It's not like you're using it

Mouser has developing a curious habit over the last couple of months. I have some empty flower pots on the patio. I didn't fill them with flowering vegetation this year, because I had a very disappointing experience with non blossoming plants last season. And frankly, I didn't have time to do gardening work because of my school work. Kitteh has been sleeping in them, it looks very homely and comfy.


Mona Lisa and Monuments Men

More lovely jubly booky wookies showed up on Friday morning. The postman rang the bell, but I was still in bed. He just left the parcels on the doorstep. Good thing it wasn't raining, the books would have been soaked through, They only came in a cardboard wrapping, just like the book I received teh last time. Must make a mental note of booksellers SpeedyHen and The Saint Bookstore. And try and avoid shopping with them if at all possible.
Again two more gems waiting to be read. I bought these two because I heard lectures on the books given at the National Gallery of Art in Washington (which were later broadcast as podcasts).

The first one is Mona Lisa in Camelot by Margeret Leslie Davies. It's about the political machinations (especially Jackie Kennedy's efforts) to get France's national treasure (the Mona Lisa) into Washington for an exhibit. Such a gesture at one of the key moments in the sixties is not void of any pejorative meanings. I remember the gist of the book from the lecture Leslie Davies gave at the museum, but I'd rather have a copy here in the house and re-read everything down to the last detail.

The other book is Monuments Men by Robert M. Edsel. It's about the MFAA (Monuments, Fine Arts and Archives section) of the Western Allied Forces. These people enlisted during World War II, were shipped to Europe to prevent the destruction and disappearance of some of the world's greatest masterpieces. A lot a the art works stolen by the Nazis across the continent were found and returned to their proper owners. But a lot are still missing. Which is an interesting read for an art detective wannabe.
Fun flicking through the pages and seeing a picture of the Madonna Michelangelo made and is still in Bruges today being removed from the salt mine in Altaussee.
The Mona Lisa, just like other works now securely in a museum give us the impression they've been there forever.
Not so. Most cultural property is easy to move and can arouse deep passions within a person (or even an entire nation). Not just in an art loving sense. Sometimes a darker motive for wanting to have a particular piece can cause strange things to happen.

Adventures in Cat Sitting (Finale)

My adventures in cat sitting came to an end on Wednesday evening as the Bartman and Shanghai Lilly returned from La Douce France.
They showed up on the doorstep to collect the key for the back door. I got a little present for my troubles. Two heart shaped smooth stones with Chinese inscriptions on them. One translates into 'Love' and the other 'Friendship'.
More tat but a nice gesture. A bottle of French plonk would have gone down nicely too.
So a quick update on how the rest of the cat sitting went:
* I ran out of cat food on day six. This could only mean either of two things: 1) I'd been feeding them too much. 2) They didn't buy enough before they went. I was quickly reassured when our Chinese friend reprimanded the Bartman by letting out a short but sharp 'See!'.
* I had to tell them about the big dead rat I had to clear away. The cats had been gnawing on it for a day or two, but it became nauseating, so I got rid of it and chucked it somewhere in their garden. I hope it has fully decomposed before they start looking for it.
* They were surprised at the fact that the two kittens have switched to solids. And I very clearly told them they need to take the mother kitteh to the vet to have it treated, because they'll have another bunch of kittens if they don't.
* The two little'ns were very active the last couple of days and had gotten used to me, my voice and my shoes. The specled one even tried to crawl up my leg to reach my lap. Which was rather painful, as I was wearing shorts at the time.
Dr Livingstone is glad I don't have to give them noms any more. He has a thing with cats. Can't stand them. Knee jerk reaction. I suspect trauma from a previous marriage.
But he loves Mouser. And Mouser loves him. Kitteh even brings him fresh hare straight from the field. And puts it right in front of the workshop. As a treat. Very thoughtfull, but very scary to find a decapitated hare on your doorstep.
Well, better than finding a decapitated horse in your bed anyway.


