October 2012

Posted by Ellen

His father was Joe Egg, an Alsatian gunsmith. His older brother was George Egg, who inherited the Egg gunworks in London. He was Augustus Leopold Egg, born in 1816 and endowed with a moniker that could have come from the pages of Dickens, who, it just so happened, was a good buddy of his.

Augustus Egg spurned gunsmithing and took up art. This morning, we are treated to two Egg works: above, his best known painting, The Travelling Companions (1862), and below, a sample of his early, humorous, storytelling style, Queen Elizabeth Discovers She is No Longer Young (1848).

The word generally used to describe Travelling Companions is ambiguous. The two women in the railway carriage are very nearly identical; do they in fact represent different facets of the same person's life or character? Indolence and industry, perhaps? Or is the sleeping woman dreaming up her bookish companion? Or are they simply what they appear to be, identical twins on a long train ride? And why are they both oblivious to the spectacular scenery of the French Riviera that glows outside their window?

Queen Elizabeth is much more straightforward. In fact, the painting itself pretty much says everything there is to say about Augustus Egg's historical imagination.

Posted by Ellen

This past Friday was the third annual Philly Photo Day. The idea is for people all over Philadelphia to participate in documenting a day in the life here; thousands of people each send in one photo taken anywhere in town on this date, and the Philadelphia Photo Arts Center gathers them all into an exhibit to open in December.

Last year, I submitted a picture of people waiting on line at the state liquor store on South Street. This year, alas, Philly Photo Day caught me cameraless––but not really utterly cameraless. I am still blessed with a cellphone with which to do the deed.
 
So early in the morning of Friday, 26 October 2012, I wasted no time. Hopped out of bed, grabbed my phone, spun around, and recorded for posterity an image of where I'd just been.
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Posted by Ellen

Philadelphia rode out the storm without much incident; lots of rain and small tree branches fell, and then that was that. We were the lucky ones this time.

Although I haven't checked up on it with my own eyes, I'd lay money that this mural on East Passyunk is still standing. The performers celebrated on this wall–in autographed portraits designed by mural artist Peter Pagast to resemble the framed celebrity photos on a restaurant wall–were all born and raised in South Philadelphia: Frankie Avalon, Chubby Checker, Fabian, Bobby Rydell, Al Martino, Eddie Fisher, and in the upper right corner someone not so well known among us ignorant non-Philadelphia natives: disc jockey Jerry Blavat.

In 2005, when the mural was dedicated, all of them except Eddie Fisher showed up for a celebratory sock hop.

Posted by Ellen

Is there some kind of bullseye painted across the rooftops of Philadelphia? We are told that this Hurricane Sandy storm-creature is aiming straight at us and will not rest till it rakes us with its cold, cold eye. 

Until further notice then: to find my house, start from the bridge closest to the lefthand edge of the picture and trace about six blocks along the streets that angle downard and toward the right. Amongst all the rowhouses of the neighborhood, you may be able to make out a larger orange building with a dark roof; that's a church known as Apostolic Square, just a block and a half from our house.

Although both the rivers seen here are technically tidal–at least as far upstream as the dam near the art museum in the parkland above the center of the photo–the city is far inland and is not likely to get much storm surge. And it appears we won't be eligible for any of the snow this time. But school and garbage pickup have already been canceled, and there's rain on the roof.

Posted by Ellen

"I'm a fairy princess on the outside," six-year-old Lily told her classmates at the Greenfield School Halloween party. "But on the inside, I'm really a bad guy."

Posted by Ellen

These people are Jan and Kev, mother and father of someone named Nic, in a photo that Nic submitted to the website My Parents Were Awesome. We can see why he must have felt that the picture revealed, or at least hinted at, his parents' essential awesomeness, and we are proud to feature it here as another of our occasional glimpses of that site.

Posted by Ellen

Susan Wiggin writes from Portland, Maine:

Miss Vera had 2 little boy puppies on Saturday night. Here they are on Sunday. Everyone is doing great & they are velvety soft & they squeak.

Posted by Ellen

Why I Hate Self-Portraits (2009), by Dwayne Wilcox.

Wilcox, of Oglala/Lakota heritage, works with colored pencils on vintage lined paper in the tradition of ledger art, recalling the days when artists living on reservations had no paper to draw on but bills and invoices and some pages, perhaps, from purloined account books.
Posted by Ellen

Almost nothing is known about this photo, which apparently showed up recently in a secondhand store in Vancouver, British Columbia.

Dominion Photo Company, which takes credit for the picture, operated in Vancouver for about fifty years, beginning in 1914. The fashions on display here, in clothing and music, not to mention the light fixtures and potted palms, suggest the 1930s?

We would imagine that when all those dozens of lap guitars got to strumming, the sound of the islands would have really filled up a room. Thanks to the magic of YouTube, master slide guitarist Johnny Pal shows how it was done.

Posted by Ellen

If it's October, there must be a pumpkin. This assemblage–which was first featured about four years ago in a predecessor to this here blog–dates back to the time when the brick steps in the photo led up to a house we lived in on Columbia Road in Portland, Maine. In addition to the pumpkin, the still life includes a non-blooming potted geranium and five quinces. The petrified tree stump, which is approximately 200 million years old, is something we found in an abandoned coal mine in Walker County, Alabama; it now sits near our back door in Philadelphia.