Sunday, September 16, 2018

Dee Wright Observatory

Over the weekend , I played with the camera's panorama feature and got some wide angle shots.

Looking East

We went to Dee Wright Observatory and Little Belknap (one of the bumps on the left above). It's a lava field; Belknap crater (below) is a shield volcano.  Little Belknap is a cinder cone (with a lava tube at the top).   T

Looking West

The Cascades made their own weather.  When we left for the mountains, it was fairly clear.  As we arrived, clouds formed and the temperature dropped about five or ten degrees (climbing up to the top of Little Belknap probably contributed).

The North Sister was visible when we first showed up.
 But very soon the clouds rolled in and we couldn't see much beyond about three miles.

Friday, September 14, 2018

Moon Conjunct Something

 Last night the clouds cleared again and we could see the Moon and Venus.  Although, looking at some close-ups of the bright planet paired with the Moon, I saw other dots that looks suspiciously like the Jovian Moons.  So now I'm going to have to go back to an ephemeris and double-check.
Surprisingly, there's a better view of the setting moon from the front of our house than there is from the back yard.

Thursday, September 13, 2018

Three Day Moon

 Last night there was a break in the clouds and you could see the three-day-old moon.  This is the last new moon of summer; I think full moon is on or very near the equinox

Sometimes I wish we lived on the other side of College Slope so we could see the setting moon and sun.  During the summer, however, I'm thankful that we live on the eastern slope because the hill shades us from the late afternoon heat. 

Last lunar month, the crescent was an orange slice from all of the fires--but the fires have been doused by this week's rain. 

Monday, September 10, 2018

Praising The Rain

Monday morning as work I pulled into work, there was a light rain sprinkling down, pattering on the roof of the car.  It might have rained two weeks ago, but we were out of the state, so for me this is the first rain in about ten weeks. 

I got out.  I hadn't brought a jacket.  I held my hands up and received the gift of the rain--tiny touches blessing my upturned palms.  The overcast sky hid the sun behind a veil of grey.  The rain dampened my hair, beaded on my glasses, and darkend the shoulders of my blue shirt.  I'd be inside soon enough and could praise the rain for the brief moment that I'd be out in it.  And besides, Real Oregonians walk through the rain with their heads held high.

Ahead of me, there was a woman, hunched over in her dark brown coat, with one hand clutching the coat's hood over her head.  I thought we must look a study in contrasts; she closed up around herself, me opened out like water lilly.  

We made for the same entrance, and I wondered if maybe she could see my aspect reflected in the glass doors.  As she opened the door, she turned and pulled her hood back; it was one of my co-workers.  "I could feel you getting into the rain behind me," she said, and we laughed.

Mom's Birthday Weekend

This weekend was my Mother's birthday.  We went up to Corvallis and helped her celebrate.  A number of her friends were there -- I haven't seen many of them for years, and there's always a moment of superimposing what I remember them looking like with what they look like now.  On top of this, we ran into my sister's best friend, who looks suprisingly like how I remember her mother looking fourty years ago.  Reflecting on this phenomenon, it seems funny that we say, "Oh, how you've grown!" to young teenagers, but we don't say it to septuagenarians or octogenarians.

Early this morning I dreamed...

I was staying in a strange town, maybe Northfield.  I think I was visiting M.H. or attending some sort of folklore or mediaeval conference.  I'd booked a room in someone's house and decided to extend my stay, but there were complications and the nice room I'd been in was going to be rented out to someone else.

In another part of the dream, I was an extra in a show. with a menacing, Giant Dragon Marionette.  Mostly I stayed back stage while the GDM swooped over the stage right and stage left exits from audience balcony.  Stage left and right were restrictive, square tunnels--if the GDM caught you there there was no place to hide from its breath.  Thinking about it in waking life, the stage was from the old Corvallis High School.  There was a shift and the play became a little more real, and the cast was working together to deal with an actual swooping dragon.  I brought out a wind-up mouse/car smoke device and then scurried back stage again--this was vaguely helpful.  There was a musical quality to the action, but I don't recall any songs. 

At the end, a woman in black poofy clothing thanked me for delivering the wind-up smoke bomb, and told me to get out.

