#AtoZChallenge2015: #Valley

Alpine valleys, their flowing streams, the Spring meadows and the sight of high peaks are an endless source of inspiration. Back in October 2012, two months after a wonderful summer visit to the South Tyrol I posted this sad and yet hopeful little story:

Interstices

” The declining sunlight casts long shadows on the meadows, trees and rocks magically elongated over the sensual curves of the valley.

The little cross is hidden from view, not far from our path, but few walkers know it is there.

It’s almost our secret, a tiny haven nestled at the foot of the magic mountain, a special place: we belong there.

We can hear the small stream, running through the pine trees, as you turn your beloved face towards me, the green eyes I worship, deep into my lost soul, as images of our fall flash through my mind, and yours.

There, high above the valley, is the vertical cliff where you last kissed me, before our death: we haunt this place, and only the spirits will ever know.”

#AtoZChallenge: Utopia

Idealistic dream, vain hopes of justice and perfection, for others perhaps more dystopia? History and fiction are full of tentative or real utopia, for mankind never gives up…

“The term utopia was coined in Greek by Sir Thomas More for his 1516 book Utopia, describing a fictional island society in the Atlantic Ocean.

The word comes from the Greekοὐ (“not”) and τόπος (“place”) and means “no-place“, and strictly describes any non-existent society ‘described in considerable detail’. However, in standard usage, the word’s meaning has narrowed and now usually describes a non-existent society that is intended to be viewed as considerably better than contemporary society.[1] Eutopia, derived from the Greek εὖ (“good” or “well”) and τόπος (“place”), means “good place”, and is strictly speaking the correct term to describe a positive utopia. In Englisheutopia and utopia are homophonous, which may have given rise to the change in meaning…

Chronologically, the first recorded utopian proposal is Plato‘s Republic.[3] Part conversation, part fictional depiction, and part policy proposal, it proposes a categorization of citizens into a rigid class structure of “golden,” “silver,” “bronze” and “iron” socioeconomic classes. The golden citizens are trained in a rigorous 50-year-long educational program to be benign oligarchs, the “philosopher-kings.” Plato had stressed this many times in both quotes by him and in his published works, such as The Republic. The wisdom of these rulers will supposedly eliminate poverty and deprivation through fairly distributed resources, though the details on how to do this are unclear. The educational program for the rulers is the central notion of the proposal. It has few laws, no lawyers and rarely sends its citizens to war, but hires mercenaries from among its war-prone neighbors (these mercenaries were deliberately sent into dangerous situations in the hope that the more warlike populations of all surrounding countries will be weeded out, leaving peaceful peoples).

During the 16th century, Thomas More’s book Utopia proposed an ideal society of the same name. Some readers, including utopian socialists, have chosen to accept this imaginary society as the realistic blueprint for a working nation, while others have postulated that More intended nothing of the sort. Some maintain the position that More’s Utopia functions only on the level of a satire, a work intended to reveal more about the England of his time than about an idealistic society. This interpretation is bolstered by the title of the book and nation, and its apparent confusion between the Greek for “no place” and “good place”: “utopia” is a compound of the syllable ou-, meaning “no”, and topos, meaning place. But the homophonic prefix eu-, meaning “good,” also resonates in the word, with the implication that the perfectly “good place” is really “no place.” (…)

A global utopia of world peace is often seen as one of the possible end results of world history. Within the localized political structures or spheres it presents, “polyculturalism” is the model-based adaptation of possible interactions with different cultures and identities in accordance with the principles of participatory society.[6]

The Soviet writer Ivan Efremov produced, during the “Thaw” period, the science-fiction utopia Andromeda (1957) in which a united humanity communicates with a galaxy-wide Great Circle and develops its technology and culture within a social framework characterized by vigorous competition between alternative philosophies.

The English political philosopher James Harrington, author of the utopian work The Commonwealth of Oceana, inspired English country party republicanism and was influential in the design of three American colonies. His theories ultimately contributed to the idealistic principles of the American Founders. The colonies of Carolina (founded in 1670), Pennsylvania (founded in 1681), and Georgia (founded in 1733) were the only three English colonies in America that were planned as utopian societies with an integrated physical, economic, and social design. At the heart of the plan for Georgia was a concept of “agrarian equality” in which land was allocated equally and additional land acquisition through purchase or inheritance was prohibited; the plan was an early step toward the yeoman republic later envisioned by Thomas Jefferson.[7][8][9]

The communes of the 1960s in the United States were often an attempt to greatly improve the way humans live together in communities. The back to the land movements and hippies inspired many to try to live in peace and harmony on farms, remote areas, and to set up new types of governance.

Intentional communities were organized and built all over the world with the hope of making a more perfect way of living together. However, many of these new small communities failed, but some are growing like the Twelve Tribes Communities that started in the United States and have grown to many tribes around the world.”

