Hole in the Clouds
Nov 1, 2012
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.
(Art by Augustus Egg)
Nov 2, 2012
Odd thing about Broad Street in South Philadelphia: people park in the middle of the street.
Between the northbound and southbound lanes, there is pavement marked with diagonal yellow stripes, the kind of striping that, in all other parts of the world, says to drivers: "Keep your car out of this area." But on Broad Street, at least on the part of Broad Street that runs through South Philly, the empty space between lanes calls out, "Hey, right over here–park your car! Right here in the middle of the street."
Facing north, facing south, doesn't matter. Free parking is free parking.
(Image credit: Steve Ives)
Nov 3, 2012
In the late 1930s and early 1940s, a few photographers from the U.S. government's New Deal documentation projects shot a handful of pictures using a newfangled technology: color film. This is one of the surviving prints, probably taken in 1939 by an unknown photographer believed to have been working with the Farm Security Administration.
The girls, who are described in the photo caption as "playing in a park near Union Station in Washington, D.C.," are holding osage oranges in their hands. Based on other images in the set, they may have been on the grounds of the United States Capitol building.
(Image credit: Farm Security Administration / Office of War Information)
Nov 7, 2012
Hank Stein was recently sworn in as a senator in the University of Montana student government. Here, he and his roommate show off their matching shoes.
Nov 8, 2012
After the wedding venue kicked everybody out around midnight, the party moved to a bar across the street.
Nov 9, 2012
Looked out of my upstairs window a month or so ago, and there at the edge of the roof across the street was Samantha, a gargoyling sort of cat who'd followed her mistress up a ladder onto the roof and then, of course, refused to climb back down. Cats apparently missed the memo about going down ladders tail-first.
My neighbor eventually tossed Samantha down onto a second-story deck; she landed feet first and none the worse for wear–and by all accounts eager to get back up on the roof again.
Nov 10, 2012
The new library building of the Ahmed Baba Institute in Timbuktu, designed by South African architect Andre Spies, sits at the edge of the Sahara Desert– for all intents and purposes at the edge of the world.
Timbuktu has always been miles from nowhere, and the sands of the Saharan nowhere are now blowing through its streets. Years of desertification have spread the Sahara southward, through Timbuktu and beyond across much of Mali and surrounding parts of West Africa.
The Institute was built in part as an archive to preserve ancient documents and religious texts, many of which had survived to the present day by being buried out in the desert. Its architecture was intended to echo the vernacular style, in which most buildings are constructed of mud, with thick, fortress-like walls. Needless to say, many Malians criticize the design as far too modern.
(Image credit: Iwan Baan)
Nov 11, 2012
They're asking 7000 Euros in Amsterdam for this trompe l'oeil coat made of wood.
(Image credit: Carol Fuchs)
Nov 12, 2012
When you get a day in November that's t-shirt warm, it just seems right to get up on the roof. There were drainspouts to clear and trees to trim, debris to sweep up and . . . pictures to take.
Today's rooftop picture features our neighbors Carolyn and Frank; Carolyn works the pole trimmer while Frank hooks a finger in her beltloop to keep her safe.
Looking into the treetops, it became obvious that this year's fall weather has mostly been so mild that the leaves are only just now beginning to behave fallishly. But we trimmed the trees back so far that almost all the remaining leaves will eventually drop on the street or the sidewalk, not on top of the houses.
Nov 13, 2012
The window of the golden key, in Bogotá, Colombia.
(Image credit: Felipe Behlok
Nov 15, 2012
New York and New Jersey are mostly back on the grid, we hear, though there are stories, still, of people stranded in the cold and dark ever since that storm called Sandy. But last weekend, these electric Stein women–Amelia, Maggie, and their mother Sue–lit up Manhattan as they swept into town with glowing high spirits.
On the lightship Nantucket, we're told, docked at Pier 24 in TriBeCa, something was going on that involved wineglasses. Maggie, the daughter described by her mother as a "crafty sailor," apparently did a creditable turn at the ship's wheel without even setting down her glass. "Bet they don't teach that at Annapolis," observed Sue.
