Sunday, July 31, 2011

Artists Open Studio - And Car - Weekend

Jennifer Weigel 1

Once again, it's artists studio open house weekend in St. Louis. About 160 local artists open their studio and gallery spaces to the public. People wander from one to the other, viewing the work, talking to the artists and, we all hope, buying something. I make the rounds, asking the artists if I can take candid portraits of them with their work. This year I was accompanied by team member and daughter-in chief ShadowyOne.

On Saturday, we met one of the most interesting people I've ever run into at these events, Jennifer Weigel. She wasn't affiliated with any specific venue. Instead, she drove her tiny car from one location to another, selling her work out of the back hatch. She passed out buttons that said "Jennifer Weigel Was Here, City-Wide Open Studios, St. Louis, MO 2011." All the artists were wearing them. Brilliant idea.

Her mobile gallery is shown in the bottom two pictures. I really like the Lichtenstein-ish self-portrait on a large sketch pad next to a convenience store soda cup.

Jennifer Weigel 3

Jennifer Weigel 2

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Chuck Berry

Chuck Berry 1

Hail, hail rock and roll!

85 year old St. Louisan Chuck Berry was honored yesterday at the dedication of his statue in the University City Loop. The work, by sculptor Harry Weber, is full of the vitality and the, well, just happiness of Berry's music.

I didn't actually get to meet him. Weber had invited me and we had only discussed the event by email. It was way more crowded that I expected on a baking Friday morning. However, Weber got me in to the reception afterwards at Blueberry Hill across the street, where Berry still plays every couple of months. After some brunch with his family, he signed autographs for fans. That's when I got close enough to take the top picture.

Sorry for no comments yesterday. I was out of the office all morning, had a frantic afternoon at work and then went to the baseball game with my wife and some friends. And who threw out the ceremonial first pitch? Chuck Berry!

Chuck Berry Statue 3

Chuck Berry At Busch Stadium

Friday, July 29, 2011

Canned Goods

Enchilada Sauce
When you're between local events to shoot and you need a subject for a filler post, why not bulk canned food? Great idea, especially if that's what's lying around on your hard drive.

St. Louis University has a ten thousand seat arena for its sports teams and traveling music shows. My son in law is assistant director of food service there. One summer day when nothing was going on he took me and my wife around backstage, as it were. The big commercial kitchens were interesting. Imagine how much fun you could have with almost 3 kg of red enchilada sauce!

The bottom picture is from Soulard Farmers Market. Definitely not the stand catering to locavores, as seen here on July 16. Wow, what could you do with three and a half kg of hot fudge sundae sauce or a like amount of sliced beets? It might be a blast but, at the same time, too horrible to contemplate.

Canned Food, Soulard Market

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Thursday Arch Series

Arch 2011-06-12 7

Sometimes the Arch just seems to disappear into the sky, like Jack's beanstalk. When you are underneath it you might not think to look all the way up. It's just not human scale.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Okay, Let's Wrap This Up

Dragonflies at MoBot 2

Trotting out a few last dragonflies due to a general lack of new material. Unless there is a special event, I usually do my blog photo-trolling on weekend afternoons. It's just been too unpleasant to spend time out on the surface of this blasted part of the planet lately. I'll scrape up an Arch picture for tomorrow somewhere.

The insects are fascinating, though. They look like they have vertebrae made up of tiny neon tubes.

Should be an big image haul soon, though. If all goes according to plan, on Friday morning I'll get to meet and photograph St. Louisan and rock-n-roll legend Chuck Berry at the dedication of a statue of him. (The sculptor invited me. Details on Saturday, I hope.) This weekend is The Lou's annual artists' open studios weekend. About 160 artists open their work and gallery spaces to the public. You can go from one to another, meeting, talking and seeing. I make the rounds, asking the artists if I can take candid portraits of them with their work. I get some good results, like this one from last year.

Dragonflies at MoBot 4

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Life Cycle

Dragonflies at MoBot 5

A water lily bud, floating in black water, barely breaking open. A neon dragonfly finds sustenance within it. I know little about plant biology. Do the dragonflies benefit the plant as bees do when they spread pollen from one flower to another?

A couple of commentators to yesterday's post said they liked the macro work but these aren't macro shots at all. They were taken with a 100-400 mm zoom at 400 mm, f 5.6, 1/200 sec., ISO 200 on a Canon 7D, which has a 1.6 crop factor. Then they were cropped a bit more in the computer. Not nearly as sharp as I'd like but that's what you get with even a good telephoto zoom compared to a prime lens. The final image was heavily massaged in Photoshop but I care about the destination, not the route.

Monday, July 25, 2011

But I'm not a nature photographer...

