Anasazi Ruins, Canyon de Chelly, Arizona

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Drawing from a Painting by Joseph de Camp, "Portrait of Peggy Wood"

Done in one three hour class. For about 15 minutes it was a drawing of a young man. The teacher suggested changing the face outline and adding more hair. She was right. Although it took me several iterations to get it close to it.

Also, the eyes and lips needed much attention. This was my first use of color. I used a pastel white pencil to touch up the eyes, and a pastel skin tone pencil to add highlights to the face.

Norway, the Media and European leaders. Crazy

The press in the United States and Europe is suddenly writing about the threat of "Right Wing, Fundamentalist Christian Terrorism". Today, the NY Times and Der Speigel are the two online sources today which have articles or opinion pieces on the topic, under headlines "Norway Will Never Be the Same" and "Norway Killings Shift Debate on Islam in Europe" in the NY Times, and "EU Declares Fight Against Right-Wing Extremism" in Spiegel Online.

The Spiegel article managed to find two man it describes as leaders of second tier - but are at best third tier - political movements in England and Italy who expressed concerns about Islamic influence in Europe,and the path of demographics and political discourse in Europe.

A quote from the Spiegel article from the Italian is, "As if to confirm such fears, members of both a British right-wing group and an increasingly populist Italian party bucked the initial trend of rejecting Breivik's ideology, expressed their understanding for certain sentiments. Stephen Lennon, leader of the English Defense League, a far-right British group to which Breivik has claimed ties, said the attacks proved the desperation of those with populist leanings in Europe.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Drawings Based on Two Paintings by Winslow Homer

The first drawing took two separate 3 hour classes and the second just one 3 hour class. I learned how to use simple drafting techniques to get the right placement and proportions. Also how to do waves, at least to approximate what Winslow Homer did. Start with squiggly lines.... Also, bury the boat in the water by matching the shading the boat to the waves.

Fog Warning

Lost in the Fog

The original paintings were done in the 1880s. They part of Winslow Homer's study of fishing off the Great Banks. From a online description of the first painting:

"Fog at sea can be very dangerous. If it were to surround the fisherman pictured in Fog Warning, his life might be lost. He must quickly return to his schooner, the sailboat seen to the right on the horizon, if he is to be able to get back to shore safely.

"We see a full view of the fisherman and the inside of his dory. A dory is a heavy, flat-bottomed high-sided rowboat designed especially to ride on the high seas. His catch of halibut lies in the stern of the dory. He pauses for a moment to look over his shoulder at the fog bank. He is gauging his distance to the schooner. The sea is rough and he is tired. He has spent the day out on the water fishing alone."

Monday, July 18, 2011

Bust of a Veiled Woman

Bust of a Veiled Woman (Puritas) 1717 - 1725
Museo del Settecento Veneziano, Ca' Rezzonico, Venice, Italy
Sculpture, Marble
Done by Antonio Corradini
Born 1668, Padova, Italy - died about 1752, Napoli, Italy
School: Italian

I saw this in Venice. Amazing that anyone could do this...

Sunday, July 17, 2011

A Review of "Taranto: the Raid, the Observers, the Aftermath" by Christopher O'Conner, 2011

This short book provides an extraordinary detailed look at the British navy's raid with aircraft from the British carrier Illustrious on the Italian navy in its harbor at Taranto in November 1940. A successful attack that sank or crippled one half of the available Italian battleships. The attack improved British morale both in the Mediterranean and in Britain. It may have provided ideas for the later Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.

Unfortunately there are some problems with facts and organization of the book. More on these later.

Although there have been several previous books on this single topic, none of them provide the degree of details on background planning and the movement of British task forces in the Mediterranean which greatly confused the Italians. None give as much information about the attacks delivered by individual aircraft.

FAA Swordfish that carried out the attack on Taranto

Saturday, July 16, 2011

A Review of the Movie "Command Decision", 1948

About one-fourth of the way through watching Command Decision I remarked to Margaret that the movie was obviously based on the script for a play, only slightly re-written for the cinema. I pointed out that there were few sets in the movie, that individual scenes were often shot from a fixed camera angle, and that there was a lot of careful choreographing of the multiple characters in the camera’s view. Margaret responded that "It obviously was based on a play or a book, because it was about ideas.” I shut up and sat back to watch the rest of the movie in silence.

Command Decision is about ideas and it is based on a play. It examines high level decision making in the American WWII 8th Air Force during the early period of the American strategic bombing campaign, when fighter cover was not available for bombing raids over Germany. The movie’s primary star is Clark Gable, but is very much a group effort, dependent on a wonderful cast in supporting roles, including Walter Pidgeon, Van Johnson, Brian Donlevy, Charles Bickford, and John Hodiak. The ideas lead to professional and person ambitions and sacrifice at the highest level, without ignoring the fact that high level decisions lead to anonymous men dying in combat.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

A Review of “I Had Seen Castles” by Cynthia Rylant, 1995

Young men – and young women – are intended to go into the world and do things. In a time of a popular, modern war, they go to war as soldiers, or as workers. Unless they have extraordinary courage. In this coming of age novel, written from the viewpoint of a 68 year old man, this is the experience of one such young man during World War II. A young man without that courage. And one young girl with exactly that courage.

