I Could Watch This All Day: Cats In Therapy

It sounds like the guy in those “Dear Kitten” commercials. Or maybe that’s what all cats really sound like when they speak proper English.

They probably all are able to speak proper English, too, and simply choose not to. After all, they’re cats.

Football Picks: Weekend of October 19, 2019

Improved a little last week, so hopefully it’ll be a big MO-MENTUM builder into this week, where I’m exclusively picking college games. None of the NFL spreads catch my eye, sorry.

Went 7-4-1 last week for season totals of 35-31-3. Barely above .500. Gotta add to that… so here goes.

Georgia State plus 4 against Army (and don’t you DARE question my patriotism!)

Central Michigan by 10 1/2 over Bowling Green

UCF by 33 over East Carolina

Cincinnati by 17 1/2 over Tulsa

Texas by 21 1/2 over Kansas

Boise State by 7 over BYU

LSU by 17 1/2 over Mississippi State

Ole Miss plus 5 1/2 against Texas A&M

North Carolina by 3 1/2 over Virginia Tech

Appalachian State by 15 over LA Monroe

Penn State by 8 1/2 over Michigan

Best bets out of those, I’d say… are Central Michigan, UCF, Boise State, LSU, Appalachian State and Penn State. Those are the teams I’d probably mix up in a few permutations for parlays.

Friday Art: Madonna & Child With Putto by Fiorentino Rosso (1522)

Mannerist paintings from the late Renaissance can often be a little bizarre, with long necks and weirdly shaped bodies… but this one, with it’s matching clown faced Jesus & Mary, has got to be my favorite.

I can’t believe a church actually hung this up after commissioning it. I guess I can understand whatever Tsar bought it for the Hermitage where it remains today. Hell, I’d put this on my wall just for laughs.

Jesus as baby Danny Bonaduce after the accident? Works for me.

Rosso came from Florence, but left Italy after one of the numerous sacks of Rome in the 1500s and wound up getting a steady position at the court of Francis I, the King of France.

To be fair, some of his other work is quite good – Descent From The Cross (1521) is considered his masterpiece, and it looks quite modern.

The stiffness of those bodies, the sharp lines and the colors reminds me of some Twentieth Century mural art. Here’s another one in the same style, Moses Defending The Daughters of Jethro, from 1523:

Same color palette, but this time those stiff bodies are slightly curvier.

Make them even more curvy, and I think you wind up with Thomas Hart Benton, which is why I find some of Rosso’s work so modern:

I mean, look at Benton’s People of Chilmark from 1920 – brighter colors, yeah, curvier bodies… but somehow the same vibe.

Even if Charlton Heston fought off those goat herders (including a young Mike Connors) without getting nekkid.

But Benton could have never come up with this kisser

Maybe Todd Phillips will make his dark-origins Taxi Driver-derivative film. Bethlehem as 1970s New York. I think it works, don’t you?

In the meantime, I’ll never tire of wondering what Rosso’s 1522 audience thought of his depiction of the Madonna & Child. Was there some sort of Susan Sontag-let’s-appreciate-kitsch movement lost to history? Or did they just think the world was ending and it didn’t matter anyway?

Whatevs. I’m glad it’s still around.

Football Picks For The Weekend of October 12-13, 2019

Watching an unemotional baseball playoff right now (Cards ? Nats? I don’t care…. waiting for the Yankees to take on the – gulp – Astros tomorrow. Tho Sanchez is pitching a real beaut…) so I ran some numbers and came up with some mostly college football picks and one pro pick. Last week I did well with college and crap with pro, so I’m feelin’ the burn. Worked out to 6-6 for the week, season totals 28-27-2. May as well flip a coin.

EXCEPT FOR THIS WEEK, WHEN I WILL GO 12-0!!!!!

Let’s start with taking Texas +10 1/2 at home against Oklahoma, in what ought to be a decent game.

Central Michigan by 10 over New Mexico State

Missouri by 12 over Ole Miss

Mississippi State by 6 1/2 over Tennessee

UNLV +15 against Vanderbilt

Wisconsin by 10 1/2 over Michigan State

Texas A&M +17 against Alabama (I think they’ll lose but beat the spread)

Florida Atlantic by 11 1/2 over Mid Tennessee State

UAB by 12 over UTSA

Notre Dame by 10 1/2 over USC

Wyoming +4 against SDSU in a game I think they can win outright

And my sole NFL pick – the Seahawks by 1 1/2 over the Browns.

If I had to make a parlay play, I guess I’d group Central Michigan, Missouri, UAB, Notre Dame, Wyoming and the Seahawks. Those are probably the picks I feel best about.

