Monday, April 30, 2007
Even stranger are the Billiken's relations in Japan and Alaska. This has been the subject of scholarly research. A few years ago, my wife and I were checking into a guest house in Kyoto. We took off our shoes, stepped into the foyer and, wham, a Billiken in my face. The owners spoke little English, our group leader was busy with the check-in and I never did get a complete story. What was it? A Japanese good luck charm or a minor Shinto deity? Perhaps the sins of my college days were following me.
My hunt for the meaning of the Billiken became more confused when we were walking down the street in Juneau, Alaska, and stumbled across the Billiken Gift Shop. I was drawn in like a fly to a back yard bug zapper. Contrary to the research cited above, the owner maintained that the figure originated in Japan and was brought to Alaska by Japanese fishermen. He was well aware of the association with SLU. Well, beats me. I didn't write a thesis on the subject. I bought a little 2 inch Alaskan Billiken, wondering what the heck I was going to do with it. It's been in my dresser drawer ever since.
By the way, the SLU campus has been transformed since my day when, honestly, it was kind of a dump (not entirely due to my presence). Now it has beautiful landscaping and many new buildings. In addition, I believe it to be the largest repository of really bad outdoor sculpture in the area. We will return to this one day when I do a series on bad art and architecture in St. Louis.
TOMORROW: City Exchange
Sunday, April 29, 2007
The inescapable comparison is to the actions of Missouri's former attorney general, governor and U. S. Senator, and later United States Attorney General, John Ashcroft. Ashcroft, a noted religious and political conservative, objected to two semi-nude statues called the Spirit of Justice in the great hall of the U.S. Department of Justice in Washington. News reports indicated that he didn't like being photographed in front of bare breasts - even aluminum ones - while making official pronouncements. He ordered the statues to be covered in fabric at a cost of $8,000 to US taxpayers. Ashcroft and the drapes are gone now. Instead, we have Alberto Gonzales. What fun.
By the way, in 2001 I sat behind Ashcroft on a long plane ride home from Portland, Oregon. He was running for president at the time. He was reading US News and World Report and I kept thinking: you say you are qualified to be president of the United States of America - don't you know this stuff already? Doesn't somebody give you a briefing once in a while? His wife was reading an article in Readers Digest called Why You Will Get Your Next Job On the Internet. I had just been to Portland's famous Saturday market, where I bought a bumper sticker that said Friends Don't Let Friends Vote Republican. Should I have gone up to his seat, introduced myself, shaken his hand and quickly placed the sticker on his back? Woulda coulda shoulda.
TOMORROW: The Ugliest Statue In St. Louis
Saturday, April 28, 2007
I love the glowing color of the motorbike. It is often in this location in
TOMORROW: Naked Truth
Friday, April 27, 2007
On the edge of the street basketball tournament I photographed recently, a superhero peddles sugar bombs to children. Most St. Louisan's idea of a frosty treat comes from a large plant a couple of miles to the south of this location.
Look at the clown's advice in the enlarged picture. Why does Safety Clown want the kiddies to walk around the rear of the truck to cross the street? Wouldn't that make it easier for the driver to back over the tykes where s/he can't see them? Besides, if you were eight years old, would you obey a clown?
So many questions. Inquiring minds want to know.
DOMANI: Come una via in Italia. Quasi.
Thursday, April 26, 2007
TOMORROW: Safety Clown Says...
Wednesday, April 25, 2007
No idea what's with the roller derby girl. Maybe she was a member of the local St. Louis Arch Rivals Roller Girls Club. (Get it? Get it? Arch Rivals? Nyuk nyuk nyuk.) The guy in the blue satin Chinese suit was in yesterday's post. I took a look around the web to see if he was a master with a local group. What I discovered is that the St. Louis Tai Chi Ch'uan Association has become a division of Monty Python's Ministry of Silly Walks.
The woman at the lower left was selling locally made products for children. You can't see it in this picture but the tag on her right shoulder says Kangaroo Kids. Looks like good stuff if you're in the market. It's the thing she's carrying that I can't get past, that alien baby doll. Looks like the plastic-domed infants of another star system have become sponsored by Sally Struthers. Not a clue about the man on the lower right. He could be Second Amendment rights advocate, a far-out Libertarian or an anarchist. Someone in the tent was wearing a Dennis Kucinich for President tee shirt, if that helps any.
