Thursday, May 29, 2014


Andy Warhol was an American artist who was born on August 6, 1928 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  His parents had come to America from Slovakia, which is why they had the foreign-sounding (to us) last name Varhola.  Over time, this name got Americanized to Warhol.  Andy's father worked in a coal mine.  He died in an accident when Andy was 13.

As a boy, Andy was sick a lot, and while he was stuck in bed, he spent time drawing and listening to the radio.  He also bonded very closely with his mother.  After high school, Andy attended the Carnegie Institute of Technology, where he studied commercial art.  He moved to New York City in 1949 and started working in the field of magazine illustration and advertising.

From 25 Cats Name Sam and One Blue Pussy

Andy Warhol started using the silkscreen printing process to make artwork from drawings or photos.
For subject matter, he chose objects such as soup cans, Coca-Cola bottles, and mushroom clouds.  He also produced paintings of famous people like Marilyn Monroe, Elvis Presley, and Elizabeth Taylor.  A lot of people thought these were strange things to make pictures of, but Andy Warhol became a leading  figure in the new Pop Art movement.  Now there is a museum in Pittsburgh dedicated to his work, and it's called The Andy Warhol Museum.  This museum has the largest permanent collection in the U.S. of works by a single artist.

Photo by Andy Warhol

Artwork by Andy Warhol

Mr. Warhol's mother loved cats, and she passed this love on to her son.  The two of them lived in a townhouse during the 1950s and 1960s, and they had about 25 cats there.  All the cats were named Sam except for one who was called Hester.  Friends remember that the Warhols were always giving away kittens.  Andy self-published a book called 25 Cats Name Sam and One Blue Pussy in 1954.  His mother lettered the cover wrong and put "Name" instead of "Named," but Andy didn't mind it that way, so he left it.

From 25 Cats Name Sam and One Blue Pussy

From 25 Cats Name Sam and One Blue Pussy

In 1973 Andy's partner, Jed Johnson, talked him into getting a dog.  The dog they got was a dachshund puppy called Archie.  Right away, Warhol fell in love with Archie.  He took the dog everywhere, even to restaurants, where Archie stayed hidden under the napkin in Andy's lap.  Archie also got to go to the studio, to art openings, to photo shoots, and to press conferences.  If Andy got asked questions that he did not want to answer, he referred those questions to Archie.

Archie, 1976 ©Andy Warhol

Amos, 1976 ©Andy Warhol

When Archie was 3, Andy got another dachshund named Amos.  The two dogs played together a lot, and Archie didn't want to go out with Andy anymore.  Instead, he wanted to stay home and play with Amos.

In his later years, Mr. Warhol lived alone in a five-story building.  He was surrounded by antiques, art, boxes of wigs, lots of cookie jars, and his two beloved dogs.  Andy died in a hospital due to heart failure after routine gall bladder surgery.  He was buried in Pittsburgh, PA.  Some of his paintings are among the most expensive ever sold.

Cat, 1976 ©Andy Warhol

Monday, May 26, 2014


As I recently told you in my blog post on May 19, Mom spent a day at Powell Botanical Gardens with the cactus club.  And while she was out there, she went to this area called Iris Hill, where there were lots of irises in bloom.  Mom took a bunch of pictures of irises, so now I will show those pictures to you.  Mom also brought a tick home with her, which bit her on the hand, but I will not show you the tick because Mom already sent it off to tick heaven.

Iris Hill at Powell Gardens

Lots of people grow irises in their yards because they are easy to grow, and they don't need a whole lot of attention.  The only thing is that every two or three years, you have to dig up the rhizomes (which are those things in the ground that the leaves grow up from), separate them, and plant them back again.

There are between 260 and 300 species of plants in the Iris genus, but the most common type of iris that people grow is the German bearded iris.  The "beard" is that fuzzy part on the petals.  It helps with pollination when a bee lands there and rubs off some pollen from another iris.  There are many iris hybrids in lots and lots of colors.  The only color of iris that people haven't been able to make so far is true red, just like they haven't been able to make a blue rose.

In Greek mythology, Iris was the rainbow personified, and she was also the messenger of the gods.  She was one of the goddesses of the sea and sky, and she linked the gods to humanity.  Her father was Thaumas, and her mother was the cloud nymph Electra.  Zeus sent Iris to the River Styx to bring back water in a ewer for the gods to swear by.  Another job she had was to use the water from the River Styx to put everyone to sleep who had perjured themselves.

