Monday, December 31, 2012

Year's End

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The last day of 2012. It has been a challenging time in my practice with significant changes in the field. The hours were often too long, taking time from other interests. It's also had special pleasures as Carolyn and I go through our 38th year happily together: the news about our grandchild; visits to Death Valley, Philadelphia, New York, Costa Rica, Birmingham, Seattle, Kansas and Los Angeles; and a week of intense photography study at the Maine Media Workshops. Now for another chapter.

We wrap up with sunset scenes in Forest Park taken Saturday, just to prove we got some snow this winter. Above, the Jewel Box, a giant greenhouse. Below, two views of Art Hill and the Grand Lagoon. The buildings in the background of the last one are part of Washington University Medical Center, where I sometimes get this and that fixed.

There are more good pictures of New York City (you can see them here) but I thought it best to end the year in St. Louis.

TOMORROW: A review of STL DPB's best photographs from 2012. IMHO, of course.

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Sunday, December 30, 2012

The Gray Lady

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The Gray Lady is the old nickname for The New York Times, so-called because it used to have huge amounts of print and little graphics. Not at all so now. You won't find better photojournalism and I'm a big fan of its Lens blog. The reputation for seriousness remains, however. Its motto is "All The News That's Fit To Print." When I lived in New York, people said it really should be "All The News That Fits We Print."

It is far and away America's best newspaper, IMHO. Carolyn and I read it daily, mostly online anymore. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch is a piece of tissue by comparison.

Times Square was named for the paper - the headquarters building used to be right there. Since 2007 it has been in the modern tower shown above on 8th Avenue, opposite the enormous bus terminal. Times Square has lost its sleaze through the efforts of successive city administrations but the glow only gets brighter. It will be a madhouse tomorrow night with close to a million people in and around it to celebrate the new year.   

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Saturday, December 29, 2012

Dining In Manhattan

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You don't need a bank loan to get something to eat in Manhattan (although it really would help in some establishments). Sabrett hot dogs sold from pushcarts have been around since my childhood and, no doubt, long before. There is another brand, Hebrew National, renowned for its quality because it is kosher. The rabbis ain't letting any pork snouts into them, no sir.

The choices these days are wider. If you don't want kosher you can get hallal or load up on falafel. If the warmth of a restaurant is preferable on a cold day, you can't spend that much at the Hard Rock Cafe (although you will certainly spend more than the food is worth). If the restaurant added an eighth day it might get an apparition of The Beatles.

FLYING WITH CARDINALS: No, not Adam Wainwright or Yadier Molina from the local baseball team. We have a lot of American Airlines points and wangled an upgrade on our way home yesterday. We ended up sitting across the aisle from His Eminence, Timothy Cardinal Dolan, Archbishop of New York. He's from St. Louis. Cardinal Dolan is a tall, portly man, two weeks older than me (I looked it up). He wore a very plain wristwatch, a muted jacquard-patterned sweater over his priest's shirt, ordered the barbecue chicken salad rather than the hummus and pita plate and didn't drink alcohol (unlike us). He is known for his hard conservative theological views but was very pleasant to everyone. He read The Wall Street Journal. I guess it counts as a celebrity sighting.       

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Friday, December 28, 2012

A Town So Nice They Had To Name It Twice

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New York, New York, my home town. I love it. Not that I'm sorry I live in St. Louis these days but there's no place like it on earth. (Right, Olivier?)

Carolyn and I drove in with our nephew, Michael, yesterday afternoon. We went to someplace I've wanted to see for years, a temple of sorts, the International Center for Photography at 43rd Street and 6th Avenue. Ironically, you can't take photographs inside. Then up 5th Avenue to Rockefeller Center, back west to 7th Avenue and through Times Square. The top picture was taken on 42nd Street just west of 7th Avenue. We all agreed the phrase "sea of humanity" was coined to describe midtown during the week after Christmas.

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Thursday, December 27, 2012

Thursday Arch Series

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There was nothing to shoot in suburban New Jersey today. Gray, cold skies turning to snow by mid-day. Carolyn and I made the mistake of going to the area mega-mall to visit the electronics store. Total gridlock. It took us 40 minutes to get from our parking space back to the highway, a total of an hour and five minutes to get back to my sisters house. It should take 15 in clear weather. Welcome to metropolitan New York.

So, another fisheye picture of the Arch. It is the right day of the week. I like the concentric curves in this one.

Hope to get into the big city today.

