Wednesday, 20 February 2013

check the details, Michelangelo

A parcel arrived today, as exciting as  getting a present - books I'd ordered from Better World Books - they sell donated books, mostly second hand, postage is included in the low price and as their slogan explains they also donate books to increase literacy .... You buy, we donate - Book for Book.   

Big R (hubby) brings the parcel in from the mailbox. He grabs his book and scuttles away.  I look at the pictures in the patchwork book and then turn to the one I had been waiting to read,  on personality types.  A little disappointed that the writing is a bit wordy, concepts repeated as if talking to a six year old, but I can get used to that, and I have to learn to accept all writing styles, I tell myself.  But, very disappointed when incorrect information is presented to explain one of those concepts.  This really annoys me. Yes, we all remember bits of information we've picked up along the way but please check you've got it right before publishing it in a book.   I've noticed that as I get older my ability to recall something I've read is not as good as it once was. You need to double check, even if you think you're sure.  I've even found a strong memories of something I have done can be wrong at times too ...  while I'm usually pretty good at remembering, being very visual I can often take myself back in my mind to 'see' things again, but there have been times when memory failed me or played tricks ...  like the day I returned the floor fan that only worked for half an hour.  I took it back to Big W.  I had a clear memory of buying it there a few weeks before - I was positive. But I had lost the receipt .... 

'It's not in the system, we don't sell these', said the lady on the returns counter, staring at her computer. 
Trying to appear that I knew what I was talking about I declared that I had a very good memory and I definitely bought it there. 
'But it's not even our brand!' she said.  'I think you bought this from Woollies'.

And, yes I had - it all came back to me - the fans on sale, only a few left, me pushing aside the crumpled box covered in sticky tape to pull the box in good condition from the top shelf .... yes, I did buy it at Woollies.  Oh dear.  They were very nice and gave me my money back.

But, back to the book.  I think it's okay that I quote a short passage while not giving the author's name.   The paragraph is titled;  It's What's Underneath That Counts.

When Michelangelo was ready to carve the statue of David, he spent a long time in selecting the marble, for he knew the quality of the raw material would determine the beauty of the finished product. He knew he could change the shape of the stone, but he couldn't transform the basic ingredient. Every masterpiece he made was unique, for even if he had wanted to , he would not have been able to find a duplicate piece of marble. Similar, but not the same.

This all sounds very nice and I see what she is doing, talking about temperament, getting to know the real you underneath etc etc.  She has been creative in using this example to show quality underneath but it would have been wise to double check the story because anyone who has read about Michelangelo, or who enjoys art documentaries on TV, or is interested in art history would know, as I did, and as Big R did, that Michelangelo did not choose the marble for the statue of David!

The true story is almost as famous as the statue.  Google will throw up a lot more details, but ...  long before Michelangelo was even involved, some very influential people - Overseers of the Office of Works of the Duomo (Operai), made plans for a series of twelve large Old Testament sculptures for the buttresses of the cathedral of Santa Maria Del Fiore.  This was in Florence.  So, in 1410 they had a famous sculptor, Donatello (not the ninja turtle), create the figure of Joshua in terracotta.  

Then in 1463 they ordered a  statue of Hercules, (I didn't know he was an old testament character) from a Florentine sculptor Agostino di Duccio - though it's assumed that he was working under Donatello. The following year, 1464,  they ordered another sculpture from Agostino, this one was to be David.

Now, this part is important - they provided a block of marble -  they had it brought down from the alps in northern Tuscany, at great expense - so Agostino didn't even choose it.  He started work on the legs and for no reason that is remembered, just stopped.  Then Donatello died in 1466 and the block of marble sat around for ten years before the sculptor, Antonio Rossellino, was commissioned to finish it. But, he was fired and the huge block of marble sat in the yard of the cathedral workshop for 25 more years.

A block of marble from Tuscany - not the original
Finally they looked for another sculptor - and Michelangelo di Lodovico Buonaroti Simoni, known as Michelangelo, a sculptor, painter, architect, poet and engineer won the commission. He was only 26 years old - the block of marble had been quarried and transported to Florence before he was even born - so he didn't choose the block of marble.
After thinking about the design for a few weeks he started carving on Monday, 13 September, 1501 and worked until 25 January, 1504.  Both Michangelo and the statue of David had further adventures but this is where we stop for now.

