Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Spires in the Fog

While I was in San Diego, CA, last weekend, I passed the local Mormon temple a number of times. It is a striking building and it would be difficult to not be intrigued by it.

Mormon Temple
San Diego Mormon Temple

It sits along Interstate 5 and is clearly visible for miles - when the coastal fog has burned off that is. The Wikipedia page explains that it was completed in 1993. It looks newer than that as the building and grounds are well tended. The lustrous white facade is white marble chips in plaster. I never got close to it in the sunlight but I imagine it looks great. HERE is a link to other photographer's images on Flickr.

What really struck me as I looked at it was that it indicated just how much money the Mormon church must have right now, and they are spending it on beautiful edifices. As compared to other Christian churches built in the last 50 or so years, this is pretty impressive. Certainly Lakewood church in Houston is bigger, but it seems more like a football stadium than a temple. The Solid Rock church in Ohio goes big with the "Planet of the Apes" -like statue, but it is not nearly so beautiful. Contemporary churches feel like a corporate office.

Something about this tendency towards humdrum houses of worship nagged at me, and I could not pin it down. After all, since I am not a Christian, why do I care what their houses of worship look like? I found an article that captures some of what was bothering me. Like me, the author "has a nagging intuition that symbolism, mystery, cultural depth, spirituality, and beauty are all somehow connected." That may explain why most of my communing with the Divine occurs outdoors, enmeshed with the natural world. Well, that and the fact that neoPagans do not build houses of worship.

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Sunday, September 28, 2008

Totemic Swan

I follow a different spiritual path than the Catholic religion in which I was raised. I now consider myself Pagan, with an understanding that God/s cannot be stuffed into little, clearly defined roles (where it just happens to look like Charlton Heston). Among the things I have experienced along my path is a bit of shamanistic exploration, which was a challenging thing for me. I learned that my body/mind does not shut down/open up well with laying-quiet-while-drummers-drum. The whole shamanic journey experience escaped me for a half year or more. Then I accidentally discovered that I could get to that ready-state through ecstatic dance. I learned that if I exhausted my body then my mind was free to roam into other realms. So for my first successful journey, having worn my physical self out, I went seeking my spirit guide, my totem animal. I knew I was on a real sort of experience when I met that guide. Had I been consciously choosing my totem animal, there is no doubt it would have been some big cat - lion or tiger, lynx, jaguar or some such. No, the animal who did show up on my journey - complete with the psychic equivalent of the blaring of trumpets - was Swan.


Swan? WTF? What do I know about Swan? Nothing. So I had to continue the shamanic experience to learn what Swan was all about. I assure you, I never would have chosen swan had I been making the choice. However, Swan has had a profound and relevant influence on my life. Wild...

Swan, preening

So this weekend I was being a temporary bachelor at a wedding in San Diego, and lo and behold, there were a couple of swans, with a cygnet, to remind me that (among other things) Swan is a teacher to remind me of loving sexual relations. So there I am, 2000 miles from home, and all I think about is missing Reena, my dear partner. There it is, my friends. The perfect reminder for me about what my delightful relationship with Reena is all about. So many people seem to want to get away from their partners, have a chance to be wild or whatever, and for me the time away just means that I miss my playmate, my best friend. Spirit guide indeed.

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Thursday, September 25, 2008


It seems the National Enquirer's expose of John Edwards extra-marital affair was just a warmup for the main event.

They have a new shocker today.

I first got an inkling of this a couple of weeks ago, while reading an Alaskan blog - Mudflats - where I was trying to learn something, anything about her. There was this blurb:
"And of course, the ultimate vetting team, The National Enquirer, is already here. Who knows, they may have even been here first. We don’t know. They work in mysterious ways. After the Edwards debacle, in which the Enquirer scooped the entire Main Stream Media, and gave themselves a peculiar sort of political ‘cred’, people will be listening closely to what they have to say. These are the folks who have no hesitation getting down in the dirt and asking all those questions that make the main stream media, and most bloggers cringe. It’s hard to draw the line between what’s off-limits and what can be used legitimately to illustrate judgment, and decision making ability. To the Enquirer, nothing is off-limits. They will be busy people… "

And THIS on September 5th, just a week after McCain selected her:
"Two days ago, Todd’s ex-business partner filed an emergency motion to have his divorce papers sealed. Yesterday the motion was DENIED."