Dragonflies at MoBot 6

Nature photography is very popular but it's not my cup of tea. Readers of this blog know that I'm more of a street shooter, along with some architecture, unusual landscapes, bad weather and a taste for irony. No amazing hummingbirds or charming old barns in fall foliage. (That's why I stopped going to the competitions and shows of the St. Louis Camera Club. I thought that if I saw one more beautifully made image of a barn I was going to scream.)

But, as someone always says, rules are made to be broken. I was at the Missouri Botanical Garden yesterday to shoot a small event (hey, some puppets later this week!). However, my attention was drawn to the several lily ponds, buzzing with silver and metallic blue dragonflies slurping on the flowers. I couldn't resist. More to come.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

It's Too Darn Hot

Hot Day In Citygarden 2 BW

To its great credit, Citygarden lets people soak in its ponds and fountains rather than putting up "No Swimming" signs all over the place. That was an act of charity yesterday when the temperature was 98 F / 37 C.

Some of my clients do not have air conditioning. In fact, a fair number don't have electrical service. There have been a few heat-related deaths in our city. Other cities have had worse. I was 104 F / 40 C in New York City on Friday and 108 F / 42 C in nearby Newark, New Jersey. It never hit 100 F when I was growing up in NYC. And lets not even get to Arizona and down that way.

I'm 61. Sometimes I wonder whether I had the random fortune to hit human civilization at its apogee and that the general trend is downhill from here. No one knows yet. Let's keep taking pictures and leave a record.

Hot Day In Citygarden 3

Saturday, July 23, 2011

And Now For Something Completely Different


It's very strange. The Billiken is the official mascot of St. Louis University, where I attended college and law school. The Wikipedia article in the first link says that it was created as a novelty doll from by a woman is St. Louis that became an international craze. But I've also read that the designer was from Independence, Missouri, near Kansas City. It eventually had a considerable presence in Alaska and Japan. There is a Billiken Gift Shop in Juneau (it doesn't have a web site) and I bought a little one there. We once walked into the living room of a guest house in Kyoto and wham, saw a large Billiken in the alcove with the television. The owners said it was a minor Shinto deity. If you look around on the Web there are conflicting stories about the order in which it moved among Japan, Alaska and the mainland US.

To my knowledge, its only competitor for weirdest college mascot is the Banana Slug of Cal State-Santa Cruz. The current version is kind of cute in a strange way but how seriously is it taken by athletes whose school mascot is the wildcat, eagle, lion or grizzly bear?

UPDATE: alert reader Birdman nominated a much weirder mascot - see his comment to this post. Then I found a web page with a purported list of the 10 weirdest college mascots in the country. It ranks the Banana Slug first (I disagree), Birdman's nominee second (it should be first), and our Billiken third. See the list here.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Theological Musings

Don't Go There

I have been in a Greek Orthodox church only once. (It was in Greece so it's official.) The layout was different from the Catholic tradition in which I was raised. There was a screen or small wall dividing the front and rear of the sanctuary. We were told that it marked a symbolic separation of the seen and the unseen: some things are properly visible to living physical beings; others should remain cloaked in mystery, knowable only indirectly. I've wondered how far this principle extends.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Thursday Arch Series

Arch 2011-06-12 6

We interrupt our review of babe-alicious boaters for the traditional Thursday Arch snap. The proportions don't look quite right on this to me. The Arch isn't massive enough (it really is massive) compared to the children at the base. It's probably because I was using a wide angle lens at the broadest setting. Your sense of scale gets all twisted by this object.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Our Lady Of The Rivers

Our Lady of the Rivers 1

This is the official excuse for last weekend's boat party. There is a simple Catholic shrine on the Mississippi at the town of Portage des Sioux, Our Lady Of The Rivers. (I called it Our Lady Of The Waters in a recent post - wrong, but what's the difference?) It has a power plant for a neighbor and is looking a little worn. The second photo shows the approach to the statue from the road. Uh, was anybody paying attention? It's a statue of the Virgin Mary. Under the circumstances, the design is a little distracting. In the lower picture, the local parish priest distributes the blessing. I wonder what the intended effect might be.

Our Lady of the Rivers 2

Our Lady of the Rivers 3

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

In The Boat Parade

Hey Boys!

Boats in the procession that received the blessing and then went by the bar a few meters away where the decorations were judged. Which would you follow? Chacun à son goût.

There must have been fifty of them (boats, not young ladies), perhaps many more. I didn't try to count.

Follow Me

Monday, July 18, 2011

Neptune's Realm

Two Pirates, No Mermaids, One King Of The Seas

My eye was drawn to the top of well-decorated boat. Let's see, two pirates (again), no mermaids and, if I'm not mistaken, Nepture, King of the Deep. How odd. The Mississippi's channel doesn't go down very far and if you want to reign over catfish, a few sturgeon, barges laden with coal and a bunch of tree trunks heading for the Gulf the job is yours. And why does Neptune need a wristwatch? Can't the Olympian gods just tune in to the Royal Observatory at Greenwich or something?

