Art Pottery, Politics and Food
Saturday, January 29, 2005
A workshop used by Leonardo daVinci has been discovered by three Italian art historians in a building just off the Piazza del Santissima Annunziata in the central part of Florence, Italy according to reports by Reuters and Canada's CTV appearing this morning.

Detail from an uncovered fresco

The abandoned 5-room studio, including a secret room possibly used as a mortuary by the eccentric and cadaver-dissecting Leonardo, was found beyond a hidden staircase that had been sealed over by previous building restoration.
According to Roberto Manescalchi, one of the three discovering researchers, “We have found the studio of one of history's greatest artists…The proof is on the walls" in a building, today, shared by an ancient convent and the Italian Institute of Military Geography.
500-year old frescos, left undisturbed for centuries in the forgotten Florentine rooms, contain images of birds strongly resembling known examples of daVinci’s work found in his Codex Atlanticus, a 1,286 page collection of drawings and writings by the 15th century painter, sculptor, inventor and scientist.

Detail, The Annunciation, Oil on wood, 1473-75, Uffizi Gallery

Another fresco, described as “colorful”, contains a white unfinished outline, referred to by researchers as “the ghost”, with a shape striking similar to daVinci’s painting of the Archangel Gabriel in The Annunciation housed in Florence’s Uffizi gallery.
The excited researchers are also speculating that it was near these rooms that daVinci met Lisa Gherardini, one of the possible models for the Mona Lisa, as the Gherardini family maintained a chapel in the Santissima Annunziata.
The Mona Lisa is also called La Gioconda after the 3rd wife of Francesco del Giocondo, the very same Lisa di Antonio Maria di Noldo Gherardini.
Of course, as with all such discoveries of this type, some “experts” are urging further research before officially classifying these rooms as having been daVinci’s.
The Italian researchers assured the press that further research will continue and said, “It’s easy to say ‘It’s not true’”.

A Personal Note
We are deeply saddened by the death of a very close friend yesterday afternoon.
This wonderful woman will be greatly missed by those who loved and were inspired by her.
A lifelong teacher and amazingly talented water colorist, this was a person who lived life to the fullest and enabled others to do the same.
We will miss her.

Images: CTV,

Friday, January 28, 2005
"Shroud of Rummy" Dates From Early 70’s

The "Shroud of Rummy", believed by death-cultists to be the original burial shroud of Donald Rumsfeld, actually dates, according to new scientific analysis, from his first stint as Defense Secretary sometimes during the Nixon administration.
The ghoulish Rumsfeld, presently hiding from Vampire Killers based in Munich, Germany, has fumed to aides that scientists must return his old burial wrap.
“The Secretary feels the newer shrouds lack a certain cozy mustiness”, said the Pentagon's chief spokesman, Lawrence T. Di Rita.
Di Rita also said yesterday, “The Secretary has weighed a variety of competing shrouds”, and left open the possibility of a new one.
“I just don’t know what we’ll end up wrapping him in,” said Di Rita in a phone interview.

Trailor Trash

According to the Washington Post:

Cheney stood out in a sea of black-coated world leaders...the vice president looked like an awkward boy amid the well-dressed adults...Would he have dared to take the oath of office with a ski cap on?

Modified Image:, Google, AP

Thursday, January 27, 2005
Hi Condi, Mary & Heather!

Another cartoon crisis swirls in Washington, DC!!!

Images: Google, PBS

But, Wheel of Fortune's on...

Today's New York Times:

Ms. Rice...took the oath of office in a private ceremony at the White House. She was sworn in soon after 7 p.m. by the White House chief of staff, Andrew H. Card Jr...Mr. Bush did not attend the event.

Modified Image: Google

Wednesday, January 26, 2005
As a former 18-year eyewitness to the Washington, DC television market, I find myself periodically surfing to the excellent DC DCRTV web page maintained by Dave Hughes.
Hughes, a media outsider, often has the local media news before Washington’s stuffy media will admit or broadcast it and, I understand from highly placed sources, DCRTV is often a painful thorn in the plump sides of the 9th market’s executive ranks.

