Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Church of Saints Peter and Paul, Oberammergau

I will have two exhibits of my work in March, so hopefully I'll be posting more paintings here over the next few weeks.  Here's a good start, a view of the church in the center of Oberammergau.  I took the photo from which I painted this when I was there for the first time, I think back in 2010, but it's taken this long to get around to painting it.

Happy New Year, by the way.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Homage to Homer

Winslow Homer, that is.

There's a lot to be learned from studying paintings by masters, and even more to be learned from trying to duplicate them.  This is my take on Winslow Homer's painting, Banana Trees, Nassau.  My aim was not to make an exact copy, but to learn some of his techniques by coming relatively close.

His style is very different from my own, which made for a good exercise.  Here's the original so you can compare:

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Tonight's Project

Actually, I've been working on this for the last few nights.  It's not quite finished, but it's close enough that I thought I'd let you have a look at it.

Saturday, December 07, 2013

Two More Micro Paintings

Here are two more tiny paintings, purpose-made to draw down my pile of mats and frames.  I have lots of mats that are cut for two images like this, which adds a little complexity to the problem of composition.

Micro Painting

Before I left Portugal, I bought out the stock of a frame shop that was going out of business.  I ended up with, among other things, lots of very small frames, so I've started working on little paintings to fill them.  This is an example.  At 2.5 x 2 inches, these paintings are lot like short stories.  You have to have fit in all the required information, but there's no room for anything extraneous.

Friday, December 06, 2013

New Painting: First Frost

I apologize to both my readers for the long lapse in blogging (and painting.) The move from Portugal to Germany was more difficult, in more ways, than I anticipated, and although I wanted very badly on many occasions to paint, until recently I had neither the time, nor the space for it.

Now, however, my studio is set up, and I hope to get back to work in earnest.  This is my first attempt to capture frost which, for a watercolorist who does not use white, presents some interesting challenges.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Michael Keifer, We Have Not Forgotten You.

New York, Pennsylvania, the Pentagon, Benghazi.  We will not forget.

On 11 September, 2001 I was in Amman, Jordan. I was the senior member of a small American military detachment getting a refresher course in Arabic at the Royal Jordanian Military Language Institute. At the time of the attacks, I was just signing onto my email account at an internet cafe in central Amman. I saw a news banner announcing that two planes had crashed into the towers of the World Trade Center, and I was certain that I was looking at an advertisement for a movie. Within two minutes, my embassy cell phone rang. "Get all your people to the embassy right away." I was told. That's when I knew it was no movie ad. 

As I was scrambling to get my colleagues together, 26 year-old Michael Kiefer was breathing his last in New York City. Michael was one of the 2,996 innocents who lost their lives in Al Qaeda's most successful attack on our nation. Maybe you remember it? In case you've forgotten, let me remind you by telling you about Michael, because Michael Kiefer is a shining example of what our nation lost in that attack.

To say Michael was a fireman does not do justice to the drive and the passion he brought to his work. Some people have a job they do and others have jobs that they are; by all accounts, Michael was one of the latter. From his early years he knew that he wanted to be a fireman. Childhood photos show him wearing a fireman costume, and people tell of how, as a boy, he was so accomplished at mimicking the sound of a siren that he once convinced his school bus driver to pull aside for a firetruck that wasn't there. 

Michael bought a scanner that he used to listen for fire alarms, and would ride his bicycle to watch the firemen work. Sometimes he rode so far from his neighborhood that he was brought back home by police escort. Michael earned perfect scores on his fire academy physical and written entrance exams, and began training in October, 2000. He graduated in December of the same year. He drew one of the busiest assignments, engine Company 280/ladder Company 132 Firehouse of Crown Heights Brooklyn. In achieving his lifelong dream, we could say that Michael Kiefer accomplished more in his short life than will many men who live to see a century, but that would be only half his story.

