Just figuring out where to write, and share what art. And given the last several months of tumult at work (mostly good) and family (including deaths, both recent and approaching, and a timesink in the way folks reconnect facing such things), I have been doing a lot of writing for my (still awesome) job that's pointless to share elsewhere and very little art. Looking to change that, somewhere. Will leave a trail of links and breadcrumbs.


I spent most of last week in Banff, a small tourist town for snowbirds at the edge of the Canadian Rockies. This was made possible, even mandatory, because astronomers who have their budgets cut to the point where their projects can only afford to meet as a work-all-weekend add-on to another conference and its airfare costs are good at finding nearby gorgeous places cheap in the off-season to collaborate on their work and go out on the town or into the woods in spare afternoons between.


After eight days straight of meetings (being the conference and the add-on), I snuck out for an afternoon to drive to an even more remote area of Banff national park called Lake Louise, alone, and to walk 3.4km up a snowcapped mountain to the glacial lake near its top and patronise the Lake Agnes Tea House. The tea house is only accessible by foot or horseback, and would be only open for one more day of the autumn season. The reason for that date became clear to me as halfway through my ascent it started snowing.

I almost gave up several times. We'll pretend that a mere 3.4km took me well over two hours because I'm not used to altitude and because I stopped for the sake of photography often. And because of the snow. And maybe I was already falling to the travel lurgy. Even at that short distance it was probably the most ridiculous thing I'd ever done alone, and every time I stopped and thought about not pressing forward I was glad for all the folks back at home I'd told about it, silently holding me to the miserable, breathless adventure so I couldn't slink back down the mountain in silent disappointment with myself.

From the top, having made it, watching the great expanse of nearly-freezing evergreen rolling mountains and snow and lakes coloured emerald green from the rock flour ground down by glaciers, I almost cried. I shared pumpkin bread and tea on the side of a mountain in the snow with complete strangers, huddling close on the less windy side of the tea house porch, while fearless chipmunks ran over my shoes to collect crumbs. We talked like we'd known one another for years, these single-serving friends united by our crazy idea of how to spend an afternoon. Eventually I'll come to terms with the fact that the most ridiculous hike I've ever done in my life is easy and popular enough to sustain a seasonal business at the top, but everyone else I met on that trail was the particular warm Nordic sort of crazy that flocks to these places, or cheated and rented horses up. And I noticed pretty much no one else went it alone.


I learned in those few hours that if I get a similar work-enabled opportunity, I should do my silent lonely nature hiking before the week of work; it is hard to enjoy a quietly contemplative walk while still unwinding from meetings, still sorting out data formatting and network race condition puzzles in one's head.

I learned two more things, after I came down from the mountain and had internet access again. The ice caps around Lake Louise and Lake Agnes are glaciers. Actual glaciers, whose retreat is accelerating so much that it can be witnessed in tourist photos from the last fifty years. I saw one. Climbed up most of the way to it on foot, and watched a waterfall of snow and melt and drank tea in its shadow. I have no idea how much longer it, or its bright green lake, will exist.

The other thing I learned was how most of the great park's infrastructure was built around the trans-Canadian rail line during World War One. Some of it was built by laborers in internment camps, working through the winter. Not native peoples as one sadly expects, not Japanese immigrants as my WW2-focused American brain briefly considered. WW1: these were Hungarian, Ukrainian, and German immigrants who had fled the drums of war in their home countries to travel across the ocean, at exactly the time my own Hungarian family had, to a different intended destination and rounded up as the enemy. I still haven't really come to terms with that enough to find more information. I still want to go back. Not alone, or with my colleagues, but with my family. To travel roads my people had to build, and see a glacier again, while one still can.

Lake Louise, Alberta, Canada


Splendide Hotel

splendide hotel

"The French artist Dominique Gonzalez-Foerster transforms the gigantic 1887 greenhouse Palicio de Cristal in Parque de Retiro, in Madrid into "Hotel Splendide" in a show that offers its visitors an interactive experience.

This spatial intervention is a journey through which the viewer is transported to places and times where imagination mixes with reality and literature to create a liminal dream world, an installation piece with meaning beyond the individual objects.

In the center of the Palicio, the artist has recreated a single hotel room, visible from all sides but inaccessible. A carpet covers the floor of the room and around several rocking chairs invite the viewer to sit and partake in the work, diving into one of the many books that the artist selected for the occasion. José Rizal, Dostoevsky, Rubén Darío, HG Wells, and Enrique Vila-Matas are some of the authors whose work is highlighted by the artist."

From http://www.hoyesarte.com/evento/2014/03/el-palacio-de-cristal-se-convierte-en-el-hotel-splendide/ - translation mostly Google's.

Splendide Hotel

I would have enjoyed this sudden discovery of a massive reflective iron and glass building lakeside in a forested park a bit more had it been less crowded, less tourists taking selfies and more time with the books and comfortable chairs and view of foreign trees and the birds which had gotten in. But there I was, tourist with cameras in hand, myself, equally part of the problem, so that is all I'll complain. I'm sincerely glad I found it, that the Ingress game app led me through the park to it when Google Maps couldn't load on the slow available phone data network, and got me to the metro, and then safely home. So it goes.