As the coming together of Michelangelo and the David marble is such a BIG story, spanning over 35 years and involving some famous names and so well known by so many people, you'd wonder how someone could get it so wrong.    Why use it at all?  And, if you must, why not check that you have the facts? And once you had used it, why did no one tell you it was incorrect?  Is it too late for me to do that - it's an old book, printed in 2000 but the original copyright is 1986.
By the time I'd reached Woollies with my fan I had remembered buying it and also remembered buying our similar style but better quality older fan in Big W two years before! - time just goes so fast these days. But, before I remembered. I was on my way to check that what I had been told was correct and that what I remembered was not.... just in case.  So, this is good advice indeed.

And yes, my returning the little squat floor fan is not really a good example to use for getting the details of the marble wrong but then, I don't agree with using a made up scenario involving a well known artist is a good example of the possible quality of our temperament underneath our personality - and that is my point.

Sunday, 17 February 2013


Today I saw a poster for The Yellow Dog Project Australia - very interesting and something I intend to look into,  but it brought to mind my own, sort of related, yellow dog tag /ribbon /bandana /bow story which actually started mid 2011.... scene fades to white....            

I was lying on my back with the physiotherapist's fingers digging into my neck, not an unpleasant experience, sort of like gentle traction, feeling relaxed and listening to her talk about her new kitten and a visit to their vet.  Then, remembering that I had a dog, she passed on another part of her conversation with the vet. 
Every year he visits Primary Schools in the area, talking to Year 1 or Year 2 students about pet care and safety around animals, often taking his own dog as an assistant. It has been very successful for years and the schools encourage it. However, this year he found that the children were uncomfortable with the dog in the room, in fact they moved away from his dog and some children appeared upset. The dog is black and some children can be frightened by the dark colour, so as it's often best to ask children if they are uncomfortable, he did.  It turned out that a few days before this class had a visit from a representative of the local council dog pound, talking about dog registration.  I'm not sure why they did this and have not heard of it before. But, that person told the children to beware of dogs with yellow registration tags as it is a sign of a dangerous dog. The vet's dog had a yellow tag ... because for years and years the local council dog registration tags were all YELLOW.

2011 Rufous with the yellow tag
I was amazed at what I was hearing.  My dog had a yellow tag too. Originally it was a metal disk that got bent and scratched and eventually fell off and was replaced, twice I think.  Then one year, about five years before, the council produced very hard wearing plastic yellow tags and mailed them to all registered dogs.  

As soon as I got home I phoned the vet in question, spoke to his wife, the practice manager, and she confirmed the story. That particular school visit have been the year before.  I asked if they had contacted council to confirm it and she said, no.  Our vet was next and I asked if she was aware of the yellow tag marking a dangerous dog. She had not heard anything about it.

I do confront issues, in that I will go to the origin and ask questions and do what I can to get to the truth - and I find it really difficult to understand why other people don't do that too. 

My next phone call was to the dog pound, except that (just like the cemetery as I discovered some time later on a totally unrelated issue) you cannot talk to them. So, I had a conversation with the council receptionist in which I asked questions and she related my question, or comment, to someone else, somewhere else, and came back to me with the answer.  Long story short, it was all correct. 

Yes, the council had issued yellow plastic dog registration tags for at least 5 years. 
Yes, their representative did visit schools at times,
No, they were not sure why that council rep would have given the information about dangerous dogs. 
Was it true that dangerous dogs had yellow tags?
Well, yes.  Dangerous breeds and other dogs deemed dangerous were to wear special yellow tags, but those tags were not issued by the council, owners had to source their own!  I was dumbfounded. 
So, dangerous dogs were to wear yellow tags and all other dogs registered in the last five years or had replacement tags in the last five years also wore yellow registration tags! 
Because the yellow stands out.
So if a dog was to be registered tomorrow, would it be issued with a yellow tag? 
Why not? 
Because the new registration tags are blue.
My next two questions were not answered. 
Why they had not notified the owners of dogs with yellow tags that the tag colour had been changed?
Are you aware that vets in the area did not know about yellow tags for dangerous dogs? 
Then I asked if she could tell me which dogs were deemed dangerous.
No, they could not share that information. 
So, what if I was unhappy with my dog wearing a yellow tag, could I get a blue one? 
She wasn't sure about this. It would probably cost too much to replace all the tags - they were made of special plastic .... they would just replace tags that had been lost or damaged. 
So, if my dog lost his yellow tag the council would replace it with a blue tag?
Yes, that's right. 
Oh dear, my dog has just lost his tag.  Can I apply for a replacement please? 
Yes, what's your address?      

