Friday, October 31, 2008

Soldiers Memorial

I'm going to do a little series on the Soldiers Memorial downtown. It is a city block of stone dedicated to St. Louis' dead from World War I. The design is simple, based on a Greco-Roman temple. Inside is an interesting museum of WW I stuff; I've never seen anyone in there with me. The stairways on the long sides of the building are flanked by monumental sculptures in a Depression-era style, part Art Deco, part WPA monumental force. I like the place a lot but it is generally ignored by the public.

WHAT I'M DOING: better. Consciousness is migrating from Asia to North America.
TOMORROW: I'm not doing the theme day. We'll have some more of this interesting, overlooked building.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Thursday Arch Series

A sure sign that I have been repatriated: the return of the Thursday Arch Series. This shot was taken lying flat on my back in the grass under the apex of the big hoop. Notice how the windows on the observation deck angle out and down - you can look straight at the grass below if vertigo is not a problem for you.

Gradually getting my body clock reset. Got to get out on the street this weekend and start photographing my city again.

unpacking. Our bedroom floor is a mess.

strength and stone.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

We've Flown Back Home

It was a long day in the air yesterday, from Tokyo to Dallas-Fort Worth to St. Louis. Now we're back home, heavily jet lagged, but with American comfort food, The Daily Show and Colbert Report, and our own (soft!) bed. Everything went well on the trip - no late airplanes, no getting on the wrong Japanese train, no accidents. Perhaps by this weekend I'll write more detailed notes about our experience in Japan. One thing I can say quickly: we have never visited a country where we were more warmly and courteously received by everyone we met.

This photo above was taken from the ferry departing Niigata for Sado Island, posted here to represent our journey home.

Enjoying Japan but yearning for St. Louis

TOMORROW: back to The Lou and, um, probably the Thursday Arch Series.

Monday, October 27, 2008

STL DPB On The Road: Tokyo And Home

Back in Tokyo on Monday and home on Tuesday. We stayed in the bustling Sinjuku district. The west side of the enormous railroad station is all sleek office towers, including the striking Tokyo Municipal Government Center. The east side is crazy with department stores and teeming with alleys full of restaurants, bars and pachinko parlors, as pictured above. We went to an Indian restaurant for a respite from icky squishy fishy things. The chicken sag was terrific. Ooh, and maybe steak on the plane ride home.

On Tuesday morning in Tokyo, Monday night in the US, we head for Narita Airport and the long flight to Dallas-Fort Worth. A connection to St. Louis and then home. And melt into a soft American bed. We had a fabulous time but I'm off futons forever.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

STL CDPB On The Road: Sado Island

Sado Island, off Niigata in the Sea of Japan, was once a remote place of exile. Being sent there was the harshest punishment the shogunate could dispense short of death. It's now a lovely place of tourism and the culture of premium rice. We had a rental car - I drove in Japan and lived to tell the tale. Well, it's not like I did it in Tokyo.

Speaking of which, on Monday we're back to the capital for one last night and them home Tuesday. It's been a long time very far from home.

Friday, October 24, 2008

STL DPB On The Road: From Harugo-San to Niigata


We are on our way from the seclusion of Mt. Haguro to Niigata, a good size city on the Sea of Japan. Return to civilization! A real bed and Internet service! And there is a restaurant there called the Immigrant Café where they have a wide variety of western food. I want a burger! As much as this country fascinates me, I have never quite made peace with the food. Too many icky stinky fishy things, too many unrecognizable vegetables that taste like pickled cabbage gone bad. And sticky rice for breakfast. Eew.

In any event, I took this picture of Shinto priests performing a morning service before we left Mt. Haguro today. The next two days we’ll be on Sado Island in the Sea of Japan, which is really remote. No Internet, etc. Then back to Tokyo Monday on our way home.

