Weird Goings-On with Winsor & Newton Color

You know for a fact that Winsor Green is PG7 or PG36, depending on whether it is, respectively, blue shade or yellow shade, right?

Not anymore, it ain’t. A new 14ml tube of Winsor Green Blue Shade arrives here without any fanfare. It is numbered 719 as Winsor & Newton has always numbered it. But it isn’t the same paint at all. In fact, the pigment inside the tube isn’t even green but officially yellow. (It looks green to me.) There is no, repeat no, PG7 or PG36 anywhere near this #719 Winsor Green Blue Shade, nor any other “Green” pigment.


As far as I can tell, nobody announced the change. It just happened one fine morning, for reasons unknown. Months later Jackson’s in London, the suppliers of my tube (hereinafter “the evidence”), haven’t changed their netsite, which still gives the superseded information that Winsor Green Blue Shade is made with PG7.


Winsor Green Blue Shade, still numbered #719, is now made with PY184,
which stands for Pigment Yellow 184.

I suppose, after that shocker, it isn’t overly surprising to discover that a century-and-some old English colorman with a Royal connection (Good Queen Vicky’s fave brushmaker’s Series Seven is still named after the brushes she commanded Winsor & Newton to make) cannot even spell “lightfastness”.

Or perhaps that is the signal that this tube of paint is, as President Trump would say, “Fake!”

You heard it first on Kissing the Blarney.

Andre Jute is a novelist and painter who lives in West Cork.

 

Can one of the Seaveys win the Iditarod, again? Andre Jute investigates.

[Part 1 of 2. Tomorrow: Who can upset the Seavey applecart?]

The Seaveys have won the last five Iditarod Sled Dog Races, father Mitch once in 2013, son Dallas four times, including a hat-trick in the last three years.

Dallas (left) was the youngest ever winner in 2012, and holds the record for the fastest time, 8d11h20m16s.

Mitch (right), who has a second win in 2004, was also second to Dallas in both 2015 and 2016, and third in 2014.

On this record, Mitch is his son’s strongest competitor.

Reflect on this: The last winner who isn’t a Seavey was John Baker in 2011, a lifetime past in a race this difficult, dangerous and uncertain.

Now, if this were a race in civilization, say a sprint or even an endurance race in a stadium before a crowd, a bet with any bookie in his right mind on a victory for either Dallas or Mitch would be odds-on (you have to bet more than the maximum you can win).

But the Iditarod is  a thousand miles of running behind a dogsled across icy Alaska, within spitting distance of the Arctic Circle.

Anyway, besides these statistical odds in favor of one  of the Seaveys, there are statistical odds against them.

Those who fancy Dallas Seavey for another victory this year, may want to consider that despite killer competitors like Susan Butcher, Martin Buser, Lance Mackey, Doug Swingley and Jeff King trying hard and consistently, a fifth victory has eluded all but one man, the legendary Rick Swenson.

The statistical odds against Mitch is that he is already the oldest man to win. On the other hand, he is tough and experienced, and his team is experienced and known to be tough, not afraid of cold and violent weather.

The biggest consideration, given couple of dozen equally hard men and women who’d dearly love to stop the Seavey train of victories, is again, as it is every year, the weather.  In 2015 Dallas came from behind to grab a victory from Aliy Zirkle in violent weather that stopped her, and she had inherited the lead when the wind blew Jeff King and his team right off the trail.We can say Dallas is a gritty competitor who never stops racing until the finish line, as we saw in 2015. We can say Dallas got lucky. We can say the weather is the same for everyone. We can say two strong competitors, Jeff King and Aliy Zirkle, were put off their stroke when last year they and their dogs were assaulted by a drunk snowmobiler. We can say all of these things.

It’s all on the one hand, and the other hand: over such a distance, under such conditions, with athletes so equally honed and determined, certainty is hard come by. So, having given you all the information to decide for yourself that, realistically, the chances of a Seavey are one in five, what would I advise a bookie to do?

Actually, I’d advise him to shorten the odds on a Seavey win, putting the chances of another Seavey win at near enough even-steven, maybe 45-55. Why?

Dogs and man mushing in perfect athletic harmony:
Dallas Seavey and his team racing across the Alaskan tundra.
Photo courtesy of Loren Holmes/Alaska Dispatch News

Well, there’s such a thing as being on a roll, and riding your luck, and the Seaveys are on a roll and have plenty of experience of riding their luck in atrociously adverse weather, of which there is a better than average chance on the Iditarod trail this year.

Also, Dallas is the most thoughtful Iditarod champion ever, as witness his carbon shed with space for carrying four dogs, and arrangements for cooking their food on the run, so that Dallas can get more time to rest at stops. Dallas isn’t an incidental racer, he lives and breathes the Iditarod year-round.

Put me down for ten bucks on Dallas making it four victories in a row, five in all.

[Part 1 of 2. Tomorrow: Who can upset the Seavey applecart?]

IDITAROD a novel of The Greatest Race on Earth by Andre Jute
IDITAROD a novel of The Greatest Race on Earth by Andre Jute

Andre Jute is the author of Iditarod a Novel of the Greatest Race on Earth, available in paperback and ebook. Get it at:

eBOOKS
iTunes Smashwords Kobo B&N
PAPERBACKS
Createspace Amazon USA UK

GAUNTLET RUN by Andre Jute, Dakota Franklin & Andrew McCoy

There’s currently also a free full-length novel by André and friends on Amazon, Google and all the vendors above:
Henty’s Fist•1 GAUNTLET RUN

andre_jute_singapore André operates a special page for live Iditarod race reports where you’re welcome to join him.

 

Merry Christmas, everyone — and a new painting from Andre Jute

Merry Christmas, everyone

SINKHOLE a tragedy of the machine age the classic disaster thriller by André Jute

SINKHOLE 
a tragedy of the machine age

the classic disaster thriller
by André Jute
“Jute has clearly conducted a great deal of research into everything he describes, investing the novel with an air of prophecy. His moral and ecological concerns are important.”
The Times Literary Supplement

Get a sample or buy from
iTunes Smashwords Kobo B&N

Jute has concocted an elaborate, cinematic, vivid mayhem-epic. The merry-go-round action keeps shifting from the doings above (panic, horror, crass media, rescue attempts) to the doings below, where a colorful assortment of survivors creep around in a sci-fi landscape of blood, mud, oil, and rubble. Fare for techno-disaster buffs, with grisly, imaginative touches.”
Kirkus Reviews 

It’s nearly lunchtime in a medium-sized mid-West city: a party of school-children are shepherded into a department store: the state senator’s wife sips a pre-lunch drink: the local drugs kingpin cuts a deal: two alert cops make an arrest. A normal day, until the entire downtown of the city vanishes into a massive hole in the ground.

