Thursday, September 25, 2008


Too many people in New York City walk around with their eyes glued to the sidewalk. Granted, such a viewpoint can help one avoid some of the nastier bits of the jetsam tossed by pedestrians. But one misses so much that makes New York a fun place to live. Of course, I'm usually looking around - or up - for potential photographs.

Earlier this week I was walking in the East Village and spotted this great building on Bond St., between Lafayette and Broadway. I don't really know anything about the building itself - although it's typical of the late 19th century. But the caryatids . . . they are incredible, among the most elaborate I've seen in the city. (What's a caryatid? It's a sculpted female figure used as a column, usually supporting an entablature.) Unfortunately, this building is quite tall (at least ten stories), so even the puny zoom on my digital camera made this a less than ideal object for photos. Still, I couldn't resist.

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Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Jefferson Market Garden - Roses

Walking through the Jefferson Market Garden on Greenwich Ave., one can tell that autumn is here, despite the warm weather and sunny skies. The garden seems "sleepy," as if sensing the approaching cold of winter. The plants appear diminished, tired. The mature trees that shade much of the garden have even started to shed a few leaves, although serious fall "color" is still a month away. Many of the roses, however, are providing a final late-summer display, one of the obvious advantages of more recent hybrids. Enjoy!

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Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Another Shop Cat

This beauty - "Smokey" - lives on 7th Avenue at 12th St. According to his owner, "Smokey" is a great mouser and regularly leaves little "presents" from a night's hunt. He had to be one of the sweetest, most affectionate cats I've ever encountered in the city. Sitting outside the shop, he was unfazed by the passing crowds - and numerous dogs - but readily welcomed visitors.

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Ben and Sam, Playground

Ca. 1950 German-made Praktica FX with a 50mm, f2.8 Zeiss Tessar lens, Kodak 400CN film.

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Monday, September 22, 2008

MBC Building

Noticed this building on 20th Street on Fifth Avenue last week and naturally had to puzzle over the meaning of "MBC." This red-brick edifice, something of an anomaly among its white limestone neighbors, was the headquarters of the "Methodist Book Concern" from its completion in 1890 until the offices moved to Nashville in 1939. According to the New York Times, this was a "vital hub of Methodism, whose press room, composing room and bindery turned out thousands of books, tracts and periodicals for nearly half a century. It even has a time capsule under the cornerstone (1888) containing copies of the religious weeklies of that time. Not visible from the street are 11 skylights on the top floor, installed to illuminate the printers' composing tables. The building underwent a $6 million renovation in 2001.

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Friday, September 19, 2008

Box Camera Scans, Part 2

I managed to dig up and scan three more negatives from my box camera experiment of October 2007. On the second shot I remember opening the camera's aperture fully, hence the very narrow depth of field with the foreground and background out of focus. The quality of these images reminds me of pinhole camera shots that I've seen. However, on a pinhole image, the entire image would be in focus, since depth of field is not an issue on lensless cameras. When I return to Vermont in October I'll definitely have to experiment again (and perhaps even try some pinhole images with a pinhole adapter that I have for my old Canon AE-1 - still a great workhorse).

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Just completed this painting a couple of days ago. It's the first in a series of three small paintings of ordinary - albeit rarely used - objects. Obviously this is one of those old analog, wind-up alarm clocks, now standard fare at flea markets and yard sales. (5"x7", pencil, pen and ink, watercolor, on Fabriano paper)

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Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Sohmer Piano Building

Originally known as the Sohmer Piano Building, this beauty at 22nd Street and Fifth Avenue was constructed in 1897. (The company made pianos at its Astoria, Queens factory until 1982.) A 13-story Beaux-Arts landmark, its is only 29 feet wide (facing Fifth Avenue) but 120 feet deep on its 22nd Street side. Among numerous other tenants, it housed the offices of the American Civil Liberties Union from 1941 until 1960. After its restoration several years ago, the Sohmer Piano Building now holds offices and luxury condos.

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A Call to Arms - Anne Lamott

I can't resist re-posting this piece by the always-entertaining Anne Lamott.

"A Call to Arms"

How to handle the fury brought on by this election? Register voters, hit the streets, pray. Stop talking about her. Talk about Obama.

By Anne Lamott Sept. 16, 2008

I had to leave church Sunday morning when it turned out that the sermon was not about bearing up under desperate circumstances, when you feel like you're going crazy because something is being perpetrated upon you and your country that is so obscene that it simply cannot be happening.

I sat outside a 7-Eleven and had a sacramental Dove chocolate bar. Jeez: Here we are again. A man and a woman whose values we loathe and despise -- lying, rageful and incompetent, so dangerous to children and old people, to innocent people in every part of the world -- are being worshiped, exalted by the media, in a position to take a swing at all that is loveliest about this earth and what's left of our precious freedoms.

When I got home from church, I drank a bunch of water to metabolize the Dove bar and called my Jesuit friend, who I know hates these people, too. I asked, "Don't you think God finds these smug egomaniacs morally repellent? Recoils from their smugness as from hot flame?"And he said, "Absolutely. They are everything He or She hates in a Christian.

"I have been in a better mood ever since, and have decided not to even say this woman's name anymore, because she fills me with such existential doubt, such a sense of impending doom and disbelief, that only the Germans could possibly have words for it. Nor am I going to say the word "lipstick" again until after the election, as it would only be used against me. Or "polar bear," because that one image makes me sadder than even horrible old I can stand.