So...no mainstream media coverage yet, so consider it all rumor and inuendo at this time. But dang, there is a LOT of legal risk for the Enquirer to run this story if they are not certain they have the facts to back it up. I am curious to see when DRUDGE covers it. All I can say at this time is, Nice vetting job, McCain!

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Wednesday, September 24, 2008

A Ray of Hope

Good news!

There's a Ray of Hope
A Ray of Hope

My friend has finally showed a strong sign of improvement in this first-of-many battles back to health. As of tonight, he was moved out of the ICU (Intensive Care Unit) and back into an ordinary hospital room. He is still a long way from ready to go home, but he was awake, generally alert (who the heck knows what medicines and pain killers are streaming through his system?), and able to carry on a bit of conversation. He was tracking the conversation, and making all the usual leaps of cognition, so it seems he came through the worst part intact.

There is a long road ahead for him, but at least now there is a light.

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Sunday, September 21, 2008

Many Things at the Farmer's Market

There are many things available at the Farmer's Market. Some of them are edible.

Kale at the Market

A Plethora of Peppers

Though that's not all that is there to tempt you...follow the link for the rest of the post!

There are so many things of beauty at the Market that catch they eye and encourage you to part with your money. There are fresh flowers,

Particolor Mums

decorative and/or edible ensembles,

Pumpkins on a Rope

armies of sweet bear hunny,


artists and musicians busking for tips,

Seth, Chalk Artist
Seth, Chalk Artist

unusual finds like this Ginko leaf. Why was it there? How did six or eight leaves end up in a pile on the sidewalk where there are no Ginkos around? I may never know...

Ginko Leaf
Ginko Leaf

and, who can overlook the beautiful sales people who smile so brightly at you whether you buy from them or not? Thousands of people causing non-stop distraction and commerce, and nearly all the workers at the market are happy and enthusiastic, clearly delighted to be there.

Farmer's Market Beauty
Who Will Buy This Wonderful Feeling?

What a great way to start off a Saturday!

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Cloister Meets the Willy Street Fair

I took my sister, the sister, to the Willy Street Fair today. And while it is true she is not cloistered, it is also true that she does not experience the likes of the Willy Street Fair too often. I am pretty sure there was a bit of culture shock.

Sister sister

She met a few of my friends and acquaintances there...Follow the link for the rogues gallery!

She met Megan, dear Megan...


and Rich...


and Luv...


and Angela...


and Kim (Megan's costumenal twin)


and Linda,


and Lisa.


There were more. Lots more. To see the rest, check out my Flickr Site album! There WILL be more photos posted to that set as the days go by also.

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Saturday, September 20, 2008

World Music Festival at the Terrace

Friday night was another of those perfect nights at the UW Memorial Union Terrace. The weather was perfect, a balmy 70 degrees (F) and calm, with the mosquitos gone after the recent cold snaps. The World Music Festival is going on, and the music was interesting and, of course, free. The Terrace was packed.

World Music Festival at the Terrace

I was only mildly interested in the first performers we heard, but the second group, Dya Singh (India), was quite good.

Performers at the World Music Festival

We stayed longer than we anticipate in part because of the music, and in part because we ran into friend after friend and lingered to talk. My visiting sister likes to turn in early, so we left the Terrace, and en route to the car I placed a phone order for a fetaliscious pizza from the Glass Nickel. Yum! Another perfect Friday night in Madison.

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Thursday, September 18, 2008

My Friend is Sick

A Friend is in the Hospital
Der Junge ist Krank

I have a friend in the hospital. No accident, he is just very sick. I struggle with the feeling of powerlessness when faced with a situation that you just cannot fix. There is nothing I can do now except visit him and let him know I - and the rest of his friends - care about him and want him to get better. What makes it so hard is the knowledge that once they get him back on his feet, there is no guarantee that his condition will not return and put him back there again, or worse.

