Sunday, May 22, 2011

EMPS: A Long Way to Go to See a Bush

My participation in the Ellipsis Monday Photo Shoot has been spotty lately, largely because of how busy I've been, working six day weeks with lots of overtime, and then running around all day on Sunday on behalf of friends. So when I left work a little earlier than expected today - yes, on a Saturday! - I decided to take a little field trip in search of my least favorite photo subject in the world: flowers. Carly's asking for fresh pictures of Spring Blossoms And Flowers, which aren't the easiest things to find in Tucson in late May, when the temperature often tops ninety degrees and significant rain is a month and a half away.

So instead of heading south on I-10 East (yes, you're reading that correctly), I drove the ten miles or so in the opposite direction, toward Picacho Peak. On years when there are good winter rains, which this wasn't, early spring, which is long over, sometimes sees Picacho Peak State Park covered in wildflowers. But when I got to the park gate, this is what I found:

Yes, the park was closed, and not just because it was late in the afternoon. Let's zoom in closer:

The park is "closed for the season." What season is that, exactly? Probably "State Budget Cutbacks Season," combined with the eight month season in which the snowbirds and tourists stay away from Arizona.

Clearly, nobody but me is running up to Picacho Peak these days, particularly in search of flowers. But wait, what's that white bush?

That's it, my glorious bouquet of wildflowers, which I sought out 50 miles from home, at the end of a 59 hour work week, assuming I don't work tomorrow. Which I probably will. It's no horticultural or photographic masterpiece, but the background scenery is terrific! I just researched what it is, this pale shrub with yellow flowers, but without success.

Come to think of it, we just came to the end of a season of yellow, allergy-inducing blossoms on the local mesquite and Palo Verde trees, which greatly afflicted a number of people I know. But I didn't think to photograph those.


Saturday, May 21, 2011

Round Robin Challenge: 55 MPH Graffiti Hunt

It was nearly 6 PM on a Friday, six hours before I was scheduled to post my entry for the Round Robin Challenge: Graffiti, as suggested by Gattina of Keyhole Pictures. I wasn't remotely ready, of course. I had worked about 54 hours this week already, and knew I'd be working again on Saturday. When was there time to go hunt down some good graffiti? Yes, okay, I have a few things in my archives, but it would be nice to have something fresh, even if it wasn't especially artistic.

So as I drove east along Aviation Highway probably a little in excess of the 55 miles per hour speed limit, I glanced off to the right, where train tracks run parallel to the road. Railroad cars are prime targets for graffiti, providing a large, canvas for taggers. Sneak into the railroad yard with your spray cans, avoid getting caught, and soon your self-aggrandizing bit of word art is rolling along next to I-10 and other major routes, displaying your handiwork for all to see and, um, admire. Or not.

Driving home at 55 MPH isn't exactly a suitable opportunity for staring at railroad cars. So I pulled out my camera, turned it on, rolled down the passenger side window and pointed my camera at the continuous line of railroad cars, snapping away every few seconds while keeping my eyes firmly on the road. Well, mostly. I had no way of knowing until how many of the six shots would show evidence of graffiti, how well I'd aimed the camera in the right direction or at the right angle, nor whether any illicitly painted lettering would be legible if photographed at 55 MPS. I wasn't even sure whether the trains themselves were moving, not that it mattered much under the circumstances. Still, I lucked out with a few halfway decent photos, as seen above. My favorite is the "Echo Tango Charlie" one. It was a challenge to read it, and I'm intrigued by the use of that letter code, the "police alphabet" as one site calls it. There's also someone on Flickr with that handle, and their photostream is almost all graffiti or graffiti-inspired. Hoe or she does not appear to be my tagger, however.

Last September, I did a Weekend Assignment entry about the writing on bathroom walls at my local Safeway. I posted several really interesting specimens in that, whole written conversations among strangers as well as random comments. Here's one shot I didn't post originally:

It's a little hard to read, but displayed here are two opposing opinions, "God is LOVE" and "God is FAKE."

The mini-argument about God is not the only religious expression in my graffiti collection. A couple of years ago I took a long walk just east of downtown, literally on the wrong side of the railroad tracks. There I saw some truly impressive art on the side of an abandoned railroad car, or truck trailer, or whatever it was. I frankly find most outdoor graffiti to be ugly and pointless, just some kid making the world uglier just to assert his presence in it. But this particular piece beautifies and uplifts the world, just a little tiny bit, as you walk past it.

