Friday, November 30, 2007

Pray For Mass Casualties

I was driving downtown the other day and I saw this police helicopter in the middle of the street. Not an everyday occurrence. St. Louis' center does not have a Green Zone. So what's all this, then?

As luck would have it, I had my camera with me. I walked back from my office and found that a regional disaster drill was going on.

The juxtaposition of the advertising sign on the taxi and the emergency services truck was weird. I don't know what's with the Our Lady of Guadalupe thing around here. She is a Mexican Catholic object of devotion but there are signs like this on taxis and billboards around our area, which doesn't have much Hispanic population. Various popes have given her promotions, medals and decorations. Pius XII declared her
“Queen of Mexico and Empress of the Americas" in 1945. The United States does not accept her jurisdiction.

I can't quite figure out how this imagery relates to the Mass Casualty Response Unit behind the taxi. Is OLOG here to rescue the mass casualties (of what or from what)? Or is the mass casualty unit responding to OLOG? And what's with this sign in the taxi's back window about a yoga class? It there yoga in Mexico? Is there intelligent life on earth?

Life is full of little mysteries.
Enquiring minds want to know.

TOMORROW: CDPB Theme Day - Bridges - With A Quiz And A Contest

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Thursday Arch Series

Some day I may run out of ways to look at the Arch, but not just yet. This image makes me think of the tail or wing of an airliner. Fly the friendly skies of St. Louis.

TOMORROW: Our Lady of Guadalupe, Pray For Mass Casualties

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Power and Light

Back to the recycle bin until I can shoot some new material. About a month ago, I posted a picture of this old power station, just the upper-right corner with the word Light. Someone asked me to show the whole facade. This is just the top but contains the whole former name of the company, Union Power and Light. What a great concept: we are the source of POWER and LIGHT. Sticking your finger in an electric socket could be a nearly religious experience.

Thanks again to Mitch from Minneapolis for reminding me to use the Photoshop CS3 deskew tool to square up these photos of buildings shot from below.

TOMORROW: Thursday Arch Series returns

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

That Hawk Again

Back in the Lou, as we say, after several days way out in Kansas. There are photos from the prairies on Flickr here.

Anyway, last Wednesday I posted a photo of a hawk atop a building in Forest Park beside a bright half moon. It got a very positive response. This is another picture from the same series.

THIS BLOG HAD A VISITOR FROM ITS 100TH COUNTRY TODAY, someone from Namibia. We've had 14,000 visitors in a little less than nine months. Thanks to all.

TOMORROW: Power and Light

Monday, November 26, 2007

Hope Springs Eternal

There was a big football game between the universities of Kansas and Missouri on Saturday night. My brother in law cleaned out the garage, wheeled in two televisions, set out a buffet and a large variety of beer and invited lots of friends and family. Some of the guests got a better choice from the buffet than others. By the way, Kansas lost the game.

TOMORROW: That hawk again

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Hanover, Kansas

My wife's mother lives in Hanover, Kansas, population 653. It has a grocery, two gas stations, two restaurant-cafes (Ricky's is the place to see and be seen - everybody meets at Rick's), a bank, two bars (although they can only sell 3.2 % alcohol beer under state law), a post office, a tiny hospital, a hardware store and a grain elevator. As the Rolling Stones once said, you can't always get what you want but if you try sometime, you get what you need.

It's like Cheers, the place where everybody knows your name. The people are warm, generous and open. If they wondered about a city slicker wandering around their town taking pictures, none of them were forward enough to ask who I was and what I was doing. When I hang around here I'm always ready with, "Hi! I'm Bob, Elvira Kruse's son in law. You got some beautiful..." whatever. It's never necessary. Visits here are always a treat.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

O Mighty Huntsmen

Several of my nephews and their friends went out quail hunting yesterday. As it turned out, the quail population of Washington County, Kansas, was not in great danger. U “R” Us and I went along to record the event. We outgunned the locals: they were toting shotguns but we were shooting Canons.

The hunters saw a couple of quail but didn’t come close to getting any. When we got back to the farmhouse, they all saw something fly by and opened fire en masse, missing one after another. Eventually something fuzzy fell from the sky. Forty shotgun blasts (yes, literally) later and their total catch for the day was one lousy pigeon.

Afterwards, the guys decided to shoot clay targets. They did a little better. U “R” Us had never fired a shotgun (or almost any other weapon) so his cousin Ryan gave him a lesson. He beat the country boys round after round, to his surprise and delight. He’s taking some new personal defense skills home to Chicago.

