I couldn't stand the lady's garb, it was a beautiful painting. 

I decided, right there and then, that I no longer care when subject matter and composition date a painting. My lack of appreciation for this lady's sense of fashion, at that time in her life, is really irrelevant to the painting. The painting is about her, not me.
The painting is her story and time marches on.

If people had forever, they might be less inclined to spend so much time
capturing moments with cameras and brushes.
That would be timelessness.
For now- we're all dated.
Art reflects that.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

-the conundrum of art- poetry by dkeil

-the conundrum of art-
by Doug Keil

What do you call a collection of colors and spaces,
by ways and places as divergent
as the products of humanity?

What do you call the creative processes
of reflection and reaction,
the call and response of mind and matter,
the bridges of intentions that effect communication-
often unhindered by time and culture-
from long ago to today,
from the heat of jungles
to the vast white seas of ice,
(and everywhere in between?)

History has heard many words
     voiced in attempt to define
the creative methods of human expression;
     the finest word of all being “art.”

Friday, December 9, 2011

The single malt

This year I was introduced to single malt scotches by some older friends of mine.
 Simply put, it was one of those unforgettable, timeline moments in my life-
right along with my first time driving, first time listening to the Grateful Dead, first love, first time reading the Bible, first solo expedition X-C, etc.

I've never been much into drinking distilled alcohols- I always wondered what the attraction was, since getting drunk doesn't appeal to me. Hard alcohol seemed to always taste bad and give me a headache. Apparently, the problem was cheap alcohol. My friends, better heeled than I, set the record straight. There is something to the thousands of years of distillation and mankind besides trouble...
Somehow, someone was able to take one of my favorite things- the experience of sitting next to a campfire, enjoying the night air- and - put it a bottle!!
It's called "Laphroaig-18yr single malt scotch" from the island of Islay, Scotland.
At 75+ a bottle, It's not exactly something I expect to enjoy often in my little world, but the experience was a truly remarkable one, hence my decision to share the following article:
-(from the NY Times)

 From Scotland, Fog and Smoke and Mystery

Murdo Macleod
At the Caol Ila whisky distillery on Islay, Scotland, with the Sound of Islay and another island, Jura, in the background.
TASTING whiskies can be a clinical, prosaic task, nosing and assessing, jotting notes, reconsidering, lips compressed in concentration, brow furrowed. Yet, as the spirits panel tasted 20 single malts from Islay, we reminded ourselves to step back a moment, to contemplate with no small amount of awe the magic of what was in the glass. Islay demands a sense of wonder.

Tasting Report

The panel tasted 20 single malt whiskies from Islay, an island off Scotland’s western coast. Click on each name in the list below to see its label, rating and more information.