With chillingly accurate detail, André Jute describes how greed, ignorance and mismanagement accelerate remorseless geological processes to erode the very foundations of the earth on which we stand, and build. With incandescent imagination, and a rigorous knowledge of the specialist techniques involved, Sinkhole describes the desperate efforts to retrieve a handful of survivors from the maelstrom underfoot.

Individual acts of courage, honed reflexes and an iron command of esoteric skills could snatch the living from the jaws of the earth. But the few men with the nerve and the vision to challenge the abyss discover that fear, panic, obsession, guilt, the grindingly sluggish mechanisms of bureaucracy, all conspire to hinder the rescue.

The tension is electric: the finale explosive.

“Wild but exciting. A grand job with plenty of irony.”
New York Times

“So bizarre, it’s probably all true.”
London Evening News

“This is an important book.”
Sydney Morning Herald

“Keeps up such a pace and such interest that it really satisfies.”
Good Housekeeping

“A masterly story that has pace, humor, tension and excitement with the bonus of truth.”
The Australian

SINKHOLE
a tragedy of the machine age

the classic disaster thriller
by André Jute

Get a sample or buy from
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Sir Basil Zaharoff’s Commission to Germany in WW1: true espionage

CoolMain Press proudly announces publication of
THE ZAHAROFF COMMISSION
the classic true espionage thriller
by Andre Jute
“Wild but exciting. A grand job with plenty of irony.”
New York Times

http://coolmainpress.com/THEZAHAROFFCOMMISSION.htmlTHE ZAHAROFF COMMISSION
the classic true espionage thriller
by Andre Jute

Get a sample or buy from
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“The information which Zaharoff secured in Germany for Lloyd George was the most important piece of intelligence of the whole war.”
 Georges Clemenceau, Premier of France in World War One.

“They say that the information I brought ended the war.” 
Sir Basil Zaharoff to the journalist Rosita Forbes in 1933 
in a statement not for publication until after his death

So crucial was this mission that David Lloyd George, Prime Minister of Britain, persuaded his King to knight the sometime Constantinople brothel tout Zaharoff for the information he brought out of the chaos of Germany.

THE ZAHAROFF COMMISSION is the true story of how Basil Zaharoff, the greatest armaments manufacturer the world has ever seen, the notorious Pedlar of Death himself, the hated enemy of the Left, in June 1918 risked death to enter Germany like a common spy to determine whether the Germans should be offered an honorable peace by the reluctant Allies before the triumphant Bolsheviks took over Germany and brought chaos to all Europe.

Peopled by the heroes and villains of history — including a cameo by the young Hermann Goering — THE ZAHAROFF COMMISSION is a literally true thriller. Historically, it shatters the century-old myth that Germany was defeated in World War One by military force.

“Jute’s work of fiction is, once again, bang on target.” 
Donald McCormick, author of
PEDLAR OF DEATH: THE LIFE OF SIR BASIL ZAHAROFF

“Wild but exciting. A grand job with plenty of irony.”
New York Times

“So bizarre, it’s probably all true.”
London Evening News

“This is an important book.”
Sydney Morning Herald

“Keeps up such a pace and such interest that it really satisfies.”
Good Housekeeping

“A masterly story that has pace, humor, tension and excitement with the bonus of truth.”
The Australian

“Jute has clearly conducted a great deal of research into everything he describes, investing the novel with an air of prophecy. His moral and ecological concerns are important.”
Times Literary Supplement

Get a free sample or buy at
iTunes Smashwords Kobo B&N

Bonecruncher: Matt Posner’s pro wrestling novel SQUARED CIRCLE BLUES

Squared Circle BluesSQUARED CIRCLE BLUES:
A Novel of Professional Wrestling

by MATT POSNER

Reviewed by Andrew McCoy

SQUARED CIRCLE BLUES is exactly what it says on the tin, a novel of pro wrestling. Author Matt Posner pulls no punches, paints no glosses, makes no excuses for the milieu, the characters, or their actions. Pro wrestling turns out exactly as expected, only more violent, more dangerous, more crooked and more ruinous of the lives of innocent bystanders.

SQUARED CIRCLE BLUES rings true because it is true to the spirit and the detail of pro wrestling, which isn’t a sport but a business which consumes its children.

The organizers of pro wrestling are, of course, unsympathetic characters. But the surprising thing is how many of the wrestlers, and their families, are simpatico. It helps enormously to build our identification with the good characaters that Mr Posner gives us their viewpoint largely in dialogue, in their own words. He has a fine ear for the vernacular, and it turns these fantastic characters from the bizarre end of the spectrum of human experience into people like our
neighbours, at least if our neighbours were colourful.

By adding a large appendix of sources in which his facts can be checked, Mr Posner reinforces the impression that SQUARED CIRCLE BLUES, if it weren’t such good storytelling, could be a documentary, straightforward journalism told mainly in dialogue.

lanceseriesgraphicFor me, the main takeaway from this surprising, fascinating novel is how smoothly Mr Posner has managed to undermine our prejudicial certainties about people outside our own circle of trust and knowledge.
Andrew McCoy is the author of the Lance Weber series of adventure novels and literary criticism like STIEG LARSSON Man, Myth & Mistress.

Cycling in Bandon: The International Expert Report

This is not even an attempt at humor. This is dead serious.
And if you don’t take it seriously, you could die.

MY TOWN, MY TOWN

An international traffic consultancy, which had better remain anonymous, wonders why children don’t cycle to school in my home town. In the next pigeonhole of their report they show this photograph of North Main Street. Behind the photographer, up further, steeper, busier hills, there are four schools… On the other end of this road, the only road across the only bridge, there are four more schools… These international consultants tell us they made “a site visit”, that is, they came to look. (That must be their helicopter top right, giving a new meaning to “a flying visit”.) Still they wonder why children don’t cycle to school! cycling_in_bandon

You don’t have to be an idiot to be an “international consultant”, but it certainly helps!

Andre Jute is a novelist and painter — and a cyclist — who lives in West Cork.

Andre Jute kissing the Blarney Stone

Andre Jute kissing the Blarney Stone
Andre Jute kissing the Blarney Stone

Is this what a memorial to Nash could look like, a doggie Mount Rushmore?

