Monday, September 29, 2008

national book festival

I went to the 8th National Book Festival on the mall Saturday the 27th in rainy muggy warm weather. I have been trying to go for the past 8 years since I first heard about it on the news. This year finally I made it and discovered an enthusiastic  crowd of book people. There were lots of cool activities for children to do. Adults were treated to book signings, and lectures by writers on their published books. I went to hear Geraldine Brooks talk about her work. I read her first novel and am currently working on her third. She was a hard core news reporter in Sarajevo during the war and when she switched to fiction she wrote this story about a Hebrew illuminated book that was a rare treasure and has been saved from the fires of hate several times over the last 700 years.  She told us she got the idea in a bar in Sarajevo during the war when reporters gathered at night to discuss the days news in the dark with no electricity. Title: People of the Book tells you one reason why I was interested in this book. The combination of book history and book binding was clearly targeted at me. The story is told by a fictional book conservator who is repairing the damaged manuscript. It is a story of a real book but the fiction she added to expand the people who's hands it passed through over the centuries. At the book fair I had no trouble to find Geraldine and heard her speak and enjoyed it a great deal, but the crowd was so large that there was no  seating and then the line to get her autograph in my copy of the book was over one hour's wait in the sprinkles that fell. I carried a small umbrella but what a drag to have valuable hard backed books in the rain. Eventually I got my autograph and a complement on my folk life festival thunder dragon shirt from Ms. Brooks.
I really enjoyed the Library of Congress Tent. They had computers set up with big screens to explore their programs. One program I knew about already is on of old photos that are being viewed and comments are helping the librarians develop histories to go with the old images. I recommend everyone take a look and see if you know anything about their pictures. The librarian showed me one photo of a "three sisters diner" in Massachusetts which had no information with it at the library and over they got the daughter of this 1940's era diner to write a two page story about her father's moving to small town Massachusetts from Greece and opening that diner, so it is clearly working for some of the photos. The librarian says it is a favorite project at the Library of Congress( LOC ) to edit the comments and fact check them and I can see why. Reading the comments is at least as much fun as looking at the old pictures. LOC on  There is a link to the front page for the LOC project. I spent a whole afternoon just viewing and downloading my favorites picturess from the 1910's collection (see two above). I thanked the librarian for putting those photos on flickr. She told me that LOC has 14 million photographs and over one million of them digitalized. Luckily not that many are on Flickr. My Dutch pen pal says that the name Flickr makes him smile every time he sees it in my emails. In Dutch slang the word flikker means fag or queer. I wonder if the owners of Flickr know that about the word? It doesn't bother me to be associated with that name anymore like it did years ago.
This month and next I am working on my hand made books for my own fair. It is an arts and crafts fair my pal Peter Wood started 7 years ago. I have joined them two times, I think this year is my third Light in October. 
No one knows what that name means in case you were going to ask...
Saturday October 18th
at the Barcroft Community House 
Noon to 8:00 PM
800 South Buchanan St. Arlington, VA 22204
Maybe some of you can drop by to see the results of my binding work.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Capital Criterium 2008: the races

one mans push

The video below shows this scene in motion of the peloton passing.

at a hard slow U-turn on Pennsylvania Avenue. Also where the new president will ride from inauguration at the capitol to his new home and office at the White house in a few months! 

Notice this guy in Kelly green and yellow is putting away a energy bar he has been eating while riding.
Bicycle jerseys (shirts) have pockets in the lower back to hold small things like food. Also notice how close they ride to the guy in front and behind catching a draft off the pack called a peloton in bicycling parlance. 

The lead rider here is Vande Velde who got fifth place in this years 21 day tour de France. You see he was way ahead of the pack in this pass. If you look behind the fence in the center of the Avenue you can see the peloton going down the street to the U-turn on Penn Avenue

