Monday, June 30, 2014


I haven't been able to stop thinking about time travel since I posted about it last week. I still don't believe it's possible but it sure is fun to think about. It's especially fun since old photos indicate that the point of origin for the travelers might have been right here in good old 2014 or thereabouts.

Take a look at the lady in the 50s bus above. Isn't that a digital snapshot camera? It looks like a camera you can buy right now.

And this photo from the 40s (above, circled red on the right)....what's a 2014 hipster doing in this crowd? He looks like somebody you'd see in Starbucks. Was he Photoshopped in? I don't know.

Lots of old photos contain pictures of people who are still here. How did that come about?

And why do old photos contain so many pictures of people in modern dress?

The other day I was looking at some pictures (above) by the 40s/50s jazz cover artist, James Flora. I almost did a double take. These covers look like they were done in Illustrator or Flash, computer programs that wouldn't exist for another 60 years!

You have to wonder why people would choose to live in the past. In order to bet on winner-known-in-advance horse races, I guess. Or maybe the near future didn't shape up so well and these travelers are refugees. I wonder if any of them were able to go back?


P.S. Here's a link to the site where I got some of these photos.

Saturday, June 28, 2014


Yikes! Sorry for the absence! No sooner did my marathon Downton Abbey series end than my kid came to visit, and I've been busy doing things with him. One of the things we did was talk about Photoshop and I made the the sloppy collage above to illustrate a point.

My kid might work on a project that requires him to sign what he does and I offered to help him come up with a signature. There's lots of reference on the net.

I tried my hand at it myself. My first name is easy to write in a flamboyant style but my last name is long and resistant to design. Maybe I should just call myself "Eddie." That'll be a tip off that I'm either famous or utterly insignificant.

I envy Jerry Lewis. His first and last names are short and are full of letters that look good in script. The "J" and "L" in particular lend themselves to lavish thick and thin.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014


I can't believe that I neglected my blog and just about everything else so I could sit in front of the TV eating potato chips and watching discs of "Downton Abbey."  Man, that show's dangerous! It's the most addictive miniseries I've seen since "Fargo" which, come to think of it, is the most addictive miniseries I've seen since "Sherlock."

Good Lord! What's happened to me? I used to be better at resisting things like this.

The really frustrating thing is that I can't figure out why the show works so well. The premise doesn't sound impressive at all. It's about an English manor house and its struggle to stay relevant in the modern world. I mean, it's not like it hasn't been done before.

There must be a lot about writing stories that I don't understand. How does a writer keep our interest in characters when the story outline is something we've already seen? Why do I still end up in tears over this stuff?

Maybe it's because the ostensible premise isn't really what the series is about. All that about the collision with the modern world is just an excuse to have a show. The real story is more subtle and more difficult to summarize in a few words.

For me this story exists to celebrate the English character. The master of the house struggles to keep the house "alive" because it's a cultural symbol, something that unites the present with the mythic past, that defines what it is to be English.

It's horrible to think that one day we could all wake up and decide that our country is just a random spot on the map, that our neighbors are just unrelated individuals, and that we have no common aspiration or ideal to bind us together. My gut tells me that a country so constituted would lapse into stagnation and decay.

Most of us know what England contributed to the world in the fields of law and liberty, literature and education, and of knightly behavior even if it's observed more in the breach. Maybe it's less well known how the national character made those advances possible. For me that's at least part of what Downton Abbey is all about.

Friday, June 20, 2014


I never tire of looking at pictures of the Milky Way taken from the surface of the Earth. This one (above) was taken from Reunion Island in the Southern Indian Ocean. 

What we call the Milky Way is actually a spiral arm of our own galaxy which is closer to the galactic center than we are. 

One of the biggest fears of space scientists is that Earth might might one day find itself looking down the polar axis of a nearby star which is about to go supernova. Until now no star fit the description but one has recently been discovered and we appear to be looking right down the barrel of the gun. 

That star (possibly a double star) is Wolf-Rayett 104, about 8,000 light years distant. Sometime in the next million years this star (above) will explode and the remaining core will fire a massive gamma ray jet in our direction. We don't know enough yet to predict whether the jet will hit us directly or score a near miss.

It's unlikely but we can't rule out the possibility that the star has already exploded thousands of years ago and the gamma rays simply haven't arrived yet. They could be here tomorrow.

 Above. the rings of Neptune. 

Above, a heat map of the sky taken by the COBE satellite. It shows that one side of the sky is warm and another relatively cold. By measuring the difference scientists can calculate how fast the Earth is moving through the universe relative to the background radiation. Our speed it turns out, is an unexpected 600 kilometers per second. That's very fast. No one knows why we should be moving at that speed. 

What you see here (above) is a recent imrovement on the deep field picture we all saw on the news a couple of years ago.  These are some of the most distant stellar objects it's possible to see. The galaxies shown here are all very young, only a few hundred million years old. 