Nash, one of Jeff King’s sled dogs, was killed by a drunken snowmobiler during the 2016 Iditarod. Here I’ve imagined the start of a sort of Iditarod Sled Dogs’ Mount Rushmore, with Nash just emerging from the raw rock as its first inhabitant. And didn’t one of the Colonel’s pound-find Iditarod dogs go to Mass with the Pope? It’s not such a bizarre idea at all!

andre_jute_statue_of_jeff_king_s_nash_emerges_iditarod_2016_watercolor_octavo_800pxw
Andre Jute: Statue of Jeff King’s Nash, killed on Iditarod 2016 by a drunken snowmobiler, emerges from the rock. Watercolor, octavo on cotton paper, March 2016.

IDITAROD a novel of The Greatest Race on Earth by Andre Jute
IDITAROD a novel of The Greatest Race on Earth by Andre Jute

***
Andre Jute is the author of Iditarod a Novel of the Greatest Race on Earth, available in paperback and ebook. Get it at:

eBOOKS
iTunes Smashwords Kobo B&N
PAPERBACKS
Createspace Amazon USA UK

andre_jute_singapore
Andre operates a special page for live Iditarod race reports where you’re welcome to join him.

Who can win the Iditarod?

In theory any of the 85 runners can win but many know that just finishing the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race is a higher accolade than is available in almost any other sport.  Realistically, even with catastrophic lack of snow on the trail to create upsets, most literally and dangerously, the winner will come from fewer than twenty men and women.

DeeDee Jonrowe, photographed by Marianne Schoppmeyer, starting the 2012 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race. Such a lovely, colourful photograph, you would almost think DeeDee is setting off for a little shopping down the mall at the bottom of the road, rather than a 1200 mile tour just under the Arctic Circle.
DeeDee Jonrowe, photographed by Marianne Schoppmeyer, starting the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race. Such a lovely, colourful photograph, you would almost think DeeDee is setting off for a little shopping down the mall at the bottom of the road, rather than a 1200 mile tour just under the Arctic Circle.

For a start, remember this. The race is so dangerous that the organizers don’t let in anyone who doesn’t have substantial experience in lesser races, some of them as long, and some of them almost as dangerous. Though some are called “rookies”, there are no real rookies in this race. Everyone is experienced, and experience counts for a very great deal, which is how come there are so many middle-aged men among the champions and would-be champions.

Also, this is a sled dog race; the humans are there only to feed and tend the dogs. And dogs, unlike for instance horses, cannot be driven to work. If the dogs decide they’re tired or hungry or the conditions are too dangerous, they will lie down and the musher’s run will be over. It has happened, recently, to leading mushers. It can happen again.

Seavey_Dallas_2016-150x195Dallas Seavey has to be the odds-on favorite. He’s been in the top five five years in a row, with three victories and the race record. He’s a dominant musher, and you bet against him at your peril. It gets worse for every other musher. In years gone by, Dallas has “built his monster” (his own words) slowly and cautiously in the first part of the race, saving his team for a strong finish. This year, when every other musher was taking the summer off because it was too hot for the dogs to train, Dallas was building his monster inside a refrigerated truck on a treadmill long enough to take his entire team. If Dallas doesn’t need to build his monster, if he comes out of the starting blocks sprinting, he could win again.

Seavey_Mitch_2016-150x195Okay, so it’s Dallas Seavey’s race to lose. But there are a lot of hard men and women who would be only too happy to take the Iditarod away from Dallas if he makes the slightest misstep or misjudgment, for which an opportunity arises on the Iditarod every few seconds. Chief among the aspirants is Mitch Seavey, father to Dallas, himself a recent champion, and known for never giving up.

Ulsom_Joar-Leifseth_2016-150x195Royer_Jessie_2016-150x195So who do I fancy for an upset? It won’t come as much of a surprise to those of you who’ve gone to the Iditarod with me a few times now that I’ve got my money on Joar Leifseth Ulsom, the Norwegian who has finished in the top ten in every Iditarod he has run, and Jessie Royer, who has five top-ten finishes, including three in the last four years, and five further top-20 finishes.

Sass_Brent_2016-150x195Kaiser_Pete_2016-150x195Petit_Nicolas_2016-150x195Some other young guns whose time has come, and that you should take a look at, are Brent Sass, Pete Kaiser and Nicolas Petit.

King_Jeff_2016-150x195Zirkle_Aliy_2016-150x195Gatt_Hans_2016-150x195Also, you can’t discount huge depth of experience, including being champion or close runner-up, so given that they have depth in their kennels, I reckon Jeff King, Aliy Zirkle and Hans Gatt stand a good chance of featuring somewhere in the top ten.

Jonrowe_DeeDee__2016-150x195Every year we also follow an outsider but this year I want to break that pattern and follow DeeDee Jonrowe in her 34th Iditarod. DeeDee has a stack of Iditarod awards and prize money, and as recently as 2013 she was tenth, but in 2014 she scratched and last year she was 31st. The question is, is she on the comeback trail this year?

Mackey_Lance_2016-150x195Talking of comeback trails, we’ll also be looking at Lance Mackey. It wasn’t so long ago that he was joking about going straight from Champion to Red Lantern. The man has grace.

IDITAROD a novel of The Greatest Race on Earth by Andre Jute
IDITAROD a novel of The Greatest Race on Earth by Andre Jute

Andre Jute is the author of Iditarod a Novel of the Greatest Race on Earth, available in paperback and ebook. Get it at:
eBOOKS iTunes Smashwords Kobo B&N
PAPERBACKS Createspace Amazon USA UK

andre_jute_singaporeAndre operates a special page for live Iditarod race reports where you’re welcome to join him.

Join Andre for the Iditarod, the Greatest Race on Earth

IDITARODcreatespaceBannerImage

I first heard about the Iditarod in 1978 at a regatta in Seattle, when a journalist told me, “There’s a little race up in Alaska that is also tough.” I couldn’t resist going to look.

The Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race is the greatest athletic test in the world for man, woman or dog. It is roughly a thousand miles running across barren Alaska within spitting distance of the Arctic Circle.

The Iditarod is for a different order of hard folk, men and women alike; if no one has told you yet, men and women run the Iditarod on equal terms. If the foul weather doesn’t get you, and the dangerous animals don’t either, and you escape frostbite,  and the rough trail doesn’t break your bones, you could win.

Fewer people have won the Iditarod than have climbed Everest.

IDITAROD a novel of The Greatest Race on Earth by Andre Jute
IDITAROD a novel of The Greatest Race on Earth by Andre Jute

One of my least known, yet best-received (awards, lyrical reviews) novels is Iditarod a Novel of the Greatest Race on Earth, available in paperback and ebook. Get it at:
eBOOKS iTunes Smashwords Kobo B&N
PAPERBACKS Createspace Amazon USA UK

I operate a special page for live Iditarod race reports where you’re welcome to join me.

