Archive for April, 2008

The Gift

April 25, 2008

“May I be filled with lovingkindness, may I be well. May I be peaceful and at ease, may I be happy.”

Buddhist prayer that is first offered for oneself, then sent out as a gift to family, friends, enemies, and strangers.

The Post – So What Ever Happened to Toto?

April 25, 2008

It’s a Friday, and while I get the rest of the art work photos ready for blog view, I figured a fun post was in order.

I am an incorrigible Wizard of Oz fan. The annual broadcast of the Wizard of Oz when I was growing up, usually sometime in the Spring, was like a national holiday or a Holy Day of Obligation. You marked your calendar months in advance and come that night, you were right there in front of the TV. This, of course, was back in the dark ages before VCRs or DVDs. There was no “record it to watch later” or “rent it to watch when you want.” You either watched it the night the network decided to broadcast it, or you waited until the next year. To further date myself, we still had a black-and-white TV set. I told you it was the dark ages. While it didn’t matter for the beginning and end of the film, both of which were in black-and-white, we always did miss out on the whole part of the film where she “wasn’t in Kansas anymore” – the amazing panorama of color when she opened the door to Munchkinland. Unless we were at our cousins’ house and got to stay late to watch at least the “opening of the door” part. My uncle owned a TV repair service, so they had a color TV.

Anyway, aside from the Wicked Witch of the West, my favorite character was Dorothy’s dog, Toto. It was a small Cairn terrier and the dog had more courage, and brains, than some of the human characters. And you just had to cheer for anything that would tear up Miss Gulch’s garden. Toto had more spunk that Dorothy’s Auntie Em, who could only lament to Miss Gulch: “For twenty-three years I’ve been dying to tell you what I thought of you! And now… well, being a Christian woman, I can’t say it!” Toto didn’t waste words. She just bit Miss Gulch, then later escaped her clutches to return to Dorothy. And if you think that Toto was just “some dog” consider that Toto made $125 a week making this film, more than many of the human actors in it.

So why reminisce about Toto now? My husband and I are weird in that we often speak to each other in “movie code.” We will be out somewhere and something will catch our attention, and instead of just making an ordinary comment about it, we’ll look at each other then recite one of the thousands of movie lines we’ve stored in our brains. The truly scary thing is that the other one of us will totally understand what the other is getting at.

It’s also not unusual for one of these references to take on a life of its own and send us off on a totally new quest. Last Thanksgiving, we were walking through Colonial Williamsburg when we spotted a Cairn terrier that looked just like Toto from the Wizard of Oz. Given that the owner holding its leash looked pretty grumpy, of course we had to do the “Run, Toto, Run” line, and the “I’ll get you, my pretty, and your little dog too!” – both classic lines from the Wizard of Oz. Our conversation eventually morphed into “Gee, I wonder what happened to Toto?” We stopped, looked at each other, and smiled deviously while our son rolled his eyes because he knew what this meant. We got back to my sister’s house, pulled out the computer and spent the next 20 minutes Googling Toto.

So…do you want to know what happened to Toto or not?

Well, apparently Toto, whose real name was Terry, had quite the film resume, appearing in 13 movies starring alongside such unknowns as Spencer Tracy and Shirley Temple, and she even co-starred again with Margaret Hamilton (the actress who played the Wicked Witch of the West) in 1942. She nearly died during the making of the Wizard of Oz, when one of the witch’s guards stepped on her and broke her foot. She was renamed Toto because of the popularity of the Wizard of Oz, and she even attended the movie premier at Grauman’s Chinese Theater.

Toto died in 1944, and though one report says she was stuffed and auctioned off, most reports, including Wikipedia, state that she was buried in the backyard of her trainer, Carl Spitz, who lived in L.A.

So given this, you just have to go to Los Angeles, find out who owns Carl Spitz’s house now, buy some dog biscuits then make a pilgrimage to Toto’s grave, right?