Now let's go see everyone else's pictures of graffiti:

Linking List
as of Saturday, 5/21/11, 12:30 AM

Gattina - Posted!
Keyhole Pictures

Karen - Posted!
Outpost Mâvarin

Day One

Jama - Posted!
Sweet Memories

Shutterly Happy

Erin - Posted!
Worth A Thousand Words

And if this is May 21st, it's not too later to join in yourself! Or May 22nd. Or any time before the 28th. How about it?


Monday, May 16, 2011

What happened to Karen? She never posts anymore.

Yes, I gave up on the Weekend Assignment and sometimes fail to participate in the Ellipsis Monday Photo Shoot. Consequently I'm barely posting at all.

But I can explain.

Stuff I can't disclose is making things extra busy at my non-church job in far-off Marana. I've also got a lot to do at church, paid and otherwise, and I'm spending all day on Sundays with two mobility-impaired friends (and a friend whose mobility is fine, except that he doesn't drive).

Some days I'm working both jobs, which last week led to my leaving home at 7 AM and getting home at 11:10 PM on Thursday, and being gone from 7 AM to 10:30 PM on Friday. I had a conference on Saturday, and got home from church and friends after 6 PM on Sunday. I haven't been this busy since I was working full time and studying accounting at night. I haven't been MORE busy, methinks, since I pulled crazy hours at year-end at First Magnus, back in the day.

But I just got a check from First Magnus Liquidating Trust for most of the rest of the pay they owed me from 2007. Add that to what John and I have been earning for our crazy hours lately and we're looking good for a quick trip to Disneyland in June. That's if I can get away, and that's a big if. My boss hasn't okayed it. But if we go, we'll take a night at the Disneyland Hotel for the first time ever, possibly the only time we'll ever do so. It's over $200 a night!

Stay tuned. I'm not done with this blogging lark, but my entries may be thin on the ground for a while, and inadequately illustrated.


Monday, May 09, 2011

Clearly I need a long drive North and West

visited 38 states (76%)
Create your own visited map of The United States

Some of these places I barely remember, but I've been there, all up and down the East and the Southwest. (Okay, okay, I'm only 80% sure of Vermont.) But for many years I've wanted to drive north from Santa Barbara California (as far north as I've been in Calif.) and keep going, all the way to Alaska. And I want to see Utah, and the Dakotas and all the rest. Will I ever make it? My mental Magic Eight Ball says either "Cannot predict now" or "Don't count on it!"

visited 17 countries (7.55%)
Create your own visited map of The World

My world travel stats, by contrast, are decidedly pathetic. So much more of the world to see, if only I had the time and money!

Thanks to Ruth the Scrabblequeen for the map link!


Sunday, May 08, 2011

EMPS: Art Conspired

For Ellipsis Monday Photo Shoot #122: Art Inspired, Carly wanted us to take a photo based on or inspired by a particular piece of art work. My schedule being what it is these days, I decided not to even attempt to do the assignment as written, creating new photos in camera that remind one of the painting or sculpture or whatever. That would be way too ambitious for me, probably beyond my skill to even do. So I did the next best thing. I took existing photos from my archives, plus one new one, and edited them into four iconic pieces of art. Here they are:

This first one is based on Chinese Girl (1950) by Vladimir Tretchikoff. I started with an existing photo of the vintage print hanging in our den, and a self-portrait photo I took last night. Basically I pasted in part of my face - trust me, you don't want to see my actual neck and chin- and built up layers of color to try to reproduce the tint. It's not completely successful, but it's interesting!

Next I went with the obvious choice:

The original photo of my face is from 2005 or so. I was surprised that when I finally matched up the size of the face to that of Leonardo's model, I was floating a bit above the torso. Plus Mona Lisa's nose ends higher on the face.

Lest it all be about my face, I next worked the trees in front of our house into Van Gogh's Cypresses:

I had to paste each of the trees in several times over and a bush about three times to fill up the picture, but I like the result. It's less nightmarish than the original, which scared me as a child.

Last, I finished the transition from serene to scream, with The Scream by Edvard Munch:

The tricky part was reshaping my face, again from quite an old photo. The sunset is from January, and the water is from two photos of the main duck pond at Reid Park.

Fun stuff!


Saturday, May 07, 2011

Round Robin: Reinventing the Wheel

This week's Round Robin Photo Challenge, Big Wheels, Little Wheels, was suggested by our friend  Carly . I've been too busy recently to go looking for large wheels, so I went for a contrast between the medium-sized driver's side front wheel on my KIA and...well, take a guess!

Okay, so I didn't manage to get the second wheel in the picture on the first try.

