Hole in the Clouds
May 13, 2010
In 1930, a lacrosse team made up of players from both Oxford and Cambridge toured the United States, taking on all comers and thrashing them. Apparently, many of the Oxford-Cambridge stickmen were Americans studying abroad, including a number of Rhodes Scholars who had excelled at lacrosse during their undergraduate years.
Only one American team beat Oxford-Cambridge that season: the St. Johnnies from Annapolis, Maryland, shown here in short-shorts posing with the jacketed Englishmen in front of Washington, D.C.'s Central High School, where the game was played. St. John's won, 7-0.
St. John's College is now a super-intellectual "great books" school where students study the classics in the original Greek and have no time for intercollegiate sports. Every year, however, they do schedule one game against the athletic powerhouse located across the street from their campus in Annapolis, and they usually win handily. The game they play is croquet, and their opponents are the midshipmen of the U.S. Naval Academy, who complain that the Johnnies have all year to practice croquet, while midshipmen have to march and run and shine shoes and do all that other time-consuming navy stuff.
St. John's College
National Photo Company collection glass negative
May 14, 2010
Some people think that Clown Day in kindergarten ought to be a happy occasion, but those people don't know everything. Emily Wiggin is the sad kind of clown.
(Image credit: Susan Wiggin)
May 15, 2010
California sculptor Michael Christian wrought this man--bogeyman?--from rusting steel. The creature first appeared last summer at the Burning Man festival in the Nevada desert, but he has recently been transplanted to a brick courtyard in Toronto's Distillery District.
He is named Koilos, which is a place of caves in a fantasy-card game. He's fourteen feet high and weighs about a ton. And he is perfectly typical of Christian's monumental-scale work, which is well known on the West Coast: vaguely human, clearly alien, all kitschy with that ineffable low-budget horror-movie something. Many Torontans have quickly grown fond of Koilos; as of last night, at least 339 photos of Koilos in Toronto have been posted on the web.
May 16, 2010
Last week, a new condo tower opened in Philadelphia near Rittenhouse Square; its penthouse has already been sold, for $12.5 million. This picture was snapped by a glazier who was hired by the new owners to redo some of the windows.
This is only a small part of the view that $12.5 million buys. The penthouse occupies one entire floor of the new building, and its views are 360 degrees. What you see here is the view looking to the east: the art deco Medical Arts Building across the street, the vaguely Moorish Drake tower near the righthand edge of the photo, with the new glass quonset-hut-canopy of the Kimmel Center behind it.
In the distance is New Jersey, on the far side of the Delaware River.
By all accounts, the new condos are pretty nice. Each one occupies an entire floor, with elevators that are basically private for each resident. In the elevators are buttons you can push to operate the fully automated underground garage; your car will be whisked up from its underground spot and placed gently near the street-level exit, all ready for you to slide behind the wheel and venture forth into the city.
May 17, 2010
We can only guess what this woman is doing: talking on a cellphone? waiting for the mutton store to open? hiding from somebody? Since she didn't bother to take off her helmet, she must be expecting to hop back on her bike very soon.
The other puzzle here concerns why someone would paint pictures of chickens on a store that advertises mutton for sale.
They say India is a land of mysteries.
(Image credit: Janet Goldwater)
May 18, 2010
A bee pollinates a lotus water lily in the Orchid Garden in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
May 19, 2010
You may recall that it was in the mountains here above the village of Maienfeld, Switzerland, that Heidi and Peter used to take the goats to pasture. The cows, which didn't really figure in the Johanna Spyri novel or in the Shirley Temple movie, presumably stayed down below in these pastures in the Rhine River Valley. Heidi and Peter climbed up the goat paths every morning, frolicked in the meadows, and lived happily ever after in the bright clean air, curing the invalid Clara, bringing the old hermit back to the church, and spreading joy and good cheer and etc.--even so, it was a nice book, a nice movie, and there's no denying it's a beautiful piece of the world.
Today the people of Maienfeld mostly tend vineyards and host tourists looking for Heidi. An hour's walk up the valley is the spa town of Bad Ragasz, where tourists come looking for Roger Federer.
(Image credit: Katrin Maldre)
May 20, 2010
Last Saturday was prom night for the seniors of Deering High School. Kaela and Hank posed for pre-prom pictures at Portland's East End waterfront.
Deering High School
May 21, 2010
May 22, 2010
Something I learned today about the oil gushing into the Gulf of Mexico from BP's blown-out well got me thinking about all the oil that didn't get away, the oil that BP and the other companies have managed to pump and sell over the past century or so, without "wasting" much through spillage.
What I learned from TV news this evening was that one reason BP has sought to downplay the amount of the Deepwater spill is that the company will likely have to pay agreed-upon royalty fees to the government for every gallon sucked out of the earth, including all the gallons spilled into the Gulf. Of course, when BP signed that contract, it was planning to harvest all the oil, not let millions of gallons of it float away.