I uploaded a group of Japan pictures to Flickr Friday night, Japan time. There’s a link on the left sidebar.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

STL DPB On The Road: Harugo-San

Harugo-san is a sacred mountain in north-central Honshu, the largest of the Japanese islands. We stayed at Saikan Shokubo, a traditional inn at a religious site. Quiet, simple, very traditional Japanese. No chairs in our little room, just cushions on the floor. No doors or locks but rather sliding panels made of wood and thick paper. You sleep on futons and a comforter on the very, very hard and not at all comfortable floor. My American back has had enough of this but unfortunately we’re not quite through with it.

The Japanese have a traditional form of memorial to dead children called jizo. It is usually a simple stone statue of a round-face little person, covered in a dark red cloak and cap. Small toys or children’s juice boxes are often at their feet. On Mt. Haguro there is a forest of jizo, more than a thousand. Many are simple wood stakes. Others are statues wearing what we took to be the child’s own clothing, most with a little cloth change purse around their neck so they have a few coins to spend wherever they have gone. It is on of the most touching places we have ever seen.

STL DPB On The Road: Naruko Onsen

Onsen are a Japanese national tradition, and a damn good one. Entire towns are devoted to them, like Naruko Onsen where we spent a night. They are hot mineral spring baths, fed by geothermal energy from the many volcanoes. There are big public ones, with the bathers separated by sex. Everyone is nude and there is no prudishness about it whatever. Some locations have private onsen, where you can go soak alone or with that certain special someone. The water is very hot but not scalding. Ease yourself in and unwind for a half hour. You will leave your muscles utterly relaxed and your skin as smooth as silk. Aahhh. Not recommended, though, right after dinner or drinking alcohol. You can’t imagine how good these feel until you have tried it. The town has its own scenic gorge nearby, where you can see autumn in Japan in all its glory.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

STL DPB On The Road: - Geibikei Gorge

The one thing to do near Hiraizumi is take a longish train ride to the village of Geibikei, where we joined busloads of Japanese tourists going for a boat ride through a scenic gorge. We were the only honkies in sight (true almost all the time outside of the cities). The gorge was pretty, the day perfect. The boatman pushed us by pole through the shallow water, entertaining the crowd with apparently hilarious Japanese jokes and, on the way back, singing folk tunes. The meaning was lost on us but his song was lovely and expressive.

Monday, October 20, 2008

STL DPB On The Road: Japan - Hiraizumi

October 24: We’ve spent the last four days in small towns and a mountaintop Shinto shrine complex. No Internet. There doesn’t seem to be any WiFi in this country, either. I’ve seen only one other person using a laptop in public. In any event, Hiraizumi is a small town with some very famous temple complexes. They are quite beautiful but there’s not a lot else to do here. Above, a scene from one of the temples.


Sunday, October 19, 2008

STL DPB On The Road: Matsushima, Japan

On Sunday, we took a day trip by rail and boat from Sendai to Matsushima, a bit up the Pacific coast. It has sacred and historic Buddhist sites. They date from the early 17th century, when the great feudal lord Date Masamune took control of the region and allied himself with the Tokugawa shogunate. Masamune is a big deal around here. He sent a diplomatic mission to Spain and Italy via Mexico, which returned with European loot and a few Christian ideas, the latter of which were harshly suppressed.

These photos were taken in the temple grounds and gardens of Entsuin, built by Masamune's son, Date Tadamune, in memory of his father.

I may not have Internet access for the next four days while we are out in rural north Honshu. Sometime soon I'll get many more of these pix on Flickr.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

STL DPB On The Road: Sendai, Japan

If this is Saturday, it must be Sendai. It's a city of about a million, 190 km due north of Tokyo and one of the few in Japan that is growing as the national population begins to shrink (the birth rate is well below the replacement level). These pictures are from Zuihoden, the final resting place of Date Masamuni, the first feudal lord of this region. Some of his successors are here as well. It is quiet and intensely beautiful.

Friday, October 17, 2008

STL DPB On The Road: Nikko, Japan

Kowabunga, dude!

