February 2011

Philly February

28 Feb 2011
Posted by Ellen

 It's not the city's finest season, but it'll do.

Dancing Dog

27 Feb 2011
Posted by Ellen

Dobby the dog says: Why wait for spring?

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Kamchatka

17 Feb 2011
Posted by Ellen

At the extreme Pacific end of Russia, north of China and Korea and Japan, the volcanoes of the Kamchatka Peninsula are erupting again.

This is nothing new; the 29 volcanoes of Kamchatka’s mountainous spine—10 percent of the world’s active volcanoes—have erupted prodigiously and often for at least the last two million years.

Since October, three of them have been seriously erupting, spewing ash 32,000 feet into the sky and devastating their surroundings with earthquakes, lava flows, mudslides, and pyroclastic catastrophe. Shown here is last week’s eruption of Shiveluch, the northernmost of the currently active volcanoes. This picture is thermal imagery from satellite sensors; the hottest areas are shown as white, with progressively less hot regions appearing as gradations of yellow through orange to red.

Shiveluch had a lava dome near its peak—a rocky bulge inflated by molten magma underground. This thermal image tells us that the dome has now burst; the white splotch at the mountain peak shows extremely hot lava exposed at the surface. The rock that used to overlie the lava dome would have been pulverized in the eruption and sent skyward as ash or down the mountainside as a pyroclastic flow, a fiery nightmare of lava, ash, rock, mud, and poisonous gases.

The image also shows a large pool of hot lava that has collected at the bottom of the mountain, beginning to cool off around the edges. Undoubtedly, forest land in this valley has been devastated, but because the Shiveluch region is virtually uninhabited, damage associated with human activity is expected to be very low.

However, planes traveling between Alaska and Korea or Japan often fly just east of Kamchatka. The dust plumes from Shiveluch and the other two currently active volcanoes have sometimes been large enough to pose a potential risk to aviation.

This video from last October, when the level of activity was not yet as intense, shows both the ash clouds rising and the lava descending from Shiveluch:

Posted by Ellen

For a second look at photographer Irina Werning's Back to the Future portraits, we have Matias, on the beach in Uruguay, in 1977 and again thirty-three years later in 2010. The adult Matias is a reasonably attractive young man, but even though he's not wearing children's clothes and his pose here isn't flamboyantly juvenile, there's something almost creepy about a grownup presenting himself as an adorable little boy.

Posted by Ellen

Here is Lali in Buenos Aires, the little girl in 1978 and the big girl thirty-two years later, in 2010. Argentinian photographer Irina Werning has published a series of such portraits, which she calls Back to the Future. The exercise requires a degree of attention to detail--re-creating the pose, facial expression, clothing,setting, lighting, and color tone of the original--that Werning says it taught her just how obsessive she is about her work.

We'll look at another one tomorrow.

Posted by Ellen

Edgar Allan Poe’s mother’s house. This photo was taken in 1930, a good many years after she lived there.

Portrait with Pearls

12 Feb 2011
Posted by Ellen

It’s a little hard to take at first, but keep looking till you see the cute little baby seal above the ear with the pearl earring. And the grouchy-looking turtle underneath the necklace.

And look at all the different kinds of hair on this person's head—coral hair and snake hair and claw hair and tentacle hair and even crawfish and seahorse and water-spout hair.

This is “Water,” painted in 1566 by Giuseppe Arcimboldo, part of a series of four portraits representing the elements. The subject of this portrait is approximately a human being, perhaps a woman, but quite grotesque, maybe because Arcimboldo had studied under Leonardo da Vinci, who loved to sketch dramatically ugly-looking people. As for the critters in the picture—there are more than sixty species, we’re told—they are here in true-to-life detail because Arcimboldo in his day job was court painter for Emperor Maximilian II in Vienna and Prague; his duties included painting natural specimens collected by the Hapsburgs, and his perks included access to the royal library.

Why would a court painter in the sixteenth century paint a person made out of an octopus, a frog, two eels, a stingray, a catfish, a starfish, and etc., etc., etc.? The short answer must be: because the emperor liked paintings like that. Apparently, Maximilian even liked an Arcimboldo portrait of the emperor’s son made out of fruit and vegetables.

And Maximilian wasn’t his only fan. Almost a hundred years later, when Queen Christina of Sweden raided Prague during the Thirty Years War, she specifically ordered her army to steal all the Arcimboldos in the Hapsburg collections and ship them to her in Stockholm. Many of the portraits—people made from chickens and pumpkins and grapes and turnips, a librarian with arms made of the spines of books, a lawyer with a shirt made of lawsuits and a mouth of fish lips—remain in Sweden to this day. 

Wainwright Fell #207

11 Feb 2011
Posted by Ellen

In 1930, a Lancashire stonemason's son named Alfred Wainwright glimpsed these fells, lakes, and vistas while out for a tromp with his cousin. He was smitten by the landscape and devoted the rest of his life to fellwalking and to recording his walks in a self-published seven-volume series of guidebooks. For thirteen years, he worked on his books, hand-lettering descriptions of the walks, and hand-drawing maps of the routes and sketches of the views. He wrote at night after coming home from work, averaging a page a night.

Stephen Ruffles, a baker and amateur photographer who in 2008 captured this scene of Ullswater, the second-largest lake in Wainwright's beloved Lakes District, is among untold thousands of fellwalkers inspired by the books. Like many others, Ruffles has set out to replicate all 214 of Wainwright's fellwalks; this picture was taken on walk 207. The weather was unpleasant, he noted, but still the walking was excellent.

Tough D!

10 Feb 2011
Posted by Ellen

Hank, in yellow, was the "customer" of a company that embroiders custom designs, such as team logos, onto anything you can think of--in this case, a Rumblebee! embroidered on a headband. The Rumblebees played ultimate frisbee last summer in a county league. Recently, Hank noticed that the embroidery company was offering discounts and other rewards in return for customer photos of the embroidered items in action. He sent them this photo, and they sent him fifty dollars and put his picture onto the front page of their website.

Hole-in-the-Clouds, of course, endorses nothin', embroidered or otherwise. But I can't help but feel a warm spot in my heart for any company that concludes that featuring the image of one of my children will be good for business. Especially if they offer to pay for my child's image. So I'll drop my scruples down around my ankles and share the link.

Yes, Hank's face was painted yellow--something to do with team spirit. And yes, right after the picture was snapped, the guy in green punched Hank in the face as he sent the frisbee flying. It was not intentional, sez Hank. The guy is a nice kid, a former high school wrestler who is currently attending Maine Maritime Academy. They may meet again next summer, faces painted, headbands embroidered, ready for Ultimate combat. Go, Rumblebees!

Cog-checkers

09 Feb 2011
Posted by Ellen

In 1942 in the Melrose Park Buick plant outside Chicago, "vital cogs in America's war machine"--that's Office of War Information talk for airplane-engine gears--are being inspected for defects. Dorothy Miller, at left, checks a vital cog with aid of a tiny flashlight in her right hand. Sylvia Dreiser, at right, thinks about whatever it is she's thinking about, which may not be cogs at all. I'd rather ride in an airplane powered by Dorothy's cogs.

If you click on this photo to get the large version and look at it closely, you may be able to see that both women's hands are slathered in oil. In fact, you have to wonder how many times a day did that penlight squirt right out of Dorothy's slippery fingers. Also, for what it's worth, Dorothy is wearing a hairnet and Sylvia isn't.