10 PM: it's turned to freezing rain. Time to light a fire.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Christmas Afternoon

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Most of the excitement is over. Everybody who is interested in loot has got theirs. It doesn't matter whether you're naughty or nice any more. Santa is exhausted and needs a ride home.

We are visiting my family in Ridgewood, New Jersey, for a few days. The other divisions are driving distance, coming in from suburban Boston and central Pennsylvania. We have to fly. Something got my attention at New York's La Guardia airport while we were waiting for our bags. Those of us who watch Jon Stewart's The Daily Show will recognize it as one of those moments of zen. Stare at it long enough and it could drive you mad.   

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Merry Christmas From St. Louis

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We miss the kids today, of course, but it's also nice just to have the two of us this morning. Up and out to the airport, though. Flying to New York and then driving across the city to the New Jersey suburbs to see my family.  Hope to get some camera time on the streets of my home town.

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Monday, December 24, 2012

Quiet Anticipation

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Downtown has gotten very quiet over the last few days. The hoards are all in the suburban shopping centers where I, though no angel, fear to tread. What little shopping we do is online and we don't buy much. We'd rather have each other than more useless stuff.

Christmas Eve will be quiet in our home. Our two children are off with their S.O.s visiting their families in Texas and Michigan. I'm happy just to have Carolyn, peace and health. Oh, and that news about the grandchild is okay.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Love On Ice

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Look at the expression on the young man in the top photo, looking at the camera looking at him. Do you think he enjoys teaching?

The bottom couple look like models. Lessons have been learned here but more are still to come. Hard to see in this version but she has quite a rock on her left hand.   

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Saturday, December 22, 2012

Skating With Santa

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Every December Steinberg Ice Rink in Forest Park sets aside a couple of Saturdays for a Skating With Santa event. I seem to get around to photographing it about every other year.

The same charming gentleman plays the role year after year, and he's good at it. For one thing, he can ice skate. (I can't ice skate, or ski, or snowboard, or even hit a %^$@^ golf ball, for that matter.) He's been on the blog before. The creepy thing is that his name is John Crowe, my father's name. My father may have known how to ice skate but I never saw him do it. Never wore red velvet and ermine to his job in New York's Financial District, either. If someone did that today, they might end up in the New York Times' fashion section.

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Friday, December 21, 2012

Girls Just Wanna Have Fun

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There is an annual skating with Santa event at venerable Steinberg Rink in Forest Park.  We'll get jolly St. Nick himself in here shortly, along with his eerie connection to me. For today, we will look at small girls learning to skate and having a good time at it.

Significant news in our family last night. We learned that our first grandchild is expected in late summer. I'll be 63, so about time. Grace, that proposed trip to Australia in August is right out.

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Wednesday, December 19, 2012

The Twilight Zone

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The best time to shoot outdoor light decorations is the half-hour right after sunset. I was working Sunday afternoon and, of course, sunset is very early now, so I walked over to Citygarden to see what I could find. The holiday displays are inventive.

This is Bernar Venet's mathematical abstraction 2 Arcs X 4, 230.5 Degree Arc X 5 showing some unexpected charm. The view is southeast toward 8th and Market, with a couple of office buildings and the two towers of the Hilton Hotel in the background.

We'll do some more of this but it's the Thursday Arch Series tomorrow. And now for something completely different.  

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

A Final Note From The Library

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There were probably rare or historical documents behind this heavy glass door at the restored library. However, I want to get a sticker made just like the sign and put it on my forehead. The world is too intrusive, too much stuff shouting for my attention.

After that's done, I might have the time and peace of mind to enter the room in the second picture. The specter of that dark reflection in the center might put me off, though.

PS: if you would like to see something that will make you feel good - I mean really good - in this sorry world, look at this five minute video that was in the web edition of yesterday's New York Times. A self-styled preacher, known in this country for his virulently anti-Muslim views, started spewing in Times Square one day last summer. A passer-by started singing a song very loudly. Soon the whole crowd joined him in a Beatles tune everyone knows, drowning out the hate. Made my day.

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Monday, December 17, 2012

St. Louis Central Library Reopening: Dream


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I think I'll wrap up this series with today's and tomorrow's posts. There are more images from the library on Flickr here. Might even edit a few more in my spare time, should I ever have any.

The top picture is of a special room for teens. It's good advice. Nothing will change unless you consider a different future. However, the people involved in the opening of the library in 1912 could not have dreamed of what it has become today. Sometimes people try to predict the future. That's useful, too, because such predictions are never right. They just sort of narrow the range of possibilities.     