Tasting Coordinator: Bernard Kirsch
Best Value
I’ve never visited Islay, that island off Scotland’s western coast with the evocative pronunciation EYE-lah. But sipping a good Islay single malt, with its astounding range of complex expressions, transports you to an Islay that seems as mythical as it is real.
It’s a world unscarred by modernity’s claws, an island of fog, smoke, brine and mystery, where ancient distilleries, after years of throbbing production, go dark when demand wanes. There they sit, abandoned on the green and craggy landscape, their distinctive pagoda roofs intact, yet silent like phantom freighters.
Some remain that way, their sites revered like ancient stone circles by whisky lovers. For others comes reincarnation when market conditions change again. The ghostly cobwebs are cleared away, the pot stills rejuvenated, and once more they will yield the precious distilled vapors of malted barley, peat, yeast, crystalline water and air.
If it seems odd to consider air an ingredient, you have to stick your nose in a glass of Islay single malt. Along with all the other components, a savory whiff of salty sea breeze is unmistakable.
The sense of mystery in the terrain is palpable as well. “As you explore you can see how it compresses its secrets into tight parcels: dune-fringed beaches, remote hills, cliffs, caves, peat bogs, standing stones, lost parliaments, abandoned townships and Celtic memories,” Michael Jackson wrote in “Whiskey: The Definitive World Guide” (DK, 2005). “It is a tapestry of geographical and historical treasures through which whiskey runs like a golden thread.”
It’s this air of mystery, along with a reputation for the smokiest, most robust and challenging malts, that seems to set Islay apart from Scotland’s other whisky regions. Most experts, however, agree that whiskies can no longer be classified geographically. Production methods have become so homogenized that they no longer reflect local eccentricities as much as they do a distiller’s predilections.
The smokiness comes from the tradition of using peat — bog soil made of decomposed vegetable matter that was harvested to fuel kilns used for drying barley. Assertive peating has long been a trait of famous Islay malts, like Laphroaig, Lagavulin and Ardbeg, but it is not exclusive to Islay. And just as much a part of the Islay tradition are gentler malts like Bunnahabhain (BUN-na-hah-ven) and Bruichladdich (brook-LAD-dy), which are lighter in body and more floral than peaty. Another tradition, shared throughout Scotland, seems to be names that are impossible to sound out phonetically.
Our 20 Islay single malts included bottles from each of the eight working Islay distilleries. Indeed, two of the eight, Bruichladdich and Ardbeg, were dormant for years, only to be reawakened to distill again. The revival of another distillery, Port Charlotte, is planned.
With 20 whiskies, we tried to mix in widely available, well-known bottles with some of each distillery’s more esoteric malts. We also included one mystery malt, a bottle packaged by a whisky merchant who does not reveal the actual distiller.
For the tasting Florence Fabricant and I were joined by Flavien Desoblin, an owner of the Brandy Library in TriBeCa, which has more than 250 single malts on its list, including 50 from Islay. Also with us was Pete Wells, who next month takes over as the restaurant critic.
The gathering of 20 samples from Islay made it as clear as a Scottish spring that whatever traits the whiskies had in common were overshadowed by their differences.
“To pull utterly different characters out of essentially the same material is stunning,” Pete said. “It’s a wonderful demonstration of range and diversity.”
The tasting also testified to the high level of quality in Islay malts. Seven of the eight distilleries were represented among our top 10, and the eighth did not miss the cut by much. Islay malts are not cheap. With a cap at $100, our 20 bottles ranged from $36 to $97, with 16 of them $50 or over.
Our No. 1 bottle was one of the easiest Islay malts to find, the Laphroaig 10-Year-Old. It was one of the smokiest of the group yet one of the subtlest and most complex as well, with all of the rich medicinal, waxy, savory and saline flavors that people associate with Islay, but with an underlying sweetness, too. At $45, it was also our best value.