I hate to criticize. And I love to kill wolves as much as the next person does. But this woman takes such pride in her ignorance, doesn't have a doubt in the world about her messianic calling, that it makes anyone of decency feel nauseated -- spiritually, emotionally and physically ill.I say that with love. As we say in Texas. (Also, we say, "Bless her heart.")

We felt this grief and nausea during the run-up to the war in Iraq. We felt it after the 2004 election. And now we feel it again.

But since there are still six weeks until the election, and since the stakes are as high as the sky, which should definitely not be forced to endure four more years of the same, we have got to get a grip. There are millions of people to register to vote, millions of dollars to be raised. We really cannot go around feeling flat and defeated, with the need to metabolize the rotten meat that this one particular candidate and the media have forced upon us.

One of the tiny metabolic suggestions I have to offer -- if, like me, you choose not to have her name on your lips, like an oozy cold sore (I say that with love) -- is to check out a Web site called the Sarah Palin Baby Name Generator. There you can find out what she and her husband would have named you if you had been their baby. My name, Anne, for instance, would be Krinkle Bearcat. John, her running mate, would be named Stick Freedom. George would be Crunk Petrol. And so on.

First of all, go find out what your own name would be. Then for one day refuse to use the name of these people who are so damaging to earth and to our very souls -- so, "I don't have to understand anything, it's all fuzzy math. Trust me. I'm the decider." From now on, when working for Obama, talk about Obama, talk about his policies, the issues, the economy, the war in Iraq, poverty, the last eight years, Joe Biden. You don't have to mention Crunk Petrol, or his sidekick, Shaver Razorback.

And you sure as hell don't have to mention Claw Washout -- she is absolutely, hands-down the most ludicrous person ever to be nominated. She's a "South Park" character. There was a mix-up. Mistakes were made.

Everything you need to know about how to bear up during these two months is already inside you. Go within: Work on your own emotional acre. Stand still, and hurt, and feel crazy. Then drink a lot of water, pray, meditate, rest. Rest is a spiritual act. Now, I am a reform Christian, so it is permissible for me to secretly believe that God hates this woman, too. I heard God slam down a couple of shooters while she was talking the other night.

Figure out one thing you can do every single day to be a part of the solution, concentrating on swing states. Money, walking precincts, registering voters, whatever. This is the only way miracles ever happen -- left foot, right foot, left foot, breathe. Right foot, left foot, right foot, breathe. The great novelist E.L. Doctorow once said that writing a novel is like driving at night with the headlights on: You can only see a little ways in front of you, but you can make the whole journey this way. It is the truest of all things; the only way to write a book, raise a child, save the world.

As my anonymous pal Krinkle Bearcat once wrote: Laughter is carbonated holiness. It is chemo. So do whatever it takes to keep your sense of humor. Rent Christopher Guest movies, read books by Roz Chast and Maira Kalman. Picture Stick Freedom in his Batman underpants, having one of his episodes of rage alone in one of his seven bedrooms. Or having one of his bathroomy little conversations with Froth Moonshine. (Bless their hearts.) Try to remember that even Karl Rove has accused him of being a lying suck.

Reread everything Molly Ivins and Jim Hightower ever wrote. Write down that great line of Molly's, that "freedom fighters don't always win, but they're always right." Tape it next to your phone.

Call the loneliest person you know. Go flirt with the oldest person at the bookstore.

Fill up a box with really cool clothes that you haven't worn in a year, and take it to a thrift shop. Take gray water outside and water whatever is growing on your deck. This is not a bad metaphor to live by. I think it is why we are here. Drink more fluids. And take very gentle care of yourself and the people you most love: We need you now more than ever.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Weekend Shots

Between the financial panic downtown (with its long-term repercussions) and the dim-wittedness of Sarah Palin, I'm too depressed to write anything substantive. So here's an eclectic foursome of photos from the weekend: subway tile work from Atlantic Avenue in Brooklyn, a Hudson St. bodega cat, a fire call box in Astor Place, and an interesting arched doorway on 7th Avenue in the West Village.

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Friday, September 12, 2008


This was the view from our roof garden last night. Each year the city sets up the "light cannons" from the World Trade Center site on September 11th. Obama and McCain were downtown yesterday, but I wasn't downtown and thus didn't get caught up in the security nightmare that doubtless paralyzed lower Manhattan traffic. The event seems rather distant now, seven years later. Aside from the flowers and candles left outside our neighborhood fire company and police precinct, there was little I witnessed to distinguish the day from any other. (And yes, that's the moon shining through the clouds to the left of the "ground zero" lights.)

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Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Box Camera Scans

Our annual autumn vacation to Vermont is just a month away . . . a realization that started me thinking about photographic and painting possibilities for the trip. So I started digging through my camera collection, trying to decide which of these "heavy metal" cameras would join my Canon digital for the ride. And what a happy surprise! I remembered the undeveloped roll of 120 film in a 75-year-old box camera (a Zeiss Box-Tengor) that I had shot last year in Vermont. Here are scans of four of the negatives. Not bad for a camera that essentially no more than a box with a simple lens and three-speed leaf shutter. They almost have a 19th century feel, as if I had taken them on a view camera with glass plates for film. Hmmmmm, maybe I should use this camera again.

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Friday, September 5, 2008


Ah, Sun-flower, weary of time,
Who countest the steps of the Sun,
Seeking after that sweet golden clime
Where the traveller's journey is done:

Where the Youth pined away with desire,

And the pale Virgin shrouded in snow
Arise from the their graves, and aspire
Where my Sun-flower wishes to go.


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