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Sunday, December 16, 2012

St. Louis Central Library Reopening: First Lines

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The entirely new north entrance to the library opens onto a room that has recessed ovals in the ceiling. Each contains the first line of a book. The top one is from Kurt Vonnegut's Slaughterhouse Five. The words below are the opening of The End Of The Affair by Graham Greene. Both quotes give us something to reflect on after the events of Friday in Connecticut.

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Saturday, December 15, 2012

Not Today

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I could not prepare an ordinary post after what happened in my country yesterday. The grief and anger are too great. It feels unreal, twisted, but I don't think it will ever stop.

So I offer a lament, the saddest music I know. Just the first movement, 19.5 minutes, if you care to listen that long.   

Friday, December 14, 2012

St. Louis Central Library Reopening: Old Design Restored

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The interior of the 1912 Central Branch Library contained a sampler of architectural styles. Much of it has been lovingly restored, yet enhanced with modern technology.

I'm afraid that I buzzed through the building rather quickly, grabbing images rather than learning the purpose of each room. The top image, though, is the transept inside the main entrance. The stairs lead up to the pair of large stained glass windows, one of which we saw a few days ago.

The second picture is something of a great hall. Not exactly a main reading room - it doesn't have any books - and I suspect that the library would like to rent it as event space. Since the library is ten minutes walk from my office, I can see the possibility of going there to get some work done without interruption.

The next two rooms are notable for their ceilings. I don't know enough to identify the style of the green and gold molding, but a staff member told me it was made of painted plaster. The last room has a decorated wood beam ceiling in a Renaissance style.

Other parts pf the library are quite modern. The transition can be jarring but the new parts are, in their own way, just as powerful. Some of that tomorrow.     

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Thursday, December 13, 2012

St. Louis Central Library Reopening: 20th Century Art

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Almost all of the 20th Century art I saw in the library was from the 1930s. That's a strong suggestion that the works were part of the many federally-financed arts projects during the Great Depression.

The first two images are from a painting called Adult Education. That was one of the main reasons for libraries according to the spirit of the day. If I remember correctly the painting was dated 1936.

The third image is a mosaic on a fireplace in the children's room. It's a little difficult to decipher. My guess is that it shows a Native American man building and/or using a fire. I had to zoom way in on the original to see small inscriptions on the bottom of each of the three main panels. The best I can tell is that the first two contain the letters DS and the third the number 38, probably referring to 1938.

The last is a painting of the Mississippi River, seen from a wooded hilltop. It's called Rival of the Rhine. Wrong. I've seen the Rhine and it is nowhere near as magnificent as the Mississippi.     

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Wednesday, December 12, 2012

St. Louis Central Library Reopening: 19th Century Art

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There is a lot of interesting art around the restored library. No idea how much of this was on display before the project began. I could only shoot parts of what's now on the walls because of the crowds.

The first piece is a illustration of the downtown waterfront in 1855. Almost no resemblance to what it looks like today. The only link is the dome in the center, the top of what we now call The Old Courthouse. All of the surrounding warehouses and tenements were cleared out for the Arch's park in the middle 1960s. 

I didn't see any date on the second picture. Propeller screws replaced paddle wheels for propulsion some time in the 19th Century. Any St. Louisan knows that the building in the background is the Anheuser-Busch brewery and that opened in 1852

We will go a century forward tomorrow.   

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Tuesday, December 11, 2012

St. Louis Central Library Reopening: Ceremony

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It's a public event so there had to be speeches by dignitaries and officials. Among those present were Mayor Francis Slay (above center). library executive director Walter McGuire (above right and bottom photo), Alderwoman Phyllis Young, whose ward includes downtown, Board of Alderman President Lewis Reed (fourth picture, right center) and alderman Freeman Bosley, who has been on the board longer than anyone can remember (fourth picture, right).

McGuire mentioned that when the library first opened in 1912, the speeches went on for three hours. Attention spans are shorter these days.

We go inside tomorrow.

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Monday, December 10, 2012

Artes Litterae

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Artes Litterae - literary arts - are one of the foundations of libraries. The Central Branch of the St. Louis Public Library, established in 1912, had its reopening yesterday and, ladies and gentlemen, it is spectacular. Literature and anything else you could want in print abounds. The architecture is stunning.

I took a lot of pictures, maybe enough for this whole week. These are a first few edits. Above, one of a pair of stained glass windows at the top of the twin staircases leading up from the the central hall. We'll get to the other one. The second picture was shot in the main conference room. It appears that a few details still need to be straightened out. At the bottom, one of a set of huge - what? - Gummi Bears? - that welcome visitors to the children's room.

Lots more to edit.

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