Posted by ted

(This is a guest post by Ted, the second in a series of three posts from Houston, Texas.)

When I was a little boy growing up in the Bible Belt my mother told me something I will never forget. "There is no god" she said. "But that is a secret. You must remember not to tell anyone else. They will get very mad at you if you do."

There are many types of atheists; some are as intolerant of other ideas as the people I had to keep my atheist secret from. I have even heard atheists say there would be no war if there were no religion. Given the history of atheists like Stalin and Mao I find this belief a bit, well, faith based. Point being, I am a devout atheist, but not an evangelical or fundamentalist one. My mother doesn't raise intolerant atheists.

The preceding paragraphs were a bit of a circuitous path to lead up to the following short sentence: I don't mind going to church.

While in Texas, my host Tia, whom you met in yesterday's Good Morning, invited me to attend her church. Tia is on a "prayer team" and people lined up to pray with them. I snuck some glances at the people praying with Tia and her team. There were hugs and there were tears, a lot of emotions packed in to the few short minutes each person had with a member of the prayer team. I could tell those prayers help a lot of people get through the week.

Friends have taken me to many houses of worship all over the country. Some favorites were a white working class church in rural Alabama (I liked the banjos) and a black upper class church in downtown Washington, DC (I liked the women's hats). I have seen many churches, but never one like Tia's. The sheer size was mind boggling. The band had at least twenty instruments and the choir was the largest I have ever seen. There were thousands of people dancing and singing and praying and rejoicing.

Pictured up top is your correspondent and the church, before all the seats were filled with worshippers.

It is true what they say, things are bigger in Texas.

Not everything is bigger in Texas though. Little girls attending church are still little girls attending church. There is, however, one difference between little girls attending church in Texas and little girls attending church elsewhere. Cowgirl boots.

Cowgirl boots on girls at church in Texas
Posted by ted

(This is a guest post by Ted. Since my mother is helping my grandmother move, and will not have time to write Good Mornings for ya'll, she has handed me the keys to her weblog. I will try not to wreck it.

With possession of the keys, and a full tank of gas, I decided to head on down to the Lone Star State. This is the first in a series of three posts from Houston, Texas. The next two posts will be about cowgirl boots. This is Texas after all.)

I happened upon the Houston Harry Potter Meetup Group's Owl Decorating Contest while enjoying a Sunday afternoon walking around Discovery Green, a lovely park in Houston.

The picture below contains the entire Houston Harry Potter Meetup Group (or at least the ones that showed up for the Owl Decorating Contest). I stood on top of a picnic table to take this picture and asked everyone to hold up their owls. My friend Tia, who hosted me in Houston, is also in the picture. She can be identified by her beautiful yellow dress and lack of owl.

The entire owl decorating group, Houston Harry Potter Meetup

I asked who was judging the competition and learned that the sole judge was Alyssa, head of the Gryffindor House. She is pictured below wearing an awesome shirt. Because she was the judge she was not allowed to enter the contest, but she did decorate an owl anyway.

Alyssa, the judge of the owl decorating contest (Harry Potter Meetup Group)

Tia and I were offered owls to decorate, but we declined the offer.

Laura, the Deputy Headmistress of the group, requested that I send her the picture I took of the group. I did so, via text message. Later in the evening I sent Laura another text message asking who won the contest, and was informed that Robin won.

Laura directed me to the group's Facebook page, which contained a picture of Robin's winning entrant:

The winning owl from the Houston Harry Potter Meetup Group's Owl Decorating Contest

We here at Hole In The Clouds would like to congratulate Robin on her big win. That is indeed a nice owl.

Posted by Ellen

Runners lunge across the line in the 60-yard dash, 80-pound class. This race was won and lost on September 6, 1924, on the track in back of Central High School, Washington, D.C.

Posted by Ellen

In this photograph, taken in 1929, the visions of two men come together.