In addition to being a fireman, Michael was a committed Christian, beloved son to Pat and Bud, and older brother to Kerri and Lauren. He was saving his money to buy a ring for his girlfriend, Jamie Huggler. Son, brother, boyfriend. He was the kind of guy who dedicated himself to a job that would put his life at risk in order to save others. He was just one of 2,996, who died at the World Trade Center,12 years ago today, but in him was a reflection of all the strength, the selflessness, the goodness, that we love about America. On this anniversary of our nation's loss, take a moment to remember Michael. Say a prayer for the peace of mind of those he left behind, and give thanks that our nation can still be the home of men like him.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Miss Me Yet?

Does anyone still believe that supporting the ouster of Hosni Mubarak was good foreign policy?

Just wondering.

Saturday, August 03, 2013

AOL - These are not US uniforms

How hard is it to find an image that accurately reflects the subject of your story?  Apparently for America Online, it's impossible.  That's why, as a header to their link to a Huffington Post story about sexual assault in the US military, they provide this photo:

Like movie producers who can't be bothered to get even the most obvious military details correct, AOL does not seem to notice (or care?) that these are not US troops in the photo.  Wrong uniforms, wrong weapons - is it any wonder AOL and Huffington Post have no credibility?

Friday, July 05, 2013

Director of National Intelligence - Strike Two

In a 21 June letter to  Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Diane Feinstein, Director of National Intelligence, James Clapper admitted that he had lied, or as he put it, "provided clearly erroneous testimony" to Congress when he said in March that the government did not collect information on millions of Americans.

Back in February of 2011, Director Clapper provided another example of "clearly erroneous testimony" when he told Congress that the Muslim Brotherhood was a "largely secular" organization. The Brotherhood's motto is "Allah is our objective; the Quran is our law, the Prophet is our leader; Jihad is our way; and death for the sake of Allah is the highest of our aspirations." They have never been secular.  Nobody who knows anything about them could be mistaken on that point, and if they were, events in Egypt this week have removed all doubt.

Two appearances before Congress, two examples of testimony completely out of phase with reality.  Will the Director get a third strike?

Thursday, July 04, 2013

Happy Independence Day

Independence.  The idea that government has no legitimate role other than to protect the rights of individuals, and that, when it exceeds that role, the people have a right to moderate or even replace it.

It was a radical concept in 1776, and 237 years later, some people still don't get it.

Here's to those who, by God's Providence did, and do.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Two finished paintings

Cabo da Roca

You've seen these in their unfinished forms already.  Now I've finally gotten them finished, and can drop them off for framing.

Walking Down to Guincho

Friday, June 21, 2013


Is it me, or is this article missing some critical information about US troops deploying to Egypt?

Although the video has the complete quote that was botched in the text, you still find yourself wondering what the troops are doing behind shields marked "police," and what policing they're going to be doing in Egypt, of all places.  It's especially interesting in light of this article, which talks about rising tensions in Egypt as Islamists mass in Cairo.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Current Project - Cabo da Roca

I've been really busy lately, but it seems there's always time to paint if one is willing to do without sleep and other luxuries.  Here's what I'm working on at the moment.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Walking Down To Guincho

Tonight I finished a painting of a slightly different view of Guincho.  Tomorrow, I'll begin working on this view of Cabo da Roca, which I photographed while walking Bica this morning:

Monday, June 10, 2013

Sketches and photos

Yesterday I got to do a little sketching in Sintra.  This is a favorite view of mine, with one of the spectacular Raul Lino houses showing through the trees on the hillside.

You may already know that this is a place I like returning to; it was the subject of a large painting I did about two years ago:
When I finished that sketch, I turned around and did a quick one of the National Palace of Sintra which was just behind me as I was sketching the house on the hill.

Earlier that morning, Bica and I had a good walk on Guincho Beach.  She made friends with a fisherman, and I asked him to take our picture:

On the way back from the beach, I finally had the chance to take a picture I've been wanting ever since I got my Land Rover: (Extra credit if you figured out that the house in the background, next to the Cascais Lighthouse, was also designed by Raul Lino.) 

Friday, May 24, 2013

Tonight's Painting - House on Rua Timor, Estoril

One of the pleasures of morning walks with Bica is seeing the rising sunlight, and the shadows it casts in my neighborhood. I rarely finish a walk without having a new topic in mind for a painting.