Andre Jute is a writer and painter, and an adventurer who has made passage around Cape Horn twice in a ship of his own design and construction.

 

 

 

 

Sleeping Swan Mourning, River Bandon, Co Cork, Ireland. Photo by Andre Jute.

Andre Jute: Sleeping Swan Mourning, River Bandon, Co Cork, Ireland

This swan normally lives in the deep pool above the weir, opposite the police station in Bandon. But this afternoon, presumably after a lunch of too many fat frogs, I found it catching a nap lower down the river. Despite appearances, it is safe enough, the little pebble island being entirely surrounded by water. The ducks and gulls which normally crowd this part of the river are far too experienced to come near such a large and dangerous — and, it must be said, bad-tempered — animal as this swan, which is alone, and very unpredictable, after its mate was killed by an escaped mink which some careless idiot imported.

Swans mate for life and if a mate is killed, don’t mate again. Since we had only one pair of swans, this is a tragedy for our river as well as for the surviving swan mourning its mate.

Andre Jute is a writer and painter.

 

Hungry #hedgehog comes out in daylight. #Photos.

Andre Jute's pet hedgehogA family of hedgehogs lives in the stables, or the orchard behind it. They’re very private animals who usually come out only after midnight to eat the food we put out, and drink the water we leave out for them and the other animals: a family of foxes that come up from the gully at the end of the orchard, dogs, cats, birds. It’s pretty difficult photographing the hedgehogs without giving them a migraine with the flash on the camera, and you generally have to do it from behind glass as they scurry off in a hurry when they see what to them must be a large looming presence. But this one came out in daylight… Must have been very hungry.

Now Paypal tries to grab the copyrights of artists, writers and photographers, free and forever

Paypal has sent out notice of an Amendment to their User Agreement (1) that will grab without recompense the copyright of any “content” sold through Paypal.

I’m not a lawyer but a contract I drew up for my Australian publishers was for many years recommended by the British Society of Authors and used on both sides of the Atlantic, and the chapter in my textbook WRITING A THRILLER (A&C Black, London, St Martin’s Press, NY, translations into Spanish, Italian, French, etc, still in print after a generation) was never once queried. So, if the Paypal amendment answers to plain English and means what it says, it’s an unprecedented rights grab.

If the “content” that Paypal intends to claim rights over is just the promotional copy and graphics in the advertisements of sellers, one can understand that Paypal’s lawyers want to cover their ass and avoid a nuisance suit.

But Paypal isn’t just claiming rights over specific promotional material, it is claiming rights over the very bread on the table of millions of writers and painters and photographers. Not only will Paypal not pay for the use of this copyright material, there is absolutely nothing in the agreement to stop them selling someone’s copyright product for profit.

Worse, the agreement that gives Paypal every artist’s life comes into effect automatically on 1 July 2015 unless you explicitly opt out. “You do not need to do anything to accept the changes as they will automatically come into effect on the above date.”

The “content” that Paypal will claim rights over includes the text and images, the very product and livelihood of artists.

paypal_rights_grabSuppose you’re a novelist. Of course you post a sample chapter to your netsite where you also have Paypal buttons. That’s “content”. It now belongs to Paypal to publish wherever they please. The rest of the novel and even the characters now belong to Paypal: that’s the parenthetical “including of works derived from it”. No serious publisher will want a series when you’ve given a gorilla with clout like Paypal a licence to interfere in the market at will. Amazon went into TV and film production; what’s to stop Paypal following them? With your intellectual property as Paypal’s capital.

Suppose you’re a painter. You show a photograph of an artwork for sale. Normally you either reserve reproduction rights in the art to yourself, the artist, or it goes explicitly, contractually to the buyer. These reproduction rights, which include all photographs, including the one published with a Paypal button next to it, are often more valuable than the physical painting on the wall. But, because you posted the photo to Paypal as an advertisement, Paypal can republish the photo at any time, or sell it to the greetings card industry and pocket that income. Check it out: it says nowhere in Paypal’s agreement that Paypal can’t do this.

The risk is total if you’re a photographer, because control of  the photograph and all its reproductions is your very product, directly the bread on your table. If Paypal has a perpetual free right to publish the photo, why should a stock company want to license it from you? For that matter, would you want a stock supplier to use Paypal when you know that every photograph they show (and how will they license the photographs to graphic designers if they don’t show them?) automatically belongs to Paypal as well?

This is a grotesque case of lawyers covering their ass by throwing in the kitchen sink, without ever stopping to consider whether they shouldn’t first put their minds in gear.

Paypal appears to know there’s something wrong. They say: “Should you decide you do not wish to accept them you can notify us before the above date to close your account (https://www.paypal.com/uk/cgi-bin/?&cmd=_close-account) immediately without incurring any additional charges.”

No additional charges — that’s real generous!

Now Paypal will claim that all this is being done to protect them against chancers bringing frivolous law suits, and against sellers using stolen copyright materials. If that is so, then Paypal should say so in their agreement. Instead Paypal simply grabs everyone’s rights, and takes a bullying “like it or fuck off” attitude about it.

Next Paypal will claim that they are a huge, honorable institution, in the money markets, and have no intention of trading in your copyrights. Yeah, right, ten years ago Jeff Bezos couldn’t even dream of entering the movie business.

Any institution is only as honest as the men in the boardroom. Copyright is an artist’s pension. Do you want to entrust the comfort of your old age to some unknown person, perhaps not even born yet, who will then be in charge of Paypal, and perhaps has dreams of being in the “moom pitcher bidness” with the rights, unpaid for and nothing due, of your copyright as his earnest money? Or have the owners of Paypal sell out to new owners whose primary interest is “monetizing all these copyrights the old management just sat on”?

I didn’t think so.

Copyright © 2015 Andre Jute
No Paypal buttons anywhere!  Free for republication as long as the piece is complete and includes the copyright notice and this permission.

(1) Here is the text from Paypal being discussed above:

Amendment to the PayPal User Agreement.

  1. Intellectual Property

We are adding a new paragraph to section 1.3., which outlines the licence and rights that you give to us and to the PayPal Group (see paragraph 12 below for the definition of “PayPal Group”) to use content that you post for publication using the Services. A similar paragraph features in the Privacy Policy, which is removed by the addition of this paragraph to the User Agreement. The new paragraph at section 1.3 reads as follows:

“When providing us with content or posting content (in each case for publication, whether on- or off-line) using the Services, you grant the PayPal Group a non-exclusive, worldwide, perpetual, irrevocable, royalty-free, sublicensable (through multiple tiers) right to exercise any and all copyright, publicity, trademarks, database rights and intellectual property rights you have in the content, in any media known now or in the future. Further, to the fullest extent permitted under applicable law, you waive your moral rights and promise not to assert such rights against the PayPal Group, its sublicensees or assignees. You represent and warrant that none of the following infringe any intellectual property right: your provision of content to us, your posting of content using the Services, and the PayPal Group’s use of such content (including of works derived from it) in connection with the Services.”

