Sunday, October 25, 2009

Fall colors II

My last Midwestern fall, at least for now.

Fall colors

On the Niagara River

More Niagara

The next morning, we were amused to see the birds hanging out in the eddies and on sticks right at the edge of the falls. I guess if you can fly the falls are less impressive.

Niagara at night

We were both leaving from Buffalo the next day, so we stayed at Niagara Falls. Got in late - curiously, there are no good restaurants open in Western New York on Sunday evenings - and I took a walk to the American Falls at night. (Over the years, I've now seen the falls in summer, fall, and the dead of winter, but this was first time at night.)


Two weeks ago I went to Syracuse in New York with Dad to see the gravestones of Grandpa Iber, Great-Grandpa, and Great-Great-Grandpa. We left Grandpa some gummy candies, which he always liked.

Monday, October 05, 2009

Squirrel diets, West Coast vs. Midwest

Seen today in Hyde Park: a squirrel eating a lollipop. Had to zoom in pretty far to get it, so it's blurry.

By contrast, behind our house in Berkeley now there's a pear tree that produces tiny pears that the birds and squirrels like to eat.

Oh you California squirrels and your health food!

The Point

I'm back in Chicago for autumn quarter. Yesterday I walked out to The was probably the clearest day I've seen in my four-plus years of living here.

The water was beautifully clear too, but it's at the lowest level I've seen in since I moved here. I wonder if this is a cyclical or a secular trend.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

"Cave" paintings at Malinalco

Lerdo de Tejada

This mural was painted by the son (he's known as "Vlady") of one of the characters in my dissertation, Victor Serge.

Mexico update

Nicole can tell you all about what we did when she was here in Mexico, complete with photos, here here, and here. It remains to me only to add a few photos.

Monday, July 06, 2009

Torre Latinoamericana II

It was hard to find appealing photos from the sky, but I liked this roof.

Torre Latinoamericana

Today is Nicole and my first anniversary! So we set about finding something nice to do. Alas, being Monday, almost all museums in Mexico City are closed - and anyway, we've seen most of the not-obscure ones and some of the obscure ones. But one thing we had not done was to take the elevator to the top of the Torre Latinoamericana, completed in 1956 and while under construction a towering symbol of Mexican modernity. Forty-three floors up, it is easy to grasp something which is in fact already easy to grasp: this city is enormous. This is the view to the west, including the Torre Mayor, Chapultepec, Polanco, etc.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Zion National Park III

Golden columbine growing from the seeping porous rock walls.

Zion National Park II

Zion National Park I

Well, I've just gone and driven across my rather large country of residence and the natural highlight of this trip had to be Zion National Park in Southwestern Utah. It's a valley carved out over millions of years by the amusingly small Virgin "River." Up at the end of the valley you can trek up the "narrows", hours of hiking through the water that gets deeper and deeper and narrower and narrower until at some point (which we did not reach) you can place a hand on either side of the canyon wall. Or you are under water. While we didn't make it that far, we did make it far enough to see some praiseworthy interplay of light and rock - far better, anyway, than the "light rock" one hears on the radio. Viz.:

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Ford Foundation

The Ford Foundation headquarters is a true architectural masterpiece. The offices are all exposed to a 12-story skylit atrium and winter garden, which is a beautiful and ostentatiously inefficient use of space. (Some photos and architectural history here.)

The centerpiece of the garden is a bonsai tree in the center of a coin pond. The tree symbolically places wisdom at the center of its building and the goal of the Foundation philanthropic activity. (Although with that reading the coin pool suggests the futility of throwing money after wisdom. Perhaps that's overthinkng things a bit.)

But to my mind, the most remarkable thing about the space, other than that it makes a cathedral of nature, is that in its midtown Manhattan setting, it inverts the traditional relationship between nature and built space. In Manhattan, architecture has displaced landscape as the manner of beautifying the space that humans occupy. The Ford Foundation building brings the landscape to the inside, which serves all the more to reveal the brick jungle on the other side of the windows.

United Nations

I'm working at the archives Ford Foundation this week, and their building is just down the block from the United Nations headquarters in New York.