TOMORROW: They don't speak Plattdeutsch here

Friday, November 23, 2007

On The Farm: Cattle With Attitude

Bremen, Kansas is a town of 45. My wife grew up in the suburbs. The old family farm and home is now owned by her youngest brother and his wife. Their children are grown but everybody is home today for Thanksgiving, from 89 year old grandma, my generation, our young adult children and a variety of their rug-rat sized kids. And dogs. A lot of dogs underfoot.

I went out around the farm with my camera late this afternoon. Don't mess with these cattle. They got a bad attitude.


Thursday, November 22, 2007

The Weirdest Theme Park Development In Kansas City, Kansas

We stopped at the home of my wife's sister and her husband in Kansas City, Kansas, on the way to see the rest of the family way out on the prairie. Dorothy and Bill have 11 acres on the edge of the KC metropolitan area. Bill, my brother in law, spent 35 years as a lineman and supervisor for Kansas Power and Light. He can do anything involving tools, electricity, plumbing or carpentry and he has quite an imagination. Now that he is retired, he is designing an what amounts to an improbable mini-theme park on their land. It's impossible to describe the details - this skull mask behind the wheel of a beat-up 1936 Chevy pick up truck with its own odd gas station is just one little part. There's lots more under construction. I'll come back in the spring for a fuller treatment.

TOMORROW: Cattle with attitude

Wednesday, November 21, 2007


Last Saturday afternoon, I was shooting in Forest Park just before and after sunset. One of the park's resident hawks was perched on top of the only building left from the 1904 World's Fair (Meet me in St. Looie, Looie. Meet me at the fair...), which is what FP was created for. She or he sat there for a long time, surveying its domain. If nothing else, this illustrates the fun you can have with a big honkin' telephoto lens.

Happy Thanksgiving to those in the US. Safe travels to those on the road and in the air. We're heading for the countryside in Kansas.

TOMORROW: The Thursday Arch Series is taking the holiday off. How about something from the very strange theme park my brother in law is building in Kansas City, Kansas?

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

A Slow Run Through the Woods

Sculpture is scattered throughout the Missouri Botanical Garden. This caught my eye on my last visit. The figures are lifesize and perfectly modeled but I find them disconcerting. The girls' expressions are serious. The one on the right looks a little anxious. It makes me think they are running away from something but run as hard as they can, they never move forward, never escape this bit of woods.

How do you react?

TOMORROW: Nighthawk

Monday, November 19, 2007

Industrial Matrix: Steel and Cement

Near the riverfront south of the Arch, a herd of cement mixers stand in a cyclone fence corral under a railroad bridge that crosses the Mississippi. The bridge doesn't even have a name. It's a tough neighborhood.

TOMORROW: Running In Place

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Glass Birds In the Rain Forest

A couple of years ago, the Missouri Botanical Garden was filled with the work of Tacoma, Washington, glass sculptor Dale Chihuly. Some of the work was left in the garden after the main show closed. I have posted some photos in the past, like this one back in April.

This shot was taken in the Climatron, a big geodesic dome designed by R. Buckminster Fuller that contains a tropical rain forest environment. This group reminds me of a family of elegant mutant flamingos.

TOMORROW: Tough Neighborhood

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Both Sides Now

The Grand Basin again, but from the top of Art Hill this time. It is foreshortened by the lens but that's a long hill down to the water, which is one of the reasons why it is STL's favorite sledding venue. The other is the great surroundings. St. Louis University, where I went to school, is only a few minutes away. When my friends and I were poor undergraduates, we used to liberate trays from the cafeteria and use them for one-person, butt-bumping, tipsy sleds. You really had to be careful when you reached the bottom. The drop off the edge is close to a meter. If the Basin was well-frozen, you would bump hard but keep on sliding. But if there was no or this ice... You get the idea.

It looks like we are about to get clobbered by a tornado in this picture but it was just another garden-variety rain storm rolling across the American prairie. We haven't had a tornado in St. Louis proper in many decades. Which is not to say we couldn't have one tomorrow. (They are more likely in the spring and summer, anyway.)

TOMORROW: Glass Birds In the Rain Forest

Friday, November 16, 2007

Your Mother Said You'd Go Blind...

...if you stared at the sun. It didn't seem to hurt the light sensor of my camera much, blinking at that brightest spot for 1/500 second. The hazy clouds probably helped.

This is in Forest Park, looking roughly south across the Grand Basin, a large, formal pool. In the background is Art Hill, STL's favorite sledding spot (it's so much bigger than you can see in the picture) and, on the top, the St. Louis Art Museum. You can rent a rowboat and paddle around the fountains.

