30 September 2008

caution .. pink is for boys

West 3rd Street / New York, New York
For centuries, European children were dressed in blue because the color was associated with the Virgin Mary. I have read that the use of pink and blue emerged at the turn of the 20th century with the rule being pink for boys, blue for girls! Since pink was a stronger color it was best suited for boys; blue was more delicate and dainty and best for girls. And in 1921, the Women's Institute for Domestic Science in Pennsylvania endorsed pink for boys, blue for girls. I am told that my grandmother Harriet entered an essay contest on this subject matter (pink for boys - blue for girls) and won the contest with a cash prize of $1000 - alot of money back in the 30's. One could argue that contemporary color symbolism confirms these associations. Blue is considered a calm, passive color and more feminine. Pink (a derivative of red) is considered active and hence more masculine. Let the sexism debate continue.

29 September 2008

the green hornet

Morningside Park / New York, New York
There has never been a decade quite like the 60's - and one of my memories is The Green Hornet. Originally created as a radio program in the 30's, it became a network television program in the 1960's. And as with most action-type heroes, the Hornet had a comic book stint from the 40's - 90's. My memories are of the tv show. We had just gotten our first color television and, of course, we were devouring everything we could that was being broadcast in color. I remember being told not to sit too close to the box in case it was emitting something bad for children. Anyways, for those not around at the time, The Green Hornet was Britt Reid, newspaper publisher by day who by night goes out in his masked "Green Hornet" identity to fight crime, accompanied by his similarly masked Asian manservant Kato. They drove a car outfitted with all sorts of advanced technical gadgetry, called "Black Beauty". I'm thinking Superman meets Batman. The Hornet typically used an electronic stun gun against his opponents called the "hornet's sting". One would suspect that the popularity of The Green Hornet precipitated the Batman tv series, which appeared on ABC on the heels of The Hornet in 1966.

28 September 2008

little toy trucks

Schloss Schönbrunn / Vienna, Austria
It was a cool misty day in Vienna - typical of mid winter in central Europe. While strolling the grounds of the Schönbrunn Palace, we passed by this lonely, little backhoe which looked humorously out of scale in relation to the massive palace and grounds. The original palace, named Katterburg, was built on the grounds in the mid-1500's by the Holy Roman Emperor Maximilian II to serve primarily as the court's hunting grounds. During the Turkish Siege of 1683, Katterburg was destroyed and not rebuilt at the time. By mid-18th century, a decision was made that the grounds should become the imperial summer residence and the existing palace was built on the site, together with the extensive gardens, in the new Rococo style. From the main palace, the garden axis points towards a higher hill, which is crowned by the Gloriette structure (seen in the photo). The Gloriette is an open pavilion and served primarily as a dining or festival hall, offering excellent views of Vienna - just not the day we were there.

27 September 2008

not yet ready for primetime

Bodegas Salentein / Tunuyán, Argentina
Ahhhhhh, Argentinian wine. Sunny days and cool nights in the foothills of the Andes makes for near perfect growing conditions resulting in both excellent and affordable vino. It doesn't get much better than spending a few days touring the vineyards in and around Mendoza - even better when you have a friend who owns vineyards there and knows well the other vintners. Alfredo took us to several different bodegas (wineries) where we experienced first hand the art of winemaking. This shot was taken deep underground in the aging cellars of Bodegas Salentein. At Salentein, stainless-steel tanks hold the newly-pressed wine before bottling in four separate wings of the building, each of which operates autonomously. Eight meters below ground level, the four wings form the shape of a cross, meeting in a subterranean central amphitheater where the subdued light on circular rows of oak barrels creates a cathedral-like atmosphere. Beautiful with an old world feel to it.