By contrast, the Laphroaig 18-Year-Old, our No. 5 bottle, was less bracing and mellower. The smokiness was more of an undercurrent, amplifying its floral, honey and meadowlike qualities.
We found similar distinctions in comparing two other pairs of bottles that made our list. Our No. 2 bottle, the Ardbeg Corryvreckan, was huge and robust, with layers of complex flavors. Smokiness was only a small part of the majestic picture. Its 10-year-old sibling, the No. 4 bottle, was likewise complex, but emphasized a briny, smoky, almost oceanic quality.
Our No. 3 bottle, the Lagavulin Distillers Edition 1993, showed the warm, burnished complexity of age with a spicy, raisiny fruitcake quality that perhaps attests to time spent in barrels previously used for sweet sherry. The basic Lagavulin 16 Years, our No. 10, though not appreciably younger, was much less complex, mildly smoky with both savory and sweet flavors. I must say that, as a fan of Lagavulin 16 Years, which I remember as so robust it demanded a bit of water for sipping, this example seemed a bit meek.
The bottles rounding out our list show the range of Islay. Bruichladdich, No. 7, was the gentlest, most delicate malt, with sweet notes of butterscotch. Caol Ila, No. 9, was huge and oily in texture, smoky yet fresh, too. In the middle was Bowmore, No. 8, rich, balanced, moderate, delicious nonetheless.
That leaves the new guy, Kilchoman, which began production in 2005. Its Spring 2011 Release was one of the youngest in our tasting, if you do the arithmetic, yet it was superb, fresh and complex with plenty of smoke.
Bunnahabhain was the only Islay distillery not on our top-10 list, and although Florence and Flavien loved the 18-year-old (the $97 bottle), it barely missed the cut. Other bottles worth recommending that did not overcome the stiff competition include Bowmore’s 15-Years-Old Darkest, which Flavien and Pete especially liked, and the Laphroaig Triple Wood, which we all liked.
And the mystery malt? It was simply called Smokehead, a whisky that, judging by its busy graphics and aggressive packaging, is being marketed to young single-malt newcomers. It was powerful and smoky, and Pete and I liked it more than Flavien and Florence did.
“It’s for peat freaks,” Flavien said.
Guilty. But I will allow that, while I liked it, I would not classify Smokehead among the more contemplative malts in the bunch. No, for woolgathering and armchair voyaging, preferably in front of a fire, I would be most happy with any of our favorites. I prefer them straight, with maybe a spoonful of water and an equal amount of wonder. As the song goes, thinking is the best way to travel.
Tasting Report
Laphroaig Islay, $45, *** ½
10 Years, 43%
Heavily smoked, richly medicinal, savory, subtle, complex and deep. (Laphroaig Import, Deerfield, Ill.)
Ardbeg Islay, $80, *** ½
Corryvreckan, 57.1%
Lightly smoky and sweet with rich citrus, soy and saline flavors. (Moët Hennessy, New York)
Lagavulin Islay, $90, *** ½
Distillers Edition 1993 Double Matured, 43%
Complex and mellow with flavors of smoke, wax, citrus and fruitcake. (Diageo, Norwalk, Conn.)
Ardbeg Islay, $50, *** ½
10 Years, 46%
Multidimensional and oceanic with smoky, briny, medicinal flavors. (Moët Hennessy)
Laphroaig Islay, $75, ***
18 Years, 48%
Like a meadow, with aromas of flowers, honey, spices and a light touch of smoke and citrus. (Laphroaig Import)
Kilchoman Islay, $65, ***
Spring 2011 Release, 46%
Fresh yet complicated with aromas of smoke, butter cream and citrus. (Impex Beverages, Burlingame, Calif.)
Bruichladdich Islay, $52, ***
12 Years Second Edition, 46%
Gentle and mild, with aromas and flavors of citrus, honey, flowers and butterscotch. (Winebow, New York)
Bowmore Islay, $45, ***
12 Years, 40%
Rich and well balanced with aromas of flowers, forest and beeswax, and an underlying smokiness. (Skyy Spirits, San Francisco)
Caol Ila Islay, $57, ** ½
12 Years, 43%
Big, broad and almost oily in texture, with ample citrus and smokiness yet a freshness as well. (Diageo, Norwalk, Conn.)
Lagavulin Islay, $57, ** ½
16 Years, 43%
Pleasant and mildly smoky, with savory flavors but also a creamy sweetness. (Diageo, Norwalk, Conn.)

