Saturday, October 31, 2020


I was raised in a Catholic household. There were these things called Holy Days of Obligation, which meant that you better go to mass or you were in a bunch of trouble. The first of November was one of them, All Saints Day. When I was young I used to confuse it with the baseball All Star Game, which my father took me to once at Yankee Stadium. It was the more fun of the two. 

There is no doubt a long history about how the day before the holy day became associated with the dead and every form of mortal horror. If I weren't so lazy I'd look it up. As it is, we get to drive the children through scenes like this.        

Friday, October 30, 2020


Well, at least you know where we are and what we're doing. Not too inspired as I prepare this Thursday night. There seems to be a sense of anxiety and foreboding around, and it has nothing to do with Halloween. At least that's what I feel. Something needs to see us through the next week and the winter.              

Thursday, October 29, 2020


A photo I liked from Artica that I forgot to post. This is our friend Heather, who plays a mean violin. Her tunic-like dress looks like something from Renaissance Italy. I studied violin for about five years when I was young and was a complete failure. Good ear, bad motor skills and coordination. I look at her left hand position with envy.             

Wednesday, October 28, 2020


This Boo at the Zoo thing wasn't very scary. Lots of lit displays with orange, yellow, purple and white on a black background. Cartoonish ghosts and witches with very fake tombstones. No headless ghouls popping out from behind corners, screaming at children while grabbing for them with skeletal fingers. In other words, about the right speed for my seven year old granddaughter.   

Halloween in the US was not about terror and death when I was a kid. At least in NYC, all we did was cut a hole in an old sheet and chalk our faces white to make a cheap ghost. The rest of it was all about canvassing a dense neighborhood begging for candy.

BY THE WAY, I've been having trouble with someone leaving vituperative anonymous comments damning middle aged and older people for destroying the world. You can't just block anonymous comments on Blogger anymore so I had to change the settings to allow comments only from people with Google accounts, which includes almost everybody. It will not affect Facebook. If you have trouble leaving a comment here please let me know.       

Tuesday, October 27, 2020


Maybe a last shot from the Women's Rally. Michael Parson, mentioned in the yellow signs, is the incompetent governor of Missouri, someone who started off as a rural county sheriff and rose to higher office through a series of coincidences. His attitude toward the virus is to let people do whatever they please, although local governments can impose stricter regulation. Covid cases in the rural parts of our state are exploding and medical facilities in some areas are near collapse. St. Louis and Kansas City aren't nearly as bad but certainly not in the clear. We are still hunkering down.              

Monday, October 26, 2020


One of our major local organizations has an annual event for the kids called Boo at the Zoo. We've taken Ellie in the past but it has been almost unbearably cold and crowded. This year was capacity controlled, of course, and the weather was relatively mild. She likes it more than I do, but I like taking her there.

We don't know where she learned to pose but she is quite a ham. Her mother, Emily, spent hours making her a custom-made costume that is a bit too esoteric for me. It it based (I think) on the character Korra, the avatar and water bender of the South, in the animated series Avatar. Great job by mom but when I was that age all I was worried about was where Clark Kent was going to find a phone booth to change into Superman.                

Sunday, October 25, 2020


  The great thing about science is that it's true whether you believe it or not.
- Neil de Grasse Tyson         
Photo from the St. Louis Women's Rally.

Saturday, October 24, 2020


STL's Artica festival always reaches the same end. Throughout the weekend, the wooden effigy known as Our Lady of Artica looms over one end of the field. The design varies a bit from year to year but you can always recognize it. The crowd gathers around on Sunday night. The crew is in full fire protection suits and the event is licensed and supervised by the fire department. On a signal, torches are put to the bottom. The spectators stay until the whole thing has collapsed to embers.                  

Friday, October 23, 2020


Our international friends may not know of it but there is an iconic character promoted by our National Park Service, Smokey Bear. He is dressed in a ranger's hat, wears blue jeans and boots and carries a shovel. His constant slogan is "only you can prevent forest fires." Well, maybe not so true this year. One of the participants at last weekend's Women's Rally had a shirt with a variation on the theme.            

Thursday, October 22, 2020


As the sun began to set on the second and final day of Artica, the belly dancers who had been performing with scimitars put down their weapons and took up torches. I assume these were well-designed but I wouldn't let them near my hair, even though I don't have much. The fire light on her face gives it a special glow.             

Tuesday, October 20, 2020


Back to Artica. While the crowd was waiting for the concluding bonfire, a group of young men performed a very not-authorized-by-the-festival stunt, the likes of which I've never seen. They had a hollowed-out pumpkin, open at the bottom. The top was smeared with a flammable gel. One of them put it on his head while another lit the goo on fire. It there were eye holes I didn't see them. As they say, what's the worst that could happen?         