For myself, I have to turn to the wisdom of Mother Goose:

For every ailment under the sun
There is a remedy, or there is none;
If there be one, try to find it;
If there be none, never mind it.

That seems like a much earlier, secular version of the Serenity Prayer, which would be an obvious choice of words in this circumstance, but less suitable as neither of us is particularly religious.

I will do what I can do (offer support), and not fret about what I cannot do (heal him).

UPDATE: I just learned that his condition has worsened, and they moved him back to the ICU. Rats.

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Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Go Pound Sand

I checked the stock price of the corporation I worked for today. It is suffering just as are so many others. Curious, I clicked on the "Insider Trading" link to see what our corporate officers were up to. It turns out that on March 5th, the officers of the corporation received stock "grants" worth approximately $6,000,000.00 on that day. A grant is defined thusly: "The issuance of an award under a stock plan". An award, or bonus in other words. Curiously, just about that exact day, we-the-little-people were told that we were to get no bonus this year based on corporate performance. There would not even be any discretionary bonus for specific areas of the corporation that had performed exceptionally (like the area I work in, for example). There are approximately 1,000 office workers included in the bonus plan here. So that $6 million bonus to the corporate officers could have been a $6,000 bonus to each worker if distributed equally. Instead, they got SIX MILLION DOLLARS and the people who do the work got NOTHING. Message received: Go pound sand, worker-bee.


I think there are lessons we on the lower rungs of the economic ladder might take from the French Revolution. I urge you to follow that link and read the various attributed causes of the revolution. Some of them ought to ring a bell. Grab your pitchfork and torch; it may be time to storm a few McMansions.

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Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Sporting Fall Colors Early

Autumn supposedly starts on September 22nd this year. Apparently, no one told the trees around here. In addition to the sumac already turning red, I have been spotting trees losing leaves and sporting fall colors.

Color Against the Gray
Color Against the Gray

Fall Colors

The red bark is a bit strange, but it was at a shopping mall parking lot. And, it sure made the colors pop!

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Monday, September 15, 2008

"I will not take the low road to the highest office in this land."

I'm not generally much of a political animal. I observe, I try to sift through the deceptions and misrepresentations from all the participants to figure out the fact from the fiction. This election season has kept me interested, in part because in 2000 I was pondering a vote for McCain and felt bad when he was slimed so thoroughly by the Rovian goon squads. At the begining of this campaign, I was pleased because it seemed that we might actually have a civil race. McCain was pledging to avoid the tactics that were use against him, and Obama gave every indication of staying on the high road.

Imagine my dismay, then, when McCain's tactics got dirtier and uglier. The recent "sex ed" ad was such a disgusting misrepresentation that it simply staggered me. I realized that McCain had completely detached his campaign from his earlier promises. Even Karl Rove said today that he thought McCain had gone too far. Thus, I post this forceful response from Obama. Further, I hope some of you will, after watching it, pass it on.

Understand: I do not believe for one second that Obama is a perfect candidate, nor do I agree with all he represents. But now my choice is clear. I cannot, will not vote for McCain. Regardless of who YOU support, I urge you to broaden your sources of news (get out of the bubble of partisan reporting) and draw your own conclusions. Then vote!

I now step off my soap box and return to my irregularly scheduled blogging about non-political things.

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Sunday, September 14, 2008

Rainy Explorations

I was driving home from a friend's house, where we had gone for a party. Since it is an hour drive, and there was alcohol flowing, we simply stayed overnight. We awoke to rain, and reflected for a moment that were were glad to be in the car rather than on the motorcycles. Outside temperature was 58 degrees (F). As we drove it really began to rain hard.

It's pouring out there!
It's pouring out there!

Of course we needed to stop. What on earth would make me get out of the car in a deluge?!

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What would make me go out in the rain?

Well, a hot coffee for the road, of course! So fortified, we continued on our way. Only a couple of miles later, I stopped in the middle of the road, threw it in reverse, and pulled over to the side. I jumped out of the car - it was not raining so hard at this moment - to snap a few pictures of this grave marker.