Although I’m still down with a cold and don’t feel great altogether….

Caveat emptor.

Friday Art: Self Portrait With Doctor Arrieta by Francisco Goya (1820)

I’m home with a cold today, mostly resting.

Or trying to rest, while I keep one eye on the fire burning many miles away and another eye on the chance that my electricity might be turned off, since I’m in an area of North Korea California where they’re allowed to turn off people’s power so that they don’t have to pay for fires their unmaintained equipment causes.

Gee, I wish I had connections like that, don’t you?

So today’s theme is “feeling sick.” And while I’m not a victim of what may have actually been plague in Goya’s painting of Arrieta saving his life (which is what the inscription reads). Arrieta had studied plague and yellow fever in North Africa around this time, so it’s a plausible theory. Or, Goya was already in questionable health and was in his 70s, so he might have had a cold like mine and simply felt like he was gonna die.

Look at the doc, making the house call and also playing nurse – holding up the ailing Goya as he grips his bed sheet, while trying to get that glass of what I assume is medicine down as shadowy figures observe in the background.

Are they maids or servants? Doctor’s assistants? Ghosts and demons awaiting Goya, perhaps… sounds like something he’d throw in there.

Arietta would cure Goya, who’d live another 8 years. Goya painted this as a gift for Arietta. Hopefully he also paid his bill.

Maybe I’ll muster up enough energy to make some more mediocre football picks in another post later. Or maybe I’ll just take a nap.

Zen Graffiti & A Book Safari

Someone painted this on a fence where I parked in downtown Ventura today.

It was like getting a message from God as to the meaning of my life.

Especially after I ordered fish tacos for lunch & got a double order without realizing it until they handed me the tray.

Did I acknowledge the mistake and have them take one order back?

Nope.

I ATE THEM BOTH.

Because…. as the fence says….

Anyway, I trekked to Santa Paula & Ventura today for a nature walk of sorts through library sales and thrift stores, mostly looking for books. Call it my reaction to going to a gigantic estate sale I saw advertised, featuring pictures of over 10,000 (yes, that’s right) books for sale… the vast majority art and music books since the sale was for some old jazz musician… and when I got there, a handwritten sign reading “All Books Have Sold, Sorry” greeted me.

“Yup, some guy brought a truck this morning and bought ’em all,” the guy told me.

I HATE EVERYTHING.

So, compensation today. A nice leisurely drive for a bunch of different stores.

Got a couple of nice cookbooks – another Rick Bayless Mexican book (Mexico One Plate At A Time), a cuisine I really ought to cook more often authentically. I’ve cooked from a couple of his other books and the results were decent, so why not. Also an autographed Chinese cookbook from some restaurant in San Francisco – The China Moon Cookbook by Barbara Tropp – that won me after I read through some of the rather elaborate recipes, but found recipes for Chinese dishes I’d certainly order off the menu that I know I don’t have in other books.

Also a pristine illustrated hardback of a book I’ve got in beaten-up paperback form, Neil MacGregor’s Shakespeare’s Restless World along with a tell-all about the art world book – Tales From The Art Crypt by Richard Feigen.

And then, my PSYCHIC MOMENT – for no reason at all while shaving this morning, I thought of Steve Martin’s Cruel Shoes, the collection of nonsense writings he published at the peak of his hot-streak-rise back in 1979 – and I found a first edition of it in a thrift store today and figured that the cosmos was telling me to buy it.

How else did the cosmos communicate with me? Well, for absolutely NO reason, two of the thrift stores on my carefully mapped-out and Yelp reviewed list were closed today, and another one was simply GONE, replaced by a ballet studio. BUT – as I drove down those particular streets back in my route, I spotted ANOTHER thrift store that was NOT on my list and stopped in….

…. and it was run by a Cat rescue and adoption charity!

No store cat, unfortunately, but I gave ’em a nice donation and told them to KEEP HELPING KITTIES.

And now I’m home, so it’s back to drinking and sports.

I hope you’re enjoying your weekend. And I hope you’re helping kitties.

Friday Art: Portrait of Theodore Duret by Edouard Villiard (1912)

Vuillard was a member of the Nabis, a group of French painters at the turn of the 19th to 20th centuries interested in composing pictures mixing tons of colors and patterns, mostly to create interior scenes inspired by Japanese prints. Later on, he painted more realistic scenes, although he continued to fill his canvases with a multitude of vibrant colors.

