Sunday, May 30, 2010

A Sweet 16-Reunion of Two A.B. Davis High School (Mt. Vernon, NY) Classmates

The Dancing Blogger with Patricia Reedy at her Sweet Sixteen Party

One of the highlights and delights of my 70th Birthday celebration was connecting to a high school friend I have not seen for over 50 years.

Patricia Reedy and I attended A.B. Davis together from 1954-1958. I was the 'new kid on the block' having just come to Mt. Vernon's premier school system from private school in Manhattan. Being very sociable and amiable, I made friends fast. I followed my interests and quickly became President of The Camera Club and a member of the Tennis team.

Patricia was a gung-ho, outward going lady who was a Davis cheerleader.

Fast forward to May 2010; I get an invitation on facebook to become friends with Patricia Reedy (who is this mystery woman contacting me??) who tells me she has a photo of the two of us dancing at her sweet sixteen birthday party. Puzzled about who she can be, I requested she scan the photo and post it on her wall; a day later I am looking at two sixteen year olds having a grand old time dancing with Patricia staring directly into the camera and her companion (me) smiling off to the side.

Well, before I knew it, here I am driving up Connecticut I-95 on my way to spend a most delightful day: first we drove over to Foxwoods Casino for brunch and then we spent some time enjoying the shoreline and Long Island Sound from the point at Stonington harbor. Jazz at the Skipper's Dock Restaurant and Bar rounded out the day!

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Kandinsky's Paris Years 1906-1907: Radical Transformation from the Concrete to the Abstract from the Material to the Spiritual

Mountain (Berg), 1909
Oil and tempera on canvas, 109 x 109 cm
Stadtische Galerie im Lenbachhaus, Munich , Gabriele Munter-Stiftung, 1957

Riding Couple (Reitendes Paar), 1907
Oil on canvas, 55 x 50.5 cm
Stadtische Galerie im Lenbachhuas, Munich, Gabriele Munter- Stiftung, 1957

Colorful Life (Motley Life) (Das Bunte Leben), 1907
Tempera on canvas 130 x 162.5 cm
Bayerische Landesbank, on permanent loan to the Stadtische Galerie im Lenbachhaus, Munich

What is fascinating and of primary interest in this discussion is the transformation and metamorphosis of Kandinsky from an artist depicting the interaction of Russian religious and secular life -- with strong bold colors-- to an abstract interpreter of the human spiritual experience in more muted soft hues.

In Kandinsky's Colorful Life (Das Bunte Leben, 1907) we can see a profusion of images and motifs that will be repeated throughout his career: the horseman with drawn sword was perhaps influenced by an earlier painting of the same year, Riding Couple. where the elegant, stately, regal 'prince' and his embraced lady dominate this river scene. The dark romantic serenity of this couple is contrasted to the vibrant illuminated Russian city. There is a gradual transition from the placid shrouded mystery of the couple on their steed--whose limbs are stripped of skin to the bone-- to the vibrant Moscow River and then to the Kremlin in the background

Let's go back to the Colorful Life and focus on a few images that we can make out: there is the spiritual icon of the saintly mom with flowing chalk-like hair (front, left), the lover's embrace (center right), the solitary rower on the river, the other- worldly intertwined brothers (front center).

In the Mountain (Berg), 1909, painted just 2 years later, Kandinsky's once recognizable profuse images have vaporized, so to speak, and definitely have dematerialized, so that now we have two figures who dominate front and center at the base of triangular mountain- motif (suggestive of the Trinity) with a strong bold black zig zag line serving as a lead-in to some religious melodrama; one image is an abstract figure with red gown, blank face and long flowing blue hair atop a horse barely recognizable in its pastel cut- out blue form. This figure looks across a truncated tombstone to another etherialized brother with a prayer book in hand. At the top of the triangle is a floating representation of 'City of God', the Kremlin of earlier paintings.