The always hot Ted Turner

This morning Hughes has a link to Broadcasting & Cable’s report on a heavy session of fire-breathing by liberal legend Ted Turner before last evening’s National Association For Television Programming Executives' conference in Las Vegas.
As a former Cincinnatian (the orginal Turner billboard company was here in metro Cincinnati, Ohio), independent broadcaster and outrageous liberal (who I've forgiven for marrying Jane Fonda) Ted has always grabbed my attention.
He grabbed it again this morning.
Ted, in his first appearance before a NAPTE conference since his ouster from Time-Warner 5 years ago, singed a few right wing shibboleths and America’s oh-so-touchy broadcast media.
Broadcasting & Cable’s lead sentence:

Ted Turner called Fox a propaganda tool of the Bush administration and indirectly compared Fox News Channel's popularity to Adolph Hitler's popular election to run Germany before World War II.

The magazine, in typical US TV fashion, bullet-points Turner’s primary arguments and buries the actual lead, the war in Iraq:

On Fox News: … He said the network is the propaganda tool for the Bush Administration. "There's nothing wrong with that. It's certainly legal. But it does pose problems for our democracy. Particularly when the news is dumbed down, leaving voters without critical information on politics and world events and overloaded with fluff.”
On TV news in general: "…Consolidation has made it almost impossible for an independent. It's virtually impossible to start a cable network." [Broadcasters and programmers] "don't want more independent voices out there. They own everything. That's why I went into the restaurant business."
The war in Iraq: "We've spent 200 billion destroying Iraq. Now we've got to spend 200 billion to rebuild it, if they'll let us -- and all to find a nut in a fox hole -- one guy," Turner said. "He posed no threat to any of his neighbors, particularly with us there with overwhelming military superiority." --"it is obscene and stupid"

A Google quickly discovered Ted’s new restaurant chain is Ted’s Montana Grill specializing in Bison.
The 66 year-old billionaire owns 5 of these in Columbus, Atlanta, Nashville and Denver and plans to open 40 more within the next 5 years.
Next, I guess, Ted will find competition from a chain of Rupert Murdock restaurants specializing in kangaroo.

Modified Image: Google

Tuesday, January 25, 2005
James Wolcott, a Vanity Fair contributing editor, writes a blog I enjoy very much.
He can be serious but usually the seriousness is moderated with a bit of humorous fun.
Over the Christmas holidays, I particularly enjoyed his take on the classic movie White Christmas but today he presents a most interesting link to a CNN transcript of their broadcast of a raw video feed of Secretary Rumsfeld’s image-building Christmas Eve trip to Mosul, Iraq.

Rummy in Mosul-A slip 'twixst tongue and lip?

In the clip (scroll down to the beginning of a long Rumsfeld clip near the transcript's end) Rummy is talking in his fragmented ad lib manner to US troops:

I think all of us have a sense if we imagine the kind of world we would face if the people who bombed the mess hall in Mosul, or the people who did the bombing in Spain, or the people who attacked the United States in New York, shot down the plane over Pennsylvania and attacked the Pentagon…

A most curious slip of the tongue that had, prior to the eagle eye of Mr. Wolcott, scampered down the memory hole.

AETCo's 6" square tile The Old Mill by Franz Frenzel

On the Art Pottery front, the January/February issue of the Journal of the American Art Pottery Association arrived in today’s mail and returned informational interest on my AAPA membership investment with a fascinating article on the Frenzel patent of intaglio and relief molded dust-pressed encaustic clay tiles by Michael Sims.
The name Frenzel has been noticed on certain almost photographic quality art tiles manufactured by the American Encaustic Tile Company of Zanesville, Ohio in the late 19th century.
These tiles are somewhat rare and have been rapidly increasing in value.

This 6” square Frenzel tile of a young girl sold January 22 on Ebay for $125.50.
This Ebay seller had not noticed the artist’s signature on the lower left corner of the tile.
Identifying an artist signature likely would have boosted the hammer price and the seller’s profit.
In my own research I have not noted a first name associated with Frenzel.
Thanks to Michael Sims and his patent office research presented in the current issue of the AAPA Journal, we now know that Franz J. Frenzel, Jr. of New York City filed an application for patient on June 1, 1885 and was granted the patient on December 15, 1885.
Congratulations and thank you Michael for some terrific research.
Copies of the January/February 2005 issue of the Journal can be had through the AAPA web page.

I also thought I’d post another easy, comforting, nourishing and warming side dish for a cozy winter’s day:

White Beans, Leek and Celery

1 15.8 oz. can Great Northern Beans, drained and rinsed
2 Cloves Garlic, peeled and minced
1 Shallot, peeled and minced
1 Stalk of Celery, trimmed and chopped
1 Leek, trimmed and chopped
1 14oz. Can Chicken Broth
1 Tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil
½ Tsp Dried Thyme
Sea Salt and White Pepper to taste

Sauté Garlic and Shallots in Olive Oil.
Add Celery and chopped Leek, stir and continue sauté.
After 3 to 4 minutes add the drained Northern Beans, the Chicken Broth and the seasonings.
Simmer, stirring occasionally 15 to 20 minutes.
The mixture will thicken as the beans absorb the broth.