26 September 2008

princess fiona

The Gardens of Larnach Castle / Dunedin, New Zealand
Larnach Castle is New Zealand's only castle and sits on the ridge of Otago Peninsula, offering incredible views of the peninsula and Dunedin harbor. The castle was built in 1871, taking three years to complete the exterior and twelve to finish the interior. It was constructed by William Larnach, a prominent entrepreneur and politician in colonial New Zealand, as a gift to his wife. After a series of personal and financial disasters he committed suicide in New Zealand's Parliament Buildings in October 1898. Sadly, the castle suffered a similar demise and fell into disrepair until it was purchased by Barry and Margaret Barker in 1967. Together, the Barker family has beautifully restored both the castle and its acres of beautiful gardens. We stayed at the castle for two nights where I found the grounds particularly enticing for shooting photos. According to Fiona, the castle's Head Gardener, the berries shown here are the fruit of Solanum laciniatum, more commonly known on the islands as poroporo (North Island) or bullibulli (South Island) - both Maori names. The unripe berries are poisonous but the ripe berries were used by both Maori and early European settlers to make jam. Thanks Princess Fiona!

25 September 2008

the core of the apple

Columbus Circle / New York, New York
Columbus Circle - located at the intersection of Central Park West, Central Park South, Broadway and Eighth Avenue - is the official point at which distances to and from New York City are measured. The centerpiece of the circle is a marble and granite statue installed in 1892 in honor of the 400th anniversary of Columbus' voyage to America. But once the sun goes down, the real show begins - the dancing fountain jets around the perimeter of the circle designed by WET; better known for their infamous "Fountains of Bellagio". Truth be told - the fountains were far more engaging to photograph than David Blaine!

24 September 2008

that old black magic

Wollman Rink @ Central Park / New York, New York
Magic - it ain't what it used to be. Last night we took a walk to see what David Blaine was up (errrr, upside down) to this time. He was approximately 33 hours in to his latest stunt of hanging upside down (sorta) suspended over Central Park for 60 hours - which will end around 10:30 this evening with his "Dive of Death". While I mean no discredit to the guy - his ability to endure the absurd is phenomenal - this one appears to be less than tantalizing. Whether originally planned on is hard to say, but over the hour we were there, he took several 5-10 minute breaks where he uprighted himself and stepped into the basket of a cherry picker. Apparently, he needs to do this because the kidneys (as well as other body organs) were not designed to function upside down. No surprise. While upright, his team of doctors also check his vitals, etc. Hey, everybody needs to make a buck - and that's no day job.

23 September 2008

lourdes of the ring

Stonehenge / Salisbury Plain, England
Mystery solved .. or so they say. Apparently, two British archaeologists have now claimed that Stonehenge served as a primeval Lourdes, of sorts. It was a pilgrimage site where the sick came for the healing powers of the stone circle. Their theory is tied to the inner bluestone rings found at the center; a stone prized for its mystical healing powers. This is further reinforced in that many of the human remains discovered at the site showed evidence of illness and disease with recent testing suggesting that most were not indigenous to the local area - thus the pilgrimage factor. If you go, don't miss Woodhenge which is a similar arrangement of concentric rings except made from wooden columns. It is a mile or so from Stonehenge, far less crowded and equally interesting. Personally, I would have much rather been involved in building Woodhenge than dragging those huge stones over 300 miles from Wales. As Woodhenge appears to line up on the same east/west axis as Stonehenge, it is likely it was a precursor to the much more permanent stone version.

22 September 2008

rastaman resting

On the Street / Soufrière, St. Lucia
Soufrière was our last stop while sailing around the eastern Caribbean. What was once the capital city of St. Lucia while under French rule, it is now a small fishing port situated on the southwest coast. Soufrière is reputed to be the birthplace of Napoleon's Empress Josephine de Beauharnais where her father maintained a plantation through much of her childhood. However, indicative of the subject matter, the town now has a very laid back atmosphere much more typical of the true Caribbean lifestyle than many of the more tourist-centric locales we visited.