Grave Marker
Woodsmen of the World Grave Marker

I thought this intricately carved marker was unique, but no sooner had I posted it to Flickr than a friend spotted it and told me a bit more:

"Woodmen of the World: They were a fraternal benefit society founded in 1890, and members received grave markers from about 1900-1920. Because not all commissioned stonecutters followed the initial patterns, there is a great variety of art on similar themes wherever Woodmen are buried. I first came across them in the Knoxville Old Gray Cemetery.

There's a Flickr group devoted to their headstones. "

Thanks, Ragnvaeig! Here is a close up shot:

Grave Marker - Detail

Well, so it seems I got to have a good time at a party, spot an interesting thing to take photos of, and learn something new, all in a twenty-four hour period. You have to love a weekend like that!

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Thursday, September 11, 2008

Go. Do. Create. Live.

I noticed that I enjoy having interesting people in my life. I like unusual people to spend my time with. I define "unusual" as non-Nascar loving, book reading, quirky interests, and a strong desire to seek out life rather than waiting for life to come to them on the couch.

Turkish Cowgirl Taeya

I am delighted by people who pursue the things they love. It almost (almost) doesn't matter what those things are, as long as they bring passion to it. My almost qualification is that whatever it is they pursue has to be active not passive. Being a die hard fan of watching golf on television is not interesting. For me, it also helps if that activity is atypical. An avid pursuit of playing golf is less interesting - to me - than an avid pursuit of belly dance...

Ultra Violet
Ultra Violet

...or performing in a samba band...

(follow the link for the rest of the post)


...or taiko drumming and fine watch craftsmanship...


...or doing contact improv and becoming a yoga instructor...


...or hoop dancing.

It is that embrace of doing that is interesting and desirable. I am not much interested in what was on television last night, or how tidy your house is, or how much money you make. What I enjoy is people who seek to routinely bang their funometer off the top, who not only seize the day, but grab it and shake it until its teeth rattle.

I am remembering a winter trip up to Lake Superior with Reena and friends. We stayed in a cabin, right on the shore of the lake. In the guest book someone had left a beautiful drawing of the view from the table there, out through the open cabin door showing the woods, beckoning. The grafitti-like text accompanying it read, "Go Outside!" That made a profound impact on both Reena and me.

Go. Do. Create. Live.

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Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Twilight at Vilas Park Lagoon

Twilight Lagoon
Twilight at Vilas Park Lagoon

Lagoon at twilight;
Mourning doves softly coo as
ripples come to rest.

Photo: Nikon D40 with Sigma 30 mm lens, ISO 800, f/1.4 at 1/100th second. Exposure bias: -2 EV. WB: Shade.

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Monday, September 8, 2008

Beauty, Under Construction (NSFW)

Twice these past few months, I have been blessed with the opportunity to take photographs of a friend who is pregnant. The first time was right after she started to show; just a bump. The second, a few days ago, when she was around 30 weeks along. The first series was taken in a meadow near the Mississippi River, and her husband was coaxed into a few of them. The second set was taken in northern Minnesota, along the shore of a pretty, spring fed lake.

The first were largely impromptu, inspired by the location and the light. There was no cohesive theme in mind. As such, we experimented a lot with angle and light. It was apparent that other than a moment or three of self-consciousness, she was right at home being naked in front of the camera. Her husband, and another young mother had come along to offer suggestions. As it unfolded, both were so enthralled watching that neither offered much in the way of advice. We muddled through and the results were delightful.

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Baby Bump
Baby Bump

Contemplative Cari
Moment of Contemplation

Loving Parents
Loving Parents-To-Be

By week 30, everything was different. Not only was she significantly, evidently pregnant, she was also completely comfortable with her body and showed not the slightest hesitation about being naked in front of the camera. On this occasion, she had a couple of definite ideas about what she wanted in the photos. First, she wanted to use the nearby lake, because when she was immersed in the water, it was the only relief her hips, knees, ankles and back got from carrying the additional weight. Her one clear vision of a photo was of her immersed so that only nose, nipples and navel were above the water. We didn't quite achieve that, but we did get some amazingly sweet images. We were both hoping for a calm morning so that the lake would be completely placid, but that was not happening either day we were there. We tried to minimize the effects of the wind by using a stand of reeds as a break. Mostly it worked.

