In the summer of 1913, Hazel Reiber winds up for a pitch near the ocean in the big sandlot at Long Beach, Long Island. Her bathing costume looks skimpier than the outfits many women wore back then, but her boots would do just fine for a professional wrestler.
That is a baseball in her right hand, but I'm guessing--hoping--that the person she's throwing to is not swinging a bat. It doesn't look safe for slugging thereabouts.
There will come a day when nobody cares about Alabama football any more. True, we're not there yet. We'll probably have single-payer health care in the United States long before the Crimson Tide roll over and play dead.
As I write this, Alabama is losing its first game of the season 16-17, to Virginia Tech. They're playing in Atlanta tonight, in the Georgia Dome, but some sunny Saturday very soon, Bryant-Denny stadium in Tuscaloosa will once again look exactly like this.
Avram Dimitrscu's father was a musician in a Romanian concert band, behind the Iron Curtain. In the 1970s, the band toured western Europe, including the Channel Islands, where Avram's mother, a native of Belfast, Northern Island, was working at a resort hotel. They fell in love, and when it came time for the band to return to Romania, she helped him hide and eventually defect.. Avram was born on the Isle of Jersey and raised in Belfast. His parents ran a catering business until the 1990s, when travel to Romania became possible. Then they bought a truck and began operating a charity, collecting donations of food, clothing, and everything else, and driving all the way across Europe every month or so to deliver the contributions to Romanians in need.
Avram grew up during the troubles in Northern Ireland, in a Catholic part of town, and enrolled as an art student at the University of Belfast. He worked at a McDonald's near campus during the school year but spent his summers abroad, in Maine, where he worked as a camp counselor at a boys' camp. It was there that he met fellow-counselor John Stein. Avram and John traveled together, and Avram spent time in Alabama with all the Steins--always with his sketchbook in hand. Eventually, he married an American woman and moved to the town of Alpine, in the Big Bend area of extreme west Texas. He paints, illustrates, teaches art, runs the Dimitrescu Gallery, and surely still keeps his sketchbook close at hand.
Joe Stein is admiring dinner. It should be tasty, thanks to Joe's buddy Joe Fair, who went catfishing the other night in the Black Warrior River near Moundville, Alabama.. According to one of the Joes, it took an hour to reel in the big guy.
While hiking near the top of Mount Washington on an unusually warm September afternoon, we met this Hungarian couple eating their lunch after climbing for hours up Huntington Ravine. Carol Stack caught this image of the couple studying the map to plan their descent.
It means weather like what we see in this early twentieth-century photo of Amsterdam by George Hendrik Breitner. Somehow, the laundry and the grainy gray make the Netherlands look less tidy and perfect than we've come to expect.
Breitner's name entered the Dutch vocabulary in reference to a kind of weather--dark, damp, chilly, misty, gloomy--based on his well-known late-ninteenth-century paintings of the Dutch landscape. But in 1996, a drawerful of photos by Breitner (including this one) was discovered in somebody's attic in Amsterdam, and it turns out that the atmosphere in Breitner's photographic landscapes is just as in his paintings. Breitner-like.
The supply closet at the back of Tommy Flowers's math classroom at University Place Middle School in Tuscaloosa has won official recognition as the world's smallest museum.
Mr. Flowers, who has been teaching for 25 years, has assembled a collection of Edgar Allan Poe artifacts, including plastic hearts, dozens of photos, a skull, and of course, a skeleton. He says he became fascinated with Poe when he was himself in junior high school, and he tries to weave Poe's stories and poems into his students' daily lessons.
The fact that he teaches math, not literature, has not been an obstacle: he wants his students to take inspiration from Poe as they cultivate their imaginations to get the most out of life. Also, he wants them to calculate the square footage of his museum--the answer to that is 22, which is the magic number that got Edgar's Closet desgnated as smallest museum in the world.
"I d like a few visitors," said Mr. Flowers. "But more than anything, I'd like to see a few teachers have museums in their closets."
All five Stein boys went to University Place when it was an elementary school. It has recently added middle school grades as part of the Tuscaloosa City Board of Education's scheme to re-segregate the public schools. So far, there have been numerous complaints and petitions, but no lawsuits, so it's working.
On a couch or a soft carpet, Dobby the dog is pretty good about sitting on command. But on a hard floor? He'll make a show of pretending, as shown here with Emily and Joshua Wiggin, who are very good at kneeling.
The town of Clearfield in the hills of west-central Pennsylvania grew little or not at all between 1910--when a photo was taken from a nearby slope, painted by hand, and reproduced lithographically--and the 1960s--when a color photo taken from nearly the same spot was published as a picture postcard. Town population still stands at about 6,000 today. The dark church steeple in the upper right of the older picture is the white steeple in the center of the more recent view.
Apparently, the years have not been kind to Clearfield as far as the artistic level of its town boosters' bird's-eye views is concerned--but that's typical; a lively American artistic genre has been poorly replaced, first by Kodachrome and more recently by Google Earth.
Time marches on, however, in Clearfield. In 1977, the town became the home of Denny's Beer Barrel Pub, where the cook "enjoys making burgers bigger than your head, all the way up to the insane 123-pounder."