TOMORROW: Watch out for the drop at the bottom

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Thursday Arch Series

Downtown on an autumn evening with my camera and tripod. The Arch, about two blocks away, reflects silver from its spotlights and orange-pink from the sodium vapor street lights, while surrounded by the black sky over the Mississippi River.

TOMORROW: Kids - don't try this without wearing welding goggles!

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

If You Have To Ask... can't afford it. These merchants take advantage of very self-indulgent customers. This makes me think of an R. Crumb comic book in which a rumpled agitator is running around screaming, "Come the revolution, ain't gonna be no more Cadillacs!"

This dealership is way out in the suburbs. I dislike newer, sprawling American suburbs, with their cultural sterility,
lawn care fetishes and utter dependence on automobiles. Now I must confess that I don't live in the City of St. Louis proper, which has 350,000 people in a metropolitan area of 2.6 million (although I have worked or gone to school in it for 40 years). St. Louis had more than 900,000 people in 1950 but was bled by suburban development. My town, Webster Groves, is a suburb, but it is just outside the city limits, old by local standards and has city streets rather than subdivisions. It is racially and economically mixed. My family left the core city when the public schools became intolerable. I've been poking around the nether 'burbs on some recent weekends looking for things to shoot and I'm finding little of interest, mostly heaps of blandness. It's like the way Gertrude Stein described Oakland, California: there is no there there.

TOMORROW: Thursday Arch Series

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

En-wa Nihongo doko desu ka?

I know an iddy bitty bit of Japanese. My wife and I actually took several months of conversational Japanese tutoring before our last visit but I have forgotten most of it from non-use. The phrase in the title means, "where is the Japanese garden?" Or a more important "where" question, "toiru-wa doko desu ka?" Where is the toilet? The ever-popular gaijin phrases, "kippu, ni hon, onegeashimasu" (two tickets, please) or "biru, kudesai" (beer, please). You can always fall back on "Nihongo-wa wakarimasu sen. Eigo-wa wakarimasu ka?" That is, I don't speak Japanese. Do you speak English? Now I could have written any of that incorrectly but I'd never realize it now. Just basic language in Japanese isn't too hard but counting things is fiendishly difficult for Westerners. It takes forever to explain why so Google it if you are curious.

The Japanese Garden at the Missouri Botanical Garden contains this lovely little zig-zag path over the water's edge. In season, the planter boxes peaking up through the surface are bursting with irises.

TOMORROW: If you have to ask, you can't afford it.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Japanese Garden

People who view this blog know that I am not a big fan of nature, floral, etc. Been there, done that. Who has something new to say? It's not that I'm against beauty but, as the saying goes, beauty is in the eye of the beholder. And I have, well, strange tastes.

Sometimes on a weekend I'm out looking for material for the week's posts and nothing comes to mind. Brain freeze. There are a few locations I fall back on: the riverfront, Forest Park and, of course, our gorgeous Missouri Botanical Garden. I went there on Sunday looking for bridges for the December 1 theme day - the Japanese garden has a couple of charming examples. The garden is bursting with fall colors and the light was divine - tiny showers giving way to sunshine. A bit out of character, but I was seduced.

TOMORROW: En-wa Nihongo doko desu ka?

Frozen Custard In The Dark

As mentioned several times on this blog, Ted Drewes is a St. Louis institution, serving freshly made frozen custard made from natural ingredients. During the summer, the lines go out into the street. What's going on on a chilly November night?

It's still there dispensing its nectar to connoisseurs. Only a few are hardy enough to go out in the autumn weather. In the next couple of weeks, they convert the parking lot to Christmas tree sales, then back to custard in the new year.

I posted some other photos of Ted Drewes at night last month, when I brought some friends from out of town.

TOMORROW: Konichiwa, y'all

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Courtesy Diner

Out prowling at night again with my camera and tripod. Everybody knows Courtesy Diner, on Hampton Avenue just south of Forest Park. Whether you go for the food or the exceptionally good manners of the staff is up to you. I hear the chili and breakfasts are great but I've never been in the place. It's open way late for the nighthawks.

TOMORROW: Dark flavors

Friday, November 9, 2007

The Old Court House At Night

Now that it's getting dark around 5 PM / 17.00 in St. Louis, I can pack my camera and tripod in the trunk of my car and go out for some night shots after work. I did that Wednesday night for the first time, just walking around downtown. This is the west entrance to the historic Old Court House, which I have featured in the past. Got some good night shots of the Arch, too, which will certainly find their way here on a Thursday. More of this to come.

