Friday, June 19, 2009

Just another stormy almost-summer night with Doppler alarms and occasional downpours

Big thunderstorm front passed through Madison early this morning, though we were spared the worst of it. Local TV stations preempted late night programming to follow the progress of the front, fueled by warm, humid Gulf air, across Wisconsin with their Doppler radars and other technologies. A lot of rotation in the atmosphere, predictive of tornadoes, but in the end, there were few reported touch-downs. Just another stormy Midwestern night, with the occasional downpour. More coming later today, this time a cold front moving in.

Competition for resources

Competition for Resources
The Canada Geese and the gulls in Vilas Park usually gather separately and pretty much ignore each other. But when people start throwing food into their midst, as someone was doing with a big bag of stale bread and old rolls yesterday afternoon, inter-species competition ensues. The gulls more than hold their own against the geese. These three goslings had their eye on the prize, a nice fat dinner roll. But before they could make their move, a gull came streaking through the air and scooped it right up. They never knew what hit them.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

City cuts down landmark in city park and accidentally exposes Wingra Park geocache

City Cuts Down Wingra Park Landmark and Reveals Geocache
Until recently, this natural obelisk was all that remained of a towering oak tree in Madison's Wingra Park that came down in straight-line winds nine years ago. That was June 1, 2000, and the hollowed-out old trunk had become a kind of local landmark. It had also been favorably compared to a nearby work of public art. Plus, it provided a great home for a variety of small animals and insects, and the hollowed-out interior sometimes served as a playhouse for little kids.

City Cuts Down Wingra Park Landmark and Reveals GeocacheBut the wood was rotten and the structure seemed increasingly unsafe. It looked as if a good shove might bring it down. Last week the city finally gave it that shove. They cut it down (and as you can see in the photo, they didn't have to do much cutting).

City Cuts Down Wingra Park Landmark and Reveals GeocacheCutting down what remained of the tree accidentally exposed this geocache hidden inside. It almost obliterated it, since the geocache was attached to the inside of the tree trunk at a point just below where the saw made its cut. You can see the white film canister that held it at the far left of the photo above if you click to enlarge it. Half an inch lower, and the saw would have pulverized it.

Geocaching is a kind of GPS treasure hunt, and revealing the cache explained a local mystery -- why so many adults and kids have been crawling inside the hole in the tree the last couple of months. They were going in to sign the log. There's also an online log. You can read the last few entries here, but to read the entire archived log of 39 visits, you'll have to register (free) at

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Fib about daisies

Fib About Daisies
how do you
manage to trace such
graceful Fibonacci spirals?

A fib is a numerically constrained 6-line poem in which the number of syllables in each line is determined by the successive numbers in the Fibonacci sequence, which also determine the seed pattern in daisies and sunflowers, not to mention leaf patterns in many other plants.

Eve Arnold's 1955 photo of Marilyn reading Ulysses

I came across this image of a famous reader during my Bloomsday reading yesterday about James Joyce and his novel, Ulysses, which follows the odyssey of Leopold Bloom through the streets of Dublin on June 16, 1904. The photo was on the cover of Poets & Writers last summer and taken by Eve Arnold in 1955. Arnold, now in her nineties, was the first woman to join Magnum when she became a member of the renowned photo agency in 1961.

Marilyn Monroe was pictured by many famous photographers, but the only woman who regularly photographed her was Eve Arnold. Her images are especially tender and sensitive, capturing Marilyn in some of her most unguarded moments, and the two women became friends. A comment on a post in the film blog Gone Elsewhere quotes Poets & Writers editor Mary Gannon about the image and how it came about.
The photograph was taken in 1955 by Eve Arnold. In Joyce and Popular Culture, R.B. Kershner quotes a letter from Arnold about the day she took the shot:
We worked on a beach on Long Island…I asked her what she was reading when I went to pick her up (I was trying to get an idea of how she spent her time). She she kept Ulysses in her car and had been reading it for a long time. She said she loved the sound of it and would read it aloud to herself to try to make sense of it–but she found it hard going. She couldn’t read it consecutively. When we stopped at a local playground to photograph she got out the book and started to read while I loaded the film. So, of course, I photographed her.
Along with a certain irony (blonde bombshell tackles her century’s most baffling book), the photo–everything about it–has a nostalgic appeal. For those, like me, with a fetishistic attachment to books, there’s the well-worn hardback, the title and author’s name rendered elegantly on its cover. The merry-go-round Monroe sits on elicits memories of days filled with unstructured play. And behind her, the grassy clearing under the shade of the trees offers just the right place to get lost in a book.
Author Declan Kiberd feels more of us should get lost in the pages of Ulysses. In his new book, Ulysses and Us: The Art of Everyday Living, Kiberd argues that the novel is far more accessible than it's usually made out to be. Sam Leith writes in the Daily Mail that Kiberd, a Dublin English professor himself, is trying to rescue the book from generations of academics.
The whole point of the book, Kiberd argues, is to be useful. In the fruitful collision of Stephen Dedalus, avatar for Joyce's self-consciously bohemian younger self, and Leopold Bloom - adman, cuckold, kindly and feminine repository of practical wisdom - Joyce shows a path to maturity. 'Bloom can seem like an eccentric,' says Kiberd. 'But only because he has a deeper than average understanding of reality.'

As Kiberd persuasively argues, Joyce had no time for bohemia's scornful attitude to the bourgeoisie. He himself was a sometime entrepreneur - he opened the first cinema in Dublin, attempted to get a newspaper called The Goblin going and tried to flog Irish tweed in Trieste.

Ulysses was an attempt to marry bohemia with bourgeois life - to find spiritual nourishment in the public spaces of the city and the banality of the daily round. Where Yeats and his mob sought heroes in an idealised past, Joyce found them in the present; where Homer 'set out to heroicise the domestic ... Joyce wishes to domesticate the heroic'.
The publisher of Ulysses & Us doesn't seem confident that words alone will sell the message of a user-friendly Ulysses. That seems to be why Arnold's photo of Marilyn reading the book is used as the cover illustration.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Leisurely summer reading: Child's Play

Summer Reading: Child's Play
Reading an Alice Munro story in Vilas Park along the shore of Lake Wingra. The story, the mandatory annual Munro appearance in Best American Short Stories 2008, concerns something that happened in another lake a long time ago and its aftermath. "This is a very specific story about an almost playful, ruthless, irresistible crime committed by children, and what they do about it as a moral sense develops and they have to carry it through life," writes Munro in the contributors' notes. (This story also appeared in Best American Mystery Stories 2008, although a number of Amazon reviewers complained that many, including Munro's, weren't really mysteries.)

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Taj Weekes at Madison's Waterfront Festival

Taj Weekes
Taj Weekes and Adowa performed Saturday afternoon at the Marquette Neighborhood Association Waterfront Festival, which continues Sunday at Yahara Place Park, "at the confluence of the Yahara River and Lake Monona."