Photos: Reuters, AP, sean, Ebay's dove57

I have to say that I have sympathy for Americans from Chicago to the East Coast languishing under this past weekend’s massive snowfall.
While we here in the vicinity of the Ohio River valley have had snow on the ground for the last week of so, it is a mere dusting compared to our poor northern brothers and sisters.
I have for some time wanted to post a Comfort Food veggie recipe that has become a favorite of mine this winter but I’m usually waylaid by some repellant news story that makes my poor little recipe, by contrast if posted, seem not only trivial but tasteless.
Believe me all you wonderful readers; this veggie recipe is anything but tasteless!
Of course a quick glance at the big news organs of corporate officialdom reveals, as always, a few interesting newsy morsels.

Iraqi Police at a car bombing Monday in Baghdad.

The outrage lies in the last two paragraphs of a Washington Post story headlined, Torture In Iraq Still Routine, Report Says.
Unusually, the headline fairly represents the gist of the accompanying article, which details Iraqi on Iraqi torture in Prime Minister Ayad Allawi’s prisons.
The last two graphs relate "the only known case in which U.S. forces intervened to stop detainee abuse” where “an Oregon Army National Guard unit saw Iraqi guards at an Interior Ministry compound abusing detainees”.
According to the report by the Oregon unit’s captain “soldiers entered the compound and found bound prisoners ‘writhing in pain’ and complaining of lack of water. They gave water to the men, moved them out of the sun and then disarmed the Iraqi police.”
The newsy morsel, particularly in light of the criminally unfair prosecution of the Abu Girahb enlisted, is the article’s final sentence:

When the Oregon soldiers radioed up their chain of command for instructions, they were ordered to "return the prisoners to the Iraqi authorities and leave the detention yard."

Yes, the trusty old chain of command truly does protect and serve those at its peak.
The second morsel, found in the New York Times, is more darkly humorous.
It seems the big guns of the Christian Right, miffed I guess that SpongeBob escaped the cartoon clutches of their deep sea anti-homo net, are threatening President Bush.
It seems these ever so judgmental neoChristian leaders are willing to shaft their regular, and I imagine tithing, church members over Social Security if Mr. Rove’s President actively fights for an anti Gay Marriage Amendment to the Constitution.
Needless to say the Dreier and Mehlman households in Washington are atwitter over this one!

Anyway, on to the recipe which could be a sort of food metaphor for Dreier and Mehlman’s future within the neoChristian Republican Party:

Creamed Cabbage

½ head of White Cabbage, chopped
2 Tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 Shallot, minced
3 Cloves of Garlic, peeled and minced
1 Tbsp Wheat Germ
1 Tbsp Bread Crumbs
½ cup, or more, Heavy Cream

Sea Salt & White Pepper to taste

In a fairly large skillet, briefly sauté over medium heat the Shallots and Garlic in Olive Oil.
Add chopped Cabbage.
Sauté and turn Cabbage until most pieces are coated in Olive Oil and until Garlic and Shallots are blended throughout.
Add Cream (Calorie and fat freaks can substitute Half & Half but the creamy, comforting richness will be lessened).
After turning the mixture a few times sprinkle the Wheat Germ, Bread Crumbs, Sea Salt and White Pepper across the bubbling surface.
Turn mixture, lower the heat and cover.
Simmer, stirring occasionally, about 15 minutes or until Cabbage is just tender.
This dish goes wonderfully with Chicken, Beef or Lamb and will vanish before your eyes!

Photos: Reuters, University of Illinois Extension

Monday, January 24, 2005

Fighting robots from the sky
Fearless cans that roll on by
Cans that blink, teleview and slay
The cold cans of the Tin Beret.

A disingenuous report spreading through European and US newspapers this morning announces the March or April 2005 arrival of “robotic warriors” onto the Iraqi battlefield.
These “robots” are reconfigured versions of Massachusetts-based Foster-Miller’s remote-operated TALON bomb-disposal devices.
These weaponized platforms made similar news on technical web sites in December of 2004 though many have suspected their use from the beginning of the wars on terror.
According to the previously linked Associated Press report:

The Army is preparing to send 18 of these remote-controlled robotic warriors to fight in Iraq beginning in March or April. Made by a small Massachusetts company, the SWORDS, short for Special Weapons Observation Reconnaissance Detection Systems, will be the first armed robotic vehicles to see combat.

