Thursday, August 16, 2012

Ever wonder where that iconic bust of Fighting Bob La Follette was made, and who made it?

"One Day Longer, One Day Stronger. And Tomorrow We Win."
The sculpted bust of Robert M. "Fighting Bob" La Follette in the Capitol became a focal point of the Capitol protests last year, surrounded by signs and people asking, "What would Fighting Bob do?"

The bust in the Capitol is a copy of  the original by a great American sculptor of the early 20th Century. He was Jo Davidson, who seemed to sculpt almost famous person of his time. This photo of Fighting Bob sitting for him in his Paris studio was published in a photo gallery on the NY Times Lens blog today. Click on this link to go to the gallery and the story behind it, and then click on #16 to see the photo full-size. Other photos in the series drawn from the Times' archive of artists photographed with their subjects are also fascinating -- for example, Einstein sitting for an Arthur Lowenthal bust in Berlin, Claire Luce being painted in her Ziegfield Follies costume, and Helen Keller sitting for another Davidson bust.

What's ironic is that, although the Times went to a lot of trouble arranging these photo shoots of artists and their famous subjects, the artists who photographed them are unknown. Back then, the only photo credit in the NY Times read "The New York Times."

Monday, August 13, 2012

Looking for Perseids on a cloudy night at Indian Lake

Looking for Perseids on a Cloudy Night at Indian Lake

Saturday night was supposed to be the peak of the Perseid meteor shower, but unfortunately it was cloudy in Madison, so we decided to take a faith-based approach, driving to Indian Lake County Park in hopes that the skies would clear. It's in a really dark valley, protected from the usual ambient light sources. Got there about 10:30 and stayed until a little after midnight.

It worked, sort of. It was a beautifully dark setting -- with only a bit of light leaking out of the much-appreciated restrooms near the parking lot. Other people had the same idea, and there were small groups of people talking softly in the dark, clustered in lawn chairs around the silhouettes of a half dozen cars. It was fun being in a good-humored group to share what was basically a disappointing show. The clouds did actually part here and there, revealing an occasional scattering of stars. I even saw the very faint streak of a meteor now and then. But whenever something more spectacular flashed overhead, and it wasn't very often, I was either looking elsewhere or fiddling with my camera. And when the stars were visible, they weren't very bright, screened by a curtain of haze even where there were no clouds. Ditto for the meteors, such as they were. I took a lot of 30-second exposures, but not one of them captured a meteor. Eventually the clouds covered the whole sky and we left. Perhaps if we'd had the patience to stay until the predicted peak at 4:00am, the clouds might have parted once more, and I might have had better luck. Or not.

But, still, it was a nice trip, and a lovely, quiet night out there in the dark Wisconsin countryside.

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