The 2009 Mongol Rally is history; the adventurers have arrived in Ulaan Bataar (or not), and most have now scattered to the winds. The intensity of the experience may have changed some lives, but not so much Steve and Tom, of Team Mad Lady. Here is their final blog post:
"So we only went and bloody did it didn't we!!
"Arrival party was brilliant fun - our pink blazers re-emerged, a bit more dusty, yet still with that touch of class! The beards we have been cultivating were a welcome addition!
"Was a great night, and a nice chilled day today is the perfect remedy for the nagging hangover! Looking forward to finding a pub to watch the Mighty Spurs this evening.
"So that is that. Final counts:
"-- Police stops - 7 (6 for driving offences - ST 3 TH 3 and one just for a police check)
"-- Bribes paid - not much. Couple of border controls we paid over the odds un-knowingly. Apart from that nothing. Great success!
"- -Tyre punctures/blow outs - 3 (ST 1 TH 2)
"-- Guages broken- 2 (Speedo for last 6/7,000 KM and fuel for last 1,000 KM)
"-- Cable ties used to hold Micra together! - about 15 as they ahd to be replaced a few times!
"-- Rivers crossed - 4 (and only got stuck in 1 - get ready for the video footage!)
"-- Keys locked in car - 1 (Well done Todster!). therefore break ins also 1!
"-- Wrong turns... Too many to count but reckon in the whole we were pretty well. Got a lot better when we realised the alternator interferred with the compass though!
"-- Packs of super noodles eaten - at least 8/10 each!
"-- Sweets distributed - 5kg!!! Toddy loved playing sugar daddy!
During World War II, the shores of Casco Bay were heavily fortified, and the entrance to Portland harbor was mined. In 1942, a German U-boat was identified in the bay by a Civil Air Patrol pilot, but it got away before military aircraft arrived on the scene.
That's Portland Head Light in the distance, as viewed from the rusting remnants of the fortification on what is now the campus of Southern Maine Community College in South Portland.
Hank shot this unusual view of Washington, DC, last spring from the top of the U.S. Capitol dome. Almost all the buildings you see here represent the political sector known as K Street--corporate offices devoted to lobbying politicians and/or "complying" with government regulations. Corporations and professional associations built all these nice new buildings in the hope that proximity to government officials would help them make lots and lots of money.
What do they do in these buildings? They dole out money to congressmen and various campaign committees, to improve access and influence. They work with legislators and regulators to shape the scope and wording of laws and regulations. They coordinate publicity campaigns to influence public opinion in their favor. But mostly, they push papers around to keep business-government interactions running more or less smoothly.
Calvin Coolidge said it: The business of government is business. In this picture, you can see it for yourself.
At the top of the picture is the National Cathedral, which is arguably outside the K Street axis of operations.
Time to catch up with the Mongol Rally folks. After about six weeks on the road now, many of the 200 or so teams have recently reached Ulaan Bataar, where they signed the rally book, did their laundry, and partied. There is no prize for arriving first. Rallyers donate their vehicles to Mongolian NGO's and eventually make their way home somehow.
A team called Rolling Cones, from Richmond, Virginia, spent three days wandering in the Gobi Desert in their pink ice cream truck. They say the rocks in the Gobi are so iron-rich that compasses don't work there. Mongol Rally rules discourage GPS navigation, but the Rolling Cones had secretly stashed a little GPS unit deep in their luggage for just such a contingency--not that they anticipated exactly such a contingency, but contingencies happen. They noticed that a roadwork crew was speaking Mandarin Chinese instead of Mongolian, and it had been three days since they'd last known where they were, so . . . turned out they were in the extreme southeast corner of Mongolia, a few kilometers from the Chinese border, in a spot on the map that was completely empty of roads. But there was a coal mine nearby, which is why the Chinese were building a new road, and at the mine there were two geologists from Virginia Tech. So it goes.
All the blog posts are full of promises to post their Mongolia photos soon. I trust them, of course, so I'll make the same promise. In the meantime, here's a nice one from back in Kazakhstan, near the shriveled shore of the Aral Sea. Photo by Team Mongoliza, who list their hometown as "southeast Asia."
Thirty-seven feet above the main entrance to 30 Rock in Manhattan, which used to be called the RCA building, this guy with a crown and a big beard pushes aside the dark clouds of ignorance to let the sunshine in. His big golden compass promises architecture and all the arts--castles and cathedrals of human achievement. The quotation is biblical, from the book of Isaiah, but the man with the compass is from some other spiritual realm, where civilization included commerce between godlike humans and all-too-human gods.
Who is he? Where did he come from? The short answer is that he was copied from an eighteenth-century painting by William Blake, "The Ancient of Days." Blake presents this Ancient as a false little god, trying to build his own false little world with that big compass. The compass also brings Masonic mysticism into the picture.
What was Rockefeller thinking in 1933, when he adorned the entrance to his crowning public achievement with this strange image? Elsewhere in his new Center, he memorialized Prometheus, who defied the gods by supplying humanity with the fire of science and art, and he commissioned a bronze Atlas, the demigod who carried the world on his back as punishment for warring against the real gods.