(From Wikipedia article)

Image: “Hieronymus Bosch – The Garden of Earthly Delights – The Earthly Paradise (Garden of Eden)” by Hieronymus Bosch (circa 1450–1516) – →This file has been extracted from another file: Jheronimus Bosch 023.jpg.. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons – http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Hieronymus_Bosch_-_The_Garden_of_Earthly_Delights_-_The_Earthly_Paradise_(Garden_of_Eden).jpg

#AtoZChallenge2015: the T34 tank #9May #WWII

Today I wish to celebrate a hero. Soon Europe will remember May 1945, and victory over the Axis powers. This franco-german jewish household will remember the millions of soviet soldiers who died in the war, and all the others, from the US, Britain, Canada, Australia… India, Africa, Viet-Nam and many places who were called upon to fight the hydra. We will also remember the resistance, first in Germany – the Sachsenhausen concentration camp (KZ) was opened in 1934 to destroy the opposition, trade-unionists, communists, socialists, christians, and ultimately the German Jews, before many others – and then across Europe, with a special mention of Greece and Yugoslavia…

However this hero is a machine, the soviet designed and built T34 tank, that together with infantry fronted all the battles, from Stalingrad to Berlin:

Monument to Soviet Tank Crew Warriors in Sevastopol (T-34)“The T-34 was essential in resisting the German summer offensive in 1942, and executing the double encirclement manoeuver that cut off the German Sixth Army at the Battle of Stalingrad in December 1942. The Sixth Army was surrounded, and eventually surrendered in February 1943, a campaign widely regarded as the turning point of the war on the Eastern Front.

In 1943, the Soviets formed Polish and Czech armies-in-exile, and these started to receive the T-34 Model 1943 with a hexagonal turret. Like the Soviet forces themselves, the Polish and Czech tank crews were sent into action quickly with little training, and suffered high casualties.

In July 1943, the Germans launched Operation Citadel, in the region around Kursk, their last major offensive on the Eastern Front in World War II. It was the debut of the German Panther tank, although the numbers employed at Kursk were small and the brunt of the burden carried by the Panzer IIIStuG III, and Panzer IV. The campaign featured the largest tank battles in history. The high-water mark of the battle was the massive armour engagement at Prokhorovka, which began on 12 July, though the vast majority of armour losses on both sides were caused by artillery and mines, rather than tanks.[85] Over 6,000 fully tracked armoured vehicles, 4,000 combat aircraft, and 2 million men are believed to have participated in these battles…

The T-34 was a Soviet medium tank which had a profound and lasting effect on the field of tank design. Although its armour and armament were surpassed later in the war, it has been often credited as the most effective, efficient, and influential tank design of World War II.[3] At its introduction, the T-34 possessed an unprecedented combination of firepower, mobility, protection, and ruggedness. Its 76.2 mm (3 in) high-velocity tank gun provided a substantial increase in firepower over any of the T-34’s contemporaries;[4] its heavy sloped armour was difficult to penetrate by most contemporary anti-tank weapons. First encountered in 1941, German tank general von Kleist called it “the finest tank in the world”[5] and Heinz Guderian confirmed the T-34’s “vast superiority” over German armour[6] and found it “very worrying.” [7]

The T-34 was the mainstay of Soviet armoured forces throughout World War II. The design and construction of the tank were continuously refined during the war to enhance effectiveness and decrease costs, allowing steadily greater numbers of T-34s to be fielded despite heavy losses. It was the most-produced tank of the war, and the second most-produced tank of all time after its successor, the T-54/55 series.[8] By the end of the war in 1945, the T-34 had replaced many light and heavy tanks in Red Army service. It accounted for the majority of Soviet tank production, and following the war it was widely exported. Its evolutionary development led directly to the T-54/55 series of tanks, built until 1981 and still operational as of 2015 and which itself led to the T-62T-72, and T-90 tanks which, along with several Chinese tanksbased on the T-55, form the backbone of many armies even today. In 1996, T-34 variants were still in service in at least 27 countries…

In 1937, the Red Army had assigned engineer Mikhail Koshkin to lead a new team to design a replacement for the BT tanks at the Kharkiv Komintern Locomotive Plant (KhPZ). The prototype tank, designated A-20, was specified with 20 mm (0.8 in) of armour, a 45 mm (1.77 in) gun, and the new Model V-2-34 engine, using less-flammable diesel fuel in a V12configuration designed by Konstantin Chelpan. It also had an 8×6-wheel convertible drive similar to the BT tank’s 8×2, which allowed it to run on wheels without caterpillar tracks.[10] This feature had greatly saved on maintenance and repair of the unreliable tank tracks of the early 1930s, and allowed tanks to exceed 85 kilometres per hour (53 mph) on roads, but gave no advantage in combat and its complexity made it difficult to maintain. By 1937-38, track design had improved and the designers considered it a waste of space, weight, and maintenance resources, despite the road speed advantage.[11] The A-20 also incorporated previous research (BT-IS and BT-SW-2 projects) into sloped armour: its all-round sloped armour plates were more likely to deflect rounds than perpendicular armour.[12]