Somewhere else in the dream, I walked into a cafe music performance.  There was a lot of dark wood panelling, and the floors were wood as well.  There was a tallish musician in a duster / trench coat / black leather jacket.   It wasn't Neil Gaiman, but in waking life I'm thinking it sure looked like him.  He had a dark pillar-like folk instrument which was a cross betwee a bass (large), an oboe (black and columnar), and a therimin (touching the column at different heights produced a kind of therimin sound).  The musician invited me to play, and I rested the column against my shoulder and placed my hands upon it.  It began to thrum, and the next thing I knew, I was playing the "Skye Boat Song." I got better and better at it, producing harmonic fifths and chords to acompany myself.  

There was a strong sence of processing the music as I was playing, and there was also a strong emotional resonance within me that this was the most beautiful music I had ever played.  Ever.    The dream ended with me hanging off of Not Neil Gaiman's leather jacket, tearful and wondering how I had managed to create a Marvellous Song.

I had "The Skye Boat Song" in my head most of the morning.  Um, I like it, but I'm sort of bemused that my dream self would be struck through the heart with it.  

Friday, September 07, 2018

Patience the Lion

Mark thinks the New York Public Library Main Branch Lion looks smug.

I'm not so sure.  Pleased, regal, proud; yes.  Smug?  Maybe.

I think if I were a lion guarding the entrance to a library I would look this way.  Maybe this lion is looking at the patrons and thinking which ones might be the tastiest -- I wonder if the librarians tell younger readers to be sure to observe due dates because the lion stretches out at nights and roams the streets of New York City to hunt out overdue books.

We were hurrying along when I took this photo, so I didn't have a chance to see if this lion has another lion or lioness (or cubs) to hang out with.   After some quick research, I've discovered that there are two male lions; this one is Patience (at least I think this is the southern lion).   Fortitude is the northern lion.  New Yorkers like them, and it appears they are garlanded and wreathed and dressed in top hats during galas. 

...Apparently, someone's written a story where they eat a librarian.... 

Thursday, September 06, 2018

Birds of Bethesda Terrace

Here's a carved panel from Bethesda Terrace in NYC's Central Park.  I wish we had public art like this in Eugene because these panels pictured most likely have allegorical meanings (possibly of Spring), but the vibrancy and verdantcy of the design and the delight in the details is the main impression.  I like over-the-top Art Deco gods and goddesses with their social-industrial declarations, but there's something refreshing about a flock of birds going about their business in spiraling, intertwined branches.
Unfortunately, if these were in Eugene they'd probably be graffitied over in a heartbeat.

This morning's tarot reading was four out of five reversed major trumps. The gist was to ground inner dreams and visions in real word actions (seven of cups), and to use appropriate force at the appropriate time (Temperance reversed is the reading's obstacle).  Probably today is a day to take a moment to understand things beyond their surface (High Priestess reversed).

Lots of strange dreams last night--they took on an "X Files" feel, with continuing episodes of paranormal investigation:  In one, I was flying around and two talking parrots were confused that I could fly and asked me what kind of bird I was.  This led to a discussion of using my flying power for something useful instead of just flying around.  

In another dream, a cartoon Mr. Burns (who was particularly yellow) was simultaneously a live-action person and a cartoon and an opera diva ... who was singing a vaguely Spanish aria (?about loving a bull-fighter). The live-action board of trustees stood in a line on the stge Mr. Burns (? Mr Burnettita?) sang on -- by this time Mr. Burns had sprouted ten arms, and was waving each theatrically as he/she sang (one on the brow, one held out, one reaching out to a lover...).  

There was some sort of shift and the opera performance shifted to a slow, German ground/lament.  I think there was a scene change.  

In a final dream, I was with some Reed College friends at a beach, and we were looking a new craze where one slid down a sand dune on bare feet (sort of like skiing only with no skis and over sand), over a small ramp, and if you hit the air right just over water, your bare feet would hydrofoil along the surf. 

A bunch of us swooshed down the sand, hit the surf, and -- amid jets of water springing up from our feet like a manta's wings -- managed to get spectacularly far along the shoreline.   

Wednesday, September 05, 2018

Who's a Good Hell-Beast?