21 September 2008

you little rap.scallion

On the Kitchen Counter / New York, New York
These little scallion slices were the lucky ones - they were leftovers and didn't make it into the mexican lasagna that we made yesterday. It was very good in a perfect caliente sort of way. I had picked them up in the morning from the farmer's market that sets up around the corner from us every Saturday near Morningside Park. They were big, fresh - and powerful. A little went a long way and the taste of them in my mouth stayed with me for the rest of the day. They deserved being photographed before getting tossed in the trash. Take that, you little rapscallion.

20 September 2008

a tisket, a tasket

Broadway & West 113th Street / New York, New York
On Saturdays during the summer, northbound Broadway between 110th and 116th (Columbia University) is closed off for a real honest-to-goodness street fair. You can find all sorts of great bargains on everything from original artwork to unique clothing to baskets to "the world's softest socks". But perhaps the biggest attraction is the incredible variety of food offerings covering every ethnic cuisine - freshly cooked in front of you. Go hungry!

19 September 2008

giant steps

Giant's Causeway / Bushmills, Northern Ireland
Located on the northeast coast of Northern Ireland just outside of the town of Bushmills (think Irish whiskey) is a natural geological phenomenon known as Giant's Causeway. The area consists of about 40,000 interlocking basalt columns that resulted from an ancient volcanic eruption. These columns range in height from mere inches to upwards of 40 feet. The tops of the columns form stepping stones from land down into the Irish Sea and legend has it that the Irish giant Fionn mac Cumhaill (Finn McCool) built the causeway to walk to Scotland to fight his Scottish counterpart Benandonner. The legend corresponds with geological history in that there is a similar basalt formation from the same lava flow at Fingal's Cave on the isle of Staffa in Scotland.

18 September 2008

phylum mollusca

On the Beach / Tobago Cays, Grenadines
Tobago Cays is a small archipelago of five beautiful uninhabited coral islands in the southern Grenadines. Many of the abundant shells (phylum mollusca), enhanced by the crystal clear waters and the brilliant sun above, give off a jewel-like irridescent shimmer. While the group we were with snorkled and kayacked, I walked off and explored areas of the small cay .. briefly escaping modern-day life. At times, it truly felt like I was the only one there; images of Robinson Crusoe playing through my mind.

17 September 2008

horns of plenty

Sky Venture Arizona / Eloy, Arizona
These are huge exhaust ducts venting an incredibly powerful force of air moving upwards in a vertical column (think vertical wind tunnel) at the indoor skydiving center in Eloy. Indoor skydiving gives you the opportunity to experience the freedom of flight with no parachute required - which is the ONLY way I'd ever do it - though I didn't. However, it was very entertaining to watch those who did - their bodies and faces becoming contorted in midair from the powerful force of the wind which essentially simulates free fall skydiving.

16 September 2008

power to the purple

Morningside Park / New York, New York
I've always found purple to be a powerful color - especially when it appears in nature. It stands out from the multitude of yellows, reds and oranges that we more frequently see. Within human psychology, the color purple is usually associated with royalty or nobility - signifying a level of importance. This association can be traced back to the original color purple, tyrian purple, which gave the color its name. It was made from the dye of a mollusk that was extremely expensive to produce - thus only the rich and famous could afford. It is believed to have first appeared in the Minoan culture of 2500 to 1500 BC.

15 September 2008

my monet

Margitsziget (Margaret Island) / Budapest, Hungary
This was taken while walking through the beautiful Japanese Garden on Margitsziget, a large island in the Danube lying between Buda and Pest. It is about 1.5 miles in length and is a major area of recreation and entertainment in the city. The island has two hotels (one with thermal baths), a sports arena and acres of gardens and park lands.

14 September 2008

fashion forward

Madison Avenue @ E 79th Street / New York, New York
This past week was Fashion Week in NYC and Upper Madison Avenue has long been recognized as the world's premier location for high fashion and other fine shopping. While walking by the Jil Sander boutique the other evening, the window display immediately caught my eye - assisted by very focused in-house lighting and the lack of surrounding daylight. The collection really seemed to stand out against the rest of the streetscape. Though I know nothing of the line's wearability, I did like the look - clean, minimal and utilitarian - but then Jil Sander is German after all.

