Thursday, May 25, 2017

Humanities weaves a beautiful tapestry of humanity

- is a beautiful tapestry of humanity
- brings out the sense of awe and wonder
- builds on the framework of truth and values
- brings out the human spirit
- brings tranquility in crisis
- is guardian of movements and schools
- aims at goodness and peace
- is keeper and pioneer of the arts
- faces challenge of the cyber age
- is the keeper of the network of humanity
Dr Abe V Rotor
“Son, what do you remember as the happiest moment in your life?” asked a dying old man at his deathbed.
“When we went fishing, dad, and caught fireflies on our way back to camp.”

The old man smiled his last. It was a parting sealed by sweet memory of father-child relationship.

Humanities brings out the sense of awe and wonder

Humanities brings out the sense of awe and wonder, specially to the young, of the things around , of life processes and cycles, the passing of seasons and ages. It makes one aware of even the minute existence of things, the transformation of the ordinary into something beautiful.

Wonder the summer night, camping by a lake, home outside of home,
no roof but the sky, no walls, no gate, stars and fireflies mingle as one;
Wonder the breeze blow and weave through the trees, comb the grass,
carry into the sky kites of many colors and make greeting the rainbow;

“The sense of wonder is indestructible, that it would last throughout life, an unfailing antidote against the boredom and disenchantment of later years.” Says Rachel Carson, author of an all-time favorite novel, Silent Spring. It is true, the sense of wonder prepares the young to face and conquer the world.

Humanities builds on the framework of truth and values

Even with few words the mind is set to explore, giving way to imagination beyond mere reason. Brevity is the framework of the mind, the heart and spirit in the Lord’s Prayer and the Gettysburg Address of America’s most loved leader, Abraham Lincoln. It is also a path to humility in greatness, a union of the classical and the contemporary.

If the story of the Creation can be told in 400 words, if the Ten Commandments contain 297 words, if Lincoln’s immortal Gettysburg Address was only 266 words, if an entire concept of freedom was set in the Declaration of Independence in about 1,300 words – it is up to some of us to use fewer words, and thus save the time energy, vitality, and nerves of those who must read or listen. (Jerome P Fleishman)

Humanities brings out the human spirit

Guernica, a plaza mural made by the greatest modern painter Pablo Picasso, ignited popular revolt against the Nazi regime. On the huge mural were embedded hidden images that conveyed principles of truth and freedom.
Spolarium by Juan Luna  Similarly, in an earlier era, our own hero Juan Luna painted Spolarium, (centerpiece of the National Museum), a mural depicting the Filipinos under Spanish rule suffering like the gladiators during the Roman times, a visual message for the people to realize their plight. Later Rizal’s Noli Me Tangere, one of the greatest books ever written in the category of War and Peace by Tolstoy, and Les Miserables by Victor Hugo, extolled the coming of a new world order – post-colonialism and the birth of new nations.

Humanities brings tranquility in crisis

It may be strange to know that Winston Churchill, the great English hero of WWII, still found time to paint by the bank of the Thames. Arts bring tranquility in times of crisis, and elevate the senses on a higher vantage plane of vision. Putting down his brush and easel, he would then return to the battlefield with greater revolve to save Great Britain from the ravaging war. And to a greater surprise, what was it that Churchill painted? Peace.

It was the other way around five hundred years earlier when the great Michelangelo who single handedly painted the huge ceiling of the Sistine Chapel would descend from the scaffolding, exchanged his paint brush with sword and fought side-by-side his benefactor the Pope, and when victory was apparent would climb back to finish his masterpiece. The result: the biggest composite mural that brought God, the angels and saints, down to earth., making the Sistine a microcosm of the Kingdom of Heaven.

Humanities is guardian of movements and schools

From the paintings of early man in the Lascaux caves in France, to the surrealism of Salvador Dali, humanities has kept faithful to the evolution of human creativity expressed in various aspects of human life, pouring out from palaces and cathedrals to the villages and streets. For arts no longer belong to selected societies and cultures. Impressionism took over Romanticism and translated Realism for the grassroots, subsequently bypassing standards of perception, and permeating into the unconscious seeking expression and catharsis. 