As suggested by Mitch from Minneapolis in his comment, I changed this picture in Photoshop from the version first posted this morning to relieve some of the "looking up" narrowing from bottom to top. Good idea.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Thursday Arch Series

I am trying a new approach to visions of the Arch. This photo was shot in monochrome on a bright summer day, looking almost straight up from underneath. I edited it to make it less sharp and add graininess. The result looks like an old photograph or poor quality film, the kind of picture you used to see of alleged flying saucers. It also reminds me of low resolution astronomical photos from the years before digiitally enhanced imaging. The strange, modernistic shape and sun disk give it kind of a science fiction look anyway. It's a bit mysterious.

What's your reaction?

TOMORROW: Nighttime

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Life On the Mississippi: Tom Sawyer in Autumn

Well, not Tom Sawyer in person. The Tom Sawyer, the river excursion boat. My post last Saturday had a picture of what is, in effect, the dock for this and two similar vessels. It's fun to go for a ride during the day when you can see the variety along the river banks. Not so hot at night because you can see very little in the dark after the boat leaves downtown.

It this photo, the Tom Sawyer is about to pass under Eads Bridge as it goes by the end of the park that contains the Arch.

TOMORROW Thursday Arch Series

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Life On the Mississippi: Barge Traffic

The United States has a great inland water transportation system. The Mississippi River is the spine. It runs north from New Orleans, past St. Louis and almost to the Canadian border. The Missouri River, which bisects my state of the same name, starts in Montana, far to the northwest, and joins the Mississippi near my city's northern suburbs. The Ohio River is formed to the east at Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania by the confluence of two smaller rivers. The Great Lakes are connected to the Mississippi by canal.

Enormous barges carry bulk freight up and down the riverways. This one, carrying coal, is northbound as it passes St. Louis. I took this picture on a cloudless autumn day from Eads Bridge, which I've featured here before. See, for example, last Friday's post, to the left of the statue of Lewis and Clark.

TOMORROW Life On the Mississippi Continues: Tom Sawyer in Autumn

Monday, November 5, 2007

Life On (And Over) The Mississippi: Helicopter Rides

If you want to fork out some money, you can go for a helicopter over the riverfront and surrounding area. I've been watching this copter on my last few shooting trips in the neighborhood and the length of the ride varies. I'm sure the price does, too. The deluxe one seems to go over to Illinois, downriver to the Anheuser-Busch brewery and then back downtown over Busch Stadium, where the baseball Cardinals play.

One of these days, when I'm feeling extravagant, I'll buy a ticket and bring my camera along.

Life On the Mississippi Continues: Barge Traffic

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Life On the Missisippi: Riverboats 2

The American Queen (not to be confused with The African Queen, which is on TV here at the moment) is a luxurious paddlewheeler which can take you for a few nights up and down the Mississippi from New Orleans to St. Louis and back again. The name of the boat company, Majestic American Line, and this boat, too, is dorky. This is a republic, dammit. It looks pretty cool, though, shining in the river on a cloudless day.

At the left, one of the crew takes a break while the boat is moored at the St. Louis levee.

TOMORROW Life On the Mississippi Continues: Copter Rides!

Saturday, November 3, 2007

Life On the Mississippi: Riverboats 1

You can take a ride up and down the Mississippi on the riverboats Tom Sawyer, Huck Finn and Becky Thatcher (see yesterday's post). Becky was not a distant relative of Margaret but rather Tom's erstwhile girlfriend. There are dinner cruises on the boats. Our office did that for the December holiday party last year. What a flop. There's nothing to see along the river in the dark once you leave downtown except the odd chemical factory. The food was as drab as the night. As I heard someone say recently, I'd rather buy sushi from a vending machine. Still, docking back under the floodlit Arch late at night was a thrill.

TOMORROW: another, much bigger riverboat

Friday, November 2, 2007

Life On the Mississippi: Lewis and Clark

I've used the theme Life On the Mississippi a time or two before and I'm bringing it back for the next several days. The name is the title of a book by the iconic American writer, Mark Twain (1835-1910). Many of you around the world will know him from his books Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn. If you are interested, you can find the full text of these three books at the links to their titles.

Today's post goes further back in American and St. Louis history. In 1803, the United States under President Thomas Jefferson concluded the Louisiana Purchase from Napoleonic France, doubling the size of our country. Before the deal was complete, Jefferson dispatched Meriweather Lewis and William Clark to explore the vast new territory, The expedition started in Pittsburgh, passed through St. Louis and ended at the mouth of tha Columbia River, near present-day Portland, Oregon, in December 1805.