Monday, October 19, 2020


Ellie, her mother and I went to the women's rally at city hall on Saturday. Mrs. C had another obligation. The turnout was a little disappointing, maybe 150, but there were disputes on the event's Facebook page about whether it was a good idea with the virus around. Mask use was 100%, everyone kept their distance and there was a good breeze.

Mom helped Ellie make her sign. Her shirt says RESISTL. She was interviewed by a TV news crew but it didn't make it onto the air.

I'll probably go back and forth between this and Artica for a bit.            

Sunday, October 18, 2020


Some of us geezers remember that riff by Janis Joplin: . This - I don't have a better term than performance artist - was at the second day of Artica, dressed in a tailored black suit, red tie, black patent leather shoes and a silk top hat. He knelt on what may have been a prayer rug in a posture of submission, subjugation and entreaty.

The sign, hard to read here, said:


#make America great again

#get off my grass (a reference to the McCloskeys,

#nearly lost $ in the stock market

And the sun was hot on that black suit. 

Saturday, October 17, 2020


Artica is a family affair. Anyone who wanted to hear some music, see some visual art and hang around beneath the colorful ruins of the Cotton Belt Railroad freight terminal came along. Bring the kids.               

Friday, October 16, 2020



One of the works on display at Artica last weekend. The question in front is rarely considered by most of us. Saying "I just like it" is unsatisfying. Maybe the question requires a real interest in art rather than casual glances. On the other hand, the poet Archibald MacLeish coined the well-known phrase, which can be used in a broader context, "a poem should not mean but be."

And as to the two questions in the rear: I think I have a fair idea of where I am. I have no idea where I am going. Life has far too much randomness to make such predictions.                       

Thursday, October 15, 2020


You have to be as old as I am, or close, to get the reference in the title of today's post. It was often the closing line of the Lone Ranger TV show, said in awe by a townsperson as the mysterious cowboy rode away, having banished all evil from some frontier settlement.

The people at Artica were good about masks and I had a way to record some of them. My contribution was to set up an outdoor photo station just inside the entrance. Give me your name and email address, get your picture taken and I send it to you with a festival logo on it as a souvenir. Some interesting people passed by. I like the coordinated accessories on this guy.                 

Wednesday, October 14, 2020


I've mentioned that Artica is nothing if not eclectic and free-wheeling. This man, who declined to give me his full name, had an ancient Underwood portable typewriter, one with a distinctive aroma to him. He claimed it was a century old, and it just might have been. He had small sheets of brightly colored paper, and would write you a little poem on request. He did one for my granddaughter, Ellie, which read:

we await, wondering

what is he writing?

anything can be.

the dance beat, bassy

speakers and sound system

recorded musicians uplift

and agitate the atmosphere

Tuesday, October 13, 2020


A sparse one, perhaps, but with enough spirit. Artica's parade goes from the entry gate to the edge of the Mississippi River. Marchers are invited to bring something that they will float down the great waterway, carrying their wishes and dreams.

There are usually many more people but, of course, the virus depressed the turnout. Those who turned out had lots of percussion. You can just see Ellie bringing up the rear.         

Monday, October 12, 2020


I never quite understood why but Artica always has a parade to the river starting at 1:11 PM (13.11 to the rest of the world). It was not as boisterous as usual this year, with limited turnout due to the state of the world. Ellie, however, was all in.

She wore her Halloween costume that daughter Emily, on the right, made for her. It is based on an animation series called Avatar. The structure is too complicated for me, but her costume is based on Korra, the avatar and water bender of the southern  tribe, . Or something. When I was her age, I was stunned by Disney's Fantasia.    

Sunday, October 11, 2020


All of us are sad about the suspension of artistic activities, depriving us of the richness of experiences and threatening the organizations that present them.* Some outdoor activities, however, manage to carry on.

One of my favorites is Artica, an annual plein air free for all of the visual and performing arts. It's happening this weekend in the industrial wastelands north of the Arch. Anything goes, subject to minimal screening. I'm not exactly the house photographer. They refer to me as the visual documentarian.  This chap always shows up with the threatening crow or raven head. He is getting ready for the parade, which we will see shortly.

*  The St. Louis Symphony is resuming performances this month. One hour programs, no intermission, spread out chamber orchestra, limited to an audience of 100 in a hall that seats 1,900. We're going on Friday for the Eroica! Gonna be strange.         

Saturday, October 10, 2020


From big bridges to shoelaces to the fiber optic line that will carry this post into the ether, we don't think about cables much. Even the heavy ropes seen yesterday are examples, and the rope-maker's art is ancient. We can even think of the tendons in our bodies. Without them, as Yeats said, things fall apart, the centre cannot hold. So thank a cable. Do it today.

