Thursday, February 26, 2009

Rest in Speech

Jamesburg, New Jersey - February 2009

I had an hour to kill in industrial New Jersey the other day, hard by the turnpike amongst the warehouse parks, railroad crossings and highway overpasses. I had come to Jamesburg to have the 5D evaluated before the warranty expired. The sensor needed cleaning, but what was bothering me was that the dirt pattern was exactly the same as it had been before I last had it serviced at the end of the summer.

I was afraid that there was either some bit of stray adhesive or a scratch on the sensor filter, and that the last cleaning had only removed the accumulated grit of the previous three months. If you click on the image at the right, you'll see what I'm talking about.

All the little dots are bits of dust on the sensor, they accumulate no matter how careful you are about changing lenses, and usually don't matter, unless you wind up with the kind of honkers that you can see I've got in the upper left quadrant. I'd had an identical pattern appear not long after I got the camera. The last cleaning seemed to have eliminated them, or so I thought until a few months afterward. Since then I've been eyeing the calendar, looking for free time before the warranty ran out. This week the stars aligned, so I made a print of the dirty image and headed toward Staten Island and beyond.

Holy Trinity Cemetery, Jamesburg - February 2009

I'm glad I came when I did, given there was a sign on the door announcing that beginning March 6th sensor cleanings would now cost $30, rather than the previous nothing. I'm in CPS, Canon Professional Services, though, which entitles me to a few extras, like rush service and free overnight shipping. I left the camera for them to look at, after detailing the problem (and leaving the print).

I didn't expect they'd examine it and have an answer in an hour, though, and without a map or any clue I drove three miles west, then three miles east. I was ready to stop for coffee when I spotted this cemetery. Fairly recent, the earliest burials are around the early fifties. The majority of the family names are Polish, and for the most part completely unpronounceable.

I thought the Verb family had an interesting stone, that and the cherubic angel caught my infrared eye.

Oh, and the dirty camera? There's a scratch on the filter over the sensor. They'll replace the filter, clean the camera and overnight it to me next week.

Monday, February 23, 2009

West Side Window

I think this was on the west side or it could have been somewhere in Queens, but the more I think about it, the less likely that seems. I don't have the original slide handy either, this was a scan I made back in 2000 during my last foray into the bowels of the printing trade, so I can't readily tell the type of film, either. I came across it, naturally, while looking for something else. It seems pretty grainy to me, but I can't tell if that's from the film or the scan itself. The scanner it was made on, a Crosfield Magnascan, while a high-end machine for its time, unfortunately had as its time the late 1970's. And it was a machine whose inherent design was for halftone reproduction, so the native resolution of 120 dpi was sufficient for its design specs.

But I still have a lot of things to like about this picture. I like the short depth of field, I like the reflection of the buildings in the glass. I like the way those reflections are soft in the face of the sharpness of the glass, as that's the sweet spot of clarity in the image. I like the way the cat is staring at the camera and how it's head is in almost perfect alignment with the head of the carving below the window. I like how everything is neutral gray, except for the shutters, and I like the way the shutter on the left leads up into the line of the reflected buildings.

I'll grab a year out of the air and say this was taken in 1988.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

For Four Dead Presidents

(Author's Note: The following article was originally posted three years ago, as you can see by reading the date above. Thus the reference below to Lincoln's 200th birthday is a little outdated.  This is being revived as part of Taphophile Tragics.)

This being President's Week, and with me being a well-known habitué of graveyards, I thought it would be the perfect time to, ahem, dig up a selection of photographs featuring the final resting places of some of our former leaders.
Or at least the four I've been to.

With all of the celebrations for Abraham Lincoln's 200th birthday last week, I think it'd be interesting to see how he spends his time these days. First, from a May, 2007 drive along Route 66, are two shots from Lincoln's tomb at the Oak Ridge Cemetery in Springfield, Illinois.

The giant hunk of marble above may look like a sarcophagus, but it's merely a marker to cover a ten-foot deep crypt which holds what must be a very well-preserved body, as Lincoln was reportedly the poster child for the then-new art of embalming. After all, it was a long, hot train ride from Washington D. C. to Springfield, Illinois back in 1865, and millions of mourning Americans wanted a final (or more likely, first) glimpse of their fallen leader. So like a 21st century baseball player, Abe was juiced up at regular intervals along the ride home, and it's not unlikely that he'd be recognizable today.

