Archive for June, 2008

Tharpe Dogs

June 22, 2008

Its been a while. My apologies if you came here looking for something new but found nothing. Truth is, I’ve been under the weather for a spell. My dad says its ’cause I drank from a mud puddle. Thats my dad. He has a reason for everything. I drank from mud puddles lots of times and never got sick. So he says it wasn’t your average puddle, since it was right where all the cattle stood when they drank from the tank. That tank was too tall for me, so I drank from the cow-puddle. I don’t see why that matters. My young sister Cosi is big, strong, beautiful and healthy as a horse and she fancies warm cow-pies. If there’s a Michelle Vick out there organizing female dog fights, I’ll bet on Cosi. Every time. All I can say is if my dad is right we dogs have all gotten too domesticated.

So, since I’m still not feeling that perky, you’ll have to make do with a one picture post. It came from a wonderful little book called Appalachia: a Self-Portrait which is all photos from that part of rural America taken in the 1970’s by people who lived there. Dorothea Lange step aside. This is the real thing by the real people. Funny thing, though, this book, along with lots of other gems, was culled by the San Antonio Public Library back when me and Barney and Kitty-Kitty lived there, may they rest in peace. The basement sale people had the good sense to price it at $3, which was a lot, since most books were 25 cents or 50 cents or a buck. My dad scarfed it right up anyway. He has a thing for books.

So he shows me this one picture in that book showing, Fields and Pearl Tharpe, in their home in Auburn, West Virginia. They look pretty happy, an older couple sitting there with their two dogs who seem to be getting on a bit themselves — a lot of history on the wall behind them too. My dad said it reminded him of the Millers who lived up Murphy Creek and who fed him for a few weeks when his folks were away. Nice people and Mrs. Miller made real good biscuits and gravy. Myron, that was old man Miller, had bad emphysema which was because he had been mustard-gassed in World War I. Murphy Creek wasn’t in Appalachia, but it might as well have been. Country people, loggers and dust bowl Oakies, like from the Grapes of Wrath. They said ain’t and cain’t. My dad said ones’t you got the hang of it, it was right comfortable. He reckons it was easy but he cain’t talk that way no more. That was in South Western Oregon around 1959 and the locals called it “Murphy Crik”. There was a guy lived up Murphy Crik back then, loved his dog more than anything. Used to let it ride everywhere in the back of his pickup. One day he pulls up with no dog in his pickup. “What happened to your dog?” says my granddad (that would be my dad’s dad — I never did get to meet him). “Oh, had to shoot it–it wouldn’t listen or mind and I got so pissed I took my gun right off the rack and shot it”. That’s what the guy said. Go figure.

Well, Fields and Pearl Tharpe in the real Appalachia would never have done a thing like that. They’s good people. I can tell from the picture. Those dogs look real happy too, and I bet ones’t in a while they got biscuits and gravy.

Fields and Pearl Tharpe

Fields and Pearl Tharpe in Auburn, by Robert Cooper, around 1970

(see it big)

Till next time, your friend,

Rita the dog

Dog Tessellations

June 9, 2008

My dad wanted this on his blog. He said it was about geometry. I said it was dog art. He said the best you could say is that it was dog graphics. But we agreed on the dog part, so he had to capitulate.

A tessellation is like a jigsaw puzzle where all the pieces have the same shape but they still fit together without any gaps. The squares on a tile floor would be one example. The figure below is a more complicated tessellation which is composed of identical 9-sided polygons but has a 3 dimensional feel, appearing a bit like two snakes wrapping around eachother:

Cover Image Grünbaum/Shephard book (on dads flickr)

Cover image on Grünbaum/Shephard book: Tilings and Patterns

Click on the above image to see it larger and, for more information, see the description at my dad’s flicker page, here.

If it were possible to make a tessellation where each piece was a dog then you would have a dog tessellation. For a long time I didn’t think such a thing could exist. I knew about that Dutch master graphic artist named Escher. He did lots of tessellations where the pieces were animals, so I asked the old man if Escher ever did one with dogs. My dad has seen just about all the Escher art there is to see and he said there weren’t any with dogs. There was a pretty nice one with fish he said and he showed me this one, which isn’t too well known:

Escher--Fish on Textile--1942

Escher–Fish on Textile–1942 (big)

Well, that’s that, I thought. But then one day the old nose got to sniffing and pretty soon sniffed out an Escher piece with dogs. Yup, thought I, there are some advantages to being a dog. I’m pretty sure Escher had it in a notebook or some private file, because its not done as carefully as the public work he exhibited, and parts of the red have faded since he made it, way back in 1938. But a dog tessellation it is, and possibly the first one ever made. Have a look:

Escher--Dog Tessellation--1938

Escher–Dog Tessellation–1938

I was pretty happy there were some red dogs in there, since, as you must know by now, I’m a red dog too. Those dogs really look like dogs and yet they fit together perfectly. I take my hat (figuratively speaking since I don’t actually have a hat) off to Escher. Maurits Cornelis Escher lived from 1898 to 1972. The official Escher web site, where you can see lots of his other work, is here.