Sorry no post yesterday. Some of the places where we are staying don't have Internet. We spent Friday in Nikko, a city important to the spirit of Japan (check the link). We had some amazing luck, stumbling onto the Grand Parade, an event held on October 17 to commemorate the internment of the first Tokugawa shogun in this town. About 700 people march in 17th Century costumes. We found it stunning.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

STL DPB On The Road: Thursday In Tokyo

Today we went to the Mori Tower and Art Museum in Roppongi. There is an outdoor observation deck on the 50-something floor. My wife and I thought long and hard about this sculpture but did not reach a conclusion. The building has what may be the world's highest contemporary art museum, the Mori Museum on the 54th floor. I think Mori-san is a very rich dude who likes to show it off in a high-brow way.

WHAT WAS THE WEIRDEST THING TODAY IN A WEIRD CITY: while trying to find our way our of the sprawling Roppongi Hills development, we got a bit lost. After coming down a staircase, we heard the ubiquitous sound system playing "A Pirate's Life For Me" from some Disney movie. We're not in Kansas any more.


Wednesday, October 15, 2008

STL DPB On The Road: Tokyo

Just a quick note. Thirteen hour plane ride and now we're here. Staying in the Asakusa district, with alleyways full of incomprehensible restaurants and tiny shops. It's about 21.00 here, ten time zones off home are we're ready to collapse. Much more to come.

TOMORROW: we're planning to spend much of the day in the Roppongi area. Pix sure to follow.

THURSDAY MORNING IN JAPAN: The view from our hotel room window, looking southwest toward the towers of Sinjuku.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

And Now For Something Completely Different

Well, for me, anyway - infrared. A photographer friend told me about this company, LifePixel, that, for a reasonable charge, will swap out the light sensor on your old DSLR for an infrared chip. Off went my old, unused Canon 10D. I went out and played with it for the first time last weekend. Lots to learn but it looks like it's going to be fun. This picture was taken standing under the Arch looking back at the city.

Yee hah, as they say here in Dallas, Texas, our departure city. Y'all come visit and see some mighty purty pitchers from Japan over the next couple of weeks. ShadowyOne may spell me with images from St. Louis when I'm out in the boonies. How do you say boonies in Japanese?

not sure when I'll next be able to post but if I upload from Tokyo before we go to bed Wednesday it would be morning to mid-day in the US.

Monday, October 13, 2008

A Hoot

As I mentioned yesterday, the dogs attending the blessing of the animals at Christ Church Cathedral were generally well behaved. One other member of the congregation, though, soon had all it could stand. This beautiful owl sat silently on its perch for some time but then decided it had had enough. I think I've heard owls hoot in the countryside but this one had a screech. The sound was remarkable, always holding the same pitch and volume, threatening to shatter the stained glass windows until the owner took it outside. Amen.

WHAT'S AT THE END OF THE TRAIL TODAY: a cozy corporate hotel at Dallas-Ft. Worth International Airport.

TOMORROW: and now for something completely different.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

An Episcopal Cathedral Gone To the Dogs

My invitation in this blog's sidebar to shoot community events paid off. Christ Church Cathedral, our city's largest Episcopal church, invited me to photograph its annual blessing of the animals. I'd never seen a dog in church before except service animals but the Cathedral seemed to have a full kennel operation going. The hounds and other miscellaneous critters were remarkable well behaved. After the service (kept brief for animal attention spans), the congregation and pets were invited to the front, where several priests blessed each and every one. It was great fun. My sincere thanks to the Cathedral staff for inviting me.

WHAT I SHOULD BE DOING INSTEAD OF FOOLING AROUND WITH THE BLOG: packing. We'll be away two weeks. Where is the time going?


Saturday, October 11, 2008


St. Louis had a lot of German immigration in the 19th Century and they remain a large part of the population (think Anheuser-Busch). We have a modestly sized but enthusiastic Oktoberfest in the Soulard neighborhood. It's not the Hofbräuhaus but liters of beer flowed freely and the crowd danced in heavy 2/4 time. Fun for all the brew swillers and bratwurst biters in the area. Lacking in dirndl dresses, though.