Only as serving as a soldier in Europe during World War II does the young man understand the young girl. It is the old man who remembers and tells the story.

The story starts in the industrial city of Pittsburgh in 1939. The pollution and dirt of this city are carefully evoked in a few sentences.

Abstract Painting of Pittsburgh in the 1930s

The first hint of crises is an announcement by the then 15 year old protagonist’s father, who is a university physicist. He reports that German scientists have split the atom. This news, which will mean so much to the future, is a small event that will start unraveling our protagonist’s life. At the time, at the tail end of the depression, the feared announcement would have been that the father was out of work.

Friday, July 8, 2011

The Future of Libya; Historical Evidence and Guesses, 2011

For someone who has read much about World War II in North Africa, the geography of the Libyan revolution brings back memories. What is today written in English as Tobruq, a port in eastern Libya, was known as Tobruk when it was a Italian fortress nearest Egypt which fell quickly to an Australian attack in early 1941. And later it was still named Tobruk when it was famously besieged by the Germans and Italians between May 1941 and November 1941. Early in the current revolt it fell to Libyan rebels, apparently without opposition.

A major concern during World War II in North Africa was logistics, as both sides pushed along the seacoast of Libya, only to run short of supplies as they went beyond Benghazi for the British, coming from the east, and the borders of Egypt for the Germans and Italians, coming from the west. Benghazi, today the leading city of the Libyan rebels, was taken by the British three times and by the Germans two times. Shortages of water, fuel, food, and ammunition were always a constraint for the advancing army, and increasing supplies the basis for recovery for the retreating army as it fell back towards its base. Today both sides of the Libyan conflict seem to operate mostly along the coastal highway. Although both the British and the Axis forces would maneuver in the desert, the coastal highway was their lifeline for supplies of food, fuel, and ammunition. Some things change little over generations.

German artillery in North Africa

During World War II neither the Germans nor British paid much attention to the local populations. Sometimes they were a source of guides and intelligence. Sometimes they rescued allied servicemen cut off in the desert. Reading any war history written over the last 60 years, they appear only as bit players. Today they take the important roles.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

A Review of "The Camp Grant Massacre" by Elliott Arnold, 1976

In 1871 a band of Apache Indians surrendered to the lieutenant in temporary command of Camp Grant in the Territory of Arizona. The officer's name was Royal Emerson Whitman. The name of the leader of the Apaches was rendered by white men as Eskiminzin. Eskiminzin was chief of the Aravaipas Apaches. Camp Grant was a days ride from the small Arizona town of Tuscon. Disarmed, the Aravaipas settled for a time in a new village near Camp Grant. What followed was a brief interlude of peace between a small number of Apaches and Mexicans and Americans in Arizona.

The peace ended in disaster when Mexicans and Pima Indians, plus a handful of white man, attacked the Aravaipas village killing many Apache women and children and a few men. The period between surrendered and massacre was less than one year. The whole episode had an element of inevitability in it, which is exposed in this fine novel by Elliot Arnold. There were problems from the very beginning, since the idea accepting the surrender of an Apache band without sending them to one of the Southwest Apache reservations was unheard of. The decisions to accept the surrendered was lieutenant Whitman's alone, and in the novel he is shown to be a man very much alone. Besides resistance from his subordinates, Whitman and Eskiminzin had to deal with opposition from Eskiminzin's own subordinate leaders, and open hostility from the majority of Mexicans and Americans in Arizona, and especially the important leaders of the community of Tuscon.

Monday, July 4, 2011

A Review of the Movie "Mediterraneo", 1991

Yesterday Margaret and I watched the movie Mediterraneo. It is an Italian movie released in 1991 about a tiny, fictional incident during World War II. A squad of 8 misfit Italian soldiers is sent to garrison a Greek island. Their arrival is strange. There are no people in the single island village, or in the surrounding mountains. For the movie the absence of villagers is convenient. It allows the viewers to become familiar with the Italian soldiers, whose radio is broken so they can not communicate with the outside world.

The lieutenant in charge is a peace-time school teacher, quiet and patient. The sergeant is a blustering veteran of Italy's campaigns in Spain and North Africa. The other men each have their own unique characters, including the guy in charge of the squad's donkey who has more affection for his donkey than for the other men. There are two brothers terrified of the water, one married man desperate to return to his family, and the lieutenant's orderly who will be the soldier most transformed by this small island.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

A Review of “Imperial Germany and the Great War, 1914-1918", by Roger Chickering,1998

The subject of this book is the internal tensions of the German state that fought World War I. I found much information about inter-group tensions that I had not know about. Imperial Germany under Kaiser Wilhelm II was divided along religious, regional, class and political lines that were deep, and were of constant concern before the war started and continued until it ended. These divisions help to explain many German policies before and during that war. Some of the solutions adapted by Imperial Germany hint at the extreme solutions implemented during the Nazi era and so led to the many tragedies of World War II. At the same time, solutions such as placating unions by giving their leaders a roll in setting wages and manpower allocation in partnership with the economic leaders and businessmen, hint at the post-World War II power sharing between workers and businessmen that have characterize German industrialization and trade into the 21st century.