                                        On-the-spot-painting contest, UST 

Expressionism founded by Vincent Van Gogh opened a wider door to abstractionism that subsequently spilled into post-modernism.

“What’s abstract? a young art enthusiast
once asked, dutifully I answered:
“When you look through the window of a car
running so fast that views are blurred.”

                 Native flower bouquet, Mt Makiling, Laguna   

“What’s expressionism?” an elder one asked;
“When the car stops, or just about,
yet still running inside, seeking, searching
for the spring of life to pour out.”

“And what is impressionism?” a third asked,
and I said: It’s sitting on a fence -
On one side Amorsolo, the other Ocampo,
It’s the spirit of art past and hence. ~

Humanities aims at goodness and peace

Propagandism and license are perhaps the greatest enemy of Humanities. The world plunged into two global wars, followed by half a century of cold war - the polarization into opposite ideologies that froze mankind at the brink of Armageddon, awakening Humanities to a new dimension - the search for peace.

"Peace starts with our children." AVR 

And as in the Renaissance, Humanities centered on rebirth and renewal of man’s faith in his destiny. Peace reigned the longest in contemporary times in spite of local conflicts. And for a century or so Humanities blossomed into wide popularity and acclaim, and rich diversity today, dominating media, commerce, industry and in practically all aspects of life, which often venture on the boundaries of humanities itself, among them pornography, religious extrememism, aculturation, among others.

Museum of Natural History, UPLB
Humanities is keeper and pioneer of the arts

Humanities gave the world the finest of human achievements and continues to do so - timeless classics from novel to cinema, painting to photography, colonial design to high rise structures, stage play to TV and Internet show. Man’s glory is akin to humanities - Venus de Milo, Taj Mahal, Borobodor, Eiffel Tower, Hallelujah, Romeo and Juliet, West Side Story, The Little Prince. to name a few.

Jeepney, Filipino art 

Humanities discovered superstars like Elvis Priestley and Michael Jackson, and our own local sensations, Leah Salonga and Charisse Pempengco.

Humanities faces challenge of the cyber age

But arts has also plunged into a deep and unknown global pool bringing across the world cultures heretofore unknown and appreciated, and riding on postmodernism into the chartless world of cyberspoace. Which leads us to a puzzle, Quo vadis, Humanus?

Humanities is the keeper of the network of humanity

We are the World – the song that united the world by the compassion it created for the dying is perhaps the greatest humanitarian movement in recent times, originally USA to Africa in the eighties, and was repeated during the Haiti disaster twenty years later. Translated by different races, beliefs, ideologies into a common call, it brought consciousness to the whole world, that humanity is a network, a closely knit fabric beautifully expressed in the lyrics of the song -

There comes a time
When we heed a certain call,
When the world must come together as one.
There are people dying
And it’s time to lend a hand to life,
The greatest gift of all

We are the world
We are the children
We are the ones who make a brighter day
So let’s start giving
There’s a choice we’re making
We’re saving our own lives
It’s true we’ll make a better day
Just you and me .

It is a most fitting tribute to mankind through this song, that no man is an island, that when somebody dies, a part inside each of us also dies, and for every man’s victory, we too, feel triumphant. Humanity is a beautiful tapestry, and Humanities is Arachne on the loom.~.

“Humanities holds the greatest treasure of mankind.“

In summary, Humanities

- is a beautiful tapestry of humanity
- brings out the sense of awe and wonder
- builds on the framework of truth and values
- brings out the human spirit
- brings tranquility in crisis
- is guardian of movements and schools
- aims at goodness and peace
- is keeper and pioneer of the arts
- faces challenge of the cyber age
- is the keeper of the network of humanity

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

What makes an unfinished work of art a masterpiece?