This house is just about a block from mine, but I never met the owner until a couple weeks ago, when he stopped to pet Bica.  We started talking, and I think he was a little alarmed at first, when I told him I'd been wanting to paint his house, but after we spoke a few minutes he understood what I meant. I'll send him a photo of this painting, now that it's finished.  Hopefully he'll think I did his house justice.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

No, I Don't Want a Hat.

When you've got hair like this, fellas, you don't want a hat getting in the way.  Know what I'm sayin'?

Friday, May 17, 2013

Profiling - It's Bad, Right?

I'm confused on this.  Profiling is bad unless the IRS does it?  Is that how it works?

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

The UN: Oh the Irony

Are they trying to be funny?  Naming Iran to chair this month's UN Arms Control Forum - that's a joke, right?  If so, it's almost as good as the one where they named Libya to the UN Human Rights Council.  That one worked so well that it became kind of a standby bit.  Sort of like an old Vaudeville joke that's no longer surprising, but is funny just because it's been around so long.  It took until March of 2011 to take that one out of rotation.

I wonder how long we'll be laughing at the notion of Iran - long embroiled in illegal arms shipments to Libya, Yemen, HAMAS, Hisballah, and probably tied to North Korea and Pakistan, too, chairing - now think about this for a moment, not just a member, but CHAIRING the Arms Control Forum.  What will that look like?  Will the Iranian delegate (excuse me - Chairman) of the Forum speak from the heart, and recommend methods by which corrupt, oppressive third world nations can avoid UN conventions and spread destabilizing weapons around the world?   Good comedy is always audacious, and in that respect this certainly qualifies.

Good comedy also draws on traditions, and this little gem works in that respect, too, because the UN, as I've mentioned before has quite a tradition of decisions that make no sense whatsoever, outside the fact that they appeal to our sense of irony.

How many millions do we contribute to this farce?  Sigh.  It appears the real joke is on us.

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Today's Question:

Q:  What do you call it when half the staff of the LA Times threatens to quit?

A:  A good start.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Stupid Has a New Name.

Call me rude.  Call me unchivalrous, uncharitable and boorish, but this, my friends, is stupid.  Professor Ruth O'Brien writes to tell the world that the poor brothers Tsarnaev were mistreated during the course of their apprehension.  The authorities violated their rights, she says, and gave the rest of us a black eye in the process.
Now we have captured the two terrorists from Chechnya who come from the troubled region that is Muslim, but we cannot understand their motives, not yet.  And Obama encourages us to refrain.
This said, the mortuary pictures of the older brother of the two are extremely disturbing, raising questions as to whether the Boston Police Department captured him with too much force. I understand the explanation offered ... Yet, it does not ring true.  A picture is worth a thousand words that will keep our ears ringing as we recoil from this photo.  Images have a way of searing themselves into our memory in a way that can't be undone. We have an emotional memory, not just a rational one that is exemplified by words.
First of all, this is just plain lousy writing.  "...who come from the troubled region that is Muslim..." How's that?  My old editing professor would have adorned that with a lovely red "Awk" for awkward, and that would have been a kindness.    How about, "the older brother of the two?"  Using the comparative, "older" implies that there are two.  Had there been more than two, the superlative, "oldest" would have been appropriate (Eldest, for the real sticklers, and you know who you are.)

Am I being too much of a grammar fascist?  Even for those who hold grammar in lower esteem than I, this gem of a mixed metaphor should cause some consternation. "...A picture is worth a thousand words that will keep our ears ringing..." Go ahead; read it again.  That's priceless.

The assertion that, "we cannot understand their motives, not yet," is grammatically sound, but factually deficient.  Anyone who cannot understand the motives of Muslim terrorists is just not paying attention.  And they're working pretty hard at it, too.

But what really bothers me is the author's claim that undue force was used to subdue the bomb brothers. How, exactly, does one subdue gently those who have killed innocents on a street corner, murdered one policeman and thrown bombs at others?  How does one inveigle surrender from those whose goal is to die in  jihad?   Professor O'Brien worries that  the United States, in defending itself against people who blow up children, is "uncouth." and might be "judged harshly by the international community." A reminder for those who've been distracted - the international community consists of nations like Syria, North Korea, and Iran.  The only thing objectionable about being judged harshly by such a community is the notion that its members might ever be in a position to judge us in the first place - a notion, incidentally, that the author seems to accept as a basic premise.