Opinionated and controversial

I just love waking up in the morning, having heard the postman's van and while my coffee water is boiling collecting the mail and finding ... another parcel!
I wasn't too pleased with the packaging though. It was wrapped in cardboard only, no bubblewrap. And it was a soft cover so it has little dents at the bottom of the cover.
The book is Prejudices: A Selection. It's a collection of works by H.L. Mencken. I got the 2006 John Hopkins UP edition. I can't believe I'd never heard of the man untill a couple of months ago. And I am a huge Mark Twain fan. And a sceptic. So this should be right up my ally because (as it says on the cover) the thirty-five essays in Prejudices are a stick of dynamite with a burning fuse.


It's a conspiracy!

Another book in the mail today! An extremely large package from PostScriptBooks. I thought it contained two books. I was a bit dissapointed when I peeled away the cardboard. BUT. What a book. Again one that was on ARCA's reading list for the Masters course. The Medici Conspiracy: The Illicit Journey of Looted Antiquities. From Italy's Toms Raiders to the World's Greatest Museums by Peter Watson and Cecilia Todeschini.
I like a bit of interesting investigative journalism.
Theft, smuggling, dealing, corruption, war, intrigue, illicit trade,...
And the book was a real bargain. I got a new 2006 hardback copy for only 7,69€. The price tag on the back said 15,99£!


On Ugliness

On Monday evening I finally plodded through Umberto Eco's On Ugliness. And a lot of plodding the book needed indeed.
Bear in mind before commencing that Eco is a semiologist, not an art historian.
As to the art history he has a stab at: it lacks both depth and accuracy. When I say he, I mean the other writers. The book was edited by Mr Eco.
It rakes up old suppositions and mismatched theories that have been debunked long ago by thorough research. It reflects more of Eco's own tastes instead of the consensus now generally circulating among historians. Granted, it does not try to present itself as a scolarly work, packed with references etc. But it does adopt a tone very much like it.
Even to the casual language savvy reader words like pancalistic, goliarchic, hypertrophic, demiurgic and antipetrarkism (yes, I did make a list of words I'd trouble understanding) are a bit much at times when he's simply stacking up the adjectives. (On a side note, I'm not the only one wondering about them). But then again, I'm reading a Dutch translation. Nevertheless, the book might appeal to someone needing an introduction to whatever kind of history in the humanities they’re into. For me, an art historian in the making, it was frankly, a waste of time.
I did enjoy a lot of the text excerpts Eco added to show some of the sources he bases his overview on. But, sadly, some of them give away the plot or crux of a novel because he cites the key passages. Luckily, most works are on my shelves and I have already read. (For the lulz: he reprints the end of Shelley’s Frankenstein).
It does include a bibliography at the end of all cited works, but, alas again, they are the translated titles with publishers mentioned and the last print date. Which is very annoying. It says thing like for instance:
Shakespeare, William
De storm
Bert Bakker, Amsterdam 1990

But the book has tons of pretty pictures to make up for it.
(I added that just to say something positive).

Number five is in da house

This time the postman (or woman, I couldn't tell, our hedge still hasn't been trimmed by our lazy landlord so I can't see out, feels like living in a vegetated prison) didn't walk up to the front door. Everything fitted into our letter box.
It was only a tiny parcel this morning. Another paperback, another thriller. Not a scientific one, but an art theft one. It is The Art Thief by Noah Charney. He's founder of ARCA (The Association for Research into Crimes against Art) and it's his first novel. It has an average of 2 1/2 stars on LibraryThing. So it has had a very mixed reception. And it's not just a case of 'you love it or you hate it'. There have been a lot of reviews posted by readers...

Something just occured to me. Noah. Arca. 't Iz très funny.

I can be such a child sometimes.