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Beware of Skin Cancer

I always wondered what skin cancer looked like
and I thought this was a good link to get an idea. Since cancer is truly an epidemic these days, the more we know about what it looks like, the earlier we could be treated if something seemes suspicious. Please be warned some of the photos of skin cancer in the link are pretty gross, but without seeing what a cancerous spot looks like, it's hard to take action- or encourage a loved one to take action.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Jersey Wildflowers- North Plainfield, NJ

Wildflowers I grew up with:

Virginia bluebells
Lily of the valley
spring beauties
trout lily
garlic mustard

butterfly bush (above)
indian pipe
wild geranium
ground ivy (or gill-over-the-ground)
purple dead nettle
joe pyeweed
horse nettle
purple nightshade
wild carrrot
wild strawberry
daisy fleabane
bull thistle
goldenrod (various species)
aster (various species)
shepherd's purse
slender flag iris
pink lady's slipper
butter and eggs
mild mint
wood nettle
stinging nettle
spotted (striped) wintergreen

sheep laurel (above)
day lily
snow bells
star of bethlehem
blue eyed grass
black raspberry
wind ginger
multiflora rose
asiatic dayflower

Many of these plants have been introduced species and are invasive "weeds" to most. However, being an alien species isn't necessarily bad in my mind, since many were introduced by settlers from Europe as food sources.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Go Bag

The point of a go bag is emergency preparedness,
not necessarily long-term survival.
It's something that everyone in the family can grab so that they can get out and get by in the case of a disaster of some kind. Of course, it would only help you if it's ready to go!

There was a great article in the Awake magazine a couple years ago. It encouraged the practicality of assembling a go bag one for each member of the family.

It's been a project on my "back burner" for a while, so I've decided to update my bag with that information. I will share some of my research here. I have most of the items from my wilderness exploration days, but they have become scattered about the house over time.

Internal frame pack with sturdy hip belt
waterproof pack cover
midsize MSR cookpot
butane lighter with duct tape rolled around it
gerber hatchet 
stainless steel soup spoon
(non-down) Sleeping bag
fleece blanket
8x10 brown/ black plastic tarp

basic clothes-
3 pairs comfortable hiking socks
3 pairs underwear
2 set modal long underwear- top & bottom
sturdy canvas jeans- Carhartts are good
Lightweight fleece hoodie
insulated Carhartt hoodie
good leather belt
comfortable fleece/wool hat- pref. a visor beanie
lightweight fleece gloves
   or leather gloves which are great for using around a campfire
copies of important papers-
Passport, driver's license, DPA, etc.

Food (in a stuff sack)
5 cans kippered herring!
-or- a few cans of tuna
box or two of Stoned Wheat thins
sack of organic quick oats
plastic jar of organic peanut butter

small plastic bottle of olive oil
sea salt, pepper, chili, garlic, and cinnamon powders
bunch of healthy fruit & nut type granola bars
small sack each of sweet brown rice and green lentils
small sack of brown sugar
small sack of whole wheat flour
journal, pen, and pencil

small Bible
small songbook
small first aid kit
(a few basic medicines, tape, ace bandage, moleskin, bactroban/neosporin/ tweezers, flexible splint, CPR mask, basic bandages, cloth cravat or two)
any necessary prescription medicines

2 small rolls of parachute cord each about 20ft long
small bottle of unscented bleach- 2 drops per qt to purify water
Small solar charger for the cell phone

Plastic or preferably stainless steel Nalgene bottle with a strainer insert for making tea out of random stuff. They sell these at EMS and REI.
stainless steel MSR fuel bottle - this is a great item for cold weather.  You can boil water in it, stuff it in a sock, and then put it in your sleeping bag by your feet at night. It works great as a radiator!

That's pretty much it. Actually, that's a bit excessive; but still manageable.
I can live out of a backpack pretty comfortably with all that.
Actually, it would kind of be like a vacation!
Anymore stuff just becomes too much weight on the shoulders, would drag me down.
The plans of the diligent one makes for success...

Friday, May 13, 2011

Info on Developing new disesases, Radioactivity, etc.

This will be a drop spot for 
pathology research and developments in new or spreading diseases 
and other medical topics that catch my interest.
(I will continue to update information here like I do in many of my other posts)
Please feel free to help by way of comments.

Bizarre health case in western New York State
"possibly" related to natural gas hydro-fracking -
the wells are apparently located on school groounds!

UN Puts Off Destroying Last Smallpox Viruses 
(I guess they forgot to read the history book about what this did to the human population in the early 1900s)

How Safe is Deadly Disease Storage/ Research Facility Security?

 80 year-old strain of staph infection discovered in woman's leg?
-this strain apparently preceeds those resistant to antibiotics.