It's puzzling because you'd think that stars would form first then clump together into galaxies, but that doesn't seem to be the case here. Maybe stars were abundant but were too small for the Hubble to resolve, but it's also possible that galaxies of some sort precede stars.

Monday, June 16, 2014



GERTRUDE: "Um...Hi! this the room where the support group meets?"

ALL: "Yay! The counselor's here! Now we can get on with this! C'mon in! We thought you forgot about us!"

 GERTRUDE: "Um, I'm not the counselor. I'm just here with shyness."

DAISY: "You're not the counselor?  Now what'll we do? This whole session is a rudderless ship! What are we supposed to do...counsel each other?"

GLADIOLA: "Well, maybe that's not a bad idea. I mean, all disorders probably have  something in common. Maybe we can help each other."

ARNOLD: "I'm game. Why don't we go around the room and let everybody say why they're here?"

MATILDA: "I'll start. I'm Matilda. I have a surgical addiction."

FRED: "Fred. Gender confusion."

JOLSON: "Mother Fixation."

IRIS: "I hate men."

CLOVER: "Me, I like men...maybe too much."

MARVIN: "I'm Marvin and I'm suicidal. I'm lonely 'cause I can't find a woman who likes my kind of guy. By the way, it's hard to commit suicide in a cheap oven like this. Look at the valve heads...they're plastic.

ROSE: "My name's Rose. I have the same problem. Nobody wants to go out with me either, so I figure I'll end it all. My oven has copper valves, by the way. My ex says they last longer."

MARVIN (VO): "Rose? YOU know about oven valves? Geez, I thought women didn't care about things like that. Er...ya wanna get a cup of coffee later on?"

SEDGWICK: "Hey guys! I was just in the room next store, and they're holding a support group for female sex addicts."



COUNSELOR: "Hi everybody! Sorry I'm late!"

Wednesday, June 11, 2014


Wow! Mike just sent me some pictures of a terrific window display in the Al Hirschfeld Theatre in Manhattan. That's Hirschfeld above, seated in the barber chair he did most of his later caricatures in. Someone...I've gotta find out who...did a bang-up job of transforming Hirschfeld's self-caricature into sculpture. Can somebody out there find more work for this artist? I want to see more exhibits like this!

For comparison, here's (above) the original pen and ink caricature that the window image is based on.

Here's (above) how the window looks at night...

...and here's (above) the same window in the daytime. I see Audry Hepburn, Woody Allen, Bernadette Peters, Marilyn Monroe, Whoopi Goldberg and Carol Channing, among others. My guess is that some of these were done by a different artist than the one who did Hirschfeld but I could be wrong. 

Yikes! A rear 3/4 shot reveals a few of the perspective cheats.

Above, more perspective cheats revealed.

Above, a close-up. The head looks like it might be flattened a bit like a bas relief, but I'm not sure.  If it is that was good choice since that approach makes it easier to subordinate the details to the need to emphasize line. I wish I could find an interview with the sculptor. 

Some of the framed pictures (above) behind Hirschfeld have 3 Dimansional elements.

The theatre's housed in the same building as the old Beck Theatre. When it was built it was the biggest vaudeville theatre in New York. Now it's home to lavish Broadway plays. 

I love the way the sign looks at night (above), though I'm not sure this photo does it justice. 

That's all I have to say about this. Thanks, Mike! 

Sunday, June 08, 2014


I thought I'd put up a few pictures from my weekend as it's played out so far.  That's me (above) on Saturday, taking a selfie in my medicine cabinet mirror. 

Here's (above) a color xerox I unearthed this morning, showing my kid on the occasion of his second month's birthday.  It was drawn by John.

The genitals are there because babies of both sexes have absolutely huge genitals. If you don't have a kid of your own you probably didn't know that. The equipment quickly shrinks but it is puzzling why nature would endow newborns like that.

On Friday night I went with John to an RFA fight (Ressurection Fighting Alliance/a UFC-type organization) at the Veteran's Memorial Auditorium in Culver City. The event was wonderful and John's friend Tom arranged for us to have ringside seats.

That's (above) a real UFC Octagon, by the way. I always wondered what it was like to be on the audience side of that and now I know. That's the judge's area on the right. Left of center we see a hidden sound man with a directional mic on a monopod (a single-legged tripod).

BTW: the auditorium looks empty in this photo but that's because I didn't compose the shot right. Actually the place was packed to the gills.

I'd never been to a professional Mixed Martial Arts fight before so I ended up missing a gazillion fight shot opportunities in favor of what the technical crew was doing all around me, which I found fascinating. Here's (above) the camera crane which is an indispensable tool at events like this.

Ooooh! And the card girls....yes, yes I did get their picture!