Monthly Archives: January 2012

A Little Perspective

Last week I had the pleasure of attending a lecture by Lawrence Krauss entitled “Why is there something, rather than nothing?” It was a mind-bending overview of contemporary cosmology.

I have always been fond of the big questions, even when the likely answers point to my own insignificance and profound existential emptiness. The universe is enormous, beautiful, and pitiless; its future is not hospitable to human life.

All the more reason to imbue our little corner of it, our brief season, with kindness, creativity, and meaning. I believe this is our only responsibility as human beings.


A Year Ago: Underfoot

Grass growing through brick pavement.Watch your step…
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Two Birds, Two Ways

Rock Art, Petroglyph National Monument, Albuquerque, NM

Every since the invention of sexual reproduction, the mating pair has been everywhere in nature. Whether the bond is temporary or long-lasting, it is one of the most visible and familiar of animal behaviors. And it matters mightily to us humans as well.

No surprise, then, that it has been a focus of art and mark-making from time immemorial. Periodically, we’ll see some article in the science press expressing astonishment that ancient people actually depicted the life around them with detailed accuracy. Why shouldn’t they have? The natural world was everything to them, and observing it accurately was literally a matter of life and death.

Budgies at the Albuquerque Zoo, NM

Mind you, it does make you wonder about some of the other petroglyphic oddities…


A Year Ago: Oyster

Oval reflection.Make the world yours…
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Gourds

Gourds at Albuquerque Zoo, NM

I think you could mine this image for any number of successful color palettes. The American Southwest and Sub-Saharan Africa have some color commonalities.


A Year Ago: Lux et Luxe

Kennedy Center Concert Hall CeilingThe other night I watched Otto Preminger’s wonderful 1962 film Advise and Consent, based on Alan Drury’s 1960 novel of the same name. I was struck by how it seemed at once very contemporary and entirely dated.… [read more]


Disorder

Metal chairs and shadows

Life is like this, sometimes. Even when considered with the most dispassionate, analytical eye, one must admit that a certain degree of chaos—of entropy—is endemic. Things may make sense locally, for awhile, but the big picture is (and may always be) a mess.

How can we live with this? There is only one way: we must find a way to see beauty in it. If we cannot love the world, inchoate and unmanageable as it is, we will suffer in perpetuity.

Apollo and Dionysius must make peace, or at the very least agree to disagree.


A Year Ago: Guiding Lights

StairwayThis is a section of the attractive interior at the combined Ardeo+Bardeo in Cleveland Park… [read more]


The Cat in the Box

The world class performance artist Maru gives us another brilliant piece, demonstrating his deep roots in Japanese culture.

This is the record of a box cat.

I am beginning this account in a box. A cardboard box that reaches just to my hips when I put it on over my head.

That is to say, at this juncture the box cat is me. A box cat, in his box, is recording the chronicle of a box cat.

The Box Cat: A Novel by Maru (with a twitch of the ear to Kobo Abe’s The Box Man: A Novel)


A Year Ago: Royalty

Lioness and cub, National Zoo, DCDeb joined me today, as I visited the lions and their cubs again. The cubs are as cute as ever, but this time, I found myself drawn more and more to focus on the parents, and especially the mothers. These lionesses are glorious… [read more]


Something Fuzzy

Fingerless Mitt

Fingerless Mitt 2

Maybe it’s the winter weather, but I’ve been doing a boatload of knitting. The great thing about knitting is that it automatically makes you feel productive. You spent all that effort moving needles around, and see? A product! You cannot be accused of completely wasting your time.

In addition to the fingerless mitts, which I totally improvised the pattern for while learning how to use two circular needles to knit in the round, I have made innumerable neck-scarves and lacy things, many of which still need to be blocked because I am a slacker. These days, I use published patterns mainly for inspiration: to pick up a new shaping idea or learn a new stitch.

I love the mitts, though. They’re a little more time-consuming to make than I’d prefer, but they’re surprisingly warm and they have garnered much more favorable comment than I’d have expected. (I sincerely wish that these photographs didn’t make my hands look like dessicated, deformed mummy-paws, but you can’t have everything.)


A Year Ago: The Waiting Room

Distortions in a metal sculpture.Don’t be disturbed by the grotesquerie of this image. I had a lovely evening at a concert of the National Symphony Orchestra at the Kennedy Center… [read more]


Flashback


Two Years Ago: Bright, Bright Sunshiny Day


This image just feels too easy. It’s almost embarrassing… [read more]


Big Gun

Cannon at Fort Zachary Taylor, Key West, FL

When I think of the wealth of human ingenuity that has been invested in the machinery of war, I am appalled. And yet I also find myself feeling vaguely optimistic.

Why?

Because I believe that, slowly—too slowly, to be sure—but nonetheless surely, war is losing its appeal as a way of exerting power and influence. In part, this is because our weapons have become so effective. Our technologies in other areas are allowing us to live long and relatively healthy lives, and we are therefore now much less tolerant of anything that would bring us to an untimely end.

We need to muster the same urgency and intensity of invention and innovation in addressing other problems that we used to devote to improving means of slaughter. We need an arms race in green energy, for example. We need competitive escalation in techniques for learning and communicating.

As always with human beings, the question will be: can our ingenuity and our evolving understanding overcome the problems created by our flaws as a species before we wipe ourselves out.


A Year Ago: Defiance

Pastel sunflower.There is light.
There is warmth… [read more]


The Thinker

Gorilla, Albuquerque Zoo, NM

This is another of the pictures that I took at the Albuquerque Zoo which reinforces my belief that gorillas are people like us.

On this gorilla’s face I see an expression of deliberation, a weighing of mental options—I believe she is actively considering something. Check out how her right toes are curled under; the thoughts engender some internal tension or conflict, and yet she seems to be engaged in a measure of dispassionate reflection on the past or the future. Her gaze is as much internal as external.

I am as pleased with this photograph as I am with any successful portrait of a human being I’ve ever made.

Late Afternoon, Albuquerque

Petroglyph National Monument, Albuquerque, NM

My first attempts with this image involved preserving the ultra-blue of the sky and trying to boost the yellows, reds, and greens of the foliage and earth. I ended up with a nice-enough photograph, but one that said nothing, that aroused no lingering interest in me.

On a whim, and mostly just because I felt I ought to eat my own dog-food, advicewise, I looked at it in black-and-white. And just like that—*BAM*—I fell in love with this picture. I took away the pretty and I was left with the stark, the harsh, the unforgiving beauty of this landscape.

Can you feel how cold it was in the shadows and how warm in the sunlight? Can you see how the city vanishes, as if it were never there at all?

Please look at the larger version in the Gallery. I wish I could print this large enough to hang over a sofa.


A Year Ago: Teeth & Bones

T-Rex skull at the National Museum of American History, DCEven though I completely believe that Beauty Can Save Your Life, there’s no arguing that some days (or weeks, or months, or years) are harder than others… [read more]