I liked this sculpture but I would want to point out to anyone thinking about firing this gun that it will blow up in your face. Which, I suppose, is exactly the point.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Mathiessen State Park

The worst thing about living in Chicago, which is otherwise pretty great, is that to get yourself to any sort of natural environment you have to go far. (There are of course many city parks, the lakefront, the forest preserves, the botanic garden, etc., all of which add immeasurably to one's quality of life around here. But it's not the same as being away from it all. Nor are the Indiana Dunes, with their nuclear-power-plant views. And, let's face it, farmland is as "unnatural" an environment as a city.) Most Chicagoans go to Starved Rock State Park, about 1.6 hours away in Utica, Illinois. And indeed, Starved Rock is a nice place to be. But it's too bad that people skip over Matthiessen State Park, just a couple of miles past the entrance to Starved Rock. For one thing, there are often fewer people at Matthiessen. At the Dells Area, there are waterfalls and you can go walking around in the river: it's arguably more pleasant than the sandstone bowls at Starved Rock. We recently went to the River Area for the first time, and found wild orchids. If you've already been to Starved Rock a couple of times, try Matthiessen the next time you go.

Sunday, May 03, 2009

Gazing Globe - Spring

Got out today to do the final season of Chicago gazing globes - spring. This was the most spring-like and most appealing picture. But although it's more abstract, I also liked this one of the globe sitting on a log:

Saturday, May 02, 2009

Kayaking on Lake Michigan

It seemed warm enough today to go kayaking, so we went out on Lake Michigan. For the first 3/4 of the trip, it was great - then the sun disappeared, the wind kicked up, and we got cold. Still, Chicago looked great.

See, it was fun!

Thursday, April 09, 2009

Detroit Institute of Arts II

The other great exhibition at the Detroit Institute of Arts was a real surprise - a collection of chess boards from across the centuries and the regions of the earth. As Nicole pointed out, most often at art museums you see objects organized by era, region, and type: Victorian plates here, Dutch masters there, etc. Rarely does an exhibition feature a single object as interpreted by many different movements, as these extraordinary chess sets did. It struck me that it would be a great way to teach art history to introduce a new current or school by showing how it interpreted a chess set: whether Islamic non-figurative art or surrealism through Dali's finger-board. I'm showing at right one of the pawns from an 18th century Italian all-insect set. I highly recommended you look at the pictures here and here (the latter in pdf form). The capitalists vs. communists set from Leningrad in 1925 is extraordinary, though nothing if not unsubtle.

Detroit Institute of Arts

We've spent a few days in Ann Arbor, hosted by some generous friends, but we struck out one day for Detroit and its Institute of Arts. It's fascinating because the whole Institute would probably not have existed had Detroit not once been the fourth largest city in the U.S. 50-60 years ago. I thought it was a great museum -- large enough to hold many things of interest, but not so large that it couldn't be taken in within a single day. A couple of parts were worth the price of admission by themselves. The museum's most famous work are the Detroit Industry Murals, painted by Diego Rivera in 1932 and 1933. For a Communist (and Trotskyist, etc.), Rivera was orthodox enough to remember that it was the industrial proletariat that will bring about the socialist revolution, and so he celebrated the creation of industry and even of industrialists. There are, in his madman's mind, also currents of horror at the workings of technology, which he strongly associated with the United States (as against Mexico, which he associated with the workings of nature).

See also his occasional wife Frida Kahlo's not-unambiguous interpretation of the divide between "natural" Mexico and "industrial" America:

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Spring Break!

In Michigan this year, where everyone is enjoying the balmy temperatures.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Inauguration - White House

After the end of the inauguration, I tried to get closer to the Capitol, where some friends were waiting. I tried for an hour and couldn't find any way to go in that direction. I suppose for security reasons, all of the crowds were being moved in the opposite direction. And so I passed by the White House.

It's ours now!

Inauguration - Monument

Inauguration - Monument

There I am! The temperature wasn't too low but it was below freezing and we all ended up standing out there for about six hours straight.

Inauguration - Crowd

Here's a little shot of the crowd, which of course was impossible to capture in a picture. In the center of the photo, you can make out a row of portable toilets that lots of folks decided represented their best hope of seeing something. They climbed on top to get a view, and, as far as I know, there were no disasters.

Inauguration - Capitol

This is as close as I got on the day of the event. Between me and the Capitol Building there was a solid mass of people. I'm standing very close to the Washington Monument.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Inauguration - Capitol

I was in Washington DC the last two weeks working at the archives -- which happened to coincide with the inauguration of a certain new president. Here's a picture of the capitol building on January 19th, the day before - that is far far closer than I would get on inauguration day itself.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Gazing globe 3 seasons

I've got three seasons of gazing globe pictures now from the same rotting log in Jackson Park. Out of context of the other pictures we took on those days fall and summer look pretty similar, but there's a kind of brightness and warmth in the summer photo that comes through nicely. (Particularly on a day like today, when we took the winter photo!) This project is basically turning into an ode to temperate climates. And Hyde Park.