This dog gargoyle lives on 70th Street in New York, near Amsterdam Street.  The Knights of Pyhias Temple is next door.  I always think of our NY friend, LGL, when I see this, partially because he lives in the area, but mostly because of the incident over a decade ago when we were at (the now defunct) Cafe Motzart and watched a New Yorker pull the back bumper off of her car as she angled into a parking spot, then nonchalantly toss it into her trunk.
I think this is a winter creature, probably because it's made of some dark material, and because there's no accompanying foliage with it.  It's playful--in a fierce kind of way--and I imagine that it's playing with the ball it's perched on. But, it's also easy to imagine it lifting its head on some moonlit night and howling between the high-rise alleys. 

I'm thinking I should have stood directly underneath it and taken its picture as it peered over the edge of its perch.  Ah well, I suppose that's a photo for another visit.

Monday, September 03, 2018

Labor Day Tarot Reading

That moment when the plumes of frankincense and myrrh curl around you as you sit, crosslegged, on the grass within the brick circle in the backyard; and the sound of the fountain's falling water mingles with the jingle of the wind chime; and the chickens and the doves and the crows are calling; and the cats are stalking each other through the grapevines; and the leaves of the cherry tree rustle; and you turn over the last Tarot card -- and it's The Devil -- and you laugh and laugh and laugh because you can hear Madame Cleo saying, "But ya knew that already, didn't ya?"

And you lean on the pillows you've brought out -- because sitting crosslegged on the grass within the brick circle makes your right ankle fall asleep, so you have to shift position -- and you reread all those tarot books you bought in the '90's to make sure you've remembered the cards' meanings properly.  And the books and the cards reaffirm:  you're where you are today because of the choices you made yesterday, and the reason you're going through a Dark Night of the Soul is that you've been focused on the Material.  So work hard on what you do, and keep in mind the things that feed your spirit.

Sunday, September 02, 2018

Grand Central Terminal Dragons

I'm not sure why these dragons are along the hallway of Grand Central Terminal.  I suspect biting their own tails makes them a ouroboros symbol.  Perhaps the building designer wanted to remind train passengers of eternity, or it's a joke about "eternity's halls."

The dragons are also intertwined with each other, so maybe it's a statement about how all things are connected... maybe a pun on making train connections?

I like the way their teeth look like zippers opening.  I like the use of circles in the composition, and how the neck arc balanced out the arc of the wings.

I'm not sure why the designer added a man and horse.  It looks like he might be saddling the horse, but on closer inspection, he appears to be grooming the horse's mane.

If I were going to take these pictures again, I'd want a light source about twenty degrees forward in the plane of the carving and at about the four-thirty position.   I suppose there's lamps on selfie-sticks out there...

Now that I've been back home for forty-eight hours, I have the usual post-vacation travel observations:

  • The air (pollen? ash? mold?) in the Willamette Valley gives me congestion and bothers my eyes.  This makes me tired.
  • Something makes my skin itch (see above, plus stress?); I suspect I've developed a nervous habit of scratching my forearms between bouts of typing.
  • Ergonomics at workstations are important, and also hourly stretch breaks.
  • I need to look at my tea habit, because I should probably replace one of the giant mugs of tea with something like a serving of carrots.  Or hot water.
  • Chocolate makes me fart.  Probably early-morning rationing would help me not bolt so much when I snack.
  • I should replace the grazing on almonds, craisins, chocolate, and tea at work with a more regular snack lunch of a tuna-lettuce wrap -- because I think this would improve my alertness.

Thursday NYC Gargoyle Photo Safari

Thursday I woke up at LGL's.  The previous night, after he'd returned from work and the gym, I'd taken LGL out for Chinese food and general hanging out.   I was conscous enough to have a short conversation with him before he went off to work (he starts work very early), and then I caught about another hour of sleep.

Since I didn't have to catch an airport bus until noon, I spent a few hours on another gargoyle photo safari.  This time around I stayed on the west side of Central Park, and slowly wound my way to the American Museum of Natural History.  The outside has cool bas relief and sculptures... and, wow, is it White Euro-Centric Male.

That didn't stop me from photographing it; I think if I'd had the time I would have hung around until the sun could swing around 30 degrees further along the ecliptic, because then its rays would have made the bas relief bears and bison and moose really pop.  As it was, the mountain lions were the only frieze properly lit.  I suppose if I were hardcore, I would have had an assistant with a mylar reflector bring out details.  But it was just me, and already the morning temperature pushed toward 90F.   More Museum of Natural History photos are here.

