Saturday, August 15, 2009

Lanterns for Peace at Tenney Park last week

Lanterns for Peace
Lantern being dedicated to the memory of the late Midge Miller, longtime Madison peace activist, state legislator and friend of progressive causes. As in years past, this year's Lanterns for Peace observance August 7th in Tenney Park was deeply moving. Sorry I'm just getting the rest of my set of photos from the event posted now. But I figure that, when it comes to peace, late is definitely better than never.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Vilas Park shoe slide has a new coat of art polish

The Vilas Park Shoe Slide Has a New Coat of Art Polish
Every summer, the shoe slide in Vilas Park is repainted by schoolkids. The entire shoe is covered with a patterned grid containing the design and the kids paint the squares. Kind of like a 3-D coloring book. Wish I knew who designed this year's version, which takes off on a lot of famous painters and paintings (see the Grant Wood couple and the Dali watch?) It's beautiful. The best kind of public art -- there's no "do not touch" sign. The art gets worn away by kids playing on it, and then it's time to paint some more. Cool.

The camera didn't catch any Perseids, but it did pick up the flowers in the dark nicely

No Perseids, but the Camera Picked up the Flowers on the Hillside Nicely
We went down to Wingra Park to see some Perseids and hopefully capture an image of at least one. We did see some meteors, but the display wasn't anything to write home about, at least not at the time we were there -- 10:30-11:30 p.m. local time.

In accordance with the oldest rule of skywatching, practically every time I looked down at the camera to adjust the settings T saw a meteor pass overhead -- "There's one!" Thus she saw about eight, one quite large with a fireball, while I saw two, one quite faint. The D90 saw none, but did pick up the flowers in the oak grove on the hill rather nicely in the dark -- so it wasn't a total loss.

But it was frustrating. Although I took a few photos showing the trees to give some context, mostly I shot 30-second exposures with the camera on a tripod pointed almost straight up, an ultrawide zoom at its widest, 10mm. Basically, it had a better field of view than I did (though I could move my eyes, of course). Didn't help. I would have put the camera on bulb and shot even longer exposures, but with all the ambient light, 30 sec. was about the limit. Eventually we stopped and gave the park back to the mosquitoes.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Science Hall and the George L. Mosse Humanities Building -- what's in a name?

Science Hall and the Humanities Building -- What's in a Name?
Two buildings on the University of Wisconsin-Madison campus: The brutalist design of the building in the foreground speaks such things as impersonal abstraction, geometry, concrete and technology (that grid of dots on the panels in the middle of the photo almost seems to resemble nuclear reactor control rods inserted into the concrete). You'd think this would be the building housing the sciences, but no, it's the 1960s-era George L. Mosse Humanities Building. And while the red-brick Victorian fantasy castle in the background would seem to be a better natural fit with the humanities, that's actually Science Hall, completed in 1887. (The sprawling, romantic exterior does conceal an example of advanced technology for its time -- a steel skeleton. Essentially, it's a mini-skyscraper. Today, it's the oldest existing building in the world to use structural steel in significant amounts.)

Monday, August 10, 2009

The NYT and Kurt Andersen in the Age of Obama -- where have all the fact checkers gone?

Way at the back of the August 9 New York Times Book Review, on the inside back cover, is a portentous and somewhat muddled "Crossroads" essay by Kurt Andersen, "Pop Culture in the Age of Obama." It's one of those AND THEN EVERYTHING CHANGED articles about the impact of the internet on pop culture and how everything has turned upside-down now that the mass media have become fragmented. And then there's Barack Obama.
Previous national politicians leveraged their political fame into publishing success. But Obama became a best-selling author before he announced his candidacy. And why did he get a book deal? Because of an amazing prime-time television performance, his keynote speech as a little-known senatorial candidate at the 2004 Democratic convention.
Really? For Obama's 2004 keynote speech to have led to his Dreams from My Father contract, somebody would have had to travel back in time more than a decade. The book was published in 1995. Maybe Andersen's article should have been called "Time Travel Made Easy."