This is the lyrically-named Stan Musial - Veterans Memorial Bridge, connecting Missouri and Illinois at the north edge of downtown.     

Friday, October 9, 2020


This is the front of one of the 15 barge max size flotillas. It was heading downriver into the big side of Lock and Dam 27 as we left the small boat side. Our excursion vessel had to tie up along the side of the lock as the water rose. I'm sure this big one had to do the same in the opposite direction. Note the winches and the rope thicker than my wrist.

But, hey! Artica, STL's wacky outdoor alternative arts festival is this weekend and the weather looks good. I'm not exactly the house photographer. They call me the visual documentarian. There's gonna be a lot to document.       

Thursday, October 8, 2020


Well, actually, I was just looking for a catchy title. The title is supply-side economic Republican economic baloney but it fits the situation.

The view is upriver as the great gates seen yesterday closed behind us. This time the barrier is horizontal. It will lower slowly, raising the water level in the lock until a boat can proceed safely northward. The engineering and construction of these things is beyond me.      

Wednesday, October 7, 2020


You may or may not have them in your part of the world, but lock and dam systems are important in ours. The Mississippi River is the nation's central freight highway and of untold economic importance. You just don't see them much from the road, with a few exceptions.

When our tour boat slid into L&D 27, the last one on the the river's southbound course, big steel gates closed behind us and the water level of the lower river. This is the lock for small boats - we went through the big one on our way back. In front, a horizontal gate slowly lowered, letting in water from the north and raising the boat some 15 feet / 4.5 meters. I've seen these things from the side before (the next one up has a visitor's center) but never been through one on a vessel. 

If you are terribly curious, there is a long discussion about how these work around the world at .         

Tuesday, October 6, 2020


One of several things I learned on Saturday's trip on the Mississippi: just how big can the barge flotillas be and how much they can carry. The overall size is limited by the size of the locks. Each barge is a standard size. The locks can hold three across and five long, plus the push boat. We were told that the whole assembly can hold the equivalent of 900 US truck trailers. It's mostly fungible stuff, usually coal or grain. As we were disembarking, we saw one go by with 18 of the enormous fan blades used in new-style wind generators.

The light was terribly dull so I decided that B&W was the lesser of two evils. There are some shots that came out well in eerie, muted color.               

Monday, October 5, 2020


The family did something a little different on Saturday. We took a ride on one of the riverboats, not just the usual two hour, here's how boring it looks outside of downtown trips, but a five hour journey through the first lock on the Mississippi, which is north of here, up to the confluence of the Mississippi and Missouri. (The grade is so flat from here to New Orleans, dropping 450 feet / 137 meters over a wiggly course of 1,278 miles / 2,056 kilometers, that there is no need for  locks.)

The boat makes a pretense of being a stern wheeler for old-timey effect. When it got into the lock and had to so some fine maneuvering, it was obvious that there were propellers underneath. 

The day was gray and drizzly so outdoor photography was not at its best. There are still some other images worth a look.            

Sunday, October 4, 2020


Well, uh, this was just the last good photo from the Renaissance Festival. The man, who was running the swing-the-big-hammer-and-ring-the-bell amusement, probably doesn't know a thing about karma. 

We spent much of Saturday on a long and unusual boat ride on the Mississippi River. Images to follow.  

Saturday, October 3, 2020


Every generation thinks that its children and grandchildren are degenerate and will bring about the collapse of all accomplishments of the past. That hasn't happened so far, although the older people in charge now might actually accomplish it. Still, the power to openly and massively express contempt for what has gone before has bloomed in the last 50 years. It's the doing of my generation. (I was at Woodstock, etc., etc.) 

And now we have this. I'm sure they are perfectly nice young people behind the shirts but, virus or not, we're not inviting them to dinner.          

Friday, October 2, 2020


There is always a back area at the Renaissance Festival known as the Fairy Village with lots of variations on that theme. There are usually people in costumes who take on the role but the scale was reduced this year for obvious reasons. As I approached this figure I thought it might be someone who coated herself in gray and stood still as a statue, like the street performers you see in Leicester Square or Times Square. We wandered the area for some time but saw not a twitch. I assume it was a mannequin.             

Thursday, October 1, 2020


This photo is about six months old, taken when shutdowns and quarantines were really beginning to bite. This young man set up shop next to the great statue of St. Louis in Forest Park, a natural meeting place, without a mask. I am sorry to say that many people here do not follow health officials' advice. Whenever I pass through the park on a nice Saturday, I see many wedding parties at the usual photo stops, clumped together and no one wearing masks.

The incidence of infection is moderate in St. Louis City and County. It's much worse in the outlying areas, where local hospitals are overwhelmed and sending patients here.        


An exercise in formal logic at the Renaissance Festival. If A = B and B = C, then A = C. Trump doesn't drink so draw your own conclusions.