Ignorant and learned people both have tussled with this stuff, so I'll stay out of it. I just like the imagery of somebody pushing those clouds apart, making a hole, piercing the gloom with brave new light.
In 2004, Iranian-Canadian photographer Sam Javanrouh went back to Tehran, his hometown, for a photo shoot. Here, he shows us Tehran's Eskan towers framing a glimpse of the Alborz Mountains. "Brings back so many memories," says Javanrouh.
Family life among the animals can get up close and personal with a webcam aimed 24/7 at a mud wallow in the forest claimed by a pack of wild boars, or a nest of sticks atop a telephone pole where a couple of storks have laid their eggs. But that was last summer and the summer before--this year, in Estonia, the webcams are mounted at an ostrich farm. One clutch of baby ostriches has hatched now, and you can watch the fluffy little bird-brained things squirming and snuggling under a heat lamp. Mom and Dad are outside in a paddock, incubating another nestful of eggs--looks like the male and female take turns sitting on the nest.
Go here to get your fill of ostrich video eye candy. The website is in Estonian, but even we Amurricans can figure out how to click on the pictures.
Hey, it's free--watch those ostriches all you want. The heatlamp is left on round the clock, so time zones won't keep you and those babies apart. Outside in the paddock, it gets light in Estonia around 10 or 11 p.m. Eastern daylight time. If you're up late, you can turn on the ostriches and watch them sitting on the nest and bobbing their heads a little, strolling along the fence line, grazing in the grass. Will you get bored? Yes--you're not an ostrich. But technology can hold your interest: instead of watching the ostriches in real time, you can click on another date and hour, and see what they were up to back then. By dragging your mouse across the bottom of the video frame, you can watch everything the ostriches did that hour in just a few seconds, and you can even watch them in reverse. Clouds will race across the sky, the sun will leap up from the horizon, and the ostriches will hop about right smartly.
If you could speed up the entire first year of video of a baby ostrich's life, you'd see it gain 100 pounds and grow as tall as an adult human. By age 3 or 4, mature ostriches can be 9 feet tall and weigh 350 pounds. They have three stomachs but no gall bladder, in case you were wondering.
There would be little point in speeding up video of an ostrich running; they can go from 0 to 27 miles per hour in a couple of seconds. Sometimes people race ostriches, with jockeys on their backs using saddles and bridles. They are said to be much more difficult to control than horses, but also much faster.
If you believe what you read in Earth Imaging Journal, which you shouldn't, there's an 86.6% chance that bin Laden has been living here in Parachinar, Pakistan, ever since he was last seen by Western intelligence agents--not seen, actually, but heard from, on VHF radio--in December 2001. The mountain ridge at the top of this picture is the border between Pakistan's Kurram tribal region and Afghanistan's Tora Bora district,
A couple of UCLA professors wrote recently in Earth Imaging Journal that they had used high-resolution satellite imagery, similar to the imagery we are familiar with in Google Earth, to identify the three buildings in Parachinar most likely to be inhabited by bin Laden and his close associates. The professors looked for defensible structures of appropriate size that are on the electric grid or served by generators, with trees and shrubbery to complicate surveilance from the air. One of the three likely compounds turns out to be the local prison--and why not? The tradition of fugitives seeking refuge in prisons is long and illustrious.
But the good professors claim to have no actual evidence concerning his whereabouts; it's all an exercise in geospatial modeling, utilizing distance-decay theory and island biogeography. Ivory tower stuff.
The only thing is: I just googled Parachinar, and for the last couple of weeks now, the city has been bombed by the Pakistani Air Force, presumably at our direction. They say they're targeting Taliban, not al-Qaeda--whatever they're doing, please let it not be based on distance-decay theory and calculations at UCLA of an 86.6% slam dunk.
Perhaps you're like me and don't remember exactly what went down back in December 2001, when we invaded Afghanistan and announced that we'd pinned down Osama bin Laden in his cave in Tora Bora. We knew all about the caves there because a generation ago, we'd helped some anti-Soviet Afghan warlords forttify them and build a complex of underground bunkers.
We asked Afghan army troops to go in there and kill all the bad guys, backed up by our air support, Special Forces, and CIA operatives. As soon as the Afghan forces arrived in the area, they announced that the bad guys wanted a temporary cease-fire, so they could gather their weapons and surrender. It is said that our response was "What the hell? Go on in and get 'em." At that point, the Afghan soldiers turned their weapons on the U.S. "advisers," and it took 12 hours before they agreed to resume the mission. Evern after the end of the "cease-fire," it is believed that some of the Afghan soldiers staged a diversionary action to further delay and weaken the attack. Several hundred Taliban were eventually killed or rounded up in the caves of Tora Bora, but no major weapons caches or "training camps" were found.
It is possible that bin Laden escaped into Pakistan during the fake cease-fire, hiking through the December ice and snow, up and over a 14,000-foot mountain pass. It's also possible that he had already escaped by then, or that he'd never been there in the first place.
U.S. General Tommy Franks blamed the Pakistanis for not telling us that their border wasn't very secure near Tora Bora. Where in the world is Tommy Franks these days?