After the museum, I wound my way back to LGL's apartment.  I probably could have stayed out another hour, but the anxieties of getting to Newark Airport from downtown NYC prompted otherwise.  

As I was walking west along 81st Street, I saw some folate heads and intricately carved balusters.  I'm not sure if I'd call it Gothic Revival -- but when I looked up at the brownstone, there were dragons!  OMG!  It was like someone had taken an old bestiary and turned it into a sculpture.
The dragons flanked a roundel.  At first I thought this was Adam and Eve.  Later, when I was looking at the photo from home, I noticed these figures look like women.  And there's no Tree of Life or Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil behind them.  And they're sharing an open book between them.  I can only conclude this is some sort of Lesbian Library Heaven that I haven't heard about and it's Guarded by Dragons.
The whole building was covered with faces and lions and twining vines.  More Photos Here.  I felt like finding the building was a reward and the final hurrah before I'd have to pack the camera in its special pack and pack the pack into my soft cary-on luggage and get into the travel stream.  I'd leave the magical Upper West Side, Upper East Side, and the other gilded boroughs with their djinni of granite and steel.  I'd say goodby to the totem animals and spirit helpers of sandstone and brass.  I'd get on a bus to the airport, wind through TSI security, eat airport food, file onto a plane, and fly for five hours back home, where the cats were waiting.

Saturday, September 01, 2018

New York: Hygiea & Aesculapius

Wednesday, the family was going to Atlantic City.  Mark convinced me that...
  1. all the riff-raff Giuliani drove out of NYC had resettled in Atlantic City (I've since been corrected by LGL that Giuliani drove no one out of NYC and that all New Yorkers hate him equally), 
  2. the beach is uninviting (apparently, there are Biting Flies Which Leave Scars), 
  3. I'd be kicking my heels in some casino hotel with flamingo decor unless I decide to 
  4. get stabbed to death for my new super-zoom camera as I "wander around aimlessly photographing buildings." 
So I opted to stay with our friend LGL for the night and catch a plane home next next day.

I managed to wake up, kiss everyone (well, almost everyone) goodbye, take a bus to The City, get to LGL's apartment, and by 10 AM was more or less hoofing through the streets of New York City's Lincoln Center District and headed in the general direction of the MET.

"Oh! Paparazzi!" LGL's doorman said as I left the apartment.  "Nice camera."

"Yeah," I said, "I'm going to bag me some gargoyles!"

Many years ago, on 70th Street near Amsterdam Street (which I keep wanting to call Holland Street), there used to be a place called "Cafe Motzart," that served hot chocolate and pastires -- alas, it is no more.  However, across 70th are some pretty fierce looking gargoyles that I took pictures of long ago...possibly  with film.  This time around I managed some close-ups.   And then I got the old Knights of Pythias Temple next door--complete with Sphinxes and Lamassu.    

Eventually I passed Strawberry Fields in Central Park, and retraced our path to Bethesda Park.   I  should say at this time it was about 11 A.M. and close to 90 F, with a heat index of 95.   "Sweat is fat crying," I thought to myself as I found a water fountain.   A street musician played his guitar along with a recording of "Black Magic Woman."   The sun was in a different part of the sky from that last time Mark, The Child and I visited, and new panels were in shadow.  I found the Owl and Bat from last time, and a Halloween Witch sculpted into one of the columns.  More Bethesda Terrace pictures here.

I walked and walked and found Cleopatria's Needle.  By now it was close to noon, and the concrete plaza around the needle was fiercly bright and hot.  The needle seemed to be on a bike path--there were little chalk arrows directing traffic around the needle, and cyclists kept wheeling around it.   I took some obligatory pictures of the needle and then found a water fountain to drink from (while a virtual Mark reminded me to stay hydrated).

I was on a mission to find a freize of Hygiea & Aesculapius at 1213 Fifth Avenue.  I thought it was near the MoMa.  But it wasn't.  I thought it might be beyond the Museum of Jewish History.  But it wasn't.  I thought it might be beyond the Engineer's Gate.  But it wasn't.  By this time I'd convinced myself that the address was 1513, and as the building numbers slowly climbed my heart slowly sank.
Fifth Street went over a small rise.  I walked past Mount Sinai General Hospital and then The Children's Hospital and then the Woman's Hospital, and I thought, OK.  Maybe,... just... one... more... building.