And what about the oil that gets pumped up properly, refined, delivered to gas stations and power plants and heating oil companies, and eventually sold to us customers. What do we do with it? We burn it, of course (except for the portion we use to make plastic). Some small amount of residue from the burning gunks up our cars' engines and catalytic converters and slimes up the surface of our roads, but modern cars burn fuel pretty efficiently; the vast majority of what was gasoline when we paid for it goes out the tail pipe and into the air. You can see the oil in the air in this picture, which shows the view from the Wasatch Mountains of Utah, looking westward toward Salt Lake City. The exhaust from a few hundred thousand cars has become thick smog, completely hiding the city.
The twentieth century was the age of oil; Saudi Arabia's wealth was discovered in 1900. By approximately 2000, we'd burned up half of all the oil believed to exist, including almost all the oil in Texas and Oklahoma and most of the oil in Alaska. Much of that century's worth of oil smoke is still in the air, doing its greenhouse-gas thing, but much has fallen back to earth by now, often washed out by rain and snow. We say that a rain shower has "cleared the air," and it has. Back on the ground, the chemicals that perhaps recently floated in the air as smog and once upon a time rested deep underground as oil now leach down through the soil into our groundwater or wash directly into creeks and lakes and rivers and of course oceans. Either way, we drink that oil. And it's nasty--carcinogenic and flat-out poisonous.
All day every day, we drink oil and breathe it; after a century of oil-burning, we and all the other plants and animals on the planet probably have traces of oil in every cell in our bodies. A century is a very short time, evolution-wise; homo sapiens evolved in a world where almost all the oil was trapped deep underground, and hardly any of it was in the air and the water and the food chain.
We've been able to eat and drink and breathe oil and still get by, so to speak, because most of the time the burnt-up oil is diluted before we ingest it. The life in the Gulf of Mexico won't be so lucky.
May 23, 2010
For months after the 1906 San Francisco earthquake, indoor fires were prohibited by law. The fire that devastated much of the city in the quake's immediate aftermath had been caused by sparks from a cookstove igniting gas from broken utility lines, and it spread horrifically because firefighting efforts had been foiled by broken water lines. So people moved their stoves out into the street, and life went on.
Although this block looks unscathed, it is actually right at the edge of the burnt-out district; on the map below, we're looking at the green spot next to the large red area. All the city in back of where the cameraman must have been standing was completely destroyed.
Note the hopscotch patterns chalked onto the street. I'm told this is the "snail" variation of the game, with the numbered squares arranged in a spiral. You start at the outside, hop around and in to the middle, then switch feet and hop back out.
(Image credit: cropped from glass plate negative
Detroit Publishing Co.)
May 24, 2010
The Bestiboka River reaches the sea in the Mozambique Channel, along the northwestern coast of the island of Madagascar. There at the mouth of the river, ocean tides push saltwater upstream, slowing or even halting the downstream flow of the muddy river water; wherever the river pauses, sand and silt drop to the bottom of the bay, piling up into sandbars and islands.
In Madagascar's tropical climate, new sandbars quickly acquire a fringe of bright green mangrove scrub, which stabilizes the sediment and also shelters baby shrimp and other aquatic critters. Bombetoka Bay, the estuary here, is highly productive, especially for shrimp. The rectangular pens near the top of this picture are commercial shrimp farms.
The mangrove swamps along the lower reaches of the river trap vast quantities of sediment pouring down from upstream, which keeps the water clean and free of mud as it enters the bay; without this mangrove filtering, Madagascar's huge coral reefs just offshore (off the top edge of this picture) would soon die, smothered by sand.
(Image credit: NASA ASTER satellite)
May 25, 2010
(Image credit: Katrin Maldre)
May 26, 2010
Many kinds of cats sometimes grow big. But Maine Coon Cats commonly grow ridiculously big. And that's all I have to say about that.
Maine Coon Cat
May 27, 2010
Someone who identified herself only as Lynzee submitted this photo to the My Parents Were Awesome website. The only label on the picture is: Esther.
May 28, 2010
Sculptor Gerry Lynas prefers working in sand, but last February in New York he had no choice but to make do with snow. His "Two Feet of Snow" on W. 83rd Street in Manhattan was actually five and a half feet tall. It lasted only a day and a night; the next morning, one of the legs was in the gutter, perhaps from non-natural causes.
Lynas liked the consistency of that February 10 snowfall; he said he hadn't seen such nice, sticky sculpting snow in New York since 1977, when he built a thirty-foot wooly mammoth in Central Park.
Here's to a Memorial Day weekend of seasonably lousy snow.
(Thanks to Anna Singer)
May 29, 2010
This birdseye view of the harbor at Camden tells the seasonal story all up and down the coast of Maine. The boats are back.
May 30, 2010
For the kitchen table, Marion brought us lupine from her yard in Warren, Maine. Sharing the vase with the flowers are leaves of mint.