Does it infuriate you when you are cheated by mailorder on something too small to return?

ON BEING CHEATED BY
THE SOCIETY FOR ALL ARTISTS
AND AMAZON 

by Andre Jute aka Brassed Off 

It was only a pencil sharpener, albeit a specialist sharpener for sketch artists and obsessives who must have a fine long point. Being cheated about it is bad enough, but what made it worse is that it is just too small an item to return for the total cost of Euro 7.99 including postage. It costs me more than that to write a letter. Instead I wrote this review on Amazon.

***

The KUM Automatic Long Point Pencil & Lead Sharpener is worth five stars. The sharpener I received is worth one star because it isn’t the sharpener described in the advertisement on Amazon.

The lies Amazon permitted The Socieity for All Artists to tell about the KUM sharpener. Click on the photo for an enlargement.
The lies Amazon permitted The Socieity for All Artists to tell about the KUM sharpener. Click on the photo for an enlargement.

This statement on Amazon, in the advertisement by the seller, The Society For All Artists, is an outright lie: “Includes … Two lead pointers for 2mm and 3.2mm lead holders…” The headline over the advertisement is an outright lie: “…& Lead Sharpener”.

The sharpener The Society For All Artists sent is the cheaper model with no lead pointers. Nor can the sharpeners for the lead pointers be retrofitted as there are no holes to put the leads through in the casing, only two neat circular ridges where the holes should have been if the The Society For All Artists hadn’t cheated me.

Let me stress: my disappointment and disgust is with the The Society For All Artists for false advertising, and with Amazon for permitting it. The sharpener itself — those parts of it I received — works really well and would have received five stars, or perhaps I might have been tempted to remove half a star because the space for shavings is rather small and must be emptied inconveniently often.

There are two models of the KUM Automatic Long Point Pencil Sharpener. One, the AS2M, includes separate pointers for 2mm and 3.15mm leads; these are definitely worth having as they are better pointers than you can buy elsewhere, if you can even find any (I have a dedicated KUM pointer for 5.6mm leads and, though pricey, it is wonderful). The other model, the plain AS2, does not have the pointers. Both models have two spare blades in a slot behind the shavings catcher to fit the floating two-hole long point mechanism. The “Automatic” in the name refers to a clever auto-stop feature built into the design of the sharpener. KUM sharpeners are made in Germany and are clearly very fine German engineering.

The Society For All Artists advertised the KUM AS2M with the lead pointers, then fraudulently supplied the AS2 without the lead pointers.

kum_auto_long_point_800pxwFor making really fine long points, there really is no alternative to the KUM Automatic Long Point Pencil & Lead Sharpener except a surgeon’s scalpel and a sanding board, which are much clumsier to carry into the field. I just wish I wasn’t cheated out of the Lead Sharpener part of the sharpener.

One star for a dishonest, disappointing transaction with The Society For All Artists on Amazon.

Andre Jute is a novelist and painter.

Come Join my Tea Party: Tinting your own Art Paper with — wait for it! — Tea.

As I pointed out the other day when I described the genesis and construction of my Unsewn, Unstapled Sliding Quarter-Imperial 100% Cotton Embossed Leather Multimedia Sketchbook, most sketchbooks you can buy are rubbish by lowest common denominator makers for lowest common denominator consumer units.

andre_jute_sketchbooksThe Greek watercolorist Marialena Sarris says it is no accident that so many artists take the time to make their own custom sketchbooks. She’s right. That is certainly my experience. At the right is a very small selection of the sketchbooks, custom-made and bought, that I use. The two alrounders in sight are both my custom concoctions. The paper in bought books is always too lightweight and of too low a quality to satisfy for long, and in the few books which have first class paper, the binding is a barrier to employing the book satisfactorily.

These problems multiply themselves when the poor bewildered artist wants a multimedia sketchbook in which to work with both wet and dry media.

andre_jute_s_sliding_quarter_imperial_all_cotton_multimedia_sketchbook_cold_press2_800pxwBut if you think finding a white sketchbook is a pain, try finding a tinted paper (never mind a book!) that won’t disintegrate, or, if it remains together, buckle, then curl up and die, the moment it you bring a wet brush near it.

Ironically, one of the better colored papers available is the lightweight (160gsm) pastel paper from Canson, Mi Teintes, not because it loves water so much but because somehow, after buckling quite frighteningly at the application of water, it can be pressed acceptably flat again.

Even more ironically, the only good watercolour paper commonly available in tints is the student grade non-cotton Bockingford paper. Though Bockingford is archival and highly regarded well beyond academia, the tints are aimed at printing wedding invitations and stationary for genteel ladies, and too limp by far for my sort of slash and dash work with high strong colors.

So what can you do if you must absolutely have tinted paper of a certain quality, in my case 300gr 100% cotton in at least two finishes, NOT and Hot Press?

It ain’t rocket science. You can tint your preferred paper with an absolute minimum of equipment, all of which you probably saw the last time you were in your bathroom and your kitchen. The tinting materials are probably standing on your kitchen shelves too.

andre_jute_s_sliding_quarter_imperial_all_cotton_multimedia_sketchbook_11x15in_800pxwYour tinting substance must bond with the cotton paper, or whatever paper you’re tinting, and once dry must not wash out. It must not be acid, because acid destroys the paper rather shortly; vinegar and lemon are not wanted. It must not rot in the paper; pink mayonnaise won’t do it! It must not cause the paper to yellow over time. It must dissolve in water, or mix with it, or otherwise color the water so as to tint the paper, because the water will be your medium to carry the tint into the paper. The most common sunstance found in most kitchens which meets all these requirement is tea. Spices, used for cooking, may also work, but if you’re helping yourself in a kitchen that is not your domain, you’d better ask your better half before you grab the saffron or turmeric because many spices are pricey and difficult to get.

For tools you need a basin or bowl or tray a bit bigger than the paper you want to tint because you need to soak the paper in the colored water, another flat tray to dry a sheet of paper in, and a new kitchen sponge, and away you go. For the drying part, a clean, smooth, flat table or kitchen counter will do as well. You don’t need a stretching board: the weight of the paper and the water in it will flatten it very effectively against a smooth surface.