The author is much indebted to The Greenwich, Connecticut Library for their recent acquisition of the Guggenheim Museum volume on Kandinsky, published in 2009 by the Solomon R. Guggenhim Foundation, New York. This book is so beautifully laid out and the plates are of the highest quality. The book was published on the occasion of the exhibition Kandinsky which was shown in New York City from September 18, 2009-January 13, 2010. For my blog on this amazing exhibit see Picasso and Kandinsky at the Guggenheim's 50th Anniversary Exhibit.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

World War I American Flying Ace & Balloon Buster: Frank Luke

We celebrate today the birthday of Frank Luke, Jr. (1897-1918) , who in just 9 days of combat flying in September 1918, ten missions and 30 hours of flight time knocked down 14 enemy balloons and four aircraft (some say it may have been 7)

He epitomized the young, daring, reckless maverick who took to the air as a fish takes to the sea.He lived an abbreviated, exciting life and his aviation career barely lasted one year.. This Phoenix native enlisted in the Signal Corps Aviation service on September 25, 1917, did his first solo on December 12, 1917, was commissioned Second Lieutenant on January 23, 1918 and arrived in France March 19, 1918 and began his career at the U.S. Aviation Instruction Center at Issoudun in April 1918.
He quickly dominated the skies in the Verdun/Murvaux area shooting down more enemy balloons that any other pilot.

On the combat report of September 18, 1918, Luke became the leading American ace. Luke had a total of 14 victories: four planes and ten ballons; in fact, he led the other American ace Eddie Rickenbacker by 5 victories. That night, General Pershing received a military telegraph which read: "Second Lieutenant Frank Luke, Jr., Twenty-seventh Aero Squadron , First Pursuit Group, five confirmed victories, two combat planes, two observation balloons and one observation plane in less than 10 minutes."

On September 29th, he took off alone and unauthorized. Not until 3 months later on January 3, 1919 was his death confirmed. He was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross by Pershing posthumously.
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Earning My Wings at Quincy, California: Lessons Learned

Quincy California 'Snow-Bowl' with Airport in Center
Airport is 80 miles from My Former Home in Paradise
Johnny Moore, Manager of Sugarpine Aviators in Quincy
in a Photo Dated 1967 at Benton Airport in Redding, Ca.

"We do get a number of you flatlander wanna- be pilots at our Sierra airport" beamed Johnny Moore, crop dusting pilot, Alaska bush pilot, fire bomber pilot, author and Manager/Owner of the Sugarpine Aviators Flight School at Quincy, California's Gansner Airport-- on my first meeting with him.

He continued: "We will take you to proficiency and your ticket in just a few days."

I found these statements bewildering and confusing! I must admit, I was incredulous based on my experiences until now! Read on and, hopefully you'll understand.

I was at a loss for words. I had no idea what he was talking about. You see, all I knew was 16 months had elapsed since I had started on my private pilot's license journey on my birthday May 24, 1978 and I felt I was getting nowhere fast.

Yes, my instructor at Chico Airport was competent (he was flying charter) and guided me on my first solo flight on July 8th (what a super feeling!), my first dual cross county on August 11th: CIC/Chico, CCR/Concord, Hayward, Oakland, Napa and CIC) logging 3.9 hours with the logbook notation: 90 day-OK. This was followed by my own Cross Country solo on August 11th in 387 Charlie: CIC. Lincoln, Woodland and then CIC, ( 2.6 of tachtime). Then two more solo short cross country flights with my August 20th one totalling 4.9 hours. Only my long Cross Country lay ahead of me. I was buoyant.

Wow, with such accomplishments under my belt, I thought I would be ready to go for my private pilot's checkride in another 30 days. In fact on October 4th, I completed my 5.7 hour Long Cross Country from Chico to Fresno to Hayward back to Chico.
But then, a strange thing happened: though I was flying with my instructor three times weekly through February 1979 and accumulating a staggering 90, yes, ninety hours of flight time, I was getting nowhere fast; or, as my instrument instructor Al Stockstead of Eugene, Oregon was fond of telling me: 'You don't need to bore holes in the sky."