Not quite. Apparently somewhere along the line, Spitz’s house was purchased by the city of Los Angeles, and the property became part of the Ventura Freeway. Since no one is sure just which exit ramp Toto is buried under, the best you can probably do is hum the 1972 America song, Ventura Highway, in her honor. But at least now you know what happened to Toto.

If you want to read more about Toto (and the rest of the Wizard of Oz cast), go to:

“And Your Little Dog, Too!”

or the Wikipedia entry for Terry

Can you tell that I am never bored in life? There’s ALWAYS something odd and quirky to hunt down…..

The Gift

April 24, 2008

“Cante wasteya nape ciyuzapelo…This is a common Lakota greeting. The literal meaning is: With a good heart, I take your hand.”

From Joseph M. Marshall III, teacher, historian, Lakota craftsman, and writer

The Post – Art Update

April 24, 2008

You’re probably thinking I’ve dropped off the face of the earth. Not at all. I’ve been working on a seascape oil painting that I promised to my sister a year ago. It’s coming along well. I took a bunch of pictures yesterday of that painting, along with a number of other paintings in progress or completed. I need to reformat them to fit this blog and it’s taking longer than expected, but do stay tuned. There will be photos coming of various art projects. In fact, I made so much progress today on that seascape, I may take a few more pictures tomorrow so you can see “befores and afters” of some of the more detailed parts of the painting – like the wharf buildings, town buildings, the lighthouse that I finally conquered, and a couple of fishing boats. So be patient with me. It’s just taking a bit longer to get it all together for the blog but they are in progress. Have a nice night!

The Post – An Appetizer

April 22, 2008

Today’s post is short – an appetizer before the meal. I’ve been doing a lot of oil painting the last few days, hence a bit quiet on the blog. I decided today, that even though I’m halfway done with this painting, it might be fun to take a bunch of pictures as it progresses toward the finish line. I’ll post the pictures of the progress, including close-up shots of things as they go from ‘base layers’ to finished item. The current painting is a New England coastal scene – no specific place in particular, but a composite of Rhode Island rocks, Rockport, Massachusetts rock piers and wood sheds, and of course, in the foreground, tide pool critters!  Tomorrow, I’ll get out my camera and take a bunch of shots to capture the painting as it currently is. I’ll also do some shots of how I arrived at that composition – early sketches etc. shots of my work area…just to set the stage for ‘status quo.’ Then every time some new things get finished on the painting, I’ll post new shots.

In the future, I’ll follow an entire art project from earliest sketches through completion. I wish I’d done that for this one as there’s things I took out — like the clouds in the sky, and the sky itself 2 or 3 times because it wasn’t right. The clouds were nice clouds, but given that the focus of the picture is on the town details on the left, then the tide pool creatures in the right front, clouds in the sky were just too busy. So I took them out. Still, it would have been nice to have a photographic record of things as I painted, scraped, and repainted.

Anyway, soon to follow – oil painting in progress…..

The Gift

April 22, 2008

A friend in my meditation class last night shared this piece of wisdom from his yoga instructor. The instructor noted that too often people lean forward and lead with their head when walking sitting or positioning themselves, instead of standing up straight and letting their chest lead. This posture apparently causes an imbalance in the spine, and then, pain.

My friend concluded that quite often, the same thing happens in life, and the effects are felt not just in the spine. So for today, the yoga instructor’s directive on what should take the lead in life:

“Lower the head. Raise the heart.”

The Gift

April 21, 2008

“It had long since come to my attention that people of accomplishment rarely sat back and let things happen to them. They went out and happened to things.”

Leonardo da Vinci


The Post – So How Are the Fiddlers Doing and How Did the Status Quo Experiment Go?

April 21, 2008

I know I haven’t spoken about the fiddlers in a while, so I thought an update was due. First, I can attest that Scarlett O’Hara, Melanie Hamilton, and Admiral Byrd are all alive well, and hanging out in their aquarium. I know this because I just did a major water and filter change and all three are out and about. Melanie Hamilton is just sitting there bobbing in the water staring out the front of the aquarium, which is remarkable because most of the time, Melanie Hamilton still likes to live inside the live rock. But today, she is out watching out the side of the aquarium.