During the Battle of Lake Khasan in July 1938 and the Battles of Khalkhin Gol in 1939, an undeclared border war with Japan on the frontier with occupied Manchuria, the Soviets deployed numerous tanks against the Imperial Japanese Army (IJA). Although the IJA Type 95 Ha-Go light tanks had diesel engines,[13] the Red Army’s T-26 and BT tanks used petrol engines which, while common in tank designs of the time, often burst into flames when hit by IJA tank-killer teams[14] using Molotov cocktails. Poor quality welds in the Soviet armour plates left small gaps between them, and flaming petrol from the Molotov cocktails easily seeped into the fighting and engine compartment; portions of the armour plating that had been assembled with rivets also proved to be vulnerable.[15] The Soviet tanks were also easily destroyed by the Japanese Type 95 tank’s 37 mm gunfire, despite the low velocity of that gun,[16] or “at any other slightest provocation.”[17] The use of riveted armour led to a problem called “spalling“, whereby the impact of enemy shells, even if they failed to disable the tank or kill the crew on their own, would cause the rivets to break off and become projectiles inside the tank…

Valuable lessons from Lake Khasan and Khalkhin Gol regarding armour protection, mobility, quality welding, and main guns were incorporated into the new T-34 tank, which represented a substantial improvement over the BT and T-26 tanks in all four areas.[20] Koshkin’s team completed two prototype T-34s in January 1940. In April and May, they underwent a grueling 2,000-kilometre (1,200 mi) drive from Kharkiv to Moscow for a demonstration for the Kremlin leaders, to the Mannerheim Line in Finland, and back to Kharkiv via Minsk and Kiev.[19] Some drivetrain shortcomings were identified and corrected…

Over two years, the unit production cost of the T-34 was reduced from 269,500 rubles in 1941, to 193,000, and then to 135,000.[33]Production time was cut in half by the end of 1942, even though most experienced factory workers had been sent to the battlefield and were replaced by a mixed workforce that included 50% women, 15% boys, and 15% invalids and old men. Originally “beautifully crafted machines with excellent exterior finish comparable or superior to those in Western Europe or America”, later T-34s were much more roughly finished; this did not compromise mechanical reliability, however.[29]

In 1943, T-34 production had reached an average of 1,300 per month; this was the equivalent of three full-strength Panzer divisions.[35] By the end of 1945, over 57,300 T-34s had been built: 34,780 T-34 tanks in multiple variants with 76.2 mm guns in 1940–44, and another 22,609 of the revised T-34-85 model in 1944–45.[36] The single largest producer was Factory N.183 (UTZ), building 28,952 T-34s and T-34-85s from 1941 to 1945. The second-largest was Krasnoye Sormovo Factory N.112 in Gorky, with 12,604 in the same period.[37]

At the start of the war, T-34s were about four percent of the Soviet tank arsenal, but by the end it made up at least 55% of tank production (based on figures from;[38] Zheltov 2001 lists even larger numbers).

Following the end of the war, a further 2,701 T-34s were built prior to the end of Soviet production. Under license, production was restarted in Poland (1951–55) and Czechoslovakia (1951–58), where 1,380 and 3,185 T-34-85s were made, respectively, by 1956.[39] Altogether, as many as 84,070 T-34s are thought to have been built, plus 13,170 self-propelled guns built on T-34 chassis.[40] It was the most-produced tank of the Second World War, and the second most-produced tank of all time, after its successor, the T-54/55 series…

The T-34 was one of the best protected tanks in the world in 1941. Good armour thickness was enhanced by the sloped armour shape, which provided protection in excess of what armour thickness alone would indicate. Some tanks also had appliqué armour of varying thickness welded on to the hull and turret. Tanks thus modified were called s ekranami (Russianс экранами, “with screens”).[25]

The USSR donated two combat-used Model 1941 T-34s to the United States for testing purposes in late 1942. The examinations, performed at the Aberdeen Proving Ground, revealed problems with overall armour build quality, especially of plate joins and welds, as well as the use of soft steel combined with shallow surface tempering. Leak issues were noted as well: “In a heavy rain lots of water flows through chinks/cracks, which leads to the disabling of the electrical equipment and even the ammunition”.[43] Earlier models of the T-34, until the Model 1942, had cast turrets whose armour was softer than that of the other parts of the tank, and offered poor resistance even to 37 mm anti-aircraft shells.