I recall one training session at Willows Airport where we practiced cross wind landings (35-45 MPH winds blowing across the runway) for 90 minutes. Though my instructor, with much concentrated effort, was able to land our trainer consistently, I failed in four attempts. Naturally, I came away disheartened.

After all, I was responsible for the predicament I was in: I loved flying, I was naive and, above all, flying was inexpensive then... so I suppose I stayed with him much longer than I should have. On July 8, 1979, after doing some VOR tracking and short field takeoffs, I made up my mind to locate another instructor. As luck would have it, I chanced by Quincy Airport where I had been transacting some business; here I met Johnny and his assistant Tom Rahn; I took a flight with Johnnie and liked him immediately.

I spent a week at Quincy Airport early in October, flew twice daily with Tom. Withing four days, they certified me and voila, I earned my wings. I mean to say I earned my wings the hard and long way.

Johnny and Tom later explained to me that my instructor was using my flight time to build up time towards his ATP rating so he could fly big planes for the big airlines. Teaching me was secondary to his career. And this explains, my increasing frustration after flying with him.

At Sugarpine Aviators Flight School, I realized that teaching came first and my instructors imparted their love, devotion and precision mountain flying to me. Their student focused work ethic was so evident that I came away not only with my 'ticket' but a love and appreciation of my skills.

Within 6 months I owned my own plane: A Piper PA-28-181, Archer II with dual Navs/Coms, DME and low tach and engine time.

How is that for turning things around! Learn from my experiences, check out your instructor first. Be sure his main preoccupation is you --the student! If not, continue your quest for a full time instructor.

And, secondly, don't sweat the time. Though you can get your ticket in as little as 40 hours, 60-90 hours is perhaps more realistic. So hang in there as I's well worth it.
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As a post script: Johnny has published three books: his first is Breaking Into Agricultural Aviation, which he autographed for me. His second is a classic on his aviation experiences entitled I must Fly which makes for fun, hilarious and serious reading

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Jackie Cochran: First Aviatrix to Break the Sound Barrier

Jackie in the Cockpit of a F-86 Sabre Jet
That's the Legendary Chuck Yeager Standing Next to Her

On this date in 1953 at Rogers Dry Lake, California, Jackie Cochran ( May 11, 1906- August 9, 1980) flew a Canadair F-86 Sabrejet at an average speed of 652.337 mph. She thus became the first woman to break the sound barrier.

Her other feats include: the first woman to land and take off from an aircraft carrier, the first woman to reach Mach 2, the first woman to pilot a bomber across the Atlantic in 1941, the first to make an instrument (blind) landing, the first woman to fly a fixed-wing , jet aircraft across the Atlantic and the first woman to enter the Bendix Transcontinental (LA to Cleveland) Race, which she won in 1938 flying a P35 at an average speed of 249.11MPH in 08:10:31.4 (H:M:S) and finally the first pilot to fly above 20,000 feet with an oxygen mask.

Major General Fred T. Ascani had this to say about her: "There are cautious pilots who never want to know what the plane's maximum performance is and then there are pilots like Yeager and Cochran."

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Levi Woodbury: A Man for All Seasons

I have vacationed several times in the Southern New Hampshire's Manadnock mountains Within walking distance of my summer residence is a state marker dedicated to a man of notable achievments and public service. (see above)

Levi Woodbury
(1789-1851) was born in Francestown, attended Dartmouth College and then Law School, the first Supreme Court Justice to do so. He served New Hampshire first as legislator, then Governor and U.S. Senator; he held cabinet posts under three different presidents ( Jackson, Van Buren and Polk) and then served as Associate Justice the US Supreme Court.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Clean up from March 13-14 Southwestern Connecticut Storm: The Caterpillar 401 Bucket

The storm hit us with an unexpected fury on March 13 and 14th with winds of up to 70 miles per hour. Power outage on my block began on Saturday evening at 6PM and then was on by Sunday at 6 PM. Many city residents were without power for 6 days!

