Friday, July 31, 2009

Now and then an advertising photograph just about rises to the level of art

And when it does, chances are you'll find it was taken by Annie Leibovitz. I couldn't care less about the bag, but I love her image of the old astronauts (Sally Ride, 58; Buzz Aldrin, 79; Jim Lovell, 81). A nice tribute to the anniversary of the first moon landing, one that beautifully captures their excitement about the adventure, a sense of wonder that has never faded. Swap the pickup truck for a sailboat, and the astronauts could be Ulysses and his friends, evoked by these lines from Tennyson's poem about the aging wanderer.
The lights begin to twinkle from the rocks:
The long day wanes: the slow moon climbs: the deep
Moans round with many voices. Come, my friends,
'Tis not too late to seek a newer world.
Push off, and sitting well in order smite
The sounding furrows; for my purpose holds
To sail beyond the sunset, and the baths
Of all the western stars, until I die.
More here about this series of Annie Leibovitz photographs for Louis Vuitton. View large on black.

Update: Right after posting this, I started reading the stories about Annie Leibovitz and her disastrous financial situation. The free-wheeling, free-spending Leibovitz is in danger of going bankrupt and losing not only her houses but also the rights to her past and even future work to creditors. The blog (Notes on) Politics, Theory & Photography has links to, as well as an interesting take on New York Times coverage of, the story here. It's also a cool blog.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Walking the Edgewood College boardwalk right after the rain stopped this afternoon

Walking the Edgewood College Boardwalk Right After the Rain Stopped
We wanted to walk in the rain in the marsh, on the Edgewood College boardwalk, part of what they call the Edgewood Community Earthwalk, but the rain stopped just as we got there with our umbrellas. We walked anyhow. It was beautiful. Everything glistened, and the sky with its towering storm clouds spread out above us and also at our feet.

View Large On Black

My bike recognizes a kindred spirit at B. B. Clarke

My Bike Recognizes a Kindred Spirit
Every time we take a break on a bike ride to the East Side at B. B. Clarke Beach, my bike gravitates toward this bench, as if it recognizes a kindred spirit. If you view large on black I think you'll see why.

I think it's one of the coolest works of public art in Madison, both beautiful and utilitarian, a great place to sit and look out at Lake Monona. It's one of five benches by Madison artist Erika Koivunen, who studied with Tom Every (Dr. Evermore) and worked with him on the giant bird sculptures on South Patterson, Dreamkeepers. Even the wood is local. It came from nearby oaks that had to be cut down in Orton Park. Herspiral has a nice set on Flickr of photos of Erika's work.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Seriously, folks, this Madison TV viewer is just plain forecast-fatigued and Doppler Maxed-out.

Three Hours of Sturm und Drang
Three hours of Sturm und Drang -- that's how long TV viewers in southern Wisconsin had to do without regular ABC, CBS and NBC programming, as the local network affiliates in Madison preempted their own local news, the network evening news and early evening network programming in order to follow the progress of the gaudy, brightly-colored Doppler splotches on their slow but steady course down the bottom half of the Wisconsin map. There has to be a better way.

Don't get me wrong. TV severe weather warnings can save lives, and even one life saved is worth a lot of inconvenience. But this was ridiculous. At any given moment during the three hours, most viewers were subjected to completely irrelevant warnings about severe weather many miles away. Three hours of false alarms. It conditions people to ignore TV warnings, and eventually they'll ignore something that really does apply to them.

It doesn't make a lot of sense, when something more targeted would be be a lot more effective. There could be a map in the corner of the screen the way there used to be, a warning crawl across the bottom of the screen -- or instructions to tune to the station's secondary digital channel for more information.

Instead, they've gone to this drop-everything, all-weather, all-the-time approach -- with frequent appeals to viewers to send in their severe weather photos, at the same time disingenuously warning them NOT to go out and take storm pictures but instead go straight down to the basement and take cover.

It's enough to make you think that this entire circus has more to do with ratings and marketing than with public safety. That they're more concerned with going head-to-head against the other stations' talking weather heads and showing off their technology than with informing the public. Or so it seems.

Cyanobacteria close B. B. Clarke Beach

Cyanobacteria Close B.B. Clarke Beach Again
One of my favorite Madison beaches was very peaceful Sunday morning -- because it was closed due to bacterial levels. Specifically, blue-green algae blooms, also known as cyanobacteria. We humans owe a lot to cyanobacteria, otherwise known as blue-green algae. Life on earth as we know it today would have been impossible without the role they played in paving the way.

Ever wonder what they look like? Here are some closeups. They are the oldest known fossils on earth, going back more than 3.5 billion years. Back during the the Archaean and Proterozoic Eras, their photosynthetic metabolism gradually replaced the toxic atmosphere of the earth at that time with the more benign oxygen-rich atmosphere we rely on today. Cyanobacteria are still around, but now they're better known as a dangerous pollutant on account of the toxins they produce. Kids and pets are especially vulnerable.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Opera in the Park lucks out with the weather

Opera in the Park 2009
Given the scattered rains we've been having, Opera in the Park 2009 lucked out with the weather. The clouds were dramatic, people could see rain in the distance, and it actually did rain in some parts of Madison during the concert of operatic highlights and Broadway favorites. (We left at the intermission, skipping the operettas and musical excerpts, and drove through wet streets on the way home.) But the opera was protected by its cocoon of music, with just some sprinkles at the end. For more photos, see my Flickr set.

State Journal gives more ink to Iran protest in Dallas than healthcare rally in Madison

Healthcare For All Rally at the Capitol
I loved Saturday's Healthcare for All march up State Street from the UW Library Mall to the Capitol -- especially the "Raging Grannies for Single Payer." It was exciting that so many people took time Saturday to demonstrate their commitment to healthcare reform now. (View Large On Black.) I looked for a story in my Sunday paper about the rally, especially since the featured speaker was our own U.S. Rep. Tammy Baldwin, who has worked for healthcare reform since she first went to Congress.

Isn't it news when your representative in Congress addresses 1,000 constituents about a major issue in downtown Madison? Apparently not for the Wisconsin State Journal. Maybe they think marches up State Street are so yesterday. Or maybe they think this page 3 picture of a handful of Iranian Americans demonstrating in Dallas against the Iranian government is more meaningful to Madison readers. Who knows.

The event did, however, typify what seems to be a growing trend in Madison: TV stations increasingly providing more news about some local events than what remains of our daily newspapers, the Wisconsin State Journal and the online Capital Times. Channel 27 had some on-air video of the rally and additional coverage on the web.

Channel 3 covered most of the speakers on the web and then "balanced" their coverage by quoting Wisconsin Republican Party Chairman Reince Priebus on the party's current talking points.
"Giving more power to the federal government is not the answer to finding affordable health care for families. In fact, the 'public plan' President Obama and congressional democrats have proposed and are poised to rush through is the first step to a government takeover which will take decisions away from doctors and patients."
However, Channel 3 didn't mention Tammy Baldwin at all. Go figure.