TOMORROW: Thursday Arch Series
Tuesday, April 24, 2007
Okay, this may be cheating. It's technically against the rules that Eric or somebody wrote and we were all told when we signed up (whether we read them or not) - one picture a day of one city. Not everyone adheres strictly to this. Olivier posts multiple pictures all the time and gets away with it, but then he is such a good photographer, why not? These contradictions must have something to do with being French and their famous powers of logic.
It was fun for all at the St. Louis Earth Day festival. You could get up close and personal with a bald eagle. I haven't been this close to one since the last time I watched the Colbert Report with my glasses off. You could take a - what is it? - tai chi or falun gong lesson even if you're a hopeless honkey in a baseball hat. (That's what I was on Sunday, although it's not me in the picture. I would never wear white sneakers.) Actually, when I saw these guys, I thought the festival had hired the Village People to perform. Or, you could sign up for Reverend Tiki's Garden of Paradise Internet Church. Damn, I wish I'd stopped and talked to them. They are so exclusive I can't find them anywhere on the Web.
TOMORROW: What did you like best at the Earth Day Festival? Paranoid political action, brown-skinned toy alien babies, martial arts or roller derby?
Monday, April 23, 2007
For out international visitors, the words on the tee shirt are a play on one of America's most famous advertising campaigns of recent years, "Got Milk?", sponsored by our dairy industry. For a more dispassionate description, click here. Somebody does do "Got Carrots?", but, bizarrely, it has to do with training horses.
Apologies to anyone who came here looking for the "Safety Clown Says..." picture mentioned in the teaser I had up most of the day with Sunday's post. This one was too good to pass up. Safety Clown should be here in a few days. In the meantime, Safety Clown says remember, kids, don't talk to strangers with big red noses offering treats.
TOMORROW: If The Earth Is Your Mother, Who's Your Daddy?
Sunday, April 22, 2007
When I walk around at events like this with my big camera, people usually me if I'm from the newspaper. You try to explain to a stranger in 30 seconds or less what a city daily photo blog is.
TOMORROW'S POST: The Earth Is Rich In Carotene
Saturday, April 21, 2007
TOMORROW'S POST: White Photographers Can't Jump
Friday, April 20, 2007
TOMORROW'S POST: Glass Gumdrops, Naked Dancers and R. Buckminster Fuller
Thursday, April 19, 2007
TOMORROW'S POST: Between Orange and Green
Wednesday, April 18, 2007
The authorities allowed graffiti artists to decorate a section of the floodwall, maybe for good luck. Click on the image above to get a better view.
TOMORROW'S POST: Thursday Arch Series
Tuesday, April 17, 2007
I don't know exactly what this business does or even whether it's still open. The name is intriguing. Grace. Safety. Security. It makes me think of a bomb shelter in the basement of a church or a big league sports team's insurance policy on a star athlete. The mint, rose and orange colors are pleasing, like the hues in a bowl of jelly beans. I'd buy my alarm system from them on aesthetic grounds alone.
TOMORROW'S POST: Painted Birds, a Wall and a Railroad Bridge
Monday, April 16, 2007
TOMORROW'S POST: Grace Safety and Security
Sunday, April 15, 2007
It's been a great week in Las Vegas and Death Valley National Park, one of the most desolate, beautiful places in the United States (interested in pix? Email me.). Home to The Lou today. So, no links and discussion. This is the west face of the building I posted yesterday. It's hard to see in this lo-res image but the inscription on the pedestal of the arms-outstretched figure (is that a pigeon in her left hand? A real one or a painted one?) says PEACE. And so our wish to you, something often hard to find here in Las Vegas, a city build on desire and fantasy.
TOMORROW'S POST: The Almighty
Saturday, April 14, 2007
TOMORROW'S POST: the west side of this building, equally strange.
Friday, April 13, 2007
Hey it's been great lending my eye to my hometown for a few days. Here's a shot I took in September 2004 when I took a trip up inside the Arch for the first time in many years. It's a little claustrophobic in the capsules that take you up the leg. But I think it's a pretty awesome experience. When you get to the top you are standing within the triangular segments that make up the structure, with one corner pointing down. So the walls slope in towards the floor, and if you scoot up on a little ledge you can look directly down. It's a fairly dizzying experience, in a good way as far as I'm concerned. The vertigo is amplified in high winds since the Arch is designed to sway as much as 18 inches! That's in a 150 mile per hour wind. But you might feel a little shimmy if you're lucky. So go up in it if you are in town!
So long for now STLMDPB! Remember to check me out in Chicago.