The subject of the portrait is Clayhorn Martin, a Harlem street preacher who had gone barefoot ever since the day in his youth when God told him to shed his shoes and walk on holy ground. Till the day he died, he walked the streets with his tambourine, shouting to the world that God dwells in every single person, not in church buildings or special dignitaries. 

Martin was a homeless man, a neighborhood character. In this formal studio portrait, photographer James Van Der Zee focused not so much on his outward condition as on his internal seriousness and faith. In other words, the scene he set for his camera aimed to take Preacher Martin at his word, seeking to show the higher purpose within him.

Martin had been born a slave in Virginia in 1851; he died homeless on the street in 1937. Van Der Zee and other artists of the Harlem Renaissance raised money to give him a proper sendoff, a funeral attended by five hundred or more of his neighbors, his flock.

Posted by Ellen

On the sidewalk in Antalya, Turkey.

Posted by Ellen

Ouija is the title that photographer Lucy Stamler gave this self-portrait. She's the girl on the left.

Lucy, a sixteen-year-old eleventh-grader at Toronto's Etobicoke School of the Arts, has at least three claims to fame. First, her photo won the gold medal in the international division of the annual Scholastic Art & Writing Awards. And second, we can proudly claim her as family: her Aunt Cecelia is our sister-in-law.

Finally–and we confess we do not get many opportunities these days to bring this up–this here blogger also won an award in this same competition, about forty-eleven years ago. We didn't get a gold medal, though, or even a silver medal; we won $25 and a ball point pen as some kind of a runner-up in the story-writing division.

So we have sort of a personal reason to be extra-extra proud of Lucy. And we also really like this thing of doing a selfie with your eyes closed.

Posted by Ellen

The year of earthquakes in Christchurch, New Zealand, back in 2010 and 2011, left devastation that was still immediately obvious and widespread when we visited in December 2013.

Many ruined buildings were still propped up then, still awaiting demolition. Some repairs had been begun, some new construction was under way, but the city's main shopping district had been displaced into a new popup mall made out of shipping containers.

Christ Church Cathedral, shown here, once dominated the city's central square. As of this writing, no decision has yet been announced concerning whether to repair or replace or simply demolish what's left of the structure. The new popup Cardboard Cathedral a few blocks away has not officially been designated as a replacement. 

Posted by Ellen

St. Patrick's Cathedral from behind and a little bit above, in midtown Manhattan. We enjoyed this view from the window of our hotel room during a recent trip to New York.

Posted by Ellen

Inspecting the graham crackers in the supermarket aisle with Audrey Hepburn is Ip the fawn, one of her costars from the 1959 film Green Mansions.

There are at least two versions of the story about Hepburn and the fawn. In one, the fawn's trainer suggested she take Ip home and hang out with it for a while so that she and the animal would not be shy around each other in front of the camera.

The other story has it that Hepburn, who was said to be unhappily married and had recently experienced two miscarriages, sought the companionship of sweet little Ip and adopted the fawn as a pet.

Whichever, Hepburn and Ip are said to have been inseparable on and off the set during the filming of Green Mansions, which took several months. The movie bombed, however, and so, eventually, did Hepburn's marriage to its director, Mel Ferrer, though the two did not finally divorce till 1968.

Posted by Ellen

For this fishy selfie, Al went to a fish spa in Singapore, where he soaked his feet in a tankful of Garra rufa, a species of toothless fish native to the Middle East that have long been used for medical and cosmetological purposes.

Garra rufa, sometimes called doctor fish, nibble away at dead skin to exfoliate people's feet. The nibbling is said to offer some temporary relief to people with certain skin conditions, including psoriasis. But mostly, people let the fish nibble on them as part of a pedicure, removing dry patches of dead cells and exposing fresh, new skin.

Al spent a week in Singapore recently as part of his work protecting the brick and mortar that surrounds the digital cloud. By coincidence, his New Zealand Aunt A. was in Singapore at the same time, and the two of them went together to get their feet nibbled.