Despite these deficiencies, the T-34’s armour proved problematic for the Germans in the initial stages of the war on the Eastern Front. In one wartime account, a single T-34 came under heavy fire upon encountering one of the most common German anti-tank guns at that stage of the war: “Remarkably enough, one determined 37 mm gun crew reported firing 23 times against a single T-34 tank, only managing to jam the tank’s turret ring.”[44] Similarly, a German report of May 1942 noted the ineffectiveness of their 50 mm gun as well, noting that “Combating the T-34 with the 5 cm KwK tank gun is possible only at short ranges from the flank or rear, where it is important to achieve a hit as perpendicular to the surface as possible.”[26] However, a Military Commissariat Report of the 10th Tank Division, dated 2 August 1941 reported that the frontal armour could be effectively defeated within 300-400 m by the 37 mm Pak 36’s armour-piercing shot.[45][46] According to an examination of damaged T-34 tanks in several repair workshops in August to September 1942, collected by the People’s Commissariat for Tank Industry in January 1943, 54.3% of all T-34 losses were caused by the German long-barreled 50 mm KwK 39 gun.”(from Wikipedia’s article)

The T34 has its own museum here!

Image: “Monument to Soviet Tank Crew Warriors in Sevastopol” by Cmapm – Own work. Licensed under CC BY 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons – https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Monument_to_Soviet_Tank_Crew_Warriors_in_Sevastopol.jpg#/media/File:Monument_to_Soviet_Tank_Crew_Warriors_in_Sevastopol.jpg

#AtoZChallenge: Simoom #Earthday

The Simoom is a strong desert wind, and in some traditions it is portent of evil…

Le Simoon by Eugène FromentinSimoom (Arabicسموم‎ samūm; from the root سم s-m-m, “to poison”) is a strong, dry, dust-laden local wind that blows in the SaharaIsraelJordanSyria, and the deserts of Arabian Peninsula. Alternative spellings include samielsameyelsamoonsamunsimoun, and simoon. Its temperature may exceed 54°C (129°F) and the humidity may fall below 10%. Simoom winds has an alternative types occurring in the region of Central Asia – known as “Garmsil” (гармсель).

The storm moves in cyclone (circular) form, carrying clouds of dust and sand, and produces on humans and animals a suffocating effect. The name means “poison wind” and is given because the sudden onset of simoom may also cause heat stroke. This is attributed to the fact that the hot wind brings more heat to the body than can be disposed of by the evaporation of perspiration.

A 19th-century account of simoom in Egypt goes:

Egypt is also subject, particularly during the spring and summer, to the hot wind called the “samoom,” which is still more oppressive than the khamasin winds, but of much shorter duration, seldom lasting longer than a quarter of an hour or twenty minutes. It generally proceeds from the south-east or south-south-east, and carries with it clouds of dust and sand.

In North America:

“The only ever recorded simoom wind in North America occurred on June 17, 1859 in Goleta, California and Santa Barbara, California. In the morning the temperature hovered around the normal 24°C(75°F) to 27°C(80°F), but around 1pm strong super hot winds filled with dust began to blow from the direction of the Santa Ynez Mountains to the north. By 2pm the temperature reached 56°C(133°F). This temperature was recorded by an official US coastal survey vessel that was operating in the waters just offshore, in the Santa Barbara Channel. At 5pm the temperature had reduced to 50°C(122°F) and by 7pm the temperature was back to a normal 25°C(77°F). The US government report stated “Calves, rabbits and cattle died on their feet. Fruit fell from trees to the ground scorched on the windward side; all vegetable gardens were ruined. A fisherman in a rowboat made it to the Goleta Sandspit with his face and arms blistered as if he had been exposed to a blast furnace.”

From literature:

Edgar Allan Poe’s short story MS. Found in a Bottle (1833) features a storm off the coast of Java, wherein “every appearance warranted me [the protagonist-narrator] in apprehending a Simoom.”

In the political essay “Chartism,” Thomas Carlyle argues that even the poorest of men who have resigned themselves to misery and toil cannot resign themselves to injustice because they retain an innate sense that a higher (divine) justice must govern the world: “Force itself, the hopelessness of resistance, has doubtless a composing effect against inanimate Simooms, and much other infliction of the like sort, we have found it suffice to produce complete composure. Yet one would say a permanent Injustice even from an Infinite Power would prove unendurable by men.”

In Walden (1854), by Henry David Thoreau, there is a reference to simoom; he uses it to describe his urge to escape something most unwanted. “There is no odor so bad as that which arises from goodness tainted. It is human, it is divine, carrion. If I knew for a certainty that a man was coming to my house with the conscious design of doing me good, I should run for my life, as from that dry and parching wind of the African deserts called the simoom, which fills the mouth and nose and ears and eyes with dust till you are suffocated, for fear that I should get some of his good done to me—some of its virus mingled with my blood. No—in this case I would rather suffer evil the natural way.”

