here we go again

We’ve had six months to forget about this. Quarter to six in the evening.  Pitch dark.  Below freezing.  Breath like smoke, glasses fogging up when you step into the house.  The little mile walk that’s nothing in the summer becomes an expedition.
Just for fun, I thought I’d wear my winter jacket and my grey Irish tweed hat I’ve had since I was in high school.  It wasn’t that much fun.wpid-wp-1415840368204.jpeg



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portrait of a harbor seal

portrait of a harbor seal-blogMost people who like dogs also like seals and sea lions, the fish eating dogs of the sea. (Corgis: We like fish!)  I took this portrait of a harbor seal at the Lincoln Park Zoo in Chicago, during a demonstration of “operant conditioning”, which is the fancy biology term the zoo uses for teaching its seals various “behaviors” that make them easier to keep and handle.  In other words, the seal keepers are training the recall and the sit and down stay, and tricks like fetch, roll over, and speak, which allows the vets to check the seals’ mouths.  Hmm. This demonstration looks pretty familiar.  The seals are rewarded with herring, mackerel and trout, and on special occasions with squid and jello.  (Corgis: We like fish! And squid! And jello!)

Not only is this demonstration informative, and amusing if you have dogs at home, but it gets the seals to move around close to where the crowd is standing which makes them easier to photograph. Of course that doesn’t mean easy– photographing seals usually means photographing water and that’s always a challenge.  (Boring stuff of interest only to photo nerds: K-30 with 50-200mm kit zoom. 1/400, f/5.6, ISO 500, focal length 105mm.)

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drawing tools we really wish we had

Yes,  this is just a pair of animated GIFs*. But every artist in the world who sees them immediately wants this drawing tool.  And we think it should exist**.  It seems so logical.  It would be a great tool for coloring comics.  I bet you could get really fast with the color wheel controller with just a little practice.drawingtoolsgifdrawingtoolsgif2*Not true– it’s a pair of excellent animated GIFs that are technical-tour-de-force manifestations of a super clever yet totally sensible concept and they probably took ages and mad skillz to make, so kudos to @ginzablow,  whoever you are.

**If I’m completely wrong about this and the Wheelie Marker does exist and you make it or have it for sale, please let me know so I can buy it.

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tumblr sunday: frolicsome dragon

dancing dragonThis little Chinese dragon from the Tang Dynasty is frolicking like nobody’s business.  But he still looks pretty fierce while he’s doing it.   Dragon frolics are serious business.

(Frolic is an odd word.  Google and my blogging software’s spellcheck both agree: it’s “frolicsome”, but then it’s also “frolicking”.  English.  What a language.  Those of you familiar with my work have heard this before, but why have “handsome” and “frolicsome” survived while “lovesome” and especially “ugsome” have fallen out of use?)

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the hand of buddha

buddhashandwikiIf you watch a lot of cooking shows on the Food Network or elsewhere, you are familiar with the weird looking citrus fruit called the “Buddha’s Hand”.  It is a kind of citron, widely eaten in Asia and also displayed in rooms for its pervasive fresh scent, and presumably for its generally cool appearance.  In the Lincoln Park Conservatory, I found this one growing, its fingers still closed. buddhashand1 The Wikipedia tells us that when these fruit are used in temple offerings the Buddha prefers the ones with closed fingers rather than open ones, since they are in a position of prayer.

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“voudou: sacred powers of haiti” at the field museum

IMGP0380Or “My really sort of messed up visit to an amazing exhibit of extraordinary artifacts”.  I could have used this visit to learn a lot about the truly fascinating nation of Haiti, where indigenous, African, and Western/Christian cultures combined to  create voudou, which is so present in American popular media and so little understood.  That’s what I should have done, and I really kinda didn’t.

Instead, I was so utterly mesmerized by the sculptures as art objects that all I wanted to do was interact with them with the camera.  It didn’t help that in respect for voudou beliefs the Field did not put the wonderful figures in glass cases and thereby isolate them from visitors. And it really didn’t help that many of them are roughly human sized. Combine the two and you find yourself walking among these … beings as fellow creatures.  When I took these photographs I didn’t feel like I was photographing displays in a museum.  I was shooting portraits.

I’m so happy with the results (click on each image to see it full sized) and they bring out such strong memories of visiting the actual objects that I’m not sorry for the way my visit went.  But if I go back, I will leave the camera in the bag and do a bit more reading.

Voudou: Sacred Powers of Haiti, at the Field Museum in Chicago, through April 26, 2015

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best of the drawing of the day, week 132: students

drawingoftheday-week132-studentsWhere is Babel University?  I have no idea, but I’m pretty sure that the shirt is a novelty featuring a common student nickname for that august institution.  It’s real name is Something Something City College (or maybe the Something Something City Colleges) and it’s a gritty, down to earth piece of educational infrastructure, churning out teachers and nurses and social workers and administrators to serve the real world needs of a large urban fantasy setting.  While it certainly has its share of distinguished graduates, they tend to be crusading journalists and documentary filmmakers who tell truth to power, rather than ivory tower academics.  People who love the place call it  Babel University because of the many languages spoken there and the widely diversity of its student body, who come from (shall we say) a variety of different places of origin and walks of life.

Of course, since many of the students are adults who need to support themselves and their families, Babel offers classes more or less around the clock.  The evening and late evening classes are popular with working students– and those who are nocturnal.

(The smaller character is either a toy mascot or a fellow student.  Or both.)

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a poem i wrote in my car

I wrote a poem in my car/ and posted it to my blog/ from my phone.

  • Hey, don’t honk at me.
  • I am making a left turn.
  • Excuse me for yielding
  • To oncoming traffic.

This is the second draft./ The first draft had swears in it.

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who controls the conservatory?

While I was carrying my camera through the Lincoln Park Zoo last week, I found this scene in the Conservatory.conservatorycontrols3-blogI don’t know what delicate controls are behind that once-green- painted wheel, but the palm tree seems pretty determined to get its creepers (or are they roots?) on them.  If it ever manages to snag the key to that Master padlock, the Conservatory will belong to the plants!

Or is something else going on here?

(Tech stuff for camera geeks: Pentax K-30, 50-200mm kit zoom, 1/250, f/5.6, ISO 3200, focal length 50mm)

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tom magliozzi

Sad news today, as we hear of the death of Tom Magliozzi, the elder of “Click and Clack, the Tappet Brothers” who hosted “Car Talk” on NPR for so many years.  I love radio, and “Car Talk” was one of my favorite programs, the constant companion of many, many Saturday mornings.  The Magliozzi brothers were real characters in the finest sense of the word (Tom was the one with very distinctive laugh) and much is being said today about how the show appealed to just about everyone, even those who weren’t interested in the nominal subject matter.  If you are actually interested in cars and car culture, you know just how appealing it was to us.  I learned a large share of what I know about the practical side of cars and driving from Tom and his brother Ray.  IMG_20141103_170733In memory of Tom, I went out into the driveway at twilight and took a snapshot of my own car.   Tom Magliozzi’s obituary at NPR is here.

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