Duret, the subject of this portrait, was an art critic who wrote kindly of impressionists and post-impressionists and fauvists and Nabis and other assorted then-contemporary painters. With other critics often savaging them, I can see why Vuillard paints Duret so positively. He’s got his room filled with papers stacked high, some paintings on the wall – including a representation of Whistler’s portrait of Duret as a younger man reflected in the mirror in the upper right.

In a way, this creates a narrative of sorts for Duret’s life – we see that fuzzy mirror image of the portrait of the young man, well dressed in dark tails, hat in hand, ready to go out and review some piece of high culture, maybe. And now he sits as an older accomplished man, dignified with stacks of papers and books across his desk.

And most importantly – he’s got a cat in his lap. The BEST sign of success there is. And a hat-tip to Vuillard for capturing, in those impressionistic brush strokes, the annoyed look on the cat’s face that her routine has been interrupted by posing for the artist.

Dunno… I guess I sorta see myself in that painting. Just an old dude with a kitty, in a room piled high with books and papers. Life goals, y’know? Meow.

Here’s a bonus Vuillard, I like this one a lot because of it’s bright colors – and you can tell he’s gotten a bit more realistic with it, La Salle Clarac from 1922.

Football Picks: Weekend of October 5-6, 2019

Here’s what I often do: Take a 12 oz glass and throw 3-4 ice cubes in it. Then, I add about 2-3 finger widths of Jack Daniels or Bulleit Rye. Then maybe a teaspoon of lemon juice, and top it off with some fresh brewed iced tea. (Then drink, obviously).

After my performance in picking games last week, I might need to do this repeatedly. Good thing I get those giganto bottles of JD and Bulleit at Costco.

Started out well, felt great – got my first 3 picks… and then the remaining 7 went sour. Bah. Season totals are barely above even, at 22-21-2.

So this week, it will ALL TURN AROUND and I can drink my whiskey concoctions in total bliss. My stomach will thank me.

College Games:

Boston College +6 against Louisville (they did it for me last week…)

SMU -13 over Tulsa

Georgia -25 over Tennessee

Navy +3 1/2 against Air Force

Kansas +32 against Oklahoma (I think Oklahoma wins, but does not cover)

Arkansas State -7 1/2 over Georgia State

NFL:

Jaguars +3 1/2 against the Panthers (I think the Jags will win outright)

Vikings – 5 1/2 over the Giants

Saints -3 over the Buccaneers

Chargers – 6 1/2 over the Broncos (risky…. but Broncos are awful on the road)

Cowboys – 3 1/2 over the Packers (great matchup, and I think Cowboys win it)

Chiefs -11 over the Colts (another risky one.. Chiefs might win without covering, but I’ll go for it)

None of these games really jumped out to me as amazingly easy bets, to be honest. If I had to pick my top choices, I’d probably say Arkansas State and the Jaguars, maybe followed by Georgia. But no top picks this week, really.

Here’s a picture of a kitten drinking beer foam. Skoal!

Friday Art: A Photograph Staged To Violate Every Aspect Of The Hays Code by A. L. “Whitey” Schafer, 1934.

I love the thinking behind this photo: “Tell me what I’m not allowed to do, and I’m going to do it just to flip you off.”

And what a great photo! A decade before film noir got going, and possibly what woulda been a fantastic lobby poster for a great sleazy murder story.

The photographer, A. L “Whitey” Schafer is, unfortunately, far lesser known than the more famous studio still photographers who specialized in glamour shots of the contract actresses. George Hurell or Clarence Sinclair Bull. He started out working for Thomas Ince in the early ’20s, moved on to run the photography department at Columbia by 1935, and then took over Paramount’s photo department in 1941. He died in a freak accident aboard a friend’s yacht in 1951. A stove exploded as he attempted to light it.

Schafer explained his technique of staging photos in an article for amateur photographers in Popular Science in 1943. Basically, never photograph anyone against a blank background (unless their outfit’s lines and patterns will draw the eye). Always have something there to frame them, and use those backgrounds to balance and frame the subject.

Here’s his publicity shot of Barbara Stanwyck for Double Indemnity (1944)

He uses that hat/coat rack in back of her, along with that rather loud necklace, to frame the soft shadows of her face. And is she ever in character for this one.

Don’t trust her, Fred MacMurray! Go back to Edward G. Robinson, he’s the true love of your life.

Shadows in the background can also be used for framing, especially when you want to emphasize darkness over light. How about some Marlene Deitrich?

Every now and then, some contemporary celeb will pose for black and white glamour shots like these, but it’s sadly a rarer and rarer art.

But kudos to Schafer, especially on that screw you to the Hays Code. In our current environment of overzealous speech policing, it’d be nice to see more of the same artful defiance from people these days.

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