Saturday, June 30, 2012

The National Pastime

Amateur baseball under a perfect late evening sky in Delaware Park.  I don't know if there's a better way to spend an summer evening.

Yet More Saturday Family Blogging

Not only is Helen a star soccer player (she scored a goal in the game this morning), but she was also pretty quick to master the old game of hoops. 

Another "Dreamscape"

Taken at Hoyt Lake in Delaware Park.  Lil Sis (and perhaps silent others) wondered how I got this effect after posting some examples the other day.  They are double exposures of the same subject, but with one in focus and one out of focus.  It's necessary to employ manual focusing to do this, and helps a lot if you use a tripod.  I hope if anyone else tries it, they'll share the results.

More Saturday Family Blogging

Sara entertaining a guest at her house in the Buffalo Niagara Heritage Village. Did I get that name right, Sal? I know it used to be the Amherst Museum. 

Saturday Family Blogging

Ben, about to descend the rocky base of the lighthouse that stands at the point where the Buffalo River spills into Lake Erie.

Quote of the Day

Is there any wonder why I appreciate the following quote from the German scientist Georg Christoph Lichtenberg (1742-1799)?

"Food probably has a very great influence on the condition of men. Wine exercises a more visible influence, food does it more slowly but perhaps just as surely. Who knows if a well-prepared soup was not responsible for the pneumatic pump or a poor one for a war?"

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Three Photos

I've been experimenting with my camera recently and have come up with a technique that leads to some interesting, "dream-like" effects.  These three examples, which illustrate the technique are all unretouched or edited-- what you see is what I shot.  I doubt that I'm the first to discover this process, but feeling just a little self-satisfied that I figured it out on my own.

These three photos were taken, respectively, in Chestnut Ridge Park, Niagara Falls (looking out over Terrapin Point, where Nick Wallenda started his recent walk), and Audubon Woods. I'm inclined to think (especially based on these examples) that natural light is the better condition for this effect.  Comments?

Toonerville Thursday

A couple of more strips featuring the inimitable Mickey "Himself" McGuire, a kid whop was not only tough but apparently also wise beyond his years.

A Thought for Thursday

Boy, I'd sure like to believe this is true.  It's from the novel Winter's Tale by Mark Helprin:

"All rivers run full to the sea; those who are apart are brought together; the lost ones are redeemed; the dead come back to life; the perfectly blue days that have begun and ended in golden dimness continue, immobile and accessible; and, when all is perceived in such a way as to obviate time, justice becomes apparent not as something that will be, but something that is."

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Soup Diary 120626

I remember when I was a kid, my mom would occasionally make stuffed peppers-- green peppers hollowed out and filled with a ground beef and rice mix and baked in tomato sauce.  I don't remember liking it very much, but I was a picky eater (and went through a long phase where I didn't like anything with tomato sauce on it-- spaghetti, meatloaf, whatever).  So when I saw, for the first time ever, a menu that included Stuffed Pepper Soup, my impulse was to reject it immediately. But noting that there were no other options, and committed to the idea of trying anything that wasn't seafood-based, I took the plunge.  The first spoonful tasted oh so familiar and I realized that the flavor (if not the texture) was exactly the same as in those stuffed peppers my mother made, and it was really good.  I chalk this up to the maturing of my taste buds over time.  But it does make me wonder why I never outgrew my aversion to fish?    

The Last Book I Read

Explorers of the Nile by Tim Jeal is my kind of summer reading.  It's an richly detailed recounting of the exploits of Richard Burton, John Speke, David Livingstone, Henry Stanley and a number of other Victorian-era adventurers who sought to find and investigate the source of the Nile River in Africa.  What comes across especially well is how competitive and envious these famous men were of one another, and the often absurd lengths they would go to discredit one another's theories as they competed for support from the British government, the Royal Geographic Society, and even the African monarchs and Arab traders with whom they inevitably came into contact (surprisingly, to me, Stanley is the one who comes off as the least obnoxious, though Livingstone is close).  Jeal also does a good job of crediting the loyal African guides and porters who were a huge factor in the success of failure of the various explorations.  Perhaps most impressive is the final chapter where Jeal analyses the long-term effects of their efforts, and speculates on how contemporary affairs in equatorial Africa evolved (for both good and bad) from the imperial consequences of those explorations.  That analysis even includes some reasonable alternative scenarios (based on the author's speculation regarding potentially different outcomes at various key points in the nineteenth century) that on balance do not suggest things could've been noticeably better in the region today had they occurred.  In the end, it's impossible to escape the conclusion that the slave trade (which is an integral part of the explorers' story in several meaningful ways) was the primary cause of most of the ills suffered on the African continent even down to the present day, even as Jeal notes that many millions of African communities have enjoyed a more-or-less steady history of security and prosperity even despite that legacy.  I'd love to see a sequel to this book that looks at similar adventures and their consequences in Western Africa.   