But it wasn't.
Despite hydrating at various water fountains, I was feeling like I'd sweated a half-gallon, and I was kind of hungry.


There was one more building that looked like it could be interesting, and then I should turn around and head to the MET for lunch (and water and shade).  

As I drew closer, I saw ... animal grotesques!  This was it!  I went around the corner of 101st and Ascepilus and Hygea were there, arms wide with bowls and a serpent.  And a ton of other grotesques. The reference book I'd seen them in had only really covered one or two of the many figures decorating the building.

And then the half-full battery icon appeared in the camera's screen.  I photographed the whole building with wild abandon, capturing more snakes, and pigs, and healers, and gargoyles, and other building motifs.  Full photoset here.

Then it was time to head back to the MET.  Along the way I took photos of gargyoles and other interesting features I'd missed coming back the other way.   This stretch of Fifth Avenue was slightly sketchier than the bit around the museums, but not horrifically so.  I reminded myself to be aware of where I was and who was around -- but really, downtown Eugene at Broadway and Charnelton is much worse.   The trees shading the west side of Fifth Street gave welcom respite from the sun and occassional support for super-zoom shots.  The small of my back and my forearms were sweaty.

I entered the MET.  Normally, I might have eaten somewhere else, but I was hungry and resigned to the sticker shock of lunch.  I traipsed through the "Heavenly Bodies" installation in the Medieaval Wing and to the cafeteria.  Actually, traipsed isn't the right word because there were tons of folks in the way and gawking at Catholic Mass Inspired Haut Couture.  I have a vague recollection of a mannequin crowned with a wide swath of crumpled black ribbon...  

After lunch -- by this time it was 1:15 -- I returned to the Mediaeval Hall and looked at the fashion.  There was an Over The Top Crown and some other, sort of Madonna-or-Billy-Idol-inspired, bridal dress, and nuns and choir gowns.  I took a few sculpture shots, and a better shot of the brass bird finial, and then the camera's battery died.  I love the camera, but I wish it gave a more nuanced reading of the battery's power level.  

I kicked myself for not having the spare battery I'd charged on me, and then I went to look at all my old MET friends.   I spent long moments just looking at Death Staying The Young Artist's Hand, and the Elamite Cow (yay! The Cow was back!), and the Temple of Dendur, and the Matte Black Sarcophagus That Defies Photography, and the Statuette of Falcon-Horus Protecting Phaoroh. I visited Queen Hapshutsut Seated ("Oh My Queen...") and lingered over the gazelle head crown of a Harkonian Princess.   The Music Wing was open, and I went up to view the Pipe Organ -- which I don't remember having visited before.  I enjoyed seeing the cut-away view of the brass reed pipes and the risers.  I especially appreciated how the curators had arranged various horns so that they radiated away from what is probably the oldest horn ever:  a conch shell.

There's something to be said for walking through the halls of the MET without a working camera.  When I'm taking photographs, the artifacts of the MET become subjects to arrange into a 3x5 composition, my relationship to the items becomes acquisitional--if I can't own the object, I will collect an image of it--and the visit turns into a kind of birder's checklist; when I don't use the camera I can take time to appreciate the pieces as art, or religious tools, or scientific implements, or luxury goods.  

My legs were sore from so much walking, so I wound down in the final hour of my visit with the Babalonian Lamassu with the lion claws (the other one has bull hooves).   I'm not too keen on the texts of Ashurnasirpal's ordering everything, but something about the bird-headed genni tending the tree of life with their pinecones and wrist-watches and little purses is relaxing.  

I managed a quick jaunt through the Greek and Roman wing, gazed at a collection of Medusa's heads, and then MET security began shooing people out.

New York Summary. pt 1

Friday night, we drove up to Portland and stayed at a motel.  The bed was hard, and the walls were thin.  We  didn't sleep well, and Mark commented that it was the most amount of money wasted in a long while.  (Next time around I think we should just leave the house at 2 AM.)   This is is a usual problem with flying from Portland or Eugene to New York:  the flights either leave at 5:30AM or they're red eyes.