WHAT I'M BRAGGING ABOUT: The American Institute of Architects is slowly building a web site called The Shape of America, celebrating the great achievements among our nation's modern buildings. The newest addition is St. Louis' Gateway Arch. They approached me months ago about using some of my work. The Arch section just went online - you can see it here. If I counted correctly, 14 of the 19 photos, including all of the B&Ws, in the slide show and discussion are mine. GLORY! RECOGNITION! Now if someone would occasionally offer to pay me for my stuff I'd really be rolling.

TOMORROW: religion, gone to the dogs.

Friday, October 10, 2008

A House Divided

Thanks to my sharp-eyed wife for spotting this in our neighborhood. No such divisions in our household.

WHAT HAPPENED IN THE OFFICE LUNCHROOM YESTERDAY: one of my co-workers asked me if i could say "Where is my lunch?" in Japanese. I could. Getting pretty excited.

TOMORROW: oom pah pah.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Thursday Arch Series

I'm looking for the mass of the Arch, erupting out of the surface of the earth and filling space. Not that my work is remotely on the same level, but it makes me think of the kind of effect Richard Serra sometimes goes for in his sculpture. Got the Lensbaby out again for this one. I like this picture a lot. Your results may vary.

WHAT'S KIND OF NICE: I will be far away from U.S. politics, the blitz of negative advertising and the last Obama-McCain debate for the majority of the time between now and election day. There's even one night we'll be staying at a Buddhist monastery and there's nowhere to pick up a copy of USA Today.

TOMORROW: politics splitting American families apart!

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Dancing In the Street: African Heritage


If you think the dancers in yesterday's post were energetic, check out this group. The emcee said he wished they could come to his house and blast him into consciousness on his worst mornings. I did not make a note of their name because I was too busy snapping to write notes. Just check out the flying hair in the bottom photo.

WHAT'S BEEN SHRINK-WRAPPED: my 401(k) and investment savings. Sure hope I stay healthy for many more years.

TOMORROW: Thursday Arch Series

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Dancing In the Street: Leap and Flex

Could you do this? Not me, no way, no how.

can we tolerate watching another &#%@!*& debate between McCain and Obama tonight or should we watch the bits from Saturday Night Live that we Tivoed of Tina Faye skewering Palin in the parody interview with Katie Couric? The polls indicate the nation leaning is heavily toward the second choice.

dance with African heritage.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Dancing In the Street: Santa's Helper

Christmas presents, and Halloween still weeks away? No, this presentation at Dancing In the Street was about what it takes to become one of the Rockettes at Radio City Music Hall's Christmas Spectacular in New York City. Sounds like a huge amount of work, high risk of disappointment, a warm torso and chilly legs. I do remember going to the show as a kid and being blown away by it, or maybe more so by the theater, by far the largest in the U.S.

WHAT I'M LOOKING FORWARD TO IN JAPAN: the vending machines. Japan has one vending machine for every 23 inhabitants and they sell almost anything. At the end of a hard day of tourism, I'm grateful for the beer vending machines in almost every hotel. Oh, and Boss Coffee in cans. That's what I need on my way to work.

TOMORROW: I got rhythm.
Well, no, that's a lie. They do. I don't.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Dancing In the Street: Attack of the Giant Ostriches

For the second year in a row, the Grand Center Arts and Entertainment District sponsored Dancing In the Street to kick off the fall season. During the day-long event, the area's main street and several side streets are blocked off. Stages are erected for non-stop dance and music performances. The top act was Neighbourhood Watch Stilts International from Newcastle Upon Tyne, England. I missed the performance but this odd bird is part of their bit of agitprop street theater, Les Oiseaux de Lux. Young ladies of St. Louis no longer dare walk about in broad daylight.