You gotta get the right tea, of course, especially if you’re a man, otherwise you won’t sound like an expert. I suppose that even Earl Grey, whose still paler bergamot cousin Lady Grey I drink with extra lime and honey, will tint paper a delicate yellow, or something.

But I already knew I wanted a dusty tan, strong but not too dark, for working on with sepia ink and a special, very beautiful amber ink I made for washes with the sepia, oil pencils but especially sanguine oil, earth-based water colors — everything you would use for that faux vintage look, both wet and dry. For this the right tea is the commando’s favorite, Red Bush, which I drink when I can’t be bothered to make a pot of something fancier.

The advantage of tea is that the tint is easily adjustable. I put two Red Bush teabags (Lidl house brand, whatever that is) in a half liter of hot water in a glass jug so I could check the color. White plastic also works. After a while I adjusted the color to slightly redder by adding an infusion of cherry tea that I was brewing up separately because I found it in a cupboard and wanted to see whether it was indeed a red tea. (It is brownish with a red cast; it might tint paper a dusty pink if I ever need a dusty pink…) You can probably also use green Chinese tea but I didn’t find any and it was too late to call the takeaway to deliver some. I went with what I had.

I worked in my bathroom because it has a full-length bath to contain the mess. Depending on how good your relationship with the housekeeper is, you might want to start work on quarter-sheets and leave the mess-making size of full imperial sheets (22.30in) until you have learned how to handle the wet paper without spraying tea-stained drops everywhere.

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First pour the tea concentrate in the soaking bowl or basin or tray or whatever. You need just enough to float a sheet of paper. Add water to your concentrate to get the right amount of water, or the right depth of colour. My actual tinting solution was more the color in the photograph below than the one above.

In diluting the colour with water, you should keep in mind that a 300gsm sheet will have to lie in the water at least 20 minutes to be thorough soaked so it will dry flat, and a 630gsm sheet of paper had better be in there a minimum of one hour. These factors influence how dark a mixture you want to start with.

You may wish to experiment first with a small offcut of paper and a stopwatch. I didn’t bother with poncey nonsense like that.

Put the sheet of paper in the soaking dish. Use the sponge rather than your fingers to push it so water washes over it. Now leave it alone. Don’t fiddle with it or you’ll put fingermarks on it.

Depending on the strength of your mixture and the tint you want, you may wish to leave the paper in the tinting solution longer than the minimum time to soak its particular thickness thoroughly, as required for flattening it again. However, you should not leave it in the water so long that it disintegrates, or that sizing is altogether washed out, or that the surface is destroyed. Forty minutes to an hour may well be a maximum for most weights papers if you are not to run the risk of losing all the sizing in the paper, and thus alter its handling qualities, perhaps adversely.

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When the paper has taken on the tint you want, take it out by the edges between the pads of your fingertips. Try not to put nailmarks into the paper; be sure to take off rings; best to use tongs such as you can buy at photographic stores for darkroom use to handle the paper.

Wave the paper very gently so that the water rolls off it, then place it flat on the drying tray or table. Press it gently, rather than wiping it, with the sponge. Resist the temptation to lift up a corner to see; the back of the sheet is definitely the same color as the front. Don’t put it in front of a heater. I left my entire apparatus in the bathroom, which is generally a warm room, but the bath is at least eight feet from the heater.

The paper should be dry in about 24 hours. You know it is dry when a corner pops loose from the tray or table and raises itself only a little way. A dry sheet will slide on the surface of the tray easily.

You can now reuse the tinting water for the next sheet. Different base papers (Arches Aquarelle, Fabriano Artistico, Saunders Waterford) are different colors and will tint differently not only according to their base colors but according to the manufaturing treatment, especially the various applications of sizing (in the vat so it goes inside, on the surface, both), and even within brands between the different-textured surfaces of the paper, Hot Press or NOT.

The paper shown below, as bought and tinted, is Fabriano Artistico 100% cotton 300gr. The soaking time was the full two hours, and the surface of the paper is bit rougher than when I started. I like this particular tint very much, especially considering that I had something very much like it in mind when I bought the sepia ink I want to use on it, and made the amber ink I will use for shading.

The surface is still good for pen and wash work, but for the next sheet, in order to get the near enough the same appealing tint without even the minor chance of damage we have established with our first run, I will add more concentrate of tea tint, and make the soaking exposure shorter.

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I have stopwatches and timers, of course, no fewer than four to hand as I write this: in my flying watch on my arm, in my iPhone in my pocket, in the Mac on which I write this, and in my diving watch in a wooden box on my desk because I’m fitting a new rubber strap to it in hope of a summer.

But in this rough and ready tinting method, I don’t even try for a perfectly consistent tint across the several pages I make. If I like the tint, it is right, regardless of whether it precisely matches any page I made previously on a color meter, which I haven’t even taken from the drawer. It is enough that the tint, whatever it is, is even across the quarter-sheet.

Pot luck and good luck suits me just fine. Try it, you too might like it.

There are three parts to this article:

Andre Jute’s Unsewn, Unstapled Sliding Quarter Imperial 100% Cotton Embossed Leather Multimedia Sketchbook

Simplified Instructions for Making Andre Jute’s Unsewn, Unstapled Sketchhbook

Tinting your own Art Paper with — wait for it! — Tea (you are on this part)

Andre Jute is a novelist and painter.

With thanks to Marialena Sarris for research and lots of constructive tips.

Copyright © 2015 Andre Jute

 

 

 

Andre Jute’s Unsewn, Unstapled Sliding Quarter Imperial 100% Cotton Embossed Leather Multimedia Sketchbook

Most bought sketchbooks are adequate only to the most undiscriminating sketchers. In almost all cases the paper just isn’t good enough, too thin or too weak to take much water or rubbing out or handling. In a few cases where the paper is good quality cotton, the book is so tightly sewn it won’t lie flat, or difficult to handle because it is ringbound on the short side (landscape format); always something unsatisfactory.

andre_jute_sketchbooksThe solution is to make your own. I have several sketchbooks I’ve made myself in a variety of leather covers, in various sizes up to A5, roughly 8×6. Those are all intended to go outside with me and the smaller ones are routinely popped in my pockets in case I see something I want to sketch.

andre_jute_s_sliding_quarter_imperial_all_cotton_multimedia_sketchbook_32sh_300gsm_all_cotton_800pxwBut for my desk I wanted something larger, say up to quarter imperial size, 15×11 inches. It would be useful if the same book handled 11×7.5in, octavo or one-eight imperial size, as I generally don’t have a lot of time and like finishing a sketch in one or at most two goes at it.