Saturday morning at 4, The Child, after sleepwalking and sleep-whispering to the bathroom half the night, turned on the light to make coffee for Mark.  I think he was excited to see everone in New York, and that made his sleep odd.  We drove to the airport, found pakring, and then hung out in the concourse.  Our flight was uneventful.  I sort of napped; The Child passed out 20 minutes away from Newark.  (He did this about three years ago when he willed himself to stay up all night so he could watch the sunrise over New York from our flight.)

In the past, we've either had someone pick us up from Newark Airport or else we've taken trains.  This time around, we rented a van, and Mark drove us to Suffern.  It was shockinglly easy (and not exactly cheap).   When we arrived, Mark's mother had been busy frying chicken, and we had a nice dinner with Melora, Melissa, and Christina.   Veronica joined us a little later. 

Sunday, I helped Melisa replace the kitchen sink's faucet.  I'm not sure how the old one broke, but the super-glue fix only lasted about two weeks.  Replacement involved several wrenches, a screwdriver, and shears.  And a trip to the hardware store.   Later, we made a trip to downtown Suffern to photograph historical landmarks.   I think the Laffette Theatre was my favorite landmark because it had all sorts of curley-cues on it; but the old bank building was a close second.

In the evening, we atteneded a Rockland Boulders baseball game.  We met Veronica's husband, Joe; and his dad, Joe Senior; and son Joey.  Our seats were behind and a little above home plate.  I tested the camera by taking a picture of the family from the opposite side of the stadium.  What struck me was how much the Boulder's game was like an Emerald's game:  people in food costumes raced, someone in a birthday cake outfit led the fans in a round of "Happy Birthday," the local high school cheerleaders shook tinsel pompoms, small children had eating contests, and the MC was a big guy.   The home team was shut out by The Jackals.  

 Monday, Mark, Arthur and I took a train to New York, where we met LGL for lunch in a Kosher Deli (no bacon cheeseburgers for us!)   Our waiter was hilarious (and kicked out of Hebrew School).   I managed a few gargoyle and building shots -- Mark and The Child were very tolerant of my stopping  as we walked our way to the United Nations.  (We passed by "Africa House," which The Child reminded me had been renamed "Wakanda House" in the recent Black Panther movie.)

I hadn't realized that the U.N. is neutral territory, so visiting was like visiting another country.  Mark had to be our contact person and get profiled; The Child and I got special bracelets but no fancy ID stickers like the one Mark had to wear.   We made our way across the sculpture courtyard and into a visitor's center, which was a little like going into an airport concourse.  There were folks of various ethnicities mostly wearing suits and clutching folders and briefcases as they walked between meetings.  Our U.N. tour was interesting -- our guide spoke about the U.N.'s mission to prevent wars, remove active landmines, and promote education.  There was a lot of inspirational art inside, and I tried not to get too distracted by The Things as our guide led us through the building.
 We hooked back up with LGL, found a yarn store (Mark is knitting socks for LGL) and found a pizza place in Greenwich Village (more photos).  Then we took the train back to Suffern.  We listened to a British family speaking about table-top games and American movies.  Someone in the lower deck was singing AC/DC's "Big Balls" which meant I got to tell The Child how his Aunt got into big trouble for singing the lyrics over the telephone to a friend when The Grandfolks listened in on the line.

Tuesday started out slowly.    I still felt a little bit like I was on West Coast time; sort of awake, but tired at the same time.  

Megan and her sons came to Suffern in the afternoon and everyone except Grandma and Melora went to Playland (where they filmed "Big").  I'm trying to think when the last time I went to Playland was -- at least five or seven years.  It was smaller than I remembered it... I think seven years ago we spent a lot of time in Kiddie-Ride area, but all the kids are 13 years or more old now, so that cut out about a third of the park.  Which is a little too bad, because some of the more old-timey signage and figures are there.

I had hoped to photograph some of the old carousel horses there -- there are some from the early 1900's -- but the carousel was completely shuttered up.  I don't know if there was a fire or a hurricane or what:  all the metal garage doors on the carousel's shack were down.   

Most of the rides bother Mark's balance, so he took some pictures while the rest of us whirled about.  I rode the Dragon Coaster (which I'm always convinced is going to decaptate me because I'm taller than the average 1920's person).  

I think my favorite thing about PlayLand is the light tower, which looks like it should be the lair of some mad scientist, or the citadel to a Utopia from Yesterday's Tomorrow.