Thursday, April 12, 2007
One of the beautiful things about the Arch is how it fills and shapes the space around it. Many pictures in this series are set against a blank sky to emphasize this quality. This one was shot on a bright summer day with the exposure reading taken from the steel of the near leg shining in the sun. That turned the far leg and sky very dark, to good visual effect. It also shows the irregular metal skin composed om many distinct plates. Each plate ripples. The Arch is not mirror-smooth, as it appears in many photographs taken from a distance.
It looks like I took this photo floating by the upper part of the Arch in a blimp (see/hear also this link). In fact, I was standing on the Missouri side of Eads Bridge, also a structure of great beauty and an engineering marvel in its time. My vantage point is high up over the Mississippi River.
I'm in Death Valley, California today, taking pictures and wandering up canyons. U "R" US will post one more tomorrow, then back to my regular stuff.
Wednesday, April 11, 2007
Now this is a very St. Louis scene for me. Sure there are porches like this all over, but I don't encounter them anywhere else in the numbers that I do when I visit St. Louis in warm weather. Admittedly, this was not taken last weekend, when it would not have been warm enough for such a scene to be captured. But this is a favorite from a year ago, and now I have the venue to show it!
I like that this was taken at, not after, a party. For the moment the party has moved elsewhere (to the back yard, I think) and left its remnants on the front porch. I also like the black void beyond and the white paint splatter up the brick wall. It looks to me like a spray of sparks from space. Or something.
For those who aren't familiar, I found this review of Stag beer on ratebeer.com:
Here in Southeast Missouri, we call Stag by several nicknames - Stay Til All Gone, Steak Taters And Gravy, and Belleville (IL) Budweiser [my emphasis]. A dry beer, very filling, never had a hangover on this stuff, albeit quite a few upset stomachs. Plenty of taste, if you can stand it - also, plenty of aftertaste ,again, if you can stand it. Just hasn’t been quite the same since Heilemann swallowed them up. Kind of like Busch Beer after they redesigned the can and dropped the Bavarian logo - something was changed. Back in the early 80’s, Stag was one of the last to stick with the two-tap (upper and lower) keg - back then - considering the college pallate - Stag out of a keg couldn’t be beat.
Tuesday, April 10, 2007
Is the name of the company headquartered in this building. I always thought the name was slightly funny and that's probably what first got my attention as I was driving by it with my camera at the ready last weekend. I also like the aesthetics of this kind of place, as I have discussed on my Chicago blog here and here. Apparently they don't necessarily make ramming machines, but rather I'm deducing from their website that John Ramming started the company when it was making steamboat parts in the 19th century. And its original location is now occupied by The Arch. Cool, huh?
One note about the photo itself: I took a few other angles, but none of them worked for me because of the slick silver luxury car parked out front. I used that parking sign as both a central focus and to block that car out the old-fashioned, pre-photoshop way.
Meet me in Chicagy [sic].
Monday, April 9, 2007
Greetings STLMDPB readers! This is not a test. This is son of Strangetastes filling in while pops is putting his new super-duper lens through its paces in Death Valley (what a copycat, right?). Which means I got to borrow his white balance determining filter that doesn't fit the new lens. Yippee!
Anyway, I was in Tha Lou last weekend and here's some of the fruit of my snapping. I think this is a lilac bush in front of one of the beautiful old buildings of Lafayette Square. Correct me on identifying that flower, please. I had a hard time picking this shot over this one. What do you think? Here's a wider shot too where passing clouds kinda screwed up my exposure, but you get a better sense of the architecture of the row houses there. Do you think either neighbor conspired about the planting of that bush or the house paint color? Seems too perfect.
Sunday, April 8, 2007
You can carry a concealed weapon in Missouri with a permit. There may be fifty or sixty thousand more on the streets next weekend. Fortunately, I will be in beautiful Las Vegas, a peacable city. Las Vegas' marketing slogan is, "What happens here, stays here." Use your imagination.
I drive by this billboard every day on my way home from work and I have to say it creeps me out. At least they didn't put Charlton Heston's glaring visage on the sign. Heston, for many years the president of the NRA, is famous for responding to those who favor gun control by proclaiming they would have to pry his weapon "from my cold, dead hands"
MONDAY THROUGH WEDNESDAY'S POSTS: While I'm away in the desert, special guest blogger U "R" US of Chicago Flair CDPB fame will post images of a visit to his home town.