Pass the parcel

More books have arrived!
The postwoman was late today, but she brought three packages.
I'm looking forward to a mix of things. From the titles you will conclude I have too much diverse interest for my own good.
Fist up I opened the smallest one. It contained Final Theory by Mark Alpert. It's a scientific thriller (oh yes!) to do with Einstein's last secret that can save mankind... It's a what if novel. The blurb on the cover reads: 'If science is the new religion, Final Theory is the new Da Vinci Code.' That's a quote from the Times. Now, if I didn't know any better that quote would put me right off picking up that paperback. But I've heard Mark Alpert before on the SciAm podcast and read some of his (non-fiction) stuff, so I'll trust this will be a thrilling read and does not need a reference to a bestseller. You can even read the first chapter for yourself on Mark's website.

The second one (middle size) was a book I'd been meaning to get my hands on about two (or it could even be three) years ago. It was used by Professor Bob in his French Revolution podcast series (or was it famous women?). The Passionate Exiles by Maurice Levaillant (a translation). It's about the friendship between Madame de Stael and Madame Recammier. It is a bit dated (1958) but the book is in pristine condition, although it does have a slight whiff of mustiness about it. The book is based on a series of lectures Levailland gave at the Sorbonne before the Second World War on the ladies and their salons.
As I've completed the chronological art history courses at the university up till the eve of the French Revolution, it'll give me some background for next semester. Lovely. Can't wait to get my teeth into this one either.

And last of all, I opened up the biggest parcel. It's The Lost Masters: The Looting of Europe's Treasurehouses by Peter Harclerode & Brendan Pittaway. It's on the recommended reading list for those who were lucky enough to attend ARCA's Masters Program in International Art Crime Studies. I so desperately want to go to, but I simply just can't afford the tutorial fees. Which sucks. A lot. Belgium is a treasure trove for art thieves. I'd like to be one of the caped crusaders who tackles art crimes. There are currently only four (!) art crime inspectors dealing full time with art thefts. Anyway. I ordered more books on the list too. So I don't feel left out of the post grad course.

So you'll know where to find me over the course of the next few weeks. With my nose wedged up some musty books.


Same ambitions, same hair?

Sandra De Preter and Christina Von Wackerbarth similarities:
* Sanoma magazine management.
* Managing functions at the Flemish public broadcasting company.
* A streak of unsubtle grey hair.

Galileo's Daughter

I couldn't restrain myself from ordering books again. But I did try (honestly guv!). I was a very good girl and ordered (a very small amount) of what was on my wish list. I've never had such a speedy delivery. I'm using alibrisstrore.co.uk. They have a lot of old books out of print and work with different sellers who ship through them. I ordered them on Wednesday morning (21st), by evening I got a notification 6 of the 12 books had already shipped.
And this morning (23rd) the first one of them already showed up on the doorstep! \o/
Very chuffed.
It's Galileo's Daughter by Dava Sobel. I really enjoyed her book Longitude and read raving reviews about this one.
Here's a good plot summary:

This is the story of Galileo's life with actual historical record commentary from Vatican documents and the letters written by Galileo's daughter in a convent, the nun Sister Maria Celeste. We follow the development of Galileo's ideas and writings and how they were thwarted. We see Galileo support his children, especially this daughter, who supports him in return and comments on everything from the planets' revolution around the sun to what his housesitter should do with his wine while he's away at trial in Rome.

Can't wait to get started. But first have to finish The History of Ugliness by Umberto Eco.


Adventures in Cat Sitting. Day 4.

The little dears were all ready and waiting for me around 8.30 this morning.
It seems they do want to come into the house. I have a key to the back door to get at the noms and dishes, but it is getting kind of difficult to open and close the kitchen door without a cat sneaking in. And I don't want to be chasing a naughty lolcat round a stranger's house. Would feel pretty awkward.
And I'd probably knock something out of place, break a priceless vase or set the house on fire while groping for a kitteh playing hard to get. I can picture myself in one of those Inspector Clouseau-like scenes.
Yep. Bumbling about. That's me.

I do have to confess I took the Saturday news paper supplement with me.
I'll put it back where I found it when I've finished.

