Thursday, October 31, 2019


It is very warm and damp here. The orange boat is the Staten Island Ferry. The background in the first picture is Jersey City, New Jersey, not New York.  The third photo is lower Manhattan shrouded in mist.

Wednesday, October 30, 2019


Or so sang Paul Simon, a Queens boy like me, many years ago. I left for college in St. Louis 52 years ago but this is still the place where, metaphorically, I kiss the soil. There is some, you know, under the asphalt and concrete.

Top, the Empire State Building from 6th Avenue and about 43rd Street. Below, the police station in Times Square. There is a lot going on in that picture if you look carefully.

Tuesday, October 29, 2019


We have a grand old railway station that, like so many in this country, fell into disuse and decay. There have been some attempts to resurrect it over the last couple of decades. The headhouse was converted into a grand hotel, which is apparently doing well. The large area under the train shed was filled by restaurants, a food court and quite a number of shops where I wouldn't spend money. All that failed. 

Now another developer is moving forward with a new plan. A big Ferris wheel, covered with colored LEDs at night, opened a few weeks ago. A fair sized aquarium will be ready by the end of the year. There is a lagoon that, on the half hour, has a music show punctuated by explosive fireballs. (I'll have a post about that some day.) There will be mini golf and I don't know what else. Hope this version makes it.

New York late this afternoon. If I can make it there, I'll make it anywhere.         

Monday, October 28, 2019


Okay, I have not traveled every hill and dale in the metro area but this one is Old Reliable. And, no, I don't know what kind of tree it is. I'm a city kid. My education as an arborist is limited to this.

The tree is toward the eastern side of Forest Park, near Kingshighway. Autumn trees are very spotty here, with subtle dependence on temperature and rainfall. Some years all the leaves just turn brown and wither. But in others this whole grove is aflame. This one in particular, which gets full afternoon sun, never fails.

Sunday, October 27, 2019


Another St. Louis Halloween tradition I'd never heard of. My granddaughter's school has an annual event called Trunk Or Treat. Lots of the parents decorate the trunks of their cars, stock them full of goodies and set up around the perimeter of the parking lot with the back facing inward. The kids run from one to another, playing games and hoarding more sugar.

There was a steady cold rain last night so the event was held inside the school. I saw a new kind of costume, dinosaur suits with a battery operated fan in each side to keep it inflated. The boy in this one was particularly aggressive, challenging anything in his path. He ran up against my Artica friend Paul, whose sons go to the same school, dressed as an a knight in armor. No clear winner.            

Saturday, October 26, 2019


I am so sorry. As I was drafting this post there was something I just could not get out of my head:

So anyway, pretend knights jousting at the Renaissance Faire. Refreshingly, the blue knight is a woman.

Looks like it's going to be too wet to shoot our outdoors Halloween party tonight.         

Friday, October 25, 2019


Halloween is a much bigger deal in this country than when I was a child. We would put on something simple and home made, then mooch candy in a couple of the neighboring apartment buildings. Now it's elaborate and sometimes expensive costumes, parties everywhere, outdoor festivals and an increased amount of horror. I don't know if it's a St. Louis tradition, but kids here are expected to say a funny little riddle before they get their loot. (Ellie's favorite: Q Which monster is the best dancer? A The boogie man.) Never had that in Queens.

I'm sure the reason for the difference is commercialism. Anything you can promote to suck in some extra bucks. There is a heavily-promoted outdoor party in Maryland Plaza here tomorrow night, which I may shoot if it's not too cold and wet. Next week I'm meeting our colleague Olivier from Evry, France, on that little island where I was born. We are going to shoot the Halloween parade in New York's Greenwich Village. If it's not too cold and wet. I hear it's just nuts.

This photo is from the Renaissance Faire.               

Thursday, October 24, 2019


Lots of places in the US have what they call a Renaissance Faire. The conceit is that an area is supposed to be converted into a slice of 15th or 16th Century Europe. The one here is loosely based on our sister city relationship with Lyon, France.

But that all falls apart quickly. People dress up as faeries, pirates, elves, monsters or whatever suits their fancy. There are lots of shows and they don't necessarily have a thing to do with the Renaissance. This bunch of make believe Bravehearts call themselves Pictus, probably after the people who inhabited eastern and northern Scotland a long time ago. ( ). It's a bagpipe and drums with a pretend fierce attitude. For all I know they could be pussycats at home.

Have you ever listened to bagpipes for an extended period of time? I have. It is either A) an acquired taste or B) the road to madness.          

Wednesday, October 23, 2019


Take a look at . How to characterize this? A road show, performance art with unlimited actors or psychological research? A group of artists built this thing that looks like a cartoon speech balloon. There is a video booth behind the curtain, in which visitors are asked to spend two minutes stating what truth means to them. It has gone around much of the world, visiting Afghanistan before St. Louis, where it stopped in front of the main branch of the public library.

It's a fascinating idea. You can see and hear many of the participants on its website. I gave it a shot, prattling on about the scientific method and the subjectivity of of consciousness. If you care to, give us your definition in a comment.                    

Tuesday, October 22, 2019


Gentle reader, please interpret for yourself. That's the Paint Louis section of the flood wall along the Mississippi on the right and a railroad bridge across the river behind. My guess is that it's someone's nom de graffiti. However, it also reminds me of Two Buck Chuck, the nickname of super cheap wine sold across America under the Charles Shaw label at Trader Joe's food stores. I understand that with inflation, it's now $3.79 a bottle. Cheers!           