In his 1854 novel Hard Times, Charles Dickens describes the oppressive midsummer heat of the sooty, smoky factories of Coketown, “The atmosphere of those Fairy palaces was like the breath of the simoom; and their inhabitants, wasting with heat, toiled languidly in the desert” (book 2, chapter 1).

In Bram Stoker’s novel Dracula (1897), Lucy, describing the appearance of Dracula in her room, writes in her journal entry on September 17 that “a whole myriad of little specks seemed to come blowing in through the broken window, and wheeling and circling round like the pillar of dust that travellers describe when there is a simoom in the desert.”

In James Joyce‘s novel A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man (1914), there is a reference to “Stephen’s heart had withered up like a flower of the desert that feels the simoom coming from afar.”

In Sinclair Lewis’ novel Main Street (1920), there is a reference to “Aunt Bessie’s simoom of questioning.”

A simoon strikes during chapter 2 of the film serial Tarzan the Tiger (1929).

In Making A President (1932), H. L. Mencken refers to “a veritable simoon of hiccups.”

In Patrick O’Brian‘s novel Post Captain (1972), Diana Villiers’ mentally troubled cousin, Edward Lowndes, upon learning that Doctor Maturin is a naval surgeon, remarks “Very good – you are upon the sea but not in it: you are not an advocate for cold baths. The sea, the sea! Where should we be without it? Frizzled to a mere toast, sir; parched, desiccated by the simoom, the dread simoom.”

There is a song “Simoom” by The Creatures, who are Siouxsie Sioux and Budgie of the former band Siouxsie and the Banshees. The song was on the album Boomerang(1989, Geffen Records). Another song titled “Simoon” features on the Yellow Magic Orchestra‘s epoymously titled album that was released in 1978.

In keeping with its tradition of naming its aircraft engines after winds, the Wright Aeronautical R-1200 of 1925 was called the Simoon.

In the film The English Patient (1996) there is a scene in which Count László Almásy regales Katharine Clifton with histories of named winds, one of them being the “Simoon.” Alluding to the records of Herodotus, Almásy tells Katharine that there was once a certain Arabic people who deemed the “Simoon” so evil that they marched out to meet it ranked as an army, “their swords raised.”

From the article in Wikipedia

Image: Le simoom by Eugène Fromentin at http://www.museumsyndicate.com/item.php?item=27924

#AtoZChallenge2015: retribution

Feuds and retributionThere is a medieval ring to this word: retribution: it evokes dark feuds in the Italy of the late Middle Age, just before the Renaissance woke up to the rediscovery of antiquity. We may think of those great families bent on revenge for some sinister hidden murder, and ponder on the condottieri (another interesting word) leading band of assassins for the cause of their lord…

Retribution may refer to:

Etymology

Latin, from retribuere (assign again).

Pronunciation

  • IPA(key)/ˌɹɛtrɪˈbjuʃɒn/

Noun

retribution (plural retributions)

  1. Punishment inflicted in the spirit of moral outrage or personal vengeance

Synonyms

Hypernyms

(Wiktionary)

Quote:

  • 1999Barbara HanawaltMedieval crime and social control, p.73:
    1. Revenge is for an injury; retribution is for a wrong.
    2. Retribution sets an internal limit to the amount of the punishment according to the seriousness of the wrong; revenge need not.
    3. Revenge is personal; the agent of retribution need have no special or personal tie to the victim of the wrong for which he exacts retribution.
    4. Revenge involves a particular emotional tone, pleasure in the suffering of another, while retribution need involve no emotional tone.

Image: Blues vs. Greens (Byzantine Empire) at http://www.swide.com/art-culture/history/romeo-and-juliet-montagues-v-capulets-and-other-famous-gang-rivalries/2013/04/30

#AtoZChallenge2015: quandary

quandaryI found a definition in Wiktionary for quandary, a word which somehow intrigues me. So it goes:

Etymology: 16th century. Origin unknown; perhaps a dialectal corruption (simulating a word of Latin origin with suffix -ary) of wandreth (evil, plight, peril, adversity, difficulty), from Middle English wandreth, from Old Norse vandræði (difficulty, trouble), from vandr (difficult, requiring pains and care).

quandary (plural quandaries)

  1. A state of not knowing what to decide; a state of difficulty or perplexity; a state of uncertaintyhesitation or puzzlement; a pickle; a predicament.
  2. dilemma, a difficult decision or choice.”

Related words include: doubt, indecision, dilemma… All very pertinent to the… learning writer, always in a … quandary!