WHAT'S ON FOR SUNDAY: Not a day of rest! I do some volunteer photography for community organizations. Today I'm shooting the annual Blessing Of the Animals at Christ Church Cathedral, the Episcopal cathedral of our city. And I want to get some pictures at our Soulard neighborhood's Oktoberfest. Then dinner with the family to celebrate my son-in-law's birthday. Then a performance of musical political satire by the uproarious Captol Steps. Check their web site for some audio clips. Can't wait to see what they do to Palin. Speaking of which:
TOMORROW: It's Beginning to look a lot like Christmas..

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Iron Chef, Or At Least Aluminum

Back at last weekend's Taste of St. Louis. There were cooking demonstrations and a Best Chef competition, sort of like Iron Chef. I don't think this contest was quite at the same level. You can only see half the sign, but this was sponsored by St. Louis Bread Company (Panera Bread in the rest of the country), ShadowyOne's corporate overlord, and the pompously named L'Ecole Culinare, an expensive, for-profit cooking school owned by Vatterott, a chain of trade and technical schools. The angled mirror thing is pretty cool, though.

WHAT'S ON TODAY: one of my co-workers ran off and got married in the Caribbean a couple of months ago. She and her husband are having a party at their home to celebrate with their friends. It's a tropical island theme. She asked me if I had any flowered shirts. Bluntly, no.

TOMORROW: Dancing In the Streets, Part 1, featuring a giant purple fake ostrich terrorizing the crowd.

Friday, October 3, 2008

The Sacred and the Profane

This bizarre combination of messages is on the Catholic church in my neighborhood. Maybe if you become Catholic you get a discount on admission to the mouse races ($15 seems a bit steep). But then that would be unfair to the people who already were Catholic before the races were scheduled. What happens at church-sponsored mouse races, anyway? It this some form of rodent abuse in which the little critters are forced to leap through hoops of rosary beads and piles of burning incense to reach their eternal reward? Should we call down the animal protection office on the archbishop? Maybe being Catholic is more exciting than you think.

WHAT I THOUGHT ABOUT THE VP DEBATE: as I write this near the end, Palin is doing a creditable job. No gaffes. Articulate, well-prepared and confident. Biden is coming across as even better-spoken. He's not babbling on or being condescending. He is more authoritative, knowledgeable and seasoned. Biden won. But then I am biased (see left sidebar). In any event, there was a lot less BS than at the first Obama-McCain debate last week. And both of them are a lot warmer then the heads of their tickets.

TOMORROW: Iron Chef?

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Thursday Arch Series

A little vignetting, a little Photoshop spit and polish, and here we are, another Thursday Arch picture. I began to worry that I might lose track of which Arch pictures I have used on the blog (there have been around 65 or 70 Thursday Arch Series photos to date) and post images that have appeared before. I thought this picture might be one. I checked all the way back, though, and not to worry. This is fresh example of my obsession.

WHAT'S PUZZLING ME: as I've mentioned, I'm studying basic Japanese. The three equivalents of the English verb to be are really confusing. I think it's a little bit like ser and estar in Spanish. In the present tense, you use desu for existance or a state of being, and imasu for something existing here or there if the subject is animate but you have to use arimasu for inanimate objects, except when you don't. Which would you use for anime robot-people? The lines are a bit fuzzy. Sometimes either desu or imasu can make a correct sentence but the meaning is subtly different. What's a gaijin to do? Just speaking louder in English doesn't really help, although some of my countrymen seem to think so.

TOMORROW: the sacred and the profane.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

CDPD Theme Day: Lines

Well, this ain't my best theme day creation but that's how much brain is available. Go from Point A (Albuquerque, New Mexico, USA) to Point Y (Yardley, Pennsylvania, USA) in the shortest possible distance by going from link to link: Click here to view thumbnails for all 164 CDPB participants. It's a linear equation.

WHAT I'M BEHIND ON: everything. What happened to time to read a book? Maybe this blog and photography stuff is an unhealthy addiction.

TOMORROW: Thursday Arch Series