Nov 16, 2012
More than four millennia ago, people who called themselves Sicels built a town atop this hill, 300 meters above small streams in the steep-sided limestone valleys of southern Sicily.
Then came the Greeks and briefly the Carthaginians, then the Romans, the Byzantines, the Arabs, and finally, in the eleventh century, the Normans. The town had its name by then, Ragusa. As part of the Kingdom of Sicily, it slipped out from under control of the Norman duke Geoffrey and became a fief of the Chiaramontes, the most powerful family in Sicily.
At first glance, Ragusa's many centuries, particularly its medieval times, appear plain in the architecture and plan of the town clinging to the hill. But that's an illusion; almost everything here postdates a severe earthquake in 1692, which killed thousands of people and destroyed almost all the buildings, including a very large Gothic cathedral.
What we see today is Ragusa rebuilt, in the early eighteenth century, in the style known as Sicilian baroque. We also see Ragusa stratified; the rich people moved over to the next hill to rebuild their homes and churches–Ragusa Superiore–while the poor stayed where they were, rebuilding in the rubble– Ragusa Inferiore, known today as Ragusa Ibra.
Of the two Ragusas–essentially identical in age and architectural style–the poor folks' town, featured in this photo, attracts more attention from twenty-first-century tourists and is generally considered the more picturesque. The replacement for the ruined cathedral, however, is in Ragusa Superiore.
As an American, I have my doubts about places that look like this; I sniff Walt Disney and/or Hollywood and/or Colonial Williamsburg in the so-called Sicilian air. I fear this is a town populated by characters in costume whose main role in life is to get me to part with my money. But you know what? I'll take the risk. And if I ever get to Sicily . . . I can't promise I'll come back.
(Image credit: Riccardo)
Nov 17, 2012
Fair Oaks District, Centreville Rd., 2300 block, Dec. 7. Animal control was called about a squirrel running inside a residence. When an animal control officer saw the squirrel, it jumped into an open baby grand piano. After the officer started playing the song "All I Want" by the group Toad the Wet Sprocket, the squirrel jumped out of the piano and onto curtains, damaging them. The squirrel then jumped onto the officer's head and pounced onto a couch, where the officer was able to catch it. The officer released the animal outside. Neither the squirrel nor the officer was injured.
(Reprinted from the February 12, 2001, edition of New Yorker magazine.)
Constabulary Notes From All Over
Nov 18, 2012
In 1916, the Mountain Chief of the Piegan Blackfeet participated in a recording session with ethnologist Frances Densmore, who traveled the American West collecting Native music and reminiscences. The songs were recorded on wax cylinders and later pressed on vinyl.
In recent years, the Smithsonian has reissued much of the music, including a CD featuring a photo taken at the same time as this one. But the Blackfeet songs on the Smithsonian CD were all recorded no earlier than the 1930s. They are typical of Plains Indian songs, with elaborate vocalizations but very few words.
It is said that earlier Blackfeet songs, perhaps including the ones sung by this chief in 1916, had many more words and told long, complicated stories. Like so much of Native culture, it seems, the words are all gone now, and the singers have to try to sing without them.
(Image credit: National Photo Company, via Shorpy)
Nov 19, 2012
From the rooftops, here on Kater Street, you can see most of Philadelphia's gap-toothed skyline, such as it is. This is a city that had no tall skyscrapers at all until the late 1980s and does not yet have a critical mass of them, skyline-wise.
From a few fortunate vantage points around town, the buildings of Center City appear to clump together more or less like a proper downtown. But from most places, including the roofs of Kater Street's two-story row houses, the skyline looks raggedy and disorganized.
Actually, from the roof of our own house up toward the end of the block, you can't see the skyline at all on account of the trees–or at least that was the case last week, when we climbed up there and shot this picture. Since then, the leaves have yellowed and dropped quite suddenly, and we would imagine the view is now only partially blocked, by a lacework of tree branches.