Ah! There it is! Two of them, actually, on the dirver's side of a vintage Matchbox car. Let's go for a close-up:

But that's kind of boring, isn't it? Let's break out a few special effects:

From Round Robin Photo Challenges

Of course, if the tire really looked like that last edit, it probably wouldn;t carry you very far!

Now let's have a look at the other Robins' wheels:

Linking List

Karen - Posted!
Outpost Mâvarin

Jama - Posted!
Sweet Memories

Kim,USA - Posted!
My Photography in Focus

Ruth - Posted!
The ScrabbleQueen Knits, Too

Peg - Posted!
Who Can Discover It?

How about you? Care to show off your wheels?


Thursday, May 05, 2011

#IfIHadATimeMachine: My Temporal Mystery Tour, Revisited.

Oh, Boy!  An Interview with Josh!BBC America is asking what viewers would do if they had a time machine. Heck, I've been refining my mental checklist of destinations since high school, over 35 years ago. I wrote about a few of them in my first blog, Musings from Mâvarin, back in 2004. I think that list is overdue for an update, don't you?

Destination One is, and pretty much always has been, a whistle stop tour of Beatles prehistory. We'd start off at the Woolton Parish Church Garden Fete, in a field behind St. Peter's Parish Church Hall, Woolton, Liverpool on 6th July 1957. This is where John Lennon first met Paul McCartney, and was impressed that Paul could play the Eddie Cochran song Twenty Flight Rock. Paul was soon invited to join John's band, the Quarry Men, and eventually accepted. A reel to reel recording of the Woolton Fete gig actually exists, but how much better it would be to have a state-of-the-art digital recording. Of course, when I first had this dream, "state-of-the-art" for portable recording was a cassette tape recorder!

From the Woolton gig we'd move on to some Silver Beatles era gigs in the Cavern Club and elsewhere. Then it would be on to Hamburg, to record the Beatles in their five-man line-up with Pete and Stu, as well as a Ringo gig with Rory Storm and the Hurricanes, before finishing up with the very day at the Cavern in Liverpool when Brian Epstein went to check out the band that recorded My Bonnie for Polydor.

My other time travel destinations, most of them, are a bit less iconic, except for the really obvious one. Yes, I'd want to visit first century Galilee and Judea. If I go there, my time machine had better be the TARDIS, because I'll need those translation circuits.

But never mind all that, because there is fun to be had closer to home. Did you know that James Thurber played himself in 88 performances of A Thurber Carnival on Broadway in 1960? Well, he did. That's pretty remarkable considering the man was blind by then, and died the following year. File and Forget is one of my very favorite Thurber pieces, and I'd love to see it performed by the great man himself.

And who could resist a few dozen visits to Disneyland throughout its history? I want to ride the phantom boats and the flying saucers, take a rocket to the moon, and be shrunk inside a giant microscope, singing Miracles From Molecules. And I wouldn't be done there until I had Walt's autograph!

Aside from checking in on historic and cultural events, a time machine would be handy for shopping, particularly in the 1960s. John and I would undoubtedly buy some Eames and Miller furniture, a few copies of Amazing Fantasy #15, and every toy, game or china animal figurine we ever owned as kids, or wanted to own. We'd bring back stock certificates, exotic clocks, original Disney art from The Art Corner, and rare Tiki mugs.

But perhaps the most important thing to do with a time machine, assuming that something like the death of JFK is a fixed point in time that should not be messed with, is to visit the BBC in the early to mid 1970s. Faced with a storage problem, and unaware that such home video formats as VHS, DVD and Blu-ray would soon make many of their old recordings commercially viable, the BBC junked many early Doctor Who episodes, along with Jame Burke's coverage of the Apollo space program and other important programmes. My plan would be to sneak in just before the junkings started, digitally reproduce every Doctor Who tape I could find, and make multiple return trips to retrieve things from the trash and preserve spare copies of everything. The first lost Doctor Who serial I would watch would probably be Marco Polo (1964), but there's tons more beyond that. One I'm particularly looking forward to is Power of the Daleks, which is both the first Second Doctor story and the one that helped to inspire Mark Gatiss to write "Victory of the Daleks."

Look at me, saying I'm looking forward to the results of a time travel trip, just as if I thought it would actually happen. But the time is, silly thing that my brain is, I kind of do.

And yeah, eventually I would get around to checking out the future. And, if I could, go sideways in time as well to check out alternate realities. That's the only way to meet face to face with certain people who loom large in the imagination: Zorro, Doc Brown, and, if we allow for realities with completely different laws of physics and biology, Mary Poppins, Gandalf and, of course, The Doctor!


Karen and Dalek at Gallifrey One. Photo by John Blocher, February 2004.