2012 Rufous with his blue tag
A few days later we received a new blue registration tag in the mail. This was February 2012.  It's not as pretty as the yellow tag and now many people ask me why he has a BLUE TAG !

I thought of calling the council back six months later to see if anyone else had a problem, but I didn't.  It was all just too sad.  I didn't hear anything more about yellow tags or dangerous dogs etc.  We don't get out much and don't mix with dog people so I assumed I was just out of the loop.   I toyed with the idea of writing it all  for the newspaper or even phoning a reporter to see if it was newsworthy, but honestly, the whole yellow tag thing was so discouraging that I gave up.

Until today when I saw this poster on facebook and I googled it.  Firstly I only found websites from the UK or Sweden about issues with the military who want the yellow ribbon as their thing for soldiers, not for dogs, but finally found a facebook page and then a very new Australian website. 

It's not the same idea as our council deal, of course. The yellow dog project is to assist the owners of dogs that have some special need or reason to be left alone. The dog could be recovering from injury or under special training, it could be old and cranky, sick, adjusting to a new home, overly friendly and enthusiastic (like my Staffie), antisocial or have some other reason for just needing a quiet walk, unmolested by other dogs or dog owners.  Yay!               

I take my dog for a walk up to the road. Even though he has acres and acres for running and chasing, he likes to sniff for messages left by other dogs, and leave his own on every blade of grass - it's his little treat for collecting the mail with one of us, and he is on the lead for that walk.  

Unfortunately we are often accosted by neighbour's dogs, allowed to run free around the area, and I am suddenly inside a situation that could be unfriendly.  Or, I might see another person with their dog on a lead and they assume that we have dogs in common and the dogs will automatically be good mates.  Well, not with my dog they won't.  He will run circles around them until he froths at the mouth, he'll cover them with saliva and flip them over on their back, mouthing and making throat noises and dribbling all over them until he is on the verge of collapse from exhaustion. Any people in the way will be scratched, jumped on, wrapped in the lead and slobbered over.  He sees this as a normal friendly approach and we do what we can to control that it does not happen.

One day a new neighbour turned up at our house with her dog, no lead, just her very large, completely male, dog trotting behind her.  While I wish I had a dog who would walk like that instead of like a runaway train, I had to protect her, and her dog, as well as myself and my dog from what would have happened if my 21 kgs of Staffie dynamite had broken through the quickly shut door and barrelled across the yard at what looked like 40kgs of lab/mastiff. I shouted at her to take her dog home.  Not a good way to befriend neighbours. Also, being an organic farm we like to keep visits from other animals to a minimum - tell that to the random cows and horses that show up in the paddock by the dam, or the dozen or so wallabies coming out of the bush in search of water.

We've worked out routines for people who come to our house, even family members. Sometimes Rufous is put out of sight and sometimes he's bribed with dog biscuits by visitors who have been warned to wear jeans and never look him in the eye.  It's impossible to pat Rufous because he is too busy trying to jump to shoulder height, raking legs with his claws on the way up and down while sucking arms up to the elbow. If there is a next time my vote will be for a female Staffordshire Bull Terrier in the hope that she will be more sensible.

So, now I am aware that by having something yellow, a bow or ribbon or bandana, on the dog or on the lead where it can be clearly seen from a distance, I am announcing that my dog needs space for a good reason, so please keep away.  The trouble is, how many other people know this,  (I wonder where that old yellow tag got to?) and can other dogs read tee shirts or tell ribbon colours?