A Tuesday Thought

An interesting insight from the author Albert Camus (1913-1960):

"Happiness, that grand mistress of the ceremonies
 in the dance of life, impels us through all its mazes 
and meanderings, but leads none of us by the 
same route."

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Yet More Saturday Family Blogging

That's Tom in the background enjoying some old-time tunes down at the Allentown Art Festival a couple weeks back. 

More Saturday Family Blogging

Emma (and Nik and Helen, portions of whom you can probably make out in the background) sure like ice cream, even if it takes her forever to finish.

Saturday Family Blogging

I'm not sure why Helen was making that face, unless she was puckering up to blow up another balloon.

A Saturday Quote

George Burns (1896-1996)was a funny guy, and often wise, as in this comment:

"If you ask what is the single most important key to 
longevity, I would have to say it is avoiding worry, 
stress and tension. And if you didn't ask me, 
I'd still have to say it."

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Toonerville Thursday

I guess it could generally be pretty handy to have a guy like "Suitcase" Simpson around. Lucky for the folks of Toonerville, they DO have him around.

A Thought for Thursday

Some reasonable advice from the pen of author Mary McCarthy (1912-1989):

"Make it a rule of life never to regret and never 
look back. We all live in suspense, from day to 
day,  from hour to hour; in other words, 
we are the hero of our own story."

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

The Last Book I Read

As a place where music "happened" Laurel Canyon really doesn't have the same cultural cache of Detroit or Memphis or even Cleveland. But Michael Walker does a good job of demonstrating how the vibe of the Canyon (which provides a somewhat bucolic, woodsy link between Hollywood and the San Fernando Valley) was a major factor in shaping Los Angeles rock from the Byrds to the Eagles, and involving the likes of such disparate figures as the Monkees, Joni Mitchell, Frank Zappa, and loads of others.  It's a compelling story with lots of colorful personalities, including not just musicians, but other artists, fans and even psychopaths (some of the Manson murders occurred in the Canyon).  I think the value in Walker's book is more in defining a mythology of the Canyon lifestyle than in really proving there's some kind of unified Laurel Canyon "sound" (which, it's important to note, the author never asserts anyway), which on close inspection would prove true in those other cities as well.  But it's a very entertaining read, and, after driving through the Canyon a few times myself (because I'd heard so much about it), I now have some understanding of what made it so special at least for awhile.               

Soup Diary 120620

When is Black Bean Chili actually Black Bean Chili?  I had a bowl of something called that on a menu a few days back, and while it was actually pretty good, it sure tasted (and looked) more like a soup than a chili.  That is, it was beans and peppers and onions in a fairly liquidy brown broth rather than a thicker chili-style sauce.  I'm sure the distinction is based more on the ingredients than the consistency of the stuff, but while there were definitely big chunks of green pepper in the mix, I did not detect any actual chili peppers (or for that matter, chili flavor). I guess it really doesn't matter, but if I'm going to keep writing up these encounters, I have to have something to comment on, right? 

Sad News

For many years beginning some time in the mid-seventies, I was a regular reader of the Village Voice, largely because of the weekly movie reviews they included by Andrew Sarris.  There were also a number of good music writers, like Robert Christgau and Lester Bangs, as well as Geoffrey Stokes on media and Nat Hentoff on human rights, but the main draw for me was Sarris.  It was clear in his writing that he was a fan first, and a critic second (not that he ever shortchanged the reader on thoughtful analysis-- it's just that you had a sense that what made him passionate about movies in the first place was the visceral kick they provided, with the intellectual stuff a savory bonus).  When I discovered his indispensable book The American Cinema, it became my film bible and I still keep it within reach of my favorite TV-watching chair so that I can reread his comments on the director of every good (or even not-so-good) old movie I catch on Turner Classics.  Eventually Sarris moved on the the New York Observer, where I read his columns on-line, and up until a year or so ago, he was still contributing pieces to Film Comment. Unfortunately, I just saw that he passed away today, so his by-line won't be appearing anywhere anymore (you can read the NY Times obituary here).  Maybe, if we're lucky, a nice anthology of his work (long overdue) will appear in the near future. 

Words for Wednesday

This one is from the french existentialist Jean Paul Sartre (1905-1980) who, in this instance at least, makes a lot of sense:

"A man is always a teller of tales, he lives surrounded 
by his stories and the stories of others, he sees everything 
that happens to him through them; and he tries to live his 
life as if he were recounting it."

