Sunday, January 25, 2009


Yesterday, the state bird of Hawaii showed up at the house we're renting on the Puna coast. This nene (pronounced nay-nay) has lost part of his right foot. There is a nene sanctuary nearby in Keeau, so he/she (males and females look alike) probably came from there. Nenes are an endangered species, with an estimated 3000 remaining. The population had been as low as 30 in the twentieth century. He decided to sit on our patio for a while, and posed patiently while I lay down prone on the concrete near him to get this picture.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

More Turtles

A few more turtle pictures--this time at Pu'uhonua o Honauau (Place of Refuge).


I had my tripod set up to take pictures of a turtle resting on lava rock offshore at Mauna Lani in Kohala when this green sea turtle came up on the beach for a rest just a few feet in front of Mary and me.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

O'Hare Airport

Last Saturday we spent the day in O'Hare Airport as our original flight from Chicago to Denver was cancelled for mechancial failure. We were rebooked on a noon flight to San Francisco, where we could catch a flight to Kona. This flight was also cancelled for mechanical failure. Eventually, at 5 PM, we departed on a flight to LA and were able to fly out of LAX for Kona Sunday morning. If there is a benefit to getting stuck in O'Hare Airport for a day, it would be the time to take pictures of an area where one normally doesn't tarry--the connecting corridor between the terminal and the United gates. These pictures could go in my "Hall of Mirrors" collection, as the ceiling is reflective, and there is an ever-changing neon sculture overhead. The only downside is the incessant playing of United's theme song, Gerwhin's "Rhapsody in Blue."

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Pierce and Guano in the LA Times

The Sunday LA Times included a feature with a little different twist on usual top or bottom Presidential lists. Historians who have written about great Presidents were asked about the failings of those Presidents, and historians who have written about "failed" Presidents were asked about good things those Presidents did:

Franklin Pierce


Pierce enabled the expansion of slavery in the West. He also secretly plotted to acquire Cuba from Spain. A drinker of some renown, he was referred to derisively as "hero of many a well-fought bottle."

The best thing Pierce did as president had to do with excrement. Specifically, guano, or bird droppings, which were so essential to U.S. agriculture in the mid-1800s that the era is sometimes referred to as the Golden Age of Guano. In 1856, Pierce signed the Guano Island Act, which allowed U.S. citizens to mine guano on any unclaimed island in the world. It was a time of expansion, and what the guano law did was enable the U.S. to claim rights to whatever land it wanted, as long as somebody else didn't already own it. It was a very smart move -- if you like empires.

-- Larry Gara

Author, "The Presidency of Franklin Pierce"

Friday, January 16, 2009

Farewell to Snow

Before departing for two weeks in Hawaii, I took this picture of a dove hunkered down in our hawthorn tree. Another dove landed above, unleashing the snow in the background.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Franklin Pierce on Jeopardy!

Tonight, one of the categories on the TV game show Jeopardy was Jefferson Davis. The last and most valuable answer in the category was:

Ooh! Ooh! Ooh! I know, Alex! I know!

Unfortunately, I was not on the set. My hat is off to Shawn, who knew the correct question: "Who is Pierce?" Shawn, you are the man!

Too bad Shawn lost out in final Jeopardy to Samantha. C'est la vie.

TR on Pierce

Another assessment of Franklin Pierce from one of his successors:

Theodore Roosevelt later wrote of Pierce that he was "a servile tool of men worse than himself ... ever ready to do any work the slavery leaders set him."
from a post by Jay Tolson at US News and World Report, 2/16/07.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

I Have Not Lost My Marbles

In our storeroom in the basement is a metal box, which I believe contained my brother Dennis' Erector Set originally, but which now is the home of my childhood marble collection. I have been experimenting with doing macro photos of the marbles, and this is my favorite to date.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Hemlock - Emily Dickinson

This isn't a Photoshop trick. The background is a typical leaden gray overcast winter sky in northern Indiana. I used the on-camera flash, which resulted in a nice sparkle on the snow.

Friday, January 09, 2009

Bremen Tree

Now that I have a Nikon digital SLR, my faithful Canon A560 has been idle. I decided to start carrying it with me to catch photo opportunities as they arise. Today I started the day at Community Hospital of Bremen. As I left the hospital, it was snowing to beat the band, and I was attracted to this tree standing at the edge of the cornfield by the hospital. After a little manipulation in Photoshop Elements, I really like the result.

Wednesday, January 07, 2009


Einstein and Tagore, 1930
Photo by Martin Vos

The picture was taken at a meeting between Nobel laureate in physics Albert Einstein and Bengali Nobel laureate in literature Rabindranath Tagore on July 14, 1930.

Yesterday, I read this quote from Einstein in Nature Photographer, a magazine I highly recommend, even if you don't own a camera. The pictures are spectacular and the writing is first-class.
The most beautiful experience we can have is the mysterious--the fundamental emotion which stands at the cradle of true art and true science.

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Japanese Maple Leaf

All the talk of Japanese photography and The Seven Samurai in the previous post made me want to go out and photograph this Japanese maple leaf on fresh snow.

Sunday, January 04, 2009

Hiroshi Sugimoto

Union City Drive In, Union City, 1993, Hiroshi Sugimoto

Lugubrious Drollery has a long-standing editorial policy of expounding at some length on topics of which the author has little actual knowledge. In keeping with this proud tradition, I would like to discuss Japanese photography--specifically, the photographer Hiroshi Sugimoto. My chief exposure to Japanese visual arts heretofore consists of a few abortive attempts to make it past the intermission of Akira Kurosawa's cinematic masterpiece, "The Seven Samurai." Perhaps it is the strain of concentrating on subtitles for such a prolonged period of time, or perhaps the movie is just plain too long, but so far, I haven't been able to get through the whole thing.

