Sunday, March 29, 2009

Marx Brothers Blog

Today, for no particular reason, I decided to start a new blog dedicated to the Marx Brothers. I have started the new blog with one of the more popular posts at Lugubrious Drollery: "Lydia the Tattooed Lady Revealed."

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Spicer Lake

Today, I went to Spicer Lake County Park in New Carlisle, Indiana to see if I could get some pictures. There were no waterfowl on the lake, and the sky was overcast. I did come away with this picture, showing the water lilies emerging and other vegetation reflected in the lake.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Franklin Pierce on ESPN

These days, it seems the only place to hear about Franklin Pierce on TV is on "Jeopardy." A notable exception occurred during the 2009 NCAA Division II women's basketball championship game on ESPN2. Does anyone really care that Barbara Bush is a distant cousin? Oh well, at least they didn't bring up the urban legend about him running over a woman.

Alas, the Ravens of Franklin Pierce were run over by the Mavericks of Minnesota State-Mankato, 103-94 in the highest scoring championship game in the history of NCAA DII women's basketball.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

3 Guys: Byron and Shelley and Goethe

Bust of Lord Byron, Nottingham Castle
Photo by David Cory, October 1, 2008

During my fourth year of medical school, we lived in an apartment across the hall from a dermatology resident from Alabama who made us aware of the Red Clay Ramblers, among other musicians. At the time (1980), Mike Craver was a member of the group, and he wrote a brilliant song based on Franz Schubert's "Freuden Sonder Zahl" (Seligkeit D. 433). The lyrics follow. I'd encourage any interested readers to download the song from iTunes. It appears on the RCR album "Hard Times."

You really have to hear it to fully appreciate it.

words and music by Mike Craver
Joy and bliss and love
Come from Heaven above
Schnitzel and filet mignon
Come from the animal kingdom
Byron and Shelley and Goethe
Were finishing up their dessert-a
When the garcon came to reckon,
Byron to Shelley did beckon
"You stall the waiter, I'll give the slip
Goethe for certain will hide in the curtain
And think up a jolly good quip"
These Three Mousketeers thought it outre
To travel about on the subway
Pedestrians get there too slowly
And buses are common and lowly
They hailed down a nice yellow taxi
Climbed grinning and gay in the backseat
The fare came to over a fiver
So they replied to the driver
"We have no money, we have no tip
But we can see by the love in your eye
That you'll let us get by with a slip"

They snuck in one night to the Bijou
Drinking vodka and Milk of Magnesia
They littered the balcony boxes
Grinning like toothless old foxes
Saint Peter was watching the action
With a dim view of dissatisfaction
He pinned up a sign on the portals:
Oh you stall the waiter,
I'll give the slip,
Goethe for certain
Will hide in the curtain
And think up a jolly good quip
Goethe for certain
Will hide in the curtain
And think up a jolly good quip

Franklin Pierce, Statespersons, Fighting Okra, and Mavericks

You gotta love a school that is named after one of the most obscure U.S. Presidents, who is mostly remembered for being an alcoholic, southern sympathizer in the years leading up to the Civil War. The school eschewed such obvious nicknames as the Doughfaces or the Lushes, and its athletic teams are known as the Ravens. Despite dragging the anchor of its namesake's reputation, Franklin Pierce University can bask in the glory of its women's basketball team, which is on its way to the NCAA Division II championship game, after trouncing Delta State 58-39 in the semifinals. The Delta State athletic teams are officially known as the Statesmen, a politically correct, if somewhat boring nickname. Are the women's teams then the Lady Statesmen? Stateswomen? Statespersons? Perhaps life would be easier if they just went by the unofficial nickname, The Fighting Okra. Consider the following from The St. Petersburg Times Online:
In nickname realm, Fighting Okra snappiest
Published May 23, 2004

College sports nicknames become powerful identities. Passions are massive around Florida for Seminoles, Hurricanes, Gators and Bulls.

Nationally, dozens are familiar, each with marketing magic, including Fighting Irish, Tar Heels, Wolverines, Ducks, Horned Frogs and scads of Bulldogs, Tigers and Wildcats.

Some universities double dip, like Georgia Tech with its Engineers and Yellow Jackets, also at Virginia Tech where Gobblers were replaced in a screaming landslide by Hokies.

Here's my favorite ...

Delta State, a Division II school with consistently strong athletics, has forever been Statesmen. But, in an inventive generation, the identity now sold on T-shirts, hats, mugs, key chains, banners and even a Beanie Baby is ... Fighting Okra.

Sixteen years ago, Delta State baseball players rooted in a rowdy group at basketball games on the Cleveland, Miss., campus. Creative youngsters found Statesmen a bit boring. They wanted change.