The large oxblood item is a custom-made Italian cover of embossed semi-soft leather, lined in silk for reasons that will soon become obvious. Open it measures 19in by 12.25in, edge to edge.

The next task after obtaining a suitable cover is to rip the 100% cotton paper and these are the tools I used: a blunted heavyweight stainless steel scalloped carving knife, bought at the charity shop for pennies, to give my sheets that vintage deckle edge; and a good quality bone folder, lying on the cover.andre_jute_s_sliding_quarter_imperial_all_cotton_multimedia_sketchbook_ripping_800pxw

Note that there’s no ruler. The paper is used as its own measure. You simply fold the sheet lengthways in half, flatten the edge with two runs of the bone folder in opposite directions, then rip it along the fold with the knife. You can get a larger deckle by hold the paper down with the blade of the knife, one hand on the blade and using the other hand to tear the paper against the scallops on the knife, but this risks ruining the sheet if you don’t do it right; 300gsm paper can be amazingly obstructive, especially if you’re tearing it against the grain. Then fold one long strip to 2mm short of half, and the other to 4mm short of half, and rip again.

andre_jute_s_sliding_quarter_imperial_all_cotton_multimedia_sketchbook_veritcal_fix_800pxwOnce the paper is ripped to near enough quarter sheets of 15x11in, they are folded to 11×7.5in, and signatures of 4 folds, eight pages are made up, the shorter spreads going to the inside in decreasing order, so that the edge of the book can be relatively even. You can staple or sew the signatures into a book; search for instructions on the net. My method is different. I like sketchbooks where all pages lie flat, and where any page in a signature can be pulled out and put in the middle to use as a spread. That requires some innovative thinking.

andre_jute_s_sliding_quarter_imperial_all_cotton_multimedia_sketchbook_construction_800pxwMy big sketchbook has no staples, no sewing, no glue, no pegs, no metal clasps, nothing. Instead all the signatures are hung on plastic strips from partwork covers (you could use twine strung on a piece of cardboard instead) and held together by the natural friction of cotton paper. It lies flat when open by the very slight slack in the plastic strips I used as retainers and by sliding against the silk lining of the casing. andre_jute_s_sliding_quarter_imperial_all_cotton_multimedia_sketchbook_11x15in_800pxwNote that, unlike in traditional bookbinding, there is no connection whatsoever between the signatures, nor between the signatures and the cover. The red card in the second photo above that appears to be a cover is instead a mechanism for fixing the book vertically by running through the plastic strips and the inside retainers of the leather cover at full height. There are separate front and rear cover cards and they overlap in the plastic strips but are not glued to each other, to the plastic strips, or to the cover. andre_jute_s_sliding_quarter_imperial_all_cotton_multimedia_sketchbook_32sh_300gsm_800pxwThe whole affair slides with a little stiction, and that with the good design is enough to hold it together. Furthermore, it opens perfectly flat, at any page or spread, though this assembly method makes working across pages irrelevant because every sheet can be removed and used as a spread by simply putting it on top of the signature to which it belongs.

andre_jute_s_sliding_quarter_imperial_all_cotton_multimedia_sketchbook_cold_press_800pxwThis particular version of  my Sliding Quarter Imperial Multimedia Sketchbook was built with one sheet each of Fabriano Artistico NOT  and Hot Press, and one sheet each of Saunders Waterford NOT and Hot Press, all of it 300gsm 100% cotton paper. I also had sheets of Arches NOT and HP standing by but the book was getting a bit thick already. Weight doesn’t matter too much in a tabletop sketchbook, but all the same it needs to be at least briefcase portable  for big adventures, and mustn’t be so heavy that you contemplate moving it without enthusiasm.

andre_jute_s_sliding_quarter_imperial_all_cotton_multimedia_sketchbook_cold_press2_800pxwIt contains 16 spreads (counting one side only) of quarter imperial sheet size, or 32 sheets (counting one side only) of 11×7.5in. 32 sheets/64pp of 300gsm cotton paper makes a book that with covers is an inch thick at the opening end and thicker at the spine. Between the thick paper, the stiff card for vertical control, and the silk-lined leather cover, it still weighs less than the two pounds which was my target.  That’s not excessive for such a large, thick, versatile book of novel construction.

andre_jute_s_sliding_quarter_imperial_all_cotton_multimedia_sketchbook_hot_press_paper_800pxwAll the paper will handle wet media like watercolours, pen and ink, etc, and the Hot Press papers will take considerable rubbing out and other handling in charcoal or pencil work. There are thin protective sheets at the back to be slipped between pages that shouldn’t rub, plus bond paper to soak up excess water should I decide to go wild with lavis.

There are three parts to this article:

Andre Jute’s Unsewn, Unstapled Sliding Quarter Imperial 100% Cotton Embossed Leather Multimedia Sketchbook (you are on this part)

Simplified Instructions for Making Andre Jute’s Unsewn, Unstapled Sketchhbook

Tinting your own Art Paper with — wait for it! — Tea

Andre Jute is a novelist and painter.

Copyright © 2015 Andre Jute

 

The perfect finish — for the Seaveys

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The Seavey’s are creaming themselves. The tracker shows the finish in Nome, the checkpoint in Safety 22 miles from Nome, and White Mountain. On the trail to Nome are 46 Dallas Seavey, 18 Mitch Seavey, 63 Aaron Burmeister.

Check the scale and grab your best guess from thin air about whether Mitch can overtake Dallas before Nome.

Risking everything to reach White Mountain first. André Jute explains the Iditarod end game.

No, it isn’t a computer game. It is a real race, the toughest and most dangerous race in the world, running a thousand miles behind a dogsled across the tundra of Alaska, within spitting distance of the Arctic Circle, all the way from Fairbanks to Nome. This is the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race, famous or notorious depending on your outlook.

Photo courtesy of Alaska Dispatch NewsPhoto Alaska Dispatch News

And after you beat all the human odds of fatigue and sleep deprivation to get to the head of the field by the  time you reach the Kaltag Portage, you have to sprint 250 miles or so to get to White Mountain first.

Why? Because the race is deliberately rigged to set up a sprint for a photo finish under the arch on Front Street in Nome, 77 miles beyond White Mountain. That suited the framers of the competition well, and suits the current race organization equally well, because it also meets the greatest subsidiary aim of the race, next to keeping it alive.

You can tell by their environment that the organizers are hard men and women. But they’re clearly absolutely terrified by a good number of potentials for disaster in the unavoidable dangers that arise from the nature of the race and its immovable geography, terrain and weather. First, they are terrified that anyone will ever say that a dog was maltreated on the Iditarod; they take such good care of the canine contestants that a dog on the gangline, running in the Iditarod, stands a better chance of surviving the period of the Iditarod than the average pooch that you can see your neighbor walking. For the health of the dogs there are several mandatory fixed-length stops during the race. One of these, of eight hours, is at White Mountain.