For Spain

I aten't ded.

I've been in Madrid and a European Space Agency data centre in the nearby countryside, working the excessive and extrovert-heavy hours that tend to happen at conferences, and then having to stay out very late each night in sometimes-fruitless search of restaurant food I'm not allergic to in the land of carne and queso.

I did find time to visit some museums and tourist sites, including an Egyptian temple moved brick by brick away from flood damage from the Aswan Dam, and the Reina Sofia, where Picasso's Guernica made me cry in my jet-lagged haze. I also managed to explore an abandoned 15th century castle with a new Czech work friend and get interrogated by a TSA technician on my last hopper flight home from New York due to chem-test alarms being repeatedly set off by something from that, my hair dye, and/or the hotel soap; it's nerve-wracking not to know what caused it. (I am still tired enough for few words and serious understatements.)

Castillo, poppies, from fence

ESA dish, flags, countryside, southward

Templo de Debod column

Here's the whole first album of 20 or so, for the curious. There are more pictures from the Palicio de Cristal greenhouse, the rest of Retiro Park, more city wandering photos, and food reviews which will have to wait to be posted another day. All of them are just my tourist photos as it were, but it's good to have a selection of cameras back in my hands again; it had been an embarrassingly long and uncreative winter.

Actually, I've been back for most of a week, but that's what it's taken to catch up on work, sleep, and not being ill. Hopefully I'll find my words soon.

expanded from the facebook/twitters

A decade ago, most of my photography focused on overgrown abandonments. Today, there's less emptiness and more survivalists on vacation. It's the same drive really. A decade ago, a camera was helping me consider how we *would* deal with major climate and economic change in my corner of the world. And as it happens around us, I am slowly starting to document how people *are* dealing with it, and continuing to look forward.

The mid-apocalyptic focus is also why I gravitate to the film processes that I do. There is a future where they'll last longer than an inkjet printer or affordable electricity, and I'm not sure we're not heading for it.


This is partially to say hopefully I'll have (at least the digital, not the Holga) pictures I owe performers at Spoutwood (organic CSA) farm's May Day Fairy Festival up soon. Also crap I think I accidentally found the beginnings of an artist statement. This is partially to angiereedgarner's credit for asking about what art buyers want to see in a bio (not statement) and making me think. So there's that.

of performers, fashion, law, and tickyboxes

From an Eddie Izzard interview with Radio Boston on his new tour "Force Majeure"

On being identified as a transvestite, or wearing drag:
Eddie Izzard: “I don’t call it drag. I call it clothes. I wear dresses occasionally, I wear heels, I wear makeup. It’s like, women don’t wear drag when they put pants on, yeah? Drag really means costume. I’ve seen it used as an equivalent of costume. When gay men tend to do drag, that is more costume-like. Whereas what I’m trying to land is… I’m running for mayor and I will be wearing makeup and whatever I want to wear or not, just as women do. They have total rights like that, as women do in the United Nations charter, which isn’t actually in there but I say that it is. And so I will be wearing whatever and it’s not drag, it’s just clothes. I’m just wearing dresses, things, heels, makeup, whatever.”

The more of my life I have spent associating with theatre folks, burlesque performers, burners, queers, and fashion-blind engineers, the more I come to embrace very Izzard-like sensibilities about clothing and gender, off-stage as much as on. I am very happy to be living in a time and place where non-discrimination laws are being explicitly expanded and clarified to include gender non-conforming folks, above and beyond transsexuals trying to 'pass' within the existing tickybox system. And on that note, I've been meaning for years to work on a portrait series of my less gender-conforming friends, because everyone deserves to be shiny and have that shiny captured as a reminder in less comfortable times. I think my skill level is starting to approach what I need for it. We'll see.

blue skies over dundalk

Yesterday, after several days of continuous of pouring rain, a block of a central street connecting Baltimore's largest and busiest non-highway North and South roads collapsed onto heavily used CSX (once B&O) railroad tracks, swallowing ten cars, streetlights, and the retaining wall, with no injuries. Parts of the city originally built as industrial manufacturing powered by water mills along mild streams flooded more than they have during hurricanes. Basements flooded that never have before. The beginnings of vegetable gardens washed away.

It is distinctly possible that I have never been so happy to see a blue sky as I was this morning, with all possible exceptions during times of temporary homelessness and lack of utilities.

It is May Day, Beltane, last frost, quite suddenly a Spring some part of my mind thought would never, ever come. I'm working part of the day, white collar academic but union supporter and science pagan that I am, planted herbs all morning, took a walk for lunch to the Patterson Park pagoda, a spot of garden in my city where I've never been before. My boots are covered in mud, but the sky is bright, with little fluffy clouds, and the ground has stopped falling in on itself. I'll take it.

Patterson Park Pagoda, May Day 2014
(and in grey, to become a blueprint someday)

look up.

raining flower petals, car"s eye view, night in Baltimore
Raining flower petals, car's eye view, night in Baltimore.

And here I was being disappointed I hadn't gotten a chance to photograph the local flowering trees with a new camera this year.

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