13 September 2008

you spin me right round baby

Desperately Seeking ..
I've had my fill of the current political circle jerk ad nauseam. I want the button - and I want it now! Nonetheless, there is a pending sense of thrill to riding Sarah Palin through the current peak of inflated hype, then down the slippery slope of disenchantment and - into the bowl. It will be better than a ride on the Cyclone at Coney Island. Like the Cyclone, she too will soon get the royal flush. And thanks to Mrs. Palin we have one of the best McCracka images I've seen - posted on Joe.My.God.

12 September 2008

kiwi jam

On the Road / Middlemarch (Otaga), New Zealand
While making our way from Dunedin to Queenstown, NZ last September we came face to face (or bumper to butt) with an authentic Kiwi traffic jam. Sheep are incredibly stupid animals. That said, I guess I'm not much different - sitting and waiting to get through the GWB (George Washinton Bridge) toll plaza to get back into Manhattan after a day's work in New Jersey. Humans are incredibly stupid - too.

11 September 2008

dmb @ msg

Madison Square Garden / New York / New York
I remember first hearing Dave Matthews Band on the radio in 1993 while living in Richmond, Virginia. The song getting significant airplay at the time was "Tripping Billies", from a live recording at The Flood Zone in Richmond. Apparently, the name "Tripping Billies" came to be when a critic told Dave Matthews that his band sounded like "a bunch of hillbillies tripping on acid". I remember having somewhat the same thoughts, especially the hillbilly part, but at the same time thinking what an incredible sound. Last night's Stand Up for a Cure concert at MSG to benefit 911 first responders struggling with lung cancer and other lung related diseases was no disappointment. They are still one of the tightest bands around with the ability to maintain an amazing "jam" factor.

10 September 2008

double vision

Stare Miasto (Old Town) / Warsaw, Poland
This very clever sign hanging over the door of an optician located just off the Market Square is typical of the character surrounding Old Town. The area, heavily destroyed during the bombing of Warsaw in World War II, has been reconstructed with an incredible sense of authenticity and attention to detail using every bit of architectural element that was salvageable from the remaining rubble. It has been placed on the UNESCO's list of World Heritage Sites as "an outstanding example of a near-total reconstruction of a span of history covering the 13th to the 20th century".

09 September 2008

lady in waiting

Franklin Street / New York, New York
I love these kinds of places - architectural salvage from days gone by. This one is in trendy Tribeca but there are a number of them scattered throughout the city. On occasion I drive by one in Harlem that I keep meaning to stop at as I'm sure there would be some interesting stuff there. I look at these relics whether they be statues, architectural ornamentation or structural components and wonder their origins - what purpose they served within a larger context - the daily activity that went on around them. The only thing I know of the mermaid is that at some point she arrived here in Manhattan from Paris.

08 September 2008

fade to fall

Central Park West / New York, New York
There is nothing more indicative, at least here in the northeast, of a fading summer than the gradual appearance of window boxes and planters filled with chrysanthemums. They comes in a variety of shades of white, purples, yellows, reds, and oranges. While native to Asia and northeastern Europe, having been cultivated in China as a flowering herb before the 15th century, they seem to flourish in our cooler Fall temperatures. The Garden Hardy variety is a perennial and can be wintered over in the ground, though rarely done so, at least here in the City. By late November, the multitude of colorful boxes have disappeared. Fade to winter.

07 September 2008

lady in red

Strada Lipscani / Bucharest, Romania
Out for a Sunday morning stroll, I found myself behind this fashion conscious woman and couldn't resist the shot. Her outerwear seemed to pop against the otherwise grey urban backdrop. I think that's what I enjoyed most about Bucharest - it is a city full of contrasts.