If you have any unfinished work of art - say a painting, literary manuscript -  which you may have put aside, re-visit it.  Who knows it might turn out to be your masterpiece.
Dr Abe V Rotor 
Image result for Venus de MiloArt leaves something to the viewer that completes it even if it is unfinished. Why Venus de Milo doesn't have arms! She might have had before, so contemporary artists tried to reconstruct the statue. They failed at the end and unanimously agreed Venus is most beautiful as she is. How beautiful she is with imagined arms looming in the fertile mind of the viewer. 

Ernest Hemingway couldn't finish his novel, The Old Man and the Sea. After many attempts, a wastepaper basket by his side, he succeeded in ending up the story the way he intended to be. And his readers are delighted. The novel won the Pulitzer Prize, and Hemingway himself the Nobel Award.

Beethoven's Unfinished Symphony is among the best examples of a masterpiece that was never finished yet became the composer's signature. 

So with Gaudi’s Sagrada Familia cathedral (photo). Gaudí devoted his last years to the project, and at the time of his death at age 73 in 1926, less than a quarter of the project was complete. Fortunately after the architect's death, construction resumed and the cathedral became a landmark in Barcelona, Spain . 

Adoration of the Magi, an unfinished painting by Leonardo da Vinci remains one of the best Renaissance paintings. Similarly here are other examples. 

  • Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s Kubla Khan 
  • Sir Edward Elgar was composing a Symphony No. 3 at the time of his death and left 130 pages of sketches. 
  • Orson Welles’ The Other Side of the Wind .           He
  •  left behind numerous unfinished films.
  • Hendrix’s First Rays of the New Rising Sun 
  • J. S. Bach's The Art of Fugue breaks off abruptly, and was completed by other composers. 
  • Franz Schubert's Symphony No. 7 and 10 was completed by Brian Newbould 
  • Mark Twain took 20 years to write three versions of The Mysterious Stranger but he did not finish any of them. 
Who really decides when a work of art is finished? The initial reaction is, "It is the artist." Many viewers may not agree. Perhaps because the preconceived idea did not get across. Or the signature doesn't ring a bell.

Now this is the bias. There's a saying, "the singer and not the song." Many people look at a Picasso, Picasso; Amorsolo as Amorsolo. It's the Imprimatur that counts. So whether finished or not, a work of art may be regarded beautiful. Thus it is not only in the eyes of the beholder.

Unfinished works may not just gather dusts, or forgotten for nought, their fate lies in the artist's favor, or that of artists that take over its completion, often putting in their own variation. Franz Kafka's unfinished writings were released after his death despite his wishes for them to be destroyed.

So if you have any unfinished work of art - say a painting, literary manuscript -  which you may have put aside, re-visit it.  Who knows it might turn out to be your masterpiece.

Michelangelo's Prisoners, or Slaves, were begun for the tomb of Pope Julius II but never finished.In its entirety – including the Dying and Rebellious Slaves in the Louvre and the statue of Moses on the final, reduced version of the tomb eventually erected in Rome – this constitutes the greatest unfinished masterpiece in the world. Yet Michelangelo did not leave things unfinished out of laziness. It is an aesthetic choice. The tragic power of these prisoners as they struggle to emerge out of raw stone is an expression of the human condition that equals Shakespeare's Hamlet. (Internet)

Auguste Rodin was more interested in rough, blemished representations of the human body than idealized forms. He painstakingly immersed himself in his projects, sometimes spending years in order to develop a work of art, regardless of the public’s response. His sculpture was often judged harshly by the public and by critics. Rodin had a penchant for reusing old molds and reworking his earlier ideas.He would continue to alter an existing form until it developed a new identity and a new narrative. Rodin transformed a major work, a bronze sculpture—over the course of two decades—and titled it, The Walking Man.(Internet)

Benjamin West's painting of the delegates to the Treaty of Paris which ended the American Revolutionary War. Out of shame for their country's defeat, the British delegates refused to pose and so the portrait was never finished. St. Thomas Aquinas stopped work on his Summa Theologiae in 1273 after a mystical experience. (Internet)

Your first work is a masterpiece

Dr Abe V Rotor
Old photograph of one of my earliest paintings. I never saw 
this painting again. (oil on plywood, 10" x 12") circa 1965

Don't throw away your early work 
if not in favor of your judgment
or of others; you are not the critic
nor they, but time and art,

for it could be your masterpiece,
the window of your soul,
its expression at the break of dawn,
when light is fresh and pure. 

and through the years to old age,
your work unfolds to the world,
the stirrings of your youth
seeking perfection in dream.