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Father's Day Quote

You can always count on Mark Twain (1835-1910) to have a great line for any occasion:

"When I was a boy of 14, my father was so ignorant
that I could hardly stand to have the old man around.
But when I got to be 21, I was astonished at how 
much the old man had learned in seven years."

Saturday, June 16, 2012

The Last Saturday Family Blogging Post (This Week)

From this morning's soccer game out behind the soccer field, here's our mini-Mia-Hamm... otherwise known as Helen.  Actually, I'm thinking the nickname I used on the day she was born is becoming even more relevant: "Helen Wheels."

One More Saturday Family Blogging Post

Natalie behind the wheel of her new car (I hope I'm not jumping the gun if the deal isn't final yet).

Even More Saturday Family Blogging

Nik may have thought he was in the catbird seat with that little water balloon (actually a reusable sponge), but someone pulled out the hose, and well...

More Saturday Family Blogging

Believe it or not, Ben is engaged in a serious art project here.  Unfortunately, I don't seem to have a photo of the finished product.  If you look close, you can make out his Mom in the shadows to his right (your left).

Saturday Family Blogging

I think this photo accurately conveys the go-go-go lifestyle of little Emma.

Saturday's Quote

I imagine most of us can empathize with this statement by the noted composer Igor Stravinsky (1882-1971):

"We can neither put back the clock nor slow down 
our forward speed, as we are already flying pilotless, 
on instrument controls. It is even too late to ask 
where we are going."

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Toonerville Thursday

Those Wortles were sure an endless source of amusement for the citizens of Toonerville (as well as the readers of Fontaine Fox's great comic strip).

Thought for Thursday

Good point by one of the few politicians of my lifetime who never lost my respect, Mario Cuomo:

"We must get the American public to look past the glitter, beyond the showmanship, to the reality, the hard substance of things. And we'll do it not so much with speeches that will bring people to their feet as with speeches that bring people to their senses."

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Way To Go Helen!

I got to see my niece Helen play in a a soccer game last Saturday, and it turns out she's a budding superstar. She has great instincts, plays excellent defense, and was probably the fastest player on the field.  

I'm really looking forward to seeing her play a few more times this summer (and for many years to come, I hope). She has officially replaced Didier Drogba as my favorite soccer player!

Congratulations Natalie!

My niece Natalie graduated from High School last night, and was the prettiest girl there (no small feat-- as she went to an all-girl school).  This was partly due to the lovely dress made for her by her Aunt Theresa. Way to go Natalie, and now on to college!

A Tuesday Thought

Harriet Martineau (1802-1876) was a pretty sharp lady who wrote about various social issues in England and the U.S. during her lifetime.  Here's a good example of how she looked at things:

"Laws and customs may be creative of vice; and should be therefore perpetually under process of observation and correction: but laws and customs cannot be creative of virtue: they may encourage and help to preserve it; but they cannot originate it."

Saturday, June 9, 2012

No Videos For Awhile

I'm having some odd technical issues with YouTube, so may not be posting videos until I figure out what's wrong (or find another source). Hopefully this won't affect any material I've already posted. 

One More Family Blogging Post

I got the chance to watch Helen play some soccer this past week, and she's really good!  She has great instincts-- not only on offense, but getting back to play great defense too.  She also seemed to be the fastest player on the field both times I saw her play, which certainly helps.  I'm looking forward to seeing her in some more games this summer, so there will likely be more pictures as well.

Yet More Saturday Family Blogging

Emma enjoys her sugar high at the local Tim Horton's (she went with the Vanilla Frosted with Sprinkles).

More Saturday Family Blogging

There's something almost apocalyptic about this one of Ben and Andromeda wading in Lake Ontario under an ominous sky.

Saturday Family Blogging

I told Natalie that, if she ever releases a singer-songwriter type record, this could be the album cover.  It was taken at the Tifft nature Preserve. 

A Saturday Quote

A memorable line from Robert Browning's (1812-1889) "De Gustibus" from 1855:

"Progress, man's distinctive mark alone,
Not God's, and not the beasts': God is, they are,
Man partly is and wholly hopes to be."

Thursday, June 7, 2012

A Pretty Song

Art Garfunkel really shines on this ballad from the heyday of Simon & Garfunkel, "For Emily, Whenever I May Find Her:"

Toonerville Thursday

I wonder if Tomboy Taylor was ever invited to join the Little Scorpions Club, Toonerville's elite young gentleman's organization.  I'll have to do a little research...

A Thought for Thursday

A nice insight from the mind of architect Frank Lloyd Wright (1867-1959):

"A free America, democratic in the sense that our forefathers intended it to be, means just this: individual freedom for all, rich or poor, or else this system of government we call democracy is only an expedient to enslave man to the machine and make him like it."