Uniforms are predominantly green, so the hardball suggestion was to become Fighting Algae. "Somebody with common sense suggested that, to rivals, our players would be more grossly labeled Pond Scum," said Delta State sports information director Paul Smith.

Baseball boys kept searching for something "green, Southern and ugly." Soon, the gang began to chant, "Fighting Okra!" Baseballers were so enthused they crashed the locker room at halftime, where stunned basketball chaps were serenaded with bellows of "Okra! Okra!"

Smith says the coach thought intruders were yelling, "Oprah! Oprah!" Being more into X's and O's than promos for a TV host, he ejected the cheerers. It didn't subside. Other patrons soon picked up the arena cry. Local newspaper writers began calling the hoops facility "Okradome."

Even as Delta State traditionalists lobbied to diminish the Fighting Okra movement, demand kept escalating for a veggie known more scientifically as Abelmoschus esculentus. Okra has become a cash cow.

Today's symbol is a sneering, grubby piece of okra that wears boxing gloves and perches proudly on paraphernalia sold at the campus bookstore. What a tasty matchup if the Fighting Okra meets Rice.

You can find Hardrockers at the South Dakota School of Mines, Vixens at Sweet Briar (Va.) and, just for baseball, the Cal State Long Beach Dirtbags. Nothing more yummy than Fighting Okra.

The FP Ravens will be going up against Minnesota State-Mankato in the final game on Friday, March 27, 2009.

Go Ravens! Beat Mavericks!

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Chamberlain Lake

Mary and I went back to Chamberlain Lake Nature Preserve this evening and I got a few more pictures of the wildlife there. Photobucket has a new feature to post slideshows to Blogger, so I'm trying it out.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Happy Birthday, Lawrence Ferlinghetti

City Lights Bookstore
Photo by Jeremy Brooks

Today is the 90th birthday of poet Lawrence Ferlinghetti, founder of City Lights Books in San Francisco. City Lights became widely known when Ferlinghetti was accused of violating obscenity laws for publishing Allen Ginsberg's Howl in 1956. I've been to City Lights a couple times, but can't locate any pictures I took right now, so I'm borrowing one from Flickr under Creative Commons license. By the way, this is a great picture by Jeremy Brooks--better than anything I took when I was in San Francisco.

Link to Creative Commons License Agreement.

Link to Jeremy Brooks' Flickr photostream

Link to Garrison Keillor's The Writer's Almanac and more information about Lawrence Ferlinghetti

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Dawn at the Ethanol Plant

Ethanol Plant, Predawn
Click to enlarge images.

A few years ago, I attended a lecture by local artist David Allen, who is known for painting urban scenes. He suggested the local ethanol plant was really an interesting place, with its perpetual cloud of steam and numerous lights. I drive by the place frequently and have even made a couple furtive attempts to snap a picture when traffic was light and I could pull off on the shoulder of the highway that goes by the plant.

This morning, I decided to make a concerted effort to get a decent picture of the ethanol plant around dawn. I started taking pictures from across the highway before dawn, as in the picture at the beginning of this post. Then I found a dirt lane paralleling the railroad tracks that go by the plant. Seeing no "Keep Out" sign or gate, I took the lane until I had a clear view of the plant. Fog shrouded the cornfield in front of the plant, and the sun was beginning to illuminate the skies. The tree to the right provides some perspective.

Ethanol Plant, Dawn
Click to enlarge images.

As the sun rose and the fog burned off, the sky became more colorful, and the plant came into sharper focus.

Ethanol Plant, Sunrise
Click to enlarge images.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Leave It To Beaver

I went to a local nature preserve to play with my new telephoto lens. I was surprised to see a beaver feeding offshore. It was just after sunrise, and unfortunately he swam out of view by the time I figured out I should use a higher ISO setting. I did manage to salvage a couple pictures with postprocessing.

I also saw a flock of ring neck ducks, which I believe are in the process of migrating down from Canada and northern Michigan.

Friday, March 20, 2009


The more photography I do, the more telephoto capability I crave. I just got a Sigma 150-500mm zoom lens, and tried it out in the back yard tonight. Here is the one keeper from this learning session.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009


A couple weeks ago, I attended a lecture at the Snite Museum of Art at The University of Notre Dame. For those readers who missed the gripping account of my little adventure, you will find a link at the end of the current post.

Emerging from the museum onto the hallowed grounds of academe, I decided to play the part of the peripatetic and walk around campus looking for photo opps. Please appreciate that I use peripatetic here in the sense of "a person who walks from place to place," and not the sense of the peripatetic as a follower of Aristotle, who taught his students by walking around and talking at the same time, a technique overused on the TV show, "The West Wing." I mean really, could they possibly have a conversation without everyone involved striding urgently around the White House?