Nowadays lots of clever people have created tessellation art similar to Escher’s tessellations with animal images. People today have the huge advantage of using special computer software to help them design and create the images. But you won’t see many woodcuts, and for my taste Escher did it best.

Here then are some modern dog tessellations. The first three are by Japanese graphics design artist Makoto Nakamura

5 by 6 dog tessellation

Makoto Nakamura–dog tessellation 1–1993 (big)

Makoto Nakamura--dogs 6

Makoto Nakamura–dog tessellation 6–2004 (big)

To me those dogs look too much like rabbits. Here is the last example by this artist.

Makoto Nakamura--dogs 7

Makoto Nakamura–dog tessellation 7–1988 (big)

You can find a huge variety of other graphic art at Makoto Nakamura’s page, most of it not dog tessellations. Just click here.

The next image is a dog tessellation by Yoshiaki Araki, who appears to me to have been a youngster in Japan when he did tessellations. Information about this artist is scarce, but my reading of tea leaves leads me to believe that he parlayed his interest in tessellations to an interest in Kleinian and Fuchsian groups and computer graphics, got a PhD at Keio University, and found bigger fish to fry. This is guesswork, not fact, so don’t quote me, and if you must be sure to say you heard it from Rita the dog.

Yoshiaki Araki--dog--date unknown

Yoshiaki Araki–dog–date unknown (big)

For the last dog tessellation, here is an image by a 10 year old girl named “Kaitlyn C”, who won some sort of prize for it.

Kaitlyn C -- age 10 -- dog tessellation

Kaitlyn C–age 10–Dog Tessellation (big)

This concludes my post on dog tessellations. If you want to see more you can certainly find them on the Internet, but I would urge you to try and create one for yourself.

Good luck!

Rita the dog

The Incredible Lightness of Being

June 6, 2008

When I was a young dog I used to dream of flying. Birds soar. Dogs run. Wouldn’t it be nice if dogs could soar? I tried it once, long ago. It was in a park in San Antonio where my mom and dad used to walk with me and let me run. No interlopers back then. Just me, the top dog, the only dog. I used to love to run there and once in a while chase a squirrel. Those were the days: young, strong, happy. I felt like I could fly. On one side was the a bank of the dry river that only flowed when there were cloudbursts, which there certainly were back in San Antonio.

One day at the edge of the park I was so anxious to run that they let me loose early Grinning Cheshire cat, by Tenniel, for 1866 Alice in wonderland, by Lewis Carrolland I glimpsed a cat on the top of that 10 foot bank. I ran like the wind after it. Mom and dad walked as usual down the path, across the dry river bed, and on to the grass on the other side. Just when I was closing in on that cat, it darted and jumped and disappeared. Its scent was still wafting in the air. The game was up. I knew it was grinning somewhere, just out of sight.

Just then I heard my mom and dad calling me, “Rita! Rita! Rita come!”. So I turned and saw them in the distance on the grass. I was pumped and decided to run to them as fast as I could. I ran and ran toward them, totally forgetting there was a 10 foot drop just ahead, which I glimpsed at the very moment that I took off. I soared, I flew, and I felt grand. Oh, my God, dogs can fly! But just a few seconds and maybe 15 aerial feet later ecstasy turned to panic as I noticed the ground was moving up fast and it was going hit me.

Thud! I blacked out for a few seconds and then pain everywhere. I couldn’t move or get up or even breath. I could hear my dad saying as if through a fog: “She’s really hurt. She might die. I don’t believe she did that”. Then my mom said, “Quick, get the car. She can’t walk”. So my dad got the car and they carried me to it and drove me straight to the vet. By now I could breath OK but the pain was still intense. The vet examined me carefully and said it was impossible to tell if I had internal injuries, but I didn’t appear to have any broken bones. They took me home and kept me quiet and pretty soon I got better and could walk again. I limped for weeks, but gradually made a full recovery.

Now, when I feel high, like I want to fly, I just find some dog art I like and gaze. Here are three pictures I like when I feel that way. The first is for my uncle John, he is my human uncle and he lives in Alaska with his dog Duchess. You can see her picture on my flickr page. He’s a big fan of that dog sled race they have every year in Alaska. It’s called the Iditarod and it’s over 1150 miles long. The dogs that do all the work are truly incredible. Anyway, this painting makes me think of them. It was done in 1892 by Frederick Remington, an American Painter and Sculptor who lived from 1861 to 1909.

Huskie Dogs on the Frozen Highway

Huskie Dogs on the Frozen Highway (aka Talking Musquash)–Frederic Remington–1892 (big)

The next picture looks more like a happy dog jumping in the summer sunshine. It is called Jumping Dog ‘Schlick’ and was done by German artist Franz Marc (1880 – 1916) in 1908, eight years before his tragic death in world war I. Here is the picture, of a happy dog I like:

Jumping Dog 'Schlick' -- Franz Marc--1908

Jumping Dog-‘Schlick’–Franz Marc–1908 (big)

The final picture for today is my dream. It is by the contemporary surrealist painter, Samuel Barrera, who is from Merida, Mexico. You can learn more about this artist and his work by clicking here.