Robert Frost:

“To quote the oracle of Delphi, / Love thou thy neighbor as thyself, aye, / And hate him as thyself thou hatest. / There quandary is at its greatest.”

#AtoZChallenge2015: Pulchritude

Female pulchritudePulchritude is synonymous for (great) physical beauty. The Wikipedia article defines beauty as a “characteristic of a person, animal, placeobject, or idea that provides a perceptual experience of pleasure or satisfaction. Beauty is studied as part of aestheticssociologysocial psychology, and culture. An “ideal beauty” is an entity which is admired, or possesses features widely attributed to beauty in a particular culture, for perfection.

The experience of “beauty” often involves an interpretation of some entity as being in balance and harmony with nature, which may lead to feelings of attraction and emotional well-being. Because this can be a subjective experience, it is often said that “beauty is in the eye of the beholder.”[1]

There is evidence that perceptions of beauty are evolutionarily determined, that things, aspects of people and landscapes considered beautiful are typically found in situations likely to give enhanced survival of the perceiving human’s genes.”

Eli Siegel asked: Is Beauty the Making One of Opposites?

“1   FREEDOM AND ORDER DOES every instance of beauty in nature and beauty as the artist presents it have something unrestricted, unexpected, uncontrolled?—and does this beautiful thing in nature or beautiful thing coming from the artist’s mind have, too, something accurate, sensible, logically justifiable, which can be called order?

2   SAMENESS AND DIFFERENCE DOES every work of art show the kinship to be found in objects and all realities?—and at the same time the subtle and tremendous difference, the drama of otherness, that one can find among the things of the world?

3   ONENESS AND MANYNESS IS there in every work of art something which shows reality as one and also something which shows reality as many and diverse?—must every work of art have a simultaneous presence of oneness and manyness, unity and variety?

4   IMPERSONAL AND PERSONAL DOES every instance of art and beauty contain something which stands for the meaning of all that is, all that is true in an outside way, reality just so?—and does every instance of art and beauty also contain something which stands for the individual mind, a self which has been moved, a person seeing as original person?

5   UNIVERSE AND OBJECT DOES every work of art have a certain precision about something, a certain concentrated exactness, a quality of particular existence?—and does every work of art, nevertheless, present in some fashion the meaning of the whole universe, something suggestive of wide existence, something that has an unbounded significance beyond the particular?

6   LOGIC  AND EMOTION IS there a logic to be found in every painting and in every work of art, a design pleasurably acceptable to the intelligence, details gathered unerringly, in a coherent, rounded arrangement?—and is there that which moves a person, stirs him in no confined way, pervades him with the serenity and discontent of reality, brings emotion to him and causes it to be in him?

7   SIMPLICITY AND COMPLEXITY IS there a simplicity in all art, a deep naiveté, an immediate self-containedness, accompanied perhaps by fresh directness or startling economy?—and is there that, so rich, it cannot be summed up; something subterranean and intricate counteracting and completing simplicity; the teasing complexity of reality meditated on?

8   CONTINUITY AND DISCONTINUITY IS there to be found in every work of art a certain progression, a certain indissoluble presence of relation, a design which makes for continuity?—and is there to be found, also, the discreteness, the individuality, the brokenness of things: the principle of discontinuity?

9   DEPTH AND SURFACE IS painting, like art itself, a presentation of the “on top,” obvious, immediate?—and is it also a presentation of what is implied, deep, “below”?—and is art, consequently, an interplay of surface and sensation as “this” and depth and thought as “all that”?

10  REPOSE AND ENERGY IS there in painting an effect which arises from the being together of repose and energy in the artist’s mind?—can both repose and energy be seen in a painting’s line and color, plane and volume, surface and depth, detail and composition?—and is the true effect of a good painting on the spectator one that makes at once for repose and energy, calmness and intensity, serenity and stir?

11  HEAVINESS AND LIGHTNESS IS there in all art, and quite clearly in sculpture, the presence of what makes for lightness, release, gaiety?—and is there the presence, too, of what makes for stability, solidity, seriousness?—is the state of mind making for art both heavier and lighter than that which is customary?

12  OUTLINE AND COLOR DOES every successful example of visual art have a oneness of outward line and interiormass and color?—does the harmony of line and color in a painting show a oneness ofarrest and overflow, containing and contained, without and within?

13  LIGHT AND DARK DOES all art present the world as visible, luminous, going forth?—does art, too, present the world as dark, hidden, having a meaning which seems to be beyond ordinary perception?—and is the technical problem of light and dark in painting related to the reality question of the luminous and hidden?

