February 2010

Finishing the dishes

28 Feb 2010
Posted by Ellen


In the cookhouse at a logging camp near Effie, Minnesota,  cleaning up after dinner was obviously a job that took a little while; the work might have gone faster if only the place had had running water.....

Russell Lee took this Farm Security Administration photo in 1937. 

Looks like the dishwasher's only company may have been the naked woman in the little picture tacked up on the window frame.

Empire State Spire

27 Feb 2010
Posted by Ellen


Looking southward down Manhattan from the top of 30 Rock, toward the Empire State Building and beyond. That's the Verrazano Narrows Bridge near the top of the photo, connecting Brooklyn and Staten Island.


26 Feb 2010
Posted by Ellen


According to the photographer, Michael Dauzvardis, this little weed in Channohon, Illinois, near Chicago, was hit hard by gusty winds blowing from all directions on January 19, 2010. The weed was bent almost double and scraped round and round, leaving perfect circular tracks in the snow.

From the Alborz

24 Feb 2010
Posted by Ellen


The capital city of Iran sprawls up against the Alborz Mountains, which separate the Iranian plateau from the Caspian basin. Tehran has grown so huge--population 13 million--that smog usually hides the city from the mountains and vice versa. But every now and then, a snowstorm comes along and cleans the air.

Working vacation

23 Feb 2010
Posted by Ellen


For the past four years,  February vacation for about forty New Yorkers--volunteers from Woodlands Community Temple and Dobbs Ferry Lutheran Church--has meant a thousand-mile trip down to Bay St. Louis, Mississippi, and then a week of hard work amidst the devastation caused by Hurricane Katrina.

Josh Berlowitz, shown here working the ropes last week to pull down the roof truss from a house that couldn't be salvaged, has joined the group every February, clearing debris and helping to build new houses in a coastal community that lost everything in 2005. Katrina hit Bay St. Louis dead on. The day after the storm, levees failed in New Orleans, ruining the city, but Bay St. Louis was already beyond ruination by then, virtually obliterated by wind that tore off almost every roof and a storm surge that flooded every home. 

In 2010, life is nowhere near back to normal. New homes are being built--high on stilts this time--but many people still have no permanent place to live, and not all the ruined buildings have yet been torn down. The obvious question is why the biggest, wealthiest country on earth cannot restore these communities. Josh and the other volunteers of Mississippi Mitzvot, some as young as thirteen, some close to seventy in age, are tackling the problems as best they can, year after year.

And this year, February vacation coincided with Mardi Gras. And the Saints won the Super Bowl. Who dat?

Posted by Ellen

Winter is still with us, or at least with many of us, and there will soon be at least one more quick glance at icy cold stuff through that hole in the clouds. But let's hear it for daffodils in February.

This photo was taken yesterday in Tuscaloosa. The thing about spring in Alabama is that it starts right about now and goes on and on and on, growing flowerier and flowerier, month after month, till finally, some time in May, the air disappears and it's just too hot.

The daffodils are nothing but a tease, along with the quince blossoms and the Japanese magnolias. Then the wisteria and the redbuds. Until finally, around the beginning of April, it's seriously spring, with dogwood above and azalea all over. (The big Southern magnolias don't bloom till June, when it's hot, so I count them as summer flowers.) 

They had hard freezes this winter in Alabama and even a little snow. But by yesterday, according to our Tuscaloosa correspondent, it was 70 and sunny.



Game face

20 Feb 2010
Posted by Ellen


Ruben used to smile for the camera, but that was back when he was little and didn't know any better. Now that he's a big boy, he's studied his face in the mirror from a metaphysical perspective and divined the essence of his nature--to wit, the real Ruben, the Ruben reflected in the mirror, does not go through life wearing a smiley face. The real Ruben is a serious young man, and if you're pointing a camera in his direction, you'd best be prepared to capture the essence of Ruben, as we see here.

At least, this is how he explains it. It seems that the universe of three-year-olds is divided into two categories: clowns, and philosopher-princes. Ruben has taken his stand.

Road to nowhere

19 Feb 2010
Posted by Ellen


A blogger from Oporto, Portugal, who logs on as JC, posted this picture on (his or her) photoblog, above English-language lyrics to the 1985 Talking Heads song "Road to Nowhere." Below the lyrics, JC added parenthetical "Advice of the Day" in Portuguese, which thanks to the miracle of instant Internet translation I can paraphrase here for y'all: "When you see two Mormons walking into the sea, don't follow them."


18 Feb 2010
Posted by Ellen


Fitzrovia is the London neighborhood that once surrounded the Fitzroy tavern, a long-gone, between-the-wars watering hole. Plenty of pubs remain, however, and for generations now, Fitzrovia might be best characterized as the part of town where famous writers and musicians go to drink: the long list is known to include George Orwell, Virginia Woolf, Dylan Thomas, Rimbaud, Verlaine, and more recently, Bob Dylan, Pink Floyd, and the fictional heroes of Saul Bellow.


Little Italy

17 Feb 2010
Posted by Ellen


In 1900, Mulberry Street in lower Manhattan was the heart of Little Italy, where life was apparently lived out in the open, right in the street. Nowadays, cars instead of people dominate the street, and the people have retreated indoors, where apartments are much less crowded and much more likely to have indoor plumbing.

Click on this picture to see a much larger version, which you can mouse around in to appreciate the details of life in New York a century ago: the vegetable carts, the guy with a glass of beer in the middle of the street, the boy with his schoolbooks, the Banca Malzone, the aprons and wagons and fire escapes and . . .