This past Sunday I attended the first and my first Washington DC professional bicycle race. It is called the ING Capital Criterium the first of a new yearly race that pits professional racers against each other and a short loop course of one kilometer or .6 of a mile from beginning to end. The trick is they have to ride that loop something like 65 times to get to the finish line of the race. I had to go alone because my partner was suffering a back ache and didn't want to go along so I took my sweet little Kodak camera and enjoyed the sights and sounds. I posted about 52 of my photos from the race on flickr and the set is there for those who want to see the stills. Here on the blog I am going to post some of my short videos. I was trying to get the sound of those bikes whizzing past me at 24mph and in a gang of about 78 riders it was quite a breeze they caused. Also the whir of the spokes cutting the air as they rotated was clearly part of the sounds heard. This being the first criterium race in DC it wasn't advertised very well so the crowds were kind of thin but that gave me a huge advantage to get great shots of the bikers at any place I wanted to around the course. That short course was downtown on Pennsylvania Avenue up and down a few blocks then up the hill on 13th Street between the National and Warner Theaters. They rode over F street and down hill at the next corner 12th St. back to Penn. Ave. I took my first video there on the top of the hill.
They are lead over the course by a motorcyclist and followed by a race sponsor's car which is orange for ING Direct the online savings bank that sponsored the race. They gave out bright orange cow bells for spectators to ring as the bicyclists passed as encouragement to them. I love orange and they gave me two. Some of the folks were getting autographs on the bells from the riders but I missed that chance not knowing to bring a sharpie pen. I did get a photo (seen above) of one bell that was in action while Tour de France rider Christian Vande Velde was in the lead coming up Pennsylvania Ave. I watch the Tour de France on TV and get daily reports from my great pen pal in Holland during the coverage. They get to see a lot of bicycle races on TV in Europe. I have to report the weather was perfect this weekend of a race or anything outdoors. My joy was in loads of orange stuff everywhere bicycles and strong men in tight clothes. was the blog that reported this race was coming to DC and there you can read the finish results and see some other photos of the race by another guy. It was fun attending this race because they passed by about every minute or two over and over no matter where you watched the race from on the course. I wish more people had come down but maybe next year you will join me and enjoy a day of fast bicycles and bicyclists. 

This video shows them wiz past down Pennsylvania Avenue so close you can hear the wind distortion in my little microphone on the camera. 
Comments are always welcome.

Monday, September 15, 2008

george de forest brush

on view at the National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC 
September 14, 2008 through January 4, 2009

George de ForestBrush (American, 1855 - 1941) The Head Dress, 1890 oil on canvas Property of the Westervelt Company and displayed in The Westervelt-Warner Museum of American Art, Tuscaloosa, Alabama

George de ForestBrush (American, 1855 - 1941) Indian Hunter, 1890 oil on panel Private Collection

I went to the National Gallery of Art for a lecture on the new show of old works by George de Forest Brush (1854 or 1855-1941) an academically trained artist of the 19th century who studied in New York and Paris. He returned from his Parisian academy training to New York City and found his work needed something to distinguish him from his peers. He accomplished this by painting romanticized paintings of American Indians in his studio with a goal of painting the story of every man by focusing on a single genre of the little known culture of the Indians. He was sympathetic to the plight of the Indian, in the 1880's when they were being hunted down while fighting to save their way of life and lands. He was also sympathetic to the plight of the beautifully plumed birds which were also being slaughtered for ladies hats of the day.  He Incorporated them both in his small studio paintings after about a year or two with his brother in the west living with the Indians studying them. George de Forest Brush created his distinctive series of paintings while teaching students drawing and painting in NYC at the Art Students League to support his growing family.  I was happy to see this American student of the École des Beaux-Arts Paris instructor Jean-Léon Gérome now being shown in our national gallery. He, like Thomas Eakins, learned to paint beautifully accurate detailed textures and live figures. You will see amazing details in every one of his paintings. I have posted two of my favorites from the show lent to me by NGA press office to help get the word out about this show. Be sure to double click them for the larger image blowup.

In the introductory history lecture by Nancy Anderson curator of American and 
British paintings. I learned a lot of things that are not posted on the walls of the gallery and I was astonished at how small the paintings were after seeing them on the huge screen of the auditorium where they held up in every detail. The show of deForest Brush's Indian paintings has 20 works the show was postponed for 10 years because five of these paintings were still lost to the world.  Anderson told us the families of the people who bought the paintings kept them and passed them down, leaving them lost to the greater art historians world for many years. One of the paintings of a white crane and the Indian artist carving a marble rendition of the bird was show to the curator housed in a decaying card board box  it's varnish badly yellowed where it had been for the last 30 years unnoticed in storage it also had a coat of dirty white paint on the old frame. Now it has been restored and reframed and looks brillant.  Brush had 8 children and six of them survived to adulthood and there are many descendents who will be coming to the gallery in a couple weeks for a special "family day" in the exhibit. I sat in the lecture behind a few of his family who revealed themselves to Ms. Anderson at the end of the lecture. These twenty paintings are proudly on display for all of us lucky Washingtonians  to see and revel in one of our skilled American academic painters of the 19th century. I should note here the National Gallery has a fantastic web feature which is a slide show of most of the paintings the exhibit. If you are unable to get to the gallery in person try this link: 
Here I  have to note it is a modern marvel that we can enjoy current exhibitions in the comfort of our homes but it doesn't completely replace the experience of marveling at the real thing in front of your own two eyes. 