And imperfection is all it shows, 
a felled tree half buried lives on
in a hill of flowering weeds,  
ephemeral and beautiful.~ 

Famous first work as unfinished masterpieces 

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Wheels of Rainbow

Dr Abe V Rotor 

 Wheels of Rainbow mural showing details (5ft x 8 ft) by AVRotor, June 6, 2012

They come through prism splitting the light of heaven,
     In joyful, glorious colors of seven,
Each color the color of life in joy and sorrow,
     Today and the promise of tomorrow,

Wheels of fate to wheels of destiny in man’s hand,
     They all come down to the faithful in band,
Through time and space on the road of man’s lifetime,
     Whether this or another or over the clime.

Old as they may or new, while others are yet to be born,
     Their origin is the same – goodness sworn;
Passport to the way beyond this life each one must earn
     Above the material, blind faith and yearn.

They come down in gears spinning, large and small
     Moving constantly bouncing like a ball,
The essence of competition, the essence of oneness,
     How one plays in compassion and goodness.

Claim for heaven alone by the book and tongue is falsehood,
     Veering from the chain peace and unity should;
Poor orphan of humanity, the very core of faith,
     Forlorn, and man returns to his own fate.

But where is heaven, what is the afterlife, ask the people,
     As they look at the sky and the totem pole,
And losing faith they break away from the holy bond,
     Alas! walk down the road of a vagabond.

They pray for heaven to come down, out from the blue,
     The long Promise to billions waiting to be true,
Where the discs as one on some fertile ground must grow
     Into one Eden arched by the rainbow. ~

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Big Bang – the Origin of Life

Dr Abe V Rotor
Big Bang (19" x 23") painting by the author 2012

Once upon a distant past, a proto mass 
     of converging gases, too huge 
to hold on in space exploded -
     the Big Bang like a centrifuge.  

Born the universe and galaxies
     in countless numbers expanding,
countless more, orphans in space,
     our known world but a sibling.

Were this true - life so little do we know
     today from its very spawn; 
move over Oparin, move over Darwin, 
     theories past and our own. ~

The Lonely Island

Dr Abe V Rotor 
                                                                        Danajon Reef, Bohol 

Let life's burden to ease,
    in ripples and rivulets, 
save the passing breeze, 
    whispers like clarinets.

and the sun in lazy haze
    blankets the cold and old,
veils the face pained by grief, 
    and conquers the bold.~

I love to paint fish in the deep

Paintings by Dr Abe V Rotor
Which way is in, which way is out?
a school of fish moving about.

Fish imprisoned among the weeds, 
their nests, food and other needs.

Piggy ride for joy in the deep, 
a mother for its young to keep.

The color red to revere,
to rule the deep by fear.  

 Forest of the sea, forest on land, 
 the Creator's contiguous plan. 

Riddle in hide and seek, 
mimicry of the meek.

Christmas every day among the coral reefs,
to humans, save a Season, the world sleeps. 

 Like cavemen before, fish live in cavern,
allegory of the cave they didn't learn. 

Survival -  bloody, rough, ruthless, yet the rule,
like men, the brave triumphs, woe to the fool. 

The Art of Diorama: Museum of Natural History, UPLB Laguna

The Art of Diorama: Museum of Natural History, UPLB Laguna 
Photographed and Edited by Dr Abe V Rotor
Living with Nature School on Blog []
Philippine Eagle lords over the vast landscape atop Mt Apo, its home. Fewer and fewer sightings tell us the bird may soon join the list of extinct animals - if we don't protect its remaining population estimated to be less than a thousand
The idea of a diorama is likened to a showcase in a mall. It is an enclosure of glass, multi-dimensional so that the viewer enjoys a natural panoramic scenery - foreground and background, ground and ceiling, and a spacious center view for the main subject.  From one side to the other, and back, the viewer finds freedom of vision to explore the whole diorama.  