In case you are wondering what Iris looks like, here's a painting of her that's in the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, where Mom works.  This painting was made by Guy Head, an English painter who lived from 1762 to 1800.

Iris Carrying the Water of the River Styx to Olympus
for the Gods to Swear By

Guy Head, ca. 1793

And now, here are pictures of irises that Mom took.  She was too lazy to write down the names of the various different types.  We don't have any irises in our yard, even though they are Mom's favorite flower.  Mom says our yard it too shady for irises because they like to grow in the sun.  If we had irises, I could report on whether they are good to eat, but we don't, so I can't.  If there are any dogs, cats, bunnies, or deer out there who have sampled this flower, maybe you can leave a comment on my blog and let me know.  I hate being in the dark about these things!

Thursday, May 22, 2014


Recently, the Guinness Book of Records said that a British cat named Poppy was the oldest living cat in the whole world.  Or at least the oldest cat that anybody knows about.  Poppy is a tortoiseshell kitty, and she was born in February, 1990, which means she is 24 years old.  In human years, she is 114.

Poppy and her birthday cake
Photo:  David Hedges/SWNS

The cat who used to be the oldest was named Pinky, and she lived in Kansas.  Pinky died last year at the age of 23.  The oldest cat ever was Creme Puff, in Austin TX, who lived to be 38 years and 3 days old, which totally blows my mind.

Anyway, when Poppy was 5, she was adopted by Marguerite Corner and her daughter Jacqui.  Then at age 10, she went to live with Jacqui and her future husband.  Now there are 2 boys in the family, plus 4 cats, 2 rabbits, and a hamster, in addition to Poppy.

As Poppy got older, she became deaf and blind, but she is still the boss of the house.  If one of the other cats tries to eat her food, she bites that cat on the ear.

Poppy posing with her family and Guinness certificate
Photo:  David Hedges/SWNS

Poppy's owner says that the cat has lived a long life because of good diet and lots of exercise.  "She keeps herself fit by walking around, and she eats a lot," says Jacqui.  "She has biscuits in the morning and tinned food later on.  She's never been a big cat, though."  Jacqui adds that Poppy also likes carryout food such as KFC chicken, fish and chips, or kebab meat.

There have been times when Poppy's health got very bad, and the family thought she would die.  But so far, she has always pulled through.  If she keeps doing that, maybe she will make it to 38, like that Texas cat did!

A generic elderly dog

It's harder to compare the records for the oldest living dog because the length of a dog's life depends a lot on what breed it is.  In general, small breeds live longer than big ones, but there are exceptions to every rule, or at least that's what people say.

Anyway, it turns out that Wikipedia has a list of all the dogs who have lived the longest.  There are 4 dogs on the list who are still alive, and if they stay alive, they might end up beating out the dogs with long lives who are already dead.  So here's the list of the 4 living dogs, which was last updated on May 21, 2014.

MINIUS -- rescued 1-16-85; at least 29 yrs, 125 days old; cross breed; Poland

SMOKEY -- born 1-18-86; 28 yrs, 123 days old; Shih Tzu, U.S.

BRICCIOLA -- rescued March 1989; 25+ years old; mutt; Italy

MICHAELA -- born 10-6-93; 20 yrs, 227 days old; Cairn Terrier, U.S.

Monday, May 19, 2014


On Saturday, Mom went to Powell Gardens, which is a botanical garden way far outside of town, but it's really interesting once you get there.  A bunch of people from the cactus club went there to show off some of their plants and also to sell some plants.  It was a nice day, not too hot and not too cold, so a bunch of people were at the Gardens, and several of them bought succulent plants.

Mom did not take any of us dogs out there because, sadly, dogs are not allowed in Powell Gardens.  I wish I could have gone because it would be a good place to explore and smell all the interesting scents and pee on stuff and maybe munch on a plant or two.  But Mom said this is exactly why dogs are not allowed at the Gardens and why she left me and Tristan and Marius home to guard the house instead.

Here's a picture of most of the cactus club people.  Mom is the one with the light green shirt.  It sort of looks like a big plant is growing out of her head, but it's not really.