Up there on the right is the 117-foot tall granite obelisk rising above the tomb.

(Lincoln was buried so deep, and with that huge marker on top, because of various plots to kidnap the body, one of which was attempted before this tomb was completed, when the remains were still in the cemetery's receiving vault.) 

September 1985

Grant's Tomb, on the upper west side of Manhattan, has absolutely no one buried in it. What it does have is
Ulysses S. Grant and his wife Julia entombed within, their caskets in a well below the floor but above the ground, both housed within a domed Greek Revival temple with this simple entableture above the entrance. I used this picture for my holiday card in 1987.

Young's Memorial Cemetery, Oyster Bay, NY

Theodore Roosevelt and his second wife, Edith, rest beneath a canopy of trees not far from Sagamore Hill
in Oyster Bay, Long Island. A set of stone steps lead up a hill to the ivy-covered private plot, the stone with its columns and bas-relief presidential seal behind a tall, wrought-iron fence.

This image is a VanGoghlaroid from May of 1998.

February 2009

Finally, with this picture we pay a visit to the Coolidge family, on a hillside of their own in Plymouth Notch, Vermont. Silent Cal (or, more appropriately today, Ever-Silent Cal) has the presidential seal atop his stone, which is the second from the right. Left of that is his wife, Grace, while their sons flank them: John on the left and Calvin, Jr. on the right. Grace's matching headstone is adorned with a simple wreath, while Cal Jr.'s smaller one (he died at 16, and was the first burial in the family plot in 1924) and brother John's have wreaths with ribbons.  

Coolidge became the 30th president upon the death of Warren G. Harding, and was sworn in by his father at a quarter to three in the morning in the parlor of the nearby family home. In addition to being the only president to be born on the fourth of July, he is also the only president sworn in by a notary public.

Something curious I learned about the names of these Coolidge men. President Coolidge was named after his father, so his full name was John Calvin Coolidge, Jr. (although he never used the Junior.)  Yet he gave his first son the simple name John Coolidge, then two years later named his second son Calvin Coolidge, Jr.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

The Good White North

School is out for winter break and February marks the transition between winter and spring sports. So with time on my hands and a weekend with friends planned, I decided to head up to Killington a few days early so I could have some alone time to take pictures and do some chores around the condo. Ah, those best laid plans...

I arrived Wednesday afternoon with a migraine, then lost Thursday to the rain, although I did get the shelving stuff I needed at the Home Depot in Rutland. Of course, I had to make a second trip for fasteners and oops! I forgot to bring drill bits. I finally got settled in the closet, but only got to make three holes in the wall before I caught a stud and snapped the bit. A titanium bit. A quarter-inch titanium bit. And you wonder why we lost two shuttles. But it was late by then, the rain was turn ing to snow, so I decided to postpone my third trip to Rutland for the morrow.

Friday finally turned out to be what I came here for. Even though I had to spend twenty minutes channeling William Macy in Fargo while I chipped the ice off my windshield and the other seven windows of the wagon, this frosting made for some nice views, like the above scene of Mendon Brook along Route 4 near the foot of East Mountain. This is my favorite of the shots of this area I made on my way home from the Depot (with two bits this time).

So I successfully got the holes drilled and the hardware placed and the shelves up, made some dinner and awaited the midnight arrival of Sherry and Alan and Cheryl for the Dead Presidents weekend. For them of course, the rain went away, it was clear and sunny and cold: Vermont was its usual, beautiful, Good White North* self.

Here we see Sherry and Alan clambering in snowshoes through the woods on Sunrise.Those are Kaz's shoes that Alan's got on, and seeing this makes me wonder if it would be possible to trick out a pair of these things to look like Bozo shoes.

Somehow I think it's probably been done.

*Naturally, America's Hat, Canada, is the Great White North.

Monday, February 9, 2009

We Got the Feng Shui Right

At least from the looks of this I think we do. She almost seems to like it here. Of course, the two warming pads under the blanket are certainly a plus, but even the sound of Betsy throwing herself at the closed door haven't begun to faze the little girl.
I've been keeping the door closed and the playpen unzipped so Fiona will feel less like an exhibit at a zoo. Last night I turned around to see Clark and Molly circling the pen side by side, like they were on a date or something. Later Legs comes along and tries to eat her food (through the mesh: he's cute but not bright).