14  GRACE AND SERIOUSNESS IS there what is playful, valuably mischievous, unreined and sportive in a work of art?—and is there also what is serious, sincere, thoroughly meaningful, solidly valuable?—and do grace and sportiveness, seriousness and meaningfulness, interplay and meet everywhere in the lines, shapes, figures, relations, and final import of a painting?

15  TRUTH AND IMAGINATION IS every painting a mingling of mind justly receptive of what is before it, and of mind freely and honorably showing what it is through what mind meets?—is every painting, therefore, a oneness of what is seen as item and what is seen as possibility, of fact and appearance, the ordinary and the strange?—and are objective and subjective made one in a painting?”

Image: Female Pulchritude by Kenney Mencher

Art as the Exquisite, by Eli Siegel: http://www.aestheticrealism.net/essays/art-as-the-exquisite.html

#AtoZChallenge2015: Orthogonal

Orthogonal projectionThe word orthogonal conjures up memories of wonderful maths classes, many years ago, as well as more obscure readings, much later, of absconse topological subjects. Geometry was one of the great pleasures of my youth: yes, we are all different!

I quote from: Barile, Margherita. “Orthogonal.” From MathWorld–A Wolfram Web Resource, created by Eric W. Weissteinhttp://mathworld.wolfram.com/Orthogonal.html

“In elementary geometry, orthogonal is the same as perpendicular. Two lines or curves are orthogonal if they are perpendicular at their point of intersection. Two vectors v and w of the real plane R^2 or the real space R^3 are orthogonal iff their dot product v·w=0. This condition has been exploited to define orthogonality in the more abstract context of the n-dimensional real space R^n.

More generally, two elements v and w of an inner product space E are called orthogonal if the inner product of v and w is 0. Two subspaces V and W of E are called orthogonal if every element of V is orthogonal to every element of W. The same definitions can be applied to any symmetric or differential k-form and to any Hermitian form.”

For those of my readers so inclined, Wikipedia has an interesting article on matrices!

“In linear algebra, an orthogonal matrix is a square matrix with real entries whose columns and rows are orthogonal unit vectors (i.e., orthonormal vectors), i.e.

Q^\mathrm{T} Q = Q Q^\mathrm{T} = I,

where I is the identity matrix.

This leads to the equivalent characterization: a matrix Q is orthogonal if its transpose is equal to its inverse:

Q^\mathrm{T}=Q^{-1}, \,

An orthogonal matrix Q is necessarily invertible (with inverse Q−1 = QT), unitary (Q−1 = Q*) and therefore normal (Q*Q = QQ*) in the reals. The determinant of any orthogonal matrix is either +1 or −1. As a linear transformation, an orthogonal matrix preserves the dot product of vectors, and therefore acts as an isometry of Euclidean space, such as a rotation or reflection. In other words, it is a unitary transformation.

The set of n × n orthogonal matrices forms a group O(n), known as the orthogonal group. The subgroup SO(n) consisting of orthogonal matrices with determinant +1 is called the special orthogonal group, and each of its elements is a special orthogonal matrix. As a linear transformation, every special orthogonal matrix acts as a rotation.

The complex analogue of an orthogonal matrix is a unitary matrix.”

Image: orthogonal projection at http://english.rejbrand.se/algosim/visualisation.asp?id=orthogonal_projection

#AtoZChallenge2015: Nests

Reconstruction of a Maiasaura nest at the Natural History Museum in London.I am reading “A Sting in the Tale“, Prof. Dave Goulson‘s beautiful account of his studies of the bumblebees. One aspect of those (relatively) small creatures life I find fascinating is their aptitude to return to their nest, even when separated by sizeable distances (in one case from up to ten kilometres away). “It is humbling” writes Goulson, “to reflect that though a bumblebee has a brain smaller than a grain of rice, it has powers of perception and learning that often put us mammals to shame.”

This is what the English Wikipedia says about insects’ nests:

Social insects, including most species of antsbeestermites, and wasps, are nest builders. Their often elaborate nests may be found above or below ground. Features often include ventilation systems and separate chambers for the queen, her eggs, and developing individuals.[3]

Bees and hornets often seek out natural cavities in which to construct their nests, also known as hives, in which they store food and raise their young. Other species of bee and some wasps dig holes in the ground or chew through wood.[6] Bee nests are founded upon the wax the secrete from their bodies, while those of wasps are dependent on their ability to turn plant water into paper using their saliva.[2] Nests often exhibit divided living, with eggs and food stores kept in distinct parts of the hive.[6] Vespid wasps build complex nests from paper-like material where they lay eggs in individual cells. When the young hatch, their parents feed them chewed up larvae. Different species exhibit different nest structures. Paper wasp nesting consist of a single tier of cells, while yellow jacket nests can be many layers thick, reaching up to 30 centimetres (0.98 ft) in diameter.[1] Nesting strategies can be plastic, for instance the wasp Parischnogaster mellyi will significant vary its nest construction based on environmental conditions, and the wasp Mischocyttarus mexicanus is known to nest in groups or alone depending on the distribution of potential nest sites in the area.[2][8] Nest sizes vary dramatically and the largest wasp nest on record measured 1.75 metres (5.7 ft) in diameter and was 3.7 metres (12 ft) tall. Found in New Zealand, it was likely built by the German wasp.[5]