This statue commemorates Lewis and Clark's landing in St. Louis on their journey into the frontier. Its only artistic fault is that Clark bears a strong resemblance to George Bush. Well, the dog looks pretty dopey, too.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

CDPB Monthly Theme Day: Blue(s)

Made you look! The image above has nothing to do with St. Louis. It is an homage to the series of photographs called Tears (Les Larmes) by the Surrealist artist Man Ray, with a touch of the blues added in the computer. Man Ray used glass beads for the teardrops. Maybe he had the blues, too.

If you're talking St. Louis, you are talking The St. Louis Blues. You can listen to the famous tune by clicking this link to my web site. That's the name of the local hockey team, and what a good name it is. The logo is inspired: the Blue Note.

The Blues started in the Mississippi Delta, then headed upstream to Memphis and St. Louis. It is a music of hard times. How down and out can it be? Check this video clip of the great Bessie Smith singing the song and you will find out. This is a long clip and she doesn't get to the song proper until 1:05 into it.

Everybody gets the blues. Some of us just can't put a label on it.

All of these City Daily Photo Blogs have the blues today:

Boston (MA), USA - Cleveland (OH), USA - Philadelphia (PA), USA - Arlington (VA), USA - Cape Town, South Africa - Portland (OR), USA - Sequim (WA), USA - Selma (AL), USA - Arradon, France - Petaling Jaya (Selangor), Malaysia - Stockholm, Sweden - Singapore, Singapore - Wassenaar (ZH), Netherlands - Phoenix (AZ), USA - Seattle (WA), USA - Toulouse, France - The Hague, Netherlands - Moscow, Russia - Fort Lauderdale (FL), USA - Kyoto, Japan - Tokyo, Japan - Saint Paul (MN), USA - Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia - Stayton (OR), USA - Maple Ridge (BC), Canada - Detroit (MI), USA - Crystal Lake (IL), USA - Port Angeles (WA), USA - Cottage Grove (MN), USA - Nelson, New Zealand - Bandung (West Java), Indonesia - Greenville (SC), USA - Hyde, UK - Radonvilliers, France - Albuquerque (NM), USA - Nashville (TN), USA - Manila, Philippines - Port Vila, Vanuatu - Saarbrücken, Germany - New Orleans (LA), USA - Bellefonte (PA), USA - Melbourne, Australia - Hobart (Tasmania), Australia - Forks (WA), USA - Wichita (Ks), USA - Barton (VT), USA - St. Louis (MO), USA - Joplin (MO), USA - Chandler (AZ), USA - Quincy (MA), USA - Setúbal, Portugal - Inverness (IL), USA - Christchurch, New Zealand - Toruń, Poland - North Bay (ON), Canada - Le Guilvinec, France - Chateaubriant, France - London, England - Minneapolis (MN), USA - Naples (FL), USA - Norwich (Norfolk), UK - Sydney, Australia - Austin (TX), USA - Mumbai, India - Boston (MA), USA - Santa Fe (NM), USA - Menton, France - Monte Carlo, Monaco - Paderborn, Germany - Montréal (QC), Canada - Jackson (MS), USA - Stavanger, Norway - Orlando (FL), USA - Grenoble, France - Cheltenham, UK - Forks (WA), USA - Mexico City, Mexico - West Sacramento (CA), USA - Silver Spring (MD), USA - Weston (FL), USA - London, UK - Jefferson City (MO), USA - Ocean Township (NJ), USA - Belgrade, Serbia - Paris, France - Shanghai, China - Montego Bay, Jamaica - Montpellier, France - Saint Louis (MO), USA - Wailea (HI), USA - Rabaul, Papua New Guinea - Auckland, New Zealand - Evry, France - New York City (NY), USA - Nottingham, UK - Las Vegas (NV), USA - Oslo, Norway - Minneapolis (MN), USA - American Fork (UT), USA - Cypress (TX), USA - Haninge, Sweden - Trujillo, Peru - Trujillo, Peru - Melbourne (VIC), Australia - Saint-Petersburg, Russian Federation - Durban, South Africa - Brussels, Belgium - Anderson (SC), USA - Budapest, Hungary - Wellington, New Zealand - Prague, Czech Republic - Saigon, Vietnam - Ystad, Sweden - Miami (FL), USA - Seoul, South Korea - Hong Kong, China - Melbourne, Australia - Baziège, France

TOMORROW: Back to normal and life on the Mississippi