Scarlett O’Hara is busy pulling algae off the live rock and aquarium sides, and in general, just walking and eating. She is not pregnant, and I noticed last week that she had released her eggs into the main aquarium just about the time I left for a family wedding. Melanie Hamilton is also not pregnant, and she did manage to evade Admiral Byrd’s advances this morning during the water change.  Admiral Byrd is his usual old self, waving his claw and generally trying to attract women.

Now, I did hesitate to do the water change just in case there were any “survivors” of the birth, ie Scarlett releasing eggs into the tank last week. And maybe it’s wishful thinking, but when I pulled some water out of the tank to discard, I thought I saw small things swimming around the cup. While I suppose it’s just me hoping some baby survived and might still make it to adulthood in the main tank, I suspect that’s not the case. But just to be on the safe side, I did pour that cup of water back into the tank.

Given all the chaos of trying to do 2 rounds of babies in the second tank, I’d let the water change in this main tank go for 2 months instead of one. Here is where having a mature aquarium pays off though. In spite of the fact the water was down a gallon and the filter and water were a month overdue, the parameters read: Nitrate 20, Nitrite 0, Hardness >300, Chlorine 0, Alkalinity 300, pH 7.8 and even with the water low and expecting to see the salinity rise because of that, the salinity held at 1.012. So all in all, that tank water was in good shape.

In any event, I removed almost a gallon and replaced it with new brackish water. The final set of parameters after a water change were almost identical. The only differences were that the pH is now 8.0 and the salinity is 1.011.

And apparently all three fiddlers were okay with that because other than being annoyed every time I leaned in to either remove or add water to the tank, they remained calm and just continued searching for food (or women) when I was all finished.

The spare tank I have left alone since the last of the babies died off from the second attempt. What I’ll do next (as soon as I’ve managed to make some more distilled water), is to lower the salinity in that tank back down to brackish. Then I will try out the idea from an article on a UK website: fishless cycliing, ie – getting the nitrogen cycle up, running, and matured, without any live creatures in the tank. Perhaps if I can achieve this, then the next time Scarlett O’Hara ends up pregnant, I will put her in this second aquarium to release her eggs, then leave it brackish and see if the babies survive better than when I raise the salinity to seawater level.

The other thing I have to do with that tank is get rid of the wand bubble on the back tank wall and get one or two more bubbling stones. They seem to put a lot more oxygen in the tank and move the water around better than that wand bubbler. In fact, half of that bubbler wand doesn’t even work anymore. I think once micro algae starts to grow on the wand, the bubble curtain is just too weak and fine to push out past the algae and the wand stops bubbling.

So – bottom line: Scarlett, Melanie, and Admiral Byrd are all present, non-pregnant, accounted for, and appear to be healthy. Their tank is in good shape. Perhaps a baby or two survived (or I’m wishfully hallucinating), but I will continue to watch to see if in fact, any tiny crabs do appear over the next few weeks. I’ll keep you posted!

The Post – Michelangelo

April 20, 2008

If I have any disagreement with Michelangelo, it’s that in the deepest, purest, man paints with his soul. His brain and hands are more on the same level, tools of the soul to bring about the divine. First, you must feel, your soul must speak, a truth must break out from your heart and demand to be released into the world. Whether it comes out in word, in song, in oils, that is merely the language of expression. The hands execute it, directed by the knowledge in the brain of how to craft the message. But the soul, the soul is the true author and artist of what comes out.

I would add a footnote to this…while a creation may or may not come out beautifully, its execution is not the issue. It is not the reflection of the true magnitude of the divine in the heart. We may not be able to match the likes of Michelangelo on canvas. We might even create garbage. It does not mean that our souls haven’t seen and heard God, and that the yearning in our souls is not true and earnest. It simply means our hands may not be up to the task of putting God on canvas. But have no doubt of the ability of any man’s soul to hear and see the divine.

The Gift

April 20, 2008

“A man paints with his brains and not with his hands.

Michelangelo