The worst part about fatuous nonsense like this is that it betrays a complete lack of understanding, not only of human nature and its capacity for evil, but also of justice, which demands that evil be addressed, and that innocence be protected.  The professor's concern is misplaced.  Like some schoolgirl with a perverse crush on bad boys, she frets about the injuries to Tamerlan, the gravest of which were inflicted by his own brother, not the police, and disregards the blood of innocents that only a week ago was still pooling on the sidewalks of Boston.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Alternative Endings for Boston

I just bought a movie on DVD that offers an interesting extra feature – alternative endings.  I think it’s a cheesy gimmick when it comes to fiction, but when it comes to current events, the idea has real merit.  Imagine how great it would be, for instance, if we could apply the concept to the Bombing of the Boston Marathon.

Depending on how you did it, you could change the story completely.  Take the case of the FBI’s interview with big-brother-bomber, Tamerlan Tsarnaev.  We could change the ending so that somebody in the Bureau had a clue, and realized years ago that the guy they were dealing with (The name Tamerlan should have been regarded as a hint.) shouldn’t have been allowed to stay in the country.

Or you could alter the part of the story where the FBI failed because of a misspelling, (See kids, proper spelling saves lives.) to detect that Tamerlan had left the country for six months. Had they noted his extended absence while he was awaiting US citizenship, his application would have been denied.

Or you could change the part where officials, aware of Tamerlan’s history of domestic violence,  dithered over his citizenship application, instead of sending him packing.

Of course, you could go back even further and revisit the decision to let the Tsarnaev family immigrate to the US in the first place.   What, exactly, made someone in the State Department decide that these were people equipped to contribute to American society?  Once they got here, what about their behavior made the case for their being allowed to remain?  Was it their mom’s facility for larceny that recommended them as good citizens?
And what about the guy who got himself carjacked by the brothers Tsarnaev?  What if, instead of being a sheep with a “Coexist” bumper sticker, he had been a holder of concealed carry permit?  What if he had acted in his own defense, and as is so often the case, defended all of civilization in the process?  If we could change that chapter of the story, maybe Boston could once again be famous for the kind of men who “fired the shot heard round the world,” instead of the kind of men who, “shelter in place.”

Well, we can’t change the story.  Countless bureaucrats, the same kind of people who will soon be in charge of our healthcare, made a series of decisions that brought us where we are today.  I may be joking about it, but make no mistake.  I’m sickened by the tragedy.  I’m disgusted that, despite a hundred warning signs, these savages were not prevented from harming innocent people, and I’m disheartened that Americans have become the kind of people who ignore an obvious threat because they lack the fortitude to confront it.  If I could change anything about this story, that is where I’d begin.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Confirmed: Appeasement Still Doesn't Work.

Let's review, shall we?

Every agency, bureau, and department of the federal government has a program for Islamic outreach, Islamic  sensitivity, or Islamic cultural awareness.

How's that working out for us?

I want my money back.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Land Rover Door Swap

The only thing wrong with my Land Rover when I bought it was the back door.  It was bent, so it didn't seat properly in its frame, and the bottom was rusted out (the only part of the car that was, thankfully) so badly that it couldn't support the weight of the spare wheel.

Senhor L, while trolling OLX for spare parts, came across a guy with a Defender 90 (a shorter version of what you see above) who was selling his back door, and he put us in touch.

The gentleman agreed to sell me his door, and said he'd give me a better price if I included my old door in the bargain.  That was fine with me, as long as I got to keep the lock mechanism that was on my door, because the last thing I need is another key to keep up with.

We commenced a door swap in his driveway, and I noticed that his door, being a few years older than mine, didn't have the extra brake light, so I asked if I could keep mine.  "No problem," he said.  All we had to do was remove it from my old door.

It's a testament to Land Rover design and appreciation for simplicity that two guys in a driveway with nothing more sophisticated than a couple wrenches and screw drivers can exchange doors, in a little less than two hours.