Sunday, September 14, 2008


Cor's French cake stillife

What an odd pattern the cup cake wrapper makes when peeled back. The graphic quality of the zig zag on the paper from the dark cake made me want to shoot this picture as always inspired by my Dutch art pal Cor Windhouwer's amazing deserts photos. I love that stainless steel drain board on his kitchen sink.  I am working on a report from my visit to the NGA to see the George de Forest Brush show and introductory history lecture today. 

Friday, September 5, 2008

friday: storms on the way

Gustav comes to New Orleans
Storm flood water nears the roof line. Seeing a stop sign about to be 
swallowed up by waters from Gustav was very alarming. 
Andserson Cooper

In Brookland the wires for electricity, telephone and cable TV are all up in the air suspended by those old fashioned oily brown poles that once were fine trees. That means anytime the storm clouds form and the winds pick up, we are in danger of loosing power.  This past weekend we watched a lot of the storm coverage between the political party conventions on cable TV. I enjoyed watching Anderson Cooper on CNN standing in New Orleans' deserted French quarter. Just after Keith went to bed I thought to myself "what about trying a snapshot of the TV screen?" Our new flat TV allows me to get a decent, if not perfect, screen image with my digital camera and now remembering the storm is easier with these photos.  Anderson Cooper the celebrity news man from CNN is very handsome and kind of funky. He got his national TV start on the overnight news ABC tired a few years ago. There acting and talking kind of goofy worked for the extreme late night viewers and eventually the whole industry turned to his style with entertainment news. Now Anderson is a little more serious and always in dramatic situations when he can be. I think  it is fun to watch him and wonder if he has a boyfriend who it might be. Rumor says he is gay and I wonder about the another handsome man on CNN Rob who does weather; they have done several Hurricane live shots together.  Also on late night CNN last weekend was the guy I hope will be president in a few months: Barak Obama, I caught one shot of him before I turned it all off and went to bed. They showed and warned of several storms that are training across the Atlantic ocean from Africa where they begin as thunderstorms toward the Americas. Next is on the way up northeast coast to Washington, DC area and in the five years I have lived here we have only had one Tropical Storm come to DC. It blew down trees and branches and upset everything but our power didn't go out that time. Now with tropical storm Hanna on the way I am trying to think what I could do to prepare our garden and our house for a black out. There are no easy answers. Maybe I should be contacting friends and asking them to make room in their freezers for our extra bison steaks in case the juice gets knocked out. Gustav missed New Orleans mostly now Hanna comes north, Ike may crash into Florida early next week and there is one more way out there called Josephine still trying to get a tropical storm rating. We are having a busy storm season and cable TV doesn't know what to put at the top of the news entertainment menu disaster, debauchery or government corruption so many exciting things to cover. 
Meanwhile between storms we had a good week, Keith was happy with his birthday gifts, dinner and cake. Mom and I had fun shopping and buying him some vintage ceramics and a Blue Mason Jar of his own to match mine. He loves books and got a couple from me and a gift card for more from Jenny and Frank and he danced around the room when he opened that gift.  We need an extra library to store all our books in case you are trying to think of a nice holiday gift for us both. Wink wink... but really it is fun to have fine books. I have a bunch to make of my own this month so I better shut down this computer and start working! The storms are on the way and that could really make book binding difficult.

Monday, September 1, 2008


Earlier this week I found a gift in my USPS delivery. It was a bag o'succulents sempervivum also known as "hens & chicks" from one of my college pals who gardens in the northern mountains. He sent me a collection of small "chick" sized succulents to set out here in hot and humid Washington DC saying that " semps"  have their best colors in the spring.  I wet them down in a dish to see what I had and then decided to place them in a shallow bowl shaped ceramic pot I had full of river rocks for the last few years. I am very excited to have them planted and I plan to return to the sender a box of seeds from our favorite garden plants next week. Someone who gave my mom some sempervivums a few years back said it was bad luck to thank anyone for a plant they gave you... This is mountain lore from the Appalachians so I had best respect that warning. Those plants my mother got grew like wild fire in a pot on her front stoop as you can see in the first photo from June. I did some searching and found a couple posts on the Internet about sempervivums...
What I have read is that I need to add some gravel to my pot and keep them in full sun 6 hours of the day. Little water and lots of sun makes them happy surely meaning it will be easy to care for them. Insert a Big Smile here.