The fun turned out to be on the foredeck. The mermaids laying in the sun waved and called out to the photographers on shore. Kind of like being Ulysses at the island of the Sirens but wearing noise-canceling headphones playing the Ode To Joy really loud.

Mermaids On The Foredeck

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Pirates Of The . . . Mississippi?

Pirates of the Mississippi 2

They're not going to make very much progress going upriver with those sails.

There is an event every summer on the Mississippi called the Blessing Of The Fleet. It happens at the little town of Portage des Sioux, Missouri, facing the limestone bluffs on the Illinois side of the river. An amazing number of pleasure boats parade past the slightly run down shrine of Our Lady of the Waters, where the local Catholic priest waves a holy water wand at them and their cargoes of Budweiser.

No idea what this boat is about. This year's decoration theme was mermaids. (Few people bothered.) Last year's was pirates. Somebody didn't get the updated memo. Still, they were enthusiastic.

More of this over the next few days.

Pirates of the Mississippi 1

Pirates of the Mississippi 3

Saturday, July 16, 2011



It sounds like it should be a word in Spanish: Perdón, señor. ¿Dónde están los locavores? But no. The neologism is defined on the banner. People assume that most or all of the food in Soulard Farmers Market is locally grown. However, I've read that the majority comes from the area's wholesale food distributors and could be grown anywhere. It's just cheaper here because of the low overhead operation.

Friday, July 15, 2011


Southwest 2

One difference between American cities and those in other parts of the world is the highway system. In most of the planet there are few or no superhighways inside of a beltway. Nothing like that in Paris inside the Périphérique and just a bit within London's M 25. Beijing has its many ring roads but there are no spokes into the heart of the city. The autopista from Buenos Aires' airport just disolves into city streets in the outskirts.

Not so in the U.S. Our Interstate highways dissect the hearts of our cities. Look at Chicago's "Spaghetti Bowl" from the air, just west of the Loop. My home town, New York, has roads sometimes called the Cross-Bronx Distressway and the Long Island Expressway, a/k/a the longest parking lot in the world (or sometimes the Big LIE). Let's not even get into Los Angeles, where Carmageddon is scheduled for this weekend.

Same here. Although we're smaller scale. Interstate 70 cuts off downtown from the Arch in the heart of the city. The highway rolls out through the Soulard neighborhood to the south, where these pictures were taken from a pedestrian crosswalk. The road doesn't just go southwest. One lane goes south down I 55, the other west along I 44, cutting the city into different sections. That's American urban planning.

Southwest 1

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Thursday Arch Series

Arch 2011-06-12 4 (Homeless Wonders)

The Arch is made of a hard stainless steel alloy. It looks pristine and uniform at a distance. When close up, you can see that the skin has weathered and that some blockheads have tried to etch a memorial to themselves into the surface.

These are usually in the form of the common "John Loves Mary" stuff. This one is more poignant. There is a homeless encampment not far north of the Arch but no one knows the provenance of the inscription. The bottom photo shows some context and scale.

More apologies about my few comments. I've been getting home from work later and later this week. This too shall pass, however.

And by the way, happy Bastille Day to all our friends in France. Here's the official theme song of today's post.

Arch 2011-06-12 5

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Richard and Chrissie

Richard and Casey

It's fun to wander around places like Soulard Farmers Market and strike up conversations with people. There are so many interesting personalities and stories. A big DSLR is a good icebreaker. Richard and Chrissie are vendors in the market. After chatting for a while, Richard and I thought we'd met before. He checks the blog and my Flickr stuff from time to time. He's seen our firm's TV commercials. (If you want a laugh watch this.)

So many people are afraid of walking up to strangers and starting a conversation. That's a shame. It really helps to be taught how to do it (Bobbi Lane, who I've mentioned before, taught me) but once you pick it up it's so easy and such a pleasure.

Once again, I got home from work pretty late last night. If I didn't get around to leaving a note on my friends' blogs it was due to the old ball and chain. Some wit observed that the law is a jealous mistress.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Looks Cute, Tastes Awful

Fire Bellied Toads

? ? ?

No, I never heard of them either. Was it a joke? The sign sat outside the pet shop in Soulard Farmers Market (est. 1779) on a busy Saturday. So I looked it up. The Web is the repository of all knowledge. (Notice I didn't say wisdom.)