Cari in the Water
In the Water

Savoring the Bump

Cari on the beach
On the Beach

All in all I think I provided her with a nice array of images to document her pregnancy. It is possible I will see her again before the delivery, and so maybe will get a chance for a few more photos. In the meantime I am honored to have been allowed to take these shots for her, and even more so by her permission for me to use them in this way. Best of luck to all three of them!

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This is a head's up, gentle readers. Later today I will be posting photos with obvious nudity for the first time. The header will contain "NSFW", Not Safe For Workplace. Nothing salacious, mind you, just simple, beautiful nudity.

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Saturday, September 6, 2008

Capoeira on the Street

Friday night on State Street, some capoeira players were doing their thing in the middle of the street. It helps that the street is blocked off for construction further down, so they were only interrupted once by a cab. Passers-by were entertained, and the players were fit and having obvious fun. I suspect it was a recruitment bid for the club now that the students are back in town. I was immediately invited to come play with them. Maybe. I did capoeira years ago but wandered off in search of harder martial arts, passing through a Muay Thai kickboxing school, aikido, and fencing along the way before landing at the Zhong Yi kung fu school for a few years. Now that I have hung up my gloves, maybe it is time to check them out again. It would be a fine addition to contact improv dance.

Capoeira Player
Capoeira Players




Capoeira Musicians
Capoeira Musicians

And no, I have not switched to B & W, despite the evidence of these last two posts. I have been recognizing that some photos are more effective in B & W though. Expect to see more.

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Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Nouveau American Gothic

Nouveau American Gothic
American Gothic, circa 2008
View Large On Black

My friends are expecting their first child. I connected with them at a park in northern Minnesota last weekend, in part to do a photo shoot of the 30-week pregnancy. This photo was sort of a snapshot opportunity, and was the most interesting of a handful I took late in the afternoon. The couple is standing in a small patch of pine and birch trees, too small to be considered "woods", but enough to make for dramatic shadows. I knew I had a good image at that moment, but was quite excited about it when I got home and saw it enlarged on the computer. It instantly triggered a feeling of similarity with Grant Wood's iconic painting, American Gothic, albeit with a decidedly contemporary spin. Sort of like American Gothic processed through Lake Wobegon, where "all the women are strong, all the men are good looking, and all the children are above average."

In this case, rather than Wood's pinched, dour looking couple that came to represent depression era steadfastness, I managed to capture a different sort of steadfastness. I see a bold, confident delight on her face; all is well with the world and she is happily pregnant. He is content and solid, the hand on her belly showing his nurturing care. His wedding ring shows on his hand while hers is on a chain around her neck, cautiously removed while her body swells. Her belly has a fresh henna tattoo, obviously applied by someone else, and she wears a sarong draped across her shoulders. It speaks of xenophilia. She embraces aspects of other cultures that appeal to her. He wears a ball cap and a logo tee shirt casually untucked. While there are few clues about their material status, there is no evidence of want or need either. They have enough to be content. The woodsy location and his unshaved face suggests leisure, enjoying time out of doors but not involved in obvious labor.

This is a photo I am very happy with.

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Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Worth the Drive

Last Friday night, I was picked up at work by friends, and we drove and drove, late into the night. The van was full of people and camping gear, so it was a tight fit. There was not much leg room, and every corner was stuffed. Conversation was pretty lively, and we were making sure the driver stayed awake.

Night Trippin'
Night Tripping

The journey was 400 miles, deep into the great north woods. It was nearly 2:30 am when we arrived and Reena and I got our tent set up. We were all jangled from the eight hours in the car. We had a couple of beers and found a few of the friends we were meeting up with were still up, still carrying on. We had a nice hour of catching up before finally crashing into sleep.

I deliberately awoke early the next morning to get a couple of pictures of the lake. It was one of those mornings where the fog hangs out until the sun has been up long enough to cook it off. I enjoyed the view and took a few photos. About the time I decided that I was ready for some coffee, and to see those friends in the light of day, the sun had done its morning cleaning task, and the lake was beautiful and fog free. With the promise of a great party in front of me, I took one last photo of the lake, and returned for that cup of coffee.

Morning Lake
Morning at the Lake

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