06 September 2008

last giraffe standing

Pollywogg Hollër / Belmont, New York
Pollywogg Hollër, located in southwestern New York State, as quoted from their website is "a dream that started back in 1976 when Barb and Bill Castle entered this enchanted forest with their three young children, a bunch of hand tools, and a vision to establish a home site and life style that would be in harmony with nature - a reprieve from our hectic modern life." They have since expanded it into an eco-resort that offers unique lodging and entertainment. The Sculpture Garden that has been created over the years (actually scattered throughout acres of woodlands) is a fantasy land of glass, ceramic and metal sculpture - many of which have come from students and faculty of the nearby, and world renowned, College of Ceramics at Alfred University.

05 September 2008

larger than life

Park Avenue @ East 33rd Street / New York, New York
The glazed green brickwork on this building caught my eye while walking up Park Avenue the other night to catch the train. The way it was lit upwards from below really seemed to accentuate the vertical lines of the structure soaring skyward. The over sized billboard of the fashion model (so typical of Manhattan) placed at a 90 degree to the facade only further emphasized the "largeness" of it all - it was as if she was standing there leaning on the wall looking down on me. And that she was shot in black & white allowed her to maintain her own presence in the scene without competing against the surrounding colors. I felt very .. small.

04 September 2008

cage aux folles

Sonora Desert Museum / Tucson, Arizona
The Sonora Desert Museum is a zoo, natural history museum and botanical garden all rolled together. The museum boasts more than 300 desert animal species and 1200 types of native plants visible from nearly two miles of walking trails. It is unique in that, for the most part, it is not a man-made environment but instead set on nearly 100 acres of actual Sonora Desert. While some of the animals roam freely through the desert environment, many of the birds are enclosed in aviaries in order to keep within close viewing distance. Do you know your species? I certainly am not a birder - if you are, I'd like to know what this is - sparrow, finch?

03 September 2008

as the world turns

Museo Franciscano / Quito, Ecuador
While in Quito, we visited the Museo Franciscano situated on the Plaza San Francisco - where I found these two Quiteños sitting outside its entrance. The contrast between the two caught my eye. They both seemed very content there - doing nothing in particular - perhaps waiting for others inside. The Museo Franciscano houses one of the city's many collections of religious art and has an excellent collection of the Escuela Quiteña (Quito School of Art), a significant body of Catholic religious art produced by native sculptors and painters during the 17th and 18th centuries. The Escuela Quiteña is best known for its stark realism and the subtle blending of indigenous and traditional Christian themes. A close look at several of the paintings reveals details like Christ eating cuy (roast guinea pig - a traditional Andean dish) or the 12 apostles dining on humitas (tamale-like corn dumplings) in a painting of the Last Supper.

02 September 2008

on the wings of dreams

On-board the Salaway / Peter Island, British Virgin Islands
Last year we gained our US Sailing Basic and Bareboat Cruising certifications during a week-long sail through the British Virgin Islands. There were three of us plus our instructor Louise. It was an amazingly intense week of hands-on learning aboard a 49.5 foot Jeanneau. At one point, we endured several hours of winds in excess of 40 knots and waves that swallowed the boat with every crest - think White Squall. And damn if it wasn't my day to captain. We all were convinced Louise special ordered the weather just for us - she thought it was awesome - we thought not. However, we survived. For our final test, the three of us (sans-instructor) departed Roadtown Harbor for 24 hours of solo sailing. We anchored for the night just off Peter Island where we found that the gulls were gourmands for Pringles potato chips.

01 September 2008

the final conquest

Sydney Opera House / Sydney, Australia
While the iconic Sydney Opera House is often compared to images of open sails on the harbor, from this angle of approach I was imagining Spanish Conquistadors marching over the horizon. Fortunately for the land down under, the conquistadors never made it quite that far. The modern expressionist building is inspiring, not only in its beautiful harbor location, but in its unique flowing design, unusual at the time for a structure formed largely of concrete and tiles. The design was awarded through competition in 1957 with construction commencing in 1959. The original completion date was scheduled for 1963 at a cost of $7 million - it was opened to the public in 1973 at a final cost approaching $107 million. Nonetheless, it remains an architectural masterpiece and was named a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2007.