Well, it's not like their using it right now.


Adventures in Cat Sitting. Day 3.

Went to check on teh kittehs early this morning. The dark kitten was eating noms in the shade of the inaccessible plant. Lovely, freshly caught, delicious mouse! So it's on solids already.
All cats gathered round me when I went to sit in the grass and the fluffy family had finished their brekkers.
I'll look in again on them in the afternoon. Glad they're outdoor cats and I needn't clean some kind of cat toilet. I've seen PéPé making good use of the flower and vegetable beds.


Adventures in Cat Sitting. Day 2.

As it was a +30ºC day the kittens kept themselves out of view from midday on, sheltering under an inaccessible plant.
I managed two snaps of the brother and sister act (PéPé and TomTom in my book). TomTom is the cat with the eyes that look in different directions. He doesn't really like me. Or he can't see very well. Every time I want to stroke cross-eyed kitteh he darts off. Maybe my gently stroking gesture comes across as a threatening, violent lurch.


Adventures in cat sitting. Day 1.

The Bartman and Shanghai Lily are on vacation and they've asked, just before leaving for the Mont Ventoux, if I could feed their cats.
Things have changed around here since I first posted about Mouser's moonlighting. Kitteh is no longer welcome there. The Bartman has taken two kittens in from his daughter. Now one of them has mothered two more lolcats. They are 5 weeks old.
Very heartwarming.
The Bartman knows he shouldn't ask Mr Useless Farmer™ to look after his kittehs, as he is frankly -er- useless.
So Mrs B is cat sitting for the next 10 or so days.

One of the adult cats is called PéPé (I'm sure that must mean something in Chinese), I don't recall what the other one is called. I just call it TomTom.

So I just went up to feed them for the first time today. They didn't seem very hungry. It is incredibly warm again today. The kittens seem to be enjoying themselves. They are exceedingly sweet and fluffy and adorable and much more sugar-coated adjectives.

Tomorrow morning I'll bring my camera when I give them a feeding.

For now you'll have to get by with a few snaps I made with my phone.

Btw: the who kittehs haven't been named yet.
All suggestions welcome.


Not enough hours in a day

My apologies for the light posting not posting at all during the last month.

I have some very good excuses:

- I had a ton of exams (Everything went swimmingly. Got a first @ Antwerp & Louvain. Looking forward to next semester already)
- I went on a three day hiking holiday in Germany with Dr Livingstone and Middle Teen™ (will post later about that)
- Wimbledon was on (My computer was hooked up to the plasma screen because we don't have cable tv and all we could get on the digital antenna was flaming footie. So I had to stream the matches)
- Dr Livingstone is currently moving his workshop (ZOMG our garage is huge! Will post later when all is finished)
- Still have to write a thesis for my course in Antwerp. Been doing research (The Uni library is very quiet now. No students!)

Had Still have 1000 things to do:
- collect my new Airbook tomorrow (and visit my mother in law)
- help Dr Livingstone out with the workshop (I have temporarily assumed the name of Mrs Spic & Span)
- clean my Mini (the poor dear needs a good scrub down and a bit of love and attention)
- do a spot of gardening after the huge storm we had yesterday (and I haven't mowed the lawn in two weeks because of the oppressive heatwave)
- visit my grandmother (she's had another severe gout attack)
- get a bit of reading done (I'll have to brush up on my non existent Latin and Italian)
- clean our house (everything is caked in dust because of the extremely dry summer)
- get some sleep (and lots of it).


Dick Cheney Oil Spill

Google key words "Dick Cheney" and 'oil spill" and teh intertubes give you a lot of speculation about Dick Cheney's ties with top oil dogs, Halliburton and the disaster in the Gulf of Mexico.
Funnily enough in the newsfeed of our Flemish paper De Standaard two headlines showed up which struck me as rather funny:

06.25 am BP starts crucial tests oil spill
06.38 am Dick Cheney got heart pump