The AP report strives to make this a good news for soldiers story and suggests the idea to reconfigure TALON came from foot soldiers themselves while thoughtlessly contradicting its earlier stated date of combat usage:

It was a "bootstrap development process" to convert a Talon robot, which has been in military service since 2000, from its main mission…employees of the robotics firm heard from soldiers "who said 'My brothers are being killed out here. We love the EOD (explosive ordnance disposal), but let's put some weapons on it.”

Aside from questions pertaining to morality, the long human history of battlefield honor, any pretense of an Iraqi version of Vietnam’s Hearts and Minds, the future economic impact on outsourced foot soldiery, battlefield sustainability of the devices themselves and personal revulsion, I’ve discovered, as previously indicated, problems with the future tense utilized in these news reports' lead paragraphs.
According to the manufacturers own web page:

TALON robots have been in continuous, active military service since 2000…TALON robots were the first robots taken into Afghanistan during action against the Taliban and Osama bin Laden in February 2002. They initially accompanied the Special Forces on a Classified mission, and are still there now doing EOD work. They were on the ground in Kuwait when coalition forces massed in 2003 and have been in Iraq ever since performing EOD/IED (improvised explosive device) missions. TALON robots have now completed more than 20,000 EOD missions in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The robot soldier travels on tank-like treads at 4 m.p.h., is equipped with night vision and zoom lensed cameras, is powered with a lithium-ion battery having a 1 to 4 hour charge, costs $200,000 per robot and should prove (and, likely has proved) short work and another psychological win for the dogged Iraqi insurgency.
Believe me when I say that I take absolutely no pleasure in describing what appears to be another military-industrial complex boondoggle courtesy of Washington’s short-sighted and tech-crazy war-planners.

Images:, AP
Apologies: SSgt. Barry Sadler, The Ballad of the Green Beret

Sunday, January 23, 2005
Have you noticed how the funhouse mirror of America’s televised public discourse is becoming ever more twisted with odd doppelgangers and their reflected opposites often inhabiting adjacent thoughts or even single sentences?

Maybe you haven’t because, within the purposefully dense blather, you’re not supposed to notice.
For many, serious listening to what once was considered public policy and its debate creates a discombobulating mental motion sickness befuddlingly impervious to most forms of logical refutation.
Orwell came close to envisioning today’s sad state of twisty public talk but even at his most Orwellian that George failed to imagine the impenetrable mental white noise generated by today’s most rapid-fire Topsy-turvian and his array of neoconservative global enablers.
Just this morning America’s ambassador to accounting-free Iraq, without documentary evidence, assured his amiable and unquestioning General Electric interlocutor that $300 million vanished US dollars were not monies appropriated by the Congress:

My understanding is that these are Iraqi moneys that are involved, not United States government appropriated funds.

Then, later in the same alleged program, the Chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, again without the program host’s self-proclaimed aggressive interlocution, fretted over the spending habits of dead, and I would assume former, Social Security recipients.

We need to look at the way seniors are allowed to use money in retirement and even after death.

I’m sure many online advocates will refute these claims and I wish them success.
I think, however, we’ve moved beyond Orwellian Doubleplusgood rhetoric to a place where refutation, more often than not, allows people to, in a favorite Bushian phrase, “get lost in the weeds”.
Take for example the topsy-turvian nature of this past week’s allegedly “soaring” Inaugural address.
On one hand “it is human choices that move events” but, then again, in the very next sentence “God [the “Author of Liberty”] moves and chooses as He wills.”
Despite Jefferson’s 1821 belief that “[It is] the people, to whom all authority belongs”, President Bush, last Thursday, said, “Self-government relies…in our national life by the truths of Sinai, the Sermon on the Mount, the words of the Koran, and the varied faiths of our people.”
While unremarked upon by inhabitants of the American media’s mirrored funhouse, the President is drifting from 200+ years of American orthodoxy to a new place deep in the metaphoric weed thicket where God is the creator of democracy and the people merely acolytes.
This newer and holier world order with the people subservient to a particular interpretation of Liberty’s Godhead bodes well for only the world’s most aggressive interpreters.
As we exit the funhouse this Sunday morning, dizzy with thoughts of freedom and slavery, our blurry eyes see only the weed-free path blessed by one man’s vision; a path some called God’s own but, to others, appears decidedly calf-like and suspiciously golden.

Good night, Johnny.

Photo: Reuters

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