It was a clear, sunny day, and I did manage to get a couple tourist snapshots of campus landmarks.

The Golden Dome

The Basilica of the Sacred Heart

I believe the person on the sidewalk is President Jed Bartlett, a Notre Dame alumnus, looking for someone to talk to as he is walking.

I also stopped by the War Memorial Fountain, which was not running due to the cold weather.

War Memorial Fountain

Inside sits this sphere. After I converted the photo to black and white, I thought this might be an example of chiaroscuro photography. I will leave the final judgment up to those who might actually know something about art and photography.

No one could be more surprised than I that I would come up with the term chiarascuro. I have encountered it a few times in recent reading, but it's not a word that comes up in my daily conversations. I even wrote it down on an index card when I saw the word in Janet Malcolm's book on photography as art, Diana and Nikon. On the same card I wrote ineluctable ("impossible to avoid or evade"), and meretricious ("of or relating to a prostitute; brassy, cheap, flashy, tacky, tawdry," etc.). Unfortunately, I don't remember the context of any of these words, but aren't they cool?

The Marx Family ca. 1913. L to R: Groucho, Gummo, Minnie (mother), Zeppo, Frenchy (father), Chico, Harpo.

So what is chiaroscuro? Let me summarize my intensive education on this topic, acquired at Wikipedia. In Italian, chiaroscuro means, literally, light-dark. The word originally applied to a method of drawing developed during the Renaissance. The artist applied a light material, such as white gouache, to a dark background, reversing the usual process of applying dark strokes to a white background. Consider this work by Zoppo, who was not the sixth Marx Brother (actually, there was a 6th, Manfred, who died in infancy), but an Italian artist.

The Resurrection
Marco Zoppo (Italian, 1432/33?–1478?)
Brush and brown wash, highlighted with white gouache, over black chalk, on blue laid paper washed pale brown; 14 1/2 x 11 1/8 in. (36.8 x 28.1 cm)
Purchase, Rogers and Harry G. Sperling Funds and Florence B. Selden Bequest, 1998 (1998.15)
Courtesy of
The term chiaroscuro is more broadly applied to the effect of light modelling in drawing, painting and printmaking, where highlights and shadows produce the illusion of three dimensions in a 2D work of art. The interested reader can learn more at the Art Studio Chalkboard website of Ralph Larmann, a faculty member at my alma mater, the University of Evansville. A link is supplied at the end of this article.

Chiaroscuro has been adapted to photography and cinematography as well, where it may also be called low-key. Here is an attempt I made at a low-key photo, illuminating a small statue in with a flashlight in a dark room, resulting in strong shadows and highlights.

Link to post about Lola Alvarez Bravo

Link to The Art Studio Chalkboard, Topic: Chiaroscuro

Pierce and Pumpkins

It's not too early to plan for Halloween. You too can have a Franklin Pierce Jack-o-lantern.

By the way, the Pumpkin Island Lighthouse off the coast of Maine was constructed in 1855, during the Pierce administration.

Pumpkin Island, Penobscot Bay, photo by Peter Stackpole, 1954. From the Life Magazine archives.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Bad Bob

As I was writing about Spiro Agnew in the previous post, I thought about other events of the 70s, and recalled a great movie from 1972: "The Life and Times of Judge Roy Bean." One of my classmates during the first year of med school coined a term--at least I think he coined it--for drinking a large volume of hot coffee. He called it "Bad-Bobbing." This originated with the scene below, featuring Bad Bob (not Dirty Bad Bob, the Mexican--but the original Bad Bob--the mean one, the albino [played by Stacey Keach]). Watch the clip and you'll understand the concept of Bad-Bobbing.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Spiro and Me

Spiro T. Agnew by William Frederick Behrends

It should be obvious to even the casual reader of Lugubrious Drollery that the author has a tendency to play for laughs, often with rather sorry results. This trait goes way back. One example from my high school days came to mind recently. For reasons that escape me now, the local paper published personal profiles of at least some of the seniors. It was a small class, and they may have featured everyone during the school year. As I recall, there was no interview involved, but rather a form to be filled out with vital facts about interests and extracurricular activities, and so forth. I was, for the most part, truthful until I got to the question about favorite book. In general, I have trouble answering questions about favorites. Color? Don't really care. Food? Key lime pie, perhaps, but then again, what about sweet potatoes, or Jarlsberg cheese, or M&Ms? You have no idea what an effort it was for me to come up with even that short list.

And when it comes to books, well, there are just too many possibilities. So, for my senior profile, I invented a book out of thin air--The Life and Times of Spiro T. Agnew. I guess the local weekly paper didn't have a fact-checking staff, because this little prevarication got published.