I said the organizers are visibly terrified by a number of possibilities. We don’t have time or space to go into all of them, but another predictable worry is that a contestant will kill himself on the Iditarod, and perhaps get the race banned. They have very strict entry qualifications to guard against this, and a “rookie” on the Iditarod is always an experienced long-distance musher already. That everyone let into the Iditarod is a very hard case goes without saying, tough, fit, and with unshakable focus.

So now you have a bunch of very tough, fit, focused mushers coming down the mountain from Kaltag, having already beaten out the other very tough, very fit athletes to be in the first ten out of Kaltag checkpoint, knowing that beyond White Mountain, where everyone has to stop eight hours, everyone will be rested, and there will be only 77 miles left in the race.

Seventy-seven miles is not far enough to make up any significant distance on a top competitor.

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Every musher wants to be first out of White Mountain. And that means arriving at White Mountain first.

Of course everyone else knows this too. That sets up a longrange sprint of attrition to be first at White Mountain. Every year the sprint for White Mountain starts earlier. This year it visibly started at Kaltag. Some might argue it started earlier, even much earlier…

It doesn’t matter precisely where it started. We’re into the sprint now. Enjoy.

My page Iditarod follows the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race live, as it happens. You’re cordially invited to join us.

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André Jute is the author of the much-loved, multi-award-winning bestselling novel IDITAROD a novel of the Greatest Race on Earth, available in paperback and all ebook formats.

Come join me at the IDITAROD: The greatest race on earth since Marathon — and a bookie’s nightmare

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Every year I take a busman’s holiday at the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race. I have a page that helps people follow the race. In theory my presence and the helpful page promotes my novel about the race. In practice the book, long since a best seller, promotes itself, and is anyway better promoted by enthusiastic readers than by the author, and I maintain the page to help myself keep track of a confusing race spread over 1046 miles (approximately) of the most inaccessible and dangerous terrain on earth, and share it with others of like mind. The other thing I do every year just before the Iditarod is amusing: I try to pick some outsiders who will do well; I’m proud of an outstanding track record, for intance picking Aliy Zirkle in each of the years she came second. Obvious now, but this woman, already over forty, with small dogs, in the beginning just wasn’t an obvious choice against the hard men with their brawny dogs. Another example: I picked the poster boy, the Iditarod heart-throb, Joar Leifseth Ulsom, when he came from nowhere, with no track record at this level of mushing.

So, why am I bragging about past triumphs? Because this year the organizers, by accepting so many novices, have made it almost impossible to pick genuine outsiders, short of sticking a pin into the entry list, or laboriously tracing the provenance of each musher. And I intend “provenance” in the precise dictionary meaning: that a musher grew up in a mushing household and community clearly matters in winning the Iditarod, as does the learning experience of the race itself. It’s a dangerous race, so the organizers, terrified someone will die on their race, let in only those with experience and a track record in other tough races. This in turn makes it even more difficult to pick the newcomer who will emerge from the pack.

I wouldn’t bet tuppence of my own money on a race as long, and over such terrain, and through such uncertain weather, as the Iditarod. But if I were staking serious money, I’d grit my teeth and accept the short odds on Dallas Seavey to take a third win. Lance Mackey and Jeff King, both four-time winners, stand at the head of a line of contenders who think they’re finishing the Seavey’s run — Dallas’s dad Mitch is also a two-time winner and a current contender to be reckoned with. There, let’s leave the list of hard, experienced men, several more with victories or many high finishes on their record, and look at the outsiders.

At the beginning of the Iditarod last year (2014), Aliy Zirkle was all set, by her record of two second places, to leave the list of underdogs and outside chances for the permanent powers that be, the perennial threats. But events in the closing stages of the 2014 race have raised the question whether she is only a nice lady with athletic gifts — or whether she’s a winner. After Jeff King was blown off the trail and was forced to scratch only 25 miles from a fifth victory to protect his dogs, it was Aliy Zirkle’s race to lose. And she did lose it by not being ready when the gritty, relentless competitor Dallas Seavey arrived from nearly two hours behind to blow without rest through Safety, where Aliy was resting. Dallas staggered on to victory in Nome.

1924633_754426211236322_206420366_nDallas Seavey, winning the 1000+ mile 2014 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race from 1h49m behind 77 miles before the finish.

That Aliy, had she not relaxed into champion mode already in Safety, could have caught the worn Dallas and his tired dogs is shown by the fact that, starting from 17 minutes behind in Safety, 22 miles later in Nome Aliy was only 2m22s behind Dallas, an otherwise incredible gain that tells us much about their relative condition.

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The popular Aliy Zirkle, runner-up for the third year running in 2014.

Dallas won that race because he is first and foremost a winner.  Which is how come we pick him to win again. He’s a pretty obvious choice: young and hard, yet hugely experienced, a proven winner.

And once more I pick Aliy to upset the running behind Dallas, possibly to be second again, especially of there is a settled weather over all or most of the race to favour her light, fast dogs. Who knows, she may have learned her lesson last year: the race isn’t over till you cross the line, and use her chances better this year. We’re due for a woman winner, and Aliy is still the best-placed woman to deliver that victory.

For newcomers, the Iditarod is one of the very few great sporting events in the world where men and women compete on equal terms. As the saying goes, “Alaska, where men are men, and women win the Iditarod.” The late Susan Butcher has four victories too.

And for a new champion from among the outsiders? Once again I fancy the impressive Norwegian  Joar Leifseth Ulsom. This is no longer a daring prediction because everyone knows his time will come, but I’m betting on sooner rather than later.

An underdog who could easily choose this year to become a top ten top dog is Nathan Schroeder, the 2014 Iditarod Rookie of the Year.

If the ladies want someone interesting to follow besides Aliy, try DeeDee Jonrowe, a veteran runner with an enviable record of high finishes, still a threat for the top places. And don’t forget the grittily courageous Cindy Gallea, 63, who last year was forced to scratch through illness.

Fewer people have finished the Iditarod than have ascended to the summit of Mount Everest.

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The toughest race in the world, a race of attrition because of trail and weather conditions just short of the Artic Circle.

My page Iditarod follows the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race live, as it happens. You’re cordially invited to join us.

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André Jute is the author of the much-loved, multi-award-winning bestselling novel IDITAROD a novel of the Greatest Race on Earth, available in paperback and all ebook formats.