Posted by Ellen

 

It seems straightforward enough: juxtapose innocence and danger, and there it is, Little Red Riding Hood. Also, I think, sculptors must like to do wolves.  The bronze interpretation here is in Munich, the stone carving in Hermosillo, Mexico.

Posted by Ellen

In 1958, road construction along this hillside in Bistoun, Iran uncovered a two-thousand-year-old carving of a a recumbent Hercules, in the nude. The Greek inscription on the tablet behind Hercules's shoulder helped date the sculpture to approximately 150 B.C.

There is a lion lying here alongside the hero, difficult to make out in this photo, except for the tail at upper left. Hercules is actually resting one arm on the lion's head. His weaponry--club and quiver--are leaned against the lion's rump. Hard to say what the man is drinking, but he's clearly been eating well.

Posted by Ellen

On a clear night, Chicagoland looks pretty spectacular from the air.

Posted by Ellen

The boy in this picture, who must be in his forties now, was about as lucky as a kid could get on Christmas Day back in 1976. He got THE gift, the very first home video game system. Notice the graphics on the TV--that was Pong.

My father-in-law also was an early adopter of video games, and I remember playing Pong over at his house. It was a nice game. You hit a little white ball with a paddle that slid up and down the right side of the screen; the ball traveled at an angle and "bounced" off the top or bottom of the screen, then off a "wall" on the left side and back to the top or bottom and then back over to the right again, for you to hit it back. As the game progressed, the ball went faster and faster till you missed.

My father-in-law would have wanted the game no matter what, but he had a special interest in it because Ron Bradford, a friend of the family's, had a graphic design contract to do packaging and promotional materials for Pong. Since it was the first home video game, Ron had to invent a "look" for the packaging that screamed "Video games are fun and exciting!!!!!" About ten years ago, he wrote his recollections of the project for a website devoted to the history of classic video games. He said they decided to go with "Explosive!!" as the design theme--the colors and typography of the packaging, the pictures and text in the ads, even the look and feel of the instruction manual--everything was geared toward giving an Explosive!!! impression to new customers.

Pong was a commercial sensation and launched a huge new industry. But the company that made it--Atari--soon went broke, after losing an intellectual property lawsuit. And the store that sold Pong hasn't been doing all that well either; believe it or not, the only place that carried the world's first home video game system in 1976 was Sears.

 

Posted by Ellen

Helen, according to photographer Sam Javanrouh, is highly skilled and "very focused" at her work as a 3-D modeler/animator/compositor. But for the past few weeks, she's been working 14- to 18-hour shifts, seven days a week--and in this picture, finally, she's not working. She's on her break at the office, relaxing with a little session of Call of Duty Modern Warfare 2.

Posted by Ellen

Dutch photographer Leo Koolhaven took this shot at the train station in Odessa.

Posted by Ellen

This salt marsh at Seabrook, New Hampshire, is now the backyard of a nuclear power plant.  When this area was first settled, the marsh was the town hayfield, cut over every August or September for animal bedding, mulch, banks of insulation against the sides of houses, and packing material for shipping fruit, pottery, and other fragile items, back before foam peanuts and poppable plastic. After cutting, the grass was left in the marsh till wintertime, when the frozen mud would support the weight of horses to haul it out. If hay was needed before winter, horses could be driven in on unfrozen marshland by equipping them with huge wooden shoes that spread their weight.

But in the twentieth century, when marsh grass began to lose its value as a cash crop, the marsh was regarded as a nuisance. Drainage projects were expensive, but they were often justified on public health grounds, as mosquito-control measures. The Seabrook marsh, like many, was "ditched" with narrow little canals to dry up mosquito habitat. The project failed because the ditching destroyed habitat for important species of mosquito-larvae-eating fish.

Nowadays, we are beginning to understand the critical importance of marshes and other wetlands, for wildlife, storm-buffering, and many other functions. A handful ofl New England marshes have been restored to something approaching their pristine condition. And many others, including Seabrook, are slowly recovering thanks to protective legislation.

The mosquitoes are not an endangered species.
 

Posted by Ellen

The flatiron building in Toronto is obviously getting out-muscled at night by the glass behemoths behind it. But in an urban setting of this ilk, the drama is all in the juxtaposition.

Posted by Ellen

Bring Your Own Water.

The sun in Namibia is so harsh, according to photographer Vincent Mounier, that picture-taking during the day yields nothing but bleached, blasted-to-white landscapes. At dusk and dawn, however, the earth reclaims its colors, and the eyes can open wide for a long, calm look.

 

Posted by Ellen

Jack Delano's 1940 photo of Pittsburgh has a cinematic feel to it, as the lady on the staircase descends into a dark and cold and spectacular kind of hell. That particular hell--with sulfurous fumes belching from roaring steel mills--went south a generation ago, abandoning western Pennsylvania to rust and poverty. Somewhat remarkably, the city has stirred from its decline and reinvented itself as a clean and shiny, almost high-tech sort of place. But all along, the sons and daughters of Pittsburgh have been growing up into American image-makers, people who have shown us what we look like, or would like to look like, or hope to God we never ever look like. Fred Rogers, with his sweater and sneakers and perfectly detailed little world of children's TV--wasn't Pittsburgh's first or last cultural chronicler.

Early on, there was Stephen Foster, of Swannee River and Camptown Races fame, and then the painter Mary Cassatt, the modernist Gertrude Stein, and the Tarzan, Johnny Weissmuller. Some of the Pittsburghers have worked right up to the cultural edge--Andy Warhol--and some have walked us up to the brink, where we could glimpse a frightening future--Rachel Carson.

Most notable, perhaps, were all the guys who played football, generation upon generation of Pittsburghers who were big and tough and fast and focused: Johnny Unitas, Joe Namath, Mike Ditka, Larry Brown, Nick Saban, and way too many others

Then there were those who worked the cultural currents of the times: e.g., Bobby Vinton, Lou Christie, Charles Bronson. And the ones who have risen above their times, soaring elegantly: Gene Kelly.

But who took the neighborhood in this picture and warped it into a dark corner of the American consciousness? Back in the early days of television, Fred Rogers hired an imaginative young assistant who moved on to Hollywood and directorial fame and fortune--guy by the name of George Romero--whose first big hit opened a seam of movie-dom that has been dug ever deeper to this day: Night of the Living Dead.

And for what it's worth, Pittsburgh still has more than 700 staircases officially registered as city streets.