Why did Mr. Agnew pop into my head at the crucial moment? It's hard to tell. The name just sounds funny to begin with, he was funny-looking, and he seemed a cariciture of conservatism in an age of social upheaval (1970-71). His attack on the press as "nattering nabobs of negativism" is a classic, whether he wrote it himself or not. As vice president, Agnew became an icon of all that was wrong--and there was so much--with the Nixon administation, not unlike Dick Cheney during the last 8 years. Agnew resigned from office in disgrace before his boss, Tricky Dick Nixon did, setting the stage for Gerald Ford to be named VP and then to rise to the Presidency when Nixon resigned. I must thank Agnew for adding the legal phrase nolo contendere to my vocablulary. In 1972, he pleaded no contest to charges of tax evasion, stemming from his shady activities as governor of Maryland before his terms as vice president.

I recently discovered that despite his legal troubles and subsequent disbarment, a bust of old Spiro is displayed in the Capitol. Back in 1886, the Senate passed a resolution that a marble bust of each vice president should be placed in the Capitol. Considerable foot dragging occurred when it came to commissioning a bust of Agnew, but ultimately, some 22 years after he resigned, Agnew appeared at the unveiling of his bust in 1995.

Agnew was such a cultural icon, that he appeared on a watch, a la Mickey Mouse. I didn't own a Spiro Agnew watch, but I was able to buy a T-shirt with an image of one. I still have this T-shirt and cling to it as symbol of my lost youth, even if I can't fit into it anymore.

Well, as usual, I have strayed far afield from the topic at hand. I started off discussing humor--sort of. Rather than follow the trend of some bloggers and reveal my innermost angst and psychic aberrations (cue Morris Albert singing "Feelings"), I chose to include terms I find amusing in my Blogger profile. I thought I was being fairly original. I should have known better. One of the features of the Blogger profile is that the key words entered there are hyperlinked to other Blogger profiles with the same key words. Thus, when I click on the words I listed as "interests," I find the following numbers of people who used the same words:
Shiny objects: 1000
Concrete: 307
Dust bunnies: 29
Weather Maps: 3
Hockey Pucks: 3
Dietary Fiber: 1
Tropical parasites: 1
Considering the millions and millions of pathetic losers in the blogosphere, I guess coming up with the same phrase as even 1000 other bloggers is relatively original. At least for the time being, I can claim to be unique in my interest in dietary fiber and tropical parasites. And wouldn't the world be a better place if more people joined me?

Link to U.S. Senate Art and History page about Spiro T. Agnew
Link to article about Agnew watch at "I Remember JFK"
Link to my Blogger profile


Tonight, I took this picture about an hour after moonrise in northern Indiana.

Full Moon

Isolate and full, the moon
Floats over the house by the river.
Into the night the cold water rushes away below the gate.
The bright gold spilled on the river is never still.
The brilliance of my quilt is greater than precious silk.
The circle without blemish.
The empty mountains without sound.
The moon hangs in the vacant, wide constellations.
Pine cones drop in the old garden.
The senna trees bloom.
The same clear glory extends for ten thousand miles.

By Tu Fu, translated from the Chinese by Kenneth Rexroth

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

CT Scan

In an earlier post, I mentioned that even at this late stage of my career, I still occasionally stand in awe of our ability to see inside the human body. This usually occurs when I'm scrolling through images from a CT of the chest done to rule out blood clots to the lungs. 95+ percent of these studies do not show blood clots. Often they are entirely normal, and sometimes they show other pathology. It's easy to become cynical about this overused test. Still, it can be a thing of beauty to see the branching of the pulmonary arteries. Click on the play button to see a very brief movie.

Sunrise on the Rockies

Another picture from our recent trip to Colorado. Click on the pic for a larger version.

Monday, March 09, 2009


We've just returned from a trip to visit our kids in Colorado. One of the highlights of the trip was a visit to the Butterfly Pavilion in Westminster. Even though I couldn't fit a monopod in the carryon luggage, and I somehow turned off the vibration reduction feature on my macro lens, I managed to get a few keepers. The last picture shows a hitchiker on Son Number One's hat.

Sunday, March 08, 2009

Colorado Sunday Morning

Sunday Morning, Weld County, Colorado, March 8, 2009

The Key to Success

You may be hardworking. You may be nice. But to achieve success in real estate sales, or any other endeavor, you have to be hardworking and nice.

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

More Ice

After reviewing the pictures from yesterday's morning shoot, I decided to add a few more that show the detail of the ice crystals which formed on our backyard plant life.

Click to enlarge.


Yesterday morning, the trees and plants in our backyard were coated with tiny ice crystals which reflected and refracted the rising sun in interesting ways. I was fascinated by the crystals falling, snowlike, from the trees as they were warmed by the sun. It was impossible to catch the effect with a camera, so I opted for some closeups.

Click on the images to enlarge.


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