In this footage, you can see Stamford City crews cleaning up a neighbors property. He lost about 7 trees; one was was a large oak tree which was nearly uprooted. This caterpillar,, the largest the company makes , has the 401 Bucket used to scoop up the debris.

In this You Tube video from neighboring Darien, you can see the horror of the damage on Hollow Tree Ridge Road.

Monday, May 3, 2010

A Colloquium in Honor of Theodore Reff, Professor Emeritus, Columbia University

Professor Theodore Reff, Professor Emeritus, Columbia University
photo from

On Friday, April 9, 2010, I attended an all day academic tribute to Theodore Reff, Professor Emeritus European painting and sculpture 1840-1940 in Schermerhorn Hall. In the Columbia University
Directory for the Department of Art History and Archaeology  (2010 edition)  his biography reads:

"He has lectured and written extensively on the principal movements of that period (1840-1940): Realism, impressionism, Post-impressionism, Fauvism, Cubism and Surrealism; and above all on the artists Manet, Degas, Cezanne, Matisse, Picasso and Duchamp. His work is aimed at understanding the relations between an artist's work and 1) the earlier or exotic art on which he drew, 2) the social and cultural milieu in which he worked and 3) the aspects of his personality that helped shape his art."

"Reff has specialized in identifying artistic traditions and sources, in studying the interaction of art and literature, and in applying psychoanalytical models to the study of art. Recent and continuing work includes a book of essays on Cezanne and a critical edition of the letters of Degas based on archival research on his artistic and social circles."

His students flew in from all over the United States to pay tribute to their Professor. Over the next 6 hours, 13 of his students each spent about 30 minutes exploring subjects as diverse as
1. "To Imitate the Chinese....": Henri Matisse and Far-Eastern Art
2. Joseph Cornell's Observatories: Cases for the Stars
3. Sleuthing Toward Matisse: Roy Lichtenstiens's Artist Studio and The Dance
4, Why So Sad? The Changing Image of Pierrot, 1684-1870
5. Olympia's Wink
6. An Amateur in Africa: Inanke Cave Art as a Celebration of Life

Olympia, painted by Manet in 1863, Musee d'Orsay, Paris

I found each guest lecture fascinating and stimulating. Two in particular stand out. Jane Roos, a teacher at Hunter College and Graduate Center of CUNY, delivered an amusing 15 minute visual discussion of how Manet's subject in his Olympia is depicted in a version of the painting winking toward Manet, perhaps a 'nod' of admiration by the painter to his nude subject and vice versa. A delightful re-imaging and re-imagining of a great work of art.

Inanke Cave Art, Motobo National Park, Zimbabwe
This giraff has been called the best giraffe art in Zimbabwe

Michael FitzGerald, Professor of Fine Arts at Trinity College in Hartford, is a knowledgeable and entertaining art critic for the Wall Street Journal. To my delight, here he wasl giving us a slide show and enthusiastic discussion of his visits to modern day Zimbabwe's Matobo National Park --on this fascinating treasure of prehistoric Inanke cave art of about 10,000 years ago. To hear Michael in person was particularly enjoyable as I deepened my knowledge of the San people's culture (the Bushmen) who contributed to this 30 foot long frieze of exquisite giraffes, elands, kudu, ostrich, duiker and others--over a period of perhaps several millennia. You can read Michael's Wall Street Journal article, Magnificence on Cave Walls and see a marvelous slide show by clicking here.

Frances Beatty of the Richard E. Feigen Gallery,a self-proclaimed dealer in the 'dark side', enlightened and delighted us with a slide show of great works of art related to the life of Ted: Presenting Ted (e.g. Raphael's 'School of Athens': is that Ted surrounded by Plato and all his adoring/argumentative students?)

This illuminating day was capped off with a wine reception for Dr. Reff at the Stronach Center.

For an illuminating portrayal of another TED, Edward Tayler, Lionel Trilling Professor of the Humanities, Columbia University see Milton Redux: Professor Edward "Ted" Tayler Revisited.
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