There is actually a small genus, eight species, of fire bellied toads, tiny little critters. When approached by a potential predator, they puff themselves up to display all this yellow-orange-red mottled skin. This is supposedly a signal about how bad they would taste if actually consumed. I'm not sure why you would want one around the house. Maybe some people think it's cute.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Thank Heavens

We Serve Cocktails

An oasis of civilization in the wilds of Midtown St. Louis, relief for the hot, drained and mentally pooped. Found at Fountain on Locust, an ice cream parlor/informal restaurant/cocktail lounge. I'd never heard of it but apparently it's been around for three or four years. My son-in-law recommended it because the ice cream martinis are not to be believed. He's right.

A note to local foodies: I got an e-mail from Aimee, the local community manager for Yelp, about a restaurant promotion they are sponsoring this week. Eleven area establishments are offering a menu with a choice of three starters, three mains and three desserts or drinks for 50% off the menu price. It's worth a look. See the list of restaurants and menus here.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Ode To Joy

Now That's Happy

Let's all do the Happy Happy Joy Joy dance! Everybody will think we're crazy but we don't care!

This is a head-and-shoulders jewelry mannequin found yesterday at the Soulard Arts and Crafts fair. Note the Eiffel Tower earrings. We expect to be in Paris in less than two months and then we'll be happy too!

Saturday, July 9, 2011

That Vision Thing

That Vision Thing

Laumeier Sculpture Park in St. Louis County is one of the gems of the area. Mrs. Laumeier left her 72 acre estate to the people. It is now full of beautiful and strange work. There's nothing quite like it anywhere and admission is free.

This is Tony Tasset's Eye. I'd guess it's about 3 meters in diameter. It's fascinating and creepy. Visitors love to take one another's picture in front of it.

Friday, July 8, 2011

A Final Note From New York

Parking In NYC

$650 a month to park your car! $800 if you own a Mercedes or a big Ford Excursion! $250 a month to park your bicycle!

Yes, the joys of living in the Big Apple. This was found in a garage in the West Village, near where the family dined last weekend. As the saying goes, if you have to ask you can't afford it.

Back to The Lou tomorrow, probably. Sorry for the small number of comments yesterday. I had to work pretty late.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Thursday Arch Series

Arch 2011-06-12 3

Say it ain't so.

Well, it's not that bad. There is an entrance to the museum under the Arch at each leg. They are inside the legs and point down and to the center. When this was taken the entrance at the south leg was closed for some kind of maintenance, despite many signs around the grounds directing people this way.

Today is the hundredth anniversary of my father's birth. A toast to the old guy.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Why I Love NY

Why I Love NY

Seen on the West Side Highway, Manhattan. It feels so good to be surrounded by right-thinking people.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

The Fourth of July, Plus Bonus Video

Ridgewood Fireworks 1

The Fourth of July in Ridgewood, New Jersey. I lived here for about a year when my family moved from NYC to the burbs. My younger sister has lived here most of her life. The town has a big parade and fireworks show. There's always a big cook-out at my sister's home. All their old friends come by. In the video below, Lee and Bobby demonstrate how to prepare skirt steak.

Home tonight, but I think I'll do NY pix for a bit.

Ridgewood Fourth of July Parade 1

Patriotic Food Art

Monday, July 4, 2011

STL DPB On The Road: We Are Family

Grant and Cate Smooch (With Encouragement)

Thursday is the 100th anniversary of my father's birth. The family moved from New York City (Sunnyside, Queens) to the suburbs in New Jersey as I was starting my senior year of high school. The older of my two sisters and I commuted back into the city to the schools we had attended, then went off to St. Louis. (She went to Washington University.)

As the four siblings grew up, we always returned to Ridgewood for the Fourth of July holiday and dad's birthday. My younger sister and her husband stayed there and built a large house. Even though my father died 16 years ago, we continue to get together at Sue's almost every Christmas and July 4. We like each other. Dad started a holiday dining tradition of steak and lobster. It's still going on.

Above, niece Cate and newly announced fiance Grant share a smooch with some encouragement from my brother, John. The couple are both entering the MBA program at the University of Chicago in September.

Below: - my sister Sue's daughters, Kelly and Lauren, with a difference in attitude. Lauren will return for her junior year at Virginia Tech in a few weeks and Kelly will enter as a freshman.

- lobster duty with brother-in-law Mel, chairman of the psych department at Penn State, with Grant and brother-in-law Rob, who has a large commercial real estate business.

- niece Stephanie with her parents, my brother, John, newly appointed director of North American operations for the French conglomerate St. Gobain, and his wife Pam, a neurosurgery OR nurse.

- Stephanie with Sue's dog Chi Chi.

- a taste of what's to come.

Oh, and happy birthday, America. I'll be shooting Ridgewood's traditional Fourth of July parade today and the town's huge fireworks show tonight.

Kelly And Lauren

Lobster Patrol 1

Stephanie, John and Pam

Stephanie and Chi Chi

Lobster Time