Antibiotic-resistant staph infections:
this article mentions that most people have staph infections latent in their nostrils...strange. Watch out nose pickers.,0,6080001.story

Interesting article on corporate executives and psychopathy-
doesn't get very deep but the book sounds like an interesting read:

Source for Bactroban no prescription needed:

Radioactive fallout radiation sickness prevention-
who would have known how badly this would be needed in Japan.
Is it unreasonable to think that a natural disaster (like the huge F5 tornado in Alabama, or a Katrina hurricane, or an earthquake...) could cause some thing like this in our area.
Do you know how many nuclear reactors there are in your area? I didn't- there's a lot more than I thought.
Here's a government illustration depicting the locations of all US nuclear power sites:

Following is a link from the EPA about the effects of radiation on the human body:

Potassium Iodide (KI) info- from US gov't source:

ThyroSafe- a potassium iodide pill that can be taken after a nuclear disaster (meltdown, dirtybomb, terrorist attack, etc) and before exposure to swamp the thyroid with inert iodine, thus preventing radioactive iodine from being absorbed by the thyroid and wreaking havok on body systems.
Interestingly the stuff is hard to find right now, perhaps due to the nuclear disaster in Japan.

SourceNaturals potassium iodide supplement- seems a lot cheaper source than ThyroSafe.

Club Drug Ketamine may help people suffering from severe depression

This is a pretty fascinating read if you have any interest in the pharmaceutical world. Illicit drugs of today were yesterday's panacea. Being written by the consumer reports gives a degree of objectivity to the lengthy book. In addition, the website this is located on is a treasure house of reference and research information. Check it out!
The Consumers Union Report  - Licit and Illicit Drugs 
by Edward M. Brecher and the Editors of Consumer Reports Magazine

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

I don't mind eating meat, but please no bood, blood-products, derivatives, etc

There are many good reasons to avoid consuming blood in its many forms, 
for both physical and spiritual health.

To start with spiritual reasons, there has been plenty published by Jehovah's Witnesses about the God's view as presented in the Bible about how he views blood and its use; not only in the Mosaic Law but also in the Christian Greek scriptures. The book of Acts of the Apostles mentions that we must abstain from blood, and in context it mentions that "good health" goes along with that. If that was issued as acommand, it must be something important, even if we don't know all the background info on the matter.

One thing is sure, over the past 100 years there have been remarkable advances in the knowledge of microorganisms, pathology, enzymes, body systems, and of course chemistry. Everyone has the ability to make an informed decision on the matter of blood use, and to avoid information because of tradition, personal desire, or stubborness can lead to lots of difficulty. Ignorance may be bliss... (as some say), but life may also be blissfully short for the foolish.

To think that the meat industry is a clean operation, is ignorant. At least whole meat can be washed and cooked fully easily. The meat glue department allows the meat industry to produce whole meat-looking products, allowing meat that has been exposed to bacteria to be effectively consolidated in the mix. Now it becomes obvious why ultimate freshness and through cooking becomes an absolute necessity. A necessity, which is impossible in the current system of things and requires the use of all sorts of dangerous chemicals; I mean preservatives.

The following link is to an article discussing the use of meat glue in processed meat foods. The glue is derived from animal blood fractions. When all those cows are slaughtered by the millions to provide us with steaks and pot roast, they are hung upside down and bled before being butchered. The blood is collected and processed in various ways, for use in many different industries and items. If you haven't been grossed out yet, congratulations. This will probably do it: You like red lipstick? You might not if you knew that many companies use blood as an ingredient in that beautiful rouge color. That's just one example from the cosmetic department.

The use of blood as discussed in the linked article is to create a strong "meat glue" to hold stuff together; think chicken nuggets, ham, salami, sausages, imitation crab meat, etc...

Since the food itself has been made with processed blood, it then is something Christians need to weigh in their conscience as to whether that is an acceptable food for them or not. It definitely is gross-out for me, I had no idea what held those things together until today, but I have wondered. I'll continue to add more links and information in this post that I feel is relevant to the subject as I continue my research.

Here are some links:
One cow- hundreds of uses- written in 2004

cow blood use- a scientific abstract- possibly for use in plywood industry