When I got home, I had the new door installed, but not completely assembled.  It looked like this,

Only a lot dirtier.  This is how it looked today, after about half an hour of cleanup.

After cleaning a decade or so of dirt out of the door, I needed to install the extra brake light.  In jobs like this, the single most important thing is keeping track of all the parts you take off, so that you have them (and know what they are) when it comes time to put them back on.  I thought I had done a pretty good job of this,
which was no mean feat, because the guy I was working with was dropping parts all over the place. He either dropped them on the ground and ignored them, or collected them into groups that seemed to be completely unrelated, which he left scattered between our vehicles.  I hopped from pile to pile trying to sort them and collect them into groups that would help me remember their purposes, and, as I said, I thought I'd done a pretty good job of it, but today while I was putting things back together, I could find only one of the brake light mounts, and I had to fabricate the other.
The genuine article is to the rear; my counterfeit is in the foreground.

After I'd put everything together I ended up finding the part I thought I'd lost.  That's one of those truisms associated with this kind of project; the surest way to find a lost part is to get a replacement.

Because this is an older door, it's not configured to run wiring for the extra brake light, so I ran the wire through this hole in the bottom of the door,
and out this hole at the top, which is where the wire comes from that supplies power to the window defroster.
With the wiring in place, it was time to glue the brake light mounts onto the window.  I bought special glue for this purpose, but the instructions were, of course, in Portuguese.  I understood 90% of them, but it takes only one small misunderstanding to screw up a job, so to be safe I google-translated.  (Caution: nobody should ever consider Google translations as a way of playing it safe.)

In this case, at least, the translation seemed pretty good.  I managed to get the mounts affixed to the glass, and after the glue had cured for a while, I hung the light from them.

I just looked out the window and it's still stuck to the glass, so I think I'm in good shape.  Once that was done, I did a little more cleaning and lubing inside the door, and then attached the door liner.
Now that I have a door that's structurally sound, I can hang my spare wheel on it again.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Officers of Democratic Peoples' Republic of Korea

That's a fine array of medals you've got there, Comrade General.  Or is that North Korea's version of a bullet-proof vest?

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Land Rover Update

Alarm Activated

I've been doing a few small things to the Land Rover.  The seat release handles for the second row of seats were broken off inside the housings, so I had to get into them and rig a handle to the metal arms.  It wasn't easy getting to the housing without being able to fold the seats forward.

Here's the mechanism with the cover removed, and my green wire handle sticking out.  I know it's not pretty, but did I mention that this is for a Land Rover?

Bica hung out with me while I was working, but I could tell her heart wasn't in it.  She just wanted to go for a drive.

Under the original floor mats there was a ton of mud, sand, and a fair amount of broken glass.  One of the great things about these cars is you can just hose them out.  The body is aluminum, so it won't rust.

After several cycles of wash, rinse, and repeat, the floor was pretty clean.  I used the old mats as templates and cut new ones from a sheet of rubber I bought at a hardware store.  

I did the same for the floor beneath the second row of seats.  

Did I say Land Rovers aren't pretty?  I take that back.

One last shot.  This is at Guincho Beach, with Bica behind the wheel.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Couldn't Have Said It Better Myself.

The State of the World in One Picture

Sunday, March 31, 2013

Yesterday's Painting

Fishermen on the Marginal - a sight I see almost every day (depending on the tide)  and one I've been wanting to paint since I got here.  This is a small study for a larger painting I hope to start soon.

More importantly, happy Easter.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

North Korean Military Training Photos

I saw these in the UK Telegraph, and while the photos were interesting in and of themselves, I felt they could have done a much better job with the captions, so I decided to lend a hand.

Ret's Rock!

Are you sure that hair makes them more frightening?

AGGGH I bloke a nail!

It's SO embarrassing when we show up in the wrong uniform.

Soldiers of the Democratic Peoples' Republic of Korea race to ride in the only truck that has gas.

Pilots of the DPRK AF play rock, paper, scissors to determine who will fly today.

Kim Jong Un commemorates George Washington's crossing of the Delware

Feering a rittle seasick

Sing with me, comrade, "YMCA!"

Selecting the first round-eyed devil to be destroyed in a lake of fire