Natural history dioramas gain attention to naturalness.  The stuff animals look real, a pond reveals the secret of its bottom.  Water always looks fresh and invigorating.  Trees and the whole vegetation retain their freshness. Depth of field leads the eye to the farthest point disappearing in thin air. 

Emphasis is given to interaction of the living with the non-living world, the  interrelationships of organisms in food chains and food webs, and by the flow of energy from one organism to another.  

A diorama artist is multi-skilled: he is a sculptor, a painter and an architect.  Above all,  he is a scientist who understands the working of biology and ecology.  He must be a naturalist, and being one, must uphold the philosophy of reverence for life that makes man the custodian of creation. 

The Museum of Natural History is an educational center with a sprawling natural setting - Mt. Makiling, a tropical rainforest reached in three hours from Manila. It is a world-famous center of studies and researches in agriculture, environment and many related sciences, including humanities.  

I recommend the place for a whole day educational field trip. An itinerary includes the Mt Makiling Botanical Garden, tour of UPLB campus (agriculture and forestry) and the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI). Special lectures and guided tours may be arranged. Packed lunch under the trees is a rare experience.  Nature photography, is at its best - so with on-the-spot composition (drawing, musical sketch, poetry). 

Happy field trip!
The Hornbill is another endangered Philippine bird.  The first and last time I saw hornbills was in the seventies at the tip of Luzon along the treacherous Patapat road joining the Ilocos Region and Cagayan Valley. They are a closely knit family moving on the forest canopy. Their call is heard far and wide.  It is resonated by their big hollow bills and echoed by big trees and cliffs.  
Cave bats in a simulated habitat.  Being nocturnal, the bats hunt from flying insects in the dark locating their prey through echolocation, the principle of the radar.Their droppings make a huge guano deposit mined for agriculture. 
A rare rodent that lives on trees in Palawan, the last bastion of rare animal species, among them the porcupine, mouse deer and anteater.  
Nesting pigeons keep vigil for intruders and predators. Masters of camouflage they blend with the surroundings and remain extremely quiet and still at the sign of danger. But when imminent, the mother bird stealthily dashes to another place and decoys away the attention of the enemy.  
 Instead of a diorama, the actual skeleton, and replica, of a whale  are displayed for anatomical and morphological study. In  the Smithsonian the blue whale, the biggest creature that ever lived on earth spans the length of a hall the size of a typical chapel. 
Tree mushroom garden 
 A cluster of nature dioramas, each an ecosystem pristine and unspoiled.  
 Centennial celebration of UPLB, pictorials at the museum's lobby. 
Author and wife are among the countless visitors.   

"Go forth and multiply." An identification test.

"Now as for you, be productive and multiply; spread out over the land and multiply throughout it." International Standard Version

Dr Abe V Rotor

Identify the following organisms and tell how they reproduce. 
1. Clue: egg mass of a kind of insect.

2. Clue: Pods of the biggest legume in the world

3. Clue: Shellfish in the wild

4. Clue: Mosaic virus of a plant family that can remain 
dormant for as long as 20 years.
5. Clue: Nitrogen-fixing nodules.
6. Clue: immature stage of housefly 

7. Clue: popularly referred to as plant lice living at the axils and
underside of leaves

8. Clue: saprophyte, lives on dead wood

9. Clue: pods of wild orchid

10. Clue: flower emerges separately from vegetative phase, emits foul odor to
attract flies to pollinate, scientifically 
Amorphophallus campanulatus.

1. Egg mass of preying mantis, 2. seeds of acacia (dicot), 3. eggs of oyster, 4. mosaic virus of tobacco, Family Solanaceae, 5. Rhizobium bacteria of legumes  6. maggots hatched from eggs of housefly, 7. young of aphids (Aphis maydis or A. gossypii),  8. Ganoderma shelf mushroom by spores 9. seeds of a wild orchid, 10. seeds of pongapong (Amorphophallus campanulatus)