January 2012

Posted by Ellen

Two winters ago around this time, when this picture was snapped, there was no snow along the southwest coast of Maine, though somehow the color of the water suggested some seriously shivery cold. This year, I understand that there's a bit of snow on the ground in Maine; here in Philadelphia, however, we've had only a flurry or two. It's raining as I type.

This stretch of cliff near Kettle Cove in Cape Elizabeth, Maine, faces south more than east, allowing a glimpse of winter sunset over the water.

Posted by Ellen

Well, I didn't do a very good job a couple days ago when I posted a Good Morning about a Hans Christian Andersen paper cutting. I wrote that the cutting "was associated with" Andersen, using fudge words that I hoped would hide my ignorance: Did Andersen actually own the cutting? Did he commission it? Or cut it himself? Or was it simply inspired by Andersen's fairy tales, associated with him thematically rather than personally?

As y'all often point out to me, there's a lot I don't know about most of what I post, but my ignorance on this one is especially egregious. All it would have taken to learn the whole story was a single, obvious google click. Yes, Hans Christian Andersen made the paper cutting himself; more than a thousand of his cuttings survive to this day. They are the subject of at least two books, which have been translated into umpteen languages. They have been collected and exhibited all over the world. Upon the bicentennial of his birth in 2005, Denmark issued a commemorative postage stamp featuring one of Andersen's paper cuttings: this one.

This guy is a pierrot, a harlequin sort of character who makes an appearance in numerous Andersen tales and paper cuttings. He's loud and he's boisterous, often portrayed as kicking or dancing, and, as here, singing or yelling.

This particular pierrot is burdened down; what's on the tray balanced atop his head is apparently so heavy he's reduced to a froglike crouch. The objects on the tray all represent facets of Andersen's personal life story: his birthplace in Odense, the grammar school he attended, the fairy-tale motif of a windmill man,  the tower of St. Canute's Church in Odense, and an ugly duckling transformed into a swan.

Andersen made many of his cuttings for the children to whom he told his tales; he apparently kep himself busy with his scissors while he was telling the stories, and it's been suggested that the cutwork was a way of entertaining himself while he retold tales that children requested over and over again.

He also made many cuttings, some of them extremely intricate, as hostess gifts for the families with whom he visited or stayed. He had been born a poor boy, and though he died fabulously wealthy, he was always unsure of his social status: eager to socialize with the high and mighty but careful to express his gratitude with tangible, fanciful gifts.

Posted by Ellen

Bunch a guys were off climbing last week in Red Rock Canyon, a few miles west of Las Vegas, Nevada. Here, Hank leads the route, carefully placing little thingamajigs in cracks to hold the rope so other climbers can follow him safely. As lead climber, Hank is roped in, but not quite as safely as the followers; if he loses his grip on the rock, the thingamabobs below him should arrest his fall (with the help of the belayer down on the ground), but before they do, he could expect to fall twice the distance down to the topmost thingamabob. He didn't fall.

The red rock here is the Aztec Sandstone formation, Jurassic in age. Overlaying it in much of the canyon is a dark gray limestone, the much, much older Bonanza King limestone, from the Cambrian era. The older limestone got shoved up on top of the younger sandstone late in the era of the dinosaurs, when tectonic plates were compressing this part of the world, pushing up mountain ranges.

Late in the day, Pat is still working his way up.

Posted by Ellen

This papercutting associated with Hans Christian Andersen sold recently at a Christie's auction for about $24,000. It bears two dates: 1874 near the top, June 1871 at the bottom. Among the motifs, according to the auction notes: "ballet dancers, windmill men, heart-shaped windows, pierrots, Old Lukoie or sandmen, flower garlands, palm trees, storks, and gnomes."

Posted by Ellen

Pigeons take care of a freshly poured concrete sidewalk in Los Angeles, January 17, 1956.

Posted by Ellen

The Petrovsky-Palace-on-the-way was built in 1782 so that Catherine the Great and her entourage would have a place to stop and rest up on the last night of what was then an arduous seven-day journey from St. Petersburg to Moscow.

According to the intertubes, she spent only a single night there, in 1785. Napoleon also spent a night at the palace, in 1812, while hiding from the fires that were raging through Moscow. Throughout the nineteenth century, czars and emperors used Petrovsky Palace as a staging site from which their coronation processions headed to the Kremlin.

After the revolution, the Soviets rebuilt all the imperial palaces in the Moscow area except for this one, which was preserved on the grounds of the top-secret Zhukovsky Military-Engineering Academy of Aviation. After perestroika it came into the hands of the city government, which recently restored and reopend Petrovsky Palace as a guest house and reception center for VIPs visiting Moscow.

Posted by Ellen

The flamingos at the Chicago Botanic Garden this winter have a greenhouse for a nest and are grown as topiary. Orchids, perhaps?

Posted by Ellen

Just another day at the beach, in Australia.

When global warming brings us beach weather in January here in the mid-latitudes of the northern Hemisphere, this particular Australian beach, as well as all our American beaches and those of all the other continents, will be under water. The city of Philadelphia will be under water, along with most of the world's major cities. Oh well. Beaches in West Virginia could be nice.

Posted by Ellen

Somebody busted down the gate to the basketball court at Marian Anderson Park in our neighborhood. Behind the court, the meticulously maintained baseball field is protected by a much more secure fence.