Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Serious Business

The American version of Halloween is supposed to be fun - dress up in silly clothing, whip up some mock fear, play some jokes. However, when I was shooting in Maryland Plaza Saturday night, I noticed how dead serious many of the participants were. Grim stares, few smiles. Maybe that was their spin on the scary themes of the day.

By the way, the pun three sentences back was intentional.

Monday, October 30, 2017

Laissez Le Bon Temps Rouler

The title of this post is a Cajun French phrase most Americans know: let the good times roll. It is often associated with Mardi Gras in New Orleans. However, I'm told it is almost meaningless in France. The roll was amazing in Maryland Plaza Saturday night but it was tough to get all the motion in low light, not to mention understanding how it is done. Being poorly coordinated in general, I could only watch in awe.         

Sunday, October 29, 2017

Boo In The Lou

There is a big outdoor party on the Saturday night before Halloween in Maryland Plaza, part of the Central West End neighborhood. I go shoot the monsters and wraiths if I'm in town and the weather is tolerable. Not as crowded last night as some years and everyone is happy to pose. We'll go with this for a while.                

Saturday, October 28, 2017

Boo At The Zoo

The St. Louis Zoo has been running a children's event during the evening called Boo At The Zoo. Not trick or treating but lots of kids' activities. Madeleine wore what she calls her super bat costume. 

It was fun up to a point but it became unbearably crowded, so much so it was hard to just move through the walkways. Our girl loves the carousel but the line appeared to be 45 to 60 minutes long. Ms. M did not get her ride and she was not amused.

Depending on the weather (probably cold), I may shoot our big Halloween street party tonight. It, too, now has impossible crowds. Probably go early, get what I can and then leave before people start getting crushed. 


Friday, October 27, 2017

Sing Along

The last performance at the improv festival was led by Laura and Rick Hall, professional comedians who appear on the popular TV show Whose Line Is It Anyway?  They enlisted a number of performers from other groups and non-professionals who had taken their workshop earlier in the day.

One of their techniques was to take an idea from the audience, turn it into a song title and require the performers to make up a couple of lines on the spot, then pass it down the line. To no one's surprise, the content of the songs veered off in strange directions. A lot of pressure on those onstage but the audience loved it.    

Thursday, October 26, 2017

More Filler

Too much to do and too little time: my story.  There are lots more pictures to edit from the improv festival that I haven't gotten to.  One of these days...

In the meantime, some shots I took when I went down to the floodwall to photograph the recent Paint Louis work.  This group of motorcyclists surprised me, particularly the one in the top picture. Some people think you should love your country. Winston Churchill said that patriotism is the last refuge of scoundrels. Go figure.       

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

More Of The Same, Or Not

Some of the other people in the large Burnside improv troupe. I think there were nine of them in all.  Obviously done for fun, not profit. Not all of them were on stage together until the end of the show,but those who were got an aerobic workout.  

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

In Tonight's Line-Up

I'm going to post a few shots of each of the six acts I photographed. The upside of this is that I can get some good visuals of moments that go by so quickly the audience may not notice them. The bad news is that I often pay more attention to what I see than what I hear, sometimes losing the essence of the comedy. Oh well. Ars gratia artis

This is a local group called Burnside. No idea about the significance of the name. There were nine of them (hard to make a buck), but that made for interesting combinations. May bring them back tomorrow.     

Monday, October 23, 2017

The Audience For Improv

There was a large, good-looking and youngish crowd at the Improv Shop, although I was be no means the oldest there. (I was in the competition, though.) There was a bar, of course, serving tall cans of Pabst Blue Ribbon - PBR, the hipster beer of choice. It used to be really cheap, but now that it's cool it isn't anymore. People keep buying it for its déclassé chic. 

Other people were more interested in their phone menu than the one at the bar. Nevertheless, MC Pete Papavlasopopulous says it's all A-OK.

Sunday, October 22, 2017

Compass Improv Festival

Some of the People I know from the STL Fringe Festival do improv comedy. One of them, Pete Papavlasopopulous, works with Compass Improv, a very active company that just held a three-day festival. I had no idea how widespread the local improv scene is. The festival was held at the Improv Shop, a venue dedicated to the genre.

Pete invited me to shoot some of the festival. I couldn't make it all but photographed six of the acts on Friday and Saturday night. This group is Max A/C from Chicago. I can't explain what they were doing. You had to be there.        

Saturday, October 21, 2017


I'm finished with the Artica series and shooting an improv festival this weekend. That will take time to edit so I need something to fill the gap.

T Rex here has been on the blog somewhere in the past but I thought it would shake things up visually. It's in a back corner of Forest Park. You would never come across it unless you were on a certain running and biking trail. Best have your wits about you if you do.        