Nov 20, 2012
Among the eighteen hundred photos submitted for this year's Philly Photo Day is this moment in time captured by Bonnie Saporetti, taken somewhere in Philadelphia, some time on October 26.
Philly Photo Day
(Image Credit: Bonnie Saporetti, Philadelphia Photo Arts Center)
Nov 21, 2012
He loves his dog, which we were told weighs 72 pounds. And he loves to ride his dog down the sidewalk on Rodman Street. You got a problem with that?
Nov 22, 2012
This holiday art appeared in the Saint Paul Globe, St. Paul, Minnesota, on November 22, 1903. There's nothing peculiar about a people who set aside a day for giving thanks, but maybe we are a little odd to have this day set aside for both football and gratitude.
Well, all right then. Thanks to all.
(Image credit: Saint Paul Globe)
Nov 27, 2012
In the awkward but sort of proud tradition of bloggers promoting cool stuff from their friends and relations, we are pleased as punch to point you to Savvy Lessons, the new venture by Ted Stein and his partners Brad Clements and Bhagwan Khalsa.
A few years back, Ted wrote some software to help Brad and Bhagwan run their music school.
By logging in online, students and teachers could schedule their lessons, track invoices, and generally deal with the business side of their musical life. On the music school website, somebody who wanted to learn, say, trombone could read about various trombone teachers around town and choose one based on musical taste, recommendations and reviews, credentials, teaching philosophy, and/or location. And somebody who wanted to teach trombone could catch the eye of potential students on that same website.
In other words, this software combines a bit of advertising, even matchmaking, with the basic business operations necessary for music teachers . . . or any other service professionals–from photographers to yoga instructors, tech support to babysitters. Currently, solo entrepreneurs or small businesses who offer services to the public cannot maintain an online presence and computerize their routine business activities without purchasing multiple software products and/or hiring a programmer.
Savvy Lessons, the first offering in the new Savvy Ware line of software, scales up Brad, Bhagwan, and Ted's music-school product for a nationwide market. Music teachers anywhere in the country can be matched to interested students nearby, using a web portal that can also manage lesson scheduling, accounting, invoicing, and other business functions.
Next will come a series of similar offerings optimized for different sorts of service businesses. Savvy Tutors, for example, will help tutors market themselves to students who need tutoring; it will also support them in their pedagogy with business-management software like that used by musicians.
Down the road, there's even a plan for Savvy Plumbers. Why not?
The Music Man
(Art by Jan Vermeer)
About that trombone teacher. Savvy Lessons offers many choices, but I think I'm inclined to go with a young Baltimorean, Corey Wallace, because his experience included a season with a touring company of The Music Man.
In other words, he's one of the 76 trombones
for real–definitely my kind of musician. You can hear him play, even watch a video of his solo with the Brent Birckhead Quintet, right there on Savvy Lessons.
Nov 28, 2012
It does seem like we don't make anything in America any more, but that's not completely true. Right here under this roof in Easton, Pennsylvania, Americans make Crayola crayons and . . . Silly Putty. Not only that, but up the road a few miles they've got a factory outlet store and a Crayola Discovery Center, which is basically a crayon-themed theme park.
Still and all, this factory doesn't look quite right. You can't make a lot of crayons without heating up a lot of wax–shouldn't they have some serious smokestacks here?
(Image credit: Aerial SkyShots)
Nov 29, 2012
The landlord told the tenants in this little house in Seattle that the place needed painting, and that he and his guys would be taking care of it. And it was true, apparently, that it needed painting, and also true that the landlord and his guys came over recently to do the work.
The job took two weeks. They painted a sunrise on this side of the house, and a sunset on the other side. Before then, both sides had been plain and gray.
The tenants say they like the house and they like the landlord, and it will take a lot more than this to get them to leave.
(Image credit: John Stein)