Samuel Barrera--Didio Leaving

Samuel Barrera–Didio Leaving

Your best friend,

Rita the dog

Celestial Dogs

June 4, 2008

Just when you thought poor old Rita the dog must have checked out and written her last blog post, (all good things must come to an end), here is another one for you, about dogs in the sky. Yup, dogs up there in the heavens. Sometimes I think my dad is right: old dogs should keep trying to learn new tricks. Keeps them young and active and happy. Well, maybe. In any case, you can’t imagine how happy I was when I learned there were dogs up in the sky.

The biggest and brightest star in the nighttime sky is a dog named Sirius. Chances are that radio outfit knew that when they picked their name. Dog breath is a powerful thing, and they broadcast from the sky. Just kidding. Anyway, almost 2000 years ago, back when gnostics were babes trying to figure it out, there was this guy named Ptolemy. His real name was Κλαύδιος Πτολεμαῖος, but folks these days mostly just say (those that say it at all) Ptolemy. He had a Roman first name but he was a Greek who lived in Alexandria, which is in Africa. More importantly he wrote the bible of astronomy. And it was the bible for a 1000 years. Hundreds of years later the Arabs translated this ‘bible of astronomy’ into Arabic and called it the Almagest (transliteration of الكتاب المجسطي) and hundreds more years later when it was finally translated from Arabic to Latin, so smart folks in Europe could learn it, the name Almagest stuck. True, it was epicycular but that didn’t matter, it explained the motions of the stars and planets and how to predict elcipses. It named and accurately tabulated the location and brightness of over 1000 stars. Back when sines were chords it explained how to calculate distances and angles on spheres. My dad said today we call that spherical trigonometry. Here’s the deal: Ptolemy said Sirius was red! That’s right, the brightest star in the nighttime sky, a red dog like me! That is truly wonderful. But it is also a puzzle because Sirius is not red.

Sirius, the bright red dog in the sky, told the ancient Egyptians when to plant their crops, and its emanating energy caused the “dog days of summer”. Chances are you are chomping at the bit to find out how Sirius, that big red dog got up there in the sky. Well, there are lots of stories but apparently thousands of years ago there was this hunter named Orion who had two dogs. And, by the bye, Zeus, he was the king of all the gods, said enough is enough and elevated them all to immortal status as constellations in the night sky. Orion became the constellation Orion, and you can still see his belt and his sword, and the middle star in his sword is fuzzy because it’s not a star, it’s a nebula. My dad tells me stuff like that which drives me crazy because then I can’t get it out of my head. I’ve definitely got bigger fish to fry. Me and the interlopers went on a walk with my mom and dad and they bought trout at this place in the country and my mom fried them up and I got to lick the plates. That was a good day, and for just a little while I forgot about the Orion nebula.

Up there in the sky, near Orion are his two dogs. The big one is called canis major. Here is how that dog looks in an old map of the heavens:

Canis Major

Canis Major (big dog)

Look carefully and you will see that Sirius, the dog star, is his nose. More modern folks say it looks like this:

Canis Major (blue)

Canis Major (blue)(big) ©Dorling Kindersley

What’s going on here? Sirius, the dog star, is now the big dog’s chest. It moved! What do I know? I’m just a dog. Anyway, facts are fuzzy. Be sure to give Dorling Kindersley some money if you want to download this image. But why would you? I know, because it proves not all blue dogs are in Louisiana. (Private joke, you have to read comments).

Orion’s smaller dog is up there in the sky too. It looks like this:

Canis Minor

Canis Minor (Orion’s smaller dog)

By now you probably wish I had checked out, but surely you would like to know that there are two more dogs in the night sky and their names are Chara and Asterion. These two were the dogs of Boötes, the herdsman, and there are many stories about all this, which you will have to investigate on your own. Somehow they all ended up in the night sky as, the constellation Boötes, and the constellation Canes Venatici, which is Latin for ‘hunting dogs’. Here is how they looked on an ancient star map:

Canes Venatici

Canes Venatici (Boötes’ hunting dogs)

And here is how they looked to Erert Bode in 1782:

Boötes flees from the chariot--Erert Bode--1782

Boötes flees from the chariot–Erert Bode–1782 (bigger)

Hey, what’s going on here? Everything seems to be facing in the opposite direction! Maybe there is strength in numbers, since Aspin in 1825 agrees with Erert Bode, as you can see here:


Boötes–Aspin–1825 (big)

By now you know me. I saved the best for last. How could it get any better than a giant dog-bone in the sky? I kid you not. It’s for real. I can’t wait till my turn comes to join those immortal dogs in the sky. Would I ever like to chomp on this:

Dog bone in the sky

The giant dog bone in the sky (big)

That last image came from NASA as the astronomy picture of the day for May 10, 2000. It is as big as New Jersey and I know it will be there waiting for me when the time comes. Click here if you want to know more about it.

As always, your faithful friend,

Rita the dog