Friday, October 20, 2017


Artica's grand finale: Our Lady of Artica is put to the torch and reduced to ashes. The crowd gathers in a circle outside the fire control perimeter, gapes in wonder and eventually starts to dance and chant, revolving around the blaze.

In the end, nothing is left but cooling embers. The crowd drifts away. Very Buddhist.    

Thursday, October 19, 2017


The center of the Artica fields always contains a wooden structure, sculpture of a sort and different every year. This year's was called Our Lady of Artica, a lumber yard angel and symbol of impermanence. After dark on Sunday night it would burn to ashes. We will wrap up this series tomorrow.        

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Player's Choice

There are so many more pictures I could edit from Artica but I have to wrap it up sometime and get to the closing bonfire. For today, a couple more unusual sculptures. The top one seems to be aimed at attracting children, the bottom one gamblers. Nothing is for sale at Artica, so you couldn't start a giant craps game in that field.         

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Greater Good

Doors to . . . where? The old wood and Gothic lettering suggest a church entrance but then what lies behind? The words scattered on the ground may suggest an answer. There is a lot going on in this world to be afraid of.       

Monday, October 16, 2017

Light And Dark

More cruising the work on display at Artica. 

The figures above have words torn into the green fabric but even up close I couldn't read much of it. 

The diptych in the second photo represents the scene right behind me as I took the shot - grassy fields with the wooden structure of Our Lady of Artica (more about which soon), a single Doric column standing there for god-knows-why and the old Cotton Belt Railroad freight terminal, whose long east wall has been turned into a mural by Artica founders Hap Phillips and Nita Turnage. Looks quite Fauvist to me. 

The last is the hardest to understand.It brought back hazy associations with some Japanese cemeteries I've seen.       

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Who Put The Art In Artica?

Finally, a post going up on time. It seems to take a quiet Saturday evening to get it done (except that Madeleine is on the floor next to me banging on her toy xylophone).

The Artica festival had music, performance art, some painting and a lot of sculpture. I get so fixed on cruising the area for images that I don't talk to the creators enough, missing out on titles and interpretation. The piece above is intriguing. Never seen a figure in a lotus position with up-stretched arms before. See what you like in the colors and symbols on the mannequin. The second photo is, literally, a bed of crutches. Someone said they were going to burn it after the main bonfire Sunday night. I wasn't out that late.      

Saturday, October 14, 2017


It's been a bad week for posts. New dimensions in overwork and several other attention-suckers. I would so like to cut back but it's not easy.

Anyway, back at Artica, crickets were all over the place. A boy got one to rest on his wrist. He was fascinated but worried that the bug might bite him. Do crickets do that? No harm came to anyone.  Oh, and if you don't recognize the title click here.

PS: I am told on good authority that this is a grasshopper, not a cricket. I'm a city kid. What do I know?

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Artica: Dangerous Clown

Performance art, I suppose. In a corner of the Artica field, a young man wore a collared shirt and skinny black tie, a bowler and clown makeup. He wielded a chainsaw and a machete, sometimes striking statuesque poses, sometimes attacking small logs at his feet. The clown never spoke. It was all very postured and, I must say, a bit puzzling. Maybe that was the idea.    


Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Artica: Give Us Your Tired, Your Poor

So there was this woman at the entrance to Artica dressed as a shabby Statue of Liberty. She had the torch and the tablet like the real one, some Americana bric-a-brack and a large artist's sketchbook. I asked her what she was doing. She asked people to stop for an interview about their fitness to enter the country. At the end you got a hand stamp that said either Retained (in the US) or Detained (sent to immigration jail, a square of grass marked off with yellow tape). I was retained.

The interview was interesting. Being an old guy, she let me sit in a lawn chair and put the torch in its cup holder rather than stand with my arm in the air. Some of the questions were odd:

Q: What is your heritage?
A: Irish and Polish. Very pale. 

Q: What is the most exotic place you've ever been to?
A: Mt. Everest.

Q: Did you climb it?
A: Oh my god no. The air at base camp was thin enough. I got bad altitude sickness.

Q: Of all the places you've been to, where would you least like to live?
A: Cambodia. Never seen anyplace so poor although I'm sure there are worse.

Q: Coke or Pepsi?
A:  Well, I don't drink soda. But I worked a couple of summers delivering Coca Cola and hated it. My father was in the commercial sugar business and he sold Pepsi all their sweetener back in the day. So Pepsi.

Q: Are you from St. Louis?
A: No.

Q: How did you get here?
A: St. Louis U. was the college farthest away from my father that let me in.

Q: Hammer or nail?
A: Hammer. I don't respect authority very well.

And so on. Turns out she was an actress. She and a colleague were working on a play that includes this concept to be performed in New York, where they live. Some people had problems with the interview, others not. I thought it was fun.