Saturday, April 7, 2007
I seem to have found my way back to the baseball stadium. Outside the northwest corner are statues of the Cardinals who have been inducted into the baseball Hall of Fame. Don't remember who this old batsman was but he seems intent on breaking some windows of the Bank of America building, sometimes known locally as the Darth Vader Tower (the glass exterior is black). Note to visitors from other countries: this is not our country's national bank. That is the Federal Reserve. There is a regional branch of the Fed a few blocks away. Bank of America is a very, very large private bank whose name was recommended by the famous consultants, Hubris Associates.
A digression: the Fed's web site has a truly bizarre kid's page. The more tots know about monetary policy, the better off we will all be.
The older building in the bottom center was once the regional headquarters of AT&T, which split into Southwestern Bell and the other so-called Baby Bells, which then became SBC but sometimes Cingular, all of which passed through a worm tunnel in a black hole and was transformed into, voilá, AT&T. No, I certainly don't get it but see Stephen Colbert's incisive analysis of the process.
TOMORROW'S POST: Run For Cover!
Friday, April 6, 2007
Back at the Mardi Gras parade on a cold, snowy February day. Some people are really ready to let it out and show it off. Click this picture for a larger version and look at the words on the masking tape stuck to his jacket: "HEY POINT [a local radio station and sponsor of the parade] CHECK OUT MY TATTOOZ." Then examine the fine craftsmanship on his back and belly, with the radio station's frequency written with a Sharpie, I guess, over his flaming navel. And I want to tell you, it was cold.
TOMORROW'S POST: A Swinger
Thursday, April 5, 2007
Are my notes getting too obscure?
TOMORROW'S POST: A Profane Triptych
Wednesday, April 4, 2007
The loggia is a charming architectural element created in Italy, characterized by a passageway on the outside of a building, supported by columns and open to the air. Beautiful examples are found in Florence, and, most famously, on the Doge's palace in Venice.
"Ain't got any of them loggias around here in Missouri, do we, paw?" "Nah, son, just some fake ones. Here, have another can of the product of the local mega-brewer."
TOMORROW'S POST: Thursday Arch Series
Tuesday, April 3, 2007
TOMORROW'S POST: The Fake Loggia
Monday, April 2, 2007
Yesterday was a gorgeous day in St. Louis, bright sun and 75 F. (24 C.). The Cardinals held an opening day rally in Kiener Plaza in the city center. Nobody knows who Kiener was and I can't even find it on Google. Three friends were enjoying the sunshine and beverages produced by the local mega-brewer. They met some nice young ladies who were promoting the fine restaurant mentioned in yesterday's post, which has just opened a new outlet on the plaza. The irony is that they did not appear to consume many 2/3-Lb. Double Bacon Cheese Thickburgers, despite their enthusiasm for their employer. The ladies' shirts bore various slogans, one of which was "Hunger Patrol." Really? Hungry for what?
The baseball game opened with great ceremony, featuring members of past Cardinals championship teams. Poor old Stan Musial, so honored that his statue towers outside the stadium, came onto the field in a golf cart but was not well enough to walk over to the other veterans. The home team then took a 6-1 drubbing by the Mets. Late in the game, some fans still tried to work up a bit of enthusiasm.
Note the tee shirt of the man at the left of the first picture (click the picture to enlarge it). A small, publicity hungry publisher issues an annual ranking of America's safest and most dangerous cities. This year St. Louis topped their bad list. The lists are completely bogus, of course, for statistical and demographic reasons too lengthy to mention here. Maybe the owners should satisfy their needs with the Hunger Patrol instead of picking on us.
TOMORROW'S POST: Bad News
Sunday, April 1, 2007
Now don't go thinking my city is all grace and beauty. Just two blocks south of the stadium is this purveyor of one of the main nutrition groups for some of my countrymen (and women), the others being the the category that includes the Hardee's 2/3-Lb. Double Bacon Cheese Thickburger (1300 calories, 40g of saturated fat, 205mg of cholesterol and 2110mg of sodium - click down the list at the right side of the linked page) and Krispy Kreme Donuts (who wont even list nutritional information on their web site - you have to call them. And probably give the password.), wrapping up with the group that features Busch Bavarian Beer (made by the sponsors of the stadium), Captain Morgan Spiced Rum (who orders you to drink responsibly), etc. etc. Well, the stuff they sell to eat inside the stadium isn't any better. (Look! Look! There's a Hardee's in there! Thickburgers!)
This rant was not brought to you by the American College of Cardiology, but it could have been. I apologize for any offense. Back to baseball in tomorrow's post.