Termites build elaborate nests that span multiple generations and may last decades.[2] Using chewed wood, mud, and feces they build large mounds which may extend well into the air.[4] The largest nests, built by members of Amitermes genus, stand nearly 7 metres (23 ft) tall with a similar circumference at the base, and host millions of individuals.[2] Termite mounds are constructed to allow for excellent air flow, regulating the mound temperature. The mounds protect against drying and predation allowing many species to lose ancestral traits such as hard bodies, skin pigmentation, and good eyesight. Magnetic termites construct their nests with flattened sides along the North-South axis to ensure maximum warming during the winter, while exposing minimal surface area to the harshest mid-day sunshine.[2] Other termite species use their nests to farm fungi.[4]

Ant nests feature an elaborate colony structure that may extend 2 metres (6.6 ft) or more underground. As the structure gets further underground, individual chambers become farther and farther apart indicating that the ant is aware of its depth. It is hypothesized that they accomplish this by sensing the level of carbon dioxide in the soil.[4] The leaf cutter ant builds a complex nest which can house 8 million individuals. Its nests feature numerous chambers, most notably garden chambers where they farm fungus on leaves they harvest from the forest.[2]

Species such as the carpenter ant and the wasp Polistes exclamans build “satellite nests” – smaller nests near, but separate from, the main nest.[9][10] These satellite nests are used as an insurance against predators and parasites; if the original nest is attacked, surviving members can move the satellite nest.[9] Other species such as the Black hover wasp, Parischnogaster alternata, construct nests in clusters with the central core composed of older colonies surrounded by younger colonies.[11]

Image: “Dino feszek1″ by Dénes Emőke – Natural History Museum in London. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons – https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Dino_feszek1.jpg#/media/File:Dino_feszek1.jpg

#AtoZChallenge: Myths #WritersWednesday

For those of us who were lucky enough, in our childhood, to have parents who could, and were willing, to spend time reading us stories, some of those stories have stayed with us forever: they illuminate our lives, draw a smile at a chance encounter, or a tear, at the sight of a disaster which brings us back to a long forgotten time. Such are myths: as ancient as mankind, the ground for both wisdom, and also terror, and of much wonder.

World Mythology, The Illustrated Guide“Nearly everybody loves a good story. Certainly every child does. Our sense of self – our notion of who we are, and from whence we came, and whither we are going – is defined by the tales we tell. We are, in essence, who we tell ourselves we are.” (Robert Walter, Director of the Joseph Campbell Foundation, Foreword to “The Illustrated Guide to World Mythology“.)

What has always fascinated me is the permanence of some of those stories, across time, regions of the world, and cultures. There, I suspect, lies the eternal wisdom of mankind. Often, the rediscovery of that wisdom takes a lot of effort. “Antique texts have presented archeologists with formidable problems of interpretation. Understanding the hieroglyphs of ancient Egypt became possible after 1799 with the discovery near Alexandria of the trilingual Rosetta Stone. Without that advance in knowledge, the riches of Tutankhamun, unearthed in 1922, would have lost much of their importance for our understanding of Egyptian thought. Decipherment of the so-called Linear B script in the 1950s gave us access to the myths of the ancient Mycenaean culture of Crete. But the script of the Indus Valley civilisation, in what is now Pakistan and India, still remains undeciphered.” (Introduction to The Illustrated Guide by Dr Roy Willis.)

I have some favourites: the she-wolf who brought up Romulus and Remus the founders of Rome, Artemis, the chaste goddess of the hunt, the Izumo cycle of Japan, Jason’s quest for the Golden Fleece, the Fenian myths of the Celtic world. And also: the malevolent spirits of the deep forests of central Europe, the shamans of Siberia, the Navajo and Hopis myths – all transmitted through generations by word of mouth – Quetzalcoatl the feathered serpent, Eshu the Trickster, the myths of the Maoris, and so many more…

Perhaps this is the secret of good writing: letting the old stories submerge us…

Eshu the Trickster

Image: courtesy Myth Encyclopedia – This carved wood sculpture shows Eshu, the trickster god of the Yoruba people of Nigeria in West Africa.

order and disorder are forever paired, and neither can exist without the other.

Read more: http://www.mythencyclopedia.com/Dr-Fi/Eshu.html#ixzz3XI4ovAKz