So I decided visiting hours were over and left the playpen open for her to stretch her legs. Twenty minutes later I'd figured that the only way to get her out from under the sink was to leave the room and let her come out on her own. Once I barricaded the sink, though, she was content to just sit in the playpen and take the world's longest nap.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Marie's Cheesecake

July 2007

Marie Ong Allegro has been doing this body-building and fitness thing for a while now, and as you can see from these pictures, she knows her way around it all. Above are three shots from a fitness show in New York City she competed in during the summer of 2007.

April 2007

The above and next two are from an earlier show that year. I'm pleased to be able to present her as this year's Bikini Girl, which, I've just decided, shall be an annual event here.

April 2007

April 2007

Of course, with the temperatures in the fifties this weekend we hardly need winter cheesecake, but you can refer back to these pictures after the thaw is through.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Another Stranger Among Them

I've introduced you all to Fiona before; she's the cantankerous resident of my sister's garage. Usually when her humans are out of town I'll look after her, but with the severe cold weather we've had lately, Sharon was worried, so I suggested we set the old girl up in my basement. I've got this big netted tent, about fourteen square feet, that fit her bedding, with a litter box on one end and food dishes on the other.

Of course it's impossible to keep secrets in this house, so it wasn't long after settling her in that the others began to investigate. Betsy is the only one who spends any time in my office, so naturally she took the most interest.

But the others weren't as curious as we thought they'd be, hence the lack of any more interaction photos. Legs sniffed around, got hissed at and probably figured he didn't need any more of that, and Molly made an obligatory stop on her way to the litterbox. Clark stalked around a bit, not sure quite what to make of it all. I love the way they walk, real slow, with stretched out motions, in an arc about three feet from the tent. Fiona, for her part, just crouches on her blanket, front paws curled under her, watching the parade.

And I really did give her a manicure, although I wasn't able to get the dewclaw on her left leg. I'll try for that, and her back legs, tomorrow.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

The Business End of Cows

Spend any time in the Green Mountain state and you're going to see cows. Driving along the road? Cows on both sides. Under a tree in the middle of a windswept field? A cow. Providing much-needed methane for electrical power generation? Cows. Staring at you with big wet eyes from their pens in a dairy barn?

They're good at staring, these cows, and they should be, After all, they're Jersey cows, and if any animal is going to give you a what-for look, it will be a Jersey cow.

We were at the Billings Farm Museum outside of Woodstock, Vermont in early January. "We" being Michele and Dana, and their two daughters, Katrina and Marissa. Sherry stayed back on the mountain, dealing with her crisis du jour in New York.

Marissa learns where pie comes from.

Billings is a working dairy farm, as well as a museum and educational center. The returns from the milk they sell helps subsidize the day-to-day running of the property. We toured the dairy barn right around the afternoon milking time, the preparation for which is shown in the above photo.

The man in the center is rolling a cart with all the suction apparatus and hoses that attach to the udders. The hoses will lead up to a stainless steel pipe running above the stalls, then the raw milk is gravity fed through the pipe to a collection room at the far end of the barn. Milking is done twice a day, every twelve hours.

Visitors are advised to stay in the center of the corridor, as the trough running along the length of the barn in front of the stalls is a gravity-fed collector for cow products that are not milk.

Sunday, February 1, 2009


Vermont, 2006

Two pictures today, two headstones, from two states and two different centuries. But similar in their epitaphs, for even though they're 76 years and over two hundred fifty miles apart, both bear lamentations and warnings for their readers. Above, Mr. Elkana Cobb, in Dorset, Vermont bemoans:

Oh let me not forgotten lie
left you forget that you m-
uft die

For Death's a debt to nature due
Which I have paid and so m-

uft you.

(Note: In the 18th and 19th centuries, it was common to substitute the letter 'f' for the letter 's' in certain words; so in the above verse you should read 'left' as 'lest', and 'muft' as 'must'.)

You'd think whoever chiseled that would have realized after he tried squeezing in the 'mu(s)t' the first time that it wasn't going to fit, but that's just an example, I suppose, of Yankee stubbornness.

Long Island, NY, 2006

Meanwhile, down on Long Island in the mid- to-late nineteenth century, we have Maria Louise Doxsey, age twenty-one and a half, tragically bidding farewell to her family and reminding them that the debt she's paid is owed by everyone.

Either that or by saying: 'The debt is paid, the grave you see', she's really extolling the virtues of pre-planning your funeral. A little Yankee pragmatism.