Despite my conspicuous lack of credentials as a critic of Asian art, I would like to recommend that the reader check out Mr. Sugimoto's web site. I'm putting the link at the end of this article. Otherwise I risk people hyperlinking away midpost, never to return.

I recently purchased a new camera. The package included several items, such as a genuine Nikon camera bag too small to be of practical use, a cleaning kit complete with Q-tips, and a subscription to PC Photo magazine. On the last page of the most recent issue is a photo by Erik Almas, who has done a series of portraits combining backgrounds of 1930s landscape paintings, taxidermy animals, and live models. The result is quite stunning. Again, a link to samples appears below. Bear with me (once you click the link, you may appreciate the pun, or perhaps not).

Mr. Almas cites Mr. Sugimoto as an influence. Sugimoto did a series of photos of dioramas at the Museum of Natural History in New York, which he describes at his web site:
Upon first arriving in New York in 1974, I did the tourist thing. Eventually I visited the Natural History Museum, where I made a curious discovery: the stuffed animals positioned before painted backdrops looked utterly fake, yet by taking a quick peek with one eye closed, all perspective vanished, and suddenly they looked very real. I'd found a way to see the world as a camera does. However fake the subject, once photographed, it's as good as real.
This was a moment of artistic epiphany, similar to e.e. cummings thinking, "I'm really sick of using the shift key. Hmmm..."

Polar Bear 1976, Hiroshi Sugimoto

He has also photographed at Madame Tussaud's museum, including some gruesome displays (like the Lindbergh baby's kidnapper in the electric chair) which have since been removed in an act of political correctness. Another of his techniques involves keeping the shutter open during an entire movie in a theater, indoor or outdoor. The result is a picture of the theater with a radiant white screen, as in the example at the beginning of this article. Nothing is there, yet the entire movie is there.

I mentioned at the opening of this post that this blog is built on a foundation of sketchy knowledge. Another of our (now I lapse into the editorial we) guiding principles is efficiency. Why waste valuable time coming up with an original idea when the internet is a veritable cornucopia of ideas, a few of which are original? With that in mind, I have, once again, resorted to Google to find this quote from Michael P. Silva's blog Zuihitzu:
Sugimoto isn’t showing us the world in a different way, he is showing us his internal vision and using the world as his materials.
Well said, and to me, this is the essence of the best photography.

That's it. You are now free to move about the internet. Here are the links:

Hiroshi Sugimoto's Web Site
Erik Almas Photos
Zuihitzu: Random Thoughts on Photography, Art, and Design

Saturday, January 03, 2009

Handsome Frank Elevated by Dubya?

Thanks to The Commander Guy's Lair for pointing out Daniel Barrick's article, "The future of Pierce's legacy looks bright: Some historians say Bush will trump him as worst president," in the December 30, 2008 Concord Monitor. Barrick writes:

Michael Holt, a history professor at the University of Virginia who's writing a new Pierce biography, warned Pierce fans against hopes of historical redemption. Bush's slide in the presidential rankings "may move Pierce up a notch, but I'm not sure it will move him out of the bottom five," he said.
Holy cow! Maybe David H. was right when he commented on a previous post, "Someday, everyone will have written a biography of Franklin Pierce."

Ice Ripples

When the water level in our backyard pond gets low, the pump shuts off till the water rises in the filter box. This results in an intermittent flow of water over the waterfall and back to the filter box--on and off every few seconds. I believe that, combined with frigid temperatures, resulted in this interesting pattern of ice where the water flows back into the filter box.

Thursday, January 01, 2009

Near Miss

Why is the event called a near miss when two airplanes come close to crashing in the air? Isn't it a near collision?

Anyway, on September 9 Lugubrious Drollery proposed a list of potential names for Bristol Palin's baby. The blessed event occurred on December 28.

My top pick: Trapper
Actual name: Tripp

Coincidence? Near miss? Or perhaps Bristol and Levi got the idea from me. They didn't want to appear obvious, so they changed one letter, to Tripper. Oops--that brings up thoughts of Levi's mother's drug dealing, so they shortened it to Tripp.

Updated Profile

In the spirit of new beginnings for the new year, I have updated my user profile, so that readers may better get inside my head, take a look around, and run away screaming as though they had just stepped in a pile of steaming dragon dung (simile paraphrased from Richard Brautigan).

The Droll Roll

As a new year dawns, Lugubrious Drollery is adding a new feature--the Droll Roll. This widget can be found at the top of the sidebar to the right. It is a place where people who find their lives aren't embarassing enough already have an opportunity to further humiliate themselves by acknowledging publicly that they read this blog. According to the description of the feature supplied by Blogger,
Many readers ignore sidebar items so by writing a post about your followers widget and moving the widget to the top of your sidebar, you will inevitably grow your audience.
Ah yes, that is my goal--to grow my audience, much as Sarah Palin progresses her great state of Alaska (see LD's previous post Sarah Palin Progresses Her Political Ambition at the Expense of the English Language).

So step right up, ladies and gentlemen and children of all ages. Click on "Follow With Google Friend Connect." No, no--not here. Up there. To the right. Under the heading "Droll Roll: Irregular Readers." We few, we happy few readers of Lugubrious Drollery welcome you with open arms. Please plant yourself in the Droll Roll, so that I may grow you. There is abundant fertilizer here (see LD's previous post Franklin Pierce and the Golden Age of Guano).