Monday, October 21, 2019


Our children's museum, The Magic House, has a Halloween event last weekend and next. Daughter Emily took this beautiful phone cam shot of Ellie in the garden. The kid knows how to pose, too.       

Sunday, October 20, 2019


As noted earlier, the Sunday night of Artica ends with the immolation of a wooden effigy, Our Lady of Artica. The central figure is essentially the same every year but the details and surroundings vary. I liked this year's version with the multiple arms/flags suggesting a Hindu deity and the halo-like structure surrounding all of it. 

These pix could be better. I was seated some distance away and didn't have a tripod. What was scary was that part way through the burn a gust of wind blew up from the northwest, sending a blast of fire toward the crowd on the right of the lower picture. The crew were all in professional fire protection suits and several members of the STL fire department were on hand. Still, I'm told that some of the audience had a wow, cool man attitude and didn't clear out quickly. Fortunately, no one was hurt.                             

Saturday, October 19, 2019


Artica takes place in an area of semi-abandoned commercial buildings north of the Arch. It's a bit desolate and no one much cares about graffiti. One of the Articans, Robert, I think, created this near the entrance gate. The the set of tools is complicated.                  

Friday, October 18, 2019



If you have been to Artica you know why the caption is a terrible pun. It is a Saturday - Sunday event. When it is fully dark on Sunday evening, the fire dancers come out to whip up the crowd. This is followed by a torch thrown at the wooden effigy of Our Lady of Artica. We will see some of the finale tomorrow.

I was lucky to get these photos. My back was bothering me, the field where the effigy was located was very rough and it was pitch black. There was a free lawn chair maybe 50 m away where I set myself up with an f 2.8 medium telephoto. Pretty hard to grab focus.          

Thursday, October 17, 2019


I swear the sky had these hues late afternoon on the second day of Artica. They may have been, um, enhanced in the computer but I did not add a color filter. The circle contains the festival's logo, a stylized version of the wooden Our Lady of Artica. The structure is the light bridge over the day-glo croquet field.               

Tuesday, October 15, 2019


It's not just in Dr. Seuss stories. One of the things I love about Artica it the individuality, the gentle weirdness of the performers and audience. Definitely not habitues of your typical suburban shopping mall. Do what you feel like but have fun. Probably not a Trump supporter in sight. It's so refreshing compared to the suit and tie stuff I have to do on weekdays.         

Monday, October 14, 2019



In the late 19th Century, there were a number of events in which the US government opened up previously restricted federal lands to settlers. They were often a first come - first claimed race for homesteads, known as land rushes or land grabs. The largest was in Oklahoma, . No one said the land was, um, empty.

A couple of our stalwart Articans ran their own version during the festival. At a signal, a couple of dozen people ran across a rough field to claim their pieces of turf. A few indigenous residents already happened to be there. They were ignored or bowled over. I tried to photograph the melee inside the homestead zone but there was such chaos that I would have needed a platform or crane to get above the fracas. There was a lesson to be learned here but most people were too busy with their beer.           

Sunday, October 13, 2019


Another day offline yesterday. My life is too crowded. We took Ellie to the local Renaissance Festival (more about which later), which chewed up most of the day. I'm walking better but my leg muscles are still weak from months of under-use. Fell asleep again when we got home.

Anyway, back to Artica. The event is completely free form, including music, sculpture and performance art. I'm not sure what's going on here. The tiara resembles that of Our Lady of Artica (more about which later). The dress might be that of an 18th Century noblewoman on hallucinogenics. There had to be a second person under the skirt but I never got a peek.

Friday, October 11, 2019


Sorry no post yesterday. I was at the mighty Washington University Medical Center getting my back worked on. They gave me an IV that doesn't put you to sleep but just makes you . . .smooth while they burn nerve roots in your lower back. It really helps but after Mrs C took me home I fell hard asleep. She had to wake me for dinner. Then a frantic day at work.

Anyway, last weekend brought us the annual Artica festival. You might call it alternative art, or just way out there. I missed most of it while I was in Texas but got by late Sunday afternoon. One piece involved  playing croquet on some rough land. The metal arch contained black light spotlights. All the equipment was painted in day-glo colors and looked wild at night. Unfortunately, it was too dark to photograph that action.            

Tuesday, October 8, 2019


And just what is that supposed to mean? Mess? This suggests Texas has a bit of an ego and thinks it it is pretty tough. If I make faces and thumb my nose at it what are they going to do, sic Ted Cruz on me?

Otherwise, more pix from the Teas State Fair. The giant figure is the fair's logo, Big Tex. His hands and arms are always posed the same way, Makes him look like he's directing traffic on the parking lot. Then just more signs. It's like Texas has its own smaller scale version of nationalism. I might come back if I happen to be in Dallas at this time of year but usually we just change planes there.       


Texans have a love affair with cattle, or so the people who make money off the transaction would have you believe. Of course, beef consumption is part of the American fabric. I'm not a vegetarian. My remote ancestors were omnivores. I don't eat much beef, though. In part that's because of the nutritional issues but mostly because of the environmental damage. Is there a form of food production that is more harmful to the planet? Having a habitable place to live in a century apparently doesn't trouble the Texas Beef Council.

But then I fly. I know, I know. The ethical issues in all of this are hard.