In this picture, you can see Uncle Tony, who likes to grow hens-and-chicks, and Aunt Pat, who is the club treasurer.

Uncle Tony grows lots of different kinds of hens-and-chicks, like more kinds than you would ever think there could be.  Mom bought a few of them to put in some containers she has.  The plants are called "hens-and-chicks" because the bigger plants all make lots of baby plants.  I think a better name for them would be "bitches-and-pups," but nobody asked for my opinion.

Mom went out and walked around the Gardens for a while, and she took pictures of what she saw.  Here are some orchids:

And this is what you call a Golden Barrel Cactus.  If you live someplace like California or Arizona, these cacti grow in the ground all year.  In Missouri, you have to put them in a pot and bring them inside during the winter.  But usually they are not growing all strangely shaped and almost falling out of a wash tub, like this one is.

Here are a couple of flower beds near the visitors' center:

Mom took a bunch of pictures of plants that grow out from cracks in the wall.  A lot of these plants are succulents, so maybe that's why Mom likes these wall plants.

This is an azalea that was growing in the woods.  It's called White Exbury Azalea.

While Mom was at the Gardens, she also saw two elephants.

It kind of seems like Mom ended up at the zoo because she walked too far, but she didn't.  The elephants are part of a display called "Gardens Gone Wild: An Animal Art Adventure."  There will be 26 sculptures, and they were all made by a man named Dan Ostermiller, from Loveland, CO.  Most of the animals have not been installed yet, but it looks like there will be a bunch of bears, and also a bear-sized bunny.

Plus this giant chicken that is almost as tall as Mom.

Finally, Mom saw this cute family of Canada geese.  I thought it might be nice to have some goose meat for supper, but Mom told me the adult geese are lots bigger than a chihuahua, and they would peck me to death if I went anywhere near their babies.  Oh well, maybe I'll just be content with my regular dog food.

Thursday, May 15, 2014


Misinformation #1:

Lots of people think that Charles A. Lindbergh was the first person to fly nonstop across the Atlantic Ocean, but he wasn't.  In fact, he was the 67th man to make this flight!  The reason his flight was so famous was because he did it alone.  The very first nonstop flight was made in June 1919, by John William Alcock and Arthur Whitten Brown.

Alcock and Brown

They flew a two-engined Vickers from St. Johns, Newfoundland to Ireland.

Vickers Viking G EAOV
©IWM (Q73276)

Misinformation #2:

Eating fish is supposed to give you more brain power because fish has a lot of phosphorus, and that is the same stuff the nerve tissue in the brain is made of.  But there are other foods that will also give you phosphorus, such as meat, poultry, eggs, and milk.  So fish is not the only "brain food," and it might not even be the best.

Misinformation #3:

When you see pictures of holy persons such as saints, you often see a round thing above their heads.  The common name for one of these is a halo, but really it should be called a nimbus.  This is because a halo can be any sort of glowing disc, like for example, what you see around the sun during an eclipse.  But a nimbus specifically means the radiance that surrounds a godlike figure.

Misinformation #4:

If you fall off a boat, and somebody throws one of those ring things out to you, that ring is not called a life preserver.  The correct name for it is ring buoy.  A life preserver is what most people call a life jacket.  However, if you are drowning, my opinion is that you should grab anything that anyone throws out to you, even if you don't know the proper name for it.  At least that's what I would do!

Misinformation #5:

Many people have the idea that when the book Moby Dick was first published, readers were indifferent about it, and the critics were hostile.  Which caused the author, Herman Melville, to quit writing.  But this is not true.  The fact is that Moby Dick got a lot of attention, and 3 out of every 4 reviews was positive.  Mr. Melville went on to write a few more books.

Some of the delayed reaction to the novel was less positive, unfortunately.  Then a fire at the publishing house destroyed several hundred copies of Moby Dick, but not the plates it was printed from.  This is when the author decided to retire, and not sooner.


Misinformation #6:

Warts are not caused by handling toads.  But maybe you already knew that.  What some people don't know is that warts are caused by a viral infection, and they are contagious.  You get them from another person, though, and not from a toad.  There are as many as 10 varieties of warts.  Usually, they go away after a few months, but sometimes they can last for years.  Or they might keep going away and coming back, which can be really annoying.